Saturday, September 29, 2012

Torchlight 2 basics

Torchlight 2.
If you like RPG's but don't want to deal with Blizzard's BS this may be your alternative!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Midagedgamer Report 9-28-2012

This week, Black ops 2 has, wait for it, Zombies!, Shaolin Pandas, AMD launches a mainstream powerhouse and Intel CEO bags on Windows 8!

There's a new Call of Duty Black Ops 2 trailer out highlighting, what else, the zombie mode.  The cooperative play modes include new options such as "Tranzit" which puts players on a bus to more easily traverse a very open world.

 The open world is a new wrinkle not to  just zombie play modes but to COD in general since even  single player has historically been very confined.  Of course the survival modes are still there along with a an 8 player team "grief" mode where one team can manipulate items on the map to make it more difficult for the other team.  Perhaps they should have called it douchebag mode?

The new zombie modes are now built on the multiplayer engine instead of the single player as they've done before which supposedly adds more functionality.

With all these stumbling hordes lurching about I have to wonder about the rest of Black Ops 2.  Most articles and trailers focus on the zombies.  I'm fairly certain "Left 4 Dead" and "Dead Island" had fewer zombie trailers than this game. 

While I appreciate the improvements to the zombie mode it seems at this point the whole thing should just be spun off into its own series.  We've had zombies since Call of Duty: World at War.  It's been half a dozen games since then so it should be time. 

Could it be that Treyarch is afraid a standalone zombie shooter from its development house would fail without a popular franchise backing it up?  It seems that other play modes of  recent Call of Duty titles have just been rehashes of previous games with the only real development being the zombie modes.   It's resulted in stale storylines and cooperative play modes that look like DLC for a previous incarnation of the game.

Lest we forget, we still haven't seen anything more than a refresh of the seven year old IW Engine which can still trace its roots all the way back to Quake.

"Whoring out the franchise" 

Well it's nice to hear someone actually inside the industry call out game publisher tactics to milk a franchise.  I've said it for years but former head of Ensemble studios, Tony Goodman, responsible for the Halo RTS, Halo Wars. heard it firsthand.

 At that time he  was asked to restyle a, Ensemble Studios RTS game in development to fit the Halo model because Microsoft was unsure of an RTS game on consoles.  Goodman went on to say that Microsoft told him to,  "just paint over what you have with Halo stuff." Which lead to the remark from Bungie.

I'm waiting for the Call of Duty: Cold war Fly Fishing and Battlefield: Tank Racer myself...

If you've thought that Robot Entertainment's Orcs Must Die 2 is a bit chauvinistic, a new Booster back is available called "Family Ties" that introduces among other things Female Orcs to the mix.  Steam has a 20%  off sale till September 30th bringing the price down to just $3.99.

In a sad note for all those pre-order Borderlands 2  fans, it appears that all your efforts to attain the rank of "badass" may be in vain due to a token reset bug first reported via a YouTube video.  the bug causes you to lose all your earned skill tokens whether they were spent or not.   Gearbox is aware of the issue but as of this writing there's no fix yet.  There's apparently some kind of workaround to prevent it happening again but currently no way for Xbox 360 users to recover their lost tokens whether they're spent or not. 

Shaolin Pandas your thing? Addicted to WoW? Then you probably already know that the latest add-on for World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria is out and early visitors to the  lethal panda land are feeling some of the effects of Blizzard's media blitz that preceded its arrival.  Apparently scores of breathless players have been flooding into the new world causing strange effects.  The net result of this great horde made battlefield scenes look like the aftermath of a grade school food fight.  Lots of smear

If you're a fan of old games and you'd like to take a step back down memory lane with System Shock 2 or Thief 2 on your Windows 7 PC then today's your day.  Someone found patches and made them available to those of us who remember when multiplayer gaming meant you were in the same room and had to be running IPX protocol.

 The link is from Rock, Paper, Shotgun,  it's best to ignore the War of Roses promo on the page, you know the one about skill.  Skill is not only not an unlock (double negative I know) but not present in gaming either.   But then, you already knew that. 

In mainstream gaming...

Information about a new AMD CPU (AMD likes the word APU)has been  leaked about a new Trinity APU release. Named the 5800K it runs at 3.8Ghz (4.2 turbo)  and includes 2 "modules" containing 4 CPU cores per and 4 MB of cache split down the middle.  It also has a faster onboard GPU that bests the performance of Intel's Core I3 integrated graphics.  A solid mainstream part but knocking off the modern equivalent of a Celeron with integrated graphics isn't exactly over achieving.  Oh yeah and it plugs into the new Socket FM2 so you'll need a new motherboard.  Sorry FM1 fans.


