Thanks for visiting my page. To help with navigation, here is a list of popular pages all about Marching in Colour

* The History of Marching In Colour - who is the man behind the words and service, how did it all come about

* Commissioning Models for Painting - how the process works, start to finish, and what you can expect

* Gallery of Artists Work - with over 20 years experience, here is a small sample of finished commissions

* ITEMS FOR SALE - as well as painting models, I also sell pre-painted models and assorted loose models and scenery on Etsy and Ebay. Links here!

* Trade in your old models for Painting Credit * click here for details

* To see details of all current commissions booked-in and estimated completion dates - click here

SCENERY and TERRAIN - for pre-made, handcrafted items of scenery and terrain, please click here

For TUTORIALS please follow this link - click here

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Age of Empires Online - Improving your APM

Xericor's Tactica Empires – Improving your APM, Practice Guide

When we first start out in RTS games we often find ourselves clicking one unit or building, checking to see what it does, then clicking another icon, usually a 'build unit'. Once we have units we tend to group them all as one block, and concentrate on moving that block. Our attention is always focussed on one specific area at a time, but as our confidence grows we find our speed increases, we don’t need to read and double check details as much, and our game play improves.

The rate at which we play can be measured by our 'Actions Per Minute', or APM, with a faster APM meaning faster reaction times and the more we achieve in less time.

Consider the AI/Computer. It is capable of viewing all of its units and buildings at the same time, and to issue commands to all at the same rate. As a player we cant hope to match this, but we can practice emulating it.

A higher APM generally makes us a better player. In this article I hope to show you some practical methods to increase your APM as well as an actual repeatable quest in which you can practice increasing your times.

First Rule: Use your mouse AND your keyboard
When we start out playing, we are shown mouse commands, and we click on every icon, every picture, every unit. Often moving our mouse across the entire screen, and often trying to land the cursor on a very small area. We never learn that a lot of what we need can be achieved with the keyboard. We only need one hand to operate the mouse, use your other hand on the keyboard.

Second Rule: Use Hot-keys
You will find that a lot of the actions we need to take (left clicking on an icon) have a keyboard equivalent. Rather than trying to aim our mouse cursor all over the place, learn the keyboard stroke and implement a combination of mouse+keyboard. For instance a Barracks will produce a Spearman if you press the 'A' key while the barracks is selected. The Barracks is a large target on the map, the Spearman picture is a small target for the mouse, save time and effort by just pressing 'A'.

Third Rule: Assign Hot-keys/Groups
By pressing CTRL+any numerical key when we have something selected (Barracks, 5 Spearmen etc.) we assign that selection to the keyboard. On pressing the selected number we bring up the option to the front of our control. If we assign our Barracks to CTRL+1, then when we press the '1' on our keyboard the Barracks will be selected. Then we already know that by pressing 'A' we can train a Spearman, so when we combine the two – pressing 1 then pressing A, we can train a unit just from the keyboard, leaving us the use of our mouse for something else.

Fourth Rule: Set Way-points
Normally when we train a new unit, it appears on the screen standing next to building which created it awaiting orders from us. While technically not 'increasing' our APM, setting Way-points can save us time to concentrate on more pressing matters. To set a Way-point simply click the desired building then right click anywhere on the map. A little flag will appear and all units trained from that building will head towards the flag. In the case of villagers if you select a resource or building in progress they will work that area. Military units will attack way-pointed targets.

In summary -

All you need to learn to improve your APM is to transfer some of the commands you would normally use from your mouse, to your keyboard.

Improving APM Practice Quest – Challenge: Kill the Docks

This is a low level quest on a small map, with easy achievable objectives. Perfect for practising improving your APM. Once the game starts, follow these simple steps -

The first thing we need to do is set our Town Centre way-point to the patch of gold near our base and train 1 villager, select the Town Centre, then with the mouse right click on the gold patch and with the keyboard press the A key.

Next select our 5 villagers and order them to build a storehouse near the berries, select the villagers and hold down the SHIFT key, select build storehouse, then once the blueprint appears on the map, right click on the berries (keeping the shift key held down). The villagers will now build the storehouse and when its finished will automatically begin harvesting the berries.

Pic 1. Begin by assigning 5 villages to berries and train 1 villager for gold

Now we need to start producing troops. Select the Barracks and assign it the Hotkey number ONE (select the Barracks and press CTRL+1). Press A several times, till you run out of minerals, and start training Spearmen. Set the way-point (right click with the mouse) down the hill to the north of your base.

Pic 2. Set your Barracks to the hotkey numerical 1

Send your starting troops down the hill to the north and begin fighting.

Pic 3. Set your waypoint down the hill, so your newly trained spearmen will rally straight to the fight

Practise switching between controlling your troops with the mouse and pressing the keystroke 1 (select Barracks) and the keystroke A (train Spear) to train more troops.

Don’t forget to press 1 and right click the mouse to assign the way-point closer to the fighting as you progress towards the enemies base.

Pic 4 and 5. As the fighting progresses, continue moving your Barracks rally point closer to the enemy base

Keep practising,
with your mouse – controlling your troops, ordering them to attack different targets as needed AND setting your Barracks Way-point closer to the action
with your keyboard – pressing 1 to select the barracks and A to train more spearmen.

Pic 6. Notice how we are able to keep track of three seperate combats (1 main group attacking the archery, while 2 sets of 2 spearmen combat the ships) and keep our reinforcements streaming in to the centre of the combat zone

By using this method you don’t need to return to your base at any time. Leaving you time to concentrate on the fighting at hand, all the time knowing your villagers are working and that your Barracks are delivering troops right to the heart of the battle.

Once you can beat this challenge in under 5 minutes on normal, increase the difficulty to Elite. The quest at both levels is very similar, the only difference being the AI will produce Elite Archers which will hurt your Spearmen a lot. The challenge is to be fast enough to fight your way into the base and destroy the Archery before they can produce troops. If you can do this then you have a good APM!

After getting the hang of improving your APM on this map, try adding more hotkeys and playing a different map. Use number 1 for your Town Centre, number 2 for your Barracks, 3 for your Archery etc.

Hope this helps!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. My game play just got better.