Perhaps the king of RTS was Starcraft, released in 1998 by Blizzard Entertainment. It was the game which, arguably, most captured the attention of those in search of balanced competitive online multiplayer gaming.
The gameplay focuses on constructing a base with various buildings around hubs consisting of mineral and gas deposits. Players extract minerals and gas to spend on forming army units and constructing more advanced buildings, which give access to stronger units. The ultimate goal is to use your units to destroy the opponent’s base and units while, in turn, preventing such a fate from befalling your own side.
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How StarCraft 2 is played
Players start by choosing one of three distinct factions. Games can be played between players using two of the same faction. Players normally specialize in one particular faction. Each faction has entirely unique units and abilities from the others. They are:
- The Zerg , a swarm of insectlike aliens whose focus is on overwhelming their opponents with numbers.
- The Protoss , a hyper advanced race of aliens, whose focus is limited to a smaller number of units that require more micromanagement.
- The Terran , the human faction, whose playstyle is the most adaptable of the three.
Starcraft 2: The Heir to the Throne
A sequel, Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, was released in 2010 to global fanfare, with much of that fandom being centered in South Korea. Starcraft 2 uses the same factions as the first game, and it maintained many of the same mechanics and balancing as well.
The brilliant balancing of Starcraft 2 and the rise of MOBAs have effectively killed off all legitimate competitors among RTS titles. SC2 could reasonably be called the Standard Oil of RTS because of its absolute dominance in the genre. The few other RTS titles which are still produced today are often overlooked because of SC2.
Because it is so iterative, Starcraft 2 has effectively received well over a decade’s worth of time for tweaking its faction balance. The game has already received an expansion, Heart of the Swarm, and is currently awaiting the release of a second expansion called Legacy of the Void.
Though much of the new content is singleplayer, each expansion (and some patches) alters the multiplayer balancing in its own respective way (although Blizzard tries not to rock the boat too much, lest they draw the ire of loyal fans and professional players). The game and its accompanying metagame has certainly evolved since the initial 2010 release, but it has mostly done so with a series of small steps rather than a few giant leaps.
SC2’s competitive events run the gamut in terms of player skill and prize pools. The largest tournaments can occasionally offer first place prizes as high as six figures, but most tournaments offer prizes in the four to five figure range. This places the sport closer to CS:GO than Dota 2 in terms of prize pools.
- The largest competitions are the World Championship Series (WCS) events, hosted by Blizzard Entertainment themselves alongside some other sponsors and coordinators. The largest Blizzard events are invitationals for only the best players.
- There are also many events held by organizers such as the Electronic Sports League (ESL), with one of the largest being the Intel Extreme Masters tournament series. Comprehensive schedule listings for the more popular events can be found on Blizzard’s WCS homepage, at liquipedia.net, and at various betting sites such as betway eSports. There are also proleague matches between professional gaming teams.
History as Spectator Sport
The viability of Starcraft as a spectator sport originated in South Korea, where the original game was an unusual success. Nearly half of all global sales for Starcraft came from Korea. Many thousands of people would pack into stadiums to watch the esport played live, and playing professionally was, initially (and to a certain degree, still), only a legitimate option for those living in South Korea.
The majority of the millions of dollars of tournament winnings have been awarded to players inside the country for competitions which took place there. Though there is online multiplayer, players will often fly to the events to play larger matches in the same room, which helps avoid any possible lag in the game itself. Starcraft was a pioneer in esports, because it was one of the first games to ever be taken so seriously as a form of entertainment for people who weren’t actually playing it.
Types of Starcraft 2 Betting
There are many ways a person can bet on Starcraft 2 through online bookmakers, though they are not available to US citizens at the time of this writing.
- The most common type of wager is, simply, a bet on who will win a particular match. In certain proleague matchups, you can bet on the outcome of either an individual match within a lineup, or on a particular team to win a series.
- For tournaments, you can make a future bet on who will be the winner of that tournament, or a bet on how many games you think a particular player or, a team as a whole, will win during that tournament.
- Some sites allow for bettors to make wagers on multiple outcomes across various different esports events, Starcraft 2 being among them. These bets are very complex.
- Players may wager virtual items with their Steam accounts through various sites.
Learn About the People You Can Bet On
No bet would be advisable without an understanding of who it is you’re betting on. The best sources for Starcraft 2 data are relatively informal compared to the mountains of analytical data for major sports, but much of the information you come across is likely to be helpful in some way (and some of it is absolutely vital for even casual fans to know):
- The WCS Standings page isn’t the most comprehensive source of information, but it’s a good place to start. This page, located on Blizzard’s own battle.net, gives a listing of the players with the most WCS Points in the world, which are gained from winning high profile tournaments. There are also short bios of each player, and a listing of what tournaments the player placed in recently. This is the place to learn who the best players are right now. An explanation of where his or her WCS points came from is also given.
- Listening to professional commentators is the best way to learn about the game (two glaring omissions from that list are TotalBiscuit and Day9). They’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours watching the top level players compete against one another, and they often fill the occasional gaps of inaction with relevant information that they’ve witnessed firsthand about a player’s playstyle or preferences. Casters know very specific analysis about a particular player, such as:
- A player’s success rate against a particular faction, or on a particular map.
- Whether a player uses cheese strategies.
- If the player is better or worse at unit micromanagement than his opponent.
- How a player performs while using a particular kind of unit.
- Personal information about a player, or his status on his current team.
- In-depth knowledge of a player’s history, and their rise in the esport.
There are numerous tidbits which these commentators have picked up through their years of watching each player, and all of them can have potential value when considering a bet.
Starcraft 2 is an extremely complicated game with a high barrier for entry and a difficult learning curve for both players and spectators alike, and the best possible way to learn how to bet on it successfully would be from listening to a good commentator and watching good players
The biggest resource for SC2 is the aforementioned liquipedia.net. This Starcraft wiki provides readers with:
- Starcraft 2 news
- Strategies for each faction
- Patch information
- Player bios (and some performance history) and pro team descriptions
- Tournament schedules (organized by size) and results
- Data gathered from proleague results, such as this page for the 2015 Global StarCraft II League Season 1 Code S: Statistics. Information such as percentages for victories on a particular map by faction, and the results of matches which took place during the season are all available in these pages.
The youth of esports is as much a benefit as it is a drawback for those seeking to gamble on Starcraft 2. The necessary information for those seeking to make money is out there, albeit a little inaccessible compared to any major sport.
Esports are at a stage right now where those who are willing to make the time investment necessary to ingratiate themselves in this world and its many facets will see themselves making significant amounts of money in the future.
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