Starcraft 2 is a strategy-intensive computer game
Debate Rounds (3)
Resolved:: Starcraft 2 is a strategy-intensive computer game.
While I don't believe Maikuru will run semantics on me, definitions are always good.
Starcraft 2: The PC game invented by Blizzard that involves three different races (terran, protoss, and zerg) and their battle for inter-stellar dominance. It functions under the genre of Real-time strategy.
strategy-intensive: requiring a lot of strategical thinking
computer game: oh f*ck off, we all know what a computer game is.
Anyway, as neither of us want a really long debate, the first round is acceptance here. Then comes cases. Then the last round is rebuttals to strictly your opponent's case and then your concluding statements. The Burden of Proof is split between the two of us.
I intend to show that Starcraft 2 is not a strategy-intensive game. My opponent wishes to show that it IS a strategy intensive game.
I want to thank Z-Train for this debate challenge. It's been months since my last go-round, so I'm very excited to get my feet wet again.
For those unfamiliar, StarCraft 2 is a real-time strategy game in which players act as army commanders of 1 of 3 alien races. Game-play consists of selecting a race, creating units (e.g. workers, soldiers), gathering resources, constructing buildings, and battling an opposing player, be they another human or the computer .
My opponent is right; I do not plan to run semantics. In fact, only one issue is debatable here. We agree that StarCraft 2 is a strategy-based PC game, but the question is whether or not it is strategy-intensive. In other words, is strategic thinking a significant factor in a player's success during any given game. I believe so, my opponent believes otherwise, and things are about to get real.
Curse my laziness for putting off posting this round until 30 minutes until I forfeit. This round is going to be very brief and very skimpy. But before I start, just two comments:
First, the nature of the resolution means that it needs to be strategy-intensive. Meaning that there needs to be buckets and buckets of strategy required to play Starcraft 2 competitively. A good comparison to a game that is strategy-intensive that I would like to make as a sort of benchmark to what affirms and what negates is the Total War(1) series by EA. I will concede that the Total War series is strategy intensive. If my opponent can successfully argue that Starcraft 2 requires strategy that is comparable to the Total War series, he will win the debate.
Moreover, most of the strategies I'm going to post are obviously counterable. That's a given. For every abusive strategy available to players, there's always going to be a counter to it somewhere. However, most of the time those counters are hard to impossible to actually pull off. For example, if my opponent is zerg rushing me as I'm building my first gateway, it's kind of absurd to say "whelp, you should of had a few colossus to counter the rush". Some strategies just preclude available effective counters. Another example, if I'm terran and my opponent builds a proxy pylon right outside my base early and is swarming me with zealots from a warp gate, I can't exactly go to the strategy of "build thors and squash the zealots" because I wouldn't be anywhere close to being able to produce thors in any number to be effective. So to allow my opponent to just say to any abusive strategy I propose "Whelp, that's when you do ____ and _____. See, look at the strategy!" is extremely unfair. With that being said, I will present three common and abusive strategies that really don't require much in the way of strategy.
Strategy One: Zerg Rush(2)
Okay, I can't make an argument about abusive strategies without bringing up the Zerg Rush. This is the infamous strategy where, as a Zerg player, you rush your spawning pool and get out as many zerglings as you can as quickly as possible, and rush your opponent's base early. This strategy is so infamous that even Google made a mini-game where you clicked on the "zerglings" before they destroyed your search results(3). The abuse here is that it's such an early powerhouse strategy where as you're building your first or second Gateway as Protoss or your first or second Barracks as Terran and you already have a handful of zerglings at your doorstep. And this lacks actual strategy since it's simply getting as many tiny critters as you can and sending them over to your opponent's base. It's one of the most popular strategies as Zerg, and thus is a strong impact to say that Starcraft, at least from the Zerg side, is not strategy intensive.
