South Korea Tagged Articles RSS Feed | South Korea RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network StarCraft: Remastered Will Try (and Succeed) at Bringing Brood War Back Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:18:36 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Rumors of StarCraft: Remastered had been floating around for some time, but the revamp of Blizzard's renowned RTS wasn't officially announced until Saturday's I StarCraft community event in Korea. A graphical update isn't all that Blizzard will be bringing to the game this year.

No one would blame you for not paying attention to the current professional state of a 20-year-old game, but if you are one of those community members who's been keeping up with the StarCraft: Brood War scene, you probably aren't surprised at all that Brood War is getting attention from Blizzard again. The writing has been on the pro scene wall.

Trading the new for the old

It's no secret StarCraft 2 has been slowly falling out of esports favor. It's been a slow and painful process for its community and any possible explanation as to why gets convoluted quickly. There are a lot of potential reasons -- it's best to leave it at that.

In the West it may seem like the StarCraft IP as a whole is nearing the end of its line, but in South Korea StarCraft: Brood War is seeing a resurgence as old professionals are turning back the clock and returning to the game as new blood flows into the scene. It may not be as big as it used to be, but its continued popularity in South Korea is undeniable, especially in the face of the decline of its sequel.

All four of these SC:BW superstars (From left: Bisu, Flash, Jaedong, Stork) were featured in a Blizzard interview in 2012 about their excitement over switching to StarCraft 2. All four are back on the Brood War circuit.

What's kept the game going these 19 years in Korea is a unique mix of game balance and familiarity. StarCraft: Brood War was technically the first esport and has been broadcast on television in the country for years -- and its mainstream popularity made it a household name well before the esports boom elsewhere. StarCraft was/is a phenomenon in South Korea. Not everyone plays it these days, but everyone knows it exists.

The game's balance is the biggest factor to its success. Those on the outside may assume one race dominates the others, but as years of professional-level matches have shown, Brood War's meta is an ever-changing beast. The way the pros play now is far removed from the way they played a few years ago, and even further removed from a few years before. There is something to be said about a game that continues to evolve, even now 19 years from its release.

The gift of patch 1.18

StarCraft: Brood War is officially going free-to-play on March 30th, and with it is coming patch 1.18. This marks the first actual Brood War patch since 2009 -- and it's bringing not only some modern quality-of-life adjustments, but two game changing unit bug fixes.

The most exciting quality of life changes coming with 1.18 lie in the addition of keybind options, observer mode, UI adjustments, a popular maps option when looking for games, and Fish ladder support for competitive players. This all sounds great, especially when paired with the rest of the patch notes.

The two unit changes in 1.18 are sure to make big waves in the current meta and are sure to make things more difficult for Zerg players.

The first and biggest is that Valkyries will no longer stop firing when there are too many units on screen. This was previously caused by the Valkyrie's attack taking up 8 sprites at once, which is no longer an issue on modern machines. One can only imagine we'll be seeing more Valkyries in competitive play with this change.

The second is a change to the Protoss bread-and-butter ranged unit, the Dragoon. Every Protoss match has them, and it's no secret that pre-1.18 Dragoons have always been a little wonky despite their prevalence. After the patch they will no longer freeze up and require a stop order before they can take a new order -- effectively making Dragoons take less effort to use effectively.

The changes in 1.18 effectively modernize the framework of the game just enough to bump it back into an esports spotlight. While it all sounds amazing, what's in this patch isn't the only thing to get excited about. Even better things are in store for Brood War this summer.

Free standard or paid Remaster?

Some people seem confused about how this whole "free" and "remaster" thing is going to happen, so here's the two-part gist:

  1. StarCraft: Brood War is going completely free-to-play on March 30th with the 1.18 patch. Anyone can download and play the game for free with the improvements as of 1.18.
  2. StarCraft: Remastered will be an optional additional purchase available later this year. Matchmaking should be coming with the Remaster release, and will be available to everyone. Standard Brood War and Remaster's visuals will be in the same client.

Remastered's visuals are essentially cleaned up sprites -- which is welcome for many Brood War vets, but confusing for a number of modern gamers wondering why they didn't just remake the game in StarCraft 2's engine, why the field of view is staying the same, or why they're not removing the 12 unit selection cap. There are some very good reasons for these things staying the same, and those lie in the competitive scene.

Much of Brood War's legendary balance hangs on the the game engine itself. Brood War on another engine simply would not be the same game -- and a game that still sees so much competitive play should not have its balance overturned for the casual playerbase. Especially in the case of a game that's been professionally played (on television no less) for so long.

