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Starcraft II - New Economy Features and Basics

Posted Thu, Apr 08, 2010 by Stow

Every real time strategy game has one ultimate goal--have your units overwhelm your opponent’s units.  There are many paths to victory in this regard, and all but the most ridiculous rushes are founded on your economy.  Starcraft 2 has multiple ways to speed up your income and hinder your opponents, so understanding the economy game of Starcraft is just as important as understanding how to attack.  Even the best tactician will falter with no army in front of him!

Basics of Your Economy

Every game starts you off with six workers (such as the SCV pictured here) and you should immediately put them to work on mining those precious minerals.  Minerals are the foundation of your economy and enable you to produce basic structures and your most basic fighting unit.  Most units in the game cost more minerals than Vespene Gas, but there are a few exceptions.  Nonetheless, minerals are what enable you to make more workers and more expansions as you make combat unit.  A worker brings in 5 minerals with each haul, or 4 gas.  

So far in beta, we’ve been looking at about 7-8 mineral patches per base and 2 Vespene geysers.  The addition of a second geyser to bases does not mean you have double the gas income that you did in the first game--they've reduced the amount pulled in by each worker by 50%.  So to obtain the same level of gas income you may be accustomed to from Starcraft I, you'll need to make use of both geysers with three workers in each for a total of six.    Anything beyond six workers on gas is a waste of a worker, unless you've accidentally placed your main building too far away from the resources at an expansion or have to gather from long distance due to a raid targeting your Hatchery for instance.  With the case of minerals, the rule of thumb is two workers per mineral patch.  With that, most maps will have 16 being the optimal number of workers on minerals at each base.  It may look like too much if you're not used to seeing it, but every time a worker returns with minerals and goes back to the patch, another worker can do his mining time there.  Any workers beyond 16 (assuming 8 mineral patches in your base) are more or less wasted as they contribute much less than additional workers did before that saturation point.

That leaves us with the ideal worker count being 16 on minerals,
and 6 on gas for a total of 22 workers in operation.  Anything less is hurting you or giving your opponent an advantage you simply cannot afford to hand them.

Economy Boosting Abilties and Trade-Offs

Each race has an ability that can be used to enhance your economy in some way, whether it be production or straight up harvesting faster.  These aren't 'free', even if they are just energy costs.  There's always something else that could be done with them instead of enhancing your economy, but you can use these for a quick boost early on and later on should you need more workers!

Terran Orbital Command

The basic upgrade to the Command Center costs 150 minerals and only requires a Barracks.  Upon completion, it starts with 50 energy, has a maximum of 200, and can be used to either Comsat Scanner Sweep or call down a M.U.L.E.  The Comsat function is stealth detection on demand, as well as scouting when you can't get a unit in there to see what your opponent is doing with his forces or building.   A MULE is a 60 HP unit that does nothing but harvest... only it harvests a ton of minerals at a time!   We're talking 30 per trip, or 42 per trip on a high-yield mineral patch.  It does not count towards your SCVs when it comes to saturation.  A SCV and a MULE can mine at the same time on a single mineral patch.  It has a limited lifespan that usually ends up
being 9 trips, uninterrupted.  The end result is 50 energy for 270 minerals mined in a short period of time.


The Terran M.U.L.E. gives Terran the definitive resource advantage, but at a high price that can cost you the game!

While powerful, everyone has a stealth unit that can be gotten in the first 5 minutes that can punish you for being overzealous with your MULE deployment.  Burrowed Zerg units can turn your Marines into a bloody mess, or just melt them in a puddle of goo in the case of burrowed Banelings exploding.  If you're not careful with your scouting, you might fall victim to early Dark Templar attacks due to a lack of detection.  Terran vs. Terran Matchups can often lead to Banshees, and cloaked Banshees can make short work of anything on the ground undetected.  If you see your opponent using any of these, keep some energy on hand for a scan or two.  The minerals you lose from the MULE will be made up for with the minerals of your surviving combat units... and perhaps victory!

