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On-the-fly update:

Planning on doing a segment on spawnkilling. Will fraps-up some YouTube clips. Watch for that tonight-tomorrow.

Also, planning on a weekly "PvP/PKer of the week" segment. Will highlight skillful play by the PvP/PKer community. If you'd like get in on that, send me a link to yer YouTube clip and write me the backstory on it.
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Well, I am about two or three years behind the power curve, here, but I've been recently introduced to the game of "GunZ". Little online game. One of those deals where they make a decent game and then add all kinds of bells and whistles that cost hard currency. I don't have much of a problem with that. What I'm going to focus on today is the emergence of sub-groups within online environments.

There's a group of people dedicated to "KStyle", which details specifically swordsmanship and evasion. Summarized, it entails hopping around like a frog, dashing back and forth to evade bullets, and attempting to corner you and hit you frequently enough so that you are stunned and unable to retaliate. It also encludes various methods of moving quicker than usual, so you can cover more ground. In this game, unless you know of a few tricks, you run approximately at the same speed as a geriatric stroke victim. Needless to say, with all the lead usually flying around, maneuvering is critical in this game.

When I first began, I liked the dagger. You could circle an enemy, stab his guts out, and each hit would stun them just long enough for you to hit them again. Eventually, as I slowly lost my noobhood, I learned about KStyle and the prevalance thereof. That was when I rejected it.

Whenever I do PvP online, one of the first things I do is learn what the mainstream thing to do is, then avoid it. I went through the normal phase of trial and error, and eventually cooked up a style of my own. I called it PStyle, in mockery of KStyle.

Basically it involves the use of the revolvers. They are the single most high damaging weapon in the game. They have less bullets per clip than machine guns, and so require much more accuracy. No problem, I have that in spades. They also do considerably more damage than machine guns, per shot. They are more accurate and have less spread at range.

The technique I use is easy enough. In a 1-on-1 fight, I have two different methods. If they use machine guns, I'll simply roll around to throw off their aim, while taking carefully chosen single shots with the revolvers. Takes about four or five good hits to kill an enemy, and I can usually take them out before my armor is even gone. If they go KStyle, I'll either go revolver and do the above, or if they are VERY good at it, I'll switch to shotgun. KStyle necessitates close combat, and that's where the shotty thrives. I win a lot of free-for-all matches, and even ones I do not I usually have a 3-to-1 kill ratio, so I'm happy with how it's working out.

I love the smack-talking KStylers usually whip out, too. If you kill them with guns, you get called a "Sprayer", regardless of whether or not machine guns are used. I usually like to remind them that "The game is called GunZ. Not 'Wiggle your short stick.'"

Any way, if you like pitched matrix-like gun fights, and free to boot, take a look. It's worth at least an hour of your time.


Yeah, I'm talkin' about Hellgate: London. A week ago I went to the site, clicked the best buy link, and paid in full for a preorder copy of Hellgate: London. I had been told by others in-game that if you preorder, they email you the key and send the box later. Awesome! Payment sent, and I get... crickets. A sweet symphony of crickets. I check my mail, and there's the standard "Thank you for paying our executives salaries. Here's links to more crap!" email I get afterwords, then nothing. No key! The next day it is mentioned to me that Best Buy's the only one of the three doing online preorders through the Hellgate site that DOESN'T email they keys. It's sent in the box they mail you. Dammit!

I checked my email again. "Expected arrival date: 11/1 or 11/2" Nice. I preorder a game and they say it'll arrive AFTER the game launches. Bad, but I can deal with that. At least they're keeping the beta logins open for a bit, so I can still level my character in the meantime. But wait!

Behold this excerpt from yesterday's email from Best Buy!:

Dear Whackjob:

The item listed below is not yet available to be shipped. We expect to ship it within the next 1-2 weeks. We will ship the item sooner if it becomes available.

If you would like to discuss other possibilities for fulfilling your order, please call us at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289), and a Customer Care representative will gladly assist you. Please have your order number handy.

Your options may include:

* Finding a store in your area with your item in stock
* Ordering a similar in-stock item that meets your needs
* Cancelling your current order

I'll take option #4, and fill my local Best Buy's complaint box with dead fishworms and fish eggs from my local bait shop.

#EDIT: Seems I won't have to! New email today:

Dear Whackjob:

The items listed below are now packed and ready to leave our warehouse. Your credit card (or Gift Card) has been charged for the items. If you used a Reward Certificate, it has been applied to your purchase.

