For my (first) musing, what better game to praise than the one I've sunk the past year into? MAG (or if you prefer, Massive Action Game) was released in January of 2010 to a respectable level of success and decent enough reviews.
For those who don't know, there are 3 PMC's (Private Military Companies) that make up the "teams" of MAG, those being "Raven Industries" with a futuristic look, "Valor Company" with their seasoned "American military vet" aesthetic, and "Seryi Volk Executive Response (S.V.E.R.)" that dons a ragged yet powerful visage. MAG's main selling point was the player count, the smallest modes, "Suppression" and "Sabotage" boasting an impressive 64 players, ranging to the epic "Domination" mode catering to a whopping 256.
To be honest, I personally -HATED- MAG with a passion for the first few months, but it later grew on me. I know what you're thinking: "Why would someone who hates a game keep playing it?" The answer is simple: The Community.
I started MAG as the typical "blue-dot," (ask any MAG player, "blue-dots" as a collective are the most hated players in the game) in that I played for myself rather than the team, never really revived anyone, avoided clan play, and just sucked at the game in general. Hell, I bought MAG on a whim because I thought it looked cool and kind of like Modern Warfare 2. Oh how innocent and naive I was. MAG is nothing like anything to come out of Activision, and treating it as such is the first step towards a very, very frustrating gaming experience.
If you didn't get it before, I'll explain in plain terms: I suck at FPS, and I'm usually too stubborn to change my playstyle.
I crawled my way through SVER (the team I chose at MAG's launch), camping objectives for points, dying far more than I was killing. I remember there was some kind of tournament in MAG's early days; a race to get the most kills in a given time period. Funnily enough, I just so happened to get placed in games playing against the tournament's leader, TheLastNinja-. This one person singlehandedly destroyed any hope of having a decent kill to death ratio, but I kept struggling through until I finally made it to level 60, and I "vetted" (as we call it, same as "prestiging" in CoD) to Valor.
At this point, none of my friends who bought this game at launch still played with me, having given up MAG for easier, less competitive games. I was literally alone on a battlefield of many who were much, much better at the game than I was. Facing this very situation, many others would have left without a second thought..and yet I kept at it. Nearing the end of my time on Valor, I got an invite into my very first clan, [US*]. If I had to put a label on the first time I actually enjoyed MAG. I felt like I was getting better at it (which I was), and playing with the same people consistantly kept teamwork tight and effective. Upon reaching level 60 again, however, I thought I'd try my hand at Raven.
I thought joining [US*] on Valor was the start of my "MAG career," but it was more of a prequel. Upon joining Raven, I decided I would start this playthrough with a clan from the outset. I recieved and invite for and decided to stick with [PHI] Pro Hic Immortalis. Now, to someone who has never played MAG (or more recently, Socom 4 and Killzone 3), the name of the clan doesn't matter. However, if you had payed any kind of attention to the community at the time, you'd know that PHI was one of Raven's best.
Now wait, what was a terrible MAGgot like me doing with these awesome players? I had no idea, but I did know that they were outdoing me every single game I played with them. To say it frustrated me to no end would be an understatement. Again however, I didn't quit. I kept at it, and eventually I was able to compete with my fellow PHI members for points and kills while minimizing my own deaths. For someone who started out dying over 20 times a match but killing less than 10, it was quite the feat.
Eventually, I got into clan matches with the gang, which to me is where the fun REALLY began. You see, MAG is special in that one small group of 4, if they have decent aim and tactics, can out do not only the rest of their team, but the entire other team as well. If the other side is filled with random players, and your side has a somewhat decent clan, you will almost always win. (To think, I used to be one of those random players getting stomped on.) With clan matches, however, you were promised a much stronger set of opponents with much better teamwork. We won, we lost, and every experience was a blast. Those moments where I know I'm against a good enemy clan are the most exciting in any game for me now, even in unorganized, coincidental skirmishes. As for PHI as a whole, members came and went. I myself left the clan twice to go back to SVER and Valor once each, just to change the overall MAG experience a bit, but I always ended up back on Raven, because that's where my clan is.
Over the past year, the MAG community has become a fraction of what it was at launch, given a lack of marketing and Zipper's incessant "fixing" of the game. Last January, MAG's player count rivaled that of a CoD game, whereas now one could go so far to say it's a cult classic, played primarily by a hardcore community. That hardcore group is the reason why MAG is still running.
While I'm at it, there was for about a month, a clan on SVER named [BAM] "Big A** Movie," which aimed to fill an entire team in Domination with players exclusively with members of said clan. (I'm not sure if this was ever accomplished, but smaller modes were certainly filled, and many lulz were had.) The interesting thing about this clan was it's roster. If you looked, you saw the leaders and big name killers from many, many clans across MAG, from around the world. It was something of a MAG "all star" team. Hell, even TheLastNinja-, who had destroyed my KDR at MAG's inception was a part of it, and for me to be able to keep up with him in-game now was a great feeling. Little pet projects by the community are what is keeping this game going, and I hope they continue.
If you were to go onto the MAG forums and do a search for "3C vs Dark Flock", you would find the start of MAG's "renaissance," if you will. Both 3C and the Dark Flock were regarded as the best clans in the game for essentially MAG's entire life cycle to this point. Naturally, it gained a lot of attention from the community. There was a livestream from the 3C side, which was awesome in and of itself. The amazing thing to me, however, was the amount of people viewing it and the names of the people in attendance. Like I said, MAG thrives on its hardcore community, and you saw names from all the "big name clans" with strong reputations (essentially, the [BAM] roster) watching.
"Clans....with reputations?" Really? Yes, really. Here's an example, if you were to look up my PSN name, you'd see just a name. I'm not really a vocal member of the MAG community, and I'd be surprised if you knew who I was from in-game. However, if you had been playing MAG for a while, and I killed you, you would probably notice my [PHI] tag next to my PSN. That said, you would naturally assume that there were more of us in the game (we almost never go solo), and you would know you probably had a tough game ahead of you. This is the case not only for PHI, but for many other clans as well. Thanks to the "3C vs Dark Flock" matchup, you see clan matches most fridays every week since. Usually, these matches are organized on the MAG forums, and are done between 2 clans with similar skill level. That's the awesome thing about MAG in my opinion, you may not know a player, but if you know what to look for, you can get a decent gauge on how good he/she is by the tag next to their name, because most hardcore players nowadays all know who the good groups are and well..which groups aren't so stellar.
The most interesting thing about these clan matches however, is that they are exclusively generated by the community. What I mean by that, is that MAG has no real clan match support. Two clans have to enter a game queue at the same time and hope for the best. The fact that people are willing to sit in front of a TV screen for hours on end just to get into a game says that either 1, we have much too much time on our hands, or 2, we really love MAG.
I have clans to thank for making this game fun...but what of those who never joined a clan? Ouch
I hated MAG at first, and to be honest, I can see why my friends dropped it after 30 minutes. However, with my Raven clan, I became a better shot, more aware as a whole, a better gamer in genaral, and I was part of a very fun community. I think my 600+ hours is testament to how much effect the community has had on me, so with that I'm happy to say that I've grown to love MAG, and every second of my time has been aamaazing!
LOOK WHO CAME: