A Year of Starcraft II

On Lava, Challenges, and Leaving Work Early To Play Starcraft

Sometimes, work is just annoying.  I mean, there’s only so many times I can call somebody an asshole in my head as I smile at them and give them what they want.  And with the holiday day this pay period, I wasn’t losing anything by leaving early.  So, with Starcraft II on the brain, I left and figured I could get home early and play my two hours in time to get some sleep.  Hah!  About four hours later, and the only reason I quit was because my arm hurt.

I seriously think I do need a desk and chair.  The weird position I play in was more noticeable today because I was trying to use the hotkeys (4s 4sz 1a, etc.).   Too many days of that and carpal tunnel here I come.  Although perhaps it is just the muscle I need to build up, since it is my left forearm…

On to the game:

I started off with two games vs. the AI.  I played as random, which were me as Terran and the computer as Protoss for the first and me as Zerg vs. computer Zerg for the second.

I won the Terran vs. Protoss game the same way I did the last time (bunkers + marines and tanks).  The only thing that was really different, I think, was the timing.  I felt quicker, and as soon as the Protoss force was repelled by the mix of tanks and marines in bunkers, I launched the army and took out their base.  It was good to win, and improve a bit, but not very satisfying to play the same game.  It will be hard not to just do that if the match comes up again.  I am left wondering what a Protoss force in the multi would do and how I would counter it.

The Zerg vs. Zerg game was a fun one.  I employed extensive use of the hotkeys in that game (thanks for the tips in the comments), popping out drones and zerglings like I had been doing it for months instead of two days.  But it took me a while to realize I needed to make different units.  I only started making roaches after my first three zergling attacks didn’t yield any results.  I also started using queens to inject larvae so I could have more units to make.  That is a very interesting and, it seems to me, very useful ability.  Someone mentioned Zerg’s ability to not make many units until you actually see a rush coming, at which point you can start popping out your units (that’s what she said).  The injecting skill must be what they were talking about.  I believe my lack of variety of units is the reason I lost.  After expanding, plus having an extra lair in my main base (I hit the wrong key and didn’t realize until it was already finished), I should have been making some of the air units.  That was what defeated me, at least.  My three queens couldn’t hold them off, and those plus roaches destroyed my base.  I definitely felt much better about playing Zerg that game, though.  It wasn’t so alien.

After that, I decided to play the challenges, as a few people had suggested them to me as a way to learn the countering units.  I enjoyed this part of the game a lot.  Setting up different mixes of units and seeing how they fared against the others was challenging and very interesting.  I lost repeatedly on the first one of Terran vs. Zerg.  I kept sending my tanks against the Ultralisk, thinking it needed that much firepower.  But, no, it turns out the Marines, with the stim ability, are better against those.  I probably should have expected that, seeing as how the ranged Zerg unit kept killing my marines over and over again.  However, it never occurred to me that the range vs. range was the correct thing to do. At least, not until I finally looked at the hint.

The Protoss vs. Terran challenges were easier, and I liked using the psionic powers of the High Templar.   Although the Protoss Carriers don’t seem to be very powerful.  I had a hard time with those vs. the Terran Battlecruisers.  But all in all it was a relatively quick challenge.

I tried to at least get silver on one of the challenges, but couldn’t do it.  I may end up going back to them, but not until I finish the others.

On the campaign side, that lava level kicked my ass.  I made it about twenty minutes in and didn’t have more than 500 of the 8000 resources I needed, so I stopped for the night.  I couldn’t get the hang of moving everything around.  I just sat there, as the resources dwindled, building units (which wasted the resources I needed to complete the level) when I should have scouted more. That would have allowed me to  find the other spots with resources and keep moving as the resources were depleted.  Hopefully this works when I try it tomorrow.

I really, really want to try the multiplayer, but I know if I do I will never come back to the campaign.  So I’m gong to finish the campaign and the challenges before moving on.  I have kind of skirted around this, saying I would play the campaign for a week or so before moving on, but I do think I should finish it.  Someone said that after the first five, and learning the basics, it’s really not that important.  I think that perhaps this is partially right and while the campaign won’t make me any better at the tactics of the game, I will have a greater grasp of the controls when I finish.

All of the offers of games are very tempting, though.

I almost didn’t update this blog tonight, but it felt wrong not to write.  There’s something to be said for going over everything I’ve done, and most of the examining and realizing what I did wrong happens when I’m trying to explain my play here.  So, I will try to keep this an every day thing.

For tomorrow, more challenges and I will at least finish the lava level, if not one more.


27 responses to “On Lava, Challenges, and Leaving Work Early To Play Starcraft

  1. derpaling June 11, 2011 at 5:03 am

    > I believe my lack of variety of units is the reason I lost.

    This is the most common misconception new players make. At your level it doesn’t matter what kind of units you make, only the amount matters.

    This is a video of a professional player proving the point. I think he he got to platinum and was being matched against diamond players with this completely ridiculous and unfeasible strategy.

