From what I see playing insane A.I. opponent teaches you to play well, especially the early game. Insane opponents usually build a big army quickly and attack you in 4-6 minutes. If you can't earn a lot of resources quickly and manage them properly, you will lose.

Training against the AI robably that won't work for platinum and diamond players, but definitely helps for those who are silver/gold or new players. Is this true, or is it better just to play usual multi-player games?

  • 3
    So I'm seeing a lot of subjective in these answers and not a lot of Back it up. I'm not saying this question is Bad Subjective (yet), but I think some people need to clean up their answers from: The computer does/doesn't teach you X to: The computer does/doesn't teach you X, because of ABC
    – tzenes
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:35
  • 1
    This got bumped: the answer is simply a flat no. The Insane AI cheats: a big part of RTS games is judging what your opponent is capable of having in terms of army/vision/etc. The Insane computer has full map vision and gets added income. Waste of time.
    – Decency
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 20:36

6 Answers 6


Play against other players!~

I'm a firm believer in playing against other players to improve. A lot of players avoid multiplayer due to the high level of stress over stats. The simple reality is even the best of players sit around ~60% win/loss.

The very nature of the matchmaking is designed to pit you against players of equal skill and there is no shame in losing. While playing against computers may help you get your timings right you're missing out on a very integral part of the game itself: The Meta-game.

The Meta Game

The Meta-game can best be described as the current style of players and techniques in the game. When the beta started, 3 barracks Terran was the 'standard' opening. It wasn't until later that a solid 1:1:1 (barracks into factory into starport) was an accepted strategy.

This evolution of the game (fueled by the community) leads to dynamic strategies. Knowing and identifying these strategies is often the difference between a decent player and a great player.

Why its better to play against other players

By playing against a computer you lose the ability to identify and recognize an opponent's build when you scout him. These skills are essential in all levels of play! By recognizing the build a player can then 'expect' a certain army make-up or army size. Playing against a computer just won't teach you real player's timings, popular builds, and scouting.

Lets take an example: How does the community view TvZ on Lost Temple? Currently Terran can cause serious damage to most players by doing a 1:1:1 into thor and dropping it on the cliff overlooking Zerg's natural. Why is this successful? Currently Zerg has accepted that going for an early hatchery against Terran is relatively safe. This perspective (dictated by the Meta-Game) is already fluctuating! You just don't get this sort of thing against a computer.

An Insane Computer has built in advantages to negate your intelligence!

The enemy computer (on Insane) gathers at an increased rate over a regular player, making their strategies unachievable for regular players! Most RTS's do this! Because player's constantly evolve to beat the AI, the game developers program and advantage into the AI to help them be competitive. Enemy workers return 7 minerals a carry instead of 5, a 40% collection bonus. This 40% collection bonus leads to a larger army than ANY player can achieve at that time. This leads to bigger pushes with more units and loses the 'feeling' of an even game. In addition to that the Insane AI does not need to scout you. While the computer doesn't react to your build like another player, it also doesn't need to scout to find your 'hidden expansions'. If you only have one building left on the map the insane computer will walk to it directly (without scouting). This can be absolutely game changing! Against another player hiding a unit building structure (starport or dark-shrine comes to mind) can be the difference between a win and a loss if scouted!

The Crux

These advantages lead to fighting a larger, and more educated (scouting) then possible army. This may help you improve your general mechanics: building placement, not getting supply blocked or early game timing. However, the actual game play is so dramatically different that you would be better off playing against any level of human opponent (even if they are no competition to you). Real players are much more aware of the evolution of the Meta-game (whether they know it or not) and practicing against REAL strategies is the only way to improve.

But Every Ladder Loss Feels Like Hades Ripping a Piece of Pride Directly Out of My Soul

There's a solution for this too! Find a practice partner to play custom games with. This will give you the ability to improve (and for them to improve) as both of you explore the game. But the real benefit to this is human vs human strategies without the stress of recorded ladder stats.

Hope this help!

