Six Tips To Improve Your StarCraft II Skills, From The Designer Of StarCraft II

Six Tips To Improve Your StarCraft II Skills, From The Designer Of StarCraft II

Want to be a better StarCraft II player? Want to boost your APM? Want to know what APM means?

While chatting with StarCraft II lead designer Dustin Browder last week, I asked him to send over a few basic tips to help Kotaku readers master the challenging real-time strategy game. Since his APM (actions-per-minute, a metric used by advanced StarCraft players to measure their multitasking speeds) gets all the way up to 90 (that’s good) on his best days, I figured he might have some solid ideas.

(Check Kotaku tomorrow morning for more from my interview with Browder.)

Here’s what he wrote:

1. Get resources! Always be building a worker. Most players don’t keep up enough on workers. You need 24 workers on minerals and six on gas to max-out a base. Even then, you can keep building workers because when you create a new expansion you can transfer extra workers to that expansion.

2. Spend your resources! You should almost always have very little resources “in the bank.” This isn’t real life where more money in the bank earns you interest. Here you want to spend! Every resource not spent is a unit you don’t have on the map to defend or attack. If you can’t seem to spend resources fast enough, it’s time to build more unit-producing structures like barracks, factories, or gateways.

3. Play challenges, practice against the AI! The challenge missions included in Wings of Liberty will teach you hotkeys, how to handle a rush and give you the basics of some of the game’s counters. Use them. You can also practice against AI opponents to optimise your build strategies.

4. Have more than one plan! Don’t decide what you are going to do when a match starts; decide what you are going to try to do but be prepared to change your plan if the enemy does something unexpected. You need a different plan for every enemy race you face, and you need different plans depending on how far away you start from the enemy.

5. Learn from the community! Check out Day9, and watch eSports from professional leagues like the Global StarCraft II League (GSL) or Major League Gaming. Watching pros play or listening to experts can give you a greater awareness that may allow you to dramatically improve your game.

6. Have fun! You will never win every match of StarCraft II. Even very skilled players win about half their games. That’s how the matchmaker works. It makes sure the games are fair for all. So relax. Have fun, and try to enjoy your defeats as much as you enjoy your victories.


  • 90 APM actually isn’t that impressive for someone who plays the game for a living. Hell I’m down in Gold league and I average about 60 APM.

    Most SC2 pros average up around 140-ish at least. Some of them 200+.

    But I guess that’s why Dustin is a designer and not a pro gamer. Still, as the lead designer on SC2 you’d expect that he plays the game a lot. What I’d be more interested in in finding out David Kim’s APM stats, as he’s the main balance designer so obviously is a lot more hardcore about the pro scene.

    • SC2 calculates APM differently from BW so 150 is typical mean APM over the course of a game. 90 APM is very doable if you play say, Protoss, who have fewer active APM combat abilities so players like White-Ra have found success with double digit APM.

          • SC2 has two measures. APM = Actions Per Minute. It also has EPM, which is Effective actions Per Minute.

            The difference between APM and EPM is that APM only measures actions in which the player actually does something, like build a unit, or move a unit, attack, make buildings, etc. EPM on the other hand measures EVERY action they make, which includes selecting units, tapping hotkeys to check production progress, and quickly changing the camera to look at various area of the map.

            As much as you may not believe it, SC2 pros can quite conceivably and often do hit around 500 EPM during intense periods of the game. They don’t sustain that through the whole game of course, but they do often peak at those levels.

          • But EPM < APM, always.

            Which, is why I thought he meant apm. Because 550 epm is impossible.

          • No, EPM > APM actually. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s actually how it works.

  • It’s a good thing that Day9 was mentioned because his Newbie Tuesday sections are a pretty amazing resource for a beginner player.

    One thing that he has stressed is that APM is meaningless. Not only does the game measure it weirdly (minutes refer to Blizzard minutes, which are shorter than normal minutes thanks to the game being played on “Faster” instead of “Normal” and there are two different APMs that are measured, one including all actions such as click-spamming and one that only counts effective actions, which means that monitoring production isn’t included). People consider high APM to be a sign of a good player. It’s not. While the best players have high APM, the players with the highest APM are not necessarily the best.

    People have latched onto APM as a metric of effectiveness in this game. It really isn’t. During big moments, my APM can go over 200. Over the course of a match, I think it averages out to about 40. I’m a pretty terrible player too.

    Most importantly, APM doesn’t measure multi-tasking. If you have 100 APM and it’s entirely focused on microing a group of units, your production can easily fall behind your 50 APM opponent who has simply attack moved his units and is now building a sizeable amount of reinforcements.

    Macromanagement is the key to victory. People have made it up to Diamond league with very simple macro orientated strategies while other people sit in Bronze doing silly one base micromanagement builds.

  • I think an important one that he skipped is SCOUTING. If you know what your opponent is going to be doing ahead of time, you’ll be much more able to respond correctly. Good scouting is almost like playing into the future compared to playing without scouting. It’s important to be able to understand what your opponent plans on doing when you see a small snapshot of their base or army. In this way, re-watching replays of your games with a focus on your opponent’s game plan is sort of like meta-scouting.

  • Want to get better? Follow these simple steps:

    1. Make marines.
    2. Research stimpack.
    3. Walk to opponents base.
    4. Press “T”.
    (optional) 5. Type “GG”

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