On self-improvement

In order to explain why this is important, a little background is necessary.

I’ve been playing PS2 for almost 2 years (didn’t do beta, first installed a few days after launch). Prior to that, I played a little CS, and a little TF2. I was a COMPLETE casual player – never changed settings from default, and just shot people for a little bit and logged out. I spent more time in MMO games like EVE online. When PS2 came out, it satisfied many things I was looking for in a video game, and I became hooked. And to cut the bio short, I went from a casual FPS gamer to a pretty hard core one.

The only problem was that I never really learned “good habits” with my past FPS experiences. I basically started playing PS2 with default settings, made a few minor changes, and just developed my muscle memory and skills from there. Through sheer time investment and willpower, I went from a casual gamer to the highest scoring infiltrator in the game. I joined a competitive outfit (NNG) and participated in various events, from PAL to CommClash and ServerSmash. Yet, through my video recordings, analysis of performance during these matches, and in comparing myself to other well known players, I was struck by an unavoidable truth: My accuracy is trash.

I am OK with not being the “best”, especially in a game like Planetside. But I started studying the “pros”, and saw just how large of a skill/performance gap there was between them and I. I decided that it was time to try and close that gap a little.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, and I was there. The next step was asking for help. I went to twitter and was very impressed by the feedback I got from many people. Vonic (from DasAnFall) and Visigodo (along with a few others from AC) were of particular help. Here is what I did, and where I am now.

Mouse sensitivities/DPI: This is going to sound painfully obvious to veteran players – but I was essentially playing with 4-5cm/360 degree sensitivity. I played the entire game with my wrist. When I tried to use Visigodo’s settings (his useroptions.ini file is here: http://pastebin.com/faAUSeRH) I couldn’t even turn the corner to enter a room! While I may get there one day, I sought a middle ground. Vonic uses 15-16cm/360, and I like his very rapid gameplay and movement, so I started there. I’m slowly turning down my settings each day until I get to a point where I am comfortable.

Why use lower sensitivities? Here’s what I learned (although there are many opinions out there, and some Quake/CS pro’s had settings similar to mine). The high sensitivity I used was fine for twitch shooting (i.e. sniping) once you develop the muscle memory. But it is very difficult to track moving targets, or be precise on snapping to aim at the head and hold it there with such high sensitivity. As a sniper, I was mostly fine. However, when it came to SMG/Scout rifle use, or when I played other classes, I began to see a discrepancy in performance. While I will always love sniping, I need to be a well rounded player, and this was a natural first step in becoming more competitive.

Graphics settings: I have a GTX680, 3770k, 16gb RAM and a pretty decent setup. I can run the game at 70FPS with most things turned up. However, I have been plagued by memory leaks for the last 6 months, and furthermore, in large fights ( which are now common on Emerald), I would get FPS hiccups down to the 20-30 range. I took an axe to my settings, closely mirroring what Visigodo had. Shadows, flora, texture… all minimized. I realize this was going to make the game uglier. But what I didn’t realize was that I was gaining more than just FPS…

In a game with so many explosions, gun effects and graphical treats, it is a gorgeous, immersive experience. But as a competitive player, these visual effects are simply distracting. You want to focus on the model of the enemy, aim on target, and get a clean kill. In lowering my settings, not only did the game play smoother, but I was seeing targets more clearly. This has had a substantial impact on target acquisition for me.

The last step I’ve taken towards self-improvement: diversification. I played a lot of medic and LA to get the directive weapons, and in doing so, it has really helped me retrain my aim and learn how to use the forearm for mouse movements. Going back to the scout rifles last night, it felt real good, and I was hitting head shots more often, and killing targets without spending the entire paltry magazine.

