Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Riot Games Fosters the Worst Online Community In League of Legends

The title of this article is a little harsh.  The worst online community?  Fosters?  I firmly believe in both of those words being an accurate representation of the current state of the League of Legends (LoL) community.

It is without a doubt the worst community I have had the displeasure of dealing with.  Yet I keep going back, again and again, hoping things will change, because LoL is ultimately a fun game that I enjoy playing - regardless of some people's efforts to ensure that I have a bad experience.

Before I start, full disclosure:  I have had my account banned for a total of ~2 weeks throughout my 2000+ game career in LoL.  My actions pertaining to those bans made them completely justified, and I can only describe those actions as 'losing my shit' on a teammate (or opponent) for one of the many reasons I'll list below.

These are in no particular order - feel free to add your own comments at the bottom of this, I'm more than happy to discuss everything I've written in this article.

And here it is, my list of reasons why the community in LoL is an atrocity, and how to fix most of the problems:

Games on Summoners Rift take (on average) 45 minutes or longer to play.

By far the most popular game type; between a minute or so spent in the queue, banning, champion select, queue dodges, more queue dodges, and the loading screen games take a serious time commitment to complete, even if your team surrenders at 20 minutes.

I've been gaming for a long time, and even when I'm really into another game, I often find myself bringing up my email on another monitor, or chatting with a friend, wasting time on facebook, etc.  Aside from LoL, I probably NEVER devote a solid 45 minutes to just the game I'm playing without any distractions.

Listing this isn't very constructive, as LoL is currently the #1 video game in the world for good reasons, the game play.  Shortening games would ruin that to one extent or another.  But it's important to understand the commitment to a game of LoL when understanding why the community is the way it is.

I'm relying on 9 other people in order to ensure my game play experience is positive.

Unless you're raiding, it's rather unlikely that you play games where your enjoyment of that game lies squarely on the shoulders of nine other players for the duration of the session.  Got a bad teammate that refuses to not try and 1v5 the other team?  Too bad, you lose the game, and at least half an hour of your life.

Even if its an opponent that AFK's or disconnects from the game, making it an easy win - plenty of players have a problem with that.  I play LoL because I like the competitive edge of it - I enjoy a good, challenging win.  And while I'll take a free bump in ranking any way I can get it, it never feels quite right.

Again, another inherent game design mechanic that can not be changed - yet one that adds to the frustration factor.  At any point, you are only 10% in control of what's currently occurring in the match.

The game does next to nothing in promoting good behavior.

As I mentioned, I've been banned a few times.  I learned my lesson after the last one, which arguably cost me a gold ranking in the 2nd season of the game (I ended up being banned for the last few weeks, even though the season was extended, ending up ~3-4 games short).

But what about my behavior since then?  I've conformed and been a better player - I've even gone so far as to be helpful to my teammates after a game is over, to help them understand what they did wrong.  Yet, there's no reward.  (is the reward not being banned again?)

I agree that a system rewarding multiple-ban accounts having now-beneficial behavior since their ban can be abused - but this is a free to play game.  If all I wanted to do was slaughter teams, I'd keep making low-level accounts and continue to not care if I got banned.  A reward in the form of a small IP bonus for completing X games without being reported would go a long way.

"Hey, you've clearly made a change in your behavior.  This marks your 10th game without being reported to the Tribunal, here's 100 IP as a reward.  Keep up the good work!"

Even if people wanted to abuse that system, they could only do it so much - and would need to actually get banned in the first place and not play the game, in order to get the small IP rewards.  That would be super counter productive, and pointless.

Riot allows anyone that has reached level 30 to play in ranked games.

I was there when level 20's could play in pre-season 1.  And it was a disaster.  But throwing someone who just reached level 30 into the competitive mix is equally as insane.  There is no possible way a player, having just reached level 30, is experienced enough to play in a competitive environment, even a casual one.

As of this writing, there are ~100 champions.  Each one has at least 4 abilities, a handful of potential (viable) builds, and a few different roles they can assume.

In a ranked game, you can't come into the queue only knowing one role, having a handful of rune sets for an obscure amount of characters, and then insisting you're going to support with Master Yi because that's all you've got and you were last pick.  "Thanks for telling us that before hand."

There is a tremendous amount of knowledge needed to make ranked games in LoL enjoyable for the other 9 people involved in your match.  Ranked games shouldn't be a place to learn the game - yet almost every match below 1400 rating you see a player attempting to do so.

While there is no way to impose a "You must win 20 games in top lane, middle lane, as a jungler, adc, and support," before entering the ranked queue, there is a minimum games won limit that you can impose on a player entering the ranked queue.  I'd like to see it set at (least) 150 games won.  Yes, most casual players will not get there for awhile.  That's the point.

There also needs to be some way to ensure that the player has enough runes to play all the potential roles in the game, although I'm not even going to try and get specific on that.

There is no punishment for consistently performing poor in ranked, except for loss in the rating system (ELO).

Isn't ELO loss enough?  No, because people that are just experimenting with ranked and not trying to be competitive don't care that they lose ELO.  They just want to play the game and if they get a high rating, that's great - one more thing to brag about. 

I propose two new rules:

The first is for loss-streaks.  Some players get unlucky, others are just so horrendous at the game that they give up five minutes in after a discouraging early tower dive, and the rest of the team has to suffer the result.

I propose that at a loss streak of 5 games, you receive a simple message along the lines of; "You've now lost five consecutive ranked games.  Please consider taking a break for a game or two and attempt to hone your skills in the normal game queue."

After a loss of 8 games, disable the ranked queue until they win a normal game (or a period of time elapses, say 2 hours) - MAKE them take a break rather then further frustrate themselves or their teammates.

Enforce accordingly for repeat offenders.  With this system, it's possible to lose dozens of ranked games in a row - losing 16 games in a row would require 2 normal wins in order to re-open the ranked queue.  24 games, 3 wins, etc.  (not consecutive wins, just unranked, normal, wins in general, custom games never apply to this)  OR enforce a ranked-queue lock timer of appropriate length.

The second is for players that are unable to maintain a connection, repeatedly AFK in multiple games, or post high death scores multiple times in a given period (lets use 24 hours.)

For the purposes of point #2, completely ignore that players can be reported for leaving the game/afk, that's not good enough.  If a player receives the LEAVER status, or is reported by more than 49% of the players in a game as a leaver/afk, they receive a flag.  If they do it again that day, disable ranked for an hour.  If they do it again, disable ranked for the rest of the day.  If they do it the next day, disable it for a week and ban them from the game for a day.  If they do it the day it's enabled again, permaban them from ranked.

Truthfully, I don't care why you can't keep a connection - the fact is that you can't.  Don't come into the ranked queue and expect people not to rage when you intentionally throw games by either disconnecting, or playing when you know you might disconnect.  Eliminate the problem at the source.

What this comes down to is ridding the ranked queue of people that can not properly deal with the time commitment, or do not possess the internet connection needed to play the game.  These people do not belong in an environment that is attempting to foster a competitive atmosphere.

The same system would be in effect for players suffering 15+ deaths in multiple ranked games daily, albeit to lesser consequences.  Yes, I understand that sometimes you get singled out; "Soraka didn't take any escapes and keeps over extending, get her!" but I'm a firm believer that there is absolutely NO reason why a player should have 15+ deaths in a ranked game - the example above happens SO rarely that a surrender almost certainly occurs in every instance before the death count gets that high.

Example scenario:  First ranked game of the day you go X/17/X, you receive a warning - "Hey, stop fucking around."  Second ranked game, X/15/X, "Take a break and go play a normal game, the ranked queue is disabled for 24 hours, or until you complete a game through the normal queue."  If they play a normal game and then come back to ranked and go X/15+/X again, disable ranked for 48 hours, and increase it by 24 hour increments.  Eventually they'll realize they need to practice before they attempt to be competitive.

