Saturday, 29 October 2011

Life in the Middle 29/10/2011

Over the course of the last week I have managed to play 30 games in total, though only ten of those have been since the start of season 4. If you read this article you will know that the beginning of season 4 didn't start off too well for me as I have now been relegated to the Gold league and even after that I had a short losing streak. I have reassessed the way I play focusing on macroing harder and playing faster and since then I've won 50% of my games, which I think is respectable. I've still got a lot of work to do before I get back into the Platinum league though. I'll keep this update short as my Season 4 Begins update wasn't very long ago.
Hopefully it wont take too long to get back into Platinum.

Before, when I looked at replays, I wouldn't really pay attention to the stuff I did badly and just focus on when I did something really well, but now I'm having to train myself to watch them closely and look for where I go wrong. In TvT I'm looking at how the enemy positions their troops and how if differs to what I'm doing. In TvZ I'm looking at how to prevent Zerg from taking any early advantage. In TvP I want to know when they are most vulnerable to early pressure and at what times Colossus and High Templar can start to come out. Protoss is the race I've had least experience facing as a Terran, I don't know if it's just bad luck or if there are less Protoss players in the middle leagues, but from my experience over the last couple of weeks Terran seems the most prevalent race, then Zerg, with Protoss in last.
Far too often I get out macroed by a Zerg player.

When I first started to play as Terran I did quite a lot of early aggression and gimmicky strategies that helped me win quite a lot but now I'm trying to play macro games I'm having difficulty keeping up with people who have been playing their races for a lot longer than I have been playing Terran. In the long run I find Protoss manageable as long as though don't have too many High Templar or Colossus and I can keep up with Terran as long as they don't build Battlecruisers but I don't think I have ever won a long game against a Zerg. It's strange because when I played Zerg I thought Protoss was the easiest match-up but I'm now having a lot of troubles with TvZ. Even though I have been moved down a league I think I am still playing people of roughly the same level as before; high Golds with occasion Platinum and Silver players too.
Templar and Colossus are my greatest fears from Protoss.

Against Zerg if I don't move out early I'm unlikely to move out for ages and even less likely to win. I used to rely on Colossus a lot in the late game but I don't find Siege Tanks as reliable, due to their lack of mobility, even though they have a greater range and do greater damage. Earlier I played a game against a Zerg who mostly walled off his natural but I managed to sneak some blue flame Hellions into his base whilst I attacked the front, I was so happy with myself when I killed a whole base of drones, but when I looked back at the replay he barely fell behind in workers and quickly over took me again. Needless to say I lost even though my unit control was great because I fell behind in the macro; I really need to learn how to macro better to keep up with Zerg players. I've gotten a lot better at scouting Zergs to see when they take their third and what tech structures they have in their base but I'm still too indecisive about when to attack to do anything about it so I need to improve at that too.
Despite Killing a whole lot of drones I was still behind.

When you watch replays what do you look for? At the moment I'm a rank 51 Gold; I will do another update next week to let you know how life in the middle goes. Thank you for reading and if you like Battlefield 3 check back soon for my review that I will be doing over the next couple of days.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Top 5 Starcraft II Songs

Part of what makes the Starcraft community so great is it's breadth and ingenuity. Around these games so many people contribute however they can; for some that means singing about it. So I thought I would construct a list of the Top 5 Starcraft themed songs. In no particular order here they are:

1. Fly Like Auir (Underline Entertainment)

2. The Turtle Song (The Ugly Sweater Club)

3.Pylo The Pylon (

4. Forever Bronze (AKAmazingness)

5. Banelings (Nerd Alert)

Honourable Mentions
Play Like Toss (The609 Productions)
All I do is Stim (Temp0)
Terran Up The Night (Enigmayshi)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

My Week in Gaming 27/10/2011 - Season 4 Begins

So this week apart from completing and reviewing Batman: Arkham City I haven't had much time to play any games apart from Starcraft 2, which is great as the fourth ladder season started on Wednesday. What's not so great is my performance since then. I lost my placement match and was relegated from Platinum down to Gold and since then I haven't been doing too well either.After loosing my placement match to a Gold Zerg I proceeded to loose another three times to another three Gold players. After four losses in a row I decided to take a step back and evaluate why I kept loosing and calm down a bit.
Relegated down to the Gold league.

