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As progaming team Quantic implode, a new installment of a sadly common eSports story

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As progaming team Quantic implode, a new installment of a sadly common eSports story

Ko "HyuN" Seok Hyun is a tremendous professional StarCraft 2 player who enjoyed an incredibly successful 2013, during which he won DreamHack Valencia, finished second at MLG’s spring championship, and racked up a slew of semifinals appearances in other major tournaments. He should be be at the top of the world right now, except that he may never see a dime of the $23,000 he earned in prize money and salary. Now, with his Quantic team unraveling and his CEO gone missing, one of the best Zerg players in StarCraft may be depending on the kindness of strangers to continue his career.

What’s surprising about this story is that it’s happening to a major player in StarCraft 2. But when it comes to the basic storyline — an absent manager, vanished prize money, financial defeat from the jaws of progaming victory — Hyun’s story is a depressingly familiar one in the world of eSports.

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concerns

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concernsAs president and CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime underlines Blizzard’s commitment to StarCraft and its thriving pro community every time he appears at a tournament. It’s an increasingly important message to send: during the autumn, the StarCraft community seemed to be getting morose about its own future, and Blizzard’s ability to help it grow. Since then, Blizzard have been pushing back and trying to reassure the community that not only will Heart of the Swarm be a strong expansion, but that Blizzard hear and understand the the community’s concerns. With Morhaime in the audience, they can hardly miss it.

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DongRaeGu at IPL5: On his slump, Zerg balance, and the future of StarCraft 2

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DongRaeGu at IPL5: On his slump, Zerg balance, and the future of StarCraft 2For a long time, 2012 looked like it was Park “DongRaeGu" Soo Ho’s year. A streak of wins and podiums in late 2011 established him as one of the strongest Zerg players in professional StarCraft 2, and he quickly made a bid for dominance. He won a GSL title in March, then started one of the best rivalries in the sport as he battled Lee “MarineKing" Jung Hoon at four MLG events, finishing second to MarineKing at the Winter Arena and Championship before getting two first place finishes of his own at the Spring Arena and Championship. He was a fixture in championship brackets, the undisputed master of the Zerg, and it seemed like he might be on his way to being the best StarCraft 2 pro in the world.

Since then he’s struggled. His GSL performances have been inconsistent, with some surprisingly early eliminations from Code S, and he got nowhere in the World Championship Series. He did make it to the GSL semifinals in July, and took second in the OGN Starleague StarCraft 2 tournament behind Rain. But dominance has eluded him since the summer.

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GSL Code StarCraft 2 Finals at IPL 5: HyuN and Sniper close out 2012 in seven bruising games

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GSL Code StarCraft 2 Finals at IPL 5: HyuN and Sniper close out 2012 in seven bruising gamesThere is no overstating the energy and excitement at a GSL Code S Final. This is where the StarCraft 2 faithful gather to see StarCraft’s most prestigious title awarded, a career milestone roughly equivalent to the Super Bowl or a Formula 1 world championship. Whatever else happens in a player’s career, this elevates them into a select group of champions, who have overcome the best the sport has to offer.

It was especially sweet for an American audience that has long-waited for this moment. American GSL fan usually follow their favorites from the other side of the world, watching VODs or watching live until sunrise. StarCraft may be Korea’s national sport, but the love of its American fans runs deep. When Ko “HyuN" Seok Hyun and Kwon “Sniper" Tae Hoon were introduced before their match, they walked down the aisles through the crowd, washed in the glare of spotlights as audience members stretched their arms out to high-five them, clap them on the back, and let them know how thrilled this Las Vegas crowd was to finally see StarCraft’s top competition come back to America.

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IPL 5 Day 2: a bloodletting in StarCraft and League of Legends

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IPL 5 Day 2: a bloodletting in StarCraft and League of LegendsNo matter how good the tournament, I always find the first day and the early rounds a bit sad. In no time at all, the competition field, with all its potential for amazing matchup and great stories, is whittled down to a handful of contenders as possibilities give way to results. Plenty of great stories come out of it, but there are inevitable disappointments as fan favorites fall short with the spotlight on them, and underdogs don’t rise to the occasion. Then they’re gone, watching the tournament from the sidelines or vanishing altogether.

Today was elimination day at IPL 5, and for the most of the entrants still in play, the championship is now a tantalizingly close possibility. All they’ve got to do is beat the best players their sports have to offer.

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Where the action is: IPL 5, David Ting, and the battle to be the eSports' best

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Where the action is: IPL 5, David Ting, and the battle to be the eSports' bestGetting off the flight to Las Vegas from Boston, the man in my row starts talking to an older woman. They are both regulars in Vegas, and they reminisced about hotels and casinos while the rows ahead slowly emptied. There’s one they both liked but (and here the woman sighs wistfully), “It’s moved farther down The Strip since the old days. I haven’t been back in years."

In a cab heading to IGN Pro League’s IPL 5 at the Cosmopolitan, I see a huge billboard bearing the name of a hotel that proclaims, in huge letters, “The center of the action has shifted." Perhaps it has, and that old hotel and casino has fallen even further down The Strip, rendered obsolete by newer places and crowds that area always chasing the action, and the energy that gathers around it.

