In homage to @mycotoxin_zerg‘s excellent blog zergnewbs, I’ll be doing a StarCraft 2 themed segment on this blog called Brotips. It will chronicle the painful journey as I attempt to being a Gold-level Zerg player to being a Gold (or higher?) league Protoss player. I will be evaluating my game performance, talking about the difference between Protoss and Zerg play (as far as I understand it) and perhaps give some insight to other lowbies on what not to do.
I will preface this by saying that I am not a good StarCraft 2 player. I have (at the time of this writing) fewer than 300 ladder wins, which totals pretty obviously to under 600 ranked matches. Bolstering this, I have around 100-120 unranked matches, most of these 1v1s of various description. I don’t upgrade often enough, I’m easily distracted, and I don’t multitask well. However, one thing I am very good at is determining what I’m doing wrong. Ergo, you’ll see quite a bit of analysis of my failings during the course of my Brotips segment. My hope is that, for myself, seeing my shortcomings enumerated will help me improve at a quicker rate than otherwise. Also, I feel that other struggling players will be able to read my posts, see my replays, and learn from my mistakes, and thereby become better players themselves.
The inaugural episode of Brotips will be about my decision to switch from Zerg to Protoss, and the painful transition it has thus far been. As I discuss this, I hope to provide some insight onto my methods of choosing a race in a real-time strategy game, and perhaps get you to think about how you play RTS games, at the same time.
First off, I’d like to talk briefly about the name “Brotips.” The term “Brotoss” is sometimes used to deride Protoss players for their seemingly simple play style: Mass up a deathball and push for the win. Thus far, I have not found playing the race to be this simple, but I enjoy the term. The term “bro” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as (loosely) an empty-headed party dude, the implication being that they’re stupid. Therefore, a Brotoss is a meathead who can’t play well enough to do well as any race as Protoss. As I’m terrible at StarCraft in general, and also as the Protoss race, I’ll gladly take the name to myself.
A “protip” is either a tip given by a pro to help someone play a game better, or more commonly a piece of stupidly simple advice. Ergo, since I am a newb trying to give newby advice, I’m a “Brotoss” giving “protips.” Hence, the portmanteau “Brotips.”
Making the Switch
Why did I decide to challenge myself, and switch from Zerg to Protoss? Ultimately, this comes down to a question of play style. In RTS games, my default is to be a passive player. I like to “sim city” in my base, building buildings and units willy nilly until I make a casual push out. However, I recognize this as a weakness in my play style. Being overly passive, especially in a game like StarCraft 2, means that I’m just asking for my opponent to out-macro me and win. So, I look for a faction that will force me to play aggressively.
For almost a year after the release of StarCraft 2, I was sure that the race that best supported this play style was the Zerg. You have to deal with continually reinforcing a fragile army, trying to expand and protect an out of control economy that cannot be easily defended by static defenses. You have to carefully choose where you engage the enemy, as both Terran and Protoss enjoy more ability to exploit terrain than the Zerg. As a Zerg player, you have to, in the early game, be very careful about not overcommitting to army at the expense of economy, lest you fall behind.
Also, you enjoy a batch-production model: one building per base produces your units. I really like this model, the idea of production queues, and their inefficiency of resource spending (queued units cost resources that could be used to otherwise improve your position in the game), bothers me. So, Zerg sounds ideal, right? I mean, come on! Both Protoss and Terran’s entire play style works around sitting in your base and building up an army, which you’re trying to avoid. Right?
Well, turns out that, for me at least, this is not true. The Protoss play style, in my opinion, is a delicate balance. Keeping up with Probe production, carefully doling out Chronoboost, choosing just the right few units to hold off a push… Protoss makes me work for a win, early game. It seems that with Protoss, you either play well and are rewarded by crushing your opponent’s army, or make poor choices and are crushed utterly by an army composition you have no answer to.
At any point, you are able to be destroyed: losing a Probe Line is much worse than a midgame, 3-base Zerg losing a Drone line, and is even worse than a Terran losing their SCVs (because of Mules). Protoss’ expensive armies rely on a steady and growing economy, so as a Protoss player, you have to keep this in mind, and keep your relatively slow army in position to defend your resources. In addition, in early game, you have very few units, and those units are pretty costly. Therefore, they must be managed effectively to prevent an embarrassing defeat.
In addition, it’s all too easy for your opponent to get ahead economically or in army size, so you must plan to pressure your opponent to give yourself that needed advantage. For me, at least, the Protoss game is a careful balance of offense and defense, with the added bonus of force fields, teleportation, and giant stompy robots.
As a Protoss, I find myself trying harder to understand the metagame: as Zerg, I pretty much did the same thing every match, simply choosing between Roach/Hydra/Infestor, Muta/Ling or another mid-late game build. As a Protoss, there are so many possible openings, so many possible unit compositions (1 gate expand, 2 gate expand, Forge First, Nexus First, 2 Stargate, 3gate robo, DT expand) and your units must be used very carefully, to boot, as well as pressure (as mentioned) to harass or attack the enemy early. It’s challenging and exciting, at least for me.
However, this brings up an important question: what should s0meone look for in an RTS faction? How do they know what to choose?
What I Look For
How you play RTS games can reveal a lot about who you are as a person. As a gamer and a human being, I tend to be passive and wasteful: therefore, to combat this natural tendency towards sloth by, at work, keeping myself accountable to one or more superiors. I will give them constant updates, and work much better when I am kept on a relatively short leash.
Similarly, in-game, I combat my naturally passive nature by choosing a faction that requires me to be aggressive. And, in StarCraft 2, I find that the Protoss race puts me into this mindset more than Terran and Zerg.
Most people simply choose a race or faction that looks cool to them: they like humans, so they choose Terran. They like playing the “bad guys” so they play Zerg. The list goes on. However, some (I hope) are like me, and they look at the mechanics of the various races in the game, and they choose races/factions that either cater to their play style, or have mechanics that appeal to them and that they can easily learn to use effectively.
For me, playing Protoss isn’t about “utopian ideas” or “simple play.” My faction choice results from a careful consideration of who I am as a person, and how I interact with my environment. Yes, it’s fun that they have cool giant death robots, yes, it might be easy to learn a simple cheese or 2. That might be why some people choose their race: I’m sure people have chosen Terran because of the cheese that they can pull off. But for me, Protoss is way to force myself to be a better player, just as how at work, I have set up systems that help me to be a better employee.
Hopefully, you will find this interesting.
Later all my Brotoss,