I'm not so easy to enrage but my poor performance made me angry at myself which in turn made me less focused and play less well. I highlighted three key areas in which I need to improve; I play too slowly, I don't macro enough and I lack killer instinct. When I was playing Protoss my apm was in the 60s, as a Zerg my apm it was in the the 70s but now I have switched to Terran it's significantly dropped to between 30 and 40. I know that apm is everything and that a solid strategy with good macro can get you out of the middle leagues but I can be faster. I think my biggest problem is my macro as I spend too long on one base, don't build enough SCVs and if I lose any workers I am very slow at rebuilding them. At the moment I am playing like a Protoss player, trying to stay on one base for as long as possible, but I need to get into the mindset of a Terran. I also don't build enough production facilities and often have thousands of minerals or gas spare or tied up in queues which is useless. Against Terran and Protoss I normally let the opponent dictate when I should expand and versus Zerg I'm normally so scared of lings and mutas so I leave it too late to expand. Lastly I need to work on my killer instinct, by this I mean I need to get better at knowing when I'm far enough ahead to attack or when it's not safe to. Earlier this week I sent a friend a replay of a 40 minute game that I eventually won and the first thing he said to me was that I could have won after the opponents first failed attack but I just hung back. I know that when you're ahead you get more ahead but sometimes you just have to exploit your lead as much as possible.
I was completely outplayed in my placement match.

After working out what to do I set to it on Shakuras Plateau in a PvT by getting out two barracks and early expanding with some bunkers in the front. I moved into producing off of six barracks getting out Marauders and upgrades as well whilst scouting to see what the enemy had. After a couple of good pokes eventually my expansion was over run and I was seething. After angrily asking my opponent if he was still on one base and incredulous at how much he had managed to produce I was able to pull my emotions back into check and focus on his destruction. We waged a long war up and down my ramp then past my buildings, at one point he was even warping directly into my base, but I held. It was of course at this point that I started to disconnect but thankfully after some frantic diagnostics I managed to reconnect and continue fighting. I moved my main base to my expansion and started pumping out Marines all the while checking to see what my enemy had. I started to move out, rallying troops to the front, destroying all the proxy pylons and making my way to his base. When I charged up his ramp my heart sank as I saw that he had a Colossus but a quick stim helped me overwhelm his forces and win the game. Whilst this is only one example of success I'm going to continue my new mantra of playing faster, macroing harder and being more aggressive.
Somehow I managed to hold.

I'm a rank 56 Gold and, for now at least, I have a positive outlook. As ever thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Trying Out The Destiny Cloud Fist Build

This week I decided to try out the infamous 1/1/1 build, or as I prefer to call it the Destiny Cloud Fist build, which quite simply involves building one Barracks, one Factory and one Starport before any other production facilities. I chose this build as it has a simple core which allows for a lot of possibilities in the later game. As you have every type of production facility you can tailor what units you make to counter what your opponent is doing and tech switches are very easy to do. This week I faced opponents from Silver to Diamond level and I won 47% of my games. With a bit more practice and experience I think I will be able to use the Destiny Cloud Fist build more effectively but at the moment I still prefer 3 Rax or 2 Factory play.
1 Barracks, 1 Factory and 1 Starport.

The Build
Here is an outline of the build as I tried it.
10 Supply Depot
12 Barracks
13 Refinery(1)
15 Orbital Command
15 Start Marine Production
16 Supply Depot(2)
16 Refinery(2)
19 Factory
24 Starport

I chose this build because it has the versatility to do anything in the late game and it isn't as all in as last weeks 3 Rax build was. It also gave me the chance to try different things against the different races with most tech options unlocked from early on. I found that this build offered less obvious timings than the 3 Rax build so I often ended up not knowing when to attack and when to just sit back and macro. I took the build from the Team Liquid website and it also gave ideas as to what to do against each race, after the core part of the build is done, so I tried to follow those.
Line them up; I love blue flame Hellions.

Against Terran
Versus Terrans I normally went for blue flame Hellion drops then transitioned into either Marine tank or Hellion tank. I only lost against one Terran as this is my best match-up and because this build is pretty similar to what I normally do anyway. Late game TvT I still get a bit unsure of what to do; in the game I lost I was still massing Hellion Siege Tank whilst my opponent was switching to Battlecruiser Viking. I guess Battlecruisers make sense late game as they counter Siege Tanks, Marines and Hellions pretty effectively. I didn't even see it coming; I thought I was on the verge of winning when he brought out six Battlecruisers and a squad of Vikings to defend them.
That o snap moment when you don't have any anti air.

Against Protoss
In my first two games against Protoss I tried to go for early banshees but both times they already had detection and so I was automatically at a disadvantage after not doing any damage. After that I went for bio drops which were much more effective, though I didn't get to try them out too much as I didn't play many Protoss after that. Against Protoss it doesn't seem worth getting units higher in tech than MMM, until Colossus or High Templar are out on the field, so I find the 3 Rax to be more effective than the 1/1/1 build. I don't like using Siege Tanks against Protoss because with blink, charge and the Colossus' huge range a Siege Tank can be killed quite easily.
I often find that Protoss defeat themselves by not knowing when something is too well defended.

