Welcome to n00bism, where the n00bs meet the l33ts. I want this to be a friendly place for anyone to ask silly n00b questions and have them answered judgement-free. Whoever wants to tag their post with n00bism should absolutely do so. Do you suck at one particular kind of game? And how badly? Share the embarrassment!

n00bism: A Payneful ExperienceS

For my inaugural post, I'll be asking a big ol' n00b question that would have me laughed out of most respectable gaming circles:

How long do I have to work at a competitive multiplayer game until it starts being fun?

Okay, I should probably explain this a bit more: I grew up absolutely loving local multiplayer. For a long time my favorite way to game by far was against my friends. Street Fighter 2, Goldeneye, Tekken 3, NFL Blitz, NBA Jam... I put in tons of time on these games and loved it. I never mastered any of them (though my Hwoarang game on Tekken 3 was pretty sick), but it didn't matter because my friends and I were all on more-or-less the same level.

This gen I've pretty much abandoned multiplayer. For a while I had a good friend who would come over and we'd duke it out in SFIII or UMvC3, but he moved away last year, and we've not bothered to set up any kind of online facsimile. It was always more about the hanging out than it was the actual games anyways, and neither of us owns a headset. Still, I've had a terrific year of gaming and a lot of incredible single-player experiences. I love 'em! But I also can't help but wonder what I'm missing by not taking part in the CoD-style multiplayer scene.

So two nights ago I started up a game of Max Payne 3 multiplayer. I beat the single-player mode about a month or two ago on normal difficulty and absolutely loved it. So, I customize my avatars and loadouts and head into a Gang Wars match...

Let's just skip ahead 3 hours. My downstairs neighbor has come upstairs to check if I'm okay because I've been yelling... really loudly. "Cussin' up a storm," to put it colloquially. In the time I've been playing I've got an average lifespan of about 35 seconds. My K/D ratio is .08. Turns out I am absolutely terrible at this...

Here are my problems! 1) My favorite weapons were dual pistols in the single player mode (I've seen too many John Woo movies), but, in multiplayer I need to level up my pistol before I can equip dual pistols in my loadout. Except, I'm killing people at such a ridiculously slow pace (and mostly with my AK anyways) that after 2 nights of trying I have yet to unlock a pistol upgrade. 2) Body armor is heavy, and I always end up having to get rid of something really useful to be able to equip it without overencumbering my avatar. When you die as much as I do, you definitely need body armor, but this means I don't have as many weapons, which hinders my ability to kill (an ability that was negligible-to-nonexistent in the first place). 3) I'm constantly running into high level people with ridiculously stacked loadouts. Even mid-level people have guns that can rip me to shreds before I know what's happening. In situations when I get the drop on them, often if I miss the headshot I'm toast, because there's no way my gun will kill them faster than theirs will kill me. They have both better armor and better weapons.

So! To sum up: I'm not particularly good at this game. But that's not what bothers me; I'm bad at lots of games (Tetris, for example). What bothers me is that the whole multiplayer game seems to be set up to hinder my learning it... While this makes solid business sense if you're a game company (you incentivize the multiplayer progression so that it holds people's attention for longer than the singleplayer), the effect on a gamer like myself who shows up late to the party is that you are stuck attempting to learn a game's systems while suffering from every possible disadvantage. The gamers with the best ranking have the best guns, and you can bet they know how to use those gold-plated-fully-automatic-dual-pistols.

I'm sure a lot of people will argue that this makes some kind of Darwinian sense; that if you can't win with the base loadouts you have no business competing at all. That's fine if being a serious multiplayer competitor was my goal; however, my ultimate goal is to have fun. I admit it's a pretty nebulous goal, but really what it means is that I want to experience the different features that this game has to offer; sometimes it's victory, sometimes it's defeat, sometimes it's pistols, sometimes it's rifles. I'm not looking for some perfect K/D ratio; I'm looking to actually be able to enjoy this game, and part of that is striking a balance of not constantly dying.

So, maybe you're saying "bah, that's all you're complaining about poco? A poor workman blames his tools." Fair enough. I'm not claiming to be a great, or a good, or heck even a competent workman. But, this isn't my job. I do this for fun.

And yeah, presumably I could shell out some bucks and get a multiplayer pack full of weapons and perks (not quite pay-to-win, but it might as well be). But frankly, I've already paid for the game itself and I don't want to pay more. In a lot of situations I could solve this problem by grinding through it, but in this situation my "grinding" earns negligible exp because of my low K/D and general incompetence. Yet another way to solve this is to find a group of people at my skill level and join them, but I'm not at all sure how to do that (watch for people with terrible scores like mine and then private message them?)

What I really want is a casual multiplayer mode that ignores progression. Why? Because I want to play a game about shooting people, not a game about buying progressively more expensive and deadly guns. Unfortunately it seems I am in the VAAAAAAST minority here. CoD has proven that the gaming public at large loves multiplayer progression. I'm apparently a dinosaur of the Unreal-Tournament-LAN-party age (sidebar: thank you, whoever it was in my high school who kept reinstalling UT on the school computers no matter how many times the admins deleted it. Thank you so much). I want a level playing field, but I'm at a loss as to what modern games offer such a stripped down experience... Perhaps Counter-Strike? Team Fortress 2? I prefer MP3's gameplay, but I'm open to suggestions.

So, anyways, I don't mean to sound bitter (though I clearly am), but does anyone else have a way of dealing with this issue? One approach of course is to buy the game at launch, that way you're progressing along with everyone else, but that ship has sailed (also I rarely buy any game at launch, and if I did I seriously doubt it would be a competitive multiplayer game). I can't shake the feeling that if I just stick with it for long enough it'll magically start being fun, but it also seems ridiculous to force myself into something I'm not particularly enjoying (even though the core gameplay is an absolute hoot).

Max Payne or multiplayer experts: got any pro-tips? Are there any particularly gentle game modes that I can grind through while learning the ropes? Because as things are now, it's like a pool that's nothing but deep end... and I'm the only one without a lifejacket... and all the other swimmers are trying to drown me.

Be sure to check out TAY Classic. And don't forget to write something witty down here, poco... :-/