Never Too Late
New games come out almost weekly. Every one on the store shelves claims to have something bold and innovative and groundbreaking for the industry. They do their best to sell themselves to you. And sometimes, they do. They manage to drop one or two exciting lines, and you're hooked. But then you take it home, play it, and you're right back to the game you were playing before. The fallback game is usually a classic. Well, what if you went out, and you bought another classic?
I must be crazy, right? Go out and buy an old game? With all of the great new games out there? Alright, but how old am I talking? 11 years. That's right, over a decade. I must be mad, no? However, what if I told you, that an 11 year-old game was still changing to this day? What if I told you that this 11 year-old game was still seeing new, innovative strategies. Still not sold? What if I told you, that this 11 year-old game has one of the largest competitive scenes, with tournaments regularly occurring and had a spot in WCG?
Well, the 11 year-old game I'm talking about is StarCraft. Yes, the 2-D, mega-hit RTS StarCraft is the game I've been describing. All too often, people brush the game aside, saying it's too old, too lacking graphically, and that there's no way to possibly break into it. Well, they're wrong. Especially with the hype for StarCraft 2, now is the BEST time ever to get into this wonderful game. Why?
First of all, the game is constantly changing, so someone who has been playing for all 11 years isn't necessarily on top of things. New strategies develop regularly and for each new strategy, a new counter-strategy must develop as well. It's a chain reaction, as new variations are tried, and no two games are ever the same. New players have the opportunity to break in all the time, and new faces are constantly changing the shape of the game.
Don't mistake me for saying that every new person who plays has a 100% chance of being the next NonY or IdrA and punching their ticket to Korea, but there's still no reason as to why someone can't pick up the game and with the right amount of time spent playing, ascend the ranks to a competitive level. Community websites are teeming with new players picking up the game for the first time or coming back to the game after a long absence and some of these players often arise and make something of themselves in the scene.
Another way the game changes is through the maps. Unlike Counter Strike, where competition is held on the same five to ten maps over and over again, StarCraft sees new maps emerge for the competitive ladders every 3-4 months. Sure, there are maps that are around forever, like Python and Lost Temple, but at the same time, some maps literally only last 2 to 3 weeks before they are replaced. This constant changing of maps allows no one to get too comfortable in any one setting and for no race to become overpowered.
The different maps are usually brought out in bunches of 2-5 in co-ordination with the Korean professional tournaments. In 2008 alone, games were played on an astonishing 40 different maps in major tournaments alone. Add in the dozen or so maps that are included in ladder packs but have been retired from the pro-scene, and the count adds up. These maps are all unique in their own way and play to certain play styles. For example, a map like Othello, used in several of the leagues, including the OSL, MSL and Proleague, was kind to a player who thrived on a macro game. On the contrary, a map like Chupung-Ryeong and its unique design was heaven for players who enjoyed a creative style of play and unique builds. Each map has its own tricks, which lend themselves to these varying styles of play, leading to a variety of possible openings and outcomes.
Third, the overall balance of StarCraft is a great reason to get into it. It isn't a game where one race has slowly evolved into an unstoppable force over time (although some will tell you Protoss is "easy-mode", that's far from the case). Each race has its pros and cons that balance it out with the other two races. One race may seem to have an edge at one point in time over the others, but that's simply a matter of the players behind the mouse and keyboard, not the game's balance itself.
The balance in this game is impeccable, making it new-user friendly. Any player can step into the game, pick a race and automatically be on an even plane with someone who did the same only chose another race. Even at the higher levels, there is a fairly even split of players among the three races. Any imbalances are simply due to personal preference and not because of advantageous game play functions.
Someone may point out the current trend in the professional scene, where it is being dominated by six Protoss players, nicknamed "The Dragons", but I will point them back to the years past, where players like "The Emperor", "Tornado Terran" and "The Little Monster" dominated with the Terran faction, or to the times when "Tushin" and "The Maestro" and their Zerg broods had their way with the scene. Each era spawns a new group of dominating players to take over the scene. With every new season, there is a shift in what race will hold the reigns over the scene, but it only lasts so long before another race reigns supreme.
In the end, there are no reasons as to why someone would say "It's too hard to get into StarCraft now." Like I previously stated, it is a better time than ever to get into the scene. With the hype about StarCraft 2, the game is evolving at a faster pace than ever. No longer is there a stagnancy looming over the competitive ladders. New players are joining every day, signing up for the latest tournaments and competitions. Now, one final question remains. Will you?