Against Zerg
I had a lot of difficulties versus Zerg and this shows by me only winning once. I think that in most of the games I played the Zerg managed to out macro me because I didn't do enough early pressure. I was spending all my moeny on tech so I didn't have enough units out and I always got overwhelmed by Zergling Muta. This build was great because it let me get early Medivacs to drop in the Zerg's base but I found that by the time I did the drops my opponent already had enough defences to clean my units up. In general TvZ is my worst match-up as I always underestimate the effectiveness of Mutas; even when I played as Zerg I rarely used Mutas as I remembered how annoyed by them I was as a Protoss player.
Zerglings, Spines and Queens can shut down blue flame Hellions extremely quickly 

I had an interesting encounter in one of my games against a Diamond Terran player who seemed to want to stay in Diamond and was convinced that I was in Masters. Here's what we said to each other:
Robin: hi gl hf
Opponent: are you master?
Opponent: if you are I will surrender
Robin: nope
Opponent: k
Robin: I shoulda lied
Opponent: are u master? :o
Robin: What are you?
Opponent: are u master :o
Opponent: i am diamond
Robin: no
Opponent: if u said master i would have surrendered
Robin: grandmaster
Opponent: :o
Robin: joke
Opponent: (
Opponent has left the game!
I was speechless when he left and felt a bit bad that he didn't take my joke, though this did make up for me disconnecting a few games before.

With an early second gas this build is great at getting out lots of tech quickly and this is really good if you can surprise your opponent but I think that it takes too long to get out regular units which can leave you very vulnerable. The versatility of the build is definitely it's greatest asset but when I use it I find that I get out macroed too easily and end up too far behind to ever catch up. With last weeks build I won 90% of my games but this week I only won 47%; though in general I was against better players this time round. I think that I will use the 1/1/1 build against Terran as I like doing blue flame Hellion drops and transitioning into Siege Tank Hellion but I'm going to continue to use 3 Rax bio against Protoss and Marine Tank Versus Zerg. I still find Zerg the hardest to deal with so maybe next week I will find a build most suited to dealing with them.
Onwards and upwards.

After playing these games I've gone from rank 46 all the way up to rank 45. Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Review: Batman Arkham City

The opening to Rocksteady's first Batman game, Arkham Asylum, stood out to me as one of the best introductions ever in a game as you escorted the captured Joker into Arkham Asylum. Of course with the Joker things are never simple and soon everything escalated into full blown chaos with lots of death and mayhem along the way. Arkham City starts with chaos and things just keep getting worse and whilst I don't think the opening is as memorable as Arkham Asylum's was it does a good job of bridging the gap between the two games. The premise of the story is simple; Arkham Asylum has been extended into part of Gotham which has been sectioned off from the rest and all criminals are sent there. Within the larger prison factions are fighting for supremacy with very little control exerted by any authority. The whole system was set up by Dr Hugo Strange and part of the story revolves around solving how this could of happened and the other half is a continuation of the events started in Arkham Asylum with the Titan formula. This is some of the darkest Batman material around with lots of murder, mutilation and a tone of sustained threat throughout.
The environments in Arkham city are beautiful, dark and varied.

The whole game is pretty cinematic with a lot of cut scenes to break up the action and to keep the story going. The voice acting throughout the game is done to a very high standard with Batman and the Joker voiced by the actors that portrayed them in the 1992 animated series. The stand out performance has to go to Mark Hamill who does a great job at making the Joker intelligent, funny and witty whilst still being totally insane. The concept of a cockney British Penguin at first seemed ludicrous to me but having played through the game I was impressed by  Nolan North's performance and convinced that, for some strange reason, it does in fact work. In the last game expressionless faces prevented the full emotion in voices coming across and whilst it's still there the effect has been lessened by more emotive character animations. The city of Gotham is beautifully realised with varying locations, no load times and a dark tone; it isn't actually that big which I think works in it's favour.
Brute level opponents aren't repeated too much through the game like they were in the last.

The feeling of nostalgia that this game conjures for the animated series is great as all the main villains make an appearance; except for Scarecrow who was in the last game. At first I was concerned that too many villains would be introduced and that they would all suffer from not getting enough time each, and whilst this is true for some of the characters, Rocksteady did a good job of making most of the characters seem important. I feel that Two Face and Poison Ivy could have been expanded on a bit more but they were more cameos and not integral to the story. Even if you don't see the villain very much you hear about what's happening though conversations that other inmates have as you fly around the city. Robin also has a very brief cameo but it hardly seemed worth it; it would have been nice to just see him in the distance or to hear from inmates what he's been doing. Side missions give some of the lesser known villains some screen time and break up the more serious story part of the game. Side missions vary from stopping random acts of violence in the street to catching serial killers and finding Riddler secrets. There are 440 Riddler secrets in this game and to get all of them it is going to take you a long time but in return you are rewarded with concept art, character models and challenge maps.
Dive bombing unsuspecting enemies is brilliant.

