Northern Beholder

Where history and gaming collide.

Month: March, 2013

The Greatest Game Mod Ever Made

There are, in my mind, two truly landmark first-person shooters.  The first is DOOM, the granddaddy of the genre, the original hyper-fast and hyper-violent demon-slaying simulator that took the world by storm in the early ’90s, setting the tone for years to come.  The second is Half-Life 2, which set the bar for the new generation of more linear, narrative-driven through spectacular environmental storytelling and expertly crafted level design that gave the illusion of player agency while keeping you funneled along what was in truth the only available path, without ever seeming overly forced or contrived (something that’s apparently really hard to do for some developers).

The Greatest Game Mod Ever Made, then, is gmDOOM. The mod, created by one Ghor, adds DOOM resources, including weapons, sound effects and UI, into the Half-Life 2 game engine, via the medium of Garry’s Mod.  The DOOM and Half-Life 2 game elements are fully interactive with each other, as demonstrated by this awesome video, which means this mod lets Gordon Freeman and the Doom Guy fight side-by side.  It also handily demonstrates just how lightning-fast DOOM movement is compared to the relative plodding of more modern games (and Gordon is a world-class sprinter compared to the lumbering pace you get in the morass of military manshoots).

Okay, that’s getting into a tangent. Complaining about the state of the modern FPS is another article.  The point is, gmDOOM is a wonderful callback to the halcyon days and meshes together two of the finest shooters ever made into a wonderful new playground, and I’m superbly pleased it exists.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Public Relations

Just recently I took EA to task over their terrible SimCity release, pointing out that all the money they wasted on server infrastructure and so forth was bringing them no gain and just causing bad press.  Included in that wasted money was the cost of coding the game to run half of it on EA’s servers rather than locally – that being EA’s justification for always-online DRM.

Well, guess what’s not true.  Turns out the servers don’t actually run any of the sim calculations at all, despite what EA said, and only handle cloud saves, region interaction (i.e. trade between cities) and of course regular authentication checks, because god forbid someone pirate this buggy mess of a game.  Even the simulation aspects, which were loudly touted pre-release and initially received praise, don’t hold up to scrutiny.  After several hours of gameplay, it becomes clear that what appears slick and intricate on the surface is only a thin veneer covering up a system of random choices, shortest-route pathfinding with no option for problem-solving (like taking a secondary access road to avoid a traffic jam) and ‘phantom sims’ created to swell the population with movements determined by extrapolation from the tiny pool of actual agents.

EA’s not just shooting themselves in the foot with this fiasco. Lies about core game features, lies about server structure, delivering an unusable product and threatening Origin account bands over refund claims?  They’re pumping out the whole magazine and calling for reloads.   And they’re doing it while standing on poor Maxis.

EA Keeps Digging

Last year I finally got fed up with Electronic Art’s cavalcade of stupid press releases, especially their decision to gut singleplayer in all future releases. I went so far as to predict EA’s death, as their abandoning of single-player was the equivalent of digging their own grave. Now EA has released the latest iteration in the SimCity series, and it seems they’re still shovelling as fast as they can. So fast that I need to talk about it before leaning back towards something vaguely history-related. Vaguely.

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