A Newbie’s Guide to Watching Starcraft 2

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 5, 2013

Filed under: Video Games 259 comments

Sadly, I have failed you. Last week I claimed that Starcraft 2 was a really great thing to watch because it was flashy, exciting, fun, and easy to grasp. Apparently the action isn’t nearly as obvious as I thought it was. Some people gave it a look and found the whole thing impenetrable.

If you don’t enjoy watching the game because you don’t like it then you make me sad, but that’s how it goes with fandom. But I can’t bear the thought that you might be missing out on something you could like because I didn’t give you adequate preparation. So let me make it up to you. Let me explain this Starcraft 2 business in a way that’s comprehensible to someone who’s never touched an RTS game before.

There are tons of “newbie guides” out there, but most of them are aimed at people who want to play Starcraft. There aren’t many guides for people who just want to know what in the name of Tassadar’s metal codpiece is going on. The usual newbie guides are dense with stuff that viewers don’t need to know. You can enjoy football without knowing how to kick one, and you can enjoy Starcraft without reading ten paragraphs on the importance of using hotkeys and control groups.



The game of Starcraft is built around the idea of cartoony stylized sci-fi warfare. You acquire resources. You use those resources to build production facilities. You use the production facilities (and more resources) to make fighting units. Then you take that army and use it against your enemy by attacking their resources, production facilities, or army.

That’s it. That’s the big picture. You can intuit the rest by watching, but from the comments I’m seeing it might take a while for it all to soak in. So if you want the long version, then the following 2,000 words are for you…

In the old days, an RTS game was based on warfare between two identical but stylistically different sides. In Warcraft, you had Orcs and Humans. Their units and buildings looked different, but were mechanically identical. Their basic fighting unit was called grunts [Orcs] or Footmen [Humans] but they did the same damage, had the same hitpoints, and moved at the same speed. Late in the game there were a couple of specialist units that were very slightly different, but on the whole it was easy to balance the game because nearly everything was mirrored.

Starcraft does not have this. Starcraft has three sides that are radically different in how their units behave, how they construct their bases, and how they move around the map. This makes the game really interesting to watch, at the expense of making it harder to learn and creating a balancing nightmare for the devs.



Before the game begins, players choose which of the three available races they will play. Because the races are so drastically different, players usually specialize in playing a particular race. You’ll hear the casters refer to contestants as “Zerg player” or “Terran Player”.

Casters usually introduce a game by announcing the races using little abbreviations like, “This is a TvZ matchup” to tell you this will be a Terran vs. Zerg game or “PvT” for Protoss vs. Terran. The tricky one is “PvP”, which in this context means “Protoss vs. Protoss” instead of “Player vs. Player”.

Each pairing has its own feel and makes for a very different game. The three races are:


Terran are humans. In a stylistic sense, they’re kind of depicted as space-rednecks. They’re less “Star Trek” and more “Trailer Park Boysin space!” Their units feel the most familiar to us: Space marines, dune buggies, tanks, jets, nuclear missiles, and that sort of thing. In keeping with their nomadic style, their buildings can lift off, slowly fly around the map, and land elsewhere.


Protoss are a mishmash of alien tropes. Think caste-based Klingon warriors with Jedi powers and “techno temple” styled buildings made of yellow plastic and blue crystals. (I really dislike the yellow buildings, because I think it’s visually confusing to newcomers trying to figure out what team various units are on.)


Zerg are organic space-bugs. Even their buildings are actually organic creatures that bleed. (Ew.) They build (grow?) their structures on the creep, which is this purple ooze that covers the ground. A lot of Zerg play is focused on spreading and maintaining this creep. Zerg move faster on the creep, non-Zerg move slower. (Edit: Non-Zerg move the same.) The other two races have to dutifully clean up the creep as the game progresses or the Zerg will run circles around them.



The worker is your basic gathering and building unit. The caster might call them SCVs, probes, or drones depending on what race they belong to, but the units are all basically the same: Fragile manual labor units that are rubbish at fighting. If a player is fighting with workers, then things are going badly for them.

In a game, players start with a single base and six worker units. There will be a cluster of blue crystals (minerals) and two geysers of green gas (vespene geyser) beside the base, and players have their worker units gather these resources. Casters often refer to these resources colloquially as “money”. The early stages of a game are very much a guns or butter proposition. The player must decide how much they spend building more workers (which will further speed up their income) how much they spend on infrastructure (which will give them access to new units) how much they spend on combat units (which will defend the base and – if all goes according to plan – crush their enemies) and how much they spend on upgrades. They also need to decide how much time they want to spend sending their workers to poke around the enemy base to see what they’re doing. There’s often a little game of cat-and-mouse going on at the start of a match where players try to deny their opponent the chance to peek inside their base.

You’ll often hear casters obsess over how resources are being gathered in the early game. If a player is building lots of workers, then they’re “macro”-ing, meaning they are building a long-term economy. If they’re building lots of army units, then they going to begin fighting right away, hoping to crush their opponent before the game really starts. (Sometimes called a “rush”.) If they’re only gathering minerals, then the player is going to focus on cheap, early-game units. If they’re dedicating a lot of workers to acquiring gas, then they’re probably going after the more powerful and exotic units. (The most basic fighting units have no gas cost, while more sophisticated and powerful units cost progressively more gas. If you see a great big thing roaming around the map – whether its a giant flying fortress or a huge ground-smashing beast – then it’s safe to assume it represents a massive investment of gas.)



Sometimes called “food” by old-timey Warcraft types. Basically, each race has a thing they must build in order to build more units. A Terran has to build a supply depot for every X units on the field. If a player forgets (common newbie mistake) or their supply depots are destroyed, then they can’t produce more units. This is called being “supply blocked”. For Protoss, their supply comes from pylons and Zerg have overseers, but it’s the same idea.

Each supply depot provides +8 to your supply. So building a single supply depot lets you build 8 workers, marines, or other low-tier unit. Bigger units might require more supply, so a single supply depot can only support 4 tanks. There’s a hard cap of 200 supply. You can’t go above 200 supply no matter how many depots you build. Once your army hits 200 supply, you’re said to be “maxed out”, meaning you have the largest possible army. Battles between two maxed-out armies are usually pretty spectacular.

Casters often gauge relative army strength by looking at the supply numbers. If blue is using 75/200 supply and red is using 132/200 supply, then it’s a safe bet that red has the superior force. This isn’t always the case. One player might have a bunch of their supply given to worker units and the other player might have lots of really expensive and powerful units, so it’s not a guarantee that red would win that exchange. It might be difficult to say for sure who has the advantage until the shooting starts.

Macro Play

Scarlett vs. MiniGun
In this match, player Scarlett is blanketing the map with bases and zerg creep.

Casters will talk about players having “good macro” or “macro-ing up”. This refers to the process of expanding their base and establishing new ones. Once the fighting is started, it takes incredible discipline to hop away from the battle for split seconds to produce more workers, begin new buildings, get new upgrades, etc. The more total bases a player can keep running at once, the more income they will have and the more units they can build. Another measure of good macro is keeping your available minerals low – a good player will spend income as fast as it comes in until their army reaches maximum size.

Mineral clusters and gas geysers eventually run dry. When casters talk about base “saturation” they’re talking about how many workers are mining at a given base. There’s a limit to how much you can mine at one time from a given patch of minerals. Workers have to take turns chipping away at a given mineral cluster, and at some point there are so many units on the job that adding more will not speed up the yield. A player with good macro will have many fully saturated bases and production facilities working at maximum capacity. A newbie might have one or two bases, lots of idle workers, and a bunch of unspent money.

There’s a chain of structures you have to follow. You can’t build a fusion core until you build a starport, which requires a factory, which requires a barracks, which requires a supply depot. So you can’t just build some late-game item right away and crush your opponent. You have to “tech up” first, moving through the intermediate tiers of units. If you move up too fast, then you’ll spend too much on tech and you won’t have enough to make units. If you move too slowly, your opponent’s late-game units will be able to crush your lower-powered early game units.

To get a sense of where the macro game is at, check out the minimap in the lower left. You can see how much of the map is controlled by the two sides, which should give you a rough picture of who has the most bases.

Micro Play


Micro play is all about the control of individual units. This is where the master of hotkeys, blindingly fast response time, and precision mouse movements come in. Examples of micro play:

  1. The Terran is using some gun-toting marines to fight a cluster of “lightsaber” wielding Protoss zealots. The Terran can have the marines take a few steps away, take a single shot at one of the pursuing zealots, then step away, repeat. This keeps the Zealots at a distance, kiting them across the battlefield.
  2. The Zerg have this unit called the Infestor. It can’t fight directly and it’s incredibly expensive, but it can throw out a fungal ability that will trap a cluster of enemy units in place and deal damage over time. The infestor must then escape (the enemy is really, really going to want to kill it) and recharge its energy so it can do another fungal later on.
  3. Protoss has these units called “stalkers” that can do short-range teleports called blinks. Good use of these units means blasting enemy units and then blinking away to a safe distance before they can respond.

This kind of play is really fiddly. You kind of have to play the game yourself to appreciate just how magical the player’s speed and precision is. When you see a complex army of different units moving around, realize the the player is working furiously to keep the units in the right position: Durable units up front, ranged units in back, and specialist units (like the infestor) hidden until the crucial moment. If they’re using melee units then they want to do a surround to keep them from running away, and if they’re using ranged then they want to form a concave to maximize damage.



You’ll often hear casters say things like, “The Terran’s one-one is completed and they’re already working on the two-two”. This is talking about armor and weapon upgrades, respectively. So having your one-two means you’ve upgraded your armor once and your weapons twice. There are four total levels of upgrades: None, level 1, level 2, and level 3. These upgrades will greatly improve the combat effectiveness of fighting units. These upgrades are instantly applied to all units on the field and all future units forever, regardless of whatever else happens in the game. The instant the level one weapons upgrades are done, your fighting units begin dishing out more damage.

The thing about upgrades is that they take a long time. If you look in the screenshot above, you’ll see the upgrade for Infantry Armor Level 1 takes 160 seconds, which is forever in the scale of a Starcraft game. If you really want to get the upgrades done, then you need to build two instances of the upgrade building so you can work on both upgrades concurrently.

You’ll hear casters refer to a “timing attack”, which is the massing of forces to send them in just as a particular upgrade finishes.

Some Handy Lingo

Detection: Some units can’t be seen, either because they’re invisible or because they’re burrowed underground. To see these hidden dangers, a player needs to have something on the field that can see cloaked or burrowed units. This is called detection. It’s basically a mechanic that lets you punish your foe for being inattentive. If you see they’re lacking in detection units, you can make some cloaked units and tear them up until they correct. These hidden units are usually a waste if your foe is adequately prepared.

Expansion: Short for “Expansion Base”, and sometimes just ‘expo’. You begin the game with a single base, which is a single structure with some nearby minerals and gas. This is usually called the “main”, and is where you’ll typically have the most buildings concentrated. Taking additional bases is called expanding. There’s a bit of a tradeoff: Expanding early will increase your income later on, at the cost of hindering your army-building in the short term.

Natural: Short for “natural expansion”. There’s usually an obvious place to expand right outside of the main base. This is your natural. Casters usually refer to further bases by the order in which you acquire them: Your third, your fourth, etc.

GL HF and GG: Short for “Good luck, have fun” and “Good game”. The former is what you say to an opponent at the start of a match. The latter is what you say at the end, so saying “GG” before the other player is basically conceding the match. Casters talk about the GG like an event: “Shamus is down and I don’t see how he can win this one. We might be seeing the GG here soon.” Leaving a match without saying GG is considered rude and is basically a ragequit.

Foreigner: A non-Korean. South Korea popularized the Starcraft as e-sport, and their players are still objectively the best. The best western players often move to Korea to play on Korean teams. In any case, Korean casters call westerners foreigners, and this practice is strangely come back to the west, so that you’ll sometimes see (say) an American player, on an American team, playing in an American venue, and yet called a foreigner by the American caster.

Cheese: A goofy or unconventional tactic, usually employed at the start of a map to attempt a quick win. Works as both noun and verb. Running into an opponent’s base and building a barracks inside their base is a “cheesy” thing to do. It’s considered devious to very occasionally cheese an opponent. It’s considered cheap and obnoxious to do it over and over again. You can quickly get into really long, dense arguments of which tactics are cheese and which are just clever lateral thinking. On one hand, you goal is to win however you can. On the other hand, the audience is here to see a game of Starcraft with big battles and they’re not going to be happy if the match ends in three minutes and the only combat is when two marines slaughter all the enemy workers. Like strategic fouls in pro sports, it’s a part of the game but not really part of the intended game.

There’s a lot more lingo, but from here you should be able to intuit the rest. You can enjoy a game without understanding terms like Baneling bust, hive tech, skytoss, marine drop, feedback, and fungal. Most of these are related to specific units or unit abilities, and the full list would be massive overkill.

So that’s the game. Get out there and watch some matches. If you like the game half as much as I do then you’re going to have a lot of fun.


From The Archives:

259 thoughts on “A Newbie’s Guide to Watching Starcraft 2

  1. The Nick says:

    This is pretty helpful. As a big RTS’er but not a big Starcrafter, it was still an interesting read.

  2. Anon says:

    The necessity of this post demonstrates the weakness in your early post about the difference between sports and Starcraft. You enjoy watching Starcraft because you’ve played it and understand both the rules and the fine points of the game. I think the same can be said for most any sport. I’ve played Starcraft and understand the basics but still have a limited understanding of what I see in the matches. I didn’t grow up playing or watching baseball and while I understand the rules I find it tedious. Whereas a friend who had the opposite life experience finds it immensely enjoyable. This is simply a matter of frame of reference. Your frame of reference leads to you believe that Starcraft is immediately immersive, mine finds soccer to be the same.

