May 13, 2008

Teamplay features

Warning: This post is about BOTH cooperative play and team versus team gaming.

This is 2008. I have not posted for a LONG LONG time, but i have good reasons: no major cooperative game has been done since my last post (we're talking FPS here). Prove me wrong in your comments if you will.

How come? Is it really that hard to do? I've posted about different reasons, like this one or that one, on why this may be so, but there has to be a lot more to it than that, 'cause coop games are not here yet.

[There's high hope and great hype in the form of Left4Dead... Please make it a great great game!!! extra special pretty please. It could be the One Game That Brings People to Coop Gaming]

Anyway, i was thinking "This is 2008. Great games came out last year, there's gotta be something good in terms of coop gaming or at least teamplay". I was thinking Call of Duty 4, which included really great action scenes (short, completely scripted, but real intense), and Crysis (though i still have to find a PC that can render it in it's full beauty).

So i went and played CoD4 with some friends. No coop... i knew that. What really surprised me, though, was that there were no teamplay feature except for the vocal chat (press a key and talk, like in a walky-talky). How comes? in 2008? Didn't the creators of CoD4 play BF2? learn anything from it?

I do realize CoD4 is meant for smaller teams: the game supports only 24 players online. But even then: allowing teams at least to split in Red and Blue squads can't be all that hard to achieve? But no, no teamplay tools. It's just plain silly. And really hard for me to understand. And CoD4 is really a polished game: the single player and online game work just fine from version 1.0 (i know, that's the way it's supposed to be, but you know... Games' quality assurance "vary" a lot).

In my next post, allow me to recap what made BF2 a potentially great game for teamplay, and then bear with me while i discuss what else could be there to enhance teamplay.

[If anybody from the BF3 design team is reading this, please consider for a teamplay consultant position! Great rates too!] :D

Stay tuned for more... "soon".

January 26, 2007

Stop the press: Coop Warfare has come!

F.E.A.R. an awesome (single player FPS) game released in 2005.
F.E.A.R. Combat: a free online multiplayer game based completely on F.E.A.R., by it's very own authors, except it's free.

Coop Warfare: Then some brilliant guys (mostly germans, i think) come around and create a mod for F.E.A.R. combat and make it a dedicated coop game!

FEAR was (and still is) a beautiful game. The weapons ranged from fun to fantastic. The action was great. The AI pretty darn smart (it used cover very well). When i played it, o remember thinking: "oh, some coop here would just be such fun".

If you like coop gaming, this is a totally free treat that you can enjoy for hours on end!

The links you need:

FEAR Combat: ftp://ftp.sierra.com/pub/sierra/fear/demo/fearcombat_en_107.exe
You can also go for a nice (and Legit) torrent download from the very official torrent:
http://torrents.vugames.com/fearcombat_en_107.exe.torrent

Coop Warfare: http://z4.invisionfree.com/FEAR_COOP/index.php?showforum=39
or directly at:
http://files.filefront.com/Coop_Warfare_05_Setup/;5447950;;/fileinfo.html
http://mods.moddb.com/7149/fear-coop/downloads/
http://ddream.hostingposts.com/modules.php?name\u003dDownloads&d_op\u003dviewdownload&cid\u003d48

http://ddream.hostingposts.com/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload&cid=48


WARNING: I will probably not be updating those links, sorry.

But remember, Google is your friend. All you'll have to search for is:
  1. "FEAR Combat" from the official site to get the latest version available, and
  2. "Coop Warfare" to check out the latest version of the mod.

Now do the right thin' and get playin'!

January 10, 2007

I’m still playing Joint Operations! (and good coop technology)

I know, the game is, what? 3 years old now? But it’s still good. Let me tell you why.

Now, i know i dedicated this blog to cooperative gaming, and Deathmatch is the ultimate opposite of cooperative gaming, but slaughtering your friends online can be such fun! And Novalogic, in their last patch finally fixed a stupid bug that allows players to cut open, fill with holes, blow up, and also squash your friends and foes alike (i’m still not sure on whether this was on purpose or not, but i’m going ahead with the dumb mistake theory, and leaving behind the “this is an exclusively team-based game” theory).

Now that I’ve let that go off of my chest, let’s think about two things that make this game still enjoyable (related to online cooperative gaming).

1) This game runs on most PCs now (except for those that are stuck with those bad+evil+crappy+work only Intel GPUs). If you have a newer machine, you can push up the graphics and the game still looks believable.

2) Bandwidth demands are fine for cooperative gaming: few of us are playing, and the game behaves just fine under that small pressure. Anyone can be a server, and anyone can join and play (I haven’t tried 56K modems, and I don’t want to, ok?) Newer games demand more bandwidth. This game works fine as is.

