Monday, October 1, 2012

Ubisoft and microtransactions = gamer rage

A new story posted today on highlights a growing trend in the video game industry, the use of micro-transactions to enhance the profitablity of games. The trend isn't limited to Ubisoft, though the company has seemingly made it it's mission to piss off as many gamers as possible with their recent string of interviews and comments. Of course, pulling stats like "95% piracy rate" out of your ass does tend to make even normally reserved readers blow their stacks.

simulated gamer rage

When I first got into pc gaming the notion of digital distribution of games was only a wet dream of people like Gabe Newell and possibly a few others. Sure, there was downloadable content on the net, but very little of it was directly for games. Steam changed all that with their direct to the pc digital distribution of games, and opened the door for independent gaming as we know it today, but it also opened the door for a new kind of game-life model, allowing new avenues of revenue to be approached. That of DLC, the new form of expansions for games.

The other new notion in games is the F2P model, which got it's start with some foreign MMOs. I played one such MMO, Runes of Magic, for 3 years. With that being said I don't consider myself an expert, only an avid gamer with experience in the area under discussion. The f2p model is pretty simple, provide the game free of charge, but have available an item shop or "store" that players use to enhance the game for themselves. It's entirely voluntary (despite the vehement cries of a vocal minority) and can greatly increase the companies profits. The math is pretty simple, a game like WoW with a subscription model has more or less a hard limit on how much they can make a month based on subscription fees (Number of players X subscription fee = gross profit), and yes I'm aware that WoW now has a limited item shop of it's own, whereas a F2P game can increase profitability per customer when that customer now has the ability, and possibly the drive, to spend a lot more a month than they would for a subscription.

It was not unheard of for a player to claim they had spent well over 2k in a few short months on RoM. I call these people idiots but they do serve to prove the near unlimited profitability of the model.

What Ubisoft is talking about doing with their future games, like the highly anticipated Watch Dogs, is an evolution of the item shop, with a little DLC tossed in for flavor. What it amounts to is a unabashed money grab by a company that plans to charge full price for the game with the item shop included. While some of the comments are pretty far out in the field, the fear that developers like Ubisoft will hamper the gameplay in their full-price games in order to achieve better profitability isn't an unjust one, just an unlikely scenario.

Ubisoft charging full price for a full game isn't unreasonable, though we can argue about an appropriate price point until the cows come home, but charging full price for a partial game with unlockable content already built in is a bit much for a game consumer to handle, and rightly so. We don't know from that article what Ubisoft intends to do with their microtransactions, but we can speculate, as the commenters of that article have obviously done already, and that can lead to some pretty scary scenarios. 

One scary scenario has already happened within my own sphere of experience. While playing through Mass Effect 2 I ran across an obvious opener for a side-quest involving Liara, which led nowhere. It led nowhere because I didn't have the DLC for the sidequest. While I didn't pay the full price for the game (I caught it on a Steam sale) it still had me pretty steamed that such a thing was even done to the game. I'm all for developers adding content to a game to extend the longevity of the game, but putting it into place before the game is even released strikes me as an unabashed cash grab, bilking paying and loyal customers out of more of their bugdge for games.

Which is why the comments made by Ubisoft are so unsettling. They hint at a future for games that have pushed all the heart out of the industry and replaced it with a drive for more and more profits. Companies like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft have put themselves on the wrong end of public opinion in their drive for more profits, and often the developers working for them are the ones paying the price when the backlash hits.

Watch Dogs is looking to be a great game, though I suspect that Ubisoft is going to create a franchise out of it and then unceremoniously drive it into the ground, but that's the reality of big game publishers these days. Lather, rinse, REPEAT. But I'm not interested, as I'm sure pretty much nobody is, in paying full price for a game only to have to invest more into it to get the most out of it, and investment that doens't involve full-blown expansions but microtransactions in game. Granted, if said transactions are for cosmetic or non-game altering gear (think TF2's hats) then I would approve, because I think that's a great way to continue to profit from a game post-release without drawing the ire of the gaming populous. But if I have to buy a weapon/gear set just to compete with Johnny Basementdweller, there's a problem.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Misunderstandings and Malignancy

Do me a favor here, don't expect too much coherency or direction from this posting. The likelihood of that happening are about as likely as my suddenly being invited to a game journalism panel at PAX. As ill-equipped as I would be for said scenario I'm probably equally as ill-equipped to lay out my thoughts and feelings about recent developments in any meaningful way. I will, however, give it a try.

