In parts I, II and III of this guide, we covered all of the fundamentals you need to know in order to become a skillful and knowledgeable player. Once you’ve mastered all of these elements, there is only one thing left to do: prove yourself at an MLG Halo 2 tournament. With the 2006 Season just around the corner, you will have your chance to do just that as you fight for the insane prizes that MLG has planned for this year. This final installment of our Newcomer’s Guide to Halo 2 at MLG will cover just what you need to do in order to move up the ranks and compete amongst the best gamers the world has to offer. If you’re sitting back, wondering just how to break onto the scene once you have your act together, then this is the article for you. So check it out, and learn what to focus on to make the biggest possible splash at MLG this year.
Note: Keep in mind that the advice outlined below is geared toward those who are truly dedicated to climbing up the competitive Halo 2 ladder, and the things being discussed here are in some cases pretty hardcore. It is by no means what everyone who plays Halo 2 should be doing. Halo 2 is a really fun game that is great for just hanging out, socializing and messing around, but if that is your primary interest (which is perfectly fine), you can probably stop reading this article right now. Those interested in being counted among the MLG elite and making some money with your talents, read on…
Dedicate Yourself to MLG Customs
- In order to make the most of your practice time, you should practice MLG custom gametypes almost exclusively. Between Matchmaking and Halo 2′s broad custom options range, there are literally thousands of different game variants at your disposal, but most of them will do you no good at MLG. MLG uses a very short list of the most balanced and competitive gametypes. Know them, practice them, master them. Playing 200 games of CTF Coagulation or Snipers Headlong will do you zero good toward being an MLG pro. Therefore, if you’re really serious about breaking into the tournament scene, your practice time is best spent on the actual gametypes you’ll be playing in a tournament–not just whatever game you happen to find yourself in. For example, you don’t need to know anything about how to play Territories, so don’t even bother playing it if you’re looking to go pro.
- The gametypes used at each event are listed on the Events Page. Once the 2006 Season is underway, you can go to this page and click on the event you plan to attend to see a complete list of gametypes that will be used, including which rounds they will be played in. You should practice the exact gametypes for the event you are attending as much as possible, and avoid playing just about any other gametypes. You can bet that anyone else that is serious about MLG is doing the exact same thing.
- Most of your practicing will of course be done on Xbox Live. While play on Xbox Live is for the most part very smooth, you need to be aware that playing on LAN–like at an MLG event–is considerably different (read: better). There is less auto-aim on LAN, and your shooting (especially BR and Carbine) will need to be much more precise. Your BR burst shots will not spread out nearly as much, and it’s entirely possible to four-shot someone over a great distance even if you’re not the host.
- This does not, however, mean that I would recommend doing your between-tournament practicing on LAN. There are a lot of annoying prohibitions to getting a good 4v4 LAN going (tons of TVs/Xboxes/Cables) and the chances are that the eight people in your area that you could find to do this are not as uniformly good as the high-level competition online. The benefits of playing on Xbox Live (infinite competition and exposure to new styles/ideas) far outweigh the downsides. Just know that when you get to an actual MLG event, things will be a bit different and the things that annoy you online (host shotgun, anyone?) will all but cease to exist.
- When you are on Xbox Live and waiting to get a complete party of eight together for MLG customs, don’t take those three or four players that you already have and go into Matchmaking. Although it’s tempting to just get some games going as fast as possible, the better thing to do is to send a bunch of invites out to people on your friends list and start up a game of MLG FFA Midship (the only FFA game that MLG uses) and leave the party open to your friends. Even if there are only a couple of people in the room, you will be practicing skills that are relevant to MLG competition, rather than hopping into a game of TS Turf in Matchmaking, which will do you no good at a tournament. This is true even of Team Hardcore. While its settings are much closer to those of MLG (BR start, no radar, etc.), there are still a great deal of maps/settings that are not pertinent to MLG and will not do you much good to master. It is likely that the people you invited will be along soon to join your FFA game anyway.
- Even when you do assemble eight people for customs, it is sometimes wise to actually just play some MLG FFA Midship anyway. This is because at an MLG event, your FFA performance (the first part of an MLG tournament) will be used to give your team a ranking that will be used once you move on to Pool and Bracket play. Doing well in the FFA and earning a high rank for your team will give you an easier route through the rest of the tournament, and believe me–not having to face a Top 8 team in your very first round is indeed a wonderful thing, because if you lose your first match you’re one step away from elimination and have a long trek to make through the Losers’ Bracket. You want to be one of the higher ranked teams after FFA so you can face easier competition in the earlier rounds of the team event. Focus on FFA often (without ignoring team games) and get as good at it as you can.
