Intro: You may be in the copper league, struggling to point and click to get a few units to build, wondering why your enemy is in your base with 3 zealots before you can even manage to get a gateway built… You might be into your 3rd placement match thinking, “am I just not capable of playing this game?”… You may be playing a very easy CPU, shy and afraid of challenging an opponent to a 1v1 quick match…. You may have just been cussed out by your ally in a 2v2 match because it’s “your fault that we lost!”…
Regardless of your situation. This is a potentially pivotal moment in the Starcraft franchise, maybe even in the RTS Genre. With the beta test of Starcraft 2 already underway, and the official release of the retail version sometime ‘soon’. The hype is at new levels, not only from old-school pros, but from new members of the community that have recently taken interest in not only playing SC2, but in becoming actually decent at it!
After all, this is a great time for competitive gaming. In the past few years we have huge competitive titles like Street Fighter 4, Quake Live, and now Starcraft 2 emerging. Taking old school, traditional e-sports into new territory, This is the age of streams, where everyone can witness the spine-tingling action of competitive gaming live from their own homes! Where gamers from all over the world can interact with each other in new ways. When SC1 came out there was no youtube, there was no livestream, there were no ‘blogs’ or ‘vlogs’ or internet gaming media outlets. Times have changed and the general interest in e-sports (as well as gaming in general) has increased many times over.
So this may be obvious, boring, or a wall-of-text (which it is), to most intermediate and advanced players. But for you, Mr(s). First-Time-RTSer, hopefully this will be able to lead you into a direction where you will begin to understand that it isn’t out of your reach to be become a decent Starcraft 2 player, and it isn’t out of your reach to become a good Starcraft 2 player, or even a GREAT Starcraft 2 player, if you put in the time and work required to hone your skills! (which can’t be much more time than you put into your lv.80 undead rogue… or your popsicle-stick collection… lol =P)
Want to get started? Well then you have to…
[Absolute Beginner's Guide]
…Start of from the very beginning. I can guarantee that you can not, and will not, learn the complexities and intricacies of Starcraft 2 from ONLY reading posts, watching replays, or playing against a computer. Before these things can become of any use to you, you have to learn the basics.
Learning Starcraft 2 has to start here. Give Terran, Protoss and Zerg a try. Figure out which one you like, and which race you think best fits your style. You absolutely can not learn them all at once. It takes time to get at a level where you can play ‘random’ as your main race. One of the most interesting aspects of Starcraft 2 is the magnitude of uniqueness of each of the three races! Find the race that you like, that you think is cool and that you feel comfortable playing! Once you have made that difficult choice you have to…
Now, when I say this, I don’t expect you to master the usage of every unit and ability. It takes time to learn to psi-storm. It takes time to learn to use siege tanks effectively. It takes time to learn the complexities of micro-ing different units (many units have different methods of micromanaging, there is no one-size fits all micro technique). So what I mean is..
Learn the basic functions, abilities and upgrades of EVERY unit that you can create. In the same way that you can’t build something in real life very well without knowing exactly what every tool in your toolkit can do, and should be used to do. You have to learn the basic ‘purposes’ and ‘functions’ of all your units. You have to know that siege tanks are vulnerable to air. Or that you have to fuse two templars together to make an archon. Or that ghosts can EMP to deplete Protoss shields, and so on.
So for whatever race you pick, go in to a CPU game, make a few of every unit that your race can make. Make at least one of every building that your class can make and start to familiarize yourself with the abilities and capabilities of your race. Memorize your race in and out, so that you don’t do something embarrassing like sending a group of immortals in to fight a group of mutalisks without knowing that immortals can not attack air… (hehe) It will take time, but it will drastically improve your ability to make decisions in game. From there you have to…
Start off with the simple (yet common and VERY important) hotkeys first…
Its crucial to be able to create unit groups (cntl+[1-9]). I commonly keep my main nexus/cc/hatch grouped under #5, for easy access at all times. Also, please learn that double pressing a unit group hotkey will center your camera around that unit or group of units. For example, if i’m fighting in my opponents base with an army bound to unit group 1, and my nexus/cc/hatch is bound to unit group 5, i can quickly move my camera between my home base and my fighting units by double-pressing 1 or 5 respectively.
Learn how to build all your buildings and units with your hotkeys. Start with the most common units first and move on to the others soon after you have them memorized. For example (using Protoss) you need to know that [B -> E] will get you a pylon. That [V -> C] will get you a Twilight Council. That [B -> G] will get you a Gateway. That [W] will quick select all of your warpgates, so that something like [W -> Z -> Click in the Pylon's 'Psionic Matrix'] will warp a zealot in from your warpgate!
Take time to master that! From there, it gets increasingly complex, but also somewhat more manageable. You shouldn’t really bother trying to learn build orders, if you aren’t able to use your hotkeys correctly and control the game proficiently. Next…
I won’t go to in depth on this one, because its not a whole lot different from #2. Just make sure you know what the other 2 races in the game (that you aren’t using as your main) are capable of doing. That may require you to open up a CPU game and build one of each unit for each race and figure out what type of things can be used against you. For example, if you don’t understand/know what reapers can do, you might be very surprised when you seem them jump over the cliff into your base and clear out your mineral line before you even have time to react!! This takes a lot of time and experience. However, once you have a basic understanding of all three races and what are and are not potential occurrences in a match of SC2, you have to…
The way you play against a Terran, is not going to be the same as the way you play against a Zerg.
