Saturday, March 26, 2016

Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault for free!

Let's see, what interesting things were going on in 2004....

The summer Olympics...
We got our first look at Barack Obama...
Ronald Reagan died...
The TV show Friends ended...

And Medal of Honor was still considered a viable gaming franchise.

EA's ongoing "On the House" promotion has been offering up free games of varying quality for a few years now and the latest offering, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, is one of the more compelling freebies.

It's a World War 2 shooter that set the standard for all the others that came after it.  After 12 years it's held up surprisingly well especially if you turn up all the eye candy.  I've seen recent releases from Steam's Greenlight program that looked far worse and didn't play as well.

A word of warning, however.  This game doesn't always have clear objectives which is similar to games like Rainbow 6.  That means at times it seems like you're feeling your way the dark.  That's not bad game design it's on purpose.  You get just enough instruction to function but there's not much hand holding.  Just like the real experience you have to pay attention and use your wits instead of just mindlessly shooting at anything that moves if you want to succeed.

It's worth checking out and you can't beat the price!  Check out the video below to get a feel for it.

Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is available now on Origin.

Monday, March 21, 2016

If Video games were toilets

If you happened to have watched any of my gaming videos on this blog's sister YouTube channel you've probably seen or more accurately heard me launch into a tirade at one time or another.

While it's possible that my irritation is due to other players, it's far more likely that it's the game itself that's ticking me off.

As I've said numerous times before I've been a gamer for a long time.  Probably longer than most people think I should have been.

So I've spent countless hours playing games but it seems that recently I've been spending far more time stuck in confusing interfaces and loading screens.

I like analogies.  They make dry boring topics relevant to an otherwise disinterested audience.  Give them something to relate to and they'll get the message.  So here's a new one for you...

Visualize your toilet.  

Ok, not an appetizing thought but for the developed world a necessity without which civilization would not be possible.  Even the Romans had indoor plumbing!

So imagine that one day you head for that most hallowed of shrines to modern sanitation only to find your access barred by a combination lock on the door.  Using the facilities is usually a solo process that requires no social interaction but now you're forced to rummage around your jeans for a phone number you were given for just this purpose.  After giving your name, social security number and mother's maiden name the robotic voice on the phone gives you combination to unlock the door.  

Oh joy!  The door springs open and your long suffering will soon come to an end....

So your legs crossed you enter, finally hopeful that an annoying but tolerable inconvenience is behind you.

Ah but wait!  Now you've entered the restroom but you find the commode isn't there! Instead, there's a huge screen displaying a countdown timer and a progress bar.

Things are getting a bit tense in your nether regions but what choice do you have?  I mean what are you going to do go try another restroom just to start this madness all over again?

Feel free to complete my narrative if you're so inclined but the point is that playing a modern video game exposes you to the same indignities.  

Back in the days before Smartphones and Steam clients the worst thing about playing video games was having to install them.  

Then came DRM.  The first of many such annoyances that in the name of "anti-piracy" turned customers into would-be criminals.  

There were encrypted discs, TSR's skulking in the background as well as requirements to keep or periodically mount the installation media.

And we put up with all of it even if at times we came to the brink of just giving up on video games entirely.

When computers sprouted network jacks a whole new world of gaming opened up.  Now you could share more than your Word documents.  Games started allowing you to share the experience with little more than a network cable and a bit of computer know-how.  

But the infancy of multiplayer was short lived.  Those network jacks got faster but to play a game with someone in the same room now meant getting the Internet involved.  

The Internet changed everything which at first was a good thing.  Publishers could more tightly control their Intellectual Property (IP for those who don't know the legal jargon) without the need for complex and buggy DRM systems.  New installs simply phoned home, registered their serial numbers and it was done.

Soon Internet speeds increased and the Internet became useful for more than just email and makeup blogs.  Game publishers upped the ante requiring games that didn't even have an online component to maintain a constant connection to developer controlled servers.  Meaning an Internet outage or a problem with game servers can kill a gaming night.

Which makes zero sense.  Why do I have to go online to play a game by myself?  That's like sticking a webcam in a restroom, pointless and just a bit gross....

So here we are.  Perpetually tied to the mother ship while suffering through overly complex user interfaces that make the simple act of launching a game an investment in patience that often ends in futility.

9 out of 10 times that's what I'm yelling about.  I seem to spend far more game time doing everything BUT playing the game.

This isn't normal or acceptable and it needs to stop.  That any publisher DARE to charge $60 and up for a product that at best has a 50/50 chance of working out of the box is criminal.    In my own anecdotal observations over the past year I've found that for every 3 hours of gaming at least an hour gets wasted either waiting on connections to game servers or suffering through loading screens. 

There are even times when I'm playing with Shotglass that I get irritated at his request to take a break. It's not because I'm a jerk but instead it's because I know that whatever game we're playing is going to bump us off for "inactivity." 

That means wasting another 20 minutes trying to get back into the same session.  An issue that would be easily corrected by getting the damned servers out of the equation.  
In effect you've become a prisoner of the game interface.

Worse, with all this inconvenience, developers still can't seem to get a handle on cheating or hackers.  Which makes you wonder why we put up with all of this just to be constantly disappointed.

You wouldn't put up with that from a toilet.  In fact, I'll go so far as to suggest that if bathrooms were as flaky as the average video game we'd all be squatting in bushes.