Sunday, March 28, 2010

Elemental: Phrases

Elemental, a 4X game in development by Stardock, has a lot of promise. While reading up on the game, I've come across several key phrases that have sold me on the game.

Phrases

Yes, it’s a 4X strategy game with a little Baldur’s Gate in it. (Source)

George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones is obviously a big influence on the designers (Source)

Stardock's aiming at a very low-system requirement (Source)

By the end of the game, they’re [players] a Sauron or Morgoth level of power (Source)

Stardock is also pushing harder for more transparency and more straightforward statistics that are easier to understand (Source)

The in-game tools of Elemental are designed to let players create their own items, their own worlds, their own graphical elements to the world, their own creatures, their own races and pretty much anything else they might want to expand the game. (Source)


The Random House Group will also publish ELEMENTAL: DESTINY’S EMBERS (August 2010), a novel set in the world of Elemental, written by the game’s creator and executive producer, Brad Wardell. (Source)

The game is currently scheduled for a summer release (Source)

My Phrase

If anything bad can be said about Elemental at this point, it is that the game may be too ambitious. From the lowest common denominator graphics, user generated content, multi-player for every play style, and complex simplicity; Elemental is attempting to deliver a lot. I am hopeful they can pull it off.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stardock's Elemental Looks Interesting

I don't get interested in games very often by a single preview. However, Elemental and the concepts behind it pulled me in hook, line, and sinker after reading this post over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
RPS: So essentially a 4X game with more of an RPG heritage?

Wardell: Yes, it’s a 4X strategy game with a little Baldur’s Gate in it. The closest game I can think of is Master Of Magic, that’s been a bit of an inspiration for us. What we wanted to do with Elemental is to make it more of a personal experience. We really want you to be a presence within the game world, with your dynasty, with the way you design your units. When you go and zoom in and look at a unit you can see them all in the world, and they’ll all be a little different. And we want to move away from it being abstract. If I have a village with fifty people I can’t just click on it and ask for a legion of people. Those people have to come from somewhere. If spear-men come from a particular village, then there are less people left living there. It’s more personal in terms of you not just being this over-arching power, than other games in this genre.
There is a lot I want to say about this, but don't have the time currently. Check out and come back later when I have some more time to opine.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Warhammer Online and Bioware K I SS I N G

Warhammer Online and Bioware in a tree, K I SS I N G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the expansion from Bioware.


"BioWare talks Warhammer Online's forthcoming expansions" is the title of an article over at Massively.
In a recent GDC 2010 interview with UGO, BioWare's Dr. Ray Muzyka said of Warhammer Online, "Right now it's [a] really profitable business unit within my group." Muzyka went on to say they've actually seen more people come into the game since enacting the free-to-play model on the game's earlier levels, and that he personally felt they were working.

In fact, by the sounds of it, Warhammer Online is due for some interesting announcements in the future. Another of Muzyka's comments on the title was, "We have new content planned and all kinds of cool expansions for it." We don't know how much more clear cut a message can be than that. And hey, it's good news! We're looking forward to our playable Skaven and Lizardmen, Mythic and BioWare.
I know Mythic and Bioware merged to create an "MMO group" within EA, but up until this point it was portrayed as though Mythic was responsible for Warhammer.  It is very strange to see Warhammer Online and Bioware mentioned in the same breath and have Bioware's talking head dictating where WAR is headed.

If Bioware is becoming more involved with the game, this may be the breath of fresh air that WAR needs.  Any expansion will have to rely on work from some of Bioware's development teams as the layoff train hit Mythic pretty hard.  With new developers, new ideas. But, new ideas need restraint.  We don't want another of the infamous "New Game Experience (NGE)" from Star Wars Galaxies all over again. 

Another question is whether the money-handlers behind the game will approve sweeping changes that may affect the bottom line in the slim hope of increasing it over the long term.  There aren't many success stories of MMOGs coming back from underwhelming launches.  Change is always met with resistance.