Strategy Two: Marine-Marauder-Medivac(4)
This strategy is a Terran strategy that is powerful in the early to mid game. It allows Terran players to not only go toe-to-toe with powerful armies (providing they have a large enough Marine-Marauder-Medivac ball, which will be abbreviated to MMM for now), but it allows them to use the carrying capacity of Medivacs to carry their Marines and Marauders around to different parts of the map to harrass your opponent from multiple different sides, stretching their army numbers out too thin to be able to adequetly push you back on all fronts. The abuse here is not only does it involve just massing as many units as you can and sending them over to the other person's base, but both units (Marine and Marauder) are avaiable in the beginning Barracks, Marauders need the Tech Lab add-on (but that isn't that hard to get). Medivacs are only an optional add-on.
Strategy Three: Four Gate Push(5)
Running out of time, so I'll make this one quick. This strategy is a Protoss strategy where you rush four Warp Gates as quickly as you can, and then spread pylons out to various points in the map, which allow you to teleport your units around to wherever you want them. This allows you to amass units quickly at your opponent's doorstep with little to no warning as to what you're doing. This is an abusive strategy because, again, not only does it just involve warping in as many units as you can and just sending them over to the other person's base (noticing a trend?), but it literally prevents your opponent from being able to adequetly respond to you, effectively making any response to your offense non-existent.
Expected arguments from Pro
I expect that pro will bring up the point of macromanaging and micromanaging your units and economy. This is the skill of being able to manage your entire field of units and buildings, such as creating more units while attacking your opponent's base at the same time, and the ability to command your units in the heat of battle to get the maximum effectiveness out of them, maybe by repositioning and attacking and moving. The problem with this is that it really doesn't do all that much on the larger scale. Sure I can micro my units with the best of them, but if my strategy just isn't as effective, I'm not going to be able to win. Like, if I'm a boss as macro managing, that doesn't help me stop a Zerg Rush 4 minuts into the game. It just doesn't have that great of an impact.
With three popular strategies from all three factions being lacking in strategy, I see no way that Starcraft 2 can be a strategy-intensive game. Thus, the resolution is negated.
Thanks to Z-Dog for presenting his case and the readers for staying with us. This round is reserved for our cases, so I will rebut my opponent’s arguments next round. However, Con started off with a housekeeping issue, so I will address that now.
In short, I reject Con’s new suggestion that Total War be our benchmark for “strategy-intensive” gameplay. If he wanted to have me use a specific comparative analysis in affirming the resolution, he needed to present that parameter in Round 1. As it stands, my only burden here is to prove StarCraft 2 involves “a lot of strategical thinking.”
If, instead, Pro wanted to discuss certain strategic failings in StarCraft 2 when compared to Total War, he needed to explain these points in detail. Simply posting a link to a Total War website and expecting the audience and I to assume, explore, and judge differences independently is abusive and will not be entertained.
What Makes A Game “Strategic?”
A strategy refers to an overarching set of actions and plots meant to achieve some goal. Strategy games, then, are identified by their increased emphasis on player decision making and the implimentation of various tactics toward victory. Certain elements within such decision making help determine the extent to which strategy plays a role in a game.
One relevant aspect is the number of options available to a player; the more possible choices one has per turn (e.g. what action to take, when, or where), the greater number of potential gameplay paths. The second aspect is the presence of planning opportunities; outcomes must be wholly or significantly impacted by player direction rather than luck or randomness. The final element involves demands on a player's attention; increasing the amount of items a player must attend to in order to understand the big picture of the game increases strategic complexity.
From here it is easy to place games on a spectrum from low strategic intensity (e.g. tic tac toe - few options, little planning, low demand) to high intensity (e.g. chess - many options, extensive planning, high demand). Note that these classifications are based on the inherent rules and mechanics of the games themselves, not the skill of the players. Thus, I intend to demonstrate that regardless of what tactics a player uses in-game, StarCraft 2 is crafted such that it is necessarily strategy intensive.