Arkham City makes you feel like Batman as you glide around the map, take on massive groups of enemies and use gadgets to unlock more areas and secrets. Using gadgets in the combat is more encouraged in this game and easier to do whilst sustaining your all important combo. Bosses in the last game were boring and didn't require much thinking and whilst they aren't very difficult in this game I still think that overall they are to a higher standard and less repetitive. Also, in the last game, Titan infused enemies were all too common but in this game there is only about two and in general brute level encounters are much less common and less repeated. Towards the middle of the game it sort of felt like I was just going were I was told for strenuous reasons but by the last third of the game I was totally drawn into the concept that time was of the essence and I just wanted to keep going until I had finished the game. After I did finish the game I spent a further four hours or so just doing side missions and flying around the city and I still didn't get bored; even though by the end it did feel as though my eyes were bleeding. Throughout the game you play small sections as Catwoman who is similar to Batman but more agile and whilst this is nice it can make the game feel disjointed.
Catwoman plays an integral part of in the story though I prefer to play as Batman.

Overall Arkham City offers an engaging story, fun fluid combat and wonderful visuals. When I first sat down to write this review I thought to myself what would I want improved and found it really hard to think of anything; every aspect of this game is done to a very high standard and for this I am going to give this game:

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Life in the Middle 22/10/2011

I've had a good week in the Platinum league; I've gone from having a very low win to loss ratio to having a much more respectable one in the course of a single week. Last week I was fearing relegation because of my poor performance and because I was being faced against people in Silver and Gold and mostly still losing. Just as it looked like I was about to be moved down to Gold I tried out a build by Mvp and started to win most of my games. I haven't had much time to play Starcraft since then, because of university, RAGE and Batman, but the games I did play were some of the most tense games I've ever played and I've been beating Gold and Platinum players. For those of you who didn't see my article where I tried out Mvp's 3 Rax build you can find that here.
The 3 Rax helped me get out more units in the early game.

This week my total win to loss ratio went up from 43% to 59% because I only lost three of the sixteen games that I played, I think that having a strategy from the start of the game is vital for success so that you can keep focus. I now think that learning at least one build for each match-up will help me improve my game even more. Last week I complained about playing against a high proportion of Terrans but this week has been a Zerg heavy week as 50% of the my opponents were Zerg. This week I have been disappointed by Zerg players for not taking map control and not making units; you can't do both, you need to know when the enemy moves out so then you can start generating loads of units as quickly as possible.
If I'm right outside your base and you've only just noticed it's too late.

I played a game against a Zerg who raged at me for playing off of one base, even when I went up to two, but the reason I managed to do so well against him was because he didn't know when I moved out to attack for the first time so didn't build enough units to defend. Even though I didn't defeat him straight away he kept raging in chat and didn't stay calm and rational and think about what he needed to do to beat me. I feel like the higher the league a Zerg is the more likely they are to just play the standard ling baneling mutas and so I'm less likely to get caught off guard. At the level I am at the moment standard play seems easier to deal with than some of the weirder strategies you see in the lower leagues.
Just me bunkering like a pro.

When you play Zerg it's all about having a good economy then making units like crazy to attack or defend, Protoss is about building a strong army and only expanding when you have to but with Terran you have to draw a fine line between making enough units to defend yourself and expanding enough to keep producing. As a Terren you also have to be aware of your positioning as individually your troops are weak and easily sniped but with proper placement can be unassailable. I played a TvT earlier where multiple times he walked his army into my siege tanks because he didn't know where they were but I always knew where his main force was so even though he managed to take more bases than me I was never in any real danger.
Better positioning helps me (blue) come out on top.

Half the battle in Starcraft 2 is an information war and knowing how to react to what you see. The more I play Terran the more useful the information I get is; if I scout hellion tank I go marauder tank, if I scout a 4 gate I go mass bio and so on. Though I still don't know how to react to many situations, for instance how do you counter four or five Colossus? I tried getting bio with support Vikings but got annihilated, maybe it was just a matter of positioning. I also don't know when to use what units. When can you use the Battlecruiser? When do you switch from Siege Tanks to Thors? And what units are most effective against what races? After more games I'm sure I will understand all this better but for now certain aspects of playing as Terran still mystify me.
Everything just went wrong and I was annihilated for the second time in this game. 

This week I've gone from rank 61 to 46. I'll do another update next week to let you know how life in the middle goes and I promise to play more games than this week. Please feel free to leave a comment and check back soon.
I'm slowly climbing my way up.

