Abscond – to move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another

waffle, zoso 2 Comments »

Ah, the zany world of intellectual property law. As you’ve doubtless seen in the news, Candy Crush Saga developer King (I’m not sure which King, websites aren’t very clear on the matter; I reckon it might be King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, but that’s just a guess) are getting into a bunch of legal tussles over “Candy” and “Sagas”. No word on “Crush” yet, I think it’s still safe to be romantically infatuated with someone, but you might want to double check with an IP lawyer to be sure.

King have opposed an attempt to trademark the name of the recently released Kickstarter success The Banner Saga, possibly because they believe Stoic’s game is deceptively similar to their own, or possibly because they don’t believe that at all but have to say they do in case someone else makes a game that really is deceptively similar and they’re not allowed to say so because they hadn’t previously even though it wasn’t. Or something. It’s all frightfully confusing.

The Banner Saga, being a Nordic tale, seems rather more of an actual saga than Candy Crush Saga, but there was an episode of the frequently excellent In Our Time on Radio 4 all about Icelandic Sagas, and what really stood out for me was the section where a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Árni Magnússon Manuscripts Institute in Reykjavík described the common theme across all sagas of the protagonist, faced with a sea of brightly coloured confectionery, being forced to swap sweets until they exploded.

Also feeling The Wrath of the not-Lich King is a poor innocent developer who just wanted to make a nice little game with candy in it, and “never thought [his] app would be confused with Candy Crush in the least bit”. Perhaps I’m being appallingly cynical, but in my eyes that position is every so slightly undermined by the full title of the game: All Candy Casino Slots – Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land. I thought Temere: Path of the Fall of the Exile of the Rise of the Time of the Shadow of the World of the Quest of the Hero was about the stupidest game title I could come up with by tacking a bunch of generic fantasy words to each other, but maybe it just wasn’t ambitious enough and the next Kickstarter should be for Definitely Not Key Words From the List of Best-Selling Video Games Article on Wikipedia Assembled in a Random Order (formerly Grand Call of Super Theft Sport Elder Brothers Auto the Pac-Hedgehog Kart Scrolls Duty)…

Posted by Zoso at 2:57 pm

Temere: Path of the Fall of the Exile of the Rise of the Time of the Shadow of the World of the Quest of the Hero

kickstarter, melmoth, waffle, zoso 2 Comments »

Our last not-Kickstarter project didn’t really take off, and after an extensive post mortem we decided it was almost certainly the poor rewards for potential backers that were the problem, so welcome to the not-Kickstarter for Temere: Path of the Fall of the Exile of the Rise of the Time of the Shadow of the World of the Quest of the Hero, a completely not-generic fantasy game with amazing features including:

  • Adventuring!
  • Fighting against things!
  • A story of some sort!
  • Words and perhaps even pictures!

Who wouldn’t want to play that game? Just select your backer level to get in on the action:

Pledge $1 or more: Grudging Thanks – Mrrrmmphthnksiguess

Pledge $10 or more: Whoops, I Clicked The Wrong Thing – No rewards whatsoever, but we’ll stick this in just in case people don’t read very carefully

Pledge $15 or more: Schadenfraude – Zero copies of the game, but a daily update from a random backer as their hopes, dreams and fondly nostalgic memories are slowly crushed by the reality of a game that can never quite live up to expectations

Pledge $16 or more: The Drama Llama – As above, but with a really angry backer who becomes progressively more furious, threatening to sue the developer, Kickstarter and the entire concept of “a game”

Pledge $20 or more: The Massive Game Backlog – A digital copy of the game if you ever really want it, but we won’t actually tell you when it’s available or keep pestering you with updates so you don’t feel guilty that you have no time to actually play it

Pledge $25 or more: The Should’ve Thought About This Before We Launched The Kickstarter Really – A digital copy of the game, and as soon as we can think of something cool then $5-worth of it

Pledge $25 or more: (New option!) Oh, Hang On, There’s Some Stuff In This Draw Here – A digital copy of the game, two biros (one with lid, one without), a stapler (no staples), some bits of string and… erm… I think it’s a plastic bit that came off a torch or something but I’m not quite sure

Pledge $500 or more: Hey Good Lookin’! – Using our finest 3D laser scanning system, YOUR face will be used as the model for an NPC in the game!

