Tuesday, 29 November 2011

My Life for the Koprulu Sector


My story may not be as emotional as Day[9]'s (which is well worth watching) but for anyone who is interested here it is. My two favourite genres have always been role playing and real time strategy games which is why Blizzard has long been one of my favourite companies; their games have defined genres, originally with Diablo and then with StarCraft. The first Blizzard game I played was WarCraft 3 and it's expansion Frozen Throne. From the opening sequence of WC3 I was absorbed by the game, though I only really got into the single player portion of it. I tried to do a skirmish against the computer and I remember having six warriors and six dwarven gunmen lined up all nicely, thinking that I had a really good army, then getting absolutely slaughtered by a massive Undead army with dragons and everything. I also tried a couple of games against real people, thinking that everyone struggled against medium AI, and was completely annihilated so unfortunately never touched it again.

When World of WarCaft came out I wanted to play it for ages and when I found out that some of my friends played I bought it and was totally absorbed for about two months but that was it. When I played WoW I played it a lot but I always felt as though I was wasting my time, so after paying for a month I decided not to renew my subscription. When Diablo 3 was announced my friend made me buy Diablo 2 to 'bide the time' until it's release so we played through that and I really enjoyed it but never became obsessed with it. We are still waiting for Diablo 3.
WarCraft 3 was an amazing game it's a shame I wasn't more drawn into the competitive multiplayer.
I'm very susceptible to getting caught up in the hype mill and with StarCraft 2 it was no different. I applied and got into the beta but only played about two matches before deciding it wasn't for me. I think I played with the wrong mindset, like SC was just another RTS, thinking the bigger the unit the better, that micro didn't matter and I probably only built about fifteen harvesters. Near the end of the beta one of my friends installed it so I played with them and whilst I had the satisfaction of stomping them for a couple of games I still wasn't sure about buying it.

Generally I use IGN for news and when I saw that SC2 had received a nine out of ten praising it's interesting and varied campaign I decided to pick it up just to play the single player; partly because of how memorable I found WC3's. I really enjoyed the campaign and would have been happy to never play again but a friend found out that I had it and challenged me to a game, so I had to accept, and whilst I was easily defeated I'm glad it happened because it gave made me want to get better to beat him. I didn't realise there was a whole pro scene established behind the original StarCraft and how competitive it is.
StarCraft is epic and I can't wait to see how it evolves over time.
Obviously when I first started laddering I was placed in Bronze and it took me ages to work my way out of there but I really wanted to get better. I decided to play Protoss because I liked the look of their advanced technology (lasers pew pew pew) and I liked the idea that they had fewer powerful troops rather than swarms of weaker units. I managed to beat my friend, who was a diamond, a couple of times though he was trying new strategies out.

Eventually I got up to Platinum as a Protoss but by then I was a bit bored of them, and frustrated that the pro Protoss players were all performing poorly, so I decided to switch over to Zerg at the beginning of Season 3. I was probably heavily influenced by watching Destiny. However many of my favourite players are still Protoss despite me having switched away; Huk, NaNiWa and MC to name a few. HuK is Probably the pro I was first really aware of, having seen him play quite often in Husky casts. At the beginning of Season 3 I was placed into Gold as Zerg and never worked my way up though I didn't play as them for that long as I started this blog and switched onto Terran. In the future I'd like to give Zerg another go; I really like their aggressiveness whereas I was super passive as Protoss.
Husky is one of the main reasons I got into StarCraft, along with Day[9]
When I first got into the StarCraft scene I used to watch every video that Husky, Psy and HD would upload and I wasn't a fan of Day[9] at all. My earliest memory of Day[9] is him talking about larva inject timings to get the most larva possible in the Zerg early-game. It was basically him going back and looking at openings over and over again showing the larva and I thought all his videos would be that in depth and boring. Eventually a friend told me to watch #100 and after that I went back and started watching some of his other videos, especially fun-day Mondays, and started to really like Day[9].

Being European it's not convenient to watch Dailies live so I go through phases of watching lots VoDs of them. Nowadays I don't watch casts as much as I used to and watch streams instead; I find it a lot more useful for learning the specifics of a race. My favourite person to watch cast is DeMusliM, because he is good at commentating what he is doing, though recently I have been watching a lot of TLO as DeMu is not around.
DeMusliM is my favourite player though he has been missing from the scene recently.
HuK changing to EG made them easily my favourite team as they have HuK, IdrA and DeMusliM; my favourites of each race. I also really like iNcontroL, more for his contributions to the community and his stream as he is also good at commentating, and less for his, er, ability. The first tournament I watched was the NASL season one finals in which PuMa beat MC in the end; so for ages I didn't like PuMa because I thought he could only win by cheesing. I think that PuMa has shown that he can play macro games too and so I've started to support him since I've gone Terran; before I switched to Terran I could never support one.

