Of Spectator Sports and Trinities

My television watching habits are supremely irregular.

That is, I don’t watch much TV at all.

All those crucial 45 minute blocks of time are spent gaming, rather than passively experiencing a story that goes absolutely nowhere except into yet-another-episodic-arc-designed-to-keep-you-glued-to-the-screen.

Nor am I a big sports fan.

Competition and me are not pals, having been bitten once too many times by an obsessive personality that would fixate too much on winning at all costs, if I gave it free reign. I’m mellower when I tell myself winning is not the goal, but having moment-to-moment fun is.

Still, there was a time when I was enraptured by the NFL and American football. It just seemed so much more complex and intricate than the football the rest of the world plays – lots more clear cut roles, different strategies every pass designed to get the ball the next 10 yards and beyond.

Until I took note of how many hours a night I was spending watching one game (3-4 easily) and how much gaming time I was losing out on as a result. Fell out of the habit shortly after.

It’s funny then that even I can get caught up in the zeitgeist of the moment. I just spent the last couple of midnights staying up till 3am to watch the semi-finals and finals of the FIFA World Cup.

Not as a rabid soccer or football fan, staunchly loyal to one team, but out of a pigheaded determination to discover an appreciation of a game that I mostly always viewed as “kicking a ball around a grass patch for 90 minutes and falling down with an agonized look on one’s face the moment the faintest contact is made, hoping for a favorable referee call.”

The internet helped.

Googled up “soccer strategies” and “why do people like football so much” and devoted some time to reading other people’s thoughts.

Apparently, it’s the continuous flow of action rather than the typical start and stop of American football that some find compelling, a constant adrenaline high for one and a half hours punctuated with more extreme buzzes whenever the ball gets close to the goal posts.

I’m somehow not wired that way. I don’t get adrenaline deliveries on cue, which may suggest a reason why competition isn’t that exciting for me. Instead, I enjoy watching the interlocked intricacies of each team member in American football performing their specialized role well, with the result that the football either gets passed or gets stopped, depending on which team outsmarted or outplayed the other.

Still…

…Surely, soccer has -some- strategies of this ilk? Just less obvious, perhaps?

More reading. More eye-glazing over various “formations” with hypenated player numbers. More beginner tips on how to appreciate soccer via watching how one player may outsmart another by looking in one direction while kicking in another, or using their body to block an opponent’s view of the ball, or players that criss-cross and cut in at various locations to become open for the ball and so on.

I guess there were -some- things that I could find vaguely interesting, after all.

So I watched the World Cup and admired Germany’s efficient teamwork and appreciated on a distant theoretical level why defensive football is so important by observing Brazil’s total defensive meltdown.

Still didn’t like the extreme boring nature of a super-defensive football game with zero goals scored in two hours (with extra time) – effective, I’ll grant you, but boring as heck to watch – and repeatedly rolled one’s eyes at the more unspoken sides of football – ie. sneakily damage your opponent as much as you can get away with, dramatically telegraph all contact in the hopes of a free kick or yellow/red cards, and apparently biased referees.

Seriously, if things are going to get that physical, then put on some padding and go to town like the Americans do.

It’s with some irony though that I find a parallel with MMOs and that I’m on the opposite side when it comes to computer gaming.

American football reminds me of the holy trinity.

Everyone has a specialized role, everyone works in unison and it’s beautiful when everything synchronizes.

Rest-of-the-world football is a non-holy trinity game. Perhaps, dare I say it,  even like GW2.

There’s one primary role everyone performs, do damage or get the ball as close you can to the goal/stop ball getting close to yours, while still paying attention to the team and working in sync with them and supporting them as needed. There may be different “classes” or “soccer positions” with some variants in playstyle. There’s probably more going on under the hood than is obvious to the casual observer.

Soccer is said to be one of the most unpredictable sports. A weaker team has a good chance of upsetting a stronger team because the scores are so low. If opportunities fall their way, and are capitalized on, that may be it for the more unlucky team.

Some find this a reason why soccer is so exciting to watch.

Me, I personally find it about as thrilling as trying to predict heads or tails on a coin toss, and just as pointless. I guess I prefer to watch a good team demonstrate -why- they’re a good team.

Strangely enough, I find unpredictability a bonus if you’re the one actually participating in the moment.

