StarCraft II Fan Breaks the Competitive Scene Using Evolution

StarCraft II Fan Breaks the Competitive Scene Using Evolution

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If you want to find the best way to Zerg rush your opponent in StarCraft II, it might be best to leave it to survival of the fittest.

StarCraft II, like most strategy games, is a very complicated game. While the middle-to-late parts of every match essentially turn into a giant cycle of fluidly reacting to (and trying to predict) what your opponent is doing, the early phase of any given battle heavily revolves around "build orders." That is, what buildings and units should you build when, and in what order, to give you the best army for early-game skirmishes?

Much like openings in chess, build orders are one of the most hotly debated concepts in the competitive StarCraft community, since they can set the tone for a whole game - and one StarCraft II fan who goes by the name Lomilar has set said community ablaze with a computer program that has unearthed new build orders that are wholly unintuitive and yet devastatingly effective.

The program, fittingly called "EvolutionChamber" - a Zerg structure in the game - uses "genetic algorithms" to find the most powerful early-game build orders. In simpler, non-computer-science terms, it takes every possible build order and makes them fight to the death in order to see which comes out on top.

There's an excellent in-depth explanation found here that lays everything out in terms that are easy to understand for non-programmers and non-StarCraft players alike. In the end, all that you need to know is this: By doing things that go horribly against conventional StarCraft II wisdom, the algorithm came up with a Zerg opening build order to get 7 Roaches (an early assault unit) nearly a minute before a "standard" rush would produce 5 of them. That's an eternity in StarCraft terms.

Like every strategy in a good RTS, the build has a counter if you can predict that it's coming - and once you get past that initial skirmish all "build orders" go out the window. Not that it makes its existence any less impressive, mind you.

If you have a few minutes to spare, the writeup is a fascinating read, even if you don't play StarCraft. The algorithm isn't a perfect StarCraft II pro, though: It might be able to come up with awesome new strategies, but it'll never be able to take to the forums and whine after its favorite tactic gets nerfed.

(Via RPS)

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Bit of a misleading title. The build you mention is just another effective rush attack. It sarcifices alot of economy for the fast roaches and if the attack is fended off the game has basically been lost. It's definately not "breaking the competitive scene".

Btw the pros generally leave the whining up to the people who don't know what they're talking about.

It doesn't break the competitive scene, but it does help lower level players find some step by step instructions to improve their game.

Also, while it comes up with very efficient build orders, sometimes they aren't always effective. While some build orders may produce a few extra units, sometimes the other build order conceals your strategy so that it isn't so easily scouted and subsequently countered.

Markness:
Btw the pros generally leave the whining up to the people who don't know what they're talking about.

If by pros we're talking about the actual, Korean professionals you're probably right. However, I've noticed that whenever anything gets nerfed in any game ever, the forums all over the internet fill up with nerd rage about such-and-such has been ruined forever. It seems that the majority of gamers must not know what they're talking about...

Markness:
Bit of a misleading title. The build you mention is just another effective rush attack. It sarcifices alot of economy for the fast roaches and if the attack is fended off the game has basically been lost. It's definately not "breaking the competitive scene".

Btw the pros generally leave the whining up to the people who don't know what they're talking about.

I was mainly using it in terms of "hey, here's a hugely effective rush build that involves using strategies that everyone dismissed as inefficient/ineffective." So no, not breaking it as in "this is it, GG forever," but breaking the conventional wisdom.

After all, we only have so much space for headlines :)

Very interesting. Takes being a munchkin to a new level.

SonicWaffle:

Markness:
Btw the pros generally leave the whining up to the people who don't know what they're talking about.

If by pros we're talking about the actual, Korean professionals you're probably right. However, I've noticed that whenever anything gets nerfed in any game ever, the forums all over the internet fill up with nerd rage about such-and-such has been ruined forever. It seems that the majority of gamers must not know what they're talking about...

Is this news to you? I don't know what pro's we would be talking about besides to professionals. Compared to people who play 8 hours a day, very few people know what they're talking about.

Markness:
Is this news to you? I don't know what pro's we would be talking about besides to professionals. Compared to people who play 8 hours a day, very few people know what they're talking about.

Well, generally pros is taken to mean those who are very good at a given activity, rather than those who perform said activity in a professional capacity. Moving on;

You think that the only people who understand the game, and are qualified to make statements about it, are those who play it for eight hours a day?! No. Anyone who has played the game sufficiently to become profficient at it "knows what they're talking about". You don't need to play obsessively to understand, or to have an opinion worth hearing. The professionals would likely beat them in a game, yes, but that is because it is their job. Put an average guy against a top-ranked tennis player and the professional will win, but this does not mean than the average guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Given the level of obsession there seems to be around StarCraft, I'd hazard that the majority of players "know what they're talking about" even if they can't compete at the highest level.

The problem with the 7RR that the algorithm provides is that it is damn near impossible to stop without resorting to an all-in strategy of your own. You basically have to scout that he is doing this (The only difference between the all-in and regular variants before the actual attack is queen positioning), then go all-in on early Void Rays, fly to an island, build a huge wall and cannons, or something else that puts you really far behind.