Now I watch every major tournament, internet connection permitting, and try to keep up with the leagues though there are too many. I'm trying to get my disinterested house-mates to watch a tournament, so far unsuccessfully, but I've started talking to anyone that will listen about StarCraft so I might convert somebody soon. I think that following teams and players really adds to the experience as I think that having someone to cheer on makes it all the sweeter when they win. I used to just support the Protoss of any game but now it's harder to choose. 
IdrA recently missed one of his own games, watching HuK instead.
Before I switched to Terran I always thought that they were OP and easy however actually playing as them makes me realise that they aren't. In some ways every race is OP it just depends how you use them and there is never a strategy that cannot be overcome. I chose to start playing Terran as it was my least explored race and I thought it would be the most interesting for people to follow my progress with as I discovered it myself. No other game has captured my attention the way StarCraft has, not even WoW, and I don't see that wavering soon. If the community wasn't there I don't think I would still be playing StarCraft and I would be missing out because of it; so I just want to say thank-you all for being so great.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Life in the Middle 26/11/2011

Between MLG, DreamHack and my terrible internet I haven't played as many games as I would have liked to this week but I have uploaded all of my replays to SC2 Buddy so this Life in the Middle comes with added statistics. You can see my SC2 Buddy page here if you have an account. This week I only played thirteen games, winning 54% of them, doing really well against Protoss (75%), all right against Terran (50%) and quite badly against Zerg (40%). Since I've started playing as Terran my overall win versus Terran is 60%, versus Protoss is 49% and against Zerg is just 41%. This week I have managed to climb up to rank 16 from 22 despite not playing all that much, I'm starting to feel ready to move up to Platinum again though I don't think my win to loss ratio is good enough yet.
My aim for next week is to be in the top eight.
The more I play the better I get at drops and the easier I find it to declare a Medivac of Marines already dead and just try to do as much damage as possible; if they survive it's great but at the end of the day it's not that much money for the possibility of causing a lot of damage. Constantly dropping not only has the effect of taking out harvesters or tech structures but also has the psychological effect of making people scared to move out or forcing them to split up their army, making it more manageable. With scan dropping is relatively safe though the scan is often a give away.
Penned in my base this gave my opponent pause for thought.
I always thought that you shouldn't use mech against Protoss because Chargelots, blink Stalkers and upgraded Colossus can close the gap and take out Siege Tanks easily but recently I have been incorporating them into my mid game and having more success than usual. I have been opening 2 Rax against Protoss because I was having trouble with early four gate pushes. This allows you to enough troops to stay alive whilst giving you the option to expand or go Factory/Starport tech or just add more barracks and go for the jugular. Apart from Siege Tank's obvious use I think that they are a good addition to a Terran army because it means that you have to spread out your units in a line for defence, which is great against storms and Colossus splash. Leapfrogging Siege Tanks forwards means that you are more likely to move slowly and carefully and less likely to be too greedy.
I'm terrible at leaving all my bio units in a massive ball and being caught off guard.
Against Terran I seem to have forgotten what I was going on about last week; air control really is vital for success. Both of the games I lost were fundamentally down to me not controlling the skies and so being susceptible to slow tank pushes as I didn't have enough scans to prevent them. When you are contained in your base by Siege Tanks then dropping is often all you can do to try and get your opponent to recall their forces or at least to intercept reinforcements and take out SCVs. As a Terran there is nothing more terrifying than having a nice contain set up around your opponent, thinking that nothing can get out, to find that three Medivacs full of Marines and Marauders are dropping in your main and forcing you to pull back or at least divert reinforcements.
The war was over from this point.
At the moment I'm doing a Reactor Hellion opening against Zerg since I saw my favourite Terran player, DeMusliM, doing it on his stream. It's a good build because it has the potential to cause a lot of damage whilst not being all in and allowing you to transition into anything else, such as the standard Marine Siege Tank. Some of the games I lost were more due to lack of experience rather than than poor play which hopefully after a bit more practice I can prevent. For example I lost one game to a one base Baneling bust that I had scanned but didn't survive as I didn't put bunkers down; I won't let that happen again.
After clearing out his expansion this was the icing on the cake.
This week I've climbed up to rank 16 without playing too much, next week I plan to play much more and crack the top eight. If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran and 'stumbleupon' me with the button below. Check out my other articles, including my Leenock and NaNiWa profiles. Please feel free to comment in the section below, thank you for reading.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Review:Skyrim

Don't start Skyrim if you don't have the time to put in it because it will consume your life, however, it's worth every minute of it. Skyrim is a huge game; to do all the developer scripted quests would probably take more than fifty hours and on top of that there is a whole world to explore and an infinite number of quests can be generated via the radiant quest system. Along with the main quest-line there is also the guilds to work your way through; warriors, mages, thieves and assassins, each having their own unique story line. On top of that there is also a mind boggling number of other quests that can be found by talking to people or picking up items, they consistently managed to surprise me with their depth, whilst always being optional. Oblivion had an arena, where you could engage in gladiator like matches, but instead Skyrim lets you choose a side in a civil war; depending on which side you choose you take over different forts, towns and cities to gain supremacy in Skyrim.
The individual components of Skyrim may not be anything extra special but together they create a wonderful world.

At the start of the game you create your character choosing from ten races and how your character looks, but nothing else, there are no player stats or attribute points for you to adjust from the start. This system is very simple, which I like, as it's not too confusing. When you level up you can choose whether to increase your overall magicka, health or stamina and get a perk point to put in an upgrade of your choice; the list of skills you can upgrades varies from archery and one handed weapons to smithing and enchanting. Levelling up is done in the same way as the previous game, you level up individual skills and when you level up ten of these your entire character level increases by one. For instance to increase your proficiency in one of the schools of magic you have to use spells from that school or to improve at lock picking you have to attempt to pick locks; it's not a difficult system to work out. I like the system but I think that it doesn't reward you enough for completing quests, there isn't that same satisfaction of handing in a massive quest and leveling up instantly from it.
Character creation is simple and will be familiar to anyone who plays Bethesda games.

