Saturday, July 30, 2011

DOTA 2 Beta Update

Appears Valve let slip some beta patch notes for DOTA 2 on the Team Fortress 2 blog and as always, the Internet caught it before Valve was able to delete the misplaced notes.  Considering it's been since last November that any notes have appeared on the actual DOTA 2 blog, it is nice to know Valve is actively working on the game.  See below:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Google+, the "IT'S BETA!" argument

I suspect us MMOG players will understand Google+'s current fiasco better than most.  After all, GOOGLE PLUS IS STILL IN BETA and just like an MMOG in beta, not all features are going to be there on beta day one and not all promises are going to come to fruition.  This is why most MMOG betas have strict non-disclosure agreements and why MMO bloggers are always screaming "IT'S BETA!".  Google+ doesn't have the NDA luxury currently and the successful launch is quickly turning into a public relations mess.  However, I am willing to give Google+ the benefit of the doubt and I for one am willing to buy the "IT'S BETA!" argument. 
My own Heartless_ Gamer Google+ account was deleted in the name clean up.  In fact, I totally missed the whole "real name" requirement of Google+ and had assumed anonymous and pseudonym use was going to be allowed.  Unfortunately, that is not the case (yet!). 
Google has stated "brand" and "business" accounts are coming.  What they will feature is unknown, so I'm undetermined at this point whether Heartless_ Gamer will exist on Google+.  Hopefully, the brand/business accounts will allow me to operate on Google+ the same as a regular user would with a more of a “webpage” front end for “visitors” to my stream.
A Circular Examination
I really like the Google+ "Circles" which allow contacts to be divided into multiple groups which can be assigned to view content I post.  As a games blogger, with a lot of gamer contacts, I would love to slice and dice them up into different groups.  I could socially tag my content and share it with those I think it is most relevant to.  If I write up a post about Civilization 5, I could share it with my Civ circle and spare my Battlefield group the reading time.
There is a lot of potential in Circles and what we have now in the beta is not guaranteed to be what the final version of Circles will be in Google+.  There was a lot of potential in Hero classes for World of Warcraft, but the idea was nipped during beta.  There was a lot of potential for six capital cities in Warhammer Online, but that as well was trimmed down in beta.  Not everything survives beta.
Circles equate to any feature from any MMOG.  In Google+’s case, Circles are a selling point and are there on day one of the beta.  They may change or may even get pulled.  We don’t know, but through beta testing Google will determine their place and Google+ ends up better because of testing Circles, then we should all say “that’s what beta’s are for”.
And that IS what beta’s are for: improving the end result.  This doesn’t always happen and not every beta is the same (some are marketing stunts).   If we are going to say “that’s what beta’s are for” when they go right, then we need to buy the “IT’S BETA!” argument when the sailing isn’t smooth.  Right now, “IT’S BETA!” is a valid argument for Google+.  Google just better be done with the five year beta cycle.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tobold's MMORPG Blog: The forum lies

Tobold's MMORPG Blog: The forum lies

Tobold offer's up an excellent analysis of Ben Cousin's (of EA) speech about Battlefield Hero's "pay to win" model.
Weapons for real money were introduced that were better than any weapons you could get by playing, and simultaneously it was made harder to play for free.
I wanted to nitpick something Tobold said:
Thus when the CEO of CCP recently commented the uproar of the EVE community on a similar issue with "I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say", he was completely right. The forum lies.
First, comparing EVE to Battlefield Heroes is an apples to oranges comparison. EVE is and will continue to be a subscription game and unlike most subscription games, EVE ties A LOT of a player's power into how LONG they've been a paying subscriber. BF:H started as and continues to be a free to play game which players can now spend money on to have an advantage.

While BF:H simply changed to make it a bit harder to play the game for free, the proposed changes for EVE threatened to undermine the entire structure upon which the game was built.  To emphasis this point, the EVE changes threatened to undue years of commitment from loyal customers who were PAYING TO PLAY THE GAME. EVE was not in threat of closing.  CCP appeared to be trying to squeeze more money of of their paying players simply because they thought they could.  EVE was not in danger of closing down as BF:H was.

It was not just the forums that were ablaze over the EVE debacle.  It was the entire EVE community, from fan sites to the elected player representatives.  There was a consistent message on all fronts "DON'T FUCKING DO IT CCP".  

Secondly, I would caution that while forums may "lie" in general, there is still valuable feedback to be found amongst the noise.  While only 2% of players may post on the forums, I guarantee there is another 10% that have the same exact complaints and/or feedback as the forum posters.  The danger is that 10% is silent when they leave the game. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dancing with Dragons

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  1  A Dance with Dragons 

Shipped via UPS


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Just Cause 2 Just Needs More Ammo

I picked up Just Cause 2 on the Summer Steam sale for a grand total of $4.99 (plus $0.66 for a DLC weapon).  The game is an extremely fun mix of Grand Theft Auto and Batman.  The game is set in an open world sandbox where the player can do pretty much anything they want.  On top of this, the player is equipped with a Batman-like grappling hook that expands the game play past the traditional Grand Theft Auto car jacking and hooker killing. Also the games narrative pits the protagonist, Rico, against the local island government giving him plenty of opportunities to cause CHAOS (as the game calls it).

