Community Spotlight: Shack Tactical, part 1

Shack Tactical has been making war for more than six years. We chat with the Chatty group's commander, Andrew "dslyecxi" Gluck about how the growing company of soldiers formed and how the amazing videos are created that document the group's missions.

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A group of eight infantry members strategically map out from which direction to infiltrate an occupied town. On a nearby road, about a dozen soldiers share prior war stories. "I wasn't Rambo-ing it up!" says one random infantryman. "I wasn't doing anything wrong and I just got killed. That's what I live with every day." Still another group plots out their strategy of entering through an airstrip using roads and bushes as cover.

This begins the latest video from Shack Tactical, a dedicated group of ArmA 2: Operation Arrowhead soldiers. The video (featuring an amazing 93 players) has drawn tens of thousands of views on YouTube to date, a far cry from Shack Tactical's humble origins. The group was pulled together in 2006 under the command of Shacknews Chatty's Andrew "dslyecxi" Gluck. Formed to play Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, Armed Assault, and Operation Flashpoint sessions, the group later migrated to the ArmA series.

For Gluck, Shack Tactical represented a return to normalcy. Prior to the group's formation, he took part in a number of Shacknews Operation Flashpoint sessions before going overseas in 2004 to serve as a member of the US Marine Corps in Okinawa. Linking up with a like-minded group in the SomethingAwful forums, Shack Tactical's numbers started growing. The numbers grew even more with the transition to ArmA.

With the release of the group's ArmA1 guide, some ArmA 1 sessions peaked at 70 players, Gluck said. ArmA 2 and Shack Tactical's ArmA 2 guide helped increase the regular player base to more than 80. "It's only with ArmA 2: OA and the recent influence of DayZ that we have begun to push past the 100-player range on a regular basis," he said. "The gameplay that has resulted from such high player counts has been phenomenal to experience."

The group runs the latest Operation Arrowhead beta from Bohemia Interactive, linked together with ArmA 2 itself. Before starting a session, everyone must agree to abide by the group's common guidelines: No magnified weapon optics, no attack vehicles, and absolutely no respawning. More than anything, Shack Tactical aims for an authentic ground infantry experience.

Gluck said he makes sure that every prospective member of the group is aware from the beginning that Shack Tactical wants to model itself after an infantry platoon, although lately it has been more of an infantry company. Transports are uncommon and missions with jets, helicopters and tanks are even more rare. "Infantry gameplay is where ArmA shines brightest and suits our large player count exceptionally well," he said. "Instead of it being one tank 'stealing the glory' and accomplishing the bulk of the mission's objectives, we get to employ dozens of infantry, working closely as fireteams, squads, and platoons, to defeat the enemy. Every rifleman plays a role, and each can claim that they were a factor in our eventual success -- or horrific defeat. This 'sharing of the fun' keeps our player base engaged and coming back for more week after week."

After the battle is complete, Gluck goes to work on creating a Shack Tactical video. After a recent absence, ShackTac videos are coming back in force, with recent missions Nomads, Strike at Aliabad, and the aforementioned Town Sweep all hitting YouTube in the past couple of weeks. Gluck captures all of the footage using Fraps. The footage is then edited with Adobe Premier before being given a clean intro with After Effects. Gluck uses the game's built-in camera script along with some of his own additions, but determining what to film comes down to his own judgment.

"The biggest challenge of filming these recent sessions has been to not only watch what's happening in the scenario and try to place myself in what seem to be the most interesting areas of the mission," Gluck said, "but also to be able to listen to the radio chatter at the same time and anticipate where the next key action events will take place. This involves a lot of zipping around the terrain at high-speed, bouncing from squad to squad and hoping that everything you've recorded will gel into a coherent narrative later on."

The final product is on part with some of the best shorts that machinima has to offer. Of course, such an elaborate production has brought accusations of AI usage or scripted events, a charge Gluck vehemently denies.

"I am strongly opposed to groups that do promotional videos where they stage events, use AI to make their numbers look bigger, or generally create misleading content," he said. "What you see in our videos is simply legitimate ShackTac gameplay. I take pride in that fact. It's been a long road to get where we are, and when we see an accusation of staging our dialog, it makes me smile to know that our natural gameplay is engaging enough to lead some to believe that it must be faked. It is quite the compliment."

Each Shack Tactical video carries a strong feel of authenticity. A large part of that comes from Gluck's own military background. However, he notes that Shack Tactical's membership includes a number of active and former military from around the world, including American, Canadian, European, and Australian soldiers. With such devotion to painting a genuine picture of the battlefield, Shack Tactical has received praise from both civilians and active military.

"One of the most flattering pieces of feedback I received from a military member came in the early ArmA2 days," Gluck said. "A combat veteran from Iraq -- a bonafide US Army door-kicker -- remarked after one of his first sessions with us that it was 'as close as you can get without getting dirty.' I think these sorts of comments are great insight into why VBS2 -- the 'military' version of ArmA, and something I've worked with for over five years now -- has become such a dominating and successful training tool. In that same vein, I was surprised to learn recently that some ShackTac videos were used to help illustrate the value of games-for-training to the US Special Forces community by an operator with more than 20 years of service. It showed that if a collection of people playing a game online could learn tactical, decision-making, and other key training tasks, imagine what that same game -- now a 'sim' in the form of VBS2 -- could be used for in an actual military training capacity. It's a bit of a geek-out moment to hear something like that."