Because it’s suddenly you that can become the hero with a well-placed rez, or good dodging or even indulge in a star solo moment, by catching the right opportunities.

To me, soccer or GW2 is a tide more individualistic, whereas American football or a holy trinity game seems a bit more skewed towards subsuming the self to make a team work like clockwork.

Not really sure where I’m going with this, but I guess the moral of the story is that people like different things, which may differ again if they’re spectating or doing.

And that we can all learn to appreciate (if only at a theoretical distance) stuff we thought we didn’t like before, if we try to look for its redeeming features.

After the World Cup, I’ll be going on one more spectator sports binge.

The International is slated from July 18-21.

DOTA 2 and I have a curious relationship.

I was super-thrilled to win a beta key in one of Steam’s sales contests when it was in development. I installed it gleefully, remembering my very amateur DOTA games-with-real-life-friends, and tinkered around with a few bot games.

Then never quite got back to it again.

Every now and then, I log in, admiring its whole elaborate free-to-play structure of level unlocks, vanity costume skins that cost money, numerous beginner tutorials/build guidance/encyclopedias that are linked to community knowledgebases, on and on through an intricate ladder of intermediate to expert commitment.

Then I back out without having gained a single experience point.

Sorta like LOL, except LOL did seem a little simpler and I did get to around level 4 or so.

I want desperately to play them and learn how deep both rabbit holes go, but the truth is, I just can’t envision investing all that time into MOBAs.

A single match takes like 30-45 minutes or more. You have to play a lot of them to get familiar with the game. You have to play a number of heroes to get familiar with the heroes and gain some flexibility in what you can play. Getting skillful takes even longer.

It’s easier to just watch a couple hours’ worth of professional teams go at it, for a couple of days, and get the entertainment experience without having to personally grind your way up.

Maybe some day, I’ll give them another go, but not today.

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 8b

21 April, 2015

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning

Chongqing, China

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When we last left off, Sgt. Syl was in drooling distance of a four-legged terror.

As fortune would have it, the alien had just spent its entire turn getting into melee range and did not attack.

Yet.

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Naturally, the first thing on everyone’s mind is “Kill it! Kill it dead!”

Sgt. Syl has a 100% chance to hit with a shotgun that luckily still has some rounds loaded.

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The pellets slam into the alien for 4 damage.

The tough armored thing is -still- standing.

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Not if the rest of the team can help Sgt. Syl out though.

Lt. Izlain takes aim with a 100% chance to hit.

(After some research, the Chinese character on the tombstone appears to be “終” or “zhōng,” which means “end” or “death.” Rather apt.)

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“Izlain – for when you absolutely positively need to kill every motherfucker in the room.”

The strange alien goes down without getting a chance to attack.

Just the way we like it, thanks. The scientists can carve into its corpse and figure out how it works later.

Since a number of the team has already taken action, the squad stays put for a quick breather while the rest keep an alert Overwatch.

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The aliens really seem to want that suitcase.

Another Thin Man drops in…

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…and is taken out by Sq. Skyrim for 5 damage on Overwatch.

The squad inches up through one more row of graves, and yet another Thin Man shows up.

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Along with one of the original aliens with an expanded cranium. This one seems to be alone though, no Mind Merge for it.

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They trigger a hail of Overwatch fire…

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…which all misses.

Those Thin Men can be annoyingly slippery when in cover.

Wanting to end it quickly, Sgt. Syl runs up to flank the Thin Man, which draws a reaction shot from it.

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Lightning reflexes negates any damage though.

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The Commander did fail to take into account the second alien, who was also in Overwatch, and it hits her for 4 damage with its plasma pistol.

On the bright side, that’s a successfully flanked Thin Man.

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100% chance to hit, 70% chance to critical.

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Shotgun style.

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Meanwhile, Lt. Izlain moves up to take care of the remaining alien.

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With the place temporarily cleared out, Zhang makes a run for it to the evacuation point.

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The squad boards the transport, with Zhang and the alien device in the briefcase.

He mentions a little more about how he came across it:

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Apparently, he was hired to do a delivery of this package to a predetermined location, but got unnerved when he actually saw what was inside it.

Unanswered questions abound. Were there more packages? Were they successfully delivered by others?

And what on Earth do the devices do?

