“Destrier,” says the War Robots official site, “is one of the most durable Light robots.” 44,000 points’ worth of durability, to be precise.
This was probably true when Pixonic wrote it, but being tied for third place (alongside the Gepard) in a field of seven bots isn’t exactly something to crow about. Still, the Level 1 Destrier has only 3,000 HP less than best-in-breed Schütze, so if it lags a little it doesn’t lag much.
On the other hand, a Level 12 Zeus deals 14,891 points of damage in a single, thunderous strike. Three of them, say on a Level 7 Fury, will connect for 44,673 points- more than enough to kill that Destrier. There’s a moment when you one-shot a bot… or hell, even just sizzle off a mere 90% of their HP in a blink… that you feel like the vehicle of a vengeful deity.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
It’s the moments after, I suspect, that have a lot more to say about us. For some, I imagine it’s intoxicating. The only thing more fun than melting someone’s bot like that, is melting another one six seconds later. Long ago I often imagined I could hear the cackles of MagGep clubbers in their voxcomms as they lit new-player-me up like Christmastime.
For others, perhaps there’s a twinge of remorse. Perhaps even a little bit more than that.
Power through. Just collect the data and move up as fast as you can.
Except then the match ends, and you see what “powering through” looks like:
This sort of game did satisfy one of the thoughts behind the project- avoiding prolonged clubbing by rising in the ranks as fast as I could. But there was no way I could continue that sort of thing. Besides, on a practical level, the league thresholds are so low in the bottom leagues that I’d risk blowing through an entire level before getting a large enough sample.
Well, what if instead I took the opposite approach? I tried to do the “minimal activity” route and found, intriguingly, that I was still awarded a league point despite coming in at the bottom of the barrel. No beacons, no squadding, just me… dead last… moving up instead of down.
But that experience opened the door to alternate play modes, and I jumped on through. Just because I was on God-mode didn’t mean I needed to play like a God, and if I was able to move up in the standings no matter what I did, well…maybe it was time to get creative.
This was the only hard-and-fast rule I implemented for myself. It was bad enough that my opponents had to chew through the Bots of Legend, so I gave myself a handicap. If they played smart and made beacons a priority, they could triumph on the battlefield even if I was an outsize threat. There are, after all, five beacons on the field, and I could only be in one place at a time. And if my own teammates couldn’t figure out to prioritize captures, having my help was only going to let them prosper in ignorance.
The only beacons I typically captured were incidental ones. Home beacons off the opening deployment, a nearby beacon in a firefight. If I was unopposed, I’d go out of my way to pass around a Red beacon.
Longtime readers may recall my joy of Bronze Tier play, and I was able to recapture that for awhile by sidelining the default hangar and buying a few bots from the store. I plunked down for two Cossacks and two Schützes straightaway, dependable options I enjoyed playing the first time around. For my last slot, I opted for a Vityaz, a bot I’d never played. I ran this setup for a good stretch, until the enemy started to outclass me with solid Mediums and Heavies.
Later, I decided to use my “fifth slot funbot” for another bot/setup I’d never tried before, the long-range Natasha. This much-reviled rig has never fit my style of play, but now that I own a Trebuchet Butch, part of me wished I’d given it more of a look. Being a longstanding knife-fighter, I’m neither comfortable nor competent with that playstyle just yet. This was a second chance at training wheels, and while I didn’t find much to like about Noricums, the Nashorns and Kang-Daes were a lot of fun for a chance of pace.
Godzilla Mode was a riff on the “can only be in one place” theme. In these games, which occurred a little further up the league ladder, I’d come out swinging with my first bot- and only that bot. Once the Reds rallied and took down the giant monster, I’d spawn into the next bot and play much more casually. Put another way, all of my offensive effort was frontloaded, which still put me towards the top of the charts but without being overbearingly so. Indeed, I came to regard not finishing first in damage as an accomplishment, since it was a good indicator of the “natural limits” of a match.
Being a veteran player with a substantial health pool at my disposal, I’d often have plenty of time to get the measure of my opponents- typically while under fire. Whenever I encountered players who showed particular skill and bravery in a David-versus-Goliath clash, well, I frequently made sure they’d have a glorious feelgood moment by vanquishing the big bad. Perhaps that meant firing a little less often, or maybe making myself a little easier of a target, but it had a very “dungeon mastery” feel. As a career DM, I’ve always enjoyed encounters that pushed the heroes to the limit, but let them triumph through ingenuity, skill, or even sometimes a little luck. Those were the ones talked about years later, not “you walk into a room full of ten kobolds.”
Perhaps it was a little scripted, but I guarantee that novice player was fist-pumping as the Lancelot hit the dirt.
