Why Annualized Franchises Foster Resentment

...or Why Hunger is Half the Meal

A hard crust of bread can be a feast, when I'm struck with hunger. The finest food and drink can become a chore, when the stomach is already stuffed. Now that my favorite franchise has effectively been annualized, with Battlefield Hardline coming hot on the heels of Battlefield 4 - that has become painfully clear.

I will likely still *do it*. Buy Hardline and Premium. The full package. Which I probably shouldn't do. I know I'll love it. But do I want it? I'm not hungry for it. Hell - I'm looking forward to the next BF4 DLC expansion, which doesn't even have a release date yet, unlike Battlefield Hardline. It just feels wrong.

I finally understand the strong resentment so many seem to harbor against the Call of Duty franchise, despite it still selling like crazy. It's like EA is trying to force feed me my favorite food. And I'm sad to say, it will probably work on die-hard fans like me. I resent them for it. I enjoy getting a new Battlefield game so much more, when I'm actually hungry for it. I guess that's how Call of Duty fans felt all this time, like they're being robbed of an essential component of their favorite experience - the hunger for it.

If only everybody would do as Take 2 does. Starve us first. Where the fuck is Red Dead 2? Now that I'm ready to wolf down on.

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Trading Blows - What I Love About Battlefield on Consoles

It's something that rarely ever happens on PC. Everything is split-second. You see, you get seen, you shoot, you get shot. All one and done almost every time.

On consoles, due to the gamepad interface, nothing happens quite as fast and precise. The result? Trading blows. So I come around a corner, spot 3 guys running without cover coming right at me at 75 feet distance. I got some shoddy semi cover in the rubble, like 65% cover.

The resulting firefight lasts a whopping 20 seconds. Bullets whizzing by, grazing me, I returning hasty fire popping in and out of my semi-cover. I get two of them, before the third gets me. A situation like this one wouldn't have lasted but a split-second on PC, due to point-n-click ease of kills.

Think about it man! Which of these two scenarios are more fun to you?

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Portable Gaming, and What It Thought Me About Structure

MOAR STRUCTURE MUN!

Been playing lots on my Vita lately. Most recently Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and MGS Peace Walker. Both these games are structured precisely for the piecemeal type of gaming so well suited for your average morning commute. I enjoy such clear structure a lot.

Then it hit me. Why would only games tailored for portable consumption be created with enough thought put into structure to make them more palatable? Hell - Monster Hunter Freedom Unite offers content for hundreds, if not thousands of hours, yet it never asks for more than 50 minutes of my time at a time.

Most games just go on and on, never ever letting up. Like books with too long chapters. Personally - I find writers like Stephen King much more palatable, because his style offers lots of natural breaks, what I call subchapters. Easy points to put his books down, and pick 'em back up again. That's what pretty much all games are sorely missing (except of course for the aforementioned portable kind of games).

Every game should have as much thought put into structure and pacing, as designers tend to do, when they create portable gaming experiences. Lots of real breaks. Easy points of exit and entry. Making games more inviting and palatable. A great example is Alan Wake, with its hard breaks between chapters. Playing music and credits and all that jazz. Ironically - I remember finding the chapters in Alan Wake altogether too lengthy.

I want subchapters! Put them in every eligible game! Thanks for listening. And here an example of a nice hard break for a real big game.

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Portable Gaming, and What It Thought Me About Structure

MOAR STRUCTURE MUN!

Been playing lots on my Vita lately. Most recently Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and MGS Peace Walker. Both these games are structured precisely for the piecemeal type of gaming so well suited for your average morning commute. I enjoy such clear structure a lot.

Then it hit me. Why would only games tailored for portable consumption be created with enough thought put into structure to make them more palatable? Hell - Monster Hunter Freedom Unite offers content for hundreds, if not thousands of hours, yet it never asks for more than 50 minutes of my time at a time.

Most games just go on and on, never ever letting up. Like books with too long chapters. Personally - I find writers like Stephen King much more palatable, because his style offers lots of natural breaks, what I call subchapters. Easy points to put his books down, and pick 'em back up again. That's what pretty much all games are sorely missing (except of course for the aforementioned portable kind of games).

Every game should have as much thought put into structure and pacing, as designers tend to do, when they create portable gaming experiences. Lots of real breaks. Easy points of exit and entry. Making games more inviting and palatable. A great example is Alan Wake, with its hard breaks between chapters. Playing music and credits and all that jazz. Ironically - I remember finding the chapters in Alan Wake altogether too lengthy.

I want subchapters! Put them in every eligible game! Thanks for listening. And here an example of a nice hard break for a real big game.

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Why Warhammer 40k: Space Marine Is the Most Underrated Game of This Passing Generation

When it comes to review scores, Warhammer 40k: Space Marine is not underrated. Whilst it's brilliant in what it does - bringing to life the Space Marine power fantasy in a most direct manner - it's also rather one-dimensional and simple and repetitive, so I guess it's gotten a fair shake. Regardless of its critical reception, I still think it's extremely underrated. Why? Because it successfully blends *character action* with *3rd person shooting*, all the while losing the woefully overused cover mechanic.