But this leads us to the big question. Who is Remastered for? If it's not to appease a modern market that's eager to see what's long been considered one of the most balanced competitive games out there changed on a whim, who is it for? The answer is not very surprising.

Professional revitalization

There are two aspects to the 1.18 and upcoming Remastered that are extremely telling.

The first is that it's going to be totally free-to-play, regardless of whether you purchase the graphical upgrade. The second is that matchmaking is coming with Remastered, and that is something any game needs to survive in today's market.

StarCraft 2's dipping player numbers and Brood War's rejuvenated professional scene certainly correlate with one another. Brood War's chugging along, but no one's going to say its playerbase is bursting. Too much of the game outside of the gameplay itself is antiquate -- and when compared to other popular esports, that's likely the reason we're seeing Blizzard return to make these quality-of-life changes.

It's difficult for an old game with such antiquated framework to survive, much less thrive, in such a competitive market. Game player numbers are competitive. The games themselves are competitive. If Brood War wants to live on in today's market and pull in a substantial amount of new professional blood, it needs to get the updates its getting in 1.18. It needs the slight graphical overhaul, and it absolutely needs matchmaking.

South Korea's gaming culture is entirely different from what we know here in the West. StarCraft may have been developed by an American studio, but it's not geared toward Western audience. There's a reason StarCraft: Remaster was announced in Korea -- even StarCraft 2 was initially announced in Korea. The Western market is not the game's audience.

All of the changes coming and the free-to-play shift are going to revitalize Brood War internationally, but it's going to do that doubly so in the land that loves it most. With MOBAs decimating StarCraft 2 in popularity, the only way Blizzard can win back the hearts of Korean gamers is to give Brood War the attention it needs to stay relevant.

We here in the West are only along for the ride, but that doesn't mean the this year isn't going to be the best time to dip into Brood War in ages. The hype is real among older players and those who didn't get to experience the game in its prime.

Getting into a match is going to be easier than ever thanks to matchmaking, and the game's custom maps and lobby culture are going to be a treat for the more adventurous and social RTS player. 1.18 and Remastered may be primarily focused on the professional scene, but there is no saying more casual players aren't going to enjoy the changes just as much.

Come this summer we'll be able to say that old trusty Brood War is back with a vengeance. Only time will tell if StarCraft 2 will be able to survive.

South Koreans Migrating to Sokcho for Pokemon GO Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:30:16 -0400 JessDambach

Pokemon GO has not been released to South Korea yet, nor Japan or China. There is a lucky city in South Korea called Sokcho that has been able to receive service for Pokemon GO. This has caused an overflow of people coming into the small city of Sokcho. This already touristy town is ready though. Above you see a sign of a restaurant in Sokcho and it reads "Trainers, isn't it hot outside? Have some 물회("mulhwi", a type of cold seafood soup) and catch 'em all! Use our drinking water, restroom, and charge your phone for free!"

Pokemon GO has not been released in the Asian cells, AS16. However, the way in which Niantic positions the map of Pokemon GO, the northeastern part of South Korea is open, which is an NR15 area. With Seoul being only about 2 hours from Sokcho by bus, many people have been flooding in. This information was found out last night and since then the bus tickets from Seoul to Sokcho were sold out within a few hours after the information was known (sometime last night). The bus ticket for last night and this morning and afternoon tickets were all sold out within hours.

The city of Sokcho is very happy with the situation. Their Facebook is welcoming visitors and sharing a map of free Wifi in the city. The mayor is aware of the situation and is enabling the migration by catching some Pokemon himself. This is a translation of Sokcho City Hall official Facebook account, "Sokcho is suddenly very excited because of this map! The Twitter alarm was showing up on the phone since last night, and the visitors to Facebook & the blog are rising. Turns out that Sokcho is the beginning city of the "Pokemon GO" game, which was on the news last night. Because of the way the area is blocked off, Sokcho and Ulleung island became the only exceptions. When you google 'Sokcho,' 'PokemonGO' comes out as a related search. Thanks to this map, now the Sokcho City Hall is becoming more publicized."

Koreans are now calling Sokcho "태초마을" the Pallet Town (which is the town you start from when you start a Pokemon game). What is also interesting is that Pallet Town is located in Kanto regions, or the "eastern" regions. Sokcho is one an eastern city in Korea.

Would you take a 2 hour bus ride to this Pallet Town in Korea or are all these people crazy?


New DJ Max title announced for PS4 Wed, 11 May 2016 09:36:52 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

Recently, DJMax Respect was announced for the PlayStation 4 console at a PlayStation Developers Conference held in South Korea. DJ Max Respect is set for release in January 2017 for South Korea.

