Saturday, January 26, 2008

Call of Duty Boot Camp

While I did not choose to do this, my gaming style has changed yet again. I hope that this won't ruin the run I have in World in Conflict to the rank of Brigadier General.

So what title has pulled me away? Call of Duty 4. I was given a copy of this as an additional push to get me to trying out the game. I've been on the fence about getting this for a while and I still was during that time. Usually I'll try any game that I can get my hands on. But it was unexpected that I would be given this. Many of the clanmates have already shifted over to playing this game and it seems that I'll be joining them too.

Call of Duty 4 is a team-based tactical first person shooter game. People who have played other Call of Duty games or the Battlefield series would know how this is played. While both franchises have their own way of playing, CoD4 is different in a few more ways than what BF2 presented. Instead of being shot and having a medic to come over to revive you in BF2, you are simply shot. You get shot and you respawn. So the pace of playing the game is a lot faster.

From what I can gather, the 3D engine for CoD4 is nothing new. It's been said that it uses the same engine as CoD2 but enhanced graphically to give us more details. Perhaps this is why the game loads so quickly. I am not one to criticize how developers utilize their 3D engines... but at least I am able to play the game in widescreen, which is always a great bonus since I use a couple of Dell 2007FPW monitors.

Like any games, it's not without flaws. As of time of posting, the latest game version is 1.4. The game's server browser is a complete mess, with no easy way to simply search for a name or to easily add favorites. There is no "buddy" system, which probably would half-work anyway if there was one. Server favorites are saved to the same file as the file used for caching server list. If something ever happens to that file, the favorites are likely to be wiped out too. Profiles are done in the most incorrect way possible -- stored locally. Meaning, all of your effort, unlocks, and other personal features of your multi-player profile is stored in a single file. And if that file becomes corrupt, all that disappears. You start again from scratch. As if it doesn't get any worse, storing the profile locally opens up the possibility for abuse: having everything unlocked and available for use without having to play a single game online.

In other games such as BF2 or World in Conflict, player performance and data are stored on a statistic server and a person's player name is static once registered. That is not the case for CoD4, where anyone can potentially connect and impersonate another individual online. The only way to check is to memorize the player's GUID which is used by the anti-cheating system called PunkBuster. Sadly, it's not easy to recognize one GUID from the next, so that's also out of the question.

Because of these flaws, I question whether or not the developers, Infinity Ward, spent all of their time ensuring a good gameplay while forgetting or ignoring how to protect a player's identity and implementing a proper server browser. Granted, they did well in making the game play well. But you'd think in today's world of online gaming and GUI for joining a game that they'd consider more thoroughly in how to properly implement a browser. Perhaps that is why the interface in World in Conflict is so well designed that it's hard to find a fault with that. It is, what I believed, to be a gamer's interface done right, in virtually every possible way.

Well, as time progresses, I'll see how my playing performance turn out as I play the game more. Hopefully Infinity Ward will properly implement a server browser that people can comfortably use without pulling their hair out.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

One person to guide them...

In one of my usual daily session of WiC, I came across a team that didn't exactly have the teamwork necessary to hold out against an assaulting force. As I mentioned it, I was told to speak up. Well, why not? Maybe it'll bring about something interesting about the people who play on the server.

Farmland, I chose the side of US. A quick glance of the scoreboard and the people who opted for what side showed that there are plenty of high-ranking officers on the other side. I may not be of much help. Granted, the ranks don't mean a single thing but it's still an indication of how much time was spent playing. And those time spent playing usually end up being playing experiences, of which the players will take into consideration and refine their tactical skills and knowledge. Time's up, the round starts.

I started the talk, walking the people over that the contested area is likely to be at the bridge control point. Preventing the enemy from capturing that will ensure that we have dominance favor. After a quick capture on the Airstrip, I rushed over to help my fellow armor player. We held out well, preventing the capture for a good amount of time. As the round progresses, the attack became rougher and tougher. The bridge crossing the small stream was destroyed, preventing either side from gaining a capture. This actually proved to be most advantageous to my team, as we held more control points in order to keep the dominance in our favor. And then there was silence. I sent an air-dropped light tank to the other side of the bridge for the capture while I was notified of a heavy convoy of enemy vehicles coming straight for the Airstrip. Sending as many of the heavy armored tanks over to fend them off, I the air support was provided with was superb and I did the only thing I can do, destroy what is keeping the air support from coming in. The action was good and I continued to guide the team as I keep them up to date as to where the majority of the forces are located.

