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  • Announcements

    • LoL ADL Season 7 Begins October 16th!   10/05/2015

      It's that time again, boys and girls! We're proud to announce the Amateur Draft League is returning for its Seventh Season! Since dropping Tuesdays worked well last season, we will continue to be playing every Sunday and Friday at 9pm EST (6pm PST) starting on October 16th and continuing until December 13th. Even though the ADL falls on days that the LoL World Championship is taking place, we will STILL be playing! World Championship games start anywhere between 5-7am EST so we will have plenty of time between then and the beginning of the draft :} Be aware that we moved from Mumble to TeamSpeak! Our Server Information is down below along with a guide on how to set it up.

      Last season, we also removed MVP voting, introduced our new Champion and Challenger Tiers, and also randomized Captain selection within the same relative rank to make picking a little more fair for the captains who were closer in Solo Q rank. All of you who regularly play in the ADL were super happy about those changes so they'll be around to stay! Since there was no demand for an ADL All-Star match, we didn't have one, but that doesn't mean we can't have one at the end of this season! Just be sure to let us know you want it and we'll make it happen.      Significant Dates: 10/16/2015 - Start of Season 7 11/13/2015 - Week 5 of Season 7 (Champion Tier and Challenger Tier begin) 12/6/2015 - Last night of the regular season 12/13/2015 - Finals Mini-Tournament (Must attend to qualify for Top 4 finish) Quick Info: TeamSpeak info: TeamSpeak Server: ts65.gameservers.com:9222 How to set up TeamSpeak ADL ELO Lookup: http://www.vvv-gaming.com/adl-look-up Start Time: 9 PM EST/6 PM PST Sundays and Fridays Holidays: The Friday after Thanksgiving there will be no ADL (11/27/2015)      
      Changes based on your suggestions:   This isn't a change that only we can do, but we got some feedback where you guys wished there were more people to play with/against. Even though our debut first nights are the most attended, we get a very stable 30 or so people per night, and they're the same people who attend every night. If you would like to learn how to get more people involved in attending the ADL, make sure you read this guide on how to bring in more people! Everyone needs to pitch in on this effort, it's not something that we as Staff have ultimate power over. Also, don't forget to bring your friends!Also on the topic of recruitment, if you guys are interested in bringing more players let us know if you'd be willing to participate in recruiting nights where we would get together on TeamSpeak and try to bring new players onto the server to get to know us and join us for ADL :3Season 6 was a HUGE success in the fact that multiple people stated that the event was organized and run better than other events they've been to. We're very proud of this! If you see something you would like to see changed, be sure to hit up one of the Staff members! We specifically ask for feedback after every night, so there are plenty of opportunities to speak up!As always, we MAY make changes during the ADL Season. This only happens if there is enough negative feedback about a certain aspect where it warrants an immediate change, or if it's something we want to test out (ie: a better pick order, a better way to determine who faces who, how we draft, etc). We will always ask for everyone's opinion beforehand. If any changes are made during the Season, players will be informed of said changes before drafting begins.For this next season, we want to focus on providing more opportunities for getting to know your fellow LoL players. One of the things we've learned that could benefit from an organized play environment is that higher level players have trouble finding teammates who share their motivation and goals. By providing a more relaxed environment people can come to after each night's games are finished, we can offer moments for people to connect outside of simple game comms so that you can actually get to know each other and not just how you are in-game. We've made a couple nice visual guides that hopefully explain the season format and how to participate much easier for new players.Always be sure to give vVv Organicbear or vVv Medusa any feedback you have! We can always make things better or easier, we just need to be informed that something needs changing! A link to our profiles containing our contact information are at the bottom of this post. Feel free to contact us in any way that is most convenient for you (including chatting on TeamSpeak).         How to Participate: NOTE: Anyone can play, regardless of Solo Q rank, as long as you're Level 30 and have at least 16 champions to participate in Custom Tournament Draft.   Season Format:      Official ADL Rules:   Please take the time to read and familiarize yourself with the rules! You are expected to know the rules before you join TeamSpeak and participate!!!  
      Are you as excited for Season 7 as we are? Let's make this another fantastic ADL! See you in TeamSpeak on Friday, October 16th at 9pm EST!
      If you have questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions please contact any of the below ADL Staff members and they would be happy to assist you! 
          ADL Staff:
      vVv Organicbear
      vVv Medusa
    • vVv Returns to Guitar Hero!   10/06/2015

        With the release of Guitar Hero: Live on the horizon, vVv Gaming is reentering rhythm gaming with three of the most passionate plastic instrument players in the world. vVv Gaming has a history of success in rhythm gaming with over 30 top four finishes at tournaments including the World Cyber Games, Electronic Sports World Cup, and more. Our new rhythm gaming players hope to continue this trend when Guitar Hero events are held in the future. Additionally, all three members of the team will be creating rhythm gaming videos and streaming on Twitch.   Read on to learn more about our new Guitar Hero players!     vVv Acai vVv Acai28 obtaining one of the current highscores on King for a Day in the Guitar Hero: Live demo
      Alec “vVv Acai28” Castillo first joined vVv Gaming five years ago and went on to become the Gold Medalist in the 2010 WCG Grand Finals. As the last WCG World Champion, Acai is looking to continue his tournament dominance in Guitar Hero: Live. When asked about his return to competitive gaming, Acai said:      Follow vVv Acai28 here:   Twitch
      YouTube       vVv Paradise
          vVv Paradise before a recent rhythm gaming stream on his Twitch channel     Jason “Paradise” Kuntz is a two time national tournament winner in the USA and a long time member of vVv Gaming. Once a staff member for vVv, Paradise now returns as a player to compete in Guitar Hero events and stream on Twitch.       Folllow vVv Paradise here: Twitch
      YouTube       vVv UkogMonkey UkogMonkey achieving 100% on Fury of the Storm by Dragonforce at a live event in the UK
      George “vVv UkogMonkey” Boothby may be the newest face in vVv Gaming but he is a veteran of the Guitar Hero scene. UkogMonkey was the Gold Medalist in the 2008 WCG Grand Finals and has amassed countless achievements in the rhythm gaming scene. Upon joining vVv Gaming, UkogMonkey was quoted as saying:      Follow vVv UkogMonkey here: Twitch
      Please welcome our new Guitar Hero players: vVv Acai28, vVv Paradise, and vVv UkogMonkey!
    • We Moved from Mumble to TeamSpeak!   10/06/2015

      TeamSpeak 3 Guide
      Don't have Teamspeak 3?
      Download here: http://www.teamspeak.com/?page=downloads
      (Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, etc)
      Server Info:
      Server address: ts65.gameservers.com:9222
      (You can uses spaces in your name)  
      Need help setting up your microphone and sound settings?
      Tired of hearing that beeping/ding noise, when people post in TS chat?
      Can people not hear you while you have a game open?
      You should now have the basics of TeamSpeak set up. Welcome to the better VoiP program! You don't need to do anything extra so you can now come in and join us for events, find people to play with, or just to socialize.
        If you have any questions or need help, just ask a staff member or send me a PM!

      Guide to using plugins (add-ons) with TS3. This is NOT required: (Coming Soon)
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The realest of talk on gaming at large.

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It's good to take a couple days or so to wind down after E3. It's too easy to get caught up in the hype, as I did when I was scouring over ever piece of game footage released in Nintendo's E3 Direct earlier on Tuesday. Mostly because I felt starved - the PS4 and Xbone reveals left the Wii U as an idle passenger, waiting for its stop but forced to deal with the antics of the rest of the car in the meanwhile. It was the Wii U's turn to shine, many of us thought. It seemed rather obvious, at least to us sitting at home, that Nintendo would deliver the final, killing blow to Microsoft with an extravaganza of gaming wonder, while the PS4 sits back hoping not to make the same mistake.

Except, I didn't get that feeling at all. Instead...I felt, well, satisfied but not necessarily full. Although Nintendo showed off a multitude of quality games heading to both Wii U and 3DS - Wind Waker HD, Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, the list goes on - none of them had that huge surprise that many of us were looking for. I had eaten an entire Dominoes pizza the night before, my body was as ready as it could ever be. Yet, I did not shit even one brick. It was disappointing to say the least.

Considering that Nintendo had the best opportunity in the world to win everyone over, I wonder if Nintendo actually accomplished that as well as I may question that they did. I was hoping for literal bombshells, which were almost guaranteed considering the Wii U is a much less successful follow-up, thus far, to Nintendo's last home console. The launch line-up was just not cutting it. As we knew about games like Wind Waker HD and Pikmin 3 heading to the Wii U soon enough, Nintendo had a clear opportunity to bring out the big guns.

Instead, we got Super Mario 3D World, a sequel to the 3DS's Super Mario 3D Land. Even with its 4 player co-op, new Mario suits, and the expected additions throughout, it wasn't the major, open-world Mario game that people were expecting. Likewise, Retro Studios, behind the Metroid Prime series and the Wii's hugely successful Donkey Kong Country Returns, was hinting at a project "everybody wanted them to do" which only become another Donkey Kong Country game. No Metroid, no new IP, just more Donkey Kong.

Over time, though, I began to take a look at my own perspective on E3. I didn't seem satisfied, but maybe it was because I was asking too much? Nintendo cannot please everybody, and is it surprising that they would go with a sequel to a very successful Wii game over the next installment in the Metroid franchise that, while acclaimed by critics, has never been a system seller? Hell, we got Smash 4 and Mario Kart 8, safe bets but nevertheless great additions to already amazing game series.

I feel conflicted. Nintendo's new games and news aren't necessarily unhype, but they aren't exactly what we expected or wanted. But, people do seem rather excited for these new games. It feels weird - normally Nintendo playing safe like this gets a less than stellar reaction, but this time around Nintendo hasn't drawn the worst of backlash, at least not yet.

Retrospectively, the Smash 4 reveal probably reflects my feelings on E3 the best, specifically the reveal characters. We got Mega Man, a huge addition to the character roster finally allowing our Nintendo favorites to face off against Capcom's finest warrior himself. We got the Animal Crossing Villager, a really hilarious addition that seemed unexpected but fits right in. And we got...the Wii Fit Trainer, even more unexpected and definitely drew more attention than anything else. I can definitely say that I didn't expect these newcomers coming into E3.

Mega Man represents all the good games Nintendo is bringing us that I seem to be overlooking. With Mega Man I was astounded, but because I'm not the biggest Mega Man fan and was hoping for a really insanely hype Nintendo character (plus, Mega Man has been on everyone's wishlist character roster since 'Nam), it felt a bit lessened than the reaction to the Solid Snake reveal for Brawl. Yet, I realize I should be more excited because it's truly a big thing for Smash! Likewise, even though Nintendo's games may not be exactly what I expected, they are still looking to be quality titles.

The Villager represents the unexpected that fits in perfectly. The Villager is a character that caught me really off-guard but won me over bit by bit, and that's how I felt about Nintendo overall. I wasn't exactly sure at first what to feel about Nintendo's E3 reveals, but over time I found that there's a lot to love with what Nintendo's offering. All the new games plus a console that has dodged the ire and drama of the Xbone and PS4 reveals gives gamers quite the opportunity to try out some excellent new experiences throughout this year and the next.

And, finally, the Wii Fit Trainer, the character I hated at first. Being a long time Smash fan, it feels literally cut-throat trying to support some characters for the next game. Years go by on discussion forums about who should and should not be in the next Smash game. It hurts to not see your favorites make the cut, even when they too could be great additions to the series and have a lot of worth in the franchises they come from. While I never expected my two hopefuls Ridley and King K. Rool to show up in the trailer (as Sakurai isn't that cool), it's frustrating to see a character like Wii Fit Trainer get in and not others.

This is how I felt with Nintendo's choice of games at E3 - more Mario? Why not Star Fox? more DK? Why not Metroid? Where's F-Zero? Where's Zelda Wii U? This still sticks with me. I still wish Samus stepped out of her hunter ship for another adventure. I truly wanted to see Link battle in full high definition. In contrast, it seems silly that Nintendo would instead stick to another handheld-like Mario platformer as one of its big reveals. Similarly...just...damn, Nintendo I like yoga pants, but not that much (alright, not true, I love yoga pants, but I was fine without them in Smash Bros.).

Maybe it's just because change is hard to accept at first. Even Nintendo's skipping of a traditional press conference felt weird - imagine hearing the crowd reaction to the Mega Man reveal? That's something you'll never be able to capture thanks to Nintendo using a pre-recorded video as its "presser." Without that to look forward to, most Nintendo fans began clinging to the internet, waiting for the inevitable droplets of news that would be rung out the E3 sponge throughout the three days of the event. It's an unfortunate reality, but it is what it is.

I guess, most of all, we were all hoping for Nintendo to play along. Microsoft is down, get 'em Nintendo, now's your chance! But, Nintendo has never been about that. They've always done best sticking to their guns and keeping their path. They've never needed to play anyone else's game. It seems like they did just that - Nintendo did Nintendo as Nintendo usually does. The games are coming and the consoles are out there.

However, if the Wii U launch tells us anything, it's that Nintendo can be unprepared when you would expect them not to be. So, let's hope that Nintendo has truly prepared itself for the next year and beyond to strengthen the integrity of the Wii U before the big splash of the PS4 and Xbone hits shelves.

At first, I really wanted to shit all over this Xbox One reveal. Really wanted to shit all over it. I couldn't ignore the feeling that I hate the idea of an "entertainment" console. For whatever reason, the big three have this weird obsession with taking over our living rooms and making everything accessible from one platform and it just doesn't sit well with me. I guess it's too much to ask for just games nowadays, right?

Except, the more I thought about it, the more I actually liked the Xbox One reveal. During the reveal I found myself impressed and excited about what I was seeing, which was weird because I expected it to be a hide-your-kids-cuz-its-taking-over-the-living-space, multi-purpose console and that's exactly what I got.

I think this feeling stems from the Wii U, which too tried its hand at taking over the living room. The problem, and this is where I find my delight in the Xbox One, is that the Wii U's attempt in doing so ended up taking away from the most important part of a video game console: video games.

On the other hand, the Xbox One does not do this and I love it for it. As in, no matter how much Microsoft wants to control my living room, I am also given the option to completely ignore that bullshit.

The Wii U constantly reminds us of Nintendo's ham-fisted piercing of our living rooms with the tablet right in front of our faces. It's a gimmick I didn't like at E3 2011 and its one I still do not like to this day. Building a console around a gimmick that does not cater to the needs of gamers makes it easy to give it the cold shoulder. Instead of focusing on actually delivering games, Nintendo focused on essentially everything else.

This doesn't seem to be the case with the Xbox One. Sure, the reveal was mostly an odd claim that the average person can't watch television without some sort of dilemma apparently, but we also can easily understand that Microsoft still cares about an actual lineup of games for its system.

The best example of this is the new controller (which, by the way, looks majestic as hell and I can't wait to get my hands on it). There's no gimmicks here. The d-pad seems refined; the analog sticks look better than ever; and the controller overall maintains the sleekness that the preceding 360 captured so well. There's nothing stopping me from picking up an Xbox One controller and hoping into a game of Call of Duty: Ghosts Forza Motorsport 5 while completely ignoring all the new features.

Not only that, but we're promised 15 exclusives for the console already, half of which are new IPs. I seriously cannot stress enough what it feels like as a passionate Nintendo fan to see a new Nintendo console come out and the best they have to offer is a Mario game that has been released three times over already and "launch titles" that still aren't on shelves yet. So, yeah, that's big.

I felt that the Wii U's attempts to control my living space were not only fruitless, but half-baked (and not in the good way huehuehuehue). I feel no need to try and traverse the Wii U's assortment of gimmicks with the big tablet, while the features present on the Xbox One not only seem better executed, but less intrusive. I don't need a huge iPad-like device on my lap to watch TV. I might as well use the remotes given to me by the TV company that I already have. But if I can watch TV with a swipe of my hand and with an interface that seamlessly integrates multiple aspects of the Xbox One experience all at the same time, why in the world would I ever use Nintendo TVii?

Sure, the reveal had some bumps. Ten minutes devoted to a new Call of Duty game? T'was only worth it for the dog. Numerous segments devoted to sports games? They aren't exclusives, move along. What did we really get? Not much. Still, it's clear that Microsoft is saving a ton of juicy goodness for E3 (a smart move since the PS4 already laid its cards on the table and Nintendo won't be having a presser on its own) and with all of that stuff out the way, Microsoft can now focus on what really matters for this upcoming conference: the games.

Now, I find myself more comfortable with the idea having a big entertainment console The new interfaces, features, and the like look amazing! I'm genuinely excited about them. And, I'm genuinely excited that I can enjoy my games without feeling like I'm being forced into buying a DVD player, cable box, and low-powered PC, too. I mean, technically I am, but at least I can game as much as I want without having myself shoehorned into gimmicks.

Is there some stuff I'm worried about? Of course. I don't really like the always-on Kinect feature (I think that's the first time I've even mentioned Kinect in over a year). I think competitive gaming may run into some roadblocks as well and that bothers me, too. A lot of the requirements just to play a game or play a game with my friend may put me off. There's a lot of unknowns. That's good - we only saw an hour's worth of content.

Yet, I feel oddly optimistic. Yes, PC is still where its at and I'm not regretting saving up for a godlike desktop, but after the Wii U being essentially dead-on-arrival as far as I'm concerned and the PS4 only barely able to keep my attention, this is the first time I actually have interest in the next generation of consoles.

Or maybe it's just the CoD dog. It could be just the CoD dog. We'll have to see when E3 arrives if the hype is actually real.

UPDATE: Instead of writing an entirely new blog, just wanted add this.

I liked the reveal for another reason - Microsoft got all the non-game stuff out of the way. Wanted a press conference devoted entirely to television features and Skype? Of course not. Now we don't have to worry about it. We got the chance to meet and understand the console without having to do so at E3. Microsoft can now dedicate their E3 presser and floor plans entirely to games rather than trying to fight the media hassles of revealing a brand new console at the event itself.

So yeah, the reveal was good for that, too.


All things considered, the current drama in the Call of Duty community over the legality of the FAL in Black Ops 2 competition weighs very little on my shoulders. Although I have an endearing passion for CoD4 and will rarely turn down a fun session of killing zombies, I am very far from what you would call a fan or gamer in the CoD community. If anything, I'm a critic, and with good reason.

Only up until recently has competitive CoD shown any signs of potential. While many, myself included, can justifiably argue that Modern Warfare is to be shown respect as the pinnacle of competitive Call of Duty, Black Ops 2 has taken some strides in establishing itself as a legitimate eSport. I personally cannot come to terms with calling it an eSport – not yet, not just yet – but it seems like there are steps being taken in the right direction.

For one thing, the competitive support provided by Black Ops 2 developer Treyarch, not fully satisfactory but certainly existent and worthwhile, has been a boon for the community. Not only have players been given more ways to share their skill and connect with fellow competitors over a range of different mediums (first in gameplay, then in built-in streaming, etc.), but the company has thrown money at tournament prize pots and clearly has some sort of investment and care for the competitive livelihood of their game.

