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airdog80 Blog

Stats < Fun

I used to love stats, one could have even called it an obsession. Every morning when I started up Firefox, there was that tab, a manna of kill/death ratios, accuracy metrics, kill counts, headshot totals, and the oh so vague but ego gripping skill changes. I'm a big Battlefield 3 fan.

At least that's how our relationship started, a hundred fourteen hours and thirty two minutes later; I woke up and realized I wasn't having fun. It's not that the game itself had become less engrossing, challenging, or even that I was just ready to move on. It was because I was avoiding taking on new risk to protect that precious battlog page. I had my best loadouts, I knew my maps, lanes, and general match flow. The problem was that my tactics, however effective, had become wrote. It had gotten that way because it feels horrible to see your overall k/d drop, and for other people to see it to.

I finally came to the conclusion that I should no longer look at stats, ok, at least not as often. I had already gained whatever I was going to gain from them. In its stead, I have gone back to what is pure, the kill cam. The kill cam tells you who(flipabird22), what(shotgun), where(building), how(buckshot to your groin). The kill cam does not remember, does not judge, the killcam just is. Recently I spoke with some Modern Warfare 3 players in the office who felt the same way.

ME3 - I Regret Nothing About Tragedy

One of my favorite characters in the Mass Effect universe died last night. It left me soul searching as to what I had done to contribute. It made me think all the way back to Mass Effect 1. Ultimately this tragedy is something I will have to live with. I refuse to erase consequence by returning to an earlier time and changing my fate, this would be a betrayal of what makes Mass Effect great. I now feel that film is inadequate by comparison. My Mass Effect story continues.

Aaron Sampson Ornament

This blog is a part of the scavenger hunt.

Share a couple of items on your Christmas wishlist this year.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam is on the top of my list as well as zip up hoodies because it is crazy cold this year in San Francisco.

What games will you play during the holidays?
I've been going back to play games I missed. I'll be making sure Commander Shepard is in good hands before leaving Mass Effect 2 and its DLC and then pick up Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam for some proxy war mayhem. I might also play Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy from 08 due to it's sweet hand to hand combat.

What are the kinds of food or drinks you must have during the holidays?
Coffee, hot coco, tea, and tons of French toast?


On Getting my Crew Murdered in ME2 and Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays Everyone,

This holiday you will find me playing the hell out of Battlefield Bad Co. 2 Vietnam. I've been going back to Bad Co. 2 to brush up on my skills and thus far have learned not to play in matches where level 50 recon snipers exist. I am remembering that BC 2 is a team effort and you will loose mercilessly without chatting and spotting.

I recently finished Mass Effect 2, I've been busy with a baby and got to that party kind of late. But it was fate since a few days after I completed the main game, ME3 was announced. ME3 and Deus Ex are on top of my list for next year. In ME2 I got half of my team killed due to an overt attempt to get Miranda dead. Oddly enough, my ending had a much greater emotional impact than someone who had a perfect completion, since it consisted of me trying to pull off a suicide mission while choosing friends I actually cared about to sacrifice at every stage. The resulting dump back to the Normandy 2 with half the crew missing really sent home the horror of the entire story. If my crew had all been there singing kumbaya, I probably would have shrugged the game off as just very good and not super great. RIP Miranda, Zaeed, Grunt, and Thane, you died because I wanted you to, you weren't as tough as you claimed, a swarm of bees murdered you, and you had cancer anyway so who cares.

Catch you all on XBLA back in a bygone era stuck in a quagmire.

Baby on Board.

Wow, I haven't been here to write in awhile. GameSpot has actually had a pretty small staff since the recession hit so we all wear a ton of hats on any given day. I love this job and it's really no problem except it does mean more little oversights on my part. I promise to cop to them in the comment section of videos I produce. I've been noticing a lot of spelling errors on Yahoo News since the recession so I assume it's the same issue over there, few people, ton of hats. Production is kind of weird since the guy writing or editing can never really see their piece for the first time. You get so involved with the process that you read or see what you think you wrote, or edited, rather than what is there.

