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Starcraft II goes free-to-play seven years after launch (arstechnica.co.uk)
259 points by amq 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 125 comments

Highly recommended. Probably my favorite part is the asymmetrical approaches of the races. Interested in firepower, maneuver warfare, and positioning? You'll enjoy the Terrans. Want to achieve the dream of bloodless (for you, anyway) war? Try the Protoss. Want to be an efficient Darwinian nightmare? Pick up the Zerg.

It's this mix of styles, to the point that the races feel like they're in different genres, that makes SCII such a varied game. And that doesn't even account for different playstyles within the races.

Want to build an almost unstoppable flying ball of death? Play Protoss and only build Stargate units. ;)

To build a mass air fleet you need a lot of resources and a lot of time. A skilled opponent will try to deny your resources or simply attack you earlier.

I always played Protoss in SC1 and just built a huge amount of Carriers.

Always worked when you played someone who didn't know what they were doing but a solid micro setup with scourge or wraiths would always destroy this setup :)

I never said I won. But yeah, usually I got destroyed by the second or third rush.

Or Goliaths with +Missile damage and long-range missiles!

Or 6+ Valkyries to immediately clear Carriers' Interceptors. Then it's just shooting fish in a barrel ;).

Same goes for the battlecruiser spammer - you could always tell when that was going down and it was even easier to counter :)

mass fleet of void rays would do.

If you like asymmetry and board games, check out Sidereal Confluence. It's a trading game between 9 races with very different setups (one is playing a licensing game, one is playing an extortion game, one is playing an investment game...).

I played Protoss, but my favourite thing was always being Zerg and just sending thousands of zerglings into the enemy base, gnawing at every building at once, like a flood of little cockroaches.

Protoss don't bleed?

1. Everything other than foot soldiers are robotic. They are called "Zealots" for a good reason. Why risk your life when the bots can do all the killing while you sit back and eat popcorn?

2. Your foot soldiers don't just "die" --- their armor units each have a built-in teleportation gadget that bails them out when they got critically wounded.

3. They then go back to their homeworld, where they get converted to mind-in-a-tank cyborgs (which is responsible for the "hydraulic fluid" you see when a Dragoon dies).

So yeah, no bleeding (or rather gore) in theory.

They do, but their "shtick" is unit preservation: all their units have regenerating shields, and their units generally have high health/cost. Some of them have additional protective abilities, like the Sentry's damage-reducing aura, or the Immortal's Barrier. Finally, when raw shielding/toughness isn't enough, many of their units are quite mobile, allowing wounded/deshielded units to retreat.

Nope! They just leak a lot of hydraulic fluid.

Digital drug dealers let you have the first one free. That's how they get you hooked!

I can't play Starcraft (or chess, poker) for fear of being sucked into the competition and waking up years later. Gone down that rabbit hole enough to know I'd regret it.

I know many scoff at this (because I have this same opinion and get scoffed at) but this is so true. Video game addiction is very real. Very, very real. Just as debilitating as any other addiction. The only "advantage" I would say is you don't get as much physiological damage as you do with substance abuse, but even that can be debated: bad posture, bad blood circulation, carpel tunnel, eye strain and migraines, sleep deprivation, etc.

Obligatory Don't be afraid to ask for help! Many counselors are now specifically trained for dealing with video game addiction now! Especially if you are college it's probably free!

I don’t know about video game addiction; I interpreted the parent as simply talking about how—if you have the right kind of brain—it can be relatively easy to end up as a professional {e-sport, poker, chess} player and devote your entire life to high-level competitive play, making money from tournaments, studying or practicing whenever you’re not playing, etc.

This is a fine life for some people, but if you want to do something else with your life, the knowledge that you’d do well in these competitive-play pursuits can feel like a black hole always pulling at you. It’s easy to lose passion for “real work”—doing good in the world, creating stuff, entertaining people; these are all pursuits that have their high points, but aren’t fundamentally structured to match the human reward system. They have moments where you have to struggle through to regain your desire to do them.

Competitive gameplay—probably a lot like competitive athletics—is very “natural” to the human brain. If you’re good at it, it’s hard to resist letting that be your life—and people encourage you to let it!

Imagine being 7’1” and enjoying basketball, but having other passions that are stronger (academic economics, let’s say.) If there’s ever a lull in your love of academia, you’d be tempted to just quit and play basketball, right? That’s not an addiction, per se. But you have to repress it like one all the same.

Video game addiction is a hard thing to admit. Society also mocks you. For this reason, I've never touched World of Warcraft (WoW). I knew that once I started ... I could easily see myself playing for stretches of eighteen hours a day. YouTube showed a clip about someone who had played about 14,000 hours. Granted, it's his life and he can spend it however he wants ... but jesus, 14k hours?!

I'm not sure what it is - certain personalities are just so easily addicted to video games. I'm one of them, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I find myself so easily addicted that I'm sometimes worried that I'll fall back into a video gaming binge. Every now and then, I'll mentally trick myself into thinking I have enough willpower to play just "one" game and I'll get the craving out. Nope. It's always six hours later and I'm late for whatever I had planned for the rest of the day. More frequently than not, the next day I'll trick myself again into one "last" game. I'll blow through another six-eight hours that'll feel like minutes. Day 2 is normally when I have enough angst to uninstall and purge the game. I'm older now (29) so I'm better at realizing the mental tricks of the "one" game fallacy, but even this weekend I played six-seven hours straight of Starcraft 2. (The mental justification was I was "thinking" about AI/ML strategies to play SC2, sigh.)

