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Specific Strategies != Understanding Strategy in eSports

I’m going to start publishing some of the strategy documentation I’ve worked on over the past year. It’s become an incredibly interesting field to study and I think it’s handled poorly in eSports (at least generally). We tend to “teach strategies” which require memorization of specific variables in complex scenarios. This is not helpful to new or even mid-level players. Instead fledgling competitors need fundamental understanding of strategy that allow them to fully grasp the “why’s” of specific strategies.

I’m going to start with an explanation of what I just mentioned above: teaching strategies is NOT the same as understanding strategy. When a new video is released that analyzes a professional strat, we often look to mimic their behavior. And this can have wonderful results that win matches, but the red flag here is that you didn’t succeed because you successfully employed a strategy. Rather, the strategy employed itself and took you along for the ride. Without actually controlling (or understanding) each element of what you mimicked, you are essentially just letting fate decide whether or not it works. This is because there are a range of potential variables at work in a complex environment. And this goes back to something I’ve mentioned before about why strategy works in the first place: because humans are incapable at fully controlling them. If our brains could wrap around strategies completely, keep everything in check, and update on the fly, we’d end every match in a stalemate. Strategy itself is the exploitation of your opponents weaknesses and inability to keep up. This is why fundamental lessons are so important and why specific strategies should be left to the pros.

So, what’s the alternative, you may ask? With a battlefield that changes too rapidly to completely keep up, you are better off training your mind to recognize individual elements. This allows you to keep a running tab on actions that result in a player/team advantage or disadvantage. Which in turn reveals how you should react. You’re basically looking for data that enables you to ask the right questions, make assumptions about the enemy team, or simply know what they’re doing. Don’t try and see the complete picture all at once, instead learn to break it down into its constituent parts.

This inability to alter strats on the fly happens frequently in CS:GO (of which I specialize), where teams who push a bombsite cannot quickly alter their plan when it reveals itself suicidal. A recent dust2 catwalk push comes to mind, where some players pushed out, got awped, and everyone sat by the stairs as the CTs closed in. We had roughly 5 seconds where we could have immediately turned towards B or thrown more flashes and smokes out to cover our rush, but everyone seemed to freeze up. Of course we weren’t properly communicating, but the lesson stands. We tend to look at a catwalk push as the strat itself and nothing more. But it consists of many smaller elements that can be understood and reacted to. The first AWP shot reveals our intent which means we know the mid and long A CTs are probably pushing out or falling back. A smoke towards T spawn could have masked our retreat while flashes and grenades towards double door could have bought us time to retreat. Additional grenades into A site could have delayed the CTs since they expected a push, attacking through mid could have cut off vulnerable reinforcements, and the list goes on.

Now you may think to yourself, that’s way too much to remember, it’s actually easier to just mimic a strat and hope it works. This may be true, BUT you don’t necessarily have to recognize everything all at once. Each teammate can recognize a single piece of data to help leverage the survivability of your team. Let’s say you alone suspect a CT from mid doors to jump on crate. This causes you to flash and grenade the area. Let’s say that you missed any damage, but the flash slowed the CT by a couple seconds. What you don’t realize is that your teammate would have died right there because the CT on the ground was about to pick him as he peeked towards T-spawn. Instead he was able to pick the CT coming from long A or launch a smoke obscuring his vision. Neither of you recognized the others tactic or the multitude of other options, but still managed to save one another and buy time. All because you recognized one element of what was going on around you.

This is the essence of better strategy. It’s not memorization of complex scenarios or mimicking professionals. It’s about recognizing what they’re made of and the patterns that emerge because of them. So go out, spectate, and start picking apart your game. Don’t worry about why the match was won or lost, worry about why someone died in a specific moment and how it could have been avoided. Good luck!

Competitive Snapshot Episode 2, Short A Push on Dust2

It’s time for another episode from my brand new series the Competitive Snapshot! This time we’re focusing on an unsuccessful short A push by Ninjas In Pyjamas (aka NiP Gaming) against LGB eSports. This is a round excerpt from the same match as the first Snapshot episode and brings up timing, grenade placement, coverage, and positioning. It ends with an excellent little duel between Forest and Krimz.