The community itself (remember, we're talking the Call of Duty community here), for what it's worth, too has put a lot of investment in the growth of their game, as any community involved in eSports does.The community has also engaged in direct communication with the developers over balance and other issues, as gamers of other communities such as Starcraft 2 and League of Legends do regularly.

There's quite a number of intelligent people keeping this communication alive, understanding that an eSport can literally be broken just by the neglect of the developer. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a great example of this – in light of the recent Nintendo/Youtube/LPer controversy, we cannot forget that Nintendo also barred Major League Gaming from streaming and majorly promoting their own game at the events. Needless to say, Brawl lasted only a year on the circuit (as opposed to Melee, which survived for a couple of years longer back when MLG could stream a game like Melee and not have to worry about Nintendo cracking down), and to this day it still struggles with Nintendo's steadfast, anti-competitive approach to their titles. Sigh.

The community-developer relationship tested in all eSports is now being tested once more in the Black Ops 2 community, this time over weapon balancing (a topic that is, of course, extremely important in competitive first person shooters). According to many, the FAL OSW assault rifle: with a semi-auto rounds per minute that outclasses its automatic RPM, in addition to low recoil among other things, the FAL OSW has become the target of a bit of controversy due to its consistent effectiveness from most ranges.

As it stands, it seems like the FAL OSW may be on the cutting board due to be chopped from competitive play.

TheWRant Reaction

Surprisingly, I found myself tuned into Twitch.tv last night not for fighting games or Starcraft or League, as per usual, but rather a Call of Duty stream. GASP!!! Yes, I know it's startling, but it was actually just the Weekly Rant, a Call of Duty show about...Call of Duty stuff. I guess. It was the first episode I had ever watched (and, to my disappointment, apparently Goldenboy is part of TheWRant but wasn't hosting this episode). Coincidentally, they too were discussing the topic of the FAL in competitive play. A few minutes later, I was actually somewhat engaged in the conversation going on. Again, as surprising as that is.

Aside from barely-noticed-he-was-there host Deezal, the show had from what I can tell at least one person of importance – eGo of 360icons (although, Rambo later joined the show, but only after the chat and eGo chanted to make it happen). According to the show, eGo has apparently put the FAL on hold on his own website, in retrospect making him quite the guest for the show.

Stream monsters aside, eGo seemed capable of providing valid points throughout the discussion (if only to foil himself with some hypocritical statements and then pointed out that he did so, thus digging a hole further but I digress), mostly because there was some discussion about banning the FAL but not a particular shotgun.

This is where we see a problem with the FAL, according to eGo. Many times throughout the show, he notes how shotguns work as they are intended to work – dominate close quarters and suck at everything else. On the other hand, the FAL seems to work consistently in most, if not all, ranges, making it a far better tool overall than say a shotty.

I am inclined to agree. But, others weren't. Then, one guest on the show (whose name I cannot for the life of me remember) decided to go a different route altogether – since Treyarch has done so much for the CoD community, CoD players should be grateful and play with what they have (which, he pointed out, is a lot better than what they had when the game first released thanks to patchs). Another point was later brought up that playing the game right out of the box should be a priority and that whining should not be. Either way, it seemed clear that there is at least a vocal number of people that agree with this mindset.

And Why It's Not Always Good To Be “Grateful”

Where to begin?

I think the best way to start is with this: there is a difference between being critical and whining. There's also a difference between being vocal and bitching. Let's make that clear.

I want to make that clear because it seems like it isn't clear for many CoD players. Remember that you are a consumer and Treyarch (and Activision, etc.) are the producer. You spent ~$60 USD (plus any DLC) to play this game. So, understand that there's no requirement to be “grateful” innately because you have already shown your gratitude with your wallet.

Secondly, remember that the relationship between community and developer is not only necessary, but very, very volatile and fragile. It takes very little to destroy a good eSport, and even less to destroy the potential of a possible candidate. So far, communication has indeed been open between the two parties.

The problem is that the CoD community is full of trolls, babies, wanna-be pros, little kids, and the like, all of whom also have opinions. Except, their opinions are the ones that consist of the whining, the crying, the bitching. Hell, it's not even exclusive to them. Yet, we should understand that these vocal many are obviously not the representation of the community that CoD players want nor are their opinions necessarily the voice of the majority.

With that said, CoD players should not feel like they can't be critical just because there's a lot of whining. It's just that no one wants to be properly critical. It's one thing to send a detailed, friendly email to a developer or get them on the phone to chat, and it's an entire other thing to make bold claims about weapon balance using the 140 characters provided by Twitter.

Please, don't stop being critical. Being critical is what made Heart of the Swarm a much better edition of SC2 as opposed to Wings of Liberty. Being critical is what makes League of Legends the biggest eSport today. Are those communities too full of whiners and babies? Of course! More than you'd like to know! However, the community also has a lot of level-headed members that do a lot of work in hopes of positively benefiting the competitive scene.

Does that mean CoD doesn't? No. But, when people on a show like TheWRant get on the mic and try to tell people, “just be happy with what you have,” it's sending a poor message to all the viewers. Being satisfied has never been the mantra of eSports – its the dissatisfaction of competitive gamers throughout the years that has lead to huge improvements in competitive gaming over the past decade, even more so in the past three or four years. Starcraft didn't get to where it is today because Starcraft 1 players picked up the game back in the 90's and said, “yeah this seems all good, no need to complain” when that was very much not the case.

Remember that each eSport title and possible eSport title has time working against it. Every day that passes makes that game one day older and brings us one day closer to the arrival of a new game that could potentially run another into the dirt. It's a reality that is true and very haunting, especially for a game like Call of Duty, who's stability in competitive gaming has never been full established.

Instead of trying to calm criticism, CoD community leaders should be making it clear that CoD players should not only give criticism, but constructive criticism. If you all have to make videos or write blogs to show everyone else how exactly to do that, then do it. Ultimately, if the CoD community goes forward with this, “don't complain, be grateful” attitude, it'll do more harm than good. Problems don't get fixed that way and precedents are not properly established in that way, either. It may be Treyarch's Black Ops 2, but it's your game as well. And, as competitors, you have the right to be critical of the competitions you compete in and the mediums in which you do so.

Sure, be appreciative and thankful that Treyarch has done what they have for competitive CoD so far, but also remember that appreciation and thanks does not let them off the hook. Treyarch is as invested in this as all of you are, make sure you remind them of that. If that means solid, constructive criticism, then that's what it takes. Whining and babying is not what it takes, but if you try to quell those that are vocal to try and avoid more whining and babying, you'll see how destructive that kind of behavior is in the not-so-far future.

Despite the growing rampancy of sexism and otherwise ill behavior in the games business towards women, we've seen a more than positive response from several industry icons and other influential figureheads stepping up against hateful speech and antipathy-charged behavior. Which shouldn't be necessary, by the way - it's surprising how the former “outcasts” of society, gamers like you and I, are willing to go to attack and slander fellow gamers like non-gamers try to take jabs at us.

It's a gradual process, sure. Wide-spread acceptance of people of all origins has always and will continue to be a social issue in all industries and markets for years to come. But, in the process of trying to solve a very evident problem before us, we are simultaneously creating an entirely new issue that could prove to be just as toxic.

Yeah, I can smell the white-knighting from here.

Right now, although I feel like most of it is unintentional or indirect, it seems like there's a lot of people, especially non-victims, who want to go out of their way to “help” this cause. In particular, there's an interesting trend of gender reversals and character manipulations of some of gaming's most precious icons. Using concept art and other mediums, fans have been able to bridge such worn-out traditions as the “damsel in distress” trope, by re-imagining their favorite characters in new perspectives.

Is there anything wrong with that? Not necessarily. Yet, far too often a simple “gender reversal” seems to be good enough to show that, “hey, women can be heroes, too!”, when we already knew that. Thus, the shallow attempt backfires – now we are in the unfortunate situation of an identity crisis. Indeed, it seems that many female characters are outright losing their identities in order to meet the gender reversals.

Let me give you an example:


(Zelda Informer: Concept Art Pitch by Aaron Diaz)

Here, a concept artist has come up with an innovative pitch for a new Zelda game, which would star Zelda as the protagonist controlled by the player and, instead, Link fulfilling the role of “damsel in distress.” Seems alright so far.

After taking a look through it all, however, things don't pan out quite well. We find that Zelda really isn't “Zelda”, but Link as a female with the name. At least, that is essentially what Zelda has become. In order to take on the role of protagonist, Zelda apparently has to be stripped of everything that makes her Zelda in the first place, and now she is simply a female Link (and, thus, Link only a male Zelda).

It's odd, because there's nothing inherently wrong with Zelda as a character. She's a princess with access to magical powers and a stealthy alter-ego. Why on Earth should Zelda lose what makes her Zelda in order to be Link? We don't like Link because he holds a sword and shield, we like Link because of what he does with the sword and shield. And, likewise, it doesn't work if you simply give Zelda a sword and a shield and call it a day. If we're getting Zelda as the protagonist, it should actually be her.

Tough =/= Manly

Although that particular Zelda concept art faded from memory, the actual topic of sexual prejudice and women overall in gaming is one I discuss quite often because, as it so happens, my favorite video game character has always been Samus Aran, heroine of Metroid fame. Ever since I played my first game in the series, Metroid Prime, I've been hooked, knowing full well that I was controlling a female character, not a male character.

Who cares? Samus is a bad ass! She's cunning, agile, formidable; a truly terrifying warrior. A walking tank, even. And, as far as I am concerned, the winner of every Samus vs. Master Chief fight I've ever played out in my head.

But, she is female. That can't be ignored. Nintendo definitely didn't ignore it. Anyone who has completed a Metroid game can definitely tell you that sex sells, and it's truthfully not very hard (heh heh) to cater to young male gamers when you've got a tall, blonde ass-kicker as your meal ticket. Especially ask anyone who completed Metroid Fusion or Metroid: Zero Mission (dem bikinis).

Of course there's something wrong with sexing up a character for the sake of sales. The curves of the Zero Suit definitely bring in dollar signs, I can assure you. Yet, at least for me, that's not why I play Metroid. She can be sexy all she wants, all I want to do is blast Space Pirates with her arm cannon.

No, it never bothered me that Samus was, and continues to be portrayed as, a beautiful character. There's nothing wrong with beauty, nor is there anything wrong with a powerful character being beautiful, as well. It's not her bust or rear-end that deem her attractive either (and, of course, we're talking under the assumption that nobody here is actually attracted to this fictional character; if you are, good on you, mate).

So, why does Samus have to be more manly looking to be tougher or, in this case, “harder”?


(Courtesy of poojipoo of DeviantArt. Source)

From Kotaku:

It always baffles me when people go out of their way to make Metroid's Samus look "beautiful". As if that matters. There's a reason her gender was kept secret for the first game, and that's because the point was she was a badass, not that she was a she.

So I love this pic by poojipoo, which gives her a hard edge that's been lacking from recent entries on the series. I mean, you've seen the things she's seen, and done the things she's done, you're going to look a little "harder" than a Barbie doll in a blue jumpsuit.”

-Luke Plunkett

Luke is right, it doesn't matter that Samus is beautiful. This I will not contest. And true, Samus may be lacking a hard edge recently (and by that, we can only mean Other M, which is absolutely the farthest from accurate representation of Samus overall as a character, by the way), but...what's this?

Is that Samus? Or...Samuel Aran?

Is this really Samus to you? Take away her beauty and is she still Samus? Give her a masculine appearance, is she still Samus? Maybe, maybe not.

What I want to focus on is this – why does this mean she is any “harder” than she looked before? The rugged appearance, the scattered cuts, is this what it means to be a “harder” character?

No, I don't buy that. I don't think a character's appearance needs to drive whether or not a character is “hard” (heh) or not. That's the fundamental problem, here. We need to stop giving appearances precedence and priority, and we need to stop letting appearances define our characters. And, furthermore, unless the character is glaring sex candy or some sort of stereotype, why should we force change on these characters, like Samus?

See, that's what I love about Samus – not only is she a young, beautiful woman, but she kicks ass harder than any male character I've ever met. While her appearance may not be what's important, it says a lot that you have to make a character more manly to give the character a harder edge.

Because, if I remember correctly, it is actually only Other M in which Samus does not have a hard edge. In all the other games, Samus is the hardest edge in the galaxy. Sure, the limitations of portraying a mute character in the earlier titles may have indirectly helped present a cold, hard impression from our heroine, but even in Fusion (in which Samus does actually speak, even if only by text) we see that Samus doesn't take bullshit and is a dynamic character that seeds concern in both the mission and rational decisions that may contradict that mission. We don't need a pretty or not-so-pretty face to tell us that. And a pretty face can look battered and brazed, by the way.

Samus was already tough, so why do we need this? If we are still putting character definition on outward appearances, then isn't that a step backward? By making these changes, are we not putting significance and priority back into appearances?

What Does This Say About Me?

Probably the most jarring thing to come from that Metroid piece on Kotaku, by the way, was this:


After looking at that Samus picture off Kotaku as shown above on the left, I clicked back to my desktop, which has the image on the right as my wallpaper. I stopped for a minute. I don't have this “harder” Samus as my wallpaper, but this gracious, long-hair-don't-care flowin' in the wind like a boss, young Samus instead. I immediately questioned if this said anything about me as a person in a negative light.

A dumb thought, I responded. I'm rationally aware that I did not put this wallpaper on my desktop to drool at, but rather because I'm a fan of the series and Samus is my favorite video game character. I also particularly liked the design choices on Samus's suit and, although Samus is actually a render upon a random space background, the overall aesthetic of the image was pleasing. Gender wasn't a factor at all. I just liked the image.

It became clear to me that rationality should ultimately prevail in this case. As gamers, we need to come to the realization that we need to be inclusive, not exclusive; tolerant, not intolerant; accepting, not...not accepting. And for that to happen, we need to start getting comfortable with change. There's going to be a lot of change in this industry. It's young, it's growing, it's inevitable.

Because, truth be told, there are better things to worry about than gender. Gender, identity, sex – these are not unimportant things. Getting past them as issues would only be a boon for our industry, not a dismissal of their importance. It's a problem that we can barely imagine Zelda as the true heroine of a Legend of Zelda game without changing her from what makes her Zelda, and find this dilemma to be of vast importance, when the games industry is constantly locked in turmoil due to a number of other issues (declining sales, the costs behind making a AAA game, always-online and DRM policies, etc.) that we could be otherwise spending our valuable and precious time on.

It's hard to write an entry like this. As a gamer, it's very disappointing to read what happens in our industry day in and day out. And, ultimately, as an industry and community we need to collectively address this current issue, which isn't a women's issue but a games industry issue, one that seems too okay with not only victimizing women, but excluding them from attempting similar endeavors as men without garnering relentless backlash.

Yeah, it's actually pretty interesting how well the plight of the female protagonist mirrors the struggles of every day gamers like you and me. Very interesting. Need I say more?

So I decided to make a combo video after never making a combo video ever. Figured it was worth a shot, and at the time I didn't see many Solomon Grundy (my main man) combo videos on Youtube so I decided to make one myself once I got the necessary tools together (I understand some have come out in the meantime, though).


Let me know what you think. And what not. I have class soon so I'm a bit bummed out even though I just put this up. xD

Just wanted to take a minute to update all of you, since I haven't posted in this bitch for quite some time.

With the new Injustice: Gods Among Us game coming on the 16th, I've decided that I'm going to commit a good amount of time to both playing and creating content for the game. By the summer, I hope to be streaming, as well.

So, just keep a look out for new content on this blog for Injustice including interviews, articles, videos, and more, and hopefully more content along those same lines but for other games, as well.

The Situation

By Rapture,

I'm having a hard time writing anything right now.

My entire life, well at least most of it, I've been a writer. It's something I excelled at as a kid and continued to excel at throughout my time in school. To this day, I still consider myself a writer. At the very least, I consider myself to be someone with a knack for writing. Despite my inability to master many other things, writing has always been something I could fall back on. If I wasn't good at something, at least I could write about how bad I am at it.

But, recently, it's been a real struggle to write much of anything in the past month or so. My last blog entry was July 25th, over a month ago, though since then I've had plans to write several entries and other articles. I write down ideas constantly, but 99.9% of those ideas never come to fruition. I want to write these things, but I just never do.

This bothers me, because writing has always been a passion of mine. Yet, if that's the case, if I continually tell myself that I am a writer and what I can do well is write, then why is it so hard for me to sit down and actually write as of late?

It's not like I have a writer's block. I have a computer full of ideas already typed out and infinite ideas always popping up in my head as I assume that's how it is for others. And I have so many sources of inspiration – all the games I play, all the music I listen to, all the events I travel to, all the people I meet.

Yet, here I am, not writing an actual blog entry but writing a meta-entry, an entry about my entries, an installment in my blog about my blog. Something about the person behind all of this, instead of moving forward.

My biggest problem is that I feel like maybe writing will not always been my biggest passion. I can go a while without writing anything meaningful. I'm not itching to write down paragraphs of prose at any opportunity. But, it's all I have.

Sure, I play video games, that's really the only thing I do more than writing (aside from basic human functions, human interaction, and possibly academia). That I would say is my only passion – I don't go a day without playing a video game or thinking about them or reading about them. Video games will probably always be a part of my life. I wouldn't mind playing some Pokemon on my deathbed.

I think my problem is that, even though I have stuff like college and hanging out with friends and other college-student-age things that I should be doing, I always feel like I should be working on a project or something to advance my career. That's part of the reason why I generate content, because it will help me in the future and will help me hone my skills.

But, that expectation to always be doing more...is that even normal? Does that truly separate the good from the great, the average from the best? Or is it just enough to be doing well in college and having relationships and enjoying life?

Because what I'm not enjoying is getting worked up about the fact that I haven't written much of anything but feeling that I should. Should I force myself to write just because I'm good at it or because it's something I've always done? Why burden myself if I'm not even going to enjoy it?

Now that I think about it, this could be a transition phase for me. I've been getting a bit more into acting, but that tempts me to get more into scriptwriting without any formal training yet (though I have some great ideas). And I have an open schedule, I could pick up a game and really go into the lab and practice. However, none of those things have become things that I have gotten so excited about that I absolutely need to do them or incorporate them into my daily routine. Is that okay? I don't know if it is.

The thing is, I don't want to come to ultimatums just yet. I haven't been part of the acting, or “Hollywood” world in general, long enough to really know if its for me. Plus, I wouldn't even consider myself a true actor, come to think of it. And I don't know if I want to dedicate hours upon hours of my life into one game to the point that I don't even get to enjoy other games or even that one game that has now become much like a job.

Potential scares me, too. I know I have a lot of it, so am I really applying myself to get the most out of what I can do? I just don't know where to apply it, it seems.

And, this all does come back to the writing thing. Maybe I just need a break from it. Maybe I'll really get back into it after a good break or if I find something else that I just love too much not to put my fingers to the keyboard once again. Or maybe I do just need to force myself and that will create a much-needed spark.

I really don't know. I'm just...stuck. I'd love words of advice right now.

