Halo National Championship Finals
August 31, 2002
HALO NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FINALISTS: Bottom row from l-r, Paul Fly ("Cain"), Franklin, TN; Dustin Langton
("-Hp-Darkman"), Manhattan, KS; Brad Griff ("Red Ogre"), Mehoopany, PA;
Ben Van Hauer ("bVANc"), Golden Valley, MN; Craig Cook ("dasoldier"), Sand Springs,
OK; Noah Evans ("chumpp"), Placentia, CA; Jesse Kuznia ("Vegeta Punk"),
Chandler, AZ; Elliot Epstein ("VERITAS"), Brookline, MA; Top row from l-r,
Joe Larama ("KissCharlie"), Vancouver, WA; Doug Fabrizio ("strangpurple"), Park Ridge, NJ;
Eric Tuck-Otero ("DM"), San Antonio, TX; John Buckley III ("Zeus"), Vincennes, IN;
Jay Zuehlke ("Sgt Slauter"), Reedsburg, WI; Parker Trojanowski ("PX"), St. Petersburg, FL;
Ricco Lopez ("MOB MASTA"), Milpitas, CA; Aaron Martin ("Bigsauce"), Three Rivers, MI.
By now you all probably know that the Halo National Championship Finals are over,
but you might be wondering, "Who won?!?" Well, I know who won. Shall I tell you?
Ha ha. Just kidding. Of course I'll tell you. Soon(tm). :-)
First, let me describe the very cool setup and grueling schedule that the finalists
had to enjoy/endure for most of the day Friday. G4TV, who hosted and organized the event,
are located in a pretty non-descript section of West Los Angeles, between a cement plant
and a large, faceless building that had no apparent purpose, as far as I could see.
Inside, however, was a bit more sophisticated. They had two studios that were used for
the match, one where the actual matches were played and filmed, and one acting as a sort
of "gamers' green room," stocked with food, drinks, Xboxes, couches, and four big plasma
flatscreens mirroring the monitors that the contestants in the film studio were using.
The couches were set up to view the big flatscreens, and everybody would stop playing or
eating and crowd around to watch whenever a match was going on, or when the hosts were
ad-libbing with the contestants. This brings up the "grueling" part of the day I
referred to earlier, as the players who were being filmed had to repeatedly walk on
screen to their seats, or stand at the ready as the hosts ran through their lines again
and again. Travis Oates and Wil Wheaton, the hosts, were really cool guys and nice to
talk to personally. They also seemed to enjoy their role as hosts, seeing as they
constantly cracked each other up and had to redo their shots a few times. It was fairly
interesting viewing, but looked kind of uncomfortable and possibly nerve-wracking for the
contestants as the filming studio was pretty hot. I also know that the only thing these
guys wanted to be doing was playing Halo, since that's about all they did in the other
studio. The four Xboxes in the second studio were all hooked up and were in nearly
constant use by both the contestants and the Bungie Dream Team. And me, but we don't
need to go into that (there's a good reason why I used the name "I suck" and it doesn't
take a whole lot of intelligence to figure that reason out).
There were three matches played, two eliminations and the final. The settings for the
elimination matches were Slayer Pro, 25 kills, 200% health on Battle Creek. The final
match was Slayer Pro, 50 kills, No Shields on Blood Gulch. One thing I need to point out
right here is that I don't
have a whole lot of commentary on the actual matches themselves. This, surprisingly,
is not due to my normal slacker forgetfulness, but to the clinical and cold-hearted way
the contestants played. The matches went by fast. When the show is broadcast and
you see it for yourself, you'll see what I mean. The hosts did a running play-by-play
and they were hard pressed to keep up with the rapidly mounting scores.
The first round pitted Bigsauce, Cain, DM, -Hp-Darkman, PX, Sgt Slauter, strangepurp,
and VERITAS against one another. The action was pretty intense, and was over in mere minutes.
The spread ended up being pretty big, with seventeen points separating first place
and 8th place, and everybody spread out fairly evenly between. Bigsauce, DM, -HP-Darkman, and
strangepurp held their own, and advanced to the finals.
The second round featured bVANc, chumpp, Dasoldier, kisscharlie, MOB MASTA!!, RedOgre,
VegetaPunk, and Zeus. Again, the action was fast and furious, but this time things were a bit
closer at the end. The overall spread was 15 kills, but the top five players were all 20 or
higher. Only four move ahead to the finals, though, and those four were bVanc, Dasoldier,
kisscharlie, and MOB MASTA!!. Actually, chumpp had the same number of kills as MOB MASTA!!,
but had died one extra time and was thus ranked lower.
