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Old Friends: Loadout

I’ve decided to do a new series where I revisit games I used to play. Now that games are a long term commitment for developers, the games I played two years or even 2 months ago can have new content, balance changes or even complete overhauls.
This is so we can talk about what’s different, why it’s different, or why a particular game is in the state it’s in.

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For this first entry, I want to see how Loadout is. I played it a bit two years ago, but the loss of Oceanic servers and other issues lead to my letting it go for a while. When I saw the state of the game and the developers at the time, I uninstalled it.

Come to now, and I had long forgotten about the game, and even thought it had been shut down. Well, upon reinstalling it I’ve found the game is actually still going, and according to SteamCharts the game seems to sit around the ~100-300 player count. While this isn’t as healthy as games like Warframe, it means the servers aren’t completely empty…hopefully.

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Upon loading I was reminded of all the things I loved about Loadout; the TF2-esque cartoon style, the music, and the focus on weapon customisation are all just perfect.
At the same time, I saw justification for leaving the game when I did; the last balance update was over fifteen months ago. The game has clearly been left to it’s own devices, to only finally be shut down when server costs outweigh the remaining bit of money the game is producing.
As pessimistic as that thought makes me feel, the SteamCharts numbers gave me hope, and I jumped into the Fight queue.

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While waiting, I decided to look at the Weaponcrafting sections and saw the sorts of weapons I had created before abandoning the game. These included a big rocket launcher called “Oppressive Mass of Shitlord”, which is awfully brilliant of past me.
After about ten minutes of queuing, I came to the realization nobody seems to be playing Ranked, and I had to abandon playing Annihilation mode. Three minutes into queueing in Casual, I was thrown into a match.
It played exactly how I remember, with all it’s mayhem. My alternative gun to the Oppressive Mass of Shitlord is a healing pulse rifle called “What is it with you and dicks?”, so a lot of my game was spent being a support, because I do enjoy thwarting the enemy team’s efforts to eliminate us, but even as a support the game felt action packed and exciting. Probably the only notable thing I don’t remember from when I used to play, is the robotic announcer voice that sounds like the default female voice that comes default with Windows.
The games of Capture The Flag (Called “Jackhammer” in Loadout) and Blitz (Capture Points) that I played were entertaining, and I was faced against people of varying skill. One of my fears were that the few hundred people who still played this game may have been predominantly the sort of people who live and breath a single game and are unquestioningly superior at it. Instead, there were enough people of around my skill level to make the experience something devoid of frustration. I don’t know if this experience would be the same for everyone, but for a guy like me this is all I need.

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I blew a dude up.

Ultimately the game is still really solid and still remains playable with other people. But, obviously that can’t last forever. Looking into it, it does seem that the game’s developer, Edge of Reality, has actually closed down and doesn’t exist anymore. Without them, there doesn’t seem to be any avenue for a resurrection. I pose a question; who has the rights to the game, and what do they plan to do with them?
So at this point, the only probable reason Loadout is still here is because there is enough revenue to justify keeping the servers running. We’re playing on borrowed time, and that’s saddening.
I hold a small hope that some budding Loadout fans will get together and create the stuff required to be able to create private server stuff so people can keep playing Loadout years after the official servers power down. It feels unlikely, but it’s happened for multiple old games of the past so it is at least possible.

I think I’ll spend bits and pieces of the next few weeks playing Loadout, and taking what entertainment I can out of it before it shuts down. Loadout is fun and deserves more than what it got.

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If you’re reading this, you can still download Loadout for free, and if you need more convincing and need to see more, you can see my gameplay videos here.

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You have your orders, soldier; shoot to heal.

So I am a little late to the party, but today I got to feast my eyes on Ana, the soon to be newest addition to the Overwatch roster.

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Ana is really cool; she takes her place as our 5th support character, but she has defensive capabilities too as a sniper character.
Her rifle will heal any ally shot with it, and a grenade that will do the same while also simultaneously damaging enemies and preventing any healing for a short time. When needed, Ana can also deploy a sleeping dart that makes an enemy “unconscious” until they take damage (or I assume after a time to wake up). As for her ultimate, she can give everyone around her a boost to speed, damage and resistance to damage.

