D0913 T2009 Y2011Fear and LANning in Chicago.

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.

Same venue. Ignite Network.

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.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 20

D0106 T1401 Y2011Fair Game

“If it’s in there, it’s fair game!” ~Kyle Gass, Tenacious Defender

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.

That is all.

As you were.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 13

D1107 T1237 Y2010Dust Off!

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.

My Halo Experience is intact in Halo: Reach. How about yours?

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 13

D0920 T0051 Y2010Remember Asch

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.

Click to explore.

Posted by XerxdeeJ


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

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

D1122 T2250 Y2008Recon's Revenge

The Halo Nation is very much a microcosm of the world in which we live. All of the archetypes that we encounter in our first lives are also present in the game. Leaders. Followers. Saints. Bullies. Veterans. Newbies. Zealots. Naysayers. Friends. Jackasses. You are as likely to find them traveling your favorite matchmaking playlist as you are to see them wandering through your own neighborhood.

To riff on this notion, the gamers who don Bungie’s rare armor permutation are like the Hollywood celebrities who get chased through the streets by ravenous paparazzi in the employ of fine journalistic outlets like TMZ. The obvious difference is that paparazzi don’t shoot people with machine guns.

Just like over-exposed celebrities, someone who bemoans the attention that they get for wearing Recon in Halo 3 is lying to you. It would be far easier for those people to revert to their original helmet than it would be for [say] Leo DiCaprio to settle down in a Kansas City suburb and open a pub.

So why tolerate the endless messages? Why invite a stream of Friend Requests, invitations to chat, and threats to hack one’s account? What gain could possibly come from being repeatedly rolled over in the deadbox by curious opponents who want a closer look?

I can’t speak for everyone. For this gamerblogger, however, the interest is purely tactical. What’s that? Recon armor for tactical gain? You read me right… and I need all the help I can get. Anyone who plays with me on a regular basis can tell you that they don’t invite me into their party lobby on the merit of my Battle Rifle.

In the absence of “sick snipa skillz”, I use every tool present in Halo 3 for tactical gain. Every corner of the map gets a catchy nickname to flower team-chat with pneumonic devices. Armor color and HUD callsigns become battlefield indicators of squad loadout; for easy reference between Offense, Defense, Snipers, and Pilots.

And Recon? Well, Recon, my good friends, is a lightning rod for idiots. We all know who those gamers are. They come in many varieties. To illustrate what I mean, you are invited to look in on this recent match on High Ground…

Here we have an Elite with an eye for rare battle dress. He just scored himself a kill in what battle-hardened veterans would affecionately refer to as “Territory 2”. Does he spin on his heel to check his six for the next would-be assailant?

Nope! Instead of replaying this moment again and again and again in the Theatre, he spends crucial seconds during the actual game to admire the lines of his prey.

Big mistake, you hunch-backed savage! Perhaps you didn’t receive the memo that SPARTANs travel in packs. Have an earful of Mauler-shot, courtesy of the TTL Gunslingers.

Thank you for pausing in a war zone to smell the roses! We appreciate your low threshold for distraction. While you may have been amused in the beating of a dead horse, it looks as if the joke is on you.

Fortunately for Blue Team, it would seem that Red Team is packed with Elites that are attracted to shiny objects. This one just took down that very same Recon Marine in the vicinity of what the locals call “Rocket Spawn”.

As part of his post-kill celebration, he invites his prey to a tea party. If you are ever invited to one of these parties, it is advised that you say “No”. Sadly, these imfamous parties are a far too common ritual among many gamers, whether they drink tea or not.

Of course, a virtual combat scenario is hardly the venue for weilding a teabag. Mere seconds can mean the difference between life and respawn. Among the objectives in the current matchmaking playlist, no additional points are awarded for humping another gamer’s corpse.

What’s more, you never know where that opponent of yours may respawn. The last thing you would want is for them to watch you do your nasty dance from the deadbox, only to materialize somewhere behind you.

If that were to happen, they would know your exact position. There would be nothing to stop them from returning to the scene of your sick little crime to exact a measure of vengeance in response to your poor sportsmaship.

That opponent of yours could literally march right up behind you, using his own dead form as a lure, and introduce the non-business end of his Assault Rifle to your reptilian skull. Odds are, that would smart. Odds are, that could even kill you!

OUCH! How did that happen? There you were, minding your own business – with your crotch in another man’s face – when the same exact man showed up and pistol whipped you across the back of your misshapen head.

No one wants to go out like that. That would leave any gamer feeling foolish. Wouldn’t it?

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 9

D1010 T2059 Y2008Booster Seat

Tied the Leader would like to introduce you to a baby named Hayden. There she is, all dressed up for Halloween. Hayden’s daddy is a TTL Gunslinger. That means that he has hundreds of gamers who have his back covered on Xbox Live. As it turns out, gaming clans are good for more than just boosting rank.

