Banshee Voice Communication

This was an attempt I was making in my Banshee days (towards the end) to formulate a protocol for two-man Banshee wing voice communications. Prior to this the only way to coordinate in a wing was by feel and by occasional quick text codes, but this lacked versatility; when they released Ventrilo for Mac I was excited and set out to codify a protocol for this. Voice is fast enough for on-the-fly coordination, but only if you both have agreed on a stripped-down, unambiguous code for communicating tactical requests and data.

In any case, I banged this around a little and did a bit of testing, but it never got finished and I was fading out on HPC by this point. So it just sat around.

All I've got is the notes. Thought it might interest someone.

As always, one pilot is "lead" (flight leader), the other is "wing" (wingman). But now it's especially important because lead has actual tactical command. "Call it on the fly" to decide positions won't work; choose a lead for the whole game.

Once up, same as old: lead chooses targets and course, wing follows. Wing must stay TIGHT, as tight as possible, not closer than one wingspan (for explosion avoidance). Tightness is needed for flexibility; you can go anywhere from a tight follow, including breaking off, but you can't close a gap (since you only have one speed, which is exactly the same as your leader's) from a distance unless lead waits for you, which is possible in the air but impossible on a strike. The lead will tell the wing if he wants him to split off for an attack; otherwise, it is assumed that they will be attacking together, still in formation (which is a perfectly valid and effective tactic much of the time).

It is the wing's responsibility to keep the formation tight. If he needs the lead to slow for a bit so he can close distance, he can request it, but in general the lead cannot look back, so lead must be able to assume his wing is present. If the wing sees a target that demands engagement, he can call the lead's attention to it; if it absolutely demands immediate assault (such as an enemy actually moving to attack the formation), the wing should promptly engage WHILE informing his lead. If he wanders off without announcing it, he cannot expect the support of his lead, and both will probably die unaware that they've each suddenly become alone.

Two-man tactics can be generalized into two categories: symmetrical and asymmetrical. One person (which will be the lead) can make an attack, or whatever, while another (the wing) supports him in some manner (asymmetrical). Or, both can attack on equal footing, merely varying their directions or maneuvers on a tactical level to maximize effectiveness, but still essentially just 2x Banshee, as opposed to Banshee + 1. Both are good. Symmetrical attacks are generally fairly automatic, since that's basically how you'd fly alone; the tactical variety expanded by the commands below are mostly to give the lead asymmetrical options.

As a general rule, especially in asymmetrical attacks, the LEAD tells the WING how to support him, then swings the hammer himself. He is the impetus; the wing is his helping hand to make his plan work. He can make the wing the primary actor if that suits the moment, but that is not really how the system is built to work.

A pair of pilots who fly a great deal together in numerous situations, through thick and thin, will learn each other's styles, learn how to read their partner's intentions, and learn how to complement them. However, most will not fly together enough to reach this level, and even if they do, perhaps their level of play will not be as advanced as it could be (though this is contentious). The system presented here replaces that intuitive sense and builds on it. It is more difficult to learn, though faster, and some may find it unfun, if they are adverse to discipline in general. It DOES require that the lead (whether he's the permanent lead or you rotate often) be able to think tactically and make use of not only himself but also his "second arm," while of course not running his wing into danger or situations he wouldn't enter himself. And it DOES require that the wing be willing to receive commands from another rather than doing as he pleases, and able to do so promptly and effectively while still making himself as effective is possible (which does require initiative and imagination) within the bounds of that order. Not everyone is capable of these things.

These comm terms are designed to be as plain-english as possible while being short, unmistakeable, and concrete. They assume you have a voice link that is clear and intelligible enough that most of your lines can be spoken basically as on a telephone -- simply delivered with no worry about your listener understanding (no need to verify reception), and that allows both speakers to transmit simultaneously without "covering" each other. It also assumes you're the only two people on the channel, or at least there are few enough that there's no concern about who's addressing whom. If this is not the case, you may need to add an addressing protocol, which is beyond the scope of this article; you can borrow one from police or military standards if you'd like.

Some of this may be familiar if you have worked with a team using radios before. Some is original. All is oriented toward maximizing the fluidity, effectiveness, and speed of reactivity of the two-man team.

There are basically three types of codes here: queries (requests for information), informationals (just giving them info to keep them informed), and commands (just what they sound like, almost always give BY leads TO wings except for a few radio-related ones).

