Understanding the odds

Casino games are all based on complex formulas that figure out odds and probabilities or the likelihood that an event will occur. While you do not have to be a math whiz to play casino games, you should still understand a little bit about how the odds work so you can place the best possible bets.

Let’s say, for example, that you decide to play live roulette. The probability that the little metal ball will drop on the number 8 on a European roulette wheel is 1 in 37 (1/37) because you have just one chance that the ball will drop on number 8 out of all of the 37 numbers. This means that the “true odds” of winning with a bet placed on the 8 are 36 to 1. The first number represents how many chances you have to lose a bet and the second number represents how many chances you have to win.

But never forget that casinos are in the business of making money. If the payout odds were also 36 to 1, the casino wouldn’t have any advantage over the players. The casinos solve this problem by offering “payoff odds” that are slightly less than the true odds. That is why payoff odds are also referred to as “the house advantage” and “the house edge.”

Many casinos offer payoff odds of 35 to 1 on the roulette wheel. The difference between the true odds and the payoff odds allows the casino to keep a bit of money on every wager, even including the winning bets. In American roulette, the house advantage runs at 5.26%, which is quite high for a casino game.

If you decide to switch over to a live blackjack game, you’ll be facing different probabilities and odds. For example, if you bet $10 and you get blackjack and win $15, you will win $3 for every $2 that you wager. That would make the payout odds 3 to 2.

Some casino bets have payoff odds of 1 to 1, which means that you win the same amount of money that you wager. Other bets offer payoff odds greater than 1 to 1, which means that you will win more than $1 for each $1 that you wager. Be sure to read all of the payout odds carefully before placing any bets.

Betting Tips

Place casino wagers that offer the lowest house advantage. A good rule of thumb is to only place bets when the house edge is 1.5% or less. A lower house advantage gives the players better odds of winning.

Bear in mind that the closer the payoff odds are compared to the true odds for a specific bet, the lower the house advantage and the more likely you will place a winning wager. Watch out for the word, “for” in payoff odds because it indicates that the house gets to keep your initial bet, even if you win.

Each online casino has its own specific payout odds and every legitimate internet casino will list those odds somewhere on the screen. The higher the house edge, the more money you are expected to lose. Also, the longer you play a casino game, the more money that you will likely lose.

Hitman Absolution’s New Multiplayer Mode Encourages Death by Design

I always love it when a franchise that you wouldn’t think is equipped for multiplayer introduces it in a surprising and innovative way that maintains the ideas and style of the single player experience. Examples would be the always brilliant, always fun Merc vs Spy gameplay from “Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory,” or the brilliant Assassins vs Assassins mode in “Assassins Creed: Brotherhood.” It’s a tough road to go down though, as it requires some real thought and commitment to making the mode work. The other option is to just go the candy bar route of games like “Max Payne 3,” “Uncharted,” or “Bioshock 2″ and just tack on a shanty deathmatch mode.

I say candy bar because it’s a route that’s often satisfying, but rarely filling (Snickers non-included).

As a fan of the “Hitman” series, I was thrilled then to read about the new multiplayer mode in “Hitman Absolution,” which puts players in a dungeon master type role by allowing them to design a contract assassination challenge for other players. The creator can take one of the game’s single player levels, and modify it to include the targets (of which they can set the number) and other parameters that may include things like no disguises, or a limited number of kills, or even a rough guideline of certain NPC actions.

Touting their own cleverness, though, the developers have assured everyone that even the most seemingly complex and limiting contracts will have several ways to be completed, even if some are better than others, just as in the main game. Even better is the expansive leaderboard system which keeps track of three different rankings (richest assassin, most skillful assassin, and a running ranking of the most popular contracts).

“Assassin’s Creed” may be the darling silent killer franchise at the moment (and “Assassin’s Creed 3″ is looking to do nothing to tarnish that reputation) but the de facto assassin series will always be “Hitman.” It’s encouraging then to see that the flag bearer of the genre is working on creating the definitive multiplayer mode as well (even if it isn’t PvP style).

