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Lerking - an endorsement

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  • Lerking - an endorsement

    Since the days of NS1, the lerk has seemed to be the black sheep of the Kharaa family. In my experience, it's the least frequently played lifeform. I created this thread to discuss what a good lerk can do, why they're important to just about any game, and propose theories as to why they're often overlooked and underutilized.

    Going back to NS1, I suspect one reason that lerk wasn't played as often was that lerk movement was a bit...off. I certainly don't remember spending much time strafe-hovering as a lerk in NS1. The lifeform seemed more suited to perching and spiking and sporing marines bases from a distance. I certainly avoided the thick of battle if I could help it. However, the lerk movement in NS2 is fantastic. Having not played NS in years, picking up NS2 and playing a lerk for the first time seemed like slipping into an old glove.

    I'm still learning and re-learning how to play an effective lerk, and what I've found is that the lerk does best harassing and supporting from the edges of a battle. They're also excellent for defense of hives or critical junctions. No other lifeform has the ranged deterrence of a lerk or two strafing at the end of a hallway, filling it with spiky death while nimbly dancing behind corners when needed. Having a lifeform that can cause continuous ranged damage while others go in for melee damage is highly effective in larger engagements, too. They're a natural counter to jetpackers because of their spikes and their flight capabilities.

    But lerks aren't just skirmishers and harassers. They're highly effective scouts and assassins. The ability to silently glide around the map means that inexperienced or unwary marines will be spiked and bitten in the back before they even realize what's happened. And lerks shouldn't be afraid to go in for a bite or two when the situation presents itself. Even one bite is a psychologically damaging experience, as the lerk's poison ticks the marine's health down after the lerk has disappeared from view. Lerks are arguably the most mobile and swift lifeform, too, able to go places even skulks can't, and travel across the map at sustained high speed while expending very little energy.

    And let's not forget umbra and spore cloud. Oddly, umbra, which is one of the most powerful alien abilities, isn't often used, as there are often few to no lerks, and the Khamm would rather spend the resources on abilities for fades or oni. This is unfortunate, as umbra is one of only a handful of abilities the aliens can use to directly aid each other (healspray and babbler shields are the only others I can think of). Spores can also be a potent weapon, for area denial and general chaos sowing, but they're also more difficult to use effectively, especially in the late game when there are likely to be more flamethrowers and exos around.

    I've laid out many of the lerk's advantages, and I'll now run down their weaknesses. They're fragile, they're larger targets than gorges and skulks, and their spikes aren't as effective against higher level marine armor and exosuits. A team comprised entirely of lerks wouldn't do well in the endgame if marines have teched up significantly.

    However, there is a strong argument to be made for lerk rushes in the early to mid game, as most alien players could choose to evolve to one within a few minutes of game start. Generally, however, personal resources are saved for fades and oni, which may not ever take the field if resources are scarce. Lerks, it would seem, could be the key to an alien comeback in the early mid-game, especially with umbra. Imagine 4 or 5 lerks flying all over elevator transfer as marines spray wildly into the huge umbra cloud and are taken down by a multitude of spikes. I can see it in my mind, yet it doesn't happen.

    What do you think? Why are lerks ignored, passed over, and disregarded by many players and Khamms? I'm truly curious to know.
    Last edited by OrionDriver; 08-28-2013, 02:09 PM.
    aka Incendiary!


  • #2
    Re: Lerking - an endorsement

    I'm not sure if you're insinuating that no one ever plays lerk here.

    I play lerk almost all the time (except when I feel lazy and permagorge instead) unless I'm saving for early Onos.
    Lerks certainly have their good points, and I agree that every team should have at least one or two, but that's really it.
    Once you start getting 3 or 4, that's way too many unless they are all completely awesome lerks who kill tons and stay alive. (EXCEPTION: If the team has agreed to do a lerk rush, which is absolutely hilarious when it works.)
    Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in my experience - most players will die very quickly, whether it be overcommitment in a fight or simply staying on the floor or flying poorly.

    With respect to the contents of your post, I agree mostly on their movement, scouting, skirmishing, and attack capabilities.
    It is true that most "strangers" and players on other servers often overlook the usefulness of Umbra, but in my experience, commanders on TG normally see the benefit and check for active lerks before skipping over it.