Despite the rather philosophical and metaphorical nature of the title of this blog, all I'm doing today is talking about my weekend, specifically this past Saturday morning. This past Saturday morning happened to be one of the best examples of how life is just full of opportunities waiting to be taken, most of which are fed to you on a silver platter but you may not even realize it. However, in my case, it all started with a newspaper ad.

Let's backtrack to earlier last week. It was about mid-Wednesday when I walked back into my dad's house after staying with some friends for a couple of days. I usually swap between my dad's place and friends' houses every couple of days; when I'm home, I'm working on writing and playing video games or watching tons of NCIS; when I'm with my friends, I'm not doing much else except play video games, hang out, go to parties and eat Taco Bell. Needless to say, I like being home for a few days in between being with friends, just as a breather.

When I returned home, I walked by my dad's computer table and my eyes instantly darted toward a piece of laminated paper. On top of the paper, but also laminated, was a small newspaper clipping and on the paper, a written note. It was from my dad's girlfriend, saying that he should address the newspaper clipping. Written in the newspaper clipping was an add seeking people for an upcoming movie called, “Noah.”

Now, I've never done much of any acting, but it's always been a personal dream to get into it, as it may be for many others. However, it's never really been a passion strong enough for me to take classes or get into theater. For me, it's always been something that I thought would just “happen” for me – maybe I would impress someone one day and end up with lines in a movie. Hey, it could happen right?

Of course, another way to go about it is to go to casting calls, where casting agencies look for people to put into movies, televisions shows, plays, commercials, even web series. If you're not already in the business, it can be rather difficult to just break into a Hollywood career, and it's still rather difficult if you already are.

Still, I saw this as an opportunity. If anything, it'd be a fun Saturday morning with my dad, who looked rather excited to be in attendance. The ad was looking for “slim, slender men and women, with runner's bodies.” While I'm not in the best of shape, I'm definitely slim and slender – my dad, on the other hand, is a big, bald, muscular dude who would probably be better fit for playing the role as a football player or a wrestler. Nevertheless, he really wanted to go and, since I had nothing to do that morning, I tagged along.

The casting call was about a half hour away from my dad's in a town called Brookville, which is the same town that I had lived in for one year just after I moved from my hometown and just one year before I moved to Connecticut at the end of 9th grade (technically, I lived in Upper Brookville, but whatever). The entire ride there, my dad and I talked about what exactly the casting call would be like, what we may be doing, and, obviously, how cool it would be if the both of us got into the movie.

Mid-ride, I looked up the movie and found that, contrary to what I was thinking, this movie “Noah” is going to be a big-budget film, not some indie short or something to that effect. Once I found out that Russell Crowe and Emma Stone were going to be in the movie, I knew shit was going to get real. This was now more exciting than ever – if we got into the movie, I could meet these people! Maybe!

Anyway, we finally arrive at the location of the casting call, which happens to be at a local church. We find our way into a decently-sized room with about one hundred chairs. Some people were already there, but overall the room was rather empty. No one there seemed important, either.


This is pretty much what it looked like.

It wasn't until almost an hour later, when the casting call was about to begin, that not only a parade of wannabe-actors and actresses walk in, even some that seemed qualified by holding resumes and portfolios or headshots and whatnot, but also some rich-as-hell and important-as-hell-looking people strolled in. These people were the ones that seemed to be running the entire thing.

Not long after, the two of us and everyone else in the room were given a form to fill out. Apparently, this form was just for basic information that they would use to cast for future projects – once you're in their database, any time they do a casting call, you'll be automatically put into the running and possibly considered without even moving a muscle. However, this form was far from basic...I mean, how in the hell am I supposed to know my neck size and jacket length off the top of my head? And why was my dad's Ford F150 considered a “prop” when I'm at a casting call for a movie set in biblical times? Does Russell Crowe not finish the ark in time and needs a getaway vehicle to escape the flood? I guess I'd have to be in the business to know that information.

When I was filling out the form, another man walked up to me and gave me a card, telling me to write my name on it and keep it on me. It was entirely vague and almost a bit creepy, but I nevertheless felt very excited because I was specifically picked for something!

Soon after, one of the important-looking dudes grabbed a microphone, apparently from a dimensional portal inside the right pocket of his jeans, and began to speak to us. We were told that the call is based primarily on filling out that form and then getting a picture taken of us. Once both of those things were done, we could leave, since the building was getting packed with people and a huge line was forming behind us, so they wanted to keep things moving. Though, if you were given one of those cards to put your name on, you must go outside once your done and wait. He also explained that the casting call was for another movie called, “Wolves of Wall Street” or something like that, but after that I heard nothing more on the film.

Guess I wasn't leaving anytime soon.

I felt bad for my dad, considering it was his idea to go, but he didn't get one of those cards. Then again, I didn't know what exactly the cards were meant for, so they could have been for something bad (there's always that possibility), but no one knew at that point. I still hadn't got called up for my picture to be taken yet, so it wasn't of much concern.

When my row of chairs finally did get called, we all stood and formed a line for our pictures to be taken. After a few minutes, I got up to a table and handed a short man my form. On both of his arms, he had some pretty cool Super Mario Bros tattoos that wrapped around his biceps and fore-arms. I pointed them out and told him that they were cool, in which he only replied, “Thanks.” I shrugged it off and walked by him to get my picture taken.


This was one of his tattoos. He also had Peach dressed as that chick from Waterboy and Mario as Jesus from The Passion.

As I stood at the tape on the ground, waiting for the camera guys to find the right backdrop for my awesome picture (apparently, after using the same part of the wall for other people, now it was decided that they needed a new place to take these pictures), the tattooed guy turned in his chair and stretched out his arm, in his hand a small card. I took it, finding that it was one of those name cards from earlier but with information on the back: the name of a film and an email address. He told me to send pictures of myself to that email address.

Fuck yeah, I'm good. I get picked for movies without even trying.

So, now I was in the running for three different films, one of which being the one mentioned on the back of that card. I guess they weren't casting for that film that morning, so to be picked for some role or position for that movie got me really hyped. I'm still pressuring my dad so I can get headshots of myself as quick as possible (after I finished this sentence, I got up and reminded my dad again, just to be more of a bother).

With pictures taken for both my dad and I, we stepped outside and I seemed to be one of the first ones out there to be waiting thanks to that card. I didn't really converse with anyone – there was a small group of people talking to each other that all seemed hand-picked for this specific movie and were there because the casting guys asked them to be. Other people stepped outside in small bunches and they all seemed disconnected, so I didn't make any moves at anyone. I just stood near my father unit and talked with him for a while.

Finally, one of the casting people walked outside. I had no idea if he was the director of the movie, but he might as well have been – he spoke like how I thought a director would speak and dressed like how I thought one would dress, he was definitely playing the role well if he wasn't director already. I'll call him the director.

The director was now addressing us, letting us know that we were chosen because we fit the bill rather well and now we were going to do some small acting routines that will be featured in what seemed like an action scene in the movie. Next to him was a bulky, curly haired man that looked of Hawaiian descent. The director told us that we'd be split into two groups, one with him and one with Hawaii man, and would do some basic acting then switch stations (so, we'd be with Hawaii man first, then the director or vice versa).


Pretty much exactly what he looked like but much more muscular.

I was split into the Hawaii man's group first. We walked farther away from the building with the guy, who was very much less director-ish than his buddy. On our way to our “station,” he explained that we were all basically cast for the movie and now they were looking for people to do some minor action stuff that isn't exactly stunt-worthy, as in we'd be getting paid a bit more than regular extras because we were going to be doing some physical work, though we were considered stunt-doubles or anything.

This was awesome news. I wasn't sure how accurate his statement was – that we were literally cast in the movie or that our chances of being cast were much better, to the point that we might as well be – but either way I was excited as all hell. To be simply cast like that, as if it were the means of snapping one's fingers, was such an intense experience.

Over at the Hawaii man's station, our first acting had to do with pretending we were holding a shield and spear and had to poke upward, as if we were fighting something much larger than us. I could explain to you why, as we were told, but I don't want to be “that guy” nor do I like spoilers, even if the movie doesn't come out until 2014. Let's just say that if you've read the Bible or at least just the story of Noah, this movie doesn't exactly follow that story exactly.

Anyway, I was one of the first to go and with a loud, “ACTION!,” from Tito of Rocket Power fame, I marched forward, doing my best impression of a guy with a spear and a shield fighting something much larger than himself. I felt like I did a pretty good job, but once I was done, I knew I definitely did a good job – Hawaii man pointed to me and said, “Good job, kid, good job,” while giving me a nice thumbs-up. Achievement Unlocked – Hawaiian Man Likes Your Style.

I am, of course, not an actor by trade, so for a random guy like me to actually do well in some acting felt good. At the same time, I was absolutely baffled by the performances of the others – over half of my group was made up by guys and girls that had come to the casting call with portfolios, resumes, pictures, etc, many of which claiming to be actors and actresses. But, holy shit, did some of them suck! One guy thought he was a boxer, using his “spear” like a dagger and his shield like a baseball bat (???) to deliver too many strikes in an unrealistic amount of time. Another guy wasn't even trying. His performance was so pathetic that I was actually surprised at how bad some people could be at acting. If he actually went to war as a guy with a spear and a shield, he'd be the last to die because no opponent would consider him enough of a threat to actually waste time on killing him first.

After that session, which also included some formation drills (which weren't hard and no one seemed to do those particularly awful), we left Hawaiian man and made our way back over to the director. At this station, we had to run at about 3/4th speed and come to a quick stop, as if something comes out of nowhere and stops our progress.

As much as that sounds somewhat easy, it's a lot harder than it seems. 3/4th speed still means that you're giving it at least a jog and then to stop on as close to a dime as possible due to something that doesn't exist, and not fall over, and make sure that your facial expression mirrors a situation in which you're rather desperate and for this calamity to happen is terrible...well, it's a huge clusterfuck of stuff you have to do and it's not easy, especially for someone with no acting experience like myself.

Because of how many people that were waiting, I only got to do it twice. I have to say, I did the exercise rather well – not the best, but definitely one of the best out of the people in my group. I definitely tried my hardest to make it convincing.

After a couple of rounds, we were done. The groups came together with the director and Hawaiian man. The two explained to us that the working conditions would be hard, as the scene has action and isn't exactly set upon a yacht or anything like that. However, we would be getting paid more. Still, he stressed that people that don't think they can handle it should just back out. No one did, but considering some of the performances I saw, I wish they did. Jeez, shit was bad at times.


We also had to do a scene in which we pretend to be a super hero and cry about it.

We all lined up and met the director and Hawaiian man individually, which basically boiled down to handing them the cards with our names on them and getting a handshake. I thanked them for their time, then walked over to my dad so we could head home.

Of course, the entire way back we talked about the experience. My dad, though disappointed that he didn't get specifically picked for anything, was still happy that he went and was proud of me. He talked anxiously about finding more casting calls so that he could one day be in a movie with Russell Crowe, which would be awesome for him. He also sent a text to his girlfriend's daughter, who is a photographer, so I could get headshots done for that other movie that I need to email out.

And then I went home and played Street Fighter. All I wanted to do was play more Street Fighter.

So, the moral of the story is to always take opportunities and pursue your dreams, even if you think it's impossible. You'll always lose if you never try, even if the stakes are high or your goal is unreachable. Sometimes, things can just go your way and an opportunity will present itself that may change part or all of your life. I mean, is this just some acting work or the beginning of a full-fledged Hollywood career? Am I the next James Franco? I could very well be! Or we could be in the sequel to Pineapple Express together, that would be sweet.

Or, at the very least, always take time to read the newspaper and peruse the ads. You never know what you'll find.

In the aftermath of this year's EVO 2012 event, I felt the need to get back into playing more fighting games and putting together an effort to do well at tournaments. In these past several months, I have missed the feeling of practicing fighting games and going to tournaments - EVO was the kicker I needed to refuel that passion.

Yesterday, while perusing Facebook and still hyped about EVO, I came across a long entry by a friend, Geoff "Vermanubis" Butterworth. He's one of the most well-known Smash players in its community, being an extremely talented and intelligent individual who also happens to be one of the best Ganondorf players in the country.

What he posted spoke to me in volumes, so much that I bookmarked it and read it over and over. Now, I want to share it all with you.

The following are words from Geoff, not me, and I take no credit in producing the quote. Geoff gave me permission to post this in my blog. I only want to share these words with all of you and hope it helps with your careers in competitive gaming or anything else in life.


"In retrospect of Evo, I've been thinking about how people improve at things, and trying to dig a little deeper into why some people excel, while others get stymied.

To keep it as brief as possible, I think it can be simplified to observation. For example, in my musical pursuits (I know, I create an analog between music and just about everything), I actively and manually rebuild my understanding of music so I can arrive at a conceptualization of music that's most successful for my particular application. In order to analyze songs, I needed to learn to read sheet music so I could explore the harmonies in a song a bit closer. However, I didn't and haven't been making an effort to deconstruct my current understanding of sheet music, so my sight-reading skills stay about the same.

The point of this is that you can't labor away at something mindlessly and hope to breach an obstacle. I'm far more concerned with the content of the music than developing an algorithmic ability to read on sight. So, naturally, I've plateaued at my current level of sight-reading, despite reading music almost daily.

If you want to excel at something, you have to greet any and all problems and weaknesses and endure the ass-pains of reconstructing particular models of thinking. Pumping in time like it's going out of style isn't going to get anyone anywhere. Time in conjunction with a cognitive effort to understand the nature of the task is what makes people do well.

Think of a concept like a lump of clay. Every time you consider a new concept, such as, say, what to do in an unfamiliar match-up, it's like adding another lump of clay. To integrate that lump of clay, you need to mold it, 'cause it won't just osmose into the bigger lump by itself.

This is just a pattern I've noticed in both myself and in just about everyone else. When effort is put to thinking and understanding, instead of hoping for causeless epiphanies, results invariably come."

-Geoff "Vermanubis" Butterworth (Permission to post granted)

If there has ever been a convincing argument that the advancement of the Internet has become almost too influential in the metagames of competitive gaming scenes, the recent development in the Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 scene certainly puts it to shame. Less than a week ago, members of the community came across an extremely powerful abuse of the Team Aerial Combo mechanic in the game, finding that using the mechanic allows for the second character in the maneuver to put the opponent into a position where an unbreakable, infinite combo could be performed. Thus, the TAC infinite was born.

And not only was one TAC infinite discovered, but a huge amount of them. Not only that, but the other infinites were not found by the same player. Rather, the original discoverer of the TAC infinite mechanic uploaded a video onto Youtube. Once that video graced the Internet, it spread like wildfire and the rest of the community began to replicate it for essentially every character in the game.

A TAC infinite in action results from a player using the Team Aerial Combo and a precise usage of hard or soft knockdown moves while keeping a certain position in the air to make sure that the victim is never dropped out of a state or position in which they can be combo'd in the air. This is extremely deadly – once the second character in the TAC maneuver begins the infinite, the combo will never stop until the executing player screws up an input or the victim dies.

An example of a TAC Infinite in UMvC3 using Magneto and Nova. Notice the looping of Nova's combo.

With such a powerful new piece of technology for the Marvel heads to use, the landscape of competitive Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has now severely changed. And right out on the horizon is the biggest fighting game showcase of the year, EVO 2012. With the recent discovery of these new TAC infinites, which, though difficult to perform, have proven to be accessible for a vast number of players in the community, who knows how the Marvel tournament at EVO will play out? Not only that, but rumors have been turning heads because apparently the Japanese players are holding out on the rest of the world with new technology of their own.

The supposed Japanese iron curtain for this new technology they may have for competitive Marvel is reminiscent of the STSFN days of competitive fighting games. Fighting game commentator Dogysamich explained to me that that was the era of, “save that shit for nationals.” The philosophy, untainted by the advancements of the Internet, meant that any kind of new gimmick or style a player came across was not shared with the scene at large, but kept in a mental vault, only to be used in a major tournament in hopes of catching opponents off-guard with something they could never prepare for. A decade ago, this was something you saw at every national event. The unpredictable nature of players was absurd considering that any player could come out of the woodwork with a new technique that no one had ever seen or heard of before.

Nowadays, however, those instances are very few and far between. Players, especially those here in North America, are extremely prone to uploading videos of their new technology onto Youtube within hours of their discovery. What may have taken weeks or months for the entire community to learn about over five years ago now takes days, even hours in some cases.

With the existence of Youtube and the Internet itself, the STSFN Era is virtually dead and now what we see is the huge, influential power of the Youtube Era. Unless a collective effort by a certain region is maintained to keep technology from escaping its boundaries, like the Japanese are apparently doing in preparation for this year's EVO, no technology is ever secret anymore. That means small parts or even large chunks of an entire metagame can be completely changed and re-arranged in the smallest amounts of time. The discovery and spread of the TAC infinites is a primary example of this.

Another deadly part of this equation is that developers now have the power to patch games like these, unlike a decade ago for games such as Marvel 2, but the discovery of TAC infinites came at such a bad time. EVO 2012 begins in less than two weeks. There is absolutely no way a patch will make it out to the general public in time for the competition. UMvC3 director and producer Ryota Niitsuma commented on Twitter that he is, “adjusting the mechanics related to the issue,” and asks us to be patient. What he doesn't specifically say is when or if a patch is coming within the near future. And with the amount of hoops that he has to go through to actually get the patch created and sent out online, EVO 2012 will certainly be long over before the TAC infinites get removed.

While TAC infinites are without a doubt difficult maneuvers to perform, they will nonetheless become an influential part of the EVO competition. Thanks to the Youtube Era, we've seen such a rapid evolution in this development that an entire metagame may be folded over onto itself because of a couple of uploaded videos. A decade ago, TAC infinites may not have even been seen until the next series of EVO qualifiers. But, then again, without technology, would the Marvel metagame have progressed to where it was just before the TAC infinite discoveries? There's justifiably a lot of uncertainties...but one thing is for sure – Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 at EVO 2012 is going to be really fucking ridiculous.

God damn it.

I really didn't want to like this game at all. I was a hardcore Starcraft 2 monster, very happy grinding my way through mid-level leagues until somehow becoming the champion of the world in 2016. And I dismissed this game rather quickly for being somewhat hard to follow at first glance and for its cartoonish style. Now that I think about it, all the hate I had for the game was probably rather illogical, but then again, hate is rarely logical.

Then, at MLG Anaheim, our good friend Mr. vVv LordJerith convinced me that I should dabble more in the realm of MOBAs and MMOs. With Guild Wars 2 far out on the horizon, really my only best choice without spending any outlandish amounts of money (just purchased a ticket to DayGlow) was League of Legends. He said I'd enjoy it, and I said it was stupid.

And now I really enjoy it. I honestly could go on and on about what I like about the game, so I will.

First of all, it's free-to-play. All that was needed from me was a download and install. I don't know about anyone else, but free stuff is amazing, especially if the free stuff happens to be a well-made video game that's actually worth something. I mean, what better way is there to get into a competitive game than to pick one up that costs you know monetary investment? And what better way to advertise a highly-competitive title than to make it free? I can't think of one (well, I can, but they're not appropriate for all audiences [hookers]).

