gods, bonjwas

Gods and Bonjwas: Deities in esports

We all remember where we were during historic moments and we remember who wrote them.

People have always recognized greatness. Outstanding feats of skill, daring and a near fatalistic feeling of witnessing once-in-a-lifetime events. While those moments are plentiful in the world of sports, it’s a whole other thing entirely when it’s done repeatedly by the same people. When a player does something outstanding once, it’s an achievement. If they do it repeatedly, it becomes a discussion of the player themselves and their legacy, their history and their impact on the game as a whole.

In esports, we call them gods and drop wholesale praise upon them. We may not have seen them perform these feats live, but we hear the tales and retell them. In essence, the players create their own mythology with incredible moments performed over and over again.

BoxeR

For Starcraft: Brood War (just Brood War) one person stands above others. He revolutionized the game, cementing the foundation for others to come afterword. Those that came after him owe him and respect him above all else.

bonjwa, boxer

Photo courtesy of Liquidpedia

His name is Lim Yo-hwan, a.k.a. BoxeR, and his status as an esports icon, the original king of Starcraft, remains forever within the scene and possibly the whole of esports culture.

There were others before BoxeR, but no one compared to his reign in his prime. He not only crushed his competition, he remained dominant for years. He would create new strategies, beating opponents in new ways, all to remain on top. They called him ‘Bonjwa’ in Korean, which means Self-Raising Person. They didn’t even start using the term until after his dominance had waned and others took his place. 

During his stay in the Korean army, they created a special unit just for BoxeR to protect him from harm. Call it whatever you will, but a player of that magnitude existed in esports and made that kind of impact. Boxer made his living by playing games to the bitter end against odds stacked squarely against him. He would outlast his opponents in matches, despite carrying his own disadvantages. His skills earned him regard and other nicknames such as the ‘Terran Emperor’ and his innovations are used even today among newcomers.

Players like Flash and iloveoov had higher highs than BoxeR, but there wouldn’t be such players without him.

Daigo

In fighting games, one can draw a similar line to Daigo Umehara. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, after the famous youtube clip, Daigo’s reign in fighting games hinged on not just his skill but his opponents.

god, beat, daigo

Photo by Robert Paul (Rolling Stone)

Daigo rose up during the beginnings of Street Fighter 3, challenging the pantheon of amazing players like Kuroda, Nuki, MOV, RX and making a name for himself. His presence on the American scene became well documented after challenging and beating Alex Valle, the original champion of American Street Fighter. Daigo’s impact on the scene of fighting games changed the perceptions of greatness within the scene as a whole.

The difference between Daigo’s lore versus Boxer’s was that his legend grew because of others. Players like Valle and later on Justin Wong, who himself changed the entire game of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, were his rivals within the scene. Without those players to compete against, Daigo may have been prominent but never legendary. Boxer’s legend grew because among the greats he was the greatest, and more to the point, he remained great. Daigo’s impact within the community peaked near the end of Street Fighter 3 into 4, not to take away from Daigo’s legacy, as his rise was essential for the fighting game scene. People love their heroes.

Most assuredly there are more legends to be talked about, with the likes of Faker being considered a god at League of Legends, but that is not this writer’s strong suit. These conversations and the history within communities as a whole have been around since the beginning of time. You will still see people talk about Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the rest of the sports pantheon. Esports just has a lot of these legends playing at the same time against one another. Which changes it from being the greatest of an era to who is the great of the era.


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“From our Haus to yours”

Protoss Harass

Protoss Insight – Introduction to Multitasking

Very often when learning a new skill, your win rate will plummet for a while before you can come out stronger. This is a consistent phenomena, even if you’re attempting to learn a build that is supposedly stronger. This is a seldom stated fact of StarCraft II that sometimes catches newer players off-guard. It leaves you with a feeling of starting over from square one each time you attempt to pick up a new skill and is one of the key reasons the game’s learning curve is known to be infamously treacherous.

Multitasking is just one of these skills but especially in Legacy of the Void, it is a pivotal part of the learning process. Harassment has never been more important in StarCraft’s history as it is in Legacy of the Void. A player’s ability to multitask their production behind harassment is a determining factor in their efficiency.

Today I’d like to talk about a simple harassment tactic new Protoss players can use to soften the learning curve.

 

Basic Concepts

Under most conditions, the harassment game consists of three layers: production upkeep, harassment micro-control, frontline micro-control. What we’re going to do is eliminate one of these layers. Or at the very least, greatly soften it.

Adepts, Oracles, Dark Templar into double Archon drops, Disruptor drops, Storm drops. If you ask about Protoss harassment tools, these are the tactics that immediately come to mind. While they’re all powerful forms of harassment, they also require a decent level of micro-control to use.

