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Why do all good things come to an end?

peugeot407 Blog

I believe these words were once sung by Nelly Furtado. But I don't care about Nelly Furtado, nor do I about most other pop musicians. If anything is to come to and end, please let it be cheesy pop music. Oh, and can it please take dance with it? And hardrock? And hardcore? And rap?

Wonderful. Now the world is a better place, it's time to make a point. I'm a human, as I'm sure most people are aware, and that means I like to challenge myself from time to time. Another thing that makes me human is my inability to do much harm to other people without feeling sorry. Games can enrich this part of our lives a lot. Take Assassin's Creed II. About a year ago that was the most challenging game ever (assassinations got harder and harder) yet it was a very humane game still. After all, you could kill people without having to actually, well, kill people. With all this brilliance and much more I half expected its sequel to be better. Without going into too much detail about Brotherhood, the general idea is that half of the singleplayer storyline has been removed and replaced with multiplayer, which is worse. Sure, it's great for hardcore, crisps-and-beer gamers, but for civilised humans, it just doesn't cut it.

Yes, I suppose I am a human. I like to dream, but I also like a certain degree of realism, and when games give me the opportunity to make both dreams and realism come true, I'm a happy man. Empire: Total War is such a game. It was a game without being too much of a game. It was there for fun, it was there for the strategist that lurks within all of us, yet it was also more realistic than most games could be. Empire: Total War did what nobody else had dare do before, and instead of having a clear cut unit raster, they didn't just make British musketeers. No, they made Line Infantry, Highlanders, African Native Infantry, Company Infantry, Colonial Line Infantry, Sepoys, Coldstream Guards and the Black Watch, all in one, all for one faction. A cold-blooded gamer's nightmare, but I loved it. Finally somebody had found the guts to not only please hardcore gamers, but also those people who care about realism and history. When it became apparent that the next game in the series was going to be about Napoleon, I kept my eyes so focussed on it I could hardly see anything else. But then, disappointment. It was one of the developers (of all people) who claimed in a blog of his that the game studio deemed Empire to have had too many near identical unit choices, and promised everybody that Napoleon would have less. Reading the blog I could almost see the smile on his face, as if he genuinely believed that he was doing the world a great favour. In fact, he was busy ruining the series. And yes, as soon as Napoleon came out, it turned out to be much worse than Empire. So much for evolution.

I should have to believe in evolution. Society should be able to improve itself over time, and so should game studios. There is no need for a game to be worse than its predecessor. There just isn't. And unfortunately, that brings us onto Robot Entertainment. Leftovers of Ensemble Studios, shaved and trimmed but battle ready they seemed, until they gave us a first glance at Age of Empires Online. Even disregarding my dislike for multiplayer focussed games, what were they thinking of? Was it really necessary to spend so little time on a game? Surely spending a little more time on it could have resulted in a game even better than AoE3, spending much more time could have resulted in perfection. It's hard to believe that the same people who showed such progress from Age of Empires to Age of Empires III should mess it up so horribly.

With Age of Empires Online, it really seems as if civilisation's final hope in gaming, graphics, has gone to rest as well. With all gaming studios swapping brilliant features of their games for not-so-good ones, it really looks as if the industry is once again separating itself from the world, creating games for a small enclave of people who do not care about graphics, who do not care about history or realism, who do not care about a decently designed singleplayer. No, at the very point in history when gaming became a very acceptable pastime for all ages, game studios have turned themselves 180 degrees round, and went back to the braindead it's-all-about-high-scores gamers. Such a pity.

Multiplayer Crackdown

peugeot407 Blog

This thread isabout my life. Except it's not. It's about me releasing my fury about life's annoyances, written in a way that suits me, the blog.

I'm almost forced to start off with the phenomenon of 'online multiplayer gaming'. As might be expected, I'm not a multiplayer kind of person. I texture, I code, I have a life at school and one at home, so I have better things to spend my time on. Also, I don't use the silly abbreviations that characterise multiplayer types. When I laugh, I either smile or chuckle. I hardly ever laugh out loud, and the only situation in which I'd roll over any floor would be when on fire, in which case I probably wouldn't be laughing.

I don't have any problem with multiplayer gaming, don't get me wrong. I enjoy LAN parties as much as anyone, and the idea of social activities on the internet is not something I abhor, as I'm not yet 50. I would be 50 if I had ever played any type of online multiplayer game though. The idea is simple and likeable: you login, the server selects a match for you against other people with roughly the same skill as you, then you play a game. Along the way you improve your skill and meet other players. The thing with this three-point process is that it is massively out of balance. The logging in bit is done with pretty quickly, and I have yet to encounter the first game where the actual playing takes much more than half an hour. No, the problem is the waiting.

I'll illustrate it. Yesterday night I was playing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and thought I'd try out multiplayer. I won't complain about the needlessly long tutorial, but the long and the short of it is that one hour after I started, the server had yet to come up with a match. It's not like it should take long either, this whole affair took place between 0:00 and 1:00 AM, GMT+1. That's between 16:00 and 20:00 in North America, and still pretty acceptable in Europe. Combine that with the fact that Brotherhood is a bit of a blockbuster, and common sense would suggest that plenty of matches should be available. Not so.

It went so far that by the end of the hour I waited, I started to think I'd be more enjoying a game of volleyball. Now I should explain that this sport, consisting mainly of bruising and breaking any bones that happen to be located vaguely near either wrist, is my least favourite pasttime by a lot. At that point I decided the 'fun' aspect of online multiplayer gaming had proven to be non-existant, so I stopped waiting.

This has been my experience with every game I've tried in online mode so far. That is including Age of Empires 3, in case anybody wonders. What then is the fun of online gaming? I sure haven't been able to find any fun in it. I really haven't. I don't enjoy waiting until judgement day for anything except judgement day itself, and I certainly don't want to spend my time waiting for a server to pick an opponent. Online gaming isn't online dating, I don't have to wait for 'the one'. Just give me an opponent, and make it quick.

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