The way you play against a Zerg, is not going to be the same as the way you play against a Protoss.
The way you play against a Protoss, is not going to be the same as the way you play against a Terran.
With this in mind, you must now realize that the psychology and the strategy of Starcraft 2 starts from the loading screen! You can’t make any big decisions at this point, because SCOUTING is the fundamental and essential building block of your overall strategy. However, when you see that your terran has picked Zerg, Terran, Protoss, or Random, it actually reduces the amount of possible occurrences! If you know what each race can and can not do, (which you should by this point ~.^) you will have the ability to narrow down the list of things that you need to consider when starting a game..
Once the game actually begins, most build orders start out the same for the first minute or so of the game. You build workers, you build supplies, and most importantly… you SCOUT your enemy. The timing and the frequency of scouting trips can very, but do not neglect it!!! Especially not in early and mid game. Once you have a worker in the opponent’s base, you can learn to analyze exactly what is going on and what they may be planning. You will learn to recognize your opponent’s build orders in time. You will check to see if they are getting early Vespene Gas (a sign that they intend to move quickly up the tech tree), or if they are preparing to mass basic units and rush your base (a sign that you may be in for some action sooner than you think!), or if something fishy is afoot (you dont see a pylon and a gateway at the Protoss players base? Chances are they are building a proxy gateway!! Craaaaap!!!)…
The early game is a very important time for deciding what to do, and how to get it done. Do not neglect to consider the possibilities of various matchups! Do not neglect to scout! And do not neglect to learn various build orders (the order in which you make structures and units) to deal with various situations.
There is not a 1-size-fits-all build order solution!!! When you realize this you are ready to step your game up to a higher level, and you’ll probably be able to get some wins under your belt! Now you can move on to becoming a player that is a 100% total noob, to a intermediate player. For that, you have to…
Basically, you need to know how to get the absolute MOST out of your units that you create. If you have 5 roaches and your opponent has 5 roaches, who will win the battle? Easy, the person that micromanages their units better. This means using every advantage you can at your disposal. Such as focus firing, dancing (moving your damaged units back so they go out of range and then back in so that they can continue to do damage without dieing), using special abilities (like burrow with a roach to regen health) to the best of your ability, as well as taking advantage of the terrain (blocking units on a ramp or gaining high ground).
I would consider macro and micro to be – ‘techniques’ – as opposed to – ‘tactics’. But that’s just a bit of semantic knit-picking… The reason for this is because learning how to macro and micro correctly isn’t really an option in RTS games. It’s not something you choose to utilize or not. The fact is that what separates the weaker players for the amazingly powerful players is the ability to do macro and micro at an amazing level… Think about them like playing a musical instrument. You can’t really play guitar without interacting with the strings. But what separates the 12 year old in the garage next door from jimi hendrix? The level of control and proficiency with the tools at hand.
Have you ever wondered what the significance of the terms upper-hand (english), gao shou (chinese), gosu (korean) and jyouzu (japanese) are? (If you’re not a language geek like me you probably haven’t… lol D=).
All these terms refer to a higher degree of skill. But they also all consist of the words for “HAND” and “UP”, or their linguistic equivalents. What does this mean? That knowledge of the game is only half of the equation, which execution is the other half. This goes for everything, competitive games (Street Fighter, Quake, Starcraft, etc), music, art, sports, etc.
If you want to get the complete upper hand over your opponent in a game of Starcraft 2, you have no choice but to improve the capabilities of your MIND and your HANDS. It is this which all players constantly attempt to improve. The clarity of our minds, which leads us to make all the right decisions at the right times. As well as the dexterity of our hands, which allows us to gain superior control of the tools available to us. These two things combined are what allows us to surpass what limited us before, and also what limits our opponents. It comes down to knowledge and ability.
Often, knowing what to do doesn’t result in actually doing what everything right. An intermediate players knows all of the above (macro, micro, MUs, builds, units, etc.). But the thing that separates them (myself included) from the pro players, is the ability to do the right thing 100% of the time with maximum efficiency. Because of this, you should watch all of your own replays (and even other people’s) to discern how you can improve. This will allow you to continue to do the things that you do well, while improving the areas in which you need to work hard to improve. The SC2 replay viewer is very very potent… Analyze your mistakes and you are likely to fix them later!
I would also highly recommend that all SC2 players that want to get better find a group of in-game friends that you can routinely play against and review matches with. Being buddies with another player can provide you with critiques and insight in to how you can improve your game specifically. This guide can not do that, because each player is different. You may be lacking in one area and strong in another area so you don’t understand why you are losing matches. Peer review will catch mistakes in your game that you may not see!
Source : StarCraft II Beta – English (NA) Forums -> Absolute Beginners Guide & Info Thread.
Source : Kat.swordfish
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