Saturday, June 30, 2012

Midaged Gamer Report 6-29-2012

Kind of a slow news week so don't expect anything earth shattering...

If you're a fan of EA/Dice's Battlefield 3 and got online this week then you probably experienced some very noticeable lag across all the servers.  The issue was intermittent but was serious enough to knock some players off of game servers.  I experienced this myself on Thursday night ending up in a crash to desktop.  My stats weren't updated till the next day. 

Today I was greeted with this popup from my Origin client...

It says that some players are having issues with connectivity to Origin but the problem is being addressed.  Other than that popup there's been no official statement on this week's server issues as of this recording.
In other Battlefield news, BF3 close quarters DLC is now available for purchase on Origin for 14.99.  If you're a fan of the double experience points weekends that EA's been running for the past month you're going to love the Double XP event next week from July 2 to July 8.  Premium members get a full week  of Double XP,  everyone else gets the perk from the 2nd to the 4th. 

On a personal note, I've been playing BF3 Deathmatch maps as support recently and it offered me a unique opportunity to compare and contrast between BF3 and MW3.  In short, it was a much more enjoyable experience.  Unlike MW3 I was able to do more than provide a moving target.  Since most of the online multiplayer in Call of Duty is nothing more than variations on the deathmatch theme I don't think I'm out of line to say Infinity Ward really needs to get its multiplayer act together .

If you're into Mass Effect 3, EA has released a new package called the N7 Digital Deluxe edition for $79.99 which gives you most of the offerings of the Collectors Edition minus the Male and Female figurines.  It's basically the same deal that the Diablo 3 collector's edition was.  There is a boxed collectors edition that's available from stores like Amazon and Best Buy that includes the Sheperd figurines in addition to the digital deluxe edition's offerings.

From the Origin Store page...

• 70-page digital art book featuring hundreds of unique and gorgeous illustrations from the BioWare development team.
• Limited edition digital Mass Effect comic by Dark Horse Comics, complete with unique cover artwork.
• Exclusive 4x6 lithographic digital print featuring a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork.
A full collection of in-game content:
• N7 Arsenal Pack – Bring the firepower with the N7 Sniper Rifle, Shotgun, SMG, and Pistol.
• Access to an additional downloadable mission and character
• Mechdog Companion – A faithful sidekick to keep you company on board the Normandy.
• Squadmate Alternate Outfit Pack – New appearances for your favorite squad members.
• N7 Hoodie – For Commander Shepard’s casual days on board the Normandy.
• Relive all the greatest moments of Mass Effect 3 with the digital soundtrack.
• Display your initiation in the N7 ranks with a collection of forum and social badges, avatars, and perks.

Check it out here....

In hardware news Both ASUS and Sapphire have announced a new AMD/ATI 7970 card.  Both are overclocked with 3 GB of memory and extra cooling and power circuit upgrades.  The ASUS card is due for release in the third quarter of this year while the Sapphire card is available for 479.99.  Clock speeds for the ASUS card haven't been released for their card but the Sapphire offering comes in at 1310 MHz.  Sapphire's card is a dual slot design while ASUS requires 3 slots much like it's CU2 line.
Both cards will require one 6 and one 8 pin PCI-E power connection. 

Sapphire (7970 (Dual X cooling)OC 3GB)

In other AMD news a new AMD 12.6 catalyst beta driver is available.  There's also a 12.7 CAP (application profile update)  Interesting to note that a fix for COD'WAW is in the 12.7 CAP.  The 12.6 beta driver has a tweak for  COD Modern Warfare. 

In any case I'm still confused about AMD/ATI's driver releases.  I thought dropping the monthly releases was supposed to simplify things....

Something's up when you have to tweak drivers for such an old game.  How can there be issues with a game that uses a five year old engine?