Between that and the previously announced “Crysis 3″ multiplayer mode, it’s also promising that the new trend in even the most established of franchises seems to be thinking outside of the box when it comes to multiplayer expansion, instead of slapping a deathmatch option on said box, and calling it a sequel.

I guess that’s my awkward way of saying, hint, hint Rockstar and “GTA: V.” Hint, hint.

EA Shuts Down PopCap’s Dublin Studio

I love PopCap Games, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

While some deeply entrenched veteran gamers consider them a mainstream harbinger of doom, the fact is they have produced some of the most purely addictive games of this, or any, generation with titles like the hall of fame “Bejeweled,”Plants vs Zombies,” “Bookworm,” and the glorious “Peggle.” They toe a fine line between “mainstream” (in the dirty word sense) and merely accessible, and their constant goal of gameplay over graphics and fun over flash is inspiring.

Which is why it’s sad to see that they have become the victim of some massive layoffs, as EA (who bought them out for around $750 million last year) announced the shuttering of the team’s Dublin studio. While the move has been long rumored, that’s certainly no condolence for the 96 employees who were laid off due to this move as they join the initial fired employees who lost their jobs when EA took over last year.

EA has been clear on their reason for this move, saying that they are trying to trim down aspects of PopCap that are similar to services they already offer, and the Dublin studio’s efforts apparently did not fit the need of EA in accordance to their plans moving forward. Both EA and PopCap have announced that many of the employees from the shuttered branch will have employment opportunities available at other PopCap locations and at EA operations, which include call center positions.

There’s far too many EA is the evil empire articles out there to still have any effect, and I don’t wish to contribute to them here. I will say this though. You may recall that PopCap gained a reputation early on for offering their games for free trial before purchase to help promote them. Even when they featured their games on Steam, they insisted the free demo still remain an option, as they were that confident in their products, and couldn’t wait to share them with the masses.

It’s just a shame then that such a company that held that philosophy had to fall to something like budget cuts and corporate strategy. Good luck to all of the employees of the former Dublin studio, and to PopCap itself who I hope can recover from this round of bad news and continue to produce at a high level.

Cavanagh vs Killingsworth: This Super Hexagon Ain’t Big Enough

Of all of the concepts in video game history, only one seems to have the unique attribute of being both completely irrelevant, and strangely everlasting.

It’s the concept of high scores.

Long ago (I would say even into the Super Nintendo era) the need and use for high scores in video games as a dominate means of measuring achievement feel to the wayside. In its place came the greater ideas of narrative, exploration, and eventually direct competition, creativity and, of course, unique individual game achievements. In other words, pretty much everything but a rolling tally of numbers is used to judge gamers, and games, by skill and merit.

And yet, even as gaming spreads more and more into the public conscious, the idea of a high score and video games still goes hand and hand. To this day, you still hear movies and other mediums throw out the line “I beat my high score!” or something similar when the story calls for a gaming reference. In a way it’s no surprise. The idea of one set of numbers being greater than another is used in so many other fields to declare a winner that its natural for that same feature to be the defining characteristic of victory for gaming as well in the eyes of many.

Of course, with the explosion of mobile gaming, the idea of a high score is becoming slightly less barbaric than it once was. Those simple app games are re-exploring the concept and, thanks to the global communication devices they often run off of, are also bringing back the idea of the classic arcade concept of communal high score competition. Just like an arcade, there are of course those gamers that shine above all others, and whose names remain such fixtures on the tops of leaderboards that you would think they were programmed there. Also, much like an arcade, every now and then a small group of those superior scorers will engage in a back and forth over the top spots that creates one of the competitive concepts that you see in just about every other field with regularity except for gaming. Genuine, individual player vs individual player rivalry.

