Well, is it? Any impressions? Why the [email protected]#*[email protected]$ is it $55?
By Dave Long on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 11:09 am:
Wait for the inevitable Best Buy flier sale (if you have a Best Buy near you). If you can stomach the crowds, it's likely that BB will have at least $5 off all computer games on Friday until like noon.
My wife entered "Christmas is coming" mode already. Can you say...F___ed?!
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 01:59 pm:
It's beautiful visually, but that's practically a gimme since the Quake engine was designed for morbid looking castles from the get-go.
I'll play more tonight but, I am not all that impressed so far.
One thing this game does have going for it: Nazis are the best enemies ever. EVER!
By XtienMurawski on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 02:16 pm:
It uses the Quake engine? So it's a game like Sacrifice? Cool. That's the best game evar.
Anybody know what RtCW requires of you, system-wise?
By Yoda on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 02:43 pm:
Wumpus: Do you work in an EB warehouse or just spend all your disposable income on games?!?! You have, like, EVERY game.
By Snooty Sam on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 03:10 pm:
He five-fingers 'em from Gord's store.
By Yoda on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 04:47 pm:
He likes it when Gord fingers him!
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 04:51 pm:
How about some more comments from people who have actually played the game? I'll chime in later tonight when I log more hours in the SP.
I'm wondering if this will end up like Kingpin-- merely OK in SP, but a total friggin' blast in MP.
By Testo on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 05:13 pm:
I've been playing it for about two hours, and so far I have to agree with Atwood - I'm somewhat disappointed. It's a game about gunfights, so the gunfights need to be pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, they don't feel that way. I kept thinking that the combat lacked "punch", but I couldn't quite figure out why. Then it hit me: The enemies don't react to getting hit with bullets until they finally fall over dead. There's no "jerking" animation at all, which, evidently, makes a big difference in the feel of a gunfight. I'm finding that I'm really noticing that it's not there. The gunfights all feel sort of limp.
The AI isn't nearly up to Half-Life or even NOLF standards so far. Enemies will retreat to look for cover or hold their position, but they appear to not work together at all. And so far, they've not tried to flush me out with grenades, a great tension-enhancing trick that all AIs should use in the post Half-Life world. Especially in the 3 years post Half-Life world.
And it's just ridiculous that the enemies don't speak German - talk about not staying true to your Wolfenstein roots.
Like I said, I'm only two hours in, but so far I'm not feeling the "magic" you get from a truly great game.
By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 05:38 pm:
They don't speak German? That's too bad. Do they at least have German accents?
By Jason McCullough on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 05:48 pm:
What the hell? Half of all the other Wolfenstein's was hearing "Schweinheund!" and "SS!" all the time. "You're caught" being in English was always funny, though.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 11:56 pm:
Well, I will say that the game gets better as you go along. But I'm still a little dubious.
"Then it hit me: The enemies don't react to getting hit with bullets until they finally fall over dead."
This is not true. I've plugged guys with the mauser, and believe me, they react like they've been hit.
The gunfights are quite satisfying for me. The mauser comes into its own once you get the sniper scope. And the sniper mode is really interesting-- zoomed, no movement, draining stamina. The reliance on the submachineguns (now I have three of them?) is a little weird. No alt-fire is kind of a bummer too, so I expect plenty of weapon variation later on.
Overall, though, the game suffers from its Wolf3D heritage-- it's too much mindless guns blazin' action and not enough tension. Part of it is the lack of aggressive enemy AI (though the enemies do have reasonable AI, they're just not dangerous enough so far) The crypts DEFINITELY help in this department, but.. what is the point of the silenced guns? What is the point of the Q and E lean keys?
Good points. Best. Flamethrower. Ever. The enemies using it are mighty impressive. Also, German frauleins are HOT! Especially the ones in leather SS outfits! The dominatrix sleeps tonight, if you know what I'm sayin'.
By SiNNER 3001 on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 02:43 am:
"I've plugged guys with the mauser, and believe me, they react like they've been hit."
Are we talking game or real life?
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 12:57 pm:
"but they appear to not work together at all."
This is also not true. I've had enemies run off to get a few of their buddies at several points. They react differently depending on the weapon you are using. If you have something badass, they take cover or go looking for reinforcements. Early on they don't use grenades because, well, it's early on (and they don't have any). You didn't start off with enemies chucking grenades at you in Half-Life, either--that came later.
I like the combat. The weapons feel good. I like that you have to use short, controlled bursts to be effective with the automatics. And Nazis really do make the best enemies ever, unless you count zombies (which the game also has).
By Anonymous on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 02:21 pm:
"Early on they don't use grenades because, well, it's early on (and they don't have any)."
How far in do they start chucking grenades at you?
Also, I still think you're both wrong about the "flinch" animations. Use the cheat codes to make the enemies not attack you, then shoot at them. There may be one or two flinches here and there, but it's barely noticeable. The fact that we're even arguing about it means they're at least pretty damn subtle, and the visual feedback for your bullets hitting Nazis isn't a good place for subtlety.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 03:58 pm:
"How far in do they start chucking grenades at you?"
There's that part with the SS leather chicks, but that appears to be scripted.
I wish we could move away from scripting. OTOH, it's probably very difficult to generate an interesting story-based gameplay experience with pure bot AI.
Half-Life's grunts are STILL the high point of all non-scripted enemy AI I've ever seen in any FPS. Depressing. NOLF and Thief are in the same ballpark, but NOLF had the whole stealth fiasco where half of the AI was utterly wasted on a broken game mechanic, and .. well, Thief isn't a combat game.
By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 04:00 pm:
'Half-Life's grunts are STILL the high point of all non-scripted enemy AI I've ever seen in any FPS. Depressing.'
Are we talking the original Half-Life? If that's the highpoint for AI, PC gaming is embarassing.
By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 04:19 pm:
I'm not sure if it fits Jeff's criterion, but Unreal Tournament's single player bots, particularly on Assault, were pretty impressive in terms of unscripted AI.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 04:59 pm:
Eh, UT's bots are _reasonably_ good at replicating a bunch of humans playing "every man for himself" deathmatch or CTF. This is good, but considering the heritage of the ancient ReaperBot for Quake (Steve Polge wrote that), and that code's evolution through Unreal, I'm not sure this is such an breakthrough accomplishment. They just did a better job of it than id. Recall that id had to hire an outside contractor who was just some random guy from the mod community (Mr. Elusive).. so this was effectively their first crack at it.
So the primary deficiency with today's bot AI is teamwork in a goal oriented environment. UT's bots, unlike the grunts in Half-Life, don't work as teams communicating via audible radio commands, advance using cover, or use grenades to flush you out.
By Anonymous on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 05:35 pm:
"Are we talking the original Half-Life? If that's the highpoint for AI, PC gaming is embarassing."
Compared to what?
By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 06:19 pm:
Compared to the state of the art in AI? It's not that friggin' hard; good lord. Any half-decent grad student can duplicate what we've seen in gaming so far.
Excepting the Warlords series, actually. The AI in those was absolutely brutal.
By Anonymous on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 06:53 pm:
"Any half-decent grad student can duplicate what we've seen in gaming so far."
Wow, that's some Wumpus level craziness. You should send a letter to id and inform them about this untapped grad student genius pool.
By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 08:19 pm:
Assign relative scoring values for the weapon you're using, range to enemy, and various positions on the map (alternatively, right an evaluation function for this). Add timers and queues for the item respawning. Slap on a given percentage to hit the enemy. Add dodging code. Ta da.
Go ahead, ask an AI researcher what he thinks of the state of production game AI, if you think I'm crazy.
By Anonymous on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 10:38 pm:
"Go ahead, ask an AI researcher what he thinks of the state of production game AI"
So there's not even a single half-decent grad student interested enough in commercial game AI to take a job in the game industry? And your scheme for AI doesn't support any team behavior. Though I suppose including the line "add team behavior" would fix that "write" up.
By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 11:33 pm:
Ok, so I overstated my case; my point was that the Half-Life AI did a better job of fooling you into thinking it was good by talking and the like than actually being good.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 11:48 pm:
"Ok, so I overstated my case; my point was that the Half-Life AI did a better job of fooling you into thinking it was good by talking and the like than actually being good."