You don't pick a class so can tailor your character to how you want to play or you can follow the standard rogue, mage or warrior path if you want. I started off as a pure mage then grinded up my enchanting and smithing so that I could make some awesome armour and a sword to play as a hybrid, then towards the end of my play-through I made a ridiculous bow and started sneaking about. I had most fun playing as a mage but then that is how I normally play RPGs. Dual wielding destruction spells as a mage staggers opponents whilst being a High Elf gives you an ability that gives you access to pretty much infinite magicka once a day, so I could kill any opponent without them being able to attack me back, and then I could just wait 24 hours to use the ability again. I found playing as an archer frustrating when my arrows rebounded off of surfaces which weren't near where I was aiming whilst I was trying to shoot around corners. I found it extremely satisfying to kill large groups of enemies with one arrow each. Playing as a warrior felt pretty badass as I had a lot of armour and a health and stamina buff from enchanting, so I could take a lot of damage whilst dealing a lot of damage, though I did find the camera a bit disorientating when attacking.
Environments vary massively from dry planes to ice fields to underground ruins.

I've said it before but despite the low resolution textures and poor shadows is a really beautiful game. The world Bethesda has created is vast, densely populated and often jaw dropping. You look at any screen and there are layers of detail all combined together to create a living world; flora, fauna, objects, lighting effects and sound effects create wonderful living environments.Walking to any location on the map you will be distracted by something else appearing on the compass as well as encounter creatures, NPCs and even the odd dragon. However, fast travel does come in very handy and is essential as quests always seem to send you from one end of the map to the other. Thankfully the roadside enemies don't scale with you as badly as they did in Oblivion.
The sky effects really help create beautiful environments.

I played through the Mages guild, the Dark Brotherhood, the Warriors, the Thieves then fought in the civil war all the while slowly working through the story and doing many many side-quests. I still have some of the thieves quests to do as well as however many side-quests I want to do. I don't know if I will get the motivation to dive back into the world for a while, after 50 hours some of the magic has worn off, though I'm sure that in the not too distant future I will pick this game up and put another 50 hours into it. Bethesda managed to create a really immersive world with deep lore, varied locations and rich characters so anything that pulled me out of this I didn't like. For instance whilst talking to quest characters other people may come and talk over them about mundane stuff, in dungeons no one has explored for centuries there is fresh fruit and the same books found everywhere else and characters don't really react to your heroic feats in awe enough enough. Obviosuly with a game this size there are going to be bugs but having played other Bethesda games I can forgive them considering the magnitude of what they have achieved.    
Shadowmere from Oblivion returns and is the true dragon-born.

Throughout the game you fight dragons in either random encounters or when you come across their lairs, and whilst they do get harder, they are pretty much all the same and even the final boss fight is no different. The dragons may not all be the same type but I think there are too many so it just isn't as exciting as it should have been to fight a dragon. Restricting the numbers would have meant that each one was more exciting. Probably my biggest complaint is how generic the main quest is and how unexciting the finale is; it really doesn't get the adrenaline pumping as much as it should though the setting is probably the most beautiful in the game. Overall Skyrim is a brilliant game and well worth it's price tag given the amount of content available and how long you can invest in this gorgeous world.
9/10

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lee "Leenock" Dong Nyung Profile

You may not know much about the South Korean Zerg player Leenock because, whilst he has been on the scene for a while now, he hasn't really shined until this weekend past. First coming to prominence by competing in seasons two and three of the Sony Ericsson StarCraft II Open he was directly seeded into Code S for the first ever GSL in January. Leenock is the youngest person to ever achieve Code S status as he was only fifteen when he first competed. Over his career so far Leenock has played on two teams; fOu and, his current team, FXOpen.
It may not seem it but underneath his cuddly exterior he is a ruthless killing machine.

Leenock's time in the GSL has been rocky to say the least. Originally seeded into Code S in January he was defeated 2-1 in the group stages (Ro32) and knocked into the up and down matches where he lost to Byun and LiveForever, causing him to fall to Code A. Leenock got to the semi finals in his first Code A league but LoSirA stopped his journey there. He was knocked out of the GSL altogether in May after losing in the Ro32 to Creator, a relative unknown, though he managed to re-qualify for the next GSL in July; where he got to the semi finals again this time losing out to Tassadar. Both times he got to the semifinals he went to the Code S up and down matches but lost so didn't get back into Code S. It wasn't until getting to the semi finals for a third time in August that Leenock would show his true potential winning 3-0 and going back up to Code S.

In September of this year Leenock went to IPL3 with his team mate lucky; whilst he couldn't perform, because he was too young, it was his first experience at a 'foreign' tournament. Lucky went on to get second place just behind Stephano. Returning to Korea for GSL October Leenock managed to get to get to the Ro16 this time however here he was defeated by Ganzi, returning him to the Code S up and down matches. He managed to re-qualify again and is currently in the Ro8 of GSL Novemeber; the furthest he's ever got. Before that GSL was over many Koreans travelled to Providence to compete in a little tournament called MLG.
Leenock (second on the left) at Providence with other top players, from left to right DRG, Oz, SeleCT and HerO.

Up until now Leenock's story hasn't been that impressive as he struggled to stay in Code S and was even briefly knocked out of Code A. But from here Leenock has stood taller than the biggest giants of the StarCraft world. Leenock tore through the open bracket at Providence defeating seven players 2:0 before finally being knocked into the losers bracket by DongRaeGu; though he would have his revenge. Leenock continued his run through BoxeR, SLush, MMA, IdrA, HuK and Mvp, all impressive players and four of the top eight seeds. Now the only person standing in his way was DongRaeGu, who was the only person to have given him any problems before and who he had to beat in an extended series starting two games down. Three games in it was 2:3 to Leenock, who seemed to have rallied himself since their last encounter. The fourth game went to DRG, evening out the series and making the winner of the next game a grand finalist.