Finally Star Trek online is having a sale on ships.  They're offering 20% off till July 2nd.  That's an ok deal but since most ships cost multiples of the Cryptic points you buy it's going to leave you with some strange leftovers in your Cryptic account.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Midaged Gamer Report 6-22-2012

Well we're getting into the summer silly season for gaming.  Origin is celebrating it's one year anniversary by offering half off the price of current games with a pre-order (meaning full price) of upcoming EA titles like Need For Speed Most wanted or Dead Space 3.  Strange to be celebrating an anniversary when the Origin client still says, "Beta"

On the Steam side of it we're closing in on the Steam Summer sale and the run up to is characterized by spot sales on weekends or mid-week.   This  week's Steam deal is 75% off all Deus Ex titles including Human Revolution.  Check the Origin Store page in your Origin client for more information.

This week also found the release of the latest DLC pack for Modern Warfare 3 in the Collection 2 package.  This latest collection includes 3 new Multiplayer maps ( Sanctuary, Foundation and Oasis) and 2 Special Ops (co-op) missions (Kill Switch, Iron Clad).  Also new is a game mode called Face off.  This is basically a Multiplayer mode with either 1v1 or 2v2 players on maps designed for close combat deathmatch style play.  The new Face-off maps are: Getaway, Lookout, Erosion and Aground.

The MW3 Collection 2 DLC pack is available now on Steam for PC for $14.99.
Check this link for the release DLC release calendar and more information.

If you happen to play Cryptic/Perfect World's Star Trek MMO, Star Trek Online they're currently offering a lifetime membership for $199 ($100 off)which basically gets you all the gold (paid) subscriber goodies like 400 cryptic points per month and upgraded features for a onetime fee.  The Season 6 special mission events are also close to release and promise players the ability to build their own starbases among other things.
In other news Max Payne 3 is still available for $60 and is still overpriced...

It seems there's been more interest in the BF3 cheating problem lately and Kotaku did an article this week about it going so far as to interview a Canadian BF3 player who until recently was actively cheating.  I've been banging the drum about cheating in popular titles for awhile now so it's gratifying to finally see a more serious treatment of the topic.  I've provided the links to both my and the Kotaku article below.

My article on Technorati:
The Kotaku article that inspired it :

Thanks to shotglass for turning me on to the Kotaku article.

 In other tech news it seems Apple has finally done it.  They've released a Retina display on a laptop.  With this new Macbook Pro Apple has managed to push display technology forward while simultaneously relegating the device to appliance status.  The $2199 base 15" laptop has an impressive list of features including:

·         2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache
·         8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory
·         Storage: 256GB solid state flash drive
·         Screen: 15.4" diagonally, 2880 x 1800 native resolution
·         Size: 14.13" width, 9.73" deep, 0.71" thickness
·         Weight: 4.46 pounds
·         Power supply: 85W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter

Looks good till you realize that you have virtually no upgrade options since the hardware is sealed and difficult if not impossible to access without destroying the laptop.  So configure yours as big as your dreams because you're stuck with it till it dies.  You can't even  replace the battery in it and BTW they've nixed the Ethernet and Firewire port.  If you need wired networking or firewire they are making a separate thunderbolt adapter available.  The laptop comes with HDMI, USB 3.0, SDXC and Thunderbolt ports as well as a couple of Mag Safe ports.  Oh, and the power supply costs $199 to replace.  I guess Apple wants to discourage accessorizing your macbook pro with pricing like that..

Yes Apple you've managed to produce the most expensive disposable PC on the market.  With limited upgrade or even service options, reliance on external dongles for basic connectivity functions you've turned best of breed hardware into an overpriced IPAD with a keyboard.  It's basically an appliance and my toaster is now jealous and wants a retina display too.

Finally I'd like to announce the addition of a periodic guest segment.   It's just a chance to get another perspective on gaming and tech related topics each week.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gaming the Game

Article first published as Gaming the Game on Technorati.

The wages of sin may be death but that toll is rarely exacted on cheaters in multiplayer gaming.  The worst that can happen is the cheater gets banned from the game and their copy invalidated.  The gaming equivalent of an execution for the sin. 

Of course someone so inclined could bring about their own Lazarus moment by simply buying another copy of the game and getting a new email address.  For the determined this is a common tactic and it seems the game industry can do (or will do)little to combat the issue. 

