Due to overwhelming demand to post again on my blog, I feel compelled to write about a conversation I had a few moments ago with a colleague. The conversation was nothing special, but I observed something that gave me pause for thought.
Before I continue, I should add some background here. I've been working in IT for (coughs) 25 years now. I've worked for only a handful of companies. Partly down to loyalty, partly down to laziness. But I think it's fair to say that I've had my hands in a number of pies. Mostly programming related, but I've managed projects, and even a small team in my time, as well as been under such large amounts of stress that could lead a lesser man to lose all of his hair.
And that leads me to my point about the conversation. My colleague was trying to explain to me that the changes made in one my teams code may cause problems at their end. A common conversation indeed. But what struck me was how very quickly I was able to grasp the reasoning behind why it could fail. It was particularly complicated, and involved the way the data got initially parsed from the database. I really don't need to go into detail, suffice to say I knew nothing of their codebase, but was able to very quickly effectively tell him what he was trying to put across. That then leads to a large sigh of relief all round as the problem is understood and we can address it in parallel.
I'm in danger of sounding like I'm blowing my own trumpet here, and I kind of am. But this isn't some "beautiful mind" moment here. This is that 25 years of experience coming together to analyze and evaluate what is going on. And that was the revelation. I am actually very good at my job, but in ways I hadn't really realized before. Had somebody from a different field (say an athlete) taken that call, they would have been totally unable to grasp it. Of course, many of my other colleagues (but not all of them) would probably have been able to derive the same outcome of the call. And that's what got me thinking.
What things come naturally in other careers after 20 years+ of service?
A plumber would probably be able to feel the screw connector in the dark, or immediately know the pipe to use with just a glance. And what about of we go into the world of music and arts. Had I been blowing a trumpet for 20 years, I would know to the millimetre the exact position to put each finger and how hard to blow. Imagine that. Just pure instinct.
Athletes... Do you "feel" the track? TV producers... Do you see multiple screens at once? Traders, do the numbers form shapes in your mind? Basically, look out for those instinct moments. I'd love to know what they are.
Friday, 27 June 2014
I've taken my first dip into AC multiplayer with AC4, and it's been a rather rewarding experience. For somebody that fits in to the more "mature" category of gamers, it's perfect. Strategic and exciting at the same time. Unfortunately when you go online, you get confronted with people who play games as a way of life rather than a casual pastime. That makes life extremely difficult for the "noob"s among us. Particularly as you're kind of thrown into the deep end (although you should definitely go through the tutorials).
But here are some things I've learned (mainly from Wanted) that I hope will benefit the newcomer. There's plenty online about this kind of stuff, but I wanted to put my play-style into the mix. Of course, this is my opinion/style, so it's up to you whether you follow it (or even believe it). Here's hoping it gives you some good ground rules.
Running - Save if for COD
As a rule, you don't run in AC. Assassination is a gentleman's game you see. The main reason for not running is that this makes you "high profile". That means that your attackers and pursuers get a nice big red/blue arrow above your head. You know that satisfied feeling you get when your target reveals themselves by running? Well, don't give your pursuers that luxury.
Naturally, I believe there are exceptions to that rule. But you be the judge of my statements below:
- Go for that brisk jog if you have no pursuers, and your target is a long way off. Being high profile is irrelevant at this point because nobody's interested! Remember though to pull the reigns nice and early. I do see people that slow down as they round the corner to their target… Too late!
- If you have multiple pursuers, it may pay to pick up your heels and run. This hopefully gives the "fortunate" assassin a 100 point gain when they land their steely blade in your cranium. But consider the alternative of sticking around, getting a possible stun on one pursuer followed by a contested kill from another pursuer. 300 points right there. Of course, that could all go wrong and some swine darts up from a bench. But in my experience so far, that's not happening often.
- Point starving. This is unlikely in your salad days of AC4MP, but if you have a chunky lead with one minute to play, there's a really good chance you'll have 3+ pursuers on you (and I believe the pursuers would be at the top of the scoreboard as well). Therefore, if it takes a minute to catch you for a measly 150 points, you can die quietly contented that the Animus will regenerate you and you'll still have that juicy lead. But like I say, this required you to get a hefty lead, and that ain't gonna' happen now is it?
Abilities - Keep it simple, stupid.
You know, I've been tinkering left right and centre with abilities and I have yet to be really comfortable with a load-out for a given situation. The capacity to aim some abilities can be very confusing as well. As a youngling, I highly recommend Disguise and decoy/bodyguard. Decoy can fool even the best, meaning a knuckle-cracking 200 point stun, or even a focus kill. You can (and should) play with other abilities. I would suggest spending each session getting the hang of one ability at a time.
Target Identification - Arrrrrrrgggghhhhh!!
Lord above this is one that could send you screaming out of the house and shouting profanities at passers by (please remember they're not targets though). I know I'm not alone in finding this the hardest piece. But I do have a few methods I keep in my pocket (remember, I'm all about Wanted, so it differs slightly in other game types).
- If you don't know by now, your indicator turns blue when you have line of sight to the target. This means (and listen carefully) that there are no obstructions between you and the target. It has nothing to do with which way you're facing, or where your camera's pointing. If you're stood still, and the light goes blue then if nothing's happened in front of you… Guess what? THEY'RE BEHIND YOU!