Well, if the XCOM base later explodes, I guess we’ll know then.

In the meantime, that’s it for Operation Fading Thunder.

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8 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

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The after-action report is full of promotions. Sgt. J3w3l is now a Lieutenant, ditto Sgt. Syl.

Sq. Skyrim is now a Corporal.

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The scientists and engineers back at the base confirm that the device is of genuine alien origin, and have a number of theories as to its purpose, but it’ll take them time to figure it all out.

The Commander’s a lot more happy about the influx of cash from the Council.

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The Genetics Lab is finally set up.

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The satellite that the Commander was also eagerly awaiting is launched.

Completing satellite coverage of South America unlocks a bonus.

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Presumably they sent a skilled contingent of scientist-interrogators our way.

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All the alien bodies in cold storage were pulled out of freezers and lined up in rows in the biohazard morgue for the specialists.

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The original humanoid alien has been termed a “Sectoid” and have been found to be perfect genetic copies of each other, with organs that show signs of genetic manipulation.

They have a sizeable brain to body ratio, and were fitted with cybernetic implants that appear to boost some manner of telepathic ability.

The implications are not reassuring. Surely there must be some manner of progenitor alien, to produce these augmented identical clones? And for what purpose?

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The Floater corpses also reveal extensive biomedical and cybernetic implants, turning them into a blend of organic matter and machinery.

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The Thin Man has been intentionally designed and genetically modified to appear human, which suggests a capability beyond our own, though our scientists are fast catching up by reverse engineering some of the captured technology.

The eyes, poison glands and internal bone structure of the Thin Man still remain distinctly reptilian – giving it a remarkable flexibility through segmented bones, possibly accounting for its slippery nature.

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The Seeker turns out to be entirely machine. No living tissue is found within.

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The new alien the squad just encountered has been termed a “Chryssalid.”

The autospy reveals some rather disturbing facts about the way it reproduces. They appear somewhat similar to our earthly parasitic wasps, that lay their eggs into a living larva host, allowing their young to eat their way out when grown. Except that the Chryssalids seem to have adapted just fine to using humans as hosts for their offspring.

The cash from Operation Fading Thunder has been used for constructing suits of new carapace armor, developed from alloys retrieved from the crashed UFOs:

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Lt. Izlain is our first model. Or guinea pig.

So far so good, it didn’t crush him or anything.

So the rest of the squad is kitted out too.

Just in time, as a new Alien Abduction alert sings out through the base.

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We will see our newly armored XCOM team next post in Operation Morbid Thorn!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 8a

21 April, 2015

12.39am

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Operation Fading Thunder is on its way to make contact with a member of the Triad, who has come into possession of a device of allegedly alien origin.

If true, alien activity is expected at the site as they may make an effort to recover the device.

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From left to right, the team going in will be Lt. Izlain, Sgt. J3w3l, Sq. Skyrim and Sgt. Syl.

Chongqing, China

The transport lands and the squad disembarks at the rendezvous point.

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The contact is already there and waiting.

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On first glance, he’s the splitting image of every unsavory stereotype of a Chinese Triad mobster.

A scar runs down one eye, and he’s got the dead stare of a hitman that won’t blink twice before gunning down someone in cold blood.

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Except that now he’s on the run from said criminal organization, with a very special briefcase in his possession.

This “thing” as he shows the team, appears to be some kind of alien signaling device.

Certainly, the materials that make up the device don’t look to be of any terrestrial origin, with lights blinking on and off again at strange intervals, emitting electromagnetic pulses at strange wavelengths.

Viewing through the cameras mounted in the squad’s helmets, Dr Shen suggests it might be a transponder of some kind, and that it’s best brought back to the XCOM base for further study.

The contact, who introduces himself as Zhang Shaojie, is unwilling to be separated from the briefcase, so that means extracting him along with the device.

Either that, or it’s an alien bomb.

Guess the team will find out one way or the other.

Just as the squad gestures for Zhang to come along with them, he whips out a pistol:

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Taking out an alien that just showed up on the scene.

Looks like our contact can take care of himself.

(Though it would have been nicer if the game -did- give him a pistol to fight with. He looks all competent in the cutscene, and then is reduced to a civilian with a briefcase in the actual mission.)