The DJMax series is a set of rhythm games that were established in 2004 by South Korean developer Pentavision Studio (now part of Gameon Studio). The initial title was an online beta test, and the series then had regular releases on the PSP. Published by NeowizGames, the series has seen releases for mobile devices, arcade, and PlayStation Vita. The music of the series is created by local DJs, artists, and Japanese contributing composers as well.

The franchise has gone on to be recognized by fans and critics for featuring some of the most demanding music rhythm titles.

DJMax Respect will be the first release on a home console. The latest game will feature songs from the series, and familiar modes as well.

An international release hasn't been announced but is expected. 

Nexon sells NCSoft shares, giving up hostile takeover dream Mon, 19 Oct 2015 02:55:00 -0400 Ashley Shankle

The Nexon-NCSoft alliance is finally over after a three-year reign, as Nexon has sold off their NCSoft shares. This is less than a year after NCSoft purchased 9.8% of South Korean developer Netmarble's shares to avoid a hostile takeover from Nexon.

Whose reputation is worse: Nexon or NCSoft? NCSoft may not have the best reputation, but most F2P MMO players can agree Nexon's practices over the years have been far more anti-consider than those of NCsoft -- and that's really saying something.

Regardless of how you feel about either publisher, both are monsters in the MMORPG industry and are still exceptionally strong in South Korea. Nexon purchased a 14.7% stake in NCSoft in 2012 and increased its shares to 15% in 2014. The Netmarble share purchase on NCSoft's part earlier this year was specifically to prevent a hostile takeover from Nexon. Clearly they succeeded.

It's difficult to see this turn of events in a negative light. NCSoft is finally free from Nexon's grip, and anyone who plays an NCSoft-published game can be thankful for that.

League of Legends 2014 World Championship Final Survival Guide Thu, 16 Oct 2014 07:37:51 -0400 TheCasualGamer

With the 2014 League of Legends World Championships coming to a close, only two teams remain to fight for the coveted Summoner's Cup. On the 19th of September, Samsung White and  Starhorn Royal Club will fight for the title of World Champion from the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.

Samsung White will have the home field advantage playing from their home country of Korea. Royal Club hails from China and is making their second consecutive appearance in the final as the first team in history to accomplish that task.

Tournament Overview

The tournament started with 16 teams from across the globe put into 4 round robin groups. After a double round robin stage the top two teams from each group advanced on to play in the quarterfinals.

Three teams from North America, Europe, China and Korea; Two teams from Southeast Asia and a single team from each of Brazil and Turkey made up the composition for this year's group drawing. Europe was the only major region to fail to have any of its teams reach the bracket stage of competition.

The most shocking upset during the knockout rounds of the tournament was OMG's 3-0 sweep of Najin White Shield in a match where Shield was predicted by some to win as heavily as 3-0. The rest of the bracket has played out as expected apart from how dominating Samsung White's win was over their sister team Samsung Blue.

Recent Results

Samsung White

These teams have had a differing amount of adversity on their way to the finals. Samsung White has only lost a single game and holds a 12-1 record combined over the group stage and knockout stage. The game they lost was arguably due to overconfidence and a lack of respect for their opponent Team SoloMid. White has looked untouchable for the better part of the World Championship and seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Since June 20th, SSW has a record of 27-6 for a crushing win rate of 82% which is nearly unprecedented in League of Legends eSports. Going back even further, SSW has won 48 of their last 62 games dating back to the middle of March this year. With a team this consistent it becomes easy to entertain the idea of White truly being the best team on the planet.

Starhorn Royal Club

Starhorn has had a much less dominating trek to the finals. They endured a loss to Team SoloMid during the group stage and dropped two games in each of their quarter and semi final wins against Edward Gaming and OMG for an overall tournament record of 11-5. Similar to their tournament performance SHRC has a lower win rate over the months leading up to the tournament, they have won 41 of their last 64 games since June 14th. Starhorn are also winning when it counts.

After historically losing series to their Chinese rivals during playoffs, they dispatched both other Chinese qualifiers en route to their spot as a finalist at this year's worlds.

Featured Matchup: AD Carry - imp vs. Uzi

Gu "imp" Seung-bin (구승빈)

Both imp and Uzi have very similar play styles. They are both extremely aggressive and that sets the stage perfectly for a featured matchup.

Imp has put a heavy emphasis on Twitch, picking him in 7 of 13 games so far. The next closest being Corki and Tristana with 2 picks each. While imp's love of Twitch should not dictate the pick and ban phase, if he has the option, this Champion will be his first choice. Imp is very effective at roaming during the mid-game to pick up kills in either mid-lane or while setting up for neutral objectives (Dragon, Baron, Enemy Buff Control). Look for his support player, Mata, to pick Thresh. Thresh's kit will facilitate imp's aggressive playstyle with hook/Flay engages and percise uses of Dark Passage to save imp from near death experiences. During the group stage, imp flashed into a 5-man Edward Gaming squad and lived to tell the tale.