    >I should have been making some of the air units

    Air units, such as mutalisks require a huge resource investment. Pretty much any kind direct attack with ground units would’ve destroyed your opponent’s base. In case they chose to pull back their mutalisks and defend, it would’ve at least crippled your opponent’s economy and given you time to establish air defense.

    • Timo T June 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      This is so true, it couldn’t be any more true, take this advice by heart!

    • noisecoma June 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      This is so true.

      I do want to say one thing about Zerg… it does play a little different than other races only in that it is a race of preparation. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily *need* any one type of unit to win any particular matchup, but you DO need to be ready for what the other races can do to you as you build your economy.

      Zerg as a race plays such that when you are in a ladder game, you are essentially starting what I’d like to call “the GG timer”. As this timer counts down you begin preparing for the next cost effective harrass that will end the game for you. 4:30 – expect a bunker rush. 5 minutes: Expect hellions. 7:30 expect banshees. 10 minutes – a stim timing push, etc, etc.

      As the timer counts down, you get to cross these things off your list. If you aren’t ready for any one of them, its good game. If however, you are prepared for all these things as they come, you’ll likely win probably win.

    • redditpickedmyhobby June 11, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      I will kep this in mind as I play tonight. I was thinking that another thing I did wrong in that game was having almost no defense. I’m not sure what defensive measures Zerg takes besides queens. That’s something I will haved to look into.

      • noisecoma June 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

        Defense as a Zerg has to be *VERY* deliberate.

        That said – I generally place between 2-4 spine crawlers (depending on matchup and scouting) and have ~4-6 queens. by the time my 2 bases are saturated.

    • learningtogetolder September 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      That video is very impressive. It almost makes me want to take up Starcraft again, but I definitely prefer to spectate these days. The competition feels too intense for me at times.

  2. HTMC June 11, 2011 at 5:34 am

    “Someone mentioned Zerg’s ability to not make many units until you actually see a rush coming, at which point you can start popping out your units (that’s what she said). The injecting skill must be what they were talking about.”

    To expand on that a bit, Zerg is different from the other two races in that you can create as many units of a given type as you have larva available. For instance, Terran can only make as many marauders per minute as they have Barracks with Tech Labs, where as Zerg could make 14 Drones from two hatcheries in one round, then instantly switch over to making 14 Ultralisks (or whatever).

    Yes, Larva Inject is for the Zerg the *single* most important macro ability, because as you can guess from above, they’re not limited by production facilities and time, but rather how much larva is available. Ideally you want to be larva injecting as soon as the old larva “pop” and using the larva ASAP, because a Zerg can only ever have so many larva in a game– it’s their big constraint.

    What you’ll see pro-level Zerg players do (and something you won’t have to worry about for a while, but to make sense of what people have been telling you) is be very “greedy,” in that they will scout incredibly well to see what their opponent is doing, and hold off making combat units for as long as possible. That way they can get up a much stronger economy, and because zerg units produce fairly quickly and can be produced in large batches, you can make a bunch of attack units as soon as you see the enemy moving out to attack, and continue to make only combat units because you’ve already saturated your bases with your early droning, while meanwhile a Terran or Protoss opponent is constantly making a mix of workers and combat units.

    With that said, it’s a fairly high level of play, and not something you should stress over at your stage, but it’s good to look ahead to get good fundamentals.

    I’d also say finish the campaign, and focus on being able to macro (production & stuff) at the base while simultaneously on your micro. Ideally you’re doing both at the same time, and that skill is something that carries over to multiplayer, even if the tactics don’t. One thing to look out for is that the campaign & other single player elements are at “Normal” speed, whereas multiplayer is at “Faster” speed. It can throw you off at first, but it’s pretty easy to adjust after a while, and at this point going back to single player modes feels soooooo slow.

    Finally (sorry for so much text! >_<) it's been a long time since I've done the challenges, but I don't think carriers are the correct choice versus battlecruisers. Carriers do lots of small damage attacks and battlecruisers have high armor value, so a high % of the carrier damage is getting negated. If you have to use an air unit, Void Rays are made to destroy high HP, massive units such as battlecruisers.

    Again, sorry for writing so much, but hopefully it's useful 🙂

    • SADW June 11, 2011 at 6:22 am

      “One thing to look out for is that the campaign & other single player elements are at “Normal” speed, whereas multiplayer is at “Faster” speed. It can throw you off at first, but it’s pretty easy to adjust after a while, and at this point going back to single player modes feels soooooo slow.”

      You can turn the speed up in Single Player, though. 🙂 Just hit ‘+’ on your numpad, or go into Options -> Gameplay.

    • redditpickedmyhobby June 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      Talking about the queen’s inject, should I hotkey those queens so I can do this relatively quickly? It just ocured to me as I read your post, so I will have to try that tonight.

      I will also try that challenge again, as you are most likely right about the carriers. Ideally, I guess, one would use carriers against a lot of ground troops then.

      Thanks for the info, and no wories about writing so much. Who am I to complain? It feels like I’m writing a damn book each night.

