One of the biggest events in European eSports history is nearly upon us! The StarCraft II World Championship Series (WCS) Europe Finals takes place in Sweden’s Ericsson Globe this weekend, September 15-16.
This high-level competition will feature 32 of the top European StarCraft II players from 16 different nations, competing for the title of Europe’s StarCraft II champion. These 32 players include some well-known pro gamers and rising stars, each of them proud to represent their country in this prestigious tournament.
We’ve reached out to some of these players in order to learn a little bit more about who they are. Check out what they had to say.
Where are you from and how did you get into StarCraft II?
Olivier “Orly” Bellemans : I’m from Antwerp city in Belgium. Ever since playing The Lost Vikings and Warcraft, I’ve been a big fan of everything Blizzard. I entered into the eSports side of things by coincidence when our World of Warcraft Arena team got picked up after doing well on ladder. Since I enjoyed following the South Korean StarCraft: Brood War scene, I transitioned into competitive StarCraft II later on.
Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen : I’m from the city of Nieuwegein, in the province of Utrecht which is in the center of the Netherlands. I’ve devoured every Blizzard game since Warcraft II, except World of Warcraft. The storyline, feel, gameplay, and the possibility to replay each game have been far above satisfactory. I got into StarCraft II after playing Warcraft III as a pro gamer for eight years.
Joseph “Ret” de Kroom : I’m from a city called Helmond in Noord-Brabant, in the south of the Netherlands. I got into StarCraft when I was 13 years old. I also played Command & Conquer and loved RTS games, so when I found StarCraft, I couldn’t stop playing it because of its depth and because of how hard it was to become one of the best.
Nick “Ziktomini” Copello : I live in Birmingham, England and I’ve been there for as long as I can remember! I first started playing StarCraft II a few months after the game was released. I love strategy games and used to play a lot of different strategy games for fun, but never on a competitive level. At that time, StarCraft II seemed to be by far the biggest game coming out and once I found out that there was a professional scene and the chance to make money from playing, it made me want to play it even more so that one day I could turn professional.
Benjamin “DeMusliM” Baker : Nottingham, England. I played Warcraft III previously, and a friend originally told me about StarCraft to start me off when I was 9 or so.
Paul “JonnyREcco” White : I’m from Aberdeen in Scotland and I've lived there all my life. I can’t really remember how I got into StarCraft, to be honest. I’d somehow heard about StarCraft II and started watching it. I ordered StarCraft: Brood War a little after that, and then just waited until StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out.
Anton “LoWeLy” Plebanovich : I’m from Minsk in Belarus. I played a lot of StarCraft before I took a break in 2008, and I waited for StarCraft II because I wanted to try it. So here I am!
Silviu “NightEnD” Lazar : I’m from Bucharest, Romania. When the StarCraft II beta came up, I was playing Warcraft III for mTw. I quit Warcraft III and started playing StarCraft II right after I got it.
What are you doing to train for the Europe Finals?
Orly: By analysing my most likely opponents and preparing accordingly.
Grubby: Mostly ladder and some custom games. I sometimes plan special intensity training boot camps for important events, and hope to be able to do one of these for the Europe Finals.
Ret: I actually just got to the Ministry of Win house in Warsaw, Poland, a house that’s dedicated to training. So I’m practicing hard from this house with my new housemates and of course the usual ladder practice.
Ziktomini: I’m training for each individual player and each matchup. I’m playing full-time, so leading up to the Europe Finals I’ll hopefully be able to take my game to the next level all around.
DeMusliM: Ladder and finding practice partners.
JonnyREcco: My training plan hasn’t really changed much; I just keep doing what I’m doing but play more games than usual to get ready. My current training consists mostly of ladder practice throughout the day, practicing builds, and trying new stuff out. The rest of my practice is in custom games with other good players, just refining builds and trying new ideas out against them too.
LoWeLy: I can't prepare for every opponent because there will be alot of them so I'll just play ladder hard and custom games with my teammates.
NightEnD: I’m trying to play ladder and custom games as much as possible, but mostly ladder games since all of my team mates are in South Korea. Also, I’m watching as many replays and vods of my opponents as possible, and this time the trophy will be mine!
How was your experience at the Nationals?
Orly: It was great. I liked the sense of progression even at the national level. I met some good Belgian players that I wouldn’t have known much about otherwise. As I’ve heard, it was a cool event to watch as well.
Grubby: The Nationals were well organized and very fun. The ESL TV studio is a good place to hold a tournament. I was glad that there was an audience. I play better in front of audiences.
Ret: The Nationals were well organized and very fun. The ESL TV studio is a good place to hold a tournament. I was glad that there was an audience. I play better in front of audiences.
Ziktomini: The Nationals were well run, everything went smoothly, and the response from the UK community far exceeded my expectations. I think it’s awesome of Blizzard to run such an event with a big prize pool, giving me the chance to represent the UK at the Europe Finals.
DeMusliM: It really surprised me in a positive way. Blizzard and ESL did a great job.
JonnyREcco: I thought it was really good, the way it ran and how everything was set up was really nice. The venue was also great and it was fantastic to play on such a cool stage in front of a big crowd.
LoWeLy: It’s for sure the best tournament for StarCraft II in the world. Thanks to Blizzard for it.
NightEnD: I was really impressed by how good the tournament was organized, I think this was in my opinion the best tournament I've been so far with HomeStory Cup which has a kind of a different format.
Anything you’d like to say to people in your home country cheering you on?
Orly: Thanks for the cheers. Even though I’ve been playing a bit less lately, it’s important for me that I do well for my country, and I won’t take the Europe Finals lightly.
Grubby: I’ll do my best to keep our gaming honor high. Thank you.
Ret: I’ll do my best to take it home for Oranje.
Ziktomini: I would like to thank all of those who’ve cheered me on, and I hope to do well for the UK in the Europe Finals.
DeMusliM: I'll do you proud.
JonnyREcco: To anyone cheering for me or supporting me, then thanks a lot for doing that, it makes me want to keep playing, improve, and just get better at the game.
LoWeLy: I got a lot of congrats after my win. It was from my family, my team, my friends, and fans. Thanks a lot to everyone! You believed in me even when I was close to giving up. It was a long way until I could finally take a first place prize. Now we can celebrate together.
NightEnD: Yes, I want to thank all my fans from Romania and all over the globe. Thank you very much for cheering for me and I’m sorry I couldn’t take first, but I promise next time I will. I also want to thank to my sponsors RaidCall, MSI, SteelSeries, and EIZO. And I want to thank to Blizzard for making such good games.