Jian "Uzi" ZiHao (简自豪)

Uzi has a more diverse set of champion picks than imp so far in the 2014 World Championship. Caitlyn, Vayne, Tristana, Twitch, Lucian, and Corki have seen play on the Rift from Uzi.

With 4 games each; Twitch, Lucian, and Tristana are the go-to carries for Uzi. He has a tendency to prefer carries that fit well in Teamfight compositions to synergize well with the rest of his team. Possibly the most mechanically skilled ADC in the world, this play from last years World Championships should be almost everything you need to know about him:


Samsung White 3-1 Starhorn Royal Club

Both teams have a similar playstyle, however, when it comes to vision control and objective play outside of team fighting Samsung White should come out on top. With that said, Samsung White have historically gotten themselves in trouble by being overconfident. If that situation arises, SHRC is more than capable of taking advantage of it and hoisting the Summoner's Cup on Sunday.

Images Courtesy of eSportspedia
Screengrab from "Warriors" M/V by Imagine Dragons

South Korea Considers Changes Concerning Video Game Addicts Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:55:05 -0400 Chris_Lemus

Young South Korean men are expected by law to serve in their military, but an addiction predominantly affecting this group of Koreans could now have them far from combat action and even farther away from video games.

According to South Korea’s Military Manpower Administration, South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 are required by law to perform military service, but are exempt if they have “received six or more months of treatment for alcohol, drug, or video game addiction and has demonstrated ineptitude of carrying to normal duties.”

In South Korea, video games are a multi-million dollar industry evident in their culture. Internet cafes are on street corners, eSports tournaments are a part of television programming, and Chung-Ang University offers a bachelor’s degrees in eSports.

But the same industry embedded in South Korean culture is also being criticized for the addiction associated with it, and new discussions are in place to decide if the South Korean government will classify video games as a major source of addiction.

This classification would allow for more regulations in a country with at least two deaths associated with exhaustion from video games and a published report stating teenagers spending more than two hours a day gaming.

This would not be the first time South Korea saw federal action against video games. In 2012, the government implemented a law mandating that parents of players under 18-years-old give a set time for their children to play video games. This law joins the 2011 Shutdown Law forbidding children under 16-years-old from playing online video games between midnight and 6 a.m.

No one from the South Korean military has yet to offer a comment on potential legislation or impact on selecting soldiers for service.

Documentary: "Love Child" Examines South Korean Gaming Addiction Through a Harrowing Tale. Thu, 23 Jan 2014 20:30:50 -0500 Richard Whelchel

A new Sundance Film Festival documentary entitled "Love Child" chronicles the story of how a 3-month-old South Korean child, named Sarang, died from malnutrition.  This infant did not die from poverty, but instead, from lack of care she received from her parents who were spending up to 10 hours a night -- after a full day of work -- playing an online game in a cybercafe located Suwon, South Korea.  Director Valerie Veatch's documentary gets even more twisted when it's revealed that the game they were playing involved taking care of a virtual child.

The couple's lawyer claimed the two parents suffered from an alcohol and gambling addiction, a defense that proved successful.  The father, 41-year-old Kim Jae-beoum, landed only two years in prison -- while the mother, Kim Yun-jeong, 25, had her sentence suspended due to the fact she was pregnant with the couple's second child.  

The landmark decision is one of the most debated rulings among South Korean policy-makers.  With no real precedent in murder by online gaming addiction, legislation was introduced in December to place gaming addiction along with gambling, alcohol, and drugs as a vice -- all of which are funded by taxes for treatment.

A look inside a PC Bang -- a 24-hour South Korean cybercafe where many patrons spend countless hours playing online games.   

Instead of chastising the negligence of the parents, Veatch explores what factors contributed to the couple's gaming addiction.  One of these factors is how South Korea has nestled itself as the world's leading internet infrastructure.  Most recently, news emerged from the country that a 5G wireless service -- capable of downloading a film in seconds anywhere in the country -- is on the horizon.

Along with the fastest internet in the world, South Korea also boasts one of the most sizable gaming fan bases in the world.  With television stations dedicated to StarCraft streaming, the celebrity behind being a famous South Korean gamer, and widely popular MMOs such as Ragnarok Online, Lineage, and Maple Story, it's hard to be truly shocked that a tragic story like the one of young Sarang is possible.  By the way, the name Sarang means "love" in Korean.  