Also, it's a beautiful game when it wants to be:

I've enjoyed my stint so far with the game and I've definitely gotten my five dollars worth.  However, there is a glaring  hole in the game play that kills the game: the lack of ammunition.  To make this even more infuriating, the DLC weapon packs (which you pay real money for) require the player to then buy the weapon from the in-game black market, but the game does not provide any ammunition from within the game world with which to refill these weapons.  So the player is stuck always having to waste all their in-game money on restocking weapons from the black market meaning they miss out on all the other neat toys that could be purchased.

The DLC weapons are clearly the worst offenders and a black-eye for DLC everywhere, but the regular weapons are always short on ammo as well.  The only way to get ammo is to kill enemies and rarely is there an enemy around with the weapon type the player is needing ammo for, resulting in the player constantly having to juggle weapon swaps.  Its an obvious game design blunder that should have been fixed by adding ammo drops from the black market.  If the black market helicopter can air drop me everything from a fucking motorcycle to a private jet, it sure as hell could drop me an ammo crate.

But this is why cheats exist and I can continue happily along my way now with unlimited ammo.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Global Agenda: Free 2 Play works

Global Agenda launched as a subscription game, but has since gone Free 2 Play (F2P).  I jumped on board when the game came to Steam and while I haven't spent any money myself, I have played with several players that are enjoying the money they have spent with the new F2P model introduced with Free Agent.  Most of those players joined at the same time I did and bought into the Elite Agent one-time $20 ($15 with coupon) micro-transaction.  From what I can tell, this is the path most players are taking once they determine they want to stick around for a while.  After that they start picking up the occasional Boost for an extended play session which puts more money in Global Agenda's pockets.

The studio behind Global Agenda, Hi-Rez Studios, are quite pleased with Free Agent's success as well. In this interview with PC Gamer they had this to say:
“We have many many more people creating accounts every day, many more people playing concurrently, our revenues are higher than they ever have been before which means we can develop content and put it into the game faster than ever before.”
This is just more evidence that the F2P model is the way for new MMOGs to go, even when they are MMO-lite such as Global Agenda.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fixed: Just Cause 2 crashes on Steam

Just Cause 2Like many gamers, I bought a copy of Just Cause 2 during the Steam Summer Sale and if the forums are any indications, I was not alone with Just Cause 2 crashing repeatedly.  Specifically it would crash on fullscreen settings.

The immediate fix was to open Steam's game library and right click on Just Cause 2 and then select Set Launch Options and enter /failsafe.  This forces the game to launch in windowed mode.  The game ran just fine for me in windowed mode.

However, I was not satisfied that I couldn't play this game in fullscreen so I did the normal checks to see what may be causing the issue.  First I verified the game files on Steam and the check completed without error. Next, I made sure it wasn't Steam community causing the issue and with the community overlay disabled, it still crashed.

The final step I took was to upgrade my nVidia drivers.  I opted to not only upgrade my drivers, but also to do a clean install of the driver in the process (which is available with the nVidia installer now).  This cleared out all old profiles and other settings.

After the upgrade and a couple PC reboots, Just Cause 2 started and ran just fine in fullscreen.  I hope this post helps anyone else having this issue.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bye-bye Facebook, Hello Google+

I hate to admit that I have a Facebook page that I update on a monthly basis.  My most recent monthly update involved the elation I had seeing my 2-year old son's reaction to a handful of worms I had picked up in the backyard.  As you can probably tell, I'm not your average Facebook user.  I really don't use Facebook to "connect" with anyone on a regular basis.  The only redeeming factor I see in Facebook is Facebook Connect, but as not much of what I'm involved with uses it, it's kind of pointless (I had hoped maybe some games would start using it instead of requiring me to register a new account with their own system).

This leads me to Google's new project; Google+.  While it won't be a true replacement to Facebook, I feel it will fill my "social network" needs and I suspect I will be able to maintain a completely anonymous profile along with a more personal profile via different Google accounts (Facebook bans users posting under pseudonyms such as heartlessgamer). On top of this, Google is a big proponent of OpenID and I much prefer that to Facebook Connect (but still run into the problem of many people NOT using it in the gaming community).

However, there is more to why I am going to use Google+ and chiefly among that is explained in this article at PC World:
5. You Can Get Your Data Back

Facebook is notorious for its poor stewardship of personal data. You are forced to make certain parts of your personal data "public" for example, and It is very hard to permanently delete your Facebook profile. Google, on the other hand, makes it possible for you to pick up all the data you’ve banked at Google+ and walk away. This is done through a Google+ tool called “Data Liberation.” With just a few clicks you can download data from your Picasa Web Albums, Google profile, Google+ stream, Buzz and contacts.
This feature is HUGE. This is the reason I use Google's Blogger service: I control my data and have several years worth of backups of my content, all achieved via a couple of clicks. Facebook has nothing on this and never will.  Facebook can't exist as a company without selling it's users data.  I understand that and accepted that fact when I started using Facebook. 

Google+ won't kill Facebook.  Facebook is a doomed model.  Google+ is a value add to Google's core product line and that will allow it to succeed (or be sheltered if it fails because Google doesn't need it to survive).

Note: Yes, I've been denying the fact I have a Facebook profile on this blog because, no, I don't want you to friend request me.  Sorry.  No hard feelings.

Note2: No, I don't have any plans to use Google Buzz over Twitter at this point, but I am willing to entertain the idea depending on Google+'s integration options with Buzz.