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Getting Better at sPvP for Us Casuals

sPvP noob skill practice

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#1 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 10:28 PM

Here I just want to summarize a few things that helped me out with becoming a better player in SCII. These are done from the context of SCII because that's where I played "a lot", but the same approach can be applied to any game. I will note that I was rank 1 Diamond for a while after SCII originally came out, and I am Gold/Platinum currently if I just load up the game and play through my placement matches, so nothing to brag about, and I haven't played in 2 months. I've started out as Copper when I first got my hands on the game with very little BW experience. I'll also mention that I'm obviously not proficient in GW2 at all. This is my plan of operations, and advice to others who, hopefully, can benefit from this. If you disagree with this (unless it's specifically GW2 related), write your own guide, I feel very strongly about what I've written here, and, trust me, this is a result of a lot of experience and a lot of arguing, I'm not gonna argue with you. This is generalized advice for people who are:

a) stuck at the bottom (by bottom I mean bottom. I don't mean low Masters. I mean Bronze. I mean 400 ELO. And w/e ranking system GW2 is gonna use) and can't seem to get up;
B) don't have that much playing time (granted, if all you can afford is 30 minutes a week, I can't help you);
c) DO want to considerably improve. This is not for people who are not willing to go out there and read websites and wikis and watch videos. If you are not proactive enough to learn information about the game, you will have a lot of trouble becoming better.

First: indiscriminate "practice" is worthless. I lost count how many bronze players with 4k games I've seen, while I could get to Diamond within 50 games. For practice to be effective, it needs to be done correctly. Otherwise, you're really just wasting time as far as becoming a better player goes. And if you're like me, you hardly have the time.

Second: some things can distinguish players very, very quickly, even when the game has just came out. That's what I'm on about.

So as far as things that you should worry about...

Basics. What are basics? That varies from game to game, but these are usually issues that are kinda easy to get into, but some people never bother so they continue to be worse than average. As far as GW2 goes, these are the following:

- if you're a clicker, you probably shouldn't be one. Clicking things is usually rather slow compared to pressing keyboard keys;
- hotkey layout. What keys you're gonna press. This is a very personal thing. Some people have complex 30-button mice, I don't, I have to put my hotkeys on my lousy laptop keyboard, whatever. Figure out your best hotkey setup for yourself, because you do not want any delay between wanting to do something and doing it. In terms of GW2, especially things like dodging and healing are very important;
- more on hotkeys: make sure that your dodge key is binded well. The default binding is... suboptimal. Doubletap is just slow. There are also customized dodge functions for a direct dodge left and right, if you care for them;
- there's a special function somewhere that let's you look right directly behind you;
- consider if you want to turn off auto-attack, especially if you're running a Sword Ranger;
- if most of your skills are hotkeys, you may benefit from using auto-run, because one of the most frequently abandoned keys to get to 1-2-3-4-5 is W;
- mouse turning. I honestly didn't know this was a thing until recently. Unless you have proven to yourself that you're a badass mofo and can win tournaments with keyboard turning, learn to use the mouse to turn your character;
- I am not sure what else to add. I could write whole essays on SCII's basics, but here I'm mostly drawing a blank.

If you don't know the basics you can't do anything.

Knowledge. Knowledge is a lot more important than pretty much anything else (besides basics) at this stage. The good thing about knowledge is that it is often easier to get knowledge than get time to practice. What do you need to know?

First, learn the classes. Learn YOUR class. Make sure you know what the skills are (regardless of whether you "plan" to use them or not). Which skills does more damage. What extra effects do those skills have. The range. What the cooldowns on them are. Learn w/e your extra mechanic is and the different effects that go with it. Death Shroud. Ranger Pet. Stealing and shadowstepping and initiative. Learn the quirks of your utility skills. Learn the kind of traits you have and the synergies across skills. Know what your health pool, armor values, etc., are relative to other classes. What items you have access to.

Then, learn every other class. This can be hard and time consuming, I know. So take it slow, concentrate on your class, but also get a general idea of what the other classes are capable of. Get some general knowledge, just read their general wiki descriptions, maybe watch a vid or two, just so you know what they're capable of even remotely. Playing every class a little bit helps a lot. Some standard advice: if some class keeps beating you, play that class and see what the deal is.

Learn the combos. You can use them and a lot of other professions can cause them. There is honestly not that many fields in particular, and you can distinguish projectiles, so learning all the combos, or, at least, what classes typically represent what parts of a combo is feasible.

