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.

A Boy Named Sue: Freedoms of Gamer Tags.

Everyone has a nickname, good or bad. A name your friends called you, affectionately or in jest, when you were younger. There is a new “nickname” phenomena that is present and has been since online gaming went mainstream, and even before. Instead of a nickname, like Tbone or T (my youth nicknames), children and adults both have replaced the everyday nickname in favor of an online persona – a gamer tag.

A gamer tag is your online id, your banner leading you into war (well, at least a digital version of war). It is the name that is placed next to your online score and is most likely accompanied by a picture. Now the picture, like the name, doesn’t have to be directly related to you but could be an internet meme reference or a picture tied into a passion of yours (i.e. an anime picture or a character from a movie). It also can be a ridiculous photo that is full of irony considering the platform it is presented on (see below).

Mandingo's Steam gamer tag "photo id" and his online gaming sidekick Judas.

A gamer tag is the name your friends know you by online. It acts as an unique reference for conversation during a teamwork based multiplayer or as an ongoing joke. It also becomes burnt into the memories of those you slay online if your good or is easily  forgotten if you live and die like a noob. It is something you can yell into team-talk, if you are doing well, to motivate your team and get a laugh. It is something you can yell into team talk as you sacrifice your online self in the hopes of victory or just for a laugh.

Unlike a nickname, your online gamer tag is normally chosen on your own and not by some bully looking to score a cheap shot or by a friend complimenting your ability to garner the affection from the opposite sex. A gamer tag is a living thing in the since that it can change with you and in conjunction with your hobbies/passions and what is going on in your life. It can change daily if you want it to (The PC based social gaming network Steam allows you to change your gamer id infinitely but not all platforms [Xbox and PS3] are as user friendly). Your tag is controlled by you as is the accompanying picture. For some, a gamer tag is the only thing they have complete control over in their life. It is the only aspect of their day to day routine that they can attach a meaning of their choosing to. If the tag is a persona it can be a chance for the player to not only play whatever game is running on their screen but also act out and “play” their persona.

A gamer tag can be something  humorous, pornographic or humorously pornographic. It can cause online friends and foe alike to do some search engine exploration.  For example do a ‘SafeSearch off’ Google image search of Mandingo and cringe at the results (WARNING: NOT SUGGESTED FOR THOSE UNDER THE AGE OF 18).

The best part of a gamer tag is it can be, most of the time, whatever you want it to be (some restrictions, rightfully, apply for tags that are blatantly/obviously vulgar, racist etc…). Your real name can be changed, which is a good thing if your parents were assholes (See Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue below) but the effort involved is a bit more involved then changing your gamer tag and wont result in as much fun.

Words From A Wing Nut: Interview with Lee Montgomery

Last post we explored the Full Motion Video [FMV] game bubble and the flops, and few gems, that made up this moment in gaming/development history. This week, I bring the nerd herd insight from an individual who was intimately involved in development during that age and had hands on with Rocket Science Games’ Wing Nuts: Battle in the Sky and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. Lee Montgomery is the focus of this weeks post and GamingNerdHerder’s first interviewee (below).

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Lee Montgomery

Lee Montgomery is an Asst. Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico (Electronic Arts Area) with a B.A. in Film from Bard College and a MFA (New Genres) from the San Francisco Art Institute. In his own words: “I am an artist who works in as many areas of the ‘electronic arts’ as I am able.  My interests range from circuit building and bending, radio and TV transmission, computer programmed interactivity, and social engineering.”

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GamingNerdHerder [GNH]: What was your title and roll with Rocket Science Games?

I started as a production assistant, started working as a video editor, and eventually wound up as Asst. Game Designer for the Reactor levels of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, and Game Designer for Wing Nuts.

GNH: There were a lot of subpar FMV games released in the 90s but Wing Nuts was solid. What did Wing Nuts do right that other FMV games did wrong? What did Wing Nuts do right that other FMV games didn’t do at all?

