Location, Location, LocationFive Maps and Their Real World Inspirations
The latest StarCraft II patch will bring us a rotation of nine new 1v1 maps, including one Rådhuset Station. This map is quite particular in being one of only five competitive StarCraft II maps named after real world locations (no, Fruitland isn't a real place). That's a stark contrast with StarCraft: Brood War, where map-makers seemed to go straight to a map of Korea when looking for inspiration.
Since there are only five SC2 maps that meet this IRL-connected criteria (and since there's a few weeks left until ESL and GSL start back up in earnest), I've decided to take a look at each one and see how the real world locales match up with their in-game incarnations.
The King Sejong Station - by Str18-02
Those gaps definitely don't look Zealot-proof
What is it IRL? – Although there's a "Sejong Station" on the Seoul subway system, this map actually refers to a South Korean research facility located in Antarctica. According to the official website, the base is used for weather monitoring as well as research in areas such as climate change, oceanography, and paleoclimatology. Sadly, there doesn't appear to be any exploitation of mineral or gas resources at the base.
What is it named after? – King Sejong was the fourth ruler of Korea's Chosun Dynasty, reigning from AD 1418-1450. He is most famous for inventing the Korean written alphabet of Hangeul.
Sejong is probably the single most revered historical figure in South Korea, evidenced by his face being on the 10,000 Won bill, having a giant statue of himself placed in the heart of Seoul's downtown, and being chosen as the faction leader for Korea when it was first introduced to the Civilization series of games.
How is the map related to the IRL location? – The only connection between the map and IRL research base is in the Kaldir/snow tileset, as there's basically no similarity in the topography of the two locations. In contrast to the easily defensible main and natural of the StarCraft II map, the real life King Sejong Station is located in a wide open field and is surrounded by foothills. If it didn't fall to the enemy's early attacks, it would surely be picked apart by harassment from the high ground.
Has StarCraft been played here? – Okay, this section was a big part of the reason I even wanted to write this article in the first place. In a 2018 interview with Sisun News, King Sejong Station researcher Park Ji Gang said "we play a lot of games like StarCraft" when asked about what the station residents did during their free time.
While I desperately wish this meant the map King Sejong Station was played from the real life King Sejong Station, he probably means StarCraft: Brood War and not StarCraft II. Not only is BW much more popular than SC2 in Korea, but it supports LAN mode and is very easily pirated—it's the perfect game to play from an isolated Antarctic research base.
On a side note, the closest SC2 server to King Sejong Station would be the Latin American server in Sao Paulo—only 4,400km away! If Clem can win the ESL Open NA Cup from France, then there's no excuse for Antarcticans to not have an ESL Latin America representative.
Which one is better? – I have to give the W to the StarCraft II map. While King Sejong Station wasn't the most balanced map, it was very conducive to unusual and entertaining games. That led to it becoming the most iconic map of the Proleague era, being used in every HotS season after its creation (AD 2014-2016).
As for The King Sejong Station down in Antarctica, I'm not really sure what it's done for me. The scientific research has probably benefited me in some indirect way, but there's no single accomplishment to point to. On the other hand, King Sejong Station the map has Fantasy vs soO as a crowning moment
Dasan Station - by Enekh
What is it IRL? – Dasan Station is literally the polar opposite of King Sejong Station: it's a South Korean research base in the arctic region of the world (if only it were North Korean). Like King Sejong Station, it's used to perform various research that I can best describe as 'science.'
What is it named after? – "Dasan" was an alias/art name of famed Korean scholar Jeong Yak Yong AD 1762-1836. Unlike King Sejong, he doesn't have a singular great accomplishment like inventing an entire f***ing writing system, so my recollection of him from my school history classes is that he was a generally smart dude who was really into Neo-Confucianism.
According to Wikipedia, "He was one of the greatest thinkers in the later Joseon period, wrote highly influential books about philosophy, science and theories of government." Let's go with that.
How is the map related to the IRL location? – While I can't find a direct quote from mapmaker Enekh, I assume Dasan Station is a direct reference to King Sejong Station in being a non-standard map on a winter tileset. Like King Sejong Station, the snowy theme is the only real connection here.
Has StarCraft been played here? – Probably. While I couldn't find a direct source as with King Sejong Station, one has to imagine it's in a similar situation. If there's enough Korean men of a certain age in one location, a game of StarCraft: Brood War will probably break out at some point.
Which one is better? – In this case, I have to give the real-life location the nod. Dasan Station only survived a single map cycle, as its extremely short rush distance made it a bit too weird for competitive play. While I can't think of any tangible benefit I got from Dasan Station in the arctic, competitive StarCraft II was directly harmed by Dasan Station being the tournament pool.
The one good game ever played on Dasan Station
Gwangalli Beach - by Str18-02
What is it in SC2? – Gwangalli Beach was a map that was used solely during the 2013 OnGameNet Starleague, continuing an OSL tradition of having a single map in the pool that wasn't used in any other tournament.
What is it IRL? – Gwangalli Beach is one of two major beaches in the city of Busan. In the StarCraft community, it is most famous for having hosted huge outdoor Proleague events during 2004-2010. The oceanside setting led to perhaps the most memorable ceremony in Brood War history, when FireBatHero stripped down and went for a swim.
