I’m Back– Of Freedom and Summer

So I’m out of the darkness and back to the light. All my work is handed in, my room is slowly being packed up and my bank account is looking exceptionally sore. It obviously means I’ve survived my first year of uni. I’ll be going back to Leeds on Saturday but before then got a few more things to do – such as crazy BBQ and airsoft meetings.

Games Writing

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So now I no longer have uni work to do I’ll be jumping back into this reviewing lark. At the moment, I’ve got the latest map pack fro Black Ops to do, as well as Brink, Fate of the World (which is the best educational game I’ve played in a long time) and also the great Frozen Synapse which is getting its full release this week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to grab a screenshot of my face in the game – a perk of pre-ordering it.

Outside of This Is My Joystick, I’ve also got a ton of my own games to review. Inspired by a bunch of videos online, I’m going to go back and review some of the oldest games in my collection, such as Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far and Jane’s Apache Longbow 2. Expect these at various points through the Summer but I intend to release at least one review every week, probably on a Wednesday.

Projects

(Image credits XKCD – click the picture to visit the site)

I’ve got a couple of projects planned out for Summer primarily for coding practise while I’m not in uni.

First up is a Company of Heroes mod I’m working on with friends from university. I’m in on a coding level, working in LUA to write all the attribute files to get the fantastic gameplay design and art assets the rest of the team are hard at work on, actually working in game. Its been a while since I last modded CoH, so I’ve spent most of Tuesday getting the basic project setup and ready for me to start out on the rest later on this week.

The second is an app a friend of mine (Paris Arrowsmith) has come up with an idea for. We’re still working out the details for it but we will be looking to have it out on Android/iOS at some point over the Summer. I will have to make a prototype first (using the grand old C++) and also brush up on how to write apps for the various platforms. This will also involve me finding a Mac to do iOS development on so the Android version will probably be the first one finished based on my project estimation. More info will be forthcoming so keep your eyes peeled for it.

Other Stuff

So apart from all these creative things, I also have a few other things lined up. I’ll be looking for work in order to get my finances straight so that will be a barrel of laughs. Hopefully it will be somewhere vaguely not soul crushing but we will see.

I’m planning to go to Ground Zero, a huge airsoft weekend event over the Bank Holiday weekend in August. So while the rest of you guys are getting stuck in the mud and grime at Leeds or Reading, I’ll be chilling on the South coast, spending the days in huge battles of several thousand airsofters and the night drinking beer, BBQing food and having a good old time.

As part of Airsoft, this is a plea. I love my XM8 by the odd size mags and the non-Britishness of it makes it standout from the rest of my gear. I’m looking to get hold of an L85A2 before Ground Zero in order to be able to swap out mags with the rest of the group (many who have switched to using M4 mag equipped weapons, much to the disgust of our AK loving new chairman Denis) and to also suit the gear I wear including a converted S10 gas mask (cool as all hell but can be pretty uncomfortable mid game). So if you have an ICS L85A2 (or an Ares but that’s me wishing out loud) that you’re willing to trade for my XM8, get in contact with me and we can sort something out.


So that’s life for me, expect some more updates coming more regularly than in the previous months.

Airsofting–An Introduction-Part 3. The Game

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 before this to get a better introduction)

DSC_0348So you’ve grabbed your gun, thrown on some camos and gone to your nearest airsofting site alongside some bros. But what do you actually do there?

Before I go any further, I need to mention something about buying your own airsoft gun. As long as you’re over 18, you can buy an airsoft gun in the UK. However, most sites online and many private sellers need buyers to have a UKARA license. This is simply a system that allows retailers to quickly check that you are in fact an airsofter and not some gun buying loon. You can gain a UKARA license by joining a site and playing at that site three times in as many months. Once this has happened you can grab a UKARA form. Fill in your details, get the site to stamp it and then send it off to Zero One and you’ll be all set. Your site should help you out with this and if not, there is a ton of stuff online.

Another point to make is about the police. To the untrained eye, airsoft guns look like real steel guns. Therefore, don’t be an idiot – running round the street with you M4 with probably end up with a firearms officer screaming in your face or potentially worse. Therefore, carry guns to and from sites in gun bags with all magazines or shells unloaded. If the police stop you, be sensible, follow directions they give you and whatever you say, try to avoid saying “gun”.

Types of Site

First up, what type of site have you gone to? Well, airsoft sites are split into two types.

