We just finished our first day at MLG, and it was a lot of fun. Neither I nor my friend Lynn have been to MLG before, or any gaming convention for that matter, so a large part of these daily recaps will be our impressions of the event, and learning the best way to cover it. Before the event, I tried to prepare as best I could by looking up the venue online, and trying to find videos. I actually had a bit of difficulty learning exactly what to expect there, other than the obvious.
Because it would have been expensive for other “Twinfiknights” to attend, I enlisted the help of my friend Lynn to help cover the event. Lynn is a cinematographer, and has a wealth of experience covering events and doing camera work and cinematography, so I thought that he would prove helpful. Also, he’s less of a coward than me, so with his encouragement, I was actually willing to approach people for interviews. We arrived at the convention center, which, fortunately, is 15 minutes away from my place. Once we had entered the building, it took less than 5 minutes to get our press passes and drop our gear off at the pressroom. They treat the press really well at MLG- the pressroom is guarded the entire day by a security guard who checks badges, and on the first day, there’s a VIP section with free food and drinks, and private gaming machines with all games featured at the event installed for free play. The first two rows of the three main stages are all reserved for press/VIPs, and press are allowed access to private areas where games are cast, and the technicians are mixing/streaming the event.
- Players compete in several games at MLG. Of course, the most popular event is Starcraft II, which draws significantly more fans than any other game. The second-most popular game is Halo Reach. In the past they’ve had Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gears of War, and some others, but this year, the third main stage is shared by three fighting games- King of Fighters XIII, Soul Calibur IV, and Mortal Kombat 9. The fighting game crowd area was a little sad; a few diehard fans and friends of the players sat and supported them. I would be happy to watch people compete in fighting games, if only there weren’t intense games of Starcraft II on the giant screen in the middle of the room. The game has strategies, counter-strategies, thinking several steps ahead; Starcraft II is the new chess, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch.
- Other than performing our journalistic duties (writing, gathering footage, and hustling for interviews mainly- we have a few leads), and doing some minor exploring, we pretty much just watched SCII all day. Some of the press was very serious compared to us, and for good reason; they had been to these events before, they may have had people paying for their airfare, room and board, and their benefactors expected enough coverage that they would make a net profit. We, on the other hand, did not require airfare or accommodations, due to our location. Our primary responsibility was to ourselves, and to the kind MLG PR reps who approved us for the event. Most of the other press worked for sites that primarily cover competitive gaming news, so there was usually a barrier in explaining what we were doing there. After I explained that our site primarily focused on editorials and general gaming news, and that we would mainly be writing interest pieces, they seemed to understand.
- If you aren’t familiar with esports, it’s a bit strange at first. You will hear a lot of inside jokes that you don’t understand. You get the idea pretty fast, though, and you’re in on most of the jokes by the end of the first day. You might be surprised to find that the competitors are actually treated like pro sports players (or rock stars). Anywhere else, the pros would be average people, but here, they can’t walk ten feet without someone asking for an autograph or an interview.
- If you’re unfamiliar with Starcraft, you will probably not have any idea what’s going on. Even if you are well-versed with the game, you slowly begin to realize that the players are playing several levels above you- every scenario is thought out in advance. Several times during a match there will be a moment where a crushing trap comes together, oftentimes a trap that neither the audience or casters saw coming, and the crowd just loses it. On the flipside, a blow that would cause many players to GG is a relatively minor inconvenience for a pro- through some combination of quick retaliation, macro, or adapting their strategy, they can even the odds.
- In particular, the match between HuK and Violet was really fun to watch, and they seemed very evenly matched. If you don’t play Starcraft, you won’t understand the next 3 paragraphs, so I’ll try to keep the play-by-play concise. In the first game, HuK went primarily warp stalkers and sentries, and the micromanagement was a treat to watch. He won 3 or 4 small skirmishes with Violet’s roaches, by skillfully dividing the army with force fields, and warping the stalkers backwards when they got too close. Unfortunately, Violet’s macro allowed him to recover his army each time, and he consistently stayed several supply above HuK until he was able to take him out.
- HuK modified his strategy almost imperceptibly in the second match, but was somehow able to turn the tides in his favor by harassing a bit more. The third match was especially interesting. HuK strategically harassed Violet’s expansions by warping in zealots to proactively-placed pylons. HuK used proxies to trap a third of Violet’s army into a small peninsula, where he could take them out with stalkers and zealots. He was able to clean up from there, and won the match 2-1.
- The other really interesting match was between Polt and Stephano, the last match of the night. Both players favored big macro, and the entire map was taken up by Terran mech and Zerg infestors, corruptors, and zerglings. They alternated severe blows between thors and sieged tanks decimating large groups of zerg, and these mechs being incapacitated by fungal growth, and surrounded by speedlings.
- I really look forward to seeing how the community entrants stand up to the top 16; it’d be really interesting to see a dark horse competitor emerge. I’ll be posting updates for days 2 and 3, and potentially a end-tournament wrap-up, or something similar.
- (images provided by Lynn Padetha, www.lynnpadetha.com)