Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Rant: The Decline of the Shooter (or lack thereof)

September 1, 2013

If you wander into the right circles, you’ll find a group of people that insist Doom (or sometimes Quake) was the epitome of gaming, that modern gamers are stupid, and today’s shooters are excessively linear and loaded down with extraneous elements like cutscenes and set pieces. Now, I’m not going to attempt to defend Call of Duty as the best thing since sliced bread (since it isn’t), but I am going to say this: Anyone who thinks that shooters went downhill after id’s classics is insanely arrogant and completely ignorant. (more…)

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Rant: GM13 – Worst Update Ever

July 24, 2013

One Steam Community member referred to the new Garry’s Mod update as “the worst update in the history of updates”. I know this is old news, but I haven’t touched GMOD in months and just came back to a rude surprise. I’m inclined to agree. Really, this update is so dramatically different that it should have been a whole new version.

Most of my friends are fine with the update, because they play the game with no addons at all. That’s not an option for me. Out of the box, GM13 has less capabilities even then stock GMOD before. Where is the turret STOOL? Keep Upright? Why are there only two maps and significantly fewer game options?

It also seems to do an even worse job of loading content from other Source games.

I understand that an update of this magnitude will break addons. I understand that a lot will be changed. It is perfectly reasonable to expect things like Spacebuild and Wiremod to be broken and require updates. But some things appear to have been changed for no real reason at all.

The spawnlist format is changed and requires conversion- would it really have been that hard to add backwards compatibility, or just leave it? This means that simple prop packs and such won’t work- they need to be updated or converted. You need to change the info.txt to addon.txt to get addons to load. Oh, and the game is now in Steam/Steamapps/Common instead of Steam/Steamapps/Username. To be fair, that one might be Steam’s fault.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that your favourite mods will never get updates.

I appreciate what Steam is trying to do with Workshop, but in all honesty, it doesn’t work. When I tried it, it didn’t even load in-game, and I ended up having to do it from Firefox. Categorization is a joke and the search function is useless. Try searching “easy engine” or “enginemod” and good luck finding the actual addon. I thought it worked fairly well at a technical level, but according to some devs, it has issues, like not allowing certain (critical) file types, small size limits, and forcing users to redownload entire mods for every update.

On the bright side, it’s a hell of a lot less glitchy, and loads much faster. And multiplayer works now.

Necessary? Probably. A good update? Hell no.

Gaming: Call of Duty Ghosts (insane rant inside)

May 22, 2013

First off, am I the only one who immediately thinks of that other franchise when I hear the name?

So, a new Call of Duty is coming. Let’s get one thing straight- I like Call of Duty. I agree that it is excessively linear, and not at all realistic. My favorite game in terms of balancing linearity versus control remains Rainbow Six: Vegas Two- I love being able to actually do some customization, and especially be in charge of a squad rather than simply part of it. But with Call of Duty, I’m content to sit back and enjoy the ride. Basically, it’s an interactive action movie. I’m okay with that. I did like the direction Black Ops 2 went in, but I feel they didn’t go far enough. More less linearity, please.

The setting appears to be in the near future, with a seriously messed up version of the United States. I have mixed feelings about that. First, it seems rather implausible. Despite recent economic problems, I can’t see the United States falling that fast. Second, it sounds more than a little familiar. With that being said, I’ll reserve judgement until I know more. Story-wise, all I can do is shrug my shoulders. No idea who or what the enemy is.

Graphics look good, but not amazing. These ‘next-gen’ graphics you console guys are salivating over have been the status quo in the PC world for years now.

IGN mentioned that Ghosts has just as much handholding as Modern Warfare. To me, that’s a disappointment. Call of Duty is all about glorious set pieces and an action movie feel, but it’s a formula that relies on upping the ante with every release. MW3 didn’t really do that, and to be honest, after MW2, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting more intense. Like I said, I feel that what Black Ops 2 did was a step in the right direction, and I commend Treyarch for that. Infinity Ward, please build on what Treyarch did. I know I’m going to sound like I have questionable mental faculties here, but it might be time to dial back the cinematics a tad and focus on plot and character development, as well as gameplay. Perhaps do what Warfighter tried (and failed) to do- a deep, personal story.

