Tag: Call of Duty

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The Learning Curve of Video Games.

As some of you may or may not know, I’ve recently started my degree to study these things that we all know and love – video games. I’ve only been studying this since the start of September and while it’s had it’s perks like saying I’m ‘researching’ when I’m queueing up at midnight for the release of Assassin’s Creed 3, it’s really opened my eyes into the world of video games and how much time and effort is needed to create them.

One of the first things I learnt, and it’s somewhat an obvious one, is that there is a hell of a lot of work that goes into them. You may think “a year is a long enough time to create a game, why have they not released it yet?” Truth is, the amount of work that goes into creating a game that developers will sit back from and know people will be genuinely interested in playing it can take some time. I know from my own short experience, when working in groups on a Tuesday morning, trying to come up with something then even ourselves would play nevermind other people would play was a difficult task. Thoughts ranged from having a small Leonardo Da Vinci bomber game to the next Angry Birds spin off.  Trying to find out what game mechanics would work well together and whether it had been done before is no easy task. I know that normally when I pick up a game, I start comparing it to other games that I’ve played that are similar and to be honest, if something works well in one game that I’ve enjoyed in the past, why would I not enjoy this game? For example, 99.9% of all FPS when stripped back to the bare bones of the game are a case of running from point A to point B, shooting enemies in sight. Now think about it, how many shooters are out on the market right now if you popped down to your local GAME or Gamestop. Just as a start, we’ve got the Call of Duties, the Battlefields, the Medal of Honor’s but just to name a few AAA titles nevermind those that are getting sold at £20 because no-one heard of it. All the same core game mechanic and yet each dressed differently to suit their own following of fans.  This has made me think that are game developers either losing the imagination to come up with something that hasn’t been done before and that will be new on the market or are they just too scared to take the plunge? This is a different topic of discussion but still, it’s a point that’s been brought to my attention during my short time studying video games.

“Call of BattleHonor” It’s all the same game… right?

For those wondering what I’m doing exactly at university, I’m concentrating on the programming behind the video games, no easy task for anyone I assure you. Why do you think I drink so much coffee – it’s to keep some of my sanity! Nevertheless, I appreciate now when developers take some more time to carry out some debugging and testing on their games. Yes it’s a pain in the arse when we have to wait an extra couple of months for a game we’ve waited long enough for but the debugging process can be a long one. In all fairness,  the games I’ve created thus far are definitely nothing Bethesda would be proud to release but even on that small scale, the debugging/testing process has been a bit of a long one. Now this could be put down to the fact that I’m still learning the language and what not but considering that compared to a game of Skyrim or Mass Effect size – that’s a hell of a lot of lines of code just to get that troll that’s chasing after you to move or to get Shepard to shoot so to test everything will require a long amount of time and something that I’ve done before heading off to uni, and rest assured, it’s a soul destroying task to test a video game.

Speaking of getting things to move, to any animators that could be reading this, I must bow down at your feet.  In a lecture one day, we were told  “Animation is a true art form that takes a good while to master” to which I’m thinking in the back of my head “How hard can it be?” Turns out – very! Even to get my poor wee Jimmy to walk without him looking like he has invisible rollerskates or without his arms flailing all over the place is a fair task and a half. In short, I’ve found a new respect for animators and will always be a bit envious of when I see a good one. From doing this, I do find I think twice about criticizing on how well an animation is.

No-one can deny how well the facial animations were in this game.

The final point I’m going to make here is that even before I went to the big bad and drunken world of university, I was writing game reviews simply because, I liked writing them and wanted to get my point across on how I felt about those video games. Since beginning to learn the inner workings of them and how they’re developed, this has just made me open up my eye when I’ve been playing games, even for fun. I really hope that this will reflect in my future game reviews that I write up whereby I’m picking out the parts of the game I enjoy more and explaining myself what aspects of the game I don’t like and why I don’t like them.

If anyone has got any questions for me or want to know any more information about my course, feel free to drop a comment below or catch me on Twitter (@KirstySays) but for now, keep your eyes peeled on a future Assassin’s Creed game having my name in the credits. Oh how I can dream!

Have Online Features Dampened Our Gaming Experiences?

