Battlefield, Halo

How the Digital Age Killed Gaming

Pre-ordering?

So I’ve seen many people discussing how pre-ordering is destroying what makes good games release perfectly. They make good points, why make a good game if you already have a player’s money? I disagree with this, for a publisher that certainly is the case. They don’t interact with the players and that detaches them from releasing a fully functioning game. But the underlying problem for everything is the Digital Age we currently live in. Let’s take a look back at gaming when it initially began growing and how it differed from today.

Information

If you were like me one of the first games you ever played was Pokemon. There was so much unknown about the game. I picked Squirtle because he looked cool. My brother picked Charmander cause he’s a freakin pyro. THAT WAS ALL THERE WAS TO IT! Now you can’t go without picking the one that has best stats and evolves into the best Pokemon and can beat all the Gym Leaders. Part of this is due to the evolution of gaming, a game can’t just be fun at the base now. There’s articles all over about Destiny being such an in depth game that has such smart designs and that’s what makes it good. This applies for just about every AAA game these days, but Destiny got the most attention for it.

Do you remember back when you picked up your Gameboy and played Pokemon? You knew nothing about anything. There wasn’t the Internet seconds away to tell you that Squirtle becomes a Blastoise with Hydro Pump. You had to learn by testing types against each other to find out what was strong and weak. This was a key thing in making games become such a big deal. But now things are laid out plain and simple for you. By the time you get to a certain point with a new enemy, your character is already completely decked out to take on what’s ahead. There’s very little surprise in what you do. But surprisingly if you let your players learn on their own it creates a better game. Not too much learning of course, but dying because you got caught off guard is kind of exciting. And that’s one thing gaming has lost.

As a Halo player I’ve followed the blog posts when a game gets close to release. I remember back when Halo: Reach came out and they mentioned going dark to avoid spoilers. This is something I try to practice with every game now. It’s really hard because that information builds up anticipation. And somehow no one finds that bad. It’s a weakness humans have. I have a decent laptop and a great tablet, yet when I see more tablets and laptops I want to replace them instantly. It’s a great way to make money so publishers take a huge advantage of this. All games must go big or go home with new features and big changes. Just look at Halo 5, they didn’t bother to go small and say lets add this one or two things. The game is faster, there’s 5+ new features that change how you play. This isn’t a bad thing at a glance. It brings a breath of fresh air into games so they don’t go stale. But now new games are so focused on new features they force some things that really shouldn’t fit in.

And the sad thing is developers are trying to get back to this old style release. But they miss because they think it’s something you can copy and paste. Frequently games try it by replicating a scene or a map layout all the while missing the key part that made it a success. There was no IGN month coverage, no details released every month. It’s really hard as a person to do that though. We all enjoy telling a great story and seeing the excitement on peoples faces. So let’s draw a comparison to something in the real world that gaming should follow. Books. How do you sell a good book? You certainly don’t give away just about every detail before the reader grabs it. You give the basics in brief sentences while drawing the reader in. That way when a certain surprise happens you are waiting on the edge of your seat to move on. You don’t have to do something like kill someone off to have them say “I never saw that coming”.

Fixing The System

Emphasis on new and big things can remain, but some of the biggest surprises need to remain hidden. Could you imagine playing Battlefield 4 and seeing Siege of Shanghai with that building falling for the first time, having no idea it was possible. Call me crazy but that’s the kind of feature that needs to remain hidden. Give players a reason to jump head first into a game. Easter eggs are something people hunt down like crazy. Imagine if the basic features of your game were given that much attention. The small features can be released to build that anticipation or even one of the few big things.

If it were me though, I’d base the whole game around the hidden features. I imagine being a company that has tons of players already. Give a few Youtubers or writers a chance to play one map and say find what you can. Let them go crazy and tell all their viewers or readers how excited they were finding something new. Maybe even label a few things as do not discuss, tease and hint at it all you want but build anticipation to actually jump into the game and play around with every detail.

So what do you think? Would you play games if you knew less about everything? Do you think an information overload can ruin the excitement of discovering new features? Leave a comment and let me know and thanks for reading.

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Battlefield

Battlefield 4

So as much as I love Halo I’ve played my Battlefield lately. Largely for two reasons: Halo MCC has too many quiters, and I’m way better at BF4 than the beta. So here’s my opinion on BF4 on just random things.

How I got here

I started with Bad Company 2, which is hands down one of my favorite games of all time. I bought it on a whim and loved it from the second I started playing. I understand it’s not the typical Battlefield game, but there was so much success in the game I couldn’t put it down. Every since then I’ve been carried away.

BF’s large maps and long games really grabbed my attention. I don’t follow DICE’s thought process on massive, open maps though. I enjoy maps like Zavod so much because it is massive with tons of close quarters, that’s a huge part of the game’s success I think. Rush also used to be a big star of the series, even in BF3. However they lost focus and kind of killed that mode. The campaigns aren’t the best, or even decent sometimes so let’s not focus on that.

