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Junior_AIN Blog

Maybe simplifying is best

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There's one thing I distinctly remember about Gamespot. I used to visit the website around 2004-2005, if I remember correctly, as any casual visitor would have. My interest was casualistic at the most, I searched for games, watched videos to check gameplay, eventually checked the forum, though rarely. Around 2006 I decided to register and rate games I had played at the time so I could keep track. I had an IGN list where I cataloged my collection and made brief observations about each item.

When I registered I noticed something weird, I couldn't rate games 0.1 apart, only 0.5. To me a game that I wanted to hand out a 9.6 and 9.9 was very different and nuanced than giving them 10 and 9.5 and calling it a day. The bugged me for quite a while, one of the main reasons I wanted to register was because I enjoyed the old measure method they used, with the colors ranging from red to green I believe, meaning from bad to good.

It may sound silly but I was very fond of that system and strangely enough they changed it to 0.5 variants about the time I registered. At that time an avalanche of rant came down to them at the forums and of course I joined in with the crowd that wanted the old system back. I wanted to be specific, each game would have its individual precisely thought rate.

I got used to the new method but did not like it one bit. Just recently--about a year ago perhaps?--I realized the new system wasn't so bad. Why the heck would I want such a precise system if the very aspect of rating games is absolutely subjective? I mean, do I really have any idea why I'm rating a game 8.7 while another one I give 8.6? Maybe if you actively compare them and decide which one is better by a small difference would make sense, but in the big picture you can't simply compare every game and be glad with the result.

With the creation of Giant Bomb I was surprised they chose the 5-star rating for their reviews, such a limited system of scrutinizing anything. When you leave aside the world of possibilities that an intricate group of words can possess it's natural one might feel that way. Still, I was used to the 0.5 gap Gamespot had implemented and started to actually think 0.1 gaps would be overkill.

Still, a few days ago I was listening to a commentary on video-games and the commentator happened to cite reviews. He happens to review games without a numbered perspective, his video-reviews, and he only makes them in video form, are the only source of information someone can acquire from him about games. When he started talking about how reviews are bad for the industry he mentioned Metacritic and how twisted their system seems to be, where a Giant Bomb review of 4-stars is represented as an 80% in conversion.

If you think Giant Bomb understand their current rating system as a 5-star game being an incredibly superior gaming experience and a 4-stars being a great game then I can understand how a 10 on Gamespot would mean a much greater gap between an 8 kind of game on the same website. Many would consider 5 and 4 stars games deserving of a chance with them whereas an 8 game might go unnoticed for a Gamespot user as sub-par.

Jim Sterling, one of my favorite gaming journalists, is known for being much more judgmental about game scores. It's something people say often over at Destructoid that "a 7 from Sterling is not the same as a 7 from Gamespot and definitely not the same as a 7 from IGN". IGN is perhaps even more emblematic in this case, where a 7 would be their 1 (or 0) and while Gamespot seemed to place their 1 (or 0) somewhere around a 5. Jim Sterling is known for using the full scale.

Completely desastroud games like Big Rigs would get the lowest score available in any website,we're talking average gaming here. In that case the 5-star rating doesn't sound so bad, you take off much of the weigh of a number, something we're "accustomed" or, as I'd preferably put it, addicted. I grew fonder and fonder of a simpler scale for rating games.

I can honestly say that I cared much less about the new Gamespot change that came with the re-design of the website than I did in 2006, in fact, I kind of like the new system, as I would if they wanted to follow Giant Bomb's footsteps and implement a 5-scaled system. As much as I would understand a thumbs-up/thumbs-down system as well. In fact, right now, I wouldn't care at all if they removed the number-based scores since we can never be sure that they fully represent what's being said in words.

Best online multiplayer experience yet

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If someone asks me whether I like or not multiplayer games over the internet I would probably say no. Games have always been a single player experience only, I hardly ever could gather at least two people that were on the same level of skill on a game to play it locally, so now online multiplayer is pretty secondary for me.

I do enjoy some online multiplayer games but I'm never part of a community or socialize with anyone. primarily because I don't really know them and second because I don't really care. I play, you play, we move on. Fine by me.

It's hard when I come across an online multiplayer experience that really takes it to a whole new level. It's means that I can't think of a game that has a similar system, or a system that works as well as this one. The game I'm talking about is Burnout Paradise.

I recently started to re-play it because I wanted to test it on my new computer and since it was installed, running and with my old safe files lost due to hardware failure, why not go through it again? It all starts very casually, I turn it on to test the computer, redo some races, next thing I see I'm trying to improve my virtual driving license looking forward to the next gameplay session. Joyful moments when a game is played simply because you want not only because you don't have anything else to do or feel like you should.

I has come to my attention that the multiplayer part of Burnout Paradise has had a boost since it went for mere dollars because of the Humble Bundle, good to know, after all when I first played this, three years ago, the multiplayer was deader than dead. I re-play the game, since I'm somehow eager to do it, and still catch a glimpse of how the multiplayer handles. Sweet deal.

Though I had several problems in the past, this time the multiplayer was a dream coming true. Not in the sense of community, because quite frankly people won't stop sucking just because they're playing a marvelous online campaign. They should at least respect other people's games at least.

Basically you go online by pressing a button over the menu and voilà. You're online. It doesn't matter where you are, it doesn't matter what you're doing; you can go online by simply pressing a button. No IP setting, no community servers, just pure button pressing. Hosting a game is not much of a big deal since most people with any kind of internet connection can carry a game with 8 people easily.

If you decide to be the host you're gonna have to wait for people to connect to you, which shouldn't take long, but can vary. generally people join servers with more than one people in it so getting your first hit is probably the hardest part. Since the player can simply choose to join a game randomly you will be fine, I guarantee.

After someone else joins in you're good to go. There's a multitude of things to do. You can create a race by pin-pointing exact map locations to work as start and finish lines, as well as checkpoints to make things more complicated. After setting everything up both of you can, by pressing a button from your part, start the race and have your share of fun.