    1. Shamus says:

      I DID start the post off with “I failed you.” I acknowledge this point in the very first paragraph. It’s the entire reason this post exists.

      1. anaphysik says:

        Ooh, sour aboat that article misstep. (#lagtv #canadianaccents)
        (Thanks whoever suggested LagTV in the prior article’s comments. When Cheese Fails was pretty awesome.)

        Now I will note that you don’t have to be immersed in the game in order to understand matches of it, like some people are claiming – I get by just with my experience the original Starcraft, which consisted of the occasional LAN game at a friend’s house (because I didn’t own it myself), and a ton of secondarily acquired knowledge (because I found the three-race dynamic really cool). But without that prior experience, I’d be totally lost when trying to watch S2 vids :/

        Still, though… watching matches is just not very interesting (as a non-insider-who-plays-the-game) unless you also have some energetic commentators along for the ride too. And even then, “normal” matches are still generally just plain /boring/. But the goofy stuff like Bronze League Heroes and When Cheese Fails? Yeah, I can gobble that stuff up at a prodigious rate ;D

        1. Naota says:

          Indeed. Though I’ve never played a competitive game of Starcraft in my life, Bronze League Heroes and When Cheese Fails are so entertaining that they’re educational. When I watch them, I make it my business to understand what in blazes is going on so that I can have greater insight into the depths of hilarity taking place in front of me.

          How else would I be able to truly enjoy the man who, by sheer coincidence, mistakes his enemy’s starting location and cannon rushes a completely empty expansion for 10 minutes, whereupon he realizes his mistake and promptly leaves the game in a fit of pathos?

          Also, there’s the TechnoGoose. Nobody could possibly hate the Best Goose Noise Possible… if it was Techno.

          1. anaphysik says:

            There’s also the original goose noise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kcCo8Mb0AA&t=56s

      2. Syal says:

        The presence of this comment demonstrates the weakness of the argument in your recent post that Starcraft is accessible because it is easy to grasp.

        1. Shamus says:

          Which I acknowledged in the first friggin’ paragraph.

          Me: Oh man, I’m sorry I sent you in there unprepared. My mistake. Here, let me make it up to you.

          You: See? YOU WERE WRONG!!!!!!!!

          1. Syal says:

            The presence of this second comment reinforces the first comment’s demonstration of the recent post’s flaws.


            1. Shamus says:

              And both of your comments reinforce that you’re being a jackass about it, which is a lot worse than being wrong.

              Knock it off.

                1. Syal says:

                  This presence of this comment serves to…


                  …I don’t know what this means.

              1. Alecw says:

                Aw cmon Shamus that was a fair lil troll :)

        2. anaphysik says:

          Indeed, Shamus, have you considered that Starcraft 2 might be hard to watch even though you think it’s flashy, exciting, fun, and easy to grasp? I mean, apparently the action isn't nearly as obvious as you thought it was. In fact, I hear that some people gave it a look and found the whole thing impenetrable.

          ;P ;D

      3. BenD says:

        I don’t feel like you failed us, but then, I have ONLY watched a few episodes of Bronze League Heroes. The casting in that is good enough, and the play bad (and elementary) enough, that it was enjoyable even though I did feel something of a lacking of a primer.

        Now that I have had the primer, I am SUPER excited to go back to BLH and watch more. Thank you, Shamus!

      4. Anon says:

        Upon re-reading I see that my first sentence was unnecessarily hostile and took away from the rest of the comment. In addition it seems to have encouraged some trollish posts. I apologize.

        1. Shamus says:

          Thanks. Sorry to you (and the others) if I was overly hostile in return. I got several comments in a row, right at the start, all saying the same thing, and it drove me crazy for a couple of hours.

        2. tengokujin says:

          This. This is a wonderful comment.

    2. Steve C says:

      I get why Shamus didn’t go into initial details. Not understanding the basics of Starcraft enough to watch it is pretty damning. Someone will revoke your nerd membership. Starcraft or RTSs “not being your thing” or “never having tried it” doesn’t really cut it. It’s a 19yr old now cultural phenomenon.

      Shamus you also have formatting examples on every comment:
      “You can enclose spoilers in {strike} tags like so:
      {strike}Darth Vader is Luke’s father!”{/strike}

      Who is this Darth Vader character and why do do I care Luke is his father?

      BTW you did a good job explaining Starcraft there.

      1. Jock says:

        Football’s a 100+ year cultural phenomenon, and plenty of people don’t know its basics enough to watch it, hence Shamus’ …incompletely considered attempt to offer Starcraft as an alternative. I know elitism is a nerd’s favorite pastime, but it doesn’t really help things when trying to convince people to do stuff our way.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          The Mandarin language has been around for a couple of thousand years, and is a huge cultural phenomenon. Not understanding it enough to read basic philosophical treatises is pretty damning ;-)

  3. Cybron says:

    Shamus, do you remember that article you wrote about how a lifetime of playing FPS games has disguised the complexity inherent in them and camouflaged the gradual evolution of barriers to entry to such an extent that people familiar with the genre didn’t even notice them? It was a great article, and did a lot to help me contextualize what is intuitive to me and what is intuitive to most people, even as a person who does not play FPS games.

    I think you could really use a hefty application of that here.

    1. Shamus says:

      See my response to anon.

      1. Cybron says:

        I didn’t really want to make the same point he did. You didn’t really fail me at all – having played Starcraft the original, I at least have a little idea what’s going on in those videos. And for what it’s worth, I think what you wrote is pretty useful. There’s tidbits here and there I hadn’t picked up (such as 1-and-1 re:upgrades)

        I was just speaking as to why it might have gone over some people’s heads. As someone who doesn’t really play a lot of video games any more, it’s just easy to see why this (and many other popular ‘e-sports’) could be confusing.

  4. Hydralysk says:

    I gotta say it’s funny that a few weeks ago you were talking about how stupid it was that you’d need to buy 2 copies of HoTS to play with your son, and then see them add the spawning feature this week.

    Do you wield some kind of clout with Blizzard that we don’t know about? If so tell them to fire the guy who came up with the always online idea for Diablo 3.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’m still impressed that he got a free copy from Blizzard. That means someone from Blizzard reads Shamus’ blog right? Or the post was influential enough that it got spread to their social circle. Of course is Shamus is really secretly the Blizzard puppeteer then it all makes sense

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        We are yet to see proceduraly generated SC2 maps, sooo I don’t think so :)

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be fair it is perfectly possible for Shamus to be recognized in those circles. He has a fairly well read blog and a fairly well read column, he was receiving review copies of some games sometime in the past (I don’t think it’s happening nowadays but still) so he may be on some list of “people of interest.” Plus what he writes simply makes for a good read and people at Blizzard are people with their interests too.

        And just look at the publicity that they’re getting from this for basically a single copy of Heart. Even if not that many people necessarily bought the game I wonder how many reinstalled or fired it up after reading these posts or watching the replays that Shamus linked (for that matter I’m pretty sure Blizzard is happy with the interest in replays even from people who aren’t interested in actually playing as it helps keep the game relevant). On top of that this (admittedly somewhat low level) buzz is generated right as they’re launching the spawning feature…

        1. Thomas says:

          Oh yeah, the puppeteer remarks were only because I decided to be more inline with the comment I was replying to. It’s perfectly possible, but it is also terribly cool that people in those kind of positions read/know about his blog. I was equally impressed where the Blip tv guy actually commented a response to Shamus. The dude has reach.

    2. Cody says:

      I was just about to mention that.

      I love what they are doing with this, and I’m surprised with how much they have tried to close off their recent games that they are doing it.

      It’s a smart move though, I’m talking my friend into trying it so we can play against the computer since he hates competitive multiplayer.

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s actually one of the reasons why they’re doing it, a Blizzard SC2 person realised that the company is no longer though of as one of the good guys so much and decided to think of something positive they could do to show they’ve still got a bit of their old selves about them

        1. Cody says:

          This may not win me back 100%, but damn does it help.

    3. Joshua says:

      Well, he wrote this long webcomic about starting a character in Lord of the Rings Online where he poked fun at a lot of the goofiness of the starter zone(Archet), and several months later the targets of most of his jabs were changed…..

      He’s got all kinds of industry clout.

  5. TheStranger says:

    As I said in my comments to the last post, watching sports, at least for me, isn’t about an intellectual understanding of what I’m watching. It’s a combination of experiencing the sport vicariously and seeing people do things that normal humans just can’t do. These things work for me because I’ve played most of the sports I watch, at least casually. The few sports I watch but haven’t played, I can at least imagine playing because I’ve played a lot of sports.

    From your posts, it seems like you get a similar benefit from watching competitive StarCraft. It’s a perfect intersection of “watching this reminds me of doing it” and “holy balls, I can’t believe I just saw that!” Which is fine; the reasons for watching are very similar, and I’m not going to begrudge anybody their preferred time-waster. But I don’t think it’s accessible to most people who don’t play RTS games.

    1. Shamus says:

      Now three people have left comments letting me know that the previous 3k words are a waste of time because you don’t play the game, even though the point of the post is to explain the game to exactly those people.

      I did what I could. People usually LOVE when I do this for coding. I have no idea what to make of this.

      1. Brandon says:

        I think it’s because when people want to play a game they just play it, whereas many people “don’t understand code it’s just too complicated” so they appreciate how you simplify it, even if they would never actually just go try and learn how to code.

        That said, I have played SC and SC2, and I enjoyed this post, even though I don’t really watch games, especially not pro games.

      2. Neko says:

        Thank you Shamus – I, for one, am someone who played a bit of SC1 uber-casually many years ago and while I am vaguely interested in the whole pro-SC2 thing I would be terrible if I actually played it. So learning a bit about the lingo the pros use was interesting.

        BTW, aren’t they called Overlords (RARARGHARBLE) not Overseers? Unless that’s a thing in number 2.

        1. Brandon says:

          Overlords is right, but in SC2 they can be upgraded into Overseers. In SC1 you bought a bunch of upgrades for Overlords that let them carry units and see further and things, in SC2 you buy one upgrade that lets you morph them into an Overseer that has a bunch of improvements.

          1. Wedge says:

            This is not quite correct — the speed upgrade and ability to carry units are still both Overlord upgrades. Morphing to an Overseer makes it a *detector* so it can see invisible units (in SC1, all Overlords were detectors.)

            1. Brandon says:

              I stand corrected. Thanks Wedge.

      3. Kamica says:

        Don’t worry Shamus, some of us (me included) appreciate it =P, I’ve played through the campaign of Wings of Liberty, and still this helped a lot, and was an interesting read.

      4. Hydralysk says:

        If nothing else, your previous posts got me watching pro matches and playing 1v1s for the first time since WoL launched.

        I’m also guilty of thinking SC2 is easy to understand since I sent a link of a When Cheese Fails cannon rush to one of my friends, only for him to message me back saying he understood nothing of what he’d just seen.

        1. Syal says:

          Same here, I only started watching Starcraft matches after the Knight v Moonglade post. I ended up burning through a bunch of When Cheese Fails, a few Shoutcraft tournaments, and reloading Warcraft 3 to play it for a while (that being the only RTS I currently own, I’m too slow for them).

        2. Abnaxis says:


          I understand all the lingo, but it never occurred to me just where the disconnects happened when I tried to share it with my non-RTS-er wife until I read this post. It’s almost like you’ve created a primer for people wanting to share their hobby with other people, rather than a read-me for the usual audience of novices you usually cater to.

      5. I thought it was a great explanation – there were a ton of spots you called out that I wouldn’t even have thought to explain because they’re so automatic for me by now.

        In fact I plan on pointing people who have no idea about Starcraft here when they need to know more about it.

      6. Cody says:

        I have to say that I’m rather glad someone put all this in one place, now when my friends or relatives(I have 2 younger cousins that want to start playing) get into the game I can send them here for a quick rundown before sending them off to youtube to watch a few quick games instead of having to pause every 3 seconds to tell them what is going on.

      7. MadTinkerer says:

        My impression is the real reason the 3k words are a “waste” is because “tl;dr” but they don’t want to admit it. ;)

        1. BeardedDork says:

          I don’t think waste is the right word. I will admit that I didn’t read the whole article, perhaps it is the first article on the site, that I didn’t. I think the target audience for this article is pretty small though.

          While I enjoy Shamus’ enjoyment of SCII it is not something that has ever appealed to me personally. I was kind of happy to see him explain it, because he has a way of explaining things to lay people that makes it easy to follow. However once I was about 2/3rds of the way through I began very cursory skimming and skipped down to the comment section. In the end even his explanation, which I was easily able to follow and understand, didn’t inspire me to want to know more.

          I fully endorse Shamus continuing to enjoy SCII and write about it, so long as it doesn’t become the focus here, which I very much doubt it will. I will continue to enjoy reading about his SCII fandom, but I won’t be joining him in it.

          Making Shamus sad, makes me sad.

          Nobody hits it out of the park every time, not even Shamus. If one article out of hundreds, that I have read doesn’t captivate me, that can hardly be considered a waste. If this can be considered a failure in anyway, I would be (extremely) happy to fail like this.

        2. MetalSeagull says:

          This is the first article he’s written on SC2 that I have read all the way through. I doubt I’ll ever play it, but at least I know what going on now.

      8. Dentarthurdent says:

        I for one found your post pretty enlightening, even as a former SC1 player. I wonder if you’re just getting the “loud minority” of people who already know what you’re talking about.

