Pay peanuts, make Lemonade

I recently thought back to my early years on the internet, with my dial-up modem and charged by the minute tariff. Considering how flaky the system was it was a good day when you managed to connect and weren’t booted within 5 minutes.

As I sit here writing this post with my broadband connection that averages over 15MB Per Second, I can download a game 10 times bigger than the size of my hard drive of 12 years ago, in a ridiculously short amount of time.

Since Broadband arrived I’ve always tried to choose an internet service provider that offered packages that favoured my gaming habits, low latency, lower contention rate, little or no traffic shaping. Not an easy task as many of  the smaller brands either folded or were bought by large companies, which meant customers where transferred over  to new terms and networks.

After experiencing this with my ISP, I decided that I needed to choose an ISP that wasn’t all about bundling my phone-line or offering me 100GB download limit, but I could only really use the service early in the morning due to data throttling. Almost every day I hear of others people’s experiences and problems with their internet package, of course on closure inspection and I’m stunned  by how many opt for the cheapest/Best-deal they could find.

My ISP is Zen, I have to admit they do may charge slightly higher prices that others and they may have traffic caps, but I’m more than happy to have those elements if it means the service I pay for is there when I need it. When I finally begun to experience the full ASDL2, I had a number of issues related to the quality of the phone cable in this area. Zen were very helpful and coordinated with BT to get the problems resolved as quickly as possible.

Consumables

On returning to City of Heroes one of the in-game systems I took for granted in the past was the inspirations. You can activate them as fast as you are able, so with a little preparation you can enter each battle with a balanced load out to help you out if things turn ugly.

Of course this isn’t anything new to the genre, potions and medkits have been stable component of our games for many years, However I’ve always been frustrated by cool-down systems that games use to limit the speed of consumption of these items,excluding PVP balancing I struggled to find a clear reason for this implementing this in PvE, other than slowing me down.

Using a health potion every 3 minutes isn’t ideal, for me it will often result in death. Mainly due to my fondness for soloing but I also like to face obstacles that offer me a challenge. I don’t want to be limited to. Grey mobs just because I play a supporting class.

I know may will argue that “it’s a multi-player game for a reason, find a healer”.
Of course finding a healer that wants to spend an evening playing whack-a-mole is never that simple and I want the ability to play a character that is able to solo between grouping.

So I use up twice as many health potions, but my enjoyment of the game increases too.
Anyone else with a similar opinion or am I just being awkward?

Communication Breakdown

A recent Podcast by those exquisite purveyors of fine words KIASA,  there was a little banter that mentioned the lack of in-game typing and the need for an external audio solution is be coming more common place now.

I completely agree, but what can we do to help combat this?  What’s needed are methods that would enhance interactions and communications within the gaming group, what’s more that group could be best friends or just a random PUG.

With every new game we see “recycling” of features that have been tried and tested in other games. No matter the origins, beneficial functions in one game, will generally benefit players in another, so they get included.
Players also come to expect similar feature to be included otherwise they feel that a game isn’t catering for their needs.

Many games have systems for easier levels, or group questing, tournaments, yet there is a lack of systems that aid games with their interaction with other players. There is one such feature in Planetside that for me is one of the games crowning glories, yet it remains the most underutilised across the multi-player gaming scene.

Voice Macro System

Now on the face of things, you may think that a system such as this isn’t suited to more RPG style games, but when you boil down the needs of the players the truth is very plain to see. Players want an easy method by which to communicate, interact but one that doesn’t mean having to stop everything to type into the chat window.

The basis behind the voice macro is that by using a number of keystrokes (between 3 and 4) you can quickly inform those in your group (and maybe other players nearby) of various information.

Despite not having played Planetside for some time, the keystrokes needed to convey meaning, are still easily remembers.
  • V-V-T = Thanks
  • V-D-C = defend our Control console!
  • V-N-R = We need Repairs!
  • V-W-C = Cloaked Enemy detected!
  • V-S-R-G = I will repair our Generator!

Initiating the voice macros menu by pressing V you then choose the topic for the message

  • A = Attack
  • D = Defend
  • N= Need
  • R= Repair
  • S= Self
  • T= Tactical
  • V= Quick (Commonly used)
  • W= Warnings

Nearly all of these keys are located near the WASD keys cutting down on the amount of movement needed from the player and when you’re in a PVP game where the action is pretty continual, those few seconds matter.

Real benefits

As you can see the Planetside system uses a simple tree structure that allows a number of benefits to be realised:

  1. Quick process that is easily learnt & ultimately becomes muscle memory driven
  2. As well as display text allows for a macro to play sound files, good for those that struggle to read in game text
  3. Easily configurable for different languages, allowing more cross language interaction

Even if you can get all of your team into a TeamSpeak server, there is no guarantee  that everyone has a microphone, or that they are able to talk due to other circumstances. This instantly puts certain people at a disadvantage which could be avoided or reduced at least by a Voice macro system.

