D0214 T1836 Y2010Calling All Lone Wolves

POP QUIZ: What is the most dangerous weapon at your disposal in the playing of Halo 3 on Xbox Live?

The Battle Rifle? The Sniper Rifle? The Spartan Laser? In the right hands, each of these impliments of war can certainly be deadly factors in the outcome of a match.

At Tied the Leader, we would submit that none of these are the ultimate power weapon. In our experience, Teamwork is that which wins battles. The Headset and the Friends List are mightier than the Sword, or the Rocket Launcher. The wingman off your shoulder is more reliable than the weapon in your hand.

When a squad of gamers agrees to cooperate as members of a unified team, something magical happens. Their respective skills are amplified to a higher degree. When the individual functions as something larger than themselves, they become more formidable than they could be on their own.

I am talking, of course, about Clans. Now, it is no mystery that Clans are often reviled by the general population of gamers that inhabit Xbox Live. There are some that suspect them to be bully cliques that thrive on shaming newcomers into a submissive posture. There are poor sports who bemoan the tactical advantage that they create for their members. In response, some gaming bodies eschew the very notion of the word “Clan”, due to the bad static assigned to the term.

The Clan System has long been a backbone of the Halo Nation. In the playing of Halo 2, our rosters and command structures were built right into the game. As the title that launched our mission goes the way of the Forerunner, it is up to us to sustain the momentum that was put into motion for us on the plains of a place called Coagulation.

Enter the Good Game Network. Throughout our campaign against randomly matched warring parties in Halo 3, we have banded together to keep our home fires burning. At the time of this posting, 16 venerable clans still share war stories and create action for one another in the games that we love to play. We are also assisting one another with recruitment. That is where you, the reader, comes into the picture. Long-time-reader, no-time-poster? Well screw that. Ante up and Get Some.

It has been said that the Halo Nation is in a state of recession. Those loyalists who still play Halo 3 week in and week out may detect a thinning in the ranks of willing SPARTANS at the ready on their Friends Lists. This is a failing of no one. It is simply the way of things. Attention spans shorten. New options lure XP-hungry gamers to devour fresh gamerscore every season. Virtual warriors migrate to new and unstained battlefields. The world moves on…

When a population of gamers shrinks, what you end up with is a group of people playing a game because they truly want to; not because it is the only option in the marketplace. The fat is burned off the body politic – the awesome boiled down in a crucible. We have weathered these long winters before at Tied the Leader. In the twilight months of Halo 2, we took on gamers from various other clans that had succumbed to their own intertia. We padded our rosters with ringers and new friends like the spoils from a war of attrition.

In the opinion of this gamerblogger, there is nothing more rewarding than being a member of a Clan. The finest moments of my imaginary career in the service of the United Nations Space Command deal not with personal glory or imaginary medals. They are memories of flawless performances on the part of a real team working together to execute a maneuver cultivated in their very real playbook. Over time, the Clan stops being the means to an end, and starts being the reason why you play.

If you are a “mature” gamer over the age of 21, you are invited to join this party. This is a time ripe for consolidation. Now is for getting organized to sustain the Oo-Rah. Perhaps you have always thought that joining a clan was for other people. Yet, here you are… reading a blog about a video game. That must have taken at least two of three curious jumps. If your interests took you this far, perhaps you can come a little further.

Consider the MidWorld Forum your placement agency in the middle of a pretended warzone. We are in the Nation building business every day, finding good homes for the solitary soldier in search of an army. In a time of stark opportunity, we are hiring… so long as you speak your lesson and say it true.

Staffers from over a dozen Good Game Network Affiliates are standing by, anxious to make your acquaintance. New clans waging their upstarts in our house need boots on the line for inspection. Some are casually recreational. Others are fiercely competitive. Some are brand new. Others were matching their players icons when you were asking “What’s this Halo thing that people always talk about?” There is a flavor on our menu to suit the tastes of anyone who plays a good game. You need only knock on the door.

As Bungie dropped the curtain between us and their next killer application, an unmistakable challenge was issued: “You can leave that Lone Wolf stuff behind.” The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the street-date of the next bout to take the first step in that direction. The following question can be answered now:

When we Fall into Reach, and all of the citizens who fled the Halo Nation to answer a different Call come back to roost, who will be covering your six?

