D0906 T0215 Y2010The Campaign Trail

How long have you been a player of the great game of Halo? Among some early adopters, the saga of the United Nations Space Command has been a staple of their gametime for over a decade. For them, it has been a long, strange trip.

For clans on Xbox Live, there have been numerous killer applications to occupy them – each a seperate war with its own trials. In recollection, each game seems to represent a lifetime of simulated competition. Countless confirmed kills. Countless respawns forced to endure.

In October, the TTL Gunslingers will mark their fifth year of virtual maneuvers on Xbox Live. To commemorate our various campaigns as a team, we have designed our own Accolade System. For each game played as a member of our clan, a member receives a medal. It provides us with a means of recognizing our veterans, and gives our rookies something to chase.

The bling designed by TTL DDay and TTL Cute is a clan-exclusive offering. Yet, we did feel the compulsion to share. Please join us as we relive the memories that have been granted to us by the Halo franchise in terms of ribbons and coins.

Halo 2 Accolade

Were you there when the Halo Nation was the Wild West? Did you brave the flying Warthogs? The rocket launchers that could deploy trains from the mouth of their barrels? Halo 2 was our cradle – our hometown. Tied the Leader owes everything to that title, including our namesake.

At the zenith of our recruitment efforts, our roster swelled to a barely manageable army of 130 Gunslingers. That was during the twilight days prior to Finishing the Fight, when other clans imploded and sent their members like refugees to our forum. Of those Halo 2 veterans, almost 70 remain at the time of this posting.

Overlord Accolade

We are so sentimental about Halo 2, we have even retained that ridiculous title for leadership all this time. The first seven Gunslingers still sit on that council. The Recruitment Officer who was added later endures as well. Other faces have come and gone from the smoke-filled room that drives our clan, but the core remains intact. We are one from many.

Halo 3 Accolade

Did you Finish The Fight? Did you wait with baited breath for an entire summer of irresistable hype to have the Master Chief’s cliffhanger resolved? Or did you impose a full-spectrum Internet blackout to maintain a spoiler-free discipline? Halo 3 was a glorious time for the Gunslingers. It was our first mass-migration. The sweet waters of Valhalla made the trek more than worth the mileage.

Halo 3 General Accolade

Debates will rage forever about the impact of changes in the conventions that governed Halo 3 Multiplayer. It is indisputable that the integrity of the experience leapt forward by light years. Players were finally able to reach the end of the ranking system by honest means. Several members in our rank were able to ascend the mountaintop without a single super-bounce.

Halo: ODST Accolade

Did you DROP? Did you suit up and descend from orbit in a pod on a top secret op on behalf of the Office of Naval Intel? ODST was a much-needed reminder about the importance of the Halo franchise to our clan. It rallied gamers back to the UNSC from their side-missions in Call of Duty.

Halo: R E A C H Accolade

A new conflict looms just over the horizon – less than one week out at the time of this posting. All of this has happened before. And it will all happen again. We might know how this tale will conclude before it begins, but the competitive venues built into this game will amount to countless hours of suspense and surprise against unknown opponents alongside trusted allies.

Poised on the border of this new domain is a leaner clan than we have ever migrated into a new title. Only 91 Gunslingers sit on our active roster, ready to strike when the game hits the street. This medal will lure them into the new game. The action will keep them there for years to come.

Forerunner Accolade

This one’s for you, Bungie. Thanks for the memories, including those yet to come. Good games. All of ‘em. They are all deserving of the medals we bestow on those who have played them under our banner of war.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 5

D0906 T0035 Y2010PAXific Northwest Weekend

Four Gunslingers from Tied the Leader would like to sound off with our heartiest “Say Thankya!” to the industrial players and title gamers that contributed to a fantastic weekend in Seattle, Washington. Over the course of Labor Day Weekend, we made the rounds to partake in social events occuring in conjunction with the Penny-Arcade Expo.

This was the first occassion on which this gamerblogger attended an official convention. [By they way, PAX-goers, what the hell was up with all the kilts?] Very little can – or should – be said to describe the experience. It’s a very subjective undertaking – motivated more by personal relationships than any tactical agenda or propoganda. The entire weekend yielded a broader perspective as to all of the various demographics that inhabit and propell the gaming universe.

When you meet The Makers of a game, you gain startling enlightenment about the machinations that drive forward your favorite pastime. The grueling hours. The unforgiving deadlines. The unrealistic expectations. The compromises that govern the decision making. While the act of creating a game may become less magical with this newfound understanding, you gain a deeper appreciation for the would-be magicians. As they become mere mortals in your estimation, it can be said that their accomplishments seem all the more impressive.

Gamer community reigns at PAX. Combatents step out from behind the avatars to wage a more social contest in person. Posses clash. Sects intermingle. We Gunslingers broke bread with allies from the Good Game Network. We raised glasses with the Spirits of Fire from the realm of Hawty McBloggy. We crashed after-parties teaming with dionysian hoardes from The WorkPLace of Bungie.net. We payed homage to our Godfather from Halo.Bungie.Org.