    However, I disagree with a couple statements regarding being a good Jetpack counter, as well as spikes being ineffective against exos.
    First, as a jetpack counter it sounds very logical because both life forms can fly. However, that's not usually the case. When marines can afford a jetpack, they practically always also have a shotgun with them. Shotguns are a lerk's worst nightmare, especially at weapons 2 or 3. No sane lerk would attack a jetpacker head on if he has a shotgun.
    Secondly, it is true that lerk spikes do puncture damage, which means it does more damage to flesh than it does armor.
    However, it still does damage to armor nonetheless, and at a very rapid rate of fire as well. This whittles down exos extremely quickly, combined with a lerk's natural speed and unpredictable flight pattern to avoid damage.
    Better off, a lerk can continuously spike exos from a distance while they are engaged with other life forms. Care must be taken, however, that they continuously analyze the battlefield and take evasive action and begin a retreat if the exo or any teammates notice what is going on.
    Case in point, as a lerk on docking last night I took out two exos who wandered off simply by flying around unpredictably and spiking. One was a railgun, and one minigun. One of them was micro too, which surprised me.

    The main problem, in the end, is that the aliens are simply too dependent on Fades currently.
    I am speaking largely in terms of builds 250 and 251. 252 came out just last night with some balance changes, and having only played one round on each side, it's too early for me to make a proper determination of how balance has changed.
    However, the fact was that without any fades, or a good fade, aliens simply cannot win. Lerks can ONLY help you lock down the game so long as the lerks are ablle to completely seal the marines into their base within the first 5 minutes. Failing that, fades are an absolute necessity to keep up the fighting, and to deal with shotguns more effectively as the marines continue to tech up.

    I guess my point is more or less, should people try and pick up lerk? Yes. If they are able to, and the team doesn't already have one or two.
    Otherwise, it's much better for the alien team that people save for and practice being good Fades.
    At least as of 250 and 251, even Onoses are not scary; it is ridiculous how weak they are in general combat.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Lerking - an endorsement

      Originally posted by DarkScythe View Post
      However, it still does damage to armor nonetheless, and at a very rapid rate of fire as well. This whittles down exos extremely quickly, combined with a lerk's natural speed and unpredictable flight pattern to avoid damage.
      Better off, a lerk can continuously spike exos from a distance while they are engaged with other life forms. Care must be taken, however, that they continuously analyze the battlefield and take evasive action and begin a retreat if the exo or any teammates notice what is going on.
      Case in point, as a lerk on docking last night I took out two exos who wandered off simply by flying around unpredictably and spiking. One was a railgun, and one minigun. One of them was micro too, which surprised me.
      Assuming you mean the same game I think you do, our commander was terrible and we were on w0a1 for most of the game (Early robo, then rushed exos) so I would bet at least one of those exos was pretty underpowered since we had exos and JPs done before getting anything beyond w0a1. You point is still valid though, just offering an explanation for the surprising ease you experienced in taking the exos down.

      While I agree with everything in your post it also comes down to as you said, the Alien dependency on Fades. Lerk is fun and useful and I would play it more but personally even if no one else goes Lerk often feel that I need to wait to go Fade in order to salvage a below-average Alien early game which a Fade is more capable of doing.

      The only thing I would also add is that the usefulness of the Lerk fades rapidly as the game progresses to being almost exclusively a harass/support role who picked up to occasional kill while being very flimsy. Often the only time I will go Lerk personally is if Shift Hive is up and I trust that 3 Spurs are comping up soon after I hit 25 res. Even then I need to feel confident in my Alien teammates having at least 1 Fade that can at least survive which does not always occur on TG servers little less on servers with less regulars who play together.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Lerking - an endorsement

        Low armor upgrades may have been it, though I also managed to dodge most, if not all, of their fire.
        Their mistake was wandering off alone without any welder support, so I took advantage of the fact that they couldn't heal, had no nearby backup, as well as using the immediate environment to my advantage.
        (Flying between pipes when I heard the railgun charging, flying around a corner when shot at, feigning escape to turn back around, etc.)

        Unrelated, but these are all things I should do as a Fade. Yet, I never do. Haha.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Lerking - an endorsement

          Thanks for your input, DarkScythe. I certainly didn't mean this post to be directed at a perceived lack of lerks on the TG servers. In fact, I think I see more lerks here than anywhere else I've played. I'm just interested in discussing their role on the alien team, and why you don't see as many as you might expect. I would tend to think, for example, that in a late game with the marines pushing on hives, that given the choice to rush in as skulk or trying to defend with spikes and umbra, that more people would go lerk if they don't have the resources for fade.

          And you're right about shotguns being the bane of lerks, at least at close range. They're ineffective against small lifeforms at middle to long distances, which actually makes shotgun marines great ranged targets for the savvy lerk. Your point about jetpackers is true, and I guess I should have clarified my assertion: against shotgun/flamer jetpackers, spikes are good because other lifeforms might not always be able to reach flying marines for melee attacks, and against jetpackers with LMGs, lerks can still go in for bites. A good fade is probably a better counter to JPs, but a lerk's still useful.

          I remember doing some lerk rushes in NS1, but I don't think I've ever seen one done in NS2. In what situations have you used them, and what were the results?

