A WEEK IN GAMING 10/7/13 TO 10/11/13.

Monday, October 14, 2013

By Jamaal Ryan

Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 10/7/13 to 10/11/13. 

GTA Online: One week later (Two week update) (10/7 - Updated 10/14)
GTA V has gotten a lot of praise at succeeding pulling off such a technical feat on 7-8 year old hardware. The world is vast and packed with activates and an autonomous ecosystem operates as time passes, but does not adhere to a clock work schedule. It’s difficult to see how the game just manages to stay on its own two feet with mostly minor technical hiccups. Many, including myself, marvel at the next gen flavor Rockstar has brought with this massive game.
But with a game has that gotten away with holding itself together offline, glitches in tow, we should have heeded more than Rockstar’s warning that GTA Online MIGHT not work. Within GTA Online’s infrastructure are glimmers of next gen design. A persistent open world environment with players engaging in a series of solo, cooperative and competitive match types give hints of games such as Destiny and The Division. It’s needless to say that it's fairly ambitious for its time despite MMOs such as Final Fantasy XIV and other open world titles such as Burnout Paradise and Rockstar’s very own Red Dead Redemption. Looking back now at a game that didn’t quite run flawlessly now with a multiplayer that’s ahead of its time, it’s simple mathematics.
In its current state, GTA Online is f**king broken.
When it works, GTA Online can be a liberating experience so long as you’re cautious and adhering to making the right decisions that work best for your playstyle. Universally however, it is at its best when played cooperatively and with friends. Anything less, and you could run the risk of having an experience that falls anywhere between tedious and unpleasant. We’ve already made San Andreas an unforgivingly dangerous place in GTA V, throwing 16 psycho paths into the mix makes it safe for no one. Because of this, you should fully expect to be shot at unprovoked, sometimes several times in a row (Bank your cash at an ATM!).
To ward off these annoying fruit flies, your first option is switching to Passive Mode which renders you invincible against other players occupying the city, whist taking away your lethality as well. However for some reason, there is a punishing trade-off for this. Not only are you unable to inflict damage to other players and pay a fee of $100 for exemption, but you cannot draw your weapon at all in the city. If you get in the mood to cause mayhem on civies and law enforcement, you’ll have open yourself to all the dangers of the city.
But what’s recommended when you enter Los Santos is rolling in deep with your friends or a crew. This typically goes without saying in multiplayer games, however parading through the city with an entourage gives you protection against most malicious players. It also smoothens out the overall experience when engaging in deathmatch variants and getting into matches unlike lone wolfers who will spend much of their time searching for work and sitting in lobby screens for minutes at a time.
Not to say that GTA Online is hostile top to bottom for solo players. I’ve spent much of my time alone in the city. You can quick match games from your cell phone, accept invites that occur on the regular, and go on a one man mission to hold up every store in the city to make a lot of money. Just don’t expect to have quite as much fun as everyone else is having.
Regardless of the fact, there’s so much content leaving us for so much to do. Races, miscellaneous activates, competitive shootouts, jobs, missions, horde survival, chasing bounties, whenever I stood still in the city, it was never because I had nothing to occupy my time with, it was because I was overwhelmed with choices.
Some are better than others depending on your preference. As one who would argue that Horde Mode is the central multiplayer mode in Gears of War, Survival Mode in GTA Online – which plays very similarly to Red Dead’s survival from its Undead Nightmare DLC – is my jam. Farming jobs is one of the best ways to make money, and there’s always room for a good race. GTA Online’s deathmatch variants aren’t as good as Max Payne 3’s competitive multiplayer primarily due to the poor level design. Jump into one of these modes, and whoever makes a mad dash to the top of a building are more likely to win. But that’s the beauty in playing an open world game, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to play it.
And all in all, it’s a beautiful philosophy. But this image is smeared by the devastating stability issues. If you’re lucky, you’ll either get stuck in the initiating missions right after you set up your character, or you won’t get to play at all. For those who aren’t as fortunate, you could lose a great deal of your money or lose your character entirely. Money and character development doesn’t come by easily in GTA V, not with all the missions you have to complete, cars you have to ensure, or property you have to buy just to regain what you’ve lost. It’s an infuriatingly discouraging occurrence that makes me commend all those who end up doing it all over again, because if it were to happen to me, I would walk away from GTA Online permanently.
GTA Online is an ambitious gamble of your time. It isn’t just an anarchic sandbox with players flying helicopters into traffic and pulling off drive-bys with city buses. Yes, that can happen too, but it’s also a bedrock for your criminal fantasy in the form of an extension from GTA V. It’s a crying shame however that those fantasies have been crushed and will continue to be crushed until Rockstar gets their s**t together.