I'm averaging about six-seven months between each relapse, so it's not like I have some absurd problem - but back in college, I could easily spend a week of non-stop playing some forgettable RTS, sleep, drink and then repeat. There's some pang of sadness as I wish I had done something a little more useful, but in hindsight a lot of those failures made me realize how bad video games were to my personality.

> I'm not sure what it is

Video games are perfect, especially for people who like to tinker and are curious, which to me has been every hacker ever. That's what it is. They literally are just really damn good at what they do.

What online video games (and here I am making sure to distinguish between online, competitive type video games, versus offline because in my experience offline video games hardly ever come up in counseling, it's always your CODs, CSes, LoL and WoW's of the world) do psychologically is they provide a structure, a way to advance and progress -- with a tight feedback loop of your progress and a way to socialize with other people. Ultimately these 3 things lead to a huge sense of accomplishment and dopamine rush. Your attention is kept because you have these short spurts of quests, or "you just gotta kill 3 more mobs to get that next level and unlock your new spell tree" or you got to check your auction to get that gold to buy the new gear to do the new raid with your clan next week because you really don't want to let those guys down, etc.

The problem is, outside that virtual reality, you see depression, lack of ability to focus at work, not getting work done on time, lack of interest in tasks considered "boring". The way to success is to create these same structures in your life, but for the goals you want to accomplish. Much easier said than done, but at a high level, that's what it is all about. We escape to our virtual reality to get our virtual high and virtual feeling of belonging and virtual progress because we lack any or all of these areas in our real lives and it pains us too much to be able to face that disappointment. And for some of us, that mountain of unfinished tasks, or incomplete projects because of our thousands of hours racked up on Steam seems insurmountable, so that even when we do have free time and no games, we procrastinate -- "it's too much, I'll never get it done anyways" (Procrastination -- especially habitual procrastination is almost always a defense mechanism, and not a moral/character flaw such as "I am just lazy")

Now why we escape to the video games? Any number of factors, be it depression, ADHD, or simply never having a good role model or someone to teach you structure and discipline in your life (the latter is usually the case), but that's besides the point. The point is to recognize it, realize you will never be happy unless you achieve what you want from your life. (Why every time I have a couple hours free, I can't work on my side project as intently as I play 3 ranked matches in League of Legends?)

I could probably fill up a book with information I learned about it, but everyone is unique. I want to help, if this resonates true in your life -- reach out to me. If you just want someone to email back and forth or talk to, it's my user name at google's mail service.

You forgot DVT

I've been playing Starcraft 2 casually since launch and I'm confident that the crack-dealer model isn't applicable here, at least for the game's core 1v1 mode (which is what's being made free), due to the brutality of the ranked multiplayer ladder.

Skilled matchmaking ensures you lose 50% of the matches you play, and you have no one to blame for your failures but yourself. You can improve 100x and still feel like you suck at the game.

Addictive free to play games are easy by design, appeal to the broadest possible demographics and boost your ego by congratulating you for trivial accomplishments. Starcraft 2, by contrast, is arguably the hardest multiplayer video game in existence, and is far too challenging for casual addiction to become a problem.

That was my experience for 1v1 as well and one day it was just too much for me. It is not a game where you sit down and enjoy, it is about getting intense and putting in the hours without instant gratification. Many of those nights ended with horrible defeats compelling me to force-shutdown the computer. It definitely is not a game for everyone (again 1v1)

Also, your name rings a bell about my favorite terran.

Yup, people who think playing that game 1v1 is about having fun are sorely mistaken.

I have great respect for people who understand their limitations and design their lives around them. Studying and educating people about the fine details of motivation is going to be a big thing this century. From ADD people having trouble motivating themselves to do what they want to addicts unable to quash an unwanted motivation, it's becoming an ever bigger problem. Our brains evolved in a much different environment and we have to do much better to understand and control the "motivation" aspect of ourselves to better survive the world we're creating.

I've run into this before too. As someone who is rather competitive, it's easy to get pretty deep into almost anything that's competition based: Poker, chess, video games, athletics, sports, etc. You have to really make sure you like the activity itself instead of just the competition. It's not worth spending 10k hours on a video game just to be #1 and have that sense of accomplishment, you're going to have to really make sure you enjoy the ride and come out with something valuable instead of just a 10k hour hole in your life. Life has to be based on creating value, and not just competition as a way to pass the time. At least that's the way I'm trying to live my life.

Playing a videogame competitively to be #1 is well an good. Playing a sport to be #1 is well and good. But it can't be the only thing you do.

Tom Brady has 5 Superbowl rings but he's involved with so many other pursuits that he has a full, rich life. He dedicates himself to educating people about what works for him as far as physical and mental preparation in the most grueling and damaging sport around. Frankly, everyone should try and model their approach to life like his. He has always had to work hard to achieve everything he does. He comes in before everyone, everyday, and leaves last. He's always the most prepared, at anything he does. I'm sure a lot more people would feel fulfilled if they put their efforts into many pursuits like he did.

