Overwatch? More like Watch Over, AmIRight?

Recently, during the brief moments I’ve had time to spare, I’ve been hanging out in a new Discord server. By which I mean it’s an old Discord server that I’ve been a part of for several months, but it is new that I’m hanging out in it. The people there are pretty nice and they all think I’m cool (or at least they’re always happy to hear from me when I show up), but they’re all trying (gently, in a friendly and only mildly pressuring way) to get me to play Overwatch with them. They’ve been unsuccessful so far because they make just as many points about why I should stay away as they do about why I should redownload the game, but what managed to break the mighty temptation I felt watching them last night was the fact that Overwatch 2 requires you to add your phone number to your account if you want to play the game.

Continue reading

The Overwatch League Finals Approach!

Tomorrow evening, at 6pm local time, the team I’ve supported since their very first game, the Philadelphia Fusion, are going to be facing off against the London Spitfire in the first of three possible matches for the title of Season 1 champions of the Overwatch League. After an unexpected strong first round and a shocking sweep of the top-rated team in the league in the second round, the Fusion are facing against the next-lowest ranked team in the championship. That’s right. The two lowest seeded teams, Fusion and Spitfire, are facing off in the championship. I’d say it was a surprising turn of events, but such upset are honestly kind of common place in season 1 of the Overwatch League.

Time and time again, the general perception of the best teams, the favorites to win each stage of the season, has been thrown aside as some underdog or another rises up to shake up the top ranks. The only exception to that has been New York, who has sat at the top of the league for the entire season and has made it into the stage finals every time. It got to the point where I stopped watching because there was no longer any consistency. Every match was a giant ball of suspense because almost every team had a surprising victory or record-altering streak of victories. In fact, the only thing about the league that has been consistent is that New York wins a dumbly high number of matches and that the Shanghai Dragons never won a single match. For instance, the initial favorite to carry the league was the Seoul Dynasty. That expectation ended rather abruptly in the first stage and they never even made it into the playoffs. Even my favorite team, the Fusion, couldn’t manage to do more than jog up and down the standings as they won against fearsome foes like New York (they were the first team to actually beat New York) and then lose to some of the lowest ranked teams in the league who have only a handful more victories than the Shanghai Dragons.

It has been an intense and harrowing journey, let me tell you! Sure, the reason we watch sports is because it gets us fired up about something we care about. Suspense is good! We love it when we see our team land a win that could have easily been a loss. But most sports don’t occur with as much frequency as e-sports do and even then we have certain general expectations about our teams performance that help us set our expectations for what we’ll see. No one expects the Browns to go to the Super Bowl and so their fans don’t really feel as beaten down when they eventually lose. In the Overwatch League, a high-performing team can wind up sitting at the bottom of the roster from one stage to another. They can absolutely kick butt against one team and then get absolutely destroyed by another team despite there not being much of a shift strategy. There’s not even a consistency in their wins and losses. Players change all the time as certain people are bench so a new approach can be tried, but that’s still a poor indicator of success or failure. An individual player’s stats don’t even mean that much because they could carry their team to victory on one map and then wind up holding them back on the next one. There are too many factors at play to spot patterns.

I really hope the league gets a little more consistent in the future. And I’m not talking about places in the rankings so much as overall performance. If a team starts rising, they should get to a point where they’re more or less bumping up against similarly skilled teams on the rankings. The best teams should rise to the top and the teams who can’t get it together should sink.

That being said, e-sports are relatively new and it would be kind of foolish to expect the same analytics, predictors, and measures of strength to apply to Overwatch that people would used to measure baseball. I prefer consistency and dependability, but that’s not really the point of video games. Since they’re still so new and rely on every-changing physics, rules, and worlds, any team that can figure out an edge first can get an upper hand against their opponents. Any team can go from the bottom of the rankings to the top because there’s just so much that changes from time to time. Imagine how crazy baseball would get if one team figured out how to double the speed of their runners or how to identify when the pitcher was throwing a slider every single time without fail. That team would probably rise up before people figure out what they were doing an either adopted their skills or found a way to negate them.

I expect that, given time, the Overwatch League will eventually sort itself out. As more teams are added and the e-sport grows, I’m sure it’ll fall into a comfortable groove with reasonable expectations that still allow for surprise upsets and some teams occasionally shifting ranks around. That, or I hope they wind up spacing the matches out so I’m not committing six hours a night, four nights a week to trying to watch them. I wouldn’t have minded as much if they’d done a total of six or even eight matches a week instead of the current twelve. There’s just so much constant suspense and surprise that I can’t really stand it. Even when I watched more closely, I usually just had it on the background as I worked on something else. It’s so exhausting to get caught up in the energy of a match only to have it suddenly reversed when a team that should be winning suddenly loses with no clear reason as to why. As someone who has watched a lot of Overwatch, played a lot of Overwatch, and is really good at finding patterns, I can say that sometimes teams just lose and it isn’t necessarily because they’re performing poorly or their opponents are performing well. That’s usually the reason, but not always. Sometimes, they just do one dumb thing and they lose momentum. Or their tank dives in only to die instantly (literally a thing that used to happen to the Fusion more frequently than I could stand).

I like the way the championship competitions have been organized. Fewer matches a day and often with skips in between the days. I’ve been able to enjoy it a lot more when I don’t have another entire 3 match set, at two hours per match, to watch the next day. I’ve been able to focus more on the strategies the teams have used, what tricks have worked for them and what daring ploys did not. You can really learn a lot if you watch the pros play and know enough to really grasp what they’re doing. I know I do.

Regardless, I’m super excited to watch my team take a shot at the title and million-dollar prize that comes with it. I’d love to see them win after all the hard work they’ve put in to get this far into the championship. If they do, I might finally spend some tokens and get a second Philadelphia Fusion skin in Overwatch. They look kinda gross because they’re a deep, glossy orange, but I gotta show my love for the team that’s come way further than I ever expected them to.

Overwatch Strategy: A Primer

While the individual maps and various play modes make it difficult to have a general discussion about strategy in Overwatch, there is a common element to most of the normal and competitive game types. Throughout the match, each team is going to attempt to kill everyone on the opposite team. While each team has their own objectives (defend this location, conquer that location, guide a payload, stall a payload, hold on to this location for a certain amount of time), the opposing team stands in the way of achieving those objectives. The best way to get your opponents out of your way in this game, at least in the most basic terms, is to kill them or hurt them so much that they run away.

