As the lucky bastard that I am, I got my hands on a Starcraft II beta key. Initially, SCII wasn’t the Blizzard game I was looking the most forward to (because let’s be honest, Diablo III!), but the more I kept hearing and reading about how amazing the beta was, the more I started wanting in. So I used my extensive contacts network (*ahem*), and secured myself a place in the beta.
Now, as a self proclaimed “‘PC’ “Gamer’”, I’ve played my share of RTS’s, but I’ve never delved into the online multiplayer part of them. When I play any of the artehsus, like Age of Empires 2, or LotR: Battle for Middle Earth 2, I have usually only played the single player campaigns, or I have played it LAN with my friends, who employ the same tactics as I: Turtle up, hoard resources, amass a giant army, then send them all at once for an epic, chaotic battle.
Needless to say, that shit don’t fly in the realm of online multiplayer Starcraft. If you try something like this you’ll quickly get Zerg rushed straight up an uncomfortable place… and I’m not talking about the back of a Volkswagen either.
So with this series of articles I will at the same time try to give you my impressions of the beta, and document my quest to become a “real” RTS player. Join me, whydon’tcha?
It took a while to get it downloaded and patched, but that is to be expected. The UI seems slick and intuitive, and it explains most options, even if a lot of them are greyed out.
I was informed that in order for the match-making system to rank my level properly, I would have to do 5 matches, and it would determine my skill from those. Jeez BattleNet, way to put the pressure on for my first matches.
When I first clicked play, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find a lot of matches, since I was playing before noon my time, making it very early in the States. But it found me a suitable match, both in ping and skill level, pretty quick.
We are in your area of operation, murdering your individuals.
Now, all the write-ups I have seen so far, and the guy that gave me the beta key, have all said one thing clearly: When you start out, you will get raped. It’s inevitable. You just have to bend over and take it as graciously as possible. This of course made me quite nervous, but it was also was a little comforting, in that if when I lose, it’s not necessarily my fault, and I’m not the worst player ever.
The first match was against someone with the nickname MadRogue. Menacing, but at least he spelled “Rogue” correctly. But he opened with “gl hf” (for those not “in the know”, it means ‘good luck, have fun’), making me a little more at ease. I said thanks, and told him I was a little nervous, cause it was my very first match in the beta. He replied that it was his too, and that “so far, he likes the graphics”. This made me relax a lot more, thinking “hey, he’s new, he’ll be exploring the game just like me. Maybe I wont get manhandled after all.”
Now if you are paying attention, you can see I have already done my first mistake. I forgot that everyone on the internet are lying, cheating bastards that will do anything to destroy you.
My second mistake was an even stupider one. I have played Starcraft before, but only in the context I mentioned above, and many years ago. So I knew to immediately set my PVCs to mine mineral, while one was gonna build. However, there was a green icon next to every building requirement, that I assumed was Vespene gas, something I didn’t start with. So I ran around, trying to figure out how I could get gas without building a refinery, which required gas to build! 4 minutes in, I realized that the green icon did in fact stand for build time, not gas. Doh.
So I start setting up a pretty standard base, a barracks, some marines, and so on. After exploring my starting area, I realized there’s only one entrance to the plateu I’m on. So if I cover that properly, and make enough anti-air turrets, I’ll be safe. Mistake number three.
After I’ve built up what I thought was a half-decent defense, suddenly my marines start blowing up. Then in frame, from a completely different angle than the exit of the plateu, come 7-10 Reapers. Reapers are a new unit for the Terran faction. They look like the regular marines, but their weapons are mortar-like. Oh, and did I mention they have jetpacks? So they hover above the ground, making them able to traverse terrain that in the first game, only air units could pass. But they still count as ground units, so my Anti-Air turrets couldn’t care less.
Long story short, these guys tore my units apart, then they were reinforced by another new unit, the air unit called Viking. Together they tore me to pieces. New to the beta, my ass.
A post-match list, showing what we built at the start of the match. My next build was at 04:07…
Humbled by my defeat, I immediately jumped in to the next match. This time, I had a general feeling for where all the buttons were, what to build first, what to build more of, and so on.
I got my base in order long before 4 minutes had gone by. Then I realized that hey, this guy is also playing Terran, and we’re on the same map. I wonder if he will make the same mistakes that I did..?
So I start building these Reapers until I have about the force that my last opponent had, then I send them out to find the enemy. Sure enough, at the part of the plateu where it’s not possible for ground units to come up, it’s lined with Anti-Air Turrets, who promptly ignore me. So I pass them, and ambush the few units he has in his base. After wiping them out, I take out two of his military buildings, and he eventually forfeits the game.
I felt a rush of adrenaline, and I may or may not have thrown my hands in the air. So this is what it feels like to win with superior tactics and out-maneuvering. It’s pretty great. Of course, it didn’t strike me until later that I had given this guy the same feeling I had from my previous match.
Eh, he’ll get over it.
Next up: First impressions, new features and more qualification matches.