Monday, 9 December 2013

Battlefield 4 'Achievements' - the fun returns!

One of the fun things that my friends and I did in Battlefield 2 - apart from shooting people of course - was trying to earn the medals and ribbons as we went along. These added bonus 'achievement's added a little extra incentive to a game and could also be frustratingly difficult to earn sometimes. Battlefield 4, it turns out, has a similar system of bonus incentives.

Left: Although my favourite class in BF games is Engineer I like to have a 'second string' so I can help out my squad. In BF2 this was always the Support role and I was particularly proud that I earned myself some of the MEC's exalted achievements for this character!  The 'middle-eastern' styled MEC faction was my favourite faction to play, though sadly it has been dropped from the BF series now in favour of 'real' factions like the Russian Federation and China. I think I preferred a fictitious 'nation' - it's a game after all.

Wow! This takes me back - this is a screenshot of my Battlefield 2 achievement badges made in
September 2009. It's scary that I keep this stuff!

Thus far my BF4 experience has been dominated by my desperate bid just not to die so much! But now I have a more accommodating computer specification and have gotten used to some of the maps I have started pushing myself to attain certain self-motivating goals, like trying to do a knife or pistol kill in every game, or seeing how many vehicles I can destroy in a round or - most importantly - trying to consistently achieve a positive K/D rate for a round!

Although mines are my thing, I also got a particular satisfaction
from bringing down those annoying aircraft whores that made
the infantry's life so miserable in BF2! I was very pleased when I
eventually won my gold expert air defence achievement in 2008!

So, now that I am trying to push my skills and improve I thought it was time that I started to look more closely at the games own built in achievements' and how to earn them.

Quite what they are and how to track your progress can be done via your web based 'Battlelog' page. As with previous BF games the achievements are rated bronze, silver and gold and progressively up the ante so that, for example, to earn a bronze Engineer achievement you have to make 7 kills with a carbine and do 16 repairs, while at gold level this increased to a whopping 20 Carbine Ribbons, 50 Repair Ribbons and 200 kills with any carbine! Woof!

My Battlefield 4 Bronze achievement log. Oh dear! The phrase 'could do better'
comes to mind. Still, it gives me something to aim for.

Because I haven't been checking as I concentrated on just playing the basic game I have found that I have already earned some of the basic bronze achievements, which is a nice surprise. But even better was that while playing last night I did notice that I won the silver 'Wrecking Ball' achievement which entails getting to Level 50 in the game, making 25 critical mobility hits (basically disabling vehicles) and destroying 50 vehicles!

So, game on! I am now reviewing my achievement log and starting to work back through some of my basic bronze skills. I will do what I did when I used to do this with BF2 and make little score cards with which to keep my tally.

Working on achievements can be a little tricky and amusing (and frustrating) as when doing so you may have to go for the more risky kill sometimes. For example, instead of just blasting a certain kill with your rifle you might have to take a chance and make a pistol or knife kill instead OR you might have to go out of your way to concentrate on medic revives or repairs to the detriment of your game K/D score.

In the end it's all an extra bit of fun!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Gone fishing...I mean, playing BF4

Things have gone suspiciously quiet again on Milgeek lately - but this time it's a positive quietness. In short, I've been playing lots (and lots) of Battlefield 4! Yes, I have decided - I do like BF4...

It's been a long time - in gaming hours - getting here but my fellow BIG clan gaming friends and I  have finally found a game that takes us back to the heady days when we played BF2 competitively. Battlefield 4, thus far, has been a bit of a traumatic experience and at times I doubted whether it was the game that would recapture those vintage gaming memories of yesteryear…But here I am glowing with the warming exhilaration of many evenings fragging with friends!

BF4 is what some might call a 'slow burner' in the way that it has taken time for those that have persevered with its troubled birth to discover it's underlying pleasures. More than once I thought this would never be the game that it's grandaddy was.

The 'Locker' map is what I feared after my bad BF3 experiences, but to be fair it is the only
CoD-ish map in the BF4 inventory. And even I find the change of pace entertaining.

Outside on the Locker map, wow! EA/DICE have really raised the bar and even on my
modest rig I do find myself stopping and just gaping at the scenery!

To be honest it was more than just dogged tenacity that got me through the past couple of weeks with BF4, a timely - but very necessary - upgrade to my gaming rig at least proved that many of my early problems and atrocious K/D ratio were not because I was getting too old for multiplayer FPS! With a new quad core motherboard and chip and the return of my Radeon graphics card I was able to play BF4 in 'medium' res instead of 'low' res - and there was an additional bonus of the disappearance of the network lag that had plagued me since the release of game (simply put, because my underpowered PC struggled to play the game even on the minimum settings I spent all my time playing in slo-mo and inevitably shooting targets where they had been rather than where I thought they were).

BF4 retains the condensed class types that it rolled out in BF3, BF2's medic can now be
accessed via the 'Assault' role and the old 'Spec Op' class can be made up from either the
Engineer or the Recon class depending on what you are up to. Missing from this line-up is
the fifth 'class' available in BF4 - the Commander, who may not be a player-character but
is a very active and important member of the team.

