In the 26th century, 60,000 light years from Earth, three civilizations clash, wreaking havoc and spilling blood — both alien and human — as they battle for total dominance of the Koprulu sector. Or, for those who don’t want to wait until the year 2500 for the carnage, that same conflict will be taking place over the next two weeks during the Texas StarCraft Showdown Tournament.
Hosted by the Texas e-Sports Association, UT’s own competitive gaming student organization, the Texas StarCraft Showdown, now in its third year, is the most ambitious student-hosted tournament of its kind in North America. On Saturday, 128 “StarCraft II” gamers from 15 universities will fight it out remotely during the online portion of the tournament. Then, 64 players — the better half of the first group — will return on Oct. 29 to face-off in person in the Ballroom of the Student Activity Center. Up for grabs are control of the Koprulu sector, bragging rights and $3000 — more prize money than ever before.
“StarCraft II,” which was developed and released in 2010 by Blizzard Entertainment, sold 1.5 million copies of the game within the first 48 hours of its release, according to technology blog TechCrunch. It was the best-selling PC game of 2010 and is the fastest-selling real-time strategy game of all time. With so many passionate players, it’s only natural that “StarCraft II”-focused tournaments would spring up around the world. In South Korea, StarCraft is on par with professional sports, with 600,000 to 700,000 people attending tournaments each year, according to Bloomberg.com. Some professional gamers in the U.S make up to six figures playing the game.
For a collegiate tournament, the StarCraft Showdown is in a league of its own, according to Tyler and Adam Rosen, association co-presidents and twin brothers from Houston. Besides offering a bigger prize than any other e-Sports collegiate tournament in history, the upcoming event has attracted big-name sponsors like AT&T and star gaming talent, which isn’t too common within the StarCraft Collegiate StarLeague — the league designated for university clubs like TeSPA. The Rosens said that sort of glamour is usually reserved for the Major League Gaming circuit, but because of TeSPA’s dedication, that’s not the case anymore.
“We told ourselves that we don’t want to be the average gaming organization,” said aerospace engineering senior Tyler Rosen. “We want to see how far we can take things. We wanted to really stretch the limits and ask ourselves, ‘can a collegiate organization really compete with a huge league like MLG?’ Every time we push, we look at the limits and realize those aren’t really limits any more.”
The limits have been steadily pushed back with every TeSPA “StarCraft II” tournament since the first one in November 2010. With each event, there has been more. More gamers, more spectators, more sponsors, more money — even more all-you-can drink Redbull and catered Chipotle burritos for participants. The Rosens said the organizing has taken a lot of work, but that’s to be expected with grand ambition.
“The way I’ve been thinking about it is every tournament we’ve pretty much doubled what we did the year before,” said Adam Rosen, also an aerospace engineering senior. “Not only the prize pool — that’s a quantitative way we’ve doubled — but we’ve also grown in our scope and vision.”
Physical proof of that growth will be evident comes at the end of October when the combatants, each one with his or her own computer and Ethernet cable in tow, descend upon 54 tables in the Ballroom and duke it out in space. The best matches will be projected live on a screen while two commentators “live-cast” the games from a desk setup below the screen. People who can’t make it to the Ballroom but still want to watch the tournament can stream the games live via Twitch TV, a streaming site that also sponsors TeSPA.
Last March during the spring “StarCraft II” event, the tournament’s channel saw about 12,500 unique viewers. This time around, the Rosens said they’re hoping for closer to 25,000.
When there aren’t tournaments to be planned, TeSPA is focused on PC and console games, including “Call of Duty,” “Rock Band” and of course, regular CSL league play. That’s where 240 schools across North America battle against their rivals: “not on the football field, but instead on the virtual landscape of StarCraft,” as it’s described on the CSL website.
TeSPA, which was a finalist in the campus-wide Swing Out Award in the Best Social Organization Category last semester, plays against a different school in the ‘Executor’ division each Friday. They most recently played against Texas A&M and won. The organization, which is undefeated this year, will play Colorado State University on Oct. 21. League games can also be streamed live online.
Anthony Nguyen, a TeSPA member and the coordinator of UT’s “StarCraft II” team, said that he enjoys the sense of community that the gathering of passionate, university-level gamers will bring.
“I love tournaments, especially when they’re this big,” Nguyen said. “There’s going to be a lot going on. Everyone is very excited.”
Published on, October 19th, 2011 as: Club to host epic StarCraft tournament