Syrian Style Shogun

Total War: Shogun 2 has been a fun gallop. I’ve managed to spread my empire over half of Japan and just recently, I’ve drawn the attention of the Emperor himself. Attention is putting it lightly, I’ve drawn his scorn. The remaining clans have allied with him and in one turn, they’ve all declared war against me. This has not taken me by total surprise; I’ve crushed one clan after another under my daimyo’s (and his heirs’) samurai shoes, turned once free peasants into rice producing slaves and taxed the populous almost to the breaking point. Just like Bashar al-Assad, I’ve had it coming, and I most definitely deserve it.

My acclaim among the Japanese clans and the Emperor himself has gradually grown, demonstrated by the expansion of my lands and the in-game notoriety measure. My populous has made regular, feeble, attempts to overthrow my rule but my “peaceful” occupation of each newly conquered province has been resolute. My my daimyo’s rule is one dictated by sword and seed. A sword to keep the people inline and the seed to keep them fed and docile. I give them enough of the sword to fear me, and enough rice to appreciate me. This method has worked from one heir to the next but over time the cold winter of revolution will eventually grow into a spring. Even in a virtual Feudal Japan people rise up against a tyrant and allies align behind them, so should the same be done in the real world.

During my daimyo’s expansion I’ve made temporary packs and promises with other clans, only to break them when it benefited me and strengthen my grip on my provinces. I’ve sent messages of poetic pleasure to other rulers, putting their fears at ease, just so I can encircle them with my cavalry. I’ve opened trade and channels of diplomacy with western worlds with the promise of change at home, only to give my superior military time to entrench itself, and attack those who even peacefully oppose me. In this virtual game, the European traders are quick to sever their ties and their financial support when my legitimacy as a leader is obviously a fraud.

Shogun 2’s Japan has jointly risen to resist me but they will most likely end up at the end of my sword or knee deep in my rice fields. Other in-game countries will not get that involved outside of slap-on-the-hand trade embargoes. The game is not designed to be that encompassing, to include game changing actions from foreign powers, but our real world is. Thankfully my daimyo’s source of trade does directly benefit “his” people, in that they do get fed, but in our real world oil doesn’t go down well with with a cup of saki. I will eventually squash all those who oppose me and conquer all of Japan. I wont feel bad about it because it’s a game, and not real. What does trouble me however, is people’s lack of ability to distinguish between virtual tyranny and reality.

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Quality Created Marketing: Blizzard’s “Unintentional” Boon From Flexible Release Dates

Blizzard’s policy of not releasing a game until it is polished and absolutely complete has worked out for both Blizzard, and for their game buying fans. With each games’ announcement, the online community explodes. Free marketing abound! With each delay of a Blizzard release, free marketing abound! When the game finally hits the hands of its wanting fans the level of anticipation has reached the same height of a Protoss Carrier.

Per Blizzard's Diablo 3 website (FAQ section).

For Blizzard, this practice of releasing games only when things are perfect has been awarded to them due to the money they’ve generated via World of Warcraft [WOW]. It also helps that each game they release, that has an extended development phase, is an award winning, financial success. With ample cash on hand, Blizzard can stretch out their development, alpha and beta phases. Many other gaming companies can not afford the luxury of having a negotiable release date, and in the case of Blizzard, the release date is not just negotiable but very flexible.

What was originally just the practice of giving its gamers/fans the most faultless iteration of its next game, Blizzard has created a marketing strategy original to the gaming industry. The constant delay and changing of release dates has now turned into a buzz machine for Blizzard. With some of the most appreciated and accepted games in the PC arena (Diablo, WarCraft, WOW and StarCraft) it’s understandable that Blizzard wants to get each release right. I do not think the delays in release are intentional but obviously Blizzard is aware of the storm it creates every time it even mentions another delay.

You can find the devil on Amazon.

When subscribers for WOW started to fall off slightly and Blizzard stock started to bleed (both happened in late 2011), I wrongfully predicted that Blizzard would, for the first time, hurry a release. I thought the pressures of share owners would finally put the squeeze on Blizzard and they would release a game before they wanted to. I am happy to be wrong. Perhaps Blizzard share holders have some faith and understanding of what makes Blizzard, just as polished as its games.

Once again, a Diablo 3 release date announcement is expected soon. Once again, the internet and gaming media are a buzz. Once again, Blizzard gets some free marketing. Once again, I am drooling at the opportunity to personally rip Diablo’s horns from his head.