Unfortunately, society doesn't really allow for everyone to live like this. Financially, we become stuck trying to make ends meet rather than producing what we want to. I'd love to put my time into many other activities other than just "work" and then go home, perform maintenance on my life/home, and then get a small portion of time to game/work on personal projects.

Gaming is a positive life enriching activity if used correctly. It's easy to blow it off because one has an addictive personality, but the advantages are real when approached with the right mindset.

I love the grind, the flawless victory.

I went cold turkey after WarCraft 2 and Diablo 2. Won’t even look at EverQuest, RuneQuest, Eve Online, Diablo 3, etc.

I’ll probably resume online games next time I need chemo. For me, it’s a better pain mgmt regiment than pills.

Personally I just stay away from virtual online economies. Fun with an RTS here and there is fine, but if I'm going to sink my life into getting rich, it better be real.

This is a pretty comprehensive, up to date getting started playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL37EkmqQJzsj6R8mQ8uBM...

Also, though slightly dated: https://www.reddit.com/r/starcraft/comments/3s424k/starcraft...

I don't have time to play Starcraft these days, but the SC2 API for AI research [0] is a fun place to experiment in reinforcement learning in my spare time.

[0] https://github.com/Blizzard/s2client-proto

What kinds of models have you been playing around with ?

A3C for now just to replicate the results in the paper. After that, I want to investigate more geometrically motivated methods like manifold learning and see if they can be adapted to processes.

I should probably go back to playing this. I only got about halfway through the first campaign and never got around to installing heart of the swarm, even though I paid for it (like $20). I enjoyed the game, there's just too many damn games out there now vying for my attention.

I wonder how much of an effect being free to play will boost its popularity for esports. I know Blizzard was pushing for it.

I guess it might boost it a little. But there's little to no chance it will become a really popular esport again... especially not when blizzard is putting so much focus on overwatch now.

I mean like it'll be really difficult to beat out League of Legends for popularity now. Those tourney which just finished pulled like concurrent 15m viewers (significantly more than NHL finals).

I much prefer SC2, but I agree League of Legends is really designed to be watched in a way that StarCraft 2 is not.

A StarCraft 2 game can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2+ hours. And they tend to stack so a series might take 20 minutes or 5 hours. Games often snowball from minor advantages so only a seconds of that may be really important.

League of Legends games on the other hand have some back a forth and are bound fairly closely to 25 minutes at top play. Allowing for more bite sized games, you can also jump into the middle of a match and understand what's going on more easily. Even better, lower level games tend to more closely match top play like other sports.

The problem with games like League & DotA is they're nearly impossible to understand what's going on as a spectator unless you already play the games. They're a victim of their own complexity - over 100 characters each with a minimum of 4 unique abilities. It makes major fights practically impossible to follow as a person who doesn't play the game.

SC2, on the other hand, is much easier to grok as a spectator. It's 1v1, so you know each army is controlled by 1 player, and the capabilities of the units are far more obvious as well, since a lot of them are based on pre-existing science fiction concepts.

League & Dota get far more viewers because the games are far more popular, however, as a spectator sport, they fall short because of their complexity.

I don't know that either is particularly gentle with its burden of knowledge; you say SCII is very clear, but truthfully I can't really tell what's going on in most pro games except for Cheese games with commentaries (I think there's a youtube channel called When Cheese Fails which I watched a few episodes of). As someone who grew up with Warcraft and Diablo eating up most of his time, I never played Star Craft and honestly the strategies used in pro-matches are so far removed from what I would do as a kid in the few games I played that it was a new game altogether.

I do agree that League is a downright mess in team fights, but at the same time, it's pretty true for SCII as well; when the armies, regardless of what stage of gameplay they're at, collide, I'm usually pretty lost as to why one is just eating the other or why this match up is a scenario that requires a retreat.

League has put a lot of effort into spectator clarity, with many of the status effects now having pretty clear symbols, the team-fight view with relative "power bars" that just give you a generic look at which side is faring better, and the commentators are usually fairly good at their fight recaps. A completely uninitiated is still going to miss the majority of nuances in matchups, trades, rotations, and all other such meta-game aspects, but Riot has done a pretty decent job of adding a simple interface for seeing what's going on in a match at any given time, and very simple meter for who is ahead in a team fight.

(It's still a mess to figure out sometimes, eve if you played for several years like I did. Sometimes I can't pick out what's happening until the casters walk us through it on the instant replay)

> SC2, on the other hand, is much easier to grok as a spectator. It's 1v1, so you know each army is controlled by 1 player, and the capabilities of the units are far more obvious as well, since a lot of them are based on pre-existing science fiction concepts.

The problem is that SC2 had very long periods of unwatchable metas. Twelve months of pro games consisting of two players building deathballs, having one battle (Where someone gets caught out of position, and loses their entire army in 5 seconds,) and the game ending was awful, as a spectator sport. (That was any Heart of the Swarm match involving Zerg in a nutshell.)

I was like watching a chess game, that, at turn 15, if one side didn't have a clear advantage, getting decided by a coin flip. This may be fun from a player's perspective, but is awful as a spectator sport.