Speaking of Halo.Bungie.Org, we even accepted a challenge that was issued on their front-page. It’s what we Gunslingers do. It turns out that chatter from the beta for Halo Reach was right on target. The pistol is, in fact, most effective against Elites.

Good Game to all who allowed us to cross their path. Thanks for the hospitality. Thanks for the camaraderie. Thanks for making the act of playing these games more rewarding than shooting at a piece of paper that does not fight back. It was a pleasure to meet you and to know your face.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 4

D0822 T1615 Y2010The Great Journey

In less than one month, warring citizens of the Halo Nation will drop their tired old Battle Rifles in the mud of Valhalla and make tracks to the shiny new virtual warzones that await us all in Halo: Reach. For the individual gamer [that lone gunman on the grassy knoll – if you will] this journey poses interesting new challenges. For the leader of a gaming clan, the experience is far more complex.

For a virtual community that unites gamers on a team, updates to a franchise are more than just a new list of acheivements or a menu of new armor abilities. When that game launches, new frontiers are revealed for them to seize. The border opens. The wagon trains are mobilized. Entire civilizations are migrated en masse. Launch Day for Halo: Reach will be nothing short of a virtual land rush, as the members of various states in the Halo Nation blitz inland to control territories similar to their holdings in the previous title.

The road to the new game is pocked with danger and risk. Harmonious relationships that band a team together are thrown into total disarray. The landscape changes. The engagement changes. The entire dynamic of their shared interaction changes. All bets are off on the brave new land.

Along with the tweaked control scheme, the gamers who populate a clan must become reacquainted with one another. Fighting on the new battlegrounds, that time-honored deadeye sniper may morph into a crazy-brave combat pilot. In the fog that leads to these discoveries, certain portions of a clan’s membership base will become lost. Attrition is inevitable when a team leaves its comfort zone.

The benefit of this migration to new action, of course, greatly outweighs any of the risk. For a gaming community, a new game is like a stimulus package. Players become reinvested. Absentee warriors return to work, driven by the call to solve new and interesting problems. The bore of sleep-walking through rote-learned tactics for conquering familiar places is replaced with the delicious chaos of an unknown combat scenario in an alien environment.

The Good Game Network relishes this challenge as much as we understand the risk. Since the inception of our alliance in the playing of Halo 3, we have followed one another through several games now. Longevity is our quest. Survival is our charge. With the launch of a new Halo title, we are eager to return home to the game that inspired the creation of our online society.

Don’t take it from me. A GGN Representative from each Affiliate Clan has sounded off about what Reach means to them – and theirs…

ATF AnTi PRO: Overlord/Founder
Arm the Flag
“One word comes to mind when I think of what Reach means to us: Unification. With Halo 3 dying down and new games coming out in the past year or so we have all been scattered across many virtual battlefields. With Reach we shall once again fight side by side as it was meant to be.”

BSG Surgeon: Community Leader
Buddy System Gaming
“The thought of having my group unified under a single title again is awesome. Knowing that this is Bungie’s last Halo hurrah and they will make it unbelievably swell is awesome. When I first popped Halo 3 into my tray I had 30 friends all playing the same thing and online. I’m hoping to see that number blown away this time. That too will be awesome!”

wastedWOLF: Overlord
Fallen Unity
“To FU reach means a reunion with some of our poeple that refuse to play Call of Duty. Not only with our players but other clans as well the people in this community and others. New challenges new maps new drinks wow so much to learn. There is some people in FU that are tired of Red Dead Redemption, COD, and others so a new halois a breath of freash air.”

A Mad Bloke: CdGOverlord
Cirque D’Geezer
“The Cirques are virtual soldiers and ultimately Spartans. We are on the Modern Warfare battlefield but Halo: Reach will reunify and acquaint us with friends, old and new. We are far from hardcore, but our teamwork and camaraderie rivals any group.”

Pete VenkmanPHD: Resident Ghostbuster
Halo Charts
“HC is buzzing with excitement. Our teams are gearing up and teeming with activity. It will be very rejuvenating to have a new game, and new maps in which to take on some challenges. September 14th cannot come fast enough for the Halocharts teams and community!”

ConsumedFever: Council Member
H 3 Wheelmen
“To the Wheelmen Reach is a new begining filled with old friends. We are seeing countless new faces arrive, and many old friends find their way home to us.”

Godlywayz: Lead Ambassador
Ironworks Gaming Crew
“When we think of enjoying our time together, Halo is a game we all think about. That’s what Reach means to us. Reach, as every Halo iteration, means that the good times can keep on rolling. Thanks, Bungie. We’re looking forward to it.”

ANUBIS x MT: Overlord
Master Theory
“For MT, Reach means bringing back the passion for competitive game play, that slowly fizzled out in the last days of Halo 3. New maps and Armor Abilities mean we have lots of work to do as a team, creating strategy’s, hours of watching game films, and figuring out roles. Those challenges light a fire, inspire, and rally us, all at the same time. I’m looking forward of another 2 or 3 years of Halo, and MT will be ready to converge as a respectable and united force, right from the start.”

