Saturday, 25 February 2012

Life in the Middle 25/02/2012

I've been stuck in Platinum for so long that I'm starting to think that I have hit a skill barrier and that perhaps I won't be able to advance further as Terran. I think that everyone has the potential to get to the top leagues, it just takes time and motivation to get there, and at the moment I'm lacking time. When Heart of the Swarm comes out I thought I would play random for a while then either decide on a new race to play or take a poll, but I am not yet ready to give up on Terran and really want to do well as them.
I am still losing to stupid stuff like this; in this game I even scouted the early robotics and didn't know what it meant.
In an attempt to get out of the rut in which I have been for the last couple of weeks I decided to take a step back and look at some of the custom games available that would help me with my micro and macro. Dargelin's Micro Trainer was the most suggested micro practice tool and what I focused on this week. It does a really good job at giving you scenarios that you have to overcome on a regular basis and with increasing difficulties it is a big help. Experience is the best way to come out on top of an engagement and Darglein's Micro Trainer offers a lot of that in a short time, it's well worth using. I think I will try out the Multitasking Trainer next week as my macro often slips as I get distracted.
Practice against the deathball is great it's just a shame adding HTs and Ghosts isn't an option here.
Zergs often say that creep spreading and larva injecting add on another layer of macro that the other races don't have but to me this quite simply seems wrong. Zergs don't have to build workers every 17 seconds because they can do it in bulk, they don't have to place down supply depots and they don't have to continually add on production buildings so Zerg just has different things to focus on. I'm not saying that one races macro is harder than the others I just want to point out that all the races play differently and that Zerg being the most different doesn't make it the most difficult.
Practicing against increasing numbers of Bling Mutas is definitely good preparation for ladder.
I think my main problem with Terran at the moment is that they have too many 'harassing' units and not many units that work well in the late game army. The Terran is always having to adjust their army composition in response to the other two races do and I don't like to have to play so reactionary; I would prefer to be leading. I don't like the Terran 'tier 3' units as they aren't as game changing as the other races ones are and don't force the opponent to have to change strategy; Colossus, High Templar, Broodlords and Ultralisks do. In my opinion Protoss are too good versus armour, which most late game units are, and with feedback Thors and Battlecruisers go down too quickly to be effective.
At the moment I am doing really well versus Protoss by macroing hard off of a 1 Rax FE.
Shortly after one of my friends told me he was recently diagnosed with dyslexia I asked him how to say P-U-M-A by spelling out pew-ma and pooh-muh verbally, he probably thought I was being a right douche; thanks INcontroL for raising  that question. The answer clearly is pew-ma though. If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter, @RobinTerran, or follow this blog from the pane to the right. Take a look at my Resident Evil: Revelations review. Thank you for reading.  

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations

Resident Evil: Revelations is the latest game in the franchise but is chronologically set before the fifth game in the early years of the BSAA. Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine return to the forefront as they and their new partners investigate a zombie infested cruise-ship a year after a devastating terrorist attack. This game plays more like Resident Evil 4 or 5 rather than the purer survival horror roots the series comes from.
There are no cross-hairs, only a laser sight helps you aim.
The story is told through a mixture of cut-scenes, playable flashbacks and through the eyes of other playable characters in other locations; you are provided with a good overview of everyone involved in the story. It all adds up to Revelations having the best presented story of any game in the franchise; it’s just a shame the story itself isn't at all interesting. Shady organisations with questionable motivations return, and many of the twists in the story can be seen long before they happen. It’s the same tired old stuff of the previous games carried into this one only slightly re-branded .
Jill and Chris team up again, though other new characters are introduced too.
The campaign is split into twelve chapters, though each chapter can have multiple sections, and at the beginning of each chapter is a recap of what has happened so far. The main setting may be a luxury cruise-ship but that doesn't limit it at all. The ship has multiple distinct locations and you are taken to yet more location along the story with other characters. The engine manages to keep up with everything that the developers threw at it including a ridiculous boss battle where the player is flying around in a helicopter.
Characters's motivations are often suspect.
Revelations has a cooperative mode that allows you to play through tweaked sections of the campaign with a friend. In this mode there are no cut-scenes and no explanations of what you are doing, though as you have to play through the campaign to unlock these levels you should know the motivations. It’s not really obvious why the developers didn’t include a full cooperative experience, like Resident Evil 5 had, but it’s still a welcome addition and a lot of fun to play through with a friend.
Random weapon drops with stats help to keep raid mode interesting.
Awkward controls have long been a hallmark of the series, and the 3DS does not relieve this, but once you get used to them they will feel comfortable and don’t limit you too much. I found the Circle Pad Pro, which came out at about the same time as this game, helped but was not necessary. The 3D is done particularly well, the best I’ve seen, though if you weren’t a believer in it before you probably still won’t be after playing this.
The sections where you play as other characters are normally more action orientated.
Overall Resident Evil: Revelations is a great game that looks and runs beautifully, has a lot of character and has brilliant game-play. It is only held back by a few things; the boss fights are unimaginative, there is little variation in enemy types and some of the characters are very two dimensional.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Life in the Middle 18/02/2012

