Heisting My Salary

Still on the job hunt after four months I have decided to go a desperate route, make a career change and take back some of that bailout money through a more direct method. I am practicing to be a bank robber and an all around selfish Robin Hood and I have the perfect trainer in PAYDAY: The Heist.

PAYDAY: The Heist, from developer OVERKILL Software and published by Sony Online Entertainment, is Left 4 Dead turned “left 4 loot”. You and three other criminally gifted cohorts are smooth operating, TARP stealing and lethal when necessary, band of brothers. You are the most active members of Occupy Wall Street.

LR: Unique enemy units the Shield, Cloaker, Bulldozer and Taser.

The four of us (Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains) operate as a team looking to score money through differing heist scenarios, all while wearing masks that are a mix between those worn in the movie Dead Presidents and Point Break. From the token bank job in the scenario First World Bank to the corrupt stealing from the corrupt in the map Panic Room – where you lift a cash filled safe room out of a five story meth lab – each map requires a different approach. Also, adding to the suspense is the lack of a tutorial that walks you through the how-to-does and what-to-does. Should you try to stay inconspicuous as long as possible or should you go all Val Kilmer in the movie Heat and lay down covering fire to open up your escape in the map Heat Street?

PAYDAY: The Heist has a leveling system that unlocks new weapons, team helping drops and passive perks, but where it sets itself apart is in how you level up. There are three different class trees but instead of picking a class and then leveling up within it, you level up in each class depending on your style of play. If you hit head shots with your rifle on a regular basis then more unlocks become available under the Sharpshooter class. Lay down ammo bags on a regular basis then you will see more unlocks become available in the Support class. Have a Warcraft ogre like blood lust and an extreme hate for boys in blue (and special police units) then you will open up more mayhem enabling unlocks in the Assault class.

I am not ready to go pro in the heisting business as of yet (I only have 10 hours of practice) but give me enough time and I could, I mean Chains could, be visiting a local Bank of America very soon.

Whose behind the mask? Is it Patrick Swayze or maybe Robert De Niro? Could it be the infamous Mandingo?

Don’t Stranglehold My Stronghold Please.

In the first Stronghold, from developers Firefly, I found out that I had an intense hate for Rats, Pigs and Wolves – Snakes, I’d go back and forth on. Now, whenever I eat pork I do so with a little extra venom. It was also in Stronghold that I was able to live out my desires to siege castles like they did in my movie memories of the eighties.

In Stronghold 2 I became as frustrated as an over taxed peasant and as angry as a King without a full coffer at the tedious process of just collecting wood, let alone defending a castle. I couldn’t even bring a friend along to help me out in co-op, so we could suffocate in agony together.

With Stronghold 3 releasing on October 25th, 2011 I am hoping Firefly will cut the noose off its castle building, kingdom reigning medieval simulator. From the information provided by Firefly it has every intention to do so. Some key issues that are being addressed are:

  • A better visual and visceral combat experience (with humor).
  • Step away from the over complicated issues that Black Plagued Stronghold 2 (Just collect wood you worthless peasant!)
  • Much improved and now adaptable castle building (see Trinigy Vision Engine) – no more distorted castle walls or frustrating denials of placement.
  • Housing will visually match its surroundings depending on location/distance from main keep.
  • Incorporation of in-game physics thanks to the Havok engine – now walls will crumble and troops will fly when they are hit by a two ton boulder.
  • Day/Night cycles, where visibility is dependent on in-game lighting from new building options.
  • Multiplayer options through Steam.
  • The Wolf is back!

The visual and physics updates are exciting but the ease of multiplayer, rather co-op versus or group vs. group, will be much appreciated and very welcomed by the Stronghold community. For during the days of Stronghold and Stronghold 2 multiplayer was a trial of patience and usually you ended up playing the role of the court jester for thinking you would actually play a satisfactory game against a friend or anyone. Just like how the invention of gun powder changed the overall picture of castle sieges so has cable/DSL and online gaming stores/digital distribution networks changed the fluidity of multiplayer. Stronghold 3 will be the first in the series to be released in the middle of the direct download and social gaming grouping options by making Steam its priority launch pad.

