There are two main aspects of strategy in starcraft that impact decision making: first, the obvious one, build orders/timings/troop movements/mind games/expansion timings/cheese/potential for cheese/ etc, or “game strategy.” All starcraft players, including AI, are restrained by the same things with regard to game variables (time, damage, speed, range, health, tech trees, resources, etc). If you only have 2 zerglings against 12 zealots, there’s next to nothing that you can do unless Blizzard was to give those zerglings +300 damage and +300 hp.. Likewise, on a more nuanced note, if you 14 CC and then 15 CC when your opponent 9pools, you’re pretty much dead given equal player skill/knowledge/etc. Blizzard is trying to not change this aspect of broodwar which is a no brainer, because the dev team (rightfully so) doesn’t want to impact balance/strategy between 1.16.1 and 1.18.x.
However, the second aspect of strategy in starcraft is what I’ll call “player strategy,” which changes from player to player and is somewhat absent when considering AI. Player strategy includes considerations with regard to apm, eapm, comfort with the UI, ability to think and execute under pressure, etc. As you’re aware, flashpoints in discussion like MBS and unlimited unit selection and unit pathing have been discussed to death prior to SC2’s release, throughout SC2’s life, and now in 1.18.x. Personally, I think that the lack of Blizzard’s understanding of this part of starcraft lead to SC2 being an inferior game. Now 1.18.x is threatened by the same ignorance, which I hope this post will somewhat alleviate. Oddly enough, day9 also mentioned the importance of this aspect of broodwar in one of his recent videos (right after or before 1.18.x was announced), although he wasn’t specifically talking about hotkeys. He was more referring to the importance of mechanical requirements and playing under pressure, from how I interpreted it.
You consciously or unconsciously temper your builds with understandings of your own mechanical abilities. An obvious example of this is playing against a godlike player and wanting to rush them to try to end the game as soon as possible so that your mechanical deficiency is limited to a shorter time span, decreasing its overall affect on your winrate vs the player (if you only go to 18 supply vs flash, you only have the chance to mess up building 2 overlords instead of trying to go to 100 supply, which would require more opportunities to make macro mistakes). Even playing vs players of your own skill level though, you choose builds that you feel most comfortable with. If you’re a player that excels at micro, you’ll focus on more aggressive builds that put your skill set at an advantage while disadvantaging your opponent relative to yourself. Likewise, if you’re the same micro player that has issues macroing off of 12 hatcheries, you’re probably not often going to try to 5 hatch hydra open vs protoss then transition into a macro heavy build because it just doesn’t suit your play style.. ESPECIALLY if that protoss is a strong macro protoss, because your skill set will be inferior in that sort of engagement of builds. This build choosing (and decision choosing, too) applies to ALL ‘player strategy’ considerations, not just hotkeys. I think that’s why in SC2 you didn’t see much differentiation between players, the mechanical considerations were so non-existent that everyone pretty much ended up playing the same optimal build. Broodwar has optimal builds as well, but player considerations have a much more noticeable effect on decision making, leading to more diverse games. Again, apm and eapm allocation, flavored with ui comfort and pressure considerations. I think the easiest way to get my point across is to give a few examples of some areas of strategy/skill differentiation that will be eliminated from the game if hotkey rebinding is implemented.
When you’re playing 1.16.1 and you can’t hit 5so6so7so8so reliably, your macro as a zerg is severely limited. Some people might say “dude, you don’t need to be able to make overlords from 4 hatches at once using only hotkeys!! Also, you can just click the icons too after hitting 5s!”, but I honestly believe that fluency in hotkeys is one of the most key features of a successful player’s repertoire. You might not need to hit 5so6so7so8so, but maybe you need to do 5sz6sz7sz8so, or 5sz6sz7so8sz depending on game conditions.. and if you end up missing the ‘o’ key on any of those rotations, and don’t notice, you are supply blocked, and will be behind as a result of your lack of practice/fluency with your hotkeys. Thus, you don’t just need to know “hey, ‘o’ is overlord,” you need to be ready to execute and allocate your practice accordingly. However, if you can just use a grid hotkey layout, I think your overlord would end up being ‘e,’ which even the noobest player could hit with near 100% accuracy on all hatchery macro rotations.. 5se6se7se8se,5se6sz7sz8sz, 5sz6se7sz8se, so you’re artificially a better player than a 1.16.1 player in that regard. You no longer have to really worry about fucking up your macro because Blizzard gave you an out in the form of rebinding overlord from ‘o’ to ‘e.’ I have been playing broodwar since release and I still miss ‘o’ at least once a game in the mentioned macro rotations, so I can only imagine that newer zergs have the same issue as well, which adds strategic considerations to their build and macro decisions.
Another common example even at high levels is ‘o’ for seiging/unseiging tanks.. if you’re stressed out in game and you miss the o key to seige, or if you DOUBLE click o, you’re at a significant disadvantage when juxtaposed with a mechanically superior player.. again, if your siege/unsiege is ‘e,’ the playing field is artifically leveled completely, alleviating this aspect of the game. some people might think that that mechanical superiority is an asinine distinction derived from archaic systems, but THAT’S WHAT STARCRAFT IS.. at least half of your skill as a broodwar player is your understanding of these stupid potential little mistakes that you yourself make, which better players don’t make (and worse players make more often).. your ability to play around your mistakes and operate in stressful situations is what makes you stand out compared to the guy sitting across from you and adds a lot to the nuance and strategy of the game.
Just so that protoss isn’t left out: hitting 5p6p7p8p is a pain. So is building pylons with bpbpbpbp etc. I really don’t play protoss much so i’m not sure about other considerations, but I know whenever I play hunters I have a hard time reliably building probes and pylons given the hotkeys, which gives mechanically superior protosses an advantage over me.
I’m sorry if a lot of this is common knowledge, it’s just frustrating seeing so many “broodwar players” ready to throw the heart of the game out the window for seemingly no reason.. you might think it’s not a huge deal, and it’s certainly not as massive as adding MBS or other assists. However, it’s still removing an aspect of skill, differentiation between players, and strategy from the game. Why is this being added in, for new players? New players should understand that while broodwar’s mechanics might seem outdated and restrictive, they as players are treated with the same respect by the game that the best of the best are. Additionally, new players can enjoy the benefit of throwing other new players off of form by owning them, leading them to fuck up their overlord macro.. they aren’t the only ones that suffer from this, they can use it to their advantage like everyone else already does. Furthermore,the game won’t ask them to go and read up about “optimal hotkey” layouts more than they already have to with vision hotkeys and control group layouts, allowing them to focus on improving at the game itself and enjoy broodwar in all its glory. That’s the appeal of starcraft for me at least.