This week Team Bungie went to war against eight gunslingers from the community group known as "Tied the Leader."
The guys and gals that make up TTL are great people on and off the battlefield and it was an honor to step into the ring for our inaugural Reach match-up.
Coming off a painfully close yet frustratingly disappointing match last week, Team Bungie resolved to be better organized and better prepared this time. We've crossed paths with TTL enough to know they are good players and pride themselves on team play, tactics and coordination. Just running into a lobby with eight players all with coordinated naming conventions for their gamertags is enough to strike fear in the hearts of most men. Thankfully our team was ready.
Team Bungie's roster consisted of nine able bodies, each eager to bear arms and hump corpses in the name of world domination. Our foursome known as "Team Onyx" (Cable, Tomo, Harrison and Lewellen) was joined by Matt Bennier, Luke Ledwich, Ben Wommack, Jon Weisnewski and Dave "Evil Otto" Candland.
In the days leading up to the big match there were upwards of seventy (70!) emails exchanged between our internal Bungie squad discussing all matters of strategy, roles and suggestions for what games to play.
After last week's last-minute debacle with an on-the-fly gametype selection with flawed timer settings, nobody was taking any chances. Bennier posed a simple question to the team "So, thoughts on maps and gametypes? I think we determined we don't want to play Hemorrhage."
At that point, I had an important update to share, "Hey guys, i just heard from TTL, they've picked 2-Flag CTF on Hemorrhage as their selection."
Well, there goes that strategy. Discussion about what Bungie should choose lingered on. Cable suggested perhaps "picking Invasion Slayer on a map that we know has a Spartan bias. :)" to which Tomo replied, "I feel like Invasion Slayer has too many variables... but if we do, I vote for humans (red) so we can get rockets, Hog and tank! We just need to keep the Banshee out of their hands." Tomo added, "If we're playing against Lionel, no map with Banshees on it!"
Harrison had a different view, "If we want to eliminate variables lets just play pistols starts with no secondary and no grenades for both games." His philosophy was simple and sound, "Not saying we should set ourselves up for failure, but I also would hate to think we'd play something we weren't comfortable with just because we thought it'd give us better odds against TTL."
Wommack chimed in with his two cents, "I think Invasion Slayer is the way to go. Some extra factors is what we need against this group, they're infamous for being good at BTB, that's why they chose Hemorrhage CTF as their game, they've probably got the formula for that map and variant down pat."
And on and on it went... to the tune of seventy email exchanges. Being the methodical, detail-oriented test engineer that he is, Weisnewski created an excel grid where the team could each vote on the maps/gametypes they wanted to play. Finally, we had enough data to help force the issue and the decision was made. It was game time.
Game One: Invasion Slayer on Spire
The first match set an epic tone for the night with an intense and action-packed confrontation between the two warring factions. Team Bungie ignored earlier warnings and picked a map with a Banshee after all even though our intel warned us that TTL had serious airborne skills.
The saved film told a tale of team work, coordination and execution that isn't necessarily common with some of Bungie's past big-team encounters.
According to Cable, "the first phase was a bit closer than I had hoped. Spartans usually have a pretty big advantage with the pistol and they managed to keep up." He continues, "but we managed to steal three of their Banshee drops and maintain a comfortable but snug lead."
Lewellen had a slightly different take, "it wasn't just the first phase that was too close, it was the whole game." As Paul recalls, "we'd build up a moderate lead, watch it trickle down to almost nothing, and then tighten up our play and build it back up again."
The Long Rifle pins the Elites down at their spawn area while the Reds capture a zone.
The Elites use their own Long Rifle to rain death from above.
Tomo attributes the resulting Bungie victory to better organization. "Yes, we warmed up this week! And we actually decided on the gametypes ahead of time so that definitely helped." Ultimately he credits the win to some sneaky trickery, "The key to this game was our team was able to steal 2 or 3 Banshees from the Elites."
Lewellen agrees, "Our guys stealing Banshees were life-savers - every time I heard one pass overhead I'd momentarily panic until I realized that yet again, it was ours. The TTL guys didn't get their hands on a Banshee all game even though it was their drop."
Dave Candland fondly recalls his thieving antics, "I jacked a Banshee and spent several minutes flushing them out of the rocks."
Eventually Otto's Banshee terrorizing was halted by a Plasma Launcher.
As the match progressed, air superiority certainly seemed to be the deciding factor. After Otto's first Banshee run came to end, he found himself with a golden opportunity to do it all again, "When I finally went down, they left me another one for the taking like a thief in the night... well, scratch that. More like a mugger in broad daylight."
In the end Team Bungie held it together just long enough and used the vehicles just right to emerge victorious. Tomo led the Bungie team with a respectable 18 kills, 10 assists with "Los Jacklos" taking the top spot for TTL with 23 kill and 1 assist.
Game Two: 2-Flag CTF on Hemorrhage
Tone: Stalematey Carnage!
Halo multiplayer doesn't get much more iconic than big team CTF in a canyon. Anyone who has participated in this type of battle knows that vehicles and carnage rule the day. But you also know that it's not uncommon for the game to end with a stalemate as neither team is able to capture a flag. Since a tie would cast a shadow of doubt over the entire humpday challenge, we agreed up front to a 15 minute timer and in the event of a stalemate at the end of the game, total kills would be used as the deciding factor.
