Tag Archives: multi-player

Do you Trust Advance Multi-Player Reviews?

Halo reach

Well, see the problem with multiplayer advance reviews is.. umm.. see... you just aren't enough of a jerk. (image courtesy of IGN)

In case you have been living under a rock: Halo Reach has dropped and the reviews are kinda sorta positive. Like mind-blowing, bust-a-nut positive. But does that mean you actually trust these advance reviews?

This is not a slam against the game reviewers or their sites. These are presumably honest men and women who are big enough to get advance copies of the game. This means that they have proven themselves, and that means that they are generally not cheaters.

We should also take reviews for what they are: one person’s opinion at one point in time. The “one point in time” thing is what concerns me. AND as I mentioned, the fact that these people who are reviewing, are NOT the type to be cheaters.

When reviewing an advance copy, the reviewer is in a rare situation. She or he is playing multi-player with a very select group: in this case a group of pro reviewers. It’s almost like playing a custom game with friends: you play with you know, and these people all have the same goal: in this case to kick the tires and see what the game can do.

The problem comes once we compare this scenario to real life. Once the game hits the tray, it’s thousands, if not millions of games being played that first week. It’s the mass of cheaters who are really good at finding, and exploiting weaknesses in the game. It’s the sheer number of hours being put into the game from so many different  shows us where the problems are in-game.

The advance review of multiplayer will tell us some things about the game, but it can’t tell us if the true multiplayer experience is one worth having. In short: it’s not the expertise of the reviewer that will tell us the worth of multiplayer, it is the drooling masses that will expose the problems.

PAX Prime: Your Thoughts?

So, what got you excited during all the PAX hoopla?

You know, the one thing I did hear that interested me, that I wasn’t expecting, was the Call of Duty announcement. Tell you the truth, this may not have been pat PAX per se, but my gaming news has come via twitter during 3AM (and 1AM, and 4AM and 5:30AM…) feedings, so the details are sketchy.

From what I understand in the next Call of Duty, there will be an option to play multiplayer against bots instead of random people. Me likey. I can upgrade, but I don’t necessarily have to play “out in the wilds.” This makes sense to me. Some people prefer to play with friends, and now we aren’t necessarily hobbled by developers forcing multiplayer upon us. Then again, for those who love true multiplayer, you can do that too.

Do you think this will change the “true” multiplayer experience? Will this mean a higher concentration of true MP fans playing in the MP rooms or will the demographic remain essentially unchanged? If there is a demographic change, will this mean an increase the skill level of people playing MP? Or will this mean more jerks in MP. Cause after all it’s no fun to make racial slurs at a bot. Thoughts?

Are you worried that playing against bots will mean more cheating? Or will there be less cheating? Personally, I think that there will be cheating no matter what. Finding exploits and taking advantage of them is a) part of gaming and b) in a way beneficial. We see what messed up last time and can improve on the next go around. 

Anyway you slice it, this gameplay gives me as a gamer more options to play the game the way I want to play. And that’s what really matters.

Maybe my readers (all 3 of you) can help me out here. I haven’t been able to get an answer on is about the new Dragon’s Age (DA2). My at-work gaming buddy noted a while back that it seems as though the new DA2 is basically be a re-skin of Mass Effect. Now, we both LOVE Mass Effect (ME), but he says that if DA2 is the same combat as ME, then DA2 went from a “OMG! PREORDER!” to … meh… maybe I’ll catch it in the bargain basement (or I’ll lend it to him… I’m just so nice that way…)

Has anyone heard about the details of the combat in DA2? Is it the same as ME? If it is, does that matter to you as a gamer?

Now the big news at PAX was an actual working demo of… Duke Nukem Forever. This game has been in development forever, and finally a working demo. The demo features Duke Nukem peeing and typical Duke humour. He gives the middle finger and says the would still “hit” a tri breasted alien.

I don’t know about this title. It seems like it is serving up a plate of nostalgia with a heaping side order of plain, old, immature fun.  But can nostalgia and silliness break into the saturated FPS market? Probably not. But then again, I am not the target audience here.

So, did anything at PAX catch your eye? Please Share!

Games for Non-Gamers- First Person Shooters (aka How Can I Get My Girlfriend to Play FPS)

I’m female, and often as a female gamer, I will get the question, “Yelling at Pixels, you reek of awesome. How can I get my girlfriend to play games?”  They say games – but often they really mean first person shooters. They secretly hope that somehow, their wife or girlfriend will pick up pokemon, love it, then graduate to Halo the next weekend. 