So I decided to finally start it up and get into playing. Now, from watching LoL matches at various MLG events, I realized I probably wouldn't understand how exactly the game works until I play it, but I already had a basic idea of how games functioned - walk around, cast spells, level up, merk bitches, destroy stuff, take their base, destroy the base, enjoy victory. And, obviously excluding major and minor details, that's pretty much a summary of any game of competitive LoL ever.

But once I got to playing it, I found that it was not only enjoyable, but somewhat addicting. For a new player surrounded by other new players, and some low-skill ones, I found myself doing rather well in my introductory matches after utilizing the game's tutorial. Once I figured out the basic gameplan of what a LoL player should be doing to get XP and Gold, as well as deal with enemy champions, I pretty much dominated a majority of my matches. And even in matches my team lost, I still did pretty okay and wasn't completely shut-out.

I really began to enjoy the huge amount of champions to choose from. It felt like Riot played a lot of Marvel vs Capcom 2 back in their day considering how huge the roster is. With so many champions, I felt a bit more at home on the selection screen, and was pleasantly surprised to find a number of heroes that seemed enjoyable. I played several rounds with Skarner, Malphite, and Fiddlesticks thanks to them being free at the time, and enjoyed learning what they had to offer and how I could use them to play specific roles on a team, even if my team was just a random bunch of people.

Eventually I got that, "one more game, one more game..." kind of feeling, to the point where I spent an entire afternoon playing and forgot to eat any sort of lunch or dinner, only being reminded by my dad that I had only ate eggs and toast earlier that day and that I was probably starving. I was - it was very easy for me to just jump into another game, talk with new people, figure out a strategy, and try to play my best. Meeting new people to play with was a lot of fun, especially after having an enjoyable time with one another in a particular lane and doing well, prompting each other to congratulate one another after every possible action and send friend requests immediately after the match. I missed that kind of interaction, one that is so desperately needed in an experience like Starcraft 2, where loneliness is very common.

The one thing I didn't miss, however, were idiotic teammates. Besides the several afk people and a couple of feeders, I only had one instance where a teammate just did something so ridiculously stupid that it made me become vocally annoyed with it. It basically boiled down to when I was jumped into an emergency 2v1 situation just as one of my teammates was returning from base. I got slowed out of nowhere just as my teammate came to my side. Instead of helping me, he promptly turned right around and ran away. I almost got away with a kill, but was unable to finish one of them off. Either way, I was going to die, no thanks to my mate, who then now had a 2v1 situation of his own that he barely survived thanks to turret hugging. Wasn't happy about that.

Still, I find League of Legends to be very enjoyable, which still sort of bothers me. Now that I've been playing League, I want to continue to play League, but now I feel like all the time I've put into Starcraft 2 to be genuinely good will be cast out the window if I stop putting the time in. And now with summer in full gear, I'll have a job, and I've moved down to NY for the time being to see my friends. I feel a bit overwhelmed. But then I remember that it's all just gaming and I'll get over it eventually. I do what I was meant to do.

And really what I feel like I am meant to do right now is to kick ass on LoL for the bitches. Bitches love ass kicking on LoL.

So yeah, I'm enjoying it. Fuck.


As E3 2012 closely approaches, Nintendo decided to take a half hour of its time to air a Nintendo Direct conference for all of its fans to learn more about Nintendo's upcoming home console, the Wii U. It seems like Nintendo is very confident that the console will be as innovative, if not more innovative, than its predecessor. Likewise, Nintendo hopes that the Wii U completely changes the social aspect of gaming, bring players together from all around the world, the house, the living room, or an inconspicuous geek-cave where stereotypical hipster gamers fail absolutely horribly at beating zombie games and have to web chat old people to figure out the zombie's weak point. Yep, you heard that correctly.

First of all, it seems like the Wii U controller now has an official name, “Wii U GamePad.” The controller seems to indeed be of the same layout that was leaked out to the Internet a couple of weeks ago, with analog sticks replacing sliders and much more. The leaked images showed a mysterious white square toward the bottom left of the controller. This square is now confirmed to be a, “NFC Reader/Writer.” The functionality behind the square seems to be to read information off of special cards, possibly some sort of spiritual successor to the Game Boy Advance's E-Reader from back in the day. Gamers may be able to purchase special cards that can be read by the NFC Reader to unlock something special in-game or easily add Virtual Console points to your account. This is just speculation, mind you.

Mr. Iwata, who hosted the Direct conference, went on a bit more about changes to the controller that were leaked not too long ago, namely the analog sticks and controller modification. The analog sticks were apparently substituting the original dual sliders because Nintendo felt that the sliders were better suited for a portable platform rather than a home console. Additionally, they made the back of the controller more form-fitting for the hands of the average person, making the controller more comfortable to hold. Compared to what we saw and experienced last year at E3 2011, these are welcome changes.

The Wii U GamePad seems to be a rather nifty utility for one's room overall – the GamePad can be used as a remote for your TV, making using your television and then transitioning into playing your Wii U much smoother. The controller will also sport a stylus a la the Nintendo DS/3DS family, another welcome addition. It seems like Nintendo has tried to cover all the bases in terms of control.


You'll be able to use your GamePad to do more than just play games, such as control your TV.

Speaking of control, Nintendo confirmed that the Wii U will indeed support the tablet controller, plus the Wii remote and nunchuk, as well as Wii balance board. There was no mention of support for two Wii U GamePads per console (or, if there was, I didn't hear it), but a very big reveal that ended up happening upon the conference was the unveiling of the Wii U Pro controller, which looks like a weird lovechild of the Wii's Classic Controller and the Xbox 360 pad. The Pro controller takes after its tablet brother, with the analog sticks residing where usual dual analog controllers have their buttons and the buttons where usually sticks and directional pad would be. Put simply, let's imagine the face of the controller – the top left has an analog stick, the top right has an analog stick, the bottom left has a d-pad and the bottom right has the four face buttons.

This may be a weird change for most gamers...actually, it definitely will be, as this format has never been seen on any kind of standard, dual analog controller. I'm personally surprised that Nintendo didn't take more notes from its remarkably awesome Gamecube controller, but at least we now have a rather standard mode of input for the Wii U instead of being forced to use the GamePad or Wii controllers.

A bunch of other information was then reiterated, most of it known to us for about a year now – players can play Wii U games on the GamePad while someone uses the television for non-Wii U activity, the GamePad can support the graphics of the Wii U by itself, mirroring what would be on the television, etc.

One interesting thing that did pop up was that the Zelda HD demo from E3 2011 reared its beautiful head once again. It seems like Nintendo has forgotten about the tech demo – will this HD version of The Legend of Zelda be more than just a tech demo?


The aforementioned Wii U Pro controller, featuring an odd layout, as well as bumpers!

Of course, any E3-related presentation wouldn't be an E3-related presentation without a cheesy commercial, so Nintendo decided to rot some brain cells in the masses by airing a rather odd, and barely funny, Wii U bit that showed more the social functionality of the controller and console.

I don't feel like getting into the commercial itself, so instead I'll quickly run through what exactly was revealed in this commercial – the console will support video chat between players, similar to Skype web chatting; players can post on message-board looking interfaces using text messaging and not pre-made conversational messages; players can see what other players are playing and view and respond to messages posted by these players.

This is all part of the “Miiverse,” a social hub/network that will connect gamers from all across the world based on location, language, and the games they are playing. Miis return once again, without a surprise, gathering around icons of games that players are in the middle of playing, so you can see exactly which of your friends are playing what game. Essentially it seems like a much more interactive friends list.


The most important thing that was shown in this commercial was an activity feed on a mobile device, in which one of the actors viewed what their friends were playing and posting on Wii U's Miiverse on his mobile phone. Mr. Iwata confirmed that the Miiverse would originally be only for the Wii U, but in the future it will be available for the 3DS, PC and internet-connected mobile devices in the future. Finally, Nintendo products not on a Nintendo platform!

This Miiverse will also connect gamers who are playing games that aren't meant for multiplayer interaction. So, if you're playing a game that's mostly a campaign-oriented game or doesn't have multiplayer functionality, you can still interact with other gamers playing the same game thanks to Miiverse. The video showed a player in the middle of New Super Mario Bros and seeing the messages of other gamers on the world map.

The presentation wrapped up with a few more bits of functionality – the GamePad will indeed have an internet browser, and this browser can be rendered on both the GamePad and on your television. Players can also “throw” whatever is on their GamePad over to the television to show other people what they're doing using an upward swiping motion on the GamePad. Whoever is holding the GamePad can also use a curtain feature to temporarily block what is being streamed to the television for whatever reason they choose to do so.

And then we said good-bye to Mr. Iwata and now await the beginning of E3 2012.

Overall, Nintendo seemed to confirm a lot of what we already knew from last year's E3 expo, as well as from leaked information and images spread across the web. However, there was a lot that Nintendo casually brought to the table that are very important additions to the console – the multi-platform functionality of Miiverse, the Wii U Pro controller, the NFC Reader/Writer, the Miiverse itself, etc. And for those of you who were wondering, no, there was no information on any release date, pricing, launch line-up or game library for the Wii U, and the 3DS was only mentioned in passing. We'll have to wait a couple of days to hear more on those subjects.


What you're looking at above is a leaked image of a re-designed controller for Nintendo's next home console, the Wii U. Set to come out later this year, we got a taste of the console at last year's E3, being introduced to one of the most unique controllers the console gaming world has ever seen.

Nintendo talked a lot about how the Wii U would be in its final form at this year's E3, and they weren't kidding - apparently listening to some vocal gamers, Nintendo has tweaked their new console's tablet/controller, but only slightly.

If you forgot what the original design we saw at E3 2011 looked like, here it is:


Has a lot changed? Well, no. The biggest change really is the replacement of the original analog sliders (akin to what the 3DS has) with actual analog sticks instead, making this controller the first Nintendo console ever to have true dual analog control (that's really ridiculous to say, if you think about it). The + and - buttons, which were first brought to us by the Wii's controller, have been positioned closer to the four buttons on the right side of the controller. Also, the bottom of the controller has been switched up a bit - an unmarked button has been placed next to the power button, and the microphone has been moved over just a bit.

So yeah, not much has changed.

However, the changes made a good - the Wii U controller absolutely needed to get rid of its analog sliders in favor of analog sticks. The sliders were very inaccurate and had a lot of friction, they just weren't suitable for a console. They actually made playing Ghost Recon at E3 last year not fun at all. The dual analog sticks are a very good option, and I'm glad Nintendo decided to change the controller for them.

Also, having the + and - buttons actually in a position where they can be used without moving your hands too much is a plus, but they are still a bit of a travel for your thumb. Though, considering they aren't the most used buttons, that should be fine.

Everything else seems pretty much the same, which still worries me. The controller is still pretty big and that's because of the touch screen. I can understand this, but this will make gaming just...odd for many people. Gamers will now have to take a lot of extra care toward these contraptions, wherein a lot of controllers for many consoles are thrown about because they can take the heat. I don't think this one can.

Also, the four button (A B X Y) position is still wonky compared to the analog sticks. Because thumbs will be primarily on at least one analog stick, and because the sticks are the most northern parts of the controller, you'll have to constantly move your thumb down to hit one of these buttons, and even further if you want to utilize the + and - buttons. Honestly, the sticks should be closer to the middle of the controller and become a focal point, that way nothing is completely too distanced from any position the thumbs may primarily be in.

Now, I won't be able to get my hands on the controller this year unfortunately, but unless Nintendo has changed more things up from the last design in ways that we haven't seen, then they absolutely need to make this controller a bit more ergonomically built. It's comfortable to hold, but it still feels awkward. It doesn't have a huge case of being obtrusive, but it will take a bit of getting used to for most gamers.

Still, the controller is looking good. Hopefully Nintendo releases a standard dual-analog controller without a tablet design and touch screen for the console so that way we can enjoy our favorite Nintendo games in high definition without an otherwise pretty clunky iPad-counterpart that seems more at home at a Starbucks than in your living room.

Seriously Nintendo, just make a Wii U controller that's essentially a Gamecube controller with dual analog control and I'll give you all my money. Please.

Any gamer who was with vVv Gaming back in 2010 should remember the only year in which Major League Gaming had Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Pro Circuit. Smashers like Mew2King, Lee Martin, MikeHAZE, even our first ever Brawl team vVv Sunshine (dmbrandon and Shadow), represented our organization with dominance in Nintendo's first-party all-star fighter.

Two years later, however, while vVv has moved onto different genres and games, the Smash scene has continued to grow – just this past January we had Apex 2012, the largest Smash event ever, and the future holds many more tournaments, including the upcoming NY/NJ regional SKTAR, ex-vVv member MikeHAZE's E4 series finale and much more. There are certainly more tournaments to be won for Brawl's top players.

And, thanks to the Project M Back Room (PMBR) team, they're may be more games to play, as well.

Project M (not to be mistaken for the project name for Metroid: Other M) is an upcoming Super Smash Bros Brawl mod that is currently in public beta. The mod's 2.0 demo has garnered a lot of attention, even IGN has covered the mod in articles and videos since the latest demo release has surfaced. With a familiar look, but being almost a completely different Smash game than the Brawl edition it is based on, Project M has drawn tons of fans, not only competitive Smashers but casual and other non-competitive players, as well. The mod has made its way through tournaments, college dorms, livings room, and much more.

But, what exactly is Project M?


Well, first and foremost, look! The original Final Destination!

On the surface, it's what you'd expect from a mod – a tweaked version of 2008's Super Smash Bros Brawl. However, the deeper you get into this mod, the more you'll realize that this is no ordinary mod, but rather a complete re-imagining of an entire game.

Unlike other Brawl mods, like Brawl- or Balanced Brawl, which looked to keep the main concepts of Brawl intact while making minor tweaks, Project M's goal is to completely reinvent the game by “Melee-fying” it. Essentially, it's a hardcore mix of the best of Brawl and the best of it's predecessor, Super Smash Bros Melee.

This means that a ton of glitches and tricks that makes Melee still a strong competitive title today, ranging from L-Canceling to Wavedashing and everything in between, are back after having been removed from the original version of Brawl. The universally-hated tripping mechanic has been removed, as have other minor changes that made their way into Brawl. But, if you're still a big Brawl monster, don't worry – all of your favorite Brawl characters will be playable in the final release.

Speaking of the characters, many have gotten quite the face-lift. To create more exciting fights and give the entire roster better and more balanced options, many characters have had moves changed, added, and removed that distinctly make them stand out from both their Melee and Brawl counterparts. Some characters underwent minor changes, like ROB, who only had a couple of moves tweaked like his Up-B and Up-Air. But other characters, like Lucario, have been completely re-done. Lucario specifically has become an entirely new character, losing his Aura abilities but gaining the ability to cancel moves and use a special “spirit bomb” attack, even getting new uppercut and hurricane kick moves.

While Lucario now feels more like a Street Fighter character, other characters like Wario have been changed to better reflect the games they originate from. Wario has gained new charging attacks that take some notes from his Wario Land days, while Donkey Kong's dash attack has been changed to a new rolling move like his basic attack from Donkey Kong Country. Essentially every single character has had some sort of move set or otherwise play style change to give them a new way to fight their enemies.

Project M's stage list is also quite the sight for sore eyes – while some of Brawl's maps have been replaced by more balanced additions, older stages have also joined the fray, like Smash 64's Hyrule Castle and Saffron City, even Metal Mario's boss stage from Smash 64's 1-Player mode. Smash veterans will love being able to visit the locales of Yoshi's Story, Kongo Jungle, Fountain of Dreams, and many other timeless stages once again.


The classic stage Fountain of Dreams returns!

The best part about Project M, however, is that it's a ton of fun. Brawl, in its roughly four year lifespan, has become notoriously slow or coined as a boring, uncompetitive game compared to Melee or other fighting games. Project M is none of those things, thankfully – with every character getting new tricks up their sleeves and a ton of options to boot, every fight has become so much more exciting, both for the players and spectators at large.

For the few times I've gotten my hands on the 2.0 demo, I have found my lost passion for competitive Smash. Though I'll probably never get back into competitive play for the series (unless Smash 4 impresses me), Project M will certainly be routinely played for years to come, especially when the final release hits the internet. The game is not only a lot of fun, but much more satisfying, as well. Characters feel like they have more power and even the worst of characters from Brawl, like Ganondorf, do not create the feeling of helplessness. You almost cannot go wrong with whatever character you pick.

Interested in joining the fray? All you need is a Wii, some controllers and friends, and an SD card. To learn how to download, install, and play the latest version of Project M, click the following link:


Even if you're not the biggest Smash fan, if you have access to a Wii, it's worth a try. The game is fast-paced, extremely enjoyable, and practically addictive (thank god for responsibilities or I'd still be playing it right now!). Get some friends, or even throw in some computer fighters, and settle down for an extremely refreshing re-invention of the Smash series. Project M is right now one of the best showings the Smash franchise has to offer, even if it's only a mod in beta.

Happy Smashing!


MLG Columbus was awesome. Yes, I'm sure (at least, I hope) most of you know this. Many of you went, but a huge majority were left at home to enjoy the streams. I honestly could have written a huge blog about my experiences at Columbus and how awesome it was and all the stuff you probably expect and have heard before. Seriously, I could have done it, but I didn't. I'm a bit lazy, sometimes.

However, weeks later, I do want to comment on the event, because there's one thing I really do need to talk about, and it's not necessarily about the event, actually. I'm taking this time to write this mostly because I'm taking a break in between Starcraft 2 practice sessions and I need to update this blog here. But don't focus on the reason, focus on the content.

I learned something really important from MLG Columbus, which is the first MLG event I've attended since Meadowlands 2008. There's a stark contrast between those two events, to the point where I was actually overwhelmed at first because I just didn't expect the kind of event I was walking into. It had a great vibe to it, almost more like an event (with booths and special side-events and all of that) rather than just a tournament. It had a very E3 vibe to it, and being such a fan of E3 after attending last year's expo, I fit right in.

And, of course, I enjoyed all the competition. But what I really enjoyed was finally meeting a ton of vVv Gaming members, from community gamers and competitors to the boss LordJerith himself. And even in three days (and almost a day's worth of driving total), I came to find out how important communites are in competitive gaming and how awesome this one is.

Columbus certainly reminded me of how much I actually like the community. Meeting my fellow staff members, and just community members in general, all of whom provided a very warm welcome to my antics and tallness, was really awesome. I had not met any vVv members before this event, aside from Gears and CoD players at NJ Halo and former vVv member (and now at Boss.tv) Freedom, so this was quite the experience. I think people seem to forget that there are actual people behind our usernames, and this just reassured it.

The entire event was a highlight – from the couple of dinners we shared as a community (one being staff members only, mind you) to drinking together while listening to the life and times of Jerry (and telling us about RobZGod as if he was RobZGod or something) to chatting with Roar and Sugarbear about SC2 to meeting high-profile people and other awesome figures like SirScoots, TheAnswerKoF, and so many more. It was all one continuous awesome memory, so much so that I can't remember a dull moment.

