Saturday, February 25, 2017

Battlefield 4: Goodbye Battlelog!

Battlefield 4 didin't have the easiest start in life but as time has worn on things have at least gotten tolerable.

Of course there was always that ONE THING.  


That thing that has been plaguing Battlefield games since Battlefield 3 was launched and now it looks like that long descent into night may be seeing some dawn.

Battlelog is going bye bye....

This is nothing new for console gamers but for the PC the kludginess of the Battlefield launcher has always been a sore spot.  Frequent server disconnects, poor filtering capabilities and endless hours wasted trying to join friends.  Annoying nag screens taunting you over the latest version of punk buster and server kicks because somebody put a DLC map in rotation that hasn't even come up yet.

There have been attempts to smooth over the rough spots: Loadouts configurable in the launcher instead of wasting time in game, better filtering controls, etc.  But the core issue remained.  

An intermediary between you and the game for no other purpose than to make it easier for EA to perpetuate its DLC disease...

That's about to change with the announcement that Battlefield 4 is joining its spiritual successor Battlefield 1 (and Battlefront) with the dismissal of the hated Battlelog front end.

From an official EA announcement I received today...

The New Battlefield™ User Interface is Making Its Way to Battlefield 4 for PC 

  Dear Battlefield 4 player,

An important change is coming to your Battlefield 4 experience for PC. The new Battlefield user interface - already available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Battlefield 4 players - will be introduced for PC players in early Spring, 2017. This UI provides a more intuitive and centralized experience for all your Battlefield games. Changes include:

•  Functionality for squad creation before you enter a match.

•  A recommendation engine to suggest relevant maps, modes, and more.

•  A unified user interface allowing you to launch Battlefield 1 from your Battlefield 4 client (if you own both games.)

Note that Battlelog will still be available on after this new UI is rolled out.

To whit I say, Good Riddance!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Path of Exile: 10 Acts and no more grinding...

It's a funny feeling when you finally get what you want.  It's something that usually doesn't happen for me in most video games...

Till now.

Who cares about Valentine's day, the news destined to keep RPG geeks single and sexless has dropped...

Path of Exile is getting another expansion but this time it's different...

It's not just another league, or tweak to a set piece.  It's not about randomizing monster types on the same maps or the introduction of a new set of craftable maps.

I've long said that the one weakness in Path of Exile has always been it's reliance on grinding to advance.  Having to trudge through the same maps 2 even 3 times with the only real change being the level of difficulty and risk to your XP gets old fast.

If you're a real masochist you could try it on Hardcore and up the ante to the POE equivalent of permadeath.  Assuming you've got enough experience and about 1000 hours to kill you could "treat" yourself to the same maps an additional 3 times.

6 times through the same maps.


Of course the alternative was league play where you compete in a pissing contest to win your place on the leaderboard or custom maps that usually end up being little more than a means for high level players to farm equipment for sale.  Those sales take place in a vibrant marketplace catering to those less adept ( or fortunate ) to find decent equipment in-game.

I'm not a fan of the marketplace mostly because it takes place outside actual gameplay and perpetuates weak drops.  Unfortunately you may eventually find yourself having to partake to advance your character.  Good drops are still rare and even when found are unlikely to take you past the first 1/2 of the game before you succumb to the urge to wheel and deal.

That's not likely to change with this latest news from Grinding Gear but things are about to get a whole lot more interesting...

The February 14th announcement is major.  

Grinding Gear has laid out the framework for another 6 acts (10 total) culminating with a real endgame and set to launch in July 2017 with the 3.0 patch.

With this news came word that gone are the Cruel and Merciless game modes.  A vindication of my long held belief that they were little more than stand-ins for missing content.  

6 more acts to this game is a lot of content.   Enough to keep even veteran players amused for the next year if they did nothing else.

That's going to bring the game to a new level of interest and immersion free of the distraction of endless XP farming just to advance your character.   

Grinding is a crutch for game developers.  An admission that the creative well has run dry.  That leaves the player with a choice to either leave the game when the content runs out or stick around for bragging rights.

There's a danger in that...

Grinding Gear claims they've hit over a million players in 2016 but like Microsoft and Windows installs, you have to wonder how big that number would have been if players didn't hit that grinding wall so fast.

Look, I get the joke.  The developer is called "Grinding" Gear but it's not funny anymore...

