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Recently, SC:Legacy has provided news coverage on two important community figures: Greg “IdrA” Fields and Sean “Day[9]” Plott in addition to the latest Patch Notes from the PTR. State of the Game recently attempted to combine these two community figures for their balance comments for the next patch. The podcast had a riveting and heated discussion between these two community figures.

State of the Game is a podcast hosted by JP "itmeJP" McDaniel, Sean "Day[9]" Plott, Geoff "EG.iNcontroL" Robinson and Tyler "TLAF`LiquidTyler" Wasieleski. They invite top foreign players and notable people from the community to produce weekly podcasts. They also talk about the game in a more general sense, effects of patches, new meta game developments.

A small edited transcript is presented here below:

itmeJP (host): Sean, thoughts on the finals? (Referring to the IGN Pro League Finals)

Day[9]: Ok so, I actually did not get the chance to watch it because I'm in a situation where I can't even spare a few hours to reformat my incredibly unstable computer because again I'm on the home stretch. On the weekend I will watch it and then I will comment on how unbelievably hard it is for the Zerg race to win everything, except championships.

IdrA: The only wins have been me and Ret in 2 bad tournaments since GSL 2, I mean. It's me vs. a bunch of Americans and then Ret against like second tier Europeans. We live in Korea for years and practice a bunch, we're supposed to win. How many random players have you seen winning tournaments and doing well against Terran and Protoss? How many have you seen with Zerg? The only people winning at all with Zerg are top tier StarCraft 1 players who are supposed to be winning.

Day[9]: I just, I don't know how to argue with that because the problem is that like I don't actually feel like you are commenting on the race.

IdrA: Well when I comment on the race, you just laugh at me and say you won't talk about imbalance.

Day[9]: Well, it’s because you are not talking about imbalance you are venting.

IdrA: I do, I do.

Day[9]: You, just like…

IdrA: Early game they have the weakest units that can have the aggressive potential and that’s because they have low range or they're melee. Every other race can wall-in and build defensive buildings behind it, so there's no possibility for aggression we can’t scout. Also, we have to overcompensate early on but if we overcompensate too much then we can't use those units aggressively so we always end up behind unless we play perfectly in which case we'd be “okay” because Terran probably doesn’t have any pressure on them. Then as we head to midgame we have the lesser units anyway so we have to string it out all over the map and they have to defend with a stronger army. Then we get to hive tech but all our hive tech units suck because Void Rays are good against massive and Terran just beats everything if they make Ghost.

Day[9]: What I mean again is that, that was venting.

IdrA: No, no that's pointing all across...

Day[9]: To be able to like appropriately discuss imbalance would take like a very very long time and will require like...

IdrA:  There are simple, very specific problems: Is that Zerg can't scout early. It's has to be a defensive race but the units we have to make in order  to defend stuff can't be used aggressively so if we overcommit at all to the defense, then we are behind like all the games like sC vs. Losira. He made enough lings. He recognized that sC was going to be aggressive so he made enough Zerglings to repel the attack, so then he made too many, he defended the attack easily and still ended up behind because those Zerglings could do absolutely nothing because it's very hard to be aggressive vs. Terran or Protoss army early game.

Day[9]: I haven't seen the games, so I can't actually comment. That’s the problem.

IdrA: But no, that’s like a general principle. It’s just so easy to wall-off a couple defensive buildings or a couple defensive units and completely nullify Zerglings, Roaches or Banelings.

Day[9]: I’m curious as how would you comment on Zerg vs. Terran from the Zerg’s point of view on Broodwar.

IdrA: What about it?

Day[9]: The same lack of scouting problem still arises, well actually the same with Zerg vs. Protoss or Zerg vs. Terran.

IdrA: There weren’t as nearly powerful aggressive builds and also there’s a difference between spine crawlers and sunken colonies. Sunken colonies build a lot faster. Spine crawlers can’t be a snap defense. We have to be prepared beforehand.

INcontroL: Sean, I’m going to save you time, ask Greg what he thought the weakest race in Broodwar was?

Day[9]: I’ll give you that privilege Jeff.

