Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Is Starcraft fun?

The MMO blogger Tobold has an interesting post about winning and losing. He's talking specifically about World of Tanks, but his point could just as easily be made about the SC2 ladder - specifically that ideally you should win only half of your games. If you win more than half your games then it's not because you are a good player - it's because the matchmaking system messed up - it's matching you against people who are worse than you. If the matchmaking system was doing its job properly you would win half your games.

Likewise if you lose more than half your games it means that the matchmaking system is screwed up and you are being pitted against people who are better than you. It's not your fault, it's Blizzard's fault.

For this reason, the removal of most people's loss statistic was exactly right by Blizzard - focussing on win percentage is meaningless. A person in bronze league might have a better win percentage than someone in silver. Does that make him a better player? No! Does it make him better than someone else in bronze with a worse win percentage? No again! The second player might be being matched against people in a higher league right before promotion. The percentage tells you nothing.

So why play Starcraft if not to win? Well, because playing should be fun, right? The act of playing itself should be a pleasure. Well for me it isn't. Laddering makes me nervous, and during games I am a mess of jittery tension and fear - "Shit! Better build a supply depot!", or "I hope he hasn't got broodlords yet - please please please!", or "If I expand will he just come crush me?"

I would never say I enjoy myself while playing.

So why play?

Part of the reason I play is that I want to get better. I like the feeling of improving - I sometimes look back at some of my games in bronze to measure how far I've come. But part of the reason is the same reason I used to do long distance running and competitive rowing when I was younger - the feeling afterwards. The period after the game where I grab a beer, kick back and watch the replay. I look at the profile of the guy I've just (hopefully) beaten, and keep my fingers crossed that he was in gold or plat. I watch the replay once feeling great about all the cool stuff I did, and then once again from my opponent's POV thinking evil thoughts like "Bet you didn't expect that drop, ha ha ha!"

That warm glow after the win is the main reason why I play. Which is why it sucks to lose of course!

Monday, 4 July 2011

dApollo coaches Totalbiscuit

I watched a couple of videos on Totalbiscuit's channel recently of him (he's a terran player in gold) being coached by the caster dApollo of team Dignitas in the UK.

These are excellent for someone of my level. In particular there's a TvZ game, which is one of the two matches that I've been having real problems with. dApollo's advice to Totalbiscuit is to go mech for that matchup, on the basis that any sort of marine-tank build, as used by all the professional players, relies on excellent marine micro to avoid baneling splash damage. If your micro is not so good, mech is much easier. dApollo also said that the famous mech player Goody (who I really like watching) goes mech because his APM is low for a professional.

This has been a revelation for me, and I am now firmly a mech player TvZ. I have always had a problem with low APM, so changing my unit composition to something which stresses the things I am better at (strategy and macro) and places less emphasis on things I'm bad at (micro) really helps. I have tried mech TvZ four times and won three of those games against solid gold league zerg players - the sort of players who were steamrolling me when I was going marine tank. Mass blue flame hellions supported by siege tanks and thors is just awesome.

I am still working on a build order for this matchup - I've downloaded some of Goody's replays from to try to find something I can copy. He has an early attack with 5 marines, three hellions and a medivac which he follows up with an uncloaked banshee and this seems to be absolutely devastating if done right.

The build order is your standard 2 gas 1-1-1:

10 Depot
12 Rax and make marines
13 Refinery
16 OC
16 Depot
@100 gas build factory
while factory is building take second gas
when factory completes make starport and start making hellions
when starport completes make a medivac
when medivac completes make a techlab, then a banshee, then rally the banshee to the zerg main

The medivac pops at about the time of the third hellion (ish), then you load up 5 marines and use the medivac to elevator the 5 marines and three hellions up the side of the zerg base. The goal is to kill the queen in the main and to do whatever damage you can before escaping. The zerg player may pull back the queen from the natural to the main, but then this second queen can be killed by the banshee, possibly leaving the zerg player with no anti air. You can then redrop any units you had left from the first hellion-marine attack.

I mucked it up the one time that I did it, but still took out one queen and a load of drones, and caused a massive overreaction into lings. I am quite excited to try it out again.

You can then transition into blue flame hellions, siege tanks and thors. The key I think is to get thors up asap in case he goes into mutalisks early on.