Bending Reality

Been what, 10 days since my last ranting about some asshat gamer KNOWING what would bring more gamers to Urban Terror. *sigh* Okay, so I digress I know I am always on about this. But lets move past that for now and onto another topic that spotlighted the Urban Terror Community last week.

Games for Windows had a small blurb on the Free Play page that listed Urban Terror as a game that gamers should take a second look at. Why? FREE! That is a word all gamers enjoy seeing. Especially after 9 years of development, the game rivals any retail game out there in terms of game play.

If we were to actually put more time and effort into working on the game, I know for a fact some of the remaining issues would be worked out and it would be even more polished. This would also help to bring new gamers into the community, along with some “new” features we brainstormed that would seriously take the game to the next level.

With that said, let’s segway into Quakecon 2008, Dallas, Texas starting July 31. I have reserved a room at the hotel in which the event is being held at. The wife wants to go, as she has never attended and a contingency of her [former?] clan will be setting up and playing Urban Terror for 3 days straight.

Right now, we are on the fence as to our attendance. I am not sure I want to deal with the headache of getting myself, the wife and our son on an airplane for 3 hours to DFW. Does not sound like fun, especially when my wife hates to fly and my son has never been, so he might get a kick out of it. But that only leads to another problem. The need to watch him for 3 days while the event is going on.

Just sounds like too many variables I don’t want to work out, outside costing a few thousand dollars in air fare, hotel, transportation and meals. Hell, we might as well take a REAL vacation and go somewhere to relax instead of sitting in a large sweatbox with sweaty, smell kids. Does not sound like fun.

Still waiting on the Xbox to return from service AGAIN! No word, no nothing from MS or the contractor in Mesquite, Texas where I sent it to get fixed. Oh I can’t wait to get my 1-month free LIVE! card. JUST FIX THE DAMN MACHINE YOU JACKHOLES! That is all I ask!

Milking the Franchise

Sitting on the thinking man’s throne this morning, thumbing through another bad review magazine called Games for Windows I came across the cover story, The Next Battlefield. I am…well, was a supporter of DICE, developers behind Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2 and a lesser known, but enjoyable title, Codename Eagle, released in 1999.

DICE was able to take MMOFPS to a new level with Battlefield 1942, large, sprawling levels, vehicles and a wide range of weapons. It was a turning point in realism gaming genre. Game play, while not uber strong was on the higher side of good, not great, but with a few buddies, it made for a kick ass time.

Since then the game play value has really gone downhill compared to the graphical value of the Battlefield franchise. Add-ons and special weapons rewarded to those who level up by spending a bazillion hours playing. I lost all interest when DICE/EA started to roll out the addons, like BF: Vietnam and Secret Weapons.

Last year I picked up The Orange Box for the XBox 360. If you have read T6F before, you know I am not a big fan of the console, since many games leave a lot to be desired and cost a pretty penny to buy. TF2 was different. Now I remember back to the late 90s when Valve announced TF2, which (or the era) had some great looking graphics, but it turned out to *poof* vanish, much like vaporware does.

But Valve redeemed themselves with The Orange Box that included an all new version of TF2. While not the strongest game in collection, it did turn my head and I found the styling and game play above many other games that were highly touted. The cartoonish models, each with their own set of weapons and characteristics brought an entirely new look and feel to the FPS genre.

Now DICE…err…EA, whom I am sure pulls many of the strings is looking to continue milk the BF franchise with the announcement of a FREE…yes, a free game called Battlefield Heroes. Of course DICE defends their position saying it was evolutionary development, something they had on the drawing board years ago, but interestingly enough is announced months after a highly success Orange Box release that included a similar styled TF2.

Gamers, even hardcore gamers are not into upgrading their rigs with the impending release of the “next big release” such as Crysis or Unreal Tournament 3. Personally, I am not going to upgrade because neither of those titles really do much for me.

TF2, while not relying heavily on detailed and fancy graphics did do a wonderful job on game play. Unfortunate, as I have said before game play does not sell units, good, highly detailed and fancy looking art assets do. And sorry, demos don’t do shit, expect get you excited for a potential game, only to be let down after the developer and publisher get your $50-$60 bucks in their pocket.

So BF: Heroes, until TF2 will be free. Will the hardcore BF gamer actually loosen up and find interest in this sort of cartoon warfare? Dunno. All I can do is base it off the game play I have experienced with TF2. The article says game play will not be as “realistic” or hardcore for the n00bs. Because it was no fun to drop into a BF game, take two rounds and wait 15 seconds to respawn.

I do think DICE has looked at the success that Valve had with TF2 and is attempting to capitalize on it, regardless of their, “it’s been on the table” comment. Will they be successful? Sure, I think there will be a strong contingent that rally around this cartoon FPS to launch a new sort of genre. I do think others will follow in the footsteps of Valve and DICE.

Working as a mod team, as FrozenSand (formerly Silicon Ice Development) has for 9 years, we were always limited by hardware restrictions. Using the Quake III engine, gamers did not want to upgrade their systems in order to play a mod. Thankfully at the heart of our development has been a very strong game play component, with art assets as secondary.

While neither of these games will have any effect on Urban Terror, I do think we see a new movement in the realism-based FPS. Gone will be the hardcore, highly detailed shooters, to be replaced by a nice, easier version of a similar game. I do think the hardcore gamer won’t be pleased, but when you develop games you must do so with a common denominator in mind. I’ll be curious to see how this new type of shooter fairs.

Gamers Like Free!

I think we will all agree, “free” is a good thing. But what is the saying, “nothing in life is free.” Gamers ALWAYS want free stuff, from swag to energy drinks to computer hardware, nothing is off limits for gamers. If they can get their hands on it, without having to pay for it, they consider it a score!

