Downsides of the Advanced Strategic Icons mod


The icon mod does not provide a gameplay advantage, and very likely is actually detrimental to your gameplay.

Every pro at the game either uses all default icons or mostly default icons, and the chance of the icon mod providing a gameplay advantage is slim to none, given that the pros are the best at the game precisely because they are the people most likely to take advantage of things that can provide a gameplay advantage.

As a counterexample, look at the advanced strategic priorities mod. Almost every pro uses it, and some of the very best have gone as far as to set 10+ target priority hotkeys on the most premium hotkeys. That is what would happen if the mod actually provided a gameplay advantage, so it's almost impossible that the icon mod provides a gameplay advantage and all the pros are just all sleeping on it.

If it were the case that using full icon mod was is a matter of personal preference, with no gameplay impact, you would expect some pros to use it. The fact that literally no good player uses the full icon mod should suggest that it is actually a gameplay detriment.

My personal view is that you can use whatever setup you prefer and play the game the way that you enjoy, but just be cognizant of the fact that using the full icon mod very likely provides a gameplay disadvantage.

I'll just list the people I'm aware of on each side of the debate. As far as I am concerned, there is an overwhelming consensus among experts on this topic.

People who use full icon mod:

  • Ruvik
  • Katharsas
  • Wainan
  • Cheeseberry

People who use mostly default icons (only advanced SML/SMD, etc.)

  • ThomasHiatt
  • me 🙂
  • Tagada (when he gets around to it)

People who use full default icons:

  • Blackheart
  • JaggedAppliance
  • Blodir
  • Swkoll
  • and literally every other top player in the game

Maybe "need" isn't the right word. But there are times I prefer to zoom into a part of the map or section of it, whatever, to scan it rather than look at it all the way zoomed out. I haven't noticed or felt any downsides to playing with the mod,

I mean, the game has strategic zoom for a while, so people can zoom in and out as they please. It takes next to no effort, and with Zep's minimap there's no reason not to notice shit going on outside your FOV when zoomed in. I'm constantly zooming in & out.


Some of us can't see sh*t wether we're zoomed in or not, so might as well at least be able to tell if there is a nuke, tml, but it's all preference. its not like we're debating on adding these icons to main game.


I don’t really like the pro player rationale because mainly that proves that default icons are not a detriment rather than modded icons being a detriment. If you are a dude with thousands of hours, you have gotten damn used to the default icons and have no problem telling them apart. Why would you then go and spend the dozens of hours to go get used to new icons that are supposed to make the game more clear when you have entirely adjusted to the default icons? It’s a larger time investment for less gain compared to something like target priorities.

Now if the icon mod was at parity with default icons, you would expect that as it becomes more popular (nearly never saw it talked about prior to 2019 or so) that new high level players would begin to use the stuff. If it made adjusting to get information at a glance quicker, more new top players should be utilizing it. I also notice that a lot of the SMD/TMD icon mod dudes are the players that began to shape up around this era of FAF.

This makes me think that these two schools of thought are generally equal in performance, but I have yet to see anyone play with the full mod at tournament level. Maybe new top level players will show up that fully use the mod to show off that it has hardly any impact who knows.

BUT I imagine that a lot of the more recent top players that have some of the icon mod have tried out the full mod before modifying it themselves, which is probably a bad sign for the viability of the unadjusted mod.


Can't stand the engies, everything else is ok


I don't understand how highlighting an SMD, SML, TMD or TML and maybe mobile shields / stealth fields can ever be detrimental to your gameplay: you don't have to search for them anymore.

I've played with the icons mod for all my time on FAF, and recently got a new development computer and am still playing without. Still can't find anything of relevance in a base without spending a few seconds scanning it when zoomed in. Surely there's better things to do than that 🙂 .

Icon size can be changed - if they overlap too much you make them smaller. If you don't like some icons then you take them out. I could even see removing the mass storage icons all together as all they do is make me miss-click for the extractor when zoomed out. With the next patch adjusting your icons will become easier than ever as they can be part of a UI mod if I recall correct.

A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned


Playing devils advocate, which was the entire point of the thread to begin with, the argument against highlighting goes as follows:

  • It may highlight the wrong things.
  • Highlighting makes the screen more noisy, making it harder to find the bits of information you are actually looking for.
  • If you live and breathe the default icons, some people straight up don't need highlighting at all. Or to quote Jagged from the discord conversation yesterday: "i literally never have a problem making out any units when i play the game"

As should be clear by now I don't agree with that assessment, possibly because I'm just blind as a bat, but I can understand it. It's basically just an expression of personal preference for or against highlighting.