The ranked rating system is strictly based on winning or losing, and does not factor individual performance into a rating loss.

It's aggravating that in a 40 minute game, I can be 11/3/X, have a team mate quit because they didn't get blue buff, and then still lose a normal amount of ELO.  I did my part, and upheld the Summoner's Code.  *I* didn't lose that game, my jerk teammate did.  And while reporting them is a solution that sees results (albeit slowly and inconsistently at times), it doesn't compensate me for nearly an hour of my life wasted in that game.

Now I need to go play another game just to get that rating back?  And you expect me not to rage?

You have to be careful about this and how you fix it - but it needs to be fixed.

I'm not saying the best performer on the losing team should get a rating gain, but they should get something for their time.

I propose a voting system that will fix this problem entirely, one that is 100% impossible to abuse.

Each team votes on the other team's MVP at the end of a match - the vote is mandatory, you must vote for someone before you can leave the lobby at the end of the game unless ALL players agree that the entire team was at fault for the loss, unanimously.

So the losing team would also do the same.  Arbitrary example:

Players 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 play a game against players 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.  The 1-5 team loses the game.

Players 1-5 would vote on the MVP of the winning team (since team 1-5 lost), in this case, they vote for player 8.  He receives a 50% bonus to his ranking gain for that game (instead of gaining 12 ELO, he gains 18)

At the same time, players 6-10 would vote on the MVP of the losing team, in this case, player 2.  He receives a 50% reduction in rating loss for that game (instead of losing 12 ELO, he loses 6.)

You could half the result for the runner-up to the MVP, giving them a 25% reduction and bonus, respectively.

This system would be completely disabled for full pre-made team ranked queues, (5v5's, 3v3's) for obvious reasons.

Since you do nothing to control the vote on your team, the system is 100% abuse proof.  You're voting on randomly matched up strangers and awarding them for their game play, regardless of ultimately winning or losing the game.

Completely disable cross-team chat in ranked games, never allow it to be turned on again.

Riot is so adamant about reforming their community that they hired all kinds of experts for ideas - yet didn't bother to take obvious steps.  Sure, cross-team chat is disabled by default - but trolls and angry/upset players don't care about that.  They enable it in one click and lash out.  Don't give them the opportunity and there won't be a problem.

Yes, I realize that they can still lash out at their own team.  Disabling same-team chat is an appealing option, but not a very good one - forcing people to coordinate via pings alone isn't an option.  Again, this is where the Tribunal comes in.

There is no reason why one team would need to talk to the other during a ranked game.  Not to be 'sportsmanlike', or to congratulate them, or to tell them that the river's warded and support Yi is right behind them meditating to save his life.  God I hate support Yi.

Instantly ban people using obvious profane language in-game as soon as their game ends and they exit the post game lobby.

Don't ban them forever, let's say 30 minutes for the first offense - multiply it if they keep it up. 

There is no reason the n-word should ever be typed in League of Legends, in any way or combination of characters.  There are easy ways to flag and detect it, and that technology is off-the-shelf available.  The same with most of the other vulgarity in most languages.  I guarantee you had I seen that technology implemented the first time I swore, I never would've been banned in LoL.  Ever.

But what about people that do something like "".  Short answer - that's what the tribunal is for.  Long answer, people are creative - but this immediately punishes the ones that aren't, or the ones that test the waters to see what they can get away with.  If they know they can't do it, the possibility they'll keep doing it becomes much more narrow.

So I've written this, and it's already way too long to be posted on my blog - yet I'm posting it anyway.  I've got many more ideas, and maybe after the holidays I'll put together some more articles on them.  Until then, let me know what you think about what I have so far.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Going Back

It's no secret that I've been visiting a few older games lately.  Everquest 2 was the first, but Champions Online, the Original Everquest, Guild Wars 2 (yes, it's still mostly new) and now The Secret World are all installed on my hard drive and eagerly hoping I launch them next.

While I've more or less given up on the majority of titles above, I can't help the overwhelming feeling that things are going in a good direction for games lately; especially in the MMORPG genre.  And that's mostly thanks to Funcom's announcement from early this morning that The Secret World would shift into a Buy to Play (B2P) model instead of the archaic subscription-model of yesteryear.  Sure, they still offer the subscription model to players, with some very nice perks - but it's totally optional. 

So, why does this give me hope?  It's pretty simple actually.  They removed the single biggest barrier of entry for players to return to their game - I don't need to dish out another $15 for a month subscription just to try the game again and see if I like the newest changes.  I can jump right in and check it out, maybe I'll even spend a few bucks on that purple pimp hat I've had my eye on. 

A lot of games don't do this - instead they offer a veterans weekend (or some-such titled nonsense) where players who bought the game and were subscribed at one point can come back and play for free for a few days.  Or something similar to Blizzard's Scroll of Resurrection system for World of Warcraft - which I think is INCREDIBLY fair and a great opportunity for players to return to the game. 

ArenaNet's Guild Wars (1 & 2) both have this buy-to-play model, never charging a subscription fee for players to access their game at any point after they make the initial purchase.  Things like expansions, cosmetic upgrades and convenience items are a few bucks extra if you want them - but they're by no means necessary.  Expansions usually being a little heavier on the wallet, they can often run players anywhere from $10-$30 (or even $60 if you're insane enough to buy collector's editions), but for games that you can always access and never have to pay another dime for, they're a great deal. 

Perhaps we're ready to see the industry shift to this model.  ArenaNet's had a great deal of success with the Guild Wars series, and a few other publishers are taking note.  If anything, maybe we'll see a few more games come out with an initial price tag and no subscription then the zero price tag, pay-to-win (P2W) models we've been flooded with lately.

In a final thought just for all you World of Warcraft players out there; you bought _____ expansion, but need to fork over $15 a month to play it.  That's right, you bought something, and now need to pay (again!) in order to use it.  Re-reading that, I'm so incredibly glad I didn't purchase the latest WoW expansion.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wait A Minute, There's A Black Box In My Car?

As the title suggests, there's a great chance your car has a 'black box' in it - a device that records both the driver's control of the vehicle, as well as the vehicle's over all performance and response.

ABC (and most other major news outlets) are reporting that this past Friday (Dec. 7th, 2012) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing 'long-delayed' regulations on auto manufacturers to include event data recorders.

That might startle some people, but honestly, this isn't anything new.  The chances are good that if your car has an airbag, and was made in the late 90's or sooner that it already has an event data recorder of some type in it.  The earlier devices would constantly record the driver's input along with the cars reaction, just in case a crash were to occur.  If such an event happened the recorder would save the previous 10-15 seconds in memory allowing insurance companies and law enforcement to recall that data at a later date for analysis.  Did you really apply the brakes?  Was your seat belt fastened?  And why were you going 91 in a 65 anyway?

That last part about speeding is a shot at former NJ Governor John Corzine, who was injured in a car accident back in 2007 when an NJ State Trooper swerved "to avoid an out of control driver".  Last time I checked, it was easier to avoid people when you were going nearly 30 mph slower.  Moving on.

You've actually been able to voluntarily subject your driving habits to insurance companies for quite some time now.  Progressive is probably the most well-known insurance company offering such a service with their snapshot discount marketing campaign, but there are countless others offering literally the same thing.  From what I've heard, the people that have used those little snitches have fared very well - if they were able to curtail their driving habits for a time.

Further understanding these devices is something most people aren't interested in.  Most of the consumer-interest groups are hollering that it's an invasion of privacy, some even going so far as to say that the government snuck these boxes in our vehicles to spy on us.  I get a good laugh at people who think privacy still exists - but I'll take play devils advocate here for a moment.

