StarCraft

The “Play like Maru” conundrum. A look into player skill vs. Terran late game.

starcraft 7 - The "Play like Maru" conundrum. A look into player skill vs. Terran late game.
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Disclaimer: I am by no means a pro and this is purely based on my observation being a low plat but I've been watching the scene a lot from tournaments to viewer submitted games being casted by streamers.

With that in mind I'm gonna go the "player skill" route, not balance and ONLY address the late game Terran.

So I've seen a lot of people complaining that Terran has no late game yet time and time again we've seen champions like Maru, Innovation and TY prove people wrong only to get a sarcastic replay "yeah just play like Maru". To put it worse, what used to be a joke on Protoss as the a-move race is now also being used on Zerg "Zerg A-move!". Are Terran players just this salty? Has Avilo's mindset spread on Dominion networks? Or is there something deeper to the phrase "JUST PLAY LIKE MARU"?

People have been debating unit X being too powerful, or unit Y being too weak. But from what I've seen and read, I think it is more about the player's control and the viability of other late game Terran options.

The pro scene is almost the perfect representation of what each race can offer to the fullest. But SC2 isn't just a game made for pros. It's made for everyone. That's why the league system exists so it can pit players of similar skill against each other. Herein lies the puzzle for game developers. How do you design a game that it's difficulty level and mastery reward linearly aligns with player skill? How can you scale a game's progression as you become a better player vs. other players?

The answer: the unit tier system and the macro system. As a player learns to macro, they are rewarded access to higher tier units. As a player gets access to higher Tier units they learn to control them more correctly, mix-match, timely progress through the tech tree, and finally learn to augment it with spellcasters as they move up to higher leagues.

At tier 3 is where I think the problem lies for Terran. So we've been looking at this uphill. Progressing up the tech tree as a player's skill increases. But now let's look at it from a downhill perspective. Regressing down the tech tree as a player's skill decreases.

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So first let's look at the ultimate late game army for each race:

A GM Protoss must learn to control Tempests, Carriers, Archons, High Templars, Stalkers, Oracles and the occasional void rays. The Zerg must learn to control Corrupters, Broodlords, ling/bane (counters), Vipers, infestors, creep spread, Queen and spores. Terran has liberatos, ghosts, vikings, ravens, siege tank, vikings, thors , hellabats, planetary fortresses and MMM. In all honesty to perfectly control these armies would take a closely equal amount of skill for all races (though I still think Zerg has it hardest but it's become the norm for them).

Let's look at it from a regressing tech tree in relation to skill:

Protoss and Zerg: Can't control your ultimate lategame army while positioning your spell casters? Easy remove the spell casters, add more capital ships. Bad at augmenting your army with static defense? More capital ships. Immobility abused? Recall, warp in, creep, nydus, instant tech switch. Enemy trying to be fancy with spellcasters? MOAR CAPITAL SHIPS!

Terran: Can't control your ultimate lategame army? Too bad you can't replace ghosts. How about replacing liberators? You'll have nothing to protect your ghosts. How about no static defense then? You're ghosts won't have anything to fall back on. How about massing Thors? They're not air units and very clunky unless your silver and below. But what about BCs!? It's an option as shown by Gumiho vs. Serral. Not sure vs. Toss.

As hard as a pill it is to swallow, in my opinion an army's true strength still lies on the player and not the units. I think Terran's problem is how their ONLY late game option as shown by pros, requires a steep learning curve in order to viably use which does not integrate well with a player's progression of game mastery. It just does not scale well.

TL;DR Terran cannot water down their ultimate spell caster army for casual play while a Zerg and Protoss can easily mass Broodlord/Corrupter, Carrier/Tempest and win with the typical micro.

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