Quake Metagame Series

Article 3 - When to Attack

So far, we have covered the physiological and mental factors that affect the way you function in Quake. Now that we have this basis, let's get on with some more grounded concepts that will make a difference in your game.

I stress that the ideas presented here are not direct tactics. That is, I'm not going to say “From point A use weapon X against enemy Z”. My goal is to present mindsets that can be grasped intuitively and put into use subconsciously. Though I will give examples of specific cases, my focus is to present broader concepts that will give you a better understanding of the game.

Over the next few articles, we will be analyzing a few excerpts from Sun Tzu's The Art of War. This is a collection of practical teachings on... well, war. What makes this book useful is the fact that the same concepts have meaning in any competitive application; it is studied in business, sports, and yes, gaming. We will specifically be looking at five key points presented in the third chapter of the book.

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”(Tzu 3:17)

This simply and directly states that the player who knows when to attack and when to defend will come out on top. Frequently, I see new players tending to run head-first into the firefight without first assessing the strength of their opponent(s), or their own relative strength. This is especially important in one-on-one duels. Indeed, a good portion of what makes or breaks a good dueler is his\her ability to adapt his aggressiveness to the situation. But what does it mean to be on the attack, and to be on the defense?

For the sake of simplicity, I'll break the multiplicity of possible situations down to three basic types:
  • Both players are at distance from each other or are avoiding one another, seeking to gain armor\ammo or a better position.
  • One player is avoiding the other, while the other player is in pursuit of the first.
  • Both players are facing each other head-on.
This fairly quickly defines the difference between offensive and defensive play; either you are keeping your distance from the other player(s) to get a better footing, or you are aggressively attacking the other player(s). Obviously, these are greatly simplified situations; in reality they will vary quite rapidly.

Keep in mind that these are not static styles that rarely change in the course of the game. Rather, these attitudes can change very rapidly, even when both players are in a firefight. Ducking around corners, jumping to a higher platform, and leading an opponent into another area are all variations on these attitudes.

The same concept applies to larger player counts; they simply become compounded. Once the fundamental concept is applied to one person, it is a small task to bring the same mindset to free-for-alls. Now you are thinking of these things in regards to groups of people, or player-chasing-player-avoiding-player, etc.

Note that Sun Tzu calls attention to the quality of having the knowledge of when to attack and when to defend. It must be understood intuitively when it is a advantageous to press ahead, and when to fall back.

This leads us to another crucial concept:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (Tzu 3:18)

Knowing when to attack and when to defend comes from being aware of the status of your opponent: Did he grab the Megahealth or the Red Armor? What is he armed with? This also comes from knowing your own relative strength in the same areas. If your opponent has control of both the armor and the health, it quite obviously wouldn't be a good idea to come fully against him out in the open. This is the time to play defensively, and perhaps regain control of these items.

By knowing when to lay out the rockets, and when to fall back to grab some health, you can greatly increase your ability to read the game and settle into a state of control.

  • It is crucial to know when to jump into a firefight, and when to avoid combat.
  • There are three basic situations that are affected by the attitudes of the players.
  • These attitudes can change very often and rapidly over the course of the game.
  • Knowledge of the status of both yourself and your opponent(s) will aid you in knowing when to be aggressive or defensive.

Next time, whatever the hell I want, thank you.