Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Social Justice wars and journalist cabals

So if you have been keeping up with the recent drama of the gaming industry then you will have heard of a little thing called Gamergate.  For those who aren't so keen to keep up with the news concerning the industry today, Gamergate was a massive shitstorm of controversy that started when a female developer by the name of Zoe Quinn was found to have been sexually involved with at least one major game's journalist.  I am not sure if she was involved with more journalists romantically or not but the fact is, she is a developer who had sex with someone who writes for a major online website.

This obviously caused a lot of people to call bullshit since it basically confirmed for a lot of people that the industry was corrupt and nasty things were said and both sides looked pretty bad.  However the journalist side tried to spin the entire event in to a sexism argument.  Now you may remember seeing sites like Eurogamer, IGN and more suddenly all posting articles about the apparent inherent sexism that is rampant within the gaming culture and it's development sector and how we as gamers need to become less misogynistic.  So they tarred everyone with the same brush and tried to heavy handedly beat us over the head with their argument.  Of course there are those people online who are quite sexist and will say some horrendous things to women in both the development sector and players alike and they are need to be ostracised in my personal opinion because they just aren't the kind of people we want in our community.  But to post articles that basically say we as gamers are all misogynistic assholes is the wrong way to go about deflecting the issue.

Other major feminist personalities like Anita Sarkeesian were used to bolster this argument as she spewed her misinformed bile across youtube and other social media sites with her small army of followers attacking anyone who disagreed with her misguided views on games development and the people who play them.  She is just making money off of people who are too stupid to put their own time into researching the argument which makes her no different to creationist preachers asking for money to be saved by Jesus.  Unfortunately she isn't something to be simply ignored.  Her rhetoric can potentially cause knee jerk reactions within the development sector and as a result hinder the creativity of the industry because developers are terrified of being labelled as anti-feminist or misogynists.

Personally I am sick of being forced to play as muscle bound genetic freaks who have square jaws and all speak with a broad macho American accent.  It's just as narrow and boring as the typical leggy female protagonist with big tits and tight clothing.  An example.  Playing the original Guild wars I was looking to play as a Warrior to support my girlfriends spellcaster.  So choosing the class I am presented with a male and female option.  The male is about three foot wide, shaved bald head, ridiculously muscular and has a face that only a mother could love.  The female option was a woman with average proportions wearing armour that actually covered all her body.  I chose the female because she didn't look like a cartoon character and didn't prescribe to a stereotype in gaming.

Anita tries to make out that the developers purposefully put in situations where the gamer can abuse or use women in degrading or violent ways but anyone who has played games for several years will know that this argument is pure crap.  But like Zoe Quinn the cabal of game journalists out there want to protect her from genuine criticism and I want to emphasise legitimate criticism.  I don't endorse anyone who attacks her personally or threatens her or any of that shit.  People who I would recommend viewing for some legit criticism of her arguments is Thunderf00t on youtube who has a series of videos pretty much tearing her arguments to shreds and her only response was to get him banned from twitter so draw your own conclusions from that.

But this cabal of games journalists who all work in a group known as gamejournopro's all sit around and decide what agenda they wish to push through their sites to influence popular opinion.  This group also has several marketing execs from developers such as Ubisoft and Warner Bros. games to boot so when that next Assassin's creed game comes out and every site gives it a 9 just remember that these sites are pretty much in bed with Ubisoft.  It's not really a shock after all since we know the Battlefield 4 launch was a disaster for EA despite every reviewer giving it a 9 or 10 and never mentioning a single bug, the game launched with crippling issues for players and caused a massive uproar from a crowd of enthusiastic gamers who just wanted a fun game and got shafted due to this cabal of journalists pushing scores to be higher to garner more sales for the companies and in turn get them some sweet kick backs from the publishers.

So where's the proof to back this up?  Well here are a few links to videos that themselves explain the situation better than I ever could and give links to the specifics of the situation.  Thanks for reading and remember to keep an open mind when buying games and where those recommendations come from.

Please check out InternetAristocrat's other videos regarding Zoe Quinn or the "Quinnspiracy theory" very funny but also very enlightening.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQJW3WMsx1q3BAZh3XsK1cSwCiaqjSulc - This link takes you to Thunderf00ts Anita Sarkeesian videos.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution (PS3)

The ultimate ninja storm series has now been rolling along the Playstation 3 lifeline now for a good few years and when viewed as a whole the series has been running since the Playstation 2 days before the advent of full three dimensional Ninja brawling was introduced to gamers.  As the titular anime series finally starts to reach it's climax with the end of the great ninja war and near god like beings battling for the future of humanity, the game series I feel has become something of a stuck record.

