Jul 4 2014 - 1:00 pm

Live the pro-gaming dream with this crowdfunded project

BY LUKE WINKIE Some kids want to grow up to be football players
Luke Winkie
Dot Esports

BY LUKE WINKIE

Some kids want to grow up to be football players. Others admire Counter-Strike leagues. And there are plenty who get inspired by the rampant stateside League of Legends play. But there was a distinct moment for those of us who grew up playing StarCraft when we learned about the pro scene in Korea.

A far-off land where the highest of high level play is rewarded with fame and financial solvency? Being a member of a tangible, sponsored team? Identifying as a Protoss, Zerg, or Terran in public? Competing in a realm with respect and understanding? Those were the seeds of a dream.

It’s similar to the kids who grew up playing soccer and admiring the English Premiership. You’d look at the landscape of the best players and biggest winners, and you’d hardly ever see an American face. And there was that crazy thought in the back of your mind, that maybe you were the one who was going to thrive with the best of Korean competition, and serve as the chief ambassador of the Pacific. That you were going to be the one that made it.

At least those are the feelings that are brought back to mind when I play the demo of SC2VN, the StarCraft 2 Visual Novel. Developed by the six-man Team Eleven Eleven, the project is coming off a successful Kickstarter and should release later this summer. With 165 backers, it’s clear that they’re not the only ones who grew up dreaming what it would feel like to make it big in StarCraft.

For the unaware, a visual novel is exactly what you’d expect: A long, winding narrative conjoined with pictures and animations to tell a personal, sometimes fantastic, and almost always romantic story. There are a few branching plotlines and user-inputted decisions, but for the most part, you’re reading the text and clicking "next." Visual novels are perhaps most common in Japan, where they can take the form of dark, heavy-kink porn games or light, frilly romantic comedies.

SC2VN, however, falls under its own category. It’s a story of a young man (or woman) who has moved to Korea in order to pursue the dream of someday becoming a professional StarCraft player. There are moments of culture shock, loneliness, and words lost in translation—exactly what you’d expect if you moved all the way across the ocean.

“I’ve always been a competitive gamer at heart," says T.J. Huckabee, an undergraduate at the University of North Texas and one of the primary designers behind SC2VN. “But I’ve always been interested in narrative-based games too.

"There are a lot of perks when it comes to visual novels versus other narrative mediums. A visual novel is a happy balance of development costs and tertiary engagement (music, art, choice etc.) between a book and a video game. It's a medium that lends itself to character-driven interactions which is key with the story we're trying to tell."

It makes sense, really. Game design is becoming more and more elastic. In his emails, Huckabee mentions titles like the Capcom adventure game Phoenix Wright and the fan-made, 4chan-associated Katawa Shoujo dating sim as influences.

“It's not that I want to draw on the themes of that game or anything like that," Huckabee says. "It's just that Shoujo really influenced how I saw that visual novels could impact the reader in a way that traditional text media can't."


 

Shoujo puts the player character in the role of a teenager with a heart problem, sent away to a school full of other damaged kids. It’s a remarkably sympathetic work, especially considering how it’s tackling the topic of disability, and proves that for all the darkness the internet is capable of, there’s always potential for a helping hand. SC2VN is written in a similar way. It has a fairly solemn tone, one that tackles the StarCraft scene with reverence and acute understanding. It feels strange to say, but something as specific as an esports scene is actually inspiring its own self-reflecting fiction.

One of the interesting things about SC2VN is how deeply embedded it is in the current pro scene. Within the first few minutes, you’ll run into fictionalized versions of players like Jang "MC" Min Chul,  and Lee "MarineKing" Jung Hoon. Sean "Day[9]" Plott, a world-renowned StarCraft commentator,  will be providing some voice work, (“we just asked, he said yes!" Huckabee says) and the full version will undoubtedly feature more cameos from the full breadth of the scene.

You’ll certainly be confronted with a fair amount of StarCraft jargon, but at the same time, SC2VN is very approachable for those not close to the scene. One moment at the beginning of the game stands out: You find yourself standing in the middle of a café, hoping your Korean is clear enough to get your points across. That’s the sort of anxiety that even a scrub like me can relate to.


 

“We want there to be things for StarCraft fans to appreciate, but ultimately SC2VN needs to stand on its own away as a story," Huckabee says. “We're excited about the possibilities of cross-pollination with visual novel fans and StarCraft fans since both communities could certainly stand to gain additional fans."

