Archive for September 19th, 2011

September 19, 2011

The game that made me a gamer – By jsixgun

Every big gamer probably has one thing in common; they can tell you what it was like when they found “that” game.  The game that ushered them over the line from the casual “gaming is fun” mentality to the “I can do this for hours” mentality, and most never looked back.  I’m going to tell you mine. To do that, let’s take a journey back through the wheels of time to the year of our Lord, 1999.

In 1999 Bill Clinton was in trouble because he had been staining women’s dresses and I, a ripe 11 year old boy, was ushered out of the room when ever they talked about it on TV. Not that I cared, of course, because I was probably busy drawing pictures of Dragon Ball Z characters , listening to my Will Smith CD, or playing the game that introduced me into the world of party RPG’s. You see 1999 was also the year my family had gotten our first REAL computer, and I remember arguing that it must be able to play PC games; this was non-negotiable at the time.  So we set off to the Gateway store (at that time owning a Gateway computer was actually cool), and we ordered our very own family computer, and yes it could play games. So a few weeks later it arrived at our house in that customary cow box of utter glory (excuse the pun) and my gaming taste buds where about to be introduced to a whole new flavor of spice, because it also came with a copy of Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate.

Since then, cow's have become quite the marketing tool. Here's to you Chick-fil-A.

Once the game had been installed, I was introduced to something that I had never seen in a game before, and that was choice. If you could have taken my picture when I realized I got to create my own character by choosing gender, race, class, etc… I would have looked something like this:

You mean I can be an elf? That’s so cool! Of course I’ll choose a generic Human warrior instead!

I literally probably spent 45 minutes creating and recreating character’s before I even started the game.  Did I want to be a dwarf, an elf, a gnome?  To help you get on the edge of your proverbial seat, I’ll go ahead and tell you I picked a human warrior with blonde hair, proficient with a two-handed long sword because I had made up my mind my character was going to be unique.  For real, I thought I was a friggin’ genius at the time.  So my young Arian warrior set out on adventure that would have me hooked till this day.  Understand that Baldur’s Gate not only gave you choice, it gave you an actual story. For once I wasn’t rescuing Princess Peach from a fat turtle with a dragon complex just because… I was thrown into a world ripe with lore, fantasy, and a story that revolved around MY character.

I won’t give you a review of the game, nor a plot analysis because this isn’t really that kind of thing.  But I will tell you that as I first searched my way through Candlekeep with my childhood friend Imoen checking all the barrels for hidden gold (yes in 1999, games were still littered with morons who hid their life savings in barrels out in the middle of the street.  Bad for them- good for me) I never wanted to stop. It’s a good thing I didn’t either because I was treated to one of the best plots in a video game I have encountered to this day. I ended up finding out I was one of only a few mortal descendents of the God of Murder, Bhaal, who had apparently went around the Sword Coast procreating like Charlie Sheen. I had an evil half brother Sarevok, who wanted to start a war between two regions and use the carnage to take his birthright and ascend to godhood.  Only I could stop him, and I did.  I’ve never forgotten what it felt like.

And now I leave you from a quote from one of the most lovable characters throughout the game, Minsc. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I’m huge!”

– jsixgun

September 19, 2011

Battlefield 3 versus Modern Warfare 3

Battlefield 3 is set to be released in just over a month, with MW3 to follow shortly thereafter.  And in the leadup, there has been no shortage of fanboys on both sides arguing over the merits of each franchise.  This bickering has famously erupted between the two developers themselves, each apparently thinking that talking shit about the other franchise is a better marketing strategy than talking about their own game’s offerings.  Personally, I’ve always played more CoD than Battlefield simply because it was what I was used to, and thus I have currently preordered the Hardened Edition of MW3 while my second preorder skipped right past Battlefield and right into the arms of Skyrim.  But all that aside, as the release dates near, there has been an eruption of videos showing gameplay footage from both games and some interesting facts can be gleamed from watching them.  For instance,

Modern Warfare 3 is just more of the same

Yes, I’m sure it will have all the same gameplay mechanics that made Black Ops and all the other Call of Duty games before it fun.  And I’m sure there will be a few differences here and there: newer guns, newer maps, a newer story.  But it’s looking to be basically an elaborate expansion pack.  Vice City wasn’t an entirely new GTA; it was the same game, repainted and given a new story.  Not until GTA IV came out could we say we actually had a sequel.  Sadly, that appears to apply here as well.  I’m sure that MW3 will have a great story, I’m sure I’ll waste hours trying to beat it on veteran, and good God I’m sure I’ll waste weeks playing online.  But just as I recently got burnt out with Black Ops (and sold it back), I worry the same will happen with MW3 but far sooner.  This fear, in my opinion, is well grounded considering that MW3 looks to just be an huge map pack bonus with new weapons and nothing truly new or innovative.  Of course, I’m not asking that they create an entirely new engine and revamp every aspect of gameplay.  They will obviously stick with what works, and more importantly, what makes money.  That makes sense to me.  But at the same time, any form of excitement for MW3 (and trust me, I have plenty) is still somewhat stifled by the fact that I worry I’ll be getting more of the same.

At the same time, I will say that I have heard promising reports about Call of Duty: Elite.  Apparently, because it blends the social networking aspect into the gameplay, it should reduce the amount of screaming 12 year olds online and not a moment too soon.  It’s yet to be seen if that will be successful, but it would be great to actually discuss the game with teammates as opposed to now where you’re barraged by racial slurs by a kid in his mom’s basement, smoking his dad’s weed.  And Elite comes ‘free’ if you buy the hardened version, which also will come (unconfirmed) with a special gun and all released map packs will be at no extra cost.  Considering those can add up over the course of a year to be about the same price as a second game, the upgrade seems financially worth it if you’re a serious CoD fan.

Whether or not the game is just more of the same, CoD is undeniably a fun series and one I look forward to playing.  I had taken a break on CoD and didn’t get MW2 when it came out, so I was refreshed and ready when Black Ops was released.  I played it hard for months on end.  Now, I’m worried MW3 won’t be a different enough experience to keep my interest or give me a sense of newness that draws me in.

On a related note, it appears that MW3 will not contain the wildly popular zombies mode, but instead will feature a survival mode, one similar to Hoard on Gears of War.  While I’m sure it will be tons of fun to play, especially locally, I can imagine that there is disappointment in the fact that zombies had a certain lore, an overarching story behind it, something I doubt a simple survival mode would have.  But at least we’ll be getting maps that allow the amount of players the maps were designed for, unlike:

Battlefield 3 is strictly limiting the amount of players per map on consoles

Battlefield is certainly the franchise trying to catch up to CoD’s success here, but what it may lack in genre dominance may be compensated for in the overall gameplay experience.  Battlefield 3 adds vehicles, multiplayer class systems, and huge 64 player multiplayer, which are all things CoD doesn’t have.  And 64 player multiplayer is something Battlefield 3 itself doesn’t have if you’re playing on a console.  That in itself is not something to detract from Battlefield 3 to be sure, especially seeing as CoD doesn’t allow for close to that many players on a map.  But its something that Battlefield can’t hold over CoD’s head either.  The real problem becomes apparent when you consider that the maps were created for PC play, as DICE has repeatedly stated as their platform of focus.  This means that you will have certain maps, certain HUGE maps, that when ported to the console, will be huge empty maps.  Playing a 24 person game on a map designed for 64 player battles will leave a lot of lulls between the action.  That in turn detracts from the other offering in this game, vehicles.  Take a look at this.

Ok, in theory, that looks awesome.  To hop in a jet, to bomb the hell out of the players on the ground, to get into dog fights with other players, that would be amazing.  Hell, that should be enough right there to tip the scales in Battlefield 3’s favor, right?  On a PC, I’m sure it plays out that way.  And if I had a computer good enough to run that game, and if I didn’t just prefer a controller to a keyboard so damn much, I’d probably buy it on the PC.  But I’ve got a great TV and no interest in computer games that are more easily played on consoles, so that leaves me with the console version.  And that leaves me with this scenario.  Getting into that jet, but there aren’t enough people to bomb, there aren’t enough people to dog fight.  It seems that DICE created a great game and then stripped it of its most important component when porting to console:  the players!  Hell, they’ve already got only half of the framerate that CoD boasts, so cutting graphics might not have been an option.  But reducing the size of the game’s participants, in a game made for epic multiplayer, really almost kills the entire concept for me.

All in all, I’ll probably get both, I’ll probably play both, enjoy both, and have a terrible K/D ratio in both.  Some people of course will inevitably like one over the other, including myself, but I think it’s too early to conclude which may end up having the better online gameplay.  In my experience, CoD will keep me in my safe zone, Battlefield is the risk taker.  Battlefield leaves a lot of room to disappoint, but also a lot of room to blow me away.  CoD will be familiar, but will it be too much of the same?

In the end, at least I know I’ll be getting Skyrim.