Now, in the past I've had my own ideas for changing WAR:
I would start the year by pulling a Chronicles of Spellborn and announce that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is 100% free to play. However, development has been frozen as the game is prepared to be launched as a Free 2 Play game supported by micro-transactions.
From the original quotes in the Massively article, the success of the free trial is touted.  Could this be a signal that more free 2 play is in WAR's future?  I would welcome the idea.  Even with Allods Online's cash shop debacle recently, I still like the fact that I can log in whenever I want and play for a few minutes.  I've thought several times about return to WAR, but have only been able to do so during a recent 10-day freebie.

I am interested to see where Bioware/Mythic/EA can take WAR.  At a minimum, it will serve as a case study of how Bioware's development practices can influence other projects.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bad Company 2 Patch Problems?

The Battlefield: Bad Company 2 patch has hit Steam.  With it, so have the complaints.  Many players are reporting a multitude of issues.  PC Gamer Blog has the run down:
After the patch:

* Several complaints each about hit detection getting worse, being unable to exit the game and having to close it with task manager, and significantly worse performance.

* "It was crappy before, now it's even worse. Cannot connect EA is a standard msg, server browser inoperative, cant even do the old trick when you pressed "Cancel" after refreshing servers list to get the result faster with more low-ping servers."
khartlian

* "Since installing the patch I'm now getting "Lost connection from server" at the end of the every round I play. Sometimes losing the stats, sometimes not."
GrandTheftAli

* "Now my Bad Company will not work, it drops back to Windows every time I go resume game, was working perfectly before patch. Please help I can't be with out it!!!"
alienandy

* "When I updated the game, I had like 20 crashes to desktop within 1 hour (sometimes without doing anything). Was experiencing lag on ANY server I went in, and all these servers had ping below 40 on the list and I had ~100ping in the server. Was absolutely lag free for me before this patch. :<" Dawnsta
I have not had the chance to update myself, but don't plan on trying to avoid the patch. I've had crash to desktop and connection issues prior to the patch, but for the most part have been able to put plenty of time into the game and I've completed far more matches than I've crashed on.

Normally, I would be throwing a fit about these issues at this point, but I am letting DICE/EA slide so far for the Bad Company 2 issues since launch.  The Battlefield series holds a warm spot in my heart and I know when the game works its a wonderful experience.  I'm willing to be a bit more patience as they race to catch up with the popularity of the game.

In the meantime, watch a promotional video:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bad Company 2 Steam Patch

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is preparing for its first patch.  The Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) patch is already out on the console and standalone-PC versions of the game and is slated for a release shortly on the PC-Steam version.

Shacknews has the details that SecuROM DRM is being removed from the Steam version.  Also, multiplayer will be unaffected by the patch vs. non-patched players:
Thankfully, multiplayer servers have not been patched so Steam users will be able to play with non-Steam users despite not having the latest client version. SecuROM CD/DVD copy protection will also be removed from the Steam version, which has no disc.
The removal of SecuROM from the Steam version is another bonus for buying the game through Steam.  Steam itself is DRM and the reason why developers feel the need to package their own DRM on top of Steam has always alluded me.  Fortunately, in this case, it can be laid to rest.

The rest of the patch note/fixes are quoted below:
Single Player -
Fixed: Graphical issues on some systems on SP_03 (at start and when displaying background mountains at “Up river”)
Fixed: Character voice issue during cut scenes in SP_03b (only affected Spanish)
Fixed: Hang when killed using TOW Launchers in SP_05
Fixed: Graphical issue on some systems on SP_05 (displaying background mountains)
Fixed: Voice volume in cut scenes on SP_06
Fixed: Unexpected dialog at start of SP_08 (only affected Italian)
Fixed: Random crash in SP_09 cut scenes