Right now on the leaderboards of “Super Hexagon,” this rare moment is occurring. Even better, it’s not two civilians that are engaging, but two heavyweight players. In one corner is Terry Cavanagh. Terry has the unique “Super Hexagon” advantage of not only having programmed “Super Hexagon”, but creating the damn thing in the first place. The game’s challenge of moving a small triangle through a pulsating and vibrant tunnel of constant death is his doing. Actually, allow me a quick sidebar here before we move any further. If you’ve never played it, “Super Hexagon” can be sadistic. Think, “Dark Souls” without the thrill of accomplishment, because there rarely is accomplishment to be found within its impossible confines.

Yet this common idea doesn’t hold for Cavanagh who constantly finds himself atop the leaderboard. He isn’t doing it through any programming advantages either. The man is just that good and, even more important, is obsessed with remaining the best player in the world. He constantly checks in to see if anyone is eyeing the throne, and smites all those who would seek to replace him.

It’s a madness that has worked so far and, were it not for Jason Killingsworth, Mr. Cavanagh may be a man without rival.

Have you never heard of Jason Killingsworth? Well along with being an editor for Edge magazine, he’s also something of a gaming daredevil. His accomplishments include beating every challenge in “Super Meat Boy” (a game designed, more or less, not to be beaten), garnering every achievement in “Spelunky” (which you have to look up, to truly appreciate), and he’s also a strong advocate of unpopular ideas like the 100 hour video game. In an interview with Wired, whose interview broke this story, he puts his motivation best:

“I have near-crippling levels of perfectionism,” Killingsworth says, and a penchant for exquisite challenges. “Most games these days feel like cow-tipping — the only requirement to succeed is to possess at least one working arm,” he says. “I want to spend my gaming hours breaking crazy-eyed, bucking stallions.”

The blindingly fast “Super Hexagon” is his latest stallion, and therefore,  so is the high score of Cavanagh. Their competition hasn’t been so much a sweet science, as it is a stick and move affair. Killingsworth takes a jab, Cavanagh posts a new score moving farther out of reach. It’s the same, again and again. Only recently, has a true counter-strike has been landed as Killingsworth has beaten Cavanagh in the games third highest difficulty by 12 seconds. It’s not total victory, but for a creator who has a “Frankenstein” like obsession with his work, it’s enough to make him sweat and feverishly check the leaderboards each day to make sure Killingsworth doesn’t claim even part of the kingdom for long.

Yet, like all great champions, he is still gracious in defeat as he is quick to praise Killingsworth for accomplishing what few, if any more, ever will. He does this for the same reason he is so adamant about maintaining his spot on the leaderboard. Because he just wants to promote the game he is so proud of.

That, is the biggest reason this one of my favorite gaming stories of the year. Someday someone is going to have to invent a better phrase for it, but until then this is simply old school gaming at its purest. It brings back such glorious concepts of arcade spirit and high score competitions, that aren’t marred by things like cheap tactics, glitch exploitation, or the dreaded pre-pubescent bewildering smack talk that plagues so many other competitive games either. No, somehow in an industry that is becoming more and more obsessed with corporate ideas, lies a high profile back and forth between a game creator who just wants everyone to love his game as much as he does, and a hardcore gamer who welcomes challenges that take no prisoners.

In other competitive fields they refer to events such as this as being for “the love of the game”, or representing “the integrity of the sport”. Video games don’t really have a similar phrase, but the beauty of it is they don’t need one. Because in a simpler time, we just called this gaming. In a more complex age, that’s thankfully all this still is.

Madden cover boy Cam Newton off to a slow start

On the heels of a disastrous 2011 season for Peyton Hillis after he was named the Madden cover boy, the idea of a “Madden Curse” gained some serious traction, as many football fans and hard core gamers couldn’t get enough of the story. Of course the story is absurd in many ways, but many fans and betters can’t help get caught up in the hysteria. Betters are supposed to rely and cold analysis when picking games, and use resources like stats and some sportsbook review options to make the best picks and find the most advantageous betting lines, but stuff like this always seeps into the equation. Which team has momentum? Which team or player is due?