I know I can still improve as a player. But these simple steps took only a few hours of my time, and are paying dividends. When you combine that with my existing knowledge of the game, I have had some very good gaming sessions over the last two weeks. I’m frequently at or near 100KPH, with between a 3-7 “true” KDR. My “fake” KDR with revives is usually 6+.  And here are some early results:

 

Acc Improvements

 

While my accuracy is only an A or A*, it has already had a large impact on my weapon specific KDR, as well as KPH.  I purposely don’t aim for the head unless at close range, so there’s a reason for the low HSR.  The true test will be when I use the NS-11A Platinum, and compare it to my existing NS11-A stats.  And yes, that TORQ-9 KPH is #2 in the world right now.

 

So what is the point of all this?  For you veteran players, stop and take a look at your setup.  Are there any changes you could make to become a better shooter?  For the new players – there is a LOT to learn about PS2.  But don’t neglect the details.  Set yourself up for success from the beginning, don’t do it like me and wait 2 years to make a few simple changes.

 

I’m going to post this live but when I get home I’ll link my current useroptions.ini for you all.

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Hossin, and the evolving role of the infiltrator

I would love to take the time to review all the bases of Hossin and discuss infiltrator-specific tips at each one. However, I lack the time and energy to do this, and I’m sure most of you would get bored reading it anyways.

But what I do want to explore is the evolution of combat on Hossin. While I haven’t spent as much time there as I need to yet, I’ve fought on enough of the bases to have a good sense of the differences in combat from this continent compared to others.

The first thing I noticed while fighting on Hossin are the choke points. Oh boy these bases can turn into meat-grinders! Some of them are indoors, and some of them lack good high-ground to take advantage of. But there are several, where the choke point has nearby trees, hills, or simple flanks that let you have open fire on the enemy, who is clustered behind a corner unable to advance.

As an infiltrator, choke points are one of the things we are best equipped to exploit. I personally prefer bolt action rifles for this, but semi-automatic weapons work nicely as well. The key is finding these chokes, finding a position to look down on said choke, and then farm while avoiding detection from other players. It’s not easy to do, but with a little creativity and persistence, there are lots of easy kills to get.

As a follow up to the choke point concept, Hossin strongly favors vertical height abuse. To the point that I am frequently pulling LA, dropping a beacon, and then redeploying as an infil. From bail-ESF’s/Libs to beacons or parkour (ala CuteBeaver), do whatever you can to take the high ground. Let your allies get farmed in the choke points. You are an infiltrator, a predator. Be the hunter, not the hunted.

Another thing I have noticed is that scout rifles and smg’s really shine on Hossin. The closer ranged combat, combined with frequent breaks in cover which make it hard to have line of sight on a location over a distance, means you are more likely to benefit from a weapon capable at 20m. I still use a bolt action often, but I snipe in CQC situations and am quick to draw the sidearm. If you aren’t comfortable with a BASR close up, consider the auto scouts, semi-auto sniper/scouts, or SMG’s.

The cover on Hossin is incredible. For this reason, using the deep cloak, either as a regular infil or a stalker, is powerful. The enemy will run right by you, utterly clueless as to your existence. Be creative, there are many ways to exploit this fact.

The devs have done a good job including infantry and vehicle terminals at many bases for us to hack, well as a variety of turrets. The role of the base hacking infiltrator is alive and well. I have on several occasions hacked out a pounder max from behind enemy lines to devastate armor. Again – be creative, and keep your enemy guessing.

Thats all for now on Hossin – it’s a very different continent compared to Indar or Esamir, where you have wide sniping lanes, and high exposure to vehicles. Combat there is either long range or extreme CQC,. On Hossin, you are forced into CQC – mid range fights, and ranged sniping opportunities, while present, are less common. I encourage all of you to think differently when playing on Hossin, adapt a swamp mindset and become the “predator”.

Happy Hunting!

Mustarde

The problem with attacking redeployside

Redeployside. A common phrase used to describe the practice of moving large numbers of infantry quickly from one place on the map to another base, which could be nearby, or on the opposite end of the continent. Nowadays, it seems many players seem eager to criticize this game design, crying out for more depth and “logistics”. A small voice makes the token mention that without the redeploy mechanic, the lone wolf or casual player would be left in the dark, bored and unable to keep up with the good fights.

