Friday, December 20, 2013

By the pound

Take a look at that screen capture above from my Steam client downloads tab.

Steam is in the middle of their Holiday sale and I decided to take advantage of a deal from BioWare on a 3 game bundlefor their signature franchise, Bioshock.  For $15 I got the original Bioshock game, Bioshock 2 and the latest Bioshock Infinite. 

$15 is a quite a deal considering Bioshock Infinite alone was going to leave you $60 poorer.  Of course that feeds into my assertion that any game that can offer as much as an 80% markdown less than a year after release wasn't worth the original price. 

Some would say that's why Call of Duty titles never seem to drop in price, I think it's just Activision's greed.

Perhaps game publishers are selling by the pound these days.  Case in point, my little screen capture.

Back in 2007 when Bioshock was originally released you were going to pay around $40 and for that you ended up with a DVD or a few CD's totaling up to just under 4GB of install files.  3 years later when BioShock 2 came out that number almost doubled to over 7.5 GB.  While the sequel was panned for being a pale copy of the original the extra space was likely taken up by the new multiplayer component of the game.  

It did cost more but I believe it had nothing to do with the quality of the game or development costs...

Fast forward to 2013 and the much hyped and much overpriced BioShock Infinite.  Critically acclaimed but almost instantly discounted from its $60 price.  For that money we ended up with 15 GB of installation files.
So if the average game in 2007 was $30 to $40 and by 2013 it's up to $60 then the only conclusion I can make is that games are now being sold by the pound. 

As we all know bits are very heavy.  So it stands to reason that if a game has more of them you'll have to pay more.

This is also how Steam can have such great sales.  They bundle more games (bits) together and thus can discount the price.  You know, just like those family size bags of Doritos are actually cheaper per chip than the smaller bags...

See, now I completely understand what publishers are thinking when they charge $60 for a crappy game!  They're selling them by the pound!

............No, I don't actually believe that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BF4's broken and EA's shareholders want blood

If this isn't poetic justice I don't know what is...

It seems EA has finally ticked off someone other than their customers.  In a filing Tuesday (Dec 17, 2013) A class action suit was brought against EA by shareholders of the company who purchased its stock between July 24th and December 4th of this year.

The suit is being brought because....

"The complaint charges Electronic Arts and certain of its officers and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. ...

...The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants issued materially false and misleading statements highlighting the purported strength of the Company’s rollout of version 4 of its all-important Battlefield video game series..."

In other words the plaintiffs believe that EA knew they had huge problems with Battlefield 4 but covered it up to boost their stock price.  Worse, when EA had to redirect all its resources to fixing their flagship game it caused other releases to be delayed which hurt sales.  The plaintiffs contend that all of this ultimately caused as  much as a 28% devaluation of their stock. 

It's unlikely the suit will get far unless there's concrete proof of a deception and not just inept management.  We're talking about shares of stock here after all  which are volatile instruments to begin with.

This also does nothing for the millions of EA customers who've suffered through the past 2 months with an overpriced and flawed purchase. 

I can't say I'm surprised that someone wanted to sue EA over BF4, what I am surprised by is that it was their shareholders and not their customers.
If I've said it once I've said it 1000 times.  Never buy anything based on hype.  That includes games, movies and especially securities. 

If you're a shareholder you need to visit the following site by February 15th, 2014 to join the class action.

Good luck!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Call of Duty:Ghosts and Battlefield 4 (no versus here)

Ok, so I'm not exactly the early bird getting to the worm but I still have some insight into Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty:Ghosts.  Instead of the over hyped (with questionable motives) articles that glorify or pan either title I'm going to do as I've always done.

Tell you what I've seen....

It's easy to take sides but since I never do anything the easy way I won't, even if the result seems like I do.

Let's get this out of the way right up front...

Battlefield 4 was made from the ground up for Multiplayer and offers players more options than Call of Duty.  Ghosts just isn't as accommodating.  I could care less if you think one is better than the other gameplay wise that's a subjective thing almost bordering on an apples to oranges comparison.