Beyond the basic terms, strategy splits into two useful levels: professional and amateur. If you really want to nitpick, there are a few more, such as “amateurs who imitate the pros,” “people who have no idea what they’re doing,” and “people who get super salty and play like there’s a berserker mode that makes them harder to kill.” I’m going to stick to pro and amateur for now because there really isn’t a lot of actual strategy that goes into playing those three levels.

Amateur strategy is probably the simplest to discuss because it relies on the same basic principles that professional strategy does, but leans on them almost entirely instead of using them as a trunk from which they can then branch out. In an amateur team fight, your tanks are going to be at the front of the line, the DPS will either be with them or trying to out-maneuver your opponents, your supports should be near the tanks to help keep them alive, and your defense characters should be either pushing the enemy tanks around or preventing your tanks from being pushed around. While it is entirely possibly to play out a team fight without much strategy, relying on the skill of the players as they clash in a giant muddle, it will quickly turn into a horrible grind where either everyone dies or one team just gets completely wiped out.

Because of the variety off characters that people use in the amateur scene, there isn’t really a strict guideline of how to play each level. There are particular strategies that work more often than not, but the deciding factor is often the skill of the individual players. As a result, a good strategy for an amateur match tends to be focused around playing to the strengths of your particular character. DPS should focus on their specialized type of damage (ranged accuracy, flanking, or pure numbers). Tanks should focus on taking or preventing damage using shields, picking out solo targets in mid-range, or living for a really long time despite taking tons of damage. Supports should heal, peal enemies off of tanks, and control the area around where their own team is located. Defense characters often wind up playing to the one of the strengths I’ve already listed, since most of their job consists of either teaming up with the tanks or taking down enemy tanks.

If everyone plays to their strengths and works as a team, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t win unless the other team is just better than they are. If they can communicate well, it is possible for them to play into some of the basic strategies successfully. Without the consistent skill of the pro or high-tier scenes, they aren’t as reliable as just playing well. Dive-composition is relatively easy to do, since it is just a very mobile way of playing and consists of playing characters to their strengths. The “standard” composition of two tanks, two DPS, and two healers is hard to go wrong with. The old “triple-tank” composition doesn’t work as well as it used to, but it has its niches. It requires consistent skill and good communication to pull off, though, so it rarely gets used in the amateur scene.

In the professional scene, at least right now, the overwhelming majority of matches use the dive composition with some slight variation in the second DPS and second healer depending on how the team plans to play after the moment of first contact. Usually a DPS and a tank from Team A will dive in, trying to take out the supports of Team B, and the tanks of Team B will fall back to counter the dive. At that point, if the diving components of Team A are still alive, which they usually are, the other DPS, tank, and one of the supports from Team A will start attacking the back of the tanks of Team B. If Team A’s dive works, then at least one of the supports for team B is dead, the tanks of Team B have taken heavy damage, and Team A is an advantageous position for achieving their objective.

There is some variety that happens in matches, given that a daring shift to a different strategy can upset the balance of a match and start the ball rolling for the team that changed things up. Since the level of skill is relatively level, the deciding factor is often what maneuvers each team tries and when they try them. Good timing and shot-calling is often what decides a match. Individual players can still tip the balance, but generally not in as decisive a manner as they can for amateur matches.

All that being said, there is one style of play that can completely shift everything. Though the basic strategy is the same, putting one of the DPS players on the Widowmaker character can shift the entire game. While having a single-shot, high-damage character means a big grind fight can turn against you, being able to quickly take characters from the opposing team out of the battle means that your team can commit more strongly without as much fear of being countered. Taking out an enemy support instantly means your team can focus on the one other support when you dive and quickly wrap up a fight that would have otherwise been drawn out and slow. Taking out their DPS means you have some room to breathe and take a few risks that would otherwise be way too dangerous to consider.

One of the biggest differences between amateur and pro matches is the way partial teams commit to fights. In a pro match, if they have time and are missing a character due to a snipe kill from a Widowmaker or because someone got trapped and killed quickly, they will simply wait until the full team is there before trying again. If a defending team is getting routed, they will often retreat, give the attacking team their objective, and gather to try to take out the attacking team in a quick counter attack. In amateur matches, generally players stick around until they are killed. This can work out, sometimes, because not all players are skilled enough to quickly kill their opponents in an uneven team fight, but it generally does not because the skill disparity required for this to work out is very high.

Pro players are much more cautious. They tend to back out more readily, take fewer unnecessary risks, and wait for their team before acting unless they’re specifically playing a character who is supposed to act alone. In amateur play, you often see tanks trying to go it alone when they very much should not be. A tank without any DPS or support will die super quickly unless they somehow manage to catch the entire enemy team unaware. Which can, of course, happen. Amateur matches are super inconsistent and anything cam happen in them. A lot of players, myself included, take stupid risks because we know that no one will expect it and the surprise itself is something that can be exploited. One of my best plays as a tank was when I snuck around the side, flanked the enemy team with a charging attack, and got the entire team focused on killing me (which they did), so the rest of my team could close the gap and murder them. I got one kill to make sure it was an even fight and my team would up winning because they knew what I was doing and I managed to shake up the enemy team. I wouldn’t recommend trying it yourself because it was more luck than good shot-calling that made it work out.

One of the most exciting parts of playing and watching Overwatch is that changing the composition of your team and using the element of surprise can tip a match decidedly in your favor. While there is a basic strategy used in almost all competitive matches, one change to the balance of a key hero or the introduction of a new hero can cause the old strategy to no longer work. I am excited to see how professional play evolves once they start incorporating the newest hero, a support character whose skills seem designed to counter the standard dive composition that all professional teams use.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 12

READ FROM THE BEGINNING


I woke up early on the day the blizzard was supposed to hit. I lay in my sleeping bag, staring up into the darkness of our room and tried to settled myself down to sleep again. Unfortunately, my mind was awake and already going over the list of things I wanted to do before we got trapped in our shelter. When I hit the backlight button on my watch, the greenish glare nearly blinded me, but I was able to see that was only a quarter past four. Sunrise was still a couple of hours off and I’d only been asleep for about six hours. I sighed and, after one last attempt to sleep, climbed out of my sleeping bag.

I went through my morning routines quickly, foregoing breakfast in favor of checking the guard posts and grabbing a little fresh air. The town was almost as dark as the interior of the building had been. There were no emergency lights with power left at this point and the cloud cover was too heavy for anything but the faintest bit of light to filter through. The air was blowing from the west and I could taste the sharp bitter chill it carried when I inhaled. As I stretched my legs and idly looked around, I could feel the expectant tension in the air as if the town itself new the blizzard was coming.