Learn the map. That is Forest right now, but they may add more. Know what the map is even about, for starters. Know generally what the pathways are, what you need to look for, locations where you can hide or avoid damage, places you can shadowstep if you're a Thief or teleport if not or w/e. If you can get your hands on extra things, such as where trebuchets shoot the best, or how much health do the NPC guys have, learn that, too.

Knowledge is power, use it well ©.

Metagame. I have a slightly unusual definition of what entails metagame. For me, metagame is that which did not originate from you. Metagame is ideas and practices of the general community, popular enough to be followed by most. Often these originate from very good professional players. Some examples of metagame are builds, map strategies and splits (i.e., how many players go where), and team compositions.

The good thing about the metagame is that in some situations, it can allow you to get into things quicker and do all right even when you're not yet a good player. That is because they give you templates as to what to do. A bad player who knows the metagame will almost always beat another bad player who doesn't. It also helps when you're really new to get a grasp on the game. As far as metagame goes, what you should really be aware of:

- the metagame does not actually exist. There's no rule anywhere in the game's code that says following the metagame will yield you wins. There's no rule in the game that the metagame is always correct and the most optimal way to play. That is simply not true. It's not unusual for the current metagame to be complete crap compared to reality. Metagames actually tend to be surprisingly slow to develop;

- there can be multiple conflicting metagames in the community at a time. Just because some forum claims X doesn't mean some other forum doesn't claim Y; some games have more solidified metagames (MOBA's), while others have such a discordant metagame that following it is shooting yourself in the foot (EVE);

- what works for them, doesn't work for you. Just because the metagame says Joe the Sylvari needs to play a Guardian, doesn't mean it's a good idea if he absolutely sucks as a Guardian and it offends his leafy sensibilities. Let him play his Ranger or w/e, and it's more likely for you to win the game at mid level by letting people do what they're best at than forcing them into a metagame;

- at any point that there are significant balance changes, patches, and especially expansions, the entire metagame goes to shit;

- not everyone notices that the metagame went to shit, especially when changes occured very slowly across some 10+ patches. Sometimes you have some significant balance changes, and people are still using old builds, or shunning things that used to be ineffective. This doesn't mean anything - again, the metagame does not exist, it's just an ethereal consensus of the community. Usually, it takes a pro to make people notice that the metagame went to shit, but you can use that to your advantage;

- playing by the metagame often results in a blind spot in terms of why you're actually running the metagame. Metagames arise for a reason, somewhere down the line they've proven to give advantages. You need to know what those advantages are. You need to know WHY this is the metagame. Otherwise, that is going to be your blind spot, and you wouldn't be able to adapt once the metagame goes to shit.

A good example in terms of GW2. During BWE1, people have designed a set of builds (that's your metagame). Some of them were even good. During BWE2, ANet has implemented trait tiers. That destroyed a lot of builds at the time. A good player can recover and adapt his old builds into new ones. A great player can find important changes and make a build that was even better and be the originator of that very metagame. When GW2 releases, evreything will probably go to shit again.

- do not be afraid to break the metagame. It's not a catastrophe to take that nice build you found, and change one little trait to make it suit you better, or use a different skill than they used. Sometimes you don't even know why they use what they use, it may be a personal thing, and you should adapt accordingly. Some builds are worth copying 100%, some really aren't;

- be aware that some players cannot physically function outside of a metagame. They'll get a stroke if they have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes, these are entire teams and entire guilds. Especially the teams that are pretty good and want to be pro are extremely concerned with the metagame. They'll also hate you if you dare break the metagame;

- DO know what the metagame currently is. It gives you an edge because you know what to expect from players who are very likely to be following the metagame. It makes them predictable, and it's especially good when you can mislead them while you yourself are not predictable. People seriously expect to win just because they follow the metagame and you don't sometimes;

- especially learn metagame "cheese", i.e., cheap tactics. A lot of bad players love to learn cheap tactics so that they can get to higher levels of play easily. Good players also use them, but it's not as common until pro level since it's not good training. Don't be defeated by that. Defeat people by that if you want that win really badly. I am not currently aware of such tactics in GW2, but if they do arise, know what they are;

- do not confuse the metagame with strategy. Strategy is the opposite of metagame;

- every time there's a patch, process which changes affect what within the metagame and how much so you can be ready for weaknesses or loopholes;