What’s that you ask? Why is Hayden on the cover of a magazine? That little detail, constant reader, is at the crux of our little tale. You see, Hayden won a contest. You could even say that she won an election…

Now, at TTL, we don’t traffic in politics. It’s written into the law that governs our great land. However, when Sunburned Goose told us that his daughter was a finalist in a contest named “Babies Gone Wild”, well, we just had to come to her aid. When posed with the question, it just so happens that the Halo Nation thinks that babies who come from good, solid gamer stock are the cutest.

You could go so far as to say that beauty is in the eye of the controller-holder.

In Hayden’s defense, she didn’t really need our help. Perhaps we contributed to her early momentum in primary voting, but she’s a charming young lady all by herself. She went the distance on her own power. Over 2,000,000 votes were cast to select the face that would grace the cover of the Fall Issue of Alabama Baby. Try as we might, the Tied the Leader Community would never be able to muster such numbers needed to overturn popular opinion of that magnitude. Yet, every successful candidate needs a strong base, and we were more than happy to play that role.

There is Hayden, surrounded by her campaign staff at ChicagoLANd 3.0. Any baby that can brave a LAN Party wins my vote. Ours was no cakewalk. The battle was hard fought and won. During the campaign, intelligence gathering brough to light a similar grass-roots movement that sought to support a rival baby on an Internet forum for dog-lovers.

What started out as an amusing way to pass the time between raiding parties into Halo 3 became an experiment in the power of gamer culture. Competitive spirits bloomed. The objective was painted like a target. War was declared.

When it seemed that we were contesting a battleground state, TTL activated the Good Game Network. Through our alliances, we were able to marshall honest votes from the Praetorians, the Buddies, O7AH, 8Bit Brigade, and even the Cavegirls.

Was this bias? Of course it was! All elections are decided by the bias of those who vote. Was this a misappropriation of power? Who is to say? The prospect of gaming communities inserting their influence into baby pageants is a very grey area of Election Law.

All we know is that, when all of the ballots had been cast, it was our girl who was sworn in as the face of Autumn in the Southeast.

Congratulations, Hayden. Here’s looking at you, kid. If those tiny little hands ever find their way to a controller, remember the Gunslingers that helped to make you famous…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 3

D0817 T1537 Y2008Gunslinger Plays of the Month: July

At Tied the Leader, this front page has been enjoying somewhat of a sumer vacation in recent weeks. Your friendly neighborhood gamerblogger will safeguard his pride by not asking if you had noticed.

We have been getting outside from time to time [no, really]. We are planning a LAN. And, of course, we are playing our favorite game. There is always time for that. When the green ring on the box comes alive, there will be blood.

There are times when it seems that not much more can be said about that. We have stated our case. We have chiseled our charter into what passes for stone in cyberspace. We have built our army and mustered our allies. We play the game for the opportunities it grants us to interact [either peacefully or violently] with our fellow gamers…
May the lead trade sides on several occassions throughout the match!

As gamers, the game is our stage. Here is a look back on some of our favorite plays, executed recently in the warzone lovingly maintained for us by the fighting men and women at Bungie Studios.

This assembly of highlights exists not to rub the noses of the fallen in their own blood, but to celebrate the fact that gamers are active participants in their own quest for entertainment. They are their own playmakers, their own closers, their own gold medalists.

Enjoy, as we have… Love, TTL.

p.s. Don’t miss Yours Truly at 2:15 in the timecode, executing a one-wheel reverse-endo in a Warthog – flag on board! They don’t pass out medals for that…

p.p.s. Mad props to Oboe Crazy for shining the spotlight on our better moments!

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 20

D0720 T1210 Y2008Postcards From The Deadbox

Ahhhhhhhh, man! I didn’t even see that guy. What the hell am I doing in this hallway anyway? Red Team is obviously camping out the beach because they know I want my-

Wait. Oh, shit… This guy’s gonna teabag me now?

No. Actually not. He’s just gonna sit there and glass in on my… Oh! I get it.

Yep! You got me. The gig is up. Take a screenshot after the game, it will last longer. Are you gonna message me with one of those challenges in which I am supposed to strip naked at the end of the match?


Damn! That’s just great. Real smart! Why don’t I just rush into the same hallway, only to get killed in a different corner? All the best players pull that move.

Oh, c’mon! This guy again?

Dude, go away. I know this pose with my back arched in a feline curve is hard to ignore, but go play Halo. Seriously. Did you hear that? We just took Territory 3 from you. Not interested?

You might think I was asking for this when I cowboyed back into your hiding place, but this is actually getting a little creepy. Let a man rest in peace, for crying out loud. Would you like for me to put the lotion in the basket? I am not a size 14, you know…


For Pete’s sake! Are you engaging anyone else on this team besides me? If a Gunslinger catches you poking at me with a stick, they’re gonna loan you some grenades. Now Git!

Oh, great. That’s it! Beat me around like your little doll. Go ahead, roll me over and put me in a pose. Cut my ear off and put it on a necklace, if you must. You know, any FBI Profiler would tell you that is a “problematic behavioral element”. Shouldn’t you be doing anything besides this right now? Like helping your team take Territory 2 from us on a sudden death?

C’mon… get me outta here.

3… 2… 1…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 3