Jeremy covered this back in 2013 when it made a few grand on Kickstarter to get made and it’s now come out. SC2VN is the story of a western amateur StarCraft II player named Mach who moves to Korea to try to play for the highest stakes. It’s set in 2011 and oddly I actually know someone who spent a few months out there making a casual attempt at the same thing around the same time. As you might expect, Mach isn’t having the easiest time of it. It’s completely free and you can play it now, or read on for my thoughts on the opening.
There’s a wonderful sense of nostalgia to it, even though it’s set only four years back. I was on the brink of hardcore fan at that time and there’s quite a few nods and references I appreciated immediately. It’s clearly made with love for the game and the scene, along with e-sports in general and the ridiculous numbers of hours people put into their favourite games. Don’t worry if you aren’t a StarCraft fan especially, there’s a glossary and ‘tutorial’ section that teach you the basic facts about the game – it’s even narrated by caster and personality Day.
Decisions come down to individual match choices between strategies, at least so far. It’s actually quite a good fit with StarCraft’s chess-like (I hate the comparison, but it fits here) play and counter-play at its more sophisticated levels. Mach is a relatively strong player attempting to qualify for the game’s name-switched VSL tournament and make his way to glory, living off all his savings at once on a trip his parents, unsurprisingly, don’t approve of.
In that regard it’s cliché, but accurate. The young men and women – the game’s first and only met stretch goal was to let you select Mach’s gender – who start out trying to make money from e-sports rarely find support from family. As the game says in its opening scrawl, 1 in 50 make it. That tinges the whole game with a kind of sad, depressing dread, and it’s obvious from the start that Mach isn’t happy with where his life is at. I really like that and, while it’s not a situation I’ve found myself in, it seems remarkably realistic.
The art and music are fantastic, with some VN-style remixes of StarCraft tracks and wonderfully detailed character models. The writing is solid so far too, though a couple of spelling and grammar mistakes (and now I have to check this article fifteen times to make sure I remain fully unhoisted) break the immersion when they occur. The three-folk team behind it say they’ll support it with updates and patches for these problems in the coming weeks.
Part of me hopes that the end state of the game isn’t winning the VSL for fame and fortune, but managing to qualify and then being stunningly outplayed in the first round. A remarkable success for anyone not Korean-born and a great adventure, but unlikely to be remembered in the e-sports archives. I don’t know if it will end in that appropriate way, but I’m looking forward to finding out.