Aug 312011
 

Update: To clarify a point that wasn’t clear initially, the RO2 beta is only available to those who have pre-ordered the “Digital Deluxe” edition.  Basically, you need to shell out an additional $10 if you want to play the beta.  While I am a card-carrying member of the Tripwire fanboy club, I am most certainly not a fan of these pre-order shenanigans.   Turns out I will not be checking out the beta over the weekend.

The Red Orchestra 2 multiplayer beta is now live on Steam for those who have pre-ordered the [digital deluxe edition of the] game.  I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but am hoping to have some time for it over the upcoming long weekend.  A reminder that if you pre-order now you’ll also get 10% off, which bumps to 20% if you owned the first RO.

Check out Red Orchestra 2 on Steam.
Here’s some bonus in game video from a slightly earlier beta build:

More videos can be found here.

Aug 202011
 

Much has been made lately of BF3 moving some key features that normally appear in game to a web interface.  Things like friends lists and the server browser.  PC gamers are a fickle bunch, and when they hear things they’ve been used to a certain way for 20 years are now changing, internet outrage ensues.  Before you start to rage, listen to DICE developer Alan Kertz, who  makes the argument on why it will be better that way:

Why Battlelog in a browser? Battlelog let’s you check your stats, your friends, your feed from Any Where. Work, the toilet, the pub…

Battlelog on the web also makes it easier for us to support you the players. We can build a better Server Browser on Battlelog.

Finally, you can use all the features of Battlelog while playing via alt-tab. So you can check stats or browse servers in play (unlike BC2).

In case you’re late to the party, Battlelog is the name for the all-in-one website that will serve not only as your server browser when you launch the game, but as a social media hub for all things BF3.  Much like what CoD MW3 is doing and will be charging a subscription for, except Battlelog is free with your purchase of BF3.

While I’m part of the fickle PC gamer crowd, I don’t necessarily think the sky is falling with Battlelog.  Let’s face it, previous BF games, and especially BC2 had notoriously bad server browsers, and terrible friends list support.  Remember after a patch, your whole friends list disappeared, and then you had to re-friend everyone?  Then remember when it happened again?  Remember how horribly sluggish the server browser was the first 6 months BC2 was out, only to get marginally better later on?  We’re not exactly losing the pinnacle of in-game multiplayer support.

It stands to reason that a web interface for all those things would be much easier to build, and then easier to maintain than building it in the BF3 codebase.  Changes to the browser and other aspects of Battlelog can be done independent of gameplay changes and be completed more quickly — so I really do believe they can build a better server browser on Battlelog.  Will it be a hassle to Alt-Tab to get to those things that we got to in game previously?  Possibly, but usually to get to those things before, you had to quit a server (or whatever you were doing) to get to those menus. Now an Alt-Tab might be an improvement, since you can stay connected, browse for a different server and then have friends follow, without having to navigate clunky/non-responsive in game menus.

We’ll see how it plays out, but Battlelog has the potential to actually offer a better experience, assuming it’s done right.  Keep your pitchforks and torches in the closet for now.

Aug 122011
 

Now that it’s confirmed that BF3 won’t appear on Steam, the only mystery was why. While it’s not any great shock to hear EA was pushing Origin hard, now we have definitive word by the BF community manager on Twitter that BF3 will require Origin.  We now know BF3 uses the Origin equivalent of  Steamworks, which means no matter where you buy the game, you’ll need to activate it on Origin — including retail disc formats.  Obviously, if you bought a game on Steam that you had to then activate on a Steam clone, requiring both to run to appease their DRM demons, rips in space time would occur.  That’s why Steam is out of the loop but services like Direct2Drive or GamersGate are still in, because they don’t tack on any extra DRM or client restrictions.

Now we know, and knowing is half the battle.  Anyone not buying BF3 because of the Origin requirement?

Aug 092011
 

UPDATE: More details come from USA Today, of all places. Gamefly will be doing a subscription-based PC game rental service after all — so my complaints below are addressed mostly. Details are still limited, yet Gamefly co-founder, Sean Spector, is quick to compare their service as Spotify for games, claiming around 100 titles available during launch, with more to be added. It’ll be interesting to see price and terms of the subscription service. We’ll look into it more next month, when the beta launches.

Original Article:

Gamefly has just started promoting their new game download service which will launch sometime this Holiday season, with a limited beta starting September 8th.  Details are really sparse at the moment, but what this looks like is yet another digital storefront, complete with client that will have its own friends list, gaming news and other stuff that you are already happily getting elsewhere.  No where is mentioned any ability to rent PC games.