These are as plain-English as possible to make them easier to learn, however, they are still codes. In other words, the meaning of "Location?" may be easy to guess, but it is a specific, exact meaning, and there is a specific code for it. You can always instead say "So, uh... where are you now?" and get a similar effect, but it will take longer, be less clear, and require more thinking to understand. The advantage of codifying a concrete set of codes is that, once they've become second nature, they're fast to say, unmistakeable in meaning, and go straight into your action response rather than requiring you to parse them (like someone yelling "GET DOWN!" as opposed to "Excuse me, there's a dangerous situation; I suggest prostrating your body for safety."). You can still use English to describe a situation or command that there's no code for -- or more likely, to expand on a codet that doesn't quite encompass what you want to say -- but that shouldn't need to happen often. Also, these commands are common enough words that if you're in plain English, you can easily use one without meaning to; "wait" has a specific meaning, and should not be confused with "pause," for instance. Learn the codes and stick to them as much as possible.

Don't chatter, except in totally casual bullshit games, where you don't need this system anyway. Even if you're only 1% serious, it really, really does distract even the best gamer to be holding conversation while fighting, and you really, really won't play well.


"Location?" -- Where are you? Response should use a pre-assigned set of codes for regions on the map, so you do not have to spend five minutes describing "that little ledge over the blue base." Location codes should be specific enough that you can refer to any exact coordinate within a brief phrase, such as "red pit," "below the balcony," or "flying from sniper's to the garage." Agree on some kind of directional system as well, be it North/South/East/West or whatever; key it to some obvious, unmistakeable, and always-accessible level reference. Variant: "Location to meet?" In this case, you've become separated, and don't actually care where they are now, you just want to know where you can rejoin. This way, they don't need to give their location, then wait around for you to show up; they can pick a spot ahead of you both and meet on the fly, losing no time. Both are useful as long as you do not confuse them; "location" really means "where are you, right now?" which can be useful for certain things.

"Are you up?/You up?/Up?" -- Do you have a Banshee? This will often be necessary in a pitched game where either or both pilots die frequently. Generally asked when you yourself are already up; the response to a negative will usually be to help find him a Banshee, the response to a positive will usually be "Location to meet?"

"Status?" -- A threefold question, usually asked by lead to wing, so he can decide where to go next -- retreat to regroup, press the attack, make a flag attempt, or whatever. When in formation, respond with, in the following order: your shields, your health, and your weapons load. Shields and health can be described as "Full" (undamaged), "Gone" (none or nearly none -- in the case of health, it obviously means nearly none, since actually gone would mean you were dead), or "Half" (anything in between); these are vague delineations that can be rounded off. Shields can also be "Over" if you have any amount of overshield. Weapons is merely what two guns you have: "fuel and rocket," "sniper and pistol," "rocket and shotgun," etc. You can use shorthand for these if you'd like, but the time and clarity saved will be minimal. Don't bother specifying ammunition unless one of your weapons is empty or nearly so, in which case label it; "rocket and empty shotgun," "empty fuel and sniper," "all empty!". If there happens to be something else special about your ammo (such as you have a huge load of sniper rounds), you can add that in plain English, but it usually doesn't matter. Don't worry about grenades. So, a status response might run, "Half, full, rocket and fuel!" If you happen to have invisibility, tack that onto the end; "Half, full, rocket and fuel, invisible."

Three special responses: If you are both in the midst of a pitched battle, it is not immensely important and a waste of time to give your weapons load, so shorten your response to merely shields and health. Your partner is merely asking how you're holding up, in the same way he can check his own status by glancing at the corner of his screen.

Alternately, if you are separated and receive a status check, and cannot respond without diverting attention that would get you killed, simply give a "Wait!" This means, hold on, I'm busy. This is straightforward and needs no explanation -- your partner will not argue -- but do not abuse it. If there's any way you can respond without endangering yourself, do so, and if not, do so as soon as possible, because you're holding up his strategic decisionmaking process; the game is marching on while you are lost in your fight. If, on the other hand, you are together and you get a status check, you must respond; your lead can see how busy you are, and wouldn't be asking if he didn't need to know despite that.

There is also the special status response of "Dead!", meaning you have just died (which is a good idea to announce whether you're asked or not); after spawning you should then immediately, automatically announce your location.

