More of the good stuff…

June 6, 2009


As promised, the rain of fantastical content continues with three more tracks from the first volume of our Mind of a Master audio strategy series. I’m also planning to release the long-awaited Battle Report sometime today or very early tomorrow.

Just as a reminder, tomorrow I’m flying out to magical Denver, Colorado — the Mile-High City — to run a conference for my company. I’ll be back late Wednesday night. So, here’s hoping Surprise or someone else gets in a post to keep things hopping while I’m gone (hoping — hopping, get it?).

Track 5: American faction overview by Surprise″

Track 6: American faction-specific counters″

Track 7: Controversial balance issues, Blitzkrieg doctrine″

A special gift for a special three days in June…

June 5, 2009
A time for heroes...

A time for heroes...

Folks, it’s that time of year again. Today is June 5, 2009. Tomorrow will be June 6, the 65-year anniversary of D-Day. The day 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy to end tyranny, free a continent and spawn a thousand film and video game adaptions of a climactic battle. It’s a special day to anyone who loves Company of Heroes or World War II games in general.

You'll like this.

You'll like this.

To commemorate this occasion, I have decided with Surprise‘s support to make ALL 10 tracks of our COH audio strategy series, Mind of a Master: Volume I, available on Rifles Ready! — free of charge.

Starting today and ending Sunday (D-Day +1), I will be posting several tracks daily for you to listen to.

The tracks will be playable via the native WordPress streaming audio applet (see below). is taking FOREVER to approve this MP3 album for download, and it’s a special time of year, so the hell with it. Please enjoy!

Tracks 1 and 2: Introduction to Surprise and his biography/A high-level overview of the state of COH″

Track 3: Detailed Tales of Valor unit analysis″

Track 4: Psychology and mind games in COH″

Mind of a Master coming soon

May 1, 2009
All the cool kids will buy it. Don't you wanna be cool?

All the cool kids will buy it. Don't you wanna be a cool kid?

My humblest apologies, folks — it turns out the MP3 seller process is more complicated and time-consuming than I had assumed. First they have to review the tape, to make sure Surprise and I don’t swear like sailors throughout (hint: we don’t). Then they’ve got to approve our album art, resample and recompress our MP3s and onward, in this vein. But I’m confident all will be done by the end of next week, and in all likelihood, sooner than that. In the meantime I hope the cover art above (click to enlarge) will tide you over. There’s a black & white version available as well.

Stay tuned this weekend for our first 2.502 Battle Report! Really when I started writing them I had no idea they would become our bread & butter. But I’m glad they have… it’s just that they’re time-consuming. First I’ve gotta pick a great replay, then watch it and take notes, then watch it again and take screenshots, then watch it a third time to get video clips for YouTube. Then I’ve gotta manually edit and mark up each screenshot, resize them, and only then do I actually start writing the analysis and commentary online. Then I have to insert all the images, make sure they wrap properly around the text, write up captions for every one, and upload the replay on Mediafire and link to it.

You can see that takes awhile ;-). But I’m grateful for your patience and trust me — the next Battle Report and Volume I of Mind of a Master will be worth every minute of waiting.

COH audio strategy series: Mind of a Master, Volume I

April 26, 2009
Got questions? Get answers from a master.

Got questions? Get answers from a master.

With the release of COH: Tales of Valor and the latest 2.501/2.502 patches, we’re looking at the biggest changes to the game since more than a year ago. To help you step up your game, I’m pleased to announce a fantastic new concept, the COH audio strategy series, Mind of a Master. This will be a multi-volume series of podcast-style audios, primarily featuring Steven “Surprise” Uray. Calling on all of my professional skills as a reporter, I interview Surprise on tape, covering a huge amount of material, split into about a dozen or so tracks.

