Friday, September 7, 2012

The Midagedgamer Report 9-7-2012

The Midagedgamer Report for 9-7-2012

This week! More Windows 8 madness, Armored Kill starts rolling out, Valve's Greenlight has a toll booth and games as art?

Let's start off with the department of DUH!

Ars technica recently released an article entitled, "Can a touchscreen fix Windows 8 on the desktop?"  I had to stop for a moment after reading that.  Regaining my composure,  I read through the article about the author's  experiences with a Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 All in one desktop PC.  In short the author felt that Windows 8 worked well with a touchscreen PC but was more of a nice to have feature than a necessity. 
Stop the presses!   A touch optimized operating system worked well with a touchscreen PC...

Among the many less than insightful observations was that users may find it awkward to interact with a touch surface perpendicular to their desktop.  As though a user was suddenly going to toss their input devices and instead  sprawl across their desk to use the on screen keyboard  and swipes for daily tasks. 
Look, Windows 8 is optimized for touchscreen period.  To try to pigeonhole it into the same dreary workspace routines we've been getting eyestrain and carpal tunnel from over the past 30 years is nothing short of ignorant.    The days of the keyboard macro and special key combinations are on the way out.  Why, because that's what the consumer wants. 

They wanted to use an Iphone at work and now they can regardless of the IT department's hatred.  They wanted to connect to work via their tablet and GotoMyPc obliged.   All that extra crap we went through with split keyboards and marble mice was nothing more than an admission that we really didn't like the way we were forced to interact with our PC's anyway.

This is another example of much ado about nothing.  If Windows 8 is guilty of anything it's of being a bit ahead of the curve on the desktop.  Inventive types have been trying to get rid of the mouse and keyboard for decades.  It's no surprise then that when consumers wanted to do more than make a call or send a text on their Smartphone someone in the desktop arena was going to take notice. 

This time around it just happens to be Microsoft that got the hint first.  You can bet that if Apple had released a touchscreen desktop OS, no matter how awkward, the tech pundits would have embraced it.     Then again, Apple doesn't need to.  MacOS is likely not long for this world inevitably to be replaced by ever more powerful IOS based devices.  Apple and Android have known that touch was the future for half a decade, we're just not used to Microsoft getting a clue so early on.

In console news industry rumor currently targets spring of 2014 for the release of the next Xbox while the Playstation (remember ORBIS??)  is still rumored for late 2013. 
Michael Pachter, console industry analyst, says the delay is the result of "what is certain to be overwhelming demand among hardcore gamers."

More likely it's the result of waiting for Intel price drops on hardware capable of handling what Ea Labels president Frank Gibeau calls, "spectacular" games currently in development for the new consoles. 

In the department of "who cares" Origin released an update to its Origin client bringing it to version 9.0.11.  The primary fix is correcting a problem with patches being inconsistently applied to the user's game library.  In practice with the BF3 patch it appears that EA has ditched the separate updater and instead rolled the patch into their repair installer.

For those into Crysis, Steam is having a sale on the franchise this weekend with Crysis 2 available for $9.99 and the entire collection including Crysis, Crysis 2 and Crysis Warhead for just $17.49.  Warhead and the first game are also available separately for $4.99/ea.  Get yours before the September 10th deadline if you care...

In FPS land we're drawing ever closer to the full release of the next DLC pack for Battlefield 3.  Armored kill went live on PS3 for premium members September 4th preceded by a large patch across all platforms the same day.  Sorry PC and Xbox, you get to wait another week for the DLC.  For those of you who chose not to pay for the game twice aka: not premium members, the regular release is due out on the 18th for PS3 and the 25th for XBOX and PC. 

That schedule follows the standard two week lead premium members enjoy. 

What's far more interesting than the new DLC, however, are the tweaks from the latest patch that accompanies Armored Kill.  As with most patches that precede DLC this one's a big one coming in at over 2GB on PC and around 1.5GB on Xbox and PS3.  The changes it makes have a lot to do with the DLC and community whining.

Yet again Dice has decided to fiddle with weapon effectiveness making some weaker and others stronger.  Most interesting is the removal of flare guns for helicopter gunners in attack choppers and increased effectiveness of rockets from other helicopters and jets.  Which means you better hope your pilot has flares.  I know I've saved more than one helicopter because the pilot didn't have them. 

Here's the official list of vehicle  and weapon related tweaks....