But I think there is a critical aspect of “Redeployside” that is being overlooked. That is the sheer excitement of stacking up in a point building to fight off the hordes of reinforcements pouring in. Or looking at the map, and seeing that you have 90 seconds to kick an entrenched enemy out of your base. Many times, the mass redeploy strategy fails – yet we often selectively remember the times where it worked, claiming that the meta is broken and the game is shallow. There is a false notion that we should be lugging soldiers across the fields in sundies or dropping them in via galaxy. The truth is, the current meta of redeployment keeps lattice lanes active, and gives us all more opportunity to shoot at bad guys. In other words, it keeps the game FUN. Furthermore, there is strategy that is involved in redeploying, both as a defender and aggressor. And as I mentioned above, it is exhilarating to make a last minute push for the point.

Another rarely mentioned fact is that redeploying is strictly a defensive tactic. You will not capture bases by bouncing around the map to bases you already own. And I find that the most effective way to attack a base with your outfit is via spawn beacons or galaxy drops. Logistics in Planetside remains well and good for this reason. And as the attacker, you need to maintain those logistics to keep your soldiers on the front lines, or else the defenders will break your push and send you back down the lane.

The last thing I want to say is – what will happen if we start to punish or substantially change the redeploy meta? Here is my prediction: You and your outfit set up on a base, lock down the point and start your 3 minute cap. And no one shows up. The enemy is two lanes over, and they are not interested in spawning new galaxies, going back to the warpgate, and then flying over to stop your ghostcap. They will just wait until you leave, and then ghostcap the base back. Because at the end of the day, most of us are LAZY. We will take the quickest and most efficient method that is rewarding. If you punish redeploying too much, people simply won’t show up to your fight. All these champions of “Logistics” will be sitting on an empty point on an empty base wondering why their enemy isn’t driving a sunderer manually across Amerish to stop their offensive. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of player behavior, especially in this modern age of online gaming.

So that’s my criticism of current popular opinion. My suggestion? I do think there needs to be a pop % limit for redeploying into a hex. I would lean towards 55%, because many bases can be spawn camped with vehicles and air – so it seems reasonable that defenders can bring a slightly larger number of players in to a base. Once you break that 55% threshold, the redeploy option is no longer valid for that base – regardless of if your squad leader is in the hex. I also think that rule should only apply on hexes with 24+ in it – if there’s 12-24 in the hex, there shouldn’t be a redeploy % limit IMO. Once you break 24+ the ratio cap sets in.

I wanted to say something because I have heard very little in the way of “devils advocate” regarding the war on “Redeployside”. And quite frankly, some of the changes I’ve seen proposed, including Malorn’s approach of charging nanites – seem dangerous, and threaten the health of our battles. I want enemies charging into my killzone. I want that element of surprise – will GOKU storm this base or let us take it? Should I bring a medic or a lockdown max? Do we have enough harassers in the tech plant??? Logisticside will be a very boring game – sure it will have plenty of depth – but if I wanted to drive across an empty map I could just go play DayZ.

Oh, and I want to add one last thought – when do I redeploy? When my faction has too much pop in the hex. When I am being spawn camped to hell. When there are no good fights on the map/continent. I do not want to be punished for this, at the solo or platoon level.

I would love to hear your comments!