The other styles present in Burnout Paradise are also present, you can set market man competitions, road rages or stunt runs. If there are more than 2 people on the server a team can be chosen to work together and reach an ultimate goal. If you simply decide just to hang around crashing into each other that's fine too, that's generally better when you're playing with a friend than against someone you don't know.

Having races and runs with the objectives from the game is all nice and fair but the challenges that the game offers the players are what really matters in the end. There are 500 of them--490 if you happen not to have the Island DLC. They're not particularly inventive, most of them are pretty straight forward, requiring very menial tasks, though I'd argue that it's pretty hard to get innovative in a race game with challenges. They work pretty well though.

Freeburn, that's what they call it. Go freeburn and do whatever comes to mind with some people online. The challenges are divided in two groups, driver and team challenges. The driver challenges are the ones that offer an objective that everyone, individually, must perform in order for the whole group be crowned victorious. Let's say the objective is driving backwards for 1500 yards in some random street, if everyone completes it, the objective is done.

In driver challenges if a player leaves everyone who stays in-game can still complete the objective, since it's an individual task in its heart. So people disconnecting are not such big of a deal. The problem here are the ones who don't really care at all for the objective, and seem pretty satisfied with just driving around crashing other people's cars.

That's basically where the game falls short, its community. The game has matured enough so that hardcore fans should be the ones left playing, beside the obvious public coming from the Humble Bundle, but that doesn't really help it at all.

If might sound that the actual challenge is the real difficulty standing in your way, but what transforms what could have been a pleasant time into a hellish one are players that don't follow the objective and players who disconnect. In the case of the individual tasks the idlers and crushers, as I've come to call them, are the real problem.

In team challenges these flamboyant individuals are a nightmare as well, but the games adds to our pain. In team challenge if a player disconnects it automatically gets canceled. Nullifying a task which should be performed by a team of such players because there aren't enough players anymore seems very understandable. Still, when you rely on random people to have something working out as planned it fails to be correct.

Some challenges require specific number of players so if the number is decreased it will be called off. The fact that they took the effort of making 7 different sets of challenges, one set for each number of players online at the moment tells a lot about criterion and how they really were focused on making this work out. You have two players on, you'll play; you have 8, you'll play too.

Sadly, some minor adjustments could make it run a lot more smoothly. Like, let's say, I decide to host a game, other 7 people join and our party is complete, we're there playing and having fun. If somehow I need to log off the gaming session is automatically canceled. I don't know if Criterion servers are required for match-making; but if they are, when I log off, being the host and having the luxury of choosing what we're to do, my role should automatically be sent to another player. This way a solid game session won't be completely destroyed because one played went off to dinner.

New players, upon joining in, have to wait until the current challenge is completed to actually play. If a playing participating leaves, everything is destroyed. Why not automatically signing this player on the lost slot. Maybe even keeping the former player's score for competitive sake--that being not changing the player's records, just as ephemeral stat to keep the action rolling, discarted afterward.

Criterion even made sure we treated gamers fairly, if someone is participating of a challenge, and he somehow can't do it--he can either be failing at the objective or idling--the host can't kick him at a risk of canceling the objective. So if a player leaves by himself, drivers' tasks are still counted, but not team's; if a players is kicked, both driver or team's tasks are canceled.

If a player is having a hard time at an objective you can't just kick him, you have to help him. Criterion took the time to let people be generous every once in a while and actually not take the easiest route. Still it's unfair that idlers get the same amount of respect of people who are actually trying. I would never kick someone who is trying, he can try for hours for all I care, but watching some bully not only ignore the objective but also ruin the process in which other players are focused to complete it, now that actually bugs me.

So, completing challenges in Burnout Paradise is not only great fun but quite difficult as well, not because the challenges are hard, but because having other people's contribution is hard. Isn't that the ultimate multiplayer experience? One which the task is easy but working as a team is incredibly hard? You don't see much of that, as far as I can tell.

Gaming, last chapter

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So I thought about writing something for Gamespot, for a change in the last year or so. What should I write, of course only one thing came to mind; speak about an old game that, for being old, I didn't review. Banjo-Kazooie broke that rule to become my first ever review on the website, Super Mario 64 has had the honor of titling one of my blogs, so it's time to take on Donkey Kong Country.

To tell the truth it came to me mostly because of the ongoing voting for the best series of video-games in the last decade. I'll explain more about the reasons as I go in-depth with my, possibly and as time goes on stronger this idea gets, favorite game of all time. Be ready to an overdose of fanboysm and exaggeration.

How can one review a game that is pinnacle? How can one describe greatness beyond measure?

Donkey Kong Country is 11/10, it's 101/100, it's exception, it's glory in shape of electronic entertainment, it's the Gods incarnate. Any hyperbole is used simply to make a good aspect of something stand-out, in the case of DKC it's simply used to raise this gem half-way there where it should stand in terms of greatness.

You could call Super Mario gaming, it's an honor for the plumber to be instantly recognized as the determining factor in which all games should be based upon. DKC isn't gaming, calling it gaming would just diminish its splendor, it's beauty. DKC is beyond gaming, DKC was created to be that leviathan that roams the gaming world, echoing a very bold statement. DKC doesn't to that by meekly imprudence, by excessive hubris, it does that because it does; which is the same a being something and not being able to change it.

For the sake of staying true to general consensus we shall call it gaming nonetheless. It came from that glorious year for the gaming world, nineteen ninety four, also known as 1994, the year that gaming reached level 100. The year that everything from that moment one would just be a drop of a line.

Poor Miyamoto, I can understand the Master disliking this beast, the one genius recognized for being the most successful director and creator of all time in the industry, the one responsible for crafting some of the most memorable moments in all gaming history, is not responsible for THE gaming moment, that moment where all planets aligned, neutron stars shone brighter and all the universe conspired to manufacture this Juggernaut of a game.

Kids, DKC is as groundbreaking today as it was then. Look at those graphics, look at how they merge, how they come to life, how they seem etched in your soul after a few hours, after days, after decades. One may wonder what lies beyond those confines of data. If a very decisive rule says that level design should be diverse, that it shall encompass several types of terrains, lead the player into different types of landscapes, then we have something note-worthy here folks.

