Battlefield 3 Open Beta

September 30, 2011

Battlefield 3 open beta is now live and I got the chance to play it a bit last night. It’s a gorgeous game. Flat out the best looking game I’ve played to date. And it runs well, with none of this “Ultra settings choke even a NASA computer” crap you get sometimes. Same goes for the audio; it sounds great and really pulls you into the game.

I’m not the biggest FPS fan, so tiny details are basically lost on me, at least from an ultra-competitive perspective. I don’t know/care which weapons are slightly more powerful than others, the number of milliseconds it takes to jump/sprint/whatever. Maybe Battlefield 3 is great in this respect, maybe worse. I’m not the person to say one way or the other. To me Battlefield 3 plays like a shooter. It plays similar-enough to Bad Company 2. That’s not bad per-se, but the first hour with the game felt like playing another hour of BC2, just with better visuals and a different map.

If I was hurting for titles to play, I’d pick up Battlefield 3 to kill some time with. ‘Unfortunately’, I have more than enough games to play right now, and a bunch of titles waiting in the wings. The price point is also tough to justify. While $60 itself is not a big deal, the fact that I can pick up games for $5-$10 off Steam makes dropping the money tougher to justify. Knowing that the game will go on sale for half the price or less at some point is also a factor.

My plan is to enjoy the beta until it ends, and then pick the game up on sale to at least play the single player game, and perhaps mess around with multi-player, although having to unlock all the guns and accessories (again) somewhat sours that aspect. Funny statement coming from an MMO player, but there you go.

 


Blood Bowl 80% off

September 29, 2011

Steam sale, of course.

Recommend people pick it up (it’s a very solid TBS title at heart, with a football theme. It’s more a strategy title than a sports title),  as I’ll be running another league ‘soon’. Grab it now, learn the basics, sign up, and compete against other HC people. Fun for the whole family!


Redsox: Cataclysm

September 29, 2011

I don’t normally do this, given that this is mostly an MMO blog, but what happened last night in Baseball was stunning, historic, and gut-wrenching. This piece by Tom Verducci sums it up well.

As a resident of the City of Champions, last night was bittersweet. On the one hand, our team blew it in amazing fashion, and for the second straight year there will be no postseason. On the other hand, this year’s team was just so unlikable. All first-round, overpaid babies who expected to just make it, and when it came time to man up and win, they folded like cheap lawn chairs.

It will be a bloodbath in the offseason.

(Self-pat for the blog title)


Bad content burns you out

September 28, 2011

While talking about the fun curve, Tobold addressed something he and I have been going back and forth on for a bit: do you burn-out on an MMO, or do you quit because the game changed?

Before we go on, I understand that the easy answer is “it depends”, but for the sake of making a blog post, lets continue.

If Cata was BC/WotLK, you would not have quit, right? -Me

I am not certain. It is hard to look into alternate universes where thing would have happened differently. I liked WotLK more than I liked Cata, but maybe that hypothetical “more fun if Cata had been WotLK” would only have made me play a month or two more – Tobold

Tobold wrote more after that, see his blog for the full reply.

Cata caused Tobold (and many others) to quit, while at the same time Tobold (and likely many others) were already growing tired of the formula that is WoW. The Cata changes simply accelerated the path to “not having fun anymore”. And like Tobold says, had Cata been WotLK, perhaps it would have bought Blizzard another month or two, but the same-old feel would still likely have kicked in.

But what if Cata had not only been better than it was, but better than WotLK? What if the expansion had been something like (insert your favorite MMO expansion)? What if, instead of every 2 years, Blizzard released an expansion every year, with enough ‘stuff’ to keep players entertained until the next one?

Isn’t that… the point of the MMO model? (Or was anyway) And more importantly, isn’t that the ideal MMO experience? To have a game that is constantly evolving in a positive way, while retaining the core that got you interested in the first place?

Isn’t that why we all thought MMOs would dominate gaming forever, because instead of consuming a set amount of content and moving on, we would now be in a world that constantly provided us with more content, enabling us to stick around ‘forever’? And, well, isn’t that what happened ‘back in the day’? How long did you play EQ1? How quickly did people ‘burn out’ on AC1? Did anyone EVER see all of the content in UO back when that game still had a dev team?

On the flip side, we have plenty of examples of devs trying to do just that, and instead of adding positive content, they add trash AND screw the core up. Rift in beta vs Rift today will always stick in my mind, but WoW has slowly (or not so slowly, depending on who you ask) fallen off as well for many. Point being, changing the game can just as easily make it worse than make it better, and if you have a good thing, the ‘safe’ play is just to feed people ‘more of the same’ until it stops working, and then you go F2P, shut down, or do something drastic.