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The first is Woodland. Woodland sites are like your standard paintball site, usually big tracts of woodland. They may have some buildings but most of the cover consists of bushes, trees and other natural features as opposed to man-made structures. They are more about range and concealment than urban sites. The sites are also larger than many urban sites, which can mean a long walk to and from the combat zone.

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Urban is a totally different beast. The sites are often abandoned industrial buildings or in certain cases actual military FIBUA training areas. These sites are a combination of indoor and outdoor with abandoned offices and houses as well as areas with long sight ranges. CQB sites require shorter weapons with the enclosed corridors as well as very different tactics. It more of a team focused affair requiring proper military CQB tactics to clear corridors and rooms. The action is more intense than woodland but its less friendly to snipers and it guarantees that players will be hit repeatedly. Personally I prefer Urban but there are fewer sites in the UK.

Game Types

Airsoft games massively vary. Sites throughout the day will run different games from simple attack and defends to vip protection to the simple speedball style. Each of these will be explained on the day

Some games will also include a medic rule. This is simple – generally, when you take a hit, stand up with your hand in the air and wait 60 seconds. If by the end of that time no one has come and revived you, then head back to the rally point. Some sites will change up the rules so listen during the safety briefing at the start for everything.

Another rule that often turns up is what’s known as the “bang rule”. This is based around close quarters fight. Two players at close quarters who could have the chance to shoot each can instead simply say back up like gentlemen instead of shooting each other at close range. Most of the sites I go to don’t use these rules – instead if you surprise someone, you can get them to surrender. If they don’t take it, blast them. Additionally close quarters means you can use a rubber knife. Or a spatula.

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A Few Hints

  • At the start of the day, make sure you get payed in sharpish.
  • Listen to the safety brief. This is vital
  • Before you run out onto the field, make sure you have spare mags, batteries for any AEGs, speedloaders and anything else you need.
  • TAKE YOUR HITS. This is vital in order to make the games fun for everyone involved. If someone next to you taps you on the shoulder and says you’ve been hit, listen to them. If you don’t take hits, you give the other team an excuse not to take hits.
  • Between games, player will probably have their guns lying around. If you interested in one, simply ask its owner if you can take a look. Airsofters are normally decent people but always ask.
  • If you have a radio, don’t use it to listen in to the other team’s comms. Its just not cricket.
  • Don’t be a dick

So You’re Interested In All This Then?

Well then, let me give you a few more pieces of advice. I recommend you find a local site first and try going along to a few games renting. Get known at the site and get used to the sport. Alternatively, find a group of other airsofters. This works best at places like uni where you have it as a club but find other airsofters. A good place to look is http://www.zeroin.co.uk, a UK forum. Its full of helpful people (although like all parts of the internet it also has its dicks) who will guide on getting started. It also has a huge list of classified ads so you can pick up guns cheap once you have UKARA. The main point with airsoft is to be social, make friends and have a good time. I’m part of Teesside University’s Airsoft Club so if you’re coming to Teesside or are already there but haven’t joined up, join the club and have a laugh.

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That’s my introduction finished. I’ll have some more articles up in the future about some stuff but this should be a good taster guide to airsoft which hopefully gives you a grounding in it. Have fun and don’t forget to slay some bodies.

Photos thanks to Denis Chernov and Optac UK

Airsofting–An Introduction-Part 2. Gear

(Before reading this, read part 1 pronto – it explains everything)

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So unlike those paintballers, Airsofters don’t have to worry about their gear getting covered in paint or inhaling a paint ball on the face. These means we have a few more choices when we come to kitting up. Broadly, we can split gear into multiple parts – safety, clothing and the icing on the cake.

Each part plays a role and while the latter two don’t need special gear, always make sure you have safety gear.

Safety

Safety kit will save your life. Although not as painful as paintball, plastic BBs flying at 350 feet per second will blind you, break teeth and can break the skin depending on a variety of factors.

Primarily your safety gear is eye protection. Every site requires this to play so if you don’t wear any then you don’t get to enjoy yourself. Eye protection is normally ballistic proof polycarbonate and work great for most people. It splits down again into goggles and glasses.

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Glasses look like slick safety glasses. They are cheap and pretty comfortable while not making you look like a massive prat. It does have a slight side effect in the fact that it does seal around your eyes, letting one or two stray BBs (very rare) but the upside to this is that it also doesn’t limit your field of view. It also doesn’t fog up that much so no frantic wiping of them while someone attempts to lace you with balls.

