Friday, August 30, 2013

Long Absence

Sorry I have been absent for so long. Life has been keeping me busy. Lots of video games on the horizon so I will be sure to update this place more often in the coming months.

In the meantime I want to announce that I've started designing a new website that will serve as my new blog. It's a personal project of mine to keep up on some of the latest web tech but it's also going to be a more expansive community website for gaming and tech. I'm still working out the features but I should have more updates on that soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Save Homeworld!


For those who do not know, the big publisher THQ has filed for bankruptcy and has been auctioning their assets. One of their assets, the game developer Relic (creators of Homeworld, Company of Heroes, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War), was sold to Sega (publisher of the Total War Series) and I'm extremely happy about that. I assume that the Company of Heroes franchise and the Warhammer franchise will follow Relic, leaving the Homeworld franchise up for grabs.


I'll be blunt for those who don't know, the Homeworld franchise is the best RTS series ever made. It's better than Starcraft, Company of Heroes, Warcraft, Command and Conquer or any other RTS you could throw at it. Despite launching 1999, its gameplay easily holds up to any AAA quality game launched in the past few years. 

Sadly, the series hasn't seen the light of day since Homeworld 2's launch in 2003. Relic has been working on the Warhammer 40k and Company of Heroes series since and a large chunk of the original team that worked on the Homeworld series has left the company to work on other titles. The remaining devs at Relic have said they would love to make a sequel to Homeworld 2, but they just didn't have the resources to make it happen. 

Now that THQ has gone belly up and Relic sold to Sega, the Homeworld franchise is up for sale. This is where we come in.


A small software company named teamPixel has started crowd funding on indiegogo.com and is asking for our help to save the franchise. They are asking for $50,000 in donations so that they can acquire the license and start working on a number of Homeworld projects including Homeworld 3, putting Homeworld, Homeworld Cataclysm, and Homeworld 2 on Steam and GoG, and porting Homeworld 1 to mobile devices. All of this together would bring the franchise back to life and would introduce a whole new generation of gamers to the brilliance of the Homeworld franchise.

I'm extremely excited about this and I have already donated money for the cause. They have 2 weeks to raise $50k and I believe this is completely possible if we can get the word out to all of the old Homeworld fans. 

www.savehomeworld.com is the link to donate to teamPixel to help them acquire the license and bring Homeworld back from the dead. They'll refund any donation they get if they cannot secure the license, so you cannot lose.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stuff I'm looking Forward To In 2013

While I'm certain most people who visit this blog are far more interested in the Crysis 2 app, I still do like to use it for non-programming related posts about video games in general. I haven't worked much on that app recently, but when Crysis 3 comes out you can be sure I'll have one cooked up for that.

I wanted to take some time to look forward to 2013. PC Gamer recently published a comprehensive list of a lot of promising looking games expected out before the year ends (you can find that article here) and it got me quite excited for 2013. After the launch of Guild Wars 2 and Planetside 2, there wasn't much I was looking forward to. In fact, I wasn't sure of many of the titles that were launching in 2013. I knew about a few, like Company of Heroes 2 and the new Starcraft 2 expansion, but I haven't really paid much attention to them. 

Browsing through PC Gamer's list has definitely gotten me excited. There are a lot of very interesting titles there, a lot of which I'm going to keep my eye on. However the list is quite long so I'm going to just focus on a few titles that I'm very excited for. Keep in mind these are not all of the games I'm looking forward to, but here we go anyways...

Grand Theft Auto V
In 2007 GTA 4 was the sole reason I picked up an Xbox 360. All of my gaming buddies through GUFU (a Gamespot union) were playing the free roam in GTA 4 and were constantly spamming up the IRC with stories from the latest chaos they created. I needed to get in on that. I wasn't disappointed at all. GTA 4 improved nearly ever aspect of the GTA series with much more intuitive shooting, much more robust vehicle handling which allowed for a lot of great chases, chaotic multiplayer, and an extremely detailed world. Even if the game lacked the content of previous titles, it still did not disappoint. 

GTA 5 excites me because it's everything I love about GTA 4 but bigger. More content, new locations, yet the same old chaos that made GTA 4 so damn addictive. 