Damage output/range adjustments
• UMP: Increased the close range damage of the UMP but reduced its damage over range. The UMP now has a sweet spot in CQB but suffers compared to the PP2000 at longer ranges.
• PP2000: Increased the long range damage of the PP2000 to highlight its role as a mid-range, low recoil PDW.
• M1911: Increased the minimum damage of the M1911 to make it fit better between the Magnums and the M9/MP443
• M93: Reduced the M93R’s damage and range, as it was an obvious go to pistol compared to the M9/MP443. Its recoil has been reduced for a smoother burst action to counter the reduced damage.
• 12G Frag rounds: These rounds have been adjusted to do their damage in a smaller area but to be more consistently apply the maximum possible damage.
• AA: Slightly increased the damage of the AA against infantry, the AA was simply over nerfed in a previous update. The AA guns now also properly do damage to MBTs again.
• 12 Gauge buckshot close range damage has been slightly increased.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on the SCAR-H.
• Increased bullet velocity for the coaxial HMG, making it easier to hit targets over longer ranges.
• Increased the minimum range of the 40mm Flechette and tightened the cone of fire for more consistent damage levels.
• Slightly reduced the range bonus added by the heavy barrel on the 5.56mm, 5.45mm, 6.5mm Assault Rifles.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on 5.56mm, 5.45mm, and 6.5mm weapons: AR, Carbine, and LMG.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on the SCAR-H.
• Slightly reduced the range penalty for the suppressor on 5.56mm, 5.45mm, and 6.5mm weapons: AR, Carbine, and LMG.
• Slightly reduced the range bonus added by the heavy barrel on the 5.56mm, 5.45mm, 6.5mm Assault Rifles.
• Increased the damage of the M5K.
Removed flares from gunner position in helicopters. With the right combination of unlocks, an attack helicopter could be effectively invulnerable to lock on missiles. Removing the flares from the gunner balances the attack helicopter against ground fire.
• Air Radar now shows friendly vehicles as well.
• Helicopter weapons can now destroy equipment with splash damage.
• The Laser Designator unlock on the Scout Helicopters has been changed from a Pilot Upgrade to a new stance in the Copilot seat (position 4). Like the CITV turret on the Main Battle Tanks, the Scout Helicopter’s Laser Designator is permanently available to players who have received the unlock.
• Repair tool damage against enemy vehicles lowered by 10%.
• Changed reload behavior on Tank / Tank Destroyer cannon weapons to prevent being able to fire 2 shots from different weapons quickly one right after another.
• Firing mode can now be seen from the vehicle passenger seats where you are allowed to fire your own weapons.
• Fixed the hit indicator showing when entering a vehicle after previously shooting a soldier.
• Increased the damage helicopter and jet rockets do to helicopters, jets and infantry.
• Increased the damage helicopter gunners and IFVs do to helicopters and jets.

• Fixed Jets not getting top attack damage bonuses on Laser Designated targets.

All for the sake of DLC and somebody whining.  I mean really? They had to mess with the repair tool? Like the repair tool was somehow unbalancing the game?  If you let someone get that close for that long you deserve what you get.  Ratcheting it down 10% might give the victim another 1/2 second at best. 

I do like the splash damage tweak, however.  It's always irritating to just miss a target and inflict no damage.  Of course Dice will probably go overboard and everyone will start taking damage within a virtual mile of the impact. 

It's one thing to be in touch with your community but it's quite another to exceed to their whims while not correcting core issues with the game .  I'm sick of game balancing tweaks.  Figure out the merits and weaknesses of the arsenal and leave it at that!   Yes a better sniper rifle with a better scope is going to kill people more easily.  A tank shell should always have the same potential to do damage.  So what if someone doesn't like it, that's the game, you adapt and move on.  It's literally like Dice changes the rules with every patch!  Enough with the tweaking already!

In two pieces of news from Valve...

Steam's new Greenlight community project which aims to showcase the work of indie game developers has decided to stick a $100 tollbooth in their way. 

 It started out  free on August 30th with submissions  from hopefuls voted on by the Steam community.  Those with the most votes would win a place in the Steam catalog. 

Apparently community policing wasn't enough to keep the rabble out, however.   Games with sex themes or questionable quality began almost immediately cluttering up the place forcing Valve to devote extra resources to weeding out the baddies. 

In an effort to prevent the initiative from becoming a full time job Valve instituted the fee to try to curb the avalanche of submissions. 

It seems to me that the great experiment has already failed.  If you truly want an unrestricted and uninhibited flow of creativity you can't put a toll gate up.  You have to take the chaff with the wheat if you want to harvest.  If it means you have to develop community standards and pay a full time employee to enforce them to get what you're after then just do it.   This is the crop you sow and the harvest doesn't come for free.  What delicious irony that just a few weeks ago ol' Gabe was complaining about Microsoft Store fees for developers. 

In other Valve news,

The popular game developer and sales portal is apparently unhappy with the state of PC hardware. Posting a help wanted ad on the careers section of it website for an Industrial Designer it reads:

"“Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.”

I'm not sure what ol' Gabe is after with this one.  If he builds something that looks like a PS3 or Xbox then isn't he just building...a console?  I mean if there's going to be holograms and implants involved that might be something but this just seems like a case of ruffled feathers.  Watch a little less ST:Next Generation Gabe, it's clouding your reality.  ---click on the Industrial Designer link...

Must have been a really slow news week when gaming pundits start waxing poetic about video game visuals as fine art.  PCPER, and Kotaku have 3 articles between them either showcasing or debating the art of video games. 

It seems that video games are ever more stylized with visuals instantly identifiable with a franchise or development studio.  Just like an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo the artist's work has an identifiable  signature.  Borderlands, for example, embraced an almost comic book treatment for its visuals.  Nobody would ever confuse it with the almost photo realistic(if you have the hardware) vistas of Skyrim or the Disney cartoon feel of Orcs Must Die. 

In video games, art is as critical a component as the gameplay mechanics.  Anyone who's ever felt compelled to walk around in a game just to look at it knows this all too well.  The late Ralph McQuarrie (of Star Wars fame) would have been proud.

 Admit it, if you've played Skyrim  for more than 5 minutes there's no doubt you've probably spent at least a few of them just looking at the sky and the trees.  The game was designed to be a feast for the eyes with thousands of hidden details just waiting to reward the wanderer. 

Still, is the art of Skyrim on par with Picasso?  Or is it simply the industrial output of a commodity product.  Perhaps it's both hovering somewhere around Warhol's 100 soup cans

Definitely fodder for a slow news week and now I've added to it...

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