So let's get started.

Anyone paying any attention to recent gaming over the past summer is well aware of the glut of sequels that have arrived on the scene. Two recent sequels have my personal attention as they are both sequels to games that I a) own, and b) enjoyed thoroughly, and still play. Runic Games Torchlight II and the Gearbox offering of Borderlands 2. The first is an action RPG in the Diablo tradition (in fact many of Runic's developers were involved in the first two incarnations of the classic Blizzard game), and is being directly compared to Blizzard's monster Diablo III that came out a few months back; and the second is an RPG/FPS game.

When I first saw commercials for Borderlands I was wholly uninterested in it. Despite it's creative art style what I saw was a post-apocalyptic shooter with vehicles and homicidal raiders, essentially a Mad Max setting for another boring Halo clone shooter. I was right about the setting (mostly) but the game was a significant departure from what I was expecting, and it could be argued was groomed to expect, from the past decade's worth of shooting games. What I found was a loot oriented shooting RPG, more closely resembling ARPG's like Diablo and Torchlight than Call of Duty or Halo.

Which is why this review of the sequel bothers me so much; or at least part of the reason it bothers me so much. First off is Mr. Najberg's use of the game's own hyperbole to create the illusion that he had raised expectations for the game, and then claim that the game failed to meet those expectations. He didn't "joy puke" over Borderlands 2, but I expect, as he's actively counseling players to compare it to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 or Halo 4, that he would, or could, concievably, "joy puke" over one of those games. The glaring point that Mr. Najberg seems to miss is that Borderlands 2 is neither a modern fps nor a sci-fi fps, but an RPG with fps trappings.

The second problem is his apparent fawning over the AAA heavy-hitting titles coming down the pipe. This apple isn't going to be anything like the oranges we've got coming next week! My thoughts are, if you're going to review a game do so on the basis of what it is, rather than what it isn't. Also, if you buy into a game's pre-release hype then you deserve to be disappointed. I'm not knocking Mr. Najberg's estimation of the game, only his characterization of it. I don't own the game personally (yet) and I have no stake in his review, but as a consumer I expect that should you review a game that you do so from a position of at least being knowledgable about gaming and what the game actually is.

Torchlight II was just released 4 days ago, and unlike the comparisons made by Mr. Najberg concerning Bordlerlands 2 and games like Halo and Call of Duty, comparisons between it and Diablo III are inevitable. While some of those comparisons are going to lean toward being unfair, they can hardly be said to be unexpected; the Torchlight series is the spiritiual successors to the first 2 Diablo games in many peoples eyes. Since I don't own Diablo III (and am unlikely to purchase it), I won't be making any of such comparisons, and the differences are already well documented, particularly Runic Game's DRM approach compared to Blizzard's always-online policy.

What I have been actively doing, during my short-time I've had with the game, is compare it to the previous Torchlight, since in the past year it has become one of my favorites. I can remark on the few things that I've noticed thus far...

  • Torchlight II, like it's predecessor, actually runs on my cruddy laptop, something since it was actively being compared to the graphic intensive Diablo III (which has no hope of playing on the thing) I was inclined to believe it wouldn't do. This development means my choices for laptop gaming on the go is increased by one awesome game. 
  • One of my favorite features of the first game, where pausing the game would bring the camera in on your character and then circle them, frozen in action, until you unpaused the game. It worked as a pretty screensaver for me and a means to view my character and get great screenshots. It's missing in Torchlight 2, which instead leaves an option menu front and center in the screen, blocking the view of the character, and the camera isn't dynamically moving around. If the option still exists, I've not found it.
  • To my dismay, you can only enchant an item a limited number of times, meaning the 2-handed mace I found for my engineer was quickly outdated despite my best efforts. 
 Some examples of my Torchlight 1 screenshots for illustrative purposes to my second point above:

 The Torchlight games have captured my imagination in a way that the Diablo series never did. Maybe it's the 3d graphics, but I suspect it's more the style of the games. The art direction and sense of whimsy are vastly different, with Diablo having a very dark, dreary, aspect. Not really sure what it is, but Diablo never clicked for me, Torchlight has. I'm really looking forward to my next 2 days off so I can put some semi-serioius time into Torchlight 2, and find some better gear for my engineer along the way.

I'm still not sure if this post is supposed to have a point or not.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Minecraft: More than just playing with bricks and pickaxes

User Wordworks Experiment of the Minecraft forums recently posted up a lengthy explanation for an experiment he conducted with 30 volunteers using a limited Minecraft map. Minecraft, as you may recall, is a game of survival set in a world of blocks that can be collected and used for a variety of purposes.  Most Minecraft worlds are unlimited, the game literally fills in the world as you explore it, so you'll never find the end of the world.

But what if you imposed an artificial limitation of size and set 30 players loose on your world?


That barren, post-apocalyptic pit is the result after 2 months of play.

For this experiment Wordworks applied a few rules to his server:
  • World chat was discouraged (world chat, for those unfamiliar, is a text messaging system that allows everyone logged into a server to see the message), but 3rd party communications were encouraged to foster the forming of factions/guilds on the server. 
  • To ensure fair play the server was only available when all players were online to play.
  • The space for the world was limited to a 350x350 (blocks) square of the world, blocked off by bedrock. 
  • The players were told “Never leave the bedrock walls”
  • The players went in without any knowledge of what the experiment was about
 According to Wordworks, "Some players realized the challenge at hand immediately, but most were unaware of how devastating the consequences of their actions would be." Devastating, as in the results when a limited pool of resources is quickly erased either by use, or by player calamity.

Clay was gone within 3 days, and trees became scarce within a week, being one of Minecraft's main resources used for buildings and tools and generally being able to progress through the game.

Soon several factions formed and began interacting with each other.
  • The Brotherhood
  • The Merchant's Guild
  • The Axe
  • The Dwarves
  • and a pair of players nicknamed the "Dick-ass Griefers"
At first, Wordworks reports, the groups "co-existed peacefully with minor fights over trees and saplings," But that would change quickly. A nether portal was constructed (presumably for everyone to use, the poster doesn't make that clear) and quickly dismantled by The Brotherhood for use in their structures.

The remains of the Nether Portal

 Soon strip mining for resources and all out warfare commenced between the groups, as resources began to dwindle, particularly by the exploits of the Dick-ass Griefers. Foretelling the inevitable, the pair built themselves a floating oasis of the one resource essential to survival, dirt with grass  on it. Then they set themselves to systematically eliminating that resource from the map, as their supply of food was protected by a water ladder with a toggle switch, they could simply cut off contact with the rest of the world with a simple switch and be safe on their floating island of dirt.

Eventually, the other groups started banding together out of simple survival. The will to play had been lost by the 5th week, and Wordworks ended his post with a few simple questions and a statement:

The experiment was up before more testing could be done, but I ask you. If the walls were torn down one day and the players were free to the unlimited resources of Minecraft how would they react? Do you think they would work together and try to keep all the resources balanced or would they play the same way without regard for their environment or each other? Though in Minecrafts infinite world it would be impossible to destroy everything, do you think the disaster would slowly re-occur? I think this experiment has been a successful statement on the human condition and human interaction with the environment.
 The correlation he draws here is pretty easy to grasp, in a world with limited resources our nature, as humans, isn't to co-exist with each other or to be good stewards of our environment, but to attempt to profit, as The Merchant's Guild attempted, to isolate ourselves, as The Dwarves did, to take and hold what we can, as The Brotherhood did, or create chaos and anarchy as the Dick-ass Griefers did.

But in the end when simple survival is at risk, we can work together to achieve a common goal.

I think this experiment shows both some of the best and worst in humaninty. The best being our ingenuity and ability to come together for common goals, sometimes altruistically, and the worst being all the things previously mentioned above, our selfishness as a species.