Both games look good but Battlefield 4 looks a bit better thanks to the new Frostbite 3 game engine whereas Ghosts is reusing the IW (Havoc) engine which is yet another upgrade on top of the old IW engine.   What's interesting is that while Battlefield 4 will still run on a DirectX 10 based PC, Call of Duty: Ghosts will not.  I guess I should have checked the requirements more closely before I installed it on my 3 year old gaming laptop. 

By the way, whatever happened to system compatibility checks BEFORE you installed a game.  I had the entire Ghosts Single and Multiplayer package installed before I got the dreaded "Direct X crashed" error when I tried to launch the game. 

I'm a gamer dammit!   I don't want to read!  They don't even give you instruction manuals anymore so the least you can do is throw in a few idiot checks!

I won't go into the intricacies of every player type as they are largely unchanged with Assault, recon, medic and support roles in both games.  If you liked a particular class in the previous incarnations of these games you'll find yourself a home in the new ones.  Besides, who cares about loadouts except game devs anyway?

We're FPS gamers, all we care about is point, shoot, boom!

How you feel about either game is entirely dependent on the specifics of what makes it good for you.  If we're talking about multiplayer experiences then it comes down to a choice between run and gun or run, gun and strategize.

Multiplayer - Call of Duty

Are you the type of gamer that's basically looking for an upgraded Team Fortress 2 experience with better graphics?  Chances are,  Call of Duty: Ghosts is your game.  There's about a dozen play options ranging from team death match to domination (objectives) but you're not going to be standing around defending flags for very long.  Those who do tend to become fodder for higher level players padding their stats. 

An annoying trend beginning with COD: Modern Warfare 3 was the automatic player matching for online multiplayer games.  You don't pick servers or your teammates you just pick the level of difficulty and game type.  That's a time saver for those weary of trudging through pages of server pings and player counts but more often than not you'll find yourself outmatched by other players.  Considering how most maps are designed for less than 24 players there is no refuge in numbers.  Just one level 50 player can dominate any game mode simply because his opposition often offers little in the way of a threat.  Automatic matching is a nice thought but it seems whatever algorithm Infinity Ward is using to match players is more concerned with filling maps than providing a level playing field. 

There is an option to create a private match but unless you have a dozen good friends to play against, it's a largely unused option. 

A new wrinkle that's showed up is an expanded arsenal of player deployable items like land mines and sentry guns.  Their inclusion is an obvious nod to Battlefield players and assuming you can attain enough of a level to obtain them, they can help level the playing field a bit. 

Call of Duty is more of a run and gun affair and that's fine if you just want to stomp around and shoot stuff.

Team mechanics aren't as critical as your ability to survive on your own.  Individual accomplishments far outweigh any team bonus.  So if you're the lone wolf type who could care less about flags unless there's a bunch of enemies around them to mow down, you'll enjoy the experience.  The maps are detailed and conducive to fast moving gameplay.  Ladders, tunnels and rooftops are at your disposal with a few destructibles thrown in for good measure.  Just don't hang around too long as the game's "kill cam" returns revealing exactly where you were when you took out your nemesis.

I suppose if you're a masochist looking for even more ways to punish your ego the "Kill Cam" is a godsend but in reality it's just another element to keep the game moving along.  Which is a strange twist considering how much time you waste watching yourself die.  I guess that's so the guy who tagged you can change his location.  Unlike Single or Cooperative play modes, you'll rarely have a multiplayer game in COD last more than 20 minutes.  Battlefield games in comparison can drag on for hours.

Playing Call of Duty multiplayer, regardless of the noun that follows those words, is an extension of the single player experience.  If you play the single player mode you'll find corresponding locations in Multiplayer.  But don't be fooled.  While the environments are an extension of single player maps that knowledge will afford you no advantage in multiplayer.

You'll be treated to maps that answer burning questions like, "Hey, that big dam that got blown up when I was playing "Legends Never Die," what does it look like up there?"  Locations are just backdrops, however, and if you spend too much time thinking about it you'll find yourself looking at the respawn timer repeatedly. 

