Word War Three: Part 1

[As you’re probably aware, the Starcraft 2 Beta is ticking along. We’ve played it enough so each of the RPSers have their own favourites. Or, at least the one they’ve gravitated towards so far. We thought we’d take it in turns giving a little picture portrait of each of faction, and why we’ve been drawn to them and how playing them is effecting us. First up is Quinns…]

I got my hands on the Starcraft 2 beta and I chose…

…the Zerg.

Why? Because I’m an idiot. Because I am so stupid that when God gives me lemons, I eat them like apples.

When I had the Starcraft 2 beta downloading I began studying the basics of multiplayer and read that the Zerg were “hands down” the hardest race to play. Immediately my underdog gene was transformed into a red, flashing batphone. I picked it up. “You’re playing the Zerg,” it said. “Right on,” I said. And that was that.

In a nutshell, what makes the Zerg interesting is that they’re shit. It often takes several Zerg units to defeat either their Protoss or Terran equivalent, and they only have a single offensive ground unit (the Hydralisk) which can attack aircraft directly.

But before I move onto their real bummer, you first need to understand that Starcraft 2 is all about economy. Far more so than in other RTS games economy is vital in Starcraft 2. It’s blown up into this giant risk-reward mechanic that dominates absolutely everything. The tech tree in Starcraft 2 is deceptively small. In theory, you’d be able to scramble up it in 5 minutes. In practice, you climb it over 15-20 minutes because you’re spending your money first and foremost on defending yourself, secondly on enlarging your economy, and finally on unlocking the next type of unit.

Understand then that it is a torturous pain in the ass that the Zerg harvester unit, the humble drone, doesn’t build structures like the other races. Instead, it mutates into them, so every time you build something you lose economic momentum. If you have a base with an extra hatchery, two vespene gas extractors, a spawning pool, an evolution chamber, a roach warren and two anti-air emplacements, you’re already 8 harvesters down on everybody else and you haven’t even reached tech level 2. Assuming everyone else has built, say, 16 harvesters at this point, you’ll need to have built 24.

My breakthrough realisation playing as the Zerg (and the highest praise I can currently give Starcraft 2) is that to overcome the Zerg’s weaknesses you need an actual insectoid mentality. It came to me after I’d been soundly whipped by Kieron’s Protoss for the fortieth time. Clutching my aching ass I demanded just one more game, and it was here I finally saw the light.

The Zerg’s saving grace is how they make units. Each of your hatcheries spawn up to three larvae which can become almost any unit in the game, and three’s enough to let you out-produce both Terrans and Protoss from the moment the game begins to the second your final overwhelming assault arrives at their base. Likewise, the Zerg’s party piece is that the moment you research a new unit you can start producing 3, 6, even 9 of it simultaneously if you have the resources.

No, you’re never going to win in a stand-up fight. Playing as the Zerg, the trick is to think of yourself as a swarm. Your strength isn’t in numbers, it’s in the ability to produce those numbers, and that base of yours will never be a fortress but you can (and must) turn it into a hive.

A single thing stands in the way of you and chittering, slurping victory, and that’s micromanagement. Endless micromanagement. Micromanagement like an ant running an accountancy firm. This is the wall I’ve come up against now, and it’s the reason I still haven’t beaten Kieron’s Protoss.

Unlike other races you can’t queue up unit production. You have to wait until the larvae are spawned, click on them (or, to prevent insanity, click on your hatchery then hit “s”), then select what you want the larvae to become. This is a bastard. When you have three or more separate hatcheries, some of them whole screens apart from the rest, all producing larvae to their own timing, this is the biggest bastard.

More than any other race, then, the Zerg bases demand constant attention and cultivation. You need huge numbers, and you need to painstakingly bring those numbers about yourself. The cruel joke is that the Zerg’s big offensive advantage, Burrowing, requires a mass of micro too.

But I can’t complain. I adore Burrowing. The way it works is that after a dirt-cheap research project all of your ground units gain the ability to bury themselves, making them invisible unless the enemy has a detector unit or turret around. Two types of units, the Roach and Infestor, can even move while underground. It’s beautiful. You can vanish you forces when they come under attack from superior numbers, or lay ambushes, or even sneak around to the enemy’s delicate resource-gatherers. The only snag is, you personally need to be around to supervise.

That’s your situation then. To win as the Zerg you need to play them like a swarm, but to master a swarm you need the inhuman brain of a hive queen. Or a pro gamer.

I am getting faster though. Every match I can feel the flow of play becoming more routine, the defensive responses becoming instinctive, and (most importantly) the number of units and hatcheries I can control without losing my shit is growing, one by one.

Slowly, I’m becoming less and less human. And I’m loving every second of it. Especially those seconds where I’m pulling off an early Zergling rush.

Fresh from this morning, here’s a video of myself (orange Zerg) and Kieron (light blue Protoss) neatly obliterating PC Gamer’s own Rich McCormick (purple Protoss) and Graham Smith (dark blue Terrans).

PCG? If you’re listening, I want you to know that I’d be thrilled to teach you how to play Starcraft 2 and that my rates are very reasonable. Take care!


