StarCraft 2 Threatens to Zerg Rush Chess For Science

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StarCraft 2 Threatens to Zerg Rush Chess For Science

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StarCraft 2 may surpass chess as the "model organism" used by science in the study of human cognition.

For decades, chess has served as a sort of focal point for cognitive scientists attempting to determine, among other things, why human brains are so good when focused on individual tasks and so bad when their attention is divided. The game has actually been referred to as "the drosophila of cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence" [here, let me google that for you] because it "represents the domain in which expert performance has been most intensively studied and measured." But there's a new kid in town that threatens to upend that old applecart, and its name is StarCraft 2.

StarCraft 2 is gaining attention in the scientific community because of the complexity it brings to the table. It forces players to pursue multiple goals simultaneously, often under intense pressure and within small windows of opportunity, and serves up scenarios that can change rapidly and unpredictably. There also happens to be a ton of players, which offers a potentially huge pool of data for researchers to draw from.

"I can't think of a cognitive process that's not involved in StarCraft," Mark Blair, a cognitive scientist at Simon Fraser University, told Scientific American. "It's working memory. It's decision making. It involves very precise motor skills. Everything is important and everything needs to work together."

Blair is actually running a project at the university called "SkillCraft", which is currently looking at more than 3500 StarCraft 2 replay files collected from players across a wide range of skill levels. "What we've got is a satellite view of expertise that no one was able to get before," Blair explained. "We have hundreds of players at the basic levels, then hundreds more at level slightly better, and so on, in eight different categories of players."

The hope is that a comparison of the techniques and styles of low-level players with those of more advanced skills will allow researchers to begin to understand how skills develop and how to most efficiently train them. "For emergencies, you don't get to train eight hours a day. You get two emergencies in your life but you better be good because lives are at stake," he added. "Training in something like StarCraft could really be useful."

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Haha, that's freaking awesome. Who knew that this pasttime required... "skill?"

I'm only top 8 plat but I play pretty avidly, here's hoping the game garners more attention. God knows it deserves it.

I love that and I agree the mental side of Starcraft is brilliant.

The problem is the mechanical side though, I've never managed to build up the skills to play an RTS competitively regardless of my overall plans :(

Although maybe that's part of it? Because apart from accurate mouse clicks, most of the mechanics skills actually rely on just not forgetting to do tasks whilst concentrating on the bigger goal.

Starcraft is really intense, I actually loved the fact that when I played I drove myself forward as a player. I constantly critiqued my builds and timing windows and used and tried to figure if it was optimal for the situation.
Once I got things down into a routine I used to break it and try and do it faster, more efficient.
It was a really good video gaming experience for me if I'm honest, I'm glad that studies are trying to show that gaming can have a more serious side to it.

My only thought is: why now? What did Starcraft 2 do so special that other RTS's of similar complexity did not, apart from being popular and populous enough to have a huge amount of data to analyze?

This isn't the first game of it's type that could be considered "complex enough" for this kind of study. *shrug*

Zachery Gaskins:
My only thought is: why now? What did Starcraft 2 do so special that other RTS's of similar complexity did not, apart from being popular and populous enough to have a huge amount of data to analyze?

This isn't the first game of it's type that could be considered "complex enough" for this kind of study. *shrug*

I guess itīs mostly(read:all) the reason why they picked sc2, the user base is so damn huge compared to other games. And blizzard did a good job with the replay function which makes it easy for them to analyse games that have been played.

In before idiots saying starcraft requires no skill and NOT GETTING AT ALL why they chose it.

kebab4you:
I guess itīs mostly(read:all) the reason why they picked sc2, the user base is so damn huge compared to other games. And blizzard did a good job with the replay function which makes it easy for them to analyse games that have been played.

I agree that the replay feature is quite key. I can't think of any other game I've played that makes it as easy to view, save, and share replays. The fact that there's a very well tracked ladder probably helps as well. They really went above and beyond on the competitive aspects for SC2.

Zachery Gaskins:
My only thought is: why now? What did Starcraft 2 do so special that other RTS's of similar complexity did not, apart from being popular and populous enough to have a huge amount of data to analyze?