      9. Michael says:

        I only got into Starcraft (having never played an RTS) in April, and this article would have been a godsend those couple of months ago. I did manage to ‘train myself up’ watching all of TotalBiscuit’s ‘I Suck at SC2’ series, but that obviously took a good while, and I was left with many basic questions (particularly about the Zerg, for example). It took me ages to work out that the three harvester types have completely different build mechanics. I’m glad I persevered, though – I’m now addicted to Bronze League Heroes and have just bought a new PC so I can suck at the game myself…

        Anyway, this article does a great job on the broad strokes and I will be showing it to my mother so she can see what I’ve been blathering about!

        PS I’d personally also like to read an “overkill” article covering individual aspects in-depth, but I suspect you may be disinclined to go there both for the reasons already stated plus a portion of the responses…

      10. Ingvar says:

        I don’t know if I would have been able to understand a Starcraft match with no prior knowledge (because I haven’t seen one). I am pretty sure this post have helped my (possible) understanding, should I end up seeing one. I did like this write-up, though.

        Having never really understood American Hand-Egg, although I have seen a game, in a stadium, I am pretty sure my understanding of Starcraft is at a definitely higher level.

      11. Mephane says:

        Don’t give up hope. I have a basic knowledge of RTS, I played a few in the past, only against easy bots because I am too bad at them and generally tend to not enjoy playing them for more than a couple of matches before abandoning a game altogether; your post both taught me a number of interesting new details about SC2 as well as RTS games in general. I found the information given both interesting and even potentially helpful should I try myself at another RTS some day.

      12. Ian says:

        I for one enjoyed reading it.

        I own Star craft 2. I never got in to the first, just didn’t like the look of it, but when 2 was getting close to coming out I stumbled across someone casting a beta game on YouTube and I was hooked on what was going on.

        I played the campaign, 2 matches on-line but the amount of time I spent watching replays in the client without commentary rivals the amount of time I spent to play the single player campaign.

      13. Lazlo says:

        Well I don’t know why there’s such… whatever it is about this post, but it just makes me feel the need to let you know, as someone who’s played very few RTS’s and hated every one, I really enjoyed this post.

        I mean, that’s not unusual, I enjoy most of what you write, but the really bizarre amount of complaining about things that don’t make any sense at all to me just makes me want to let you know that you’re not crazy, there really isn’t anything wrong with this post.

      14. Cybron says:

        It seems the easiest way to get the community mad on this website is to say “[game] is inuitive/uninuitive” and have a lot of people disagree with you. See: FTL.

      15. Zagzag says:

        I for one really appreciate this write up. I tried my hand at the game a year or so ago, but it’s still really interesting to read articles like this.

        It also gives me a great place to point someone who might be interested in watching the game, but have no idea how to find out more about it.

      16. JGager says:

        As a person who doesn’t like RTS’s and loves traditional sports, I still found this article interesting just to see the parallels between the sports I like and this one. I appreciate you explaining the strategy of the game to me. I like the coding for the same reason, as it’s interesting to see the way you tackle the problem even if I wouldn’t have been able to understand the code itself.

        Hell of a job. I enjoyed it.

      17. TheStranger says:

        Aw, man – Shamus responded to my comment and I was too busy sleeping/working to respond back in a timely manner.

        Shamus, I consistently enjoy reading the things you write, even though I don’t code or play any game made after 2000 or so. This is because you’re a good writer, and you make these things accessible. Also, you generally write about big-picture ideas and problem-solving, which I almost always enjoy even if it’s in a field that I’m not invested in. Even though I don’t have any interest in watching StarCraft, your explanation of why you enjoy watching it was interesting.

        So in response to your post(s), which I’m going to unfairly paraphrase as, “StarCraft is really cool, and you guys should watch it,” I was just trying to add my own thoughts on why I watch things, and why some people, including myself, might not be too into watching StarCraft. Your writing remains awesome, as always.

      18. Alecw says:

        Shamus this was absolutely fantastic.
        I have somewhere to send my friends or GF now so I can share in watching a GSL finals with them!

        Thanks heaps <3

  6. Georgius Rex says:

    This is a great overview of watching SC2, but I’d like to highlight one thing that I think is important for watching and understanding the commentators, which is the Attack-move, or the ‘A-move’. Normally by right-clicking on the ground, a player orders a unit to a location with the so-called Move-Command, but that unit will not attack any enemies it sees whilst moving, so players usually move units with the Attack-Move, whereby the unit will stop to fight any unit it sees. A-moving, however is also undesirable if the player can micro his units better than the unit AI does, especially in larger battles with various unit types and multiple spellcasters.

    Regarding the races, if people are familiar with Warhammer 40K, the Terrans are basically the Space Marines, the Protoss are like the Eldar, and the Zerg are the Tyranids.

    I’ve watched a bit of SC2, and when I first started, I found these Viewer Tutorials helpful:
    Though the in-game UI has changed slightly since those were made in 2010.

    1. Fleaman says:

      Protoss are more like Tau-ldar. Their society, tech, and aesthetic are way more Tau than even the yellowest Eldar.

      Not sure about Europe and elsewhere, but Warcraft/Starcraft is definitely way more well-known than Warhammer in the U.S. It is not as well-known as Aliens, however. I usually tell people that the Terrans are colonial marines, Zerg are xenomorphs, and Protoss are predators. Since both Tyranids and Zerg probably owe a lot more of their ancestry to xenomorphs than to each other, this could be a good point to bring up in “who’s ripping off who” shitstorms.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Or we could just avoid those ‘shitstorms’ as you put it, and just hope they’ll finally stop.

      2. Felblood says:


        We could just accept the right and noble truth that all three can trace their ancestry to the Arachnids of Klendathu (AKA “The Bugs”) from Starship Troopers.

        Likewise, it can be fun to study why the Terran Space Marines, the Colonial Space Marines and the Imperial Space Marines are so similar and yet so different, by looking at their common ancestor, the Terran Federation Mobile Infantry.

        It is actually really cool to see, for example, how the Marines from Aliens, in turn, influenced the movie depictions of the Mobile Infantry, to the point that we often forget that, prior to that movie, the TFMI were generally depicted looking more like Starcraft Marines.

  7. viggih says:

    I have been reading this blog for almost three years now and never left a comment(I have also been playing/watching Starcraft 1 & 2 long before I found this blog and I’m so happy that you are also a connoisseur of E-sports ), however… When you said that non-Zerg moves slower on creep a small part of my brain screamed at me to correct this atrocity(this must be how fanboys feel) and break my silence to do it.To be clear: there is no penalty to walking on creep. Otherwise keep up the great work.

    1. anaphysik says:

      Of course there’s a penalty: your boots get all dirty.

      Thankfully, marines never /return/ to their barracks, so it’s all right in the end.

    2. Shamus says:

      Hmmm. I don’t know where I got this notion. Did they move slower in Brood war?

      1. Coblen says:

        Nope units move fine on creep in brood war too.

      2. Jace911 says:

        It’s bugging me too because I read that line and thought “yeah I remember that from when I played StarCraft 2”, but checking the wiki and whatnot I can’t figure out where the hell I got that idea.

        1. Shamus says:

          The only explanation I can think of is that maybe I got the idea because I felt slow on the creep compared to the Zerg I was fighting. Or maybe I just saw the goo, assumed it was sticky, and never bothered to see if that was true.

          1. ENC says:

            Zerg units move faster on creep, but you do not slower.

            So it is kind of similar in that you still don’t want to fight them on creep as protoss and terran both have very powerful ranged units, and the more time the zerg spends getting to you and setting up their concave or melee units the more time they’ve spent dying.

            Also, I don’t like watching SC2 anymore as it has the depth of a puddle; At least something like BFME2 has lots of choices available so every XvX race game doesn’t just feel almost the same except ‘oh wow they have 10 stalkers 1 immortal instead of 10 stalkers 2 sentries 1 zealot this will change the battle so much against their opponent with 14 stalkers!’

            Same reason modern sports bore me, there’s only so much you can do in such narrow limitations before every game feels the same. I doubt many people have watched SC2 games consistently since launch; I lasted maybe 2 months of solid every 2-3 days of watching the game before I ended up quitting as I’d seen it all.

          2. guy says:

            It might have been true in a beta build at some point; they go through a lot of changes between public discussions of the present beta and release.

            For instance, at one point the new flying caster for the protoss had the Encase Minerals power, with the effect of making you lose all your friends.

          3. Paul Spooner says:

            Yeah, that’s one of the interesting things about game presentation. Even though (as you pointed out) the units in the early RTS games were identical except for appearance, they felt different! People would complain that “I can’t play as Orc, Humans are way better!” or vice-versa.

            The creep looks “nasty” and so you don’t want to run your units on it. It doesn’t damage them, or slow them down, or anything, but that doesn’t matter. The presentation tells you “this is bad stuff” and your brain invents reasons to avoid it, even contrary to direct experience.

            I’d actually like it if there was a “clean interface” mode for games like this, which stripped out all the presentation elements and exposed the pure mechanical atoms. Just hitboxes, color codes, labels, effect radii, and nothing else. No unit animations, no little portraits, no fancy interface. It would play exactly the same, but feel so very different! I suspect that “pro” players would use it, if only to eliminate visual clutter. The casters could still replay it with all the fancy interface, or even more over-the-top presentation! Once the costume is separated from the structure there’s no limit to how crazy it can get.

            1. Syal says:

              I’m trying to think how you could show creep without triggering that effect. Whatever presentation there is, it’ll still have to blanket the ground in a way that Terran and Protoss don’t.

            2. Felblood says:

              Creep doesn’t damage your units, but the first time you see it in the SC1 campaign, it is projected by sunken colonies, which have an attack with the same range as their ability to project creep.

              Hence players are taught from the beginning:

              Creep is Bad.

              Don’t go into it unless you have to and purge anything that creates it.

              “Whatever it is, it ain’t natural. Torch it boys!”

  8. JP Hate says:

    Incidentally, Shamus, what did/do you think of the SC2 campaign?

    1. Cody says:

      Oh I would love to hear about what he think of SC2 compared to 1 and BW.

      1. SecretSmoke says:

        Relevant to my interests. Never got to play broodwar, and I actually think the Starcraft 2 campaign is my favorite among RTS’s, so it’ll be interesting to hear from someone with experience whether it’s an improvement over the first or not. (Despite them making me wait 3 games in for a Protoss campaign…)

        1. Klay F. says:

          As a diehard SC fan, I can say with certainty that Heart of the Swarm has my second favorite campaign, and Wings of Liberty is in third place. First place is the original Starcraft, and last place comes Brood War. I don’t know what it was about the Brood War campaign, but I hated it.

        2. Cody says:

          Personally I think BW had the best story between them all, though I still enjoy 1 more. WoL and HotS to me both had really weak story so far. Enjoyable but I don’t believe as good as 1 and BW.

          Just my 2 cents.

          1. Klay F. says:

            For sure, original SC and Brood War’s stories are superior in (almost) every way. What made their stories so good was how understated they were, they didn’t have to brow beat you about how every character feels accompanied by clichéd drivel posing as dialog. I know these days, “understated” is a word that seems like the antithesis of modern videogame stories. Flashforward to SC2 and everything is sickeningly overwrought. In terms of gameplay original SC is still the best, though WoL and HotS come close. That is, at least, my humble opinion.

            1. Cody says:

              I’m one of those crazies that like the gameplay in 2 more then 1, mostly because I sucked at 1 as a kid. Plus the singleplayer missions in 2 are a lot more varied and a lot more fun then in 1. So it’s this weird trade off of gameplay and story for me that has be going back and forth between the 2 games a lot about what one I like overall more.

              1. Klay F. says:

                Yeah, I’ll admit this is really subjective, but while I like that the missions in WoL and HotS are more varied, I REALLY dislike how certain aspects what you learn in single player is completely wrong in multiplayer, or are left out altogether. Injecting larva for instance, I had absolutely no idea what it was until I started playing online. By the time you start playing online, you should already have a complete grasp unit relationships. Having to learn crucial components of your build while you are already facing another person is the height of ridiculousness.

                1. guy says:

                  There is a slate of nine missions for multiplayer training, actually, although I don’t think chronoboost and injecting larva are in them.

                  What really bugged me about the HotS campaign was how it simply left out zerg detectors and player-controlled Nydus worms and overlord transport. Especially that second one. I wanted to be the one popping up unexpectedly in the middle of a terran base for once!

                  Also, the campaign structure felt worse than Wings Of Liberty. Individual missions were still good, but the way it locked you into sets of missions bugged me. And there weren’t any multiple-option missions like Ghost Of A Chance/Jailbreak or Haven’s Fall/Safe Haven.

                  I actually liked the Zerg characters, though. Especially Broodmother Niadra’s puppy-like enthusiasm, and spoiler-man’s everything. Besides, when I think SC1 characters I do not think understated.

                  “I will not be stopped. Not by you, or the Confederates, or the Protoss or anyone! I will rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me.”

                  And then there’s the Protoss…

                  1. Klay F. says:

                    You are right. The characters are most definitely overblown. But its the understated story which makes said overblown characters less annoying and clichéd than they would normally be. The entire story is carried out by short, to the point dialog. None of the extraneous BS that stinks up SC2’s campaigns is present. This is a case of (at least to me) less story=better story. The underlying premise, and plot for that matter, is wholly derivative, its the way its told which makes it special. This is a talent Bioware also used to have: Telling well worn stories in engaging and thoroughly entertaining ways. Again, this is very much subjective, but thats the way I feel.

