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Oh snap! Another Call of Dooty? Yep, just one more, but this is going to reach pretty much everything else about it.

This time around, we’re gonna look at the concept of custom classes introduced to the market by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and how the idea can benefit games.

Now, I’m not gonna go ahead and claim they invented picking what you went in with, as plenty of other games handled that, but this particular installment did get the ball rolling as a common concept.

Create That Class

So, here’s the general idea Modern Warfare put forward: Pick a gun, pick another gun (because more guns), pick some equipment, and pick some traits. Mix and match, throw a violence party.

Prior to that, the typical rundown on consoles was you either started with the same setup as everyone else, or you picked one of several pre-set classes. I’m not going to really dig into Call of Duty 3 or prior, as game wikis don’t seem to care about them.

The degree of freedom custom classes provided allowed you to adapt to both the enemy team and to the game itself. When dealing with the enemy team, you could react to their strategies with a loadout of your own that was custom tailored to beating them. If the enemy liked to run forward, you could start laying mines. If the enemy liked to hang back, you could equip yourself for clearing rooms with heartbeat sensors or shields.

And as for the game itself, I’ve always felt there was a core flaw to every Modern Warfare game: If two players of sufficient skill come face to face, neither one will walk away from the resulting fight happy. Two guys would see each other, pull the trigger, and one would just die. The kill time for Call of Duty is near instant and exposes itself to every little imperfection of the network and netcode. When two players go head to head, there’s very little room for individual skill to shine through.

Which is where the Create a Class system comes in…

Beating the System

Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite design, because it allowed the freedom needed to avoid the core flaw of Modern Warfare, while every game since was too restrictive to do so. You could use the game to fix the game, in a way.

Player behavior would typically gravitate towards similar builds, as per some sociological rule that one could probably expand upon elsewhere. An everyday player would probably grab an assault rifle, stick a silencer on it, and call it a day.

As for myself, I tried to keep my classes spread out with as much variety as possible to answer the same question in a different way each time: “How can I avoid directly fighting the enemy?”

Sapper

The first one I really went with was mostly in response to somebody’s claim that you could never have a positive kill/death ratio when using a riot shield. I call myself a “needler scientist” at times, in reference to the absolutely garbage needlers in Halo 2. I obsess over underpowered items in games, studying them intently to find their true use (incidentally, the use for Halo 2 needlers was point blank range and long range snipers that wouldn’t move – such garbage), so I took the riot shield weapon as a challenge.

The end result was a class that used the shield to get close and scout out rooms, then throw C4 at the enemy. Absurd, but it worked great. The Create a Class system back then wasn’t picky, so it let the Scavenger perk give you more explosives and every dead body would give you another C4 to throw, even if it wasn’t your kill.

Lowering the shield to take an offensive action being so lengthy was what discouraged shield use, but the class system let you adapt to that. Thrown explosives had no delay to lower the shield and handguns were granted a faster draw speed than any other weapon, so they could serve as a surprise cowboy quickdraw when facing down an enemy.

With the ability to customize what I took into the fight, the game gave me the opportunity to avoid what I hated most about it. I could see an enemy and they could see me, but we couldn’t instantly kill each other.

Smoker

The next unique one was an attempt to find an efficient use for One Man Army, which replaced your secondary weapon with the ability to switch classes. By itself, it wasn’t obviously useful, as you couldn’t switch again if you selected a class without One Man Army and even if you did, you would have to stop for a good two or three seconds to switch between the two gear sets.

Instead, I tried to exploit switching back to the same class. Doing so would completely refill your gear and ammo. Scavenger was quick for reloads, but some gear (like smoke grenades) would never be replenished and you needed to be in the front line to find reloads. One Man Army would give back smoke grenades (and other gear) from wherever you were standing.

The final result would throw infinitely available smoke grenades forward and use an assault rifle with a heartbeat sensor to spot oncoming targets. Claymore mines were also included, which could be planted ahead, under the cover of smoke.

Unlimited claymores was an interesting feature. They were limited to two at once, but unlike with Scavenger, you always had two to use. Claymores had a trigger distance double that of the kill range and it was a frustration when you planted one claymore just to wound the enemy and gain nothing for it, but having two claymores at your disposal would let you plant the both of them in the exact same spot. Your kill range would effectively double, because two would kill anyone within the trigger radius. The increased range also added more viable trap spots, allowing for kills from locations nobody expected.

In the best of situations, that class would get kills without being seen at all, meaning I would never be stuck in that awful face-to-face situation.

Streetsweeper

The last MW2 loadout I ever really experimented with was an attempt to counter a problem specific to Modern Warfare 2: Overly aggressive players.

I’ve mentioned before how some people would just use a knife and actually get kills, but there were several common, annoying loadouts people would use that all featured the same premise of going fast and getting dumb kills.

One of the absolute worst ones actually featured a glitched setup; using two Model 1887 lever-action shotguns, akimbo. With the right attachments, they would end up doing more damage than they were supposed to, making for a class that could kill most anyone from a medium range with one shot. It was stupid and effective, so naturally it was used frequently.

I actually looked up gun stats for this one. I wanted to find the SMG that had the highest damage and firing rate so I could dual-wield them. That turned out to be the underutilized MP5k, which people ignored primarily for its heavy recoil.

Two SMGs, kitted out to fire as fast, accurate, and damaging as possible. Rather than join in with the running-about team, all the movement traits were eschewed for more precision and damage. The result was a walking death machine. When it fired, it wasn’t a question of hit or miss, but of how long you could survive in the metal storm. Considering it only took two hits to die, it usually wasn’t very.

The fully-automatic damage output was more efficient than aggressive classes and having them directly in your face would result in instant death on their part. In fact, the key weakness was for somebody to take cover. Since precision was impossible, a small target surface area would avoid significant amounts of damage, while the aggressive players would run into the open and be cut down.

When encountering aggressive players, the class would immediately take them out of the equation. There would be no head to head fight, they would just be dead, solving the core problem once again. Anyone smart enough to take cover would, by their actions, avoid an instant end to the fight.

