Monthly Archive: May 2018

Hey, What’s Going On? : Battlefield

EA recently announced the newest edition of their critically acclaimed first person shooter series, Battlefield, would be having it’s latest instalment launching in October. Weirdly named Battlefield V. I say weirdly named because they went from Battlefield 4, to Battlefield 1, to Battlefield V. They need to work on some consistency with the naming convention. Long time readers of this blog might recall how much I love(d) Battlefiled 2142. BF2142 was a PC only, up to 64 v 64 FPS with personal servers you could rent for your clan and select your own rules, map rotations, etc. It has an amazing combination of infantry and vehicular combat – at the same time, good personalization of kits, and was a great, semi-strategic shooter. I say “semi-strategic” as it did suffer from bunny hopping, etc. but had the potential for good teamwork and was a bit better paced than the Call of Duty titles at the time, which was it’s main competitor.  This was also a title I played very frequently within a clan – funny how some of the best gaming memories are when you are a part of things with other people. I still connect with that clan and they are talking about the launch of Battlefield V, to which I replied that it might be worth checking out since I haven’t really played since 2142. Which launched in 2006.

At least it is honest

The follow up to 2142 didn’t appeal to me – and it had a silly rule that you couldn’t go prone. That was one of those things that drove me batty. What, the human race has lost the ability to lie down on it’s stomach suddenly? Prone is a base position for cover, as well as a favourite for MG nests, snipers, (etc.). Taking away prone is like taking away jumping. I never could reconcile how I felt about that change to actually buy the game. I stuck with 2142 with each new release, and the servers became quieter and more quieter, and once again, I was left behind in a game I enjoyed playing while others moved on to bigger and shinier things. Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

Instead of buying Battlefield one and all the DLC I opted for the annual Origin Pass – on sale for $30. That got me the entire expansion, as well as a huge vault list of EA games – many I have not played. If I do decide to buy Battlefield V I will also get 10% off my order for being an Origin member. I did this when I bought Andromeda as well because the price of the membership was offset by the purchase. Logging into Battlefield 1 it is clear how amazing the art and production values are. It put me into a single player campaign that hopped me around different stories of different soldiers – facing waves of enemies that I wasn’t supposed to outlive. It was a “fight until you die”, hopeless situation. I can’t imagine what it was like fighting back in the trenches during WW1 (which is the setting of BF:1) but I felt nervous, and hectic, and scared as I tried to survive the onslaught. Which didn’t last long, before putting me into a different body of a different soldier in a different setting – who would also not survive long.

When I ran out of bullets and was overwhelmed they would put up a name and a born / death date. Added a human element to it all. I had a struggle identifying friend / foe but with friendly fire off it didn’t really matter. BF1 did a great job of sucking me in quickly. To get a better feel for the game I continued down the single player path which is not built around one soldier, but revisits different war stories in different countries with different protagonists. The first I tried was about a tank crew, and I was the driver.

I’m not claustrophobic

Seeing the war through a peephole didn’t capture the stress of the battle as much, but thethird person view was much better at doing so. I made it to step 4 of 5 before getting to a stealth style mission that I struggled with, and going full Rambo wasn’t really working for me either. Who cares, I am ready for multiplayer, which is where the game truly shines! I jumped into a Conquest match – which is a multi-point, capture the flags style of game. Each time gets tickets for kills and points captured (and held) and it is in true BF style where tanks support infantry and planes battle up above fighting each other (while dropping bombs on the ground). It truly is a spectacle, all those moving pieces and madness happening all at once, all around. And to be fair, the explosions are spectacular!

