Starcraft, Too

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Here are the things that make StarCraft II great: it is an improved StarCraft, adapted to modern technology and paired with a superb matchmaking service, and bolstered by a huge player base. It is also a very much aimed at sustaining the original game's success as an e-sport.

Those virtues are also problematic when I try to render a critical judgment. StarCraft II does not feel like a new game, but a lavish new edition. Thanks to StarCraft II, I'm playing StarCraft again, and for that I'm grateful. But when I look at its accomplishments as a design, I mostly see achievements Blizzard attained twelve years ago.

I admire the skill with which Blizzard has updated and improved a classic game without yielding to the temptation to fix what was not broken. StarCraft needed restoration, not re-invention. But that also leaves StarCraft II without a distinct identity. It comes wearing hand-me-down greatness and the thick coat of polish that Blizzard has always used in place of daring.

Re-creating a classic 1990s strategy game also required imposing some painfully artificial limitations. Though I've gotten used to StarCraft II's claustrophobic zoom-level, I still find myself vainly spinning my mouse wheel in an effort to get some distance on the action. Armies move and fight like the Keystone Kops, shambling around in disorganized hordes and coming to a dead stop when engaging targets, leaving trailing units bumbling around out of range. I've had 10 years to get used to RTS armies moving and fighting in formations, and doing battle with some rudimentary common-sense. StarCraft II forces all that unwelcome micro-management back into my hands.

This is not a stand against over-simplification. StarCraft II is not any richer for making the player directly responsible for the actions of every last zergling. In point of fact, combat in StarCraft II is less complicated than you find in many other RTS games, and features commensurately reduced tactical variety. StarCraft II's conspicuously primitive controls and unit AI are not really about game design at all, but a familiar battle between technology and sport.

A few years before StarCraft came out, Formula 1 racing was at its technological pinnacle. Active suspensions adjusted the car setups during races, responding to feedback thousands of times a second to provide the best handling possible. Traction-control and anti-lock brakes smoothed away the rough edges of drivers' techniques. At the start of each race, launch-control managed the power to the wheels, so that everyone left the line smoothly. This was F1 at the forefront of computer-assisted racing—and there was a huge backlash. The next ten years were about taking tools away, forcing drivers to manage tasks that a computer could handle better. It remains controversial. On the one hand, the point of sport isn't efficiency, but skill. On the other hand, sport is also about performance, and artificial challenges can impose frustrating limitations on what is possible.

StarCraft II struggles with that dilemma, and errs on the side of caution. Its interface and controls are designed to fight back rather than facilitate mastery. It cannot be more user-friendly than it is, because all that endless multitasking is the source of its depth. It is the skill that competitive StarCraft is meant to exhibit. Ungainliness is part of the sport. Still, a good sport does not necessarily make for a good game. Designed to be a platform for high-level competition, StarCraft II has become less satisfying as recreation.

StarCraft II still provides a great multiplayer experience, but I'm unconvinced the game deserves credit for that. The Battle.net interface and matchmaking are excellent, but ultimately StarCraft II's strength derives from the sheer number of people who are playing it right now. The community that Blizzard won over in the late '90s has re-coalesced around this game, and it is that community that ultimately makes StarCraft II a multiplayer joy. How could it not be, when I can log onto Battle.net and see a half-dozen friends waiting to play? But if another RTS, say Rise of Nations or Dawn of War had such a community, I suspect I would be playing that.

Nevertheless, I suspect StarCraft II's community is likely to thrive in a way few other RTS games ever have, and for that Blizzard will deserve full credit. A couple months ago on Three Moves Ahead, Julian said he didn't think most game developers "believe their games are long-lasting enough or important enough." He pointed out that while people will be playing chess a hundred years from now, nobody will be playing StarCraft.

I replied that I wasn't sure, because "we are seeing an RTS begin to develop the sort of community and the sort of existence as an intellectual pursuit that I really only see reserved for games like chess. So for the first time, we're seeing bodies of work develop to explain and deepen the game." Having seen the finished product, I think I was right.

Blizzard created a game and service that invites, encourages, and practically demands that players take part in competition. With just a few clicks, you are playing ranked matches in StarCraft leagues. And when you're done, for good or ill, you can reload the game film and analyze every aspect of a match. You can review film from other matches. If Blizzard sacrificed some of the gameplay in favor of creating a competitive sport, they also made something that makes sportsmen out of gamers.