I can honestly say I like this from a gameplay perspective, because it’s both different and yet sort of the same. The character can serve as a Widowmaker with what I assume is reduced damage, and the ability to heal people who are a bit closer to the actual fight. Her ultimate sounds good for pushing without being totally overpowering, assuming the damage resistance she grants isn’t too severe.
I haven’t seen much about her, and have a few questions about how she works, like if headshots will damage/heal for more and the aforementioned damage resistance numbers, but she looks like she will be a lot of fun later down the line.

To finish off, I want to say I just realized I should be looking at learning Symmetra or Zenyatta, since I’m no where near competent with either.

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Evolve is fun.

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So I’ve had a few days with the beta for Evolve Stage 2, and it’s been pretty intense.

While the game apparently had a revamp, I have never looked into the original version enough to be able to tell you what changed exactly. As such, I can say I’m looking at this game through fresh eyes.

The game consists of just one game mode called “Hunt, which has one player assuming the role of a monster who is trying to kill the other four players who are in turn tasked with killing the monster. If the hunters take too long to track the monster, he can eventually “evolve” and get more powerful. This hunt or be hunted gameplay is really compelling to me as an idea, as depending on execution it could lead to lots of interesting interactions between teams from match to match.

Each human player must be from one of four classes; there always has to be a medic, a support, a trapper and an assault character. A player is assigned one of those roles at the start of the match, and can then select which character in that category they want to play. Further gameplay customization comes to being able to select perks that affect your character for the duration of a match, things like health regeneration and jetpack control.
There is around six monsters for a player to choose from, each with their own variety in attacks and abilities. As with humans, the monster has a selection of perks he can utilize in a game depending on the strategy he plans to use and points can be placed in the monster’s attacks.

The games I have participated in have all been fairly similar, with the humans chasing down the monster, who is trying to both outrun it’s pursuers and eat other creatures to get more powerful. Eventually the monster gets domed (trapped by the hunters in an enclosed area) and the fight ensues, ending only when one side is downed, or the dome disappears and the monster can escape to repeat the process again.
While this sounds like something that would get stale after a few matches, I don’t think this is going to be the case. Between all the different characters and their individual abilities I feel that there’s a lot of opportunity for depth of strategy n this game. Already I’ve encountered several different monsters which seem like they will require individual strategies to beat.

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With the game being free, I’m expecting we’ll see more additions to the game as time goes on to add variety and slow any feeling of the game growing stale. Apart from balance changes I’m expecting more game modes as I’m expecting some of the removed modes to be retooled and put back in, hopefully some more maps and characters as well as obviously skins. They’re obviously hoping to push the longevity of the game, so the plan is hopefully long term.

Monetisation seems to be non-existent at this point; everything in the game at current is available for the in-game currency “Keys”, including skins, characters and perks. I have looked around and it seems there’s no way to actually purchase anything for real money. This is kind of neat, but has me wondering what their plans for the future are. Are we getting lots of Steam DLC packs? Or will Turtle Rock eventually implement micro-transactions that can be bought with real money.
The “Free To Play” aspect of the game has us restricted in a lot of ways initially. Your choice of characters is fairly limited at the beginning, with only one of each class and monster available. They are rotated each week so every week you can try something different, and if the tutorial is completed, you can unlock a monster and one hunter for free, permanently. After that all skins for hunters, monsters and weapons cost Keys, as well as any perks you want to own or upgrade.