Yeah I stopped playing during HotS despite being very passionate about the game because it just became so boring to watch at the highest levels which broke my heart. But I recently picked it up again and just finished watching the WCS finals this past weekend. I think SC2 is the best it has ever been in terms of gameplay for both players and spectators. Most of the matches I watched over the last few weeks have had intense, back-and-forth games that really showed off the multitasking these pros can exhibit. I didn't see very many games which were decided by a mid-game deathball fight which has been fantastic to watch. This is how it should have been all along. I highly recommend that anyone who put it down some time ago check it out again, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Hots has greatly improved recently, enough heroes that comps are fairly diverse and change even more based on map. Fights are a lot longer now (buffed support, and nerfed cc), so less of a "oh that guy just got DELETED, gg" fight and more of something that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Only thing I don't like as a viewer (but like as a player) are the shorter games. 15 minutes feels good when playing as you can hop in another game, but 15 minute pro game means you have to sit through like 30 minutes of commentary + new draft before you get to the game.

Hah I should clarify, when I said HotS, I meant Heart of the Swarm expansion for SC2!

My cousins like to play and watch League, but I never did. That said, we did an impromptu road trip to LA awhile back to watch some professional games live. As someone who never played and only watched a handful of games, it was really a ton of fun and not that difficult to follow. Though they're far from perfect, the announcers do a pretty good job of explaining the action. From a layperson point of view, I really only needed to know whatever the super attacks were for the characters and could figure that out pretty quickly with the help of the announcers.

Really, I think what helps League over StarCraft is that it's pretty clear who's winning and who's losing since there's a relatively easy to follow flow across the map. When one team loses their towers, which are clearly denoted, they're probably behind. Further, gold and experience also give a pretty good indication of who's winning and losing. With StarCraft, which I've also never played, but have watched a handful of games, I find it difficult to follow on a macro scale. Certainly, it's easy to see when one battle is won or lost, but then suddenly one player will concede and I'm left wondering why. I think that rapid nature of forfeiting and loss of the game hurts its spectator appeal.

As a League spectator you don't really need to understand the combat to understand the meta. I mean when watching baseball you can't really tell much about a specific pitch, it's just the outcome you care about. Team X killed Team Y, that was good for Team X is enough to care.

Sometimes I find that casters miss a few small but important details in the heat of the moment and get derailed about most obvious topic. Playing the game or at least knowing about the mechanics from having spectated before gives you some analytical predictions. Whether that's to better enjoyment of watching the game is up to you.

Is there an RTS that will replace it (besides bw)? RTS may be a relative niche but that doesn't mean it's disappearing. Lots of traditional sports persist indefinitely without ever reaching the popularity of (either kind of) football. To some extent, the less popular the sport the purer it remains as it's less likely to be subsumed by profit motives.

Little bit tongue in the cheek but littlewargame can be a contender :)


I think SC2 is in a pretty good place right now. The craziness of 2010-2014 was fun and exciting, but ultimately untenable for an RTS.

I see a lot of new RTS games produced, but what I don't see is any reason to play them. They're pretty much the same as what we already have with different graphics and different tech trees. Different, but not better, or at least not appreciably so.

Heart of the swarm was the best of the three.

Blizzard reminds me a lot of Google. Massively successful tech company with gobs of money that found success early and has been enjoying it ever since. They can afford, and have the inclination to, give tremendous attention to detail and it shows in their products on a variety of levels.

That said it leads to this weird level of apathy in some parts of their business. They have tremendously talented engineers who do mind blowing work on features they are visibly passionate about. At the same time core business features that are more "boilerplate" tend to receive less effort which leaves to a lot of gripe from their incredibly passionate fanbase.

In all honesty Valve is more like Google. Blizzard had moderate success, then had a unicorn (WoW) which made them and their parent companies at the time (Universal and then Activision) a lot of money.

Valve on the other hand is the Google of the PC gaming scene through Steam.

I would equate Blizzard to be more like IBM or Microsoft in all honesty, Microsoft is probably a better case than the big blue.

Moderate success?

Warcraft 2, Diablo, Starcraft, Diablo 2, Warcraft 3 were considered massive successes and all predate WoW.

That's like saying Google had moderate success with search but hit gold with Gmail

Not to mention that since WoW, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, and Overwatch have been massive successes. (I'm pretty sure SC2 sold well, but not as much as these other ones.) I can't think of another studio that has such a consistent commercial and critical track record.

Calling D3 a "massive success" is blowing it out of proportion. It got game of the year in 2012. It hasn't lost enough money to be shut down but not quite enough to get the love it needs to be better than release. Path of Exile has been a massive success, in contrast.

Estimates of Diablo III + the expansion (a $40 retail at launch) put it around 20m copies. That is a massive success IMHO.

Diablo 3 + expansions is the 12th best selling video game of all time.


That list plays with numbers in very interesting ways that aren't very useful. Not counting digital sales (uniformly), you end up with stats from an arena that doesn't really apply anymore. Notice LoL isn't on the wiki or Kritika Online or any of the actual massive successes (active users or net profit or ARPU) in the industry.

IIRC, it was the fastest selling pc game of all time. That's quite a success.

Those games were all big fish in their markets, but they weren't the money printing machine WoW was. I don't remember the numbers, but they skewed heavily toward the MMO. That's why every studio came out with its own MMO in the years that followed.