  • 1
    Could you expand on some of your points? For example: Why doesn't the computer teach you the importance of scouting? You discuss a lot about how it doesn't take into account the meta game, but not any concrete examples about why that is so. I'm not disagreeing I'm just trying to get you to flush out your points more.
    – tzenes
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:37
  • Editing... In addition to these changes, I think clarifying jargon is in order.
    – Aardvark
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:49
  • @tzenes Done, if you could look over it and tell me if I missed anything dramatic I would appreciate it
    – Aardvark
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 1:19
  • @Aardvark like night and day. The only remaining points I have are: I'm not sure that Insane AI cheats with scouting (certainly it acts like it doesn't); You might want to mention how timings "feel" different based on this difference in gathering.
    – tzenes
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 1:25

I will add one counter-point to the great points posted by others:

IMO, playing against a hard/insane AI can be decent practice for dealing with strong early rushes.

AI opponents will often employ a strong tier 1.5-2 rush, which can be devastating if you're not prepared for it. Practicing dealing with this can be good to help you better be able to defend rushes in 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 multiplayer games. Many players are shaky against early rushes, so this one aspect of the AI can be useful. In particular in 2v2 and 3v3, you will often face combined rushes like the hard AI likes to do.

Now, even this should be taken with a grain of salt. The AI is good at executing a great rush build order and combining forces well, but real players will often employ smarter tactics, drops, misdirection, strategic retreats, and so on. And of course with the AI, often if you can survive the first rush, the game is in the bag since the AI sometimes acts like it doesn't know what to do if it can't crack your wall. But just for getting a feel for how to deal with potential very aggressive play, the AI can be useful.

  • 1
    2 points to add: I find it's a good way to learn maps (rush distance, scouting, just general layout) and it's a great way to check out how stable a certain early game strategy is. I don't play against insane, but middle to late game "very hard" isn't very challenging. I spent like 10 matches going early expand on jungle basin ZvP before I got it just right. It's now my best map in 1v1.
    – wds
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 23:47

A strong player should be able to defeat the AI on Insane, but playing against that AI will not necessarily make you a good player, and may teach you bad habits.

On defense, you'll only be able to learn so much, as the AI has a limited number of strategies it employs (and as aardvark mentions, the fast resource collection of Insane AI means real players employing similar strategies will still have different timings or compositions to their forces).

On offense, you'll need to be very careful not to play to the AI's weaknesses, as it will often lose against strategies that real players are much better at coping with. For example, Husky cast a match where he played Protoss against 7 Insane AIs and won through an early wall-in and cannon rush, followed by nothing but mass carriers.

In short, the AI can be a useful training partner when first starting out, as long as you understand its limitations. However, if you plan to play seriously and want to get good, you will have to play a lot of games against live opponents, so you may as well just jump right into it.

  • I like the part about "playing to the AI's weaknesses," but could you expand more on why you don't learn much on defense, or how many strategies it has if its so limited.
    – tzenes
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:39
  • Hard Zerg AI lets you build spine crawlers on their creep before they have any "combat" units. Was worth a 1v3 (all Zerg) just to do that.
    – Nick T
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:49

It will help you learn the fundamentals and build your APM (actions per minute). It may also teach the importance of army composition. It is not useful at all for strategy beyond this. The AI become predicable and games will quickly begin to follow the same formula over and over. They also will not micro very much.

So yes, it will help you at first, however your growth will be limited.

  • You're saying some things here, but not providing evidence why it is so. A statement like It will help you learn the fundamentals is meaningless without the context of: which fundamentals? and how does it help you learn them?
    – tzenes
    Commented Dec 7, 2010 at 0:42

If you are having macro problems the computer can help with that. You can also use the computer to practice scouting in a lower stress environment.

If your problems are strictly strategic then you should probably read forums to figure out way to deal with the problem strategies and find a practice partner willing to do that strategy against you til you master it. If you can't find a practice buddy just random queue and hope for the best.

If your macro habits are good, you should become good at new strategies relatively quickly. If your macro is terrible then play vs the ai til you can build constantly without missing probes and pylons.


Playing against the computer makes you worse against other players, not better.

The computer really only plays one way: build a ton of units, and beat the crap out of you with them. They're going to outbuild you, they're going to beat you in APM. So, to beat the computer, you fort up and tech. You try to outsmart them, and it works because they're terrible at finding weak points. You build a carrier/BC fleet, and hit and run their infrastructure to death, and since they're still focusing on tier 1.5, you roll over them with no problems.

This will NEVER work against a competent human. They'll expand, and then they'll tech, and when you come out of your impenetrable wall of missile turrets, they'll destroy your expensive fleet with a horde of air-to-air. And that'll be game.

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