Bioshock Infinite

It's almost impossible  for me to not be excited about this one. Just like its predecessors, Bishock Infinite has a crazy setting that the game looks to use to its advantage whenever possible. The setting alone is enough for me to play this game, but the developers have decided to throw in some of the most kick-ass looking FPS gameplay I've seen in quite some time. The whole riding the rails and jumping from platform to platform dynamically during combat seems to be both intense and memorable.

Crysis 3

While Crysis 2 was an overall disappointment, there was still a lot to like about the game. Aside from the excellent graphics (especially with some mods), the shooting was rock solid and the overall feel of the game was extremely polished, AI blunders aside. Of course the extremely linear levels, broken AI, and virtually nonexistent ties with the original were extremely disappointing and made the experience less than stellar. Don't even get me started on the lack of graphics options, that was inexcusable for the series. Crysis 3 seems to be fixing all of those as well as taking video game graphics to another level. Every screenshot and preview of Crysis 3 gives me hope that Crytek has learned from Crysis 2, finished the tech off, and are really doing some wonderful things with Crysis 3. The new tall grass physics alone may be worth playing Crysis 3. I will be checking it out and I should have another version of the Advanced Graphics Options program soon after launch (still a lot of work to do to make it more mod friendly).

Total War: Rome 2


Words cannot express how excited I am for this game. In order for Rome 2 to be a proper sequel, it would have to be the most epic strategy game ever made. I believe Creative Assembly has waited for just the right amount of time to let game tech catch up with what they would need to do Rome 2 properly. I'm happy they waited because the results of their hard work over the past several years of have paid off and Rome 2 does look to be the proper sequel to what I consider one of the finest strategy games of all time.

South Park: The Stick of Truth


South Park games have a habit of sucking. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have acknowledged this and have decided to fix this with Stick of Truth. Unlike previous games, Trey and Matt have said they are putting real effort into this game. Paired with Obsidian, it seems they've made all of the right decisions to make Stick of Truth really stand sound. It's impossible to tell when you're watching gameplay or a cutscene because the graphics perfectly emulate the show, and their choice of using oldschool, JRPG mechanics really helps showcase this and I believe fits perfectly to allow the gameplay to not get in the way of any narration that is guaranteed to be hilarious. The trailers leave me grinning and nodding my head. This one will be a winner.

Planetary Annihilation


When I heard that the creators of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander were Kickstarting their way to make a spiritual successor to those famous games, I had to be apart of it. I instantly helped them on their way to one of the highest Kickstarter funded games ever. Planetary Annihilation has all of the right ideas and is putting them all together in a very clean-looking package. I'm expecting hundreds of hours of galaxy conquering mayhem when this game is launched later this year. If you don't know, it's basically Supreme Commander in space, utilizing the setting to its fullest. Massive battles spanning the cosmos including hurling asteroids into enemy's planets. They raised 2.2 million dollars and the game should be out in 2013.

X Rebirth



Last but not least is the series that tries to be EVE Online without the Online part. The X-Series has always been an incredibly deep space sim/strategy game/economic sim that has you traversing the galaxy fighting pirates, buying property, setting up trade routes, and building battle fleets. However all of this awesomeness came at a high price of learning curve and time requirements. Luckily developer Deep Silver recognizes this issue and has decided to put serious effort forth to streamline the expeirance without losing the depth. X Rebirth looks to be the X Game for people who prefer not having to fire up Microsoft Excel on the second monitor.

Of course these aren't the only games I'm looking forward to this year. Games like Company of Heroes 2, Fortnite , Starforge, The Elder Scrolls: Online (seriously, it looks fun), Firefall, SimCity, Command & Conquer, Godus, and so many more. 2013 is absolutely packed with games especially on the PC. It promises to be a very good year for gaming. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options Version 2.0 Beta!

It's been well over a year and despite what I said I have finally updated the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program to Version 2.0!


Unlike before, I'm actually doing a beta. I don't guarantee anything of this new app is actually working right. 

You can download it from here.

*Running with MaLDoHD*
Since this is probably the most popular mod for Crysis 2 I did some quick testing to figure out how to run with the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program.

