MLG SA Review: Fun In The Sun @ Spotlights channel
The MLG Summer Arena made us realize something: e-sports is about connections and interaction with fellow gamers and not how strict or professional the organizers are or casters behave.
It's always been a critique among the lesser-informed about how professional the production quality is, how the lights hit the desk and how the screen's glare bounces off the camera lens, not the real meat of what e-sports is: personality. We traveled back to New York City this past weekend as we saw 32 of the best players go all-out yet again in an arena event, trying to nab the title of MLG Summer Arena Champion and the massive bragging rights that come along with it. We saw some upsets, a few unknown talents break out and some of the most solid comebacks in recent memory. Let's take a look at what made this event special, some cool things that MLG implemented as well as who won it all. Massive thanks to R1CH and Team Liquid for providing top quality photos throughout the entire event!
Nice to see someone just as good as the Koreans for once.
The first thing Sundance gets brownie points for is the replay analysis -- I love this new feature that they've decided to implement after hearing the community's uproar about MLG lacking it but other leagues using it. After a game is complete and the GG's are thrown, it's refreshing to hear a pro's perspective on how the game unfolded, why the loser lost and why the winner won. A caster sometimes accompanied the pro as they spoke about what happened, using the touch screen visually explaining their analysis, something that was very cool both for seasoned players and newcomers alike. Check out some coverage we did where I included pictures of said analysis.
Another thing is the fun factor of this tournament. Yes, a very serious tournament indeed with a nearly $30,000 cumulative prize pool, but that doesn't mean everyone has to attend in tuxedos to play the game. We saw jokes left and right from the casters, we saw players laughing and new friendships made along with the 3-year reunion of Day casting with Artosis, something we've not seen since the 2009 WCG. One of the highlights would have to be the Reddit photoshop contest where both Day and Apollo lost it, crying laughing on stream as the producers could be heard laughing along with them with the viewers left at home, sides hurting and eyes watery.
It's all too often that we always want e-sports to move forward and forget about the vital things that make gaming what it is, but this event was a nice breath of fresh air seeing that for entertaining the fans all we need is good games and a good laugh, no dancers or over the top presentations needed.
The highlight of the event, as stated above.
The casting was great, nothing to complain about other than the hitpoint bars being active only on the Main stream, usually found absent on the Premium stream. I found this a bit annoying, especially when watching late game matchups where the T3 units have considerably more hitpoints than lower units -- as a viewer, I'd like to know if someone's colossus has 10hp or 300hp, and unless the casters moused over the units on the Premium stream, it was hard to tell (in fact, more like impossible).
First was a player that really impressed this weekend. He was a relatively unknown player until this event, and out of nowhere, smashed nearly everyone he came across, making it all the way into the Top 6 on Championship Sunday, defying all odds against him and performing very well. This just proves that new talent arises every day, despite most of us not really paying attention to it. Expect to see more from him in the future as an upcoming player.
Production quality for the event was the MLG standard, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing really major to bring the event down. A few lag spikes here and there, along with a dropped game on Friday but nothing tragic. Little by little, the arena events are getting better and opposed to what we saw early on in the winter events late last year and early this year, MLG has become more about the community and receptive to feedback, not so much a league ruling with an iron fist that we all wanted to think previously. Sundance has realized that if he wants shit to work, he needs to listen to us, and he has very well. The games are more enjoyable, the streaming experience is more smooth and there's less complaints all around.
Extended series needs to go, and that's something that many people have been saying for a while now. Personally I don't see a necessity for it, and neither does the community. I believe it was Adam from MLG that was on the LO3 show right before they went live Friday, and he mentioned that it was a possibility although nothing is set in stone -- one thing to improve the MLG circuit would be to completely remove extended series. Make it reality, MLG.
LosirA showed he was back for good at Summer Arena.
Player cameras for the Premium stream weren't around. I enjoyed them on the Main stream, and think that it wouldn't be too much to ask to put them on the Premium stream. It offers a sense of interaction with the player as you can see them playing in real time, something that the leagues as a whole lately have caught on to. Remove the unit portrait, allow for more space so we can see the players do what they do. A picky critique, but the small details add up to a big difference in the long run.
Regarding presentation, although not a massive flaw that needs to be immediately fixed, I feel that for such a high quality event, wooden tables with a gaming PC on it and colored stage lights is something that could be improved by now. A booth, maybe a more unique set up? It wouldn't necessarily make a difference from a viewer's standpoint, but red and blue lunch tables could be 1up'd. Is it something that Sundance needs to hop on this second? Nah, but in the future maybe something more classy would do. After all, it's NYC and the MLG offices -- setting up a few booths once every month or two wouldn't be a feat of the ages.
The streams were excellent and it was somewhat of a wise move for MLG to switch to just two streams. I found the 5-streams-at-once way too much for me to handle, and it was nearly impossible to watch all the games at the same time and comprehend what was happening in each game. Along with the streams, the map pools are something that could be changed -- we seem to see the exact same 10 or so maps in every single map pool in every single league. If the players are professional and study the game all day long, I wouldn't mind seeing a random map or two being thrown in to throw them off and force them to quickly adapt to the situation and map style. It's added entertainment, and always a plus.
Again coming back to MLG having to do unique things to keep up with the times -- I mentioned replay analysis at the first arena event and said that they needed to do something of the like to get in the groove. As e-sports evolves and leagues come up with new things to implement, competition grows fierce. A new suggestion to MLG: I wouldn't mind seeing a vlog-style 2-3 hours of footage from players put together to be shown on Championship Sunday, somewhat of a journey with the players during their stay in NYC (or wherever the events are held in the future). This would provide insight into the players' lives without too much invasion, on top of being interesting for those of us that don't have the ability to spend time with players personally and explore their real personalities off camera.
Oz, innovator for the modern Protoss era.
A stunning event overall, but I'll be honest: with the crowd lacking, the hype wasn't near as high as EVO 2012. It may just be the way Starcraft 2's community is, it may be that it's simply a more mannered game, but the hype was severely lacking. Barely any advertising for the event beforehand, not really any trailers came out for Summer Arena and there's no cheering going on. Although a great event, as a viewer that isn't able to experience the room's feeling and rush when a big match goes down, I think a crowd would benefit everyone involved, viewers and players included. If a League of Legends final went down without a crowd with just the teams playing each other, it'd be considerably less interesting.
We saw TaeJa, a member of Team Liquid's prestigous Starcraft 2 stream wow us all as he went and crushed every opponent that came along in his path. Although looking somewhat of an underdog early on in the tournament, he showed us his excellent Terran style during the series against LosirA late Saturday night, posing as a threat to anyone that wanted to take him down. Yet again in a TvZ grand final, TaeJa reigned supreme and took the series in a convincing 4-2 over Alicia. I look forward to seeing more from this remarkable player.
Overall, it was nice to see a return of the MLG circuit, a first in nearly two months after a hiatus to plan this one out. Katie, the so-called Mother of MLG, put together a great event and once again restores hope towards MLG from the viewers and spectators. Hopefully the events continue to be up to our standards and the players continue to give us good matches. We all look forward to the next MLG event and hope the new features continue to roll in.
MLG Summer Arena: 93/100
-great caster chemistry
-implemented new features
-better 2-stream structure
-production value on par with any other league
-constant interaction with community members via social media
-receptive to feedback, both positive and negative
-as usual, a few hiccups here and there (dropped game, bit of lag now and then)
-observer on Sunday wasn't experienced
-needs more variety of players
-as mentioned, would like to see more player interaction (vlogs/interviews from MLG)