StarCraft

How to solve one of the toughest problems of the modern RTS Genre

starcraft 2 - How to solve one of the toughest problems of the modern RTS Genre
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Hey !

Let's cut to the chase : Starcraft 2 is slowly dying. It's far from dead yet, mind you, but it's going there. In any case, that's okay ! The game is almost 10 years old and did not get a major expansion for 4 years ! I'd say it had a good run. Nevertheless, its age is definitely not its only problem costing it (and the rest of the RTS genre with it) a good chunk of popularity. The game got a nice influx of players with F2P, but all it did (seemingly) was push back the inevitable.

If you ask me, the biggest problem with Starcraft 2 is its accessibility. It's a big step up from Brood War for certain (being able to select any amount of units, 3D graphics, better control groups, way better unit pathing / AI, way better in game tutorials and guides, bigger community…).

However, here's something I'd like to theorize in front of everyone : RTS games nowadays tend to fail, because it's nearly impossible to make a game which is both fun and balanced to play at a competitive level (and therefore spectating – friendly), and at the same time accessible.

This is because RTSs need you to approach them in there entire complexity before even beginning to be decent at them. In MOBAs, you can choose among many characters, and it is well known that some characters are better for beginners, because less complex to play (but at the cost of potential should you turn out to be really good at the game). This makes it so that new players have a way of entering the game, and are given more and more advanced "tools" as they skill up.

In Starcraft, trolling aside, there are no pre-game choices that make it easier for new players to wrap their heads around the game. The races are very balanced, the stats prove it. And that's good : if there was a stronger race made for new players, there'd need to be a finicky system to make sure those who played it really are newbies. And what happens when these newbies become any good ? They get forced to switch race : not ideal.

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As a result, new players are either pushed out of the game due to its complexity, or they are among the few who actually have the perseverance, and method to actually get good at it. Some players do play it regularly without really being good, but you'll find that these players usually stick to arcade, and team matches which put a lot less pressure on the individual. Yet, Starcraft's Esport focus IS 1V1, and therefore the 1V1 community needs to keep healthy numbers !

How do we solve this ? Simple : pre-game choices to lower the complexity (not difficulty), allowing new players to better focus on one part of the game they want to improve (Macro, micro, tech switching…).

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Now, I kind of lied : that's not simple to come up with, and probably really difficult to balance. But, here's what I thought of :

– Make Starcraft games start with a higher initial resource amount, but fewer workers (higher early game complexity with more decisions to take, but without making games even quicker and stressful as they are now). We will call that amount of money "Standard start mineral" (SSM).

– By default, players will always start with that amount. That is likely how the standard games (and pro games) will be played. However, here's the catch : give players the option to "pre-spend" that starting money in exchange for automation of macro / micro tasks. A few examples :

– Automatically allocating idle and over-saturation workers to the most efficient mining task : no more 18 / 2 worker lines ! Makes it more obvious to low level players they need to expand beyond the B2 when workers start long distance mining.

– Maybe too strong, but automatically (maybe with slight inefficiency) doing "housekeeping" tasks for each race (Mules for T, Chrono for P, Injects / creep spread for Z), allowing newbies who want to focus more on micro without completely killing themselves.

– Automatic chain-research of upgrades. Make newbies understand the value of upgrades (which isn't really obvious when you're new to RTSs)

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– Ability to queue units without fully pre-paying for them (full price will still be spent before the unit actually is produced, but not before it reaches the front of the queue), allowing newbies to more efficiently macro with existing buildings while at the same time being encouraged to expand their production when they have higher income.

– These are just a few examples I came up with on the spot. I'm sure many other ideas could be found !

The idea is to allow new players to play in a way that is less complex and more fun for them, at the cost of starting with less money (which, in a way, helps them : less decisions to take immediately). Gradually they should shed away the automations as they get better and want to start with more money.

This kind of change, really, would make the game's turnover much lower. What do you think ?

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