[click to answer]

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Recruits 10

D1212 T2250 Y2009The Nobility of Teamwork

Start the countdown. In just about the same amount of time it takes to gestate a human life, Reach will Fall. Having been given a first real glance at what lies over that horizon, the game becomes one of waiting for our next official briefing. Just over that horizon lies Team Noble.

For what promises to be Bungie LLC’s last dance with the United Nations Space Command, the creators are taking us to the beginning of the first chapter told in their tale. From what has been glimpsed during our introduction, the central figure in this bout is not a solitary hero bearing the fate of the galaxy solely on his back. Instead, we are to follow the fates of a deadly ensemble that is one from many.

At Tied the Leader, this is a story with which we are well acquainted on our own. For over four years, we have been plucking lone wolves from the rumble pits of online play, and marshalling them to the front lines of organized challenges. Throughout all of our lost time [human history, is it?], we have thrived on the thrill of victory – or the grace of defeat – alongside the trusted members of a team. Some even call it a clan.

It has been said that equipment changes everything. By that same logic, the right equipment in the right hands changes everything about everything. Ever since Coagulation was a tactical puzzle, we have been pushing our teammates to specialize. When a player takes full responsibility for that at which they are the best, they become a functioning organ in the organism that is the team. At that point, they become more effective than any one individual.

The Halo Nation had become used to operating as the lone gunmen – and, on rare occassions, gunwomen. The Orbital Drop Shock Troopers entreated us to our first sample of squad life, but their’s was a story of more mortal circumstances. Our new team is an upgrade – a roving pack of SPARTANs. This new title gives life to the sort of team only witnessed previously in a multiplayer contrivance – or a brief cutscene if Halo Wars counts [and it doesn’t].

The ODSTs certainly exuded their own brand of courage under fire. Yet, it is NOT likely that these new blokes will be sneaking around in the rain, driven on by the mournful wale of saxophone. The noise is being brought back up to maximum. Our new role models are the crazy brave human tanks that lock horns with the howling darkness. They strut to guitar riffs that signal zero fear. And, there are six of them to bring the pain.

Great teams are about great individuals, not clones marching in lock step. Their talents should compliment one another. The more unique each of the players becomes, the better the team. This ain’t about general issue. This is about a deadly committee of experts. The message is as clear as the challenge it carries: Leave that lone wolf shit behind! Leave it.

It’s like the new Commanding Officer said, it’s all about blending the right skillsets. Strikers are always more effective when they are shuttled by Ace Pilots. Dead Eye Snipers are more valuable when they are spotting for Honorable Guards. We have tasted that action on every foray into the battles available in multiplayer. To see it played out so vividly in the campaign is a change that is happily welcomed.

Recruiting, training, and leading our own team is a thing that our webmaster calls “The Experience Behind the Experience”. It is that moment when the game stops being a solo act, and turns into a symphony. It’s a story that Bungie obviously understands, since they taught us to write it for ourselves. If ODST was a love letter to fans, Reach is a love letter to clans.

That’s going Oscar Mike in style. At TTL, the only cannon we care about is the one in our holster. We are not as concerned about the nuances of the story as we are about the magic created by a company of players that agree to work together toward the same goal. In Halo Reach, that very thing IS the story.

It’s a Noble tale. A fitting end for Bungie’s watch.

Do you want to know more? We do.

Standing by…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 15

D0927 T1633 Y2009Join Us. Stop Them.

And so, launch day for Halo 3 ODST came and went. Millions of veterans of the Halo Nation got some – that for which they had waited for months. We strapped ourselves into an express elevator to hell, going down.

The lead-up to this game was an agonizing marathon of foreplay. The Superintendant had teased us with the vague aspects of his identity for months. As the Great Drop grew nearer, details for what lie ahead became more specific.

Game trailers. Convention appearances. Press previews. The always entertaining ViDocs. A Firefight roashow aboard 2.5 tons of military transport. By the time the Live Action short emerged at the end of an episode of Band of Brothers, this gamerblogger was on the verge of a marketing overdose.

