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... so pay no attention to those bulletholes in your back. Too often, communication in online games is on that level, especially if you aren't able to use voice services. Halo.fropco.com has a new article up on teamwork in Halo called Sum Utilis Militis. Thanks John "Raider".

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Part Four of the High Ping Bastard's Guide to Halo is up. This one is about the finer points of etiquette when playing on a slow connection-- when to apologize, when not to, when discretion is the better part of valor and when to get the heck out of Dodge... I mean, the server. Salad fork not required.

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When I began writing the High Ping Bastard's Guide to Halo, the intention was solely to discuss issues that plague those of us with high latency connections (like me). Louis Wu at HBO, among others, were kind enough to say that some of the tips were useful even for other players. In this section, some of the issues will apply only to high ping players, but some will be quite intentionally aimed at the general Halo-playing audience. Lag Etiquette If you have a slow connection and you play Halo online a lot, chances are sooner or later you're going to see lag mentioned in the chat. You're going to see players complaining that they are lagging; you're going to see players complaining that someone else is lagging the game; and at the worst, you may see one or more players complaining that you're lagging the game. You're likely going to see suggestions, cajolery, and even threats to get you to leave the game. First of all, don't get offended right away. It's easy to feel like you're being unfairly singled out. After all, nobody has a low speed connection on purpose as a lifestyle choice; for some it's a function of location, for others, budget. You may very well have language directed at you suggesting that you leave the game if you can't afford a "real" Internet connection. But before retaliating-- either with words or weapons-- do yourself a favor and become a bit better informed. Hit F1 and bring up the score overlay; in the latest patch for Halo, this screen now shows ping times. (Alas, but the end-of-game carnage screen, that shows scores, kills, assists and deaths-- does not. I dearly wish it did, as I think most players recognize that a high ping makes the game harder to play, and it'd be nice for people to see when the game is over that despite that, some high ping players still are able to be competetive and even win a game now and then.)
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Long proponents of the PC as the proper platform for gaming, Devon "Calvin" Welles and Frank "WyldKard" Torkel at game.ars are coming around to the idea that console games are where it's at, at least for now, and our own favorite game gets part of the credit:

The technological supremacy of PCs compared to consoles is no longer as great as it used to be, and though one might argue about resolution and framerate, there are few titles anymore that can be distinctly called inferior on a console. Mark it up to society's ignorance concerning the beauty of the keyboard/mouse combination for first-person shooters, or to their ignorance of streamlined, customized hardware. The fact remains that console gamers are more secure in their gaming decisions than ever before. And really, why shouldn't they be, given that a first person shooter with modern features (Halo) has become legendary (despite the fact that it requires a controller to play)?

The article also discusses the recently rumored Xbox 2 specs, and both think that removing the hard drive and not bothering with backwards compatibility are OK ideas:

[WyldKard] I'm with Calvin when it comes to backwards compatibility and profit, and I have been shouting this from the rooftops for some time now. Despite arguments to the contrary, I simply do not think lacking backwards compatibility will hurt Microsoft's console business. This will be the case even if Sony and Nintendo decide that supporting an older library is worthwhile. Given the resources required to implement backwards compatibility, I am not sure the difference in cost is justifiable, especially when a console needs to push a new library to make money on new sales.

Personally, I'm still not convinced. Tell the two of them that Half Life 2 will require a new PC that, oh, by the way, can't play any of their old games, and maybe you'd get a different answer.

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Wolfy over at Sector 7 has put up a short article looking at various elements of the recently-released Halo 2 multiplayer screenshot. Go take a look.

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Part Three of our High Ping Bastard's Guide to Halo is online now, focusing on the various different game types, which are more (or less) advantageous for those on slow connections, and the different roles that HPBs can play in those games effectively.

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[Please note: This is intended as a companion piece to the previous article, with more advanced concepts that build on those already established. If you have not already read the previous piece, please do so now.]

The two central yet opposing forces at work when piloting a Banshee are “crashing” and “flowing.”

Click "link" below from the front page to see the entire article.
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Part Two of Xbox 2: Everything We Know is now up at IGN; as it turns out, our guess was correct: all the wish-list items were in Part One, while all the hardboiled facts are in Part Two. Facts include that the Xbox 2 will use an IBM CPU and an ATI GPU, information obviously gleaned either from a freak accident with a bowl of Alphabits and a time machine... or Microsoft press releases. Yeah, definitely the Alphabits.

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IGN has put up Part One of an article entitled Xbox 2: Everything We Know. As it turns out, at least half the article is a wish list, along with a prognostication about whether or not it will come true. This must be a new definition of the word know that I wasn't previously aware of, as I had always more closely associated it with words like fact or information, rather than the phrase stuff we think would be cool, which seems to be the new usage according to IGN.

