On January 1, 2014, HyuN revealed that he was considering retirement. After months traveling the world for the Quantic flag, the former TSL player announced that he was owed $23,000 in prize money and salary, and that the team's CEO, Simon Boudreault, was missing. It was an extraordinary chapter in the omnibus of broken eSports dreams, and HyuN was close to ending his own tale prematurely.
It seemed like a farce. The way he was treated was reserved only for fledgling pros who grasped at any chance to become the big fish in a smaller pond. HyuN was one of the most experienced, well traveled, and outspoken players in the scene, yet he too was found wide-eyed and wanting in his trial to preserve his foreign dream. This wasn't the greener pasture that he had imagined a year and a half before, when he left Brood War and MBC Game Heroes–his home for 5 years–to play Starcraft 2. He became one of the first active BW pros to make the switch, and despite having featured for his team 37 times in ShinhanBank Proleague 2010-2011, he surrendered his place as an A-team player in the KeSPA system. Even in the so-called Eden of eSports, HyuN was unhappy.
Winrate68% vs. Terran66% vs. Protoss71% vs. Zerg
Earnings$85,845 USD in 2014
Between his constant hair color changes and his fake drunken ceremonies, it was clear that he had been searching for change, for something different. KeSPA had provided everything that he had needed, but none of what he wanted: freedom, experience, adoration. Even in this perfect garden, his flower knew thirst.
He admitted his admiration for MC and MarineKing–players that had been beneath him during their BW careers–due to their popularity and opportunities to travel the world. He gave himself 3 months to catch up with his peers and by January 2012, he reached Code A. In his first Code S appearance, he climbed all the way to the finals of GSL Season 5 in front of a raucous Las Vegas crowd. It had taken a year's worth of work but he finally made it. Although success eluded him on that day, his decision to move to a new game so late in his career was vindicated by the applause of his overseas fans. But even on his Vegas vacation, he must have known that times were already changing.
Blizzard had condemned the aged terraces of Brood War towards the end of 2012, forcing the inhabitants of its secluded yet fruitful lands on the same exodus that HyuN had dared a year before. While he defeated one of their brightest talents, INnoVation, in the semi finals, the balance of power was already shifting. The Elephants followed the path that HyuN had pioneered, and he knew that this was no longer his garden. When TSL disbanded due to financial and sponsorship difficulties, it was an opportunity for HyuN to continue following his dream in a new home.
And so he joined Quantic on February 2, 2013. He moved to WCS America in Season 2. He traveled to 11 foreign tournaments in 2013. In Valencia, he won Dreamhack while wearing his signature camo pants. In New York, he debuted Spider-HyuN to the delight of those in attendance. Everywhere he went, people loved him. He became the globetrotting star, the international fan favorite with his colorful personality and raw desire. And then it all came crashing down at the dawn of 2014.
He had followed ambition down a cul-de-sac. His romance with the game was broken by another man's greed. He had journeyed so far and so long for nothing. His garden was now a prison.
And if it weren't for Golden, who himself had committed to retirement, HyuN wouldn't have known just how much his friends and fans loved him. Golden organized the Support HyuN Tournament, and though he was only able to recoup around $7,000, the passion of HyuN's fans resonated with their idol.
He didn't have to wait long to find a new home. His talent, popularity and charming nature ensured that he would become one of the most coveted free agents as soon as Quantic folded. ROCCAT wasted little time and signed him within a month to become only their second SC2 player. He moved to the GEM house in Europe with his friend MC touting a renewed vigor to become more than just another cherished character. Golden and his fans had set him free from the last of his shackles, and he was champing at the bit to make the year his own.
With only one title on his shelf, HyuN was still known more for tournament shortcomings and ceremonies than being a potential contender. His play had belied his personal style outside the game, as it was often described as a one-dimensional ball of roaches. His control and mechanics were impeccable, but his builds appeared rigid and stubborn. It didn't matter what type of matchup or situation he faced; his answer was always 'more roaches'. This led to questions being raised regarding his attention to the meta-game and whether he had cared more about having a good time and putting on a show outside the game than winning in it. It had appeared that his two greatest strengths, his instinct and his will, were running in different directions.
The resolution of his Quantic debacle thanks to Golden, ROCCAT and his fans proved to be the starting gun that changed it all. He stayed true to his love of roaches but began to show a flexibility that we had never seen before. He worked hard at the GEM house refining his game, and he reached the the WCS AM Season 1 finals by beating Taeja and Alicia. He used early pools, roach busts, roach hydra, roach into muta, everything but swarmhosts. Against Oz in the finals he built an 11 minute hive just to get vipers, while his adaptability to Oz's motley crew of builds assisted in his victory. Just 3 months after the direst disappointment of his life, HyuN reached his greatest accomplishment.
Since then, HyuN has maintained his perch at the top of WCS AM. He reached the Ro4 in Seasons 2 and 3 while continuing his jet-setting ways, earning him the second seed to Blizzcon–beaten by a nose for the pole position. Though he hasn't replicated his WCS AM winning performance in the countless tournaments afterwards, it is a testament to the competitiveness of the scene rather than a disclaimer on his success. He has even played some of the best games of the year, which is surprising when you consider his reputation as the warden of warrens.
There is now a meticulousness and attention to detail in his planned strategies, even though detractors still cry "roaches!" with every victory that he takes. He shows a willingness to change his approach when necessary, without the wastefulness and rashness that plagued his decision making in tournaments past. And he remains decisive, using excellent movement and intuition to draw opponent's out of position. There is a spring in his step, and it is a joy to behold.
Who would have thought all this was possible when he walked out of the Garden of Eden 3 years ago? He's followed one dream onto the next, and he's experienced levels of disappointment and betrayal that few will ever face. Yet he's also received a special adoration that culminated in a tournament in his honor, and he's responded by taking the reins. The colt of his instinct and the steed of his will are now striding towards the same goal: Blizzcon, the biggest race of the year.