I love Forged Alliance. Husband of Jop.
This is my guide on how to improve in FA. Most of its points are also applicable to other games. Some notes about this:
With that out of the way, let's begin!
Step 1. Setup.
The beginning of every improvement journey is to set up your game and environment in a way that supports long term growth. This includes multiple things:
Install useful UI mods. See my other guide for this (https://forum.faforever.com/topic/1186/ui-mod-guide-for-the-improving-player?_=1613225992111).
Set up your hotkeys in an efficient way. This is especially important because you will memorize a hotkey layout quite quickly and burn it into your brain. If you learn an inefficient setup, it will be hard to break bad habits that were instilled over hundreds of games (I suffer from this problem, and you should not repeat my mistake). Now you might ask, what is an efficient hotkey setup? Well, the default hotbuild setup isn't too bad - an important adjustment i would make to it nowadays is changing the massfab hotkey away from the premium key it occupies, and put something more useful on it. Apart from that setup, there are a few extra keys I would suggest you to bind to some relatively easy to access position:
It is normal that you will change your hotkey setup over time, but it's useful to start out with a decent layout.
Step 2. Decisions.
I would suggest deciding on a few things to streamline your improvement process as a new/weak player (<1300 rating):
Decide on the game mode. Do you want to become good at teamgames or 1v1? Make up your mind and play accordingly (e.g. using teamgames only as a tool to test out uncommon units, if your goal is 1v1 improvement, playing the game mode the most that you are interested in improving at, etc.)
Pick out a specific rating goal, that is not massively far away, but will take some time to reach. Be happy once you reach it. Repeat this process for motivation.
Pick a faction, and stick to it. Supcom gameplay is extremely similar throughout the factions, so you cut down on confusion by learning a single faction first.
Decide on a certain strategy and the corresponding build order before every game, and try to get a feel on how it works. Change it up only after you think you can execute it reasonably well or if it doesn't work at all on a map (Example: T1 spam on literally every map, T2 air gunship snipe on every map, etc. Of course you will adapt during the game, but the general game plan should be fixed).
Find a good player and stream to follow and copy what they do. You will not know the correct decisions in game situations at this stage in your improvement career, and any player above 2000 will do for this (Jagged, Tagada, Farms, as examples of currently active streamers). Use this to find answers to common questions like “When to upgrade a mex”, “How many factories on x map”, etc.
Step 3. Mindset.
There are certain patterns of thought that will help you keep an improving mindset. Those can sound a bit uncomfortable and harsh, but this is in your best interest! I will humbly call them Blackhearts Laws.
1) It is your fault. Remember that scene from Good Will Hunting, where Will is told that he is not at fault for his childhood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQht2yOX9Js)? Well, I am telling you the opposite. It is your fault. You are responsible if you lose the game. You played bad, and you have to change that. Even if it is a teamgame, there is something you could have done better to get a mildly better winning chance, regardless if every team member failed. Do not spend time making up excuses why you lost (cheese that I didn't scout, bad concentration because of bad sleep, etc) but make sure to find causes and try to remove them.
2) Never compromise long term gains for short term improvement. If you want to improve further and further, there is no excuse for taking shortcuts in your gameplay. Shying away from the correct play, even if it's something that will lose you points until you learn how to do it, will slow you down long term. Examples of this include:
3) Fix your time usage. Your time playing should not make up the big majority of your time spent on FA. Spamming 10 ladder games in a row is massively less useful than playing 5 and then critically analyzing those 5 to find your mistakes and trying to think of ways to not make them again. Playing 5 games and analyzing them is again less useful than doing that but also watching high lvl gameplay/learning data about the game. View playing games as a mere tool to supply data to do the actual improvement work on. Watching high level gameplay will also give you more data to memorize - try to analyze the way a good player treats a certain matchup, a certain map, etc and implement it actively the next time you encounter a comparable situation in your own games.