Intel CEO Paul Otellini apparently feels That Windows 8 isn't quite ready for prime time.  At a private meeting in Taiwan the Intel Ceo said that the the OS is being released before it's fully ready. 
Ok, can we stop this now?  When's the last time you installed an OS that didn't have a barrel of patches within days of release.  Even apple can't claim that!

Beta testing's nice but until you get it into the hands of the great unwashed masses you can't possibly deal with every glitch.   Oh, by the way Mr. Otellini, you may want to check Intel's archives.  Specifically, the bad batch of Sandy Bridge and Itanium CPU's. 

Class it up guys, you're embarrassing your stock options.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The continuing problem of BF3 hacks

Ok, this is from a forum post on the official BF3 forum.  The discussion was about how to deal with cheats.  

That said, get a cup of coffee

Original Link to the forum.

I agree that we should all be careful before pointing fingers but that said, the advice to go to another server is becoming increasingly ineffective.  These guys are everywhere.  BF3 hacks are  a multimillion dollar business now and a Google search will fill your browser with links.  Punkbuster is kind of a joke as it only gets the most rudimentary of hacks. 

Anyone who plays this game long enough gets a feel for how a given game's going and if you're like me you just know when something's up.  I've had lots of great games where I had many more deaths than kills and still had a great time with players of any level.  A game played straight up is an awesome thing.  So awesome that hacks show up pretty quick when present. 

Look at the scores for your first hint.  If you go into a 600 ticket conquest and the game is 3 minutes old and the losing side is 200 tickets down it's fairly obvious what's going on.  On a full server an entire team can't suck that badly especially with balanced player levels on both sides.  When you check stats and see 38 kills and one death or similar domination, that's another clue.  I've been taken out by a sniper outside the entrance to the Russian base on Caspian when I just stepped across the line from the U.S.base entrance  That's not even possible but the killcam said differently.  I bet real life snipers would like to get a kill 5 miles away across a mountain and through a

I currently have a 44 magnum outfitted on 3 of my character classes.  I know for a fact that I can get a critical if not a kill shot at 350 meters with it as I tested it out on an unranked server when I unlocked it.  I've been less than 10 meters, staring a player straight in the face and unloaded 3 shots almost point blank and the other player was able to kill me and took no damage.  Then I've had the same experience and things went as they should.  One shot to the head with that gun at less than 50 meters is a kill shot, no exceptions.  Was it lag? a hack? who knows but it ruined my day for sure.

I've seen some servers actually start enforcing level bans so that high level players can't dominate.  That's a bit unfair but understandable to keep the game going for newer players.  So how do cheats get around it?  They buy a new key online, start a new character, apply shortcut kits and suddenly a level 3 player has the ability of a level 90.  You can see it from the tactics and of course the K/D ratio.  Nobody at level 3 really knows what's going on in BF3 even if they played previous titles.  It takes getting used to.  So a level 3 sniper shouldn't be able to get a head-shot  from 800 meters with the level of equipment available to them even with shortcut kits.  There's lucky then there's suspicious.

I don't know how to stop the cheating.  I like the rewards and level ups but they're also the reason people cheat.  It's stat addiction.  The real problem with cheating in BF3 may have less to do with the game and more to do with the platforms it runs on.  Most of the hacks out there are DirectX video hacks which are almost impossible for PB to catch. It seems most of the hacks that get caught are stat hacks to boost health etc.  Since those modify a game variable they're easier to catch but if it's something that say removes all the textures and just shows the players that's a hack on something the game can't detect.  It's like recording a video with an Iphone pointed at a TV.  No copy protection is going to stop it because it's separate from the processes involved in the broadcast but the information is there just the same.

I don't know any games out there that don't have cheats in them.  In Orcs Must Die 2, for example there was a guy on top of the leader boards within 4 hours of the game's release with 1 Billion points!  Not possible in that game even  if your played 24/7 for 10 years!  It's a hack.  But then, It's still fun and I don't care about the leader-boards. because they have no effect on my game-play, everyone's pretty much equal no matter what level they're at.  Someone who's hacked their way to the top of BF3, however, not only has the hack effect but the legit bonuses from the game itself.

The only thing that EA/Dice could do at this point would be to get tighter control of the keys and limit volume purchases so the hack vendors can't operate.  Maybe a start up or randomized DirectX check as well.  What we can do as players is make the cheats uncomfortable.  If your team suspects a cheat and they're dominating a game then forget the spawn captures etc.  The whole team should just go after that player.  You're not going to be playing the game the way it was meant to be played anyway so might as well tar and feather the cheat.  Or if it's really bad all the honest players should just quit the server.

