In my eternal quest to create a series with a schedule and word count I can stick to, here is Three Tip Burst. Every Wednesday I’ll put one of these out. The format is simple. Three basic tips and their application in-game.
Today’s tips are basic multiplayer fundamentals: callouts, effective setups, map knowledge.
Before we begin, understand that learning each concept can only come with time in-game and among the community. No high level player gained their skill in isolation, so immerse yourself in your chosen game, whatever it is.
What do you call that place with the trashcans? “Dump.”
On the face of it, callouts might seem like an extension of map knowledge. In a way, they are. Their most important use is in learning the maps, and they are one of the most essential methods of digesting the ever-growing map count in most multiplayer games.
The easiest way to learn callouts is, of course, to simply play the maps and listen to the chatter on the chat. Or read the chatter on the chat, depending on the game. However, the best way is to create them yourself. When you first buy a game with a multiplayer component, enter a private server or match and run all around the maps. Look at everything you can, from the top level to those barrels in the back. While I don’t recommend writing down every little detail, come up with one or two word descriptors for areas you think will be important during gameplay. Things like “back trailer” or “fountain.”
You don’t even have to remember all of them, and don’t expect that you will. Those names you do recall will probably correspond to the highest traffic and most objectively valuable areas. Use them among your friends and among random teammates. Regardless of who you’re talking to, if you’ve chosen your words well, your teammates will know exactly where to find that sonuvabitch that just fragged your sorry ass.
That stupid thing’s OP! “Deal with it.”
No one knows the strongest weapons or abilities when a game comes out. Granted, it only takes about a month before you see everyone and their squeaky little brother using the cheapest, most infuriating setups known to man. These setups “take no skill” to use, are “broken and exploitive,” are “cheap, and only the n00bs use them.” Most times, these setups are in fact so easy to use that they border on cheap. Sometimes a weapon so outclasses its rivals that to not use it is to handicap yourself.
Then, when a combination of unforeseen player usage and lazy initial design leads to over-powered guns, it’s up to the developer to fix what is most assuredly broken.
What you as a player need to realize is twofold. First, you will see this weapon, ability, or class setup more than any other while in-game. Choosing whether or not to use it is up to you, but by the time the powerful stuff comes to light, you should already be well versed in its use.
To do this, spend a little time with each weapon as you unlock it. By little, I mean a couple complete play sessions, or around five hours. You won’t know the weapon’s ins and outs, nor will you gain access to all its auxiliary attributes. You will come to understand just how effective it is in the most common engagements, and as you move down the line of weapons/abilities, you’ll have a growing sample size to help compare.
Don’t expect to finish this experiment before the vast majority of players find the annoying stuff. If you’ve spent a fair chunk of time with a number of different setups, however, you probably have a few tricks up your sleeve to deal with what will be considered “OP.”
And if all else fails, use it yourself. ‘Cause sometimes trolling’s fun.
You seen that new map yet? “Yep, know it well.”
I mentioned that callouts can be something of an extension of map knowledge, but this concept goes much deeper than simply knowing what to call someplace. Knowing map means you understand it on a fundamental level. In any engagement you find yourself in, you understand where the nearest escape routes are, where to hide, where to jump, where to cheat the system and get places you really aren’t supposed to. Stabby’s many romps through Badwater are the best examples of in-depth map knowledge I can call to mind. If you play CoD4 on the PC, undoubtedly you know how to get on roofs otherwise inaccessible, where you make no sound, and where to jump to take no damage. If you don’t, look on YouTube. There are tons of videos to see, most of them at least somewhat useful.
As for how to gain this kind of knowledge, the same basic plan for learning callouts applies, with a twist or two. You still need a private server or match, but your goal here isn’t to give names. Rather, seek to know what sneaky places the designers thought fit to allow you to go, and especially what places they didn’t. If you have the software and the ability, consider going into a map editor and looking at the various clipping paths, rendering errors, spawn points, and out-of-bounds zones.
A working knowledge of how maps are made is helpful even if you can’t look at the more back-endy stuff. If the game is part of a series, compare new maps to old ones and think about why a designer changed certain areas where in previous titles s/he hadn’t before.
Of course knowing the ends and outs of a map doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it will play when you add the human element, so going into a ranked lobby is always advised. No matter what you do to learn the game, have fun. That’s what this hobby’s all about.