Wednesday, 30 January 2013

GUIDE: Natural Selection 2 - Marine Commander Guide

Being the commander in NS2 is a huge responsibility. While a large amount of the playerbase are incredibly helpful and supportive to new commanders, there are always going to be those guys that get frustrated and yell at you for doing a bad job, as a bad commander can negate even the most skilled players. When a new commander experiences this, it shatters his confidence in the role, and he ends up shying away from it even more than before. What I aim to give you today is a solid base to be a successful commander. I'm not guaranteeing that it will stop people from yelling at you, but hopefully, if you follow this guide, players will see that you at least understand how the role works.

Your first lesson is before you even get into the comm. chair. Don't command if you don't have a microphone or are unwilling to talk on it. No exceptions. While you can give your troops orders through the menu, voice commands are about a million times more effective, and can portray subtleties and urgencies that automated menu commands simply cannot.

HINT: Talk to your marines! Be clear in your commands. Ask them their opinion, and ask them what they want. Try to let them know well in advance what you plan to do. Encourage them when they do well and try not to get upset if they make a mistake. You're the coach of this team!


Ok, so now that you're in the chair, you'll find yourself with around 50 starting resources. Rookie commanders are quick to just… build a whole bunch of stuff and waste that res. Don't do that. Start with an armoury  and send two groups of marines to the two closest resource nodes. How many players are on your team? If you are on a big server (24 players) you should consider an extra infantry portal. If not, you can possibly waive it for the time being. By now your armoury should be built and your marines should be awaiting orders at two resource nodes. Build the two resource towers and then an observatory at your main base.

HINT: You can construct power nodes in an area for free! Click on the unbuilt power node and select ‘socket power node'. This is useful if you are waiting for the resources to build something, and your marines are simply standing by.
Research phase tech at the observatory. Phase gates are probably the single most important structure in the marine arsenal. When used correctly, they can grant you near infinite map control. There are a lot of marine build order strategies that apply well in certain situations, but early phase tech is by far the most versatile. Next, you'll want to build an arms lab at your base.

From this point on is when things start to get situational. Are your marines maintaining a strong presence on your so-far captured resource nodes? Try for a forth one. Are your marines dying a lot? Build a second infantry portal. The next thing you want to do is try and secure a second tech point, if you don't already have one (you should not build a second command chair at this stage.) As soon as phase gate research is complete, put a gate in your main base and one at your second tech point. Put an armoury there as well. If you have a resource tower that's kind of far out, consider putting a gate there. Now that you've gotten yourself a foothold in the map, it's time to look at upgrades.

Don't waste your time with the shotgun and advanced armoury  At this stage in the game, the LMG is perfectly fine against the skulks and lerks that the aliens are able to produce. If your resource towers and power nodes are getting hit hard, get welders. Welders are cheap (only cost 5 res) and are a great way to keep these hit and runs at bay. Mines are also a fantastic early-game purchase, but I feel like the arms lab upgrades are more important, and will have a more global effect, as a lot of your troops will be hesitant to spend the 15 res that mines cost (even though it's totally worth it).

HINT: If you have a player that is particularly confident with his shotgun, it may be viable to get shotguns before your first arms lab upgrade.
Again, look at your marines. Are they exercising fierce control of the map? Research weapons 1 to help them extend that dominance. Are they dying a lot? Research armour 1 to give them a bit more survivability.


By now, you've laid enough groundwork for your troops. They should have a front to push, footholds to defend, and upgrades in the pipe to keep their res occupied. Here you start to move to more of a fluid support role. If your troops are pushing a hive, consider putting an armoury and a phase gate in a close location to help them siege. Look for undefended resource nodes and try to capture them, or at least deny them to your opponent. Drop health and ammo when needed.

HINT: Pressing spacebar immediately takes you to an alert such as a request for ammo. Press ‘A' and ‘S' while in the support menu to quickly drop ammo and medkits respectively.
Keep your arms lab upgrades rolling. Start with the level 1 upgrade you didn't get earlier, and then just alternate between the two. Ask your team what they prefer, and again try to assess how they are performing in battle and what would help them the most. If you can spare the res, getting shotguns at this stage isn't a bad idea.