My Inability to Commit: Keeping My Distance From The Old Republic

There is no other universe that I cherish more than that of Star Wars. From the hippie-dippie Jedi to the skilled stalkers of the Bounty Hunters Guild, Star Wars has been a constant in my life. It has provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment, spurred creativity and brought me closer to certain family members. It has also caused me great pain. The death of Qui-Gon Jinn, of Yoda, and the lack of a death for Jar Jar Binks, have all caused me moments of sadness and, in Yoda’s voice,”Suffering.” One Star Wars related experience, in particular, had a double impact.

One thing that has been on par and now surpassed my love of Star Wars has been PC gaming. When the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game Star Wars Galaxies released in June 2003 I was just getting ready to start my last semester of undergrad and had been anticipating its release. What a perfect game for me to get lost in during the summer before my last semester? Well, it wasn’t. It was a disappointment. I played very little during the free month provided with its purchase. I never played it again. Like Obi Wan on the Death Star it disappeared. Occasionally, like the force, it would whisper to me through news bits on gaming websites. I’d even listen, on occasions, to a podcast that reviewed add-on content, but I never committed to it again.

When news of a new Star Wars MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic) first started making its rounds I was vaguely interested but mostly brushed it away like a juvenile Bogwing. As more info came out about The Old Republic [TOR] the more interested I became. When BioWare was named the developer of the new MMO, my Jedi senses raised the hairs on my arms. I had been fooled once before by the Lucas hype machine so I still didn’t commit. This time I would wait for the reviews and make an educated decision, not rush rashly towards a choice like some kind of scruffy nerf herder.

Well the reviews are out, and they have been spectacular. I must admit I was hoping  that they weren’t. I was hoping for poor reviews and an easy excuse for me not to commit. I was wanting the Death Star to win this one, by blowing away my desires to play, but with Jedi Masters like those at BioWare, I new this games destiny was greatness. Now it really pains me not to commit, not to play and not enjoy a universe that I consider almost family.

My fear? This game will take too much of my time. This is a worry I’ve never had, for any game. I would actually welcome such a fear for most games and then follow it up with a purchase. Not this one. I am actually hesitant to commit. I am fearful of the amount of time I would invest into this game. Will I eventually change my thought process and hyper jump into the TOR universe? One thing keeps repeating in my head as I continue to fear this purchase, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” I would hate to end up suffering but I hate monthly subscription fees even more.

Our New Imaginary is Our Virtual Reality

As a method for me to get to sleep as a child I would imagine myself in a imaginary world. I would picture myself alongside fellow G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes. I would imagine myself as a Dark Jedi decked out in my own outfit that I would meticulously design in my head. That’s what I really spent most of my time doing, imagining what I would personally look like in these fantasy worlds. What would my shoes look like? What color would my Jedi hood and cloak be? Would my cloak fit loosely on my body and cover the majority of my face or would it fit snugly around both my head and torso? I spent the majority of my time on designing my outfit within my head rather than living out my fantasy actions. I would picture what a perfect battle helmet would look like, what best armor would go well with it and… sleep.

Thankfully today's games have much better character creation abilities than I do.

Now, I can design these characters in a virtual sense, live out the fantasies via video games and stay awake during it all. In Skyrim’s character creation section hundreds of thousands of combinations are possible and that’s a  very low estimate considering the multiple race options. You can tweek eye color, shape and positioning. You can design a perfect nose or, because mine is a little crooked thanks to my full face commitment to sports, something similar to Owen Wilson’s. The customization of character creation in Skyrim and many others games are nearly endless. You can create someone in your own image, as I usually do, or role play an entirely different gender. As a child creating myself as a hero was done within my head and also, through disproportioned sh*tty drawings that my sister made fun of. Not only can we create a character to our exact specifications but we can then take that character and live out a virtual existence with them.

Unique noses add character.

I don’t see this as taking away from our imagination but instead improving it and letting it flourish. Creativity spurs creativity and video games encompass a multitude of creative elements. Games are practices in writing through the copious amounts of dialogue and acting (see Star Wars: The Old Republic’s recent Guinness Record). The design elements for a game’s play, creatures, characters and cities take the skills of architects, interior designers and city planners. So much creativity goes in to a game it is almost mind blowing. What is even more impressive to fathom is the creativity that results from these well made games of epic proportion. Novels based of the lore of a game are numerous. Magazine and books focused on gaming. This blog ;). Games that are an undeniable benefit to society, like FoldIt and how it helped solve protein structures.