DKC doesn't simply strives to create a snow world, it succeeds in creating THE snow world. A snow world to end all snow worlds. A forest world to end all forest worlds. A cavern world to and all cavern worlds. That overworld tells you a story better than any 5 thousand book-pages RPG about saving the world from the overpowered overlord. DKC doesn't need that gimmick, your bananas were stolen, you like your bananas, therefore go get it back. The importance is not determined by the magnitude of the action toward the all, but toward the one, the one player that matter, Donkey Kong. Retrieving his bananas is saving his world.

It doesn't really matter since Dk could simply wake up one day and say to himself: "let me try go get through these dangers that surround me around this island and reach the other side", that's as understandable a reason as any other. If gaming should be all about gameplay then we have a climax here.

Modern gaming is doomed because it still fails to look better in super high definition televisions, ultra powered systems, super advanced programing techniques and incredibly high budgets, than a game made in the long-past 1994. Modern gaming is doomed because since then only one game ever came close to giving the player as much freedom as one could receive then DKC, and that game is called Super Mario 64.

Now, to answer the question that Gamespot is so wrongfully proposing, what is the best series of the last decade. I don't know which one is the best series of the decade but I'm damn sure which one is the best series of them all, and that is the Donkey Kong Country series. Take the three SNES games and pile them up against 3 other classics, yes, not games from the same series, three classics picked AT WILL! DKC will crush them like they're nothing. Ocarina, Galaxy and Final Fantasy 7? Mere helpless victims of DKC. Chrono, Metal Gear and Halo? Poor souls.

Many are DKC's arsenal to be called best of them all, but i shall name one that comes to mind and in terms of complexity for a SNES game, and even for today's standards, is quite impressive. Momentum. Yes, after hitting a baddy with the rolling movement of both DK or Diddy the player would get a momentum that is proportional to how hard you hit them, which is merely how close you are to the target. Or how well performed the movement is.

This is for me one heck of a technique to be used in 2d platformers that has somewhat been shadowed by other forms of control. Take Super Mario 64's wall slam for example. Another great idea that comes from the primordial period of 3d gaming that has gotten some more attention. Super Meat Boy would use it to perfection many years later. Other games showcase them executed in interesting manners.

The art work, still unmatched, and not emulated, only God knows why not. Comparing the bland aesthetics of Mario 3 years before is cowardice. Don't get me wrong, both styles can co-exist, but if you asked me if I prefer the new style of the newer Super Mario Bros. games or DKC's, you can be sure to get an answer toward DKC, without any doubt.

Sorry but DKC takes platforming to a whole new level, remember those levels full of cannon barrels you had to get the timing just right not once, but several times? Slightly recreated in 3d on DK64, it's not fully realized though. Crafting a complete separate mini-game to adequate everything the previous games had offered is worth a thank you note, but a full-fledged system integrated into the actual levels are always more interesting. I might write a blog with what I hope to find in a new Donkey Kong 3d platformer to gather all those ideas around my head.

Back to the matter in hard. We have one of the most memorable games of all time, if not the most memorable of all. A game that stands the test of time no matter how much time has passed. Because its style is timeless, and it relies heavily on it, not just technology.

Donkey Kong Country shall reign forever.

Gamespot improvements

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Periodically, I receive a pop up when entering Gamespot with a survey asking me to rate the information and the overall state of this website. The most important, I believe, are the suggestions. You have the opportunity to send them for a one-in-a-billion chance of them reading what you have to say and actually implement whatever sounds reasonable. I generally spare a few minutes to write down what I think would be good improvements for the betterment of Gamespot. Since I don't think they take anything of what we send in consideration I'll post here what I'd like to see.

It's also completely about my personal preferences, people might think something doesn't need change, I respect that, but everything here will be from my own point of view, not necessarily taking the community in consideration as a whole.

1: Bring back the emblems on first page. I know a lot of people don't care about them, I sometimes couldn't care less as well, but there's no denying that, as much as achievements on consoles or PC, they have their charm. Having them on front page like it used to be years ago was something of great pride for many emblem hunters out there, and an incentive to go after them, after all. Even the 10-emblem-shown system has its problems, most of the emblems on the list do not change, like the collector and tagger emblems, instead of showing the latest ones the person received.

2: "Now playing" that's actually worth something. As in with the date you played such game, when you started playing or finished it. It used to be bad as a list with all games listed in alphabetical order. One aspect was good though, it showed the current game you were playing on your personal profile page. Right now I don't even think this feature exists anymore, but it had its purpose and if treated right could become a pretty interesting feature to make people spend more time on the website.

3: Fix the blocked words. How are we supposed not to use the word clas.sic in a video-game website. I don't know the technicalities of this, but there must be a way around this. I recently found out that you can't also use ru.sh, as in Goldru.sh, because it tells you some words are blocked for foul language. I had to go cutting my gigantic Team Fortress 2 blog post in bits to figure out what word was causing it. No small task I must tell.

4: Create a more convenient way to upload pictures. Gamespot could be much more complete if it prized users who added content to it. Of course no employee will waste his time uploading pictures or videos for that obscure NES game, but someone could do it for you. I don't even know if Gamespot would have the rights to do it, but I'm sure users doing it wouldn't be too much of a problem. If anything is wrong then let the user who uploaded deal with it, and delete whatever infringes with copyright, no problem. Much of the lack of content would be extinct with this.

5: Work on gameplay for most games on the database. A video-game website has many utilities for the general visitor, one of the most frequent is checking on games before making a purchase. One of the best methods to know if you'll like the game or not is seeing it in action. Gameplay for popular games like Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 is easy to find, but when you're confused about buying or not that niche Nintendo DS game things get complicated. As a serious video-game website and actually being one of the biggest on the planet at it, Gamespot should really have people working on content like that.

6: Implement counters that actually work. I remember a time when my video counter was stuck for months, maybe years. I don't get as much visits here as I do on Youtube for example, but from what I could tell years inactive would be strange even for the very limited views they get. The profile counter is another clear example of how counters freeze out of nowhere. There was a time when the counter started working again, but now it froze for years with no hope on the horizon for it to get back on. The counter is probably discontinued as of now.