The last game went to Leenock meaning that he now had to face NaNiWa in the grand final. NaNiWa's MLG story was just as impressive as Leenock's having beaten both NesTea and Mvp, two of the worlds top players, in the 2011 MLG Global Invitational just days before. Because of MLGs rule set Leenock had to beat NaNiWa in a best of three to then play an extended series; a feat that seemed impossible at the time. After the first game went to NaNiWa I was convinced that he would come out on top as he had before, in the Global Invitational. However, after losing the first game Leenock impressed by constantly throwing NaNiWa out of his comfort zone and eventually took the series 4:1 to win the $50,000 prize. The future seems bright for the sixteen year old who will hopefully continue to impress in the GSL.
Such a big cheque for such a small person.

If you liked this post then follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran and 'stumbleupon' me with the button below. Also check out my other articles including this weeks Life in the Middle and my NaNiWa player profile. Please feel free to comment in the section below. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Jonah "NaNiWa" Luccheshi Profile

Throughout his career Jonah "NaNiWa" Luccheshi, the Swedish pro gamer, has been known  for his BM and team switching. Since becoming a pro during Warcraft 3 NaNiWa has played on seven teams; most recently going from Dignitas to Complexitiy. When NaNiWa was a Warcraft 3 pro some of his BM came from issues in his personal life such as being kicked out of his house by his parents and thrown out of school for 'inactivity'. More recently I think what seems like BM from NaNiWa is just because he is such a driven individual who strives to be the best and doesn't think that second place is good enough. Also being Swedish English is not NaNiWa's first language so he is probably thinking more about translating than phrasing so he can often seem cold and abrupt.
NaNiWa is always focused and won't stop until he attains his very high goals.
NaNiWa started to distinguish himself  as a capable player as early as the beta where he was the first person to win three consecutive ZOTAC cups as well as two Go4SC2 Wednesday Cups. After the release of Wings of Liberty NaNiWa Qualified to play in the ESL Pro Series for which he had to move to Germany for. However, before the end of his first season in the ESL NaNiWa was disqualified for acquiring too many penalty points from showing up late and not uploading replays; he was also banned from playing in any future seasons. After losing his place on the ESL NaNiWa was dropped from his team of the time (Meet Your Maker).
Complexity helped start to unleash NaNiWa's inner greatness..
After being teamless for about a month NaNiWa was picked up by Power Gaming, however just four days later it was announced that he was signed to the Russian team Team Empire. The circumstances around his acquisition are a bit murky but it seems like Power Gaming where a bit premature in announcing NaNiWa as a team member as it was not yet officially signed and only a verbal agreement. Playing in Team Empire was very good for NaNiWa through the last couple of months of 2010 however in January of 2011 NaNiWa signed onto Team Dignitas. NaNiWa's departure from Team Empire was on good terms and he thanked them for helping him in his dark time but said that Dignitas would give him more stability and access to better access partners. I think that the other members of Dignitas helped NaNiWa with appearing more human. Eventually Dignitas would send NaNiWa to Korea to compete in Code A though his dream has always been to be on top of Code S.
NaNiWa after winning MLG Dallas.

In April of 2011 NaNiWa competed in MLG Dallas working his way through first the open bracket and then pool play without dropping a single game. On his way to the championship final he 2:0'd KiwiKaki and Select; both very accomplished players. In the grand final he played in an extended series against KiwiKaki winning 4:2. This result came before the MLG-GSL exchange program so before the Koreans started to dominate MLG. After the competition NaNiWa famously said "Well, it's ok. My goal is to win the big final of MLG. Not this one but I'll win this one too". Since Dallas NaNiWa has not been able to show the same performance getting 6th, 8th then 12th in the MLG events Columbus, Anaheim and Raleigh. Also in Code A NaNiWa's performance has been somewhat lacking, always being knocked out in the first round, and not yet reaching his full potential. It wasn't until Blizzcon 2011 that NaNiWa would again show his high skill by placing 4th losing out to Sen, Mvp and NesTea; three very worthy opponents. 
NaNiWa at MLG Providence.

In Novemeber of 2011 NaNiWa was one of four players invited to the MLG Global Invitational finals hosted the same weekend as MLG Providence. NaNiWa 2:1'd Mvp in the semifinal and NesTea in the grand final taking his revenge and landing him first place and $3,000. NesTea and Mvp are probably the worlds top two players, having three GSL titles each, which goes to show how impressive NaNiWa's win was. At the main event of Providence it's self NaNiWa yet again performed well beating NesTea as well as the other notable players Huk and DongRaeGu. Unfortunately Leenock knocked out Mvp before NaNiWa and him could have a rematch so he played Leenock in the finals instead. Leenock won the first best of three in the finals so it became a best of seven, as Leenock was from the losers brackets. NaNiWa never won the 'big final' like he said he would as he lost 4:1 to Leenock though he consistently gave an impressive showing and has a bright future in front of him. Often, when players move to Korea, they don't perform as well before starting to improve as they relearn all their mechanics. After being quiet for a few months it seems like NaNiWa is back in a big way; let's hope this NaNiWa is here to stay.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Life in the Middle 19/11/2011

This week above all I have learned the importance of being in a comfortable position when you play. I've come home from university this weekend so I have been playing Starcraft on my laptop instead of on my desktop so it feel slightly different. I played six games whilst sitting on the floor with my laptop on  a coffee table and managed to loose all six games, though I disconnected from the first one. On the other hand playing at my desk I won eight out of the nine games I played so it goes to show you need to be comfortable whilst you play. This week I have gone from 35 to 22 in the Gold league.
Slowly climbing up.