Games have stimulated my creativity and increased my hands on experience with social media, public relations and networking – all things I can apply towards benefiting me in an eye of a potential employer. Still continuing to struggle with sleep during my ongoing job hunt I have resorted back to a childhood method, with the same amount of success but with much more material.

My Slide to Neverland. My Introduction to Video Games.

Coming down from my ShowBiz high. (LR) Courtney(old stepsister), Me, Evelyn (Mom) and Robin (Sister).

The show part of ShowBiz Pizza Place was a group of animatronic performers, known as The Rock-afire Explosion. What made up the biz of ShowBiz was what seemed like acres, from a 5 year old child’s perspective, of arcade cabinets and ticket spitting games. It was within this church, dedicated to the worship of pizza and video games, that I was indoctrined with a belief in gaming. With unique marketing tactics targeted at children and parents’ wallets, Showbiz was my Neverland.

In the mid 80s, school days for me were a difficult time, consisting of frustration and confusion, due to my parents’ recent divorce and my mother’s new marriage. I had a lot on my mind but not the capacity, at the time, to sort it all out. School structure was brand new to me and my prior preschool experiences were, let’s say, urine soaked. What brought me out of the fuzz and opened my eyes to learning was a mix of organized sports (soccer) and motivation for good grades. ShowBiz was a beacon of bliss in my mind and when they started rewarding good grades with tokens for games, I settled in and learned.

A scabby faced, 6 year old Tony, waiting patiently to go back to playing arcade games. (LR) Me, Robin, Holley (old cousin in-law) and Courtney (TimePilot behind me).

Living in the same state that ShowBiz was founded didn’t hurt the amount of marketing exposure my folks and I received. “ShowBiz Pizza, where a kid could be a kid!” was a simple but true slogan when paired with self-serve fountain drinks, pizza and arcade cabinets flashing colors that would create pure childhood ecstasy – it was like a rave for young adults. With an improvement in my grades came an increase in tokens, which transferred over to even more trips to ShowBiz. Birthday parties for me, or anyone in my immediate family, were to be held in the palace of pizza. The amount of excuses to go to ShowBiz pizza started to pile up like the tokens in my pocket. ShowBiz had figured out the formula for getting kids in the building but sadly, hadn’t figured how to capitalize on it.

Sister's birthday party.

A very friendly birthday hug for my sister from Chuck E. Cheese.

The Rock-afire Explosion, a band made up of animatronic gorillas, bears and mice, were ahead of its time from a technology and presentation standpoint. For a kid, seeing your first Rock-afire Explosion show was similar to a first encounter with an alien. They were frightening yet fascinating, a curiosity. They were also very expensive to create and operate, which eventually lead to the downfall of ShowBiz in its original state. As awe inducing as the Rock-afire were, my little legs, fueled with an endless supply of caffeine and sugar, always took me away from the stage and straight to the arcade cabinets.

Billy Bob (background), of the Rock-afire Explosion band, with birthday party attendees.

The lights and sounds I saw on the screens of these armoire sized gaming hangars fascinated me more than anything in the building, or in any other building. The Rock-afire Explosion were technically ahead of their time, but it was the rows of arcade games that had a future. I grew older; ShowBiz and variations of it were no longer my Neverland, but the games that grew out of arcades still allowed me to believe in fairies.

Sliding into Neverland.

Interested in more about ShowBiz and its history? Check out the documentary (now streaming on Netflix) entitled The Rock-afire Explosion and the fan site www.showbizpizza.com.

The Un-Elder Globes: Skyrim

I have yet to shiver in the rivers that run through the wintry landscape of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I have not stared down a dragon in the hopes of stilling his soul. I have, however, imagined that all the dragons sound like Sean Connery. I’ve also watched a multitude of trailers and now, game play, and what has caught my attention the most since post release?