What I also think this experiment proves is that gaming and games have evolved from simple interactive entertainment and even surpassed art as an interactive litmus test of human nature. Whatever the game the choices the players make are their own, even in those games that are linear in nature. FPS games can ask the player if they would shoot innocents in cold blood, as in the "No Russian" level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and games like Minecraft can put a player in a myriad of different conflicts. Art can make you question and think, games can make you act. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

An episode in stupidity, and ignorance in reporting rears it's ugly head

The New York Post reported Saturday on the arrest of one Humza Bajwa on charges of second-degree robbery and larceny for pulling a fake gun in an attempt to steal 4.7 billion in RuneScape gold currency. That's fake currency people. FAKE.

Bajwa, the gamer version of a crack addict.

But that's the counter-reality to our living reality, and dismissing it out of hand would only serve to further the perception outside of gaming culture that "geeks" don't operate on the same plane of existence as the rest of society. But beyond attempted robbery (which really should be the charges here, but I suspect, since the law is slow to keep up with modern issues and technology, that he's been charged with assault) there's more going on under the surface here.

The whole incident comes across as like a bad spy novel.

For most online MMO's, the buying and selling of the in-game currency for real world money is frowned upon if not outright banned, but that's the primary motivation behind this incident, Bajwa was going to buy 4.7 billion gold from one Jonathan Dokler with his real world $3,300. Pretty standard fare right? Most transactions of this nature would occur within the online sphere via Paypal or some other money transferring system. But here's where it start to go bad tv drama episode:

Instead of transferring the money online, Bajwa allegedly wanted a face-to-face meeting — and Dokler sent his Fordham pal David Emani to collect the cash

Ok, so we've added an agent of the "dealer" and a clandestine meeting in a college library in New York. Let's take a step back for a moment, and look at this situation. I don't know about you, but I've got red flags going up everywhere already. Dude wants to buy your gold (a bannable offense). Flag One. And doesn't want to transfer the funds online but instead asks for a face-to-face. Flag Two.

Already I'm thinking this is a pass situation. But it gets better:

Emani told The Post that he met Bajwa in the school library on July 11 — and had a feeling something was wrong.

“He was transferring money from one envelope to another envelope, and I got a glimpse of it and it looked fake,” Emani said. “I was on the phone with John, and I said, ‘Don’t do it. It looks fake.'"

Toss in a sudden "I have to go" excuse, most likely from the "oh shit they're on to me" reaction on Bajwa's part, and you've got Flag Three.

No, seriously, just drop it.

But Dokler bravely pushes on, and arranges a meet the following night between his agent and Bajwa, undoubtedly hearing the sound of over $3k rustling on his bed while he waves his arms in it in his head. Instead his buddy gets a fake gun pulled on him, which he takes for the real deal.

Well said there Red

He gets a BB pulled on him, which, I dunno about you, but I think it would be pretty obvious from the size of the hole in the barrel that it wasn't a real gun. I mean, it could put your eye out or something...

goddammit kid

But there's more to this story, beyond the idiocy exhibited by all parties involved and the clear psychological issues with Bajwa, there's the mainstream media's perception of gamers and gaming. Right off the bat they're using the dismissive words like "magic" and "geek" to describe the in-game currency and the players, respectively.

Really? Are gamers still relegated to that basement-dweller image? Where everything they do is seen as childish and immature? Apparently so, at least in the eyes of the NY Post wrtiters.

Of further concern is the damage to the image of mature gamers that, like me, frown upon this sort of behavior not just because of it's social relevance but it's relevance to our hobby. Bajwa was called an addict several times during the post, but is that really accurate? I don't know personally, but it warrants attention from the medical community as well as the gaming community. How much is too much? And where do we draw the line between what is an acceptable behavior in an attempt to achieve gaming goals (particularly with MMO's) and what isn't.

Dokler says he's only selling the gold to finance his college career, but that's clearly part of the problem. Personally I think he needs to be brought up on charges as well as Bajwa, but unfortunately the legal system has not caught up with the current situation with online games and their currency.

And as long as we have people outside of the community continuing to spread the stereotypes of those who enjoy the hobby, I don't think it ever will.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why Mass Effect is Pissing me Off


Just don't say I didn't warn you.

My first experience with a Bioware game was Neverwinter Nights. Back then they were recognized as one of the premier rpg makers for the PC, and I've been a fan of the studio ever since. It's still on my to do list to go back and play Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, and Knights of the Old Republic, and it's sequel, are 2 of my favorite games of all time. 