In the old days, it was common for video games to offer little more than added difficulty once you'd finished the game the first time.  The limited resources of a console or gaming PC meant that the experience was usually short lived if not a little hollow.  

How many piles of lonely boxes cluttering our childhood closets contained games that never again saw the light of day past a Christmas afternoon?

In 2017 content is king and the only thing getting cluttered up is your SSD.  

Games are not just pastimes, they're immersive experiences and the business models that bring them to you rely on that.  It's why every Triple-A title has DLC and every MMO game must have fresh content to survive.

So Grinding Gear kind of cheated all of that with the whole Cruel and Merciless thing.  Yeah, it was Free to Play but that model relies on somebody actually wanting to throw some cash your way at some point.   Forcing players into punishing and frequently unbalanced modes of endless grinding isn't a sustainable revenue model.   

After awhile, it just plain gets boring.  I don't mind more difficulty but don't make it cost me so much if the payoff for the risk isn't there.  Let me gain as much as I could lose or at least give me some new content to look at.

I've turned my back on POE 3 times in as many years precisely because of this horrible grinding mechanic.  It only served to break the immersion and made it more occupation than game.  Worse it created a toxic "Us and Them" dynamic within the community of the more casual and hardcore players.  

That's a failing. One that is soon to be corrected.

So I for one welcome the dismissal of Cruel and Merciless.  They were a crutch and for a game as well conceived and executed ( most of the time ) a badge of shame that needed to be torn from Grinding Gear's blouse.

It's about the gameplay and that relies on content not shortcuts.

So that's the news.  Path of Exile is going to get better at least from what we see in the announcements.  I've embedded a video below from a YouTuber and Twitch streamer who takes this game WAAAAY more seriously than I ever will.  

I defer to his take on the news.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Patreon: I changed my mind...

OK, call me a hypocrite...

So let's just pull the bandaid off the wound and get it over with...

Last week I opened up a Patreon page.

I know in the past I'd expressed a distaste for how the service has become an incubator for far too many self-important podcasting types.  

Do we really need to provide a platform for the next Ryan Seacrest?  

Psy - Gangnam Style
Would the world be worse off if Psy or Justin Bieber had remained in obscurity?  

For most people the answer is obvious but somehow the cringeworthy still manage to have fans and make a living off being annoying.

We live in a social world with varied tastes.  It's both blessing and curse which has lead me down paths of discovery impossible less than a decade earlier.

If you can't beat 'em....

Over the years I've had well wishers and encouragement but none of it ever seemed to translate into an activity that could support itself.  

Here's the difference between me and the other guys..

I don't for one minute think I'm entitled to anyone's money for the kind of work I put out there.  Nobody is paying me a salary or directing what I do.  

It's not unlike my IT consulting career.  You can't expect compensation just because you hung up a shingle.  Someone other than you has to find value in whatever it is you're offering.  

As such, I'm well aware that the world owes me nothing.

That's the part I don't like about most Patreon creators.  There's this prevailing attitude among them that what they do is important just BECAUSE of the value THEY put on it.

I look at it differently.  If someone wants to support what I do I appreciate that and it validates what I've been working so hard to accomplish.

I have no fantasies that what I may write or produce in a video is anything but an expression of my own creativity and ideas.  

I hope to entertain and inform but none of it is an edict.  I'm not demanding anyone find what I do valuable.  I'm just hoping you enjoy and find my work useful.

I am an authority on nothing but my own experiences.  If that experience is of value to you then I appreciate your support of my voice.

If it isn't, no harm no foul.

Because I grew up in a time where traditional ideas about work were still very much in force it's taken me a while to fully embrace the idea of doing something different.

Even as an independent IT consultant I still operated my business as though it were a regular job.  My schedule may not have been 9 to 5 but my time was never really my own.  I was actually working MORE than I ever did as someone's employee.

Which isn't unlike a lot of folks making a living online these days.  So I was halfway there.  It's just taken me awhile to accept that online is a viable career path.

Considering how bad the job market has become even for skilled people like myself I'd be stupid to ignore the possibility.

But it is hard to make money online and the paltry payouts from blogging, Amazon and YouTube have forced alternatives.  For now that's Patreon.

So I've come into the fold but I don't expect much.  I'm hoping to be surprised but that doesn't mean I don't have to work at it.

If you want to help me out just click the Patreon button up in the corner and know that I profoundly appreciate it.

Thanks and see you soon!