Zealots, the Protoss baseline unit, rarely enters the conversation. Perhaps for good reason, Zealots (or more specifically Chargelots) aren’t the best units for hitting specific targets. While they do hit hard enough, their design is the opposite of control. A fact we are going to exploit to create a harassment style for players with low actions per minute (APM).

Protoss Harass

 

Scouting

This is a decent general purpose tactic but does not match-up well against an aerial all in. Against Zerg and Terran you’ll want to do an early scout on their gas geysers. If both are taken there’s a good chance the enemy is taking the fight to the skies. Protoss is far more gas dependent so you’ll want to monitor their Gateway count instead.

 

The Art of War

“Never argue with an idiot. They’ll bring you down to their level and proceed to beat you through experience.” – George Carlin

 

As a beginner, you don’t have much APM to spare, that’s something you can’t help in that moment. Instead of fighting on their terms, you can try to bring them down to your level.

The general idea here is by warping rounds of chargelots into your opponent’s mineral line, you are forcing them to split more APM holding your attack than you are spending on harassment.

Of course this style isn’t completely free of micro-control. As with all Protoss drop tactics, keeping your Warp Prism alive is imperative to keep your opponent on the defensive. In that respect, this is why this tactic works as an excellent harassment introduction. The basics are the same as the core drop tactics but the execution is far less APM intensive.

 

Notes and Limitations

For what you gain in APM you give up in control and consistency. Setting a horde of Zealots loose on your enemy mineral line generally gets work done, but you don’t know for sure that someone’s not going to get distracted by that shiny Command Center just inches away.

Furthermore, for the most part you are resigning to letting these Zealots die. As your baseline unit, Zealots are very inexpensive. If they can get some solid economic damage done (ie. if they do kill out a decent amount of workers) it’s generally very worth it. But it’s important not to overindulge. Investing too heavily into units you’re not getting back can result in your opponent proceeding to just walk over you, even if you do get your money’s worth in economic damage.Protoss Harass

As you get more comfortable with the ability to control multiple fronts, you can start moving into more APM intensive drop styles. Dark Templar into double Archon is my harassment style of choice and is a good step up from this introductory level.

Alternatively, you can attempt to mix Chargelot warp-ins with other forms of harassment. Trap notably mixed this style with his pristine Oracle control against Solar in the GSL 2017, Season I.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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The Reaper is Growing Up

Last week we saw Hyun “Byun” Woo and Cho “Maru” Seong Ju change the way we look at Reapers in Terran vs Zerg. They were producing Reapers off of five barracks before even building a Factory – historically a very cheesy, very all-in build.  The difference was that after their first few Reapers, they stopped harassing Drones and instead darted around on the outskirts of the Zerg’s creep.  They were delaying third bases, killing Queens and Creep Tumors, and even surviving long enough to help the Marine/Medivak push minutes later.

Coming of Age

Caster Ried “RAPiD” Melton smartly compared this evolution to that of the Oracle.  For a long time, the Oracle was purely an early game unit. You build it as fast as possible, kill as many workers as possible, and eventually it would die.  In 2017 we now know that Oracles have fantastic utility in every stage of the game – tagging armies, revealing cloaked units, placing down stasis traps, and aiding long range units like Disruptors and Tempest.

Similarly, in the right hands, a pack of Reapers can greatly increase the survivability of a small bio force.  Maru and Byun use the Reapers’ KD8 charges to delay clumps of Banelings while Marines shoot Zerglings. Add some good splits and stunted creep spread and you have yourself a dead Zerg.

The Build:

Supply Depot starts to wall the Natural ramp

Barracks, Gas, Barracks, Barracks, Gas (All Barracks walling natural)

Constantly build Reapers out of all Barracks

32 Supply – Command Center Low Ground

36 Supply – 4th and 5th Barracks

42 Supply – Engineering Bay

47 Supply – 3rd Gas, +1 Weapons

61 Supply – Factory, Add Tech Labs and Reactors to Barracks

69 Supply – Stimpack & Switch all Barracks production to Marines

75 Supply – Starport (Reactor Factory for Add-on Swap)

78 Supply – 3rd Command Center, +1 Armor

77 Supply – Push or Double Drop

Goals:

  1. Delay the Third
  2. Kill Queens and Limit Creep
  3. Force out units instead of Drones

When it comes to microing Reapers, no one can hold a candle to Byun.  He makes the underutilized KD8 charges look almost too strong.  These grenades do a flat 10 Damage to all affected and, more importantly, launch them into the air, rendering them useless for about a second.

Byun uses these grenades to anticipate Zergling movement and deny ling surrounds, and to isolate and kill Queens. I’ve even seen Byun use grenades to create pockets of escape like an offensive line does for a running back. Warning: this is very risky if you are not Byun.

 

While telling someone to “do Byun’s Reaper Build” is a lot like telling someone to simply shoot threes like Steph Curry, you don’t need Byun-level micro to pull off this build. Provided your macro doesn’t slip terribly, a pack of 20 Reapers can do a lot to slow your opponent’s creep spread and economy.  Without creep to worry about it isn’t terribly hard to keep most Reapers alive if you play safe – which leads me to the whole point of this article.