Halo 3

I'm usually the person NOT standing. Courtesy of IGN.com

 To that I say “Dude, you can’t make your girlfriend do or enjoy anything, because she is her own person with her own mind. I also don’t know your girlfriend. Women are not a monolith: we are not the same type of person with the same likes and dislikes because we all have a vagina. Some girls respond to the “shrink it and pink it” method of marketing, but others would puke if they played something cutesy.  In short: listen to what she wants to play in a game then figure it out for yourself.” 

This is the attitude I attempt to bring to this series. I try to say what type of person will possibly like the game, but I also caution that one must figure out what is working, what isn’t and then go from there.  This is going to be doubly true this time around as we take on perhaps the most difficult-to-enter gaming genre of them all: the first person shooter. 

Who May Enjoy First Person Shooters? 

Non-Gamers who have said the following: 

  • I really do want to try something fast, competitive and on-line.
  • I am fine with using a controller
  • I am fine with hearing some of the worst sexist, racist and juvenile language known to man
  • I am fine with people abusing me if I am not good at a game: this isn’t going to bother me
  • I like and want to be apart of a bigger online culture, this really appeals to me

And maybe/possibly: 

  • Alright, my significant other/ someone I care about/the entire gaming universe seems to have fun with this game: I just want to give it a try to see what is up.

What is it? First Person Shooters Defined for the Non-Gamer. 

The first person shooter (FPS) is a genre of game where “you” the character go around and… shoot things. The view-point is first person: i.e. it’s like you are looking through your own eyes onto the play area. Think Halo, Call of Duty and the like. In truth, I mentally include third person shooters, like Gears of War in this genre as well, since so much of the game mechanics are so similar. While all FPS shooters can be described this simply, they all have a slightly different feel. This slight difference in feel can make various FPS games feel much different from each other.

FPS have two main components. First is the single player campaign, where you play by yourself, or cooperatively with a partner, to save the day: just like any other game. However, it’s not really the single player campaign that makes the FPS as popular as it is, the multiplayer campaign tends to be the big draw. 

Multiplayer is where you play on-line with other people from around the world. You will need to have access to the on-line component: the game, an internet connection and if you are console gaming, access to the Playstation Network or XBox Live. 

Sometimes you can choose whatever game type you want, then go into a “lobby” of players waiting to start the match. Sometimes you can play with your own friends, and your leader will choose the game and the “rules” around the game. 

These “mini-games” come in many flavours, but can be broken into three big groups: 

  • Free-For-All (FFA) where you shoot every other player that you see. There are no teams.
  • Team Deathmatch (TDM) where you are put into one of two teams, you shoot anybody not on your team.
  • Objective based games – This is the gametype where you have something to “do.”  You may have to capture the other team’s flag (Capture the Flag: CTF) or shoot one target, or occupy a space. There is lots of variations here.

First Person Shooter Culture: (Warning: Here be Dragons) 

So far, everything sounds pretty good. Very fun, right? Why the trepidation? 

Multiplayer FPS has its own little subculture in gaming. This FPS subculture can be quite unforgiving, as there are many unwritten rules surrounding  how to play”properly.” Just for kicks, go into gaming forum and post “Camping: is it part of smart gameplay or is it cheating?”  Guaranteed, you will get pages upon pages of back and forth passion about one tiny aspect of this gaming subculture. Most of it will be heated to say the least. 

There are unwritten rules about what kind of “load out” to use, (some FPS let you have special abilities, some of these abilities are considered “cheap”) there are rules about what weapons to use (again, some are considered “cheap”). There are rules about how to play the game (i.e. ugh: don’t even get me started). No one agrees on these rules, and it’s rare to see a rational discussion about these things.

To top it all off, for some reason, FPSers can be both vocal and vulgar. If you are a woman you will hear more of it and will consist of anything from the benign (WHAT? You are a GIRL? REALLY!!) to full sexual harassment (guys will send you pictures of their boy-junk over Xbox Live – don’t open pictures from people who are not your friends).  I’m not even going to go into the racism. Let’s just say FPS can highlight the worst of the worst of gaming and on-line culture. 

Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game? 

GEEZZZZ Yelling at Pixels, if it sucks so much, why do it? 

Because – if you can fall in with a great room, with a great bunch of folks it is possibly the most fun you can have in gaming. The trick is to somehow get to that point where you know enough, know how to handle yourself where you can find these people. 

It also has the potential to be incredibly social. Remember that subculture thing? Well, not all of the folks who are part of that subculture are knuckle dragging neanderthals. Some of them are really cool people. And being part of a subculture is fun. Last time when I was on maternity leave, I got into first person shooters. I was at home all day with a baby, and once she was in bed, it was nice to play an adult game with adults and be silly, loud and yes, a bit vulgar amoungst friends. I enjoyed it, far, far more than this RPG fan ever thought she would have. 

