History of WEM
|Author: Thorin||Like aceresport.com:||24.10.2012, 22:08 PM|
Tomorrow the 2012 edition of the World e-Sports Masters (WEM) will begin in Hangzhou, China. Being as this is the first edition to host StarCraft2 and League of Legends tournaments many who will follow the event are likely to be unfamiliar with its history, which is rooted in Counter-Strike and WarCraft III competition. This article will outline the history of the event, its significant qualities and its transition from Korea to China.
Genesis of WEG
Prior to 2008 WEM was known as the World e-Sports Games (WEG) and was founded in 2004, by Paul Chong. Originally known as a Korean event the first three seasons would be held in South Korea, before the eventual transition to Hangzhou, China in 2008. For the first three seasons teams/players lived in Korea for a month or more, competing over a very drawn out televised schedule and with plenty of opportunity for practice/preparation between matches.
A notable quality of the early WEG seasons is that WEG was one of the first events to put an emphasis on streaming, in an era when every other event still ran HLTVs for matches and gathered viewers that way. WEG and WEM were also some of the first events to provide help to players in terms of expenses, in the form of hotels and/or flight costs.
Where other events expected players to signup, sometimes pay a registration fee and then find their own way there, WEG/WEM instead began a tradition of treating the players as stars, whose needs had to be met.
WEG Season 1
Seoul, South Korea
1st - NoA ($50,000)
2nd - 4Kings ($20,000)
3rd - mouz ($10,000)
4th - GamerCo ($7,000)
Due to the tournament lasting almost two months the field for the Counter-Strike side of things was lacking, in comparison to the premiere events of the day, as a lot of the big Scandinavian teams chose to stay at home rather than attend. Still, it helped matters that the recently crowned CPL Winter 2004 champions NoA were in attendance, and when the hybrid European and North American lineup won the entire event, and the hefty $50,000 first place prize, it helped put WEG on the map as a tournament.
Elsewhere it was a battle of the stand-ins, as the famously inconsistent 4kings finished runners-up, but not before losing Harriman to home-sickness and having to bring in former member sNajdan for the final. In third was a mousesports lineup which had little in common with any lineup seen under the name for years prior or since, as they had to leave stars like gore at home and ended up bringing in American United5 captain Hare as a stand-in. Hare didn't speak German, and worked with cue cards for the map location names, but it was enough to get the German team into the bronze medal spot.
GamerCo was coming off back-to-back CPL third place finishes, but went to Korea without the services of the ever-reliable Medias, due to needing to stay behind for school, and thus had to use bench member Medrano. The campaign proved fairly unsuccessful and GamerCo didn't come close to contending for the title. In the final 4kings managed to win the first map, but the CPL champions roared back to a convincing win on the next two maps to secure the title.
Despite an upset here and there the Asian Counter-Strike teams proved still incapable of performing at the level of the Western teams, and any close results were put down to the Westerners adapting to the unusual format.
1st - Moon ($20,000)
2nd - Zacard ($10,000)
3rd - Sky ($5,000)
4th - MagicYang ($2,000)
Moon had been a champion within Korea over the years prior to this tournament, but his first international venture, at WCG 2004, had not been a successful one. With non-Koreans coming to his native country for the first WEG season he set about showing that he was one of the world's elite level players. Moon went undefeated across the season, winning all of his group games and then sweeping his playoff series, including the finals matchup against Zacard, the player who had eliminated him from said WCG.
Zacard had won the silver medal at the aforementioned WCG and finishing second still managed to take home a hefty prize. Sky's third place finish is also worth noting, as this marks the moment when the future legend became known on an international level. In his semi-final he lost narrowly to Zacard in a full five map series.
A number of Western stars attending, including names like ToD, HeMaN, MaDFroG and Shortround, but none of them were able to make an impact on the final standings. Korea and China ruled the roust.
WEG Season 2
Seoul, South Korea
1st - Begrip.swe ($50,000)
2nd - Catch-Gamer ($30,000)
3rd - 4kings ($7,000)
4th - Abit Strike ($5,000)
elemeNt's departure from NoA shortly before the event handicapped defending champions NoA and left the event without any of the world's elite level teams in attendance. Instead this tournament would be more of a semi-elite scrap for the title.
The champions were a surprise to many as Begrip.swe, a lineup who boasted three players with no international experience, took the crown. Of course when one looks back now and sees that the three unknown players in the lineup were f0rest, Tentpole and RobbaN, all historical level names now, it is easy to understand why that team rocketed to the top of the tournament standings. All would go on to greater things in CS, with f0rest becoming one of the very best to ever play the game.