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Goggles block everything around your eyes, protecting them from everything but limiting your view. It also fogs up pretty quick which can be a pain in the middle of a fire fight. I think they look pretty cool, especially if you get the military looking brands and wear it with desert camo gear.

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There is also another option for goggles – if you should go mesh or not. Mesh is metal that covers up the eyes slots, with holes big enough to see through but not large enough to allow BBs through.There is a slight safety concern as certain brands occasionally have been know to shatter, going through the mesh holes and into your eyes. However, this is exceptionally rare and the only time I’ve seen BBs split was when I fired one is a concrete wall and a single ball broke apart. It’s impossible to fog up mesh (although condensation can form leading a pool of water appearing in front of your eyes) which is why I personally like to use them.

 

As important as your eyes is your beautiful smile or more accurately the teeth your smile includes. BBs can very rarely break teeth but its not something to risk. Additionally, being shot in the face isn’t that pleasant and if you play CQB (close quaters battle) than a face mask comes in handy. Face masks are normally mesh which can leave a pattern over the nose. My mask is always in my box of airsoft gear so its to hand should I decide to use it.

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Of course, you may want to combine a mask and goggles together and to this end buy something like a paintball mask. Normally mesh goggles with a plastic face covering, these are dirt cheap and more often than not this is what you’ll be handed if your renting from a site. Personally, I hate these mask as they never fit right. But they are cheap.

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There is one final bit of face safety to mention. If you want to look super cool but don’t mind sweating like mad, you can buy a military gas mask and have it converted. Normally this pulls out the membrane that constricts breathing and replaces the lenses with either impact resistant polycarbonate or mesh. These masks look great and make you very distinctive when playing. Similarly, fans of Army of Two will be happy to know you can buy the masks that Rio and Salem wear to look bad ass.

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Of course sometimes you have to protect the rest of yourself from bit of harm. Its not vital but knee pads help a lot. When you’re in combat you spend most of your time kneeling down behind chest high walls to avoid being hit. Without knee pads your knees will hurt like heck at the end of the day. Elbow pad are less useful unless your throwing yourself around like a mad man.

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Some protection is a bit more part of the icing on the cake than safety. BBs don’t penetrate Kevlar so wearing body armour or an actual helmet can be a waste of weight. I wear a helmet because some prat shot me in the head through negligence the first time I went out airsofting. It also looks awesome hence why it belongs in the icing on the cake section.

Clothing

Airsofting can be done wearing anything. I’ve seen people in the full galmut of clothes from jeans and a tshirt up to full military combat gear through places like suits and Hawiian shirts. This is the great joy of airsofting as at some sites you never know just what your teammates will be in. Normally however, it some combination of combat gear.

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I used to be an Air Cadet (picture above is me in Germany with a real L85) so when I started out airsofting, I already had a ton of combat gear ready to wear. Trousers, a shirt, a jacket and a waterproof jacket, all in the UK DPM camo, is the gear I normally wear.

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A vital part of clothing is footwear – airsofters must wear boots. The sites we play on are never flat underfoot, covered in branches and rocks or rubble and brick depending on the site type. Therefore you must be wearing boots that cover up to your ankles and provide support to them. Don’t skimp on the boots – otherwise you will wreck your feet and increase the chance of you falling over. I wear some MOD Assault boots which are great to wear. As with all boots, make sure to wear them in before doing airsoft in them.

Icing on the Cake

Like with your guns, airsofters like to accessorise in their loadout. The amount people wear depends on the player. Some people go for the high-speed low-drag approach, only using what they need such as extra mags for their gun. Others wear authentic military loadouts based on specific units and groups.

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I recommend some sort of chest rig or webbing to store your spare mags rather than having them rattling around in your pockets. Most rigs use a system called MOLLE which allows you to choose exactly which pouches you want attached, as well as providing and easy way of storing shotgun rounds. These setups can be a quite expensive as you need to buy the base rig and then the number of pockets you want but they look really effective. Cheaper than these customisable rigs are the preset ones. I currently wear a stand, non-modifiable webtek DPM vest (see above but in woodland) which matches my camo while covered in pouches.

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On top of the chest rigs you also have a swathe of headgear options, shemaghs, gloves, ghille suits and other options to throw on top. These are entirely down to personal preference so go wild. I recommend wearing what you want, but make sure its comfortable to run around in.