Both 3rd person cover shooters and character action games feel extremely tired. These two genres have been done to death. The Gears of War and God of War clones alone likely make up for the majority of core games produced in this last overly lengthy console cycle. Blending the two genres together opens whole new worlds of enemy and encounter design, which could easily make the resulting gameplay feel larger than the sum of its parts. Relic succeeded in this, and there's ostensibly so much more that can be done by pursuing a hybrid between character action and 3rd person shooter, I believe.

I'm currently playing DMC, hot on the heels of a recent replay of Space Marine. It's a great game and the fresh coat of punk attitude paint does the trick for the most parts, but I've definitely played countless games like it before. The gunplay is easily the most underused and underpowered and unpolished feeling moving part in DMC's combat design, since the automatic lock-on is more than funky at range, and well... automatic is automatic - there's really not that much depth that can be put into gunplay execution given such circumstances.

Just imagine how much fresher DMC could have felt, if it blended 3rd person shooter controls with its character action. I'll leave you to fill in the blanks, but in my mind's eye, it would transform the game into something else, whilst not losing what's great about it. The skill-driven combo-heavy melee combat would remain untouched, and just as fun - but all the shit stuff the game has us do at range? Elevated (ideally) to the heights of a proper 3rd person shooter.

Essentially Relic created a whole new sub-genre of untold potential, and I can't wait to see it more fully explored.

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635 Hours Later - Colonel 100

Well - that's been a rage fueled romp. It's been roughly 635 hours since I started my journey into the Battlefields of BF3, and now I've joined the ranks of the truely insane. I've been promoted to Colonel 100.

That it's taken me roughly one and a half years to get this far despite my unending love for Battlefield at its core? I blame it on the way too rigid rock-paper-scissors balance. I blame it on indirect gadgets and weaponry that kills without ever engaging in a proper fight. I blame lock-on warfare. I blame it on the overexposed look of its lighting and shadows, and its desaturated colors. I blame it on screen obscuring post effects overkill, like screen filling sunglares and lens flares. I blame it on lacking visual feedback, and generally lacking gunfire rapport. I blame it on stealthy weapon loadouts for all kits. I blame it on suppression blur and deviation increase (as well as the concept of bullet deviation to begin with). I blame too high movement speeds, and not far enough traveling soundeffects. I lay so much blame on BF3's design choices, I've picked up the habit of sucking on Ricola herbal sugarcubes, to keep my throat from getting sore.

I coined a term for Battlefield 3 - a subtitle if you will - which accurately captures my impressions of what's wrong with Battlefield 3. Impersonal Warfare.

On a lighter note, enjoy this little youtube skit in regards of playing with a Colonel 100...

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Down the Rabbithole, Meeting an Old Love

I came across this conspicuous sale. One of my game retailers has a big inventory purge, and there sits Mists of Pandaria for 25$ on the virtual shelf - 50% off. Now I might have said I'm past World of Warcraft, and I definitely do no longer play games with as fiery and all-consuming a passion as I did WoW during its heyday (for me that was the Burning Crusade-era) - but just because I'm over WoW, does that mean I shouldn't play Pandaria?

It's been amongst my favorite things in gaming, to explore and discover a new continent in WoW, and do the full 5-man dungeon progression - everything before hitting the raiding circuit really. Raiding's great fun too... until it's not. For plenty of reasons, I no longer want to dedicate my time to a raiding party and its time schedule, nor do I want to show up anymore if I'm not in the mood for it - which just isn't an option when playing with commited and competent players, and that's what it takes for me to enjoy the raiding part of the game.

Regardless, I loved Star Craft 2 Heart of the Swarm, but I never really was into the game itself beyond its campaign - it didn't make a difference - I wouldn't want to have missed it for the world. So I decided that I won't rob myself of a great Blizzard experience, just because I don't really want to play WoW like others have a hobby - I'll just play it as a game, level a character, see most of the new content, and call it quits after 60 days.

I said the same thing when Cataclysm came around, and I still ended up staying for over a 100 days and clearing most the available raiding content, including hardmodes, against my better judgment. My attachment to my Troll Hunter, and the plentiful acquaintances I made on my home server, made it all but impossible not to.

It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, since game releases look rather slim and boring up until GTA V hits in mid-September (outside of Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisen - which is a mighty sweet deal for me, as I am purchase procrastinator in regards to its initial release). Here's me hoping WoW won't swallow me whole, and that I'll quit it while I'm still having a good time - because a good time is what I'll have, it's a Blizzard game after all. Wish me luck!

P.S. Picked up a supercheap copy of the PC-version of Binary Domain too. Looking forward to dismembering robots, and checking out the validity of all the *Secret GotY 2012* hearsay floating about the GiantBomb forums.