Second place was just as much of a surprise, as bsl's Catch-Gamer lineup managed to outlast elemeNt's 4kings in the semi-final and took a rare five figure cheque home. 4kings' third place finish added to the legend of elemeNt, as he joined on short notice and steered them to a top three finish. Elsewhere we had the first rumblings of improvement from the Asian teams, who had learned much from their season one experience. Abit Strike finished in fourth, beating the likes of GamerCo, who had Norwegian DarK as a stand-in, and the Swedes of mTw.ATI.
1st - Moon ($20,000)
2nd - Gostop ($10,000)
3rd - WinneR ($5,000)
4th - Shortround ($2,000)
Moon repeated his feat from the first season, taking the crown in back-to-back fashion. This time he saw much more resistance though, even losing a map to GoStop in the second group stage. In the final he would get his chance for revenge and pulled through a five map series against GoStop to take the title.
GoStop had finished top eight at ESWC the previous year, but this was his real breakout tournament, beating the likes of ToD, FoV, Zacard and shortround en route to a runner-up finish. Lithuanian player WinneR was the surprise third place finisher, putting up the only major result of his career. In fourth another non-Korean managed to make an impact, as America's Shortround had slain Zacard and Elakeduck, amongst others, along the way.
WEG Season 3
Seoul, South Korea
1st - wNv.gm ($50,000)
2nd - project_kr ($30,000)
3rd - team9.no ($7,000)
4th - NiP ($5,000)
The Counter-Strike side of things still could not boast a majority of the world's top five teams, but things had improved somewhat over previous seasons. HeatoN and Potti, CS' greatest winners to that point in time, graced the tournament with their NiP team, Norway's upstart CPL UK winners team9 were in the field and XeqtR had brought a new look NoA lineup to Korea. This tournament would prove to be the first in history which was all about the Asian teams though, as the best from China and Korea had their breakout performances to put their countries on the map.
wNv.gm lost only one map over the course of the entire tournament, in the final to project_kr, and defeated the likes of NoA, Asylum, team9, JMC and project_kr. Their run saw them take four non-Asian scalps, numbers unheard of for an Asian team, as they stormed to the $50,000 first place prize. The legend of wNv.gm and Jungle, their star player, had been established.
Backing up the Asian rise was project_kr with their second place finish, also establishing a star in solo. lunatic-hai had put Korea on the CS map with a WCG, ESWC and CPL finishes over the last 12-13 months, but this new group of players in project_kr had beaten NiP in the semi-finals on their way to the title. REAL's team9 finished third, beating NiP in the bronze game and ensuring their CPL result was not put down as a fluke.
1st - Sweet ($20,000)
2nd - Gostop ($10,000)
3rd - Lucifer ($5,000)
4th - ElakeDuck ($2,000)
Moon's reign in WEG events came to end as the Korean champion fell in the second group stage. Instead it would be Sweet, who had a 4th at ESWC 2004 and a Ro8 finish at ESWC 2005 to his name, who took down the title. In doing so he denied Gostop the title, as the latter once more fell in the final. Rounding out an all-Korean top three was Lucifer.
Sweden finally got the WEG board for WC3 as Elakeduck escaped the second group stage to finish fourth. Elsewhere another name of note for modern day readers is that of a 19 year old SaSe making it to the second group stage of the tournament, even beating eventual runner-up Gostop in the first group stage.
Venturing outside of Korea to Hangzhou, China, this season of WEG was labelled "WEG Masters" and aimed to establish a world championship level event, as the champions of other international tournaments were invited. Initially it was thought by many that this edition of the tournament may never take place, as teams flew to China only to find problems between the organisers and the Chinese government there held up the tournament for weeks.
Just as players were about to fly home, with some actually doing so, word came back that it would go ahead and eventually everything was played out as expected, albeit a few weeks later than originally scheduled. Where past events had lasted from two months to five weeks this event would be played out in around two weeks.
1st - wNv.gm ($70,000)
2nd - coL ($20,000)
3rd - hacker.project ($8,000)
4th - Catch-Gamer ($4,000)
ESWC 2005 champions coL, back-to-back CPL champions SK.swe, WEG Season 3 champions wNv.gm and ACON5 champions Virtus.Pro were all present in the field.
Any thoughts that wNv.gm's victory in the third season had been a fluke were erased as they won the title again, this time taking down the biggest first prize in CS history: $70,000. Matters were closer this time, as wNv lost maps to all three of the group stage opponents they defeated, but in the semi-final they repeated their Season 3 finals feat, beating hacker.project once more.