The MLG Yellowpages can prove extremely valuable in finding the right people to play and practice with.
Practice Actively, Not Passively
- It should be obvious to you that in order to go pro or even get noticed at an MLG event, you have really got to practice hard. Think about this: Most pros practice for several hours a day, and they are already at the top of the game. In order to catch up with them, you will have to make the most of your practice time, and really actively focus on getting better.
- Since Halo 2 is indeed a video game, and video games are what a lot of us do to unwind, relax and just have fun, it is sometimes hard to actually practice at it. Practicing does not mean simply “playing a lot.” It means playing a lot and constantly thinking about what you are doing right and wrong, and then working on the areas in which you need improvement. Many people default to a sort of “autopilot” when it comes to playing a video game, which in Halo 2′s case might mean just running around looking to kill people. If you are really serious about stepping your game up, you must think of it as a sport with objectives, and you have to keep focus on what you are/should be doing at all times. I know it sounds simple, but don’t just go through the motions; actually engage your mind in what you’re doing. When turning something that’s “just for fun” into a competitive sport (which is still amazingly fun), it’s all about your frame of mind. How seriously you take it will largely determine how far you go with it.
Branching Out and Teaming Up
- As the previous guides have gone to great length to stress, Halo 2 is a team game, first and foremost. No matter how skilled an individual is, they will not find success without good teammates and good teamwork. Your ultimate focus should be on becoming as good as possible at the game and finding teammates who are at your level of both skill and dedication. This is by no means an easy task, but we’ve done everything we can to make it easier on you by connecting you with the rest of the community through our website. Check it out:
- Use the MLG Forums to find new/more people to play custom gametypes with (you must create a user account first, but it’s completely free). Here, you will find the most serious and dedicated group of MLG players out there, and will surely be able to find some new friends and teammates. There is even a special section of the forums called the MLG Yellow Pages that is dedicated to helping you find players to practice, play and team up with for MLG events. This will prove to be an invaluable resource to you as you gear up for MLG competition this year.
- As you continue to improve, you will want to expose yourself to a wide and varying group of players. This will allow you to learn new things from different people, and will help you avoid the stagnation of your learning that often happens when all you do is play with the same people over and over.
- The key to forming a really good team is finding balance. Try to find players who–when combined–fill out all of the required skills it takes to win games. You need people who know how to hold and control power weapons, people who are great with taking control of objectives, and people who are great at supporting their teammates. Basically, most players will have tendencies and specialties, and you typically don’t want to fill your team with four of the same kind of player. If you are all fighting over who is going to get the sniper or who has to carry the oddball, your team isn’t going to get far.
- Don’t be selfish. Find teammates that understand the importance of completing the objective or winning the game rather than being the person at the end with the most kills. You should find satisfaction in the team winning games rather than your individual statistics. Much of the help that teammates give each other (which results in success) cannot be quantified or seen in the post-game statistics.
- While early on during your quest to find a great team you will likely be switching rosters quite often, your eventual goal should be to settle in with a group of players and stick together. Team chemistry is vital to your success at MLG, and it can only truly be built through a long period of practice with the same people. There is great value in knowing the styles/habits/focuses of your teammates, and being able to fit yourself into the most efficient role possible. Knowing what your teammates will do in a given situation will best enable you to be helpful in both strategy and execution.
- Settling in with a team should be something that you start to think about more as you reach a higher level of skill, because once your individual skill reaches a certain point, the biggest room for improvement lies in team dynamics. There’s no definitive way to tell when you have found “the right team,” but the biggest things to look for are people as dedicated and skillful as you, in addition to being people that you actually enjoy playing with. Since you will be spending countless hours practicing with these people, it really helps to make your time more enjoyable if you truly like them.
- Obviously not all teams will last forever. Truthfully, most don’t last very long at all. In many cases, players stop getting along, one of them gets too busy, or one of them gets recruited by another team. Realistically, you will probably switch teams several times throughout your Halo 2 career, but that shouldn’t change the fact that your ultimate goal is to find something that fits and then stick with it. Whenever you face a team with similar skill, the deciding factor will almost always be teamwork, and a team that knows how to work together can often topple a team of four “better” players who don’t work well as a unit. Always keep this in mind.
