Monday, July 26, 2010

T-Minus... 5 hours. SC2 Beginner's Guide (part 3)

It's almost time now, to not only find out how the next chapter in the StarCraft story is going to unfold... but it's almost time to once again be able to play StarCraft on

I've waited 12 years for this, and I'm excited. I've had my copy sitting on my desk at work... just staring at me, and taunting me for the last week about how I'm not yet able to buy it... Tomorrow morning, (or tonight if you're going to a midnight release) we'll finally be able to play.

In the final portion of my SC2 multi-player beginner's guide, I'll touch on a few tips on playing SC2's other two races... the Zerg, and the Protoss.


Back in the days of the original StarCraft, the Zerg was my favorite race to play. Due to this, during the SC2 Beta, I played quite a bit more of the Zerg than I did of the Terrans or Protoss. The Blizzard team have really done some awesome things to the Zerg in SC2. You truly get the feeling that you're controlling a "swarm" while playing the Zerg, which (in my opinion) is a lot of fun.

Zerg Tip #1: Overseers vs Overlords

I'm putting this as my "#1" tip for the Zerg because I didn't know this when I started playing the Beta.... and I got my ass kicked the first game because of it.

Unlike in the original StarCraft... Overlords do NOT detect cloaked or burrowed units.

I believe my reaction to this when I first realized it was something along the lines of "wtf?!".

Once you've built a Spawning Pool, and upgraded your Hatchery to a Lair, you can upgrade Overlords to the new unit called an Overseer.

Overseers can detect... Overlords cannot.

Overseers cannot transport units though, and Overlords can, so don't just upgrade every Overlord you have to an Overseer.

This is one fundamental change that Blizz made to the Zerg... and it really threw me off guard the first time I played compared to the Original StarCraft. The Overseer is a pretty cool unit though, so it's not too hard to get used to the change once you find other uses for the Overseer and realize they are more useful than an Overlord in other ways as well.

Zerg Tip #2: Nydus Networks

Nydus Canals were a staple of the Zerg in terms of ground troop mobility in the original StarCraft.... but if the map was large and you had many places you wanted to move troops to quickly, it could get insanely confusing trying to keep track of all the entrance and exits for each canal.

In SC2, they simplify the Nydus concept while maintaining the awesome mobility they provided in the original game. Enter the Nydus Network and the Nydus Worm. To use it, you build the original Nydus Network structure somewhere on Creep. You can then spawn Nydus Worm "exits" for the anywhere on the map that you can see. Each worm exit costs (currently) 100/100, and generate creep (which allows you to build defenses around it if you want).

You don't have to spawn the Nydus Worm exits on Creep!... but, the exits have very low hp and no armor, so they die quickly if attacked.

To move your units via the Nydus Network, you simply select your units you wish to have go through the network and right click on any Nydus Network or Nydus Worm and they will load into it like a transport. Then click the worm or "exit you wish to have them exit through and click the "unload" button. Any Nydus Network/Worm can be entered or exited from any other Nydus network/worm.

These networks allow a Zerg player to very quickly and easily move large numbers of ground units from one point on the map to another.

My tip is that the Nydus Network is an excellent way to support and defend multiple expansions with ground forces, without being required to keep your units stationed at those expansions.

Zerg Tip #3: Queens

Probably the biggest change in SC2 to a unit that kept the same name from the original StarCraft is the Queen.

In the original SC, the Queen was an offensive support/caster unit. In SC2, the Queen is a defensive powerhouse that stays near your base. In the original SC, the Queen was a fast moving air unit... in SC2, she's a relatively slow moving ground unit.

Why would Blizzard keep the same name for the Queen when she's a completely different unit?... probably because Queen is a much more fitting name for a unit like this when you consider that a Zerg base is essentially structured like an insect hive. Think Queen Bee instead of Queen of Blades. The Queen's movement is severely slowed if she is not on Creep, making her an excelent unit to defend your base, but a poor choice to take on the offensive.

The Queen in SC2 will allow your Hatchery/Lair/Hive to produce more larvae which allows you to build more units. The Queen will not do this automatically though. My tip here is remember to tell your queens to spawn more larvae as often as you can. Also, Queens make pretty decent T1.5 anti-air defensive units.