The final pitted wNv.gm against coL, the team who had been crowned the world's best after their ESWC victory, but the Americans could not match wNv.gm's form, losing 0:2. That runners-up finish was an even worse pill to swallow, as the Americans left the most money on the table of any CS final in history, losing $50,000 in the final.
hacker.project, project_kr under the Hacker organisation, followed up their season 3 success with a solid third place, and solo put up a world-class individual performance to establish himself as one of the world's best players, alongside wNv's Jungle. Catch-Gamer's new look lineup, featuring former team9 wonderkid REAL, was hijacked by their new star falling ill, but the Norwegians still rallied to round out the top four.
1st - ToD ($30,000)
2nd - Grubby ($7,000)
3rd - Sky ($2,000)
4th - Moon ($1,000)
Just as the CS side of things had seen a step up in the level of quality the WC3 side also boasted a host of big names. Previous WEG champions Moon and Sweet; WCG 2004, ESWC 2005 and BlizzCon 2005 champion Grubby; 2005 WCG champion Sky; WCG 2004 and WEG S1 runner-up Zacard; WEG S2 and WEG S3 runner-up GoStop. Rounding out the eight names were ToD and xiaOt.
This time around it was Europe's turn to shine, as ToD grabbed the title and WEG rookie Grubby finished in second. ToD had put out Sky in the semi-final and Grubby had done likewise with Moon, a matchup which would become incredibly famous throughout the years of WC3 competition. Sky denied Moon a third WEG top three finish in the bronze match.
What had been peculiar though was the way the top Asians had fallen. Both had won their respective groups 3:0 and then fallen to the second place finishers of each other's group. ToD had been in a three-way tie for second in his group, having to come through tie-breakers to even reach the playoffs. The title marked the first major title of ToD's career in terms of beating elite level competition, with his CPL Summer 2005 title having come in a field without the game's biggest names in attendance.
In 2007 WEG held an event in Seoul, South Korea, which was labelled WEG e-Stars, but since in future years the organisers would hold two events per year, one being the e-Stars Seoul event in Korea and the other the WEM event in Hangzhou, it makes sense to ignore this event, since I have chosen to focus only on the WEG/WEM events. It would take another article entirely to include the e-Stars Seoul events from 2007 to 2011.
For 2008 the event formerly known as WEG became the World e-Sports Masters (WEM) and permanently settled in Hangzhou, China. It would now be a cooperation with the government of Hangzhou, as it was officially organised by the Hangzhou eSport Culture & Sport Communication Company, Ltd. The trend of the 2006 event was continued as the tournament this time took its shortest time period ever: a week.
1st - mTw.dk ($30,000)
2nd - mouz ($15,000)
3rd - eSTRO ($10,000)
4th - fnatic ($4,000)
This year's edition boasted by far the best field in the tournament's history, with five of the world's top six or seven teams in the field. The team who would prove to be the most dominant that year, mTw.dk, won the tournament after taking down fnatic in the semi-final and mouz in a three map final. mouz's second place finish helped add a final touch to a successful year for the German team, added to their IEM II Finals and IEM III Dubai titles.
eSTRO had finished runners-up at both the IEM II finals and ESWC but managed to slay fnatic in the third place game to secure a solid top three finish. Their semi-final matchup had been a tough one, forced to play the same mouz who had bested them in the IEM II final. Elsewhere SK Gaming and ESWC champions MYM.pl failed to impress, the latter even losing to the Chinese team Dragon.
1st - Infi ($15,000)
2nd - Lyn ($7,500)
3rd - Grubby ($4,000)
4th - Moon ($2,500)
IEF 2007 and KODE5 2008 champion Infi put his stamp on the first WEM, losing a single map in the group stage and then going 4:0 in playoff maps. He defeated Moon in the semi-final and then Lyn in the final. Lyn was the IEM II champion and had been on a heater coming into the event, winning BlizzCon 2008 and ESWC Masters Athens in October. Despite defeating Grubby in his semi-final he fell to Infi.
Grubby and Moon once more made the semi-finals of the tournament, but after losing both had to renew their acquaintance in the bronze final, which Grubby prevailed in. Three time WCG finalist Sky was force out in the second group stage, losing out in the tiebreakers featuring Grubby and WhO.
The Chinese event upped the duration from 2008 and lasted a week and a half.
1st - fnatic ($22,500)
2nd - Power-Gaming ($7,500)
3rd/4th - TyLoo ($5,000)
3rd/4th - AGAiN ($5,000)
This event was marked with stand-ins ruling the day, harkening back to the first WEG season somewhat. fnatic had been the team of the year, winning almost everything, but they came to the event minus third star Gux. In his place was former H2k leader threat. It mattered little though, as fnatic won the tournament outright. Their semi-final win over AGAiN was their toughest test of the tournament.