The item they list is just "Hellgate: London-Windows", so I do not know whether or not it has the pre-order code. It'd better be. I still have seven pounds of dead bait in my freezer that I need to dispose of.


Templates, what are they, what do they do, and what do I do with them?

Templates are in-depth posts on forums or websites, detailing the way to create a very specific setup for a character or class. Also referred to as "Cookie cutter characters". I have mixed feelings about these setups. First, if you are new to PvP/PK or experimenting, templates are ideal. You have a pre-researched setup that is known to work, and work well. You can use them straight from the forums and expect to do reasonably well. The downside? Everyone will know what you are capable of, and how to counter anything you may do. I personally avoid templates for this reason alone. I *DO* read every one I see, however. Think of it as researching the enemy. Time for a real-game scenario.

First, let me lay out the framework, so you know how this game works.

There was an old RTS game called "Warzone 2100", made by Pumpkin Studios. It was definitely waay ahead of its time. I still consider it a better RTS than many of the ones that recently came out. Why? Most RTS games, you have ten to twenty units you can build, and that's it. In Warzone 2100, if you wanted something resembling a tank, you had to research the parts first. First the tank treads, then the heavy tank body, then a heavy cannon. Then you could build a basic tank after putting the parts together in the vehicle editor, then saving it with a name. But that's the BASIC tank, mind you. If you wanted to make it more effective, then you could research better ammunition, better targeting system, better armor, bigger engine, ect. The research tree is massive. Expect to spend two or three HOURS if you plan on researching the entire tree.

There's other things you can do in this game that you can in no other. First, artillery. Say you build a radar station to keep an eye on an approach path to your base. If you build stationary artillery near that radar dish, it'll automatically slave to that radar and fire on anything hostile that the radar dish detects. But what to do if cash is tight? Slap that same artillery piece you researched onto a vehicle chassis and crank a few out. Drive them over to a radar station. Select all the artillery pieces, then click on the radar dish. They'll link to it and fire on anything it detects like a stationary artillery unit. The difference is, if you suddenly need that firepower elsewhere, you can de-link them, drive them over to the new location, and use them as-is with thier limited detection range, or slave them to a different dish. But maybe you need more accurate and mobile artillery? Back to the vehicle editor! Set up a new vehicle, and slap a radar dish on it. Crank one out, and drive it over to your artillery tanks. Slave the artillery tanks to the radar tank as if it were a tower. Now, only the radar tank is selectable, but notice that the artillery tanks follow it! They'll fire on anything that the radar tank points its dish at, including enemy base structures. Very neat.

Second, you can get a "commander" turret. Placed on tanks only. What these do is allow you to set that tank as the deliver point for your factories. So if your commander tank's force has taken a few casualties, you can have its designated factory crank out some replacements. When done, they'll happily drive right over to the commander tank and stay with it. All linked vehicles fire on whatever the commander tank designates.

Third, each vehicle gains rank depending on how many kills it gets. That's why its a good idea to repair used vehicles, instead of just letting them die and filling thier shoes with replacements. Also, if you later upgrade your tanks and want to get the vets in the new ones, simply recycle the old tanks prior to manufacturing the new ones. The experienced vets will pull rank to get the primo gear.

Anyway, time to explain the scenerio to explain templates. The two major online match types were "Tier 1" and "Tier 3", referred as such for a setting in the make-a-game panel that dictates how much tech you start with. Tier 1 nets you next to nothing, tier 3 has all the good high level techs, but at a basic level. To explain, it's like having firearms researched, but you have a flintlock, not a cannon. The common strategy for T3 matches was to research the heaviest bodies, heaviest cannons, and throw it all on treads to have the highest armor and health values. It was common to see ten to twenty of those deadly behemoths attack at once. Sometimes more, if it were a long match. Superheavy tanks, superheavy guns, that's the "template". That's what everyone did in those games because that was understood as "what works".