This latest release can be viewed as a side story to the main one.  Taking the gameplay elements introduced in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 and adding a few small tweaks to the system, Ultimate Ninja revolution is a fairly standard game that doesn't really make any real steps forward for the series but doesn't take any backwards either.  Basically it's a stop gap to allow the manga and anime to finish before Cyber Connect 2 finally make Ultimate Ninja 4 and then go the Dragonball Z route of re-releasing games with slightly better graphics and experimental gameplay features, at least in my opinion anyway.

New anime sequences are welcome but few and far between
So if you're expecting advancement in the story or more insight into the overall arch of the Narutoverse then you will be disappointed right off the bat.  The game has a few modes that focus on different aspects of the series.  You can play in a story mode of sorts that chronicles the creation of the antagonist group Akatsuki replete with newly created animation from the same studio that makes the current anime and the same voice is a nice addition.  You also get to play a flashback scenario featuring Itachi's close friend Shisui and learn how he came to die with the mode wrapping up with a short video of a young Obito and his relationship to Kushina. 

This mode is interesting narratively but very slim on the ground with features and lasts only an hour at best since it is simply made up of several short fights all requiring some finishing move to achieve an S rank.  It does however unlock several characters and gives you some cool pre-Akatsuki costumes for the many members of the team, some I actually prefer over the normal cloaks. 

The main mode of the game is the new Ninja world tournament mode.  This mode is completely original story wise and will take up most of your time.  In this mode you choose a character you have unlocked and then play through progressively more difficult versions of the tournament mode.  It features a new map which starts off small but becomes larger as you complete the tournament levels.  The tournament itself is a new four player mode that pits character against each other in a free for all fight with each round lasting 50 seconds each.  In place of life bars you instead have a currency of orbs which you knock off your foes to increase your total amount.  The winner is determined by whoever has the most at the end of the round(s) depending on difficulty.  Some matches can have three or more rounds so you need to carefully select your characters.

The arena's are truly chaotic at higher levels with random events like Samurai throwing waves of energy around, exploding tag balls, giant turtles, wolves, Zetsu clones and even powerful Ninja attacking the combatants.  Rails can be used to make attacks that are unique to each character.  In the end though the mode is poorly built.  The AI is too quick to attack the player and basically shower them with ranged and melee attacks making the entire experience miserable at times as you desperately try to counter and attack amidst the chaos.  The extra events on screen are tough to see because you are constantly trying to attack or avoid being attacked by foes and when you do get a brief reprieve you need to immediately be on the attack again or risk being blind sided by an off screen attack.

It's a shame really since the mode looks amazing in the gameplay videos and the potential is there for some great multiplayer matches but the AI is too cheap by simply ganking the player and never attacking each other outside of briefly punching each other in the first round.  Even the sub par WWE games have their AI attack each other in multi-man matches effectively.  Also the round length is too short, just as you begin to get to grips with the hazards of the arena and are fighting the round will end.  Targeting is a nightmare.  Changing targets is done by moving the right stick toward opponents but it will inevitably become confused and randomly target the wrong character and as such snaps the camera in the wrong direction which more often than not causes you to get your ass kicked.

The arena hazards are inventive but the rounds are too short
The map itself is a rabbit warren of pathways and loading screens that become more and more complex as you unlock higher level tournaments.  The many side quests and missions are spread out across this map and some missions require you to run all over the map to complete them in what sometimes feels like needless padding.  The best missions pit you in interesting battles that ultimately unlock characters for future playthroughs or as new supports for your team but a majority of them will simply chip away at your soul to complete them.  Needless fetch quests, timed missions and hide and seek become boring quickly and the map is near useless outside of seeing where you are in relation to other locations.  It has zero markers to highlight quest characters or items leaving you to run around aimlessly looking for people or items with vague hints about their location, sometimes being as helpful as "somewhere with a great view" which isn't helpful since everywhere on the map has a great view on it.

That aside the more regular Ninja storm combat is working fine and as mentioned earlier has some fine tuning.  Now you can select which type of group you want to run, choosing from a ultimate jutsu, awakening or drive types.  The first two are self explanatory with the drive type being the ultimate in support use.  Charging chakra brings your supports to protect you and activating will allow you to bring them in for a combination melee attack.  However you now can only choose one of these three so if you choose awakening you cannot use ultimate Jutsu attacks.  A new guard break and counter attack function allows players who time it right to basically block a foes strikes and stun them temporarily.  Outside of that the combat is the same as before which is a good thing since tweaking a formula too much only serves to ruin it.  The newly added team ultimate jutsu are a gimmick, a fun one but ultimately a gimmick none the less.