Reapers + Marines

In the past, we rarely saw Reapers fight alongside any other type of unit besides the occasional Reaper/Hellion combo. Byun and Maru showed in their GSL games that the synergy between Reapers and Marines has been greatly overlooked. Maru showcased this combination brilliantly in game two of his series against Soo. He was constantly throwing down grenades in the path of oncoming Ling/Bane, turning the fearsome swarm into a bouncy castle from hell.

Versus Roach Ravager

The most common response to three or five-Rax Reaper is mass Speedling with a few Queens, but many Zergs opt for a Roach/Ravager counter attack. Look no further than Game 1 of Maru vs Dark, where Maru uses KD8 charges to slow down Dark’s push every step of the way. By the time they reach the Terran base, the Roach Ravager force is weakened and outnumbered with no way of retreating.

 

 


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StarCraft: Remastered

StarCraft Remastered Preview – The Midway Checkpoint

We’re currently nearing the three month mark since the official announcement of StarCraft: Remastered. Incidentally, we’ll be crossing that mark around the same time that we, in the northern hemisphere, head into summer. With that, we’ll be within the three month window of StarCraft: Remastered’s release.

At this point, we’ve either (optimistically) passed the halfway mark or (more realistically) we’re soon nearing it. With that in mind, I think it’s a good time to review what we’ve learned in the last few weeks as we explore the possibilities of what’s still to come.

 

Ladder

One of the biggest gaps separating Brood War from modern esports is the lack of an automated matchmaking system. Introducing a global ladder to a 20 year old game is an ambitious undertaking. Given the scale of the project, we’re not at all likely to see any form of an operational ladder, at least until the new StarCraft client goes into open beta.

In the meantime, we were given our first look at the new global leaderboards within the last few days.

The most interesting feature of the new global standings is very telling of how serious the Blizzard Classic Games Team is about preserving the culture of the longstanding Brood War community. Players are able to view the online status of any player on the leaderboard. This is a feature currently absent from the StarCraft II ladder as well as most modern leaderboards. I’m sure to most, it seems almost irrelevant.

However, it is a feature highly relevant to the Brood War culture that has survStarCraft: Remasteredived for over 20 years through chat-based match requests. Indeed, it is almost archaic by modern standards.

And yet a culture was built upon this foundation, and in South Korea continued to thrive well into 2017.

A key concern has been the impact of the new matchmaking system on Brood War’s unique social structure. It goes without saying, attempting to introduce an automatic global ladder while preserving the sense of intimacy of a chat based system seems entirely impossible, yet with a simple online/offline flag they’ve managed to preserve a little sense of this, an unexpected feat that I can only offer Blizzard the highest praise for accomplishing.

 

Keybinds

Of the new features Blizzard has taken the time to highlight, this is the only one to date the community has been given the opportunity to test. Rebind-able hotkeys was a feature available in the earliest builds of the 1.18 Public Test Realm (PTR). It was removed after 1.18 went live and has not been available for testing again since.

But for the fortunate few of us that were able to test this feature, the impact absolutely cannot be understated. Very early into the 1.18 PTR, a profile for rebinding Brood War hotkeys into StarCraft II’s  popular grid format emerged. Created by a user on the Team Liquid forums.

StarCraft: RemasteredTo put as simply as possible, the experience of playing Brood War using Grid was amazing. Despite being 20 years old, it felt like an entirely an entirely modern game, it was almost cathartic. With the visuals of the game being updated (though some would argue that matter is simply a difference in art-style preference), the controls were really the only major anchor tying StarCraft to 1998. That anchor was been pulled and the ship made good course.

Unfortunately, given the length of time Keybinds have been off the PTR, it’s not likely to return until the new client emerges. If I’m to be honest and speaking as someone that started their StarCraft journey with StarCraft II, if custom hotkeys were still available on the Brood War PTR, I wouldn’t still be playing StarCraft II today.

There’s been no word on the new client, though there were expectations of an announcement being made at the recent ASL Finals. Still, StarCraft: Remastered was unveiled on the day of the StarCraft II GSL Finals, with GSL Season 2 soon coming to a close, there’s still hope of more information just around the corner.

 

 

Featured images courtesy Blizzard Entertainment.

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Sound Structure – Intriguing Designs That Hit The Mark

A week ago I wrote an article discussing the most stressful units in StarCraft II. Here’s the followup to that piece, a discussion of some of the most interesting designs StarCraft has given us. Here are units that prove that it is possible to create gameplay that is satisfying for the player without causing your opponent’s blood pressure to spike.

 

Stalker

Perhaps a trigger warning is necessary here for victims of the Blink-Stalker era. Either way, I do maintain my point from last week. Aesthetically speaking, my honest opinion is that Stalker is the Little Nicky of StarCraft designs. The Stalker’s gameplay, however, is another story, and in a way, distinct.

