StarCraft II Editor – Skylon 4 Learning Curve Map

(Skylon 4 Map – Themed as an abandoned space station to feel different from current StarCraft II Maps)

When playing StarCraft II I noticed that the categories of the maps were broken down into two different categories: Pro and Novice. However, what I found to be true was that a lot of players fell into this valley where they weren’t either. I felt as if this gap between the two extremes was too great not to address. From my player experience, I noticed that the main reason that these lost players could not improve their gameplay was due to the lack of understanding of strategies and counters. I found that these players usually had one main strategy, and stuck to it regardless of what the opponent was doing. After looking at the standard maps, I realized they don’t lend themselves to learning new strategies very easily, as they are largely designed for competitive play. My goal was to create a map that would allow the average player to learn and grow into the standard maps.

The first main issue I saw with the standard maps was that the expansion areas tended to a little more difficult to protect for the slightly-below average player. These expansions tended to be very exposed, clearly designed with competition and challenge in mind, making it hard to maintain. On the map I was creating, I wanted to provide the players with natural defenses and short routes to allow for easy and defend-able expansions. This way, players could expand freely with some security, allowing them to have the resources to experiment and learn the inner-workings of the meta game. The second most important aspect that I wanted to teach the player was the value of scouting. Now, usually sending an early unit to see the opponent’s opener is good idea, but that’s sometimes a hard concept to swallow for a non-professional player. So, to get the idea across, I placed Watchtowers in key locations on the map. With the Skylon 4 map specifically, the central Watchtowers provide ample sight, giving a huge advantage to the player who learns  to scout and reinforcing the importance of this core concept.

After I built the map, I had other players of all skills levels play on the map and give me feedback on both the fun factor as well as the potential for learning and experimenting. I received a large amount of feedback, with a wide variety of comments and suggestions. Aside from minor glitched areas or hidden units, which I fixed immediately, people felt that the mineral lines weren’t correct. When looking at map in the editor however, everything seemed to be equal distance. However, I believe that because the lines didn’t resemble lines in a standard map, it was perceived as not correct. Aside from this though, there weren’t many negatives. Players of all skill levels loved the overall feeling of the map, as well as it’s unique shape. While some of the more hardcore or professional players did find it fun and interesting, they still preferred the standard maps. Novice players on the other hand, while they felt safer, weren’t able to utilize the map to it’s fullest. The target audience that the map was designed for however, said they had a blast playing on the map. They would show me some their replays and they were doing wild and fun strategies, learning to use the Watchtowers, and had epic battles over the central areas of the map. Ultimately, there are always room for improvements and more polish, but the map provided a fun experience, the ability to learn, and great replays that I feel players were hard pressed to find elsewhere.

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~ by rhickman-design on December 28, 2011.