Time has flown by so fast in recent years. I was here as an intern in 2006 and simply refused to leave. Lesson for those kids out there in college, usually your internships are for another job, most companies these days don't actually hire their interns, intern is code for slave labor. Take your skills and run when your internship is up unless you are super stubborn, beware this may still lead to you having to work multiple jobs to be somewhere. It's strange but many employers want you to leave and come back with skills rather than develop your skills at their expense.

My wife and I recently moved to a new apartment to be closer to my parents last week. We are having a baby girl in November, there has been a massive GameSpot baby boom fyi, over the past three years. My little girl isn't even out yet and she's already destroying my sleep, I hear this gets more interesting when they are actually born. It's super crazy to think you have to keep doing exactly what you are doing in life, plus take care of an entire human being at the same time. To be honest it freaks me out, but I want to be a great father so I'll just do whatever it takes.

On a final note, I got hooked up with GameFly, it took me awhile. I'm looking forward to playing all the games I never really wanted to rent or buy, but really wanted to play, such as Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy (X360). I'm still addicted to Monday Night Combat (X360)and Just Cause 2 (X360). I finally discovered boats in Just Cause 2, and wow, that game keeps surprising me with awesomeness. I'm super angry at Square for advertising Deus Ex: Human Revolution (X360) so early, I grew up playing Shadowrun, the chicken that came before this egg, and consider the wait for this title to be torture. Also I can't wait for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam (X360); I'm kind of done with Battlefield after a glorious six months of non stop gameplay. I have never been more obsessed with stats in my life. I want an excuse to play this game more and a re-skin is good enough for me. I really wonder where shooters can go from here; Modern Warfare and Bad Co 2 are two of the most flawlessly executed titles I have ever seen in the genre. At this point Medal of Honor just feels like a nicotine patch for an addiction I can no longer sustain.

I'm out.

Aaron S.

True Combat Elite mod for Wolfenstein Enemy Territory (for the price of free)


Sub heading: using offensive grammar, run on sentences, and some made up words.

I never really enjoyed Counter Strike. I acknowledge it's grade A beef with one of the top ten persistent player communities of all time for realz. I won't even argue against it being the ACME online shooter of all time, but with the caliber of players in CS, the time it takes to get good enough to, you know, have fun, is eerily similar to getting a second job and I already have one of those.

For the past year I've been looking for a replacement shooter for the price of free, yes free as in less than any suspicious item you'd buy in a dollar store. In this pursuit I went through boot camp with Americas Army but eventually grew tired of having ten minutes sucked out of my life never to return every time I died. I subsequently went through shooty arcade shooter land with Combat Arms, which I loved until I grew to loathe gun rentals and repetition. I'm now making up for lost time with, stay with me, in air quotes, the "True Combat Elite Mod" for "Wolfenstein Enemy Territory." Bolth Wolfenstein and Combat Elite are free downloads at and despite being old school they are just a hell of a lot more fun than many modern multiplayer shooters.

What does Combat Elite do right I ask rhetorically so don't answer..?? The answer is it takes the best bits of Americas Army, Combat Arms, and Counter Strike. The firefights are intense mixes of run and gun and belly crawling, the maps, lots of them, are balanced and full of ways to flank an enemy, and the graphics are exactly what you want from a shooter, detailed enough to entertain, but not so detailed as to make your server jump out a fifth story window. Actually some of the levels look retro which will give you a hint of nostalgia as you put two into your foes chest. I encountered little to no lag during matches of 28 players or more. The intro interface is intuitive, the weapons selection before each round is simple, and at any given time there are a multiple great games running on the servers.
Combat elite includes an impressive selection of maps, from wrecking someone's party cruise boat, to deserts, warehouses, and urban warfare. The maps have functional doors, ladders, and crawl spaces plus various materials with various bullet stopping abilities or lack thereof. There are nice visual touches such as graffiti and static military vehicles. Maps come in all shapes and sizes to satisfy everyone from the shotgun junkie to the dirt sucking sniperzz. Respawn times are reasonable and maps change as often as your attention deficit mind can handle. The maps are multistory and often firefights will rage from one side of the map to the other as teams continually flank and snipe at one another. Friendly fire is on but being shot in the back by a teammate will trigger a complaint window that lets you vote towards the offending player's ejection, they can do the same to you if you revengescrew' them back.

