I decided to write an article about this topic, because Starcraft is incredibly important to me, it is, in a very true sense, my life. I felt there are some points in public discussions about the game right now that aren't being addressed. In this article, I'll be explaining a way to learn and approach the game that is different to what is most commonly taught. This way is much closer to the way I learned RTS back when I was young. I'll also be talking about why a complex and oftentimes difficult game will be a beautiful one.
Play like yourself – not like a pro
First of all, I'd like to make a proposal. Try to treat StarCraft like a sandbox! There are so many ways to play this game and you can find your own niche or style. Only when you reach the highest level will you have to master every aspect of StarCraft!
It seems to me that far too often lower league players are tying themselves unnecessarily to the way progamers play. They see, learn and even get taught builds of progamers, without adjusting them to their own skill level. Let me give you an example of how you can change that and probably have a better personal experience with the game.
Let's say you're Zerg, you're on 3 bases and struggle with macroing. You tend to float minerals and gas like it's nobody's business and get frustrated after another loss with 2000 minerals unspent. Macro is hard! But it doesn't have to be, it's only that hard if you want to play ''perfectly'' but aren't yet capable of it. So how can you make it easier? Don't entirely copy progamers!
Progamers often have to cut corners and take conscious risks to get an edge in their matches. But for you it's perfectly fine to get a safety spore if you struggle with Dark Templar regularly. When trying really hard to micro your mutas or lings like Life does it's fine if you add extra hatcheries to spend your money more easily . Once you identify your weaknesses, try to overcompensate. Then, when you start losing matches because you overcompensated, that's when you can tune it down until you find your perfect balance.
The great thing about StarCraft2 and especially Legacy of the Void is that, up until a very high level, you can play the game the way you like. If you enjoy micro, just make sure you add more production than would be required. Get three more barracks than you would need if you kept up production constantly and start those four supply depots before you attack so you can keep your pressure up.
If you're obsessed with macro, try to come as close as possible to pro macro, but don't bother with fancy control groups. Make liberal use of the select all army key, focus your efforts towards scouting so you don't get caught off guard and if necessary make more base defense than you'd see in GSL or WCS.
The main goal is to keep your money low, but you don't need to be perfect. Try to make it as easy for yourself as possible instead of getting frustrated with the game. Progress can and should be gradual. If you can't quite 4gate yet because microing and macroing at the same time is difficult, make it a 6gate. It may be theoretically worse, but you might climb a whole league just because you're finally spending your money. You'll enjoy the game much more and eventually the 6gate will become a 5gate until you reach the goal to pull it off with 4. And not just that, because you're not being held back by that single aspect that keeps frustrating you, you'll also learn the whole game better. As you, yourself, simplify macro it doesn't tower over the rest of cool things StarCraft2 has to offer anymore. Scouting, micro and decision making will become more relevant to your games than hitting your warp-in cycle perfectly.
Time and Action Management
Lately there's a term going around in the community that I couldn't disagree with more: ''Mindless clicking'' which is most prominently referring to larva injecting. The idea is that it's a meaningless task for progamers that they're all capable of doing perfectly while at the same time posing a more difficult and even tedious task for casual players, denying them access to more fun parts of the game.
I think I addressed the problem non-progamers are facing in the previous segment above, so I'll focus on the professional level of play from here on.
No one has perfect injects. If you say that, you're simply wrong.
While under no pressure, high level players will not miss an inject. But it becomes an interesting mechanic as soon as multitasking comes into play. When you're under attack as Zerg, your enemy will be able to do more than just direct damage. If they manage to keep you stressed and if they manage to play faster than you, they'll also do the indirect damage of making you miss injects and interrupt your creep spread. That means that there's complex on-the-spot decision making going on.
What's better, do I inject and lose a drone because I didn't micro it, or do I try to save the drone and then inject with the risk that I might still lose it and then also have the later inject? It's not always that obvious.
The two most satisfying things in SC2 to me are outplaying your opponent with speed and countering speed with strategy.
Most importantly, there is one thing people need to be aware of in my opinion – the more mistakes pros make in their games, the more interesting the matches are. Right now, on the highest level, LotV seems so complex that you're bound to make mistakes and have to prioritize what to focus on. Because of that alone, decision making in SC2 has never felt as important as in Legacy of the Void to me.
The less mistakes pros are making, the more it'll be about producing the perfect unit composition and we'll be back to what made SC2 stale previously. The more room for mistakes exists, the more room there is to outplay your opponent. And not just that - when people aren't playing close to perfectly, more possibilities arise. Games have much better odds of taking unique turns instead of two players repeating the same standard scenarios again and again. When the game is complex, it's hard to predict for the players, casters and audience what exactly will happen - and that's exciting.
People used to be much worse when we started playing SC2, that's why many fans are nostalgic about matches from 2010 and 2011. The matches were more exciting because they weren't as perfect. A perfect match can be appreciated by people with extremely high understanding of the game, but a back and forth battle in which the victor isn't clear for a long time is exciting to everyone. More mistakes lead to a less obvious outcome of the result.
If pros have to deal with complicated macro and micro at the same time, they won't be able to look at everything happening at once, which will allow them to exploit gaps in their opponent's attention span and force them to make hard choices. That's also exactly what makes exciting comebacks possible, and better players will have more room to make up for a disadvantage if they manage to tear their opponent apart mechanically.
This will also help progamers to distinguish themselves more from amateurs as well as from each other. Highly mechanical players will be able to produce miracle plays but very strategic players will be able to counter it with better preparation and compositions. My hope is that pros will become more unique in their styles once more. It would be amazing if some players could be known as ''strategists'' or ''creative'' () while others are ''multitasking mechanics''. That's only possible with a high enough mechanical skill ceiling though; else everyone will be more or less stylistically indistinguishable.
I want to argue that only when both macro and micro are difficult they have meaning.
Lately parts of the community are obsessing about the fact that if we make the design of macro easier, we'll see more amazing battles. Pros will be able to make cool plays all the time and the main culprit, why the game seems boring, is macro. However, I believe that if both players are able to focus mostly on the micro management of their units, we'll end up with less interesting posturing of units. Both players will have their guard up constantly which, in the end, due to defender's advantage, will discourage, not encourage engagements. When that happens, final composition and initial build orders play a bigger role than mechanics and strategy.
Only when macro and micro are relatively equal in importance magic happens. You should have a choice to prioritize one or the other. Either as a conscious decision on how you want to play in general, from match to match or even on engagement to engagement basis.
I know plenty of people who have atrocious macro but made it into masters based purely on micro and sneaky play. While others are great macro players but don't know how to do anything but 1a. They all made a conscious decision though, they decided to play the game the way they like.
With the current complex version LotV I strongly believe that there will be a lot of options for players to differenciate themselves from each other but also change it up from match to match. It's in our interest to promote that diversity, even if at times the difficulty can seem overwhelming.
If the game mechanics are too easy, there will less space for innovation and amazing come backs. Few cookie-cutter build orders will dominate. Players will have to follow a mainstream metagame more strictly and the sandbox will shrink significantly.
If you take away macro mechanics, or make macro easier in general, you take away the choice and freedom that players have to differentiate themselves. Ironically micro players, who are often said to benefit the most from LotV, will actually be the ones who suffer the most from that - when everyone can focus on micro, they won't be able to set themselves apart as much anymore.