Ten AVA gameplay tips

Having pubbed Alliance of Valiant Arms (A.V.A.)  for the past few months, I thought I would put together a tidy little list of tips for either the budding player or for those of you who are on the verge of entering its hardcore embrace.

Here are ten ideas to help you improve your game online.


1. Focus on the pew-pew

The gameplay in A.V.A.  can best be described as one-uninterrupted sequence of mano-a-mano, gun-on-gun battles. So, I had to laugh a bit when I read the doctoral-thesis-level marketing spin coming out of the MW3 camp this weekend.  One thing in particular caught my eye, specifically, a quote from Robert Bowling (Infinity Ward’s defacto community manager), talking about the new CoD coming this November:

…and it’s all focused on that gun-on-gun gameplay, especially in Modern Warfare 3. I feel like it’s something we nailed with Call of Duty 4. We moved away from it a little bit with MW2, relying heavily on air support, killstreaks, perks and stuff like that. Modern Warfare 3, very much [is] building up from that Call of Duty 4 mentality of gun-on-gun, fast-paced infantry gameplay.

Rob was partially right…CoD used to be all about the gun-on-gun action, but he’s definitely wrong if he thinks that CoD4 somehow defined or originated that ethos. Far from it, CoD4 was the beginning of the departure away from gun-on-gun action towards spammy FPS gaming. Whether it was the RPG’s or the aim-bot choppers, or the airstrikes, CoD4 was a big left turn from CoD:UO and CoD2’s true gun-on-gun play.  For that reason, I think that many new A.V.A. players who began their FPS life with CoD4 will find this F2P game to be a great deal more ruthless than they are used to. Whether you live or die depends on how good you are with your gun. You cannot rely on mines, an RC car packed with C4, waves of stealth bombers or even the nuclear option — all recently legit ways to frag an opponent in recent CoD’s. If you want to take out an opposing player you’ll most likely have to do it with your gun.

Sure, there are other ways to frag in A.V.A, but your best bet is always to aim and press the trigger.  Learning and getting used to the aim mechanics in the game is thus paramount.  Here are a few comments on that mechanic:

  • AVA guns have significant recoil and thus, the game greatly favors aimers over sprayers.
  • There is no health regeneration, so damaging your opponent has significant consequences. Even if you aren’t the one to get the frag, someone else on your team might. So it is vital to do as much damage to the enemy as possible.
  • Registering hits on your opponent will spoil his shot as the game engine deflects his aim when he is hit. The more shots you register, the less likely the enemy will hit you back.
  • Reduce the sensitivity of your mouse until you can’t stand it anymore. Lowering the sensitivity will allow you to be very precise with your aim. You will lose some in-close battles because of this, so judge the right amount for you. If you are a point-man, you might want a bit-more than if you are a rifle-man.
  • Unlike playing CoD, or BF, I try not to aim-down-sights (ADS) in this game. ADS’ing will zoom your view and simulates looking down the barrel of your gun as you bring it up to your eye. While ADS’ing is supported, it does not happen instantly and I find this zooming-in takes too long relative to the game speed. You are really putting yourself at a disadvantage when ADS’d as your peripheral vision drops significantly and your mobility degrades significantly. Furthermore, stock gun ADS’ing is just about useless due to the fact that the “zoom” you do get is quite minimal; however, there are guns where ADS’ing is a strong feature: any rifle with a scope attachment, primarily I’m thinking of the SG556 here. But aside from specific stand-off role weapons, you will be more successful to adopt a CS style aiming system.

2. Stop Reloading

Given that A.V.A.’s modern weapons have simulated high recoil and do not have perfect accuracy, you will go through a magazine very, very quickly. Because of the tendency to be faced with multiple opponents at once in this game, your natural tendency will be to reload after every time you fire, given that you don’t want to be caught out in crucial moment. The downside of this behavior is that you are at a severe disadvantage during the reloading phase. Why?

  • Reloading is relatively slow in comparison to other FPS games.
  • Avatar foot-speeds are high and the enemy can get on top of you very quickly.
  • The enemy can hear you reload twenty feet away and will home in on you.
  • Stopping the reload to swap your primary for your secondary weapon is a relatively slow process.

If you are getting the feeling that you are at the enemy’s mercy during reloading, you are right. I found this out the hard way. You see, I was a habitual reloader. I would reload almost as though it was a nervous tick. I started the habit of reloading any time I fired my primary gun back in CoD4.  In CoD4, this habit was not detrimental due to the fact that you could reload in a heartbeat (as well, fast-reloading was possible given that the process was semi-glitched in MW). On top of that, you could swap to your backup secondary weapon in a blink of an eye. So, even if I was caught reloading my AK, I could just switch to my cannon sidearm (aka The Deagle) without missing a beat. Sadly, in A.V.A. this practice was just getting me fragged, time after time.

