Some Thoughts on Star Citizen

Star Citizen - something I've been eagerly waiting for. A concept I've been eagerly awaiting since the first time I played EVE Online. Boy I wish I could fly a space ship manually. I wish I could EVA. All of these things Star Citizen aims to do and then some, like boarding ships, FPS combat, exploration and flying down to planets, landing and doing stuff. The possibilities of that could be endless.

This originally started as a reply to a forum post on here until I realized it was becoming blog post length.

I've remained totally optimistic about this game from day 1. I lost a bit of faith over a year and a half ago because we hadn't seen any big changes or much information for a significant amount of time however after the last few major updates I'm back on the bandwagon full force. I've been hoping and praying for a game like this to come along. No Man's Sky wasn't it, neither was Elite Dangerous. Both games have their strong points (I know I'll receive hate for that regarding NMS) but this is shaping up to be more what I want. I want a real space life MMO sim. Give me a ship and some opportunities to just exist and I'll take them. Space piracy? Sure. Trading and shipping? Why not? Mercenary work? Sounds thrilling. Maybe I just want to explore sometimes too.

The thing about this games dev cycle is a lot of people who are mad about it are also the type to see an E3 announcement for a game to come out within the next 15 months and thin that's the dev cycle, they don't realize that this is very well under way by that time. We have been fed information from conceptualization through to present day. Yeah they've raised a ton of money, but they've also had to develop the tech to make this work. I'll take one Persistent Universe Alpha problem to bolster this point I want to make. The engine they were using during the 2.0 release had a persistent state of objects. So if I open a door on Security Post Kareah and my friend is running around Port Olisar - for those who don't follow the game, these two places aren't even in direct line of sight - opening doors the game is synchronizing both our physical positions including standing, crouched or prone and the state of said doors, on top of our equipment choices and physical states (health for example). This meant that when you'd try and walk through a door you just opened it wouldn't sync correctly and you'd get bounced back and forth. There was a point where I legitimately could not leave the station in a full server shard, I would need to exit and reconnect hoping to get an emptier or fresher shard. Once I did get into that it would work just fine until it filled back up. So they've been developing a lot of invisible things to make this world function.

Fast forward to today, the current release has a lot of great features (and shortcomings but I won't dig into those yet) most of which didn't exist until very recently. They've expanded the current PU to have some extra planets and now quantum jumping is starting to make sense for how it will be implemented. To fly across the system I both need the required fuel and need a straight line path. After said path is in place and the quantum drive is engaged I must wait, and it's not instant. Took me something like 10-15 minutes to cross most of the Stanton systems diameter. In that time I got out of the pilot seat of the massive ship I was flying in and wandered around, accidentally let down the boarding elevator while standing on it; which fortunately didn't kill me, then went back to the cockpit and waited for another couple minutes while playing with the computer systems which mostly work now. The recent progress we've seen implemented and made playable shows a huge leap from last year and a very clear cut indication that they're rounding the bend of some of the major hurdles they were trying to get over.

In its current state if we had single player and what exists right now with some more NPC's and some interactive stuff I would feel this is a very good game. It's not what was promised on paper and there's a lot more to be desired but to look at what has been done and actually just sit down and appreciate it first hand it's quite an impressive experience. Flying from Port Olisar to any planet and entering the atmosphere and the flight model changing to something more of how you'd need to fly a plane, to seeing the planet take form as you approach the surface, detail coming in piece by piece, then landing and walking around. Get back in the ship and try and get to a station on the planet takes actual time to fly there. You can just fly through canyons and insane speeds for fun if you like, drive vehicles around, then drive them right back into your ship and take off again, go to another planet or just do some in space EVA missions. Sure the missions are bland, they are placeholders for actual story driven mission chains. One of the more interesting experiences was I landed on an industrial planet. Hovered over the city in a non-landing one getting constant warnings until I figured out what was going on. Landed on my docking platform and started trekking around the city. Then I noticed a tram system, so let's go to it. I walk onto the platform and check the map to see where I want to go. I'm going to go to the residential area to see that. The train platform doors have a timer on them telling you when the train will arrive so I sit on a bench next to another person who is doing exactly the same thing. NPC's are also doing this and wandering around. The train arrives and I wait for a few minutes to get to my destination, I exit into a populated area and explore apartments and shops, I can see outside the apartment complexes window a spaceport with ships sitting on it, I realize later it's a ship dealer but still. It looks alive and feels it too.