What’s unclear, is how this will interact or possibly replace Direct2Drive, which Gamefly bought a few months back.  It would seem odd to create a totally new service in parallel to D2D, especially since they spent significant money in that purchase.  If Gamefly’s download service replaces D2D’s model with another Steam client competitor service, that will be a bit of a disappointment for me.  One of the key advantages D2D had is that it was just a storefront, and installing games bought from there didn’t require a separate client, requiring managing yet another profile, complete with its own isolated friends list.  It’s bad enough that Origin is making us do that, but now with Gamefly going that route, I just don’t think there’s enough room in that space for yet another client.  Gamefly will have to offer some really compelling reason to get up enough inertia to have a worthwhile number of gamers to install another piece of software that duplicates functionality that’s already entrenched with Steam.  Let’s face it, all your friends are already on Steam.

But if you’re ready for more game clients and Steam, Origin, Impulse, Xfire and whatever else aren’t enough for you, you can request beta access here.

Bonus, semi-worthless promo video:

Aug 082011
 
Battlefield 3

The BF3 hype machine is in full effect now.  A little over two months out, DICE is claiming that BF3 is the “deepest” shooter they’ve ever developed, and promise unlocks that could take years to achieve.    Now before you start to rant that you don’t want to have to invest insane amounts of time just to unlock competitive weapons, gadgets and attachments in the game, keep in mind that DICE isn’t simply referring to in-game hardware unlocks.  They’re also talking about elusive service medals and pins too.

Battlefield players are among the most loyal out there. Our games are literally played for years by our hardcore fans, and we want to actively support that. There should always be something left to achieve in Battlefield 3.

However, they also address hardware unlocks too.  That was one thing many felt was lacking in BC2 — you could unlock every weapon and gadget fairly quickly, diminishing any sense of game accomplishment thereafter.  They’ve got that covered too:

Compared to Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 will have more than 10 times the hardware unlocks spread over weapons, weapons attachments, gadgets, and a huge unlock tree for vehicles alone.

So it sounds like you will have your fill of in-game items, awards and cheevos if that’s your thing.  If that isn’t your thing…well, you’re pretty much going to hate most games that come out now anyway.

You can read the full blog post over on the official Battlefield Blog.

Aug 082011
 

Tripwire announced today that Red Orchestra 2 will be pushed back until September 13th, 2 weeks later than their previous release date of August 30th.  While two weeks isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but thinking this only hurts RO2’s potential uptake by multiplayer shooter fans.

Moving RO2’s release date into September means that it will directly come into competition with BF3’s open beta, which will be immensely popular.  After that, you have BF3’s official release in October, and right behind that is the next installment of CoD.  You could argue that people who play RO will have no interest in BF or CoD, but it’s hard to deny there is a lot of crossover there, and people who may have been willing to try a new experience in RO2 during a time when no other titles were competing will instead stick with the name-brands they know during the pre-holiday video game rush.

On the bright side, a large reason why Tripwire is moving the release date back is due to the overwhelming number of pre-orders, which also gives access to a beta of the game, pre-release.  They weren’t quite ready for the volume of beta users, so they need to readjust their preparations for that.  I hope that it works out for RO2 and Tripwire, but it appears that launching in prime release time might not be their best strategy for gaining a critical mass of online players.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.

Read Tripwire’s explanation for the delay, here.

Aug 072011
 

Ok, so you gave in to EA and installed Origin, and you caved and preordered BF3 after not letting yourself get excited about the game all Spring and Summer.  Well, maybe I’m describing myself a little bit here, but that’s beside the point.  So now that’s Origin is installed, it works just like Steam, right?  Mostly yes, but I noticed a few things that might be helpful to new users.

click to enlarge

First off, I made the assumption that the directory that I installed Origin in will also house all the games that I install through it.  Steam works that way, right?  In Origin’s case, this is actually false.  By default, Origin wants to install its games on to C:\Program Files\Origin Games (at least in my case).  For some, this may not be a problem, but if you’re anything like me (and most other PC gamers I know) you install your games on a different drive than your system drive.  This is especially important if you run a small SSD as your system/OS drive and have a conventional drive for games and applications.  To change this, click on the gear icon near the top right-ish of the main Origin window and click “settings.”  Right on the General tab you’ll see an option under “Downloaded Games” you can set to tell Origin where you put your games.  Keep in mind, Origin will not move any existing games installed, this will just take effect for new games downloaded — so do this now before you try to install BF3.  There’s also an option for keeping Origin game installers, but unless you feel a need to keep them, I don’t see why that would be worthwhile.

click to enlarge

One thing that Origin has that is Steam-like is an in-game overlay which at this point is pretty much just in-game chat.  Pressing Shift + F1 is the default setting here, not to be confused with Steam’s Shift + Tab. You can configure the hotkeys for that combination also in the settings under the “In Game” tab.  Only one obvious tip here; don’t set your Origin hotkey combo the same as Steam or anything else that you may have running while gaming.  I’m pretty sure something disastrous will happen.