This isn't the first game of it's type that could be considered "complex enough" for this kind of study. *shrug*

A lot of strategy games tend to be more slow-paced in nature. Even something like Civ, while complex, is very laid-back. Having to make a dozen decisions within a few seconds is a big part of what sets StarCraft 2 apart from other strategy games; even compared to the first StarCraft. Mind that when they say "complex", they aren't talking game depth like some reviewer, they mean in terms of how your brain needs to approach it to do well. And in that regard, something like the Civ series is actually very simple.

I don't mean to offend, but one scientist looking at an alternate model for monitoring cognitive processes hardly equates a massive paradigm shift for the scientific world. When you get multiple scientists from different institutions agreeing, then yes, it may have a claim.

Ha! I don't even need a degree to say that this *idea* won't last long.

In Blitz chess you are only allowed 10 seconds per turn and within that time you need to at least process under a million moves. SC's strategy is fairly straight forward and is quite fixed.

If this scientist was doing this scientifically there would mathematical evidence and a comparison to Chess, this is clearly not the case therefore this is pseudo-science at work.

I love how all the Facebook comments are all hipster comments about how other games are more challenging than SC, and all the escapist comments are about how awesome it is.

Solidifying my belief that the damn facebook comments can all go to hell.

I've always felt that SC should replace chess as "the game of ultimate brainyness". Chess is so limited, whereas SC and other RTSs have a much broader range of strategies.

Of course it might be just this one particular scientist using it as an excuse to watch SC2 replays all day long. "I'm doin' research HONEST!" :P

Huzzah! Congratulations, Blizzard. :3

mad825:
Ha! I don't even need a degree to say that this *idea* won't last long.

In Blitz chess you are only allowed 10 seconds per turn and within that time you need to at least process under a million moves. SC's strategy is fairly straight forward and is quite fixed.

If this scientist was doing this scientifically there would mathematical evidence and a comparison to Chess, this is clearly not the case therefore this is pseudo-science at work.

You've obviously either never played Starcraft even semi-competitively or watched high/mid-level experts.

Chess is complex.

Starcraft not is complex, forces you act and react in real-time, micro-manage dozens if not hundreds of things simultaneously and changes fairly often.

Paragon Fury:

mad825:
Ha! I don't even need a degree to say that this *idea* won't last long.

In Blitz chess you are only allowed 10 seconds per turn and within that time you need to at least process under a million moves. SC's strategy is fairly straight forward and is quite fixed.

If this scientist was doing this scientifically there would mathematical evidence and a comparison to Chess, this is clearly not the case therefore this is pseudo-science at work.

You've obviously either never played Starcraft even semi-competitively or watched high/mid-level experts.

Starcraft not is complex, forces you act and react in real-time, micro-manage dozens if not hundreds of things simultaneously and changes fairly often.

So what? there are many RTSs that does this, this is what an RTSs is. In fact I don't know an RTS that doesn't do this.

There's no evidence, only speculation. What you are doing is speculation.

WhiteTigerShiro:

Zachery Gaskins:
My only thought is: why now? What did Starcraft 2 do so special that other RTS's of similar complexity did not, apart from being popular and populous enough to have a huge amount of data to analyze?

This isn't the first game of it's type that could be considered "complex enough" for this kind of study. *shrug*

A lot of strategy games tend to be more slow-paced in nature. Even something like Civ, while complex, is very laid-back. Having to make a dozen decisions within a few seconds is a big part of what sets StarCraft 2 apart from other strategy games; even compared to the first StarCraft. Mind that when they say "complex", they aren't talking game depth like some reviewer, they mean in terms of how your brain needs to approach it to do well. And in that regard, something like the Civ series is actually very simple.

Forged Alliance, seriously, starcraft is the simple man's RTS which is why it's popular. The fact that there is a hard cap on this shows how much 'depth' it lacks, I'd like to see you micro an army of 300, most top FA players just control their units in 1 big blob whilst doing everything else.

I like it how you strawmanned civ into this as well, turn based being a separate genre, cute. SC is not special in any way, it is just the most simplistic 4X game out there, Total Annihilation is so much better than the original graphically, gameplay wise (but not story), yet got outsold, not to forget SC was still 2d when the majority of games became 3d.

rapidoud:
Forged Alliance, seriously, starcraft is the simple man's RTS which is why it's popular. The fact that there is a hard cap on this shows how much 'depth' it lacks, I'd like to see you micro an army of 300, most top FA players just control their units in 1 big blob whilst doing everything else.