4) Accept plateaus and frustration. It is completely normal to not improve your rating for a month or so, and it is also normal to get tilted once in a while when on a losing streak. Do not let that discourage you: Rating is not a direct equivalent of your skill, but merely an approximative tool that will over time follow your skill. It is completely normal and common to not improve your rating for 1-2-3 months and then suddenly jump 100-200 points. When down in spirit, think of law 2 and remember that you are in for the long term improvement and not the short term rating gain. You want to play better, not have more rating. As long as you feel that your gameplay is improving, all is probably fine. Learning this game takes time.
5) Realize that FA is a continuous game. One of the best aspects about this game is that small mistakes result in small punishment, and large mistakes result in large punishment. A rough ordering of magnitudes of mistakes would be (starting from the most severe mistake):
If you watch a replay, or play the game, you should always keep this in mind. If your acu is in a horrible position, your attention should be spent removing it from that horrible position instead of fixing your eco. If your eco is in shambles, you should fix your eco instead of winning a tank battle somewhere on the map.
6) Use others for advice, rely and trust on yourself to improve. Improving to a good level takes a good amount of time. The reality of the situation is that there won't be someone to guide you all the time, you have to learn to improve on your own. That is why trainers are not a magical aid that will make you jump hundreds of points, but rather an advice dispenser. Use streams to ask the streamer why he is doing something he is doing, ask a trainer to help you find mistakes, but always try to do it on your own as well. Similarly, in teamgames, do what you think is the best move instead of asking others on your team for advice during the game (for analysis, do it!). If it doesn't work, you learned something, if it does work, you didn't need the advice in the first place. Again, this is about learning and long term improvement, not short term more game wins.
Step 4. Start doing it and keep doing it!
This gets its own step, because even if you follow every single thing in this guide, it will be useless if you don't actually start spending time and implementing all of those funny pieces of advice. Good players are good because they did that, they spent hundreds of hours eliminating mistakes, reading guides, watching streams. If you don't consistently spend something around 5-10 productive hours per week, don't expect to become a very good player (2000+ ladder). Those hours are preferably spread out, so the time spent is quality time with good concentration.
Day after day I see questions about which UI mods are useful, essential, important, and worse, misinformation or outright wrong recommendations. In this guide I will provide you with my evaluation of common UI mods. As the title of this post will already tell you, my focus will be the importance and the impact of those mods on your improvement in 1v1. My list will have no particular order. If you are above 2000 1v1 rating you can draw your own conclusions.
ecomanager: Not recommended. The autopausing features will hinder the development of your eco balancing ability and instill bad habits. The only use cases for this mod are very specific scenarios like large scale teamgames in controlled scenarios.
Selection Deprioritizer: Not relevant / rather not recommended. The apm/brain energy this drains is not worth the minor payoff for better unit control. Having to switch selection priority in specific scenarios takes time/attention and teaches you bad unit positioning habits. Can be more useful in teamgame scenario.
Advanced target priorities: Recommended. This mod does not directly influence anything, so you can start using it at any point. Useful for stuff like t1 arty drops killing the right stuff.
UI Party: Recommended/not relevant. Not a specific feature of this, but it being not intrusive makes it at least not harmful.
Spread Move: Recommended/not relevant. Small use case, but not intrusive. OK mod.
Idle engineers: Not recommended. Clutters the screen and the default game already supplies plenty methods of dealing/recognizing idle engies.
Supreme score board: Recommended. Just a nicer scoreboard especially for teamgames with no downside.
Better reclaim view: Recommended. Great improvement over the generic reclaim view.
Additional Camera Stuff: Recommended. Adds stuff like functional camera positions and similar. Depending on your playstyle it can be nice. Not a must though.
NoShake: Recommended. Shake is annoying.
Selection Cost UI: Not relevant.
Advanced Strategic Icons: Extremely strong NOT recommended. I would go as far as saying that this mod will completely destroy your ability to improve past a certain level. The reasoning is the incredible clutter, completely filling your screen and taking your overview/ability to select things away. I would suggest you finding a version that only changes SMD/SML if that is your reason for using it, but thats where it ends. You wont be able to develop the gamesense you need if you blind out half of the information the game offers to you. No top player uses this mod.
