Starcraft II: minding your manners

, | Game diaries

As you are all no doubt aware, online multiplayer games are filled with trash talk. From Doom to Counterstrike to Halo I’ve had a host of uncreative insults hurled at me. Starcraft II, however, is surprisingly cordial. The vast majority of the matches I’ve played have started with a “gl hf” and ended with a “gg”. I mean, I don’t really wish my opponent good luck. They can have fun, though, as long as they enjoy losing. But I’ll say it anyway, because there’s something so wonderfully formal, almost ritualized about the practice. Like a duel.

I thought maybe I could explain this by the pace of the game. Who has time to make conjecture about their opponent’s sexuality when they need to be topping 100 actions per minute? But if that was the reason wouldn’t the notoriously obnoxious DOTA community be better than it is? It might have something to do with the game’s popularity and long history in South Korea.

After the jump: the proper way to bm.

Trash talk appears to be really frowned upon in South Korea, and you simply must always say “gg”. Being bad mannered or “bm” (not an American devised acronym to be sure) usually plays out instead through deeds rather than words. Players might make their troops dance or intentionally nuke their own army when they are far ahead to show their contempt for their opponent. Or a huge deal might be made out of a post game “ceremony” like a player giving a thumbs down to another, or dragging his finger across his throat. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun than the usual uncreative name calling.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t been on the receiving end of some bad manners now and then, but even still, it’s a little bit polite!

Tonight’s games were a true test of my patience, 5 consecutive mirror matches where I faced off against another zerg player.

Zerg versus zerg is a delicate match up. The other races can wall off and get some measure of safety in their base, but two zergs facing off are in great danger from the start. Each player must be very careful how they use their larva — the proto-zerg unit which is used to create workers, fighting units, and buildings. Fail to see an attack coming and use all your larva making workers and you’re probably dead. Spend all your larva on units and then do no damage with them and you’ve doubtless fallen far behind.

My frustration with the zerg versus zerg matchup eventually led me to focus in on one single build. The aggressive baneling opening I mentioned in my first entry is the one I used every time I faced another zerg. Eventually, I hit the point where I was winning as much 75% of my mirror matches with this build. This is not because the build is so effective, but rather because I had practiced it so much.

You can see a little of this build’s handiwork in today’s screenshot. My banelings and zerglings have pretty much wiped out his main base and workers. But the image also shows how close the timings can be in this match up. The box on the top left is the production tab which shows my opponent with 5 roaches on the way. Had I arrived 30 seconds later or he started his roaches 30 seconds earlier, the game would have gone very differently.

Despite all that, I’ve decided this opening has become a crutch and I need to branch out. Letting go of what I knew ended up leading me into a string of clumsy losses. But I ended the night by winning for the first time in a long time with a +1 roach opening. If I keep it up, I might even get to use infestors one of these days.

Click here for the previous Starcraft II entry.

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