What better way to learn to play like a pro than by actually seeing the game through their eyes? VoD will let you do just that.
Learn By Watching the Pros
- Get a subscription to VoD. Before you go off thinking this is just a shameless plug, consider this: VoD gives you access to all of the major (and countless minor) Halo 2 matches played during the entire 2005 Season. We’re talking about complete, uncut matches between all of the top teams and all of the top players. The MLG Halo 2 pros are the best in the world (and have proved it on countless occasions), and nobody has more advanced skills and strategies than they do. You can learn an unbelievable amount just by watching them play, and observing what they do in various situations–plus, the matches are extremely intense and fun to watch, with an abundance of plays and kills that will make your jaw drop.
- These are actual tournament matches, and they show the caliber of play that is required to be a pro. By watching a pro’s game from start to finish, you can gain a better understanding of what they do in various situations and what their priorities, tactics and strategies are. If you have never gotten to see a true pro play before (and no, montages do not count), you have no idea how quickly you can pick up on what you’re missing.
- You will see many examples of different styles and strategies among the different teams. For example, IGS is a very aggressive team, and use high-pressure tactics to choke enemies and force mistakes. Str8 Rippin is a very thoughtful team, and knows how to take advantage of every situation. Team 3D, who has been totally dominant during the 2005 season, has found a near-perfect blend of both styles, and anyone would do well to study their team dynamics, which they have honed and built upon over the course of more than a year (they have never changed their Halo 2 team lineup).
- A note on VoD: VoD runs on a season-long subscription system. Since our 2005 National Championships have not yet taken place (and the 2006 Season hasn’t started), we are still technically in the 2005 Season. Because of this, any VoD subscriptions that are bought right now will have to be renewed again once the 2006 Season starts in a couple of months. Any VoD subscriber has access to the complete MLG archives, featuring thousands of hours of footage since the inaugural 2004 Season. If you are not interested in watching the Halo 2 2005 National Championships live or digging into the archives right this second, you may want to wait until we start selling subscriptions for the 2006 Season. I just want to make everyone aware of the situation so nobody feels mislead, but make no mistake that the 2005 National Championships will be an amazing event, as only the most elite of all Halo 2 players will be in attendance battling it out for an unbelievable prize pot. VoD subscriptions are available for purchase at the MLG Store.
Playing with the Best
- Through networking and the resources on MLGpro.com, you will gradually find yourself in games with better and better players. This is, of course, as long as you keep improving. Most players want to play with people as good or better than them so they can get good practice and experience in all of their games. It’s not very helpful to play against someone that you always beat, because then you’re not learning anything (and you’re probably developing lazy habits to boot). Knowing this, you must understand that while you would ideally like to eventually end up practicing with pros, you must work your way up there very gradually.
- Your chances of sending a random Friend Request to a pro, having them accept it, and then beginning to practice with them are slim-to-none. You have to understand most of the best players are constantly barraged with requests from people claiming they are “totally awesome” and wanting a challenge match. Well, after about the 600th time that happened and it turned out to be bunk, I think most of the pros just stopped bothering. The point is, pros want to practice with other pros because what better practice is there than playing against the same people you have met up with in the final rounds of all of the MLG tournaments you’ve been to? However, over the course of the season, a number of fresh, talented people have edged their way into pro circles and begun practicing with them (StrongSide, Gh057ayame and Bonfire are just a few of the examples). This is the ultimate trick to stepping your game up, because playing with the pros forces you to shoot better, think faster, and try harder in every single encounter. Many players undergo explosive improvement once they have such great competition to practice with. So how did these people get in the the top players? It’s simple, actually…
- They proved themselves at an MLG tournament. This is hands-down the best and most important way to get noticed by the pro community. Simply going to an event will prove to be a great way to meet new people to play with, but actually placing highly can vault you into the public eye and turn a lot of the top players’ heads. Unless you are ridiculously talented, this will probably not happen at your first MLG event, but each one proves to be a great learning experience that will help you to do better at the next one. By continuing to attend tournaments, actively work on your game, network and broaden your knowledge, you will find that you can improve in ways that you never before thought possible. And if the natural talent is there to compliment the dedication, you may just find yourself among the top finishers at an MLG event.
For information on how to actually sign-up for, travel to and play in an MLG event, please refer to the MLG Handbook and keep your eye on the homepage for updates regarding the new season. Good luck, and we hope to see you on the 2006 tour!