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Guess that device is genuine and the aliens really want it back – or it’s a very elaborate ruse.

Well, either way, the team won’t find out by standing there all night.

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The site is some kind of Chinese cemetery or temple or a cross between the two.

There’s ample stone walls for cover.

Sgt. J3w3l takes up a slightly elevated position behind a stone pillar that should give her a clear line of sight through the path we’re intending to use.

Sq. Skyrim moves out to the other flank as our Heavy, just in case.

Lt. Izlain will be traveling with our contact as additional protective insurance, and our Assault Sgt. Syl gets to be the squad’s vanguard.

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Almost immediately, Central Command picks up alien activity headed the team’s way.

They’re literally dropping in – some kind of phasing technology or stealthed UFO dropship that our technology is unable to detect so far?

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One Thin Man shows up like a bad penny on the cemetery grounds just a little in front and below the team, and then another turns up right on the team’s left flank, a spitting distance away.

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That invites a slew of reaction shots from Sq. Skyrim, Sgt. Syl and Lt. Izlain…

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…on the first alien that popped into view. Two miss, but one hits for 5 damage and that Thin Man is no more.

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This one flanking us is still a problem though.

Sgt. J3w3l tries to hit it, but sniper rifles can be inaccurate at close range and she misses.

Lt. Izlain probably wouldn’t miss at this range, but the Commander was hoping to inch Zhang and him a little closer to the pickup point.

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Our long distance Heavy gets a shot at it.

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Sq. Skyrim most satisfactorily fills it full of bullets for 5 damage and converts the Thin Man into an expanding cloud of green gas, just a hair uncomfortably close to Sgt. J3w3l.

Doesn’t look like she needs to move out of the way though. Which is good. Snipers that need to move make me sad.

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The rest of the squad moves up methodically, from cover to cover.

Sgt. Syl in front, Zhang in the middle, Lt. Izlain behind him.

In the midst of our slow midnight crawl through a Chinese cemetary, Sgt. J3w3l shows off why snipers in a good position are awesome.

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Another Thin Man shows its face and tries to move. She’s in overwatch…

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…Bang. 5 damage, no more Thin Man.

Also a pending promotion.

Assuming everyone gets out alive, that is.

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Central alerts the XCOM team. It’s detected an alien, entirely different from the others.

We catch a glimpse of it before it scurries out of sight, obscured by obstacles – large, scaly, moving on four legs that look more like lethal bone spikes.

Like something out of Alien or Starship Troopers, one gets the feeling that one really shouldn’t get up close and personal with this species.

But that’s not the only thing to worry about.

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Another Thin Man drops in, at the very heart of the cemetery, very close to flanking our squad, and -definitely- in poison spit range.

Two reaction shots, and both miss.

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The four legged alien is out of sight, and the team has to deal with the more immediate threat.

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Surely Lt. “Bad Luck” Izlain will be able to take this Thin Man out, with 81% chance to hit, and let our shotgunner go into Overwatch to lie in wait for the other alien?

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He hits! For 2 damage…

It’s still alive.

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So now it’s down to Sgt. Syl.

88% chance to hit, 20% chance to critical, just one more bar of damage.

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Goodbye Thin Man, but now no more Overwatch for Sgt. Syl.

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Sq. Skyrim, bringing up the rearguard, is the only one of the moving squad who can.

Along with our “eye in the sky” sniper, of course.

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The four-legged creature shows itself, moving at a phenomenally fast clip.

Dr. Vahlen laments over the comm link that this alien species appears to be nothing like the others, and that any patterns or theories the scientists were previously entertaining may have to be rethought.

The team has more important things on the mind.

Like not getting eaten.

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Sgt. J3w3l and Sq. Skyrim take their reaction shots.

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The hail of heavy weapons fire goes wide, but the sniper’s bullet is on target.

For only 3 damage though, and it doesn’t look the least bit fazed, with 5 more bars of health left.

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The slavering creature positions itself right next to Sgt. Syl…

(So, how was that dead pool coming along?)

…the action continues next post!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 7

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13 April, 2015

2.09pm

Satellites detect our second UFO in the earth’s atmosphere.

It’s a lot bigger than the first.

That’s more than a little intimidating, since there hasn’t been time or sufficient resources to improve XCOM’s fleet of interceptors yet, but there’s no point closing one’s eyes and pretending aliens don’t exist.