Volume I, which you can sample in streaming format below, covers the following:

  • A top-ranked player’s impressions of patch 2.501/2.502 and how it compares overall to 2.301, including faction-by-faction and army vs. army changes
  • A high-level take on the new ToV units, including detailed descriptions of each new unit and whether it’s underpowered, overpowered or just right
  • Deep discussion about COH psychology and how Surprise uses his opponents’ emotions against them, including a section on mind games and how they apply to RTS matches
  • Surprise’s American play style — which took him to #1 on the 1v1 ladder — carefully explained, featuring detailed, step-by-step explanations on his tech order and how he counters specific Axis strategies and units
  • Surprise’s opinion on controversial balance issues, such as whether the Blitzkrieg doctrine is underpowered and whether the perennial complaint about “free” super tanks is now dead

You will always get the first two tracks for free, to give you an idea of what’s in the entire volume. In Volume I, you’ll get the introduction to Mind of a Master and a bio on Surprise, plus his rundown on what ToV brings to the game and how army matchups have changed.″

For everything else, it’s $0.99 for any single track downloadable in MP3 format from, or a more economical $6.99 for the entire volume, downloadable as one album. Look for Volume I to be available sometime next week on Amazon — there’ll be an announcement here.

Meanwhile — let me know what you think! I realize charging a fee may seem to go against the community-minded Rifles Ready! spirit, but let’s face it. At $0.99 a track or $7 for the whole volume, it’s not going to break anybody’s bank and it’s going to give us a great incentive to produce high quality stuff. If you can’t give up the money for a footlong Subway sub, then don’t — just listen to the preview tracks. Think of buying the whole volume as a way to give back to us and get a fantastic extra out of it: a chance to get inside the mind of current COH masters! Later volumes will feature other top players in addition to Surprise.

Site Update: Something cool is coming

April 22, 2009

Sorry for the slow pace at Rifles Ready!, but Surprise and I are working on something cool and unprecedented here for next week. This weekend you can expect a new Advanced Tip, plus a preview of what’s to come next week.

I’m also hoping, key word “hoping,” to sneak in a new Battle Report based on 2.501. So stay tuned, sports fans! Patience is rewarded in life and on this blog!

In-depth: 2.501, Tales of Valor and the future

April 13, 2009
Will the trinity expand?

Will the trinity expand?

With the release of the latest COH expansion and the winds of change blowing, I decided it was time to play weatherman and speculate on where our game and community are headed. Here’s my take as a former top-ranked player.

Larger community
Back in the stone age of the vCOH beta, it was rare to see more than 300 people online. I never remember seeing more than 3,000 online throughout all of regular vCOH. With the release of Opposing Fronts, the average number of players almost doubled. I was stunned to see 5,000 or 6,000 people online at peak hours. I was even more surprised to see peak numbers continue more than a year after the release of OF.

Yesterday, a new all-time high was reached: more than 10,400.  While it’s true that single-player users are forced to login to Relic Online,  they only account for about 30% to 40% of users online at any given time. This still leaves yesterday’s 10,400 figure well above previous OF highs. Despite the cries from the prophets of doom on, the game does not appear to be dying at all, but is growing larger.

What does this mean? It means COH may have the numbers to support multiple community sites, more pro-level players, and larger, more frequent tournaments due to a larger advertising base for sponsors. Think PC hardware, software, gaming companies and even soft drinks and snacks targeted at the coveted 18-34 young male gamer demographic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tax time

March 30, 2009
The U.S. government sucked in 2008. I want my money back.

The U.S. government sucked in 2008. I want my money back.

It’s that time of year again, folks — time to pay Uncle Sam what you owe for one dreadful year of governance. Taxes become infinitely more complex for a year in which you’ve bought a house with help from your parents.

That’s basically my problem. So this week and weekend, taxes are my mission. That said, you can expect more great things to come at Rifles Ready! Specifically, there’s another Battle Report brewing, this time featuring one of the most unique matches I have ever seen, between Zerocrack and Kodachrome (playing as SweetLorraine).

It’s a battle in which both players lay down tons of barbed wire, sandbags and other defenses while shelling each other to death from afar with artillery, sieging each other’s bases with tanks and Flak 88s, and lotsa craziness.

Also, everyone’s favorite COH guru, Surprise, has continued writing his series about the WCG tournament and how it’s shaped his gaming style and discipline. We’ll continue releasing it in a series of posts, probably with two or three more segments to come.

So stay tuned and patient, sports fans! Good things come to those who wait!