StarCraft II has many facets, and they are not all complementary. I thank heaven I don't have to review it or assign it a score, because I have no idea how to weigh the factors I outlined above. But one thing, I think, is clear: StarCraft II is the product of awkward compromises and contradictory goals. As such, it is not and never could be an unqualified triumph. It had too many constituencies to satisfy. Ultimately, how you feel about StarCraft II comes down to how you feel about the bet Blizzard made: Are strategy gamers ready to get off the sidelines and onto the playing field?

Comments

I'm really late to the party here, but I just have to say that this post is the best game review I've seen ever.

It is a completely honest critique of a game that has more hype behind it than the '85 Bears. You just don't see that in video game journalism. I think anybody reading it would get a good idea of how they would like the game, and this should be the purpose of any game review.

The only thing I would add is this:

While I agree completely that the design decisions led to a game that encourages it to be played as a sport, perhaps what Blizzard was truly after was a way to get the RTS genre back to where it was at the height of its popularity. RTS games that followed Starcraft added improvements to the genre but never sold as well. As more layers of tactics get added, the games get more complicated and more players decide that understanding all the complexities just isn't worth it.

I would like it if my ranged units on the front line would take that extra step so that the guys behind them could hit the target as well.

Latrine wrote:

CheezePavilion: To say that Starcraft is all tactics and no strategy is just wrong in my opinion. There are more tactical RTS games like DoW2 or Warcraft 3. In fact most people consider Starcraft to be a macro focused game, where a grand strategy can usually overwhelm cute tactical plays.

I think because when some people say strategy, they mean nothing more involved than 'having a plan'. To me, a 'grand strategy' is how you move your sliders when you get the chance in Europa Universalis, not just deciding to go anti-air because you're enemy is building spires or whatever.

As for Starcraft being a macro focused game, is that true? Isn't Starcraft built for people who have a high APM?

Gunner wrote:

The other big 'innovation' (or difference ;)) is Relic's, World of Conflict's, and other games' removal of bases and most of the economy aspect. I dislike the change because it removes a huge level of interesting choices and trade-offs and results (at least in DoWII's case) in 1v1 conflicts that feel and play much more like rolling skirmishes than battles with fronts and clearly marked zones of control and influence.

Yeah, isn't an RTS without base building/resource gathering just...an electronic wargame without turns?

I think the issue here is that an RTS is a very particular kind of game. It's not a wargame, but it's not a strategy game, either. It's...an RTS! It's something that didn't really exist in the days of boardgames. The only game I can think of that really reminds me of an RTS is the old Titan boardgame.

CheezePavilion wrote:

As for Starcraft being a macro focused game, is that true? Isn't Starcraft built for people who have a high APM?

No, while high APM will help you at the top level of the ladders, any lower down and proper planning, teching, economy and scouting are far more valuable. It's better to show up in combat with the right units for your opponents army composition.

Clicking fast doesn't help if you don't know what you are doing. It's like playing guitar, Kerry King from Slayer can play songs getting close to 300 BPM, but Steve Morse is a god among men fantastic player who plays much slower.

The obsession with APM is a smoke screen.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

As for Starcraft being a macro focused game, is that true? Isn't Starcraft built for people who have a high APM?

No, while high APM will help you at the top level of the ladders, any lower down and proper planning and scouting are far more valuable.

So I guess the answer is: it depends.

I remember in the original Starcraft (don't think it was Brood War) one mission where I had to keep dancing my dragoons and build a ton of shield batteries to fend off Zerg flying attacks long enough to build an offensive force and clean out the three bases. I think I was getting an Arbiter out of a stasis chamber, or something? Long time ago, but DAMN if that wasn't a click-fest.

I guess the issue here is one of what people mean: planning and scouting aren't 'strategy' the way a game of, like, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War is 'strategy'.

Clicking fast doesn't help if you don't know what you are doing. It's like playing guitar, Kerry King from Slayer can play songs getting close to 300 BPM, but Steve Morse is a god among men fantastic player who plays much slower.

The obsession with APM is a smoke screen.

Well sure, but I think that's assumed. Kind of like how putting separates the best golfers from each other, but the ability to keep it on the fairway separates the best golfers from the 'good' golfers. Even if you're a genius on the green, you've got to be able to get there in a reasonable amount of strokes.

CheezePavilion wrote:

I remember in the original Starcraft (don't think it was Brood War) one mission where I had to keep dancing my dragoons and build a ton of shield batteries to fend off Zerg flying attacks long enough to build an offensive force and clean out the three bases. I think I was getting an Arbiter out of a stasis chamber, or something? Long time ago, but DAMN if that wasn't a click-fest.

