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Duel Tactics: Newbie guide to 1v1

(written for

Ok, since the tourney has started and I see a lot of people play 1v1 on the tastyspleen servers I thought I'd just write a little column on 1v1 and what it's all about. 1v1 is very easy to understand but very hard to master. The key to 1v1 is to have more health/armor than your opponent, have better weapon, and have the strategical edge meaning think faster/better than him, use the weapons better, set up traps and suprise him. Aim is somewhere in the middle there. There are so many choices needed to be taken during the game often in stressed situations and often the number of options are limited. It's not really a well thought of column, I'm gonna write it on the fly

Watch good players play
It is how the lore of the game is passed around to new generation of players. You don't need to reinvent the art of 1v1'ing, you simply just need to mimic it. Simply put: watch good players play and try to steal their gameplay. Of course you can't get it all at once, but you'll be able to change small things here and there, and just those small things will make you a better player. For instance, when watching someone play the q2dm1 map the first you'll notice is that the player in control will spend a lot of time inside the mega-room or by the entrances to it. Also notice how they fire controlling rockets (what people will call spam, but it's actually a skill based a lot on soundknowledge) at entrances and openings where the enemy MIGHT peek out. Notice all the things they do when playing, how they use the guns, how they move around, where they get the most kills, how they sneak up on the enemy, what areas of the map they spend their time.

I'd advice anyone new to duelling or quake2 at large to check out demos! It's a goldmine for new players, and I both me and naymlis have spent hours upon hours watching demos when we were new to the game learning the art of 1v1ing. It has helped me enormously and I can't stress it enough.

Some demo sites:

Maybe check out some oldschool demos to start with to see how players played before they got the fancy speedjumping around the map movement they got these days. Don't let the aim or movement make you completely blinded though, keep in mind that you can virtually play the same way with s shitty aim and a bad movement. But then you can work on those aspects of the game as well.

Focus on the opponent
1v1 is all about your opponent, and people may forget that at times when they play. Even though you are not directly in combat with your opponent try to figure out what he is up to. Sounds are of course the key here, listen to armor-pickupsounds or healthpickups. This is important when you try to figure out how much health he has. Attacking someone stacked on armor and health is a bad deal. Also you need to read their minds, try to put yourself in their situation, what would you do if you were low on health after a combat? What are the focus of his game right now? Is he gonna attack me, or is he on the hunt for health? A quick mind will tell you that after a combat where he gets low he will most likely run towards closest healthpacks and get armor. If you act smart, you'll cut him off before he reach it. If both of you are low, he might even let the guard down cause he don't expect an attack, and you'll suprise him.

Know the map
People often think that since "I got better aim and I beat him on this and that map, I am gonna win on any map", this is actually not true at all. The maps when it comes to 1v1 matters a whole lot, and knowing the map is so important I can't stress that enough. I could write a essay on how to learn the map, but luckily I can just link to a great guide already written about it:

To make it simple learn the layout of the map so you don't get lost (a player who is lost will lose a lot of focus on the strategy), learn the items needed to contrl on the map, learn the sounds, learn the control areas and where to play defense, learn the spawns and learn the routes.

First spawn
The most important part of the game is quite often the very first spawn. You really need to know what to do in the start of the game, where to run and pick up the vital items before your opponent does. It's not only to know where to run, but also to run as fast as possible, while you listen to sounds to locate your enemy. It's so easy to do mistakes at first spawn if you don't know what to do. The most important time in the game is from first spawn till first confrontation where you may actually get the first frag.

A good example is on q2dm1, you spawn chain and you hear opponent spawn at water (stimpack pickups), then you pick up chain and the yellow armor, as you hear him pickup bullets by the catwalk (he doesn't go for mega as he hears you pick up chain/armor). Now instead of jumping to mega you can actually run straight to SSG and take that before he does if you're lucky, and when he moves into the hallways, you should jump down and pick up rocketlauncher, then take the lift and take all the armors in arena, while locating your enemy and chase him down. You're fully stacked with all the weapons and he has nothing. An easy kill, then run back up to megaroom, pickup the chain that has spawned again, pickup armor and megahealth and make a go for the railgun. A good decision at spawn may have won you the game already if you play your cards right.

