Welcome back to the PCWorld eSports Update! Read up on our CES 2011 impressions, a quick Q&A with Jonathan "Jinro" Walsh from Team Liquid, and catch our first thoughts on Patch 1.2 while we catch up on a few weeks' worth of GSL games.
eSports at CES 2011
If you're too busy trying to figure out when eSports has "made it", you might miss out on the moment it actually does. There wasn't much in the way of pro gaming at CES 2011, but it was there--if you knew where to look.
In order to get the word out about their high-end server line, Super Micro decided to hold a few Starcraft 2 tournaments with Sean "Day" Plott announcing the action live from the booth. "But what do servers have to do with Starcraft 2?" you may ask. About as much as John Madden has to do with athlete's foot--but that didn't stop him from plugging Tough Actin' Tinactin. Either the Super Micro guys just wanted an excuse to hang out with Day, or (more likely) they realized that the kind of people who watch the Day Daily are the kind of people they want to know about their products. If Greg "IdrA" Fields gets tapped to do an ad spot series for Oakley sunglasses, that's a good thing for eSports.
Gaming gear companies were also there, with the Razer Switchblade mini-gaming-PC hogging the spotlight and SteelSeries spreading the world about their 2011 offerings. Razer is certainly bringing flash to their 2011 lineup--besides the Switchblade, they're also dipping their toes in the motion gaming market with the Hydra motion controller that is getting a set of exclusive Portal 2 levels for it. We did get a quick peek at the updated Razer Naga, which adds wireless support and features removable plates for an adjustable grip.
On the other hand, Denmark-based SteelSeries was a bit more mum about their future plans, though they did announce their high-end Xbox 360 headset, the Spectrum 7xb. Between their WoW-themed gear and their upcoming Diablo III mousepad, they're rubbing up against Razer's own Blizzard-licensed products, so 2011 should be interesting, to say the least.
Initial Thoughts on Patch 1.2
Besides a laundry list of bug-fixes and tool updates, Patch 1.2 added a handful of gameplay tweaks and improvements that, frankly, should have been included in the initial release, like Editable Hotkeys, Stalemate Detection, and Battle.net chat channels.
Compared to earlier patches, the balance tweaks seem relatively minor. Terran SCVs are now assigned the same "threat priority" as whatever they're repairing, so it should be easier to take on Thors and Planetary Fortresses now, even if they're mobbed by SCVs, since you can count on your units to auto-target the SCVs. Meanwhile, Protoss got a few buffs: Hallucination takes 80 seconds to research (down from 110), Observers cost 25/75 instead of 50/100, Phoenixes take 35 seconds to build instead of 45, and Void Rays do 20% more damage to Massive units (Ultralisks, Thors, Colossi, Brood Lords, Carriers, Battlecruisers) but have lost the Flux Vanes speed upgrade.
These Protoss changes were likely made to solve a few issues with current Protoss play: Most successful openings either stick to a Gateway-heavy composition (the classic 4-gate push, for example) or get a Robotics Facility early on (usually after the first two Gateways are up). This is because the 4-Gate push relies less on scouting your opponent's build and more on producing on overwhelming power at a particular timing, and an early Robotics Facility allows the Protoss player to scout with an Observer and adjust their strategy accordingly. Protoss players opening with an early Stargate or Twilight Council, on the other hand, are comparatively rare because they aren't as flexible as the 2-gate Robo or 4-Gate push.
Now, Protoss players can build a larger Phoenix army up in less time, giving them more early game harassment options against Zerg players (by attacking Overlords and picking off Queens). If they want to stick with a Gateway army, they can still use Hallucinated Phoenixes to scout while they tech up to early Dark Templar or Blink Stalkers. Hopefully, this will introduce some much-needed variety into Protoss play--especially in Protoss vs. Protoss matches, which need it the most.
Q&A With Liquid'Jinro
Team Liquid's Jonathan "Jinro" Walsh (Terran) needs no introduction: He won MLG Dallas, made it to the semi-finals of GSL Season 3, won himself a Code S ranking, and is currently in the round of 16 for the GSL Code S tournament. We got a quick Q&A with him about a day in the life of Jinro, and the back-story to his ever-present hat.
You've been on a tear since moving to Korea, winning MLG Dallas and powering through to the GSL Round of 4. What's your secret?
Practice. I practiced a lot before MLG and even more during GSL.
What have you been practicing for in particular while preparing for the GSL?
Just whatever matchup I had to play next - I didn't play anything except the matchup at hand. Most days I wouldn't do anything but play non-stop, and everyone on oGs helped me by practicing or finding practice partners.
What's a day in the life of Jonathan Walsh like right now? Do you have a day job?
During GSL it is: wake up, eat, play, eat, play, sleep, repeat. No day job, would never have the time - I get paid to play, this is my day job.
What's it like living and playing with the oGs team?
It's great, I've learned a lot and gotten to meet a lot of great people.
You're one of the few non-Koreans to reach S-class status. Does this mean you're staying in Korea indefinitely?
Yeah, I'm not going anywhere as long as I'm code S, and even if I lose it I'd probably stay for a good while longer.
Tell us about your hat. Doesn't your head overheat while you're wearing it during a game?
Hm, not really. My mom made the hat for me and sent it to me a few days before one of my games, so I decided to wear it to say thank you, and everyone told me it looked great so I decided to always wear it =)
Fill in the blank: I can't believe Blizzard hasn't _________.
Updated the ladder map pool. Steppes of War is a cruel joke to all Zerg players out there.