Team ultimate jutsu look awesome with CC2's visual flair
Multiplayer is the same as before with the new tournament battle mode thrown in for good measure.  You can also select a character from the roster and send them out online as a kind of training bot to earn experience, gain levels and bring back items for you.  These bots can be upgraded with new skills to make them more powerful and eventually they can become a challenge for you to fight.  From what I could tell the lag isn't an issue online outside of the occasional hiccup here and there, but expect certain characters to pretty much dominate the entire field.

New characters are few and far between also.  After the bait and switch of storm 3 not having playable Edo Kage they do finally become playable here but it feels a little too late to be a welcome addition.  More recent anime changes have been brought in to spruce up the roster so playable Obito and later forms of Minato, Madara and other reanimated characters turn up in the roster.  We still lack playable sound four members but for some reason we are given Konohamaru and Ebisu?  It's pretty random and in the grand scheme of things the character additions feel half arsed and not all that well planned out.  Don't expect any DLC characters either since the entire list of content is purely costume related and costs a small fortune to own in their entirety.

The addition of mecha Naruto created by Kishimoto himself is an odd choice.  Having it's own mode it serves as another slice of original narrative content that while amusing at times to see a robot version of Naruto fight with a robotic voice and mannerisms, just left me wondering why this time wasn't spent in adding a character who is in the story instead of which there are many.

So overall Ultimate storm revolution is like Generations before it a stop gap addition that brings some interesting mechanics and plenty of things to do but ultimately feels hollow and short on content.  Get it if you are a die hard fan or really want to play Kushina Uzumaki.

SCORE: 6.5/10

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

TNA Analysed - New network, New problems

So does anyone else think TNA will end up on a very small network next year?  I don't actually believe they will cease to have a television presence in the United States because there are always small networks who know wrestling fans will tune in and hell Spike still draws roughly a million viewers each week so it's not like TNA is virtually unknown, it just tried too hard to be like the WWE.

The situation has been discussed many times regarding the reasons why TNA has failed in many ways to grow their brand.  The biggest problem they suffer is management from an owner who is largely ignorant of the realities of the business and listening to people who didn't really care about the consequences of their decisions.  You only have to look at the so called "immortal" era of Hogan and Bischoff, both of whom have since left after leaving the company in a worse state than it was before they signed up.  Sure it had it's memorable moments that had you laughing at them, not with them, but the overall quality of the product went down considerably under their tenure.

Post Hogan and Bischoff the product went from being laughably bad to simply boring.  Every week now is extremely bland and uninteresting to watch which is the worst thing for an entertainment company.  The story's they tell just aren't interesting or fun any more.  The matches are limp.  The talent roster is getting smaller and to top it all off they are going to run their biggest show in Tokyo for no reason other than to advertise that it will be in Tokyo.  I haven't checked to see if TNA is particularly popular over there but I doubt it's popular enough to break even, let alone make a profit. 

TNA need to sort out their roster quick since they have very little in the way of new talent coming in.  They are losing Bully Ray and Kurt Angle while Austin Aries has been heavily hinting his departure on twitter recently  They just brought in a new Knockout in the form of Havok but let's face it, the Knockouts just aren't going to save the company from fading into obscurity.  The only young guys they have rarely seem to do anything that makes them title worthy to begin with.  The only recent addition who has done anything and actually been entertaining to watch has been Ethan Carter where as characters like Bram, Sam Shaw and Manik have done fuck all.  The companies over reliance on using former talent from the WWE doesn't help their image either with a steady stream of NXT rejects joining the roster it just gives the wrong signal to fans who watch more than one show.

I do wonder what would become of the brand if they did accept a deal from the Velocity network or something of a similar size.  Being that they struggle to pay for everything as it is now I imagine their roster would shrink considerably and a raft of new cheaper wrestlers are brought in to replace those who worked on better deals.  Also since these smaller networks have minimal coverage across the States it would severely impact (no pun intended) their ability to advertise and earn revenue via marketing on the show.  A lot of fans would struggle to watch the show unless they subscribed to and had access to the Velocity network so even their existing fan base would struggle to watch via legitimate means.