Anyhoo, my gaming rig renewed I am now able to join in the fun on something approaching a level playing field AND - more importantly - I am able to perform my role within the team more satisfactorily. My new PC specs are:

> AMD Bulldozer  FX-4130 3.8GHz Quad Core processor
> Gigabyte 78LMT-USB3 AM3+
> ATI Radeon 5850 HD

Mid-life Upgrade (…Or do I mean ‘crisis’)?

To be honest after our major power disaster – which cost up a whole new main electric board for the house – I thought my PC had gone completely. I have only ever had two major compy melt downs in my playing career, and this latest one was perhaps not so dramatic sounding (no big bang) but was very scary all the same. And all this despite appropriate – I thought - surge protection I hasten to add!

After struggling through the first couple of weeks with my ‘back-up PC’ – working on computer video and graphics, yes I do have a back-up computer – I decided ‘what the heck’ and asked a local firm to have a look at my blown rig. My town is somewhat bereft of high-end computer repair shops, the vast majority of ‘PC repair shops’ here are the general consumer type who specialize in low-level OS problems, fitting RAM and solving virus problems!

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because if you are serious about playing BF4 on the
PC then you will have to consider whether your rig is actually up to the job.  There's no
getting away from it, Battlefield 4 is a system hog - even on my upgraded PC I am
having to settle for everything set to 'low' res in order to complete.

What with my fears about the cost of repairing my machine – I was worried that several major parts were fried – and the fact I couldn't source a technician locally that had experience with high-performance gaming rigs I had been putting off making enquiries. But my BF4 traumas gave me the impetus I needed to seek out a local expert.

Core Concepts, of Scarborough, sounded like they offered a more in-depth service – including component replacement and stress testing – and I asked for a quote. In the end – as I suspected – the motherboard and central chip were both toast, but – on the up side – my graphics card was still intact! They gave me a price for the possible alternative replacements for these parts and I plumped for the ‘mid-range budget' solution.

Graphically there is a LOT going on particularly when it comes to some of the spectacular
explosions. From the incendiary grenade to the artillery barrage at times the cacophony of
bangs, blasts and resultant shock waves reduces you to a shuddering wreck! Perhaps more
importantly though it is another aspect of BF4's eye-candy that places demands on your PC!

As I said, this wasn’t really the upgrade I would have liked to have been doing, I imagined my computer’s mid-life upgrade would have been adding something a bit more substantial to it’s horsepower rather than just getting it back to a working condition. Having said that the step up from a 2.4Ghz duel-core processor to a 3.8Ghz quad core has enhanced my potential performance a bit – but I am still using my faithful old Radeon 5850 HD 1GB card so it’s swings and roundabouts. Really, about now I would have liked to have been putting in a graphics card of double or even treble this memory. Ah well.

Parcel Storm is the island hopping map and really gives the boat fans something to play with.
It is - in it's way - a classic BF map as it has plenty of scope for getting behind enemy lines.

If you are lucky enough to have a PC capable of getting the 'ultra' setting - as my teammate
Magnus can - then this is Parcel Storm from ground level. DICE have added a dynamic
weather system in this map that develops into a full tropical storm!

Proof is in the pudding...Treacle or Tart?

So, how does my repaired PC perform with the incredibly demanding Battlefield 4? Well, quite nicely really – I can get the graphics settings up to medium if I want now (though prefer to play with them set to low to squeeze out better frame rates). But most satisfying is the hit performance in one-on-one encounters – I am now shooting targets where they are, and not whether they were! The result of this is my abysmal K/D ratio has been somewhat stemmed and I am beginning to turn it around.

I am, I’m afraid to admit, not as fast as I used to be and am not capable of getting the scores I used to when playing with the ‘young guns’ – their reactions are just too fast for me now. But I am trying to equalize this out by being a bit more tactical and concentrating on working on my squad skills (even ‘practicing’ was muted by a fellow team mate)!

Left: As an Engineer I have settled on the combination of M2 Slam mines and SRAW anti-tank guided missile. I've always enjoyed my anti-vehicle role and BF4 has refined this role with some additional specialist gadgets. Chief among these is the M2 SLAM - it's a mine but can also be used as a 'sticky' charge, giving you the versatility that used to come with C4 in BF2/3.

The SRAW is not a 'fire and forget' missile and only locks onto target when a laser designator is employed to 'paint' you target. But it is a nice compromise between the 'dumb' RPG and the more 'high tech' Javelin AT weapons as it can be guided BUT still be used to 'noob tube' unsuspecting victims (particularly snipers who might be out of the range of your PDW or Carbine).

Battlefield 4 is a nice - but delicate - balance of 'run and gun' and tactical play. Yes, there are times you will need to have those 'twitcher' reactions when who shots first lives, but you can temper this sort of high-adrenaline and frenetic play by integrating yourself into a good squad and doing your job. A good squad leader is invaluable, particularly one that can recognise tactical openings to guide your team to opportune goals.