No, the Half-Life grunt/blackops AI really _is_ that good. I stand by my original opinion: it's the best AI simulation of combat teamwork I've seen to date.
And yes, my memory is fresh. I recently played through all three HL episodes using the new high-definition pack from Blue Shift. It's remarkable how well the game holds up three years later; it can easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any FPS released since then.
I am one of the few who thought Blue Shift was worth the money. As much as I enjoyed playing through those.. I really, really hope they don't milk the franchise with yet another expansion. C'mon Valve. Release a new fucking game already.
As to your implied question: why aren't current games able to at least reach the same level of AI quality that Half-Life delivered? I don't know. Why does RTW fall so short of the standard HL set?
By Jason McCullough on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 12:10 am:
Was this great AI patched in at a later date, or something? All I remember from playing that through is that occasionally they'd find a way to get behind me. The soldiers were still remarkable suicidal.
By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 12:39 am:
The main problem with getting grad-students to write game AIs is that the graduate student stipend pays better. *heh* It sucks that the game industry programming pay bracket is so crappy.
Also, developers tend not to want to spend resources on AI if they don't have to, and with the current (abysmal) standards, they don't have to.
As for Half-Life, the AI was more fun to play against. The use of grenades was definitely a nice touch. The spec. ops seemed to prefer more of a hide-and-seek heuristic. Not sure if I'd say it was necessarily better, but it was certainly more interesting than the usual home-in-on-player routine. Really though, it just boils down to the same old finite state machine.
Check out www.gameai.com if you're interested in this sort of stuff.
By Another anonymous on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 01:47 am:
Although the AI in Half-Life is good it suffers from important flaws that make it hard for me to play now. Like how you can nail a grunt with the crossbow while another grunt, standing right next to him, doesn't even notice him.
I may be wrong but I don't think the radio communications actually served any function, except to make the battle sound more realistic. True, it foreshadows actual events (you'll hear "fire in the hole" before a grenade comes at you) but I always imagined the guards communicated "telepathically" in actuality.
By Another anonymous on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 01:54 am:
I found those leather women in Wolfenstein to be pretty tough... definitely an homage to the ninja/special-ops women in Half-Life (who are some of the best non-team AI I've seen in a computer game). Although I think the RTCW guys didn't actually give the women that much better AI than they'd had in Half-Life. What made them so hard seemed to be that their individual shots did a lot of damage, and each of the women seemed to be able to take considerable punishment before dying. In terms of actual AI, I think the Half-Life ninjas were a bit better at dodging and staying hidden. But perhaps I'm just being nostalgic.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 03:14 pm:
"Like how you can nail a grunt with the crossbow while another grunt, standing right next to him, doesn't even notice him."
That may be true. I didn't say it was perfect, just the best I've seen so far.
"True, it foreshadows actual events (you'll hear "fire in the hole" before a grenade comes at you) but I always imagined the guards communicated "telepathically" in actuality."
Nah, the radio is what they're doing. Like "recon! go!" indicates someone is coming in after you. If you hole up in Half-Life, they come in for you.
I didn't think the leather SS chicks in RTW were very impressive (other than looks-- hubba hubba). They have incredibly good aim, deal out massive damage, and have a lot of hit points. That's not really AI.
By Another anonymous on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 03:58 pm:
Well, they take cover a lot, too.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 22, 2001 - 11:28 pm:
Well, I finished the single player game. A a tedious exercise in mediocrity through and through. I would say maybe 8 hours total of playtime, and maybe 1 hour of actual enjoyment.
Fortunately, that's not the end of the story. I did try the multiplayer and I was thoroughly impressed. It is everything the SP game is not-- interesting, innovative, and entertaining. It's without a doubt the best OOB multiplayer I've seen in any shipping FPS game to date.
So you can think of this game as Dr. Jeckll and Mr. Hyde.
By Matthew Beaver on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 12:10 am:
I'm just past the catacombs/church area and I'm pretty underwhelmed by the single player as well, at least so far. The thing is absolutely gorgeous, but something about it is just off. I don't think that the atmosphere is really the cause of it, but I wish they'd gone a little more in the "goofy" direction that Wolf 3d had if they were gonna go the comic-book WWII route. I mean, c'mon - Hitler in his chaingun equipped exo-suit and blonde SS guards yelling "Schnell!" or whatever it was they yelled beats the hell out of this dry, joyless tone. It's strange that it would feel so plodding when it seems they're going for a comic-book style Nazi-smasher adventure. Maybe they meant for it to be scary and tense.
I got Halo on the same day, and I'm just trying to finish off RTCW single player so I can give it my full attention. I've played the first bit of Halo, and it seems like something I'm really going to enjoy. If nothing else, I think RTCW illustrates how fine the line between "great experience" and "mediocre" can really be in an FPS.
By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 02:08 am:
Thats why I wont by this game, since i dont play online fps anymore (due to my crappy dialup) whats the point in getting the Wolf? All the Quake 3 engine games have been one night affairs for me... with the exception of Alice only because the jumping puzzles made it just a tad bit longer.
As great as the Quake 3 engine is, it still hasnt produced a game (single player) that has equaled either Half Life, NOLF or even something like Wheel of Time or Heretic 2. All the special things that ca be done with the Q3 engine dont make it any easier for designers and in the long run make the games shorter, MUCH shorter. Are curved surfaces and whatnut really worth the shorter gameplay from the q3 games?
Its sad to hear the a game that costs 60 dollars retail cant last longer than 8 hours for singleplay... thats anemic... give us some meat people, i dont think even a handful of the people who play fps's, play online much, unless its counterstrike of course.
ahh too much turkey.
btw is there at least bot play ala Elite Force in the Wolf? That MIGHT get me to buy it... but probably not. Too many other games to buy and play.
By Another anonymous on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 03:42 am:
Well, to offer an apparently minority opinion, I'm enjoying RTCW a lot so far. It's clearly attempting to be in the Half-Life mode, with a little ersatz Thief thrown in (the "sneak through the village level"), and while it is not as good as either of those games, I think it's a solid FPS entry. Some of the enemies are pretty formidable -- especially the loping legless electrical guys -- and I've gotten into some pretty intense firefights. Good AI or no, I think the battle with the leather chicks at the church is the most intense single player FPS battle I've played since Half-Life: Opposing Force. (I maintain the Black Ops battles in OpFor are tougher by far than anything in the original Half-Life.) And man, those textures are gorgeous.
I'm at the chateau now, with "the ceremony" coming up. If Wumpus won it in 8 hours then I guess it's almost over. This is a pity. Is it just me, or are FPS' getting shorter? (Maybe I'm biased because the last FPS I played was Star Trek Voyager Elite Force.) Half-Life was criticized in one review I read for being rather short, but it seems far longer than some of these newer entries. Of course Unreal was downright gigantic, but it was so boring that I could never be bothered to play all the way through...
Overall I'd give RTCW a B, a good effort all around, but not GOTY material. Dunno about multiplayer, seems like more of the same deathmatch/assault/CTF, but with a flamethrower.
By Another Anonymous on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 03:43 am:
Sorry mtkafka, didn't realize you had preceded me on the "FPS' are too short" gripe.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 03:49 am:
Yeah, unless you plan to play a lot of multiplayer, I'd give RTW a big, fat pass. The singleplayer is barely above what Raven is shovelling out these days. There are so many other FPS games that are a better use of your time-- Undying, Red Faction, Op Flashpoint.
Damn, Nerve did such a great job on the multiplayer. I can't stop playing! It's really polished-- class-based teamplay with objectives.
I was never a fan of Team Fortress. There are too many goddamn classes, and the rules and behavior of those classes are fucking goofy as hell. Well, I'm happy to report that RTW multiplayer rectifies all of those faults. It's somewhat realistic (or at least based on reality), and the four classes work in a logical sort of paper/scissors/rock fashion. It's a great design.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 03:51 am:
"I'm biased because the last FPS I played was Star Trek Voyager Elite Force"
I pity you.