Not to mention, the 7RR is by no means an all-in. If you don't send drones and queen, it's less effective but will still break economic openings from any other race and leave you with the ability to expand behind it.

SonicWaffle:

Well, generally pros is taken to mean those who are very good at a given activity, rather than those who perform said activity in a professional capacity. Moving on;

You think that the only people who understand the game, and are qualified to make statements about it, are those who play it for eight hours a day?! No. Anyone who has played the game sufficiently to become profficient at it "knows what they're talking about". You don't need to play obsessively to understand, or to have an opinion worth hearing. The professionals would likely beat them in a game, yes, but that is because it is their job. Put an average guy against a top-ranked tennis player and the professional will win, but this does not mean than the average guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Given the level of obsession there seems to be around StarCraft, I'd hazard that the majority of players "know what they're talking about" even if they can't compete at the highest level.

In 95% of cases, you are completely incorrect. Yes there are some few players who for whatever reason don't have time to practise but have a natural gift for strategy but beating the campaign on brutal does not give you the skills to comment on balance at the highest level. The average tennis cannot give the pro advice on what racket to use or what serve technique to use. How can you argue that?

I've seen far too many people on forums assume they are right and the fault someone besides themselves, It's a natural instinct for people to overestimate their skill and intelligence and I think anoyminity exaggerates that. I'm probably on the level of obsessed about sc but I can safely say I could contribute nothing to the pros. I don't tell people how to do their job, it's like an amataur carpenter trying to tell world class carpenters how to put a chair together.

Seems to me what he did was make the game more competitive.

And by the way...
I WANT THAT ALGORITHM!

It never seizes to amaze me how almost every single writer for almost every "mainstream" gaming website can be oblivious to the workings of the competitive gaming scene and its workings.
And actually have the nerve to write an article about it with the headline being that the biggest competitive game in history which has consistently had some of the biggest prize pots in gaming history has been broken by a strategy maker.(which is not a new thing in the gaming world)

This is what bad journalism looks like. Flashy headline with no substance and the writer shows a general lack of what he's writing about. It's not a bad story, the execution is just flawed.

Skipid:
It never seizes to amaze me how almost every single writer for almost every "mainstream" gaming website can be oblivious to the workings of the competitive gaming scene and its workings.
And actually have the nerve to write an article about it with the headline being that the biggest competitive game in history which has consistently had some of the biggest prize pots in gaming history has been broken by a strategy maker.(which is not a new thing in the gaming world)

This is what bad journalism looks like. Flashy headline with no substance and the writer shows a general lack of what he's writing about. It's not a bad story, the execution is just flawed.

Perhaps consider the fact that we write for an audience that isn't completely up to date on the StarCraft II competitive scene, and in order to write a piece that's accessible to them we can't write as detailed or comprehensive a piece as we'd like?

I understand the SC2 competitive scene pretty well, even if I'm nowhere near good enough to play in it. If I wrote an article from that point of view, though, nobody except the people in the SC2 scene would grok it.

But I assure you, I was as excited for Boxer vs. Nada as anyone else :)

Markness:
In 95% of cases, you are completely incorrect. Yes there are some few players who for whatever reason don't have time to practise but have a natural gift for strategy but beating the campaign on brutal does not give you the skills to comment on balance at the highest level. The average tennis cannot give the pro advice on what racket to use or what serve technique to use. How can you argue that?

OK, we seem to be having two seperate arguments here. What I took your earlier post to mean was that you thought that the only people who had an opinion worth hearing were the professionals. Obviously, this is incorrect, and I took issue with it. Now you're talking about amateurs telling pros how to play the high-end game, which isn't what I thought we were discussing.

Anyone who has played the game sufficiently knows what they're talking about. In the tennis scenario, the average tennis player knows what they're talking about, they just cannot do it as well as the professional. That doesn't mean their opinion is invalid, just that those with more natural talent/time to practice are better at the game than them.

John Funk:

Skipid:
It never seizes to amaze me how almost every single writer for almost every "mainstream" gaming website can be oblivious to the workings of the competitive gaming scene and its workings.
And actually have the nerve to write an article about it with the headline being that the biggest competitive game in history which has consistently had some of the biggest prize pots in gaming history has been broken by a strategy maker.(which is not a new thing in the gaming world)

This is what bad journalism looks like. Flashy headline with no substance and the writer shows a general lack of what he's writing about. It's not a bad story, the execution is just flawed.

Perhaps consider the fact that we write for an audience that isn't completely up to date on the StarCraft II competitive scene, and in order to write a piece that's accessible to them we can't write as detailed or comprehensive a piece as we'd like?

I understand the SC2 competitive scene pretty well, even if I'm nowhere near good enough to play in it. If I wrote an article from that point of view, though, nobody except the people in the SC2 scene would grok it.

But I assure you, I was as excited for Boxer vs. Nada as anyone else :)

Wat...