Online capabilities for games have just become the norm for us in recent years. It’s a strange time for a game not to have it in some shape or form whether it’s online multiplayer, co-op or leader boards, and why not? We’re living in an age where most of us are tweeting random stuff we’ve seen whilst on the bus going into work, complaining about hangovers of the year on Facebook and interacting with hundreds if not thousands of people without even realising it. The question I’m asking everyone who reads this is has these online features that we’ve gotten so accustomed to affected the way we play games compared to 10-15 years ago?

The first point I wish to raise is that it’s clear some publishers are concentrating on the online features of the games that they’re releasing and yes, I am meaning the Call of Duty’s and Battlefields. It’s clear Activision and EA are getting most of their money from people wanting to go online with these games and shoot the hell out of people across the globe. I’m not denying that this isn’t somewhat enjoyable in its own right but as a person that enjoys a good single player experience, I’m definitely not slamming down £40 on release day for an adequate, less than ten hour campaign experience that I will have no interest in going back into to play through once I’ve finished.  With this in mind, are we perhaps paying too much money for games that we’re not exploiting to their full potential? I remember when I was much younger and was relying on the parents on feeding my growing gaming addiction and I would forever hear the phrase “don’t play this for a day and throw it to the side” and I rarely did. If I got a new game, I would be playing it until the disc was saying “No, I’ve had enough!” Trying to complete every mission, find every collectible and still even after doing that, going back through it and doing it all over again was something that I done on a regular occasion. Looking at the way people play games nowadays, I hear a lot of people either ‘racing’ through the single player campaign just to play the multiplayer aspect of the game or skipping the single player all together and diving into the multiplayer which, if you’ve paid the £40 price tag for that and you know you’ll be spending a lot of time on that – fair play to you sir or ma’am but are you not missing out on some of the experience the game is meant to provide to you as a gamer by skipping over the single player campaign?

Continuing on with the online multiplayer, you have the community that follows these big game franchises to cope with. Now, as we all well know, it’s a dangerous and hostile place sometimes. For girls, they can sometimes feel intimidated to even speak in case of gaining the wrong kind of attention. Sometimes, you can feel unsupported by your ‘team’ members. Tell me if I’m wrong but you go online to have fun and a bit of friendly competitive banter no? In my past experiences, I have found somewhat little joy in being harassed by people younger than me or the constant hearing of ‘your mum’ jokes being thrown about the lobby to the point I’m muting everyone which, in my eyes, I’m basically limiting the multiplayer experience by shutting myself off from everyone.   I feel that unless you’re part of a clan or a group of friends that you know you can rely on, there is little enjoyment in playing these kinds of online games which require team work thus defeating the purpose of going online to play in the first place. Least ten years ago – you could play with friends that you know that even if a little bit of smack talk was dished out, it was all in good fun and not meant to cause any upset or hard feelings between one another.

As well as the online multiplayer, a lot of games offer co-op and leader boards. Rewind back ten years and I remember having to go round to a friend’s house, Playstation 2 crammed in a school bag with the various wires and at least two controllers just to even get this experience from a game. I enjoyed it though. Spending an afternoon on a game with said friend having a bit of a friendly competition on who could beat who on the race or trying to beat that level you’ve been having nightmares over for the past week was a good experience not only on a gaming level but a social one as well – you could make nights out it! Albeit with the online functions nowadays, you don’t have to carry an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 outside and you can enjoy the social and gaming experiences within the comfort of your own living room or bedroom, but I do feel like some of the social experience can be lost.  There’s no tension in the room whenever your friends about to beat the score that you’ve worked all night on getting whilst throwing back some beers and munching on the takeaway food that you’ve just gotten delivered. Call me old fashioned but I will always find having group gaming nights at a house better than playing online with friends.

