Thursday, June 30, 2005

Battlefield 2

Dear DICE and EA,

Thanks for shipping Battlefield 2 with a almost completely broken server browser. Neat! I never know WHAT is going to work and what isn't. Now that's non-linear gameplay!

Refreshes take forever. When I type text in the columns to sort by that text (say, to sort for 16 player games only, or for servers that have UK in the title...sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Yay!

And the server filters...work when they want to. The "Not Full" one just DOES NOT WORK. I've tested it. It does not remove full servers. Well, maybe it does, because the reporting is so terrible that, if you're not getting server pings of 999 or 0, you're getting a list of full servers (many of which aren't full at all).

I'm surprised Gamespy didn't pull their logo from the product. The BF2 browser is the worst GS implementation I think I've ever seen.

Here's how I get in a game:
- Refresh the list of ranked servers.
- Sort by ping, lowest at the top
- Watch the string of "0" ping servers show up, then wait 5-10 seconds for them to actually REPORT their ACTUAL ping, which is sometimes an integer far in excess of 0.
- Start double-clicking server names, in order of lowest ping first, regardless of whether they say full or not. After doing this for about 5 minutes or so, I usually find a server that has a slot open.

When I actually DO get onto a server, the game is fun. However, getting to that server is to run a harrowing gauntlet of terrible design and broken features.

Thanks again! Love you madly!

Sincerely yours,
The Entire Gaming Community

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

WoW Battlegrounds

I've played a helluva lot of Battlegrounds since the patch, and I have to say, my interest in WoW has now reached a fever pitch. I cannot get enough of Warsong Gulch, and my few experiences in Alterac Valley are really interesting. I think that the Alterac Valley map has some...well not FLAWS, necessarily, but liabilities, and here they are:

- Pretty much, if you're not on voice chat with the entire raid group, you're at a major disadvantage. The raid I was in just was not talking to anyone in text chat. The only people text chatting were noobs saying "what is going on?" over and over again.

- After having played Battlefield 2 for a few days, I think AV needs some serious command and control infrastructure. BF2 lets you appoint a general, who takes a birds-eye view of the field, can scan for enemies, drop artillery, supplies, etc. In WoW, that would be cool, but perhaps unrealistic (unless you had goblin zeps and gnomish flying machines dropping bombs and such, that's apparently in the works)...but having one person be the commander who can give orders to squads of players...that NEEDS to be there.

- The learning curve for AV is insane. I got in, had no idea where to go, what to do, what was going on, how I could contribute, whether quests were important or not...it was nuts. I eventually ended up finding the front lines (there were multiple battle fronts, which was cool) and just fighting and fighting and fighting. We had the big rock golem dude on our side kicking a lot of ass, which was nice. But we kept trying to take a graveyard and we always got zerged not by players but by these goddamn NPCS. I couldn't figure out where they were coming from. I think it had to do with gathering supplies from the mines or something, but again, no one would explain it, and no one was taking charge and saying "we need a group to go to the mines so we can get some NPC support."

I got bored (after 250 or so kills in about an hour) and wandered, looking for quests. Found a lot of them. Did a few of them once just to get the quest rewards (usually cash) but that got boring too, and I didn't know, you know, how many stupid wolves I had to muzzle in order to make a difference in the battle.

- There are thorium and truesilver veins all over AV, as well as herb nodes. If someone were a bit unscrupulous, they could just farm for hours while battle raged elsewhere, with little problem, since there are no hostile mobs guarding the nodes. I saw a guy farming ore the entire time I was there. Which I think is exceedingly lame.

Conclusions so far:
Alterac Valley is useful if you want to get a ton of kills in a short amount of time. If you pick your targets well, you can get some serious contribution points. But Warsong Gulch is a lot more fun (right now) because it's simple, short, and fun. Blizz recently posted an update and talked about all these happy improvements they're going to make to Alterac Valley. I can't wait.

But I am left with a question: Who wants to join up for an epic battle and not be at the front lines swinging an axe into people's faces? Who wants to run bone chips and armor parts back to town, or run around in a stupid mine clicking on boxes for supplies? How is the player rewarded for the behind-the-lines support roles, other than with faction rewards from quests?

Why wouldn't I just want to ride to the killing fields and hack night elf hunters to pieces all night long, or experience the thrill of pushing the alliance back, sending them fleeing behind their stupid NPCs Champions and Sentinels while we rape their horses and ride off on their women?

...and as soon as I asked that, a guildie mentioned in a similar conversation that the reason to do all those stupid quests is faction. Getting more faction with the Frostwolf Clan means they give you cool shit.

So, I'm gonna keep playing. I don't play WoW nearly enough to have any hope of reaching the officer ranks. I was a scout two weeks ago, and now I'm a grunt. If I hit First Sergeant at some point, I'll be happy. Anything above that just seems impossible, given my 2-4 hours of gaming every other night. But I don't like how you have to keep fighting to maintain your rank...of all the things to do to the game, making the PVP system overwhelmingly favor the power gamer is not the best move. But I digress...

If it ain't borked...

The Battlefield 2 demo is a strange portent. The core gameplay is marvelously, gloriously, refreshingly untouched. After configuring your controls with the maddeningly annoying (and also untouched - grrrr) Battlefield interface (don't forget to hit "apply" or you'll waste precious minutes of your life!), as soon as you get in, choose your class, and your spawn point, it's like being home again. No trying to figure out new controls, or run speeds, or anything...it all feels like classic BF. Which is terrific.

DICE also seem to have retained the ever-charming aspect of Battlefield called "I fucking die a lot from assholes in planes" which is what turned me off from the Desert Combat mod and ultimately had me wander elsewhere in search of FPS goodness. Haters will just say, "aww, it's cuz you suck" and that may be true (I am man enough to admit that I am not the 1337357 FPS player in the universe. There are plenty of guys in the cubicles next to me who regularly kick my ass.) but there is a unique feeling of frustration loading up a game for the first time and getting killed six or seven times in a row by cluster bombs artfully deposited into your face by some otaku in the Su-34. Anyway.

Battlefield 2's chief contribution to the world of large-scale-but-not- massively-multiplayer (If I make that into an acronym, it is LSBNMMO, which reads like "Lesbian MMO." I can only imagine a Lesbian MMO would involve a lot of Home Depot trips in Subaru Foresters...) games is it's command and control interface. The system for applying for commander, the ease with which you can join a squad or create your own squad, all of that is awesome. The commander's panel is sublime and wonderful, although it is not without its faults. I love being the commander almost as much as I love being Special Forces.

BF2 will have lasting appeal for a lot of people, and I can't wait to see the other maps. The dynamic scaling of the map based on client limit is also a nice touch.

Monday, June 20, 2005

So many games

Wow, I got busy, so there is much blogslack. But, then again, no one is reading this so, does it matter?

Will be posting a bunch of impressions of various games soon.