Knock-off game types

Posted September 18th 2012

Introduction

My original 'Knock-off Alpha' game type was meant as a Knock-off game suitable for both aerial and ground-based play, but in retrospect it would've been better to give separate versions for those two styles of play, due to the mismatch of requirements. I also decided it would be good to simplify the shield protection to just one extra shield if possible, and that things would be improved by boosting the shield recharge rate. Here I address all those issues and offer a growing series of definitive new Knock-off game types, which thus far have also been uploaded to my file share (gamertag Rockslidey), ready for you to get busy with.

Standard and aerial

The game types will come in paired versions, describing the same battle but played played two different ways. One will be for what I'll call 'standard' play, by which I mean ground-based play with normal gravity, relatively normal speed of 110%, and normal equipment use. The other will be for aerial play, in which you'll have an unlimited jet pack with gravity 75% and speed 150%, and in which the idea is to stay airborne the whole time except for grabbing health packs and - if you want - waiting for shields to recharge after respawning. In both cases you'll have an extra shield (a nice green bar on the HUD), but for standard play you'll have damage resistance 300% compared to the 200% for aerial, making you 50% tougher. These protection levels have been chosen so that Heroic will give you a decent challenge while still allowing you play fairly robustly, getting stuck in at close range for short spells, which I consider a good part of the fun.

All relevant settings not listed should be assumed to be normal (as in 'Firefight', which you can use as a starting point for making the relevant adjustments). Thus far, the only thing I'm altering from pair to pair is the wave structure.

Usage advice

Here's an assortment of advice on using the game types (but for general Knock-off advice see Blasting technique and Assorted tips in the original article).

Map choice

Just to re-iterate from the original article, Holdout and Installation 04 are the best maps, each with their own delights, but you've also got Outpost, Overlook, Glacier and Unearthed. Of those secondary maps I'd rate Outpost and Unearthed the best. Overlook is ok but has only a small section of convenient cliff edge, so there's not much variety in the play. Glacier is problematic and I don't bother with it for serious play. Among the shortcomings, there's at least one spot where covies can end up trapped down a hole between shards, which is a bit of a game-killer.

If you want to make covies drown rather than fall to their deaths, there's Beachhead too. You're not knocking them off cliffs, but you're still knocking them into a death zone. Can be fun!

Alternative weapons and equipment

My loadouts will give the all-powerful concussion rifle as standard, with a choice of secondaries to employ, or none at all if you want to go light. The rocket launcher will be the default secondary, partly because it's handy for taking out Banshees fast. However, you should consider the weapon combos in my loadouts merely the default combos. If you fancy using others, adjust things as desired, and as far as I'm concerned you're still playing the same game. Likewise, in the standard versions feel free to give yourself alternative equipment to the default jet pack I've set - or no equipment at all. Sprint is the obvious alternative and could perhaps be equally useful in its own way.

Increased protection

If you're initially finding things too hard on Heroic or if you simply want to play in an even more boisterous manner than usual, bump your damage resistance up a notch. With aerial play you'll be 50% tougher, and with standard play 60%.

Fixed order versions

For each game type, if you adjust 'random' to 'ordered' for wave sets marked as random, you've got the 'fixed order' version of the game. I carefully list waves in what I think will make a good order for that. When you play a fixed order version against the clock (competing against your previous performances or those of other players), you'll know that your time will be largely down to your skill rather than being partly dependent on which waves you get, so there's extra significance to it as a measure of your Knock-off skills.

Playing on Legendary

On Legendary, things will be rather hard! In the aerial case, things perhaps aren't too bad. They're manageable with a lot of care, though you'd need to adopt a more distant style of play because it's so dangerous to get close to any enemy concentration. In the standard case things seem extremely hard though, and you'll probably need to use special tactics to avoid having more than a few enemies close at once. Ambush tactics in particular. However, in both cases the gameplay will have a significantly different nature to what you can manage on Heroic. If you don't find it very enjoyable, bump your damage resistance up a notch. I've tested this, and you can rest assured that despite the significantly increased protection, things will still be quite a bit harder than your usual play on Heroic. But this time you'll be able to get into the action more heavily.

Hybrid play

If you want to fight hybrid battles in which you use a mix of aerial and ground-based play, I recommend using the standard version but with 75% player gravity and unlimited equipment usage as in the aerial version, so you can fly about when desired. You'll only have speed 120%, slower than normal for flying, but in terms of safety your 300% damage resistance will more than compensate for that.

Extra use

When you've had enough Knock-off play with a game type, you might like to adjust the red skull so it no longer makes covies invulnerable and immune to assassination (or just switch it off for each round), make any desired adjustments to your Spartan settings, and play the battle conventionally, i.e. killing covies in the usual ways. Might as well put those covie waves to maximum use eh?

