Welcome to 1055

In the year of our Dwarven Lord 1055 I was approached in the mines by a rather desperate looking fellow.  Setting down my pick a while to hear him speak, I only catch the end of his phrase: “So I’m leaving you in charge.”  I reach back for my pick and grunt, “Good,” before getting back to work; and there is a lot of work to do.

Simple, effective, food is found both by the dining hall and sleeping quarters

Looking over our living arrangements, I quickly realize that the planners of this place had not listened to the Dwarven Philosopher ThunderClaw’s Treatise on Decentralized Living.  It was time to educate them.  I quickly set down a bold new plan to deal with Barracks and Dining for our few remaining troops.  Additionally, I order the masons to pave over the stairs to the “Under Dark.”  That’s a headache for another Dwarf.

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I did a Bad Bad Thing.

Let me start by saying I am not a “pro-caster.”  I don’t cast professional Starcraft matches and I am not qualified to.  To be a good pro-caster, you need to have a good feel for what it is people want to see, know what’s going on, and to do it in real time.  When you see Tasteless on GomTV, or Day9 run the King of the Beta, you know instantly these guys could be sportscasters for baseball just as easily as Starcraft.  They know what’s going on and how to bring that to the audience.  One of the things that has irked me about the release of Starcraft 2 is the number of people springing up to claim to be “pro-casters,” when they really don’t have the experience or skills to pull it off.

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Pax Prime 2010

Welcome to PAX

For those of you who didn’t make it to PAX this weekend, you have my most sincere sympathy; it truly is an amazing experience for a gamer.  From playing Duke Nukem Forever on the expo floor to listening to Scott and Kris talking about making blamimations to watching Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins play D&D, there really is nothing quite like PAX; I highly recommend attending if you find yourself in the Seattle or Boston area.  I’m sure you’ve seen some of the news for Duke Nukem Forever or Final Fantasy 14, but there are a lot of games shown off at PAX.  For those of you who couldn’t make it out this year I thought I might review some of the lesser known titles which were shown off at PAX this year.
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Rankings

And knowing is half the battle

There has been a lot of discussion on the topic of Starcraft 2 rankings recently, and I thought we might take this time to sit down and have a chat about them. At their core, rankings seek to address the eternal questions of “Who am I?” and “Am I a man?” and more frequently, “How can I prove that I’m a better person than my friend Bob?”

Throughout the ages, man sought to prove his dominance over his fellow man. This was instinctual ever since we first left the trees for African plains. However, early man lacked the comforts of Battle.net 2.0. Instead, he was forced to resort to cave paintings, local competitions and iCCup. In these days, ranking was not something that happened between you and your 99 friends, but rather a letter grade which was bestowed upon you like a tardy student at the end of 2nd year English.

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The Magic Box

Pandora's BoxRight now, the Magic Box is one of the most interesting things happening in Starcraft 2 game play (5 rax reapers is less interesting based on its straight forward usage).  At its core is the idea that “Hard Counters” don’t really exist in Starcraft 2 and that, rather, how you use your units is more important than what they are.  Those people familiar with using Speedlings against Hellions or Tanks against Marauders have already encountered this strange Phenomenon.

To help you understand this, it’s probably best if I start by explaining what a “Hard Counter” is.  The concept of a counter unit is very much based in the children’s game Rock-Paper-Scissors.  For those unaware of the game, children simultaneously choose one of the three titular elements, each of which wins against another element while losing against the other differing element (same elements are considered draws).   A first glance at Starcraft seems to indicate a similar trend: Hellions do extra damage to light units (which Zerglings are) and can be upgraded even further in this capacity; by comparison Zerglings do not do extra damage to Hellions and, further more, clump up causing them to take additional damage from the Hellions’ AoE .  This would imply to the layperson that an army of Zerglings will lose to an army of Hellions.  Strangely enough, you’ll see many Zerg players actually employ Speedlings (speed upgraded Zerglings) in defense against Hellions.  While this may seem counter intuitive, if the Speedlings can surround the Hellion (thus preventing escape) they are very effective at killing it.

As Day9 might say, “[Hard Counters] deeply bother me.”

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Macro vs Micro

Still one of my favorite images

In Real Time Strategy games, and to some extent turn based ones too, there are these two concepts of Macro and Micro.  Macro here refers to the economic theory of resource distribution, and Micro to micromanagement of units. Despite what many people will tell you (and the above image suggests) these are not two sides to the same coin; they are radically different concepts that make up the heart and soul of an RTS game.

While these concepts really apply to any RTS game, most of this discussion is going to be in reference to Starcraft 2 as that is where I have the most familiarity.

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The Greatest Game You Never Played

I love that quote

If you’ve never heard of Sacrifice, the title should be a bit of a dead give away.  If, by some miracle, you did hear about it, or even play it once or twice, it’s probably only a vague memory.  To those few of us who played and loved this game, it holds a special place in our hearts.  If you are one of those lucky few, you may skip this article and go with the sound knowledge that you did right.  On the other hand, if you never heard of Sacrifice, or did, but never played it, I have a short exercise for you.  I want you to raise your right hand (or left for those of you lacking a right hand) and in a strong slapping motion, I want you to slap yourself in the face.  If, for medical reasons, you are incapable of slapping yourself, find a near friend and have them slap you.

How does that feel? Does it sting? Well it should, because you missed out on God’s gift to gaming.

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