StarCraft II update: Season 1 Evaluation

The DreamHack StarCraft II Master: Summer Season has come to end, with Serral being crowned Champion.

Going into the second season of the ESL Pro Tour, we’ll be making some big changes to multiple aspects of the competition. We’ve collected the most discussed topics and listened to both community and pro player feedback in order to further elevate the competition, for both fans and players.

On this page, we’ll go through updates together with explaining our reasoning behind why we’re changing or not changing certain aspects. Read on for a full breakdown of our plans for the Fall Season!

Fast access

We understand the community had a difficult time in being able to follow the tournament because of the format used for the EU & NA regional division group stages. The format will not be changed but we want to make sure to improve the product experience. To explain this, let us explain the thought process behind our decisions:

  1. Why we elected to use the format
  2. Why we do not conclude each group individually
  3. The presentation & potential

Why we elected to use the format

When originally designing the ESL Pro Tour, we wanted to create the ultimate competition. An environment that gave players the best possible conditions as the premium competition in StarCraft.

  • 32 players in 4 groups of 8 players each, played in a Round Robin Format.
  • All matches are Bo3.
  • Top 4 players of each group advance to the Playoffs.

In order to achieve this, we set a goal to reduce the variance created through online competition therefore electing for a tournament format that would increase the sample size per player. Additionally, we wanted to allow players to prepare for a single opponent per day, rather than multiple. (In the EU & NA divisions this was up to 7 opponents with the groups consisting of 8.)

Why groups are concluded simultaneously

In order to allow players to focus on a single opponent, groups completing in parallel is a requirement. We acknowledge this then increases the difficulty to follow the tournament narrative but we believe in the potential of the entertainment value it can create. We failed in solving this weakness, which led to the shortfall on the potential.

Why groups are concluded simultaneously

With groups developing at the same rate, there is a player performance crescendo created. A joint race between all players generating a peak of excitement. We saw parts of this potential on the final day of groups where engagement and discussion were at its highest.

As written, we acknowledge a shortcoming on making this story & tournament easy to follow. For Season 2, we are exploring methods to improve this.

  • Increased broadcast assets & frequency on the overarching narrative
  • Improved support from social media
  • Improved in game tournament ‘status updates’

Example of a potential in game improvement:
An in-game popup that could appear for a moment during matches

In conclusion, we believe that the tournament format is the right one for our goals on the ESL Pro Tour and will continue to use it in the next season. We hope to improve in the 2nd Season and will reevaluate again in the 3rd later this year.

Passport holders who are not currently residing within the region they compete in. This ruling is historic to StarCraft and we do not intend to change it. In order to understand our perspective, the lens required is to look at non-Korean players currently residing in South Korea. These players all hold passports from multiple regions they do not currently reside in, and if we were to change our ruling, we’d be required to remove this group from participating in their home region.

We will continue to accommodate participation of passport holders and encourage fair server conditions between competitors. For additionally transparency, we operate with two rules when evaluating conditions for players:

  1. No player playing from inside their home region will ever be put at a ping disadvantage against someone outside the region.
  2. No player playing from inside their home region will ever be forced onto a server that would not also be a valid choice for players both residing inside the region.

The first point and the second point is to prevent that players inside the region ever have to play with an unacceptable ping, or more precisely a ping that would not happen if all players were inside their home region. At the same time, we will still use that server which under these conditions minimises the disadvantage for the player abroad.

The scheduling of the Season Finals saw players from the west required to compete early & players in East required to compete late at night. The Grand Final was scheduled to start at 19:00 CEST (10am PST & 2am KST), it is incredibly difficult to accommodate for all three regions, especially when we also consider optimal viewing conditions.

We will continue to evaluate this topic but do not expect to be making large changes.

We understand that in between regional competitions, viewers often experienced up to 1-2hour breaks. This was due to the calculation of the average start & finish time for each division, we will reduce the amount of allocated time in order to resolve this issue moving forward.

  • 60minutes per bo3 (including breaks & production) -> 50minutes per bo3
  • 90minutes per bo5 (including breaks & production) -> 80minutes per bo5

We hope to crunch the average time in hope to reduce extended breaks across multiple regions.

We acknowledge that there were frequent overlaps between the OCE/RoA division & the GSL however is incredibly difficult to prevent with the footprint of both tournaments. There will be a slight reduction in Season 2 & and a heavier reduction in Season 3.

Moving into Season 2, we are adjusting in following ways:

  1. We will onboard additional moderators to support the program
  2. Improved preparation and balanced staffing between regions & channels
  3. Improved automation and filtering

We are content with the final levels of the production quality. However being content is not enough! We are exploring how to increase the quality standard of our broadcasts going into the following seasons. A few items we are currently discussing:

  • Increased interaction with players (player cams/interviews)
  • Improved overarching tournament narrative telling
  • Additional ways to handle long breaks
  • More graphics giving context and information on players & event

Our ultimate goal is to push the standards as much as we can with the limitations caused from remote broadcasting.

Geographically and ping-wise this was an obvious change. There are no relevant downsides to it. As a result of this change, we needed to revisit the cross-region server table to make sure that our policy to provide equal competitive conditions remained. This should be automatically achieved as the North East Asia location (NEA) will no longer be part of the OC region

For DH SC2 Masters Fall, detailed dates are below. Specific start times per region are still work in progress as discussed within the topic ‘Adjustments to be made to reduce prolonged breaks’.

Divisions & dates:

For DH SC2 Masters Winter the starting periods are defined below. The specific calendar similar to above will be published at a later date.

Expected start times:

  • Qualifiers: Early October
  • Division play: Mid October
  • Season Finals: Mid November
For DH SC2 Masters Winter the starting periods are defined below. The specific calendar similar to above will be published at a later date.

Moving forward the Season Finals will now seed players based on their ESL Pro Tour points. There will be additional restrictions put into place to ensure reasonable spreading of players from each region across all groups.

The reason behind this change is through player feedback we acknowledged that ‘smaller’ regions were being unfairly restricted when being seeded into the Season Finals. This is because prioritization was given to the larger regions, i.e. 1st place in either China or LATAM could never be seeded higher than #2 from NA or #4 from EU.

This change now allows any player, from any region the ability to enter as the highest possible seed.

We’ve made very minor adjustments to the prize money allocation. These changes are done to reflect the differences between the Summer & Fall seasons for the allocation of available qualification slots. Full details are available on liquipedia.

We are currently reevaluating the cross-region server table to enhance its level of accuracy in order to maintain the best possible competitive conditions. More updates on this in the coming weeks.
In order to improve the broadcast experience for the Season Finals we are exploring alternative options to keep as many of the matches on the A stream as possible. This will ensure players have equal exposure on the main broadcast stream and viewers follow one stream, one story. More details to come soon.

When all is said and done we’re happy with the result of our inaugural season of the DH SC2 Masters and the revamped online portion of ESL Pro Tour. We appreciate the feedback and have clear areas we can tweak and adjust to keep improving and think we can build on this to make it even better with the coming season and are excited to bring you improvements and additions to each new stage of the tournament. We look forward to continuing these posts in the future as part of our commitment to keep an open dialogue with our players, fans, and community.

All updates discussed above will be reflected in the regulation & rulebook ahead of Season 2.

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