Friday, September 9, 2011

Vlog #21: Birthday 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beyond the Spiral: It's More Than Just the Tools

In reply to a (formerly open) thread on Central:

To address multiple points without calling anyone out or directly debunking someone on their quote (since the internet easily allows something to be taken out of context, such as branching tangents), I'd like to share some behind-the-scenes history of TPC. This may seem uninteresting in relation to the post, but I feel that the team's identity has been taken out of context on a "lacking" or "having" basis -- in this case, a "lack" of the factors of using group text chat, or "having" other means of communicating. Looking into the past helps bring some truths to light, along with shattering any presumptions and assumptions. I won't go into heavy detail here, as I have already done so in a video called "The Origin of Perfect Catch;" I'll extract only events and situations that ultimately will build up to the bigger picture and allow me to share my point appropriately. (I highly advise that minds become open for this discussion.)

The five* of us ("Missy", Ronan, Fallon, Cassandra, and I) are friends through random collision and introduction via friends. Missy, Ronan, and I were closely bonded as a "team" solely for farming, questing, and taking on challenges (especially Briskbreeze, without use of a guide or tips...we basically "winged" the entire tower as 3 newbies) wherever they arose. My former YouTube channel, named KevinBattleblood (which is deleted since I closed a Gmail account that was linked) was where "KBB Experiments" was born. We were a team that sought the thrill of "thinking outside the box," and could concoct or hypothesize unexplored situations such as "sacrificing" a minion without killing it, or killing Jade Oni with Life *damage* via a wand. We had never met in person before, yet we were close enough to invest our limited free time into experimenting rather than questing and individually improving our wizards. When we farmed, we farmed until we all received what we wanted. It was a familial group where its members treated one another as human beings, opposed to avatars. "Using people" was nowhere in our dictionary.

Fallon and Cassandra had much less experience in PVP than the three of us -- Fallon had aided some friends of her past as a support role, and Cassandra, as some of you may know, hated or despised PVP, due to its environment. Missy, Ronan, and I had a lot of PVP experience via 1v1, both by taking part in a duel ourselves or by watching one another's duels. In fact, Ronan and I met through a 1v1 match, and while he was my senior in the knowledge of the game's history and mechanics (eventually becoming my Wizard101 mentor), we were equally matched in our fight. He was impressed, but we never expanded our friendship within PVP until much later. So, considering how much the five of us were involved with PVP, it's a surprise that TPC formed at all. Ronan and I never even dreamed of ever having a team like we do today... (It used to be all about 1v1 so we could avoid chain-stunning!)

Our attitude of treating other players as people (rather than as pixelated characters) opened the gates for Fallon to join our trio, and she later noticed our familial nature in our farming or questing runs. Sometimes (surprisingly) we found her sitting and watching our 3v3 Warlord matches, mildly interested in our playstyle. Going back to the fact that Missy, Ronan, and I deeply enjoyed experimenting around the game, our decks consisted of deck setups that were unconventional (no Treasure cards, a mass of utility spells, and low-rank cards like Frost Beetle and Fire Elf). We played to outlast, manipulate, and overcome written strategies; we weren't focused on mainly killing off opponents.

That is one key advantage to why we're so closely bonded and successful: we're playing for fun, not playing to win. Eventually, I encouraged and insisted that Fallon join us "for some fun" and not take PVP too seriously; instead, to treat it as Wizard101's new Briskbreeze where human intelligence provided for newer and variable challenges. The same extension was given to Cassandra Dragonheart, who was slowly finding an interest in the 1v1 scene as a Life player. 

If we lost, no one was to blame -- it is emphasized that the experience is an on-going learning experience. Fallon was the odd one out (not having extensive 1v1 experience like the three of us), but was just as welcome as any other Warlord. In fact, (fast forward a little to the present), we hold PVP parties that welcome players of any levels of any ranks to participate in a family-friendly environment (no trolling, no exploiting, etc.) so that more of the community can develop a positive interest in PVP. Again, please check out the "Origin of Perfect Catch" on YouTube, where I describe how this open attitude led to players, such as Paige Moonshade, who heavily detested ranked and practice PVP, rediscovering a positive element to the Arena. 

Mistakes happened due to the imbalance of experience among us five, but we upheld the attitude of "winning together" and "losing together." No person deserves all of the blame, and this is where Solid Snake's point in his OP surfaces. Communication may be a means of collecting data or responses and analyzing them as a team, but it extends as far as trustrespecthonor, and determination goes, and I believe that's what he's trying to point out. Yes, you can have enhanced communication time via a voice program, but it does not promise or "enhance" the chances of success, or provide a significant advantage. The PVP parties we held during the winter of 2010 included a number of deaf players who ran in our "Random Join" battles in the MFP, yet we still maintained impressive, educational, and interesting tactics with these (then) strangers on our teams. Also, pulling from my past experience in playing in professional gaming leagues (where cash prizes were rewarded), I can vouch that placing the "best" or "all-stars" together on one team and giving them the fastest means of communication in no way gave them any advantage over an opposing team that was composed of amateurs who were cohesive

Solid Snake is correct when he explained that TPC is about adaptability. I also believe our team's strength lies within WHY we are successful, rather than HOW. The four elements that I mentioned may seem independent, but they're all links that make up the chain to why we adapt against other teams so well: Trust between us allows for less hesitation and doubt when we're choosing our cards, so our plays run very smoothly; Respect gives us the confidence that no matter what happens, be it that hesitation or doubt (or an unlucky Fallonitis -- the unfortunate event where Fallon frequently fizzles) exists, we're always a team, and will never look down on one another; Honor is the implied and passive sense of mind that we represent one another as a whole, rather than four diverging parts; and Determination is what gives us endurance and to never give up on one another, no matter what personal or game-related issues may arise, both IRL and ITS. Thus, we easily build our decks in a style that "weaves" with one another, rather than having it set up in a specific fashion; our card selections evolve and morph every battle. When we run into a team that uses some specific strategy that's either known or unknown to the community, we aren't stopped dead in our tracks -- instead, that trust, respect, honor, and determination is what allows us to swerve together, and not get caught in the epicenter of the opponents' goal. 

Many of our critics believe that it is the cards that we play that provide our success, overlooking the fact that we have a certain chemistry that is indeed quite rare. Via YouTube comments, emails/PMs, and in-game testimonials, I've learned that the "four elements" don't exist for every team, which is why there is a high frequency of drama and "break-ups" of groups. Some players said they've quit PVP because they were tired of being the scapegoat for a match's outcome...and thus, many of these players have voiced their rediscovered interest in PVP because of our videos, that certainly every strategy has a weakness, and that you don't need to play dirty to overcome those strategies or require specific school-builds; they realized they needed teamwork more than anything.

There is much more I could expand on to further solidify exactly what TPC is and how we work (such as coming to positive terms with some former "enemies", our PVP workshops, etc.), but I believe everything I've written so far is enough to channel the idea that headsets are only 5% of the method. 

My advice for all PVP-interested players: Play with whom you're very comfortable with, not with whom you perceive to be the "best" or "better", because the seed within a strong and committed bond can grow into something miraculous for you. (The initial Warlords of TPC never had a thought about "replacing" Fallon, even when we struggled to adapt to 4v4 in the past). Once you develop a durable connection with your teammates (in the sense that NONE of them are ever expendable, EVEN in hard or difficult times), you will be able to excel with no limits.

(I thank and appreciate everyone who's supported AND opposed us; the many perspectives out there all helped us further fuse and bond as a team, and I could not ask for anything more. Many special thanks to Solid Snake for this surprising and thoughtful post, and many kudos to those who have spoken in our defense in this thread.)