7: More freedom for customizing profiles. No, I don't want to turn this into a MySpace for games, I don't have a MySpace account, I also don't have twitter nor a Facebook account, but having more options for making you channel on Gamespot unique is always welcome. I do, however, have a Youtube profile, and taking the old channel design as a model it could work on Gamespot, having the option to select link color, background image, font, and all that.

I stopped using the forums so I'm not exactly into what the demands over there are. There can't be many though.

Some people have stressed that some features on Gamespot should have gotten more attention, like reviews. They complain about them not being on the front page of games' pages anymore, you need to actually click on user reviews to check them out, a while ago we had the latest ones posted featured on the front page of the game review. I have conflicting thoughts on this matter.

In one hand it really hampers the quick glance of an eventual visitor to give in and click casually on a review and read it, most of what we do on the internet comes from the flashy urge of convenience, if the reviews are easy to spot, more people will read them. On the other hand it also attracts lots of trolls who would be more than willing to do what they do best, troll. If someone wants a more diverse, less technical point of view, he should look for it, the audience will be much more focused and willing to feedback accordingly.

Another common complaint about user reviews is the fact it doesn't allow images, HTML, badges, or even commentaries from the crowd. I couldn't care less for any of those. User reviews shouldn't attempt a professional look. They're supposed to be well written, yes, but not overdone. Anyone looking for this kind of stuff should just make a blog and post them there. I can see why people would want that, but writing them is enough for me. As for commentaries, it would be sad if they allowed that, especially since the community is so immature and prone to trolling. Posting a negative review for a game only to get bashed with endless commentaries such as "U DON LIEK THIS GARME YOU RONG! THIS GARME IS BETTER GAME OF ALL!!1!" is certainly sadder than democratic.

Favorite Maps on Team Fortress 2

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Yes, nothing else matters, only Team Fortress 2! Now we're gonna go through my favorite maps on this game and why I think they're awesome. I've changed my mind quite a bit over time so I'll try to take in consideration everything I've lived from the first time I played until now.

Runner Up. Doomsday
Doomsday

I had a hard time fitting so many cool maps in a top 10. I certainly could name a few I'm extremely fond of, like the ctf_well for example, which I adore playing on. Egypt and Hightower come to mind as well. But one map I was insanely satisfied with when it first came out and still is pretty awesome despite the fact it's not as played as back then is Doomsday.

For those of you who don't know this map came along with highly anticipated "Meet the Pyro" mini movie. I quickly became the most played map for a few weeks before its fame fade out. Another interesting aspect is that it introduces a new game mode, when you have to deliver something called Australium on a rocket in order to make it launch. To actually deliver it and win the round the player must stand on an elevating platform for a period of time. If the Australium is dropped and no one is holding it while standing on the platform it will come back down.

What makes this map so awesome is that both teams spawns have corridors connecting the spawn area directly to the rocket, making the rocket area the most insane place to be among all maps. The rest of the level gets unused when the Australium is being fought over in the main area, so spies can traverse is pretty conveniently at will, as well as snipers trying to pick targets at a distance going almost unnoticed.

As happens with this kind of map these days the fun could be doubled if not for one tiny mistake, and it's not even the map's fault. Mini-sentries. Using mini-sentries in this level is cheap and takes away all the fun we could be having by using stock weapons. Your own team's area is pretty safe if you take in consideration that a life restorer restores your whole life just behind a giant rock (safe from incoming rockets or pipes from above).

Basically an engineer's "strategy" for this map using mini-sentries would be spawn, drop a mini-sentry on the elevated terrain, wait, and repeat the process sometimes changing location just not be so obvious. Also, the bullets go through the giant rocket, hard to spot someone when there's something in the way, but no problem at all for the automated perfect-aim sentry. Easy built and regenerating.

10. Doublecross
Doublecross

Depending on the server you occasionally or regularly play on you notice some patterns. Like, one server goes Goldrush/Dustbowl until God decides we're unworthy of being here and strikes his fury upon mankind ending the human race. Others prefer playing on Egypt until the end of time, no need for any other map anyway. Others will choose the star couple 2fort/Turbine for their daily gameplay. Nothing fancy, two overplayed capture the flag maps that every one simply looooves! Sure thing. But the bastard child of these two seems to be Doublecross.

Opposed to 2fort/Turbine which seem to have a slight balance problem, especially 2fort, Doublecross is one of the best optimized ctf maps around. Lots of hallways, good space, a pit which is always nice and fun. More than one exit out for flag hunters. It seems pretty safe to say this is one of the best maps competitively wise for pubs.

9. Harvest
Harvest

This is a great stage to play. Again, if everything is balanced the middle point should become mayhem in no time. The simple architecture pleases while still maintaining pretty useful complexity for veteran players. This stage is one of those that suffers with the added mini-sentries to the game and even though it has since lost a lot of its former charm especially for playing with scout who should excel in maps like this one where capturing the point is top priority, now the winner gets chosen based on who has the most engineers spamming mini-sentries.

8. 2fort
2fort

Infamous 2fort gets a place on my list. Sure, it has its problems, it has balancing issues, spam issues, tiny corridors, basically one way out of intel area (the other leads directly to spawn, even though both do lead to spawn) and the only alternate way to the other team's base is the sewer. Now tell me you don't traverse the sewers constantly thinking "Gee, who would have thought about using the sewers right? It's so sneaky, so OBVIOUS!". Yes, if you're a spy7 disguised and see someone coming the other way through the sewers you best step back because there's room for only one.

Sure, it does have its problems, maybe a lot of them, but you what? It's fun. Its a fun little level. You'd think the most obvious choice for balance would be perfect. Mirrored bases one in front of the other. It shouldn't matter how bad they're designed, they're the same. Whatever problems you may be having on your end the other team should have the same. Well, things don't work like that, unfortunately.