Speed play

Often I play Knock-off against the clock. With each of my game types I list my best times here, giving you something to compete against if you're interested. Times are what the onscreen timer stops at, which incidentally is not true time because the timer strangely runs 3 seconds slow per minute. I give my best no-death times for the fixed order version, plus my best no-death times for general play in cases where I beat my fixed order time. By a no-death time I mean where you don't die at all, even after the timer stops (which happened to me once when I got cut down by a Banshee after killing the last covie with my health in tatters). That's how I like to play things, as it adds to the challenge and tension. I'll add new times as I get them.

Rules

There are just a couple of rules for speed play, to try and maintain the spirit intended.

(1) With aerial play you must endeavour to stay airborne throughout the battle, aside from grabbing health packs and - if desired - waiting for shields to recharge after respawning. While on foot in those circumstances, you mustn't take any offensive action except to shift covies blocking your path. It's ok to land in the closing seconds when the killing is over.

(2) In Installation 04, when a Grunt or Brute mans the machine gun turret, he seems to temporarily lose his invulnerability, enabling you to kill him. You're allowed to kill only one covie that way (in which case you'd be well advised to make sure you destroy the turret too). The same goes for any other map where invulnerability can be lost like this, though I haven't actually seen it elsewhere.

Bad waves

A spot of trouble to report. In Overlook I've had under-strength waves quite often when using Knock-off 2. Sometimes a dropship has even been entirely empty! If you get a bad wave you shouldn't count your time as valid, as the lower number of wave troops will obviously have been a significant help. You can always use Theater mode to check wave numbers after your play, if you got a good time. Wave squads should have 24 covies except as follows. The various Hunter squads have 18 except the 'Hunters' squad which has 6. 'Elite generals' and 'Brute chieftains' also have 6, while 'Elite strike team' and 'Brute kill team' have 12. I don't know if this annoying problem can occur in the other maps, but I haven't seen it so far.

Knock-off 1

These first two game types are a reworking of my original offering 'Knock-off Alpha', having the same waves as before and lasting just one round. The waves are designed to give you variety but also a good supply of Grunts because they're the most amusing. Ideal for you to start off with. For the boss wave I've included Heretic heavy because it's quite a buzz to have rockets and grenades whizzing past as you fly around!

Available on my file share, along with 2 films

Name: Knock-off 1 Standard
Description: Knock invulnerable covies off cliffs to kill them.

Spartan settings: damage resistance 300%, 2x overshields, shield recharge rate 200%, maximum grenades, bottomless clip, player speed 110%, motion tracker has enhanced mode and 75 metre range. Five jet pack loadouts, all with concussion rifle as primary and grenades unchanged. Names and secondaries as follows. DEMON: rocket launcher. WARRIOR: fuel rod gun. GRENADIER: grenade launcher. BERSERKER: gravity hammer. RANGER: concussion rifle.

Firefight settings: 1 round, using Cowbell, IWHBYD and Red. Red skull is set to make enemies invulnerable and immune to assassination. Hazards enabled. Weapon drops and ammo crates disabled. All waves have dropships enabled. Initial wave: ordered, Grunts. Main waves: random, Brutes, Elite patrol, Skirmisher infantry, Brute patrol, Hunter kill team. Boss wave: random, Heretic heavy, Elite airborne, Brute tactical.

Name: Knock-off 1 Aerial
Description: Take to the air and knock invulnerable covies off cliffs to kill them.

Settings: As in Knock-off 1 Standard except: damage resistance 200%, equipment usage unlimited, player speed 150%, player gravity 75%, no BERSERKER loadout.

Here are my best no-death times for fixed order play.

  • Holdout. Standard: Heroic 12:24, Legendary 21:17. Aerial: Heroic 13:48, Legendary 23:42.
  • Installation 04. Standard: Heroic 18:12, Legendary 20:46. Aerial: Heroic 18:08, Legendary 26:48.
  • Outpost. Standard: Heroic 30:12. Aerial: Heroic 31:01.
  • Overlook. Standard: Heroic 17:43. Aerial: Heroic 29:16.
  • Unearthed. Standard: Heroic 32:56. Aerial: Heroic 30:51.

Here are my best no-death times for general play, in cases where I've beaten my fixed order time.

  • Holdout. Standard: Heroic 11:42.
  • Installation 04. Standard: Heroic 15:43.

Also available on my file share are films F1 and F2, both using the fixed order version of Knock-off 1 Aerial. F1 is a speed play of Holdout on Heroic in 15:21, while F2 is a leisurely play of Installation 04 on Heroic, in which I take more time having fun with individual covies.

Knock-off 2

Another pair lasting just one round. Again there's good variety, but I've used almost completely different waves to Knock-off 1. This time you'll have some Jackals at the start, accompanied by either Brutes, Elites or Hunters. In the main waves look out for a squad of Elites, and also a squad of Heretics. Couple of nasty squads for the ending: Elite spec ops and Heretic snipers. The cloaked guys can be quite a challenge, but at least they show up on your tracker.

