How I got into Starcraft: Remastered
A year ago when Starcraft: Remastered was announced I decided to give this game a proper try and become at least average at it. The game had its 20 years anniversary in 2018, and there were plenty of players who started playing since the very beginning. I expected to be smashed in almost every game, but then steadily to get better and better at it.
Why out of all the modern games available I picked a 20-year-old game with tough mechanics? I think there were many factors to that.
The main reason I believe was nostalgia. I never played BW properly back then. I remember its early days when I was in high school. Our young computer science teacher loved this game. He took it seriously. He was even watching Korean VODs on our school projector in his free time, trying to show us all how cool the game was. Also, we had kind of LAN parties after school he was beating me and my classmates pretty badly. We played in an alliance of 3-4 people vs just him alone and could not a single match. At that time I was too young to understand or care about this game at all. Now I see those school days as a lost opportunity. I could have learned a lot having a proper teacher and lots of classmates to practice and discuss the builds.
Instead, I picked another shiny new RTS game - Warcraft III: Frozen Throne. It was modern and easier to play. Also, I always liked fantasy more. Even though I was playing WC3 I always had respect for Starcraft players in Internet Cafes and Online. I even watched some of WCG BW VODs and was pretty impressed by what I saw there. Later on, I found out that a guy from my neighborhood (his name was Anton) played BroodWar competitively on Podolsk Russian Server. I was very impressed by that. He showed me his replays, and how he managed to beat Bruce on one of their practice games. From him, I also learned about NaDa, reps.ru website, and the Korean pro scene.
Overall BroodWar to me was a well-respected game that was always out there. The thing that was bothering me back then was the absence of matchmaking, I could not imagine asking random people to practice with me every time I wanted to play. Also, there were almost no rewards for your wins, nothing like shiny portraits or character level like WC3 had.
The other reason was its complex mechanics. You can achieve a lot with little. Even small things like sending your workers to mine were exceptionally hard comparing to other games. WC3 had decent mechanics but nowhere near as hard, and Starcraft 2 mechanics were much worse. SC2 units felt too small and fluid so I never truly cared about them enough to micro. I never felt any attachment and warm feelings to SC2 units. Felts also like the game engine slows you down, and you don't have a fine control over every pixel on the screen.
In Remastered Blizzard introduced matchmaking and that would allow me to find games without talking to strangers. As for the new graphics, I did not really care. I loved the old graphics back then and still, love to this day. Glad they did not go too far with the renovations. Though I still hate new probes, DTs and zerglings compared to the original.
I started with a single player campaign even before the official Remastered release. So by the time the game is out I already would be somewhat comfortable with it. Also, played a custom game on battle.net hosting something like "1v1 complete noobs plz" and got rushed in ZvZ losing my first 4 sets of lings killing nothing. Since then I went back to the single player and focused only on it.
After Remastered came out I rebound all of the hotkeys to use Grid layout (QWE-ASD-ZXC). That way I believed it would be easier to play and learn the hotkeys since they are all placed together. Then there was constant laddering. Before starting I watched Zerg FPVoDs by L_Master and made notes for each matchup in a dedicated to Starcraft notebook (ZvP, ZvZ, ZvT). It was pretty useful to start with. Also, watched some ladder streams of PiG. Sadly, he stopped playing SC: R shortly after the release. In terms of MMR, I was way lower than I expected. Every new account started with 1500 MMR. I was constantly dropping below 1500 and then returning back to 1500 but never went further than that. It felt discouraged. Every new account had a better score than I had. Then there came location matching patch for the matchmaker and I never get above 1200 MMR playing against the same players.
Here's one particular game I remember from those days. I got a Terran played who looked way better than me. I did not know the map and could not even scout his main base until the very end. His pressured constantly with drops and bio pushes, I was in a crisis management mode during the whole game.
At some point, I already accepted defeat and focused purely on mechanics and keeping my money low during the rest of the game. He did a lot of cute micro intensive things with small groups but got a huge mineral bank and in the end, I came back and punished him with the superior lurker army.
This illustrates the point of my previous post about Starcraft II. This is a game about money, you can be a micro God but if I have way more supply I'll punish you. That was the first hard thing I learned by example.
My next major victory was against a player I lost two times in a row before. I thought he was way better than me and I would never win. So I convinced myself to put everything I learned so far into this game and show him that I was a worthy opponent. He played many years in BroodWar before taking a break, while I played only for two months at that point.
Surprisingly our last game went into a long macro game, and I knew Zergs feel better in the late game. He did a pretty good drop on my main in the mid-game, but I managed to survive, having more bases and more resources. So when I maxed out I just sent my units for the final blow. After the game, my hands were literally shaking. I was so hard to manage all those things on the screen in the late game.