When I went back inside, I started preparing breakfast. It was still early, but putting a cover on a pot of oatmeal on a low heat will keep it warm and from drying out for hours. When I was scraping up the last of the oatmeal in my bowl, the first people started to wake up. I watched them go through their routines and made small talk as they came to get food, but everyone felt the same tension that I did.

Aside from the various skills training required to qualify as a Wayfinder trainee, there wasn’t much formal training once you’d joined up. Every Wayfinder needed excellent marksmanship, the ability to survive and hide for extended periods of time with no additional resources, and to be in peak physical condition, but all of that was something people did before becoming a Wayfinder. The only bit of training every Wayfinder received once they had been accepted was to be shown a video from the beginning of The Blizzard.

Most people knew what happened to people caught out in a blizzard thanks to the evidence left behind, but few people had ever actually seen it and lived to tell about it. Few recording devices can survive a blizzard and most of those caught nothing but a blinding sheet of white. As far as I knew, and I had checked with every enclave connected to the net, this one video was the only recording to show anything.

One viewing was all it took for every Wayfinder to take it seriously. It was one thing to know that anyone caught out in a blizzard was killed. It was another thing to see it happening the very first time, to people who didn’t know what was coming. To see the carnage before it was covered by several feet of snow. To watch people dying and be unable to see what did it because the snow is too heavy to see more than ten feet away from the camera.

The part that always shocked people was when the tank rolled up in front of the camera. It fires into the snow a few times, but then some device latches onto the tank, pulls it into the snow, and then, after several human screams and the shrieks of stressed metal, a wadded up ball of metal half the size of the original tank rolls back into view. It totters on the screen for a moment before settling down and leaking a dark patina of fluid into the snow. After that, the video is silent and shows nothing but the gradual disappearance of the tank and mixed fluids.

Half of the new Wayfinders wind up quitting after watching the video. Most people want adventure and to get away from the cramped, sedate life of the enclaves. Very few are willing to accept the risks that come with the freedom once they’re aware of why we always need more Wayfinders.

Everyone in this room, making conversation as they went about their morning routines and tried to savor their breakfast, was thinking about that video. I’ve been out in enough blizzards that it doesn’t do much more than set me on edge. Most of the Wayfinders are in similar positions, but most of the trainees are still struggling to adjust. It is difficult to accept that the blizzard is full of dangerous killing machines on the prowl for any heat signature above freezing and we’re just going to sit inside our little building like we’re on vacation so the people we’re guiding don’t get freaked out.

Once the last person was awake, I hauled myself to my feet and moved through the room, encouraging chatter. We had half an hour before sunrise so I tried to get everyone out of their pre-blizzard funks. A few jokes, some lengthy stories of my early days as a Wayfinder, and promises of a dinner they wouldn’t forget did a lot of good. By the time the laborers and nomads were awake and ready to go, the only tension left was the weight of the blizzard itself.

We spent the entire morning searching the buildings Natalie and the scouts had marked, grabbing the stuff they’d set aside and bringing it back to where Natalie was cataloguing supplies and marking off the caches they had set up over the past few days. Every time I came back with an armload of boxes or bags, I was surprised to see how much the stockpile had grown. When I remarked as much to Natalie, she chuckled.

“You got that right, Mar.” She scribbled a few notes and pointed to a clear spot on the floor. “Pile those boxes there. We found an area of the town that hadn’t been picked over much. The area is pretty far from our usual paths since not many people go from Madison to the plains. We’ll be have enough stuff to set up a long-term stockpile. Maybe use this building as a recurring base for the area.”

“That would be wonderful. We could always use another cache since there’s not much in the area.”

“By my estimates, we’ll have enough for a group twice our size before the blizzard hits and, if we take a couple of days during the finals snows, we’ll be able to get this place geared up to be a semi-permanent supply station for the whole area.”

I whistled. “There’s that much stuff here? That’s incredible.”

Natalie directed two nomads and a Wayfinder to stack their boxes on top of mine and I jumped out of their way. “Yes. Now run along and keep working. There’s lots to do and you’re wasting time. Captain.” Natalie winked at me and gave me a mock salute as she ordered me off. I laughed and waved over my shoulder as I went. I passed Camille and Lucas on my way out and gave them both a cheerful grin. Lucas smirked back and Camille gave me a flicker of a smile as she strained with the four giant boxes she was carrying.

Lucas leaned over toward Camille and spoke in the loudest whisper I’d ever heard. “Looks like Captain’s in a good mood. What do you think he and Natalie were doing in the storeroom by themselves.”

Camille looked down at Lucas out of the side of her eye and grimaced. “If you poke me in the ribs because I won’t laugh at your joke, I’m going to dump all of these boxes on top of you.”

Lucas shifted his bags and leapt through the door ahead of Camille, his characteristic smile plastered across his face. “Fine, I’ll go tell Natalie. She’ll laugh at my joke.”

I shook my head and walked out of the shelter, waving at every as I went back to my assigned building to continue collecting boxes. It took a few more trips, but I managed to clean it out on my own. After that, Natalie assigned me a huge job, big enough that she suggested I take the sled in addition to a handful of other people.

By the time seven of us had loaded up the sled and picked the stuff we’d carry back as well, the first snowflakes had started to fall. We hurried back to the shelter and brought everything inside just as the snow started picking up. I did a quick headcount and sighed in relief when the last two Wayfinders came in through the door just as I started asking if anyone had seen them. Natalie stuck to organizing the supplies, focusing now on long-term storage within the shelter rather than just collecting and noting everything, I supervised sealing the front door. A few of the nomads stood around, watching as I sealed us inside the building and it took a few strongly-worded suggestions for them to move along.

Once it was finished and we verified there were no leaks in the seal, I directed the Wayfinders to verify that all of our work was holding up and checked the back exit myself. After they had all reported that we were good to go, I felt the tension in my shoulders start to drain away. We were inside and we were safe. I held on to the last bit of tension and went to help Natalie.

By the time the sun was setting and we started lighting our lanterns, we had finished sorting through the supplies. Camille had started dinner so, by the time I went to help her finish preparing it, there wasn’t much to do other than stir pots, flip frying meat, and keep the hungry Wayfinders back from the cooking area. After Camille had finished and we had dished out food to everyone, I checked in on the other two groups and found them together, cheerfully telling stories over their shared meal.

I watched them for a moment, happy they were getting along. Instead of interrupting their meal to make sure they were settled in for the night, I decided I’d wait a couple of hours. They’d be fine until then and I had a ton of clean up to do since Camille had done most of the cooking. I walked away from their pool of light back toward my own, listening to the howl of the wind as it raced around our building. We were safe and warm, with good food and cheer to help us through the next several days.