“Enough!” I wanted to shout. “I want this game. I will buy this game. Me and everyone else who ever heard of Halo is a slam dunk on this one. Why the hard sell? Just give us the freaking game, already!” Not that I minded the inside scoop. Bungie is always generous with that. It just made the wait that much harder to endure.

That’s when it hit me. This isn’t marketing. This is recruitment propaganda. Every war requires it, and this is Earth we are talking about. Turns out that I was not the intended audience for this full-media barrage. It’s true target resided right under my nose on the MidWorld Forum, home to the TTL Gunslingers and trusted Affiliates in the Good Game Network.

Allow me to introduce you to TTL Radiomond, a gamer that one might call a n00b. Before he succumbed to peer-pressure to learn the ways of the Xbox, the last controller he had wielded was from a Nintendo 64. Since his indoctrination as a Gunslinger, he has been a Call of Duty guy. Don’t resent him for that. When someone enlists, they should be allowed to choose their branch…

Radiomond said: “I took to COD and found success far quicker than I did in Halo. TTL had almost a year and a half’s worth of Halo notches on their gun belts, in addition to all of their years in Halo: CE and Halo 2. Compared to me, they were pros. I was the rookie. It was too tough for me to get excited about it and make a difference in the game. To me, Halo was like a prolific musician’s back catalog that seemed too daunting to go back and discover on my own.”

While the rest of us were keeping an eye on Bungie, and everything that they let slip from behind their curtain, Radio was sighted-in on the development of Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2. The only updates coming out of that camp were born upon twitter feeds and a rarely-updated YouTube channel. As more and more pearls issued forth from the Halo wellspring, Radio picked up on the transmission.

“The marketing of the brand was an orgiastic feast of the senses for everybody. As the news of those releases spread through our community, we all absorbed the mission of the ODST, just as any new real-life military recruit would do. The marketing prowess behind the brand enhanced the gaming experience for me the moment I dropped with my other ODSTs on Tuesday, September 22nd.”

The lure was unmistakable – as compelling for a green recruit as it was for a hardened veteran. ODST started as a pre-order to test the ability of Amazon.com to deliver the new COD to Radio on opening day. Now, it had become a game he could not wait to play.

“With ODST, I am still the rookie, but it is by design. Bungie Studios managed to find an entry point for me. As the human Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, I found a role and a link to the larger Halo story – as the rookie entering a world that’s been dominated by experienced players reminiscent of the Master Chief. I can foresee my wanting to go back through the story from the beginning someday. But for now, I am the rookie. And I am prepared to drop.”

Turns out the real message surrounded us all along. Moral to the story? Never underestimate the importance of a solid recruitment campaign. While it seems as if everyone in the world has been given a proper chance to play Halo, there are always replacement soldiers lurking about. The trick is to get their boots on the line, too.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 7

D0927 T1515 Y2009Don't Burn The Love Letter

As a fanbase, the Halo Nation can be demanding. As a consumer base, they can be downright unforgiving. We want the world [nay, the universe], and we want it cheap – if not for free. Anything less, and we set flame to the village.

Anyone who has spent any appreciable amount of time on the forums lovingly hosted at Bungie.net [or relevant points elsewhere] should be well acquainted with the wish list of must-have items required to “perfect” the Halo Franchise. While it is impossible for Halo Nationals to universally agree on any point, there are some “suggestions” that you see over and over and over again.

Traditionally, the most coveted items at the top of that list have been:
1. Bring back the Super-Pistol from Halo: C.E.
2. Let us experience more of the Defense of Earth.
3. Remake the Midship map from Halo 2.
4. Give me Recon Armor! [ad nauseum]

What if one game accomplished all of those things? One year ago, such information would have been dismissed as a joke – or rediculous gossip.

Hold that thought…

What if the same game went above and beyond any of our pre-conceived expectations?

What if a Halo game delivered everything we ever asked for, and then stretched the boundaries of our imaginations in ways that only Bungie Studios LLC can? Would it be heralded as the Holy Grail of franchise installments? Would it be greeted by cheering crowds and rose pedals? Would we hoist the developers onto our shoulders and carry them through the streets as heroes of our warring nation?

To fully understand the contents of what was described as a “love letter from Bungie to its fans”, we need to break it down, line by line.