Aside from those two things, there isn’t much else that Origin can do at this point that is worth tweaking.  I’m sure as time passes EA will build out their platform much like Steam has, but until then, it’s main purpose will be to serve as a BF3 delivery platform, soon to be followed by the exclusive place to get Star Wars: Old Republic when that arrives later this year.

Aug 062011
 

After it was already almost a forgone conclusion, we now have word that BF3 is really, really, really not coming to Steam — for reals.  The word comes from both the official Battlefield Twitter account and a forum post on the EA forums from staff.  Again, they mention Valve’s restrictions on DLC and post-release support.  Interestingly, we haven’t heard much from Valve’s side of the story, and we still haven’t heard much from other devs and publishers about these restrictions EA keeps bringing up.  The exact details are still unavailable as to what EA is looking to do with BF3 that Steam won’t let them.

Unfortunately, Steam has adopted a set of restrictive terms of service which limit how developers interact with customers to deliver patches and other downloadable content. No other download service has adopted these practices.

Of course, there is still a chance that EA and Valve come to some sort of terms before the launch of BF3, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.  In turn, with BF3 not being available on Steam, it provides EA will a bit more leverage to sell it on Origin, as we discussed here.  So while I’m sure EA would love to sell BF3 everywhere possible, not being on Steam can’t be bothering them too much.  EA squarely places the blame on Valve, but rarely things are that simple.

Is no BF3 on Steam a deal breaker for you?

Aug 052011
 

After making Origin mandatory for the BF3 alpha test, EA isn’t letting up on the Origin hard sell.  They know they have a valuable piece of content that can make or break Origin and they’re pulling out all of the tricks.  First off, if your pre-order BF3 through Origin, you’ll get all the “Back to Karkand” DLC for free, which is no big deal, since that’s true of everywhere else that is selling the game.  To sweeten the deal, they are giving early access to the beta in September.  No exact word on how early “early” is, but it’s dangled out there.  If that’s not enough, they are guaranteeing you can pre-load the game so you can play the game the second it becomes available and are also throwing in some Battlefield Play4Free items as well.  The final icing on the cake is that those who were alpha testers can also get a free game with their BF3 pre-order and can choose from Mass Effect 2, Dead Space 2 or Medal of Honor.  Short of coming to your house and cooking you dinner, EA is throwing everything possible to make Origin the place to get BF3.

Obviously, all this is a smart move for EA, who is desperate to get Origin off the ground and help put a few dents in Steam’s armor.  It also provides them a marketplace that they control so that they don’t have to play by Valve’s rules and also not share a cut of the profits of games sold on Steam.  My experience with Origin so far isn’t that great; the interface is clunky and at time feels sluggish — but the same could have been said when Steam first hit the market.  Time will tell if Origin will gain a significant market, but considering the size of EA and the number of games they publish, it’s a safe bet that Origin will be hanging around for a while.  It can’t be any worse than the Games for Windows Live Marketplace, can it?

Where are you planning to purchase BF3? Has Origin offered a sweet enough deal for you to give it a shot, or will you look elsewhere?

Aug 032011
 

The Brink DLC promised to us long ago that was originally supposed to arrive in June and be free forever, has finally been released.  The catch is, if you don’t download this DLC pack before August 17th, you’ll have to pay $10 for the content.  This may bring back some interest in a game that ran into some problems right out of the gate and then lost a large player base soon after.  One could argue that had this DLC hit sooner, it may have kept gamers interest longer, but now it may be a case of “too little too late” and with the free for a limited time shenanigans, I don’t see that helping matters.

Still, if you’ve invested in Brink and think you may want to play the game again at some point, stop and take a moment now and queue up your download for the content before it costs too much for you to even care about it.  Check out our original post on what the DLC includes here, then hit our Brink Wiki page for tweaks before taking on the obligatory Steam link here.  Console version owners, hit up your platform’s marketplace for the download.