This week I am mostly going to talk about the start of the new ladder season and the importance balancing micro and macro. For the last couple of weeks I have been writing this piece on a Sunday, as I was too busy on the Saturdays, but from now on I plan to continue with writing this every Saturday. I end this week as a rank 37 Platinum; though it seems to me that your rank doesn't actually mean that much at this point, it's more a case of who you are playing and if you are managing to defeat them, and I'm happy with who I can defeat at the moment.
Back in platinum fighting my way up; the gap to Diamond seems the biggest so far.
So Season 6 has begun after a relatively short lock and I am back in Platinum; I was expecting a longer lock, and hoping to get in some more practice before Season 6 started, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Having not had much of a chance to play since the start of Season 6 I haven't got far into my division yet but will hopefully manage to do so over the next week or so. I am already back to playing Diamonds often, so I have high hopes for this season. I'm not sure that I like the shorter seasons Blizzard has started to implement; to me the shorter seasons feel less important and are harder to improve over, so feel less memorable.
I always use pictures like this and put a vague caption when I have nothing good to say.
With the start of Season 6 comes a change to the map pool; Arid Plateau and Xel'Naga Caverns are out, Whilst Cloud Kingdom and Korhal Compound have been added. I never liked Xel'Naga Caverns that much, and had it vetoed last season, so I'm not upset that it is gone and am glad new maps are getting a chance. I know many people didn't like Arid Plateau, but I thought it was a decent map (in all but TvP) and hope it returns soon. I think that it is brilliant that Blizzard has started putting community maps into rotation and hope that the competition to be included in subsequent map pools leads to more competition to create even more better maps.
I haven't had a chance to play the new maps much but so far I am really liking Korhal Compound.
Recently I came to the realisation that I often let my macro slip, and started to wonder at the importance of macro and micro, as I was still playing to the same level as before. I always find that if I focus on one the other always suffers, so I need to find a way of balancing them out if I want to improve further. It's no good winning every battle if you can't sustain your army after each victory and likewise the opposite is true so a balance is required. Macro and micro can each only take you so far on their own, learning to master both at the same time is what is required to succeed at the game; though it can never really be mastered. 
Punishing a Protoss early game for early expanding can require a lot of micro but can also be very rewarding.
Can anyone suggest a micro practice trainers that I can use before gaming sessions? If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter, @RobinTerran, or follow this blog from the pane to the right. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Overcoming Ladder Anxiety

I used to suffer hugely from ladder anxiety before I started this blog and was in a position where I had to play games. I would use any excuse to justify to myself why I should stop playing; winning the first game meant that things could only get worse so I should stop whilst I was ahead, and losing the first game meant that things would never get better. It took a long time for me to get over the fear of that little button but I'm glad I did. I've been meaning to write this piece, on overcoming ladder anxiety, for a while; so here we go.
You have to accept that losing is a part of succeeding and that everyone loses a lot; even the best players in the world. In the long run learning from losing is more useful than ignoring your problems and hitting a brick wall that you can't overcome. I often hear people saying that they have gotten into x league so now they wont play any more, so that they will stay where they are, but it doesn't work like that. If you don't play you consign yourself to at best stay where you are, but more likely, to be moved down.
Set yourself weekly targets and do your best to keep them, but accept that this isn't always possible. Even if your target is wildly optimistic it should focus your practice and encourage you to play more. You need to have a plan for what to do on a winning or losing streak. For example, if you win three games in a row say that you will keep going until you lose. If you have lost three games in a row quit and try again the next day. Taking away these decisions will help you feel like less of a quitter if you do have to stop playing and takes away the stress.
Don't be disheartened by how many leagues there are and how far from the top leagues you can seem. Just focus on climbing up one step at a time. From Bronze to Grandmasters there are six steps, and it takes time to traverse them, so any gain is a great achievement and don't be put off by how far off the top can seem. Practice and experience are the biggest helps in dealing with a strange strategies. Playing a lot of games won't set you up for every eventuality, not even close, but it will help you deal with previously unseen strategies, as you are more likely to have faced something similar in the past.
So, the next time you are faced with that button, remember that you will at least get experience out of playing and probably a lot more. Thank you for reading and I wish you every success on the ladder in the future. If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Life in the Middle 12/02/2012