My SC2 knowledge on the Protoss is semi-limited considering I played very few matches during the SC2 Beta as the Protoss.... I did however spend the majority of my matches playing against the Protoss, and learned that the Protoss is a very cool (and powerful) race.

Protoss Tip #1: Warp Gates vs Gateways

Probably the biggest change to the way Protoss play their ground game in SC2 is the introduction of Warp Gates instead of Gateways to spawn in units.

You still have to build Gateways (the Protoss version of a Barracks) but once they're built, you can research Warp Gate technology.

Once you have the Warp Gate tech, you can convert any number of your Gateways into Warp Gates. You can convert them back into Gateways later if need be.

Warp Gates allow you to instantly "warp" in any unit that you would normally be able to make at a Gateway to anywhere powered by a friendly Pylon... (and yes, Warp Prisms count as Pylons). The units you warp in still cost the same amount of resources to warp in as they would if you would make them at a Gateway.

For example, say you have a bunch of Warp Gates ready to warp in units at your main base, but one of your expansions is being attacked. You can then select those Warp Gates, and "warp-in" units from those Gateways to that expansion (assuming you have a Pylon up at the expansion).

There is a cooldown on warping units in, and you cannot queue up units to warp in like you can at a Gateway, but it does give the Protoss versatility on where and when they spawn units.

My tip is, early on in the game while you're still building your initial army, it may not always be the best call to convert to Warp Gates right off the bat. Use the Gateways until you feel comfortable that you have a sizable force because you can queue up units to be built and don't have to always be watching your Warp Gate cooldown. Once you feel comfortable you can convert them to Warp Gates, but there is not always a need to do so right away.

Protoss Tip #2: Void Rays.

By far, the most widely used Protoss unit I came across while playing against Protoss players was the Void Ray.

They're popular for a reason: They're powerful....

...but only if you use them correctly.

The beam weapon the Void Rays use becomes more powerful and "charges up" the longer you use it continually. If you stop attacking with it for too long (I believe it's three seconds, but that may have changed in a patch) you lose your charge and you have to start all over again.

My tip is, if you're going to go Void Rays, make sure you try to keep attacking targets and keep that charge up. Don't let an enemy player lure you away from your target and lose your charge, or you'll lose a good chunk of your offensive power.

Protoss Tip #3: Multiple Pylons

Many newer StarCraft players who are just starting out with Protoss make the simple mistake of building too few Pylons.

Protoss buildings need to be powered by Pylons, or they shut down and cannot function. You see many new players building 2093820 buildings... all powered by one Pylon. An enemy comes in, and focuses on that single Pylon and they have effectively shut down your entire base because all your buildings are sitting dormant without power.

My tip is to try to make sure that as often as you can, make sure your buildings are powered by multiple Pylons, and that your Pylons are protected. This part of playing Protoss did not change with SC2, but it's still a mistake I saw pretty often while playing Beta.

Friday, July 23, 2010

T-Minus... 4 days. SC2 beginner's guide (part 2)

A couple days ago I posted a few general tips to get folks started in SC2 multi-player. Today I will go over a few tips that are specific to playing the Terrans.

Wings of Liberty's single player experience focuses primarily on the Terrans. There will likely be some sort of tutorial to explain the ins and outs of the Terrans, which makes them an excellent race to start out with if you're new to StarCraft multi-player.

Terran Tip #1: SCV's and Repair

The Terran's worker units, the SCVs, can repair buildings and mechanical units... like they could in the original StarCraft. New to SC2 however, this repair now has an "auto-cast" feature, much like the Priest's "heal" spell from WarCraft III. Simply right-click on the "Repair" icon and it will enable the SCV to repair anything within range... assuming you have the resources to do so.

This takes some of the micro-management out of Terran base defense, and recovery. Now, when you bring a half-dead group of Vikings back to base after an attack, you no longer have tell an SCV to repair each Viking in your army. They'll keep themselves busy doing it for you, so you can focus on other things.

Terran Tip #2: Using buildings as a defensive "wall"

Many of the Terrans' primary means of base defense rely on killing enemies at range... before they can get too close.