In chess, players can start with 1 of 20 possible moves, with this number increasing dramatically as the game progresses and other pieces become freed. Similarly, in StarCraft 2, players begin with 5 workers and have the potential, through harvesting resources and traveling along a tech tree, to create an army 200 units strong . With 3 diverse races to choose from , 13-15 unique unit types and 14-16 buildings per race available to construct , and dozens of special abilities and upgrades to unlock, the possible army and infrastructure combinations for players are innumerable.
The existence of such a dynamic and complex framework alone constitutes a strategically intensive game, as navigating it to any extent requires specific and constant player choices. StarCraft 2 is not a static system, where decisions are made for you or options dwindle as pieces are taken or board spaces become occupied. Instead, it is a fluid, interactive battlefield where choices beget more choices and every available option is a subset of a potential strategy.
All decisions impacting a player in a game are either dictated by the game itself or by the player. In StarCraft 2, other than laying the framework for play, the game does not interfere in decision making whatsoever. Indeed, every action and event occurring in-game is player-directed, thus eliminating elements like luck, randomness, handicap, and bias. The result is a pure system, where only a player’s strategy and skill in implementing that strategy decide the outcome. This makes the game strategy intensive by definition; it cannot be played any other way.
In StarCraft 2, players are literally on their own to control every element of their activity. This includes gathering resources, building workers, constructing factories, defending your base(s), creating an army, engaging in skirmishes, and constantly adapting to your opponent’s attempts to do all the same. As this is a real-time game, all combat, economic, and infrastructure decisions are made during active gameplay; only you are responsible for what does and does not get done at any given moment in your army.
When a player has such total control over their own game dynamics, every decision they make, for better or worse, is a strategic one. That is because strategy does not refer to individual moves or tactics, but rather to the whole set of acts and ideas one utilizes in their effort to move forward. In a lesser game, that set may only involve a handful of game pieces. However, managing StarCraft’s huge amount of available options and possible plans while simultaneously controlling economic and production demands requires forethought, knowledge, and strategy that is...dare I say...intensive.
No Such Thing As Low-Strategy StarCraft
If you suck at chess, does that mean the game of chess is not strategic? What about if you checkmate your opponent in two moves? Does that diminish the strategic intensity of chess in general? Obviously not, as the game and its mechanics exist independently of the player. In this way, no matter how someone plays StarCraft 2, they are working within a system where every action taken is included in a combined means through which they will either win or lose, also known as a strategy. When strategy is a necessary part of every aspect of a game, it is, by default, strategy-intensive.
I'd like to thank Maikuru for his case. This round is specifically for addressing the claims made in my opponent's case. My opponent will do the same, and will not address any of the arguments I make against it. Likewise, I won't be able to respond to his refutations as well. This makes it (somewhat) even. But let's first start with some comments on my opponent's comments to my comments (wut?).
My opponent rejects the benchmark of the Total War series that I provide, saying that I had to do this at the very start of the debate in Round 1 in order for this to be legitimate. I disagree, as establishing the comparison as to how we actually judge the strategic intensity of Starcraft 2 is something that would be almost crucial in my case. It functions as any argument I had written in my case. As it's merely an observational argument on the nature of the resolution and how we evaluate it as debaters and as judges, I won't hold my opponent addressing it against the round structure.
Moreover, I would argue that without some sort of a benchmark as to what is strategy-intensive, we have no way of evaluating if it's actually strategically intensive. Just like without the concept of what was really bad or what was really good, we wouldn't be able to evaluate the badness or goodness of an action, without an idea of what is strategy-intensive, we can't determine the strategic intensity of a different game. Thus, I posit that a benchmark is something that we need to really evaluate Starcraft 2 in any sort of way as to get an affirmation or negation on the resolution.
My opponent then claims that even if we take a benchmark, that we ought not use Total War, as I haven't explained how it is more strategy intensive than Starcraft. The first problem with this is that my opponent doesn't provide an alternate benchmark to use in his case, and thus we have to default to the example I gave. But the secondly, I'd love to explain how it works as a benchmark.