So that's my .25 cents.


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Midagedgamer report for 9-21-2012

The Midagedgamer Report for 9-21-2012

This week...

Nvidia's new midrange Kepler entry, An alternative to Diablo 3, What multiplayer would be like if Borderlands 2 had it and more!

So I'm searching for my first story of relevance and I run into this...

It's a UK website called that offers dating and "performance" tips to gamers inexperienced with the intimate arts.  AKA virgins.  Apparently, a recent poll found a full third of the site's community admitted to being so afflicted.  Considering I keep running into 8 year olds on Battlefield servers the numbers don't seem that surprising...

Guess what? We have yet another browser based exploit to worry about now but Microsoft promises a fix today (9/21).  Ars Technica reports that a as of yet unpatched exploit in Internet Explorer 7 through 9 can allow malware installation and turn your pc into a zombie.  The advisory applies to IE on all windows versions up to 7.  You lucky Windows 8 Eval users dodged a bullet this time as IE 10 is unaffected.  As it stands now users are being advised not to use Internet Explorer or anything that relies on its facilities like web applets.  Hopefully you're using Chrome to watch this week's video report...

If you're like me and don't think $60 for a video game is reasonable then you probably haven't seen much gameplay action for the new Borderlands 2 release.  Luckily, viewers of Wednesday's PC Perspective podcast who stuck around for the impromptu gaming afterward were treated to live gameplay.  The lesson here, watch more live podcasts!  You might learn something.

And speaking of Borderlands 2...

Borderlands 2 released this week on the 18th to the joy of salivating fans everywhere.  I'm one of them but I felt the water bill was more important since I appreciate having the ability to flush my toilets. 

Nvidia has released the newest Kepler family member aimed squarely at the midrange market in the guise of the GTX660 graphics card.  Note the lack of a "Ti" moniker.  This isn't just a gimped version of the 660Ti it's a different graphics core called the GK106.  With Fewer streaming processors and texture units compared to the 660Ti the card is aimed squarely at the ATI 7870 with a price point about $20 cheaper at $229 MSRP.  It's been suggested that this is a good upgrade for those still hanging on to old GTX 460 or GASP! 9800 GT's.

GTX 660 Ti
GTX 660
Stream Processors
Texture Units
Core Clock
Shader Clock
Boost Clock
Memory Clock
6.008GHz GDDR5
6.008GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width
1/24 FP32
1/24 FP32
Transistor Count
Manufacturing Process
TSMC 28nm
TSMC 28nm
Launch Price

As seen from the chart (from the referenced article) the primary difference between the 660 and the 660Ti besides the die shrink and lower power consumption are the number of streaming processors, texture units and about 1 billion less transistors. 

The new card retains the same perks as it's more powerful cousins so you still get the same memory clocks, boost features and display output options.  For a budget gaming build this would probably be the perfect choice especially if the street price went below $200.

For those of you that might want to give a little love to the indie gaming community there's a reasonably priced pre-order on Steam that may peak your interest.  The game is called Ravaged from developer 2Dawn  games.  It's a multiplayer shooter set in a post-apocalyptic Earth with equal emphasis on vehicular as well as on foot battles.  The development team consists of alumni from the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield:1942 which infers some contact with the original Dice team that went on to mold the Battlefield series.
 From the gameplay videos it seems to be a cross between the look and vehicular combat of the original Borderlands and the multiplayer dynamics of a Call of Duty or Battlefield.  For 24.99 pre-order it's probably worth a shot if you're looking for an alternative to $60 launch prices.

And in game portal client thing news...

Origin released yet another update this week to fix download issues.  Specifics are:
- Fixed an issue that interfered with some users' ability to download games. 
- Fixed an issue that prevented some users from launching or quitting certain games. 
- Fixed an issue that was blocking some users from logging in. 

A short aside here.  I know I complain a lot about high prices for supposed "triple-A" titles but I have to give credit where it's due.  I was looking over my collection and found that many of my fondest gaming memories came from Electronic Arts.   Surprisingly enough, they weren't always the giant evil empire we know today.
I'm old enough to remember the battle chess game, Archon for the Atari and Apple PC's back in the 80's.  That means I remember when EA was nothing more than a few geeks in a Menlo park office hoping to make it big.  EA's always known how to pick a winner no matter if they produced or just published a game.   With picks like Battlefield, Need for Speed, Madden and dozens of others their success is no mystery.  They usually produce a good product but for the past decade they haven't missed an opportunity to milk a franchise like a skinny tick on a hound dog. 