I feel like I am going the wrong way…

I did the safe thing I always do in these games – grab a medic profile, find a squad, and try to stay 10 steps back – watching flanks and reviving when it is safe. Except, only, it seems like it is NEVER safe. A few things I learned quickly (and disliked) was the fast rate of respawn. There was no real penalty to dying and you could force a respawn in 5 seconds for yourself. This is hugely unsatisfying when you kill someone (to know they are back in the mix pretty much instantly), but even moreso for a medic specialist. I can see on the screen someone who is revive-able. I clear out the enemies in the way. Throw a smoke grenade. Get to the body and – he force released. Heck, even the slow release is only 15 seconds. Once again the hyperactive ruins the immersion. How is a 30-45 second penalty for dying too much? You could kill someone, and they could kill you back in under 10 seconds (you can also spawn on your squad, not just rally points.)  That part was very disappointing.

close one! I did like the voting for next map

The different maps and countries are great, and the beauty of the game, the slick shooting, movement, vehicles, infantry and specialist kits – they are all ruined somewhat by the HURRY HURRY HURRY gameplay that used to be reserved for Call of Duty, but has now completely bled into the BF series. Maybe it happened several launches ago but I very fondly recall in BF2142 the benefits of sticking with your squad, and being able to protect objectives (and each other) with smart play, positioning, and teamwork.

No more. This game is just a huge spam and revive fest. The only strategy is that there is no strategy. Rush forward, die, revive, die, revive, die. Pretty packaging – actually, to rephrase – absolutely GORGEOUS packaging but not much depth.

the in game maps are pretty too

I have gone back and tried a few more times and it’s “ok”. It is definitely not what I am looking for in a long term shooter. Yes, I am entering a game at the end of it’s cycle so against a lot of seasoned players but the core gameplay at the crux of it isn’t strategic enough to be fun for an old FPSer like me. I will still give it a whirl now and again as I haven’t written it off completely but I also downloaded SQUAD from steam last night – which is the spiritual successor to Project Reality, which was the ultimate strategic FPS experience.  I’ll check that one out and let you know it goes.

Beta Fatigue : 2018 Version

I wrote about Beta Fatigue back in 2009. For me, then, it was the start of the changing process of how Beta tests went from actual bug hunting and shaping games to public marketing stunts. We have become even worse with beta phases lasting several years while “testers” pay for the honor of supporting a beta cycle. Heck, I was once a part of a group that was paid to beta test. Yes, you rea that right. Paid. The organisation was tasked with stocking beta testers who actually gave focused feedback. (The testers didn’t get paid, but the company did.). Still – that kind of engagement, where beta testers could lose their spot if they weren’t being productive and helpful is a better start than what I see in betas today. You can tell on the beta forums for Magic The Gathering: Arena a very vocal group who are trying to sway developers to basically give everything away for free because those individuals have zero intention of actually ever paying a cent. The idea that they would have to pay for any part of a game in 2018 is appalling. That is the sole focus of this loud group it seems – get the game as free as possible so they don’t have to invest in or support the company financially. Those that speak against them are attacked as employees of the company or rich whales that want a monetary advantage.

So much for civil discourse. Still, I am on a similar side of that but for other reasons.

The new Beta fatigue is more damaging in my real upcoming world example. I love the game, MTG:Arena. I have played around 1000 matches. I have several decks I love, tons of cards to build more, and over 20,000 gold (around 20 packs worth) that I haven’t spent because I have no need to. The game is slick, fun, challenging, and has a bright future.

Except I probably won’t play it.

I can’t imaging having to play another 1000 games just to get back to where I am today. I love where I am. I’m in a great spot. I am invested and have invested a TON of time and energy into it. But starting from square one on “launch” day just do do everything and collect everything I already have will not happen. Having this realisation over the weekend I almost logged out and was done – but then I realised that no, this is my time to play. When they wipe everything I have done and accomplished to date, when the “final” beta wipe happens is when I will be done with the game. And it is a shame because I won’t be supporting them financially after all (and they do deserve it). Before you get mad at me for that last line – the truth is, the game could be out right now. It doesn’t need to be in beta. They are choosing to leave it there and have people invest hundreds of hours (and dollars, the payment system is live. When the final wipe happens no one gets refunds of cash but gets refunded  the crystal currency to start fresh). The game runs well enough and with some avatar tweaks and basics the game is ready for prime time.

The only option I can see that would change my mind would be if I were able to pay for the option to keep my beta progress. Have a supreme collectors edition. I’d pay well over $100 to keep my deck and current progress.  That would also keep me playing, and paying in the future. Unfortunately, as of now, I will just be a beta player – who did help shape the game, but will not be a part of it when it moves to live status. Which may be 2 years from now, with how many other betas have run recently.