The reason I don’t believe that burnout is ultimately inevitable is because we have solid examples to suggest otherwise. I mean, Tobold has played WoW for 6000 hours. Are you really going to tell me it takes 6000 hours to reach burnout? Or was WoW so good that burnout was not a factor until the game itself started slipping? I played UO until Trammel, I played DAoC until ToA, I played WoW until TBC, I played Rift until 1.2. In not one of those games did I move on because of burnout. It did not take years to burn out on UO/DAoC, months for WoW, or weeks for Rift. Time was not a factor; the games changing was what did it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that EVE, an MMO that has kept its core solid (blowing up spaceships), while at the same time evolving more than most, has seen and continues to see growth, even after 7 years. If Online Excel can do it, why can’t others?


LoL Dominion, Total War, and Borderlands

September 26, 2011

League of Legend’s Dominion is out today. Hopefully the servers don’t totally explode.

I think Dominion is a nice break from the traditional map (SR), certainly much better than the 3v3 map, but at the same time I don’t think it really plays like a MOBA game (if we define MOBA as DoTA, which I do). The total lack of a laning phase, while nice for game speed, really takes away a lot of the strategic depth, and when the game ends I just don’t get the same ‘feel’ as I do from a SR match. That said, I think it might be fun to play a round or two along with my daily ranked game, and hopefully Riot does not screw SR balance based on Dominion changes. Yet if they don’t, I expect some heavy cheese strats to dominate Dominion, and more than a few champs to rise to OP status.

I downloaded the demo for Total War: Shogun 2, and after playing it for a bit, realized how much Mount and Blade has spoiled me in terms of RTS games. In TW, much like in most RTS games, when two units fight, animations play out while numbers drop off a stat sheet. Eventually one of the units hits zero, and you win. But if you want to focus on one soldier, or see just how one specific terrain feature is impacting the battle, you can’t, because while the units are there graphically, for the combat engine it’s all just numbers and dice rolls, and to me that just looks/feels so shallow now. Can anyone tell me if it’s possible to play the TBS part of TW without ever playing the RTS portion? Like can I auto-battle everything, or does doing that really screw with the game/balance?

Finally our group of four finished the main game in Borderlands, and while the game as a whole was pretty good, the ending is terrible. Just makes zero sense and is a total letdown. Hopefully the DLC that we also have is fun. I’ve heard good things about it.


30 minutes to cap

September 23, 2011

Tobold’s post today does a nice job of summarizing what’s gone wrong with MMOs in the last few years in terms of design. The best example is this part:

If you consider a theoretical MMORPG with an infinite number of levels and free-for-all PvP, it is pretty obvious that the players spending the most time in the game would crush those spending the least amount of time.

The above is true, and it’s also terrible design. It’s why UO/AC worked as PvP games and had/have runs longer than almost any themepark. It’s why EVE continues to work, and it’s why Darkfall has its 3rd anniversary coming up. Those games combine the hook of character progression with the balance of player skill, and mix in a whole lot of social interaction to keep it all in check. The best PvPer might be a force 1v1, but they become a non-factor on the ‘grand scale’ of GvG warfare (unless, of course, they are in one of those guild, at which point they become a very powerful ‘boss’ figure).

The real evolution of MMO design is to not just balance between the octo-mom players and the hardcore, but to enable the two groups to complement each other. EVE gets this right in many ways, with the hardcore playing in 0.0 space, and the casuals benefiting from those actions in Empire (econ ramifications, being in the same world those major events happen, being able to jump into 0.0 when time permits, etc). In turn, 0.0 players benefit from all those miners and mission runners doing the ‘boring’ stuff in Empire that eventually makes its way out (and gets blown up, keeping the cycle going).

Poor design, such as creating raids that are initially too hard for most, and then nerfing them until they are faceroll easy, not only misses the entire point, but creates easy “us vs them” divides. This also leads to short-term content, rather than long-term solutions/hooks, and in a genre designed to be played for months (if not years), short-term content itself adds nothing in the long run. All of the end-game content from vanilla, TBC, and WotLK is now worthless in WoW, while (most) of the features added in each EVE expansion still matter today. The options in EVE expand, while those in games like WoW simply change (and if they change to something you don’t like, your only option is to leave, as I did pre-WotLK, and now even Tobold has done thanks to Cata). It’s not hard to understand why EVE retains its players for so long, while WoW is a revolving door.

And of course, if your game is designed around a revolving door, rather than retention, you have no motivation to create deeper gameplay. You have no reason to go as deep as EVE does with some of its mechanics, or to design combat systems that can’t be learned on youtube or reduced to a few scripts; your players leave long before they ever get to the mastery phase. And really, it’s not even their fault; it’s how so many of the post-WoW games are designed, and the results of such design decisions are on display for the world to see.


Why Hogger is famous

September 22, 2011

Because he killed you, made you stop and think, and made you either move on in defeat or find others to take him down.

Read that WoWWiki entry and tell me that it’s a ‘problem’ that Hogger could be defeating in all those different ways, including the ‘creative use of game mechanics’ tactic of dragging him to the guards.

Hogger is the definition of why an MMO is awesome. Nerfing and making Hogger solo-able is the definition of destroying an MMO because some octo-mom got her feelings hurt and would rather make a forum post than talk to another player.

Hat-tip to Longasc here for the idea.


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