Specing means to watch a game as Spectator. U can select this option in game-lobby under the different fractions.
Although some people to spec like watching a movie, u better be an analyzing spec with the eyes for the details. In very general, specing helps to improve your RA-knowledge on: What to do, when to do it and how to do it! Of course u can also learn the negative side: What doesn't work!
If done the pro way, specing is an art-form itself. If done the nub way, it is just laziness. An example to illustrate:
a) nubish specing: "... Player 1 stayed passive and player 2 rushed with tanks 2 times, then won the game."
b) pro way: "... 1 full-built with no defense at start up to 10 cys, while player 2 rushed with 5 tanks on 2 wars his trucks and slowed him down this way. 2 then made hybrid with 2 cys, but no counter from 1, so with more cys he got faster to war7 with much more tanks so. 1 rushed again from south, but used GQ for enemy´s V2 , killed refs, then some powers, so tesla couldn't fire anymore, killed cys - while shifting new tanks and built big powers towards enemy. win."
The difference lays all in the details. GG.
Before explaining, how to get an eye for the detail, some:
* Nobody owes u anything and there is no right for being allowed to spec any game. So, if u very new and don't know a host, but u would like to improve ya skills and watch: ASK politely. Ask with a PM or join the game-lobby, say "hi" and ask. Don´t expect people who don't know u to let u stay. If u are douchey, expect a douchey kick. If u say vulgar words after a kick in lobby or via PM, don't expect to be allowed ever again in that a room of that host.
* Overall, the main reason to kick new players is: their connectivity is unclear! Will they lag, supposedly! Well, many newcomers, for which reason it may be, have a lag-issue. So, to not have a laggy game, hosts tend to kick unknown players.
--> To avoid this: after asking politely to spec, u can write the command: /ping google.com
--> it will show your conn by a ping signal in milliseconds to the google-server: the higher ya ping is the worse ya conn, and the probably more u will cause lag.
--> your player-to-player connectivity will be shown by the command: /ping only.
* Ya conn seems good, u are allowed, game starts: You see it is laggy and has delays or even slight game-pauses. NUMBER 1 RULE here is to ask "is it me?" in-game.
--> The players will say yes or no. If yes: LEAVE immediately! BUT don't leave via alt-f4 = it let´s the game crash. Leave via options: leave game, click.
--> If yes, but you think "cannot be me". Don't stay! If players (except muted-crush :p) say that u lag, u probably lag! So leave.
--> If u are called to lag, but you stayed: Don't ever expect to be a spec soon again.
--> However, ask 1-2players after that game finished if it really was you (= game speed was much better after u left). Then you and they will know, if yes or no. If u weren't the cause of the lag, the next game you will not be called to-leave again (except with muted-crush :p).
* Another NUMBER 1 RULE is: NEVER never ever ever HELP one side in-game. Never. "oh, left makes a chinook" or such comments are strictly forbidden. !spec
* Commenting in-game in general: It is sharp like a knife; what to say and what not in-game. Overall rule - extraordinarily for newcomers - be silent. Don't say anything at all. Don't use the game as a platform to discuss, don't make sneaky-funny comments - except u are specing a game of ya friends. Simply don't be annoying.
* You find something very interesting and/or don't understand, how it is been done. Don't comment on it in-game. Ask afterwards.
* The game is finished, say gg as well in the general forum, or after 1-2players are resigning in-game.
* DONT say GG TOO soon, when game isn't finished yet. Tables can turn even in the last minute.
* Don´t upload unasked a game u recorded while specing! That is like robbery.
* Last but not least: If u are specing a game on a so-called standard map, the player´s colors are very important: they determine the starting position! The normal starting positions are guaranteed by the colors from left to right: yellow-blue-red-green-... . So as a spec u choose colors from reverse, right to left: grey-teal-... .
-- In cases you don't follow as a spec what is wished, demanded or a rule by the logical sense,
each player has the option to use the !spec command in-game,
which will kick all specs by the second. --
Now: How to get the eye for the detail?
By macro the overall game in large is meant: Its starting, its development (early game, mid game, end game), and the general actions players make. To see all at once, u should use bookmarks properly (player1, player2, etc..., fighting front, mid, special area of game development, etc...), while don't forget to scroll as well.