The Swede's finals opponent were a surprise, as the Finns of Power-Gaming had come in without leader natu, instead using contE, reuniting a lineup from 2008. A group stage win on train over fnatic allowed them the easier semi-final, beating TyLoo to secure a top two spot. The Poles of AGAiN had to leave TaZ at home and used new player pasha as a stand-in. As it would happen he would become a permanent fixture in the team next year, and they would remove LUq to make room for him.
1st - Grubby ($14,000)
2nd - Moon ($6,000)
3rd/4th - SocceR ($2,000)
3rd/4th - TeD ($2,000)
For all his success elsewhere in the world it wasn't until 2009's WEM that he was able to add a WEM title to his trophy haul. The 2008 WCG champion had won e-Stars Seoul and finished second at BlizzCon but his pre-WEM tournaments were far less impressive, finishing outside of the top four at IEF and the WCG. He reclaimed his form with his WEM victory, taking down Moon in the final, not only recreating a historic matchup but also continuing his streak of beating the Korean in WEG/WEM events.
Moon's second place finish had been his first final in four seasons, but made him the player with the most finals appearances. Moon team-mate SocceR took third, beating out Undead player TeD into fourth. The big story of this event was the underperformance of the Chinese players, who at that time were ruling WC3 competition. 2008 WEM champion Infi reached a tiebreaker for first but lost all of his games there. 2009 IEF champion and WCG runner-up Fly100% lost all three of his first group stage games. Three time WCG finalist, and two time champion, Sky also went 0:3 in the first group stage.
2008 WEM runner-up Lyn reached a tiebreaker for first in the other group but also lost all of his games there.
The 2010 edition managed to get its running time down to an all-time low: only four days in total.
1st - WeMade FOX ($22,000)
2nd - SK Gaming ($11,000)
3rd - FX ($8,500)
4th - Na`Vi ($7,500)
This year's lineup supplanted 2008 as the best in the tournament's history, with only mTw lacking of the world's elite level teams. The big storyline of this event was WeMade FOX finally winning an international tournament, after years of second places and semi-final eliminations. That their victory came in the form of a near-movie-storyline romp made it only sweeter. The Koreans drew their best map, inferno, a total of three times in the tournament, winning all of them. In the final they came from the lower bracket to avenge an upper bracket final loss to SK Gaming by beating the Swedes twice to take the crown.
Prior to the final SK Gaming had seemed to be the team gliding along on destiny's shoulders, as they had come with a stand-in, Delpan, to go along with their other stand-in, MODDII, and yet had beaten Na`Vi, the team of the year, on the Ukrainian's best map, train. After beating WeMade FOX in the upper final on dust2 everyone expected them to close the deal, but a mixture of the Koreans raising their games and SK crumbling during the closing stanzas of each map led to walle and company being forced to accept the silver medal. This would mark the second-to-last ever tournament played for SK by walle.
The Poles of FX found themselves twice victims of WeMade FOX's inferno draws, with that happening to one of the worst maps for the Poles. Na`Vi bizarrely were eliminated with two losses on train, by far their best map all year long, as SK Gaming knocked them out of the upper bracket and then FX, who admittedly were an excellent train team, eliminated them from the tournament in fourth. The only other big result of note was EG.usa's overtime upset of fnatic in the lower bracket, putting out Sweden's best team in a controversial match where claims were made of the Americans ghosting on the deciding round.
1st - TH000 ($12,000)
2nd - Lyn ($8,000)
3rd - TeD ($4,000)
4th - ReMinD ($2,000)
2010 seemed to be the year of the underdogs in WC3 and TH000's WEM victory went along with ReMinD's WCG gold as the players who had been denied so many times by star power names finally rose up to take a title at the end of WC3's time as a significant esports title, outside of China.
Lyn took his second runner-up finish, losing to TH000 in the upper final and the grand final. It was a bad tournament for the biggest names, as Grubby and Moon only won one match each and Sky and Infi won none. TeD's third place finish proved another excellent run for a player who had long suffered from being an Undead in the era of the Orcs.
Changes all around
The current rights holders for WEM are OnGameNet, best known for their BW OSL tournaments. For 2011 no event was held, perhaps due to CS' future being uncertain and LoL not being fully established yet. So, this year's event marks the first appearance of both StarCraft2 and League of Legends at the World e-Sports Masters. It remains to be seen how those two games will fair with the Chinese audience, in comparison to Counter-Strike and WarCraft III.
Past event often saw masses of fans arriving to watch the WC3 matches and then many leaving when the CS matches came up, except for the few hardcore fans.
(Photographs courtesy of their respective owners)