TERA Korea Getting New Scythe-Wielding Class Thu, 02 Jan 2014 11:01:40 -0500 Ashley Shankle

TERA players out there tired of the same old classes may have something to look forward to this year. The game's Korean website has revealed a new class, a 'Flying Scythe-user,' skilled in a unique take on scythe weaponry and dark magic.

TERA forum user Endia posted some translations of the class description, including some of the revealed skills. Among them are several medium-range attacks and several utility survival abilities. Some examples are an enemy location swap, counter, a one-time (likely long cooldown) shield to protect from death, and a dodge.

The Korean website also shows off some new class-exclusive costumes and hairstyles, which you can check out near the bottom of the page here.

The Flying Scythe class will be exclusive to Elins due to lore reasons, and will only be available to players who have at least one character over level 40. Newly created Flying Scythe-users will begin their adventures in Arborea at level 50.

This flashy class looks like a far cry from what is currently available in the game, and those of you pensive to play Elins will have to bite the master race bullet to give it a whirl. Flying Scythe-users will be available in Korea soon and will likely be making its way to TERA players in North America and Europe in the coming months.

Nexon Korea Releases New MapleStory 2 Trailer Mon, 16 Dec 2013 11:09:56 -0500 Ashley Shankle

MapleStory 2 seems to be chugging along development nicely. Nexon has released a new cinematic trailer on the game's official Korean website, featuring a battle between two of the game's story characters, mushrooms, a mech, and dubstep. Wubwubwub.

The character designs are certainly very MapleStory-esque and the change from 2D to 3D is a mighty step up for the series. The sequel is reportedly going to be in isometric view, as opposed to the original's 2D visuals or a more updated 3D engine.

The game's official website has a few images to peruse by clicking the black squares at the bottom of the page. Highlighted are some new enemy faces to the series, including some seriously angry-looking sheep and a mushroom with a shield.

Nothing else about MapleStory 2 has been revealed just yet. The game's South Korean release will be coming sometime in 2014, though an international release has yet to be announced. Keep an eye out for more news on MapleStory 2 into 2014!

MapleStory 2 Launching in South Korea in 2014 Wed, 06 Nov 2013 19:46:19 -0500 Ashley Shankle

MapleStory has been live in South Korea since 2003, isn't it about time it got a sequel? Nexon and developer Wizet seem to agree: MapleStory 2 is reportedly scheduled to be released in 2014.

MMO Culture reports MapleStory 2 to be a 'full 3D (quarter view)' game, which perhaps points to a similar camera style we see in games like Ragnarok Online. Considering MapleStory's 2D engine and visuals, this would be a not-very-surprising step up.

The game's official Korean website is up, but sorely lacking in information. There is a tiny teaser trailer to be seen in the clouds, if you can find it.

Whether or not MapleStory 2 will make a welcome addition to the modern MMO space is a big question mark for the time being, but it's been a long time coming with the original game having reached 10 years in service this year.

Are you excited to see a new MapleStory game? Let us know in the comments below!

Dota 2 Goes Live in Korea Under Nexon Sun, 27 Oct 2013 22:47:21 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Dota 2's Korean release has been a long time coming, with developer Valve and Korea-based publisher Nexon announcing their partnership four months ago. The time for the game's release has come -- three days ago, as a matter of fact.

Earlier this year, Nexon promised to invest upwards of $1.6 million dollars into Dota 2's future in the Korean market, hoping to gain it a seat in the country's eSports industry. If the Korean casters during The International 3 were any indication, the game may have an uphill battle in the region.

Nexon may be handling Dota 2's in Korea, but Perfect World Entertainment is handling the game's beta just across the way in China. It may come as a bit of a surprise that the Chinese release has been delayed thus far considering the overwhelming popularity of DotA in China, but localizing for the market comes with its own unique challenges over the Korean release.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is learning a new Dota with the recent release of patch 6.79. This latest patch has brought several changes to the game that affect every player, as well as a number of hero balance changes (Wisp tether no longer stuns, Broodmother webs now insane, etc.) that have rocked the game's meta. Check out the patch notes if you're a little late to the party.

Rumor - ArcheAge Developer Restructuring After Poor Korean Reception? Mon, 02 Sep 2013 15:36:44 -0400 Ashley Shankle

While we may be excited to see ArcheAge here in the west, the game may not be doing so great in its native South Korea. According to one rumor from industry insiders in Korea, developer XL GAMES may be preparing for a company restructure after the game has failed to meet expectations.

ArcheAge enjoyed a brief subscription-only period early in its release but saw a switch to the free to play model just a couple of months ago in order to pull in more players. Several of the game's features and updates just don't sit well with the Korean market, with many players thinking the game was developed in the west upon release.