Here is what I had to do to break myself out of this habit:

  • I re-designated the reload button to a key or mouse-button away from its usual position (my reload key was a mouse button near my thumb). I found a place well away from my neutral hand position so that I need to think before pressing the reload button.
  • I make it a practice not to reload in the open. I find cover first.
  • After firing my weapon, I would wait five seconds before reloading, just enough time for the second wave of attackers to come around that corner.

3. Corner-ing your opponent

The maps in A.V.A. are very urban and collision points are almost always funneled into door entrances. It is not uncommon for the enemy to be crouched in a potted plant diametrically opposite the direction you are about to turn. Learning the tactics to succeed at or near corners becomes very useful in this game.

  • Check your corners. Somewhat sophomoric  advice, I know, but I cannot over-emphasize that you must methodically scan for enemies when you enter a room, or pop around an entrance-way.
  • Don’t stand too close to corner or door-way edges — you’ll get fragged by prefire. A.V.A.’s own tutorial states that gun fire will penetrate the wall near a corner. If you are guarding a doorway, or corner, stand a few feet back from the edge.
  • Given that A.V.A. does suffer from laggy registration due to the high-pingers that populate its servers, it is also not-uncommon to find yourself tagged seconds after you’ve crossed a doorway. So beware!
  • As you can’t fire while sprinting and given that it takes a second or so to get your gun back into firing position when you decelerate back to a walk, running can leave you as defenseless as reloading does. For that reason, it is a good idea not to run blindly around corners or into rooms, unless you are positive that no one will be kitty-corner waiting to blast you.
  • Due to the laggy registration, I defend corners by pointing my weapon a foot or so away from the edge of the corner and I keep the gun at head-height. By the time I visually detect my enemy entering the room, he is directly in front of my line of fire — and all I have to do is press the trigger. Try standing ninety-degrees off the enemy’s beam. This way they have to turn to hit you. The downside of this position is that most opponents assume that is where you are.

4. Throw that nade

While some might consider nading spammy and unskilled, I disagree.

In the Demolition gametype, set-nades are a wonderful tool and they reward those that are willing to memorize the various throws. AVA’s set nades rival those in CoD4 for utility.  It is highly advisable to go into a practice server and learn to throw one, maybe two set nades — per side, in any Demolition map you play. The Airplane map, for example, has some really juicy set nade spots which I detailed in a previous post.

In Annihilation, nading tends towards being spammy, but given that most people carry only one M67 (round nade), nades play a small role in overall kills, with one exception: the Pyramid map.

Like almost all of the game mechanics, the nade throwing routine takes a good deal of time to play out. During that time you are hyper exposed as you cannot swap to your weapon if the enemy appears suddenly in front of you. Chances are that unless you take special care, you will be fragged mid-throw as many times as you will have fragged others with your nades. To prevent this from happening, before you reach for that Pumpkin nade, read the following:

  • Check your HUD and your immediate surroundings for enemies who will charge you in mid-thrown.
  • For the CoD guys out there, prepare the nade before trying to toss it into the room, that way you don’t expose yourself for too long. Note that A.V.A. nades cannot be cooked, so you can carry them around for a while (not a healthy thing to do, because you are completely defenseless).
  • Bounce them off walls towards your enemy, that way you don’t expose yourself.
  • If the enemy is rushing you in mid throw, aim your nade for where they will be — not where they are — when the nade goes off.
  • Toss the nade at 45 or 60 degrees. This will mean that it will explode as soon as it hits the ground, thus giving the enemy no chance to avoid it. Learn to do this by practicing nade throws. Note that if you toss the nade at too high an angle, it will blow well above the ground and will thus do no damage.

Other than the fragmentation grenade, other nade styles are not as utilitarian. M117A1 Flash Bangs will blind the good guys as well as the bad, so be careful when throwing them. Frankly, I don’t bother with flashes as they are fairly useless. M18 Smoke Nades are not to useful either. Sure, for a scant few seconds they provide a bit o’smoke screen, but you can crouch and see right through it.

5. There is no best gun

Probably, the most commonly asked question in all of A.V.A. is, “What is the best gun?”* I see this being asked in the main lobby all the time by noobs. Asking the question does make sense, especially given that the primary objective in A.V.A. is to earn Supply Points which translate into Euro in-game currency, which can be used buy “better” guns. In reality, the question is put the wrong way. You should be asking: ” what is the best gun for my play style?” Ahh…if you put it that way, then I’d first ask what category of player are you? That answer will tell me what category of gun you will like.