"Quiet" -- Hold radio chatter (such as status or location checks, "enemy spotted" announcements, or other informational calls). Usually used when pilots are separated, involved in their individual problems, and you need to focus for a while; no traffic should be transmitted after this until the pilot who called the quiet releases it with "Go ahead." If someone calls "wait," a quiet is assumed.

"Break" -- Shut up. Used to interrupt traffic from your partner when you have something urgent. For instance, breaking into a status report: "Half, half, shot --" "Break evade."

"Cap" -- I have the flag. Usually used when separated, at least slightly. No inherent command involved, just informational.

"Defending" -- I'm guarding the base for a bit. Can be added onto a Location response, as in, "Base, defending"; that way they won't try to meet with you. Used when separated. Variation: "Defending flag carrier," if you're bodyguarding the guy with the flag. Variant: "Defend," a command.

"Flag down" -- Flag carrier is dead, flag is free. Usually used when separated, at least slightly. Informational.

"Recovering" -- I'm going to go touch the flag and recover it. Usually follows "Flag down." Informational. Variant: "Recover," a command (go get it).

"Logging" -- I'm getting guns, ammo, health, whatever. Short for "logistics." Usually used when separated, unless it's used by a lead to let his wing know where they're going. Variation: "Can we log?" or something similar, used by a wing to request a pit stop (which will either be if your lead has forgotten to keep aware of your status, which happens, or if he merely has a different idea of what "enough" is, which also happens).


"<unit>,<location>,<direction or status>" -- Used to announce that you've spotted an enemy. If you're in formation, this brings it to the attention of your partner for tactical reasons; if you're separated, it lets your partner know where the bad guys are on the map, for his safety and for strategic reasons (he knows if someone's coming for the flag, say). A call would run like this: "Tank, lower tunnel, going down". The unit is tank, Banshee, hog, Ghost, Shade, or foot (infantry), and can be prefaced with a number if more than one identical unit are together. The location is usually the location code for his position, but can also be a position relative to the formation, such as "left," "high right," "behind," or "low ahead." This is especially useful when announcing Banshees, who will generally not have useful locations except "in the air." Remember, though, that relative positions will only have any meaning if you're still in a static formation; if you're both looping around in combat, "left" won't mean anything.

The last piece is optional, and can be omitted if there's nothing to say (for instance, "Two tanks, blue water" might just announce how many guys in general there are at the blue base; if I'm all the way over at red that's all I care to know. On the other hand, "Two tanks, blue water, camping" might tell me that they're way back in the water, aimed up, waiting on guard, so there's often some kind of detail you can give.). If they're moving, tell where -- "going south, going down, going through." If they're stationary, say that too -- "stationary" or "camping" ("camping" would mean specifically they are motionless and alert with a hair trigger, waiting for targets to show up and gunning them down). If a hog has a gunner and a passenger, tell that -- "gunner and passenger." If a foot has a heavy weapon, mention that -- "foot, blue deck, rockets." And so forth.

Three special calls: If you spot the unit that has your flag, the ball, or whatever, do not blend that into the description, just preface the entire call; "Flag! tank, central, going toward main tunnel."

Any called unit is assumed to be hostile, but if for whatever reason you have the need to point out a friendly unit (for instance, to let your partner know about a support player who will soon become relevant to your attack), preface with "Friendly." So: "Friendly Ghost, red pit, camping."

If you have an enemy come out of the bushes and start pissing on your ass, you can shorthand the call to " on me," meaning they're right where I am, and I'm engaging them. If you're separated, this will be meaningless unless your partner already knows your position (which he generally should). If you're in formation, this is the equivalent of the MMORPGer's "add" (or "FYI, a bad guy just joined the fight"). Only use this if they really are right in the mix; if your partner has to look to find the bad guy, you should have called a location. If you're together, but split, you can also use "<unit> on you" to indicate a bad guy who's a threat to your partner but a ways from yourself.