Well, one day I got tired of the same-old, same-old. Instead I used the same light body you got from the start of the game, but researched armor to the max. I used a needle gun (light cannon T3 version) instead of a Gauss. And I put it on a hovercraft chassis (high speed, low armor, low health). Result? A much cheaper vehicle that took ten seconds to manufacture instead of five minutes. I could crank out a hundred of them in the time it took someone to get ten to twenty heavy tanks. And the best part was, they could take ONE hit from a heavy tank and not die. Simple to deal with that, I simply set thier orders to retreat to my repair station upon medium damage. I then set all 100 over to the enemy base and ignored them. I then ignored them while I did some minor base repairs. I was expecting to see all 100 at my repair station, minus casualties. I recall seeing a little profanity on my screen, but was busy putting up a little more stationary defense while that was going on. Five minutes later, I notice only fifteen hovertanks at my repair facility, already tuned up. Did I lose that many tanks? Nope. Eighty were still at where the enemy base was. My hundred light tanks had not only taken out the entire enemy heavy tank force, it had also levelled the base, all without any intervention from me. It worked so well I didn't build a heavy tank ever again. I called it my "Swarm strategy" and went on to win many, many matches with it.

In closing, though Pumpkin Studios is now a thing of the past, Warzone 2100 is still with us, thanks to the amazing folks at http://wz2100.net/. Yes, you can download the entire, rebuilt game. Thanks to the WZ 2100 Resurrection Project! Go there and get it, RTS lovers. And remember, templates are great for beginners, and even better for the vets who don't use them. Know your enemy.

Photo Photo Photo

PvP isn't only for MMORPGs. Most of us have an RTS that is very near and dear to our hearts. We've created empires, exterminated billions of little digital people, and had laughs all around doing it. Some of you have never played that RTS online, most likely for one reason: You're fed your own buttocks. The fork isn't even clean. So here's a quick primer for those of you who can use some advice. First, as usualy, the terminology.

Situational Awareness: Always, always, always have scouts all over the map, or observation units. Whatever it takes to see everything you can. At the barest MINIMUM, make sure you can see far down every avenue of approach to your critical areas. Situational Awareness isn't relegated to defensive actions only. See Blindside below.

Build order: Most hardcore online RTSers have a "Build order" laid out with mathmatical precision. The purpose of a build order is to produce the most offensive capability in the shortest amount of time. If you take your time, you will die.

"The Rush": Also known as "Zerg tactics" after Starcraft. Very effective against "City builders". This tactic involves building a small, but effective fighting force at the earliest possible moment, and sending them out to kill you enemy before they can get firmly established.

"City building": A purely defensive role, used to create a heavily fortified defensive position that your enemy cannot penetrate. Defensive structures abound. The end-game for this strategy is using your superior economy and technology to overcome your foes, usually very late in the game.

Sniping: Fabian tactics. This involves chipping away at your enemies force or base of operations, then fading away before you accumulate significant casualties. Think guerilla warfare. Best used against someone with a superior force. You may be delaying the inevitable, here, but you'll sure piss them off before you die.

Ambush: Trick your enemy into thinking you're weaker than you actually are by attacking with a small force. Get him to chase you back to your main element, then hit him with superior numbers. This tactic can turn the tide of a fight if done right. Artillery works wonders in many games. See blindsiding below.

Blindside: Your enemy's attention is turned elsewhere. Might as well hit him before he can properly respond. Use a very mobile force to harass a stronger foe while he's out pummeling someone else. See situational awareness.

Choke: Just about every RTS out there demands you collect a resource in order to keep going. Find these resources, memorize where they are on the map, and grab every one you can, as often as you can. Many times you can end a match before it has even started simply by controlling a dominating number of resource locations. This will let you outproduce your enemy. Remember, numbers help overcome lack of tactical ability.

You've got a basic idea, now, how to act online in a game. Practice is key here. Memorize the most commonly used maps. Play people much better than you, and record the games if you can. See what they did and when they did it. Forums again, forums are your friend. Many times people will discuss build orders, strategies, maps, et cetera. Let me give you an example of my own experience, here.

The game is Homeworld. First one. I thought I was good. Single player on the hardest mode was nothing to me. I went online and got torn to tiny little bits. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong! No matter what I did, the enemy had better tech, better ships, and more of everything. Finally, I ran afoul of one of the highest ranked ladder people. I happened to record that match, and watched it later. I still have it on my old hard drive somewhere. I watched the entire battle, many, MANY times, but from HIS viewpoint. I saw what he was doing that I did not. Finally I managed to put together a respectable build order, and went at it again. I did much better the next game, after following the build order I'd written out. I still lost, mind you. Build orders aren't everything. I was out-maneuvered. The third game after, though, I will remember until the day I die. It went down like this.