There are a large variety of weapons to choose from in Combat Elite and they all sound absolutely incredible. The assault, spec ops, and sniper classes all have unique weapons, but they are well balanced and all classes are competitive. What's enjoyable about Combat in Elite is that the air in front of you is absent of the magic floaty aiming reticle. Iron sights, dot sights, and scopes are the only way to fly. This largely eliminates the redundancy of shooters where sights slow down aiming. The best touch is that many of the assault rifles and sub-machineguns have fluorescent dots on their iron sights which make fast aiming a charm. Weapons are not customizable but you will definitely find yourself switching through a sizable variety depending on which side of defeat you're on. Also of note is how players get their lean on. Leaning is a core component of Elite and due to the speed at which bullets will end your pathetic bunkering attempt, is highly recommended/satisfying. The best compliment I can give Combat Elite is it's balanced, nostalgic, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Fond Eulogy to Circuit City.

I have to say a fond farewell to Circuit City. Goodbye and farewell to the creepy older uncle of Best Buy. Somehow you always made me feel as if buying electronics was somehow akin to buying a used car. Your store layout was always terrible, your employees often looked as confused as I was. You always made me feel a little uncomfortable. You had games locked away in a small corner cage as if they were reptiles at the zoo. I'll miss tapping on the glass. I'd get an ipod jack put into my car for old times sake, but with no accountability due to your closing, I'm afraid I'd find my car up on blocks in the back lot. I have so many fond memories of wanting to leave your store to go to Best Buy. You will be sorely missed. I am comforted by the fact that I can always drive to Canada to be visually molested by your dull grey interior design.

Bane or Boom, online gun rentals?

I likes me some Combat Arms but I have a big dilemma, the game is free, but it's kind of needy. This online arcade style shooter with some of the best and most balanced maps I've ever seen wants me to play it more than two hours a day. This is largely due to Nexon's gun rental system were you start with 9,000 game points that you drain on renting gear and equipment each day you put lead downrange. This means your purchases are gone in a fixed amount of real time, usually 24 hours. You earn points back through kills and wins.

A good weapon, say an AK-74 with scope, or fan favorite G36E, will run you 950 gp/day (game points per day) or you can play this game on the cheap by popping a 150 gp/day scope on your trusty yet mediocre M-16. The better rifles are more fun since they enable long range kills and better chances of high kill ratios all around. The problem is at 950gp per rifle per day, and earning only an avg of 150gp per round, it takes more than six rounds, or two hours per day not to bleed cash, and bleed cash you will. You can fund raise by playing for a day and only purchasing a scope, but this is almost reminiscent of grinding in MMORPG's. Don't let other bloggers fool you, you can have fun doing this on the Grunt servers. But as a Combat Arms player you are perpetually in a race to loose less than a few thousand gp per rank. If you make it to the next rank you will receive gp bonuses and in theory as long as you only bleed a few thousand gp per level, you're ok. Warning, this is easier said than done should you have a job, fiancé, dog, or child.

There is something to be said for having to earn your way through a game. I feel as if the trend has been going in the opposite direction for the past two years. By forcing you to earn your keep, Combat Arms challenges you to become a more efficient shooter. Wanting higher kill ratios and more game points per round, without spending real life cash, I found myself studying maps constantly for new sniping ledges, tactics, and advantages. But if you're wallet is dedicated to unleaded 87 octane like me, or you just don't want to spend real money on a free game on principle, then this rental system is both a mood killer and motivation to play.

I respect Nexon for having a business model in the first place. If there is one thing I've learned since leaving the guarded halls of torture, ahem, academia, it's that nothing is free and in order to bring you Combat Arms for free, someone has to be paying. If you should like to support the poor and needy gamers of the world you can avoid much hassle by shelling out some real world cash to pick up powerful weapons for 90 days for under ten dollars. But by those standards if you play Combat Arms for more than six months you're buying the game and then some. But hey, you're keeping it free for me and as I said, I likes me some Combat Arms. So gun rentals, bane or boom? I'm conflicted.

Crack Shot: How Americas Army made me into a smarter online shooter.