  1. ChampionHyena says:

    Ugh. This is why I think SC2 multiplayer is going to ruin me (besides the fact that I’m already terrible at SC1 multiplayer). Micromanaging every last inane logistical “given” is a must.

    “When you have three or more separate hatcheries, some of them whole screens apart from the rest, all producing larvae to their own timing, this is the biggest bastard.”

    This distinctly sounds like a game I absolutely do not want to play. I’m jaded by Dawn of War’s immediacy and hands-off control. I need a Scout squad and a Tactical squad. F1, C, S. They’re automatically assigned to control groups when built. I hit their numbers and right click on the minimap where I want ’em. All the while, I never have to take my eyes off of the fight I’m already midway through. I do not want to have to stare at my base while my units are having all the fun.

    I fully expect to be blown away by the single player campaign and the editor. Heck, maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two about playing multiplayer. I don’t get the impression, though, that I’ll actually enjoy it.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Though I’m not a fan of the actual multiplayer (most Blizzard based anything things inhuman amounts of time and effort, save Diablo, which just takes three times as much of the first) I must say that you should still be able to hotkey your hives like before, saving you a few precious seconds to compete with the Korean cyber-cyborg army.

      But yeah, this much micro is ridiculous. I’d like to watch stuff blow up from time to time, not be in an endless hamster loop.

      Actually all their games are the hamster wheel of repetition hamster wheel.

    • jameskond says:

      In Starcraft 2 Zerg are way to Micro to handle I’ve noticed, however I just love playing as the Terran, it has a lot less managing and a fast build could get you to win pretty easily. Also you can Marine Rush now! :)

    • Shalrath says:

      “I need a Scout squad and a Tactical squad. F1, C, S.”

      I suck at SC1, and I want this noted before I continue. I also suck at Dawn of War 2 (though I tend to be the ‘best loser’). However, if you wanted to make, say, 6 zerglings and 3 hydras you could go: F1, z, F2, h.

      You can hotkey buildings, so it’s the same – just Dawn of War 2 does the F1 key automatically.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Considering there’s supposedly multi-building select in SC2, shouldn’t you be able to select all your hives, then all your larvae, then the desired unit? Three hotkeys, none of that 1,s,z,2,s,z,3,s,z,etc….

    • SirWhat says:

      gotta say i fully agree with you, thats why i play DoW2. you figth with your units and abilities. then again i miss buildings a bit, because in single player i like to turtle and just build defences (like a lot of players do, who arent born korean)

    • Wulf says:

      I came here via Quinns linking it via the Starcraft II half-verdict.

      I just have to note one thing, out of pure intrigue and fascination: In another thread, I was told that Dawn of War II was more micromanagement heavy, I never noticed this, I found it had by far and wide the more friendly approach to doing things, less micro-heavy, and it was more hands-on due to – as SirWhat points out – one having to fight with one’s units and abilities.

      It’s just interesting how perceptions are, because I’ve always been of the opinion that Starcraft II is the sort of game that would kill me with micromanagement, and here there are people confirming just that, and yet, there, in that other thread, there were people trying to tell me that there was almost no micromanagement at all. Also, in the article I came from, I saw the line ‘reformulating my build queues’, which really knotted my stomach.

      What do I get from all this? People are confusing, and most of them are very likely pathological liars.

      At this point, I’m not sure what to believe about Starcraft II really. I am leaning toward not getting my hopes up about being able to avoid micromanagement hell in it, though. In Dawn of War II, micro was so friendly it almost seemed optional, or it was just friendly enough so that it wasn’t immediately obvious, it wasn’t something you had to dedicate huge portions of your brain to, you could do better by concentrating on what your troops were being.

      What I still get from Starcraft II is that it’s the polar opposite of that. That I’ll be in a battle game where I’ll be spending most of my time staring at queues, reformulating queues, fiddling with queues, playing with stats, looking at complex screens, and barely 5% of that time will be devoted to guiding my troops around and making things explode. Which I like doing.

      I’ll keep watching, but I’m getting this distinct feeling that one of three things is going on, here:

      1.) People are lying to me, and being pathological liars at that.
      2.) There’s some kind of weird perception thing going on here, and somehow the more friendly Dawn of War II seems more unwieldy and micromanagement heavy than Starcraft II’s F1,sz, sz, F2, sz, sz, and constant fiddling with things. Nothing is outside the realm of the possible, so I accept that some people could genuinely believe this, and just see this differently to what I do.
      3.) Something I just don’t understand, despite my very best efforts.

      I’m actually trying to show an interest in Starcraft II, it’s funny… but I’m finding it very difficult to get a clear picture. If it’s exactly the same as Starcraft The First then it’s going to make me ill with all the time I’ll have to spend fiddling with things, which I really hate doing. I hear from some people that it’s oldschool, that it’s the old guard, protector of the old ways, valiant knight of the gaming of yesteryear, the protector of geeks, bastion of the hardcore. And I hear from others that the micromanagement barrier in Starcraft II is a myth.