It's been a good week with lots of winning and a breakthrough in TvP; bring on Season 6. Last week I promised not to talk about Protoss but I am afraid I am going to have to break that promise. Half the games I played this week were against Protoss, and I've started doing a lot better against them, so it doesn't make sense not to talk about TvP. I also managed to beat my first Diamond Protoss this week, I often beat Diamonds from the other two races, so I was excited about that. This week I played a lot of high Platinums and Diamonds so I am getting back to the top of Platinum and hopefully by time the ladder lock is over I will be ready to proceed.
I don't have anything to say about this I just think it is a neat picture.
I think that my problem with TvP before was that I would rush out Medivacs and concentrate on drops but now I am focusing on getting out a lot of units as quickly as possible with decent upgrades, whilst keeping my resources as low as possible; I realised last week how poor my macro is so I am trying to rectify that. Also I am getting a lot better at splitting and I'm finding the difference in engagements drastic and a lot closer then they used to be. One of the downsides to playing like this is that it is difficult to deal with large numbers of Colossus, but engagements normally start before they build up.
I'm getting a lot better at splitting in preparation of a battle and during.
In TvZ I had been staying at about a 50% win rate but having played a higher proportion of Diamonds this week this has gone way down. Diamonds seem a lot better at holding off early attacks and still macroing heavily behind it allowing them to get higher tech units quickly. I think I need to pick a build to perfect before trying to learn another but at the moment I switch between 2 Rax and a Reactored Hellions when I get frustrated with one build. Hellion openings are more standard but I find it too difficult to reliably do damage against an opponent if they have some Lings and a Spine Crawler. Looking at Drewbie's TvP helped me a lot last week so maybe I will look at his TvZ this week.
Ender here didn't respond to me telling him off for being on the wrong side; damn bugger.
Sometimes confidence is what you need more than anything else; to move out and control your units well no matter what your opponent has. It may be tempting to stay behind your wall but if the opponent knows what they are doing and takes the whole map  they'll be all the more difficult to deal with. I find this especially true versus Zerg who can very easily take a lot of expansions  if you don't have any presence on the map. Not being afraid to move out against Terran as a Terran is also very important for if you don't Siege up the centre of the map they are likely to and with a Xel'Naga Tower that can make them very hard to counter.
I wrote the book on Proxy Stargate when I played Protoss (stole it from MC) you can't use it against me.
I was talking to a friend about football the other day, which I know nothing about, asking what sorts of strategies teams used to beat their enemies to which he looked bemused, insisting they weren't 'enemies' but 'opponents'. Did you know there is only one race in football? How boring! If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right. Thank you for reading. Check out my review of Puzzlejuice and come back soon for a review of Resident Evil: Revelations.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

App Review: Puzzlejuice

Puzzlejuice claims that it will “punch your brain in the face” and this is no empty threat.  Basically Puzzlejuice is a combination of Tetris with a word search; you have to place falling blocks, formed of coloured squares, to complete rows which reveals letter. By drawing your finger across consecutive letters you spell words to clear squares and to score points. Each square also has a colour and matching three colours together allows you to turn them into letters.
Carefully place the blocks, reveal letters and make words.
Confused? You should be, but there is more. Multiple game modes, power-ups and objectives add to the complexity and provides more reasons for you to keep playing this game. The challenge comes from managing the falling blocks, whilst searching for words, and turning colours into more letters. Puzzlejuice only falls short on a few points that prevent it from being truly great. There are no customisation options to change the falling block speed or to play without colours, which would have been nice additions. Also, when trying to spell a word it sometimes moves the falling block instead, this can be very frustrating and ruin a game, but is more an inherent problem with the medium rather than specific to Puzzlejuice.
Different game modes, in game power-ups and challenging objectives are a great addition.
Overall, Puzzlejuice is a brilliant time-sync, despite its few drawbacks, that offers great value for money.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Life in the Middle 5/02/2012