New Heart of the Swarm Information from Blizzcon

Blizzcon kicked off yesterday and already loads of information has surfaced about how the multiplayer portion of Starcraft 2 will change for the upcoming expansion Heart of the Swarm. New units, new abilities and even unit cuts will keep the experience fresh and will hopefully add in new strategies and more variety to the game. Obviously over the next couple of months everything is likely to change as Blizzard balances and tweaks the games but for now this is how everything stands.
Check out the new trailer.
So far it doesn't seem as though the Terrans are having any units cut but they are getting a few new ones and some changes to existing units. The Hellion will now be able to transform into a mech, like the Viking can, trading a slower speed and shorter attack for more armour and a stronger attack. The ghost's cloak ability has been changed so that it consumes a finite amount of energy and lasts for a brief period of time instead of being a toggle. The Reaper is having it's anti-building charges removed and gaining a passive out of combat healing ability. The Battlecruiser will also gain an ability that allows it to temporarily move faster. The Thor is being completely revamped by giving it more armour, making it deal more damage and taking away it's anti air ability in exchange for Bombardment. Bombardment will deal huge amount of damage in a small area but will require setting up and packing away. The main difference to the Thor is that you can now only build one of them at a time and it will require an Armory and a Fusion Core to do so; so it is becoming more like a hero unit.
The Hellion's new transformation is more sturdy and has a higher attack.

The Terrans are gaining two new units; the Shredder and the Warhound. The shredder sets up like a siege tank and does damage within an area around it, but if a friendly unit comes within it's range it switches off not doing any damage. The Shredder sounds useful for locking down areas of land and it attacks both air and ground units over time within it's range. The Warhound is a new mech unit that is most effective against mechanical units though not against others, it's being said that they are good at taking out siege tanks. The Warhound also has an area damage air attack much like the Thor used to but with a smaller range.
The Warhound is designed to be anti-mech but weak against other units.
The Protoss have had the Carrier and the Mothership cut so far and this doesn't seem like too big an issue as both units were underused in 1v1s and the replacing units look better. The nexus is getting two new abilities; the Arc shield and Mass Recall. Mass Recall works like it did before only this time all offensive units will be teleported back to the Nexus after a couple of seconds. Arc Shield increases building and shield armour and adds a weapons to the building for a short period of time, this is to help Protoss respond to unexpected attacks as they usually have the least mobile army.
All the new Protoss units.

Three new units will be available to the Protoss; the Replicant, the Oracle and the Tempest. The Replicant seems like an interesting unit that can transform into any non massive unit in the game, though I'm not sure if it will need to scan a unit before being able to replicate it. I like the idea of the Replicant to support the main army by turning into whatever is needed. I'm also not sure if once the Replicant has transformed into something whether or not it can transform into something else after. The Oracle is a new flying spellcaster for the Protoss that come with three abilities. Entomb prevents a single mineral patch from being harvested, Preordain lets you see what the enemy is building from a structure and Phase Shift prevents a building from being attacked or used. The Tempest replaces the Mothership though you can build more than one of them at a time; it's anti air attack does high area damage and it also has a single target laser attack to damage ground units. The Oracle and the Tempest are both build from the Stargate, I assume the Replicant is build at the Robotics Facility.    
Finally the Protoss get some much needed mass anti-air.
Only the overseer has been cut for the Zerg which doesn't seem like a big change considering neither of their abilities were used too much and the detection ability has been moved to another unit. Overseers were used for mid game scouting but overlords with speed can be just as useful. Other units have had their abilities changed. The hydralisk will have an upgrade that will allow them to move faster whilst off creep. Banelings will now also gain an ability like tunnelling claws which will allow them to move whilst underground; though this may not be available until Hive tech. The corrupter is losing it's corruption ability and gaining an ability called Siphon that slowly damages buildings and turns it in resources for the Zerg player.Lastly ultalisks will be able to charge from burrow getting them into the combat sooner, though I'm not sure if this will need researching.
Both of the new Zerg units.

The Zerg are getting two new units; the Viper and the Swarm Host. The Viper is a new flying spellcaster with three main abilities. Firstly it can cast blinding cloud that reduces attack range to melee for all units within it's range and restricts the use of energy based abilities. Abduction allows the Viper to snatch a friendly unit back to safety over a small distance or pull an enemy unit out of position. Lastly Ocular Parasite is a one time use ability that turns any friendly unit into a detector for the rest of the game. The Swarm Host attacks by spawning high damage slow attacking Locusts that can lay siege to fortified positions, the Swarm Host only spawns units whilst burrowed.
The Viper can grab enemy units and pull them out of position.

Heart of the Swarm looks as though it will mix up the multiplayer portion of the game with lots of new features I'm just worried about Blizzard having to balance the whole game again. Comment on your thoughts  below.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My Week in Gaming 20/10/2011 - Batman and RAGE

So this week was all about three big games; Starcarft 2, RAGE and Batman: Arkham City, which arrived a day early in the post. This weeks Starcraft 2 posts can be found here and here so I wont say anything more about that. I have now completed RAGE so will be talking about my final impressions of the game and will be giving my initial impressions of Arkham City which was one of my most anticipated games of the year. You may notice that I have yet to mention Dark Souls and that is because I haven't mustered up the courage to play it again since last week; you can read last weeks section here where I talk about starting Dark Souls.
Gadgets can play a greater role in combat if you want them to.