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We send out our interceptor, with a sinking feeling that we may never see it or its brave crew again.

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Sure enough, the fight we see on the monitor is a desperate one.

The interceptor has one last hit that it can take, and I’ve had enough. I actually hammer down on the abort button, but before the order can go through:

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One last gasp volley from the interceptor brings down the UFO.

It limps home, more wreckage than flying machine.

But well, you should see the other guy.

And we will:

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Operation Bloody Hawk is initiated to go over the UFO crash site, salvage anything valuable and take out any remaining alien crew.

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Sgt. Izlain, Sgt. J3w3l, Sq. Skyrim and Rk. Mojo are the XCOM team on this mission.

Almost immediately on landing, the squad stumbles into a group of three aliens that have left the crashed UFO.

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Lovely, they’re not coming in pairs anymore, but threes?

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Sgt. J3w3l brings it back down to a duo act with a swift sniping shot for 5 damage.

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Rk. Mojo fires on the closest one, but only gets 2 damage out of her assault rifle. It’s still alive.

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Then they do their Mind Merge, and the wounded one gets an extra bar of health.

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Who then promptly returns fire at Rk. Mojo and hits her for 4 damage. Ouch.

Sgt. J3w3l tries another shot, using squadsight to see the nearer alien (the Mind Merge originator is out of line-of-sight), with a 73% chance to hit.

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The shot misses.

Sgt. Izlain has been moving up the center, with Sq. Skryim on the right flank, and spots a rare opportunity.

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He has moved up far enough to flank the first alien, giving a potential 98% chance to hit and 60% chance to critical.

Knowing Sgt. Izlain’s excellent aim, that’s a dead alien.

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But look, he can see the second alien too, the Mind Merge initiator. 82% chance to hit, 10% chance to critical.

We trust in Sgt. Izlain’s aim and judgment, and go for it.

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Dead on, hit for 3 damage and the alien is down.

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We then watch with glee as the feedback winds its way back down the Mind Merge link and zaps the first alien.

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Who also satisfyingly explodes.

One hit, two kills.

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With the threat eliminated, Rk. Mojo moves up closer to the crashed UFO and discovers a Meld canister.

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Plus another group of three alien crewmembers.

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She collects the Meld, then using the emptied canister for cover, takes aim at the closest alien.

53% chance to hit, 10% to critical.

Well, it’s better than a coin toss. Slightly.

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The spread of bullets is dead on.

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Scratch one triplet.

With that 4 damage hit that outright killed it, Rk. Mojo earns herself a promotion.

Hopefully, it won’t be a posthumous one, because she only has two bars of health left, and there’s two aliens still alive.

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One alien fires at her, and everybody holds their breath.

It misses.

Then more aliens show up.

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A pair of Seekers, who promptly vanish into stealth.

Dammit!

This is definitely not good.

We send Sgt. Izlain and Sgt. Jw3wl as far and fast as they can go, while still taking care to remain in cover and Overwatch, to back Rk. Mojo up.

Sq. Skyrim is a little too far down the right flank to get to the left in time, and thankfully, is finding no resistance. No Meld canister, either.

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In the meantime, Rk. Mojo -is- carrying a frag grenade.

It’s really hard to say if the splash damage would hit the stealthed Seekers or no, but regardless, we wanted to make sure the last visible alien went down, so that was about as far left as she could aim the throw.

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The ‘nade takes out the alien we wanted, but appears to have missed the ones in stealth.

Oh well.

Rookie lifespan in XCOM is kind of 50/50 anyway.

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The first Seeker reveals itself, making a bid to strangle Rk. Mojo. (If it hits, that’s 2 damage, which coincidentally, is the rest of her health.)

The Overwatching Sgt. Izlain and Sgt. J3w3l get to take reaction shots to prevent this happening.

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They were apparently having some kind of competition, because one hits for 4 and one hits for 3 (and no, I don’t know who hit for which number) and the once-stealthed alien creature disintegrates into a shower of metal flakes, sparks and broken machinery.

There’s nothing for it, but to freeze in place in Overwatch again, to stay in wait for the second stealthed alien to show itself.

Can Rk. Mojo get lucky a second time?

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This time, the Seeker makes a grab for Sgt. ‘Bad Luck’ Izlain.