Recent games that have tried to introduce the friendly competition between friends would be NFS: Hot Pursuit and SSX to name but a few.  Trying to beat each other’s scores and having them pop up in game as a constant reminder can be handy if you are actually setting out to beat their scores, but what if you’re not? I remember playing through Fable 3 – one of the last games where I was considering comparing things with friends – and whenever I killed a monster or got gold, I had a pop up to say who had killed/received more than me and where I was ranked within my friends list. It was an annoying feature that I felt was unnecessary and I couldn’t exactly give two craps about if Friend1097 had defeated 10 more monsters than me!  Another feature of the leader boards that I’ve never quite understood – why compare me to the rest of the world? With thousands if not millions of people playing games, it’s very rare you’re going to find yourself breaking out of the hundreds if not thousands when it comes to leader boards. After recently starting to play Little Big Planet 2, I found the leader board comparison at the end of each level a bit of a pest. Is it meant to make me feel better when I come in at place 170,938 within the world? No, it doesn’t affect me one bit. I feel neither accomplishment nor disappointment that I’ve attained this level of an achievement. I’ve completed the level – I’m happy enough with this, please just let me progress on!

You’re probably thinking now “Whoa, that’s a lot of negativity for one article!” Don’t get me wrong, I think that the online capabilities have allowed us as gamers and as a gaming community to evolve and allowed us the opportunity to experience the joy of playing with friends that we’ve met via social networking sites and online gaming forums.  As part of the Zero1Gaming team, I frequently enjoy the odd stream with fellow team members playing Worms Reloaded and have also played the odd game with members of other online communities.  Also, where else would we have been given the chance to dive into a game with around fifteen other gamers from around the globe to go into an 8 VS 8 TDM just to see who wins without the use of a massive LAN party being set up?

In conclusion, I feel that online features in games have somewhat dampened the joy and experience we can get from games, especially for those who, like myself, enjoy the single player aspect of the games more than the multiplayer side. Paying a load of money on a game where there’s more replay value in the multiplayer than there is in the single player is something that’s becoming a burden for me as a gamer and I still stand today that the online functions that our gaming hardware is offering us is to blame for this. Question is, where will it take us in another ten years time?

The Greatest Video Game Music – Album Review

The Greatest Video Game Music – London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Video games have been around for nearly 40 years now and only within the past 5 years have they really started to make a breakthrough into the mainstream. Yet even now they do not get the respect they deserve in the way that other forms of entertainment media do.

One area of gaming that does garner a lot of respect, both from players and peers is the music. Music in games has come along way from simple beeps to full-blown symphonies and a few bars of a tune can instantly trigger memories in gamers that we didn’t even know we had. It’s this feeling that the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Skeet, are hoping to ignite with this album.

There are 21 tracks, or 22 if you have the Bonus track edition, which cover every possible aspect and genre.From the FPS worlds of Modern Warfare and Battlefield to the RPG summit of Elder Scrolls and even the portable gaming of Angry Birds. All colours, creeds and tastes are catered for. The album covers 20 different video games with combined total sales exceeding 1 Billion units globally.

A  favourite of mine is their take on Final Fantasy VIII’s Liberi Fatali, just a few notes and I’m transported back to that opening scene of one of the series most under appreciated games. Bioshock: The Ocean on his Shoulders is a hauntingly simple piece that does well to convey the sense of isolation and insanity that the game provides.

The Tetris and Super Mario Bros. themes both get an orchestral makeover, with the latter ending up with a very jazzy sound that wouldn’t seem out of place in the background to one of the recent batch of 60’s style Tv shows.

The rousing strings and horns of the Call of Duty and Battlefield themes are a brilliant accompaniment to Halo 3’s: One Final Effort, each bringing that sense duty and achievement.

You have to wonder what the inspiration was to make this album and you can’t help but look towards Nintendo’s own Symphony efforts as part of the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary. This album does have a Legend of Zelda Suite and they do it justice but in my opinion it does fall just short of what you can hear on the CD included with Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

That is just a small blip on what is otherwise a fantastic album and a great introduction to classical music. Classical music might not be to everyone’s liking but any serious gamer has been listening to it for years in between loading screens and during opening cinematic. What this album shows is just how wonderful these tracks are and how talented the people who create this music are.

The album is available now from Amazon and iTunes.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

November eh? Must mean it’s time for the new Call of Duty game and this year it’s a sequel to the bat shit crazy, yet bestselling, Modern Warfare 2. After they split the remnants of Infinity Ward and all of the all new, brought in studios Sledgehammer, Raven and Sandy Isle Games have been working for a while on this one and every Call of Duty (COD) fanboy and fangirl (why the odd looks? I know some) has been lining up to get it. In fact over 9 million people around the globe have pre-ordered it so the new developers have to really step up the metaphorical plate and kick some ass with this one.