By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 04:12 am:
Sucks... because if i had cable modem i would probably pick up RTCW asap... but since im on dial up what is the real use of fps online gaming for me? IF the game has ok bot play with the TF multiplay i may pick it up... does it ? bah, i shall look on the wolf boards or sumtin.
BTW, OFP 1.3 yeehaw, this game never gets old sheesh.
By Another Anonymous on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 05:45 am:
Why do you pity me? I meant "bias" as an example of why I'm thinking FPS' are too short these days... did you really think Elite Force was really that god-awful apart from its brevity? Why?
Now I can't get into comparisons with Operation Flashpoint, as I haven't played it beyond the demo. It is a different sort of FPS than the Half-Life variety, however; obviously more realistic, a la Delta Force. When I judge a game like Elite Force or Castle Wolfenstein, I compare them mainly to Half-Life which remains my high-water mark for a Quake-derived single player FPS. And I think both (brevity aside) stack up tolerably well, though neither is as good as Half-Life.
Another question Wumpus. What exactly, specifically, concretely, do you think is so good about the grunt AI in Half-Life? I'm not trying to pick a fight but I'm genuinely interested to know.
I will tell you the two things that impressed me most about the grunts when I played Half-Life two and a half years ago:
1) They take cover,
2) They huck grenades at you.
Now, most of the human baddies in Wolfenstein also take cover. The alien baddies don't, but then they didn't in Half-Life either. (I don't know why paranormal enemies are so much dumber than normal ones.)
I will freely admit that, apart from scripted moments, the Wolfenstein baddies don't huck grenades at you -- though I did actually have a leather chick kick back a grenade *I* had tossed at her, killing me (I think that's what happened, anyway). One of the best moments in Half-Life, re grenade-hucking, occurred in Surface Tension when you're in the underground tunnel network with grunts above you, and they're tossing grenade after grenade to flush you out.
Grenades aside, though, what else is there really? To me, the "Go! Recon!" stuff finally amounts to nothing more than "Send a lone person out to die horribly." You can call it "tactical" or "scouting" or whatever, but the practical upshot of it in terms of gameplay for me was, a lone grunt goes outside and I shoot him. Not much different from your standard FPS enemy AI, in which enemies tend to follow you and you can pick them off as they come. The rest of the "radio communication" stuff to me had nothing to do with AI, simply good sound design. Mind you, on that level it succeeded brilliantly -- I loved tossing a grenade at the grunts and hearing them shout "Oh shit!"
But what else is really going on, vis-a-vis "team AI," in Half-Life, Wumpus? I would really like to know. Maybe it's all there underneath the surface and I didn't notice. Do you think they execute flanking maneuvers or pincer tactics? Do they spread out to get you from both sides? I seem to recall some spreading out, but the paratroopers and leather chicks in Wolfenstein do some of that too, I think. The sense I got was that most of the great battles in Half-Life had as much to do with initial enemy placement as anything. The magic Half-Life combination, it seemed to me, was enemy placement + grenade-hucking + taking cover + radio sound design. Am I giving it short shrift? If so, why?
I think apart from the grenades, the AI in Half-Life grunts wasn't appreciably better than the paratroopers and leather chicks in Wolfenstein. Even if I am correct about this, of course, that doesn't necessarily get Wolfenstein off the hook, because it is a far newer game. But at least it seems to have corrected the far-from-trivial omission in Half-Life AI that I already mentioned, wherein you can shoot a grunt's buddy and he doesn't notice anything unless he sees you.
Actually, I am still trying to figure out exactly why Half-Life was so good. I think it was a combination of a lot of things. The grunt AI was one of them -- certainly it was head and shoulders above Quake I and II enemy AI -- but there were other things. Variety of pacing and level design (i.e. Residue Processing's puzzle-based gameplay vs. Surface Tension's intense combat); imaginativeness in creature design (the Tentacle still freaks me out); the absence of cutscenes (which no other FPS I can think of has emulated); the sheer stylishness and slickness of the whole package.
And I wonder whether it is possible in the end for any game to outdo Half-Life in that particular single-player genre (the "Half-Life style FPS," or the Quake Style FPS, or whatever). When Jedi Knight and Half-Life came out, in 97 and 98, they were vastly raising the bar on a genre that up until then had amounted to "gawk at the cool 3D graphics whilst shooting brain-dead enemies." Maybe there's just not anywhere to go after that, and so perhaps the future of FPS's lies in more realistic games such as Flashpoint, or radical variations such as Thief. If this be true, then Wolfenstein is an exercise in futility: it's chasing a phantom of a game that was so brilliant partly because of the time in which it was released, and we can never really go back.
Yet for all that I'm enjoying it. One of my favorite things about Wolfenstein, actually, is the architecture. I can hear you mumbling "apologist!" but I don't think architecture is entirely just window dressing in an FPS. Heck, I think it was a large part of Jedi Knight's appeal -- sure wasn't the brilliant stormtrooper AI (though there were also a lot of environment-based puzzles in Jedi Knight). Cool settings and atmosphere have always been a more-than-trivial aspect of FPS's appeal (to my mind they play a large part of Thief's appeal, as the gameplay itself generally amounts to standing in shadows and calculating overlapping guard epicycles). But again, perhaps as our sophistication increases, and we become more jaded with the genre, it becomes less acceptable to just give us yet another vertigo-inducing vista or looming cathedral.
Perhaps the Quake-lineage single-player FPS well has started to run dry, and it's time to move on to other things.
By Jason McCullough on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 05:50 am:
What he said. ;0
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 06:07 am:
Perhaps the Quake-lineage single-player FPS well has started to run dry, and it's time to move on to other things.
Ben Sones said:
Early on they don't use grenades because, well, it's early on (and they don't have any). You didn't start off with enemies chucking grenades at you in Half-Life, either--that came later.
I counted 2 scripted scenes where grenades were thrown. One was the SS woman with the trapdoor; the other was (I believe) in the burned-out-city. That's about it.
They definitely do kick grenades back at you, though. It happened to me twice now, unscripted. Hardly a quantum leap in AI, but pretty cool nonetheless.
So I just finished it. The final boss was a letdown, but then I played it all wrong I suppose -- whenever I'm in a boss sequence I keep saving every minute or so so I don't have to start all over again at the beginning. Not conducive to a really intense experience. But then, I never enjoy boss fights. They just feel like work, like completing an obligation.
It was definitely too short overall, though longer than Elite Force. I thought the best enemies were the paratroopers and the legless electrical creatures. Graphics are the best I've yet seen in an FPS. I suppose Halo has better graphics, but I didn't notice watching it play on a fuzzy TV in an EB kiosk.
Not bad, but the next Half-Life it ain't. I have to wonder what those 5 guys locked in the room at Valve designing Half-Life 2 are doing with their time. That game, should it ever come out, is going to be under enormous pressure to raise the genre bar yet again.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 23, 2001 - 09:25 pm:
On the topic of how great RTW multiplayer is: It isn't just me. This is a clip from a http://www.shugashack.com news entry:
"So I think I'm addicted to the atmosphere of RTCW multiplayer. I was never really much of a WW2 era fanatic or or anything close to that, in fact I've almost got an aversion to the era. For some reason though I'm drawn to RTCW multiplayer... I just cant stop getting the urge to play. I cant recall any multiplayer experience that's ever been so engrossing, making me feel so much like a part of the action.
I'm only a couple hours deep in to the single player game but now the multiplayer lover inside of me cant seem to click on that single player game button when the multiplayer one is sitting right there next to it. Argh! I'll make sure and finish the single player side of things this weekend. It's pretty good stuff so far."
By Matthew Beaver on Saturday, November 24, 2001 - 03:44 am:
I finished RTCW a few hours ago. My opinion of the single player has softened a bit from my above post, but ultimately, I think it's just too inconsistent to really be memorable as a single player experience.
