Starting Something

Jim Sterling announces that anyone who thinks Left 4 Dead 2 is an expansion pack is a fucking idiot.

Yahtzee announces that Left 4 Dead 2 is “little more than an expansion pack that dreams of the stars”.

Foul-mouthed angry British nerd fight! Foul-mouthed angry British nerd fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

With the obvious caveat that I played L4D exactly once and may be completely out of my element, the new game sounds like a proper sequel to me. Similar gameplay with new environments, characters, and weapons has been a staple way of progressing franchises that find success and don’t want to monkey with it since time immemorial. Off the top of my head: God of War, Resident Evil, Gears of War, Phoenix Wright, Armored Core, The Sims, and Tomb Raider all have stuck by the formulae that brought them their respective successes without too much complaint from the game-buying public that their ongoing installments were really more like expansion packs than true sequels. I’d honestly be really amused to see a discussion among the gaming community about what constitutes a “real” sequel versus an expansion pack; I suspect you’d see the sort of logical contortions that usually accompany arguments about whether a band is “real” punk rock.

I think Jim’s probably on to something when he says that gamers have been spoiled by Valve and their way of doing things. Up to this point, they’ve tended to eschew yearly punchings of their franchises’ udders in favor of long development times tided over (especially in the case of TF2) with relatively frequent free content updates. If the original Left 4 Dead had been published by Microsoft, Activision, or EA nobody would have batted an eye when a sequel came out a year later, and frankly I think they’d have been pretty shocked at how much seems to have been added.

Certainly nobody would be saying “You owe us all of the work you’ve done this year – for free – as thanks for the server load we’ve inflicted on you.” I’m a bit of a Valve fan, I’ll admit it; I like the games they make. I think they deserve more for their hard work than a double standard.


M.U.L.E Remake Issued, Made Mandatory for All Corporate CEOs

ShackNews reports that remake of M.U.L.E has been launched by an indie dev with updated graphics. I’m absolutely flummoxed by this. M.U.L.E. was one of the best games I played back in the 8-bit era (I had the NES port); it wasn’t graphically special, but it was the first game I played with a functioning economy that was so well-modeled that you could actually collapse it by being too successful. If you completely cornered the market on a resource, all of which are required for survival, you could demand literally any price and the AI players would pay it. If you gouged them badly enough, the other characters would go bankrupt and the entire economy would go down the tubes – at which point there would be nobody left to buy your product and you’d fail too.

M.U.L.E. was one of the only multiplayer games I’ve played where players are competing with one another, but also have to work together at the same time to reach a shared goal – in this case economic survival. I’ll download the client and let you know how it is, but fans of build-em-up games like Civ and SimCity should have a look as well.


[h/t Destructoid]

Peter Moore Tells You Something You Already Knew, Eats A Kitten

For reasons that frankly escape me, last week’s gaming sites devoted more than a few digital column inches to the “news” that Peter Moore had abruptly caught on that maybe we wouldn’t all be buying games on disc forever. At last week’s PLAY Digital Media Conference, Mr. “Y’know, things break” was giving a talk on microtransactions when he uttered what was apparently a dark incantation to nether deities:

“I’d say the core business model of video games is a burning platform. Absolutely. We all recognize that, and we’ll recognize it 10 years from now when we tell our grand kids,” he said. “We’ll tell them we used to drive to the store to get shiny discs that have bits and bites on them and we’d place them in this thing called a ‘disc tray,’ and it’d whirl around…and they’ll go ‘What?'”

“So, the concept of physical packaged discs and the core business model that is video games as it currently stands is a burning platform.”

[redacted to make the man look bad]

“As an industry, I still think we may be as many as a decade away from saying goodbye to physical discs,” Moore added. “The important question is, what does the next console look like? Does it actually have a disc drive?”

A snarky man would insert a picture of a PSP Go here.

I don’t understand why absolutely everyone had to cover this non-statement. Because Peter Moore said it out loud during a panel about subscriptions and microtransactions? For God’s sake, he’s a professional hype man; all he was really doing was hyping the thesis of the panel he was speaking on. He’d have been an idiot to say “disc-based media will be around forever, and digital distribution will remain, at best, a supplement to it” during a panel on digital distribution, and a liar to boot. There are successful products and entire companies built around this same essential understanding of the direction in which gaming, if not computing as an entire technology, is heading.

Jeez. Moore busts out one half-decent metaphor and everyone’s on his knob. Meanwhile, Fyre and I are slaving away here in the (metaphorical!) trenches, and nobody gives a toss. No justice, I tell ya.


Sonic Rob Has Bad Taste In Games – Last Stand

Is she gone? Cool. Let me duck briefly out of my deep-in-the-middle-of-crunch real-live-software-job and offer my perspective on the new DoW2 mode that’s coming out any minute now, if not sooner.

