'Unreal' Musings

Thursday March 25, 2004 @ 03:26 PM (UTC)

Warning: Rambling post. First part of post (up to horizontal line) also kind of detailed regarding a computer game you may not care about. Under horizontal line, more general.

I’ve been playing a fair amount of Unreal Tournament 2004 of late. For those of you who do not know, this is one of those violent videogames which are to blame for juvenile delinquency. I like it.

There are, of course, different ways of playing any first person shooter (FPS). The most simple is the old-fashioned “Deathmatch”, wherein players and computer-simulated players grab ludicrously powerful weapons and try to kill as many of the other players as possible before time elapses or someone reaches the goal number of kills. Then there is Capture the Flag (CTF), where there are two teams, two bases, and one must attempt to capture the other team’s flag by stealing it and transporting it to your own flag (without someone killing you and picking their flag up). In Unreal Tournament 2004, there is a new game mode called Onslaught, a team-based game where there are various strategic points you must capture before destroying the enemy base, and a panoply of fine vehicles as well as weapons.

I’m not very good at Onslaught. Oh, I’m not usually at the bottom of the rankings, but I seldom reach the upper levels either. I really enjoy it – there’s nothing like being able to run someone over who’s trying to kill you with rockets, after all – but I’m just not that good at it. It’s occasionally frustrating, and I realized last night why it’s so frustrating – I am quite good at Deathmatch, and reasonably good at CTF. When I played deathmatch regularly, it was fairly rare for me to slip out of the top three or four on a server, and sometimes I completely dominated. Of course I had my bad days – but there was usually a rhythm that I could easily fall back into. I don’t think I have a rhythm for Onslaught. Maybe it’s the large expanses of territory – I spend a fair amount of time trying to get where I’m needed, and then die promptly once I get there – but I just don’t have a rhythm for it. Whereas Matthew is good at Onslaught, and I think I can usually beat him at Deathmatch.

Something different in our brains, I guess. Which brings me to my second point. I realized the other day that none of my female college friends or female friends of today play FPSes. N-O-N-E. Now of course, as a girl who loves FPSes, I hate to hear guys say that it’s a “male game” or “girls don’t get it”. But as a girl, I’m curious why my female friends, who don’t usually seem particularly bound by gender stereotypes, and many of whom at school were engineers and so forth – otherwise prime candidates for FPS playing – find it unappealing. Perhaps they just never try. I once taught a dear, sweet, Quaker, slightly Luddite friend of mine to play Quake III. She was horrible at it, but she loved it. Maybe it’s just a matter of picking up the mouse…thoughts?


You taught a Quaker how to play Quake! That has the potential for all kinds of horrible syntactic punnery, but I’ll refrain for now.

I’m pretty good at Onslaught (almost always the top scorer, or at least in the top three), but I’m not very good at Deathmatch, and I think I know why.

The key to being good at Onslaught is always knowing exactly where you need to go and how to get there fast. Making proper use of the onscreen map (upper right corner of the HUD) is vital. If you don’t know your way around the map, including vehicle locations, shortcuts, and the default link setup, you’ll probably do poorly. After this, the next most important thing in Onslaught is having good teammates who know what to do without needing to be told.

If you want an example of really good teamplay and how much it can improve your game, spend some time playing on one of the Ars Technica servers. The people there are generally very good at the game, as opposed to the 15 year old morons who infest most public servers.

Similarly, being good at Deathmatch requires intimate knowledge of the map in order to obtain weapons and powerups, but your score is influenced by random encounters rather than by achieving specific goals. In Onslaught, you can achieve a respectable score without killing a single enemy, merely by linking nodes. In fact, if all you do in Onslaught is kill enemies, your score will suffer. In Deathmatch, your score is entirely dependant on the number of enemies you kill, and everyone is your enemy (unless it’s Team Deathmatch).

You’re probably better at Deathmatch-style encounters because you’re good at jumping, dodging, and aiming. I’m only moderately good at those things, but I’m very good at linking nodes and coming up with assault tactics, which have more influence over the score in Onslaught. I just have to remember not to get sidetracked trying to stunt the Hellbender off a mountaintop.

