Last night I played my first round of StarCraft II multiplayer. It was the first time I ever played any StarCraft game against a human opponent. It might also be my last.
As mentioned during our Kotaku Talk Radio podcast today, I never played the original StarCraft, and while I am enjoying my time with the campaign mode of StarCraft II, it doesn't do much to prepare you for the online multiplayer portion of the game.
I've played through the StarCraft II tutorials, which prepare you for the basic tasks of building structures, moving units, harvesting resources, and entering combat. What those tutorials don't teach you is the strategy necessary to compete online against other players.
Nowhere in the Collector's Edition box did I see any materials containing hints or tips to help take your game online. There's an online Beginner's Guide available at the StarCraft II website, but I couldn't find any information there either.
I didn't get much help from the single-player game either. My missions so far have had specific goals that didn't involve overrunning a competing player's base.
It's as if I am supposed to simply know what to do, so I went into my first game assuming I did.
I did not.
I started off by selecting the Practice League. Each player gets 50 Practice League games to play before being forced into ranked play, so I figured this was a safe place for a novice to start.
I chose a 1-on-1 battle, and soon found myself in charge of the Terran faction, while my opponent chose to back the Zerg.
Quickly I started building up my SCVs, gathering crystals and minerals in order to build more units. Soon as I had a couple of refineries running, I built a barracks in order to start generating troops. As soon as the barracks went up, I noticed this little floaty Zerg guy hovering over my base, and figured I was already in trouble. My opponent already knew where I was.
Let me pause here for a moment to reinforce my point: I have never played StarCraft until yesterday, and my knowledge isn't going to be up to snuff, so when I say things like "little floaty Zerg guy," you may feel the urge to respond, "That's an Overlord, you idiot!" Well don't, because I don't know what that means.
Anyway, the Overlord showed up, and I decided it was time for some defenses. I tossed up a missile tower, and a bunker. Then I got distracted and started building other things that I probably didn't need.
Without a working knowledge of tactics, I instead relied on my knowledge of StarCraft fiction. Having read the StarCraft: Ghost novel, I knew that Ghosts are pretty damn cool. I decided to make a couple of those.
While the Ghost was being worked on I added a bunch of Marines, a handful of Reapers, a Siege Tank, and a Banshee, which I figured I could use to scout. I forgot all about the Banshee once the Ghost got the cloaking ability.
I can almost hear the StarCraft players groaning. There was absolutely no strategy to any of this. I just built what sounded nice, and hoped for the best. I managed to fend off his first group of Zerglings at least. That's good, right?
Soon I had my Ghost, who I had nicknamed Clarissa, wandering the map in search of the enemy base. Clarissa scouted high and low, pausing now and then to regain cloaking energy, before finally stumbling upon a massive Zerg structure.
Did you know there was an achievement for setting off a nuke?
I felt immensely proud of myself as the base exploded. Sure, it wasn't destroyed, but all I had to do was mobilize my forces, which were busy being slaughtered back at my own base. Dammit.
You can build more than one base in StarCraft. This was not something I had yet realized with my limited time with the single-player campaign, so when the Zerg forces came screaming into my base from a different location, I was a bit surprised.
I was so surprised that, before I knew it, my pitiful defenses had fallen. My production facilities were destroyed. All I could do was wait while my enemy finished the job.
While my first attempt at playing StarCraft II multiplayer was a failure, I did learn some important lessons that could help me in the future.
- Don't be afraid to expand beyond your stupid little base. Hell, don't be afraid to pick up and move if you need to.
- Defense. You should probably do it.
- Ghosts are still pretty damn cool.
What, you wanted actual advice? Visit the StarCraft II Beginner's Guide and familiarize yourself with all of the units, what they do, and what can kill them. Play some Versus A.I. missions to help familiarize yourself with the units you don't get to control in single-player. Work your way through StarCraft II's Challenges, as I plan to do this weekend.
Still not good enough? Ask someone on Battle.net to help tutor you. It's a social network, after all.
StarCraft II isn't the sort of multiplayer game you can just hop into unprepared and hope to succeed, but with a little work, you might suck slightly less than I do, and that's half the battle.