This article is not aimed at those like me. Those who have been following competitive gaming for a good five years now. Despite having dabbled in it myself, I have always equally enjoyed watching it as a spectator sport. There’s something special about watching those top players competing for big money!
IEM: European Championship Finals…
…are this weekend in Kiev, Ukraine. Pro gamers from around Europe will be competiting to be crowned the Intel Extreme Masters European champions, and secure their place in the Intel Extreme Masters World Finals. The games that will be showcased are simply the purest forms of the core gaming genres. RTS and FPS.
Well, Counter-Strike. Does it need any introduction? Forget Call of Duty - this is the daddy of all FPS games. It’s eleven years old, but is still pushing the boundaries in competitive gaming and tops the stats on Steam’s current player count: http://store.steampowered.com/stats/
Counter-Strike thrashes its newer Orange Box equivalent (but let’s not go into that!). This isn’t a debate about which is more popular. This is about the game itself, and those who are playing it for cold, hard cash.
Lets get to the basics for those not familiar. CounterStrike is a 5 V 5 strategy simulation. With guns. There are two sides to pick from – Terrorist and Counter-terrorist. As a Counter-terrorist your aim is to kill all of the Terrorists or, in the event of a bomb being planted, defuse it. As a Terrorist your aim is to plant the bomb and destroy the bomb site, or to kill all the Counter-terrorists. Simple, ey?
Counter-Strike has evolved greatly over eleven years, and those competing are the top-rated players, whether old or new. No doubt viewers will see some of the most impressive aiming and gaming ever seen!
Who to Watch
Wow. Picking from this lineup is difficult. Europe has a rich pedigree of CounterStrike pros so choosing a team is difficult. You’ve got the likes of SK Gaming who recently acquired the top players such as ‘Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg’ and ‘Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund’ from the former giants fnatic. This was a big move for the players, and is a bold move to try to bring SK back to dominance. The organisation itself has a massive following so they always bring in the punters, but this tournament has a heady air of anticipation.
Navi are clearly the favourites. They have gone from being occasional giant killers to giants themselves. They are the most enthusiastic, exciting team to watch. Especially on-stage where they high five literally anytime someone goes huge! And, boy, can they go huge…
Home favourites Navi are my pick but expect something from SK Gaming for some top Swedish skill.
Starcraft 2 is, of course, the massive sequel to the 1998 release Starcraft, which is still played widely today, and is somewhat of a national sport over in South Korea. Starcraft 2 has reignited the RTS nerd in all of us. Being a standalone brilliant single player with cutscenes that Blizzard are famed for, it has one of the best interfaces I have ever seen in an RTS, with incredible game mechanics and addictive gameplay. The reason it is so popular today!
The aim of the game is to select either Terran, Zerg or Protos and vote off/choose from a list of competitive maps. You are then put head to head in a 1 Vs. 1 battle of the mind and the micro.
In a nutshell, the key to this game is a good build order so you get the optimum amount of units you want in the quickest time, so you can then go attack and destroy your opponent. This is an oversimplified explanation to what is a very complex strategic game. Starcraft 2 is all down to reading your opponent, scouting what they have and reacting accordingly. Strategy is key.
Below is a video showcasing Starcraft and the kind of Actions Per Minute required to be at the top.
Who to Watch
After watching the Homestory Cup and scReddit tourmanents, it’s safe to say that my favourite Protos player, White-Ra, will probably take this.
Quake live is the evolution of the much-loved Quake 3. Id Software dragged Quake kicking and screaming into a new age of gaming. Turning this into a game that is free and playable through a browser was, in my mind, a stroke of genius.
This game is solely designed to replicate the Quake 3 arena play, so all those pro gamers could make the switch seamlessly. Tournaments quickly followed suit. A very smart idea after the fragmentation in the scene that Quake 4 caused…
This game is a fast paced 1 Vs. 1 FPS, pitting two opponents on a map filled with shields and weapons. The aim of Quake Live is to get map control and out-frag your opponent before the time limit fizzles out. Knowing the timing of when an item re-spawns is crucial, and is second nature to all the top players and true Quake experts. Having that extra health/shield and the weapons of your choice means you can dominate your opponent because you always have the advantage. It’s then up to the skill and tactics of your opponent to throw control of the game into their favour.
Quake Live is exciting and amazing to watch thanks to fantastic moments like these:
It’s not over till it’s over, friend…
Who to watch
As the winner of the last IEM European championship, I feel Cypher is clearly the one to watch. However, Cooller and Av3k are great players to watch too – it’ll certainly be an interesting contest.
So, how do i watch?
All the coverage is live on: http://www.esl-world.net/masters/news/142277/#/masters/season5/kiev/
With the world’s best shoutcasters, they’re looking to bring the action to you for free or in high quality for only 3.99 EUR. It’s a great way to spend a weekend if you have something short of a fiver to spare!
The games kick off tomorrow and will be running throughout the weekend. NAGF wishes good luck to all those competing – we’ll be watching closely!