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Entries in Modern Warfare 3 (2)


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. 


Frustrating Release Dates, or Too Much of a Good Thing in Fall 2011

In the movie industry, studios plan the releases of their big titles carefully.  The Harry Potters of the world are never released on the same, or even the adjoining, weekend as the Transformers, the Batmans, the other tentpole hits.  Studios want their movies to have exclusivity to a weekend, to generate the buzz, to pull in the big opening weekend numbers. 

One would expect similar behavior in the release dates of video games, that having an exclusive window around your AAA release would guarantee greater buzz, better initial weekend sales, and higher sustained sales as people buy the game, love it, and tell their friends. 

Looking back over the last six (eight? ten?) months of video game releases, it’s been slim pickings for “games I want to buy” – and granted that’s a very subjective list.  There was Portal 2, which I bought and loved.    I considered LA Noire, but after hearing a poor review from a colleague, I passed on for now.  Not a lot else.  Sure, there were lots of “version 2.5s” – sequels which appear to be slightly enhanced versions of the original game rushed to market to make money (Left for Dead 2 is an excellent example of what I mean) – but no games which left me tracking their release date or going to GameStop to preorder. 

So the Gentlemen have been playing Battlefield 2 over the summer of 2011.  Great game, we enjoyed the multiplayer with its rewards for team play, different soldier classes and vehicles.  This game was released in 2009, and yet almost two years later it’s the best one we could agree on for our online entertainment.

This brings us to the fall of 2011.  Between early September and the end of the year, we have Dead Island, Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, Dead Rising 2, Batman Arkham City, Halo Combat Evolved. Modern Warfare 3, and of course Minute to Win It.  Lots of great games that I’d definitely consider dropping $60 on (I do realize they’re almost all sequels and one is a release), but I’m simply not going to buy them all.    There’s not enough time.  So, GoW3, and BF3, you get my preorder money.  Dead Island got my $60, but that’s likely going on the shelf Tuesday (GoW3 day).  Looking at the number of bugs in Dead Island, Deep Silver was trying to beat the other titles into the market – judging by their sales, a smart move.

I realize there are a lot of factors that go into a release date. I work in the software industry (albeit on the B2B side), so I understand the amount of work - design, development and testing  - that goes into a software release. Holiday shopping is starting soon (if not already).  Perhaps I’m being naïve, it just seems to me that if the studios planned their releases a bit better, they could get some more exclusivity, and therefore higher sales.