I felt the last of the tension drain out of me. We were as safe as we could ever be in this post-collapse world and I was looking forward to my first long rest since the last blizzard. Even if they were incredibly dangerous, I still appreciated them for being the only downtime in my otherwise busy life.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 11

READ FROM THE BEGINNING


When I awoke for our first day of preparation, I spent a few minutes savoring the feeling of having solid walls around me and basking in the comfort of knowing our presence was almost undetectable from the outside. I got so used to the constant fear of attack or discovery while between settlements and enclaves that I forgot how nice it was to feel secure or at least not afraid that I woke up because someone was sneaking around my tent. No amount of years spent in the field would ever make that fear go away for me. Anyone who lost it usually wound up dying to bandits or not strictly policing their heat signatures, so I wasn’t in a hurry to get rid of it.

Instead, I lay in my sleeping bag, stared at the ceiling, and wished I had a little privacy so I could wrap myself around Natalie. The Wayfinders had a large room to ourselves, but there was no door for the room and I couldn’t openly date a Wayfinder, even if everyone already knew Natalie and I were together. The chain of command does not allow for romance with one’s subordinates. Like most organizations with a command structure, it prevents the abuse of power by specifically forbidding anything that could seem like an abuse of power.

As the Wayfinders had turned from an informal group of people into a formal, militaristic organization, Natalie and I had discussed our options. We both decided to continue our relationship, but focused a little more on secrecy than before. Since our relationship predated the chain of command, we figured it was fine.

I was the first one awake, which wasn’t surprising since all the usual early risers had been awake for two days to find this place, so I pushed together a few camp stoves and started making a large pot of oatmeal. Using my powers as commanding officer, I requisitioned some of the dried fruit we saved for the days we really needed something less bland than dietary supplements and freeze-dried whatever. Once the oatmeal was simmering, I stirred in the fruit and one of the packets of brown sugar I kept in my personal bag for occasions just like this one.

In a world where most meals consisted of the ever-dwindling supply of grains, preserved meats, and a whole lot of questionable foodstuffs that was generated by whatever sustainable farming initiative our most-recent enclave ran, food variation held a special importance. Living in an enclave meant variety wasn’t terribly hard to come by, even if it wasn’t as wide as it would have been prior to the collapse. Living outside of one meant you ate what lasted a long time and didn’t weigh much.  I made sure that my people got variety on occasion, though. Since we were a larger group, it was easy for us to justify bringing a supply sled or two, depending on the length of the trip, and no one complained about the extra weight of towing frozen meat or root vegetables.

These supplies usually weren’t covered by our requisition allowances, so Camille or I generally bought it ourselves. Only Camille or I could authorize using any of the special supplies and we made sure to do it as a reward or a celebration. Usually one of us cooked it as well, to make sure everyone knew that it was a gift from us to everyone else. The only other time we got meat that wasn’t dried out was when a scout stumbled across a wild animal and could take it down without wasting a bullet.

The brown sugar was my touch, though. And my secret. Even if I dumped all ten pouches in, there wouldn’t be enough to drastically influence the taste, but mixing it in with the fruit gave it a little extra kick of sweetness that everyone enjoyed. When I wanted to give everyone a little boost without the extra time and more limited uses of our non-dried supplies, this was what I did. Got up first and made breakfast.

I got the usual murmurs of thanks as people quietly woke up and went about their morning routines. Every Wayfinder had an assigned job and would be able to take care of it themselves. Most of them were going to spend their day searching for supplies, one would stay here with the thermal reader to organize the laborer and nomad repair crews, and the rest were going to spend the day scouring the town for any humans living in the area. While thermal safety was the biggest priority by a significant amount, we needed to know what we could encounter in terms of less horrible but still possibly lethal dangers.

I spend my day near the building, coordinating the various supply search parties as they came and went, and giving some direction to the repair groups. I wound up sending a few of the more savvy nomads out with Wayfinders when someone reported a big find, but most of them stuck around the building as well, assisting with repairs and the start of modifications to the small office building we’d taken over.

Toward the end of the afternoon, we finally got a clean thermal reading on the building, aside from the front doors that the supply parties were using. There wasn’t much we could do about them other than set up a few things to prevent some of the heat from escaping while the doors were closed and prepare to seal the entryway when the blizzard started. It wasn’t the best solution since it’d get in the way of us fleeing the building if something happened, but it certainly helped with making the building more secure against possible invasion.

The scouts had found one group of humans, living outside the southern side of town in an office park that had been converted into a fortified shelter. They hadn’t been there the last time we had been through this town, but it had been a few years and nomadic groups occasionally settled down. We hadn’t made contact and none of them seemed to go into town, so Camille and I were content to do nothing but keep an eye on them.

Once I called off work for the night, as the final glimmers of sunlight disappeared behind the heavy bank of clouds on the horizon and people had started using their solar-powered lamps to work, we’d made excellent progress. More than I had even hoped, in fact. Trevor had been an amazing help keeping the laborers focused and working, keeping them focused on smaller goals like finishing the insulating quickly and correctly so they could start working on creating a latrine with stalls and privacy for the first time since we left the Madison Enclave.

After that, they’d even started on using some of the cubicle walls and construction supplies the Wayfinders brought to start partitioning their rooms into smaller, private rooms for the people who wanted them. Once the nomads found out that the laborers were willing to do the same for them, a lot of the residual hard feelings disappeared. When Trevor offered to do the same for the Wayfinders when I came to tell them to knock it off for the night, I refused despite my personal preferences. As a group, we spent a lot of time around each other and prefered living in a large group to living separately. Plus, the open room allowed us to better set up fortifications if we needed them and made it easier to do group meals which saved a lot of time, effort, and fuel.

Natalie was as disappointed as I was when I told as we shared cleanup duty after dinner.

“A little privacy would have been nice, Mar. One night every two weeks when neither of us is on duty and both Camille and Lucas are isn’t much.”

I nodded as I scrubbed my way through a stack of plates, handing them to Natalie for drying. “We had twelve days to ourselves just a few months ago.”

“That doesn’t count!” Natalie took the plate I was holding and poked me in the ribs. “We got stranded in a supply cache because we couldn’t make it back to our shelter before a blizzard.”

I winked at her. “And it was just the two of us.”

Natalie rolled her eyes and stacked the dry plate with the others. “I know you made the right choice, but it’s nice to imagine having some privacy.” I nodded as I scrubbed, feeling again the familiar tinge of disappointment that always raced through me when our time alone ended. Natalie took a deep breath and took the pile of dishes and cutlery back to stack beside our camp stove. When she came back, she leaned near me and spoke softly. “Don’t forget to go to the bathroom after making sure everyone has settled down.”

