Category Archives: Games

Video Games

Multiplayer Maps

When it comes to a video game, there are many, many components that work together to provide the end user experience. High profile components include the graphics, the characters, and the plot. Details of these components make a big difference in gamefeel. How responsive is the game to player inputs? Does the game feel fair, balanced, and based on player skill?

I want to reminisce about video game maps. Maps are an integral part of the experience and it’s where you probably spend the bulk of your time in game. Map design isn’t as high profile as the character models and weapon choices, but maps are crucial to gameplay balance. Famous maps include Super Mario Bros.’s Level 1-1, Counter-Strike’s Dust2, and League of Legends’s Summoner’s Rift.

Multiplayer maps are interesting in PvP (player vs player) since map updates can rebalance the game over time. New maps in the Starcraft 2 map pool keep the game fresh over time. in a PvE (player vs environment) setting, balance is probably less of an issue since the gameplay is asymmetric.

In no particular order, here are 5 multiplayer maps that I’ve enjoyed (for personal, subjective reasons):

  1. CTF Twin Peaks – Infantry
    infantry
    Twin Peaks is a polarizing map. I spent most of my time in Twin Peaks (instead of maps like Eol, Mechanized Skirmish, etc.) constantly switching between the many available classes. Twin Peaks is a largely open world map, but it’s highly confusing for the newcomer. The teleporting ramps into bases or caves takes a moment to get used to. The map is also huge, since there are hills, bridges, and other outdoor areas where you are going to get sniped. Embrace the chaos of outdoor gun battles or indoor flag capturing.
  2. Big Game Hunters – StarCraft: Brood War
    bgh
    As any StarCraft player knows, economy/macro is king. You want as many minerals & vespene gas as you can get your hands on. BGH is the map for you. If you want to cheese AI or cheese friends, what better map to wall off and build your fleet of carriers on? BGH is not your typical competitive ladder map because of the high abundance of resources. Also, who can forget the happy face in the middle of the map? Genius.
  3. Pipeline – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
    pipeline
    CoD: MW contains many memorable maps for me. I’m picking Pipeline here since it’s a map I can say that I dominated on (in the sparsely populated PS3 communities). There is a decent amount of vertical gameplay in the buildings, but otherwise this map is pretty simple. The gameplay on this map tends to be tightly packed and more close to mid range action. Getting onto the building roof is fun, but you will get easily punished once the other side catches on to it.
  4. Hang ‘Em High – Halo
    hangemhigh
    Halo 1 is well known for its novel gameplay mechanics: only carrying two weapons at a time, regenerating shield + health bar, and more. Hang ‘Em High brings memories since this was an awesome, epic map if you ever had the pleasure to play locally over LAN. Playing this map with CTF is oh so fun since the incredibly overpowered pistol lets you take out whoever’s stealing your flag with ease. In this map, knowing where to find the power-ups (rocket launcher, invisibility, sniper rifle, etc.) is key.
  5. The Secret Cow Level – Diablo II
    cowlevel
    The cow level in D2/D2X is a farming level to power level your character. The level design itself is pretty basic: an open field with dense packs of cows to kill for easy experience. Playing with strangers online, you had to be careful about people killing The Cow King. Much of my time playing D2X was spent in this map, trying to stay alive or clicking on dropped items.

Anyone who has played these games probably has a ton of memories on these maps – whether positive or negative. Maps provide the context or environment in which games are played. You can’t recall details of a game without thinking about a particular spot on the map where something happened.

New Bro: Double Bro Seven

Broforce is a satire of over the top ‘MURICA. It has different bros that let you play as different famous movie characters. The latest being Double Bro Seven!

doublebro7bro

In the Double Bro Seven update on 12/18/2014, the Special Command has been updated to depict each Bro’s currently remaining special ability. Double Bro Seven seems to be unique so far as the only one to have different Special Commands, whereas the others have one Special Command that is repeated a certain number of times. Also, this patch released a Christmas theme in the form of Christmas trees, presents, etc.

Distracted Gaming

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Modern gaming is often filled with bogus achievements. Start the campaign? Achievement. Get max upgrades on your pistol? Achievement. Often, a game will show you your percentage completed. If you casually play through, you may get 40% complete. If you traverse the map for hidden collectibles and beat the game on different difficulties, you can get 100%.

