Browsing the blog archives for January, 2012

Why I’ll Never Buy Battlefield 3

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Games

A couple years back I bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 when it went on sale. I’m generally not interested in big name military shooters, as they are pretty boring games where the emphasis is on whoever-shoots-first-wins style gameplay and their storylines are hackneyed Tom Clancy & Michael Bay ripoffs. But despite the shallow gameplay, it’s occasionally nice to hop in for a little bit and play around. My favorite antic in Bad Company 2 is to use the M136 guided rocket launcher as a sniping weapon. This is a rocket launcher much like the rocket launcher in Half Life 2, where the rockets can be guided mid-flight, and is also intended as primarily a means to take out flying opponents like Helicopters. This is pretty fun to headshot people with, as it’s not intended for use on infantry at all, and the reactions are priceless.

When I heard Battlefield 3 was coming out, I saw the trailers and was interested. If anything it looks like it’d be great fun to play around and troll people in, much like Bad Company 2. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, though, it wasn’t meant to be.

Electronic Arts, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Battlefield 3 would not be on Steam but rather on EA’s own proprietary digital distribution system, EA Origin. EA seems to have a record of shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to DRM on games. Mirror’s Edge, BioShock 2, Battlefield 3. I’ve got 20+ games on Steam, do I really need or want to start getting games on another competing “gaming service”? No. I’ve already got GalCiv 2, which ended up in patch limbo when Stardock decided all updates to GalCiv 2 should be delivered through Impulse, then sold off their Impulse service to GameStop. Furthermore, buying into EA Origin just encourages all the other major publishers to start up their own “gaming services” where they can continue to charge retail-box prices without the inconvenience of producing physical product, manuals, or even the expectation that players own their games rather than rent them.

So, no thanks again.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

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Games, RPGs, Tabletop

For those who hadn’t heard, D&D 5th edition is in development. My reaction is at once unsurprised, but interested. Dungeons and Dragons players tend to be a bit cynical, and so when 3rd (or 3.5) edition was killed off in favor of 4th edition, many players predicted that it wouldn’t be long until Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast killed 4th edition to force players into purchasing another set of books.

I’m not sure if they were right, but it sure looks like it.

It’s a shame, because I liked 4th edition a lot. I personally thought it was a pretty well designed system that resolved a lot of my problems with 3rd edition. Of course, I also liked 3rd edition a lot, and thought that it was a good improvement over 2nd edition (granted, my recollection of 2nd edition is very fuzzy). Both 4th and 3rd edition had their problems, although I would argue that a lot of my perceived problems with these editions simply arise due to the constant production of power-creep enhancements and the ability of the internet to disseminate it all.

I’m currently running a 4th edition campaign, and I’m often surprised at what my player characters can do. Why? Because my players subscribe to the online D&D service that provides all the latest munchkin book goodness for player characters in a handy web application. I am willing to work with players to let them do what they want with their characters and the campaign (it’s a collaboration after all, not my own little lordship) but it’s somewhat annoying to find that players are airily grabbing this and that to min-max their damage and to-hit bonuses. I’m pretty convinced that the sheer volume of crunch leads to the swift decline of the game system as a whole. When the game is mastering the system, then mastery of the system is the end of the game.

In any case, there isn’t much information about 5th Edition out there yet, but Mike Mearls’ letter introducing it seems to indicate that 5th edition will have a modular design whereby players will be able to decide for themselves what they want to use. The goal seems ambitious but also infeasible. There’s a lot of different ideas out there on how D&D should work, developed over the last 30+ years. In that time frame D&D has gone from the archetype to the grand-daddy to the computer-game-simulator. I don’t think it’s possible to bring everyone in under one tent, at least not without essentially publishing a bunch of different rulebooks.

Myself, I’m skeptical of their goals but I’m hoping it goes in an interesting direction. My hopes are especially high that this edition of D&D will focus on delivering a good product that will really embrace new technologies (like phones and tablets) that are becoming ubiquitous and could totally replace reference books for most players.

If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll elaborate a little more later on what I’d like to see in a 5th edition, as a “Best of all Worlds” approach.