OcR Envy: Overlord
Outcast Reborn
“To OcR, Reach means “Rebirth” HA. Seriously though, each new Halo or CoD game means equal playing field to our member base. We clean out all of our competitive team rosters and start fresh. Every single member is looked at as the same skill level until they prove they are the best of the best. It really rejuvenates everyone who wants to play competitively to try their hardest. We will lose some, we always do. But the majority will return even those who have been missing for some time.”

Compton OTAH: Overlord
Clan O7AH
“Sweet sassy molassee Reach is going to be great for O7AH. Everyone and I mean everyone is psyched for it. We are all getting together for the release to bring it in right. The best thing about it for out group is that there is really something for everyone in the box. Forge for creative people, Firefight for those of us who want to team up but not against other people (although we can do that too if we wish), Campaign for some sweet Halo cannon action complete with credit earning to draw us back again and again, and finally the sweet sweet multiplayer which is where the game shows it legs. Halo reach = Sexy time for O7AH once again folks.”

kilaM0Mjaro: Overlord
“To the PraetoriaGuard it means reuniting us all in one game. Our members are very close on forum but lately there are small groups that play several different games. We are looking forward to long hours of playing ourselves into a frenzy of laughter. We also began as a Halo Machinima group so with our film guy having HD now and REACH’s forgeworld…we are looking forward to Episode 8.”

NEC VAYDER: Community Leader
NorthEast Core
“To the NEC, REACH means a reunification of gamers that are right now scattered all over the virtual map. Camaraderie that has been somewhat missing because of the vast number of great 360 titles that have drawn us away from what originally brought us all together. I cant wait until 09/14/10. Bring it.”

SSG Jayman: Founder/Overlord
Sword and Shield
“With Sword & Shield Gaming squarely divided between CoD and Halo (nearly all Knights play both games from time to time) I see Halo: Reach as the game that will unify our clan (and community) back to a single game. Modders, cheaters, and matchmaking follies has left most of our MW2 fans wanting something else. I see Halo: Reach as the life boat they are looking for, it is a blend of CoD and Halo gameplay. CoD: Black Ops will no doubt attract people back to the CoD franchise but I feel that by that time, Reach will have hooked and unified everyone.”

TTL Stuicide: Overlord/Minister of Personnel
TTL Gunslingers
“Reach will mean a lot to the Gunslingers, as any new Bungie title does. It will provide a fresh place that will bring all of the members back to one title, if only for a few months. It will allow us to find a common ground to get competitive on, and to just spark that place inside everyone when an exciting new game is out. However, now Halo has to compete with other titles, even in it’s own release year. Other games will capture our imagination, but Reach should be one of the few tentpoles that will stand over the next several years.”

WCF Ganzuelo: Overlord
Will Clan 4 Food
“COD was addictive and it changed the face of our clan. Our members got out of the mind frame of hanging out and having fun and replaced it with Prestiging. Reach will bring back those COD guys and appeal to even the most hardcore players. With Reach a month away we are seeing a steady stream of new members and old members coming into our lobbies and having a great time. With all the goodies Halo Reach has I think this will make a lasting impact on us all as Halo 2 once did.”

CzarCastic: Captain
8-Bit Brigade
“I think the release of Halo Reach will bring us back together, if only for for a short time. The landscape has changed since Halo 2 was first released. At the time, Halo 2 was the multiplayer game. It brought us together. It helped shape the direction of our community. In a way, Halo Reach will do the same thing. However, we won’t be creating our path this time around. We’ll be redirecting it. With so many multiplayer choices across all of the various consoles, it’s hard to say that Reach will be enough to reunite us for more than a few months. If that’s the case, then we’ll have to adapt. We’ll certainly take the time that we can get, but I think ultimately, this will merely be an opportunity to decide how we’re going to shape the future of our community in a video game world where gamers have so many choices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing friends that I haven’t played with in years. More importantly, though, I think I’m looking forward to figuring out how to make sure it’s not another few years before I play with these friends again.”

The race is on. Are you running alone? Bad move, player. If you played Halo 3 all by your lonesome, it’s time to leave that lone wolf stuff behind. Many clans are planning the great journey. They would be glad for your skillset. Don’t make the same mistakes of isolation in Halo: Reach.

The clan system is portable, and it is being transported to a whole new world. Service guarantees citizenship, and teamwork insures victory. We will see you on the beach, be you on our team or not. A good game awaits us all.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 18

D0619 T1717 Y2010ChicagoL4Nd

On Memorial Day Weekend of 2010, a LAN Party was hosted by Tied the Leader in the city of Chicago. It was our 4th official event in what has become somewhat of a hometown for our virtual community. Present and accounted for were 30 attendees; including a posse of TTL Gunslingers and some esteemed guests.

We had sworn up and down that our clan would never see Chicago again, at least not as a function of our love labor. Hosting a LAN Party in this city had always served up a back-breaking challenge. The road to Chicago was mined with pesky hotel regulations, unrealistic expenses, and prohibitive union bylaws. Other official TTL events had found much easier purchase in the sands of places like Florida.

