Puzzle Shooters? (spoilerish alert)

Jump to the bottom to see the pretty videos, if you’re like me and have no patience…

I just wanted to point out some new games that have come out in the last two weeks that defy standard catergorization, by being creative and putting new twists onto an old game:  the FPS.  You see, I’m not really taken in by the “novelty” of being more real.  COD?  How is Black Ops REALLY that different from the first COD?  How are the newest sports games REALLY different from past ones?  How are the newest fighting games REALLY different from the old ones?  More real, more complex.  (Though I have to say that I found the insanity of the combat and storyline in COD:BO, to be rather… unrealistic, and the people I know who spent time in the Army agree.  I mean, really?  One or two people versus a hundred – or more?  I don’t think so. Special ops only works in real life when they don’t know you’re there!)  Anyways, one way that “new” game types are created is by combining genres.  In this case, FPS and puzzles, as in the two games below. 

In case you haven’t been inundated with the ads yet (I’m sure most computer gamers already know about this, at least) Portal 2 came out yesterday.  Portal 1 was what I have best seen summarized as a “glorified tech demo” in which the developers played with the idea of having a gun that can create a portal you can walk through on (almost) any surface, to (almost) any other surface.  It’s a FPS, but only in that you have a gun that shoots something – but not people, just portals.  In fact, in the entire game, you character is the ONLY human you see the entire time and then almost only through the portals (see about 1:25 in this vid where the character is literally chasing themself through some portals.  Worse than a dog chasing its tail!).  It’s really a puzzle game, in which the goal is to get through multi-dimensional mazes.  The premise is that you are a “test subject” in an Aperture Labs facility, and you learn more and more sophisticated ways of using the portals (and learning about 3D thinking, momentum, velocity, frames of reference, gravitational acceleration, etc.).  You then use this new knowledge and your convenient portal generating gun to escape from GLaDOS, the evil supercomputer AI that is trying kill… ahem… I mean test you.  Spoiler alert:  You DO escape (assuming you win) and leave GLaDOS in a sorry state.  (Destroyed?)

Nope.  Not destroyed.  Portal 2 brings us back to the lab, where we find ourselves as test subject AI robots, that can now work cooperatively to pass the tests… and then what?  I don’t know.  It’s also cool because there is a cooperative mode, where two people have to work together to get to the end.  Finally, there are challenges, for time, fewest steps taken, etc.  Motivation to earn them all, I would say.

Sanctum is the newest and most interesting Tower Defense game I have ever seen.  Again, the developers add the 3D FPS aspect to the game, and learn by trying the puzzles over and over again.  This game has a fair amount of “just in time” info provided, and again, in a first for tower defense, I believe, there is a cooperative mode.  There is also an “infinite” mode in which you try to last as long as possible against wave after wave of alien destruction, which of course is tied to the leaderboards… motivation, anyone?

Both games meet more of Gee’s principles than you can shake a stick at, opportunities for Flow, ways of “cheating” (or is it?), problem solving, identity issues, motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), reflection, and enough other “educational” aspects that you could make a career of studying them… or at least until the next big thing comes out…

More Games and Military

I recently came across an article about video games helping veterans control their combat dreams. Note that these soldiers aren’t diagnosed with PTSD. The article says that the “higher-gaming” group, veterans who played “hardcore” games (Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, etc.) and played more often, often felt more in-control of their dreams, that they were less intense, and that they could fight back. Their lower gamer category (people who played less often and tended to play more casual games) often felt more helpless than their higher-gaming counterparts.

It’s an interesting article about how games can be applied for something other than entertainment (not necessarily learning, but definitely an important application) and I hope you all take the chance to at least skim over it.


Call of Duty vs. Halo vs. Atlantic Cod

The fish always wins. See the unassailable logic for yourself in this hilarious video from the nation’s premier ninja. Bonus: Notice who the question is from? (Note: you have to watch a short ad before the video.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Things that ruin COD

In a game that is supposed to be realistic, the last two installments in the COD series have been pretty disappointing. Both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops are very enjoyable games but there are so many issues within the games that games like Halo have become much more realistic than the COD series.  Let’s start with Modern Warfare 2; Everyone remember pain killers? Pain killers made you take significantly reduced damage, enough to allow you to survive predator missiles, 3 sniper shots to the head (the third one would kill you), multiple other explosions as well as a knife (which is supposed to be a one hit kill). I don’t care what kind of drugs you’re on, nothing should be able to make you survive a missile or a sniper shot to the head.

Following up with the knife, everyone remember commando?  A player with commando on could lunge about 15-20 feet, during which, he could not be damaged. And why is a knife a one hit kill anywhere on the body when a sniper rifle is not? This also begs the question of why the best weapon in a FPS is a knife. Whoever said ‘never bring a knife to a gunfight’ obviously never play COD6/MOD2.  If you look up the stats for a Barrett .50 Cal you will see that it has an effective range of over a mile, yet no map is a mile long in any direction (yes there are ways to measure this.), so in essence every shot should be a one hit kill but it rarely is unless you have stopping power and FMJ on. Black Ops attempts to remedy this situation brought up by the players by putting in weaker sniper rifles such as the L96A1 and the PSG1 which are less than half as powerful as the previous Barrett .50 cal and intervention used in MOD 2

Most notoriously was the Model 1887 shotguns, these shotguns had tested to have more range than sniper rifles. Of course this was patched some time ago but that was the case for the first 4-6 months that a shotgun had more range than a sniper rifle. These shotguns were so outrageous that the use of them were strictly banned in any GB tournaments or competitions.In essence then these shotguns have over a mile of effective range?

