Call of Duty: World at War (PC)

Call of Duty: World at War is critically under appreciated. By that, I mean the slights it gets for being popular. Some too-cool-for-school game critics think that CoD:WaW can’t be good because regular people enjoy it.

If only they could see past their indie-rock-pete-esque hearts to the shiny gooey filling that is an improved and different Call of Duty.

Improvements on CoD4:

  • Nearly the entire single player campaign can be played cooperatively online.
  • In-game friends list, including invites.
  • You can squad up with your buddies fairly easily during team-based matches.
  • Prestige, previously only available to console players, is now available for win-folk.
  • Large, open multiplayer maps enable a different style of play. Bolt-action, single shot rifle kills are now reasonable. As are tanks and other changes to gameplay style. This might not appeal to everyone, but it is a definitely visible change to anyone who has sunk time into CoD4’s multiplayer campaign
  • The Flamethrower, flame tank, and molotov cocktail all bring a new kind of area denial  effect to play.
  • Nazi zombie mode.

You broke it:

  • Co-op isn’t continous, you’re automatically sent back to the lobby and the map is reset to the first map (Semper Fi). Good luck remembering the name of the map you were on.
  • Multiplayer squads aren’t retained between map changes. Boo!
  • The game seems to crash more than is usual.
  • Should have been released on steam on the day of the retail PC release.
  • Still different binaries for multiplayer and singleplayer.
  • While you can invite friends to the multiplayer game you’re in, you can’t see what game your friends are in without having to accept an invite. That is to say, you must request an invite to get to that server.
  • The name tags in multiplayer are colored red or green for differentiating  friend or foe. I can’t see those colors.

Multiwinia Review

Multiwinia is a stand-alone multiplayer skirmish game based on Introversion’s 2003 release of Darwinia. Fans of this sleeper title might not have expected a sequel from the developer, one that tends to shy away from rehashes and instead focus on entirely new games. While Darwinia has a lengthy single player campaign, it lacks any kind of multiplayer. So, Multiwinia combines the action elements from Darwinia with six multiplayer gametypes.

King of the Hill involves holding marked locations to gain more points than your enemy. Blitzkrieg is similar to King of the Hill, except the sectors you capture contain flags that are raised and lowered like those in the Battlefield series of games.

Rocket Riot requires the capturing of solar panels to harvest their output for rocket fuel. Assault mode has one side defending a base while another attacks. Domination is a free for all. Capture the Statue has your Darwinians lug statues back to your base for points while the enemy is attempting to do the same and prevent you from capturing any.

The spin on these modes is that you have to capture Darwinian production facilities (the only way to improve your numbers), and locate crates dropped from space which contain bonus units like turrets and transports.

The six gameplay modes and the new selection methods offered make this RTS feel more like Pikmin on the Nintendo Gamecube than a conventional RTS game like Command and Conquer. This is both good and bad: good in that the bite-sized games only last a few minutes, but not so great if you’re looking for any depth, which is only to be found in making formations out of your Darwinians and using the crates.

However good those modes are, there are some problems with the game. First of all, the tutorials are vague and not polished very well. Most of the interface changes appropriately when you plug in a gamepad except for the tutorial messages, which still refer to keyboard keys instead of the gamepad buttons.

After each game you’re dumped out to the menu with no way to continue with the same opponents. The game also does not force you to change your nickname in order to be uniquely identified in online matches, nor does it tell you how to do this. You’re left to guess until you figure out that you have to click on it at the pre-game lobby.

In-game, every player must ready up for the game to start, leaving the power in the hands of any one person to hold the game hostage. Routinely I’ve seen players online hold out, refusing to ready up, until their conditions are met for the game to be played. Granted, this particular issue isn’t the fault of Introversion, however these and other issues must be addressed for the community to thrive.

Multiwinia is on the right track, as Introversion have already released a patch implementing text chat in the pre-game lobby.