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I’m worried as to how they plan to make money on the game going forward. The obvious two choices that come to mind for me are either allowing people to purchase packs of Keys for real money, or selling additions to the game in DLC packs on Steam.
Both have their pros and cons. Addressing the latter first, DLC packs only serve to split a community as they become either the “Haves” or “Have Nots”, with the Haves having access to maps the “Have Nots” do not and leaving them unable to join in.
Purchasing Keys seems like a great method, but then you have a group of people who are able to just buy all the perks for all the characters from the get go. While I don’t consider it “Pay To Win” because there’s still a level of competency expected in your play, this still creates a system where one person has more access to advantages than another.
This might seem like pointless nit-picking, but I really like as fair a playing field as possible. The monetisation of a game is something I seem to be particularly sensitive to, if my past posts on this website are anything to go by.

As it stands, I’m actually glad this happened to Evolve. If they didn’t have such a terrible release, we might not have had the game in it’s current form and maintaining high player counts. As such, I might never have gotten to experience this.
While I’m cautious about the future of the game there really is no denying it is fun, and the game both looks nice and runs smooth even on my somewhat dated machine. The best case scenario for me would be that this game continues to grow, and maybe even form a bit of a competitive community. We’ll see.

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Getting to my first taste of Evolve.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few hours waiting for this to go live. I’m typing this before even playing it, I am kind of excited.

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In less than an hour, I’ll be downloading the free to play beta of Evolve. I remember when Evolve was first coming out, I was hyped for it. As time went on, it became obvious the game would be very DLC dependent, and I didn’t feel comfortable pre-ordering it. After release, it turned out that was a smart thing to do. The game was blasted for it’s micro-transactions and DLC and has dived from a 9,000 player count at release to just over 100 average at present, and seemed to be on the cusp of being forgotten.
I am really excited to finally get to play the game without the daunting price tags, as all things in the game pre-F2P are now unlockable through normal play. I’ll be writing this as I go through the night, expressing opinions on the whole thing.

1:30am: Well the countdown ended, and resulted in a website crash. Now the main Evolve website produces nothing but a “Database Error”. Eep.

1:40am: Website was up for the briefest of moments, and I got to see this cool image before the site went down again.

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Now there’s a tweet saying it will be live around 10am PT, which is an hour away. Time to relax.

6am: Game is finally letting me download it’s 20GB on Steam, after a few failings and a nap. Back to having a nap…

10:30am: “Nap”. Turns out I’ve ruined my sleep pattern, and I shouldn’t try to commit to blogging while being intoxicated. I have the game downloaded though, and will probably be streaming and recording it in a few hours.
Next time I do something like this it’ll be a bit more organized. For now, I’ll have more to say when I finally get to play!

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I am the mixtape

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I am so proud of this. I’m very much terrible at Overwatch, so seeing evidence of improvement is always a great feeling.

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I think I’m okay at DOOM’s Team Deathmatch.

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I was top player in a match! I’m still playing through the campaign and experimenting with stuff in SnapMap, but overall I’m really enjoying this.

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I was excited for the betas of DOOM’s multiplayer. The idea that we could get a big budget arena shooter based on an IP that has been beloved for decades seemed too good to be true.

What we have is still a solid multiplayer game. It has a cool visual style from the maps we’ve been allowed to see. The gameplay could be fun at times. It’s fun getting the demon power-up and being nigh-unstoppable, though on the other end of the spectrum, it sucks when someone else is the demon and you don’t get to do much of any use for the following few minutes.

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Look at that! Doesn’t it look fucking rad?

Of course, the arena shooter we were promised and I had hoped for –some blend of classic Doom and Quake III gameplay– isn’t going to happen. Instead, we have something that tries to appeal to a larger market. It makes sense on paper, I guess. Progression systems, item rewards and the like all keep people hooked and playing the game. We can assume the gameplay is slower than it could be because the game is coming out on consoles too, and as much as I love my Xbox, I know that controllers just can’t do what a mouse can do when it comes to aiming.

So where does this leave me? I’m looking to the new Unreal Tournament. It’s still in development, and I jump in and out of playing the Development Alpha to see how progress is going. It’s pretty fantastic despite being in such early development.

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Pretty. Clean. Unreal.

