Starcraft II: we’re all winners

, | Game diaries


Blizzard knows exactly how bad you are at Starcraft II.

In the deepest darkest depths of there’s a single number which says precisely how well you play the game. This number (called match making rating or MMR) goes up when you win and down when you lose and it reveals exactly how you match up against every other player in the world. MMR is the cold hard truth. Blizzard is never, ever going to let you see it.

After the jump, what Blizzard will let you see.

Instead, you get an assortment of other vague numbers like game points, division rank, league, and achievement points. For good measure, they awkwardly slapped in the resting bonus pool from World of Warcraft. A few months back, they even yanked out losses from their win/loss ratio for anyone but the top players in the world. If you are diamond league or below, you’re accumulating wins, but your losses are wiped from the record.

I know why Blizzard is doing this. It’s disheartening enough to lose in a head to head multiplayer game. After all, who can I blame but myself when I lose? So Blizzard attempts to soften the blow by dazzling you with an array of numbers. Even though I’m well aware it’s all meaningless, I’m striving to move up in my division or to the next league or to unlock the next portrait. In short, it mostly works, as long as you don’t think about too hard. But of course, there’s no convincing you you’re doing well when all you do is lose. That’s how things turned out for my second night back in the game, but it wasn’t quite a total loss.

After feeling totally overwhelmed the first night I decided to work on one thing at a time. I focused entirely on my “macro”, RTS shorthand for macromanagment of your economy. I did my best to keep my resources low, constantly expand to new bases, and keep my little drone workers all busy and effective. For the most part this worked, I was solidly ahead in economy all three games I played. The rest of my play was far less pretty.

In game three, after a long slow build up while I worked on my economy, I was 4 mining bases to 2 against a terran player. I had good saturation of workers on my bases and upgrades for all my army units. I did some half-hearted harass with my mutalisks (a fast but paper thin flying unit), but mostly left my Terran friend alone while I enjoyed my base building sim-city game. Somewhere along the way I made the incomprehensible decision to create ultralisks for my top tier unit. Ultralisks are huge, beefy looking ground units that look really impressive but are in fact mostly clumsy and ineffective. I couldn’t tell you why I made them as opposed to the far more deadly and appropriate to the situation broodlords. What I know when I’m thinking about the game doesn’t always seem to stay in my head when I’m playing the game.

I delivered a self inflicted coup de grace in this final game by doing what may be the single worst attack in the history of the game. I’ve captured this moment in all its glory in today’s screenshot. I’ve split my army to move through two choke points towards an entrenched Terran. The green explosions on the left are my banelings dying while running into siege tanks, while my ultralisks march single file into a line of marines backed by Thors. Had I done the opposite, the banelings would have laid waste to his marines and the ultralisks would have absorbed the siege tank fire. Instead, I did exactly the opposite of what any sane Starcraft II player would do. I had enough resources to build a new army, but I did not do enough damage to buy the necessary time, and the game was lost.

Still, I mined 20% more minerals than him that game! Baby steps, baby steps.

Next time: What’s the most important resource in Starcraft II?

Peter Ginsberg lives in Maplewood, NJ. He is an independent game developer who makes games for kids and the occasional manchild.