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Community Spotlight: Shack Tactical, part 2

by Ozzie Mejia, shacknews.com, Jun 21, 2012 9:00AM PDT

(Editor's note: If you missed the first installment of the Shack Tactical Community Spotlight, you can read it here.)

Dozens of infantry are lined up along the side of an airstrip. These soldiers are ready for battle. Meanwhile, another dozen soldiers cross over a nearby threshold and encounter enemy resistance. The battle with the enemy has begun. This is the next part of Shack Tactical's latest video, Town Sweep. Soldiers fight as a cohesive unit with a great sense of discipline. It takes a special breed of player to become a part of Shack Tactical. Among those that help determine who can hang with this group is Shacknews Chatty's own Andrew "dslyexci" Gluck.

Such a structured community naturally receives its fair share of applicants. Gluck notes that the recruiting process is mainly passive. Would-be soldiers can find information on Shack Tactical through Bohemia Interactive's forums and through some occasional Chatty posts. However, the group is more reliant on word-of-mouth, their YouTube presence, and media exposure. Hundreds apply, but only a few have the discipline to see the whole process through to the end. The idea is a "quality over quantity" philosophy, he said.

Despite the stringent requirements, there are hundreds of hopeful ShackTac applicants, something Gluck attributes to the increasing popularity of DayZ, a zombie mod for ArmA 2. He said he has had to change the way it handles applicants and brings them on to the team, replying to inquiries on Thursday and Friday, and only bringing new people in on Sunday and Monday. He has gotten more than 90 emails in the last three days alone.

"Out of those, perhaps 15-20 will progress further," Gluck said. "When all is said and done, I would expect to see 10 of them with us at the end of the year. I am excited to see who those 10 people end up being, and that's one of the driving motivators for me -- meeting and getting to game with cool new people who share my interests and want to contribute to our group's success."

Getting into Shack Tactical is tough. Let's say some wannabe jarhead actually does manage to rise above the rest of the maggots and earn their stripes. What's the learning curve for this rookie?

"As far as learning curve goes, we've written a great deal of material, contained in our forums, that is oriented towards the new players," Gluck said. "We'll take new people aside in small batches to run them through a 'ShackTac Orientation', which consists of a more experienced player giving them the rundown on what to expect, how our modset works, and gives the new players a chance to ask questions. The first taste of our gameplay happens in our Wednesday sessions, which are oriented around further teaching the new players how to play, giving our more experienced players room to spread their wings and try more challenging roles, and just generally promote an enjoyable and less stressful environment for play -- thanks to most of the missions being against AI, instead of humans. Our Saturday sessions ramp up the challenge quite a bit, as approximately 80 percent of the Saturday missions are player-vs-player. Fighting against AI is enjoyable, but fighting against players is something else entirely -- quite the rush, and much less forgiving of bad plans, leadership, shooting, etc."

Of course, knowing how to play is only half the battle. Gluck said that ShackTac only accepts the most model of citizens and will not hesitate to boot soldiers for behavioral reasons. Describing ShackTac as a self-policing community, he said the group has stringent expectations. Fortunately, behavioral issues have proven to be rare.

With a devoted community ready to continue fighting on a regular basis, ArmA III is already on the Shacktac radar. Gluck had a chance to hang out with the developer crew at E3, including DayZ's Dean Hall and ArmA III's Ivan Buchta. Unsurprisingly, the ShackTac community has high hopes for the next entry into the ArmA series.

"ArmA III is another evolution of the series that I am excited to see us transition to," Gluck said. "Personally, I am most interested in the movement and control refinements they've done -- it's great to see ArmA finally have the same responsiveness as your typical modern FPS, and the polish and improvements that have happened already in that area are going to do a good deal to help make ArmA accessible to an even broader audience without compromising the series' integrity. There are all sorts of other aspects of it that I'm hyped for. The new functionality for modular gear and weaponry is a big one - I look forward to seeing what kind of creativity the mod community does with those features. Any multiplayer networking improvements that allow us to take player counts higher and higher are going to be worth their weight in gold, too."

As the Shack Tactical community continues to grow bigger, the group has gradually drifted away from the Shacknews community. The reason is not personal, Gluck said. "As ShackTac grew larger, more complex, and began to occupy more of my time, I found myself needing to do things for the sake of our player base that would inevitably lead us further away from Shacknews. The two most significant were the establishment of our group forums and our adoption of IRC as our means of intra-group communication. As admin load became heavier and heavier, I began to post less on Shacknews in response -- though even today I still find time for it and frequently read the Chatty. I've never considered myself to have 'stopped' being a Shacker, I've just found myself to be a very preoccupied one."

Despite Shack Tactical increasingly branching off to become its own recognizable entity, Gluck has not forgotten the group's roots.

"The community that Shacknews developed, from 2003 when I started participating, to 2006 when I began ShackTac, is a key part of our success. It would never have been possible to grow as smoothly as we did, with such a high-quality founding member base, if not for being able to initiate and grow the group through the Shacknews Chatty. Every new member we bring into ShackTac, to this day, must read a historical "Where we come from" page that talks about those early days, why we're called "Shack Tactical", and what our insignia is a reference to. We are proud of our history, and Shacknews was where it all started. To everyone who played with us, posted encouragement -- thanks. We could not have done this without all of you."