Bioware, making George Lucas look like a hack

That being said, Mass Effect is pissing me off. I'm currently in the middle of my first playthrough of ME2 and have played through ME1 twice, so I'll label each complaint with the specific game they're associated with. "But," you might be asking me, "how are the games pissing you off when you're obviously so enthusiastic about them? You just said you played through the 1st game twice, and have moved to the second." Well the truth is I'm really enjoying the games, but there are quirky game mechanics and other nuisances that have marred an otherwise exhilarating game experience for me, thus the hate. 

Imagine how annoying and irrelevant Rob Schneider is in every Adam Sandler movie and you'll get the idea.

Get out of the movie business. YOU CAN DO EET!

(ME1) Why Won't My Squad Help? 

Call it lazy or what have you, but during my playthroughs of ME I've been allowing the game to auto-level my character. Essentially letting the program to decide his(her? eventually) strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly here, his skillset. Why is that important? Because during both of my playthroughs I picked the soldier class for Shepard, and the program never upgrades his skills in decryption, meaning that I missed out on quite a bit things (an unknown variable, since I was unable to access, I have no idea of what was in certain chests/items/etc.). 

Ok, so I understand that Shepard himself (herself... ah fuck it) would be unable to use his skillset to crack open the item, why couldn't one of his teammates, one who obviously has the skills required to do so? In Neverwinter Nights you could hire a henchman to adventure with you. They had little backstory and had absolutely nothing to do with the plot, they were just there to fill in the gaps (mostly) for your character. My personal favorite was Tomi Undergallows (gotta love that name!), a halfling thief with a penchant for dying. 

Here comes halfling death! Arghhhhhhh!!!!!!!......

But Tomi was more useful beyond the battles, if I encountered a chest or other locked device Tomi would exuberantly throw himself at it until he unlocked it (providing that he even could). In KOTOR 1 and 2 this tradition continued and you could directly control a squad member to accomplish a specific task. It was even a gameplay element necessary for progression. But ME doesn't give you direct control over anyone but Shepard, but surely someone as resourceful as Tali could have the skills to crack a code. Or Kaidan. OR FUCKING SOMEBODY! So basically ME is telling me I can't have whatever it is in the box, and FUCK YOU, THAT'S WHY.

EDIT: I've been informed by a friend that the other characters are supposed to help out with this, but auto-leveling in most games like this is basically asking to get screwed. So, my own fault here, kinda. 


This thing would kick sand in the Enterprise's face


Near the end of the storyline in Mass Effect you return to the Citadel, presumably to head the fleet that the Council and Alliance are forming to take on the Reaper menace and Saren head on. Instead you run into political BS and are grounded, by the Alliance Representative. Now, I realize this is meant to be a dramatically tense moment in the game when it seems that everything you've worked for is just about to go out the window, and a pivotal moment for Captain Anderson. 


There's so much wrong here, I hardly know where to begin. Let's start with the fact that Shepard is a Spectre, a special Council Agent answerable only to the Council itself. Some dockhand isn't going to say "no" to someone like that. And back Shepard up with his crew and you've got dock workers clamoring just to get out of the fucking way.

Udinna is an Alliance Representative, he's not military, and for damn sure not Shepard's boss. He's a goddamn politician who, for reasons I can't fathom, has been given direct control of the most sophisticated Alliance ship in existence. However, Shepard no longers answers to him, if he ever did in the first place. He's a freaking Spectre, who, as we've mentioned, CAN DO PRETTY MUCH WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT in Council space. 

Udinna locks the Normandy down from his office. Riiiight. Again, a politician, not a technician, and why in the world would the council give control of their docks to an Alliance agent? Nothing about the docks there indicated to me that they were under Alliance control, but still somehow Udinna is somehow made capable of locking the ship down from the comfort of his own office. 

Though I promoted Anderson to the council over Udinna he still show's up in the second game, just as smug as ever. I'm hoping he dies, horribly. 

(ME2) My squadmates are idiots who get in my way as often as not. 