What is it named after? – According to the City of Busan's history site, Gwang comes from the Chinese character for 'big,' while An comes from the Chinese character for 'beach.' So it's… …the Big Beach. Neat!
How is the map related to the IRL location? – Gwangalli Beach is notable for being the only map to actually include the topographical features of the real world location. You can clearly see the crescent-shaped beach (parasols and all) and the giant bridge that intersects the water. There's even custom assets in the 'city' portions of the map meant to invoke the atmosphere of Busan, with neon lights advertising various StarCraft-related services.
Unfortunately, the map was too committed to the bit. Custom map elements such as flashing signs and water effects in the ocean killed the game's performance, causing multiple pauses for frame rate drops. Also, the traversable water terrain had the fatal issue of making certain units difficult to see, including burrowed Widow Mines (according to the NamuWiki article anyway; it's been so long that I don't entirely remember).
Has StarCraft been played here? – Uh, hell yes?
Unfortunately, the 2013 OSL—the only tournament to use the map Gwangalli Beach—never played any games from the real world location.
Which one is better? – This one's easy: The real Gwangalli Beach is vastly superior to the map. If there's any one place that could be called a 'holy site' for competitive Brood War, it's probably Gwangalli Beach.
Haeundae - by EastWindy
What is it in SC2? – Haeundae was a map that was used solely during GSTL Season 2 in 2013. While I can't find any written statements, it seems obvious that it was directly inspired by the use of Gwangalli Beach in the OSL, which wrapped up mere weeks before this particular season of GSTL began.
[Thanks to negativezero for reminding me this map existed]
What is it IRL? – Haeundae Beach is the other major beach aside from Gwangalli in the city of Busan. According to VisitKorea.com, it's actually the more famous of the two beaches—Gwangalli just happens to be more important to StarCraft fans because of its Proleague legacy.
How is the map related to the IRL location? – The idea behind Haeundae seems to be "Gwangalli Beach was a good concept for a map, just poorly executed." It heavily references the geography of the real life Haeundae, but omits the game breaking elements. The water isn't passable by ground units, the custom assets are stripped down, and the map is actually symmetrical! (Gwangalli seems to be asymmetrical for no other reason than flavor)
Why is this map especially funny to me? – In a vacuum, I agree that Gwangalli Beach was a cool map concept that needed some tweaking. The problem is, the GSL chose perhaps the most embarrassing location in their entire history as the inspiration for a 'Gwangalli 2.0.'
One year before in Season 3 of 2012, the GSL went to Haeundae Beach for the grand finals between Seed and MC. By this point, it was painfully clear that StarCraft II had fallen way short of succeeding Brood War in Korea, but this finals emphasized that fact in an especially humiliating way. The live finals was extremely poorly attended—even with GSL production working overtime to hide that fact, there was no lack of media and attendee photos highlighting this point.
It didn't help that the finals was an especially terrible PvP, where underdog Seed smashed MC in a very short 4-1. To me, the most memorable moment of the finals was probably celebrity Jung Woo Sung (whose cosmetics brand was sponsoring the GSL) awkwardly posing with the newly crowned Code S champion Seed.
While I appreciate the GSL's ability to laugh at itself, it's the kind of laughing that rapidly turns to crying.
WHY, GSL, WHY???
Has StarCraft been played here? – Sadly, yes.
(Alright, there was a silver lining. The Haeundae finals were a two day event, with GSTL being played on day one while GSL was played on day two. The GSTL finals (also poorly attended, but what can you do) happened to feature one of the greatest games of all time: GuMiho vs MMA).
Which one is better? – I'm going to go with the real Haeundae beach, because I honestly forgot the map even existed immediately after that season of GSTL ended.
Radhuset Station - by Eclipse
What is it IRL? – Rådhuset Station is a stop in the Stockholm subway/rail system. The station is notable for incorporating natural rock into its architecture, which contrasts with its man-made elements—a quick look through Flickr tells me that it's quite picturesque.
What is it named after? – According to Wikipedia, Rådhuset Station is named for the courthouse (Rådhuset in Swedish) close to the station.
How is the map related to the IRL location? – As with the other 'station' maps, the connection appears to be largely aesthetic as the SC2 map features pink, rocky terrain contrasted against metallic platforms. The layout is actually similar to King Sejong Station, which map-maker Eclipse cited as being the inspiration for the design.
Has StarCraft been played here? I'd say probably not, but it's not impossible. The Swedish subway system has cell phone reception in stations, so someone could theoretically tether a gaming laptop to a phone and enjoy a game of StarCraft II from inside Rådhuset Station.
But why leave it in the realm of theory? Now that I've put the idea out there, I demand that someone travel to Rådhuset Station and play a ladder game on the map Radhuset Station. C'mon Fjant—this is your time to shine!
Which one is better? – We'll have to wait and see about this one, as Radhuset Station has yet to be played in competitive tournaments.
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: Wax
Images and Videos: Google, Liquipedia, Arild Vågen, GomTV/AfreecaTV, OnGameNet
Written by: Wax
Images and Videos: Google, Liquipedia, Arild Vågen, GomTV/AfreecaTV, OnGameNet