      The problem is, from my perspective, both of those things cannot be true. The micromanagement barrier in Starcraft I was very, very real for me, to the point where I just couldn’t play the damn thing (despite my best efforts, and I did try). If it is the same as Starcraft I, then the micromanagement barrier cannot be a myth. If the micromanagement barrier is a myth, then it is not the same as Starcraft I.

      I’m going to be tempted by the game eventually myself anyway due to the engine mods, which I find curious. I’m hoping to play a single-player demo of some sort long before that, though.

      I guess I’ll find out eventually what my truth is.

    • Wulf says:

      Here’s an interesting thought I just had…

      Perhaps people are talking specifically about single-player or multi-player but not both, therefore conveying mixed messages and experiences. For the record, I speak of single-player experiences in both Starcraft I and Dawn of War II, and I’m only really interested in single-player accounts, because I don’t like competitive games which involve other players. (Except a bit of Team Fortress 2 now and then, but that’s so very jolly and light-hearted that sometimes I have a hard time of thinking of it as too competitive.)

    • JeCa says:


      Oooh, you were talking about Single-Player DoW II In that other thread. That explains a bit. I’m sorry, when I said how I think thought DoW II was more micro-intense than SC in that thread I was referring to competitive multiplayer, which in the case of DoW is completely different from the single-player experience. That multiplayer is to me a frustrating mess of constantly jumping around the map, making sure that all your units are doing /something/ at all times while also making sure no two units are doing the same thing. Singleplayer however is a comparatively relaxed experience, as you will have the majority of your forces visible on the same screen most of the time. Starcraft II’s /multiplayer/ is IMO somewhere in between those two in that you don’t generally need to keep track of more than one ball of fighters at a time, but there’s still a whole lot of economy management to be done (although not nearly as much as in SCI thanks to things like worker rally points, Multiple Building Binds etc).

      As I’m still waiting for my copy of SCII to arrive I won’t be able to shed any light on your questions regarding the single player. However, if what you mainly want to do is control a group of relatively persistent (and personal?) units and watch them blow things up non stop I doubt starcraft II will be too great for you (though I might be wrong about the campaign, maybe that’s mainly a string of RTT scenarios with minimal base managing). Things simply… Die to quickly in the game for there to be many prolonged fights in quick succession.

      I hope someone else will be able to explain this better to you, and apologise for any confusion caused :)

      Also, once you come to accept the concept of Hotkeys, managing your production gets a LOT less bad than Quinns makes it sound^^

  2. Zealot says:

    >Zergling rush.

    First thing came into my mind —–>

    link to cad-comic.com

    • Psychopomp says:

      I’m not good at Starcraft, but stopping a zerg rush is piss easy.

  3. Clovis says:

    You should make Andrew Bird’s “Master Swarm” your theme music.

  4. SmartChimp says:

    Wait, what is different from the original Starcraft? I’ll admit I haven’t been following the previews for this much but what you described to me is the zerg from SC1 and well is this just SC1 with better graphics?

    • JeCa says:

      Just my thoughts as well. Zerg are commonly seen as the most difficult race to play in the original as well because of the lack of queuing and the fact that, even if a hatchery costs 100m less than a Comcenter or Nexus, you lose one miner for every building you place…

    • bookwormat says:


      ” is this just SC1 with better graphics?”

      No, it’s Starcraft with new content and improved interfaces.
      You could say it’s Starcraft, Part 2.

  5. Chris Remo says:


    While StarCraft is too much of an economic game to ever be as hands-off as Dawn of War in that respect, it is certainly worth noting that the non-Zerg races do not require nearly that much base micromanagement. Each race absolutely has its own VERY distinct flavor, moreso than in most RTS games, and that extends to most elements of the game. I mainly play as Protoss, for example, and when I want to build up a big mass of guys I just bind all my Gateways to a single hotkey and mash on the “build Zealot” button, and the game spreads out that build order across all the Gateways. This actually makes a lot of the base management in StarCraft II easier than it was in the first game, which lacked some of those creature comforts.

  6. SwiftRanger says:

    Hmm, this reminds me why I won’t even try to play this online or in skirmish.

  7. Tei says:

    I dunno. I played once with zergs against a pro, using the tactic the Quintin seems to suggest, think like a swarm of insects. At one point my main base got destroyed, and I was building at the same time 8 outpost based, that got “hunted” and destroyed by a tiny ship (science ship?). If the game is about economy, and you play like a insect, maybe you are doing your army more harm than good?

    • Zaphid says:

      Couple of pointers to make you better at starcraft:

      1) Use hotkeys for everything. The less you have to shuffle around with your mouse the better. It takes a while to get used to, but you end up doing a lot more stuff in the same amount of time.

      2) Know what you are going to do before you do it. You don’t have time to think about that kind of stuff

      3) Scout, you want to know what is he doing: Is he expanding? should I try to attack him ? Do i have time to take another base ?

      4)Don’t play the same strategy all the time. Rush, turtle, whatever, no strategy is off limits as long as it’s going to bring you victory.

  8. Zaphid says:

    Little bird told me that you can apparently play vs PC if you are one of the unlucky ones and not in the beta …

  9. richmcc says:

    This fucking guy.

