The TBoD Podcast – Halo – Saint’s Testimony

Saints Testimony

Hi there Teabaggers,

Thanks for sticking with us through a Halo riddled couple of months, just a short while left til the end of Halovember. We are once again joined by Sir Woaf and Lady Dunderkitty for this TeaBook or Die Club episode where we dissect Saint’s Testimony, the short story about an A.I facing a legal trial to save her own life, written by 343’s very own Frank O’Connor.

Read the book, play Halo 5 and have a listen, things get majorly spoilery so don’t jump in until you’re all caught up. Thanks for stopping by as always and be sure to share your thoughts on this or any of the other topics discussed via the usual methods.

 

The TBoD Podcast – Halo 5 Special – He Meant Raiders

Hi everyone,

Halo 5 Special – He Meant Raiders

Thanks for joining us for the first episode in our Halovember bleed over, we are delighted to once again be joined by Woaf and Dunderkitty as we dissect the ins and outs of Halo 5, starting with the multiplayer and finishing up with a spoiler heavy second part focusing on the campaign side of things. If you haven’t beat the game yet only listen to part one, those of you hardcore enough to have completed the full journey of Blue Team and Osiris stick around and see if you agree with our analysis.

The TBoD Podcast – The Halo We Love The Most

The Halo we Love the Most

Ha-lo teabaggers.

Halotober continues here at TBoD as we bring you our favourite things and moments from the franchise that we love.

For this show we have enlisted the help of some very special guests;

The Woaf,

Justin Bryce,

and

Dunderkitty.

We ramble on about the things we love most about Halo and go on endless tangents about whatever comes to mind.

It was really great to have these guests on the show and we would love it if you go and check out their content (after you listen to the show).

Thanks for listening, let us know if we missed your favourite thing about Halo or if you disagree with what we believe are the parts that make it so special.

The Drunken Teabag Podcast – We blew up a Halo

Welcome Chief’s and Cortana’s!

Boy do we have a very special episode we bring you the fine young gentlemen from The Drunken Halo Podcast who are live in the studio.

In this show we pose quite a few Halo based questions from Twitter to our guests.

To round the show off it TBoD vs Drunken Halo in Chief’s Play your Maps Right drinking game.

We are proud of this one, hope you love it.

The Drunken Teabag Podcast – We blew up a Halo

Valve & 343 Industries Compared.

Inspired by the Nerdist podcast interviews with the head of Valve Gabe Newell and the fact that Gabe is to be given a fellowship by BAFTA today, I thought this week instead of the usual game review, I would do something a little different and compare and contrast two of my favourite games developers around – Valve and 343 Industries. In particular I thought I would touch on each developer’s approach to their respective communities and then discuss how 343 Industries could improve as a company if they could take a page out Valve’s book.

So first things first, the community management by both companies are some of the best in the industries. Since 343 inherited the mantle (accidental pun) from Bungie they have really made an effort to stress the importance of their community in their success and have done so in a number of ways – interacting and seeking constant feedback on their own forums on Waypoint or others such as Neogaf, using social media tools especially twitter to create conversations with and between community members and having a great track record of actually hiring community members such as bsangel and more recently MLG’s Bravo. The fact that Microsoft created 343 by hiring Halo fans really has paid dividends in regards to having an enthusiastic team and that enthusiasm is certainly something that has rubbed off on the community.

Of course Valve are equally well known for the importance they place in the happiness of their community, although they go about it slightly differently to 343i. Rather than having a dedicated team whose job is to look after all things community, Gabe believes that everyone at Valve should listen and interact with their community, no one has that job because it is everyone’s responsibility. Ultimately this type of approach is best for both company and community alike because at the end of the day the community are the customers and without their support Valve would not exist. This is obviously why Gabe thinks that any interaction with the community should be entertaining and is a big fan of easter eggs, like putting the announcement for a game in another of their game’s code for their fans to find. Similarly 343, like Bungie, have a fondness for this type of communication, having hidden things in web code for treasure hunters to uncover. Both developers do the same throughout the games they make and I think they both do so for the same reasons and that’s to create a connection with their fans. Fans spend some time in their games looking for them, so by the effect of mere exposure the fans feel a deeper connection with the game and by-proxy with the developer, but also once discovered the fans feel like they are in on some secret put there just for them, whether it be a tidbit a of story, a reference to another game or some in-joke that only the hardcore fan would get.