Three player free for all. I got my build order going, and as soon as I had the resources and time, I constructed about ten probes. I spaced them all around me, and two each for the other player's starting postions. Enemy number one had a force comparable to mine. The second enemy's force was miniscule. It reminded me of how I used to do things. He immediately got cocky with me, and blew up my probes. "Do it again, I'll take my fleet over there and @#$@#$... ect, ect, ect." Well, enemy two is now target number one. After I was up to a decent fighting force, I went over there and ate him alive. I stole a good number of his ships, while taking minimal losses. Ships that were near death I either repaired or recycled. End result, most of my fleet is intact, I got some of his frigates, and he's seriously miffed. This took about half an hour. Hrm, I thought. What's enemy #1 been up to while I was gone?

I found out after my probes arrived. Mister silent type had been building the entire time. His fleet was about double mine. I was in trouble. Worse, resources on the map were scant. I would be unable to shore up my numbers before the fighting broke out. I'd have to pare down his force to even stand a chance. My problem was compounded when enemy #2, who had stuck around, started telling enemy #1 everything I was doing. So much for the element of suprise. I'd be doing no sniping or ambushes here. He divided his force into two sphere formations. One he sent towards my mothership. The second he left at his. Either were capable of crippling my meager force. I was still racking my brain when I noticed he decided to send his second sphere as well. His mothership was alone.

I immediately teleported my carrier over to his mothership. I used it to slowly chip away at his ship, while building bombers to add to the damage. When they ran out of ammo, I had them suicide by crashing into his mothership. Damage inflicted was slow, but accumulating. His two spheres kept coming. Finally, I had to act. His first sphere loomed into sight of my mothership. I had at best a minute before it would come under fire. I had just enough resources to teleport it somewhere. But where? I did the math in my head. Even if I sent it all the way to the other side of the map, it wouldn't be enough time for me to get his mothership with my carrier. I had to do something else.

I decided to hyperspace my mothership over to his, to add to my carrier's meager firepower. While plotting the trajectory, I thought, what would happen if I hyperspaced it right into his mothership? Well, no time like the present to find out. I sent my mothership into hyperspace and waited. Mister silent type spoke for the first time. "You're just delaying the inevitable." Them my mothership dropped out of hyperspace at his. For the moment, there was only the coming-out-of-hyperspace blue rectangle animation. Then suddenly a huge explosion! BOTH of our motherships had detonated, along with my carrier that had been too close. Apparently my foe hadn't had carriers himself, since the match immediately ended. A DRAW.

Sometimes, taking a draw from certain defeat is victory enough. One game I wish I had recorded.


So there you are, minding your own business, admiring the latest artwork on some random piece of foliage the developers put in there to distract you, and suddenly some idiot's made off with part of your torso, and all of your hard won cash. You want to get it back? You'd better brush up on the basics. First, terminology so you don't get lost:

Buff: Protective abilities that reduce damage, enhance abilities, and basically make your target's job of killing you that much harder.

DeBuff: Abilities or spells that change your target from a guy who can defend himself into dusty shell of his former self. It's easier to stop an ant to death that it is poking an elephant to death with a fork.

Root: Maneuverability is critical in these situations. Roots force your enemy to stand right where they are. Effect differs per game, but in most cases this involves either stopping your enemy from all movement, or slowing them. Sometimes roots make your enemy unable to attack.

Placate: Not all games have this ability. Placating an enemy makes him unable to attack you, while not further restricting his abilities. The "Leave me alone while I do something else" power.

Critical strikes: Most games have this. The ability to randomly land a blow that does much higher damage than normal. Some people depend on this.

Critical failure: Major screwup by your character. Sometimes involves inflicting damage on yourself, or dropping a weapon or shield, or detonating explosives you were trying to plant. Also known as "God hates you".

The other important terms are covered in my previous post. I may add more later as my PvP-fried brain recalls them.

So, now you got the basic terminology down, what's next? Find the baddest mofo you can on your server, them provoke them. That's right. Intentionally find the best fighter you can, and fight them. You will lose. Badly. If you have a recording program like fraps, I highly suggest you record your humiliating defeat. Why do this, you ask? Simple. You don't know how to go about fighting, but he does. And he's going to show you by making you suffer. When you review the clip or recall the fight later, the key is to think "Ok, this didn't work. What did he do to counter it?" And do me a favor, here. LOSE GRACIOUSLY. A good question to ask after the fight is "What did I do wrong?" If you were a good sport about the whole thing, and the guy who pummeled you is a decent sort, he'll tell you. And with that one single match, you're already well ahead of the guys who are trying to figure things out for themselves.