Pledge $5,000 or more: The Malkovich – Using our finest 3D laser scanning system, your face will be used as the model for EVERY SINGLE NPC in the game!

Pledge $5,000,000 or more: The Ultimate Package – YOU can design a quest for the game, and an NPC group for the game, and an NPC companion for the game, and write the backstory of the game, and in fact all the other quests and NPCs and companions and monsters, and the class system, and the world and… well, basically, you’re making the game now. Let us know when you’ve finished, will you? Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Posted by Zoso at 2:43 pm

Wot I’m Playing: Roundup

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Happy New Year, one and all! So, 2013 in review: stuff happened. Predictions for 2014 (and slightly beyond): more stuff will happen, but will eventually stop. That’s entropy, man. I ought to be a futurologist… Nothing terribly new and exciting to report on the gaming front, really. War Thunder is still going strong – another week or two and I’ll have been playing for a year, not a bad stretch at all. The most recent update has stirred up a bit of community outrage (Game Update Causes Community Outrage Shocker!), with planes being researched individually instead of unlocked in batches, slowing things down especially in higher tiers; it does seem to be a touch on the harsh side, but not worth getting too worked up over.

Most of my recent flying has been quite task-oriented, with a series of challenges starting in November offering a chance of a closed beta slot for ground forces testing followed by the current “Winter Magic” event, with two new planes up for grabs for completing various tasks. It’s a fun way of mixing things up, changing the type of aircraft you fly and the targets you go for; I haven’t got into the ground forces beta yet, fingers crossed as they add more testers, some nifty videos are starting to come out such as this fine biplane/flakpanzer teamwork.

Various holiday incentives such as bonus experience and plane discounts have been luring me into World of Warplanes as well, enough to get up to the Tier V Spitfire I; I even got World of Tanks patched up for the sake of a free tank, but couldn’t really adjust to driving again after all the flying.

Also coming up to a year played is PlanetSide 2, though I haven’t been playing an awful lot recently; I’d let my membership lapse before the recent announcement about changes, I was happy enough with the weapons and certifications I’d acquired, and though there’s always scope for player-created hat-type fun, as a first-person game you only really get to appreciate the millinery when changing classes. It’s still (usually) a blast, slipping slightly down the pecking order of Stuff To Play, but at least without a subscription the option’s still there every week or two.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Steam Sale, or at least Christmas wouldn’t be Steam Sale Season without a Steam Sale, and holiday trading cards added a bit of excitement this time around. Combining them into a badge also resulted in a cosmetic item for one of a variety of free-to-play games that could be traded or sold on the community market, so for a few pence you can pick up the more common snowflake decals for War Thunder aircraft, though that price may sharply rocket now that the holiday cards have melted away. I even bought a couple of those actual game-things during flash sales. Lots of people rave about Kerbal Space Program; I’ve only really run through the tutorial and it hasn’t completely grabbed me yet, but it certainly seems interesting, and Melmoth spoke highly of the new Tomb Raider game, so I picked that up and have got as far as downloading it, but not actually starting it up. I just about made it to the second level of Dishonoured, bought during a previous sale, before getting completely distracted by other stuff so I’m not sure when I’ll manage to actually buckle down and play it, but still…

On the mobile front, Doctor Who: Legacy is a neat little puzzle-type-RPG-sort-of-thing available for both Android and iOS, chock-full of companions and characters from the recent series plus a few classics with nice artwork, kills the odd ten minutes here and there quite effectively.

Finally, over in The Old Republic the newly added starfighter combat still hasn’t really clicked for me, but I’ve really been getting back in to the rest of the game, flashpoints, regular PvP battlegrounds and the class stories. I hadn’t been particularly hankering for good old hotbar style combat, it just sort of crept up; I’ve no idea if it’ll last long enough to properly pique my interest in WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online or EverQuest Next, or whether I’ll have burnt back out again by the time they launch.

Posted by Zoso at 4:47 pm

Changes to the War Thunder research system in Patch 1.37

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Father Christmas arrives a week early for keen War Thunderers, with Patch 1.37 today bringing a veritable sack-load of new goodies: new planes, new maps, new flight models, DirectX 11 support, and perhaps most noticeably a major change in the research system. Previously you had a rank for each country, each plane had a rank, and achieving a new rank in an air force unlocked all the planes of that rank. This system had several good points, but a few disadvantages; progression could be a bit uneven as a new rank might not unlock planes of your preferred type (the US tree had a particularly bad Fighter Gap pre-v1.33 between the rank 13 P-51 Mustang and rank 18 F-80 Shooting Star, only partially filled by a couple of F8F Bearcat variants at ranks 15 and 16), or even any planes at all. In 1.37 you pick one aircraft at a time to research per country, a little more like World of Tanks, but with some key differences.