Speaking of Valve -- there's an area that is absolutely ripe for disruption. The Steam client hasn't really improved over the years. It's missing basic features -- like sorting your game list. They completely lost the social game to Discord and Curse, and the steaming game to Twitch. Their review system is maybe their best feature, but it's still pretty bad -- vulnerable to brigading, and not a super clear indicator for me if I'll be interested in a game or not.

They're basically a CDN. For me, that's all they provide.

And they charge an INCREDIBLE amount for their services, to developers -- 30%, I believe. Do they really provide THAT much value? I doubt it. I personally can't wait for some startup to blow them out of the water.

They're essentially the universal gaming app store. If you create your own store you're going to have to 1. provide a significant discount to compete and 2. have large names jump ship with you.

At this point, the only way a competitor has a fighting chance is if Origin or Blizzard starts opening up to third party games. Blizzard did that with Destiny 2 but it seems like they might only want to partner up with high quality dev work (whereas Steam is littered with shovelware made on RPG Maker).

I don't know about Origin or the Battle.Net client. Origin has a terrible reputation. Blizzard doesn't like to share, they're slow to move, and even though they're great at making games, they're not so hot at the services that go along with those games, generally speaking (remember VOIP in WoW?).

Discord seems incredibly well-positioned to take on Steam directly. They've got huge adoption in the gamer community. They're great at the community management side of things, as far as I can tell. They've figured out how to provide a better voice experience than pretty much any other service out there, so they're smart. If it's possible to provide the same thing that Steam does at less cost (which I strongly suspect it is), Discord could do it and probably make a killing at it.

And they'd save game developers a ton of money.

Origin has been selling third party games for many years. They sell Assassin's Creed and lots of indies.


I use origin for the limited set of exclusives (sim city, mass effect3) and consider it the poster child of what not to do

Admittedly my usage is low. However twice I have encountered installer errors regarding permission issues

It turned out origin never created the root installation folder. Manually creating it yielded a successful install. WAT?!

I won't be buying anything further requiring origin until 2019 at the earliest.

Destiny 2 is published by Activision, who also happen to own Blizzard, so Destiny 2 ending up on Blizzard's store isn't much of a stretch.

It remains to be seen whether Activision/Blizzard will open up their platform to independent third parties.

Both Activision and Blizzard are owned by Activision Blizzard Inc. and are working independently besides game publishing (IIRC Blizzard used some help with Diablo 3 for consoles, Destiny 2 is the first non-Blizzard game on Battle.Net).

The client is getting a rework soon.

As for the 30%, imo it's about right. I personally try to avoid games that aren't on steam (and more recently GOG). Steam provides friendliest, cloud saves, simple install to anywhere, automatic updates, matchmaking, workshop, easy uninstall, and playtime tracking. All of these are minor features but combined they greatly incentivse buying there.

> The client is getting a rework soon.

Interesting, where do you get this from? Been waiting for this for years now but haven't seen any official message from Valve themselves about this.

Maybe it's been fixed, but as of a couple years ago Steam didn't seem to have a way to kill an account. After some security breach or another I decided it was time to remove it (I was never fond of the ownership model anyway), but couldn't find any way to do it.

Buy something with a credit card, then initiate a chargeback.

They also have effective lock-in. I don't buy movies on Amazon or Google play because I don't want to be locked in, or Kindle books without de-DRMing them, but Steam games? 80+ and counting.

Steam's monopoly is also why it sucks, I think. It seems like a textbook example of what happens with monopolies -- it produces an expensive product that could be much better and much cheaper.

Frankly, the publishers that have their own Steam competitors are worse. Steam at least supports Linux well and listens to players more than the publishers. I do wish DLCs were less rampant, but this is a gaming industry issue and less of Steam's wrongdoing. The GoG and Humble Bundle models are proven successes at this point, and I've easily spent 5-10x more on them than on Steam.

Yeah, but to disrupt it you have to deal with gamers who, as a group, tend to be a massive bunch of entitled whiny jerks.

Moderate success? OW sold 30M+ copies, it's more than any other modern FPS, Diablo3 was the fastest selling PC game of all time ect ... They're very successful in video games. They're probably the most successful video game studio. All their titles are big hit every single one.

I think that Valve is more like Apple, Blizzard is still like Google. I read some where that Valve has higher profit per employee than Apple (this could of changed), and Steam reminds me a lot of an App Store model. I also don't think its fair to call products such as Diablo II, Starcraft Brood War, and the Warcraft series (before Wow) "moderate successes".

Valve reminds me of Google because of their fire-and-forget approach to product development. Lots of experiments, many of them launched half-baked and several of them neglected.

Blizzard spends a lot of time iterating on their games internally. They even cancel huge effectively complete products when they're not good enough. That sort of perfectionist product development methodology reminds me more of Apple than Google, although Nintendo is probably an even closer match.

That's a good point, same of the Nintendo comment as well. Thanks.

Its not moderate success, its just success. From product point of view, its hard to compare them to Google or Microsoft as each Blizzard's product was a hit, unlike those two.

> Valve had moderate success, then had a unicorn (HalfLife) which made them a lot of money.


Did they actually do anything since then? They have other people on Steam doing the creative work for them.

DOTA 2 and CS:GO are doing very well right now. Good luck on getting them to release a game with "3" in it.

CS:GO is distributed by Valve, but was actually developed by Hidden Path Entertainment. Better examples might include the Portal and Left 4 Dead games.