1. Install MaLDoHD
2. Run the MaLDoHD Config Utility 
3. Run the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program
4. Set all general settings in the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Option Program to Extreme or Ultra and then press "Save Config". 
5. Start Crysis 2 through MaLDoHD's config utility or through Steam (or whatever shortcut you use to start MaLDoHD) Do not use the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program to start Crysis 2 yet.

MaLDoHD also uses some of their own things with Crysis 2, so you won't overwrite them.



I know it won't be as popular this time around but I decided to make it anyways becuase I felt I never finished it.

You'll notice a few different things. First off there are less options. With every different patch of Crysis 2, Crytek changed how some of the configs worked. A lot of what was in the first version no longer applies, so I just removed them to make the interface a bit cleaner. All of these settings do work in Crysis 2.

Next you can actually save and read .ago files which store all of the user settings. Note, .ago files can only be read in by the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program. You can load the file in and then use the confg  to apply the settings. Under file you'll see the options. I haven't tested this much so use at your own risk. 

The last is that this program will read any existing system.cfg or autoexec.cfg files you may have, apply the setting to the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program, and then delete those existing system.cfg and autoexec.cfg files. If you have any settings that are not supported in the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program they will be lost. You can always manually add them to the config file, but every time you reapply the configs from inside the app, it will delete those settings. I'm working on a way to preserve those settings but it's kind of tricky.

I'm also not certain about mod compatibility. Since this program only affects the system.cfg and autoexec.cfg files within the Crysis 2 root directory, I am not sure what will happen with full mods. If the modes mofidy those two files, this will screw up the mod. So don't use it if you have mods installed. Odds are you don't need it if you're using mods.

My primary focus with this release is bug fixes and getting it working with mods. In the future I'll be able to add an "advanced" section which will support many more settings and should increase mod compatibility.

Why did I make this version now so far away from Crysis 2's launch and so close to Crysis 3's? Simple. With some small modifications I'll be able to get this program working with Crysis 3. I really wrote this for the future. Technically, this program will be able to be updated to be used for any game using an open CryEngine 3 game that allows for autoexec.cfg files and the user to change settings via console commands. 

Anyways, here's the quick readme:

Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options Version 2.0.1 Beta Readme

This is a large overhaul of the old Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program that I made in 2011. 

Instructions

1. Unzip the .zip file.
2. Place anywhere you want.
3. Run the .exe (run as adminstrator to be safe)
4. In-game make sure you choose the DirectX version you want

Notes
1. Program will autodetect and existing system.cfg or autoexec.cfg files in the Crysis 2 root directory.
2. Program places any settings found in any existing system.cfg or autoexec.cfg fle and apply them.
3. Program will delete those existing files and replace with own generated file.
4. If crashing try running the .exe as administrator.
5. You will still have to choose your DirectX version in-game


Report any bugs, issues, and suggestions to the forums at:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/c2ago/forums/forum/1706568.

-Copyright 2012: Wasdie 

Version 2.0.1 notes
*added tooltips to all drop down boxes
*tweaked the GUI so it doesn't look as terrible

Download Locaitons:

*Running with MaLDoHD*
Since this is probably the most popular mod for Crysis 2 I did some quick testing to figure out how to run with the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program.

1. Install MaLDoHD
2. Run the MaLDoHD Config Utility 
3. Run the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program
4. Set all general settings in the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Option Program to Extreme or Ultra and then press "Save Config".
5. Start Crysis 2 through MaLDoHD's config utility or through Steam (or whatever shortcut you use to start MaLDoHD) Do not use the Crysis 2 Advanced Graphics Options program to start Crysis 2 yet.



MaLDoHD also uses some of their own things with Crysis 2, so you won't overwrite them.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guild Wars 2 First Impression

I'm just going to get this out of the way, I was never a huge fan of Guild Wars. I picked up a copy of Guild Wars and the Factions expansion back in 2008 and didn't get very far. The game was unique but it failed to pull me into the experience and hold my attention like it did for so many other people. There was certainly nothing wrong with it and I thought the whole setup of the pesdo-MMO was pretty neat, but in the end we parted ways after only a couple dozen of hours (at the most) That said, after a few hours with Guild Wars 2 I see the potential for a long lasting and very rewarding relationship.

