Monday, November 4, 2013

Blog Absence - Dota2 and WoW take over

Well, apologies to anyone who has been reading this, but Dota2 has now taken over my gaming time.  My wife has also dragged me back into World of Warcraft, which I thought myself free of, but when WoW can suddenly become "time spent with the wife", then it's hard to say no...

For anyone interested in getting into or even trying Dota2, which I find to be a great game, it's available for free on Steam, and here are a few good starter Dota2 articles, in order:

In my own words, what's so good about Dota2:
  • It's free to play and free to download.  It's totally free.  Did I mention free?
  • It's a team game.  You can play with friends, and if you lose, it's (usually) not all your fault.
  • Your SC2 micro skills are valuable
  • You get to buy items / collect "loot"
  • Low time block commitment:  A game takes slightly longer than an SC2 game, but it's still a "sit down for a 0.5-1 hour type of game.  Game ends, you walk away and do other stuff.
  • The computer AI doesn't suck.  Well, it does, but it will continue to challenge you for some time to come.  You can also just play games against the "bots" when you feel like winning.
  • Ladder play:  unlike the SC2 ladder, you don't have to know your ranking, so you don't know when you're not achieving the ranking that you think you want.  Instead, you're just placed against another team of similar skill level.
  • Reporting system:  if a player is a jerk, you can easily report his behaviour.  Also, disconnectors / game abandonment is penalized in the sense that people who do that, get placed with others who do that.
  • Lots of variety and gradual skill improvement.  There are 120+ heroes to choose from, meaning you'll get never bored of the choices, and even months after you start, you'll notice you're still gradually improving.
  • There are lots of events to take part in, and professional casts and videos to learn from .

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Zerg Strategy: Stupid mistakes even pros make

I've watched a couple of Day9 dailies and GSL pro games lately, and I was struck by the following mistakes by Zerg players:
  • Making a Spine Crawler wall without any Spore Crawlers for detection
  • Making Spines to protect against marine drops, but no Spore to kill the medivac, such that the marines can just pick up and fly away again.  Spines also suck against upgraded marines, by the way!
  • Poor building placement, and not using buildings to wall off against hellions, for example
  • Failing to spread creep in one's main:  for vision, Queen movement, and so that Spores can be placed to ward off drops and air units
  • Forgetting to retake Xel'Naga watch towers
  • Not building a single Overseer to accompany one's lategame army.
  • Attack-moving up a ramp with one's whole army, leaving all the units except one to dance around trying to attack the one cannon at range instead of mowing through the wall.
  • Overproducing Hydras.  Seriously - Hydralisks suck for almost everything (other than perhaps defense against a Gateway army by Protoss), and even if they help you defend a push or air attack, they are terrible at counterattacking due to their low speed, and should be considered more of a slightly-more-mobile fixed defense.  I think they are even worse than fixed defenses because of their low hp.
  • Moving your Infestors with the same hotkey as the rest of your army.  Nothing gets these expensive, awesome units killed fast than letting them A-move to the front lines and get pulverized without doing a damn thing.
While I don't advocate working on this at the expense of your macro if you haven't hit Diamond yet, if you're going to fix a few last things about your game play, do these too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Zerg Build Orders You Really Shouldn't Try

I just watched a GSTL match between Zenex and OGS, where the Zerg player, with the match on the line, used a Roach-Hydra based army in a ZvT.

Why is this a bad idea?  Simply put, Terran almost always uses Tanks against Terran, and Roaches die quickly to tanks, and don't even do well against upgraded marines because Roaches are too big to get a good position against the tightly-packed marines before they lose too many of their number.  Worse, Roaches are nice beefy units, but aren't very supply-efficient.  Thus, using Roaches in the later stages of the game is a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Starcraft 2 - Remembering What "All-In" Means

Ever try an all-in, and then think you can come back from it?  There is no better way to frustration and the desire to BM your opponent than the thought that his build is unfair because your all-in failed and you couldn't come back from it.

This situation happened to me the other day when I did a Roach/Ling all-in against a Protoss FFE and then railed at the unfairness of a 2-Stargate FFE build.  Now - if I had made Hydras, this would be much less of a problem.  However, after spending that much gas on Roaches, and cutting economy to get enough Roach/Ling produced, there's no way to truly come back from mass Void Rays - Spore Crawlers get picked off gradually, as do Queens.  The Void Rays deny anything else until you get swarmed by Gateway units (even just Zealots + Voids will kill you at this point).

What you have to remember when you choose that strategy is that if it fails, and you can't continue to push because he's hard-countered you (meaning his units will just crush yours no matter what you do), you might as well leave the game right then.