I view more Blizzard like Apple. They don't do a lot of games, they polished them as much as they can even long after the initial release. And they have one incredible success (iphone/wow) that eclipse financially all other things they have done.

SC2 is a beautiful game, as a spectator sport and as a competitive activity. I've put about thousands of hours into the game, achieving Masters in 1v1 ranked 8x. I've thought long and hard about what Blizzard could have done to make the game more popular from the get go. Some of my thoughts:

1) The multiplayer should have been F2P from the beginning, and the campaign should have been a buyable add-on. Valve was already doing this on top of the in-game paid cosmetics, and Blizzard could have easily copied their business model for SC2. The game was ripe for those kind of additions.

2) The original UI was far too heavily focused on 1v1 ranked. The reason games like SC:BW and WC3 had such long-term and widespread appeal was because of how easy the casual modes (custom games, big team games) were to access.

3) Blizzard, in an attempt to prevent another Kespa power grab situation, created very restrictive rules for non-Blizzard SC2 tournaments that effectively prevented a large number of independent tournaments from being run. This goes in stark contrast to a game like DotA 2 where Valve put little regulation on independent tournaments which allowed the scene to thrive organically.

4) The official tournament system for professional play was terribly implemented from the get-go. Region locking was a very short sighted idea used to give a boost to non-Korean players, but it was wholly irrelevant as Korean players won every tournament anyways and effectively made the early rounds of Blizzard tournaments much more boring and predictable because you would have mediocre foreign players getting smashed by the Korean players. If Blizzard did this again, they should have simply let the "best" players in, regardless of their region. This is why the GSL was always the more exciting tournament - the player base, from top to bottom, was always far more talented than the WCS.

5) Implementing MMR decay was a terrible idea - it caused a huge number of competitive players to abandon the game for games like League of Legends and DotA, where they could take a legitimate break from the game and come back and still face similarly talented players. It was good Blizzard went back on this, but they damaged the game's competitive playerbase with this move.

6) For too long, Blizzard was far too afraid to make sweeping changes to their game in the same vein as DotA or League. As a competitive player, I don't mind this much, but to keep players coming back, doing major game altering updates is a guaranteed way to keep your playerbase coming back. Very recently, i.e. with the most previous expansion (Legacy of the Void), Blizzard has been actually doing some serious and interesting changes to the game that I believe will keep it fresh and fun while the core game stays intact.

Making the game F2P is great news, and certainly the book is not closed on SC2. I hope Blizzard does not give up on the game now that it's F2P and instead focuses on growing the game organically again. SC2 tournaments should have the same hype levels as a major boxing match - everyone who follows esports should at least tangentially be aware of it happening. The game has the potential to be that kind of spectator sport, it's just up to Blizzard to keep working on it at this point and keep player interest up as best they can.

I still play the game, albeit much less than I used to. If the playerbase started growing again, I would be tempted to put more time in again. It's still a great game - it always has been.

I'm still of the opinion that the custom games system was a complete mess, primarily in its list

sorting by popularity and version independence meant that games had a positive feedback loop to maintain popularity, and never gain it, and even updates to the game could never reach high enough popularity to overtake the previous version

So you end up with 5 games that were actually popular enough to get a session of randoms going, and it never changes.

They basically took the late-stage bot-filled custom games hosting of wc3, and decided this should be the starting point of sc2's custom game community.

Ended up dropping it after a month; nothing good would ever come out of that environment, and I was never interested in normal sc

Do you ever find the multiplayer game inaccessible for anyone below Masters/Diamond tier?

The beauty of League/Overwatch/PUBG/CSGO as an esport is the burden of game knowledge is relatively low comparatively.

RTS are essentially giant paper rock scissors games, but so fast paced it's really hard to get over the initial hump/learning curve, especially with as much micro across multiple groups as SC2 requires to get higher.

I don't know, I've always been able to compete at an average level in most ranked multiplayer games, but it seems with SC/SC2 it's always one end of the spectrum or another.

Personally I think its extremely accessible, with the right mind-set.

I started sc2 in bronze (the lowest) since it was my first RTS. I was frustrated with all the cheese (all in, early rushes) but after watching replays and learning the tells and standard ways to stop it from happening it felt good. It was great to expect, defend, and win against something that made me so flustered in the past.

Using COD as an example, the progression system over time unlocks new guns, perks, and cosmetics for you. You can blame losses / deaths on "unavailable items" where in starcraft the progression system is purely about your experience and knowledge. After you learn and get better, you get rewarded with public badges.

"Being bad" in starcraft just means your inexperienced. Since being bad normally results in loses, it feels inaccessible. If I lost my first 10 matches in any game and didn't have a fun time I normally wouldn't continue. But if you have the drive to improve yourself you can find losses are the most information rich resources

I found SC2 multiplayer far more accessible than League/Dota multiplayer, simply because there are less rules (units with unique abilities) you need to learn, and no team mates to yell at you.

Like any game with proper matchmaking, you win ~50% of your games unless you are so good there don't exist better opponents (or I suppose so bad there don't exist worse opponents, but the bottom 0.1% is at a lot more similar of a skill level than the top 0.1%). I never reached diamond league but had tons of fun. Then my wrists started complaining and I had to stop :(.

> Do you ever find the multiplayer game inaccessible for anyone below Masters/Diamond tier?

