Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Little Games That Could

Lately I have been on a couple of buying spree for deals on games. And I blame it all on Steam for making such games too good to pass up. It all started out with World of Goo, a simple puzzle game that uses physics to help provide problems and solutions. The usual price is about US$20 but I picked it up for a small sum of US$5. The game is beautifully done and I see why people liked it so much. And as you progress, the puzzles themselves become harder and harder to solve. Yet this isn't some big-time game that is backed by a giant corporation. Nah. This is a small game that is developed by talented programmers who wanted to make a simple and fun game for people to enjoy. Independent developers is what we call them these days. And these kind of people are starting to pop up more.

The game called Trine is another "indie" game that also deserves some attention. Also based on physics, it is a simple 2D platformer where you control one of three characters in the game. It also features the ability to let other people play along, making it a unique co-operative game. Having tried the demo, the gameplay is interesting enough to make me want to get it. However, like anyone would want these days, you'd look for a way to get the game as cheap as possible (that is, without resorting to getting a bootleg copy).

Recently, Braid was put on sale for US$5. Its regular price is about US$15. Braid is a unique game, as it is a puzzle platformer, focusing mostly on how to manipulate time. Yet it is much more complex than that. Often the solution is so obvious that it never occurred to you.

And then there's Fez, a 2D platformer set in a 3D world. Everything visually displayed is to give the illusion that it is an old retro-styled 2D platforming game. The twist is that the world is actually 3D for which you can rotate its view to look at the world from a different perspective. Unfortunately, nobody has ever tried or tested the game, as it's not even out yet. It's still in development. But who knows when the game will finally be released. At least, however, the entertaining physics-based drawing game called Crayon Physics Deluxe is out after many months in development.

All of these games provide a unique form of entertainment unlike anything we've seen in today's big franchise games. Yet all of them provide a sense of good value when it comes to purchasing it, for they are cheap and is worth the money spent. It is too bad I cannot say the same for some other titles, where the cost is 50 to 60 dollars at retail.

Friday, September 11, 2009

State of Affairs on Mobile Devices

One thing I cannot stand is how some people can be so stupid. But I'm at a loss on who is to blame. I mean, using mobile devices has a certain level of self-awareness and responsibility to others and to yourself. You use it to keep tabs on a variety of things and you use it to get in touch with other people. And that's fine when you're communicating with others in a simpler and quicker way than just calling up a friend just to say a few words. The txt'ing industry sure has grown and exploded as of late. But at the same time, I also find that it's getting way out of hand. And upstart companies like Twitter makes it possible for some people to actually stalk others without ever having to leave the comfort of their own home. This is especially true if the person you're tracking just happens to be a moron who would be sending Twitter updates every 10 minutes. Still, using a mobile device for whatever reason you have comes with a certain level of responsibility to not just yourself but also to others.

Personally, I do not mind the fact that people are sending text messages. It is convenient and the wireless carriers and companies are reaping the rewards on this current market. It does not seem to be going away any time soon though. But there is a fine line of checking for text messages and actively sending one while you're walking down the street. So when I heard about the teenage girl who fell down a manhole while texting, I laughed my ass off about it. But what became of it afterwards turned out to be the worst thing you can ever expect. The family of that brainless bitch wanted to sue. And I cannot help but feel frustrated at the utter stupidity of such a family who thinks they can get away with such shit. You only need to know that the bitch is mainly at fault for being careless and for not paying attention. People listen to their audio players as well but it does not divert their attention while walking. Because if you're crossing the street, you obviously check both directions prior to crossing. It's only natural to do that, right? So I say, fuck that bitch's family and their lawsuit. They ought to be ridiculed for filing such a lawsuit. People are supposed to be responsible for themselves. If you're unable to care for yourself then you shouldn't be using such items that distracts you.

Just recently, a couple of girls in Australia, age 10 and 12, both found themselves lost in some drain in the suburbs. Both of these girls have mobile devices and are able to send calls to other people. But in all the wisdom in the world, these two girls decided to update their Facebook page instead of calling for help. The two were lucky that someone happen to noticed the update on the girls' page and called the appropriate people to send help. Otherwise, we would have seen those two girls post more stupid updates about their idiotic travels underneath the city. It amazes me that even though technology has advanced to the point where people can communicate with each other in unique and easy way yet people do not seem to grasp the notion of being responsible for your own self. Granted, those two girls probably didn't know any better but... I ask you this: who in their right dumbass mind would give those girls a mobile device?! It's bad enough that almost every high school teenager in America has a cell phone but why give these brats a mobile device at such a young age?

As with email that enables all of us to send letters and messages to others across the sea and around the globe, I worry that young people will eventually forget to ever know how to write a letter or message on paper. Is the human race headed to the point where we as a species do everything electronically? I guess for our time, we don't leave unique and engraved stones but instead we leave messages that ended up being lost because of a hard drive crash. Fuck!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Frozen Pigs Flying In Hell

For a very, very long time, the game Battlefield 2 has suffered dearly in many ways than one. Even worse so is the attack on ranked servers that try to maintain a place for people to connect on and have some fun. I have not played the game in many months, if not weeks, for I have long moved on to better games that are at least supported. Well, the term support should now be taken with a grain of salt, seeing there's hardly a company that gives a damn on what their customers want.

Having played BF2 and its follow-up, 2142, I have seen some dismal support that hardly came. And when it feels like BF2 was being abandoned in favor of 2142, I have given up on trying to play either of the games. Nobody I know plays 2142 actively and I'm stuck looking for a game to play. Added to this is the shitty support for a simple thing: widescreen. It isn't much to ask for. Yet I have touted time and time again, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, to get the idiots to at least hear out the argument in the most reasonable way. Yet it felt that nobody is even hearing or even bothering to pass the word along. It felt that all I was doing was screaming at a brick wall.