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Developer's/Publisher's Lack of Transparency Disturbing

I've played lots of MMOs in the past decade. This experience has given me a certain attitude towards developers, and how they communicate with us. MMO developers, as well as veteran players, expect MMOs to be full of bugs and other issues, and that is something to be open about.

We know what we think is wrong with the game. The developers know that there's lots wrong with the game. We know they're working on it. And there's patches and patchnotes all the time. There's official forums and official developer forum posters. Community managers and official twitterfeeds giving substantive realtime information on what's going on.

Some developers, like DICE for Battlefield 3, have adopted a similar standard of communication. It was an extremely buggy game when it was first released, but through transparency and relatively open communication, it's been a similar journey like with your average MMO - I can deal with that.

What I can't deal with, is not knowing. Being kept in the dark. Like EA/Criterion keeps me in the dark, on what's going on with Need for Speed Most Wanted. I've grown to love the game, but the more I played the game, the more unstable my client became - to the point where it crashes on start-up. I can get it to start-up with some trickery, but it will crash sooner, rather than later.

It's been a month, and there's literally no word from the developers on what's going on. Are they aware? What are they doing about it? Will there be a patch? When will there be a patch?

What makes it even worse - their game's pretty much my favorite of 2012, and I want to play more, really badly.

What I'm saying is, I expect all gamedevelopers to act like MMO-developers. Open channels of communication. Official forums with actual developer feedback. Community managers actually engaging the community. A live twitterfeed informing about onlines woes and maintenance and such. More kander.

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Replacing Experience Points - Earning Training Time Allotment

Instead of making progression purely instantaneous, like XP-based systems usually are, the progression I have in mind, offers an addicitive duality.

  • Progressing certain aspects of the game by successfully doing it - feats of skill - like leveling up swordplay by slaying enemies with swords, or unlocking new guns and attachments by shooting dudes dead. But wait, that's only one side of the coin.
  • Additionally reward the player with 'Training Time Allotment', rather than straight-up XP. Training Time Allotment is being used to manage progression whilst not playing the game. So lets say I play a lot of Battlefield, I earn lots of Training Time Allotment, which I can use to progress through certain carefully chosen aspects of the game, whilst no playing it.

Lets say I play a lot of Battlefield, I earn lots of Training Time Allotment, which I can use to progress through certain carefully chosen aspects of the game, whilst not actually playing it. Like in Battlefield 3, there's a weapon-specific progression, governing attachment unocks. Imagine the game lets me spend Training Time Allotment on some new weapon I just unlocked through regular play, so the next time I'll play the game, I will have unlocked some basic attachments for it, during the time I was not playing the game, like when I was at work or school or in bed or whatever.

Every time I stop playing a game using 'Training Time Allotment'-like progression system, I get to manage offtime progression, and I'll always have something to look forward to, when I come back around to playing the game.

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I <3 Battlefield 3

As some of you might well know, I kinda hate Battlefield 3.

Armored Kill is around the corner, and watching the launch trailer gave me shivers all over again. I know it's all still there, the stuff I don't particularly care for, but hot damn do I love the consumer experience I have with the game since I got Premium - it has become a sustained source of awesome and excitement - great entertainment. While launch was admittedly rocky, and the selection of maps and modes were far from my favorite in Battlefield history, the game has come a long way since, and has still so much more to offer, before it has run its course. It's well on its way to becoming the best Battlefield consumer experience to date.

Hats off to EA/DICE, for designing a living breathing game - Battlefield as a service - and keep it fresh with ever new content to play, gradually approaching 'endless replayability and absolute value' - because truely, when Battlefield 3 is all wrapped up content-wise, I could see me playing just Battlefield 3 for the rest of my life, and never run out of fun things to do. By the time one aspect of the game grows stale, another aspect of the game feels all fresh again. And all that without ressources from the modding community.

Battlelog too plays into this, and despite me using it in the most rudimentary of ways - as a stats-site, and to post and read in the forums every now and then - there's something to be said for such a centralized online presence. Everything of relevance about the game is right there. Between Battlelog and BF3 Premium - this is definitely the way to go for EA/DICE and the Battlefield franchise. Premium sustained content and community support, that's the Battlefield consumer experience I always wanted, and now finally it's here.

All what's left to do, is to get better at it. Better and more frequent community events. Better communications and feedback. Cool stuff like 'Test Servers' for new maps and modes for example. Get experimental and involve the playerbase directly into the iterative creation process within the lifecycle of a Battlefield game. Come up with special live events, like a Paintball weekend, with nothing but paintball decals instead of destruction. Screw with physics for super floaty jumps. Triple lifepools and cause explosions on knife attacks in a knife & pistol only event. ATV king of the hill checkpoint races. Scout Chopper deathmatches. Live entertainment.

Battlefield as a consumer experience has gotten way better, and even if I hate Battlefield 3 - I do love Battlefield 3. This paradox wierds me out in a good way, because it gets me excited for Battlefield all over again! Go get.

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