3) Coop maps are widely available. There are more maps out there than I will ever play, and more to come. Thanks to www.dfbarracks.com for their much appreciated efforts to make those available to the rest of us, and great big thanks to the mappers for sharing their creations.

4) Coop gaming remains fun! The objectives are fairly clear (when the mappers know what they’re doing, and those are more common as the game is getting older), blowing stuff up and shooting bad guys remains fun. It’s all good!

Things that have to get better for cooperative gaming:

One thing I’ve really enjoyed in Battlefield 2 was the ease of creating small teams (“squads”), and how the game encouraged and actually gave an edge to teams that would use the capabilities offered to the small teams. It was almost magical to me when I would join an online game and one of those teams, and the team would actually work together! It allowed a true team spirit to arise, and common goals could be clearly specified (by the one guy that had created the squad): go there, destroy something over there,

And a new position came out: The Commander. He can do useful stuff for the small teams, and keep a good strategic eye on the whole map of the game. I thought this really was an outstanding feature… that was undervalued by most.

“Houston, we have a teamplay problem”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: lack of cooperative gaming often comes from the lack of cooperative players. Let me tell you how it goes in Battlefield 2, a game where one big team faces another big team, in order to capture some key locations (and shoot the bad guys). It’s not a cooperative game, since we are fighting other humans (I think, but I can be easily fooled), but it does demand quite some cooperation within each team, and the game has BRILLIANT features to enhance the life of the teams within the team.

A widely descript phenomena happened with Battlefield 2: People would just NOT join the small teams. Everybody (lots of people) wanted to play on their own, even when teamplay was clearly needed to achieve the goals that the game offered (capturing key locations). Some secondary, far away, key locations could indeed be captured alone, but the central key locations, that usually offered the best rewards (superior vehicles, strategic positions and such), were normally impossible to capture when the “lone wolf” wanted to do it on his own. Yet, lone wolves abounded. How is that possible? Why is that possible? Hypothesis abound, and this my list:

  1. I don’t want no boss to boss me around. I want to be free as a bird.” So, what are you doing here exactly? Don’t you know this is a team based game? (Just as Joint Operations –originally, as I’ve explained- Battlefield 2 does not offer single player, and Deathmatch is not available. So let me rephrase that question: Why don’t you go and play some other game instead of disrupting our beautiful ballet of coordinations? This game will let you create a team, and let you boss around people if you want to, you know, so feel free to create the ultimate team that achieves the ├╝ber-super missions that you have set for yourself (and your team) if you want to. Just don’t go it alone: it doesn’t make sense. But there comes another question worth asking: do you have what it takes to set mission goals, react to enemy moves and reformulate strategy and tactics according to the flow of battle, and let your team know and react in real time? Can you learn it in time? Can you even keep people around you enough time for it to happen?
  2. I want to do my own thing, and just that.” Autistic persons do grow into the teens and adulthood, sometimes unnoticed. But games can really help make that disorder come back and shine for all to see, big time: “Common goals? Just because we are two teams in this whole game?” Sad, but far too common. Please go back and play single player, use your bandwidth to download stuff, and stay there!
  3. I don’t trust teams. Teams are bad for my score.” OK, but, like, hum, team based game has to mean something, right? Plus, if the game has a deathmatch option, just hang in with the guys that are playing that.
  4. I’m just learning this thing, ok?” The Noob. He doesn’t know the game, doesn’t know the keys, didn’t take time to get comfortable with the objectives. Why did he come? Why didn’t he practice more? Why does he want that helicopter that is way to complex for him to handle, let alone understand how to use it strategically? It’s ok to learn, but the whole point (in this game) of the single player part of the game is to prepare yourself for the ‘online with real people’ experience. It’s different, but not that different, so please practice before coming. Asking questions is ok, trying things at home on your own is ok, and following the lead of the more experienced people is REALLY ok too, you know? Interestingly, America’s Army (the game) solved that issue by demanding that players complete a training sequence BEFORE being able to play online. Some people call it tutorials, some people call it “Read the F*** manual”, I just call it “make sure you know what you’re getting into”. As long as you don’t succeed at the training (offline, on your own) component, you can’t play online. Another way to achieve this could be the “pilot school”: if you want to use a tool, you must have practiced it for X amount of time offline, on your own. This should be especially true with the most powerful/most difficult to handle elements of the game. Too much work? My friends just want to get on with it already? OK, but get ready to answer too many questions to enjoy the game, and too much whining from those that don’t understand why they keep losing. At least when I loose, I know why!

Anyway, Battlefield 2 was a huge leap ahead in terms of actively encouraging teamplay, and I want to thank the creators of those –simple- mechanisms. I really really hope that every game of this type (Armed Assault, Quake Wars, and the rest) from now on will include those mechanisms.

April 19, 2006

Swat4 expansion The Stetchkov Syndicate

I've talked a good deal about Swat4. I've named it my best coop of the year 2005 and, by the looks of it, i'm going to have to name it best of 2006 too, unless something really good comes out (hint: Armed Assault).

