I have three friends – who I’ll call AJ, Madd and Potter, since those are essentially their names – with whom I play games online most Sunday evenings. It’s a nice way to stay in touch and it’s a lot of fun. They’re very patient with how bad I am at PUBG.
Over the last few months we’ve been playing Vigor, a free to play “shoot ‘n loot” from Bohemia Interactive. Bohemia are well-known for the ArmA series, which is a tactical military shooter notorious for its realism. Vigor shares some of its approach to weapon handling – running and gunning will not go well for you – but is a round-based game where cautious, paranoid scavenging is as viable and important a strategy as hunting for other players.
Sadly, Vigor does not sport four-player co-op play. This makes sense, as such a setup would run counter to its core design. At most you can take one friend into a match: someone to watch your back while you scavenge.
It is technically possible to get into a game with more friends than this. If you and three friends team up, and the two hosts don’t have too much lag between them, and they get the timing on an attempt to join a match just right, there’s a possibility you’ll load into the same map.
To do this with the intent to cooperate is a dangerous technique even if you succeed. Your friends look just like every other potentially hostile player. Communication and caution are essential if you’re to try this approach. But if you succeed the potential rewards are great. You can take your time scavenging and really clean up a map, and even make a strong push for the game’s greatest rewards.
Good communication is key. When we found ourselves in the same lobby for a match on Batterie Draug, a small 8-player map, we knew this. Madd and I spawned on the map’s southern edge, near the map’s locked safe – the second best loot point but also a common flashpoint for hostilities – whilst AJ and Potter spawned on the west coast.
“Let’s meet up at the south-western most buildings,” suggested Madd, who generally keeps a cool head. “Shaun and I will loot in the area while you guys cut south.”
A notification popped up almost as soon as the match started: a player had gone rogue. This means they killed their team mate. We were reasonably confident this player then immediately exited the map. (This is another popular exploit in the game: by making use of the ‘insurance’ feature that prevents equipment loss on death, it’s possible for players to ‘duplicate’ rare weapons for their friends via team-killing.)
We rejoiced. We had just moved from four against four to four against two. We were going to clean out this map.
“Potter, don’t shoot anyone in the back,” we joked. The guy has form, which is occasionally down to a twitchy trigger finger but more often straight-up griefing. He and AJ have been friends for years and AJ still ribs him about some of the shit he’s pulled. “Very funny,” is all he’ll say.
Madd and I set to looting around the agreed buildings. We still didn’t know exactly where the other two players in the match were so we remained on guard, taking it in turns to cover one another while we rummaged through chests and boxes. Madd played a benevolent and helpful role, as he was much more experienced with the game and was keen to help me advance.
AJ and Potter were making steady progress towards us. They were also looting as they moved but we were aiming to hook up quickly so that we could actually play together. Our game plan was to find and take out the remaining players so that we could scavenge freely.
There was plenty about to tempt us, though, as several players had spent currency in the lobby to increase the amount of loot on the map. We were having a rewarding time and spirits were high.
“We’re almost there,” AJ reported.
“Great,” Madd replied. “We’re just looting the houses.”
I heard the unmistakable sound of approaching footsteps. And then a cry from Potter: “There’s someone in the house!”
Adrenaline spiked. I dropped into a crouch. I snapped my camera back and forth between the visible doors. Where were they? The footsteps were suddenly all around us.
Gunfire erupted with savage immediacy. I saw flashes from a nearby window, and then I could only watch as my character crumpled to the ground.
“I’m down,” I say, into the chaos of panicked chatter and gunfire. I didn’t even get a shot off.
“Got one!” AJ crows.
More gunfire followed. It was all over so fast that it was hard to tell what had just happened. But in the end, Madd and I were both dead. Potter and AJ still lived, and were moving cautiously into the building. I was dumbstruck as I spectated the player who killed me.
“They’re all down,” AJ confirms. “Damn, I got one of them through the window! Did you see that shooting?”
I waited for him and Potter to figure out there were only two bodies in the house. For emblazoned across my screen were the words: you were killed by AJ.
A slightly dramatised tale of an actual match of Vigor, in tribute to AJ’s infamous 2011 article about Potter’s team-killing exploits: “There is no Potter in Team“.