The Followups

All the games following MW2 seemed to almost intentionally restrict indirect combat. I’ve played them all, except for Ghosts (buyer beware), and I could not create one indirect class where Modern Warfare 2 gave me several.

However, they did experiment with altering the streak system. Modern Warfare 2 gave you a range of killstreaks to choose from to suit your playstyle and expected survivability. Modern Warfare 3 introduced alternative streak systems on a class by class basis, allowing you to set a class to gain credit for streaks through death or a class that instead added perks to your character like it was leveling up or something.

Advanced Warfare might have hit the right note with the new scorestreak system. You don’t have to count kills, as just assisting and hitting the objective counts towards your progress. Additionally, the streaks can be customized by class. A streak you might not like can be augmented into something you do like.

Scouting drones, for example, are unappealing to me. Why would you manually fly a UAV to mark targets when you can call in an automated UAV to handle it for you while you shoot? Well, you can augment it to have additional effects. Highlighting an enemy position is nice, but even nicer is to highlight them and hit them with a flashbang.

This customization lets you take something that you feel is bad and make it good, once again opening up the game to positive experiences.

Other Games

The idea of player customization has become more popular since CoD4. Gears of War, Battlefield, even Halo have adapted the custom loadouts concept. Team Fortress 2 started out with static gear, yet now there’s a many different weapons for each class to choose from.

It seems to be a tried and true strategy on the market: Give the player personal choices to work with and they’ll enjoy themselves more.

And all you have to do is experience the nightmare of balancing all those potential choices!

If you’re looking to find me outside of this realm, I’m @ALIENwolve on Twitter.

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Welcome back to the Road to Wrestling and today we go over the final part of the road up to where we are today, it’s a more disappointing time for wrestling fans, the high numbers of the Attitude Era disappear, WWF becomes WWE and changes it’s product to a more family friendly environment. A long running feud becomes the epitomy of wrestling fans disappointments and modern day booking leaves us all gasping for something new. Join me for the final part of our trip along the road to Wrestling, before we venture out into further topics.

Road To Wrestling: Final Part

We start out our journey into one of the more mixed reviewed times of the WWE…an Era that some love, some hate..and some don’t know what to think about it. Two words given by Vince McMahon to the entire roster and later repeated by the man that would become the face of the company…

Ruthless Aggression

This is where wrestling took a deep dive in popularity and this particular era in the WWF is one of debate for wrestling fans, some look at it fondly, others lampoon it and cite it as a terrible time in the industry. I’ve tried to understand why it was that the Ruthless Aggression Era is the wrestling equivalent of Marmite…you either loved it or you hated it.

Well at this time WWF was undergoing a lot of changes both on and off the camera, for one thing there was the need to change their name looming over their heads, for a lot of people the Monday Night Wars were long over, sure WCW was still around up until 2001 but let’s not fool ourselves, from late 98 onwards? WCW was a dying, struggling product and wasn’t up to par with what the WWF was going, 1999 and 2000 are cited as two of the best years for the WWF by fans of the Attitude Era, it was sort of like the last triumphant blow of the war trumpet before the armies involved signed the peace treaty and ended the war, yet only two years later we would see a tremendous dip in popularity, an mixed reaction from the fanbase and the Attitude Era officially dead and buried, so what spurred it on?

Well for one WCW was bought out in 2001, it had struggled, it had tried albeit very poorly to stay afloat but when Ted Turner lost control after a company merger, the writing really was on the wall..there were a lot of reasons WCW died and I mean a lot of reasons! Poor booking decisions, unorganized management, backstage politics, the misuse of celebrities in order to try and further mainstream attention, all the while disregarding the loyal fans that had made you popular in the first place, company executives demanding that the edgy attitude that WCW was once known for be toned down and everything they got away with before, now suddenly taken away from them. Guaranteed contracts granted to multiple people that would gladly take days off when they didn’t feel like wrestling….the list goes on. Vince McMahon bought his competition, the reasoning for that can be disputed, whether it was to stick it to billionaire Ted one last time and take pride in the knowledge he’d crushed the one company that actually managed to compete, or whether it was just a simple business acquisition, personally I just think it was a business venture, Vince had things in mind for WCW at the time, it all went terribly wrong within a very short amount of time, but still…they were plans and if it weren’t for terrible booking and plain bad luck, who knows where it would have gone, if it would have gone anywhere at all.

Then you had the other company, the outcast, the rogue, the rebel…ECW was stuck in a rut, financial troubles, Pay-Per-View carriers refusing to give them their money, stars had been poached and they were left with a very thin roster because of it, it claimed for bankruptcy and went out of business the same year as WCW had been bought out, 2001.

On top of all that in 2002, only a year after these two companies go out of the picture, WWF has to change it’s name because it gets hit with a copyright violation claim from the World Wildlife Fund over the use of the letters WWF and the branding of it all, now how exactly the Wildlife Fund had any actual claim to all of this is beyond me, the legal jargon behind all that is sort of confusing to me, I highly doubt there was much confusion between a wrestling company and a charity for wildlife, let alone the fact both organizations had been in existence for quite some time at this point and as far as I’m aware their were no legal disputes before this point. It really just seems like the Wildlife Fund got annoyed that wrestling got popular and this company with the same initials was all people talked about when the letters WWF came into the conversation.

So your competition is gone, you’ve been hit with a legal dispute and have to change your branding because of it, meanwhile you’re seeing the stars from the nineties slowly go away like Mick Foley who was heading into retirement, The Rock who everybody had called a sell out for venturing into Hollywood and Stone Cold who at this time walked out on his contract with the company, that’s a lot to deal with in a two year stint, you’ve got to create new stars and very much like “The New Generation” some people decided to give wrestling a break after their favorites up and left.

Another reason given is poor booking decisions, there was some weird booking going on during the early 2000’s that’s for sure, as much as people would love to point the finger at Vince Russo for things like Katie Vick and the Invasion angle, that rests on the writer’s and Vince McMahon’s shoulders and those weren’t the only “crimes” during Ruthless aggression we saw the return of The Undertaker in the strangely debated American Badass gimmick, he was a biker…that’s really all there was to the gimmick, he was just a guy who loved bikes…I thought it was weird but I didn’t exactly think it was terrible. I guess that’s the reaction a lot of people had to the changes going on, changes in character, changes in attitude, changes in product…it was all just sort of…Okay. Not good, not great, just…okay, it just sort of existed to a lot of people at the time…I think a lot of people were numb to it all after the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars.

