D0125 T2042 Y2006Readers Poll: Firing Squad

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot…

You find yourself on your couch, jacked into Xbox Live. You and a party of your mates load-up into ranked Matchmaking for Halo2. You calculate that you have enough time for a few spirited rounds before your roommate comes home and starts stealing your precious bandwidth to look at naked people. That loser.

With a quick spin of the four combination locks, you find yourself slated for an objective game in a place called Relic. It’s not your favorite map, but a place familiar to you nonetheless. After all, you play Halo2 quite often. You are hardly a n00b. No way mister. Not you! You’re the guy who eats guests for breakfast in Team Training. Your rank has fluxuated respectably in the low-thirties for months now – not that anyone is keeping track.

The game begins. Sunlinght streams lazily through the salty air. Red armor encases your team. Lucky draw, Spartan! Defense of the sacred tower falls to you first. You get to survey the moves of the other team. You get last at bat.

Your mates go running off on their respective shopping sprees. As is common knowledge among anyone who is interested enough in this game to peruse an obscure blog, that clumsy old Warthog should be bounding up the ramp of your base any second now.

And, of course, here it comes. The metalic whine of the engine gives it away like a bull in an EB Games. Looks like a whole family of suicide pilots are on-board, too. Come and get some…

Time to pop a few grenades and score a shiny new Triple Kill Medal to add to your collection. You like medals, after all. You have lost count of how many of them you have, but it sure is fun to brag about them in the post-game lobby. You wonder what the other fellas will say as you list them off out loud. They will probably just fall silent in awe of your skills. Then maybe you can even have the last word. Oh, man; that would be sweet.

Sure enough, that ‘Hog gets just a little air off the ramp just as it passes over your ticking time bomb of plasma. An eruption of blue flame tosses the rusty old cart onto the beach like a pop-fly to left field. Beautiful. Your favorite. ‘Triple Kill’ speaks that voice, the one you hear inside your head in large crowds of people, like an old friend.

As the smoke clears and the wreckage comes to rest in the surf, the corner of your eye catches a razor of light lancing out across the bruised sky. That dead-eye sniper in your party – the one who always dashes off to wield the long barrel – calls out that he took down the other team’s sniper by the portal exit. So much for a pat on the back for your Warthog takedown. Sniper’s get all the fun.

Now… Here is the question. What is your next move? Your team is doing well. You repelled the first rush. Those guys back near the drop ship must be feeling pretty foolish right now. You are playing a good game. You and yours will probably carry the day this time; and maybe even score that rank increase you were daydreaming about at work.

Do you hunker down and wait for your worthy opponent to make their next move?

Or do you pop open that green cone of light in the basement of your keep and help yourself to the rifle that your opponent dropped at the other side of the door?

Better judgement takes a back seat to the visions of medals and headshots and Killtrocities that swirl in your head. Before you know what you are doing, you are bounding through that door. The rifle is yours. The butt is against your shoulder. The scope focuses your aim like a laser – right at the enemy spawn points.

One by one, your opponents appear like star trekkers on an away mission. One by one, they fall like toys with dead batteries as the contrail of your bullet intersects their faceplate. That old friend of yours, the announcer, is patting you on the back again. He is obviously overjoyed with the ‘Killing Spree’ upon whch you find yourself!

Now you are on fire. The beach is starting to look like a garage sale, strewn with impotent SMGs and lifeless n00b corpses. Now you are showing them! One by one, they grow back like weeds. One by one, you pick them.

You are the boss.
You are the big winner.
You are the fisherman who hunts from a barrel.
You are the fighter who kicks a man when he is down.
You are the brave soldier who executes a man tied to a pole.

Sure, you could have given these poor souls a good game – shown your fellow gamers a little sportsmanship. You suppose that, maybe, you might be ruining the experience for them. It even occurs to you that they are probably growing a little irritated with your behavior right about now – especially that one who has resorted to squatting every time he respawns.

But screw them, right? Honor and dignity are concerns for people who have no skill. Right?

The debate over spawn killing is a tough one. There are no rules against such a maneuver. You can’t get banned for it. Any military strategist would tell you that taking out the factory is the surest means of eliminating the threat of the enemy war machine.

I guess it all comes down to the difference between games [designed for enjoyment and healthy competition] and real life [which, as we all know, can be a bitch]. I don’t suspect that a discussion on the matter will change anyone’s mind on either side of the warp door.

But let’s have it anyway!

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comments 31

D0120 T0120 Y2006Readers Poll: Good Against The Living?

This post asks you the question: What is the most important element of a game? The potential answers to this question are as varied as the player icons on Xbox Live. And none of them are wrong. Here is mine…

A wise man once said: “Good against remotes? That’s one thing. Good against the living? That’s something else.”

Another wise man said: “Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it, never really care for anything else thereafter.”

The first wise man was a Captain named Solo. The second wise man was an Old Man named Hemingway. The third wise man [not quoted] brought frank~incense to cover the smell of the pipe that they were all passing.

Those two aforementioned notions cut right to the heart of a reality that is becoming more and more crucial to this gamer’s enjoyment. Living opponents are the most interesting opponents. They provide a rush that can not be matched by the sub-routines and pre-programmed behaviors of Artificial Intelligence.

Halo2 exploded the demographic of the Online Multiplayer Gamer. Prior, online gaming was still very much an exotic pastime reserved for the Elite Gamer in the know. After, online gaming became as widely accessible as fragging Elites on Installation 04. It is as thrilling as paintball, without all the mud and bodily injury. It is as ubiquitous as comic books.

After more than a year of logging-on and matching-up in Halo2, I have randomly encountered gamers that I have actually met previously on all of two occasions. Through Halo2, we hunt men – lots and lots of them. There have never been more men [and, on the rare occasion, women] to hunt.

As a result, Artificial Intelligence has become almost stale for me. The Ultra Elites that pilot the Scarab at the end of the long journey through the Metropolis of New Mombasa might as well be relegated to the same category as, well, the Ghosts of PacMan. And aren’t they?

Do they clench their teeth in surprise when I deliver a finishing blow to the backs of their oversized heads?

Do they gasp when I sneak past them into the base to which they have been posted to defend?

Do they thank me for a good game [wishful thinking, I know, but it happens occasionally online] when I win?

Will they hunt me to the end of the map when I retreat? Even when set on Legendary?

The answer to all of these questions is: “No” or “Nope” or “Nuh-uh”

For those who have come to like hunting armed men, there is no rush greater than engaging a sentient target. The prospect of gaming against a living, thinking opponent has spoiled us. Yes, yes, campaigns will always have their place in the world. Personally, I find that there is no better training for unlocking the secrets that will keep me alive for longer online. This is why I was two weeks late entering the battles on Xbox Live that Halo2 offered. Not only did I want to practice my dual-wielding on the fly, I didn’t want some loose-tongued tweener to spoil for me the story ending [or, if you absolutely insist, the lack there-of].

On the flip side, there is nothing more anti-climactic than finishing a great series of story missions, only to find that the online multiplayer component of the game is lackluster, or even nonexistent. Can you say “DOOM”? I knew that you could.

Hunting my way through armies of A.I., only to find that I have been deprived of the chance to be ‘good against the living’ leaves me less fulfilled than a great horror film in which, at the end, the monster leaves no trace of a chance for a sequel.

It’s nice to know that the story need not end. Especially when you, the gamer, are enabled with the freedom to script the next installments for yourself. Some call this “replayability”. I call it “mandatory”.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comments 9