Multi Player -
Fixed: Server Browser - Joining a password protected server results in a connection timeout
Fixed: Server Browser auto updating server list when reopened causing a timeout issue
Fixed: Password issue during Friend invites
Fixed: Password text field issue on joining a password protected server
Fixed: “Flickering” ship on Arica Harbor
Fixed: Clan tags that use numbers in them displaying a “0” on the Select Spawn Point screen
Fixed: Display issue on long server names
Fixed: Mortar Strike icon not updating (Beta issue)
Fixed: No “Exit Game” menu option appearing at the end of some rounds.
Fixed: Flickering user rank icon (appeared as an animated gif) when user reaches rank 10.
Fixed: Flickering trees and “Red Box” on Laguna Presa
Fixed: User is logged out when failing to create a new soldier
Fixed: Zeus stationary weapon not appearing in stats
Fixed: Zu23 not appearing in stats
Fixed: BMD3 AA not appearing in stats
Fixed: Friend request displaying incorrect Veteran stats
Fixed: End of Round screen displayed incorrect “UAV_Station” – now displays correct localized text.
Fixed: K/D ratio displays in the Front End
Fixed: K/D ratio displays correctly when “comparing”
Change: Server browser now defaults to list via Ping first
Change: News Ticker font support for Spanish, Polish, Russian and Japanese
Change: New message for server full (reported as “I get no message when I try and join a server, it does nothing”)
Change: New message displayed for attempting to join a password protected server without providing a password (reported as “I get no message when I try and join a server, it does nothing”)
Change: Displays version number on Front End Legal Screen
Change: Display of weapon icon during loading screen

Initial Impressions: Lord of Ultima

Lord of Ultima up and bit me in the ass. I didn't even know it existed until a friendly beta invite hit my mailbox. In the spirit of free gaming, I said "what the heck, it's got Ultima in the name so it can't be that bad". Plus, I long for my golden days of Ultima Online. Forgive me, I'm terrible at these sort of things.

Lord of Ultima, by anyone's visit to their home page, is a browser-based strategy game. Players are given a plot of land, which conveniently includes all needed resources, on which to build a city. Anyone that has played any number of RTS games or browser-based strategy games will feel right at home.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Epic Integrates Steamworks into Unreal Engine 3

Steamworks is Valve Software's cloud computing solution for games.  For a big fat price of free, it allows game developers to integrate with Steam and it's many tools: anti-piracy, cloud, matchmaking/lobbies, and DLC.  Epic, developers of the Unreal games and graphical engine, have announced they will be integrating the Unreal Tournament 3 engine with Steamworks:
Epic Games and Valve Software have announced a mutually beneficial partnership to bring Steamworks to Unreal Engine 3. Valve's full suite of tools will now be offered to Unreal Engine licensees completely free of charge.

Steamworks allows developers to utilize any of the features of Valve's digital distribution platform in their own products, including Steam Cloud save importing, Achievements, user stat tracking, and DRM authentication. It's normally available for free, but its integration into the latest version of the Unreal Engine should encourage even more developers to utilize Steamworks.

"Valve has created a world-wide phenomenon with Steam and we're excited to be able to have the Steamworks suite of services available to Unreal Engine 3 licensees so they can take full advantage of all that Steam has to offer," explained Epic's Mark Rein, adding, "With Valve offering these services free of charge, the idea of providing the Steamworks SDK to all Unreal Engine licensees was a no-brainer."
I'm very curious to see where this leads. 

The number one annoying aspect of Steam is that so many games don't use its core functionality.  This forces gamers to track a dozen different game IDs and logins.  For example: Games for Windows Live games sold through Steam or games that come packaged with Gamespy for multiplayer.  Steamworks gets rid of all that and plugs a gamer's Steam right into the game, no extra managment required.  It is nice to finally see some bigger developers come on board with Steamworks.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

IGNORE ANY EMAIL FROM ME - GMAIL WAS HACKED

Just a quick note, DO NOT open any emails that you may have recieved today from a heartlessgamer AT gmail DOT com.  My account was hacked and used to send World of Warcraft phishing emails. 

