By Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson of Evil Geniuses
Good. No, I mean it. It’s definitely not ideal. This is almost a tacit admission that the current system did not work the way it was intended. It is a flushing of sorts. Did Blizzard and everyone truly desire a WCS where people would coin terms like “GSL Lite”? What about other terms essentially mocking the fact that it promoted the spread of Korean talent and the stifling of regional growth? The answer is almost certainly no. This reset is not only a cleansing of the pallet, it is essential for the other changes. That part is rather mundane and pragmatic. I must say though, on a purely ethos perspective, I approve of this move. If WCS is to become something we can all be proud of it needed to be reset and given a fresh chance. That starts here.
Redistribution of the Ladder Qualifier Slots
I am a bit sad about this one. It was originally made with the intent of getting Korean players (primarily) to play amid the peers of the region and thus appear to be committed, at the very least, and at best help improve the overall skill of said region by practicing side-by-side on the ladder. What ended up happening on the NA ladder in particular was they would off race and goof around. This was more challenging and fun for them given how superior they were in terms of skill to those in that region. On the EU server, we witnessed what this rule was meant to do: move in top talent and get them playing with the regional players! With MC and crew actually taking the initiative to commit to the WCS system and completely relocating to the region they were laddering with their peers in, it showed that this mattered to them. The result was a far more competitive ladder system and local access to the brilliant Korean powerhouse players for EU players.
Having recently spent some time playing with these benefactors during my time at TaKe TV’s Homestory Cup, I can tell you the results over time are extremely clear. The EU ladder is head and shoulders beyond the level of the NA ladder. I would never stroke the egos of the EU players for nothing mind you… they don’t need that. However, it is extremely and unavoidably true. They are simply WAY better over there. If WCS is to be a system that promotes top tier competitive play and celebrates SC2, it needs to encourage things like what happened in the EU region. The NA region is an example of what it can become on the flip side – a catalyst for “brain drain” and the force behind widespread de-motivation and stagnation. All of this for the most part is moot however with the 3rd major change. I am just reflecting on what it COULD have been and why I am sad it largely fell short (outside of the EU server).
This one makes me worried. In truth it was NEEDED and is ESSENTIAL, but when was it truly essential? Is it needed now? They say “better late than never” and I agree with that. They also say “A day late and a dollar short.” This radical change means teams, players, and organizations are having a carpet pulled from beneath them. Can you get a visa? Great, no worries! You can’t? Tough. Was your team set up to participate in a “softer region” and your budget depends on those results? Uh-oh. Korea is a BATTLE. There are so many good players and there and not nearly enough opportunities for them. The Darwinist would say “GREAT! Let the strong survive!” But could not that same logic be applied to why WCS is being revamped? A lot of people couldn’t compete with the Koreans and because of that it got… less interesting. Ah, I digress a bit here. It’s a murky and circular debate there. By large what we can take away from this (in my opinion) is it was necessary and needed. I hope it isn’t too late. I hope people can get excited about the unique things each region can now bring.
It is true NA will have some of the lowest skill. However, it will have really cool underdog stories. It will give hope to household names like Scarlett, HuK, and various others. They can now reliably look their pro teams in the faces and ask them to be excited about more than just “placing well” but winning major tourneys and big prizes. Ironically, the two names I just mentioned are individuals who actually CAN win big tourneys, but even that is a rarity and something they themselves probably don’t actually count on. With a fairer WCS system that happens two or three times a year, that means a lot. That means you will witness teams once again seeing improved value in having and holding on to a SC2 star. What about teams with Koreans? Give them support! Move them to a region and get them visas to capitalize on that investment. If they stay in Korea, they will play with the best and compete against the best more frequently. This means SC2 sees better play overall. Professional gamers on the fringe will have to retire and be pushed out, which is sad, but in SC2 I believe we probably should always have had a smaller pro gamer pool. This game is brutal and requires SO much time, support, and in many ways luck. With a healthy and vibrant WCS system, so much more is possible.
Follow Geoff on twitter @EGiNcontroL