Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Meanwhile...A game to keep me going

So, indeed, meanwhile. What do you play while waiting for the next 'triple A' tactical shooter to come out? How about a little Insurgency?

You're joking - back to the Middle East again? Insurgency doesn't get any prizes for originality
of settings - but you can't argue that it isn't topical!

Well, I happened across a very interesting video by TotalBiscuit who described a little FPS game that has been out for a while now but which looks like a very promising 'filler'. It's called Insurgency and I had heard of it some time ago but passed over it as I thought it was just a 'Counter Strike' clone.

It seems I was somewhat hasty as the general opinion of a few renowned game-VBloggers is that it is definitely worth considering, especially at the low price-tag of just £10.

So, what is Insurgency?

And to prove that this isn't just sheer randomness here's another positive review from an eminent gamer (LevelCap this time)...

I could have gone on, but time for me not to be so lazy and actually tell you what I think!

As I say, I came across this game on STEAM quite some time ago but when reading the description thought 'CS' and if there's something I don't need any more of it's more Counter Strike! But these video reviews got me to take the plunge and download Insurgency and I have to agree that it isn't just a weak 'twitcher' dash and camp title.

What makes this game a little different is the what the developers have left out - there's no jumping, there's no mini-map, there's no kill-score, there's no hip-fire cross-hair, there's no health packs, revives, bonuses, kill-cam, etc, etc, etc...

What there is is pretty much a one-shot kill tactical team shooter that rewards players who take their time and play as part of the team.

I think it's a fun and challenging little game. Of course it's not as in depth as one of the big money titles, and the maps are a lot smaller, but it's a really nice 'warm up' and practise title.

There are down sides, the most obvious of which is the quality of graphics...

Er, who are these guys and why are they all dressed the same? OK, so it won't win any awards
for cutting edge graphics of visual effects, but Insurgency has a kind of 'not pretty but does the job'
vibe about it. And the job it does is being a solid and quickly embroiling tactical shooter.

Now, you are going to say 'why is this a tactical shooter'? Good question, and in truth Insurgency is really a hybrid of sorts - it mixed non-arcade attributes that you expect of a proper tactical shooter (like the 'no cross-hairs' and 'no jumping & shooting', etc) with the small maps and limited objectives of an arcade shooter.

The up-shot of this is it's like a training ground for tactical shooters. Just as a infantryman might practise doing a 'kill house' with paper targets to hone his muscle memory and speed, so Insurgency is like they took one objective from a big tactical shooter game and plonked it in front of you and said 'get on with it'!

And it kind works, especially if you 'train' with friends (there is a co-op v Bots mode as well as team online matches).

There are a lot of other positive aspects to this game (and negatives) that I am skipping over, but suffice to say that it will keep me amused - and up to speed - until they release something more in-depth (technically) and immersive.

And did I mention it was just £10?

Friday, 22 May 2015

He says what we are thinking!

Or, subtitle, why BIG Clan has lost interest in gaming for the moment...

I had to post this up, it's the family bucket of rants!

Ranting is a mega important part of gaming - one of the reasons women 'don't get' guys obsession with online gaming is because they think we are *just* gaming. What they don't get is guys come online so they can have a legitimate and safe outlet for their frustrations, you fellow player is just your facilitator, knows this, and allows you to vent your frustrations in an unspoken understanding that you will do the same for him at some point...

Note: The above video is not only a side-splitting and commendable rant but also happens to be true. And if you at all wonder why I go on about 'necro-gaming' and spend my time piddling about playing stuff that Victor Frankenstein had to revive rather than playing the latest 'big bockbuster' game - then Bluedrake42 nails it in this tirade.

...Slow clap!

Necro-gaming sub-culture

(Note: Apologies for this near unintelligible waffle - but it was something I wrote in the early hours after the epiphany that 'new games' just don't cut it with me at the moment...)

'Necro-gaming'...Not a pretty term - has all sorts of unpleasant overtones, but fear not dear reader I am not flying off into some sort of sexual deviancy! A necro-gamer is simply a computer gamer who continues to play particular games long after they have been pronounced as being 'dead' by the mainstream community and are no longer supported by the original developer.

NOT necro-gaming but retro-gaming - Bungie's Marathon (although made available
to work on modern platforms) probably is an example of where the line can be drawn
between necro (dead games) and retro (old games).

This is not the same thing as retro-gaming, it is probably an off-shoot, but isn't about playing an early version of 'Mario' on a obsolete gaming platform. A lot of necro-games are not quite old enough to be considered 'retro' and are played not to get some sort of 'old skool' gaming' kick so much as being a case of the gamer thinking one day 'Dude, you know I haven't played 'X' for a long while' (usually while drinking with mates and waffling on about 'do you remember that time...', etc).

Above: Hard-core necro-gaming? Last year UKGN celebrated the 10th
anniversary of the release of Novalogic's 'Joint Ops' but sparking up
the game (sadly just in co-op training mode as servers no longer exist).