SuperPistol?: Check!
It zooms. It throws a bullet around the world. It kills Brutes in four shots – Grunts in one.
What’s more… this impossible hand-cannon comes equipped with a silencer, just to make you feel all the more badass.

Earth Defense Campaign?: Check!
Welcome to the suck. You are on the ground just in time for the cataclysm. You are “Oscar Mike” and knee-dip “in the shit”.
What’s more… this is not the usual checkpoint-riddled chute of action to which we should be accustomed. Our friends in Kirkland built us an entire city – a sandbox over which we have free and open reign to explore infinitum.

Midship?: Check!
Everyone’s second-favorite symmetrical thunderdome is back into matchmaking rotation. Your sword is right where you left it. So is your shotgun.
What’s more… everything is prettier than you remember.

Recon?: Check!
At long last, everyone who wants to don the coveted reconnaissance raiment can HAS it – provided you want it badly enough. Given the amount of forum bans that have been handed down just for asking, that should be a fair assumption.
What’s more… The challenges along the Road to Recon only lend to the replayability of the game – in ways that the player may not have imagined.

Add to that a Star-Studded Cast of Players.
Your Commanding Officer is the Hottest Chick in the Known Universe: Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica. Your Brothers in Arms are the fanboy heroes from cult hit Firefly: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and Adam Baldwin. Those people don’t work for free.

Add to that a new construct for Cooperative Play.
Firefight has the capacity for endless combat scenarios. It’s like matchmaking, only without the mob of bullies that seek to make you feel bad about yourself. Hunters might be bastards, but they don’t teabag. And, it all happens in ten environments that will never run out of opponents. All you have to bring is some friends.

Add to that a Reach Beta Invite. For Free.
Before Reach “falls”, we all get to kick the tires. Anyone else drop 60 bucks on a game called Crackdown for the sole purpose of enjoying the same privilege prior to Halo 3? Anyone else throw Crackdown right in the trash like a Fallschirmjaegergewehr on Prestige Day as soon as Snowbound closed its doors?

Add to that a shot in the arm for Halo 3 Multiplayer.
Midship ain’t the only arena added to our respective war rooms. Longshore and Citadel are the other new kids on the block. Some Multiplayer denizens are rightfully hacked off by the fact that the price for street-date DLC just jumped to 20 bucks a map, but they have the Hottest Chick in the Known Universe [see above – or below] to console them. Let them tell her that they don’t like her game.

It has been said that you can’t please everyone. It should also be said that there is no pleasing some people. It must finally be noted that, for every one gamer who starts a thread on this topic, there are dozens of loyal Seventh Columnists who descend upon them with an appropriate level of scorn. Give ‘em hell, troopers!

Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

So here is mine…

This gamerblogger can only hope that the people who are lambasting ODST are not the very same people that asked for it in the first place. This game is one of the most diverse offerings we have ever seen in the franchise. And it’s a bold answer to a mountain of unsolicited feedback. If it wasn’t so sincere in its execution, it would almost seem like pandering.

We asked. Repeatedly. Bungie delivered. Repeatedly. Over in this corner of the Halo Nation, we say thankya.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 9

D0923 T1003 Y2009Official ODST Review

We don’t review games at Tied the Leader. We play them.

Therein lies the proof.

The Gunslingers have dropped. You will find them in the firefight.

Once again, BUNGiE Studios has created a killer application that clans like ours can leverage to unify our troopers and put their boots on the line.

Territory controlled.

Say thankya!

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 7

D0913 T2107 Y2009Helljumper Express To the Rescue

For the past several weeks, the TTL Gunslingers have been tracking the progress of the ODST Transport Van – which we have lovingly dubbed ‘The Helljumper Express’ – as it rockets across the country in a whirlwind tour in anticipation of the drop of Halo 3 ODST.

To date, we have intercepted this movable feast of hype in Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. In every location, this event has inspired its attendees with a renewed enthusiasm for the Halo franchise. City after city, gamers are reporting in with newfound eagerness to return to the warfront against the Covenant in the service of the United Nations Space Command.

More than a mere transport, the Helljumper Express is a rescue vehicle; preparing gamers to drop and putting their virtual boots back on the digital line. Depicted below is the tour leader, callsign “Patrick”. At every stop, he has served faithfully as our paramedic, administering a much-needed shot in the arm. He’s a gentlemen and one hell of a party leader – just the sort of medic you would want on such a mission of advanced reconnaissance.

