People often talk about the “meta game” in strategies, but it is often ignored for lack of better understanding.  In this article we will discuss what is the meta game and just how important it is to a strategy.

What is the meta-game?

Meta- comes from the Greek word for “after” or “beyond”.  A Metagame is the gameplay that extends beyond the game.  Of course this sounds like a conundrum, and is better explained using examples:

– Your attack fails and you lose your entire army.  The opponent has a very large army and starts attacking your base.  You leave the game.

In the above example, we notice that the game does not in fact play a large role in your response.  In our example, the conditions for defeat are to lose every building.  You did not fulfill this requirement, but was willing to leave the game nevertheless.

Many actions in Starcraft are in fact justified not by the game, but rather observations and inferences made by the player.  Perhaps the easiest way to learn what the meta game is, is to define what it IS NOT.

In Starcraft 1, Vultures were very good against Protoss. This is not a meta-game aspect.  By definition, Vultures had high speed, spider mines, and allowed a decently skilled player to out micro slower and more significantly expensive zealots and dragoons.  Units do x amount of damage.  Upgrades aside, a player’s reaction does not change how much damage the units do.

Meta game is not micro, nor is it macro.  These will later become constituents of it.  Micro is only effective as the units’ speed and fire rate, and macro depends essentially on harvester number (and smaller factors such as distance to mineral patch and saturation).  Generally speaking, anything that has a number in the game associated with it is not meta game material

Meta game can be defined with aggressiveness or defensiveness, cautiousness, hesitation, or even Tilt. It is the mindset regarding decision making, of both you and your opponent(s)..

How to utilize the Meta-game I

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” -SunTzu

The first part of utilizing the Meta Game is to understand your own reactions and thoughts.  This serves many purposes all of which are useful to mastering the Meta-game:

1. Understanding yourself will show the determinate “motive” behind your strategies.  With each motivation, there are weaknesses.  For example, aggressive players are often very focused on the frontline micro, and often forget about their base and are vulnerable to zergling runbys.  Defensive players often will often give up map control.

2.  Understanding yourself and your reactions will let you learn what other people feel and react.  This simply comes with experience.  The purported “game sense” of certain players is simply personal experience that something is going to happen given certain indicators.  Again, this comes from experience, and will only come by playing more games

3.  Knowing your usual response allows you to consciously fight bad habits and train yourself in good practices.  For example, I played defensively at first, waiting for the enemy to come to me, and often ended in disaster.  However, but realizing this, I learned to send more scouts, and not fear the enemy as much.

Humans often think very similarly, and because of that, simply knowing how you think during certain times is a window to how others will also think.

How to utilize the Meta-Game II

“All warfare is based on deception” – SunTzu

You understand how you respond now.  After some practice, you know how not to despair, which battles are winnable, when to be aggressive, and when to be defensive.  Now here is the hard part:  You must play with your opponent’s mind.

1.  Fear- an enemy who is afraid or nervous will make poor choices.  Some early aggression will often do this trick.  Drops and harassment often times, while not damaging to the units and structures, will cause the opponent to miss timings, lose focus, and be forced to think on the fly.  If he cannot, he will be very far behind.

2.  Confusion- Starcraft is a reactionary game. Many people (mistakenly) think of the game as a game of glorified rock-paper-scissors.  This thinking is wrong on many counts.  Perhaps the obvious flaw in this analogy is that rock paper scissors requires you field your units at the same time.  To win at Starcraft with this ideology (my units counter yours), you need to field not only the correct unit at the right time, but also in the right locations, in the right amounts, not even counting what will happen after the battle or such.  Hiding your unit composition or misleading your opponent in unit composition will lead to his demise.

Denying scouting is ever so crucial to sowing confusion.  Denying any form of scouting basically forces the opponent to play blind and rely of either luck or hope, neither of which are viable strategies compared to you having map control and army advantage.

3.  False hope – Often times the game changer isn’t just the action, but the magnitude.  People leave games because they lose their entire army, or they lose all their workers.  It is the differential that often matters.  To make sure the differential is maximized, sometimes you let the opponent go about his way, despite his impending doom.  This is especially devastating for Zerg players, who believe they are safe to drone up, only to lose their entire army very shortly.

Perhaps the Meta-game is the center of such celebrated “creativity” like that of TLO.  We will revisit this subject in the future, delving into specifics.  Our goal with FleetBacon gaming is to experiment with strategies beyond the game, so the meta-game is of great interest to us.  Stay tuned for future updates.  Next time: Reapers!