Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Importance of Team Games

StarCraft is a very social game, but much if what you hear about is the competitive 1v1 side of it. It's hard enough to balance the game for 1v1s so it's doubtful that it will ever be balanced enough for team-games to be played truly competitively but they are really useful for for the average player to improve their play. Practicing new openers, trying out units you aren't experienced with and going up against unfair odd can be really useful. Team games are played differently but many of the mechanics transfer over.
I only rarely built Ravens before experimenting with them in team games.
I find playing StarCraft 2 very mentally exhausting to play and sometimes I just want to play team games to relax a bit, and maybe try out some new and interesting strategies. Recently I have been experimenting with sky Terran builds in 2v2s that I have started to incorporate into my TvZ games. Going sky Terran was so different from my normal TvZ style that I probably wouldn't have risked it unpracticed against a Zerg, because of the risk of tanking my MMR, but so far it's been a success and really helped up my win-rate.

Playing with friends can be really fun, but playing the same person over and over again isn't; especially when you have a limited number of builds to throw at them. Also, your friends aren't necessarily at the same level as you and may not appreciate being beaten over... and over... and over... again. In team games you can help your friends get better, I find that shouting at them about how useless they are is the best way to get my friends to improve; subtler approaches could also hypothetically be applied.
I've been going Hellion opening into fast expand with a Banshee follow up on ladder with quite a lot of success.
Part of what makes team games less stressful is that you have someone to rely on if you massively screw up. Whilst it can be annoying if your team mates are incompetent, at least you can use them as a distraction or as a meat shield. It's good to practice engaging multiple armies at once and learning when you should run; this can all be transferred to improve your 1v1 play. When you can't engage head on you can practice harassing instead, and learn how to do a lot of damage without losing too many units.  

Whilst team games can be a lot of fun there are also a lot of annoying things about them. Seemingly Blizzard doesn't want you to expand in team games and certainly don't want you to keep them too easily. The map pool is a bit stagnant as it hasn't been updated in a while and could do with a bit of attention. Unfortunately, cheese is more prevailent in team games and can be excessively effective when you and your allies don't share a base. Depending on what your team mates are you might struggle with certain match-ups; most of my friends play Terran so we lack diversity and struggle with Protoss/ Zerg combinations.
Early cheese can be tough to deal with, especially when you are busted and then another full strength army follows it up.
Overall team games are a great way to improve your game but shouldn't be relied on; at the end of the day the best way to practice for 1v1s is to play 1v1s but team games are still a useful tool. I found that team games were a great way to overcome my ladder anxiety as my friends encouraged me to play more and I threatened them into it in return. I'm not at all saying that you need friends that play StarCraft to get into StarCraft but for me it was one of the reasons I kept playing it, and why I still love to play it, over a year on.

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  1. So you point out that 1v1 is lonely, team games are less lonely but if you want to improve you should play 1v1. Wow I said that all in one sentence.

  2. Maybe you should get into tweeting about StarCraft then...