Among all core units in the game, the Stalker is by far the weakest in terms of raw dps. For its lacking offensive ability, the Stalker boasts superior mobility. Once its ability Blink is unlocked, the Stalker becomes unrivaled in its ability to pick-off priority targets.

Stalkers can’t survive prolonged engagements without the support of units higher up in the Protoss tech tree. Instead, as its name implies, the Stalker functions as a sniper unit for both cutting off units attempting to retreat, and giving the Protoss the ability to dictate the terms of engagement. The latter is usually achieved by using blink to hard engage a dangerous target before it can react, or up to higher ground to secure a tactical advantage.

Like most standard Gateway units, the Stalker functions as reinforcements in long engagements; they will eventually fall-off without actual heavy firepower at the rear, so focus fire is imperative.

The idea of taking a mobile low damage unit and making it a race’s core is a tough sell but the Stalker carved its own niche with its distinct and satisfying play-style. Now if only it didn’t look like a concept reject for Genesect.

 

Ghost

Conceptually, the Ghost seems like what you would get if you told a 10 year old boy to make a StarCraft unit. To start, it’s a spellcaster built to counter other spell casters. It can stealth and has massive burst that can shred even the tankiest units; if need be, it can call in a Nuclear strike, which, appropriately enough, is nowhere near as broken as it sounds.

That’s pretty much the theme of the Ghost. It’s a unit that, on paper, sounds like it should be all kinds of busted, but isn’t. The fact that it’s on one of the furthest ends of the Terran tech tree has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, its more outlandish abilities either require additional research or further investments to prepare.

Design

The Tactical Nuke is worth particular note for being the first supply pit in StarCraft. Ironically,  it is the best example of a supply pit done right. In both StarCraft and StarCraft II, each Tactical Nuke requires further investment to build. Usually only one could be prepared at a time. Although in StarCraft II, both the direct and opportunity cost is significantly lower than its predecessor.

The significant investment that goes into preparing even a single Nuke makes it a rare sight. But it’s still an exceptionally powerful tool that can be devastating in the right situations regardless. The rarity of the event just makes it that much more of a spectacle for both players when it actually does happen.

 

Arbiter

My personal favourite unit from StarCraft I, and possibly just StarCraft in general. The Arbiter is the unit at the furthest end of the Protoss tech tree in Brood War. Furthermore, even despite its heavy cost and even heavier build time (longest in the game, yes even longer than the Carrier), it has three further upgrades to research that collectively take close to 4.5 minutes, and 450 minerals/450 gas to complete.

In that way, it’s very unique. Most notably, for a unit at the furthest end of the tech tree, its direct offensive ability is almost non-existent. It has an attack, but it’s mostly negligible. Rather, the value of the Arbiter comes entirely from its spells and abilities. Of its three abilities/spells, the Arbiter starts with one, its Cloaking Field. Cloaking Field, as you can guess, cloaks (grants stealth) to every unit in an area beneath it.

Design

Its only two spells, both of which need to be researched, are Recall and Stasis Field. They both feature their own respective strategies for which they act as the focal points. Stasis Field freezes any unit caught within the spell’s area of effect. Under stasis, units are completely immobile and cannot be attacked for its duration. It’s a particularly powerful tool against Terran and Protoss for shutting down Siege Tanks and Reavers, respectively.

Recall is a global spell that teleports all units under a 5×5 spell area directly to the Arbiter. The Mass Recall strategy centered on this ability usually involves flying an Arbiter directly into an enemy base and using recall to teleport an army onto the enemy’s production facilities.

The Arbiter is unique as the only final tier support unit gated behind massive investments and research upgrades like none other, but somehow ends up being undeniably worth it.

Side Note: You’ve probably noticed from the Ghost to the Arbiter that there’s a reoccurring design principle here that StarCraft II ignored. That principle being – if you’re going to give a unit some seriously busted-ass spells, stick it at the furthest end of the tech tree and lock its potential behind a million upgrades.

 

Viper

I didn’t mean to order this list but it happened anyway, I guess this would be the number one spot. As much as I love the Arbiter, the Viper just wins on so many levels.

I’ll start with Parasitic Bomb, which proves it’s possible to create a spell for punishing mass-air deathballs without being a spell that instagibs mass-air deathballs. Furthermore, while Parasitic Bomb will significantly slow, if not stop, the advancement of a mass-air army, its effect can be significantly mitigated with practiced micro control that feels very satisfying to outplay.

This is a very rare mechanic in StarCraft where a punishing spell can actually feel somewhat rewarding on the receiving end for having successfully mitigated the full effect.