The Total War series gives the player control of an entire nation, and gives them the goal of global domination, and let's them go about it in nearly any way they want to. You manage each city that you take control of, while defending your borders from other nations and establishing good relations for trade and other such purposes with those who are friendly toward you, and beating the stuffing out of those who hate you (Thanksgiving jokes for the win). You can create massive armies and wage multi-pronged attacks on enemy fortresses, send diplomats to barter for trade or ceasefires of war, among other things, or you can send assassins and spies to report on enemy positions or eliminate key buildings and/or personel within enemy cities. To compare it to Starcraft, it would be like you building up an army of Marines as a Terran player to attack the Zerg player across the map from you, while sending over a few SCV's to the Protoss player on a different map to try and establish trade agreements so that you can get some extra minerals. All the while your spies are trying to stage an assassination of their High Templars so that your allied Terrans can take them over. The strategy required to be successful in Total War is mind-boggling, and is vastly greater than Starcraft.
With that being said, Starcraft doesn't even compare to Total War in terms of strategic intensity, and thus we cannot consider it to be "strategy-intensive" since the actual strategies are not very strong in strategic thinking (as I outlined in my case). With that, though, let's actually get to my opponent's case.
My opponent seems to define strategy as having choices (the more choices available being the more strategic), as well as other details such as planning and actual execution. I'll get to the second and third one in a bit, but first I would like to address the absurdity of his argument as to what is strategy. If strategy were simply defined as the availability of choices, this would lead to the logically necessary conclusion that everything in life is strategy intensive. There are many different ways one can flip a coin, many different ways that one can prepare a slice of toast, many different ways that one can put on a pair of socks, as well as a multitude of different actions and choices that definitely aren't strategy-intensive. Since the conclusion is logically incorrect, and the only premise of argument is his definition of strategy, the only available option is to reject his definition.
Moreover, options don't even hold much relevance in determining the strategic worth of a game unless those options are actually taken. Take my opponent's example of chess, for instance. If there were a series of moves that would guarentee win you the game in four moves, it doesn't matter how many other openings or other series of moves there were; everyone would use that guarenteed win. According to my opponent's definition of strategy (little planning, low demand), it wouldn't be all that strategy intensive. To compare this to Starcraft, it doesn't matter how many tech options there are, it doesn't factor in unless those options are actually utilized. This is where you prefer my arguments as I actually take popular strategies from online games and show that they require little to no actual strategy to execute and be successful with. There's little actual planning and little actual demand, and while there are other choices (certainly, I'd be a fool to deny that), those choices don't actually have an impact on the calculus since they aren't ever taken! So even under my opponent's own definition, we would be defining Starcraft as a low-strategic necessity game, which means that the resolution would be negated.
To now speak directly against the opportunities and attention demands sections, I already outlined in my case under Predicted Pro Arguments why these don't have that much of an impact. What my opponent describes as Planning Opportunities is know as "Macro-gaming", and what my opponent describes as Attention Demands is known as "Micro-gaming" in the online community. As I already stated in my case, these don't have that much of an impact on the resolution since I could have the best macro-gaming, yet lose to an early Zergling rush. Or I could have the best micro-game, but lose because my opponent massed so many Marauders that they're impossible to kill entirely.
Moreover, I've already outlined in this round how even under his own definition of strategy (which these two terms factored into), that Starcraft would still be lacking in actual strategy. So the arguments there fall as well.
My opponent's last argument is one that says regardless of how people play the game, it doesn't actually diminish the strategic worth of the game, as the worth exists independently of the play. However, this just isn't true. Things only have worth when we assign them worth. The dollar bill in my pocket only has worth because the people that printed it established that it was worth one dollar in United States currency. Otherwise, it would just be a slip of paper with George Washington's face on it. Likewise, a game only has worth if we prescribe it worth. The way we prescribe worth to a game is by playing it. The way we play a game determines the actual worth of that game. One could argue that there is so much strategy that goes into winning a game of Super Smash Bros, with different moves and abilities and how they work together, yet lose to a 6 year old mashing the A button without thinking. This is why we have to look to my arguments about how people play the game and how their strategies lack actual strategy.
As such, I urge the voters to vote con.
