D0714 T2105 Y2008Gunslinger Plays of the Month: JUNE

Can the Halo Nation accommodate yet another series of combat montages? The staunchest critics of machinima would say “NO!”

This gamerblogger says “Why not? Bring ‘em on!”

Capturing the more explosive events from an unscripted encounter is a celebration of the individual that plays the game. It’s a salute to the fact that, in the midst of countless explosions and confrontation, every gamer gets a chance [sooner or later] to play the role of the hero.

Creating an alternative storyline using a game engine is certainly clever, but the game is the thing at Tied the Leader. In playing the game, a gamer writes their own story – with themselves as the main character. And, they do it on the fly. Submitted for your approval, or at least three-and-a-half minutes of your viewing pleasure, we proudly present some of the more vivid moments captured by TTL Gunslingers during combat maneuvers for the month of June.

This isn’t a parade of “MLG awesome sauce”. These are the every day people that play the game for fun. And fun they have. Don’t worry. It’s not set to speed-metal.

Coming soon… JULY!

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 12

D0623 T2158 Y2008AtLANtica, Version 2.0

It has been said that you should never return to the scene of a crime. Fortunately for the TTL Gunslingers, and a few distinguished guests, that same pearl of wisdom does not hold true for LAN parties – especially when the scene in question is a beach. Thus, on Memorial Day weekend, Tied the Leader held a repeat performance of last year’s AtLANtica event.

Telling the stories engendered at a LAN party is always a tricky proposition. Photos from the scene usually end up depicting faces frozen in a mask of tactical concentration. The camera is rarely trained on the attendees when the party erupts into exaltation. The competitive electricity in the room escapes the snapshots. The tension and suspense of live competition and social camaraderie defy illustration.

Thanks to the video stylings of one Sunburned Goose, this problem is solved in living, breathing high-definition. We bid you welcome to come along with Goose on his journey. Should you crave a higher resolution of this video documentary, register for a login here, and access the Downloads menu in the lower right-hand corner.

All told, 37 attendees graced us with their presence, their gunfire, and their company. Through the execution of a [not-so] silent auction, $1,200 was raised to benefit wounded combat veterans via the Tied the Leader Foundation. It was, after all, Memorial Day!

Special thanks go out to all who provided discounted services, contributed personal funds, or donated schwag to serve as fodder on the auctioneer’s block. They include: Bungie Studios, Electronic Arts, EE Knight, Hoover AV, JINX, Microsoft, Steve Downes, Red Bull, Los Jacklos at Easton Exchange, and Venus.

This event was many things. It was a vacation. It was a tournament. It was a live assembly of the membership from a virtual social network. It was introductions among new friends and reunions among old friends. It was a fundraiser for charity. Above all else, it was a party.

Tied the Leader is a community that finds it roots in LAN Parties like this one. When we played Halo: Combat Evolved, we didn’t have Xbox Live. We didn’t have hotel meeting spaces or 40” plasmas, either. Events like this one are always a much-needed reconciliation with the truth – that we are gamers in a clan to enjoy ourselves, as well as to enjoy the company of each other.

Next stop… Chicago. For the third time. After all, if one scene is worth returning to, so is another.

To those who attended AtLANtica, 2.0: Thank you, and Good Game.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 18

D0421 T2220 Y2008U of M Gamers

With as easy as it can be to set up a tournament venue, competitive gaming need not require a ballroom and corporate sponsorship. The plug-and-play convenience of the Xbox enables any gamer to compete for the prize on the same battlefield as the pros – to taste for themselves the excitement of battling to the last in a live environment.

The following is a field report from TTL Cleanbeats, who led a party at a tournament held at an insitution of higher learning. In this combat scenario, the league commissioners were students running a social club. Like any social club, like-minded people converged around a common interest. In this social club, that common interest was laying to one another’s pixels.

