Saturday, August 30, 2014

Battlefield 4 Hacks and Cheats

We all know BF4 is broken.  We also know that someone will always find a way to cheat them.  But does that mean we should?

Watch the video...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Gaming is better than ever, so why does it suck? ( PART 3)

Remember awhile back when I said history may be repeating itself? 

The signs are there and I'm fairly certain we're rushing headlong into 1983 again.  Here's why...

In the past 3 or so years that I've done this blog I've chronicled the spectacular failures of recent releases like SimCity, Diablo 3, Medal of Honor:Warfighter and Battlefield 4.  It wasn't just the technical failures that made them notable for our purposes, however.  It was that they were such perfect examples of the "business" of gaming.

If you recall, My friend and I have made gaming a priority for over a decade.  We've seen game franchises come and go but some seemed to have more staying power.  For example, it used to be that anything with Battlefield, Need for Speed of Call of Duty in the title was what we called an "Instabuy."

But the past few years that term was more likely to be applied to more mature titles purchased in a Steam Sale than faith in any gaming franchise.  Macro economic concerns aside, we seemed to have lost the faith.

It was a struggle to figure out why too.  Were we just getting crotchety in our old age or was it something else?  Fairly quickly we were able to dismiss any romantic notion about the glory days of our younger selves.  It was an easy enough test, validated through a quick and thoroughly entertaining jaunt through the zombie infected maps of Killing Floor.  By the way, it's a 5 year old game built on a 10 year old game engine.

Those few minutes with an outdated (yet still popular) game brought a laser focus to what was wrong.  Games are more commodity than art now.  In fact, more than they've ever been since the crash of '83. 

Beloved franchises have increasingly become little more than cash cows to be milked by greedy publishers.  Look no further than the lawsuit against EA alleging that they cooked a prospectus to hide very real problems with the Battlefield 4 launch. 

I truly believe that game developers want to put out a superior product and care about being good stewards of the franchises under their care.  I can't say the same of the EA's or Activision's of the world that reign over them, however, they deal in timetables and volume.  Artistic concerns are secondary. 

That's the rub...

Most games worth playing aren't free, it is a business after all and a quality product deserves compensation.  But producing a good game is more art than formula.  Just because something worked before doesn't mean slapping on a new coat of paint and incrementing the version number will guarantee success.  

And it shouldn't!

Call of Duty and Battlefield are perfect examples.

My gaming nights over the past few years have largely been comprised of Battlefield, Borderlands and to a lesser degree, Call of Duty games.  But where Battlefield 3 (BF3)was revolutionary, Battlefield 4 (BF4) seemed like little more than a rerun.  It was BF3 DLC with crappier gameplay. 

Then there was the incessant pitches to buy into "premium" and get access to upcoming DLC and "special" events designed to give an advantage to those who could afford to "pay to play." 

Call of Duty (COD)was no better.  The last title I cared about was Modern Warfare 2 (MW2)with single player and co-op play modes that set the standard for the industry.

Modern Warfare 3?  Almost the same story as Battlefield 4.  It was a re-skinned MW2 right down to almost identical cooperative objectives.  

It was a rerun too...

Yes, I played Black Ops and Ghosts and admittedly their Single Player campaigns were decent but their cooperative games never rose to the level of a Modern Warfare 2 or World at War in my view.  

Not to be outdone, COD had it's own bundle of tacky add-ons for all it's recent releases.  There was the "Elite" subscription that got you "most" of the endless stream of DLC that gave you special goodies.  Examples included custom texture packs to apply to your guns and multiplayer maps to add to what always seemed like empty servers.  

I suppose publishers think they can fix a flawed game by giving you more of it.

Games are better than ever but they still suck precisely because of the "business of gaming."

We're not blasting pixilated aliens or racing around blocky polygon filled race tracks anymore.  Gaming is an entertainment medium on par with movies and television.  An immersive, interactive experience far removed from just casual entertainment or electronic babysitter.

Or at least it should be but the underlying premise of the Business of Gaming is that the buying public is stupid.  Willing to bite at any shiny object dangled in front of them. 