- it can be very beneficial to play bad specs, or, even better, weak professions. First, it forces you to play better. One of the best ways to train is to end up with opponents that are significantly better than you. Using a bad spec can simulate that. It also works sort of like running with a bunch of weights on your legs. Second, most good companies eventually buff anything that is weak at the moment, which means that you can become god once your bad profession suddenly becomes amazing. This also applies for unpopular professions and specs. Sometimes they're not UP at all but they get buffed anyway; this means that it is never a waste of time to play certain professions, builds, or specs. If it makes some degree of sense, if there's room for it, you can go for it;

- know if you're playing to win or if you're playing to practice. These are very different things. Playing outside of the metagame is a much higher learning slope. You have to know everything, and it will take time. Handicapping yourself is the same thing. You won't win right now. If you want to win right now, then you obviously do not want to handicap yourself; on the other hand, playing outside the metagame means you're largely immune to patches.

Sometimes you get worse before you get better.

Concentrated Practice. This can often be combined with learning things, since some stuff can be learned along the way while you're using it. What is concentrated practice? Practice with some specific goal in mind, usually concentrated, limited, narrow in scope. Usually, not just spamming games. This is my preferred way to improve in a game, in contrast to game spam. I actually benefit very little from game spam, unless I'm playing significantly better players.

There are some disagreements in regards to centralized training and decentralized training. What I mean by this is that there are two things you can do:

- pick one profession, one spec, one map, and practice it to death;
- practice everything kinda at once on the same level.

I actually found that I play much better with the latter. I played SCII as Random, I ran 15 different build orders overall, etc., but I'm probably the exception. And I'm not gonna run 8 classes anyway. Most recommend the former, most work better with the former.

So pick your favorite profession, find a metagame-approved spec that you like, maybe tweak it a bit, and just concentrate on learning the ins and outs of that. The biggest benefit from this method is that a lot of the skills transfer over, while you quicker become better with your profession-spec so that you can start concentrating on the outer strategy of the game instead of still staring at your cooldowns. This is especially recommended when the game has been out for a while. May not be as effective at the beginning since you can do funkier things when everyone is new.

The best way to do this kind of practice is find a friend who'll play with you and continually practice with him. A lot of clans back in SCII offered this kind of thing, if GW2 grows as an eSport, that should develop.

If you do not have a friend, use AI. I'm actually very excited about the fact that ANET put AI stuff into the Mists. That is excellent. You have training dummies to test your damage, you have AI classes to practice predicting their animations and what not. And here are the things I can think of that you can practice:

- load the map and just spend your time running through it, looking around, examining what kind of paths exist, looking for any places where you can be hard to get to, looking for good LoSing locations
- skill chains. If you have some sort of an attack that you want to execute (perhaps you made this up, perhaps you've adapted it from the aforementioned metagame), practice that attack to see what kind of lags or delays exist. Get a general feel for when it starts and ends. This is especially true for sequences that include a weapon swap. A lot of skills in GW2 are instant, but not quite. You can also observe secondary things such as how much time intuitively it takes to recharge Initiative on your Thief or something. Be creative;
- animations. Look at the animations that NPC's make to see how various enemy attacks look like, or sound like, so you both know what the enemy is doing, and can avoid it if needed;
- if you have a friend, practice your relative damage output to see how much of an effect various damage levels have so you can get comfortable with them;
- again if you have a friend, practice dodging their moves and learning the animations;
- practice specific profession vs profession, spec vs spec, matchups. Mirror matchups in particular can be interesting to better learn your own class;
- if you can get more friends and practice 1v2s or 1v3's that's even better, since these situations arise during games all the time;
- practice crossing distances. In the maps we have right now, it is very important. Some websites put up some stuff as to how many seconds it takes to get somewhere, with what powerups or bonuses or what not. Knowing these things can help you setup a good game plan, as well as predict how quickly your or your enemy can get somewhere;
- also know respawn timers on NPC's and other things of that nature;
- compare things. For instance, you have spec A, you can do sequence 1-2-3-4-5 with it. You know that in the metagame, someone has spec B, with sequence 6-7-2-1-3. These may be different classes, it doesn't matter. You notice that your sequence takes a certain amount of time, applies a certain set of effects, and deals a certain amount of damage. The other guy's spec has the same attributes, but with different values. Looking at these things can help you figure out if your current setup will be able to compete with the metagame. Sure, you have a spec with 80% crit damage and everything. But what if they have 94% crit damage? You want to have this information. You want to have at least some sort of a measuring stick to compare your specs to, so you don't end up with something completely horrible unless you do want a spec that's horrible.

