Micromanagement usually refers to when players take direct control of particular aspects of the game especially the control of units in battle. If the player is expected to micromanage many trivial aspects of a game it can often be seen as something negative. The level of control afforded to the player is often different depending on the game and genre.
Microing is often done in contrast to macroing; the building and managing of bases and armies. Good players can switch between macroing and microing to achieve optimal results in both strata of the game. This multitasking between microing in battle or harass and base management to produce armies etc is the mark of a good player.
Many games especially Warcraft 3:The Frozen Throne and Starcraft: Brood War involve high amounts of micromanagement and thus micro is seen to be integral to a players skill within the game.
A measure of APM (Actions Per Minute) is often cited as an indicator of someones micromanagement ability as it is a numeral depiction of the speed at which a player clicks and uses hotkeys during the game. Typically players who perform more actions micro more effectively due to the almost limitless potential that units can be microed to.
Real Time Strategy Games
In RTS games the player might be able to control individual soldiers, or only whole groups of soldiers. Controlling many units and their abilities at the same time, a player with good micromanagement skills will often be able to overcome a superior force.
Micro management involves many techniques some of which are common between games and some of which are dependent on the game engine or specific units.
A typical micro technique is the retreat of weaker units. This is to remove units nearer death from the line of fire to allow more healthy units to take damage. This is effective in that the firepower of an army remains at its initial level and does not deplete when weak units die. Units may also be retreated to be healed, before being put back into battle.
- Starcraft : A Protoss Zealot is a melee unit that can easily defeat a group of three Terran Marines in terms of damage and health points. However since the Zealot must use close range to attack, and the Marines can shoot from a distance, if the player positions the Marines far away from each other, the Zealot is forced to travel longer distances to attack each unit, thus giving the marines more time to attack, and cause more damage. Alternatively the marines could also shoot at the Zealot, and when it got closer, move further away, and repeat the process until the Zealot is killed.
Turn Based Strategy Games
Micromanagement in Turn based games unlike Real time games is vastly different. It, as opposed to being a reflex based action used in battle is more akin to the actual definition of the word 'micromanage'. It typically involves maximizing various aspects in the game (just like RTS micro) using general and more thought out long run analysis (unlike RTS micro) of situations to change various productions of cities or empires to achieve a specific goal.
In games like Civilization, players are allowed to and often forced to micromanage their cities and resources. For some hardcore players it is essential to the game, but to the more casual player it can be an annoyance.
Role Playing Games
The player may want to micromanage the stats and equipment of the various characters.