Natural Selection 2 is a complex game, which might be overwhelming for newcomers. On one hand it means that many things may be confusing at first, but on the other it makes the game very interesting, so it can surprise players with new experiences even after many weeks.
It can be very helpful to go through the tutorials in the Main Menu, it helps immensely to take the first steps in the game. Tutorials for commanders are optional, but they allow to grasp more of the basic concepts.
You are not alone!
NS2 has a vivid community everyone can join. People there are usually very helpful, there are many experienced players who can offer some support, but also newcomers to group with to learn together.
Jumping into the game
There are three basic ways of beginning the game. Currently the most reliable way is to pick the option Community Servers after choosing Play in the main menu. This causes the Server Browser to appear. To quickly start playing one can simply pick the option Quickplay in its upper left corner. This option will automatically choose a server with matching ping and skill. Until a player reaches level 15 (see Ranking system), they are likely to be directed to a 'bootcamp server'. Bootcamp servers are playgrounds where no veteran players can join.
The Scoreboard can be used to check the name of the server one is playing on, so the next time the same server can be rejoined with use of the Server Browser (it is the second way of beginning the game). In the Browser, the names of Bootcamp servers appear in green. It is important to remember that a new player will not be able to get back there after reaching level 15.
The third way of starting the game is Matched Play. This is a game mode which automatically groups 12 players based on their skill and geographic location and creates a server for them. Note that the games in Matched Play are 6v6 while on most community servers they are 10v10. Note also that this feature is currently in Beta so waiting times may vary and players may experience unexpected bugs and problems.
Sooner or later you will probably choose to use Server Browser to join NS2 games (as it is presently the most versatile way of starting to play). To do this efficiently you should be aware of something that is called a spectator queue.
Basically, almost all community servers have player slots and spectator slots. Player slots become occupied first, people in these slots simply play games (beware, do not become afk, or you might be moved to spectator slots). People in spectator slots watch the games and can root for the fighting teams or learn.
Probably for the most time you simply want to play, so it is natural to look for a server with free player slots. However, many of the popular servers deployed something that is called a spectators queue. This means that people who spectate have the priority in joining the games, so waiting for a player slot might take a very long time. This is why it may be the wisest decision to join as a spectator first, and then join the spectators queue (usually by pressing the key for joining a ready room, the default one being F4). The spectators queue is, well, a queue so whoever joins the queue first, plays first (with some exceptions sometimes made for admins and other privileged players, depending on a server).
Skill and shuffling
Most of the servers use team balancing mechanisms, one of the most popular being ‘shuffle’, which reassigns players to marine and alien teams basing on their Hive Skill. Therefore, choosing a team does not guarantee playing the next round on this team.
Balancing is crucial for good games. It uses custom Hive Skill system to predict the possible outcome of the round and to make sure that the no team will crush the other, spoiling the fun for both sides.
Playing with your friends
NS2 currently has no lobby system, so getting to play with friends may sometimes be troublesome. There are, however, ways to alleviate it.
When a group of friends wants to play the standard (vanilla) NS2 together, they first need to make sure they join the same server. Using Quickplay is therefore not a viable option, and the group should pick the server using the Server Browser.
On the server the group should join the same team. This, however, may not be sufficient, because of team balancing mechanisms. To avoid being separated by such a mechanism, the group may try to use scoreboard to make a friend group. If the server runs Shine Administration (as most of the servers do) players can use scoreboard to mark their friends, by clicking their names and picking the option “Join friend group”. After doing this, the server will try to place all of the members of the group on the same team.
Getting in touch with server community
The majority of NS2 servers are community servers, which means they are run and moderated by NS2 players. Contact with them is usually possible also outside of the game, many of the servers have their own Discords, which are listed in #community-discords channel of NS2 Discord.
Reacting to Abusive Behavior
Natural Selection 2 is a game which incites emotions, and sometimes not everyone is able to control them. First of all, never respond to aggression with aggression. If you feel someone's behavior is inappropriate, report them in the server's discord community. Remember that you can always mute the person being offensive both in voice and chat channels.
Understanding what other people want
Natural Selection 2 developed its own language of terms and acronym. Most popular ones are gathered below:
- cc - Command Station
- chair - Command Station
- rt - Resource Tower
- res - Resources
- tres - Team Resources
- pres - Personal Resources
- ip - Infantry Portal
- obs - Observatory
- pg - Phase Gate
- weld - using a Welder to heal the armor of a fellow marine
- scan - using Scan ability of an Observatory to reveal hidden aliens
- ping - using Scan ability of an Observatory to reveal hidden aliens
- beacon - using Distress Beacon ability of an Observatory to recall all Marines to base
- float X res - retain X amount of Team Resources for a specific action
- reverse gates - use the Reverse Phase Gate ability on one of your Phase Gates
- med - Med Pack (used primarily to ask for one)
- mist - using Nutrient Mist ability by the Alien Commander to hasten the evolution of aliens
- flash - to flash means to lose a Lifeform very quickly
- backres - Extractors more or less deep behind enemy lines, which are often not well guarded
- (back)res biting - destroy unguarded Extractors, usually done by Skulks or Lerks
- smurf - a second (or more) account of a veteran player with (usually) lower rank than the main account
- shuffle - using the shuffle option on servers running Shine mod to rebalance the skill between teams ( by default)
Improving your gameplay
There is a comprehensive collection of guides available on the Wiki which could help you improve various aspects of your gameplay. Also remember to visit the page about settings, arguably most important being those about the mouse (sensitivity) and graphics (resolution etc., with large impact on fps).
There are no bad questions!