Funny thing is.. Wing Nuts was originally envisioned as a plug and play purchase from the studio that shot the material for Tomcat Alley on Sega CD.  That’s where all the video came from.  RSG, I think, originally saw itself as bringing Holywood to the Sega CD and so the idea was that we would build an updated “Dragon’s Lair” style engine like the Tomcat Alley engine, but with better compression (because we had engineers from the Quicktime team at Apple writing the video compression).  By the time the games were developed SegaCD had proven to be a short lived phenomenon, and the great sales of Tomcat Alley were revealed to have more to do with Tomcat Alley being one of the only things going for SegaCD.

So we had these assets for what was starting to look like a real dog of a game. So we had to figure out two things:

a) what was it about Tomcat (and thus Wing Nuts) that made it a dog?

b) how do we address those issues.

The Hollywood side of the equation determined that the amateurish acting and cheese-ball plot needed to be very clearly turned into comedy.  So a laugh track and sound effects were added…as well as a series of easter eggs with comedic value.

The game play side of the equation determined that as games like Doom and Virtua Fighter and Mortal Combat were our approximate competition, we needed to ramp up the interactivity… a lot!

Working with the engineer for the game (at the time I could barely get “hello world” compiled) we developed a full HUD and a points based system for taking down enemies.  We basically wrote a game which you played over the movie that coincidentally interacted with the footage.

There was definitely a misguided assumption that getting FMV to play on your machine at home would somehow be the essence of VR.  What many failed to pay attention to was the fact that the layers of compression that distorted the original video did much to remove the viewer from the experience.  Without a sufficient level of interactivity to keep viewers invested you didn’t really have a game.  I am sure there are a bunch of FMV developers from those days that are wondering how on earth the crudely rendered figures of DOOM registered as more appealing than their flat chunky blobs of video.

GNH: From your time spent directly involved in FMV game development there have been many changes. What do you see as the most relevant/significant change in video games from the days of FMV games compared to games being released now and why?

It’s interesting to look at a game like Fallout: New Vegas or Red Dead Redemption [RDR] now (or Grand Theft Auto, where some of the narrative techniques from failed FMV games are being used in a more fluid and engaging manner) within a fully realized 3D world where scenes can be somewhat rendered on the fly, instead of having to load video at 2MB per frame just for the visual appeal.

We no longer have laggy pauses for cut scenes, data loading happens more strategically, but really video always is limited to a linear constructed perspective, you always feel like you are riding a train and you can only tell the train where you want to change trains.  Greater processing power dedicated to rendering 3D worlds allows more of a sense of a world being constructed with nuanced rules you can follow.  A much more rewarding experience.   With Wing Nuts I think we succeeded (to the degree that we did) because the game play over the video had enough rules that one felt like they had some control over the results.  That complexity has just grown over time resulting in interactive narratives that are engaging and truly interactive.

GNH: How did your time spent in game development influence your current and past career choices and your current and past projects/shows?

I certainly would not be doing the kind of art work I do now had I not been exposed to the process of developing interactive content on a professional level.  It was interesting to quickly evolve from someone trained as an editor to someone considering interactivity as part of narrative content.  The work expanded my notions of what a game is and encouraged me to incorporate the game into how I thought about art.

GNH: What games are you currently playing?

I went through a long period of very occasional game playing over the past decade or so, this involved a little Warcraft, Tony Hawk, and Halo…

But recently I got a PS3 and was pretty impressed with RDR, I just finished one time through Fallout: New Vegas, and really enjoyed the depth of the experience, even if the game play sometimes felt a bit random….

GNH: What shows/projects are on the horizon for Lee Montgomery and were can we find more information about them?

I do a project called Neighborhood Public Radio which is currently engaged in a 3 part interactive program at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.  You can see more about it at http://www.moca.org/party/npr/.

I also do some video work and generative art using a program called Processing.  I’m very into open source at the moment and am moving to a Linux based system that uses Processing and pd to develop interactive installations.

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I again want to give my sincere thanks to Lee for his time and efforts, the nerd herd appreciates it. Join the conversation in the comments and thanks for the visit.