Let's be honest—I suck at Starcraft. I have played ~7-10 hours a week for almost two years now, and I don't have any superpowers. I wasn't the one who figured out that Zerg could get away making a third base in ZvP before 5:00. I never even considered forge fast expanding before I saw someone else do it. And the recent shift away from marine/tank to marine/marauder/hellion pushes in the early game in TvZ? Caught me flat-footed.
There are people who figure out these things, and I am not one of them. Most likely, you aren't either. It's not that big of a deal. I still win quite a lot.
I am a top-ranked Diamond player, which means that I'm probably around top 5%(-ish) of players in North America. What that means in terms of core skills:
- I have really good pattern recognition—I can recognize what I'm seeing and determine what it means. If there is an army approaching, I can quickly assess its strength and determine whether my army can beat it or not.
- I have a pretty good gut. RTS games are complex, and mid-game decisions must weigh many criteria. Your brain is too busy in mid-game to do a thorough analysis of possible choices—it's important to make snap decisions on gut.
- I have reasonable, but not perfect, mechanics. Mechanics, in RTS, refers to your mechanical ability to perform tasks. Having good mechanics is akin to typing at 100 WPM, or being really efficient at your core tool of choice, whether Excel, Gmail, or XCode. In Starcraft, this refers to my APM (# of actions my hands/brain can perform per minute) and my ability to stay on top of repetitive tasks like building probes and pylons.
- I suck—suuuuuuuuuck—at strategic innovation. I do not come up with brilliant new approaches to problems. I am good at understanding strategy when it is laid out in front of me, but when asked to chart my own course at the highest level, I don't have a great compass.
Here's the thing. It turns out that innovative strategic thinking—having a brilliant "new idea"—doesn't count for all that much. Sure, if you're a pro player and you roll out a new strategy at a major tournament you might get some wins to your name that you wouldn't have had before. But there is an incredibly rich Starcraft community, and as soon as players see something new and cool, they immediately dissect it. Within a few days, every noob on the ladder (that would be me) will be executing that strategy that took you two weeks and 60 hours to perfect.
Sound familiar? It should.
In startups, as in Starcraft, execution counts for far more than strategic brilliance. Oddly, people obsess over the strategic, and gloss over the fundamentals. But whether you're a professional gamer or a total noob, your ability to win games is primarily dependent on skills that come with practice—pattern recognition, gut instinct, and mechanics. Especially mechanics. Mastering core skills for your race is the most important thing you can do to improve your win percentage.
So play a lot of games. Build probes and pylons. Study your replays and look for mechanical breakdowns. Eliminate them. You will start to win a lot. Stop pondering, pontificating. Don't make a single post on the TeamLiquid forums (or Hacker News). Just go out and Do.
You will always suck. You will always be awash in a sea of uncertainty, questions about paths not taken and strategies untried. That's a given. But that matters less than you'd think. Keep pushing ahead, one game at a time.