Soon, you'll want to get a command chair and an observatory set up at your second tech location. While holding three tech locations can be good strategically, as you can use the observatory to distress beacon marines there, and can deny your enemy of getting their third hive upgrades, marines actually only need to control two tech points in order to access the entirety of their upgrades. When that second comm. chair is going up, you can upgrade your armoury to an advanced armoury, and then start saving for a prototype lab. 

HINT: Is one of your bases being heavily seiged, with all of your marines out and about? Click on the observatory and click 'distress beacon'. It only costs 10 res and it teleports all marines to the command centre closest to the observatory.


Once your prototype lab is built, you have officially hit the ‘late' stage of the game, which can be the longest stage if both teams play well. It's time to play with the toys from the lab. Research jetpacks before exosuits. Again, JETPACKS BEFORE EXOS. This is a point that I cannot stress enough. Jetpacks are more useful than exosuits 90% of the time. Jetpacks are also the natural counter to Onos, NOT exosuits! Exosuits are a very late-game siege weapon. Jetpacks are also pretty much required to support your exosuits anyway, and they are so cheap (only 10 res) that marines can pretty much buy one every time they die.

You are now at the point where you are pretty much free to do whatever you want. With all upgrades and jetpacks researched your guys are pretty much self sufficient. You might as well grab grenade launchers and flamethrowers - good weapons for sieging bases - and work on your exosuit research. My personal preference is grenade launchers before flamethrowers, but if the enemy has a lot of whips, it might be worthwhile to reverse that. If you haven't already, a robotics lab is a sound investment. Setting up turrets and mines at your more remote resource towers should help them hold out that little bit longer. Researching ARCs at your robotics factory will also help set you up for those end-game sieges.


If you haven't won by the time the Exosuits come out, here are some tips for getting those final sieges down. Don't ever buy the single mini-gun exo, and urge your teammates to do the same. It's just not worth it when the dual min-gun model is only 25 res more and a hell of a lot better. Make sure exos never go alone. For every one exo, you should have at least two support marines with jetpacks and welders. ARCs are great. Make sure they are well defended, and always try to get at least 3 together before sending them out. MACs are a good idea as they can support both your exosuits and your arcs.

HINT: Scan frequently! By this stage of the game, the enemy should have three hives, which means that his bases will be cloaked by shades. Click the support menu to scan an area, temporarily revealing stealthed structures. This technique is particularly important when seiging with ARC cannons, as they can fire through walls as long as the structures are revealed.
Try to hold as many tech locations as possible. On a map with five tech locations, holding three of them means the enemy only has two hives and therefore less upgrades. Be wary of beaconing when you are sieging with exosuits. Ensure that the threat is legitimate - aliens may attempt to 'bait' a beacon to a certain base, as beacons will NOT teleport exosuits, and they can then easily pick off the unsupported exos.  Drop weapons! You'll probably have an abundance of res at this stage, and your marines may be dying frequently. Dropping jetpacks and shotguns is always a safe bet, and dropping mines is an easy way to defend forward bases.

Keep this up and you should eventually be able to starve them out. Thanks for reading guys, and try to remember, Natural Selection 2 is a very fluid game. Every match you play is different, and strategies that worked in some matches may completely fail in others. This guide is meant only as a basis - feel free to try out new ideas and strategies as you become a more confident commander.

HINT: Don't be afraid to hop out of the command chair, to help build/repair structures or fend off an alien attack on your base.
Click here to watch me play through a full game using a similar build order. Check out my stream to see me commanding in action!

Liked this guide? Check out my other Natural Selection 2 guides:
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Saturday, 26 January 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Escapist Magazine!

I have a very special announcement for you guys today!

I've been hired by The Escapist Magazine! That's right, as of this point, I am now officially a 'professional journalist.' It's not much, and certainly not enough to live off, but I can now say that I am paid for my journalism. It's a pretty exciting day for me.