Also, the GSL is ruining my life, I'm not getting any sleep anymore, especially last night, THANKS FREAKING EPIC MATCHES :(

John Funk:
Perhaps consider the fact that we write for an audience that isn't completely up to date on the StarCraft II competitive scene, and in order to write a piece that's accessible to them we can't write as detailed or comprehensive a piece as we'd like?

Perhaps you could add a spoiler-tagged section at the end of the article containing all the details that are too complicated or might exclude casual players?

"Have you had any sex since StarCraft 2 was released? Have you even been outside? If the answer is no, click here for a comprehensive tactical analysis!" ;-)

Skipid:
It never seizes to amaze me how almost every single writer for almost every "mainstream" gaming website can be oblivious to the workings of the competitive gaming scene and its workings.
And actually have the nerve to write an article about it with the headline being that the biggest competitive game in history which has consistently had some of the biggest prize pots in gaming history has been broken by a strategy maker.(which is not a new thing in the gaming world)

This is what bad journalism looks like. Flashy headline with no substance and the writer shows a general lack of what he's writing about. It's not a bad story, the execution is just flawed.

Is anyone else as amused when someone tries to sound intelligent in their bashing of a respected writer and doesn't know the difference between "seize" and "cease?" This is what bad trolling looks like.

jerrrry:
Is anyone else as amused when someone tries to sound intelligent in their bashing of a respected writer and doesn't know the difference between "seize" and "cease?" This is what bad trolling looks like.

I was gonna let it pass, but since you mentioned it, I'll go ahead and chuckle with you on that one too... It actually took me a moment to realize just what the heck he meant by "never seizes to amaze me."

This would be interesting if I still played Starcraft. But I just don't have the commitment for it. There's no place for casual playing in it. Either you get really good by playing insane amounts, or you lose 90% of every match.

Ugh, this sounds awful. I avoid looking up build orders and try to find out what makes me a better player and what works for me. Admittedly, I'm not a great Starcraft player by any means, but this kind of thing just sucks the fun out of the game for me.

Impressive. And scary at the same time. Would like to see the source code of the algorthim.

SeniorDingDong:
Impressive. And scary at the same time. Would like to see the source code of the algorthim.

If you check the original article, there are links there to the java code I believe.

SonicWaffle:

Markness:
In 95% of cases, you are completely incorrect. Yes there are some few players who for whatever reason don't have time to practise but have a natural gift for strategy but beating the campaign on brutal does not give you the skills to comment on balance at the highest level. The average tennis cannot give the pro advice on what racket to use or what serve technique to use. How can you argue that?

OK, we seem to be having two seperate arguments here. What I took your earlier post to mean was that you thought that the only people who had an opinion worth hearing were the professionals. Obviously, this is incorrect, and I took issue with it. Now you're talking about amateurs telling pros how to play the high-end game, which isn't what I thought we were discussing.

Anyone who has played the game sufficiently knows what they're talking about. In the tennis scenario, the average tennis player knows what they're talking about, they just cannot do it as well as the professional. That doesn't mean their opinion is invalid, just that those with more natural talent/time to practice are better at the game than them.

I don't know what you define as "knows what they're talking about", I'm also confused as to what you mean by giving their opinion. Yes they can statements such as " I find this hard to deal with " but "void rays need a nerf" is going too far.

I don't blame you for searching for hits with that title, as it's your job, but it's pretty misleading.

"StarCraft II Fan Single-handedly Shifts Non-Pro Metagame" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

The same goes for your description of the program which I have edited/fixed below ...

"The program, fittingly called "EvolutionChamber" - a Zerg structure in the game - uses "genetic algorithms" to find the most time efficient early-game build orders. In simpler, non-computer-science terms, it takes a requested strategy (e.q. build an army of 7 units) and repeatedly takes educated guesses towards faster build orders in order to see which comes out on top."

- Your original paragraph made it sound like the algorithm came up with the idea of 7 fast roaches in the first place and then did a computer simulation to see if those 7 roaches would outfight, say, 6 Zerglings. The picture to the side didn't help either.

"There's an excellent in-depth explanation found -here- that lays everything out in terms that are easy to understand for non-programmers and non-StarCraft players alike. In the end, all that you need to know is this: By doing things that go against conventional StarCraft II wisdom, where a powerful economy is often the goal, the algorithm compared millions of Zerg opening build orders to get 7 Roaches (an early assault unit) nearly a minute before a "standard" rush would produce 5 of them. That's an eternity in StarCraft terms."

-Now I'm just being nitpicky, but the 7RR doesn't do much that's "horribly against convention". It makes sense to make your pool and warren early if you want to rush, and the extractor trick was only proven to be less desirable when going for an economic opening ... which this certainly isn't.

Edit: I'll grant you the double overlord to keep larva production going is something humans just don't think about!

Anyway, I just love StarCraft II so that's my bit of nerdrage for the day. Glad to see you're a fan also JF, BoxeR vs NaDa was awesome :)

Damn it, now I wanna play some Starcraft.

OT: The ingenuity and creative smarts of some people never ceases to amaze me.

Brilliant approach...and the inability to whine on forums = elevation to godhood.

EVOLUTION COMPLETE.

 

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