I started the week trying out a 2 Rax build, which you can read about here, which I have continued to stick to as the base for what I do but I've stopped following to it so religiously and play a lot more re-actively. Before I would do exactly what the build said, even if I saw that my opponent was going for early pressure, as I was trying to learn that specific build but now I am much more flexible. I much prefer not following a build too precisely as it allows me to play how I want to play though it probably does means that my macro slips a bit and that my build is less efficient. Quite often I took advantage of Zerg players not making enough units in the early game by putting down extra barracks, on top of the original two, and trying to overwhelm them for once.
I have been playing on low settings to prevent my computer from exploding. 

I think in the past I have often underestimated how vital air superiority is in TvT. Until this week I often didn't build a Starport until very late in the game and even then I didn't focus on controlling the skies, but having out a lot of Vikings is really important for stopping drops and giving sight to Siege Tanks. However having an army to back up your air dominance is also very important and you should not forget to build ground units too as Vikings and Medivacs are pretty useless without support. I played a game earlier where I was camped outside my opponents expansion with Siege Tanks and Marines for the majority of the game whilst we fought for air control. In the end I lost the battle for air superiority but my ground forces far outnumbered his and his extra Vikings were useless; though me being on three bases also helped. Before switching on some MLG last night I thought I would play some quick games but the fifth game I played turned into a 72 minutes long TvT. Quite early on I lost most of my main to a drop but expanded to my natural and then a gold and another base whilst my opponent took every other expansion on the map (Xel'Naga Caverns). Throughout the game I was doing drops and running around my opponents blockade to take out SCVs and production facilities and in general I played a lot more cost effectively than him so despite all odds won.
A good balance between your air and ground army is important.

It seems to me that Protoss are very strong in the early and late game but are often quite vulnerable in the mid game. Protoss are the least likely to expand early on and so in general get a lot of units out very early on and so can apply a lot of pressure; with a forwards pylon they can also rapidly reinforce. I know I need to get better at getting SCVs to repair but I'm still struggling to prevent early pressure from destroying me. I always thought that Marauders hard counter Immortals but I'm starting to realise that Immortals counter Marauders instead. I have started to upload all of my replays on my Robin account to Starcraft Buddy so that they can be easily shared online and so that I, and anyone who is interested, can look at the statistics generated by my games. When all the games are uploaded i'll make another post and announce it on my twitter.
Immortals with their range of 6 obliterate building defenses.

Against Zerg I am much more comfortable playing against Banelings as my ability to split has greatly improved and before when I encountered Banelings I would stop producing Marines as I always lost them. However I often underestimate Banelings, if I am kiting them, and stop pulling back too early and unnecessarily lose units. Recently I have been having a lot of success with applying 2 Rax early pressure with Marines; if it's going well I put down some extra barracks instead of an early expansion and just keep applying pressure until I win. An advantage of applying early pressure is that it stops Zergs from macroing too hard in the early game and becoming unstoppable. I played two games in a row where this worked. The first game I saw that there was no early expansion down and no overlord at the ramp so I put bunkers at the bottom and kept pushing up and retreating to the bunkers. He eventually managed get through but by then I was on two bases so could get a big enough army to finish him off. In the second game he didn't take any gas or expand but built early spines instead. I contained with Marines and then Siege Tanks as he tried to use Infestors then Banelings then Mutas to get out but failed each time. I finished him off as I was taking a third and he was annoyed at me for being slow and boring but what am I supposed to do when he plays so defensively with 5-6 spines?
When he went for a Baneling bust to break out but I spread my units behind my bunkers to limit the splash damage.

If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran and 'stumbleupon' me with the button below. Also check out my other articles, including my 2 Rax article and my preview of Skyrim. Please feel free to comment in the section below and vote in my poll at the top on the right. Now back to MLG.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Trustier 2 Rax FE

So last week I tried a 1 Rax fast expand build that I had limited success with, I found that most of my failures could be traced back to not having enough units at the start, meaning that it was easy for me to lose to early pressure or for my opponents to macro uncontested. This week I tried out a 2 Rax build, which can be found here, to greater success. I may have only won 53% of my games but I feel that the games I did win I won comfortably and the games I lost were down to me playing poorly rather than the build. Most of my losses were today and they were from stupid stuff like me not reacting to a Nydus Worm in my base fast enough and not building more production facilities when I was floating a lot of resources. Getting out more early units meant that I was more likely to go for early attacks and force the enemy to produce units or at least do some economic damage. The build said to get a number of bunkers early on for defence but I preferred to go for early aggression only building bunkers if I absolutely had to.
I went for a base race when this happened not knowing he already had a third.

Terran has always been my best match-up but I found that this build left me very vulnerable to early tank pushes, though applying early aggression often gave me enough time to get my own tanks out and by that point I could normally produce off of two factories. The 2 Rax also allowed me to get out a lot more marines in the early game which helped fend off Banshee rushes which I have been struggling with a lot recently. I played a game against a Norwegian fellow who went straight to the gold on Metalopolis and then went for a 1-1-1 build; maybe if he'd pumped out Marines he would have had a better chance. When I was scouting I was thinking to myself "it's always the last place I look" then I get to the last base and he's not there, but it was quite obvious where he went. Bunkers at either side prevented me from getting in until I had Siege Tanks and after that it was pretty one sided. Even though he went for the gold we were still pretty even on economy, because I had an early expansion, but as he said before he left it was just a bit of fun.
It was a cute idea but I managed to get out lots of siege tanks quickly.