Gamers all across this Halo Nation of ours are answering this most recent call to arms. Having finished the fight, they are opting in for another tour of duty. You are invited to sample their experiences in their own words…

CASE STUDY: TTL FEZZER

This self-professed “slave to his education” has been mysteriously absent from the Halo warfront for some time now. When a gamer is mere steps away from becoming a licensed healer of beasts [what you might refer to as a “Veterinarian”], how do you tear him away from his studies?

“The Bungie marketing machine knows their trade, and they practice it well. There is no mistaking the purpose of this tour. And from this gamers perspective, they are accomplishing their goals. The whole event, from entering and exiting the truck was about 15-20 minutes. But that was plenty of time for me to see how fun and awesome this game is going to be. I am looking forward to the full version and all it has to offer. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to Drop.”

CASE STUDY: TTL LOCKE

Once an Overlord in the ranks of the TTL Gunslingers, this gamer has since migrated off-world to sample the galactic intrigue found in EVE Online. [GASP!] Poor bastard is lost in space. How to do you bring a trusty gunhand like this back into violent congress with the Halo Nation?

“The game has all the good qualities of Gears of War, and none of the bad. Wrap that up in a Halo package, and its simply a blast to play. One of my favorite moments was hitting a cloaked brute with an Incendiary grenade, and then seeing him get hammered into a group of grunts. Someone order the flaming gorilla? Another fun moment involved thinking I could go toe-to-toe with a Hunter, and having it end badly… very badly. (Hey…I had the pistol, I got cocky)”

CASE STUDY: TTL CUTENESS, TTL PONY, TTL BUNNY

Pony is depicted below. He’s not a monogamous gamer. His partners in crime [Cutness and Bunny], tend to bounce from hero to hero in search of fresh adventures and more points to add to their ever-escalating gamerscore. They have been just as much in love with the Master Chief as any of us… but their eyes tend to wander as a game shows its age.

Cuteness: “Truthfully, I’m a 100% Call of Duty guy. You’re not a super soldier, you’re just some expendable grunt – you’re fragile. ODST feels like the next generation of that. You’re fragile, albeit not as fragile as in CoD, but more so than the Chief, and it feels right. You’ve got the 4 player Co-Op. Difference here is that is is a challenge. It was a good experience, and I guess I won’t be canceling my pre-order now to help pay for my MW2 Night Vision Goggles.”

CASE STUDY: TTL DEMAG0GUE

The gamer behind the Reclaimer is more an artist than a warrior – just don’t make the mistake of asuming that he is not a little of both. Even artists need new horizons. When a user employs a game as a canvas, rather than an arena, they crave new design elements for their pallette.

“The black-lit, HD gameplay was gorgeous, and the action was non-stop and intense! This webcomic creator is already thinking about ways to blend this latest of Bungie’s titles into the Reclaimer story line. New maps, new characters, and a mob of angry Covenant forces hell-bent on human annihilation provide the potential for new story-telling opportunities.”

CODA: THE GGN GETS WORKPLACED

Some gamers never stray too far from the Halo Nation. When the Helljumper Express rolled through Chicago – cradle of the Haloverse – faithfull combatents were on hand to pay homage. On this occassion, Bungie did what they do better than any development house in the business: they served as a catalyst for community among gamers. The Good Game Network [represented by Tied the Leader and Halo 3 Wheelmen] rallied to join Halo 3 in the Workplace and sample what is yet to come.

Depicted above [from left to right]: Workplacers Ghuta and Krewl Intent, Yours Truly [above], TTL Goody, and H3WM Il Duce. Off camera: TTL Radiomond and Conradi. Thanks for the ride, ‘Workplacers. Pay you back in-game sometime.

Of course, these guys had to show us up by bringing bloody flags!

“No flag, no country!”
~Eddie Izzard.

Are you prepared to drop? You have just over one week to find out. The Helljumper Express is far from being on its last legs, but it is on the last legs of its journey.

This could be you! The rescue mission will take all comers. Form a line and get some, Marines! We are ODST. Are you?