None of that is the real reason in my mind though, they’re contributing factors, seeing characters you know and love change in strange ways or just outright go away, on top of all these changes being made to the product and storylines did drive some people away without a doubt but the main reason those huge numbers disappeared? The thing that has made wrestling promoter’s scratch their head in confusion as to where those millions of viewers went? Popularity, it really does come down to that, for the longest time wrestling had been seen as this hokey, family friendly fun show. People were genuinely ashamed to admit if they were wrestling fans back in the day because you’d get mocked for it, not because it was “fake” but simply because it was just seen as this silly little thing that was below so many of these “Intelligent” minds choosing to ignore it. Then comes the 90’s with this shift in attitude across the country, a war has sparked between two wrestling companies and both of them are providing this edgy entertainment aimed at teenagers and adults, rather than kids and families…as soon as just one person was willing to say wrestling was “cool” then believe me, at least ten others would tune in just to see if they were right. That’s where those millions of views came from, college kids, frat parties, young adults looking to fit in with the rest of the crowd…there was still the loyal viewers who had been through the best and the worst of the business but this new influx had never been seen before, the more mainstream it became, the cooler it seemed and the cooler it seemed? The more people felt the need to view it, otherwise they would become the outcasts that wrestling fans used to be back in the old days. Simple peer pressure to get in on the new cool thing, it’s what has spurred so many things in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I hate to say it to all of those that look back on that time in such a fond way, but The Attitude Era? It was just a fad and in the early 2000’s, other than the loyal fanbase that decided to stay and keep watching, the world had gotten over it.

Going PG

It does make everybody grit their teeth, some for legitimate reasons, some for not so legitimate reasons, but really the only highlight after Ruthless Aggression was when the company changed back to it’s family friendly fun attitude that it originally had in the first place, it went PG. Now I will play Devil’s advocate right away, it’s not as cartoony as it was in the 80’s (thank god for that…don’t get me wrong I love the 80’s wrestling but if they were to do that today? It would not work at all) and the reasoning for it all, in my mind anyway isn’t as cynical as people would like to make it out to be. The reasoning for toning down the product for Ruthless Agression was because the WWE had angered too many of their sponsors, product providers and the network…so they toned it down before they got kicked off the air and lost their agreements. For what is dubbed the “PG Era” a lot of people point to Linda McMahon running for senate as the reasoning behind it all, I won’t argue that it might have had some influence…look in a system where people will actively try to dig up dirt on you and you are associated with a man that runs a company that has had steroid scandals, wrestlers die young, the sadness of the Chris Benoit Incident which need not be brought up any further in this article and the company in general is just sort of seen as this sort of circus by the media…playing it safe is the smartest thing you can do. I don’t know why but the media loves it when something goes wrong in wrestling. You can say that about any subject really but when it happens to wrestling in particular? They are almost ready to take that dog around the back of the shed and put an end to it’s like like it was Ol’ Yeller…It’s bad, it’s real bad and with how cut throat they can be with people running for political positions, I don’t blame the WWE a bit for playing it safe

There had to be more than that though, this is after all a business at the end of the day and a business needs to make money, this family friendly attitude, it was the best thing keeping the best relations with everybody to ensure WWE stayed on top, WWE wanted the best merchandise, the best toys, the best options for sponsors…you don’t get those options when you run a risky program, you still get options, but thy don’t pay as well and the risk isn’t always worth the reward. What need was there to be edgy? None…developing an Attitude over night after they had dropped it during Ruthless Aggression? Was that really going to get those mythical numbers of the 90’s back now? No, we can all pretend it will but not really, not in today’s society it wouldn’t. Too many people getting far too offended, playing it safe just meant you could capture more eyes, offend less people, get the most profit out of the situation. The best answer, was the most obvious one…that’s all there was to it.

That being said the main problem that smarter fans had that weren’t just begging for the attitude era to come back for over ten years was that the booking had taken a big nose dive in the WWE and I mean a big nose dive, it’s not as bad as it is today but this is really where it all started. This is where I have to talk about the elephant in the room that is John Cena. I’m going to try and give a new and original insight into this, I don’t hate John, I don’t hate him as a wrestler, but I can understand people’s gripes with the man and this era was when people started getting really sick of John Cena. Where people started wanting that change, not an Attitude Era, heck not even a Ruthless Aggression, all people wanted was something new, something different. PG Era was where the company just started selling you the same product and telling you it was something different. You can put up with that for a while, wrestling logic even dictates you should.

This is where I need to talk about the Cena and Orton feud, trust me I don’t want to, it’s been talked about already…so much so I even hear people in my circle of friends groan when yet another debate about this feud is brought up, but for this time period, it needs to be mentioned and explained in my own personal opinion as to why it has failed so badly. See back in the day a feud of that length was not rare by any means…what made people dislike it so much was how quickly they had shown us everything we could have possibly seen within a very short time frame. The story was done in such a way where people either didn’t care or didn’t believe in it, they weren’t willing to believe in it because it came across in a way where the wrestlers themselves didn’t believe in it and when that happens, regardless how long you want to go and what matches you have in mind, you have lost your audience.