With Peyton Hillis, he was a one-year wonder with the Browns in 2010, and he proved to be a headcase in 2011, and while he was injured, there are plenty of rational explanations for his terrible season apart from a curse.

Yet while some of the concerns about a curse might be irrational, this year we’re seeing Cam Newton struggle. Now he’s a much better player than Peyton Hillis, so if Newton stumbles, the curse chorus will get even louder. Last night Newton had a very tough game against the New York Giants pass rush, and Newton has looked much more human in 2012. Still, people need to keep in mind that Newton is just in his second season, and many quarterbacks suffer a sophomore slump as defenses in the NFL adapt to your strengths and discover your weaknesses. The truly good players can then also adjust and improve their game.

So whether this is a slump or another manifestation of a video game curse, many eyes will be on Cam Newton to see if he can get back to his 2011 performance levels.

Two of BioWare’s Founders Are Leaving the Company

Today Bioware Co-Founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka announced that they are leaving the company, and possibly video games in general.

Both have made statements on their departure via their blogs, that basically express their interest in moving on to other ventures. Muzyka provides a vague idea of his interests moving forward saying:

“I believe strongly in the power of free enterprise to enable sustainable change, so my next ‘chapter’ will likely focus on an entirely new industry, something exciting, different and frankly downright scary – investing in and mentoring new entrepreneurs, and more specifically, the field of social/impact investing.”

Zeschuk provides a clearer idea of his life moving forward, as he expresses the usual interest of his desire to spend more time with his family along with the more specific desire to get into the craft beer industry:

“The main project I will be working on is a web-based interview show called The Beer Diaries where I interview notable brewers and showcase their beers. If things go well, I’ll work on other beer-related shows, apps and projects.”

The most telling, and somewhat disheartening, statement provided by either man would belong to Zeschuk who also said:

“I’ve reached an unexpected point in my life where I no longer have the passion that I once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation.”

Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka both got into the video game industry after graduating medical school at the University of Alberta. They worked on medical based computer programs before that same passion for gaming led them, and co-founder, Augustine Yip, to create their first title “Shattered Steel” for publisher Interplay. From that point they spearheaded a studio that’s game catalogue reads like the upper end of most best video games of all time lists. Bioware has revolutionized Western and PC RPGs with “Baldur’s Gate,” made one of the all time great cult classics in “MDK2,” crafted the greatest “Star Wars” game of all time (and one of the most important games period) in “Knights of the Old Republic,” and just recently have made two of the best series of this generation with “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect.”

More important than any individual contributions, however, are the greater ideas that Zeschuk and Muzyka promoted with Bioware. Through several generations, they helped run a studio that always advanced the RPG genre with each new entry (and gaming as a whole in most cases) and proved yet again that maintaining artistic integrity and achieving financial success are not mutually exclusive in the business. While the departure of Zeschuk and Mzyka doesn’t mean Bioware will no longer achieve those same goals, it is sad to realize that even such legends in the industry can simply lose their passion and walk away.

Of course, like Neil Young said, “Sometimes it’s better to burn out, than to fade away.” Zeschuk and Muzyka leave behind an undisputed legacy that future generations of developers can only hope to duplicate, but should most certainly learn to appreciate. Here’s hoping them the best in the future.

Also, Greg, I’ll buy a case of Baldur’s Beer, or Icewind Ale should they hit store shelves.

Obsidian Announces Project Eternity

It hard not to think of Obsidian as the “little brother” of the video game world.

While made up of competent and experienced developers, the company itself often piggybacks off of the successes of big brother development companies like Bethesda and Bioware, with titles such as “KOTOR:II” (someone remind me to do something about how much I hate that game…), “Fallout: New Vegas,” “Dungeon Siege III,” and “Neverwinter Nights 2.” While they’ve proven they have the ability to take the ball and run with it, they’ve yet to come up with something impressive of their own doing.

