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Road to Masters #1 – The Road Ahead

It’s been five years since I started playing StarCraft seriously. I’ve been to tournaments (on and offline), met awesome friends and have made my way all the way up to Diamond.

Behind the scenes, I’ve faced several challenges along the way that have nothing to do with StarCraft. Changing cities, moving to my own place, managing jobs, freelancing, along with a dream of creating content about the games that I love; specially, StarCraft.

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably been here for most of it.

Recently, I’ve started working on going back to the good habits that brought me here. I felt at some point, that I was neglecting the continuation of my improvement in StarCraft because sometimes, practicing the same thing over and over again for hours can be quite dull.

I’ve tried different approaches to getting better at the game throughout the years. I’ve been given advice by many different people. Some of it has been extremely helpful. Some of it has been, well, not.

I feel at this point that I’ve learned not as much about the game as I’ve learned about myself and the way I learn.
As some of you might know already, I’ve been a teacher for the last five years. The process of acquiring knowledge has become of great interest to me. It had been in the past, but now, it has seeped deeper into other aspects of my life.

This has got me thinking a lot about the way I learn StarCraft and what could be better strategies to go about improving at the game.

A quick disclaimer, the following strategies are things that have worked for me. These are in no way ultimate truths or secret recipes that will work for everyone, but maybe the process I’ve gone through might be useful to you.

Deliberate Practice

One of the things that has helped me in the past, is to isolate the issues in my play.

Now, identifying and isolating them is only a small part of the process. What made this the most helpful was scaffolding these issues from the most basic to the most complex, and also, from the most fundamental to the most peripheral skills to perform at the game.

Based on this scale, I allocated time to focus on each skill. In my case, for example, practicing macro and multitasking is a priority over micro. So micro for me, gets less time when it comes to deliberate practice.
At the moment, out of the 100% of the time I’ve been devoting to pratice, 40% goes to skills related to micro (stutter stepping, splitting, focus-firing, spellcaster control, etc.) and 60% to macro mechanics (macro cycle, multitasking, continuous production).

Practice Partners

This is a very important aspect of practice that I just started implementing. Having people around you to exchange ideas is one of the most effective ways of building knowledge.
There are many ways in which we can gather information and accumulate it. But socialization gives us unique opportunities to process and build upon this knowledge.

Up to now, I have been practicing with protoss players. My current most challenging match up.
StarCraft is, quite literally, too dangerous to go alone. Even the best players in the world have sparring partners, teams and friends to exchange intel with and practice. They don’t have to be extremely knowledgeable or even at a higher level than you. They just have to want to commit as much as you do.

Create a Routine

One of the most important aspects of improving is to create a solid practice routine.
This is not just about the drills, the builds and the ladder. It’s also about the quantity and quality of time you are willing to invest.
Ask yourself, “when am I the most focused during the day?”, “when are there less distractions?”, “at what time of the day do I perform better?”

If you don’t know the answers to these questions yet, GO FIGURE THEM OUT. Try practicing different things at different times of the day. Try weekdays, try weekends. Slowly but surely you will find a practice schedule that is right for your routine.

Design a routine that fits your lifestyle. There is no reason why you should set up unrealistic expectations at the expense of other important things in life or compromise other activities that might be beneficial to you.

It’s not all about the game. The mind and the body need care and nurturing. Practice shouldn’t make you ill, it should make you better.

Practice routines should include rest. PRACTICE. ROUTINES. SHOULD. INCLUDE. REST.
Burnout is a real thing and it can knock you back unnecessarily. But more importantly, it can ruin your motivation to go on. Having time away from the game will give time for the knowledge to sink in, and for that back, wrists, fingers and arms to cool down. Schedule that time and respect it.

Add variety to your practice

Pedagogically speaking, ladder is the worst environment for learning.

Let me repeat that…

LADDER IS THE WORST ENVIRONMENT FOR LEARNING.

The ladder is a highly competitive ranking system. The whole point of the ladder is to segregate players into different tiers based on how many games they win.

Ladder is no different from a standarized test. Playing in the ladder repeatedly might give you an understanding of how the ladder system works, but without any external information to aid you, you could be stuck in there forever. The other thing to note is that ladder doesn’t measure your skills in the game, it rewards you for winning. If you don’t win, you don’t move. The improvements you make everyday do not matter to it. Hence, you have to keep track of and appreaciate those yourself.

If you play a 100 games on ladder and never look at them again, analyze them, share them with other for feedback, chances are, those 100 games will take you nowhere.

What helps us move up in the ladder is not playing the ladder itself but what we do when we’re not on it. Analyzing replays, exchanging notes with other players, practicing a build order, going over a tutorial for a particular skill, watching how others solved the problems you are facing right now. Learning from others and teaching others what we know is what will eventually help us break the barrier between tiers.

Use the ladder not as a means to practice but as a tool to evaluate what your practice is doing for you.

Join a tournament once in a while. Tournaments are great places to connect with other players with similar goals and interests. They also give you a unique experience in that you face a same opponent for more than one game. Take this as a tiny test of knowledge, skill and adaptation.

In this video, I briefly discussed and shared some of the things I do for practice. Have other resources or suggestions for practice? Share in the comments what you do to become better at the game!






Grizzly Gaming Journal #3 – Post Blizzcon: Looking back

Blizzcon

-By Grizzly

What an amazing experience.

That sums up the entire five days of pre, during and post Blizzcon adventure. As a first time attendee, I was amazed by the caliber of the event. There was no moment where I felt let down by it. I wanted it to keep happening for just a little longer.