Here’s an example I like to compare it to and I can imagine getting hate mail for doing it but here we go I compare Cena and Orton to Bret and Shawn. Now hear me out on this one ok? Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, two totally different wrestlers from Cena and Orton I agree, but their situation is not so different when you look at it in terms of the storyline. Forget the legitimate hatred Bret and Shawn had, that’s not what this is about, it’s about the matches, the story, the pacing and the booking. Both sets of wrestlers start out with this subtle respect for each other, one is usually the top dog or is at least at a position to claim to be the top dog, the other is one that stays close by and is always part of the chase, when they face, regardless of the stipulation you’re supposed to feel that this is a big match, that both of these guys are willing to put everything on the line because they want to be the best. As time develops, what started as a sporting rivalry develops into what the crowd sees as genuine dislike and hatred towards each other the more they face each other, the rivalry becomes personal through jabs at one another both on the microphone and through their actions towards one another and we’re supposed to see that play out throughout the matches they have. What makes that story become special and intriguing is how well it’s done, it’s pacing the story in such a way where that story becomes believable, where that question of “Do they really hate each other?” is asked. That’s the point, whether we know it’s real or not…we’re supposed to be made to ask, to scratch our heads a little and wonder how much of it is art imitating life. If Bret and Shawn was a two year feud where within six months we’d have seen everything we could have possibly seen and Shawn was beating the heck out of Hart family members to get at Bret, we’d have been tired of it, probably even poking fun at it! That sixty minute Iron Man match would have meant nothing in terms of story. The fact both of those guys were great wrestlers helped that story so much and you believe every single minute of it because the way it was booked and the way it was paced made it look and feel as real as we would later find their dislike for one another to be. When those two fought it was a special occasion, fans would get on the edge of their seat because ok here we go these two are going at it again, what’s going to happen? Is one of them finally going to flip out? Then when you saw the personal attacks both on the mic and in the ring that just added to it, you felt it, you believed it, heck the smarter fans probably knew there was something legitimate to it all but even if there wasn’t? Even if Bret and Shawn were hugging it out in the back after every match they had we still would have bought into everything they sold us because of how well that was booked.

Back to Cena and Orton, it’s a similar situation, two guys battling each other for the top position, they may have respect for one another at the start, that’s arguable and up in the air but how soon did that feud become personal? I can’t even remember a point any more where those two didn’t hate each other…it’s perfectly fine to make a feud personal quickly, but if you’re going to have it be a long running feud, you’ve got to do it smartly, the way they paced it just made it chaos, I can understand if you want to make it seem like an all out war…but if you’ve got a two year plan for this and everybody is worn out from it all before you’ve even reached the halfway mark you’ve gone way too hard, way too fast. We saw every possible way this story could go and every possible match they could have before we should have done, it didn’t seem special when these two fought because, they did it every month, with bigger stakes and bigger stipulations until they had ran through every stipulation, then what do you do? You try telling the story again but this time you up the stakes in terms of story, let’s have Randy attack Cena’s dad. Ok, that is brilliant for a heel to do, you want to make a feud personal? That is the outright best way to do that if it’s done smartly, how do you that smartly? Well for one you need to make the build up immense and you need to make the pay off seem like there’s more than just a title match at stake here…and they didn’t! That’s what this story was lacking, you had the big matches, you had the narrative, but you didn’t have the pacing and you didn’t have the emotion that went into Shawn and Bret….what was supposed to be a slow Spaghetti Western where the big hero and villain have one big duel to end it all at the end turned into a Michael Bay movie and everything was thrown in our faces month after month after month, for two years or more! Eventually you just get sick of the explosive nature of it all…we should have been begging the WWE for more but instead we were begging for something else to come along and grace our television screens. That sort of is the image that you can use to capture the disappointment a lot of loyal wrestling fans like myself have felt for quite some time now, there’s so many chances this company has and yet…they never seem to do well with them in the long run.

WWE Today

I want to like Raw and Smackdown, I really do..there are things here and there that have opportunities for greatness but it just never feels like they can capture it. It’s sort of sad, they’ve lost sight of what it was that made them great, they forgot that in order to make us care about these stories that I admit, mostly tell interesting narratives, needs to rely on the matches…and WWE doesn’t really care about that any more at least in my view, there are plenty of good matches out there that they show today…but how many of them do you see the company using to forward their top stories? One or two we can name off the top of our heads right now are people I have big hopes for. Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan if his injury trouble goes away…there are a lot of people I like, many who have become my modern day favorites, but does the company really believe in them? Maybe, Vince doesn’t and right now that’s the only man that matters…it doesn’t matter if every guy in the back believes in you, if Vince doesn’t, you’re stuck until he does and the man himself said on his interview with Stone Cold that the only person he sees grabbing at his brass rings, is Cena…which rightfully angered a lot of people. Some think Vince has lost touch over the years, some think he’s fallen into the trap of going back to things that worked in the past but doing very little to change it. I don’t know myself, Vince is a very complicated character, one I have immense respect for but to me, he’s always had that mindset of relying on one guy. In the 80’s it was Hogan, in the 90’s it was Stone Cold and now it’s Cena…so why does it feel so different today? Because somewhere along the way it just seems like they forgot about everybody else…like everybody else is just a face in the halls until they do something that puts them in the good books. Even the superstars are having enough of the booking, there’s word people are complaining, there’s apparently been silent protests, wrestlers losing faith in the product…it may not be as dire as thee reporters and dirt sheets like to make it out to be but regardless that isn’t a healthy situation to be in when it comes to those locker rooms and it certainly doesn’t help when they look over to NXT and see that world of difference.

NXT is amazing, trust me when I say it is worth the price of the Network alone, I’m so annoyed when people say they’ve cancelled their subscription and feel like they’ve stuck it to the man by doing so, you haven’t, you really haven’t. While true that when you want to send a message to a company, you do it with your wallet, there’s one thing that has remained true and tested that everything can be measured, they measure Raw and Smackdown in ratings, you think they can’t go to the Network and see how many clicks something has gotten? Now Vince may not care very much about what the internet likes, I imagine he rarely uses it as it is, but somebody must have to report to him about this right? I’m an optimistic person, I’d like to think if instead of cancelling the subscriptions we all just tuned into the things we liked and maybe they’d change their strategy because right now, their strategy for the Network? Total Divas and Legends House and while I for one like seeing Roddy Piper howl at the moon like a wolf as much as the next guy, that’s not what I’m paying my monthly subscription for. I’ve got every PPV I ever wanted, I got archives of shows to look through but most important of all to me and most worth it all to me is NXT because that product is one that has got it right and it is so nice to see.

It’s weird seeing NXT, a show that once had people playing musical chairs and doing promos about facial hair decide who was good at wrestling turn into what it is today…if you told me a couple years ago that NXT would be the best thing this company had to offer, I would have laughed in your face and don’t lie. You would have too, just look at this and tell me otherwise.