With popular titles, a game hack or cheat can be available the first day of release.  Sooner if the game reuses an already popular game engine.  It's gone far beyond the hacker who spends sleepless nights to gain an advantage, it's a business.

Try this out, do a Google search with your favorite title and just add the word "cheat".  In between leaked developer console commands and memory modifiers you'll find ads for services that promise domination of your online competition. 

So it was with Johnb32xq ( from here on known as John) from Canada a seemingly normal guy who succumbed to the temptation to cheat Battlefield 3's multiplayer.  He was paying a m monthly fee to Artificial Aiming ( a game hacking group) to gain access to their cheats.  When discovered by his gaming friends and confronted about it he chose the cheat over them.  In signature style he invoked a cheat that instantly vanquished all of his former compatriots before being banned from the gaming clan server.

John claims that there was no nefarious motivation for his actions.  He used the cheats simply as an "anger outlet" to relieve stress from his unfulfilling job as a mobile device tech. 

Look a bit closer at that last sentence.  It's about John's needs and the fact that other players are affected by his actions seems to be of no consequence to him.  However, the outrage expressed by victims of cheaters like John has less to do with the game itself than violating the social aspects of it. 

In games like Battlefield 3 accolades come only after a significant investment of time and effort.  The rewards have less to do with a better gun than a higher position on the leader board.  Earning a higher rank or receiving an award for a skill brings online prestige.  So it's no surprise that some would chose a shortcut to elevate their status.

361259_Buy Direct and SAVE on Mad Catz productsRecently EA and Dice made available add-on content available for Battlefield 3 in the form of Shortcut Kits.  Marketed as a way to "level the playing field" with more experienced players, the shortcut kits (which allowed a player to access all available items in a player's class) was actually more of a legitimized game hack.  These kits were reasonably priced and subverted  illegitimate hacks that offered many of the same benefits.  A classic case of If you can't beat 'em join 'em and EA did just that squeezing  even more revenue out of the franchise in the process.

It's a strategy akin to the position of  proponents of the legalization of marijuana.  A tactic that has been at least partially successful for EA and Dice.  Unfortunately cheaters still pose an issue for the average player in spite of measures to combat it.

While John may not be a criminal miscreant in real life his actions relegate him to that position in the gaming world.  John has stated his motives plainly but it's likely there's more to it than just stress relief.   

In the 21st century it seems that accomplishment has less to do with effort and more about subverting the competition.  This is the basis of capitalism and even communist nations embrace it's tenets.  So in the world of gaming it's no surprise that opportunities abound to artificially elevate one's status.  If that opportunity doesn't exist for you in the real world it's a simple matter to bring satisfaction in the virtual.

It's not unreasonable to be suspect of the commitment of game developers to combat cheating either.  After all, most popular games have a life cycle of 9 months with a handful of DLC content dribbled out till the next major release.  A few high profile token efforts quiet the masses long enough to rev up the hype machine for the next big game.   After all, in the end it is just a game, a commodity product to be consumed and ultimately discarded. 

Think about it, when's the last time you heard about anti-cheating measures for Battlefield Bad Company 2?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why I don't play MW3 multiplayer...

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3's Multiplayer experience is a different animal from Battlefield 3.  More akin to Unreal Tournament than a tactical FPS.  I've provided my own evidence.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

BF3 DLC and bad game UI

There wasn't too much this week that was interesting, at least to me that is, in the gaming world.  We're still a couple of weeks out from the official release of the next DLC for Battlefield 3, Close Quarters but if you're a premium member you can already play on the new maps.

From the BF3 battlelog webpage it appears that there are now 4 new maps available:  Ziba Tower, Operation 925, Donya Fortress and Scrapmetal .
Since close quarters is more of a Deathmatch, run and gun affair it's likely I won't be picking it up so check elsewhere for more details. 

It was obvious that last week's huge patch was largely due to this expansion as well as some interface tweaks to the Battlelog web page.