Give it a chance. Just try it. Even if it’s just to see what it’s all about and to try something really different.

Advice for the Non-Gamer 

  • Play the single player campaign. It will guide you through how to play the game. Play it on easy if need be. The objective here is to get a feel for the game, to learn and to not get too frustrated. 
  • Think long term. The people you are playing with/against have *years* of in game experience. You will not be that good. It’s okay. Have fun anyway. You will improve over time. Learn to enjoy your own death sequences, because you will see them often.
  • Be a good team mate. Tell people they played a good game. Try as hard as you can. Pull out the rules you learned in Little League and Timbits Hockey. If people are jerks, don’t worry about it. Just leave the room, and find a new one. Mute, Report, (and theoretically) Pwn.
  • You can mess around with the controller settings. Try it… it may feel better if you switch the axis around or increase/decrease sensitivity.
  • Remember that not all FPS games are the same. There is a different feel to each one. You may like Halo, but you may LOVE Battlefield: Bad Company and vice versa. Rent new games, play the single player campaign until you find something that feels right.

Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

There is strength in numbers. Get a clan.

A clan is a group of like-minded gamers who play together. There are a wide variety of types: some are serious and hold try outs. Some are just incredibly social and are there to have fun.  You can go to the official website of the game you are playing and look in the forums. Let people know that you are just starting out though. Someone will take you under their wing. Just be a good team mate, try as hard as you can. If you let people know that you have not played before, they are not expecting you to help them, they KNOW that you are going to cost them games. But people like to show off their knowledge and some people even (gasp) are really nice and want to help out a junior gamer. 

  • Over 25 and NOT a jackass? Sign up with www.2old2play.com find “J-Cat” (ahem… that’s me) and ask for help. I’ll find you a clan. If you are a woman, over 25, join up with 2old2play, find me and say pretty please: I’ll let you into TheCabal: the woman’s clan on 2old2play.
  • YellingAtPixels Favorite Pick 

    For the newb, IF you have a crew of people to run with… I say that silly custom Halo 3 matches are the way to go. My first clan was a Halo clan. We played a game called “pinball” where the shields were high and the gravity was low. Grav hammers and rocket launchers only. The result? You run around whacking each other with these huge hammers, but when you do, your character goes flying backwards… very silly. Very fun. 

    If you are thinking a little more hard core: I preferred objective based games. Often people with say “FFA is the way to go for newbs.” I disagree: you are on your own too much. Where do you go? what do you DO? No clue. BUT If i’m told to take a position… well, maybe that is something I can do.  

    But keep in mind I rarely play FPS without a full room of folks I know. Too much hassle.

    Important Last Words 

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. First Person Shooters are high-risk, high reward in terms of fun. It isn’t for the faint of heart… but give it a try. And let me know how it’s going!

    Vets vs. the FNG: Gaming Mentorship

    It is summertime, and certain aspects of my life have ramped up to insane levels. As always, gaming is a refuge.

    But alas, no energy.

    Mass Effect 2, Dragon’s Age: Origins and Splinter Cell: Conviction in rapid succession sort of sucked the gaming out of me for a while. And again with this “real life” stuff that keeps on hammering away at me. What’s a girl to do?

    Easy: casual or turn based games. Turn based games engage the mind, but leave the tension behind. Lately, my go to game has been Magic the Gathering: Duel of the Plainswalkers on XBLA. So much so, I finally bit the bullet and joined up with Magic the Gathering: Online (MTGO).

    Now, I used to play back in tha’ day. So I understand the mechanics of this admittedly complicated game.  However, I ws not prepared for what I was to face.

    Trading systems, deck requirements, deck restrictions, different game types, live chat, clans, buddies, and on and on. None of it intuitive. None of it explained. Very little help. Now, I’m a lucky lass with connections, so I was basically in a great clan before I entered in my credit card number to buy my membership. (check that nerd cred, yo) But I have no idea how others do it. And this isn’t vanity talking. All my clan members agree… this is one complicated and crappy interface.

    But how do you change something as big as  MTGO to be friendlier to the newb, without alienating the hardcore fans? Slim down the number of cards and abilities, fix the interface (with presumably a certain downtime or time on the new learning curve) and the established players are upset. But if you don’t; you gain no new members… and older members always leave and need replacing.

    We see this often with on-line multiplayer. If you are mere weeks behind the curve in Call of Duty, and the like, prepare to be pwned. Everyone else has leveled up, and you are stuck trying to figure out maps in vain while rocking the basic load out. Forget it if you have never picked up a controller or played a FPS.  And if you don’t have some type of rank or levelling system, well, that kind of sucks too. It’s fun to get better and get a reward for it.