Blizzcon is in fact, a celebration. A celebration of gaming, passion, and dedication to something we love. Despite the odds, the rough starts and the moments of doubt, we made it.
For me, it was the validation of my goals and dreams for my future. It was the most genuine pat on the back: “it’s all gonna be alright, little bears”.

It’s surreal to meet people you’ve known for so many years, for the first time and have it seem like it was always that way; just the way things are.

Registration Day

Blizzcon isn’t the first tech and gaming related event I’ve ever been to, but it’s definitely the first one I’ve ever attended in which, despite the number of people, everything ran smoothly.
Although fast, the feeling of getting my badge was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it the culmination of a long-term goal, but also a testament to hard work and dedication.

On this day, we finally had the chance to meet our dear friend OFY. A long-time supporter of the stream, OFY is a genuinely nice human being. We shared stories, great food, and seats as we watched the WCS Global Finals for StarCraft 2.

So much to do, so much to see

Blizzcon was everything we thought it would be and we saw just how proud the Blizzard crew and community members are of the games they put so much passion into.
We also had time to try out new stuff like new character releases, merch and licensed products that were coming soon(TM).

Blizzcon Tracer

The art of Blizzard is everywhere you turn.

Blizzcon See4

Blizzard is bringing Overwatch to the LEGO Universe. As a long time fan of LEGO, these two sets immediately caught my attention. What do you guys think?

Blizzcon See5

By far the best community moment apart from the Community Nights was The March of the Murlocs, which paraded the venue spreading the love for Blizzard games in true nerd fashion.

Overwatch Arena

The Overwatch Arena. Once you step into this area, you realize just how important Overwatch is as an esport. China, played some sick games.

Blizzcon See6

There’s no arena that embraces its lore as much as the Hearthstone arena does. Fans of the game gather around the hearth in this fully equipped tavern-like battlefield to witness epic battles.

WCS Global Finals

Since the World Championship Series became a thing, I might’ve missed some series but I’ve never missed a final.

All throughout our viewing, the hype was on a constant rise as players battled it out on the beautiful StarCraft 2 arena.

Blizzcon See8

Seeing Maru play and lose so quickly was an obvious upset, but I also think it is a testament to just how hard StarCraft is. As a game itself, but also, as a competitive practice.
The stakes in this tournament were huge and a lot of players crumbled under the pressure. Surprisingly, Maru fell 0 – 3 vs sOs and that was the end of what had been a very successful year for him.

But it was a historical Blizzcon for StarCraft as Serral was crowned the 2018’s WCS Champion after beating Stats in a beautiful 6 game series that represents everything that is beautiful and terrifying about StarCraft. How incredibly unforgiving a loss can be versus the magnitude of a victory.

Friends Galore

After years of watching each other’s streams, we finally had a chance to meet with Poizon and OFY, two long-time viewers and friends of the bears.

Family Photo

StarCraft Family Photo (The Beasleys are missing, though…)

Seeing friends is always nice and I also had the chance to say hi to another long-timer, DukeNukem.

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Duke has been a long-time friend during my streaming years. Was happy to finally meet him.

I made some new friends as well and finally had a chance to meet face to face with one of the coolest individuals I’ve ever met. Temp0 was as excited to meet me as I was about meeting him, which I felt extremely honored by. We got to chat quite a bit and share the passion for StarCraft and the community.

Temp0

Maybe now, I’ll become a grandmaster and be faster.

I have been a long-time Neuro viewer for a few years now and I didn’t expect to just stumble upon him the way I did.
He was an easy person to talk to, friendly and open to say hi, and because of the great spirit he puts into the StarCraft community, I had to ask him to sign my Field Manual, which I brought with me as a sort of yearbook for my new friends to sign. His is by far the best signature I got.

Other honorable mentions are:

Meeting Maynarde.
I was really looking forward to saying hi to Maynarde because of the design work I had done for him. He was a pleasure to work with and I really wanted to express my gratitude for giving me an opportunity.
He was very kind and generous with his time. Unfortunately, I was too anxious to ask for a photo or a signature so, in the end, I just kept the good memories.

Meeting Rotterdam.
It’s awesome to exchange a few words with someone and immediately realize how passionate they are about StarCraft. That was the case when we approached Rotterdam. Over the years, Rotti has become one of my favorite casters. His passion and love for the game come through in his casting. We only exchanged a few words but I was glad I gathered the courage to say “hi”.

I really appreciated everything that Blizzard does to bring people together. Pin and badge collectors were all over the place, displaying their loot and trading with others. It was a scene worthy of any town market I’ve come across in gaming. Blizzard also included their very own trading posts and mystery box stands.

Closing Ceremony

We chose to watch Lindsey Stirling’s presentation and we were not disappointed. At first, we had to watch from the sidelines as all seats were taken, but half into the show we were ushered by a Blizzard crew member (bless that woman), and we were taken along with other people to our new seats.
I wish I would’ve asked the guy who sat next to me for some contact info because he was super friendly and just excited to be there. I did make sure to give him one of our stickers so I hope he’ll reach out one day.

The Aftermath

Last weekend I had the sudden, “wow, this is our first weekend after Blizzcon” moment. There was a bit of nostalgia involved but at the same time, I felt excited for the future. We plan on going back in 2020 in the hopes of seeing more of our friends there.
Coming back from Blizzcon, I feel more motivated than ever to continue working on this dream. The awesome community that has backed us for so many years is to blame for these amazing moments and the amazing experience that we had.

 

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