We now yield the floor to a sitting Morale Sergeant in the ranks of the TTL Gunslingers. That’s him on the right, adorned in Officially Licensed TTL Schwag, OoRah!

On April 12th, 2008, the University of Michigan Video Gamers Club hosted a Halo 3 tournament on the campus of U of M Flint.

The occasion brought together seven Halo 3 teams from around the area for a day of Halo 3 LAN madness. Tied the Leader was able to assemble a team of 3 Gunslingers and one TTL Ally to bring the “Good Game” attitude to some face to face gaming.

Representing Tied the Leader was: [from L to R]
VVilly, TTL Fenix, TTL Cleanbeats, and TTL Chicka.

The teams in attendance were: Calamitous Intent, Shazam, Halo Ph33ns, F3AR, Rod Squad, “The 6th team” and Tied the Leader. “The 6th team” had a very tasteless name that I won’t subject you the readers to. It would be even worse if I listed their tags, so I won’t.

The stage was set for a point system bracket, each team earning points and moving to the appropriate next round of play. The system was set up really well, and teams were able to play a couple matches and fight back in to the mix. The game types used were the ever popular MLG settings which translated in to some very intense and very dominating games.

2 stations were set up to allow two matches to be played at the same time. Station #1 comprised of two plasma TVs with each team playing four person split screen. It actually wasn’t that bad, the screens were big enough that you still got a good viewing area for each player. Station#2 was the optimum tournament set up. Eight TVs, allowing each player their own station, set up back to back. Each match alternated back and forth between split screen and station gaming.

When everything was said and done Shazam and Rod Squad were the 2 teams left standing and had to battle it out for the championship match. Both teams fought hard, but Shazam was able to come out in top and take the final match. Congrats to Shazam and all of the rest of the teams for a great day of Halo.

Thanks go out to the U of M Flint Video gamers Club for hosting such a great event. I hope to see many more of these in the future. So until next time, go play Halo!!!!!!!!!


Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 7

D0407 T2031 Y2008Open Letter to Lukems

On Wednesday, three TTL Gunslingers and an armed escort from the Midworld Embassy entered Halo3 through the doors built into Xbox Live. They sought to try their Battle Rifle hands in the new MLG Playlist. Matchmaking was their dealer.

Imagine our surprise when we woke up on Friday morning, only to find that we had been handily trounced in Round Two of a Humpday Challenge fought by Bungie Studios. Master Luke had made it a family affair, with MLG Anakin on ride-along duty flanking Shishka and New0001.

What was likely to be a match-up against Major League Gamers turned into a flash inspection by their League Commissioner and the people who built the game.

It was as if they knew were coming…

Dear Lukems,

Whelp! You whupped us. Fair and square. Good game! We extend to you a ceremonial Katana and a wood-handled Peacemaker revolver in defeat. Our only regret is that we monopolized another chance for you to meet the people who play your game, to see if they play it well. When a worthy opponent claims a good game, our mission is accomplished.

Beware, Halo Nation. Assume that the maker is on the prowl in matchmaking around every corner. The test may come at a moment that is not of your choosing, but be tested you may. They pack the gear, they know where you spawn, and their killer app will be quite operational when your friends arrive…

-screenshot “courtesy” of BeastlyStoll

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Rebel Scum 5

D0324 T2308 Y2008SWAT THIS!

So… Did you all play SWAT? Yeah? Have a good time, did you?

Well, I certainly hope you got it out of your system.

Pardon me while I step well outside the circle of the popular majority here. Please excuse this purely selfish [and self-deprecating] analysis of the gamtype that permeated our weekend. Halo Gamers just LOVE their SWAT. Whenever Bungie opens a channel for feedback from their fanbase, it’s one of the most resounding themes that can be plucked from the deafening roar.

“Bring back SWAT!”
“We want more SWAT!”
“When are we gonna see SWAT in Halo 3?”