Abroad they may fare better at least in the area of selling pre-tapes to other channels but actual live events in the UK for instance would be a pipe dream for them at that stage.  Spike have been very generous in their allowing of TNA to continue broadcasting until 2015, despite their deal being over in October but after that I can't see TNA remaining on a major network.  It may be best to sell up, at least give the employee's a chance to keep their jobs under a new owner.  I am sure there are plenty of buyers out there for a wrestling company who may have an axe to grind with the likes of Ring of Honor and WWE.  The wrestling business seems great at churning out people who can hold grudges for a long time and frankly if a new owner did go hell bent for leather to beat Vince it would be great to watch.  It's not like the WWE is amazing to watch these days either, it's just they have the money and corporate clout to keep themselves on a major network each year.  If a serious competitor appeared who broadcast a solid product each week nationally it would seriously threaten Vince.

Honestly I think that's what a lot of people thought TNA could have become had they been able to make a product that was better than WWE in terms of in ring action and story telling.  You don't need the money and flashy equipment, you just need the talent and writers to create genuinely fun feuds and memorable in ring action.  Sadly TNA tried to emulate the competition rather than create a show that did better than them in specific area's like having an alternative to Cena and his dominance of the business.

It remains to be seen what becomes of TNA and it's workers in the next three of four months but I am sure it won't be pretty, which is a shame since the only ones to blame here are the people who made the decisions that ultimately led to this downward spiral.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Mechwarrior Online announces $120 Clan Pack 2

So amidst the disaster that is the launch of Transverse and it's failing crowd funding campaign PGI have gone one step further in it's attempts to win over the jaded Mechwarrior Online community.  Now we already have the anniversary gifts coming to those players who have purchased items from them in the past but this latest announcement now asks for more money for more 'mechs.

Yes Clan Pack 2 has arrived and it offers some fan favourites to those who go the whole way with PGI.  The pack has four new 'mechs, one for each weight class, and a bonus fifth 'mech which I will detail below and why it may or may not boil your blood with rage.  So what new overpowered pieces of clan war machine will you be getting if you choose to go all in? 

To kick things off the light category has the Mist Lynx or Koshi as the Kuritans call it.  This little 25 tonner will be the fastest clan light in the game, until the firemoth is added presumably.  Now obviously due to the low armour of the 25 ton 'mechs this will be relying on it's speed, although it will still be out paced by Inner Sphere lights this 'mech runs at 113 kph before speed tweak.  The prime variant also relies heavily on ammo based weapons such as Streak SRM's, LRM's and Machine guns.  This makes it a pure support unit so if you do enjoy running them as their tabletop variants as I do, you will want to keep close to friendlies.  Of course the other variants make up for this with energy weapons or a mix.  Additionally the B variant comes with ECM so now the clans have an alternative to the Kit Fox for ECM coverage.

The Medium end of the list we have the Ice Ferret or Fenris.  It's an acquired visual taste but no doubt a powerful 'mech in it's own right for 45 ton.  It's also quite fast running at 129 kph before speed tweak making it the fastest of the mediums for clan players but again sacrifices some of it's firepower and armour to achieve this speed.  The prime variant utilises a ER PPC, ER Small laser and Streak SRM 2.  This means you will aiming to do most of your damage from long range and move to support allies in a brawl with your laser and SRM when the fight gets hairy or you are charging the enemy.

The heavy is a fan favourite in the form of the Hellbringer or Loki.  This popular 'mech is the perfect partner to the Summoner bringing lasers, streaks, machine guns and PPC's to the table along with ECM.  Yes the Hellbringer is the first heavy 'mech in game that mounts the ECM suite so expect to see this become one of the most popular heavy 'mechs in all of MWO.  It's weapon loadout is varied and extremely powerful but also very hot so don't go alpha striking too much :p

Finally we have the assault and this one was quite a nice surprise for me as it's the Gargoyle or Man O' war.  This 'mech originally was one of the most hideous assaults ever devised by Battletechs creators and PGI have done a sterling job with this visual update.  It also helps that this is actually a pretty good 80 ton 'mech.  Running at 81 kph before speed tweak the design is well armed with four LB 5X autocannons.  2 SRM 6's and a single ER small laser.  Many will likely gravitate to this design as a mini dakka wolf with more speed. 

Now as I mentioned above those people who purchase the full pack for a whopping $120 or £75 will get a bonus fifth 'mech IF and that is a big IF you purchased the Masakari pack which as well know was $240, you get this final and fifth 'mech.  This is the Mad Dog or Vulture.  Now yes this iconic class heavy is basically locked behind a pay wall until either January or February next year, but the real kicker is that the Vulture is in game just waiting to be activated.  The 'mech will be available to everyone who qualifies for this package on Tuesday September 23rd, yes next week.  Suffice to say I own this 'mech and will be making a video of it next week.

