This is an in depth guide to the fundamentals of playing FFA duel in Sauerbraten. If you are a new player, you may find it a bit overwhelming. I recommend you come back to it from time to time as you gain more experience.
In order to play your best in FFA you are going to need to download a client with a gameclock and ammobar. Community edition http://comed.sauerworld.org/ has these features and more.
Disclaimer: While I think the majority of this is objectively good advice, this guide is the work of one player, and reflects only that one player’s opinions.
In FFA duel, you spawn with 100 health, 25 armor, a pistol with 40 shots and a single grenade. Everything else you have to pick up. How effectively you can do this is the core aspect of FFA gameplay.
A note on the start of the game – the game begins with no armor on the map. This means that off the first spawn you should focus on getting powerful weapons and setting yourself up for the first armor. The armor spawns for the first time after its usual interval.
Armors:Yellow Armor (YA): 30 sec, 200 armor, absorbs 75% of damage
Green Armor (GA): 20 sec, 100 armor, absorbs 50% of damage
Weapons: Every 16 seconds in 1v1.
Health: Every 20 seconds in 1v1
Health boost (HB): every 60 seconds, +10 permanent health
Quad: every 70 seconds, x4 damage for 20 seconds after pickup
See the Sauerbraten documentation for more detailed information on weapon and armor properties – http://sauerbraten.org/docs/game.html
Health and Armor
Your basic goal off the spawn in FFA is to build your stack up. The YA is the quickest and most powerful way to do this, and you will not win the game without taking it. That’s not to say, however, that the YA alone will be enough. You have to take the GA in between rotations of the YA and find enough health to stay alive and utilize the armor that you pick up.
The importance of the HB for winning games is often overlooked by new players. If you can control the health boost, you can effectively end the game by the halfway point. HB in the last minutes of the game rarely matters, because there is no time for the small health gain to make much difference.
Always turn up for quad. A good quadrun is the most effective way to open up a huge lead, or get/build on control by forcing your opponent to hide for the next 20 seconds. The quad is usually very exposed, and hard to pick up without taking damage. You have to decide based on the situation whether to try to take it, try to kill your opponent while they take it, or hide.
Weapons are items too, and are as important or in many cases more important than the items above. Having strong weapons to attack with is necessary to push for frags, and keeping strong weapons away from your opponent is necessary to keep control. On most maps RL (rocket launcher) and MG (machine gun aka chaingun) are the most important weapons, but in the right situation any weapon can be dangerous.
You should know exactly when YA spawns by subtracting 30 from the game clock every time it is picked up, and be aware of the order the other items are spawning in. For example, you know that the second GA will come up about ten seconds after the first YA, and the third GA will come up at about the same time as the second YA and the first HB. The quad will be up ten seconds after that, and so on and so forth.
Showing up for an item at the right moment is also key. You want to be there either right before the item you want spawns, or earlier if you think you can stake out and defend the position. Deciding which of these is correct in a given situation is something that you’ll have to get a feel for.
While it is sometimes obvious what item to go for, paying attention to what you need at a given time is a crucial skill. You might not want to go for armor when you don’t have the health to make use of it, for example, or if you need to replenish your ammo more urgently. Try to get the most out of every pickup – don’t take a 25 health with 97 points of health out of 100, for example, unless you’re trying to deny it from the opponent. However, if you know that your opponent has 200 armor but 10 health, that is exactly what you want to do. It can even be worth damaging yourself to pick up health, or shooting off a weapon to take away more ammo for it.
Playing in Control
When you’re in control (meaning you have the larger stack and know when items are coming up) your goal is to keep it this way and rack up frags. Accomplishing this requires situational awareness, fast decision making, and consistent execution.
Control the Items
Control Your Opponent
Items are very important, but they aren’t the whole story. In order to utilize and maintain your control you need to keep the pressure on your opponent. You should try to figure out where your opponent spawns every time, and, if you can do so without giving up something more important, rush them down and kill them before they can take any items. Alternately, you can trap them with spam, or, if you feel like their current position isn’t a threat, use the opportunity to go collect items yourself.
Know Your Limits
You need to strike a balance between aggressively controlling your opponent and knowing your own limits. For example, don’t make yourself late for a major item by overextending yourself for an item or kill. It takes time to get from point A to point B, and if you kill your opponent across the map there’s a chance that they will spawn on or near the item and take it before you can get to it. If you leave them weak, you can backtrack towards the item and finish them off when you’re a safe distance from it. If you have to let them take the GA or weapons in order to take the YA or another more important item, accept the trade and move on, rather than making a greedy play that could lose you the entire map.
Playing out of Control
When you’re out of control, your goal is to get back in control without letting your opponent get too many frags. This requires a mixture of stealth and calculated aggression.
Minimize Your Losses
If possible, do not engage in a fight with your opponent unless you have the weapons/stack/positioning to do serious damage. However, it is very unlikely that you will always have this luxury. When you do have to take fights that you are going to lose, do not run away with your back turned. This the biggest mistake I see new players make out of control. It is much, much easier to gun down a fleeing opponent, so be comfortable running away while also dealing pistol damage.
Make a Plan
What item can you take that will help you win back control, and how can you take it without your opponent intercepting you? The GA, as we will see later, is not always something you can rely on taking. You need to get a powerful weapon and deal damage to your opponent in ways they are not expecting or can’t respond to (a sudden rocket engagement, long range rifles, catching them with MG and shredding them).
Keep Track of Items
Try to keep track of when items are coming up even if you are not the one taking them. This will allow you to solidify control after you do manage to get the kill. You can also win back control by simply stealing a major item, if you see that your opponent has put themselves out of position.