Item control
Since this is new for the FFA player I'll go a little more in depth here. Item control is very important but very difficult, and this is where most new players lack the most knowledge. People gets so immersed in chasing/running after enemies that they forget about the importance of itemcontrolling. Controlling items isn't about pickng up every weapon/armor/mega there is on the map, cause noone are able to completely lock down the map like that and god forbid it being possible. You need to find out what items on the map you want to keep away from your opponent. Try to limit it to about 1 or 2 items to begin with, trying to control more than that can be a hassle, especially when you got alot of other stuff on your mind. Q2dm1 is a bad example as the only items you need to control is in the same room (megahealth and chaingun) and rail is easy to defend, no need to pick it up at spawns. Itemcontrolling comes so natural on that map, so I'd rather look on another one.

Let's look at aerowalk for this one. Personally when looking at the map I see a red armor, and that immediately tells me that red armor is the key to this map. Red armor is almost always the most important item on any duel map. And also remember it's better to fire a rocket hurting yourself in order to pick up the armor than to give it away to the enemy. Now aerowalk is a bad example of a RA dominated map, cause the RA is so hard to get unless you're a skilled player. But notice how hard it is to jump to RA without the help of a rocketjump, this automatically tells you that the rocketlauncher is another item worth controlling. The third item on the map needed to control is the megahealth, and remember that:

megahealth spawns 20 seconds after the last person having it reaches 100 health or below

This means you need to keep an eye on your own health when picking up the mega, so you know when it will spawn and maybe most importantly when it will not spawn. Having the mega will make it easier to focus on the other tasks at hand. If your enemy picks it up, try to be sure in the next combat that you completely knocks it off, so you can get the next mega spawn. Do not let the enemy have the mega counting down to 100 naturally, this makes it a lot harder getting it the next time it spawns as you no longer has any control over it. Knock it off in a combat.

Anyway, timers can be used (wav timers that counts down the itemspawn by pressing a button), but I don't use that in duels as many frown upon it. I prefer either using the onscreen clock or use other items to help me timing the spawn of the item i really want to control. This means that if I pick up the chaingun before I head off to the rocketlauncher the next time I see chaingun spawn I know that next time chaingun spawns rocketlauncher will appear shortly after. That is timing routes, and on aerowalk I often pick up chain/rl/rail in one run, a good advice is to delay the pickup of the rail a few seconds in case you miss the strafejump from the RL to rail or prefer taking another route next time you pick it up. But same goes for armors, picking up a jacket armor before picking up the red armor can make it easier to time the next spawn of ra. It depends on the map, some maps are great for such item timing, ztn2dm3 comes to mind where you can use the chain to time rl or the other way around.

Also remember in what order you rate the importance of the item, cause in cases there is not possible to hold the control of all items through the whole game, at times you need to make a sacrifice.

How to control the map / retake control
Controlling and retake control is almos the same. Well, the key is to take one step at the time. Controlling is when you have controll of the items and your enemy is on the run. You know where the enemy is located and you are stacked with health/armor and weapons yourself.

When not in control you need to either get the enemy lower on health and thus get him on the run again, and that way take over the itemcontrolling. Or you can gradually take over one item at the time till you're outstacked him in armor/health/weapon and that way force him to get on the run. Once again I'll take a look on aerowalk:

You control it when you get the RA spawn, the chain/rl/rg spawns and get the mega. That way it's almost impossible for your enemy to win as he is stuck with gl/hyper/ssg and jacket armor. You will spent most time at the upper part of the map and only go down to finish the enemy off or to pick up the mega.

