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Modern Warfare 3 Benefits from Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Experience

While it seems that EA has slightly improved some aspects of the Battlefield 3 multiplayer matchmaking experience, if you're trying to get into a game with friends it is still a profoundly frustrating experience. And with the launch today of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, I get the feeling that many players are wondering if they should just start playing MW3 and give up on Battlefield 3 entirely.

In fact, this is the question that is being debated in a long email string among the players the Gentlemen play with regularly. And while it seems that most of us want to stay with BF3 for the time being, more than a few will try MW3 today to see how that goes. Here are some of the things that are being said from a few players:

"I will likely pop in (MW3) right away and see if there are matchmaking problems.  If there are, I will shrug, press eject, and go back to Battlefield. ...I anticipate playing a lot of both games in the upcoming months."

"I have always been more of a Battlefield guy but have been fairly disillusioned by the less than stellar launch and persistent difficulty playing with any number of people other than 4."

"I was a huge fan of BFBC2.  I'm pretty disappointed by BF3 in general.  There are many aspects I do like - the controls, the squad based reward system, etc are great.  But seriously, the online experience sucks.  And all the screen clutter and all those vehicles are just too much as well.  But what really gets me is the the game environment - getting stuck on a rock or not being able to crawl under something you should be able to or not being able to climb over something you should be able, all the while being shot through those spaces, and not being able to tell what building can be destroyed and what can't just infuriates me."

"I don't have time to play BF3 enough to get good at it, let alone another game.  The learning curve of the games is too steep - I got my ass handed to me playing MW2.  For the time being, I'll play strictly BF3."

 "I'm going to stick with BF3 for a few more weeks.  With MW3 dropping, that should alleviate some of the server stress and matchmaking should get better."

My own plan? I'm getting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 today and will definitely put it in to check it out. But I've always loved Battlefield more, particularly for the emphasis on team play and the quality of the maps, both in size and destructibility of the environment. Personally I'm hoping that EA fixes the matchmaking and it gets easier for a big group of players to play together.

But with COD: Modern Warfare 3 launching today, it looks like they've got their work cut out for them.


Battlefield 3 Is The Worst Best Game I've Ever Played

Seriously. Is there a reason why a console gamer should have to care about ANY of this?

Battlefield 3 multiplayer is awesome. It looks awesome, the gameplay is awesome and the maps are awesome. It is also the absolute worst multiplayer experience I've ever had in a video game. And for those of us who tried playing Gears of War 2 multiplayer, that's saying something.

For a great overview of how EA completely messed up the multiplayer launch of Battlefield 3 (as well as all of the other multiplayer Battlefield games in the franchise), definitely check out Ben Gilbert's great editorial in Joystiq last week. The back-end server stuff clearly has issues, and although EA rolled out a server "upgrade" a couple days ago, finding a game during peak times can still be very difficult, especially if you want to play with friends.

But even if the servers were working perfectly it would still be the worst multiplayer experience I've ever had. Why? Because of the utterly baffling front-end design that users are required to navigate in order to get into a game with their friends. Battlefield 3 is a game that is so beautifully designed and well thought out in so many respects and it's hard to fathom how the user experience of matchmaking could be so terrible.

Actually, it's not hard to fathom, because it seems like it was designed by engineers who are used to playing games on the PC. For the most part console gamers aren't used to having to "browse servers" or "bookmark servers" that they might enjoy playing on later. In my opinion this is how matchmaking works best on a console:

  1. You and your friends get into a party together and decide to play the same game.
  2. One person is the leader and they initiate matchmaking.
  3. Everyone in the party is put in the same game on the same team.
  4. That game is populated with players of a similar rank, so the gameplay isn't one-sided.

This is essentially the multiplayer matchmaking experience of Bungie's Halo franchise, and compared to Battlefield 3 it was flawless.

Currently in Battlefield 3, if you want to play a game with more than four people, one person has to go to the server list, wait to find a server with a game that has enough openings for your entire party, then jump into that server and invite his friends. Then the friends have to jump into that game as quickly as possible before other people join and fill up the game. If you've got more than 5 people, someone almost always gets left out, and it's profoundly frustrating.

