I’m back playing Team Fortress II after a several month layoff from the game, and it’s good to be back. The heavies are pleased to see the return of the Pyro-medic, so long as I push little kart!
steeeveen is looking good!
That said, not every class will be pleased to see me back in game.
Returning as a pyro means a lot less happy snipers on the other teams.
It’s been a few months since I last played semi-regularly. The important thing for me to remember is that I might have to take some time to recover my skills in the game…..
Or maybe not
Team Fortress 2. It’s not just about the hats, unlocks, classless update, and the new maps. It’s about the sensibility of laughing hysterically at getting killed in extremely unusual ways. I was fired into the upper atomosphere of a TF2 map from the turret rockets after attempting to rocket jump out of a window, fire at the turret, and be the goddamn <s>Batman</s> hero.
Red Turret Airlines. The only way to fly (some fatality expected)
Dear Valve. You appear to have spilled AWESOME on my gaming. Thank you.
L4D is one of those landmark video games that will change the way gaming on the PC operates in the long term. From the ground up, this game is different to the usual PC FPS genre. At the top of the list is the realisation that L4D was probably ready to ship about 2 years ago if Valve was running a classic publishing company.
What changes with L4D?
1. Development and Refinement Timelines: The extra levels of development in the game, plus the extended refinement period and a “When it’s ready, we’ll talk about release dates” can lead to a Duke Nukem infinite push back loop. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case at Valve. I’ve seen gameplay footage from mid 2008, and the final release looks a world better than the mid year game play footage.
2. Voice acting: Valve’s been pretty good with the voice work for a while now – particularly with the Team Fortress 2 characters having character…. except that a Red Scout and a Blue scout sound the freaking same…BONK!. L4D has 8000 lines of dialogue, including a classic moment of Zoey calling bullshit (zombie bullshit) on fast moving zombies. Plus, the voice acting when the player is hurt, or a fellow survivor is downed by the horde lifts the performance of the game.
3. Collaborative Team Play: Left 4 Dead makes a major step forward for the networked games of the future by designing a game that you will lose if you try to run through it on solo – I tried the demo on easy on my own, and I was wiped out by the limited set of special enemies (Smoker and Hunter) who have a specialist role in pinning or constricting you until rescued. Plus, seriously, you need all the eyes and brains you can get when there’s a zerg zombie rush happening. Team Fortress 2 is a non-story driven sports gaming event. It’s awesome, but it’s soccer to Left 4 Dead’s theatre production. Different values drive both games and gameplay design. L4D has opened the door to a whole new world of squad based gaming with mixed AI and human players.
4. Useful AI: The fact that the game was built around a four person squad where the computer controls three of the four during the solo game could have been a nightmare. There are so many squad games with mindnumbingly dumb AI that exist to either soak bullets without taking damage (Ahem, Halflife2) or who get stuck in doors, walls, or small bumps in the texture map (Unreal Tournament). These squad mates do lay down cover fire, give you health, heal each other, and help each other. In fact, I’d love to see a four AI team play a map… but there’s two weaknesses in the AI code. First, you still have to go first as the player for the squad to move. Which makes for a couple of problems with the solo map not being quite so tactical (ie, in the large open field where the smart move is a sniper covering two runners, you can’t order for a sniper or send the runners). Second, for some reason, the AI ignore the projectiles so they’ll never pick up the molotovs or pipe boms.
5. The Director: The secret sauce in Left 4 Dead is the AI underpinning the enemy. Known as the Director, it controls the film effects as well as the waves of enemy attacks, placement of health, ammo and explosives.
6. Hostile Character Design: Valve built a tank which is mostly destruction but can be killed, a Boomer which is revolting and extremely easy to kill but with consequences if you’re too close, the Hunter which does surprise attacks that pin you down, the Smoker which is a sniper mode zombie, and… The Witch. The Witch is awesome in concept – a wailing, broken helpless sounding creature that’s going to kill whoever disturbs it. (Note: It’s usually me). When you play these characters (except the witch) in versus mode, you get a real sense for how hard it is to do them well (except for the Tank for me. I’m a natural match for its style). Yet the AI Director spots these harder challenges into the game to keep the group together (good for hunter stopping, vulnerable to Boomers), split us up (Smokers, Hunters) or up the pace a megawatt or two (Boomer) or provide the combo pack (A Smoker drags you from the pack and a hunter jumps on you for a double painful end).
