Brian Jarrard, the acting captain of the Middle School team (everyone else was too lazy or distracted by snacks), and newly promoted into that echelon, has a fly-on-the-wall description of how the Halo 2 stuff went down.
The Only Pentathlon Event that Really Matters….
The Winter Pentathlon seems to bear more weight than our summer outing, mostly due to the fact that it encompasses Halo 2, the ultimate test of our skills. The game the entire team works on, the game we all know better than any other - A level playing field where everyone, in theory, has the same background and chances to win and gain a year of bragging rights and trash talk. Last year I was on the Newbie team and despite thorough preparation – overhead maps, weapon placement, whiteboard strategic planning - we got pwned. This year, I was promoted to Middle School, and things would be quite different.
There was one huge obvious favorite going into the competition – the Old School. Comprised of some of the best overall players in the Studio, they were the overwhelming favorites to sweep Halo 2. There is little doubt that their team DID contain the largest overall pool of talent amongst all the Halo 2 players we have. The Grizzled Ancients were probably the next favored – mostly due to their sheer experience and a few ringers. Naturally the Newbies were given little to no chance of winning any Halo 2 games and my team, the Middle School, was fairly low key and off the radar. Boy was everyone in for a surprise.
Teams were randomly assigned to brackets, which of course meant that someone had the unfortunate luck if facing off against the heavily favored Old School team in the first round. Unfortunately that team was us. I'm not going to lie, our team was confident, but there's no denying that we would have much rather taken our chances against the Newbies or Grizzleds. The match-up consisted of three games, the team that won the majority of those games would emerge the overall victor. We played familiar gametypes but not necessarily on familiar maps.
Round 1: CTF.
Our opener was an 8 vs. 8 2 flag CTF match with a 20 minute time limit. It essentially became a warm up round as neither team made any real offensive progress and we ended in a stalemate.
Round 2: Territories
(8 vs. 8, 3 Plots). Our next match was to be much different. We all knew that it would most likely come down to this game and this map. "Turf", as the map is currently known internally, lends itself perfectly to 3 plots. It was hard fought and frantic battle with the lead passing back and forth dozens of times. We stuck to our original plan of only focusing on 2 specific plots and doing our damndest to keep them in our control. And it worked. We squeaked by with the win, a mere 16 seconds ahead of the Old School team. The room went silent. They were clearly stunned. They lost a match. The dream team had faltered. It was do or die in round 3 or they were destined for 3rd place or worse.
Round 3: CTF
(8 vs. 8 1-Flag CTF, 4 rounds). The pressure was intense. Both teams knew that everything was riding on the ability to score and defend in this final game. We were on defense first and before we knew what hit us they had secured a score. Damn. We shook it off and maintained our composure while rallying for a score of our own. It was 1-1, and with only 2 rounds left, this was their only chance to score and force an overall tie-breaker to decide which team advanced. Through heroic teamwork and sheer determination, we fought them off, stopping their offensive and in the process, knocking out the top seed and guaranteeing our own team a shot at first or second place. Woot!
After our victory, the Newbies strapped in for combat against the Grizzleds and ended up losing fairly badly (sorry Frankie). So now the stage was set – it would be Middle School vs. Grizzled Ancients for the Halo 2 championship.
The format was the same – the same games on the same maps, and now both teams were warmed up.
Despite a few instances of the flag being carried outside the base, neither team was able to muster up enough offence to score. Another stalemate.
Once again, everyone knows that this will most likely be the deciding factor. We actually started off behind, losing by a good minute for the first 1/3 or so of the match. Led by our commander in charge, Carney (of Carney Hole fame), we rallied back, stuck to our plan, and recaptured and held 2 of the 3 control points. They made a valiant push towards the end but there simply wasn't enough time – we held on to win the game. The Grizzleds were clearly shaken by this, and obviously underestimated our mad skillz.
Just like our first match-up, we had the lead going in, and only needed to prevent them from scoring in order to grab the gold. We were on defense first. After our last match on this map, we altered our strategy to be more prepared for the quick rush. With more defenders sitting on the flag, we successfully held them off and prevented their score. On our offensive turn, we couldn't quite manage to score, leaving it 0-0 with 2 rounds remaining.
When the third round began, it was all or nothing for the Grizzleds. Either they score here and force us to answer in the 4th round or it was all over for them. The battle was intense. The two minute time limit had long since expired but crafty positioning allowed them to continue contesting the flag. Finally, in a last ditch effort, they succeeded in breaking through our defense and throwing the flag into the open. From there, it was literally a 100 yard sprint to the score area.
Defenders poured out of our base and fought them off as they respawned. The flag timer began counting down… 4…3…2… 5! Someone managed to grab the flag again, the battle was resumed. Again, we fought them off, managing to keep the flag secure… 5…4…3…2… 5! And once again, they managed to grab the flag, inching it ever so slightly towards the score point. By this time it was pure chaos, our team was in a panic, throwing grenades and firing anything and everything we could get our hands on. Finally, it happened, the last of the offensive team was killed and our defenders had a strong position covering their spawn area…5…4…3…2…1…ROUND OVER. Woot! And just like that, we prevented what was a certain score, thus proving to the world that the Middle School is in fact, the best Halo 2 team at Bungie Studios. While we would go on to finish 2nd overall for the Pentathlon, we all received our gold medals for Halo 2, the only game that mattered.