ADDITIONAL PHOTO CREDITS: TTL Stuicide, TTL Radiomond.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 11

D0830 T2013 Y2009The Rookie and The Helljumper Express

Previously at Tied the Leader, we chronicled the adventures of TTL Dren as he intercepted the ODST Van. This week, it is our profoundest pleasure to introduce you to The Rookie…

No, no, NO… Not THAT Rookie. Today, we are talking about our very own TTL Faithkeeper. He’s the most recent gamer to pass the trials required to join the ranks of the Gunslingers. He even sold out already, and slapped our clan tag onto his avatar. There he is [depicted below] on maneuvers in Phoenix, Arizona. As the Helljumper Express fled across the desert, yet another Gunslinger climbed aboard.

Check out what our keeper of faith had to say about his Firefight. He knows the moves. Read all about his dance:

TTL Faithkeeper said: When we were told, “Step inside if you guys want to start up a game”, we were immediately mesmerized by a PreGame Lobby for a Firefight match. There are a lot more options to customize your character – new symbols, new characters… More options than a 3-digit callsign.

After navigating the different customizable options, the match started and things got real fun real fast. The SMG has a new look and feel to it. Zooming on it was fantastic. It had the accuracy of a Battle Rifle, but it felt like an Assault Rifle. As Dren mentioned, the pistol has more of a Halo 1 feel to it. The Needler still packs quite a whallop and the fuel rod gun is a beast. When you get a rush of Grunts and a couple Brutes clustered together, that gun can blast quite a few at once. The Sniper Rifle felt just the same as Halo 3. Also, it looks like you can hold more than 2 grenades per slot. There are fun new medals; like getting one for killing someone with the Needler, getting a spree with the Hammer (“Dream Crusher” for 10 in a row), and getting an Assist. I’m sure there’s more that we didn’t see.

I little bit more about the “VISR” mode – It highlights enemies in Red and Friendlies in green, but more importantly it gives you an outline to cloaked Brutes. When you’re hit with the VISR on, you get a little static across your screen. You can switch in and out of VISR mode by pushing the blue skittle, aka “x”.

Gameplay highlights – A Grunt ran kamikaze-style (complete with the high pitched battle cry!) at me with two plasma grenades and took out most of my shields, blowing himself to smithereens; hitting a Chieftan with a fuel rod right before a teammate rocked his launched body with the hammer, sending him off the map; getting that adrenaline rush when a Chieftan would appear; seeing new medals flash on my screen; and enjoying the new feel to this game. The grenade throwing has a whole new animation and feels entirely different from launching grenades as MC. Even crouch walking has a different feel to it – feels like you bounce up and down a little bit more.

All-in-all, this was a great experience. If I wasn’t sold on Halo: ODST before, I am now. Thanks Dren for being the first of us to share in the experience and get my interest stirring. Thank you Bungie, Microsoft, and GameStop for making this all possible. I’ll be seeyin ya on September 22nd!

Tied the Leader regrets to inform you, Constant Reader, that – after his playtest – Faithkeeper hijacked the Helljumper Express and stormed off toward the horizon. When last seen, he was bounding down the highway like a bat out of hell, headed in the general direction of Dallas, Texas.

Given what we know about Faithkeeper and his preferred objective routes, we have been able to plot his theoretical trajectory. Confidence is high that TTL agents in Dallas should be able to jack him from the vehicle. If not, that task will lay before you…

Be advised that Faithkeeper may have been aided in this heist by four associates from Halo 3 In The Workplace. Depicted below: known accomplices PiercingTiger, Necktatpat, Eddie Knucks, and Liztr0n. All are heavily armed, and battle hardened from years of simulated combat.

Put your boots on the line, you would-be Helljumpers. We need that truck back! The very fate of he Halo Nation is in our hands.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 21

D0823 T1442 Y2009The Helljumper Express

“The ODST in the black truck fled across the desert, and the Gunslingers followed…”

Ever since the Gamerscore Blog announced that Halo 3: ODST would be making a whistle-stop tour across the nation, the TTL Gunslingers have been anxiously awaiting its passage through their respective towns. The lure is unmistakable… A chance to experience the legendary Bungie marketing machine first-hand. A chance to wield a silenced SMG one month early. A chance to get prepared to drop.