It's the typical American success story which unfortunately ends with doing what you do best to the point of  losing your soul. 

A torch without a Blizzard...

So if you're like me and didn't want to mortgage the house only to be disappointed by the money machine that is Diablo 3 just to play a decent RPG, I may have good news for you.  Torchlight 2 has been released and offers a similar experience with some nice extras D3 could care less about.  It's basically an RPG like D3 and that's no accident considering there's some cross pollination between the development teams at Runic and Blizzard.  Reviews are positive so far and it's definitely less of a risk at $20 than the $60 buy in for D3.

Finally, A friend mentioned an annoying trend that seems to be becoming more popular in triple-A titles  lately.  Namely the huge update to support DLC.  For Example; to support the recent Battlefield 3 DLC, EA shoved a  2 Gigabyte patch onto my game rigs that took the better part of an hour to download and install. 

Two things come to mind. 

The first one I have to credit my friend for thinking of it.  If we're not buying the DLC why do I need to download it?  There's a better than even chance that I now have Armored Kill and Close Quarters files on my pc even though I didn't buy them.  That's just laziness.  I don't believe for a minute that a game that was at most a 6GB install needs 2GB in patches every 3 months to continue working properly. 

The second is that Origin needs to offer an option to download an offline copy of their patches and upgrades so that we don't have to waste time downloading the same files to multiple computers.  I mean c'mon, if you're a Netflix subscriber with an ISP that has a bandwidth cap, just two PC's  getting the latest BF3 download could prevent you from seeing an entire movie for that month!

Valve's Steam meets us part way with this with the option to backup game files but the issue there is that they don't include any patches, just the original game files.  So you get to download potentially years worth of patches all over again.

Cloud storage apparently has a ways to go.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mods breathe new life into old games....Really!

In the new revenue stream of triple-A game titles an initial purchase isn't enough.  With prices upward of $60 and publishers announcing release schedules of paid DLC (Downloadable Content) even before the original game is released,  it's easy to think this is the way it's always been.

Of course, it isn't...

Paid DLC is a marketing construct designed to keep the revenue pump forever flowing for a given game franchise.  Look at EA's Battlefield series or Activision's Call of Duty for examples.  Even beyond DLC,  these titles in particular have added a paid subscription model to further enhance their fortunes.
So is the only option to enhance a favorite game to continue paying the publisher for new content?
They'd certainly like you to think so but a little time spent in a Google search will show otherwise.  This is where we enter the world of game mods.

Game mods are just like DLC except they're usually created by fans of the game and usually at no cost to the consumer other than a bit of time.  The motivations range from extending the life of an old favorite to creating a completely new game built on the bones of the original. 

Pick any popular title from the past decade and you're sure to find an active community of modders trying to make it better.  In EA's original Battlefield 1942, for example, a mod called Desert Combat completely re-imagined the game. It took players out of the war torn Europe of WW2 and put them squarely at the center of the Gulf War. 

The mod was so successful that Dice (the development team) was brought onboard to EA games and produced the follow up to 1942 called Battlefield 2.  Dice continues to develop the franchise for EA  which to date has spawned at least half a dozen sequels to the original for EA.

Valve's popular Half Life series has spawned dozens of mods which in some cases evolved into popular games in their own right. 

Unlike many publishers, Valve supports an active modding community through their STEAM communities.  In the most recent case a new initiative called Greenlight has highlighted a community effort to update the 1998 classic, Half Life.  The mod is called Black Mesa and sprung from a developer community known as Black Mesa: Source. 

The video on this page shows an example of their work.  Black Mesa: source updated the now dated look of the original allowing fans of the franchise to experience the game anew. 

Other than the cost (Free) the differences between mods and DLC  are few.  Mods come from fans and independent developers.  DLC comes from the original publisher.

 As such the quality of the work can vary.  A quick check of a game's community forum is always a good idea before diving in. Also be aware that Installation procedures aren't always a slick as a commercial offering, sometimes requiring a few more steps to complete.  Support is generally only available from community forums and the developers themselves.  

In my examples the mods exceeded the original games and afforded hundreds of hours of additional gameplay that otherwise would have relegated them to collecting dust on the shelf.  Considering the escalating prices of new games and DLC, it might be worth your time to see about breathing new life into an old favorite.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Myths of the Game Pre-order

Article first published as Myths of the Game Pre-order on Technorati.