For this gamer, it’s a one-way express lane to my Achilles Heel – and Hell. Call me a shield whore. Tell me I am n00b. Criticize me for not being a true shooter. Go ahead. I can take it. After all, my skin is thicker in the real world than it is in SWAT.

Why do I hate SWAT?

[1] I don’t shoot at people’s heads. Video game lore has hyper-inflated the feat of the headshot. It’s a risky tactic in a combat scenario. When I take aim at an opponent, I deal my lead at the body. Those little heads are just such hard targets. Plus, we work so hard to earn these fancy helmets. Why are we always trying to wreck them with gunfire? I would rather put a round through the heart than the brain. It’s easier to clean out of my carpet.

[2] I really like to enjoy the luxury of a moment to know who is shooting at me before I am dead. Laugh if you must, but I am that gamer that you have killed while he was trying to run around a corner. When I play SWAT, I am very often dead where I stand on a respawn. Did I mention that this was a selfish analysis? If you are jealous, go start your own blog, yo. The Halo Nation can take a few more.

[3] The Master Chief is supposed to have shields. He underwent a crippling training regimen and a risky surgical procedure to fit into that suit. A rechargeable shield is just one of the perks. Yet, ever since LAN parties for ‘Halo: Combat Evolved’ people have been conspiring over smoke breaks to strip the poor guy of all his fancy toys. Never mind all of the research and development that went into the motion tracker. “Let’s turn it off and see what happens.” You Evil Evil Bastards!

SWAT is supposed to mean Special Weapons And Tactics. It is not supposed to mean Naked Slayer – which is what it should be called in Halo 3. In the Haloverse, the notion of SWAT points more toward the device you use to kill flies, or Warthog Pilots. The essence of SWAT combat is the presence of MORE toys, not less. When cops get dressed in SWAT gear, you know what they get?

You guessed it. Shields. They get friggin’ shields! But you Battle Rifle knuckleheads just want to ventilate a bunch of targets with all of the protection that tin-foil affords. Well here is one gamer who silently cheered that your weekend got cut short! So there…

This whole weekend, all I saw on my Friends List was Gunslingers partied off four-by-four. “C’mon, DeeJ” they would say. “We’re gonna play SWAT!” So I sucked it up and gave it the old college try. I didn’t even want the double experience points. All that will accomplish is putting those annoying gold bars under my rank icon, forcing me to confront my demons in Team Slayer again. The last time I let myself get tricked into giving a crap about that, I ruined a game night and made a Gunslinger cry.

Moral to the story? Bungie hates me. But I guess they love you…

And, you hate me too.

So I hate you as well, and I am taking my Oddball, and I am going home.

Do you see the evil that is engendered by SWAT?

Shut up.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Fly Swatters 15

D0218 T2244 Y2008An Invitation to the Gun Show

Since the launch of Halo 3, the gaming community that provides editorial fodder for this gamerblogger has been doing what they do best. I am talking, of course, about the Gunslingers. When am I ever NOT talking about the Gunslingers? For a long time now, this column about gamer culture has been their spotlight.

And what do the Gunslingers do best? They run a damn fine challenge. Be it Humpday, or any day, an arranged meeting between two teams of gamers is the finest application of the TTL Mission. All of our talk about a good game would be rather empty if we didn’t have the chance to share it with other websites that unified quality gamers into battle clans.

An entire staff of Challenge Captains are backed by dozens of able-avatared Gunslingers who are at the ready to host an evening of your preferred variety of combat. You pick a match. We pick a match. Each team walks the course. Plans of attack are hatched, rehearsed, stress-tested, and re-engineered. Defensive grids are plotted. Offensive rushes are mapped. Slayer strongholds are staked out.

The random chaos of Matchmaking is a gift. Night after night, we thrive on meeting new and [potentially] interesting people, and killing them. Yet, taking matchmaking into one’s own hands offers its own special reward. The chance to know one’s opponent in advance adds tension to the match-up. When two clans converge on one game, a healthy rivalry stokes the flames of adrenaline.

