Yesterday evening the BBC Halo team had its second official inter-company match. Edge won, with a score of 7 to 3. Their prize will be The Shards – we’ll be crushing an Xbox controller and mailing them its remains in a jar. It’s their prize for a game well played. I’ll be sure to post photos/video of the award’s creation here – stay tuned.
We got off to a rocky start when Edge didn’t show up at the agreed start time. We’d agreed to start playing at 18:30 GMT, but Edge didn’t come online until over an hour later. During the wait, we played amongst ourselves. We had the time to play five games, and teammates were starting to say that these should count as 5 wins for us. We were at the point of unilaterally declaring the match a win by default, when Edge finally did show up in the game lobby, after some encouraging phone calls from us to their captain. They had all 8 of their players with them. It was time to begin the match.
We’d agreed on a ten-game match, all straight 8-on-8 team slayer, loser picking next map. We started with games to 50, but those go really fast when you’ve got 16 players on the field, so we moved on to 100-kill matches after the first 4 rounds.
I won’t go into the details of every match here – if you really want to hear the full story, the full scores and game descriptions are after the jump. Suffice it to say that our opponents had the Edge (see what I did there?). One of their advantages was in the form of Knight640, a ridiculously skilled player who solidly anchored the Edge side.
Knight640’s precision and control are top notch. He’s the sort of FPS player who can trigger a Pavlovian choking response; after a while, when you turn a corner and see him there, your brain involuntarily tells you “Oh, shit, it’s him. Time to die.” This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, but being good enough to instill this sort of response is a mark of skill in its own right. Luckily for us, Knight640 had to leave after 8 games, leaving us to win games 9 and 10 – though only just.
It wasn’t just knight, though. Overall Edge played very well, and I applaud their preformance. The match was a clear win to Edge.
When all else fails, chalk it up to a learning experience.
Throughout the match we were plagued by awful, awful lag. People would often appear to die for no reason, and keep taking hits long after they’d gone behind cover. This was probably because we were playing 8 people on 2 internet connections, while the Edge guys had taken the wise step of each going home to their own Xbox, every player with his own broadband connection. That was a really good move on their part. I’m not sure if the lag really cost us points – in fact, we won a couple of the laggiest games – but it really detracted from the fun of the experience.
Next time, we need to split up and play from home, or at least from more internet connections in the building. It’s a shame to lose the togetherness feeling of playing shoulder to shoulder in the same room, but looks like if we want to be competitive that’s just how we’re going to have to do it.
Competition is a different kind of fun.
Though this was BBC Halo’s second competitive match, it was my first time competing with the team. I learned that playing competitively is a whole different kind of fun to the sort of social game we usually run. In fact, it was hard and stressful in a way our intra-team games aren’t.
I think the reason for this is something I touched on in an old post I wrote about Halo, prompted by this post by Dan Cook. It turns out that playing competitively and playing with friends are psychologically totally different experiences, which actually result in different physiological responses.
Dan’s full post is well worth a read, but the upshot is this: when you’re playing with strangers competitively, and win, your testosterone levels rise significantly, leading to a feeling of triumph and encouraging dominance behaviour. When you lose, your testosterone levels drop, causing a beaten feeling that makes you reluctant to face the same opponent again.
When you’re playing against friends, though, the experience is different. In fact, in games with friends, the testosterone responses are actually the opposite of those when you’re playing competitively with strangers: winner testosterone levels decrease, and losers increase. With friends, even being beaten is a validating experience. In Dan’s words:
Competitive game play with friends becomes less about winning and more about shared experiences. This is a very different emotion. […] In some sense, the actual competition is secondary to the bonding that occurs around the activity. The ‘fun’ that comes from playing with friends is completely different than the ‘fun’ associated when playing with strangers.
I couldn’t agree more. This was made crystal clear to me when we kept playing with some of the Edge guys for a few games after our match. There we were, playing exactly the same game, against the same people, in the same room. But the guilty feeling of defeat and the bitter, hostile feelings of victory I’d felt just minutes before were gone. The team feelings were different, too. As our losses mounted up during the match, the BBC Halo team (including me) started getting frustrated, bickering, blaming the lag and generally complaining about the game. It was only natural for people who’d just suffered a string of solid defeats. But in the friendly games after the match, all this vanished. Instead, all of a sudden there we were just enjoying the game together. I would cackle maniacally as I threw grenades at someone, or laugh as my avatar’s body got blasted out of the map by a rocket. Just minutes ago, I would have cursed bitterly if the same thing had happened to me. Emotionally, it was like swimming in a pool after a desert marathon.