Tyrial is a very open and expansive world
Upon creating my Human warrior who was born into nobility and has a dead sister which apparently angers him, I was thrust into the mini-tutorial where me and all the up-and-coming heroes of Tyria must defend the village of Shaemoor from the hordes of Centaurs. Already I noticed the biggest area where Guild Wars 2 tries to differentiate itself from other MMOs, the focus on teamwork. Instead of being told to go kill X amount of enemies by myself and complete a small handful of quests before finishing off some boss and entering the actual game world, I was told to defend a location. Any player in the vicinity could join me and all of us worked seamlessly on the same task without having to add each other to a party. As the number of players grew so did the amount of enemy attacking. The tutorial ended with the newly collected horde of heroes rushing towards a final boss, which seemed to scale appropriately given the amount of players, and bashing on it until it exploded knocking everybody unconscious thus teleporting us to the game world.

Instead of going into all of the different features that make up Guild Wars 2 and talking about how these differentiate Guild Wars 2 from other MMOs (I'm saving that all for my review which will probably be quite lengthy), I'll just say that my experience so far has been fantastic. I'm about 10 hours in and I've completed all of the content in the first zone and I'm on the level 14 story quest. It's the first time in an MMO I've actually cared about the story quests and my own character because of the way they present the quests and instance you off in the game world to focus on your own personal story.

What I've enjoyed the most so far is how Guild Wars 2 promotes exploration and teamwork. The flat level scaling really helps the exploration portion of the game as discovering new locations, points of interest, waypoints, and vistas all gives you a proportional experience gain to your overall level. Teamwork is the focus of all the questing and world events. You can be in a party but it's not necessary. Unlike other MMOs, the game does not punish you for being in a party by reducing your experience gain. Instead during the world events it rewards you by scaling the amount of enemies and their levels to make the fight even more tough but increasing the reward for completion. I find myself rushing to the aid of other players instead of trying to avoid them so they do not steal my mobs and slow my leveling.
There will be sieges. 

The world events have been a blast so far and make the world feel the most alive I've ever seen in an MMO. Some of these events, even in the low level zone of the game, bring in a lot of players from all over. More than once I have been fighting along side of at least 50 others players to defeat a boss or waves of opponents. The game appropriately scales the difficulty depending on the amount of players around and it also lowers your level to the highest level allowed in the zone so that you are never too overpowered. These mechanics all combine for some very unique fights spread across the entire zone. I hear in the later levels the events become even larger and more difficult as they replace raids and dungeons that would be found in other MMOs and I cannot wait to take part in those.

Did I already mention beautiful graphics?
I have not yet dabbled in the PvP aspects of Guild Wars 2, though I fully understand how big of a role they play. The idea behind the World vs. World vs. World PvP is teeming with potential. The structure of the PvP also eliminated the need for factions in the PvE world which gave the world a whole different personality. There is no longer content you cannot access with your one character so you do not have to create a character of the opposing faction just to experience all of the PvE content. This also plays into the emphasis on teamwork as everybody is now working on the same content.

Overall I have been extremely impressed with Guild Wars 2. I could go on about how brilliant the combat is, how amazing the environments are, how the voice acting and production values are some of the best I've ever seen in a video game, how the game has no monthly fee and its cash shop is offset with item drops... but I'll save all of that stuff for updated impressions and my review in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Freemium vs. Free-To-Play - Why EA's Vision is Doomed to Fail

With the announcement that Command and Conquer Generals 2, being developed by Bioware Victory, has been renamed just Command and Conquer and been refactored under EA's freemium model, it has left many gamers very disappointed as the once great RTS series known for its over-the-top single player campaigns, cheesy FMV, and memorable character, has now completely abandoned its roots and focused on freemium fueled multiplayer.

This should come to no real surprise to anybody who has been following gaming news the last few months. In late July, EA Interactive's senior vice president said that the freemium business model was going to be the "market-leader" (source: Gamespot). A month before, Peter Moore, COO of EA, was quoted saying that "I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself of the access to the game will be free" (source: Kotaku) Clearly EA has warmed up to the free-to-play market enough to understand it's potential revenues.