Do keep in mind this is only a rumor and it does not reflect on how well the game will do in North America, Europe, and Australia once it is localized and published by Trion Worlds. If this rumor does turn out to be true, we will still be getting the game sometime in 2014.

XL GAMES may not be having the greatest luck with ArcheAge in Korea, but its recent Japanese release is rumored to be a success and the developer is working on Civilization Online, which is receiving massive hype in nearly every regional market.

(Via MMO Culture)

Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk Is Incredible At StarCraft II (Exclusive Interview) Sun, 01 Sep 2013 19:45:06 -0400 John Gaudiosi

One of the best StarCraft II players in the world recently visited Orlando, Florida to take part in the Red Bull Training Grounds at Full Sail University. Lim “NesTea” Jae Duk made the Final Four in the friendly competition, but his achievements on the grand stage of eSports are unsurpassed with SCII.

The Zerg player from South Korea currently plays for Incredible Miracle. He’s the first player to win three Global StarCraft II League (GSL) World Championships. Back in July 2011 he won the GSL without losing a single game.

Those wondering where his nickname “NesTea” came from will find the answer from the soft drink, which happened to be sitting on his desk when Blizzard banned his first name choice – ZergBong (Bong is censored on Blizzard's Battle.Net 2.0).

Jae Duk, who recently got married, took some time away from the keyboard and mouse to talk about StarCraft II and the rise of eSports in this exclusive interview.

How did you get involved in eSports?

I loved playing games with my friends, and it turned out to be something I was good at – so that’s how I got into eSports.

What have you sacrificed to get to where you are today?

I haven’t really thought about it in that way – but if I had to name something, it would be that there are certain things you can only do when you are young, things you go through at a specific age -- your early ‘20s and young adulthood -- that you get to enjoy. I wasn’t able to do those things or have fun with friends as others would do because I was dedicating all my time to gaming.

How popular is eSports in Korea?

I think it’s true, in the sense that we do have two TV channels on mainstream cable TV dedicated to eSports – in that sense you can say it’s popular. But whether it’s Korea, North America, Europe, it’s the same in that it’s a niche community. But the fans that are passionate about it are extremely passionate.  You’ll find that same passionate fan everywhere you look – America, Europe, Asia – it’s similar in that way.

How have you seen eSports’ popularity grow in the US?

When it was just SC1, it was very limited to Korea. Even in China they were very crazy about Warcraft, but it wasn’t as explosive in America. But recently, I’ve seen the same sort of explosiveness in America for SC2 – I think it’s growing very much.

What advice would you give to aspiring pro gamers who think they're good at StarCraft II?

If you are going into eSports just because you like it, I want to block you from doing it. Of course, you need to like the game, otherwise you will hate it. But on top of that, you also need to be extremely passionate about the game, to the degree that you are crazy about the game. If you’re crazy about the game – then and only then -- would I recommend you pursue a career.

How have you seen opportunities for new gamers in eSports evolve since you began as a pro?

I’ve personally pursued different opportunities in eSports. I’ve been a player, but in the past, I’ve been a coach before too. Even when I was a coach I had an extreme desire to be a player. Instead of coaching, I had a desire to be the person playing. I went back to playing but in the future, we’ll see what opportunities arise.

What's the biggest misconception about pro gamers?

The biggest misconception is people think it’s an easy way to earn money. What people don’t realize is that it’s an extremely competitive field, a hugely saturated market. Obviously, everyone wants to play games and make money, but since it’s so competitive, only a very, very small percent do well enough to make a name for themselves – and even from those few, only a small percent make a lot of money. So it’s a very, very minute percentage that is actually able to make a living. The biggest misconception by far is people thinking it’s an easy occupation.

What's your life as a pro gamer like?

I’m not actually living in a team house, so I’m an atypical case. I set my own schedule, so I don’t follow a rigid schedule. The only schedule I set for myself is the amount of sleep I get – making sure my sleeping schedule is on point. Every day, minimum, is eight hours of practice at least. Three days a week I want to relax a bit so I’ll practice eight hours, and then maybe go out, see friends, have a few drinks. But if it’s not those days, I’ll practice around 12 hours, and on those days it’s just practice, eat and sleep. But compared to other Korean pro gamers, that’s not a lot.

Where do you see eSports five years from now?

Honestly, it’s so hard to say, it’s still a young field. But my hope is that it will become so prevalent, that it will spread even to under-developed countries, like Africa for example. Right now, it’s not even fathomable that this would happen – but I have a hope that one day it will.

What do you think of the role Red Bull plays today in eSports?

