In the world of Korean professional StarCraft: Brood War, no one personifies “superstar” more than these four men: Kim “Bisu” Taek Young, Song “Stork” Byung Gu, Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong, and Lee “Flash” Young Ho. Were it not for the other three, any one of these players would be unanimously considered the best in the world during their prime. These incredibly skilled players made the last years of Brood War possibly the most enthralling era of competition in that game’s history. Finally, at the MLG Spring Championship, they played StarCraft II on Western soil for the first time.
We got a chance to sit down with these legendary figures and spoke with them about the games, their journey to the United States, and their transition to StarCraft II.
What were your initial impressions of StarCraft II?
Jaedong: I think StarCraft II is very similar to Brood War except for the UI. StarCraft II is really fun so I wish to continue to play it. Although I was a Brood War pro-gamer when StarCraft II was launched, I had good feelings about it and really wanted to play the game because I thought this game would be loved globally.
Flash: Honestly, I didn’t like StarCraft II at first because I have been doing very well with Brood War, and I thought that Brood War would continue to be more popular. However, StarCraft II became a global trend and I found it to actually be really fun, so I decided to practice StarCraft II to become a super-star.
Bisu: Hello, I am Taek Young Kim! As a pro-gamer, not as a gamer, I felt a little bit anxious at first because I worried I would lose my job. As time went on, I quickly began to think “Someday I will play StarCraft II,” as I watched the growing popularity of the game. I was sad at first because I lost a lot, but now I’m enjoying the game as I feel my skill grow. I wish to reach a Grand Final at a global competition for passionate global fans.
When you first played StarCraft II, how did your games go?
Jaedong: It was really difficult to play StarCraft II in my first game because I was used to playing Brood War.
Flash: My first StarCraft II game was almost a year after the game was released. I had arm surgery and rehabilitated with athletes in the mountains at that time, then suddenly I felt like playing StarCraft II, so I played alone secretly. Nothing but losses filled my game history, but I kept playing so I could find common ground between Brood War and StarCraft II.
Bisu: I have trouble playing StarCraft II because so many protoss units have been changed. I knew I could change Hotkeys but I didn’t, in order to get used to the new game.
Stork: About two years ago, when StarCraft II launched, StarCraft II was the only game that was allowed to be played in my team house besides Brood War, so we played StarCraft II during break time. I adapted soon because not only were units like the zealot similar, but the overall trend of the game resembled Brood War. Although two Brood War pro-gamers in my team house rapidly turned into StarCraft II pros, I believed that I could catch up with them soon so I remained in the team house.
When did you start practicing seriously?
Jaedong: Let me see… I started to practice seriously about two months ago.
Flash: (whispering - Wait, when did the Grand Final end?) About a month and a half ago?
Bisu: Me, too. About a month and a half ago.
Stork: About a month and a half ago.
What was the hardest thing to get used to about StarCraft II?
Jaedong: I feel Brood War and StarCraft II are completely different games. Every unit in StarCraft II has very clear counter units and this seems to make it harder to turn a game around. That was the most difficult thing to adapt to in the new game for me. The new UI also made me frustrated.
Flash: The biggest difference from Brood War is that it’s hard to turn the game around. In Brood War, each player’s performance in unit production varied, but in StarCraft II, everyone can make a lot of units with ease due to the convenient interface. I think this is the most important point that makes tuning the game around harder.
Bisu: Unlike Brood War, unit combinations and the counter build order are very important in StarCraft II. This is the hardest part for me.
Stork: Brood War has “standard” build orders which are viable against any kind of opposing strategy, allowing for a long term fight. In StarCraft II, I feel it’s difficult to come back from having my build order countered or from making a mistake. If I take my first expansion a little bit later then my opponent, the resource gap between us widens due to Chrono Boost, Larva Spawn and MULE. It makes the game hard to turn around.
Did you attempt to mimic the build orders of current StarCraft II pro-gamers, or did you try to develop your own builds?
Jaedong: At first, I just tried to mimic other players’ build orders because I knew nothing. I thought that making new build orders and strategies would be only available when I attained full knowledge of units and insight into the game, so I thought I needed more time to reach it.
Flash: I also tried to mimic when I began to play StarCraft II. But even mimicking was difficult for me. When I learned a new build order, I kept practicing repeatedly until I felt sufficient, then I used to modify it. It is the same now, so if I learn a nice new strategy, I practice it repeatedly and then try varying it.
Bisu: At first, I tried to just play the game as much as I could rather than watch GSL matches. Then, I watched GSL and GSTL matches. Though I try to mimic those matches, I lose a lot because I’m not trained perfectly yet.
Stork: I just played games without watching any VODs for the first month. But I ended up watching other matches because I couldn’t learn build orders by myself. I’m not skilled enough to understand as soon as I see other build orders or strategies yet, so I’m asking team mates and learning from those who are better than me.
