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Gears Of War Is Broken...

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#1 twistedsymphony


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Posted 24 January 2007 - 06:10 PM

This is a repost of my latest thoughthead article

I figured those here would enjoy it.

Those who know me well know Iím not much of a shooter fan. Iíll play though the occasional shooter that I think has an interesting story and unique gameplay elements (like Prey) or has just flat out fantastic and addictive gameplay (like COD2) but for the most part I donít get all that excited about them. I never buy a console based on itís shooters, theyíre the kind of game Iíll pickup and play if Iím bored with whatever else Iíve got. There are a few shooters that I do play if for no other reason then thatís what 90% of my friends want to play, so if I want to play online with my friends thatís the game I have to play. Gears of War is such a game, as is the Halo series. Donít get me wrong theyíre quality games, just not my cup of tea. I usually have more fun conversing with my friends then I do actually playing these games.

Having two friends recently get new Xbox 360s and the only common game among all of us being Gears of War itís what Iíve been subject to regardless of my liking. Let me start by commenting that that single-player experience and more-so the co-op play is exquisite. The gameplay is really well done and the campaign mode level design and script are all top notch, easily one of the best campaign modes of any shooter Iíve played in a while. This degrades rather quickly when you reach the multiplayer ďVersusĒ mode and unfortunately unless you like playing the story mode again, and again, and again, and again it only offers a few hours worth of game.

Nothing is really wrong with the gameplay available right now, nor is there anything really wrong with the levels available or the current game types available. Most people will tell you there isnít enough options, or levels, or game types, and I agree whole heartedly, when stacked up against fully loaded Mercedes of a shooter the multiplayer options in GoW fell like a base model pinto with a stolen stereo and the doors removed. But beyond that the real problem comes in Ranked mode.

Whats Broken
The problem with Ranked mode is simple: the match making and lobby system is some kind of ridiculous joke staring YOU as the punchline. Seriously, the only type of game you can play is team based 3v3 or 4v4, which is fine because the game is designed to be a team based game. However Iíd like to know what planet the game designers come from where itís acceptable to make a team only game with no support for teams. Iíd like to see how people would react to a similar situation in football play-offs where all the teams meet in a big room and get split up randomly into completely new teams under the ridiculous assumption that this is some how a good way to do things, and then after each game the teams are all randomly regenerated. When the game first came out at least you could maybe find another teammate and try to at least be in the same game as them, maybe being forced to play against them, but now everyone has been blindfolded where the only mode of feeling your way around is by sound. Actually playing a game with your clan requires far more planning then should be necessary for a game, the way in which it must be carried out requires the organization analogous to that of an under-the-table million dollar arms deal.