When Arkham Asylum came out two years ago I thought it was going to be a cheap tie in cashing in on another franchises success but what we got was so much more. Fluid combat mechanics, stellar voice work and beautiful graphics helped make Arkham Asylum one of the best games of the year despite some of it's faults. Boss fights were boring and faces were expressionless which was a shame because of the great voice talent behind them. For Arkham City the developers promised to outdo the original in every way, but have they succeeded? From what I've seen it looks like they might have.
Apparently Catwomen is playable for 10% of this game.

I haven't got very far though the game but so far I'm really enjoying the slick presentation of the story though it does feel a bit disjointed with the Catwoman sections which pop up every now and then. Catwomen is fun to play, with similar moves to Batman but a lot more agile, she can just as efficiently take down a room of enemies. The combat in this game is almost identical to the first's however I think some more moves have been added and there is a greater emphasis on using items in combat. So far the only new item I have acquired is the remote emp launcher that can be used to power up mechanical objects in the world; from what I have seen so far this item has great scope and I'm interested to see what other new things they bring in. Already Arkham City feels more cinematic and character focused judging by how many villains have already been introduced, I'm just slightly afraid that the game will have too many shallow characters and not go into enough depth with any.
Gotham is beautiful and well gothic.

The main difference you notice when you start the game is how big the world is and how free you are to roam around it and beat up thugs or find any of the hundreds of Riddler trophies. In Arkham city I spent a lot of time exploring the world and I think I'll probably spend even longer in this game. I always think that games where the antagonist is present throughout have more character and in Arkham Asylum constantly having Mark Hamill's Joker with you created a great atmosphere; hopefully Arkham City will manage this too. Anyway I'm going to leave this preview there as I want to get back to it as soon as possible. Onto RAGE.
The Riddler plays a greater role in this game.

As with many fps games the story in RAGE isn't important it's just there as a device to allow you to progress through the fun single player campaign. Choice is what makes RAGE great; you get so much choice in what weapons you use as well as what ammo and what items; so the variety keeps everything fun. My favourite weapon was only unlocked just before the final mission and is basically a laser mini-gun that kills everything ridiculously quickly and makes you feel like a complete badass when using it. In general I think that the weapon selection is brilliant an part of what makes playing RAGE just so enjoyable.
The bandit gangs are diverse and well realised.

Half way through the game the player goes to a new hub town which has a very different tone with a striking visual style, new characters and upgraded items. The tone, the voice acting and the audio give RAGE a great atmosphere that is important in giving the game it's identity. I see a lot of parallels between RAGE and the TV show Firefly as both are a genre mash-up of cowboys and sci-fi. You have mutants which are a lot like the Reavers and the Authority are similar to the Alliance in their dominance through technology.
Animations and voice acting are great in this game.

I was disappointed by some aspects of RAGE however. The bosses are all very boring and very simple if you just distract them with a sentry bot then just shoot them repeatedly with a sniper rifle or shotgun. I played the game on normal but didn't die once; when you lose all of your health you get de-fibrillated stunning all the enemies around and it's only if you lose your health again before that's recharged that you really die. For a game with such a reliance on racing I didn't enjoy it enough to want to do it any more than I had to so it's a shame it isn't as deep as the shooting part of the game. It's also a shame that the game has such an issue with texture popping considering how beautiful the game can look if you run it on full settings. id has released some patches so far that help with the problem and gives you more graphics options but it's too late for people that have already completed it.
I prefer the crystalline environments of the second act to the canyon environments in the first.

Overall RAGE is a very enjoyable game to play with precise controls, a large array of weapons and interesting environments. The change of location for the second half of the game helps to keep you invested in the game. I spent 12 hours in RAGE and I skipped most of the racing, didn't do all the co operative missions and never touched the multiplayer races so it's good value for money. I would recommend this game to anyone who has an interest in first person shooters as that part of the game is a blast.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Teach Me Mvp

I am going to take a build used by someone in the pro scene and try to emulate it and see how effective it can be in the hands of a regular player. If this turns out to be popular I would like to turn it into something I do on a weekly basis. If anyone has any suggestions of a good build from any race then please leave it in the comments section below. This week I looked at IM_Mvp's 3 Rax build which involves getting, you guessed, three barracks; one with a reactor and two with tech labs off of one base and one gas. Marines are built from the reactored barracks whilst the other two make marauders and research upgrades. Also a reaper can be used to scout.
It's a pretty simple build to get used to and can be super effective.
The Build
Here is an outline of the build if you want to try it yourself.
12 Barracks
13 Refinery
14 Scout
15 Orbital Command
15 Marine
16 Supply Depot
15 Reactor on Barracks
17 Barracks
18 Barracks
21 2 Marines
22 Supply Depot
24 2 Marines
25 Barracks with Tech Lab
27 Barracks with Tech Lab
28 Marauder
31 Supply Depot
31 Stim Pack
33 Reaper
After this build marines, marauders, combat shields and concussive shells.

