Things That Are Hard

No penis  jokes, I swear.

Guess what, guys! Starcraft II comes out at midnight! Today! In the immediate future, I’ll be playing SCII in a non-beta format!

Starcraft, for those uninitiated few of you, is a real-time strategy game that is the pinnacle of RTS development. It features the Terrans, Protross, and Zerg, three drastically different races that are beautifully balanced. It requires consideration of both tactical and strategic (“micro” and “macro”) problems and, get this, pretty good reflexes. I lovingly call Starcraft the “twitch shooter of RTSes”.

I love it, I do. I also completely suck at it.

Starcraft is a game that requires a lot of thought. Unlike games like Supreme Commander or Warcraft, where the game is basically a fancy version of Rock Paper Scissors Nuke, every resource and second must be utilized in order to win. For gamers that are used to the “mass up and army and click attack” RTSes, it’s incredibly difficult. Things like constantly building new units, build orders, scouting, all of that may seem silly, but it can get you killed if done incorrectly.  Whether you are going for a rush attack or a drawn out battle, it’s hard to play.

Yes, kids, Starcraft is hard. Very hard. I’d like to say that I’m a halfway decent gamer and it bends me over like a businessman with mommy issue visiting a dominatrix. And I love it for it.

Video games should be one thing and one thing only when it comes to difficulty: Easy to pick up, difficult to master. Nowadays we have one or the other, there’s no middle ground between Mario and Demon’s Souls.

Starcraft rectified this. At a basic level the game can be played like any other RTS, with the player simply massing units until the end of the game where they’re a dick-waving contest to see who wins. However, play long enough and the player must start learning the intricacies of the units and races, working more on the micro than he did before. He also learns effective build orders, to spam miners, and so on. This is how the game should be played, with a natural progression of learning.

This really is refreshing. Everyone who’s sick of being knifed by a sprinting noob in Modern Warfare, hands up. Anyone who’s had to kill off a tank because he pulled too much aggro, hands up. All of you antisocials who play single-player exclusively because everyone else is a massive dick (dammit), hands up. All of you will enjoy the difficulty of Starcraft for two reasons. First, it’s not the easy bullshit that everyone plays, so you know that you’ll be facing a decent gamer. Secondly, it’s much like winter in that it weeds out the weak and slow. If you can make it to the top of the leaderboards…you are a god.

Am I trying to make a point? Perhaps. If I were, it’d be that “hard games are more fun”, but that idea has been beaten bloody. Frankly, the main reason for this is to give Blizzard a thumbs-up for their designs. Warcraft, World of Warcraft, and especially Starcraft, they have all had decent learning curves that were actual curves. There was none of that flat-line bullshit, and no sheer cliffs, just gentle slopes. It’s hard to make a game that is difficult and still fun, but you did it, and for that I salute you.

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