I turned my head toward her and smiled. “Of course not. I would never forget something as important as that.”

After an otherwise uneventful night, the second day dawned bright and surprisingly clear. I set aside our usual plans and had everyone bring out every solar-powered device and battery we owned so we could make sure they were fully charged before the blizzard started. After that, a few scouts went to keep an eye on the other humans, the rest of the Wayfinders returned to searching for supplies, and I started the laborers and nomads on turning our little office park into a fortress.

An old fire escape become a bolt hole that could be easily broken open from inside but almost impossible without explosives on the outside. The front door had barricades set up around the outside and even more in the interior entryway. Every room was fortified so the walls around their doors would stop bullets. I even had a hidden sentry post set up near the front door so someone could keep watch while we slept.

Once all of that was finished, I left the laborers and nomads to finish setting up their individual rooms and started bringing in all of the solar-powered devices. By the time the last Wayfinders had come back and the sun was touching the horizon, our base was ready to handle the blizzard.

As I walked around, inspecting the rooms, I stopped to watch a conversation between a few of the nomads and a small group of laborers headed by Trevor.

“Thank you so much for the rooms! This will definitely help the children relax.” The woman who had the two young children smiled and hugged the two nearest laborers.

Trevor smiled and shook her hand. “I hope it lets you get some rest as well! If we’re really going to be here for a week, then I think dividing the space up will help us not get on each other’s nerves too much.”

I walked in and clapped Trevor on the shoulder, matching his smile. “Seven to ten days, at this time of the year.”

Two of the nomads nodded in agreement and the woman in the front shook her head as she spoke. “At least it isn’t the winter blizzard. That one lasts for at least two weeks.”

“I prefer to be in an enclave for that one if I can swing it. Fifteen to twenty days is far too long to hole up in a building like this one without an equal amount of preparation time.” I idly scratched an ear as I thought back to the one time we’d been caught outside an enclave in a winter blizzard without adequate preparation time. We went through all of our supplies, including the stuff that was supposed to get us the rest of the way through out trip. Everyone had learned a lot that year and we took better precautions since then.

“Are they really that regular?” Trevor’s friend Mitch scratched at the beard he was growing and nervously looked over his shoulder at the entryway. “They never seemed that predictable in the enclave.”

I shrugged. “The Madison enclave hasn’t been connected to the net for a while and that’s a big part of accurate predictions. While the day of their arrival isn’t set in stone, their length is fairly predictable and the four storms circle the globe over the course of a year. Data from other enclaves that just saw the storms pass helps predict their arrival and duration elsewhere. That’s how we know this storm will be in the area some time tomorrow. The seven-to-ten days thing is just how long the spring storm usually lasts.”

I chuckled and stretched my arms. “At least we’re ready for this one and we’ve got the shelter almost ready to go. We should still have plenty of time tomorrow to wrap things up and gather supplies. It’ll be another busy day, so I think we should all settle in for dinner and sleep.”

Mitch and one of the other laborers nodded, but Trevor crossed his arms and looked down. One of the nomads cleared their throat and took a small step forward. “Of course.” He turned to the laborers and held out his hand to Trevor. “Thank you again for all of the assistance. We wouldn’t have been able to get this done without you all and we appreciate that you gave up some of your break time to make sure we were finished today”

Trevor picked his head up and took the man’s hand, smiling once more. “We’re glad to be of assistance. Anything to help out our neighbors and associates.” After a quick one-two pump, the two men released each others hands and lead their respective groups back toward their rooms.

I called out to them as they walked away. “Great job, everyone! Rest well!” I got a few half-hearted waves back and then turned back toward the Wayfinder rooms. Something about the whole exchange I had just witnessed unsettled me. Something else was going on here and I couldn’t think of what it could be. The two groups, who had been nearly ready to kill each other just a few days ago, were acting like nothing had happened. It made my life easier right now, for sure, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t going to do anything but make it more complicated in the long run.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 10

READ FROM THE BEGINNING


In the morning, I told everyone as we that we would need to push hard for the next two days in order to make it to our shelter in time to prepare it for the blizzard. There were a few grumbles, but just people venting spleen about an unpleasant task. After I reminded them that they would also be required to help prepare the shelter once we got there, a couple of the nomads and most of the laborers started shouting. One of the nomads tried argue that they should not be expected to keep up and thus should be exempt from a day’s work because they had children to look after. I cut the argument off before they could start gaining steam, letting them know only people who helped with the shelter got to use it, and nomads who had children quickly shushed the two loudmouths without children.

However, the laborers seemed to unite behind the idea of taking their time and refused to let go. As we prepared to set out, since I made it clear the supplies were leaving with the Wayfinders, regardless of what the laborers chose to do, they huddled together and then sent Trevor to talk to me again. I ignored him as best as I could, letting him know I was busy helping the nomads with their children and taking my turn pulling the supply sled, but he finally cornered me when we broke for a quick lunch.

Initially, I planned to let him just run his mouth. Once he’d run out of steam a bit, I let him know the scouts would be arriving there tomorrow morning, as we were starting our day’s hike, and would have the building selected by the time our group got there in the evening. He backed off then, stewing on what I said, and I had most of the afternoon to focus on my tasks. Any time not spent reviewing supply forms or correcting our course was spent taking a turn helping the nomads by carrying one of the two children that wasn’t strong enough to keep up the pace but was too big to constantly carry. Thankfully, being carried helped the two kids keep up the pace by given them a chance to rest, though they were starting to show their complete exhaustion as sunset approached. The laborers were having no trouble keeping up the pace, though they always seemed to be elsewhere when I wanted to enlist one of them to help with something.

About fifteen more minutes of hiking from the campsite the forward scouts had picked for us, Trevor came up to me again. I was at the head of the group, setting the pace and keeping on eye out to make sure no one fell behind. When I looked back, about to let everyone know we would to our campsite with plenty of time to set up before dark, I found Trevor hustling up to me. I turned back to face the front and ignored him until he fell in beside me and nodded.

“Captain.”

I nodded back, wary and wishing he could have waited just a little longer, when I’d be too busy setting up camp to talk.

“I want to know why we must be rushed. Won’t two and a half days be plenty of time to prepare?”

I sighed and shook my head. “Possibly. Given the nature of our preparations and the inability to be completely accurate about blizzard predictions, it is best to get as much time as possible.”

“Is the four hours of daylight we’ll gain by pushing hard really help us that much?”