Should have scouted better. :p

CheezePavilion wrote:

I guess the issue here is one of what people mean: planning and scouting aren't 'strategy' the way a game of, like, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War is 'strategy'.

I can get behind that. It's not a 'grand' strategy, but you can't show up with a handful of scissors when your opponent has a handful of rocks.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Well sure, but I think that's assumed. Kind of like how putting separates the best golfers from each other, but the ability to keep it on the fairway separates the best golfers from the 'good' golfers. Even if you're a genius on the green, you've got to be able to get there in a reasonable amount of strokes.

Yeah, but focus on one aspect in dialogue obfuscates the other issues. I play Bronze, I talk a good game, but I'm not so good at playing. But I've never lost a game to a guy who's showed up with the wrong units and out micro'd me.

Hey, first post here. I'm really impressed by the quality of the replies here. Great article Rob!

CheezePavilion wrote:

As for Starcraft being a macro focused game, is that true? Isn't Starcraft built for people who have a high APM?

Yes, in a way.

I just wanna step in and clarify for people the difference between APM and true APM. Actions per minute. APM does not a good player make. However, good players will have high real APM. You can be a good player if you can do 30 real APM.

Now the difference between APM and real APM is this- each action for a "apm" means something, it's a decision. Unlike in games like League of Legends (i'm not simplifying here i love the game) where your only decisions are to go, attack, shop, there is a lot of right clicking to set your path accurately. About 99% of these clicks are useless since you are going to get to that spot you are clicking regardless. When you enter a battle against other heroes, then you will go down to real apm, where everything you do in this moment matters.

In Starcraft 2, your clicking finger's power level can be over 9000, but it won't mean anything.
I would like to link to a video from one of the best tutors and players of Starcraft, Day[9] to help you and others understand why fast clicking doesn't auto win. It becomes all about managing your mental checklist. Skip the first two or so minutes as he likes to dilly dally.

http://day9tv.blip.tv/file/3732340/

One of the hardest mental tasks in SC2 is knowing what you should be doing at all times. There isn't a handbook. You have to feel the game out, find out what works and what doesn't in response to certain situations, and apply them. Counters and mental checklist probably fall into one category. Knowing how to utilize your units in battle falls into another.

I definitely agree with the sentiment that this game cut modern perks and advances of modern RTS's out for the sake of sport. I think singleplayer should have had the modern mechanics, and then custom multiplayer games could enable those mechanics (for "game") just for the sake of people who just want to have good old fashion fun. However, I am one of those who love SC2 because it really attempts to identify and maintain itself as a valid E-sport, meaning there are fundamentals, muscle and mental memory, improvement, etc.

Also I think there are a couple of mechanics that act as just blatant obstacles. However, I kinda don't agree with the zoom out one. Wouldn't this put players with lesser computers at a disadvantage. I imagine zooming out is a little taxing on the system.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

I remember in the original Starcraft (don't think it was Brood War) one mission where I had to keep dancing my dragoons and build a ton of shield batteries to fend off Zerg flying attacks long enough to build an offensive force and clean out the three bases. I think I was getting an Arbiter out of a stasis chamber, or something? Long time ago, but DAMN if that wasn't a click-fest.

Should have scouted better. :p

Heh--no dude! This was in the campaign--the attacks basically started immediately. You had to fend off the attacks just to get something out of your base to scout in the first place!

I guess the issue here is one of what people mean: planning and scouting aren't 'strategy' the way a game of, like, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War is 'strategy'.

I can get behind that. It's not a 'grand' strategy, but you can't show up with a handful of scissors when your opponent has a handful of rocks.

Well sure, but I think that's assumed. Kind of like how putting separates the best golfers from each other, but the ability to keep it on the fairway separates the best golfers from the 'good' golfers. Even if you're a genius on the green, you've got to be able to get there in a reasonable amount of strokes.

Yeah, but focus on one aspect in dialogue obfuscates the other issues. I play Bronze, I talk a good game, but I'm not so good at playing. But I've never lost a game to a guy who's showed up with the wrong units and out micro'd me.

edit:

blizihizake wrote:

Now the difference between APM and real APM is this- each action for a "apm" means something, it's a decision. Unlike in games like League of Legends (i'm not simplifying here i love the game) where your only decisions are to go, attack, shop, there is a lot of right clicking to set your path accurately. About 99% of these clicks are useless since you are going to get to that spot you are clicking regardless. When you enter a battle against other heroes, then you will go down to real apm, where everything you do in this moment matters.

In Starcraft 2, your clicking finger's power level can be over 9000, but it won't mean anything.