    In our defence, Graham poured a bottle of Pepsi Max on his keyboard mid-match, and it was my third game. And it’s hard, and and and.

    Also, I was the Terrans, Poury McKeyboardRuiner was the Protoss.

  10. Bonedwarf says:

    So this basically the first Starcraft with slightly better graphics.

    • A-Scale says:

      And to think, we were expecting a turn based, first person dungeon crawler with a time manipulation mechanic. Boo, Blizzard! Next time make something people don’t want!

    • august says:

      No, it’s a dating sim now.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      I’m calling it evens one of the three STARCRAFT II titles will have this as one of those sayings units will start spouting off if you click on them too many times.

      “It isn’t just STARCRAFT in 3D! It’s…much more sophisticated! Or something!”

  11. kikito says:

    I can’t say anything about SCII since I don’t have the beta, but in SC1 you could do groups with buildings.

    This was near to useless for terrans and protoss, but it was the best with the mighty Zerg.

    1 is your first hatchery. 2 is the second. 3 is the third… and so forth.

    Say you want 24 zerlings on point x, y on the minimap and you have 4 hatcheries. Place the mouse cursor over that minimap point. Then:

    1 s z r click <– select Zergling, rally point "click" with the mouse
    2 s z r click <– Same with second hatchery
    3 s z r click <– third
    4 s z r click <– and forth!

    You will get a pretty cloud of little beasts going to point x, y in no time. If you wish to, you can intercept your units before they arrive to x,y and tell them to "attack move" (a click) instead of their default "move" – but maybe on SCII they have given you the possibility of rallying your units in attack-move mode.

    Replace z with h and you will get hidralisks. m for mutalisks. etc.

    Swarm them for me! :)

  12. TheSombreroKid says:

    if you double click a unit it selects all the units of that type on screen, invalubale for building the same unit across multiple hatcheries.

  13. Stuart says:

    Make sure you make a queen, its four extra larva every 40 seconds. With a queen you can make seven units at once from one hatchery. Also please note that the roach is the strongest t1 unit in the game and can be massed very easily. Most of the ‘good’ players are just rushing roaches every game for easy victory. Right now, zerg is definately not the hardest race.

    • Quinns says:

      The Roaches are my stalwart at the minute, yeah. They actually gave me a headache in my last game when I showed up with 15 of them to find my opponent had gone straight for aircraft.

      Really, I think scouting’s what I need to get a hang on next. Scouting and, as everyone’s pointed out, more hotkeys.

    • luckystriker says:

      Quinns you need to be using the Queen’s spawn larva ability. From all I’ve read and seen this is the way to go for Zerg users.

  14. Chiller says:

    Longtime (SC1) zerg fan/player here. Keep up the good work!
    The way I was handling the hatchery/larva business in SC1, was to assign my hatcheries to control groups 8 through 0 (assuming I had 3, you get the picture). That makes it easier to keep on production even during battles (as long as you don’t, y’know, forget).

  15. captain fitz says:

    @richmcc so, you gonna pony up for those lessons soon?

    • richmcc says:

      I’m spending tonight practicing my face off. I will have my vengeance, and it will be swift. Or, take a few months until Quinns has lost his edge. Either way, bug-boy is worm fodder.

    • Quinns says:

      Bring it on, cowboy.

  16. Daniel Nenadovic says:

    I find that, the way I play Zerg, they’re more about just barely surviving until I reach this critical mass of having a few expansions and then being able to mass produce a ton of awesome units at once. I find them hardest to play because of this, but winning is so satisfying when you’re just barely surviving to get those glorious mutalisk swarms up in the air and dominate your once-smiling enemy.

  17. august says:

    This is a great article, by the way.

  18. Azradesh says:

    I’d love to play you guys, you seem all about my level. I think zerg are the hardest, but also the best at the moment, at least for the pros. I hear that zerg players are dominating the platinum league. I am just in the lowly bronze and copper leagues though.

  19. Mark says:

    This game sounds absolutely terrifying.

  20. rock elf says:

    Oh, Kieron plays as AdaLovelace? We played last week during my practice matches. I was called Tarquin (don’t ask). It was my first ever victory, and you may or may not be pleased to know that I’ve only won one match since.

    Thanks for the confidence boost, Kieron. I desperately needed it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Man! I’ll have to go back and look at that Match. I’ve done – er – mixed on random play. Though I do beat Quinns a lot, so there’s always that.


    • rock elf says:

      I just looked it up – we played on 21st February, which was only a few days into the beta. Rewatching the replay was a painful experience; I turtled it up like a noob and hadn’t even worked out basic things like setting a rally point for the CC. I think I got a bit lucky with your failed rush.

      And we didn’t even say hello or gg to each other. How rude.

    • Nick says:

      Call me nostalgic but I kinda miss Brem X Jones.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Rock elf: Sorry man. I totally played my first few games without knowing what key actually let you talk to people.

      (I still don’t know how to talk to the opposition in a 2vs2 match)


  21. halfthought says:

    I’m just going to give a tip to the person your playing against. That zerg rush may have seen like their was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it, but its quite simple.