One such Gunslinger is a gamer ‘tagged TTL Dren. Once upon a time, this striker scored himself 43 medals with a single blast from the Spartan Laser. On Sunday, August 23rd, he intercepted two and a half tons of hype as it rolled through Hillsboro, Oregon like a freight train bound for the howling darkness. Having sampled that which awaits all of us on September 22nd, he has shared his field report from the scene:

TTL Dren said: The truck has room for 16 people, 8 playing the game while another 8 sit at the ready, watching and waiting for their turn. When I arrived a little before noon, there was a line of maybe 40 people. Before the gaming started, one of the PR guys gave us a briefing about the rules and what to expect. He even had to stress the fact that it was a team game. I am sure there were some in the crowd that were new to that idea.

They were handing out nice cards with an ODST group shot on one side, and a controller configuration on the other. The only thing that really stood out was that the X button is used to turn on your VISR. The Y button controls a flying cam that is used when you’re dead. I never remembered to try this, as I wanted to play more.

[click above for Hi-Res of the mostly-familiar control scheme]

It wasn’t until 4:00 that I got to drop, in the night level ‘Crater’. I have to say this was a great level. It’s a courtyard with enemies just pouring over the high ground. At times there will be doors that open on the sides and you can get a good grenade in the pack. Other times you will have drop ships land and deposit baddies.

The weapons are much the same as what you find in Halo 3. Being able to zoom in with a silenced SMG is cool and it felt like the AR at times. The pistol is back, but I am not sure it’s quite the same as Halo CE. It has no problem dropping grunts and jackals with a head shot, though. Unfortunately, I never got my hands on other power weapons. I did snag the fuel rod gun for a bit, until it ran out of ammo. Extra ammo didn’t seem that hard to find, as the enemy drops weapons all over the place. There is no dual wielding.

This was all pre-demo stuff, so things will change. In our setup, they gave us 10 minutes with unlimited lives. In the final game you will have to depend on those lives, and you can earn more as you go through the firefight. There are life packs in the levels as you don’t have a shield like the Master Chief.

There are a bunch of new medals to be won as well. The assist medal is a star with a yin~yang symbol in it. There are hammer medals, and it tracks what your biggest kill was. If you take out a Chieftain, it will show that in your carnage report. You could also customize your character, although there wasn’t much time to play around with that. At times you would see someone running around without a helmet.

After playing for even a short time, I have to say this is a great game. It requires a whole new strategy and you really have to be a team. You have to be cautious about what weapons you use and how you use them. Since your not a spartan, you have to remember that your grenades can’t be thrown across the map anymore. It has a different feel, yet still feels like Halo.

I cant wait to play this game again.

Thanks to the folks at Bungie, Microsoft, and GameStop.

Thank you for sharing, Dren. Good game. Who will be the next Gunslinger to intercept the Helljumper Express?

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 12

D0816 T2337 Y2009Welcome to Hoov's File Share

Do you know TTL Hoovaloov?

If you have been a constant reader of this gamerblog, you have likely beheld his mastery of the rich media. This Gunslinger wields a digital editor like he does a Sniper Rifle. He throws the funky beats like he’s hurling plasma on any map of Halo 3, turning his carnage into a dance.

If you have not been a constant reader, it seems extremly likely that you have been shot in the middle of your face by Hoovaloov on Xbox Live. Either way, you may see your own ugly mug below…

Welcome to his File Share. Hoovaloov has focused the spotlight on many of us in the past. This is his time to shine. That is, after all, what a File Share is good for… Hat’s off to The Maker for giving us the means to tell our own war stories.

There ain’t nothing wrong with a man that takes pride in his own work. Should we not admire the success of our opponent? Here is your chance to tell Hoovaloov that he plays a ‘Good Game’.

Halo 3 is a stage. Please enjoy while our resident auteur takes a bow.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 14

D0816 T2146 Y2009AtLANtica 3.0

In June of 2009, the TTL Gunslingers returned for a third time to the site of what has been dubbed the AtLANtica. The recipe was, as it has been for the past three years, very much the same: equal parts sunshine, violence, friendship, salt water, and more than a splash of rum.

