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Capture the Flag: My Thoughts

Introduction

This article is being sparked by taking part in Rift's capture the flag warfront, named Whitefall Steppes. Really, though, it applies to other games as well (as I first experienced this game type with Halo a long time ago, but it is also present in most modern FPS games now). While I do take part in this game type from time to time, it is by far one of my least favorites due to how it works. Through this article I will be looking at why that is!

What is Capture the Flag?

The first thing you need to do is understand what the capture the flag game style is all about, as well as how it works. In most situations the game itself works the same way, although sometimes people will alter it a bit (for example, in the case of Rift's version). The general goal stays the same, though, which is to take your opponent's flag and return it to your base. While this may seem pretty easy, there is another trick: your flag also has to be in your base before you can successfully get a point for taking your enemy's. While you can grab theirs and take it to your base, you will not get credit until yours is safely returned.

Where things start to differ is in relation to where the flags start out at. For example, in Rift's case they start in the middle of the play field, so everyone rushes there to grab it before the enemy does. There is also the “reverse capture the flag” game type, where your goal is to take your side's flag to the enemy base instead of taking theirs to your base.

While these differences do exist, the game styles are all similar enough that once you get used to one, you can use the same strategies for all the others. This makes it very easy to go from game to game, adapting to their custom styles pretty quick and painlessly.

My Problem: Time Commitments

In many cases, capture the flag takes a very long time to get completed. Because you are against the enemy team and you have to have both flags in your possession to get a score, it essentially means that you have to either severely outsmart the opponents or overpower them to an extent where you have a significant advantage over them. Without either of these, you are either going to hold one flag or no flags, but the chances of being in control over both is pretty small. In the case of online games, this will lead to stalemates and ties, which would not be a big problem were it not for the fact that in most cases you get the same rewards whether the match takes a couple minutes as you will if it takes an hour. In other words, by these matches being dragged on and on, you are limiting your own rewards in the process, effectively slowing them down. For players like myself that focus on gaining the most rewards possible over the shortest period of time, this does not play out too well. Instead, we are better off focusing more on matches that run through quickly, regardless as to who is going to win each battle.

For players that are in organized guilds or have friends they often play with, I can see capture the flag being a viable option. This is mostly because with organized groups, it is much easier to plan and take down your enemies than it is with a lot of random players. This means matches will usually end faster, netting the same high rewards most of us want to go for. But for groups of random players, this just does not pan out so well.

Alternate Method: Multiple Flags

There is an alternate game style that is pretty rare but seems to cut back on the time commitment a little bit. This is to have multiple flags on the field, out in the center (spawning one by one as they are captured). In this case, players can steal the enemy flags as they capture them, and this leads to a whole new world. Whereas keeping up with two flags can be hard because everyone is focused on just those two, having multiple flags out on the field spreads out players even more. In the vast majority of cases, this leads to much faster games than the normal variant of capture the flag, and it still has the same overall goal: to get enemy flags. While these games can still last forever, that is rare and far between; usually once there are a few flags that have been taken things will start shifting and one team will dominate the other pretty fast, leading to the end of the game.

Conclusion

I can understand why some people love capture the flag. It is a game that is truly based on working with team members, and it requires great strategy in order to win. Keeping the game tied or neutral is the easy part; it is actually going through and winning the battle that is tough. After all, one just requires defending a single flag (or at least ensuring that one of the flags is in your team's possession at all times) and the other requires that you manage to take both and keep them safe.

Games


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