Again, both companies encourage the creation of content by their respective communities. For example, Valve’s TF2 has so much community content, way more than Valve could ever imagine to make themselves and the diversity of mods and maps is astounding. Similarly, 343i have again kept Forge in Halo 4 to encourage the same type of content creation, of course given the hardware constraints between PC and the Xbox obviously the Halo community can only take baby steps in comparison, but still it’s certainly a good thing to give your fans the tools to come up with new ways of playing the game.

So, in terms of their community these two devs have a great ethos with regards to community. However, if we examine how each of each are arranged hierarchically they could not be more at odds. 343 Industries is of course a subsidiary of Microsoft, one of the largest, most successful and some might say one of the most traditionally corporate organisations around today and this is reflected in the way 343 is structured. Within 343’s camp there is a definite pecking order, Bonnie Ross being the General Manager and top of the pile at 343 has various department managers reporting to her and they have their head designers and so on. Now this set up is the norm and is echoed not only in the games industry but companies the world over. Of course there is always an exception to the rule.

When Gabe Newell set Valve up he envisioned something much more radical, perhaps something that may have been inspired in part by his time at Microsoft. To say Valve’s hierarchy is different would be incorrect because a hierarchy simply does not exist. Sure Gabe is the ‘head’ of the company but the way he sees things is that everyone at Valve is equal. People are responsible for their own work at Valve because Gabe believes that no-one should be the gate-keeper of someone else’s work. The upshot of this is that it gives Valve the ability to adapt quickly when developing a title. A corporate structure can slow the whole creative process down. For example, Halo 4 is a great game but it shipped as an unfinished product. Hypothetically, if 343 had had less line managers and more people physically working on the game would the file share been in at launch? Possibly. Would the servers have been a little more reliable at launch? Maybe so. The point being, art and business are in-congruent and Gabe recognised that, and minimised the corporate so it would not interfere with Valve’s mission – to focus on innovation as oppose to profit and growth. Now I am not saying 343 are not focused on creating quality content and innovating within their Halo landscape, but ultimately they are there to make Halo successful by moving units for Microsoft. I do not mean that cynically, it’s just the truth. Triple AAA titles on consoles are there to make as much money as possible by appealing to as many people as possible.

For fear of this getting a little dry I think I will just finish by saying that both of these companies do their utmost to involve their communities but in a perfect world, if 343 could emulate the set up of Valve, even more quality Halo based content could be created. At least, in my opinion, 343 create some great things – despite the constraints they have. If other large games companies were to take notes from Valve, they might actually come up with something innovative and exciting rather than yet another slightly upgraded version of the same game each and every year.

If you want to hear those Nerdist podcasts, the one about Valve as a company is here and the other about the games of Valve is here too

This article was something I have thought about for a bit and would really love to hear what you, the reader, thinks about the content here. Please leave a comment or get in touch with us via twitter. Thanks

– The Quim Ninja

1 1 7th Heaven

Halo 4 Cryptum

Since its announcement in June 2011 all of us here have been on the cusp of spooging our under crackers waiting furtively for the triumphant return of Master Chief.

We have read the books and bulletins, listened to and appeared on podcasts, gone to expos and spoke to and played Halo with fans all over the globe all the while avoiding spoilers in a bid to take our mind off the release date which seemed like an eternity away.

Now, after all the waiting and hype Halo 4 has finally been unleashed in the wild and I thought I would pen a shit load of thoughts about it without getting too fanboyish about the whole affair. (Alert: – fanboy ramblings inbound)

Campaign

This is easily the portion of the game I have most been looking forward to given that it is the only area that 343i have managed to not blurt out every single scrap of information on. From that first cut scene right up until the closing credits my brain was gripped on how much effort must have gone into crafting this delightful tale. The visuals are of artisan quality, the passion that has been poured into this is nothing short of breath-taking and captivated me throughout; partly because of its sheer beauty but also because I was astounded that this level of graphical prowess was even possible given the age of the Xbox.