Triple H got put in charge of developing new talent and NXT just became the perfect storm really, it’s full of people wanting to prove themselves, including the man running it. You don’t think Trips wants to prove he’s going to be good at what he is eventually going to be doing for the whole company? He learned from Vince which some cynics may shrug their shoulders at but if there is one thing Vince loves, it’s being competitive and I’m sure whether he’s seen the numbers or not, he’s heard what people think of NXT, he has had to have heard that and that crazy old man is smiling at the fact his son in law is sticking it to the big dog right now because that’s the kind of guy Vince is, he likes competing so much he competed with himself! That’s what Smackdown was originally for! You have Trips wanting to prove the old man he can do a good job as well as every smart fan on the internet that has dubbed him the evil overlord of wrestling, you got young up and coming talent with chips on their shoulders wanting to show they can be on the main roster and you’ve got a back to basics style of booking that is so refreshing to see back in the spotlight that this very simple, very old school style show…that’s what wrestling fans are talking about, that and New Japan. Am I happy with the current product? No not really, there’s some bad decisions being made, the whole CM Punk situation definitely didn’t help my perception of their health care system or the way they do business with people they don’t like…and the effort they put into Pay-Per-Views is starting to become a little lackluster, but I’m not cancelling my subscription and I’m not going to stop watching. I’m a fan and being a fan of it means sticking through it, think of it like a football team…everybody has been through a down period…it happens and you just hope they get better. That’s sort of where we are today, just hope somebody steps up to wake this company up. As good as NXT is, its developmental…it’ll probably stay developmental and as long as it is, what threat does that really pose to Vince McMahon who owns it and can call any one of these wrestlers to the roster when he feels good and ready? Then there’s New Japan, which is starting it’s own project similar to the Network, which I honestly suggest people look into, sure it’s not in English but Japan isn’t big on promos like the WWE is, they’re more focused on the matches, it’s sort of like if NXT was on a much bigger scale.

Either way, right now things are bad yeah…but no need to cancel subscriptions and turn off the televisions, because who are we fooling? Every wrestling fan at one point or another says they’ll never watch again and they come back and that’s not a bad thing. More sarcastic minded people mock you for doing that but it’s natural for something that you love, you want to tune back in to see if it’s gotten better, to see if all you needed was that short break so you can get back into it. Me personally, I’ll keep paying my monthly fee, watch NXT, watch the Pay-Per-Views and the occasional Raw or Smackdown, just to see if the product is improving, times are tough for wrestling fans in terms of quality…but it could be worse. I mean, what if we didn’t have wrestling at all. I like to look back at what has been and gone that we all loved so fondly but I still have to watch what’s going on right now and so should all of you, because if you don’t, who knows what kind of future wrestling’s going to have? Sometimes tuning out, it does more harm then good…

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Hello and welcome back to About Gaming with redscores (that’s me).

In About Gaming we will talk about all things gaming-related, topics can be anything from “Multiplayer” to “Psychology in Gaming” everything can happen.

About Gaming will probably appear once a week, and I hope you have a great time… now onto our great Topic for today:

Choose your own Adventure

What is “Choose-your-own-Adventure”?

This episode of About Gaming goes back to the roots of gaming, long before any console existed and tabletop games were just introduced into the world.

At that time there was a different way to delve into a deep fantasy world, through books.

But those were not necessarily novels, they were interactive in a way.

Those books were called “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books.

But how does that work? Interactive books?

Well, the basic idea is that you do not read this book page for page, but each page will force you to make a choice and dependant on the choice you get to read a different page.

For example:

You walk through an forest and see a troll at a crossroads, one of the roads going to the north with a bridge on the path. The other road leads deeper into the forest but seems to suffer from heavy overgrowth, nearly concealing the path ahead.

What will you do?

1) Talk with the Troll
2) Take the Road leading over the Bridge to the north
3) Take the overgrown Road into the Forest

Depending on the choice, the book would tell you to go to a different page.

This basic idea coupled with good writing and interesting stories made these books extremely appealing to kids and young adults.

These “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books came in all kinds. From fantasy adventures to science fiction or even drama everything was made.

Why are “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books important for gaming?

Well, the obvious answer is that these books were the first medium where you could make your own decisions.

This laid the groundwork for the video games that were to come in the future.

These Books were very involving and had a much higher re-read “value” than other books and were very popular with kids and young adults, catapulting those books to be pretty much culture hits from the start.

As you may already guessed, the “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books were the prototypes of games like:

The Elder Scrolls Series,
Gothic Series

and so on.

It is a safe guess that pretty much the idea of interactive mediums was grandfathered by these books.

So, I think it is safe to say that without those books, gaming today would not be as it is now, and the idea of “Choose-your-own-Adventure” is not even lost yet, these still exist in form of games and books.

A few examples:

Heroes Rise Series,
The original Choose your own Adventure Series

and many more.

The Heroes Rise Series is a game series on Steam published by Choice of Games and written by Zachary Sergi, which made other great “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Games. (Choice of Games)

These Games are text-only games with a input interface, emulating the book variation.

They sport an intense story and meaningful choices you can make to shape your own story.

Give them a shot, this nichê of gaming is still sprawling and offers great entertainment in addition to forming the gaming we know today.

I hope you enjoyed our little retrospective and play some Choose-your-own-Adventure.

Because YOU decide!

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This time, let’s look at the idea of focusing on e-sports for a game.

Competitive gaming has evolved somewhere within the last decade to be a big enough thing to throw money at with flashy stadiums filled with spectators, so let’s have a little comparison between three games that made it and three that didn’t.

Dead Games

Plenty of games have been produced in the past that declared themselves “geared for e-sports.” Most of them are dead these days.

Shadowrun the FPS comes to mind. The game wasn’t all that bad, really; a Counter Strike with magic and sci-fi tech. But at the end of it all, the game felt lacking. It felt as though there wasn’t much to it and you were just going through the same motions every time. Fairly quickly after launch, Microsoft did what they do best and shut down the studio involved.

