Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FIFA: Enemy Unknown or XCOM: The Swoodilypoopers Strike Back!

John Green, one of my favorite authors, has a peculiar project where he films himself playing the soccer videogame FIFA 11. The youtube video shows what's happening on the virtual field, and while he's playing he narrates the lives and backstories of all of the players. It is surprisingly fun to watch--I have seen 237 episodes of it to date.

The team, the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers has gone through a large number of players during its seven season history, and so when I started playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown recently I knew I had a large cast of characters to work with. 

XCOM is a turn-based strategy game in which you control a squad of soldiers protecting the earth from an alien invasion force. It is a brutal game, where completing a mission with only one dead soldier is considered "Good", and I am starting to run out of players! However, for the most part I am committed to taking things as they come--although it is possible to reload a mission that's gone poorly, I generally avoid that. 

There have been a couple times when I let Bald John Green or his husband, Other John Green (né Bennett) get killed, and that's not the kind of story that I'm interested in hearing, so I reloaded the game without a pang of guilt. I would probably reload for Merrick Maric, at this point, as she's become one of the central characters for these alternate universe Swoodilypoopers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bald John Green

Name: Colonel John Green
Nickname: "Road Block"
Role: Heavy Psychic Infantry
Status: KIA (Operation Avenger)

Bald John Green, John Green,
He gave it all for his team.
Upon his mustache we were keen,
Bald John Green, John Green.

John "Road Block" Green is the tactical and spiritual leader of the XCOM program. Physically imposing, Colonel Green stands 6'2" tall and typically carries twice as much heavy ordinance as any other soldier.

In the bulk of his missions with XCOM, he preferred to wear Titan-class heavy armor, the toughest but also the bulkiest armor available. However, most recently, he has given this up in favor of a suit of experimental design that directly amplified his already-powerful psychic abilities. Purely by coincidence, the Psi Armor also looks a bit like a black turtleneck, giving him a dressy-but-relaxed style.

A man of unquestionable bravery, John Green was the first candidate for Psi testing (along with his husband, Major Green, and Lieutenant Beef Stock) and was the only member of that initial round of volunteers to show signs of psychic ability. Since those tests, he has continued to train and hone his abilities and is now able to kill with a mere thought.

Although other team members may joke that he is too slow-moving on the field (a recurring jibe from Hendrick "Mad Man" Hendricks) Colonel Green prefers to choose a well-defended, tactically advantageous location and defend it at all costs. He provides cover for the rest of his squad using a Heavy Plasma Gun, and often works closely alongside armor-plated drones. 

Bald John GreenAs his psychic abilities matured, he grew to rely more and more his ability to either mentally dominate his foes, or to crush their brains altogether. A strong critic of these tactics was Merrick Maric (by way of increasingly urgent post-mission notes). who believed that Green was entirely too focused on these psychic attacks, to the detriment and danger of the rest of the squad. She was especially critical of his preference for mind control attacks, insisting that in all cases it is preferable to shoot the enemy than merely to mentally dominate it for a few seconds. These notes, while insistent, were still respectful of Green's role as team leader.

-- Note: Spoilers for XCOM: Enemy Unknown below --

After interfacing with the alien sphere, Colonel Green become the strongest psychic warrior on the planet, and possible the strongest in the universe. During Operation Avenger he lead his squad on a dangerous mission, directly attacking the main alien battleship. After finding and killing the alien leader, however, the ship began to implode and Dr. Vahlen realized that it could have disastrous consequences if the battleship were to destruct within the earth's atmosphere.

The last action that Major Green was seen to take was to telekinetically throw the surviving soldiers out of the control room, slamming the door behind them. They were able to escape the ship, which immediately rocketed out of Earth's atmosphere--presumably Colonel Green had figured out the controls, and saved his planet.

It is unknown whether he made contact with his husband, Double Down Green. However, given the strength of his psychic ability it is assumed that they were able to say goodbye before the end. An absolute hero, Colonel John "Road Block" Green truly gave it all for his team.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Other John Green

Name: Major John Green (né Bennett)
Nickname: "Double Down"
Role: Assault

Cocky, impulsive, and extremely reckless, "Double Down" Green is a perfect compliment to his husband (and superior officer), "Road Block". Where his husband prefers carefully thought out tactics and a slow, methodical plan of attack, Double Down will always choose to rush straight at the alien menace, shotgun blazing.

And he does prefer the shotgun--the rest of his squad was anxious to try out the new weaponry Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen had developed from alien technology, but he refused to give up his modified Benelli. Finally, Dr. Shen was able to create a "laser scattergun" that met his standards, and he upgraded to a more advanced weapon.