Even though it is more of an enhancement to Darwinia than a new game, Multiwinia is a worthwhile purchase if you enjoyed Darwinia and were left wanting more with the same theme. However, it would be a poor starting point if you haven’t played the earlier game in the series. So, try out the demo if you’ve played Darwinia and see if you like Multiwinia. It is a quirky RTS that should convert those who try it.

MegaMan 9 Demo (PSN) Impressions

Do you miss being extremely frustrated with your video games?

If so, then Mega Man 9 is the game for you.

Unlike Capcom’s other recently released throwback title Bionic Commando, Megaman 9 retains the exact look and feel of its predecessors on the NES. While that graphical style is compelling, it also serves as a warning to keep those who were bad at the original games away. Fortunately, this demo is available to everyone who wants to take the game for a test drive on the 360 and PS3. WiiWare users have to suffer the indignity of purchasing a game only to find that they can’t defeat the elephants on the concrete man stage. I suspect that playing the game on the 360 will suffer due to the smushy d-pad on that platform.

Though you should still buy the shirt, even if you don’t get the game. Boxart will never be this cool again.

Battlefield: Bad Company Notes

I purchased Bad Company the day it was released for $44 (after tax) at Circuit City thanks to a gift card from a GTA 4 purchase and the register jockey was kind enough to immediately apply the gift card (thanks CAG!) I would have received for purchasing Bad Company. Here are my notes from my time with the game so far. I’ve completed the Single Player campaign and spent several hours in Multiplayer.

Single Player:

  • The unlimited Health Stabs are a refreshing change from either picking up health kits or hiding behind cover and waiting for your “shield” to recharge. Basically it works like this: Get hurt, hide, stab, step out, fire, get hurt, wait for stabby-stabs-mc-stabberson-the-recharging-stab needle to recharge, stab again. Excellent!
  • Also, I like the term “Health Stabs”.
  • PIcking up a weapon + secondary weapon at a time is great. The SMG + Underslung Grenade Launcher or LMG + Grenade launcher is great. Even better is the combo of a Pistol and a Sniper Rifle.
  • The Single Player is buggy as all hell, at least on PS3. A lot of the problems seem to be in or around vehicles. I’ve gotten into cars only see drivers pop-in behind the car and float (while in a “seated” position) through the rear hatch and then into the drivers position. During the first level.
  • At least some of the bugs seem to be fixed after the demo.
  • During one level at a harbor my cohorts exclaimed “GOD DAMNED LIBERALS!” while shooting at some mercenary or whatever. This is awesome.
  • The soundtrack in the vehicles is awesome, it isn’t a GTA 4 cross-section of the music universe, nor is it a Burnout-style fist full of jammy jams. Instead it is a small sample of good and simple music. Good job on this one.
  • The 7 missions in the game are fairly free-form. While you have to reach certain points along the map, the Battlefield style changes normal shooter gameplay into a wide open experience.
  • The Single Player gets better as you proceed.

Multiplayer:

  • Gold rush is fun, and I guess I have to continue waiting for Conquest – the main mode from BF2)
  • Ranking up is a little bit faster so far than 2142, and much faster than BF2. I still like this style of ranking up more than Call of Duty 4’s since it provides you with the choice of what you want, as opposed to some distributed standard.
  • Multiplayer is also buggy. I’ve had the sound buffer completely lock up and produce a repeating sound. Exiting back to title didn’t end it. Only exiting the game and re-launching did.
  • The Multiplayer Squad feature before you join a game is great. The constant problem with BF2 is trying to stay on the same team with you buddies. In Bad Company you join up with your buddies before you go into the game, and then the game keeps you together.
  • Stats exist on the Bad Company website, however I don’t believe there is a way to publicly link them. Or if there is, the method isn’t obvious. (The URL I use to view my stats is generic, blahblah.com/myprofile)
  • Sniping is fluid for the first time in a multiplayer Battlefield game. There are clearly set up places for you to go and snipe, that aren’t overexposed, and can be countered if players attempt to.