Imo icons like SML, SMD, TML, TMD ARE hard to spot, whenever I play team games and I need to manage multiple bases I task my dead team mates with finding that stuff because locating a nuke launcher in a cluttered base can take 1 second but can also take 10. I had situations in 1vs1 games where I scanned the base specifically for an SML and didn't spot it aftet like 5 seconds of looking which made the game significantly harder.
However the unit and other buildings icons are just too cluttery for me while I never have any problems with reading the base icons in these situations playing fully zoomed out on 2k resolution.



In general, the argument "more peple use X, so it must be better" is just one of the most common logical fallacies. There is no reason for this to be true. One thing doesn't follow from the other, like at all.

Fomr the single obervation:
""more high rated people use default icons than modded icons"

you try to conjur causality:
"the only possible reason for this is that the icons are bad"

whithout even considering that other reasons for this probably exist.

Most people use what is given to them without changing the defaults. If the deffaults are bad they might or might not notice. They might or might not be aware of alternatives. They might or might not be aware of the options that those alternatives provide.

Once people are invested, they might no longer switch to better icons because of their investment.

If you haven't noticed:
The whole point of this thread is to stop with subjective arguments and fallacies like "these people dont like it so its probably bad" and to use objective arguments instead to actually find the true pros and cons of modded icons.

Please read this:

Now, if you had proper data:

  • Percentage of lower rated players using modded icon
  • Percentage of higher rated players using modded icon

then you could filter that based on date when first game was played so you get a comparable distribution for when those playsers started playing on FAF.

And only then could we start comparing those percentages to try to find out wether usage of modded icons increases with time or with rating or not. But even then you could still not find good causations becasue the mentioned fallacy still applies.

The absolute percentage of how many high rated players use something however has absolutely no value and your argument is just completely invalid.


@jip said in Downsides of the Advanced Strategic Icons mod:

I don't understand how highlighting an SMD, SML, TMD or TML and maybe mobile shields / stealth fields can ever be detrimental to your gameplay: you don't have to search for them anymore.

I know of nobody that considers spare use of icons to make notable structures more obvious to be bad. That requires personally changing game files though, which most people aren’t going to do.


While you are correct in that most people using a thing doesn't imply that said thing is better than any alternative, it does say something, especially when those people are experts in their field.

In fact, I'd say that experts are, by their very definition, typically correct about most things covered by their expertise. Sup Com is no exception to that.

Luckily for us, expertise in Sup Com is very easily quantifiable. Every game and tournament is public, resulting in a binary outcome.
Similarly the opinions of the 20(?) or so FAF pros is also quite accessible as they are all active community members (albeit some more vocal than others).

So when all of the experts do something essentially the same way, e.g. they all use the (mostly) default icon set, it's a strong indication of that being the 'correct' way to do something.

In the absence of further evidence I'd say that just copying what the experts are doing is the way to go.

Of course, experts are not infallible. In the light of new results, their opinions, like any other, should be challenged. This is what I am doing with this thread.

This does not mean that their opinions should just be ignored though! In fact, for something hard to measure like "icon clarity in high level play" their opinions are probably the most important data points we have!

Or in short: Don't discount the experts just because you don't agree with them. Even if you think they are wrong, you can still learn from them 😉


Experts come and go, metas change. Just because the pros of today don't do something, doesn't mean the pros of tomorrow won't. Not even arguing that today's or tomorrow's pros will be better than the other, just that shit changes and sometimes pros can be obstinate to change they don't see as necessary.

Even Tagada agrees finding things like SML can take more time than you want to spend looking for it. That was essentially my #1 problem with the default icons. With them, you can scan an enemy base for 1 second and determine if they have a nuke or not, but you're not 100% sure because it can be easy to miss. With the mod, it's pretty damn hard to miss. And to be to honest, with the small icon size I don't really get the whole overlapping issue.

My personal opinion is that on average, the mod is better than default. But it's not perfect, and with Jip's mentioned changes that are coming maybe we can create something that is actually widely accepted to be better than default.