Free 100 : Everquest 2

I keep refreshing my sidebar to see if Bhagpuss has already made this post (or one like it) – and I think if I type fast enough that I might just beat him to the punch this time. That is probably because he is away somewhere (is my guess).

Still, Everquest 2 is giving away (yet another) free level 100 Heroic Character.

This is exciting for me as I had recently spent a lot of time levelling several characters from one to as high as fifty – across both live and public test servers. My highest, the Warden, was indeed the most fun to play and as such the Public Test Realm is now my EQ2 “home”. This offer is limited until the first week of June and last time there was a free level 100 I did not log in in time to get the benefit – so now I am feeling the pressure to make a decision and do it quickly before life gets me busy and I forget once again. While always a tough decision I have been thinking out loud about what to do. I basically have three choices, with the third counting as 20+

The first, obvious choice is the Warden. I could zoom by 50 levels on what is (so far) my favourite character. I could then join the “end game” of EQ2 (which for me is solo questing, really. Or whatever solo players do in “end game”). In that case, am I just cheating myself? I have really enjoyed playing him thus far. So it is a conundrum – do I take away the levelling fun to myself or do I just accelerate it because I would then be doing “relevant” content? Is the Warden I see myself as my “main” in EQ2?

The second choice is the Coercer. I love Enchanters from EQ2 and funny enough I had decided to “main” the Coercer in EQ2 at launch – and boosting this character would be boosting the first character I made at launch in EQ2. Oh, the delicious irony of that. I have had fun messing around with this character more than playing it directly in a way that enchanters often do. Can I solo this instance if I can land a charm on that way to powerful for me NPC? Let’s try! The gifts of magic give you fun options in MMOs and to be fair I have never mained a caster class in any of my games. I usually revert to healer / tank to take advantage of being “needed”. (Which is also why i loved enchanting in EQ1 – was a very sought after class). Charming things and pushing limits is a fun playstyle.

The third, of course, is to take a brand new shot at any of the other 20+ something classes and start fresh. This could very much be a waste if I don’t enjoy the character.

At this early stage of thought, I am leaning to the Coercer because I know I enjoy the Warden – which means I won’t mind levelling him up the “old fashioned way”.

Any ideas? Have you used a character boost in EQ2 and how did you decide? Did you regret the choice?

Otherwise – even if you don’t play EQ2 regularly – go install and take advantage of this offer because it is limited – and regardless you get to keep the character. You never know if you ever want to jump into EQ2 you might enjoy it. I definitely have.

If you want to read the posts on my return to EQ2 this year they are here.

Playing Second Fiddle : LOTRO

In my “bounce around in many titles” mood and mindset I did go back to Lord of the Rings Online. As mentioned here (often) but worth the review – the Warden is a class I strongly identify with thematically. I had big issues with the fact that you couldn’t play the Warden without the expansion even though there was no new starting area for them – and that turned me off of trying back in the day. Still, I actually invested in the opportunity in 2014 finally, got to level 5 on a human Warden, realized that at some point I would want to head West so rerolled an elf (my true calling, sorry  Syp!) and didn’t get out of the “tutorial area”. Around level three. At the time I didn’t even know it was a tutorial area until just last night it told me “finish other quests before this one because this one takes you out of the tutorial area”. Clarity is a benefit.

Dream sequences always win positive reviews

The graphics are not, of course, and there is a weird, floating movement I feel (and find) just running around doesn’t feel natural. Combat seems to play out that everything is off the global cooldown – so when I am trying to get a Warden combo in it’s special attack / auto attack / special attack / auto attack / finisher. Feels like it would be smoother if I could skip the auto attacks. It’s not terrible, of course, just something I noticed felt off that I was waiting to do things while things were just being done automatically.

I was being harshly unfair when I noticed that her lips weren’t moving when she talked in the dream sequence. It looked unnatural. Then, OF COURSE I remembered that she didn’t speak out loud in the dream sequences in the movie either. I don’t even remember which came first. I definitely don’t remember if she mind-spoke in the book or not. Either way, at that point, I was able to be proud of them for sticking to the movie script and then unsure which came first. Maybe the movie copied LOTRO?