ShootMania Storm was a thing that came up a while back that I never got around to playing. It was frequently announced to be made for competitive players and had a sort of simplistic laser tag aesthetic. Reviews for the game on Steam tend to all be “Cool game, but nobody’s playing and the developer isn’t fixing anything.”

Firefall ain’t dead yet, but they dropped player versus player like a rock. They wanted adversarial gameplay to be like a tournament where players brought their hard earned gear to the arena and would duke it out. They couldn’t mesh a satisfactory balance between individuality and consistency, so it tended to be boring, resulting in the entire gameplay segment being removed. Nobody wanted to shoot each other!

Successful Games

DOTA 2 and League of Legends are still going strong, despite being remakes of Warcraft III maps. They actually seem to be the most popular competitive games right now. From what I can see, they framed the original Warcraft design and expanded from there. New characters were added, persistent elements like ranking and collectibles came in, and stats were tweaked constantly for balance. It seems that the games have been evolving to suit their market (although DOTA 2 might have been the competitive League of Legends market).

Halo has always been a popular choice for e-sports. I remember how much of the Xbox Live community idolized the idea of MLG and would play competitive custom matches together. In the case of Halo, competition always centered around restrictions. Players would always start with the most dynamically effective weapon and weaker, alternative choices were often outright removed from the map. Halo games have the option to adjust the game rules to something consistent and competitive, but that’s only a small subset of a much more complex game with plenty of “random” content like vehicles flying around, which has kept the series alive for years.

Hearthstone wasn’t even remotely built for competition (possibly even downright casual in its design) and yet there is a competitive scene to it – enough that they’ve added a spectator mode to the game in order to properly broadcast it. The game simply evolved into competition.

Takeaway

My interpretation over the previous years in terms of what product lives or dies with competitive gaming is that you can’t just make a tournament game and expect it to sell.

The games that do try seem to fail because they lack interesting content. Your game needs a consistent community or nobody is going to give money to pros for playing them. Successful competitive games focus on being an entertaining game first and give e-sports the tools needed to make a tournament show out of it.

E-sports is definitely growing, so we’ll see if it becomes a viable primary target demographic in the future, but I still think the key is to just make a fun game.

If you’re looking to find me outside of this realm, I’m @ALIENwolve on Twitter.

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With a wonderful Christmas behind me, it’s time to focus once again on talking about wrestling, an endeavor I’m all too eager to take part in. Last article we left off with the National Wrestling Alliance being the most powerful source of wrestling in America and arguably in the world at the time, albeit with shady business practices. In this article we will discuss the fall of the NWA, the rise of the WWF and the Monday Night Wars.

Road To Wrestling: Part 2

The 1950’s couldn’t have been any better for the NWA, the dawn of television had provided a national platform that worked perfectly for the territorial system, as wrestling just seemed to be a great fit for the small screen, with the entertainment and drama it provided. The small amount of stations that would later develop into regional stations that provided local coverage was a great environment for the regional promotions scattered across the country under the NWA banner, although the promotions themselves never reached a national platform, the stars who would travel place to place would slowly gain recognition through their travels across the country and television just furthered their boost in popularity.

Stability however was not one of the rewards for such a boon to the wrestling business, with this grand new invention, the NWA tightened their grip on those under their umbrella even more due to paranoia and fear and in doing so caused a lot of mistrust between all the promoters. Only a notable few left however at this time, two in fact as the sixties dawned on the business, one being Verne Gagne who after an unsuccessful bid to become the NWA champion thought he’d stick it to the Alliance by branching off and creating his own promotion which he calls the American Wrestling Association.

Verne would create the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and make himself the champion and face of the company as well as the owner and promoter, it was Verne, his ability to train and hone talent, the relationships he had forged with many over the decades that made great business partnerships and a legendary rivalry that would make the AWA the top promotion throughout the entirety of the sixties. That rivalry? None other than Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel, Verne was an all american hero at the time, part of the 1948 Summer Olympics team, a stern traditionalist and an established amateur wrestler, it was this clean cut, athletic persona he portrayed that oozed legitimacy that helped people buy into him so easy as the top guy and thus made him the top good guy of the company. Nick Bockwinkel on the other hand portrayed a cocky, intelligent and well spoken bad guy and the two managed to gel together in a way that brought the company huge success.

The other promoter to break from the NWA would be Vince McMahon Senior in 1963, who owned the WWWF in new York, the reasoning being that Lou Thesz who was champion at the time was starting to lose popularity and wasn’t drawing money in the New York region. Vince however being a respectable business man allegedly promised the NWA he would not try to put any of the companies out of business due to the working agreements they had in the past and from what I can tell and from what I’ve heard in documentaries although these two separated, it seems the working agreements they had with the NWA were kept to certain degrees. Wrestlers still traveled across the promotions and talent would be traded back and forth. In fact Vince Senior would have to return to the NWA in the 70’s due to a big decline in popularity with the business. For the time being however, he found his golden goose in Bruno Sammartino who became the WWWF World Champion and the longest reigning one at that, a record that hasn’t been broken to this day by anybody within the company, Bruno would also headline Madison Square Gardens more times than anybody in the history of the arena, a total of 211 times, with 187 of them being total sellout crowds.

The Dawn of Cable

Why wrestling fell in popularity so much during the 70’s is something I have had trouble finding out, I’ve looked and other than the WWWF, I can’t find why the rest of the industry suffered so much in terms of popularity. Bruno Sammartino had been champion longer than anybody else in history, the man seemed unbeatable, he was an American hero to many and in the New York region, absolutely idolized…and then in 1971 what happens? Ivan Koloff happens…you want to know how popular Bruno was? The story of his match with Ivan tells you how popular he was.

It’s January, 1971 in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd…and Ivan Koloff was portraying an evil Russian character, during the cold war…needless to say he was hated and the New York crowd desperately wanted to see their hero stick it to the Russian Bear (that was actually his nickname).