But then again what are the use of pretty graphics without a compelling storyline? Thankfully 343 have triumphed here too providing us with something almost Shakespearean in its construction. A sci-fi epic come romantic sonnet, this new narrative truly adds something more significant than in my opinion even the mighty Bungie ever did. Drawing on the most recent extended fiction to ensure an unrivaled richness otherwise unseen in any of the series, 343 have pulled off something really rather remarkable, giving us something completely new and original whilst maintaining the bittersweet struggle that the universe is all about.

I have but one small gripe with the campaign and that is with the time it took for me and my fellow Spartans to complete. A mere five and a half hours it took to run through the whole thing from start to finish, which given the promise that this would be the hardest Halo yet made me feel there should have been more to it, perhaps there is an issue with difficulty upscaling because I have spoken to a couple of very proficient players who say the difficulty on solo is more of a challenge. In the same breath I do think the quality over quantity ethos is preferable to a long and unsatisfying slog. My own personal issue though is I want more! I must find out what happens next and I don’t know how I am going to pass the time until Halo 5! But then again this is yet another sign of how great a story 343 have come up with and I guess I will just have to wait it out like every other Halo nut.

Spartan Ops

As a proper admirer of Halo fiction, when Franklez first spilled his love beans about this concept, I was pretty amped about the idea of being given a whole extra campaign’s worth of story thrown into the mix for the petite price tag of zilch dolla. If I had written this as intended last week you would find me fairly underwhelmed by the whole affair given that Team Majestic came across as a bit of a herd of douche shaped buffalo in the initial cut-scene, even the sweet candy glossed visuals of that first cut-scene wasn’t enough to keep the bitter taste of these augmented dolts out of my mouth. Before you say it yes I know we take the role of the competing Team Crimson but these are the not the faces we see. I also know this move is probably intentional to promote some kind of perceived competition between you and Majestic but personally I would have preferred them to be a little less atypical jock. With that said it’s a new week and a new episode, it has started to kick off right royally story wise and all of a sudden I find myself in the same lane again and I am more than intrigued to see where captain 343 will steer UNSC Infinity next and given their track record on delivering an epic campaign I’m sure it will be a smooth jump to slip space.

Multiplayer

The meat and potatoes of all Halo games to me comes from the re-playability and addiction that is multiplayer. I personally have been in the pro-halo camp welcoming all their revamping and in some cases rebuilding of all we love about our Spartan slaying game-types. At first I was totally loving every little sliver of War Games had to offer quickly getting my couple of loadouts sorted and streamlining my play. A couple of days in at about level 24 I had a minor freak out about the unlock system when I compared it to another game I love, Battlefield. With Dice’s military shooter having so much to offer with regards to weapons I was a little nervous about whether or not I would find a bit of a void in unlocks, loadouts wise, between late 20’s and the end game of specializations. However once I spoke to a couple of friends I realised I may have overreacted somewhat. Firstly, I see now that it was a little unfair to compare two relatively disparate games who both have utterly different unlock systems and now I am at level 34 I have found that the perceived unlock void was all in my head and I would say to anyone who may have felt a similar feeling that it’s easily overcome by embracing experimentation. At first I thought mobility and dexterity were easily the top unlocks and I would probably stick with these throughout, true I still have a loadout that I use regularly, however with four loadout slots available to me I now have more space to tweak and hone my setups dependent on map and/or gametype. Now I truly appreciate the method in which items unlock and reckon there is plenty to keep me or indeed any other player motivated to keep on fragging.

I feel I should make a cursory mention of the armour permutations. Personally, I do see what 343i are going for but I don’t really find any of the options compelling enough to change from the Mark VII armour set I was rewarded with from our legendary run. Canonically I know Spartan IV’s are meant to cost less than the Spartan II program so in that respect the armour certainly does reflect that in how cheap it looks but I doubt this was the goal set out for the armour design team. With that said I wouldn’t mind pimping my visor colour for a couple of games.

