The stakes of major StarCraft 2 tournaments are huge with tens of thousands of dollars on the line and viewerships exceeding the world’s largest stadiums. While disruptions to gameplay are relatively rare, they are occurring with enough frequency to warrant concern.
In April an internet disconnect occurred during a finals match between MarineKing and Parting in the Global StarCraft Team League and a controversial re-game was declared after MarineKing was in a disadvantageous position. MarineKing would then go on to win the re-game and three more to take the series for team Prime.
At the Gigabye eSports LAN Invitational held this weekend a competitor’s computer was powered off mid-game when the power cord was disrupted in an attempt to solve an audio connection issue.
In the Red Bull Battlegrounds tournament held earlier this month, a game disconnect occurred in a crucial match between Stephano and Squirtle. And NesTea battled with an interface problem that caused him to lose control of his units while playing Squirtle at IPL 4 just over two months ago. Additionally NesTea wasn’t able to pause the game when the technical issues arose. This led to further damage to his game position and a regame was ultimately called.
The final solution to these issues is the ability to restore games to the moment the problem occurred and resume from that point. The fact is power supplies go out, internet connections are sometimes disrupted, and hardware does fail. Even the possibility of intentional game disruptions by staff or hackers for financial gain should be a concern. And while we thankfully have no evidence of this occurring, it is conceivable as the stakes for winning rise.
When similar disruptions like bad weather or power outages happen in professional sports, the game is generally paused until the problems are solved.
While Blizzard is not to blame for the root causes of game disruptions, they are the only ones who can solve this issue. The reason why this falls on Blizzard is because third-party software that would add a ‘resume of replay’ function would likely be considered a hack to the game and not permitted.
Thankfully Blizzard has announced that they are planning to implement a ‘resume of replay’ feature with the release of Heart of the Swarm. The release date for this is expansion remains unknown. Until this feature is added, StarCraft 2 professional scene will carry a critical vulnerability.
This is the sort of under-the-hood issue that could appear at the worst time (think an initial mainstream American TV appearance) and greatly damage the reputation of eSports as a serious competitive endeavor. The top professional players like DongRaeGu, MC, and MarineKing are world-class, I hope just hope that the game gets there and sooner rather than later.