Lord of Ultima, browser MMO?

I received an interesting email from EA this morning.  It was a closed beta invite for a new browser game titled Lord of Ultima.  I received the email as a newsletter from Battlefield: Heroes. 


Has anyone else received an invite or even know what this game is all about?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Bad Company 2 Signature Maker

Neat little tool for making Battlefield: Bad Company 2 signatures/widgets.



Now, if only Punkbuster would stop kicking me!

PB INIT FAILURE Bad Company 2

Update: 9 Mar, 2010 - EA has a fix for this error:

BFBC2 PC server R6 is going to server providers now. This server version should stop all the PB INIT errors that have been happening.


Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is having a lot of problems with PunkBuster. The first problem resulted from Punkbuster installing in the old BFBC2 Beta folder. I covered the steps for fixing this in this post

However, now players are seeing the following message:



You have been kicked from the game.  The reason is: Punkbuster kicked player 'NAME' (for 0 minutes) ... PB INIT FAILURE. (If this persists, visit evenbalance.com and click support to manually update PunkBuster).




Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Limited EditionI'll admit that I am being kicked with this error message on 50% of the BFBC2 servers I join. So far, I do NOT believe it is related to a player's individual PunkBuster install as I am able to play just fine on my friend's servers that have Punkbuster enabled.

My best guess is that this is server related and some servers are out of date or broken. So far, the way to "fix" the PB INIT FAILURE error is to find a set of servers that are working and bookmark them as favorites.

However, to make sure players have updated their PunkBuster correctly,  I have outlined the steps below.

NOTE: When dealing with any sticky program issues where uninstalling and reinstalling is a valid fix, I highly recommend using a program such as Revo Uninstaller to completely eradicate PunkBuster from the PC.  Revo Uninstaller will remove all traces of Punkbuster.

Steps to manually update Punkbuster

1. Uninstall Punkbuster using an uninstall program, removing all folders, registry, and other entries of PB from the PC.
2. Download pbsetup.exe.
3. Launch pbsetup.exe
4. Once launched, click "Add Game"
5. Select BFBC2
6. Browse to your install folder for BFBC2 (just the install folder, not any existing PB folders)
7. Click OK
8 Once back on the main screen, click "Check for Updates" and it will initiate a new install for BFBC2's Punkbuster.

Again, this may NOT fix the PB INIT FAILURE, which I strongly believe is server related!  This is simply to confirm you've uninstalled and reinstalled PB correctly.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bad Company 2 PC beating consoles

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Limited EditionCall of Duty: Modern Warfare 2The Battlefield series has always been sold as a PC game. A couple years ago that could have been said about the Call of Duty franchise. Then Modern Warfare 2 hit and the console versions destroyed the sales numbers and hours played of the PC version. The debate raged whether Infinity Ward had given up on the PC because there wasn't any money there. PC gaming is dead right?

Wrong. In an amazing turn of events, PC gamers do exist! Today we get word that Battlefield: Bad Company 2's PC version is beating the numbers on the consoles.
btw: PC currently has more people playing and are in game servers than both the consoles.

Noticed on Kotaku that this post was taken the wrong way. The PC had more players than either console not more than both consoles combined. You'll need to work to beat both consoles combined effort
This can be taken two ways: BFBC2 didn't sell well on the consoles or there are a MORE PC gamers willing to buy a game that gives them what they want.

I never agreed that Infinity Ward was screwing PC gamers with Modern Warfare 2. I was intrigued by the peer to peer play and the Steamworks integration. I believed MW2's downfall on the PC was that it just wasn't that great of a game for PC gamers. Compare it to Halo, one of the consoles biggest game series which did poorly on PCs as well. It could be said the Call of Duty franchise has been "consoled" and therefore that makes it poor for PCs.

The Battlefield series has always taken advantage of the power of the PC: dedicated servers, customization, big battles, and tight controls. I suspect BFBC2 is a much different experience on the consoles. Console games always have to provide auto-aim to allow the majority of gamers to hit their targets. Mouse and keyboard control is superior and requires no meddling from the developers. 