Sure. I'd just be more likely to call that 'tactics' than 'strategy'. I'm not going to go calling borderlands a First Person Strategy Shooter just because some elemental weapons work better against certain enemies than others.

Certainly just clicking a lot wouldn't have helped in that scenario--figuring out that I would be facing wave after wave coming after my base with limited resources, I couldn't just burn units. I needed to preserve as many units as possible, so shield batteries were the way to go. And that involved a LOT of clicking and micromanagement.

I imagine when the term FPS was coined, it wasn't meant to express how it's more than just a real time tactics game, it just meant 'you're moving units around and you need a plan'.

Cheeze, as far as I understand your definition of strategy is that it's about moving sliders and being about the Pacific War. So if Starcraft 2 was set in 1944 and had a slider then it would be a strategy game? I think you're restricting the definition of strategy far too much. You're presupposing that anything that isn't even remotely like what you define to be a strategy game is not a strategy game. Although to be fair I think I used the term "grand strategy" incorrectly as well.

Strategy actually is just having a plan. I think your issue with this definition is because you think that in Starcraft it doesn't really matter what plan you have, or that there is a degenerate strategy and there's really only one good way to play, or that no plan matters because you have to react to your opponent. This is absolutely not the case. There are a plethora of viable strategies in the game each with their own pros and cons. Even if you add the requirement of using strategy in the military sense in that's it about how you prepare for and link together your tactical engagements then you can do that in Starcraft. The strategy in Starcraft is all about the timing of the allocation of your resources and the deployment of your forces with respect to the map geography. It's not just about building unit X because it counters unit Y, that's a naive view of the game.

Latrine wrote:

Cheeze, as far as I understand your definition of strategy is that it's about moving sliders and being about the Pacific War. So if Starcraft 2 was set in 1944 and had a slider then it would be a strategy game?

Not exactly ; -D

I think you're restricting the definition of strategy far too much. You're presupposing that anything that isn't even remotely like what you define to be a strategy game is not a strategy game. Although to be fair I think I used the term "grand strategy" incorrectly as well.

My roots are in boardgames, so it kinds goes (Grand) Strategy - Operational - Tactical depending on what level you're talking about. I guess you could say my impression was always sort of:

Tactical:

IMAGE(http://i1036.photobucket.com/albums/a447/cheezepavilion/GWJ%20iCandi/CoDGWJ.jpg)

Operational:

IMAGE(http://i1036.photobucket.com/albums/a447/cheezepavilion/GWJ%20iCandi/GWJAK.jpg)

Strategic:

IMAGE(http://i1036.photobucket.com/albums/a447/cheezepavilion/GWJ%20iCandi/3RGWJ.jpg)

Sort of War - Operation - Battle roughly.

Strategy actually is just having a plan. I think your issue with this definition is because you think that in Starcraft it doesn't really matter what plan you have, or that there is a degenerate strategy and there's really only one good way to play, or that no plan matters because you have to react to your opponent.

Heh--not at all. My issue is more when people use the word 'strategy' in contrast with 'tactics' as if the latter didn't also involve having a plan. A 'tactical' game might require a lot *more* mircromanagement, but you can't really 'manage' without a plan--if you don't have a plan, then you're just clicking a lot like a dude playing speed chess without a clue is just hitting a clock a lot.

This is absolutely not the case. There are a plethora of viable strategies in the game each with their own pros and cons. Even if you add the requirement of using strategy in the military sense in that's it about how you prepare for and link together your tactical engagements then you can do that in Starcraft. The strategy in Starcraft is all about the timing of the allocation of your resources and the deployment of your forces with respect to the map geography. It's not just about building unit X because it counters unit Y, that's a naive view of the game.

I agree; and in jumping into this thread, I realized that an RTS is more than the sum of its acronym. Eliminate the base building and resource gathering, and no matter how strategic or real time the game is, it's just an electronic wargame without hexes or turns. On the other hand it's about individual units, not abstract representations of squads otherwise it starts to feel too much like a wargame, too.

It's an interesting genre, that's for sure, and I don't think I've really appreciated it until now having to think about it and why other people feel the way they do about StarCraft.

I understand it's probably a secondary issue to most people compared to the gameplay considerations that you've discussed, but something that wasn't brought up is the matter of abstraction.
What I mean by this is the fact that units behave like pawns on a board, the scale of buildings and large units is incoherent, and the interaction with the environment is minimal. It all makes for a pretty abstract game that happens to have a pretty realistic presentation layered on top.
For me I think it's really Company of Heroes that flipped a switch and pretty much made impossible for me to go back to more traditional RTS games, because I probably subconsciously expected games to pick things up from there.

