Starcraft 2: From Worse to Bad — Core Concepts (Part 1)
April 1st, 2011 by Pinback

In this part (3) of a possibly two-part part, we’ll examine what I like to call core concepts, because they are concepts, and also core. These are the some of the basic overlying, or possibly underlying concepts (or "things") that you will want to — nay, have to — keep in mind at all times whilst playing a game of StarCraft II.

To refresh, "playing a game" refers to playing a 1v1 multiplayer game against some other nerd on the internet. While these core concepts apply to other game styles as well, they are most vitally important in the core game, which is 1v1.

Alright, ready? I will try to list these concepts in descending order of importance, but realistically, to rise up to the level of being a bad StarCraft II player, which is our goal, they are all nearly equally important.

CORE CONCEPT #1: Always be building workers.

Start here, and if you must, play several games focusing on nothing but this. With very few exceptions, you are going to want to always be building workers. SC2 is a game of strategic and tactical skill second, and economy first, and it is vital that you grow your economy as quickly as possible. Some might disagree that economy is more important than strategy/tactics, but believe me, if economy is not your #1 concern, you’ll never get far enough into a game to try out any of your precious strategies. And the way you grow your economy is to make as many workers as possible, as quickly as possible.

It also helps to know how many workers are effective at each base. That’s fine, and we can learn that later. Short version: about 24 on mining, and 3 on each gas. But don’t worry as much about that. Just worry about always be building workers. It’s as easy as cake, too. You’ve got your base(s) on hotkeys, and you know that "q" is the grid hotkey for worker, so two quick keypresses will be enough to get the new worker in the queue.

The only time you ever want to not be building workers is if you are going to die if you don’t do something else immediately. If you’re about to be ZERGRUSHOMGed, then some more defenses or military units are probably more important than another worker if you can’t afford both. But once the emergency’s over? See: always be building workers.

CORE CONCEPT #2: Always be building supply buildings.

One of the two most embarrassing things you can do while you’re building your army is to be "supply blocked". Your military buildings are sitting there waiting to create units, you’ve got plenty of money, but instead, they might as well be SPACE HOTDOG STANDS, because you didn’t build enough supply buildings. The word "always" in this case isn’t as precise as in CORE CONCEPT #1, because you don’t really always need to be building supply. You do, however, always need to be watching your supply counter in the upper right hand corner, and when you see you’re getting close, you need to start building it, so that you are never prevented from building more units.

Don’t get supply blocked. It doesn’t look good.

So far, if you’re following these CORE CONCEPTS, you’re developing what pilots call a "scan". A normal checking of certain things that is done on a regular basis to make sure everything’s going well. So now your mental "scan" consists of: "Am I building workers? Am I keeping supply up?" This "scan" will take you far, but it needs to be happening constantly. Many people even put a little sticky note near the screen that says "workers, supply, …" to remind them what they need to be thinking about, all the time.

It’s hard work. That’s SC2.

Now let’s add even more things to your "scan", with:

CORE CONCEPT #3: Always spend all of your money.

"Money" is a general term which is applied to the resources available in the game: minerals and gas. The other most embarrassing thing you can do during your game is have any money. This is because your economy, which you’ve built up pretty well by following the first two CORE CONCEPTS is completely worthless if you’re not spending the money that it generated.

Watch any low-level play, look up at the little resource counters in the upper right, and you’re guaranteed to see some high numbers. Anything more than a couple hundred is "high". Anything more than 500 is "very high". And anything over 1000 is embarrassing.

It’s contradictory to how you might think. You’re sitting there with 1500 minerals and 1000 gas and thinkin’, hey, things are goin’ pretty good! Look at all that cash! Meanwhile, the enemy army comes in and roflstomps you because while you were hoarding wealth, he was spending it, and spending it immediately, to convert it to force on the battlefield as quickly as possible.

Now, there are two ways to spend all your money! One is the right way. One is the wrong way. Let’s say you’re playing Protoss, you’ve got a gateway up, and you’ve got 500 minerals in the bank. Let’s look at the two ways you can spend ’em:

RIGHT WAY* (example): Select the gateway, build a zealot (100). Select the nexus, build a worker (50). Select a worker, build another gateway (150). Select a worker, build a supply building (100).

WRONG WAY: Select the gateway and queue up five zealots. (100, 100, 100, 100, 100).

Do you see the difference? Sure, in both scenarios, your bank account is now at zero. However, in the RIGHT WAY, every last mineral is actively going to use to bring more force to the battlefield, where in the WRONG WAY, only 100 is actively doing anything, and the other 400 are just sitting around in escrow.

Queuing stuff up is one of the most common errors new players make, in fact. So don’t do that. But spend all of your money. If you’ve got a unit-building structure sitting around idle, build a unit with it. If you don’t have enough structures to spend all your money on units, build a new structure.

If you can make money as fast as possible, and spend it as fast as possible (without queuing), you cannot help but become a bad StarCraft II player. And if, god forbid, you actually want to be better than that, then none of this is even a little bit optional.

Let’s review your scan: Am I building workers? Am I building enough supply? Am I spending all of my money?

The final core concept, I was considering saving for part 2, because it may seem more advanced than these basic concepts, but ultimately it still fits into the theme of growing your economy as fast as possible, so I’ll just launch right into:

CORE CONCEPT #4: Always use your macro ability.


One significant addition to SC2 from the original game is that each race now has what’s called a "macro ability". In layman’s terms, it’s a little gimmick that, if you remember to do it, allows you to build your economy faster than you would normally by just building workers. Here’s a quick description of each race’s ability:

TERRAN: May call down "MULEs", which harvest minerals extremely fast for a short period of time before breaking down.

PROTOSS: May "chronoboost" buildings, which has the effect of making that building build stuff faster than it would normally for a short period of time.

ZERG: May "inject larvae" into hatcheries every so often, which gives a one-time increase of the number of units that can be produced from the hatchery at the same time.

At first these may seem like fun little things to try out from time to time, but you will quickly learn that these abilities are not optional, and that you must be using them, every time, as soon as they become available, or your economy will fall behind, because the guy you’re playing is using them, every time, as soon as they become available.

I forget this one the most often, because Jesus Christ, don’t I have enough to worry about with the workers and the supply and the money, and by the way I’m also trying to build units and scout and deploy them to the battlefield and research upgrades and GOD DAMMIT I CAN’T BE THINKING ABOUT THE STUPID MACRO ABILITIES TOO!! It’s too hard!

Well, it is. But you still have to do it. Nobody said that becoming a truly bad SC2 player was going to be easy.

Let’s do one final review of the "scan", which contains all the things that you have to be thinking about at all times, oh my god:

Workers, supply, money, macro ability.

Burn these CORE CONCEPTS into your mind, and into your game, and I guarantee that you will definitely not suck quite as much as you do now.

(*) I realized after the fact that these only add up to 400. You get the idea, though.

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