The Sacrifice Tutorial

by Tom Chick

December 8, 2000

"I don't want to play Sacrifice," Eric said last night at Shoot Club, effectively speaking for everyone, "It's boring.  Let's play the game where you make tanks."

What Eric really meant was, "I don't want to play Sacrifice.  I'm overwhelmed by it's bold gameplay, unique artwork, and dizzying pace, not to mention the depth of strategy required to succeed and the finely honed balance among the different creatures and spells.  I would rather play a game like Red Alert 2 where you can just crank out units, drag select them, and watch them kill or be killed based on the whims of the erratic AI."

If Eric had said this, I would have been able to take him in a debate.  But I didn't know how to respond to something as vague and subjective as "it's boring".  What was I going to say?  "No it's not"?  It's like when someone gives a bad game a good review because "it's fun".  I hate that.  Can we just leave "fun" and "boring" out of the equation?

The general pattern of Shoot Club is that the winner of a game keeps his place until he's won three times in a row.  If he makes it that far, then he gives up his seat in exchange for bragging rights as someone who couldn't be beaten.  People cycle in and out and everyone gets a turn.  But there's usually a time when the group reaches its saturation point with whatever game we've been playing.  We start milling around.  No one rushes for the empty seats vacated by the losers.  Everyone starts watching the two guys playing Virtua Tennis who had been waiting for their turns on the computers.  Someone has the presence of mind to suggest ordering a pizza.  This is how I know it's time to move on to a new game.

"How about Sacrifice?" I had suggested last night after the same four No One Lives Forever maps had been played out several times over.  Trevor and I knew there was going to be opposition.  We had planned this out earlier that day when Trevor had picked me up from work because my car was in the shop.

"Dude, we gotta play Sacrifice again," Trevor had said while he was nosing his Honda Civic onto the freeway, "Four player was just awesome."

"When did you play with four players?" I asked.  He and I had tried a two-player game a few times.

"At your house, when you were installing No One Lives Forever on all the computers."

"You were online?"

"No, it was skirmish mode."

"That wasn't four-player," I said, "That was against the AI."

"Yeah, but there were four players," he said.  Trevor honked his wheedling Honda horn at a cab that had switched lanes three car lengths ahead of us without using his turn signal.  "Crazy Taxi!" he said, doing a burlesque of an inner city black kid's voice, "We gonna have some fun!"

Trevor constantly quotes things.  Mainly movies, but also Simpsons episodes and games.  He even does this in front of people who couldn't possibly know what he was quoting.  They laugh politely, thinking he's making a joke they should understand.  This just encourages him further.  Once he got half way through a Monty Python skit when he was talking to some poor mortified girl at a party.  I pulled him aside and tried to explain that he didn't always have to try to be funny.  He once shrieked "Shake it, baby!" to the girl at Starbucks making his non-fat caramel macchiato.  He nearly got us thrown out because he had no idea that it could be taken as anything other than a sound bite from Red Alert 2.

"I think Sacrifice might be too hard for the guys at Shoot Club," I said to Trevor, looking through his tapes.  Molly Hatchet.  Uriah Heep.  A tape of Rush's Limelight recorded as a continuous loop.

"Yeah, but if we just teach it to them, they'll love it.  If we build it, they will come.  Dig this cow bell.  No one uses a cow bell like Fog Hat," Trevor said, cranking his tape player, "I got laid to this song once."

Trevor decided we should swear to the guys that they'd love Sacrifice if they'd just give us fifteen minutes to explain it.  But most of these guys are casual gamers.  They come to Shoot Club for quick action.  And now, in this between-games lull when we're all milling around before we decide what to play next, Eric had just announced that Sacrifice was "boring".  The stink of alleged boringness had been put on it.  We had to act fast.

Trevor pointed at me.  "Dude says it's the best game he's ever played."

"Well, I didn't say-" I started.

"Yes, you did.  That one time.  You said it.  Remember?" Trevor was nodding at me.  "And he's a professional.  He does this for a living.  He should know."