I’ve played most of the canonical FPS games, and Left 4 Dead lights up a whole new style of play – cinematic cooperative group based gaming with a thematic consistency and quasirandomized gameplay. It’s amazing. It’s going to be a landmark point as the developer community, fueled by the ease of which conversions and new maps can be included, start making amazing things with the L4D engine.
Over the past few weeks of playing Team Fortress 2, I’ve noticed a chain of causation (sample size too restricted for correlation) between poor game performance (aka lousy skill), and use of homophobic, racist and sexist slurs.
What caused me to pay attention was the night in a Goldrush map where I was defending the third stage (as an engineer). Had good placement for the sentry, teleporters were up, and there was good traffic around the dispenser. All up, the Engy role was doing the job. Then two of the Red team players used their fairly consistent respawn downtime to start with the homophobic rants in the game chat. Given I was up, alive and busy keeping the defence running, I couldn’t take the time out to for an STFU statement. Within a minute or two, they switched up to adding misogyny and racism to the homophobia, so I walked out of the server (and that took out my installed defences they’d relied on covering their own sorry incompetence).
It’s struck me because originally I thought the causation was poor performance led to vitriolic rants which were usually peppered with as many slurs as a talentless hack could produce. After the incident above, I started paying attention to the timing, and noticed that the slurs were appearing first – the players with the time to type up racist remarks were respawning sufficiently frequently to make use of 15 seconds to be insulting. It’s become a pretty quick assessment of the quality of the player – lower skills, more attempts to hate on other groups to compensate for the inadequacy of their own ability.
I have no qualms about quitting mid game to find a new server if the players are spewing venom left, right and centre. I’d argue back – but that would require dying enough times to hold a conversation, and as I’ve noticed, it’s just not happening for me to be able to engage a debate. But the ones ranting away? They’re spending their 15 seconds of respawn advertising how lousy a player they truely are – since they’re always having plenty of downtime to make remarks.
What I need to work towards in TF2 is a reputation up there with my Autoassault server reputation. Back on Autoassault, when crap started in the chat channel, I could bring an “STFU” statement, and it stopped. Right now, in TF2, I’m virtually unknown (and I stay alive enough not to have time for conversations). I’ll have to work on balancing kicking arse in game with kicking idiots in chat.
That said, I’ve also got to give props to the bulk of the Australian and New Zealand players in the public servers. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the gaming experience, and the relative absence of the crap that put me off Counterstrike. There have been a few bad nights, and inadequate men (particularly noticeable in voice chat based slurs) trying to compensate lack of gameplay skill with hatred for others. Mostly though, it’s been fairly painless on Internode’s TF servers.
Sunday Night, I found myself loitering around the TF servers, and in a match where on the Red Team were between four and five members of the (GCS) clan, who are very good at what they do in TF2. Sufficiently good at it to completely school my side for a few rounds.
Then came the last round of the night, which consists of four levels. We were comprehensively monstered over the first levels, and really beaten back in the last level with the Blue team cutting through our line in what felt like record time. At seven minutes and forty seconds, the cart was within a heart beat of Blue winning.
At 4.03, I had enough presence of mind to snap a screenshot as I came off a respawn. The cart had been in that same spot for several minutes.
In fact, at the 7 minute 40 mark, I thought we were gone. For seven minutes, 30 seconds, the cart would go no further than about four cart lengths from the end, and get within that same nail biting proximity until Blue swamped the point with 10 seconds left.
For seven minutes, I was playing one of the most intense video sporting matches of my amateur career, against a squad of good (and possibly even pro) players. Not only that, but playing such a hair raising defensive game that my usual level of video game cursing was way off the charts for emotion, intensity, and…well… me completely losing the plot because I screwed up a defensive move and thought I’d cost the game (it didn’t…but wow, the intensity).
What was especially sweet was playing a glorious defence game… as an offense orientated soldier. Not my usual support role as medic, or defensive sweeper in the Pyro, but a straight out aggressive Soldier spot. Not bad, not bad at all.