BRu.QuaD vs CanaBeasT (replay)
In general, I was very bad at microing units. In all my games I was throwing away small chunks of them to be killed. I did not use any control groups so click-selecting was very hard, especially in the late game. Anyway, my second important lesson was that I could beat stronger players if get fully focused on the game and put my best self into it. If only I could play like it was a matter of life and death I'll be in good shape.
Playing to Win
Struggling to improve my play I stumbled upon Day9 podcasts liquipedia page. This was the best thing I did at that time. Combined with his Let's Learn Starcraft youtube series they gave me LOTS of insight of how the game worked, what should I focus on, the psychology of the game, different stages of each matchup, etc. I could not even emphasise how useful they were. If you don't have time to read any further or watch anything else do just this single thing: listen to all of the Day9 podcasts and watch all of his Let's Learn Starcraft episodes. I was very inspired! I even bought a paperback of David Sirlin's Playing to Win which was very useful as well. From this book I learned that there are no cheesy strats, every strategy you do is just as good as any other strategy as long as you win the game. Also, the book teaches you the proper attitude towards the game bugs and balance issues. You'll become more mature as a player after reading it.
Though don't expect your MMR go up after all this. It won't, and that's okay. As H.G. Wells well said:
There are truths you have to grow into.
I'd recommend constantly going back to those lessons and podcasts at different stages of your life as Starcraft player. You will be amazed at how much value you missed the last time. More and more things will start to make sense.
Though at first, it's better to learn just enough to see the big picture and start practicing playing on the ladder. I picked just one solid macro build for each matchup (ZvZ, ZvT, ZvP) and used it in every game. This won't take you far, but at least you'll start feeling comfortable with the game after hundreds of games without being stressed out too much. I learned many weaknesses of those builds the hard way. Only much later did I realize they were not actually "build weaknesses".
The Red Clan
Hearing constantly how much being a part of the community mattered I decided to look for a clan to practice with somebody. I put myself out in a clan recruitment thread on TeamLiquid and almost immediately Red Clan orga Nadine dropped me a message in Discord. I was pleasantly surprised at how well things went there. The people were very kind and understanding, I had a chance to play on internal clean leagues and sometimes on actual clan wars. I was in a third squad that was assembled for "The Little League". It was a BWCL league just for noobs (players below 1500MMR).
Even though I was the weakest player of all I still felt pretty comfortable. I kept losing on any clan war I played. I never won any set during the whole time. It was very hard. Even on those noob leagues, there were plenty of good players abusing the rules to get there. Not even once I faced any player who was not stronger than me MMR-wise. The single game I won in the series was in ZvZ outsmarting my opponent. I was going for the two-base speedling all-in. Normally this build goes without any Lair upgrade, but since I mined the extra 100 gas by mistake of not pulling out drones in time seeing his overlord I went for the Lair anyway.
I never returned drones back to gas, never leveraged the Lair tech. Just by showing the Lair I sent the wrong message to my opponent and went for full ling all-in instead. He was microing very good during the game but my ling numbers grew at a much higher rate than his. So he was not ready with his defenses in time and lost the game. Our overall score was 1:2 and all the other games were very one-sided.
Red.QuaD vs ash.jOjO (replay)
The big lesson for me there was using tactical play. Sometimes even one good decision can bring you an easy win against a mechanically stronger opponent. After this memorable game, there was not anything even close during the rest of the year. I was stagnating as a player, and after a certain starting point, it was exponentially harder to improve putting the same amount of hours to BroodWar each day.
Having Fun with the original BroodWar
Watching the old VODs I had an idea to try the original BroodWar someday. Since the ICCUP server was still alive (though a very small amount of players left there, less than 100 people online in the evening) it was technically possible.
To have a full retro experience I bought an original BroodWar DVD box on eBay. Also, got nerdy and found native 640x480 LCD display. Turned out that an old SD-TV was a perfect fit. I got Philips 20PFL4112S on Avito (Russian Craigslist-like thing) and combined it with my old Windows XP laptop. This TV even had a DVI input which was super cool for the picture quality. It was also capable of 75Hz refresh rate instead of default 65Hz. The image was very crisp. I installed BroodWar from two CDs, then patched it to 1.16.1 and got an ICCUP client. Everything ran smoothly.
I also had no problems connecting my 400 DPI Logitech Mini Optical mouse to this laptop. I did not even have to change any mouse settings. I got a perfect setup.
