Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Dudz Fryd?

After almost 5 years of writing for this blog it occurred to me that a question may have immediately formed when you got here.

That being, what's this "Dudz Fryd" stuff all about?   

The short answer is, it's my gamer tag.  One that I came up with over a decade ago when I first started getting into online gaming.

Life forced a bit of a hiatus on me sometime between DOOM and Battlefield 1942 so when I came back into the fold I was a bit rusty if not a complete noob.

The first real FPS I was exposed to was Wolfenstein Enemy Territory.  The free WW2 shooter loosely based on the Castle Wolfenstein franchise.  It was great fun but I spent a lot of time in spawn screens if you know what I mean.

Nonetheless I was hooked...

The longer I played the more I began to develop a unique gaming identity and I wanted to reflect that when I went online.

Thus DUDZ FRYD was born.

Since Enemy Territory was a WW2 shooter I wanted something that sounded kinda German but wouldn't be taken too seriously.  The tag is actually a play on words.  Read it closely and you'll see it's kind of a joke.  Although not everybody gets it so I'll clue you in.

I pronounce it: DUDS FRIED these days but the real intention was for other players to see it as: DUDES FRIED.  As in the phrase, "That dude's fried!"

I decided to stick with it after the entire chat window filled with LOL's when they saw my new tag.  

From Enemy Territory I moved on to Battlefield:1942, Battlefield 2, Call of Duty and so on logging into all of them as some variation of DUDZ FRYD.

I've continued to use the tag in every game I've played online since.  

So if you see DUDZ FRYD on a server chances are it's me. It's kind of a brand now and a way of trying to connect with other players.  It's why this blog exists and why I won't use any other tag.

So there's the short but simple explanation of why this blog has such a weird name.  

...and now you're in on the joke!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rise or should I say the return of the mature gamer

I was having dinner with a friend of mine the other night and being lifelong devotees of video games the topic naturally turned to how today's offerings have managed to achieve the status of dazzling mediocrity.

My impressions of the upcoming MOBA, Battleborn, helped spur the conversation.

Battleborn, just like DOTA, League of Legends, Battlefield and Call of Duty have a common trait.  That being that they are almost entirely focused on competitive gameplay.  Whether it's just for bragging rights or tournament prize money the outcome is the same.  These days games are less about fun than they are a manufactured status.

Which has led to the phenomenon of the "Pro Gamer."  A distinction that has grown out of a counter-culture population that feels that prowess with a video game should be on par with professional sports.  

An arguable position to be sure but one that fills the coffers of big game publishers trading on hungry egos.  It pervades game development and sidelines once common features like cooperative gameplay and immersive single player experiences.

But here's the thing.  Professional gaming is not the future of video games.  It can't be..

Even "Real" sports like Football and Basketball have far more amateurs than pros in their ranks.  It's the fans that keep the game relevant and prime the money machine that allow for the pros to turn a pastime into a career.

Amateurs are the ones that buy the team jerseys and branded coffee mugs.  They have a love of the game regardless of who plays it.  If they want to get a bunch of friends together to shoot a few hoops they don't have to worry about the Chicago Bulls showing up to make them look like fools either.  It's that love that allows your favorite player to make millions of dollars for doing something you've done for free since you were a kid.

It's not every sports fan that can play the game they love but it's a little different with a video game.  They're more accessible with simple rules and none of the variables that plague their real world counterparts.   Their purpose is to be an escape, a simple pastime but not a career.

The older guys know that and it's a big reason why mobile games are so much more popular than even the most successful triple-A title.  Mobile gaming hearkens back to the good old days of video games.  A time when playing the game was its own reward and leader-boards were only relevant so long as the power cord was plugged in.  

Oh and guess what, a huge percentage of the people playing those mobile games are over 30.  For them it's not about ego and bragging rights, it's about fun.  A fact not lost on all those overnight millionaires who've amused you while you waited for your flight to board.

One thing a mature gamer knows is that he/she is not alone.  Even a cursory examination of the planet's population demographic bears that out.  There's more folks over 30 than under and that's not changing anytime soon.  Eventually video game culture will have to reflect that reality.  

Oh and you tweens and hipsters?  You're getting older too.  You may revel in your mastery of keyboard and gamepad now but time will dull your senses and rob you of split second reactions.  What then?  You've been weened on the medium.  Without it you're adrift.  However, all is not lost if you can accept the premise that playing a game should never have been anything but a recreation.  

If video games are to survive they will have to return to their roots.  They will once again have to be about the gameplay, the fun and the experience.  Game development will eventually reflect that reality if the EA's of the world wish to survive.

Other kinds of games remain popluar precisely because they've either adapted to their player base or were never exploited to the point of losing the fun factor.

Take a lesson from Poker if the concept is difficult to grasp.  