Finally the most important thing that makes COD extremely flawed is the hosting system. Every COD player knows that it is based off of a hosting system rather than a third party host. Ever see the game say migrating host? This is because the former host has left the game. What is wrong with the hosting system? The person who is host has something gamers call ‘hosting powers’. Since the game is based off of the host’s connection, only the host can see what is happening in real time while everyone else has about a 1-2 second delay. You may not think that is a lot but it is extremely noticeable when you are playing the game. The host of the game has a gigantic advantage in the fact that he will see people and he will not appear on the opponent’s screen until the difference in latency has resolved resulting in it appearing as if you get ‘one shotted’ which happens quite often, closer look at the kill cams will reveal that he had actually been shooting you for some time prior to you dying. Other symptoms of this will be that you fire at them but on the kill cam your shots don’t show up, you knife them but nothing happens, and the like.  It is relatively easy to find out who host is, all you have to do is look at the connection bars and host will always be full connection, while everyone else’s connection tend to fluctuate. The same problems with hosting are found in various other games such as the Gears of War series but Bungie aka Halo uses a third party hosting system where every player is connected to a third party server so that there is no hosting system. Why doesn’t every game do that instead of using a hosting system? Mainly because of money, it costs a lot more money to use a third party hosting system than it does for just a hosting system.

It rather depresses me that games, especially ones that are extremely reputable, cut corners to make more money. I think all the FPS games out there need to take a page out of Bungie’s book and start shelling out for higher quality games. The point of this post is not to rant and rave about a game but rather it is to inform. I know many people play the COD series and love it to death, some disregard the problems, some don’t know that these things even existed, and some call for change. I love the COD series myself, Ive attended various tournaments for them around the country and even in Canada, I play every weekend with my friends. A game is just a game and I will live with what comes out but I can always hope for bigger and better things for the future. Who knows, maybe someone who reads this has some in with Treyarch or Infinity Ward and can suggest some changes, or maybe I myself will someday create a game that will blow everyone away.

Duty Calls.


The Duty Calls trailer and download:


And Bulletstorm, the new videogame being made by Epic Games and EA which is attempting to change how we think about shooters:


The makers of Bulletstorm actually made a short game making fun of traditional first-person-shooters, like Call of Duty. Their short game mocks the fact that typical shooters take themselves way too seriously, and place way too much emphasis on realism. At first, I thought the game looked completely ridiculous, and was slightly offended, given the fact that I LOVE serious shooters like Call of Duty Modern Warfare (1 and 2). But they make a good point; after what we have learned in class so far, I have begun to question the importance of realism (in terms of graphics) when it comes to making a good, fun game. But, is realism in terms of the degree to which gameplay represents reality the same thing? Part of me enjoys the realism of games like Call of Duty, and I find it to be extremely engaging. But many great games also emphasize fantasy, which is also very engaging. Halo is an example of a shooter that I think is more focused on fantasy than realism (and is arguably the most well-known videogame of all time), but Bulletstorm seems to take it to the extreme.What do you guys think? Does Bulletstorm look like it’s pushing too far away from realism? Or do you think it will actually be a popular release?

Moscow Airport Attack like Call of Duty?

Last week a suicide bomber slipped into a crowd waiting for international passengers arriving at Moscow’s newest and busiest airport, setting off a huge blast that killed 35 people and highlighted another weak spot in security for global air travelers.  This attack was one of the most tragic events to happen to Russia in recent history and their president, Putin has vowed revenge when they find out who was behind the attack.  The blast also wounded 180 other people and was aimed at killing foreigners.

The scary part about all of this is that video games put us in these types of situations every day.  Every time we play a first person shooter we are entering into a reality where things like this are normal.  Most gamers know that reality and a video game are completely different but there are surfacing reports that are aimed at blaming video games for this attack.  I find this pretty outrageous, clearly this was a terrorist attack and I highly doubt they were inspired by the likes of Call of Duty.  However, the claims do offer a bit of a debate.  In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players are put into a mission that includes the killing of civilians as an objective.  In the mission “No Russian” the player goes on a terrorist rampage, helping to massacre civilians in a fictitious Moscow airport.

While I don’t personally believe that this is enough to connect the attack that happened at the airport to the game scene that is depicted in Call of Duty it is interesting point out the differences.  Obviously in the game play you are using a gun and not a suicide bomber which I believe is a clear difference.  If the terrorist had planned on emulating the game he would have attacked in ways reminiscent of those used in the game.  The game scene has long been controversial as such a popular game has included an act of terrorism as part of the plot.  However, people should realize that video games are not to blame here.  This was a planned terrorist attack by a terrorist group and the hunt should be on to find the group and bring them to justice.