Learning How to Practice

I’ve been pondering how to get better at SC2. There are a lot of opinions on this, watch soandso’s videos, use one generic build for everyone that teaches the basics, don’t care about mirco or winning and learn to macro, etc. I have been having trouble deciding between these and/or how to mix and match them so I feel like I am improving.

The first thing that comes to mind for improving myself is just playing more. I need to get to the point where I am getting several matches in on several days a week. I think of this as akin to eating better or going to the gym. What you do at the gym for those first couple weeks while you get used to going regularly is less important than building up the habit of doing it.

My next plan for improving is to play more on my stream and just listen to advice of people who are watching. I’ve not been good at this and in fact I rebel against their advice. While I can’t implement everything people suggest, I can work toward what they suggest and take it under advisement. My predisposition against certain units that are more micro heavy or I’ve had a hard time incorporating is no reason to just reject what a viewer suggests.

In that vein of thinking, it was noted on my stream that I don’t generally micro. In the interest of becoming more comfortable with microing I’ve started playing Darglein’s Micro Trainer. Playing though all the levels a couple times then focusing on Blink Stalkers, SCV Train, and Multiple Ability Control. Partially because I don’t even know how to do this effectively and partially because I need to teach my hands to do this. With the game timer, I figure if I do an hour of concentrated practice a day, my micro and mouse control will improve and I’ll feel more confident in using my unit’s spells.

Finally, there is TheStaircase, which is a very interesting way to learn to play. Unfortunately, because I play HotS, I am forced to make a best guess at my income rate so I can calculate SQ. This will be this way until GGTracker supports HotS which I hope will be in the near future. I am in the process of building a site that will be able to harness GGTracker’s automatic gathering of SQ for people (both the collective averages by league and for the individual player) so that you can see if you are passing or not. That said, because I am playing in the AHGL I can’t purely use this as I need to have my build orders refined for real play.

This is the start of my thoughts on training. I am going to go back and re-read The Art of Learning and see what thoughts and ideas come from that and adjust accordingly.

Playing to Win

I recently finished reading the book “Playing to Win: Becoming the Champion” by David Sirlin. It is a fantastic book that applies to a lot more than gaming. It is more than just some specific tactics to use when playing a specific game, like some guides for games are, and instead offers various ways to think, analyze and train for gaming competitions.

It begins with addressing the mindset that one needs going into trying to become better at gaming. The first being the idea that we create rules that will artificially limit ourselves, then going on to dealing with losses, and finally the kind discipline you’ll need to really carry on.

After that it goes into an analysis of Sun Zu’s “Art of War” in the context of gaming. In this section he goes beyond the obvious places where it applies in strategy games like StarCraft, but also in our training and in the real world when dealing with opponents.

Next he talks about the various personality types and approaches to competition. He uses examples from the competitive chess world as well as the Street Fighter world to show what a lot of the best of the best have in common and the differences in their approaches.

Lastly he goes into really testing and preparing oneself. He talks about being the best from a random selection of people you happen to play is all well and good, but to really judge your skill and continue advancing, you have to enter in more serious tournaments.

A lot of the previous will likely be integrated in my StarCraft 2 playing and thought process. The final part though is notable to talk about. Recently, I started working for Mozilla, a company that happens to have a After Hours Gaming League (AHGL) team. Their showing in AHGL wasn’t great but just fielding a team is pretty fantastic.

My plans are to work on my skills and discipline in training, then try out for the AHGL team at Mozilla. From what I hear it should be taking place in a few months, so it isn’t a ton of time to train but that’s alright, it will force me to work harder and focus on the most important things. I’ll hopefully have the support and help of my friends who also play along the way.

I’ll be playing to win.