Borderlands2 released today (September 18,2012) with lines stretching around the block at GameStop's and Best Buy's across the land.  They were populated by hopeful fans of the anime styled RPG who wanted to be among the first to play the game.
Sadly, most of those people missed out on all those special game bonuses only available with the pre-order.   Membership has its advantages and those in the Pre-order club have undoubtedly gained an advantage over the rest of us who may have questioned the $60  price tag.

 Or have they?

Like any marketing program, success depends on perpetrating a myth.  In this case the myth promises premium content for a premium price.  Reality bears far less luster, however. 

If given the opportunity to get a leg up on everyone else by paying a little early then why not shell out the pre-order premium, right?

This is the first myth that leads us to believe that we're buying into an exclusive club with perks only available to a select few. 

Unfortunately, we soon find the perks do little to enhance the game instead providing only a small ego boost when we show our "special item" to our friends.  Remember SergeantJohnson in the Halo 3 ODST Pre-order?

 Exclusivity is a foregone conclusion as well when you realize that millions of other players took advantage of the same pre-order.  Borderlands 2 is reportedly 2Ksoftware's highest selling pre-order to date by the way.
Another popular myth of the pre-order is the misplaced belief that first come is first served.  This is why gamers wait in lines at midnight to purchase a copy hoping to be among the first.  As though a shield of exclusivity guarantees a better experience than those who passed on the offer.  Ask the day one Diablo 3 players how that worked out.

The last myth is less often seen in these times of $60 pre-orders but is still believed. 
This one's all about price.  A few years back when  pre-orders were still relatively new, the primary reason to take advantage was a reduced price.  It's a practice still seen but rarely offered .  When it is the discount isn't all that attractive. 

Borderlands 2, for example was available for $54 until July 30th on Valve's Steam service.  Not a compelling motivator for the price conscious.  Publisher marketing teams have redefined value as full price plus extras instead of full value for the money.  Think of it as the useless toy in a McDonalds Happy Meal that adds nothing of value to a bland overpriced  child's meal.

Pre-orders are just one in a collection of marketing tools in a sales arsenal.  Developer's could care less once the game's complete and publishers only care so far as their revenue forecasts can take them.   To ensure the golden goose keeps laying, publishers have turned to subscription models and add-on content known as DLC's. 

Considering the long legs and eventual  discount pricing of a game franchise, it's unreasonable to pay a premium just to be the first.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Midagedgamer Report for 9-14-2012

This week...

Thunderbolt, not just for Apple anymore, New details about Haswell, kinda, A new NVIDIA driver and more!

For those of us who are crazy enough to pay the extra price premium to get decent gaming performance on a laptop it's a given that there's going to be tradeoffs.  Graphics performance on these platforms will always outperform the meager integrated offerings but it's still not the same performance we're used to on a desktop.  Lest we forget the issues with power, weight, and of course heat with these mobile monsters. 

So when an option comes along that can make just about any mobile platform a gaming powerhouse with minimal effort I'm going to perk up. 

Apparently Lucid, you know the guys who were trying to make NVIDIA and ATI play nice in the same rig?  Well, it appears they've come up with a solution to leverage the bandwidth and connectivity of Thunderbolt to connect an external graphics adapter to your laptop.  Laptop Magazine tried this out with a thunderbolt enabled motherboard and external graphics adapter.  The difference between the performance with the external adapter and without was dramatic.  A link to the video has been provided.

Remember that Thunderbolt has a direct pipeline to the PCI-E bus so  there's nothing  really stopping a vendor from producing an add-in external graphics product.  There's also nothing saying an inexpensive desktop PC with a thunderbolt connection  couldn't do the same thing.  Think of the possibilities, gaming performance without the overhead. and high price.  The only thing that stands in its way is public adoption.
 There has to be a mainstream desire to do more than play angry birds on their laptop for something like this to gain a foothold.  It's up to laptop and graphics vendors to make them see the light.

In platform news Intel released a few details about the upcoming Haswell processor family.  Unfortunately unless you're really into 10Watt CPU's and multithreaded memory it isn't going to be that big a deal over Ivy Bridge.  The big push with haswell is platform portability so that the same architecture that powers your desktop PC can power your tablet as well. 

In steam news the first Greenlight Titless have been chosen among them a graphics overhaul mod to the original Half Life called Black Mesa. 

While certainly a work deserving of the spotlight,  I still don't see Valve's $100 toll to get on the community ballot as fair.  Also Interesting to note that the first game featured in the list of winners is an update to one of valve's own titles.  Talk about free labor!