I thought I would finish off on a high by discussing what really matters: how it plays, and what a high it is! In fact I find it a little hard to breathe at this altitude of awesomesauce. Imagine Halo 2 and 3 combined with Bruce Lee, the movement is so fluid even Bruce would be impressed by how akin to water you are. That feeling of power flowing through my hands when engaging a foe truly gives my Mjolnir clad super soldier the feeling of being just as godly as the weapon in which the name hails from. Combine this awesome player movement with the most evolved and balanced weapon sandbox I have come across and the most gut punching sound effects applied to a halo game yet and you suddenly find that your witnessing a real masterclass in FPS craftsmanship, hooking you to want to play until your thumbs bleed. But it doesn’t stop there, I mean what’s the use in having a pitch perfect Spartan armed with the an unparallelled weapon sandbox without any decent game environments? Well thank Thor that 343 have served up some real classics on this front too. If we hark back to Reach a lot of the community complained that, unlike Halo 3, it did not have any standout maps. For me Halo 4 sits in the same position but for a very different reason and that is, in my opinion, pretty much all of the maps are as strong as the next. In fact I would say (and don’t hurt me for this) our beloved remake Ragnarok is probably the weakest of the pack mainly due to the Mantis unbalancing things somewhat but that is just my opinion. Movement on every single one is never at all awkward, providing multiple routes throughout each map and in any of the environs the places in which a team can camp out and hold can be overturned without too much trouble if the opposing side works together. Could you say the same about Reach? see Sword Base or Power House for proof. If I had to name a favourite map at the minute I would say Exile, Haven and Complex are right up there, oh and Adrift. My point is Halo 4, in my opinion, has the strongest multiplayer yet and can easily compete in this overly crowded FPS market.

A friend of mine known as The Woaf asked me to describe Halo on Day 2 post launch in three words, I said “almost spot on”. A week on I still feel pretty much the same given that the server issues still exist but once they solve that then I will be comfortable saying this  might just be the ‘Best Halo Ever’. 343 have shown that they can make a game that is totally relevant in today’s market which not only keeps up but legitimately locks horns with the big FPS mammoths of recent years, but also feels every bit as ‘Halo’ as anything that has come before. Not only is John finally awake but so is the rest of the world to 343’s ability to make an outstanding game.

Firstly thanks for reading, I hope you can tell that this franchise bears some weight in my life and I would like to hear what you think. Do you agree or not? Is there a particular aspect I didn’t mention that you love or hate? Leave me a comment and subscribe if you want. Also my gamertag is The Quim Ninja. If you wanna play some Halo with me and the rest of the teabagordie crew send me a friend request. Requiem Awaits.

-The Quim Ninja

Halo 4 – Teabag Evolved

The release of Halo 4 is imminent and when this post comes out 28 days will remain on the clock. To say the game itself has caused somewhat of a stir in the community would be an understatement, with the so-called ‘old-school’ up in arms about the overhaul 343i is giving our beloved franchise. Much of the furore surrounded changes such as the addition of editable loadouts, unlocked armor mods that give the player an advantage in a certain area and weapon drops can be called, nearly all of which are undeniably drawn from other military themed shooters out there that Halo fans love to hate. Now we are ‘old-school’ Halo fans here at TBoD and personally we would like to say to all those other ‘old-school’ fans who are resistant to change – quit your bitching and adapt. Now you know where we stand lets move on to the fun bit where we got play Halo 4 at the EuroGamer Expo. Here are my thoughts.

Having played for a whole day on the thursday and a bit too much on friday to the expense of some other games and I feel comfortable in saying this is most definitely still Halo. Sure the UI is new and sparkly but the influence of the previous games and surrounding mythos is immediately evident. This new game is a very different beast but if I had to compare it one of the previous iterations I would say it feels a lot more like Halo 3 than Reach, which is no bad thing and as eremenko pointed out when we were discussing this post, this makes sense canonically as it is a direct sequel and true successor to the Master Chiefs last outing and so the game play should be accented as such.