What use

I see many games that could benefit from using a system such as this, Any games with large public raids/fights such as Warhammer or Rift.
I would have enjoyed being able to have been able to communicate with other raid members in Rift but not having to type everything to them.

I’ve played World of Tanks recently which has a basic alerting system in place but could use something to that’s more detailed and allows other players to co-ordinate easier and more fluidly, of course this removes any barriers that exists due to language and ultimately gives the players a more enjoyable experience.

The final use would see players in PUGs being able to interact in an easier manner,

I don’t think that every game needs a massive list of commands and some games would just be unsuitable for this type of system, But I’d like to see this creeping into more games in the Future.

Original Planetside Manual entry

Magic Moments Part 1

I, like many other gamers I imagine, have memories of pivotal events in their gaming ‘history’, those key moments etched into our brains often alongside more mainstream recollections like your first pet or day at school.

Those that know me will already be aware that my memory is shockingly bad, I can barely remember last month, let alone last year. So it always comes as a surprise to me that I have many vivid recollections of seemingly common events from my past.

I’ll try and starting at my first gamer related memory:

  • Waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning to sneak downstairs and set-up the new ZX Spectrum+, only to find that my mum had the same idea. I remember going through the manual, entering in the commands, switching the background colours and drawing circles all over the shop. To a 7 year old, it was a fantastic form of magic.
  • Magic was also needed to calibrate the cassette player.
  • The first big game I remember getting stuck into was Combat Zone, which was a wireframe 3d Tank game, the bigger bosses were rather tough and I remember the day I was able to take down and progress passed those diamond shaped menaces.
  • Another major time sink was the turn based Chaos:Battle of the Wizards, this game had so many set-ups,options and outcomes it was a different game each match.
    If someone was to turn it into a Facebook game I would be doomed and loose all my free time.
  • Chase H.Q. – need I say more?
  • We upgraded to a ZX Spectrum +2 a number of years later, it came with a light-gun and remember getting cramp from spending too long playing Rookie and Operation Wolf with the lightgun that came in bundle.
  • I recall we also played the Bullseye game to death, although I never knew the answers to the questions but it was a real family game. Who needs a Wii?
  • I remember rushing home once a month to find what games were on the cover of the monthly Crash magazine. You HAD to load each in turn and try them all out, plus try out any pokes for games I owned.
  • I recall playing Gauntlet (not sure of the platform) for what felt like 8 hours straight on one rainy day at a friends house. I was epic and I was told the following day that I was sleep talking shouting about have to get the gold.
  • There were a number of arcade machines that I really played to death in my early teens, they were each located in different shops & cafes in my town, so once you got a turn you aimed to play until you ran out of coins. I have many memories of spending afternoons hogging the titles:
    • Double Dragon
    • Altered Beast
    • WWF Superstars
  • Finishing R-Type on the SEGA master system, ok not all that great but the the plastic DPad on the controller had broken off and I had to use the pressure pads for movement.
  • I bought my cousins NES with a bundle of games a few months before we moved to France, I have to say that other than learning all the secrets to Super Mario Bros . 3, The Battle of Olympus & Rygar.
  • Next was the MegaDrive, it’s look was futuristic when compared to the Master System and definitely the NES.
  • I had the triple game cartridge that was shipped with the console and I happily completed Streets of Rage 2, in what felt like a mammoth sitting, but I may have left the console on overnight.
  • There were a number of fantastic games on the Mega Drive, but I remember each of them with a fondness reserved for those games that frustrated & delighted you simultaneously, the list includes but isn’t limited to Earthworm Jim, Duck Tales,Corporation, Aladdin, Dizzy, Jungle & Desert Strike, the fantastic Flashback.

Well that’s it for part one, I have most likely missed too many to mention, but I had a great time wading through all those old titles.

As I was finishing writing this up, I spotted a post over at the Ancient Gaming Noob, which I thought was in a similar nostalgic theme, so please give it a read.

Blu-ray riddle

While adding items to wish-lists on Amazon for Christmas it became very apparent that many of the Triple-Play/DVD-Bluray options for more recent releases are only £4 more than the DVD only option.

Is it wrong to add Triple play versions to my wishlist despite not owning a Blu-ray player and with no clear plans to get one in the immediate future?

As it appears that Blu-ray only options are be coming scarce, it seems like an extra £4 is the cheapest option to future-proof a film collection.

Anyone else had this same dilemma?