Another excellent resource is the community forums for whatever game you're working on. Ask questions. Lots of them. If you keep catching the wrong end of some ability that is making you lose, hop on the boards and ask for a counter. You'll happily be given reams of information.

And lastly, be persistant. Nobody ever logged on a game and beat every single person. Nobody was born knowing every detail of the game you're on. No matter how much you suck at the start, the only thing standing between you and a field of corpses in the future is persistance and practice. Go to it.

~ Whackjob

So, intro is over, and now to scratch the surface before we get into the nitty-gritty. PvP? Pk? Griefing? Aren't they all pretty much the same thing? Nope. Let me break it down for you:

PvP: Player versus player. These are the situations where you're out for blood, and your prey either knows you are coming, or is an area where hostile contact is expected. Let me use World of Warcraft as an example here. If you go to Warsong Gulch, this is PvP. You know you're going to an area where people are going to be out to kill you. PvP can include one-on-one arena style, team versus team, or free for all. Tactics to be followed will vary greatly. This will be an additional post with much more detail later on.

PK: Player Killing. Different than PvP, as the intention here is to attack someone and off them before they know what is happening. For them, hostile contact via another player is not expected. Generally considered "Dishonerable" by non-playerkillers. Tactics change, here. You're not out for a protracted battle, you're out to locate your target, kill him, and be on your merry way. In WOW, this would be fighting in a contested zone, then suddenly getting cut in half by some dude wandering along. PK is more risky in PvP, due to the assailant usually working alone and without external aid. Think Sergeant York.

Griefing: Generally young PvPers in the making. These are the guys that kill you over and over again and rub your face in it. They will do anything and everything to get an edge on you, up to and including bug exploitation and cheapness bordering on the extreme. Think of that level ninety-nine Amazon in Diablo 2 that kept joining your act 1 games and killing your entire group. The only thing seperating Griefers and PvPers are tactics and maturity. Griefers usually crave the attention they get for their actions, since they don't get enough attention in their normal lives. The worst possible thing you can do to a griefer is ignore him.

And as a little bonus, here are some other terms critical to the cause:

Burst Damage: A critical thing in many MMORPGs. If you've ever gone onto a game's community forums, and seen posts that break down the damage-per-second of every possible skill, then you've witnessed the posting of what is more than likely a very dedicated PvPer. Burst damage is a string of attacks designed to maximize damage at all costs, with the speedy target's death the only result. Mostly a PK concern.

Overlapping Defense: Team VS Team PvP concern. I saw a lot of this done by the masterful tacticians in the "Inner Circle Elite" group during the Fury betas. Unbelivable. I witnessed matches where not one of their members died, in games where body counts usually reach twenty to fifty. Watch those guys.

"The three Ds of PvP": Dispel, Debuff, Destroy. In many games magic is critical, especially if the fights tend to be protracted and take a while. In these cases, the object is to first strip away any buffs they may have, debuff them until they have the physical prowess of a colicy infant, and then liquify them. A well orchestrated attack will result in the assailant being barely scratched at the time of the victim's death. Practice makes perfect.

"Twinking": I hate this term, but it's used frequently, so here it is. This is using an assortment of tricks, abilities, and equipment to make your character much more powerful than others comparable to your level. This is what people mean when they accuse someone of being a twink. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. A massive investment of time should have a comparable benefit. If I have better gear than you, it's because I sat aside the time and put forth the effort to get it. Deal with it.

Cheap: Tactics that utilize skills, equipment, or tricks that take no effort to kill your foe. Basically killing enemies with something that has no counter. Griefers love 'em. "Honerable" PvPers and PKers won't use these for the most part. Makes killing too easy and diminishes any bragging rights you might've earned. Also referred to as the "Win button".

Talking Smack: Killing your enemy and rubbing his nose in it. An integral part of PvP, PK, and Griefing. Not everyone does it, but everyone expects it. I got some favorites of my own, such as "I'll disembowel you, and hang you with a rope made from your own intestines." or "I'll sew you back into your mother's womb, then kick her in the stomach." Points for originality and cleverness. This technique is the PKer version of two dogs sniffing each other out.

And lastly:

w00t: "We own the other team", though this is contested. Supposed to have started during the early Team Fortress days, though there are many other explanations that fit just as well. Used often, even when other teams or even PvP isn't even involved. Used as a celebratory term now.

That's about it for now, folks.

Next post's objectives: Get avatar, banner, ect. Name BLOG. Get into PvP details.