While StarCraft II may be the oldest game played at the Collegiate Esports Championships, it’s also one of the most complex.
The four remaining teams have demonstrated they understand how to play, but we want to make sure you can recognize the excellence of their every action. Here’s everything you need to know about the game of StarCraft II before its collegiate champion is crowned on May 11.
It takes all kinds
The world of StarCraft II has three races players can choose between. The hardy Terran rely on futuristic versions of modern weaponry to stake out their place in the universe. The mysterious Protoss are an advanced race of psyonic (essentially psychic) aliens who wield powerful technology that allows them to warp space to suit their needs. Finally there are the swarming Zerg, a hivemind race that relies on evolutionary superiority to overwhelm their enemies.
Each race comes with a different playstyle, but all of them require the same baseline knowledge of how to play the game.
All about the money
Above all else, StarCraft II is a game of resource management. Players start the game with just a base and a handful of worker units. In order to amass the army they’ll need to crush their opponents, they’ll have to put those units to work and make some serious dough — or minerals, in this case. Those are the blue crystals scattered all over the map, and players need them to make everything in the game. There’s valuable gas nearby, too, which players also need to make more advanced units and buildings.
Managing their economy is often a player’s first priority. The early game is all about striking up the right balance of gathering and spending resources. This process is so important that some strategies designed around disrupting that process can end games in minutes. In the late game, losing a base’s worth of workers can cause players to fall so far behind in army production that they may forfeit immediately.
This resource management is so important that even the best player in the world can’t win a game if they don’t have the economy to support their plan.
Bigger, better, faster!
What do teams spend all their resources on? A lot, to be honest. Every race has their own suite of unique buildings, units and upgrades that have different advantages and costs. When building anything, teams will have to prioritize between more than a dozen different options. That makes it crucial to understand exactly what role each one serves.
To win a game of StarCraft II, a team must destroy every building their enemy has made. Most buildings give teams access to a particular unit, but some can also let players research upgrades to make those units stronger or more durable. Other units serve more defensive purposes, making it harder for an opponent to break into a base’s vulnerable heart. Teams often build more than one of a particular building, which gives them back-ups in case one is destroyed, and speeds up the rate at which they can churn out an army.
While every army has a huge variety of unit options, a team can’t just build whatever they want on a whim. Some units are super cheap while others are ridiculously expensive. The best unit for any situation, though, depends on a team’s game plan and what they need to stop their opponent’s game plan. What makes these decisions even more difficult is that units are not the same across the three different races, meaning everyone is playing with a different toolkit. Some units counter others more effectively, but they may be weak to a third type of unit. This means that players often have to adapt their army’s composition on the fly.
One thing that helps units survive are upgrades to their damage, defenses or abilities. These upgrades are expensive and take a significant time to research. However, once an upgrade level is complete, their benefit is automatically applied to the player’s entire army. Upgrades can often become a deciding factor in games, as players that have more upgrades than their opponents can create windows where their army has a considerable advantage.
Big picture, detailed execution
Players and casters often refer to “macro” and “micro” when describing a player’s actions in-game. These terms refer to two different factors any team must focus on in order to win a game. In the most basic sense, macro involves executing on big-picture plans, while micro refers to the way a player moves their individual units.
The term macro refers to the understanding of the overarching state of any given point in time within a game. This means that it can refer to many things, from economy management to base expansion. Knowing when it’s time to branch off into another base, sending units off to scout around the map and maintaining the right amount of unit supply are all signs of good macro play. Going about it the right way makes an army look like a well-oiled machine, but it can take an incredible amount of focus to keep track of all the moving pieces. Bad macro play can lead to wasted resources and overextensions that can cost otherwise winnable games.
In casual StarCraft II, many players build giant armies and simply throw them at each other — but you won’t see any of that from top players. Instead, players take meticulous care to move every unit in very specific ways, which requires the precision and high actions per minute (APM) known as micro. Players can focus an entire army’s attack on single targets, or they can stay just far enough away from melee attackers to shoot them down without a single casualty. Units can flank from all angles or bait opponents into a trap, and some come with important abilities that require precision timing for maximum effectiveness. Good micro can let an underdog force out maneuver a larger army, and bad micro can look like running head first into a brick wall.
Wait, it’s already over?
Something else that’s fairly unique to StarCraft II is what looks like early forfeiting. Players can lose a single fight and drop the “gg” in chat, which is a sportsman-like way of ending the game. Don’t think a team is throwing in the towel early — they’ve played enough to know a lost cause when they see it. After all, it’s often impossible to pull off an epic comeback after losing crucial resources.
To catch all of the action, tune in to www.twitch.tv/blizzard on May 11 and 12.
About the CEC
Tespa and ESPN are excited to team up for the Collegiate Esports Championship! Schools from across the U.S. and Canada will compete live in Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and StarCraft II at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from May 10–12.
Tickets to the event for Tespa Members can be purchased here.
As our exclusive PC and monitor partner for the year, ROG’s Strix GL12CX and ROG Strix XG258Q will be powering all of the on-stage action at the event. In addition, teams will have access to more ROG products in the official player practice area.