So when Ivan Koloff beats Bruno, you can imagine people are upset…how upset? Bruno thought he had gone deaf because of how silent the crowd was after he lost, everybody was so stunned they couldn’t even find it in their hearts to boo the bad guy, you know the reaction everybody had to Undertaker losing at Wrestlemania? That’s the only comparison I can provide, people were amazed and astonished by this…they didn’t even actually present the belt to Koloff because they were scared the crowd would riot! Koloff was forced to leave the ring before people got hostile and Sammartino stayed inside to keep the attention away from him. When things started calming down and Sammartino left the ring? People started crying.

Whether it was this incident alone, I’m not sure, but popularity started falling in New York after this, so much so, that without Sammartino as champion, Vince Senior would rejoin the NWA. As for everywhere else in the country, I’d like to be able to give you some insight, but it just seemed the seventies was one of those periods where a dip in people watching took place without much rhyme or reasoning to it, because the Sammartino match was the only thing I could find and while I can understand him not being the guy in New York can cause a decrease in interest there, I don’t see how it could happen everywhere else as well.

Either way the NWA remained on top thanks to this and a dip in success for the AWA after the WWWF rejoined, although it managed to remain in the race for the top up until the eighties thanks to Hulk Hogan and the popularity he gained after Rocky III.

Then came cable and although things seemed like they could only get better for the NWA, everybody thinks it was Vince Junior who took advantage of cable and while he did indeed utilize it better than anybody else, it was actually the NWA who would benefit from cable television first as their most popular show, Georgia Championship Wrestling would be the very first wrestling show to be syndicated via Cable in 1979, broadcasted on TBS, it would go on to become the most viewed show on cable in 1981. However things would soon change as in 1983, Vince McMahon Junior (Who I’ll simply refer to as Vince from this point in the article, as his father will have little to do with the business from this point on) bought the company from his father with one idea in mind, making the small regional company a national, international or even global company. Vince would manage to get a deal with USA network that would make his promotion the only one to get complete national exposure, while others still relied on regional networks, it was this and his eye for talent which he would purchase from the other companies that helped further him ahead of the NWA who became his competition. His father actually hated the idea and was heavily against it at first, due to the promises the NWA had kept with each other being the normal thing for so long, it just seemed wrong in his mind to go against an established system and to try and take on the world. However Vince kept going and in order to keep his momentum going, he needed a big star to be the face of his company and that was none other than Hulk Hogan. Hogan never got to the heights, that I admit, he should have gotten in AWA. He was the top guy but Verne was too reluctant due to his traditional mindset and that he didn’t see Hulk as a ring technician, the type of athlete Verne liked centering his promotion around. Frustrated and wanting greener pastures, Hogan jumped to WWF, which even made Verne offer a bounty on Hulk, offering Iron Sheik money to break his legs in their title match that saw Hogan turn out triumphant.

Hogan was an instant hit, Hulkamania really did run wild in the eighties and it was thanks to his all American persona, his charisma and entertainment value that helped propel him to the top, Gorilla Monsoon was right when he told us Hulkamania was here after he beat Iron Sheik for the title and things would only get bigger from there.

Wrestlemania

We forget now that there is thirty of them just how much of a risk Vince took with Wrestlemania, you really want to know? He would have lost all his money, he’d have lost his promotion, heck he would have lost his house! Vince put everything on Wrestlemania because it was what he needed in order to achieve his goal. The NWA was far from out of sight at this point, although it was struggling, it was still fighting back and had established the idea of the “mega event” with Starrcade…Vince needed something that could not only compete with Starrcade, but outshine it and what was originally going to be called “Hulkamania” due to obvious reasons, was renamed Wrestlemania thanks to Howard Finkel and Wrestling’s Superbowl was going to be born.

This was something that was being brewed up for at least over a year but was probably in Vince’s mind for a long time, it all started out with what was known as The Rock N’ Wrestling Connection, for the first time Wrestling and mainstream celebrities would clash and gave the industry a mainstream boost that it had been chasing after for years. The most notable inclusion being Cyndi Lauper and Mr T, WWF managed to get itself on MTV due to the huge amount of exposure, with what was called The War To Settle The Score, the combined power of the celebrity appearance and the feud that was going on between Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper fueled the fire that lead in to Wrestlemania which saw the two facing off against each other in a tag team match. It’s still weird to this day seeing a Wrestlemania event that doesn’t have a main title match on the card, but that wasn’t what this show was about, this was establishing the supercard, this was getting as many eyes as possible watching your show, this was national exposure like never before and Vince got just that. Released through closed circuit networks, a predecessor to what would become Pay-Per-View, Wrestlemania would see an in house attendance of over 19,000 and viewers of over one million which at the time was the most a closed circuit released program had ever seen. Needless to say the show was a success or we would never have seen one again and it was thanks to the success of Wrestlmania that the writing truly was up on the wall…there was going to be a new top dog.

The Fall Of The NWA

NWA was falling apart at this point, after the success of Wrestlemania, all eyes were on the WWF, those that had broken away from the NWA to try and replicate Vince’s success saw their own problems arise and the regional companies that were peppered across the nation were either getting bankrupt or bought up by Vince or Jim Crockett. Jim Crockett was president of the NWA at the time and was buying up what was left of the NWA along with Vince in order to try and compete, his promotion was pretty much all that was left of the alliance at this point and nationwide television stations lead to the territory system becoming defunct due to everybody now knowing who all these wrestlers were.

The AWA along with other promotions would go and form their own separate alliance in a desperate attempt to try and take on the WWF that would only lead in a disaster known as the Superclash, while the first two had moderate success, it was Superclash III that lead to an end of this short lived alliance, as Verne who had become completely paranoid at this point would have his AWA title and the WCCW title (at this point now known as the WCWA title) unified, having his champion who was Jerry Lawler win in an epic match. The event didn’t do well and on top of that Jerry Lawler along with others didn’t get the money for doing the show, the alliance came to an end after the failure Superclash III had.

Meanwhile poor booking decisions, stubborn ways and personal tragedies plagued promotions all across the NWA and Jim Crockett bacame the life support that kept it all together, although that itself would end up leading in to big changes, the NWA was no longer the powerhouse and WWF was becoming the new machine.

