Friday, July 15, 2016

Is Call of Duty's Narrow Skill-Gap Ruining Multiplayer Gaming?


I've heard it said that games like Call of Duty just don't require enough skill to be considered ''hardcore,'' mostly due to their very narrow skill gap, and that developers need to stop pandering to ''casual'' players so that they'll learn how to play more complex games. Just the other day I watched a Youtube video in which a gamer decried the fact that Call of Duty has killstreaks, a ranking system, customizable loadouts, random spawn points, and gadgets that kill instantly, which - in his very popular opinion - allow unskillful players to have a better chance at beating skillful ones, thus destroying a balanced gameplay experience. It is also hypothesized that the reason Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare's trailer stands at almost three million dislikes compared a few hundred thousand likes is also due to this pandering to ''filthy casuals'' and neglecting Call of Duty's hardcore roots, which are steeped in a more grounded and realistic archetype.

Even game developers have come out and protested against Call of Duty's domination of the FPS market. They say that because Activision is in charge of the #1 FPS franchise, they have the power to dictate gamers' expectations; and as long as Infinity Ward and Treyarch continue to make these chaotic, unrealistic, unstructured Call of Duty games, it'll be a long time before a truly hardcore FPS franchise can gain a major following because gamers have become spoiled. Call of Duty just doesn't have enough complexity to require that players go through a learning phase and master the game's mechanics. Instead, according to developers and gamers alike, Call of Duty just has too much randomness and too many unnecessary variables involved that narrow the skill gap.


Now, if I were to ask most Call of Duty players if they think the game requires skill, I think they would say it absolutely does - at least a little bit. Call of Duty's gameplay mechanics primarily revolve around quick reflexes; it definitely takes skill to manage your movement, aim, and observation of the environment during battles that last literally one to two seconds. Truth be told, just about every modern FPS functions in this frenzied manner. As soon as one player sees another, they either have the physical prowess to dispatch their opponent in an instant, or they're probably dead. So what makes a game like Battlefield strategically superior to Call of Duty? ''It's the killstreaks and ridiculous weapon loadouts that make Call of Duty cheap, and also the random spawn points.'' Ah yes, in this area Battlefield is far superior to Call of Duty....

...Except it isn't, because Battlefield also has customizable loadouts. It may be a more structured loadout system due to the basic classes, but killing enemies is just as frantic and instantaneous, regardless of which weapon you're using. And aren't vehicles like tanks, jets, and helicopters the same as killstreak rewards? Actually, isn't Call of Duty even more skill-based because it requires that players actually prove themselves worthy of an attack chopper or airstrike, whereas Battlefield randomly plops these items around the map? Come to think of it, Battlefield also drops .50 caliber sniper rifles and rocket-launcher emplacements around each map for anyone lucky enough to grab them first. How is this more skill-based than Call of Duty?


To be fair, the primary complaint regarding random spawn points in Call of Duty is that players appear right in the midst of unsuspecting enemies, and are able to get kills without anyone even being aware of their presence. This is a very fair complaint; I've experienced it firsthand on numerous occasions. The thing is, Battlefield has a much worse problem (and no, I'm not just referring to these same random spawns). Because the maps are so large, players are prone to sneak up on each other very easily, simply because no one can keep track of such a large environment at all times. And if you're not being sneaked up on, you're being sniped from someone on a tower five miles away. Be honest, Battlefield is even more cheap than Call of Duty at times.

But I've just got to address this fabled ''skill gap'' that everyone says has been narrowed by Call of Duty. Firstly, even developers will admit that a certain amount of randomness in their games is necessary to maintain balance; otherwise, more experienced players (in regards to both knowledge of the game and also physical prowess) would always dominate less-experienced players. Luck, they say, also helps curb the problem of games simply becoming mathematically-solvable equations, rather than varied, strategically-engaging experiences.


Secondly, rewarding skillful players with more weapons, gadgets, and abilities through leveling up doesn't narrow the skill gap; it widens it. Getting three kills in a row and then being rewarded with yet another useful asset is more of an exclusive snowball effect than an all-encompassing pooling-together of players' skill. It alienates less skillful and dedicated players all the more by elevating those who have succeeded even higher above the rest.

Thirdly, the so-called skill-gap exists for two reasons: Veteran players become more knowledgeable than noobies about each map's layout and how the game works, not to mention they get to hone their reflexes and master the game's mechanics over a long period of time. But if developers simply chose to make their games revolve around pure strategy rather than physical prowess, and empowered all players with access to exhaustive knowledge about every facet of the game rather than making them learn it all themselves, games would be both perfectly balanced and also very strategically engaging for everyone involved. We wouldn't have to have ''veterans'' versus ''noobs,'' and we wouldn't have to narrow the skill gap through randomness and luck.

A game's complexity ultimately boils down to how much it includes players in the decision-making process of play. As long as developers keep this in mind, they won't have to worry about realism or being ''hardcore'' versus ''casual.'' We gamers simply want a gameplay experience that's fun to play on its own merits.


- Ponstory Games

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pokemon GO: Get Playing Sooner?

