Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

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Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby stAtrill » 11 May 2014 19:58

As a part 2 the the earlier guide, I intend to list all of the useful tips, tricks, and habits that good players will know! Some of these techniques once even gotten me accused of cheating (turret compass combined with double-specs for APC kills ^^ ), which, in general, is a mark of innovative play, so I am hoping to spill the beans here so that others may try some of these techniques as well. I am writing this guide with the intention of it being the more-or-less definitive GC bible.

Optimal GC setup, diagnosis, and important tidbits
Mines
Turret Compass
Use of Angles
Leading your target / Use of Force-Fire
Friendly fire mechanics / Units refusing to shoot
Use of hold-fire
Use of Spacebar
Use of Small Turns
Use of Shadows
Use of Ping
Double-specs
Use of Beamchasing
Use of Rocks
Use of Homing Lock



Optimal GC setup, and important tidbits
For maximum awareness, your GC client should be set up with maximum viewrange object, and terrain detail settings. No other high settings are necessary, and can safely be turned down due to newer computers having much more trouble than necessary running such an old game. Terrain detail is important, as it will help you know whether or not you have a shot when leading targets. Remember, even if terrain detail is low, collisions with the ground are always perfect to the heightmap.

Your client should be set up with fog disabled. It looks 'prettier' with fog (or maybe it did back in 2001) but it extends your awareness to have it off.

You should also avail yourself of the console to learn some important things about the game. The debug console is enabled at the cheat screen. To access it: from the main menu, press 'M", 'S', and 'V' on your keyboard. Type 'console' (lowercase) into the window that pops up, and hit enter. The console can now be shown and hidden by pressing the tilde key '~'.

GC pathfinding is the bane of many players, but with a little study of the maps, you can learn how to minimize pathfinding issues. Upon loading any map (preferably often played maps), hit tilde to open the full console ('full' as in it runs down the whole left side of the screen). Type 'drawslopemap 1'. The game will show you a grid right under the mouse that represents the game's internal slope map.

Slopemap basics: the slopemap is simple. Green terrain can be crossed by anything, as can light yellow. Orange terrain cannot be crossed by any tanks, and red terrain cannot be crossed by any infantry. Aeros, obviously, can cross everything. The next thing you might notice is the low resolution to the slope map, and therein lies many of the GC pathfinding issues. To be precise, every square on the slope map is 6.25 meters wide (!!!), which means that even the small rocks on desert (the ones not much larger than inf) actually block out a whole 6.25 x 6.25 m square! Knowing these figures is critical; the bad DZ in DM4 (the top left DZ) is bad because there is a channel in the middle that appears at least 15m wide, but the game only recognizes 6.25 of those 15 meters due to low slopemap resolution. Know the chokepoints on all of the most common maps, and study to avoid them. If you issue direct move orders to a location (direct: no obstacles in the path), then your army will stay spread out. If there is an edge of a hill in your path, it will create a bottleneck for your entire army as pathfinding will route every unit right into the closest edge of a hill (and units may be forced slightly into territory that they cannot cross, leading to spinning in circles and failed move orders).

An example from a rather congested Ninja map:
Image

The next most useful thing that the console can do is set your object detail levels higher than you can in the video options. While this leaves most of the game largely unaffected, it is a great assistance when dealing with mines, as mines normally are invisible at maximum camera height (which, as I said before, you should always be at). Mines normally become invisible due to LOD - the level of detail settings for the mines are such that they actually shrink in size to dots as the camera raises, finally disappearing entirely at about mid-height. Given that mines are the bane of most of the action that GC offers, your ability to spot them will seriously increase your effectiveness during play.

To increase object LOD, type 'lod_bias 30' into your console. Mines will no longer be affected by LOD, allowing you to spot them at full size from maximum camera height, where your camera should always be. If it turns out that it is too computationally expensive to render all objects in higher detail, you may try 'lod_bias 10' which will still leave mines visible as 'dots' from maximum camera height, without affecting anything else too much. Remember, it is so significant to spot mines that players in the past have reduced resolution and all other detail levels to cause them to stand out, they are that important. If you need to turn down all other detail levels to maintain a decent framerate, do so. This setting will be saved when you close GC, so there is no need to reset object detail levels every time GC loads. View this image full screen to tell the difference, as they are rather tiny buggers.
Image

Finally, you can also use the console to diagnose certain conditions. For example, certain maps (AS1 and AS2 were offenders on my machine) have improper resources, and cause GC to lag for a second or two (on my machine) whenever I click into a new menu. Moving these maps into an 'unused maps' folder significantly speeds up loading times. With console enabled, GC will inform you of any problems it runs into so that you may streamline things. I once had so many experimental maps (mainly of my own creation) in my folder that I would crash every time I created a game; this is also easy to diagnose with the console.


