Behind the Scene and Response for “Faster is not Better”

The last four articles discuss the effects of starting worker count extensively. I’m going to disclose some behind the scene tidbits and respond to some points brought up by the community.

First of all, a big thank you to Neuro, brownbear, and negativezero. They put lots of effort into the commentaries for essentially nothing in return. This series would not be possible without them.

Behind the scene

I started writing the article way back in 2017. I was wondering if the starting worker count change had led to less distinctive builds. It is a hypothesis that is almost impossible to test, because starting worker count is only one of the many changes in LotV. Hence, one could only make arguments based on qualitative observation and reasoning. Biases are inevitable in reasoning [1 – academic reference at the end], as people tend seek out evidence to support their desired conclusions [2] and criticise those that do not align with their views [3]. While I could attempt to be as “objective” as possible, my reasoning would still be limited by my knowledge and perspective. Instead of making a futile effort to adopt others’ perspectives [4], I thought it would be interesting and constructive to gather others’ views directly. Coincidentally, I was reading a Research Dialogue from the Journal of Consumer Psychology, and I thought the format of having several articles written by different authors fits the bill well.

There were very few writers in StarCraft. brownbear was the first person I approached for obvious reasons, and he agreed immediately. I approached two other people, and one rejected me due to schedule. Before I could really get things moving, I went into hiatus for health reasons. I put this idea on hold (not proud of it).

I was prioritising other more topical articles over this starting worker count idea for the past two years. This topic was brought up in a discussion with Laura, and my interest got reignited. However, I just couldn’t resist spending my time on other contemporary topics instead, so there was close to no progress. Laura just kept nudging me to finish up my draft for months, and the guilt tripping was more effective than I want to admit. When my fiancee asked me who is Laura, I just told her Laura is a zealous editor chasing me for a draft lol. Laura also helped by proofreading my sorry ass draft. If someone who understood the abstract idea I wanted to express couldn’t understand my writing, then no one can. She was as involved as others who had contributed the commentary articles. Special thanks to her.

After I got the draft done, I started looking for contributors. The key selection criteria is how well that person could contribute with another perspective. brownbear was obviously the first person I approached again. His knowledge in real-time strategy games in general is valuable, and the fact that he only started playing StarCraft II in LotV could help to tackle the potential criticism of nostalgia. I approached another person, but he said he agreed with what I wrote and had nothing to add =(.

I thought of asking Neuro next. He is a streamer and plays Zerg, so his perspective would complement well. Zerg relies less on build variety than the other two races, so he might just have a very different view. I sent him a friend request on Discord in July last year when we were discussing a new patch on his stream (with brownbear and Gemini), but he didn’t accept it. Just when I was pondering if I should contact him, he accepted the friend request at last after several months. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Neuro suggested Person X who has similar views to me. I didn’t approach Person X, because that would defeat the purpose of seeking contributors with different opinions.

It is a no brainer that mapmakers are ideal for sharing insight on the effects of starting worker count. My habit of not networking came back to bite me, as I didn’t know any mapmaker personally. Since I cited negativezero’s tweet in the original article, it made sense to ask him. I tweeted him to follow me back, so I could pm him. Smooth pick up move.

Some Chinese players had been translating my articles, and I am very impressed with their accuracy and speed (usually within two days). The translated articles show that they could read between the lines and not simply translate sentences literally. When I published the original article (more than 4300 words), I was thinking “take this! let’s see if you’re up for the challenge to translate this article”. They did not disappoint, and the Chinese community was discussing this topic due to their effort.

Responding to community discussions

Goal focused

The purpose of my original article is to generate discussions in the community about the effects of doubling the starting worker count in LotV. Judging from the several reddit threads (e.g., 1, 2, 3) and the thread, it is fair to say the goal is accomplished.

Every decision I made for this series was well aligned with the goal of generating discussions. I expressed my opinion in a slightly provocative way by only presenting a certain perspective. I was certain that there would be people disagreeing with my opinion and highlighting the benefits of 12 starting workers. If I were to be as comprehensive as I could be, people either won’t read the extremely lengthy article or have little to add. Being moderately controversial is an effective way to nudge people to share and discuss the article [5]. The emphasis on perspective diversity in the contributor selection process helps to fill the gap of presenting only one perspective in the original article.

I also carefully separated the observable consequences from the negative byproducts of these consequences. This aids people to criticise my arguments. For instance, one could agree with the observation that the early game is shortened but disagree with my opinion that it leads to negative outcomes. Another could simply disagree with the assessment that the early game is shortened, and that also indirectly refutes my subsequent argument about the related negative byproducts. If I were to express my opinion by only stating the negative byproducts, it is difficult to identify where the disagreement really lies.

Some misjudged my intention by suggesting I wanted Blizzard to change the starting worker count to six. Advocating discussion is not the same as requesting for a change. I hope I have clarified the misunderstanding.

Preference heterogeneity

It seems that many view the evaluation of six versus twelve workers start as absolute, whereby there is an objective truth that one is better than the other. Given that the point of comparison is usually our enjoyment of the game, our heterogeneous preferences are  reflected in our evaluations. The Chinese translators understood this very well, and they created a poll asking whether the pros of changing to twelve workers outweigh the cons. The results highlight the heterogeneous preferences with a close to 50-50 split (see image below). Those who stated that either six or twelve workers start is “objectively better” are essentially using the dogma of presumed authority to mask their true intolerance of diverging opinions.