With that said, I'm more reassured than ever than communities in competitive gaming are, and excuse my language, so god damn fucking awesome. It's what keeps people playing games by giving gamers others to connect with and play with. We can all share ideas, thoughts, opinions, content, and so much more in such a familiar venue. And, most of all, it creates the ideal family, one that may not be perfect but is always there when you need it (provided you don't act like a complete jerk off). It almost amazes me that there aren't more organizations out there copying our model.

More importantly, communities generate fans. Jerry said this on The Loser's Bracket once before, but I feel it's necessarily to bring it up again. As a community, we can all cheer together for our players, and that's a great feeling. We were loud and proud when our Mortal Kombat players were destroying the bracket, hell we even got loud for our new King of Fighters player Romance (who needs to brush up on his English ;) ) and our new Halo: Reach team, vVv Ability.

And, you know what else? That certainly makes our top players feel even better when they know they'll always have a crowd behind them cheering them on. We couldn't give enough love to Daisuki, RuFF, and Glon as they broke expectations and played amazingly in the Open Bracket. We even cheered on Spike as he tried to unsuccessfully Thor rush in one of his sets. No matter where our teams or players were, we were standing right behind them, being the loudest fans and the most numerous.

Now, I have to say this with all honesty, but I'm so glad to be part of vVv Gaming. There have been numerous times I've considered possibly stepping down from any position I've been in or even leaving vVv altogether (all of which mostly fueled by teenage angst or something equally as stupid or irrelevant). And, in those occasions, I knew the decision was not the right one, I felt like vVv was my home and I didn't want to leave.

Well, after this event, I can safely say that not only I made the best decision to continue to stay with vVv, but also that I'm extremely grateful to be part of this community. I may not be an admin putting in hard work to keep the community afloat, but I feel like I put my own spin on things and, so far, that's worked out for me (3 years as a vVv member coming this September!). I always feel welcomed and I love (most of xD) you guys to death. Without vVv, I wouldn't have had an awesome crew to roll with throughout the weekend, a family to stay with in the hotel, a community to cheer players on with. And by being in vVv, I got awesome wisdom from Jerry and the rest of the crew. And I had tons of people to talk to about how great spending the weekend with vVv was.

So, as I said, I don't have a huge warstory on my time at Columbus (maybe when I start competing in SC2!), but I did have to say this. All of you, be glad you're here on the forums, vVv member or not. Because what you're a part of is something special, something that will develop you into an even more awesome person...or, at the very least, give you something great to be part of in your spare time. Whether you're a competitor, staff member, community member, or shoutbox troll, appreciate your time here. And I'm glad to spend that time here with all of you.

Sugarbear, you're gonna have to pay me my $60 son!


Yesterday, myself and the rest of The Loser's Bracket cast were joined by CEO's Alex Jebailey for a discussion on fighting games and Major League Gaming, including the upcoming MLG Columbus event which, alongside Halo: Reach and Starcraft 2, will feature three fighting games in Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters XIII, and Soul Calibur V. For those of you who do not know, The Loser's Bracket is a vVv Gaming podcast focused on competitive gaming, a show that I am currently a co-host of.

As I said, Jebailey was on the show to discuss fighting games, the FGC, MLG, and all of that. Of course, there was a back and forth, namely between Jebailey and the host of the show (as well as the owner/president of vVv Gaming), vVv LordJerith. Thankfully I too was able to get some comments in for the fighting game side so it wasn't too lopsided, and ultimately it ended up being, as far as I'm concerned, both an entertaining and productive discussion.

Now, before you continue reading any further, please take the time to listen to the show so you know exactly how it went down. I know some of you will not do that and will just keep reading, but at least I attempted to warn you first:


If you're still reading, hopefully you've just listened to the show or have already listened to it earlier (or even live). The reason I continue to type this is because there are many things that need clarification and more spotlight. Even to this day, as the so-called “FGC vs. eSports” debate rages on (and, boy, how ridiculous did that get back at the tail end of last year, huh?), there are still tons of people on both sides who still are not completely informed on how either community works. I feel I need to change that a bit.

No, this will not be a “We're the FGC, this is who we are, blah blah blah” kind of post, nor will it be something akin to the responses made after, well, every single time Kotaku makes a post about us (nevertheless, shoutouts to the guys who do go out of their way to write some very beautiful and accurate pieces on the FGC in response to said articles). I just want to clarify a few things for some of the either misinformed or not-as-informed non-fighting game players/fans/members out there. I feel some topics discussed on the latest episode of The Loser's Bracket were not discussed as much as I would have liked them to have been (we do have a maximum time amount we have to respect), so here we are.

The Cash

During the show, we discussed having events on the same weekend, a concern for many fighting game players, as well as tournament organizers. No one likes to step on each others toes, so we do our best to avoid doing so. I know this was a touchy subject with Jebailey because he's had that happen to him before, so I'm glad he talked about it.

I then chimed in on the money issue – namely that, when it comes to traveling, many top players may make plans to events based on a number of things, namely money, specifically making a profit. Once I said the words “making a profit”, a number of people quickly brought out their flamethrowers in protest. I need to clarify.

When I say making a profit, I mean how much money that can be potentially made versus how much money is being spent going to the event, being at the event, nourishing oneself at the event, etc. Local tournaments do not require that much cost, but major tournaments can be very expensive for a large number of people – you have to shell out money for travel (gas for car rides, public transportation, airfare, boat fees if you're a baller), food, shelter (if you're staying in a hotel, try to cop the floor and not have to pay a dime like a real man!), etc. Many people do not care about the cost because ultimately they're going there to having a good time, but it does raise concerns for many.

The reason why I brought it up is because when you have two events at the same time going on, you have to account for expenses, and that's why it's so important to be sure of how much money you're spending versus how much you're potentially making. Remember, a huge majority of the people going to these tournaments are not making money (and that's fine with most of them, but it's still a relevant point), and even top players cannot always make the trip out. I know a lot of people in the fighting game community that can barely get the money to get to local tournaments. It's not easy.

Thus, I wanted to clarify – money is always an issue. So yeah, some players may pick one event over another because of money, maybe one event is paying out more than another or costs less to attend, or maybe they have more of a chance at winning at one event over another. And it's not like we're the only community that does this. We love the games we play, but real life comes into play, too. We don't all have constant streams of money to through at toll booths, you know. And I know Halo players, Gears players, SC players, many of you are not eternally and infinitely rich, either.

The Casuals

Casuals, friendlies, free play, whatever you call it. If you go to a fighting game event, you see competition, but also an irregularly large amount of actual matches going on compared to what should be bracket. That's because we're all either playing casuals, money matches, or something completely different.

Now, the reason we do this is simple – we want to play our games as much as possible. If there's a free station and no one is around looking to use it, why not jump in and game a bit? It helps to warm up, practice, show off, have fun, and create friendships. I've made a number of good friends just by asking them to play me in casuals because I was either waiting for a match to be called or I was already eliminated.

Personally, I don't see any negatives in having free play during competition, as long as there's room for it (and if there's room that can be made, why not have it happen?). As much as we want to see the best players go at it, we like to attend tournaments to actually play the game, and many people will just not advance far enough into the bracket to get enough games played. What if you travel all the way out to the East Coast from Texas and get double-eliminated? Sure, it's your fault for losing, but it sucks to go two games and not play anymore. Others may say “tough luck”, but I, and many others, don't believe in that. I think it's a lot more enticing for players, especially lower/medium skilled players, to travel if they know they can play tournament matches and friendlies/money matches.

I was just discussing this with Vero, a Gears of War 3 commentator and a close friend of mine. He actually brought up the subject in the stream chat during the show, which is why I said more about it in the show and to him on the vVv forums. To avoid being redundant on multiple levels, I'm going to post some of the stuff I said on the forums, which is exactly about this topic, right now:

“We play games that are actually, if not always, still competitively viable. That's why we're playing them in the free play area - to practice at the event. You got to an FGC event that's running SF and Marvel? You'll see SF and Marvel friendlies. And most likely MK, KoF, 3rd Strike, etc. friendlies, as well, because those are also tournament games.”

I do later comment that some people like to bring non-competitively viable games, as well (either they're old and not supported anymore or just don't have a big scene or a scene at all), and we're cool with that, too.

But we pride ourselves in having friendlies (or not even that, they're just a part of what we do, it's natural) because it builds social bonds and friendships, it allows players to practice and warm up (remember, we can't play online like you guys can [well, we can, but it's not good practice]), and it gives less skilled players a chance to get more matches in rather than getting double eliminated in bracket then never playing again the rest of the weekend.

We run our events with both top tier matches, as you just said it, and free play. Why can't MLG do the same? It's not that hard. Free play is part of what makes the FGC the FGC, it makes the events more fun. People are more likely to go to an event if they can get those friendlies or money matches in because less than 1% of the people going are going to make money anyway. And it's easier for us to pull it off because, unlike Gears for example, we don't need 4+ consoles for a single match to pull it off. We only need one TV, two controllers, a console and a disc to make a friendly between two people happen. It's more executable for us than it is for you. That doesn't make it a bad idea.

Nothing negative has ever come from having free play, so we don't see why it's all of a sudden negative. It's not like every community that doesn't have it is doing exceedingly much better than us. Honestly, I think the Gears community would be less hostile to one another if you guys actually got together and played the game in person with each other not just in tournament competition like we do. And, again, we don't have online to work off of. How we see it, we need to get together in-person to practice, so why not also run a tournament at the same time, or vice versa? It doesn't hurt anything, it makes us better, it improves our metagame, we become a much more tight-knit community, and everyone gets to play more matches. What's wrong with that?

We're really not trying to turn it into anything it's not. I remember correctly someone telling me (and I've been to MLG events before) that free play does have a presence at MLG. We prefer it having a bigger presence, that's all. It's not a radical change, it's not a completely ridiculous request. It's something that is just as important to us as competition is.

I feel like those above thoughts that I presented Vero with suffice here in this blog post and sum it up very nicely. I hope that clarifies things. And, again, I personally don't believe in forcing things – if MLG cannot support free play for all the fighting game players, then that's that. But if they can, I'm all for it. I think it's a very positive thing, it most certainly spreads the love and passion for the games we play, in one way or another.

The Community

Now, to wrap this up, I just want to quickly comment on this one particular comment I found very, very odd. During the stream chat, Rod Lane of NJ Halo commented that the fighting game community needs to be more open (essentially his exact words, but paraphrasing). That's sort of a vague comment, but I'll take it for what it is. This is not a call-out, there is no ad hominem here, I'm pursuing the comment itself, not the person.

Here's the simple thing, other communities. I personally apologize if sometimes people in our community act in an uncivil or unprofessional manner. We're all the same community, but one person does not represent the entirety of us. And we're all human, just like you all are. We make mistakes, we have opinions, we have voices, and we have fight sticks (or pads). I feel like too many people are actually turned off from our events because of some of things being said in the media or the discussions we have or what not.

I know many of you have attended some of our events, but many of you have not. Trust me, we're all nice people! We just want to play fighting games, body kids, have fun, and enjoy ourselves. There's nothing wrong with going up to a player to ask for a friendly match or asking a top player for some tips. No one is going to scoff at you for not knowing a particular gimmick or asking a question that may be obvious to others. As long as you're not trolling, we'll help out.

No, we're not perfect – I've seen some crappy stuff done and heard some crappy things come from people's mouths, but the same rings true for all communities. Don't judge a book by its cover.

We're an open community, from the Street Fighter players to the Tekken players and everyone in between. We don't always get along, but most of us try our best to make it work. And we're not against change either, we're just very vocal and we like how we do things. That doesn't mean we're against new adaptations or additions. Maybe we're a bit territorial, so what? I feel like everyone is.


Look, I'm pretty much a random fighting game player. I currently play Ultimate and KoF XII and I have a good history in the Smash community as both a player and a commentator. I haven't won any big tournaments, but I follow all of them. I don't beat top players, but I'm friends with many and I hope to be friends with a lot more of them as the years go by. And, finally, I don't speak for everyone, but I hope the words of a normal fighting game player and enthusiast clears things up and clarifies some foggy things for people.

I like to see civil discussion and progress. So, naturally, I really enjoyed the conversation held with Alex and the Loser's Bracket crew last night. I hope we can go from there. Esports people (god I hate the word esports, couldn't we have just settled with competitive gaming?!?!), I don't enjoy the hostility between the communities or the divide as much as anyone else does not, so please don't take this post in any offensive way. As I said, I just wanted to clear things up and make some stuff more known and focused. I hope I helped that out a bit more.

I'll be at MLG Columbus next week supporting all my FGC brothers and sisters as they compete in all three fighting games. Hope to see everyone there! Please don't hesitate to hit me up!

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Sometimes being a competitive gamer gets in the way of being, well, a gamer. As much as I'm practically addicted to Starcraft 2, the hours upon hours a day I put into practicing the game does take away from actually enjoying most other games I would otherwise be playing. Sure, I get to play some fun N64 sessions with my roommates often, but mostly I dedicate my own gaming time to competitive SC2. However, being on spring break this week, I decided to dial back my practice time a bit and instead enjoy what the rest of the industry has to offer.

When I decided today this week that I was going to play some new games, I then realized that the only thing I had with me gaming wise was my laptop, which has SC2, as well as other games I've beaten. I needed a new console game, something to run campaign by myself, just like the old days. I have too many multiplayer sessions so I need some alone time with just me and the game, I thought to myself. Thankfully, an opportunity presented itself – my friend had recently picked up the new SSX game for his 360 and, after managing to run to Gamestop after lunch today, I picked up Vanquish (which was release in October of 2010) after seeing that it was on sale for $15 and that the clerk mentioned that it was “severely underrated.” I couldn't resist.

First, I want to start with SSX, the latest installment in the extreme snowboarding franchise published by Electronic Arts. Let me start off by saying that SSX comes into my view with a disadvantage – it is not SSX Tricky, the second installment in the series and by far my favorite snowboarding game of all time. I've put countless hours into Tricky, making it one of the most played games to ever be popped into my Gamecube (it was also the first Gamecube game I ever owned, too!). So, unless this SSX was SSX Tricky 2 or something better, it was going to disappoint.


Can't beat the classics.

Immediately, I felt the prophecy unfolding. The cheesy intro to the game's plot started to dig a hole for itself – apparently, veteran riders Mac, Zoey, and Elise form a team of snowboarders called SSX (which stands for Surfing, Snowboarding, and Cross Country...or something like that) that square off against the just-as-unoriginal Team Griff, which is led by, you guessed it, Griff, a former member of SSX. The objective of the game is to defeat Team Griff on the world's 9 Deadly Descents, winning races and grabbing points by doing insanely awesome combos.

Unlike in SSX Tricky, once again setting the highest bar for me in the series, the new SSX felt...well, bland. Yeah, the graphics are good, the sense of speed is there, and the realism is taken up a notch. But the problem is that, well, it's just not very fun. For one thing, the beginning of the game moves at a terribly slow pace, and by that I mean it took me a long time to get myself to run another race after finishing another one.

First of all, one of the greatest things about SSX Tricky was that there were a bunch of racers causing tons of calamity down the track, knocking each other down violently, and scoring crazy amounts of points in any way they could. But in the new SSX, that's not all necessarily there. Many races, for example, have 4 or less snowboarders to an event (as opposed to the 6 racers in every event featured in Tricky). Some races were just trips down the mountain against a “ghost” of another snowboarder, the snowboarding equivalent to masturbating while trying to break a speed record set by Ron Jeremy. There's no tension, nothing to stir up excitement. I can't even violently stiff arm opponents as I race down the mountain, mostly because I'm not even racing against an actual opponent half the time!


Nope, I really don't enjoy racing by myself, sorry.

Then there's the fact that SSX is trying to “reinvent” the franchise. Tricky was fun because it was outlandishly cartoony and over-the-top. But SSX is simply trying to take itself too seriously, incorporating armor and health into the game, as well as items like wingsuits and helmets with flashlights (I've always wanted a game version of one of those!), as well as having more cheesy intros to mountain runs (according to the narrator, apparently Team SSX will simply get the funding it needs to survive by having big livestream numbers on its PornHub account). Oh and, obviously, none of the mountain runs are anything but, you guessed it, downward slopes of snow on top of rock. At the very least SSX Tricky's courses had flavor and personality to them, with warp pipes, ridiculous pipelines, and snowflake combo upgrades galore. Apparently when a franchise is reinvented, that means taking out all the good stuff for the real stuff. Realism does not always mean fun.

That's simply the problem here, actually, as I said before. SSX just isn't fun. With Tricky, scoring combos wasn't necessarily hard, but it brought a lot to the game. Characters yelled and screamed at each other, as well as having distinct moves and looks; courses were colorful and amazing rides; graphics bounced off the screen in a way that doesn't make you sick (looking at you 3D technology, god I hate you). But with SSX 2012, I get to look at the same environments over and over while the characters, who all wear similar body armor, lack a lot of personality (no, Zoe pathetically shadow boxing in the helicopter before her first run does not count as having personality) and make no effort to make me care about the game. In Tricky, I absolutely loved suiting up as my boy Mac, stiff arming the living hell out of Elise any chance I got, then seeing the engagement at the winner's platform between the two stir up fire. Instead, I get a cheesy narrator, an annoying helicopter pilot that lets me know that I'm actually a functioning human being with the ability to snowboard (why is it that I need to here from a helicopter pilot, by the way?) and no fun at all.

Oh, and the game has absolutely no local multiplayer, and the online multiplayer is essentially time trials against ghosts. So much fun!

Thankfully, just before I wanted to return the game for my friend so he could use the money on something more useful, the Xbox randomly red ringed, forcing us to end our SSX session. I happily took this opportunity to pop in Vanquish and give the first two missions a test run. I mean, it couldn't be any worse than a pathetic excuse for a snowboarding game, right (EA, I just want SSX Tricky 2, come on!)?

I was certainly right – Vanquish ended up being better than SSX, much better. Yeah, the games are different (who compares third person shooters to shovelware...um, snowboarding games, anyway?), but they're still both games. I can definitely say, without a doubt, that I walked away from the first two missions of Vanquish with a lot more excitement, hype, and fun had than when SSX tried to commit suicide in my friend's console.


Thanks red ring of death, high five!

Honestly, I think the reason why I like Vanquish so much is that it's more like SSX Tricky than SSX 2012 is. Right from the get-go, the game is completely ridiculous – protagonist Sam Gideon, who's voice sounds like the result of being strangled by a group of orangutans constantly for a period of several months, is tasked with stopped an evil Russian ultra-nationalist from destroying New York City and the rest of the United States after using a huge American space station to destroy San Francisco. A long, but extremely awesome cutscene (which is awesomely capitalized by Gideon straight not giving a fuck and blowing cigarette smoke, while in full armor, at the face of his commanding officer, who looks like an old Marcus Fenix [badass!]) precedes an epic rush into a Russian ship which forces Gideon and the rest of Bravo Company to destroy waves of Russian robotic infantry.