    2. Zekiel says:

      Would love to hear Shamus’ thoughts on the campaigns…

  9. Phantos says:

    I don’t play RTS games, and I’m only superficially familiar with Starcraft. So whenever Starcraft comes up on this blog, I feel like a Signoid trying to understand Blurnsball.

    Thank you for attempting to demystify it.

    1. Zekiel says:


  10. Humanoid says:

    What I want to see now is Shamus commentating on a game, preferably live. Maybe in the next hangout? :D

  11. StashAugustine says:

    All this talk about Starcraft is making me wanna reinstall Dawn of War…

    1. Haha, Dawn of War was on my mind as well (I think Dark Crusade is my favorite).

      1. MrPyro says:

        Dark Crusade was the pinnacle for me as well. I liked the big campaign idea, where you had to claim territory and then defend it later, and you got the choice of how to proceed with things.

        Soulstorm messed things up by taking away the ability to completely garrison a map so that the defence missions were easier.

        1. guy says:

          Also, Soulstorm had terrible Stronghold missions.

          Especially the Sisters Of Battle Stronghold. The Inviolate Aura was incredibly annoying. And a lot of Take & Hold objectives in the strongholds that were infuriating playing as Tau who don’t use static defenses because they do not consider holding ground a strategic goal in and of itself.

          1. Haven’t see that one, but I thought the Imperial Guard stronghold was a massive pain when I was trying to push them off the planet (I was actually playing as the Sisters).

            1. guy says:

              Short version: The main base is defended by a Living Saint, and everything within a screen of her is invincible until a pair of structures are destroyed and she jumps over to defend them when they’re attacked. It is infuriating.

              1. Felblood says:

                Two words, my friend:

                Deep Strike.

                All you have to do is get those buildings in sight range, and the sister’s line will crumble.

        2. Oh gosh, I hated how Soulstorm handled garrison–and Dark Crusade to a minor extent. I feel BFME2 did it better, though I am on the fence about keeping armies as opposed to bases.

          1. Felblood says:

            I actually liked not feeling like I had to spend an hour hand crafting defenses for every map tile, but I do wish it would let me keep one of each come tech building on some places.

      2. Zagzag says:

        Indeed, Dark Crusade was the pinnacle of the series for me. Especially the Imperial Guard stronghold. I don’t even know what about that level it was that made me enjoy it so much, but I suppose it just *felt* right for the Guard.

        1. A few months ago I was on the verge of overthrowing the Guard as the Tau. Hours of gameplay–across a few days–later, I was getting ready to make my final push and I saved my game again to return later. When I came back the next day, I found I had yet to assault the Guard base. The game somehow glitched all my progress out of existence. I did the one thing any sensible person would do: I rage-quit. I’ve yet to go back. :/

  12. Jamas Enright says:

    I would just like to thank Internet Explorer (v9) for not showing any of the game images and making me think ‘man, this would be better with pictures’… before realising that’s what the little dots I saw were supposed to be.

    Thanks Microsoft!

  13. Psithief says:

    “If you don't enjoy watching the game because you don't like it then you make me sad, but that's how it goes with fandom.”

    As someone who does not enjoy watching any type of sport and does not buy into the whole “reflected glory” mindset, I’m going to unsub from this RSS feed so you don’t have to be reminded people like me exist.

    Do take care not to add snide insults to your articles, Shamus. You’ll only end up with an echo chamber.

    1. Shamus says:

      “You make me sad” was a self-deprecating reference to this:


      Nothing snide about it. Even if it wasn’t a joke, that’s pretty innocuous. I didn’t insult the reader or express disapproval, but disappointment. I mean, that really is how it works with fandom. We share the things we love with others, and if they don’t like it then we feel a little disappointed.

    2. Adalore says:

      And…in that very quote it’s recognizing that this “saddness” is irrational fanbase related and should not be taken seriously. Heck, it’s practically self-deprecating.

      It’s with his typical writing style with how he does jokes. Please take your “I have the last word” behavior and enjoy your unsub.

      Also “Ninja”d by blog owner, pls nerf.

    3. lostclause says:

      I don’t know if I’m any more right than you but the way I read that, he seems to be making fun of himself, i.e. he is the fanboy and he recognizes the absurdity of his own reaction. If that’s so, the only insult is to himself. (Ignore this since I was ninja’d by Shamus)

      Anyway, Shamus I’ve enjoyed the links you’ve put up so far, especially the bronze league heroes which, even as an non-SC player, I find amusing. Thanks for sharing.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Um,how is “you make me sad” an insult?Even if it wasnt a joke,how would it be an insult?

      1. Thomas says:

        Read it to yourself and put the emphasis on the you. It’s not what Shamus meant but it’s totally possible if you come at it from the wrong angle and haven’t heard it before you could read it like that.

        Or read it in an aggressive tone. You Make Me Sad for being so incorrect in your choice of e-sports. Sort yourself out.

        The english language is super floaty and doesn’t really ensure 100% idea conversion in casual writing

        1. swenson says:

          That’s not the English language, that is every language ever.

          Except maybe Ithkuil.

    5. Felblood says:

      Wow dude.

      If it’s that easy to run you off, go right ahead, IMO.

      Are you more a fan of blogs written by robots, with no opinions or emotions that might offend you?

  14. I know how RTSs work in general, and I have a vague idea of how SC2 works, but thanks lots for the guide! :D

  15. MikhailBorg says:

    Well, I enjoyed the article, and I’ve been playing StarCraft II since release day.

    I mean, I suck at it – the players in Bronze League Heroes are often better than I – but it’s still fun watching my Marines shoot things to death at my command.

    I appreciate your effort!

  16. Greenansatsu says:

    Shamus after reading some of the comments from this post and last, I must defend you and say that I do agree. I find watching SC2 to be a fun and stimulating experience even though before watching my first match(the bronze league hero match you tweeted). My experience with RTS was isolated to playing the campaign of Age of Mythology back in the day. Before watching Husky’s replays I had never watched any SC2. I found the entire thing mainly intuitive, I eventually had to ask a friend who is big into SC2 to explain some of the minor details, that you wouldn’t pick up from not playing. Now I’m watching the end of the WCS EU on twitch and loving every second of it.

    All in all I thank you for posts on this game and helping me get into the wonderful world of E-Sports. I think the problem your running into is that people’s brains are just wired differently, some can watch a game of cricket and instantly understand what the heck is going on, while others like us can watch an episode of BLH and understand the the basic and moderate points that it takes others time to learn and comprehend.

    Hopefully this post helps to bring more people into watching and playing SC2, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t catch as many fish as you hoped.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “The player must decide how much they spend building more workers (which will further speed up their income) how much they spend on infrastructure (which will give them access to new units) how much they spend on combat units (which will defend the base and ““ if all goes according to plan ““ crush their enemies) and how they spend on upgrades. They also need to decide how time much they want to spend sending their workers to poke around the enemy base to see where what they're doing.”

    A few typing blunders there,bolded for convenience.Unless that “how time much” was intentional.

    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. That was terrible. That’s like, “How is babby formed” level of typo.

      Fixed. One hopes.

      1. Disc says:

        “If you like the game half as much as I do then you'r going to have a lot of fun.”

      2. Naota says:

        There’s also this:

        If you like the game half as much as I do then you'r going to have a lot of fun.

        That is, unless you’ve recently turned into a Lucavi.

        Edit: Oh damn, somebody’s got some serious job levels in Ninja.

        1. MelTorefas says:

          As a *huge* fan of Final Fantasy Tactics with fond memories of all the typos and Engrish in the PS1 version, this comment made my day.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Whenever I read “casters” it took me a second to remind myself that Shamoose was talking about the commentators and not in game spell casters.Its weird how mind works like that.

    1. I thought that too… then I imagined a starcraft match as a wizard battle, where each player is psychically controlling their units. It’d probably go a fair way in discovering how they can micro-manage units so fast :).

      1. Aldowyn says:

        So basically like the League of Legends ‘Summoners’, then? :D

      2. Taellosse says:

        Well, that pretty much IS how the Zerg are supposed to work. In the campaign, you’re nominally playing AS Kerrigan (in Heart of the Swarm), who directly controls the Zerg Swarm with her mind. In the Wings of Liberty campaign, you’re nominally playing as Raynor, who is kind of supposed to be doing the same thing too, except with the convention of radio commands instead of telepathy. Presumably the Protoss campaign will do something similar, with Zeratul, or whoever ends up being the focal character.

        1. guy says:

          Selendis, that Protoss chick who showed up for the Haven mission and In Utter Darkness.

    2. guy says:

      But guess what the casters call in-game ability users!

  19. new_fate26 says:

    As someone who doesn’t play sc2, (mostly due to a crippling lack of financial gain in recent years,) I found this article to be extremely helpful in understanding a little bit better what it was I was watching these past few weeks.

    One thing that watching these matches has done though is make me interested in the universe that they take place in. Are they cannon with the actual game’s setting? Who is this Aier guy that that one caster keeps bringing up in his bronze league hero casts? What happened to cause an intergalactic war with a bunch of space truckers, the bugs from starship troopers, and ethereal robot-people?

    Just wish I had a computer that wasn’t my phone and some cash to actually sit downand play it, cause the games themselves look incredibly fun to micromanage.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      Aiur is the Protoss home world, when you click on zealots (the most basic Protoss fighter), one of their flavor speech options (or maybe their only one?) is “My life for Aiur!” Husky makes fun of zealots by repeating that when they die. (Their flavor speech is now officially ironic because the Zerg destroyed Aiur in the first game)

      Husky played the single player campaigns out in these four playlists:

      Watching those would get you virtually all of the lore/backstory (there were some books, too, and maybe some other media of lesser importance)

      Actually, because each race has introductory missions with limited goals and stuff, watching them would probably also teach you a bunch about how the game works.

      1. new_fate26 says:

        Thanks for the links. I’ll be sure to check them out once I’m off work.

        On the subject of the books, are there any you would recommend?

        1. silver Harloe says:

          I never bothered with them. I got all the story I needed from the in game cutscenes when I played SC1+BroodWar, and from watching Husky play SC2.1 and SC2.2 while I wished I could afford a new computer that could play them :)

    2. Aldowyn says:

      Well, the game deliberately pits every race against every race during the campaigns, so any combination is possible. ‘Aier’ is probably actually ‘Aiur’ (as in ‘My life for Aiur’), which is the Protoss (the high-tech alien dudes) homeworld, and as for the war… well, the Zerg happened.

    3. Klay F. says:

      The instruction manual that came with the original Starcraft had an entire section dedicated to explaining how the Zerg and Protoss came about, and how the Terrans got separated from earth. I actually still have the original boxes for the original and Brood War. This was back when PC games all came in those giant waste-of-cardboard boxes.

      Anyway, the Terrans basically pulled a Voyager and decided to just stay where the ended up, and the Zerg and Protoss were both created by the same progenitor race with some phenomenally awesome “yup this’ll never go wrong” skills.

  20. Jobber says:

    You can intuit the rest by watching.

    No. You, Shamus, an experienced RTS player, can intuit the rest. Someone who has never played an RTS really, really cannot.

    If all you have is observing the game– never having seen a tutorial, never having any chance to interact with it– it is quite difficult to figure out what is going on even if you have plenty of time to watch. At the pace of competitive Starcraft, with multiple players in multiple parts of the map all acting independently at many actions per second, it’s the next thing to impossible.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I managed to intuit baseball simply by watching a game here and there.Starcraft is easy to pick up compared to that.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I think that baseball would be easier to intuit than Starcraft 2:

        1) While there are a lot of rules and potential situations, most of them don’t come into play in most games.

        2) The pace is slower, which means that you have the time to think about what might be going on before the next play kicks in.

        3) Because the pace is slower, the commentators tend to go over a lot of the rules when it happens and explain far more about what happens. In fact, they tend to analyze all the big plays in detail in replays because they have the time to do that.

        There’s a reason that I consider baseball to be a perfect game to watch on TV when I want to do something else; if anything interesting happens, it will be obvious from the excitement in the commentators’ voices, and they’ll usually show the replays over and over again because they have the time.

        Starcraft is more like … well, I can’t think of anything that it’s like in a sports model, actually. It’s very fast-paced with a lot of interaction between the players, with little time for analysis when things really start going. That’s harder to pick up just from watching than something like baseball.

        1. anaphysik says:

          Another key part of baseball is that there’s a /very/ central point of viewer focus – the ball. And then once it’s in play, we jump up to a whopping… /two/ points of focus (the ball and the batter that hit it). Other sports have a few other simultaneous points of focus (like, say, receivers in American football) but a lot of the time you can get by by just following the ball – you don’t need to watch the goalie in hockey or association football, you just need to watch them when the puck/ball gets near them.

          Starcraft, though, potentially has /the entire map/. Every base is a point of focus, as is every group of units (of which there can be many). And within those groups, there are subgroups of focus too, like what new tech is being built. And on top of all that, you can only get a detailed look at an extremely tiny portion of the whole map at any time. (Hell, for someone fresh to watching, even knowing to /check/ the minimap frequently can be daunting. But even if you do remember to, there’s relatively little info you can glean from it, and you cannot inspect interesting areas unless the casters do.)

          All of these games have intricate and frequently confusing rules that you’d have to know to fully understand what’s going on. But it’s definitely easier for a (completely new) viewer to just follow around a ball than it is for them to understand an RTS match.

      2. Decius says:

        Do you know what a balk is in baseball? How long did it take you to learn about the ground roll double?

        Can you explain the infield fly rule?

    2. Shamus says:

      This? This is the first thing you have to say to me? Your first comment on my blog is an irrationally hostile message because I tried to share something with you and it didn’t work out?

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Okay, I’m going to put this here because this is a relevant post near the end of the comment page (at the moment I’m writing this).