See, the one thing that the DOOM multiplayer has shown me and many others, is that what we’re all craving is an actual arena shooter, on par with games like Quake III and the old school Unreal Tournament. Given we haven’t heard anything recently about the Quake series, and Quake Live was “modernized” with the the very features arena shooters do not need (Like loadouts), we turn to UT.
The newest in the Unreal Tournament series is being developed very closely with the community, so we have constant input at all stages, in all ways. Whether that be as involved as map making or creating new items for the game, or just offering feedback on how jumping feels, it’s good to know that everyone can get involved in helping Epic Games shape what feels like the next big arena shooter.

I could probably talk a whole lot about Unreal Tournament, but I want to simply point you to the website to check it out yourself, should you be reading this.

To finish this on our original topic; I love DOOM, and this multiplayer is okay. It’s not what I wanted necessarily, but it was entertaining for the few matches I played. With all the talk of purchasable multiplayer map packs I don’t think I’ll get invested in it though, as such splitting of the community has proven to never be effective. I am however, hoping for a solid single player campaign, and I’d like to see how good the SnapMap creation tools actually are.

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Supercell –creators of Clash of Clans, a game I play daily– have released their next hit game, which goes by the name Clash Royale. It’s an action RTS style game with card game elements in the Clash of Clans universe, which sounds amazing.

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Matches you play in the game run for just a few minutes, meaning this is the sort of game you can play while on a toilet break, or can focus and knock out a whole lot of games at once. Screenshots can’t do it justice, so here’s the trailer, which includes shots of gameplay.

This game is amazing, and I love it so much more than Clash of Clans. Where the game falls short though; they don’t seem to want me to play those long sessions or anything.
You see, your rewards for winning matches are chests which contain gold, gems, and more cards. There are different tiers of chest and each one has a different wait time before it opens, ranging from 3 hours to 24 hours.

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This is the main screen when you aren’t in a match. You can see that there is a Free Chest system, this is a chest that can be opened every 4 hours. After that, there’s the Crown Chest, which can be opened when you win 10 Crowns (Earned by destroying buildings in matches). When you earn those 10 Crowns and open the chest, you have a 24 hour cool down before you can open it again.

At the bottom of the screen is your chest inventory. This is where shit gets really annoying. You can only hold up to 4 chests at a time, and can only unlock one at a time. So assuming you have no chests, you can play and win 4 matches before you are forced to sit and wait for 3 hours minimum, to open a chest and free up a slot.

So if I want to play and receive rewards for playing, I can play up to 4 matches in 3 hours, then I can play one every 3 hours maybe. If I’ve already opened my Crown Chest, there’s no reason for me to play when my Chest Slots are full, as I’m not earning ANYTHING, except trophies which at this point in my play doesn’t matter.

Of course, this is Supercell’s plan. They want you to buy gems to speed everything up, but I’m not a player with infinite money. This system feels really anti-player, purely because of how long the timers are. If they were a third of what they are currently, I might be a bit more okay with it. Hell, they’d just have to give us a bit more than the paltry 4 Chest Slots we have currently and I’d be okay with waiting.

Supercell have created a great game, but the over the top time gating is stopping this being something truly special. I don’t see myself spending money on it, and instead I’m going to grind out a shit ton of gems and then buy the gold I need with that.

Please let me love you, Clash Royale. Please.

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It’s okay, we’re with the minutemen.

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And we’re FABULOUS.

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Fallout 4 and the one thing I dislike about it.

Fallout 4 is great. It’s amazing. I’ve been playing it almost exclusively these past two weeks, and I feel bad about that to a degree. Then I stop feeling bad about it and boot it right back up again.

The game is almost everything I hoped for in my next trip to the wasteland. But of course, you can just read other reviews for all that is good in the game. I want to talk about one glaring issue I have with this game, one I’m worried will impede future play-throughs of it that I might attempt.

In short, it comes down to the conversation system. Here’s a screenshot from the last game in the series, Fallout: New Vegas.