Honestly, for the past few years they were probably right and it was a viable model but now?


You've dangled the carrot, shown us that we can expect more and now you have to deliver.   But more often than not launch day finds little more than empty promises.  Inadequate server capacity for games requiring an always-on connection, poor or nonexistent quality control and unfinished code seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

The old adage of getting what you pay for fails here.  Why pay a premium to be a beta tester?

Is the industry getting the message?  If sagging sales numbers of the latest blockbuster game titles and consoles are any indication, they should be. 

There are signs of hope.  EA's latest Battlefield (Hardline) was set to launch this fall but after a private and public beta it was decided to allow the developers more time to refine the game and make it look less like BF4 DLC. 

Unfortunately, if history holds true, the move is more exception than rule.  The Business of Gaming is concerned with sales quarters not legacies.  They'll squander the goodwill gained from a previous success on shelf loads of garbage with nothing in common but the name on the box.

Which can only lead down a road that takes the gaming industry back to 1983.  

Keep an eye out for semi-trucks heading for landfills!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gaming is better than ever, so why does it suck? ( PART 2)

So when I left you we were pretty much around 2003.  Games were becoming huge multi-gigabyte affairs whose installation meant juggling half a dozen discs and staring at progress bars for what seemed like hours.  Yeah, it's still a bit faster than the average Steam download (by 2x) but it always seems to take longer when you have all those discs.

It was also the start of the upgrade mill.  Better games demanded better performance and it wasn't long before I was bringing my own rig over which could be anything from a laptop to a full on gaming monster.  For awhile there it was a continuing arms race as we continually tried to one up each other. 

It became painfully obvious that games like Test Drive and Need For Speed suffered the same affliction as Racer, however.  Meaning that in driving games we couldn't be sure if a win resulted from own performance or an advantage of the rig we were playing on.  That necessitated a foray into game genres less dependent on the hardware and more focused on a cooperative play style.

So we moved on to Role playing games like Dungeon Siege 2 and Dragon Age.  We also embraced real time strategy games like Star Trek Armada 2, Star Wars: Empire at War and even shooters like Battlefield 1942, Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, Call of Duty and a host of others whose game boxes still clutter our bookshelves.

It let us at least continue gaming while one of us tried to achieve some parity with the other's gaming rig. 
But this isn't a story about hardware.  Aside from what drove us to purchase it, that is...

By the way, we played A LOT of games most of which we've long forgotten about.  My friend was a Diablo fanatic and I was nuts over Need For Speed 3.  The list from the last article, however, comprised games that we literally spent 100's and in some cases thousands of hours playing. 

But around the time Battlefield 2142 launched something began to change.  The Internet was maturing and multiplayer gaming was moving from your living room to the wider world.  With it we began seeing the advent of DLC and games being pumped out on a timetable.

The first echoes of DRM started too with the hated Securom anti-piracy solution.  Everyone hated it and online forums were filled with angry gamers bemoaning its interference.  "No-CD" cracks were popular downloads for gamers not because they wanted to pirate the game but because DRM they contained often denied them access to their legitimate copy. 

Something had to change.

It's pretty rare to get a triple-A title on physical media these days.  Even consoles are more likely to  download a game instead of making you fumble with some kind of disc.  Unfortunately, games are largely unplayable without an Internet connection these days as most are focused on at least some measure of an online experience.  

That's meant that cooperative gameplay has seen a sharp decline in the past few years.  Even if your chosen game includes a so-called "Lan mode" it's likely you'll still have to log into an online server to play. 

It's largely the compromise that arose from the uproar over DRM on physical media.  If a publisher can guarantee that every copy of their game has to  phone home there's no real need for draconian measures on the physical media anymore.  In other words, they just move the draconian measures to the Internet.

The problem is that publishers aren't going to maintain servers forever.  Try to start a local LAN game of Need For Speed: Carbon, for example, and you're going to be disappointed.  This was one of the earliest examples of the "phone home" method of copy protection.  When EA shut down the servers they not only shut down online play, they shut down LAN play as well making the game largely useless.