I've been doing much better against Zerg, possibly because I have been making a lot more Marines, or maybe just because my mechanics are improving. Previously I wasn't building many Marines because I was constantly loosing them to Banelings, but recently I have gotten a lot better at splitting my units so I feel more comfortable using Marines and I'm a lot more likely to retain them; often I found I didn't have enough Marines to deal with the first Mutas. I played a game against a Zerg who didn't fast expand and didn't have an overlord at the top of his ramp so I built a bunker at the edge of his creep and sent a bunch of Marines to apply early pressure and he went down quite easily; this was only possible because I had more Marines than I would have usually. I thought I was hilarious when I called him comrade on account of his Cyrillic name but he didn't seem to agree.
I'm definitely getting a lot better at splitting up my units to avoid Baneling splash.

Apparently Protoss is the easiest match-up for Terrans but I am finding it the hardest at the moment; if I do no damage in the early game, normally because of sentrys, or if it becomes a macro game I always lose. I only won one game against a Protoss who went for early DT pressure into Zealot Archon. I had MMM off of two bases whilst he was on one base and I kept denying his attempts to take a gold. At the moment I am preferring this build, to the 1 Rax, in my games against Zerg and Terran but I still think that going 3 Rax is the best build to use against Protoss. Like I did with the 1 Rax build I am going to stick with this over the next couple of days and see how much better I can get at it. I think that I still need to improve at constantly producing SCVs and taking an earlier third but in general I'm getting a lot better at constantly training units and getting relatively fast upgrades. I did get as high as rank 16 but for now I am rank 23 up from 35.    
Slowly going up.

If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Also check out my other articles, including this weeks Life in the Middle and my preview of Skyrim. Please feel free to comment in the section below.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

24 Hours With Skyrim (Sort of)

The original plan was to talk preview Skyrim after having played it for 24 hours, however I never got round to it so now after over 30 hours here it is. I have mostly shunned the main storyline to do side and guild quests instead. So far I have completed the College of Winterhold's quests and the Dark Brotherhood ones too (mages and assassins). After you have done the main storyline of each guild an infinite number of side quests can be generated, which is nice in theory, but means that you will never be able to finish the game and that your journal is overly cluttered. As it is I'm acquiring quests quicker than I am finishing them even though I'm trying not to pick up any new ones so I can finish the ones I have got. Before I restart the main quest I would like to complete the Companions and the Thieves guilds.
My favourite city is Whiterun though I haven't explored the others in as much detail.

My character is a dual wielding mage focusing in Destruction and Enchantment. Enchantment allows me to enhance items to give me more magicka or to make spells cheaper to cast. Enchantment and Destruction work well together and mean that I can cast a lot of powerful spells very often to kill large groups of enemies quickly. As a High Elf I have an ability called Highborn that makes my magicka recharge extremely quickly for a short period of time, so when I get to a boss I can continually attack them until they die. A perk of dual casting Destruction spells staggers enemies so I can pretty much kill anything without it being able to move when I have Highborn activated. This makes dragon fights easy and boring but they are so well crafted in the game it doesn't matter; their animations and sounds are spot on. Playing through the Dark Brotherhood quests gave me access to what is probably the fastest horse in the game, Shadowmere, who seems to be able to face any threat without baulking or even taking damage. It's a shame you can't craft spells in this game as that was one of my favourite parts of Oblivion.
The day a horse and a dog (mostly) killed a dragon.

Despite low textures and poor shadowing Skyrim is still absolutely beautiful, in my opinion, and really benefits from it's unique Nordic inspiration. It's not so much the individual components that make the game beautiful it's how it all comes together to create a vast, detailed and realistic world; the dense foliage, the shifting weather patterns and the different environments all come together to create an immersive world. I have spent over 30 hours in Skyrim and I still feel like I have barely seen anything it has to offer, I have only explored two of the nine main cities in depth and there is still large areas of the map and dungeons I have yet to see. The world is so filled that if you are walking pretty much anywhere from anywhere you will see something on the compass worth visiting, whether its a cave to explore, a dragon to slay or simply a bandit camp. The well documented and often talked about history of Tamriel really adds to the immersion aided by the copious amounts of fiction and the deep lore, available if you are interested enough to go through it.
I'm consistently amazed by what Bethesda have created.

I have been watching Day[9] play Skyrim to see how differently other people play the game to me, though for most of what I saw he played as a dual spell caster so I didn't get to see much of the melee aspect of the game like I was expecting. It wasn't until I watched Day[9] playing that I found out you could sprint, hold objects and assign items, shouts and spells to hotkeys. At the moment I am grinding up my Enchanting and Smithing abilities, in-between quests, so that I can make and enchant some awesome armour and swords to see what melee in the game is like. I'm enjoying dual wielding magic, and it never gets old seeing rag dolls flying across the screen, but I would like to experience all aspects of the game without having to invest time in a second and third play-through for a melee and then ranged stealth character.
I don't always sit back and watch other people fight dragons but when I do I take screenshots.

Obviously in a game of this size there will be glitches and bugs, I have not come across any major ones yet, but I do find small ones ruin the immersion. I dislike the Destruction perk that causes low health targets attacked with lightning to disintegrate, it doesn't look very nice and I can't prevent it from happening. When dragons die their flesh evaporates leaving only a skeleton but with disintegration only a pile of grey ash is left totally ruining the effect. As there are so many quests it is easy to forget the motivations behind what you are doing which makes the experience feel less personal and can make you wonder why you spent so long exploring a particular dungeon. As a mage I don't like that staffs don't have a main attack as well as their ability, for instance I have a staff that summons an atronach but once it has been summoned the staff is useless and I have to switch it out. It may be small but it doesn't list the number of dragons slain in the statistics and I think that would be really interesting to know.
I don't think that giants are supposed to be able to hit you into the stratosphere.