Three quarters of players are below masters/diamond, so presumably it's reasonably accessible even below those tiers.

> I've always been able to compete at an average level in most ranked multiplayer games, but it seems with SC/SC2 it's always one end of the spectrum or another.

What do you mean by this? No matter how good you are, unless you're the very best, you're going to get to the point where you win about half your games in SC2, as with any other 1v1 zero-sum match-made game.

> Three quarters of players are below masters/diamond, so presumably it's reasonably accessible even below those tiers.

Yes, but how engaged are they with the game?

I had a lot of RTS experience, so when SC2 launched, I placed Diamond/Master pretty quickly. I enjoyed it for about a thousand matches.

It's unclear how enjoyable people placing in Bronze and Silver found it. One friend of mine did grind out ~2000 games, and eventually made it from Bronze into Platinum, but I don't know anyone else who started in the lower brackets, and stuck with the game like he did.

I had many friends who grinded from Bronze/Silver/Gold up to higher ranks playing thousands of hours. Frankly though, I think these players would've been better served with more fun casual time killing modes, but like I stated in my original post, the game was not released with this emphasised in the beginning.

I started in bronze, managed to grind all the way up to diamond with all 3 races. I enjoyed it because I also followed the esport scene around it. Honestly, it was the esport scene that drew me in initially back in 2011ish. It was fun to watch pro games, become inspired to play better, and then immediately jump on the ladder and try out new things I've learned. I took a big break partway through HotS due to the very stale metagame that made it boring to play and watch, but I recently picked it up again and managed to get diamond again with all 3 races. I think it's in the best shape it has ever been.

I've gone Bronze to Diamond recently with no prior RTS. Probably wouldn't have got there without watching lots of GSL/WCS/Proleague/Lowko/PiG videos, but needing to be engaged in learning like that is true of anything difficult.

I think the multiplayer is plenty accessible to players below Masters level. The matchmaking in SC2 was always more fair than the team based matchmaking games because 1v1 ELO systems are legitimately fair systems, compared to team ELO games where there's a lot more variance in skill.

>The beauty of League/Overwatch/PUBG/CSGO as an esport is the burden of game knowledge is relatively low comparatively.

This statement rings false for me - Overwatch and League (and DotA) are practically impossible for a novice or inexperienced player to follow because the number of unique characters and abilities is overwhelming. Contrast that with CS:GO or PUBG which is much more simple gunplay anyone can understand. In the middle of these extremes is Starcraft 2 where most of the in-game units are based off pre-existing sci-fi lore, and thus the function of the units is far more obvious to a novice spectator.

>RTS are essentially giant paper rock scissors games, but so fast paced it's really hard to get over the initial hump/learning curve, especially with as much micro across multiple groups as SC2 requires to get higher.

That's quite an oversimplification of the strategy required in Starcraft:Brood War or SC2. I'm sure other RTS are like this, but the ability to scout in those games creates a skillful back and forth with how a players build their tech/base/army and evolve their strategy throughout the match.

I found it accessible -- have gone from Bronze (no prior RTS) to Diamond in the last three years.

At the start MMR wasn't shown and that made it much harder, you had no idea when you were near promotion. Visible MMR was the biggest barrier IMO.

> For too long, Blizzard was far too afraid to make sweeping changes to their game in the same vein as DotA or League.

Why are big changes a good thing? As someone who started playing brood war since the remastered release, I really like that the game is the same as it ever was. Leave tweaks to the community through map making. People come up with all kinds of fun ways to change up the game like reverse ramp mains or that weird assimilator/neutral egg setup on gold rush.

When I was still playing SC2 I appreciated how well thought out the changes were, for example when they increased the range of queens. That had such a huge affect on the game but it all came from such a small change.

great! all you have to do is play 10,000 hours to be on par with just about anyone else on the network or face being grieved during a "4v4 newb" match where most of them are nowhere near newb

Not true. There are plenty of new players entering the scene everyday. I got one of my coworkers into StarCraft just recently and he's already 1v1ing without anything you mentioned. Yes, there are toxic players out there but that goes for any community.

I also found this to be the case, I think the ELO system they implemented when I was playing in the WoL era to be quite accurate, I was quickly able to rise through bronze but found people that were more or less equally matched to me at high silver and low gold. Was enjoyable and not huge fluctuations in skill level except for the occasional unavoidable smurfer.

I did find that 1v1 was definitely more balanced than team play, so I think both you and parent are correct. In team play with friends we were much more likely to encounter people of radically different skill levels playing together.

I wasn't able to tell from the post. Does this mean me and 2 friends can each download Starcraft II and play a multiplayer game, either against one another, or against 3 other AIs?

I agree that might not be clear in the post, but it actually sounds like that may have already been an option... that getting the free starter trial might have been enough to play custom multiplayer games (presumably over LAN, but maybe even on Battle.net?)

Yes, custom games between friends are already free with the Starter Edition. This latest announcement will add the first campaign, multiplayer ladder, and much of the co-op mode to the selection of free modes.

SC2 does not support LAN games so it’s all via Battle.net

Yes it appears that's what this means.

StarCraft is fun. In the latest expansion you can see how the designers worked on making games faster, by starting with more workers and reducing the amount of resources in the map to force players to compete for them, and added harassment units.