I found the first couple of missions pretty boring. The middle part of the game was enjoyable. I especially liked the rocket base and picking my way through the bombed out city scanning for snipers in the windows. It's conjecture at this point, but those two parts neatly summarize the sort of experience I'm hoping for in MOH:AA's single player. Oh, and the first time I saw one of those flamethrower-wielding soldiers in a hallway, the convergence of great texturing, lighting, environment, animation and the jaw dropping flamethrower effect made it eerily believable and surreal at the same time. Is that a contradiction? Anyway, following an enjoyable middle section, the last stretch of levels became quite a chore, with literally every one of the MANY enemies being potentially deadly given thier high damage, ridiculous accuracy, and the lack of health and armor. After the gauntlet of the last level, the final boss was a complete anti-climax - I beat him my first try. Oh, and the final weapon was a joke. By the time you get it, the enemies are so good that you need to drop them on the spot as soon as they become aware of you. You could kill the enemies faster with a plain old SMG than with that goofy thing.
So anyway, I thought it had some good moments and a couple of great moments, but just as much tedium. I'd recommend waiting until it drops to $30 at least before picking it up - especially given the oddly high price it's going for now. YMMV depending on how important MP is to you.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 03:22 am:
"But what else is really going on, vis-a-vis "team AI," in Half-Life, Wumpus?"
In RTW, you are in no real danger from the Nazis. Subsequently there's no tension. It's Erik's "strawberry jam filled turrets" all over again.
I loaded a few RTW saved games to refresh my memory on this.
1) Entering weapons facility. I took potshots at a nazi on a platform above me, to get his attention. He NEVER attempted to jump down, throw grenades at me, or otherwise flush me out. He'd just sit there waiting forever, with the patience that all three lines of his AI code implies.
2) The church level (ss chicks). This is the "advanced" AI. They're great at taking cover. And they'll even pop out and take shots at you.. *sometimes*. Other times they just sit there, passively waiting for you to enter their FOV, Rogue Spear / Ghost Recon style. But what they absolutely will not do, is pursue you aggressively. If you want to camp out and wait for them, you have an unlimited amount of time to do so.
This is not true in Half-Life of either the grunts or the specops. Those fuckers WILL flush you out. Particularly by navigating the level geometry, which RTW AI seems incapable of doing. It's not just "hucking" (worst word choice ever, btw) grenades at you.
In fact, I used to re-load Half-Life sections to play them over and over with the grunts and it would play out differently EVERY time. No kidding. Try it yourself. That's because the HL AI draws from a much richer palette of logic than the simple dunderheaded RTW AI does.
Here's an interview (at VE of all places) that sheds some light on this. I can't get to the original and only 2 questions relate, so I'll just cut and paste here.
Michael "Saxs" Persson, Shiny) Jay, for those that have just been paroled from maximum security and don't know who you are, can you briefly describe your job/function at Valve.
Jay Stelly, Answer 1) As lead systems programmer at Valve on Half-Life, I was responsible for the engine architecture changes, as well as the seamless level transition system, save/restore, and work on the physics system. Along with Steve Bond, I built the AI system architecture and I coded the AI for a few of our creatures. I also did the technology behind the visual effects in the game like the beam effects, tracers, sparks, lenticular halos, and decals. And if anyone asks, I did eat those pop-tarts in the kitchen. I thought they were for everyone.
Saxs) The thing that impressed me the most about Half-life was the squad tactics. How much of the movement was scripted and how much happened automatic. The enemies seemed to follow certain paths but chose them really carefully?
Jay) We did use a precalculated graph to help our creatures navigate the environment, but the AI code chooses when and where to flank, take cover, attack, and retreat dynamically in response to the player. The squad tactics are not very scripted. Occasionally, a designer would have a grunt run to a particular location when he saw the player, or something simple like that. The rest of the tactics were coded by our extremely creative AI programmer Steve Bond (who we sometimes call "Spike" since his latest haircut).
I wasn't just given a "show" for the AI either. I actually sat down and played with the AI, throughout the game, and in several different training rooms. This is not a "canned" AI that only works in delicate situations, this is true solid AI that will take 3d shooters to the next level.
The AI system is of course node based, but not very heavily dependent upon the nodes. A good example of the AI was shown when I ran into a squad of 3 soldiers, 2 of them open fired, and the 3rd held back behind cover, waited for his 2 buddies to empty their chambers, then popped out from behind wherever he was and open fired to cover his 2 friends while they reloaded.
Great intervew with the primary AI author.
Steve Bond: Good navigation is critical. Characters that can get around in the levels are much more interesting than ones that can't. When you have a good navigation system in your game you can add all kinds of fun behaviors to your characters that you wouldn't be able to otherwise. For example, the Grunts in Half-Life can use the navigation system to follow and surround you when you try to flee or to run and hide from you if things aren't going their way. Security Guards wouldn't be able to team up with you and go Headcrab hunting if they weren't able to follow you! That's one of my favorite things about our game.
Steve Bond: Monsters try to decide what to do based on examining a set of important things about the world, about itself, and about the enemy. Being badly wounded, almost out of bullets, or unable to see the enemy are examples of the kinds of things the monster takes into account when making a decision (there are about 30 of these). Group/squad decisions are made in much the same way, but the communication of the group members makes more information available for decision making. The squad AI also distributes responsibility among members a bit, giving each individual a slightly different role in combat. The goal of a group in combat is to destroy the enemy but an individual member's critical needs like reloading and self-preservation (moving, hiding) will cause them to take action on their own and rejoin the group effort again when it's safe to do so.
I hope this sufficiently addresses all the issues you brought up in your novella. So yes, the AI really WAS that good. And it still is. I don't know why Valve is so far ahead of everyone else, even with their first game. It is kinda depressing.
By Another Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 05:24 am:
Good post, Wumpus. Thank you for all that thorough info. I am now officially in "being stubborn for stubborn's sake" mode, but what the hell. Vive la debate!
Nodes and tactics and flushing, oh my. (Why is "hucking" a bad word choice, incidentally? Would "chucking" be better?)
Just so you know, I have replayed Half-Life multiple times and found most of the grunt battles to be quite easy once you know what's coming. (The one major exception is the "Surface Tension" one where you're in the underground tunnels... no easy way to approach that one.) I would agree that the battles pan out differently each time you play them, except that once you know where the grunts are going to be ahead of time, you can kill several of them before they even know you're there. I think Opposing Force solved this problem somewhat by putting you in situations where you can't just gradually approach the grunts from a position of safety. The result was much tougher firefights.
"Those fuckers WILL flush you out. Particularly by navigating the level geometry, which RTW AI seems incapable of doing."
That sounds good in theory, but honestly I don't recall having been "flushed" out except by grenades being tossed at me (which I freely admit was a great thing about Half-Life, and wasn't included in RTCW). The only other way an enemy can "flush you out" is to come after you. And ALL FPS enemies come after you. Are you specifically asserting that HL grunts will come at you from opposite directions, where as RTCW enemies won't? (If they're coming at you from one direction, I see nothing special about that at all, as the dumbest Quake baddies do that.) I am not sure of a single instance in either game where this happened that can't be attributed to enemy placement. It gets tricky to keep track sometimes.
I'm not disagreeing, really, with everything you posted about the underlying AI mechanics; I'm just not sure how much of that actually manifested in a gameplay difference for me. As I played it in 1999, the Half-Life grunts were relentless, they threw grenades, they took cover, and they said "Go! Recon!" a lot. That was sufficient to blow my mind at the time. The RTCW enemies, circa late 2001, are relentless, they take cover, they say "schnell!" and they don't chuck/huck/lob/wing grenades. Not mind-blowing, but not terrible.
Navigating level geometry sounds very sophisticated; I'm just wondering how much of an obvious impact it has on gameplay. Obviously you think it's a very big impact as you loathed RTCW and liked Half-Life. As someone who loved Half-Life and liked RTCW, I am casting about somewhat for the actual difference in subjective play experience. The problem is I can't go back in time 2.5 years to that initial Half-Life experience, and every time I play it now, I just pick many of the grunts off ahead of time while they stand around like dumbasses. Maybe I should go play it again, let myself get into more out-and-out firefights, and see what all this flushing and navigating really amounts to.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 10:00 am:
"The only other way an enemy can "flush you out" is to come after you. And ALL FPS enemies come after you."