Speaking of Battlelog, I still don't see why I need to go to a webpage to play a retail game.  At least in Need For Speed, the autolog ( NFS' battlelog equivalent) is rolled into the game.  Oh, and by the way you can't use Internet Explorer 8 with BF3 anymore. 

The last patch removed support for it.  Not that many people are still using it for BF3 as this game won't install on a Windows XP system.  XP is the only recent OS that can't upgrade to IE9 or above.  I suppose if you were attached to Vista and resisted IE9 it's a problem.
That's beside the point, however. 

Perhaps it's a symptom of cross contamination between console and PC gaming that every game has suddenly developed overly complex user interfaces, confusing controls and a need to be constantly connected to the Internet even for solo play.

So begins the era of  "immersion" which went far beyond just better visuals, now we could control  every aspect of our pixilated alter-ego.  We can look over our shoulders, map a key to a specific weapon, program custom taunts for other players.

 It all sounds good till you see the hopeless quandary it created for the developers.  Take a look at any modern FPS or driving simulation and you have a dizzying array of options  which have little or nothing to do with playing the actual game.  I know this because I ignore most of them and do just fine thank you.  Couple that with a kludgy UI designed to allow more advertising space for the publisher and the excitement soon wanes.

Multiplayer gaming is over a decade old now and I've played some great titles from all the major developers over the years.  About 5 years ago the option for Lan gameplay started disappearing from games instead forcing players to log onto an Internet server just to start the game.  This was likely a reaction to all the piracy that was going on and the publishers figured if you could log into their authentication servers you weren't a pirate.

Thus starts the bald-faced admission that game publishers just like their Motion Picture industry cousins think their customers are all thieves.  The worst offenders kept the horribly buggy securom  anti-piracy software  AND forced you to logon to an Internet server just to play the game.  I didn't play those titles too long as one thing or the other was always getting in the way.

S o here we are in 2012, and the state of gaming is this..

The publishers still think we're thieves,  Game controls are either hopelessly over complicated or inadequate and we're forced to be online even if we're not playing online.
It almost makes me want to go back to Galaga...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Latest Videos from midagedgamerguy

The latest videos from the Midagedgamer on youtube.

On Star Trek Online ground mission controls....

On setting up your joystick in Battlefield 3


Saturday, June 9, 2012

BF3 channeling COD? Patches, Ultrabooks and more!

Hey guys,

It's the Midaged gamer report for 6-8-2012 and I just finished up an awesome BF3 session.

But before I go any further A big tip of the shades to Patrick Norton for donning his own specs in this week's TWICH pre-show.  He can do it because he's famous, me I can do it because I have self-image issues.

See what happens when you don't have a wife and kids Patrick?!  This could be you! 

Then again, no, probably not... :-)

Enough about me...

The first bit of news has to do with the Battlefield 3 patch.  It came down Monday night and judging from the slow download speeds a whole lot of people were anxious to get the 2GB download.  Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, I didn't try till Wednesday so speeds were better.

One sweet little surprise was revealed to me by a friend of mine who also plays the game.  It seems that the latest patch has fixed the joystick control issue when flying aircraft.  Previously you couldn't necessarily map all the buttons on a joystick controller which made flight more difficult and control setup irritating.

OF course the big reason for the patch is the soon to be released Close Quarters DLC pack.  Now that's
interesting if you're into deathmatch style FPS but I'm far more interested in the upcoming (Sept) release of Armored Kill.  I'm a gearhead so my passions tend to involve more metal than anything with a shoulder strap.

Also new this week is the Battlefield 3 Premium subscription.  Basically, for $50 you get all the DLC packs, access to play them 2 weeks early, plus some special weapons and premium member only 2x experience tournaments.  

I can't help but see this as a direct response to Call of Duty's Elite membership.  The terms and perks are virtually identical.  I don't know how well that will translate to Battlefield, however.  

I know I already have Karkand, not interested in close quarters which leaves one DLC pack I want,  Armored Kill and 2 I'm not sure about yet, Aftermath and Endgame.  For me it's cheaper by 5 bucks to just buy the DLC I want.