Play Style

The engineer has always been my favorite, I got a big boomstick and no one can stop me! Even after the PDW’s became the main weapon I still used Engineer more. They also have some of my favorite weapons every time. It all started with the Bad Company 2 Engineer, especially the Scar L. That gun made me a mean lean killing machine by the end of a match, regardless of winning or losing.

When BF3 arrived I started to use the PDW’s a lot more though. For some reason I just love the concept of a small close quarters machine gun in any game. The PDW-R is one of my top guns, it’s basically like a rifle sometimes. The range on it is ridiculous for a PDW and it just feels good to shoot. I would prefer PDW’s to be the gun that goes across classes, but beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

Rush became a favorite of all time instantly. The fact that those big maps would just grow was amazing every game. Any Rush game also feels more intense than most Conquest games. It’s all about the basis of just two areas to attack. It makes it so a 32 player game can feel as big as a 64 player CQ map. However as time moved on it became very clear that DICE prefers to make CQ maps and use them for Rush. This is a horrible idea as it doesn’t work, I don’t think I enjoy any map on BF4 in Rush. Maybe it was just BC2 that had a focus on Rush, so obviously I have a bit of a bias for it.

What Could Be Improved

I’m very surprised that BF4 is still being played as much today as it is. The game started poorly and I mentioned many times giving up on the whole thing entirely. Still, here I am playing just about every day. That makes it pretty obvious that the game itself isn’t the problem. It’s a successful game in the end, and the holidays really made a jump in player count. So where can Battlefield change and improve to be better.

One of the hardest things to balance is the vehicles in the game. And now that I think about it sometimes there isn’t a problem. Personally I feel it’s the AA that deserves the most tweeking. It’s wrong to be killed from just about any spot on the map when someone is determined to use it. On the flip side an air vehicle can really dominate if the range of the AA is far shorter. I have no idea on how to manage this, as if it were me I’d remove the whole thing and boost the AA rockets for Engineers.

The map packs for BF4 haven’t been to stellar. In fact a large portion of map packs for BF4 and BF3 haven’t been awesome. Not all of them need to be successful, and they obviously know how to make good maps cause they launch with great maps. With Final Stand it finally clicked into my head that there is a basic concept being repeated. Largely open maps with close quarters in the center. There was even one map that I swear felt exactly like a Naval Strike map. For me the obvious place to be is at the center camping out the two objectives there. Not a single pack stood out as much as Close Quarters in BF3. This was due to a hugely successful game type that matched the maps perfectly.

Now I’m assuming someone didn’t think this part fully through because Domination was good in CQ and in BF4 it’s not so good. One of the things DICE does that I absolutely hate is using the portion of a map for different modes. Sure this means less work for the developers so that’s great. On the flip side, the different modes don’t work so well. Rush is a perfect example, the maps just aren’t designed to move that way. Again this is something wrong with Domination, CQ fit perfect because they were designed for Domination. Taking more time to match maps with their game modes would improve a variety for the game.

Past and Future

Now I’ve missed quite a few games by jumping in at BC2, so I don’t really have much room to talk about what happened before. From what I can gather there was less focus on being so big though. The competition between CoD and BF wasn’t the main focus for getting games out. BF4 was probably such a disaster because they couldn’t delay and “lose” to CoD. Sure competition drives the entire gaming community today, and it’s great to a certain point. Given any other situation though and this whole thing would seem crazy. Going bigger and better sometimes distracts from the fact that you actually have a great game.

Now Hardline is coming in two months and this does appear to be following everything I say in the upper paragraph. It’s not a military themed game and it does go as big. But it was originally scheduled to come out a year after BF4. That is following the path of CoD in just about every way. They massively changed the theme, again like CoD, and aimed a quick release that actually failed. So if they can’t compete with CoD that way, what can they do?

Follow the path of Levolution even more. Small level destruction is really what makes BF so great. Running around with a rocket launcher or M320 and taking down walls to find enemies is uniquely BF. The last game didn’t capture this so much for me though. It felt like the small level destruction got replaced with massive map changers. They also removed the “Destruction 2.0” kill feed from BC2. Which gave a kind of emphasis to knock every building down. If you got 1 kill there was a sense of accomplishment.

Weapon variety is great. I’m always changing my weapons during a game, though I really shouldn’t. Bringing back old weapons is even a great idea. Old memories often drag me back to crappy weapons that I should avoid like the plague.

Bleh

So that’s my thoughts on Battlefield, sometime soon I think I’ll post a montage of Battlefield. I have a battle buddy that has some freakin epic moments with me and I’d love to share them. Thanks for reading, leave a comment or some feedback.

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