In the end, public outcry weakened our resistance. Rather than ban the Gunslingers from the city they had come to love, we turned our LAN recipe on its head in search of an alternative scenario. With a new blueprint on the table, the ChicagoL4Nd was announced to much rejoicing. What follows is a photo-essay that attempts to regurgitate a mere fraction of the experience that was shared.

To set a Gunslinger on a quest, first you need a Tower.

Previously, the center of LAN operations had been a historic hotel in the Loop business district. This proved not to be the smartest choice when your happening requires more electricity than NORAD. For this battle, we selected a Springhill Suites as our preferred H.Q.

Chicago has been called a city of neighborhoods. Our billet was strategically selected in one called River North. The new setting provided vistas that were as pleasing to the eye as they were to the lens. Ever the visual communicators, our guests fanned out in search of urban architecture fit to capture and share.

This homebase was far less lonely off business hours than the central downtown sector that we had come to know in years past. The immediate surroundings of the hotel bristled with options for night-life and hospitality. Of course, the poor fools that chose the ChicagoL4Nd as their early-summer vacation tried to conquer most of them, with varying degrees of success.

To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Good Game.

While these parties are designed to focus on socializing, they still revolve around the shared pastime of the partygoers. The task of wrangling enough audio/visual components to enable dozens of gamers to collide in real-time had always forced a strategy of begging, borrowing, and stealing from the local membership. To overcome this burden, we did what all great organizations do… We outsourced the solution!

Enter the Ignite Network. During all of our lost time, this state of the art LAN Center had resided just under our noses on the north side of the city. After some introductions and negotiations, we arrived at an alliance that would enable us to label their establishment as “territory controlled” for a portion of the weekend. This changed everything, and [by all accounts of those who attended] made ChicagoL4Nd our best event on record.

Of course, in solving old challenges, new ones arose. Hosting the LAN at a location other than the hotel required us to arrange transpo for the invading hoard. Fortunately, like any good crime worth committing in Gotham, you can always pile a bunch of jokers onto a school bus. What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger, after all.

To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Saloon.

The upside of abandoning the hotel as the gaming venue was the freedom to bring our own spirits. Our proven equation for success in entertaining combines real friends, fake violence, and all of the celebratory agents that make the LAN a party. With hotel staff monitoring our festivities, previous gatherings had been forced to adopt the Chicago convention of the Speakeasy. With a private function and our own rules, we were no longer forced to bootleg our cocktails under the table.

Upon our invasion of Ignite, something wonderful happened: They helped us. Our work was not over in migrating to their establishment. The existing network was rigged for PC gaming. There were adapters and connectors to apply to the local grid. Rather than cast an apathetic stare in our direction like the union electricians from days gone by, the Ignite guys actually rolled up their sleeves and made light work of our load-in.

Within record breaking time [mere moments], gamers were squared away and accessing Xbox Live. It was miraculous. Members who could not make the journey witnessed an avalanche of login notices on their screens at home. Parties formed up with ease and rolled out into the wilderness via an unbreakable network. No longer bound by the limitations of System Link, all of the games that we play were finally suitable for use in a live setting.

To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Tournament.

Casual gamers? Guilty as charged. Tied the Leader doesn’t really cater to pros. This does not mean that our people don’t like an incentive to make them sweat it out for the win. After configuring the network for digital zen, competitive sign-up sheets went live at the command post that rules Ignite from atop a raised stage.

LAN Master action thaxten ascended his usual pulpit as the ringleader of the affair. For two days, he would put ChicagoL4Nders through the paces of glory and defeat. Halo 3. Modern Warfare 2. World at War. Free-for-alls. Squad Battles. Each trial earned gamers points counting toward bragging rights and keepsakes.

Rooting each combatant at their own dedicated station, the tournament events flowed with greater ease than ever. Gone were the delays between games while players tweaked their controller settings or arranged their player’s icon and call sign just so… The flow of adrenaline was steady. All the while, Ma Deuce 50 labored over the construction of his “beeramid”.

Not every moment was host to fierce competition. These events are not intended as the poor man’s MLG. These are parties. Gamers make the trek to step out from behind their avatars and enjoy one another’s company. As such, here is a requisite shot of Gunslingers laying down their weapons to channel their inner rock star.

The little details were what made this party truly special. When not huddled around the screens depicting the best action, our guests enjoyed the Ignite bar. Snacks. Juice. Smoothies. Coffee. All were treats for which we did not have to plan or provide, thanks to our hosts.

To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Prize.

Through the contributions of a new recruit tagged TTL DDay, our guests had access to a treasure trove of gear – a literal cache that we came to know as “schwag mountain”. Most of the booty was doled out in response to donations made to our charitable foundation. The rest was awarded as giveaways to those gamers who carried the day in our digital thunderdome.

The entire contest was spreadsheeted down to the very last kill. Free-for-all qualifying rounds determined brackets for team-based competition. The Gunslingers designed their own tournament. Squads duked it out in pursuit of various objectives chosen by Clan Captains. The more games a player would play, the more points they earned toward the ultimate goal.

Months of planning always boil down to one perfect moment. A hush falls over the room. Spectators erupt simultaneously into cheers as the action spikes. It is only then that you know that your LAN Party is a success.

