Greetings. Please join me on a stroll that leads to the clearing at the end of this path. You see, the time has come to shut down this phase of a project that began over six years ago. As has been suggested on more than one occassion: TTL is not what it used to be. We would not have it any other way.
Since this project began with the simple idea that gamers could use the games they play to be excellent to each other, I have lived a lifetime of adventures in cultivating the language that flowed from this blog. It’s been a privilege to showcase the creativity of the membership that rallied to the banner I raised. It was an honor to share war stories with gamers infinitely more skilled than myself. It was a blast to form friendships I will have for the rest of my life.
But, alas, this is my last blog post as the toastmaster of the community that thrives here. Tied the Leader will remain standing. This movement is about more than one person expressing an opinion. What was created here was a product of their talents more than my own. An entire staff bristling with trusted agents is waiting in the wings to carry the mission forward.
The storefront is being rebuilt. Some new proprietors have been appointed to keep the shelves stocked with our very specific brand of mayhem. The time has come for me to stop being a pundant on the periphery, and join the circus that has kept me so entertained throughout this campaign as a gamerblogger.
I won’t be too hard to find, depending on your preferences for playing fantastic games. If you like the games I want to play, it will be my job to keep you entertained, and to learn from your exploits. Don’t be a stranger.
As for now, please allow me the distinct pleasure of introducing you to my coworkers, some fine creators that you may have seen mentioned on these pages once in a while…
Thanks to anyone that ever gave this column the time of day.
Thanks to everyone that ever expressed their opinion.
Thanks to the gifted artists that raised the flag higher.
Thanks to the allies that played on my team.
Thanks to the opponents that completed the equation.
At first glance, the itinerary for the most recent TTL LAN event was a carbon copy of the recipe from last year. Same sprawling city. Same explosive venue. Same adrenaline-charged agenda. Including so many familiar elements in one’s party exposes the planner to the risk of failure in living up to pre-conceived expectations. To keep the troops of an invasion force entertained, you have to keep them off-base. You can’t let them predict how the weekend will roll.
Fortunately, we had some surprises up our sleeves…
Gameplay depicted for illustration purposes only.
TTL Cozmo – Grand Champion
TTL Diddy – Co-Champion
As you can see, we were overrun this time. 45 attendees. Esteemed Guests. Gunslingers. And the very, very, very patient women who love them. The gamer is the most important ingredient in any LAN recipe. Even if the formula for the weekend is the same, the events can be as infinitely different as the people who share them. By that account, this LAN grew very quickly beyond our control, becoming its own animal. Our concern was less about keeping spirits high, and more about containing the bad craziness that threatened to have us run out of town.
Same city. Chicago.
This was the fifth Gunslinger throw-down in Gotham [shut up, Pittsburg], but certainly not the first LAN Party. Ever since the Xbox made friendly competition in a tactical roleplay a carry and play application, we have been using it in this town to turn poker night into war games. Only cleaner than both. When Xbox LIVE gifted that flame of multiplayer to every household on the Internets, we moved the social experiment out of the basement to make Cyberspace safe for Sportsmanship. Such has been the Gunslinger’s mission even before they were Gunslingers.
These guys run a great business. Their gaming lounge is a post-modern playground with enough bandwidth rolling through it to sortie 40 gamers into the grid at once. We clocked it. Their objective as hosts is always the same as ours – to enable gamers to create their own memorable experience together. They are the brick and mortar to our virtual clubhouse. And, they effortlessly eliminate every logistical nightmare that plague historic-hotel-ballroom-worst-case-scenarios.
Non-Gunslingers depicted for illustration purposes only.
We had a good mix of personnel on this occasion. Fresh new FNGs, LAN Alumnus, Veteran TriAthletes, Captains, Executive Officers, good showings by several regional cells of Gunslinger Regulars. And then there were these guys…
More than five years after the TTL flag was planted in the plasma-scorched earth of Halo 2, the Overlord High Council convened at a highly disclosed location. The first seven Gunslingers – and the Recruitment Officer that built us an army – showed up to thank the teammates that have carried them through so many evolutions.