Wrestlemania III

Let’s skip over Wrestlemania II for now, believe me when I say that’s a very good thing and can have a topic in it of itself…Wrestlemania II just wasn’t good folks, it reached too far too soon and they learned the hard way because of it. They went back to what worked for Wrestlemania III and the big story was Hogan Vs. Andre and that was all that was needed in order to make it the biggest thing the industry had seen in years. Along with what is still considered to be one of the greatest matches to ever grace the ring in Savage Vs. Steamboat, Wrestlemania III was where if any doubt did indeed linger over the fate of WWWF, it was all thrown away after the amazing numbers that it churned out. It was also Wrestlemania III and it’s success that started the creation of multiple events through the year that started the Pay-Per-View system we know today. The NWA had multiple events, the biggest being Starrcade, their other two being the Bunkhouse Stampede and Clash of The Champions which they would schedule to compete directly with Wrestlemania. In response, WWF created the Royal Rumble and directly place Survivor Series on PPV to compete with Starrcade, both sides were trying to step up their game, with WWF clearly taking the lead. It was new, it was flashy, it was Sports Entertainment and NWA was old, traditional and athletic and the mainstream audience wasn’t in to that any more.

World Championship Wrestling

Jim Crockett was bad with money, let’s just put it out there right now, instead of spending money on production values, it was spent on getting transport and accommodation for the wrestlers and I’m not talking basic transport and accommodation here folks, those private jets and flashy hotels were not the normal thing back then and the limousines driving them to get to these places definitely weren’t, this is 1980’s money…the guy was blowing it all away to create the image of super stardom, one could argue that image was needed for the business, but one a promotion like that couldn’t afford on a regular basis. WWF was ahead of the curve in terms of production value and Jim was too busy keeping the stars and creating the image, he relied on the pay-per-views he had taken from NWA and when WWF placed theirs in direct competition multiple times, those were shots to his wallet he just couldn’t take, he had to sell the promotion, now how WCW came to be during this is…a little confusing to those not in the know so here we go.

World Championship Wrestling had been around for a while, albeit in name only for a television program which was owned by a territory in Georgia which was under the NWA banner, GCW changed ownership a lot, I mean a lot…WWF even bought a majority of their shares at one point in their history and had control of their Saturday Night TV slot for a brief period of time before it went into the hands of Ole Anderson before it was bought out by Jim Crockett, who then got into financial trouble and had to sell everything to billionaire Ted Turner. Needless to say the NWA was lost at this point, with so much struggles that it had gone through it needed a strong leader to take the helms of the booking chair, so what happened?

A long series of unsuccessful bookers came and gone, some who were wrestlers who were stuck in the old traditional ways of the territorial system, or the southern ways of booking that the region had stuck with for decades and then there were the suits and executives who had no experience in the business and no idea what they were supposed to do when it came to putting together a wrestling show, the only upside the show was seeing was the fact that Ted Turner loved wrestling and wanted to keep it as part of a stable for his syndication.

Enter Eric Bischoff, a man who at the time was nothing more than a third string announcer that did backstage interviews with enough experience in both wrestling and business that Ted Turner saw enough faith in him to make him the head of the promotion. Ted was desperate to compete with McMahon, now while he himself may have wanted to put Vince out of business or not, the fact he was willing to put the amount of time, effort and money to show Vince there was more than one big dog out there and throughout the 90’s that’s exactly what he did.

The Monday Night Wars

For a lot of people, this was the greatest period of wrestling, period and for me that was the case growing up, I was born 93, I first saw wrestling in 98 which was when it was all at it’s peak and the weirdest thing about it all? I never saw a single episode of Nitro. Not one show, not one PPV, I was a WWE guy and I was hooked to it from the first moment I saw it, of course looking back on that period with adult eyes has left some opinions to be changed but it was still a wonderful time to be a wrestling fan.

Honestly what is there to be said about The Monday Night Wars that hasn’t been said? For those not in the know, Ted Turner wanted WCW to compete with WWF, in order to do that he put WCW on Monday Nights, at prime time through TNT and Monday Nitro was born and from that point where Lex Luger walked out during the match between Sting and Flair, the Monday Night Wars was started. WWF was in a struggling period at the time, stuck in their old cartoony ways of the eighties with no signs of change here came a company with a new edgy attitude that fit the decade and in order to stop the bleeding WWF needed to fight back and fight back they did with the much loved, much touted Attitude Era. It was WCW Vs. WWF, people were switching back and forth to see what was going on and wrestling had seen an influx of fans like never before. Looking back on it all, there were a lot of poor decisions made on both sides all in a bid to get ratings, a lot of it controversial, some of it amazing, a lot of it not which have become old forgotten relics of a time that everybody likes to make out to be the greatest thing ever.

I’m just going to say it folks, as good as the wars were for wrestling,a lot of bad stuff came from it and I’m not talking the booking decisions from WWC and the tired n.W.o angle, I’m talking terrible women’s division booking, I’m talking racist and sexist angles, I’m talking fake pregnancy, fake miscarriage angles, I’m talking Mae Young giving birth to a hand, I’m talking Road Warrior Hawk falling off a titantron and having kayfabe drug problems that emulated his real life drug problems. I’m talking all the luchadors in WCW being dubbed over in English without them knowing, I’m talking Oklahama, the most offensive “parody” of Jim Ross I’ve ever seen, there was a lot of bad stuff there guys ok? Can we just agree on that first? Yes, this was great, this was competition, this was what wrestling needed…but instead of trying to both exist in this back and forth endeavor it could have been, it became a battle to be number one and that meant one of these companies going out of business and there’s a lot that didn’t belong in wrestling or on television for that matter.

That negativity out of the way, I remember the Monday Night Wars being a time of discovery for me, it was my introduction to wrestling, it was watching this company come back from a struggling period, becoming the number one company and seeing all these characters help in making it happen, it was seeing stories I had never seen before in ways I’d never seen them and it was joy in being able to look back and see where all this came from, how it started out…and leaving me to only wonder, where exactly it could end up. For a lot of people? When Vince McMahon came out in 2001 and announced to the world he was the king, that was it, it was over, the golden days were gone, those that were there during the “wrestling is cool” phase walked away and those that were loyal stayed and a lot of those that did found themselves finding a bitter taste in their mouth from the aftermath of it all.

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