The start of a new round is often an exciting time with much to discover and investigate. Those intrepid adventurers that leave no stone unturned are rewarded with the little known information that can turn a battle into a whitewash. One particular example that springs to mind was the startling revelation last round that Sky had coded a feature which no one had discovered; Crews were able to verify and instantly find an attacker from a witness statement that they had received. After 6 months of the feature being undiscovered it was revealed. Clearly we needed to hire a private detective just to find that hidden feature, but I digress.
Part of a new round, as we have discussed above, is the implementation of new features. The staff, most wisely in my opinion, have revealed only the essentials of most of these features leaving the community to come together and work out the rest.
Ranking is one of the most crucial, important and fundamental features of the game which can change how people play, interact and strategise. At the beginning of most rounds the rank of each player counts for a lot. This round however, the regular race to Boss was somewhat diluted by the introduction of a new rank requirement. Previously, XP was everything and the more you could play, using a range of game actions to propel you, the faster you would rank. After the initial few days it became obvious that no one had ranked any higher than Thug, a somewhat abnormal twist and one which BSF2000 felt the need to explain. Within the topic "Welcome to Round 8"1, the man in red explained to us a few of the changes that have been made. Of interest to us here is what was said about the Missions and Rank:
The missions have been slightly reordered to fit with a change that was made with the Gangster rank. Ranks below Gangster are considered associates and the Gangster rank and above is considered a made-man (the rank list on the FAQ reflects this). You are required to complete mission 5 to be promoted to Gangster. Once you reach Gangster, new accounts you create after dying will start at Gangster and mission 6.
This startling revelation was met with mixed reviews. Initially the idea that you would no longer have to start from Scum after dying was enjoyed by many, possibly more popular due to the amount of time all of us spent as Scums at the end of the previous round. Those who had made little to no headway on the missions were unimpressed that they had just crippled their mouse clicking fingers going crazy with crimes without knowing that wasn't the key to ranking just yet. Certainly those who didn't realise that you could only rank straight to Hitman, and no higher, were even more irritated but on the whole the change seemed to otherwise receive good publicity. There was another revelation though as it was announced that, upon being killed and signing up again, you would not only start at the rank of Gangster but also the necessity to go through the irksome task of "Exploring the Territory"2 has been put to rest. Instead you will begin having already completed the first 5 missions. Fantastic news for those prone to being shot mainly because 10 crimes per state is Scums play but travelling around and more crucial waiting for 12 hours worth of travel time to expire can get somewhat laborious.
To explain this change the first three ranks were assigned the category of "Associate" whilst the remaining 12 were labeled as "Made-Man". These rather cosmetic names appear to serve no other purpose than simply distinguishing between the ranks that you only have to achieve once and those which will become regular occurrences on player profiles. Whilst some players questioned whether choosing the "Go Underground"3 option upon resigning up would have an affect on whether you would start at Gangster again, Mika quickly quashed these rumours and confirmed that going underground would allow you to revisit these first ranks and of course our well loved, and infamous, first mission.
These updates to the rank system have affected how the game has been played by many. Certainly this late on in previous rounds we would have expected to see a much wider range of ranks and currently at the time of writing the highest rank seen is just a Boss. Whilst this primary phase of the round has been somewhat slower than we may have previously seen it has by no means had it's final hurrah and there are sure to be many more ripples of change that propagate from this updated core game functionality.
1 - http://bootleggers.us/forum_new/index.php?flag=1&goto=1328
2- "Exploring the territory" is the first of the mission series and was last round as well.
3- "The 'go underground' option allows a player to create a new account upon death as though they have never played before; this irradiates all friendships, profile layouts and any information which could give you away.