It's really interesting to see the people who favor the covenient THQ style of streamlined RTS games or seemingly have no RTS experience prior to 2002 criticize Blizzard for pushing the same basic concept, which ultimately spawned DoW(2) and CoH, in a direction different from their comfort zone.

By the time SC: Broodwar took over reign as the dominant RTS, a ton of other RTS ideas had been tried and discarded. Safe for a few studios, which went the "epic route" (games with "Age" and "Empire" as part of the title and the "Total War" games) and the seemingly endless iterations of C&C, most developers were waiting for Blizzard to take their next step and would build on that. So Warcraft 3 came out and that's exactely what most of the modern RTS games tried to recreate ind iterate: little to no macromanagement, hero units and small squads. But just as much as newcomers to the genre felt these were the games for them, that generation of RTS felt too "dumbed down" and random (attack damage ranges instead of set values, item drops) for a lot of gamers who grew up with the games of the 90s. That's why Blizzard brought back their initial RTS concept, which valued macromanagment at least as much as micromanagement, and improved it the same way they did from WC1 to WC2 to WC2BNE to SC1.

To call DoW(2), CoH or any other more recent RTS more advanced or superior to the RTS generation of which Starcraft 1 was the pinnacle of is just ignorant. There were a lot of titles prior to Warcraft 3, and with it the current generation of RTS, which did basically everything the aforementioned games supposedly brought in as an innovation. I'd just like to name a few. Arena Wars, Battle Realms, Homeworld, Total Annihilation and the infamous Z.

The reason why THQ and one or two others did so well with their games is that they realized they don't have to create a straight-up competitor to Starcraft or Warcraft 3. So they decided against re-inventing the wheel, analyzed what made Warcraft 3 a good game, picked up a few of the old concepts again, branched out and provided engaging multiplayer experiences. And I am glad they did. I like the current diversity way more than the "you're either Blizzard, Westwood or one of those awkward Cavedog or Ensemble losers" situation of the late 90s.

But saying a DoW2 style RTS is superior to a Starcraft style RTS is about as valid as saying Stalker is superior to Counter-Strike or claiming Nascar is clearly better than Rallye Paris-Dakar. Apples and Oranges, if you will.

PopEsc wrote:

It is a completely honest critique of a game that has more hype behind it than the '85 Bears.

You shut your filthy mouth!

EDIT: About the Bears, that is.

wordsmythe wrote:
PopEsc wrote:

It is a completely honest critique of a game that has more hype behind it than the '85 Bears.

You shut your filthy mouth!

Hey, it's true. The greatest team in the history of professional football is slightly overhyped.

I'd like to go on a little tangent here for a bit.

I think that the notion of "playing Starcraft as a sport" hinges on the mistaken assumption that Starcraft is ONLY meant to be played on the ladder, and only on ladder settings. Many people make the mistaken assumption that this was the only way the game is supposed to be played - the native settings that make the game's design valid and enjoyable.

This is untrue.

In fact, the majority of my games playing Starcraft 1 were not on the ladder, and I do not prefer to play SC2 on the ladder either. Part of that is because I prefer playing with people I know, but it's also because I suck.

I'm a Gold League player with an APM of about 40. This means that I perform two actions (equivalent to one mouse click or key press) every three seconds.

Let's put that into real terms. My level of APM (which I assume is prevalent among lower league players) is such that it takes me on average about THREE seconds to select my Command Center and order up an SCV.

Three seconds is an awful long time to wait to order an SCV. I'm fairly sure that anyone is capable of doing so.

I'm establishing my skill level and APM so I don't have to refer to anyone else and so that you may all substantiate my experiences from a yardstick that's obvious and universally understandable.

I suck at ladder games because my APM is low. I know that most players of Starcraft will tell you that APM doesn't really matter, but it does. It isn't about mouseclicks either. The majority of the APM that's going on in a progame isn't coming from mouseclicks - it's coming from keystrokes. This is because a progamer is cycling through ALL his production buildings and building appropriate units and buildings while he's managing his army on the field.

Starcraft and SC2 is a game about economy, broad strategy, and large armies. No amount of scouting and countering and micromanaging is going to save you if you have two Immortals and your enemy is coming at you with twenty Siege Tanks. All newbies are ultimately crushed by the sheer weight and mass of the armies of their opponents.

