Photo by Sho Kitamura

The videogame StarCraft, as well as its many sequels, calls for players to develop battle strategies within an alien militaristic setting. It has been a favorite of college students across the world since its creation. Some fans have decided to take their love for the game a few steps further, toward a more competitive setting. Here enters the Tech StarCraft team.

This team of avid gamers has been around since the first season of the Collegiate StarLeague (CSL) in 2009, and has been setting records and holding titles in the area of competitive StarCraft-playing ever since.

The Technique had a chance to speak with Marco “ReMiiX” Cognetta, Captain of the StarCraft team, about the team and its recent competitions and accomplishments, as well as its goals for the next season.

What got you interested in StarCraft?

Before I played StarCraft, I competed in professional Halo tournaments when they were just starting to get popular in the US. I remember being blown away by a video a friend showed me of a Korean StarCraft: Brood War tournament because of the amount of people that were there. It amazed me that hundreds of thousands of people would show up to watch these events and that the players were treated as national celebrities. On top of that, the skill level that they played at was absolutely ridiculous, especially compared to the relatively low skill ceiling for a game like Halo. After watching this, I began to play StarCraft: Brood War casually while keeping up with the pro scene. Around the time that I started looking at colleges I was introduced to the CSL. I remember watching a game between MasterAsia and Nony (one of the most famous American players ever). This was one of the things that got me really interested in Georgia Tech, but also it made me realize that I could actually represent my school in a game that I loved. After that I was motivated to practice hard in order to be good enough to play on Georgia Tech’s team.

In what competitions and events does the team participate?

Outside of the Collegiate StarLeague, our players compete in many tournaments all around the world. The club takes trips to multiple Major League Gaming (MLG) events each year to compete and watch. During our most recent trip, one of our players, Harry “MaSsan” Cheong, made it to the Open Bracket finals, which is almost unheard of for an amateur player. MaSsan was also invited to play in the IGNProLeague (IPL) in Las Vegas. Another one of our players, Derek “TheoRy” Travisano, regularly competes in and wins online tournaments consisting of some of the best players in the world. Our regular players compete in GameFest each year and a local tournament at the LAN center/bar, Battle and Brew.

The Tech StarCraft team competed in the AZUBU Collegiate Champions season of the Collegiate StarLeague. What was that experience like?

“This is the first year that the CSL has been the AZUBU Collegiate Champions, so the level of excitement was high. The prize pool was an enormous $91,000 for StarCraft, so there was a lot of incentive to practice hard and do well. Coming into the season, we felt that we had a very strong chance of winning, as we had at least two more Grandmaster level players than any other school in the world. The majority of the tournament was very stressful, as we had the hardest bracket of any school (facing two national champions and a runner up back to back to back).”

How do the competitions work?

The CSL is what is known as a Proleague style team league, in reference to the premier StarCraft team league, the SK Planet Proleague. This means that the matches are either best of five or best of seven, depending on if it is group stages or the playoffs. Before the match, both teams are given a list of the maps that will be played so that they can pick their lineup. Once both lineups have been submitted, the players play a best of one on their map vs. the player sent by the opposing team. The first team to get either three or four map victories (depending on Bo5 or Bo7) wins the match. In the event of a 2-2 or 3-3 tie, an ACE player is chosen from each team, and the match is played on the remaining map. The current match format is 1v1, 1v1, 1v1 (if Bo7), 1v1 (if Bo7), 2v2, 1v1, ACE. This style of competition is very stressful on teams, as best of one matches make it much easier for a lesser skilled player to upset a better player in a fluke victory.

The StarCraft team made some serious progress in this year’s season. What were some of the highlights?

Our team made it to the final round of the North American tournament before losing 4-2 to University of Washington. I firmly believe that, had we won this match, we would have taken the world championships. Our highlight of the year has to be our match against last year’s champion, University of North Texas. This team was heavily hyped up by the CSL writing staff as the team to beat, and was predicted to beat us 4-3. However, in a fantastic match, we managed to shut out North Texas 5-0. The next week, we played the year before last’s champion, University of Waterloo. This match was very important to us, as Waterloo beat us in a preseason showmatch and is now the school where MasterAsia teaches. Additionally, Waterloo has some very bad mannered players… who were extremely rude to many of our players before the match. We ended up winning the match 4-3 in the ACE, after TheoRy defeated Zoku in the regular match and MaSsan soundly defeated him in the ACE match (which was one of the most one-sided ACE matches of the entire season).

What are your plans for getting farther in the competitions next year?

The next season starts at the end of March, and as we are not gaining or losing any players, our primary goal is just keeping our players motivated. Our goal for the upcoming season is to win the World Championships in Seoul, South Korea. I am very confident in this team’s ability to beat any other school in the world. Personally, my goal is to finally achieve the rank of Grandmaster, so that we can have an ACE player from each race.

Any readers interested in joining this group of gamers should visit the “GaTech StarCraft” group on Facebook.