By the way, Black Mesa is scheduled for release on Steam's Greenlight Friday September 14th.  With the buzz around this game expect the same slow download times and delays as the recent Team Fortress 2 co-op. 

In the strange but true department...

It appears violent video games can raise your pain threshold.  A study in the UK found that people who played violent video games for 10 minutes could keep their hands in ice cold water longer than those who didn't. 

So will it be long before we treat ourselves to a half hour of resident evil or Battlefield 3 instead of anesthesia before undergoing surgery?  Ok that's a stretch but it is an interesting study. 

In somewhat related news a stroke victim that hasn't been able to send an email or even type on a keyboard due to a condition called aphasia was able to communicate using a hacked Kinect sensor.  The victim's son figured out the specifics to allow his mother to again communicate with the outside world. 
Nice to see Kinect useful for something other than flailing around in your living room while yelling at your big screen tv.

Ha! I knew it!
Valve, parent of Steam has been pursued by EA and offered up to 1 Billion dollars for the developer and game outlet.  Now we know where Origin came from.  Guess EA figured if it couldn't buy them they'd try to beat 'em!

In our can Gabe Newell be any more hypocritical department...

Ol' Gabe is at it again issuing a dire warning to Microsoft about "Trying to copy Apple"  Gabe's rumbling over the closed marketplace of the Microsoft Store and it's barriers to a free marketplace.  Yeah Gabe and about that Greenlight toll thing?? Yeah, thought so....

In overpriced gaming news...

Borderlands is due out on September 18th, we all know that.  But if you just can't wait to start building your character there's a skill calculator designed to give you a template to make him/her as badass as you dare.  Ah well, the marketing departments are busy.  Still waiting for a Steam sale in 2014...

For the TF2 cult members out there...

 Team Fortress 2 is looking for Halloween designs for its upcoming event.  Special maps and bonus items are a tradition around Halloween and this year is no different.  If you're one of those who knows their way around the Steam Workshop you best get your creative juices flowing before the October 1'st start of TF2's Scary season.

For all of you fans of Team Green, Nvidia has a new driver for you that among other things enables TXAA and fixes some issues with SLI in the 6x series of cards.  Even my old 260M in my laptop gets this new driver Nvidia is calling the R304.  Note that Nvidia says this is it for the 7x and 6x series of cards being included in regular driver releases moving them to "legacy" status.  The next release dubbed R310 will not include them.


Thanks to all those viewers of the 2 part Windows 8 Enterprise Eval videos I posted last week.  In fact they were so popular (relatively speaking, I mean look at my numbers...) That only my vids on BF3 shortcuts and some weather videos rate higher.  So I can only assume that my viewing public Loves to play BF3 on a Windows 8 virtual machine during a thunderstorm while counting the remaining minutes left on the eval..


Friday, September 7, 2012

The Midagedgamer Report 9-7-2012

The Midagedgamer Report for 9-7-2012

This week! More Windows 8 madness, Armored Kill starts rolling out, Valve's Greenlight has a toll booth and games as art?

Let's start off with the department of DUH!

Ars technica recently released an article entitled, "Can a touchscreen fix Windows 8 on the desktop?"  I had to stop for a moment after reading that.  Regaining my composure,  I read through the article about the author's  experiences with a Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 All in one desktop PC.  In short the author felt that Windows 8 worked well with a touchscreen PC but was more of a nice to have feature than a necessity. 
Stop the presses!   A touch optimized operating system worked well with a touchscreen PC...

Among the many less than insightful observations was that users may find it awkward to interact with a touch surface perpendicular to their desktop.  As though a user was suddenly going to toss their input devices and instead  sprawl across their desk to use the on screen keyboard  and swipes for daily tasks. 
Look, Windows 8 is optimized for touchscreen period.  To try to pigeonhole it into the same dreary workspace routines we've been getting eyestrain and carpal tunnel from over the past 30 years is nothing short of ignorant.    The days of the keyboard macro and special key combinations are on the way out.  Why, because that's what the consumer wants. 

They wanted to use an Iphone at work and now they can regardless of the IT department's hatred.  They wanted to connect to work via their tablet and GotoMyPc obliged.   All that extra crap we went through with split keyboards and marble mice was nothing more than an admission that we really didn't like the way we were forced to interact with our PC's anyway.

This is another example of much ado about nothing.  If Windows 8 is guilty of anything it's of being a bit ahead of the curve on the desktop.  Inventive types have been trying to get rid of the mouse and keyboard for decades.  It's no surprise then that when consumers wanted to do more than make a call or send a text on their Smartphone someone in the desktop arena was going to take notice. 