UPDATE: Since then, Rockstar has released a patch that should have resolved the issue surrounding deleted characters. Later this week, update 1.04 should address other issues around purchased cars disappearing as well. For those who've had their characters deleted, while Rockstar has made it clear that you wont be able to get them back, a two part compensation package of $500,000 starting this week should go to those that have played GTA Online this month thus far. To balance the in-game economy, the first half of the 500k should be delivered this week while the other 250k will be released sometime in the future.
Female modeling driven by cultural demand (10/8)
For their free-to-play shooter Warface, Crytek has admitted that the sexualized female models in their game for the Russian and Chinese regions has been driven by the requests of the audiences in those countries.
Lead producer Joshua Howard stated that for the Russian region, the requests were more exaggerated, looking for more elaborate sexualized outfits including high heels. The team behind Warface was faced with a difficult decision, between adhering to the cultural relevance and arguably sensitivity while abiding by misogynistic views and alienating a small percentage of female gamers in these regions, and retaining a level gender ethics in the portrayal of its female characters.
Howard compares the female depictions to two examples: one aligned with how Coca Cola being branded the same in different regions with different ingredients in each, and the other more relevant to their game which happens to highlight how Russians prefer more weapon recoil than the Eastern Asian market.
It’s an interesting balancing act, pandering to different regions looking to satisfy different cultures of players, and at this rate, hopefully they’ll treat American gamers with the same level of respect assuming that there is a larger percentage of female gamers here.
But where should Crytek have stood? Should they have sent a message in modeling female soldiers and avoiding the sexualized depictions? Or as a business, adhere to the requests of each region whether they were misogynistic or not?
Source: Wired
VIA: Polygon
Bungie looks to get multiplayer right yet again (10/9)
We’re all familiar with the concept of Destiny, a shared world shooter in which players can interact with the world, be that with friends, against friends, solo, long sessions and short sessions. It encapsulates the wide spectrum of multiplayer moods.
We’ve already gotten a taste of this concept within the past two weeks with GTA Online, where 16 players occupy the Los Santos at a time engaging in a variety of activates while given the option on how they want to play. Want to play a mission solo? Many missions requiring up to 4 players can offer just that. Want to engage in adversarial matches either racing or shooting at one another? Sure. Want to complete a job or hold off hordes of increasingly aggressive enemies? You can do that as well. It ambitiously offers the access with other players as an MMO without the massive scale as one. It’s a concept that’s getting its footing this gen (though not quite firm on its feet), but looking ahead, the gaming future with new hardware seems to indicate that this philosophy would be streamlined.
MMOs are intimidating, despite the millions that engage on servers daily. However this concept of a shared world may begin an additional era of large scale multiplayer games. The developer that spearheaded console multiplayer games as we know it today is committed to delivering both an intimate and public multiplayer experience with Destiny. From natural lobby-less events that indicate the approach of other – quite busy – players, to competitive arenas, to simple sessions within 20 minutes of gameplay. It’ll all happens in an existing world that delivers a smaller, yet still populated persistent world multiplayer space.
Bungie’s pedigree as one of the most respected first person shooter developers in the industry is certainly a magnet for the attention that Destiny is getting. But for me, what excites me most is how freely Bungie will allow me to approach this world. Destiny is shooting for perhaps the widest audience possible: the collaborative, the singular, and the competitive. Beta winners will get a taste of what Bungie has in store, but the world will finally see when Destiny hits next year.
