Archive for May, 2009

What is Hideo Kojima doing?

Hideo Kojima, the creator of my much beloved Metal Gear series, has a countdown timer running on his website. The timer counts down to tomorrow at 3pm, and I really have no idea what it is all about. This timer is a flash animation of a field with heavy rain. Random letters periodically flash up, and two pictures will come up as well.

When I first went to the timer, it was just what looked like Big Boss circa 1980. I say “looked like” because, with the cloning and all, you can never be completely sure. The eyepatch is a pretty good indicator that it must be Big Boss, though – Solid Snake didn’t lose an eye at that age and Solidus Snake is missing the other eye.

So, at first, I suspected this was a game that featured Big Boss sometime after Portable Ops and before Metal Gear – a PS3 follow up to Portable Ops is what I really hoped for, featuring his early exploits with Outer Heaven.

Then, Kojima threw it all into disarray by adding the second picture – Raiden, wearing the Cyborg Ninja suit. He didn’t get this suit until after Metal Gear Solid 2′s Big Shell portion, which was in 2009.

So now we have two very different eras shown – when Big Boss looked as he looks in the picture, Raiden was just a kid. When Raiden gets the Cyborg Ninja outfit, Big Boss has already been killed by Solid Snake.

I’ll just have to wait and see what Kojima plans to do. It might be multiple games, or it might be one game that has a very long timeline, where each chapter is part of a different incident that is years apart from the other chapters.

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This is not a Team Fortress 2 blog

This blog has now been running for one month, and I want to look back on that month a bit and talk about what this blog is and where it is going. In the past month, I have written 34 posts, of which 25 were tagged ‘team fortress 2′. That’s a pretty high ratio, but that is just because of timing. This blog is just the rantings of a gamer / programmer, and it happens to be that during this month, Team Fortress 2 has been my game of choice. A few coworkers and I are avid players, and even record a weekly podcast called Jarate Sandvich, but the four of us are all gamers who move from game to game frequently.

In the past week, I haven’t posted much, because I haven’t been doing too much gaming. I’ve been a bit busy lately, but when I have been gaming, it’s been Sim City 4 more often than not. I’ve been a huge Sim City fan since Sim City 2000, and I think Sim City 4 was the peak of the series and is still an incredibly fun game. I’m currently playing World of Warcraft (it’s running in the background as I type this), and I’ve had an itch to get back into Disgaea 3 lately. As I play those games, I will talk about them; I’m going to do a post fairly soon about the completely unneeded vehicle missions in Sim City 4.

Team Fortress 2 is a game that I will be coming back to for years to come, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It took that position from Starcraft, although Starcraft II might just take that position back in a few months. I try to just talk about whatever is on my mind, and thanks to WordPress’ tagging system, you can always just keep up with certain subsets of my habits. If you just want the gaming news, and don’t care when I go on a rant about Subversion or Object Oriented Programming, then just follow the gaming category. Likewise, you can narrow the focus further to just posts tagged team fortress 2, way of the spy, or even just when I mention engineers. WordPress is a great blogging system, and I try to tag my posts as well as I can to make it easy to sift through all of my writing.

I plan to continue doing my Way of the Spy posts, although even within Team Fortress 2, I haven’t been playing Spy much lately. I don’t know how often I’ll do a Way of the Spy series, but I will have similar sets of posts for everything that I am interested in. There is no formal structure to this blog, so I can’t guarantee that any of these will be permanent.

In the past month, I’ve gotten more traffic than I expected for the first month on this blog. I really didn’t expect much more than myself, spiders, and a few friends. I’m proud of what I’ve done here and I want to keep it up and really get this project in motion, so please stick around, add me to your RSS feed reader, and I welcome any comments to any of the posts (except spam!).

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Ambush on arena_nucleus

Last night, I participated in recording Jarate Sandvich #6 and we discussed the new maps, and one thing that we discussed was using the health pack on arena_nucleus as an ambush point. Unlike most arena maps, arena_nucleus contains a large health pack, located on a small platform in the bottom middle of the map. This can be accessed through 2 ramps that come from the inner ring, or a Scout can double jump down onto this railing. The great thing about the position of the ramps is that neither ramp provides a clear view of the health pack, which lends itself to a great ambush point.

Some classes ambush better than others, and in all situations, you are leaving yourself open to snipers/spies taking you out as you wait for prey, but a large health pack on an arena match is a rare goodie that will lure players. It’s not a good ambush spot from the very start, however, as most people won’t bee-line for the health pack.

Scout – Use Force-A-Nature at this spot. Wait on the health pack, and blast incoming enemies into the pit.

Soldier – If you can lead and time well, you can get onto the inner ring and fire at the health pack or ramps as people make their approach. A well placed rocket can even launch an enemy into the pit.

Pyro – Use compression blast to knock enemies into the pit, or just set them on fire. Make sure to take a  hit as you do this, so you can grab the health pack as you backpeddle around the other side, robbing them of the health pack that they clearly were interested in.

