I've just finished watching the SC2 GSTL Finals - held for the first time outside of Korea, at IPL4 in Las Vegas. A combination of GOMTV production, a huge hyped crowd and some of the best players in the world, duking it out for this prestigious trophy, guaranteed the event was going to be epic.
And it was epic. Some of the most exciting games of Starcraft II I've watched - all fueled by incredible skill and a superb atmosphere, of the kind Vegas is so good at creating. I don't think I've missed a GSTL match all season, having subscribed to it on GomTV. Startale vs Prime - who could ask for more.
I'm not going to run through the games here - and I don't want to spoil the result for those of you who have still to watch the VoD's. I'm writing this because of an 'incident' during the finals. The kind of incident that unfortunately happens far too often in major Starcraft II tournaments but that could so easily be avoided - Battle.net connection issues.
(photo - Mike Morhaime
& Dustin Browder
watch on as MKP's Battle.net connection hangs and drops). (All credit to @silverfire - Kevin Chang
, for this awesome shot!)
Whether it's general lag or, as in this case, a total dropping of a players' connection, a local fault, it's inexcusable when so much is on the line, and when a solution is readily available. Several solutions actually. Most of which have been around for years. The simplest of which would rely on a locally auto-saved file, that could be used to resume a game whenever a connection breaks (be it due to Battle.net connectivity or a Local network issue).
Blizzard remain stubborn on the subject of Lan in SC2, citing piracy concerns. It may not have helped in this case - rumor is that it was a local issue, but it would have helped the countless times it's happened before. They reason that if they stop forcing people to be connected to Battle.net for the entire game, the pirates will run wild. This kind of thinking deserves to be rubbished. It is rubbish - for the players, for the viewers, for ESports - and for Blizzard.
Making improvements to the Battle.net interface within the game, that add so much value so as to offer a vastly better user experience and hence discourage people from running pirated copies, is a far more progressive solution to Piracy. Improving the social features of Bnet; adding the ability to watch replays with friends from within it, for example. Bringing it to life in a compelling and inclusive way, to encourage community in what is, for many, a fairly isolated past-time - playing 1v1 RTS games. These are things Blizzard should be doing. Immediately!
Solutions needn't even be complicated. Simply having the client connect to Bnet at the start of a game and at the end would serve a similar purpose to the current 'always on' method, from a piracy standpoint. Introducing LAN mode wouldn't lead to millions being lost to more people refusing to purchase the game. Not if they implemented it properly. It would however lead to large live events running smoothly.
There will be much debate about whether the lagging out of game, last night, by MKP, should have been resolved with a rematch (the option that the GSTL Admins went for) or whether MKP was actually so far behind his opponent STParting, as to warrant giving the game to Parting. Frankly, i'm not interested in that. The admins were forced to make a tough call because of the way Battle.net and SC2 work .
It seems odd that there isn't the ability to resume an auto-saved game which dropped due to connectivity - despite the fact that a detailed replay file is stored locally, on both machines. It can't be that hard to implement - other games manage it.
I really hope that hearing the crowd roar 'We Want Lan' will have had a lasting impact on Blizzard's CEO Mike Morhaime & lead SC2 Developer Dustin Browder. I hope they felt uncomfortable seeing the StarTale team arguing the case for an admin awarded victory, in favor of their man Parting, due to his position in the game at the time it dropped.
It's an exciting time for eSports. Money is flowing in very nicely, from sponsors and investors. They all have businesses to run. They all need things to be reliable, as much as Blizzard needs to protect itself from piracy. Lets hope Blizzard react now. They need to take a good look at what they have created here - and respect the community that makes it more than just a game. They need to give us Lan and local 'resume dropped game' options. Now!