Why would you then go and spend the dozens of hours

Also this is just grasping at straws. It doesn't take dozens of hours to get used to new icons. It tooks me like 2 setons game to fully figure them out. It's not that big of a deal.


Sure, you can go ahead and say that it isn’t even worth the time of playing two sentons games. Doesn’t change the reality that no top player from prior to 2018 uses the mod and they still are regularly topping events. Then ones post 2018 only use very few icons. Either the mod does nothing to make you better, makes you worse, or the players using it are in general worse. Pick your reason.

I’d say it’s gonna take way more than two games for me to get used to them, though. I’ll be hovering over icons to figure out what shit is supposed to represent for a week or something. Not to mention the screens of the mod have shown me that I absolutely cannot play as zoomed out as I’m used to playing.


@FtXCommando It could also:

  • make you better, but only marginally, so that it's not enough to be noticeable yet,
  • make the game easier to learn, but not matter at all you at all once you have mastered it with any icon set.
  • make you better but only in team games, were the competitive pressure just isn't there to enforce optimal play.
  • make you substantially better, and all the experts are just wrong. I don't think this is the case here, but cases like this do actually happen, and have happened in games with much larger price pools and player bases than sup com. See e.g. the Starcraft 1 PvZ Meta.

Top players are the most sensitive to marginal improvement, though. Top players near universally use mods like additional camera and target priorities for these exact reasons. I know of nobody using default ASI. If this marginal improvement exists then you would bare minimum see some sort of gradual increase in players at this tournament level using it but everyone new from Pepsi to Tagada to Farm (new being rising in the last 3 years) doesn’t.

Your 2nd reason holds true if you see more and more new top level players using the mod, but as I said before this only holds true if you classify the dudes using SML/TML icons as users of the mod. I do not. To me, those people are the middle-ground.

The 3rd point doesn’t make sense to me. If something is casual, it really doesn’t matter what you do or use. I use tournaments because there is an incentive for people to put their all into the games well beyond even the effort put into things like ladder. If the potential gains aren’t going to matter in the place where everyone is deeply incentivized to play as well as they possibly can, how can it be held that the mod makes you better as a casual player? Don’t you want to follow competitive “meta” if you want to be a stronger casual player?

Can everyone be wrong? Sure. Absolutely. But I don’t think I set a hard burden of proof here really. In fact your example meets my burden of proof as the people that proved the experts wrong did so by beating them at their own game so to speak. If I am wrong, all it takes is dudes using the mod to perform at the caliber of current top players. Until that happens, I’ll go with recommending the traditional medicine.


Cherry picking examples on repeat and presenting them as evidence of the icons being cluttered or not is the epitome of bad faith. It's very easy for someone like me to ignore your example and point out that in your first images, the cyan coloured player is building something using a swarm of engineering drones. On the defalut icon setup the building is visible whereas in the ASI image, the building is completely obscured. It's pretty typical of FAF users to engage in such boring talk that goes nowhere, but you didn't help it by framing your OP this way. Did you come here to learn something or only to argue about your point for 55 cringe ass posts?

Of course you're going to be able to see certain things easier if you abuse the 5 elements of design to blow something out of proportion. When two things are contrasted together, one is easier to see -> and the other is thus harder.

Luckily on this game, you are provided additional information while you play the game in order to help you parse what you need to know.

Let me draw attention to this quote.

Purple also has some battleships but without staring at it for a couple seconds I don't know if purple has 4 or 10.

This took less than a second for me (and others, apparently) to see. Why? Because a decent player can make reasonable assumptions about where or what a battleship would be doing. They're a similar distance away from the enemy fleet in a fragmented line due to their long range. They're definetly going to be behind the frigates but closer to the enemy than the cruisers. You might (read: 100%) have range rings on while you play that help you determine units even better. New (bad) players are fans of this mod because of these two things:

  1. Good positioning won't happen in badkid lobbies and as such these assumptions cannot be made
  2. They do not understand the basics well enough to make said assumption.

And instead need to use this overblown out contrast mod in order to see units "better". God forbid they're not using that dark blue and it's just universally harder to see.

Akin to ecomanager E throttle, It's a crutch that raises your rating a little - because you can see units better in badkid lobbies, but you won't ever learn the basics in order to see things like positioning -> making you a good player overall.