Clearing mines
This one is rather important, given the current meta-game. As tempting as it is, mines should never be cleared by specs (except in rare circumstances, like to save an important unit of a distracted teammate). The next least favorable way to clear mines is by shields; as driving over a minefield while shielded does not always cause all 4 mines to pop. In many cases, 1 or 2 will be left behind, and if they finally decide to go off just as your shields drop, you will feel quite stupid. The best way to clear them is with artillery rounds or with a nuke (the nuke will pop mines far outside of the range that it deals damage to tanks). As a risky fallback, you may take a squad of heavies, as heavy rounds have a small splash range (3 meters). As a rule, any weapon with a splash range will pop mines.

Of course, the best way to deal with mines is to prevent them from dropping, which means lights or heavies with speed booster are a very good choice for killing scouts early before they drop mines.

Alternatively, as a very offensive tactic, you may drop mines under units if you can sneak up unnoticed. Mines have a 5 second arming period (where they flash red), which can be seen even if the scouts dropping them are not visible. If the mines survive, they pack enough punch to wipe any unit (including APCs + all inf). Obviously, rushing to offensively mine is no use against cray as the classic rocket+heavy combo ensures the mines will be popped before they arm.

As a miscellaneous note, mines were added in after-the-fact by the devs, and are very much a hack. For example, they don't do 'normal' damage - the damage they do is 2000 damage of health-subtraction, unaffected by armor. The mines also don't diminish damage towards the end of their splash range, they do full damage out to the end of their range. Finally, damage subtraction is completely unaffected by invincibility (as given by single-player-only cheats, which means that shields are also a hack - more on this later).


Turret Compass
This one is rather basic, but oh-so-important. Turrets will still track enemies, even if nobody on your team can see them. Issuing a stop command (spacebar) will stop the turrets from tracking, so when trying to track down units that are running, watch your units' guns, and make sure not to issue stop orders to the designated tracking unit.

Proper usage of this is rather easy. When you see a high-value target (apc, drone, scout running with score lead and uneven teams, etc), quickly press the F key of one of your reserve units (preferably a spent unit with little battle worth left) and issue an attack order, then issue a move order (any order but an stop order will keep turret tracking). Work closely with your teammates, whenever anyone calls out an APC, lock onto it. If you can lock more than one unit, you can use this to triangulate their base, assassinate them, or anything else for the rest of the match (or until you kill the target).

Example of triangulated unit:
Image

Use of Angles
Yet another super-simple one. The majority of a skirmish is all move orders, no attack orders! When engaging an enemy unit in a skirmish, move perpendicular to them (orbit their tanks, so to speak). A good player will respond in kind, and will move with a vector which slightly intercepts yours. When your units get close enough or your formation gets bad, a good player will lead your tanks with a spec which should result in 3 or more kills to be effective. Remember, one moonburst does 80% damage to a medium, so if you can kill 3 of the enemy's 4 meds, you don't need to shield; simply retreat to heal if you get hit with a spec.

A bad player will simply head towards you, which will result in their units clumping together as you orbit them, after which you will then spec and get your 3+ kills.

The main purpose for the orbit is to force players to lead your units, as if they try to spec you by simply clicking you, the specs will narrowly miss (if your formation is spaced out well enough).

With time, you will learn the angles required to cause specs to miss. Beams, due to faster move speeds of focus prism, need to be orbited at almost perfectly perpendicular angles. Meds, due to the slower moonburst, afford much more freedom in approach angles. Due to this, approaching beams with meds in a 1v1 skirmish a bad idea in general, especially if the player is paying attention.


Leading your target / Use of Force-Fire
With a bit of practice, hitting perpendicularly moving targets is feasable! As simple as this one sounds, very few of our vets actually lead their targets, leading to many missed specs per game. While easy in principle, this technique is very hard to master.

It is well known that GC units will only lead targets when shooting at air units. To lead ground units, you must force-fire the ground (default CTRL+click) with your specs. This can be tough for units with fast specs (beams and crusaders), as you generally need to fire oh-so-slightly in front of the enemy to effect a hit. If you click too close to an enemy unit, it will be interpreted as an attack order, so in the case of fast specs, you need to generally need to quickly scroll the camera down (using the scroll wheel of the mouse, of course) to shoot, then scroll back up.

