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I feel like my main deficiency is that I have a hard time with the multitasking required. Specifically, when I have troops in the field, especially more than one group of units, I tend to not keep up with building (structures and units) and my resources just sit there, wasted.

What strategies can I use to keep up with building structures and units while I'm coordinating my troops across the map?

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7 Answers

up vote 46 down vote accepted

StarCraft is partially a game of processing information. Multitasking is one of the main skills you improve while playing.

First, you need to use hotkeys. Use them to quickly get information on production status and jump to different groups.

With SC2, hotkeys can bind to multiple buildings or groups and you can use the Tab key to tab between them. Personally, for Terran, 1 is for command centers, 2 is used for my initial initial scouting SCV and then for general unit usage, 3 is always barracks, 4 is always starports and factories. 5 through 8 become groups of units in the mid- and late-game.

The above scheme lets you tap 3 and 4 to see production status of the army. Do this and, if you don't see white dots underneath the green building icon in the bottom console, start building something. (What to build is another discussion.) Cycle between your hotkeys to move units and check on production status.

Don't forget that double-tapping hotkeys takes you to the group, Ctrl and a number assigns the group, and Shift and a number adds units or buildings to the group.

Next, you really, really need to pay attention to audio cues in the game. Make sure to turn the music off so you can hear them more clearly.

Finally, note that Space takes you to where the action is. Did you year "Our units are under attack?" Hit space, and you'll be taken to the action. Or maybe you'll remember which hotkey you assigned that group and you can double-tap it.

Hope that helps :)

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13  
It's simply impossible WITHOUT hotkeys –  Ivo Flipse Aug 7 '10 at 9:00
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While I agree with everything else in here, I personally disagree with turning off the music. Improving your skills through practice is all well and good, but purposefully making the play experience worse just to gain a tiny edge makes me think you're focusing on the wrong things. It's a game - have fun and enjoy it! –  Mag Roader Aug 7 '10 at 13:21
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@Mag Roader Turning off features to focus on the action is pretty common in the pro gaming world. I've watched a bunch of top Quake/other FPS players in action and they have every possible graphics option turned down to the point where it resembles the original wolfenstein more than a modern FPS. They do this partially to maintain a constant ridiculously high frame rate, but they told me they also do this to reduce visual clutter. –  Mike Akers Aug 31 '10 at 15:44
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There isn't a good answer for this but I'll give you some of what I've found helps

  • Don't focus on your army so much, when you send it out stay focused on your base
  • When you're just about to make a push is a good time to expand (your opponent will be pushed back)
  • While you're in the middle of a battle build a couple workers. New units usually won't get there in time (or you'll be capped on unit production), so its a good time to add in workers to rebuild after an assault (or defense).
  • Hot key your buildings, with Multiple Building Selection its really easy to have your production running from a distance
  • Make your pushes right after upgrades finish
  • Always set your rally points, even if its just to the nearest choke.

I hope these help.

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I have to disagree with the first one. Your base should be managed mainly by hotkeys but you have to keep the focus on your army. If you make one little mistake with unit positioning, or your enemy gets the jump on you, the game could be over for you assuming your economies are roughly equal. –  Lotus Notes Aug 9 '10 at 17:19
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@Carl While intuitively your assessment makes sense, years of experience in Starcraft Broodwars shows just the opposite is true. The penalty for messing up your economy compared to the penalty for messing up your micro is actually larger. What's more, most of the time your focusing on your army it is merely moving from point a to point b, where as your economy should need constant attention. –  tzenes Aug 9 '10 at 18:36
    
I guess it depends which race you play. For zerg, you are definitely correct, but an unprepared protoss army may be as good as dead if your force fields/guardian shields are not up or your templars get sniped before you can psi storm. Or if your siege tanks aren't set up yet. Upvoted your post. The only 'base' thing that cannot be entirely remote controlled is the actual placement of buildings and possibly telling certain workers to go on gas, everything else can be done through hotkeys in the heat of battle. –  Lotus Notes Aug 9 '10 at 23:35
    
@Carl use @tzenes to make sure I'm pinged on these comments. We're not talking about in the middle of battle. 90% of controlling your force doesn't require any attention at all. This is why the comment says "Don't focus on your army so much." It goes on to say that when you send it out (not when it engages the enemy) stay on the base. This is due to the fact that you don't need to follow your army until it gets close to the enemy. I think you're really missing this point. –  tzenes Aug 10 '10 at 1:28
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@sjohnston if you look at the replays I linked they're all top pro players. Focusing on your base is universal across skill levels –  tzenes Sep 17 '10 at 15:42
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In addition to most everything a paid nerd said, I would add a couple things.

Playing StarCraft well is similar to driving a car well. You need to pay attention and check your mirrors a lot to ensure you're fully aware of everything that's going on. With practice, you can get into a nice rhythm of checking on the fight, checking your building production, glancing at your base, and throwing up new buildings.

Specific things to watch out for:

  • Are your workers idle? There is an icon in the bottom left that pops up whenever that happens. To help avoid them going idle, use Shift to queue up actions such as "Build a Factory, then go back to the minerals."
  • Are your buildings building units?
  • Do you have too many resources in the bank? If you start to get high, you likely need to produce more, which may mean more production buildings.
  • Are you running low on supply?
  • Did you accidentally leave a bunch of units sitting next to your buildings?
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Have you tried getting gold medals in the single-player challenges? They are designed to help you become a better starcraft player, and especially the last 3 challenges might be just the sort of practice you're looking for.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the only thing you can do to improve your macro (building economy + units is known as macro) is to

KEEP PRACTICING! :)

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Just to add a little to a paid nerds' excellent answer: learning all the hotkeys, for building various units is also very important. So you can be in the middle of a fight, quickly tap you barracks shortcut key, crank out a few more units by bashing A (marine) and D (marauder), then tap your units short cut key and you're back in the fight!

In all, even without practice, that's ultra fast. Getting the hang of this was a bit of an eureka moment for me.

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Aww, thanks! :D –  a paid nerd Aug 10 '10 at 7:32
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If you want to improve your multitasking, the best way, is practice. For good practice, I recommend giving the "multitasking trainer" map a try.

http://www.sc2mapster.com/maps/multitasking-trainer/

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This thing is a great resource - definitely gets your brain in "multitasking" mode (also panic mode). –  sjohnston Sep 14 '10 at 16:11
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There is the grid option in hotkeys which helps a lot (especially on my ergonomic keyboard)

What does Grid do

When you select Grid every button in the Bottom Right is assigned to match the following layout

q w e r t
a s d f g
z x c v b

For example: if you're in your hq press q to build scv or if you have units selected use t for attack-walk (don't remember the correct name)

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