Alas, as always, those pesky snipers can turn the game into a chore on public servers (where it is not unusual to see whole squads made up of the Recon class), but a good commander can soon put pay to their shenanigans, or there is fun to be had as a chopper door-gunner raining down death on the roof-to assassins! The good news is that some of the better clan servers are already putting limits on the numbers of snipers so that we grunts can get on and do what we love doing.

The Engineer class has access to the PDW (submachine guns) and Carbine firearms. I prefer
the carbines as they give me some medium range capability. The Bushmaster ACW-R - perhaps
better known to gun nuts as the 'Masada' - is my favourite carbine due to it's 800rpm.

9mm pistols are 9mm pistols, but I find the 'M9' has a bit more wack and consistency. It's rate
of fire makes up for the lighter round, though I am looking forward to working my way up
to something with a bit more clout - like the good old .45 1911.

I am now enjoying BF4 for the challenge that the game and other players present and not hating it for the technical problems it came with. To be sure EA are trying to rectify the problems and I reckon that by the Christmas holidays the majority of glitches will have been sorted.

Left: The shotgun is still a great way to dominate those intense CQB encounters. Though, strangely, BF4 gives you one of the better boom stick right off the bat! The QBS-09 is semi-auto has a terrific damage score of '90' (out of 100) and is short and mobile. However, reloading is still painfully slow so have your pistol ready as back-up.

UPDATE: Yesterday the latest game patch rectified some more of the issues - and thank goodness that included the horrible 'blurring effect' that marred the graphics. The new maps included in the update also seem to be better coded and load a lot faster than the original maps, so I'm a happy chap.

There is no doubt that by this time next year I will have to be thinking seriously about a major upgrade of my computer – but in the current financial climate my ‘make do and mend’ solution (which still wasn’t exactly 'cheap') will have to do. Unlike my team-mates I cannot afford to simply go out and buy a brand new machine JUST to play BF4!

...It's not THAT good! :)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Christmas gaming - Metro: Last Light

Metro: First Light has plenty of darkened and creepy environments that should
 keep the solo gamer on the edge of their seat! [Click on picture to enlarge.]

I don't do much single player FPS computer gaming these days, my time is so limited - what with my slew of hobbies - that my involvement with single player games is limited to some casual Xbox 360 driving and flying gaming. In fact, I used to play a lot of solo first person shooters and was a huge fan of atmospheric dystopian survival RPGs like Fallout 3 and - especially - Stalker. So when I saw Metro: Last Light featured on STEAM my interest was piqued.

One of the beautifully desolate scenes from the amazing Stalker: Clear Skies.
The Russians seem to have a talent for creating creepy game environments.

In the back of my mind I am thinking about that chilled out Christmas holiday period where there is no pressure to do very much at all except relax, eat and drink, watch telly and play games (oh, and do some family visiting in between those important tasks)!

Naturally, I will be hoping to get in some multiplayer gaming with my mates - IF they fix BF4 by Christmas - but I do like getting up extra early, sticking some left over turkey and cranberry in a sandwich and having a bit of a solo blast on the computer.

Oh how I do like a post-apocalyptic game world! [Click on picture to enlarge.]

Metro: Last Light looks to have all the creepy sci-fi/horror elements that I used to love about Stalker. And like Stalker it also has some beautifully atmospheric and grim environments to play in, in fact it was these game environments that caught my attention - the plot escapes me - as Russian game developers seem to have a real knack for gritty and desolate urban backdrops with huge amounts of brooding atmosphere.

Memories of Stalker, Metro:Last Light heightens the single player's sense
of 'not quite being alone' even in seemingly vast empty locations!
[Click on picture to enlarge.]

So, December's pay day will see me forking out the £24.99 on STEAM for their combo 'MAC/PC' deal, which means I can play it on my PC upstairs or - if I want - on my MacBook connected to the big telly downstairs.

Link: STEAM store - Metro: Last Light

Superb! [Click on picture to enlarge.]
Link: The official UK Metro:Last Light web site

Sunday, 10 November 2013

We do need some stinking badges...

Just happened to pick up some badges this week, one of them a particularly important one...

I've been after the two cloth badges for ages, but quite by chance both of these badges came available to me at the same time.

The 'Yorkshire' badge is a simple bit of tourist tat that I saw on sale in one of our seaside shops a few years ago but then couldn't find when I went back to buy it - I suddenly came across it again yesterday for just £2.99. It's an ideal fun addition to my Russian loadouts, in place of the usual Spetsnaz unit's 'district' badge.

The second cloth badge is the famous 'Green Man', a Celtic god (Cernunnos) who has become a popular character in  British mythology. I like the idea of a green leafy deity who has a strong association with pubs decorating my woodland camouflage!

Additionally, we have the most important badge for this time of year - and enamel Poppy Appeal badge. Every airsofter should have one of these on their person at the moment...

Sadly, my mum - who is now in a care home - is no longer able to join other veterans in selling poppies, a duty that she always loved. But she is attending the local Remembrance ceremony with the very kind assistance of her carers who have organised a group visit from the home.