This technique has very many advantages for the few disadvantages it does have. The main advantage, aside from the obvious, is that your tanks will generally not wait nor move to fire their specs (if their aimers are unfrozen, more on that later), which makes this a safer option even if your targeted enemy units are not moving. More will be explained on units refusing to shoot, later. The main disadvantage is collisions with the ground, as illustrated by the following scenario. If there is a hill between you and your target:
-And you issue a spec-attack order, your units will climb the hill (or generally try to get clear LOS between you and your target).
-And you issue a spec-force-fire order, your units will skip LOS checks and shoot immediately (which will result in a miss as your specs will hit the hill)
Image
As the above image shows, the attack-order LOS checks are so primitive as to be useless in many applications, and manually moving your units, then force firing is still a more reliable option. While we are on the subject of primitive LOS checks, I should note that they comprise one of the three reasons for units refusing to shoot. More on that later. I should also note that, in the above image, all tanks fired immediately when force-fired, as commanded.

An advanced player will also use force firing to create a prolonged kill field. Normally, when an spec attack order is given, units will not shoot unused specs at enemy units in the squad (other than the target) if the main target died before they could fire. In other words (with the exception of homing weapons that are already in flight), if a unit does not get a chance to shoot his spec directly at your target before the target dies, it will not substitute some other unit from the enemy squad as a target. To give a scenario: if your units a properly spread out, and you issue a spec-attack-order, if 2 meds shoot and the other two don't, and the enemy unit dies from the first shots, the other two meds will not fire any further shots, even if it would kill other units. If the same order was issued as a force fire order, you can gain any other kills that will result from the more distant meds shooting moonburst either later, or with more time-of-flight. The following picture illustrates how you can kill an entire enemy squad by using a prolonged kill field.
Image

Finally, force-firing is the most reliable way to kill infantry. Stealthy units (jeags, templers, tanks in dark shadows, etc) will not be fired on by your tanks if your tanks cannot see them, regardless if they are visible on radar. A force-fire order will cause tanks to skip the vision checks and shoot immediately, allowing you to kill hidden units without having to first move closer.

After proper angles and motion, force-firing the ground is the single largest tactic you can employ to improve your worth on the battlefield. Use with discretion, as it is appropriate for most, but not all situations (artillery fire on certain targets, for example) This is why knowing the heightmaps and having maxed heightmap visual detail (per 'Optimal GC Setup', above) is critical.


Friendly fire mechanics / Units refusing to shoot

If you have ever noticed that you will sometimes issue an order to shoot that your units refuse (usually costing you the skirmish or allowing something valuable to escape), then you need to read this. All GC units' aim is controlled by something called an aimer. It gives a unit a view range, computes aim cone-of-fire, and computes fire trajectories if the round is not a bullet or rocket. That said, there are generally 3 reasons for units not shooting - LOS check failure, aimer motion/degree limits, and frozen aimers.

The 'friendly fire avoidance' programming is hard coded. The first useful tidbit is that a unit cannot friendly fire itself. This means that, if you have a squad of meds in line formation, you can fire moonbursts at targets coincident with your line and no tank will wait to shoot, nor get hit with its own moonburst. In other words, shots are tracked according to the squad that shot them, and not the individual unit.

Now, the first (and worst) reason for not shooting is frozen aimers after friendly-firing a unit. If a friendly unit friendly-fires another unit, the game forces the unit to wait FIVE FULL SECONDS during which it cannot fire (presumably so the noobs playing SP have enough reaction time to evaluate the attack orders of their squads). To make matters worse, instead of the programmers doing something smart (like merely adding 5 seconds to the weapon reload time), the units are instead treated as not having an attack vector on their targets for 5 seconds (leading to units moving closer to their targets while still not shooting, leading to even easier kills for your enemy). If a unit friendly fires another unit without actually having an attack order, the tanks' aimers will still be frozen for the full time, but the squad will not try to move closer to its target. Again, proper usage of Force-Fire, from earlier, obviates the problems with your units running off if they lose their attack vectors.

There is an important caveat, as ballistic or homing weapons will not trigger aimer freezing, regardless of who receives damage (only dumb-fire rockets or bullets will trigger the penalty). This means that rockets, artillery, and drones cannot trigger aimer freezing, while even the splash damage from moonbursts will.