Demoman – Use stickies, launched from the inner ring, and wait for prey to circle the corner. If you are particularly accurate, you can land them on the health pack, which will almost completely disguise them. If you aren’t that accurate, make sure to get them near the health pack, so an enemy won’t see them until it’s almost too late.

Heavy – Stand on the health pack and spool up. You are loud and someone may hear you as they come in, but at that range, they are going down fast. Plus, you’ve got a health pack to rely on once you get hit.

Engineer – This one is tricky to do, but so incredibly worth it – set up a sentry on the health pack, incoming targets won’t have a chance to react. If they get gunned down, you can grab their weapons for metal to upgrade.

Medic – Ambushing? On an arena match? Unless you’re the last player on your team, you should be healing, not ambushing. If you are the last player left, this is a hard spot to ambush as a medic, but you can do it. Just wait on the health pack for incoming targets. If you have the blutsauger equipped, you can defend it nicely. But if you’re the last player, they might just avoid you and capture the point.

Sniper – Wait on the inner ring and fire at targets as they move across the ramps. It’s narrow and long, so leading the target is fairly easy.

Spy – Use Cloak and Dagger to wait in a position that lets you see which direction the enemy is going. Circle behind, uncloak and stab. It takes some good timing against a non-Soldier/Heavy, but it’s fully possible.

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Watch the control point icons!

I was in spectator mode on an arena_sawmill match earlier tonight, and I wish I would’ve gotten a screenshot of this incident, but I think I can adequetely describe what I saw:

The action was around the control point, after the 60 second timer had expired. This means the control point is active and can be taken. There was a RED Engineer nearby building a small nest and a BLU Spy, disguised as a RED Pyro, running around on the control point. The RED Engineer never took a shot at the BLU Spy, and was actually backstabbed about 30 seconds later by the same Spy. A little observation on the part of the RED Engineer would’ve given away the Spy’s presence – the control point indicator never changed.

On control point (cp), territory control (tc) and arena matches, there are control points that one team can capture by standing on this point. Each player is worth 1 point (except Scouts, who are worth 2), and the more points a team has on a control point, the faster it is captured. The same principle applies to payload (pl) and payload race (plr) match types, just replace the control point with a moving cart.

The only people who cannot capture points are Spies disguised as the enemy. So this BLU Spy disguised as a RED Pyro is unable to capture the point. Thus, the control point icon remained grey and unmoving. If it were a real RED Pyro on that point, it would change to say “1x” and would begin to be captured by RED. All the RED Engineer needed to do was glance at the control point icon and notice that this “RED Pyro” is not activating the control point – instant giveaway.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. If there are 5 teammates running around a control point, occasionally stepping on and off as they check the area around them, then it is very hard to notice that 1 of them is not properly activating it. On the other hand, if there is just one player, it’s really easy to spot.

This kind of indicators are subtle clues for an observant spy checker.

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That had to hurt!

The nwe Huntsman bow is capable of leaving an arrow in its target upon impact. While this has no effect on the game and is purely aesthetic, it can sometimes be quite funny. This is a shot I took while spectating in arena_nucleus after I had died. The Sniper who did that should be proud of his work, even if he did die anyway. This Heavy was on my team, and my team ended up winning.

Ouch!

Ouch!

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Milestones still work in Team Fortress 2

I was playing plr_pipeline in a 1v1 match against Will last night, and I got the Gun Down achievement for killing his sentry with only my pistol as a Scout, and this was my 10th Scout achievement. This gave me Scout Milestone 1 and the Force-A-Nature scattergun. So, if anyone is wondering if this recent update not only stops using milestones, but also invalidates previous milestones – previous milestones can still be used to unlock weapons.

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Helping Engineers during setup

Earlier today, I played with someone who made a really good point about the 60 second setup phase during cp matches – why not help the Engineer when you’re sitting around?

If you are on offense and not playing as an Engineer, you can switch to Engineer, upgrade his buildings, and then run back and switch to your real class at the last second. On a 12 man team, if you have 2 permanent Engineers and 10 temp engineers, you can guarantee a pair of level 3 buildings when the gate opens. All the engineer has to worry about is setting up buildings, and the rest of the team upgrades. By the 45 second mark, every building is maxed out, and that last 15 seconds, everyone runs back into spawn, changes class, and waits the last bit before the match starts.

On defense, you lose some time due to the distance from your spawn to the front gates, but you can still help. In that same team, the 2 Engineers drop teleporter entrances, then run to the front lines. The rest of the team upgrades those entrances to level 3 while the engineer focuses on his dispenser and sentry. Once the entrances are at level 3, everyone changes back to their real class and either runs to the front, or uses the now level 3 teleporters to port up there. You can even have a few other players go along as Engineer to help upgrade those buildings, and upon death, switch class. That second scenario is a bit risky, since you’d lose a few good defenders for the sake of some defensive buildings, but it can still be useful.