    Never start off building a gas extractor, especially versus zerg. Starting off building two is almost suicidal unless your running a gimmick build in allied play and you have a teammates who can reliably send units to protect you. Basically, if he started off spamming probes, building a pylon once you can, then following up with a gateway and a single zealot, that zealot assisted by probes (which can be used to attack) would have easily fended off that rush.

  22. Dante says:

    I’ll be honest, I have deep reservations about Starcraft 2. In my opinion rushing is the least interesting thing you can ever do in an RTS. Games should be built to avoid it, not encourage it.

    • JackofAllTrades88 says:

      The main point of rushing is that it forces a balance between economic growth and winning the game. As Quinn said, it only takes 5 minutes to get all the way up the tech tree and get your 20ish peons harvesting and expanding. Some sides are stronger at certain stages, and a race like Zerg would get whomped if they don’t go on the early offense.

    • Dante says:

      My point exactly, you’re forced to rush.

      Whenever I play strategy games with my friends we generally have a gentlemen’s agreement not to rush early, because it’s cheap and uninteresting and results in the game being over well before any actual strategy is used.

      Alecs comments here suggest that not only are you being forced to rush, but the small tech tree means you’re not actively rewarded for trying to play the game in a fun way.

  23. Primar says:

    I have and will always fail to see how basic tactics such as “attack them when they’re weak” and “harass their economy” translates to “playing like a dick”.

    If you want to play no-rush games, play no-rush games. If you want to play a proper game, be prepared to defend yourself. If you’re not prepared to do that because “it’s ungentlemanly to attack so early”, then quite honestly, whose fault is it?

    It’s not rushing, it’s called playing the game.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Primar, I wouldn’t say that it’s ungentlemanly, because it’s how the game works, but it’s not the best game design out there if you ask me. While yes, it’s fair and competitive to attack the opponent when he doesn’t have any fighting units yet, it’s hardly any fun for him, now is it? He’ll have spent five minutes simply paying for his lousy strategy.
      Though losing is always a bit bitter, I think it would be nice if both players had a good time. And that involves a fight. I think there’s a charm in it when a game gives some bonuses to the underdog; the match can go back and forth even when players aren’t quite of the same skill level. And as long as these mechanics are consistent, the best player will win regardless.

    • Chiller says:

      Rushing is nothing more than attacking as soon as possible. If it would be cheap by default, that would be a design fault of the game in question; however I have yet to see an RTS where rushing is the be-all, end-all of tactics (NB – if you *should* rush to give you a tactical edge, that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t guarantee a win every single time). People that agree to play “non-rush” games essentially also rush as long as they attack as soon as possible (under their rules). Those games tend to be much less interesting because the armies are typically huge and unmanageable to the point where it becomes a crapshoot.
      Rushing has its bad rep because of newbies losing to such tactics before even having a chance to figure out how the game works. That’s why you should learn the game with some friends rather than Internet ‘tards folks.
      Of course, there’s also this: . Such people are essentially hopeless and should be left to their own devices (not to mention avoided).

    • Chiller says:

      Looks like I made a tag error there. Oh well, at least the link works.

    • Wulf says:

      I have to say, in my opinion, a proper game is one where the player can play over both the long and short term, rather than just one or the other. Lot of talk of one or the other games, there, both are inferior! Well, in my opinion, at least. >.>

    • Lanster27 says:

      And that’s why the first thing newbies should learn is defend against early rushes or do a few rushes of his own.

    • luckystriker says:

      What people are ignoring is that to do a proper rush you need to a) know where your opponent is (which requires scouting on a 3-4 player map) and b) be cutting probes and tech early on. If a rush fails, all things being equal, you’ll lose. That’s why rushes are relatively rare among 2 equally skilled players.

    • Primar says:

      My general point was that ‘rushing’ does not ever equal a win, unless you’re playing someone very new to the game, or someone who has /deliberately chosen/ a strategy that does not allow them any early units (such as a fast-tech or whatever). It’s extremely rare for a rush to generate a decisive victory when both players are of a roughly equal skill-level.

      You should be prepared to defend yourself – if you aren’t, then the other player should be able to take advantage of that. If you get beaten because your opponent ran a handful of early-game units to your base, then learn from that, and build your own units to defend in future.

      I have no problem with people playing no-rush games, I just find them immensely boring. If you enjoy those games, great! Just don’t bring that mentality into a normal game and expect to win. I have no interest in sitting around for ages and letting my opponent build up an army of strong units, only to throw them at each other after an arbitrary time limit. I will harrass, I will scout, I will do my best to prevent you from winning, and you should be doing the same.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      “I will harrass, I will scout, I will do my best to prevent you from winning, and you should be doing the same.”

      The thing is, these aren’t incompatible with “no-rush” gameplay. I know I bang on about it a lot, but CoH (not counting the expansion factions) gets this right. Base rushes are basically impossible until you tech up a bit (and fairly easily countered then if prepared for). But because of the way the economy works, you’re still forced on the offensive or you’re going to lose in the long run. You have to scout and you have to harass to be competitive. Cutting your opponent off near their base is by far the most effective strategy on most maps. But you can’t just roll into their base with a mass of infantry after 2 minutes. This approach seems far preferable to me. You’re still vulnerable to a mid or late-game rush if you’ve been out-economied or if you have bet the farm unit wise, but games have a chance to breathe.

