The MLG Summer Championships (held this past weekend in Raleigh) was an interesting mix of highs and lows for players, teams, developers, and MLG as a whole. For starters, there was a lack of hype heading into Raleigh, making it one of the quietest for an MLG event in a long time. The KeSPA players, who got the crowd going like never before in Anaheim at a previous MLG event, were absent this weekend due to scheduling conflicts. Additionally, the two top North American League of Legends teams, Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming, didn't so they could practice and hone strategies for the Riot Season 3 North American Championships at PAX.
These two factors combined with the absence of top-tier Korean StarCraft 2 players and the general lack of enthusiasm for Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur 5 didn't help matters. In fact, there didn't seem to be as many spectators, either. This wasn't helped by the fact that there were two StarCraft 2 stages, one of the main tournament and one for Blizzard's World Championship Series, splitting the fan base in two.
Things picked up by the end of the second night as Zerg Canadian WCS Champion Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn whipped the crowd into a frenzy, going on a 24-2 run to win the North American Championships. She dominated every other player in the competition with ease, and said right before the finals that she was going to finish it off with a 2-0 victory. She did.
Afterwards, Hostyn said that she looks forward to representing North America in China, and thinks she can definitely stand up to the Europeans. She wasn't so sure about the Koreans.
Meanwhile, Choi "CranK" Jae Won made his own standout performance, which was unexpected for a player who was thinking about quitting StarCraft 2 before this weekend. Broadcaster John "Totalbiscuit" Bain and his wife, Genna "Intricacy" Bain, stepped in and helped CranK, taking on the cost of his flights, hotel, travel expenses, and food. They even hired a personal translator.
With support from the Bain's and the community, and certainly feeling more confident, CranK ripped it up the Open Bracket, taking out tournament favorite Yoon "TaeJa" Young Suh of Team Liquid, and he almost performed a reverse sweep against his former teammate, Song "HerO" Hyeon Deok. He would finish 9-12th and earn the Breakout Player Award.
The third day in Raleigh picked up thanks to the League of Legends crowd and teams like Curse and Dignitas that were destined to play each other in the finals. 17-year old Zerg Lee"Leenock" Dong Nyoung of team FXOpen made his own incredible run through the Open Bracket, making it all the way to the grand finals against another first-time MLG competitor, Miracl's Kang"First" Hyun Woo. Leenock initially dominated in the final, taking the first three maps with ease and showing just why he won the 2011 National Championships. After a failed Nydus worm and a quick "gg" by Leenock in game four, he wasted no time in game five, securing the victory and his second MLG title. Leenock said afterwards that he sees success while playing under pressure, and thanked his coach for his victory.
A League of Legends final between Dignitas and Curse were scheduled to wrap up what turned out to be a pretty entertaining weekend, but there was some controversy. Major League Gaming and Riot Games concluded that both teams had colluded before the match to split the prize money no matter the outcome. As a penalty, both teams forfeited prizes and season two points heading into this weekend's PAX Championships.
The last three days have been filled with apologies from players and teams, and outrage from all corners of the industry. MLG enacted the same punishment in the past for Super Smash Bros. players, taking away prize money and banning them from future events. The current crop of top League of Legends players are quite new to the eSports gaming scene as a whole, especially compared to those from the StarCraft or FPS communities that have been around for over a decade, but this is a good lesson for them. Not only are they representing themselves, and their teams, but they are representing their respective games, too. The League of Legends community has already had to endure snarky remarks from StarCraft and Dota players that were more than happy to quip about this weekend's events. This should be a wake-up call for everyone involved that a certain level of professionalism is required for this to move forward, otherwise stories like these will be the focus of the outside world.
In other MLG news, a recent announcement has Halo making its return to the MLG circuit with Halo 4 at the 2012 National Championships in Dallas. Additionally, word has spread that KeSPA players are confirming their participation as well. With the possible additions of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Dallas is looking to bring the hype meter up once again, and finish 2012 off with a bang.
KeSPA versus the eSports Federation
Speaking of KeSPA, what a week it has been between Korea's two largest competitive gaming organizations. Earlier in the week, GSL announced that KeSPA players would not be participating in the upcoming GSL 2012 season four qualifiers, much to the disappointment of fans everywhere. Even three-time GSL champion, Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk chimed in on the matter.
"We think that it is mandatory for Kespa to work with us and show great games to our viewers", NesTea said in the statement. "As such, we have contacted teams of eSports Federation [Startale, LG-IM, Prime, MVP, NSH, TSL, FXO] regarding the players who are participating in OSL [Nestea, MVP, DRG, MKP, Parting, San] to make the following decision: For the better future of Korean eSports, we politely ask KeSPA players to participate in GSL and until KeSPA decides to allow their players to join GSL without any problem, we have decided to pull our players from OSL."
All major StarCraft 2 players scheduled to play in the debut StarCraft 2 event for OGN pulled out. With less than a week left until broadcast, KeSPA announced that they would play in the following GSL season five. The eSports Federation balked at the plan and refused to play in the upcoming OSL.
"We thank them for their speedy discussion and decision to participate in GSL5", President Won Jong-Wook said. "But the eSports Federation's stance stated on our public statement has not changed. We have stated that we will be deferring participation in the OnGameNet Star League until KeSPA decides to participate in the GSL in a continuous manner, and because there is no change in content in KeSPA's follow-up announcement from their previous announcement, there is no change in the eSports Federation's stance."
"The eSports Federation still holds deep in its heart the meaning of the 'Public Proclamation on Starcraft 2 eSports vision' that was held in May. We hope to quickly solve this problem to live alongside KeSPA, develop through well-intended competition with KeSPA, and repay the fans with even better games."
The ESF sent a clear message to KeSPA that they can't actas they have in the past. The StarCraft community rallied behind the ESF and GSL in their decisions by purchasing season passes, and hitting KeSPA over social media. Two days later, it was announced that while working with GSL to change the dates of the qualifiers, KeSPA would play in GSL season 4, and the ESF players will play in the OSL. The first day of matches took place Monday night with KeSPA players taking a 4-3 advantage over the ESF players in the first two rounds. The back and forth displayed here only fueled the rivalry between these players even more.
What to Watch This Weekend:
Pax Prime eSports Extravaganza!
Dota 2 The International: 16 Dota 2 teams from around the world have already descended in Seattle to play for $1.6 million. 2011 Champions Na'Vi look to defend their title, while the Chinese teams LGD, EHOME, and iG are expected steal the top three spots.
League of Legends North American Finals: The top eight teams from North America battle it out for $120,000, three spots at the World Finals next month, and three exclusive spots for season three next. Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming are the favorites with Curse and Dignitas right behind them.
ESWC USA: The first major Counter-Strike: GO LAN competition will take place at PAX, with the winner heading to France to represent USA at the ESWC 2012 finals.
RedBull LAN: Eight StarCraft 2 players, led by Redbull's very own Choi "Bomber" Ji Sung, will compete in a special tournament put on by Blizzard and Redbull, hosted by Sean "Day9" Plott and Mike "Husky" Lamond.