I thought Mvp was a good choice as he has been doing really well in the GSL and soon will be playing in the final at Blizzcon. I was definitely right to choose this build as it's simple and easy to learn but powerful and doesn't prevent you from changing strategy later in the game if required. After my second attempt I could do it without having to look at the timings and out of the ten games I just played I managed to win nine without too much trouble. The game lost was awful on my behalf and shows I need to learn how to deal with banelings because they frighten me to inaction.
Banelings still make me panic.

Against Terran
Both of the TvTs I played went pretty much the same way. The opponent got cloaked banshees which I managed to scout before they did any damage and then they didn't have enough actual units to defend themselves. The second Terran I played impressed me more than the first as he at least managed to build some siege tanks and nearly had enough to defend his ramp. However when I started attacking he wasn't in siege mode and I had enough troops to force my way through. I think that this strategy would work well against Terran in the early game but if you don't manage to defeat them it may struggle against an opponent with a lot of siege tanks or bunkers. I think I'll keep trying this strategy against Terran to see if it does work in a proper game.
After the starport was scouted it was easy to counter.

Against Protoss
Mvp's build is ideal against Protoss as it can deal with anything they can throw against you early on except for maybe good forcefields. Proxy warpgates could also be a problem as the reactor takes ages to build and you only have a single marine to defend yourself with. After the three barracks are up it's pure production until one of you is defeated so can be very hard to stop. When I saw an opponent going for early expansions I always new that I would have to attack soon before the nexus became profitable and they could out produce me. Stimmed marines and marauders are great at kiting zealots and catching up with any fleeing stalkers. The one time a Protoss looked like he had enough units to kill me I caught his army off guard and managed to kill it without taking many losses.
His forces got stuck on the ramp so the zealots in the middle couldn't attack and the stalkers at the back wouldn't fire.

Against Zerg
The only game I lost was to a silver Zerg who, after my initial attack was thwarted, macroed like crazy and built mass baneling and mutas. I dropped two sets of blue flame hellions in different bases and managed to kill a lot of drones but by then it was too late; he was two bases ahead. I never know what to do against banelings but to counter the mutas I built thors. I tried to move all my bio back when I saw the banelings coming, so that the thors would absorb most of the damage, but the thors blocked the way and everything of mine died. It was all very embarrassing. The other three Zergs I played all went early spires without really producing units and without having any map control; so they didn't know I was about to attack until I attacked. I was disappointed by how easy they were to defeat as a Zerg player should know as soon as you leave your base and shouldn't be relying on not getting attacked early on. Upon scouting an early lair or spire I always attacked straight away before they could get muta numbers up.
Most of the Zergs I faced only build spines and lings and didn't scout to know when they needed more forces.

I think that this will definitely become my standard build against Protoss as without good forcefielding the amount of stimmed marines and marauders is difficult to deal with and in the middle leagues good forcefields are rare. This build was effective against the Terrans I played but they both went banshee and I'd prefer to stick with either hellion siege tank or marine siege tank as bio can easily get destroyed by early mech. I'm still scared to face Zerg as a Terran so I think that this strategy is very good for me to shut them down quickly. The longer I play against Zerg the more I start to play badly and lose my forces to stupid things. Before these games I was worried about being moved down a league when the new season starts but winning so many games in a row has given me confidence that I can stay in platinum. With a bit more experience and knowledge I think I'll be able to do very well as a Terran. Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, 17 October 2011

MLG Orlando

Another MLG has finished and for a whole month Huk will reign as champion until MLG Providence in mid November. Who would have predicted that two out of the top four would be foreigners and that the grand final would be a PvP? The final might have been a bit anticlimactic but the road to it was full of some of the most epic series I have ever seen. I thought that Huk was going to be kept from the grand final by TheSTC and that Idra was going to get knocked out by Bomber, but both gave a great showing and showed that the Korean dominance can be stopped.
Huk looked at the top of his game after disappointing results recently.

What Was Great
The addition of more streams was excellent as it allowed them to show more of the games played. During the finals the new streams showed the games from player perspectives which was a nice touch and a great use for them when the other games had finished. New streams meant that more casters got to showcase their talent in front of a larger audience and I think it's a good thing to offer a diverse range of options. However my personal favorite casters where still Tastless and Artosis, but I didn't get much time to check anyone else out.
After his recent success at IEM Guangzhou Idra continues to impress.