  24. Primar says:

    Uh, silly reply system. That was meant as a reply to Zealot’s link.

  25. Mark says:

    Quick tip: Put your hatcheries in control groups (higher numbers, like 7 8 & 9, lower ones are better for combat groups) so you can goto them without having to move the map. Just make sure to remember where each one is!

  26. The Pink Ninja says:

    Interesting, but I already know I don’t have the patience to become good at competitive WC3 or SC2 play.

    I’m getting it for the Campaigns and even more importantly, the Custom Map Mode.

  27. Wulf says:

    Why is it that whenever I read Protoss my mind keeps wondering whom was being lazy at the keyboard at the time?

    Ah, let’s call them Protosapiens! No, that won’t work, they have no relation to the humans, they shouldn’t. Gods damn it, it’s hard being original. Proto… Proto…something… Protosss… oh fuck it, let’s just call them the Protoss and be done with it! Though I wonder… would a Protoss player be known as a pro-tosser? Sod it. They’re the Protoss and that’s that.

  28. Heliocentric says:

    This article sold me more on starcraft 2 than any other so far. I’ve never been a hotkey hero but this made me want to refine my skills.

    • Vandelay says:

      I agree with this completely. I’ve never been amazing at RTS games. In fact, I was pretty terrible until I randomly became much more competent about three years ago – still no idea to this day why my ability improved, just got in the right mindset. I’m one of those people that just sticks with the skirmish mode or playing with a mate or two, usually only on custom maps. The last RTS I did actually venture online with was Supreme Commander, which ended up unpleasantly, bar a few successful rush games.

      But something about this makes me really want to get good at it. Not Korean good, but good enough to hold my own in a random Internet game. I think it is the nature of Starcraft, that easy to control but difficult to master style of gameplay that is really appealing. I came to the original game very late, so never got into the Internet scene with it (except for those previously mentioned custom maps – Zone Control was a particular favourite,) but I’m really looking forward to trying this one out properly.

      I’m sure it will end in tears, but I plan to give it a really good try.

  29. BabelFish says:

    A couple suggestions for zerg if you have not found them already. A queen spamming spawn larva on your first hatchery is almost always better then a quick second hatch. The queen is half the cost and produces larva 33% faster, assuming you’re quick on the recast of hatch larva.

    Also, the hatcheries have two separate rally points, one for workers and a second for combat units. Once you get 2-3 hatcheries going, you can group them all together on a hotkey (I like 5 for my first set of building structures) and then queue up combat troops very quickly (5zzzzzzzzzrr builds you 20 zerglings and two roaches for instance)

    Oh, and starcraft2’s improved worker logic means you want somewhere between 16 and 24 workers on minerals at any given base (16 or 2 per patch is like 87% efficiency, 24 or 3 per patch is like 97%). 6 more for gas.

  30. negativedge says:

    so was this analysis written in 1997 or 2010 I don’t get it.

  31. tapanister says:

    Haha nice 6pool, they didn’t even gg at the end. Pwnt.

  32. Anthony Damiani says:

    The problem isn’t the micro, it’s how insanely rush-friendly this game is.
    Native base defenses have been a staple of the genre since Age of Empires 2. SC2 is extraordinarily retro in that regard, and that’s a trend I do not miss.

    “Oh, goodness, someone got six zerglings out thirty seconds before you. GG. QQ.”

    • Chiller says:

      It doesn’t really work that way. You can defend just as well. If you’re in a position where you will lose simply because you can’t get your defenses up fast enough, you will lose even if the game is radically different – maybe they need more than 6 units, and more than 30 seconds, but as long as they are able to play faster than you, they will still assemble their army, and you will still lose. You might play a longer game, but not a more meaningful one.

    • BabelFish says:

      So far from what I’ve played rushes are the result of someone scouting you, seeing that you have not properly defended yourself while you attempt to tech up to better units, and punishing you for that.

      I kinda like it. In the “auto defended” RTS games, the ideas of “rush boom turtle” don’t come into play until your rushers are capable of getting past the auto-created defenses, thereby limiting your strategic choices in the early game. If you’re opponent can’t rush, what’s the point of doing anything other then booming?

    • BabelFish says:

      Chiller also brings up something I think is very important to my enjoyment of this game. When you lose in starcraft 2, you lose fast and hard.

      Games very rarely last longer then 20 minutes. So if you do get roflstomped into the ground by some guy’s robotic hands and hive-mind strategy, you can write off those 5-10 minutes as a learning experience and move on without much frustration. Contrast that to something like Sins of a Solar Empire, where you can play an epicly long game, only to lose slowly over the course of a couple hours. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t enjoy spending 5 hours of my day to lose a single game.

      Couple that with the fact that once you lose a few times in starcraft 2, you start to see what you’re doing wrong and how to counter it (reapers keep sneaking into my base? guess I should build a watch tower and move my marines to intercept next time!) In something like sins, why you lost might be some strategic decision the other guy made 4 hours back, and manifest itself much later as “he’s got more units”.