One very effective way of forcing ground forces to stay at range for the Terrans has always been by blocking off ramps, or choke-points with buildings. In SC2, this is still an extremely useful strategy. The Terran Supply Depots even support this strategy by having the new feature of being able to submerge underground and allowing units to walk over them (as to not trap your own units). When an enemy attack is incoming, you can tell the Depots to pop back up and block the way.

If you're going to utilize this strategy, there is one thing to remember about the grid-map system that all SC2 maps use: Many ramps will not be fully blocked by Supply Depots alone... but they can be used to limit the number of melee units that can attack your defense at a time. Considering both Zerg and Protoss have melee Tier 1 units, it makes this a very effective early ground rush defense.

Terran Tip #3: Detectors

The Terran mobile detection unit (detect means the ability to see cloaked or burrowed units) is the Raven. Ravens have many other abilities other than detection, but they are slow moving, easy to kill... and expensive.

Now, I'm not saying the Raven is a bad unit... they're my favorite new Terran Unit... I'm saying that they make lousy detectors. Unfortunately, Detection is essential for the battlefield, especially later on the in the game. Fortunately, Terrans have other means of Detecting aside from the Raven.

Terran Command Centers can be upgraded to the Orbital Command Station which allows you to scan an area of the map. This is an excellent way to scout, but it also detects any units within the area scanned for a short duration. My tip is to have the Orbital Command hotkeyed, so you can use the scan quickly during an attack/defense.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

T-Minus... 6 Days... SC2 multi-player beginner's guide (part 1)

As I posted previously, I have retired from WoW until Cataclysm. I will be focusing primarily on SC2 until then, but I'll still keep an avid eye on the priestly side of things in terms of WoW. I'll post about WoW, when there's something interesting that I have an opinion on.

Now... StarCraft, is not WoW, nor do I think that SC2 will ever be nearly as wildly popular as WoW is/was. One thing that makes WoW such a great game is that it can appeal to nearly everyone whether they are hardcore gamers or casual and WoW's the only game they've ever played. WoW truly followed Blizzard's "Easy to learn, difficult to master" motto.

By nature, an RTS game like StarCraft is going to be more competitive overall than a game like WoW simply because the point of the game is to win. There is no casual questing, RPing, making conga-lines in Dalaran, or any of that type of thing. Even in the more casual brackets, or co-op AI games... SC2 pits you against someone (or something in terms of the AI) else, and your goal is to defeat them.

If you are new to the RTS scene and are thinking of checking out StarCraft II when it's released next week, or if you are like me and love it but haven't touched a StarCraft game in 10 years, here are a few tips you probably want to remember when starting out in the SC2 multi-player arena. A few of these are race specific, but most of them are general rules-of-thumb.

General StarCraft Tip #1: Know your enemy...

...and I don't mean simply looking to see what race the other players are on the load screen. I'm talking about scouting during the match. Scouting has always been important in StarCraft (and RTS games in general) but in SC2 it's practically essential.

Scouting, aside from knowing where your rivals are located, will allow you to know what units the other players are building, so you can build your army to counter it. Scouting can also give you a heads-up about impending attacks because you will know when the other players are moving their units.

General StarCraft Tip #2: Supply and Demand.

Well... more like Supply before Demand. Keep building Supply Depots/Overlords/Pylons, and don't forget about them. Nothing can stint your army's strength before an impending attack or before attacking like having to build a supply depot before you can build more units.

Build up your supply before you're in major demand for units. Also, don't stop building simply because you have a bunch of units to attack with. This isn't WarCraft III... StarCraft is meant for huge armies.

General StarCraft Tip #3: Spend your resources.

StarCraft II is not R/L... There is no need to save your money for a rainy day. Spend those resources and continue pumping out units to build your army, expanding, or tech-ing up to try and gain the upper hand instead of just sitting on resources.

For many players new to RTS games or StarCraft, this most commonly happens while they are attacking a rival's base/expansion. The player will be tunnel-visioned on the attack and will stop production while they're focused on the attack. It's sometimes a tough rhythm to get into, but try to remember to shift your focus back to your base during an attack to queue up units to be built. This will not only strengthen your defense, but it will also allow you to go on the offensive again faster to replace units lost in your attack.

