Salamander Victorious

Woo! I can’t believe how psyched I was to actually win a Headquarters game! Apparently all I had to do was switch to my old “Salamander” nick… that was only the second map I played after changing my name.

COD4 1.4 Patch

The last Call of Duty 4 patch (1.4) claimed to have made “improvements” to the server browser. I’m not sure what they consider an improvement, but clearly better pings and connections isn’t a top priority. Quite frequently when I refresh the list, I see pings on the first page of servers ranging from like a low of 500 up to around 5,000. I’m not the only one seeing this, either. Just so Infinity Ward knows — this is not an improvement from the previous version. It does not make me long for the nostalgia of dial-up modem play. (If you actually join a server listed with a ping of 500, your in-game ping is actually playable, but it’s still in like the 150 range.)

I guess in a way it’s helping me learn French and Russian because those are about the only servers I can find that are playable anymore.

Vista Administrator Tip

Here’s a quick Vista tip: Make sure the built-in Administrator account is enabled with a password before you go and remove your normal login from the Administrators group.

I encountered this when I started seeing dialogs asking me to enter an Administrator password, but there was no text box to type in a password and the Okay button was disabled. That makes it difficult to type in a password and perform administrator functions, let me tell you.

This came about because I decided to run as a User instead of an Administrator, as Jeff Atwood so frequently advises at Coding Horror. Running as a User basically eliminates the need to run anti-virus software and spyware detectors, which bog down the computer’s performance. So I cheerfully went to my user settings and removed myself from the Administrator group.

Then I started getting the dysfunctional password dialogs. Weird. But no problem, I’ll just add myself back to the Administrators group.

Uh, except Users can’t do that. Oops.

Anyway, to fix it, you have to boot in Safe Mode (press F8 before the shiny round Windows logo appears). Then you’ll be able to login as the Administrator with no password (even though it’s technically disabled — go figure) and then you can either add yourself back to the Administrators group or enable the Administrator account with a password so you can run as a User.

UPDATE: On a Vista Home Premium installation, I had trouble enabling the Administrator account. I finally found that typing “net user administrator /active” into the Run… dialog (from an account with admin permission) will activate the Administrator account (source).

Player Categories

I’ve noticed that, since the dawn of online play, there are basically four categories of players in online shooters. They continue to persist even in recently dropped games like Quake Wars and Call of Duty 4.

  • Offense. The people that charge into withering fire and kill everyone in sight. Good duelers, excellent in free-for-all or team deathmatch, usually tops the scoreboards. To use a football analogy, these would be like the wide receivers or star running backs.
  • Defense. The people that primarily defend objectives in team games from the opposing team’s offense. Also good duelers, but differs from Offense because they usually wait for attackers to come to them. In football, these would be defensive backs or safeties.
  • Support. These include all the other team players that don’t particularly specialize in face-to-face combat. Medics, engineers, those sorts of things. They basically provide support or covering fire for the offense or defense during an operation. Not a very glorious job but crucial to team success. These would be possession receivers or linemen or blockers.
  • Snipers. People that hide far from danger and look for cheap kills from a distance. It could be argued that snipers fall under the category of support personnel, but I like to single them out for ridicule. In football, these would be, like, I dunno, punters or something. 🙂 Occasionally useful, but largely irrelevent and/or aggravating.

The very best players, of course, can shift roles as necessary, depending on the circumstances of the game. For all the forgettable clans out there recruiting from pub servers, those are the kinds of players you want to look for – not just the people at the top of the scoreboard.

I have not included “clueless noobs” as a category because they are usually confined only to pub servers, and don’t show up so much in competitive games. These are the people that block and shoot their teammates, spam grenades when friendly fire is on, etc. It’s one thing not to be familiar with the map or the weapons, but certain aspects of team play are universal.

In olden days I was probably in the Defense category (sometimes Offense depending on the map), but now I think I’ve fallen down to the lowly Support category. Partly because I don’t have a beefy enough computer, partly because my reflexes aren’t as good, partly because I don’t practice enough, and partly because I just don’t give a damn. 🙂

COD4 at Rank 52

I’ve reached rank 52 in Call of Duty 4 (four stars!). Somehow I’ve managed to do this without getting anywhere near the top of the scoreboard in any game. (I came in second once, which I was so proud of that I took a screenshot.) The point is that anyone can climb the ranks if you just put in the time, just like an MMO. (In fact, if you play Headquarters, while defending your HQ you get +5 XP every few seconds even if you just stand in a corner. So keep that in mind next time you see some rank 55 dork bragging about how good he is because he has five stars.)

(This just in: I just saw a way you can get to rank 55 “in under an hour” by haxing your COD4 executable… talk about impatience.)

Anyway, after 52 ranks I have a much better understanding of the maps, which as you might imagine is a tremendous help in playing the game. I can now do a better job of predicting where people will be, and I can correlate the red dots on the UAV with physical locations much better. (That’s not a terribly useful skill, though, since I believe most competitive tournaments disable the UAV.) I found that it was much easier to learn map layouts when playing team games (as opposed to free-for-all).

A lot of times I can get kills by throwing some random shots at choke points or through walls (the Deep Impact perk helps). I’m sure it looks like I’m using an aim bot on the Kill Cam, but I promise it’s just an educated guess based on past experience. To be extra safe, if I kill someone through a wall, I wave my gun around a little and fire some more shots after the guy’s dead just to make sure it doesn’t look like I’m using an aim bot. An experienced player should be able to tell the difference.