To do this, I got my hands on Gideon's DARPA-funded battle armor that makes him the closest this game's universe will get to having Master Chief in its wars. Gideon has access to a pretty standard array of weaponry (a shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, the usual culprits), but they all have a strong sense of power and punch when the trigger is pulled. However, Vanquish's best mechanics are the cover system and the boosted power slide. The cover system, most certainly inspired by the Gears of War series, works very well, if anything a bit quickly. I certainly didn't mind the insanely agile movements that Gideon makes from cover to cover, though. The slide, however, is probably the coolest thing Vanquish has to offer – with the press (and hold) of a button, Gideon races across the ground on his knees. From this position, he can simply blast by enemies, fire his gun, and take cover. If you decide upon the second option, however, Gideon goes into “bullet time,” which is exactly what you think it is.

Though Vanquish isn't exactly going to win awards for its story or voice acting, and neither will it find comfort in innovating weaponry in video games (at least give the guns cool names!), the most important thing is that it's fun! Sliding towards enemies so I can give them the business with the shotgun is extremely exciting, while taking pot shots at far away enemies with the sniper feels just as good as it does in any other shooter, if not more so. There are even boss fights!

You heard me right, boss fights. The infection of Call of Duty games oddly started a trend of the decline of boss fights and the rise of “set pieces”, which are pretty much just big climatic events that consist of you doing the same things you were doing previously in the mission but with more explosions and curse words. Vanquish, however, doesn't give a damn about trends, so instead I got to face off against a towering robot with some glowing weak points I got to aim at. At first, I fear that the boss battle would simply be just as dated as ones found in older console generations – fire at the weak spot, dodge attacks, rinse and repeat. Vanquish was able to throw a curve ball in this department thanks to giving the bosses much more to do. While I peppered bullets into the number of soft spots on the boss character, I had to do my best to slide away from rampant cluster-missile launchers, gigantic lasers, and direct physical slams from the robot. Even on Normal difficulty, the boss gave me a challenge as ammo constantly ran dry while I barely managed to escape its multiple attacks. Oh, and then it transformed into another form, which was even harder to deal with.

No, Vanquish's boss battles are not completely reinventing how those work, either, but again the most important part was that fighting the big Russian robot was a ton of fun. It didn't feel scripted, it didn't feel slow. It took all of my known skills and technology to defeat the menace, and I walked away with a sense of accomplishment.

Now, it is fair that I put the new SSX on a bar raised by SSX Tricky, and that it ended up failing to impress me because it was not as good? Of course. I would hope that sequels are better than their predecessors. And is it fair to recommend Vanquish despite having faults even though I do not recommend SSX for also having faults? Definitely, because despite its faults (which are less like faults and more like really hilarious offerings to the comedy gods), Vanquish is still a really enjoyable game. However, for SSX, despite its faults, it is not a fun game. EA, you're going to have to do better than that. As for all of you reading this, give both games a try and see how you like them...but mark my words, beating the living hell out of Russian robots and being a total badass in space armor is much more fun than beating the living hell out of snowboarding ghosts and being a totally bland character dressed in garbage cans and package peanuts.


Normally, I tend not to have a schedule when I make blog posts, but for a daily journal such as this, it's hard not to keep up with the precedent set so far. However, because there has only been one blog post before this and, as far as I'm concerned, 0 hits, who cares what the result is. I could just stop posting all together. But I guess this is more for me than anyone else.

Unfortunately, I was unable to sit down last night and type this up, so I'm getting to it the following day. Most likely I'll have two of these go up on the same day, but whatever.

Yesterday was a pretty busy day for me, but it didn't start out that way. After classes, I was determined to take a nap before getting to any activities that day, but my inability to dose off prevented that from happening. Instead, I decided to go for a run, which actually turned into going to the gym and working out by myself. I'm not a gym rat at all, in fact I'm rather frail and skinny because I don't work out ever and my exercise mainly came from sports (which I don't really play much of anymore in college). It'd be a bit of an understatement to say, plainly, that I'm sore today following my workout yesterday.

After cooling off and showering, I made my way to the library for another lab session. Yesterday was such a beautiful day, so thankfully I was able to grab my usual seat on the 3rd floor next to the window. I opened that shit up and let the amazing breeze and clean spring air flow in. It felt pretty awesome to have the breeze coming in as I played on ladder.

As I said yesterday, my goal for each day is to play a minimum of ten games before coming to a decision on either leaving the session or laddering more. Yesterday was quite not like that routine, but it certainly started off normally.


My home...the Silver League.

Maintaining my high Silver league status, I was put up against two Silver players, a Terran and a Zerg, both of which I lost to. I was keeping my notes from the previous day in class – don't do stupid builds, scan and scout often, don't let the opponent stabilize, etc. And, personally, I felt like I did a good job. In both games, however, I was essentially out-macroed. The first ladder match, the TvT, probably came down to an early marine/marauder push I made that dropped my army numbers much lower than they should have been, and I just could not recover. I wasn't too happy, but they weren't the worst losses in a row.

But then my next two games were much easier. I got paired against two Bronze players in my following matches and one without difficulty. This bothered me a bit – the game felt confident in pairing me against Bronze players, which means it may be suggesting that that's where I belong. However, I solidly beat these players, which means while I definitely do not belong in Bronze, I cannot consistently beat Silver players in the same way I beat Bronze players, so I won't be in Gold or higher until I can do that. I quickly moved on and stopped concerning myself with the issue.

In my fifth 1v1 ladder match, I got another TvT, which was certainly an odd match. The game started out simply – I began with a standard Terran opening and was essentially building up a marine/marauder/tank army that would just push out alongside an upgrade timing or something. However, my opponent had a different plan in mind. After a small bout in the middle of the map, things quieted down, until I found that he was massing tanks outside my base and was inching closer.

I couldn't do much at first; walking right up to the siege line would be suicide. I had some Thors popping out, but they couldn't do much from my natural and would only get damaged if they tried to creep down the ramp. I even lost a bunker and some depots thanks to the siege line and a few scans gaining my opponent vision temporarily. Without any avenue to leave my base or expand, I was effectively pinned down, and with each passing minute my opponent's mass of tanks was growing larger. Even marines were streaming towards my base. He had all my options covered, it seems.


Times a million.

However, in reality, that was not the case. My opponent was so concerned with moving closer and closer to my base while picking off any outlying buildings that he could that he wasn't paying any attention at all to what was going on in my main base. With all of his scans being used up for my ramp and a small distance into my natural, he could not see that I had transitioned into starports. I plopped down tech labs on all three of my new structures and began to get the resources necessary for the newest additions to my army: three battlecruisers.

Before I had begun making them, however, I had sent out a couple of medivacs and a viking to support my army and scout, respectively. Seeing that he only had his natural expansion as the only base other than his main, I took this opportunity to drop into his natural mineral line. Of course, he had no army to defend it because his whole army was sieged outside my base. He decided to send a small squad of marines, but he underestimated the power of 1/1 marines and marauders supported by two medivacs.

Another squad of marines fell to my drop, but it would end up meaning very little – three battlecruisers created a large presence in my base. They inched toward my ramp, over my army, closer and closer to my opponent and...ragequit. “Victory!” my screen read, he had left the game without even a good game exerted. Obviously, once he saw that my battlecruisers existed, there was no other option. Tanks, as many of you may or may not know, cannot attack air units. Battlecruisers fly. Put 1 and 1 together.

I was happy to finish my first 5 games with a 3-2 record; not the best performance, not the worst. As for now, my 1v1 ladder practice was over with. A few friends had gotten online, so we had enough to run 3v3s. And let me just say this – fuck team games.

Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love team matches. They're a great way to practice macro, and it all takes place without the seriousness of 1v1 (at least for me, that is). We all shot insults at each other, scoffing at one's micro or whatever, but we had a fun time.

However, it seems to me that everyone else that plays team games does not want to have a fun time. Or maybe they find just the mere mention of cheese to be really hilarious, because we got cannon rushed, 6 pooled, dark templar rushed, several times in the 6 team games we played. All of which fucked up my builds and all of which frustrated me.

The team games we did win were the ones without cheese, except the final match. Another friend had logged on, though this friend was as amateur as you could get. With only 7 games under his belt within the four days he has owned the game, my friend actually didn't do that bad, except that he really wasn't adding to the team. That meant when we got into a heated match in our final game, it didn't go to well. He did good for a new player, though. I'm proud of his progress!

Toxic Slums was the map for our last match, a 4v4. The match was solely Terrans and Protoss. Not an ounce of cheese was found in the first minutes (and not for the whole match, either). Finally, a regular game!


The only problem with a lot of Protoss in a team game...a lot of Void Rays.

For a long 47 minutes, our teams struggled for the gold expansions in the middle. One of my Protoss teammates dominated with his blink stalker/Colossi build, while I dealt damage with siege tanks and a fuckton of marines. Our armies fought each other off constantly. It seemed like there wasn't a single moment in which an engagement wasn't going on. I was dropping marines into their bases, one of my Protoss teammates had his charge zealots making rounds in the middle of the map, etc. But their armies were just as strong as ours. It seemed like it would be a game of of who can survive for the longest, as the resources on the map were getting severely diminished.

The fortieth minute hit and my team found itself slowly losing map control. Reapers were hitting our outside expansions just as I quickly grabbed a far right expansion that had no activity within it. The other team was able to land a huge drop into the weakest of our teammate's base, allowing the other armies to move in through the front, and though we would hold it off for several minutes, at that moment we lost the game and could never get it back. Our buildings began to get ravaged, just as I began an ultimately unsuccessful mission to nuke enemy bases with ghosts. The only nuke that would actually get used almost connected with a small cluster of thors. They escaped with only a few feet from the explosion. I was salty.

After that game, which was finished with a number of positive comments from each team on how exciting and good the match turned out to be, everyone on my team logged off. My five hour session came to a close there, as well. I ended the day with 3 wins and 2 losses in 1v1; 2 wins and 1 loss in 3v3; and 0 wins and 3 losses in 4v4 for a total of 11 games played yesterday total.

Because I only played 5 1v1 games yesterday as opposed to the 10 I usually play (it's assumed that 10 games means 10 1v1 games), but I still got practice either way, even while having some fun. And I definitely learned from the session, which is good.

I found mostly that what I had found yesterday was 100% correct – don't do stupid builds. When I play textbook and solid, with good marco and micro, I have a good game, even if I don't win. That goes for team games as well – I dominated in one 3v3 match thanks to my smooth transition to mass thors in the late game. With several upgrades, my glacier of steel and rocketry, so to speak, steamrolled our opponents with little effort needed.

And, obviously, I play better when I'm not getting cannon rushed or dark templar rushed, either.

Tonight should be a good day for Starcraft. My dad is picking me up in the afternoon after my classes and his doctor's appointment. I'll eat lunch, try to catch a nap, watch some television, etc. But eventually I'll log in and, hopefully, I'll be playing for a very long time into the late hours of the night. I'll be taking this opportunity to better myself and get much more experience with the ton of games I plan to play. It'll be quite the lab session.

(Original post date - 3/7/12)

I've decided to post up the first of my practice journal, SC2 Lab Sessions. Though I've been practicing Starcraft 2 for a couple of months now, today is the first day I'll be going over my day. I feel like recapping what I did today will help me with practice and keep things in perspective. Hopefully some analysis will help me with future matches.


Of course, it's sort of weird to just say, “HEY DIARY I PLAYED SOME STARCRAFT TODAY AND AND AND” and it's equally as weird to simply post on a blog about it, so let me give you some context.

My goal is to become a top Starcraft 2 player. Being a freshman in college, it's surprising that I have a lot of free time, but I do. With it, I try to get in several hours of ladder play a day. If I miss a day, I go harder the next day. I am coached by a friend, I practice with peers, and I go over tons of replays, including my own. Today was another “lab session”, in which I sit down either in my room, at the library, wherever I feel like I can concentrate and play, and get to grinding.

Currently, I'm a high-ranked Silver league Terran. I'm pretty booty. But I'm trying to get better!

Usually what I like to do is to play at least ten games of SC2 a day. Once I've played them, I decide whether or not I have the time and/or will to continue forward. In a several hour session today, I got in 11 games. However, there were several games that lasted very long, so it seems skewed. In the amount of time I played today, I could have probably hit 15+ matches, but I digress. Here were the stats:

11 games played

4 wins

7 losses

Longest win streak – 3 wins

Longest loss streak – 7 losses

The day started out pretty well, as I clocked in a solid victory in a TvP Shattered Temple match. It lasted for only twenty minutes, it was a great warm-up game. However, it didn't prepare me for my next seven games, all of which I would lose. Some were close, some were atrociously bad on my end. Ultimately, what mattered was that I knew I had a lot of work to do.

What struck me was odd was my terrible TvZ play. The TvZ match-up had been pretty good for me earlier in the week as I began to figure out ways to deal with banelings and infestors, two units that were giving me a lot of trouble when I entered the Silver league. However, they weren't necessarily the problem this time around.

Three games in a row, I found myself the victim of early game roach all-ins. As hard as I tried, I just could not keep up with the production of marines to keep them out of my base so I could stabilize. Bunkers didn't work, more marines didn't work, and I couldn't get tanks out in time. I felt at a loss.


Fuckin' roaches...

I began to analyze how I was playing. I went back to the replays and looked at what I had done, and I tried my best to figure out what it was that was going wrong. Still, it would take an outside party to help me out. I ended up asking a friend for help with the roaches, and I was told that marauders were a good solution to the roach pushes, except I'd have to get my second gas a bit earlier to maintain marauder production.

I was really happy with learning this, despite not actually having any more TvZ problems after that streak because I had no more roach all-ins against me after I asked my friend how to deal with them. I felt a bit of improvement, mostly in my knowledge.

But then I learned, the hard way and once again, that I still was not the most knowledgable in build orders. My coach, and many others, have told me how doing a simple build until Platinum league, while working on my macro, will make me a better player and only after then should I get into specific builds. Nevertheless, I still have the urge to try different builds, and I do. Sometimes I go more mech heavy, others I push harder with marines, still others I try a strong 1/1/1 or something like that. I like to mix it up, and it does work if I play well.

However, when sometimes I lose because I'm not playing well, others it's because I am simply an idiot. In one particular game, I got a TvT match-up with close spawns. Thinking I was smart, I decided to go with reaper aggression while expanding and pumping out marines. However, I know absolutely nothing about reaper builds and the timings behind them, so by the time I had about 4-5 reapers (which you don't need that many of, by the way), his army was ready to defend it and large enough to clean it up quickly. He then realized I had a small army and home, so he walked over, squatted over my face, and took a dump. I had to gg my way out of there.

So far, I was getting discouraged. The losses were piling up and I felt like I should just get off before I began to tilt. Finally, I got another TvZ pairing, and while I wasn't subject to a roach all-in, I had a long battle ahead of me. That was certainly not what I wanted – dealing with a maxed Zerg army can get difficult if the Zerg is maintaining a strong economy. My harassment skills are just not what they should be, so the Zerg was able to keep his economy strong and his army stronger.

There's a chance I could have won the fight, but I'll never know, and that's because my army micro, particularly when I have my units clumped onto each other, is terrible. My tanks were sieged, my marines stood before them, my thors in the mix, medivacs flying above, and 4/5ths of my ground army was washed away as banelings rolled in. Unable to micro effectively, my army literally disappeared before my eyes. If I had taken the banelings out, his army would have been toast. But I didn't. My lack of micro was splash-damage heaven.


Don't encourage the banelings, Husky!

I realized that I need to be more precise and do those actions when I'm in a conflict like that. My multitasking and microing has gotten better, but I still know it's a problem. Things like that, though, are inexcusable. I should have scanned to know exactly where his army was, sieged up, and split my army so I could avoid as much splash damage as possible.

Eventually, I lost my 7th game in a row. But I wasn't done yet. Shakuras Plateau was the map of choice, TvP was the match-up, and I found myself in another match. I was determined to win this one (against an opponent named SHEEK, cool name?), no matter the cost.

Lately, I've found that I've been doing a much better job of taking out expansions, and that's exactly how I won this match. As our Terran and Protoss armies got close to maxing, with all tiers of units being represented, I decided to make my way to his farthest right expansion (he had four bases at this time) as I expanded to my third base. Sieging tanks up, I took out pylons while he oddly advanced into the tanks. He also had Archons, for some reason not using High Templars, and ultimately I was able to hold it off, but just barely. His Dark Templar harassment was shut down very effectively, as were his drops. I definitely learned a bit about the drops just by how I handled them, very proud of myself!

After retreating a bit and bringing my army back in numbers, I hit the same expansion again, fully taking it out this time. Raging, my opponent began to curse me out and simply gg'd, giving me the win without me even stepping foot in his natural expansion or main base. Granted, my ground army had 3/3 upgrades and my air units getting close to it, and I was on a gold mineral expansion with bunkers churning out marines, but at least he could have invited me into his natural for a house warming.

Needless to say, I was happy, and after that I got another win on Metalopolis. Ten games down. I decided to stay in the library for one more game. I wouldn't leave for another hour.

You see, it was a long struggle in a TvT match-up, but a rather uneventful one. Our armies maxed out, fought in small battles a few times, but nothing actually happened until the half hour mark, when I began to push out toward the middle of the map after he successfully took out my third expansion. He probably got excited, seeing as my main and natural were getting close to empty in terms of minerals. However, I had expanded to a fourth and fifth base on another corner of the map, giving me much more of a steady income. And once I was able to push through to his expansions, using the siege tanks I had to keep his army away from my thors, his income literally stopped.

However, he was able to get another base going, and while I pumped out marines and was at max, as well as repairing my thors and tanks, he tried to max his army, as well. He got close to putting the gap a 50 supply. His army may have eventually matched mine, but after baiting him a bit with marines, he got edgy. Then I dropped into his natural to take out gas-mining SCVs and some buildings, prompting him to take all of his marines to stop this. This is when I moved closer to his sieged tanks. For some reason, just as I sieged up, he un-sieged and moved in, getting dealt tons of damage before he actually attacked. By the time his entire mass of marines raced back to help, it was too late. I had 6 more thors on the way and about two dozens marines marching closer and closer. Without so much as a good game, he left and the victory was mine.

Ultimately, while my record became worse, I learned a lot from this session. Here's what I learned:

1) Roach all-ins are very effective if you're not prepared to deal with it in the early game. Scouting for a roach warren and seeing little gas being taken can help find a roach all-in before it happens. Marauders mixed in with marines are a good option in holding off these kinds of attacks.

2) Don't try builds you don't know, stick with what you know.

3) Don't build too many reapers if you plan to harass with them, and actually have an army being built, or make your economy stronger, while making reapers so you can hold off a counter-attack if need be.

4) Microing large armies is key. Do not keep your units bunched up against banelines. Use stimpack to get out of there if need be, and don't clump up large mech units next to each other.

5) Scan and scout often. Make sure you know of all transitions, tech, upgrades, everything.

6) Don't let the opponent stabilize. Constantly make sure you know what is going on after you deal a large blow to the enemy. Keep the pressure on, keep the attack on (if you can) so that way the opponent doesn't bring it back. Don't blow opportunities to deal a game-winning knock-out.

