Over the years, Real Time Strategy games (RTS) have always attracted me, but usually only through the single player campaign. Often times, I even get board of that and never really finish them completely, alternate campaigns that start you back at “you gain one new unit permission!” have little appeal for me. One game roped me into competitive online play, Dune 2000.
Dune 2000 wasn’t a phenomenal game by any reach of the imagination and bore much in common with Command and Conquer. On the ol’ dial up and the original family Gateway (Windows 98SE, Celeron 300, 3GB hard drive, 64MB of ram and a screaming for the time 12MB Voodoo2 graphics card) I would play into the wee hours of the morning during high school. There was a ladder and typically I was in the middle, the highlight of my experience there was a dramatic victory over the 13th ranked player that I could bore you with the details sometime. By far, that has to be the most played RTS game for me, ever.
I enjoyed the original Starcraft, but to be honest I was late to the party, the game looked old and I never finished Brood Wars, the expansion. As for multilayer, I played against other real people exactly one time in a ranked Battle.net match where I obliterated some random internet guy (kid?) who accused me of cheating with a good amount of profanity thrown in. This was a good way to start – and a good way to end.
A big reason for me shying away from the online multilayer aspect of RTS games is the intensity that the one on one matches bring to the table. As some of you may know, I like to play games competitively, sometimes to a fault. I know better, but often times my brain equates fun with winning and that drives me while playing. Out in the rest of the world, people are really good at these RTS games and playing against them can be a lesson in futility and frustration if you allow it to be. In Dune 2000, I got to the point where I had a “build order” and a strategy, and played it enough that I just knew what the other player was up to frequently by what units I would see early in the game. It probably helped that I was in the game playing/learning highpoint of my life, being 15 or so.
Out comes Star Craft 2. I’ll admit I got caught up in the hype of it, and like Diablo 2 it was purchased Day 1 of its general availability. Heck, the collectors edition is currently on my desk, complete with its thumb drive containing all of SC1 amongst other nifty things. Anyway, for the first time really, I knew a bunch of people who had also purchased it and were playing as a group regularly (Thursday night, 9PM for those interested) and this helped take the edge off of playing online. Dan T. played a 2v2 online match with me versus the great unknown, and thus scary, others on the Internet.
Emboldened by this, I played through the prerequisite five placement matches on the SC2 ladder (there is a very robust, continuous ranking system in place online) and manage to win one and lose four very tense matches. This got me placed into the “Bronze” league. The bottom one out of five. Which is fine, really, because I thought that meant I would play only against other Bronze level players. Wrong. You get automagically placed against anyone looking to play, and that can include Diamond players, way up there at the tippy top. The type of gamers who play SC2 as a job. Suffice to say, I lost three more matches and then, finally winning one. This was a good time to wrap up my play for a while.
In the meantime I started watching Day9 daily over lunch after reading an article at Ars. In the comments of the article, his feed was mentioned as one that focused on improvement over entertainment value. I have found that true – and have one my last two ladder matches pretty convincingly against folks that I was “slightly favored” over. Terminology and lingo have also been valuable information gleaned from his daily broadcasts.
In closing, I promise to the people coming to the LAN party that I am not going to 2 gate-Robo into 2 base 8-gate and rush you with speed Zealots every game. Unless I start losing. 😛
And if you know what that means, I am sure you’ll be able to neutralize it 🙂