10 tips/habits I picked up over the years

They don't teach these in the tutorials (background image Spooky777)
There are some things that you only discover and develop by playing and don't even notice you actually do these things afterwards. They're not spoken of in the guides, because it's hard to describe and rationalize them. It's just your brain keeping what works after hundreds of hours of trial and error. There are also some things you don't agree with at the beginning, but realize that they make a lot of sense after putting some hours in. I've been recently thinking about these and the things that came up are pretty interesting. Here's a selection of what I've come up with:

1) "Calibrating" at the beginning of a match 

"Why are you shooting? Go test your stuff in training grounds!" is the most common reaction when people see someone doing this. I mostly agree, yet, I just couldn't get rid of this habit no matter how much I tried to stop myself.

Then I realized, it is actually a habit I developed myself to "calibrate" my laser timings. There are a lot of lasers with different durations and cooldowns in MWO. Getting a feeling of their durations and cooldowns is crucial in timing your torso twists and keeping your exposure to a minimum when peeking. Ever since the quirks have been added, this is more true than ever. Pretty much every 'Mech have different cooldowns and laser durations right now, so it's pretty much impossible to memorize everything at once. This is also applicable to the ballistic weapons and especially the PPCs since their speed varies wildly due to quirks (up to 40% speed difference).

Testing your lasers also gives you a sense of hardpoint locations as well, especially if you switch 'Mechs frequently like me. This is not a problem with 'Mechs with high mounts and clustered hardpoints since you can shoot what you can see, but something like an Awesome and Vindicator with their distributed hardpoints necessiate the factoring of hardpoint locations with each shot. With a short "calibration" you can remember the positions of the hardpoints again.

Lastly, I realized I don't shoot in the air randomly. I actually pick a very small target nearby and try to track it while I shoot. It could be a car, a lamp post or just a black spot in the texture, it doesn't matter. This gives me a feeling of my current 'Mech's torso and arm twist rates and limitations. This information and feeling is very useful in combat and it actually changes the way I play depending on how responsive the 'Mech is.

2) Lowering mouse sensitivity

This is actually a very common advice and it's present in various guides out there in the internet. If you're having problems with aiming, one of the easiest solutions is lowering the sensitivity. I have actually gradually decreased my sensitivity over the years and started using more mouse movements to compensate. You don't need to be very twitchy in MWO, yet precision and putting your shots in is invaluable. Finding that sweet spot between speed and precision takes some time. If you're not happy with your aim, lowering your sensitivity as much as you can bear it should be the first thing you consider.

There's a limit to lower sensitivity though and that is the limit where you start having problems twisting or reacting to threats. If your sensitivity is too low then it takes more effort to switch between targets.

3) Keep the APM up — never stop moving

APM (Actions Per Minute) is a term mostly used in RTS' like Starcraft, which describes how many actions you perform per minute. These actions are usually measured by how many mouse clicks and keystrokes you perform. These actions don't have to have a meaning, simply spamming certain actions can increase your APM.

So what does APM has to do with MWO? It's a relatively slow paced game compared to your average shooter (some gameplay styles like lights excluded) so obviously you don't need to keep mashing your head on the keyboard to be competitive.

However, I realized I simply never stop moving no matter what. Even when I'm holding a corner in my Atlas, I still wiggle back and forth slightly rather than simply stopping and staring at the corner. If you know the danger is imminent, it is better to have at least some movement to throw off the aim of your opponents or to simply to react faster. Having some APM simply helps your brain to keep itself focused on the game.

4) Frontloading armor

I used to run my 'Mechs with ridiculous back armor. Atlases with 25 back armor, heavies with 16, mediums with 14 . . . and so on. These were the times when I almost exclusively played in the solo queue where the matches are completely random and you never know what's going to happen.

As I started playing more and more in the group queue, I realized that back armor was useless most of the time. Most of the matches involved either coordinated pushes or defense against massive coordinated pushes where your front armor beared most of the punishment. Back armor was only useful when you retreated or when a light randomly managed to backstab you. If you're called primary you vaporize in seconds anyway, you might as well frontload and waste the enemies' time for a few seconds more. After this realization I started frontloading my armor as much as possible.