When the contest is over, and the fog clears, another staff of Content Managers insure that the telling of the tale finds its way onto the pages of our clan site. Whether we win, lose, or tie the leader; the results of the clash are entered into record. The purpose that drives this sequence of bloody events is not to exercise bragging rights, but to honor the clans who went out of their way to bring us a good game.

Since Halo 3 opened up its new environments to our bloodlust, here are some of the brave gamers who have sought us out in an arranged evening of simulated warfare. We serve them up as the sort of gamers that you should take on for yourselves, assuming you have taken us on first…

O7AH [a longtime ally and opponent] clashed against us in a recreational battle of wits.

OCR [Outcast Reborn] sharpened their knives and brought their ever-competitive spirit against us.

PraetoriaGuard [Lord Gideon and the webring sentries] took a break from their defense of Rome to tie the leader – quite literally, in fact.

2old2play [one of many] came to gamble their social secutiy checks in a clash between fully-grown adults playing a game of make-believe.

Le Medioctrity disarmed the Gunslingers with their charms in an invitation to disaster.

Halo 3 Junk set aside their tireless campaign of statistical analysis to thump heads with some people on their leaderboards.

8 Bit Brigade evolved into hi-def to claim the prize as our first challengers in Halo 3.

To the challengers who have come, we say thankya. To the challengers that remain, we say “Get thee to MidWorld!”. Assemble a flock of your finest assassins, and set a meeting…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Challengers 6

D0201 T2307 Y2008General Store

You sign onto Halo 3. The little white dots spin round and round, and the cold blue of the interface fills your screen like hydrogen-injected ice. The rumor is true. BTB has become a ranked contest. You grab as many gamers as are on your friends list and jump in there.

What lot does the matchmaking service cast you?

Holy Crap!

You’ve been playing Halo 3 since it launched – and before, with a former version of code. You ain’t never seen that many Generals at once ever before in your life.

And birds, too. Lest we forget that birds are dangerous, too.

What do you do?

I’m sorry to say that you lose, partner. You lose ugly.

At least I did. Seeing Big Team Battle go ranked was a shock to the system. When the competitive gamer joined us in the waterpark that was Valhalla, it was hell and flood.

Allow this gamerblogger an absolution before you start hating on me for taking combat-ready teams into social playlists. I need Big Team Battle. This SPARTAN can’t play Halo without regular cavalry charges in the Warthog. Correct me if I am wrong, but you don’t get that in Double Team.

When you throw a party, you aim to have an ass in every seat that the venue allows. When I play Halo, I want a good, old-fashioned shit-kicker of a brawl. I have wanted that party ranked. I have asked – point blank – for it to be ranked.

When the party got ranked, my little joyride was over. I can assure you that I got exactly what was coming to me. I passed out some Steak. I got around to eating some o’ my own, mind you. But I had to skulk back to my own forum [like a Patriot does] to lick my wounds.

That was the best part. When I got there, everyone was talking about the game again. A bunch of punch-drunk Gunslingers were shaking off a string of heartbreak matches. The YouTube media bee silenced, and the War Room was abuzz again.

We even drew some guns back from the front lines of Call of Duty. Saturday night saw a Friends List swell reminiscant of launch for Halo 3.

It was an interesting reminder. You only learn how to play the game better if you are losing. Winning is never fun when it involves rolling some unsuspecting house-guests who are trying the game for the first time on a friend’s couch. If you are not learning something new doing a thing, that thing becomes boring. Rote. Routine.

The new challenge is what stokes replayability of a multiplayer title like Halo 3. If there is no new horizon to tackle, the eager problem-solving minds that hold a team together will migrate to new shores.

The best way to bring them home to the Halo Nation is to shuffle the deck from time to time.