But by far, Viper’s most intriguing ability is Consume. It’s an ability that uniquely allows the Viper to replenish energy by sucking the life from (damaging) your own Structures. Not only is the spell absolutely ominous to watch, particularly when watching a swarm of Vipers kill their own Hatchery, but it adds a distinct depth to the Viper. After exhausting its energy, Vipers can be pulled from the front-line back to the Zerg’s base to replenish their energy at the cost of damage to their own structures, after which it can return to the field.

The Viper has its own synergy between its abilities, spells, and the battlefield itself. An intriguing novelty unlike anything else in StarCraft that I can only describe as an absolutely beautiful model of sound game design.

Design

 

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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Toxic Design

Stress Spikes – The most questionable designs in StarCraft II

Balance revisions are once again in season in the StarCraft world. And while these changes are far from insignificant, it will be a while before the next major overhaul. As such, I thought I would get an early start on the list of units that should be considered for the next renovation.

The units in this discussion aren’t on here because of poor balance, and to be clear, this isn’t a balance discussion. Rather, today I want to look at units infamous for their toxic design.

Most of the units here serve important roles in their race’s design. But in some cases, those roles could stand to see some revisions, into forms that accomplish similar goals but in a way that doesn’t inspire players to put their fist through their monitors.

 

Oracle Fly-by

There are many units in StarCraft that can cripple you if you’re not prepared for them. The Oracle, however, is a special case.

If your anti-air is mispositioned, an early Oracle can end the game. There’s an indescribable feeling you get seeing an Oracle fly-by and realizing your grave has already been dug. Some would suggest you could say the same thing about detection and stealth units. The thing is, workers can run from a Dark Templar or Banshee. Try as you may, there’s no running from an Oracle. It raises the question as to why Pulsar Beam is necessary in its current form, especially with Stasis Ward becoming more common as a means of harassment.

 

The mine that got away

It’s not exactly surprising to say the Widow Mine is a unit that inspires a special kind of loathing. But I’ve always been of the firm belief that it’s not the Widow Mine’s damage that makes it a toxic unit. Rather, the most toxic thing about the Widow Mine is watching it get away – watching a mine being dropped into your mineral line and then just barely failing to kill it before it borrows is an exasperating feeling that’s made worse knowing you need to evacuate your mineral line immediately and deal with finishing it off before you can get back to work.

Nerfs to the Widow Mine were a huge talking point earlier this year but it seems surprising that the Mine’s 90 HP never came into question. For reference, the Widow Mine’s predecessor from Brood War, the Spider Mine, only had 20HP. For that 20HP, the Spider Mine could only hit ground units, could not be moved once set, were only good for one-shot and yet were still widely used.

The Widow Mine is not going to get its health cut anytime soon. That would be a balance call rather than a design call. But the next time issues with the Widow Mine come up, rather than just cutting its damage again, maybe think about adjusting its durability instead. Personally, I would even be in favor of the Mine getting a damage buff if it meant a durability trade off.

 

Throwing Shade

I’ve gone through a lot of this already so I’ll be sparing on the details here. Psionic Transfer was an interesting experiment but the results are back and they don’t look good.Toxic Design I almost feel it’s a cop-out to include this because of how vocal the community has been about this ability. But still, the balance team hasn’t really done anything about it so maybe it’s not as obvious as I thought. Sure they cut the shade vision, but all that did was make the shading process into guesswork.

This arguably made the Adept even more toxic to play against. At least when the Adepts had vision you could reasonably predict when the Protoss would commit or not. Now that the shades are blind, you really never know when the Protoss is going to go full yolo. This new layer of unpredictability means that the act of activating Psionic Transfer alone is enough to keep an opponent on the defensive.

The community has been vocal enough about this that the fact that Psionic Transfer still exists in its current form can only be described as stubbornness on the balance team’s part. Yes, we Protoss players have had our laughs with this one but the joke is getting old. The ability to cancel shades needs to go.

 

Supply Pits

Let’s talk about offense vs defense in esports. As a rule of thumb, you generally want defending to be somewhat more skillful than executing an attack. This is done to encourage aggressive tactics and discourage passive playstyles that risk creating boring or monotonous shows for audiences. Supply Pits are units that take this concept to the absolute extreme. These are units like the Disruptor and Seeker Missiles that are exponentially harder to defend against than they are to use. And failing to defend against them can at times have game-ending results.

Spending 10 minutes building up an army only to lose it all in a second is a unique experience, and one not often seen in the RTS genre. Being on the receiving end of a Supply Pit is easily the most toxic experience in StarCraft II and one of the most toxic experiences in any esport.

With this in mind, the damage fade of splash and AoE damage is worth reviewing at least once. We can call it a social experiment. And if there is any aspect of StarCraft II that’s worth experimenting on, this is it.

 

Why does my Core Unit look like ass?

Toxic Design

It shoots lasers from its eyes. You know, just in case the design wasn’t dumb enough as is.