Available on my file share

Name: Knock-off 2 Standard
Description: Knock invulnerable covies off cliffs to kill them.

Settings: As for Knock-off 1 Standard except: Initial wave: random, Brute infantry, Elite infantry, Hunter infantry. Main waves: random, Grunts, Elites, Hunter strike team, Heretics, Jackal patrol. Boss wave: random, Elite spec ops, Heretic snipers, Elite tactical.

Name: Knock-off 2 Aerial
Description: Take to the air and knock invulnerable covies off cliffs to kill them.

Settings: As for Knock-off 1 Aerial except waves as above.

Here are my best no-death times for fixed order play.

  • Holdout. Standard: Heroic 11:47, Legendary 20:40. Aerial: Heroic 13:51, Legendary 20:24.
  • Installation 04. Standard: Heroic 19:07, Legendary 20:11. Aerial: Heroic 20:53, Legendary 26:24.
  • Outpost. Standard: Heroic 25:14. Aerial: Heroic 29:42.
  • Overlook. Standard: Heroic 14:53. Aerial: Heroic 27:04.
  • Unearthed. Standard: Heroic 27:32. Aerial: Heroic 37:13.

Here are my best no-death times for general play, in cases where I've beaten my fixed order time.

  • Holdout. Standard: Heroic 11:07.
  • Installation 04. Standard: Heroic 19:03.

Design notes

Here's some talk about my rationale for basic settings (especially Spartan settings) which I expect to use for all my Knock-off game types.

Protection

When designing Knock-out Alpha I wanted to avoid altering damage resistance if possible, but that obliged me to use two extra shields, which started feeling a bit cumbersome as I played more. And in any case that still wasn't really enough for standard (ground-based) play, which could've done with a further shield. So I had a rethink and found that I could base things around just one extra shield by raising damage resistance to 200% for aerial and 300% for standard. That made things just about right for Heroic play, based on my play-testing of Holdout and Installation 04. It was enough to allow fairly robust close-up play while still requiring you to exercise caution. For standard play the 300% made things perhaps a touch harder than ideal, but the next highest option would've been 500%, making things way too safe and unchallenging.

The shield recharge rate is boosted to 200% so you don't have to spend quite so long waiting around, something which was slowing things down too much when I was using the standard 100%. Things play better this way I think.

Movement

For standard play you've got player speed 110% for a little extra zip, partly because you'll be doing so much running about, especially in Installation 04.

For aerial play, increased player speed and low player gravity are desirable and I kept the 150% speed and 75% gravity used in Knock-off Alpha. Other possibilities I considered were 200% for speed and 50% for gravity, but with 200% speed you become more prone to overshooting things, and with 50% gravity you become more prone to overshooting your intended altitude and you also can't lose altitude as fast. As such, I feel that 150% and 75% give better control and less likelihood of frustration, so I'm sticking with them. As for option of 120% speed, that always felt a bit too sluggish for aerial play.

Motion tracker

The motion tracker uses enhanced mode and 75 metre range, which I think suits the gameplay well. It lets you consistently see enemy locations over a wide area, and still gives sufficient clarity over the normal 25 metre range, which is relevant on the ground. The tracker characteristics also come in handy when an enemy has become stranded somewhere obscure, such as a foothold just over a cliff. You'll know he's there from the red dot, and can take action to finish him off or free him.

Grenades

I provide maximum grenades as they have various uses. A quick throw can temporarily reduce the amount of fire you're taking, and they can come in useful for repelling pursuers when you're trying to use cover to recharge (e.g. hiding inside a station). Also you can have occasional fun with them. They can be be used to stylishly deliver the coup de grâce to a covie near the edge for example, or in the case of a plasma, to tag him for an amusing mid-air bang. Plasmas can also usefully tag Banshees.

Weapon drops and ammo crates

I disable weapon drops and ammo crates because those would pretty much just be clutter to us. Ok you could potentially grab a rocket launcher if you don't already have one, but if you want one of those you can have one right from the start. I prefer to do without the clutter, keeping the battlefield clearer and the HUD unpolluted with indicators.

Dropships

Dropships are enabled because they add to the drama and gameplay. It's fun trying to do a good job blitzing the covies as they hit the ground, and you can enjoy blasting cannons off beforehand to help keep you safer. They also look great and make for better realism than having covies materializing out of thin air.

Covie immunity to assassination

Strangely enough, making enemies invulnerable doesn't mean you can't assassinate them. I found that out by accident when I gratuitously bashed a Grunt from behind and left my thumb on the button slightly too long. We don't want any of that, so I make enemies immune to assassination too.