"Well, I'm not sure I'd say I'm-" I started.

"Look, here's the deal," Trevor cut me off, "You guys give me fifteen minutes to explain it.  If, after that fifteen minutes, you guys want to play Red Alert 2, then we'll play Red Alert 2.  Okay?" 

They couldn't argue with that, particularly since Trevor had hidden the Red Alert 2 disks.  We started a four-player game of Sacrifice and gathered everyone around the computers, except for the two guys playing Virtua Tennis.

"You'll note the colored bars in the corner. This bar represents your health while this bar represents your mana," Trevor said in his ‘this-is-complicated-so-I’ll-go-slow’ voice that he uses when he’s explaining to someone how to use the printer at the small office where he works as a network administrator.

"Hey, it's stone henge," Jeremy said pointing to his altar.  "Look out!  Whoa, what's down there?"  Jeremy was looking off the edge of the world.

"Don't go over there. Here. You can select all creatures of a certain type by double clicking on one of those creatures.” Trevor took the mouse from Jeremy to select a bunch of Frostwolves.

"Can you fly in this game?" Charlie asked from the next computer over.

"There's no flying per se, but there are de facto flying creatures.  More on that in a moment."  Trevor was sounding too much like a manual.  He was losing them.

"What is that?" Jeremy said, trying to fire at his own mana hoar.

“Dude, stop shooting at that.  You can’t shoot in this game anyway.”

“No shooting? That’s lame.”

"How come I can't cast any spells?" Charlie asked.

"You have to select the spell you'd like to cast from the spell bar.  Like this."  Trevor showed him.  Charlie’s wizard started summoning a manalith.

“He just said 'pejorative'!” Charlie said. “Does he ever say any curse words?  That would be pretty cool.  E klaatu fucker pejorative.  You probably couldn't do that in a game, could you?”

“Have you heard of a game called Kingpin?” Jeremy said, still trying to fire at his own mana hoar.

“About bowling?” asked Charlie.

“Okay,” Trevor said, “now if you hold down the middle mouse button and slide the mouse up or down while holding the cursor over the minimap, you can zoom the minimap in and out.“

"Can we slow the game down?" Eric called from one of the computers in the next room.  He was being attacked by one of the Frostwolves Jeremy had set loose.

"Dude, you're not supposed to attack each other yet!” Trevor yelled, “I'm going to explain how the game works first."

"It works fine,” Jeremy said, “I'm kicking Eric's ass."

"Ahh, what's attacking me?" Charlie asked Trevor.  Now he was wildly clicking as if to fire, scattering Troggs and Gargoyles across the map.

"That's your Scarab," Trevor said, "He's healing you."

"Then why is he shooting at me?"

“Stop trying to fire.  There’s no shooting in this game.”

"How do you chat?" Eric called from the next room.

"The enter key," Trevor yelled back.  Then he started again with his slow voice.  “Now the way game works is there are five gods with unique spells and-“

"What does the alternate fire button do?" Jeremy asked, clicking it repeatedly.

"It doesn't do anything.  It's not the alternative fire button.  There’s no shooting in this game.”

Hey fuckers, how do you slow the game down???? appeared in a big box in the center of the screen.

“How do I cast a spell?” Charlie asked again.

Bee-atches!  All of you!!!!!! appeared on the screen.

“Can you zoom out the minimap?” asked Jeremy.

Trevor’s a homo!!!! appeared on the screen.

“Stop using the chat,” Trevor yelled to Eric, “I’m trying to teach them the game!”

“You're a homo,” Eric yelled back.

The guys playing Virtua Tennis had wandered over to watch us.  “Where do you get ammo?” one of them asked.

“Hey, what are those colored bars in the corner?” Eric yelled from the next room.

“There’s ammo?” Jeremy asked.

“There’s no shooting in this game!” Trevor said.

“Then what does the fire button do?”

Trevor’s a homo!!!!! appeared on the screen.

We spent the rest of the evening playing Red Alert 2, in which Eric figured out how to make "Trevor's a homo" a macro taunt.

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