Knowing these things, hopefully I'll do better tomorrow. I definitely felt like today's session was a good one. I learned a lot, even though I lost a lot. Winning is good, but you learn more when you are defeated. Until I'm the perfect SC2 player (which I will be, curse you DRG!), I will always have more to learn. That's how it goes.

Tomorrow, there's more SC2 to play. Fuck yeah.

Author's Note: This article was originally supposed to be posted a while ago (ZeRo was a member of vVv at the time, now he is not), but things happened. Posting it now because I put a lot of work into it. It's original finish date was late January.



Hype at Apex 2012 after OCEAN defeats Mew2King in Brawl

January 6th was the start of something great – another year of competitive gaming. Another twelve months of excruciating disappointments, epic upsets, and undeniable victories began at Rutgers University, New Jersey, where the first of many huge fighting game-oriented events took place. Over a thousand players, and hundreds of spectators, showed up for a three day spectacle that actually happens quite often. Yet, each tournament is magic.

This event was Apex 2012, housing huge events for Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat, and Pokemon Black/White. The biggest game was Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, with over four-hundred entrants in the singles competition, over one-hundred teams in the doubles competition, and even more that came to practice, play friendly matches, and watch some of the most intense matches the community had ever seen. While the Americans obviously made their presence known on their home turf, players from Japan, Europe, and other far reaches of the world did not go down without a fight – Japanese Brawlers Otori and Neitono would take first and second, respectively, in the singles competition, shutting down 15 year-old and New Jersey native Nairo from taking home the gold.

The passion that filled the largest room of the venue on the third day of the event was so overwhelming that you could barely catch your breath between the roars from the audience after a big KO and the sighs of disbelief when a crowd favorite fell. However, very few could actually match the passion filled in one specific player. Not many had heard of him until a few months prior to the tournament; his potential had not been seen in America because this huge international event was also his first ever tournament in the states. He was very known for his skills online, but when it came to event day, many were unsure of how he'd fair against the extremely stacked Apex turn-out. There was a lot of uncertainty with this young Brawl player.

“My name is Gonzalo Barrios, better known as “ZeRo.” I am a 16 years old high school student and competitive Super Smash Brothers. Brawl player from Chile, South America.”


ZeRo (right) stands on the Apex stage next to Apex 2012 host Alex Strife

Gonzalo wasn't a stranger to me, however. Knowing each other through competitive gaming organization vVv Gaming, we talked often over AIM late at night, or whenever Gonzalo could get a hold of a computer. He was always willing to send me a greeting whenever he could in hopes of striking up a conversation, which would usually result in my praising of his skill in Brawl and questioning when he would finally come over to the United States to take out our top players.

But, when he finally told me that he'd be making it out to Apex 2012, I was a bit shocked. He was actually going to show up. A young kid from Chile, would he be able to manage such an experience? Of course, I had my worries, but I continued to support him, because I honestly couldn't wait to meet him.

ZeRo, as most call him, wasn't known by too many people in North America, but those that did know him understood that he was one of the best players in Chile going into Apex 2012, and arguably one of the best players in all of South America. His near-flawless records on online ladders was only further supplemented by his constant first-place finishes in local tournaments in his area. Seeing Gonzalo's tag at the top of a Chilean results post was as commonplace as it could get.

Talking to him after he had decided to make the trip to New Jersey, he expressed to me how his passion for Smash was driving him to attend the event, even if he didn't place well. “I'm a really competitive person. And, well, competing at my favorite game of all time, it's just my perfect activity. I can't imagine something I would enjoy more than what I am doing.”

What always stuck out to me the most was that he probably worked harder than most people to attend such an event. His English was surely sound, thanks to his mother.

“In Chile, video games come in English so the only way that you could play them was by understanding English. All I wanted to do was play Zelda and Super Mario 64, but I didn't understand a single word of what they were saying! So my mom helped me with her infinite patience, and an English dictionary, and translated into Spanish every single word whenever I had a language problem. She even accompanied me and helped me to solve some of the puzzles in both games. I would get straight A's in my English class, and I would be able to play my favorite games, and finally be able to understand what was going on! I also finally understood what the rules were about in Smash 64!”

Learning a second language is difficult, but hard labor is even more so. One of my colleagues and good friends, who goes by the name of Chibosempai, posted a blog about the preparations Gonzalo was making for the event. When he mentioned that Gonzalo had to sell a lot of his personal belongings, like clothes and game consoles, to make the trip, many felt for him. But an entire website was moved when it was explained that he worked for only $1.50 an hour picking fruits outside his city to pay for the trip. I know very few people who would get a paying job that offers salary or pays above minimum wage to go to tournaments, let alone pick fruits for essentially pocket change. I don't even know if I could have brought myself to do that.

In the United States, times are tough, but sometimes we forget how poorly others have it on a daily basis. “It's really hard,” Gonzalo said, “In Chile, the money is awfully divided. There are people who don't do anything and win millions, and people who work all day everyday and barely make $360 USD per month. Too much contamination in some cities, like Santiago. Plus, you can't have a “normal” job until you're 18 years old, and the education has a lot of problems, too.”

However, the trip to Apex was still too worth it for Gonzalo to pass up. Thanks to the generosity of a few Brawl players, ZeRo got free housing just before the event, and was comfortably taken care of before, during, and after the tournament. He was all smiles the entirety of his stay, from the time he woke up to the time he crashed in his hotel bed.


Alongside a large prize purse, Apex winners also took home trophies and fight sticks.

When I finally got to meet Gonzalo in person for the first time, he was shocked with happiness. He couldn't wait to tell me about his trip and how much he had been practicing for the tournament. His game was on point, he'd tell me, though he was still worried about the American and Japanese competition, especially players like Otori who used the same character (Metaknight) as he did. His biggest focus was the singles competition, in which he was hoping to place extremely well. It was almost unreal that he was only 16 and stood so much more of a chance to claim victory.

His age definitely did not stop him the entirety of the event. In the singles competition, Gonzalo blasted through two rounds of round-robin pools, making his opponents look like amateurs. Minus a very small number of slip-ups, he was playing on the same level as any other top player at the event. “I felt I did very good, but I just choked at some points, due to nervousness, or match-up inexperience, which cost me some important games,” he said. He still looked poise to put a dent in the results of the following singles bracket.

Though not a favorite to win the event, a lot of eyes were on Gonzalo to take out some big names. His first challenge came from DRN in Winner's Round 1 of the 64-man bracket that followed the two round-robin pools. DRN, though one of the Deep South's strongest Zero Suit Samus players, could not manage even one win in ZeRo's victory over him. Trevonte would also fall to Gonzalo in the following round. The victories were hard fought, but Gonzalo still kept a smile on his face.

But then he ran into Kakera. Now, Gonzalo told me of the American competition he had been facing, specifically that while he wish he had more experience against the American players, he felt like he still stood a chance because, as it seemed, his South American community had learned a lot from those in North America, so he saw many similarities. Kakera of Japan, however, did not exhibit these similarities. The American and Japanese meta-games have become quite different in both play style and rules. I should know: Kakera absolutely demolished me in my first round pool with Metaknight and Ice Climbers, doing some very stylish and technical maneuvers on a player that wasn't even of his own skill. I was curious to see how he'd fare against not only a player close to his own skill, but one of South America.

Gonzalo was stressed, but ready to give it his all. If he won, he would go on to face either Ocean or Mew2King, the former a Japanese ROB player and the latter one of the most skilled players known to Smash history in both Brawl and Melee. He'd have a tough road ahead of him, but unfortunately that path never opened – Kakera took a solid victory over ZeRo in close matches. A few slip-ups cost Gonzalo position, even some lives, and ultimately it all built up in culmination of Kakera's victory. Needless to say, the two players shook hands and went on their way.


ZeRo (far top right) watches a hype Brawl match between his own matches.

While Kakera would have an impressive run in the rest of the singles bracket, finishing 5th and earning $320 for his placing, ZeRo now had to work his way through the loser's bracket to have any chance at finishing in the money. He hoped that he'd get farther, but in came Rich Brown for his next match. Rich Brown, hot off wins over Holy of Canada and Tyrant of southern California, was ready to take on the South American prodigy. Brown's numerous top placings were a great sign of his skill, but thanks to my trip to E3 2011 last year, I was able to meet him for the first time and get a few rounds of Smash against him, thus I had experience with the SoCal Olimar's talent. It is without a doubt that Rich Brown is one of the strongest Olimar players today, so when ZeRo and Brown finally met, it was hard to say who would win.

With both of their tournament lives on the line, Rich Brown and Gonzalo faced off. A crowd developed around the match, and from the beginning Rich Brown had no problem putting ZeRo into trouble. It was hard to accept it, but it seemed like SoCal would take it over South America in this match-up. ZeRo's inexperience against American players certainly showed, but he put in one hell of a fight. It just wasn't enough for him to advance; Gonzalo would ultimately placed 13th out of ~400 entrants in the singles competition.

Despite the loss, Gonzalo couldn't have been less excited. “The competition was insane. I have never seen so many excellent players gathered in one place. Way too many names, I was so excited. The people that impressed me the most were DEHF, Mew2King, Ally, Kakera, Otori, and Rich Brown. Incredible players. Nothing more to say.”

On the contrary, he had a lot more to say and do, as a matter of fact. Gonzalo continued to play friendly matches and money matches with the rest of the Brawl community as the third day of the event went on. Gonzalo went around and talked to as many players as he could, as well. I was even able to play against him for a little bit. After our matches, I think it'll be a long time before I'll ever get a tournament win on him.

Now, Gonzalo is finally back in his home country, and since his return I was able to get a hold of him and ask him more about the event.

“[Apex 2012] was just the most awesome experience I've had in my life. So many good moments, in and out of the game. The American community...they're amazing. So many cool and awesome people. They really go out of their way to help other Smashers, which is great. I truly felt the word “community” while being there. So many good talks, community meals...awesome stuff!”

Being as young as he is, I also had to ask him what his plans are for his post-Apex 2012 Smash career.

“I'm going to keep practicing, and attend more international tournaments. I need to get better, there is so much room for where I can improve at this game! I can't wait to compete with the best of the best again! Outside of the game, more than anything, I want to keep a good balance between Smash and school. I want to be a lawyer. I'm going to put the same dedication that I have put into Smash into becoming a lawyer. Not the best one, but the best one I can be. Which I'm sure I will be the best one anyway. Ha!”

It will most likely be a while before I see Gonzalo again. However, I know that I'll most likely see the same person, despite the fact that he'll be older and much more skilled at whatever he's still pursuing. I can't see him changing, he's one of the most passionate people I've met in a long time. And I think the trip was good for him, to experience such a tournament was almost like a dream to him. But until we meet again, I'll continue to keep my AIM window open in hopes that he shoots me a message every once in a while. It's not unlike Gonzalo to hit me up to tell me about his day or how his practicing went. And I'll always answer to let him know that what he's doing is great and that I love hearing about it. Because I do, and I hope he knows it. He's got more potential than you'd believe, and I hope he lives up to his expectations at the next big event he goes to. It'll be great to see his biggest dream finally come true.

“I'm a really energetic, crazy and happy person. I usually go out of my way to help or make someone else happy, even if it somehow affects me. However, I usually never know when to stop... in general! I'm a really competitive person, and I don't like to lose. Even in friendlies! I take tournaments really seriously, and I try to practice as much as possible for them. However, I am a good sport. I don't like to john after I lost because it's disrespectful to the other players, and I always give a handshake to my opponent, even if I don't like him/her. That's just how I am.”




Photography by Robert Paul (


Apex 2012, one of the competitive Super Smash Bros community's biggest events ever, was supposed to bring back the hype and excitement that, according to many community members, had left the scene over the past couple of years. It certainly did just that – the event brought in over 700 unique Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Smash Bros Melee players, as well as several hundred more individuals that entered Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros (for the Nintendo 64), and Pokemon.

However, what Apex 2012 also did was cast a shadow of doubt across both of the major Smash communities. For Melee, this was due to the grand finals of the Melee singles competition. In the final match-up between two of the best players the game has ever seen, Armada of Sweden and Hungrybox of Florida, what was hoped to be a chaotic showdown of skill and merit became a slow match that progressed for more than an hour, an excruciating amount of time for any game that isn't Starcraft 2, League of Legends, or games of that nature.


The hype was certainly there.

This was because Hungrybox used Jigglypuff – while this isn't usually a problem, it was for Armada, who's character (Peach) has trouble dealing with Jigglypuff. Thus, Armada switched to Young Link, a projectile-based character, for grand finals, turning a hype match into a morbidly slow camp fest that lasted way too long than it should have.

On the other hand, the Brawl community didn't have a problem with one particular match, but the result of the entire tournament itself. Some foreground: Apex 2012 marked the beginning of the end for the best character in Brawl, Metaknight. As of the end of the event, the American community banned the character from all tournaments using the “Unity Ruleset.” Any tournament part of that movement can not have Metaknight legal during competition, though non-Unity tournaments can still have the character legal if they so choose.

Going into Apex, this didn't seem to be a problem. The pro-ban group was strong and growing in numbers, but then Apex came to a close with the 1st and 2nd place finishers being Japanese players. In Japan, the rule set is much different from the one found in the United States (heck, even the ones found in other parts of the world, as well). In Japan, Metaknight is legal, but also the timer is longer and most stages are banned from competitive play (on the other hand, the US allows over a dozen stages to be played on in some areas).

The American community, seeing Japan's proficiency in the game, has now somewhat turned on its heel. Many players are now supporting the anti-ban movement, even some going as far as to advocate the US picking up the Japanese rule set for all tournaments, especially because many American players are now interested in attending Sun Rise, a tournament in Tokyo this August. The players definitely want to be prepared, no matter what it takes.


Ocean was one of the many Japanese players to take down American greats like Mew2King.

For Melee, some are advocating change to avoid slow game play For Brawl, players want to see change to stand up to the apparently superior Japanese players. But which side is right?

Melee is certainly in a tough position here, especially because, besides from the grand finals, the entire tournament ran smoothly and matches were completed on time without any hassle. Grand finals seemed to be just a fluke. Though it is certainly reasonable that lowering the amount of lives, or “stocks”, each character has in a round (competitive Melee currently allots four stocks to each player per game) could create a better competitive experience, it doesn't seem like one match is enough proof to change a system that has been in place for around ten years or so.

Then there's Brawl. Obviously if Nairo, the fifteen year-old Metaknight player from New Jersey who placed third in singles, had beaten out the top two Japanese players and took first place, there wouldn't be any discussion of unbanning Metaknight and mirroring the Japanese rule set But what happened, happened, and many players are certainly not ignoring this issue. It's certainly not a guarantee that non-Japanese players will get better just by adopting a new rule set or keeping Metaknight legal. And considering the American community just banned Metaknight, unbanning him immediately without properly evaluating how his ban would change the metagame of Brawl would be a very knee-jerk move.

While it seems like the Melee community may not make any changes at all, attempts to change things are certainly breaking the surface in the Brawl community. Whether these changes become concrete within the next few months or not remains to be seen, but what we do know is this – the Melee community has been around for around ten years and will do anything to keep itself alive. And the Brawl community will do whatever it takes to grow and avoid becoming stale, and the American Brawlers specifically will pay any cost to take out the Japanese on their home turf. With that in mind, the games we play competitively may be drastically different in the next year or even in less time. And not many are completely sure if the routes being taken are the right ones to explore.

Images courtesy of Robert Paul. Check out his Apex 2012 gallery at:



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Official Zelda Timeline Revealed


There it is. The official Zelda timeline. Every game is accounted for. From the original all the way to Skyward Sword. For years, the timeline has been a mystery to the Zelda fandom, being cleverly, or unintentionally, hidden by the lack of connection between many of the Zelda games. While Nintendo teased us every once in a while, asserting the position of small “arcs”, such as Zelda II being a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time being directly followed by Majora's Mask, no one could truly figure out what the full canon was. How could we? Apparently, the only document that had the official timeline was neatly locked away.

That is, until now. Celebrating the franchise's 25th anniversary, Nintendo has released the “Hyrule Historia”, a huge package of artwork and information from the entire chronology of the series. Thanks to an expert translator, the most important of all the documents – the true order of the games – was finally converted to English. Above is said document.

Anyone who isn't familiar with the lore of the Zelda series is most likely very confused, what with wars and eras being thrown into the mix. What matters the most is the split of the timeline. The dreaded split timeline theories have been around the Zelda fandom for years, consisting of the basis of most assumed hypothesis due to the end of the N64's Ocarina of Time.

Hopefully you've played the game, but if you haven't, time travel becomes the name of the game and ends up screwing the entire timeline over. As far as Nintendo is concerned, the ending of OoT resulted in three alternate timelines – if Link ultimately fails to defeat Ganondorf at the end of the game, the fall of Hyrule and the Era of Light and Dark occur, causing A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda, and more to occur. If Link is victorious and decides to return to the past to live out his childhood (since he sort of, you know, couldn't do that for many reasons [just go play the damn game!]), he sets out and ends up in the events of Majora's Mask, which is then followed by Twilight Princess. If Link decides not to go back to the past, but to live on as an adult, Wind Waker and all of its sequels succeed such a decision.

Ultimately, despite some inconsistencies that will surely arise from the analysis of the most devoted fans, this seems all logical. But, it still seems rather odd.

Most of the Zelda fandom was actually very comfortable with the split timeline theory. The difference is that it was assumed only two alternate realities would occur – Link returns to his childhood or Link remains an adult. The games like AlttP, Zelda 1, Zelda 2, etc. seemed to all fit in somehow in the other timelines, but because no one could truly pinpoint their location (unlike, say, Skyward Sword, which was established as the first Zelda game chronologically), thus creating conflicting theories throughout the community.

Nintendo fixes this by putting in a third option – Link loses to Ganon at the end of OoT, a reality no one in the community accepted considering that they never thought that Link dieing was an acceptable conclusion to the game. Obviously, someone must eventually finish OoT to see the ending, so for Link dieing to actually create a result may make sense, but it's certainly a curve-ball from the Big N.

Either way, the time-line is established. Theorizing must be over with, right? Wrong. The community is still in full-force, analyzing the timeline for whatever missing information they could possibly hope to be resolved in future games. Many are already pointing at the very large gap of information during the “Sky Era” in which no current Zelda game occupies, leading many to believe that a sequel to Skyward Sword is on its way. Likewise, no current Zelda game occupies the “Sealing War” period, which could possibly hint at a game that sits between the failure of Link at the end of OoT and A Link to the Past.

Either way, at least we know. That's better than nothing, right?


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What's up everybody?

So, today is December 13th, currently I'm sitting in the 3rd floor of my library, supposed to be studying for my calculus final tomorrow. Anyway, I've obviously been knee-deep (or neck-deep, possibly) in work, thus being unable to write anything for the blog, which is unfortunate. However, once my final is over tomorrow, I will be done with school until I come back early for a winter intercession class I'm taking with my suitemate.

In the meantime, to keep you people sane, since I do not have the time to write up a new entry on my own I'm sending you all to read a truly stellar piece I found on 1Up about Metal Gear Solid 2 by Jeremy Parish. It's a really deep article on the twists and weird realities of the plot in what ended up being a pretty crazy (and negatively received, unfortunately) game.

