Challenges, other races, and upcoming patch

Thanks to my friend, The G, I have now undertaken some of the Challenges in the single player mode — namely, Opening Gambit and Rush Defense, and achieved “Gold” in both. I also got Gold on the Terran’s spellcaster one, where you are given Ghosts and Ravens.

In Opening Gambit, the trick is to always be making use of your time. Every building creation, supply increase, unit production, and worker building should fit together as close as a well made puzzle, so that your buildings are always producing, your resources stay low (even as the collection rate goes up), and your supply keeps just ahead of the cap. With enough practice I did it, and it helped me to appreciate the tight rhythm of base creation.

Rush Defense is easier, and requires you to hold of waves of attackers before you even have units. Blocking off, exploiting A.I., and attacking with your SCVs are key. It’s also just for Terran, which is sad. Zerg especially needs some advanced challenges to teach how to use them.

Also, I played some more games with my two friends, versus A.I., and tried out Protoss. What an amazing race! Everything about them is effortless, smooth and intuitive compared to the Zerg’s mess and trickery. I actually had real fun playing as them, and until patches and expansions make Zerg more enjoyable, I may stay with them. The supply mechanic (pylons, which also provide power to other buildings) is so easy to remember and manage compared to using up larva for Overlords, which triple as creep-spreaders, scouts, and Overseers. The fact that pylon power works in conjunction with Warpgates feels breezy and helpful, unlike the creep’s speed boost, which requires much babysitting, and only serves to make units feel normal, not stronger.

The upcoming patch was announced. New features, including improvements to the Editor and the Mod community, are supposed to be implemented. Custom games will be improved somehow too. More importantly though, balance changes are en route, and they actually revealed them:

  1. Terran Bunkers and Reapers will take longer to build, in order to prevent their abuse against Zerg, while the Battlecruiser and Siege Tank will become significantly weaker, since they dominate too much.
  2. Protoss Zealots will take longer to build and warp in, discouraging abusive rush tactics.
  3. Zerg Ultralisks will become weaker by a little bit against “armored” unit types, and their useless headbutt attack is being removed.

All around this seems like a step in the right direction. The difficulty in simply building and playing as Zerg will remain the same, but this should prevent early abuse against them which may have been preventing a more natural evolution of the “meta game” strategies.

The Zerg, right now

Right now, a few weeks after release of StarCraft II, there is a growing awareness that Zerg:

  • Has units which are relatively weak for their cost
  • Requires unfair amounts of management to be effective
  • Should be simplified to allow players to focus better
  • Should be made more powerful to reward such focus

Any combination of these points. I say that it’s a growing ‘awareness’ and not a growing ‘opinion’ because I think it’s undeniably true. I have no doubt that the Zerg will be made stronger in the next balance patch, despite the fact that Blizzard is refusing to seriously acknowledge that there is a balance issue at the moment.

Zerg problems

Most popular topics on StarCraft II Official Forums

According to Blizzard there are promising statistical changes depending on the region the game is played in. They essentially say that North Americans are narrow-minded about how to play and haven’t discovered the right strategies to using Zerg effectively. They reference their own internal data to support this.

American players aren’t buying it, and have been accusing Blizzard of everything from just being greedy and not caring, to purposely making Terrans more powerful so that the Zerg expansion will boost Zerg and make the expansion feel more powerful. Blizzard’s representatives have actually denied the latter accusation.

In any case, this is Blizzard’s general stance on balance patching:

Dustin Browder: Yeah, absolutely. In terms of balance, we’ll do whatever is necessary at the time. Obviously, we’re going to continue to be as cautious as we dare, where we want make sure the community has had the chance to play with new stuff, and they get a chance to play with it, and that they are, in fact, identifying a problem for us correctly. But, the minute we know a problem is real, you know that we’re convinced that it’s got to be changed, we’re going to try to get a patch out there as soon as is humanly possible because we don’t want people playing with stuff that we know is broken. It drives us crazy as much as it does the guys playing it because we’re playing with you guys every night too.