- The targets portrait gets larger and you hear heavy heartbeats when they're close.
- So… Before spamming the assassinate button, double-check that the blue ring is full and that the target portrait is nice and large. An amusing school-boy error I used to suffer was being absolutely convinced I'd spotted my target, pursued them and dealt the deadly blow. Only then did I realize they'd buggered off somewhere else too far to even stun me! That poor civilian will never see his family again. But he does appear to have a large family, so I think it'll be ok.
- Here's a tip. After playing for a while, you'll get the hang of how the compass gets larger as you approach, and then pops blue as you round a corner. So rather than carrying on towards your target, stop just before you expect them to appear in line-of-sight. If you wait, they may walk into sight for you. This saves you turning a corner into a mass of NPC's and being clueless as to which one it might be. Basically, approach corners carefully.
- NPC's never go through chase breakers. If you're in one, feel free to spam the assassinate/stun button. Indeed, if you see somebody coming out of one it's worth doing the same.
- Not sure who your target is in a blend group? Try deploying a decoy at any target at all. If you're lucky (and they're foolish), they'll blind panic the stun. They are now high profile, making for an instant L2/LT lock and kill. Enjoy.
- Not sure if this fits into this section or scoring, but be prepared to score low in the early days. Two main reasons:
- You stick out like a sore thumb while you stand or creep around corners trying to get line-of-sight identification. This makes you tasty fodder for pursuers, as well as having a big sticker saying "I'M LOOKING FOR YOU" to your targets.
- Because of the above, people more experienced than your good self will boldly fly in and poach your target. How very inconsiderate. You then "Finish your target" with a boot only to find that's made you high-profile and there's a hook up your arse. Sorry, thems the breaks.
Consider "Vision" as a loss streak. It'll cheer you up as you're able to spot your target from a long way off and they glow a lovely "I'm about to die" blue.
Scoring - Take a deep breath.
Here's where the noob suffers. The Prestige player will have all sorts of wizardry at their disposal to finish off/disable their target, whereas you might have some blunt knives and a few coins to throw around. It's not fair, it really isn't. But go to bed dreaming of crafting a smoke bomb, and one day it just might happen! For now, you need to take slow approaches to identify your target and try not to get spotted. But here's some tips I've picked up so far.
- Did I mention not to run? Knowing me, I probably wrote a whole section about it. It dents your score, and even if you do get a kill, it might be contested, making you immobile for a few seconds. That allows some other chump a focus kill.
- Right, now you know how not to be a chump, you can start scoring off the chumps yourself. If your target makes a contested kill in front of you, they're going to be disabled for a few seconds afterwards. Target them and approach them. You should aim for at least a 350 kill, plus a 50 point focus (at least that's what I do).
- When you're warmed up to that idea, have a look around for an opportunity to join a nearby blend-group before delivering the fatal blow. You need to be in there for just a second, and you're in x2 territory. Ooh la la. And this situation happens a LOT (at least once a game in my opinion). So be ready to score heavily. You'll see the experts climbing walls for acrobatic kills on you in this situation (to go towards their variety bonus). I'm too thumb-clumsy right now for those kind of shenanigans.
- Check out the "Corner Stun" on YouTube. If you know your target is following you, duck in behind cover. They can't see round the corner you've just gone round… But you can see them! 200 points = thank you.
- Get the Determined Perk. I simply cannot get rid of this right now. Contested kills halve your score, and therefore halve your manliness. Don't allow it.
- Don't be deflated if you get Loss Streak. I've watched quite a few matches on YouTube now, and it's not uncommon to see people go from Kill Streak to Loss Streak very quickly in a game.
- Try the "Playground" mode which gives you infinite time to wander around on your own. You can test out your abilities then. Also, if you're very sad, you could learn the maps at your leisure. But who would be so sad?
- By the same token, why not try and buddy up with somebody and try a few things out?
- Set your expectations. Maybe I'm in a minority here, but if I see a lot of Prestige's on the roster, I'm not expecting much. I actually go into "practise" mode.
- Where's your pursuer gone? He's probably above your head. Oh, and it's probably too late now to do anything!
- As much as this is a game of skill, there's a luck element to it that can make or break a round. I remember coming second (which doesn't happen often) by 25 points. Yep, first place managed a ground kill in the dying seconds. What was worse is that I missed that very same ground kill as I was a few steps behind. Tell me that's not bad luck? But what goes around comes around, and make sure you dine out on the times you snuck a podium spot over a prestige. Don't think about the bad stuff. It's bad for the soul.
- Maybe it's just me, but I rule out any thoughts of a good score on the first few matches of a session. I call it "getting my eye in", which is difficult if you already have a patch over the other eye. Arrrrrrrr!
- Try this: Sit on a bench or stand by a wall. How much vision do you have? What are your blind spots? Maybe (just maybe) you will see a target in a similar position and can plan an approach they won't expect.
- As much as I love Wanted, I'd also recommend Manhunt to the newcomer. Now, you're either the hunter or the prey, but not both. That can help you focus on target id-ing without worrying about Charlie Scissor-Hands behind you.
- Check out the Ubisoft AC multiplayer forum. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how… erm… pleasant they are. This is a community that actively encourages new players. As always, you get the odd flamer and argumentative little b*st*rd, but I've found it to be a really helpful experience.
Please please please let me know what you think of this write-up. I