Finally, another annoyance with Ghosts again involves the player matching system.  Because you have no control over what server you join you also have no control over game lag.  I've literally been in a game with such bad lag that my only function was to provide a convenient and altogether oblivious target for another player before my game caught up to the server. 

Battlefield 4 - Multiplayer

There are 6 multiplayer modes in all for Battlefield 4 as opposed to Ghosts 11 (not including the "Hardcore" variants) The "objective" is in fact the core of gameplay and that makes Battlefield 4 a far different multiplayer experience.

If you'd prefer a game that offers play modes containing more than just variations on deathmatch then Battlefield 4 is likely a better fit for you.  It's still a run and gun affair but where most game modes in COD flow from deathmatch, Battlefield flows from the conquest mode.

In essence, conquest is nothing more than capture the flag and Battlefield 4 offers it as well as a multitude of variants including Domination and to some extent Rush and Defuse modes.  There are deathmatch options but they're still team based as opposed to Ghosts "Free for All" that requires you to shoot anything that moves. 

 Like its predecessor.  Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4 relies on a new version of the Battlefield game portal otherwise known as Battlelog.  Battlelog 2.0 is the latest incarnation and aside from the option to enter "testing" servers to try out new equipment and develop strategies it's largely unchanged. 

Your multiplayer experience starts on a webpage followed by selection of a Multiplayer tab where a list of servers and their statistics are shown including name, game mode, number of players active and ping (although I've yet to see a ping value in any server listings.)  Everything flows from the Battlelog including your stats, loadouts and game mode.

I've been a vocal critic of starting a triple-A title from a web page and Battlefield 4's insistence on Battlelog 2.0 only seems to make it worse.  In fact the latest patch has effectively blocked my gameplay of BF4 if my default browser happens to be Internet Explorer 11. 

While IE isn't blameless for this, the fact that I have to switch to another browser for the sake of a game is nothing short of pathetic.  At least Call of Duty still handles multiplayer duties from within the actual game.  Web pages are fine for free to play flash games, not triple-A titles.  And for what? the capability to get stats on your Nexus 5? 

Right now, the biggest problem with Battlefield 4 is that it's not done.  Rumors are that Dice was literally begging EA to hold off on the release date.  The plea fell on deaf ears and so far BF4's broken launch has almost elevated it to SimCity failure.  If it weren't for the throngs of ever suffering Battlefield fans the game would have become another Medal of Honor: Warfighter.  It's amazing how someone who has  invested in some cases over $100 for a subpar experience can become an ardent defender and company apologist.

That's devotion and while I don't agree with it, I understand it...if your 12....

Battlefield 4 has brought back an oldie but a goodie to its multiplayer experience.  Commander mode was last seen in Battlefield 2 and lets you take control of friendly forces to direct them toward objectives.  As far as I'm concerned, its return is welcome as the best and highest scoring games I ever had in BF3 only happened when players would follow the direction of another.  Just watching an objective taken by a huge contingent of your teammates is an epic experience.  You're still running and gunning but it's not just about you anymore.  That's a key distinction between Call of Duty and Battlefield multiplayer experiences.

That said, Battlefield multiplayer can get very "high school" with clans and "clicks" that operate to the exclusion of all others.  If there's bad game lag, for example, the first one blamed will be you if you don't happen to be part of the group.  It's also not uncommon, for example, to find server admins who act like arrogant little boys on the virtual playground.  Servers with unwritten "rules" also pop up with restrictions on weapons, objective control and other nonsense that confuse gameplay.   I've personally been kicked for a server for using a weapon that wasn't a knife or a pistol, for example.  I had no idea I was breaking "the rules" and I was allowed to choose "banned" weapons in my loadout. 

This arbitrary and often ad-hoc deviation from what most understand to be online multiplayer only server to diminish the experience.  I played Battlefield 3 for almost 300 hours, I've played Battlefield 4 for less than 20 and already ran into it.  You've been warned.  That's one thing that can be said for Call of Duty, the rules are the same for everyone no matter whose server you play on.  

