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Archive for the ‘Starcraft 2’ Category

In terms of pure enjoyment, this game delivers.  While in general, Starcraft 2 is a fun, adrenaline-filled game, it’s rare that it deviates from certain scripted paths.  Matchups progress like iron veins across a mountain, deviating along a few, set branches; they are beautiful in their ways, but not given to terrific variance.  However, sometimes those veins suddenly crystallize under geological pressure in unexpected ways.  The fractal geometry thus engendered is a wonder to behold.

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I got into the Starcraft 2 Beta a few days back, and I’ve been playing it in what free time I’ve had.  It’s graphically impressive and fluid, the Battle.net UI is superb, and the game is fun.  That’s all I really need to say about the gaem, other than: it’s Starcraft.

I may have given the impression in my post on the “Proxy Gateway Rush” (as it’s called) that I actually know how to play this game.  The people online have rudely disabused me of any notion that I’m capable of applying any strategic insights in a relevant manner when actually playing.  There is no room for calm when playing SC2.  Adrenaline becomes my constant companion while playing, along with a desperate sense that I need to be moving ever faster and don’t know how.

I have been beaten more times than I’ve won, and I’ve learned things each time.  Most importantly, I have learned that I don’t think I will ever be free of the grips of a titanic rage after 3-4 straight games of SC2 in the ladders.  This earth-shattering rage, which grips me shaking and swearing, leaving me bereft of any ability to stay still or cease from muttering to myself about build orders and how I should have KNOWN he was going AA, has been my more-or-less continual companion starting at approximately 10 minutes into my first game and not ceasing until I’ve left the game alone for at least an hour.  I’m just not very good at the game.

The root of my inferiority comes from an inability to capitalize on early game success.  A recent game serves as a prime example.  It was a straight Terran v Terran match-up.  I’d already played and lost two other games, so I was feeling a bit conservative.  I decided to risk not scouting initially, as the majority of Terran players just gate their ramps and bulk up for a bit.  Anyone who isn’t doing that is probably heading for Reapers, so I figured as long as I could handle the early Reaper rush, I’d be fine.

For the people who don’t know what all that means, I’ll give a quick rundown.  Starcraft 2 is an RTS, the sequel to what may be the most popular RTSs, well, ever.  Koreans turn Starcraft players into celebrities.  The damn thing is a PHENOMENON.  Leave it to Blizzard to do that sort of shit.  The basic model of Starcraft 1/2 involves building worker-type units who mine resources and build buildings, then using those buildings and resources to build overly-armed forces  of destruction, then sending them over to where your opponent is doing the same so they can blow all those EVIL buildings up (before your buildings are demolished).  Starcraft has 3 races: Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg, and each plays radically differently from the others.

One of the resources in the game is your supply level.  For Terrans, supply is gained from Command Centers and Supply Depots.  Every unit you make, from SCVs to titanic Battlecruisers, takes a certain supply level.  Since Command Centers are the central point for any base you’ll build, producing SCVs (your worker units) and being the place SCVs take the minerals and gas they mine, they’re too pricey to really be a good choice for increasing your supply.  Instead, you build supply depots.  Now, in SC1, supply depots were rather large buildings, and ingenious Terran players hit on a very Terran strategy: the supply depot wall.  There’s no real “wall” in Starcraft, but if you build enough supply depots around a some sort of choke-point on the map, you can mimic a wall pretty effectively.  In SC2, supply depots are a bit smaller but can retract into the ground – effectively, Blizzard embraced the supply depot wall-in by turning them into gates.  In addition, every single map starts players on a plateau or in a bit which is unreachable from the ground and has a single, small ramp leading to it.  Thus, most every Terran player goes to the trouble of putting supply depots directly in front of that ramp in order to impede any invading forces advances.  This is particularly effective vs. the early forces of Zerg/Protoss as both start with melee units, while Terrans first unit is ranged, allowing Terran Marines to safely ping away at invading Z/P without fear of retribution (until they bust through the gate).