You will notice that spreading units out (a habit of good players) actually leads to more possible situations in which you will freeze your aimers, as it only takes one tank shooting another tank in a different squad by accident to trigger aimer freezing. Additionally, if you invade the dropzone of a player that has not effectively moved out of the dropzone, they will be rendered largely unable to resist you; many of their squads are likely to have frozen aimers due to the rampant friendly fire they will have committed on themselves. Yes, panic is delicious.

Aimer freezing can be almost entirely mitigated via the use of force-fire and hold-fire, described in the next section.

The second reason for not shooting is aimer motion limits. This mechanics behind this is rather simple; certain units have limits to the motion of their turrets (ex: the turret cannot aim behind itself, or rotation speed is too slow), which can give rise to situations where the aimer will think that doesn't have an attack vector. There are three situations where this can present a problem:

Situation one - turret cannot turn fast enough:
In this game, turrets are locked to the orientation of the tanks (as in, turret angle can be computed as degree offset from the orientation to the tank). Also in this game, turrets and units have independent rotation speeds. This means that if a unit wants to rotate at speed X, but the turret wants to track a target whose angle relative to the tank doesn't change, the turret's speed Y must be greater than X to keep the turret on target*. While true for most tanks, this is not true for certain tanks.
*In GC 2, Massive made the turrets and tanks rotate independent of each other to solve this issue)
[Descriptive picture]

Very few tanks can rotate faster than their turrets, the most notable being drone*, command APCs, and Artillery. OND gets the worst end of this stick, as OND units generally rotate faster than their cray counterparts without having faster turret speeds. OND meds are the most used unit with turret rotate speeds just slightly faster than their turn speeds – turret rotate speeds of 2.2 r/s vs unit rotate speeds of 2.0 r/s. Given that integer rotate speeds are used in almost every other unit, this was probably fixed in a patch so that OND meds wouldn't completely lose ability to shoot at targets while turning.
*GC considers it having an 'invisible' turret that must rotate before it can fire, like any other turret. Aeros also have invisible turrets.

This situation is most likely to present itself early-game with squads of fresh meds approaching a skirmish. If a player issues a move order to evade some unit, his units may have a delay based off of the turn angle (measured in full SECONDS) before his meds can shoot their moonbursts, while still being vulnerable to moonburst fire themselves.

There is another special case where this situation is prevalent: if an artillery unit is given an attack order at the end of its range, the unit will likely begin to move. Again, this is because the aimer not having an attack vector will force a move order. Only, with the artillery, the unit may begin to turn (due to pathfinding to the target), which will delay shooting even more (as the art can turn faster than its turret), etc. The artillery will only stop moving when it begins shooting, and its motion is preventing its shooting. Aside from attack orders on units no longer in view, this is the reason for artillery running away when its target is in plain sight. To prevent this, use hold position orders and you will find your artillery aims faster and shoots earlier.

Situation two - the turret has degree limits:
The next situation also arises when units are turning. Some turrets have limits of travel, and since they are linked to the unit, the unit's rotation can force a turret to travel the long way around the circle to acquire a target. Due to generally fast turret turn rates in the game, this generally will cost a maximum of 2 seconds. Interestingly enough, this only affects air and units that shoot at air. Units that shoot at air are minimally affected, as when an aero flies overhead, units are required to turn their turrets 180 degrees before they can reacquire their target.

Aerodynes also have an invisible turret, and their turrets have 60 degrees in the rear where they cannot traverse. This means that aeros take a long time to acquire targets when switching between targets on opposite sides of the aero. This also means that you should never have targets behind your aero, as they cannot shoot at them. Follow the instructions in the first guide for proper use of aeros given their aimer limitations. Most players have no idea just how destructive aeros really can be.

Situation three - units in a squad can target independent of other units in the squad:
The final situation arises when units are properly spread out. In the heat of battle, some units can acquire and shoot at targets while other units in the same squad may have no targets. Due to turret compass, above, the aimers will continue to track the target even if it leaves the unit's view range. This means that when the squad does find a suitable target to moonburst, the units that were idle will fire synchronously, while the units that had targets will fire significantly later (usually less than 1.5 seconds) as their turrets have to aim first. Although this delay may not sound like much, it usually means the moonbursts that fired late will impact on shields rather than tanks.

Instructions for mitigating all of these situations is given in Use-of-Hold-Fire.