But that was just the start.

Part 3

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gaming is better than ever, so why does it suck? ( PART 1)

What do you care about?

I'm not after some philosophical journey of self awareness.  This is a gaming blog after all...

Think about that last second before you slap down your hard earned cash for a game.   

What are your expectations? 

Is it just another toy to be played with and discarded like so much gift wrap on a Christmas morning?  Or is it the promise of continuing an experience that began long ago.

I'm not getting misty here, I know it's just another consumable product only slightly elevated above the Family size bags of Doritos and Red Bulls cluttering your cabinets.

But publishers pour millions into marketing schemes designed to nurture the belief that the latest triple-A title is something you can't live without.  They further it with promises that only a pre-order can fulfill and add in an artificial scarcity to engender the burning desire to spend more. 

Even if you're just casually interested, the media blitz is inescapable.  For months before launch YouTube will be flooded with "leaked" game footage and gaming review websites will literally burst with tantalizing hints of what's to come.

It's all just so much video game razzle dazzle.

Believe it or not, there was a time when none of this was necessary. 

For a lot of us, our first exposure to video games was at the local arcade.  When consoles came along our preferred platform was largely influenced by how faithful the gaming was to that experience.  After that, it didn't take much to prod you into expanding your library.  Games almost sold themselves with little more than a  few well placed ads and some eye-catching box art.

No raucous launch events, buxom bikini beauties or red carpet arrivals.

The games may not have been the eye-popping and intricately designed affairs common with today's titles but there was something in their simplicity that endured. 

Developers didn't have the luxury of gigabytes of memory and computing power rivaling the Space Shuttle.  The earliest games were written in machine code.  No fancy program libraries or point and click development environments here.  It was about getting the most out of limited resources that would be laughable by the standards of today's cheapest Smartphone.

...and it was good.

Some would call it a golden age where the games somehow transcended the primitive hardware they ran on.  By today's standards the games were crude even by smartphone standards!  I mean, how many times could anyone possibly get chased around the same maze by the same pixilated ghosts?  How many barrels would Mario have to jump or alligators would Pitfall Harry have to swing over?

It didn't matter because it was fun.  If it wasn't, you wouldn't bother with it again and chances are whoever made it wouldn't get another chance. 

Remember the infamous E.T. of which thousands of copies were laid to rest in a remote New Mexico landfill (along with Atari's future) 30 years ago?  It was a lesson that almost killed an industry.  When your focus is on the business of gaming instead of the games your fortunes are never certain. 

I wonder if history is repeating itself...

Anyone who's been around gaming for more than a few years will likely have fond memories of their own golden age.  Maybe it was the Legend of Zelda, Doom or Battlefield 1942.  Whatever it was it kept you hooked.

I was talking with a buddy of mine the other day and we were reminiscing on a decade of lost Saturday nights.  When we started the tradition of ruining our eyesight in darkened rooms, the games were a generation or so removed from those crude polygon opponents of our youth.  But not so far as to lose what I feel is the real essence of gaming. 

Back then the closest thing to DLC came in the form of an expansion pack and multiplayer usually meant everybody was in the same room.  Online gaming was still in its infancy with most folks still on dialup or sub-Megabit DSL connections.  Great for email but Battlefield anything was still a few years off.  These days you'll get kicked from a server if your ping is over 200 milliseconds.   You could've seen that in a LAN connection 10 years ago.

As we ran down our personal inventory of games a few cherished favorites came to the forefront.  These were games that we couldn't wait to play.  In some cases it could have been a second career if we thought to take them seriously.  Unfortunately, professional gaming was still little more than a curiosity at the time.  Besides, most of our competition probably wouldn't have had to worry about grown up stuff like car payments or rent like we did. 

While I had taken a hiatus from gaming to focus on careers and college, my friend had stayed faithful to the cause having been active through every generation of gaming.  I on the other hand was lucky to boot up my old Atari 800 and play a thrilling game of Star Raiders or maybe a few rounds of Commander Keen on a 486 SX25.