There is an elephant in the room when we consider what the community likes. Only those who are still active in the game are heard, as those who really dislike the existing state of StarCraft II have already departed the community. This is a typical survivorship bias [6], which refers to the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not. A friend who quit StarCraft II long time ago messaged me recently, telling me he quit because of the starting worker count change (see image below). Thus, we need to take this selection bias into account when one says people in the community generally like the current twelve workers start.

The community seems particularly divided on the preferences of viewers. On one end, some argue the slow start with six workers is boring the viewers. On the other end, others argue the games look too similar to each other. Waxangel describes it pretty well:

“I’m not really concerned about the ‘objective’ increase or decline in strategic depth due to 12 worker start. But I do think that from the viewpoint of a fan watching the game, pro-level SC2 feels more uniform and less diverse. Like, even a fairly casual fan in WoL could count the number of bases a player had and deduce how they game would play out. Also, it [is] easier for them get a simple understanding of a player’s traits (e.g. ‘PuMa likes to all-in in PvT so he goes for 1-base 1/1/1. Mvp likes to macro so he goes for a fast command center.’). What’s the present day difference between TY and Maru in playstyle? I’m sure Terran pros could elaborate in exquisite detail, but I think the rest of us would struggle to make even a generalization.”

The main takeaway from his comment is the consideration of viewers’ knowledge. More knowledgeable viewers could better appreciate the nuance in builds than less knowledgeable ones. This perspective reconciles the alternative view that builds are just as diverse in LotV but in different ways. This alternative view is associated with those who are more involved in the game and have greater knowledge than average viewers (see tweet below for an example). Importantly, these seemingly different views illustrate how our reasoning is biased by our limited perspectives, as knowledgeable viewers cannot accurately understand the perspective of the less knowledgeable ones [7]. Then, when expert’s voices are given much more weight than average viewers’, the final product may alienate a big group of important stakeholders.

Misunderstanding and mis-inferring

I am no stranger to have my articles misunderstood and mis-inferred. Some are silly like “this is the longest Terran whine I have ever read”, but others are worth discussing. Some claimed to disagree with my original article and argue that LotV is better than HotS based on metrics like viewership and player population. My article focuses on the comparison between six and twelve starting workers not HotS and LotV. In fact, I stated clearly that LotV is the best expansion all things considered but StarCraft II could be better if we change the starting worker count while keeping other changes the same.

Some claimed that those who believe six workers are better than twelve merely being nostalgic (e.g., this Twitter thread). There are some directly targeted at me (for example). Attaching a stigmatised motive to discredit the arguments is a cheap jab. It shifts the focus away from the actual topic of interest to the authors. There is no constructive output.

Some even put words in my mouth. Below tweet is an example. In my article, I wrote that players’ mechanics would get worse as they age, and this is based on the research suggesting StarCraft players’ cognitive motor performance starts to go downhill at 24 years of age [8]. Then, I made an inference that the emphasis on mechanics over strategy in LotV could put older players in a disadvantage. I did not claim that “LotV is bad for pros” nor “people cannot keep up because they are old”. I welcome criticism for my work, but it is difficult to take certain critiques seriously when the critics do not even demonstrate understanding. Critical thinking is a higher-order skill that involves the mastery of low-level skills before you can tackle the critical thinking part [9]. Comprehension is one of those lower-level skills.

All in all, I simply expressed my opinion without holding the assumption that I had to be right. I invited others to write commentary articles to criticise my arguments, so we could have different perspectives on the topic. The discussions in the community also got me to understand that the evaluations of six versus twelve workers better. I learned a lot in this series, and I hope you did too.


The Pylon Show

Academic references

[1] Kunda, Z. (1990). The Case for Motivated Reasoning. Psychological Bulletin108(3), 480.

[2] Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many GuisesReview of General Psychology2(2), 175-220.

[3] Ditto, P. H., Scepansky, J. A., Munro, G. D., Apanovitch, A. M., & Lockhart, L. K. (1998). Motivated Sensitivity to Preference-Inconsistent InformationJournal of Personality and Social Psychology75(1), 53.

[4] Epley, N., Keysar, B., Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2004). Perspective Taking as Egocentric Anchoring and AdjustmentJournal of Personality and Social Psychology87(3), 327.

[5] Chen, Z., & Berger, J. (2013). When, Why, and How Controversy Causes ConversationJournal of Consumer Research40(3), 580-593.

[6] Rohleder, M., Scholz, H., & Wilkens, M. (2011). Survivorship Bias and Mutual Fund Performance: Relevance, Significance, and Methodical DifferencesReview of Finance15(2), 441-474.

[7] Eyal, T., Steffel, M., & Epley, N. (2018). Perspective Mistaking: Accurately Understanding the Mind of another Requires Getting Perspective, not Taking PerspectiveJournal of personality and social psychology114(4), 547.

[8] Thompson, J. J., Blair, M. R., & Henrey, A. J. (2014). Over the hill at 24: Persistent Age-Related Cognitive-Motor Decline in Reaction Times in an Ecologically Valid Video Game Task Begins in Early AdulthoodPloS one9(4).

[9] Gelder, T. V. (2005). Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Lessons from Cognitive ScienceCollege Teaching53(1), 41-48.

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