Feature Article

By Brick Shoemaker

MLG staff writer Brick Shoemaker hooks up with Tsquared to pick his brain and gather his thoughts on the vast new world of Halo 2, what it takes to be a top player, and future prospects in the Halo world.

Name: Tom Taylor (Tsquared)

Age: 17

Home State: Florida

Pro Status: Signed MLG player

On how it all started:

Tom started playing Halo CE just a few months before the first Halo 50k tournament and his team still placed in the top 16. After two years he achieved a 3rd place finish at AGP, but things really heated up at MLG Dallas last year when he nailed a 3rd place prize with his “whooping off-host,” and impressed MLG VP and co-founder Sundance DiGiovanni who immediately showed interest in signing him. The rest, as they say, is history.

Not surprisingly, he considers winning the MLG Boston FFA his greatest accomplishment because it was his own personal victory, instead of a team effort. “I walked around like god that day.” The head-to-head play in the final rounds of the FFA was intense and something that he misses in Halo 2 for various reasons (more on that later).

On his recent falling out with Check 6 after MLG DC:

“Zyos booted me out for attitude problems.” It was clear in speaking with him that T2 finds this to be a mistake and attributes the reason for him being kicked not to an attitude problem but rather to pressure Zyos was feeling to make a move after not performing well enough (by their standards, they finished a very respectable second) at MLG DC. Tom’s not stressing out about it though and is patiently looking for a new team, meaning that if he doesn’t find a team for MLG San Francisco in time he will just continue on and train for MLG Houston.

On training/practicing/playing:

His practice regimen comes in two wildly different flavors. The first is the intense, 16 hour-a-day “doors locked, cell phones, emails, AIM’s and computers turned off to the world” variety that many people probably imagine when they think of pro-gamers. This type of concentrated effort can go on for up to a week before tournaments. When he’s not handcuffed to his seat, Tom likes to dive in for some more casual fun, the kind of play that got so many of us into Halo in the first place. His room is quite large, and has enough space for friends to come over and party, complete with two TV’s for LANs or XBL. However, when girls come over Halo has to take a back seat for a while, disproving the theory that 24/7 practice is the only way to get professional (Ed. Note: I knew it. Pro-gamers is pimps too, go on brush yer shoulders off).

On StK’s continued dominance:

Tom sees the main reason for StK’s persistence at the top of the Halo heap as the fact that they’ve been playing for so long together. They had their team set up since before Halo 2 came out which gave them a huge jumpstart and, thus, a major advantage over teams that could hang with them, such as x6. In Tom’s opinion x6 hung but didn’t have the “uniformity” to beat a team as well organized and skilled as StK.

Money and Halo:

Surprisingly, T2 reports making nearly as much money in local tournaments as he does in professional ones. He and some of his buddies are even willing to drive out of state for some smaller tournaments, because the competition is less stiff (in comparison to MLG) and the prizes (as Tom informed me) can include decent money or sweet items such as plasma TV’s.

Favorite maps:
In Halo 2, Ivory Tower and Lockout are some of his favorites so far. But on Lockout, he feels that “there should be another power weapon at the bottom of blue base to balance the map and ruin the spawn rape-age that goes on down there.” Some of T2′s all-time Halo: CE classics include Chill Out and Damnation. He feels that Chill Out should be remade for Halo 2, but each room should be made proportionately bigger to compensate for the difference in the way Halo 2 is played, which should give it the same feel as the original without butchering the level. In response to the constant clamoring of the Halo community for a remake of Hang ‘em High, he points out that the map would suck without a pistol and the ability to blow the sniper with grenades.

On Halo 2′s weapons:

“I like how it’s balanced, there are so many good weapons lying around the map.” However, he thinks sniping is too easy, recalling the days when a no-zoom headshot was something to wow about. Also, he found that the sword is impossible to make hit every time, something he’s tested extensively. Despite his high regards for Halo 2′s weapon system he still holds true to the classic Halo: CE players’ mantra of “I do miss the pistol.” Of the equally lauded and complained about PP/BR combo, he says “It’s really the thing to use in FFA,” using Beaver Creek as a prime example. “If you get up on the roofs, you’re going to be hard to beat. It’s just so easy to kill people.”

Thoughts on MLG settings/tournaments:

With respect to MLG DC, for the most part he thought, “everything was perfect.” He thought that the top 16 in each tournament should go 1v1 and that some Halo 2 maps were really good for this kind of play. Right now he feels as though the FFA is too spawn-oriented (luck-based) to let it determine an outright winner, so some 1v1′s could help solve that problem. Aside from all of the great gametypes at MLG DC, T2 would rank Foundation CTF as one of his least favorites.

On who to look out for in the upcoming tournaments:

“Obviously the Ogres. I think Vash had the best battle rifle.” Also, he was surprised by Gandhi and Str8 Rippin’s performances.

Will things change among the top MLG players between now and the end of the season?

“No, not much will change,” he said, noting also that some teams will probably fall off. With XBL and the added attention it gives Halo 2 and the unparalleled connectivity it’s giving players, there will just be, as Tom succinctly puts it, “more grudge, more media, more teams” as the season goes on.

Also, he believes people will learn a lot more about blowing weapons to themselves, noting that TDT’s early discovery of that kind of tactic in Halo: CE was one of the reasons they used to win so much. “There must be a way to blow the rockets on Ivory Tower,” he insisted. Adding to the list of things that could evolve Halo 2 play, T2 notes that things like hill spawning system for KOTH may eventually be learned, making decisions in team games much more intuitive.

On Matchmaking/Bungie.net Leaderboards:

“I was number one in two categories and number three in another,” Tom says of his Leaderboard stats, but he’s not going back to regain his titles “until they fix the standby.” Some of the improvements he would like to see made to Matchmaking include players spawning with a battle rifle and no secondary weapon, just like the way MLG does it. “If you’re playing on Ascension and you don’t spawn by those snipers you’re f#@$ed,” he stated plainly. “What are you gonna do?” In his opinion, BR’s would fix this problem to a certain extent, giving players at least some small way to keep the snipers out of their scopes and at bay.

While being careful not to try to “speak for everybody,” Tom did express a desire for Bungie/Microsoft and generally all serious game companies to listen to the pros when they make decisions about their games. He feels that in Bungie’s case if they would take the pros’ opinions into consideration, Matchmaking would carry on much more smoothly, would be more fun and fair for everyone, and they could “restart everything” on an even playing field. “I love XBL, I hate how it’s run. But it’s better for Halo,” he says bitter-sweetly. This statement seems to signify T2′s experience with XBL on the whole. On one hand, he’s been playing with celebrities and he can practice with his teams from the comfort of his home over great distances. On the other hand, he gets more friend requests than he knows what to do with, but it’s proof that the word is getting out about MLG and XBL is helping to connect people at a staggering rate. His hopes for other future improvements to the game include some great downloadable content and a fix to the “blank rockets” glitch on XBL.