“Yes.” I nodded and resumed my silent march.

After a moment of silence, Trevor turned towards me a little bit and spread his hands. “Please, captain. I’m trying to understand. Could you explain why it matters so much?”

I considered ignoring him, but decided against it. If I could get him to quit arguing, maybe he’d get the rest of the laborers to fall in line. That’d make my life much easier. “Alright, but once we hit our campsite I’ll need to focus on making camp.”

I waited for Trevor to nod and then launched into the basics. “Given that we haven’t taken this route in years and this is the first time we’re stopping at this particular town, I would have preferred to have four days or even five. Given that we lost two days to dealing with bandits, we have no time to spare.”

Trevor blew out a deep breath and snorted. “I find it hard to believe that simply setting up a more stable camp would take three days.”

I shot a glare at him and he held his hands up placatingly. “I know you’ve spent most of your time in enclaves, so I would not be surprised to learn that this is the first blizzard you’ve experienced outside the safety of civilization. Correct?” He nodded slightly and I continued. “Now, I’m sure I don’t need to explain why we need shelter during the blizzards. Anyone old enough to understand the stories knows. However, things work a little differently outside of the enclaves.”

I pulled open one of the large velcro pockets on the front of my thermal jacket and handed a few pieces of laminated paper to him. “Here. This is the list of things we need to survive for an entire blizzard, per person and assuming that the blizzard lasts for ten days. Give it a read.”

As his eyes darted down the page, I continued to talk. “Outside of an enclave, an errant heat signature could give us away. That’s why we have such strict rules about were fires can be located, what you can wear, and why you need to stay in your tents at night. In an enclave, the heat is so oddly shaped and in large enough quantities that it confuses the sensors. They’re safe simply because they’re so big and so warm.

“We are not. Especially during blizzards when the ambient temperature drops to its lowest and any amount of extra heat is going to shine like a beacon.” Trevor looked up at me, his face blank. I smiled at him. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be hunted down and killed. So we hole up, hide our heat signatures, and do what we can to pass time until it is safe for us to go outside again.”

Trevor hadn’t even cycled through the papers, but he handed them back to me. “That sounds like a lot of hassle. If we can predict the day the blizzards will strike an area, why don’t people just make sure to be in an enclave when they pass over? Why risk being outside?”

I shrugged. “People aren’t exactly known for making the most sensible choices all the time. Plus, if we restricted all travel that would encounter a blizzard, we’d be doing at most a third of what we do now. They’re fairly frequent, when you consider how long it takes, on average, to go from one enclave to another.” I stuck the papers back into my pocket and sealed it up. “Like I said, I don’t want to be hunted down and killed, nor do I want anyone in our group to be hunted down and killed, so I’m going to push us as hard as I can today and then do the same tomorrow so we can arrive at the shelter my people have picked out before sundown.

“I would appreciate it if you’d stop questioning me while we’re walking and focus on getting your people in line so I can do my job.” I turned my face to Trevor again and let all of my frustration from the day show on my face. “If you or your companions get in the way of me keeping everyone safe, I will leave you behind. Got it?”

Trevor’s steps faltered for a moment, but he nodded. “Alright, alright. I got it.” He nervously rubbed his gloves together and chuckled. “Now that I know what’s going on, I’ll focus on making sure my people keep up the pace and are ready to work. I don’t think any of us wants to get killed, either.”

I let some of the heat fade from my face and shook my head. “If I have to explain every decision I make, we’re going to wind up dead. Do I what I say when I say it and, if we have some down time and you want to know why, I’ll explain it to you.”

“Sure thing.” Trevor smiled and stuck out his hand. I stared at it and then at his face for a moment before taking it and applying slightly more pressure than was strictly necessary. It was an awkward walking handshake, but Trevor seemed to appreciate it.

“Great. Now go get your people ready and convince them that, if we all just pull together on this, we can have time to rest and relax soon. The better they work together, the sooner it’ll be.”

“Right away, Captain.” Trevor nodded and fell back to the rest of the laborers. I watch him talk to them for a moment before focusing my mind back on the task of arriving at our camp and getting every settled for the night. Once all tasks were finished for the night and both groups had settled in for the night, I took half an hour from my guard shift to go through the supply tent and update the logs.

It was always an ordeal, preparing for the blizzard. We had to collect wood for fires to keep us warm since our little kerosene camp stoves would use up what fuel we had with us in a couple of days if we relied solely on them. Even though a few groups of Wayfinders did nothing but travel Wayfinder routes and replenish the hidden stockpiles we used to make sure guiding groups had enough necessities, we couldn’t take enough to keep us warm that long without leaving nothing for any groups that came after us. Food was a lot easier, though. The constant cold helped preserve most of the stockpiles governments had put together as the collapse was happening thanks to some people who believed the early warning signs. Most canned goods lasted well beyond their shelf dates, as long as they stayed dry.

The only other thing we needed, which was the hardest thing to find, was the right building. Most buildings were properly insulated before the collapse and our thermal hand scanner would find any leaks that had developed since then as soon as we put a heat source inside the building. Thankfully, the standards had been raised right before the collapse and any newer building was almost as dead as the snow around it on the thermal reader, even after we started heating it to look for leaks. There were almost always repairs that needed doing, but insulation and nails or glue never went bad and no Wayfinder was certified without the skills to heat seal a building.

Thankfully, we were good on almost everything but kerosene. The nomads had brought plenty of food, but drained our fuel resources much more quickly than we anticipated. I’d have to send some Wayfinders through the town to look for more fuel, if there was any left. If not, I’d have to send a couple of scouts away from our route to hit a cache somewhere. Natalie had the maps and she would know where to find anything around this town. Hopefully we wouldn’t need to start restricting fuel rations before then.

Once I was finished, I settled in for my guard duty. Hidden beneath the fresh powder that was constantly falling from the sky, I kept an eye on the camp and wished that radios were still usable. Natalie and Lucas had been gone since the morning and the quiet anxiety I always felt when my friends didn’t return to the tent at night clawed at my stomach. Lucas was the best we had at solo survival and Natalie was the head of our resource collection, so I knew they’d be fine between the two of them, not to mention the four other Wayfinders and two trainees with them. Natalie and her trainee would be in charge of finding our shelter and combing the ruined town for food to help us survive the five to ten days we would be stuck in our shelter.

