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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Global Agenda: PvP

After some initial confusion on how to participate in Global Agenda's PvP missions, I finally got the chance to jump into some Mercenary Operations on my level 12 Assault character. I haven't given up on my Robotics character, but its a bit complicated to play correctly so I figured I would learn the game as the less-complicated Assault class.

I played through a few matches and did well (or at least I feel I did well). As I'm a "free agent" and have not paid for a Boost or Elite Agent status, I do not have a choice of match-type. I am forced into whatever match type is randomly selected for me.

Unfortunately, the game does not do a very good job of explaining what type of match the player is being placed into. The player has to know to look at the loading screen and map name to know what type of match they are entering. A smarter player may have read the Player Guide and Mission Types prior to playing the game and know what these names mean, but that's like trying to read a manual before putting your kid's Christmas presents together.

The first thing that surprised me about the PvP matches was that players of all levels are allowed in.  As a level 12 Assault, I was playing with and against level 20+ characters.  While I died plenty of times to what seemed like instant death shots, I never felt like I was completely outgunned.  My level 12 Assault was able to keep up pace just fine.

The confusion on match type and my newbness did lead me to miss the objective-based gameplay of the matches, so I focused mainly on killing the enemy.  My stats did the talking as I was able to place high in the charts for kills and damage.  I know this probably perturbs established players looking for wins/loot, but this is what happens when new players are sent to mingle with the veterans.  Also, the game is a semi first-person shooter, so it's not surprising some players (like me) will initially focus on shooting the enemy instead of chasing the objective.

I did have fun during the matches, but Global Agenda has a funny way of making me feel disappointed by pointing out that I am a Free 2 Play player and as I didn't pay I missed my chance to get prize X and Y. Oh and it points out all of the experience and currency I missed out on by not paying up.

While I certainly understand the necessity for a F2P game to make money and this is certainly a valid way to do so, I can't help that it feels like a repeated slap to the face. But whats funny is that just a few years ago while playing World of Warcraft if I had been presented with a screen at the end of a dungeon that said "Pay $5 now and you can get this EPIC item" I would have probably ponied up the dough. However, Global Agenda is no WoW and in the F2P era we are entering, loot doesn't hold much water with me when it comes down to just dishing out a credit card number.

Overall I still enjoy Global Agenda, but I'm realizing that there really isn't much that is going to hold me long term. There is certainly nothing I feel compels me to spend any money on the game. I am doing just fine as a Free Agent.

You can keep up with my screenshots from Global Agenda via my Steam profile.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free 2 Play World of Warcraft

...until level 20 that is.  Meet World of Warcraft: Starter Edition which will let players play the first 20 levels of the game for free.  Rock, Paper, Shotgun has some more details:
"They’re calling it the World Of Warcraft Starter Edition, and it’s still limited by other trial aspects, such as not being able to use the auction house, and suffers a few other caps such as a limit of 10 gold. If trialees get to level 20 and want to open up their game and keep playing then it’s possible to to purchase the Burning Crusade for $20 and subscribe for the normal amount. The Burning Crusade has also now been unlocked for free for anyone who owned the original game."
Question now is: is this Blizzard feeling pressure from the F2P revolution or Blizzard just trying to hook more subscriptions on an aging game? Only time will tell.

EDIT: Oops, said it was the first 25 levels when in fact its only the first 20.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Star Wars Galaxies shutdown, thoughts on a troubled past

The writing is on the wall: Lucas Arts must close the Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) chapter of Star Wars MMOs. SWG is a black eye for the MMO community as a whole; wonderfully envisioned yet poorly managed by SOE and hamstrung by Lucas Arts. SWG will be shutdown as of Dec 15th, 2011. Anyone thinking this wasn’t inevitable hasn’t taken a look back on the history of Star Wars gaming. This is Lucasfilm’s (now Lucas Arts) calling card: out with the old and in with the new.

Let’s step back in time to 2001. Decipher, a card game company, has been running the Star Wars Customizable Card Game (SW:CCG) for the past six years. They are competing directly with the behemoth that is Magic: The Gathering (MtG). SW:CCG is consistently considered the second place card game on the market behind MtG. On occasion, SW:CCG is even outselling MtG. The future is bright with new Star Wars prequel movies in the theatres and a SW:CCG expansion pack sitting with the printers. Then suddenly word hits that Lucasfilm is looking to pull the plug on SW:CCG. After several negotiations, the Star Wars license is pulled from Decipher and the SW:CCG grinds to halt.

Many people not familiar with this story may assume that there was a valid reason for Lucasfilms (this is pre Lucas Arts days) to pull the license. It certainly couldn’t be because the game flopped: it was, after all, competing alongside MtG. While no solid answer was ever given for the whole debacle, it didn’t take long for the card gaming community to figure out the true motivations. Lucasfilms had gone and recruited Wizards of the Coast and MtG developer Richard Garfield to create a new Star Wars trading card game (SW:TCG). It was clear that Lucasfilms did not want a Star Wars game playing second fiddle and who better to fix that than the people behind the number one game!  Too bad for Lucasfilm, because the SW:TCG flopped and closed within a couple years.

Looking back to SWG and we can see the same pattern emerge. A new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR), is right around the corner and SWG is not even second fiddle in the MMO market. On top of not even being competitive in the market, SWG is a laughing stock ever since the disaster known as the New Game Experience (NGE). Lucas Arts wants all focus on SW:ToR and SWG’s license was up in 2012. SWG had to be closed.

To be honest though, I am simply amazed how long SWG remained alive. I was actually talking about SWG’s demise in 2006 and my post from March of that year is eerily relevant to the current events.

