As an old hand in the Starcraft community, Team Liquid has the unique opportunity of looking at SC2 through the eyes of Starcraft veterans. Today, we do just that. Last week, Waxangel took us back in time, and this week he's going to use that background to compare SCBW and SC2. Is the sequel more of the same? Is it better, or worse? Find out below.
Then, we're going to sit back and enjoy as Liquid`Drone enters the fray, playing non-stop since receiving a beta key so you guys can have insight from one of the SC community's oldest competitive players. Eriador has been around since SC 1.0, and really, what better way to look at SC2 at the moment than to compare it with how Broodwar looked in its infancy? Scroll right down for Starcraft: Then and Now.
First though, here's our Resident Korean #1 with Long Live the King
Long Live the King!by Waxangel
After a hundred odd games of Starcraft II, I can say with certainty that it is very fun. I can also say to everyone who wanted Starcraft: BW – but better – it’s not gonna happen.
With Starcraft II, it looks like Blizzard has tried hard to make a game that’s a true successor to Brood War. That’s very different from Warcraft III, where they tried to do something fundamentally different from Warcraft II. As far as sequels go, Starcraft II is as un-innovative as they get. You mine resources almost the same way, there are many parallels between the units in both games, the damage/HP ratios are similar, the theory of map making is similar, etc. It’s practically an homage to Starcraft 1. All this similarity is intentional, because Brood War-but-better really is the goal. Unfortunately for Blizzard, with all their talent and power, that’s something they cannot achieve.
Sequels sown in succession, surely some should succeed?
Over ten years of successful competitive play have proved that Brood War isn’t your ordinary video game. Other games live out a robust two year life and are replaced by their sequels. Televised shows, professional gamers, and silly non-Koreans who play an ancient relic of a game prove that Brood War is something else completely. While Brood War might not yet compare to long-running competitions like chess or basketball, it has become one of those establishments that are defined by their immutability and permanence. Brood War is a game of such stature that it transcends succession.
Even the flaws are considered to be a venerable tradition. One big difference between Starcraft I and II is that the sequel is just too smart. Starcraft: Brood War is a game full of stupidity that you have to overcome through quick wits and fast hands. There are no alerts when dark templars one-hit your workers, melee units refuse to acquire targets intelligently, reavers will shoot duds when told to shoot the wrong targets, and a plethora of other annoying things happen on a regular basis. Yet, we enjoy overcoming these inconveniences, call it skill, and say that Starcraft II sucks because it’s not stupid.
An immortal says goodbye to its idiot cousin, the dragoon.
But I’m not saying Starcraft II sucks. It’s not even a matter of one game being better or worse, and beyond being objective or judging. It’s just the fact that there is a difference with the original at all. Starcraft 1 and 2 are like baseball and softball, rugby league and rugby union, or football and futsol. One may have inspired the other, but they should be treated as completely different games in competition. Forget the “Starcraft” in “Starcraft II,” and give it a shot on its own merits. Two means new, and nothing else.
Parallel competition is probably what will end up happening in Korea. The history of game leagues in Korea has shown us there is room for any amount of games as long as they are popular. Until they stop getting paid, the Brood War progamers will continue to play Brood War, OnGameNet will sell commercial time during Brood War games, and KeSPA will keep selling the broadcast rights they invented during a crack dream. In the meanwhile, the people who aren’t making money off of Brood War will see if they can make money off Starcraft II instead (the TeamLiquid staff will continue to flog themselves for nothing).
I was excited when I heard Starcraft II was coming out, but I didn’t know why. Now that I’ve tried the beta test, I realize that I was excited because I wanted to play another excellent Blizzard game. I never needed a sequel to Starcraft, because it was perfect all along.
Being a Starcraft fan is the practice of taking amazing for granted.
Being a Starcraft fan is the practice of taking amazing for granted.
Alrighty, it's time for more time travel. Let's go back to 1998, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and the mighty Eriador grazed the lush planes of Battle.net!
Starcraft: Then and Nowby Liquid`Drone
When Starcraft was first released in March 1998, few could have imagined that it would remain competitive in 2010. However, even disregarding Korea, the greatest tournament outside Korea through those 12 years just finished hours prior to writing this. In fact, having been around since the very beginning, I can recount several moments where the death of starcraft was announced, perhaps most prominently prior to the release of Blizzard’s previous RTS game – Warcraft 3. None of these predictions came to fruition – our great beloved game is as alive as ever. Or at least it was, until about 10 days ago, when the Starcraft 2 – Wings of Liberty Beta test was officially opened. I personally did not get my key until five days ago, and I did not play it until four days ago, because apparently I did not have enough RAM and the computer store was closed because it was after 5 pm on Tuesday. Ever since I walked home with a brand new computer on Wednesday, my thoughts and actions have been completely occupied with Starcraft 2, and after the first 160 games or so, I feel somewhat qualified in commenting on how it differs from its precursor – and more importantly, how good is it?