They also tried to reward micromanagement more, to prevent the phenomenon coloquially known as "the ball". But in my opinion this still needs adjustment. e.g: the Protoss disruptor needs nerfing, and suicide seeker missiles should not be viable.

Good news they’re nerfing disruptor hard pretty soon and removing seeker missiles too.

I bought all 3, 3 days before it went free. So painful.

I for one am still playing Age of Empires II. I am the last of my kind :(

I dumped SC2 and will not go back.

SC2 always felt like a way to funnel players into the tournaments rather than an actual game.

It was "You will play this like 1v1 and you WILL like it." After my third timed rush mission, that was it. No more.

Blizzard can grab cash without me.

Why are you so angry about this?

SC2 is probably the purest 1v1 esport. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's been heavily optimized for this use case, which is why they urge you to play it the way it was designed.

You don't have to play it, it sounds like you don't like highly competitive 1v1 tournament friendly games. That's fine, go play something else, no need to bash blizzard.

That company actually has many other games you could check out...

I'm angry because SC2 basically sucked the oxygen out of the RTS genre for those of us who like "S" more than "RT" because now everything must be "Esport-friendly" (read: tailored to ADHD millenials).

"ADHD millenials" generalize much? I am a millenial who loves the 1v1, competitive aspect of SC2, but I also love games like Civ, Crusader Kings, Heart of Iron etc. There are other RTS games out there for you, but I don't understand why SC2 being competitive is a negative thing. Yeah, competitive sc2 games are fast, but a lot of games with a dedicated, competitive playerbases are going to play fast because mechanical, execution advantages are a valid way to win. But watch a pro sc2 game and you'll notice that there is a ton of thought and strategy that go into every game. Sometimes it's a mindgame against the opponent because they have a known playstyle, sometimes it's a clever reaction to the way an opponent is playing in that particular game. You can play aggressively and try to pressure your opponent to make mistakes, or you can play defensively and try to strike when you've spied an opening. Claiming it lacks strategy because of the speed at which games play out is selling it way short.

If you don't think there is `S` in SC2 I would think you haven't played it much.

He's not totally wrong.

At low level, just doing macro/economy right wins the game. Executing a strategy requires so much micro-management and multitasking that's actually unavailable to 90% of the player base. Between low and high level, a mix of "better macro" and better tactics (don't fight in chokes when your race needs space etc.) wins games, not strategy.

OTOH, it's a bit like saying that at intermediate levels, you win a chess game by not being the first to blunder (or seeing your opponent's mistake).

I believe that an RTS game like Zero-K (a TA-like) for instance is more strategic. Your initial factory choice, which determines which kind of units you'll use is a first strategic choice; static defenses are much more important than in SC2 (where they are more or less considered a waste of resources, except for anti-air maybe). TA is based on territory dominance, so holding a point in the middle of the map is important. In SC2, the middle of the map is where the "deathball" vs "deathball" final match typically happens.

The day before I finally broke down and purchased it. Aww yiss.

Blizzard make damn fine games.

software is going downhill.

ID software, of DOOM fame, used to release all their games as shareware. and 7 years later release the source.

just last week someone got sued by Microsoft or EA (dont really remember) for running a game server they reverse engineered for a game they don't even support anymore!

>just last week someone got sued by Microsoft or EA (dont really remember) for running a game server they reverse engineered for a game they don't even support anymore!

They weren't sued, they got a letter from EA telling them to stop using EA trademarks and to stop distributing the EA client software. The letter[1] said nothing about shutting down the servers themselves.

[1] https://reviveheroes.com/notice/

I would place that more on John Carmack being great, than the gaming industry going down hill.

It's both. Ubisoft is a perfect example of gaming actively seeking its nadir, having fully embraced the ethics of gambling and mobile fee2pay games in fully priced games, all while offering a highly buggy and mediocre experience. On the other hand, you still have CD Projekt Red... it's not as though the spirit of Carmack has died.

It was rare then, it's rare now, but it does feel like it might be dwindling. Before it was just a matter of talent and ethics. Now it's a matter of talent, ethics, the scale of production, and the possibility of massive payouts by embracing LCD tactics.

Your perception of technology changes as you age. Anything new in your teens and 20s is hailed as a innovation sure to change the world in profound new ways. In your 30s-40s, weird and burdensome, no better than the traditional ways of doing things. Past that point, you'll view everything as borderline destructive and proof of society's decline.

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

— Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

I mean I love that DOOM and Quake are open source. I still play Quake with the VkQuake executable. It's certainly sad that games like that don't really get open sourced all that often but that's the nature of the business.

Games cost a lot of money to make. They're part of large international brands. There's a lot of stake holders and a lot of money on the line. I don't really blame publishers and developers for being cagey with that sort of IP.

I think that games that enter a more open space certainly have a longer lifespan. DOOM will be around probably as long as humanity just because the code is available and it's a fun game. But that long term thinking doesn't keep the lights in the studio on and doesn't help with the ever increasing complexity of game development.

I don't think we need to be so doom (heh) and gloom about the state of software as a whole.

And that was EA suing over a Battlefield server running.

My general opinion on this is that AAA gaming studios have become too large and gangrenous. Indie gaming, however, has been enjoying an incredibly excellent period recently, which keeps my spirits up.

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