You just don’t worry about making any buildings unless you plan to stick as Engineer. Everyone else just focuses on upgrading. The Engineer only spends metal to make buildings, thus allowing him to make more buildings during setup.

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Sniper vs Spy update, first round of thoughts

The update has been out for a little more than a day now, so I’ll throw out my first set of thoughts…

The New Weapons

I can’t speak on them, at all. Not only have I unlocked nothing, I’ve very rarely seen them in game. There appears to be a bug regarding the weapon distribution, and Valve is addressing it. Until this is fixed and I can experience the weapons, I can’t say much. I did watch a Sniper with the Huntsman fight an Engineer, and the Huntsman didn’t look that good at mid range combat. The Sniper may have just been a bad shot, though.

The New Achievements

I’ve gotten a handful of achievements, but nothing too fantastic. They fit the classes nicely, and without the milestones, there is no desire to farm. I like the no farming, because it makes the achievements more legit when I unlock them. I didn’t just stand infront of a supply cabinet shooting the minigun until I fired $200,000 worth of ammo, just to get an achievement. So if you see that I unlocked something impressive, be impressed, because if I’m only earning bragging rights, you can be assured I will earn those bragging rights.

The New Maps

arena_sawmill is very fun, and the rain doesn’t seem to have any effect on the mechanics of the pyro’s flamethrower or the visibility of a cloaked spy. I was a bit concerned there about the spy cloak, since moving in and out of water causes a noticeable dripping effect while cloaked.

arena_nucleus is a hard to find map. I’ve still not actually managed to play it, but I did float around and check out the scenery. Looks nice, but we’ll have to wait to see how it plays.

pl_hoodoo came as a surprise, and I’ve not entered a server running it, so I have nothing to say.

plr_pipeline is the one I have played the most. I like that map quite a bit, but I don’t see a huge benefit to the headstarts provided by winning the heats, especially with the angled ramps that immediately slide the cart back once it’s left alone. It seems like no matter who wins heat one and heat two, heat three is anybody’s game.

Conclusion

All in all, I still can’t comment much. The new weapons is the big deal, but until Valve patches the drop rate, I can’t speak on them. Hopefully they’ll patch it shortly!

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If you are going to complain about what class I play, go play a comp server

The Sniper vs Spy update is out, which leads to a huge influx of spies. I play spy a lot, so I am now just one of many on most servers. When there are this many of one class on a team, you will inevitably get the players complaining about team balance and ordering others to switch to a new class.

All I have to say to that is – if you want everyone to be at the top of their game, on the class they do best, with no attempts to learn a new class, leave the public servers.

These updates are a great time for people to try classes they haven’t hardly used. When the Scout update came out, there was a huge boost in the Scout population. Many people who had never before played Scout gave Scout a shot and learned the ropes. After the update was over, there were far more competent Scouts than prior to that. The pub servers are about having fun and playing the game. You go to new maps, get lost, run into obvious engie traps, play new classes and spend your time learning and enjoying.

If you take this game seriously enough to whine about other players wanting to learn a new class and wanting to enjoy the full breadth of the game, go to the comp servers. If you are truly bothered that the entire team does not see this as serious business, then leave the public servers. The comp servers are for those who aren’t learning and experimenting. The comp servers are for those hardcore players who have to be on top of their game at every second. Leave the pub servers for those who want to have fun. If you don’t enjoy it, I don’t care.

For the record, the player that set this rant off was a heavy who was ranked #1 on my team, and our team won every match. We weren’t losing due to a large number of inept snipers / spies, so his night wasn’t ruined by a bad, imbalanced team.

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Unlocking weapons after the Spy vs. Sniper update

Yesterday, Valve released the latest Team Fortress 2 update – Spy vs. Sniper, and with this update, they changed how weapons are unlocked. Unlike the old days, where you unlocked weapons by getting achievements, the new system appears to be semi-random. I was only unable to unlock one weapon during my play time since the update – the Axtinguisher. This is quite odd, as I already have more than enough Pyro achievements to have gotten that weapon long ago – afterall, Pyro was my first love.

While playing last night, I got the Axtinguisher upon dying as a Spy. I was playing plr_pipeline, got a few backstabs (although I don’t believe one was against a Pyro, as a Spy, I naturally avoid them), and when I was killed, I got a popup saying I had unlocked the Axtinguisher. Will, from the Jarate Sandvich podcast, unlocked the Flare Gun through a similar situation, but he also told me that he saw someone unlock a weapon while in spectator mode.

Valve has not really given much information on how these new weapons are unlocked, and only said that they want to get away from the grinding system of the achievements. During my play time, it appears as though weapons are dropped when killing an enemy. That is to say, I may have picked up an Axtinguisher on the ground when a Pyro was killed while wielding one. I wouldn’t have to kill the Pyro, and as a Spy, I already home in one dropped weapons to recharge my cloak… but this doesn’t explain the spectator unlocking a weapon.

I will update this as soon as I know more, and hopefully Valve will release that information soon.

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