With my 40 APM, it's all I can do to make units in a game that's set on the Faster setting. This is the other reason why I don't like playing on the ladder. I don't micro battles. I hardly scout. I barely pay attention to building placement. I'm hardly even thinking about countering and unit mix. This is because all my attention and clicks are getting taken up just ordering up units and sending them in the general direction of hot spots on the map.

And I win with that!

On the Faster setting, I'm literally playing half the game and I'm winning against players who may be trying to pay more attention to those game aspects that I'm intentionally neglecting. Macro is that important.

This is the point at which Mr. Zacny will say that the game is more of a sport. That it's more intense than it is fun, and that it's relatively archaic in its design. This is because he's frantically pushing buttons and spinning plates in a frenzied attempt to keep up with a pace that he's not really comfortable playing. He's not having that much fun because he's throwing half the strategy of a strategy game out the window.

He doesn't have to play this way. You don't have to either.

Consider me again. I have 40 APM, but this time, I set the game speed to Normal. Since the game is about a fourth as fast, I'm functionally equivalent to a high Platinum player's 160 meaningful APMs. And I get more time to think, too.

Now, I'm scouting. I'm actually microing my scouts. I'm also microing my army. I'm setting up my base architecture better. I'm paying attention to my intel and building units accordingly. I'm considering terrain. I can do this without sacrificing logistical control. Heck, I can bluff or pull intel shenanigans on my opponent! How many pros bluff? Not enough, if you ask me.

So, on Faster setting, I'm playing half the game consisting mainly of frantically ordering up units and vaguely telling them where to go. On Normal, I'm utilizing most of the systems the game has to offer - playing mind games, scouting denial, unit mix adjustments, and so forth.

On which setting am I truly playing the game as designed?

Rob Zacny wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
PopEsc wrote:

It is a completely honest critique of a game that has more hype behind it than the '85 Bears.

You shut your filthy mouth!

Hey, it's true. The greatest team in the history of professional football is slightly overhyped.

No, it's not true. Wordsmythe is correct.

I daresay that there were members of that team who were underhyped.

wordsmythe wrote:

I daresay that there were members of that team who were underhyped.

You are bias!

Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I daresay that there were members of that team who were underhyped.

You are bias!

The man speaks the truth. You can't argue with that.

LarryC wrote:

He doesn't have to play this way. You don't have to either.

Consider me again. I have 40 APM, but this time, I set the game speed to Normal. Since the game is about a fourth as fast, I'm functionally equivalent to a high Platinum player's 160 meaningful APMs. And I get more time to think, too.
...
On which setting am I truly playing the game as designed?

I think this is a good point. Playing in the beginner leagues seems the right speed to me: I have time to build AND to attack. Ok, I still suck at it, but I can see it now.

With it's umpteen bazillion players, perhaps Blizzard should have a Slow League?

Or maybe we should just have Slow Gamers With Jobs.

---N

cube wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

I daresay that there were members of that team who were underhyped.

You are bias!

The man speaks the truth. You can't argue with that.

That's why he hit me here it hurts: grammar.

Incidentally, I hope there's a JRPG where a boss named Bias only shows his true form after someone says, "You are Bias!" to him.

LarryC wrote:

This is the point at which Mr. Zacny will say that the game is more of a sport. That it's more intense than it is fun, and that it's relatively archaic in its design. This is because he's frantically pushing buttons and spinning plates in a frenzied attempt to keep up with a pace that he's not really comfortable playing. He's not having that much fun because he's throwing half the strategy of a strategy game out the window.

Actually, this is the point where I would say you're inventing opinions and ascribing them to me. As a great man once said, you are bias.

I have a terrific time playing SC2 at that frenzied pace. And I don't deny that there's a great deal of skill that goes into it, or that it's rewarding to pick up that skill. I'll grant that at times I'm only using half the strategy that's possible, mostly because it's difficult to squeeze in all the actions necessary to running a strategy.

But when you slow it down? Yes, you can use all that strategy you describe. And you're describing a pretty basic, elementary strategy game. Bluffs? Area denial? Harassment? Scouting? Hooray, if you slow SC2 down enough you can do the same things as in almost every other RTS.

When I play a casual game of DoW, CoH, Sins, whatever, I can do all the same stuff. I can also do a lot of other cool stuff. What I can do varies from game to game, but it sure does allow for a lot of intersting tactics and choices. MG nest here, minefield on the flank? Plunk a cultural node down in this system and strangle his expansion? Kit out my infantry for AT warfare?