ShackTac is a growing community with an increasing number of applicants. So how does one go about becoming a part of it? Tomorrow in part 2 of our interview, Gluck shares the application process for Shack Tactical. He also shares what he hopes to see in the upcoming ArmA III.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 20, 2012 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Community Spotlight: Shack Tactical, part 1.

    Shack Tactical has been making war for more than six year. We chat with the Chatty group's commander, Andrew "dslyecxi" Gluck about how the growing company of soldiers formed and how the amazing videos are created that document the group's missions.

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      June 20, 2012 9:10 AM

      As promised, this is the first article where we will start highlighting some of the Chatty folks doing good things in the gaming scene. Thanks to dslyexci for working with us on this two-part feature.

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        June 20, 2012 9:23 AM

        Thanks for the opportunity. :)

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          June 20, 2012 9:28 AM

          Any promotion you could give to your team or other places that may find it interesting would be appreciated. ;)

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            June 20, 2012 9:37 AM

            Definitely.

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              June 20, 2012 9:47 AM

              You were already inundated with applicants. This may get you a lot more. Not sure if that is good or bad for you ;)

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                June 20, 2012 9:51 AM

                Good, of course! The more you get to sort through, the more gems you'll find in the process.

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                June 20, 2012 7:09 PM

                Shot an email through, figure replying'll be more visible. I don't want to look like a DayZ applicant. :(

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        June 20, 2012 9:45 AM

        This is awesome, guys. Keep it up!

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        June 20, 2012 9:50 AM

        very cool - always thought what he was doing was amazing

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      June 20, 2012 9:15 AM

      The video so prominently mentioned in this article is what inspired me to apply. Still no reply, but according to the site that's to be expected. Hopefully I'll get in.

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        June 20, 2012 9:21 AM

        I have you flagged for followup - I send out replies to join inquiries typically Thu/Fri. We batch them currently due to the rather high demand we're seeing atm.

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          June 20, 2012 10:31 AM

          Excellent, thanks. No terrific rush. Do you all have multiple groups who play now that the group's growing so rapidly?

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            June 20, 2012 10:46 AM

            We're still operating the same way we have in the past, just in larger numbers. The increased playerbase means that you're more likely to see impromptu games during the non-session days (which are Wed/Sat), but aside from that, it's still one big session on the session day, versus multiple simultaneous ones.

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      June 20, 2012 9:24 AM

      [deleted]

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        June 20, 2012 9:30 AM

        The bit that starts at ~6:45 in that video is one of the greatest things I've witnessed in gaming.
        (I was standing there at the time, watching Beagle run, laughing my ass off)

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          June 20, 2012 9:42 AM

          When you post this kind of thing and I laugh for a couple of minutes straight, I start berating myself for not listening to you. =(

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          June 20, 2012 9:50 AM

          lol that's kind of incredible.

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          June 20, 2012 12:19 PM

          That's one of the few times I've heard someone yell out "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU..." where it actually fit! Hi-larious!

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        June 20, 2012 9:42 AM

        lol, amazing.

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        June 20, 2012 1:25 PM

        That was just pure gold with the helicopter.

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        June 20, 2012 4:47 PM

        That is fucking awesome

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        June 20, 2012 6:58 PM

        The magic moments in ArmA 2.

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      June 20, 2012 9:24 AM

      Yay!

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      June 20, 2012 9:37 AM

      I like this!

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      June 20, 2012 9:43 AM

      Cool! Good interview Ozzie, Grats Dslyecxi!

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      June 20, 2012 10:33 AM

      I want to play Arma II, and Dayz, but...time, I need the time for it. Diablo III, Eve Online, GoW3...haven't even finished Skyrim yet :(

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      June 20, 2012 11:24 AM

      This is an awesome feature. Everyone should give this a quick read.

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      June 20, 2012 1:01 PM

      Good article.

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      June 20, 2012 6:23 PM

      nice job spotlighting some awesome shack visitors

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      June 21, 2012 12:48 AM

      everytime i see the picture on the homepage i think of http://giveupinternet.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/dont-worry-sir-im-from-internet.jpg

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      June 21, 2012 1:26 AM

      Good read, looking forward to part 2!

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      June 21, 2012 1:57 AM

      given this group of leaders, and our less illustrius horde leaders from UrbanDead, could the shack tactical itself out of a wet paper bag? do we elect leaders selflessly?

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      June 21, 2012 6:27 AM

      Part 2 inbound at 9 a.m. PST (noon EST) ...

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      June 21, 2012 8:48 AM

      This video just made me purchase Arma 2. Always wanted a game filled with people who actually like tactical play.

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