For those who aren't in the know about the Mad dog, it's a 60 ton heavy that brings a simple yet powerful weapon set of 2 Large Pulse laser, 2 Medium Pulse Lasers and 2 LRM 20 launchers.  It's a rival to the heavier Timberwolf bringing almost the same weapon setup with less weight but crucially more speed.  It's a real shame it's locked out the way it is and I can understand some peoples displeasure at the way they have locked it.  Asking people to pay $360 is steep to say the least.  Yes you get every single clan 'mech and all the other extras but it's not economically viable for someone who wants the Vulture now but didn't get the Masakari pack way back when.

Anyway let me know what you think and have a good weekend folks.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Mechwarrior Online announces anniversary rewards program

So in the middle of the public relations shit storm that PGI currently find themselves in, they continue to try and patch things up with their most vocal dissenters, those being the Mechwarrior Online players.  Obviously if you have been playing or at least following the history of MWO then you will be aware of the issues surrounding the game and it's lack of features the most important of which is the community warfare features.  Now PGI's Russ Bullock is claiming that at the two and half year mark the game will have this mythological feature and that they haven't been dragging their feet the entire time so basically "shut the fuck up fans of our game".  Now I won't be going into the details of why that particular claim is complete bullshit since many others before me have posted the multiple links to times when Community warfare has been 'just around the corner' the most notable of that being the "community warfare will be out three months after closed beta ends" statement that constantly comes round to bite them in the ass.

While Transverse continues it's Hindenburg level of disaster with a terribly lacklustre crowd funding campaign, PGI have attempted to their partial credit to actually respond to their own forums.  Russ himself created a post on the Mechwarrior website to announce the anniversary program which gives numerous free items to players who have been loyal customers in the past.  Basically the meat of the rewards will give eligible players a new variant of the Atlas with a unique paint job and geometry.  The rebirth of fan favourite Centurion the AH version that can carry a single AC/20 like the hero 'mech Yen Lo Wang.  They will also be giving us a unique version of the Star League 100 ton assault, the King Crab.  The final part of the program will award customers who buy the new clan pack and who also bought the Masakari pack the Vulture of Mad Dog with all of it's variants as a bonus 'mech.

It all sounds great and looking at the eligibility terms I qualify for all of them so in theory I should be really happy.  I am happy about the King Crab but only because that 'mech is fucking amazing but the reality is that this is a pretty shallow attempt at getting back into the good books with MWO players so they stop bashing Transverse.  It's a step on the right path though and if they continue to change things for the better we could end seeing a version of MWO that people can be really happy about where we can at least know that the developers actually give a shit about what we want as a community rather than just arbitrarily creating game changes that screw everything up at once like ghost heat did. 

The entire post can be read here http://mwomercs.com/forums/topic/171263-1-year-customer-appreciation-program/ enjoy the cupcake =p

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Transverse and Mechwarrior

So the recent news from PGI or piranha games about their new sci-fi MMO Transverse hasn't exactly gone over well with gamers.  The title was announced earlier this week as a crowd funded title that will focus on a massive world entirely populated by players and a minimum of NPC's.  The idea being that every mechanic, bartender, corporate suit and more are all themselves players who each make up the web of the Transverse universe.  It's ambitious and in my opinion a pipe dream that will never pan out, but honestly that is the least of PGI's problems.

PGI are the developers of Mechwarrior Online, a pretty good if not flawed game I have played for more than two years now.  It's development has been sketchy at best and features are somewhat slow to materialise which has created a community who love the IP, the potential of the title and it's mechanics but they do not love the people in charge of the development.  Numerous design decisions from the staff at PGI have created numerous gaffs that will likely never be forgotten by the community.  As it stands the game is about two years overdue for one of it's most important features, that being Community Warfare.  This mode is basically what we have now in titles like World of Tanks or Planetside 2, with player factions fighting for the NPC nations in a never ending war for dominance of the Inner Sphere.  It all sounds great but it has yet to appear after originally being slated for release three months after open beta launched, which was in 2012.