Gameplay wise, same issue. I’m tired of sitting back and letting everyone else make the decisions. It’s part of the same tired formula. Let me take charge for once. Blops 2 did this to some degree, but I would like to see more. Being able to actually choose in that game was shocking- maybe this is the shock factor you’re looking for.

Insane rant incoming. Those who are mentally unprepared may wish to seek cover.

There’s been some discussion on female characters in Ghosts, and some of it actually makes me sick to read. One guy offered the lame excuse that it might offend some minorities if you can shoot women in the face. That is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard all day, and I spent an hour with literal retards and psychos (okay, not really). First and foremost, you’re going to offend someone anyway. Deal with it. Second, Call of Duty is no stranger to controversy. Third, you have an opportunity to shoot women- defenceless, civilian women- in the past three games. I can’t see how female characters in singleplayer or female avatars in multiplayer could be any worse than that.

What bothers me is that the industry has actually moved backwards. Ten (okay, coming up on fifteen) years ago, women in FPS games wasn’t just acceptable, it was standard goddamn practice. Let me name some off the top of my head. Playable female leads? Perfect Dark and No One Lives Forever. Supporting characters? Goldeneye, RTCW, Medal of Honor, um, fuck, I forget now. Multiplayer avatars? I’m really goddamn bad at this, but Quake III Arena had tons. Shit, I suck at this, but I know there were lots I just can’t bring to mind.

Now? Playable leads I can count on one hand. Supporting characters- rarely, and usually victims or very minor characters. Multiplayer avatars? Lolno. Call of Duty I pick on a lot, because it’s a very prominent franchise. But if you look at Battlefield, same thing. Medal of Honor? Warfighter was the most sexist game I’ve played in a while, going so far as to thank all military men for their service- I forget the exact wording but it WAS gender-specific. Of course, that was overshadowed by its massive jingoism and generally being fucking terrible. And now I’ve run out of rage, but I’m sure there are others.

If there is a female Ghost, I will pay extra to buy the special edition of this game, and fucking frame it on my goddamn wall. Rant over.

 

 

Gaming: Xbox ONE First Impressions

May 21, 2013

So… Xbox One reveal.

First, I was wrong about the name. Besides the obvious Xbox 720 guess, a lot of people guessed Xbox Loop or Xbox Infinity based on the registration of xbox8.com. I, of course, guessed Xbox 8, to match Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. All in all, though, Xbox One isn’t a bad name. It’s not mindblowingly retarded like Wii U.

Hardware… pretty much what we were expecting. Initial reports pointed to a POWER architecture processor, but what we’re going to see looks very similar to the PS4 (or AMD’s next-gen Fusion chip). Coupled with 8GB of DDR3, which means they learned from the last generation that you NEED MORE RAM. Still, by the time it’s retired, 64GB or 128GB will probably be commonplace. A lot of people are going to say, oh, it’s not powerful enough, it’s not pushing the limits, but the fact is that you can’t push the limits with a game console anymore without driving the price through the roof. Best you can do is play catch-up with the PC world.

Media functionality, yes, I like, but it’ll be saddled with Microsoft’s proprietary bullshit for sure. They’ll probably make you pay for LIVE Gold to use Netflix and stuff too, but we’ll see. I can already tell they won’t let you mount a network drive and stream your… um… downloaded movies. Overlaying over your HDTV steam, honestly, I don’t really see the utility in. A lot of people are moving to online services entirely. I’m not going to get into the death of TV, though, that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Speaking of which, paying for online service is pure bullshit in this day and age. It’s gouging and there’s no excuse for it.

More in-depth and factually correct examination, as well my take on Call of Duty: Ghosts, tomorrow. Spoilers: Graphics don’t look that special, and for fuck’s sake, can we finally have some women in this game? I will pay extra for female Ghosts.

Steam Box, Part Two – Price Point

April 7, 2013

One aspect of the Steam Box I didn’t talk about was price point. I figured it would be obvious. It would have to be priced similar to traditional consoles and Valve knows that.