Few who read this will have played Starcraft during its 1.00 patch. You did not miss out on a lot. Especially in public games, the game largely revolved around zerg players creating invincible drones through a bug and doing whatever with those. Some players had discovered 4-pooling, and before anyone had a clue how to micro peons, this was pretty deadly. Cannons dealt explosive damage, sunkens had a slower fire rate than sieged tanks, there were no medics, lurkers, corsairs, dark templars, or those other three brood war units that are hardly ever used. In fact, months after release, many players were massing scouts, as these units fired almost twice as fast as they do today, and people generally (ignoring a small community of Kali players who had experience with Warcraft 2 –more on this later) had no clue how to play and thus allowed people to live long enough to actually assemble a fleet of them. The invincible drone bug was fixed reasonably fast, but not too long after, terran players discovered how to float command centers right next to their minerals enabling them to mine at almost twice the rate of zerg’s or protosses. Frankly the game was so imbalanced at this point, to terran’s disfavour, that this evened things out more than anything, but it still shows what Starcraft players had to deal with in 1998. Yet, we continued playing.
We played this game. A lot.
The Starcraft we eventually grew to love came in two hugely significant updates. First: The 1.04 patch and the Brood War addon gave some much needed balance and seven brand new units. Second: The 1.08 patch, which included both the final balance changes as well as the absolutely integral replays. This patch was not released until May 2001, and believe me, Starcraft pre-1.08 was a vastly inferior product. Even so, there certainly wasn’t anything better, and we happily played it for three years. Since then the actual game has stayed the same (even with ten or so patches - these have been bug fixes or changes to Battle.Net), but Starcraft has evolved a lot. This however, has been the product of the player-base evolving strategies that both awe the audience and balance the game, non-playing programmers developing extremely valuable addons (Lan-latency being the most influential), Iccup combining the efforts of WGTour and PGTour to create the most perfect ladder ever, and mapmakers ensuring we would have new grounds to combat on every couple months. Essentially – Starcraft as we know it today is not the game Blizzard published in 1998. What they published back then was a much, much less finished game than the beta I have been enjoying for the past four days, but due to blizzard continuing to polish their game three years after the initial release, and fans of starcraft caring more than a decade later, computer game perfection was achieved.
The main difference between playing Starcraft back in 1998 and the Starcraft Two beta in 2010 is not the difference between the games. It is the difference between the players. As I mentioned, when Starcraft was first released, almost nobody knew RTS games. Now, the higher ranks in the different ladder division are dominated by people with thousands of hours of RTS gaming experience. Although I played a lot of Starcraft the first two years of Starcraft, I can confidently say that I am already a better Starcraft 2 player than I was a Starcraft 1 player in early 2000. This is not unique to me – my win ratio so far in the beta is below 70%, and I notice that mostly everyone I play are well aware of all the integral basics of RTS games.
The players also had different demands Then and Now – back then, we wanted a fun reasonably balanced real time strategy game. Now, we want a game where it will be possible to continue improving after playing for a decade. We want Blizzard to recreate Starcraft, without realizing that the Starcraft we love was, more than anything, a fluke which turned into something absolutely incredible through years of effort from thousands of players and followers. In fact, some of the greatness of competing in Starcraft stems from being able to overcome the faults of the AI. Goons killing mines they can’t spot (and often not doing so because they’re dumb – which is why watching someone do it flawlessly is great), vultures jumping past pylons because their pathing gets screwed up for a second when they lay mines, building pylons outside an opponent’s gateway right before his goons spawn because they follow a predictable spawn-pattern which cannot be decided by the player controlling the gateways. The usefulness of Mutalisks suddenly multiplied when someone accidentally noticed that you could stack them if you had them hotkeyed together with a far-away unit. These are all examples of unintentional manipulation of a flawed AI which enabled players to pull of awesome moves. (Not to toot my own horn too hard. )
Stacked mutalisks explain the importance of micro to an unsuspecting Terran.