Looks a little too similar to Star Citizens Connie pictured below
Now the Transverse has been announced many Mechwarrior players are upset that a new title is being made and no doubt funded partially by them while MWO sits unfinished.  Transverse is currently looking for funding for stage one of it's project asking for around $500,000 to "take off" as the site puts it.  Apparently this stage will allow players to fly ships.....yeah honestly.  As of writing here the site currently sits at 86 backers who have cumulatively put in $7,230 of the half a million required, with 26 days remaining.  At that rate they will struggle to reach $100,000 by the end of the campaign.  It doesn't help that the ships look, to put it bluntly, shit.  Members of the Star Citizen community almost immediately recognised some of the designs as being very close to some of CIG's designs, namely the Cutlass and Constellation.  The backlash has been so bad that Transverse has actually united the fanboy factions of EVE, Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen to basically take the piss out of Transverse.  Fans of the game are being labelled as "Trannies" which although funny, I think is inappropriate given the fact it's a slur for people currently going through gender reassignment or have a preferred sense of style.

The Constellation by CIG
If all that wasn't bad enough the head of the community relations Niko Snow broke the rules of Reddit by advertising the game throughout the site while also banning anyone who was negative about PGI, MWO or Transverse.  This activity resulted in the entirety of PGI being banned from Reddit and now they are currently trying to get their bans lifted while blaming the infamous online group GOONS for the entire thing on Reddit. 

So overall PGI have a bad week PR wise and they haven't exactly healed any wounds caused with the MWO players.  I personally feel that as a developer they have been lucky to make a game based on a much beloved license and without it they would have closed shop a long time ago.  That said I do like Mechwarrior Online and would encourage anyone with a passing interest in games to check it out, it's fun and looks great but it does have it's issues and lack of features.  Now apparently we will have the much vaunted community warfare within the next ninety days.  Whether this transpires or not isn't the issue, the real issue is what happens when Transverse goes tits up?  The potential domino effect here is worrying and could end up being the beginning of the end for MWO.

I understand developers have to make games to keep making money and MWO does make money.  Every time they run a sale it makes cash.  Every time they announce new 'mech packs they make money and generally I think they do a decent job with the hero chassis 'mechs because I see them quite regularly.  Transverse however was the wrong game to announce.  We already have three big space exploration titles on the horizon in the form of Elite Dangerous which is being helmed by the father of space exploration gaming in the form of David Braben.  Star Citizen is being helmed by Chris Roberts who's resume for games design is impressive and his work speaks for itself.  Then there is no man's sky which is doing some truly unique things with modern gaming technology and programming.  Transverse is helmed by Bryan Ekman who has no real clout behind him and their idea is far from original.  I don't wish failure upon them for this project obviously, it would be nice to see them succeed like any developer but they don't do themselves any favours and I can't help but see the the Transverse becoming vapourware in the near future.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Russ Bullock just doesn't get Battletech

So this is going to be lengthy one because I am a little pissed with the developers of Mechwarrior Online right now.  I enjoy the game, I love the Battletech universe and really want this game to succeed but the way they are going about working this entire system of "balance" is stupid.  Below in italics is Russ Bullock and his most recent post regarding "Clan balance" (Ignore the hyperlinks, I just copy and pasted this wholesale)

Hello MechWarrior’s,
In light of the upcoming clan weapon changes today...

This is a long awaited update on PGI's latest feelings and plans as it pertains to Clan balance. I expect it to be a very lengthy post so please bear with me as we work through the entire logic of our balance decisions and plans.

First off, let's all go back to the initial clan announcement and postings of how the technology would work. We were very clear from the very start that we were determined to not make the same mistake of past MechWarrior games in establishing the Clan mech’s as the "end game". In other words we weren't making a second game but that these Clan mech’s needed to fit and exist within MWO. We let players know how the engines, armor and Omni pods would work as well as a general description of how the weapons would play. This was going to create a unique feel to the clans but hopefully very balanced with IS mech’s.

Now that things have settled in we can see that, yes, we have fulfilled the requirements of how the technology will work as well as attaining that unique feel. However we can also see that the balance between IS and Clans is further apart than we had estimated. So the question has been, how do we plan to address this?

We have come to the conclusion that, for the foreseeable future, this is NOT a viable option for MWO, here are some of the reasons why:

  • UI redesign of the pre-game, scoreboard and end of round screen.
  • New rules for tie breakers surrounding the uneven team sizes
  • Significant re-factoring of the match maker to develop team sizes that don’t match.
  • 'Mech chassis tonnage balancing will no longer work.
  • Elo will no longer work with 10 vs 12 team calculations.
These elements alone (not including other edge cases) represent at least several additional weeks, if not months, into refactoring and testing time before they would be ready for deployment. That is time that will directly impact the development and delivery of CW modules 2+.