Actually, this is one area where I think Wolfenstein does it better. A common, easy tactic that I employ in shooters is this: plug an enemy to "activate" them, retreat to a more defensible position, slaughter the enemy when they invariably chase after you.
It's kind of cheesy, but it works in most games... except Wolfenstein. There, the enemies often turn the tables on you by holding ground in a defensible area. And if you think about it, that makes sense. After all, THEY aren't going anywhere--you are the one that needs to get past them, not vice-versa. I've has enemies pursue me In Wolfenstein (usually when we're both out in the open), but often they will simply hunker down on the far side of a door, waiting for me to walk through.
Stupid? If it is, then I'm stupid too, because I use that tactic all the time in shooters.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 01:37 pm:
And another thing--I really like both Half-Life and Wolfenstein. Half-Life certainly does some things better, but Wolfenstein does as well. My biggest complaint about Half-Life is that portions of the game really drag--about two-thirds of the way through you find yourself fighting the same fight over and over again through the same sorts of environments. Nothing new is happening with the story (which is pretty bare-bones throughout most of the game, actually), and it gets pretty dull. Sure, it makes the game longer, but it's just filler. Half-life could have dropped eight to ten levels, and it would have been a better game for it.
Lots of shooters suffer from this problem, by the way. Even Halo (which I like as much as Half-Life, for what it's worth) does. In some cases (Rune, Unreal) it can be a game-killer.
Wolfenstein doesn't suffer from this problem at all. The levels are fairly short and well varied, and it never has you doing the same thing for very long. Just when you start getting tired of what you are doing, you move on to something totally different. It's very well-paced, the story throws you bones on a regular basis, and the environments and enemies keep changing.
By Another Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 02:22 pm:
But then you get the complaint that it's too short.
Half-Life may be too long, but I didn't find it tedious on a first playing. On replaying, yeah, some of it feels dull. But it had me for a solid 20-30 hours that first time.
By contrast, the 10 hours of Wolfenstein don't seem like enough to justify a $60 purchase. You can say that multiplayer makes up the difference, but then I feel they're giving the single player game short shrift. Same with Elite Force. These lengths are comparable to Opposing Force, which was an add-on.
Unreal is a good example of a game that just went on and on forever. Man that game is big -- and boring. Rune I didn't think was so bad; I managed to win it within 2 days, so it can't have been that long, though it was pretty repetitive.
Some times I wonder why we play single player FPS's at all. It all just boils down to wandering through corridors shooting things. For my part, I think the prettiness of the corridors has a lot to do with it. For instance, Unreal is basically a bad game, but I've logged endless hours playing it just to gawk over the graphics. A peculiar definition of play value, but if I logged the hours, I must have been enjoying it on some level.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 03:25 pm:
"There, the enemies often turn the tables on you by holding ground in a defensible area. And if you think about it, that makes sense. After all, THEY aren't going anywhere--you are the one that needs to get past them, not vice-versa. I've has enemies pursue me In Wolfenstein (usually when we're both out in the open), but often they will simply hunker down on the far side of a door, waiting for me to walk through."
That's not AI. That's "wait for the player to appear and then shoot at them". It's lame for two reasons. First, because it implies no effort on the part of the developer, and second, because it's just flat-out BORING. Maybe your next game should be versus 10,000 stationary turrets. Oh, the fun that would be!
Stay on target here, guys. Think of the Turing test. The goal is to recreate opponents that are indistinguishable from humans. And what you describe fails miserably on that count. In multiplayer, I've seen people hole up in sneaky places to snipe you or shoot you in the back, but they just don't mindlessly hunker down in the middle of a hallway and wait indefinitely for you to appear.
"By contrast, the 10 hours of Wolfenstein don't seem like enough to justify a $60 purchase."
10 hours? I'm being charitable by giving RTW 8 hours. It was probably more like 6. Also Opposing Force was at LEAST 10 hours for me.
It is a fine line though. I agree Rune was too long (though I hauled ass through it, which helps, and I felt it had enough variety to justify the length) and so was Unreal.
"It all just boils down to wandering through corridors shooting things."
Not THINGS. Wily human opponents. That never gets old. Particularly when you blend it with goals and teamwork. Hell, that's as timeless as human civilization itself--
That's why I play FPS games.
By Another Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 05:02 pm:
Apparently that "not-AI" would pass Ben's particular Turing test, as he says he behaves the same way the computer opponents do.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 05:15 pm:
"as he says he behaves the same way the computer opponents do."
MAB: Mutually Assured Boredom.
By Another Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 05:21 pm:
Well, I will ask one more time.
What *specifically* do the Half Life grunts do that make you think they are wily human beings?
We have established that they
1) Take cover
2) HUCK grenades,
3) Come after you after shouting "Go! Recon!"
RTCW baddies do 1 and 3, except instead of saying "Go! Recon!" they say "schnell!"
What else? Specifically? Pincer movements? Providing cover fire for one another as they move in closer? Working their way around the back of the map so they can catch you from behind?
I don't specifically recall any of these things from my experience playing Half-Life, but perhaps I was dazed after all those terrifying headcrab encounters. I want details!
By Another Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 05:24 pm:
Oh wait, I just looked at your earlier post again.
"The AI system is of course node based, but not very heavily dependent upon the nodes. A good example of the AI was shown when I ran into a squad of 3 soldiers, 2 of them open fired, and the 3rd held back behind cover, waited for his 2 buddies to empty their chambers, then popped out from behind wherever he was and open fired to cover his 2 friends while they reloaded."
Well, that is pretty cool. I don't recall anything like that. That's not to say it didn't happen, I just may not have been paying attention. Headcrab flashbacks! Agh!
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 09:25 pm:
"That's not AI. That's "wait for the player to appear and then shoot at them". It's lame for two reasons. First, because it implies no effort on the part of the developer, and second, because it's just flat-out BORING. Maybe your next game should be versus 10,000 stationary turrets."
I didn't say they always did that, and you know that they don't if you've played the game, so don't be disingenuous. Really, I don't see why it's any less entertaining than having enemies that simply walk toward you unthinkingly, as though you are some sort of enemy magnet (a lot of the aliens in Half-Life did this).
And if that was all the Wolfenstein enemies did then yeah, I'd get bored. But they have plenty of other tricks, too--I've had them flank me, or move from cover to cover while shooting, or go get friends (I assume that was a script).
"I'm being charitable by giving RTW 8 hours. It was probably more like 6. Also Opposing Force was at LEAST 10 hours for me."
I won't argue with you, but I must live in some sort of gaming alternate universe. OF took me about 5 hours to finish, and I was taking my time. I'm still working on Wolfenstein after 10. As an aside, sometimes I'm amazed at how quickly people finish games. Do they just rush through them as fast as possible, ala Quake Done Quick? Is that fun?
"I agree Rune was too long (though I hauled ass through it, which helps, and I felt it had enough variety to justify the length)"
Rune had almost no variety, and that was only one of its problems. The entire game was like one long cave/sewer. How many levels was Hel? Like, 10? 12? Long levels of the same thing over and over and over and over (beheading skeletons, which was cool a few times but lost it's allure after 40 or 50). Wolfenstein is FAR more entertaining than Rune, by my reckoning. And it has better AI... ;)
If short games are the result of gamers' increased expectations with respect to production values (and given the length of recent games, I'm guessing it is), so be it. I'll take a shorter, more varied game over a long game packed with filler any day.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, November 25, 2001 - 11:53 pm:
"OF took me about 5 hours to finish, and I was taking my time."
Are you thinking of Blue Shift? That was much shorter. Opposing Force was a good solid length. Not as long as HL, I'd say one half the size. Half-Life took me a good 20 hours originally so I stand by my 10 hour estimate.
Of course the second and third time through is invariably much faster, since you remember all the tricks and know where to go next.
"And if that was all the Wolfenstein enemies did then yeah, I'd get bored. But they have plenty of other tricks, too--I've had them flank me, or move from cover to cover while shooting, or go get friends (I assume that was a script)."
Going for alarms is scripted. Still, I'm amazed that anyone could play this and think the AI was even remotely as good as NOLF, much less Half-Life. Please, I urge you-- really READ the links I posted above.
"I'm still working on Wolfenstein after 10. As an aside, sometimes I'm amazed at how quickly people finish games. Do they just rush through them as fast as possible, ala Quake Done Quick? Is that fun?"
RTW wasn't a whole lot of fun for me. I had no incentive to dilly-dally. Plus I found it rather easy on default difficulty-- the enemies were awfully predictable and lame. Boring, really. I'll take a room full of grunts or specops in Half-Life over this crap ANY day. It's not even in the same ballpark, folks.
The weapons leave a lot to be desired. I hated being stuck with the submachine guns all the time. Why use the thompson submachine gun? Why is the sten so much more powerful than the MP40? Where are my alternate fire modes? Why have a silencer for the luger at all? Why can't I throw a grenade more than about 10 feet in front of me? What is this, a Steven Hawking simulator? It's an affront to huckers everywhere.
By Another Anonymous on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 04:36 am:
Wumpus, your links are most valuable, but I will not necessarily be convinced of good AI only by reading it -- the play experience is the thing. Nodes and subroutines are all well and good, but the question is, how is the actual gameplay affected? Nothing that I read will alter my memories of my original Half-Life play experience, after all. Since you hated RTCW and liked Half-Life, whereas I liked both (Half Life more, obviously), either that makes you a more discerning FPS'er than me, or it makes you a persnickety SOB. Perhaps a bit of both. Also, I'm not lying when I say it took me 10 hours to win Wolfenstein. I guess I'm just not very 1337. Actually, I think I spent about 2 of those hours gawking at the cool textures in the church and burnt-out-city.
I do agree that you can't throw grenades far enough. And the lack of alt-fire modes was a pity. Still, the flamethrower was a blast... I loved the high-pitched scream uttered by the Nazi chicks as they rolled around covered in flames. (I hope Col. Grossman isn't reading this... if he is, he probably just fired off a worried email to Joe Lieberman.)
On a side note, "Fuck the Creationists" is one of the most brilliant rap songs ever composed.
/looks over shoulder... hopes nobody is in the mood to start a creation/evolution debate...
By Anonymous on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 06:22 am:
Veering off in another direction, all this talk of shooters has made me think of the one, single most enthralling experience I have ever had with a first-person game. This game I am speaking of had me hooked with an incredible story, great voice acting, good pacing, great music, and above all, fear. Fear of what was making those sounds around the corner, fear of the darkness and the uneventful stretches that were going to end, but when? Fear and tension heightened by the humming computers, by the fact that you were in the middle of nowhere, alone, and that something horrible had happened to hundreds of people just a short while before. Never, never, have I felt so much fear from a game than while playing System Shock 2. Sorry, just had to let that out.
By Brian Rucker on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 08:29 am:
Scariest game I ever played was Panzer Elite (tank sim from Wings Simulations) using realistic views. It's like jogging through a minefield with a paper bag over your head that only had a couple eyeholes you could peer out. Claustrophobics not invited. Shells could plink you from any direction and you're desperately trying to identify the sources of fire, through very small portals, while at the same time determining range and loft from the gunner's position (unless you let the AI handle gunnery).
Well, I thought it was scary. :)
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 12:49 pm:
I realized last night that I'm probably being a little too hard on the RTW AI. It's not all that bad, and I've definitely seen worse.
Still, like Anonymous noted above, the gunplay just isn't very engaging in this game. I am having a difficult time quantifying why; I believe for me it's due mostly to the AI.
I've replayed a number of levels in the game to better determine what the problem is. Last night I played the "find the entrance to the SWF" mission, and I noted that the enemies seem heavily scripted-- they appear suddenly when you trigger certain places in the level. They also seem like so much cannon fodder, despite their propensity for hiding behind geometry. They're just not INTERESTING (read: semi-human) in the way the enemies were in NOLF or Half-Life. I have zero suspension of disbelief with these guys; why would they continuously fire an incredibly inaccurate submachine gun at me from way across the level?
It's probably not fair to lay this entirely at the feet of the AI programmers. It's a little bit of everything. For example, the bread and butter weapons are boring, and not once was I surprised by anything in this game.
p.s. yes, best flamethrower ever. It works very well in multiplayer because it's volumetric: you can fill a room with flame from a good distance. And the sniper rifle modelling is definitely interesting. But again the nuances of these concepts are almost completely wasted on the single player.
By Dave Long on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 01:03 pm:
I'm replaying No One Lives Forever right now. The AI is very good. It really holds its own after a year of release and well, the game just reeks of style and excellent design. Not only that, it has color!
NOLF is a triumph and it has really never gotten proper recognition for its excellent cinematic styling. It's a close second to System Shock 2 among my favorite FPS games.
By Anonymous on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 01:47 pm:
... yes, but ... are any of these games anywhere near as fun as advance wars? i think not ...
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 04:47 pm:
"I realized last night that I'm probably being a little too hard on the RTW AI. It's not all that bad, and I've definitely seen worse."
I agree. I mean, I'm not arguing that it's better than Half-Life's (or NOLF's)--sorry if I gave that impression--but it's not bad. About on par with most good shooters, really, with some good scripted bits.
Still, there's something to be said for shooters that involve mowing down hordes of enemies. Unreal tried it the other way--very few (but smarter) opponents, and that failed to really grab me.
By Greg Kasavin on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 05:10 pm:
"The gunplay just isn't very engaging in this game. I am having a difficult time quantifying why."
I've only played the single-player for about three hours, but I have a sense of what you mean. Something just feels a little "off" about the shooting for me, and I had to go and use quotation marks because I couldn't come up with a better way to express what I mean.
Maybe it's that guys getting hit don't seem to react much. The contact just doesn't feel very visceral. Max Payne didn't use pain skins like Soldier of Fortune did, but in Max Payne, you still got a good, strong feeling that you just filled some rat bastard full of lead. In Wolfenstein they just kind of take it until they collapse. Also, I wish the game were bloodier, but that's just me.
It's also kind of hard for me to go back to noninteractive environments after Max Payne. In Wolfenstein, you'll see some gorgeous stained glass window. Your impulse will of course be to shoot it out, but nothing happens.
I had extremely high expectations for RTCW for some reason. I think it's because I hadn't seen much of it in person up till now. The multiplayer seems outstanding, but as someone who's played every other shooter to date, I don't find the single-player to be particularly amazing. Not that it has to be. Anyway, I'm just looking forward to Soldier of Fortune II at this point. I always thought SOF had the right idea for this genre.
By Another Anonymous on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 06:54 pm:
"Still, there's something to be said for shooters that involve mowing down hordes of enemies."
Worked for Serious Sam. "When AI is in doubt, go for volume." Of course, if Croteam's publisher had charged $60 for that game, they'd have been crucified.
By Chris on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 07:10 pm:
Your impulse will of course be to shoot it out, but nothing happens.
"I've only played the single-player for about three hours, but I have a sense of what you mean. Something just feels a little "off" about the shooting for me, and I had to go and use quotation marks because I couldn't come up with a better way to express what I mean."
That's a really good point, Greg. I finished the single-player campaign on the weekend, and there's a real lack of oomph in the shooting department all the way through. It's really hard to tell if you're damaging opponents at times, especially the bosses. When the opposition gets tougher later on, you've got to keep the trigger held down until they go down, otherwise you'll get surprised by someone you think should be dead. Thankfully, there isn't a problem with ammo over a good 90% of the game.
My biggest issue, though, is the way that Gray Matter chose ambush positioning over AI. Every mission goes the same way. First map is fairly easy, with troops mainly in the open. Second's a little tougher, with a couple of ambush spots. And the third and fourth are filled with small squads of troops that are hidden, barricaded in weird spots, under stairs, and so on. It can get pretty dreary at times. Fair number of reloads, particularly in spots where you can encounter snipers that can kill you with a single shot.
I really missed not getting to mow down big crowds of Nazis. There's nothing here equivalent to some of the rooms in Wolf 3D and Spear of Destiny. Man, I still remember this one room packed with those white-uniformed troops behind two rows of barrels. Must've been 50 of them. Took me an hour to kill them all and all that was at the other end of the room was someting like a box of ammo and a gold bar.
By Anonymous on Tuesday, November 27, 2001 - 11:20 am:
After reading most of the comments on the board and Usenet, I get the impression that the game is graphically stunning but somewhat "empty" and short on the single player aspect. I think I'll pass on this one. Anyone remember Kingpin? Did'nt think so.
By Jason McCullough on Tuesday, November 27, 2001 - 01:52 pm:
'Of course, if Croteam's publisher had charged $60 for that game, they'd have been crucified.'
I'm still amazed how fun that game was. Sheer volume is a kind of AI all it's own.
By Another Anonymous on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 - 08:16 am:
The Gamespot review is out...
"To reuse a phrase that has appeared in or been implied by every shooter review since November 1998, the AI is not as good as the AI found in Half-Life. However, it's certainly not bad, and for the most part it's impressive. Soldiers exhibit a real capacity for self-preservation. Rather than charge right for you, they'll often find cover and stick to it, waiting for you to come flush them out. They're also smart enough to run away from grenades, and they'll occasionally even kick one back at you. Most of the more annoying AI traits that appear in too many recent games, such as enemies running aimlessly in a circle or not noticing when a buddy two feet away has his head blown off, don't occur in Wolfenstein. On the other hand, enemy soldiers don't give off the appearance of squad coordination, as they did in Half Life."
They gave it a 9.2, mainly on the strength of the multiplayer.
By Mark Bussman on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 - 01:21 pm:
"They're also smart enough to run away from grenades, they'll occasionally even kick one back at you. "
Can you kick back grenades they throw at you? I hate it when the enemy can do things that you can't do but should be able to.
By Another Anonymous on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 - 02:37 pm:
They hardly ever throw grenades, so you wouldn't have much opportunity to do it. There *is* a kick function (allows you to kick in doors, etc.), so maybe you CAN kick grenades. I'll have to try that...
By Brett Todd on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 - 06:36 pm:
Erik's GS review was really good, if a little more positive scorewise than I thought it should've been. The short, somewhat bland, solo game keeps it 8.2-8.5 for me. Also, in reference to that quote, enemies occasionally won't notice when you take somebody out just a few feet away. It's not blatant, and it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen, particularly when you use that Sten gun to fire single rounds. Overall, though, I'd agree with Erik that the AI is competent.
By Mark Bussman on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 - 10:09 pm:
"I hate it when the enemy can do things that you can't do but should be able to."
Lemme clarify myself a little bit. What I should have said was: I hate it when the enemy can do things that you should be able to do also but can't because the game designers didn't program the functionality in.
Let me know what happens Another Anonymous, just to satisfy my curiosity if you don't mind.
By Anonymous on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 12:25 am:
"solo game keeps it 8.2-8.5 for me"
But not an 8.1 or an 8.6?
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 02:34 am:
Yeah, yeah, the GameSpot scoring system sucks. God, does it ever suck. It's a crime against humanity.
Pretty soon GS may be the only game related website on the entire internet. Here's hoping they come to their senses and switch to a 1-5 star system.
By Another Anonymous on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 08:12 am:
Nonsense, all their game reviews run the wide gamut of ratings from 7.2 to 9.4! What more could you ask for?
By Erik on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 09:27 am:
"It's not blatant, and it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen, particularly when you use that Sten gun to fire single rounds."
Huh, I honestly didn't see this behavior.
One complaint I've read about the AI is that it will sometimes ignore you and run right by you. For about 6 hours, I was obsessed with testing Wolf's AI. Using the Godmode cheat, I tried out a bunch of different scenarios. One thing I discovered is that the AI will sometimes sprint (well, as sprinty as they get) past you while hightailing it from open ground to decent cover, which I don't think is necessarily a flaw.
By Another Anonymous on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 09:32 am:
Yet another assessment of the AI, this time from the Gamespy review:
"If RTCW has any truly weak spots, it's in the enemy AI. This can be a pretty hard game on higher difficulty levels (thank heaven for the quicksave), but not because the enemies are particularly smart. Granted, they do some intelligent things from time to time, such as reacting to gunshots in the immediate area, and taking cover behind walls and tables, but they tend to do some downright silly things as well. Enemies will often run right in front of you while you're shooting at them, and on occasion will not even notice you even after wiping out a whole bunch of their buddies.
Many of the baddies' actions seem somewhat limited and predetermined -- the zombies tend to stand still, crouch, advance and repeat, and your job is simply to pump them full of ammo as quickly as possible. The Nazi leather chicks are extremely cool, but once you've watched a group of them execute the same drop-roll-and-shoot for the 10th time in a row, you're harshly reminded that you're not really in Nazi Germany -- you're simply playing a video game. There is one scene where a group of elite paratroopers drops in and methodically begins hunting you down -- this was easily one of my favorite moments from the game, and only wish the rest of RTCW could have lived up to this level."
By Another Anonymous on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 09:41 am:
I actually thought the bit with the paratroopers dropping was cribbed from the scene in "Half-Life" where the marines rappel down from the Osprey.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 10:33 am:
Ah, who cares. Whatever the reason, we all agree that RTW's singleplayer game is rather mundane and-- depending on your level of bitterness about FPS gaming in general-- even boring.
So just go play the multiplayer game instead. Trust me, it's excellent! Particularly the AI. ;)
By Another Anonymous on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 10:39 am:
I hate multiplayer FPS's on a dialup. Lag city.
By Greg Kasavin on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 01:31 pm:
"Yeah, yeah, the GameSpot scoring system sucks. God, does it ever suck. It's a crime against humanity."
Humanity had it coming.
By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 01:40 pm:
Nice retort Greg!
I don't understand why people care so much about any of the scoring system. I try to advocate no scoring at all, or a thumbs up/down instead, but then I find Newsweek's lack of a score bothers me and Ebert and Roeper seem so inconsistent. 10 pt, 100 pt, 5 pt, 20pt, whatever, it's hardly worth arguing about any more.
By Dave Long on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 02:19 pm:
Everyone go to the five star system...or any system that can be agreed upon so when Istvan sends a bot through the Gold Guide we can get an accurate representation of who's median score is closest to the middle, ok?
Look for it on comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.strategic It's actually an interesting thread...even with the somewhat nutty results.
By Desslock on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 06:42 pm:
>. Here's hoping they come to their senses and switch to a 1-5 star system.
I really hope not.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 07:15 pm:
What could possibly be defined as "good" about the current GameSpot system? Even Hustler's erect penis ratings would be better than the travesty of a system they have now.
I rate this post a 5.32.
By Greg Kasavin on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 02:50 am:
Can someone explain to me again about the difference between a troll and a provocateur?
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 04:21 am:
Yeah, one's Wumpus, and the other is Wump...
By Bill McClendon (Crash) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 04:51 am:
"Can someone explain to me again about the difference between a troll and a provocateur?"
Sure. A provocateur makes you think about what was said, while a troll makes you react to what was said.
By Jeff Lackey on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 09:10 am:
"Can someone explain to me again about the difference between a troll and a provocateur?"
About 80 IQ points.
By Tim Elhajj on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 11:19 am:
a provocateur is a thinking man's troll...
Gah. Okay, I stop.
By Greg Kasavin on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 01:15 pm:
"a provocateur is a thinking man's troll..."
Like Gollum, from Lord of the Rings! I get it.
By Johan Freeberg on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 04:49 pm:
"be better than the travesty of a system they have now. I rate this post a 5.32.
I think it is much lower. How can you say all the bad things, at once, about the site that is the one for game players. And free! The numbers are very clean to show which is best, even better than the other letters.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 05:02 pm:
Well, Johan is right about one thing. Eventually GameSpot will be the only place left on the internet to go for (generally) well-written reviews.
And I'll ask again. What is good about GameSpot's rating system? I can't think of a single thing. At the time I wrote this, the top 10 most popular PC game reviews are all compressed into a tiny little 7.1 - 9.2 score window. What good is that?
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 05:04 pm:
Console review page is the same. Top 10 most popular review scores range from 7.9 - 10.0. That's a range of 2.1 exactly like the PC page! Less if we throw out the anomalous THPS3 review. Perfect 10, my ass. It's a great game, sure, but it ain't no perfect 10.