If you want to categorize the primary guns in A.V.A., I would do it this way:

  • Low-recoil “plinkers”
  • High-recoil “tappers”

“Plinkers” are typically high-rate of fire weapons, with low damage. The “tappers” are low-rate-of fire with moderate/high damage. Most players stick to one type of category as they rank up through their weapon purchases.

Let’s talk Rifle Man weapons as an example. Many start off the “trainee” level in A.V.A. by purchasing a low-recoil gun like the M4A1. This weapon has very low recoil and “painting” a target with it is very easy. It takes quite a few rounds to take someone out with this gun and it greatly exposes you to return fire. For this reason you need to learn to hit and move. Once you have earned the nearly 50K euros it takes to buy the next weapon, most of the low-recoil fans go to the M4A1-Mk3. Many settle on this weapon and never need to buy another. emongg, the eSport competitor that plays on Team DefKon, for example, uses the M4A1 Mk3. If you are bored with the Mk3, you have a few ways you can go and still keep a low recoil gun. The FN-F2000, HK416 are interesting choices, while others prefer the SG556 with the tightly zoomed in ADS’ing ability.

Personally,  I would rather rely on my aim and that’s why I select guns with high damage, even at the expense of recoil. For instance, I started off my trainee-period with the AK47 and learned how to tap fire with it: don’t hold that trigger down for more than a few milliseconds, squeeze out 2-3 rounds maximum.  As I gained Supply Points, I got enough Euro cash to buy the Sako RK.95. The Sako has a lethal combination of lethality (43 HP’s!) and rate-of-fire. It’s perfect for rounds of Annihilation.

Here’s DefKon’s Snowshovel to show you how to fire a Sako:

Three rounds will take out most enemy’s if aimed at their chest — one or two rounds higher up. Once I started playing Demolition I realized that my play style required even more umph.

For that reason I bought my own personal ultimate weapon: The SA58 Para. The Para has 48 HP damage. It is feared — in the right hands. Its detractors hate it, its acolytes love it — everyone respects it. Most probably, it is the best gun in the game, if you love “tappers”. One shot kills are common-place. It is very light and can be rotated into position very quickly. It allows superior movement, though its moving shot accuracy (move shot) is bad. Frankly, I’m in love with this gun and has to be one of my all-time fave FPS weapons.

Snowshovel back again to show you the Para, a fave “pro” weapon:

Point Man weapons are useful for in-close fire and are lethal for those corner-battles that happen so often in A.V.A. Personally, the Bizon PP-19 or the “blue-flame-of death” Galil Mar with its distinctive ‘thud-thud-thud’ are my faves. Though I wouldn’t like to use them, I do fear the K1A1 rail and the SR-2M Veresk. Without a doubt, the mobility (92!)  the Veresk offers is a real favorite with all the high-wire trapeze artists that seem to populate the Point Man class.

For the Snipers, the TPG1 is the gun that almost everyone gets after the useless stock trainee gun. The TPG1 has a damage value of 100 and can be modded upwards of that (110). You can even quick swap it to avoid the time it takes to stabilize from recoil (Snatcch’s video at the bottom of the page explains in more detail). The “cool” sniper to get though is the PGM.338 with  its near-maxed out settings of damage, range and accuracy. The most popular sniper I see in pubs tends to be either the TPG1, the PGM or the FR-F2, the latter giving one of the best move-shot accuracies.

*Note: though guns bought with real money (micotransactions using GCoin currency) are superior to most of the “free” guns, they aren’t overwhelmingly better — else the game balance would be way off. Nevertheless, I will only talk about the free weapons in this section.

6. Flank Flank Flank

Like most good FPS games, your best chance at success is to surprise your enemy by attacking him from a direction he did not expect. The advantage in A.V.A. will almost always go to the person who shoots first and more often. You run a higher risk if you are facing your opponent. Take him from the side and you should be able to inflict more damage and take less in return. Win win.

7.  Sounds good

A.V.A.’s sound is rather nasty in comparison to AAA titles. The gun sounds are overmodulated and distorted and the ambient environment lacks refinement. Having said that, there are things to be learned from what you hear.

  • Listen for footsteps. They are not as loud as I would like, but they are discernible and will tell you if the enemy is about to strike
  • You can hear your enemy reloading from about twenty feet away. Very crucial information if he’s hiding around the corner and vulnerable.
  • If you hear what sounds like an aircraft engine, you have been seen by the enemy Commander (the fellow holding the one pair of binoculars). You are now on every opponent’s HUD and they all see you framed by a red box, which can be seen even through walls. Um….hide.

8. Learn the culture

Every game has a specific culture all its own. I learned that going from CoD to BF, I did, I did. In both the former AAA titles, there’s a big barrier to entry: the cost of the game. This tends to filter out a great many people. With F2P games, owning a pulse, a basic PC and a residential high-speed internet connection (not always), will let you frag with anyone in the world. Unsurprisingly, the culture in A.V.A. is different from what I’ve experienced before. Here are some of the more interesting elements of that culture.

