What is a skill ceiling? Well I’m glad you asked! The skill ceiling is how high you can go with your skills. Why is it important? Another great question! The higher the skill ceiling, the more room there is to differentiate your skills from your opponent. The lower the skill ceiling, the more everyone looks the same.
StarCraft: Brood War has an almost impossibly high skill ceiling. Because of this, the level of play went upwards endlessly over the ~12 years that it was played professionally. Also because of this, the most skilled, talented, and hardest working players rose to ridiculous heights. Let’s talk about Flash, Jaedong, Bisu, and Stork in SC1 for a moment. These four players became much, much better than everyone else. With a constant 8-10 houses full of motivated and intelligent progamers with endless resources to learn from and silly amounts of practice time, 4 players became much better than everyone else.
You don’t understand how good flash was at SC1. His accomplishments don’t do his skill justice. Even if you were a huge fan, and watched every single game he ever played, you probably still don’t understand how good he truly was.
NonY had a perfect quote about Bisu. It was something like this:
You can’t understand what Bisu is doing unless you are fast enough to do it yourself.
He said it a bit more eloquently than I remember it, but the moment he said it, I got chills. With an almost endless skill ceiling, beautiful things are possible. Things so beautiful, that if you put in more time into the understanding of them, they will become more beautiful.
The most important factor in StarCraft 2’s life expectancy is a high skill ceiling.
Heart of the Swarm has, without doubt, raised the skill ceiling of SC2. By a lot. It will take time to see exactly how much, but it is definitely noticeable. And the funny thing is, it raised it in a very different way than SC1.
SC1 was about a lot of things: battling the AI, battling unit selection restrictions, macroing with single building selection, micro, macro, etc, etc. The list of course goes on and on.
SC2 made a much smarter AI that you don’t have to battle very much. Also, it has unlimited unit selection, so you don’t have to battle that (even though there is a bit of a trade-off with having to be more careful vs splash). SC2 also has multiple building selection, so the macro aspect is definitely easier.
Well, now we have a lot of other things to juggle. The amount of abilities used in HotS right now is pretty crazy. Imagine a standard PvT. Sentries with Force Field and Gaurdian Shield and a Mothership Core with Time Warp and Nexus Cannon, in the first ~6 minutes of the game. Soon after that’s followed by Blink on Stalkers and Storm and Feedback on High Templars.
There are a lot of examples in any matchup. Now this isn’t to say that SC2 is harder or easier, or that it has a higher or lower skill ceiling than SC1. That is a question that is going to take a lot of progamers a lot of time to answer.
I just wanted to write this because I’m so pleasantly impressed, both in my games and in others’ that I’ve watched, with the much increased burden given to players in Heart of the Swarm over Wings of Liberty. I’m so excited to see where this takes us.
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