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In it, you can see three options out of the many you can scroll down and see. The system in New Vegas gave you options with multiple effects. In the image you can see one normal option and two lies. The second lie is influenced by your Barter stat; if it is 55 or above, the check will be successful and he’ll believe the lie. If your Barter is below the necessary amount, the lie that is told will be different, and probably won’t work on the NPC. Various stats could effect speech, leading to vary different discussions with each character and different results.
In addition to that, various perks you unlocked in the game could give you extra dialogue options. If you took the Confirmed Bachelor perk, you could unlock a bonus line of dialogue that could help persuade a character to help you out, for example.

Compare that idea to the following.

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That is Fallout 4, and that’s what the interface looks like for conversations the entire game. You get four options for dialogue responses, and they seem to be static options that don’t change character by character. At best there are some speech checks that are influenced by the Charisma stat, but I don’t know to what end because I have literally never failed a single one.

Now, this is an eloquent and professionally designed chart of the dialogue trees in the game:

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Basically, a lot of the time dialogue will go down one predefined path and nothing can change it. If you go with the sarcastic option, the character you are talking to might throw out an extra sentence of dialogue, but then continue on with the default statement he was going to make anyway.
There are a few instances where your dialogue actually has minor repercussions (another character might die, for example), but these are so few and far between that so far in sixty hours of playing, I can recall this happening once. Apart from that there’s also the ‘karma’ you can with your followers. Even if both option A and B take you to the same response from an NPC, maybe Cait prefers B and dislikes A.

This leads to a very linear experience and limits options for multiple characters. Consider this comparison, which I’m lifting from Reddit:

Man, comparing this “When Freedom Calls” quest here in this video to the quest “Ghost Town Gunfight” in Fallout New Vegas, it’s severely disappointing. Both quests have a similar premise: help defend a group of people/town from raiders/powder gangers.

In Fallout 4, the quest is completely linear, you just follow a straight line, kill all of the raiders, talk to the NPCs who apparently can’t look after themselves, hack a terminal, get the core for the power armour, get into power armour, kill more raiders, kill a deathclaw, then talk to the NPCs again and then that’s it. It’s structured like an FPS rather than an RPG, which is really disappointing.

Compared to the quest in FNV, there are so many ways you can go about the quest, in classic Fallout style. You can convince the townsfolk to help fight them off, some requiring skill checks to help give you an edge in the fight, and then you fight the powder gangers. Then and there once they attack.

Or, you could kill their leader when you first see him in the saloon, making the fight a little easier, or of course you can go over to where the gang is hanging out and eliminate them in any manner you wish, guns blazing or stealthy. Hell, with the intimidation perk, you can even scare them off, hilariously!

And that’s not all. You can even join the powder gangers with attacking the town if you want, you aren’t forced to kill them, and you aren’t forced to be the goody good guy! There are so many more choices in the first major quest in FNV compared to Fo4’s first major quests, and that’s really disappointing to see right off the bat.

Which leads to a question; is it possible to even DO evil things? In New Vegas you could opt to side with factions that are generally considered to be ‘evil’, and choose to do things otherwise looked down on. In Fallout 4 it apparently is not possible at all, apparently (possible spoilers in this link). There’s no actual choice. Of course, this is second hand information and when I do  attempt my second play-through, I’ll TRY to not be a good guy, though according to the above video, that will be a futile attempt.

I digress though. I get that there are reasons for all this, including the fact that the player character is now voice acted. I can see by restricting the dialogue to this 4-directional system, it makes things streamlined between console and PC (not necessarily a good thing) and means that mods won’t be a hassle on the console versions (a good thing)… but it doesn’t feel like Fallout. Having all those options and all those possible paths and directions is what made the series special.

2015-11-11_00004Here’s a random screenshot of my character in a dress. Just because.

While I still love Fallout 4, this was one change to the game that feels like a negative, and didn’t need to happen. We’ll see if future additions to the game fix these issues I have, or if some talented people in the modding community do it instead, but for now I guess I have to enjoy being guided through the game as I am.

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