What unit in StarCraft II is your favorite to use, and what unit from Brood War do you miss the most?
Jaedong: My favorite StarCraft II unit is the infestor. I think it is similar to the defiler from Brood War, but now it is better because it can be produced on Tier 2 (Lair). The mutalisk is very commonly used in Brood War but I feel sad that it is impossible to control mutalisks the way I did in Brood War.
Flash: My favorite StarCraft II unit is the marauder. It looks strong and it actually is, so I produce it quite often. I liked to use goliaths very much in Brood War so when I heard that Thor replaced the goliath in StarCraft II, I tried to use it a few times. But the Thor is not my favorite because it feels too massive. I miss the goliath, the slim one.
Bisu: My favorite unit is the immortal because it is incredibly effective against marauders and roaches. I miss the corsair.
Stork: Although I like all of the StarCraft II units, I like especially the sentry. There are no units I particularly want to carry over from Brood War, but if I had to choose one, it’s the arbiter.
Many players in the KeSPA Proleague have claimed Protoss is especially strong, and Protoss players seem to be having the most success in their transition. What causes this, would you say?
Jaedong: Strong? Is protoss strong? I’m not sure about that. I don’t know whether protoss is really strong and I think balance always changes as time passes.
Flash: The reason protoss is so strong is… oh, honestly, I have no idea. I don’t think I have enough skill to judge the balance. However I can say StarCraft II protoss has advantages for new players, like Warp Gates.
Bisu: I think protoss is a race which everybody can play well at first. The protoss win rate is quite a bit higher than other races among us because our skill is not that high yet. However, protoss doesn’t seem to have that many advantages for all high-level matches that I watched. I believe protoss strength is based on a lot of studies and practices that protoss players have done.
Stork: On my team (Samsung Electronic Khan), I have seen protoss players’ skill grow quicker than other races when we started to play the game. Compared to Brood War, I think Brood War and StarCraft II protoss have many things in common and protoss is the most convenient race to control and needs the least consideration. So I think it makes protoss stronger at low levels, but the strongest race would be zerg as players’ skills grow.
The first StarCraft II Ongamenet Starleague is scheduled for July, and it will be open to more than just KeSPA players. Do you think you will be prepared?
Jaedong: KeSPA Proleague would continue into July, but I don’t know whether the StarCraft II OSL (Ongamenet StarCraft II League) is scheduled for July or not. I’m afraid there would not be enough time to practice both Brood War and StarCraft II.
Flash: Only one month remains until July so it seems to be difficult to practice both Brood War and StarCraft II at the same time. I don’t think I’ll be prepared by then.
Bisu: I heard about the July OSL, but I think that I need to practice harder to reach higher rounds in the league. I’ll do my best.
Stork: Our skill grows quicker than many expected, so I believe that we’ll have enough chance to win the final match.
Some of you attended BlizzCon 2011 here in Anaheim, and you’ve been here at MLG this weekend. What do you think of the foreign community as compared to Korea?
Jaedong: This is my second visit to Anaheim, after last year’s BlizzCon, and every time I visit here, the passionate and energetic StarCraft II fans surprise me. As a pro-gamer, I love such fans and couldn’t wait to participate in such matches. So I will practice harder and polish my skill to participate again. I can’t wait for that moment.
Flash: Every time I visit here, I always feel surprised at passions and cheers of fans. I’m very happy with it because it is not common in Korea. Of course, I know every fan’s love is not comparable because each fan has different ways of expression.
Bisu: I appreciate everyone’s love for me very much. I love those fans’ passionate cheers. I also love the BarCraft culture: watching the game with drinking. I wish it would be held in Korea.
Stork: Unlike Korean fans, fans in here are very passionate and active, so I feel envious. It’s very interesting that while Korean fans, teams, and pro-gamers are tend to focus on victory, but global fans generally enjoy watching the game itself.
Do you have any words for these fans, at home in Korea and abroad?
Jaedong: I really appreciate both my Korean and global fans. Now as I start to play StarCraft II instead of Brood War, I’ll do my best to improve my skills and reach the top GSL players’ level.
Flash: Thanks to my global fans for their constant love. The only thing I can do to show my thanks is to show victories and epic matches to you guys. I will participate in a lot of global matches, so cheer me on! Thank you.
Bisu: I don’t have a single victory in StarCraft II yet, so I hope to show a great match someday. Cheer me on please. Thanks.
Stork: I promise to show you guys a good performance in KeSPA Proleague that I’m participating in currently. Although we are not popular globally compared to GSL players, we will do our best and promise victories and epic matches beyond the GSL players’.
Images courtesy of R1ch and Silverfire.