And why wouldn't they? After going free-to-play, Turbine's MMORPG Dungeons and Dragons Online saw a 500% increase in revenue (source: Gamasutra). The free-to-play tank battle game World of Tanks by Wargaming sees profits in the double digit millions (source: Game Industry International) each month. Those are numbers that cannot be ignored. Many other MMORPGs have gone free-to-play to save themselves from ending up like Star Wars Galaxies. Free-to-play seems to be the future. With some promising titles like Firefall and Planetside 2 releasing before 2013, there seems to be a bright future. EA seems to just be following the crowd and trying to ride this revenue wave like everybody else.

However, EA has been dabbling in free-to-play for quite some time now and the results have been less than amazing. There have been a number of freemium modeled free-to-play games that EA has launched throughout the years. Some include Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliance, Need for Speed World, Risk: Factions, Battlefield Heroes, and Battlefield: Play4Free   The Battlefield games are undoubtedly the biggest free-to-play games that EA has actively promoted. Though these games follow EA's freemium model as a framework for their free-to-play structure.

This vision of freemium is where EA fails. Unlike what other publishers and developers see as free-to-play, EA's vision plays out more like a glorified demo and falls for the dreaded pay-to-win schemes that 90% of the free-to-play FPSs are notorious for.

For example in Battlefield: Play4Free   you unlock weapons for certain duration of time. These weapons are purchased with in-game credits that you earn or real world money. At first it's pretty easy to unlock new weapons for 1-2 day periods. However as you continue to play, the prices for these weapons increase overtime. Eventually the amount of playtime required to unlock a weapon for just a 24 hour usage becomes far to great. Losing the weapons puts you at a major disadvantage, so the only way to get these weapons is to pay real world money to unlock them for extended periods of time. However, even if you pay real money you do not unlock the weapon permanently. Eventually the weapon goes away and you're forced to purchase again.

Both Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield: Play4Free suffer from this. The games novelty wares off very quickly when you realize you're being forced to pay real world money to unlock weapons and keep up with the competition. This is freemium. You cannot unlock all of the content of the game without purchasing at one point, and that is a major problem.

Compare that system to Tribes Ascend. In Tribes Ascend you may purchase weapons and upgrades with real-world money or earned experience. Naturally, the earned experience costs are pretty high. However, once you unlock a weapon or an upgrade it is yours to keep forever. No unlocking a weapon for 24 hours like many other freemium shooters. This system feels much more rewarding and does not punish people at any time nor does it try to squeeze money from existing players. There is still cash-only items in their cash store, but these are limited to skins and voice overs for your character, not for weapons and equipment. Basically  while you could buy every gun and upgrade in the game with real world money, there is nothing there that can give you a real advantage if you pay. This is free-to-play done right.

EA's vision of free-to-play, the freemium model, has been greatly flawed. It requires those who enjoy the game to continually dump money into it if they want to enjoy it after a certain amount of hours. This model doesn't reward people for playing for long periods of time, thus keeping the community alive and active, rather it punishes people for playing a long time. It punishes free players and premium players all the same. Since all unlocks are not permanent, or if they are permanent, they cannot be unlocked by a free player. This turns the games from free-to-play to pay-to-win.

I understand the need for a game to be profitable. If you could easily unlock 100% of the content for free, there would be no intensives for a person to put any money into the game. Successful free-to-play games have been able to balance the gameplay between free and premium players while not punishing either at any time. Free players always have a chance to be competitive and are never at a disadvantage to those who pay. People have proven to still be willing to pay money for in-game content despite the content being obtainable by just playing the game.

EA needs to have a little more faith in their own customers. World of Tanks and Tribes Ascend both put faith in their customers and they trust that their user base will buy content despite being able to unlock all of the core gameplay elements. EA's version of freemium punishes the community too much. It locks out the free players from all of the content, dangling it in front of them whenever possible and it punishes those who pay for the content as often their purchases are not permanent. If the iOS market has shown me anything it's that playing half a game feels incomplete and does not compel me to want to purchase the rest. Microtransactions that add up much quicker than the value of the game deter me and others from purchasing the game.

Given EA's track record with trusting their consumers, this doesn't leave me hopeful. If EA does not adapt their freemium model to be much more consumer friendly, I fear that the C&C series will just be the start of EA's attempt to break into the free-to-play market and they'll bring down every series they can with it.