INcontroL: Greg, who was the weakest race in Broodwar?

IdrA: Terran vs. Protoss

**Tyler and Day[9] laugh**

INcontroL: Now Greg, what race did you play in Broodwar?

IdrA: Terran vs. Protoss was the most loseable.

IdrA: I said Terran and Zerg both are.

Day[9]: The reason I say that is venting is because balance design should be discussed totally calm and just passionately with lots of evidence and examples and time as opposed to three sentences that are sped thru so fast.

IdrA: State of the game said you just lost control over imbalance so I don’t really see the point.

Day[9]: Because I had to go, I wasn’t going to like engage in discussion right there and plus trolling is awesome in some circumstances. I'll be happy to engage in one..

IdrA: No and first of all you are opposed to say anything about imbalance at all.

Day[9]: Generally yes, totally. I absolutely agree with that.

IdrA: So if you are opposed to any imbalance, I mean, obviously things are imbalanced, things were imbalanced in StarCraft 1 they just happen to counteract each other but StarCraft 2 is such a young game and there’s clearly problems. I mean, even Blizzard is still balancing it and I don’t know how you can say that.

Day[9]: It’s just not a particularly useful discussion in my eyes.

IdrA: But it is useful. You see ****** people winning games instead of people who actually deserve it and it’s a competitive e-Sport.

Day[9]: I just don’t know what that statement means though, that’s the problem. It’s poorly defined terms, like "oh the better player lost" but the only clear metric we have is winning/losing so that’s like benchmark you have at work. In a sense and interesting thing to notice that regardless of any game created a balance meta-game will form, period. Tic-Tac-Toe has a balance metagame, despite the fact that it consists of solely draws. StarCraft 2 has, no matter what the situation is, it should hit on some tone of balance. Actually it will necessarily have a balance meta-game that might involve one race not even being played at all but we are just so extremely far from anything even remotely...

IdrA: But that’s not truly balance then, that’s compensating for poor games.

Day[9]: No, literally any single game that you give me will have a set of optimal strategies that is defined as balance because it must. It may boil to one strategy that is best and then two people will engage in that strategy against one another, period.

IdrA: That’s not balance in what StarCraft players call balance. Balance we mean that all the races have an equal opportunity to win. If there’s one strategy that beats everything...

Day[9]: Hold on, what I’m saying is that that is an endpoint that will emerge but right now there’s just no statistical evidence to really support that. There’s still a wide variety of players playing all the races, still able to win at high levels. Again that sort of situation, I just don’t see the use in debating real ultra-specific things where there’s still seems to be so many solutions on the table.

IdrA: It’s not anything specific though. Lack of scouting, number of aggressive builds, weakness of defense and the lack of aggressive potential from the defense you have to build. It’s not like specific details or something that’s likely to change with the development of the game. It is fundamental problems with the race.

Day[9]: When you say that sort of statements, it’s just so vague.

IdrA: Not really vague, you put a Marine on the perimeter an Overlord is not going to get in. Zerglings literally cannot get thru a wall-in. Terran has a number of builds, any of which, can kill Zerg flat out if they are caught off-guard or can do significant damage if they are trying to play all-purpose defensive. Roaches, Zerglings and Banelings to a lesser extent are so easily nullified by building walls and Bunkers and then Tanks later on.

Day[9]: The issue I have with that line of reasoning is that you have heard Terran and Protoss players make the same sort of responses or the same sort of phraseology when referring to their own matchups. I just don’t feel, in this circumstance, that if you say that I don’t know what the end goal is. Are you saying it should be changed like this and that? I’m saying it’s venting because you are having a lot of frustrating situations I still feel like there are so many solutions still there.

IdrA: Name one solutions to the problems I just listed. How do you get an Overlord pass a Marine? What is the all-purpose ZvT?

Day[9]: The solution is not how you get the Overlord pass the Marine. Perhaps the solution is that you actually don’t have to figure out how to get the Overlord in.

IdrA: What the all-purpose ZvT defensive build? Because either you know what they are doing or you have a build that can deal with everything or there is some other way you get information. So there is no way to get information and there is no build that counters everything. That is the fundamental problem.