Leaving Rk. Mojo and Sgt. J3w3l to take the reaction shots.

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One hits for 3 damage, and the other one misses!

The Seeker has 2 health left, and that’s enough to let it complete the Strangle.

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Sgt. J3w3l is out of bullets for her sniper rifle, but suspecting that Sgt. Izlain wouldn’t appreciate waiting a turn for the reload, swaps to a pistol and takes aim for 73% chance to hit and 50% chance to critical.

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The pistol shots go wide.

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Guess it’s up to the rookie.

With a 76% chance to hit and 60% chance to critical at this range, Rk. Mojo does 3 damage and finishes off the Seeker.

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In the meantime, what of Sq. Skyrim?

He’s been having a walk in the park – albeit one with burning trees and a crashed UFO in the way.

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Making his way through the abandoned corridors of the UFO, he opens a door to flank a surprised alien for 72% chance to hit and 50% chance to critical.

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With predictable results – the alien is critical hit for 6 damage and is blown away before it can even react.

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Sgt. Izlain advises the wounded Rk. Mojo to stay outside the alien spacecraft and keep watch, while he goes in.

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The strange Outsider alien is woken from its crystal housing as he approaches.

Is it some kind of alien AI guardian for the UFO flight computers? Some fuel source that powers the UFO?

Who knows…

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It doesn’t put up much of a fight.

Sgt. Izlain takes it out, ending the mission.

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10.29pm

Somewhere in Japan

Operation Bloody Hawk comes to a successful end.

9 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

2 of 2 Meld canisters recovered, and a decent amount of salvage from the UFO.

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After-action report: Sgt. Izlain is promoted to Lieutenant, and Rk. Mojo is now a Squaddie with an Assault class role.

Wounds will take Lt. Izlain out for 5 days, and Sq. Mojo for 9 days.

It’s about this time when the Commander has a look at the entire wounded roster…

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… and decides the situation is getting a little out of hand.

A number of rather valuable, as yet unresearched UFO machinery, is sold to other countries on the gray market.

This raises some quiet protest from Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen, but the Commander points out that there’s still one of each kind kept in reserve, when the scientists finally have time to get around to it.

More can always be retrieved from crashed UFOs later, but healthy soldiers are needed to retrieve them.

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A whole bunch of upgrades are bought from the Officer Training School with the semi-illicit proceeds of gray market sales, including Rapid Recovery.

(I’m avoiding Squad Size for now, as I’m -hoping- to go through the game with four squad members and get the achievement. We’ll see how long that resolve lasts, if the casualties start mounting. 🙂 )

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The walking wounded list looks a mite better now.

21 April, 2015

12.:39am

Lt. Izlain recovers and returns to active duty just in time, as the base receives a Priority-1 incoming council transmission.

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This time, the squad is supposed to look into the story of a Triad member who has come into possession of a piece of “unique” – possibly alien? – technology.

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Operation Fading Thunder begins next post, with the still-intact squad members below!

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It’s in China, when this squad will come to face to face with a new alien that none of them have ever seen before…

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 6

11 April, 2015

11.58pm

Operation Burning Bell

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From left to right, Sq. Othnieltcs, Cpl. Eri J3w3l, Cpl. Gypsy Syl and Rk. Joseph Skyrim.

All the squad knows is that a French military convoy was caught in an ambush and that aliens were seen in the area. The main objective is to investigate, and locate and secure any survivors or cargo that remain, eliminating any opposition as necessary.

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It’s a dark night with fairly poor visibility.

As the team spreads out among a streetscape of rubble and burning vehicle wrecks and scattered uniformed corpses, it’s clear -something- serious has happened here, but not what.

Contact is made almost instantaneously, a Thin Man on a roof, and another who jumps down to ground level.

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They take turns firing at Sq. Othnieltcs, who unfortunately towers over the cars and can’t take cover, doing 4 and 2 damage respectively.

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Cpl. J3w3l takes aim from where she is crouched behind a burning bench, with a 57% chance to hit.

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(The yellow target over the alien indicates she’s using Squadsight. This extends a sniper’s range and gives them a true ‘sniper’ feeling, as long as they have uninterrupted LOS, they can shoot anything a squadmate can see that would otherwise be out of their normal base range.)