Before I go any further and reveal my mannerism, let me put in place a preemptive apology to my girlfriend. Amanda, I am sorry, they mean nothing to me. Even when I do purchase the game and I am immersed within their world and perhaps living with them, even sleeping with them, they are not a real threat. Okay, now that is out of the way…

So what have I noticed constantly in the Skyrim videos post launch? Boobs. Large, perfectly shaped, breasts. Yeah there are dragons and dual wielding of spells and weapons, but boy did they do a job on the pixelated perkies. It seems if a women in the world of Skyrim has a low cut blouse then they must also have a before-its-time push up bra or, at least, a c-sized silicone implant… or both.

As soon as I started to regularly notice the boobzilla inhabitants of Skyrim (and trust me it didn’t take long) I instantly started to make up in world excuses for their existence:

“In the frigid northern lands, that is Skyrim, evolution has adapted to provide women with insulating chest pillows.”

“Among the possible spell paths is, the less traveled, Cosmetic Spell Caster. He/She earns his living by enhancing the beauty of the women of the north, who suffer from the harsh winters, by offering his skills for coin.”

“A side quest quest of Skyrim is to find the source (possibly a dragon), for King Weiner, that provides its women with large attractive breast so he may use it for his own shortcomings in his land of New Yorkia.”

All that was fun, but the real reason that eye cleaving cleavage is so prevalent in Skyrim is because, sex sales. I was sold on this game way before the Breastimous Magnanimous spell was ever cast on me. The game is huge and it leaves plenty to the imagination (No. Not, “I wonder what she looks like under that leather armor.”) or more importantly, exploration. It is a world you will struggle to see in its entirety, even if that is your sole purpose of playing it. The game is its own world, that you will enjoy getting lost in.

I understand the need to immerse players of a game within their surroundings by providing them with ample amounts of visual fruit (see cantaloupes, watermelons etc.) when that said surrounding is a brothel or the lair of an enchantress; I understand this and expect it. On the dual wielding hand, not every women in a hotel, tavern or farmhouse has a set of ‘dragon eyes’ the size of Duke Nukem’s ego.

What makes this more frustrating as a gamer who wants gaming to be taken more seriously; as an industry of intelligence, made up of players of intelligence (See the publication Kill Screen’s mission http://killscreendaily.com/pages/who-we-are.) is The Elder Scrolls series has been embraced by women and men alike. I couldn’t get Amanda off my old PC after I introduced her to The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Both her and I have been anticipating the release of Skyrim and are now waiting for the right moment to purchase it. How many women gamers have been turned off by the YourTube boob views of Skyrim, passed on the purchase, and went back to playing Farmville?

Then there’s how video game news is covered. The industry must distance itself from the large breasted women trying to convince us they are actually informed about video games. What female viewer who is questioning taking up the hobby would decide that she wants to partake in an industry that covers news in such  way? Please stop insulting me by presenting your silicone talking head as an expert in the field of video game journalism. Yes, there are exceptions, where the woman is informed but they normally don’t rise to the top because of the following:

Yes, video gaming is dominated by us penis pushers and so are the themes of video games but think how much of a bigger audience a game would have it is just toned down the titties? I am in no way saying cut out the sexy that makes up 85% of females portrayed in video games but perhaps cut that down to 65-60%. In the process of cutting back on the racks, input some female characters that are more than just visually pleasing. Put some in there that are mud crab ugly. Put some in there that are attractive and intelligent. Put some in there that are as common looking as Jane Eyre and when the storyline matches, do put some in there with spell enhanced “attributes”. To their credit, Bethesda does this to some extent in Skyrim.

In a gaming economy that relies on having a large base of potential gamers wouldn’t it behoove a developer to not ostracise a potential segment? Lets take away the capitalist argument above. Shouldn’t creating games that could have mass appeal to multiple genders be done because it is the right thing to do? Because those who are playing the games are not just boner controlled morons, but evolved men and women who appreciate a fun fantasy game that doesn’t make them out to be walking hardons?

Dynamic Patching: Taking the Chastity Belt Off Stronghold 3

I have lead my villagers to victory in the face of the Jackal’s overwhelming numbers. Despite the Jackal’s better equipped and armored forces, my pitchforked armed farmers-of-death (peasants) and my archers in tights, have fended off his advances. I have enjoyed the first eight missions of the combat based campaign of Stronghold 3 but if there hadn’t been a timely patch, I would of waved the white flag within the first mission.