When I came back to gaming I was amazed.  The first title I remember regularly playing was Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer.  Shortly after my friend and I had discovered a mutual appreciation for gaming, he built a second PC that happened to be identical to his first.  As such we were evenly matched except for the part where I was completely incompetent at anything more complex than the shareware version of Doom

Yeah, I always had an excuse for my shortcomings but the reality of it was that I hadn't taken a game seriously (if there is such a thing) since my high school days.  But it was fun and the games I experienced were mind-blowing compared to anything I'd ever played before.  So much so that it was distracting which explains my poor showing... of course.

Once I got over my euphoria, however, I got competitive.  I played Racer almost every day learning the nuances of every track till I could almost play by muscle memory alone.  After 6 months I finally got to the point where I was competition and actually won a few races. 

We'd still be playing that game today except that my friend updated one of the rigs and we soon discovered that size mattered.  These were the days when there was a very real advantage to having newer hardware meaning whomever had the newer rig usually won the race.  It's still a fun game if you can get it to work with a newer operating system. 

Coincidentally that was something we had to deal with a lot.  Gaming wasn't as plug and play as it is these days and many a night was spent ferreting out drivers and registry entries. 

I'll say this, it helped being a Windows admin...

On to Part 2

Friday, August 15, 2014

Live Battlefield 4 ESL finals streaming

I wasn't aware Battlefield 4 even had a professional series but apparently it does.  Check out the live feed below Aug 14th and 15th and flashbacks afterward.

NOTE: Live stream replay no longer available, However, the video below covers the championship.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

No, you don't need 5 grand to play Battlefield 4

This is going to be a little different.

There's thousands of YouTube videos covering the battle action, bugs and bragging rights of Battlefield 4.

But what about the rest of us that can't afford a $5000 gaming rig?  What about those of us whose gaming budget pretty much ended in 2009?  Are we out of luck?  Are we stuck with "legacy" games because our rigs just can't handle the demands of a modern game?

I call BS...

The simple fact of the matter is, if the game supports your hardware setup, it's playable.  

Now, will you be at some disadvantage compared to a 12 year old who maxed out mommy's credit card?  To some extent yes but like all things you learn to maximize what you have. 

Battlefield 4 already has issues as everybody knows.  
So even your $5000 gaming rig can be humbled by bad netcode and a hobbled game engine.

Will it be as pretty?

No, I can pretty much guarantee that.

But ask yourself this..

Are you playing on a 30 inch monitor?  Are you trying to push resolutions that would make a Blu Ray player cringe?

No, if you've got bills and rent and kids then chances are you're not.

Battlefield 4 supports Direct X 10 and resolutions as low as 1024x768.  That means that even your old GTX 260 can handle it.

Speaking of which.  The gameplay video below the article shows what it's like to play Battlefield 4 on a 4 year old gaming rig with "modest" specifications.

Specifications are:
·         Asus P7P55D Motherboard
·         Intel Core I7 860 CPU (2.8GHZ 4 cores, Hyperthreaded) mild overclock to 3.0 GHz
·         8GB of Corsair Dominator 1600 Mhz DDR3 RAM with mild overclock to 1720 MHz
·         BFG Geforce GTX 260 216 Maxcore 55 video card with 896MB of RAM
·         Hitachi 500GB 7200 RPM hard disk (not an SSD)
·         HP 2511 25 inch HD monitor (1920 x 1080)
·         Intel Pro 1000 Gigabit adapter
·         Internet connection - 15 MBit Cable

Pretty humble specs by today's standards but I'm going to show you how even current games that still support Direct X 10 (and there's plenty of them) can be very enjoyable.

Will it be as good as that $5000 rig?  Of course not but if you can do without the eye candy you can be very effective.  Look at it this way.  With Battlefield 4 you are now playing against console players meaning their GPU and CPU horsepower can only rise to the level of equivalence not superiority.

...and they're the guys that usually take you out.

So sit back and enjoy this assault on the marketing hamster wheel that is, the upgrade mill.