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SketchFactor has put up a guide for Halo PC players, focusing on such key elements as knowing which game you're playing, CTF, Oddball, Race, or, heaven forfend, Body Cou... I mean, Slayer (F that).

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Dispatcher has put up a Chiastic analysis of the progression in Halo's levels over at HBO; it's quite an interesting piece, and prompted me to write a response in the form of a slightly modified system of pairings, based on level geometry rather than strictly on the level's position in the plot sequence.
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There are three main travel vectors along which a Banshee can move:

(1) Forward, with or without rotation
(2) Hovering in place (done by holding the “back” key—will induce a slight rearward motion, but for combat purposes, is sufficiently close to a hover)
(3) Falling straight down by gravity (done by releasing all throttle)

Most pilots only account for the first. Some use the second. Rarely is the third seen.

Hovering is mostly useful when no motion is desired, whether to facilitate a stable firing platform or because, simply, you’re in the best place at the moment. An example is when bombarding another Banshee that has gotten stuck against the terrain.

Falling is a rare secret. When you first use it, it will be a trick, but mastery will come when it progresses to a seamless piece of your combat maneuvering. Basically, it is another angle of movement to supplement forward movement, one that classic flight sim’ers will not comprehend. Use it to fire from a constant x,y coordinate point yet still engage in some degree of evasive motion; use it for more complex mobility; use it to “strafe vertically,” the only planar motion a Banshee is capable of.

A falling Banshee can turn faster than a hovering Banshee, and a hovering Banshee can turn faster than a flying Banshee.

Understand, however, that both hovering and dropping are weaker defensively than flying; being less mobile, you are easier to target than a circling aircraft. However, against all but the most skilled of opponents, this will not be an issue; your opponent will simply continue circling or “stunting,” allowing you to train continuous fire on him.

Of course, you should never remain in one position, or even one “system of motion” for very long. Change constantly. Always imagine what you would do to an enemy that was doing what you’re doing; would you be an easy target or a hard one?

Remember leading. Even on a lagless server, both plasma fire and fuel rods have relatively slow travel time, especially in the rapid timespaces of air combat. The VAST MAJORITY of shots fired in the air (those that are meant to hit, and not merely the result of the fire key being held while one maneuvers) are useless solely because they are not properly led. You must fire considerably ahead of any target, taking into account both your vector and your opponent’s.

The most advantageous position in an air-to-air battle is below your opponent with a clear shot into his underbelly. This seems unlikely, but does happen, usually when the opponent begins a misguided hover and you take advantage of it by hovering yourself below them, firing with impunity. This position is shockingly devastating; a single fuel rod and a smattering of plasma will kill a target instantly. The reason is because you are hitting the pilot, not the plane. Smaug’s Bane. Because of the unusual nature of this position, it is more an attack of opportunity than something to seek. You cannot take it, but they may give it to you.

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Last time I wrote about whether or not there really is something you can call a "Halo Community". What the question really is, of course, is whether or not that community is like the old Bungie communities were, just larger-- or is something else entirely, and if that something else is a good thing or not. I think the Halo community is something different, not only because the installed base of gamers, first on the Xbox and now (finally) on PCs and Macs, is much larger, but because of the way Halo was on the Xbox (no mods or out-of-the-box Internet play) and the way it is now on the PC (Modding possible but difficult with no official tools yet released, no interoperability with the Xbox version). This isn't necessarily bad, and Bungie fans, both new and old, being an imaginative and dedicated bunch, have made the best of it: fan films, fan fiction, comic strips, and so on. But some of the elements of old Bungie communities, namely mods and ranking, are missing. Halo modding may never reach the level that Marathon and Myth modding did. The game engine is more complex, the methods required more advanced, the file sizes much larger. There will probably never be the sheer proliferation of fan-made Halo levels that there were for Marathon and Myth. Some may say that is a good thing, echoing the axiom that 95% of everything is crap, and so most of the fan-made Halo levels that will never get made would have been not worth the download anyway. Of course, if that follows, and there are only ever 10 fan created levels made, that means nine of them will suck and only one of them won't, which is a depressing prospect. But whether or not Halo modding eventually hits a technical brick wall may or may not be the point, because while at the same time the release of PC and Mac Halo have made this now a practical possibility, whereas Xbox hacking was open only to a few brave souls, what is coming in the future may attract the community's attention away from this.
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The past few days have seen installments three and four of Rams Report over at Battleground: Halo. There was a considerable gap between issue 2 and issue 3, as the first two came out before PC Halo was even released, and the last two came out only recently.

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Opinion columns by Narcogen.
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