The Shokz Guide, Starcraft 2 Guide

Starcraft 2 APM Guide

This acronym stands for actions per minute and it slowly became a standard in measuring speed in RTS games, determining how fast a player can react to a situation and how good he is in performing the multitasking roles. APM and its importance passed through three stages: First it was ridiculed, second it was violently opposed, third it was accepted as being self-evident.

Just like its sequel, StarCraft 2 is a game where speed plays a very important role, although the new features have toned down a bit the mad need for lightning speed reflexes. Nevertheless it is a good indicator about one’s ability to perform all the required tasks in a brief period and its importance was confirmed by Blizzard itself who included it in the replays.

First of all there is one aspect that must be explained for the very beginning, about the way APM should be calculated in StarCraft 2. The number displayed in the replay is intended to show the actions per minute in a normal game, but since all games in the ladder system are played on the Faster games speed it’s required to multiply this number with 1.33. For example if the replay shows an APM of 100 it is in fact 1.33 * 100 = 133. Piece of cake.

Calculating the value is one thing, but deciding if this value is enough to stay competitive or if it matters at all, requires a more in-depth analysis. Players in the lower division such as Bronze/Silver are seldom surpassing the 40 APM barrier which is of course very low and the ascent to 100+ proves to be very steep. While not important in itself, a low APM proves that a player is not focused enough to fulfill all the needed actions and slacking has a detrimental effect on the economy, while making micro management virtually impossible.

Lots of players are concerned about their current APM and puzzled about the ways to improve it greatly and fast. I recall the answer given by a friend of mine returning from the World Cyber Games while being asked (a rather silly question): “How can you achieve the APM of a Korean Progamer, during a WCG match?” His reply was :“I don’t know the key of success, but the key of failure is trying”. While surpassing certain high limits is a very slow process with only moderate success, there are a few tricks for beginners to greatly improve their APM.

First of all make sure you maximize the use of hotkeys, which allow you to perform with a single click processes that would otherwise require extra seconds, while diverting attention from the heat of the battle. Training units by pressing the right key has huge benefits especially in late game when there are a lot of other actions to be executed. Rally points will insure a steady flux of troops and will provide reinforcements for your army. Make sure you learn all hotkeys even though you are accustomed with using the mouse for such tasks, cause on the long run the shortcomings will be severe.

Another common sense advice is to have your army on hotkeys ranging from 1-3, ideally separated in specialized groups. By doing so you can easily attack and retreat the desired units, while allowing other units to inflict damage or take out specific targets. It’s pretty much impossible to perform even the most simple Micro maneuvers if you have the entire army in a bulk or even worst, unassigned. Guiding the entire group is of course more important, so it will prevent you from controlling an individual unit.

Having your Command Center on a hotkey (most players use 4 or 5) will allow you to build SCVs all the time, send Mules and Scan an area in a split second. All these actions have a beneficial effect on your APM both directly and indirectly because you have a lot of time to direct your troops, attack or build other units instead of scrolling with the mouse all the time. Make sure you are confident about the way you set up control groups, because as you play more it’s going to be increasingly difficult to operate changes. Basically it’s very important to stick to your choice regarding units and structures assigned to 1-5, which you’ll be extensively using in the future.

All these common sense rules should be followed for the simple fact they greatly improve your games, and rising the actions per minute in the process is just a cool side effect. The lower the current APM the greater the increase, while above a certain level of skill and experience the progress will be much slower and there is nothing much you can do about it, but play a lot. Top players have very high APM simply because they have great game awareness and don’t forget to fulfill actions most average players execute with delay.

For intermediate players, the fear of having a low APM is worse than the low APM itself for it diverts attention from what should be done and gives way to temptation of spamming. Remember that pointless clicking and mindlessly shifting between control groups has no benefits on the long run and APM spamming is the rookie’s imitation of strength. A low number of actions per minute is the game’s way to tell you that you’re slacking, and fooling the counter won’t bring more victories.

There are ways to increase APM by doing the right things and they revolve around actions that make sense and have a beneficial effect on the gameplay. Building workers around the clock is important but in order to have no downtime it pays off to constantly select the Command Center to check up on the building cycles. Since there is pretty much nothing else to do early game, shifting between the SCV building structures, and checking up building cycles on both Command Center, Barracks etc improves APM.

By doing this early on, you also get in the mood for a fast paced game and when other tasks arise it will be easier to maintain focus on these elements and keep producing units without delays. Scouting is something newcomers should be very centered on as well and by right clicking multiple times instead of setting a far rally point prevents the scout unit from being killed, also increasing APM. Useless to say that keeping your army in tight groups when attacking is better achieved by guiding your troops each step of the wait with multiple clicks or by ordering them to attack a dark area just a screen away.

In conclusion, the concern about high APM and the never ending quest to achieve this is not necessarily bad, but definitely over-hyped. Fewer than an average of 30 APMs should raise the alarm even for newbies, who should try and follow these basic rules, but from 80 and above, practice and focus are the only ingredients in the recipe for a steady growth. As long as the average APM is above a minimal value and things get done without delay, it is perfectly possible for a player with less actions per minute to defeat one with higher APM. Top Diamond players know that efficiency is intelligent laziness and being capable of delivering a spike of high APM when it is mostly needed weighs heavier than a high average APM count.

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