“I am not an expert on licensing, but I couldn't imagine Lucas Arts letting the Star Wars name be dragged through the mud by the national media much longer. Lucas Arts was a driving force behind the changes to make the game more "Star Warsy" and I doubt they are pleased with the results. So I will blame both SOE and Lucas Arts for the current state of the game. “
And then:

“What I do know is that a new Star Wars MMORPG would generate a ton of buzz. First of all there is SWG that has a few years under its belt that has taught us a lot about what the gaming and Star Wars communities want out of a game. We know that space flight and combat, action inspired game play, and Star Warsy"ness" are all required. We know there isn't people lining up to be Moisture Farmers. We also know there is plenty of wannabe Jedi in the galaxy.”
SW:ToR is exactly that: space flight and combat, action inspired game play, and Star Warsy"ness". Unfortunately back then I didn’t realize I was going to be on the other side of the fence, completely put off by what SW:ToR is shaping up to be.

The Star Wars fan inside of me died a little researching and writing this post. I truly wanted SWG to succeed and still hold it within my top MMOs of all time simply on wasted potential. I also want SW:ToR to surprise me and be a new dawn for Star Wars MMOs. Sadly, with Star Wars it doesn’t appear we can have two separate properties exist in the same market and we're forced to accept whichever one Lucas Arts determines to be the best.

*I apologize for the acronym soup.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Global Agenda: Day 1, Day One, Day Juan, Intro and beyond

I've decided to break my MMO drought with Global Agenda: Free Agent because it has jetpacks and guns instead of wings and swords.  Which is ironic considering I've taken a break from Fantasy in my reading schedule in favor of Sci-Fi titles such as Snow Crash and Daemon.  The only Fantasy in my life is The Witcher, a single-player RPG, and Terraria, a whatever you want to call it RPG/Minecraft thingy game.  To my surprise, Global Agenda is a refreshing change of pace.

I started the game last night with the Robotics class which is a pet class that has drones and turrets as it's main feature.  As a long time Team Fortress 2 Engineer player, I am intimately familiar with deploy-able turrets and I immediately fell in line with my Robotics character.  Sadly, it took me a few levels to realize that I could boost my turret's effectiveness with a repair tool that was attached to my shoulder.  Once I had the basics down, I was rollin' in style.

I played through several newbie quests in one of the open-ended areas.  Global Agenda is actually just a series of instances, not a true persistent world ala World of Warcraft.  These quests were simple go there, kill X, get reward style.  I ran accross a couple other players, but didn't really interact with them.  This is not unsurprising.  There hasn't been an MMO since Ultima Online where I truly felt like I was meant to interact with other players initially.  All that social stuff is meant for the "end game" anyways.  Right?

After the solo quests, I was lead to a "mission terminal" (which I later discovered I could just access at anytime from anywhere).  I was able to jump into some randomly formed low level, randomly generated missions.  I was often the lowest level in the group, but it didn't seem to be as detrimental as expected.  For example, one group was me at level 7 with three level 18s and I ended up being able to carry about 20% of the healing/damage.  If I knew the game better, I could have most likely carried my fair share of 25%.

So far I'm impressed.  My biggest complaint is the limited use of the Robotics turrets (I don't really have drones yet, so not sure how they function).  By the time I put the turret down in a group mission, the group has moved on.  In solo play, enemy NPCs just constantly stopped outside of the turrets range and therefore the turret did nothing.  The only time the turret was of use was to plunk down next to the boss NPC in the missions and let it plink away until it was killed off.

I finished up at level 8.  My in-game name is, of course, heartlessgamer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Free To Play (F2P) Arrives on Steam

A slew of free to play (F2P) games have arrived on Steam including Global Agenda and Champions Online.  The micro-transactions within the games will all be available through Steamworks (to my understanding).  Anyone familiar with buying hats in Team Fortress 2 will understand the Steam integration of micro-transactions.

This is really good news and Steam is a perfect vehicle for F2P games.  The biggest barrier to subscription games is requiring a credit card up front.  F2P removes that barrier and then the biggest barrier for F2P games is the client download and account setup.  Both of these, for the most part, can be taken care of via Steam.

I'm looking forward to more F2P games to hit Steam.  Personally, I'd love to see League of Legends or Allods Online on Steam.  Of the first wave of F2P games, I may try out Forsaken World (a straight up WoWDiku MMOG) or maybe Spiral Knights (co-op dungeon beat'em'up) or Global Agenda (shoot em up MMO thingy).

Friday, June 03, 2011

The straw that broke the SW:ToR camel's back? No digital downloads outside EA.

EA has announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will only be available for download via through EA itself via their new service Origin. No Steam or Direct2Drive.
...highly anticipated MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic will be sold as a direct download only through Electronic Arts itself. In an interview with CEO John Riccitiello, the Wall Street Journal uncovered news of EA's new service, one it's calling Origin. This service will provide customers with a download service for all EA games, including the Battlefield games, the Need For Speed games, and the aforementioned Star Wars: The Old Republic.
This, my friends, is a travesty. Not only has SW:ToR been underwhelming in all of the previews, but now they are expecting gamers to pick up yet another digital distribution platform to get the game via a direct download? What is wrong with Steam? Steam has a massive catalog of other EA games, including MMOs such as Warhammer Online.

I didn't buy into Starcraft 2 because it was on the new  I've sworn off buying any Games for Windows Live games (that aren't on dirt cheap sales via Steam).  I've pretty much decided that if a game isn't on Steam, I'm probably not buying it (Minecraft being the sole exception).

I seriously hope this does not include Battlefield 3.  BFBC2 was a huge success on Steam.