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There are also other bits of functional kit that can be handy. Speedloaders, used to quickly refill magazines or shells, are always handy to have when running around. Radios can be handy over long distance to organise your team and as part of this you need to look at a decent headset. Hydration is vitally important while being out in the field so a camelbak is useful although it can prevent you from rolling over to avoid a fire fight. Finally, its good to have a watch on you somewhere in order to keep track of the time limit in games and assist in victory!

 


So what do I wear when I’m running around? Well, here is the list (warning words) but pictures can be seen at the start of each of the three articles:

 

  • Headgear – Viper SF Cap/UK MK6 Kevlar Helmet
  • Face Gear – Mesh Goggles/Mesh Face Mask/Converted S10 Gas Mask
  • Neck Gear – Brown Buff (worn like a shemagh)/Sharman Throat Mic
  • Clothing – Brown/Green T-Shirt under a  DPM Shirt under a DPM Jacket (weather permitting) with DPM trousers
  • Chest Rig – Webtek Tactical Vest
  • Chest Rig Contents – BT FreeWay Radio, Spare Mags for XM8/SPAS 12/M9, Rubber Knife, Speedloader
  • Hands – Cheap Fingerless Gloves/
  • Legs – Pistol Belt + Cheap Skating Kneepads + Viper DPM Holster
  • Boots – MOD Assault Boots

Of course there is no point getting all dressed up and not “Slayin Some Bodies” as my airsoft group say, so in tomorrow introduction I’ll cover the meat of airsofting – shooting other people. I’ll also look at anything else I’ve missed and where to look to get started.

Pictures of gear thanks to http://www.landwarriorairsoft.com/

Airsofting–An Introduction-Part 1. Intro and Guns

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Anyone who knows me in real life or follows me on twitter will have noticed me talking about something called airsoft an awful lot since the start of my time at uni. As many people in the UK don’t know about, and as many people on my facebook think I’ve joined a militia, I’ve been meaning to write a bit about this hobby. This series of articles will look through the various parts of the hobby, starting from a brief forward intro through an explanation of the guns and gear and onto the games themselves as well as a few extra things

The best way I’ve found to explain it is to compare it to the team building exercise of kings, Paintball. In a similar way to paintball, you take part in a number of team based games which require the use of military style tactics. However, as fun as paintball is it has its downsides. Ammo in paintball is expensive, it can be messy after a game and it requires you to wear some very restrictive clothing to have the required level of protection. It provides a glimpse into the world of military re-enactment but unfortunately its a world splattered with neon orange and pink paint.

Airsoft is a step up. Instead of firing paint, plastic BB’s are used as ammo. Immediately this means you don’t have to worry about stuff marking your clothes or ruining your play area. Its also quite a bit cheaper to buy 1000s balls of plastic than it is to buy 1000 paintballs. However, this change in ammo type also changes the gear players use.

Guns

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Instead of the strange looking paintball markers, airsofters run around with what are known under UK law as Replica Imitation Firearms. It is actually how it sounds – airsoft guns are replica version of real world (or virtual/celluloid world) fire arms. Want an M4 like that one you saw on CoD4? Well done, M4s are the most popular gun and it will be a real easy to get the equipment together to make it be an exact copy of Captain Price’s (moustache not included).  Want the grenade launcher that Eames dream bigger in Inception? You can buy it but its not the high explosive throwing device it normally is – think of it more as a giant shotgun.


Airsoft guns are split broadly into three categories – Electric, Spring and Gas.

Electric

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By far the most popular amongst players and the type most newcomers will use first, electrics use a battery and a gearbox (see below) to propel BBs at varying speeds towards your target. Electric is most often used in assault rifles and SMGs like the ever popular M4s or the SWAT team MP5. These are normally known as AEGs or Automatic Electric Guns. However, there are also AEP or Auto Electric Pistols which shrink the system down to give you a sidearm. There are also AEGs which include blowback or shell ejection or even other features to make themselves even more realistic. However, these fancier systems make the guns mechanism even more complex and as such are not recommended to newbies. Also trying to pick up a load of ejected shells after a fire fight in deep woodland is not fun.