I'll also bring up mexes as an example, albeit one among many:
Theoretically you don't need to scout and see the hideous, blatantly overcontrasted ASI mass icon to know a mex is now t2 while you're playing. This is because the t1 mex "dies" when the upgrade is finished and appears as such until the location is rescouted and the t2 mex is seen. This isn't the case for mass storages, which are also counted as an eco step and should be watched closely in a ladder game or other tight competition.

It's very lucky that you can even see that there are structures next to the mex icon when they're that upscaled. But what about if the mexes are actually pgens? Plenty of players ring their mexes with pgens to gain a boost while upgrading. You probably do it in the build order you've abused for 500 games. The important information is obscured to you unless you zoom in now and look, because the irrelevant MEX icon is so important that it needs to grab your eye despite other factors making it visible,

Let me restate the point im trying to make here with this new information.

  • While the default icons provide a mostly blank slate for you to exercise your fundamental game knowledge, ASI intentionally obfuscates important information to make important what a random modder has deemed important for you to know.

  • You use this overblown and overly emphasised information to compensate for your lack of game knowledge and plateau yourself by using a crutch. This is why I believe that BH claims it is a detriment. Because you would have to then lose rating in order to learn the game properly and you're all too weak of mind to do that.

And before you ignore everything to claim that you can make the assumptions about battleship placement despite your eyes being dragged around by insane contrasting: Even as someone qualified in design, impact from stuff such as colours (You could make everything important ingame red, because your eye catches on faster on average) still affects me. You're not any better. These are innate issues that most people cannot articulate, and is why you didn't know why all the good players don't like the mod.

While i'm here:

katharsas said in Downsides of the Advanced Strategic Icons mod:

common logical fallacies

It's very cute to call out a fallacy and then totally ignore the appeal to expertise in the OP. Luckily this is FAF and i'm already used to seeing rat-like tactics used for personal gain.

cheeseberry said in Downsides of the Advanced Strategic Icons mod:

as a 1.8k global I imagine myself to have a decent understanding of the games fundamentals.

It's also very cute to claim you understand the game and thus ASI is made more valid by your claim, luckily someone pointed this out to me that in fact:

alt text

Grinding out a single map for a high rating leaves you with a warped understanding of the game. A understanding that in fact, might make ASI appear more valid to you.

When you plateau as a 1200 in ladder, please come back to this discussion and consider again why this might be a detriment to your understanding.


@FtXCommando Even top players will skip marginal improvements, if the benefit to implement them is too small or the cost too large. Take hotkey layouts as an example:

The hotkey setups that pro players use, and I mean all of them, are likely suboptimal. Why? Because you can't assign the hotkeys you would actually want due to hotkey overloading not being supported.

If I put e.g. the transport units command on the "T" hotkey I can't assign the launch tac missile command to also be on "T", even though the units that can shoot tac missiles can't transport and the units that can transport can't shoot tac missiles.

The result being that there are like a dozen premium hotkeys on the left side of the keyboard, but if I want to assign hotkeys to everything, as you should for optimal play, you have to use keys like I, K and L for the lesser used stuff. That's just bad.

Afaik, modding the game would actually allow hotkey overloading, but doing so is nontrivial so nobody has done it yet.

The result? Even though there is a small improvement to be gained here, no pro uses an 'optimal' hotkey layout as the cost for doing so would be sitting down for a couple weeks and coding it yourself. That's just not worth it.

The ASI mod could be in a similar spot: If you have thousands of hours in the game it will take you weeks or more to adjust to new icons. And you'd do that for an, at most, small gain, so why bother?

The difference to the target priorities mod is that the target priorities mod can be implemented into your gameplay gradually: If you have it installed, you can completely forget about it until you need it, and even then, none of the old gameplay is changed if you don't want to use it afterall.

An icon change on the other hand can't really be introduced gradually: You either change the icons or you don't, and every time you change a common icon it will be very jarring to players who have years of experience with the default icons.

So, in contrast to the target priorities mod, you can't just forget about ASI and as a pro it will probably have a negative impact on your gameplay for weeks until you get used to it.
(This is one possible explanation for why some pros use only the icons for nukes and so on, as they are probably where ASI is strongest, hence the highest gain, but they also appear very rarely, hence the lowest cost.)

((Also I'd argue that using the target priorities mod gains you more than the ASI mod does, as the former allows you to do things that were literally impossible before, which the latter doesn't))

Regarding a mod's performance in non-tournament games: Consider a mod that, through magic, gives you an extra 200 mass on Astro Crater at the start of the game. I think it's fairly obvious that using this mod would be straight up mandatory if you wanted to be the best Astro player there is, while benefiting you not at all in tournaments.