So, let's say for a moment that your car has been black-boxed since 1995, and that the government knows your every move.  They know how fast you were going, if you tried to stop before rear-ending that school bus, and whether or not you were coming from home or work.

Ok, so when does the government retrieve all that data?   Very few cars have satellite transmitters and/or hard drives to store the mountains of information the car acquires every second.  In fact, almost no cars currently have the capability to do that in real time, comparatively speaking.  The way these boxes work is by saving the info for about 10-15 seconds before an incident occurs, otherwise the information is discarded after about a minute or so (assumption).  You can't pop open your car's computer and try to prove you weren't speeding.  But imagine if you could.  Then imagine cops could use it against you too.

Oh, wait - the government can already track your movements whenever it wants to via your cell phone?  So can most clever hackers who understand how the internet and GPS tracking works (if they really wanted to)?  What's that you say, they've been able to do this for over a decade?  Right.  Sure, they need a warrant to do that under most circumstances.  At least they do if they're going to tell you about it.

In case you were wondering if your car has event data recorder (EDR), you can click this sentence and browse the PDF supplied by Harris Technical Services. That's the most recent and up to date source I could find - leave a comment if you've found something more accurate, I'll happily replace it.

Over all I think the most important thing to realize here, aside from privacy being about as real as Dragons these days, is that sometimes big brother does something good.  EDR's exist not only for insurance purposes, but because the information acquired just before an accident is invaluable to the engineers that are responsible for making your car as safe as possible.  Understanding that the brakes were applied, and subsequently failed under the strain is important - and because that information was acquired via the EDR those brake can be examined post-crash and potentially altered in either a recall or future versions.  Those changes and that insight might save someone's life and prevent another crash.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Need Something New

I've been desperately trying to get back into some older games.  And aside from finding the same problems I experienced when I tried Everquest 2 (EQ2) again last month, I'm running into yet another disheartening condition - I've already done this shit before.

I was really into PlanetSide 2 last week, until I sat up straight in my office chair and wondered out loud "Why am I playing this game, I have played games just like it dozens of times before.  This is old, and boring, and I think I'm done here."

Multiplayer first-person shooters have been done to death and back.  Then they were resurrected, killed again, burned, and had their ashes scattered all over the digital landscape.  Yet people still flock to them.  I'm just as guilty as everyone in that regard - except I'm starting to come around.  I enjoyed the campaign of the most recent Call of Duty game (Black Ops. 2) and then promptly turned around and sold it on Amazon.  Not because it's a good game, but because it was a good game back in 2008 and I've already played it for hundreds of hours.

Oh, what's that?  You changed some perks?  I can customize my character with slightly different options now?  Wait, what?  The entirety of my gaming experience relies on my ability to aim and shoot any weapon, regardless of the other choices I made?  Cool story bro.  Been there, done that.  Needless to say, it's unlikely I'll be buying the next one.

Halo 4's very much in the same category as COD, but it holds a certain nostalgia.  I've played the Halo campaign's with friends dozens of times.  It's always a riot and there's seldom a better way to kill time at 3AM when you and your friends are bored.  Truthfully, I've never played a COD campaign more than once, even the original Black Ops., which I said had the best cut scenes of any game I've playedI liked the story that much. And only played it once.

FPS titles aren't the only one's copying the same format over and over and over again.  MMORPG's are just as bad - if not worse.  I'm so sick and tired of games that have the same gear-treadmill end-game raiding nonsense as the only thing to do at max level.  Gear should not be the only way I can improve my character once I reach the level cap - Everquest 1 figured this out over a decade ago.  Check out their alternate abilities options for higher level characters.  NO OTHER GAME that isn't a ghost town has that level of customization available in the end game.

But perhaps that says something.  While EQ1 has been around a long time, its mostly a place where older players return only to raid new content.  There hasn't been much of an influx of new players from their free to play options (there's been some, no doubt), but its a far cry from its glory days - and a damn frustrating game for new players to hop in and learn.  Not to mention that every single online resource available for the game is outdated by years

So the popular games remain the same ability/cooldown based equipment grind garbage that we've all been inundated with since the turn of the century.  Hooray.  Or perhaps they're just the less-buggy ones copying World of Warcraft?  The world (of Warcraft?) may never know.

I for one am ready for something different.  No more end-game gear grinds.  No max level in a week quit the game 2 days later nonsense.  I don't mind paying a subscription, nor do I mind playing the game for free and occasionally purchasing cosmetic/convenience items.  I don't even mind paying to win - if you want to blow $200 on a game, that's your problem - not mine.

I'm just dying for something that's fresh.  Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BingeGaming.TV - Halo 4 Tips - Gameplay and Commentary

N3ac3y's latest video was just posted, and as always he aims to please.  This video features not only killer game play, but a myriad of advice.

If you're looking to become a better player, don't bother looking anywhere else.  BingeGaming is doing some incredible stuff and is already achieving renown for their expertise in not only performing, but helping others perform as well.  Check them out at their YouTube channel, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

G4tv's Video Game Deathmatch - My Take's 2012 Video Game Deathmatch is something I've been following for a few weeks now.  Basically they put up the best selling titles of the year against each other in a playoff-bracket format and let anyone vote on them.  It's a cool idea - in theory.  I won't get into how meaningless anonymous voting is, or perhaps I will - but in another article.

I'm going to spend a few moments talking about the 2011 Deathmatch, which I've got a few mixed thoughts about. 

The most obvious thought, thanks to it being at the top of the page, is "Uh... Skyward Sword won?"

This is surprising to me for a few reasons.  The first is that it's a console game from the Wii (by far the weakest showing in terms of gamer popularity).  The second is that most console gamers don't really care about websites like G4TV - I'm a bit shocked they turned up in force to vote the game through.

Honestly, Skyrim should've won that contest hands down.  No other game is a better value, time/cost wise.  The story in Skyrim is immense and largely dictated by the player, whereas the stories in Zelda are 100% on tracks, you're always headed in the same direction.  This hurts replay value as well.  Hell, the Skyrim material I wrote over a year ago is responsible for over 65% of the traffic to my site.  That's pretty insane.

On top of that, you can't Mod Zelda games and they are never hit up with additional content via expansions.  If a fan of both genre's sat down and tried to tell me they spent more time with, and enjoyed Skyward Sword more than Skyrim, I'm going to call them a liar.

Also, Fi is one of the worst characters ever created.  As a species we should  come together and hold her creators accountable.

You might ask me if I feel that games like Skyrim should always win 'best game' awards.  To which I'd respond, "Pretty much."  There's a few very rare exceptions, but honestly - if you're a fan of the genre and aren't opposed to the game as a whole, you aren't going to get more value out of another type of game (except for an MMORPG, and even then, those require $ more often than not to fully enjoy.).

The only other thing I want to say is that the 2011  contest as a whole went off pretty much as expected - EXCEPT for whoever decided it was a good idea to match Uncharted 3 against Skyward Sword in the first round.  Those were both games that should've made it into the final 4.

Moving on - in the 2012 Deathmatch has a lot more surprises.  I'm going to just go off bullet-points here for brevity sake.  At the time of this writing, we're mid-way through round 4.

*Note that this contest states G4TV chose the challengers.  Not game sales (unlike the previous year)

-Who the hell decided to put Kingdom Hearts 3D on here?  It's a handheld game.  It might be the best handheld game ever made, but there's very few people using those devices these days.  Hence no votes and its inevitable trouncing by Diablo 3 - a game most Diablo players hate.  Thankfully, we didn't have to deal with D3 long, as it was subsequently crushed by the Witcher 2 in the 2nd round.