I'd argue that when you slow it down, you're still playing a game that was designed for sporting purposes. That's why it's so stripped-down and basic. Slow it down enough and yeah, I guess I do feel it's a little archaic (great way to learn the game, though). But ultimately its designed to run at speed. I think the game gets far less interesting when slowed down.

interstate78 wrote:

Well, they could have gone the Dawn of War II way and done A compelling SP and a standard, old school MP.

Isn't that exactly what they did? The difference between SP and MP in the game is pretty huge by any standard, even if it is indeed less differentiated than in DoW2.

Rob Zacny wrote:

But when you slow it down? Yes, you can use all that strategy you describe. And you're describing a pretty basic, elementary strategy game. Bluffs? Area denial? Harassment? Scouting? Hooray, if you slow SC2 down enough you can do the same things as in almost every other RTS.

When I play a casual game of DoW, CoH, Sins, whatever, I can do all the same stuff. I can also do a lot of other cool stuff. What I can do varies from game to game, but it sure does allow for a lot of intersting tactics and choices. MG nest here, minefield on the flank? Plunk a cultural node down in this system and strangle his expansion? Kit out my infantry for AT warfare

How is this different from the various choices you can make in SC2 though, when it comes to unit upgrades, placing buildings around the map etc. It seems like all these games offer pretty much the same types of tactical choices, in their own various styles of gameplay.

I think that Starcraft 2 was made for a particular demographic (South Korea). There's nothing particularly wrong with that and I guess it was silly of me to think otherwise - I should have paid more attention to the development and tried the beta.

As it stands I don't feel compelled to finish the single-player campaign or pursue multi-player - I would be just as disinterested in Space Invaders 2 or Doom 2 if they came out today and showed so little innovation apart from, "NOW IN 3D!!". I haven't played Starcraft since it came out all those years ago so perhaps my memory has dimmed but it feels exactly the same.

The excitement that sequels like Half-life 2 gave me is sorely absent. Maybe THQ has spoiled me and given me expectations of innovation and progress.

I guess there's nothing wrong with those who find perfection in the mechanics of SC2, but I just wish there had been something on the box that said, "BE ADVISED: EXACTLY THE SAME AS SC1".

Starcraft Too indeed.

I actually played SC1 a few weeks ago, to get a 'story refresh'. I didn't particularly like SC1 back when I played it the first time (some years after release), and replaying it only refreshed my opinion. I didn't hate it or anything, it was just a bit boring, and half-way through I kinda gave up and cheated me through the rest for the story sequences
I cant see a whole lot SC1 and SC2 got in common in their singleplayer campaigns however.
Nearly every mission in SC2 is unique in regards to what you have to do, you can choose missions pretty randomly which greatly affects how you can handle later missions (access to different units, upgrades etc.).
Whether this is something you like is a matter of taste of course, but the argument that the two games are more or less the same seems a bit weak from my point of view.

When it comes to multiplayer though, which is obvious the focus of the article and debate here, the games definitely are much closer to each other. Never played SC1 multiplayer, so I don't have much of an idea about how similar or different they really are in that aspect, and although I'm having some fun right now playing custom games, co-op and even a few multiplayer games in SC2, I know it is not something I'll bother with for long. Just like I didn't bother with multiplayer in any other RTS the last 10 years.

Having played most of the major singleplayer RTS's since SC1, I find lots of new mechanics to love in SC2 which SC1 certainly didnt have, and most other RTS since haven't had either. None of the mechanics might be ground-breaking, as non-linear storymissions, tech-trees etc. have all been seen before, but Blizzard (as usually you could say) takes these things, polish them, and creates an interesting and entertaining (for some people) campaign out of it.

HockeyJohnston wrote:

I can see why some people don't like the MP element of Starcraft. You have to like that 'spinning plates' feeling, where you've got 8 of 'em on poles and you keep trying to figure out which one's going to go wobbly next.

I can only play one or two matches in a row before my brain slides out my ear.

Ha, glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. I feel like I'm getting a fair grasp of how to handle each component, but multitasking them all at once is still a bit beyond me.

Rob Zacny wrote:
LarryC wrote:

This is the point at which Mr. Zacny will say that the game is more of a sport. That it's more intense than it is fun, and that it's relatively archaic in its design. This is because he's frantically pushing buttons and spinning plates in a frenzied attempt to keep up with a pace that he's not really comfortable playing. He's not having that much fun because he's throwing half the strategy of a strategy game out the window.

Actually, this is the point where I would say you're inventing opinions and ascribing them to me. As a great man once said, you are bias.

I have a terrific time playing SC2 at that frenzied pace. And I don't deny that there's a great deal of skill that goes into it, or that it's rewarding to pick up that skill. I'll grant that at times I'm only using half the strategy that's possible, mostly because it's difficult to squeeze in all the actions necessary to running a strategy.