I have ignored the Supply Drop ability for a reason.  The MULE generates 270 minerals over its lifespan.  A suppply depot costs 100, 50 if you want to count an additional SCV, and 45 more after that if you want to count the opportunity cost of a SCV moving to a spot nearby, building it, and moving back to the mining operations afterwards.  Unless the map is at risk of being mined out completely or you are desperately fighting to get an expansion up before you run out of cash in your main base,
this ability shouldn't be used.  

Protoss Chronoboost


Each nexus structure you build, including the initial one you start off with, has the Chronoboost ability.  It costs 25 energy, and the Nexus has a maximum of 100 energy at any given time.  Using this on any Protoss structure speeds all functions up by 50% for 20 seconds. This includes researching and the production of units.  Early expansions can lead to a massive production boost as well as the economy boost associated with them for Protoss players.

Your first few Chronoboosts will decide the early game for you.   After your first Pylon finishes, if you are doing a safer or teching build, you'll want to immediately use it on your Nexus to increase Probe production significantly.  If you scout a rush, or see a vulnerability to early attacks, using this on your first Gateway a few times will give you the Zealots needed to defend or assault 50% faster.  You'll want to use your Chronoboosts on key upgrades once you get into the mid-game, on things such as Attack Upgrades, Zealot Charge, and Psionic Storm.  Just keep in mind that you can always use a Chronoboost to create more Probes as well, so keep all of your Nexuses as a team and make liberal use of the ability to speed production up as you see fit--it's how Protoss is able to field their strong armies in the same time the other two races are able to make inferior units!

Zerg Queens

Use of Queens is the hardest mechanic to use of the three races.  They can induce larvae production in any Hatchery, Lair, or Hive, and after 40 seconds have passed, 4 larvae will fly out of it.  These 4 can go beyond the standard limit of 3 naturally produced.  These larvae can be used to create a quick offensive force, group of air raiding Mutalisks, or drones to further the economy and defenses or tech of the Zerg player.  Queens also have the ability to heal Zerg units and buildings for twice of the Spawn Larvae energy cost, or can use the same cost to drop a Creep Tumor that can spread the lovely Zerg goo all over the map, spawning additional tumors from the first one for free.

It can be a terrible pain in the ass to get used to the art of Larvae Injecting.  Unlike the
Terran and Protoss abilities, you cannot make use of them in quick succession if you have built up energy on your Queen unless you have extra hatcheries nearby that the Queen can use her ability on.  The Queen regenerates energy just quickly enough to use Larvae Injection every 40 seconds, or every time a hatchery would be available for use since it can only be affected by one injection at a time.  This leaves a terrible opportunity cost to dropping Creep Tumors, which are essential for many units to be effective in combat. For example, Hydralisks are painfully slow without the creep underneath them.  The good news is that if you plan to expand, you can have a Hatchery spawn an additional Queen in advance, and use that Queen to plant the Creep Tumor since it doesn't have a hatchery to inject just yet.

If you're having trouble with managing this ability, try making a team for your Hatcheries and a team of your Hatcheries and Queens.  Use the team for the Hatcheries to do any production.  Then select the team of both Hatcheries and Queens, and use the Spawn Larvae button or hotkey and click the picture of the Hatchery in the unit selection area.  Boom, instant injections without having to center on your base every 40 seconds!  Every time you see your Hatchery team have 4 or more Larvae, that's when you know to select the second team and re-inject.

Managing your economy is a necessary evil in Starcraft II.  Insufficient workers will leave your unit production sub-optimal.  Wanton use of the economic abilities to just increase your income or spawn more workers might leave you vulnerable to rushes or out-produced in army counts.  Once you've got your bases running full time, you can then analyze each situation to see where each of your economic boost abilities could be used best.  Do you need more money, Zealots, Drones, or Zerglings?  It's not a decision to be taken lightly, and it's not a decision to dwell on either!   Practice makes perfect wih this kind of decision making.  Now that you know how to optimize your economy and production, you'll be much better off on the killing fields of Aiur!

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