Here we see Locomotive defending the Gunslinger’s honor in the final round of the Halo Slayer Tournament against [then] Community Ally Big Country. Over the course of day one, 28 gamers had been whittled down to 2 survivors. Off Loco’s right arm is REACH tester and TTL Strike Team Captain L Askan, inspecting the runner up’s gameplay for bugs.

In the end, it was Big Country who established himself as Supreme Slayer on the Halo front. He strutted into the Gunslingers house and bested them all at their own game in a relaxed recline. He would finish Third overall in the ChicagoL4Nd tournament. T’was a good weekend for Big, who scored himself a clan invite and a Fiancee.

Surprise guest TTL Pony took Second Place overall. When he wasn’t dodging the smackdown from his rivals, he was racking up points on numerous fronts. Having previously claimed for himself a Trophy Pistol as Grand Champion at ChicagoLANd 2.0, he took home a leather holster and gunbelt to match. Repeating history made at AtLANtica 3.0, Pony edged out his competition in a marathon FFA match of COD: World at War.

...And then there was TTL Killer, previously the Grand Champion of AtLANtica 1.0, proving the truth behind his chosen namesake. This longtime LAN Party journeyman – once having travelled all the way to AtLANtica 2.0 from an Air Force base in Japan – took top honors at ChicagoL4Nd. Some attribute his success at these events to his clean living. Others profess that the legendary Warthog Pilot in his Halo Squad sponsored Killer to victory on his back. Whatever the cause, for the second time, Killer went home with the ceremonial replica awarded to the overall victor at all offical TTL LANs.

While the weekend may have been all fun and games, it was not all games all the time. There was fun to be had off the grid. The Gunslingers saw the inside of a lot of pubs. Apparently, a local hockey team was also in the process of securing a trophy for themselves. Cocktails known as ‘Carbombs’ may or may not been consumed in large volume. Malt vinegar may or may not have been shot in the place of malt liquor. Memories are foggy, and stories are inflated by gossip.

In the face of numerous failures to collect on the debt owed to us by BUNGIE for Steaktacular medals awarded in Halo 3, we took matters into our own hands. A mass-reservation at Fogo de Chao has become a ChicagoLANd tradition. It was all but demanded by certain veterans that the rite be upheld on this occassion.

Some gamers even ventured beyond the confines of their natural habitat to visit a place called “outside”. This may seem difficult to believe. However, photographic evidence is being provided as proof. They even seem to be enjoying themselves, despite the unfiltered breeze and direct sunlight.

All good quests come to an end…

It was inevitable that each Gunslinger would find their way back home. Planes, trains, and automobiles would scatter us to our rightful gaming stations across the globe. One returned to Canada. One returned to Europe. Others ventured back to every corner of the continental mainland of these United States. Several of us just limped back to the other side of town.

No matter the distance traveled, we say thankya to everyone who made ChicagoL4Nd better through their presence. Good Game. See you online. See you next time.

To the proprietors at Ignite, we shall return…

...for ChicagoLANd V.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 6

D0617 T1913 Y2010Fighting for a Cause

Amidst the fragging and celebration that was ChicagoL4Nd, the Gunslingers and their honorable guests raised $1,400 for the Tied the Leader Foundation. Our mission remains as it has been since its inception in 2006. We seek to recognize the sacrifices made by real military servicepeople – the very individuals whose culture we emulate so casually on a nightly basis.

Many virtual communities of gamers find themselves motivated to leverage their combined strength to effect a positive impact on the real world. This idea is not exclusive to us. For every charitable endeavor, there is a unique strategy. There are many ways to pass the hat. For every unique strategy, there seems to be a specific challenge. There are many rules and laws that govern the space where altruism meets cold, hard cash – and rightfully so.

In recent months, Tied the Leader has employed social networking as our weapon of choice. In its current form, our Foundation exists as a portal made possible by Causes.com. In conjunction with Facebook, they operate the Network For Good.

Donations made online are forwarded directly [and in total] to our designated beneficiary. As the arms and legs of our agenda, Azalea Charities interfaces directly with the combat wounded veterans who receive the aid that we intend to provide through our contributions. We raise the funds. They put them into practice. Causes.com is the vehicle that brings us all into concert on the same goal.

This requires that less hands touch the proceeds before they reach their final destination. This allows the donor to instantly obtain a receipt that qualifies them for a tax deduction. This means that middle-men are never taxed for managing cashflow. This prevents third-party transactors – like PayPal, for instance – from collecting a cut for themselves. No one should ever profit from charity. Under this mode of operation, no one does.

Of all the scenarios that we have employed in pursuing this charitable objective, this one is the cleanest, most efficient, and most transparent. Leveraging this online application enables us to meet our goals without having to operate as a Non-Profit entity with tax-exempt status. This same scenario would work for anyone that wanted to aggregate donations to a chosen entity that possessed a 501-c3 number.