But when you slow it down? Yes, you can use all that strategy you describe. And you're describing a pretty basic, elementary strategy game. Bluffs? Area denial? Harassment? Scouting? Hooray, if you slow SC2 down enough you can do the same things as in almost every other RTS.

When I play a casual game of DoW, CoH, Sins, whatever, I can do all the same stuff. I can also do a lot of other cool stuff. What I can do varies from game to game, but it sure does allow for a lot of intersting tactics and choices. MG nest here, minefield on the flank? Plunk a cultural node down in this system and strangle his expansion? Kit out my infantry for AT warfare?

I'd argue that when you slow it down, you're still playing a game that was designed for sporting purposes. That's why it's so stripped-down and basic. Slow it down enough and yeah, I guess I do feel it's a little archaic (great way to learn the game, though). But ultimately its designed to run at speed. I think the game gets far less interesting when slowed down.

My apologies. I was only using your piece and your opinions as jump-off points. It's nice that you took the time to clarify your stand on this particular issue.

That said, and with all due respect, I don't believe that you know what you are talking about. I don't mean that in a bad way, but in a literal way. You see, I have played most of my games in both SC1 and SC2 on speeds that are slower than Faster. I have also played many games on Faster and even on Fastest (in SC1). I have the experience. I can compare. How many games of SC2 have you actually played on Normal speed? I highly recommend it.

It might appear that when you slow down the game, that it devolves into pretty basic strategic stuff. This is an illusion. You have to experience playing it and trying to get better at it on slower speeds to really get a feel for what's happening. I've played DoW2 also, and I contest that you can do more strategic decisions in DoW2 compared to SC2. There's definitely more operational and strategic play to be had in SC2, whereas there's more tactical play in DoW2.

For what it's worth, I'm also a strategy fan, and I play both RTS and TBS. I'm sure you do as well, but I'm just establishing a baseline. I found Civ IV to be wonderfully rich and diverse. I can play at Diety level, but I win more consistently on Emperor, so I feel entitled to say that I'm familiar with most of the things that go on in the game. I find SC2 just as strategically engaging as Civ IV.

If you have the time, we can, perhaps discuss in detail the kind of strategic, operational, and tactical decisions that you can make in the beginning two minutes of a SC2 game, compared to the beginning two minutes of DoW2.

I am proposing this precisely to show that my assessment of SC2 is not merely because I enjoy it more. I can point to specific instances where you can't really make a whole lot of choices in DoW2, whereas you can in SC2.

Nathaniel wrote:
LarryC wrote:

He doesn't have to play this way. You don't have to either.

Consider me again. I have 40 APM, but this time, I set the game speed to Normal. Since the game is about a fourth as fast, I'm functionally equivalent to a high Platinum player's 160 meaningful APMs. And I get more time to think, too.
...
On which setting am I truly playing the game as designed?

I think this is a good point. Playing in the beginner leagues seems the right speed to me: I have time to build AND to attack. Ok, I still suck at it, but I can see it now.

With it's umpteen bazillion players, perhaps Blizzard should have a Slow League?

Or maybe we should just have Slow Gamers With Jobs.

---N

I think that this is an outstandingly good idea. Chess is a great game, whether or not you play by tournaments rules. In fact, I'm willing to make a totally unsupportable statement and say that most people around the world enjoy Chess without being constrained by a time limit.

If you feel that Starcraft is a little too much like spinning plates, then I think you ought to find friends who feel the same and agree to scale back the game speed until you both feel that you're making strategic mistakes rather than succumbing to a general lack of APM.

spudgun wrote:

I think that Starcraft 2 was made for a particular demographic (South Korea).

Or, you know, it was made for people who like Starcraft, wherever they are from. For people who don't like Starcraft there are other games.

Every piece of promotional material for the game underlined that it was a direct successor to the original.

If anyone expected Blizzard to pander to simplification and popularisation, they weren't paying attention. Videogames, like most products, benefit the informed consumer the most.

spudgun wrote:

I guess there's nothing wrong with those who find perfection in the mechanics of SC2, but I just wish there had been something on the box that said, "BE ADVISED: EXACTLY THE SAME AS SC1*".

"*You know, save for how we revamped the mechanics for scouting, terrain usage, macromanagement and introduced a risk vs reward rating of expansion locations. Then there's the completely different approch to the singleplayer campaign and the huge disparity between singleplayer and multiplayer gameplay. But other than that, it's exactly the same as Starcraft 1."