Everything in this article is my opinion unless otherwise stated. As a progamer for several years now, I have a wealth of personal experience and observations to draw upon. That said, sometimes I have to speculate.
In the last few days a new LoTV patch was released. Source: here. MULEs and chronoboost were removed from the game while larva inject was reduced by 50% (generates 2 larva instead of 4), but can be set to auto-cast. There are some other changes in the patch but in this article I’ll be focusing on the macro mechanic changes.
You won’t be seeing this anymore.
The simplest implication is that the economy in each game gets going a bit slower than before. Each race will have less overall income at any given point in the game and their economy will not spike as quickly. From a strategic standpoint, harass and worker killing type builds are stronger as workers are slightly harder to replace now and thus more valuable. No build order has survived fully intact, but most builds are similar. For Terran, we can support fewer production structures for a given base count and have a lower ratio of minerals to gas. While the economies increase a bit slower than before, the game doesn’t feel slower. There is just a heavier emphasis on harass and smaller squad movements rather than just big army on army fights.
As the patch is quite new, I’ll keep my commentary to a Terran perspective. I haven’t had enough time to see how things are going on the Protoss/Zerg sides. There are 2 huge differences with this patch. The first is that early build orders do not involve an orbital command at the normal time and the second orbital comes much later than pre-patch. Unless you can actually use the supply drop you’re better off just producing scvs and the early extra scans are not useful. The balance between scan and supply drop is pretty interesting in the mid game and having more scans than usual is refreshing. Any builds that would abuse Terran’s lack of detection are substantially weaker after the patch. Banshees are basically gone from TvT and the threat of dark templar is pretty light. The lack of a need for extra orbitals also means you can pf your 3rd in almost every matchup and situation. This is a very welcome change as the game has become even more harass oriented.
When playing mech, you won’t notice much of a change in terms of your overall production. Gas has always been the limiting factor for mech so the removal of mules only helps keep the 2 resources more in balance. You’ll no longer easily bank several thousand minerals when playing mech to spend on turrets and extra orbitals. Of course, late game mass orbitals is also gone. Sometimes you’ll add 1 or 2 for more consistent scanning but without mule you can no longer do the heavy orbital economies of old.
When playing bio, you will have to adjust everything you used to do in terms of production structures, gas and expansion timings. As bio is a very mineral heavy unit composition, you can support far less production for any given base count. In addition, if you take the gases for every base you have, you will bank a lot of gas. Bio in TvT now requires even more expanding to increase mineral income to cope with your production requirements or to add some gas heavy units to supplement the basic bio medivac ball. The problem is that terran doesn’t really have accessible gas dumps like the other 2 races making the second option substantially harder. Nothing particularly useful comes out of the barracks that takes a lot of gas relative to its mineral cost. Adding extra factories/starports to dump your gas kind of defeats the purpose because usually at that point you’re so low on money that it’s unreasonable to add additional production anyway. Liberators are the best option right now as a second reactor’d starport offers a lot of production and they are 1:1 ratio of minerals to gas. As an aside, I’m really hoping for a mid/late game upgrade for the reaper to increase their viability past the early game.
Some say that Blizzard is making the game too easy and removing too much emphasis from macro. Others say that there will be no difference watching Life macro vs some lesser korean or foreign zerg. Another common argument for macro mechanics is that they are a necessary part of Starcraft as they are an interesting and defining element of the game. There are a number of balance complaints regarding macro mechanics, specifically from the terran perspective but this article is more focused on the philosophy of the changes as balance can be tweaked here and there in the future.
Macro is a big part of Starcraft and always has been. There’s no denying that macro is one of the most defining aspects of Starcraft. That said, Starcraft has so much more to offer than pure macro. The problem is that macro is the gateway to the rest of the game. Without good macro, you can’t experience a substantial part of what Starcraft offers. Micro, strategic decisions, tech switches and mind games all take a back seat to just ‘produce as much stuff as possible’ until you get close to optimal macro. High level macro impresses me in the same way that high level DDR impresses me. It shows a high level of expertise and a great deal of time invested but it does not show me any spark of brilliance. I want Starcraft to be a game that is more about strategy, micro, map control and positioning rather than about performing the same repetitive actions perfectly in order to eke out the biggest army possible. The interesting part of macro in Starcraft is the decision of what to make, not the execution of actually making it. By reducing the physical and mental requirements of macroing, players will have more time to focus on the more interesting parts of Starcraft. That said, removing macro mechanics does not make macro trivial, nor does it impact a player’s ability to make interesting decisions regarding their tech path and unit composition. While the difference in the number of units Life and a lesser Zerg player may decrease with this patch, macroing perfectly while doing all the other tasks on the map is not trivial and differences will still show. In addition, a player like Life will be able to demonstrate his skill by his tech choices and ability to hit sharp timings while multi tasking and controlling the map.
Some arguments have arisen that Blizzard should have done this change in baby steps. They want macro mechanics to be toned back but not removed all together. That way they would still have an impact if players are good enough to use them but not be as significant for those who can’t. I’m not interested in this ‘solution’ in the slightest. Macro mechanics take away from Starcraft by creating an additional barrier between the player and the core of the game which lie in player interaction and conflict. Starcraft has been a game about macro, but macro is not where Starcraft shines. Starcraft’s greatest strengths have always lied in interesting unit design and unique races.
The most interesting parts of Starcraft have to do with unit design, map control and micro. Without good macro, players cannot really experience those other aspects. By reducing the macro requirements, Starcraft can become a game that’s less about producing as much stuff as possible and more focused on the more compelling parts of the game at all skill levels. Newer players will have less to worry about in terms of production so they can focus on the more interesting parts of Starcraft while more skilled players will be able to expand their army movements and multitasking. In addition, the increase in multitasking and army movements will help improve the overall viewer experience as there’s more conflict and interaction between the players during the game. Although the balance involved in their removal might not be there yet, there’s still plenty of time to tweak the numbers. Overall, the removal of macro mechanics helps push Starcraft to be a game more about army positioning, strategy, micro and more rather than a game that’s more focused on who can make the most stuff.
Everything stated here is my opinion unless noted and/or cited otherwise. As a progamer for several years now, I have a wealth of personal experience and observations to draw upon. With that said, I sometimes have to speculate due to lack of studies/concrete facts. It’s important to note that this patch is only days old.
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