M

Emerald, and revisiting an old weapon, the KSR-35

I’ve been slacking HUGE on this blog.  Many apologies for that.  To be honest, it’s a bit hard to find new things to write about in the world of infiltrating.  I’m still at it, nearly every day, and it never gets boring, as long as good fights are to be had.  I just think that after 18 months there are not many things we haven’t discussed at some point.
So what have I been doing?  Well, a lot of my out of game energy has been going into the community, specifically regarding my server.  As most of you know, Mattherson was recently merged with Waterson and renamed Emerald.
Last week we had a server smash to compete for naming rights of the new server.  It was such a huge event, nearly 2000 concurrent twitch viewers during the Friday stream!   I was leading the NNG squad, in a platoon with 903, NNG, DARK and SG.  We had an amazing group of players, lead by the PL IamCommanderShepard, who is the leader of 903.  We had some very intense fighting up north at Freyr.  I streamed the entire battle, which you can see here:
The end of the smash was just as dramatic as the hype leading up to it – an overtime victory by Mattherson, capturing Esamir Muntions Corp.  There was a great deal of controversy following, as the officiators for the event miscounted and gave the win to Waterson, only to follow by giving it back to Mattherson 30 minutes later, by ONE single point margin of victory.  It was so close that Higby and the SOE team decided to name the new server Emerald, after the PS1 server.
The merge took place on 6/24, and Emerald is now the place to be in PS2.  The battles are huge and epic, and people are having fun at all hours.  It’s so hard logging out, because you just want to keep playing (as opposed to old Mattherson where the fights died pretty quickly after midnight or sooner).
It’s so much fun meeting new players and outfits, and hanging on to the old community  you came from.  I can’t help but brag about Mattherson every now and then in /y just to stir things up.  Planetside 2 has never been more epic and fun than it is now on Emerald.  And with Hossin on the verge of release, the game is now entering what I consider a golden age.
On a different note, I revisted an old weapon that I once considered the most worthless infiltrator weapon in the game, the KSR-35.  Since I had auraxium’d it last year in February, SOE has made several changes including removing scope sway and improving recoil significantly.  The end result is an accurate and hard hitting semi-auto rifle that lets me actually play the role of an aggressive infiltrator.  If you can land headshots, this thing will absolutely devastate enemies, and I have been cutting through them like butter over the last two days.  I have a completely new opinion on this rifle and will definitely be making a video with it sometime in the future.
Well that’s all for now, thanks for being patient with me as I fall behind on blogging.  There is definitely no shortage of things to talk about however!
See you on the battlefield!
Mustarde

So much, yet so little

I’ve been pretty busy with work lately, leaving precious time for gaming amongst my other hobbies and obligations. The blog has taken a hit as a result, and I apologize for not keeping it updated with content.

At the same time, I’ve been keeping up with videos and posts on forums to our community. Here’s a roundup of some things you may have seen or read from me recently:

Videos:

http://youtu.be/eRdWMftIQS0 – a video/montage about the rocket primary, and how I see it negatively impacting gameplay.

 

http://youtu.be/ku4bpancgAE – “Angel with a Shotgun” – I had a blast picking up the pump action shotties and running around blasting dudes in the head

 

http://youtu.be/y5hyEwVyiz8 – After a long time, I finally made another gameplay commentary video discussing my favorite weapons, the Automatic Scout Rifles (SOAS-20, Artemix, Shadow)

 

 

 

Reddit:

“The problem with an implant on/off switch” – http://www.reddit.com/r/Planetside/comments/26sb1r/the_problem_with_an_implant_onoff_switch/

“[Zen] – How to relax and enjoy implants” – http://www.reddit.com/r/Planetside/comments/266qxj/zen_how_to_relax_and_enjoy_implants/

 

I also had some very public things to say about a player named “Boursk” on the Mattherson server who was repeatedly exploiting spawn room shield rendering to kill players as they spawned into battle.  He was the #1 NC player worldwide by XP.  SOE is looking into the matter.

 

As you can see, I’m still very active in the community – it’s just been hard keeping the blog going too.  I will keep working on content for here, as I still really enjoy having my own place to air thoughts and share content. 

 

See you on the battlefield!