* Boosters begone
I understand the reasoning why Epic removed host names from the ranked match listing, but itís as if the game had a broken leg and rather then fixing it, they took a sledge hammer to the other leg and said ďhey, now you donít even have to worry about walkingĒ meanwhile players hobble around trying to play the game they though they were buying when they plunked down their cash last November. The problem theyíre trying to solve is team stacking, they donít want someone on Team B really playing as a member of Team A and sabotaging the rest of their members. Ok thatís noble, but they ďfixedĒ it by removing the host name when you select your room. Think about that last statement for a second ďÖselect your roomĒ since when do you get to select your specific room in a ranked mode? doesnít that seem to undermine the whole ďmatch makingĒ and ďtrueskillĒ system just a tad. If I want to play against people my own skill level how exactly does it help me if most people are able to choose their room? Searching for a custom match is fine, but it should select the room for you, you know, based on trueskill, like every other decent online shooter. This fixes the problems of boosters, and team stacking, but it doesnít even come close to fixing the greater issue at hand.
* Why canít we be friends?
You canít play a team game with your team, I donít understand how you can throw millions of dollars into a game with hundreds of highly intelligent people writing code and making detailed and complex graphics, physics and AIÖ and now whereÖ NO WHERE did someone think to raise their hand a little and mumble ďhey, do you think think people might want to play this [team based] game as a team?ĒÖ it boggles the mind. Listen up Epic here is how you do it: Make a clan lobby where you can build a team of 3 or 4 players, you can send invites to your friends, etc. Once you have your team assembled the host can select a quick match or custom match, AS A TEAM, and true ranking will be used to find other teams for you to play againstÖ Gee, what a novel idea! It blocks people from boosting to the best you can and prevents people from stacking teams. It also allows people to play the way they want to, you know, as a team. Theres no synergy when you get thrown into a team full of random people, you donít know if MasterChafe22 is going to quit mid-round or if sinkyfeet isnít talking because he doesnít own a headset, maybe he just doesnít realize his headset is muted maybe he himself is mute? Thatís not a team, thatís a collection of dazed and confused strangers that somehow have to work together as a well oiled machine for 5 minutes before being tossed into the fray again. Iím repeating myself but Iím having a hard time trying to fathom how such a gross oversight even made it to disc. Team games need clan support PERIOD. Itís as simple as the sky being blue and grass being green. Even more insulting is that the PS3ís answer to Gears is of course Resistance and for all Sonyís online systemís faults they some how managed to implement clan support, and itís not even a team based game. Normally Iíd assume that such a rebuttal from you competitor stings like slap to the face but I imagine things donít sting so much when youíre numb.
* Over Achievers
Beyond the problems with boosting and the lack of clan support I think a lot of people would even loose their desire to boost if the online achievements werenít so ridiculous. Honestly I donít have a problem with the goals, you want to make them lofty, thatís ok, I have no problems with the bar being set high but it seems that Epic didnít pay attention to the fairly large number of Gamerscore Whores out there. There are people on Xbox live, quite a few of them actually, that want nothing more then to rape a game of itís achievement points and move on to the next victim. These groups of gamers do whatever they can just to earn the achievements, and as a result it ruins the gaming experience for the other players that actually care more about the game then growing their e-penis. People are going to do that crap regardless, theyíll do everything in their power to get those points no matter how much it bothers the other players, or how much their trueskill or reputation drop. These players will do their thing and by requiring that these achievements be earned only in ranked mode it means these players (who will blatantly admit to having no interest in actually playing the game the way it was meant to be played) erode the experience out from under people who are there to play the game proper. A better solution would be to open the achievements up into player match as well as ranked. Those who would rather boost for their achievements can play there without bothering those of us who would rather play the game legit and those who are playing games legit can continue to build towards their achievements are a normal pace. Itís not like reaching 10,000 or even 100 kills is any easy task anyway; in my opinion if someone wants to waste 10+ hours a day for two weeks straight shooting meat Popsicles they deserve their 50 points just as much as the guy who did by playing the game every night for 5 years because they love it. I do have a problem when you require those two types of player to play against each other, they both have a right to play the game, but it degrades the experience for everyone involved when you force them to co-exist.
* Gracious Hosts
One of the things I hear people complaining about most often is ďhost advantageĒ, basically the idea that the person hosting the match has a substantial advantage over the other players in the game. Iíve experienced this with others hosting and Iíve taken to hosting my own matches. I try to keep my connection free from lag and I actually receive compliments quite often about how good my connection is. People comment that they donít feel at a disadvantage (I received no less then three such compliments just last night)Ö I tryÖ but I wish I didnít have to. If the system was setup like a true ranked mode where it automatically selects a room for you based on trueskill thereís no reason it couldnít also make whoever has the best connection speed the host. Dead or Alive 4 scores each player by how lag free and bandwidth rich their connection is, I donít see why the host couldnít be switched on the fly to whoever has the highest connection score. Thus eliminating the ďhost advantageĒ or at very least reducing itís occurrence.

Whats Missing
Now that weíve covered the broken parts lets change gears and talk about features. While I may vent my aggravations over the lobby and match making systems, extra features not being included are forgivable. Project time lines and such get compressed, things need to be cut out etc. I know that Epic will be releasing patches and expansions to provide us with new features, and I think thatís great. However rumors would point to them going in certain directions that I find to be terribly generic where there is great opportunity for them to do something great with the game theyíve got.