At our most recent LAN Party, we employed merchandising tactics as a fundraiser. Our goal has always been to offer something in exchange for contributions to our charity – be it an experience, a keepsake, or a prize. We are extremely fortunate in that our membership is willing to dontate the wares that provided the incentive for people to participate. One of our members – a veteran himself – produced a mother load of branded gear that would enable gamers to express their enthusiasm about their membership in Tied the Leaders’s official gaming clan.

Another member hand-crafted a wooden resupply container filled with bottles of home-grown beer. We called it the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ package. That’s right. The Gunslingers have their own vintage now. It’s nice – a hint of oranges in a weiss brew.

The ease in proliferating this phenomenon reaches well beyond the hosting of an occassional party. With high-visibility in a virtual setting like Facebook, anyone who witnesses our progress can get involved. The impact becomes viral. In recent weeks, friends of our community have cited their own birthdays as a reason to give. Other allies have made donations as a tribute to the tournaments that Tied the Leader hosts for their amusement in cyberspace.

Whatever the occassion, the transactions are clean. Aside from tickets purchased to attend an event, no one is giving money to Tied the Leader. A charitable donation goes directly to charity. We do not need anyone’s help to run a website for gamers. The money donated is intended to benefit people who come from actual wars with actual hardships which they must overcome. Through these structures, we are able to help foster their rehabilitation, and raise awareness for their needs.

To all of the people that have made our cause your own, we offer our sincerest thanks. To those people who benefit from our humble efforts, we can only hope that our small measure of thanks provide a recognizable fraction of what is needed to restore you to a normal quality of life.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 3

D0615 T1132 Y2010The Battle of Los Angeles

On Tuesday, the 15th day of June, in the year 2010, Tied the Leader was called upon to investigate a Firefight in progress in downtown L.A.

Upon receipt of the top secret mission briefing, we dispatched our very own stabmasterarson, West Coast Gunslinger and top gun commercial actor [that’s him in the green vest, pushing the junk food]. The scene of the skirmish was The Edison nightclub. The hosts were agents of Microsoft and BUNGIE, on an away mission to E-3.

The venue, in all its historic glory, was home to a demonstration of one of the many components to be featured in Halo: Reach. Correspondents from various media outlets descended upon the darkened social spot to report on the finer details of the improved offering. Several representatives from notable gamer communities were also invited to infiltrate. TTL was humbled to be able to send the stabmaster, say thankya.

By now, it is likely that you have heard that Firefight is making a return to BUNGIE’s impending killer application. Familiar to those who played ODST, this multiplayer scenario will once again pit players against waves of Covenant invaders in an offworld setting. As always, BUNGIE is placing the power in the hands of the gamers, with some exciting new features, including more robust options for customization.

Do you want to know more? Has the hype failed to reach you yet? If the past 24 hours have seen you in a cave, click any of the following links:

[Gamespot, NeoGAF, Halo.Bungie.Org, IGN]

Rather than search for something about Firefight that has not already been said, stabmaster has provided us with a boots-on-the-ground account of the gathering. Gunslingers love a good LAN Party. When Microsoft Points are used to plan the affair, the attention to detail must be recognized. His first person shoot follows below. First, please enjoy a scroll through this slideshow of the new hotness…

...Did you see the size of that Hunter? Firefight 2.0 looks like a blast. But you already knew that. For a sampling of the event that gave rise to this announcement, we must yield the floor to the distinguished gentleman from California.

because i was invited to the party, i thought that everyone wearing a bungie shirt was my friend.

the club was amazing. there was one room with all these old school generators that, for a second, i though bungie had brought in as set decoration for the party. turns out they just picked a good spot.

not only did they have an open bar, but they had a nice open bar. not just well drinks. they had ketel vodka and goose and such. i stuck to beer.

the gaming stations were set up so that you could play with the other four people who were in your party.

the first time i played i was instantly betrayed with a rocket launcher by a chick that was at this party. she looked over at me and laughed.

I didn’t get to talk to Brian [Jarrard] for very long. he seemed pretty busy. “I have talked a lot about this game today…”

all in all, it was a great time. i like how down to earth these guys were. love “stabby”

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 5

D0606 T1441 Y2010“Should’a Hadda Beta”

Some regard gaming a useless hobby or a hermetic time waster. At Tied the Leader, we see gaming as a discipline. It is equal parts art, craft, science, and sport. To walk the path of a gamer, one must be adaptable. To long endure in the practice of this discipline, one must be flexible enough to maintain a posture at the forefront of evolution. The landscape is ever-changing. The rules are in a constant state of flux. In the interest of remaining a once and future citizen of the Halo Nation, these concepts could not be more true.

Before the Beta Test for Halo: Reach was upon us, we were challenged to forget everything we knew about playing Halo 3. The new trial in the franchise was heralded as ‘combat redefined’. Reveal trailers implored us to leave behind that which we had toiled to learn in the virtual trenches. New control schemes dashed years of controller-twitching body memory on the rocks. Favorite weapons were swapped out in favor of a shiny new arsenal. Familiar physics were morphed. Virtual physicalities were redesigned.

