Home Editorial Balance Chrono Boost? More like Chrono Boring

Protoss_Chronoboost

Can't tell that anything's happening in this picture? Exactly.

Every race in Stacraft 2 had something added to it to give players something to do in the early stages of the game, plus an engine for macro economy later in the battle’s progression as well. Terrans got the option to build an Orbital Command structure that rains awesome stuff from the sky, while Zerg got a Queen unit that poops out royal jelly and confuses your sexual feelings.* The Protoss, however, got stuck with Chrono Boost, an ability tied to their Nexus headquarters that drastically accelerates almost anything with a progress bar under it. Thanks, Blizzard.

Don’t get me wrong, Chrono Boost is a great ability. It helps worker production, warps in units faster, makes upgrades breeze by, and can even help a Mothership complete in slightly under infinity seconds. Overall, it’s easily the most versatile “macro” ability in Starcraft 2.

The only problem? It’s boring.

Again (and this is an incredibly important distinction), Chrono Boost is not at all bad. It’s quite good, and does a great job helping us Brotoss do everything but build faster. It’s the digital equivalent to cocaine: it speeds everything up with no downsides whatsoever.

But compared to the Terran and Zerg macro skills, Chrono Boost is simply bland. The most obvious reason is that, unlike an Orbital Command Center or a Queen, Protoss players always being the game with a Chrono Boost-capable Nexus. Toss players don’t have to decide when to build, add-on, or research Chrono Boost, and while they do have to carefully manage its timings and the energy required to use it, this applies to Terran and Zerg abilities as well. And while every Terran or Zerg player will always choose to get Orbital Commands and Queens, they have the option not to, which offers interesting options later in the game, such as building a Planetary Fortress to defend more contested expansions. The Protoss equivalent is basically “Guess it’s time to build another Nexus.”

Decisions, decisions

While Chrono Boost is somewhat versatile (since it can work on units or upgrade research), it doesn’t feel versatile in direct contrast to the other races’ options. An Orbital Command is primarily used for MULEs, and they’re pretty cool. They fall from the sky, turbocharge your economy, and provide repairs on the spot if necessary. But those tricky Terrans have other tricks up their sleeves – from the oh so useful Scanner Sweep for instant scouting/detection and the less widely used (but still interesting) supply drop, which has its own economic and strategic benefits.

On the Zerg side, Queens are (in)famous for being multitaskers, providing a key resource (larvae), increasing unit mobility with Creep Tumors, and infusing wounded… organisms… with additional health. Thus, just like Terrans, Zerg players must balance Queens’ energy use, ensuring they don’t get caught with their chitinous plating down when enemy action moves them off creep or in a situation where a last second heal would make or break a battle.

Then there’s Chrono Boost, which has one use and only one use.** Got some energy stored on your Nexus? I’ll bet you dollars to dropships it’s going to be used on Chrono Boost, because you don’t have a fucking choice. While it would have been really easy for Blizzard to give the Nexus an additional skill or give Chrono Boost additional (perhaps unlockable) uses, they decided not to because they hate giving Protoss players upgrade options.† Why not add a second Nexus ability that can grant a single unit a temporary movement speed boost, or temporary hardened shields? How about an Upgrade that allows a Nexus to cloak itself, or any Probes in its vicinity? While these abilities would require a lot of balancing considerations, none of them would be ridiculous if paired with a reasonable energy cost. This is particularly true when one considers that Terran must weigh the information and power of a Scanner Sweep with the implicit economic losses incurred by using it.

Lastly, Chrono Boost is boring because just fucking look at it. You hit Chrono Boost and use it on a building, and the building glows and ripples a little for 20 seconds. No giant-ass packages slamming into the ground from orbit. No larvae crawling around or disgusting tumors being birthed directly into the ground. It just makes your buildings shiny.

Much ado about nothing

More than likely, Blizzard won’t be changing Chrono Boost or giving the Protoss any new ability options until Heart of the Swarm. Even then, odds are they’ll just add Corsairs back into the game and call it a day. But if anyone over there happens to be reading this, perhaps they could pity Protoss players and drop something their way, even if it’s just being able to Chrono Boost Interceptor build time so Carriers are 5% less useless. Please?

