StarCraft

Thoughts on the State of Random Race Selection

starcraft 9 - Thoughts on the State of Random Race Selection
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It is my opinion that random race selection in Starcraft 2 is fundamentally at odds with the spirit and execution of the rest of the game's ranked system. My issues with it boil down to two main points, each of which I believe is easily solvable by Blizzard. The first problem is that Random has a separate MMR from the other three race options. The second and likely more controversial is that when you select Random, your opponent cannot see what race was assigned. I will now address these points in more detail individually.

Random has a separate MMR from each of the three races

To begin to address this we must recognize something which is obvious but nonetheless rarely mentioned: Random is not a race. When you select Random, you play either Zerg, Protoss, or Terran. Each of the races has a separate MMR since it is assumed, and safely so, that almost every player has a different skill level with each race. Meanwhile, if you select Random, your MMR is a rough average of your MMRs with the three races. You then queue into people of similar MMR on the ladder. If your ladder opponent is playing a definite race, then their MMR likely reflects their skill with that race. Since your MMR as Random is either lower or higher than but unlikely to be equal to your MMR with the race you were given, you are now disproportionality likely to win or lose the game, depending on which race you were given.

This leads overwhelmingly to bad games, where one player is severely outmatched and to make matters worse, the ladder does not recognize this and awards and deducts MMR after the match accordingly. The solution here is simple: Do away with Random MMR. Have every game queued as Random played at the MMR of the race that is given to the player. In this way we can assure that games played as Random are as evenly matched as any other ladder match on the SC2 client. Although I do not play Random, it seems to me that this should be a popular suggestion for Random players as well, since it only serves to increase the quality of everyones' games.

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Make the randomly chosen race visible in the loading screen

This argument has been had since we were playing WoL but nonetheless I think it bears repeating. The arguments for are multifaceted and so I'll break them down.

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Knowing your opponent's race when they do not know yours imparts a fundamental advantage to the player to the Random player. Starcraft is built around a set of symmetries which help to balance the game. Both players begin the game in symmetrical positions on the map, with an equal amount of resources, an equal number of workers, and equal knowledge of the opponent. The effects of Random breaking that last symmetry are obvious, the non-Random players has to open the game by preparing for the most dangerous build any individual race has to throw at them. This obviously weakens all of the responses: it is difficult to scout how many Barracks a Random Terran has proxied if you're busy making sure there aren't any cannons going up in your natural and looking for the first six lings running across the map.

A common response by Random apologists is "Worker scout earlier and this won't be a problem." Of course this would be discarding 1/12-1/13 of your early game income just in order to acquire the same information that your opponent began the match with at no cost. Another response I have seen equally often, "If Random is so strong, why aren't any pro players playing Random in tournaments?" The answer of course is that if a pro player were to spend 1/3 the time that their competitors do practicing each matchup that they need to play, then unless they can commit 3 times more to practice, they will not have the same quality of results as their competitors. This naturally brings us to the most common response "Random should have an advantage because Random players need to learn 3 times as many matchups, which is an inherent disadvantage." I must admit I've never fully understood this argument. Of course it is harder to learn 6 additional matchups and that does put you at a disadvantage compared to players of the same skill level. Why though, should Random players be given an advantage because they willingly chose to play Random? It isn't as if Random is a race which can be trailing on Aligulac and needs a boost. Fundamentally, Random is a choice, not a race and treating it like a unique race with weaknesses that need to be compensated for is disingenuous and wholly misses the point.

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In summary, the way Random works now makes for unfair games on account of unaccounted for MMR gaps and a disparity in information. My proposed solutions are to have each Random game played at the given race's MMR and to reveal the given race during the loading screen, respectively.

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