Anyway, I happen to do a lot of necro-gaming. If you are my regular 'reader' (I hardly have a big following) you will know I am a huge 'fan boy' of the original Ghost Recon series, a game which hails from 2001. And just last night I happened to re-install and spark up Bad Company 2: Vietnam, which is another game that to most gamers is 'not long in the ground'!

[Note: My experiences re-igniting BC2: 'Nam highlighted one of the major hurdles that you will encounter if you attempt to necro-game - that being the dearth of server support. I could only find 2 servers available for the game now, having said that they were both full.]

What has surprised me is that necro-gaming is not as niche as you might think and furthermore it seems to be a growing sub-genre...

Above: 'Gobin Gee' has a YouTube channel that highlights his adventures in
'necro-gaming' - in this case he showcases 2003's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield.

Thanks to STEAM and GOG a lot more people are indulging their nostalgic leanings as these later day gaming Burke and Hares dig up some golden oldies and repackage them so they run on modern systems. Many classic games - sadly - refuse to install these days due to Microsoft Window's evolution, but STEAM & GOG (for example) seem to weave some sort of magic to make these older games run again, without any fuss...They also re-release these games quite cheaply, which is nice as even if - like me - you still have the original CDs time has probably done it's worst and your disc may be scratched to buggery!

Now I had supposed that - as said - necro-gaming is a very niche practice but I am becoming aware that more and more people are participating. Part of this is a nostalgia thing but also, it appears, a general dissatisfaction with the mainstream computer game industry is a big part of it.

I seem to sense that there are a lot of dissatisfied gamers out there that feel - as I do - that the big dev companies are simply ignoring players' aspirations and are content to churn out variations on the same tired money earning themes. (Hollywood seems to be going through the same inability to take risks and be creative.)

Above: A very interesting video by Westie - it not only highlights the popularity of
what is supposed to be a 'dead game' (Bad Company 2: Vietnam) but he also talks about some of the issues that gamers have with the directions that some of the big franchises take, causing them to hanker after 'the good old days'.

...So a lot of gamers are returning to games that they feel did satisfy their peculiar appetites and this seems to be - in particular - a reoccurring theme within the Tactical First Person Shooter community.

I have already mentioned Classic Ghost Recon (many times through the years) so - as an example - let's take another popular necro-game, Battlefield 2 (2009).

Name that BF2 map! Happy days!

Now BF2 had it's faults, but (and this is a reoccurring complaint within the genre community) was decidedly more satisfying - in team game play terms - than the subsequent alliterations. I won't go into the 'whys' - as a lot of the time the reasons a game becomes a necro-hit is so nebulous as to resist explanation - but none-the-less a small ardent hard-core of players have doggedly striven to keep the game from decomposing into dust, despite it's obituary being of public record.

EA Games made the following pronouncement on BF2: "Note: As of June 2014, our friends at GameSpy have ended all hosted game services, which will affect the online multiplayer aspect of this game. Because of technical challenges and concerns, EA does not have a solution to keep these services up and running at this time, and online services for this game and other EA games on the GameSpy platform have ended. "

To paraphrase Charles Dickens - 'BF2 was dead...There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner...BF2 was as dead as a door-nail.'

[Note: In fact if you try and spark up multiplayer BF2 now the thing will likely just crash out!]

...And yet, despite having no official server support (the pulse indicator for online multiplayer games) the third-party community driven mod Project Reality continues to be both developed and downloaded. Just search YouTube and you will find out just how popular this version of BF2 is.

Amazingly, bearing in mind the usual shelf-life of computer games and that BF2 was originally released in 2009, on the 29th May 2015 this video was uploaded...

Does that look like a dead game to you?

Look around YouTube and you will find other necro-game videos. This is very exciting for both the jaded gamer who is looking for something to play other than the current crop of so-so released, but is even better news for shy necro-gamers who - until now - have been hiding their predilection from their other gaming friends for fear of mockery!

SO...I say - stand proud necro-gamers! No longer hide your deviant tastes in the shadows!

...Oh, and I couldn't resist adding some - you guessed it - Classic Ghost Recon (again by Goblin Gee). Enjoy...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Ground Branch progress continues (and other stories)

Well, things are looking up game wise as a slew of 'forthcoming' games line up to make 2015 a very interesting year for tactical FPS gamers like myself. My current 'watch list' includes the following:

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
Ground Branch
Survive the Nights

Rainbow Six Siege; one of the games that will make 2015 a memorable gaming year?

Good news it seems, but still that niggling little 'cup half empty' guy on my shoulder is whispering words of warning to me...

Specifically I remember being in this position before when I got all excited back in 2009 because Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, ArmA2 and America's Army 3 were all released more or less one after another...Yet was 2009 a good TFPS year? No.

None of these games succeeded in supplying either myself or my Clan mates a FPS that went above the basic levels of CoD or Battlefield but still retained the level of intuitive and accessible play and fun. (And a couple of them were just plain bad!)

Anyway, fast forward to 2015 and again we have some very interesting titles lining up to crack that nut of being both 'realistic' (relatively speaking), good looking and fun to play.

