It's often said that with the death of one era in gaming comes the next, but with less passion. If there's anything that we can take away from IPL5 this weekend, it's the fact that although Brood War has left us forever competitively, IPL5 was a manifestation of that deep passion we haven't seen yet in Starcraft 2. A huge thanks to Team Liquid for providing all pictures within this article. All opinions expressed are mine and mine only, not to be affiliated with Heaven Media Ltd.
The weekend has concluded after what is already being called the pinnacle of Starcraft 2's history so far; the most well-executed and displayed premier level event of its time, IGN's Pro League 5 LAN has left audiences from around the world awe-struck and at the edge of their seats (rather, edge of the chair in front of their desks). Today, we'll be focusing on the Starcraft 2 aspects of the tournaments.
Sin City, Baby
Some ass-kicking, perhaps?
The location of the tournament itself was just as prolific as the matches that took place during the Starcraft 2 tournament. Deemed one of the best party spots in the world and internationally known for what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the IPL5 crew had a monumental task ahead of them that was easier on paper than in reality: up the standard for Starcraft 2 events internationally while improving upon IPL4's overall performance which was lackluster compared to what they are/were capable of.
Located within the fourth floor of the Cosmopolitan, arguably the most extravagant hotel in the entire city, IPL5 rocked out their event like no other we've seen before. Production quality was superb, literally zero downtime and constant entertainment gave us the feeling deep inside our hearts that despite Brood War being behind us with Starcraft 2 taking over, the atmosphere and storylines that ran within the blood of the players as did the adrenaline were still there and this tournament was going to prove it.
I think this settles what many of us were thinking all throughout the weekend especially on Day 3 when the Code S Finals were hosted for the second time in history overseas within domestic territory with the exception being Blizzcon 2011. I can't quite put my microing fingers on it but there's a special touch that Korean Starcraft in its purest form brings to fans and spectators around the world. It's a toss-up between passion, atmosphere, history of the scene itself and storylines all clashing into one.
The way the finals were set out along with the Korean announcers and hosts
gave those not fortunate enough to visit South Korea first-hand to experience the normal GSL Finals a taste of what it was like. Sure, Blizzcon did the same thing, but there was something different about that -- almost like it was expected, being Blizzard's primetime event once a year for both World of Warcraft and Starcraft... IPL5 was, in some ways, a more traditional approach to the rarity that is Korean Starcraft 2. A huge plus for anyone that was able to watch the tournament live on stream or in-person.
The Dark Voice
Korean, to be exact. One of the main features about this tournament was the Korean announcer that introduced each player and each map consistently in every single match played at IPL5. Sure, a garnish as far as size, but it adds so much
to a tournament that was already making itself out to be the
Starcraft 2 tournament.
A nice cinematic lasting about 10 seconds for each map with an arcade-influenced selection screen with randomizing names finally landing on the two that would be playing on top of the Korean voice announcing each player as the casters introduced them was something that added a ton of character to this tournament. We can't forget the small details like this as we progress and develop Starcraft 2 as an e-sport collectively.
Artosis and Tasteless
If I'm not mistaken, there were a total of 16 casters at this event including the IPL5 contest winner Robin, a Starcraft 2 caster that achieved victory through the contest IPL held which was somewhat of a caster search, weeding out casters over a number of weeks through a voting system. Nonetheless, the greats were here including the Casting Archon as they're called, Tasteless and Artosis, via GOM.
Despite Day not being present, the entire IPL casting crew was there including Kibbelz who really showed what potential he has to become a top tier caster in the near future, having always been overshadowed by bigger names and never really recognized for the great ability he has to cast right as in-game events happen and with complete clarity.
Production: Above and Beyond
Small numbers, yet wickedly effective.
No, seriously, the production quality in this event was beyond anything ever seen in Starcraft 2, arguably professional gaming for that matter with the exception of such mainstream events like the CGS and whatnot. Amazing transitions between screens, really nice and smooth downtime between games that was spent either analyzing the previous game or predicting who would win next opposed to awkward interviews like we've seen at DreamHack and MLG.
The promotional montages put together in regards to Starcraft 2's previous champions from Code S and premier level events was something that left the more hardcore of us nerds teary-eyed at memories past, making us feel old inside while still in college. The music wasn't the usual tinny overused dubstep and no Gangnam Style was present -- an immense plus in and of itself.
A huge chunk of the credit, aside of the IPL staff of course, goes to the GOM staff that flew over from Korea specifically for the Code S production and overseeing of this event. Last IPL we saw a nice level of production that was hindered by downtime, technical difficulties and bland interviews; this time, GOM has assisted with the production quality and it's evident. Virtually no technical difficulties, lag was extremely rare on the stream even in HD and support was always either on the IPL website or in the Twitch chat to help out with any issues they could. With the exception of the stream going down during the Losers' Bracket Grand Finals, everything was flawless. Even then, IPL staff had the courtesy to pause the game so viewers at home didn't miss any of the action. Again, small things add up.
Clashes of Matches
The matches that played out were really intense and close for the most part; sure, a lot of 2-0's were seen, but overall the games that were played could have gone either way with the exception of a few series. Everything was seen from macro games lasting over an hour to a ZvZ containing a double six pool (Scarlett and DongRaeGu if my memory serves me correctly). Anything you could ever wish for was in this tournament with the exception of top Brood War players which will be competing tomorrow in MLG's new series of matches.
IPL5 is a unique tournament as far as player structure goes, seeing as the 72 best gamers in the world meet in one spot within a four-day span. Unlike other tournaments, each and every match is difficult and an obstacle to overcome, there's no joyrides here. Top notch competition made for constant entertainment every match of the day, something that's become a rarity since the 'passing' of Brood War.
We're Gamers, Through and Through
As John the Translator has taught us, we're all the same.
We're gamers. Many of us from the Brood War scene, just as many newcomers to RTS as a whole from the release of Starcraft 2, but we share a common bond: a deep passion for video games and e-sports. This tournament has shown many times over the course of four days that this bond is something special, something that we don't find in other gaming scenes or tournaments with the rare exception of Counter-Strike and a select few other games throughout competitive gaming's history.
Thousands of spectators from around the world joining in unison during IPL5. A baneling hit lands, the crowd goes wild. A siege tank gets sniped, everyone gets on their feet as the Terran GG's out and is knocked out of the tournament. A single colossi racks up 30 kills and everyone screams. E-sports is something special and as many have been saying all weekend, IPL5 was Starcraft 2's pinnacle thus far. No matter of race, religion, skin color or personality: e-sports is e-sports and we're all here to have fun.
At the end of the day a lot was accomplished at this event that we haven't seen in a good two blue moons from any other event. The hype was unreal, the standard for production quality both for foreign, domestic and Korean events has been raised up several notches and the storylines continue to give us nerdchills every now and then when they get intense. That EVO hype was present here, something I've been saying has been absent from Starcraft 2 since 2010, and a critical factor that made Brood War such a passionate sport.
A bold thought, but after an event and finals like that, I think it's safe to say what happened for Starcraft 2 in Vegas this time around won't be staying in Vegas, but rather, spreading across the globe as a message to the outsiders that gaming can truly be a sport. Be sure to check out our extended coverage pertaining to the grand finals and more HERE.
+hype (mainly through social media)
+virtually no downtime
+hope for 'that passion' Brood War had
+a look into what Starcraft 2 is shaping up to be as an e-sport
-no interviews this time around conducted by IPL before/after matches
-Day, djWHEAT both absent from casting lineup
-online brackets slightly difficult to comprehend