I have watched hundreds of games of Starcraft 2 in and out of tournaments, games with something on the line and just practice games between two good players. I have seen A LOT of games in Starcraft 2 and over this time I have come to a conclusion.
The balance in Starcraft 2 seems good, but the maps suck
Let me clarify this before people rage endlessly. Brood War maps were imbalanced too but there was a good selection of maps that were imbalanced towards the different races so that as a whole the map pools were mostly balanced. Right now most of Blizzard maps seem to be constructed with the same couple of building blocks, and as a whole this has lead to the same types of maps over and over with different faces.
Right now theres a lot of whining about Terran imbalance and I think this isn't really anything to do with Terran imbalance as a race, but the fact that the majority of the maps in the map pool are very easily exploited by Terrans. These are the conclusions I've come to.
- Unsafe expansions which have multiple entrances make it hard for zerg and protoss to expand quickly against terrans.
There is no real safe expansion in the map pool, Blistering sands itself is safe but if you are guarding that your backdoor is open. Steppes of War has a side entrance by the rocks which you have to expend extra effort to cover. The two new maps have horrendously open exapansions, and a back expansion that is easily punished by cliffs.
LT is one of the safest expansions out there but can be taken down by thor/tank drops easily. Terrans on the current map pool with the use of hellions, reapers, thor/tank drops are able to punish the other races the most for taking early expansions while they delay their expansion until siege or merely expand while you are defending their harassment.
- Xel'Naga watch towers that are anywhere near central locations or major chokepoints on the map will favor Terran. The ability to grant siege tanks their full range by sitting next to a watch tower is very powerful. We've seen this proven many many times on Lost Temple and Metalopolis, what makes it worse are the fact that these watch towers are in defensible locations as well. There are chokepoints nearby that will force an army to constrict while hitting them the 4 walls on LT, the small cliff on Metal and Kulas ravine. Central watch towers make the middle of the map if it is not completely open a tank playground.
Xel'Naga watch towers as a whole are an interesting feature and I would not like to see them go even though map makers are experimenting with making maps that do not include them I think they have a lot of potential. But placing them in key locations next to choke points really has to stop, if they're near key map chokepoints make them vulnerable and hard to hold. Not like, Metal, Kulas, Blistering, but more like the watch towers on Desert Oasis.
- Large main bases many times with a lot of area for reapers to jump up in are good for terrans as well. They have sensor towers and are not bothered by HUGE main bases as they can be forewarned before a drop comes in, but a simple 4 marauder drop into one of the barren corners of your base can result in losing important buildings. The large size of the bases on most maps means reapers can get in easily and in order to defend against drops stupid amounts of static anti air are needed. This can also be beneficial to Zerg but that brings me around to the next point.
- We've figured out a lot about what makes a map a terran map, but we still have not figured out solidly what makes a map a protoss map or a zerg map. Until we can figure out what map features that solidly favor a zerg or a protoss it's hard to balance out the terran features on a map by giving it protoss and zerg features.
That brings me to my major point, I believe the balance as in racial balance is at a good point right now players are able to overcome the maps by extreme levels of play but overall we're seeing high Terran statistics because the maps are favoring Terran and the play level on the Ladder isnt quite as high.
My proposal on how to fix this is we need the map making community to try and do their best to purposely make zerg and protoss favored maps and have good players play on them.
"Wait doesn't this make it worse?" You are prone to ask, in the short term yes but in the long term it will allow us to figure out what map features will make a map good for zerg and protoss and when we are able to combine these features with the terran features that we already know then maybe we can come up with some more truly all around balanced maps.
Map making is still in it's infancy and I believe Starcraft 2 will not continue to grow as a whole until we can fix this and get better maps out for the community, we run the danger of hitting stagnation if the maps never evolve and change. That was one of the key features of Brood War was a constantly changing and evolving map pool, the map makers constantly pushing the bounds of what is balanced and what is not. There were some pretty famous examples ie Gorky Park, Demon Forest. But we learned from those mistakes so right now I propose we intentionally try and create some of those disaster maps so we can learn from them.