A long campaign of party planning has enabled us to learn what inspires gamers to cross lines of state, nation, and continent to join the gathering of teammates and friends. If the weekend is centered around the game alone, the storm will not gather. As is with Xbox LIVE, collisions between Gunslinger Squads and randoms must be enabled. A City and its citizens enter the equation once the tournament trophy is awarded. The party spills out into the streets.
You are invited to relive the After-Party if you would like, constant reader. Photographic futurist and and alpha-geek Stuicide emerged fresh from his gallery opening in Memphis to equip partygoers with wearable media collection devices. What was dubbed the “PONY CAM” [mostly because it was fitted to the skull of one TTL Pony for a memorable portion of the evening] provided mixed – yet serendipitous – results in a darkened Chicago pub.
Random Chicago chick depicted for illustration purposes only.
That is not TTL Pony, but an impromptu gadget model who subjected herself to a dramatic reenactment of the rig. Rather than capture video while on its wild ride atop Pony’s brow, the camera snapped a pic every 5 seconds. Instead of a real-time sampling of the revelry, feast your eyes on a more genuine representation of our own memories from the celebration.
Finally, no agenda to surprise or delight a herd of urban adventure seekers should overwrite traditions like the Steaktacular Feast at Fogo. Good Game by the way, Action. Thanks for putting us through the paces of the Tournament again.
Get some more next year, Gunslingers. We will keep throwing these parties until people stop coming, or until you find LAN Centers in towns were you live.
Have you become Defiant yet? If you haven’t, you gotta go and get yourself some new maps. Remembering Reach is as fun now as it was when it first fell. With the new vistas of carnage live for download, the action is at the ready. Click below to behold a recon scouting report by TTL Hoovaloov.
Tied the Leader’s affinity for these new battlegrounds is certain. The developers behind this offering have defended their perfect record for giving our favorite games a shot in the arm. Halo 2. Left for Dead. World at War. Reach. Black Ops. The Gunslingers have played them all, and we have enjoyed the third-party contributions to every one of them. We say thankya for the new toys!
Certain Affinity is a unique beast in the parade of coders that craft the environments that serve as vessels for our imagination. They pick up where The Maker leaves off. They extend the life of a killer application that begs to be played into the very ground that is pounded by our boots. The ability of these cartographers to translate their skills to augment so many unique worlds is really quite impressive.
As for the Defiant Maps? Each of them is as different to each other as they are to the arenas that came before them.
Condemned boasts the most tragic view of the planet below to date. Think of the illegitimate child of Orbital and Anchor 9, only on a really bad day. The experiment gone awry at the core of the map will provide some nasty combat surprises.
Highlands explores more of Reach’s craggy terrain. You can have a vehicle, but you will need to be nimble to negotiate the nooks and crannies of the unforgiving landscape. Flag plants are on high, so prepare for an uphill battle to claim the banner of your opponent.
Unearthed, if played correctly, is the most fun that you might ever have in a Warthog. Your combat wagon can achieve top speed on this excavated pan. Let slip the rockets of war. Enemies are in endless supply, and so is the ammunition.
So there I was, as you will usually find me, playing a multiplayer game on Xbox Live astride fellow members of Tied the Leader’s home team. Some call them Gunslingers. I call them old friends. On this occassion, the game was Call of Duty: Black Ops. Our posse was embroiled in a firefight around some long-forgotten Hanoi hotel. Our manuevers were intertwined. Our chatter was lively. Our aim was true.
I rounded a corner and found myself toe-to-toe with a hostile combatent. Before pleasantries could be exchanged, a hail of bulllets flew between us. My ammunition found its target first. Another Gunslinger identified two targets on the second floor of the building across the way. Posting up on a corner, I shouldered my Limited TTL Edition Commando M-16 and levelled the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher in the direction of the window. I then let two 40MM bundles of explosive joy whistle their way through the sultry Vietnamese night air.
The opponents for this bout were the usual mis-matched squad of total strangers who had met for the first time only seconds before the shooting and dying erupted onto the scene. While their basic skills were a good match for ours, it was our teamwork that tipped the scales in our favor. Sadly, in the post-game lobby, the same predictable exchange took place.
THEM: “Nice noob tubes!” [that’s what sore losers call the grenade launcher]
US: “Thank you. Good game.”
THEM: “If I put a TTL clan tag in front of my name, will you teach me how to camp with tubes?”
US: “No, but we would be happy to teach you how to lose a match in a video game with some dignity.”