I don't see anything else attractive about it.  While playing tonight I did notice a few players with "Premium Member" under their splash page.  They died just the same only with more props I guess.
I'm really not interested in Close Quarters So I'll probably pass on the bundle.  I'm ok with just buying DLC I want. 

THe real question is with special weapons and "members only" gameplay is a premium membership going to unfairly tilt the odds toward EA's Premium member cash cows and is the game going to be worth playing by the a la carte' set?  

In an earlier post I questioned whether the Free to Play/Pay for upgrades model would work in a major title.  The shortcut kits have already had an effect on BF3 multiplayer.  If EA tries to milk the cash cow this way much more they run the risk of damaging their existing player base.  Time will tell.

I've included links to the BF3 premium and COD Elite websites so you can compare and contrast.

In another piece of EA news, It seems the reboot is in full swing with Need For Speed.  Need For Speed Most Wanted Limited Edition has been re-imagined by developer Criterion who also did the new version of Hot Pursuit and is available for pre-order for $49.99. 

Like the BF3 Limited Edition that gave early access to Karkand, Most Wanted Pre-orders get early access to cars and double speed points in your first 4 hours of play.  Considering the first 4 hours is generally wasted trying to figure out the game that's not much of a perk.  Still if you're interested check it out at the link.  I may pick it up if Amazon has a sale.

So this week's PCPER episode had a segment on some new ultrabooks with discrete Nvidia GPU's.  Specifically these were Keppler based mobile GPU's
There was also mention of a 680 Mobile GPU that Alienware was getting first.  Apparently ultrabooks are shaking off their netbook roots with ever more powerful and efficient Intel CPU's so Nvidia wants to get discrete GPU's into them to push gaming more firmly into the ultrabook space.

What was striking was a general consensus of disappointment in the podcast over the relatively small screen sizes and resolution of the ultrabooks.  I think that may be an unfair judgment considering the form factor.  If ultrabooks continue to evolve we may see the power of a desktop replacement notebook in this type of package in just a few years. 

Another consideration is that the ultrabook could become the portable replacement for the set top box and HTPC.  Imagine taking your entire home theater system with you when you travel.  You could have all the power of a full sized desktop connected via Thunderbolt  port on an accommodating hotel television. 

Just a thought.

In AMD news, they have officially dropped the monthly update cycle for their graphics drivers.  After the confusing round of 12.x drivers at the start of the year it's a welcome change.  After all it's a driver not a subscription, I don't need updates just for the sake of new ads during the install of a fresh HDMI driver.

Finally, there's rumor of retina displays on new macbooks?  Speculation says that next week's WWDC conference in  San Francisco will have information about new hi definition displays in the redesigned macbook.  If that means retina that may mean some trickle down of the technology in a few years to the PC market.  

Imagine BF3 on a Retina display!

One final note from my experiences this week in BF3 land...

I'd like to direct this at the vehicle hogs in BF3, you know who you are.  For one thing if we're playing on a ranked server don't expect that anyone cares about your points, assignments or otherwise.  We're all trying to improve our stats.  So if you're waiting for your best buddy to jump in the chopper gunners seat and I happen to get there first, just take off.  Chances are I've got a better chance of saving your sorry ass with me in that seat than your buddy so just suck it up and go. 

More than once I've seen what equates to a digital tantrum and a stream of obscenities in the chat window because someone else got in instead of your buddy.  Meanwhile your side is losing the battle and you're losing points.   I mean really, who the hell do you think you are?  It's called multiplayer for a reason.  You wanna cuddle up to your friends the whole game play co-op or join a clan and play on their servers.  Now unranked servers on the other hand, well, anything goes...

You know I couldn't let a week go by without at least one rant.

That's all for this week.

I'm out!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Patches, DLC & Zombies, Oh my!

This is the midagedgamer report for the week ending 6-1-2012.
So there's big news in Battlefield land with the announcement of yet another huge patch coming. Scheduled to be released over two days from 6-4 to 6-5. 