    • Chiller says:

      Actually, the importance of scouting, harassing and the quickness of play are all aspects I had vastly enjoyed in the previous game, and it doesn’t look like those have changed. Well, there’s a reason why Starcraft was so popular and long-lived, and it’s not just because it was made by Blizzard (although it might have something to do with Blizzard making good games).

  33. merc says:

    Sounds great. The distinctiveness of the Starcraft factions was amazing I’m glad to hear SC2 zerg maintain that. I’m glad it’s still challenging on the micro front, I love the sort of kinesthetic pleasure you get from getting into the game and being as fast and precise as you can possibly be while also keeping up with thinking about strategy and multitasking.

  34. merc says:

    Oh, and all this “It’s just starcraft 1” stuff is bizarre nonsense. What on earth do you expect from a Starcraft sequel, a completely different game?

    • RentACop says:

      Since the sequel was so long in coming I think people thought it would be more radically different. Also, stuff like squads and morale were seen by some people as being the next step in the genre rather than just another gameplay element, if you had that mindset then SC2 would seem like a throwback

    • sexyresults says:

      How is it bizarre at all? AT ALL?

  35. RentACop says:

    This isn’t true at all though, in the opening minute or so there’s not really any reason to be hugely slower than your opponentand it’s very easy to throw down the appropriate units needed to stop a rush. If the other guy never intended to rush you’ll be worse off but not by much.

  36. sinister agent says:

    I never consciously thought about it, but I remember a similar revelation while playing the first one against a chum. I’d assembled an enormous zerg army, and threw them all at his base while some others snuck around the back. They did some damage, but his protoss army wiped them out. He immediately left his base to counter attack, and ran into a second, equally huge army that had been spawning even as the first was starting to lose. It was a massacre. If I’d been any other race, I’d have lost, but simply because I had a pile of hatcheries, I could spit out an army in the time it took him to make a patrol.

    The micromanagement did get tiring, though. I’m looking forward to this, but I’m sure I’ll hate playing it with anyone other than people I already know.

  37. undead dolphin hacker says:

    The first thing you do is build another lair right next to the first, natch!

    …assuming SC2 is like SC1, after all. Which doesn’t seem like much of a jump based on any existing data about the game.

  38. DD says:

    I have forced myself to not look at a single screenshot or video of this game for TWO YEARS. Its so close… I read some this article and its giving me to much awesome information…. sorry quinns but I could not finish reading it.


  39. Psychopomp says:

    Sequel is a lot like original in game industry shocker!

  40. Arturo says:

    @ ChampionHyena

    Nicely said.

    Didn’t get a beta but I’m sure I’ll check it out after a demo is released. Starcraft 1.5 seems a more appropriate title, however. Micro-Induced heart attack, initiate!

  41. ShardPhoenix says:

    As others have said, using Queens for Inject Larva, hotkeys for your hatcheries, and the two different hatchery rally points, all help a lot. Apparently Mutas are quite strong right now too (as well as Roaches).

    • Choca says:

      Roaches and Hydras are crazy good at the moment.

      I also love the Infestors, popping out of the ground right in your opponent’s base to spawn an army of Infected Terrans and get right back under the ground to retreat is awesome.

  42. chilled says:

    Browsing through these comments was an excruciating experience. If people can’t stop a 6 zergling rush… well there is a copper league.

  43. Vinraith says:

    Wow, that is some serious micromanagement. I’d been half watching this one, I enjoyed the original SC in its day, but I think games like Rise of Nations have ruined me for the kind of nitpicky, click-happy micro that seems to be involved here. I’m always more interested in playing games from a broader strategic perspective (and I like being able to do things like pause and issue orders) so I suspect this just isn’t the game for me. It’s a shame, though, there really aren’t enough RTS’s with an economic focus these days.

    • Dante says:

      I swear Vinraith, you really do love the most old fashioned, out dated, dull as hell mechanical holdovers. It’s bizarre, it really is.

    • Vinraith says:


      OK, I’ll take the bait. Which element discussed above is “old fashioned” and “out dated?”

  44. Flimgoblin says:

    I’m rapidly descending out of copper league into the discarded plastic wrapper league :P

    Seems any time I deal with the zerg rush I get mutalisked into submission, I’m sure I’m getting better, my bloodied forehead shall be strong enough to smash through solid brick soon enough :)

  45. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Sequel is a lot like original in game industry shocker!

    The problem is that it is not LIKE Starcraft. It IS Starcraft.

    This is not Bioshock – oh hey, let’s take System Shock 2 and steal everything from it. Bioshock moved some pieces around, changed some gameplay and story elements(And by changed I mean drove into the ground with these huge yellow trucks working in quarries). Starcraft 2 is exactly the same.

    I mean fuck. Find a guy who played Starcraft and doesn’t read RPS. Give him Quinn’s text to read. Then ask him what it’s about. If he will say “Starcraft 2” I will give you a dollar.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Starcraft 2 is exactly the same

      If you disregard multi-building select, automine, control groups larger than 12, reconfigurable hotkeys, various neutral structures altering visibility/accessibility, different high-ground mechanics (including specific cliff-traversing ground units), and a largely different set of units for the factions – then yeah, you might say that the multiplayer is exactly the same. But so what? It works, and they intend to keep the audience coming over from SC1. And you’ve got the single-player part to do whatever crazy stuff you want.