You may lose even if your strategy is correct when you simply lack the skill in terms of movement, understanding animations, LoSing, etc. It's not always the strategy, sometimes it's just you. If you're using a metagame template, it's probably you.

If anyone has anything to add, feel free... if not for me, then for others.

#2 Alaroxr

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 10:43 PM

This will be very good for many players. Especially with regards to meta-game.

Nice job.

Edited by Alaroxr, 19 July 2012 - 10:43 PM.


#3 Ankeus

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 11:09 PM

View PostIron Legionnaire, on 19 July 2012 - 10:28 PM, said:

- if most of your skills are hotkeys, you may benefit from using auto-run, because one of the most frequently abandoned keys to get to 1-2-3-4-5 is W;

And for auto run haters there's another solution. In GW1 (when WASDing) I always pressed both mouse buttons down when I temporarily reached from W to skills 1, 2 or 3. It worked good enough to prevent stopping. However we have to remember that it was usually the melee guys that had to do this. In GW2 this will apply to ranged chasers also.

Nice guide.

Edited by Ankeus, 19 July 2012 - 11:10 PM.


#4 Seetherrr

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 12:06 AM

Some good info excluding your absolute butchering of what metagame actually is.

#5 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 12:28 AM

Thanks, guys, I expected a more negative response, to be honest, lol

View PostSeetherrr, on 20 July 2012 - 12:06 AM, said:

Some good info excluding your absolute butchering of what metagame actually is.
Yeah, some could see it that way. I have a strong dislike for the metagame, if you haven't noticed. :P

Edited by Iron Legionnaire, 20 July 2012 - 12:30 AM.


#6 Seetherrr

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 01:34 AM

View PostIron Legionnaire, on 20 July 2012 - 12:28 AM, said:

Yeah, some could see it that way. I have a strong misunderstanding of metagame, if you haven't noticed. :P
FYP
You are using metagame as a descriptor for something that it is not.

Check out this post to see what metagame is....
http://www.guildwars...n-guild-wars-2/

Edited by Seetherrr, 20 July 2012 - 01:37 AM.


#7 Siric

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 03:08 AM

I want to slap this shit out of someone every time I hear some random misuse the term metagame.

Edited by Siric, 20 July 2012 - 03:08 AM.


#8 Cyrkle

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 03:31 AM

View PostSiric, on 20 July 2012 - 03:08 AM, said:

I want to slap this shit out of someone every time I hear some random misuse the term metagame.

I just metagamed your post so hard right now.

#9 Chesire

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 04:04 AM

+1 this info.

A bit hard on the eyes to read, but good write up regardless.

#10 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 12:03 PM

View PostSeetherrr, on 20 July 2012 - 01:34 AM, said:

FYP
You are using metagame as a descriptor for something that it is not.

Check out this post to see what metagame is....
http://www.guildwars...n-guild-wars-2/
Metagame is an older term than that...

Typical instances of the term metagame:

- general standard build orders in SCII. Particularly, 4-gating was referred to as the "current" metagame;
- tanky DPS top, AP mid, AD bot + support, jungler, is referred to as LoL's current metagame.

I believe all of that falls under "you did not create this". Which is a more understandable concept than "abstraction of the game" or "current gaming mode", or the wikipedia definition (which seems inapplicable for gaming), or something obscure like that. And the word metagame just means an abstraction of the gameplay on the outside. That doesn't change that it didn't originate from you. A person typically needs to go to an external source to figure out wtf is the metagame at the moment.

If you can find me something that is metagame but also doesn't fall under the rule of not originating from you, I'd like to look at it.

The reason I do not accept the "standard" definition of what metagame was supposed to originally mean is because nobody does it that way. For the vast majority of people, it's just blind adaptation of other peoples' tactics. LoL's prescribed team composition is just a template that you blindly follow. There's nothing specifically metagamey about it. Real metagaming may happen at the pro level (in fact, what I described, using the known metagame to fool opponents IS metagaming), but you'll hear people scream about how you're not following the metagame much sooner. It just doesn't carry that meaning anymore. Metagame is standard builds, strategies, and team compositions... that's all it is these days.

#11 Sycthrex

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 12:22 PM

Absolutely amazing post for anyone wondering how to improve themselves and increase their knowledge.
I agree with your explanation of 'Metagame' but everyone likes to argue their breasts off about what it means.