So you can't just make a module of community warfare that is just the houses of the Inner Sphere fighting each other like the 4th Succession war until that work is completed?  I mean players would be happy to have something at this point even without clan 'mechs being in the warfare module, it's been over 2 years for clan tags, I think we have proven to be a somewhat patient lot.  It doesn't have to impact development time because you don't have to do it RIGHT THIS SECOND GUYS.  But as you can see this is just a cop out excuse so they can work on their new title alongside MWO. 

But perhaps more importantly than that, if we went down this path the overall message to the community is basically “Yes your IS mech’s are weaker, but if you put lots of them together you might win”. This is not what we communicated to the MWO community as to our plans for the Clan mech’s and how they would balance within MWO.

Oh shit really!?!?! Clan equipment is better than Inner Sphere?!!?! Let me check the original books..........HOLY FUCKING SHIT THE CLANS ARE WAY BETTER!  Seriously this is what is supposed to happen Russ when the clans attack.  It would be a pretty lame invasion story if a force from beyond the Periphery attacked that only had equipment on par with the Inner Sphere.  Seriously the entire point about the invasion is that the great houses have basically blown the shit out of each other for so long that their tech is very close to falling back into a dark age because of all the damage they have wrought upon each other.

The clans are the opposite.  The descendants of those who fled the warring states and created a much harsher but more stable society that emphasised skill, breeding, genetics and technology above all else.  They had no lord to answer to and fought each to better themselves.  So their return to the Inner Sphere is for them a holy crusade to liberate the Inner Sphere from the corruption of their old ways.  The whole point in their addition to Battletech was to create an enemy that players could not only be afraid to face but also provide a decent challenge too.

So what if players who run Inner Sphere 'mechs have to outnumber the clans, it's thematically correct that is what happened in Battletech.  I do not want a situation where a 45 ton Inner Sphere medium can go toe to toe with a 45 ton Clan medium.  That is why we have 10v12 in the tabletop, that is why clans run stars and house units run lances.  It's Battletech for fuck's sake.  The word balance and clans should never be used together in the same sentence.

Balancing Plan

At this point we cannot make the statement that we have a picture perfect solution to IS vs Clan balance, but we do have a solid plan of attack. First off just knowing that we are going to exist within a 12v12 environment is one of the major decisions we were waiting to make, and now that it has been decided, we can chip away at the problem.

The first step is to release this latest round of Clan weapon changes this week. We HOPE this is the last Clan weapon nerfs we will have to implement. Not because we feel like this will be enough, (in fact we know that it will not) but in an effort to keep the unique feeling of the clan mech’s strong we will look to other areas to bridge the rest of the gap. Such as the following POTENTIAL changes:

  • Clan Heat and Movement penalties if a Right or Left torso is destroyed.
  • Small increase in IS Mech heat efficiency.
  • Complete IS mech Quirk pass to give more uniqueness and ability when used within their respective roles.
  • Increase in IS and Clan mech armor and internal structure if time to death decreases too much.
So basically your super advanced clan battlemech gets slower when their super advanced XL engine loses a torso.  This isn't really correct but whatever, they already fucked the customisation up when they allowed IS 'mech to completely refit their engines but capped the clans with the stock engine.

The second point makes Inner Sphere 'mech even more heat efficient than they already are.  Given the pretty borked system using things like ghost heat this change is retarded.  People still maintain that the ghost heat system was a terrible change that didn't fix anything but created more headaches for players.  There are plenty of good alternates to this system but PGI don't give a fuck at this point.

Now the quirks I actually agree with here since the original Technical readout's gave every 'mech plenty of quirks about their design that could be easily translated into the game.  The few they have done have made some 'mechs more viable than ever.

The final point is one of the worst.  Making everything even more survivable will make players more flippant about tactics since they know they can take dual Gauss to the face and still have armour.  The game already has double armour and internal values so making them bigger doesn't make sense.  If we still had the tabletop values, people would use this thing called tactics, where light 'mech players wouldn't  just run off at the beginning of a match and ignore their team, assaults would be terrifying weapons on the field and not just slow moving missile fodder.

Our plan is to begin this plan of attack on the balance of the game this weekend with the implementation of the latest Clan weapon changes and then continue on with the other items systematically over the course of the next couple of months. With this command chair post shared with the public future updates on this subject should be possible much more frequently to discuss our progress.
In closing I still like MWO, it's the best battletech game out there for those of us who still love the setting and it's myriad of characters and events.  But this move toward a more e-sports style of play will only attract assholes who know nothing of the product and don't care.   It's a shame but at the moment I do feel ever so slightly like agreeing with those people who say the game isn't for us, the fans, but for the pro gamer who only cares about his KDR and W/L ratio.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

State of the blog September 2014

I know things have been a bit slow here on the Critical Rocket blog page over the last few weeks.  Honestly the videos have been taking a lot of my time up alongside Marvel heroes which is a lot of fun to play these days.  But rest assured there is new content coming to the blog site it depends on when Fantasy Flight games releases new X-Wing models and new games come out for me to review.