- Mass Effect 3 somehow made it past the first round, and almost the second.  I still can't quite put into words how disappointed I am with that game, and Bioware (don't even mention SWTOR).  To me, Mass Effect ended when I decided to blow up the collector base at the end of Mass Effect 2.

- World of Warcraft gets laughed out of the first round, amassing only 27% of the votes and falling to a game that probably wouldn't have made it very far if people weren't dying to slam WoW and its now-tired, done-to-death gameplay.  The only reason The Walking Dead made it to the third round was because it was put up against a sports game in the second, and those are played by a very small fraction of gamers.

-UFC Underground, the only title to put up a single digit (9% in the first round).  Reinforcing my thoughts that nobody plays sports games (comparatively speaking). 

- Halo 4 somehow got beaten by Dishonored in the third round.  I had to ask around and read some reviews, but by all accounts Dishonored is a good game and deserves to be there.  My shock comes mainly from the fact that Halo is a decade-old franchise and Halo 4 is a very strong installment.  I think what happened here is more of a case of votes against Halo by the haters that can't figure out how to use a Battle Rifle then it is of Dishonored being a better game.  That's probably the case in its current match up against Guild Wars 2 - which is also a good game, but as with all MMORPG's, has a good amount of faults and garners a lot of strong feelings.

- When I scroll through the list of games, there aren't too many surprises.  But where is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2?  It was released just after Halo 4, and last I checked, it wasn't 2013 yet. It's sold more games then anyone else this year (nobody else is even close).  Gamers talk with their wallets, and much like my argument for best movie every year, you need to take a moment to remember that video games are a business.  Businesses succeed on how well they achieve their goal; in this case, to entertain.  The nifty chart below shows that COD is the most successful franchise this year, along with the other top-10 sellers:

Global Yearly Chart


Pos Game Weeks Yearly Total
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (X360)
Activision, Shooter
2 7,449,821 7,449,821
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (PS3)
Activision, Shooter
2 5,794,449 5,794,449
Pokemon Black / White Version 2
Pokemon Black / White Version 2 (DS)
Nintendo, Role-Playing
23 5,220,715 5,220,715
Halo 4
Halo 4 (X360)
Microsoft Game Studios, Shooter
3 5,158,526 5,158,526
FIFA 13 (PS3)
Electronic Arts, Sports
9 4,704,392 4,704,392
New Super Mario Bros. 2
New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
Nintendo, Platform
18 3,513,560 3,513,560
FIFA 13 (X360)
Electronic Arts, Sports
9 3,398,064 3,398,064
Diablo III
Diablo III (PC)
Activision, Role-Playing
28 2,876,537 2,876,537
Kinect Adventures!
Kinect Adventures! (X360)
Microsoft Game Studios, Misc
108 2,851,355 17,929,022
Assassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed III (PS3)
Ubisoft, Action
4 2,840,396 2,840,396
Source: VGChartz

Final thought:  It's pretty obvious that Borderlands 2 will continue its rampage of the competition and come out on top.  While I don't totally agree with this, not only because it posted dismal sales numbers compared to its competition - it says something that a game impassioned its audience so much that it brought them out in droves to vote for their favorite game.  An early congratulations to Borderlands 2 - it's a hell of a game, and I had a blast playing it.

Anonymous, 'Revenge Porn', Morality, and The Internet

I realize I'm a day early with the Wednesday update this week - but this article couldn't wait another minute to come out.  I was first exposed to this subject from a piece BBC news published earlier this week.  You can find the link to the article here.  I'll be referencing it a few times below.

To summarize, it mostly talks about how Anonymous (The Internet Hacker Group/Movement) is targeting one Hunter Moore. Up until April this year Hunter was running a website called IsAnyoneUp, which allowed users to post revenge pictures (usually pornographic in nature) to the site for anyone to look at - hence 'Revenge Porn', he also posted links to their social networking profiles alongside the pictures.  Classy, right?  Don't worry, it gets worse.

In the solitary ounce of fairness I will account Mr. Moore, he thankfully sold his website in April of this year to, of all places, an anti-bullying website called so that they could shut it down forever.  However, this was confirmed to be nothing more than a business venture by Moore's announcement (from about half-way down the first BBC article, linked again here) that he was in the process of creating another website, "I am making something very scary yet fun."  He also noted that his new site would "Introduce the mapping stuff so you can stalk people," but as the article notes, he later admitted to dropping that comment while he was drunk.  It still gets worse.  If you're asking yourself how he can get away with that, I'm getting there.

But first, you need to watch Anonymous's video announcing their campaign below (it's less than 2 minutes long and is safe for work).  I'm not 100% on this being official, and it's likely to get taken down.  I'll try to keep the link current, but that will be a challenge.  If you have a better source, please get in touch with me - I monitor the comments and traffic on this site very closely.

You probably thought "Holy Shit!" at some point during that video.  Don't worry, we all did.

There's a few things you can do if you want to take a stand against this.  If you're a citizen of the United States you should take ten minutes out of your day at some point this week and pen a letter to your local representatives.  If you don't know who they are or how to find them, just click this sentence.

In that letter you should include who you are, where you live, make it a point to state that you're an active, registered voter, and then explain that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act needs to be cleaned up, and why - you can even include copies of the articles from the websites I've linked.

There's one more thing you need to mention in your letter, and that's the unbelievable tragedy of a young girl named Amanda Todd, which occurred on October 10th of this year.  Without going into too much detail (you can read all about it by clicking the link above), Amanda suffered the ultimate consequence stemming from years of abuse that all tied back to one poor decision she made when she was in 7th grade.

I'm sure that this is a cause our representatives will jump on, especially with this all happening rather recently.  Please, take the time to write this letter soon, I can guarantee you that it will help save lives.

After you pen that letter, take a moment to think about any not-so-smart decisions you might have made in the past and, if need be, how you can fix them.  If you've got kids, sit them down (if they're of the appropriate age) and talk to them about the horrifying consequences of 'naughty' images in the digital age.  I'm usually not a proponent of scaring the shit out of your kids - BUT GO SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR KIDS.  The ramifications of one bad decision like this can be absolutely life-altering, and the point needs to be driven home.  It's not cute.  It's not funny.  It's not a proclamation of your love.  It's stupid.  Don't do it.

If you're upset by all this, you damn well should be.  The second best course of action is to spread the word.  Tell your friends about Amanda's story, give them the links I provided here and push them to write their representative like you just did. Get on their case about it and make sure they do it.  Don't forget that you can write more than one letter (or just send the same one over and over every week, make sure to sign it in pen every time, don't just print your name at the bottom of the letter.)

If we all went a little bit out of our way on just a daily basis, there wouldn't be any more cases like Amanda's.  The world would be a better place.  And in spite of how evil, soulless, immoral rat bastards use the internet and our technology to drag us down as a species, we can come out on top.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Five Tips About Returning to Older Games

I recently made a valiant, but ultimately ineffective attempt to return to Everquest 2 (EQ2).  It's a game that I feel never really got a fair shake (not just from me, but from the gaming populace as a whole) - mostly because it was released within three weeks of  a little known game called World of Warcraft.  Quite honestly, because of that alone, it never really had even half the chance it should have gotten.

So what's the game like now?  Well, let me start from the beginning by stating that I'm starting from the beginning.  I began with an entirely new character because I didn't remember anything about my old ones and knew that the game had undergone some pretty heavy changes - I wanted to start fresh.

Truthfully, I had a blast.  They've done away with a lot of the archaic methods of MMORPG's past; like forcing you to visit a trainer to get new skills, or leaving you in the dark regarding quest locations and how to complete objectives.

