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Warcraft to starcraft; making the leap

By Michael 'Zechs' Radford
May 24, 2010 15:35

ImageThis week's Zechs Files is set in outer space! Let's hope some Warcraft fans will join us.

When it comes to new games in esports we as a community have very little practice. In recent years World of Warcraft barged its way in, mostly uninvited, and pretty much everyone who doesn’t play it hates it. The only other game that intruded on PC esports was CS:Source but, well, we all know how that went.

But with Starcraft II we have a game that has an undeniable place in esports – unlike Source. And it will be popular with pretty much anyone who cares – unlike WoW. There is a sense of inevitability that SC2 will become the staple RTS game for tournaments after its release. I don’t think many people will complain about it, despite the support for WC3. Most people have accepted the change.

With change comes a period of uncertainty, however. So as the resident WC3 fanboy on staff, I figured it was my job to try and make the transition run smoother. Hopefully other people will get something out of this, but this column is mostly for WC3 fans looking to make the swap.
"There is a sense of inevitability that SC2 will become the staple RTS game for tournaments."

Firstly, the obvious: there are no heroes and the food cap is 200. There is a reason for those two statements to be tied together though, because they both affect the game in a similar way. In my experience of the beta – both playing and watching replays – slow starts are vastly more common than in WC3. By three minutes into an average WC3 game, heroes are out and are either creeping or harassing. In SC2, you barely have you first unit out and it is probably camping at the entrance to your base. Unless you’re going for some kind of all-in early rush, there isn’t likely to be any group fighting until seven or eight minutes in.

This is what leads to the claims that SC2 is a more macro-intensive game. When out-numbering your opponent’s army is one of the best ways to win there is a natural tendency towards resource management. As boring as that might sound to micro-junkies from the WC3 world, it actually leads to one of the most exciting dynamics in the game.
"That dynamic is simple but beautiful: do you improve your own economy, or try to damage your opponents."

That dynamic is simple but beautiful: do you improve your own economy, or try to damage your opponents. It might seem like doing both is the best, and that can be true. But over-commit to harassment and you leave yourself exposed to a counter-attack. On top of that, if you lose too many units harassing without killing many workers then all you’ve done is set yourself back.

If the major difference between the two ‘craft’ games is micro vs macro, what are some of the similarities? Well, some of the spells and mechanics are very familiar. Marauders have Frost Arrows, ghosts and high templars both have Mana Burn and HT’s even have Flame Strike. Obviously the names are different but they have the same effect. Different attacks are more effective against different armour-types, just like in WC3. Hell, there’s even a map called Lost Temple (though it bares no resemblance).

If you need any more convincing, just look at how easily some of the mid-level professionals have integrated themselves. Naniwa was a decent player in WC3 but never a world-beater. He was never invited to the big Asian tournaments. But in the SC2 beta you can make a strong case for him being the most successful player. A bit of practice is all it takes. After all, it’s the same genre with the same Blizzard touches. Even if, like me, you never played the original game you can pick up SC2 within a week, easily. And the beauty is, like any Blizzard game, mastering it can take a life time.



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