Once again, our hosts were the benevolent [and ultra-tolerant] inn-keepers at the DoubleTree Suites in Melbourne, Florida. Our audio/visual providers were the saints that own and operate Hoover AV. Our backdrop was the Atlantic Ocean. Our aim was to celebrate the games we play, and the community that they inspire.

While repetitive in nature, this event has had a way of escalating in scope. The dimensions of the venue were the same as last year. That didn’t stop us from packing it with more screens, more noise, more gamers, and more action. It’s a destination we would recommend to any gaming entity in search of a gathering.

For many of the Gunslingers, the third AtLANtica was a reunion. For others, it was introduction to the mayhem that was much storied at our round table. They came from as far away as Holland, and from as near as just over the state line. In all cases, no name tags were required.

Tied the Leader was born from the culture of LAN Parties. Before Xbox Live captured the Master Chief and imported him into every home with a broadband feed, the founders of our fortified position in the Halo Nation were enjoying System Link games among friends. As the games grow more complex, so do the parties.

The attendees at AtLANtica included some of the same Gunslingers that first planted their flag in the uncultivated soil of what would become TTL. Since merging together from struggling upstarts with names like ‘Dead Theologian Society’ or ‘Clan Meryl Streep’, being a TTL Gunslinger is all they have known – and what a long and strange trip it has been.

These parties are a solid reminder of why we fight. For us, gaming as a member of a clan is about friendship as much as it is about victory or teamwork. Meeting a person, looking them in the eye, and shaking their hand is the surest ounce of prevention [and a never-miss pound of cure] for almost any amount of Internet Drama.

That don’t mean that we don’t get to fightin’. At a TTL function, the party-goers are put through the paces. Halo 3 Free-For-All. Halo 3 Squad Battles. Call of Duty Free-For-All. Rock Band High Scores. Grand Theft Auto Chopper Diving. In keeping with tradition, each wave is weighted with points that count toward winning the trophy that commemorates the event.

Rarely taken is a photograph that can capture the electricity emitted by 50 gamers locked in violent congress mere paces from one another. When the distance between different states or continents is closed to within the same room, the combatents get rowdy. Losing control of said room is a sign of success at any good party.

The spectator element is another sign of success. When gamers find themselves watching to see who carries the day, rather than jumping into the surf just outside the back door, its likely that they are getting that for which they came.

Of course, with an NBA Finals game in play, video games are not likely to be the only thing that is spectated. Fortunately, the local scene features many establishments that can stand up to a request like “TTL, Party of 50…” On one such mission, we provided a Gunslinger escort for a Lakers fan lost deep behind enemy lines, in a sea of Orlando fans.

That hotel hidden away on the Atlantic Coast has become like an honorary member of our clan. Having been there three times, it’s a place as familiar to us as some of the maps we see in matchmaking. Like the hill in the middle of Valhalla, it is a territory we have controlled time and time again.

Depicted above: Covenant Battle Cruiser? Or gathering storm? Sooner or later, the beach calls the gamers away from the network. One can take only so much non-stop carnage. When the breaking point is reached, there is plenty of stimulus right on site to soothe the assualt on the senses.

As an event, the AtLANtica has developed its own unique flavor. Gunslingers who have quested to become well-acquainted with our happenings have remarked that Florida is a better party, but Chicago is a better LAN. That lazy air and the sound of crashing waves dillutes the competitive spirit. The poolside bar helps as well.

Yet, sooner or later, competition finds us all. As we continue to host these affairs, we continue to open up new warfronts for live entanglements. The Gunslingers look to us to keep the offering fresh. No one wants to be able to predict everything that will happen.

Time and time again, we all run home to Halo. The more games we sample, the more apparent it becomes that there is no development house that understands the value of a good LAN Party better than Bungie Studios. It’s the game that brought us together to play against the living in our own living rooms. It’s the best game to bring us back together as we muster up and migrate en-masse to a ballroom.

‘Good Game’ to all that attended. See you next year.

Where? Who knows? There are still a lot of cities with names that can be blended with the word LAN. AtLANta? SeaTTLAN? AmsterLAN? HollywoodLANd?

Or, we could just return to Florida for a fourth AtLANtica. Bungie is still making Halo games. Why should we diversify? One fact rings true: When something ain’t broken…

Stay tuned.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 9

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