This maps transforms Team Fortress into basically a deathmatch. Snipers should have a good time on top of the battlements unless some inconvenient Soldier or Demoman comes up to screw up. The middle part should be hell by now, offensive classes will have a lot of space to spam, especially because to cross the maps you have to go through the bridge, which holds two people side by side. This levels seems to be made to make people bump into each other constantly because there's absolutely no large enough room to make things a little more interesting. The ones available are too deep inside the base to be any fair.

Of course spies can use the ultra mighty sneaky sewers (who would have thought about the sewers anyway right?). Medics will have plenty to heal, the Ubers most of the time won't have a real purpose but who cares? This is all about anarchy, not balance, not competitiveness. This level is about choosing sniper and stay on the battlements aiming frontward until another sniper offers his head on the other side. This is about simple cross swaps through the bridge trying to pick as many targets as possible as spy. This is about building your sentry somewhere around your base and feel useful.

This gets boring after a while, soon enough you'll prefer more balanced stages like Gravel Pit, but believe me, eventually and occasionally you'll come back to feel that feeling most of us had when we first started playing. 2fort was for most of us the real introduction to Team Fortress 2, it doesn't matter if you're doing it wrong, there's no right here, just fun. There's no complaining about teleports because frankly, where should they lead? Whatever the case is, any good location would be an easy victim for the other team. Medics wasting ubercharges? In detriment of what? You have to cross the spawn area and even if you do, most of the time people will notice you.

See? I still think this stage has a purpose on Team Fortress 2 and I completely understand why this is one of the most played maps up to this day. This maps kinda reminds me of a simpler time on Team Fortress 2, and that can't be bad.

7. Goldrus.h
Goldrush

It's debatable which maps represents Team Fortress 2 the best. Some will say good old 2fort, while others tend to say Dustbowl. For me I'd have to choose between 2fort, Well and Dustbowl. Whatever the case may be, there's no denying that Goldrush plays a major role in it. This is one of the most played maps on the game and for good reason: it's very balanced and involving. The maps is divided in three sections. The first, and weakest of all is resourceful enough. The second gets more interesting and the final part is the best.

This was the first payload maps ever created and certainly carries countless fans around. I enjoy it, but for me, since this probably is the most played map in the game, sometimes it gets old easily. I guess I feel is happening a lot less with over-played maps like Dustbowl a lot less because it's payload and the team needs to be quite cohesive and varied in a purpose manner, something that doesn't always happens in pubs, either for defending or attacking. It's easy to notice you're the only one actually trying to achieve the objective, and even when you're not one of those trying hard, at least you're not one of the 4 snipers and 5 spies.

6. Barnblitz
Barnblitz

This stage has grown on me and I can say that right now it's my favorite map to play on. It has good length and pace, lots of small areas for different strategies and all. This might also depend a lot on your team's quality but we can't argue against that in a game called Team Fortress I guess. So this might be home of shameful stacks due to its large variety, or a vary even match, for the same reasons.

I like the way the final spot has 3 main entrances and people still neglect one of them and still can't find out why they're not being able to infiltrate. Defending is no less blood-pumping, with so many sneaky spots -- real sneaky spots, I'm looking at you 2fort -- it's easy to have spies roaming around obsoleting your precious sentry guns. I've had plenty of memorable matches on this map. I've also had many complete and miserable failures. I guess we could call that a success for Barnblitz.

5. Pipeline
Pipeline

Maybe this is one of the most overlooked stages on the game. It's not underplayed in any way, on the contrary, but I still feel like this should be a lot more popular than it is now. Maybe the lack of attention to detail hampered its rise, its not a pretty as most of the more popular maps around, but the sheers core-ness of it impresses.

There's not much to it, both teams are pushing their own cart, whoever reaches the destination first gets the prize. The prize for the first two parts is simply an advantage on the next course, which is not in any way an advantage, so the last one will finally decide who's the winner. A double slope for pushing always facing the threat of you getting killed and letting all your hard work go to waste. All 3 phases of the map are insane, especially in 32 people servers. Definitely gives you the full Team Fortress experience of total wackiness mixed up with distinctive addition of team work.

4. Dustbowl
Dustbowl

Another such classic map it's almost useless to say anything. Divided in 3 glorious parts, the first is the weakest but the other two are absolutely amazing. That last corner of the final part is one of the most insane places in the entire game along with the shuttle area in Doomsday. This maps is overdone but strangely I can play it for hours straight without ever noticing but I can't do that with Goldrush for example.

This stage is great for massive offensive classes like Demoman and Heavy. I especially like to defend as Heavy for insane results. Actually I started to enjoy and really get the hang of playing as Heavy on the map. As any big map good engineering is essential for winning, and I also enjoy very much playing engineer, which only adds to the sheer awesomeness of this classic map.

Furthermore, it was one of the first, if not the very first map I've ever played on the 360 when I got the Orange Box. I didn't play online or anything, I just tried it out and attempted some achievements for some easy gamer points. I remember building as engineer without really understanding what was going on. Capturing points without having any idea of what the map was like. Good old memories.

3. Mann Manor
Mann Manor

Yes, I know this stage is a redesign of Mountain Lab, but the Halloween version is so stylish, so fitting and so full of good memories that it's impossible not to include this glorious version. I was playing this map that I had my first Halloween experiences. It was on this that I captured my first gift--still remember, it was at that defender sniper tower from the manor on the second point, after getting tired of playing scout I changed to Pyro and managed to get it after the soldier who was in front of me chose to delve the inner part of the mansion, more precisely that big living room leading to the last point.

Everything about this level is awesome, even the extreme complexity of the original is not present here, with the more gloomy atmosphere there are much less details so people can focus on playing. The pumpkins also turn this into a very fun game that, once you get the hang of locations, will help a lot. It shines completely during Halloween, but I can't see why people don't play this stage much more often. Even when I see server running Mountain Lab I always think this version would be much more suitable.

It was hunting Halloween gifts that I finally learned how to play Scout. Now I love playing with the Scout, but up to that point I had barely played with that class at all. So Halloween is not completely useless or only good to inflate the price of keys after all.