*Yawn* Seen one person talking-up his niche title that nobody's ever heard of while also bashing the more popular version of his title in the same breath, seen all people who talk-up their niche title that nobody's ever heard of while also bashing the more popular version of their title in the same breath.

I like it how you strawmanned civ into this as well, turn based being a separate genre, cute.

I like how you tunnel-visioned my post so hard that you missed the Civ discussion going-on in the comments section.

So do you have anything actually worthwhile to say, or are you mostly just ranting/trolling?

Honestly i do find this a bit ambitious, but the game does show promise to live up to this speculation. As whats been said before about watching replay and making real time choices depending on you're opponent.

But it only owns this due to the success of the original and Korea seeing it's been played there competitively.

So Starcraft and it's successors will continue to grow. And don't say it's only because of teambased the game does shine on 1v1.

Turtleboy1017:
Haha, that's freaking awesome. Who knew that this pasttime required... "skill?"

I'm only top 8 plat but I play pretty avidly, here's hoping the game garners more attention. God knows it deserves it.

I do so love it when people say "I'm only top 8 plat". Only! I've been in silver my whole life! rank 1 though.... :-)

For me, the best thing to do is to change up your game and not play to your races stereotypes. the Zerg always instill a sense of fear in the early minutes of a game and my opponent will always go overboard on cranking out units as fast as possible. My strategy is to go for air units and dominate with Brood Lords and Coruptors. For the ground, maybe some roaches for good measure.
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mad825:

Paragon Fury:

mad825:
Ha! I don't even need a degree to say that this *idea* won't last long.

In Blitz chess you are only allowed 10 seconds per turn and within that time you need to at least process under a million moves. SC's strategy is fairly straight forward and is quite fixed.

If this scientist was doing this scientifically there would mathematical evidence and a comparison to Chess, this is clearly not the case therefore this is pseudo-science at work.

You've obviously either never played Starcraft even semi-competitively or watched high/mid-level experts.

Starcraft not is complex, forces you act and react in real-time, micro-manage dozens if not hundreds of things simultaneously and changes fairly often.

So what? there are many RTSs that does this, this is what an RTSs is. In fact I don't know an RTS that doesn't do this.

There's no evidence, only speculation. What you are doing is speculation.

I could send you an academic research about the complex cognitive processes that go into a SC2 match and why it is a great object of study. Do you read french?

Wait, why do we only get two emergencies each life? I don't understand that part.

There is one thing they have to keep in mind though. A lot of players use gaming equipment (mouse and keyboard) with a lot of programmable buttons that make the game a lot easier to manage. When you play chess, it's just you vs. the other guy.

WhiteTigerShiro:

Zachery Gaskins:
My only thought is: why now? What did Starcraft 2 do so special that other RTS's of similar complexity did not, apart from being popular and populous enough to have a huge amount of data to analyze?

This isn't the first game of it's type that could be considered "complex enough" for this kind of study. *shrug*

A lot of strategy games tend to be more slow-paced in nature. Even something like Civ, while complex, is very laid-back. Having to make a dozen decisions within a few seconds is a big part of what sets StarCraft 2 apart from other strategy games; even compared to the first StarCraft. Mind that when they say "complex", they aren't talking game depth like some reviewer, they mean in terms of how your brain needs to approach it to do well. And in that regard, something like the Civ series is actually very simple.

"Complexity" can mean several things. StarCraft and Civilization aren't any more or less complex than each other, they're just complex in different ways. Much like chess, which can be complex on several different levels.

