(This is part 3 in a series on the multiplayer changes announced for Legacy of the Void at BlizzCon)
(Disclaimer: this post is kind of a wet towel, and I swear I’m really excited about LotV and believe we should stay positive as a community to be supportive of Blizzard’s willingness to try things out)
StarCraft 2 has always had interesting tension between micro and macro*. On the one hand, everyone loves micro: most highlight videos and “aww snap” moments come from expert control of specific units. On the other hand, most players will tell you that the best way to get better is to improve your macro and focus on probes and pylons, probes and pylons, probes and pylons. Of course, both are necessary skills, but it is strange when the aspects of a game that attract players are different from the most important aspects of it.
StarCraft has always leaned towards macro: that’s one of the big ways that WarCraft distinguished itself from StarCraft on a gameplay level. Despite that, Blizzard has targeted a few ways to increase the importance of micro to make the game more dynamic in Legacy of the Void (LotV). Those goals are listed here, so I won’t repeat them verbatim. I do, however, have a big question: does the community really want more aggression and micro?
Conceptually, I think the changes are nice. I love mechanics that require both players to do something. To borrow from another game, one of my favorite Magic: the Gathering cards is Blackmail. It is, in fact, not particularly potent discard, but both sides have to think from the others’ perspective, and both have a choice, where most discard either allows only 1 of the 2 players to make the choice. It’s more interactive than just being subject to whatever is coming at you. Having counter-micro opportunities against Ravagers or Disruptors is cool.
And from an esports and professional level, I think it sounds good, too, but it may not really be desirable. Micro makes for good highlights. With Heart of the Swarm (HotS), we have seen some of the most egregiously drawn out games as players prove that they’re willing to wait it out if it means they can win. Micro can break some of the long stalemates that we hate watching because things get boring because no one is encouraged to be aggressive, but will players go for it?
For the larger player base that only plays casually, however, I think we have also seen a tendency towards wanting more stable games. We used to have maps like Tal’Darim Altar, which had big chokes that were hard to defend (specifically PvP), and players hated it. Very small maps also encourage early game aggression, and we moved towards bigger maps. Early ZvZ strategies were endless streams of Zerglings and Banelings running across the map, and that was always considered too much of a “coin-flip”.
The general issue with a bias towards aggression and splashy effects is that the results can be volatile, and although a Widow Mine shot killing 20 workers makes a great gif, but it probably caused a rage quit. Requiring defensive micro can be intimidating: players are already taxed on multitasking, and knowing they can constantly lose in an instant to a mismicro can make anyone paranoid.
One of their goals in the game is to “differentiate player skill better”, but I am concerned that this might not actually be attractive to most players. One cause of ladder anxiety is that rankings directly reflect a player’s ability, and it’s hard for a lot of players to want to “test” themselves while playing a game for fun. One of the hardest obstacles to overcome is dealing with Oracles killing minerals lines, 2 Reapers at the beginning of the game, or a Baneling landmine destroying an army. Once a player is frazzled, everything else falls apart. It feels awful, and we blame the other player for having no skill in using cheesy strategies.
When players win on micro and harassment, they feel smug. When players lose on micro, they feel cheated. But when players win and lose in big macro battles, it feels epic. And having played those long games, I have never been bored. Even when a game looks static, I’m still playing as fast as possible trying to keep production up and move my army around. I am very conscious of trying to add more micro to my game by mixing in more drops or keeping Zerglings on the map, but I don’t have space to micro.
To recap, I am concerned about Blizzard putting all of their marbles behind more action and micro. Although it may make for more exciting pro games, I wonder whether most players are truly capable of and willing to play in a more intensive game. But to qualify all of my skepticism above, I am extremely excited for the changes and look forward to Blizzard shaking things up. All of the thoughts above are all suppositions about a community, and I’m hopeful that LotV can keep the player base engaged!
Do you think that most players will enjoy having to micro more?
- Yes (64%, 90 Votes)
- No (36%, 50 Votes)
Total Voters: 140
*Just to clarify for the possibly uninitiated, micro and macro refer to 2 types of actions that players make during a game. Macro refers to actions to build up economy or army, such as making workers, building units, and avoid supply blocks. Micro refers to control of specific units to do things, such as killing workers with Banshees, splitting Marines, or casting spells with High Templar.