On both of those points I do know of two items that will be coming later this month.  First is the Rebel Aces expansion for X-Wing which brings the re-paints of the A-Wing and B-Wing to the game with their own pilots, cards and I believe a scenario to run with these new ships.  Obviously this release is now somewhat over shadowed by the upcoming YT-2400 and VT-49 Decimator that will be of far more interest to players out there but these new ships will be two new guides for the X-Wing page here on the blog with their own uniquely coloured silhouettes to represent them on the page.

The other item that will be coming later this month is the release of Middle Earth Shadows of Mordor, a title that will no doubt have Tolkein fans doing cartwheels with rage due to it's Apocryphal content.  That aside the game looks like a fun open world slash-em up with some groovy looking effects and gory violence to bring to the Orc hordes of Sauron himself, hell we even get to lock blades with the evil ruler himself so that's a good thing.  This will be the second PS4 I will have made for the PS4 and I might even attempt a Twitch video of myself playing the game and discussing what I like about it through the console and upload to youtube at a later date.  Who knows it's a crap shoot for me at the moment with regards to twitch.

I am also pondering some kind of archive for Marvel Heroes.  I put a lot of time into the game these days and it seems like I could at least list something as a resource for people who are interested but would like to know more about the game before downloading such a large program to their systems.  I could review it but my policy on reviewing MMO type games is that a score is pointless since the game can change drastically over the course of a year or less depending on customer feedback.  This works in both directions which is the reason I have never reviewed Mechwarrior Online because it can be shit one month and awesome the next dependant on the additions or changes the dev team make.

Wrestling related posts will become a little more common with the drama surrounding TNA and it's search for a new home on American Television sets these days and the World Wrestling Federations (Yeah I said WWF fuck you McMahon family) poor storytelling and general lack of interest in their product overall.  So before this becomes an ad hoc Analysed post by myself I shall leave it there for today.  Thanks for reading and please remember to check out the youtube channel for my videos there by using this simple link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMpEn1nKT6E_gt75GDK9IJA

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mechwarrior Online Video update

So the videos have been coming along nicely.  I seem to have been more successful with my MWO videos than I have with the review videos.  I currently as of typing site on 26 subscribers to my channel, all of which I can assume have subscribed purely for the 'mech stompy action I record.  While I continue to reach the assault category for the vids, I have realised that once I record and upload footage for the venerable Atlas, I will be somewhat stuck for new 'mechs to upload.

Now granted I am a little while off that stage yet since I will only be uploading the heavy 'mechs this week and next with the first one being the Dragon.  The assault 'mechs seem a way off and will no doubt take me into October before I finish all of them.  So I have decided on a few other Mechwarrior Online video ideas when new 'mechs are few and far between.

First off I will be creating either one long, or several short videos about the games User Interface.  Many a player has been stumped by this admittedly unintuitive screen and I feel maybe a video showing what every button does will be a big help for anyone getting started.  I will cover the mechlab, upgrades, store, faction and play buttons along with examining how to modify 'mechs and what each module does.

Another idea is a series of map walk videos using the training grounds feature to show areas of regular combat, neat tricks using the terrain and other little tactical nuggets I have mined over the years of play.  My final idea would be a series about the weapons of MWO but not in a stat way but more of a opinion piece each weapon and how best they work in the game from my point of view. 

Obviously as time goes on I will add more 'mechs to the list as they are released since we are likely to see a new clan battlemech added this month or next along with other Inner Sphere designs such as the Mauler and King Crab.  A new map in known as Industrial will be making it's debut this month also so at least there will be a new map to stomp around.

Anyway thanks for reading, folks and have a good week where ever you may be.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

X-Wing mission control beta

Fantasy Flight Games keep on rolling with the announcements these days. The latest is the addition of a web based scenario designer for players of X-Wing.  This is awesome for me because I can now basically create my own missions and link them there.  I will also add my existing ones to this new system. 

So go check it out if you haven't already at this link.  http://tools.fantasyflightgames.com/xwing/
Bear in mind though that this is a beta so if it's anything like gaming there is a small chance when they launch it fully they will wipe existing data.  Anyway folks have a good weekend and as Wayne and Garth would say "GAME ON"