Now - a part of me still holds onto a significant amount of nostalgia for the first Everquest simply because of the fact that questing was actually hard.  Crazy hard.  You were often left with no idea where to go, who to talk to, or what to say - and when you did know, you needed a LOT of people to help you, and even more spare time to wait for the thing you needed to spawn into the game.

I can't imagine what it was like for the first players attempting to get their epic weapons - it must've been a nightmare - but eventually they figured it out and their knowledge found its way to all corners of the internet.  I digress.

While I enjoyed the gameplay in EQ2, after about 20 hours and a few dozen levels passed, I began to notice something I was somewhat unfamiliar with;  I hadn't really seen anyone else playing the game.  I panicked for a second and logged out to make sure I had created my character on the correct server (the most popular one), and I had.  I logged back in and immediately headed for Freeport, one of the game's major cities.  Also empty. 7 people total, which is a dismal amount at best.  Throughout the first 35 levels of the game, I never saw more than 15 people in a particular area - that includes towns and the starter zones, which as far as I can tell are are completely abandoned.

I took to the forums, I found a guild, I made friends.  All of them pretty much confirmed my previous, all-but-certain conclusion; the entirety of the game's population occupied the higher levels.  I was faced with getting another fifty levels on my own before I had a chance of finding a group.  And even then, those chances were slim unless I wanted to raid full time.  Which I don't.

And that's that for EQ2.  I'll never go back, simply because as much as I enjoy a game I have no desire to play an MMORPG completely alone, walking through vast ghost towns and abandoned cities that are teeming with eerily-robotic NPC life.  That's just not for me.  What a shame; these vast, detailed worlds are all but forgotten now.  So much time wasted.

This is a problem I've experienced before.  When Everquest (1) opened their time-locked progression servers I played there and enjoyed the resurgence of players starting over on squeaky-clean servers without decades of work tainting the new-player experience.  This faded quickly as 'content locusts' sped through areas, abused bugs and exploits, and ruined the game for many people.  They left in droves.  Now, Everquest's servers are a more-or-less mirror image of EQ2's, vast barren ghost worlds sparsely inhabited by bored individuals that occasionally want to raid.

So what do you do to avoid this?  Sadly, there's only a handful of things you can try in order to shield yourself and your free time.  It's worth noting that if you're the kind of person that enjoys the journey more than the destination, and doesn't mind playing alone 95% of the time, then this entire article probably doesn't apply to you.  Carry on.  If you're not that way, read below, maybe I can save you some time.

Tip #1 - Check the server status for that particular game.

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) makes this easy for us by putting a ton of information about multiple games all on one page, that updates in mostly real-time.  Now, if you were trying to go back to a game on that list, you'd hopefully noticed that most of the servers sit at the low population mark (doesn't matter which game, in SOE's regard).  A few are dotted with medium-levels during key points in the day, and a very rare few hit high.

Why so many servers are still running for EQ1 baffles me - but these days server mergers are taken as signs of impending doom by stupid, nonsensical forum trolls everywhere.  Server mergers are always a good thing.  If you're waiting for a server merger to tell you that a game is failing, you're probably stupid.

Server status can give you a good indication of where you want to play, if that's an option.  If you're picking up an older character, it's an equally good indicator of what to expect.  If it's your prime gaming time and that server status is low on a Friday night, you're on a dead server my friend.

Tip #2 - Check the forums.

Forums leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I honestly believe them to be a complete waste of time and a detriment to the internet as a whole.  Coming from a blogger that's a big statement.  But 99.9% of all the junk you read on forums is a waste.  Meaningless, incorrect information and/or unrelenting hate spewing from the mouth of someone that can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground.

The VERY few people that get helped on forums could've gotten their questions answered somewhere else, easier, if software designers would just do their jobs and write meaningful tooltips and descriptions.  I digress again.

Yeah, sometimes they're productive.  Again, in comparison, that's win-the-lottery rare.

But, if the forums are inactive, there's a GREAT chance the game is inactive as well.  If you hit up a popular fan site, or the official forums, and see the last post was weeks ago, warning bells should be going off.

Asking about the population in the game never hurts either.

Tip #3 - Is there any up-to-date, detailed information about the game out there?

Most of the information on fan sites pertaining to games that are 5+ years old is completely outdated and utterly worthless.  Some of it is so incorrect that it might actually do more harm than good.

If fan's aren't actively participating in their own community, and neither are the developers, you probably shouldn't be either.

Tip #4 - Don't listen to

 If you head over to (which is still in beta, after years. . . ) you'll notice a few games in the lower right hand corner.  It shows how many hours people using xfire played those games.

I have been a hard-core video game junkie, addict, nerd, and/or gamer for the better part of twenty years.  I have never once met someone that has used Xfire.  Nobody has suggested it to me.  Nobody has mentioned it.  The only reason I know it exists is because I read a comment about it on a site similar to mine a few years ago.

Xfire is kind of good at showing you trends - and that's about it.  While it's 100% correct that League of Legends is the most popular video game in the world at the moment, pretty much everything else on there is unbelievably misleading and/or flat out inaccurate.

If you want to know about the latest expansion's effects on the player population, Xfire is a good place to go.  Noticing that their numbers ran up about 50% when a major event in a game's life happened is probably close to correct.  Thinking that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the second most popular game in the world is not.  And Call of Duty 2 isn't 3rd either.  I didn't need to say that, did I?

Tip #5 - Don't play games that are 4+ years old and still require your money to try.

If it costs $15 for a monthly subscription, and that's the only way you can get back into the game, it's probably not worth trying.  Good games, popular games, have free trials, or some way for you to get back into the game, albeit briefly, for you to try it out again.  Don't do what I've done in the past - it's not worth it. 

Look, ultimately you know what you like.  You've got a good idea of what to expect when you return to an older game.  Truthfully, I've rarely found the experience to be worth anything more than a few-days-long nostalgia rush followed by an overwhelming feeling of sadness for what used to be, and of course the time I wasted.

Hopefully, this'll save a few people some of that time.  Thanks for reading this long, drawn-out entry about my recent disheartening experiences into games long-past.  One day, they'll all be up in that big server in the sky together.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pathfinder Online, Crowd/Cloud Fundraising, and Kickstarting

Before I get off on too much of a rant, let me assert that I feel Pathfinder is a fantastic system.  I've played it and enjoyed every moment of it.  It not only provides an outlet for players to both run and experience unique content outside of the boundaries computer-programming sets before us, but gives us a place where we, as friends, can relax and be nerdy without the need to feel judged or ostracized for our interests. is - at its roots - a website that allows users to post projects (ranging from video games, to digital media, to books, charity causes, etc.) to the internet with the hopes of receiving funding towards its completion.  There's a good amount of guidelines that those projects have to follow, but that's not entirely what I'm here to talk about.

Massively recently ran a story about Pathfinder Online's newest Kickstarter project.  This made me think for a moment - Kickstarter projects must have finite goals, therefor having more than one Kickstarter related to the same over all project didn't really make sense to me - until I read further.

It appears that the 300k (6x the 50k goal they had initially asked for) goal raised by the first Kickstarter was merely for the Technology demo - which you can view part of on the top of their new Kickstarter.

That's a good place to start really digging into the meat of my beef with this whole thing.  That tech demo is one I'd expect to have seen years ago.  Maybe even so far back as a decade.  It looks like a dozen already released and now-dwindling games.  But I digress.  It's only a tech demo after all.

WAIT A MINUTE, that's the whole point!  A tech demo is usually shown to investors in order to garner interest and future investment in your game.  It shows the people that initially tossed you a few $ that it was money well spent.  That tech demo sucks!  It's short as hell and looks like crap!  Didn't you guys get SIX TIMES THE AMOUNT YOU ASKED FOR?!?  AND STILL DELIVERED THAT.