Gameplay wise its augmented heart beats more quickly than any other Halo title. I did expect this from what I had read and seen previously in videos etc but I was quite surprised how subtle this increase in tempo was, first game I played it did feel somewhat twitchier to reach but after the first round that twitchiness morphed into a silky fluidity that leaves the previous Halo’s and indeed many other modern FPS titles lacking.

Finally after years of plodding along 343i have made sprint standard issue, no more deliberating whether you want this in your loadout at the expense of another armour ability and more importantly no more running away. When you run into an enemy it pretty much forces hostile engagement, constantly testing who can kill the quickest, if you need to regain health during a firefight this little addition makes you constantly more aware of the cover around you, rather than simply fleeing you have to be a touch more tactical and make sure you drop your foe to ensure you escape with your skin intact. This tiny change makes something like the health regen armour ability more relevant and useful than in other Halo titles, throw this down for a quick boost and turn the tables on that person charging after you.

Not that I did this, in fact I tried out very few armor abilities. I had a quick go on the active camouflage in combo with the sword (noob camper style), used the thruster pack to zoom forward by accident once and used the health regen once, again by accident. I didn’t even try out my go-to jetpack from Reach which apparently has been heavily nerfed *whimper*. No I got all excited about how fuckin awesome the weapons felt and played pretty much the whole time Halo 3 style. Just me and some very very powerful guns!

The weapon sandbox from what I could tell was really well balanced and I think the trick employed here by the guys at 343i to make the playing field so even was to make every The DMR, what a beast.gun really bloody powerful. I spent a lot of time with the BR and the DMR and both were efficient at dropping my foes in pretty much equal measure but I would have to edge the DMR purely down to sound effects alone, it makes me feel I am firing mortars rather than bullets into the opposing squads faces. The needler found its way into my hands a few times and ermagherd like four or five needles equals pink mist, enemy sad face and me serving high tea on said enemies corpse, I was so surprised at just how quick suckers fell to that weapon. Like the rest of the arsenal the AR has seen a long overdue power upgrade, I actually found it viable against a BR at mid to close range and killed a couple of guys with it in that type of battle, if you miss a shot with a precision weapon the AR will make you pay the iron price.

Now onto the power weapons that I managed to get my grubby mits on. The sniper rifle is as powerful as ever and oh so satisfying when some poor sap wanders out of cover only to receive a 50 cal ear bud removing all the ear wax and gray matter in one fell swoop. I don’t think the sniper has received a power upgrade gameplay wise but it didn’t really need one, The Scattershotsound fx wise jesus christ, every shot that hurtles out that barrel sounds like a granite cliff face split down the middle because of some turmoil occurring with the earths crust. The immensity of it all is almost unbearable – until a split second later your quarry lies pwned on the other end of the map. The new forerunner weapon the scattershot is a totally different kettle of fish, an uber-close range shotgun style thing that when you hit the sweet spot turns whoever was on the business end into burning shreds of paper caught in a breeze.

I have saved the best until last, for those long time readers you may remember me mentioning in a post a I wrote last May that I was looking forward to using the Railgun in Halo 4. Well now that I have. Ho-ly-Shit. It is unstoppable, I know now whenever I get that as a choice for my ordinance drop I will choose it each and every time. Once that is in your hands killing the other team is inevitable. Works like the trusty spartan-laser but with half the charge time meaning you don’t even really need to track your target, just reticule red and CRACK dead, reticule red and CRACK dead. Wash, rinse and repeat. I was literally jumping out of my seat cheering when I wasted people with this death stick, utterly unaware that there was like a hundred people behind me in line to play probably thinking I was a total dick.

