In case you've been living under a rock, a few days ago, we announced the first ever Team Liquid SC2 Invitational. While the player list gave fans something to talk about, now we're here with the meat and potatoes. Brackets!
Yes, that's right - you can now find your favourite player and plot his progress to the finals. What are his best matchups? What maps favour him? How will his opponent's playstyle affect his chances? All important questions, friends. Important questions which you will no doubt answer again and again and again in this thread and on IRC and IM and in your head while you walk down the street this evening.
Are you psyched for Saturday? We certainly are! Not just because this is our first SC2 tournament (though that's pretty cool), but because the weekend is by all accounts going to bring us some really great games. A ton of the top Broodwar foreigners we know and love mixed in with some top of the line War3 titans who have been rocking the beta as well - is there really a better way to get a feel for this young game? We think not.
Without further ado then, this is how the battle lines are drawn.
The die is cast.
Go on, take a moment to rant about how awesome or how unfair the brackets are. Of course, be sure to write to Mr. Random with your complaints, it was all his doing.
In the days to come as you stock up on snacks and beverages, set your IM statuses to busy and begin to lock and bolt your doors and windows, we're here with some reading matter so you don't pass out from over-excitement.
We all know Ret. When he went to Korea, we cheered. During every Courage, we rooted for him. With SC2 though we've heard a little less of him than usual. TL SC2 Beta writer Chobopeon is about to change all that! Look below for a profile of TL's favourite zerg.
The Flying Dutchman
There is a distinct air of isolation in the plane.
You're 30,000 feet above the earth, sitting uncomfortably close to a handful of strangers. The incurable feeling when your organs are thrown an inch out of place during take off and when your head rises a few feet above your body during turbulence only increases the separation between you and the rest of the world. You're filled only with thoughts of the future because the present requires you to sit motionless in an uncomfortable seat next to people with whom a conversation seems impossible. You effectively shut down for a time and wait for a return to normalcy. You think of little else except putting your feet on solid ground again.
Stepping out of an airplane after a long flight, a sea of relief can wash over you. Maybe you see your loved ones, familiar terrain or at least taste the brand new air of a strange place. The blood begins to pump through your body once again and, exhaustion notwithstanding, you seem to hit the ground running.
But when Jos de Kroon landed in Korea to start his much anticipated professional gaming career, the isolation persisted. He went from 6 miles up in the airplane to standing on new ground but for the duration of his stay, he felt as separate as a stranded astronaut. And often, just as cold.
Even before he took off from the Netherlands to Seoul, Ret was nervous. He was a kid in his early 20's on a 5,000 mile trip toward a mysterious career with the pro-gaming team eSTRO. He had worked toward this for years but his dreams were full of unknowns. His game had holes (his Zerg versus Zerg weighed heavily on his mind). But more than his StarCraft struggles, he worried about how the Koreans would receive him.
"I am totally different from IdrA or NonY," says Ret. "I'm from a different background and culture and I can say that I'm the type of person that, when he doesn't feel included in the group, completely shuts down. I will be the hardest working kid on a team if I feel like a part of the group and appreciated but if I feel neglected, I will just turn on you. I'm a very emotional person, I think IdrA and NonY are more level headed."
As is widely known, Ret's fears of exclusion proved well-founded.
Upon arrival, eSTRO didn't have a computer for him. He sat idle for several days, watching TV and interacting with the team over food. This brief, unremarkable time was actually the high point of his relationship with the other members of the team. Ret attributes it to the novelty of the situation: "I was new, so people talked to me more at that time."
That didn't last.
When he was finally assigned a computer, he was placed immediately next to a door kept open in the middle of the frigid Korean winter. Ironically, the door was kept open for air conditioning. He was within eyeshot of another available seat but was denied when he asked to move. He sat shivering in full winter clothing as long as he was there, trying and largely failing to concentrate on the game of StarCraft.
"I'm used to doing my own thing in life," says Ret, "and when I play StarCraft from home, I make sure my conditions are 100% perfect. I buy new keyboards every month and a half. I make sure my gear is in tip top shape. But then I went there and I'm playing in the cold and it was: 'This is what I went professional for?' My mind couldn't accept it."
Quickly after he had arrived, Ret's level of interaction with other team members precipitously dropped from low to lower. One day a player would happily talk with Ret, the next day he would be ignored by the same person he thought he had befriended. No one played with him or even allowed him to observe games, he was stuck on ICCup. He'd ask and ask and would endlessly be answered: "Next time."
Next time, next time, always next time.
It was becoming evident to Ret that the team was increasingly annoyed with him. He is a heavy chain smoker (his idea of significantly cutting back is once or twice per 4-hour practice session) and the team regularly vocalized their disapproval of this. They also didn't want him to leave the house during free time to buy drinks and food at a local supermarket as he was apt to do when he couldn't eat Korean food.