Time is running out, but we're still in the lead. The bridge was repaired and the enemies started to spill over. Bridge was cut and the standoff at that control point resumes. A player mentions of having a good amount of points and inquires the Tactical Nuclear Strike option. I glanced up and see that we're on the verge of winning with the dominance meter standing still. "Not enough time. Best we use 'em for other things." He acknowledges and we proceeded to hold the line. Eventually we were able to break their hold on the Bridge and minutes later, the round was ours.

In all of my playing time in WiC, never had I had to become so involved in providing vocal intel and support to the players. The teamwork clicked in. It worked. And even against what seemed like a daunting odds of experience against the possibly inexperienced, we held on together for a well-fought win. It felt good being able to lead a team like that. And I was surprised that people actually cooperated well with the leadership that I provided. Granted, much of the experience I had came from playing BF2 and 2142, where I clocked in many hours of commanding just to get certain awards. But it cannot compare to what one has to do in WiC.

That round, I scored fairly well (anything over 1,000 is good to me). Yet as I left the server for the night, a quick glance at my profile indicate that the server didn't send my scores to the Massgate servers. Eventually I will have to submit the server to Massive to check up on as it's getting tiresome that some of my scores are not tallied into my profile. Well, some other time...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Criticisms vs Useful Tips

In the online gaming world, there are always those who start out new and unfamiliar with the controls, the mechanics, and equipments. I'm sure that many have come to accept that there will always be newcomers who'll jump into the game to see how it is like. What's often disturbing is how these newcomers are treated when they start out. Often they'll be ignored. Other times they'll be criticized. And rarely will they get useful tips on how to play the game.

During the playing run I had on Guild Wars, I ran out of patience on helping out newcomers. I became the type of people who ignore the new players. Once a while, there is a player that I will lend a hand to, just for no reason at all. And there are times when I felt generous enough to give away things, my recent give-away is a Miniature Destroyer access key I had laying around. Granted, there are plenty of opportunities to exploit this and make some money off of it, real or not. Still, I just... gave it away. There was no catch... except for being told that the key worked in the end. I just had the item laying around. Does that make me a saint? Not really. But any reader should realize by now that I'm just simply a nice guy.

As I play World in Conflict more and more, I encounter the different types of people. But any of these people who start out with a low rank can potentially be a smurf, a player who uses a different profile to hide their true identity. This isn't new, as it has been around since the days of online multi-player. But the ones who play with their first profile, they vary in many ways. Their ranks often indicate just how much effort was put in to getting to that point. Yet one has to wonder...

I'm the type who plays for enjoyment. There are times when the rounds get ugly, either for my team or for their team. I don't question it. I don't criticize the players for it. I just play. After all, I am not one to tell these players how they should play. And if there are players that needed to be guided, I'll take the time to speak up, and tell them calmly on what is needed at the moment. Some listen to that, some don't. But who knows how well these people react to my suggestions.

Eventually I will encounter people who take the game much too seriously. Unfortunately, I have crossed paths with one particular individual twice already... At first I did not bother to say anything. But it was the 2nd encounter when I heard the person criticized a player for their choice of units. Criticisms aren't usually needed, especially coming from a person whose tone and attitude is that of a lesser human being. Yet when I spoke to confront the individual, he took it personally and with such hostility that it's mind boggling. Not that I would strain my mind for trying to argue against him, it's just upsetting to know that despite the person's time and effort that went into making that glorified profile of his, that he'd know better than to be criticizing people for how they play.

If a Player A has a problem with Player B, all that is needed is to simply point out what the problem and make some calm suggestion. What good will spewing vulgar nonsense do?

If that person is so set on winning games that the person has to criticize everything, why is that person even playing in public games anyway? Needless to say, several people didn't like the guy's tone.