Really hard to blame this one on Bioware, as AI processes just haven't evolved to the point where games can mimic the ability of an actual person to think and react appropriately. It's all just scripting basically. If this then that. But still watching my guys run around like chickens with their heads up their asses during a firefight isn't my idea a great time, though to be honest it doesn't happen all that often. 

(ME2) Shepard's "death" and resurrection seem really, really contrived. 

 At best I'm left to conclude that Bioware wanted the player to have a new set of characters to fight alongside Shepard, keeping the game fresh, and killing him off and dispersing his old crew to the winds was a pretty convenient way to slide that feature in. Toss in he's now working for a known criminal organization and now you're just irking me to no end. 
Guess which way I've been playing Shepard? 

Not that I don't think the twist is pretty clever, but I just don't see a "paragon" Shepard working with Cerberus, for any reason. 


  • Shepard was brought back to life by an exhaustive, and expensive, 2 year program funded by Cerberus. 
  • That same organization then rebuilt his old ship, the Normandy, with upgrades. 
  • But for some damn reason Shepard has to finance his own godddamned fuel. 
It's a minor thing, really, but forcing me to use my own credit funds to purchase fuel, IN A GAME, when the expedition is supposedly being funded by this ultra-wealthy organization, just doesn't sit well. I play games to escape reality, not be reminded of what it's like to have to head to the gas station on my way to work. 

(ME2) The Character Miranda

Everything about this woman is really, really, REALLY, creepy. And her explanation that she's genetically "enhanced", particularly in her appearance, is just the icing on the cake. 

The first game didn't go light on the geekdom fantasy girl stuff, but at least one of the love interest characters didn't look like a typical Hollywood actress. Ashley Williams was attractive, but her looks from the neck down were firmly grounded in reality. She had an athletic build, but that was about it. The Asari provided all the teen fantasy material the game needed. 

A hot alien woman, just what every sci-fi fantasy needs :)

But not ME2, they've got their sexpot front and center, and shaking her assets every chance she gets. Her outfit looks painted on, and in one recent and supposedly serious conversation during my playthrough she had with Shepard regarding the welfare of her twin sister she leans over her desk and the game camera cuts to Shepard, with her ASS taking up half the screen. 

Check out that real estate eh?

They're just not even trying to hide the fact that they're catering to a younger audience now! 

Personally, I blame ME's, and Bioware's, transition into the consoles, where the audience isn't nearly as mature. Actually I'll just go ahead and blame EA for that. 

And I'm not even going to go into the implications with her "father" and her basically being a test-tube clone of him. Save that shit for Law and Order: SVU. 



Friday, July 13, 2012

Minecraft: A Beginning

A short time ago I did a short tutorial conerning how to make your own custom Steam library grid icons. One of the icons I made for myself was for Minecraft, an indie game that if you'd told me a year ago I'd be nearly obsessing about I'd have probably laughed at you, and made insinuations about your parentage behind your back.

Kind of like this guy that I didn't notice while making the icon is doing to the creeper here... I'm so lame
I'd have made myself look pretty damn stu... well I can't really make myself out to be that a whole lot more right? RIGHT?


Anyway, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I recieved a gift copy of the game and started tinkering with it. After my constant playing of TF2, and before that Runes of Magic, it was a nice change of pace to play a game where the objectives are set by the player, and the tools to accomplish those objectives are all there in the game. (Granted the limitations of the game won't allow it to accomplish everything, but if you ever played with Legos as a kid you'll know what it's like to create in Minecraft. The fact that your creations can be functional as well as impressive aesthetically is just icing on the cake.

I've added a texture pack here, but this still looks cool with the default texture :)

I'll be honest, graphically the game put me off a bit at first. But the game really has a depth to it that is surprisingly complex, to the point that players are still figuring out some of the game. Doesn't hurt that further depth is being added with regular updates to the game. I still found that I enjoyed it, either playing by myself in my own world or creating a TBT Tower in a world shared with my friends on Steam.

The area we chose for our tower (keep in mind the following was created using creative mode)

The addition I really wanted to make, which I think turned out pretty well.