A final thanks to Z-Canoe and all the readers. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have!
As Con pointed out, this round will be reserved for concluding a housekeeping issue, rebutting my opponent’s case, and concluding remarks. Per the rules, I will not be addressing Con’s rebuttals.
After the first round, Con can no longer impose new rules or change the debate parameters. As such, Total War cannot be the benchmark in this debate. We already had benchmarks: the resolution and definitions provided in Round 1. Of course, if this comparison was so important to his case, Con was free to simply discuss the relevant elements of Total War; I did the same thing with chess in my case. However, against his own rules, he waited until the final round to do this. New final round arguments are not allowed, so Con’s case for Total War will be ignored.
Rebutting Con’s Case
My opponent’s entire case rests on the claim that he has presented three unbeatable StarCraft 2 strategies that aren’t really strategies at all. Unfortunately, there are two very obvious, very debilitating issues with this line of reasoning.
1. Con Talks Tactics, Not Strategies
Con committed a common mistake here: he confused strategies with tactics. As I explained at the start of my case, strategies refer to overarching, long-term actions and plots, whereas tactics are specially combat related. The dictionary clarifies:
“In military usage, a distinction is made between STRATEGY and TACTICS. STRATEGY is the utilization, during both peace and war, of all of a nation's forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory. TACTICS deal with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.” 
Considering Con’s arguments only attack StarCraft 2’s combat maneuvers, and considering those same arguments concede that the game involves non-combat elements such as economic planning, base construction, technological upgrades, and resource harvesting, it would seem that Con doesn’t actually discuss strategy at all. Instead, he is focusing on just a small component of the game’s strategy and thus has no case against the resolution.
2. Con’s Own Video Rebuts Him
So, my opponent only discusses tactics and not strategies. Well, what if those three tactics are so good that it makes everything else obsolete? Good question, me, but Con’s second video answers that. In Round 2, Con presented three tactics he claimed were unbeatable, then presented a video in which the narrator explains exactly how to beat all three! Below are quotes directly from that second video :
According to my opponent’s own case, all it takes to defeat these seemingly unstoppable plans is to make some mixed units, block the doorway, and attack in close, respectively. Why are counters so readily available? Because these are just tactics! As with any well-balanced game, StarCraft 2 designed every unit to have multiple potential counters . That is why the game is strategy-intensive; victory absolutely requires not only excellent tactics, but also adaptability, planning, knowledge, micromanagement, and attentiveness.
The Final Verdict
With strategy referring to large-scale planning and utilization of all one’s means toward victory, it is easy to see why my criteria - player options, planning opportunities, and attentional demands - are sufficient in determining a military game’s strategic intensity. By eliminating randomness, granting players complete control over their resources, and providing innumerable pathways through which players can express their individualized actions, StarCraft 2 fits the definition of a strategy-intensive game perfectly.
Con’s attempt to simplify the game by focusing on tactics alone demonstrates a misrepresentation of the resolution and essentially robs him of any means of negating. Tactics alone could never lessen strategic intensity; not only do strategies consist of many non-combat elements, but the game is designed such that every tactic requires direct planning and implementation on the player’s part regardless. The fact that Con’s chosen tactics are all eminently defeatable, as explained by his own source, is only further damning.
Thanks for reading!
2. Con's Second Video
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro pretty much had me at chess. No one can deny that chess is a highly strategic game, and as pro pointed out, SC2 has far more potential options. Con spent way too much time talking about this "total war" game when it wasn't agreed upon that total war should be the benchmark. Con also didn't go into detail in his comparison of the two games until the last round when pro would no longer have a chance to respond, losing con conduct. Finally, pro pointed out that con's main criticism only deals with the games tactics, not its strategies. While this argument alone isn't terribly convincing (as tactics are a big part of strategy, after all), pro went on to bolster his argument by showing how, given an adequate strategy, these "cheap" tactics could be countered -- using cons own source as evidence. You could say, Pro executed a superior strategy in this debate (har harr), and therefore has won it.
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