When did survival modes become the new light bloom? Seriously, it’s an interesting gamestyle, and it gives video games a sort of old-school charm, but it isn’t an absolute necessity. More to the point, it doesn’t automatically turn your game into Gears of War 2/Left 4 Dead/ODST/World at War/The Big-Budget Flavor of the Week. I haven’t seen it done in an RTS before Last Stand, but I never saw a time rewinding mechanic shoehorned into an RTS back when those were all the rage either, and I don’t feel like we’re missing anything.

I have to admit that I’m excited about getting equippable wargear with more stats and effects. It’s nice to see that leveling up between games will actually have a point now. But I wonder how they chose the 3 heroes they did, and why there’s no Tyranid character. Also, new race? I haven’t been able to play yet. Has anyone? Is it a palate-whetting taste of Chaos, or something else?

I also kinda like that Last Stand looks to be an online co-op mode, unless I’ve completely misunderstood it. That is something that I haven’t seen enough of in my games. More to the point, Dow2’s single-player co-op mode (oxymoronic, sure, but you know what I mean) was an absolute bitch to get going; trying to start that up with Fyre and slog through has resulted in the closest thing to a regular LAN party situation I’ve been involved in since the Clinton administration. If Last Stand works well via GFWL, it’d be very nice to see that networking functionality patched backwards into the co-op campaign. The least I’m hoping for is to see GFWL campaign co-op in Chaos Rising.

I was working on my map today at lunch when all of my save files starting crashing the World Builder. At first I was horrified at the thought that all of my work had somehow been corrupted. Now I’m hoping to Khorne that the World Builder was just screwed up by the update downloading or something. I’ll be pissed if I have to start this thing over.

Finally, I’m a bit appalled at how Relic is trying to characterize Last Stand as a faster, more arcade-style game experience. DoW2 wasn’t fast-paced enough?I can barely keep up with regular Dow play, and now they’ve made a more-arcadey mode? Fork me, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be doing anything but thrashing around like a 3-year old playing Street Fighter. I fear this thing.


Call of Holy Crap is That Gonna Be In The Game?

The new Call of Duty 4 2 (or whatever the hell you call this game) trailer is pretty amazingly epic. Gotta admit, I was kinda taken aback at first. Don’t watch it if you care about story spoilers, because it looks like they’re blowing the whole plot open in this one:

Continue reading Call of Holy Crap is That Gonna Be In The Game?

Real or Imagined: Leveling up in DOW II

I am in the process of leveling all my races up to 30 in DOW on line multi-player.

Space Marines are at level 31, Orks hit 29 last night, Eldar are 13 and Tyrannids are 12.

I have played more than 400 matches of three versus three, slightly more if you include two versus two and one on one.

And I have started to feel like I am good at this. My win ratio is getting better.  I still lose and my overall 3v3 record is 196 – 284 wins to losses.  Lately I feel like I am more in control of the matches, that what I do really matters to the course of the battle.

Last night, I realized that my team mate had gotten caught up fighting in a particular spot and we were losing because of it.  He had tunnel vision and had become obsessed with fighting in one tiny section f the map. In days of yore, I might have followed and kept fighting with him.  But I saw that it was pointless and was, in fact, playing right into the defensive strategy of the other team. We were walking into their guns with no feasible counter, just going off to die for pride.

So I flanked, I left my teammate to his devices and took the fight to another location. I diverted the enemy, destroyed his defensive advantage and turned the tide of the match. I didn’t wait for permission, I didn’t doubt myself, I just did what I judged to be the best tactical decision. This sort of thing is happening more and more.  What I do seems to be critical to the outcome of the match.

At first, I thought it was having a level 30 or thereabouts army. That was what made me “better at it.” But it’s not. The troops aren’t better, they don’t have tougher armour or whatever.  It’s me, I am better. A better general.  I still mess up and get my troops wiped out (n.b. two shootas and two sluggas cannot take out a Force Commander in Terminator Armour). But my decision making is stronger and more decisive. If a tactic doesn’t work, I reevaluate. I don’t hammer the same thing over and over expecting it to work. I am constantly evaluating and adapting to the changing face of the battle.

My micro isn’t better, my troops aren’t better, I have confidence that I know how to do this. And it is making me much better at the game.  I’m fighting smarter, controlling the when and where of the skirmishes, pushing other players to react to me and generally putting my stamp on matches. We’ll see how my record is once I’ve got the Eldar and Nids up to 30 but I really think I’ve turned a corner, from noob, to player, to veteran.


Waiting For the Gate to Open


It’s kind of sad, but even with all the online matches I’ve played by now, I still get butterflies in my stomach right before my first match of the day. I’ve played a jillion WoW battlefield matches, I’m getting pretty confident in my DoW2 play, and that first loading screen always feels like I’ve been called up to present my book report. Win or lose, the feeling goes away after a match, usually during the first match once I’ve gotten a few orders off, but til then I’m a sweaty-palmed wreck.

What the hell, Fyre? Does this ever go away? Or am I just some sort of congenital foie blanc?