Monday, November 7, 2011

FFE and the Roach All-In

I've come across a dilemna regarding the Protoss FFE - at the time you decide to all-in, you cannot tell if they are going double Stargate (your Overlord won't be there in time).  If you try to Roach-Ling all-in the Stargate build, you will lose, because you won't have enough to stop that many Void Rays (even multiple Queens die too fast to that many Voids).  Even if you do a lot of economic damage and balance the scales, 5-6 Voids will take your base apart.  Throwing up a ton of Spores doesn't work because they can simply avoid them or pick off buildings outside your Spore Coverage.  Your only way out is to build Hydras, which requires a Lair, which you won't have if you tried a Roach attack.

I suspect Protoss players are gravitating towards this build because it forces Hydras, which are slow, cannot counterattack worth crap, and are vulnerable to Zealots (which Protoss can make after spending all their gas on Void Rays).

Time to give up the Roach-Ling all-ins...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Starcraft 2: How Platinum is Different From Gold

Well, I've played a LOT of Starcraft 2 over the past 3 weeks, and what do you know?  I got promoted to Platinum in Season 4.  Yay me!

Now I have a whole new set of problems.  First, I'm losing a lot more.  No one likes losing. Most of all, I'm losing to "early air strategies" against Protoss and Terran.  But WHY am I losing?  I'm losing because:

I'M NOT SCOUTING PROPERLY!

What does this mean?  It means that I scout too late, don't scout BOTH the front AND the main base itself, and I don't Baneling Bust against tech builds, which should be a tool in my arsenal.

Scouting the front is important because it will tell you things like army composition, and it will tell you about impending early-aggression builds such as Hellions.  It will also tell you whether your own early aggression will pay off, such as "how many bunkers or cannons or spines did he build?".  I suggest scouting the front at the 4, 5, 7 and 10 minute marks, at minimum.

As a Zerg, you should be floating an Overlord into your opponent's main base at about the 30 supply mark, which should give you an idea about his tech.  If you're smart about the direction your Overlord comes from, he should see SOMETHING before being shot down.

Taking Xel'Naga towers is another important one.  I lost a game because I Roach-Rushed RIGHT BY A TOWER I didn't hold, giving my opponent the time to build Bunkers and Marauders, and then crush me with Banshee harass and a follow-up Marine-Tank push.  /facepalm

So... while Macro got me to Platinum, it's not going to get me into Diamond unless I get smarter about scouting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Starcraft 2 - Macro DOES get you Promoted

After struggling for two seasons to improve my league ranking, I've finally finished the season at Rank 2 Gold, and I'm now regularly playing (and beating) Platinum-rank players.

What changed?

Okay, MAYBE I've got better game awareness, and I've been playing more smoothly.  I've stopped making some mistakes, and learned what builds I can get away with.

However... my secret is MACRO.

As Zerg, I've been nailing my injects, and this has allowed me to spend my resources.  I couldn't believe how much of a different this made.  For Terran or Protoss players, that would mean constant SCV / Probe production, and building enough production structures to match income.  I just find that I have more stuff, and never get that moment of "Omg, how does HE have so many troops?".

The second secret to Zerg macro that no one mentions is EXPAND AGGRESSIVELY.  Don't worry so much if you can absolutely defend the expansion - most of the time, when you can afford the minerals to expand, it's time to expand.  This step is similar to Protoss or Terran building more Gateways or Barracks/Factories.  Hatcheries provide more larvae, which allow you to spend resources.  Zerg also needs to aim for AT LEAST 70 DRONES, and since you only want 22 drones per hatch (16 on minerals for minimum saturation and 6 on gas), that means you want at least 3 bases mining by midgame.

Some practice suggestions:
- Play against the Very Easy computer, and try to get maxed on Roaches by the 13-minute mark.  Yes, it is possible.  Doing this will give you a sense of what your drone / expansion / queen timing should be when you're powering (for e.g. vs. a FFE Protoss).
- Play against the Very Easy computer and try to get as many Drones out before the 9-minute mark, which is when a Protoss FFE build will start generating any significant number of attack units.
- Play some custom games against your worst matchup.
- Watch your replays.  Focus on one aspect at a time.  It's a lot easier to notice your mistakes when you're not in the game.

But most of all, PLAY THE DAMN LADDER.   Many people are nervous to ladder, but keep this in mind:  if you're losing, you're getting closer to playing people of your skill level, which will be more fun than getting crushed all the time.  Also, you never improve as much as when you're playing against people that are better than you.