The backlash was predictable. Gamers don’t like change. The more a gamer plays a game – and the better they become – the less likely they are to enjoy a shakeup of their native arena. By comparison, a decorated black belt would not welcome an alteration to their discipline that eliminated their favorite maneuver. The choice then becomes one of either abandonment or adaptation.

When the doors to the Reach Beta swung wide, a very vocal minority of loyal servants from the ranks of the UNSC took to the streets with lit torches, fit to riot. The laundry list of wishes was the same almost everywhere you looked for them. Grenades were too powerful. Assault Rifles were not powerful enough. Jumps were too low. Needler damage was too high. Armchair developers tossed about terms like “overpowered” or “weapon balance” to reinforce their respective complaints.

For this gamerblogger, the disorienting experience of submitting to the Halo: Reach Beta was best summarized by Tied the Leader’s faithful Webmaster in Chief and Gravemind, who fights under the tag Sunburned Goose:

I was frustrated by the Beta for my first fifty games or so. After that point was when I stopped playing Halo 3, and started playing Halo: Reach.

Right on, Goose. Forget everything you know. Learning to crawl again is all part of the discipline. Busting ourselves down to FNGs keeps the experience fresh. When the game changes, we are served up new riddles to solve. We are given new stories to write for ourselves. We are served up new worlds to conquer.

The last time the TTL Gunslingers infiltrated a new battleground en masse, it was that of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The leaders of our clan all but required our most steadfast Halo Loyalists give the new title a dance. Primarily, we didn’t want to deprive them of our company. Secondarily, we wanted to challenge them with learning a new aspect of our shared discipline. As a hidden tertiary motive, we wanted to force them to miss Halo enough that they would attack Halo: Reach with renewed fervor.

And, miss Halo they did. In waiting for the street date for Modern Warfare 2, there was no Beta Test to amuse us. We found this puzzling. Infinity Ward conducted a Beta for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Why not put the sequel through similar paces?

The answer to this question became apparent when we finally played the game. To our chagrin, Modern Warfare 2 had been shipped with the very same almost-good-enough multiplayer mechanics that had been featured in its predecessor. Thus, the need for a Beta seemed less, provided you could ignore a steady parade of cheater glitches that rivaled the wild west yesteryear of Halo 2 on Xbox Live.

In combating the outlaws that trolled Infinity Ward’s killer application, we arrived at a new catch phrase: “Should have had a beta!” we would say. Among some of our more patient and forgiving Gunslingers, these words provoked annoyance and protest. Nevertheless, the meme put down roots. Speed-glitching flag carriers? “Should have had a beta!” Crashing party lobbies? “Should have had a beta!” Experience Point vampiring hackers? “Should have had a beta!” And so on…

Recycled code notwithstanding, the need for a MW2 Beta seemed obvious. Not conducting one was seen as a mistake. Over time, an interesting theory emerged. Why Beta Test your game prior to launch, when you can just patch it later? Why tip your hand? Modern Warfare 2 was destined to be a slam dunk – a guaranteed blockbusting record breaker. Eminem had gamers lined up at their local retailers to snatch the release like a neutral bomb at midnight. A Beta might only give them a reason NOT to spend that sixty bucks. Why take the chance? Why compromise the marketing machine with a hands-on sneak preview?

Of course, it could very well be that no one at Infinity Ward was quite so sinister. The mysterious absence of a Beta for Modern Warfare 2 could just as easily have been forced by an aggressive development deadline for a game that was being coded for play on three distinct platforms. Yet, in sampling some of the more unsatisfied feedback about the Halo: Reach Beta, that little conspiracy theory creapt back into mind.

As was the case with Halo 3, now that the super awesome Beta is behind us, our new challenge is to forget everything we know about playing Reach. All bets are off. The work is, as they say, in progress.

Developer anecdotes have revealed the fact that the build we tested was already old when we got our hands on it. We think we know what Reach will be, but our information is out of date. Bungie is a fast-moving target – outpacing our crosshairs. If you listened to the Mayish Podcast, you know that the following fixes are already in:

Movement is faster.
Jumps are higher.
Headshots are fixed.
Melee attacks are slower.
Reticules are brighter.
Vehicles are stronger.
Grenades are weaker.
DMR magazines are deeper.
Magnum are slower.
Assault Rifle is more deadly.
Plasma Launcher is less “comedic”.

…and that is just for starters. There is still a long, hot summer of crunch-time to perfect the details that will govern our fighting and dying. To put it bluntly, if you played the Beta, you don’t know jack about Reach. At least, not at a granular level of experience. If you have read this far, that is obviously the space you inhabit.

It is for these reasons that development houses like Bungie conduct a test phase. They aim to hit the target the first time. They strive for excellence, and nothing less. This wasn’t a free trial. This wasn’t a sales demo. This wasn’t a final dress rehearsal. This was a test. This was only a test. Had this been an actual emergency, you would still be riding the contrails of your jetpacks and dealing death from above, oorah.

In our many travels, we Gunslingers have seen gamers miss out on amazing experiences, simply because they passed their final judgements about a game during the several hours they spent helping to test it. We invite each of you not to become one of those sad statistics. It’s a distinct privilege to be invited to collaborate in the creation of a game, but the work does not stop there. As fans of the franchise, the only thing that we owe Bungie [aside from the cost of purchasing the next evolution] is a little faith that they will get it right – like they always have.