And finally, not new badges but a couple of badges that I thought I had lost. I found this pair of cloth emblems - typically - while I was looking for something else! They are my 'Red Alliance' badges indicating my enthusiasm for Russian and Eastern Block airsoft loadouts...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

World's first 3D printed METAL gun

After all the furore over 3D plastic guns this latest piece of news may sound even more sinister to some. An American company has just prototyped the world's first metal model 1911 hand gun...

Now, you might ask just why this may be even more controversial than a 3D printed plastic gun? Well, I can see several reasons that this process will have people in an even greater uproar than the plastic variants of 'DIY' guns - and not all of these people will be the anti-gun lobby...

First of all, being able to produce guns in metal means that you will be able to build a gun that can withstand greater pressures than it's plastic counterpart, and this means that you can make guns that use larger and more powerful calibre ammunition. Furthermore, it means that you may be able to build a gun that can handle the stresses of fully automatic fire - like submachine guns and assault rifles.

But it is the consequences of Solid Concepts - the company who has made this 3D metal gun - replicating a conventional and popular gun format of the '1911' that is perhaps the stand out issue that may have even gun manufacturers worried.

3D metal printed 1911 components by Solid Concepts, USA
Quite aside from the concern about criminals eventually having access to 3D printed guns that look like guns there is other criminal activity that will be very interested in seeing whether 3D metal printing becomes as easy to access as 3D plastic printing has. I am talking, of course, about the pirate counterfeiters.

Counterfeiting and brand piracy are two of todays most lucrative and widespread commercial activities and dare I say that it's one of the worlds most publicly accepted crimes!

Think about it - can you say all your music or movies are legitimate? Is your wife's Dolce & Gabbana handbag a real D&G product? Come on guys, is that really a Rolex you are wearing?

Airsofters are very well aware of the propensity for Chinese companies to be able to reverse engineer and produce cheap knock-offs of more expensive replica guns, so what will stop them doing the same with real firearms?

These are just some of the worries that 3D metal 'printing' brings to the table - however, it's perhaps not all bad news, airsofters may wonder how long it will be before we see a Chinese 3D metal printed AEG clone.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

LCT VAL Russian Spec-Ops rifle replica

This is something Russian loadout airsoft enthusiasts have been wanting for some time, and now - like buses - a few manufactures are bringing out a replica of the Russian VAL Special Operations rifle more or less at the same time. Today's video highlights the LCT replica, and as usual LCT seem to have produced a pretty high-end quality AEG...

Now, what's good about this is that - if the usual process happens within the AEG manufacturing community - is that some enterprising Chinese manufacturer *might* be tempted to churn out a budget version of this gun if they perceive a hole in the market place. The other piece of good news for those of you - like myself - who like to use budget AEGs rather than forking out the premium prices for the likes of a LCT is that LCT has a habit of offering body kit versions of their designs.

Personally, I really have my fingers crossed that someone like KALASH (D-Boys) or Jing Gong will be reverse-engineering an LCT VAL as we speak! (Wishful thinking I know!)

Anyway, it's always good news to hear that there is another Russian AEG design on the market.

The AS "Val" (Avtomat Special'nyj Val, Russian: Автомат Специальный Вал or Special Automatic Rifle, code name: "Shaft") is a Soviet designed assault rifle featuring an integrated suppressor. 
It was developed during the late 1980s by TsNIITochMash (Central Institute for Precision Machine Building) and is used by Russian Spetsnaz special forces and the MVD, FSB and select units of the Russian Army. Since 1987, it was added to the arsenal of the Soviet Army and the KGB. 
Its effective range is approximately 300 m, as it uses heavy subsonic 9x39mm SP-6 (high performance armor piercing) ammunition, as well as the SP-5 ball round used by the VSS Vintorez. It can also use the same 10 or 20-round magazines as the VSS. Controls are similar to all AK-type rifles with charging handle on the right side, tangent rear sight, magazine release button behind magazine well and safety lever above the trigger guard. The fire selector is however located within the trigger guard, behind the trigger. The "Val" has two modes of fire, single shot and automatic fire at a cyclic rate of 900 RPM. According to its users, the "Val" is reliable, accurate and well liked. [Wikipedia]

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

CQB Airsoft, Centurian Airsoft, Scarborough

Something of a pleasant surprise, that very nice chap and airsoft aficionado Spider alerted me to a CQB event being run in Scarborough by Centurion Airsoft. Well, as the venue was virtually at the bottom of my street - sort of - there was no excuse for me not to join in.

In fact, I had been planning a return to airsoft for some time now, it was just fortuitous that Centurion managed to secure a temporary indoor site at the town's Military Adventure Park (which usually runs laser quest games). Centurion described the event as a 'tester day' to evaluate the viability of a game run in a relatively small building - which turned out to be the old outdoor swimming pool admin and changing rooms!

Above: Google Street Map view of the location of MAP - this shot was taken before they built the assault course for laser quest in the foreground, but you can make out the CQB venue which is the building just under the old swimming pool water slide!

Now, I've been banging on about 'small scale' urban skirmish venues and that there should be more and so this was the ideal opportunity to see just how realistic it is to create a 'pop up' airsoft site in a town centre. Additionally, this was my first chance to experience airsoft CQB, something I have always been keen to try out.