Day[9]: Well I don’t think there’s one build that counters everything.

IdrA: Yes, no I said there isn’t one and there’s no way to scout what they are doing. One of them has to be true or Zerg is going to end up with a disadvantage or a coin-flipper at best.

Day[9]: Meh...

IdrA: You have to be able to scout or you have to be able to defend without scouting. Otherwise it’s a guessing game.

Day[9]: I just don’t agree with that statement and it will take so long to actually go in-depth with that.

IdrA: What is wrong with it?

Day[9]: Well I mean it’s like saying this race doesn’t have good aggressive potential and then just stop it.

IdrA: That’s not what I said. I said Terran has a ton of good aggressive builds, right? Banshees/Hellions, any kind of Bio pressure, Marauder/ Hellion all-in, you can expand, anything like that. They have a ton of options all across the board from economic to ridiculously all-in everything between. Zerg cannot scout. Marines can prevent Overlord scouting if you are at all careful about it without a huge investment you just two or three Marines on the perimeter and wall-ins block any kind of ground scouting. Zerglings, Drones can’t get in, right?

Day[9]: And what I would argue is that whenever you do see the tech path that they went down...

IdrA: How do you see that?

Day[9]: Whenever they do their aggressive move.

IdrA: ...is on your way to your base.

Day[9]: Well let’s say a Banshee comes out or something like that or like a 2-rax Marine. Once they go down that path. I honestly think that the Terran is highly limited upon that revealed...

IdrA: Highly limited but if you have to respond after the attack is on the way you die.

Day[9]: I would need to see the specific replay example because it’s so easy to say “oh the attack is coming”, you just don’t respond quickly enough and you die.

itmeJP (host): Sean, your brother wants to get back on the call, saying IdrA is right. Should I allow this to happen?

Day[9]: Dude, totally go for it.

Day[9]: Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t agree that Zerg is overpowered and I also don’t see the usefulness in discussing.

IdrA: Explaining why, and you are unable to say anything in response to it besides saying that you disagree, so that seems kind of stupid to me.

Day[9]: Well I just feel there are areas that haven’t been explored yet. In terms of like..

IdrA: What areas? How are we going to scout? What is the all-purpose defensive build? Because one of those has to be the case. Either you have to be able to know what’s happening or you have to be able to defend it without knowing it is happening. If you can't then it’s going to be a guessing game at best which is terrible even for this balance. If it’s going to be 50-50 it’s still bad for the game and bad for e-Sports.

Day[9]: I mean what I would say is that I would have builds and play around with them a lot.

IdrA: Okay, give me a few suggestions because I’m lost.

Day[9]: I don’t know. I never have you seen you try Spanishiwa style like the mass Queen.

IdrA: I did it in NASL last week.

Day[9]: I didn’t see it. Have you ever done it on your stream because I haven't been watching it?

IdrA: If you make that many Queens early on it sets you behind if they go economically.

Day[9]: That’s a style that feels like very flexible but that's like...

IdrA: It’s very good defensively but that’s just disregarding the fact that they can expand as well.

 

The discussion tones down from here on. Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott, a GSL commentator, and Tyler “Wasieleski”, an American professional player from Liquid, give their opinion on the matter. It is a very enriching discussion on balance. The full podcast is available. However, the interview contains foul language that may not be suitable for minors. Feel free to discuss this interview in its entirety here.

Sources:
State of the Game
State of the Game TV - EP37

Now that the community has gotten to sink its teeth into the full-fledged version of Wings of Liberty, many players are experiencing the joys and heartaches of playing StarCraft II multiplayer in a competitive setting.  Players are continually looking for a way to better improve their game play and obtain the coveted rank-one position in a diamond league.  When you boil it all down, success in StarCraft relies on a player’s strategy and execution. Many players focus on their execution by playing StarCraft II night and day; some racking up more than 1300 games in less than one month.  But improving their basic strategy of the game is equally as important.  A better strategy of the game can be gained by understanding the finer details in the numbers behind StarCraft.

