Sep 11 2015 - 8:28 pm

Ever wondered what the pro gaming life is really like? This visual novel will show you

The dream of becoming a professional esports player is familiar to anybody who's ever seriously played a game like StarCraft or League of Legends
Ferguson Mitchell
Dot Esports

The dream of becoming a professional esports player is familiar to anybody who's ever seriously played a game like StarCraft or League of Legends.

But only one game will tell you what it’s really like to be a professional esports player—the StarCraft 2 Visual Novel.

Created by two devoted content creators and fans of the StarCraft series, SC2VN puts players in the shoes of an up-and-coming semi-pro who's travelled to South Korea, the mecca of StarCraft, to play against the world’s best.

The game could just be a fun romp through professional gaming. Instead, however SC2VN is a realistic, and sometimes somber, look at what it’s actually like to play StarCraft among the world’s elite. You get that sense from the very start of the game's narrative:

There’s a certain feeling that every StarCraft player gets before they lose. Most try to ignore it at first, as if the inevitable is just another challenge to fight through. Like their past mistakes don’t count if they try just a little bit harder… Still, every player must eventually come to terms with a defeat.

If the world of hardcore StarCraft amateurs and washed-out pros came together to make art out of their collective experience, this would be their magnum opus.

But don’t let that get you down—SC2VN isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, it all began with humor, with a funny little video created by TJ Huckabee, known to the StarCraft community as Vogue, called “StarCraft 2: Dating Simulator.”

It was a parody of the “visual novel”-style games popular in East Asia. But then Huckabee was contacted by another esports professional, Tim “Shindigs” Young. He'd been kicking a similar idea around in his head for a while, something he described as “Hikaru No Go (a popular anime about the asian board game Go) but for StarCraft”. When Young saw Huckabee's video, he realized it might actually be possible.

When Young broached the idea of turning the idea into a reality, they both laughed about it. But they decided to try anyway. Five months later, their Kickstarter reached its $7,000 goal. SC2VN was really going to happen.

Neither had much experience with visual novels, but Young was a well-known figure in the community, and Huckabee a budding game developer with a talent for writing. They quickly put together a team of artists, musicians, and designers; named themselves Team Eleven Eleven; and got to work.

At first, they floundered. The idea of a dating/professional gaming simulator just wasn't cohesive enough to build a story around. “The story wasn’t working, the romance was stupid and forced, and I had zero motivation to finish a game that didn’t say anything interesting,” Huckabee admits.

So they adapted. Huckabee rewrote the script and removed the dating simulator elements ("That probably saved the game from being a mediocre waifu sim,” he says) while Young dug deep into similar games rework SC2VN’s mechanics. He finally found inspiration in indie RPGs, games that he affectionately calls “story games.”

“These are tabletop games like Microscope and The Quiet Year, and they have really great mechanics that help draw out amazing narratives for any type of player. They reminded me the power of a really great, narratively driven game.”

Huckabee realized one crucial point when he noticed that most of the documentaries and articles being written for StarCraft were only about the best players.

“I saw an absence of authentic eSports stories in the documentaries/interviews that were going around at the time… There really wasn’t a voice for the average StarCraft 2 competitor. The game’s tone arose from this perspective. Having real life friends that pursued StarCraft to the same degree as [the main character in SC2VN] also helped me shape the character’s motivations.”

This explains the sometimes dark tones that SC2VN elicits. But to Young and Huckabee, the heart of SC2VN comes from their focus on the realistic “struggles and triumphs of esports.”

This also explains their success. Following the release of the game, many professional players and streamers contacted the developers, telling them how much they related to the main character's story. Some got emotional simply seeing their own struggles through another’s eyes. “It means a lot to see SC2VN resonate with people,” says Huckabee.

The response from esports fans has been overwhelmingly positive as well. “There is nothing more satisfying that being told that your work resonates with people,” Huckabee says. “The only consistent criticism I’ve heard is that it’s too short.”

The next step for Team Eleven Eleven is trying to get the game available on Steam, one of the largest digital marketplaces.They say that Blizzard, StarCraft's developer, has been instrumental in moving their project forward. Regardless, the game is free to all that want to experience it.

If Team Eleven Eleven has another project in the works, it’s keeping its cards close to its chest. “We’re just focused on getting SC2VN in front of as many people as possible,” Young says. “We’ll think about [making a second game] more when the dust settles.”

Image via SC2VN

Esports moves fast and so do we. Check out today’s Quick Cast news update.

Today - 3:29 pm

Our predictions for the Evo 2017 lineup

These are the ten games we think will make it to Las Vegas... and the four that won't
Steve Jurek
Dot Esports

Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to officially enter Evo season.

Organizers for Evo, the largest fighting game event in the world, will reveal the event's 2017 lineup on Tuesday at 9pm ET. Thousands of fans will be watching intently to see if their favorite game will be played on the fighting game world's biggest stage. There is a bit of uncertainty about this year's lineup, as several new games—including King of Fighters XIV, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, and Injustice 2—all have strong cases to be part of the Evo 2017 lineup, and the nine games that were part of Evo 2016 all have strong arguments to return to the event.

Earlier this month, lead Evo organizer Joey Cuellar asked which seven games fans would like to see at Evo 2017. This led many to believe that only seven games will be featured at this year's event. While that's certainly a possibility, Evo staff have a tendency to try and do things bigger than they did the year before. I feel that this year will be no different, as I believe a record-setting ten games will make the final list.

Here are the 10 games I believe will make the cut for the Evo 2017 lineup, along with a few that won't.

Will make the cut

Street Fighter V

After a launch year that included poor reviews, missed sales targets, and an embarrassing rootkit fiasco, it is safe to say that 2016 was not a great year for Street Fighter V. However, there was one area in which the game was unquestionably successful: tournament turnout. A record-setting 5,100 players took part in last year's Evo tournament, which is more than the number of players who participated in the second- and third-largest tournaments in the event's history combined. Despite its freshman struggles, Street Fighter V's status as an Evo game is as safe as can be.

Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. for WiiU

The increasing prominence of Smash games at traditional fighting game events has not been without controversy, but it's a trend that isn't going away anytime soon. Last year's two Smash games were the second- and third-largest events in Evo history. Over 2,600 players entered last year's WiiU tournament, while over 2,300 entered the Melee event. With support like that, it's impossible to imagine a 2017 lineup without either game.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

To steal a line from a popular fighting game talk show: Marvel lives! The Marvel community did everything they could over the past two years to reignite interest in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Capcom's December announcement of Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite poured gasoline on that spark. There's no doubt that we'll see at least one more Evo with the insanity that is Marvel 3.

Injustice 2

Injustice 2's May 16 release date will surely make Evo organizers a bit nervous. With just two months between the game's release and Evo 2017, the game's entertainment value will hinge largely how well-balanced the game's cast is at launch. A poor initial balance could lead to a repeat of the original Injustice's Evo debut in 2013, an event in which three of the top six finishers played Superman. Still, those fears won't be enough to dissuade Evo organizers from including the game in the 2017 lineup.

Tekken 7: Fated Retribution

It's strange to think that Tekken 7, a game that hasn't seen an official North American release, can be making a third straight Evo appearance. Yet here we are. Bandai Namco, the Tekken series' publisher, has done well to drum up interest in the game with its regional King of the Iron Fist tours. That effort will pay dividends on Tuesday, and they'll pay dividends once players can finally get their hands on the game. Speaking of...

 BONUS PREDICTION: Tekken 7 console release date will be revealed

Tekken publisher Bandai Namco has promised to announce a console release date for its much-anticipated fighter some time this week. The company has been coy about exactly when that announcement will come, but Tuesday's Evo lineup reveal show seems to be the most likely choice. With popular figure Mark "Markman" Julio - who has appeared on the reveal show in each of the past two years - now working with both Evo and Tekken in official capacities, this appears to be a no-brainer.

King of Fighters XIV

The King of Fighters series is always a favorite among international Evo viewers, so it would be incredibly shocking to see the recently-released King of Fighters XIV left out of the 2017 lineup. 

Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- and BlazBlue: Central Fiction

Evo has historically had one unwritten rule for "anime" games: they only get one spot in the lineup. That rule was broken in 2015 when both Guilty Gear Xrd and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax were included in the event, but only Xrd returned last year. I feel that this year will see that rule broken again, as the BlazBlue series has a strong new entrant in Central Fiction to join Guilty Gear Xrd's still-strong -Revelator- update.

Killer Instinct

This may be the toughest call on the list. With the amount of developer and community support shown for the game four years after release, Killer Instinct is the type of game you want to see succeed. Microsoft is now backing the competitive scene in a big way as evidenced by the upcoming $30,000 Killer Instinct World Cup in March. I feel that momentum should be enough to see the game make the cut again despite being the game that had the fewest entrants at Evo 2016.

Will not make the cut

Pokken Tournament

It's tough to imagine a game going from over 1,100 entrants at Evo 2016 to not even in the 2017 lineup, but that's the fate that I believe Pokken Tournament will face on Tuesday. The game's community has shown up to events in force, but so have many other communities. Pokken felt like an odd choice last year, but with so many other games in contention,this year it feels like the odd one out. 

Mortal Kombat XL

There is precedence for Evo including two different NetherRealm Studio games at one Evo - both Mortal Kombat 9 and the original Injustice were a part of Evo 2013. But with so much crossover between players from the two series, along with the abundance of potential choices at Evo's disposal, I think that we've seen the last of Mortal Kombat XL at Evo.

Ultra Street Fighter II and ARMS

The Nintendo Switch will likely have at least two fighting games available by the time Evo rolls around, but don't expect to hear the name of either game on Tuesday. Many tournament players love Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but its re-release as an "HD Remix" was not particularly well-received by most of that group. It's doubtful they would be more receptive to Ultra Street Fighter II, a game that appears to be an HD remix of HD Remix. And as fun as it would be to see players like Justin Wong and Daigo duke it out with motion controls, there are far too many 'legit' fighting games in the running for a spot in the lineup to take a flyer on ARMS.

Jan 22 2017 - 9:12 pm

Hearthstone's NA vs CN event ends in controversy

The Chinese players were coasting to victory, but their final win provoked minor outrage.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

China's best Hearthstone players turned back a team of the best North America had to offer—but the event did not end without controversy.

In the final game of the event series, China's "Lvge" made a play that seemed to defy logic. He played Dirty Rat on turn two, risking pulling a hugely advantageous early Tomb Pillager or Gadgetzan Auctioneer for his opponent Keaton "Chakki" Gill.

However, according to the American players the Chinese casters and Lvge's teammates were screaming to play the Rat when he picked the card up, and with no white noise in the player headsets Lvge could likely hear the noise and take the cue.

The play promoted a furious series of tweets from Tempo Storm founder and Team NA player Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk—though the tweets were later deleted.

Chakki and other players have also commented on the controversy, claiming that they raised the issue of players being able to hear the casters. The other members of each team were also watching the stream of the game, meaning they could see the hands of the opposing player.

There was little that could be done to address the controversy unless the admins immediately halted the game in progress, as the game was tournament point for the Chinese side.

Despite the controversial finish, team China had run away with the tournament to get into that position. Thanks to two wins by "OmegaZero" and "Lovelychook" over the two day event, Lvge was left with only Chakki left to beat.

China had also won the first of the three showpiece events, before Canada's Julien “Cydonia” Perrault had single-handedly won the second for team North America.