Where's the WOW factor, Goblinworks?  That video is the most underwhelming thing I've watched in a long time.  It looks like something I'd have expected around 2004. (In fact, it bears a VERY strong resemblance to Everquest II.)  I realize it's a demo of your tech, a display of your competency in developing your game, but what you did was take the money and show me something that really gives me little-to-no desire to play your game.

Dungeons and Dragons Online is considered by most 'hard core' D&D players to be a miserable failure.  And while I'm not one to harp on its free-to-play conversion, it's something that I want to briefly touch on.  Converting your business model after launch is a sign of failure - you can argue about degrees of failure all you want, but changing something means that what you had before wasn't working.

Today, DDO is a ghost town, even though it's free to play.  I can't wait for someone to tell me about how I'm wrong on this one - so don't take my word for it.  It's free and a relatively short download on broadband.  Go try it out, let me know how many people you see talking, wandering around the starter area, or any area really.  Feel free to come back here and tell me I'm right, I love that kinda stuff.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and the game has somehow received a resurgence of new players - truthfully, I love being wrong about video games and seeing them thrive - but the fact is that this happens RARELY.  Most games are money-grab gimmicks to pick up some fast cash in the onset, and then languish in limbo for years providing scarce, buggy updates that most players will mow through in a few weeks, if that.

Why go off on that rant?  Because D&D and Pathfinder are essentially the same thing with different rules.  The game didn't work once - it doesn't translate well into a programmatic system of absolutes.  Part of what makes the D&D experience so versatile and engaging is the human factor.  That is completely lost when played in a video game and bound by its constraints.  Unless they have a living, breathing person on-staff to constantly ensure my game play experience is as unique and engaging as the pen-and-paper version, this title will ultimately disappoint me and many others.  Why set yourself up to fail like that, Goblinworks?

So where did this all come from?  (The rant, not the goblins) A few comments on that original Massively article I linked bluntly stated that what Goblinworks (and to an extent Kickstarter as a whole) is doing is nothing more than "Cyber-Begging", even going so far as to state that it has no place on the internet.  That one made me laugh.

*NOTE Many of these comments have been removed or deleted by the users as of this posting. did a great, albeit a little dated, article on Angel investing.  In case you've never heard of NYC's Broadway, Angel investing has been around long before anyone reading this today was even alive.  It's not something new, and everyone posting on Kickstarter has just as much right to post their goals and ideas on there, asking for funding, then Broadway does to operate today on the backs of people anonymously (or publicly) donating money to their shows so they can operate. 

So when I say this, you should understand that it's not about the "Cyber-Begging" nonsense some uneducated fucks have begun spouting across the internet.  There's really just one reason why I'm even writing about the second Kickstarter Goblinworks put up for Pathfinder Online:

You got 6x what you asked for the first time, and I walked away with a "Meh - seen that before" impression.

Sorry guys, I'm all for helping new games develop.  But a short tech demo that had extra funds to really make an impression on me failed to even make a dent.  Good luck.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Beginnings for The Balance, and Star Wars

New Beginnings.  Not just for me and this blog, but for the Star Wars Universe as well.

As for things here, as of this post we're moving to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday format, Barring holidays that's something I'll be sticking to - and hopefully something you'll be looking forward to.  The topics will remain mostly the same, but perhaps branch out a bit more to talk about not only video games, but different aspects of technology and real world events as well.  We'll see how this experiment goes.

Speaking of experiments, I mentioned Star Wars, didn't I?  In case you were under a rock during the month of October this year, you probably already know that Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion.  Their plan?  To release a new Stars Wars film every "Two to three years." (Source)

Ya like that, huh?  That's another new change.  When I do research/quotes/state facts, I'll make sure I list sources.  This effectively nullifies anyone's right to complain about anything.

To be honest, a new film every two to three years scares the shit out of me.  But they probably won't follow through with that.  You'll see them do a follow-up trilogy and then it'll go dormant again for awhile.  If they did, god only knows what kind of garbage we'd get after they spent the better part of a decade parking the Millennium Falcon on a dead horse.

What I'm more concerned about, however, is what these new films will contain.  (I know where I'd take them, and because I am always right and never, ever wrong, I'll save my ideas for the end of this.)  I guess my real point of contention is that these actors are getting old - and while we can make them look younger, I'm kind of interested in what happened right after Return of the Jedi, not what happens decades later (but don't get me wrong, I'd like to eventually know that too.)

Maybe what scares me the most is that they won't use a character that spent the better part of a decade being a dominant force in gaming.  In case you missed out on the mid-90's FPS+Lightbaber scene, I'm talking about Kyle Katarn.

Seen here in the live-action scenes from the first Jedi Knight game.  You can read more about him here: Kyle Katarn.
 Aside from taking us through the Dark Forces saga, his premier game, he takes us through multiple other titles eventually leading up to him helping Luke Skywalker himself re-found the Jedi Order.  Holy shit, those were good games - you can get them all on steam for about $20 (total) if you're feeling lucky - I say that because getting them to work on newer computers can be challenging.

I need a lightsaber.
But aside from the Dark Trooper Project, and his discovery of the force, Kyle has a certain side of him that combines the two leads from the original Star Wars saga.  He's a loner with an attitude; "I'm no Jedi; I'm just a guy with a lightsaber and a few questions."  That quote alone is something you could almost hear Han Solo saying, aside from his preference of having a good blaster at his side.

On the other hand, regardless of how you played him (good or evil) through the games, Kyle often reminded me of Luke.  He was lost, desperately trying to find his way while coping with a lot of family drama.  There's that whole "Holy shit!  I can use the Force!" thing too.

If you played the games, you already know that he'd be an excellent choice for the main character in the 7th movie.  That being said, you can't just pick up the story with him, we've waited almost 30 years to see what happens after Return of the Jedi (you can read about it in a few books, if you'd like.

So maybe he'd be better left off to the 8th or perhaps even 9th movie?  Hell, putting him in towards the end of the 3rd trilogy leaves a hell of a segway to the 4th. 

But the problem is, well.  The actors are getting old.  And we kind of need Luke to re-found the Jedi.  If it takes another 8 years to produce the next three movies, that'll make it kind of difficult to put an almost 70-year-old Mark Hammill into live action scenes during Kyle's story.  In the Star Wars Lore, Luke would only be about 6 years older than he is during Episode VI.  But that's all just guess work at this point.

Who knows where Disney will take the franchise.  I'm eagerly awaiting some news - but for now, I'll secretly hold out that one day I can see Luke and Kyle drop into an Empire base and dispatch hundreds of Stormtroopers within a matter of minutes.

God damn those were awesome games.  Go play them.  Seriously.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Planetside 2 - A Beginners Guide

Short and sweet, a point by point list of some seemingly-basic things that Planetside 2 fails to teach you thanks to its lack of tutorial.  (I'm a bit pissed about that still, can you tell?)

I'll continue to add to this as new things come up - feel free to drop anything you can think of into the comments, I'll add it here and credit you accordingly  I've saved the ones that require pictures for the bottom of the article, you can click on any pictures here to make them larger.

- First and foremost; DO NOT SPEND ANY STATION CASH ON A CHARACTER YOU DO NOT WANT TO PLAY.  Unlocking something with Station Cash (Sony's currency, available in $5 increments) is applicable to that character only.  Not every character of that faction.  It's gone forever if you delete that character - might as well set the money on fire instead. This is especially important regarding faction choice - God, I wish I didn't roll NC, constantly <20% activity and constantly getting rolled on my server, but now I'm locked in.