Speaking of kills, I still get killed pretty easily. I have no idea how all these people in 25 person pub server games get like 75:25 kill:death ratios (assuming they’re not all cheating). Mine are usually something like 15:20. If I try really hard to stay alive, it’s more like 5:10. I can get more kills if I run into the middle of everything, but then my deaths skyrocket. (Probably because my computer can’t keep up with all the action.) I can only assume that calling in airstrikes and helicopters is a tremendous boost to your kills, and probably helps exponentially. Admittedly I’ve never been very aggressive about getting kills, but still, I’ve always been able to place pretty well in pub games at least. I don’t get it. I know my aim isn’t as good as it used to be, but it can’t be that bad.

I unlocked the final assault rifle (MP44) last night, thinking it would be the most awesome gun in the game, because, you know, it’s the last one you get. Um, no – it’s crap. It recoils like a bastard, and there’s no grenade launcher. What a disappointment. I suffered through all these pub server games and the last unlockable gun is crap. Nice job, folks. Oh well. Honestly there is a rather compelling argument to be made that the M16 – the first rifle available when you start at rank 1 — is the best assault rifle in the game. Great damage, great accuracy, low recoil. Add a grenade launcher and it’s hard to beat it. I also like the M4, which is fully automatic. Statistically the AK-47 should be good but I find the sound and recoil annoying.

In the other categories, the best submachinegun is the P90, hands down. Don’t even bother with anything else. Add the Double Tap perk for faster rate of fire and it’s pretty much an insta-kill as good as the shotgun. (People will whine and call you “unskilled” though if you use it since it’s pretty powerful. Also I don’t think they allow it in tournaments.)

I like the RPD light machinegun but I don’t use it much anymore. The M60E4 is actually more powerful but I don’t like it because the sight blocks most of the screen and I can’t see the target when I zoom in. In some ways I think the light machineguns are the most powerful weapons because you can keep firing forever without reloading… if I were on defense that’s probably what I’d pick.

The best shotgun is the M1014, no question. It’s a one-shot insta-kill if you hit anywhere on your target. Only holds four shells at a time though, which is a bummer, and it’s pretty short range. Also I have trouble using it if there’s any lag.

I don’t use sniper rifles too much because I can’t hit anything and I just don’t like sniping. Right now I’m using one of the big ones (.50 cal I think) but I only pull it out on those certain maps that are basically lame sniper campfests. (You know the ones I mean — Bloc, Crossfire, and sometimes Wet Work.) Despite that, I have yet to complete any challenges for the sniper rifles heh.

All the handguns are crap, but the big shiny Desert Eagle is the least crappy. If you don’t mind using up a Perk, use Overkill and pick a shotgun or something as your secondary weapon.

I said before that Domination was a refreshing twist on Capture-the-Flag. But here’s one thing I don’t like about it: Why is it always three flags with one right in the middle of the map?? As you might imagine, everyone just runs to the middle and spams grenades at each other. Usually the team that reaches and captures the middle flag first wins the game… the rest is just waiting out the clock.

I propose that Domination should have been four flags in the four corners of the map.

Crash of the Choirs

About this Clash of the Choirs thing: First of all, it should have been called, Clash of the Pop Music Backup Singers. Calling them “choirs” is an insult to choirs everywhere. They weren’t doing anything remotely resembling the harmonic complexity of real chorale music.

That being said, I rank them as follows: 1. LaBelle, 2. Country Dude I Don’t Know, 3. Boy Band Dude I Don’t Know, 4. R&B Pop Chick I Don’t Know, 5. Bolton (which pains me to say because they had the best song choice).

The question is: Will people vote based on the skill of the choir or the popularity of the celebrity director?

So That’s What Christmas Is

I see that there is much outrage amongst Republican bloggers over 9 Democrats voting no on H. Res. 847, a bill recognizing Christmas as an important holiday to Christians.

(Yes, apparently we need Republican Congressman Steve King from Iowa to tell us that Christmas is important to Christians.)

But anyway, the real outrage is because of two other bills recognizing Ramadan (H. Res. 635) and Diwali (H. Res. 747). Both of those bills passed the House unanimously. (Except for the people who chose not to vote, who I noted with no small amount of suspicion were mostly Republican in the case of Ramadan.) (By the way, I can’t seem to get direct links to the text of these bills to work with that silly THOMAS bill tracking system.)

Virginia’s own Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3rd) explained his rationale for voting against the Christmas bill on his web site, but I think he missed the basic problem with the bill. It’s the only one of the three that specifically links the founding of America with a religion — namely Christianity. That alone would be enough for me to vote against it, since I’m of the opinion that America should be religion-neutral. (Actually I would strike all three of these bills from the records since they are all silly and meaningless.)

Out of curiosity (or maybe it was growing dread) I went looking for any other bills like this.

I found that H. Res. 579 from the 109th Congress, expressing a sense to protect Christmas for Christians, passed 401-22. It was sponsored by our very own late Rep. Jo-Ann Davis (R-VA-1st). (Rep. Bobby Scott also voted against this bill, so at least he’s consistent.)

Also noteworthy was H. Res. 630 from the 109th Congress, expressing a sense to protect all holidays for all religions. It was killed in commitee.

I found no other references to any bills recognizing Christmas in the 101st through 108th Congress. Congress is apparently only recently sticking its nose into religious holidays.

Why is Congress wasting time on this inane talk radio fodder instead of working on important things like the alternative minimum tax?