Yes, there are professional Poker players and Las Vegas was built on the misplaced confidence of amateurs.  Still, far more people play the game for recreation than profession.  

Nobody has tried to change the rules or bias it toward the pros.  The game is largely the same as it always has been and like Billiards and Darts has been sustained by amateurs not professional leagues.

Here's what I'm getting at.  If you're a more mature gamer time is on your side.  You are the next target market and what makes video games fun for you has nothing to do with competitive sports or the lackluster development that comes with it.

If video games are to survive they'll eventually have to drop the whole "Pro" premise that's killing the industry.

Our time is coming.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Secret's no secret...Battleborn

So the secret is pretty poorly kept.  Battleborn is coming and already there's been articles written, footage posted on YouTube not to mention a website set up by Gearbox itself.

So there's nothing here that could be considered a "spoiler" or "confidential".

Battleborn is first and foremost a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) just like DOTA and League of Legends but with a story mode tacked on. If you want an idea of what it's like just take Borderlands, mix in some Unreal Tournament with a dash of DC Universe and you pretty much have the look and feel of the game.

What hasn't been disclosed is how characters are developed and I won't disclose it either for two reasons.  One, it may actually violate the NDA and Two, I don't really care.  For me it was an overly complex and vague process that's common to the genre.

You see I don't care much for MOBA's.  They are the cornerstone of all that Major League Gaming (MLG) crap and I have no use for it.  It's a game not a profession no matter how good you are at it.  It's an arena (pardon the pun) overpopulated with fragile egos and online extroverts that take games way too seriously.

Whatever happened to fun?  

With games like these, character development is always limited to what you can buy or earn which is why so many of them are free to play.  They're usually supported by the Freemium model which means you may get the game free but to be effective you're going to have to plunk down some cash for the goodies.  Over and over again.

Battleborn isn't going to be free but it feels like it should be.  Not because it lacks quality or polish.  On the contrary it looked at least as good as any Borderlands title and gameplay was well sorted save for a few clunky controls.  Overall, however, it's leaning hard toward the MOBA genre.

And those are usually Free-to-play not Triple-A...

I should mention that Gearbox is adamant about how the game isn't a MOBA but rather is something different with MOBA-esque elements.  

Perhaps they're going for a hybrid of sorts which would explain the presence of a single player component in an otherwise online focused experience.  The inescapable fact is that without a rich single-player experience, Battleborn is just another League of Legends with a first person perspective.

As such I wouldn't bet on the single-player (story) mode to disappear as that would remove the justification for a triple-A price tag on it.  That  said, my sense is that the MOBA component will still be far more popular than the single player game.  Something I'm confident Gearbox is aware of.

As for me, I don't care much for MOBA's so my enthusiasm for Battleborn waned after about 30 minutes.  I gave it the college try for about 5 hours but my opinion didn't change.

That's not completely the game's fault, it's just a genre I'm not into.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate playing Battleborn, There's a lot to like about it.  (for a beta that is.)  

I just found elements that detracted from what I believe Gearbox wanted me to get out of the experience.  Most of which landed squarely in the lap of an awful matchmaking process akin to those seen in Call of Duty games.  

I'm pretty sure Gearbox was more interested in actual gameplay performance than the lobby you had to suffer through to get there.  Long wait times, lopsided player matching and players falling out of queues are all well documented annoyances in public forums.  I'm certain there were far more people turned off by the lobby experience than the gameplay itself.    

I don't see this getting any better when the game is actually launched unless they dump the whole matchmaking thing.  It didn't get better with Call of Duty games and I'm seeing the same type of game mechanic at work here.

Remember, however, that all of this opinion is based on impressions of pre-release software so things may change but I'd guess that at least 80% of what I saw will show up on launch day.  Still, that testing was so focused on online play this late in development tells you where Gearbox's head is at with Battleborn.

As for the release of the game, well, that's been pushed back from February to May.  Perhaps the technical testing was more revealing than Gearbox expected.  The release date changed between the first and second "load tests."

I have suspicions as to why based on my own experiences but sharing them might violate the NDA.  I'll say this, think about the kinds of things that have delayed the launch of a triple-A title over the past 5 years and it's likely the reason is in there somewhere.

In the end Battleborn is poised to be the MOBA Borderlands players have been hoping for but only time will tell if that's enough of a market to make it a success for Gearbox.

But that's just my opinion...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I've got a secret...

Here's what I can tell you...

Absolutely nothing.  

Except that I'm currently participating in a closed beta for a game due out next year.  When I can, I will tell you all about it but because I'd like to be invited to more closed betas in the future I suppose I have a secret.

On the up side, I'll be able to report back before IGN, Kotaku or Gamespot assuming they don't have anyone participating that is.

From the feedback I've been seeing I'm probably the oldest person current playing.  Finally!  a game developer is going to get some input from an actual adult!

Stay tuned!

....and don't tell anybody....shh....