Making StarCraft 2 More Accessible

By Kevin “qxc” Riley of Complexity Gaming


StarCraft 2’s high learning curve is inhibiting its growth as an eSport but it doesn’t have to. The game’s learning curve can be made much friendlier without sacrificing the highest level of play. The main aspects that make the learning curve so brutal are the high amount of repetitive actions required for macro, and the unforgiving nature of certain units such as cloaked banshees, storm, and fungal growth. Besides these main points, there are some quality of life tweaks that are also suggested here as small ways to make the game more friendly to newer players. Many of these changes will offend Brood War purists. I know of at least a few pro gamers who would be disgusted at making the game ‘easier’, but the reality is that if we want our game to thrive, we must adapt. StarCraft 2 needs to be a more accessible game, but that does not mean making optimal play obtainable. If the game became easier in the less interesting or repetitive aspects, it opens up for the potential of much greater complexity in army control, movements and general positional strategy. The idea is to re-focus StarCraft as a game to be more about conflict by streamlining certain outdated concepts. Detailed below are my thoughts about how this refocusing could be achieved.

Quality of Life Tweaks

These explanations should be mostly self explanatory. For the sake of brevity, little additional explanation is provided, but the intention here is to automate small parts of the game that newer players tend to forget or overlook, but significantly impact their play.

  • Allow upgrades to be right-clicked to queue it. Once an upgrade is queued via right click, as soon as resources are available the upgrade begins.
  • Allow the user to hold a key down (alt, for example) and draw a line with their mouse to set a formation for their units. Need an arc? Draw an arc and your units will do their best to make it.
  • Currently, when buildings are selected in a control group you can only see whether or not something is being researched, but not its progress. Add a color indicator so that the user can visually see how far something is from finishing. The gradient could be something like blue to red where blue is something that just started and red is something about to finish.
  • Add a hotkey that can be bound to select all military on screen.
  • Add an auto follow command to spell casters that can be activated to keep them with the main army and prevent them from running past everything (as is often seen with infestors, high templar, ravens and medivacs).
  • Add the ability to right-click on a unit to set that production structure to automatically create that unit whenever there is money.
  • Add a hotkey that removes one unit from the current control group via keyboard. This would assist in rapidly deselecting single units when trying to get map presence (usually either with zerglings, marines or zealots).

Macro Simplifications

As stated above, the best and most interesting part of StarCraft is that of conflict and usage of army. While we can be impressed by a player’s macro, the majority of the time people are watching games to see the players fight each other. They want to see units explode and tons of multitasking going on. They don’t want to watch the players build units for 15 minutes with no action at all. These changes are designed to streamline macro to put more emphasis on the conflict.

The biggest change would be that right-clicking (or holding alt and hitting the shortcut) something in a production structure would set it to queue up and automatically produce whenever possible.
For macro spells, right-click would simply cast that spell on the last target when the previous is done.

  • Creep tumors can now be spread by clicking and dragging in a direction upon placement and the tumor will automatically spread in that direction whenever possible.
  • Supply depots/pylons/overlords can be set to constantly produce. The effect would be that the game just builds one in a nearby open space as soon as the previous is finished.
  • Right clicking an upgrade already in progress sets it to start the next level as soon as the previous is done and there’s enough money
  • Create an option so that geysers automatically take 3 workers upon completion.
  • Create an ability on geysers that when used automatically sets them to correct saturation using nearby workers.
  • Create an option to set idle workers return to the nearest mining base after 5 seconds.

Micro Simplifications

The micro changes are an attempt to reduce one-hit GG type spells by reducing the effect of a single use while allowing the player to use the ability more often. Storm is one of the most notorious spells for this type of situation. Thematically, the changes would be on the order of reducing a spell’s damage per second and mana cost while increasing the duration and total damage dealt. This means that high templar can use storm more frequently, but each cast is less punishing to the opposition because of the reduced damage per second. This type of adjustment will hopefully lead to more counter play as well as more spells being cast.

Additional examples:

  • Reduce forcefield’s mana cost, duration, and size.
  • Reduce EMP’s mana cost, shield/energy drained amount.
  • Other possible targets include: photon overcharge, fungal growth, hunter seeker missile.
  • Losing an entire game because you weren’t paying attention and got hit hard by just a spell or two is not much fun and very unforgiving. These types of spells are significant as to why the game is so hard for new players to get into. By making abilities function in a more forgiving manner while still maintaining their utility and general strength we can reduce the game’s learning curve.

Cloak is the final ability to be considered. Put simply, cloak is just about the most unforgiving part of the entire game. If you don’t have detection, you lose and that’s it. In light of this, Banshees, dark templars and ghosts would require some significant re-balancing. The simplest change would be to give each unit an activated cloak where the duration is 1/2 of its cooldown (10 second duration, 20 second cooldown, for example). This half on half off type of cloak means that while you’ll still take significant damage if you’re caught unprepared, you will have more opportunities for counter play. The units would probably also need some of their other numbers increased to compensate for the loss in cloak utility (with the exception of ghosts perhaps since they don’t really rely on cloak as much).

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