With the end of 2019 rapidly approaching, I wanted to write a piece highlighting some really great events that came in right at the year’s end. Nation Wars and Homestory Cup were a fantastic way to close out a year of StarCraft. In today’s article I’ll be writing about what I personally really enjoyed about these tournaments. They did a lot of things right so of course I won’t talk about everything, just the things that stood out to me the most.
Homestory Cup is always a pleasure to watch. What always stands out to me is that, relative to most other offline tournaments, its participants seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and it shows in the broadcast. Major WCS tournaments tend to feature a certain rigidity or awkwardness in their presentation, whereas Homestory Cup does a good job in bringing out the personalities of players and casters alike. Commentators joke with each other in an honest and authentic way; it never feels particularly forced.
The same holds true for a lot of the tournament. The sponsorship segments stand out to me as the best example; they don’t feel fake or forced in the way that these kinds of segments sometimes do. Whether it’s Winter and HeRoMaRiNe joking about Mifcom or Harstem making a hard sell for more subscribers, it all blends in nicely with the show. Opening up the stream live on air and scrolling down to the link people should click on is kitschy but fun; it shows the tournament organizers don’t take themselves too seriously.
I particularly liked a segment on the final day highlighting the support of Global Data Science. Rather than doing some kind of short, flashy advertisement, Dennis stood with the Director and had an extended conversation about what they were doing, what their mission is, and their support for Homestory Cup. It was really authentic and felt like it slotted in with the rest of the show very nicely.
Speaking strictly as a StarCraft tournament, Homestory Cup’s games are always good, thanks in large part to the quality of players that participate. For me what works particularly well is the way the tournament allows professional players to offer extended commentary on games. It’s unusual in a StarCraft broadcast, at least in my experience, for a commentator to go on a multi-minute, open-ended monologue about the state of the current game or, more broadly, the state of the match-up in general. But this is the norm at Homestory Cup, with professional players frequently spending long stretches of time offering deeper analysis. The overall tone of the broadcast is less flashy and intense than other major tournaments, and this frees the commentators to go deeper on the game rather than trying to highlight every key decision the players make.
When I watch Homestory Cup, I feel like I can actually watch it for an extended period of time; the pacing is very flat, and I mean that in a good way. It feels laid back in the sense that the show never gets in the way of the actual content; the commentary, games and players are always center-stage. The show never tries to make the show about the show, if that makes sense.
I’ve previously written at length about Nation Wars; suffice it to say I think it’s consistently one of the best tournaments of the year. I would have liked to see ZombieGrub brought back on as a commentator – her deep experience broadcasting less well-known players in online tournaments is a huge asset for an event like Nation Wars – but nonetheless the tournament was still very good. There’s a couple things that stood out to me about this year’s broadcast.
As always the quality of the production was excellent. I particularly liked the graphics work showing various player details in the run-up to any given match:
The player interviews were also a highlight for me; Hajinsun and FunKa were especially good at pulling players out of their shells and creating banter. In general I almost always skip over interviews when I watch VODs, finding them forced and inauthentic; but in the case of this tournament I actually watched most of them, and I’m glad I did.
Authenticity is a running theme in Nation Wars, helped along by the producers’ unwillingness to over-produce segments. The video interviews are strange to watch on the surface – people sitting in their bedrooms, sometimes in the middle of the night – but they have a rawness to them that’s quite endearing. The somewhat odd lack of stage lighting at the finals also played into this, though I’m not sure if that was the intention; it made the reaction shots (always a strength of this tournament) feel realer and more authentic.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that I think the tournament organizers took a big risk adopting their new “mixed” format over the all-kill formats of previous years, but I think it paid off. There was a good balance between getting to see everyone play while simultaneously not handicapping nations with only one or two top-tier players. At least, that’s how I saw it as a viewer of my own team – I neither felt unfairly punished by one particularly good player on another team, nor did I feel like my team didn’t have a shot because we couldn’t field three full-time professional players.
2019 was a bit of a rocky year for StarCraft II. Between seemingly endless bad news from Blizzard and poor competitive balance at the biggest tournament of the year, I often found myself longing for previous years of competition. Nation Wars and Homestory Cup were a great rejoinder to all this, offering a reminder that StarCraft II continues to be an excellent game, with an awesome community and a lot of really great tournaments.
Thanks for reading! I write about StarCraft and Age of Empires. I’d love it if you followed me on Twitter and Facebook to catch more of my content, from long-form articles to in-depth analytical videos. All the best and see you next time!