Esports aren’t all that different. This is a community where people weigh and assess “the hype" like it’s a fine wine, and exhort each other to “get hype" unironically. Esports are chasing bigger audience and more mainstream attention but, really, what they’re chasing is the action. Bigger crowds and personalities, more money, louder cheers, and above all, more excitement. IPL 5 has moved to the Cosmopolitan, and next year there are probably going to be four of these events instead of just two. The center of the action is shifting. Or at least, that’s what IPL and its General Manager David Ting hopes.

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IPL5: Don't forget Shootmania

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IPL5: Don't forget ShootmaniaIPL5's happening in Vegas, and it's all Starcraft 2 this, League of Legends that and Pina Colada the other. You know what it's like. But there's also Nadeo's nifty FPS, built from the ground up for eSport play. While the game isn't released until January 23rd next year, IPL marks its very first tournament - with a prize pot of $100,000.

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IPL5 is happening this weekend, and we are there

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IPL5 is happening this weekend, and we are thereIPL 5 is three events, really - the GSL Code S finals, a League of Legends tournament and another StarCraft 2 tournament. It’s happening this weekend and our Rob’s going to be there, run off his feet in Vegas like Hunter S. Thompson on Amumu instead of amyls. But that’s okay - he’s doing it for you.

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IPL5 preview: a stacked StarCraft 2 tournament

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IPL5 preview: a stacked StarCraft 2 tournamentIf IPL 5 just hosted the GSL Code S finals and the League of Legends tournament, it’d already by an amazing eSports event. But fortunately for all of us, it’s also playing host to a massive StarCraft 2 tournament of its own. 68 players from around the world are playing in a massive double-elimination bracket for a $100,000 prize pool, with $40,000 going to the top finisher.

Play begins every day at 6 PM GMT / 1 PM Eastern, starting tomorrow, the 29th, and continuing through Sunday night. The only fly in the ointment, of course, is that a lot of the major StarCraft matches will occur at the same time as the biggest LoL matches, so expect to do a lot of stream jumping. As problems go, however, this is a good one to have. You’ll be able to watch StarCraft on the main IPL Twitch stream, as well as two additional streams. TotalBiscuit, Apollo, Tastosis, Grubby, Sheth, and JoRoSaR will be casting the event, among others. Although I’m not sure we would be better off with Grubby out there playing.

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IPL5 preview: the biggest weekend for League of Legends since the Season 2 playoffs

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IPL5 preview: the biggest weekend for League of Legends since the Season 2 playoffsWith a $100,000 prize pool and $50,000 promised to the first place finisher, IPL have gathered an incredible sixteen-team competitive field for this weekend’s League of Legends tournament. A lot of familiar names return from Riot’s Season 2 playoffs, including the world champion Taipei Assassins, along with some less well-known teams that qualified through IPL’s extensive regional qualifiers.

Group play begins on the 29th at 6 PM GMT / 1 PM Eastern with Azubu Blaze v. Team Dynamic on the primary IPL LoL stream while World Elite take on newly-crowned DreamHack champions Fnatic on the secondary stream. Things get serious on Sunday with the winners’ bracket finals at 6 PM GMT / 1 PM Eastern, followed by the losers’ bracket finals three hours later, culminating with the Grand Finals best-of-five at 12 AM GMT / 7 PM Eastern.

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IPL5 preview: GSL Season 5 Starcraft 2 tournament brings the premier Korean StarCraft 2 series to American soil

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IPL5 preview: GSL Season 5 Starcraft 2 tournament brings the premier Korean StarCraft 2 series to American soilThe Global StarCraft League (GSL) is consistently the home of the world’s best StarCraft players. This might change with time, as Pro League continues to evolve from its Brood War-exclusive era, and the growing cooperation among Western leagues bodes well for improving the quality and consistency of their StarCraft tournaments. But for now, the GSL Code S and Code A pools read like a Who’s Who of professional StarCraft. Winning a GSL championship is like winning Formula 1 championship: there are other series, but all the world’s best compete in this one.

GSL has a partnership with IGN’s Pro League and, earlier this year, hosted its Team League championship at IPL4. This weekend, GSL is bringing the Code S championship to the United States, hosting its semifinals and final at IP5 in Las Vegas this weekend. HyuN, Ryung, Sniper, and Bogus will each be trying to fight his way to StarCraft’s most prestigious title and almost $43,000 champion’s purse.

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IPL 5 preview: The GSL World Championship pits Korea's best StarCraft 2 pros against the rest of the world

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IPL 5 preview: The GSL World Championship pits Korea's best StarCraft 2 pros against the rest of the worldIPL 5 (IGN Pro League) in Las Vegas this weekend is host to not one but three StarCraft 2 tournaments, and one of the most interesting is the GSL World Championship, something akin to golf’s Ryder Cup, as the best of one region take on challengers from across several others. In this case, it’s Korea vs. the World in a mixed format competition.

Things look pretty dire for the “foreign" side, however. The Korean team was chosen by their GSL rankings, meaning the five Korean champions are: Seed, MC, Squirtle, Life, and DongRaeGu. The “World All Stars" are: Stephano, Nerchio, LucifroN, Scarlett, and NaNiwa. Never has “foreigner hope" stressed the “hope" part quite so much. If they manage to pull off a win here, expect a StarCraft 2 version of Miracle, the Hollywood retelling of the US hockey team’s victory over the Soviet team in the 1980 Olympics.

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