        While I didn’t find this specific (comment) post to be that hostile I am rather surprised at the level of agitation and anger this particular (blog) post has caused. Heck, I don’t think the actual post where you made the mistake that you’re trying to correct here raised such a reaction. I do remember a lot of people pointing out that you are wrong but in a much more level headed way.

        I also can’t help but find it ironic that this happens only a few days after we were all patting ourselves on our backs about how mature, polite and reasonable community we had here.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “I also can't help but find it ironic that this happens only a few days after we were all patting ourselves on our backs about how mature, polite and reasonable community we had here.”

          Well yeah,but that post talked about religion and politics.This is gaming dammit!

          It just goes to show that relitics arent the universal flame bait they are thought to be.If you want to start a flame war amongst gamers,just go and write something not thoroughly researched about a popular game,and enjoy the bonfire.

        2. Mephane says:

          Yeah, I am quite surprised at the sudden harsh tone, too, and I have no idea where it comes from. Even if all those comments were 100% true (I can’t say how much truth they contain), there’s no reason to engage this conversation in such an accusatory manner.

          1. Jobber says:

            Is my post one of those you consider to have a harsh tone?

            If so, can you please offer a suggestion in how it should have been written differently?

            Hostility is not my intent, and I would like to avoid being misunderstood in the future.

            1. Mephane says:

              This may seem really weird, but I think it is the combination of putting the quote in bold (instead of a quote block), then starting with a “no, period” and adressing Shamus in italics. To me it this sounds like just the way a lawyer would stand before the defendant, arm scretched out, index finger pointing right into the face of the accused, while claiming “No. You did it.”.

              I am not saying this was your intention, but this is the mental image that I get when reading you first two sentences.

        3. swenson says:

          Yeah, what is up with that? There’s a good half-dozen posts basically ripping into Shamus for trying to explain better something he confesses he didn’t explain well enough the first time. Wut?

          1. Chris Robertson says:

            Let’s call it “Blood in the water”. Shamus has demonstrated himself to be an intelligent, well-spoken, kind-hearted individual who doesn’t make mistakes that effect other people. The internet is a haven for the jealous and the self-loathing as they can point out perceived flaws in others without exposing their own weakness.

            This is the first article I can remember that started with an apology (which apparently was seen as a sign of weakness and an invitation for criticism).

            I don’t think that Shamus really needs my support or encouragement (nor do I believe that it will counter-act a equivalent amount of vitriol), but I desire to put it out here anyway.

            I have been playing Blizzard RTSs since WarCraft II. I have a very small interest in watching matches, but enjoyed the exposure to Bronze League Heros and When Cheese Fails as well as the direction to watch the games pointed out as “epic”. This article was not aimed at me, but I enjoyed it.

      2. Scampi says:

        I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to post anything about this since it might happen to be some kind of “I told you so” or something along the lines of it (I happen to imagine Elan singing “Fight, fight, fight, fight the urge to say I told you so.” It makes the entire thing a bit more lighthearted in my mind;) ). Still, I hope it doesn’t come across this way.

        I thought I’d make sure to explain that I don’t particularly enjoy watching E-sport casts, since they don’t allow for the same kind of detailed insight as replays do. Since replays are usually associated with the game that was used to record them, I have simply no means of watching SC II in a manner convenient to me. I like the possibility not only to “intuitively grasp” the matches, but to understand in detail, since this is pretty much what I think it takes to watch it, enjoying several RTS or TBS myself. I like to know details like “how much damage does this upgrade add” or “how does the armor mechanic in this game work” (like: subtraction in SC, %dmg in WC3 etc) so I can estimate how much they are actually doing, how much damage does this spell and how (x/sec?; instant?; AoE?) then: how much IS the AoE is not so easy to grasp (at least not, if you have no experience with it). All this stuff I would usually try to use when coming up with my strategic or tactical decisions during gameplay (WC3 especially: “will building another footman offer me more damage at the moment than better upgrades? will my tauren’s shockwave hit this specific escaping guy if I aim it this way to hit a maximum amount of units?)- after a while: intuitively. I could do this because I had some 1st hand experiences. I wouldn’t have had enough understanding just from watching casts, maybe not even from replays.
        I thought this might be easy to understand for someone like you, who, after all, wrote entries like this: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1399
        You wrote you took all those details into account in a shooter based game (I usually played shooters in a similar fashion;) ) to build your strategy. Now, if my primary interest is in appreciating the strategy, I (personally) can only properly do that if I have a more or less experienced idea of how exactly each upgrade or decision will influence the battle. That’s why I’d watch people play chess or shogi, maybe go, since the rules are “simple” enough to pick them up reading like 1 Wiki-site or a bit more, even though watching them might not be as satisfying as watching stuff blow up in nice graphics. For SC II, the cost of aquiring the knowledge I feel I will need to really enjoy a cast would be to buy a game I have no personal interest in buying atm + Addon + playing them for an extensive amount of time.
        I’m just not the type to watch sports they have no relation to except as a spectator.
        This is just my point of view, but it MIGHT apply to others as well.

        Edit: thinking about it: I think this is less a “I told you so.” and more of a “I expected you to predict this.”

        1. wheals says:

          I think part of what Shamus was saying in the previous post, and part of what makes it difficult for the communication between him and the people he’s been talking to, is that most people don’t WANT to know all of those minute details. Sure, if I played the game I’m the kind f person who’d like to know every single last number, but the exact damage of each unit seems less important than the strategy (it is, after all, a real time “strategy” game.

          To compare it to other sports, you don’t need to know the exact quality of every football player on the team to appreciate a match. Some people will want to do that, and some will just want to enjoy the show.

          1. Scampi says:

            Well, I think the numbers in a game are very important, since they should be the basic foundation of the strategies you want to see realized. Actually, I’d say the numbers ARE the game…the UI is more of a pretty tapestry to get people more interested and enthusiastic. Though, I have to admit, strategy games wouldn’t be that much of a (cultural) phenomenon if the graphics didn’t make it easier to contextualize the numbers.
            About other sports: I don’t think I have the means to know a given sportsman’s precise properties…if I had, a match of 2 teams could maybe be boiled down to a set of statistics and a few dice rolls.

      3. anaphysik says:

        Shamus, I didn’t read that post as irrational, hostile, or irrationally hostile at all. I think you may be overreacting a tad :/. I do think there’s a solid point in ‘a viewer has to understand the basics of RTSs /in general/ before they can understand the basics of this particular RTS.’

        Though I will certainly say that it feels like it would have been much more appropriate as a response to the earlier article than to this one, where it doesn’t really fit unless you start reading it as higher than ‘no, SC2 is hard to watch.’ But I don’t think it’s hostile :/


        Another point to consider is that most people being introduced to watching RTS matches are watching them /by themself/ (because someone on the internet suggested it to them) – whereas most people being introduced to ‘normal sports’ are watching them directly with the person introducing them (next to them on the couch, etc.). Over many viewing sessions, the presence of that experienced viewer can definitely make a difference (as well as providing a compelling reason for the new viewer to stick at it in the first place (spending time with someone they know)).

      4. Jobber says:

        Irrationally hostile? Yikes, man. I’m not being hostile at all. Right now I am rereading that post and trying to figure out what you are seeing that looks like any kind of attack or insult, and I’m not finding it. If it seems hostile to you, I apologize, because that’s not what I intend.

        I’m just posting an opinion that disagrees with yours.

        It’s perfectly normal that you consider Starcraft easy to pick up. From your point of view, it is easy. What I’m pointing out is that you are not the baseline of humanity. You have not only prior gaming experience, but also high intelligence and exceptional technical skills. I fully believe that you indeed could figure out a very high-speed multiplayer game you’d never seen before, just by watching it.

        My point is that most people are not as smart as you. Most people don’t have all your advantages. I do not believe most people could intuit all the complex rules and interactions of Starcraft II just by watching. That’s all I am saying.

    3. Loonyyy says:

      I’m also perplexed to the level of hostility.

      You didn’t get it?

      1) Cool? I didn’t get most sports I watched for a long time, nor would I expect to. Same with most card games. I think it’s been so long since learning these things that these anklebiters have forgotten how long it can take to learn something new. Of course his guide isn’t sufficient on it’s own. But if I can pick up Morrowind with no game experience beyond Mario by watching someone else play it, you should be able to grasp Starcraft. It’s not exactly rocket science (Well, the nukes are, but I digress).

      2) The post was frontloaded with an apology, which was pretty unnecessary, because all he said in the previous post was essentially: This is pretty cool, brief primer, you should look into it.

      Hostility as a response to that, is frankly unreasonable.

      1. Jobber says:

        Could you please point out exactly what part of my post you consider hostile?

        Hostility is not my intent, and I would like to avoid the appearance of it in the future.

        1. Loonyyy says:

          The tone inferred by the use of bold text and italics infers a judgemental sentiment, and the accusation that Shamus can understand it, in italics again, as opposed to someone else, sets up a dichotomy of an “Us vs Them” nature, which adds to the general tone. Which I don’t agree to anyway. I’ve learnt plenty of games without playing them by just watching, and I think I could learn to grasp most given time. The implication that you can’t do it is frankly silly, and I think most people inexperienced with RPGs would prefer not to be labelled as that ignorant.

          When this comment echoes the sentiment of several other exchanges, which already had been responded to by Shamus and others, it implies that you don’t care about any conversation, because you’re just rehashing the same rubbish. And it is rubbish. As was pointed out, there’s an apology, right there at the start of the thing.

          The judgemental tone as a response to a post where someone APOLOGISES to you for not explaining something in enough detail for you, because you lack the temerity to learn any of it on your own terms, and then EXPLAINS IT FURTHER, in an effort to rectify their mistake is entirely unnecessary.

          It’s a combination of tone, repetition, and the fact that the tone set by the blog post, one of contrition and acknowledgement of the problem you have, is responded to by pointing out that problem again, and making no comment on the actual content, and seemingly ignoring the apology.

          So, to avoid it:

          1.) Use the snarky sarcastic judgemental Pheonix Wright voice only when that’s how you want to be percieved.
          2.) Avoid addressing what’s already covered.
          3.) Let your tone be set by the opening post, not below it. Ideally you should be above it, see Shamus’s Blog post on Moderation.
          4.) At least try to give off the impression that you read what you’re responding to.

          So a better response would be:

          “This didn’t clarify enough, and I’m still confused”
          “This clears things up and I think I have an understanding now”

          And maybe talk about what it is you don’t get. Or do get. Or whatever. I’m not going to write it for you.

          Not to address a previous post in this one, because you make no reference that implies this is concerning this post.

          1. Jobber says:

            Italics simply indicate emphasis. I italicized the word “you” to emphasize and clarify that I meant it as the personal pronoun– the reader himself– rather than the collective pronoun that indicates “any person.”

            If a person reads a hostile and “snarky” tone into that, then in my own personal opinion that person may be overly sensitive.

            1. Syal says:

              Your first line reads like “No, you are!”, which in turn reads like you’re being childishly stubborn without trying to add anything to the conversation. And once you get someone’s back up they won’t comprehend the rest of the post so any point you make after that is moot.

              I think if you just dropped that first line entirely it would have read perfectly fine.

    4. BenD says:

      Let me explain what’s happened here.

      Dude blogs about free content created by other people.
      People don’t understand said content, and complain.
      Dude tries to explain the content, and leaves it to readers to try again, or not.
      People act like jerks.

      This is like saying, ‘I hate Mad Men, and it’s clearly the fault of those people at the water cooler at the office who told me about it. They are clearly responsible for it being a show in which I find no redeeming value. It’s their fault I wasted an hour of my short life to watch it.’

      I want Shamus to continue to provide us with guides to content he enjoys, and I am sensing that the risk/profit equation of doing so is starting to look unappealing to him. As such, I would like to encourage folks who want to dump responsibility for their YouTube choices on Shamus to kindly bug off.

  21. Jakale says:

    I always forget that the Zerg have bug roots, since past the larva they’re all so fleshy. Then again, normal taxonomic classification sort of flies out of the window when dealing with a race of natural geneticists.

    1. Klay F. says:

      Well trying to look at the Zerg from ANY scientific perspective is almost akin to lunacy. This is a species whose own genetic specialists can’t even be bothered with using the terms “evolve” and “mutate” correctly, or worse, use the terms interchangeably.

    2. HeroOfHyla says:

      They seem a lot more like bugs in SC2 than in 1. In 1 they always seemed like some sort of tentacle monsters to me.

  22. Weimer says:

    Ugh. I feel strongly that Kerrigan’s outfit in the first image is simply put ridiculous. The one thing I remember about SC1 is that there is no gratuitous fanservice, and this makes me sad.

    I do like how they show their cards right at the main menu though.

    Back to the point. The post here is a decent combat primer, and I appreciate the effort put to write this.

    My problem is with the whole scene though. (This might be just me, but) Watching someone else play a videogame is not very exciting, so I don’t get why StarCraft tournaments are even a thing. Surely, if one desperately wishes to see flashy action on their monitors, they could always play the game themselves?

    Now thinking about it, that is a bit flawed argument is it? Why do people watch professional sports in the first place? Escapism? Empathy? Dunno.

    I suppose my fault is that I don’t like watching sports in the first place, so disregard anything I’ve ever said about the subject.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Surely, if one desperately wishes to see flashy action on their monitors, they could always play the game themselves?”

      Sure,I can alway play the game myself,but Id never manage to make my economy grow perfectly steady,while at the same time sending scouts,regular harassing units,micromanaging those,and winning in innovative ways.It took these guys years to get that good,and I simply cannot get that invested into the game.Also,there is the other spectrum of watching people failing in spectacular ways.

