The method

The core of the training is pretty simple. It requires two players willing to spend some time and learn together. To take most out of this, at least one of the two should be an experienced player. The skill gap can be quite large (500+ Elo): this will give it more of a coaching feeling. But it works also when the two players are evenly matched, though it may sound a bit more experimental.

So these are the steps:
1. The match is started, the two players start dueling, and at the first mistake the match is stopped. In a coaching setting, the better player can suggest when to stop.

2. With the game stopped, the two players can wander around the map and discuss what just happened, discuss the mistake that was done, and analyze the alternatives that the players had. The discussion is the core. Using voice communication is definitely advised.

Discussion

There is a number of topics to discuss:

1. How do you recognize an error?

In the coaching case, this is as simple as the better player noticing an obvious mistake and stopping the game. Notice that if you are ~1500 itís very likely you do multiple bad decisions per minute. Mistakes will pop up easily, and they will be quite obvious once explained.
In the case of two even players, you can simply stop when you donít understand what is going on, you got surprised, or you see a missing opportunity for your opponent based on the situation. Remember that most of Quake Live dueling is about your awareness of the status of the game. If you are lost, stop, and reconstruct why you got lost.

2. What about errors that have a positive outcome? They are not really errors, are they? WTF!?

This goes a bit on the philosophical side of things but here is my take on this. At the very top level, you got players that have the knowledge and skill to deliberately push bad situations to their advantage.
These pro basically can afford to play off the book, because at a certain level of play, the book does not exist anymore, and it blurs into a deep, impossible to grasp, nebula of possibilities Ė such is the beauty of our beloved game. Still, one could then argue that a Rapha, which has admittedly one of the most calculated styles, has also been one of the more consistent, but then again, a match between him and Cypher can always go either ways.

However...

All these discussions are pretty much irrelevant for us. We are bad, we do plenty mistakes, most which are obvious, and as we are merely cannon fodder there is absolutely no point to start talking about styles when our understanding of the game is still so limited. First we have to learn to play by the book, the ABC game, and then we can afford to add our little personal touch. Alright?

3. What should I expect using this method?

Itís difficult to cover all aspects of training in quake, but as you practice this way, you should see a few patterns emerging.

First of all, most matches will be very short. A common mistake for players learning the game is to make the wrong decision right at the first spawn. Itís a very good stepping stone to learn about initial spawn options, and this method will be very efficient at that.

Secondly, you will probably see the same mistakes re-emerging. That is normal. It takes some tries to fix a problem, and realize all the facets and nuances of it.

If the same kind of error keeps popping up however, it may be the sign of the following:
1. The player is missing some theoretical fundamentals. For example, he may not understand weapon advantage, item timing, enemy awareness, etc. There is no dueling without understanding these concepts. Discuss these topics, using the practical example at hand to give it concrete meaning! A tour here may also help.

2. Despite understanding the theory, the player fails at taking advantage of these concepts. This is more often than not, a missed opportunity that came earlier on in the play.

Sometimes mistakes will be the result of sloppy execution, giving you a good reason to train a particular move or jump. You can always decide that if itís just an aiming problem, then it was not so crucial. Stop the game and discuss what should have happened, or accept it and continue until a wrong decision happens. Remember that a good understanding of the game is something you can rely on, more so than aim. So, knowing you made the right choice and just screwed up with aim should make you much happier than the reverse ;)

4. Positioning and Situations

By doing this process, you will start dealing with positioning a lot. This is a concept often cited, but I always had a blurry understanding of it. By keep processing your mistakes as they pop up, you should start getting a sense of what positioning is, because most of the time, it is deeply involved with the mistakes you do.

From a theoretical point of view, positioning is raw skill like aiming and dodging. Like these, itís a domain that if done right will help your game substantially. Unlike these other skills though, itís much less obvious to see and understand, and only partially transfers to other modes. Positioning benefits your game at all levels. Itís what makes you take advantage of your weapons. Itís what makes you gather the necessary information about the opponent. Itís what allows you to do more damage and receive less. Itís what reduces the opponent options, and increases yours.

So far so good, but how do I apply this in game? Here is where the proposed method shines. You take a mistake, you break it down to its causes and effects, and you realize a better option, which often involves taking a different position. As you progress, you pile up more and more of these little pieces. There is a nice video from twister exactly about this. He calls them situations. You want to learn thousands of situations. And you want to do it bottom up, from the practice of many similar moments of play that you break down, up to more conceptual thinking.

5. Why bother with this?

Another concept we often hear, of which we may have blurry understanding is the one of watching demos. So the theory says: you play your games, watch the demos afterwards and find why you screwed up. This is for instance what a Rapha would do during a Quakecon to fix a few things and make sure he brings his A game to the next important match.

WellÖ same story all along. He is Rapha. He can afford to do that, because he knows heís got top notch positioning, awerness, focus, etc. He has already worked on all the aspects of his game, and in fact, the number of mistakes in 10 minutes of his play is going to be quite low. But you and I? I think in more than two hours of training with Baksteen I never reached the end of minute 2. But instead of playing 10 matches (that would require me to spend another 2 hours to watch them) I had dozen mistakes pointed out, analyzed, and hopefully written somewhere in my brain to help the next time I play.

Conclusions

The conclusion will be read out loud by CZM, who will teleport in your room and recite:

This method is about optimizing your training sessions with respect to time. It proposes a very simple methodology, widely applicable by almost any mid-tier player, and compares favorably to playing full games with respect to the number of situations you learn and level of frustration you get over the same amount of time.

The method is biased toward the start of the game: especially at the beginning, you will focus on the contested control phase that characterizes the match start, rather than the in/out control of the later stages. However, as shown by [common sense et al. 2013] it can be proven that a good start is a good start, and will help you for the rest of the game. Our experiments show that after learning the initial spawns and related situations, the later stages of the match are successfully addressed.

I wanted to thank Baksteen for practicing with me and be so kind to be my coach in exploring this method, and Avek for discussing this topic with me and helping in shaping some parts of this post.
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