Though having the perfect setup did not mean my games were going to be perfect. The remaining players there were super strong. Also, despite all Blizzard promises the gameplay felt a bit off. It was noticeable switching from Remastered graphics to 1.16.1 and required some time to get used to. Despite many attempts, I had only one close-enough game there against a D+ ranked player o_p_g.
I did not scout his carriers in time, nor denied the third base. It was a very sloppy game from both sides. I forgot how to properly counter carriers as a Zerg since almost never saw them being used in this matchup. I was caught completely off-guard and my only chance was to go for a base trade.
BRu.QuaD vs o_p_g (replay)
After this game, I revised a proper counter to carriers - defilers with Plague along with Hydras and some scourge. Even crazy builds like this might work if you are not ready.
I always wanted to experience the proper LAN tournament like in the good old days. I very much loved WC3 LANs in our city and missed them a lot. Online tournaments and Discord chats will never replace those feelings. It's hard to describe really. LAN is a whole different world. Also, isn't that great when somebody watches your game, and then teaches you how you should have played better? Well sometimes it could be annoying I agree, but overall you have something to discuss related to your favorite game.
And so it happened, the tournament was announced. It took place in Moscow in a Pub! Without a second thought, I bought tickets and booked a hotel. I went there with my girlfriend since she likes visiting Moscow in general. When we got there the pub was crowded with people. I did not expect that many people to show up. Before the tournament started 34 players were registered. That many players at a Moscow LAN were a huge deal! I did not know BroodWar had such a large player community here in Russia.
I brought my own laptop thinking it gives me more time to practice and I won't have to configure all the hotkeys (grid layout) there on the spot before the game starts.
Instead, it turned out that all of the games should have been played with the actual LAN connection between PCs and my laptop did not even have a LAN port. I was already under some stress not being able to have a beer because my game was scheduled closer to the end of the brackets and I wanted to stay sober. That LAN port revelation added even more stress.
My first game was against Escape. I did not know how good or bad he was. I was very stressed already and it took me about 30 minutes to configure all the hotkeys on the spot double checking if I did everything right and not miss any hotkey. Man, I wish I had a replay of that game. I was very nervous talking to myself in my head trying to hit every timing. It was like in a dream. The map was Destination. I lost my first scouting overlord on a rally point to Terran's base. Then seeing 1-base factory opening I did not put my sunken immediately and as a result, his vulture came before my sunken finished. So I lost everything to this single vulture. Yes, that's right. My game got casted on a big screen, so the whole pub including my girlfriend was watching me dying to a single Terran unit.
I typed gg, and in a quick move disconnected all my devices. Then went back to our table in the obs zone still not fully realizing what had just happened. That was my first game in an actual LAN party. All the people there except 7x.Nerazim were much older than me. I saw some old school clans tags there like Shock Squadron [S2], imba, Mineral is Good MiG, Synergy Planets Sp) etc. Some of those clans had a WC3 squads as well back then and that's how I heard about them. That's me (in a hydra T-shirt) watching Dewalt playing against Potrax[S2]. Special thanks to reps.ru for this photo.
From then on I ordered myself a proper meal and followed it with lots of beer while watching games on a big screen. Their curved gaming monitors looked pretty badass though. They were branded Lenovo, but I was not sure which model in particular.
Later on, the legendary Bruce joined the cast. Now I have a selfie with him which I'm not going to put there. Not sure if that's an okay thing to do. He might be against it after all. =) In the end, we had amazing final games of Dewalt going against Notforu (aka g0rynich). Overall the LAN party went really well, though some people were too drunk and noisy. I spent about $500 overall to play one game in Starcraft: Remastered - the game that nobody heard of nowadays. That might sound crazy but I'm kind of proud of it. This was (and still is) a proper game, and I wanted to show it my respect it always deserved. As for my play I learned that on LAN tournaments everything might go wrong, even things you could not have accounted for. The mental pressure is huge as well, so now I'm not surprised why stronger online players fail on LAN tournaments. Not surprised at all.
The time passed by and I could not improve at all. By the end of the spring, I realized that it was time for a drastic change. I was playing tons of ladder games for months not sure at all why I lose or win any of them. ZvT was especially hard. Terrans with their siege tanks seem just unbreakable. I decided to seek some professional help and asked for coaching. I was not sure who will accept my offer and went on with both Adolf[RA] and Jaeyun. It was the second right decision I made during the year after Day9's podcasts. Their coaching sessions were very different from each other and useful in different ways.