          And yes, I think to some extent, what we're seeing is a result of the balance changes. Fades do seem to be essential to an alien win, but I think it's been that way for a long time. Fades are the sturdier frontline soldiers in the midgame, and the other lifeforms trend toward support/harassment/structure destruction until Oni roll around.
          aka Incendiary!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Lerking - an endorsement

            I think Lerks fall prey to a fundamental problem within game play. I think when we all started playing vidya games, we wanted to be this epic single guy in a combat situation that owned the whole other team and won the game for our team. I think in the back of most of our minds, that's still there. And I think that still shines through with a lot of people, myself included. While TG rules and standards are in place to change that, we still find ourselves going "Oh crap" when we're called to phase and we happen to be trying to ninja a phase gate to the least active hive.

            It is my opinion that there is only so much a commander can do. It's up to the players to act with a team-first attitude. Once this attitude is achieved, and a team really comes together, the Lerk is the most powerful class in the game, regardless of Marine tech or team mate lifeforms. Umbra is a very powerful tool. I've seen it turn skulks against weapons 3 into Oni against weapons 0. Spores are crazy against anyone not in an exo suit, and an effective Lerk can encourage too many players to get exos, cutting down on Marine mobility and probably losing the game for them. I know I've found myself wishing for an exo just after the team is coughing and going "Where did that stupid Lerk go?!"

            A Lerk by himself is only useful in early game. With that being said, a very good Lerk early game is better than an epic fade mid-game... because if the Lerk is beast enough, you're never going to see mid-game. I think most of the reason we don't see more Lerks is because the Khamm rarely researches Spores while they're useful. If I saw "Spores Researched" as one of the first upgrades, I'd Lerk every game, because Spores would be SO beast against early game marines, but it rarely happens.

            Mom
            Games lubricate the body and the mind. - Benjamin Franklin
            Ever since the beginning, to keep the world spinning, it takes all kinds of kinds. -Miranda Lambert

            You're a 34, Mom. Thirty. Four.
            Forever Perplexed

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Lerking - an endorsement

              Spores require biomass 6 (Did in b251 anyways) that's why you never see it out early. Rushing to biomass 6 to get spores doesn't seem viable(if possibly entertaining).

              Part of the issue with early Lerking is spores come so late and now with b252 Umbra is going to be even later too (if it still doesn't keep getting skipped). The other half is at late game when Lerk is a super support unit you only need one on the field (in a reasonable size game), often when it comes time for aliens to end the game the call goes out for a Lerk to support if there isn't one already.

              It kind of became a catch 22 for Lerking in public games, some comms skip Umbra so some good Lerks skip Lerk no good Lerks on the field attentive comms skip Umbra etc. and now the fact that early Lerk with Umbra was so powerful in competitive play means it gets nerfed more in pubs too. With all the changes last night and coming up this weekend and the fixes that are sure to follow it is anyone's best guess as to what happens with the game but it would be nice to see there be reason for more than 1 lerk to be on the field at a time so at least more players get some good experience with it and comms get used to them being around.

              I don't see any of the changes removing the fade ball mentality though. At least on paper.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Lerking - an endorsement

                OrionDriver:
                It's great to see discussion about less-played classes, but as crymeariver alluded to, current balance simply hangs too heavily on having good Fades.
                Those that do go early Lerk delay their chance to go early Fade. As with everything in this game, and any RTS for the matter, time is of the essence, and the earlier you can bring out a game changing weapon, the better.
                In that case, having to decide between one or the other, most will choose Fade, as it's the more reliable and resilient class. A game can be turned around with a good Fade. I don't think a good Lerk can do the same.
                A Lerk is most effective in the early opening minutes of the game up until shotguns come out. At that point, Lerks have to begin being extremely careful, and playing more defensively.
                Similarly, a Fade's "window of opportunity" is just before 10 minutes, up until Exo's show up. Again, once the Exo's arrive, the fades have to be extremely careful about engaging them.
                However, the Fade has the ability to withstand direct combat against shotguns (if just barely,) where a Lerk cannot.
                In defensive play, the Marines are normally not physically assaulting two hives simultaneously and heavily enough to threaten both. In those cases, an existing Lerk can switch to an Umbra defense and employ distraction tactics to draw fire away from the hive and deal some damage, but in the end, Skulks are free, where a Lerk costs resources to replace. That means Skulks are much more likely to attempt to attack the Marines assaulting a hive, because they don't have any other option of defending it, nor do they have time to evolve to a Lerk simply to defend. If anything, they would Gorge to keep it healed.

                With that out of the way, toward the end-game you are right - it is indeed helpful to have a Lerk, and in most cases you will have exactly one whose job is simply to spore and umbra the main force.
                It actually feels detrimental to the team end-game to have multiple lerks, because their power output is nowhere near that of a Gorge's bilebomb, Fade's general combat ability, an Ono's ability to draw fire, or even the humble Skulk's ability to slip in between the chaos and land kills, or xenocide to deal large area damage.