THEM: “I ain’t gonna tell you how to play, but that’s cheap.”
At that point, said opponents – notice I do not use the word “enemy” – bailed out of the debate before we could launch our next salvo of detatched sarcasm in their general direction. We were deprived of the chance to observe the fact that promising not to editorialize our style of play and calling it cheap in the same breath is like saying that you will not punch someone right before you ball up your fingers into a fist and throw it at their jaw. The conversation was nothing new. After five years of playing with one another, we Gunslingers have heard it all before…
“The weapons you used require no skill.” Unless of course they use them, in which case they are “Pro”.
“Clans are gay.” Is this why the game comes equipped with a field in which one can enter their clan tag?
“You induced lag!” These people can tell who the cheaters are in a game, because Internet connection speeds are never interrupted. Ever.
“Get a life.” Ironic, considering that this command comes from people who are participating in the same exact activity.
“You cheated because you used teamwork.” True story. Someone actually said that to us, once.
“Why are you still playing video games at your age?” My favorite: A line of argumentation that completely disregards the fact that these games are Rated M For Mature.
There really hasn’t been a new post-game taunt that took us by suprise since one clever gamer tossed us a zinger in the twilight days of Halo 2. That was back in 2007 – ancient history in Internet Years. Since then, we Gunslingers have kept a stiff upper-lip in the face of a steady barrage of Sore Loser Logic.
The fact of the matter is that these forms of post-mortem whinning rarely have any impact on anyone, aside from making the person who issues them feel better about themselves for a brief flicker in time. The losing party that reads the winning party the riot act only succeeds in making themselves look even more foolish than they did when the laid down and died over and over again. It should be a fair assumption that gamers don’t choose tactics for playing competitive shooters in the hopes of pleasing their opponents. This would be futile, as no one really likes being shot and/or killed.
According to our world view, if the developers created those weapons or allowed for those tactics, they are fair game. Game tactics need not be a personal insult or cause for rage. I mean, if I really wanted you to feel bad about yourself, I wouldn’t use a grenade launcher. I would use a flame thrower. Can you dig it?
A pledge from the TTL Gunslingers to players of COD: Black Ops:
We will always play to win and have fun. It it has a trigger, we will give it a dance sooner or later. If we hear you stomping around with noisy clown feet and unsilenced weapons, we will set a trap for you just around your next corner. We will tell each other where we see you, likely resulting in the same outcome. We will not cry ourselves to sleep if you don’t like it. We will laugh amongst ourselves if you get angry about the way we play.
On the flipside, out of a misplaced sense of goodwill, we will never cheat. We will always play the game the way it was meant to be played. We will respect our opponents and admire their success. If you manage to beat us, we will tell you that you played a Good Game. And, finally, we will leave the front porch light on for new gamers that can enjoy this violent social activity with a sense of humor; and honor.
What does the Halo Experience mean to you? It is a question with an infinite number of answers. With more than a month under our grenade belts on Reach – not to mention a solid decade in the service of the United Nations Space Command – playing Halo can hold unique expectatons for each of the millions of gamers who spin any of six discs in their tray.
For some, Halo is a universe to explore, disecting every moment and every corner of the story missions. For others, Halo is an arena, with endless possibilities for engagement against sentient targets. Halo can be a foundation on which to build, a stage from which to entertain, or a lounge where one can socialize. The facets of the action play to every specialty – every fighting style. A mutliplayer engagement can be a dogfight, a sniper duel, a firefight between posses, or a street war between sects.
For this gamer, Halo has always been a heist operation. My Halo Experience is about theft and capture. My proudest moments of glory occur without me firing a single shot. The war stories that send my pulse into overdrive are search and rescue operations. My reward comes from my passenger putting a point up on the scoreboard. They don’t pass out medals for that. They don’t need to.
That was both the threat and the invitation to dance. In recounting the events of a Humpday Challenge against the Forum Ninjas from Bungie.net, it was Urk that held palaver with us in a place of bones and predicted our fortunes. His grim prognosis was nothing short of prophetic.
Behold the uniform of Team Onyx. They are an imposing sight. Aren’t they? If they cross your path, you will need to bring your very best game to survive their attack. As a team, these gamers passionately enforce the notion that Bungie makes games that they want to play – and play well. Last night, the TTL Gunslingers met their defeat in battle against the finest killers from the ranks of the creators of Halo Reach.