Loadout: Russian Tiger
I decided it would be nice to run out my Russian Splav made BEKAS battle dress in Tiger camo. I was tempted to wear my 'new' (two years old now) Gorad camo Bekas suit as this is probably more appropriate for a Russian CQB unit, but I got all sentimental about wearing my Team AKA regalia!

The choice of AEG was a no-brainer - it had to be my VFC AKS74U. It is exactly the right format for the job as even with the stock unfolded it is a very compact weapon. I didn't add a red-dot nor did I add a flashlight to the AEG - in hindsight I really wish I had applied these options, for reasons that will become clear.

Webbing was my trusty Russian Splav M23 'Pioneer' chest rig, which held everything that I needed in it's good array of pouches and pockets. These include four double capacity AK47/74 pouches and was ideal for my choice of 6 120BB mid-cap mags plus one 2000 bottle of 0.2g Madbull Biodegradable Precision BBs (with an additional 4000 spare BBs in my kit bag in the car).

Finally, and most importantly as this is CQB, protection. I went with full face protection and a helmet - both because as this is a close quarters event ranges are very short but also because in CQB the head is often the only visible part of the player (more about this later). My goggles are the perforated steel plate type of 'mesh' googles and not the less safe wire mesh goggles - though I did take my hardy Bolle polycarbonate double-layer eye protection, but in the end I was concerned about 'fogging' up so went with the less safe mesh.

The venue: Indoor at the MAP
Scarborough's Military Adventure Park occupies what was the town's old outdoor swimming pool complex. The pool has been filled in and now is a Laser Quest assault course but the CQB games were being held in the disused changing block. This dilapidated building is quite compact but is a bit of a Tardis as it consists of a maze of small rooms which filter into the large changing rooms - most recently the building has been used for a Zombie Apocalypse game (hence the rather unnerving 'blood' smeared walls).

Drawn from memory, so probably not 100% accurate, but this diagram
gives you some idea of the layout of the CQB venue at the MAP. The 'red
room' is the main point of contact and the main bottleneck.

Centurion Airsoft secured the venue for this one-off trial event and the building was just about right for short format games for about 20-26 players, any more and the rooms would become too congested.

The only playable exterior entry was this side entrance - the majority of the action was
conducted inside the building and AEG's were prohibited anywhere outside the
designated safe zone so we didn't freak out the locals!
Game Formats
Obviously, long format and complex ‘mil-sim’ operations were not perhaps appropriate for a site of such limited space. The limited number of rooms available to us was just not great enough to afford varied locations as we used all the available space for all the games. So, shorter ‘attacker/defender’ type competitions were organised, such as ‘free the hostage’, ‘escalating attacker’ and – a very ingenious – ‘find the bomb code’ game!

The ‘escalating attacker’ was ideal for a limited player situation – everyone but two players defended the main room and the two designated ‘attackers’ tried to ‘kill’ defenders in order to convert them into attackers. EVentually the balance of numbers would turn to the attackers favour and defending would become harder and harder.

Above: Spider's excellent footage of the game event. Credit:

It's worth repeating that - as a first time venue - this was a 'tester' event and some of the games were modified and improved - based on player feedback - as the day went on. But all-in-all the day worked out very nicely indeed and it was a credit to the Centurion staff that things went off so well.

Safety and enjoyment
Obviously paramount importance was given to safety. As a very close quarters game a lot of emphasis was given to the need to avoid head-shots, also firing was limited to semi-auto only with a FPS limit of 350fps (nobody opted for sniping for obvious reasons).

Now, here's where there was a bit of a conundrum (and the only hic-up in the day)...

By it's very nature CQB prohibits the amount of fully exposed target opportunities and while the staff heavily emphasised the preference for 'centre of body mass' shots and 'no head shots' naturally the head is often the only part of the body which become visible in this sort of simulation!

Simply by random chance you ARE going to accidentally make a head shot even if you aren't trying to - defy anyone to say they didn't - I did! The plain fact is, due to darkened rooms how would you know a lot of the time? (--- Note to self: Erm, take a torch! ---)

"You want ME to go in THERE?"
...But what makes this such a contentious issue was - as normally being told 'no heads shots' should be enough and that's that - the choice made by many of the players NOT TO WEAR FULL HEAD PROTECTION (I told you I would be coming back to this)!

Yes, despite this event being clearly advertised as a indoor CQB airsoft event approximately 75% of the players on the day opted for the 'cooler' polycarbonate ballistic glasses eye protection and maybe a hat!

...At this point I could write a huge diatribe about the whole 'full face protection spoils the realism' and 'it isn't paintball' arguments made by some airsofters regarding full face protection....But guys, THIS WAS CQB! Headshots will - and did - happen, I know because one of the things about wearing a helmet is that you hear the head hits like a snare drum being played on your head and I had a virtual military tattoo being played on my head at times! (To be fair, because I had the security of full head protection I did stick my noggin out a bit more than some.)