In StarCraft, you have to make several mental considerations in an instant. Where should I move my units? What do I need to build? Where is my enemy sending his units? Am I well-defended at my base? Do I have enough resources? Where should I attack from? How big is my enemy's army? Do I have the proper units to counter my enemy's units? What do I need to purchase? Should I wait and build up or should I attack with what I have now? Where on the map should I expand to? All of these considerations have to be taken into account in a very short length of time. That's what gives StarCraft it's complexity. Individually, any one of these considerations is fairly straightforward to respond to; "My enemy might attack with Unit A. I don't have an effective number of counter units for that. I should build some more." or "My base needs more Pylons. I should build more Pylons." are the kinds of ideal responses that would answer a mental question, but since a game of StarCraft is quite fast-paced, these responses have to be worked out in seconds, and a player's train of thought may not always be able to arrive at a satisfactory response to each situation under such conditions. StarCraft requires you to juggle, to make an analogy.

By contrast, Civilization gives you a nigh infinite amount of time to consider the problems facing you. How can I acquire Resource A? Can I trade someone for it? Is there any place on the map that I can reach where I can control this resource? Is that place occupied by another Civ? Can I mount an effective colonization effort to control the area where I can get that resource? Can I mount an effective war effort to take control of the area where that resource is? What would be the cost of a war/colonization effort? What would be the political ramifications of a war/colonization effort? Civilization gives you a long time to ponder all these things. In Civ, all of these questions stem from the same problem. The response to a a situation wouldn't be a single mental scentence, it would be a few mental paragraphs. In a game of Civ, a player may have several problems facing them, and may fail to resolve those problems by failing to take into account the ancilliary considerations that come with a single problem. A good analogy would probably be trying to arrange the contents of a bookshelf.

In other words, StarCraft and Civ are complex in different ways. They require different mindsets. Like chess, both games require a player to think about how they take on their opponent(s), what should they do to accomplish the end goal of winning, etc. The thing is, as far as I can tell, neither is really a good replacement for chess when it comes to scientific studies. Chess works because, at it's heart, it's a game with a simple concept and simple rules; it's easy to understand, easy to teach, and easy to keep track of how a game is progressing.

Now, this is really cool.

I'm really happy for this. I've always thought Starcraft to be the epitome of cyber-sport in the sense of a mental game.

This is interesting. Time to alert my Korean Starcraft brethren. Shame I can't get into the games though, I prefer games like Company of Heroes and Dawn of War.

Yeah I'm a simpleton!

The Critic:
"Complexity" can mean several things. StarCraft and Civilization aren't any more or less complex than eachother, they're just complex in different ways. Much ike chess, which can be complex on several different levels.

Things being complicated in different ways does not mean they have the exact same level of complexity.

Personally I'd say that Starcraft is less complex. That's not to say it is worse.

Being in real-time is certainly a factor, but it's not really part of complexity. Otherwise, presumably games like Dark Colony, which was more fast paced in that units had no build time (!) would be more complex still.

Gah, that game was intense.

LetalisK:
Wait, why do we only get two emergencies each life? I don't understand that part.

He just meant like...you don't know when emergencies pop up, nor do you know what they are until they happen. It's not something you can really prepare for...it's just something you have to react to.

WhiteTigerShiro:

rapidoud:
Forged Alliance, seriously, starcraft is the simple man's RTS which is why it's popular. The fact that there is a hard cap on this shows how much 'depth' it lacks, I'd like to see you micro an army of 300, most top FA players just control their units in 1 big blob whilst doing everything else.

*Yawn* Seen one person talking-up his niche title that nobody's ever heard of while also bashing the more popular version of his title in the same breath, seen all people who talk-up their niche title that nobody's ever heard of while also bashing the more popular version of their title in the same breath.

I like it how you strawmanned civ into this as well, turn based being a separate genre, cute.

I like how you tunnel-visioned my post so hard that you missed the Civ discussion going-on in the comments section.

So do you have anything actually worthwhile to say, or are you mostly just ranting/trolling?

I like how you missed my glaringly obvious statement about the difference between turn based games and RTS games. Are you just ranting/trolling?

At least Forged Alliance (hint: Not a niche game, very popular among the RTS crowd), Sins of a Solar Empire, Anno 2070, The Settlers, Age of Empires Dawn of War (in a sense, if that is RTT then so is Starcraft with how simplistic it is), BFME2 actually perpetuate and develop the genre. All starcraft did was plagiarise warhammer 40k Tyranids/Eldar in the extreme in a cheap knockoff.

I love all the people criticizing sc2 for being "simple" yet fail to realize that chees is a game where 14 of your 16 pieces move in one direction..