I have noticed a lot of good Starcraft players complaining about Starcraft 2 being too dumbed down. Complains about MBS and automining have been more prominent than any other, but frankly, I feel these are entirely misguided. Blizzard has done an absolutely tremendous job listening to the wishes of the Starcraft community of adding redundant clicks to make the game more difficult while maintaining the expectations all non-Starcraft players have with regards to the interface. While they have enabled MBS and automining, the Chrono Boost from the Nexus, the Queen and the combined scan-mule of the command centre succeeds in both requiring an immense amount of speed to fully utilize and in giving some sense of strategic choice. With regards to base management, which was the biggest fear I had, I absolutely love Starcraft 2. In fact, I love the game in general. Playing it is immensely fun, the music is stunningly great for all three races (so far I have exclusively been randoming), and it really feels like the better player wins – although there are some imbalances at the moment and some build orders that have particular momentum. Comparing this – and let us remember that we are at the very beginning of the beta phase – with the actual release of Starcraft 1, there is not a shadow of doubt in my mind. Starcraft 2 is a vastly superior game.
The Money is in the Micro
However, and bear in mind that this is stated with very limited experience... (And we do need to consider that we are in the first two weeks of the beta test.) As a long-lasting competitive game, Starcraft 2 might have less ”Awe-factor” than Starcraft did. It lacks flashy micromanagement. Walking up and down cliffs with reapers raping peons, it feels awesome. But it’s easy. I could pull it off quite decently the second game I played with Terran. Obviously it improves, but most of the micromanagement has the same feel to it. Blizzard has improved the AI to such an extent that the units actually behave the way you tell them to – but this also means that anyone is able to pull off what they are trying to do. Watching someone shoot a perfect free kick in football would not be impressive if you knew he just had to decide to do this, it is impressive because even though he knows exactly what to do, it is really difficult to execute it. This allegory can be transferred to mostly all sports, especially any involving a ball: if it is easy, it’s not impressive.
Now – the macro aspect is wonderful. This is what most people were afraid of; that there just wouldn’t be enough to do. I myself expected that while writing this, I would find myself stating that despite my inexperience, I felt like there were more things I wasn’t able to find time for doing in Starcraft 1 than in starcraft 2. This is not even remotely close to the truth. Starcraft 2 is absolutely riddled with constant tasks that need to be done for optimal play. In Starcraft 1, I’ve had many games where my minerals constantly stayed below 500 despite being on 4 saturated bases. In starcraft 2, it appears like everyone is struck by the yellow syndrome – me included. People just don’t seem to be able to maintain good macromanagement when they have more than two saturated expansions, and frankly, it’s rare to even run into someone mining from more than two bases at the same time. (Quite possibly for this reason.) Whereas the micro is from my perspective not sufficiently demanding, constantly landing mules, charging whatever building needs to be charged (especially if you have three nexus’.. ), injecting larvea into every hatchery you own, is an aspect of the game where the room for improvement is enormous.
Some final comments, at least for now; Starcraft 2 feels great. Blizzard genuinely attempted to remake Starcraft just the way we want it. They have updated the interface to meet the demands of a new generation – which is absolutely necessary to enthrall an audience consisting ”not solely of ex-Starcraft players”. While doing this, they have supplied us with enough additional tasks, and ones that are actually strategically relevant (although they certainly need some alterations – the supply boost is completely useless, you usually know when you should use the mule, and I think a good 98% of the time I have used a queen or seen a queen be used, it has been used to inject larvae.) , to make speed continue to be an important factor. In fact I am quite certain you will need at least equally high APM to succeed in Starcraft 2 as you need in Starcraft, probably even higher if you play protoss. There are however, unfortunately, significant problems as well, and I am not sure Blizzard can (nor wants to) do anything about these, because they essentially stem from the game being properly programmed. I am not even certain it’s possible to intentionally replicate the ”charming flaws” of Starcraft. And to be fair: Starcraft happened over ten years. We are currently at the end of the first ten days of the beta. Expecting the world’s greatest computer game to be replicated at this stage is perhaps demanding a little much, even from Blizzard. If you compare what we have now to what was released in 1998, applause is the only option.
That wraps up our Week 3 opening. We hope it was a good read and that you'll be back midweek as we bring you more from the wonderful word of beta! Till then, good luck and good games.
This post was made by the Team Liquid Starcraft 2 Coverage Team. For more of TL's coverage, please visit the Team Liquid Starcraft 2 Beta Page.