(oh yeah, the Old School went on to beat the Newbies and take 3rd overall in Halo 2, but nobody cares about 3rd.)
That's right. We here at Bungie love all games equally. It's even rumored that the
FM Towns Marty
was named after Marty O'Donnell. And by rumor, we mean lie. So we play games by other publishers, in other genres, on other systems. This year – Mario Tennis on Gamecube, picked because it's cute and easy to pick up and play, even if you're old and bewildered.
Mario Tennis took place in the moments between snack-eating, Halo 2 tourneys and (root) beer drinking. To expedite the proceedings, and make things fairer for the inexperienced players, we played Doubles.
Andrew Davis, guest-starring on the Middle School team, talked incredible smack beforehand, telling everyone grandiose tales of his Mario Tennis supremacy. How he played very night on his Cube, and how he used a Wavebird controller signed by Bowser and how he had a tattoo of Princess Peach on his behind that was tattooed there by Shigeru Miyamoto one night when they were drunk. And yet, Middle School came dead last. Curious, huh?
The outcome was decided in the end by Old School's two and a half hour team practice the night before, heralding a somewhat creepy level of seriousness.
This was one of the closest matches we played, as the rapid-fire pace of the gameplay leveled the playing field. We decided to play quickly, as we did with Mario Tennis, bu making the matches a round-robin of tag team fights. Team Ninja's breathtaking graphics often distracted players from the job at hand – to fight quickly and tag in when necessary.
Notable events included Bentllama destroying an expensive, custom DOA Xbox controller in a fit of manly rage/childish pique (depending on who you ask). The Newbies easily defeated all comers and awaited the finals with the as-yet unseen Old School team. Who proceeded to beat the Newbies. But it was very, very close. Came down to a tie-breaker, in fact.
In the end, Noguchi's mindless button mashing won the day, in spite of a brave and skillful effort from Newbie Luis, who's only error was to tag in teammate Frankie. Old School wins again.
Using a loose approximation of the Pictionary rules, the now rowdy Bungie crowd squats around a two sided whiteboard, while two teams duke it out, Pictionary style. With extra cursing! This game should be totally unfair, since you'd think the artists would have a massive advantage. Luckily, this year they were spread out in tenure a little more – but did, if anything, clump up in the winning team – Old School. Classic quotes include:
"That's not a gas station, it's a lady robot."
"How is a sausage with eyes a baby?"
"Ha, ha, Paul Russel is too weak to clean the board."
"I know I didn't say it but it was obvious I was thinking it."
"Personal Space Invasion!"
This was the most feared event of the day. At first, folks were reluctant to volunteer, but after they saw how fun it is, we actually ended up with spare volunteers and so we changed the rules. Songs were picked at random, and the pool of would-be singers form each team chose whoever felt most comfortable with the song.
Marty was almost silent, thrumming his fingers and muttering, "Make it Eurodisco, make it Eurodisco…" under his breath. The sense of -blam!-ly ambiguous disco fever was almost tangible.
Several brave efforts at increasingly difficult songs were met with jeers, cheers and spilled (root) beers. A haunting rendition of Tears of a Clown left nary a dry eye in the house, while Noguchi's deliberate "Salaryman" remix of "We are Famiry" by Sister Sledge earned creative props, even if the Xbox didn't score it too highly. But like the final fight from Karate Kid, the crowd was waiting for the main showdown. Marty versus the Music. And he swept the knee, Johnny. He swept the knee.
The screen announced that the randomly chosen song was "Do You Believe (In Love After Love)" and Marty unconvincingly asked, "Oh, is that Cher? I think I've heard of it…" as he shoved Alta to the ground and snatched the mic.
What followed was the most creepily accurate rendition of a freaky Eurodisco song in the history of Karaoke. Marty nailed every note, every tonality and every nuance of the Cher megahit. The Xbox almost exploded trying to calculate his score, which looked more like a pinball total after the final chorus faded. We felt soiled. Dirty. Marty was triumphant. The next closest score that day would be 10,000 points shy of his Liza-esque masterpiece.
The Grizzleds may not have won the war, but they won that particular battle. But at what price Marty? What price?
Warning, pointless QuickTime only bandwidth hog ahead!
– 1st place Middle School, 2nd place Grizzled Ancients, 3rd place Old School, 4th place Newbies.
– 1st place Old School, 2nd place Newbies, 3rd place Grizzled Ancients, 4th place Middle School
– 1st place Old School, 2nd place Newbies, 3rd place middle school, 4th place Grizzled Ancients
– 1st place old school, 2nd place middle school, 3rd place Newbies, 4th place grizzled ancients.
– 1st place old school, 2nd place Grizzled Ancients, 3rd place Newbies, 4th place Middle School
with a jarringly -blam!- 21 points
with a respectable 9 points
with an especially erotic 8 Points
with a pitiful 7 points
Final Location of Trophy: