Archive for April 13th, 2013

Going back to Black Ops II … on the wrong system

, | Games


You don’t maintain a 0.46 kill/death ratio in Black Ops II by just logging in from time to time and playing. It takes a certain type of innate skill. 9.77% accuracy with your gun of choice isn’t something that just happens. It takes concentration and nerves of steel to bring wild spraying to bear on your target. Be the bullet, I tell myself. The one that’s going to connect with the dude you just stumbled into and who is now about to kill you. I enter a zen-like state. Time slows. I see all possible outcomes, drawn before me in a luminous web of possibility. Fear me, IKillzU_420. 4.6 times out of ten, I prevail.

Black Ops II is having a double XP weekend. It’s always gratifying to see a double xp tag pop up from time to time during a match. I feel like I’m getting away with something. Like double coupon Tuesday at the store.

My intention was to quickly boot up Black Ops II so it could patch itself after months of inactivity. I meant to get ready for next week’s Uprising add-on, which consists of four news maps and a new zombie mode. But then I thought I’d just check and see what level I was. Then a quick look at my loudouts. Ah, right, that gun with that attachment. Yes, those tactical grenades. Hmm, that perk? What did I think that was going to do? What was Tom Chick thinking last December when he was still playing this? Let’s hop online real quick and take it for a spin.

At which point Xbox Live decides to barf out for several hours. Microsoft’s servers went offline for the Black Ops II double xp weekend, which demonstrates why there’s no way the next Xbox is going to be as always online as some supposed Cassandras are claiming. Because even though I wasn’t able to work on my 0.46 K/D ratio, I was able to poke around at the campaign, checking my high score, considering ways to replay missions for a higher score, or to do the challenges that unlock more stuff, or maybe even to work on a hardened or veteran level playthrough, which would not only improve my scores, but would unlock the achievement. And, perhaps most imporantly, I would beat podcast co-host Jason McMaster’s mission scores, and thereby unlock something more precious than any achievement: gloating rights.

And while I’m still looking forward to Uprising’s new maps and new zombie mode, the overall takeaway for me this weekend is that Black Ops II holds up, even without the DLC (although the last DLC pack includes a skatepark map (pictured), which is the best skateboard-related thing Activision has made in years).

Read the original Black Ops II review here. Uprising will be available on Tuesday for $15 or as the second of four downloads included in the $50 Season Pass.

Brave New World lead disputes Jon Shafer’s self-criticism

, | Games


Firaxis rolled out some publicity for their upcoming Brave New World expansion for Civilization V. Among the gaggle of interviews, Lead Designer Ed Beach spoke to PC Gamer and took a moment to address Jon Shafer’s recent criticism of his own work in designing the base Civ V game.

“He was a little harsh on it,” said Beach. “And I won’t try to guess as to exactly what his frame of mind was, where he’s coming from.”

“Unit stacking can be a problem in Civ V, and I definitely think we’ve been acknowledging that for a while,” continued Beach. “In Gods & Kings we made a change so that embarked land units could stack with naval units, because there was a lot of congestion out in the seas. So, there were definitely issues, but I’m still a big fan of one unit per tile. I think it improves the combat in so many ways, there’s so much more tactical maneuvering and positioning.”

Jon Shafer had posted an essay of lessons learned in making Civ V, and the one unit per tile (1UPT) design in his Kickstarter for At the Gates in which he stated that although he found the combat in Civ V better than previous Civilization games that allowed unit stacking, he admitted that there were problems. Shafer wrote that designing good 1UPT AI was a challenge and that the maps had too many bottlenecks to allow for proper maneuvers.

Speculation aside, the reality was that the congestion caused by 1UPT also impacted other parts of the game. In every prior Civ title it was no problem to have ten, fifty or even a thousand units under your control. Sure, larger numbers meant more to manage, but hotkeys and UI conveniences could alleviate much of the problem. But in Civ 5, every unit needed its own tile, and that meant the map filled up pretty quickly.

To address this, I slowed the rate of production, which in turn led to more waiting around for buckets to fill up. For pacing reasons, in the early game I might have wanted players to be training new units every 4 turns. But this was impossible, because the map would have then become covered in Warriors by the end of the classical era. And once the map fills up too much, even warfare stops being fun.