General StarCraft Tip #4: Expand early, Expand often.

Those who control the most resources, control the map... most of the time.

If you're playing at your proper skill level (which the new matchmaking system is very good at) this should generally be the case. There will be games where you control more resources than the other player but they simply surprise you or outplay you. It goes without saying though, that you need resources to buy units/buildings. Without buildings and units, you cannot win.

Don't simply think that once you expand once, you don't have to do it again. You never know how long the game will take, so if you have the resources/defenses to expand.... do it.

If you have more resources than the other player, you can build a bigger army and therefore have a better chance of survival.

General StarCraft Tip #5: The Economy is your friend...

...and in a competitive game like SC, you don't want to share your friends. Sabotage your rival's economy as much as you can.

This can be something as simple as harassing their workers, or something as complex as not allowing your rival to expand. Even if you harass their workers and you don't kill any of them, sometimes that time lost where they're not mining anything, can give you the upper hand.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mongrr Metal Update

Soilwork - The Panic Broadcast

Last Tuesday (7/13), Swedish metal band Soilwork released their eighth studio album entitled "The Panic Broadcast."

I've been strapped for time lately, and haven't had as much time to listen to this album as I would have liked, but on the first few listens, it seems to be pretty solid.

It's hands down better than 2007's "Sworn to a Great Divide," which was a bit lackluster imo. This album is slightly heavier than Great Divide, yet still shows Speed's talent in being able to be both a superb screamer, and melodic vocalist. It's no "Stabbing the Drama" but it's still a great listen.

There are a few tracks where you can tell that they were trying to be "radio friendly" and are therefore toned down quite a bit and pretty mellow. Overall, The Panic Broadcast seems to keep a good mix and balances well between the heavy screaming and melodic metal sides they are so well known for, and don't lean too far in either direction.

The first track on the album is pretty epic, entitled Late for the kill, Early for the Slaughter and has found a permanent place in my playlist.

Monday, July 19, 2010

T-Minus... 8 days...

...Until StarCraft II.

I realize that most of the past posts on this blog have been WoW related, but come on... it's friggin' StarCraft II.

I haven't been this excited about a new game release since the Diablo II release ten years ago.

I've been playing the SC2 beta for months now (it recently started back up again), and in my opinion, it's awesome. Keep in mind that I was a HUGE SC1 fan, and I'm still pretty confident that my hours spent playing SC1 still outnumber the hours I've spent playing WoW (which is no small number).

I can't decide though, whether or not my excitement about the upcoming release and my enjoyment I've had playing the beta is due to the game being great, or me simply "missing" playing that type of game.

Up until very recently (I stopped playing WoW a few weeks ago), my gaming focus had remained solely on WoW. Granted, there were a few single player games here and there that caught my attention for short periods (Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, etc.) but nothing that I "stuck" with like WoW. It has been very refreshing "catching up" on some of the games I've missed while focusing so much on WoW, and I think part of my excitement and enjoyment in SC2 is due to the same reasons....

It's something different than WoW. I'm not saying that WoW is a bad game, it is just that sometimes you don't know how fresh the air outside is until you finally realize how stale the air inside has become... and SC2 is a breath of fresh air.

Aside from enjoying the different type of gameplay from WoW, I have also re-connected with some of the friends I spent all those hours playing SC1 with while playing the SC2 beta. Not all of the buddies I played SC1 with were into WoW, so over the past few years, we kind of drifted apart. It has been enjoyable getting back in touch with them and getting back into the swing of things with a new RTS.

I'm also excited about the new changes. I haven't had much to say on the whole "RealID" issue, since I haven't been playing WoW and it hasn't really affected me. I'm not going to comment either way on the whole RealID on the forums thing, but I feel that RealID for cross-game chat is an awesome feature. It will (hopefully) allow me to keep in touch with my WoW friends who aren't into RTS games like StarCraft, so I don't drift away from them like I did with my SC friends when WoW was released.

I'm extremely excited about the SC2 single player campaign, and from what I've heard, it's going to be epic.