The final reason for aimers not shooting is due to failed LOS checks. GC computes line-of-sight from the center of a unit's collision body. This means that this problem disproportionately affects Cray, while leaving OND entirely unaffected (OND collision bodies are considered hovering with their tanks). A Cray heavy can entirely lose vision of it's surroundings by sitting in only a minor depression in the terrain (since the terrain only has to reach half of the height of the collision body to obstruct vision).

This problem usually arises in situations where a Cray player is attempting to hide units. The cray player can see the weapons of units (usually OND) shooting at his units, but cannot see the units themselves. The OND units can pass the vision check and can see the CC units, but the reverse is not true. To make matters worse, force-fire will usually not help a situation like this, as FF causes units to aim even lower and can cause specs to actually impact the ground, where they wouldn't otherwise. The only remedy is to try to avoid such a situation. If you intend to hide units as Cray, zoom the camera in to evaluate the heightmap in the direction you expect your enemy to approach from.

Use of hold-fire
This one is extremely straight-forward: the 'hold-fire' mode is very useful, though situational. Hold fire mode allows you to take advantage of many crutches players use for shortcuts when playing the game. The main crutches this technique exploits, and their counters:
-Players only become aware of enemy units when they hear/see the 'Squad XX is under attack” notification (counter: watch the minimap)
-Players have no awareness of their units' true range, instead only discovering a unit is in range when their units begin shooting. (counter: use the 'range' key, default “R” to know unit ranges)

To take advantage of the first crutch, you simply send units on hold fire behind enemy lines. Unless a player is watching the minimap, you will find you can line up perfect kill shots on players' reserve units. This works especially well in the heat of a large battle.

Exploiting the second crutch is more situational, finding use many different areas. For example, by mousing over your scouts and pressing the range key, you can ensure that your keep watch over enemy units, while staying out of their view ranges (scouts/mines are most effective if the enemy team doesn't know you have them/where you placed them). If you don't have a particular unit's range you are trying to watch, you should always have the range of the nearest radar displayed on your screen and map, so you know what areas are 'safe' and which are 'unknown'. Knowing ranges is also crucial to planning successful escapes, successful ambushes (making sure units are well within your range before ambushing) good jeager tactics, etc. Finally, it can be used to safely put units in artillery range, as artillery will generally pathfind to the target if the target is out of range.

[eventually will be an image displaying an arty being silly]

The general rule is to leave units which you intend to use for special weapon damage on hold-fire, while units you intend to use for main weapon damage on free fire. Medium and beam squads at game start are prime candidates for hold fire. After early to early-mid game, hold-fire becomes very situational, but still a useful tool to gain far more kills than you normally would against aware players. Just be sure to use the hotkeys (not the interface buttons) when switching between modes; re: situational from before - the situation can change in an instant, and clicking buttons costs you time. But, of course, this is why we love this game.

Use of Spacebar
Yet another small tool, that is oh-so-useful.

Use of Small Turns

[To finish writing]

More to come later guys when I have more time ^^
-Stat
Last edited by stAtrill on 27 Jul 2014 04:25, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby shpooky » 20 May 2014 02:39

it would be awesome if there was a map editor in which you could edit a gc map and see it as it would be during gameplay
i only work in cyan and sometimes really really bright blue :D so bright it burns your eyes!!!!!

(if you have any questions don't be afraid to PM me or you can contact me via email ddavidshpak@aol.com)

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Re: Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby Ninja_Prime52 » 20 May 2014 06:28

shpooky wrote:it would be awesome if there was a map editor in which you could edit a gc map and see it as it would be during gameplay


Not sure what you mean..
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Re: Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby Ninja_Prime52 » 20 May 2014 06:28

BTW Stat.. great tips....
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Re: Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby shpooky » 20 May 2014 23:06

like the map editor showed you how the map would look in game
i only work in cyan and sometimes really really bright blue :D so bright it burns your eyes!!!!!

(if you have any questions don't be afraid to PM me or you can contact me via email ddavidshpak@aol.com)

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Re: Tips For How Not to Suck at GC: Technicalities

Postby shpooky » 20 May 2014 23:06

kinda like your playing norm gc but you have the ability to edit the map terrain and units etc...........................
i only work in cyan and sometimes really really bright blue :D so bright it burns your eyes!!!!!

(if you have any questions don't be afraid to PM me or you can contact me via email ddavidshpak@aol.com)

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