While this is fun for college students or those who enjoy following a guide to find all the secrets, the rest of us don’t have time for that. We play games for reasons like gameplay, escapism, and socializing.

I can’t count the number of times, I’ll be playing as the protagonist and clear out a room full of bad guys. The building is on fire and the accompanying AI is telling me we have to get out of here. Instead of running through the open door to the next area, I stop and scour every nook & cranny for obscure loot. Crawling around dark corners, running along the walls, and checking every desk for hidden items. Repeat for every room in the game.

Do you see a problem here? It’s game breaking distraction. It kills the fantasy and immersion. Developers spend years crafting beautiful, immersive maps only to have players break the immersion by constantly doing things that don’t fit the narrative.

It could be a zombie outbreak, a space ship on fire, or a warzone. As the main character, you spend a significant amount of time thinking about the map layout to try and find all the collectibles. Enemies and puzzles are a second thought as you face the fear of missing out if you didn’t check every side room or alternate pathway.

Depending on the setting, it could work out. With franchises like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, you’re a treasure hunter and finding treasure is what you do. Even then, finding a rare tribal necklace in the janitor closet on the ship breaks immersion.

I assume developers add arbitrary collectibles and achievements to pad their gameplay hours on the box description (or product page). When the single player campaign can be beat in 5 hours, the game can be marketed as having 20 hours of content by adding secrets to each map.

Developers, I play your game for the gameplay. Not to check every corner of the map to pad my achievements, which are points that don’t mean anything. Focus on nailing the crisp gameplay. Don’t distract me by making me constantly worry if I have missed out on hidden collectibles.

 

Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer Unlock System is Addictive

Leave it to the doctors at BioWare to come up with a dangerously addictive game mechanic to unlock multiplayer items.

No, I’m not talking about the DLC that’s attached to everything.

In the past, you earned in game money and had to save up for what you really wanted.

In Resident Evil 4, you can talk to an ever-present merchant to buy/upgrade weapons:

Resident Evil 4 Store screenshot

In CoD4: Modern Warfare, you automatically get unlocked weapons and perks upon leveling up:

CoD4 Weapon Unlock screenshot

Saving up money to buy what you need or level up bonuses are both fine systems. They’re predictable and fair.

In the Mass Effect 3 demo, there are upgrade packs that you can/need to buy to get weapon unlocks.

The basic Recruit Pack (5K Credits) includes “a small chance for an Uncommon”:

Recruit Pack screenshot

But wait, there’s more! The luxurious Veteran Pack (20K Credits) includes “at least 1 Uncommon or better”:

Veteran Pack screenshot

You earn Credits by completing multiplayer missions.

As I understand it, the only way to unlock playable Race / Class combinations in the demo is to draw that specific Race / Class card from a Pack. This adds a lottery aspect to getting the character and weapon(s) that you seek. You can’t just save up credits, head to the store, and return home with the shiny new hotness. You have to get lucky cards from Packs you buy.

Some cards from a Recruit Pack:

Recruit Pack cards screenshot

Here’s some cards that I got from a Veteran Pack. Meh, where’s the Widow??

Veteran Pack cards screenshot

This brings out an ugly side of gaming. As if modern video gaming wasn’t already one big grindfest, the Mass Effect 3 demo random card system leads to even more grinding. Of course you always get “useful” cards like Medi-Gel and Missiles, but the let down remains.

“Why am I getting more SMG unlocks??”

Card packs in video games wasn’t invented by Mass Effect 3. There was even a card game video game. Mass Effect 3 does an incredible job integrating the feeling you get from grinding Diablo II (and soon to be D3) bosses into its multiplayer experience.

For better or worse, this gameplay mechanic extends the shelf life of the multiplayer experience in an extremely addictive way. “Just one more game! I need 3K more credits to get another pack…”

Major Gaming Franchise Trailers 2011

Even if you live under a rock, I’m sure you’ve seen these. 2011 & 2012 is sure to be a wallet busting period with such AAA titles coming out.

Modern Warfare 3.

The game is going to sell well, despite what haters say. Just like the iPhone 4S (in terms of haters and still breaking record sales).