  • Kicking
    As the servers are provided by ijji here in North America, there are no individual server admins. True a “host” is selected before each game, typically the senior-most ranked player. The host does not host the game on his computer (a-la MW2), no, he is simply the designated person given the authority to start the game and to kick players before the game starts. After the game starts, players can only be kicked by a unanimous vote taken by his own teammates; that is, everyone on your team must say yes to the kick: “F5”. What you will find astonishing (well, I did) is that almost everyone will agree to hit F5. You would never see that type of agreement in BF or in CoD. I found that A.V.A. players really stick together and help each other out…at least in this regard.
  • Leaving mid-round
    Leaving a game mid-match will cost you Euros. Getting kicked won’t cost you that penalty, so it’s customary to ask to be kicked if you have to go. Be nice and help a teammate out the door.
  • Shortcuts in chat
    b = boat! Get to the boat (used in the E-boat mission).
    bh = behind! A warning that an enemy is coming up your back side.
    bino = someone wants the commander’s binoculars. Remember, if you are not using the binos…give them to someone who will.
    hs = head shot
    t = tank! Used in Escort missions, it means “get to the tank and fix it,”  if you’re an attacker, or “stop the tank,” if you are a defender.
    1 HP = a warning that your enemy has only a few remaining hit points. If you are a Sniper, you might want to switch to a pistol to take the enemy out.

  • High Pingers
    ijji servers were meant for North American players. Nowadays, there are even servers in Europe. However, the popularity of A.V.A. has meant that many non-NA’s or Euros play the game. This can lead to extremely high pingers trying to play the game (300+ms). The record for ping that I’ve seen was north of 1,500ms! It makes sense that foreign players should create their own rooms to play so as to keep the lag as consistent as possible for everyone. Respect low-ping rooms. Respect the high ping rooms. For example “BR only”, means “Brasilian”-players only. High-pingers should continue to write to A.V.A. devs to create more servers that will service their communities.

9. Rank up smart

Getting ahead A.V.A. consists of getting Supply points, Experience points and Battlepoints. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Supply Points: You earn Supply Points in-game for kicking ass. SP is gained by completing objectives in the game. When the game is over you will see a status bar that will fill to 100% as you accumulate SP. When the bar hits 100%, you are awarded Euros that can be traded in to buy upgrades. Roughly 20000 SP will be needed to gain $5000 EU.
  • Experience Points: Get them for various will let you rise the ranks.
  • Battle Points: Primarily you get BP for completing daily missions. You can use them to try your luck in the Capsule shop (a gun lottery). Getting BP is very easy and will save you tons of money if you like gambling on getting Capsule guns.
  • Awards: For completing objectives in-game you will receive awards. For example, getting the most head shots, the most kills. You will get extra Euros and XP for such feats.
  • Euros: Awarded for filling up your Supply Point bar to 100%. You’ll typically get $5000 for doing so.
  • Rank: When you have filled the Experience Bar to 100%, you will get a promotion in rank. Promotions come with a bonus in Euro cash.

If you have real money to spare you can of course buy power-leveling items. See: Exp Up and SP Up levelers

Whatever you do don’t farm. Not only is it unethical, AVA is looking for it and you can face a ban for things like sitting in a server with your buddy whacking each other with shovels to earn XP.

Legitimate ways to rank up include:

  • Maximize the amount of XP and SP you get per minute of play by playing the Infection (Zombie-light) game type.  Infection (3minute rounds) will get you ~2500 SP in about 20-30 minutes of play.
  • Play Demolition (especially Random Demo+Autobalance).  A game of demolition will easily get you 1000-15000 SP in about 20 minutes and about 200-600 XP.  Escape nets you roughly the same.
  • Try playing whatever is featured in the daily Event Channel. You typically will get 25% bonus SP if you play the featured Event game and 5% bonus XP typically.
  • Escort is the fastest way to increase XP and SP, especially if Autobalance is set on. you’ll get ~1500 SP and 200-700 XP per game.
  • You get more XP for winning than losing and for playing the objective.
  • Make sure you complete daily missions as they are the easiest way to gain BP.
  • Play the full round to maximize your farming. Leaving in mid-round will cost you in penalty fees.

10. Read and learn from others

Eric “snatcch” Brinkley, a brilliant ex-CoD eSport player who moved into A.V.A. is the perfect person to learn from. Eric once worked for A.V.A. and he produced this very helpful video giving his tips to budding competitive players. The tips are extremely simple and effective:

Finally, A.V.A’s got to have the best game FAQ’s of any FPS out there. Review them carefully:

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