General Issues:

  • The Find all Five thing. EA I have to tell you, your friend isn’t the retail chain, it is the player. Why must one of your marketing schemes depend on an outdated scheme (pre-ordering) in order to get all the weapons.
  • Character control just feels poor. I’m not sure why, but it does. It is like the character isn’t really in the world. This lack of immersion is intensified whenever I see a corpse floating in some weird position after I’ve sniped it from halfway across the map.
  • Limited destructibility in environments. Some pieces of the level are just immune to destruction. This is probably so some mission details won’t be destroyed. However it breaks the immersion each time you figure out that something you were trying to go through simply won’t. The illusion works best when you don’t think about it.
  • Unfortunately, bullet penetration almost never works vertically. That is to say, if an enemy is on a thin floor above you, you cannot kill him through that floor. Meh.

TimeDoctor’s Top Three Web Massives

  1. Urban Dead\'s logo arises from its graveUrban Dead: This older massive has been around since the July of 2005. In which you play the part of either a post-zombocolypse Human or Zombie Corpse. This game has a decidely non-graphical approach which is closer to MUDs of yore. The only graphics provided by default are the city map and the logo. Various extensions for browsers exist to add graphics for those who are, shall we say, imagimpaired, or simply desire something else. At start, the human players can choose from a variety of classes in addition to the races mentioned above. These effect the initial abilities of the players, which can later be modified (regardless of race) with skills. Even the choice of race is a transitory one; at any point Zombies can — with varying degrees of difficulty depending on skills of both humans and the target zombie — be revived and turned into productive members of the living society. Even then this opportunity to live can be aborted by player-killers, other zombies, and the free will to jump from any building.
  2. Ikariam: While Urban Dead seems to exist mostly to harvest the joy of the game from a player and doesn’t attempt to charge for any gameplay elements, Ikariam‘s three-tiered overworld exists to generate revenue for the developers. Though it also happens to be a fun civ/populous-style omnipotent hand-of-god game wherin you build little colonies to collect resources on islands and venture for war or peace with others in alliances. In another stark contrast to Urban Dead, Ikariam’s interface is graphically rich and even the sliders you use to choose what amount of goods to send to another colony is customized. This makes up for the fact that you’re just twiddling numbers to provide for your colonies and that your interactions with other players can be limited at first.
  3. PMOG: Contrary to the onomonopiedic title, pmog has nothing to do with pogs.  Instead it stands for Passively Multiplayer Online Game. Which is disappointing as you might wish for an online Pog trading simulation. It also consists of user-generated content more than any other web-massive I’ve played. The user interface consists largely of a stripped-down toolbar for you to utilize at any time while you’re browsing the internet. Ah-ha, now you see, that is the passive part. This game has character classes, but you don’t choose them. Instead they are provided to you by the system based on your actions. What are these actions? Well you can make missions, kind of mini-webrings, linking sites together. These consume the “lamp post” resource which you can refill at the in-game shoppe. Though you still can’t buy pogs, hm. You can also drop mines (which are defended with armor) , or attack those who drop mines with St. Nicks. Of course you can also put out one way portals between sites. For example, I just put one down from souceforge.net to icculus.org. That portal was named: “Perhaps you’d like a little bit more soul.”

A Comparison of Current VOIP Solutions for Gamers

Computer games have been an important part of my life since as long as I can remember. I’m still young, but I caught the tail end of Kali and saw Mplayer rise and fall, and Gamespy never quite thrilled me like All Seeing Eye. Things have changed a lot over the last decade, but one important tool has remained the same. I discovered this tool during the beginning of my birth into the FPS clan community. The reason people were so darn good was because of they had the one advantage the noobs didn’t — communication. I honestly can’t think of anything more important in online gaming than your access to voice communication. Not only does it make the experience more enjoyable, but also helps to create friendship on a whole new level.

The difference between now and ten years ago is that we’ve finally brought in choice. Out goes relics like Roger Wilco and in comes some real competitors. As we all know, competition fuels advancement. Many gamers these days are constantly bickering over which tool is better – Ventrilo or Teamspeak. Others who like to keep their VOIP sessions a bit smaller and more personal tend to utilize Skype. However, a few are catching on to this new kid on the block known as Mumble. As primarily a Teamspeak user, I have been itching to test and see what solution is truly the most superior. When it comes to FPS games you need every tweak possible to keep up with the rest and VOIP is definitely on that list. I had some free time and access to all the required software, so testing is what I did.