 

 

 

This part of the pre-tutorial ending dream sequence is the bit that made me go AHA! and remember that in LOTRO, you aren’t the hero. You are the supporting cast. This is a new territory to be explored in common MMO land where I have saved the world a thousand times (or every time?) in most other games. I actually appreciate that of the game but still thought it would be nice to support directly. Perhaps I do get to at some point. I hope I get there.

Bonus points to hit to other popular and big plot points in Middle Earth just to remind you what is going on. While I just recently (last paragraph) mentioned that I didn’t mind being the second fiddle, at the same time it is hard to play a story out when you already know how it ends, no? No matter what I am doing there is something much more important going on and no matter what I do, the outcome is already concluded. The movies are already out! Is that stuff Canon yet? Now I feel less comfortable with that position and whether that is a good thing or not. Perhaps they should have gone pre Lord of the Rings and hit the major conflicts not covered in the movies (books. I mean books. I did read them. When I was 12.). None of this matters of course. Just thinking out loud. I just got off a 7.5 hour flight from france and now on a 2 hour train ride to get home.

The final instance is not all dream sequence (however) and we do get to try and stop a necromatic event. The exciting part here (of course) is seeing Dwalin from the Hobbit’s Journey! The second trilogy movies that made him really famous. Again, I find myself happy to see a familiar name and then back to pondering timelines between LOTRO expansions and movie releases (while still not being bothered enough to google it to find out for myself. More fun trying to guess / sort it out.

Then the map, of course, which is one of the most unfriendly maps to use I have seen in pretty much anygame in the last decade. That is fairly explained that LOTRO is over a decade old. I will, of course, give it props for having a great style to it though. Feels like a King’s Quest map, if that game had any.

All in all, despite the tongue-in-cheek post I actually had a lot of fun. There is so much comfort in the levelling game and early levelling is always the most fun. Not sure of the staying power here, but I will dip my toes back in much quicker than the four years since last time.

Do This 4x a Day and You Go Blind

Total lie. FAKE NEWS!

I was just commenting on the Magic: The Gathering forums that I am completely happy and satisfied with the pace of gold and pack accumulation as a free to play player. I felt it was important to balance out the view of what seems to be a vocal lot that if you can’t get everything for free, immediately, and that will somehow make it lose out against competitors such as Hearthstone(!) because of the “ease of acquisition of cards in that game”.

I’m not drunk. I quit Hearthstone because they release must-buy expansions quickly to enjoy the game. This is more proof that developers SHOULD NEVER EVER LISTEN TO THEIR PLAYER BASE. EVER. Well, not when it comes to monetization, anyway. Let them vote with their wallet. This post feels silly to write because I am in a silly mood. I haven’t posted much lately because I’m not playing much. And what I am playing is either so old news (the new player experience in LOTRO is not a hot topic these days), so old (Walking Dead: a new frontier was released in 2016. Wasteland 2 was 2014) that I feel it pointless to write uh, pointless articles. (Shush you who say that’s why the come here in the first place!)

making it faster than I can spend it

The game I am most consistent with is Magic The Gathering Arena. I play four wins a day. By doing this I already have over 10,000 gold and oodles of wild cards – but I have no desire to build any new decks or try anything new. I am very happy with my deck. So I play the game to have fun, and while doing so am racking up in game currency that I have nothing to spend on. To be fair it really isn’t much of a surprise to me that the mother of all card games (is it the mother? Who would the father be? Pokeman? Should I be using gender neutral identifiers in that situation?) is the most fun of the card games I have played. There is so much to see and do.

Further compounding the “how does this game make money” conundrum is that I already have collected half of the entire card collection – just by playing and collecting free packs. To be fair, up until a few days ago I would buy packs every 1000 gold but now I am hording it. In anticipation of Horde vs. Alliance. I might actually play Horde this time since I am getting good practice at it. (To be fair, every new expansion I say I am going to play Horde this time..).

In the Ebbs and Flows of blogging I am definitely in an ebb mood – and I know that is pretty common for many bloggers while the pros blog away with great writing, interesting insights, and groundbreaking news. Will see what the summer brings in terms of content and gaming. I’m in airport about to fly to Europe, putting a pool in this summer, and already have two weeks planned away. I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there between my four matches per day.