When not in control you'll need to play calm, the map is very open and there is little health. Trying to go straight for the strongest item, the red armor, is hard as he will definately defend it pretty much all the time. Try getting the railgun first, that is most likely the item which he controls the least as it is on the other side of the map. Get the railgun, stick to the lower levels/railgun ledge, snipe him off around corners or when he goes for the RA by standing below by the teleport. This is a good spot as it's a fast escape. After hitting a a few consecutive rails till you hear him pickup the healthpacks between chain/rl, it's safe to say mega will spawn soon. Then you stick around the lower levels till it spawns if you can stay there long enough you'll get the mega (if not, go to the upper ledge and get rocketlauncher/chain while he is down there waiting for mega). Now you can work your way towards the rocketlauncher/RA area, at one time you'll be likely to get rocketlauncher and then just spam and try to intrerupt his jumping to RA and force him on the run and take the RA yourself, then immediately try to go for the kill so he can't play defense with all the weapons.

Anyway, taking back a map requires some sneakyness and thinking several steps ahead.

Right choice of weapon
The fault a lot of FFA players do when playing 1v1 is to chose the wrong gun. Even though you have rail it doesn't mean you should use it 90% of the time. No, use each gun to maximise its potential. Use the delayed shots from rocketlauncher/grenadelauncher/hyper to make it hard to chase you, use the rockets to fire controlled shots when enemy is out of sight, use chain/ssg to finish off. Chain is better in open areas and places where it is easy to chase, while ssg works wonder in terrain harder to navigate in, and less chance of running out of ammo. The rail is best used on distance, and that makes it harder for the opponent to suprise you with the rail out fragging you and getting the rail from you (the nightmare scenario on q2dm1). Use different weapons to fight off other weapons, don't be too often engaged in a 1v1 rail vs rail for instance, chances are you'll get stressed if he gets the first hit and you'll lose it. Try to knock his aim off with the ssg, or use the chain to get him on the run, or the rl to outbattle him. Always try to focus on what gun to use! Don't think that rl and rail is always the best.

Know when to attack/retreat and play offensive/defensive
Unlike in FFA where you don't get rewarded for defensive play, in duels knowing when not to attack is just as important as knowing when to attack. People often fall victims of being overly aggressive and overly confident. Confidence is good, but no need to take chances all the time. Play it safe most of the time, and take chances now and then to vary your game. A good rule is never to attack unless you have 100/50 in health/armor or if you know you have more health than your enemy. I often go by the rule if I can't survive a direct hit rocket I retreat/play defense unless in a direct battle with opponent who has equal or lower health. Also at times you may need to hold your position even having low health in order to hinder your opponent to take the mapcontrol. By doing this you need to be sure of your opponent movement and where he is at all time, spamming defensive rockets at entrances whenever he approach. Then pick slowly work your health back up to 100 and get mega if possible.

If you have no chance of actually killing your enemy I advice you retreating when you can't survive a direct hit rocket. It's a easy enough rule to follow. If both are low, take a chance if you really need the frag. Don't attack a fully stacked enemy with only 100 health and no armor, and don't expect to kill a fully stacked enemy at first attack. It usually takes more than one attack/retreat series to kill an enemy in control. Be patient, your chance will come sooner or later.

Get the first hit
Just thought I'd mention this, in combats it's important to get the first hit. At least in a rocketlauncher vs rocketlauncher duel or chain vs chain or rail vs rail. There are mainly two ways of accomplishing that:

Hit him as early as possible, meaning as soon as he peeks around a corner or comes through a doorway into the room where you are staying. This requires that he actually is on the move. If you play a stacked player be sure to get him to chase you, hitting the first shot on a chasing enemy is the easiest as you can just spam defensive shots. The rocket will not kill him, but it will even out the playingfield as his mega may get knocked away. Also spam rails/rockets at corners where you think he will peek around, there is no aim needed for spamming rails around corners, it's all timing/luck. So even though you have a lousy railaim, you just need to position your crosshair where the enemy will appear and try your luck.
Used: Works good on an aggressive player and also on a player who is playing in offense, or when you know the enemy will appear there by sound.