* Death Match:
I hear a lot of people begging for a free for all, or ever man for himself mode, which I think isnít terribly appropriate for this game considering itís really team based, but at the same time I think such a mode would be well received and as long as some new spawn locations were added to the maps as well as the ability to re-spawn and play until a specified time or number of kills was added I think it would make a decent addition, at least for varietyís sake.
* Capture the Flag:
I also hear a lot of rumors that a capture the flag mode will be added. This again feels terribly generic to me but at least itís team oriented. The problem that both of these modes suffer from is the requirement that players re-spawn which really doesnít fit in the theme of the game. Maybe a good way to work something into a capture the flag mode would be to allow all of your fallen team members to re-spawn after each successful flag capture.
* Domination:
This is where they could start using the uniqueness of the Gearís gameplay to implement unique game modes. The ultimate goal here might be to knock out all four of the other teamís members at once. Instead of re-spawning you can only get downed with no way to be killed completely, allowing your team mates to revive them any number of times. To win you would be required to completely dominate the entirety of the other team. You could also set a time limit a choose a winner by who had the the opposing team down the most.
* Zombie Locus:
The idea here would be to have two or more of COG players against one Locus, each COG the Locus takes out is re-spawned as a Locus. The Locus players can win by taking out all of the COGs or the COGs can win by taking out all of the Locus. For games with two or more rounds per match the highest ranked player of the previous round would be selected to be the starting Locus in the next.
* Scenarios:
This mode would basically take small slices of the campaign mode and set them up as multiplayer battles. The idea here is one team would have a single goal to achieve and the other team would attempt to stop them. In the campaign the COGs were held up in the mansion and had to fight through the Locus and make it to the APC without getting killed. The idea is to take small scenarios like this and put them in a multiplayer environment with human control over all four of the COGs as well as all or some of the Locus. Rounds could come in pairs with the sides trading roles. Some could have multiple objectives like the fueling up the vehicle before you can leave, or retrieving a guarded item, or even extracting a prisoner and helping them get out alive. Thereís a lot of potential here, some of these scenarios could be implemented into existing levels and it would truly bring the co-operative team work elements from the campaign mode into the multiplayer realm.
* Customization:
Probably the biggest area thatís lacking is customization of the online experience, add to that saved preferences. I want to be able to finely tune my online experience. I want to play a game where everyone starts off with two Boom Shots and some Frag Grenades I want to be able to choose the kinds of weapons I find around the level, I want to be able to turn off melee attacks or maybe make the round only melee attacks. I want to be able to save these settings as a custom game type that I can simply select from a list when I go online. I want to be able adjust and set preferences for nearly every aspect of the game. Itís this kind of customization that has given games like Golden Eye 007, and Counterstrike such staying power over the years. Thereís no reason that game like GoW with such solid gameplay mechanics should suffer a shortened lifespan just because of a few factors that arenít player adjustable.

Though I am a software developer I am not a game developer, I donít know how easy or difficult these things would be to implement. I donít have any sympathy as I feel strongly that many of these things, particularly in terms of the debacle that is ranked mode, should have been ironed out long before the game launched. I may not be a game developer but I am an avid gamer and I have seen many many games and know what works and what doesnít. Though, I have seen some pretty amazing and drastic changes to other games so I would imagine quite a bit of this is possible. I do hope this message gets to the right people (are you listening Epic?) I think if these things were implemented into the game, I actually might start enjoying the multiplayer experience in GoW beyond just talking to my friend while I push some buttons to keep myself occupied.

#2 thax


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Posted 24 January 2007 - 11:42 PM

Great ideas, it sounds like a great number of issues would be fixed if they just had made the achievments possible to attain using either a player match or a ranked match.

I like you ideas on forming teams. There is one thing I wish was possible to do, that is to lock or move slots so that you can have 3 on 5 or something like that, sometimes teams are so good that nobody can win against them, so adjusting the number of players per side would allow for more balanced matches. What ends up happening is a contant cycle of players quitting because they get kill so quickly, I guess this ties into the trueskill points you were making.

I can't wait for the next release, I hope one of the developers reads your blog.

#3 sp3cialk


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Posted 29 January 2007 - 02:15 PM

Set aside the cheating... Bungie did a great thing on Halo 2's multiplayer... a friend and I were talking and said maybe bungie should set down and give a session on multiplayer coding practices... lol.. I mean the party system, strongest connection is host but doesn't have to be party leader, heavily customizable gametypes, etc... I haven't given up hope that they'll fix what most players are asking for but who knows dry.gif

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