Disperse Move: Recommended/not relevant. Small use case but not negative impact. Essentially the same as spread move afaik.
Zep_MiniMapZoom: Recommended/Not relevant. I personally dont use it due to not liking stuff disappearing and appearing all the time, but it is a solid idea and I can see people getting a small benefit from it.
Sequentially upgrading mex: Not recommended. Basically a worse version of ecomanager, which I already didnt recommend.
That should cover most common UI mods - if I forgot some let me know.
100% agree - Proper casting and coverage of tourneys is essential, including promo etc. Cultivating the twitch channel is paramount for this. As written in the showmatch thread, I am willing to participate in a showmatch.
The general underlying idea isnt bad - but I have one major issue with this:
What is the point of making lets say, the top 4 from last lots (or scored like Swkolls invite points system), perform in a circus to qualify? There are 3 scenarios that can happen:
Nexus, Petric, me, etc play the majority/all of those. We place 1-4 every single tournament, because thats what would happen. The rest will be very random cause it depends who plays us in early rounds, and you will have beatdowns every single tourney and people qualifying only by seeding luck.
We dont play the tourneys. This leads to 10 (!) slots given out to extremely weak players and a majorly stacked last qualifier/last 2 qualifiers. Those then have a decent chance of a very competent player not qualifying, cause he met someone strong early by bad luck.
Only a small portion plays the tourneys. This is probably the optimal case, but hinges on people not playing + still has tons of randomness. Again, my goal is that the strongest players end up in lots, not the ones that grind the most ladder or whatever.
Then on top of that, we have the scoring system which isnt very top-heavy. Means that you have to play a ton of tourneys if you really want to be sure to qualify. Why does a good player like the ones I mentioned have to prove themselves in 10 pre-tourneys if they have been a top5 player for literally the past 10 years? Why is participation and time investment valued more than actual playing ability?
What other sport has this system? Does Magnus Carlsen have to beat up 2500 rated players in 10 different tourneys so he is allowed to defend his title? Does Ronaldo have to beat up granny football leagues until he is allowed to play in a world cup? Does Khabib have to choke out 10 toddlers to be allowed to defend his UFC titles? Makes zero sense to me - people want to see the strongest people play, so just let them.
If you want to push ladder activity, you will have to increase the pro player count, which is the only relevant variable. You dont increase it by punishing you once you got there. Why not cut down the tourneys and put some bucks into showmatches (like the BO15 we had at various points in time, maybe a BO15 ladder showmatch?), which would attract loads of attention?
Now the only thing left for my wet dream to come into existence is Blind mapgen mode + unexplored mode ingame. If anyone manages that, ill host a doubleblind tourney
I think what plenty people get wrong with "my performance is better with those mods" is that while maybe for their current state the mods add, lets say +100 rating, they hinder long term improvement. And that is the point here. They hinder the development of game sense, they hinder the adaption in your brain that is necessary to read an entire map from icons alone, etc. When you learn to ride a bike, eventually the training wheels have to come off - there is no way around it. As another example you could perfectly learn Sentons only, air slot only, seraphim only, perfect 15 min build order, strat rush only, and jump easily to probably around 1700 rating (or even more). That would have the same problem: You dont develop the skills and adaptive abilities necessary to perform in ladder/tourney settings (where different maps are enforced, faction bans, people will know your replays, etc).
Maybe I should write a guide on how to improve in games in general.
Magnus Carlsens title is that of the World chess champion. A world championship cycle happens currently every 2 years (with 2020 delayed due to covid) and he does the title defense regardless of the amount of games he played in those years. (Since you clearly didnt want to read up on that before posting, here a link to make up for that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship)
That first obvious point (he does not have to play a single game at all to be able to defend his title) out of the way - why does he play many tourneys & games regardless? He thinks it trains him (earlier champs used to be less active in their title defense years btw). He would be outclassed because the others dont slack if he doesnt play at all and also arent incredibly much weaker (Another interesting link for you: https://2700chess.com - the difference between top 1 and top 50 isnt 600+ points like on FAF).