Of course if there’s one advantage to riding on the shoulders of RPG giants, it’s that you gain a real great lay of the land.

Which is why it’s so exciting that the company has announced a new independent Kickstarter project under the name “Project Eternity.”  From what is known about the game, it looks to bring back the classic, western, isometric perspective RPG genre, complete with the traditional party based, paused combat system seen in some of the Bioware classics of yore. If you really want an idea of how much inspiration Obsidian is drawing for this title, you only have to look at their own description, which lays some serious hype on the game:

“‘Project Eternity’ will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of ‘Baldur’s Gate,’ add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of ‘Icewind Dale,’ and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of ‘Planescape: Torment.’”

If you’ve never played those games (shame on you) then let me assure you that is a tall task even for a group of aforementioned giant riders. It’s certainly an intriguing concept however, especially considering that the concepts presented in those games mentioned have influenced the RPG genre as much as any others, and this style of title hasn’t been done well in a long, long time. Throw in the fact that much of the Obsidian development team worked on some of those titles mentioned, and maybe you can understand why it’s time for classic RPG fans to start getting excited.

Obviously, when you’re trying to get people to throw money at something that you’d really like to do (which, by the way, quite a few people are already doing) there is an understandable tendency to exaggerate. That being said, though, I’m such a big fan of those style of games that I still want to see how close they can get to fulfilling their promise, and I’m willing to put aside my seething, blinding hatred of “KOTOR: II” to give Obsidian the chance to also prove themselves worthy as developers of independent properties.

Besides, this is the same company that’s managing to make a “South Park” video game look unbelievably incredible. So I wouldn’t dare tell them there isn’t anything they can’t do.

The Best of Steam Green Light’s First Approvals

Steam Green Light finally approved its first 10 games to be featured on the site, and (for the most part) they’re proving why this program is such a great idea in the first place. From zombie games, to samurai simulators, to “Half-Life” mods, back to zombie games, just in the initial offering of titles we are seeing some really remarkable ideas that will soon become available for all. Ranking those initial 10 titles is no easy task, but if you want the best of the best of Green Light so far, here it is.

10. McPixel – Probably the type of game that looks fun to vote for, but won’t get that many buys, “McPixel” is an odd title to say the least. It’s made up of a series of 20 second levels where you have to achieve a goal (usually getting rid of a bomb) without many instructions on how to do so. It’s reminiscent of “Wario Ware,” and carries a very unique since of humor, but looks like it may wear its welcome faster than that classic ever did. Nothing to see here, move along.

9. No More Room In Hell – “No More Room In Hell” is a “Half-Life 2″ mod that more than favors “Left 4 Dead,” but this zombie squad based FPS gets some serious points for knowing its genre. I like the variety of zombie enemies, weapons, and appropriate environments, but what I love is the scarce ammunition, lack of crosshairs display, multiple game modes (including an awesome survival mode where you hold down a zombie fort) and overall fun factor. If you’re not tired of “Left 4 Dead,” but crave something new, keep your eye on this one.

8. Cry of Fear – A “Half-Life” mod, this is one of two horror games to make the final cut. “Cry of Fear” uses the old “you have amnesia” story to throw you into a world of fear and constant terror. The goal of “Cry of Fear” is to simply throw as many unexpected atrocities at you as possible and test your limits of composure. “Cry of Fear” reminds me of a really good carnival haunted house, and its use of sound, light, and atmosphere are top notch. Also, you have to see the above video of people playing it and losing their minds to the game’s scares.

7. Heroes and Generals – Maybe the most technically proficient of the initial Green Light games, “Heroes and Generals” looks to breathe a little life in to online FPS shooters. “Heroes and Generals” allows players to either take to the frontlines in a variety of combat situations FPS style, or take the role of a commander and manage the battle in more of an RTS format. This type of game has been tried before, but has never really produced a big hit. However, the media released so far is intriguing, and the team behind the game is some of the same people who worked on the “Hitman” series and “Freedom Fighters.” It’s got a lot of pedigree going for it, and could be a quick hit.