I owned Morrowind on the Xbox but I think I was too young to realise what I had and to understand how to play properly, so it never reached it's full potential in my hands. With Oblivion it was one of the first games I bought on the 360 and was definitely my most loved game as I played through every guild, every oblivion gate and every quest I could find. I think Skyrim outdoes both of those games and will probably be my go to RPG on PC; I don't think I will ever get bored of it's epic scope, well realised world and the sheer amount of quests available. Lets just hope the DLC is more interesting than Horse Armour and not too expensive either, either way people are going to be plying it for a long time.
Just an aurora and the moon, nothing more.

If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Also check out my other articles, including reviews of Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3 and Battlefield 3. Unfortunately I will never be able to review Skyrim as there is no 3 in the title. Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment below. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Life in the Middle 12/11/2011

Just a short update this week as I haven't had much time to play since Tuesday when I wrote about my experiences trying out the 1 Rax fast expand. Since then I have been trying to improve at it but have been struggling with both early pressure and long macro games; so far I have the timings and production down I just need to work on scouting more to know what I need to react to and learn to take a third sooner. With fast expands I often lose to early pressure as I simply can't get out enough units to defend myself quickly enough. The mid game is where I excel most if I can get past the early game though then I have to avoid the last game as I struggle with engaging late game armies even if we are at equal supply. This week I have dropped a rank so I am a 35 Gold.
My proudest point this week; a counter drop destroys the opponents main as I repel an attack.

If I go for a fast expand I find Protoss the hardest to defend against in the early game because they can get out so many units off of four gates and with the addition of force fields they can be very hard to stop from rolling over you. I lost twice today against early gateway armies, so I need to work on getting out units quicker, though both times it was on maps where the natural is hard to defend because it is so open. After that I was in no mood for early expands so I did a 3 Rax before expanding and did much better eventually winning the game with some doom drops into the main. I like fast expanding, I think it's really important to do, but at the moment I'm loosing too much, I think that I need to expand a bit later so that I can get some more units out first . If anyone would like to suggest a build for that it would be greatly appreciated.
Way outnumbered.

My favourite match-up is still TvT as I often find that other Terrans don't know how to abuse Siege Tank placement, drops and run-bys effectively so don't play as cost effectively as me; I'm not saying I don't lose but my TvT play is definitely my most solid by far. The one Terran strategy I consistently lose to is cloak banshees because I mostly make mech armies and forget to build Missile Turrets; this needs improving. Recently I have been using Siege Tanks in TvP and having quite a bit of success with them; I thought you weren't meant to use mech against Protoss? Or have I been doing it wrong this whole time?
Superior placement is everything in TvT.

The oddest game I played this week was against a Zerg opponent who went for a proxy Hatch inside my base; I didn't realise this was a legitimate strategy and was ever actually used. I killed the Hatchery no problem but with his last larva he built six Roaches that caused a lot of damage before being killed. We were still about even on workers after that but he had three bases to produce Drones off of, so his economy soared, whilst I struggled to get up a second and fight off constant attacks. In the end it was poor decision making by me to move out before I could catch up that led to my demise.
I didn't realise people actually did proxy Hatcheries.

Overall I don't enjoy playing Terran as much as I enjoy playing the other races. With Protoss I like the advanced technology aspect of their race; blink Stalkers, Colossus and High Templars. When I played Protoss my favourite unit was the High Templar as storms annihilate bio , feedback can kill units instantly and after using all their energy they are still useful as Archons. I found Zerg thrilling to play as your army is so weak so you have to choose your engagements carefully and really think about when to attack and when to sit back and Drone. As a Zerg my favourite unit by far was the Infestor as there is nothing more satisfying than fungal growthing a large clusters of units. I used to play a lot of 4v4s with friends and often the enemy would go for mass air and there is nothing better than using chain fungals on a group of twenty Void Rays.
 It's Skyrim's fault I didn't play more.

If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter; @RobinTerran. Also check out my other articles, including the aforementioned 1 Rax FE article and my review of Modern Warfare 3. Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment below. Tomorrow I will be writing about my first 24 hours with Skyrim so check back then if you are interested.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3 is a great game if you are a fan of the previous ones and hate innovation. Many people won't  even touch the single player campaign so for them what is MW3? An over priced expansion? A four year old game re-skinned? There is a host of content available with the campaign, spec-ops, a horde mode and the 20 mode multiplayer but it seems to me that most people won't be interested enough to play anything but multiplayer and will miss out as it is so similar to previous iterations. This year Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are going head to head and whilst MW3 has a better campaign I think that BF3 has the superior multiplayer and so is overall the better game and more worthy of your money.
So much Britishness in one screen.

The original Modern Warfare's multiplayer defined this generations FPS genre with it's arcade controls, realism and plethora of weapons and modes; it's a shame that since then complacency and domination have led to stagnation so very little has changed. Hopefully BF3 will give the developers a much needed wake up call. New maps weapons and killstreaks will keep the game fresh for a little while but they will soon get familiar and without any change to the core mechanics is this really more than an expansion? There may be 20 modes but only one of them is new and whilst it is fun it's just not enough; Black Ops at least tried something new with the wager system.
In Kill Confirmed you have to pick up the enemies dog tags to gain points.