Back in high school my parents were the kind who wouldn’t let me play those kind of violent games that cause evil tendencies and would certainly cause me to end up a mass murderer on Death Row.

Then, come college, I had my own computer and lots of friends who play these games. So why didn’t I start playing? The problem for me is this: all of my friends have been playing for years, and are quite good at it. And I, having never played, SUCK. I don’t really enjoy playing games where I have no chance of doing well, especially in front of lots of other people. And I don’t have my own copy of any of these games, so I never have taken the time to become any good at it on my own.

That’s my reason. It’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because I’m too embarassed to play with other people and too lazy to learn on my own.

You may have a point about ‘knowing where you need to go and how to get there fast’. I do tend to spend at least a little time wandering around figuring out which way the little arrow is pointed and which way I should go. Oftentimes, I make a decision about where to go and by the time I’m there, it’s no longer a hot-spot. Those times I DO feel comfy just heading for the spot without consulting the map, half the time I find I am turned around and have gone to the mirror image of the desired spot.

As to the rest of the stuff, I do know what I’m supposed to do. I do dutifully link-gun nodes, destroy enemy nodes, et cetera. I think quite possibly it is mostly the transportation/navigation that is primarily at issue—in which case, my performance may improve as I get more familiar with the maps. It is interesting to note, though, that the maps I hate are the big ones (GAWD I hate Severance) and that one of the most frustrating things in the game for me is spawning half a map away from where I need to be, the nodes being under attack so I can’t teleport, and no fast vehicle being in evidence. I trudge over hill and dale and get there, only to die in a hail of gunfire and have to trudge back from my distant spawn-point.

You may be right about the dodging-jumping-aiming thing. I have occasionally noticed that I’ll be in a fight, on foot, with some guy on foot, having a lovely time, and someone runs me over. It makes me feel like I was having a fencing duel and someone shot me in the head :(

I think it all links back to the fact that I am a tactical person, not a strategic person.

Hmm. Interesting. I learned to play these largely with Matt, who took the time to teach me technique—we would join a server alone, get out the weakest-ass gun in the game (Quake II at the time), and we would fight with that, him giving me pointers in chat. When I trained my friend, I literally started her against one bot on the difficulty setting where the computer DOESN’T SHOOT. I could definitely see it being frustrating to try to learn with multiple people playing all out.

Your account is exactly what I was looking for. As I said, I don’t think there’s any good reason girls shouldn’t like FPSs, but I’ve personally met very few girls that do—your account not only posits several good reasons why people don’t start playing, independent of gender, but highlights a learning curve issue I hadn’t thought of at all.

Repeat the above on why i dont play. Add to it my general frustration with all things computer related and you have a pretty succinct answer. Y’all would kick my ass, there is a ton of stuff to learn in order to be any good at all, and if i had any trouble at all installing the game i probably didnt want to pay for, i would give up. Also the few times i have played(lan parties and such) It just hasnt been that much fun.

Huh. Well, I will say about the computer-frustration issue—that’s why I didn’t play FPSs for a while after I got the PS2. It’s so nice! I just pop in the game and goooooo! And since FPSs and RTS (real-time strategy {okay, pretty much just Starcraft}) are the only thing I played on PC, and are pretty much unavailable/unfeasible on console, they fell by the wayside. But UT2004 is YUMMY, so I’m back :)

Awright, after spending a few hours playing Onslaught with Felicity, here’s the straight dope: she ain’t half as bad as she seems to think she is. In fact, she’s better by far than most people I’ve played with. And for godssake don’t let her get in a Leviathan or she will frag your pansy ass all over the damn map. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

No, you’re not bitter at all. That’s why you magically crashed the server when I was driving said Leviathan!

Seriously, though, I think I was doing better than before last night. I think A) I’m getting more familiar with the maps, B) there were fewer people and therefore more vehicles to use, further reducing travel time, and C) talking about Onslaught and my shortcomings at it has improved my goal-focusedness :)

Thank you for nice compliments though. In the words of the immortal Garth, ‘I like to play.’

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