This time around it just happens to be Microsoft that got the hint first.  You can bet that if Apple had released a touchscreen desktop OS, no matter how awkward, the tech pundits would have embraced it.     Then again, Apple doesn't need to.  MacOS is likely not long for this world inevitably to be replaced by ever more powerful IOS based devices.  Apple and Android have known that touch was the future for half a decade, we're just not used to Microsoft getting a clue so early on.

In console news industry rumor currently targets spring of 2014 for the release of the next Xbox while the Playstation (remember ORBIS??)  is still rumored for late 2013. 
Michael Pachter, console industry analyst, says the delay is the result of "what is certain to be overwhelming demand among hardcore gamers."

More likely it's the result of waiting for Intel price drops on hardware capable of handling what Ea Labels president Frank Gibeau calls, "spectacular" games currently in development for the new consoles. 

In the department of "who cares" Origin released an update to its Origin client bringing it to version 9.0.11.  The primary fix is correcting a problem with patches being inconsistently applied to the user's game library.  In practice with the BF3 patch it appears that EA has ditched the separate updater and instead rolled the patch into their repair installer.

For those into Crysis, Steam is having a sale on the franchise this weekend with Crysis 2 available for $9.99 and the entire collection including Crysis, Crysis 2 and Crysis Warhead for just $17.49.  Warhead and the first game are also available separately for $4.99/ea.  Get yours before the September 10th deadline if you care...

In FPS land we're drawing ever closer to the full release of the next DLC pack for Battlefield 3.  Armored kill went live on PS3 for premium members September 4th preceded by a large patch across all platforms the same day.  Sorry PC and Xbox, you get to wait another week for the DLC.  For those of you who chose not to pay for the game twice aka: not premium members, the regular release is due out on the 18th for PS3 and the 25th for XBOX and PC. 

That schedule follows the standard two week lead premium members enjoy. 

What's far more interesting than the new DLC, however, are the tweaks from the latest patch that accompanies Armored Kill.  As with most patches that precede DLC this one's a big one coming in at over 2GB on PC and around 1.5GB on Xbox and PS3.  The changes it makes have a lot to do with the DLC and community whining.

Yet again Dice has decided to fiddle with weapon effectiveness making some weaker and others stronger.  Most interesting is the removal of flare guns for helicopter gunners in attack choppers and increased effectiveness of rockets from other helicopters and jets.  Which means you better hope your pilot has flares.  I know I've saved more than one helicopter because the pilot didn't have them. 

Here's the official list of vehicle  and weapon related tweaks....

Damage output/range adjustments
• UMP: Increased the close range damage of the UMP but reduced its damage over range. The UMP now has a sweet spot in CQB but suffers compared to the PP2000 at longer ranges.
• PP2000: Increased the long range damage of the PP2000 to highlight its role as a mid-range, low recoil PDW.
• M1911: Increased the minimum damage of the M1911 to make it fit better between the Magnums and the M9/MP443
• M93: Reduced the M93R’s damage and range, as it was an obvious go to pistol compared to the M9/MP443. Its recoil has been reduced for a smoother burst action to counter the reduced damage.
• 12G Frag rounds: These rounds have been adjusted to do their damage in a smaller area but to be more consistently apply the maximum possible damage.
• AA: Slightly increased the damage of the AA against infantry, the AA was simply over nerfed in a previous update. The AA guns now also properly do damage to MBTs again.
• 12 Gauge buckshot close range damage has been slightly increased.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on the SCAR-H.
• Increased bullet velocity for the coaxial HMG, making it easier to hit targets over longer ranges.
• Increased the minimum range of the 40mm Flechette and tightened the cone of fire for more consistent damage levels.
• Slightly reduced the range bonus added by the heavy barrel on the 5.56mm, 5.45mm, 6.5mm Assault Rifles.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on 5.56mm, 5.45mm, and 6.5mm weapons: AR, Carbine, and LMG.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on the SCAR-H.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on 5.56mm, 5.45mm, and 6.5mm weapons: AR, Carbine, and LMG.
• Slightly reduced the range bonus added by the heavy barrel on the 5.56mm, 5.45mm, 6.5mm Assault Rifles.
• Increased the damage of the M5K.
Removed flares from gunner position in helicopters. With the right combination of unlocks, an attack helicopter could be effectively invulnerable to lock on missiles. Removing the flares from the gunner balances the attack helicopter against ground fire.
• Air Radar now shows friendly vehicles as well.
• Helicopter weapons can now destroy equipment with splash damage.
• The Laser Designator unlock on the Scout Helicopters has been changed from a Pilot Upgrade to a new stance in the Copilot seat (position 4). Like the CITV turret on the Main Battle Tanks, the Scout Helicopter’s Laser Designator is permanently available to players who have received the unlock.
• Repair tool damage against enemy vehicles lowered by 10%.
• Changed reload behavior on Tank / Tank Destroyer cannon weapons to prevent being able to fire 2 shots from different weapons quickly one right after another.
• Firing mode can now be seen from the vehicle passenger seats where you are allowed to fire your own weapons.
• Fixed the hit indicator showing when entering a vehicle after previously shooting a soldier.
• Increased the damage helicopter and jet rockets do to helicopters, jets and infantry.
• Increased the damage helicopter gunners and IFVs do to helicopters and jets.