    So. The argument is as follows:

    1. As Vets leave, or ramp down their gaming time for a variety of reasons, developers and publishers have to keep adding new players (FNG) into the gaming experience.

    2. You can’t alienate your current fan base (Vets), a sure thing, for the possiblity of new fan (well… you just have to do the risk assessment). This is marketing 101.

    Therefore…

    3. There is a pull between two different groups: the Vet, and the FNG.

    So… what do we think developers might have to do? They are going to, in some respects, stack the deck a bit for the FNG. Maybe make things a bit easier for them, dumb down controls, who knows? Got to get new players.

    But that isn’t the only option.

    Vets, us gamers, can also be the heroes here. It’s not that fun to beat up on the little guy. We all learned this (hopefully) in kindergarten.

    Let’s be human. Help the FNG learn the damn game. You see someone who has no clue what they are doing… don’t spam kill them. Hell… maybe even send them a FR and (gasp) take them under your wing for a few games. The more FNGs we, as gamers, can convert into Vets, the less the game developers have to do the same.

    Mentorship. It works. Let’s do this.

    Pay to Play Multiplayer – Would you?

    So there is a hot little article running around the web today about the potential to monetize multi-player, in a pay to play model. The article quotes Michael Pachter, a market analyst, who  basically says that large publishers such as Activision are getting ripped off in this whole multi-player deal. 

    The logic is as follows: If a ton of XBL players are playing Call of Duty, Activision should see some of that. But they don’t, they only see the money from the sale of the game, not from the multiplayer. If a game like Call of Duty is driving XBL subscription sales, then Activision should get a cut.  Also if players are spending huge amounts of time on these popular MP games, then they are not purchasing new games. Mr. Pacter states:

    “We think that it is incumbent upon Activision, with the most popular multiplayer game, to take the first step to address monetization of multiplayer,” said Pachter. “It is too early to tell whether that will be a monthly subscription, tournament entry fees, microtransaction fees, or a combination of all three, but we expect to see the company take some action by year-end, when Call of Duty Black Ops launches.”

    From what I see, the response from gamers has been swift and biting. Some are calling for a boycott of Activision is this ever happens. Some say that they will never play another Call of Duty game. Some are taking a more measured approach.

    Here’s my two cents.

    Hey: FPS fans. Stop pretending. You will buy Call of Duty, and pay the extra $10, at most, when the rave reviews start flying and your friends list is full of buddies playing COD. You will justify the extra charge. Right now it is getting people angry, but down the line, when the game hits the shelf, you will have rationalized the extra expense away. After all: the cost-benefit analysis still puts playing a game like COD heavily into the plus column.  $60 for the game, $50 for an XBL subscription and and extra $10 for the COD MP license is $120. Divided by the BRAZILLION hours that some people play in this game and you still have a great product at a great value. A small subscription fee is a drop in the bucket.

    Secondly, the article talks about “providing value” to the player. Now this could be one of two things. One. It could be complete and utter BS, something to say in an attempt to smooth ruffled feathers. If this is the case, Activision and the like will lose respect and draw the ire of gamers everywhere. Not a great business model.

     Two. You know… maybe “providing value”  could actually mean offering something that we want.

    I think the question that is more interesting than “Would you pay an extra $10 for MP?” is “What would you need in order to make that $10 worthwhile?” Cause there MUST be something.

    This could actually be a huge opportunity for Activision and the like to come out of all this being the good guys. How? By actually listening to gamers, and giving us something that we really do want.

    So what is it?

    Free map packs? Free weapons? Free avatar clothing? Microtransactions? I doubt it. This avenue will do nothing more than make gamers see red. We don’t need or want more free crap. Microtransactions don’t excite. Yet this is easy to throw at us. So what else could they offer?

    I would happily pay for a special “COD” buddy list so that I didn’t have to continuously cull my precious 100 slots on my friends list. This would be cool, and a bit different, but it doesn’t make me go “WOW.”

    How about: a stricter enforcement of Terms of Service… and I don’t mean banning people with naughty words in their bio. What if Activision was able to get tough on glitchers and cheaters, racists and sexists, and ban them from Call of Duty. You want to play COD again? Pony up that $10 my friend.

    What about special rooms available just for people new to the multiplayer aspect of the game. You are only allowed in if you have under 20 hours of game time. Helps newbs hone their skills against other newbs. An MP tutorial sandbox.  You could expand this: what about rooms only for people who have prestiged? That way vets can play against vets. Rooms for people over a certain age. I know I hate playing with 12-year-old kids.

    All this makes me go *YES*.

    Do that, and the rest of the gaming community may not only pay the $10, but pay it happily, and demand it from the other guys.

    Everyone wins.

    There has GOT to be a way that everyone can make money and have a great gaming experience: what are your ideas?