4 Oct 2013

This blog is currently in hibernation. For up to date NS2HD content, head on over to the NS2HD Channel.

7 Dec 2012

NS2 Australian Open

Having been in Australia for the past two weeks, I am suffering from extreme NS2 withdrawal. Tonight, that gets fixed, and in a very appropriate way. Tune in to the NS2 Australian Open on twitch.tv/naturalselection2. The always awesome WasabiOne, (Check out his website - wasabione.com) will be leading the casting and it is going to be raucous.

Somehow, despite having only 21 million people, Australia is the second biggest market for NS2, behind the United States. So it is very cool that it is getting its very own competitive event.

1800PST | 1900EST | 0200UTC | 1300AEST

10 Aug 2012

NS2HD Public Servers

Sometimes, you can love something a little too much. That is me with NS2. Today, I have a very special announcement. For those frequenting the NS2 server list, this will not be much of a surprise. But it makes me very happy. In this article, I will share some of my excitement.

Some new entrants on the NS2 server list.
Today, all twelve new NS2HD public servers went online. Until now, six of them had been being tested in various configurations. One of them, NS2HD #1, is not visible on the list. It is being used as an internal playtest server, and will be made public at a later date.

With these machines, 216 more players can enjoy NS2 at once. Right now, all twelve are in Michigan, USA. In future, and depending on how my wallet holds up, I want to expand NS2HD public servers to West Coast USA, Europe, and Australia.

One of the i7-3930k's powering the NS2HD servers
No expense was spared in putting these machines up. They are custom-built machines using Intel i7-3930k CPUs over-clocked to 4.4Ghz. Each server instance gets a dedicated core and 2Gb of RAM.

Apart from the over-clock, the NS2HD machines have two more features that set them apart from your average server. The first is that because they are i7-3930k's, they have 6 spare 'hyper-threads' available even when running 6 servers. 

6 server instances, 6 spare pieces of pipe.
Hyper-threading (HT) is some great voo-doo magic. In abstract, HT takes the pieces of the CPU instructional pipeline that are not being used by a process, and makes them available to other processes. This means that there are pieces of pipe available even when a core is '100%' loaded. In effect, even if all 6 servers per box are fully loaded by you and your friends, the machine still has power to do basic things like check for updates, process an administrator using RDP, or other such minor things. 

Because the 6 server threads are never interrupted, you can expect an even smoother gameplay experience on these machines.

The pursuit of server perfection - Benchmarking NS2HD server disks

The second very cool feature of the NS2HD machines is that they use Solid-State-Disks (SSDs). SSDs are the real deal, offering massive performance and responsiveness improvements in some situations. The NS2HD servers will load maps, dump logs, and update options exponentially faster than their spinning-disk compatriots in the server list. Server admins will notice that the machine is far more responsive than your average game-server.

Even better, if one of the server instances on an NS2HD box decides it needs to do a-lot of disk read/write, its effect on other servers will be significantly reduced. Yummy!

These servers are all yours, community. I hope you enjoy playing on them as much as I did designing and building them. They are configured to provide the best possible NS2 experience, no holds barred, no expense spared. Game on.

8 Aug 2012


Many people consider commanding in Natural Selection 2 to be a little bit scary. In certain cases, that can be warranted. But in most cases, there are simple rules you can follow to make sure your experience is awesome. The game below is a great example.

  1. Headspace: Commanding is about people, not unitsx
    The most obvious mistake people make when commanding NS2 matches is equating an RTS interface with a traditional RTS playstyle. A traditional RTS calls for an absolutely authoritarian command method: Your units go and do where and what your clicks tell them. When the interface is unresponsive, or pathing fails, a player perceives this as a failure of units to obey orders. Frustration ensues.

    Lose this mindset immediately. This is not a traditional RTS, and that playstyle will result in endless losses. Instead of an authoritarian command method, you must adopt a leadership command method. Your units are real humans. Treat them as humans. Think of waypoints as goals and guides, not absolute orders. Movement of players is fluid, not rigid. Your directions and orders must first and foremost come through communication, which leads to:
  2. Communication: Your soldiers need a leader, not a GPSx
    When commanding, take some of the energy you would normally put into mouse-clicks and redirect it into your voice. You need a microphone, and you must use it. Say hello to your team. Get to know their personalities. Who is gung ho? Who is timid? Who is a great fade? Who is a lone wolf? Who likes building structures behind the lines? These are crucial questions, and you will only answer them by talking.

    The more personable you are, the more effort you make, the more people will switch their own microphones on or get into the text chat. Be fun, be understanding, be humble, be confident. Recognise and be open about your limits. Recognise the skills of others.
  3. 2IC: Who has your back?x
    Every Lieutenant needs a dependable Sergeant at their right hand. You need someone on the ground, with eyes on the fight. As you become a more experienced commander, you will recognise that there is a 2nd-In-Command down there on the battlefield, they just might not know it yet.