Before I begin I’d like to quickly touch on the advent of in-game VOIP technologies. I think it’s wonderful and a great asset to multiplayer online games. It sure makes things enjoyable when you have a good team of random people communicating and working together online. I like that the volume can automatically lower for the VOIP transmission which is a feature unique to this integration. However, there is a drawback to this — you can’t easily contact other people you know who are playing other games. It’s just not a solution a clan or squad who play multiple games regularly can rely on. Furthermore, you have to remember that the server is doing this work and heavy VOIP can cause a game server to lag as it takes up quite a bit of bandwidth and some CPU time. Consequently the audio quality can be poor as I have seen in a few games. When it comes down to it, this is not something I’d rely on in the competitive gaming community.

I’d also like to give you some background on the setup so we don’t get a thrall of flames and accusations. I’m a Unix/Linux sysadmin with a networking degree. I do have half a clue regarding networking, but if you see a blatant mistake please, beat me senseless. I only have control over my network during the tests, so I can’t vouch for others, but there is no interference on my end. I tested with no traffic (web, torrent, etc), and if you’re wondering I have QoS setup for all these applications at the same (highest) priority. A friend of mine runs my clan’s Teamspeak server on FreeBSD 6.2. He also put Murmur on that same server. Ventrilo is on a separate server, and Skype is . . . well, Skype is Skype. I’m watching the Stanley Cup Finals as I write this and making this a bracket competition kind of makes more sense because of the visual representation and it fits my testing process. Behold, the competitors.

Skype – – – – – – – – – –                                    – – – – – – – – – – Teamspeak

___________________| _______ vs _______ |

Mumble – – – – – – – – –                                     – – – – – – – – – – Ventrilo

The first on my list was Skype (3.8 win32) vs Mumble (1.1.4 win32). While speaking to the Timedoctor himself I compared Skype and Mumble’s performance by speaking and listening over both connections at the same time. On my end the Mumble server was reporting 45-60ms. I found the voice quality to be pretty close. Mumble uses Speex for voice activation detection, background noise filtering, and compression. Skype utilizes a proprietary protocol of which the details are scarce. I have always enjoyed the voice quality of Skype, and Mumble has that and more. My experience showed that the background noise filtering was superb and pushed Mumble to the top in this category. Skype also happens to use a more P2P type of communication instead of client/server, but don’t let that scare you. I’m not going to discuss bandwidth or resource usage because that’s not the point of this article — we want the best tool for you no matter the cost. However, latency is certainly important. It was quite close actually, but Mumble was slightly faster than Skype. Skype was the echo in this test, and I’d have to say it was something on the order of 250ms — definitely noticable. Mumble wins this one.

Skype – – – – – – – – – –                                    – – – – – – – – – – Teamspeak

___________________| Mumble vs _______ |

Mumble – – – – – – – – –                                     – – – – – – – – – – Ventrilo

Teamspeak (2.0.32.60 win32) and Ventrilo (3.01 win32) were the next up to the chopping block.. Teamspeak has Speex for its high end audio codec as does Ventrilo. Teamspeak’s audio is not exactly something to write home about. It has a bit more liberal licesing and that’s probably why it has a pretty good foothold in the hosting market. Ventrilo, however, makes you sound human wheras Teamspeak’s audio quality can’t really be explained adequately. Even at the highest settings Teamspeak seems to make you sound like you’re in a wind tunnel or a tin can without a very high end mic. Don’t critique me on this, I’ve had dozens of mics and they all end up with the same results. Latency was extremely noticable. The Vent server was measuring 22ms and the Teamspeak was measuring 45-60ms. No wonder you Vent fans fap furiously to the egotistic Vent developer (singular). We’re looking at nearly a 1.25 second difference here in audio! This was just mind blowing. In an FPS game this can be the difference between (virtual) life and (virtual) death! On a side note, Teamspeak has one feature I want to see more often though: you can amplify the audio to make it louder than other applications. It’s nice to make the VOIP louder than the rest of the system so you don’t have to lower your game’s volume. This is probably less of an issue than I’m making it out to be, but I really do enjoy this feature and can’t quite locate this in Ventrilo. If it’s there, sue me. Either way, this Bud’s for you Vent, you earned it.

