StarCraft 2: Confessions of an APM Spammer
There are several misconceptions about Actions Per Minute (APM) and spamming. Many players are under the impression that skill in Starcraft II is based on how fast you can move your hands. If this were StarCraft: Broodwar and they were attempting to compete with the likes of Nada or Jaedong, that would be partially true. However, those guys play at such a high level that they actually to move their hands at Chuck Norris-like speeds. With many of the changes made from StarCraft: Broodwar to StarCraft 2, the need for 350-400 APM has been removed, even at the pro level. The false belief that fast hands equals skill has led to the common practice of spamming that even some high-level players don’t fully understand. It has also led many players to say things like “You’re just spamming to make yourself look cool.” This isn’t always the case, there is a real reason for the spamming.
First it’s important to define what APM is. In its most rudimentary form APM is a measure of the number of key presses and button clicks a player makes in a minute. “So the faster I can move my hands, the more buttons and clicks I can make.” True, but fast hands don’t do a player any good unless they know which buttons to press and when. This is the underlying idea behind high APM; remembering to do things in-game in rapid succession. There are a number of things to try and remember while playing StarCraft 2 including:
- make one worker at a time (for Protoss and Terran)
- make one unit from each production building (also just for Protoss and Terran)
- use Chrono Boost/Orbital Command/Spawn Larva
- micro units
- make defenses
- make Pylons/Supply Depots/Overlords
The list of things to remember goes on and on.
Memory is one of the major skills that differentiates bad players from increasingly better ones. The more things a player remembers to do, the better a player will be. But again, fast hands don’t remind players to do these things. So, spamming buttons randomly as fast as you can won’t improve your memory. However, here are two ideas that can help improve your in-game memory. What worked for me was a sticky note on my monitor near where the minimap appears that read “Puke Larva, Spread Creep, Scout, Upgrades.” Those were the things I most commonly forgot to do. Each time I looked at my minimap I was reminded to make sure I did those things. For others it might be easier to use one of the build order testers (YABOT or QXC’s) to focus on one particular aspect at a time then incorporate each into their play. Set a goal such as only focus on using the Queen’s Spawn Larva ability. So load up one of the build order testers, get two Hatcheries up, make two Queens and do nothing else but puke up those Larva. Don’t worry about a specific build or a making units. The purpose is to get familiar with the timing of the Spawn Larva ability. Once this timing becomes more of a habit of checking the Hatcheries roughly every 40 seconds it can easily be incorporated in to your game play.
So, what’s with all the spamming then? When players adopted the idea that fast hands somehow equates to skill, many players started spamming keys at random in the early stages of the game. They attempted to justify this spamming by claiming it was keeping their hands “in rhythm.” Again, this may be true for the Korean Broodwar players who were peaking at 400 APM. That’s because those guys are quite literally pushing the physical limits of their hands.
In StarCraft 2 many of the spam-like functions that were required in Broodwar are now automated or simplified. This includes things like; worker rally points that cause them to automatically start mining, nearly infinite grouping capability, grouping of multiple buildings and smart casting. As a result of these of changes playing at a very competitive level doesn’t require a player’s hands to push physical limitations. In StarCraft 2 120 APM is more than sufficient to play in the Diamond League. That means two button pushes and/or clicks every second (in “Faster” game time). Realistically a player doesn’t need to practice moving their hands that fast.
However, there is a legitimate reason for early game spamming if used correctly. That reason is muscle memory. Players who really understand the practical applications of muscle memory in StarCraft 2 are “spamming” actions that they regularly use during a game, not just randomly pressing two hot keys and selecting all of their drones repeatedly. Using Zerg as an example, what a good player’s “spam” might look like is “4, S, Z, Z, Z.” That’s 4 for a Hatchery hotkey, S for Select Larva, and Z for Zergling. One common thing I will do is attempt to select just three Drones from a crowded area of my mineral line. That’s because three is the number of Drones I (usually) want to send to the Extractor. Note that this isn’t just random pressing or selecting. These actions are practice for things that will actually be used in a game. Practicing useful actions in-game will reduce the number of misclicks, fat-fingering and other mechanical errors while increasing mouse accuracy.
With this in mind, go forth and spam, but with purpose!
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