For everyone else? Well, they should have had a beta.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 8

D0328 T1303 Y2010Wheelman Commendations

Last week, we watched as the curtain was raised on a new system to be included in Halo Reach that will keep players invested in pursuing their own campaign against the virutal combatents that fight in the Battle of the Halo Nation. The new focus will be on the specialist that finds their niche and elevates a single facet of the game to the level of art. The aim will be to reinforce those behaviors.

In the words of lukems “There are guys [who] just want to drive people around.” Submitted for your approval – and entertainment – are a cadre of such guys. Halo3Wheelemen.com has collected some of the best moments played by the dedicated Warthog pilots from Affiliated Clans in the Good Game Network. The theme of this highlight reel is similar to Bungie’s impending Commendation system – to discover who is the best of the best.

Behold the future Onyx Wheelmen of the Halo Nation. They are poised on the border of the Reach Beta, ready to strike with steering wheels in hand and nerves of steel. Keep an eye out for them. On May 3rd, they will be hunting for you.

As always, these offerings are best experienced in High Definition.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 4

D0324 T1151 Y2010Giving cRedit

Proclaiming one’s loyalty to a specific gaming franchise can be a temporary state of being for a gamer. By the very nature of the industry, those franchises have a way of evolving. Those evolutions are not always in a direction that is parallel to our expectations as the Users.

All too often, gamers outgrow the games that they love. Sometimes it is the other way around. When gamers find a comfort zone for their preferred stance in virtual combat, they can be hesitant to embrace anything that changes the landscape. Anyone that witnessed the bastardization of Unreal Tounament into a third-person arcade exhibition understands this.

When a new new offering for a beloved franchise approaches its street date, the gamers that call Tied the Leader home hold their collective breath. The air becomes thick with questions spoken and unspoken. Will we be able to migrate to this new title? Will the developers change the game so dramatically – for seemingly no other reason than the sake of change – that we will no longer want to play it?

Gladly, the news emerging from the industrial gravemind has all been favorable. Today’s revelation is no different…

Xbox 360 GamesE3 2010Halo: Reach

This investment system reinforces what the TTL Gunslingers have always known and held dear. Even when fighting from behind perfectly-matched avatars, a gamer has to adopt a specialty if they are to serve effectively on a team. Offense + Defense + Pilot + Sniper = Win. We have always broken down our clan into squads that insure that the right gamers would fulfill each crucial role.

“There are guys [who] just want to drive people around. We haven’t done a great job of reinforcing that kind of behavior in the past.” ~lukems

While this statement might be true in terms of recognition by the software, the gameplay found in a multiplayer match of Halo is all the reinforcement that some of us need. This gamerblogger is the founding member [and Captain Emeritus] of the Roadkill Squadron. That’s the mobile infantry and combat motorpool of the Gunslingers. What lukems refers to as “driving people around”, we refer to as “rescuing flag-carriers from hostile territory and dusting off while our tailgunner deals insult to injury over the rear bumper of our Warthog!” Those moments are rewards in and of themselves.

This is not to say that the new player investment system is superfluous. Nay! Please, give us a more profound measure of our intended prowess than a pile of old Wheelman Medals that collect dust. If anything, today’s announcement is a signpost that Halo Reach is well on track to deliver the same in-game experience that has inspired us to maintain a foothold in the Halo Nation for years.

Luke Smith has been one of those gamers to grace my passenger seat with the banner of his enemy – as have been several of his partners in crime on the development side. Bungie knows what makes Halo great, and we all say thankya. Oftentimes, the artist is too close to their own work to understand the experience it creates for an audience. With emerging details like these being brought to light, it is very easy to say that this is not the case for Halo Reach.

They make the games they want to play. We are thrilled to agree.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 11

D0304 T0931 Y2010Game Changer

The time has come for you to forget everything that you know about playing Halo on Xbox Live. Time to let go of that coveted Battle Rifle. Time to learn a new control scheme. Time to embrace new hazzards and master new weapons. Time to map out some new stomping grounds. All bets are off. No one is safe.

Tied the Leader’s most prolific machinimaker, TTL Hoovaloov, knows this. His attention to the details of a game are as razor sharp as his skill with a video editor. For a full tactical briefing on the bomb that was dropped on our comfort zone, click below. Don’t watch it here, fare gamer. Get thee to YouTube. Hoov went to all the trouble to provide this analysis in high resolution, after all.

Gaming is a discipline. To keep things interesting, that discipline is a moving target. Just when you thought you were the most dangerous kid on your block, the game changes. Will you adapt? Will you overcome? Will you be willing to bust yourself back down to Apprentice and undergo boot camp all over again?

Don’t be left behind, ye citizens of the Halo Nation. Abandon your posts in Halo 3, and prepare to get some in the new arena. You have two months to say goodbye to the instinctive memory that has been encoded into your controller-wielding hands. On 03 May 2010, combat will evolve again.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 105