So who is afraid of the big bad Wolf? Perhaps I am (because of a wolf’s ability to hunt in the dark) but I will gladly let him put my neck in a stranglehold while I enjoy the Renaissance of improvements that will makeup Stronghold 3. Lets hope publisher 7sixty’s first release blows our houses down on October 25th, 2011.

This is Caspian Border and I am Prince Caspian!

I’ve not seen nor swam the waves of the world’s largest enclosed body of water, the Caspian Sea, but I have ran the ridges and tracked my jeep down the dirt and street roads of Battlefield 3’s Caspian Border. For its final week of testing EA opened  the 64 player map, Caspian Border, to everyone who had access to the Battlefield 3 [BF3] beta on the PC. For months, we all watched YouTube videos, caught press releases from video game conventions and heard, via word of mouth, from games journalist about the epic nature of the 64 player map. Those with any interest in the first person genre salivated at the idea.

The cruelty of the BF3 beta was that for the majority of the beta access was only allowed to the one map mentioned in my previous post, Metro. Again, it was a dirty fun crawl from one MCOM station to the next in Metro but it wasn’t the months of anticipated fun we imagined having in Caspian Border featuring lions (jets), tigers (helicopters)  and bears (tanks)… oh my. Adding to the torture was the fact that EA did have password protected Caspian Border servers listed on Battlelog.

The torture ended for the last weekend of beta testing when EA announced they would open Caspian Border to all PC beta testers – on Saturday October 8th, 2011 I got my first taste. My first foray into Caspian Border was a mixed bag. I got into a server fairly easy and was instantly mesmerized by its scale. I stood in my teams spawn area watching people takeoff in the F-14 modeled jets from a dirt runway, as were a couple of other people in my squad. This was my first true experience of being part of an audience in a game… just watching the game.  The other side of the equation here was the lag. Not enough lag to make it unplayable  but just enough to be a thorn in a lions foot. I spent about 2o minutes in this sever, acquiring my first tank kill with the help of a couple of well placed mines and a final tap with a rocket propelled grenade and then searched for one that hopefully didn’t suffer from any lag.

Just a small sliver of the huge map, Caspian Border.

My second venture into Caspian Border was everything it should be (thanks to a server ping of 40). I joined Mother Russia in defense of her lands and my squad and I set out in a jeep to take a capture point atop a mountain/hill. By the way, the  topography of Caspian Border is feast for the eyes in its own right. Everything is very far away from each other so vehicles are a must and the highs and lows of the land make trekking by foot a long process. Once we got our off road Jeep clone to the point we captured it, set up to defend it  by placing mines around the dirt road access points and hunkered down for an assault – we didn’t have to wait long. The first attack was deflected well thanks to an early kill of the opposing tank but what ensued was a knock down, drag out fight. We ended up holding the point, thanks to a team member staying prone in some vegetation so we could continue to spawn off of him after we died, but we lost the overall battle. Even in a pretty overwhelming defeat I totally enjoyed the experience and took some pride in being the best squad on our team.

My last time spent in Caspian Border (out of eight visits) was the most enjoyable and will keep me looking forward to Battlefield 3’s full release. After capturing a point early in the game our squad moved on to a more forward point that was fairly close to the opposing teams main spawn. We secured the point and then moved into gorilla warfare mode by setting up ambush points from within the buildings surrounding the capture point. With mines staggered across the most likely entrance point we braced for the oncoming attack. It started off great with just an opposing squad with no armor and/or aerial support walking right into our trap, they were wiped within minutes. It was the second attack that we felt the full force of the enemy having a very close main spawn area.