There are a lot of different aspects of the game that can be better understood by understanding the relationship of the numbers and the stats.  With numbers used to describe everything from damage, unit sizes, spell radiuses, weapon and movement speed; many players are simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data given to them.  Rather than look into every aspect of the game, this article will simply focus upon gaining a better understand of the economic system and its relationship with build times.

One of the most fundamental systems to consider in StarCraft is the economic system of gas and minerals.  Many players do not take the time to think about this and simply train workers until they feel they have enough while putting three harvesters on gas.  Although this strategy may work for some, a good understanding of the economic system will give players a leg up in inventing new strategies while honing existing strategies.  In order to build all but the most basic of units, the player needs to harvest gas. Unlike minerals, the maximum collection rate of gas per base is capped at six assuming proper mining distances.  Adding additional workers to mine gas will have a zero return on your investment.  By gaining an understanding of the economic system a player can answer this very important but basic question: How much gas do you collect during one game minute from one Extractor/Refinery/Assimilator assuming three workers and correct Hatchery/Command Center/Nexus positioning?

First, what is a “game minute?”  The simple answer is a game minute is 60 game seconds but one second in real life does not necessarily equal one game second.  Because StarCraft can be played at multiple speeds, it is important to note that all time will be discussed using StarCraft’s time system.

Second, why is it important to discuss the proximity of the Geyser to Nexus/Command Center/Hatchery?  One of the limiting factors in the harvesting of minerals is the travel distance between these two locations.  The longer the distance, the slower the collection rate and the more workers that are needed to reach maximum mining rate from the Geyser.

With those two details explained, the answer to the question is approximately 112 gas.  Now many of you may be thinking “An entire paragraph dedicated to giving an answer of 112 gas?  Big deal, what does this have to do with strategy and why does it even matter?” Once a player gains the basic understanding of the resource collection rates, they are able to develop and immediately know what strategies may or may not work.  For example, a player might try a strategy of massing Banshees off of three Starports from one base.  Although this strategy may sound amazing on paper, it is simply not possible.  Banshees are a gas intensive unit that require 150 minerals and 100 gas per unit.  In addition, Banshees also need 60 game seconds to be built.  With this knowledge and a little math, assuming maximum harvesting of gas from two Geysers in one base, your gas collection rate will be approximately 224 gas per game minute.  This is well shy of the 300 gas you need in order to maintain production of continuous Banshees.  Instead of constructing an additional StarPort, wasting the 150 minerals and 100 gas, the minerals may be better spent on constructing a Barracks and producing additional Marines as producing two Banshees every 60 game seconds is already using up a majority of the gas you are collecting.

By gaining additional understanding of the gas and mineral collection rate, players can develop strategies to spend their resources as they are being collected to efficiently produce well-balanced armies.  This is the difference between being a proactive player and a reactive player.  A reactive player simply responds to what is currently stored in their bank.  These players will often find themselves gas locked, with a large number of minerals but no gas to efficiently produce units.  If this describes you, you must examine the current unit combination and what you are attempting to produce.  Units with a high gas to mineral ratio are generally difficult to mass.

The strongest and most efficient strategies use a balance of gas heavy units with units that require little to no gas.  Take, for instance, the popular Mutalisk/Zergling combination for the Zerg army.  The Mutalisk is a gas heavy unit requiring a one to one ratio of gas and minerals.  Because of this, a Zerg player will find themselves sitting on a large amount of minerals in a short amount of time it they neglect to produce Zerglings.  One of the benefits in this particular combination of units besides how well they work together in the battle field is how they balance out the high gas cost of the Mutalisk with the Zergling, a unit that is easy to mass and no gas cost. Although it may be tempting to only produce to most advanced and powerful gas intensive units, it is important to spend your minerals in an efficient manner as minerals in the bank don’t collect interest and do nothing to stop an incoming army.

And while it is also tempting to simply play StarCraft II hours and hours on end to improve your execution, its important to set aside time to look into the numbers behind the game itself.  This is just a simple example of how studying the numbers behind the gameplay can improve a players strategy and overall gameplay.

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