While we are on the topic of bad design, let’s talk about the Stalker. Granted, the Stalker is badly designed in a different way but it still makes me want to break my screen so here we are. Every race has one or two core units. These are units that are generally useful at all points in the game which are capable of fun micro-mechanics. Terran has Marine-Marauders, for Zerg: Hydralisks and Ravagers. If you only started playing StarCraft some time in the last few months, it’s easy to think that our Core unit is the Adept.

To a certain extent, the Adept has become a core unit despite scaling poorly into the late game. But Protoss has had another core unit for years prior to Legacy of the Void and that is the Stalker.

Toxic Design

It’s a Winter’s Veil Miracle

If I had to describe the Stalker, I would say it looks like the result of an underachieving demon possessing a mashed-on beetle. I wish I could say that was an exaggeration, that really just is what the Stalker looks like. Just like it isn’t an exaggeration to say the Stalker is possibly the single ugliest unit ever designed in the history of the RTS genre.

How or why the Stalker’s current design came into existence is a mystery. My theory is that some famous Protoss player slept with Dustin Browder’s wife and this was his revenge. Whatever the case, I think we’ve been punished long enough. Zerg has their sleek Hydras, Terrans have their badass Marines but somehow Protoss got stuck with Little Nicky.

WarChests are coming later this year, all I ask is that we get a skin that makes the Stalker not look like ass.


 

Featured images courtesy imgbaseAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Keybind

Keybinds, Brood War 1.18 and a Letter to Blizzard

Earlier this week, Blizzard made the announcement that custom keybinds will be dropped from the upcoming Brood War patch 1.18. Now, this was a confusing call for a lot of reasons. Primarily, praise for the feature seemed almost unanimous, so of course, the community has been quite vocal in response.

How can something as simple as keybinds spark a debate? That’s a valid question, so let’s get into it.

 

Lack of Transparency

To start, the announcement itself was a bit awkward. Literally all the information we were given was that the intention was to gather feedback and that the feature will not be live with 1.18. And of course, the promise to continue the conversation in the feature.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

If you feel like something is missing here, there is. And that something is context. As in, there was absolutely no context here to work with whatsoever. Was this a decision based on negative feedback or was it that the version in testing was simply to buggy to meet the intended release date? We don’t know, and naturally, wherever there is a lack of information, speculation and assumptions rush in to fill the gap.

Many have expressed concern that this was an intentional design choice while others insist it is only a temporary deferment. But the reality is we’re all just taking turns in our attempts to read between the lines.

 

A Letter to Blizzard – A Matter of Common Decency

The debate over whether or not custom keybinds should go through is largely a stubborn rivalry between purists and progressives. Before we get into the details, its important to note that purity is very important to the StarCraft Remastered project. Particularly, preservation of the original gameplay absolutely must be kept as is.

Brood War, even after 19 years, still has an active playerbase that rivals, if not surpasses, that of the StarCraft 2. Particularly in Korea, the home of StarCraft, StarCraft 2 never had lasting appeal over its predecessor. To say StarCraft 2’s Korean playerbase is a fraction of their Brood War scene is still saying very little.

For this reason, any type of change that may affect Brood War’s gameplay is a very touchy subject. For the most part, both the foreign community and feedback from Korean pros seem to be in agreement that features such as unit pathing and control group sizes are important pivots in Brood War’s gameplay and absolutely should not be touched.

Keybindings are a bit more of a grey area. It’s not at all controversial to say Brood War’s default layout is absurd. Some of the most basic interactions require you to move your hand all the way across the keyboard and back. Not only is it exceptionally awkward for new players, the setup has the effect of tiring out your wrists making Brood War largely inaccessible for players with weak wrists or wrist injuries.

Preservation of the original gameplay is important. That’s something I would never argue against. Keybinds, however, don’t have a direct effect on gameplay. Nor does having the ability to customize layouts have a negative effect on professional players. In StarCraft 2 for example, at the highest level players are known to use Standard layouts and Grid among others with minor customization.

On the other hand, the inability to customize hotkeys ostracizes any player whose wrist can’t take the stress of the default layout. The arguments against this have been, from what I’ve seen, non-existent. The firm stance of Purists on the matter has been either “f*** casuals” or the more ironic declaration to “stop being lazy”.

Brood War is an iconic game and I understand purity is important. But this isn’t a matter of purity, it’s a matter of common decency.

Wrist related injuries are becoming more and more common in the esports world. And failing to accommodate players with injuries for the sake of purity isn’t a road anyone should consider going down. Because right now we’re at keybindings and it raises the question: what is the next stop down? Refusing to allow colorblind mode because “f*** casuals”?

 Keybinds

 

This is Brood War and Korea remains King

At the end of the day, StarCraft Remastered, and Patch 1.18 by extension, is Blizzard’s own love letter to Korea. And the truth is they’ve more than earned it. While StarCraft 2 never met a warm reception in Korea, Koreans have long stayed loyal to Brood War. Even 19 years later it remains one of the top five games in the country that laid the building blocks for modern esports. Brood War wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t for Korea’s passion for the game.