The official schedule is:

PC and Xbox 360 worldwide: June 4th
PlayStation 3 in Japan/Asia: June 5th
PlayStation 3 in all other regions: June 4th.


Specific size of the patch is unknown but it's likely to be at least as large as the 1Gb March patch.  It's also likely that some changes were made to allow for the "close quarters expansion pack"
The BF3 development team released an announcement prefaced with the following...


"We are very happy to present the contents of our next Battlefield 3 game update! This is a big one, rolling out June 4-5. .... including a solution to the M26 dart issue, reduced suppression, and the introduction of colorblind support on console."

There are a number of tweaks to weapons, gameplay and equipment in this patch reportedly taken from player suggestions.
Now if they'd just start announcing their maintenance cycles instead of dumping you out of the middle of a game.  No less than 3 times in the past two weeks BF3 has gone offline leaving you with nothing on your battlelog screen except a message saying " Update in Progress... Check back soon, Soldier!"

I understand that updates need to happen but EA has a bad habit of doing them unannounced.  These impromptu maintenance periods were unannounced and left many players dumbfounded when the game dumped out unexpectedly. 

I've seen this behavior before with EA properties.  Specifically I've seen EA's German development house Phenomic develop the habit of doing this with the Play4Free title Lord of Ultima.  You "might" get an indication on their facebook wall but usually only after the servers were down for hours.

I can understand limited notification in a free title but with a paid title with paid DLC content EA needs to be a bit more on the ball.
Perhaps we can take consolation in the fact that BF3 is still on sale for 39.99 on Origin.  Check the links at the end of the page for more patch info.

In other EA news, Crysis 2 "mazimum edition" is on sale on origin for 39.99.  This looks to be the much hyped but ultimately disappointing sequel to Crysis with DLC and perks.  At least it's cheaper than it was at launch...

Official Specs are:
* Bonus XP - Access to preset classes plus a custom class
• Scar weapon Skin - Scar assault rifle digital camouflage
• Weapon Attachment - Day 1 access to scar hologram decoy
• Unique Platinum Dog Tag - Display your multiplayer rank and stats
Includes Retaliation and Decimation packs:
• 9 additional Multiplayer maps supporting all game modes
• 2 new weapons - FY71 Assault Rifle and M18 Smoke Grenade

Let's take a look at Steam for a bit...

Skyrim is still overpriced at 59.99, Seems the biggest hype surrounds the "Dawnguard" add-on which is basically a vampire themed expansion.  How creative, vampires, I suppose the next expansion will be called "Moondoggie" and focus on werewolves.
PCMAG's report on the Dawnguard add-on.,2817,2405158,00.asp

In other Steam news, The new Modern Warfare 3 DLC collection 1 is available for 14.99 on steam which contains all the DLC content from January till march.  Collection 2 is available as well but not on steam. 

This is part of a regular DLC content release cycle for MW3. Most collections focus on new multiplayer maps with some spec ops missions.  The spec ops are interesting but as Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer is about a decade out of date it's a waste of time and money so I likely won't be bothering with it.  I've been burned by COD DLC before.

On the Steam fringes an interesting update occurred the other day to Killing Floor.  The Zombie/horror favorite has received a lot of attention with a 1/2 gig update this week. 

That's large for a game that demands less than 4GB from your hard drive.  It's likely something to do with an upcoming event as Killing floor doesn't need many fixes and the game is simple and mature enough to not need updates to the core game files.
On the hardware side GTX 670 availability is improving as is the GTX 680 although that's a relative statement.  According to This week in computer hardware on the TWIT network and the PCPER podcast there's still problems with the 28nm process which is affecting the supply of Nividia's new enthusiast GPU. 

AMD has a better channel presence due to its earlier entry into the 28nm process but it appears the higher end 7900 series cards are experiencing issues with the 28nm process as well.  With the performance crown currently belonging to NVIDIA, AMD is sweetening the deal on their 7900 series of cards by offering games like Dirt Showdown among others with the cards. 

If you can stand a little more power draw, a little more heat and a little less performance than team green's offering this may make your mind up if you were undecided.
That's it for this week,

I'm out..