2. Gravel Pit
Gravel Pit

This maps has a special meaning for me. It was the first map I played on the PC. I remember dominating as engineer and thinking "yeah this is pretty easy". I shouldn't even have to note that never again I could do what I did at that time without my sentry getting destroyed easily--sentry on second floor of building with last point, dispenser on last floor, going up and down when sentry needed repair, simply jumping down, then going back up; 2x kills with that.

It still is a great map, certainly I don't play it as much as I always wanted in the old days, but I still enjoy playing it when people finally decide that the goldrush/dustbowl or 2fort/turbine loop is getting boring. That doesn't happen often though. I've seen competitive matches being held on this map so on a competitive level it must be balanced as well, I know playing this in pubs is good fun.

1. Turbine
Turbine

Yes, Turbine is my number one. Lame right? Sure. Bear with me, this level is all about fun, nothing more. It's simple and treacherous, lots of places to play cheap yes, I admit, but also good places where a medic or a good player can do wonders. Building your sentry on the intel room and feeling useful is always good when you're starting. The middle section is too huge to feel cheap, though I would like to have an upper left exit as well, right in front of the stair, maybe the best place would be beside it. I've seen a pro version that has a side corridor as well that goes from the upper platform before the intel room to the center of the stage, both sides. Good thing.

People seem to love this map, and they sure as heck have reasons to do it. It has cheap little places like the duct, which is basically 2fort taken to the extreme, and immense open areas like the middle section. Every class here has a place that it excels. Probably building teleporters is the only pain in the back, which could be easily solved if the red/blue cargo wagons were traversable, hollow. Even so this level is great fun and one of the maps I've played the most during my play-time with Team Fortress 2.

1. Turbine
2. Gravel Pit
3. Mann Manor
4. Dustbowl
5. Pipeline
6. Barnblitz
7. Goldrush
8. 2fort
9. Harvest
10. Doublecross
Runner Up. Doomsday

Redeemed

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Okay, so shifting off the Team Fortress 2 subject a little bit before going back to it I'm here to announce that I'm finally redeemed. Of what you cry? From playing Halo of course. I admit I've never played any Halo in my life but that's about to change. Today an order I had made arrived home with a brand new copy of Halo 3.

I always postponed the right moment to get this game because I never owned the original Xbox so the two first games are as obscure as the depths of the ocean for me. I know they're both great games that are highly acclaimed by the general public as well as critics but what can I do if I never was able to run Xbox games on my 360? Not much I guess.

I remember seeing something about a re-release for the 360 with improved graphics, at least for the first game I guess. In that case the purist side of me aches, I wish I could play the original game, with outdated graphics and everything untouched, pristine, original. So even if I have the opportunity to play at least one of the games in the series, some obscure part of me taunts that desire and mocks my own existence as someone who experiences the original above all, then whatever came after. I still cant pick Chrono Trigger and any of the Final Fantasy games for the DS because of that.

But still, a part of me tells I'm wasting my time, and if I should experience great games then so be it. I bought Halo 3 like a reckless "I-don't-give-a-damn" kind a guy. And I'm gonna play. Screw plot holes, screw unfamiliar characters, screw that thought, that sinister thought telling me I shouldn't be doing that, it's agaist the rules, at least some rule, that might exist, somewhere deep inside my brain.

I'm gonna play Halo 3. Any time from now, I just need to stop playing Team FOrtess 21, now that's a more serious problem right there...

Desired Team Fortress 2 Loadout - Spy

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Spy

Spy
(Main Loadout)

PRIMARY/MELEE: Strange Knife [SP1: Heavies Killed], [SP2: Medics Killed], [SP3: Domination Kills]
SECONDARY: Strange Revolver (Strange Ambassador)
WATCH: Invisibility Watch
DIGUISE KIT: Disguise Kit
BUILDING: Strange Sapper

HAT: Charmer's Chapeau
MISC1: [Geniune] Deus Specs
MISC2: Exorcizor (Rogue's Col Roule)
ACTION: High Five

Ok, last one. Building the weapons functions for spy is not an easy job. Some can't even be changed yet, but still.The disguise Kit remains the only available item for that kinda thing -- even though you lose the ability to disguise using the Your Eternal Reward. The invisibility watch is my favorite watch, I don't use the cheap Dead Ringer, and neither should everyone. I just hope someday Valve learns the error of their ways and take that absurdity off this game.

Thinking about the Invisibility watch the best thing I could get would be the re-skin from Hitman pre-order bonus right? After all how would Valve make a strange invisibility watch? I know I would make one, and it would count how many times you cloaked all the way until the end. If you didn't get it, I'll explain. You can use the watch for a short time and then decloak, that wouldn't count. You would have to have a full meter set and then go invisible, then you'd have to stay invisible until the watch runs out of fuel, or whatever fuels it. It wouldn't be the best idea ever but at least would work.

For my secondary weapon I'd use the regular revolver, which would take off the crown of the only character with stock weapons on my set from the Demoman. I like the revolver, but sometimes I feel like using the Ambassador, so it's not exactly like that. I wouldn't change the Demoman, but sometimes I'd use the Amby. Harsh times. The strange sapper drops from salvaged crates number 40. They're expensive, and the sapper is even more expensive. So I'd have to wait until it becomes purchasable for mere mortals.

My primary weapon would be the stock knife in its strange variant with some unnecessary strange parts. None of those cheap Eternal Reward or Spy-cicle crap. The good old knife, with the good old invisibility watch. That's how I roll.The heavies killed seems boring on a strange knife, I don't even enjoy killing heavies with it. But anyway. The medic targets are a must, though we still don't have a strange part for medics killed, the recent arrival of sniper and Pyros killed makes easy to predict a medics killed strange part in the near future. Domination kills seems like a safe choice for any weapon, especially those harder to choose one ultimate strange part.

The spy is also a hard class to choose hats and miscs, even though the action is easy since the spy's pose for the high five taunt is so cool. I chose the charmer's Chapeau because it takes you back, I like vintage style hats. The other choices seemed too overused or too simple for my taste. Even though I'm a simple guy, I wouldn't want any of my characters to go unnoticed would I? Of course not.