6. Project Zomboid – ANOTHER ZOMBIE GAME? Yes, but don’t hold that against it. This may be the most conceptually intriguing zombie game I’ve ever seen, as the emphasis is on survival and not shooting. Using a sandbox mode and isometric perspective, “Project Zomboid” allows players to scavenge supplies, build safehavens, maintain their hunger and boredom levels, and of course, fight the occasional zombie. It’s so in depth, you have to consider things like hanging sheets over your windows so zombies don’t spot your lights, and already features an active mod community who contribute to the game regularly. I’m a BIG fan of this one, and you should definitely consider it if you’re a fan of the first two “Fallout” games.

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Betting Against Family: How to Hide Your Tells

Everyone enjoys a friendly game of poker, and of course, it’s more fun when playing against family members. However, they know you so well that you might be giving away your hand with your familiar “tells”.

What Is a Tell?

Via Flickr by Snap Happy Brent

A tell is a small gesture or other unconscious habit that may provide information about your poker hand. These little signals will give your opposing players a look at whether you are holding a weak or strong hand. These tells can be detrimental whether you are playing at a gambling city casino in Vegas, with your family or online.

Tells can be something as minor as a little smile or frown, all the way up to something major such as squirming in your chair or coughing. Many times players think that by smiling they can cover up a weak hand and vice versa. These tells often are read by the more experienced players so use these tips if you want to win.

Use the Same Routine

Via Flickr by Fayez

Hiding these tells is not that difficult. For instance, each time you play poker, maintain the same routine and movements. This can include how you handle your chips, how often you check your cards and at what speed you play.

Keep Your Movements in Check

Via Flicker by Biker Jun

Little movements such as staring too long at the flop cards may give away your hand. Looking at the cards too long may indicate that you have a poor hand and need extra time to evaluate. Alternatively, looking away too quickly from the flop may indicate that the cards are just exactly what you need for a winning hand. Betting too quickly is also another tell that should be avoided. It can either be read as a bluff to a poor hand or a sure sign of a terrific one. Also, don’t immediately reach for your chips when betting—it’s a sure tell.

Watch How You Speak

Via Flickr by Alisha Vargas

Another tip for hiding your tell when playing with family is to not to talk or speak frequently. Your silence can disguise many tells and will not provide hints as to your hand.

Wear Those Glasses

Via Flickr by Play Among Friends

We’ve all seen the professional poker players on television who wear hats and dark glasses. Well, these are very effective methods to prevent others from letting others see your tell. Eyes are especially expressive, so hiding behind a pair of dark shades is a very effective method of disguising your tell.

Don’t Appear Too Confident

Image via Flickr

You may feel that appearing supremely confident at all times is a way to throw off your opponents. In fact, the opposite may be the case. Others may perceive this as your way of bluffing a bad hand, or just trying to psych out your opponents. It’s best to remain neutral as much as possible.

Playing Online

Now if you play poker online, it’s obvious that other players won’t be able to “see” your tells. However, there are other tells that can be perceived online. These include the speed of your play. Keep it consistent and it will reduce the opposing players ability to “read” you. Also, don’t forget about online perks. For instance, a good way to enjoy casino games is get more with Europa casino bonus code programs.

No matter how you choose to gamble, just make sure you are aware of your tells and work to disguise them.

Video Game’s Dream Away Team

In case you haven’t been to Google lately, we’re currently celebrating the 46th anniversary of “Star Trek.”

Of course, providing the influence for one of the more entertaining and complete Google Doodles in some time is pretty far down on the lists of long term accomplishments for the classic series. Of those, one of the greatest has to be the cast of characters assembled on the show, which is such a motley combination of personalities that debates on favorites still, sadly, wage on with frightening ferocity to this day.