    In the game above, Slicedbeadman filled this role. He was a very good player, with a good attitude. Very outspoken, with strong opinions, and with killing skills to back up the big talk. This is the kind of player you want to immediately communicate with. Seek their advice, give them regular orders, and act on their suggestions.

    Many players recoil at this. Why would I take advice and orders from a big shot? I am the commander! These same players wonder why they often get frustrated with their team, and lose.

    Your 2IC completes you. They are there when your mind wanders and you forget Carapace. They fill in the blanks during frantic fights, as they can see the situation on the ground better than you can. Your communication with them gives them authority other players will respect, and encourages them to respect you. You cannot micromanage the entire battle. The best commanders will recruit helpers during the game, and these helpers will do wonders for your chances of victory.
  4. Inspire:Lead them into the fire, and get them out the other side.x
    This fourth and final point ties the other three together: It is by far the most import. In Starcraft, your marine will enter the alien base, scout a spine crawler, and die without question.

    In Natural Selection 2, that marine is human, and they do not want to die. You need to make them know that they are part of a plan, that their fight is the team's fight, that their waypoints have purpose and their death meaning.

    Form an overall strategy in your head. Communicate it. In the game above, my opening strategy was 'Hunt Extractors, destory them.' Simplistic, but a goal that your team will rise to. Later, it was 'Secure Tram Departures.' Later still, it was 'Fight for Terminal.' These little strategies all add together as you feel your way to a master plan to win the game.

    Once you have a strategy, talk to your team about the progress. Any time someone executes it successfully, for example pressuring a harvester, encourage them. Reward them with heaped praise. If someone is Fading well, tell them. If someone is Gorging like a boss, praise them profusely. Most importantly, if someone is having trouble, pick them up off the ground. If someone has a 0-10 record, do not admonish them, inspire them. Coach them as much as time allows. Take a moment to watch them fight, and give them tips. Encourage the rest of the team to back them up.

Do all these things, and you will be well on the way to commanding well. Of course, because it is about people, NS2 commanding will never have a definitive manual. That is why I love it. That is why you might get more out of this game than you ever thought possible.

6 Aug 2012

Improvised Commander Tutorial

When recording tutorials, I like to be spontaneous. If the tutorial is recorded in a perfect, clean room environment, then all the little nuances of NS2 play will be lost. So the Skulk, Gorge, and Lerk tutorials on NS2HD are all recorded in real, public games. Now sometimes, that means things don't go to plan. But hopefully you can still get some valuable tips out of the following video!

Some key points to take away:

  1. Be talkative over the microphone. People are very forgiving of new commanders who are open and honest and communicate heavily with their team. You will likely find people very willing to help with you.
  2. When the game starts, remember three structures - Armoury, 2nd Infantry Portal, Extractors. These three will allow your team to heal / rearm, respawn quickly, and have something to do (fight over extractors). Once they are down, you can breathe and think about your strategy.
  3. Try not to grab the extractor closest to the enemy Hive. You will be drawn into a bloody and expensive fight to keep it, as the alien team spawns in nearby.
  4. Growing your upgrades throughout the game is a great 'strong strategy.' Fancy weapons are useless at 8 minutes if your marines are fighting with level 0 armour. Grab that arms lab, and start researching.
  5. Tell your team what you are doing, researching, thinking, and always always encourage them. This makes them feel like they have a leader and direction. Even if losing, inspiring your team to fight will make for an enjoyable 'last-stand' experience.

30 Jul 2012

Basic Gorge Tutorial

Following on from the Skulk tutorial from a few days ago, here is the Gorge! Remember, these are beta tutorials and will be outdated quickly.

Some key points to take away:

  • The Gorge is a combat engineer, not a fighter. Use Spit to ward of marines, but don't expect lots of kills.
  • Heal spray can both heal fellow aliens and help to grow structures quickly, such as Harvesters.
  • Hydras and Clogs are most effective when moved around the map to trouble spots, on the front lines. Leaving defences in your Hive is usually not the most effective strategy. Move them around!

28 Jul 2012

Basic Skulk Tutorial

The ever changing nature of the Natural Selection 2 Beta means that tutorial videos are tough to do. No sooner is a tutorial made than it is outdated. Nevertheless, two months from release, a few tutorials are going up on NS2HD. They will of course be replaced with more up to date stuff nearer release time!

First up, the Skulk.

The key points to take away are: 
  • Stay away from the floors. Run along walls and ceilings to make yourself harder to track.
  • Use your Parasite ability often, but be careful to to have it selected when you want to do damage.
  • Watch for leap research, it will make you much more effective. Give commanders the benefit of the doubt when leap research is slow - they may be prioritising an alternative tech path.