• Fixed Jets not getting top attack damage bonuses on Laser Designated targets.

All for the sake of DLC and somebody whining.  I mean really? They had to mess with the repair tool? Like the repair tool was somehow unbalancing the game?  If you let someone get that close for that long you deserve what you get.  Ratcheting it down 10% might give the victim another 1/2 second at best. 

I do like the splash damage tweak, however.  It's always irritating to just miss a target and inflict no damage.  Of course Dice will probably go overboard and everyone will start taking damage within a virtual mile of the impact. 

It's one thing to be in touch with your community but it's quite another to exceed to their whims while not correcting core issues with the game .  I'm sick of game balancing tweaks.  Figure out the merits and weaknesses of the arsenal and leave it at that!   Yes a better sniper rifle with a better scope is going to kill people more easily.  A tank shell should always have the same potential to do damage.  So what if someone doesn't like it, that's the game, you adapt and move on.  It's literally like Dice changes the rules with every patch!  Enough with the tweaking already!

In two pieces of news from Valve...

Steam's new Greenlight community project which aims to showcase the work of indie game developers has decided to stick a $100 tollbooth in their way. 

 It started out  free on August 30th with submissions  from hopefuls voted on by the Steam community.  Those with the most votes would win a place in the Steam catalog. 

Apparently community policing wasn't enough to keep the rabble out, however.   Games with sex themes or questionable quality began almost immediately cluttering up the place forcing Valve to devote extra resources to weeding out the baddies. 

In an effort to prevent the initiative from becoming a full time job Valve instituted the fee to try to curb the avalanche of submissions. 

It seems to me that the great experiment has already failed.  If you truly want an unrestricted and uninhibited flow of creativity you can't put a toll gate up.  You have to take the chaff with the wheat if you want to harvest.  If it means you have to develop community standards and pay a full time employee to enforce them to get what you're after then just do it.   This is the crop you sow and the harvest doesn't come for free.  What delicious irony that just a few weeks ago ol' Gabe was complaining about Microsoft Store fees for developers. 

In other Valve news,

The popular game developer and sales portal is apparently unhappy with the state of PC hardware. Posting a help wanted ad on the careers section of it website for an Industrial Designer it reads:

"“Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.”

I'm not sure what ol' Gabe is after with this one.  If he builds something that looks like a PS3 or Xbox then isn't he just building...a console?  I mean if there's going to be holograms and implants involved that might be something but this just seems like a case of ruffled feathers.  Watch a little less ST:Next Generation Gabe, it's clouding your reality.  ---click on the Industrial Designer link...

Must have been a really slow news week when gaming pundits start waxing poetic about video game visuals as fine art.  PCPER, and Kotaku have 3 articles between them either showcasing or debating the art of video games. 

It seems that video games are ever more stylized with visuals instantly identifiable with a franchise or development studio.  Just like an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo the artist's work has an identifiable  signature.  Borderlands, for example, embraced an almost comic book treatment for its visuals.  Nobody would ever confuse it with the almost photo realistic(if you have the hardware) vistas of Skyrim or the Disney cartoon feel of Orcs Must Die. 

In video games, art is as critical a component as the gameplay mechanics.  Anyone who's ever felt compelled to walk around in a game just to look at it knows this all too well.  The late Ralph McQuarrie (of Star Wars fame) would have been proud.

 Admit it, if you've played Skyrim  for more than 5 minutes there's no doubt you've probably spent at least a few of them just looking at the sky and the trees.  The game was designed to be a feast for the eyes with thousands of hidden details just waiting to reward the wanderer. 

Still, is the art of Skyrim on par with Picasso?  Or is it simply the industrial output of a commodity product.  Perhaps it's both hovering somewhere around Warhol's 100 soup cans

Definitely fodder for a slow news week and now I've added to it...