The Starcraft 2 Journal: Day 49

(Read journals 1 and 2 here first)

This is the furthest out I’ve ever done a journal entry from the initial purchase of a game, but considering the fact that Starcraft 2 will most likely be a PC staple for the better part of a decade, I figured it was appropriate.

SC2 has been my game of choice for the last two months or so almost exclusively, as I just haven’t been curious to play anything else, but now that Halo: Reach is arriving at last, I’ll be likely shelving my mouse and keyboard for at least a little while.

In the interim since my last journal, a lot has changed. I’ve almost been exclusively playing multiplayer, as I’ve exhausted pretty much all there is to do in the campaign, outside of a handful of super hard achievement I neither have the time or the patience for.

I’m currently  a mid-level platinum player in both 1v1 and 2v2, and in my lesser played categories of 3v3 and 4v4 I’m gold league. What that essentially means is that I know my shit, but am far from a pro. It’s been a mix of joy and frustration, though I will say I’m not sure if the satisfaction of winning outweighs the despair of losing in this game. After a hard fought battle, you’re usually too mentally exhausted to celebrate.

Every screenshot I find of this game is full of outdated unit and building skins.

So how has multiplayer changed for me in the last 50 days? Well, as you move up in the leagues, and learn how to be more efficient in your play, much, much more strategy comes into effect. I watch pro games in my spare time, just because I find it more entertaining than most televised team sports (sigh, yes I am a nerd it seems), but also I pick up strategies and builds I might not have otherwise.

I am pretty evenly split between Terran and Protoss, and I probably have only played about 10 or so games with Zerg this entire time. Why? It’s pretty easy really, now that I think about it. The answer is Queens.

All races force you to multitask, but I’ve never been able to get Queen play down. You need to use them both to expand creep, which lets you build things everywhere and gives you a speed bonus, and also spawn extra larvae at your hatcheries. And while forgetting to chrono boost at a Nexus or Mule at a Command Center might set you back a bit, forgetting to spawn larvae will severely limit the amount of army you can amass in a hurry. Say you get caught off guard and most of your forces are wiped out with Protoss or Zerg. You can immediately start clicking away to rebuild. But with Zerg, if you’ve forgotten to spawn lava at your three hatcheries recently, you can only build 9 units instead of 21 without waiting a costly amount of time.

I realize this is just a discipline I haven’t taken the time to master, but I just haven’t felt it’s worth it,and Zerg seems pretty underpowered compared to past games. Overlords aren’t detectors, Hydralisks are a lair unit and the entire race is pretty vulnerable to early air pressure. I’ve seen many people be good with Zerg, but even the pros are complaining that the race is underpowered, especially to the most powerful race in the game, Terran.

I’ll leave Zerg rushing to the pros.

I’ve been playing Terran more and more recently, as getting a giant clump of almost any Terran unit proves to be pretty unstoppable. Both their base unit (Marines) and their uber unit (Thors) can attack both air and ground, which is untrue of similar units in the other two races (Zealots and Colossi, Zergling/Roaches and Ultralisks). I believe Marauders to be vastly overpowered, as a bunch of them supported by Medivacs can take out almost anything on the ground if micro managed properly.

Terran harassment is exceptionally annoying as well, and Protoss and Zerg don’t have much to match it. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve lost to Banshee or Hellion or Reaper rushes, and there’s barely an equivalent kind of harassment for the other races, as the mobility just isn’t there. Void Rays and Mutas could be similar, but neither can cloak, and early ground harassment is almost nonexistent, unless you’re a pro with Zerg’s Nydus Worms.

Speaking of Void Rays, I’ve been complaining about them for a while now, but I’ve found at higher levels that players rely on them less and less. The fact is, the heat of battle they are flimsy and awful, but it still stands that if a few get charged behind your base, you better have a standby fleet of triple the number of anti-air units to take them out.

Slightly less annoying than they used to be, but still could use a nerf.

I’ve gotten pretty good with Protoss, and I really like their ability to warp in units anywhere quickly. Blink Stalkers and Charge Zealots are good for dealing with a lot of different things, though I never have figured out how to effectively use Sentries in a timely matter, even though I know they can be hugely important. Robo tech is fun with Protoss too, but very vulnerable to air. I have won many a game due to Colossi with extended thermal lances. They have almost as much range as Siege Tanks, and tear through infantry like butter.

But even as you master strategy more and more, you will always run into people just flat out better than you, and once you hit your limit, the game stops being fun, and you realize that you’re literally going to have to train if you want to get any better. But you will never be the best as some people literally make their careers out of playing this game.

In a way it’s kind of like chess, where you will win some, lose some, develop new strategies and try to improve your skills. But chess is far more relaxed a pace, and an hour or two of intense Starcraft can be pretty exhausting and disheartening if you manage to go on a losing streak.

I think I’ve reached my peak of playtime on this game for a while, at least until the first expansion comes out. I’ve had fun playing it, even through my frustrations, and it’s been well worth the money. But was it worth the ten year wait? I’m not sure about that, as fundamentally, outside of some new units upgraded graphics, it doesn’t seem like the game is all that different, and a result of ten years of development and testing.

But I realize that the Starcraft saga is going to have to unfold itself over ANOTHER decade, and this is merely the first piece of the puzzle. I’ve enjoyed my time with it thus far (and even more so now that I own a new computer than can run it with non-Nintendo 64 graphics settings), and I expect I’ll return to it during the lulls between notable console releases.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. Cool article, Paul. I’m just beginning the game and enjoying Zerg just because I like playing the underdog. But yes, I can go for long stretches and it snaps in my head that my queens have been doing nothing…

    Anway, I’ve never been a huge fan of RTS games so I’m amazed how much I’m getting into it. I think it can be testament to Blizzard’s ability to create games that are accessible for casuals and wide audiences yet deep enough for the hardcore.

  2. Seeing what I have of the original and the sequel. Blizzard “should” start a movie studio.

    If my math is correct, the total video of all of their games combined is around 2 hours. Obviously since these interludes are designed to augment the story, Blizzard spends a good amount of time and money on them, but still nowhere NEAR the $100M mark of most Hollywood movies.

    Seriously, hire a writer and put together an epic story in one of the three Blizziverses, and go…market the movie through, and you’ll start an inexpensive movie franchise. Start small with 20-30M dollar CG movies, and build the bankroll over a few years. Then release your true Live Action blockbuster in 5 years when the Diablo III game comes out.

  3. BobaFett, that could work if Hollywood stays the fuck out of it.
    Blizzard has plenty of cash for this to work, but it’s quite risky if it fails.

    Given the amount of WoW players, I’m doubt that they (the movies) would come anywhere near being financial failures.
    Critically, that’s another story.

  4. Video game movies stink. Not a one has been any good. Play time may be only 2 hours, but how much backstory has to be explained upfront? Then they’ll throw in some romantic type thing, or revenge or what-have-you. Good games are like books- way too hard to turn into decent movies (a la King’s books).

    Glad you like the game. I’m an awful gamer, so I just even bother anymore. I think one time I killed myself by shooting a grenade into my crotch in some game. Yeah, try and live that ridicule down!

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