Take a look: http://www.1up.com/features/metal-gear-solid-2-gamings-greatest-con-job

My apologies for not having something original, but once finals are done, I'll be back in business!


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The Story Behind Metroid II and Its Importance to the Metroid Canon

On November 24th, Metroid fans and 3DS owners alike got a very special treat – the Gameboy classic Metroid II: Return of Samus appeared on the handheld's Virtual Console service to bring gamers back to Samus's desolate adventure into the heart of SR-388, the home planet of the vicious Metroid species.

However, something is surely amiss here. This isn't a re-release of Super Metroid or Metroid Prime, two of the franchise's best games and, arguably, two of the best games Nintendo has ever made. Rather, this is a re-release of a black-and-white Gameboy game with seemingly the least in common with any other Metroid game to date. Gone are the Space Pirates, Mother Brain, hell, even a world map. You step into the boots of the galaxy's finest bounty hunter with only your Power Suit and one objective: kill every last Metroid on this god-forsaken rock.

Metroid II: Return of Samus is certainly quite the deviation from the traditional Metroid formula, which could be part of the reason why the game is so little spoken of when it comes to the franchise. While it was only Samus's second adventure to be developed at the time (though, chronologically, the game is the sixth in the series), it would become the first Metroid game to appear on a portable device, and specifically the only Metroid game to be made on the original Gameboy, with Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission following on the Gameboy Advance many years later.

Thus, the entire existence of this game is rather an odd one. It throws a wrench in the circuitry of the regular flow of Metroid games. Yet, there's much more to this monochromatic Metroid game at first glance; while Return of Samus seems to be just a simple game with a simple objective, seemingly out-of-place in the franchise, Metroid II finds its biggest contributions to the series coming from one of the most unlikely sources: plot. No, you won't find any earth-shattering, mind-blowing cut scenes straight out of Other M, nor will you find hundreds upon hundreds of documents to scan that unearth a much bigger story a la Metroid Prime. But what you will find is a foundation, the basis for what culminates in later games like Super Metroid, Other M, and Metroid Fusion. Indeed, without the events of Return of Samus, the rest of the canon likely could have ended up much differently, if not at all entirely.


Before we get into what makes the game so important, we must understand where this piece fits into the entire puzzle. Unlike franchises like Halo or Call of Duty, games are not necessarily developed in the order in which the plot takes place. Instead, the Metroid franchise jumps around quite a lot – for example, while Metroid Fusion is chronologically the last Metroid game in the series, it is actually the fourth Metroid game to be developed, followed by the entire Prime series, plus Other M.

In the case of Metroid II, it is actually not a direct sequel to the original Metroid. In fact, Metroid II takes place after the Prime games, which means the first game is succeeded by Prime 1, Hunters, Prime 2: Echoes, Prime 3: Corruption, and then finally Metroid II. After the events of Metroid II, Super Metroid, Other M, and Fusion follow in that order.

It is certainly necessary to understand the order in which the game stakes place, as it'll make it much easier to understand how exactly Samus finds herself on SR-388 to kill every last Metroid in Return of Samus. After successfully defeating Mother Brain and her minions on Zebes in the original Metroid, Samus takes off after a job well done. Simultaneously, the Space Pirates are not quite finished yet – the remaining members of the horde split up into two groups, one of which is meant to revive their failed plans on Zebes, as well as Mother Brain and her cohorts; the other ends up on Tallon IV and begins to take control of the ultra-radioactive substance known as Phazon. Samus eventually receives a distress signal coming from a pirate frigate stationed just outside Tallon IV, beginning the events of Prime 1.


Samus taking on Mother Brain at the end of Super Metroid

After defeating the pirates, Ridley, and Metroid Prime, Samus must then rid the entire universe of Phazon before Dark Samus, the main antagonist of Prime's 2 and 3, takes control. Being the stellar heroine that she is, Samus is successful, and after Dark Samus is defeated and the Phazon home world is destroyed, peace is once again restored to the galaxy.

However, the Galactic Federation, the over-seeing organization that controls planets and colonies across the stars and the provider of Samus's bounties, decides that they have had enough of the Space Pirates trying to use Metroids as biological weapons. The Federation, understanding the true power of the Metroid species through the events of Metroid and the Prime series, orders Samus to head to SR-388 and eliminate every last Metroid. With mass genocide seemingly not outside Samus's moral code, she agrees and heads to SR-388 to begin to her mission, which is the crux of Metroid II.

The Baby

Just as Metroid II through fans of the original game a huge curve ball with its many differences compared to Metroid, the release of Other M on the heels of Metroid Prime 3 proved to be just as much of a deviation. If you played the game, you most likely also cringed at Samus's constant obsession over “the baby,” referring to the infant Metroid that saves her life in the dramatic cut scene at the beginning of the game, which was the actual final battle versus Mother Brain at the end of the preceding game, Super Metroid. That Metroid is clearly no ordinary Metroid, but anyone who has played Metroid II understands why – after killing the Queen Metroid of SR-388, Samus happens upon a Metroid egg, which hatches as she approaches it. The newborn creature immediately imprints and Samus becomes, in its eyes, its true mother.

At the end of Metroid II, nothing really seems to come of it; the real story begins in its direct sequel, Super Metroid. The infant Metroid Samus found in Metroid II had been brought into the Ceres research station for study. Samus leaves once things are under control, but immediately receives a distress signal from Ceres. Upon her return, she finds that the entire facility has been slaughtered by Ridley, who apparently survived the events of Metroid Prime 3, and cannot stop him from kidnapping the infant Metroid and bringing it to Zebes, where one of the aforementioned Space Pirate groups, the one that had not gone to Tallon IV, had rebuilt their Zebes facilities to their former glory.

Samus is able to tear through Zebes once more and decimate all of the Space Pirates and their leaders, but not before Mother Brain gains the upper hand and transforms into an immense giant that, with one fell swoop, knocks the bounty hunter onto the edge of death. Without the sudden arrival of the infant Metroid, now much larger and more fierce, Samus may not have survived that mission.

However, while Samus does survive, the infant Metroid does not. Unfortunately, Samus makes us remember that time and time again in Other M in her terribly monotonous voice, but I digress – my thoughts on Other M are surely for another time.


The Baby Metroid, now fully grown, as it appears in Super Metroid

The infant Metroid ultimately proves to be more important than what the end of Metroid II made it seem, which is particularly interesting because that same Metroid would end up spurring on the rest of the games to follow in Return of Samus's footsteps. The Metroid being kidnapped not only resulted in the complete destruction of the Space Pirates and the planet Zebes itself, but also Samus's emotional state in Other M, as her brief time being a “mother,” in whatever sense of the word you want to use, definitely left an impact on the heroine in games to come.

It is this relationship between Samus and the Metroid, mother and offspring, that cements itself as being the foundation for a majority of the main arc of the Metroid canon. Likewise, we also see a change in Samus herself – in many other Metroid games, even Metroid II, Samus is motivated by her mission and her goal to complete the mission. However, in Super Metroid, we see that Samus's connection to the infant Metroid, a creature she was supposed to kill the second she got the opportunity to, becomes the fuel that fires her rampage through Zebes.

Likewise, as the Baby Metroid saves Samus's life at the end of Super Metroid, it does so again in Metroid Fusion – after coming in contact with stray X parasites on a research mission to SR-388 with Federation scientists, Samus gets a vaccine that prevents the parasites from completely destroying her body from the inside. This vaccine was only successful because it had Metroid DNA in it, its source being the same infant Metroid she saved in Metroid II. With the vaccine, she gains the capacity to take on the infestation of the X parasites, which were able to grow in the absence of their natural predators, the Metroids (which, as we should remember, are essentially extinct since Samus slaughtered them all previously in Return of Samus). Without the help of the infant Metroid, nay the mere existence of it, Samus likely would not have even survived the events of Metroid Fusion, let alone the battle against Mother Brain on Zebes.


Samus's arch-nemesis Ridley has a weird way of crashing the party no matter what time of day it is. If you think you killed him the last game, you definitely did not. Always expect to see the plasma-breathing space dragon when you step into the boots of Samus Aran. However, after Samus defeated Ridley in Metroid, Metroid Prime, and Metroid Prime 3, he and the rest of his Space Pirates were nowhere to be seen. Why?

Well, chronologically, it wouldn't be the first time Ridley didn't RSVP. In Metroid Prime Hunters, which takes place between Prime1 and Prime 2, all of Samus's regular enemies (Mother Brain, Kraid, Ridley, the Space Pirates, even actual Metroids) are nowhere to be seen. So for this to happen in Metroid II, as it indeed did happen, certainly doesn't seem too farfetched. It is worth noting, however, that Metroid II was only the second game to be developed, so Ridley's non-appearance in Hunters (he also does not appear in Prime 2) was not part of the equation at the time.

Regardless, why is any of this important? Metroid II went along its business without Mother Brain, Ridley, or anyone associated with them, so why make a point of mentioning Ridley at all? Well, it's not necessarily why Ridley should have shown up in Metroid II, which is entirely subjective, but rather what is more important is to analyze his whereabouts during the events of Metroid II.

As we know, Ridley's ability to reappear in Metroid games time and time again after seemingly being killed in a previous game does not seem to manifest itself in Metroid II. Thus, we must look to the events prior to Metroid II to find out why. Remember, Metroid II does not come after Metroid chronologically, but instead Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

When Samus faces off against Ridley for the second time in Corruption, he appears in a mutated form unlike any of his previous incarnations. While he maintains his identity as “Meta Ridley” for most of the events in the Prime games (after being mechanically enhanced by the Space Pirates after the events of Metroid), he fights Samus at the end of Corruption while being infected and taken over by Phazon, taking the form of “Omega Ridley.” When Samus finally defeats him, his death is not so certain – Ridley does not just fall to the ground dead, instead wrapping his wings around him and, well, not dropping dead, but essentially vanishing. But Samus eventually destroys the source of all the Phazon in the universe, so that also means it would be gone from Ridley's body.


Samus would find many Metroids, but not Ridley, on this mission.

This presents an odd, but reasonable predicament for the Space Pirates, who have revived Ridley at least once before these events. With the Phazon entirely gone from his body, it's very likely Ridley, if he's alive, would simply be able to be conditioned back to fighting form in a state that would match his first appearance in Metroid rather than his Meta Ridley form in Prime 1. However, if he did die, at the very least his body could possibly be in a state to be revived without any problems resulting from radioactivity.

However, Ridley could have also been just completely destroyed by Samus, thus prompting the Space Pirates to simply clone Ridley (similar to how the Galactic Federation does so in Other M), thus allowing him to show up in Super Metroid, though that is just speculation. Either way, it seems very clear that Metroid II actually seems to serve as a buffer for Ridley – his appearance in Metroid II simply would not make any sense considering his failures in Corruption. However, the time between Corruption and Super Metroid could have easily been a reasonable amount to allow Ridley to return, in one way or another.


Even though the following is not necessarily in regards to canon, Metroid II still sports many qualities that have outlasted the original release of the game and have had an impact on the franchise outside the realm of story and plot. Namely, this includes changes and additions made from Metroid to Metroid II.

First, Samus's iconic Varia Suit did show up in Metroid, but the form most fans come to recognize today, with its overly-large shoulder pads, originates in Return of Samus. Because the game was released on the Gameboy, which did not have the luxury of colors that the NES had, developers needed a way to distinguish the Varia Suit upgrade and Samus's starting Power Suit in a grayscale game. Thus, the Varia Suit was given its distinguishable shoulder embellishment to set it apart from the lack thereof of shoulder pads on the normal Power Suit, and this upgrade's appearance has stayed essentially the same in every Metroid game since.

Metroid II was also the birthplace of many of Samus's now-standard weapons and upgrades, including the Plasma Beam, Spider Ball, and Morph Ball Jump. The Plasma Beam would go on to become a staple part of Samus's arsenal in the 2D side-scrolling games like Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, even making an appearance in the Prime series. Speaking of which, the Spider Ball would find many uses in Metroid Prime and its following sequels, where the introduction of 3D brought the Morph Ball into an entirely new realm of importance and reliability to complete puzzles.

Finally, in a move that all Metroid players would go on to love, and eventually take for granted, Metroid II featured specific rooms that allowed players to save their game without having to enter a password. Because of this, the original Metroid would stay the only game in the series to use passwords to access save files; thankfully, Nintendo made the smart decision to dissolve the password system for good starting with Return of Samus.


Understand that a story does not come together without all of its many parts working in coercion and with stability. Along these lines, Metroid II fits into the canon as a piece of the puzzle more important than most fans probably think. The conventions and events of Return of Samus provide a much larger backdrop to the entire succeeding Metroid storyline than at first glance, so if you have your 3DS within reach, maybe it won't be that bad of an idea to download this classic adventure and experience Samus's journey into the depths of the Metroid home planet, an adventure that, as we find out later, changes her life forever.


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Not only does SAVE FILE take a look at storylines, plot, canon, and much more in the gaming industry, but it is also home to pieces of original fiction from yours truly. Of course, I'll try to keep it gaming-related.

Today marks the release of the first chapter of a Halo-inspired mini-series called "Atop Mt. Typh". I'll be posting up chapters, which will most likely run to about a number around half a dozen or so, in no particular order in between regular blog entries.

But anyway, enjoy the first chapter!


Atop Mt. Typh

Chapter 1


I calmly shoved the magazine back into my rifle. “Yeah, it has been some time, hasn't it?”

Ghost nodded. He pulled one last time on his cigarette before flicking it off to the side. Not much had changed in Ghost, it seemed. Certainly not his habits. He still had chipping paint on his helmet. No matter how many times he'd get a new coat on that thing, he couldn't resist picking at the new glossy surface he had at his disposal. Thankfully, however, I knew I could trust that if his small, petty habits were still around, his sharp shooting skills were likely to be intact, as well.

“You still in that shanty house on Hercot Ridge?” Ghost asked.

“Yeah. A few renovations here and there, but it's pretty much the same,” I said. I didn't feel it was worth noting that the renovations included moving to an entirely new house, much larger than my old one, and being not even remotely close to where I used to live. Being away from the job meant not having to live near it anymore.

Ghost began to slid downward against the wall, hoping to eventually plop down on the ground, but not before the doors across the room shuttered and started to open. Ghost shot up awkwardly. I couldn't help but laugh at his attempt to stand to attention. He shot me a glare, but I only caught the reflection of the overhead lights that created a glare against his visor.

Light poured into the room from outside the bunker. Out from the shadows came a rather empty room – besides myself and Ghost, the only other occupants were a few dusty monitors and a lonely table in the middle of the room. No one had used this facility, let alone this room, in a long time.

Ghost laid his rifle against the wall, his helmet on the floor, and began to walk towards the table. Through the door came four soldiers who also approached the table. I took the hint and followed, oddly more concerned with getting to the table rather than who was coming through the door.

“Welcome gentlemen,” one soldier said, “glad to have a full team this time around.” The insignia on his chest, a purely black flame with crossed swords, told me all I needed to know about this one's identity, but his voice was unmistakeable – Roosevelt was a tough man to forget. His raspy voice and bellowed grunting sealed the deal.

“I hear we've got a not-so-new recruit, mister “Beck”, is it?” Roosevelt took his helmet off, revealing a firm grin. “I have to admit it, I honestly didn't think you'd be back. Especially for a shit-hole like this.”

“Yeah, I really didn't expect myself here, either. But, well, here I am.” I said.

Roosevelt grunted in acknowledgment. He then turned to the rest of the team, who were still crowded around the table. “Everyone, this is Beck. Many of you know him as a former operative of Black Soul, if you don't, now you do. He'll be filling in as our sixth man today. You should all trust in his skills as much as I did, and still do, so we'll run this exactly how we would have on any other occasion. No mistakes, no re-dos, none of that. We're here to do a job, so let's get it done.”

Everyone nodded in agreement. Naturally, I did the same. It felt like old times again, it really did. Ghost and Roosevelt were both sights for sore eyes, as were Hennessy and Taz, both of which have been around just as long as anyone else.

But the fifth man was a new addition. He must've been added to the team after I retired. He was quick to establish himself at the table.

“Alright guys, all ears on me, all eyes on the table.” He pulled out a map from his satchel and unraveled it upon the table. I guess the UNSC really didn't mind the quality of the resources we had at our disposal.

“The Mt. Typh facilities are pretty much exactly how they used to be. The insurgents have nested in the abandoned bunkers, but data shows only top-side. The underground passages have not been accessed. We can assume they are unaware of them. Because the upper layer of the base has no reactor core, they has established a hurried core in a small bunker and are using that to power the base. That's where our only bomb goes.”

He pulled out what could only be described as a bulgy beach ball with a half-assed coat of paint applied in the blandest brown you can find. Standard issue for the UNSC.

“Hennessy, this is yours. Detonator is set to thirty seconds. Activation codes are preset and ready to fire,” he said. Hennessy casually scooped up the bomb and strapped it to his side. Raising his arm with a peace sign at hand, he turned on his heel and walked out the door.

“Along with Hennessy, Taz and myself will approach via Hornet drop. That means the captain, Ghost, and...”

"Beck. He's our new sixth,” Roosevelt said. Thanks, Captain.

“Right. You three will be accessing the underground passages on the southern side of the mountain. Once you've made it through, bust through and cause some mayhem. Give us the signal and we'll drop in on a flank. The power core is not that far from the underground entrance, so make a path for Hennessy so we can get that bomb planted and get ourselves out of there in record time.”

“Alright, Cav, that's all we need,” Roosevelt said. “You heard him, boys, lets do this as quick as possible. Get packed up everyone, the engines are starting up in a few.”

With that, Cav snatched up his map and hung close to Roosevelt's side as he left the room. Taz chuckled, “Guy's a little shit. His nose must reek of it.”

I was a pretty big soldier, with or without my armor, but Taz still cast a shadow over me that I could just not help notice. Taz made his way around the table and the lights above me were blotted out as he approached me.

“Glad to have you back, Beck. Ready to bring down the hammer? I've been itching to get back on the field with the team in a while. The squad hasn't been together in quite some time.” I shook his hand, contesting his concrete grip with my own.

“What happened with you guys since I left?” I asked.

“You know how much the team means to the captain. When we lost the contract with the UNSC, he pulled some strings to get us some bounty missions under the UNSC moniker, which we eventually got caught doing. We had to go to some hearings, but Roosevelt took all the blame. Served a year because of it.”

“Shit. Didn't know it was that bad.”

“Yeah huh? When he was serving time, we all did individual jobs or just didn't come back at all. Roosevelt finally got out and somehow convinced somebody to give us back our contract. He rounded all of us up, but not Janson. He was done with the service. We've had over a dozen sixths, none of them worked out. And now here we are. And here you are.”

An armored fist slammed against the wall. “Come on,” Roosevelt said, “Let's get a move on, people.”

I picked up my gear and headed toward the door. Ghost made his way out before us, unable to resist scratching at his helmet before putting it on as he walked out the door.

“It should be fun,” Taz said. “Nothing like a family reunion to kick off a new mission.”