Competitive Snapshot Episode 1, Split B Push on Dust2

Today I finally sat down and recorded the first episode of the Competitive Snapshot (CS). This series will take on a similar approach to Behind the Play (BTP), but instead focus on specific strategies. They will also be much shorter as I will actually edit these videos into more “professional” pieces.

My goal with this series is provide a video compendium of many different strats you can search for using keywords like “pistol round”, “bombsite B push or defense”, etc. Hopefully with enough content, any team looking to correct their actions and improve their play can simply come to my channel and find the necessary information.

Oh I should also mention that I’ll probably refer to this series as the Snapshot, not “CS” because that’s too confusing. So with all that said, here is the first episode of the Competitive Snapshot, a pistol round, split B push at bombsite B on dust2 (between NiP Gaming and LGB eSports):

Gamer Meditation

Tonight I filmed a gamer meditation to help control rage and refocus the mind for domination! So sit back, close your eyes, and listen to the silky smooth sound of my voice as I pour wisdom into your ear canals, where it sloshes around until it soaks into your brain like a dry sponge. Enjoy:


Hello my friends, please come and sit with me.

Today we are going to increase our skills through meditation. It’s an easy process with great rewards, but it requires patience and practice.

We are going to start by closing our eyes and just taking a deep breath. Feel your physical body relax and your mind clear as you focus on the darkness behind your eyelids.

Clear all your thoughts, all your negative energy. Clear all anxiety and stress, and relax…just relax and release. Take another deep breath.

Clear all your thoughts, especially if you’ve just had a bad team in League and even though you were there for every fight and saved the lives of multiple teammates they’re still calling you out as a big piece of shit who sucks and the whole game was lost because of you. Don’t think about it!

Or maybe you’ve just been cheesed in SC2. Forget the game, forget the match, and just relax. That other guy was probably super bad and can only win by cheesing. Even though you’re diamond and he’s silver and you probably still should have won, but you screwed up a timing and it through your whole game off. Don’t think about it! Push it away from your minds eye.

And definitely don’t think about how good the other team was in CS:GO and how they were Brazilians and way too good at the game, but it’s actually probably because of some weird command their using to artificially lower their ping. And even though they probably weren’t hacking, you still suspect that they were at least walling, and everyone’s complaining in the forums, but it’s probably just that they’re better. Let it go man, find peace.

Is your mind clear? Are you not focusing on those things? Good, now calm your emotions and let all the negative energy flee from your body. No stress, no anxiety, no fear, no expectations, no comparing yourself to others, no worry, nothing, but calmness and peacefulness.

Find serenity within this vast universe and realize that life is good. Even though we lose a match sometimes, there’s always tomorrow. There’s always the next match. We will win and defeat our enemies.

Take another deep breath.

Oh great universe, give us the strength to continue fighting. Make our aim true and headshots plentiful. Give us the micro of demigods of South Koreans like Flash, Maru, and Life. Let us steal a baron buff and laugh maniacally like Dyrus. We will crush our enemies and top the leaderboards. We will hold that first place trophy and walk away awkwardly carrying a check that is much too large for normal banks. Let us stand on a stage before waves of nerds, triumphantly beating the odds and taking the next LCS or MLG or whatever you happen to be going to.

We will win. We will conquer. That is your mindset. That is your goal. You do not back down or get filled with anger for having lost a single match. It is in those matches that our greatest growth comes from. Winning is only for pride, losing is for progression. We will play match after match until we stand victorious! So queue up my brothers and sisters. Queue for the next match and destroy your enemies! Take the top of the chart with little care. Don’t get caught up in your wins and embrace your losses. Learn, progress, and succeed.

Take one final breath. Clear your thoughts, take control of your emotions, and focus. You are the best gamer in the world. Maybe not now, but you will be. Go now and dominate the world of eSports!


