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Articles: Gaming


What is Gaming?


Sport and Gaming can be seen as similar things. Some games like chess are internationally respected with great competitions and a strong community. Some games maybe silly and just fun, but there are also games that are strategic serious and fun.


What we choose to play varies but most people like to compete with well balanced games. Many people are in search of serious competitive games and usually those games are RTS (Real Time Strategy) Games. Some FPS (First Person Shooters) like Counter Strike and Enemy Territory also have similar competitive elements that allow for reasonably well balanced and fun competitions.


So Gaming is simply playing games in a competitive environment it's another type of sport. Gaming can be a hobby or a profession. As far as professions are concerned the most highly paid and the one with a long term security is Chess and Backgammon. But most of us hardcore gamers are in it for fun we don't mix well with the pros. Luck games in particular are in a different circle we call them gambling. So Gaming  is a term used to describe the hobby players who now and then may compete for prizes.


Most players are between 15-50 years of age each with their own prefered games suitable for their age bracket. While Pokemon appeals to younger people games like the RTS genre  appeal to mature people that are interested in strategy. This site is dedicated to Gamers (players) who play RTS and most of what i have to say stems from RTS experience.


Strategy Starts Before The Game!


An RTS game can be broken down into three areas of interest to the strategist. First there are certain game anomalies and playing styles that give you real time benefit. In other words, some strategies depend on how you control the mouse or keyboard and how the computer responds to your commands. These we call our "Interface Skill Variables" and we will describe them in detail later. Secondly, there are inherent game variables such as the different buildings, units and technology, these we call our "In-Game Variables". Thirdly there are the game variables that are chosen at the beginning of a game under the "Game Settings" screen, for example Map size, Reveal Map etc. We call these our "Pre Game Variables (or Constants)". They can be seen as variables because many of them are selected or generated randomly when you start a new game, and they can be seen as constants once the game has started because they don't change. Collectively, Interface Skill, In-Game and Pre-game variables are considered as the Game variables. Knowing these is the first step towards developing a strategy and we do this in the next few pages.




Interface Skill Variables


As explained interface variables are based on how well you know the interface of the game. There are three aspects to consider:
1.) Your Interface with your PC.

Its important to have proper posture and positioning of your rig for safe gaming. Having the proper interface with your computer is important.


2.) The computer's response to your commands.

Sometimes USB devices can slow down response times as much as having too little RAM. A poor hardrive or some other aspect can be hindering your click and response time. Identifying these problems is essential.



  • Your Rig

Some people go to the extreme of purchasing a specific gaming keyboard a light and robust mouse. You can add more RAM tweak settings until you have setup your computer for the best possible playability for a given game. Most games are designed to work in the mid range of the latest computer configurations, but as gamers we usually take the next step and add just a little more power to our PC. If you need 512MB RAM try using 1024MB, instead of 1.7GHz CPU try a 2.8GHz CPU. Your Rig is important!


  • Screen resolution
The Screen size can make a big difference to your game, it has two main areas of effect:
1.) Precision
2.) Viewability


Benefits of Precision
If you are playing in high resolution you will often miss certain intricate details such as the number of spaces between two objects. Lower resolutions make the tiles that make up the game board easier to distinguish. The easier you can distinguish the tiles the better your precision. In some cases the combination of mouse pointer precision and screen precision are balanced at a given screen resolution.


Benefits of Viewability
High Resolution screen resolution can in some games allow you to see more of the game, which makes unit and building selection easier. Essentially,  using high resolution can make more buildings and more units viewable. In RTS circles it is seen as an unfair advantage and as such many game developers have changed how Screen Resolution affects the game. Most modern games can be played at highest resolution but the viewable area remains the same.  


Scroll Time
Scrolling takes up valuable time that could be used to coordinate your units. The more you scroll the more time you waste. As mentioned earlier this is directly related to your screen resolution. The most common way of reducing scroll time is learning keyboard shortcuts.


Since you need a balance between Precision and Viewability, the best option is to go for the highest resolution that allows you to still distinguish the game tiles. This varies with screen size and graphics cards, for example a 21" monitor can usually use 1240 x 768 without any major problems, a 17" monitor is good with 800x600 and a 15" or lower is ok with 800 x 600.  If your stuck with a 640 x 480 (as I was), don't worry these factors are a small part of the game.



In-Game Interface Variables

  • Version Bugs and Anomalies
Version Bugs:
You buy a retailed game (version 1.0) and it has some bugs. Can you exploit those bugs or work around them?


Many games have some form of anomaly, identifying them and distinguishing them from bugs is important. A bug is usually something you know to be a mistake or an aspect not considered part of the game. An anomaly can be due to balancing, micro and a range of other aspects that give you an advantage or disadvantage. You may find for example that a single spear wielding unit can wipeout 3-4 mounted soldiers. It's those things you don't expect to happen but with enough micro you can re-create that anomaly. Sometimes undocumented bonuses or penalties can exist and finding them through trial and error is an important step in developing a strategy.


  • Keyboard Shortcuts
The next important factor is keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are good to know because they can save scrolling time. Selecting units by numbers, or buildings by key combos,  reduces your overall scroll time and this improves your overall speed and efficiency.


  • Grouped Units and Formations
When you are trying to enforced a grouped effort by many groups you are better off if you have mastered grouping keyboard and mouse combinations. Select a group of units using your mouse, then group them by assigning them to a shortcut number of your choice (1 to 9). Then once you have done this for all your groups you can select each group by pressing the number you chose for each group. Normally, you would assign a group of similar units together. For example, Infantry in Group 1, Cavalry in Group 2, All foot Archers in Group 3, All mounted Archers in group 4 etc. (Try to combine units so that they travel at the same speed).


  • Movement
Some times the random maps are very tricky to play in. On occasion you might send units to the other end of the map, only to find them later piled up on a shore line or behind a forest. To avoid this, use way points. Keep your way point routes short because you are delaying other areas of the game while setting them. You need to judge how many and when and when not to for your self. I tend to use them for searching so that it is done in an ordered way such as a triangular, rectangular or circular paths. I also use them when I can't avoid a stupid part of the map that causes the units to get stuck. Sometimes, they can help you set a strategic strike for example moving in zigzag towards a missile fire. Other uses include avoiding certain objects on the map that might give away your military position. For example you may have a forward build out of your opponents site, attacking them in a direct line between your forward build and their base gives away your base location. By way-pointing to attack from a different angle you can confuse your enemy who may be looking for your forward base.
  • Multi-Player Issues
Keyboard Shortcuts
When playing over the internet the shortcuts can be annoying because the response to what you press can be delayed substantially. This delay translates to human uncertainty, "Did I press train or not?" if you're not sure you press again and again. Sometimes even after pressing or repressing, the multiplayer game may not register your command immediately. Overall, keyboard shortcuts help speed up your game, and they save your poor aching mouse button finger. Unless you wish for RSI, OS, etc use the keyboard when ever you can.






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