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Down goes the Thin Man on the ground.

In the meantime, Sq. Othnieltcs takes aim at the one on the roof, with a 58% chance to hit.

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Another minigun execution with extreme prejudice.

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As the squad moves up further towards the attacked convoy, examination of the bodies reveals something disturbing.

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Conventional weapons fire killed the men in the convoy. But then… why are aliens at the scene? And who was responsible for the attack?

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The squad advances further. It’s slow work, moving from cover to cover cautiously. But certainly, they’ve had more than enough excitement on the last mission already.

Slow and steady and by the book is a lot safer, especially in a place producing lots of questions but no answers.

They surprise another Thin Man, which makes a dash to the roof to seek cover.

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That doesn’t hide it well enough from Sq. Othnieltcs, who stops to take aim again, with a 58% chance to hit.

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One more exploding cloud of green goo, one less Thin Man on this planet.

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One more reminder of just how annoying these miniguns are, when it comes to ammo consumption.

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Plenty of uninterrupted time to reload though. Slow and steady wins this race.

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Further down the road, scanners indicate there’s someone still alive!

The team continues to advance carefully, assuming nothing.

That caution is rewarded when a Thin Man moves just beyond the survivor. Cpl. J3w3l takes it out while on Overwatch.

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As Sq. Othnieltcs and Rk. Skyrim reach the survivor, he doesn’t seem too happy to see the XCOM squad and surprisingly reluctant to share any information.

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Central makes the decision to bring him in, whether he likes it or not.

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A bunch of new Thin Men show up on the scene.

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For whatever reason, the aliens seem to be very interested in this survivor or this convoy.

Not that it really helps them.

With a 63% chance to hit and 75% chance to critical, Cpl. J3w3l takes out the first.

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Sq. Othnieltcs lumbers by, drawing out a reaction shot from the Thin Man on the roof…

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…and then takes it out in return.

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In the meantime, the survivor is busy calling the squad a bunch of names as he’s asked to move along, sometimes requiring the barrel of a very long gun pointed in his direction before he does.

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More aliens show up, and a furious amount of fire is exchanged.

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A lot of misses.

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A few hits.

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Sq. Othnieltcs is now down to 5 health bars, and while it’s not panic time yet, it’s not terribly great either.

Just enough hits to matter.

Rk. Skyrim had 50% chance to hit, and did, killing this alien for 4 damage and getting a promotion out of it.

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Cpl. Syl tries another grenade toss to the roof to take out the last alien.

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It’s a really long shot.

(The blast radius didn’t appear to cover the alien at all, but I was puzzled by why the Thin Man was still highlighted by a red square. So, what the heck, tried it anyway.)

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It’s a pretty explosion, and probably took out some of its cover, but the alien remained unscathed.

The Thin Man retaliates, spitting a poison cloud at Cpl. Syl.

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Well, that’s annoying. But if it can see Cpl. Syl, she can see it just as well.

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59% chance to hit, 20% chance to critical… 6 critical damage with a shotgun.

One new poison cloud on the roof to go with the one on the ground.

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Operation Burning Bell comes to a close with the successful retrieval of the survivor, though he still seems very reluctant to talk.

9 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

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The after action report is busy indeed.

Cpl. J3w3l has been promoted to Sergeant, and the automatic nickname assigned is ‘Lady Grey.’ (Taking requests and suggestions to change it to whatever…)

Sq. Othnieltcs has been promoted to Corporal.

Rk. Skyrim has been promoted to Squaddie and is now a Heavy. (Any interest in being a MEC trooper or gene-modified?)

Cpl. Syl has been promoted to Sergeant, with an automatic nickname of ‘Caper.’ (Ditto.)

Cpl. Othnieltcs and Sgt. Syl were wounded and will be sitting out for 10 and 6 days respectively.

And a whole slew of medals!

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The Council Medal of Honor, yeah, yeah, whatever.

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Our lady of frag grenades gets the first of this lot, naturally.

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But look, here’s an additional “Taken One For the Team” medal!

Taking nominees for the second of this batch.

Coming up next, the second UFO contact and Sgt. Izlain’s return!

(Though still temporarily called Pox since I had a few missions stored up from the last play-through. I should be able to get to playing XCOM again soon and update everything after mission 7.)

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