I normally write this every Saturday but I thought that if I wrote it then it would be too negative, because I was stuck in a rut and no one wants to read about that, so I left it for an extra day before writing this. I played a lot of games this week, more than I have every played in a week before, and despite losing around half of them I feel like I've learned a lot and will perform well next week. I end this week as a rank 7 Platinum and, though I wont be promoted before the season lock that is starting soon, I don't think it will take too much longer to get into Diamond.
Still about where I was last week but I think I have solved some issues with my play.
At the moment I feel like I'm pushing at the base of Diamond and Diamond is punching me back; a continual cycle of being knocked down and having to pull myself back up; but from each set back you can learn something new. I realised that when going into TvTs I would mentally think to myself that I'd already won; this is a terrible attitude to have probably only hampers my success against higher league Terrans. Similarly, against Protoss I always think that I have already lost; but at least this normally makes me want to try all the harder.
A lot of Platinum/Diamond Terrans go purely bio but don't have the control to do damage and die easily to tanks.
My PvT has gone through something of an identity crisis over the last week but I feel like it's in a good place now. A couple of lucky wins with a 1/1/1 build gave me a sense of hope that I would be able to do well in TvP, though many loses later it became apparent that this was not the case. I switched back to using a build devised by Drewbie and just worked on my late game macro, making sure that I had enough Barracks to use all my minerals, and overall I have been doing much better in TvP, and hopefully wont struggle so much with it in the not too distant future.
I frantically held off a proxy Stargate and upon leaving this message came up and I nearly died; thankfully it went away.
Watching some of Drewbie's replays I noticed that he was often just sitting in storms and not trying to dodge them, is this normal? I often find I still lose most my health when trying to dodge storms and lose attack time. From Drewbie I also learned to spread out my troops more against storms and Colossus to minimise damage and to scan more when going into an engagement; it's a lot more hazardous for a Protoss to take your army by surprise than for a Terran to take a Protoss by surprise. I think I was focusing on drops too much before and forgetting to macro behind it, which hurt me more than it hurt my opponent.
Returning to bio feels good and familiar and learning to control them better has helped loads.
In general I think that my late game macro is pretty poor in all match ups and that simply remembering to build Supply Depots extra production facilities would probably improve my mid to late game massively. Something I've never understood is why it is so important to build so many Supply Depots anyway? Is it just another exercise in macro designed to block the unworthy from access to higher leagues? I see a lot of aspects I need to improve in, so hopefully by time the next season starts I will be ready to go up to Diamond.
Bunkers are great at defending against 1 base Protoss players.
Next week I promise not to talk about Protoss as that is what I have focused on for the last two weeks but as a Terran I find Protoss to be my biggest problem. If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right. Thank you for reading. Check out my Game of the Year and come back soon for reviews of Puzzlejuice and Resident Evil: Revelations.

Game of the Year: The Witcher 2

In a year of quality RPGs The Witcher 2 stand out as one of the best, yet most underrated, games of 2011. It's rare for a game to make me so invested in the story and characters but with full voice acting, a well written script and plenty of game affecting choices The Witcher 2 kept me engrossed throughout.
The characters are likeable and the relationships are anything but simple.
Many games this year included dragons but the Witcher 2 used the to the greatest effect, in my opinion, by keeping their appearances rare but exciting. Few dragon encounters meant that the experience was never diluted to the point of becoming standard and there were plenty of other interesting monsters to fight too.
The Dragon is only one of many boss monsters you fight throughout the game.
Graphically the Witcher 2 was one of the most beautiful games of the year with distinct environments and character models crafted to an astonishing level of detail. The world may not be that large but it is varied and full of life. Every location you visit has an aspect of beauty to it that will often take your breath away.
The graphics, world design and creatures create some breath taking scenes.
During my inevitable post graduation unemployment The Witcher 2 in definitely one of the games I will be going back to for another play-through. The Witcher 2 deserves the accolade of Game of the Year for it's engaging story, varied and fluid combat and the totally immersive world it creates.