 

Mustarde

Infiltrator: Solo vs. Squad

Ever since I moved from BWC to NNG (NoNonsenseGamers), I’ve had substantially more freedom to play Planetside 2 in whatever fashion I please.  I’ve been able to do a lot more solo play, as well as join up with various squads and platoons all across Mattherson.  It has been a wonderful balance of honing my individual skills and focusing on working with a team.  I have touched on this subject a long time ago, but wanted to revisit the role of the infiltrator in terms of the group you are playing with.  We will go into solo and squad/platoon.

 

Solo: The infiltrator lends itself very nicely to solo gameplay.  Indeed, while PS2 is a massive game that heavily benefits outfits, there are many opportunities for an individual to make an impact on a fight, or to find a fight that will be fun for that player.  Map reading is essential to the solo player – I am constantly searching the map for a fight where I can get a lot of kills without simply being thrown into a meatgrinder.  Some of my best streaks come from solo play.  Here’s what I look for as a solo player:

  • Geography: certain bases have amazing sniper opportunities.  When you see a large enemy presence there, or soon approaching, take the opportunity to get in position and get as many kills as possible.  My personal favorites are tower defense (which I will elaborate on in future posts), bases with high ground nearby (the stronghold is my favorite) and bases with large open ground inbetween (SNA to silver valley, QR to Indar ex, etc).
  • Population: As a solo infiltrator, we can do very well in small 12v12 fights due to the power of recon darts and the element of surprise.  In fights of this size, I usually get in close with an SMG, or scout rifle, knowing that I am less vulnerable to getting flanked.  As fights scale up, it becomes much harder to put yourself at the front line without getting killed by someone who has line of sight on you – by the time you hit 48+ it’s time to either pull out a sniper rifle or find a part of the base where you can keep fighting against smaller numbers of players (I love to fight around generators or smaller objectives at amp stations for example)
  • Armor and vehicle presence: Vehicles can ruin the infiltrator.  It’s quite simple, with thermals – no one is safe, and once your cloak runs out, if you are spotted, your farm is over.  I look for enemy vehicle presence as an indicator of what I can get done as an infiltrator on the ground.  When a base starts getting spammed, I redeploy and move on.  Alternatively, I look for opportunity to get behind an armor column to hack a turret or a prowler and get some back rage on enemy tanks.

Squad: In squad play, the infiltrator needs to stick closer to the group.  It’s not just a matter of going where you can get the most kills anymore.  Your squad needs your recon tools, and they want you to hack a sunderer for them.  I usually carry motion spotters to plant on the objective and my SOAS-20 auto scout rifle to dispatch enemies from mid range.  I stick close to the group where medics can reach me and only flank when I think it is worthwhile or safe to do so.  As any good squad member will do, the infiltrator needs to make sure they are on time for galaxy loadups and call out any intel they discover so everyone else is ready.  Recon is the most important function we provide, and I am OCD about keeping darts or spotters deployed for my guys.  I also carry EMP grenades to take out enemy beacons, and sometimes will run grenade bandolier just for that reason.

The infiltrator remains one of the most versatile classes in the game.  We can run around without any support and still have an impact on the battle, or we can become an integral part of a squad or platoon.  The key to being successful lies in understanding battle flow, knowing base layouts and reading the map properly.  It also lies in flexibility, being able to swap from sniping to using an SMG or scout rifle.  If you can bring the right tool to the fight, and get in the right position, you will see your KPH and KDR steadily climb, as well as hear the praise of your squad members as you help keep them alive and spawning into the fight.

Good luck and see you on the battlefield!

 

Mustarde

The straight pull attachment

The straight pull attachment finally made it to live server, after being teased in the infil update reveal back in April 2013.  Yes, it’s been a whole year since we heard about it.  And finally, we have a rail attachment worth using.

First off, what does the straight-pull do?  In essence, it allows the user to remain scoped in while rechambering each round.  The benefits are that you are less likely to lose line-of-sight on a target, making follow up shots more intuitive.  You also get to see the tracer reach the target so if you miss, you have a better sense of the margin that your aim was off which can allow for a more accurate follow up.