Also note that I said team games, not casual games. There have been team game tournament and hopefully there will be more in the future, but as of this moment there certainly haven't been enough of them to definitively say that literally every setup detail that's optimal for 1v1 tournaments is also optimal for team game tournaments. In fact, I'd be very surprised if that were the case.

Lastly, saying "time will tell" and "the better players will in the long run" is of course correct. I just don't want to wait until 2025 when a new generation of pros all use ASI 3.0 or something. I want to figure out what's optimal now.


@biass Hmmm. I don't actually know what to say to all this.

I said I don't get it, laid out my reasons why and I had a very constructive discussion with FTX and others about why I don't get it and where I might be wrong.
And it turns out I DID overlook stuff due to my limited experience. Exactly what I came here for!

So could you, instead of calling me shit a player that doesn't know what he is talking about, post some pictures or other evidence instead to prove that I'm a shit player that doesn't know what he is talking about?


Since you had the courtesy of quoting me, ill respond:

The quote from my UI mod guide is "Advanced Strategic Icons: Extremely strong NOT recommended. I would go as far as saying that this mod will completely destroy your ability to improve past a certain level."

In the intro to my guide I write the following: "my focus will be the importance and the impact of those mods on your improvement in 1v1".

Why does your post then keep going on and on about some senton lategame that my post is clearly not intended to care about? Frankly, I dont give a rats ass if there are senton mods that make you perform better on sentons, thats why I didnt got into details about certain eco sharing mods etc. (remember that sentons and 1v1 has basically 0 common ground) The "certain level" I mentioned is also not something low like 1500, 1900, whatever 1v1 rating, since the competition and level of play here is low enough for icon mod differences not to be the deciding factor for a long time. Why I wrote it so strongly is that if you get used to it early on, you wont want to switch to something else once it starts mattering. Choosing the right setup at the beginning has great advantage once you climb really high.

As some others have responded, and as I have myself in the UI mod guide thread, on high level 1v1 it matters exceedingly much to be able to quickly see, target, and analyze unit comps or base structure comps of your opponent. If a mod obfuscates that my opponents mixed army (any army at t3 stage will be mixed in a 1v1) has a t3 mobile arty in it and a t3 MML, its garbage. If a mod obfuscates that the firebase has a misplaced massfab next to a radar cause the radar icon for some reason suffers from obesity, it is garbage.

If a mod makes the simple situations even simpler to tell apart, but obfuscates the relevant situations with complex army comps in an unordered base, its absolutely useless. Its very easy to adapt to the simple situations, and not easy to adapt to the difficult ones. If you manage to make a mod that does both, everyone would gladly use it.

Thats the reason why for example myself & petric and some other top players use private mods. Personally I use a very subtle highlighting for SMD/SML/TML/TMD icons. Your assumption that we are afraid of useful UI layout choices is not correct, its just that the strategic icon mod isnt useful for a good 1v1 player.

Then to clear up some confusion or fear that I think I am seeing in your post: The small icon version of the icon mod wont stop you from being good at sentons, no worries. The things it damages are mostly not relevant to sentons, and probably the small benefits offset the damage on sentons. My UI mod post however was aimed at being good at 1v1 and being good at FA in general, neither of which senton has any correlation with. In general, if you are confident that its good for you, just keep using it. If you arent sure, just dont use it, not a complex decision.

Finally I'm waiting for the new generation of top players who are using the icon mod, just as im waiting (since 2013) for any new generation of top players at all. For some odd reason it has not happened yet, but I'm sure the next 8 years will be different.

Ban Anime


cheeseberry said in Downsides of the Advanced Strategic Icons mod:

So could you, instead of calling me shit a player that doesn't know what he is talking about, post some pictures or other evidence instead to prove that I'm a shit player that doesn't know what he is talking about?

Yes, you'll notice that I posted a stats display of your game history and the rating gain on a per map basis. This should be reasonable proof if you're looking to dispute that.

The stuff that is actually relevant to the conversation, uses images from the OP. My examples reference both battleships and mexes, which can be seen in the first two images.

You would know this if you decided to read more than just the first paragraph.
Can't claim i'm surprised with you at this point. It is FAF after all.