Once my shift was over, and I’d gotten as much sleep as I could before I had to start getting the camp moving again, I steeled myself for another morning of arguments and a certain degree of enthusiasm I didn’t actually feel. As I let my mind work through my morning mantra, I cleaned up from breakfast, packed up my bags, and started taking down the tent. Once I was outside and finishing up the packing, I encouraged the camp to continue doing the same. Camille had gotten up before me and started the Wayfinders on their preparations, so all I had to do was get the laborers and the nomads moving.

Thankfully, the nomads were up and moving already. The laborers took a little work to get going, but they didn’t argue and Trevor took it upon himself to make sure they all got ready quickly. We got underway a full fifteen minutes before I had expected and were on our way with minimal disruption. Trevor had the laborers take turns helping with the nomad children and he even took a turn pulling a supply sled, though none of the other laborers offered.

By the time we arrived at the town and had been brought to the building the scouts had selected, it was just before sunset. Room assignments were given, unused rooms were boarded up, and everyone settled in for their first night in a proper shelter in what felt like over a month. Even the barn hadn’t felt as cozy as the solid building around us. As I fell asleep, I banished all of my usual worries from my mind and reveled in the comfort of good shelter and sleeping beside Natalie once again.

Coldheart and Iron: Part 7

READ FROM THE BEGINNING


The final tally of the dead was worse than I had hoped but not as bad as I had feared. Six dead laborers, a dozen dead nomads, and two dead Wayfinders. Most of the injured survived, except the one Wayfinder whose wounds claimed him about two hours after the battle ended. Most of the dead had been in the farmhouse, where the bandits had crashed through the door on the tail of their flashbang.

The nomads’ medic was one of the guards in the basement, so he got to work right away after we gave them the all-clear and was instrumental in saving a couple of the more injured laborers and nomads. He worked with Jonathan, our medic, to stabilize everyone we could before we moved them all into the barn to recover, rest, and hide while half of the uninjured Wayfinders scouted to make sure there were no more bandits around.

I personally led the squad to follow the tracks of the group that snuck up on us. It was relief to discover they had split off from the main force before they were in sight of the bandit’s base camp, even if it was frustrating to see how our scouting had failed us. We got back to the farmhouse around ten a.m. and immediately went to work digging graves with the other able-bodied Wayfinders. A mass grave for the bandits and individual graves for everyone else.

Around noon, the laborers and nomads emerged from the barn and started lending a hand. They knew as well as we did that the bodies needed to be buried by nightfall, and they wanted time to lay their friends and family to rest. They just needed more recover after the firefight than we did. Around five in the afternoon, the last shovel of dirt was placed, the last words were said, and any Wayfinder not preparing to leave in the morning was busy hiding all traces of the battle.

Camille was busy with after-action reports and Natalie was updating the supply logs with Jonathan, so I took Lucas aside to help me scatter snow over the graves. We worked in silence as the sun set until the last glimmers of light were disappearing through the haze of clouds coating the sky.

“You should have checked with me first.”

Lucas didn’t say anything. He stopped working and started off toward the setting sun. I let him have his silence for another minute before speaking again.

“I know the nomads would have been captured or worse if we hadn’t done anything, but we’ve lost six of the people who paid us to get them safely across the tundra and you broke one of the biggest rules of the Wayfinders. Again.”

“What do you want from me, Marshall?” Lucas turned to look at me, his usual grin replaced by a mixture of sadness and anger.  “I see people in need, and I want to help them. You would do the same thing, if you found people running for their life.” Lucas sighed and looked down at his feet. “Or at least you would have. I don’t know anymore.”

I stared at my oldest friend and tried to keep my roiling emotions off of my face. “We have rules, Lucas.” His head snapped up, eyes meeting mine and face as carefully neutral as mine. “Over the past fifteen years, we’ve added more and more rules as what we’ve done has turned from a past-time to fund our searches into something bigger than-”

“Than helping people?” Lucas stepped toward me, lowering his voice so no one would overhear. “We started this whole organization in order to help people, Marshall, or have you forgotten that?” I clenched my hands but kept my face neutral as the roiling was replaced by indignation and anger. Some part of me knew that we were both tired, Lucas especially so since he hadn’t gotten much rest the night before all of this had started, either. I took a moment of silence to try to calm down a little, to resist the urge to knock him down, but he took my silence as an answer.

He took another step towards me, getting in my face and dropping his voice to a hiss. “Are you so caught up in playing ‘King Cowboy in the New Frontier’ that you don’t remember what this was all about?”

I punched Lucas in the solar plexus and swept one of his legs. It felt good to be standing over him, but I knew he was just as angry as I was, if not angrier. I relaxed my fists and arms, looked up at the sky, and took a deep breath. I acknowledged the part of me that knew I messed up and tried to get the anger I felt under control. This wasn’t the first time we’d had this argument and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

When I looked down again, he was still on the ground, clutching his chest and gasping for breath. I squatted down next to him and, after he’d recovered enough to stop squirming, I grabbed his shoulder. “Dude, you can’t keep saying stuff like this. You know I don’t think that. You know why I started all this. You know why I’m STILL a Wayfinder after almost twenty years of fruitless searching.”

“That’s…” Lucas gasped and coughed. “That’s no excuse. If anything…”

I felt the anger creeping back and tried to keep myself calm. “You know better than anyone else what this disaster has cost me. You’ve got family and friends you could be living with instead of wandering around out here. You chose this life. This life is all I have.” I sat down next to him and rubbed my face.

I took another deep breath and softened my tone a little more, trying to sound a little more apologetic. “I would have helped them, that’s not the problem. That’s not the rule you’re in trouble for breaking. You knowingly led a group of bandits back to our group. You compromised our secrecy and, as a result, people died that otherwise wouldn’t have if you had followed protocol.”

Lucas glared at me as he pushed himself into an upright sitting position. His voice was angrier that mine had been and I was glad that almost everyone else had gone into the barn. No one else would be able to hear us if we started shouting. “Protocol would have meant taking them to Chicago and they had just been chased away from there! What good would that have done them?”

“More good than this would have.” I gestured at the graves we were sitting near. “You could have taken them to Rockford instead. That’s much closer than Chicago and you would have been able to get them there by tomorrow morning if you pushed them hard enough. They’d have been safe behind the walls of the enclave there.”

“And risked getting shot at while trying to push children and elderly at a quick pace? We’d have had to leave that old woman behind in order to have a chance of making it, because she’s too big to carry.”

“At least then everyone else would have had a chance.” I stood up. “Also, I’m pretty sure that old woman could have outpaced most of the other nomads.” I chuckled, trying to lighten the mood.

“Sure, then she would have had an equal chance to get shot in the back, just like everyone else..” Lucas started struggling to his feet. I offered him a hand but he smacked it away and glared at me instead.