I was reading about the Xi3 Piston and its cost struck me dumb. A thousand dollars? Sure, it’s a cool little mini PC, but my similarly specced media center rig cost half that. My main rig, which is far more capable, cost the same amount. Now, it’s not the Steam Box, and I’m thankful for that. Because if the Steam Box cost that much, there’s no way it can compete. Not against traditional consoles like the recently announced PS4 and Xbox 720/8/Next, and certainly not against the dirt-cheap Ouya class of devices.

It needs to come in at four or five hundred dollars, max, and it’s gotta have decent (not killer, but decent) specs for that price. It has to cost about the same as the PS4 or the Xbox 720/8/Next or nobody will buy it. Console gamers won’t make the switch, because they’re not willing to spend the extra cash for a machine they know little about, and PC enthusiasts will just build their own for the same price or maybe a little less. And this is an area where Valve is naturally disadvantaged versus the console giants.

When it was first released, the Playstation 3 was sold at a (quite significant) loss, and if I remember correctly, the Xbox 360 was also initially sold at a loss, tapering off to a slight loss or slim profit later in its lifecycle. The consoles are subsidized by game sales, a portion of which goes back to the console maker, and things like Live and overpriced accessories. If Valve tries to subsidize the Steam Box with game sales, the userbase will crucify them. They can’t charge for online, and nobody will buy the overpriced accessories. The Steam Box cannot be sold at a loss. Period.

It’s also likely to cost more. Console manufacturers use proprietary, specialized hardware, design for cost efficiency, and build millions of units. There’s a definite economy of scale here. Contrast the Steam Box, which is built with commodity PC hardware (although the next gen is pretty damn close), designed for flexibility and openness (we hope), and unless Valve is insane, will not be built by the millions, at least not initially.

Of course, they also have to provide something that works and works well. The obvious choice to power the device would be one of AMD’s Trinity chips, twin module (I refuse to call it a quad core) and all the shaders unlocked. That’s not a cheap part, even if they work out some kind of deal. It’s gotta have at least 4GB of memory, preferably 8GB, and enthusiasts will hate it if it’s soldered on so it better be a SODIMM or conventional DIMM. Trinity likes fast memory for it’s graphics- you really need dual channel DDR3-1866 to feed it, and that isn’t exactly cheap, though it’s not really expensive either. You can pretty much forget SSDs unless you only have one game, but a hybrid setup with an SSD boot or SSD cache might be the ticket. This is not a cheap computer. This is definitely at least a $500 machine, and it’s the minimum for today.

As you can see, Valve is trapped between a rock and a hard place. If this is going to work, they have to provide good hardware at a low price, and they can’t use the same tricks console makers use. And at the end of the day, most gamers will not part with a thousand dollars of their hard-earned money, no matter how flexible, open, and awesome the platform is.

Steam Box – Five Things Valve Needs To Succeed

February 16, 2013

The Steam Box has me excited. It’s a completely different approach to console gaming. For those that don’t know what it is, have you been living under a rock? I’ve seen similar initiatives before, but Valve might actually be able to pull it off. To me at least, the fight is not going to be XBOX 3/720/8/Next vs PS4. The really interesting contest is going to be between the cheap and cheerful Android consoles like the Ouya and the much more powerful x86 Steam Box.

That is, if they don’t fuck it up royally. Here’s five things, in my opinion, that Valve needs to get right for the Steam Box to have any hope of succeeding.

5. Plug-and-Play Simplicity
One of the reasons people buy consoles is because you can buy it, plug it in, turn it on, and play. It’s become a little more complicated since the era of the 64 and the Playstation, but not enormously so. You might have to make an account, and install an update, and yeah, it’s a little more complicated than it used to be. But there aren’t long install processes (except when there are) and you don’t have to screw around with patches or driver incompatibility or odd issues. Steam has already come a long way in simplifying our gaming experience- integrating buying games, installing and patching games, playing games and talking to our gaming buddies.

I’m not saying I want to give up flexibility for simplicity, though. If a more advanced user wants to play with a mouse and keyboard, install LibreOffice, or screw around in the terminal, let them do so. But the casual gamer should be able to plug it in, buy a game, grab the controller and play.