At first, I didn’t even know – but when I found out, I thought it was a great thing because Red Bull is a mainstream company.  Through Red Bull I’ve met a lot of people – personally I’m very thankful, and hope they continue to stay involved and help it grow.

What similarities do you see between cyber athletes and real athletes?

In Korea, it’s extremely similar. Both types of athletes live together with their teams, they have a very strict schedule, they practice every day of the year. And especially in Korea, the sports and eSports systems are very similar – very strict, very rigid. I think it’s extremely similar. 

Aion 4.0 Launching in Europe Today, Aethertech and 4.5 Patch Live in Korea Wed, 28 Aug 2013 18:24:19 -0400 Ashley Shankle

If I didn't know any better, I'd say today was a pretty exciting day for Aion fans across the world. Unfortunately regional differences and delays have made it merely a 'pretty okay' day instead.

European players will finally get to choose whether to try their hands at the Gunslinger and Songweaver classes, or to level their mains in the dangerous fields of Katalam. Meanwhile, the Aethertech class and various game improvements are reaching South Korea in Aion 4.5. A pretty busy day for the game across the board, but not exciting.

Aion 4.0 in Europe!

Those of you who have remained loyal to Aion EU are partially catching up with the rest of the world today, once the servers come back up.

At the time of writing, European players are still waiting for the servers to get back in action after some unexpected maintenance delays. The Aion community staff has been silent on Twitter for upwards of five hours now. It may be at least a few more hours until the servers are restored and players can try out the 4.0 patch for the first time. Better late (and later) than never.

The Aethertech and Aion 4.5

The 4.5 patch is a hefty update, bringing not only the new Aethertech class but also a wealth of general updates and tweaks. I highlight some of those in this article, and will try to bring more solid information on the patch in the near future.

The general updates to the game are nice, but the Aethertech is the star of the show this patch. This page on the Aion KR Powerwiki gives a in-depth look at the new class including a complete skill list, though both pages are purely in Korean.

Not fluent in Korean and struggling with Google Translate's garbled results? Worry not! I will be working up a translation of the complete skill list this weekend and will post it Sunday or Monday. My Korean isn't great, but a so-so translation is (sometimes) better than none.

Civilization Online May Not Make It to North America Fri, 09 Aug 2013 14:17:24 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Civilization Online sure does look nice, right?  Unfortunately we may not be seeing it in the North America. Brian Roundy of publisher 2K Games spoke with PC Gamer yesterday stating they currently have "no plans for a North American release at this time".

This news is not much of a surprise considering development studio XL Games is based in South Korea and the market in that region is much more open to these types of unorthodox MMO titles. All of this on top of the fact that licensing the title in the States would likely come with a hefty fee means our chances of seeing this title in North America sit squarely upon how well the title does in South Korea.

Oddly enough, nothing was mentioned about a release in Europe. This is likely due to PC Gamer not asking about a 'Western' release instead of a 'North American' release, as opposed to there being a surprise for Europe.

Considering the South Korean market's taste for free to play titles with hefty cash shops, it will be interesting to see how Civilization Online plays out in its home market. XL Games is a very competent studio, but some things that fly with the MMO market just won't fly among the 4X strategy fanbase in the West. This surprise cross-genre title has quite a few uphill battles to fight before it can be considered for a North American and European release.

Dota 2 Launching in South Korea Later This Year Thu, 13 Jun 2013 23:19:57 -0400 Ashley Shankle

This may just be Dota 2's most exciting year yet. The game is expanding into China and South Korea later this year and this year's The International boasts the largest prize pool in eSports history, having passed the $2 million mark last month.

Dota 2 reached the Chinese market for the first time earlier this year as a beta, under publisher Perfect World Entertainment. Nexon is handling publishing in South Korea, where they can either log into the client directly or via Steam.

While Dota 2 will undoubtedly have an easier time in China due to the large DotA fanbase in the region, but breaking into the South Korean market will be more difficult. League of Legends, StarCraft 2, and a variety of MMOs are kings in the region.

In order to encourage the game's growth in Korea, Nexon will be starting up the Nexon Starter League and will be investing $1.63 million USD into the game's future as an eSport in the country.

Dota 2 will be seeing its Korean release in Autumn, sometime after this August's The International tournament.

Ragnarok Online Creator Kim Hak Kyu Reveals WolfKnights Online Wed, 22 May 2013 12:59:26 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Kim Hak Kyu is the mind behind the original Ragnarok Online and the lesser-known Granado Espada/Sword of the New World. Most of us know him to be developing Project R1, the spiritual successor to Ragnarok Online, but he has another project up his sleeve: WolfKnights Online.