Skype – – – – – – – – – –                                  – – – – – – – – – – Teamspeak

___________________| Mumble vs Ventrilo |

Mumble – – – – – – – – –                                  – – – – – – – – – – Ventrilo

Okay, we’ve weeded out Skype and Teamspeak. The final showdown needs a bit of an introduction. From my machine I have the following measurements: Mumble showing 45-60ms as stated earlier, and Vent claiming 22ms. Let’s get straight to the point. Latency for Ventrilo was comparable with Skype. Mumble has the advantage here. It’s slight, but every bit is critical. In the audio quality realm it’s very close, too, but Mumble has actively working background noise filtration that can be the difference between hearing your teammate the first time and losing critical time asking “WTF?”.

The conclusion is pretty simple. If you want the best you can get right now for VOIP you better look at Mumble. Not many hosting companies offer it yet, but if you can get a VPS or a dedicated server go out and install it immediately! There’s not much more to ask for — you get great audio quality and latency, in game overlay is a part of Mumble, directional audio can hook into games, nested channels, awesome multiplatform support, and probably others I can’t think to mention. The only negative is that although user and group control is great once you get the users created . . . creating them is not exactly straightforward. There is a perl cgi web interface for it, but it’s really basic. I expect this to be taken care of soon, but it is something you should know about. Get past this hurdle and you won’t look back. Either way, do these Mumble devs a favor and get them laid as a THANK YOU for such an amazingly well performing app. Just don’t get them into a relationship or we might not see version 2.0. P.S. Teamspeak 3 is vaporware. Don’t get your hopes up.

Needed: (hairy) game developers for exciting new project(s)

The 23rd scroll, 9th verse, of the ancient texts says:

Beware the beast man, for he is the devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him. Drive him back into his jungle lair: For he is the harbinger of death.

 

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey, a monkey with an idea for a new game franchise. So, tonight as I watched my second favorite (see below post) film, I realized that an opportunity for game development was staring me right in the face.

The film, if you have not guessed it, is the legendary Planet of the Apes and the idea is two-fold.

Firstly, I think that a Planet of the Apes Massive Multiplayer Game is just what the internet needs. This game will be the prime place for geeks, the obese, shut-ins, the handicapped, dystopians, and the general Comic Book Store Guys of the world to flex their ape-might against that irritating group known as humanity. The same folks who belittled us er people in High School and picked up all of the mute women (hereafter Nova’s) that were meant for us.

When you sign up, for a mere $40 a month, you too will have your choice of player classes including:

  • Chimpanzee: these are the intelligentsia, by varying degrees, all mimicking the five films, from physician to scientist, theologian, and young activist.
  • Gorilla: grunt, military, street cleaner, and orange-jumpsuit clad revolutionary.
  • The Scum Of Future Earth (sssh, don’t blow the ending) human (mute slave, talking slave, oppressor, and turtleneck-sporting liberal). Word of warning for human chars; watch out for the dreaded lobotomist!

Imagine varying game environments from muddy beaches, to straw huts, and the desolate concrete jungles of future-Los Angeles. Depending on which server you log onto, you will face new challenges based on one of the film environments.

You will encounter familiar faces from the movie as you play the game. Everyone from Cornelius to Dr. Zaius, Taylor, and the greatest of them all, General Urko will either aid-in, or stymie, your quest to be top dog (or ape).

Secondly, that been said, perhaps the M.M.O. arena is a bit too overdone. How about we go the Lego Planet of the Apes route? All of the classic film series are doing it (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones), why not the second greatest (see below post) of them all?!? I love you Dr. Zaius!