Spider's eye view of my big ass! As you can see I sort of fill the doorway and
make a wonderfully silhouetted target for the defenders!

Lessons learned on the day
[Apologies, as this section is more of a 'note to myself'...] Contentious arguments about head protection aside - as we are all grown ups and make our own choices about our personal safety - I enjoyed my first taste of CQB, particularly as I haven't skirmished at all in over a year. I learned a lot, made a couple of glaring feck-ups and am now better equipped to more confidently approach CQB armed as I am with some 'does and don'ts' which I shall impart to you...

As said, I made one major faux-pas on the day and one 'grey area' mistake (that may not have been a mistake):

The main mistake I made on the day relates to firing over high cover. I inadvertently shot someone in the top of the head as I tried to use my height to fire over a high partition wall - I simply hold my hands up and say I was an idiot for trying to do this, I clearly wasn't tall enough to ensure I could clearly identify my target over the 'wall'. Although not strictly 'blind firing' - I was trying to aim - because I couldn't see properly over the wall I couldn't get my gun to bear properly and in snatching a couple of shots at some movement at the other side (it was dark) I'm afraid I - quite rightly - upset the recipient of my in-advised fire.

The moral: Unless you are tall enough so that a partition allows you to get head and shoulders above it, or you can stand on a platform to allow you to get head and shoulders clear of the partition, then count that partition as a 'wall' and do not attempt to fire over it. It's just too unsafe.

Second issue, as I say, was a grey area one - literally, as it concerns a darkened room!

As I say, head shots can happen purely accidentally but more particularly in the case where you are dealing with a darkened room. Putting fire into a darkened room without illuminating a target (...remember me saying I wish I had brought a red dot and a torch...) is something of a necessary evil at time - you want to lay down suppressing fire but you may only have the vaguest notion of where your target actually is (judging by the direction of incoming fire).

Now remember at this point that the defenders in the darkened room have the advantage - as attacking from even a low lit room means that you are silhouetted against the doorway every time you pop out to take a shot!

Defender's eye view of one of the main doorways - any attackers coming into
this entry point are clearly silhouetted targets!
The same entry point, this time illuminated by Spider (attacking). Without a
flashlight this is a big black yawning hole of doom!
Because I had good head protection (LOL) I popped my head out the doorway more than I perhaps should - in fact on a number of occasions I moved across the open doorway laying down fire as I went...And I got a hit, a head shot! Du-oh! To which the recipient shouted 'no blind firing'!

A bit annoying as THEY had the tactical advantage in that they could better see me than I could them - and I must have been clearly visible crossing the doorway as I fired!

--- Discuss this situation! (The moral could be to only fire at positively identified targets BUT this is difficult in the frantic situation of CQB and without illuminating the target - and in so doing giving away your position in return. Maybe clarify the 'suppressive fire' rule?)

I'd say that was 'positive target acquirement' by Spider and his magic torch!
'Take the hit?' - 'Er, yes please!'
Conclusion - emphasising the positive
Now, I've gone on far too much about negative sounding isolated events - but hopefully you will understand that there are 'positive' reasons I included these incidents as they highlight some of the challenges about playing CQB - a very difficult game format. However, I have to balance these with a whole day of enjoyment and good play.

The Centurion staff did an amazing job, they were friendly but firm about discipline (a good thing) and were very ingenious in their game format development. Saying that this was the first time they had done this I think they really have to be commended for running such a well organised and fun event!

A win! Yellow team decode the bomb to take the game! An excellent prop
and well thought out game.
I really hope that they think that the event was a success and decide to run more - and not just because having a airsoft event at the bottom of my street is 'convenient' for me! If I had journeyed to this event I would still have thought it very much worth while. So thank you very much Centurion Airsoft and also a big thank you for the owner of Scarborough's MAP for making the venue available.

SO - now to the traditional pros and cons:

- Perhaps not advertising/emphasising the 'advantages' of full head coverage in a CQB event so that potential players can make a more informed choice about whether to wear it.
- Not marking 'safe zone' with signs (just as a visual reminder)
- Not organising an alternative mini-competition for the long-arm shooters while the pistol comp was going on (those not involved with the pistol comp were getting restless due to the length of waiting)
- And that's it! :)

- Well and courteously run event.
- For your £20 (walk on) fee you got a a bacon butty and cuppa before starting and a bread and stew lunch! Terrific!
- Very sporting fellow players - as far as I could see everyone took their hits! Excellent.
- NO arguments - not one 'it was a hit' - 'no you didn't' nonsense (again this was due to good event management, well done Centurion).
- No-one was sin-binned or sent home (I probably came closest by my unfortunate head-shot on the Marshal)...Oh dear!
- Very enjoyable and ingenious game - I particularly enjoyed the 'bomb code search' game.
- Just the right amount of players, it could have so easily be over-congested
- Very good venue - small, but an interesting set of rooms
- Very friendly and entertaining set of fellow players (Spider was on his usual great form)
- There were proper toilets - hurrah!
- BBs were on sale.
- Oh dear, I could go on and on......

