Monday, August 16, 2010

I am amazing!

I decided to finally start playing Starcraft 2 against other players instead of just the campaign.  This is tricky because unlike playing the campaign other players do not allow me to reload and try again until I am successful; I will have to come face to face with my own inadequacies.  While I am certainly a decent player I am not remotely as good as the best players and my desperate urge to be the absolute best at the things I do does not deal well with being mediocre.  SC2 has three races and because the Terrans are the ones that are the basis of the campaign I am massively more familiar with them but I elected to play Zerg for my player vs. player matches.

I am terrible at Zerg.  I don't know how the units work, I don't know which buildings let me do which things and my grasp of their upgrades and tech tree is weak at best.  I played 3 games as Zerg on the beta and got utterly ruined right away in all of them so I began my placement matches to determine what league I should start in with very little idea what I was doing.  The various leagues are as follows:


I figured since I am hopeless at Zerg that I would end up in the Bronze or Silver league and would have to fight my way up the line from there.  There are 5 placement matches to play before the game picks an appropriate league for you so I queued up and prepared to get wrecked.  Bizarrely I managed to win my first 4 games.  I got one win because my opponent was even worse than me, but the other 3 wins were pretty much all due to watching Day9s videos about Starcraft 2 strategy.  Despite having very little idea what many of my units or structures did I managed to figure out my opponent's strategies and counter them just as I have seen the pros do in the videos.  By watching experts control their units and adapting those techniques I turned sure losses into wins.  My fifth opponent was actually quite good and I got smashed leaving me at 4-1.  My placement matches are over and the game announces that I have been placed in the Platinum league.  Wut?

Platinum league... for someone who has never even built half of the units, has never built many of the buildings and who doesn't even know which of his units do what things?  I think this says a lot about how useful watching videos of pros playing really is.  Seeing how absolutely beautiful players do things can give you tremendous insight into how the game plays at a very high level and what key things players should watch out for in their opponent's setup.  That exposure to tremendous play let me do things I had no business doing otherwise.  I think that Platinum league is way too high for me though - I played only one match and won it because my opponent disconnected just before his army got to my base.  I should probably play against the computer as Zerg a bit so I actually know how to play the game!


  1. Step 1: Build lots of workers.
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Profit!

  2. I too, really bite suck and blow at zerg, but I've started to figure it out recently and I think a really important step is learning how to micro-manage your queens well. I'm still figuring it out, but going from one match where I hardly used it and I got stomped to defeating the same player soundly the next match by focusing on managing it shows how important it was.

  3. I'm going to finish the campaign before I look into player ladder matches. I'd really like to do some us vs cpu games just to try out the other races. I used to be so good at SC/BW and now playing this I feel so bad. Although not sure if anyone else is running into this but many of the hotkeys are different and I find myself screwing up a lot because of this.

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  5. I think Zerg might just be the hardest race to play. Playing the different races myself and watching the pros play it just seems like Zerg have the most to do and most to keep track of. It's pretty hard to get much done out of one base (unless your opponent wants to die to a dozen speedlings, in which case it's pretty easy to do things on one base). Also, Zerg is apparently the least represented race at the top end, but those who are very good with Zerg don't seem at a disadvantage.

    More bases means more to manage, and for beginners (which I don't think you are, Red) that's quite a bit harder. In a recent daily I heard day[9] mention that when he plays Zerg he uses 1-4 for his army, 0 for hatcheries and 5-9 for queens. That is apparently pretty standard for pros, and pretty much blows my mind.

    @Deke: I played a lot of random vs. Hard computers at the beginning just to make sure my build was minimally competent and one of the things that messed me up the most was hotkeys. I really wish that every race used the same hotkey for workers and gas buildings.

  6. I believe you can change the hotkeys in one of the option menus. Certainly in WC3 they eventually let you remap everything how you wanted, as a response to the growing number of keyboard macro sets that were cropping up to do it for you. (Dotakeys was one I used to standardize the hotkeys for all the spells used in the DotA map.)