So i've been playing the TSS expansion, and let me tell you that everything that was right and great about Swat4 is back, only bigger and sweeter. The maps are bigger, the ennemies meaner, the civilians less cooperative.

I don't mena to sound rude or anything, but this time around you can actually hit them civilians' with your "Fist of Righteous Fury". That's right, hitting them to calm them down and get them to cooperate is now an 'option'. Oh! and sometimes the bad guys actually answer to that (things like: "you sister liked it when i did the same thing to her last night")

Back to the coop gaming. There was a hack that allowed to play coop up to ten players in Swat4, and Sierra has now wisely decided to make that official, so 10 players coop is now an option. To go with that you also get bigger maps that will keep you busy and looking in every direction.

So YES, the expansion makes Swat4 even better than before. If you have Swat4, don't wait no more, and if you don't get the gold edition that marges the two together. You will enjoy new weapons, new maps, and generrally speaking a better game.

Now, supposing you get tired of playing cooperatively, and feel some "edge" is needed, try playing the other mods of Swat4, including team versus team (barricaded suspects). Swat 4 was designed for small teams to meet and shoot each other down, and it shows. To have actual fun, DO TRY TO PLAY WITH THE NON-LETHAL WEAPONS for a round or two. Tell me what your best moment was when you tried it. I know you never thought that arresting people could be fun, BUT IT IS. For real.

Rainbow6 Lockdown has some coop, but don't bother

I mean, i gave it a try, on a 2 players LAN. But Lockdown is just too poor on the AI (artificial Intelligence) side to give you any thrills. Trying the "high" difficulty for the ennemies (giving them more hitpoints) will not help either. I tried.

Rainbow 6 Lockdown does have some positive sides, though.
  1. For starters there's a wide choice on the weapons, which after playing lots of Swat 4 comes as a relief.
  2. Next, you CAN re-spawn while playing coop. Again, after the intense frustration of playing non re-spawnable Swat4, this is a big relief also.
Other than that, it is a really straightforward FPS game that does not really give you lots of challenges. In single player, you just play through the maps until you're done with them.

There's a story... but you don't feel it in-game, you just hear about it during the briefings. So immersion will not happen unless you close your eyes. Luckilly, the ennemies don't shoot too well, so closing your eyes is actually an option.

Not much more to say, the coop works for up to 4 players only. It does work and let you choose the weapons of your choice (and some of your looks) so there's that to hold on to.

February 02, 2006

Battlefield 2 online petition for coop gaming

http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/petition-sign?Coop

This link will actually take you to an online petition to request support for coop gaming in Battlefield 2. I put my name there, just to see what comes out of it.

I've got to say that i do think that it is a waste of time for Battlefield 2 itself: Everything i read about it says that the bots cannot really be programmed in an efficient way. Even the coop mod (now on version 3) for BF2, created by people that got great things achieved on BF1942, are just keeping the bots' paths and making the maps around them. Lame for Dice to release things like that.

However, it might not be too late to demand that Battlefield 3 comes with a good AI (artificial intelligence), and easy programming for map makers and modders. So let's sign this and ket EA and Dice know about our wants and needs, friends!

While i'm at it, check out the maps coming out for SWAT 4. Most come complete with coop version, and the bots are solid and fun to antagonize.

January 18, 2006

Best coop game for 2005

And the winner is… SWAT4. It’s amazing and sad altogether: 1 (one) good coop game in all of 2005?? It’s hard to understand, but sadly all too conceivable.

Now, you know I’m talking about First Person Shooters (FPS) on PCs. I don’t own a game console, and I don’t want any, ever. But 1 (one!) single good coop game for 2005?

Seriously, this is disappointing. Especially when you think of a game as delicious as F.E.A.R. FEAR was a really solid FPS. It had awesome action, great AI (artificial intelligence), solid storyline, good graphics, great environments (some people didn’t like the repetitive offices; I’d like to have some CQB with them in one of those). But no coop.

Now, there might be a glimpse of hope in Serious Sam 2, which I yet have to test on coop, so there are still some possibilities out in the open. If it is worth your attention, I’ll let you know.

But even though competitors were not really available, SWAT4 is sweet coop action, it leaves you hanging on the edge of your toes, every nerve focused on staying alive and making the right moves. I do need a patch/cheat to be able to get gamers back in the game after they die though: newbies just don’t enjoy being kicked out after opening their first door too quickly.

November 06, 2005

Battlefield 2: not good enough for coop

It just ain't man! Come on! I've tried all the mods i could. The bots are just too stupid, and yet too complex for modders to bother loking at them. Forget about it.

This being said, it's great multiplayer action. Like Joint Operations if you will, but faster and louder. Less tactical, and more action oriented if you will.