Well, ok, aside from the cheats and hacks but that comes with the territory in online gaming so I won't belabor the point here.  Hey, if you've read any of my stuff you knew it was going to come up at some point!  :-)

Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 Single Player

I'm going to go ahead and combine both games under one topic for one reason.  In a word, they're both pretty much the same this time around. 

Single player in the Battlefield series hasn't been much competition to Call of Duty's since Bad Company 2 which was more of an offshoot of the series than a core title.  In Battlefield 4 you're basically trudging around dangerous locations with your buddies to take objectives.  That's pretty much the whole story and aside from some nifty visual effects there's not much more to say.  As in Battlefield 3 there's an attempt to draw the player into the narrative but you never really care about the characters.  It's more tutorial than tome.  None of your accomplishments transfer to Multiplayer save a few extra dog tag options for you to equip that only serve to prove your mania to your online friends. 

Single player in Call of Duty has always been the strongest aspect of the series with well fleshed out storylines that could be lifted from a Tom Clancy novel.  It's less about shooting stuff and more about advancing the story.  Unlike Battlefield 4 you won't find much in Ghosts to train you for multiplayer.  Even with a game engine that's been patched more than a porcupine's blow up doll, Ghosts offers a fast paced adventure that takes you from a quiet conversation with your father to the edge of space then rockets you into battle with a backdrop of a world turned upside down. 

Then there's the dog.  Everyone talks about the damned dog.  Guess what, it's just another weapon.  Yes you can control it a couple of times during single player but in the end  it's really not much more exciting than piloting a drone from a suitcase (a common event since Modern Warfare 2.) Your 4-legged friend even shows up in Multiplayer games as an available option in your loadout.  Here's a hint, shoot it if he's coming at you in multiplayer.  If you have any hang-ups about cruelty to animals just think of it as a robot with fur.  After all, it's just a game and you aren't killing anything but a few pixels and maybe a few brain cells should you knock back a few. 

I started this section with a bold statement.   That being that both games offered the same single player experience.  I say that because while the story in Ghosts is better than BF4, it all seems a bit contrived.   All COD single player campaigns follow basically the same formula.  That being: You're some guy inclined toward the military arts, the world is in danger and you're the only one who can save it.  Along the way you meet characters that may help or hinder you but ultimately you're going to save the day.

The problem is that I personally never really cared about the storyline in Ghosts.  I just wanted to see the next cool environment because that was all I really had to look forward to.  Not that the experience wasn't a roller coaster ride but I never had an investment in the story.  I was never able to suspend my disbelief and that's a huge failure for a COD title.

Think about it like this....

Remember "The Matrix?" That movie made me question my own reality.  The sequels just milked the franchise and that's what Ghosts single player is.  A tired rehash of the same formula. 

Where Battlefield 4 (and 3's) single player experience was lacking in the story it did serve as a good tutorial.  You can literally run all over the place and get yourself in all kinds of trouble.  Call of Duty is still about the story  (weak as it is) which means you're led down a tightly scripted path.

To put it in the proper context, think of Battlefield 4 like those times when you were a kid on the way to the principal's office.  You eventually got there but your path was probably not a direct route.  Think of Call of Duty's single player like a trip to the museum.  There's lots of nifty stuff to see but it's all behind ropes you're not allowed to cross.

In short, single player is not the strongest element of either game and that's detrimental to the Call of Duty franchise.  Battlefield 4 can be excused mostly because they don't have as high a standard to meet. 

Which leads me to the last section.

Cooperative play modes

This shouldn't take too long mostly because there's really not much to say. 

Battlefield 4 unlike its predecessor does not include a cooperative play mode.  Dice has not abandoned the idea entirely but it's likely EA's rushed timetable and problems with the game shortly before launch knocked it off the priority tree.  Even the open beta was comprised largely of Battlefield 3 elements placed on new Battlefield 4 maps.  That should have been an indication that something was wrong so close to launch but more about that later.

Admittedly, co-op is a low priority for a title so focused on multiplayer but the past few years have shown a growing popularity to have a multiplayer experience that doesn't involve suffering the unwashed masses.  While not up to the co-op standard of Battlefield 3's then competitor Modern Warfare 3, many players found it a good training ground free of the bullying of malevolent Colonel types.