Aircraft are now grouped into five Eras instead of twenty Ranks, broadly chronologically but with a few tweaks to reflect their performance. These eras are also used for matchmaking, but with slightly fuzzy edges and player performance factored in, so a mid-late Era II plane with a good pilot might well be grouped with an early Era III plane with a poorer pilot. Here’s the first four Eras of the new British tree:

NewResearchTree

You can see the Beaufighter Mk VIc in Era II is “in research”; every match played with Britain will contribute towards unlocking the Beaufighter, even flying biplanes will contribute towards jet research (though not very much…)

To unlock a new Era, you have to research a number of planes of the previous era. At the very left of the screen you can see “2/4″ under the “II”: I’ve researched two Era II planes (the Hurricane Mk II and Spitfire Mk I), and need to research two more to move on to Era III, so I couldn’t immediately research the Era III Beaufighter Mk X after the Mk VIc. Premium planes count towards this number, though, so if I finish researching the Beaufighter VIc and buy a Boomerang Mk I or D.520, that will allow me to move on.

To unlock a specific plane, you’ll need to have researched the previous plane in its line (connected via an arrow). In this example I haven’t started on the Wellington bombers yet, to research the Mk Ic/L, I’ll have to first research the Mk Ic. Some planes are “stacked”, like the Spitfire Mk II (clicking on it will reveal two variants, the Mk IIa and Mk IIb). You need to research them separately, but you don’t need to unlock them all to progress to the next aircraft in the line (the Spitfire Mk V in this case).

Individual module research on each aircraft has also been tweaked slightly so that you research a particular module, rather than modules automatically unlocking according to a predefined sequence previously. You can select the module to research in the usual Upgrade screen, if you complete that research in a battle, you’ll get a pop-up afterwards letting you know, and allowing you to select the next module to research:

NewModuleUnlock

The general consensus seems to be that the new system may be slightly quicker for advancing all the way through one specific line of planes, but quite a bit slower for researching everything; a lot depends on the rate at which Research Points (“RP”, the replacement for XP in the new system) are awarded, which could well be tweaked a few times as the system beds in. There’s a Developer Diary that goes into a bit more detail, it looks like victory for a team will be a major factor in the number of RP received, which could be a positive factor in encouraging good teamwork, or equally terribly frustrating if you perform magnificently but lose a match due to a team full of buffoons. So much the same as ever, really!

Posted by Zoso at 5:24 pm

We’ll have to destroy them ship to ship. Get the crews to their fighters.

swtor, zoso 2 Comments »

When it was announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be getting free-flight PvP space combat, my interest was piqued; being a fan of the old X-Wing series, and having spent most of my brief Star Wars Galaxies tenure jumping to lightspeed, I thought I might as well resubscribe to be first in line for starfighter access. And for free hats. Mostly the hats, to tell the truth.

I’ve only dabbled a little in space fighting since the update arrived, and I’m not sure I’ll be throwing myself into it in a big way. It all seems nice enough, you have a variety of ships, can tinker with the crew and the fittings, level up various aspects of their abilities, but the actual flying-around-and-shooting side hasn’t really grabbed me. I think I’ve been spoiled by War Thunder, which uses a “virtual instructor” so all you have to do is point the mouse in the vague direction you want to fly, and the instructor accordingly adjusts the elevator, rudder, ailerons, elevons, upperons, downerons and any other control surfaces that happen to be kicking around; once you’re pointing the right way, the camera aligns, and you’re flying straight and level. It’s a brilliantly intuitive and easy system; I was showing the game to Van Hemlock, lined him up a Spitfire for a test flight, and with minimal instruction (“press shift to go fast!”) he took off, flew around, shot up a practise target and landed, without crashing. Galactic Starfighter, like a lot of other flying/space combat games, uses more of a mouse-as-joystick approach: move the mouse left and your ship goes left until you move the mouse back to the middle of the screen, a scheme that needs a bit more practise to get to grips with.