    • Tweakd says:

      @Magic H8 Ball

      “The problem is that it is not LIKE Starcraft. It IS Starcraft.

      This is not Bioshock – oh hey, let’s take System Shock 2 and steal everything from it. Bioshock moved some pieces around, changed some gameplay and story elements(And by changed I mean drove into the ground with these huge yellow trucks working in quarries). Starcraft 2 is exactly the same.”

      And how I wish we received System Shock 3 instead of Bioshock which was NOTHING like SS. I’ve never played Starcraft 1 but I’ve got a feeling I’m going to love the sequel. It’s that hardcore fast faced reactive gameplay that I’m in the mood for in an RTS and it’s refreshing to see Blizzard keeping the Starcraft roots alive.

    • Tweakd says:

      And I’d like to add that those who say it’s just too fast/micro-heavy/unforgiving that are basing their descisions on other “new-school” RTS games just haven’t given it a proper shot. There is room for both depending on your mood. About a month ago I played a Hearts Of Iron 3 lan game that lasted almost a week. Thats very slow burning grand strategy. I don’t just like one or the other, i love both. If I give it the time to learn the intricacies.

      And that’s where SC2 will shine, it’s lasting life. So much to learn and master, it’s not like Battlefield 2 (could be many examples, i just chose this because its recent) where within an hour you have tried everything and understand all.

  46. Collic says:

    I really like the sound of what I’ve heard so far, but I know the cold, hard reality will be a real love hate relationship if i ever by this and play online. I had the same thing with company of heroes and the Dawn of War 2 beta.

    I really do like this kind of uncompromising rts. I admire the skill involved, and I want to improve, but I’m absolutely terrible at them. I just can’t keep up. I love rts and tbs games but I need to take them at my own pace; venturing online always leads to drubbing after drubbing until I finally give in.

    Bizarrely though I kept company of heroes installed long after I’d resigned myself to failure because of the excellent replay and shoutcasting community that game spawned. I didn’t play a lot of multiplayer, but I watched a lot. I imagine SC2 will go the same way, so I may pick it up purely for that reason (and the SP) as strange as that may sound.

  47. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:I’ve never played Starcraft 1 but I’ve got a feeling I’m going to love the sequel.

    Then why not just play Starcraft? You know, the game which came on one CD as opposed to two DVDs SC2 will undoubtely use, ran on overclocked blender instead of requiring a graphics card with Shaders 3.0 support, and yet looked better?
    Oh, and you could even use LAN to play it.

    • The Great Wayne says:

      This is pretty much what everyone should wonder at one point.

      It’s a pity that Blizzard being the “I can do what I want” company it’s become is chosing to go the “more of the same” route, leaving to smaller studios with less power the task to innove and bring originality to PC games. To me, more than a choice to satisfy the fans, it’s either an insult (let’s sell people a ten year old concept in a cute wrapping, they’ll buy it anyway) or a worrying proof that Blizzard is now dry of any creative sense (which they’ve been proving in the last years of WoW). Maybe both.

      Therefore, I’m pretty worried about Diablo 3, as it’ll not cut it if it’s Diablo 2 all over again but with a less exciting storyline.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I think when one of your games accidentally becomes one of the most loved e-sports on the face of the planet, doing what you want stops being an option.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      let’s sell people a ten year old concept in a cute wrapping, they’ll buy it anyway

      This is where I bring up Team Fortress 2.

    • Nick says:

      It would be very hard to have a less exciting storyline than Diablo 2’s super dull one.

  48. deuterium. says:

    Control groups. Use them.

  49. Primar says:

    Aye, but it’s still the same principle of harassing and hitting their economy whenever you can. The only real difference is the location – in SC2 it’ll be your workers; in DoW2 it’ll be your natural power node. I assume the CoH fuel point (or maybe ammo dump) would be the correct comparison, but I don’t know if they’re as significant as power nodes in DoW2.

    The effect may be delayed somewhat – lose all your workers and you’re out; lose your power node and you’re not dead, but it’s going to be near-impossible to win vs a decent player – but the end result is still the same.

    For the record, I do like the CoH/DoW2 system, but equally I’m not fussed about bases being vulnerable to attack.

    Either way, my main argument is still that rushes are very easily counterable simply by building units and being prepared for your opponent to attack. If you leave yourself wide open to gain a massive economy/tech up, then you’re conciously taking a gamble that trades short-term risk for long-term reward. I mean, you both start pretty much in identical situations – it’s not as though he starts the game with 6 Zerglings and just has to run them to your base. :)

    • Primar says:

      Oh seriously what is up with this reply system. :(
      Above post was @ Ginger Yellow.

  50. idrisz says:

    you are playing zerg wrong if you think zerg require more hatchery..

    having a queen = extra hatchery + 1 larvae.

    You need to have your queen constantly keep up inject larva on your hatchery..