The final round, between Bigsauce, bVANc, Dasoldier, DM, -Hp-Darkman, kisscharlie,
MOB MASTA!!, and strangepurp, took place after lunch, where the players and the 12 (!)
guys from Bungie that came down for the day had a chance to sit down and chat for a while.
Like I said though, these guys lived for Halo and soon after the food had been dealt with,
the sweet sounds of carnage filled the air.
This last match was no-shields Slayer, with normal weapons and Warthogs on Blood Gulch.
Even though it was to 50 kills, it still went by fast. It seemed to start out even, but it
became quickly obvious who was heading for the win. -Hp-Darkman won, with MOB MASTA!!,
the closest competitor, a distant second with 31 and bVANc coming in third with 29.
-Hp-Darkman was a machine. He (and most players in this game) favored the pistol and he
ended up sticking to the spawn areas behind one of the bases. I would hesitate to call his
style "camping," though, since it didn't matter whether the player spawned near him, ran
around or on top of the base, or tried to move up along the upper ledge. If it appeared on
his screen, he plugged it, usually with one shot to the head. Congratulations to Dustin
Langton, AKA -Hp-Darkman, the official Halo National Champion! He wins a 50 inch plasma
television, a Bose audio system, an Xbox and a bunch of games, and received a Halo National
Championship trophy, presented on camera by Max Hoberman (Yeroen) of Bungie. I can only hope
that Max's sincere and emotional presentation makes it into the final show.
After the final game, we had the extreme good fortune to be shown the Halo 2 trailer,
brought by the Bungie guys.
(such as it is) can be found over on the HBO forum. The cheers heard in the studio following
the showing rivalled (to this listener) the ones heard so long ago, when we first heard of
this "Halo" and had our first taste of what it might be. You'll see for yourself in just a
few short days.
The rest of the day was devoted to an unofficial, but much anticipated three-game team
match between the HNC finalists and the Bungie Dream Team. This took place on the Xboxes
in the second studio, while the G4TV guys packed their stuff up.
The first game was Oddball on Hang 'Em High. Now, I have seen guys from Bungie playing
this game on this map (back at the E3 FanFest), and I know that they are good at it.
A classic strategy is to get the ball and hole up in the tunnels, defending with as many
players as you can fit in there. That's what they did back at the E3 FanFest, and that's
what they tried to do here. I say, "tried," because no matter how many defenders they
crammed in there with rocket launchers and pistols, the Finalists team just kept nailing
'em and holding the ball. And since that game type is all about holding the ball, the
Finalist team won, 10:00 to (gulp) 4:31.
BUNGIE VS FINALISTS: Bungie "Dream Team", front row from l-r, white Bungie shirt,
David Candland ("Evil Otto"),
Charles Gough ("Chucky"), Mat Noguchi (".crap"), Eamon McKenzie ("informer"),
Stefan Sinclair ("Shaq :)"); back row from l-r, Max Hoberman ("Yeroen"),
Ben Wallace ("Milo"), Tom Gioconda ("Achronos"). Other Dream Team members watching
or not pictured: Chris Carney, Michael Evans, Chris Butcher. (Oh, and that's
mnemesis in the upper right hand corner!)
The second game, 2 flag Assault on Wizard, shotguns only, didn't go well for Bungie,
with the Finalists winning 5-2. Lots of good defending and a lot of well-executed flag
attempts, but the Bungie team just kept getting stopped and the Finalists kept getting through.
The final game was Team Race on Blood Gulch. This was the closest of the matches.
It also was the one which provoked the most talking amongst the players. There was much
clipped discussion along the lines of, "What's your next flag?" "Where are you headed?",
etc. The Finalists won this one, also, with three Bungie players on their last laps at
the finish. It was interesting to note that the Finalists hardly spoke to each other
(they had only met the day before), yet they still had the ability to not only persevere,
but win. As Hamilton Chu, Lead Producer on the Halo dev team, pointed out later, it
seemed that the Finalists excellent combat skills ended up trumping communication skills
in these matches.
All in all, and crushing Bungie defeat aside, it was a great day. Congratulations to
-Hp-Darkman, the National Champion, and thanks to Bungie, G4TV, and the rest of the
finalists for some fantastic Halo playing goodness!