If my internet was good enough to handle  four streams at once I think it would have been great to watch though maybe a bit overwhelming; you cant pay attention to that many games at once. As there was so many streams there was normally something interesting going on so in my eyes it doesn't matter so much that the time in between matches was just crowd shots. The last time I watched MLG they seemed to have quite a lot of audio/visual problems with constantly changing sound levels and the stream audios getting mixed up. This time, however, I didn't notice any problems and the whole event benefited greatly from it; this is especially surprising as they introduced more streams.
Apparently the audience was larger than Raleigh's; but then there was no hurricane this time.

What Needs Improving
At the moment if two competitors who have played before face each other again later in the tournament they have to play an extended series starting with the score from the previous game. To me this system isn't fair as both players have worked their way to this match through the MLG league system so deserve to start off at an even footing. Don't get me wrong it can provide some epic games as players that start two games down fight tooth and nail to win, but at the end of the day I don't see why this system is in place.
The Idra Boxer series was brilliant and I couldn't decide who I wanted to win.

Compared to the recent IPL the stream quality for both the free and the paid for service were quite low quality. It's a shame that MLG is still behind on this considering that they have been around for longer. It would have also been nice to have a regularly updated schedule so that it's easier to jump in and out of the matches you want to watch.

It's not easy to pull of the perfect tournament and it seems like MLG is constantly improving, it may be slow going but I think that MLG is getting better and better. Considering the size of the event it's impressive that it went down so well, but tournaments like the IPL show that a higher standard is possible. Competition often leads to innovation so I see the recent success of IPL as a good thing and I hope it continues to drive the MLG producers to try bigger and better things.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Life in the Middle 15/10/2011

So as it turns out playing Terran isn't as easy as I always thought; you have to work as hard as the other races to perfect your game and come out on top. Also using silly strategies isn't the best way to start as a new race on a new account in the highest league you have ever been in, I lost a lot. So my first update may not come with the best win to loss ratio and I may not have stomped many noobs but every game I played taught me a new lesson about how to be a better Terran. Zergs's advantage is in overwhelming numbers, Protoss' is in out teching the enemy whereas Terran's strength seems to be in multipronged attacks, with a core army to hold everything together.
In one of my silly games I think someone tried to PF rush me without an engineering bay...

I've lost a lot of games now, after an 80% win-rate in my placement matches I'm down to 43%, but I have had a chance to try a lot of different types of strategies and use all the Terran units. I was surprised by how effective late game reapers were for harassment, by how difficult it is to use banshees against a Zerg and by how long TvTs can last for. The other two mirror match-ups are very volatile and any small mistake can quickly cost you the match; both PvP and ZvZ are very micro intensive compared to TvT. It's nice that TvT goes at a slower pace and gives you time to think and allows for later game play.
Turns out EMP isn't an instant win.

Recently I have been placed against silvers so that shows how precarious my position in platinum is. I moved house when I started the blog and have been having latency issues so that may be part of the reason I'm struggling but it's probably also due to be just having no idea what to do in certain situations. For example I was playing a games earlier where I had MMM with some siege tanks against roach hydralisk and I had no idea what units would be better suited. As Protoss I know to get colossus or high templar but as a Terran I wasn't sure what to do so just kept doing what I was doing. In the end it came down to a misclick by the Zerg player that allowed me to kill half his army and then take the attack to him, so I'm still not sure if what I did was the best I could do. I always thought that you should never use hydralisks against a Terran but for many points in this game I was inches away from destruction so they seem quite effective.
A misclick allows me to clear this army up and win the game.

For some reason 62% of my games so far have been against Terran so I'm starting to get used to that match-up though I can still be caught by surprise. My standard strategy has been to only get out a few marines whilst getting a fast factory but I'm wondering if this is the best way to play TvT as it leaves you open to early aggression. I played a game earlier where I was marine rushed before I could get more than a single marine and hellion so I think a slight change in build is required. In the future I'll probably delay my factory a bit to get out more marines and a bunker first to hold off early pushes, but maybe all I really need is better control of my units and a greater game sense that will come with experience.
There is a reason mech is standard I counter after this and win the game.

So far my experiences of playing against Zerg have shown me that they will macro like crazy unless you harass them them throughout the game and force them to make units when they don't need to. When you watch the pros play you see the Zerg players usually go zergling, baneling, muta but in the middle leagues you can't predict what you are going to see; not everyone tries to emulate the pros and you can be literally challenged by anything. Likewise with Protoss anything can happen because not everyone pays attention to the standard way of approaching each match-up. Hopefully by the time I do my next update I will have been able to play a fairer proportion of Zerg and Protoss as I'm still unsure of how to play these games.
Even though my performance has been poor I've still climbed the league.

So far I've gone from rank 100 to 61. I'll do another update next week to let you know how life in the middle goes. Please feel free to leave a comment and check back soon.