I would not have gotten up to this point in the military campaign of Stronghold 3 unless a major patch had come out a week after its release and taken the chastity belt off its game play. Prior to this patch’s release the game was one frustrating encounter after another. The real battle was not between you and the Jackal’s men but between you and the games glitches and bugs (Did you know wolves can climb ladders?). I was starting to believe the Wolf, the main nemesis of the Stronghold series, was going to defeat me before I ever met his men on the battlefield.

Thankfully Firefly Studios and publisher 7Sixty quickly realized they had a route on their hands and if they didn’t act quickly all their efforts would fall to the onslaught of negative reviews. 7Sixty made their publishing debut with Stronghold 3 and I can imagine that first impressions were something they wanted to go right – they have a lot of treasure and to a point, their company’s future invested in this games success. For awhile it appeared they too, would be defeated by the Wolf before they even stepped on the battlefield. Hope does remain for their success and this quickly released patch supports that hope for both 7Sixty and Firefly.

The core game mechanics of Stronghold 3 are strong. The additional elements added to the third game in this series add to the depth and fun of this game, when everything else is functioning correctly. The concept of needing a candle maker to stockpile candles for church services, to in turn increase the happiness of your populace, is a welcome addition to a game that thrives off what OCD game play. Having a sheep farm to produce wool so your tailor can provide you with clothes may seem tedious to some but to those who enjoy what I call step-to-step RTS game play, it is a joy. All these additions are welcomed but missed when the basic game mechanics are lost.

The improvements promised to us in the months leading up to Stronghold 3 are there. Firefly managed to cut back the problems with micromanage when it came to getting assigned peasants to do the tasks you, as lord and king, assigned them to do. Lumberjacks cut wood, farmers bring in hops for the brewers and those who work at the stone quarry get a good work out in the process of providing stone that will be used in their village’s castle walls. The physics engine does make crumbling wood walls fun to watch, even when they are your own. Dynamic housing that scales, visually and occupancy wise from large to small, based on the proximity from your main keep is a new challenge to your inner city planner.

Upon release I thought I was going to see the passing of the games fictional King, publisher 7Sixty and my desire to play Stronghold 3 within in a week. Instead, similar to the fall and rise depicted in the games military campaign, I was given renewed interest and vigor to continue my play through. During Stronghold and Stronghold 2’s heydays, digital distribution did not exist nor did automatic updates/game patches. Herds of nerds had to wait months and even years for game saving patches to be released and by that time it was too late, for the gamer and the company behind the game. Thankfully, during the age of digital downloads and daily updates, games with faults at release will live to take the throne again. If Firefly and 7Sixty continue to strengthen the castle walls of Stronghold 3 then it will still have the chance to fend off early critic attacks and receive the Abbott’s approval.

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.

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.

A Two and a Half Hour Beta Session With Battlefield 3.

The best way to describe my first 2 1/2 hours with the Battlefield 3 [BF3] beta is through a time line. An up and down ride, mostly down, that ends with bliss and wide eyes of hope for a great beta experience that will lead to an even better full game release. The beta is running from September 27th to October 10th so there is plenty of time for them to tweak the problems I ran into with my initial experience and those that will present themselves later in the week.

9:45 AM – Received BF3 beta key via email.

9:46 AM – Logged into EA’s Origin (that is in beta as well) and imputed beta key and started download.

10:30 AM – Download complete. Start BF3 beta and automatically launches Battlelog; EA’s website dedicated to the BF 3 community.

10:32 AM – Install “Game Manager” who I will soon learn to hate.

10:32 AM – Use server browser headquartered within Battlelog to navigate potential servers to join, all RUSH* style maps are full.

10:33 AM Find a server with spots open for the Operation Metro rush map. I attempt to connect.

10:35 AM – After waiting on Game Manager for 5 minutes in queue I abandon my attempt. I just want to play.

10:38 AM – I find another server with a low ping. Attempt to connect.

10:39 AM – Game Manager informs me that the, “Server is changing maps and I should try again soon.” I withdrawal my attempt and search anew.

10:40 AM – Click the Quick Match button and watch Game Manager inform me that it is “Matchmaking…”

10:45 AM – Game Manager still showing “Matchmaking…”

10:55 AM – Game Manager still showing “Matchmaking…”

11:00 AM – Game Manager still showing “Matchmaking…”

Game Manager (lower left) showing "Matchmaking..." message after clicking on the Quick Match button (upper left).

11:05 AM – Game Manager informs me that it, “Could not join server because server could not be found.”

