StarCraft is a military science fiction real-time strategy game launched on March 31, 1998. The player is required to build a virtual base and army with which he can attack and overcome his opponent. Although mission goals may differ in the campaign, in competitive play the objective is to destroy all enemy buildings. However, in most games a player can concede by typing "gg" and leaving the game when his losses can't be overcome.
A player can pick one of three unique Races with which to play: The Protoss, Zerg and Terran. All three races have their own qualities and weaknesses as well as units, abilities and gameplay mechanics.
Player activities can be divided in two categories: macro and micro. Macro includes the gathering of resources and making buildings and units. Micro involves the control of the army or individual units.
StarCraft: Brood War is the expansion pack for StarCraft. Released in 1998 for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS, it introduced new campaigns, maps and map tilesets, music, extra units for each race, and upgrade advancements. The campaigns continue the story from where the original StarCraft ended, with the sequel StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty continuing from the conclusion of Brood War. The expansion was released in the United States on 30 November 1998.
Brood War was critically well-received, with reviewers praising it for being developed with the care of a full game rather than as an uninspired extra. As of 31 May 2007, StarCraft and Brood War have sold almost ten million copies combined.
Players are required to strategically and quickly manage their Economy, Technology and Army in order to defeat their opponent. The basis of playing is, on the one hand, to harvest resources and on the other hand using said resources to purchase buildings, upgrades and units.
In this most basic understanding of the game we distinguish two tasks for the player: Macro and Micro. While micro refers to more local, specialized events, macro concerns the overall flow of the game and the economical side. It is important for every Starcraft player to have a balance of these two.
Micro, or micromanagement, encompasses managing the one's army. Moving, attacking, retreating it with the ultimate goal of overpowering the opponent. Micro is the ability to control units individually, in order to make up for pathing or otherwise imperfect Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Examples of micro include splitting a group of Marines to minimizes losses from a Lurker attack or targeting individual opponent units with Mutalisks. The general theory of micro is to keep as many units alive as possible. As such, it is generally preferable to have four half-dead Dragoons remaining after a battle, rather than two left at full health with two dead.
Macro, or macromanagement, encompasses managing the economy and technology: making sure to have an income (by harvesting resources) and spending this income (by constructing buildings, upgrades and units). Macro is the ability to produce units, and keep all of production buildings busy during the course of the game. Generally, the player with the better macro will have the larger army. Another element of macro is the ability to expand at the appropriate times to enable sufficient, or, oftentimes, constant production of units. A good macro player is able to increase production capability while having the resources to support it.
All these operations take place in real-time, such that commands are executed as they are given. This means a player not only benefits from strategic insight, but also from speed and multitasking ability, measured by APM (actions per minute). The ability to perform specific actions in limited time is often referred to as Mechanics.
Balancing Micro & Macro
While it is ideal to perform optimal micro and macro, it is usually impossible to do both tasks together as well as one could perform each separately. Thus, a player is forced to make the decision where to allocate one's actions and attention. In order to win, the opportunity cost should be considered: by spending attention on micro, macro is unable to be executed, and vice-versa. It is generally accepted that good macro is more valuable than good micro.
So why is macro better? Consider pitting a micro-oriented player against a macro-oriented player both with the same amount of attention and APM. Overall, the macro player will have a better economy and more units, and can usually overpower the micro player no matter how good that player's control is. Because of this, attention to macro is generally more valuable than attention to micro. Since focus on macro is the better choice, we can consider the case of two macro-oriented players with the same amount of attention. Both will amass a similarly-sized army and both will have similar economies, so who is victorious? It comes down to unit positioning and the outcome of battles, or, essentially, micro.
Thus, players who want to win will practice both micro and macro in order to out-micro and out-produce their opponents. The marginal benefit of micro will be apparent if the macro abilities of the players are the same. Good players will allocate the appropriate time for each to get the most benefit from their actions. It is advisable to also take into consideration the cost to your opponent when deciding between micro and macro as well, and how well off one will be in relation to one's opponent when deciding, for example, whether to spend time controlling Mutalisks to destroy SCVs. This may reduce the opponent's income but it may also cause one to neglect to make more Drones at the appropriate time. If one switches to focus on production, one's Mutalisks may be left vulnerable or simply unused. In this sense, the game becomes a balancing act between micro and macro.
In StarCraft a player can pick one of three races to play with. They are:
Protoss is a robotic race with units that are typically more expensive than units from the other two races, Terran and Zerg; the justification is that the Protoss units are stronger than their equivalencies from other races. Many StarCraft players consider the Protoss to be the easiest to learn of the three races, due to their simpler design, although there is much to learn about tackling other races. Protoss have the most powerful early late-game of any race, and with economy in their favor, are a force to be reckoned with once their infrastructure is in place and they survive the early aggression of other races. In terms of a need to expand and army mobility, Protoss falls in the middle between Terrans and Zerg.
Some notable attributes of Protoss include:
- Expensive, but strong units
- Buildings must be built within range of a Pylon
- Probes need only to begin a building's warp-in
- Can warp in units
- All units and buildings are equipped with a regenerative shield
Terran is a human-like race with units that vary wildly and have high potential cost-efficiency, which is in line with their reputation as the most adaptable race. Depending on the Terran army composition, the race can be fast and agile or deliberate and steadfast.. Terran tends to rely on their cost-efficiency to "turtle up" on a few bases or only one base fending off enemy attacks with the least disruption to their game plan possible until they can move out with powerful armies that have incredible combined fire capabilities.
Some notable attributes of Terran include:
- Average unit costs
- Buildings can be built anywhere, and most of them can lift off
- Characterized by strong defense
- Can repair buildings and units
Zerg is an alien-like race with units that are typically less expensive than units from the other two races, Terran and Protoss. The Zerg are considered the most mobile race. The Zerg are also extremely flexible because they only have one production building. Zerg has a cheaper town hall than other races, and its units have enough speed to defend multiple ones, so often expand faster and take more bases more safely than other races. This means they often operate at a much higher economy than other races. Buildings are never production buildings, but allow the town hall to build new units. Although its units are weaker than those of other races for cost, armies tend to be similarly as powerful due partly to lower supply for some units, and size for others, having decent damage and health per square area. Zerg tend to focus on damage for their units, getting brought down and bringing others down quickly.
Some notable attributes of Zerg include:
- Cheap units built in quantity
- Flexible production output because the Hatchery is the only production building
- Faster expansion bases and economy because only one building is necessary for unit production
- Buildings must be built on creep
- Drones sacrifice themselves to become buildings