I've been hired as a news writer, meaning that the Saturday round ups that I have run on this site will sadly cease. Be sure to check out my news updates as I post them, I should start off with 1 piece a day and work my way up to 2 or 3 a day within a couple months.

So what's the purpose of this blog now that I am in the big time? I don't feel as if I will have enough time to provide my friends over at Non-Fiction Gaming the weekly Wednesday article that I have been doing up until now, so those articles will now be sporadically posted here on Steve's Game Blog.

In summation: Saturday roundup is GONE! Wednesday content (including video and written guides, reviews and features) will return to Steve's Game Blog at indeterminate intervals (I'll try to get at least one a month).

Be sure to keep a close eye on my twitter, my YouTube channel and stream (which streams a couple of hours of NS2 or TF2 gameplay every night!) for updates to the blog.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT: No news this week (again!)

Sorry again! This time I'm going for a ski trip to Nagano with my family. In the mean time:

  • I've been working on my stream quite a bit these days, trying to get in an hour or so a night of NS2 or TF2. Subscribe to my twitter and get updates whenever I stream!
  • I've also put out quite a few new videos to my YouTube channel, be sure to check them out.
  • My friend Jerry recently became a YouTube celebrity from his "World's Shortest Escalator" video, be sure to check it out, it's great for a laugh!
  • I recently talked about both my 2012 Games of the Year and my Biggest Gaming Disappointments of All Time over at Non-Fiction Gaming.
  • Watch this space! I may possibly have a very big announcement to make regarding my career in video games journalism (but it also could turn out to be nothing, so no promises.)

That's all for now, have a good one and see you next time.

How I'll probably look this coming week.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

NEWS: Saturday Roundup

Welcome to the Saturday Roundup, a weekly roundup of all the important news going on in the gaming world. If you’re sick of gaming websites' content turning more and more casual, or trying to pass off a single sentence and a link to a cool picture they saw on deviant art as ‘news,’  you've come to the right place. I aim to consolidate and summarize only the stuff that’s most important to gaming enthusiasts. It’s a mix of hard news, interesting features, and other tidbits that I feel like you guys would enjoy. Let’s see what’s been going on this week:

  • Age of Empires Online will no longer receive future content updates. Gamemaster Trajan announced on their blog this week that apart from a few pieces of content that have already been finished and are awaiting roll-out, no new content will be made for the MMO/RTS... thing. Trajan assures fans that the game will still receive technical support and bug fixes.
  • "Gamers want a reason to upgrade their hardware": Crytek won't be held back by consoles for Crysis 3. The original Crysis game quickly became known as the ultimate benchmark. Whenever building or outlining a new rig, people would be quick to ask 'Yes, but how well can it run Crysis?' The only problem with this was that the game sold well under Crytek's expectations  as people aren't too interested in buying a game that needs a PC from the future to run. Crysis 2 was 'held back' by consoles, in that it was shoehorned onto the Xbox 360 and PS3's ageing hardware in an effort to garner some extra sales. Now it looks like Crytek are going back to their roots, and making a game that is PC first, consoles second. Personally I feel that this is a good move. PC components are the cheapest they have ever been, yet developers trying to make games for console's outdated hardware means that very few PC games warrant the need for an upgrade.
Will Crysis 3 make you upgrade your PC?
  • TellTaleGames would love to have a crack at the Star Wars or Half-Life franchises. Talking to Red Bull, the developers of popular point-and-click adventure revivals such as Sam and Max and Monkey Island speak at length about their latest out-of-nowhere hit The Walking Dead, and what their plans are for the future. I would love to see a Star Wars adventure game, in the vein of those old LucasArts adventure games of old. Or maybe a Half-Life adventure game, where you play as one of the lesser known Black Mesa scientists, trying to escape without a small arsenal and a H.E.V suit.
  • Diablo III fans will have to wait a little bit longer for proper PVP. In a blog post, Diablo III's big cheese Jay Wilson talks at length about how the 'team death match' mode that was originally planned for the game is just not working out, and they're going back to the drawing board. In an effort to slightly appease the no doubt disappointed fans, he announced that Diablo II style duelling will be implemented very shortly.
  • Animal Crossing for the Nintendo 3DS has sold over 2 million copies! Nintendo head honcho Satoru Iwata is dumbfounded by the game's success in Japan, estimating that 1 out of ever 110 Japanese citizens own a copy of the game. My street pass has recently been almost exclusively filled with people playing Animal Crossing, so I can believe it!
Animal Crossing 3DS sold especially well with the hard-to-reach crowd of 19-24 women.

