A Beginner's Guide to StarCraft 2 Multiplayer - Part 1

I've finished the singleplayer campaign of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but I still need to run through all of the challenges before I'm ready to write my review. Expect it early next week.

With the weekend approaching, many StarCraft II players will be wrapping up the campaign and considering trying out the multiplayer game. A lot of people believe that they will be instantly steamrolled by players of a much-higher skill level, but that shouldn't be the case. StarCraft II's ladder system and matchmaking is designed to try and give each player a 50% win ratio.

I recommend that players use the built-in progression that Blizzard has put into the game for going from campaign to multiplayer, which has a different set of units and data. Complete the tutorials, play the campaign, do the challenges, play against AI opponents, and finally check out the ladder to play against humans.

Remember that you have to lose to get better. The first five matches are "placement" matches, meaning that they aren't necessarily going to be against players of your skill level. Do yourself a favor and finish these five to be placed in the proper league. Even then, it may take more matches to normalize your position.

As for race selection, it is ideal to stick with a single race from the beginning as it is less information to absorb. Terran and Protoss are both good first choices, while the Zerg are mechanically a little more complex. Either way, pick a race and try to play using only that race when you begin. While there is more to learn than what I will discuss here today, I hope these ideas and tips help you out.

There are a few key economic concepts you should know about StarCraft before we jump into specifics in-game. Your economy in this game is extremely important. It helps to begin thinking about buildings in terms of how many extra marines, zealots, or zerglings you could make for the same cost--do you really need that factory yet, or would you be better served with 3 extra marines? By the way, always build workers. You need about three workers per mineral patch so look to build 21 to 24 for your main base. At this point, keep building them as you can transfer extra workers to a new expansion to begin mining there immediately.

You also want to keep your minerals and gas low. Money in the bank just means wasted minerals. If you cannot build any additional units, build more supply depots/pylons/overlords. If you still have extra minerals, add more unit production buildings, tech up, or expand. Basically, find some way to spend your money with the priority being more units.

When starting out, versus humans or the AI, it helps to focus entirely on generating as many units as possible as quickly as possible. Don't worry about scouting yet or teching to that super-awesome battlecruiser. Just make as many marines and marauders as possible. Most of the time, you'll have more units than your opponent and should be in a good position to win the game. This will help you get used to cranking out units, while creating workers to keep your economy growing.

If video is more your thing, go ahead and watch this excellent episode of Day[9] Daily where he goes over the "mental checklist" every new player should run through while playing and why it isn't as hard as you might think.

In part II, I'll go into learning some opening build orders and how to read the notation used by the community as well as the importance of scouting and what to do with the information you gain by doing so. For now, I'll leave you with some easy fixes for some common beginner mistakes:

  • Never pull your workers away from mining unless not doing so would result in a loss. I see many inexperienced players send eight workers after my single scouting unit. With some simple micro, I can keep my scout from being killed and my opponent loses a ton of precious mining time giving me a huge advantage.
  • Watch your replays! If you lose, load up the replay to find out why. Watch it from the perspective of your opponent. See what he saw and how he reacted to what you did. This is key to learning the game and getting better. If they play the same race as you, try copying their build order.
  • Use hotkeys! You should get to a point where you never have to click on or even look at the bottom right grid for issuing commands or building units. Your mouse should be used entirely for selection and issuing orders along with hotkeys. The harder challenges in the game's challenge mode will force you to use hotkeys. Play them repeatedly!
From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 30, 2010 1:49 PM

    Three big things almost every new player forgets:

    1. Never stop building workers. Ever. You can stop production temporarily to get units out or defend a rush, but overall, you should be constantly making workers.

    2. Keep your mineral/gas count down to 0 as much as you can. It's not uncommon to be using 15 gateways, 2 robo bays and 3 stargates in the late game if you have the bases to support it.

    3. Getting supply-blocked. Never wait until you have 18/18 to build supply. Always start supply before you reach your cap. Sometimes, build two or three if you are pumping lots of units at a time (eg, see example above).

    Everything else stems from these three principles.

    • reply
      July 30, 2010 3:55 PM

      1) Why? Max saturation is 2.5 workers per mineral node and 3 per gas. There's no point in making more workes than you need, though it is common to overproduce when gearing up to take an exp. and then transfering the excess over to get quick saturation.

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        July 30, 2010 4:01 PM

        That's exactly why you don't stop making workers. You answered your own question.

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          July 30, 2010 5:51 PM

          Oh, please... it's entirely situational.

          If you're on two bases with not immediate intentions of grabbing a third, then there's no point in wasting minerals on more workers when you could be producing army units or teching. And when time comes, you don't want too many of that 200-pop army to be workers either.

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            July 30, 2010 6:04 PM

            Yes, it's situational when you get two 2 full bases, but at that point you'll be needed to put all your money into your army.

            It'll happen naturally.

            In general, it's very good practice to never stop making workers early to mid game.

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              July 30, 2010 6:05 PM

              Great post, Brian, FYI. Someone should link bluckles' post in here as well.

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            July 31, 2010 4:28 PM

            I think the "always build workers" only stops once you have 100 workers. And that almost never happens.

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      July 30, 2010 4:27 PM

      Too bad there isn't a button to "keep producing this until I tell you to stop."

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        July 30, 2010 4:33 PM

        That works in a game like TA/SupCom where your economy is represented as input/output and constant (unless you start getting attacked).

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          July 31, 2010 5:46 AM

          I think it works equally well in SupCom 2 that has a more traditional economy as well, though the resource nodes dont run out. I'd still like to see it in SC2.

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            August 1, 2010 6:59 AM

            SupCom 2's "more traditional economy" makes it a sad addition to the franchise :(

            As for starcraft, you're going to become a better player if your force yourself to learn to micromanage all these different aspects of its RTSness. They're not going to change the formula for the game by giving you other options for controlling your base/units. If you want to be good, you've gotta work with what they've given you.

            Plus, if they offered you a "do this until i tell you to stop" option, it wouldn't be nearly as flexible when you need to tech-switch. Instead of sitting on a pile of cash to throw down a few different buildings, you'd have a glut of units that aren't going to get the job done. Not to mention "keep going forever" isn't going to work very well for warpgates :P

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      July 30, 2010 10:59 PM

      It's situational. 1 base muta needs 30 drones, no more no less.

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        July 31, 2010 4:28 PM

        To qualify myself, I compete in the Diamond league right now and a one base muta strat is generally not going to get you far long term. Once you get higher in the leagues, these kinds of one-off strats will fall to a player with proper scouting and the knowledge of what he is looking at. Scouting is pointless if you don't know what you are looking for.

        Things to look for are Protoss that do not have gas yet and have a gateway and forge. This generally means he is going to try and cannon push/rush you outside your base. Lots of spine crawlers and 2 gas early at the Zerg opponent's base? Probably teching to a muta rush. Once discovered, these can be easily countered with the proper response, and every race has them.

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        July 31, 2010 11:12 PM

        I've never seen a beginner lose because they built too many peons.

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      August 2, 2010 3:25 PM

      Believe or not, you CAN make too many and go too heavily into econ and not build enough troops because of it.

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