Don’t Disappear Completely
You can’t let your opponent walk freely around the map picking up whatever items they want. Doing damage forces them to go for health instead of weapons and kills, and if you go completely passive they will always outstack you and easily win fights. Furthermore, certain items are just too important not to turn up for, even if you have nothing to fight with. Unless you are ahead or near even on HB pickups, it’s usually worthwhile to bum rush it and hope for a steal. The same goes for quad – if you can’t fight for it, try to die on it.
Taking a Strong Position
Some positions are easier to attack from than others. As a general rule, it is easier to attack from high ground than it is to attack from below. A good high ground position can also allow you to observe your opponent without being seen, and mount an unexpected attack. There is more nuance to it than that, however. If you are standing by the top YA on nmp8, you have the high ground, but you are highly exposed and limited in mobility – clearly not a strong position.
Know the Angles
By angles, I mean angles of attack – positions that can be used to line up shots on other parts of the map. Metl2, for example, allows you to attack the quad and GA room quite effectively with rifle from the lower entrance on the YA side. These angles are particularly useful when you are out of control and need to deal unreturned damage. Figure out what they are on every map.
A choke point is an area that you can’t rush through without taking huge spam or splash damage, such as an an archway or a corridor. Metl2, for example, is full of choke points. Use choke points to trap your opponent, or keep them from getting to you, and be wary of moving through them yourself.
Intercepting Your Opponent
There are only so many ways to move through the map, and different routes make sense in different situations. For example, if you’re in control, you can expect your opponent to be moving through the corridors of the map, not running around in the open. Try to get in their head and get where they’re going before they do.
Have an Escape Route
No matter what you’re doing, it’s a good idea to be able to run away from a fight that’s not going your way. If you have low health but high armor, you can save your control if you manage to run away and fall back on health. If you are trying to maintain a scoreline, the extra time you buy from getting away can be critical. So make sure you are always thinking about how you can escape – a choke point you can run through and defend, or an item you can get to before your opponent can catch up.
What is Baiting?
Baiting is the act of leaving up an item in order to deal huge damage to your opponent when they move in to take it (you use the item as ‘bait,’ hence the term). In team modes, this can also refer to letting your teammates draw enemy fire in order to give you free damage on their attackers. Baiting effectively is another skill that requires putting yourself in your opponent’s shoes. What items would you want to take if you were in their position?
What to Bait, and When
The most obvious, low risk item to bait is the GA. If you take the YA, you know that your armor starved opponent will want to take the GA. You don’t need it, so you can easily trap and kill them when they go to take it. Be careful though – if your opponent is experienced they will be expecting this and try to sneak up on you.
A more dangerous strategy is to bait the YA. If you’re out of control, it’s a great opportunity to deal damage while your opponent is occupied with something other than killing you (at the risk of exposing yourself to death if your trap does not go well). If you’re in control and very stealthy, you can trick your opponent into thinking you’re out of position, and kill them as they go for the YA, but before they take it.
Baiting the quad can be a viable strategy if you have more to gain from killing your opponent as they take it than you have to gain from trying to take it yourself. Perhaps you don’t have enough stack to effectively defend it, or perhaps you are in the lead and would rather keep your stack high than risk going for a quad run.
Baiting the HB is the obvious thing to do if you already have a huge starting health advantage over your opponent (although you can also just use it as an opportunity to go take an item you need more uncontested).
No item is too insignificant to bait. If your opponent has just spawned, they need weapons. If they’re weak, they need health. You can bait them.
It’s important to be aware of sound cues, both to figure out where your opponent is and to avoid being heard yourself. Sound cues are also useful for figuring out when items are taken – for example, you can stand out of sight of your opponent but still hear the YA being taken if you’re close enough.
Things that make sound: Jumping, landing from height, picking up an item, bouncing off a jump pad, firing a weapon and taking damage.
Have Good Fundamentals
Practice your weapon jumps, and practice preserving the tiny amount of momentum you get from jumping in a straight line. Failing a jump can and often will be the deciding factor in a match. Master Kal’s weapon training map, at http://quadropolis.us/node/1198
Know How to Traverse the Map
Make sure you know the fastest way to get where you’re going, and make sure you can execute it every time. Maps like nmp8 (well, mostly just nmp8) take a lot of practice just to get to a level of basic mobility. Take ten minutes and just practice running around the empty map.
Every map has its own important movement tricks. Figure out what these are and get them down. Metl3 has a nifty rifle jump from corridor to HB. Metl2 you want to be able to rocket or nade jump to quad from the upper doorway, not just the teledest (and also be able to double rifle jump to the quad if you have no explosives). Corruption you need to know how to get up the jump pad to YA smoothly, and also be able to jump from the YA bridge to the upper floor. Every map has something.
This is already implied by everything I’ve written above, but bears reiterating: you need to know every competitively played map back to front.
- Where exactly are all the weapons, armors and health?
- Which of these items are more or less important for this map?
- What angles can each position be attacked from?
- Which positions are strong or weak?
- What are the movement tricks on this map?
- How long does it take to get from powerup to powerup?
Like I said, a lot of this was already touched on, so I won’t go into any more detail here.
Nothing in this guide will help you if you don’t also play! Practice against players of all different skills – playing people worse than you will let you practice your control and give you confidence, while playing people better than you will give you a sense of perspective and push you to play your best (don’t play exclusively against people who own you, however – it is discouraging and stunts your growth). The best thing to do is find yourself a practice partner of the same skill as you to improve with. You will be able to practice all aspects of the game equally and you will push each other to improve.
I also highly recommend watching demos of top players – you will see them doing all the things in this guide and more. Then you can steal their strats.
Well, that’s the general idea. Feel free to message me in IRC if you have any questions. Happy fragging!