      Same as with any other sport,no matter how much you like it,if you arent blessed with the proper combination of talent and regular practice,youll never be able to excel as a professional does.

      1. Weimer says:

        It is true that observing an expert doing their magic can be captivating, sure. But is that all there is? People who are better than you at something showing off their skills?

        What the observer gains from an intense pro SC match? Strategies that he can’t figure out and tactics he can’t replicate.

        I would prefer to learn and enjoy the game myself than watch the “elite” do it for me.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Enjoyment can be gained from both.Just how watching a movie can be fun,even though youll probably never see a real spy/extraterrestrials/doomsday/parody of tropes/contrived love story/…

          Plus there is also the commentators.If they are entertaining enough,they can turn even a boring match into something watchable,and a good match into something stellar.

          1. Weimer says:

            Our interests might be too different for us to agree completely with each other. For example I dislike passive (from the consumer’s perspective) media, like television or movies. I always feel like I’m wasting my time when I’m not doing anything with my hands. (Maybe I should start knitting or something.)

            Commentators do bring some flair to the game, I’ll give you that.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Well that is because tastes differ.Nothing wrong with that.Some people enjoy doing things,some watching,some listening,and all of those in various degrees.Theres really no other explanation for this other than “it appeals to me”.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      The zerg Kerrigan isn’t much better imho. I have trouble buying into the argument that her breasts and ass “aren’t naked, the difference in colour from her face means it’s a kind of fleshy armour”, to me it still looked pretty ridiculous.

      1. Weimer says:

        Thanks for reminding me about that. Now excuse me for I have to go to smother myself.

      2. Karthik says:

        The Zerg Kerrigan is definitively worse, considering the rest of her is covered in scales.

        But then my suspension of disbelief about all things Starcraft (2) had vanished long before I was feeding chunks of meat to sleeping behemoths by way of missions.

      3. MelTorefas says:

        Original Zerg Kerrigan is pretty bad. Body-glitter Stripper Zerg Kerrigan made a part of me die inside. I still like HotS a lot, but there were some decisions made (in art and story) I found pretty disappointing, and this was definitely one of them.

        I also agree that her outfit is ridiculous as a Ghost. I was going to try to justify it by saying even male Ghosts/Spectres like Tosh dress that way, but when I looked up pictures of Tosh he actually has some bulky armor in addition to the suit. So… yeah.

    3. Alexander The 1st says:

      People watch Starcraft for the same reason they watch any other sport, (Including chess).

      If you have a general idea of what’s going on, it’s interesting to see if you know what one team is planning on doing, and if the opponent team can pick up on it and counter with an opposing strategy in time for the other strategy not to succeed.

      To take the sport analogy further, when enemy units sneak into an unprepared base because of cheesing, it’s the equivelant of getting a breakaway in any other sport.

      And having both teams collide in the battlefield is very similar to, say, in hockey, having a bunch of guys hogging around the puck – you know something’s going to change, at some point the game is going to go in someone’s favour, but you don’t know who.

      1. Steve C says:

        I wouldn’t say that a cheese is like a breakaway. In a break away the crowd gets onto it’s feet and cheers. A cheese won’t do that. It will increase the immediate tension though as the crowd knows the game is going to be decided here and now.

        I would say that cheesing is more like in hockey where you take your goalie out of the game to put another offensive player on the ice. There are times to do it, times to not do it, and always puts you into a fragile defensive position in order to go full on offense.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          I probably should’ve phrased it better, but I wasn’t saying cheesing itself was like a breakaway – it’s the getting into the base that’s undefended because of cheesing that is like one.

          So to use your example, having the sixth player in the stead of the goalie to come onto the ice just as the puck is about to cross the center line and they breakaway from there.

      2. Weimer says:

        In the end, everything is about people right?

        There is a major difference between SC and a sport, and that is personality. The limitations of software disassociates the viewers from the athletes.

        SC players, when playing the game turn into accountant robots executing a spreadsheet of actions in sequence to win. There are no quirks or morale or even faces to go with the armies. Once the game starts we lose hold of Lim Yo-Hwan, the timid and spoiled momma’s boy and instead we need to cheer for SlayerS_`BoxeR`, a mouse on crack speeding around on the screen.

        Maybe I should correct something in my original post. I DO realize why people watch and like these matches. I’m merely pointing out that even if it is CLOSE to a sport, it doesn’t mean that your average person would automatically care about it.

        I wager that despite Shamus’ best efforts SC will propably remain as a very niche and exclusive group.

        PS: I don’t know anything about BoxeR. I was just making up some bullshit.

        1. Hydralysk says:

          I can’t really agree with the fact that personality differentiates sports from the less-than-sports SC2. Whenever I’ve watched a match of hockey, the players might as well be dolls. Sure they might have names on their jerseys, and might be well known by fans, but unless you actually follow the sport it’s pretty much meaningless and you don’t know or care who the person playing is. When I’m watching a major league sport the people in the games have no more personality to me than any given marine in an SC2 match. Even those personalities I do know don’t affect the match in big ways, the enforcer might be a very funny guy whenever the media talks to him, but the second he goes out on the ice until he gets off it he’s expected to be knocking people against the boards, not charming the audience with his wit. In addition, since the big sports usually have a lot of players it’s much harder for me to remember any specific personality details about any given player on a team, than to just remember the one player who was the embodiement of a team in an SC2 match.

          Plus where does that leave sports like bobsleding, where the operators are wearing face masks, sitting in a tube, and not visibly moving much once they actually start on the downhill? Or luge which is pretty much the same deal with a single person? We can see the effect of their actions by how the sled turns, but the movements are hidden or minute enough that it makes them pretty much impossible to catch if you’re watching as a spectator, and frankly those movements are uninteresting compared to the effects they have.

          I think this issue falls into that same kind of category that was described in Campster’s ‘That’s no game’ video. The debate on whether or not e-sports are actually ‘real sports’ is based more on what you personally consider to be defining traits of sports, which is usually the traits you enjoy about it, rather than whether it measures up to some abstract rule of what a sport is.

          1. Weimer says:

            Okay, you got me there. I’ll admit my reasoning was rather short-sighted.

      3. Syal says:

        I think this helps me to explain why Starcraft and Chess are not as accessible as Football or Hockey. In football or hockey, there is never an imbalance; one team is ahead, one team has the ball/puck which is at a set point on the field. If the game’s not close, it’s obvious; even if you have no idea what the rules are you can always tell who’s ahead. You don’t have to know player A is better than Player B to know Team A is winning.

        In Starcraft or Chess, or any strategy game, it’s a muddled thing. If I take a rook with a bishop and the bishop gets trapped, is that a plus? It’s not if that rook was sitting slackjawed in the corner and the bishop was guarding my king. Is a kingside push better than a center push? If I lose my queen but take both bishops, it’s usually a bad trade, but Tal did that, practically forcing the rest of the game and coming out two pawns ahead. Can a rook and two pawns beat a queen? Sometimes.

        With Starcraft, if one guy makes a drop into the enemy’s supply line but the enemy’s conducting a full push against one of his bases, who comes out on top? Who’s got the advantage? Is losing a small base worth slaughtering all the drones at a big one? There’s an imbalance, and at some level to enjoy the spectacle you have to enjoy not knowing what’s going on. That’s never going to appeal to as many people.

        1. silver Harloe says:

          “can a rook and two pawns beat a queen?”
          if she’s on creep and the player has good enough micro to kite them, the queen probably wins, especially if she can get close enough to another queen for a health transfusion.

          1. Indy says:

            OMG Rook is OP, PLZ NERF.

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              Better nerf Irelia.

  23. Falling says:

    As someone who is heavily involved in Team Liquid (major SC website) I am very glad to see these blogs. When SC2 first came out I was rather disappointed that you were giving it the silent treatment (although I also did not like their non-LAN always online nonsense. Battlenet latency is so BAD!!!)

    Even though I have mostly moved back to BW and helping out with an amateur tourney, I am pleased to see your views on a scene I was so invested in. And I do like how you are attempting to bring more people into SC competitive gaming.

  24. Jakey says:

    I’ll be honest, the sheer amounts of micro and macro, while impressive, has always been a bit of a turn-off when it comes to Starcraft. I like my strategies to be determined by, well, mostly a strategic/tactical component, while too much of Starcraft seems to come down to a ‘look how many balls at once I can perfectly juggle’ clickfest. Guess I’m just more of a Chess/Total War person.

    1. Falling says:

      Could be. But especially in BW, there was an interesting discovery that in my opinion ought to revolutionize RTS’s- namely attack-retreat micro partially due to burst damage shot of units. This is where you attack, immediately retreat, turn around and attack again. This could be done very rapidly on many SC units (less in SC2), but to me this the equivalent of the combo system that emerged for the Fighting Games or strafe-jump in Quake.

      It is very visual, very clear/understandable, very exciting to see done well, and hard to do. I personally think for a great spectating experience you need both strategy and this highly refined control of units. Strategy and twitch control. It is a multiplier effect. Rather than building the right rock-paper-scissors, you have personal control over the battle and you can make small groups of units dominate at the same time as controlling your large armies and economy.

      Mutalisk micro, vulture patrol micro, dragoon hold-position micro, wraith micro, Reaver-shuttle micro, Carrier micro. We had so much and units don’t even need an overabundance of spells/abilities on almost every single unit which in turn clutters the screen.

    2. Primogenitor says:

      Yeah, I agree with this. So much of RTS strategy makes me think that it could be automated, and the “player” then designs and manages the AI(s). But then thats probably about making it interesting to play rather than interesting to watch.

      1. Klay F. says:

        Why would it be automated? Its the displays of skill COMBINED with strategic knowledge that made Starcraft popular as a spectator sport in the first place. Take away the skill, and you turn it into chess, which doesn’t draw crowds, and isn’t fun unless you are playing. You might as well say that all supers and counters in a fighting game should be automated.

    3. swenson says:

      I like watching Starcraft all right, but this is why I can’t play it. I just can’t handle that many levels at once. Give me a nice easy FPS where you just have to shoot everything that’s a different color from you…

  25. Siythe says:

    I think the SC stuff you’ve been posting is problematic but for different reasons. Clearly this is something you’ve had a lot of fun with and want other’s to give it a go. However as someone whose interest in spectating SC matches starts at zero you really haven’t done anything to show me why I should bother. I already know people enjoy watching others play starcraft, I still have no idea why you think I would.

    If the proselytizing is to continue I really think you need to take another tack. In the way of helpful suggestions the best I can come up with is Totalbiscuit’s videos on DOTA 2. It’s a great example of showing rather than telling and opened my eyes as to what was fun about the game. I’m not sure how well it translates to SC commentary but it’s a much more effective way of introducing people to new things than the blog posts have been.

    1. Aldowyn says:

      He’s probably done at this point, if I were to venture a guess. Anyways, I just thought this post was for those that were mildly interested but were having trouble understanding the game. It doesn’t seem like that big a deal :/

      1. Siythe says:

        Well I didn’t expect it to turn up again after the last one so I figured I’d toss my, probably unhelpful, two pence in. And really if Shamus thinks watching SC matches is a lot of fun I don’t think more is a bad idea, just that the approach so far hasn’t really done anything for me.

    2. Klay F. says:

      Because its something he likes? I dunno, seems likely. Nobody started bitching when they set up TwentyMine and he encouraged people to play Minecraft.

  26. 6b64 says:

    I’m sorry for all the negative feedback Shamus, this is a very nice post.

    1. Scampi says:

      Indeed it IS a really nice post, trying to get people interested in something that, I’m sure, can be a really interesting experience, if the interest is there to begin with. Maybe it would be an even better post, had it been more independent from the previous one? Dunno.
      W/e. Even if I can’t really appreciate the idea of watching a cast, I CAN appreciate the work Shamus put into this and the acknowledgement of his “mistake” (if it even WAS one in the 1st place…).

      1. Zekiel says:

        Nothing new to add but just wanted to agree that I appreciate the effort Shamus made in explaining, and am sorry that he’s getting a lot of mysterious criticism for doing so.

  27. Nano Proksee says:

    Amazing writer, amazing blogger.

    Makes kind of a mistake on an amazing piece, fixes it with more amazingly interesting writing.

    As I have commented in your coding pieces, this is really interesting for non connoisseurs to. I might just get into it.

  28. Von Krieger says:

    Shamus, I smolder with generic wrath at your innocuous commentary and have decided to perceive it as a most grievous insult due to my misguided autocentric view of how reality works.

    You should know via the precognition that comes innate to our species when exposed simultaneously to Cheeto dust and Saturday morning cartoons that a vocal minority of your readership is so thin-skinned and prone to flying off the handle.

    This is, after all, your own fault for mentioning how nice and polite your community is compared to others. Now that you have exposed your knowledge of the elven presence, your commenter shall make you shoes no longer!

    The pleasantness of Twenty Sided shall burn, and from the ashes humanity will engage in mutual combat beneath pun-spewing warlords! So says the dark prophecy, written in the dreaded Tomes of Service!

    1. swenson says:


  29. shiroax says:

    Nice post as usual, I really enjoyed reading it, but I already knew all but 1 thing from it so I don’t know how good it is at its intended goal of teaching newbies. I never made the connection between trailer parks and flying bases, it seems so obvious now.

    Actually, one of the first units in Warcraft was different for each race. Archers fired 1 extra square and I think Spearmen had some extra damage to compensate. I’m not sure if that made any difference when playing against other people, but against AI it didn’t.

    WTF Shamus, 3k words and a random Tvtropes link, you want to waste somebody’s whole day? That seems needlessly cruel.