The thing is, if you have good awareness, you'll never be caught with your guard down. Even if something gets the jump on you, you should never let them alpha your back for the second time by torso twisting. It's hard to reach the back of even an Atlas that is actively torso twisting to avoid showing its back. I compare this frontloading issue with the AMS issue. If you bring AMS, you're wasting tonnage on something that might be useful. Though if you use that tonnage on armor or more heatsinks, you're bringing something that is immediately useful. Same thinking here; if you bring more front armor, those are immediately useful. However, back armor is only useful in certain situations.

Obviously how much frontloading you should do depends on the 'Mech hitboxes, your build (sniper, brawler) and how good your awareness is. I don't recommend you to bring 8 back armor Atlases if you have only just started playing this game. There's obviously a limit to the risk you can take but that limit is very personal.

5) Throttle decay

I talked about throttle decay and why you should enable it here in detail. In short, it allows you to fully utilize the acceleration potential of your 'Mech. This is extremely useful when piloting lights or anything with significant acceleration bonuses (like the Summoner). You'll find that your 'Mech is much more responsive with this enabled.

I unfortunately ignored this feature for too long. Right now I can't do without it. Plus, it frees up the X button for something more useful.

6) Some basic stuff to avoid when piloting lights

Backing up straight is a good way to get Gaussed in the face. Even emergency JJs couldn't save this guy.

Playing lights, especially non-snipy ones is simply an art of its own. There's so much trial-and-error involved that it's impossible to read a guide and start doing well with lights. You have to go through the pain yourself. 

Even so, there are some common and major behavior to avoid. I'll list three of them below:
  • Never back-up straight under fire, always do perpendicular movements. This is the silliest behaviour I see from light pilots that immediately signals they have no idea what they're doing. If you're under fire, the best way to mitigate it as a light is by immediately gaining some tangential velocity. Going straight backwards not only limits your speed and makes you an easy target, but you also don't see what the hell you're backing into. Even lurching forward and then making your escape in any direction is a better idea. This is also a good advice for heavier 'Mechs. Always curve towards right or left when trying to back up under fire!
  • JJ'ing under fire is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Are you being hunted by multiple enemies and you need to make your escape? Think twice before hitting the magical jump jet button. Unless you're a 12JJ Spider with ridiculous upwards acceleration, JJ trajectory is very easy to predict and lead for. If you're on the ground however, you stick to the ground no matter what. Even going over a slight bump at 155KPH throws off the aim off your opponents more than simply jump jetting. Meanwhile slightly tap your JJs to go over any obstacles. Try to use your JJs mainly for poking, stabilizing your aim and simply getting around.
  • Don't stop in combat or when in immediate danger. Remember the first rule and don't only go straight or backwards either. Always change directions when moving and when you know there are some eyes watching you. It's better to make an S line instead of a straight line towards your target.

7) Don't poptart straight up

Always have some speed relative to the direction you're jumpjetting. Especially after the latest JJ nerfs every 'Mech goes up slower, so a jumpjetting 'Mech with no forward/backward speed is just asking to be blown out of the air. A good rule of thumb is to twist 90°, adjust your legs so that you're facing the rough direction of the enemies, gain some forward speed and then hit the jump jets.

8) Turn down your settings


MWO is a gorgeous looking game at higher settings, but unfortunately some eye-candy adversely affects the gameplay. As I'm playing on a laptop, I'm always playing on the lowest settings possible. However I ventured into the eye-candy land a few times and was apalled at just how much useless clutter is present on higher settings. Especially the particles setting is a big offender because of how many sparkles it produces at higher settings. I had great difficulties understanding what was happening to me or to my opponent. It's a shame because the PPC effect looks amazing at higher settings and makes aiming them easier.

I think effects setting adversely affects the HDR implementation in MWO as well. I don't know if you noticed but, when bright explosions start happening on your screen the game automatically starts dimming the brightness. When those explosions suddenly end, you're left with a black screen and it takes a few seconds before the game readjusts brightness again. This is especially problem when you're being pounded by LRMs or ballistic boats. Fighting UAC5 spam Dires is especially very annoying at higher settings.