I am thumbing through the February 2008 issue of Games for Windows and notice two pages in the Editor-in-Chief talking about free games listed in this issue of GfW. Of course my first thought it, ah cool Urban Terror is free (100% with the stand alone version) our game should be listed.

Well I could not be more surprised at the amount of crap they listed in the magazine as “free”, now I know why much of this software was free, because its absolute garbage! Okay, to be fair there are some games that appear to be interesting, but for the hardcore and even amateur gamer, most will not play these.

We must also take into account that Quake III Arena is dead and very few pay any attention to this game or any mods. The magazine lists a GTA mod, a Half-Life mod, a Battlefield 2 mod and a Command & Conquer mod as some of the “free” games to download. I won’t rush to judgment here, but why the hell is Urban Terror NOT included? Oh yeah, I just said why, it’s Quake III and that game is dead.

It’s unfortunate too because this would have been very good exposure for the game, considering how complete it is after nearly 9 years of development. It is strongly supported by the development team and community that continues to play the game regardless of how old the engine is.

So what’s our recourse here? Well, do as I do and piss and moan about it. Or you can write the editor and ask him, “Why the hell was Urban Terror not included?” In all fairness, I am sure there are many mods/games in our position (maybe) looking for a break. But I do feel the game was done an injustice. Out of curiosity I went to the GfW site and looked at the 101 Free Games of 2008. There was nada as it relates to Urban Terror.

Rock with GHIII & Rockband

Some will say I have been very cynical and bitter in my old age of 38 when it comes to computer gaming. I have been around since the beginning of computer games, but being brought up on a “thinking man’s” machine, the Apple, I never really had a chance to play some of those classic games that defined early computer gaming. Sure I played Duke Nuk’em, Doom and Quake to name a few, but much later then when they were in their prime.

Even now as I turn page in the Games for Windows magazine nothing really strikes my fancy. I was never one for review magazine, since most are paid off by someone with big money.

Recently, most of my gaming time has been spent playing Xbox 360. A far from perfect console, one I paid too much for but now, some 2 years later I might be breaking even. What do I mean?

Much of my console time has been spent playing sports games: FIFA, MLB, Madden (’07 & ’08 suck ass!). I also picked up the Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior and its sequel, both of which have given me hours of satisfaction. After all the hype I went out on a limb and overpaid for an average Halo 3. Definitely not all it was cracked up to be.

I soon sold that back and received store credit and bought The Orange Box, which restored some of my faith in console gaming. I have never been a big Half-Life fan, being brought up on Quake games (I blame my LAN party!). I found this compilation to be a helluva a value and one of the best games to date that I have experienced.

More recently it has been the more addictive Guitar Hero III and Rockband that has caught my interest. I bought Guitar Hero II and learned the art of guitaring on the Xbox 360. I never achieved star status, as I had some trouble on medium level. My eye/hand coordination must not be what it was 10 years ago.

GHIII added a few new features to the game, but overall the single player remained unchanged. I was able to successfully beat the game game on easy level, knocking down Slash, Tom Morello and “Lou”. While not overly difficult, you were able to get the basics down in order to move to a more difficult level.

Rockband takes GHIII to the next level involving 4 gamers each playing a different role; lead singer, lead guitar, bass and drums. I played the role of JJ, lead singer for the band and before the first song was over, we were being booed off the stage. Then again singing karaoke to a song you know as opposed to some song you never heard of will give you a decided advantage.

I was able to redeem myself with The Knack’s, My Sharona, as I scored a 100% on the song, hitting the high knows and going low in order to achieve success for the band. I followed this performance up with Rush’s Tom Sawyer.

While more of a party game than GHIII (you can dual each other), Rockband definitely goes gold with a great hit. The only drawback is the price for the full set up, as well as having friends to play with you. But, if you get the chance these are two games that really have restored some of my faith in gaming.

Textual Healing

Riding the train home today, I started reminiscing about my childhood and some of the first games I played on our Apple II. Remember this was about 1980 and high quality, graphically stunning FPS games were not the norm, but the text based adventure was.

I read an article in the November issue of Games for Windows, while I cannot recall the title of the article or the author, it was really about the start of the gaming industry and how some of those text based games have survived and continue to thrive in a large, online community.

Today, I read another article in the industry insider, Game Developer about text based adventures and the MMO[RPG]. One of the earliest memories I have was not a classic like, Zork or Wishbringer, but the precursor to Leisure Suit Larry called Softporn Adventure. Of course at 11 years of age, I had no idea what this “game” was about. Call me naive, but I soon learned.

I have not been very impressed with the onslaught of trendy FPS shooters that are franchised and continued to be released based on the fantastic looking graphics, more so than slick, top notch game play. While impressed with Half-Life 2, the sequels are “more of the same” when it comes to continuing the story, more so than solving puzzles and completing the adventure.

I have decided to take a break from any of the new fandango games and get back to the root of computer gaming by playing some of the classic text based adventures. Games like Zork, Planetfall and Wishbringer are just a few of the titles I have downloaded and started to immerse myself in letting my imagination paint the pictures rather than a development team. Much like reading a good book, text based adventures still hold much value when it comes to gaming as a whole.

Now I know text based adventures are not for everyone. Why in the hell would you run a “cutting edge of technology” system only to fall back to DOS and text based adventures? For me the answer is simple. I want something out of my gaming experience. That something has been missing for a long time when it comes to the generic FPS shooter. I don’t want some developer telling me how a situation looks or feels when I can use my imagination and create my owe visual stimulation from what I read.