What if Nintendo... (10/10)
What if Nintendo sold Wii U at similar specs as the next gen consoles?
What if Nintendo sold the Wii U at a significant loss?
What if Nintendo headed their own version of Oculus Rift?
What if Nintendo worked with Valve?
What if Nintendo were a handheld only publisher?
What if Nintendo made a 3DS with a second circle pad?
What if Nintendo were a third party publisher?
What if Nintendo targeted the same audience as Sony and Microsoft?
What if Nintendo targeted the audiences of all three publishers?
What if Nintendo began developing mature franchises?
What if Nintendo went the fabled “Wii HD” route and manufactured a more powerful console in addition to the Wii U?
What if Nintendo became an open platform for indie developers much like Ouya?
What if Nintendo provided a service that offered unlimited access to their increasing library of NES, SNES, N64, and Gamecube titles?
What if Nintendo made HD remakes of all their most acclaimed GCN and Wii titles?
What if Nintendo brought back F Zero?
What if Nintendo made a Pokemon MMO?
What if Nintendo made an adaptation of Starfox Adventures and Donkey Kong 64?
What if Nintendo Call of Duty-fied Metroid Prime?
What if Nintendo brought back Geist?
What if Nintendo made a Zelda game with voice acting?
Nintendo is a company that...
becomes a favorite for what ifs and should dos, but never does. But it never stops us form asking the silly questions that we already know the answers to.
Steam Controller: The Good & The Not-so-Good (10/11)
One of Valve’s engineer’s, Jeff Bellinghausen, released a video prototyping the Valve controller on 4 different games in an attempt to show off its efficiency in various styles of play: Portal 2, Civilization 5, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Papers, Please.
The Good
Making one of the strongest transitions over to couch gameplay are potentially top-down strategy games. Valve announced this possibility with the reveal of the Steam Controller, and we got a fair demonstration with Civ 5. To no surprise, the left thumb pad controlled camera movement while the right moved the cursor. The touch controls offered a precision that that no traditional console game pad can deliver, bringing the couch & strategy experience we never got, even with the Wii U game pad (Shame on you Pikmin 3).
Papers Please was designed with an interesting control scheme, assigning cursor control to both thumb pads. It’s like having two touch pads on a laptop, taking the stress off of each finger while you swiftly shift from one side of the screen to the next.
The Not-so-Good
Shooters and first person games were undoubtedly the first genre pictured by many once the Steam Controller was announced. Perhaps non-coincidentally, Portal 2 was the first game shown in the video. It was an elementary demonstration of positioning and pointing before the much more demanding Counter Strike: Global Offensive. But even here, we see the player moving though a targeting range, never showing how the controller can hold up under armed resistance. Nonetheless, both games shows how the Steam Controller can offer pin point precision with the stroke of the touch surface on the thumb pads.
Here’s the problem. Looking at the camera movement and hands-on view of the controller, you’ll notice how the handler takes off their thumb off the pad when making any rotations over roughly 90 degrees. Taking your thumb off the controller briefly halts rotation until you position your thumb back on the controller to finish the turn, all of which takes a fraction of a second. Having this particular configuration could be why no videos were shown with the player playing against enemy AI or even other players.
With both traditional game pad and mouse and keyboard, pushing the analog stick or moving the mouse is more than enough to turn 360 degrees given the right settings. Having to constantly take your thumb off of the controls could ruin a competitive advantage.
Noted, the Steam Controller is far from...
whatever testings are being done, and well off from commercial release. In addition, the configurations could be set as rolling your thumb to the edges of the bowl, never having to take them off. Regardless, this is exciting insight into the development of Valve’s anticipated hardware.
Source: Polygon

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