Yeah this game got a lot of money poured into it, but money can't buy everything in this case, it just buys developers time and supplementary stuff. They hired a team to invent full languages, they have a lore team, the full community support teams, the rackspace for the hosting of both the site and game as well as data for internal use, internal support staff, etc. The list of overhead costs goes on. Yeah they did some frivolous stuff too but that's chalked into the "Employee morale" and attempts to make an attractive workplace. The money seems insane but it is probably a little more valid than we assume. Now I'm not justifying the funding they've received entirely but I'm trying to look at it from a different point of view other than the impatient consumer.

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Forza Horizon 4 Diary

After having this game from the pre-order early release I've really enjoyed everything about it. This is coming from someone who prefers simulation racing games. With my gripes regarding some of the mechanics and the wheel support I feel that for the masses this is an excellent game for both loads of multiplayer fun and a fun solo experience exploring this large map. Here's a few screenshots I've taken displaying how good this game looks.

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Is DLC Harming Gaming?

Absolutely. Need I say more? Not necessarily, but I will indulge any possible arguments with little more than "take a look jackass" because honestly, look at the money you're spending on DLC on a games release. I am ashamed for people these days, not because of anything more than the fact that they buy it. Battlefield 3 is a recent one in my mind that's treating us as such, The game releases and they have a map pack out on release day, which is free to those who pre-order. That's not a pre-order bonus, it's basically going "you buy the game and you don't have to pay for content we already had made for the game and just decided not to put into it for anyone without a premium." which to me, is total bullshit. I had the game pre-ordered before knowing this because I wanted it, and when I found this out, I would've cancelled the order if I was able to. This isn't the only game. Most games have the DLC ready to go on release day.

Fallout's New Vegas DLC pack was pretty much ready on release of the game, considering how short of a time it was until they had it out. Total Annihilation was the first game to my recollection with DLC, and it was TOTALLY free, just intended to keep the game fresh, they announced doing it every week or something along those lines, but only did it for about 15 releases. If you're doing DLC, that's doing it right, give it to the customer, they paid for the damn game, just show some appreciation, and people will buy it. Now people are getting microtransactions out the ass from their game producers, and paying means getting everything you're somewhat entitled to in purchasing the software.

That goes without saying, World of Warcraft as an example, you do not own the game, in no way is it yours, nor do you own a copy of the software, the EULA on it states that you own nothing. It basically says you have purchased the ability to use the software under their terms for an account that you have "ownership" of, almost like a high school would give user accounts on the server. This is how video games are becoming, hence why LAN wasn't in Starcraft, because you don't own the game, you have rights to an account that you've paid money for. The software given and packaging are merely a means of obtaining the software for installation, not for ownership.

Now, game companies like Roxio, giving you Angry Birds content for free are doing it the right way. Buy our game, and we give you updates periodically to give you some more content. That's significantly more reasonable and conceptually more ethical. Now, this goes to say that expansion packs aren't in the same category as DLC, but they're being considered as such, hence the reason it's successful. I didn't mind paying for the Battlefield 2 expansions when they came out, because it was almost a game on its own, which was cool, like Episode 1 and 2 for Half Life 2, and Blue Shift, Opposing Force and the other one for Half Life 1...I forgot the name at the moment. Realistically, DLC should be small patches, and we pay what is considered a microtransaction for it, as in sub 10 bucks on average. This is disappointing. Mortal Kombat, another game I was stoked for on release, sold characters and skins...skins are morderately okay, but characters, what the hell, really? I don't mind being optioned to pay for some things, but DLC shouldn't give you online advantages or anything more than aesthetics or small things. Anything that can change general mechanics or balance is a bit ludicrous.

I find it seriously disheartening, and almost distaste games these days because of it. Anyone else agree?