We could say that Battlefield games have been "PCed" and therefore make poor console games.  I doubt that, simply because in the PC version no sacrifices have to be made :) 

Friday, March 05, 2010

Speed up Battlefield: Bad Company 2's Server Browser

EA has posted some tips for speeding up Battlefield: Bad Company 2's (BFBC2) server browser.
To help speed up your server browsing these tips can help you get results quicker.
  • Use Favourites/History when possible
If you use the server browser then

Use the server browser
When it starts to search click CANCEL

Select the options:
  • Ranked
  • Not Full
  • Not Empty
  • No Password
  • Leave Punkbuster checked
  • Hit Refresh
You can use your friends list in game to connect on them without accessing the server browser.
Hope this helps!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Join In The Fun

Come join me in Battlefield: Bad Company 2! I am playing on Keen and Graev's co-mutiny server.

Initial Impressions: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Singleplayer

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Limited EditionBattlefield: Bad Company 2 released on the 2nd and I was able to fight the long download queues on Steam and install my copy.  The EA servers are having a tough time keeping up with multiplayer matches, so instead of fighting constant disconnects I loaded up the singleplayer campaign.  For those familiar with the Battlefield series, that will be a weird statement.  The Battlefield games have never featured good singleplayer aspects, but BFBC2 is fixing to change that.

WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead.

The first mission transports the player back to a clandestine World War II raid on mainland Japan to secure a defecting Japanese scientist.  The mission goes all kinds of wrong and our heroes are forced to re-route their escape attempt via submarine.  However, before safety can be reached a "secret weapon" is unleashed on the Japanese mainland causing a tidal wave that washes the escaping team into watery graves.

The next mission fast forwards to current times and the player is put into play as part of Bad Company.  Somehow this "secret weapon" from WWII Japan has found its way into modern times and its up to Bad Company to unravel the mystery and thats the story as far as I understand it currently.

I know, its weird.  I just typed STORY and Battlefield in the same stroke, but EA Dice has pulled off an amazing feat here.  They've added a well-scripted, quasi-on-rails solo campaign to one of the greatest multi-player franchise ever AND IT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY!  This completes the Battlefield series' move towards the Call of Duty model: great singleplayer with great multiplayer.

The missions are laid out based on objectives. Generally, the goal is to travel from point A to point B.  There is a set limit of enemies to fight, unlike the endless spawning waves of Battlefield's past.  After that, everything is pretty much open.  If the player wants to take it slow or fast, with vehicles or not, it's their choice.

Unlike multiplayer, players are not locked into a single class.  They can carry two of any of the primary weapons, along with a gadget and knife.  Weapons are unlocked by collecting them off dead enemies.  Throughout the levels there are supply crates where weapon load-out can be changed.  The system works well in singleplayer and I like the fact it doesn't lock me into a single class.

Early reports show that the campaign is short (8-10 hours), but thats a far improvement from previous Battlefield games.  Overall, I am impressed by the singleplayer and with the current server disconnect issues, I anticipate I will be finishing the campaign well before I get heavily involved in any online play.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How To Fix Punkbuster kicks for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) on Steam

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Limited Edition
If you are playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 on PC through Steam, you may be getting kicked by Punkbuster after a few seconds anytime you join an online game. This is most likely due to a conflict with Punkbuster and the BFBC2 Beta installation on your PC.

To fix this:

1. Go to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common
2. Delete the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Beta folder, which includes Punkbuster
3. Go to Punkbuster's website and get www.punkbuster.com/index.php?page=pbsetup.php
4. Launch the program
5. Once launched, click add game
6. Select BFBC2
7. Browse to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\battlefield
8. Click OK and then click Check for Updates.

Punkbuster will now initiate a download for the BC2 Punkbuster client.

UPDATE: You may also need to remove the BFBC2 Beta folder from "My Documents" as well before this will work properly.