"Engaging" -- I'm attacking the aforementioned target. Often immediately follows a target announcement. Generally used when partners are separated, since engaging is self-evident if you're in formation. The EXCEPTION is when the wing spots an enemy (whether over yonder or "on me"), announces it, then decides that it needs to be attacked right the hell now, in which case he'll immediately announce "engaging" and go for it, letting his lead know that he just broke off. Try to avoid this; in general merely announcing them should be enough, since your lead can make the decision whether they need to be attacked or not. (He's not dumb, he knows an enemy flag carrier needs to be taken out.) The only time you should be breaking off on your own is when there is absolutely no time to wait for your lead to hear the announcement, locate the enemy, and bring the formation around; usually, this means an enemy (like a tank) just popped up and is about to blow you up.

Make an effort to announce all targets and call when you engage them; even if they're dead in five seconds, it gives your partner some idea of what you're up to and what the situation is over there.

"Defense?" -- What's the defense of the enemy base look like? Response is a series of target calls, unless the answer is just "I don't know," which is valid. Variation: "Friendly defense?" meaning what's the defense of our own base look like.


"Evade" -- Execute an immediate, hard evasive turn or maneuver. (The wheeling, three-plane diagonal turn is a good choice, if you have room.) Used most often when you've just spotted a tank lining up a shot, and you both need to dodge the immediate shot before you engage. Or perhaps there's a rocket floating toward your partner, or whatever.

"Pause" -- Arrest your forward flight for a moment (switching to a hover instead), then continue. Used by a wing that needs to close some distance. Can be used multiple times. Remember, your lead probably can't see you; it's your job to control your formation distance.

"Split" -- Leave formation and move independently. Does NOT mean to abandon the lead and go off on your own business; it just means you can leave your tight chase position and attack the target (or do whatever) however you see fit. "Split" alone is general and leaves the positioning up to the wing; "Split left," "Split right," "Split low," or "Split high" can be used to specifically instruct him where to go (head to the left, the right, drop low, spike up). "Split back" and "Split forward" can also be used (hang back a bit to open formation, or charge ahead while the lead hangs back). The lead may be doing the opposite of what you're doing, or whatever; that's his business. Can also be used out of combat, to mean simply "open up the formation"; if you're told to split (or split in a certain direction), drift off while still maintaining the same heading as your lead, but now with much more distance than you ordinarily would. Because of the difficulty in staying with your lead at these distances, splits should only be used out of combat when you're getting ready to approach an enemy or group of enemies and don't need to do any major travel maneuvering before you arrive. Descriptors like "Split wide" can be used to suggest distance, or combined, as in "Split wide right." A generic split is very common when beginning a dogfight, unless you expect it to be so easy you can just demolish him while still in formation.

"Rejoin" -- Come back to formation after a split. Lead should either hover and wait, then head off once he sees that the wing has reached him, or if they are already close together, just go ahead and let the wing request pauses if necessary to adjust distance.

"Separate" -- Leave formation and take your own control. This breaks a two-man formation and allows a wing to go do his own thing, while the lead does the same. Can be done for fun (if you're getting a little bored of the rigidity of the wing) or for strategic reasons (if the team could be better served by two independent flyers rather than one two-fisted one). There is no elaborate method of rejoining if you later want to form up again; "Location for a meet?" will imply it.

"Entering" -- I'm going in. Usually used to mean that you're about to make a try for their base or flag, or some other protected area. Merely informational in and of itself, though usually it will be paired with a command to tell your wing what to do to support you. Variant is just "Enter" as a command, meaning "you go in."

"Cover" -- Protect me while I do whatever I'm doing. This may seem like what you're doing anyway, but it's not; ordinarily you're HELPING them with what they're doing. Cover means make sure nobody causes them trouble, killing anyone who tries, but not messing with anybody else, and not bothering with whatever the lead's doing, either. Cover while they're attacking a tank doesn't mean help kill the tank; it means circle around (guarding your own safety, of course) and make sure nobody else comes up and shoots the lead in the back. Cover while they're taking the flag generally means fly around near where they landed and make sure their Banshee stays unmolested, the area stays safe, and so on. Cover while they're getting health means similar.

Variant: you can also instruct your wing to cover other people or locations. "Cover flag carrier" means watch the dude with the flag; "Cover that Banshee" means make sure nobody takes it before I get there; "Cover blue deck" means keep the blue deck clear, because I'm going to be there in a second with the flag, or whatever reason. "Cover area" just means cover the area you're currently in; "Split and cover area" is a common command if you want to keep a spot secure until you come back to it, or whatever (see "Safing" below).