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Competition Gaming; Dead?

 The question goes unanswered to this date about the deterioration of PC games lately. We had a number of great games back in the day, some of which I still play. Counter Strike, Counter Strike Source, Team Fortress, Quake, and older Call of Duty. These games had dedicated servers, tournament leagues, and were easy to run on a wide range of computers to allow maximum players. Now they're suffering the age of people getting drawn in like a tractor beam to shiny things, like moths to a flame.

Over the years I have been playing PC games (7 now to my recollection) I have done CAL in Counter Strike: Source, Counter Strike 1.6 and I have done TWL for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty 2 and Americas Army. With those came competition driven gameplay for some, and the casual gameplay for others who were uninterested in doing competition style gameplay where they got to communicate and play strategically with their friends against others who were doing the same thing. It provided more of a challenge, and a bit more depth to games. This has disappeared almost entirely from what I can see with popular games these days. Modern Warfare 2 is a game all my friends want me to play, and I do play it with them, but when we play together, we're in Ventrilo talking. It started out as us playing and actually talking like we're a team, trying to organize where we're all going and where we see people, now it's gotten to the point where we just walk around the game, shooting at what moves, and just talking about unrelated topics with the same success we had before when we were organized like a team.

I'm losing my liking towards new games more and more because of this reason, I don't know if anyone out there agrees, the casual thing is okay, but the team communication stuff makes for a different game altogether, which in my eyes is rather refreshing from the day to day public server playing. Additionally this seems to be rooted with game creators writing for consoles and porting it to run in Windows which in turn gives us juts a cheaper copy of the same game I could go out and buy on my Xbox. The reason I stick to PC gaming is that the lag is a lot less common, this being because we don't match up a player in the middle point of where we all are, or a player at the area of the majority of the players, instead all joining a server that's located in a server farm in a single location, better ping meaning a closer server.

This also suffers in the social part of video games too, that is mainly because you never play with the same guy twice, unless he's on your friends list or something. One more thing that I find disappointing. I really liked the days of the previous Call of Duty games where I hop into the server I play most and I can be familiar with a couple of the regulars, like someone that frequents a bar, paintball field or some other social area so you're always around people you can enjoy talking to, and make some "friends" along the way so playing isn't boring. Lately I have found myself on Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2, or something like that playing by myself with my clan tags on, like they really mean you're on some sort of team anymore anyway, playing against a bunch of people I don't know, and basically just sitting quietly in front of my computer until I get sick of it and start playing an old Counter Strike server where I know people on it, or I start playing World of Warcraft again since I have a lot of people I know on that server and we just group up and play together, while actually communicating and having a good time.

As this has become more the case, I have noticed the competitive nature of Counter Strike and Team Fortress go in the same direction as the casual gaming scene. This just means more PC gaming alone. The clan idea will die out, and the fun I originally found in PC gaming will eventually disappear, leaving me with just MMORPG's for the social experience I enjoy so much. Basically saying "Hello again, World of Warcraft" until Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out. Even then, who knows what will happen with that. I honestly am hoping to see a turn for the better in this instance. This may turn me off online gaming as we know it. Even games like Americas Army have suffered, once a "simulation" shooter, now just run 'n' gun with the same mechanics as any standard game (take Call of Duty as another example here I suppose) just with some of the old features of the original game.

Now taking this all into account, in the rare case there's a game that still provides this. Take Left 4 Dead. It does the matchmaking thing, and the random players thing, but it does do a teamwork sort of thing too, especially in versus. A little organization makes the game a little more intense and challenging, which I think is fantastic.

All in all my conclusion to all of this is laying at the point where I say "Do I waste my high end i7 gaming rig on old games like Counter Strike and hope for games to get back to the standard I got so used to playing" or do I just quit trying to play shooters the way I want and just play them casually and do MMORPG's for the mild social experience I enjoy?

Yeah I did use a lot of mainstream game titles in this because they're the easiest examples. I wonder if anyone else would like to see PC games go back to the Casual or Tournament idea or if it's they prefer the casual means they're diverting to?    

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