And regardless of how highly our approval was for this feature, we’re still the foreigners here. Ultimately, the country that has kept Brood War alive for over 19 years will be the ones to make this call. And that’s as it should be.

Unfortunately at the moment, like everything else, we don’t know what the reception of the Korean community has been. What we do know is that many Korean Brood War pros were consulted and intimately involved in this project. Including the legendary “TaekBangLeeSsang”, the four most dominant players in the history of StarCraft.

It’s very unlikely this feature would have even gone into testing without the approval of at least some of Brood War’s pro scene and that is perhaps the one hopeful thought I have to offer.

If there is a resistance against this feature within the Korean community, we haven’t been told so. But if there is, I can only ask to Blizzard to appeal the humanity in your audience. Because while indeed some foreigners see Koreans as Gods, I can assure you wrist injuries and disabilities affect them every bit as much as they affect us.


Featured images courtesy WallPapersCraft and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Adept

Unit in Review: The Adept

Lynching the entire Protoss player base has been the hot topic of discussion in the StarCraft II community recently, as is the norm following any major Protoss win. That said, it seems wrong to waste the opportunity to talk about one of the most controversial units in the game while everyone is yelling about it. Of course, I’m referring to the Adept.

Even amongst the unfiltered hatred there are very valid criticisms about the Adept, let’s not be mistaken. It’s a unit without a clear method of counter-play which is never healthy design. To Blizzard’s credit, they have tried interesting, but ultimately unsuccessful, ways of providing workarounds. It’s a delicate subject because there’s really no statistical evidence to show the Adept is imbalanced. However, it is undeniably a frustrating unit to play against which has always been the core issue.

What makes the Adept so frustrating, why have previous design changes failed and what can and should be done? These are the topics of today’s discussion. So let’s get into it.

 

Psionic Transfer

For the unfamiliar, Psionic Transfer is the Adept’s ability to project un-targetable shades of itself. After 7 seconds, the Adept teleports directly to the location of its shades. Now, what makes the Adept frustrating isn’t its ability to teleport. Rather, it’s the Adept’s ability to cancel it.

If it were not possible to cancel Psionic Transfer, the solution becomes obvious: just follow the shades. Instead what we have is a mind game, for which there is no clear solution. Attempting to follow the shades will only result in the Protoss canceling them. If you stick with the main body, then the shade goes through. Attempting to split your army creates the worst possible scenario where the Protoss can potentially prey on the divided force whether they decide to commit to the shades or not.

Adept

Now this commitment went badly for Stats but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The solution becomes obvious then, why not just take away the ability to cancel the shades?

Indeed, this is hardly a unique idea. In fact, it’s been brought up for as long as the Adept was available for testing in the Legacy of the Void beta. And since then, the balance team’s stance on the matter has been to avoid creating overlap with the Stalker. Now, this is a frustrating response for many reasons, which I’ll get into in the next section. And given that Blizzard has gone to great lengths to dance around this idea despite how often it comes up, it indicates their stance on this hasn’t changed.

Blizzard’s solution for shades was admittedly clever. They cut the vision of the shades, effectively making them blind, making it much riskier for Protoss to commit to shades, and giving opposing players the ability to counterplay by dodging the shades. This worked in the short-term, but eventually players learned to gauge the amount of resistance they should expect at certain timings. Giving rise to the YOLO strategy. Accepting that you don’t 100% know whether it’s safe to teleport in, but you have the statistics on your side, so YOLO.

 

Stalker-Adept Overlap – The Design Dilemma

To start, the Adept and Stalker are functionally different in too many ways. The Stalker with its ability Blink, which allows the Stalker to immediately teleport a short distance, functions as an assassination unit. Blink allows the Stalker to pick off priority targets before they’re able to respond. Alternatively, it’s a precise tool for picking off an enemy unit, particularly transport units, attempting to retreat.

Adept

The 3 tank, Liberator timing. The Liberator sieges from the sky while the Tanks zone out from the ground.

Unlike the Stalker, which can attack both ground and aerial units, the Adept can only attack units on the ground. Furthermore, the timed delay on the transfer limits the Adept’s ability to make decisive assassinations, even more-so when you consider shades are restricted by terrain.

The design overlap explanations become even shakier when you consider Liberators and Siege Tanks. The Liberator is another unit that was added to StarCraft II with Legacy of the Void. And much like the Adept, the Liberator has been cause for more much frustration. Particularly, the Siege Tank and Liberators both fulfill very similar roles. They are both stationary units that excel at zoning control. This overlap between Liberators and Siege Tanks has been cause for some of the most oppressive strategies over the last season, most notably, the 3 Tank-Liberator timing which has been largely responsible for the Phoenix-Adept meta of PvT.