So that’s the news for this week. Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, check out my new digs over at non-fiction gaming for my regular Wednesday article, and check back here every Saturday for more news!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

NEWS: Saturday Roundup

Welcome to the Saturday Roundup, a weekly roundup of all the important news going on in the gaming world. If you’re sick of gaming websites' content turning more and more casual, or trying to pass off a single sentence and a link to a cool picture they saw on deviant art as ‘news,’  you've come to the right place. I aim to consolidate and summarize only the stuff that’s most important to gaming enthusiasts. It’s a mix of hard news, interesting features, and other tidbits that I feel like you guys would enjoy. Let’s see what’s been going on this week:

  • The R18+ rating for video games in Australia has come into effect. Up until now, it has been illegal to sell or import games rated above MA15+ in Australia. Some time last year, the states agreed on new legislations that would allow games to receive the adults-only rating instead of being banned outright. South Australian Attorney-General, John Rau, was among those who pushed for the changes, had this to say:

    "It's a win for the gamers who wanted to have the opportunity as adults to purchase these games, but it's also a win for parents because they can be more confident that games that are age-inappropriate will not be available to people under 18."
Australian adults now have the right to make their own choices on media consumption.
  • Today is the last day of the Steam Holiday Sale. The yearly sale, which sees a large selection of titles from recently released blockbusters to little-known indie efforts slashed up to 75% off, is about to end! Today, Steam will showcase the best deals of the sale, for a 'second chance' to pick up on what you missed out on. I'm sure none of you missed out on the amazing indie FPS/RTS Natural Selection 2 and bought it when it was 60% off... right?
  • Still playing The Sims 2? EA is set to shut down the online services of the game, along with a few others. While the game is quite old and has been all but replaced by The Sims 3, it raises the issue of DRM once again, eventually, all online servers come to a close, and if your game requires a server to activate it, it essentially becomes worthless.
  • Looking forward to gaming in 2013? You should be. PC gamer has compiled a list of games that will be released in the new year. The extensive list covers games from pretty much every genre and developer, and it looks like we are going to have a pretty good year.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is at the top of my most anticipated list!
  • The Penny Arcade report takes a look at gaming in 2012. Among the topics discussed are: faster broadband speeds in the US, products shipping ready to play and developers tackling more serious issues in gaming and being less transparent with their audience.
  • Jurassic Life is a Half-Life 2 modification set in the Jurassic Park universe. The team recently released a trailer and I was surprised to find that it doesn't look like crap. Full conversion mods of this magnitude have seen a steady decline as game engines have become more and more complicated. Jurassic Life does not yet have a solid release date.
Could this finally be a Jurassic Park game worth playing?
  • Are you one of many gamers that try to scrimp and save a few pennies by buying games used? You may not be able to do this at all come next generation, as Sony recently filed a patent that aims to 'suppress second-hand game sales'. Publishers and developers have long lamented the used game market, and one-time-use 'online unlock' codes have been used to combat it for a few years now. These codes offer key features, such as online play, and force second-hand customers to pay an additional fee to unlock them. With Sony's new tech, each game will contain an RF tag that will remember whether a game has been tied to a different machine or user account. 

So that’s the news for this week. Sorry for the lack-of-content, as you can imagine this week is kind of a slow-news week! Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, check out my new digs over at non-fiction gaming for my regular Wednesday article, and check back here every Saturday for more news!