Monday, January 10, 2011

The meaninglessness of the 'K/D ratio'

Kids these days.

They come out of the battle simulator and all they look at is their kills to see who 'won.' But then they also look at their efficacy. You should hear the conversations around the water cooler after a simulation run:

"Oh, I had a plus seventeen kay-dee ratio; I rock: I really helped out the team. How did you do?"

I'll tell you how I did, and I'll tell you how you did.

Look, the 'K/D ratio' or 'kills to deaths' first of all isn't a ratio, and second of all to you, meat, is meaningless. Sure to some Colonel in strategic planning or some Brigadier at Headquarters, the K/D ratio of our troops to theirs can help them develop a winning strategy or to set the table at a particular place given what the heat maps say. The K/D ratio is meaningful to someone outside the battle to determine whether to save your ass, ... or to sacrifice it.

Here's what the K/D ratio means to you: if the 'denominator' is a number greater than zero, then it's game over for you, forever. And, sure, you got 'plus seventeen.' Yay. Good for you. When did your first death occur? Because after that, none of your kills count.

Me, that last simulation? I had a 'K/D ratio' of plus nine. Big whoop. I also had zero deaths, so I walked away from that simulation, just like you wouldn't have, if that firefight were real. Why? Because I didn't charge into a well-defended enemy entrenchment. Because I didn't let my emotions and my desire for valor rule my tactics. Because I didn't rush out into the middle of an exposed area to poach-kill, exposing myself to crossfire from smarter enemies who held back in areas of good cover. Because I employed good marine tactics, not allowing myself to be flanked by staying in one position after revealing my position.

Because I didn't indulge in flamboyance, 'teabagging' some poor dead schmuck I just murdered over whom I had the upper hand anyway with the element of surprise, or superior firepower, or better skill at headshots, or just plain dumb luck. And, when I saw the enemy 'teabag' a fallen teammate, I didn't lose sight of the game, and rush in, all furious to avenge a comrade, but I held back and let the enemy come to me and fall under the spell of their emotions, and fall under my short, controlled bursts from my MA5C assault rifle.

We are marines, and our motto is not 'Ready, fire, aim!' as the squids like to joke.

Those 'refined' Navy types are all for making us the butt of their jokes, ridiculing our dedication and our assumed lack of intelligence, until we have to pull their butts out of the fire, and then what is the tone of their voice?

"Marines to the front!" is their panicked cry.

And I do go to the front, but I rush in with my eyes open, armed to the teeth, ready to die, but also with this quote on my lips as I go in:

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

George S. Patton

This post is dedicated to the combat vet damy461 who gives you this lecture, meat, not because he's going out his way to be mean to you, but because he loves you and he wants to save your ass.

P.S. This article front-paged at (with a lively discussion thread favoring the opposite perspective).

Monday, December 13, 2010


Sure, the white stuff falling from the sky is pretty and all, viewed from the comfort of a porthole on the mess deck of a heavy frigate in orbit, and just so long as you got a mug of hot cocoa warming your paws. And there are commenters and sideliners who say 'Bring on the Christmas cheer,' as they sing joyfully, 'Let it snow; let it snow; let it snow!' and make snow angels.

The only pain of combat they've experienced is a slush ball to the side of the face during their snowball fight.

But let me tell you something, meat, as a soldier, me to you. Sure it's nice and all to be dropped in from orbit to take out a Covie installation or to retake an UNSC one (or, although nobody will ever admit it: to demolish an ONI one), but then does the enemy walk right up to your drop pod to get enough assault rounds to make sure they are hamburger?

No, you have to slog through that ... hm, I have to watch my marine mouth around you greenhorns ... that stuff armored up, with an assault rifle on your back, a holstered pistol, and enough rounds for each to make you think you weight as much as a Spartan II (which one metric ton, newbie: I've been to the armory when one of those Spartans was suiting up in their Mark V armor). And do you just have that, soldier? Of course not! Everybody has chatter, of course, but the HUD on your helmet, the meds, the food supplies and what are you going to drink? The atmosphere? Do you know how much water weighs?

Put all of that on various parts of your body, and do you think you are going to skip trippingly across the snow crust, light and airy, like a twinkletoed snow faery?

Hell no, kid! Every step is a fight with the environment, and then, after your first twenty steps from your pod, the cold starts to seep through your steel-reinforced combat boots ... that is your highly heat- (that is: cold-) conductive boots, and if you don't keeps marching double-quick time, your toes start to fall off from the frostbite. And if you do keep marching for more than an hour or two, frostbite sets in anyway.

You think combat with the covies is 'thirty seconds of fun'?

Well, it is if you meet an Elite, and the thirty seconds of fun is all them, when they draw their energy swords.

So, newbie, I know you're love with the romantic ideals of glorious combat, but you have to remember your history. This first, easy, mission is that we're taking back the Alpha Base on Harvest. Do you think the Covies are just going to hand over the proverbial keys to the base and say a friendly 'Worq, worq, worq, here ya go?' And after we wrest the base out of their cold, dead split-jaws, you think that you flip a switch and turn on the heat? From which smashed reactors would that be?

'Let it snow'? A more accurate quote is this one: 'War is nine months of cold, followed by winter.'

Helljumper, I got bad news for you: we are jumping into war in the middle of an Harvest winter.

... oh, and even after five-hundred years, Styx still can show us how music is made.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


geophf here. My squat-mates call me 'Buck.'

I'm an ODST. Sure, the Spartans get all the press and all the glory — it sure sounds like they are the only ones fighting in this war! — but when it comes to getting all the dirty work done?

Well there are the marines for most of the ops, but black ops? tough ops?

ODST geophf, getting it done with the rest of his squad, at your service, sir.

Just point to where the trouble is on the planet, and we'll drop right in from orbit, and your troubles? Well, they'll be ... 'handled.'

Also a bit of a writer.

What? Why are you looking at me with that funny face? Sure I'm a marine, meaning I'm tough as nails. Hell, tougher: I eat nails for breakfast, for the iron content. When they say, 'bite the bullet, geophf,' I take them literally.

I pity the bullet.

I'm ODST-tough. That doesn't mean I'm stupid, nor illiterate, as some hoity toities who put on airs seem to think.

Besides, where does real literature that means anything come from?

That's right, the soldiers. We've written poetry, from both sides of the philosopher's (thinking) stone, and we've been written about since writing existed. What did Homer write about? Soldiers. Battles. Real stuff.

So, call me Aeschylus. That fits: a man footnoted in history as a writer but moreso as a participant in the war that threatened all civilization.

I am a soldier in the great Human-Covenant war, and I'm also a writer.

And what does a soldier do? He fights.

And what does a writer do? He writes.

Here's not a story about me, but a story, and it turns out to be, like me, a footnoted one, but an important one, lost to history.

Well, here is that bit of history.