If you’re really into Halo or just really interested in this particular match for some inadequately explained reason, I’ve posted the full match rundown and stats after the jump.
Did you play in this match? What did you think? Let’s hear your battle stories in the comments.
Round 1 – Standoff
Edge opened really strong, dominating the vehicles on this map. We couldn’t get it together to work properly as a team, and they picked us off from the circling ‘Hogs. Our last-ditch attempt to hole up in the base and hold them off wasn’t enough, and left Edge with a solid win.
Final score: 50-35 to Edge
Round 2 – The Pit
We picked one of ‘our’ maps to follow up, thinking that we’d have a home-field advantage. We practise a lot on this one. Despite a valiant effort, major lag became a problem here. knight640, Edge’s star player, racked up 22 kills with a +16 ratio on this map. Check out his stats – he’s a machine.
Final score: 50-31 to Edge
Round 3 – Foundry
r0nstar‘s suggestion – this is one of his strongest maps. Unfortunately by this point our game was plagued by massive lag – people appeared to die randomly and continued to take damage long after they’d gone behind cover. Despite this, we played well as a team on this map and managed to give Edge a run for their money. We were actually in the lead for much of the middle of the game, until a late push by Edge got them the victory.
Final score: 50-46 to Edge
Round 4 – Longshore
Finally a victory! Despite continuing lag problems, we maintained good control of the power weapons and powerups, and split the Edge team while maintaining good group coherency. The feeling of a victory after three defeats was great. Much cheering and rejoicing.
Final score: 50-43 to BBC
Round 5 – Last Resort
Unfortunately round 4 was also our last with lovele55, one of our strongest players. Round 5 was a poor performance on our part. Edge had clearly logged a lot of hours on this map, and showed it by totally dominating the vehicles and putting in excellent sniper performance. On our side, we don’t play Last Resort so often and so were less familiar with it. Consequently we didn’t manage to maintain good team coherency here, and the end result was our poorest performance in terms of score ratio. That stung a bit harder here, since we’d just started playing to 100 instead of 50 kills.
Final score: 100-55 to Edge
Round 6 – Rat’s Nest
We had a strong start on this map, and I saw some awesome Grav hammer work from r0nstar – he blasted a passing enemy Warthog straight off the cliff near rocket spawn. Unfortunately, our bane on this map was Edge’s attack dog, Knight640 – this is where I realized that I was doing the auto-choke thing whenever I saw him. I tried to work against this, but his weapon control and precision of aim are superlative. Edge also managed to work together as a team very well, while our respawning split us up quite a bit. A solid win by Edge.
Final score: 100-66 to Edge
Round 7 – Sandbox
Another unfamiliar map for us. I spotted Edge running a good strategy here: running a ‘Hog in a circular pattern around the dunes on the map periphery, shooting inwards. I got a hog and imitated their move, driving around with theangryg00se manning the gun. The result was a spree for Goose – which was cut short when a Warthog re-spawned directly in our path, popping into existence about 10m straight in front of us as we barelled along at full speed. There was no time to react; we crashed right into it, and before we could build up speed again we quickly fell prey to grenades and BR fire from the base complex nearby. Later on, r0nstar and I managed to get into another hog and do the circling thing again, resulting in a spree for Ronnie. It ended when we made the mistake of stopping to change for a fresh ‘Hog, which again meant that we were attacked and killed with BRs and grenades. Schoolboy error. Lesson: don’t ever get off the ‘Hog, keep your speed up.
Final Score: 100-66 to Edge
Round 8 – High Ground
Still a lot of lag here. Though it was another of ‘our’ maps, we were pretty demoralized by this point and perhaps didn’t work as well together as we could have.
Final Score: 100-67 to Edge
Round 9 – Guardian
Knight 640 left after the match on High Ground, and his contribution to Edge’s performance is immediately apparent: we won all the remaining games without him. This match on Guardian was fast and furious. With so many players on such a small map, it was impossible not to maintain team coherency here – and it showed in our performance. Though Edge gained an early lead, several of us (notably DirtySi and BrutalBruiser, who really owns this map) had a really good game on this map. We managed to score a surprising last-minute rebound and clinched a close win. For my part I’ll never forget the feeling of victory this late in the game – from sour defeat into bitter, hard-won triumph.
Final score: 100-98 to BBC
Round 10 – Blackout
Lag on this map was unbelievable, resulting in plenty of random deaths and glitching. Again, though, because there were so many of us and such a small map, we managed to work together by calling enemy locations and concentrating our efforts. Good game all on this one.
Final score: 100-94 to BBC