Understanding Probabilities in Competitive Gaming and eSports

One question I’ve always asked, until I understood more about strategy, was, “why don’t they just do X, it seems so obvious”, or “why didn’t they do X instead?” From a non-professional viewpoint, often times it seems like there are alternate options that would be highly successful that professionals simply do not use. The reason for this is derived from statistics. There are actions and reactions that are most successful because of assumptions we can make about our opponent. If both teams know that certain actions are more statistically likely than others, than they assume that both teams will do them. So then intuitively you might think, well why don’t they just do the opposite to surprise the enemy team and win. Well this is only slightly true. Surprise maneuvers that are statistically less likely to succeed can work, but the problem is a trade-off of increased risk. In retrospect there are always alternative options that could have worked better, including a wide range of offbeat and risky choices, but the problem is that players must work in the moment and make decisions based off tried and true successful choices. Going off the beaten professional path means taking a higher risk by employing a generally less successful strategy, and while it may work once or even twice, the opposing team will simply adjust to counter your tactics. Once they adjust, they employ the most successful tactic to counter it. Imagine there are all these different routes you can take on any given map. You and the enemy team make choices and each route dynamically adjusts to a percentage success chance based on current positions, HP, etc. As a player you are trying to determine, based on the current situation (current moment), what is the highest percentage path to take. If I choose the left path I have a known 65% percentage chance of success while the right path is 75%. Choose the right because statistically you will perform better over the course of a tournament. Successful teams are those that exploit successful choices more often than their opponents. Another way to imagine this is that if you played a computer bot that could calculate everything at real time, you could never (or at least almost never) win against it because it would always choose the highest path towards success (this assuming it’s not cheating). Since humans are imperfect and generally bad at calculating, strategy exists for that reason. If we all had the data and a way to interpret it, we couldn’t really compete against one another because the outcomes would be known (we’d tie every match). That or we would find some sort of “ultra subtle super calculation strategy” that would be entertaining, but fruitless. Basically the point is, strategy exists because of numbers and our inability to calculate them accurately and/or quickly.

Try and imagine what your opponent knows. For example, a 1-on-1 scenario, you see him moving to the right and percentages pop into your head saying: 85% he continues on his trajectory, 15% he reverses direction. Based on current round time, and 85% path, he must choose only 2 of 3 routes because route 3 is too dangerous and too time consuming. If he reverses direction, 1 of 3 routes are viable due to round timer restriction. If he reverses direction, he must do so within 5 seconds otherwise that path is no longer viable. If he does reverse direction and I don’t notice, he gains a positioning advantage over me. If I wait 5 seconds to see if he reverses, he can safely choose all 3 previously mentioned routes because the danger of you being there is gone, however he doesn’t know that, so 2 of 3 routes are still likely. But because of that 5 second window, he gains 5 seconds more of unimpeded progress which puts you at a positioning and timing disadvantage. The reason being that you would now be entering an area that he is defending. You must now make a decision, do you wait the 5 seconds to see if he reverses direction (which was a 15% chance with a possible positioning disadvantage) or do you continue to the 85% target area where you can gain a positioning advantage over 2 routes? The obvious answer would be to take the 85% path with positioning advantage because it puts you in a more powerful position. This is an example of what I mentioned above where professionals make this sort of calculation and choose the best path. But when the opponent decides to reverse direction at a 15% probability, it’s easy for fans to say “oh c’mon, that was obvious! Why didn’t he check there?” It’s because as a player you cannot do everything, so you must make decisions based on data. Choosing the best possible probabilistic decision, while it does not guarantee a win, will over time increase your odds of winning. Or, it could be said, if you are making good decisions 85% of the time, then you should win a majority of matches against opponents who are making good decisions less than 85% of the time, and vice versa.

For more information you can also read “Hindsight Bias” on Less Wrong.

Quick and Dirty Bunny Hop Lesson + Site Update

So I haven’t been super active on the blog here, but I’ve been releasing new YouTube videos on TSR, SJC, and perlox5. I’m probably going to keep this up for the near future + blog content here and on NotDef. I want to get into more content production, but I’m also poor and need to work to keep alive, so that severely cuts into my potential project time. But no worries, I’m a vigilant person and will continue onward.