Personally, as I’ve been trying to get better with Zerg, I’ve found that they are extremely difficult to play with. Perhaps this is because I have been making bad assumptions, but the question always boils down to how tricky or difficult it should have to be to simply play a race properly. Spreading creep tumors, building replacement Drones to fill the void left by morphing them into buildings, spawning larva every half minute, being unable to queue build commands due to to the fact that Drones are sacrificed upon building, being unable to queue the production of units due to the Larva aspect of production, as well as upgrading the Hatchery/Lair are all added trickery that the other races don’t have to worry about. They are a very frustrating race that — according to the latest supporters — are designed to utilize “trick strategies” and “map control” above actual combat and attack forces. In a one-to-one ratio of fighting units, Zerg loses.

Protoss literally warps in a building and then goes back to work. SCVs can not only repair buildings and units, but can be set to “auto-repair”, meaning that they will act as medics for mechanical units in the field! They can be loaded into the Command Center or Bunkers for protection in the early game, while Drones need to have a Lair before they can research Burrow, which allows them to simply become invisible without detectors.

All in all, I have found it much easier and more fun to play as the other races, which is too bad. I look forward to the patches, because this game needs them.

CTRL Key not responding?

Strangely, while playing StarCraft II now, I’ve been having an issue where the CTRL key on the right side of my keyboard doesn’t respond in game!

This means I can’t select units of a certain type without double-clicking or using the left CTRL key. This is the main way that I select which units to place in a Control Group, and micro my units in battle. The strangest thing? It will work at the beginning of a match, then suddenly stop responding later on. I just finished playing against the computer and was happy to see it working, but later it didn’t work.

I wonder if anyone else is having this problem? It’s bizarre and totally ruining my play. There’s no point in playing when it has this problem, that’s how much I rely on it. Especially as Zerg, it’s how I normally select Larva.

EDIT:

I have been using a KVM switch to avoid having to switch my keyboard, mouse and monitor every time I want to use a different computer, so I did a test where I plugged the keyboard into the computer instead of the KVM switch. It installed some drivers, and then didn’t seem to have an issue any more. I tested it with the switch, and without. Hopefully it stays fixed.

New computer, extra badassness

I mentioned in a previous post that I had bought a $1,250 computer, but when I tried playing StarCraft II I found that it was freezing and crashing, and just doing every task very slowly. I decided to take it to a computer shop with some cool tech guys I know and they informed me that it was a piece of garbage, basically. Power supply, motherboard, and other aspects weren’t able to handle the load despite a good processor and graphics card. They suggested custom-building a new computer with the same approximate price range, and what I ended up with was much better.

I returned the other computer for a full refund, and bought this instead. I’ll spare the statistic barrage.

Bumbling defeat in first placement match

I decided to play my first 1v1 Ladder match on Battle.net today, which means a placement match against a random opponent. I picked Zerg and he picked Terran. I had no idea what to build, but I did try to scout!

Zerg scout

I can clearly see that you're gathering minerals!

Through my efforts I learned nothing, but I did temporarily gain the feeling that I was playing intelligently. My stupid drone got caught between some SCV’s, however, and almost died on his mineral line. What a foreshadowing.

The match consisted of me building a couple of zerglings, a couple of Spine Crawlers, and making one of the all-time lamest attacks I’ve ever done.

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Co-op versus A.I.

Battlecruisers at critical level

That pylon doesn't stand a chance.

Playing co-op versus A.I. with two of my buddies today, who shall go by the names The G and Leo.

After playing very passively and almost having our bases destroyed by computers on “Easy” difficulty (quite embarrassing), we managed to build up a counter-attack force and crush the opponents. Once again I found myself paralyzed playing as Terran, being unable to produce enough. I need to remember to build extra Barracks, queue up units, tech up, etc. Basically I need to actually dig into the game, not wait for things to happen. A “build order” would also allow me to focus on execution, rather than sitting around considering possibilities.

The G, on the other hand, built very little as well until he suddenly exploded with Battlecruiser production, as seen above. This is because he wasn’t spending his money, which he was raking in thanks to expanding to the dual-base expansion in the middle of our 3-player base area. Leo and I tagged along and contributed, and we made a comeback to be feared.

This game requires practice, focus, planning and energy to play well. We didn’t play well today, but we had a lot of fun and had a chance to see a more casual side of multiplayer together.