It was when 2142 received a patch that finally got some sort of support for widescreen. But there was still one piece of the puzzle missing. BF2 is still without that same kind of support treatment. And just when people would simply drop the game and move on, which I have done many months in advance, there comes the announcement that a major patch to BF2 will be made to address some of the lingering and current issues with the game. Most notably is the attack on servers that forces the software to crash. And time went on, and on, and on...

I cannot tell you just how frustrated I was at DICE/EA as a company. It's understandable if the company was working on one or two projects at a time. At least it's efficient that way to get things done, if you have enough people to really support handling two projects. But it doesn't seem that way.

When the announcement was made, DICE/EA was purportedly working on Bad Company, maintaining 2142, creating Battlefield Heroes, and now the 1.5 patch for BF2. Added to this is the rumored Battlefield 3 that everyone seems to be pinning their hopes on.

Later on, word got out that they were working on Mirror's Edge. And then Bad Company was released, and the sequel to that will be made. So one project is finished and then another one started. Still counting?

And then there's the graphical revival of Battlefield 1942 called 1943. So how many do we have now? Battlefield Heroes is now a running project open to all. BF'43 is out and a PC port is currently being worked on. And then there's any other maintenance that BF2 and 2142 requires. And Bad Company 2 is in the works. As it stands now, that's 4 different things, where 3 are majors tasks that require more attention. Yet DICE/EA continues to pile on projects after projects.

It was revealed on why it took so long to develop the 1.5 patch for BF2. Their answer was that they didn't have one or two guys working on it. Instead, they used time-limited resource allocation. In other words, the patch only got worked on in a limited time that was given by the higher-ups. That, to me, means they have serious management and resource allocation issues. It's one thing to split off the company into different teams for working on different things (like a PS3 codebase team w/ a unified visual/texture design team). But to give a maintenance patch a limited time for coders to work on, that's just downright stupid.

Assume for a bit that they shoved all of their projects aside. Assume for a bit that once Bad Company was done and Mirror's Edge never existed on paper. That would mean the one major project running at the time was Battlefield Heroes. What then? A bunch of people would then sit down, look at the BF2 to-do list, and start looking into what needs to be done. I theorize that had they never bothered with Mirror's Edge and/or BF'43, they could have finished the BF2 1.5 update in about 3-4 months time after the initial announcement.

Of course, all of this is just in theory, since it took them more than a fucking year to do this. The confirmation of such update was made on June 23, 2008, where a stupid update post was made September 18, 2008, with a winter release goal in mind. That, of course, never happened.

Yet in the time it took them to actually finish the damn patch, they have finished Mirror's Edge, got Battlefield Heroes stable enough to move to open beta status, and released Battlefield 1943. That's 3 fucking projects they have finished, some of which dated back farther than the notion of building a new patch for BF2. Still, it seems that DICE did nothing more than tack on projects after projects to the point where small things received little or no attention at all.

So... September 1, 2009. Over a year has passed since that announcement. The patch is finally out and with it, a lot of content. For starters, Euro Force and Armored Fury, two booster packs that used to sell for US$9.99 each, are now available to all for free. Not only is this a good move but it finally brings all the players together. Before, the maps that came with these booster packs did nothing more than clear out the server. Only a select handful of people would be able to play on these special maps but you'd be left with a fraction of people on the server. It was probably one of the most hated aspect of running a ranked server, as it does nothing more than empty it out quickly. It would go from being populated to empty in less than 5 minutes time, simply because they would all leave to go elsewhere. It doesn't help the server, since it basically bumps people off to other server. And that can potentially lose a faithful player from ever returning.

Another added bonus is the addition of a new map for ranked play. Still, one of the most dumbest aspect to ranked server is the inability to run user-created maps that can be verified, endorsed, or approved for ranked play. Yet while this was seen to work to a certain extent in 2142, there was never a consistent or robust method for which user-created maps can be submitted for approval for ranked play. Because of this, people play the same map over and over and over. There was not enough ranked maps to go around and not enough different content to keep players playing. The booster packs was probably meant as a way to solve this but we all know how that went.

So what do everyone get? A small shot in being able to play something new for a change. But trying to get back to BF2 isn't easy, nor is it all that great. Having played both Call of Duty 4 and World at War, I have come to learn that the bullet system employed in these two Call of Duty games surpasses that to what BF2 is able to do. I have played the game long enough that if you wanted to be able to shoot straight, the most you need to do is simply aim. In BF2, using the weapon's iron sight doesn't necessarily equate to always being able to shoot straight. Quite often the second shot after the first will go astray, a side effect to the game's bullet deviation system. And nothing in the world will get you to shoot straight ever again, even when taking careful shots in aiming at your target. You'd think that if you're laying down prone or taking your sweet time firing off one shot at a time the bullets will always go straight. Not in BF2. In order for the bullet to fly straight to where you're aiming, you have to wait forever. I don't think anyone wants to wait that long.

I have tried to play again. And having been away from the game for so long, I have stumbled trying to relearn all the controls. Yet the one thing that screws me over is the fact that I cannot aim straight after the first shot. Shouldn't the idea of knowing how to aim straight is knowing how to control the recoil of your weapon? At least in World at War, I can control how I shoot by shooting in short bursts, so that I don't lose control of the recoil when trying to shoot at a target far away.

I have mixed feelings on this so-called 1.50 patch. Granted, I'd need time to adjust back to how the game plays and get a feel for the new map. But I just can't stand not being able to fire a weapon straight down the middle when doing careful aiming. One thing is certain, though. Hell has frozen over and the patch is actually out. Who'd knew?