Thanks, Bungie.

p.s. To those houseguests that we rolled, keep playing the game. BTB Social is yours, unless it’s really late on a Friday. At that point in time, you probably won’t care anyway.

p.s.s. To those Generals that took us out to the woodshed, we did not waste money on matching names. All we did was lose. It happens sometimes, even if you are playing a good game.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 4

D0115 T1745 Y2008TTL Overlords' Day of Fun!

Last evening, the Overlord High Council of the TTL Gunslingers convened in a pregame lobby for Halo 3 on Xbox Live.

“Overlords?” you say, “There are no Overlords in Halo 3.” While this may be true in theory, it is still a role that we practice in our community. Bungie taught us how to form into clans with their sophomore offering. It was up to us to carry those lessons into other games. Having successfully migrated the Gunslingers to the upgraded battlefields of Halo 3, the job of an Overlord is still very much the same.

“Who are these people?” you ask. They are a cadre of 8 gamers, no different than you. Over two years ago, they formed an alliance to fight the good fight in a good game. Since then, they have presided over the induction of every gamer who has worn the ceremonial gunbelts that signify membership in the official clan of Tied the Leader. Some of these Gunslingers have come and gone. Most of them have remained since their first game. At the time of posting this article, there were 119 Gunslingers in the Katet.

By and large, the ranks of the council are very much the same as that first night when they started a clan using the tools built into Halo 2. One of them was added since then, and appointed as the recruitment lead. There are others – wayward, fallen, or retired Overlords. One, we do not speak of… The other, we speak to every day. On this night, the 8 serving Overlords set aside questions about clan politics, and united for a day of fun!

First, we warmed up with a race. Gunslingers love a good race. In a race, everyone is a VIP. If anyone cares, Pachango won this bout. It doesn’t count though, because the map has to be fixed in Forge before we can use it as a track for a tournament.

Then, we sortied ourselves into Big Team Battle. Having exactly 8 Overlords makes Big Team Battle perfect for refreshing the bond that has kept us on each other’s Friends Lists through years of good and bad games. The only problem is that, sometimes, Big Team Battle splits a big team into two smaller teams.

This is what happened to Dweezle in a match of Team Slayer “Covies”. Seeing as though we are all friends, we called a “Turkey Shoot” on his ass, designating him as our primary target. Nothing communicates the warm feelings of friendship like ganging up on someone.

The problem is… Dweezle is deceptively skilled at the controls of a Ghost, and he happily led us on a chase. His teammates stopped fighting and jeered at him, saying things like “Awwww, dog! You so dead!!!”

Then, one of Dweezle’s [temporary] teammates invited him to drive past his Wraith. We were all really surprised when we rounded a corner and were fed a volley of hot plasma.

We thought he might get away, but all good chases must come to an end, especially when Wheels steps out from behind cover and shoots you in the back of your head.

To finish off the night, we all changed into our secret super hero outfits. They are striking similar to our regular outfits, just more colorful. Then, we performed a ritual of dark magic to summon all of the souls of the Gunslingers who had disappeared from our active roster. That is from where an Overlord draws his power.

Once the ritual is complete, we can fly. Being able to fly is the best part of being an Overlord at Tied the Leader. Sometimes, we will spend hours upon hours just flying around a map and waving to each other. Oh, how we laugh!

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 5

D1210 T2040 Y2007All of the Game is a Stage

At Tied the Leader, we love sharing screenshots. Tucked away amidst the various war rooms in our sprawling forum, there lives a board dedicated to sharing pics and war stories. With the tools that Bungie makes available to us, gaming can be a form of performance art as much as a competitive pastime. Every gamer becomes their own personal one-[wo]man press corps.

At the controls of Halo 3, a gamer writes their own story. They can be the Hero or the Villain. They can be the victor or the victim. The word “play” is a double-edged sword. You play the game, of course. You also play a role on a stage that is easily shared with anyone who will look.

Case in point: Several nights ago, this gamer loaded into Matchmaking via Xbox Live. Five Gunslingers. Simple math led to a foray into Social Skirmish. When it can be avoided, we don’t leave open slots on our team. If you care enough about online gaming to read this blog, you likely know why.