                As for Shotguns and Flamethrowers being ineffective at range - you are mostly right, but it is a mistake to count on this.
                Yes, unlike an LMG, their damage suffers at mid-long range, with the FT being completely useless out of range. In this case, spikes will be able to pick them off easily.
                Unfortunately, if it is a JP/shotgun, they can fly toward you very quickly to close that distance. Think about it this way: As a Jetpacking marine, do you shy away from Lerks or do you charge right at them?
                Finally, this only works for the "bad" players. Good players will use their pistol as their means of attacking you if they are at a range disadvantage, some using this almost full time to fool a Lerk or Fade into thinking it's an "easy kill," and coming in only for the player to grin as they switch to their shotgun to blast you in the face.

                A Lerk rush has been attempted on the TG servers once before that I was a participant of.
                It worked more or less exactly how I described it earlier: 6 Lerks appeared simultaneously very early in the game, and completely shut the marines into their own base. They could not expand to even cap their nearest resource nodes. That is the only way to win with a Lerk heavy loadout. If they had been successful at holding 2 or even 3 nodes for a few minutes while the Lerks were flying around, they would have quickly gotten shotguns to deal with all of us.

                YerMom:
                Early Spores aren't really viable because as cry pointed out, they are pretty far down in the tech tree. The more important thing is early Umbra. Between lower weapon levels, and Umbra negating some of that damage entirely, and Carapace, it becomes exceedingly difficult to take down skulks.
                This has also changed somewhat with 252's yet-again-new alien commanding changes, where you're not researching upgrades anymore - you're researching to upgrade a specific life form totally.
                Most commanders had a habit of skipping Lerk upgrades before, and I don't know if it would be worse now.
                Going back to last night's game on docking again, I lerked most of the round, but was pretty frustrated because I was engaging Exo's and JP's still with only access to my basic bite.
                I asked the comm to research some Lerk upgrades a few times, but I suppose no one ever noticed my chat messages, so out of desperation about 15-20 minutes in, I messaged mirage on Steam to ask the comm to get me something besides bite.

                Cry:
                I more or less agree with what you said.
                It's tough going Lerk when you know you're probably going to get ignored for upgrades, but as a commander you don't know if anyone will want to go Lerk to take advantage of the upgrades. Especially if you're in a tight game, you want to get those Fade powerhouses upgraded and out the door as soon as possible.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Lerking - an endorsement

                  I've never Khammed, so I didn't know about the bio mass. Now that I understand the time frame around Spores and Umbra, it doesn't really make any sense to me. It didn't make sense to me why the Khamm would research spores just as a balanced game was starting to see Exos before I knew about the biomass. It seems to me that spores should come along earlier, and be less effective... I think we can all agree that Spores are annoying, and actually hurt pretty bad, too. They should've left it the way it was in NS1 and left them just annoying, but not game changing and put them in at the 2 hive time frame. But that's nothing we can change...

                  When I play Lerk, I try to play low if the ceilings are low and high if they're high. A lot of Marines expect you to be as high as you can be, so flapping at a Marine at knee level kinda throws him off, especially if you point your body the correct way to make him think you're going high. I tend to agree with the shotgun statement, but I generally end up dying because I get stuck on some random jutting object, not cuz of the shotgun. I'm not really afraid of a shotgun as a Lerk.

                  As a Marine with a jetpack shotgun, I'm terrified of Lerks. I just spent like 35 of my resources on equipment that I'm taking into a firefight... one lucky skulk/fade hitting me a couple times, and a lerk bite and I've bled out 35 res on the floor before I could get a med pack or to an armory.

                  Mom
                  Games lubricate the body and the mind. - Benjamin Franklin
                  Ever since the beginning, to keep the world spinning, it takes all kinds of kinds. -Miranda Lambert

                  You're a 34, Mom. Thirty. Four.
                  Forever Perplexed

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Lerking - an endorsement

                    I think 1 or max 2 lerks in early game can help pave the way for other life forms. I think the lerk is the most diverse life form. It is a good defensive and support class. It can slow marines down, deny them of an area, and support higher end life forms end game. The problem or the former problem is they cant take much dmg and 1 lucky/well placed shot gun can take a lerk down it feels like. I should try it more, esp since the shotty nerf. Though for a shotty and FT, you can easily out range them. As it is the only class that has a good melee and range attack you need to pit your adv vs your opponents weekness. I have seen a lerk hold off a base from heavies.

                    I agree that fades are extremely important mid game and can take on more marines with less worry than a lerk, though both a skilled lerk and a fade can turn the game.
                    Lights Out!

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