A tank rolled up the main entrance to the small town that housed the capture point and stopped just prior to the mines. Those mines were aligned directly next to my perch in a two story building. I could see the tank clearly from the second story balcony and when I stepped downstairs quickly to take a peek I could see there were infantry in support. The tank must of spotted my fellow squad mates because it open fire just I started heading back upstairs. From above, I open fire on the two opposing infantry men next to the tank taking them both out. The death of those two men brought the attention of the tank on me as I saw it aim its barrel up a few notches to were I had just reigned down lead. I went prone and crawled to the interior of flimsy building and braced for impact. Honestly, I was at my computer and could feel my body clinch, I was completely immerse. The shot rang out and the sky opened up to me but my little soldier buddy was still kicking, hurt but kicking. I popped up and launched an RPG at the tank, hitting it in the side. The tank inched forward looking for a better shot. BOOM! That inch forward was just enough to set off the mines I had laid on the street 5 minutes prior. The tank was still operational but stuck in place. It was a stick in the mud. I then saw the crew exit the vehicle in a desperate attempt to avoid avatar death. I crouched around the new hole in MY building and like Peter Pevensie himself I slaughtered King Miraz and his men and watched as the last few tics of the opposing force left my hub and Narnia, I mean Caspian Border, was won.

So yeah, I’m looking forward to the games full release on October 25th, 2011.

Beta For the Better: Will Battlefield 3 See the Changes it Needs?

With 15+ hours worth of beta experience I have become very intimate with the Battlefield 3[BF 3] beta and overly familiar with the one map it offers for play, Metro. I’ve also become very aware of the issues that need to be resolved prior to the games full release on October 25th, 2011.

For starters, the process to get in a game and start playing is tremendously tedious. The process goes as follows:

1) Start EA’s online store Origin

2) Launch game out of Origin

3) Launching the game then launches the internet browser Battlelog

4) You use Battlelog’s server browser to find a game

5) A plugin, Game Manager, starts its connection process to the server

6) The game connects and you click Join Game within Game Manager

7) The game launches in a windowed form

8)  You hit alt + enter to put the game in full screen

9) You start playing

A fellow beta companion and friend compared the process to Inception… a game within a game within a game, and I completely concur. The hoops one must jump through is like a scientific experiment on how much one will endure for the satisfaction of playing. A recent video (below) explains what Dice (BF 3 developer) is trying to provide to the gamer but I think they are missing the point. Gamers what to play and the more obstacles you put in their way the quicker they will migrate away from a game.

On day two of the beta release, the last day before the beta became public, I experienced the most widespread clipping issue ever encountered in a beta. One person coined it as Batttlefield Clipping 3 in the all team chat and it was hilarious and accurate at the same time. Clipping is the act of players, vehicles etc… not being bound to the generated parameters of gravity or world objects, such as the ground or walls. The issue was not that clipping was occurring in a beta, that happens and can almost be expected to some measure. The worry was how widespread the clipping was. Matches were unplayable in many cases and the same issue was prevalent from one server to the next. A good example of the clipping problems experienced can be seen in the video below.

Thankfully within a 24 hour span Dice seemed to have corrected the majority of the clipping issues but on occasion it has reared its ugly head, especially (all jokes aside) when your soldier is in the prone position.

The most frustrating aspect of the beta, that has been constant throughout, is the inability to join seamlessly with your friends in a squad and even within a server. Battlefield 3 is heavy on squad level tactics like covering fire and flanking, which means communication is key. So joining with your friends in the same squad is essential to a successful and enjoyable experience. This would be less of an issue if the voice chat system was up to par so you could communicate basic information with strangers. BF 3’s voice chat system, based out of its Battlelog server, is already inconvenient and the, admittedly, limited experience I’ve had with it has been ear damaging. Heavy static and background noise is not beneficial to a squad trying to take a MCOM station while under heavy suppressing fire. As I have done with many chat heavy games before, I’ve have resorted to the highly effective services of Skype.

This is the beta, which I tell myself regularly as I run into the above mentioned issues, so I can let go of some of the frustrations I have run into ‘prone’. I do hope that the beta will lead to better… The moments of pure joy are there; like having a friend attach his C4 to my EOD robot and then driving it up on some unsuspecting enemies and then telling my friend to detonate. Or lying prone in the exit/entrance of a metro, providing suppressing fire, while RPGs careen over head and echo behind me in a tremendous immersion of sounds and dust. The beta is fun, the frustrations are not, but lets hope the suffering of the beta is for the better.