Suprise your enemy:
This is the way to go if you play someone in defense or someone more defensive in his style than the one mentioned above. These players will not recklessly chase you, they will wait for you to attack (so they can get the advantage of the first hit). In order to suprise your opponent you need to make moves that he doesn't expect. Stealth or fake sounds or are the keys, and fake an escape and suprise attack him instead as he let his guard down.

Don't pick up everything you see
It's also a typical FFA way of playing, just to pick up everything in their way. It's nice enough having enough ammo, and health, but do you really need 45 grenades and 100 shells? Think about what you pick up, and also be sure to break the standard pickup sound series by picking up the items in different order, or do some fake jumps in between. Usually good players have memorised the standard item picking sounds, and will be able to hit you with prediction rockets by just using those sounds. It's a good thing to be aware of what sounds that will reveal your location on the map, and do anything to prevent that from happening, or even better, use those sounds to your own advantage. A good example of the latter is to drop 3 nades and a gun above the chain and pick them up (faking the chain+bullets pickup), and await your enemy launching an attack at chain, and then you just use the rocketlauncher to catch him in the corner. Be cunning

Work on chain
Chain is the gun of duellers in my eyes, it's the gun that requires a lot of skill. Not only for aiming, which most people seems to think, but also for positioning. Whenever you chase someone try to keep in mind where you want your enemy to run, try to force him into deadends or other spots that limit his choices of escapes, lead him away from healthpacks/escapes (lifts/doorways for instance). Place yourself in between your enemy and the exit you do not want him to escape from, also don't be afraid to save bullets when he hides behind boxes, the most annoying is when you ALMOST killed him but ran out of bullets. If you catch a railer by suprise close up with the chain you can chain him to death before he gets the chance to react

Keep your head cool
Just stay focused as much as you can, don't try to let the game get a routine. If you expect to lose every game you'll lose every game, try to be motivated and even when taking a beating get a good feeling for tricking your opponent or taking him suprise by a perfect laid trap. It's a lot of small victories in the game, when you read his mind and attack him where he doesn't suspect it, when you manage to keep an item away from him for the longest time etc, all small victories that can keep your spirit up when taking a beating.

Play the right players
Play players better than you for learning how to play defense and get your aim/thinking up to par with the best players. Do not play players who are way above your skillevel all the time though, getting beating too hard is not something you'll learn all that much from in the long run. Find someone who can beat you consistently, but where you can get a frag or two.

Then play someone at your own level or below so you'll learn how to control the map, work on your timing routes and mapcontrol. Work on the spawnraping, try to outsmart the opponent and cut his escapes off. Then go back play the better player again and notice you may get a better hold of him when you are in control than you used to. Improve both parts of the game, and remember that everyone (and I mean everyone) loses now and then!

Play a lot I have no talent, but I've played a lot.

Hope it wasn't too hard to read, there are more to 1v1 than mentioned here, but at least I touched a few parts of the game

2009-12-25 14:25 
I'm not gonna say anything!... Only because it's Christmas. emo
2007-12-10 14:10 
n1 guide emo
2007-08-27 16:03 
very very nice, it really was helpfull, but a little bit emo
2007-01-16 13:50 
"Chain is the gun of duellers in my eyes, it's the gun that requires a lot of skill"
cg is now considered a skilled weapon ...this is sad
u should add "work on rg" instead (how to play with railgun on all the map without camping, being killed and giving away the rg)
2006-12-26 08:01 
Nice .
Thanks emo
2006-10-21 20:48 
learn english..
2006-06-28 06:46 
translate it on polish
2006-06-26 13:59 
hehe, thanks a lot hope it was helpfull
mad max
2006-06-22 12:32 
whoah!! great job dude! very clearly and professional written, a lot of good pieces of advice, and a lot of reading! nice

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