4. UniversalityThis is similar to the point about simplicity, above. When you buy a PS3, you’re getting a PS3- well, mostly. There is a little more variety in models than their used to be, but having everyone making Steam Boxes is going to confuse console gamers who would otherwise make the jump. You don’t have to worry about hardware requirements or incompatibility or getting something that half works. There’s no confusion over what to buy- you run out and buy a PS3. Again, it’s not as simple as it used to be, but there are still only a few models with no fundamental differences.

It’s already clear that there isn’t going to be one Steam Box, and I don’t blame Valve for taking this approach. It’s one I support- just not one that’s necessarily going to work. But I think if they take a page out of Google’s book, it won’t be a problem. There are a plethora of Androids in all shapes and sizes out there. There’s the prestigious Galaxy S3, the cheap and not-so-cheerful Optimus One (yes, you can still buy those), the luxurious Transformer Pad Infinity, the middle-of-the-road Galaxy Tab- you get the picture. Standing out in that haze are the “Pure Google” devices- the Nexus 4, 7, and 10. If you buy one of those, you’re getting the pure Android experience- no skins, no mods. They’re the reference platforms. If there’s a Valve-branded “Pure Steam” console that stands out, that’s going to be the one people are going to buy. And it will make it easier on the customer and developers.

3. Integrated Functionality
Today’s game consoles are not just game consoles, and Valve’s Linux-based PC/console doubly so. It’s not enough for a device to just play games. If it doesn’t have any other tricks up its sleeve, then it’s a waste of $300 (or $400, or $500, or $600, or whatnot). For what the Steam Box will likely cost, and given its extensive hardware capabilities (AMD Fusion?), we’d better get something that does at least as much as a Smart TV.

The Steam Box needs to be able to browse the Internet and play your media, at the very minimum. This is out of the box, plug-and-play, not after you’ve rooted it and installed mplayer and Chromium. Simple installation of third-party apps might also be an interesting element to bring to the table, though it may confuse some. A rudimentary file manager would be nice, as would support for network shares, but only an easy way to move content on to the device and play it is necessary. It would also be a boon to a lot of people if there was support for Netflix and other, similar services, though I believe most have web-based services. I’ve played with Steam Big Picture, and it’s nowhere close.

2. A Solid PushYou can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t market the hell out of it, it’s never going to take off. To use my least favorite company (apart from EA) as an example, this is what Apple did- what Steve Jobs did. He would take an idea, make it his own, and launch it and push it when the time was right. The iPhone is the culmination of years worth of technological development, and so is the iPod and the iPad. Samsung’s Galaxy Player should have been force competition for the iPod Touch, with a growing acceptance of Android and the pedigree of the Galaxy name. But the unit was not marketed in the United States until six months after its Korean launch, and was never brought to Canada.

Gamers know Steam. That’s a starting point. But (internet) word of mouth only goes so far. The majority of people following Valve and the Steam Box are PC gamers, most of which already own a competent PC. Console gamers and non-gamers are going to be the big growth area. And it’s a complex market- not only are you going up against the next-gen consoles, but also phones and tablets. Valve needs to make themselves known. Advertising- on TV, on the Internet, in magazines (do people still read those?) is key. Although an online solution worked for the Nexus devices, Valve might even want to consider a retail presence. Having a Steam Box display next to the Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft ones selling Steam Boxen and game cards, preferably with a demo model, will bring a lot of people in. And take note of the game cards- maybe vouchers for games or maybe like iTunes cards. Most teenagers don’t have credit cards.

1. Launch TitlesBlu-ray didn’t win the format war because it was technically superior to HD DVD, nor did it win because certain hardware companies integrated it into their products. Blu-ray won because during the season that it came out, the most desired titles were from studios that backed Blu-ray and came out on that format. People will buy the platform that supports the content they want. The Steam Box runs Linux. There are some Linux-compatible titles on Steam, mostly Valve and indie games. As much as I like those, nobody’s going to buy a console so they can play DEFCON or Team Fortress 2. You need big-name publishers backing you and strong franchises available on the platform. You need to launch with a good lineup of games people want, people are willing to upgrade for.