Needing practise, it would be a nice if you were thrown into battle with fellow novices so you could all bumble around together, with your wingman struggling to put his starfighter into gear while you accidentally turn on the windscreen wipers instead of firing your blasters. With a phased approach to release (subscribers having access now, ‘preferred’ players getting access on January 14th and completely free access from February 4th), it seems that the pool of potential pilots is too small for any matchmaking niceties like taking account of player performance or ship upgrades, and most rounds I’ve played so far have been dramatic mismatches differing only in whether the Imperial forces disconsolately hang around one of the three control points for an inevitable but prolonged loss, or just get camped on their spawn point.

At this point I could knuckle down and jolly well harden the ruddy heck up, keep on plugging away and gradually improving, or… not bother. And with War Thunder and World of Warplanes available to scratch the dogfighting itch, not to mention space games like Star Conflict if gravity and an atmosphere is too much of a drag, Option 2 looks rather tempting.

Though the space combat itself hasn’t been terribly inspiring so far, Galactic Starfighter has got me back into SWTOR more generally. I’ve been on an MMO-break for a fair while, but seeing as I’d subscribed again I thought I might as well have a look at the expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, that added a new planet and raised the level cap. It was rather fun to dust off my Imperial Agent and chat to the old crew again, but upon landing and actually getting into combat it was the familiar old problem of having four hotbars of random icons to get to grips with again. Fortuitously the FRR posse were just piling in, a fine opportunity to roll a new character and get back into the swing of things, and it’s been most splendid rampaging around the place and discussing the quantum state of Schrödinger’s Black Talon Captain with others.

I may still try the odd starfighter flight, then, as a bit of downtime between quests and flashpoints; perhaps once preferred players have access there’ll be a brief flurry of newcomers I might have half a chance against, while the even-more-seasoned-by-then veterans enjoy a Happy Time in a potentially extreme case of free(ish) players being content for subscribers, unless the matchmaking system keeps them apart. As part of the wider whole of SWTOR it’s nice to have options alongside the main story, the PvE on-rails flying the game launched with, conventional PvP battlegrounds, flashpoints, operations etc., but I’m not sure Galactic Starfighter is really strong enough to pull people into the game by itself, especially with dedicated projects like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen inching towards playability. Still, the beauty of free-to-play is that you give it a try yourself from February without any financial outlay.

Posted by Zoso at 11:11 pm

Hat News Now Today Returns!

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Badadadadada dum dum dum dadada daa daaa dum dum daaaaaaaaa! It’s been almost two years, but Hat News Now Today is back, today, now! Our correspondent is still in The Old Republic, and received four packages in the mail for the launch of the Galactic Starfighter update, containing…

Imperial Battle Ace Pilot Helmet

HNNT3

A good start; a sound base of flying helmet (textbook), a dash of Stormtrooper, a pinch of Cold War gasmask and just a soupçon of gimp. Equally at home in the cockpit of an Imperial starfighter during a fierce dogfight or hanging around the fleet station bar trying to work out where to pour a drink.

Republic Squadron Commander Pilot Helmet

HNNT2

What is it about the Republic and orange? Really, guys, 1993 called, it wants its bold colour blocking back. Oh, hang on, not 1993, we’re in… what… 3953 BBY? So… 3973 called? And it wants to know how it’s possible to use a chronological system based on the Battle of Yavin that won’t happen for thousands of years. And also how time travelling phones work.

Republic Experimental Pilot Helmet

HNNT4

Does my face look bovvered? Does it? Oh, it does. Yes, well, so would yours under this monstrous carbuncle. The Republic don’t do terribly well out of the Starfighter headgear; about the only thing you can say in favour of this one is that the peak/visor thing doubles as a handy can opener, so if your starship crashes on a deserted planet you’ll be able to get into the tinned food in the emergency supply kit.

Imperial Covert Pilot Helmet

HNNT1

The second Imperial helmet, and my personal favourite. Hints of the original TIE pilot’s helmet (via some timey-wimey inspiration, as previously mentioned they won’t be around for a few thousand years), but with the help of Darth Bradley Wiggins it offers an optimum aerodynamic profile when riding a speeder.

