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What Makes a Unit Interesting?

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We like control. We like being able to make a unit act in a very specific way to utilize its full potential. It's frustrating when units don't respond in the way we would like or work in a non consistent or non obvious way.

Sometimes this control manifests in a unit's movement. Zerglings, mutalisks, terran bio, blink stalkers, and phoenixes are a good example of this. These units all move very quickly and allow for very precise control. While they are not always the strongest units in terms of raw head on combat - it is usually possible to surgically implant them onto the map where they will do the most damage.

On the other hand we have units that are basically as immobile as can be - but serve another role in such a strong capacity that the player is rewarded for their forethought, strategy, and general positioning rather than their ability to make a lot of rapid decisions in the thick of things. Good high templar use includes pre building one at various expansions and spreading them out before the battle starts. Sometimes this may include harrass via a warp prism but that's the combination of a slow unit and a fast to get a more interesting effect. You're not really going to be able to backstab someone's base with HT due to their slow speed.

But because units like templar, colossus, immortals, siege tanks, broodlords, infestors allow the player so much control in other areas (think killing units) their relatively immobile nature is acceptable.

Control is not just movement or positioning. Control is the ability for the player to influence the course of the game in a specific way whether that's through high mobility, massive raw strength, or another factor.

So what makes a unit boring? There are two main factors.

First, boring units tend to fulfill one or two roles extremely well and do little else which makes their role in the game well defined and also very constrained. Corruptors are probably the best example of this. They kill air units. Sure, they have another spell but even that is so simple and well defined a bronze player knows exactly when to use it almost all the time. This leads to a unit that gives a lot of control to the player (corruptors are good anti air) but are not terribly interesting or add much to gameplay because they are so simple.

The second, and worse factor that makes units boring is when they don't allow the user enough control over the game to warrant their production over other units. Or when their weaknesses are not outweighed enough by their strengths. Thors, battlecruisers, ravens, hydralisks, void rays, and carriers all come to mind. Of course, each of these units has at least one place where it 'fits' - but in general each of these units is too slow, too costly, too hard to get, or simply not good enough at what it's supposed to be good at to be useful in most situations.

Thors and BC's seem to generally fall under the 'not strong enough to justify their strength'. While Thors and BC's don't suffer from much disadvantage beside long build time, high tech and slow movement they are generally not strong enough in a head on engagement to warrant production. On the other hand a unit like the colossus which has disadvantages abound - also has an even greater number of advantages to compensate and ensure its use.

The fix? I'm not sure - but it's something to think about.


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  1. mDuo13's Avatar
    I tend to agree, but I'm trying to decide where the Zealot fits. The more I watch, the more I feel like it is similar to siege tanks' appeal insomuch as it works really well when properly placed, and really badly otherwise. I mean, it's not obvious compared to tanks, but Zealots deal and absorb a whole lot of damage for their cost.

    I think you're also overlooking units' aesthetics, which have quite an impact on appeal. That's why BCs and Carriers have fans, but Corruptors don't.
  2. 1's Avatar
    I like Marines. Good units.
  3. bigmangriff's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by 1
    I like Marines. Good units.
    A simple man, but he knows what he likes!
  4. coL.qxc's Avatar
    Zealots fall under the category of: slow/immobile enough that you can't put them everywhere - but strong enough that it doesn't matter.

    BC's and carriers were cool units in broodwar - especially carriers that saw a lot of use pvt while both have been 'meh'd' in sc2