Without outright acknowledging the bad design, EA seems to realize the matchmaking experience is frustrating their console gamers. Yesterday on the Battlefield Blog they posted a "Quick Guide to the Battlefield 3 Server Browser" which is basically a walk-through of the completely obtuse Server Browser screens. If you've got to publish directions on how to navigate the matchmaking process, you've failed.

There are other big failures too. If you accept a game invite from a friend who isn't currently in a game, it will place you in that person's squad, but it won't send you automatically to the squad screen (the pre-game lobby). Then, once in that squad, one person (the "squad leader") has control of the matchmaking, though there is no way to know looking at the list of names who exactly is the squad leader. And then, once that player uses "Quick Match" to start a game, the squad is, more often than not, broken up.

And the concept of playing in a game with players of similar skill level seems to have been completely thrown out the window. If you want to play in a game with more than four friends, you have to pick a server with openings. In my experience those servers are full of shut-ins who have been doing nothing but playing Battlefield 3 since it launched. Players shouldn't have to choose between playing together with their friends or playing in a game that is evenly matched. It all seemed so simple in the Halo days.

I know launching a multi-million dollar video game with millions of players all demanding perfection isn't an easy thing. I get that. But if EA had just spent a fraction of all the pre-order money on a couple of user experience designers and some independent user experience testing before launching the game, things could have been a lot different. Or better yet, maybe they just should have hired someone from Bungie to explain how to do it correctly on a console.


The Web Game "Lady Popular" For Girls Is Evil

Try this mental exercise. Create a web-based role playing game that would be the absolute worst thing you could possibly imagine for girls to play.

  1. You might start with a game that values physical appearance over (almost) everything else.
  2. The rewards you'd create in the game would likely involve shopping at the mall so you could get things that either elevate your appearance or your social status.
  3. Then you'd probably create a reward system where you earn money based on what kind of boyfriend you have.

Earn money? We can do worse. Let's make it so that the boyfriend has to give you the money every day.

I've never described a game as "evil," but after reading about Lady Popular from XS Software, I'm pretty comfortable with describing it that way - especially as the father of daughters. I'd rather my girls play a game that could give them nightmares than one day find them engrossed in this kind of shit online.

I'm not even going to link to it.

Finally A Game For Girls! Lady Popular [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


$1.74 Billion Spent On Video Game Content? That's a Lot of Microsoft Points.

Image via DICE Designer @ChristinaCoffin

Someone once said that the guy that invented money was smart, but the guy that invented the poker chip was a genius. I suppose the same could be said for Microsoft Points, Facebook Credits, Wii Points and all the rest because according to a recent report, in Q2 2011 consumers spent more on video game content than they did buying physical video and PC game software. "Content" seems to be defined as anything except physical games, including in-game content, game downloads (including mobile games like on on your iPhone), game rentals and everything else.

To me it's a staggering number, and indicative of where the industry is headed. A few years ago I don't even think I'd heard of the term "DLC," but now if I love a game I won't think twice about spending 1,200 Microsoft Points on new maps. And iPhone and iPad games? What's a couple of bucks if I can get a few good hours out of it (or, more importantly, if it will distract my kids for 15 minutes).

"It adds up" is apparently an understatement.

Consumers spent additional $1.74 billion on video game content in Q2 []


Gears of War DLC Six Weeks After Release

Epic has announced November 1 as the release date for the first DLC for GoW3 (link via joystiq).

I hate seeing DLC this soon after the game was released.  It feels like Epic is squeezing every dollar out of this great IP while it can, which I understand - but why couldn't they have included this in the released game? Granted, I do feel like I got my $60 out of GoW3, it's a true sequel with a great campaign and some excellent additions to multiplayer.  The game doesn't feel like some half-assed version 1.5 (see Left 4 Dead 2).  I just feel like I'm being shorted.

But who am I kidding? 

"The new fortifications include a command center that allows players to call in support from snipers, mortars or Hammers of Dawn". 

Yeah, I'm buying it.

 Gears of War 3 'Horde Command Pack' gets defensive Nov. 1 [joystiq .com]


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