11:06 AM – Take a break from the screen and grab a cup of coffee. Try to calm frustration by repeating, “It’s in beta. It’s in beta. It’s in beta.”

11:07 AM – Browse running servers and find a hopeful listing; US Multiplay # 079 TX 0/32 Players Rush Operation Metro Ping 61.

11:08 AM – With fingers crossed, I attempt to connect to the Texas based server.

11:10 AM – Game Manager shows “Server queue…” message.

11:11 AM – Game Manager shows “Server queue…” message.

11:12 AM – Game Manager shows “Server queue…” message.

11:13 AM – Game Manager shows “Server queue…” message.

11:14 AM – Game Manager shows “Server queue…” message.

11:15 AM – Game Manager still shows “Server queue” message… and I have to poop. Not just any poop, but post workout protein and morning coffee poop.

11:17 AM – I “RUSH” to the bathroom.

11:19 AM – I return victorious from my real world “RUSH” map, sufficiently wiped. Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message.

My, at one time, hopeful listing; US Multiplay # 079 TX 0/32 Players Rush Operation Metro Ping 61.

11:21 AM – I start reading EA’s FIFA 12 Manual for the PS3. Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message.

11:22 AM – See section in black and white manual entitled “Accessing The In-Game Manual” and realize what I am holding amounts to a book mark. Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message.

11:24 AM – Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message.

11:28 AM – Message Sp0d (AKA my friend Wyatt) through Origin chat that I am still haven’t actually played the beta.

11:29 AM – Game Manager, more like Game Missmanager! Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message.

11:30 AM – Remind myself this is a beta. I relax. Wait. Game Manager still shows “Server queue…” message. I wonder to myself if people listed in the server browser as being in game are actually in game or are just waiting in the server queue like me.

11:32 AM – Debate closing Game Manager and starting over.

11:33 AM – Close Game Manager… Realize I am unable to close Game Manager!

11:34 AM – Close Battlelog website, restart beta, click “Quick Match” button – note that is doesn’t false advertise and say “Quick Play.”

11:38 AM – I am manic. I close the Game Manager and return to the server browser.

11:39 AM – I try my luck with a UK server. I immediately receive a NVIDIA driver error. Close down everything and search for a driver update.

11:48 AM – Driver installed along with four Windows 7 updates. Restart CPU.

11:50 AM – Warm up a light lunch, Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable – I laugh to myself as I realize how redundant the name is.

11:57 AM – I launch the beta again.

11:58 AM – Receive “Generic game error” message from Game Manager upon an attempt to enter a server.

11:59 AM – Try another server. “Server queue..”

12:00 PM – Receive Game Manager message “Changing Maps, Try Again Soon…”

12:01 PM – I threaten the lives of my cats. They scatter.

12:02 PM – Receive most hopeful message yet from Game Manager, “Joining Server…” This is immediately followed by and NVIDIA driver error “Current driver 280.26 min req 285.27.”

12:03 PM – Quit beta.

12:14 PM – NVIDIA does not list driver version 285.27 as an available driver.

12:19 PM – Search NVIDIA website and locate dirver version 285.27…beta. Yeah, the driver I need is in beta as well. Here goes nothing.

12:25 PM – NVIDIA driver 285.27 beta installed. Launch BF 3 beta again…

12:27 PM – Click to join a UK server. Gamer Manager message reads “Joining Server” followed by “Logging In”! Game Manager updates again and reads Loading Level then Game Ready and finally Go to Game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12:28 PM – I click on Go to Game.

12:29 PM – I’m in. I die. I get a kill. Another kill and another!

12:36 PM – I am promoted!

12:39 PM – I am feeling okay with my 5 to 7 kill to death ratio.

12:40 PM – Promoted! Our team loses but I lose as a Private 1st Class.

12:53 PM – Burst fire is effective. Placement seems to matter more than in Battlefield Bad Company 2 [BFBC 2]. Yes, it is beautiful, even in its beta form. Guns, when fired, have a satisfying feel to them and they appear to be a more accurate then BFBC 2.

12:57 PM – Your Team Won! I’m hooked.

1:00 PM – I log out, with 2 hours of frustration wiped away by just 30 minutes of game play – that is a pretty good sign of things to come.

*Rush maps involve an attacking force trying to destroy MCOM stations and a defending force trying to, well, defend the MCOM stations from the attackers.