Pro StarCraft II player Joo 'Zest' Sung Wook became the eSport's latest Royal Roader, meaning he bagged himself a premier tournament title on his very first attempt, winning the Global StarCraft II League this week in spectacular style.
If you're wondering, the term originates from a route Korean rulers could walk to reach their palace. Others were forbidden to look at royals traveling the road so the term reflects the fact the StarCraft II player was relatively unknown until the tournament in which they were crowned victorious. While technically referring to those who achieve the feat in South Korea's OnGameNet Starleague (OSL) it also gets used in relation to the GSL. Zest is StarCraft II's sixth Royal Roader so let's take a look at his five predecessors and what they're up to now – will it be onwards and upwards for Zest?
FruitDealer (Kim Won Gi) became a Royal Roader after triumphing in the first GSL Open Season Tournament back in 2010 – so named because he used to help his mother run a fruit stall, the Zerg player had roots in the pro Brood War scene where he was known as Cool. Competing as one of only 16 Zerg in the tournament, FruitDealer was in danger of being knocked out while playing against Terran TOP during the Round of 16 stage but after claiming a 2-1 victory progressed to the finals where he went on to defeat another Terran, RainBOw, 4-1 in the finals. FruitDealer officially retired on March 5, 2012, to take up a head coaching position for StarTale's League of Legends team. Blizzard paid tribute to the player, naming a travelling Pandaren fruit salesman after him in World of Warcraft.
Next to tread the Royal Road was fellow Zerg player Lee 'Life' Seung Hyun. Life came top of the GSL Season 4 tournament in 2012 aged just 15 – the youngest winner of any of the major South Korean leagues. Prior to the tournament he'd started to attract attention thanks to his age and impressive abilities. In fact, his age reared its head at the finals as he was unable to participate in the event's media day thanks to his school commitments. Life managed a 4-3 defeat of Terran player Mvp who had been hoping for a fifth GSL title of his own. He's since gone on to take first place at numerous StarCraft II events including the 2012 MLG Fall Championship and the 2013 Winter Championship. Now aged 17, Life still plays for StarTale and is ranked seventh in the WCS 2014 Global Standings.
Jung 'Rain' Yoon Jong began his pro-gaming career like FruitDealer on the Brood War (the expansion pack for the original 1998 StarCraft) scene. After switching to StarCraft II in 2012, Rain started to make a name for himself as a skilled Protoss player. He walked the Royal Road in hhis first season of the WCS Korea OSL where an impressive performance led him to the finals of the tournament competing with Zerg player DongRaeGu. Despite losing the first game, Rain came back strong, winning four back to back to be crowned champion. He now plays for SK Telecom T1, occupying the number 10 spot in the world rankings.
Royal Roader number three is Cho 'Maru' Sung Chu, a South Korean Terran player. Even younger than Life, Maru's first televised game came when he was just 13 years old. As such it's no surprise to learn that his skills saw him become the youngest OSL Royal Roader in history in 2013. His victory came via a 4-2 victory against the previous winner of the WCS Season 2 tournament and fellow Royal Roader, Rain. Maru currently plays for Jin Air Green Wings and has a WCS ranking of 21.
The final Royal Roader on our list is Baek 'Dear' Dong Jun, a Protoss player and only the third person to bag a GSL championship win as that particular StarCraft race. He achieved his entry into the Royal Road hall of fame by taking the title in 2013's Season 3 GSL tournament. Facing down another Royal Roader, Maru, at the Round of 4 stage, Dear went on to fight soO's Zerg army. The first two matches went to Dear but soO didn't go down without a fight. After victories passing back and forth, Dear took the tournament 4-2 with a final win on the Bel'Shir Vestige map. He's currently the world number eight player.