On the left here you can see the base level of the main tower

View of the bridge and Mattyb's creeper face on the wall (to the right)

The main tower building

Most of the main structures can be seen here

One of my favorite pics
 I've also been following a fellow on Youtube by the name of TheKalmier who's done a number of Minecraft videos explaining how to do various things, I even incorporated a hidden staircase the he made into our TBT tower (not pictured). Following his example I've made some things for my own world:

What I call THE FARM, up top is a wheat farm with a water harvest feature that I'm still working on getting right.

The mobovator/grinder (he didn't invent it, but I did follow his video pretty closely)

And these buildings are clear steps up from where I started from:

The building in those pics still exists, and I'm going to use it later, but for now it's unoccupied until I can get back to it and make it prettier and stuff.

But as should be pretty obvious, I've spent hours building the things you've seen. And somehow even the time spent just collecting the resources for some of it doesn't feel like a chore, as every brick taken out feels like a step toward a subtle yet powerful goal, the ones you set for yourself.

And I'm nowhere close to done with my world yet, I've still yet to (1) sort out my semi-automatic wheat farm (I'm having issues with the ground drying up), (2) create a perimeter, (3) revitalize my starter home and so on and so forth.

I get the feeling I'm going to be playing this one for awhile.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Imaginary rules of engagement

What's probably going to be a pretty common theme, if I continue to work up any more posts about TF2, is I'll be complaining about the Steam Powered User Forums, SPUF for short, and the blatant trolling and idiocy that goes on there, particularly in the TF2 forum section.

One subject that often comes up can be thematically called Imaginary Rules of Engagement, or, essentially, what the SPUF community views as the "appropriate" means of using a weapon/class. This thematic posting covers a range of subjects as varied as sniper bodyshots to the use of W+M1 by a pyro, as mentioned in my last post. I'm going to examine some of these I.R.E.'s in detail in this post, and why I think they're basically full of shit. Some can be researched in their own, as I can guarantee a quick search of the TF2 SPUF forum will result in finding several threads related to the issue, and others are more implied than really actively pursued by the SPUF faithful. Let's get started...

IRE #1: Pyro's mustn't W+M1

(I did cover this in my last post, so if I sound like a broken record here, I apologize) W+M1 means that the pyro approaches a battle with this flamer on, it's used as a insult to imply low-skill level. What it more likely implies is that the person killed is angry at being killed by what he/she considers a "noob" class, and they view themselves as worthy of a more "skilled" death. The problem for the pyro, of course, is that the flamethrower (whichever variant is used) is their main source of damage. That's why it's called a primary weapon. One that earns more kills on their secondary or melee weapon aren't using the class to it's full potential, and are likely limiting themselves to avoid being labeled as W+M1.

There are plenty of times when a pyro flaming away, either at a single enemy (oh noes! noob!) or a full group of enemies. For one thing, the flamethrower does more dps than the shotgun, flare gun, or melee weapon. Is the pyro expected to just let the enemy get away and endanger the rest of the team? No, I think not. You could, presumably, kill the same enemy with a shotgun, a weapon best used for enemies outside of the flamer's range, or the melee weapon, assuming you can HIT the bastard with it. At extreme close range, having to quickly move and fire/swing is, as can be expected under such circumstances, a hit or miss proposition. You'll miss with the flamer too, but you can improve your aim on the fly, rather than killing a whole clip in the attempt at killing a moving, dodging target. Another situtation is having to choose between chasing and flaming, or reloading a dry shotgun, a time consuming process. I'd rather the enemy were dead than kite me (or kill me) while I'm attempting to reload a shotgun. I kill them, I'm credit to team and can move on to the next thing, he kills me I'm feeding the enemy points, and clearing the way for them to work on their next objective.

Another situation involving spraying the flamer is when an group of enemies is encountered. One of the pyro's main strengths is the ability to completely disrupt an enemies advance. Even if you don't get any kills, a pyro can inflict pain and confusion on every member of a group, making the medic work overtime to get everyone healed and not on fire (a task he can't do for himself >:) ) before your team comes along and mops the floor with them. Sow enough confusion and you can kill several members of the group or even all of them. There is no other class with a comparable skill. Other classes can kill multiple enemies at once (soldier and demoman come immediately to mind) but can't create the confusion and panic that a pyro can. Try that using an airblast, shotty, or melee weapon.