    I think you should have said more about Hotkeys. A few times Husky started laughing about a player having no hotkeys, a newbie wouldn’t know what was funny about that. I don’t know if they get talked about above Bronze League Hero level tho.

    Are you going to talk some more about Blizzard giving you the game? Did they say anything when they did it? Is somebody from blizz reading your blog or do they have some kind of alert system?

    I actually talk in bullet points irl.

    1. Scampi says:

      It didn’t make a difference against AI? I beg to differ-I used to harvest parts of the forests to allow my archers to shoot from behind a natural wall the enemy had no means of destroying-more range would usually allow more archers to shoot at arriving enemy grunts and shoot at spearmen without any risk of being hit at all with the right control of the situation;)
      Maybe a demonstration of how much details can be used as an advantage in the right context.

      1. shiroax says:

        And I did the same with my spearmen. AI would sometimes have an archer shoot one of my guys and he would move out of formation and then I would move my whole line one step forward to where he now was. It was a giant wall of death either way, sometimes they’d move one step closer, but they’d never reach it, they died in 1 nanosecond or two nanoseconds, that’s what I meant by no difference.

        I kinda miss when strategy meant having enough dudes to instakill everything that stepped their way. Good old days :)

        1. Scampi says:

          For orcs I’d usually push it a step further with a few catapults so they’d pretty much flatten anything close enough to attack the “alibi spearmen”;)
          Still I believed the human version of this guerilla tactic was a tad superior due to the range to the orcish one. Can’t “prove” or test it anymore,though. Or is there a possibility of playing the old WC1 on modern systems?
          Same question for War Wind (does anyone even REMEMBER it? I loved it:) )

    2. Thomas says:

      Talking about hotkeys has left the tournament level of casting unfortunately. The new UI designs the tournaments are using don’t show them at all

      (Also there were a pro-players out there who barely used hotkeys but always made them to pretend because they were embarrassed someone might find out :P)

    3. Decius says:

      What is this spearman? The Horde mirror of the Alliance archer is the troll axethrower.

      1. Fleaman says:

        No, man. PRE-“Alliance”.

        Yes. Shiroax refers to nothing less than Warcraft ONE.

        It was a simpler, lower-resolution time. A time of the Human (and no one else) Kingdom of Azeroth versus the (exclusively) Orcish Horde. Human Archers wielded crossbows against Orc spearmen. Both sides used catapults (which were OP and gigantic). The sea had not yet been invented, and the fog-of-war did not yet obscure the land. Like, you could totally just see everywhere you explored forever. Sooo cheap.

        Then was a time when you could only select four units at once. A time before attack-move.

        A time before right-click.

        1. shiroax says:

          I was going to make a stupid joke in response to Decius, I’m so glad now I didn’t. Bravo, Sir. Bravo!

          Somebody should do a dramatic reading of that comment and post it on Youtube.

  30. Vlad says:

    Wow, I was not expecting such hostility from the comments. I admit I’m a fan of Starcraft and Shamus’ post got me watching Bronze League Heroes which I found incredibly hilarious, which made me go buy Heart of the Swarm and start playing some more (I haven’t played sc2 in 2 years) and got put into Bronze League and now I worry I’ll do something silly and get put on the show.


    I suspect the root of all this hostility and Shamus/Starcraft hate is because Shamus has been grooming a DRM-despising, always-online-hating, Blizzard-has-disappointed-us community for quite a while. So not only would there be few Starcraft fans here, but a lot of people seem to actively take offense at Shamus giving praise to Starcraft as a spectator sport. A monster has been created.

    Anyway, while I do not understand American football or baseball and find them boring to watch, I like watching Starcraft 2 matches, so I fully agree with Shamus’ original post.

    1. Raygereio says:

      I suspect the root of all this hostility and Shamus/Starcraft hate is because Shamus has been grooming a DRM-despising, always-online-hating, Blizzard-has-disappointed-us community for quite a while.

      Honestly, I reckon it’s more of a simple case of: “Shamus likes something I don’t like. People having different tastes and opinions is clearly crazy talk, so that means Shamus is wrong about liking it and I must inform him that he is wrong!”.
      You know: average Internet-behaviour.

      1. Vlad says:

        While that is indeed average Internet behaviour, it usually is not that aggravating on this blog.

        I still think there are as many Starcraft 2 fans on this site as there people who love Mass Effect 2, simply because of Shamus’s (?) content.

        1. Klay F. says:

          There are people who love ME2 on this site?

          (I keed, I keed!) XD

  31. postinternetsyndrome says:

    Gee, a lot of people woke on the wrong side today!

    I can’t really comment on how helpful this post is since I already watch and enjoy SC2 games, but it seems to me to be a pretty good writeup. I can however credit Shamus with making me start watching again after a bit of a break.

    As for the “you need to play the game to understand”, I’m not completely sure where I stand on that. I started watching SC2 games during the beta, and since I didn’t have an invite I couldn’t play the game myself. I’ve dabbled with BW in the past but not extensively. I did however decide to buy SC2 when it came out specifically to get a deeper understanding of the details so I could enjoy watching games more.

    In the end, since I haven’t experienced it myself, I just don’t know how accessible SC2 is if you come in blind or aided by just a writeup like this, and I can surely agree that the game can get a bit cluttered visually sometimes, but people should calm down and not flip out about it. You like it or you don’t, no need to call down fire from the heavens on Shamus.

  32. Blov says:

    As someone who’s seen a bit of SC 2 and is quite fond of watching COH – I’m of the view that Starcraft is much better over a series. The balance between really aggressive plays, setting up for a proper game and the mindgame of build variation is pretty interesting to watch, whereas CoH tends to be much more engaging for me over individual games since it’s not really at all about macro play or ultra fiddly engagements, is much more about using the map properly and more reactive. While you can get some decent games of SC 2, I think games designated around macro and with fairly dull maps from a visuality/uniqueness point of view are less engaging to watch for me – it’s the balance over a series that does it.


    On the play to understand point – I have played the Brood War and original SC campaigns but no SC multi of any kind. By contrast I had CoH for ages, never strayed into the online until I watched a couple of matches and sort of got the mindset and ideas behind it. Still got flattened a few times, but usually in a way that I could see what to improve on and where I’d been outplayed – I think without commentated games I would have found that much harder to do.

  33. Phrozenflame500 says:

    >It’s easy to grasp
    >continues on to post huge-ass article explaining how to watch it

    Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m glad you posted this. Starcraft’s hard to watch if you don’t play the game. While you play it everything’s sort of intuitive in a way (i.e. it’s obvious how resource collection/army building works when you step in). When I started watching games I couldn’t grasp the terminology at all, after I started playing it all made sense to me.

    1. Scampi says:

      Hey, it actually IS easy to gasp-I just did it a few times-it’s not fun, but really easy to do;)

      Seriously: I wouldn’t even doubt it is probably relatively simple to grasp the basics and enjoy the spectacle, but my point is: I’m usually into strategy for the crunch, so to say…

    2. postinternetsyndrome says:

      Well he started this post by saying apparently he was wrong about that first statement! Have people on this site suddenly completely lost the ability to read?

    3. Syal says:

      …oh, that’s the problem! Everyone is starting the article from the bolded words!

      Now I’m actually happy the article messed up when it loaded the first time; I missed that line until I read everything else.

  34. Wedge says:

    Great article Shamus, though I have a couple of nit-picks:
    “The player must decide how much they spend building more workers (which will further speed up their income)…”
    This is not actually correct: you always want to be building workers constantly until you reach saturation, because economy in Starcraft grows exponentially. There are only a couple of exceptions:
    * You are going for a cheese or early all-in strategy — you don’t need to build up workers for later in the game because there IS no later in the game; either your all-in works and you win or it doesn’t and you lose

    * You are playing Zerg, because Zerg actually has to choose between spending their larvae on workers or units. The exponential economy still applies, though, and playing Zerg means spending as much of your larvae on drones as possible while building just enough units to not die.

    “You'll often hear casters say things like, “The Terran's one-one is completed and they're already working on the two-two”. This is talking about armor and weapon upgrades, respectively.”
    You have this backwards–casters ALWAYS refer to weapon upgrades before armor: 2/1 means 2 weapons 1 armor. The strategic difference between weapon and armor upgrades is pretty subtle, though; what’s (usually) more important is one player’s level of upgrades relative to their opponent.

    Anyway, tiny nit-picks. I only had to post this because I am anal. Otherwise this is a pretty awesome guide for people who want to watch Starcraft but have no idea what’s going on.

  35. Jason L says:

    Really glad you posted this, and think you did a great job explaining the basics of play. Thanks.

  36. Shinan says:

    My experience watching Starcraft 2 replays is similar to my experience watching American football.

    I first fell into the deep end of Starcraft 2 by watching some kind of final live and basically not understanding a thing for the first round and then gradually grasping what it’s all about. Of course I do have a rudimentary understanding of the game through pop culture (very much like how I have a rudimentary understanding of American football through pop culture) but the details are somewhat elusive.

    But watching a couple of replays my understanding grows a bit. But just like I’m not exactly sure what the third person to the right of the center guy is called in American football or how to know that the defense is apparently “calling a blitz” (I know what a blitz is but I have no idea how to tell when a blitz is being obvious) in Starcraft 2 I have no idea why Space Marines are good at X and bad at Y when it seemed to me just seconds ago they were good at Y and bad at X.

    Some units also look very similar to me and sometimes I don’t understand why games end after a major battle when it seems there’s lots left (though I suppose there isn’t)

    But in the end I’ve watched more American football and though the commentators are nearly as incomprehensible in their lingo in American football as in Starcraft 2 I get bits and pieces here and there and I did love When Cheese Fails.

    But I have to admit that watching Bronze League Heroes I realize how little I understand because I can’t really tell the difference between Bronze League players and the players that play on those live streams. Except that the live stream players seem to constantly move their fingers over the keyboard.

    Also, just as an aside. Damn most of the players I’ve seen are uncharismatic. I understand they are focused and all but I wouldn’t mind seeing someone at least smile when they win. Or change their facial expression in any way at all.

  37. lettucemode says:

    Nice article, great summary of the game for spectators. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

    I’m posting because I disagree with this statement, taken from the “Cheese” definition: “On one hand, you goal is to win however you can. On the other hand, the audience is here to see a game of Starcraft with big battles and they're not going to be happy if the match ends in three minutes and the only combat is when two marines slaughter all the enemy workers. Like strategic fouls in pro sports, it's a part of the game but not really part of the intended game.”

    First, the goal to win the game is the only hand; there is no “spectator approval” hand. I have never seen a Starcraft tournament that had one prize for the winner and another prize for whoever made the crowd cheer the loudest during their games. The players are under no obligation to please anyone with their play, they are there to win, therefore they should play in such a way that maximizes their chances of winning at all times.

    Second, everything a player can do is part of the “intended” game, otherwise the designer would not have put it in. Occasionally there are bugs or unintended consequences of different gameplay elements interacting, but it is not the player’s job to divine the will of the designer and figure out whether or not something is a bug. I think it’s telling that many of the “cheap” strategies have not been “fixed” by the developers.

    Thanks again for the article.

    1. Wedge says:

      There’s another reason that pros don’t cheese often–it’s not actually that good. Cheese falls into that category of “First-order optimal” strategies–strategies that are easy to pull off for low-level players but require more advanced play to defend against properly. These people are pros, though–they know every cheese in the book, how to spot them and how to defend them. And cheese plays are by definition all-in–if the opponent holds it off, you lose, period. Not good odds for a player who actually wants to win tournaments.

      And really, the fact that pros don’t cheese every game shows that Starcraft has deeper strategic play than that–if cheese strategies were actually optimal, nobody would ever do anything else.

      1. lettucemode says:


    2. Syal says:

      Second, everything a player can do is part of the “intended” game, otherwise the designer would not have put it in.

      A rebuttal.

      1. Vlad says:

        That was one the funniest games I’ve ever seen. I could not have imagined such a strategy was even remotely possible.

      2. lettucemode says:

        dem mindgames

    3. Shamus says:

      “Second, everything a player can do is part of the “intended” game, otherwise the designer would not have put it in.”

      The stuff I’m talking about is emergent stuff the designers never envisioned. I mean, there’s no way the designers can envision every possible use of every unit. And if one unforeseen trick did dominate the game, they’d patch it.

      You’re basically touching on the very argument I alluded to in the article: The fact that that’s really ambiguous where you draw the line between “lame cheese” and “clever trick”.

      Remember who this article is far. I’m just trying to give a newcomer a heads-up “Here is is what cheese is” and then anticipating their first question, which is, “Well if the goal is just to win, then what’s wrong with using cheese and why is it seen as a bad thing?” You can bet that if tournament games ended in 4 minutes Blizzard would patch the game to make late-game play more likely and viable.

      I’m explaining why the audience sees cheese as a bad thing and why people haggle over the various rule-changes.

      1. lettucemode says:

        I agree that if a certain tactic ends up dominating the game, the developers should patch it out so the game doesn’t fall by the competitive wayside. I also agree that a version of Starcraft where 4-minute strategies were dominant would be less interesting to watch and play than the current version. I was trying to say that the players themselves should not consider whether or not a strategy is “cheesy” before using it, they should only consider whether or not it will maximize their chances of winning.

        Like you said, though, you are speaking from the perspective of introducing spectators to the game, and I am speaking from the perspective of competitive play. I apologize that our perspectives bumped into each other and caused this little disagreement :)

      2. Alecw says:

        I, for one understood your point. This was a primer, not a discussion on playing to win and game variety.