Major Green is notoriously impulsive--he once shot an alien at point blank range, covering himself in its acidic blood and getting severely wounding in the process. Less than a month later, he did it again. He also famously sprinted across the field of battle to attack an unwounded enemy, only to find that he had neglected to reload his weapon. He was able to fire once, wounding and enraging it, and was only saved from certain death by Lieutenant Beef Stock's timely arrival. He later claimed that his intention all along had been to beat it to death with the butt of his gun.

Green is also very cocky, and is the only soldier in the XCOM program to actively make use of the Arc Thrower neural inhibitor. This device was created in order to render enemies unconscious without wounding them, and has historically been vastly unpopular. Except when explicitly ordered to capture aliens alive, no one is willing to risk the extremely short range and the notoriously unpredictable nature of the weapon--sometimes it knocks them out, sometimes it just pisses them off.

The exception is John Green, who considers it a point of pride to always return with at least one living captive in tow. He often runs great risks to this end, and has been saved from abortive attempts more than once. He also has an unpleasant habit of yelling at his fellow soldiers for killing the enemy "too quickly" and "ruining his collection"--a frequent point of contention with Mad Man Hendricks. 

Despite this, Green is very popular among the squad and generally well regarded. Even Hendricks admits that although he takes far too many risks, he has maintained an impeccable, and impressive, record.

During Operation Avenger, Double Down Green took his recklessness to even greater heights. Understanding that the fate of the world was literally at stake, he sprinted 80 feet across the throne room to shoot one of the alien high council in the face with his shotgun. Surprised to find himself still alive twenty seconds later, he sprinted another 60 feet to go toe-to-toe with a second! Against all odds, Double Down and Mad Man Hendricks both managed to survive the assault intact.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Merric Maric

Name: Major Merrick Maric
Nickname: "Emo"
Role: Sniper
Status: KIA (Operation Avenger)

Even before the events in Mumbai, Merrick Maric's taciturn demeanor and tendency toward isolation earned her the squad nickname "Emo". Since returning from the mission, however, she has actually become an elective mute, communicating only through hand signals. Although the medics agree that she does still posses the power of speech, she no longer chooses to make use of it.

Merrick Maric has an almost obsessive love of heights. She does not speak to her fellow teammates, but gets along with them well enough--Mad Man Hendricks is her only close friend on the squad. She is contemptuous of Double Down's taking of live prisoners, and has expressed concern that Road Block Green relies too much on mental domination of their opponents--in her opinion, there is never a reason not to kill a hostile alien, and any other tactic is foolish at best.

In May of 2015, an alien terror squad landed in the heart of Mumbai, in a mission to cause panic throughout the population. Unfortunately  this attack occurred mere days after Colonel Green, Major Green, and Lieutenant Stock had volunteered for psychic evaluations, leaving Major Maric as the only active member of the XCOM program with any real combat experience.

The other members of her squad were Basanta Claus, Dee McGoldrilocks, Ricardo Berna, Parry Parry, and Gordon Taylor-Fletcher. It was Taylor-Fletcher's very first mission, and the others had only been on a handful. They were woefully unprepared.

Taylor-Fletcher, Parry, and McGoldrilocks were all shot down while attempting to rescue civilians, and then things got really bad.

Horrifying spider-creatures appeared out of nowhere, racing through the streets at incredible speeds. It was during this mission that we learned that they had the ability to infect their prey, turning them into dangerous zombies. Worse, much worse, was that this infection also incubated their eggs--an even larger number of the creatures "hatched" from the bodies of the people Maric's team had been sent to save.

Backed into a corner between a brick wall and a trash dumpster, Basanta Claus desperately fired his plasma pistol, killing one of the creatures at point blank range. Parry Parry showed up to extricate him, but they were both ambushed by another creature. Claus was fatally wounded, Parry's panicked shot went wild, and he was also killed.

Major Maric was fighting her way through a former nightclub, desperately trying to save them, but soon found herself surrounded by two more spider creatures and the zombified corpse of a former Mumbai citizen. Thinking quickly, she used her suit's prototype grappling hook to fly to the rafters, out of their reach. She was safe, but had no idea what was going on outside of the room in which she was trapped. 

From that vantage point, she spent the better part of half an hour shooting spider creatures, zombies and, eventually, the brainless husks of her former squadmates Claus and Parry. By the time the retrieval team arrived, Maric and six civilians were the only survivors. It took them over an hour to convince her to climb down from the rafters.