Spring

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If you’ve ever picked up a cheap replica of an MP5 from some dodgy shop, there is a pretty high chance that its powered by the simple spring. However, springs are used in more than just crap guns – many of the better brands use springs in shotguns or launchers and many of the sniper rifles (or fagrods) use spring to get bbs to fly even further than electric. Its pretty hard to break a spring gun, but there is no way in hell that a springer can give you the same rate of fire as an electric. However, springers are among the most satisfying to use – pumping a spring shotgun before a firefight is a great way to make a dramatic point or to give you the shotgun feel.

Gas

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Gas is perhaps the most dramatic of the mechanisms. Using a variety of gases, such as CO2 or Green Gas, these function closest to their real world counterparts. The kick may be less than the real steel, but firing a gas powered pistol, especially if it has blowback, looks and feels pretty god damn close to the real thing. Normally, most pistols are gas powered, but rifles and shotguns also use this method of power. Another common use of gas is in the various airsoft grenades be they hand thrown or grenade launcher fired. These throw out hundreds of BBs propelled by the gas making them lethal in enclosed spaces. Gas is fun but it is unreliable, acts poorly in winter and is another thing to keep in supply alongside your BBs.


As well as the guns, you also need magazines and clip to feed them with ammo when you’re blazing away on the field. For assault rifles and SMGs, these range in type.

At the low end you have low cap mags. Low caps have the exact number of rounds that their real world counterpart would have. For example, the standard mag for the M4 is 30 rounds and that is what a low cap would hold. For most sites, using these is idiotic and they are normally only used in mil-sim games by crazy dedicated players.

The standard mags you receive with most gun is the humble mid cap. These usually hold around 150 rounds and are what many people use. The inside is simply a spring that is forced down by you loading the BBs into the mag. These means nothing rattles around as you move across the field but limits your ammo capacity. They are also useful when you have to make sure that when you pull the trigger every round comes out without a break.

The upper limit of the mag capacity is shared between high caps and box/drum mags. High caps can be filled with a butt load of rounds (say 200+) but they require winding every so often to keep the BBs flowing. I primarily use this mag type though it does mean you can hear me a mile away. Of course, there come occasions where you have to kill everyone in a room and that when the drum mag comes in. These hold several thousand rounds and are normally wound by a motor that starts when it hears the gun firing. They can be a little temperamental but when you need an MG to spray the enemy base you learn to love them.

Gas weapons normally have special mag that include a reservoir you fill with gas in order to propel the rounds. This means their internals are a little more complex than the standard mag so I don’t recommend ripping them open.


You must have seen the SOPMOD image floating around online. No? Well here it is:

This is what many airsofters experience thanks to most guns coming covered in accessory rails designed to mount laser, lights, scopes and grenade launchers onto. Personally, I like slapping a sight onto my assault rifle with either a front grip or a light depending on the situation. Accessories allow you to make your gun yours, be it by functional tools or by being idiotic (yes, I do want four lasers on my assault rifle).

Accessories turn meetups with your airsofting bros (and girls) into what could pass as a fashion show with people talking about your choice of gear and admiring the collection of stuff you’ve bolted/taped/screwed onto your gun.


There is another reason that airsofters go into the fashion show mentality – their gear. And that’s the topic of tomorrow’s introduction into airsofting.

However, before I go, this is what I use when I’m running around various fields.

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1. XM8: the big grey gun on the side is my XM8. Based off the G36, this was a prototype rifle the US Army was going to use to replace the M4 and M16. However, it never entered service. Which is a shame as it look striking. It currently has a 3x zoom scope that came with the gun and an underslung light/laser for corridor fighting. I’m looking to change the sight to a 1x zoom red dot scope and laser so I’m can more easily fight up close.

2. SPAS 12: Oh yes. The big black shotgun on the right is a new addition to the armoury that I shall be rocking rather soon. Its a spring shot gun that fires three BBs per shot and loads from 30 round shells. It looks amazing and is a laugh to pump. Oh and it has a light so I can blind people before I give them a tri-shot tattoo.

3. M9: Occasionally, you need to grab a sidearm when your main runs dry. My latest sidearm is a copy of the US Army’s pistol, that has a nice weight to it. The one I bought also includes a silencer (for lolz) and a taclight/laser to look cool. Fun for all the family!

I used to own a Glock 17 pistol I bought from a friend but I sold it due to it malfunctioning and eating gas like a mad thing. Luckily its gone to a new home.

See you tomorrow where I’ll talk about gear and the like – such as the swanky helmet and gas mask in the picture above.

Photo of  the Airsoft Arsenal courtesy of Daniel Harrison