We were robbed of our humanity [and our pride] for the first bout of the night, forced to inhabit the hunched form of the Elite invaders. Our opponents controlled the vertical high-ground and rained fire down from above. Bungie taught a harsh lesson in resource management as well, controlling the territories and the reinforcements that they yield. On too many occassions, we allowed them to steal our own spoils of war and use them against us…
Game: Capture the Flag
Outcome: Stalemate – Bungie wins by Kill Count
A classic standard of Halo gameplay was selected out of foolish sentimentality by this gamerblogger. The Gunslingers were unable to breach the iron-clad defenses of the Onyx base. Waves after waves of strike teams crashed upon their shields, surrendering the kills that would end up earning Bungie the bragging rights for victory in a second consecutive round…
Game: Team Slayer
Outcome: Tied the Leader wins [barely] 100-99
With the match decided, there was nothing left for us to defend but our dignity. Team Onyx kept their forces tightly knit into a deadly web of crossfire. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for luring us into their killzone, and then tightening the noose around the bravest [or most foolhearty] of us. After giving up a dangerous lead in the first half of the match, the Gunslingers adapted – choosing to exchange fire over longer sightlines instead of marching into the slaughter like lambs…
Previsouly, the Gunslingers emerged victorious from a Humpday Challenge against Bungie. That was in a different game – a different time. On Reach, everyone plays for keeps. Our record against The Maker is now even. One win. One loss. Last night, Bungie tied the leader.
It must be said that the statistical outcome of these matches is less important than the fact that they happen at all. These Humpday Challenges are a prime example of what makes Bungie so special as a development house. Their gesture of sharing a friendly match with the people who play their games is a catalyst that sparks to life the blue flame of community. They are curious about us. It makes us curious about each other. From there, Reach is what we make of it together.
As always, and even in defeat, it was our pleasure to sample the gameplay of the very people who wrought it from code. The TTL Gunslingers say thankya for the chance to be schooled by the masters of their own domain. What do we say now? There is only one thing to say…
Three years ago, the gates of Halo 3 swung wide to admit an anxiously waiting public to finisht the fight. Our Hero had been left hanging off of a cliff. Our multiplayer battlegrounds were in desperate need of an upgrade. Our respective warring societies were perched on starting blocks, waiting for the crack of the pistol to mark the arrival of the street date.
Three years later, we have run that race all over again. Reach has fallen, and it is an upgrade of the same magnitude. When the TTL Gunslingers migrate to a new title, we rarely look back. The next evolution is always a welcome milestone in our campaign as gamers. However, on this – the third birthday of Halo 3 – attention must be paid.
Would you cast a reminiscant glance over your shoulder with us? Would you experience the odyssey of virtual combat that was Halo 3 on Xbox Live one final time? Your tour guides will be two of the most stalwart Captains of the official Halo Clan of Tied the Leader. TTL L Askan was and is our first line of offense. TTL Tortacular was and is our last line of defense. Together, they encompass two vastly contrasting experiences that have illustrated the past three years of our life as a team.
As always, these offerings are best viewed in a higher resolution. Hats off to TTL Hoovaloov, the architect of this victory lap. The victory belongs to all of us – to the players and the makers. Halo 3 was an experience for those that love it. Good games were had. Virtual armies were raised all across the Halo Nation – ones that still fight in Halo: Reach. We Gunslingers will be forever grateful for the impact that Halo 3 had on our little social experiment. If Halo 2 was our cradle, Halo 3 was our academy.
In the weeks leading up to Reach’s fall, our Midworld Forum was home to an ARG. That’s an “alternate reality game” for the uninitiated. These mysterious roleplays have long been a major component of the experience of following the Halo franchise, and its various releases.
You may have heard about our little social experiment. Regretfully, it escaped off our webring, and ended up in the hands of some ravenous problem solvers at Bungie.net. When we realized that industrial players were making the rounds to disavow all knowledge of our maneuvers, we enacted strict radio silence. Sorry to kill the buzz, if it reached you.
While the riddle ended up being solved behind our closed doors, we decided that we might share the answer with curious onlookers. We welcome you to experience a post-mortem of what we called ASCH. It was our own homespun project to ramp up enthusiasm for our return to the UNSC.