Among my teammates was one TTL Balzy. At first glance, he is a member of TTL’s official gaming clan. One of the Gunslingers. One from Many, and all that rot. On the MidWorld forum, he is the Captain of the Dead Eye Association. Balzy is our top gun with the long barrel – leader of a combat squad of sharpshooters. It’s a role he earned. It’s a role he plays. It adds flair to his gaming experience.

On the night in question, we were entreated by the random chaos of the matchmaking engine to play Shotty Snipers. As is the usual, we chose to exercise our Executive Authority… “VETO!”

Our Sniper Captain abstained from the vote. He wanted his SRS99D-S2 AM! Unfortunately, for him, Democracy ruled against his favor.

Instead, we drew the lot of Team Rockets on Valhalla. Much better! With a briefly grunted rebuke, Balzy set out to introduce his opponents to some explosives fired from the double barrel of his boomstick.

This bloggergamer is not a sniper. Far from it! My role is in the ranks of the Roadkill Squadron. To a Gunslinger, that means that I pilot the Warthog, or anything else that splatters. To the uninformed, that means that I take my gaming way to seriously – only they would be missing the point.

In keeping with my particular fashion, I jumped onto a Mongoose. Why not? Sure, that makes me a rocket magnet – albeit a fast one – but it’s Social Skirmish. It’s a game variant built for recreational antics.

“I’m going along for the ride” called Balzy as he assumed the “brokeback” position. I was glad to hear it. He spends too much time sitting in sniper perches. I am always telling him to get outside and go for a ride. Plus, this Roadkill Pilot loves giving a piggy-back ride to a sniper. Usually, it’s on a Warthog, but our family car met with a smoldering end at the outset of the game. Did I mention the rocket magnets?

As XerxdeeJ and Captain Balzy entered the field, here is what ensued. The following events take place between 1:08 and 1:10 on the game clock.

As we stuck the landing I was yelling “Did you make that SHOT?”

My rear-gunner shouted “Put THAT in your blog!”

Perhaps you had to be there, but I laughed until we were met with our retribution. That’s the great thing about “balanced gameplay”. Sooner or later, everyone gets to be the hero.

To whomever it was in that creek bed, we say “Good Game”. We aren’t having fun at your expense. We are just having fun.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 5

D1208 T2133 Y2007Mediocre? Beware!!!

Attention Halo Nation. It is my most somber duty to inform you of a veiled threat in our midst. A phantom menace, if you will.

They call themselves Le Mediocrity. During the mad dash to Halo 3, they were able to migrate an entire clan with success – a feat that bested dozens of communities of gamers. Throughout their travels, they even found time to introduce themselves using machinima.

Charming aren’t they? Beware that charm, ye who games. It is their most cunning weapon. You are looking at the only clan – to date – that has defeated the TTL Gunslingers in a custom clan challenge for Halo 3 [not that we are keeping track or anything].

Le Mediocrity, thy name is a ruse!

With a Trojan Horse of humor and humility, they lured us into a false sense of pride. Hidden within the language of their challenge was a seduction into catastrophe. Were they to be believed, TTL was the tyranical lion to their lovable kitten of a community.

We fell for it – hook, line, and sniper rifle. We fielded our nicest, most fun-loving players. We chose forgery games with silly names like “Junkyard” and “Spikeball”.

And we got smoked. We were the hams in their locker. We were the tobacco in their pipe.

Keep an eye out for this clan. They are too nice for their own good. The Gunslingers said that they had a marvelous time facing off against this crew. I know better. I was not there to be manipulated by kind words and empty flattery. This community leader will not be fooled again.

After all, you can’t enjoy a game that you don’t win.

I mean, can you?

Le Mediocrity trolls the environs of Xbox Live. Beware! They are likely coming for all of us! One at a time…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 5