Like any game at this early stage, Starcraft II is ever-changing. While I’m told that a lot of strategies have carried over from Brood War, there are enough new units and enough changes to the original game to keep the game fresh. People are discovering new tricks and tactics all the time. Oh, yeah, and force field is ridiculously fun.
But the fun a game has to offer its players is almost irrelevant to the esports world. If the game wasn’t fun, it wouldn’t be discussed in the first place. Besides, with Blizzard in charge, that was never likely to be the case. After roughly three months of beta testing, and with the release days now set, I want to talk about the state of SC2’s balance.
I have to admit, with my beginner status, I will have to take a “broad stroke” kind of approach. But I will try and base this mostly on tournament results rather than my own games. While my record in the Silver league is “okay,” I still don’t feel as confident as I do in Warcraft III.
Let’s look at tournaments then. With SC2 already being a staple of weekly cups like Zotac and Go4SC2, we already have a pretty large amount of data. Zotac paints a pretty disturbing image, actually. With 11 cups now gone, terran has only managed a single victory. Way back in week four, Demuslim managed to put a halt to three zerg wins in a row. But since then it’s been largely about the protoss. In fact, another ex-WC3 player, Naniwa, claimed his 3rd Zotac victory this past weekend, making him the most successful Zotac player at this early stage.
ESL have already got themselves in on the SC2 action as well. They host a regular cup named Go4SC2, which culminates in an eight-player monthly final. With two finals gone (March and April) we’ve had a terran and a protoss victory. The most recent of the smaller cups was also won by a protoss – another former WC3 player named Hasuobs.
So far, it seems that protoss and zerg are dominating terran, at least on the professional scene. But Zotac and ESL are largely European. In the America-only Team Liquid Invitational that took place this weekend, protoss didn’t even make the final. Zerg did emerge victorious but at least we saw another terran finalist. Likewise, the Razer Domination tournament – another European event – also saw zerg defeat terran in the final?
But what exactly can we read into this? All three races seem to have a roughly equal number of finals appearances but zerg and protoss are miles ahead in actual victories. Is it simply the case that each time a terran has reached the final he has met a stronger player? It’s definitely plausible, and from my own experience, terran doesn’t feel weaker than the other races. On the contrary, terran’s concussive shell is one of the most complained-about abilities in the game from what I’ve read. While a single ability doesn’t necessarily mean a race is balanced, it at least gives us a clue.
Even if there is a balance issue – and I’ll leave it to more experienced commentators to make that judgement at this stage – the fact remains that SC2 is still in beta. The pendulum of balance swings a little nearer to the middle with every update.
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