 

By keeping line of sight and having more accurate follow ups, I found that the straight pull attachment let me expend more ammunition at a faster rate because I was spending that split second normally lost in target acquisition already shooting the next round.  The attachment has the overall affect of turning your bolt action into a very slow firing semi-automatic weapon that can score OHK’s to the head.  To top it off, there are no built-in downsides or tradeoffs to using this attachment.  It is 100c and is available on all the bolt action rifles.

 

Does this sound too good to be true?  Has SOE just given all snipers a flat buff in the form of this attachment?  Is the delicate balance of sniping about to be thrown into chaos on Auraxis???  No!  Let me share with you my own skepticism over the straight-pull and why I don’t think we will see a huge change in sniper performance.

The biggest problem with this attachment is the habits that it causes snipers to form.  By virtue of the fact that you can stay scoped in and keep shooting until the target goes down or you need to reload, the straight-pull encourages you to be vulnerable to enemy fire, particularly other snipers.  My previous habit of sniping was to fire, cloak, move, spot target, uncloak, fire again, cloak and keep moving.  With straight pull, I am tempted to fire, strafe a little, fire, strafe a little, fire, reload and cloak, decloak and repeat.

 

As a dedicated sniper, the best thing that an enemy can do is ADS in open ground.  Even if they are shooting at me, I prefer to see a HA  aiming right at me, moving in a predictable pattern at 0.5ADS movement speed.  I can easily land the headshot and survive incoming fire.  The straight-pull encourages a similar pattern, in that other snipers are more likely to ADS and continue to deliver shots, making themselves an easy target to take out.  I’ve already started to see this on the field.

One of the advantages I listed to the straight pull of being able to fire more rounds down-range is also a downside, as it encourages players to spam more sniper rounds, each of which uses nice big tracers and mini-map pings to let everyone know where you are.

 

Ultimately, I do not like using the straight pull in long range sniping.  I prefer to acquire my targets visually before scoping in.  I then wait until the target has stopped moving or is moving in a predictable manner before I decloak and hold my breath.  I don’t need the straight pull to make the follow up shot.  And I don’t want any more tunnel vision than is already inherent in sniping.  When it comes to mid-range sniping, the straight pull has its perks, as battles get a bit more chaotic and you take more shots at running targets.  I still tend not to use it.

The one circumstance where I’ve found use for the straight-pull attachment is with the close range bolt actions: the TSAR-42, Ghost and SAS-R.  In those weapons, you have a quick fire rate, quick reload and close engagement range.  With the right position, you can take advantage of the benefits of straight pull to look down on a group of enemies and shoot their heads until the magazine runs dry.  It is wonderfully fun and effective, and really lets the attachment shine.

 

So to summarize, the straight pull attachment can give you tunnel vision and make you more vulnerable to incoming fire, at a benefit of letting you shoot faster and have an easier time with follow up shots.  I don’t think it is a good choice for long range sniping, but have found a benefit with close range sniping using the TSAR-42/Ghost/SAS-R.  I’m glad SOE added a useful barrel attachment for us, and would also like to see the forward grip removed or redesigned for bolt actions.  No matter what, the straight pull does require a little practice, so I encourage you to cert into it and get the hang of using it, even if you don’t intended on keeping it on your rifle.  My one intermediate skill-level tip is that if you insist on using straight pull while sniping mid-long range targets, learn to toggle your cloak in-between shots to break the line-of-sight your enemies have on you.  Even just a little visual disruption will make it harder for them to snipe you.

That’s all I have for the straight pull attachment.  I know blog posts have been a bit less frequent over the last few months.  Partially this is due to real life getting busier, but also I have been focused on the Community Clash season 1 competition with No Nonsense Gamers [NNG].  We were eliminated this past week by DasAnFall [DA] in the NA finals, so I now have a bit more time to put into videos and blogging.  As always, your feedback is welcome, and I look forward to putting out more content in the future!

 

Mustarde