On the other hand, those players who showed an irrational obsession with personal safety at the expense of their teammates were priority targets. I remember one player in a Cossack in Dead City particularly well. At the start of the game, he ran up the beacon ramp, capped his team’s beacon, and then wedged himself further in, in nearly full cover. Like a tick, his parasitic play got him a beacon cap and then took him out of the game, leaving his team to fend for themselves.
I noticed him during a particularly intense firefight and sent a few shots his way before being brought down. I spawned into my second bot, and slogged through no-man’s land to get there. I was ascending their home beacon ramp to kill the cowardly Cossack when an enemy respawned and shot me in the back, killing me.
The third bot, though… the third bot had the satisfaction of obliterating the hider. I sent some plasma through the crack he was peeping out of so he knew what was coming, then walked around to the foot of the ramp. And it came. Up, up the ramp I went. He started bullet-hosing me in desperation once I reached his beacon, but justice was swift, terrible- and final.
By the same token, cowardice on my own team wasn’t tolerated either. In one game I noticed a blue Boa puttering around the outer perimeter of Shenzhen, just strolling along away from the front. Feeling for all the world like an Imperial Commissar, I spent the next minute or so bully-bellying the Boa with my Lancelot towards the center of the city. Once there, he got the hint and started firing.
And then there were the silly things to do that just caught me in the moment, like scenic tours behind enemy lines without actually firing. I did that once and ended up in the enemy spawn area in my Thundorkan Lance. There were a couple of Reds there, who stopped shooting as I just sort of walked around taking it all in. They started at me. I looked at them. Peace in our time.
Then another Red respawned, saw me and opened fire. I melted him down, he respawned again (peacefully), and we all just sort of hung out for a bit.
Other times I’d walk right up on someone, but attack others nearby and leave my new “friend” alone. I’d then follow my “friend” around a bit, fighting everyone else for awhile. Once I even stepped in to cover my “friend” from an incoming rocket barrage from my own team, because he was a sliver from death and fighting valiantly.
Things didn’t end with the conclusion of battle, either. I’d often get hosed with fire from my nearby teammates while waiting for the exit screen, but whether it was in celebration of the my perceived role or in protest of the inappropriateness of my appearance, I’ll never know.
Similarly, I’d get a lot of squad requests from former teammates and enemies, but I declined every one. Were they seeing an opportunity to play remora to a shark, or just wanting to give me an earful?
All in all, I probably caused a lot more “WTF?” moments or moments of levity than heartache. Yes, I’d been given the keys to a Ferrari. But that didn’t mean I had to put the pedal to the medal to get to where I wanted to go. As any driver will tell you, sometimes the drive is the destination.
It was all a brief moment in time, for each game I played I’d get closer and closer to the end of the whimsical era of the project. As I ascended the league ranks, the competition grew more challenging and I had to dial back some of the silliness. But being able to stroll around in a Lancelot surrounded by Destriers and the like was a unique experience. Almost like this kind of unique.
And certainly the closest I’ll ever get to the Leaver’s Queue.
For me, the games I’m writing about are a couple weeks in the rearview mirror, but for everyone else all this has a sense of immediacy. The last couple of days have seen a fair amount of outrage from parts of the War Robots community regarding the “Pixo-sponsored clubbing” that Project Bathyscaphe represented. I want to thank everyone who took the time to voice their support or objection, and perhaps the latter especially. I will be the first person to say that I do not make the correct decision all of the time, and I think this classic warning has probably applied to me more than a few times in my life:
Were I to do it again, there are a few things I’d do differently. I’d have asked for a more cross-spectrum hangar, so that I could pace through the leagues as quickly as necessary for timely data, but without tilting things so lopsidedly for the other players. In addition, I would have restructured the articles a bit.
Article 1: “I could have clubbed like a GOD!!!!!!”
Article 2: “But I didn’t! Here’s what I did instead”
…makes for a nice split in terms of topic break and word count, but it also caused a lot of upset. That’s on me. In hindsight, I would have started with a lead-in about my “scrapper’s hangar,” and how wonderful it felt to play a Silver Lights in a competitive environment again, then led into a “but let’s walk through the rest of the hangar a moment, shall we?” reveal to show what else was on offer. Lesson learned!
In not doing so, I also did Pixonic a disservice. I do believe, at the end of the day, that they would never have granted this opportunity to someone they thought would abuse it. I’d like to think that their trust was not misplaced, but my choice of article structure obscured that. “Pixo-sponsored clubbing” was a takeaway for some, and while I think that’s the wrong conclusion, it’s hard to blame them for that perception. That’s also on me.
At the end of the day, this wasn’t- and isn’t- about racking up damage, “blasting n00bz,” or griefing people. Never was. Rather, about being able to dive into the lower leagues, observe, and eventually surface. With my “alternate game modes” I’ve had a lot of fun, and the analytical fruits of that will be rolling out very soon.
Thanks for reading!