She was immediately placed in psychiatric leave (combined with psionic testing--she tested negative, however) and seems to be coping about as well as can be expected. As mentioned previously, she no longer speaks. Additionally, she has a marked preference for high ground during a mission regardless of Colonel Green's advice or orders. Fortunately, she is an extremely deadly sniper, and there is often little reason for her to be anywhere else: once she gets "in the zone", she is literally capable of shooting and killing her targets in a steady stream of death, until she runs out of bullets or aliens.

This love of heights has had another beneficial effect in that it has allowed her to form a close bond with assault trooper Hendrick Hendricks. As a rookie, Hendricks admired her prototype Skeleton-class armor, and she arranged for him to get a set of his own. She taught him to use its grappling hook, which he used so frequently and so recklessly that he earned the nickname "Mad Man".

Although "Mad Man" Hendricks is a bit of a talker and Maric an elective mute, the two have formed a close friendship based on their love of heights. In fact, the Archangel-class armor (designed for powered flight) was developed with those two soldiers specifically in mind.

During Operation Avenger, an assault on the main alien battle cruiser, Colonel Green had mentally taken over a "muton", alien heavy infantry, and was using it to scout the rest of the ship. They discovered a large hanger bay with two giant robot "sectopods". Maric scored a beautiful hit on the first, doing 19 points of damage and taking away over 80% of it's hit points. It responded with a blast from its main cannon, severely wounding her.

At that point, Colonel Green was taking fire from the other robot, although it shot wied and missed him. Perhaps because of this distraction, his mental control over the severely injured muton slipped. Although it was already almost dead (it had a single hit point left) it managed to open fire on Merrick Maric, killing her in the air.

Mad Man Hendricks immediately destroyed it, and Colonel Green released a rage-fueled burst of psychic energy, creating a rift in the psionic atmosphere of the hanger bay, instantly causing both robots to explode. Lieutenant Beef Stock was on hand with her advanced med kit at the ready, but there was nothing she could do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hendrick Hendricks

Name: Major Hendrick Hendricks
Nickname: Mad Man
Role: Assault
Note: To date, this is the only player name that has not been used by a Swindon football player. But the game randomly came up with "Hendrick Hendricks", and if that doesn't sound like a Swoodilypooper name, I don't know what does!

While Major Green and Major Hendricks both believe in advancing towards the enemy with all possible speed, Hendricks prefers to take an indirect route. He joined XCOM at the height of Merrick Maric's grappling hook obsession, and became an eager student of her methods.

During the beginning of any mission, Hendricks and Maric will typically stake out the highest point on the map (preferably a church steeple or warehouse roof) until the enemy is spotted. At that point, Mad Man Hendricks leaps into action with the speed that gave him his nickname and attempts to flank them. His favorite tactic is to let Colonel Green distract them with heavy fire, while he sneaks around behind.

Major Hendricks is the only other soldier, along with Major Maric, to be outfitted with the power-flight-capable Archangel class armor.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Voluptuous Pericard

Name: Voluptuous Pericard
Nickname: "Nova"
Role: Heavy Infantry

Voluptuous Pericard had a difficult time in the XCOM program. She was groomed from the start to be Colonel John Green's second in command, and the only other gifted psychic with the temperament and physical qualifications to be team leader. As such, it was difficult for her to be at ease with her squad mates the way that Double Down Green could.

However, she was also unable to command their respect in the way of Colonel Green, because she never really got a chance to prove herself capable of leadership. Although Hendrick Hendricks and Wesley Foderingham occasionally invited her to join them for recreational activities (i.e., copious drinking and mutual wingmanship at the bars near XCOM HQ) she preferred to spend her downtime with her wife, Alice, and her two children.

Despite finding it difficult to bond with her teammates and lacking the chance to prove herself that she so fervently wanted, no one can question her skill as a soldier or her devotion to the XCOM program. She was one of only three squad members to return from Operation Avenger, and after Colonel Green's noble sacrifice everyone is grateful that she survived to take his place as team leader.

Beef Stock

Name: Major Beef Stock
Nickname: "Congo"
Role: Medic
Status: KIA (Operation Avenger)

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is alive and well in the XCOM project. It obviously doesn't apply to the team leader and his husband, but it definitely applies to Major "Congo" Stock's squad nickname. I have no idea why she is called Congo and I have never tried to find out. For what it's worth she is of Korean descent, but was born and raised in Glasgow.