Call of Duty, on the other hand,  has done it again.  "Again" being fall on its co-op face. 

Ever since Black Ops, Cooperative mode has suffered.  First it was a rehash of zombie survival mode stooping so low as to even pull in 4 year old maps from COD:World at War.  Gone was the parallel storyline in favor of an endless meat grinder of stumbling corpses.

This time around Infinity Ward threw in a twist.  Instead of zombies you're fighting an alien invasion.  Aside from the settings, the game mode has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the game.  It's yet another tacked on survival mode experience with aliens bouncing around like rabbits intent on your demise.  The only objective, if you want to call it that, is to set up and protect a drill you place on the alien's "mother" thing.  I put about an hour into it before I gave up. 


Battlefield 4 is broken, plain and simple.  It was a rushed product and developer DICE is spending all their time trying to fix it.  It's gotten so bad that DLC development has been suspended until the core game is fixed.  Some would say that's a good thing as howls from the Battlefield 3 forum were plagued with pleas to "fix the game!" throughout its run.  Battlefield 4's forums have been seeing the same. 

With no less than 5 major patches since its release a month ago, you'd have been wise to heed my advice last summer and skip the pre-order.  I did and actually picked up the game for half price on Amazon during a flash sale.   Hey, I'm late to the party but at least I didn't end up an unwilling beta tester. 

Call of Duty: Ghosts is more stable than Battlefield 4 but that's not saying much.  It's another COD formula release and hasn't improved on its predecessors.  If you liked the last 3 years of COD titles then that's probably going to work out just fine for you. 

After skipping a few installments I was frankly expecting a little more.  Then it occurred to me.that for all the hype it's received, Ghosts is not really a major COD release.  At least no more than Black Ops was.  Where Modern Warfare 3 was a direct competitor to Battlefield 3, Ghosts is more a competitor to a Battlefield: Bad Company title. 

In that light comparisons between the two aren't really fair.  It's apples to oranges even though they share common traits.  Battlefield 4 is the "It" game for EA right now, Ghosts is just another franchise distraction while everyone anxiously awaits Destiny.

As much as EA's poor management of its studios has caused a string of launch day disasters it's not alone.  Activision's meddling and constant squabbling between Treyarch and Infinity Ward has forced Call of Duty to produce a string of titles that are largely the same.  It's a safety play and potentially threatening to the franchise. 

While sales of both games were good they weren't quite what the publisher's expected.   The bloom is off the rose and gamers were expecting more than a re-run with a few tacky add-ons. 

Unfortunately, it seems re-runs are all we're getting which will eventually doom both franchises. 

You can only count on fanboys for so long.  12 year olds eventually grow up...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Havoc the Killing Floor Twisted Christmas 2013 event

Tripwire has offered up 2 new maps for this year's Killing Floor Twisted Christmas event.  While good maps, unlike previous years you won't find any holiday themes in them aside from the normal cast of terrifyingly contorted holiday stereotypes.

Yes the evil elves, sadistic Santa and all their friends are back but the scenery isn't as festive.  Still, it's nice to have a few new maps and you'll find them by the names: KF-Forgotten and KF-Hell.

Check out the video below for a taste of this month's Holiday goodies from Killing Floor...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Latest Game Video updates

The latest vidcaps from the past few weeks.  First off, A couple of gems from Borderlands 2.  Both of these were completed in True Vault hunter Mode.

The First video captures an Endgame ("End This" mission) with a very "Rambo" esque way of dealing with Handsome Jack...


The last video is my most recent acquisition, Call of Duty:Ghosts.  This video gives you a taste of the only Co-op play mode available in the game.  It's a survival/wave scenario so don't expect much.  At least you get to shoot at something other than zombies for a change.  COD has done the zombie thing to death since the release of World at War.  I just wish they'd bring back the campaign modes of Modern Warfare co-op.  Of course I also wish they'd bring back .99 cent a gallon gasoline...