For the longest time I didn't care about kill ratios in multiplayer shooters. I think I developed a complex from my counterstrike days in college where I was mercilessly slaughtered by, judging from the amount of genital jokes, pre-pubescent children. At some point I think I started to consider myself a human bullet detector for skilled players on my team. But now I realize that games like counterstrike were enablers for my low shooting self-esteem. Quick round times and fast re-spawns let me get away with a lot of crud and still have fun.

Americas Army changed all that for me. AA is an abusive, abusive, abusive, drill sergeant for new players. You die fast and you stay dead for a long time. You probably won't even have fun, but for some inconceivable reason, you will desire in the height of your agony, to be the guy who is shooting you, to seek revenge and make sure he's the guy sitting there twiddling his thumbs on the sideline while you make the rest of his team your bi-hatch. It is a painful journey in which you will end up, thanks to indistinct looking friends and foes, shooting your own team in the back and loosing hours of progress before making progress. When you finally get to the point where you have the luxury of having fun in this game, you will be a better shooter for it. Here is what I learned so you don't have to.

Top ten lessons of a Newb shooter: other than don't join the Army unless you enjoy boredom and getting shot.

10) If you're loosing every round change games or you'll keep loosing every round.

9) Keep moving or someone will shoot you in the back, seriously.

8 ) Know your effective range. If you don't have a scope, don't get into long range sniping battles, you'll loose.

7) Never be where they think you are. If someone spots you, anticipate how they are going to come at you and be somewhere better.

6) Shoot from the dark recesses of a building, never be in a window, corner, or on an open roof position where your outline is easy to spot.

8) Know when you're about to loose a ranged gunfight and disengage, then follow lesson seven.

6) Move smart, don't get caught out in the open period. If you have to cross out in the open, scan the area first, then run like hell. (You'll still die but less often.)

5 ) Aim low and to the left with machine guns because they kick up and to the right.

4) If someone gets the drop on you, duck, turn fire. It works on a really lucky day and if they're holding a machine gun it will be kicking up and away from you.

3) If you find yourself in an inferior position, i.e. shot and survived, maneuver to a better position before re-engaging, don't just go back to the same corner and get shot again. If you need to go back, wait at least ten to fifteen seconds to make your opponent think you've moved on.

2) If you are unfamiliar with a map, spend an entire night going one direction until you learn it, then spend another entire night going another direction until you learn it.

1) Hold your fire until you know you can make a kill so as not to give away an inferior position. Don't shoot at everything that moves.

How micro transactions and lack of tangible achievements kills good gaming.


Pain: Amusement Park highlighted two issues that I hope the free market wraps in a burlap sack and dropkicks into an oncoming roller coaster. Pain is a game that combines the futility of fake achievements, "yay, you found the x button," and obnoxious micro transactions, "please insert six dollars to advance to the next level." For six dollars the latest installment of Pain gives you access to one gen x ragdoll character and one level, of which you can unlock only one other launch pad located ten feet from the first. Pain claims you can unlock two additional costumes but you have to be a cryptologist or have psychic powers to figure out how. Pain then awards you with copious amounts of pats on the back and then regrets to inform you that all additional content, in the form of new characters, is ninety nine cents and additional time in the game is therefore pointless. How unsatisfying, however cheap, to buy game progress, it defeats the purpose of, well, doing anything. This is a game that should have been sold for ten or fifteen dollars, with more than one level, and a large variety of forward moving progress.

Part of the reason I'm so frustrated is that a game like Pain: Amusement Park could have been so much more. If you pick it up on PSN you'll see the genius in the first half hour before you realize you bought the equivalent of a looping animation. This game should have been designed to reward players for playing and I can think of a million ways this could have been done. They could have given you more ooch, a jetpack to control yourself in flight, new areas that unlock, or secret rooms you can only reach in special ways. Pain could have given you awesome weapons to use, or special in flight poses with special powers, or pogo sticks, or let you drive vehicles you land on, or anything to reward you for throwing your gen x character through his paces. Instead you blow up a few barrels, smack a few monkeys, yawn, and then go back to playing something else. In my humble opinion, micro transactions and meaningless achievements have revealed their true value to players.

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