From Adolf, I learned the importance of scouting, that having an economic advantage (like 3 bases against 1 base) I should not focus on tech and killing off my opponent. Everything I needed was just to defend and wait for his aggressive moves, I didn't have to be aggressive, I was already at the advantage. The longer the game goes the more he gets behind, so he has to do something rather quickly. You on the other hand just have to just wait and see like a woman waiting for the right men to approach her. This concept was pretty hard to grasp on my own. Only those two things i.e. scouting and comparing what you have to what your enemy has, then reacting appropriately, can bring much more understanding to your play.
Also, despite my unwillingness and discomfort, he assigned me to play another race. To play Terran versus Zerg. Then later on, Protoss vs Zerg. Play like 10-15 games for each matchup to see where are your advantages. Offracing for me turned out to be one of the hardest things in life. I had never played any other race except Zerg. My first Terran game I almost lost to the AI. That's how bad it was, I could not even manage my base at all. I slept over it and the following day it got better. I saw how hard it was for the Terran to fight against lurkers, how hard it was to defend ling drops and run-bys. I saw and felt how ultras were op against bio. I felt how Terran was not mobile moving his army and being paranoid for ling runs into the main base. I also felt pretty comfortable countering mutalisks, so at lower levels of play, ZvT lurkers were the safest route. Same kind of analysis was for Protoss. I felt the improvement almost immediately. They were not Gods anymore, they were mortals just like me.
Next, really good advice was to never give up. While you're playing you only see your mistakes, so your sense of judgment is not clear. I would leave the game against Terran if he denied my third base. It was a no-brainer for me. Same if Protoss probe denies my second hatchery for a long time. You see it as everything's bad for you, but please do not assume that your opponent is playing perfectly. He could micro this probe and forget a Nexus, or forget to put cannons or zealots to wall off in time. I saw tons of Protoss players doing cute probe things while their base was in chaos. Probes are not mining, nothing is happening at all. But you assume he's a Korean micro god because his probe control is so flawless. Same with Instagram, you see only good parts and assume other people's lives are so much better than yours.
Another important thing was to realize that each unit or building should have its purpose. Ideally not only immidiate purpose but later on the game as well. What if I ask you why you made a quick ling speed having just two lings in the beginning? You should be able to answer. If you are not going to do any damage why research ling speed? If you are not going to do over drops why research overlord speed and drop? If you are going full hydra muta against mech Terran why research lurker aspect? You should be able to answer for every unit/building/upgrade you did during the game. Watch your replays and analyze why you needed those extra things and whether you actually needed them. Consider the build good when there's nothing else to remove from it, constantly refine your builds.
And the last thing to note here is by playing non-standard sometimes you can catch off-guard even pretty good players. I was lucky to take a game off against my clanmate rOuta doing a hidden hatchery on the main.
Also, there was a Korean Zerg belfegor on the ladder that had huge APM, solid micro and ling-muta build I could not counter 3 times in a row trying almost every opening. All games were very one-sided until last game when despite having huge disadvantage mid-game I decided to turtle and switch to hydra-lurkers instead of a standard ling-muta play. Surprisingly I was able to win the map.
Red.QuaD vs rOuta (replay)
Red.QuaD vs belfegor (replay)
If we go back to coaching sessions so far I only mentioned Adolf[RA]. Jaeyun, however, had a completely different approach. He showed me what a properly executed build looked like. Watching the replays, I was just stunned how perfectly Korean builds were lined up. I realized that I was not executing any builds at all. I was not able to hit any timing. I was not able to execute any build smoothly for the first 5 minutes even on an empty map. Only my ZvZ was pretty close because the games were shorter so I could practice the same build more.
So at lower levels of play don't blame your build for your losses i.e. do not say this 3 hatch muta or 5 hatch hydra build is bad. You're nowhere near the correct execution of this build. Until you practiced enough to hit those timings don't even bother to form an opinion about a particular build. Blame yourself. Always. Better not just blame yourself but practice the build you like over and over until you are able to hit at least some crucial timings. Then you have a build to play in your arsenal.
Also in Jaeyun's sessions, I had a lot of practice of the correct things to do. So after that on ladder even with my sloppy execution doing the right things sometimes was enough to secure a solid ladder win. Practicing the same build is a boring task but it always pays back.
For now I gave up having coaching sessions until I finish with my relocation to Saint Petersburg. In the end, both coaches found out that I did not use group hotkeys either for units nor for buildings. This was very bad, I was not able to micro/macro properly playing at a huge disadvantage. Learning those things from the very beginning is very hard for me. I'm trying to focus on one thing at a time. Right now my MMR significantly decreased and I dropped to the bottom of my 1200. I'm fighting against my own mechanics, not against players for now. Though I believe soon I'll get more comfortable and can continue playing as usual. Maybe I'll do another shorter post on the lessons learned after that. Will see.
Thanks for reading. Good luck with your play!