For the singleplayer portion they have, if you excuse the pun, gone above and beyond the Call of Duty’s of old and created a truly enjoyable singleplayer experience that new players and veterans of the multi-million selling franchise can sink their teeth and bullets into. If you have not played the previous Modern Warfare instalments then I suggest you swiftly watch this timeline video updating you on the events of the last Modern Warfare games http://www.whosay.com/larry/videos/87161

 The singleplayer is not what you expect to find really fun in Call of Duty, more like the younger brother with stunted growth, compared to the beefy, handsome older brother that outshines it’s sibling in everything it does. In this game that is so far from the truth. For once in a Call of Duty the singleplayer lasted more than 5 hours (7 to be precise) and the plot actually made sense. Imagine just how good this games already fantastic singleplayer could have been if it hadn’t had to mop Modern Warfare 2’s stupid and unfeasible plot off the bloodstained carpet. Hats off to the new developers, they know how to put a story together as well as putting together the moments that I refer to as “MichaelBay’s porn”. What I mean is those enchanting moments, usually filled with emotional trauma or explosions that make you whisper “Oh wow!” There are about 5 moments in Modern Warfare 3 that have that desired effect, amongst them seeing the biggest explosion ever followed by the Eiffel tower falling over and in a cutscene the saddest scene since that little girl clawed at her parents’ dead bodies in Homefront.

 

The story picked up exactly where Modern Warfare 2’s bled out, with Captain “Soap” MacTavish in need of urgent aid, while Captain Price and ally Nikolai try to save him. All 3 have been disavowed and are top priority targets to theUSmilitary. In smaller news,Russiais launching a full scale assault onAmericaand later,Europe. Playing as the non-disavowed army trooper of Delta Force “Frost” you need to kill some enemies that are a bit clearer than in Modern Warfare 2, because they are an army with tanks invading your country not some shady looking Brazilians who you’re not entirely sure why you’re shooting, and the only explanation you get is it helps you defeat a Russian person that one of your company could have shot when he went undercover before that Russian massacred an entire airport and shot your mate anyway.

 

Nevertheless the past is the past and some great city missions ensure that the majority of the stuff you do is in a recognisable real world location not a field in the middle of Ukraine, hence making the action a lot more intense and leading to more of “Michael Bay’s porn” with a lot of stuff getting blown up or collapsing. For once Call of Duty has a stellar campaign that everybody can like and enjoy from start to finish.

 

Multiplayer is back and the reason everybody plays Call of Duty has been a bit revamped this year. Now you get to choose between 3 packages – Assault, just like the killstreaks of COD 6, kills with your earned streaks count towards your next streaks and if you die your streak resets. Support is a little different, if you die your streak continues on but the rewards with support are less kill orientated as Assault and help your team more. The third strike package, specialist, is really different; as it gives you some perks instead of killstreaks and at an 8 streak you unlock all perks.

 

As opposed do previous games you can get your streaks without even shooting a bullet. Some actions like capturing a domination flag for example will reward you with a point towards your streaks, as well as getting kills. The rest of the multiplayer has stayed the same though, but with poorer quality multiplayer maps and unbalanced guns with built in lag ensure that this is the worst Call of Duty multiplayer to ever see the light of day. That may seem like I am damning the multiplayer to hell but I’m not. It’s just the only Call of Duty game so far whose multiplayer has failed to capture me and draw me in, trapping me in that game for 90% of the year.

 

A multiplayer feature to spend time on instead of the competitive multiplayer is the returning co-op mode from Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Being my favourite feature of that game it certainly makes the cut in this title as well, with not only the returning mission based gameplay but an all-new mode entitled survival. Imaging the famed Nazi Zombies of the Treyarch games and then those zombies are people with guns, dogs with C4 strapped to them, helicopters and men in hulking suits of armour. All this and a co-op levelling system mean you can have fun with your bestie for hours!

 

MW3 is flawed but still lovable. And still the same game as the original Modern Warfare. Thats why it gets

8/10