Say Hello To SSG iAmGrant & Hydra Squad

Hydra Squad

SSG Jayman: So Grant thanks for spending some time to answers some questions with me. You are the Challenge Templar (Captain) here at SSG; can you talk to us a bit about what that entails?
SSG iAmGrant: Originally we (SSG) had a cool idea to start trying to play competitively. I decided to create a Modern Warfare 3 team “Phoenix Squad” and had us practice twice weekly and go out and challenge GGN clans and occasional non-GGN clans. Now with halo 4 out, we have the Halo 4 team “Hydra Squad” where we have set out to do the same thing. My job is to go out to other clans and challenge them to some serious matches, but still keep the Good Game. Any challenges brought to SSG are played by the Challenge Team. My job as the captain is to make sure we are staying on task and not just a bunch of Knights playing games like every other gaming night. tl;dr It is just me organizing the competitive side of SSG.

SSG Jayman: Have you always been a competitive gamer?
SSG iAmGrant: No. I was a casual gamer until I met the world of Justin.TV one summer while working at a camp. I watched the competitive teams play each other and enjoyed the way they all worked together to create their earned victory. It was pretty awesome and I decided I wanted to do that.

SSG Jayman: How long have you been running challenges for SSG?
SSG iAmGrant: I started Phoenix Squad in January this year, so not yet a whole year.

SSG Jayman: Is it hard to do a competitive team within SSG whom, by nature, is not a competitive clan?
SSG iAmGrant: It is, especially getting the team started. Lots of people have their ways of creating and implementing a competitive team, but a SSG competitive team is a whole different setting. Because of our casual nature, maintaining a rigorous schedule takes a lot of accountability and trust that people actually want to commit to the long-term nature of competitive gaming. It is one thing to have an idea for how the SSG team should function, but a totally separate thing for actually getting the team to achieve functionality. We all have such different schedules and gaming habits!

SSG Jayman: Your first comp team was the Phoenix Squad in MW3, what was that like?
SSG iAmGrant: It was great! When we first started we just played against each other to figure out our own map callouts and learn each other’s playstyles and then moved onto Xbox Live. As we continued to play together, we could see how much of a skill difference we had versus all the random teams Infinity Ward decided to pit against us. I was able to track stats and eventually started putting out awards for meeting criteria (such as getting a MOAB) so each person could accomplish more than just winning yet another game. We played in the Blitzkrieg tournament hosted by IronFox and placed 7th, so all-in-all not bad for my first challenge team.

SSG Jayman: I hear you keep an insane amount of stats, does that get overwhelming at times or do you like doing it?
SSG iAmGrant: I like doing it, and it is overwhelming, but after putting in the stats over and over it goes pretty quickly. I was able to crank out the current numbers after each match while sitting in the lobby waiting for the next game to start. I keep the stats so I know what we need to improve, or who needs more help than others. Also, the stats are a great way for each of us to try to do better than the person better than us, and/or do better than the last month.

SSG Jayman: As you mentioned Halo 4 has launched, and SSG now has an official Halo 4 challenge team: Hydra Squad. Can you talk about the genesis of the name and why you think SSG is ready for a Halo 4 challenge team.

SSG iAmGrant: The Hydra is a mythological serpent with many heads – if you cut off a head, two more will emerge. It is said that Hercules was able to kill the Hydra… but that’s just a myth. I wanted to keep with the mythology theme for squad names and I felt Hydra was a fitting title to replace the Phoenix. SSG has been a primarily Halo clan, so to see us all flock to Halo 4 is no surprise. Even though Black Ops 2 came out one week after, we still have a higher player base for Halo. When I asked SSG, “Who wants to play in a competitive setting and take gaming seriously?” we had almost half of our Knights respond in kind. I feel the next step is to get the competitive nature out of SSG and stick it in the faces of all of Xbox Live and show them who is boss.

SSG Jayman: Is there a lot that you learned with Phoenix Squad that will help you with Hydra Squad?

SSG iAmGrant: Yes, first of all the stats. Without those it was difficult knowing whether we were doing better. So that was the first thing I had ready even before the name was chosen. Other than that I am using some of the same format for practices, such as using Matchmaking to test our skills, making sure callouts are being made, and getting us in the heat of battle so we learn how to out-shoot our opponent. With the addition of loadouts in Halo things are a bit different than MW3 simply because loadouts and ordanances actually affect your teammates.

SSG Jayman: How are team members selected for Hydra Squad? Are there tryouts?

SSG iAmGrant: Since we are a casual clan I didn’t really see tryouts as appropriate. I don’t have a skill comparison to go by, and I didn’t just want a tiny team of 4-5 people, so instead I had an enlistment and then used questions for each enlistee to answer to determine if they were seriously able to commit. I wanted commitment, because the skills will come as we play together.

SSG Jayman: How many members does Hydra have? Is there a cap?
SSG iAmGrant: Originally I had the cap set at 10 members, but then Halo 4 launched and I realized the Matchmaking setup was 4v4 for Slayer and 5v5 for Objective. We had 13 sign up, but ended up with 11. Since Matchmaking is odd, I decided to keep what we had.

SSG Jayman: Is Hydra the only challenge team? Is there a “B” squad or alternates for Hydra?

SSG iAmGrant: There is only Hydra Squad, no other “B” squad. Also, there are no “alts” on the team. Essentially, every SSG Knight is an alt in the extreme case where we don’t have enough to field a full team for a challenge.

SSG Jayman: Do you plan on having a team for Black Ops II?
SSG iAmGrant: I thought about it, but there is no way to really get 100% practice time in. The same people who would be interested in a Black Ops 2 team are on the Halo 4 team, which means we would be splitting the amount of time put into being serious about each game. That would result in a bunch of losing and nobody having any fun. What would we blame it on? Not enough practice, of course. Also, I don’t think I can keep up with 2 separate teams for 2 separate games. That doesn’t even sound fun.

SSG Jayman: If a group wanted to challenge Hydra Squad how should they go about doing that?
SSG iAmGrant: First, they can go to the Challenge Board to set it up. We created a nice new area just for challenges. Second, they would need to bring their A-team. We accept nothing less.

SSG Jayman: What if a group doesn’t want something as serious, does Hydra field non-competitive challenges?
SSG iAmGrant: Hydra Squad doesn’t field the non-competitive challenges. Instead, those are reserved for any SSG Knight who wants to participate. You might still see some of Hydra Squad members on the roster though, so don’t think you are dodging any bullets.

SSG Jayman: And of course they can always head to the Mixer Lounge for a mixer.

Thanks again for you time. I’m sure we’ll hear more from Hydra in the coming months as challenges take place.

SSG iAmGrant: Aww yeah, and thank you!