Posted by Zoso at 2:35 pm

Black. Black! Like the clouds of death that follow me into the Forest of Doom! And hide in the wardrobe of darkness!

melmoth, waffle, zoso Comments Off

Amazon’s Black Friday deals week is always a bit of fun, and this year we’ve come up with a new game: Write An Episode Of MacGuyver Or The A-Team Where They’re Trapped In The Black Friday Warehouse And Have To Escape Using Only…

Today’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to Write An Episode Of MacGuyver Or The A-Team Where They’re Trapped In The Black Friday Warehouse And Have To Escape Using Only cricket leg pads, a window mounted bird feeder, a box of twelve ballpoint pens, a floating bath thermometer and clock, a squash racket, a Plant Theatre Funky Veg Kit and an IPL Hair Removal System. Submissions in by midnight, please, and the mandatory puns of the day are “Well that was a close shave!!” (IPL Hair Removal System) and “I guess he couldn’t take the heat!!” (floating bath thermometer and clock).

Posted by Zoso at 12:50 pm

They’re all frightfully keen, those magnificent men in their flying machines

war thunder, world of warplanes, zoso 2 Comments »

It’s a busy old time for virtual pilots of World War II(ish) crates with World of Warplanes hitting official release this week and War Thunder ramping up for its launch on the PlayStation 4 and the addition of ground forces.

I popped back in to the World of Warplanes open beta last month when they added British planes, and patched it up for release a couple of days ago. The controls certainly seem to have improved from earlier beta versions so WoWP is perfectly fine for a bit of flying-type fun, but not enough to displace War Thunder as my dogfighter of choice. Still, I’ve got a bit of premium time left from tokens earned during the beta, so I’ll at least try to use that for a bit of a leg-up towards a Spitfire. I won’t be going all out to be First to the Top, though, that way madness lies. I didn’t think it was a particularly good idea when Blizzard started handing out server first achievements, and that was without an incentive like ten years of premium account time.

As a canny marketing stunt/completely coincidental bit of timing/evil underhanded plot, Gaijin are also dangling a carrot to encourage War Thunder players to jump through a few in-game hoops, offering players the chance of participating in the closed beta test for ground forces by completing daily challenges over the next three weeks. The first challenge, to destroy 60 ground targets, was pretty straightforward. The second, to shoot down 35 opponents, was rather trickier as you had to be flying one of five specific aircraft (one per country), which made Arcade battles a little unusual as many players quit after losing their challenge aircraft rather than respawning. Today’s was better, shoot down 30 fighters, sorted out with a few trips back to low level furballs. I won’t be going mad to try and complete every challenge, but it’s quite fun mixing up the type of aircraft you fly and way you play to at least have a crack at different challenges.

The announcement also offered a hint at dates, “The testing itself is currently scheduled to start before December 4th”, so it looks like tanks might be coming in early 2014. I had a brief peek at the forums to see if there might be any more hints, but after seven pages of frothing excitement, bitter complaints and animated GIFs I had to close the browser window for fear of developing photosensitive epilepsy.

More positively on the forums there’s a rather splendid British Tech Tree Project, a collaborative effort that’s produced an impressive looking possible tree. Aircraft suggestions usually range from “You know that plane, yeah? The one with the guns and this and that, yeah? That would be all amazeballs they should totally put that in the game, you know what I’m saying?” to “Gaijin must implement pastes Wikipedia list of all military aircraft 1934 – 1952“, but this group have taken the time to sift through the possibilities, assemble cohesively themed branches with suitable ranking and produce a graphical version of the tree in keeping with the in-game interface. Most impressive.

Posted by Zoso at 11:36 pm

I bid you good day, sir!

waffle, zoso 3 Comments »

Cosmetic items are an important element in many free-to-play games, offering a chance to earn a bit of money from item shops without disrupting game balance, and Hawken is no exception with several chassis components available to change the way your mech looks. Unfortunately there are no hats, rather a shame as I think giant battlemechs would look quite dashing wandering around in a fedoras or trilby. It’s doubly unfortunate as Hawken also offers emotes for its mechs, and the combination of a top hat plus a hat-tipping emote, ideally accompanied by a cry of “I bid you good day, sir!” would be a splendidly gentlemanly way of greeting friends and dismissing opponents. In fact you could get rid of that beastly shooting business altogether, I’d be perfectly happy just to wander around a map tipping my hat to other robots, rather like Charlie Brooker’s Pleasant Neighbourhood Simulator, only better, as it’s a scientific fact that giant robots improve anything.