"Dismount" -- Land and exit the Banshee. If not paired with any other command, it means you can do the obvious after that; help shoot this guy down, toss some grenades, whatever. Often it will be combined, though, as in "Entering; dismount and cover" (I'm going in; land, get out, and watch my ass. This is distinct from "Entering, cover" since in that case he'd stay in the air.) or "Dismount and log" (grab whatever you need down there) or whatever. The variant, of course, is "Dismounting" as an informational.

"Remount" -- Get back in and rejoin formation. If you are still airborne, "rejoin" has the same implication.

"Stealth" -- Begin flying noiselessly (without "screeching"; how to do this is discussed in the Banshee video). Important to use when attempting to sneak up on someone for a crush, or sneak into a base area without warning everyone, or whatever, since it's no good to go stealth yourself if your wing is still making noise.

"Leave stealth" -- Stop bothering with noiselessness. Joining in combat in any way has the same effect, since you're obviously not going to try to fight without making sound.

"Clear" -- Kill all enemies. Example: "Clear large tunnel." A "split" is implied here, as is a "rejoin" afterwards; this is just a targeting assignment, though it can be combined with a "Cover" to keep them in the area, such as "Clear large tunnel and cover" (kill everyone in the large tunnel, then keep them dead).

"Kill" -- Kill that enemy. Usually combined with a target announcement, unless the target is so obvious (and inconfusable with any other) that it would be needless. For example: "Tank, nest, stationary; kill it." Or if your wing notices first, Wing: "Banshee, left, incoming." Lead: "Kill." As with "clear," a "split" is implied, as is the subsequent "rejoin." While you're on this, the lead might be waiting, he might be doing something else, maybe he'll come and help later, or get a few shots in then leave; it doesn't matter, your job is the same regardless, unless he tells you to rejoin before it's done.

"Hold" -- Stop right where you are and hover. Stop INSTANTLY everything you're doing; do not fire another shot, do not move an inch until released or given another command. This is usually used when a fuckup has occurred.

"Decoy" -- Draw this guy's attention. Fly overhead or past, looking like a stupid great target; do not actually attack, at least not more than a few shots to get their attention. Act like the morons who think wandering around like target dummies is how to fly. Can be combined with a direction, just like "split" ("decoy high," "decoy left"), and should always be combined with a target, if the target is not implied (Wing: "Tank, deck, stationary." Lead: "Decoy."). Once again, both "split" and "rejoin" are implied.

"Bomb" -- Hover in position (usually high, or at least high enough to be out of the immediate mix), motionless unless you must move to evade incoming fire, and direct continuous fire at this target or location. This can be used as a distraction, as cover, or as support; you might instruct your wing to bomb a base exit to deter anyone from running out, or to bomb a particular enemy that's behind cover to keep his head down while you dismount or dive to crush him. It can also be a dogfighting tactic, instructing your wing to sit still and become a mobile turret while you remain mobile, which is an excellent way of staying out of each other's way.

"Dive" -- Dive to ground level to crush an infantryman OR to close distance and get neck-to-neck with a tank. These are the only two meanings of a dive. Can be combined with a target if you have more than one, eg. "Dive tank" or "Dive left foot". Variant is the informational "Diving" (I am diving, watch for friendly fire [if you're playing with it]).

"Safe" -- Immediate leave the fight and get yourself to a place of safety as fast as possible. This relates to the SCENE of the fight; if, for example, you bug out and another Banshee chases you, your priority is to get away from the action, so keep flying with evasive maneuvering until you've done that. Then feel free to kill your pursuer; the point is that you don't hang around in the main battle while you kill him, because then you'll never get out. A cagey lead can use this immediately after a status report, if he feels his wing is going to die soon; he can also combine it with a "log" to mean, "okay, leave the fight, fix yourself up, then come on back." For instance, Lead: "Status." Wing: "Gone, half." Lead: "Safe." The variant is the informational "safing"; unless you add a "Split and cover area" or something similar, your wing is expected to stay with you.

"Intercept" -- Meet and kill this guy before he reaches a certain location. The details will usually be clear, and generally involve a flag; for instance: Wing: "Flag, hog, blue beach, spinbound." Lead: "Intercept." (since it's clear that you mean "kill him before he gets back to base"). You might intercept from a vehicle, weapon, or even a friendly (such as your flag carrier); for instance, Lead: "Foot, left -- I think he's going for that Banshee. Intercept."