By Bub (Bub) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 05:56 pm:
So in your little world, Jeff, games should be graded on a curve?
By Alan Dunkin on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 06:01 pm:
Sure, a square root curve, I remember those from college. Get a two-digit number, take the square root, multiply by ten, voila, you have your new score.
Ex: A 49 is now a 70.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 06:18 pm:
Bub, shouldn't you be sucking up to Tom Chick right about now?
A curve is exactly what GameSpot ends up giving, since 90% of the reviews seem to fall in that 6.x - 9.x range. And why obsess over fractions at all? If EE gets a 7.9, and SWBG gets an 8.2, does that make SWBG a "better" game? It's pointless. But there it is in 36 point type at the top of every review, practically begging for everyone to look at it.
Even five stars is a bit too much, but it's a convention that people understand.
For me, what it boils down to is this: not recommended, recommended with reservations, recommended wholeheartedly. That's how I tend to describe games to people. You could probably add a fourth category for "sucked beyond all human comprehension", but I think people can generally grasp that from the review text.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to understand the reviewer's background. I'd almost like to see a bio of the reviewer that lists his or her favorite games and previous review scores.
By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 07:34 pm:
Uh oh, I thought we had put the "reviewer tilt" debate to rest.
By Greg Kasavin on Friday, November 30, 2001 - 09:52 pm:
"I'd almost like to see a bio of the reviewer that lists his or her favorite games and previous review scores."
I'm not interested in providing bios, but I've been pushing for a feature to let people see all reviews by a particular author. I do think that's important.
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 12:52 am:
"Even five stars is a bit too much, but it's a convention that people understand."
Actually, TechTV's Extended Play is the only one with a 5 star system (that I know of). CGW and CGM use half stars as well, so that's a 10 point system. Maybe you'd be happier if, when you looked at a PCGamer or Gamespot review, you mentally ommitted the second digit (unless the score is 100% or 10, of course). Or, you could just round to the nearest 10. But I don't understand why any scoring system really *bothers* anyone.
"For me, what it boils down to is this: not recommended, recommended with reservations, recommended wholeheartedly."
Miss, Hit, Direct Hit. Gotcha.
Now, what was that about Tom Chick?
By Another Anonymous on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 09:39 am:
Adrenaline Vault has a five star system.
By Dave Long on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 10:00 am:
Unfortunately, Adrenaline Vault's review text so rarely matches their star ratings. IMO at least...
By Desslock on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 04:08 pm:
>reviews are all compressed into a tiny little 7.1 - 9.2 score window
Even if that was the case generally, which it isn't, that "tiny" window you identified contains more than twice as many possible ratings as any other rating system being used.
I've defended the system in a variety of forums over the years (ask Bub), and don't have the energy to hash out things in detail again. I like percentage systems the best -- for me, the additional scores allow for better opportunity to differentiate between games. To use the example you gave, I'd rather have a system that had the top 10 games getting scores ranging from 7.1 to 9.2, instead of have five games getting 4 stars and five games getting 4.5 stars.
Any review system can work well, or poorly, depending upon the diligence of the reviewers and the editors.
By Desslock on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 04:19 pm:
>>For me, what it boils down to is this: not recommended, recommended with reservations, recommended wholeheartedly. That's how I tend to describe games to people
With that system, for every 20 games you reviewed, you'd likely have 4 not recommended, 10 recommended with reservations, and 6 rec whol... That may be fine for you, but I'd much rather have a system that allows for greater differentiation between games. Frankly, the difference between an 8.1 and a 8.6 may not be meaningful to you, but I like taking into account the ratings I've given other games when assigning ratings, and like ranking games relative to each other.
If you think the only valid reason for a rating is to help potential purchasers make decisions about whether or not to buy, then your system works. But while that's undeniably an important reason for a rating, I think there's also value in trying to better establish a game's relative merit compared to other games of its type (or other games generally), and a percentage system better allows that. I especially think that print magazines should look beyond just recommending a game for purchase or not, since their reviews aren't released until months after virtually all of the people who read the magazine have already made that purchasing decision.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 04:57 pm:
"Miss, Hit, Direct Hit. Gotcha."
There's a subtle difference, Bub. When I used three variants of "recommended", that clearly communicates that the game was recommended BY THIS PARTICULAR REVIEWER. If I pronounce something "a hit", does that mean it should sell well? You may or may not like the game. The game may or may not sell well. There's no correlation at all, and implying one is part of the problem.
"But I don't understand why any scoring system really *bothers* anyone."
Because it can keep people from reading the review and learning WHY the game was good or bad, in the eyes of that reviewer. That's critical, and it's the difference between buying a game you end up hating, and buying one that you enjoy.
Five stars means nothing to me when coming from a review published on http://www.gamingin3D.com. Five stars may even mean nothing to me when coming from someone as obviously talented and experienced as Tom Chick, depending on the genre of the game he's reviewing and his personal likes and dislikes. But if it's a well written review that communicates exactly what that reviewer liked and disliked about the game-- and I have a good sense beforehand of that reviewer's tastes and background-- then perhaps it is a great game after all.
I sure as hell wouldn't get any of that from a "rating". There are plenty of games I'd give five stars to that you guys would hate, and vice versa. I say stop the madness.
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 05:41 pm:
"If I pronounce something "a hit", does that mean it should sell well? You may or may not like the game. The game may or may not sell well."
That isn't what those ratings meant though. I can see where you're getting confused with Hit and Bomb, but Miss? Daily Radar used those ratings because of the "Radar" motif. They were translated in the reviewer's guidlines, and on the site, as, brace yourself (and I'm not kidding): "Wholeheartedly Recommend", "Recommend", "Not Recommend" and, well, Bomb says it all.
"When I used three variants of "recommended", that clearly communicates that the game was recommended BY THIS PARTICULAR REVIEWER."
Which is exactly what those Daily Radar ratings, or any ratings, are. What gave you the idea the ratings were based on sales projections? An assumption Jeff.
Still, ratings are there mainly because you're supposed to have them. Everyone needs a system. Some involve a lot of thought. Some are just, well... you mentioned Hustler's system.... But I don't think it takes a whole lot of creative energy on the reader's part to translate any of them to "Recommend", "not recommend" etc.,
By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 05:46 pm:
I don't really have a problem with any scoring system (I've reviewed under all variations), but I disagree with you on the most fundamental level of your argument. I don't believe games *can* be rated objectively against each other, at least not every game on a level playing field.
And even if they could, that system would ONLY be remotely valid if the reviewer assigning the score reviewed and rated every single game. Desslock, you review, what? 5 games a year? How can you take a scientific or even comparative approach? You're going to miss something, even if you review 100 games a year. Also, what about the reviewer's opinion? I reviewed Everquest for Gamepower. I gave it a 3.5 of 4. The editor phoned me up and said "Hey man, Ultima Online got a 4 of 4... isn't EQ better?" I said, yes. But I wouldn't have given UO a 4 of 4 and my review text of EQ wasn't a 4 of 4, so why should it be a 4 of 4?
The advantage of a 10 or 100 point system is the reviewer can feel more comfortable being on the fence. "Well, it isn't quite a 7 is it? But it isn't bad enough to be a 6.5. So, it's a 6.9!"
I'm not actually mocking that because it can be comforting. There are times I get frustrated with TechTV's true 5 point system. "Jeez, is it a 4 or 3? The game is a 3.5 to me dammit!" So, it is actually pretty nice having as many notches as possible, when you need them.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Saturday, December 1, 2001 - 08:03 pm:
"I don't believe games *can* be rated objectively against each other, at least not every game on a level playing field."
That's the heart of my argument as well. The harder we try to absolutely rate every game (eg, 0.0 to 99.9), the farther away we get from the truth: a lot of these opinions are based on personal taste, which may not be valid outside that particular reviewer.
Rating scales are something of a tarbaby. The more you struggle with it, the more stuck you'll get. That's why I propose using as few levels as possible. We should let go of this irrational devotion to quantitative rating, and concentrate on the text which actually explains and justifies one person's opinion.