The Deus Specs is just an excuse for me to use one of the coolest looking items around. Not only because I love Deus Ex, but because the item really looks cool. If the futuristic look don't go well with the rest, any dark glasses will do just fine. I think the mix between futuristic and old will help make this style unique, so I'm hopeful. The Exorcizor is one of the best items Halloween has brought us, and I have one already so all is good. If not, the simplicity of the Rogue's Col Roule is just too charming to go unnoticed.

Desired Team Fortress 2 Loadout - Engineer

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Engineer

Engineer
(Main Loadout)

PRIMARY/MELEE: Strange Wrench [Sentry Gun Kills] [SP1: Sappers Destroyed], [SP2: Cloaked Skies Killed], [SP3: Domination Kills]
SECONDARY: Strange Shotgun [SP1: Airborne Enemies Killed], [SP2: Spies Killed], [SP3: Domination Kills]
TERTIARY: Wrangler

HAT: Ol' Geezer (Buckaroos Hat)
MISC1: Teufort Tooth Kicker
MISC2: Texas Half-Pants
ACTION: Shadenfreunde

The first thing I feel I need to do is explaining my reasoning -- or any lack thereof -- behind the way the weapons are presented. Well, I always think that the primary weapons is the one that sets the class standard, so I put the wrench as primary, Shotgun as secondary and the third item in a third place, but not less important. This is just me being crazy, don't mind.

Now onto the set. This is pretty standard engineer, so much that I actually fell bad for it. But let's face it, the engineer doesn't have any nice miscs, and his hats, even though the cowboy hats are cool looking, all revolve around something mechanical or Texas-style. Not much variety makes things worse. I understand that the engineer has that old west vibe on him, but pretty much me and everyone else noticed that, and everyone might end up with a carbon copy load out. All in all two cowboy miscs and two cowboy hats, both are cool.

The wrench as far as I know can hold strange parts but opposed to its imbued counter it only counts effects from the wrench itself, not sentry guns. This makes me think twice before paying good money from an inflated market on strange parts that hardly would leave zero. So the wrench would stay untouched until things get much better or I find some extra cash to spend on strange parts to boost it up a little bit. Maybe when strange parts start all dropping again and their price go down and down. If all goes well, and judging by the strange parts available right now, my set would be that one.

My secondary is the most versatile weapon in Team Fortress 2. The good old shotgun. The shotgun is not only a great weapon, but it fits the engineer. Because like the engineer it solves problems, but not problems like "what is beauty?" if you get me. Not a fancy weapon but will help much in those needy situation especially when spies approach. In fact, the fact I have only one shotgun and plan to have only one for any character that might want to use it actually works here. I'm using for the Pyro which is a primary spy killer, so the spy counter on the shotgun makes sense. I'm also using on my engineer which is a spy target, so it also makes sense.

The Wrangler is just something that when you need, it's there. It might not even be for controlling the sentry and attack or defend, but sometimes for sentry gun jumping for example. I could pretty much use the pistol, which I also love and think it's a pretty useful item, and to think about it, I might use it indeed, but sometimes. Having the shotgun means I probably won't need a pistol anyway. I generally don't switch weapons, I just recharge. So everything is fine.

Desired Team Fortress 2 Loadout - Medic

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Medic

Medic
(Main Loadout)

PRIMARY: Medi-Gun [Kills], [Assists]
SECONDARY: Strange Syringe Gun
MELEE: Strange Übersaw (Strange Amputator)

HAT: Surgeon's Stahlhelm (Otolaryngologist's Mirror)
MISC1: Foppish Physician (Archimedes)
MISC2: Physician's Procedure Mask (Medi-Mask)
ACTION: Meet the Medic

The medic seems like a simple enough class to decide which weapon goes where, but there's much to discuss. For instance, the only weapon worthy of taking place of a stock primary in Team Fortress is the Kritzkrieg. Yes, for the Kritzkrieg I would, depending on the situation, change my primary weapon. But that's not all, this weapon drop on the most expensive and rare creates of all, and its price is incredibly high. And that's still not all, I, as ironic as it is, happen to have this crate. But is it worth opening and having a change in 5 to get this weapon? Of course not.

So the Medi-Gun is the primary choice in the end. Not a bat choice at all, one of the best items in the game, certainly the most important. For the good, or for the bad, the Medi-Gun, along with any of its variations, can't get any strange part as of now, which makes things much easier and cheap. I know, but even so it would be nice to choose from a few parts which one is more deserving to be part of my Medi-Gun, maybe in the future some parts will be exclusive for it, which can make things a lot more interesting indeed. And a lot more expensive as well.

The Syring Gun is one of those weapons I don't yet have a complete opinion on. Sure it helps from time to time, sure there are other variations, sure they might be better, but most of the time I don't really care. This is one of the moments when the melee is more important than the secondary. I actually don't know much about the other guns for the medic. Upon quick search I remembered about the Blutsauger, that one that makes killing medics as scout basically impossible and regenerates health as you deal damage.

Also the Crusader's Crossbow seems too "serious" for a weapon that should be wielded only when you're in trouble. The Overdose seemed the most interesting of them all. It has a damage penalty but the 10% of the already extremely low damage per seconds the these syringes inflict don't seem much. Especially when 10 of them will be coming out of your gun per second. But as underwhelming is the positive effect that increases the speed by up to 10% depending on Ubercharge. I'm guessing each 10% of Uber increases 1% of speed. Nothing too fancy.

So I stick with the stock Syringe Gun for now . The melee weapons is also a problem I have. I've always loved the Bonesaw, it seems to like me as well, it gives me crits like Britney Spears gives me headache. But analyzing it closely, and putting it up side by side against the Amputator, there's absolutely no reason for anyone to use it. The Amputator is an exact copy of this item except it has a taunt that also gives you a healing method. Of course that healing method is extremely circumstantial and would be used as frequently as I go to a Britney Spears concert, but still, it's better to have than not have it.