This is Game had a chance to speak with Kim Hak Kyu about the game's development, though the interview is entirely in Korean. Some interesting tidbits:

  • WolfKnights Online has been in development for five years.
  • He s aiming for roughly five hours to be a sort of "arc" for a character. An arc would be comprised of completing major tasks and defeating a boss; it seems he is looking at a more drama-style angle in gameplay.
  • Will follow the holy trinity but include more flexible class options.
  • The game will be a sandbox MMO, which Kim refers to as "literally the definition of a sandbox".
  • The game is currently 70% to 80% complete.

The game's Facebook page has been updated with several screenshots. Kim Hak Kyu has come up with some unique gameplay concepts in the past, and hopefully WolfKnights Online will be able to stand out just as his previous projects.

Below are the screenshots seen on the official Facebook so far. Fans should keep an eye on the page over the coming weeks for more reveals from Kim Hak Kyu and his team.

(Via Steparu)

ArcheAge China Closed Beta Trailer Looks Amazing Fri, 17 May 2013 00:29:53 -0400 Ashley Shankle

ArcheAge is entering closed beta in China on May 22, and publisher Tencent is ready to get started. The trailer above may be in Chinese, but it's still a sight to behold whether you're already looking forward to the game or haven't even heard of it until now.

ArcheAge is a Korean-developed sandbox MMORPG with a high emphasis on creating your own adventure. Players are able to farm, build their own homes and trade ships, and traverse dangerous terrain to trade in other territories. Along with all this, there are several other side activities to explore to get away from the game's normal hustle and bustle.

With the Korean servers live and the Chinese version entering closed beta next week, I have to ask: When are we going to see the North American or European beta phases?

Trion Worlds picked up the Western publishing rights earlier this year but have been tight-lipped on the project since. With Defiance already free to play and RIFT entering the no-subscription fray in June, it's almost a sure bet that ArcheAge will be free to play under Trion's management. The Chinese version of the game is also F2P, with the Korean version retaining the pay to play payment model.

If this is your first time hearing of ArcheAge, be sure to check out the two English (1) (2) sites for the game as well as the trailer in the header of this article and the one below. There is a lot to look forward to in this purely sandbox MMO, even if half of the promised features come to fruition. Having been in development 7 years, it's hard to imagine most of the promised features wouldn't make it to retail.

(The castle siege feature seen in this trailer was added to the Korean version last month!)

(Via MMO Culture)

TERA Sequel in The Works, Bluehole Studio Seeking Programmers Tue, 14 May 2013 01:03:31 -0400 Ashley Shankle

While the North American TERA servers are getting a patch today containing the game's first raid dungeon, Korean developer Bluehole Studio seems to be looking for fresh programmers to get to work on the game's sequel.

The news comes from the Korean Bluehole website, which has the job posted in the Recruitment section of the site. The link can be found here.

The post states they are looking for a C++ programmer with extensive knowledge of computer graphics and server management; and that they are looking to create a next-generation MMORPG to follow TERA.

One has to wonder which engine they may choose for this TERA's sequel. TERA itself uses Unreal Engine 3, but with Unreal Engine 4 and CryEngine 3 dev kits making their rounds it is possible the "next-generation" part of the post refers to one of these extremely powerful engines.

While this is all great news to TERA fans, don't get too excited just yet. Development time and costs are higher than ever, meaning it will be quite some time until we even get a glance at Bluehole's next game. Take your mind off of the far future and saunter over to today's patch notes to check out what Kelsaik's Raid brings to level 60 players itching for a new challenge.

(Via MMO Culture)

RIFT Closing Doors in South Korea Wed, 27 Mar 2013 10:06:23 -0400 Ashley Shankle

RIFT has had a great deal of trouble finding its footing in Asia -- something I stated back in December, as the game's Taiwanese and Korean servers took the plunge into free to play territory. The shift to the title's mostly free to play model did not help: RIFT is closing its doors in South Korea for good April 25.

Publisher CJ E&M attempted several promotions through last year attempting to draw new players in and keep the active playerbase subscribed. This unfortunately did not pan out, as other more popular titles in the region released at roughly the same time. Blade & Soul being one of the big ones.

Meanwhile, it seems RIFT is doing fairly well in North America. The title reached its two-year anniversary five days ago, and more content is reportedly in the works.

It's not uncommon to see a title do well in one region and not so great in another. Many Korean-developed MMORPGs suffer the same fate when released in the West, especially those that retain a subscription. Aion is one example of a title that, for all intents and purposes, generally failed in the West under a subscription -- but pulled in huge player numbers once it went free to play. It's a shame RIFT couldn't do the same in the reverse situation.