***DISCLAIMER: MOST WEAPONS ARE DISAPPOINTING AND A WASTE OF MONEY.  A select few are amazing, but will still not compensate for a lack of skill.  Get the best of your impatient side and preview things before you buy them.***

*NOTE Sony was VERY helpful to me in restoring the Station Cash I spent before realizing this.  If you accidentally made a purchase without understanding the system, contact them.  They will help you - once.

- The "E" key is an important one.  It lets you enter and exit vehicles, use terminals, etc.  It's worth noting that pressing this key while piloting a vehicle ejects you to your doom (if flying).  Your crew is soon to follow.  You may want to rebind it.

-The Engineer and Medic 'classes' can level you faster if utilized correctly. 

*The Medic's Gun can heal friends and resurrect them if they fall (Default #3).
*The Medic's Ability can heal everyone around you, INCLUDING yourself, and recharges quickly.  (Default "F" Key)

*The Engineer's Repair gun can... repair anything.  Including friendly MAX's (armor suits).  (Default #3)
*The Engineer's Ammo drop (Default #4)can resupply all friendlies that walk over it with ammo.  That's a CRAZY amount of experience very quickly if you drop it in common fighting area during a big fight.
- The F1-F12 keys dictate the positions in a vehicle, with F1 always being the pilot/driver.  You can swap at any time, and you can ask someone to swap with you by hitting their corresponding F# key, and waiting for them to confirm (by pressing Y or N when the prompt in the bottom right appears).

- Don't spawn ground vehicles at the warp gate (main base on each continent) unless you can't spawn them anywhere else.  Why?  They have a good chance to fall through the ground.  Especially if you're spawning something other than the Magrider (A Vanu Tank).  I've died no less than a dozen times forgetting about this.

- Push the Page Down button to bring up the vehicle status screen.  From there you can lock the vehicle to everyone, just allow your squad into it, or deconstruct it (remove it from the map).  To troll people, fill up a Galaxy (12 man carrier) and fly them out into the middle of nowhere, then eject them at 1000 feet by switching the vehicle to squad only, or private.  Always good for a laugh.

-You can re-deploy at any time.  It takes 10 seconds to remove you from the current area and give you new options for deployment.  Pushing the M key for Map and clicking re-deploy in the bottom right will start the timer - you must stay in that screen until it completes.

- Flying takes practice.  Turning any aircraft efficiently requires mastery of the spacebar (hoverjets/lift), "C" Key (Air Brake and landing gear) as well as careful manipulation of the throttle and Roll of the aircraft.  Practice somewhere - bouncing off walls and other aircraft always results in severe damage and near-certain death spins.

- There are cheap upgrades (like 10% health for every 'class') available for 1 Cert (certification point, gained through experience).  There's simple things like zoomed sights for vehicle weapons, extra ammo, and a few others waiting for you to easily pick up.  These make a difference - but don't forget to equip them! (See the next point)

- You need to equip things you unlock.  Seems rather obvious - yet almost every five minutes I hear someone wondering why something they just unlocked isn't working.

The Standard Loadout screen.  Here, you can see my Reaver's Performance slot is empty.  I just purchased The Hover Stability Airframe upgrade.  To equip it I'm going to click on the performance slot.

Then, I'm going to click on the upgrade itself.  It should be highlighted AND appear on the far right hand (rectangular) box.   Then I should click 'Previous' in the top left hand corner to confirm it's there before spawning the vehicle.

Yep, it's there.  Go shoot stuff.

- You can preview any weapon in the game (even vehicle weapons) for 30 minutes.  You can do this again with a different weapon every 8 hours.  To do this, go into any loadout screen, select a weapon, and click "get more".  Then, press the gold "unlock" button, and at the far bottom of the window, in blue, you'll see the 'preview' button. 

*NOTE that you can not preview a weapon if you are in combat, or dead.  After starting the preview you must go to a place where you can equip the weapon in order to make it active in that load out, and actually start using it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Planetside 2

So, there's a few things to know:

First and foremost - if you are someone that does not learn quickly, cannot adapt, and gets easily frustrated at video games, PlanetSide 2 (PS2) is not for you.  Do not download it.  Do not play it.  Dismiss it without a thought and move on to the next game of interest.

I say this so bluntly and with such emphasis because the game literally dumps you out into the wild and leaves you to fend for yourself.  It does not teach you anything.  There is no tutorial - only a link on the patcher that takes you to some overly verbose videos that will help, but offer nothing to the majority of gamers that want to learn by playing - not watching someone else play their game.

I always get angry when I come into a game that doesn't have a tutorial.  It's inexcusable.  There is no reason except apathy and a lack of consideration towards your player base to justify not having a five-minute experience showing newcomers the ropes.  Industry standards.  Go try to develop software privately and hand it to a client without showing them how to use it.  Let me know how that works out for you. 

So, what does happen when you start the game?  You get a short video that tells you what's about to happen - you're about to be dropped into a hot area and instantly killed by something that you couldn't see, weren't prepared for, and didn't know how to combat.  Sounds like a fantastic first impression.  Imagine if every time you saw an advertisement, the first five seconds of the commercial was someone uttering racial slurs and profanity, and then kicking a small, cute, animal.  That's about the frustration-educing level that PS2's opening impression leaves a player with.

Before I break into the usual good/bad/balanced, I just want you to know I'm fighting an urge.  An urge to just type up all the shit you need to know about this game that will make your experience INFINITELY better from the moment you re-spawn after that bitter first death.   I'll do that, in the next article, which you'll be able to find here when it's done.

You can't actually do this in PS2.  But it would be bad ass if you could.

The Good

- The game runs well if you have a half-decent computer.  My current rig is over 3 years old, its sub-optimal in many many ways, and it's been giving me problems galore lately.  It still gets 50+ FPS in PS2, and I haven't messed with the settings much.

- The game rewards strategic, cooperative play - even if most of the people mindlessly running around haven't figure that out yet.

 - Holy shit, this game is fun.  I've spent far more hours than most would consider safe or reasonable flying around my Reaver this holiday weekend.  (That's a small fighter-jet type vehicle).  There's ground vehicles too, and if vehicular manslaughter isn't your cup of tea, the infantry vs. infantry aspects of the game are solid as well.  I can say something about PS2 that I can rarely say about any game - it has something that everyone can enjoy.

- The game involves everyone.  If you want to just be a pilot that ferry's troops, you can do that.   They need you to do that.  It's a long ass walk otherwise.

- Well thought out, intriguing maps.   I can imitate flying an A-Wing through a canyon just like in Rebel Assault.  I can shoot down enemies over a lush jungle, or I can watch as they leave a crater in the icy landscape.  You can actually be strategic in this game, instead of just moving from cover to cover and shooting whatever you find.

- You gain certification points (in-game 'currency' that you spend to unlock customizations, guns, armors, utility abilities, etc.) offline.  They said that PS2 ripped this feature from Eve-Online.  People that say that are stupid - Eve is, nor ever was, the only game to give you credit towards something while you are offline.  This gives players the chance to catch up even if they haven't played for awhile.  (I believe there is a limit to this, but can't say for certain - you don't get these points forever)

- A subscription model that makes sense!?  For $15 a month I get +25% experience, and resources (used for vehicles and other stuff), AND I get 500 station cash (= to $5).  So I really pay $10.  Also, that % of rewards goes up for each month you keep it active (by 5%, up to 65% I believe).  If you like this game, holy shit, that's worth it.

- Kickass music.

- NO HITSCAN WEAPONS!!!!!  What's that mean?  Hitscan is a fucking horrendously archaic game mechanic that means if you aim a shot right, it hits, no matter what.  Bullet travel time is irrelevant - if the crosshairs line up, you hit all your shots.  That obviously makes cheating much easier for the douchebags that do it.  Every shot you fire in PS2 has travel time, so you need to lean your targets, etc.  Needless to say, sniping is very hard. Aim bots won't help you much here.