With that being said, the most recent TSR video talked about bunny hopping in CS:GO. It’s a “quick and dirty” lesson (at least quick and dirty compared to my other uploads) and provides some insight into when to use bhop. It’s primarily a fun tool to exploit in casual servers, improve speeds and jumps in surfing, and win mini-games in mg_ maps. The biggest boost to my bhop skills was simply switching [JUMP] to [Mouse-wheel-down]. This will send many more jump commands to the server allowing you to execute jumps at the right time for a successful hop. Once you get this down (which shouldn’t take long), just start alternating between A and D, moving your mouse with your jumps. This is somewhat effective in normal servers, but only somewhat and only if you get really good at the timing and movement. Otherwise you won’t really gain much from it. I don’t really recommend trying this in matches either because it’s almost always going to be better to have your gun out and aiming or focusing on better positioning, etc. Bunny hopping will probably get you killed more often than not in a competitive match, but it’s loads of fun in other game modes so give it a try!

Getting To Know “Samsc2” from Complexity Gaming

Tonight I had the pleasure of interviewing Samuel “Samsc2” Kasperek from Complexity Gaming (or perhaps ‘affiliated with’ is the better term). He was a very interesting guest, although much of what we talked about was prior and after the broadcast. What we did capture and share was this:

  1. Opening question: “What’s your gaming history?”
  2. Casting and commentating questions
  3. Community organizer questions
  4. General eSports questions
  5. Closing questions and remarks

You can find time links to each section of the interview in the video description on YouTube. Also be sure to follow Sam on Twitter and tune into his channel. Thanks for watching and if you have any “behind the scenes” guests you think need some airtime, let me know!

Getting To Know “Marine” from Impulse eSports

Tonight’s interview is with Ed “Marine” Grubb from Impulse eSports. We had a pretty long discussion covering these topics:

  1. Opening question: “What’s your gaming history?”
  2. The history of Impulse eSports
  3. PhysicsLee cheating controversy
  4. CS:S acquisition and adding teams to Impulse
  5. All about the ISTL
  6. ISTL Season 4 information, qualifier dates
  7. General eSports questions
  8. The future of Impulse eSports

You can find time links to each section in the video description on YouTube. Be sure to follow Marine on Twitter and the official Impulse eSports Twitter. You can also learn more about the PhysicsLee controversy on TeamLiquid and Reddit and follow progress with the Indie StarCraft Team League (ISTL) on Liquipedia.

Quick and Dirty Civ 5 Tutorial

Occasionally I publish gaming content on my personal gaming account perlox5 and today just happened to be one of those days. My friends and I have played quite a few hours of Civ 5 but it’s always here and there weeks or months apart. And like every RTS you don’t play regularly it can be hard to get back into it right away because you have to “relearn” everything. Well I decided to hop into Civ 5 today and create a quick tutorial with all the important reminders for playing the game. This is also a good resource for new players who just got it from the Steam sale (or however) and want to improve their skills. Hopefully this will be enough for you to crush some city states and mercilessly rule over the great lands of Civilization V!

Behind the Play #7 – Global Offensive Match Analysis between Na’Vi and ESC Gaming

This morning I recorded a new Behind the Play (BTP) episode covering Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This is the 3rd CS:GO video produced for this series, the first being a local demonstration of the game and basic tactics, the second being an analysis of a 1-sided amateur match, and now the third, an analysis of a professional match between Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) and ESC Gaming.

This was a great match that showcased two teams who are very equally matched. Unfortunately I was unable to show the overtime rounds because CSGO is dumb and wouldn’t let me. When I get some time I’ll try and access that part of the demo (which so far hasn’t let me) and make a followup video. Sorry about that, I would have liked to cover the whole thing, but it just froze and wouldn’t load.

If you’re looking for the original demo to watch yourself, you can find it on Thanks for watching and consider subscribing!

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