And then, in the now infamous episode, he was accused of leaking replays to the outside. In the world of professional gaming, this is a cardinal sin.
As he watched a private Hwata versus Void replay, Ret was whispering back and forth with friends online. From a distance, his teammates thought he was chatting in-game - that is, watching with others. Ret recognized this and quickly tried to assure them that he was, in fact, alone in the replay.
To his face, they accepted Ret's assurances. Afterwards, they proceeded to tell the coach that he was leaking replays. Ret was told to leave the house.
Ret stayed with fellow Seoul resident Dan "Artosis" Stemkoski. In fact, Ret's relationship with eSTRO was so spotty, so turbulent that of the almost 4 months that Ret stayed in Korea, 3 months were spent sleeping in Artosis's apartment.
As the stress of being expelled and potentially fired half way around the world from home clouded his mind, Ret's game dropped off. In one of the rare occasions in which he found himself back in the eSTRO house, he lost to Draco in ESL while he sat shivering in the cold next to the always open door, breathing in the freezing air.
It took TSL and two failed Courage tournaments - the tournament in which the winner receives a pro-gaming license - to put Ret's mind's eye back on the game. Then it took a streak of half a dozen Zerg versus Zergs, his weakest match up, to end his third and final Courage tournament. That was the last straw. It was time to go home.
Among others, Hwanni and Artosis were hospitable and helpful for months through Ret's troubled stay but it still took another 5,000 mile plane ride for his feet to hit the ground running. And after all of that, he says that no one should feel sorry for him. He's come out of it feeling better than he has in years.
For the last few years playing StarCraft in Holland, Ret had been living a very unhealthy lifestyle. Eating junk food and sitting in his chair for hours on end without any exercise led to extraordinary weight gain. During his stay in Korea, he started working out and participating in athletics. Combined with healthier eating, this upward streak has continued now that he is home.
Even more than hanging out with Artosis, Tasteless, IdrA, Rekrul and all of the foreigners at IEF, Ret says that the biggest positive effect of his stay in Korea has been his new healthy lifestyle. It is no surprise that he is happier now than he was in Korea but, more than that, he is happier now than he was before Korea.
So, he is doing well and that is important. But let's be honest - you want to know if he still has it in him.
Initially, Ret felt uninterested in StarCraft upon his return to Europe. Even the release of the StarCraft 2 beta didn't stir the fire he was used to. He found it difficult to sit down and play.
It is only now, over a month after the beta began, that he sees tournament after tournament pile on and feels the motivation to compete once again pulling at him. He is a player whose career is marked by starting and stopping and starting once more, consistently remaining amongst the top tier of players through a unique blend of talent and will power.
If Ret really wants it - whether it be the Team Liquid Invitational or another go at a professional career - there is no one here who can write him off. It is only a matter of circumstance and of the mind of the man himself.
Whether or not he wants another professional career is yet to be seen. He is going back to school in the fall and plans to see that through to the end. If a real opportunity for pro-gaming arises, he says he will take it very seriously.
But here is what we do know: At this very moment, Ret is one of the best StarCraft 2 players on the planet. He has the connections to train with the cream of the crop and the raw ability to beat them all.
At this very moment, Ret wants to win. Going into this tournament, that is really all we need to know.
Of course, it's not just Ret who wants to win. Fifteen other players want this title. Not just for the prize money, or the momentary popularity, but for a far loftier goal, posterity. This invitational, as we discussed in the announcement post, though fresh and new for SC2, is in many ways a continuation of one of the foreign Starcraft community's oldest traditions. A little over seven years ago, Liquid`Nazgul won the first ever Team Liquid Invitational. He made the final in the 2nd, but was beaten by X'Ds~Kiwi 4 -3. Just a few months later though, he returned to claim the crown again by bettering Rekrul in the Grand Final.
This weekend, almost seven years later, he is back and ready to face fifteen of Europe's best in a bid to retain that title. Will he succeed, or will a new Champion be crowned? We will know on Saturday. Starcraft 2 is new, and as much as there is to fix, and as critical as we can sometimes be, let's enjoy the 27th for what it's going to be - a continuation of a tradition that this community has held dear for a long, long time. Good sportsmanship, skilled participants and vibrant fans - this is what makes the Starcraft community what it is. This weekend, let's celebrate that fact. SC2 is a game, but when we get together at events like this, it becomes so much more. Good games everyone, and good luck to the sixteen!
1. Where is Lucifron?
Unfortunately Lucifron has a LAN event on the same day and had to decline his invitation.
2. What about US Events?
Our next liquibition event will be on the US server.
3. Where is Orly?
He was unfortunately unable to attend as well.
This post was made by the Team Liquid Starcraft 2 Coverage Team. For more of TL's coverage, please visit the Team Liquid Starcraft 2 Beta Page.