The Bad

- I've done a lot of software QA in my day, all professionally.  As with most games at launch, there are nearly game-breaking 'features' that should not have made it to a live build of the game.  For example, you can not see your squad mate's position on the map if they are in a vehicle.  This makes squads for airborne friends rather frustrating.  "Where are you!?!"  Another favorite of mine is spawning in, and then falling through the ground and dying.

- The client and imagery reeks of Everquest 1.  That's right.  EQ1.  The foliage, ground textures, mountains, I could swear almost all of it was ripped right from that game.  It has a lot of the same UI errors that were never fixed, as well.  Like saving preview options when switching specs:  If I view the Medic's guns, then switch to the Light Assault and view their guns, it still shows me the medics guns because I went to him first.  Pretty awesome stuff.  You get used to it.

- This game does not run well on old machines.  It will be unplayable.

- Lag can be frustratingly bad if you're an infantry soldier and stuck in a huge battle.  The servers just can't handle that many bullets, grenades, etc.  I've noticed ZERO lag in vehicles - far less action in the area is my guess - although that doesn't make much sense.  Server load is server load.

- No tutorial means there's literally dozens of things you need to figure out on your own.  Things that many people will quit in frustration of without ever realizing they could do.  Like having to actually equip things other then weapons when you buy them.  Call me crazy, but when something says "Gives 10% health", I expect it to do that.  Not "Gives 10% health when equipped."  There's a big difference.

- Random flickering enemies, friends, tanks, planes, trains, and automobiles.  Starts happening about 1 hour into a session.  Restart the game often, there's a memory leak. Also, there are no trains.

- No trains.

- No Tutorial.  I have no idea how large bases are captured.  We literally spent 10 hours yesterday fighting over one huge base that the enemy somehow retained spawn-rights to (in one room).  They'd group up and fan out over and over.  Lots of experience, and frustration.  They had nothing else anywhere near that base, yet they kept coming from that one room.  Wish I knew what was going on.


 The Balanced

-  While the game leans VERY FAR towards the pay-to-win equation of free-to-play (F2P) games, there's hope.  You can't unlock everything with money, just weapons - obviously, some are better then others and provide a huge advantage.  HOWEVER, raw skill balances this out - if you are better than your opponent, you will win almost all the time.  Further balancing this out is the fact that there are customizations galore, armor, shields, health, unique abilities, etc. that can't be unlocked with money - you need to play the game, and do well, to unlock them in a reasonable amount of time.

- The flight controls can be anger-inducing until you get used to them.  But once you get a few hours behind the ... stick (?) you'll get the hang of it and maneuver with ease.  Incredible ease, actually.  And its a hell of a lot of fun.

- Every class and play style has something to offer.  From anti-air tanks, to medics, to heavy assault troopers.  Nobody has any real overpowered (OP) garbage that they exploit endlessly for an advantage.  At least not that I've seen.

- Room to grow on.  New continents, weapons, vehicles, classes, lots of options.  LOTS.  Interested, but cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for this game.

So, what did I miss?  Anything?   Leave me your thoughts below.  Also - keep an eye out for the PS2 Survival guide that will be out some point this weekend, and don't forget to check back here often - I've always got new stuff coming out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Halo 4 - Team Snipers, A Survival Guide

This article is the first in a series of video collaborations with - N3ac3y's one of the few Halo 4 commentators that's doing informative, well-versed videos that provide gamers with actual insight they can turn into results during their own matches.

Oh, he's also one of the select few doing it in full 1080p as well.  Trust me, that's no small feat given that Halo 4 is Xbox only.

I want to jump into a point N3ac3y goes right into (briefly) at the beginning of the video, and then returns to in both his commentary on the video, as well as his comments under it.  The video is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

The most important thing to realize with Team Snipers is that you're going to have bad games.  You'll get lag, you'll get matched up with group of players that are better shots then you are, and there will be nothing you can do about it.  You will get spawned killed every game, at least once.  You need to not get angry, understand what's happening, and try to minimize the damage by making the right moves at the right time.  Not by going out and trying to get lucky.

Without beating a dead horse and summarizing N3ac3y's video directly, I'd like to provide to additional points that complement his instruction on map control.

1 - Pathing.   Every map has points that people naturally gravitate toward.  This is even more evident in a game with specialized weapons, like Team Snipers.  While practicing head shots is great, and will obviously improve your performance, practicing games in general will help you understand the map layout.  Every single map in Halo 4 has select spots that provide definitive advantages.  Becoming familiar with these, and exploiting them, will improve your game play ten fold, even if you're still not the best shot.

2 - Covering angles.  Not just your angles, but your teammates as well.  Once you get to know the maps, and the likely places your enemies will gravitate towards, you'll have a pretty good idea of where fire is likely to come from.  When you're reloading, or moving, take stock of where your teammates are, and where (if) they're firing.  In a game like Team Snipers, kills happen quickly.  Unless you see your teammate drop, they probably don't need your help picking up a kill.  Don't stop mid-sprint out in the open to back them up, get somewhere safe, take stock of the situation, and then decide where you can do the most damage.

So between the video and what I've written here, I hope you can come out of the 15 minutes you spent between the video and this article a better player.  Feel free to drop us a line by either commenting here or on's youtube channel, let us know what's worked for you.

Oh, and don't run around in the open unless you absolutely have to.  Some of the guys that get picked off by N3ac3y in that video make you wonder if there is any hope for the human race.

Check back here often for more updates, guides, and general tips on how to dominate at Halo 4.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Halo 4 - Multiplayer Tactical Package Loadout Guide

By popular demand, I'm going to keep this short and sweet.  Feel free to drop your own commentary at the end - I'm curious what the common Tactical Package (TP) setups are these days, and how people are using them to the fullest.

If you're looking for guides on the other loadout slots, you can click below for the respective guide:
Primary/Secondary Weapons + Grenades
Armor Abilities
Support Upgrades

Mobility - Infinite sprinting.  Fantastic for mobility on large maps, catching up with the runaway flag, or getting to a hiding spot.  Mobility is king if you utilize it correctly.

Shielding - Your shields will recharge twice as fast.
*NOTE that this has NO effect on the delay that occurs between when you stop taking damage, and start recovering shields.  This changes how quickly your shields return to full once they start recharging

*ANOTHER NOTE - There is difference with or without this TP when you are inside a Regen Field (granted from an armor ability).

Resupply - Makes 2 grenades drop from any fallen enemies.  Not just the enemies you kill, but all the enemies on the map (hence more than one person having this on a team is completely pointless).  Anyone can pick up the grenades, the type is determined in the following hierarchy:

1: What type of grenades did the enemy have when it was killed?
(If it had no grenades, it defaults to:)
2: What type of grenades was this creature given when it was spawned?
(The default grenade for the loadout that spartan was using is dropped)

It always drops the same 2 types of grenades, even if in the case of #1 the enemy only had one grenade on them when it was killed.

AA Efficiency - I actually covered this TP in its entirety in a previous post.  You can read about it in depth by clicking here.  Without details - this TP will cut the time it takes for your ability to fully regenerate in half.  Some abilities do react differently though, namely Regen Field and Hologram, it's worth reading up on how/why.

Grenadier - Increases grenade carrying capacity (with all grenades) to 3.  You'll spawn in with 3 grenades of your chosen type, instead of two, as well.

Firepower - Lets you use two primary weapons instead of a Primary/Secondary.  You can read all about the Primary/Secondary weapons in my guide covering them, as well as grenades, by clicking here.