It actually bugged me that people often choose the Ubersaw over any of those two. Maybe because when you're in trouble you might go ahead and take advantage of the situation by farming some charge for your Medi-Gun. Pretty understandable. But my optics see it another way. One of the aspects I take most fun playing as a medic is going wild. Something I just go nuts and go battle ready bonesawing anyone that crosses my path. I've had pretty enjoyable and memorable moments doing this, and the slower rate of fire of the Ubersaw basically cancels that. Sure if might work, but it won't be the same, I'll be forever handicapped. Oh well.

Maybe it's time to change my ways, those days of mayhem are catching onto me. I'll be a good medic I promise. So for now, Ubersaw it is, especially since I'm only starting to get the hang of it. Sometimes I hit my enemy but the 25% charge bonus don't come. It clearly says that on hit the bonus should be given. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or it's just an oddity of the weapon, but it happens. I swear.

Now onto the cosmetic items. And I've got to say, the medic has some awesome cosmetic items at his disposal. So many it was quite hard choosing between some of them and leaving some aside. So I ended up choosing two items for each slot. For the hat the best medic hat is, at least for me, the Surgeon's Stahlhelm. Not only because I kinda fancy the German culture and history, but because it's an awesome-looking hat. Being a medic he also looks good with the Otolaryngologist's Mirror. Feels very medic-ish, feels vintage.

On the first misc I chose the Foppish Physician even though I see it becoming overused with time, hell, even now it's so easy to see anywhere. But leaving that aside, it's a great added misc for the medic. I also chose Archimedes, just as Sir Hootsalot and the Bird-Man of Aberdeen, a buddy on your side while you're practicing medicine on the field of battle is always welcome. It's sad really that the Genuine version of Archimedes is so expensive.

As his primary mask, or misc, or whatever, I chose two. The Physician's Procedure Mask is a great choice, overused? Yes, but great nonetheless. The Medi-Mask I got it one day with a trader and it quickly became one of my dearest hats. I'm not the guy who scams people on the streets, but if the guy was happy, I was happy as well. Again, I don't know if any of those items conflict in anyway, though it seems they don't, but if they do, I'll just change the combination.

To finish up the Meet the Medic taunt seems like a logical choice in a very limited set of choices. Also, let me clarify thing before someone comes pointing fingers, I do realize that Valve considers the Syringe Gun (or any of its variants) as the medic's primary weapon, and the Medi-Gun (again, or any of its variants) as his secondary. I simply chose not to use that, I'm sorry, the primary weapon for me it the most important and used weapon of the class, it doesn't matter if it uses or not ammo. Even though I also considered the Greanade Launcher Demoman's primary, it doesn't change the fact I also said it had "two primaries", even though I considered the Sticky his secondary. It's all semantics what we're discussing here but anyway, let's more on.

See? The medic seemed easy at first, but too many oddities produced a text worthy of being called a wall.

Desired Team Fortress 2 Loadout - Demoman

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Demoman

Demoman
(Main Loadout)

PRIMARY: Strange Grenade Launcher [SP1: Buildings Destroyed], [SP2: Gib Kills], [SP3: Domination Kills]
SECONDARY:Strange Stickybomb Launcher [SP1: Buildings Destroyed], [SP2: ****], [SP3: Domination Kills]
MELEE: Strange Bottle

HAT: Buccaneer's Bicorne (Mask of the Shaman), (Conjurer's Cowl)
MISC1: Bird-Man of Aberdeen
MISC2: [Genuine] King of Scotland Cape
ACTION: High Five

I while ago the King of Scotland Cape was still 1 key, a few people were using it and it wasn't as famous, now you see lots of Demoman wearing it. I quickly realized I had to buy quickly, so I did, I found someone willing to sell it for 1 key and bought it. I don't see this items rising too much if at all but I think I made a good deal for a cool item.

So now that I have the cape I want to build the rest of the character based on it. Using the the Mask of the Shaman is a good choice, as a king of some obscure pagan tribe. But I also like the Bird-Man of Aberdeen, having that parrot on you should is a wonderful thing indeed, so I would have to have that one too. I have no idea if these items conflict in any way (Bird-Man and the Cape) but it would be awesome to have those two, even if they don't go wonderfully together. And what's the point, the items that go together are being overused, so if you aim for uniqueness you gotta dare and go beyond.

The Buccaneer's Bicorne is a wonderful hat, that kind of hat has always been my favorite type of hat of all times (pirate hat) so I feel inclined to use that one too. I might as well interchange between the Shaman and the Buccaneer, no problem. If the bird and the cape go well together any of the two will do wonders. For the action I chose the High Five for the pose the Demoman makes when waiting for someone to join the party. Also, the Conjurer's Cowl is another good choice and I already have it. Yay.

For the primary weapon, the now expensive Grenade Launcher I'll wait until it starts dropping on new crates to buy, it makes me unable to play the Demoman, I don't even remember how to play him. Buildings destroyed is a must, Gib kills is a decent choice even though I don't like. The other acceptable choice for Gib kills is the Rocket Launcher and I didn't put it in mine, but the Grenade Launcher seems harder to find a great one to put on.

The same goes for the Stickybomb Launcher, I was actually deliberating whether I should or not try to get a festive version of this item. For me, the festive sticky is the best one and the only decent looking, much because you don't have that overdose of information and colors from the other ones. I seem to get more and more off this idea, and Stickys are pretty cheap today. But even with one the Demoman feels incomplete without his "other primary weapon". So I wait.

Strange Bottle because none of those fancy Demoknight swords appeal to me. The fact you can't sheathe the Half-Zatoichi is bad enough. I don't want my health decreased by the Eyelander. The Ullapool Caber is just weird. The Scotman's Skullcutter decreases the speed, which is something I don't want since playing slow classes is tiring and the Demoman should rely on its maneuverability. The Persian Persuader is not made for me. And besides it all which isn't much factual as I thought it would be, the bottle still does the same damage as any of those weapons with the exception of the Skullcutter, wierd since it seems much les threatening.

So after all, I'll stick to the bottle as well. And with that the Demoman is the first and only class that I'll use a complete stock loadout for weapons. As a defensor of stock weapons users I'm proud to say that.