So if you’re playing against a Terran opponent, you can generally assume they’re going to gate the ramp.  You’ll either have to field a force that can get around the gate or will be able to bust through it and kill the defending force.  Since I was playing versus Terran, I presumed they’d do precisely that (they didn’t, as it turned out).  From there Terrans can sort of go in 2 directions: Marines and Marauders or Reapers (assuming they don’t just use their barracks, which produces infantry, as a quick bouncing point up the tech tree to vehicles or air).  Marines and Marauders (fondly named “M&M” on the forums) is a basic ground force that can eat through almost anything thrown at them, but have to take the conventional route to the opponent’s base (meaning busting through the front door, and probably the opposing army).  Reapers, on the other hand, are harassment units; they can jump up and down cliffs, move rather speedily, and eat light units for mid-morning snacks.  A quick reaper rush can, if pulled off, skip right past the opponent’s army and head straight for their workers, killing them and potentially crippling their resource gain.

The success of Reapers is going to depend on the map; if there’re no good cliffs to jump up or down that bypass the enemy choke-point, the reapers will have a tough time getting to the workers unmolested.  It’s also going to depend on the responsiveness of the defender and what sort of units they have out.  Terran defenders have a pretty solid advantage here, as marines are ranged – they don’t have to work as hard to chase down reapers.  Protoss seem to have the most trouble with them.

I decided to do a quick and dirty M&M build, then tech to air.  I didn’t scout, figuring my opponent would come to me.  They did, choosing a Reaper rush.  I was caught a bit off-guard (which was retarded, as I knew this sort of thing could happen), but I had marines nearby and was able to run them off with minimal casualties.  Once I hit air, I shoveled out 2 units: a couple Banshees and a couple Ravens.  Banshees are really potent air-to-ground units, but they can’t hit air targets.  That’s where the Ravens would come in.  While Ravens have no weapons of their own, they have a few important support abilities that can be truly fearsome.  First, they can drop a point-defense drone which shoots incoming fire out of the sky.  Far as I can tell, that includes the missiles from Terran AA turrets and the missiles from Terran anti-air fliers (Vikings), so a Banshee group supported by a raven has a real shot at taking down those turret defenses and inflicting lots of pain with very little danger to themselves.  Turrets are just temporary buildings that shoot air and ground targets.

My opponent switched away from Reapers after their failed rush, and went for their own M&M battle group, which hit my base while I was building ships.  I had ravens out at this point, so I used turrets to help drive off the invaders; this means they should have known I had these guys.  That said, I don’t think as many people are aware of how awesome Raven turrets really are, so I’m not too surprised he didn’t do much more than start building Vikings for what he assumed eoulf be my early air.  I took my group of Banshees and ravens up to their base (which I’d finally scouted out), flew it around to where the workers were busily collecting, and started dropping turrets on top of them while my banshees rained missiles on their heads.  Now, I really don’t have many ships here: 3-4 Banshees and 2 Ravens…but they’re able to drop 4 turrets and a point-defense.  When the defending force showed up, comprised of marines and a couple vikings, the turrets ate them apart.  It was actually pretty spectacular to watch.  I annihilated their main base’s mining operations, most of their defending force, and was running strikes against their production buildings.

And here is where my mid-game falls apart.  SC2, like its predecessor, is very much a game of multi-tasking.  Not only do you need to nursemaid your units through their battles, you also need to be running your production buildings, making sure mining is ongoing, making sure your supply is keeping up with your force, and making sure you expand to new bases.  I absolutely dominated this guy in the early game…but I completely failed to keep building here, failed to expand, and thus completely missed the chance to capitalize on this success.  Not only that, I didn’t stick with the highly successful ravens.  See, he started pumping vikings as I was obviously air.  Rather than take my current resource advantage and leverage it into more ground units for myself, I kept focusing on air.  Not so bad a choice…but now I moved to vikings instead of ravens, completely losing that valuable support.  I also, very stupidly, teched to Thors, which seem to require a very specific support army to make work.  So here I was, taking in more resources than my opponent, but not capitalizing on it.  A series of skirmishes saw us stalemating on unit tradeoffs, but nothing that worried me…until they started fielding more and more units.  I’d let them expand…pretty dramatically.  I ended up losing with a giant enemy army marching through my base and nothing I could do about it.

This pattern tends to repeat itself for me.  While I’ve had some games where I just got taken out by a strategy I was wholly unprepared for, many more were games where I just let my mid-game fall apart.

Strangely, despite the losses and the extreme frustration, I’m really enjoying the game.  I’ll probably post more of my war stories as I keep going.

And for the record, yes, I am totally in the Copper League.  I really do suck.

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