I don't even want to get started with that silly depth-of-field effect you get at higher post-processing settings. Again, experiment with what you can bear/like but don't forget to check out the lowest settings and see if less clutter actually helps you play better.

9) Watch the mini-map

Your 200 words essay
on this picture is due tomorrow
The minimap is an invaluable tool in getting the big picture of the battlefield. By just glancing at the where the blue triangles are pointing at you can determine which direction the team wants to push, if the team has a good fireline, how the team is doing against an enemy push and so on. The red team movements are even more valuable, by just momentarily looking at the map you can infer the general  movement direction of the enemy and so on. The minimap is also very useful during close-range encounters at a quick glance you see who's flanking who and who's vulnerable. 

By just checking the mini-map regularly I feel like I got much better at reading the battle over the years. This "reading the battle" thing doesn't develop instantly, you have to be actually looking at the map when something is happening to understand why it happened so. Since there are literally thousands of different scenarios that can happen it takes a while to associate these images with the results.

I'll stop myself here as I feel like this mini-map topic is best explored in an article of its own. 

10) Don't be mean and embrace the randomness

When I first started playing MWO I was doing very silly things. I had no friends to tell me why something was bad or good, I was just reading the forums and searching Google/Sarna to understand the game better. I was probably yelled at too and I too, probably defended my actions because they seemed right at the time. 

Then I started getting better and started seeing the faults of others. Silly builds, horrible timings, no torso twists, no perception of positioning, bad aim. I started getting mad at people. I even poured that anger into the chat sometimes; passive-aggressive stuff like "Sorry team I couldn't carry harder" or even an occasional "wow you guys sucked" started coming out when I was really mad.

After a while I stopped doing those things. I stopped getting mad altogether. How? I simply accepted that me getting mad would not change anything. The matchmaker matches totally random people with different skill levels and likes. The population of this game is probably on the lower end compared to more casual F2P games out there, so inevitably 2+ years old grizzled veterans with pro MLG 10+ KDR and a Mountain Dew sponsorship gets matched with a 2 days old poor newbie.

If you have an assault with 50 damage in your team, telling that guy how much he sucks won't change anything. It temporarily makes you feel good because you know you hurt that player as a retaliation to how much he hurt you by playing badly and ruining the match. Does anything good come out of this? No. That player probably knows he's not very useful at all, but you yelling at him won't make him suddenly better. Even worse, it'll probably discourage him from getting better because he's getting negative feedback every time he plays this game.

On the other hand by being positive and proactive, you can actually influence the battle and give the newbies useful advice. Tell that newbie that LRM boating an Atlas is a bad idea and it's best done in lighter/more specialized 'Mechs. Tell that champion Victor that he needs to unlock his arms for better aim. Tell that poor light which just got blown away by a PPC/Gauss blast that he should avoid standing still in the open. I'm not talking about paragraphs of chat spam here, just 1-2 short sentences without being mean.

Also, if you don't care about others, then simply don't say anything mean. If you think going to tunnel was a horrible idea and you didn't object when the team headed there, you have no right to complain afterwards. I see some streamers constantly complaining about pugs but yet they also don't act to guide them. Don't expect everyone to have the same experience as you, they don't. Contrary to the popular opinion of "Pugs won't listen", 90% of the time if you give sensible guidance people in chat will listen to you. Just don't don't try to be Napoleon and try to address individual people, only give a general direction because most people don't like being told what to do.

TL;DR: Relax, accept that the matchmaker is totally random (and it's kind of the beauty of it for me) and getting unnecessarily mad at people doesn't change anything.

The end

I started writing this months ago, but unfortunately I didn't get to finish it.  I also kept adding more points because I thought they were important. It started spiraling out of control so I stopped after a point. I thought it lacked coherence and focus.

In the end, I decided there was no point in looking for a focus in this kind of topic. Therefore I'm releasing it as-is, hopefully this helps some of you. There are definitely a lot more points to talk about which I'm not including now. I'll go over them as individual pieces eventually.
Share on Google Plus

About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
    Blogger Comment


Post a Comment