Bottom line: Bloody good day and I'd definitely do it again! Highly recommended - 7/10.


Not the first or the last time - I find myself in Spider's sights! HIT!
Just a few ideas for whatever they are worth...

- Portable cover with 'kill house' boards: These are free standing portable boards - about one player wide - that can be moved about by the staff to vary the cover in the 'kill house'. They are particularly useful for modifying 'bottle necks' by providing additional cover just inside doorways and in the middle of large rooms.

- CQB timed target clearing mini-events: One idea that could have been used for the 'long arm' shooters while the pistol shooters did their thing would have been a separate 'steel plate' or paper target course through a few rooms. Timed target course for room clearance techniques.

- 'Hostages' scenario: A few designated people could have acted as hostages - shooting a hostage would have resulted in the attackers loosing a player. More than two hostages killed would mean a win for the defenders.

- CQB tactics mini-briefing: Not a training session as such, but some 'useful hints' about good CQB entry techniques for everyone at the beginning.

- White board availability: Sounds daft BUT it might be useful to have a large white board available in the safe zone to illustrate game rules and job down ideas, techniques and tactics.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Battlefield and airsoft weekend, oh my!

It's been a hectic weekend for Milgeek! After a long time when not really all that much has been going on it seems like everything is all happening at once. This weekend saw the release of Battlefield 4, which is sorta a big deal if you like military FPS computer games, and also I made my return to airsoft.

There's a lot to talk about so I will split this post up into two parts, today I will discuss BF4 and in the next couple of days I will post up my airsoft experiences.

My favourite BF4 map so far - Parcel Storm. This makes impressive use
of the dynamic weather effects which do actually enhance your gaming experience.

The BF franchise has become something like the Ghost Recon gaming franchise now - it divides opinions between those that see themselves as 'old school' traditionalists and those fans of the way that the game has subsequently developed.

Ghost Recon - of which I am a huge but somewhat lapsed fan - Like BF2 is seen as something which is a little sacred. Both games are mentioned, by their fans, in whispered reverent tones and because of this worship the follow up incarnations have always been accused of 'leaving the righteous path'.

In the case of the BF series there is no doubt that the emerging importance of the console market has had a dramatic effect on how the sequels have been designed. The developers - EA and DICE - have tried to concoct a recipe for the game that is somewhat 'universal' in that it's ingredients suit all major platforms.

I submit, as do a great many of my fellow PC 'traditionalists', that this 'one size fits all' approach failed dismally with BF3 and that the game balance was pushed too far to favour console 'run and gun' players.

However, Battlefield 4 - as it developed - looked to be dealing with some of these criticisms. Most notabley there is the return of a Commander, an absolutely crucial element of the game if you want to promote serious team play rather than simply having 64 individuals running about a map willy-nilly (as in BF3 and as in the CoD games). And there were other positive notes too…

The developers seemed to be trying very hard to differentiate clearly between the gaming platforms, which each system showing a particular advantage over the other. For example, if cost is your overriding consideration when choosing a game platform then you can play BF4 on the XBox 360 - but then you suffer from reduce team sizes (24) and clipped graphic and dynamic effects - and if you want to full-on 'everything and the kitchen sink' exporience you can opt for buying a PC rig and a BF4 that has 64 player teams, spectacular graphics with amazing dynamic effects and what DICE call 'LEVOLUTION'.

...And I include this video as it has some very interesting points to make about this not so dynamic interactive interactivity...

Anyway - I will stop myself going into a tirade against how a game developed because I have learnt over my long game playing career that I have very little control over this and basically the game goes where the money is (and my niche and unreasonable personal gameplay fetishes have little bearing compared to the spotty 12 year old adrenaline junkies who's parents give them too much pocket money)!

SO, to cut to the chase - is BF4 any good?

Well, bearing in mind it's just the first weekend and I think it's reasonable to forgive some early glitches (remember there were daily patches for BF2 in the beginning) the answer is yes and no! :)

The game is a spectacular feat of graphical ingenuity, you WILL be impressed. The return of the Commander and the map designs HAS redressed some of the team-play balance that I feel was lost in BF3. On the down side the horsepower demanded for all the eye-candy sorta get's a little in the way of being able to concentrate on the tactical experience and the whole Levolution does not make up for this.

There is a argument, also, that once again that the vehicles are over-powered (I saw so much moaning about this in the ams chatter) BUT I would say that these are early days, soldiers have not yet earned some of the more advanced upgrades that are designed to help them combat vehicles AND people are not yet (still) working as proper teams in order to bring down annoying vehicle whores!

BF4 is definitely a mixed bag - the server glitches (see accompanying video) on the PC made it almost unplayable on the first day and there is still not enough servers available for the huge demand. But, when things go well it IS a very enjoyable game AND I have to say that the games I have enjoyed most are where you do get into a squad where there is a sense of some team play. BUT, there are some very strange things going on which I thought were just my age and slowness....Apparently not (see vid)...

My major complaint is that I am having to worry about what my system can and can't do and/or what the code is doing, which is a obstacle to my simply enjoying the game for what it is - a game. But, I seem to remember that I had this problem when I first started playing BF2 as well (I had the least spec'd PC among my team-mates).