  7. I can see the logic for using that zerg group setup. I use 1-3 as unit groups with each race. 4 is worker buildings. 5 is tier 1 unit buildings, 6 is tier 2 ground buildings, and 7 is flyer buildings. But Zerg doesn't need my 5-6-7 setup, so I've just been leaving them unused. Sticking queens in there instead could help.

  8. It turns out that the Zerg representation in the top echelons is fading. Many of the best-of-the-best Zerg players are talking about switching to Terran because Zerg is just not as good. I read some interesting discussion about it, though naturally the majority of the discussion is a flame war back and forth between 1) people who seem to think that things not being perfectly balanced three weeks after release proves that Blizzard doesn't care about Starcraft because of WoW (which, by the way, is one of the worst games ever made) and 2) people (most of who are in the bronze leagues) who think that pro players aren't very good at the game, don't know anything, and are all just a bunch of whiny babies. But between all that they had comments from three of the four Zerg players in the top 20, as well as some other pros, not all of whom play Zerg.

    Anyway, we all know that if balance issues are serious (and Zerg's largely disappearing from the top 200 ladder players and the top 8's of tournaments would signal that) that blizzard will patch it, though I found most of the patching suggestions put forward, even by the pros, to be rather radical. Presumably if there is an imbalance then it would require only minor tweaks to correct the problem.

  9. I started as random during the release but switched to terran pretty quickly. I'm not qualified to say whether perfectly played zerg is weaker than perfectly played terran but I am qualified to say that it's a lot easier to play a decent terran than a decent zerg.

    I think the main difference is that zerg makes units and workers from the same resource (larva respawn time). Making too much of one or the other puts the opponent at a big advantage if they find out and respond properly.
    It doesn't help that terran is probably the easiest race to scout with in the early/midgame and zerg the hardest. (a bit subjective but it's usually hard to go in and see what's up until you have a speed upgraded overseer to sacrifice, a pretty big cost until you are late in the game, by which point you know what he's doing because he's been attacking you with whatever it is)

    Zerg also clearly has the most mechanically demanding and unforgiving macro. It takes more APM to use queens than MULEs and it's much worse to fall behind on queens. I don't think this affects top level players much though.

  10. I certainly find Zerg to be more challenging to play, particularly in managing resources and army since they are so integrated. Obviously the differences in power in the races are not nearly so extreme as people make them out to be since there *are* zerg players in the top 20 but having the race with the highest learning curve also be known as the weakest on the boards is not ideal.

    I am eager to see what they come up with to correct that issue though. My personal problems always seem to stem from resource management rather than unit strength and addressing that issue would be really challenging - get it slightly wrong and you could completely unbalance things the other way. It is entirely different from a unit balance issue where you can increase a unit's range, attack or armor by 1 and the difference will be fairly predictable.

  11. All races have the same ability to scout optimally. Send a worker out early and micro it around their base. You'll have sufficient information about what they're heading towards by the time they have units to kill it with.

    Later on, overlords are cheaper to use for scouting than a scan is. It costs 100 per overlord and a one time cost of 100/100. A mule apparently gets you around 270 each according to the internets and you get to see less of their base. On top of that, I also find it easier to see more of the map as zerg than as terran due to being able to spread overlords out and hide them up on ridges and such.

    It does take planning to do that though, and scanning while more expensive is just two keypresses and a mouse click whenever you feel like it, so I can see the easier in midgame point.

    As to Sky's point, I guess it all depends on where you want the game to be optimally balanced. If you assume that one of the races has a steeper learning curve (I think we all accept that is true of SC2) then do you want the game balanced at the bronze level, the platinum level, or the top diamond level? It's more fun for more people if balanced in the bronze-gold range but SC2 has a better chance to establish itself as an eSport if it's balanced at the top diamond level.

    The problem really is if the hard race is also the worst race at _all_ levels of play. I'm not sure the game has been established enough to really make the claim that zerg is actually worse at the best levels since I don't know that the 'best' players are actually good enough at this point. Certainly way better than we are, though!

    If Blizzard knee-jerks in a fix to make zerg good for current 'best' players, and there's still room for improvement, won't zerg be overpowered once people do get better? I guess they could then renerf zerg, but that really sucks for the bronze-gold players.