      • HTMC June 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

        There’s a number of different techniques players use to do larva injects quickly. I’ve seen some players assign each queen to a different control group to quickly cycle through them, I’ve also seen some players put all the queens on the same hotkey and then use the minimap to inject. I’m actually a Protoss player, so I can’t speak from experience, but there’s a number of guides out there if you get into Zerg, such as this one:

        And if you’re writing a book, it’s one I definitely enjoy reading, so keep it up 😀

  3. ygdra June 11, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Some tips för the lava mission: use the reapers to scout the map for additional resources and pick up the mineral/gas containers. There are lots of resources in the zerg bases as well. Just keep an eye on the lava timer and you should do fine.

  4. Garg27 June 11, 2011 at 5:47 am

    You definitely need to make sure that your wrists are comfortable when you are playing for any reasonable amount of time. Not sure if you have seen one of the professional players TLO (The Little One) has had to withdraw for a couple of months due to his severe RSI.

    Be safe dude, all the longer to enjoy starcraft :).

  5. Ryusko June 11, 2011 at 6:46 am

    The lava level is one of the first that teaches multi tasking and decision making. As with multi player you have to decide what to do with finite resources: ‘Should these minerals go toward my base, towards my units, or towards the mission?’ At the same time, you have to be ready to lift your command center, move your scvs, and watch for zergling run-bys.

    Some tips for that level: reapers are your friends. Usually they can’t make the bulk of an army, but the zerg forces are mosty light ground units (reapers are excellent against light units). Also, check all of the high cliffs that you can with reapers. You’ll find bonus resources or, oftentimes, even more reapers!

    Finally, if you’re able to be aggressive against the zerg, it will result in fewer attacks by them, and killing hatcheries nets you a big chunk of bonus resources. Besides, the best defense…

  6. David Wootten June 11, 2011 at 9:07 am

    The whole ”Build drones until you need to build units” thing is quite complex to explain. You will eventually get the hang of how you need to do it properly, but it revolves around a lot of scouting. Make sure you know what build he is doing and get tech structures and possibly static defences if needed to counter it, then make as much of an army as you can when he attacks.

    Also, if you were on the EU servers, I would gladly give you some lessons to help you get better :/.

  7. jacob June 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

    From reading your blog, I don’t think you quite understood each units strengths and weaknesses. You should aim to get gold in all of those unit challenges before you move on to multiplayer so that you really understand the different units. Really, you should aim to get gold in all of the challenges first, but if you can only get silver in a couple, that’s not so bad.

  8. slacker June 11, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Against the recommendations of others, I still think just jumping in to multiplayer is your best bet. You’ll learn the fastest, and won’t develop any mental links with units that don’t exist.

    Also, as others said, make sure your games vs. the computer are “faster” speed instead of “fast” or “normal.” “Faster” is the speed that the multiplayer ladder is at.

  9. Mauricio Romano Ibarra June 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Awesome post, i feel like someone may become a zerg player even though terran is obviously the funnest…

  10. Dundrio June 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    The campaign story is so awesome, especially close to the end 😀 My only tips for you is to skip practice league, since you need to learn how to survive early ground rushes that can’t be used.

  11. Mateo Rojas June 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    You definitely need a good desk, chair, keyboard, and mouse/mousepad. These will help your game, precision, posture, and in the long run your wrists. I’m loving the blog man, great read, keep it up! And once you go to multiplayer, don’t get discouraged! Sc2’s learning curve is pretty much vertical so just take your time. It truly is our generation’s chess. A game for the ages. 🙂

  12. Timo T June 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    To try to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, you should make sure that when you use your keyboard and mouse, your wrists are bend slightly upwards(elbow above table height) or your hand and forearm make a straight line (elbow at the same height as the table). If you don’t naturally have a very narrow carpal tunnel, this precautionary measure should keep you relatively safe from this injury. (Nothing can be guaranteed, as always, though)

  13. Jae June 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Hey, you’re doing a great job. I really enjoy reading up on how you’ve been doing even if its a short post. The SC community will support you as long as you ask for help. I wish you the best.

  14. noisecoma June 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Oh one other thing –

    For hotkey setup (especially as you’re trying out all of the races – you might want to change your hotkey setup to “grid”. I’ve found that (at least for me) it is more intuitive – and might be easier for you as well.

    You can change this in your hotkey options.

  15. ArturosII June 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    A big tip for the lava level is to not build any units. On normal if you just build 1 medic and get one drop of the mercenary marines and you can completely ignore your base while running around the map with reapers. Just keep an eye on the lava timer so your scvs won’t die. Also you’re not alone in having trouble with this one 😛 I’ve heard several pros mention having major trouble in the past with it.

  16. Carlos June 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I enjoy reading about your progress. Keep at it!

  17. Hieronimus W Kava June 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    The Queen Larva inject isn’t just useful – it’s necessary. The amount of time it takes to pop new larva is same as the amount of time it takes to regenerate 25 energy on the Queen. That’s not a coincidence =)

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