So as things stand I certainly can't win out in those speed critical one-on-ones, but I do see the potential for the game and have modified my game play tactics to suit my situation - I simply don't go rushing in and defend further back. Luckily my chosen role of Engineer suits this 'second line' sort of play - particularly as I have now unlocked mines! :)

I have yet to get online with a whole squad full of my voice-comm equipped friends, which is the absolutely ideal way to play BF, but once this happens I will see if I think whether BF4 is really as good as BF2 was. But even playing with one VOIP equipped mate online increases your enjoyment and ability to avoid the hated spawn/die cycle!

Bottom line: The very best way to play BF4 AND ENJOY IT is to play with a Commander (who knows what he is doing), USE YOU Q KEY, issue orders if you are a squad leader or respond to orders if you are a grunt (do your job) and finally play with voice-commed squad mates!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Look back in fondness - old game memories

Every so often Flickr alerts me somebody making a'favourite' of one of my photos in my online gallery. That people chose a picture of mine as being a 'favourite' is always nice, but what is interesting is just how many of these pictures are quite old game screenshots.

Thanks to Flickr's excellent stats tracking I can check up on which of my pictures are most 'popular' and it's amazing that quite a chunk of these are game screenshots. So I thought I would use a post to highlight some of my most viewed game snaps...

5. Left 4 Dead - Being 'Witched'

Perhaps suitably, as we are coming up to Halloween, I'll start my review of most popular Flickr screenshots with this little snap - it's a first person view of what it's like to be 'witched' in the popular zombie fest - Left 4 Dead.

Getting killed by the witch in this game was a source of some humiliation and embarrassment as it was usually an indication that you were not stealthy enough to avoid this fate. Of course, there were some players that went out of their way to make a witch kill (as it meant big points) but in what was supposed to be a survival game staying out her way was usually a good tactic if you wanted to finish the level alive!

4. Call of Duty 4 - Me getting killed...Again...And again...

For some strange reason I kept a record of me getting killed in CoD4, and for some even stranger reason these rather mundane screenshots were rather interesting to other visitors to my Flickr gallery!

Getting killed in a FPS is a tedious routine for me, but even more so in the high octane frag fest that is competitive CoD. I was still with RiP Clan when we played this against other teams and it's fair to say that I was generally the person they asked to be in the team when someone else couldn't make it! :)

How come the helicopters always find me - I'm sure there were loads of my team
around me just a second ago! Bastards never said anything about the chopper overhead!

3. Borderlands - Skagzilla

Monsters always seemed to be a popular topic for screenshots from the game Borderlands. I tried to document my progress through the game - and it's collection of boss advisories - and it seems that others like to look over my pictorial journal.

Which this particular screenshot isn't the most exciting what it does show - to me - is a record of when members of 'Team BIG' (the small clan I belong to) played together to bring down Skagzilla in our first run through of the Borderlands game. Good times!

Another very popular monster screenshot of mine, this time 'The Warrior'
from Bordelands 2. Again Team BIG brought the beast down!

2. Ghost Recon Classic - 'Udmurtia Spetsnaz' mod shots...

This is quite amazing - the second most viewed game screenshot in my Flickr collection is one that is not only from a relatively niche game - which was released in 2001 - but is a pic of a even more niche mod for the game!

One of the great joys of the original Ghost Recon game is that it was so easy for people to make their own modifications, there was a huge cottage industry of community developed expansions for this game. From new maps to weapon collections, to additional missions to - as above - uniform skins.

It's a great pity that today's game are not so accessible and open to such player participation in the direction that the game takes. Some might say that the reason there is not is that the game developers want to keep control over paid for DLC (discuss)!

1. Fallout 3 - Alien Ray Gun

Fallout 3 was a monster of a first person shooter RPG. The map was huge and there were a large number of hidden side missions peppered around the maps periphery. However, one of the most eagerly quested missions was the search for the 'alien technology' which could be found if you discovered the location of a downed UFO.

I succeeded and was rewarded with the alien ray gun and screen-shotted the moment for posterity. This picture tops my game related 'hits' on Flickr, though perhaps somewhat disappointingly for some I do not give away the location of the crashed spaceship in the picture description! Despite this people - even today - still seek out this screenshot (and related shots).


Well, that's it folks. Perhaps not the prettiest screenshots I've ever taken (I'll do another post some other time of those) but ones which - for whatever reason - caught other peoples' interest the most. It's quite bizarre just what people find interesting, but I appreciate the 'hits' none the less.

I'm really glad that I've kept such a good visual record of my gaming down the years as I can invariably remember each of these 'moments' quite clearly and they bring back a rush of nostalgia.  For the most part a lot of these snaps were taken during team games while I was playing with my clan-mates and friends, which makes them all the more special.

I will leave you with this final shot - from the pre-diabetic days when my 'game days' were just as much about eating and drinking as they were about playing computer games...

Entitled 'Emergency Supplies!' amazingly this was what I had to go out to get because my original gaming fodder was running low! OMG...