“Stop arguing. You know I’m right or else you’d have hit me back by now.”

Lucas slipped in the partially melted snow I’d been sitting on and he fell over again. He shot me another dirty look from his place in the snow before just laying back and covering his eyes. “I can’t even stand up, much less strike a superior officer right now. I’m too tired. Couldn’t this have waited until after we found shelter for next week’s blizzard?” He let his arms fall to the side and picked his head up to meet my eyes. “Or at least until after I’ve gotten some sleep?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry I hit you, Lucas. That was way out of line and I know you don’t really think I’ve forgotten anything. I wish this could wait, but we have to talk about this today. If nothing happens to you, if there isn’t a clear resolution about what happened, then the laborers, the nomads, and the Wayfinder trainees will start to wonder about why their friends and loved ones are dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a problem with the laborers before the week is out.”

I offered Lucas my hand again and, after a moment’s hesitation, he took it. “They paid us to keep them safe.” I grunted as I hauled Lucas to his feet. “They all know that nothing is certain out here and that we couldn’t guarantee their safety, but this will be a hard thing for them to handle. All the trainees now realize just how likely it is that they’ll die out here if they stick to guiding large groups. This will seem like a slap on the wrist to them, but you did break a rule and these are the recommended consequences.”

Lucas took a step back after he gained his feet and brushed the snow off his pants and coat. “Yeah, that you wrote.” His voice was calmer, but I knew I’d need to do more to make it up to him than apologize.

I nodded. “You’re still head of the scouts, but your pay for this trip is going into the death benefits of our dead Wayfinders and you’re demoted to Lieutenant. Once we’re back in an enclave, we’ll look into getting you promoted again since the only reason you’re not higher ranked is that we don’t have higher ranks. No matter what, though, your pay won’t change for future jobs”

I stared at him, stony-eyed, while I waited for him to acknowledge my orders. After a another few swipes at snow that was no longer there and a deep breath, he saluted. “As you say, Captain.”

“Good.” I nodded and gestured toward the barn. “Now let’s finish up so we can go inside, eat, and get some sleep.”

Once we had finished, we walked off toward the barn. Someone had set up a LED floodlight near the door so we could finished up. Once we got near the door and started taking packing up the flood light, my nose detected the first hints of someone making hamburgers. My stomach growled in response and I was suddenly struck by the realization that it had been over twenty-four hours since I had eaten. I was so focused on the hamburgers that it took Lucas pointing it out for me to realize that the noise I was hearing was shouting coming from the inside barn. I left Lucas to finish up and, rushed inside. When I saw what was going on, my heart fell.

Communication and Teamwork in Overwatch

Watching the Overwatch League has made me want to play the game more than ever. Watching teams pull off these amazingly well-coordinated plays makes me want to assemble my own team. Not in order to compete at even the amateur level, but to play with that level of communication and trust. That being said, the league is still rife with examples of people doing their own thing, including both times that it pays off and times that it does not. Single DPS players have, with minimal support from their teammates, either crippled or halted an entire enemy advance. In juxtaposition, tanks have recklessly charged and players of all kinds have wasted ultimate abilities that would have been more useful if they’d saved them for a minute or less later. Often, the reckless tank and wasted support ultimate ability have led to the team collapsing. Interestingly, half of the team collapses I’ve seen have turned into times when a single DPS found the right moment and help the enemy team off.

The best teams, though, are the most coordinated ones. New York Excelsior, Seoul Dynasty, and London Spitfire are all the most coordinated on average and they’re all the best teams in the league in a general sense. Having actually tried to build a 6-player team in Overwatch, I can definitely say that team coordination matters. To be fair, you don’t need to have six people in order to see that, it just makes it easier to see. I love playing with one of my roommates the most because we’ve played together long enough that our play styles complement each other, we trust each other to know what we’re doing, and we can anticipate each other’s needs and movements in a way the really streamlines communication. He also plays DPS (damage per second) characters and I play tanks, supports, and filler characters (swapping around to meet the team’s current needs rather than sticking to one character in particular). Comparing our play to me playing with only one of most of my other friends highlights just how important that almost unspoken communication is to our success as a team.

I’m hopeful that, if the 6 of us play together often enough, we’ll eventually figure out the communication stuff. I have a hard time verbalizing my thoughts in generic specifics because I’m so focused on what is going on in front of me, so my ability to call shots and direct the team is at its best when I can either get the words out properly or when my teammates are aware enough of what is happening in the battle as a whole to interpret what I’m trying to say correctly. It can be annoying, to have a shot-caller who has trouble saying the right names for characters and coming up with the right word while it is still relevant, but I’ve got the best battlefield awareness of the group right now so working on communication is out top priority. For now, I am grateful that my roommate is one of the six people and that I can count on him to interpret and then translate what I’m trying to say.

As much as I try to relax and have a good time when I’m with a large group that isn’t communicating, it is incredibly frustrating. As a tank, a lot of my ability to do anything effectively, aside from soaking up bullets, is contingent on having the rest of my team performing their duties and following the called shots. The other day, I kept telling everyone to group up with me since I was using the other team’s expectations against them, by setting up patterns that I’d subsequently break. It was working great except that most of my team wasn’t following me. I’d call them over to me, see them around me, start moving into position, and then they’d all be gone, getting cut down somewhere else because their tank is off trying to set up a flanking team-fight that would pick off the enemy sniper and supports before the enemy DPS could be brought to bear against us. We were so close to winning so many times that match and we had no good reason for losing, only that we were never all together and focused on figuring out how to circumvent the enemy traps and defenses. That was kind of the theme of the night, really. Knowing we should have won and being unable to say that we just got outplayed is frustrating to me because I’m trying to become a better player than I currently am and those kind of losses don’t do anyone any good.

It isn’t all of my teammate’s faults either. If I’d followed them in and stuck with the grind-y team-fights they kept running into, we might have won. We might have come out on top with enough ultimate abilities left to hold off the inevitable second wave when they re-spawned and pushed to retake the final point they were defending. I played a little more aggressively than I strictly needed to, winding up with all of the gold medals for enemy kills, enemy kills around the objective, enemy damage, and time spent on the objective(s). No tank should ever have all of those. A good tank can often wind up with gold medals in objective time and objective kills, but the DPS should always have the other two.

I’m going to focus on trying to be a better communicator when I’m playing with less experienced players and people who don’t know how to interpret my non-specific exclamations. That is something I can work to improve in every match, regardless of whether or not I’ve got a team skilled enough to help me improve as a tank. As long as I’m improving, I think I’ll be able to accept and number of wins or losses.