Every so many months I’ll load up Starcraft to play a few games. It is still an amazingly designed game. It is my go-to game when it comes to seeing a well designed-RTS.
That said, Starcraft is not designed for casual multiplayer enjoyment. If you’re not “really” into it you will likely find your mood soured after a few experiences online. This is regrettable because it is intentionally designed to be this way.
Years ago, I worked on the Starcraft expansion “Starcraft: Retribution”. As a result, I became fairly proficient at the game.
Proficient at Starcraft really boils down to two things:
(1) Your build order
(2) Understanding your timings versus your opponent’s timings (that is, at what minute/second you will have X versus what they will have at the same time provided you’ve scoutted adequately.
Proficient won’t get you into the game’s higher leagues but it does mean you know the basics of what matters and what doesn’t. (Counters, APM, micro, macro, etc. are skills that have to be mastered to get beyond “proficient”).
That said, if you’re a casual player getting back to Starcraft after awhile, it can be pretty frustrating.
For you Starcraft players out there, let me share some experiences that might give you a chuckle.
For these games, I’m playing as a Terran…
Game 1: 6:31pm, Mood = Very good
Me: Hi there! GF and HF!
Opponent is playing as Zerg. Just over 2 minutes into the game, just after my barracks finishes, a small group of zerglings enters my base, kills my peons.
Me: Ah! You got me. Well done. GG!
Game 2: 6:40pm, Mood = good
It’s about 7 minutes in. I’ve got 3 barracks and my engineering bay is just about done.
Suddenly, 2 Oracles show up and kill half my peons (SCVs) in a flash.
Me: Oh! I almost had that engineering pay done! I can’t believe I missed that stargate. Where did you put it?
Opponent: Proxy, noob.
Me: Ah, well GG.
Game 3: 6:52pm, Mood = average
It’s about 3 minutes in and my SCV spots a Protoss Pilon with cannons going up. I immediately build a bunker to contain it.
Game 4: 6:56pm, Mood = average
Opponent: Terran (Map Frost – I think)
It’s about 5 minutes in when suddenly streams of Reapers enter my base while my main army was near my natural that I had just finished.
Me: Ack! I scoutted your base and looked around near mine, you only had 1 barracks
Opponent: AHAHAAH! Look behind the ice debris
(sure enough, on that map it’s easy to build 2 proxy barracks that are very hard to scout)
Me: Clever. GG
Opponent: No. Not GG. l2P [learn to play]
Game 5: 7:10, Mood = sour
Very early Reaper harass in my base (~2 minutes). My early scout only saw 1 gas so I assume standard build.
At 6:40 I do a scan of his base, 2 gas! Oh crap! Banshee! My engineering bay isn’t up yet.
7:00 cloaked banshee enters base, devastates me
Me: grr. GG
Game 6: 7:20, Mood = Poor
Ok. This time I get an engineering bay up and a turret in my mineral line early just in case. I scan his base and I see nothing unusual. Reaper scout noted 2 gas so I’m a bit nervous. I have a bunker up front of my natural.
At around 6:55 I send over a poke (a small attack) to try to do a stim marine/marauder at his natural. Unfortunately, his photon overcharge stops me in my tracks combined with a few zealots but I feel good as I did knock him down a bit.
However, at 8:00 2 invisible units run past my bunker and devestate my army. No scans available as I had just scanned his base so his invisible guys (DTs) wipe out my army. My peons are safe because I have the turrets there but with my army gone (and now my bunker gone he quickly moves in with some zealots and wipes me out.
Invisible, fucking units with unlimited cloak. Jesus.
Game 7: 7:33p,, Mood = Pissed
Protoss snuck in and built 2 proxy gateways. I discover it with my scout SCV at 2:48 but it’s too late. 2 zealots pop out before I can finish my bunker and I’m dead.
Game 8: 7:40pm, Mood = Really pissed
Ok, I scout the fucking base for Pilons (so my timing is now a bit slower). I send an SCV out to scout for proxy shit (which slows me down more). I send a reaper into his base and see 2 gas. So what is it? My SCV finds a proxy templar archives.
Hah you bastard! Your damn invisible guys won’t get me this time.
So I build the goddamn engineering bay early enough so I can build turrets in my mineral line. All this scoutting means I can’t expand as early as I’d like but this time it’ll be worth it. I build a turret behind my bunker too. I’ve got 3 barracks and plan to get my factory going at around 8:00.
My scoutting revealed he has stalkers so I’m prioritizing Stim but I’m a bit behind my timing because of all the freaking SCV scouting I felt I needed to do.
At just after 7 minutes I see the other guy’s mothership ship core (a strange flying unit that has special abilities and shoots air and ground units that this race gets early for some reason) show up but I’m not worried. I have turrets in my mineral line and he’s way on the edge of the base.
Suddenly about a dozen stalkers blink into my base bypassing all my defenses and just wipe me out.
Me: What? What the hell? How did you get into my base?
Opponent: Blink. FTW!
Me: Doesn’t blink require vision?
Opponent: MSC. FTW!
Me: Son of a $@#@ gg.
Game 9: 7:49pm, Mood = Enraged
Opponent: SAME GUY!
Me: Well, rematch time! That trick won’t work twice!
Since I can’t count on him doing the same build I still have to scout. But this time I go for an early factory and get a couple mines out. I do build a bunker near my command center as a last resort and I kind of cripple my economy to do this but it’ll be worth it.
I send a small poke (small marauder/marine attack) at around 6:40 and see the mothership core which, combined with a zealot and stalkers keeps me from doing much damage beyond destroying a pylon.
Once again, around 7 minute here comes the mothership core. This is going to be awesome.
Units blink in, MFC moves back before my mines can get it! Damn but they do damage the stalker. My marauder heavy group, armed with Stim (I rushed it) prepares to wipe this bastard out!
Suddenly, his army simply vanishes!
Opponent: Recall! FTW!
[His units simply teleported home apparently]
8:00 has passed and I’ve totally gimped my timings in preparation. A couple minutes later he overwhelms me front the front with immortals (their artillery) because while I had been turtling up, he had expanded and was up to 7 gates while I had only managed 3 barracks, a factory as I had put so much of my economy on hold to build bunkers, turrets, mines and other things at weird timings that I just lack the skill or something to compete.
Me: Well, clearly I’m outmatched! I’m done. gg
Mind you, I’m playing unranked. I’m not a very good player. I’m just a casual player. I have no idea whether there’s a balance issue or whether there’s anything wrong other than the fact I must absolutely suck. Back in the old days, I used to play a lot so I have a decent understanding of the importance of scouting, timing attacks, unit groups.
I also know the basic counters for different units and my typing speed (I don’t have great “APM” overall but I’m purely a keyboard guy at this game) allows me to have intricate control groups that let me treat my marines differently from the marauders and such.
What I do know is that it’s not fun for me. I’m sure that a good player would read this and laugh at my suck. And I have no doubt I suck. But I do know the game pretty well (the mothership core thing was something I hadn’t seen before though and was probably the one thing that struck me as being an odd design choice).
What can Blizzard do?
Not much. Like I said, it’s a well designed game. But it’s an e-Sport now. If you want to play casually, you need to play with friends. Starcraft was designed before the age of YouTube replays and mass forums. They’d have to totally redesign it if they wanted the game to be less frustrating to casual players.
The problem is, in the age of YouTube, anyone can just go on and see a “build” that lets them win against people who haven’t seen the counter to that build.