At one point Team Bungie even discussed a possible strategy of just turtling and farming kills for the tie-breaking win. This morning most everyone swore they actually were trying to score but with the exception of a mere one or two flag touches the entire game, you wouldn't be wrong for assuming this was just a slayer game in CTF clothing.
As Lewellen puts it, "I don't think either team was actually playing for a stalemate , but anyone who played 2-flag Gulch in Halo knows just how difficult it can be for two well-matched teams to capture a flag."
Cable didn't give up on offense but acknowledges that it was all about the D. "The CTF game was completely dominated by defense. I think we were playing a little more conservatively than TTL, which gave us the edge in kills." He goes on to give props to the Blue team for their effort, "They had some nice coordinated vehicle rushes.. but we also had some good focused DMR fire to counter."
Hot Revenant on Revenant action.
Things can get hectic on the battlefield when you have six or more vehicles in play including Wraiths raining mortar fire from half-way across the map. Evil Otto recalled one such hectic moment, "Oh yeah, I had a pretty spectacular betrayal of Cable."
Cable is so excited by his newfound Revenant that he doesn't see Otto's incoming mortar shell. Doh.
Dave continues, "So I'm firing these mortars at this pesky Revenant. Just as I fire one last mortar, we get this dialog:"
Cable: "Revenant down!"
Otto: "Yes :)"
Cable: "i'm getting in it!"
Tomo and team had a solid strategy going into this game, "because we had scrimmaged on this map earlier in the night, Weisnewski and I knew exactly our roles for this map. To the Warthog; I drive, he guns!"
Perhaps it's like they always say in the NFL - "defense wins championships." Then again, the NFL doesn't have to worry about ending in a tie and going to most yards gained as the deciding factor. In this case, both teams did a great job defending their flags but only one team successfully defended while also managing to deliver a heaping dose of killing blows.
Lewellen had the last word, "Fortunately, we controlled the map well enough to win the tie-breaker on kills."
The final official score is 0-0 at the end of 15 minutes but a look at the carnage report tells the real story: Bungie 109 kills, TTL 74. Bungie Wins.
Game Three: Team Slayer on Boardwalk
Tone: A real nail-biter!
Despite the past sting of barely losing on this exact same map and gametype once before, Team Bungie opted to give it another go. This final match couldn't have been any closer with both sides playing a very tight and well fought game.
Step One: Rush the Rockets.
Despite the photo finish, the game actually started off strongly in Bungie's favor, due partly to their ability to capture power weapons and some key geographic areas. Unfortunately it didn't last.
Evil Otto summed it up nicely, "We had a pretty sizable lead (around 10 points) for most of the game, but eventually we squandered that."
Cable continues, "Tied the Leader couldn't be more appropriate."
Lewellen recalls a similar experience, "We slowly built up a ten point lead after the initial couple of minutes but then any semblance of control evaporated when we all took the lag-train to lag-town. After that, it was neck-and-neck until the very last kill, with the announcer chanting their name the entire time."
There's been a lot of talk about the final seconds of this match. Even though the entire game was punctuated by solid play, it really came down to just one or two moments to determine the outcome. The score was tied at 98-98 with the fate of both teams hanging in the balance.
So what did happen in those final moments?
Cable watched helplessly from across the map. "At 98-98 I was stuck at the back of the map while my team was up in overlook and all of TTL was on the skybridge." He continues, "I got into a position where I could hit a few of them cowering behind the wall, away from Otto's rockets." Cable managed to kill one before they knew he was there, "but then two of them dropped back to the stairs to my right and got me." At this point the score was 99-99. "I'm looking at the scoreboard, 99-99, Red is on top", says Cable. "The number in the to right changes to 100. I shout 'Yes!'.. and then realize red and blue have switched places. Doh!"
Dave was on the opposite side of the map from Cable and had a different perspective on those final moments. "In the last seconds of the game, I got ahold of the rockets." Dave recalls, "pretty much the entire team was on the bridge, clumped together with DMRs at the ready. I managed to kill one of them that was close to a wall, but the rest of them smartly stayed away from anything I could strike for splash damage."
Evil Otto was THIS close to winning the match for Bungie.
Not only did the blue team do a great job of avoiding an incoming missile but they also managed to fan out last second and dodge Weisnewski's hail of Plasma Launcher fire. All it would've taken was one single explosion to land and the game was over.
Just a little short.
Now I certainly don't want to rub salt in any wounds but upon reviewing the saved film I did notice that in Weisnewski's final rain of Plasma, one of his shots fell short and landed close enough to Otto to kill him right as he came out of his Armor Lock. The kill was attributed to the blue team who was peppering Otto with gunfire. 99-98.
And the final, winning shot?
TTL L askan delivers the killing blow right to Tomo's crotch.
It was none other than "TTL L askan" who landed a jumping snipe on Tomo to drop his shields and then finished him off with a well placed DMR shot to the groin.
Fun fact, "TTL L askan" is not only a TTL gunslinger but he's also a Bungie contract test veteran who just completed a tour working on Reach. So while he's one of them, he is/was also technically one of us. Ironic.
Tomo sums up the match nicely, "again we lose by 1 on this map! what's with that!? And Askan go the last kill on me." Yet he concedes, "good game again none the less!"
Good game to everyone on both side. Thanks to Tied the Leader for suiting up and stepping onto the battlefield and thanks to the home team for bringing sweet victory back to the studio.
Now we shift our sights to a new opponent. One that will go unnamed as of this update while we regroup internally. The gauntlet shall be thrown soon.
Will the streak continue? Can we do it again? Tune in next week to find out!