  38. bigben1985 says:

    I’m going to help a Shamus out and say this: I never played any of the Starcrafts, I’m not big on games where you have to react super fast and I’m not that big on RTS in general.

    Yet I have enjoyed (and still do) watching games, especially if they’re good commentated. What helped me out was Totalbiscuits “I suck at Starcraft 2” series (clicky here) and a video where someone did what Shamus does very good in textform here, namely explaining how to watch Starcraft 2 (Have a finely crafted link).

    If you just look for a bit of help and then watch for a while, you’re fine. That’s pretty accessible for me…

  39. Rod says:

    I appreciate this article, but I think it could be improved by providing a definition of “caster” where the term is first used. I assumed it means player.

    1. Shamus says:

      Good point. I’ll edit the post. Thanks.

  40. Mersadeon says:

    Jesus, the comments are not nice today! Well, I for one, really like this article. Also, Shamus, have you seen HuskyStarcrafts “Bronze League Heroes” series? It basically has a lot of “cheesy” games and is superfun to watch. It got me into watching Starcraft 2, and those are still the ones I like best.

    Also, I miss Universe at War. The races were even MORE different than SC. Actually, they were probably the most diverse I have seen yet. I wish they would make a sequel, but it was sadly underappreciated and didn’t sell well enough.

    1. Vlad says:

      He did mention it in his last post, and that’s how I got to watching Bronze League Heroes. I agree with you that it’s amazing, especially when one player begins the smack talk and then gets his rear end handed back to him :)

      Also overlords BLARGHLABLERGABLE.

      1. Wedge says:


        1. Michael says:


  41. Paul Spooner says:

    A meta-post, speculating on the source of the irritated comments above.

    There are people who appear to believe that “thinking about things” is uncomfortable and not entertaining. The “sports” community seems to nucleate in this region of personality-space. The “programming” community is at the other end of the spectrum. So, it seems reasonable that the techniques used to explain computer programming don’t produce the same results when directed at spectator sports. That the sport is played on a computer doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference. The programmers have done their job well enough to allow cognition-averse spectators to attach themselves to the pastime. They resent any intrusion, and especially resent the implication that they should be thinking about their entertainment.

    On the other hand, those who are interested in thinking about this stuff have probably already figured it out. I’ve never played Starcraft, but I am familiar with RTS and gathered all of this (except the meaning of a few terms) by watching HuskyStarcraft (motivated by your posts and twitter comments). SC2 is transparent enough for people who want to figure it out to intuit the terminology and mechanics from spectation. For people who aren’t interested in thinking, well, they aren’t going to go through the trouble of reading and understanding the post, are they? So, they might be right… it was certainly well meant, but it might have been a waste of time anyway?

    Personally, I enjoyed having my intuitions and understanding confirmed, and gathered a few little bits of detail that I would have otherwise missed (timing attack, yellow plastic, etc). So, if you’re interested in writing this kind of stuff, don’t mind the haters. Do it for love.

  42. LunaticFringe says:

    The fact that non-Canadians are becoming aware of the Trailer Park Boys either fills me with excitement or dread.

    1. Hydralysk says:

      I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with Trailer Park Boys spreading genuine Canadian culture while also raising the profile of Canadian television. It’s getting two birds stoned at once.

      1. Shamus says:

        I laughed out loud.

        I’ve actually only seen one TPB. I watched it randomly on Netflix one night. When I was young I had some experience around trailer parks. (An aunt lived in one, as did one of our babysitters.) A lot of the show struck me as being strangely “true” and familiar, even against this ridiculous backdrop. It was more interesting than than funny.

      2. DaveMc says:

        Ooh, ooh, one of the best improv jokes I’ve ever seen come up in an actual conversation:

        PERSON A: Nah, I don’t watch “Seinfeld”. If I want to see a bunch of neurotic Jews, I just visit my relatives.

        PERSON B: My mom feels the same way about “Trailer Park Boys”.

        [I am not Person B, but I was deeply impressed by the way she didn’t miss a *beat* with that joke.]

  43. Ed Blair says:

    I post maybe once or twice a year and felt like this merited a comment. I really appreciate both recent e-sports posts. With my work and family schedule, I hardly ever play any games of any sort, but I have enjoyed reading about them here for years. Because of these last two posts, I have another avenue to check out something that seems like it would interest me in the same way this blog does. Not gaming in and of itself, but analysis of gaming and games.

    On a related note, I’ve enjoyed the diecasts. I drive a lot for my job and I can listen to an interesting discussion of Sim City Failures, er, gaming news while I drive.

    Anyway, thanks again and keep up the very good work.

  44. Xanyr says:

    Dammit Shamus! Stop trying to throw me down the bottomless time pit that is TVTropes!

  45. Whisper says:

    Good stuff. The “non-Koreans calling themselves foreigners” thing is fascinating to me. Can anyone think of any other examples of “migrating words” like that on the internet? There are probably tons of them, but I can’t think of any right now.

    1. Michael says:

      Ask the Celts or the Gauls or the Welsh! ;0)

  46. Peter H. Coffin says:

    More games ought to have something like this. I like playing games, but I can almost never talk to people about them because I instantly run into a language barrier: forum posts are full of jargon, TLAs, ETLAs and HETLAs that render conversation into a double-meta-game of “who can seem the most ‘in the know’ by being the most cryptic”, all on top of the meta-game of seeking advantage over just actually playing the game itself.

  47. FelicityGS says:

    Well, I liked this at least–I started to try and watch a few of the casts you mentioned last time you posted about it, because it seemed the sort of thing I would enjoy, and pretty much immediately got lost because I had no idea what was happening. This was a nice intro and it’s making it so I can watch some of those same things which a much better idea of what’s happening. So thanks!

  48. O.G.N says:

    That’s a pretty timely article Shamus. If anyone feels like watching some good Starcraft games after reading this, the World Championships Series season 1 finals starts in a couple of minutes.

  49. Otters34 says:

    As someone who had next to no idea how StarCraft works, this is perfect! Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this up, Mr. Young, it makes those Bronze League Heroes videos a lot less opaque and easier to enjoy.

  50. ehlijen says:

    Was the idea of different races actually that unusual in the dawn of RTSs?

    Warcracft and Age of Empires had identical factions, but Red Alert and Command and Conquer didn’t. I don’t know about Dune 2.

    Starcraft had more drastic differences, but what made it such a success for Blizzard, I think, was first and foremost the fact that they were willing to keep patching and balancing it for free for years after release. Same for the Diablos.

    I never actually liked their universes much, nor their games, but that dedication was impressive and laudable. (I say was because I don’t know how they fare in that regard today; with a MMORPG it’s kind of expected and less unusual).

    1. Hydralysk says:

      I didn’t play much AoE, but from what I remember of playing RA2 and Tiberian Sun the two sides, while different, were like you said not drastically different.

      Each side built their structures the same way, each structure had a rough equivalent on the other side. Infantry always came from a barracks, tanks from factories, both sides had the same kind of supply/power buildings. The units themselves differed to an extent but neither race had a radical shift in how they operated in terms of basic mechanics.

      While I agree that the patching and constant balance tweaking are a huge part of what made it successful in the long term, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact the shift to radically different races had to it’s success.

    2. krellen says:

      The sides in Dune 2 were identical except that each had a unique unit/building. Their basic troop structure was the same, however.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        I don’t know if Dune 2 did this, but Dune 2000 the PC remake did have costs being different, IIRC, and some other details.

        For example, Ordos trikes were faster but weaker, and Harkonnen generally had stronger tanks. At least, IIRC, those were two differences. Can’t remember what Atreides had an advantage with outside of troop specialisations.

  51. Amarsir says:

    The guide is well-written and will surely help some. But it’s a learning-curve tool, not an interest tool. If people are enthused by the idea of watching SC2, they can pick it up slowly through caster comments or a bit quicker through your guide. (And faster still by playing it.)

    To a certain extent, all sports rely on casters to fill in the details that average watchers might not pick up. (For example, why a pitcher would choose to throw a ball instead of a strike at a given time.) These help viewers get a grasp of the complexity, and eventually gain their own insight. But that just fills in details where the interest exists. You can’t teach someone to be interested.

  52. Haidutin says:

    Very nice read, thanks Shamus. You know, for years I’ve always wandered what your stance is on e-sports and SC2 in particular. I guess I’m what you’d call a fanboy, I played SC1 when I was young, but never got into it. And I didn’t have internet, so I’ve never tried multiplayer. But when SC2 came out I was determined to buy it on day 1, so I did. It’s quite hard to get into the game, but thankfully Day[9] helped a lot (it’s really hard to measure how much he’s taught me). So I began watching the GSL and in after a few weeks it felt so right! I’m not a fan of any sport, most of them I find a bit boring to watch, but SC2 was so damn exciting. I’ve been watching since the first SC2 GSL tournament and I don’t plan on stopping.
    And yeah, maybe it’s not that easy to get into the whole thing, but it’s just so rewarding. I’m from Europe, so I’ve never seen a baseball game or an american football game, so I have no idea what’s going on there either. But I’ve seen other sports and, as you pointed out, after a few games I’d probably understand at least half the rules. SC2 is the same I think – if you’ve played 1 or 2 other RTS games you’ll get the idea pretty fast. But to a complete new comer nothing is that easy. Someone who’s never ever seen a video game would probably be confused wathing a quake 3 1v1 match, and that’s much easier to follow.
    But casters definitely help out – they always provide commentary targeted towards new spectators, as well as long time fans.

  53. General Karthos says:

    This was somewhat helpful to me.

    Oddly, while I never have played Starcraft 1 or 2, never INTEND to play Starcraft 1 or 2, I have been able to follow all of the stuff I saw commented on fairly well, which I gather is somewhat different from most people? I learned from this post what “HF” means, and I confirmed what I thought “natural” meant, but wasn’t sure on it.

    Maybe I’m just watching the right matches. Most of what I’ve watched has been “Bronze League Heroes” commented on by HuskyStarcraft over on YouTube. I’d probably have had a harder time following pro matches if I hadn’t followed the first dozen or so bronze league heroes matches before checking out some of the other stuff. I’ve gained comprehension to the point where I can actually laugh about some of the newbie moves or mistakes, even though I’m fairly sure I’d do no better.

    I like that I can spend 20, 30, 40 minutes and watch an event, whereas a baseball game or football game that takes less than three hours is a rarity. (Not that I don’t love baseball and football [though mostly NCAA, Go Ducks!] both.)

    1. General Karthos says:

      Oh. Meant to mention that I don’t play ANY RTS games, so maybe that’s an advantage? I don’t have any preconceptions coming in.

    2. Vlad says:

      I really think Bronze League Heroes* is the best entry-point for someone wanting to start watching Starcraft 2 matches. Because even if you’re having a hard time understanding the game, at least there’s the humour element.


      1. General Karthos says:

        And he actually does occasionally say “+1 attack and +1 armor” instead of 1 and 1 or 2 and 1 or whatever, and stuff along those lines.

        The action is slow enough most of the time that he can afford to actually talk about what’s happening. Though he does occasionally go into his “horse race announcer mode” which is always fun.

  54. Cannibalguppy says:

    I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone found the last article or this one in any way agravating. Wow. Loved both. And i play alot of SC2 and i still enjoyed reading the noob guide :D

  55. megabyte says:

    I dusted off Starcraft 2 after reading these articles. I forgot how much fun it is. Thanks for reminding me! It will be even better now that my kid brother will start playing soon. (he lives a few hours away and we don’t get to play together often)

  56. tengokujin says:

    As a Korean, I approve of this foreigner article. :3

  57. LassLisa says:

    This made me decide to pick up SC2 again. :) So, that’s one good deed done! I really enjoyed it but haven’t played it in probably a year (won’t get HotS unless I really get back in to it).

  58. AzaghalsMask says:

    Loved your primer, Shamus. I have the itch to suggest adding this or that aspect, but less is more when trying not to scare off potential SC connoisseurs.

    Some nitpicks:

    – Supply: In SC2 Tanks now use 3 supply per unit, up from 2 in SC1, so one Supply Depot doesn’t even give you 3 Tanks.
    – Upgrades: As Wedge mentioned above, weapon upgrades are always called first by the casters.
    – Foreigners: Nowadays very few foreigners actually try to get on Korean teams, but most non-Korean teams have Koreans on their roster and many send their foreigners to Korea for training.
    – Cheese: Casters mostly acknowledge the value of cheese (especially in longer multi-game series) to keep your opponent guessing and from being to greedy (aka “extremely macro oriented”). As for developer intent: Blizzard tries to keep the game from becoming “20-min-buildup-then battle” snoozefests by allowing cheese strategies that are potent but defendable through adequate scouting and preparation (and through the encouragement of harassment). But you know all that, I assume.

    – Spelling: “popularized the Starcraft as e-sport”, “On one hand, you goal is”

    Keep it up.

  59. DM T. says:

    Ooh, finally found an explanation to the whole StarCraft TV.
    I played a little SC and SCII, but never watched a match to the end.
    Thanks for providing the insight, I found it helpful and enlightening!

  60. Nimrandir says:

    A few weeks back, YouTube autoplayed footage from a SC2 tournament while I was otherwise occupied. I found myself hooked — enough so that I downloaded the original game from Blizzard. I wish I had found this primer before watching a couple dozen hours of matches; I would have caught on much more rapidly with this at hand.

    Weird fact: I used to play a CCG (Iron Crown Enterprises’ Middle-earth CCG, for the curious), and we used the term ‘cheeze’ to refer to decks/strategies designed to minimize interaction with one’s opponent. It took some adjustment to think of cheese as forcing interaction in this new-to-me setting.

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