To your next point, which is also inccorect. They do not invite only the top active players. A great example is the St. Louis which marked Kasparovs temporary comeback to professional chess - funny that you even mention him as not being able to be invited, when that is just what happened (https://www.chess.com/news/view/carlsen-kasparov-saint-louis-chess-chess960). Same thing goes for Karpov/Kramnik who have a trivial time getting invitations whenever they wish to play a tourney (https://en.chessbase.com/post/anand-vs-kramnik-no-castling, just 3 days ago, even catering to Kramniks favourite playing variant). The reason those people are not in the tourneys is because they do not want to play.
Then, to make it even more obvious how incorrect your statement is and because you picked it as an example: If you win the TATA you get invited back the next year. This is the same distance in time as there is between 2 LOTS. Also added on that, if you win your group in the TATA, you get moved up and automatically invited the next year (this happens to every chess prodigy rising up the ranks). So yes, chess works exactly as I stated and nothing like you think it does. All of what I wrote here can be trivially fact-checked where I didnt already provide the links myself, so feel free to do so.
Adding up, Magnus does not beat 2500 players in tourneys "all the time". If you would check his tourneys and games (as I do, a link for you to do so as well https://2700chess.com/players/carlsen), you will see that in serious competition (Banter blitz is not serious competition, neither are lichess titled arenas) he very rarely plays a player more than ~150 rating points apart from himself. In fact, some upcoming GMs even complain about this due to thinking they dont get enough chance to compete against him.
Anything else? Ah yeah. The majority of the big chess tourneys (including almost all of the ones you mentioned) are invite-only with ~2 wildcards mixed in. In fact I even disagree with this because I think you should have qualifying chances in some way (even if it is just rating).
So in sum: Your post is mostly incorrect and borderline intellectually insulting. I didnt pick my examples because they are blatantly wrong.
I disagree with @Swkoll here: The point of a showmatch is to be entertaining. Thats why its called "showmatch" and not "Championship" or "Epic duel to death over 999 games". Its a nice way to test out more unconventional settings (like mapgen unexplored or whatever ideas) and to have something a bit more serious/organized than just random ladder games. Why would you not try your hardest when playing, if its a "soft" split? Everyone likes to win more than lose, I dont think thats an issue whatsoever. The soft split is there to keep it friendly and to compensate the potential non-perfect competitive setting a showmatch can have.
Mantis: 27 dps 270 hp
Brick: 313 dps 7500 hp
Id be up for a series under the following conditions:
Id be willing to stream my POV if wanted.
@WillowsDuality Because im not remotely interested in preparing for/playing an entire tourney for a share of 100-150 bucks. If I was, I would not have posted here (..obviously).
I do not care if there are monthly tourneys or whatever open for everyone (always good to have an active tourney life especially for people trying to get better), I care that there are 0 invites for LOTS (the tourney I would want to play).
@arma473 cost of stuff might be nice to know for satisfactory purposes, but it doesnt matter much for analysis purposes. What you need to know is the relation of unit costs (e.g. brick ~percy, tank = tank, ...) for which this is not very useful.
Chat notification sound: 1) My post was concerned with 1v1 improvement. For 1v1 a team chat notification sound obviously isnt relevant.
2) I personally would hate the mod, since i generally ignore my team. Thats the reason I also wouldnt care if any of my team members do have that mod - if I think its worth communicating with them, I ask them to go on voice. My recommendation to someone trying to become good in teamgames would be finding a fixed teammate and playing with that person on voice chat. If for some reason you have voice chat phobia, I probably still wouldnt recommend that mod. You should try to get to a state where you can read the game yourself and dont rely on ally analysis. If you need it, you can ask ingame and then you pay attention to the answer. Generally the advice given by your team is useless and should be ignored in favor of your own analysis - if your analysis happens to be wrong, at least you learned why it doesnt work (this is for your own improvement, not for optimal game results).