There is a lot of customisation possible when it comes to your character; there are 35 main firearms, 16 secondary, six lethal and eight tactical weapons to choose from. On top of that there are also 27 killstreaks, 6 death streaks and three sets of five perks to choose from. This customisation may mean that you can play the game in a number of different ways but it has all been seen before in previous games. As an incentive to keep you playing each weapon has six upgrades, a number of attachments and 11 camouflages to unlock through gaining 'proficiency' with each weapon by using it in combat. Also challenges, call-signs and emblems can be unlocked through achieving certain goals but to be honest it's little more than grinding to earn them.
Good old team death match is still fun.

The game ships with 16 maps though none of them really stick out as being particularly good or bad yet, except Dome which I already hate because it is really small and the re-spawn points are all over the place. I'm sure that over the next couple of weeks maps will start to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the community and become more common on play lists however for now they seem to lack character. I'm also sure it won't be too long before Activision release over priced expansion packs with more maps in them. Compared to BF3 all the maps are minuscule and too easy to just run around in with no strategy.
Look familiar?

In my opinion BF3 took it's campaign far too seriously and suffered for it; MW3 is unapologetically loud, fast paced and overall more enjoyable. It may only last 3-5 hours but would I want it to last any longer? Not at all. Over the course of the game you are whisked across the world so even if you get bored in one section it's soon over and you are somewhere else. Throughout the game you switch between the Americans fighting WW3 in American and across Europe as well as a member of Captain Price's motley crew as you try to track down Makarov. It's nice to be back with Captain Price and Soap but attempts to pull at the heart strings flat out fail as you won't care deeply enough for the characters, if at all.
The pacing throughout the campaign is good; no section is too long.

The set pieces are as fun as usual however dated graphics and unimpressive audio do hold them back; though maybe I'm just used to BF3's breath taking graphics and immersive audio. A zero gravity fight and a boat chase through a harbour as ships explode and helicopters and jets fly over head especially stick out as being impressive. Crysis 2 may have presented a superior war torn New York and Uncharted 3 a more engaging story but MW3's campaign is still worth the time you put into it. People complain about the infinite waves of enemies but I find that if you reach the right tempo and keep pushing they are easy to get past and don't take too long; you just have to know when to push. One of my biggest gripes with BF3 was the constant inclusion of quick time events which really subtract from the experience, thankfully in MW3 you only have to deal with a couple of these at the end of the game; QTEs do not belong in PC games, ever.
Crysis 2 did destroyed city before it was cool.

Overall I think that MW3 is out shined by BF3 as the main draw of these games is the multiplayer and that is where BF3 really excels. MW3 is not a bad game it's just a shame that since the original Modern Warfare game the developers have shown no initiative and always play it safe. Now that the Modern Warfare trilogy is over lets hope that future iterations in the Call of Duty franchise will be more innovative. MW3 offers shallow fun but it is still very fun none the less.
8/10

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Trusty 1 Rax FE

Recently I have been favouring a fast expand strategy, in every match-ups, so today I decided to try out a proper 1 Rax fast expand build instead of making it up myself and the results were varied to say the least. Over the course of the game I played many games and experienced both massive highs and frustrating lows. The lows came from repeated losses even when I had prepared for a strategy, such as cloaked banshees. The highs came from the wins where early pressure was deftly swatted aside and my investment in economy paid off, unfortunately these were few and far between. I still struggle with late game Zerg and Protoss so I normally try to finish those in the mid game; versus Terran I'm much happier to allow it get into the late game as I find TvT much more manageable. As a quirk of probability I mostly played against Zerg today so it felt like I was practicing this build specifically with Zerg in mind and in the end I was winning a high proportion of them; though I started off to an abysmal five loss streak.
Good positioning overcomes mass Roaches and Ultras

My highest point came in the last match I played, which was against a Gold Zerg, who fielded every unit available including Brood Lords and Ultralisks. I don't think that I have won a game where my opponent has gotten up to hive tech before, mostly because their macro is so far ahead of me, but  in this game I managed to keep up with what they were doing. I dealt with both Brood Lords and Ultralisks which I normally get obliterated by but I knew I was so far behind that I had to play my best to win and after 44 minutes of standing on a precipice I came out on top. Over the last day I have learned a number of things from my games. I learnt that you have to move forwards carefully slowly on creep because it is very easy for your army to get cut off from your Siege Tanks if they move forwards too greedily. I also learned that Vikings are essential in TvZ because surprise Brood Lords end the game quickly and you can always use them against Overlords or Mutalisks if there are no Brood Lords.
A well done split helps to keep most of my units alive.

Another high point came when I split up a medium sized force of Marines and Hellions to engage a force of Zerglings and Banelings. I remembered in the back of my head that if you patrol click your units towards the enemy not only will they automatically attack but they will also not condense back into a ball so quickly so I managed to keep a large chunk of my army alive to move forwards and win. Earlier in the day I had come to similar point in the game but just attack moved forwards and lost everything so I was pleased with myself when I managed an awesome split. Probably my lowest point was when I was playing a Gold Random who Baneling busted me even after I told myself to be prepared for early pressure because that is what Randoms do best and I only had about three marines because I had spent all my money on bunkers - which were of course empty. Also I fell for the retard magnet in one game where I send some bunkered marines from the front of my base to kill an Overlord only to get swarmed and destroyed.
Bunkers I have plenty; units not so much.

Over the next couple of days I'm going to stick with the 1 Rax build and make sure that I'm constantly producing units and workers and not being too scared to take a third to try and perfect this build. Any tips you guys have in how you fast expand would be great, leave them in the comments section below, I always read any comments people leave and your experience is appreciated.
Where I am now.

If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter; @RobinTerran. Also check out my other articles, including this weeks Life in the Middle, and feel free to comment in the section below. As ever thank you for reading I really value every view I get.