In concrete u now do a comparing job: Compare the games and strategies of the different players to each other - and to your own game style.
* Compare general play styles: Full tanking versus Full building versus Hybrid.
* Compare in-between each of those styles: the build orders (any extra buildings like second barracks, second power, extra truck, silo,...), placements of the buildings (do they provide certain shelter or defense), the units used to support that style (security engis, rockets, riffle-armee, air, ships, ...).
* Compare it with your game and speed: Could u do it same way? If no, why? Are there any hotkeys in use? Maybe a using u don't know yet?
* Compare the player´s productivity of new units (see top-right screen) and counter-compare that with the kill-numbers. See more effective and less effective using, and try to find the reason why! Examply a tank fight: Is it only the better production, or the better Q, or the better position (south-advantage), or the better support-units, or is one player broke (ore-management).
* Assume the game development: Expect next buildings and moves. Who will win finally and why? But think double, if your expections are countered by an alternative outcome :)
* Since nobody is perfect: Aim for possible "mistakes" one player made to learn from it (like: depot to late, tactic too sneaky, too passive game play, wrong placement like chrono-machine not in-backbase hidden etc...).
* Aim for stuff, players did better than u, write them down on a paper and include them into your game.
By micro the narrow focus on the organized use of units is meant: Which kind of units (soldiers, tanks, ships, air, ...) is used how (singly, grouped, with hotkeys, with certain patterns,...)? To see it all, your spectator´s-resolution shouldn't be too high (change it at cncnet-options in main-lobby). What is too high? Well, u should see if a group of tanks fired at an enemy tank or shot at ground, or: 1 versus 1 rifle, which fired first. Then u see, how a player micro-ed his units.
More concrete u can watch out for these micro-managements:
* Different sorts of units require a different handling. Some units can be used with certain hotkeys (Q, Formation, S-stopp, Guard, ...), while others cannot.
* Are the units re-moved to a better area or back as defense (like rifles in early game).
* Take a close look on one´s scouting-pattern: With which units one scouts what exactly of the map and how does he click it? Are there counter-scouts also?
* Take a close look to one´s ore-management: Is one broke, or is one perfectly fluent with gems/ore. Enough trucks are made? Are there silos? Is there some ore-truck control included?
* How does one attack (tanks only, tesla only, tanks & soldiers, tesla & tanks, ship-support, air-support,...) and how do those units interact (in 1, 2, 3 groups?; q-ed, gq-ed, stacked, selected teslas, shifted,...) and what do they attack (enemy tanks first, refs, wars, cya, trucks, powers,...) - with which outcome? Which building to take out in a rush first is better or worse?
* How does one defend (tanks only, with defensive buildings, with soldiers also, or no defense) and does the defender use engis, repair-function or even selling almost destroyed buildings to get some money back.
* Consider the geography as well: from north, from south, straight into, sneaky back-move, ... .
* The hardest micro-thing to spec is surely a tank fight! To spec a tank fight micro means: To consider the:
quantity: tank amount and tank sort (medium, heavy, light,...);
quality: random standing versus stacked tanks versus power-stacking versus Q-ing versus GQ-ing versus ... (see: a final guide On Tanking has not been written yet :p).
effectivness: the moving (in distance to enemy and geometry of clicked waypoints) and targeting (1 target, multiple targets, random targets) with its outcome.
By specing the detail-oriented way, u will see your situational knowledge improve, because simply u just gained more experience by watching other players acting and reacting on different occasions. Therefor the moral of specing is: See lots of ways, study many of them, master some, and thus play better yourself.
Well Mr. Claus, yes, but "when do i know, that i am on the right track?"
When u start looking for scouting patterns and if one "fixed" his ore-truck to closest gems/-ore, then u are on the best way. The better u got, you will start to recognize the use of glitches like mystery build, and see interbuilds and intersellings, and finally detect the detail-fully distinctions between Q and GQ in realtime speed.
p.s.: This general overview obviously doesn't mention all details, for further consideration take some reading in the Guides and Content section to what to watch out also. :)