NOTE: Do not let Punkbuster run in it's default destination. It is set up to go to the BFBC2 Beta folder instead of the correct BFBC2 release version folder.



HBO greenlights 'A Game of Thrones'

Great news for George RR Martin fans, HBO has greenlighted the highly anticipated fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
The premium network has picked up the project for a first-season debut next spring. Nine episodes plus the pilot have been ordered. Production will begin in Belfast this June.

The pickup comes on the heels of another HBO big ticket series order, for Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese's drama "Boardwalk Empire."

From the moment "Thrones" was first announced in development, the series based on the George R.R. Martin novels has generated enormous, perhaps unprecedented, online interest for a series at such an early stage.

The sprawling tale set in the mythical land of Westeros tells the story of the noble Stark family who become caught up in high court intrigue when patriarch Eddard (played by Sean Bean) becomes the king's new right-hand man. The four-and-counting books in the series would each be used as one season of the series.

Unlike many fantasy novels, the "Thrones" series largely avoids relying on magical elements and instead goes for brutal realism -- think "Sopranos" with swords. Martin, a former TV writer ("Beauty and the Beast"), writes each chapter as a cliffhanger, which should lend itself well to series translation. David Benioff and Dan Weiss are the series creators. (Source)
Woot!

Monday, March 01, 2010

I'm so excited, I just can't hide it!

Official propaganda for Battlefield: Bad Company 2.



And let's not forget to blow some shit up.

Feb 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

My February gaming was a letdown.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for January below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.



Game of the Month


Mass EffectMass Effect
Cost: $4.99 (Steam Holiday Sale)
Played: 5 hrs
3-words: Sucked, gets better.





My game of the month was Mass Effect; in honor of the release of Mass Effect 2 this month.

Mass Effect is growing on me.  At first I despised the combat and drawn out conversations.  Mass Effect has one of the worst introductions to an RPG that I've ever played.  There was nothing in the first four hours of the game that made me jump for joy.

However, I now have a feel for the game and have let the cards fall where they may.  I'm picking up steam, rock hopping across the galaxy and sticking to the main storyline.  I find the side quests easily and best avoided.  I didn't log as many hours I had hoped this month, but I do still plan to finish Mass Effect.

March's GotM: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

/Played

In the /Played section, I cover other games I played during the month.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Beta

I love the Battlefield games.  Bad Company 2 is the next great title in the series and I spent most of my gaming time with it this month.  From my initial impressions post:
The first thing that struck me about Bad Company 2 (BC2) was it's destructive nature. As can be seen in the video, almost every wall and obstacle can be destroyed. This was something promised back in the days of Battlefield 2 and only partially realized in BC1. BC2 takes it to another level. No wall, box, barrel, or cement slab seems safe. Annoying sniper on the third floor three buildings down? Level the first two buildings and smoke that fucker out.
The full version goes live March 2nd and I am dedicating most of March to this great game!

Allods Online Open Beta

Its been an up and down month for Allods Online and its open beta.  I put a few hours in and have Healer and Scout leveling slowly, but surely.  Regardless of how the cash shop debacle turns out, I have to admit that Allods is a fun game to play in its free version.  That's why its so disheartening that the upcoming game changes could kill the fun.

Also, my Allods Online guide is coming along nicely.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2, like most of Valve's games never gets old.  I hooked up and rocked out for some great VS. matches on The Parish campaign.  The finale, bridge map for The Parish is one of my favorites.

/Paid

Total spent this Month: $49.99
My Value Rating: Average

Bad Company 2 was expensive at $49.99.  I would have felt more comfortable at a $35 price point.  However, I was fortunate enough to receive a $75 "points" card as a bonus from work.  One of the few things it can be used on is a prepaid card usable on Steam games.  That is the only reason I shelled out $49.99 for this game.

I have now used up $105.16 of my $180 gaming budget for 2010.  Stay tuned each month to see if I can stay on track!
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