Personally, I’m skipping MW3 due to the Activision/IW drama, but your average gamer doesn’t care.

Uncharted 3.

I need to find a way to play this. The first and 2nd were some of the most beautiful and fun games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Maybe I’ll bring my PS3 to NY.

Uncharted 2 was one of the few games where I actually finished the single player more than once (including the hardest mode). Sadly, I can’t even make this statement for games that deserve replays like Mass Effect 2 & Deus Ex: HR.

Batman: Arkham City.

Asylum was good times, even if some of the melee challenge rooms were very hard. I’ll wait for this game to hit Steam as GOTY (with all DLC) several months down the road for like 20 bucks.

Side note: so many games are on sale for fractions of the $60 suggested new game retail price within a couple months on Steam or through traditional retailers. Add to the fact that all the DLC is included in a definitive GOTY edition, you can save tons of money if you have any patience at all.

Diablo 3.

This game will come out on Blizzard time, so maybe sometime before 2012 is over.

As much as I want to play it, I’ll probably have to skip it to avoid ruining my life. Not even kidding when I say that this game will cause me to get absolutely nothing done for years of my life looking back. I mean that as both a compliment to the quality of the addictive gameplay and in a scary, I’m not kidding sort of way.

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

What’s there to say besides I’ll be on this like white on rice. I made a quick and dirty SC2 playlist of IGN uploaded videos from Blizzcon that show the new units in action. The gameplay will get adjusted prior to HotS launch, but the new units already look like it will stir things up in a good way.

MW3 Box Art: A Continuation of the Dude Standing with Gun

FPS games are not known for their creativity. Infinity Ward did a great job implementing perks & killstreaks that arguably improved or ruined the balance depending who you talk to. The box art of FPS blockbusters has not changed much.

For the record, I’ve enjoyed MW1 & MW2 extensively, but I’m not a fan of Treyarch’s CoD games.

Let’s take a look at the genre’s box art. The images below are copyright of Activision or EA, depending on the title.

possible Call of Duty: MW3 box art

Judging by the cover, the game looks pretty meh. Doesn’t matter though, since the CoD franchise sells gangbusters.

Call of Duy: MW2

This game has nukes, which is why everything is burning?

Call of Duty 4: MW

Judging by the cover again, nothing special. Gameplay is top-notch (G3 FTW)

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Here’s a CoD: Blops cover thrown in for comparison. It breaks the mold by not showing a full body visible soldier silhouette

possible Battlefield 3 box art

Evokes a futuristic feel. Looks cleaner than MW3’s cover. I’m not sure why MW3 & BF3 are competing over which cover guy is taking more damage

Battlefield Bad Company 2

Looks like the art designer had fun using clip art

Battlefield 2

Glad to see this soldier is not on fire. While not the best art design ever, this cover is at least clean & the version number is easily identifiable

Medal of Honor

Based on a real life soldier, Cowboy, this grayscale design is subtle and powerful. Too bad the franchise reboot wasn’t very solid?

The games above fit in the war FPS realism category. Other games in the FPS genre compete on aspects such as classes (think TF2, Brink), arcade mechanics (Bulletstorm) and super powers (Crysis 2).

Upcoming NYC Event: TSL3 After Party 5/15

Aiur Chef by Blizzard

From TeamLiquid:

Location: Break Bar and Billiards in New York City.
Address: 32-04b Broadway, Long Island City, NY 11106
Time and Date: Sunday, May 15th – 19:00 EST

Take the NQ uptown to Queens, get off at Broadway and walk one street southeast. Bar is located on the corner of Broadway and 32nd Street – Google Maps.

There is no RSVPing to this event. Break Bar holds 250 people. Yes, it’s in Queens, deal with it other borough residents!

*You must be at least 21 years of age to enter*

Some meta/random commentary about this post:

  • I’m posting this on my blog, because this is the kind of thing that *I* would love to find out about.
  • Using the Aiur Chef image since I’m rocking that on the battlenets version two point oh.
  • Patch 1.3.3, Y U NO LIKE PYLON RANGE?
  • Don’t really have a preference between Naniwa or Thorzain. Guess I’ll support Naniwa cuz he’s Brotossing it up.