* It’s half bug, half human, all nightmare fuel.
**
It also increases passive building shield regeneration by about 50%, which is approximately 0% useful.
† See: Phase Cannons, Flux Vanes, and the much beloved Kaleidoscope Amulet. More precisely: Terran have ~37 upgrades; Protoss have ~23.

13 replies to this post
  1. Starcraft II is designed to be a sport. You’re not the only one to feel like this WiNG, even Blizzard people have this issue of good/efficient/balanced vs fun. You might want to have a look at this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/34075/Interview_Making_The_Fun_Meant_Taking_Out_The_Fun_In_StarCraft_II.php
    I find it interesting that even at the top of Blizzard there is this dilemma.

    Also, Chrono Boost is the only ability, but it can be quite flexible. Typically the choices of abilities in Queens/Orbital Commands are economic vs military. Chrono boost can do both. That’s probably why it’s all alone: the choice is where you click with the ability.

    • Really interesting article but I wish they went on to explain more about what makes something a sport. He mentions in one sentence that it can’t be too complicated to understand and allows for skill differentiation, though that doesn’t really explain why Protoss tech is overall more boring than Terran tech.

      Though I do have some guesses that it’s directly tied to the fact that this “chapter” of SC2 is Terran centric.

      • This Terran “chapter” definitely has something to do with it, but it’s also a question of opinion. True, Chrono boost isn’t awesomely fun, but things like utilizing forcefields in creative ways, high templars, dark templars, the warpgate mechanic are all really fun things in my book. Do you play Protoss? I mean, if you find Terran more fun, why don’t you just go for that? (I myself have a big issue because there’s key elements of each race that I find awesome, so I can’t seem to decide).

      • I do play Protoss mainly because I find the units to be cooler. It always irked me to play Terran because it just reminds me of space marine FPS stuff I don’t care about!

      • To me, what makes SC2 a good RTS is that it’s much leaner than most other games in the genre, which are frequently bloated with pointless features that are just there to be “fun” or “cool.” I get the feeling that developers are often uncomfortable designing straight-up game systems which are fun in how they allow players to express strategies, and feel the need to “implement the fun” by adding in some feature or another which is theoretically “fun to use,” but which ultimately impedes the purity of the game. I give Blizzard a lot of credit for not going down that route, and have a feeling that this is what the fellow in that interview was struggling with.

      • I guess I feel like they went that way with Terran, giving almost every unit in their roster 1 or 2 upgrades, while making Protoss closer to a “set it and forget it” race.

      • Protoss are definitely a bit too straightforward, it makes them a bit dull to play against too, but I think that’s a result of leaning the game out a little too far, which I’m still chill with because it’s better than fattening up the game with crap, not partly because it’s an easier problem to correct.

  2. I think that Chrono Boost was meant to make Protoss tech more streamlined, so that you didn’t have to go through an entire mental map just to arrive at a conclusion every single conflict. It’s easy to grasp, essentially, but I also understand your gripes about the singularity of composition. Where every other race can choose their battle style, Protoss is often forced to have only a handful of tactical options, mainly because of it’s effectiveness.

    Can’t wait for Heart of the Swarm :D

  3. Chrono boost may be boring but I don’t get why blizzard would ever change a well balanced mechanic just because it is boring. It just is unique in the fact you invest it in tech, economy, and millitary depending on what you use it on instead of deciding which building to use.

    • Good point, though I guess I feel that adding a second ability to the Nexus and leaving Chrono Boost unchanged would not inherently negatively affect CB.

  4. I dont think adding a second ability that uses energy wouldnt change the simple fact that Protoss are effectively shafted without Chrono Boost. Without it Protoss produces works at the same rate that Terran does, but they dont get the economic advantage of a Mule to help boost their economy, so Protoss falls behind on the economy side of things in the early/mid game.

    Couple that with the fact that there are many, many scenarios where having chrono boost available is the only way your going to hold off a rush from your opponent. Chrono Boost might not be exciting but Protoss would be at a massive disadvantage without it.

    So even if you added a second ability, would it ever be used? I doubt it…

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