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- You may have heard of Sun Tzu and his book Art of War, or perhaps at least Napoleon the famed military leader. These might be the first thoughts a non-gamer jumps to if they hear about strategy, or perhaps they will think of successful businessmen and the contemporary battlefield that is the corporate world. Maybe they will think about Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov and other great chess players. The type of strategy they are famous for and those cross-overs you see in StarCraft 2 is not the type of strategy I am going to be talking about. Maybe some other time, I will instead focus on how you apply strategy to improve your skill as a player.
- Strategy is unforgiving, difficult and at times abstract, it bears much in common with other such difficult yet intrinsic skills we've come to know as Language and Math (words and numbers are hard). The same as all skills we receive tools and are told to apply those tools within the rule-set of the discipline to achieve an outcome. Strategy is much the same, but we have a much more distinct dis-advantage in that Strategy isn't something that we were taught day to day in school, maybe for fear that this would make school actually interesting. It is unfortunate however because Strategy is fundamentally about getting the job done; "a plan, method, or series of manoeuvres of stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result". How could they leave something so practical out of our public education? Tsk tsk.
- Approaching something the optimal and most efficient way possible to win sounds great, right? But how does it work? Firstly we need to understand that strategy is something that you can apply to absolutely everything that you do. There are no exceptions at all, if there is ever something you are trying to achieve, there are ways you can optimise your approach to ensure better results. Learning how to apply strategy to achieving one aim will carry over to the next thing you want to achieve as well. Like any other skill it's something you get better at devising and employing over time.
- Do you want to get fit? Do you want to learn an instrument? Do you want to feel less tired? Do you want a better job? Do you want better social skills? Do you want to jump really high? You don't want any of those things, I know you guys, you want to be better at StarCraft 2, right? Ok good, we're on the same page then. Something here to note is that my previous background is in FPS and I'm essentially new to playing RTS with SC2. But I've found great success when applying a learning strategy to improving in SC2 and Quake. This entire concept of strategy isn't as easily applicable to FPS games however, so this is probably a new thing for you if you are from that background.
- Now with regards to SC2 we have 2 fundamental considerations, and based on those considerations we can formulate our strategy for improving.
- #1 The Strategy of Learning - This concerns your approach to learning the game as a whole.
- #2 Understanding SC2 - This concerns your analytical abilities, which are required to identify and understand everything that is going on inside the game.
- Now both of these areas are extremely synergistic and you can't improve at the game significantly without addressing this duality. You can be analytically sound, able to identify all of your weaknesses, correctly choose the best BO's and adjustments for all situations, but it counts for nothing if you haven't trained your mechanics. It counts for nothing if your stamina is such that you get tired after 4-5 games and your performance drops off. Equally, you can be really great at having a strict practice regime that has you training 8 hours a day religiously, but if you don't have the analytical abilities or the focus to train specifically, your time is spent inefficiently and you will only enforce bad habits and hurt your potential.
- If I open up the can of worms that is specifics then this blog would quickly turn into a lengthy article, but I will offer a theoretical example to show how these two concepts compliment each other and how you can use them in your improvement strategy to become a top player.
- #1 Consistent practice environment
- 3-4 hour ladder sessions where you take breaks every 30-45minutes (save replays!)
- Based on #2 arrange opponents to help you work on X matchup/situation
- Practice macroing builds and their transitions repeatedly vs the very easy ai
- #2 Watch replays of yourself and note adjustments and weaknesses.
- Watch streams (preferably players who play in Korea eg. SaSe, YuGioH etc) and GSL (the premiere SC2 league) - note the current builds/meta game in the match ups and how these players handle macro/mechanics.
- Build your understanding of macro in general and within the scope of your builds (production/managing your economy) so that you can understand where you are getting behind or ahead.
- Build your understanding of mechanics so that you can understand where they are limiting you (eg. scouting, macro, micro, multi-tasking etc). One of the best ways to improve your mechanics is definitely to play a lot, but remember that a good system of habits and efficient hotkeying is important too.
- As an ending note, I'd like to say that StarCraft 2 like all games should be about fun. Whilst what I've described may not sound like fun, if you are a masochist like myself and can't stand losing or not being good at something, then it's not so bad and it may well help you move up that much more quickly.
- That's all from me for now, glhf!
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