If you've played TF2 you might have noticed I've ignored some of the pyros other abilities using various alternate weapons. I've done this on purpose, as the strategies I'm discussing can be accomplished by any loadout, not just particular ones. A degreaser and flare gun are a solid choice for dealing with a single enemy running away from you, as all you need to do is use a method known as the "puff and sting" involving lighting them on fire with the flamer and finishing them off with the crits from either the flare gun or axtinguisher, both of which crit when used on a flaming enemy. Incidentally, killing someone using that technique (despite it, like flaming and chasing, being a legitimate tactic) is also called a noob move.

IRE #2: Snipers must never, ever, bodyshot

This is another one that falls under the mistaken presumption that anyone that does it is a skill-less noob. Of particular note for this fallacy is anyone using the Machina sniper rifle, as at full charge even a bodyshot is enough to kill most classes without an overheal. The implication, of course, is any sniper who can't make instantaneous and consistent quick-scope headshots, is a waste of space and a noob player, and not a credit to the team. Never mind if he just killed a medic pocketing a heavy or a demo spamming sticky bombs. He's still a noob and should feel bad, and in extreme cases uninstall the game, donate their organs to science, and kill themselves.

Who the fuck really thinks like this?

It's been said before, but it bears repeating; a kill is a kill is a kill. Basically a dead enemy can't do any further harm to the team (until respawn, but still...) and thus the sniper has done his job. There's that, and there's also the fact that pretty much every single map is layed out in such a way to eliminate clear open areas that could serve as a sniper's hunting ground. Even on 2fort their one advantage of a clear bridge was eliminated early on by Valve placing a cover over the bridge, leaving snipers on the battlement to deal with not only other snipers but scouts crossing over the top of the bridge, rocket-jumping soldiers, and rampaging stick-jumping demomen. So if a sniper does manage to line up a shot on someone it doesn't last long, as enemies rarely stand still. Sometimes a sniper can manage to fire of a quick-scope headshot on a target such as a heavy, but pulling of a second one for the kill is unlikely to follow unless the heavy is just clueless.

A sniper is meant to be a long-range weapon to take out primary targets as efficiently as possible. Barring other circumstances, I'll take a sniper who'll bodyshot a medic to get the kill over one that will consistently miss or hold their shot during crucial moments in an attempt to headshot and feel "pro."

The only variation of this IRE that I'll accept as reasonable is the sniper only headshotting fellow snipers as a form of respect. The exception, naturally, is any sniper using the Sydney Sleeper, as it can't headshot.

IRE #3: The medic shalt only pocket/uber the following classes: heavy, soldier, demo. (Or: The pyro isn't an offensive class)

Run you fat bastard, RUN

As a pyro "main" who has some clue about how to handle sentry nests and the like (I've cleared them out alone, without a medic, and with an active lvl 3 sentry breathing down my neck), it's infuriating to find a medic that will favor heals and ubers for one of those 3 classes, regardless of how badly they're doing. The presumption is (and not unfairly so, I'll admit) that those classes are best suited for taking out sentry nests or a large number of nearby enemies. Soldiers and demos are particularly useful for nest clearing thanks to their ability to inflict massive amounts of AOE damage.

This one is often self-imposed by the medic themselves, rather than by the community, but it brings to light an underlying criticism of certain classes; they are unworthy of the medics attention and of being central to an offensive push. To some extent, I'm inclined to agree. A sniper shouldn't be the focus of a push, as they have little in the way of any ability to deal with a crowd, engineers should be more concerned with denying an area to the enemy, and spies fall under the same category as the sniper.

But anyone denying that a pyro can make for a powerful uber push, well, simply isn't giving the class enough credit.

Of the three IRE's I've brought up here, 2 of them can readily be seen in just about every other post concerning pyro's and snipers on the SPUF forums. They're a plague on that group of malcontents, and even solid reasoning won't sway them from their firmly held belief. Which is why I'll post there, browse there, and occasionally inject my opinion, but I don't respect the community as a body, at least those that frequent SPUF heavily. Of those who carry large reputations (which are themselves a huge joke) and large post counts, I can think of maybe 1 or 2 that have anything intelligent to pass on to the community.