EA Games is already out, because they insist on ramming Origin down our throats. And those who are prideful and refuse to bow down… are probably torrenting cracked versions. That’s a pretty big hit, considering they publish games for every other platform. Battlefield, Command and Conquer, Mass Effect, Need For Speed, NxL 20xx, anything with Sims in the title. Up next is Activision Blizzard. Call of Duty sells by the millions, so if you can get Infinity Ward and Treyarch’s latest masterpieces (and I use that term in a completely non-ironic manner), you’ve got two top end launch titles right there. Get Starcraft and you’ve cornered the Korean market. I jest, but it is a decent launch title. World of Warcraft might be bad for your reputation, but it’ll get people buying. Ubisoft has Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy’s (yes, they actually a degree of rights to his name), and a whole host of others. Rainbow Six Patriots might make a good launch game (or it might suck). There’s also Rockstar (GTA), ZeniMax Media (iD, Bethesda), Namco Bandai (Ace Combat, Soulcalibur), Konami (MGS), and a host of others I can’t keep track of.

Indie developers are good and all, and Valve can punch out games in their own right, but they need the support of major developers and publishers (ones that will likely be skeptical of their open model) to be successful. Maybe Valve will finally learn to count to three? Now THAT would be a launch title.

DOOM WAD Retrospective – The Portal

December 29, 2012

No, it has nothing to do with the 2007 game, probably because it predates it by ten years.

The Portal is a Wolfendoom WAD, ie a Wolfenstein themed mod for Doom (2). The author, Laz Rojas, made an entire series of these. I’ve played quite a few of them, and although I thought they were really awesome when I first played them, looking back, not so much. These WADs were made in the late nineties and the early 2000s. Most of them require a BOOM-compatible port (Legacy is recommended by the author- GZDoom remains my recommendation). Everything is done with DeHackEd patches and the gameplay remains largely the same- use switches and keys to advance, shooting everything in your way. No DECORATE or ACS here.

Premise-wise, Portal is a prequel to the Astrostein series (reviews coming soon). It’s set in the Wolfenstein universe, and you play as B.J. Blazkowicz (sp?). Not Chell. The Nazis have found a Stargate time portal under the sands of Egypt. You’re sent in to destroy it before they can accidentally the timeline. This is all explained in the readme, of course- as far as I know storytelling in DOOM mods was nonexistent at the time. Remember, no scripting. (more…)

Mass Effect 3 Feature Coming Soon

April 14, 2012

I know it’s been over a month, but I’ve been busy with some other things. Well, one of them was playing the game. Over the course of this month, I plan to do a series of posts on Mass Effect 3 – a detailed breakdown and review. I’ve been a fan of the series for, well, years now, and have been waiting eagerly for the conclusion since I finished ME2. My overall impressions are mixed, with some things impressing me and some… not so much. I’ll go into that in detail, but for now I’ll leave it at this: I don’t like the new FemShep and the ending is absolutely terrible.

Modern Warfare 3 – First Impressions

November 10, 2011

So, I preordered MW3 on Steam a while back. There’s an interesting story to that, which I may or may not get into later. To put it simply, I was going to go for the other big shooter, but didn’t want spyware on my PC and didn’t want to give money to a company that is so evil. So I bought MW3, and have been playing it since it came out. I’ve played through the entire campaign, but my online experience is limited to a single match, so keep that in mind. A surprising proportion of players simply buy the game for the multiplayer, which is very disappointing. In my opinion, the singleplayer campaign is the best part of the game.

I won’t spoil the plot, but I must say that it starts off feeling more like MW 2.5 than MW3. The game begins right on the heels of the second one, not several years later like the first one. As the plot progresses, it starts to separate a bit and feel more like a true sequel. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that they screwed up the ending of MW2 and had to tidy up the loose ends before moving on. Anyway, the campaign feels pretty good overall, and although it’s heavily scripted and extremely linear, that’s what makes it great. It feels like an interactive movie, almost, a cinematic ride through the theatres of war. It does that even better than the first two games, but seems a bit lacking and repetitive at times. We’ve done the AC-130 how many times now? I think it’s a good thing they’re ending here, because after the stuff they pulled in the second title, it’s kind of hard to top that.