Of course many of those same fans have also wondered how they and their friends would fare as part of a space crew. The sad truth is, many of us would likely destroy the craft after getting hammered on that mysterious blue alcohol stuff and start randomly flipping switches while making the traditional sound effects.

The world of video games, however, is filled with capable crew members. In fact, I can think of a few that would I even trust enough to helm the U.S.S. Enterprise itself.

Captain: Nathan Drake

You could say that Nathan Drake’s lack of the “official” captain rank, as well as his inexperience with the finer points of space travel would make him a questionable candidate. However, as Captain Kirk himself taught us all, the real qualities of a captain lie in his fearless nature, magnetic personality, ability to seduce women of all varieties, and flawless fist fighting skills. Nathan Drake has all of this in spades, and no matter what the job (he was once the man who climbed a wrecked train in the snow with a bullet in him, remember) I have faith that he is the only character capable of leading such a crew.

Red Shirts: Lemmings

The red shirts of “Star Trek” got no love, but without their  countless sacrifices, our heroes of the U.S.S Enterprise would have fallen many times over. Much like those noble crimson clad heroes, lemmings are equipped for a variety of tasks, but their main job in life is dying over and over. The best part is they do it with glee, without a shred of discontent to be found amongst them. When I’m looking for a staff of generic, replaceable, overly loyal crew members to fill my ship with, it has to be the lemmings.

Doctor: Mordin Solus

Ok, so “Mass Effect” is basically the “Star Trek” game we never got, so this is kind of a cheat.  Oddly enough, however, the video game world is not flush with capable, traditional doctors. Mordin Solus can not only heal a broken limb, or cauterize a wound, but his interstellar work experience has given him invaluable experience into dealing with every type of galactic calamity that may arise for a variety of species, while retaining the ability to keep a calm mind not motivated by personal conflict, and instead focused on what is best for all. Combined with his ability to project fire and ice from his bare hands at will, Solus is the only sawbones I want on my video game away team.

Second in Command: Gordon Freeman

He and Solus would have both been great candidates for the number two position on the crew, but Freeman has long proved himself as not just a capable man of science (even though the one experiment we saw him in went horribly, horribly wrong), but a leader of men as well. For reasons never quite explained, Gordon Freeman is a multi-talented, never wavering killing machine that has the ability to quickly decipher a variety of on the fly brain teasing situations. Frankly, he gets it done like no other video game character. While he doesn’t have the personality to lead a crew, he’s a better second in command than anyone can hope for.

Engineer : Cid Pollendina

There’s been many variations of the Cid character, and while many of them were engineer types, and some people prefer the gruff Cid Highwind from “Final Fantasy VII,” to me the only engineer your team needs is “Final Fantasy IV’s” Cid Pellendina. He’s a little more fun loving than some of the other Cids, yet his work ethic is unwavering, and unlike Cid Highwind, you never have to worry about him falling into a bout of alcoholism, or for his nicotine withdrawals to interfere with his work. Also you can only really trust an engineer with a full beard.

Lieutenant: HK-47

There’s a school of thought that says that a good lieutenant is always learning, fiercely loyal, and ready to step up and take charge at a moments notice. HK-47 has many of those qualities, but only if the mission is killing meatbags. Otherwise this assassin droid has a slight attitude and tendency to question orders, which can tend to discourage all but the most sociopathic of crew morale. However, sometimes you want an officer who is going to question your decisions, yet ultimately follow your final orders with machine like efficiency. HK-47 is that officer.

Communications: Cortana

While lacking a physical form, though you wouldn’t believe it due to some creepy fan art out there, Cortana was made for communications duties. A constant source of information, whatever Cortana doesn’t know she can learn. Plus, much like the average smartphone, she can be taken anywhere and is ready to help whenever you need it. While she has lost her virtual mind in the past, making her something of a potential loose cannon, Cortana’s otherwise high level of artificial intelligence and intense loyalty make her the only real candidate for the job.

In any case, she’s much better choice than SHODAN.

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