PAX East Retrospective

30 03 2010

So I’m back from PAX East and I have to say that, even though I didn’t see everything I wanted to, I still had a lot of fun. Even standing in line for 3 hours on the first day wasn’t really that bad considering it allowed me to see and hear Wil Wheaton’s excellent keynote speech. For those of you hoping for a lot of pictures and stories, be prepared for a letdown. I only have a crappy camera phone that’s temperamental, and really all the pics I did take were of me standing in line or sitting way too many rows back to see that I’m at the speech Bill Amend (creator of Foxtrot) gave. So instead I will just use text. I hope you like text.

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Symmetrical Antagonism (Aleutia Dev Blog)

18 03 2010

So far Aleutia still isn’t symmetrical, in fact I doubt it ever will be. Despite my best efforts something just isn’t clicking together just right to be lined up properly. I’m thinking that the A2 version of Aleutia will probably be the last and that I may need to abandon it because right now the only way to achieve perfect symmetry would be to start over again from scratch. No matter what, it won’t ever be perfectly balanced. It will be playable, but probably not enjoyable. Abandoning a map is never an easy thing to do but this was a valuable learning experience despite the problems. I have other ideas for maps that i can make, learning from the mistakes I made in this one. So I am committed to at least having a playable version of the revised Aleutia, but I do think that’s as far as it will be able to go for the foreseeable future.

A Clever RUSE (Beta Thoughts)

14 03 2010

I’ve been playing the open beta of Ubisoft’s ambitious new RTS, RUSE, a fair amount and thought I’d give some thoughts on it. For the uninitiated, RUSE is an RTS set during World War II, where players can play as any of the major warring powers on maps of various sizes in battles raging from 1vs1 to 4vs4. The title comes from the ability to create Ruses to mislead your enemies or give yourself valuable combat advantages. Ruses are played through cards that you expend as you play them and earn back as you play. The Ruse cards you have are just placeholders that apply to any Ruse you can deploy from the many available, and the only real cost to deploy a Ruse is the amount of time that it lasts. This can range from 1 minute to 5 minutes. The longest running of these and perhaps the most true-to-WWII in terms of effectiveness are fake vehicle assaults. This tactic of deploying fake vehicles was used to disguise the actual objective of D-Day, and it makes a showing in this game as a way to mask your objectives to your enemies to great effect. You also get things like fake structures, radio silence orders, spies (for surveillance) among many other kinds of ruses.

Another aspect that separates RUSE from other RTS games is that it has a timer for every match. While it is possible to wipe out your opponent it’s far more likely you’ll run out of time first. Battles are decided by how many points each side gains, mostly through combat and destroying enemy vehicles or structures. Depending on the point gap victories can either be minor or major, which again makes it feel like its trying to emulate an actual war moreso than other games where the objective is simply to annihilate everything in your path. Also of note it the graphical details of the game. You can zoom all the way into ground level, or out to the max visibility where you’ll see that the map has been oriented on what appears to be a map table in a war room. At higher levels of zooming out units are replaced by flat round markers that again make it look like you’re planning all this on a table with tokens. It’s a neat little feature plus it helps group units together.

Of course, none of this would be relevant if the game didn’t play well, but fortunately it does. The unique play style of the game makes rushing difficult to do, especially since the most powerful units are artillery but they need line of sight or advance intel in order to aim accurately. While there is a Ruse that can do this (the spy) it doesn’t last very long and you’ll be using other Ruses to keep yourself alive and thus won’t be able to spam it. tank rushes are also mostly out because of how easily you can lose units that are unsupported to things like bombing runs or (again) artillery. Let me give an example. In the only multiplayer game I’ve played so far I spent a good half of the match besieged by a constant rush of tanks and artillery pieces. Despite being outgunned I was not defeated because I was able to use my own artillery to force them back in conjunction with bombing runs since I had the ability to target more effectively than he did thanks to using a combination of Ruses that kept my units mostly hidden while revealing his own. Eventually my reliance on Ruses held out for me and with the rest of my team (it was a 4v4 match) we managed to turn the tide on the enemy and win in a major victory, forcing all opponents to either surrender or end up being wiped out. Another reason Rushing doesn’t work is due to the fact that you never really have a huge economy, often only being able to churn out 4 units every few minutes because of how long it takes to acquire the funds to deploy them. Again this makes the use of a Ruse more important if you need to buy time to build your focres.

History buffs will be glad to note that every country has its own unique look and units from the proper time periods, as well as experimental units that were either rarely deployed in reality or never even saw the front lines. And as I said before the graphics are wonderful and combat looks visceral and devastating. Even scenery like villages and forests get blasted, burned, and otherwise destroyed as collateral damage in fighting. I’d recommend that people who enjoy WWII, strategy games, or both get this game as soon as it hits shelves but I’d wait for Ubisoft to figure out their new DRM scheme isn’t really hurting anybody but paying customers and abandon it before that happens. I know that I’m unfortunately going to hold off on giving them money until then.

Renovations! (koth_aleutia dev blog)

11 03 2010

This is a very short update, to the tune of not even having any screens to show.

It’s only been a couple hours since i submitted Aleutia a1 to, and I’ve already recieved some feedback. None of it overly positive but the criticism leveled at the map has been constructive and helpful. Namely people seem to think it’s still too open to spawncamping, and that the map will suffer from not being symmetrical. I actually tend to believe heavily in the second part and as such have been tearing up the map. The server room is now going to become the entire basement of the map, and lead up to the control point. I’m also moving the BLU base entrance over a bit and redoing displacements there since that was a spot I was never happy with. It not only was breaking symmetry but was also making it hard to keep displacements from forming seams. If all goes well I should be ready to put out version a2, with most of the complaints addressed, in about a week or two. My self-imposed goal is to have it done before PAX East Weekend, which is the 26th. I’m still not entirely sure how i’ll fix spawncamping seeing as how i’ve done just about everything I could. I might expand one of the spawn room exits to make it harder to keep everything covered or just give each team three spawn rooms but I’m not sure yet.

My case for Digital Distribution

7 03 2010

A lot of people have said that digital distribution is a bad path for the game industry to take, mostly because of things like not having a tangible copy of the game and also the inevitable problems that would arise from a site shutting down or if the servers were offline. But personally I feel, given the way computer games have been slowly disappearing from retail stores even before things like Steam came along, that this is a good path for computer games to go down. I can use my own personal experiences watching the retail computer game market shrink to back this up.
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