With week one of the fall of Reach behind us, all we can say at Tied the Leader is “good game”. Great game, in fact. There is no place like home. The TTL Gunslingers have wasted no time getting familiar with our new space.
Everything is upgraded. The array of options is bigger. The maps are bigger. The ‘splosions are bigger. The armored shoulders are bigger. Even the Halo Nation itself is bigger – already bigger than it ever was upon launch of previous titles.
Our borders have opened up to many new combatants. Fortunately, our virtual society does not shun its immigrants. Fresh meat for the grinder is always welcome. Some of you are future friends. The rest of you are necessary fodder for our cannons.
If you are playing your first multiplayer games in a Halo title, we offer you a warm welcome. Sincerely. Thanks for joining the fray. We only have one rule for you new people. Everyone fights. No one quits. This delicious medium for entertainment requires that we create action for each other. We are all moving parts in a chaotic system. When we fail to finish the fight, that system breaks down.
There are times when you won’t want to see a match to its logical conclusion. We can admit to that – each of us. There will be times when the riot mob corners you, scared and alone. Sooner or later, we all end up like this poor fellow…
That was TTL Demag0gue, a Gunslinger and author of the Reclaimer webcomic. Even a gamer with 90 sworn clanmates ventures off the reservation for an odd pickup game from time to time. Just like the lone wolf heroes of far-flung war stories, everyone is confronted by that scenario in which the only objective is to survive.
You are not alone, new guy. There are many players on the grid who would watch your back, if only you would put the effort into finding them. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that those gamers with the matching gamertags don’t want to meet you. Odds are, they are desperately trying to marshall enough allies onto the battlefield to sustain their respective movements.
Make some friends. Keep them close. Register for the forums of anyone that amuses you from the front page at H.B.O. Post a Classified Ad on the Bungie forums. Complaining about quitters won’t change a thing. Human nature is read only. There will always be cowards found on the battlefield. Seeking out the gamers that wont quit? That will be a challenge, but it will change your entire experience. If you want to play a good game, you have to get tactical.
Take it from us. We have seen lone wolves adopted by loyal packs hundreds of times over. You might think that you are not serious enough about all of this to introduce yourself under an assumed name on [gasp] The Internet. Yet, here you are – reading the last paragraphs of a blog article about a video game. If you have come this far, perhaps you can come a little further.
And, for those of you that drop your weapon and run away as soon as the scoreboard takes a turn that you didn’t choreograph? Your probation is waiting. The time-out corner beckons. The Quitter Ban is real! We have seen your protestations on the Bungie Forums. They are beautiful.
And so it was that Reach fell. And millions of gamers saw that it was good.
Never has a society of people been so desperate to witness the total destruction of a planet. With the usual foreplay phase at the hands of the Bungie marketing machine behind us, we can commence blowin stuff up.
On our world, safely rooted in reality and tucked away from Covenant incursions, signs of life are starting to wink into existence. The midnight release sent many gamers home with their quarry in hand. As the sun rose on Day One of the fall of Reach, many gamers devoted themselves to being first to fight.
Earlier in the week, it was proselytized that value of Microsoft stock might actually get a bounce from Noble Team. That is all well and good for The Maker, but what about the rest of our fragile recession economy? At Tied the Leader, we make no apologies about the fact that we cater to adults that still play video games. These are people with careers, and look at how many of them failed to show up to work!
What you are looking at below is a snapshot from the custom-built Xbox Live Status Report that we use to track the virtual whereabouts of registered members on our forum. Look at all the slackers. That’s a lot of sick time! And, it is only the population of MidWorld that we are talking about. We are just one little corner of the Halo Nation.
Loss of global productivity aside, this is the best thing about the launch of a new Halo title. Nothing unifies our community like fresh orders from the UNSC. Beholding a friends list completely dominated by one title is a rush. It’s like showing up at a banging night club and realizing that you know everyone there. Plus, they all have guns and infinite lives. Quite a party.
This blog is an interactive front page for a broader online community of gamers committed to honorable conduct and fair play. Our goal is to share with our allies and our opponents a gaming experience of the highest possible quality. "Good game" is our Mantra. Sportsmanship is our Law.
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