She is one of the fastest sprinters in the XCOM program (only Lieutenant Foderingham was faster), and prefers to act as medic. Her highly advanced first aid skills have saved the lives of every one of her teammates, and she is also a crack shot with a plasma rifle. She memorably took out the alien that John Green was trying to bludgeon to death, gave him a stern look, and then dressed his wounds.

During missions she is cool and efficient, getting things done with a minimum of fuss unless civilians are present. In terror attacks and cases in which innocent bystanders are in the line of fire she frequently displays a recklessness that would put Double Down to shame, throwing caution to the wind in order to get them to safety

Major Stock is well respected by the entire squad (especially by Major Green, her most frequent patient) but does not have any close friendships in the program. She generally prefers to take her R&R alone, and the speculation is that she "tears the town up when she does", to quote Mad Man Hendricks.

During Operation Avenger, the Alien Overlord seized control over Beef Stock's mind. Although it was quickly shot to death by Double Down Green, the mental link transmitted its death shock into her mind, killing her as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

He Who Must Not Be Named

Name: Sergeant Punch Masenamela
Nickname: "Stalker", but see below
Role: Sniper
Status: KIA (Operation Final Apollo)

Private Masenamela had trouble finding his way in the squad. He idolized Merrick Maric, and wanted so much to be the deadly sniper, protecting the group from on high. However, he had the temperament of a Heavy Infantry. Although Colonel Green believed that he was better suited in the front lines, he allowed Masenamela to take on the role of sniper.

Things were made more difficult when he went in for psychic testing, and it was discovered that he had powerful psionic abilities. Unfortunately, as with John Green's abilities, they were severely range-limited. Sergeant Masenamela's continued decision to stay in the back as a sniper meant that he was unable to make effective use of them.

The team was understanding about his quandary, and no one wanted to force him to take a position for which he felt unsuited. Double Down Green declared that his official squad nickname would be "Stalker", but it never really stuck. 

Operation Final Apollo was tailor-made for Merrick Maric and Mad Man Hendricks, as it
involved a large group of enemy aliens in position on the roof of a restaurant. Using their new Archangel class suits, they were able to soar above them, taking them out at will. Unfortunately, Masenamela was still using Skeleton class armor and had difficulty finding the correct range. Trying to get close enough for his mental attacks, while staying back far enough to snipe, he climbed onto the cab of a truck in an attempt to get the elevation he needed. Instead, he presented an ideal target for the giant alien death robot, and was killed with a single blast of plasma.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wesley Foderingham

Name: Sergeant Wesley Foderingham
Nickname: "Cookie"
Role: Scout / Medic
Status: KIA (Operation Frozen Pyre)

Sgt. Wesley "Cookie" Foderingham never liked her squad nickname, and was constantly lobbying for something more aggressive, like "Crusher". However, she was an extremely fast sprinter and was able to quickly find the enemy, and then draw them back to Colonel Green's established kill zone "as if she was offering them a cookie", and so the name stuck.

She was also a skilled medic, but took the most pride in her scouting abilities. She was the first soldier to use the Ghost class cloaking armor, which allowed her to penetrate deep into enemy territory and to vanish at once when discovered.

Due to her exceptional evasive capabilities, she was never seriously injured during a scouting expedition. However, Operation Frozen Pyre quickly turned into an entrenched firefight, with a large force of aliens taking potshots from within their downed ship. They were helplessly pinned down and ultimately defeated, but one of the large alien drones managed to get a lucky shot and Sergeant Foderingham was killed instantly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Leroy Williamson

Name: Private Leroy Williamson
Nickname: None
Role: Medic
Status: KIA (Operation Enduring Jester)

Private Williamson was killed early on, during Operation Enduring Jester. Merrick Maric had been shot badly, and was bleeding to death on the ground. Williamson raced across the valley to stabilize her, saving her life. Unfortunately, this left him gravely exposed to enemy fire and he was killed on the spot by a flying cyborg alien.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

D. Lucas

Name: Private D. Lucas
Nickname: None
Role: Medic
Status: KIA (Operation Blinding Heart)

Private Lucas was killed almost immediately, during Operation Blinding Heart. His squad didn't even have a chance to come up with a nickname for him, although his large size would surely have given them a starting point.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Others

There have been far too many valiant members of the XCOM project who died before even getting their own stories. Operation Lost Hymn, the terror attack in Mumbai, was the most bloody operation, but there were a number of very tough missions.

Operation Devil's Moon was the first mission that XCOM participated in, and the only mission to have soldiers with non-Swoodilypooper names.

It's also worth noting that Sergeant Foderingham's official squad nickname was changed, posthumously, from "Cookie" to "Crusher" at the request of John Green, né Bennett.