Apologies for the cryptic title, I feel I’ve already alienated 95% of the potential audience but hey ho! Micro and Macro are just a couple of terms in the rich lexicon of the Starcraft 2 multiplayer scene, and it is a scene, arguably the cornerstone of modern competitive e-sports which has its own sponsors, events and superstars. However at the other end of the spectrum lies me: a poor, feeble wretch of a player. Despite having loved the singleplayer experience and being a fan of RTS strategy games for years I have never been able to break onto the competitive multiplayer scene. By equal measures of social experiment and bettering myself I have therefore decided to invest a whole month into becoming the best SC2 player I can be over a four week period. Each week we will take a look at where I stand with Blizzard’s built-in ranking system and hopefully be pleased, because to be honest, the only way is up.
The Problem Is…
As I mentioned previously I was a huge fan of the singleplayer campaign, it wasn’t the engrossing story arc or believable character progression that necessarily tickled my fancy. No, no I believe the attraction is playing against an AI opponent in the campaign. As with all of the facets of my gaming life I much prefer to play against a computer foe as it is safe and predictable. The AI will not attack early and let me turtle up nice and cosy, allowing me to build a colossal force for a single massive pile-up at the end. In my early trial matches it was very plain to see that SC2 multiplayer isn’t a turtling simulator, most of my matches only lasted less than 5 minutes. I feel that this is my first major hurdle I must overcome if I am to have any form of success in this project.
What better way to get better at something than go balls deep and get playing! Using the one-click matchmaking system I was automatically paired up with someone in my league, someone, in theory that is one the same sort of playing level as myself. You see when you first start dabbling in the multiplayer you are asked to participate in about three placement matches, from these performances SC2 can better tailor your experience by pairing you with opponents of roughly the same competence. So the digital version of Hogwart’s House Sorting Hat crinkled its velvety brow before throwing me into the lowest league, Bronze. I thought this was a good thing, by being in the lowest league surely an RTS aficionado with a 24″ monitor and gaming mouse would find some easy scalps in an underdog story in the making.
By Christ, how wrong could I be! Out of the first 10 matches I only won 1, and that was because my foe was probably using a dial-up connection from the way his units would rubberband back and forth. It was astoundingly clear a lot of homework needed to be done.
This week’s homework: Livestreams
My inspiration for this piece didn’t come to me in a dream or a cryptic message in a cup of coffee. The past two months I’ve been going deep into the dark side of geekery by watching livestreams on Justin.tv. Various tournaments are normally taking place at any hour of the day. For the first week you’d be hard pushed to see any difference in strategy, but slowly, like the emerging 3D image of a Magic Eye picture, you can start to see the nuances to the plays made. I normally watch the streams with live commentary, especially to pick up the lingo that SC2 is rampant with. I now know the difference between a 2-rax and a 4-gate, just not how or when to use them. Still, I feel watching livestreams is an invaluable resource to those who wish to tread my path. In particular the channels of Imba.tv and Shoutcraft go that extra mile to entertain and inform.
As mentioned above, my first week out of the gate was terrible taking a single win out of 10 games. Feeling I perhaps wasn’t prepared to face my public I elected to play against AI opponents offline. Starting on medium difficulty and working up, I can now win about 50% of games against a very hard AI foe. Also I’ve been trying my hand on the challenge scenarios, each crafted to slowly bring you into the multiplayer mentality and teach you about unit counters, hotkeys and basic positioning.
Week 1 summary
It has been a very hard week but I am still motivated. With other competitive multiplayer games such as Heroes of Newarth the loses often feel unfair and the resulting amount of abuse doesn’t really make for a happy learning experience. Blizzard really have gone the extra mile with their post match statistics which include build orders, economic graphs and easily saveable replays so you can see exactly why you lost. I think the most valuable thing I have learned this week is how to lose and not punch a hole in the wall. Although my climb to fame hasn’t been as easy as I thought, I am at least encouraged and can see a feasible end point.
Week start position: 78th in Bronze League.
Week end position: 54th in Bronze League.