Endgame Moves: Analyzing Your Replays

  • Amelia Savery, Blizzard Entertainment

At the beginning of the year, we spent a week examining the early game of Blizzard esports with our Opening Moves series. We followed that up with Midgame Moves in July. Now, as 2018 comes to a close, we’re going take a magnifying glass to the late-game in our Endgame Moves series.

As StarCraft II players, one of the best tools we have to help us learn and improve is the in-game replay functionality. Not only can your games be saved and catalogued, you can even play through them again from whichever point you’d like, with a friend or training partner.

“Being good at StarCraft consist of two skills: knowing what to do, and doing that properly,” said French Protoss player Théo “PtitDrogo” Freydière. “You can't know what to do if you don't watch your replays, so it's the first step before actually trying to do anything properly!”

German Zerg Julian “Lambo” Brosig agreed, saying that analyzing your own replays is critical. “It is a tool to identify what went wrong in games, but also a good way to learn about the weaknesses of your opponent’s builds, playstyles, and to develop a better sense of knowing the state of the game—am I ahead or behind?”

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It’s all well and good to know that you should be watching your replays, but there’s no use watching them without knowing what you should be looking for and how to learn from them. “There are an infinite number of mistakes you can make in StarCraft,” said PtitDrogo, explaining that there are three key areas you can look at in order to make improvements to your game.

First, mechanical errors. “Did I consistently make workers? Did I build my buildings and units right when I had the money? These two questions can already cover a huge majority of games you play, and where most of the improvements can be made for beginners,” PtitDrogo said. Lambo agreed, saying even at the highest level, the reason you fell behind and lost a game is obvious. “Most of the time, it’s as simple as ‘I was supply-blocked for 20 seconds here,’ or ‘I didn’t scout this tech or all-in early enough,’ or ‘I mis-microed or had my army out of position.’”

Next, offense versus defense. “While it's obvious to be able to tell when you didn't have enough defenses because your opponent just attacked and killed you, making too many units too early is also a very common mistake,” said PtitDrogo. “You should always ask yourself, at any point in a replay, should I be attacking right now? Should I even be making these units in the first place?  The art of balancing defense and offense in StarCraft is a delicate one that is constantly changing.”

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The third, and most difficult to grasp for beginners, is strategy. “You can still lose a game of StarCraft even if you had a solid macro and made the correct amounts of units,” PtitDrogo said. He explains he understands this is a big, nebulous concept, that includes things like build orders, scouting, army composition, positioning, and transitions. “There is no catch-all way to go about this, and it is all about game knowledge—game knowledge that you can only get by—you guessed it—watching your replays!” he said.

Lambo says that to improve, rewind your replays. All of them, always. “Take two to five minutes to scroll over the game. During this time, check if you knew what the opponent was doing at the time, if their mechanics were on point—starting upgrades right away and so on,” he said. He went on to explain that the most important thing is to look back on your games, remember when you thought you were ahead or behind, and check if that was actually the case in reality. “If you have a good feeling about the game, your decision-making will naturally get better as you play,” he said.

This all sounds like a lot to digest, but both PtitDrogo and Lambo urge everyone to never give up. Lambo says that watching your own replays will allow you to learn much more from your mistakes than if you purely ground out games with no review. “After identifying the mistakes, pick one problem area at a time and fix it, rather than trying to do everything perfectly right away,” he said.

“New players trying to reach Masters shouldn't be afraid of aiming high,” said PtitDrogo, “If you watch a replay of a pro that wins the game with a timing attack at seven minutes with 140 supply, there is no reason you can't do it, too, at exactly seven minutes with 140 supply! Watch the replay carefully and try to reproduce it as close as you can in a game against the AI to match the timing of the replay. You will probably not be able to perfectly recreate it in a real game, obviously—that’s the hard part! Being able to do it in a game where you're not disturbed is half the battle, and now that you know exactly what to do, you can then focus on the second part of being good at StarCraft: doing it properly.”

Be sure to follow PtitDrogo and Lambo on Twitter, and check out our previous articles in the Endgame Moves series—Identifying the Endgame, Destroying the Turtle, and The Base Trade. Check back tomorrow as we take a look back on the history of the gg.