Hello again. This is a special bonus post for today. Do you kids want some Pokemon GO. Looks like it's launching today, but if you live in the US and Japan you have to wait for a few hours, I presume. However, due to the magic of the internet, the links to the app has been released.

I was orginally alerted to a possible leak this morning, when my friend sent me following link to a site claiming to have a playable version of Pokemon GO for Android: http://www.apkmirror.com/apk/niantic-inc/pokemon-go/pokemon-go-0-29-0-release/pokemon-go-0-29-0-android-apk-download/

I'm running iOS so I was a bit disappointed. I was especially disappointed when he sent me the following pics:


Nintendo and Niantic are asking fans to wait for the app to be unlocked in their region specifically, but if you don't want to wait, here's the links for iTunes App Store and for the Google Play Store. As an aside, you will need iTunes and a PC for iOS installation.

Have fun. Happy hunting. See you IRL maybe. Till the next post, I send you off with some motivational music.

-Chali Baicunn



 

Battlefront After Bespin DLC: Part 2 - So Fucking Done! There Is No Hope For This!

Good morning you beautiful bastards! Thank you for stopping by the blog today. I hope that you've all gotten through the weekend's festivities with your limbs, property, and pride intact. I do apologize for the delay of this post. In Part 1 I asked current players what they thought about the game after the release of the Bespin DLC and the accompanying patch. This post will be my opinions and views about the game up this point. This will be the last post I make about Battlefront unless some very substantial changes are made.

Where to start.. Where to start... Well I guess I'll talk about the good first. Lobby wait times seem to minimal. I'm playing on PS4, so it may be bad on another platform. Game mechanics seem more balanced, but honestly "balance" is completely subjective sans a weapon or ability that's completely OP. Bespin maps are fun, but I found that every match on Carbon Freezing Chamber seemed to devolve into a game of "which team has more dioxin grenades?" At first, it was fun, and then the shit just wore on, and on, and on. The addition of new weapons was nice...

So to the not so good parts. Primarily, this game is more of a bitter disappointment than Jar Jar Binks. If that's not a scathing indictment of the shallow and hollow husk that this game is. Fucking seriously! This shit is the Kim Kardashian of video games. It starts of all pretty, then after spending some time with it, you're just like, "Why the fuck do people care that you exist? You provide nothing of any substance." I just don't get it. Hut Contracts... Meh... Good thought, but fucking terrible execution. Objectives don't always get counted. Then you have to enter playlists in order play DLC specific maps. I'm not sure if this is an attempt to obscure what would be entirely empty lobbies, or if some how DICE and EA have both forgotten that "game type" lobbies are a thing in other games. Ugh, and there's still no real/ terribly interesting solo play. By now, I was hoping that maybe.. just maybe, EA would have offered some kind of appeasement token. Throw us a fucking bone here. Something, anything.. Shit I'm not terribly picky. As long as the shit is entertaining and actually functional... I think I'd be okay with that. And who the fuck at Disney is signing off on these licenses?

It just fucking now hit me. I don't know why I was blind to it before. This is kind of off topic, but it just may explain the flaccid performance of this game. The relationship between EA and Disney seems to have that oddly calm Steve Jobs and Bill Gates feel to it.

In this story Disney is Steve Jobs and EA is Bill Gates. they're both basically fucking assholes pretending to be innovators, while creating derivative tripe because, well this is 'Merica and we seem to really love that shit 'round here. Disney more or less gave EA's R&D a literal dick load of money by licensing the use of the Star Wars franchise, much like Apple did with Microsoft and DOS. And when Disney isn't looking, EA is over in the corner finishing the development on the new game engine that was suppose to be powering Battlefront. They more or less rushed the product to market, and the title says Star Wars, so it was certainly going to sell. Now that EA has finally polished their dev work, and is about to launch a full title under Battlefield 1 which seems to show more promise (a pretty substantial amount more that Battlefront). In the end, Disney will probably become a bigger asshole, and will have a nervous break down, and then maybe get cancer after investing heavily in portable music device and 3D animation (I'm leaving out the death part because it seems a bit too insensitive?..). And fucking EA is just gonna keep on going, not giving fuck, and doing whatever they want. And people are still going to buy their shit because.. well, I don't know why. Maybe because of the hypetrain, engineered and driven by the zealous and militant marketing wing of EA. Maybe I'm wrong, but seriously, Disney, I'd dump EA if I were you.

So, after my long winded, esoteric, and dare I say angst-y diatribe, here are my final thoughts on Battlefront  This game was over-hyped. EA toyed with our emotions and our money (which Big Perm would argue that they're the same thing.) The community seems to be desperate for someone or something to save them, or just put them out of their misery. Seriously, if you put any kind of thought into buying this game... Don't! It's a hollow excuse for a game, and sucks the testicles of a medium sized equine usually used for the carrying of goods and people in dry harsh environments.

So what do you think? Am I right? Am I wrong? Have I been unfair? Let me know. As always, thank you for stopping by the blog. Don't forget to follow on Twitter at @BaicunnPress. I'll have a post up in the very near future with a video interview I did with Rick, the US Community Leader for Warhorse Studios.

I'll see you soon.

-Chali Baicunn