  12. Overlords, even with the speed upgrade, are slow and wimpy. I often watch a zerg player sac a scouting overlord that doesn't make it to a building he would have liked to see. Overseers are faster and have more hp and armour, but require lair and gas. Changelings seem helpful too, so I guess late game zergs do have the advantage in scouting.

    Good point about map vision with overlords too, that sure adds to zerg being the difficult and risky race but at least they're getting something for it this time.

    Blizzard do seem to have painted themselves in a corner balance wise by making one race significantly harder to play than the others. I don't think they have much choice other than to balance the game at the tournament level after all the hubbub about SC2 and e-sports. Every non-pro who plays ladder will win about 50% of their games regardless of balance anyways, won't they?

  13. Yeah, once they get to their equilibrium point ratingswise they should be winning about half their games. (Assuming a large enough pool of players signing up for games, anyway.) Equally rated zerg and protoss players may not be equally 'good' at the game in this case but they should both still end up playing reasonably fair games.

  14. Also, the difference between the races simply isn't that huge. It is not at all hard to learn to do a roach/zergling rush 3? minutes in and hope it works and that will win a lot of games. Idra won the Kind of the Beta tournament as Zerg and he was playing against some absolutely amazing players so I don't buy that Zerg is *that* far behind.

  15. There are a lot of things about Zerg that just *feel* weaker to me, but I don't know how justified that is. For other races I feel like my opening is nice and smooth, and everything falls into place (the supply depo finishes right before the unit that was supply capping me does). For Zerg I don't get that at all. Then again, when my first overlord does finish I get to start training 2 drones instead of just one because of the way larva work. It's possible that the only reason I had to "wait" was because I was already ahead.

    Also at this point Overlords always seem like a weakness rather than a strength to me. If your opponent makes a couple of vikings you can find yourself rebuilding overlords instead of spending your minerals on real units pretty quickly. I see that happen at pro-level games as well. Vikings are brutal against Zerg.

    Obviously I don't know much about the real balance issues or non-issues, but every time I think about how a Viking beats a Corrupter 1 on 1 it makes me shudder.

  16. As zerg I almost always find I have infinite minerals. If you're building hydras or mutas then your first restriction is gas. I spam zerglings after that, but then my second restriction is larva. Possibly I should just build more hatcheries to try to negate that, but having to spend more money on overlords if they decide to go hunt them down all over the map isn't a big deal to me.

    Also, if they split their army to hunt overlords in the middle of nowhere then you should be able to take advantage and hit something real they own that costs a lot more than 100 minerals and a larva. Vikings are relatively slow and you should be able to kill them with mutas or harass something else at the same time.


    I just watched Idra use this method to demolish 5 thors at hardly any loss. He also beat reaper rushes that were giving other zergs a really hard time in this tournament. It's funny that despite being one of the bigger balance complainers he's probably single handedly making Blizzard hesitant to change anything.

  18. I was watching an IdrA vs. drewbie game on Husky's youtube channel (for those who don't know, IdrA is the best Zerg player in the world, or close enough to it that it doesn't matter and drewbie is ranked 5th in the US) and what happened was drewbie did some of the normal Terran smash Zerg stuff and IdrA stopped it all pretty easily. He proceeded to take total map control, including about twice as many bases as drewbie, and naturally drewbie had to hit behind a couple of fortified chokes with tanks/bunkers/thors.

    At this point IdrA made about 10 Ultralisks and a zillions zerglings and ran them into the meatgrinder, retreating moments later having lost for ultras, almost all the zerglings and having done no damage.

    So he spent the next 15 minutes complaining in chat and calling drewbie the worst player he's ever seen and telling him he was a bad person for choosing to play Terran. He repeatedly made head on attacks with his melee army into heavily fortified positions and got stomped. The whole time I was thinking, "Why don't you make some broodlords and win instead of complaining that you can't win?" So after the 15 minutes of complaining he made some broodlords and pretty much won instantly.

    IdrA is obviously a ridiculously good player, but the more I watch his game and read his complaints about Zerg, the more I think that winning 90% of your games really undercuts your argument that you can't win no matter what you do.