This sends a very confusing message that design overlap is fine when it comes to creating oppressive gameplay but when it comes to solving oppressive interactions, then it becomes an issue.

It’s just not a valid concern. Even if there was an overlap, which there isn’t, there is no argument to be made between whether toxic design should be upheld to avoid creating redundant design.

 

The trade-off

As I mentioned before, the balance of the Adept really isn’t in question, only the design is. So removing the Adept’s ability to cancel shades will have to be compensated somehow.

Damage Point

One of the more elegant possibilities is reducing the Adept’s damage point in exchange for the shade nerf. Damage point is the initial delay period between an attack command and the attack execution. This does not directly affect a units damage per second but has a large effect on a unit’s micro control. Units with a lower damage point are able to stutter step with better efficiency. This means, for the nerf the Adept could be given better potential for micro control.

Smoother Power Curve

Another possible solution is creating a small percentage splash damage buff as a tier upgrade above the Adept’s research upgrade, Resonating Glaives. The net result of this will be a direct nerf to the Adept’s early game survive-ability but creates more utility for the Adept in the late game. The Adept, traditionally a unit that becomes useless in the late end of the game. This change would effectively soften the Adept’s power curve, trading out its early game dominance for longevity.


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Brood War

Brood War Adventures – Preparing for the Journey Home

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the possibility of a Brood War Renaissance. It’s 2017, and Brood War is once again completely relevant to current events. This is not a wishful, “what if” piece. This is it, we’re actually on the trail. I have to wonder how many esports writers over the years have thought of this moment as a wild dream.

For so many esport writers and athletes, their passion for craft started with Brood War. Most went on to other games and other projects: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch. Yet Brood War was the starting point of that passion, and it’s for that reason it holds a sentimental place in the esport world. With that in mind, it’s a powerful experience to be here, writing about a game that meant so much to so many.

It is no secret that Brood War has a steep learning curve, even by StarCraft 2’s harsh standards. You’ve likely heard so much about it. What I’d like to talk about are the things they don’t tell you. The walls you run into that catch you off-guard.

 

Map Vision

You’ve heard so much about Brood War’s pathing issues that affect your ability to get around the map. But what you didn’t expect is the almost completely black screen you’re met with once you get into a game. Unlike StarCraft 2, which features a greyed out map from the start of the game, the maps in the original are completely black until you explore them for the first time in that game. This means that before you get into a game, it will be worthwhile to spend some time studying the map layouts.

A good starting point is just picking a single map, study it and play an AI game or two to get a feel for the terrain. Lost Temple and/or Luna are good options for their popularity. There’s a useful page worth looking at containing a list of the most popular maps in Brood War, courtesy Team Liquid.

Once you’re comfortable enough with a map that the black screen isn’t as much of an issue, try hosting a few games on it. If someone refuses to play you on a map you’re familiar with, just call them an LotV scrub and block them.

Brood War

Luna: an infamously straightforward, macro-focused map. Good for learning the basics of the game.

 

Builds

If you’ve done your research on Brood War, you’ve likely heard and perhaps even studied a few of the more famous builds. As commendable as that is, just forget them. At least for your first month. Macro in Brood War is an exceptionally complicated affair. Your first goal is to be able to start producing units. Rather than following a strict build order, just keep a priority list in mind and a general idea of what your end game strategy will be.

Of course, this is not to say Builds should never be used. Build Orders are especially important later down the line as you’re looking to refine your technique with pinpoint accuracy. But you’re better off avoiding them until you’re at least comfortable enough that you’re producing units at a steady pace.

 

Basic Defensive Tactics

 

Positioning in Brood War is everything. Even more than in StarCraft 2. In your early studies on maps, it’s important to identify choke points and open areas you’ll either want to hold or avoid depending on what race you’re playing. If you’re playing Protoss vs Zerg, for example, you’ll want to avoid straying in open areas or risk being surrounded. Furthermore, you’ll want to focus on positioning your units on choke-holds. With Zealots positioned at the bottom of the ramp and Dragoons holding the top. Zerg players will want to focus on baiting Protoss into open territory, usually by threatening map control.

It’s worth noting that in Brood War, attacking into high-ground from the low ground is suicide. This is due to units having a percentage chance of missing when attacking units at an elevated advantage. A final point, specifically for Protoss players, don’t be afraid to split your units. In StarCraft 2, Protoss can’t split units in the early game, but this couldn’t be more different in Brood War. Creating lines of defense is an important tactic for all races. Especially when making an attack into an enemy position, it’s good to have a defensive position held for your assault team to fall back to in case the attack goes badly.

Brood War

Priority zones: Green – A Ramp Protoss can favorably hold with Zealots and Dragoons, Blue – A funnel Terran can exploit using Siege Tanks and Spider Mines, Red – An open area Zerg can use to flank from multiple angles

 

 

Featured images courtesy Team LiquidAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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