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Learning Curves

Chris thinks I’m going to buy both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3.  He’s wrong.  Why?  The learning curve of online play.  I don’t have time to become competent at both games – and therefore I won’t enjoy them both.

I’m a longtime online gamer, all the way back to Quake 2 on the PC.  This was back in the day before headsets (and even high-speed internet), and I remember typing furious messages and smack to other players between frags.  With the advent of Xbox Live and some great multiplayer games I quickly became addicted to gaming competitively over the internet.  

I’d like to think I became competent at all of the Halo games (Halo 2, 3, Reach, ODST).   They all had a similar control set, similar strategies and familiar weapons.  When each new game came up, I’d jump online and be competitive right away.

When the other Gentlemen got MW2, I figured I’d try it as well.  Online reviews were extremely positive. I played the campaign and enjoyed it.  I jumped online and immediately got thrashed.  And then got thrashed again.  And again.  And then about 20 more times before the game went on the shelf.

I found the learning curve to be too steep for my liking.  First, I had to learn a new control set (why game makers can’t standardize, I’ll never know).  Fair enough.  Then I had to get used to the fact that everyone knew the maps better.  They knew the good firing positions, choke points and respawn locations.  This isn’t as important as Halo – where getting to the sniper rifle or rocket launcher first can mean the difference between winning and losing, but it makes a difference.

The most frustrating parts were twofold.  One, there was no in-game help and guide whatsoever.  Campaign games (including MW2) typically walk you through simple controls and strategies to get you familiar with the game.   Most multiplayer games (MW and BF in particular), on the other hand, throw you right in the middle of the fray with no assistance at all.  Fly that helicopter?  Good luck.  Each one flies a little different.  What does this upgrade mean and how do I use it?  Look it up online.  Secondly, the skill tree rewards players who play more – players who play longer and therefore level up get body armor, better weapons, cool upgrades like a scope for your rifle.   I’m already getting my butt kicked, and someone drops an airstrike on me?  How’d he get that?  Not only is your competition better than you, they’re better equipped.

I experienced the same learning curve with BF2.  For whatever reason – patient friends, less sleep deprivation, more time to play - I was able to overcome my noobness and I’ve come to really enjoy the game.    I’m preordered BF3 today, and I’m looking forward to some great online play.  I know it’ll be frustrating at first, but I’ll suck it up and fight through it.

Do I want to go through the learning curve this twice?   Not a chance. 

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