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying chess has no depth. Chess is one of those games where thousands of people play it, and the best strategies for it have been hammered down. Yet so much depends on the player opposed to you that you have to constantly readjust your strategies and react to what he does.

Starcraft 2 is -exactly- the same. The units for the most part does one thing. The game is more figured out than any other rts on the marked (with the exception of Broodwar) simply because thousands of thousands of people are playing it. The best strategies have been figured out (at this time, new ones will always emerge), yet so much depends on the player opposed to you that you constantly have to readjust your strategies to react to his. The added element in this game which chess doesn't have, is Micro and Macro (which is moving your units and building stuff). This added element required heavy multitasking, which strains your brain even more as you need to do all this while simultaneously figuring out the strategies.

Some people are asking why not other RTSes has been chosen, surely game X is far superior to sc2? Well, hundreds of thousands of people daily disagrees with you for one. This makes is so theres a large pool of people to do "science" on. Secondly, no other rts game is this competitively, largely because of the huge player pool, but also because some of the most brilliant minds on the planet is playing this game for the increasingly larger cash prices. And thirdly, because of the described similarities above.

tl;dr: Most people have seeing the similarities between chess and starcraft for a decade. This comes off as no surprise.

Adam Jensen:
There is one thing they have to keep in mind though. A lot of players use gaming equipment (mouse and keyboard) with a lot of programmable buttons that make the game a lot easier to manage. When you play chess, it's just you vs. the other guy.

Uhm-no. Programmable buttons (meaning buttons that do more than one thing pr click) is illegal both on Bnet and tourneys. Most pro starcraft players prefer to remove those pesky extra buttons from their keyboards so they wont accidentally hit them.

I like Forged Alliance as much as the next guy, and I've actually seen quite a few pro matches in that game as well (mostly from TLO..because he's such an awesome baller). But it doesn't resemble chess as much as starcraft does for this one simple reason: Matches can go on for hours where the only thing you're doing is building units, and sending them to the front line to die. It doesn't strain your brain the same way as a hectic game of starcraft 2 does.

Civilization: Similar to chess if you have infinite time. if you put a timer on turns on civ, I'd be inclined to agree. However, the player base is just too small.

Total war: Same as civ. + 90% of the game is won on the zoomed in battleground, where all you do is "micro".

Age of empires? lol..

All hail science! This sounds like a pretty good idea, especially because of the ease of access to data.

mad825:
Ha! I don't even need a degree to say that this *idea* won't last long.

In Blitz chess you are only allowed 10 seconds per turn and within that time you need to at least process under a million moves. SC's strategy is fairly straight forward and is quite fixed.

There are a good number of factors you chose to omit there:
In chess, you have the fixed premise of a symetrical engagement with sixteen pieces each. You always see your opponents ressources and can watch his response to any of your moves. You are also taking turns, meaning that you do not act AND decide at the same time, but can take turns, even if thats limited to 10 seconds.
You "only" have to deal with the behaviors of five different units that are equivalent to each other and only move in limited ways that are always fixed. While the possibilities of moves is nearly infinite, the rules always stay the same.

In SCII, you do not have all informations about your enemy available to you - a fog of war requires you to estimate his movements. The engagements are often not symetrical, having you deal with the advantages and disatvantages of more units at any given time. You also have to act and think at the same time. You do not have ten seconds to think over a crucial decision in SCII when your enemy is at your front door. You need to make several decisions at the same time and execute them as well.
Strategies are all BUT fixed - some rely on the metagame around the game itself, on the prevalence of certain units or even the preferences of certain players. The rules also keep changing. Abilities are changed to discourage certain strategies etc. It would be VERY interesting to see a numerical analysis about the removal of the "Kaydarin Amulet" alone.

mad825:

If this scientist was doing this scientifically there would mathematical evidence and a comparison to Chess, this is clearly not the case therefore this is pseudo-science at work.

Do you know firsthand that there is no mathematical comparison ? Have you looked into the research ? No ?
Suffice to say that the mathematical models to describe a short and simple game of SCII would be a difficult task on its own.

Is SCII "better" then Chess ?
Only if a cat is better then a bottle of wine.

Damnit I am still in gold league. wow this is so cool.

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