It's usually because they follow some 'Pro' livestreamer who said it was My Little Pony riding a green cheese flake or something like that :P

Starve the Trolls, Feed the Reports!

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#12 Merryem

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 12:57 PM

I have a few questions;

Do you know how to change the dodge function? I like to dodge using double tap, but when I double tap my "a" and "d" keys, it doesn't dodge, only when I double tap the "w" and "s" keys. Which is annoying because most of the time I want to dodge sideways.
Also is there any way to turn character using mouse? When I try to, the camera moves but my character continues to move according to my keys. It just automatically shifts back to the regular camera when I release the left click button.

#13 voodoo mouse

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 01:32 PM

Generally speaking a nice guide which could be applied to most games of this type.  "Meta-game" seems to mean different things to different people combined with the fact gw2 doesn't have one yet as it's still in beta will mean the best way of addressing this will be area of ongoing "debate".  A couple of small points I think are worth adding for spvp:

1. get a vent server - voice chat massively increases team co-ordination and reaction speed
2. try and play with a regular team - getting to know your team mates playstyles will improve how well you can compliment them
3. learn to communicate well on vent - learn what you need to communicate, how do do it in a succinct and clear way and how to be silent when other people need to relay important stuff.  
4. learn to scout/watch for enemy strategy e.g. tell your team that the enemy is attacking your node before they arrive

all of this is probably so basic that most forum users do it without thinking but communication is often what separates a competative PUG from a terrible one and most PUGs tend to be the latter

#14 Seetherrr

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 04:26 PM

View PostIron Legionnaire, on 20 July 2012 - 12:03 PM, said:

Metagame is an older term than that...


Yeah, it is an older term than sc2.  It has been discussed in professional poker as a topic for a very long time. You are missapplying it.

#15 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 04:59 PM

View PostMerryem, on 20 July 2012 - 12:57 PM, said:

Do you know how to change the dodge function? I like to dodge using double tap, but when I double tap my "a" and "d" keys, it doesn't dodge, only when I double tap the "w" and "s" keys. Which is annoying because most of the time I want to dodge sideways.
Strange, definitely dodged at "a" and "d" for me.

Unfortunately, I don't really recall what the control setup looked like for GW2, and it's not available in the launcher, so I can't help you here. :( Just look under the key bindings. There should be an option to set various types of dodge (I do not recommend double tap, though).

View PostMerryem, on 20 July 2012 - 12:57 PM, said:

Also is there any way to turn character using mouse? When I try to, the camera moves but my character continues to move according to my keys. It just automatically shifts back to the regular camera when I release the left click button.
Generally, I believe right click and drag moves your actual character, while left click moves only the camera. It varies in some games sometimes.

View PostSeetherrr, on 20 July 2012 - 04:26 PM, said:

Yeah, it is an older term than sc2.  It has been discussed in professional poker as a topic for a very long time. You are missapplying it.
No, I believe gamers are misapplying it. Metagame is rarely used in video games the way it is used in poker.

I am not sure what the first video game was to use the term. I do not recall it in SC:BW.

Edited by Iron Legionnaire, 20 July 2012 - 05:00 PM.


#16 Aodan

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 10:41 PM

Stomp Cast as well as other articles with more info.

But nice post for the most part @OP

View PostIron Legionnaire, on 20 July 2012 - 12:28 AM, said:

Thanks, guys, I expected a more negative response, to be honest, lol

Yeah, some could see it that way. I have a strong dislike for the metagame, if you haven't noticed. :P

Doesn't change the fact that it's part of the game and needed for High level play, but casuals are usually not in that.

#17 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 05:58 PM

View PostAodan, on 20 July 2012 - 10:41 PM, said:

Doesn't change the fact that it's part of the game and needed for High level play, but casuals are usually not in that.
99% of the people I encountered are "not in that". Too many people like to pretend that they are.

#18 Aodan

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 08:12 PM

View PostIron Legionnaire, on 21 July 2012 - 05:58 PM, said:

99% of the people I encountered are "not in that". Too many people like to pretend that they are.

I'm sure your not either

#19 Iron Legionnaire

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:24 PM

View PostAodan, on 21 July 2012 - 08:12 PM, said:

I'm sure your not either
Pretty sure the first few sentences in my post admit that.

I'm better than a lot of the people who think they're the 1%, though.





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