Speaking of good manners, Twitter was set all of a fluster recently with news of a Kickstarter Project, Ever, Jane: The Virtual World of Jane Austen. An intriguing prospect, an MMO based around gossip and dinner parties instead of swords and dungeon crawls, I’m hoping the project secures enough funding, although the high tier rewards make me a touch wary; for $1,000, for example, “… your own estate rather than a cottage, the title of Baronet and your estate named after your character” smacks a little of pay to win (or perhaps more accurately cash for honours).

It being a scientific fact that giant robots improve anything, though, I humbly submit a setting for an expansion pack…

SCHTOMP

UND

GERSCHTOMPABILITY

A NOVEL


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a giant battlemech, must be in want of a wife. And a shoulder mounted gauss rifle.

At Netherfield Park the Fotherington-Autocannon family prepare to receive the visit of Colonel Short Range-Missile with considerable excitement.

Bzzzt-whirrr “WHY MAMA, DO YOU SUPPOSE THE COLONEL MAY CONSIDER ELINOR A DESIRABLE COMPANION?” said Marianne.

Clank-clank “AFFIRMATIVE” replied her mother, “THREE AND TWENTY IS CONFIRMED AS OF OPTIMAL SUITABILITY FOR A MATCH AND ELINOR IS POSSESSING OF MOST COMELY HEAT SINKS”

At this, Elinor became most flushed and did increase her coolant flow. “UPON MY WORD, I MUST OBJECT” she cried and spun upon her heel, activating jump-jets to leave the room, resulting in a tumble of lathe and plaster as she smashed through the ceiling.

Marianne projected a winking smiley holo-emote at the discomfort of her sister; “I DO BELIEVE ELINOR MAY HAVE FOUND SEVERAL DESIRABLE QUALITIES IN HER ANALYSIS OF THE COLONEL’S ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE”

At this moment a great crash from outside signified the arrival of the Colonel’s dropship, setting a swathe of lawn afire and crushing several petunia bushes in the process. The ramp descended on the remains of a laurel hedge and the Colonel deployed to the drawing room.

“MRS FOTHERINGTON-AUTOCANNON, MISS FOTHERINGTON-AUTOCANNON, MISS FOTHERINGTON-AUTOCANNON” said the Colonel formally, raising his robo-hat to each.

“COLONEL RANGE-MISSILE” replied Mrs Fotherington-Autocannon, “WE ARE MOST DELIGHTED THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO VISIT DURING YOUR RECONNAISSANCE OF THE ENVIRONS. WOULD YOU CARE FOR TEA?”

“AFFIRMATIVE”

Mrs Fotherington-Autocannon busied herself with the tea things, sweeping several cups from the table with the barrel of a PPC and incinerating the teapot with a flamethrower. “OH ELINOR” she called “I DO BELIEVE COLONEL RANGE-MISSILE SHOULD ENJOY TO HEAR YOU PLAY UPON THE PIANO-FORTE”

“WHY INDEED” said the Colonel “LADY ECM-SUITE ASSURES ME THAT YOUR RECITAL OF CLEMENTI LAST MONTH WAS QUITE EXQUISITE”

Elinor sat at the piano-forte, and was gracefully hammering the instrument into firewood with delicate blows from a pair of linked medium pulse lasers when Marianne gave a soft cry: “OH ELINOR! I AM UNDONE! I HAVE RECEIVED A BURST TRANSMISSION FROM MORTON COMPOSITE-ARMOUR AND HE… AND HE… HAS ENGAGED WITH AN ASSAULT-CLASS MECH ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF LONDON TOWN!”

Mrs Fotherington-Autocannon fell into a swoon, knocking over two bookcases and a sofa as Colonel Range-Missile hastened to her aid. Elinor clasped her sister’s pulse lasers between her own.

“MY DEAR SISTER” she said “HAD COMPOSITE-ARMOUR NOT LOCKED UPON YOU WITH HIS TARGETING COMPUTER?”

“HE GAVE ME MOST SOLEMN ASSURANCES THAT I WAS ATOP HIS TARGET PRIORITY LIST” her sister sniffed, “BUT I NEVER… NEVER DETECTED THE TONE OF A MISSILE LOCK WITH MY OWN SENSORS”

Posted by Zoso at 5:42 pm

Achtung! Doppelgerschtompen

hawken, mechwarrior online, zoso Comments Off

I’ve been a fan of BattleTech games on the PC for a long time; my original 8086 wasn’t quite up to running BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception or the first MechWarrior game, but I played through BattleTech 2: The Crescent Hawk’s Revenge (a splendid early top-down real-time tactical game) and the two MechCommander games that came later, and the excellent MechWarrior 2, 3 and 4 plus expansions. A couple of years ago MechWarrior Online was announced, last June they put Founders packages up for sale, and I was rather tempted.