And here’s the bad news- Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t really do it. There are some pretty epic moments, and the conclusion is amazing, but it just doesn’t do the shock and awe thing as well as the first two games. There’s lots of explosions, sure, but they don’t have any impact. However, in terms of Action Movie Quiet Drama Scene, MW3 has quite a few, and they are well done. I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people by saying this, but if you’re looking for video games as art, start with the Modern Warfare series. The visuals are stunning, not necessarily because of the quality but because of what they are. I’m a PC guy and can’t say for the console guys, but MW3 looks great. Yes, there are probably better looking games, but it’s well presented. The sound design is equally excellent, and really rounds out the game. This was Medal of Honor’s failing, if anyone remembers that.

Remember how I said that this feels like MW2.5? That is reflected most in the menus, which are nearly identical. Control configuration is much the same, and the graphics options seem to lock certain settings for some reason, forcing me to override from the nVidia control panel. The game closes and starts a different executable when you switch to multiplayer, which is very glaring especially for Steam users. The campaign completion meter is totally useless- it doesn’t measure how close you are to the end of the campaign but how many achievements you got, or how many intelligence briefcases, or something. I thought I was less than halfway through, when I was really almost done. Multiplayer-wise, at least the dedicated servers are back but as I said I didn’t really try it much.

At the risk of sounding like a Straw Feminist, I’m going to bitch about one last thing before I’m done. WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE WOMEN?! There was a pilot that you don’t see, some civilians that you barely notice, and a hostage. I am not joking. I could understand the first game, which was all about special forces, but still wish it didn’t have the sexist subliminal messaging. The second game was a serious mind screw. Yes, I know they are not allowed in American combat units. Are the lines really going to be that clear cut when your country is being invaded? The Russians are here, all men to the front lines! What the hell are you doing, I said all MEN! Go back and cower in the bunker. The situation is similar (though not exactly the same) in Modern Warfare 3.

Although the story arcs are definitely concluded, there are still loose ends after Modern Warfare 3. What’s going to happen in Russia? How is the Western world going to recover? What’s the story on Israel and the Middle East? What about Asia? There’s room for more here, but I don’t think Infinity Ward should do it. It would only be more of the same, and the horse is pretty tired now. Do Future Warfare. Embrace the near-future sci-fi shooter, and take the same cinematic approach. Walkers, powered armour, space combat, that sort of thing, but big and epic like the other Call of Duty games. We’ve had two Captain Prices, let’s have a third for some continuity. Make her a her this time.

Last but not least, did anyone notice that the Occupy Wall Street?

 

Save Default Female Shepard

August 8, 2011

Seriously, BioWare, what the fuck? First Ash’s new “armor”, and now this.

BioWare wants you to vote for your favourite new FemShep, out of six candidates. This will be the new default female for ME3 and appear on the alternate cover of the collector’s edition. While I love that Sheploo’s Distaff Counterpart is getting some attention, and that they are asking fans for input, I don’t agree with that at all.

First of all, all six concepts suck. Open them up in another tab and follow along. The first three have either really short hair or a bun, I can’t tell from the angle. They’re kind of ugly, but don’t look badass. Number three isn’t as extreme as the other two, and isn’t too bad. Still, they look kind of pale and look like they are wearing makeup. Number four looks like a pop star or maybe a prostitute, not a galaxy saving heroine. The first three at least look the part… mostly. I like the face of number five, but the hair is way too messy and long. I actually wouldn’t mind her face as a reimagining of the original FemShep, as long as the long blonde hair goes. Seriously, will that even fit in a helmet? As for the last one, just no. I don’t know if it’s the black hair, the hairstyle or the dark skin, but I don’t like her look at all.

That’s not the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem is that we already have an official, default, female Shepard. Why not just pretty her up a little and use her? To some of us (well, me, anyway), the green-eyed, redheaded woman is just as iconic as the default male model. Changing that is akin to putting a different guy on the cover of Mass Effect 3, or giving Chief blue armour for Halo 4, or making a version of Minecraft with realistic terrain. Maybe not the latter, but it’s still ridiculous. We have a default Shepard already, why change her?