Ground Branch is my main hope as it has been built from the ground up (excuse pun) with the backing of enthusiastic fans of the original Ghost Recon. As yet it is at little more than a pre-Alpha stage but it's the level of involvement of the fans in directing how this game develops that leads me to be optimistic...

As you can see, the sate of Ground Branch is somewhat rough and (not so) ready, but you can hear in the voice of the video's commentator - PepperBelly - the sheer excitement that player/backers have for this project.

And finally, there's Survive the Nights. Now, once again, this is very much a work in progress - but the reason I include it and Ground Branch in my list of games for 2015 is because of the community involvement that is at the heart of them. From my point of view the pleasure I get as a gamer is just as much - if not more, creatively speaking - as I would get from actually playing a 'shake and bake' game from one of the big developers.

Now, as you can see STN is not a 'military' shooter but a Zombie survival game, but it has piqued my interest as - like may PC gamers - I have been enjoying the video blogs by such people as FRANKIEonPCin1080p who have been documenting their experiences in such survival games as RUST and and DayZ. These sort of games look tremendous fun BUT they are most obviously flawed (in various ways) and Survive the Nights is hoping that it's play system can rectify some of the main complaints.

These complaints included lack of co-operative play between players, little incentive to play a positive co-operative role, a propensity for players to 'shoot on sight' rather than negotiate, and rampant banditry rather than any commitment to negotiated or 'moral' progress (in other words it was easier to progress in the game if you just killed and stole other players loot, which may sound fun but I think many people want a more morally uplifting means of getting on in a game than that).

(I anxiously awaited - and indeed pre-ordered - Sony's H1Z1 this year only to find that it was little different than those zombie/survival/crafting games that had gone before where shooting on sight rather than group co-operation was - apparently - the main feature of play. H1Z1 fans would argue the point and say 'but it's got better' - but being shot in the face repeatedly by complete strangers consistently when entering the game simply put me off.)

So, several things to keep me interested - and a lot more coming along besides. And, if all else fails I could always bite the bullet and buy Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - which I have been fervently avoiding as it seems to be little more than a large DLC for Borderlands 2 - as if nothing else it's fun to shoot stuff!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Hooray! Something's happening!

Milgeek has been through 'news droughts' before - I remember the great tumble-weed and cobweb epidemic in the months leading up to the release of Battlefield 4 - but things seem to haven got progressively worse over the past couple of years.

I guess if you want to be serious for a moment you might surmise that it might be something to do with the recession - as many game developers have cut back on productions and shelved other promising titles which may have only had a slim market appeal. But it seems that there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel...

Today Blackfoot Studios released what they describe as a 'tech preview' of one of my 'most eagerly anticipated' titles for 2015 - Ground Branch.

One of the nice touches will be the character customisation section. Hopefully, the
final game will include a plethora of nationalities and uniforms to choose from.

I've mentioned this before, but here's a quick recap: Ground Branch is - essentially - a 'getting back to basics' military FPS game for PC (and Mac) which is in the spirit of the original 2001 'Ghost Recon' [GhR] game. For those that don't know, after the first two Tom Clancy Ghost Recon 'classic' games Ubisot - the developers - went a bit mental and turned the franchise into the first of the 'advances fighter' type of games. Everything became about silly drones and cloaking shields and HUDs - and classic Ghost Recon fans did not like it...They did NOT like it one little bit!

Anyway, fast-forward, and  one of the developers involved with the original GhR decided there was a niche in the market for something like the classic military shooter and began development of Ground Branch.

Now to understand what marks out Grand Branch as 'something different' in an already very populated market you need to understand where the kind of gameplay we are talking about lies. If you imagine a game that is a little more 'realistic' (relatively speaking) than either CoD or Battlefield, as far as infantry action goes, but then is not quite as stupidly 'simmy' as Arma then - I think - you have an idea what space Ground Branch is intended to occupy. (But that's my opinion.)

Anyway, the 'tech preview' is simply a teaser where you can walk around some of the environment and see how the game mechanics 'feels'. It not a game - there is nobody to shoot - you literally just get to walk around a couple of the game 'map' areas and fire your gun. That's it...

The 'tech preview' is very bare bones, there is nobody to shoot at! But it does give
the player a glimpse into what's in store for them and it is nice to see some
progress in the development of the game.

Although very restricted this teaser is hugely important as it gives potential players an idea whether this much anticipate game is going in the right direction - it also helps placate gamers who are an incredibly impatient lot!

I certainly appreciated it - for all that there isn't a lot to do - as I was really pleased to see how the FPS player controls were intuitive and I instantly felt at home with the game (something that I NEVER was with ArmA by comparison). So for me - one of the expectant fans - this was very much worth the download.

Hopefully there will be more - and more sophisticated - 'tech previews' in the future and I for one think this is how games should be developed - not just banged out at the Alpha stage by which time most of the actual game mechanics are set in stone. So a bit thumbs up to Blackfoot Studios.

....Now get on with the rest of the game! ;)