But mostly, SC2VN isn’t limited because it invokes familiar aspirations for all of us. I think at a certain time we’ve all felt that our own geography or culture was holding us back from our dreams, and that if we could only catch a break, or catch a flight, things would be different. That might not actually be true. But I appreciate SC2VN for being the best sort of fanfiction.

I'll never be able to hunker down in Korea and slide into the pro league, just like how you know you’ll never get your Hogwarts letter, or a ride on the Millennium Falcon. Like the best stories in the world, SC2VN makes you forget those limitations, at least for a little while.

Images via SC2VN/Kickstarter

Today - 1:25 am

Get your Red Envelopes ready—the Lunar Revel event in League starts today

Riot is kicking off the 2017 Lunar Revel with some slick new skins.
Aaron Mickunas
League of Legends Writer
Image via Riot Games

The Lunar New Year is a sacred, historic holiday that is celebrated by nations in the far east. It marks the beginning of the year based on the cycles of the moon. There’s dancing, festivals, parades, but much more importantly: A special League of Legends event. Why is that so important? Because you can get sweet new skins, of course!

The Lunar Revel Event is a yearly occurrence in League that features shiny new goodies to buy in-game. The event was announced and started today, so after you update the client, you’ll be able to take part in the festivities.

1) Free Icon

That’s right, for the small cost of going to the official Lunar Revel web page, you can claim a free Summoner Icon! The interactive home page acts as the hub for the Lunar Revel event, and you can click through the menu to see all the features. There’s even some lore tying each of this year’s Lunar Revel skins to their respective champions.

2) Champion Skins

There are three skins coming out for the Lunar Revel event this year: Garen, Azir, and Vi. Each has a matching Summoner Icon available in the store.

Garen’s sword and rad man-bun make this skin what it is: Awesome. When he spins to win, a green dragon swirls around him. When he ults, the giant sword that falls from the heavens... well, it’s green.

Azir seems to be more of a themed skin specific to this year, as it’s the Year of the Rooster—and Azir is as rooster-like as any League champion gets. His soldiers are also made to match his skin, sporting golden armor.

Vi’s theme is “the green demon” and when she ults, a big green dragon swirls up into the air and slams back into the ground as she does. This one’s our favorite, but mostly because it’s the only time we’re ever going to see Vi in a ponytail.

Not only are those three new skins available now, but past Lunar Revel skins and bundles are in the shop as well.

3) Crafting

A brand new Lunar Revel crafting system will also be in the client until the end of the event. It uses the same crafting page as usual, where you open chests with keys you earn from playing games and combine shards to form skins and champions. You can buy a Revel Red Envelope for 250 RP and visit the crafting page in your client to turn it into a skin shard and one random relic.

The relics come in three types: the Pauldron Relic, the Golden Relic, and the Gauntlet Relic. Once you have all three, you can combine them into Epic Skin Shards (1350 RP skins), random skin permanents, Gemstones, or Hextech Chests and Keys.

4) Merch

Finally, you can visit the Lunar Revel merch store to check out some IRL event goodies. Want a shirt featuring each Chinese Zodiac with League champions instead of the usual animals? Well it’s in the merch store, as well as a collectible figurine of Lunar Revel Azir.

The event is running from now until Feb. 2, so be sure to log into the game and check it out!

Today - 12:27 am

University of Toronto students can now apply for an esports scholarship

Who said gaming was a waste of time?
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Image via CC 3.0

Canada's top-rated university will begin taking applications for an esports scholarship to be awarded next year.

University of Toronto alumnus Victor Xin started the scholarship program as a way of providing extra support to students who want to hone their skills in competitive gaming. While this is the first such scholarship to be introduced in Canada, several U.S.-based universities such as University of California, Irvine began offering esports scholarships in 2016.

Xin works at Toronto-based wealth management firm Athena Capital Partners, which also funds the scholarship. He told the university that students that display competitive drive through computer games shouldn't be distracted from trying achieving success in the world of esports.

"There are trailblazers on campus who are rallying a different set of students to build campus organizations focused on an alternative way of learning to lead and succeed in life," Xin told the university. The former student, who graduated in 2008 after studying at its Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, began following StarCraft during his tenure at the institution and also founded the University of Toronto eSports Club. For Xin, the fund is aimed at making sure that students who show drive and leadership through esports won't "fall through the cracks."

Are you thinking of applying for the Victor Xin scholarship? The requirements are: That you're an undergraduate at the university's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, you've got a 3.5 GPA, and participate regularly in gaming-related extra-curricular activities. If it means we get to play League of Legends during school hours, we're totally in.