In summary any reservations I had or indeed you have about Halo 4, well forget them because this is shaping up to be the best Halo yet. What’s that? You want to play it and judge for yourself? That’s fine, I know you will agree with me and when you do join me for a game and tell me I was right, I will be patiently waiting, Railgun at the ready…

The Railgun AKA Brown Pants Time

Meta Critical

When it comes to video game to movie cross overs the success ratio is, how can I put this nicely, shite. But don’t just take make my naughty word for it. Lets take a brief examination of the facts. (Warning I may shit on some of your childhood memories so you may just want skip over the next few paragraphs if you want to maintain those happy delusions)

Streetfighter: The Movie

With the game turning 25 years old not so long ago (inoright?!) it seems relevant to start here, in 1994 a film was made which on paper seems to tick all the boxes for a great movie. It had Van Damme kickin’ ass and taking names as Guile, the late great Raul Julia in his last proper movie as Bison and our nations favourite adopted daughter Kylie wearing some tight clothing. As an 11-year-old this film seemed to be the greatest movie that was and ever will be made. About a year ago I flicked over and found this polished turd on TV and I am telling you now I just couldn’t watch more than 5 minutes of it, it was diabolical in all kinds of ways from the migraine inducing script to the wafer thin storyline. Epic fail.

Mortal Kombat (both of them)

Now I love Christopher Lambert as much as the next dude and because of Highlander he will be excused forevermore. However this man cannot read, if he could he would realise how utterly substandard the scripts for these movies were and would not have done them. The first one I can almost stomach but number 2 (Annihilation) is dog shit on so many levels. If you don’t want to burn you retinas on this filth check out this audio commentary of MK2 over at JTPodcasts.com. I will say these films did one thing right and that was to only waste a small amount of money in the making of them with their limited budget

Tomb Raider (again both of them)

Now I loved these games as a teen, mainly to try in vain to get a look up Lara’s shorts when she was swimming (you know you did the same) and don’t get me wrong 11 years ago when the first movie surfaced I like most easily excitable 17-year-old boys of the time, were more than happy to sit through an action heavy and plot deficient film in the vague hope of seeing some side boob from Miss Jolie. Ok so the first one is actually OK (partly down to my inner 17-year-old) but that second one can be described in one monosyllabic, all-encompassing word – Gash.

Right, I think it best to stop the attack on shit movies you love there. I could go on about the Final Fantasy movies which all look very pretty but are boring as fuck. I could flip it and talk of how many great movies got turned into rubbish games (see Avatar, almost any movie based superhero game, any game based on a Pixar film.) or the exceptions to that rule (see Goldeneye64 and Lion King on the SNES). Instead lets look to the present and the very near future.

So in my opinion the whole game characters to the big screen hasn’t translated so well, so this next movie maker took a different route altogether and decided to make a film about the makers of games instead.

Indie Game: The Movie

If you read my co-blogger elth’s post about our society’s dismissal of gaming culture and you want to see just how much effort goes into making games, or you just want to watch an expertly crafted documentary which happens to be about games developers then please watch this. This independent film follows a few independent (indie) developers as they strive to get their games out there to the masses and documents their heartfelt struggles in making their respective games and their daily lives. This documentary is poignant at times and it really makes you feel for them and what they are going through. Either way I would suggest you watch this by purchasing from the official site or as most of you have it get it off iTunes. It’s only £6.99 ($9.99) and it will make you happy.

Right time to remove my makeup and emotions, let’s talk explosions.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Whether you are a Halo super-fan like me or you just like a good bit of sci-fi this forthcoming web-series by the team at 343 Industries shows a lot of promise. In the build up to Halo 4 this episodic story tells a tale of a group of cadets a couple of decades before the Halo game series at the beginning of the Covenant War, detailing their fight for survival. For those who have no idea what I just said this series will introduce you to the rich Halo universe and show you what you have been missing out on.

The story is not all guns and ammo, the creators of this series say it is very much character driven and aims to develop the relationships between these young soldiers facing this impossible situation. Those worried about it getting a bit too soppy this will not be a snooze fest, with Daniel Cudmore (of X-Men and Twilight fame) taking the role of a young Master Chief you can be certain that a lot of Aliens are going to die.

Needless to say I am creaming myself over this but don’t take my biased view on how good it is going to be watch the trailer here for yourself and do a little sex wee afterwards.