The trouble with pre-launch offers such as Founders packages is that if you plunk down a wodge of cash on an amazing never-to-be-repeated offer then Murphy’s law dictates you’ll end up not really liking the game (or the company implodes before launch, or they offer the same benefits for half the price later, or…) Course if you cunningly sidestep that issue, by ignoring pre-launch offers entirely, Murphy still gets you, as you wind up trying the game sometime later, you find it’s amazing, and bitterly regret missing out on a great value offer that will never be made again. Still, reasoning that I liked both the previous MechWarrior games and also World of Tanks (which MechWarrior Online broadly resembles, only with Mechs instead of tanks oddly enough) it seemed like a fairly safe bet, and I opted for one of the packages.

Needless to say I’ve hardly played MechWarrior Online, only clocking up a few hours of giant robot gerschtomping in the past year.

Perhaps it’s not so much Murphy’s law as expectations (cf. David Mitchell), if you’re excited enough about something to have been gathering every stray snippet of gossip and publicity, constructing visions of the Best Game Ever in your head (aided and abetted by the PR department), even Quite A Good Game can seem something of an anticlimax, whereas if you start playing Quite A Good Game with no preconceptions you’ll probably find it Quite Good. Or perhaps it’s just fate – monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent, well-being is vain and always fades to nothing. Anyway…

The path of development doesn’t seem to have been completely smooth; a slashdot article suggested discontent within the community over features such as the introduction of a third-person view. I suspect it’s something of an overreaction from highly invested fans to decisions made by Piranha Games trying to balance sometimes mutually exclusive requirements of disparate elements of the player base (and potential new players), perhaps exacerbated by poor communications. On the Internet in general though, and with gamers particularly, a Cyclops suffering from Alice in Wonderland syndrome looking at an M C Escher picture has a better sense of perspective (typical starting point: minute adjustment to the reload speed of a gun = LITERALLY WORSE THAN HITLER), so without deeper involvement it’s hard to distinguish between brave consumers standing up to malicious or incompetent developers, a bit of a storm in a teacup based on some genuine concerns, or the deranged rantings of a tiny group of lunatics (and that’s before bizarre comedic-perfomance-art-installation-protests confuse matters still further).

MWO was officially released in September after a year or so in beta, and the PC Gamer review certainly chimes with my admittedly limited experience, solid mech-on-mech action but a lot to get to grips with and a rather clunky out-of-combat interface. Not insurmountable issues by any means, but with a plethora of other drop-in vehicular combat options like World of Tanks, Planetside 2 and War Thunder, MWO hasn’t really hooked me in yet. Apparently there’s going to be a “UI 2.0″ revamp, hopefully that might make it a little easier to get into.

There’s also a giant stompy robot rival in the shape of Hawken; I first heard about it during last year’s E3 where MWO had a crazy controller, the Razer Artemis, and Winged Nazgul pointed out the Rogue Mek-Fu for Hawken in a comment (sadly the controllers don’t appear to have made it to market). Seeing as I already had one Mech game I wasn’t playing I didn’t see much point in trying another, but in its most recent patch Hawken introduced a co-op mode against AI bots, which got Melmoth interested (despite being terrifyingly lethal in Planetside 2 with a k/d ratio to match, he’s not such a big PvP fan), and he extolled its virtues so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Hawken takes a different approach to mech combat, somewhat stripped down (e.g. two weapons per mech, a health bar rather than armour and damage per location) at a much faster pace, lots of dodging and boosting. It’s very straightforward to hop in and get to grips with. I’m sure there are plenty of forum and comment skirmishes between advocates of the two games putting forward balanced, well-considered and rational arguments over the pros and cons (ha!), the Ten Ton Hammer comparison seems well balanced. I think I might drop in to Hawken now and again for a spot of high tempo robo-blasting, and if War Thunder starts to pale then maybe take a closer look at Mechwarrior Online again in the future.

Posted by Zoso at 8:35 pm
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