Gears of War Coop

My new roommate and I are taking some time to get used to one another. After two years of living with a woman whose tastes often run counter to mine, it’s nice to have a roommate you can hang out with.

It has been a lot of changes very quickly. We still need to get some living room furnishings. I gave permission for him to get a dog, and we’ve been working together to keep her happy, fed and walked. I’m also not sure how cleaning is going to go down, as we’ve no formal arrangement but sporadically look after the dishes and vacuuming. The bills and rent are paid, so at least the financials are alright.

One thing that I believe has helped smooth the transition out is our ability to play Gears of War together in coop. 

I know. Strange right?

Working as a team really smooths out the hiccups in our communication and really helps us to get to know one another. Since I’m a veteran of the game, I do my best to inform him of what’s coming out and lay out general strategies to deal with the problems ahead.

GoW is very much about teamwork. Even in single player, the game never lets you fly without a wingman at all times. It’s not good enough to lay down suppressive firepower and watch your wingman’s back- the game tests you on many levels of teamwork. One man drives, the other shoots. One goes for the light, the other has to trust his ally to guide him through the darkness lest he become Kryll bait. One player goes down, the other can revive him.

This is what great gaming is about. Not matter how fun it is single player, adding a trusted friend almost always magnifies the good times. It feels good to succeed, it feels better when both you and your buddy beat the stage. And this is a feeling that happens best when playing together in proximity to one another. Pong, the very first video game, was intended to be for dating. It was meant to enhance human social contact, not dwindle it. Even crappy games, like Brute Force, can be ridiculous fun with friends to laugh with you through it.

These kind of good times are why consoles shouldn’t go away. Sometimes, nothing beat a night like a six pack of beer, maybe some pizza, comfortable seating, a dog to pet and a bud or three to play a great game with.

No 40k MMO

"Not an MMO? Then, who am I shooting at?! ... Eh, who cares."

Word has already circled the globe and back again that Warhammer 40k: Dark Millennium Online is no longer an MMORPG.

What was interesting to me is how many fans actually greeted this news with a smile instead of outrage. It wasn’t just the Shoutbox crew, I’ve read through comments by other players and fans who are just outright glad that it will be a regular single and multiplayer experience.

I personally have mixed feelings about this. Especially in light of my recent return to MMORPGs via Fallen Earth.

I remember when World of Warcraft first came out, how so many people announced it was changing how games would be produced in the future. More than few gamers worried about MMOs being the total wave of the future and just about every company was hard at work trying to make one.

But the fears were unfounded. WoW proved to be so successful that other companies began to fear the loss of investment from the sheer development and infrastructural costs of creating an MMORPG. The market proved that there is limited appetite for MMOs, and the real winners are those who create enough social gravity to stick around, not unlike Facebook. Even different and perhaps better features aren’t enough to matter when everyone’s friends have invested too much time and money in raids to give up. Blizzard just knew how to make people stick to their games better than anyone else.

Unable to really create a run away hit large enough to steal from WoW‘s honey pot, other game developers have stuck with impressive single player experiences and multiplayer features.

Sure, there are things about MMORPGs that really annoy me. Having to juggle multiple GUI windows can be very annoying at times. The combat interface is frequently pretty cluttered. And the game is developed around several thousand people playing at the same time, so those amazing-if-simple features from single player games won’t be there. For example, you wouldn’t find yourself in some interactive cutscene where you’re rapidly tapping a button to keep a necromorph from killing you. Or trying to evade a very elaborate security system to break into a compound. Another thing I don’t like about MMORPGs is the grind. When I’ve got to kill a hundred more of whatever monster, it stops being fun and starts being work. Why in the world would anyone want to do this?

You will also never hear a more foul mouthed bunch of people than with multiplayer. I’d say that MMOs might be bad about this, but competitive FPS are worse. Still, when the sheer numbers of people in Final Fantasy XI began to dwindle, I frequently found myself working alongside folks I did not like. Soloing was possible, but not easy. They have reached the highest tiers of the game and many had become quite arrogant and authoritative. While I doubt something like this will happen with WoW anytime soon, it will likely happen with any other game.

And then there’s the inevitable drama. I myself was a victim of it a few times. I caused it once myself and I wish I hadn’t. But you see stories like the following all the time:

  1. A girl joins the guild and she’s cool. But one guy just can’t leave her alone and offers her free stuff. He tries to buy her affection. He starts to get very stalkerish, and smothers her with unwelcome attention until she leaves.
  2. Someone makes some off-the-cuff comment about politics, but half the guild happens to be members of the other partisan group. The resulting debates go on for the rest of the day.
  3. Someone trusted to a position of power kicks someone out without the guild master’s permission, simply because they do not like them. Even though this person never actually violated any guild rules.
  4. Someone trusted as quartermaster gets into an argument with the guild master and decides to empty the guild vault. Or, after some big raid, violates an agreement between all their teammates and takes the goods.
  5. A guild master tries to create the biggest guild they can, mixing the wise cracking adult-joke tellers with the family types whose kids might be watching, or other non-compatible types of people. Hilarity does not ensue.
  6. The guild master makes ridiculously high requirements and rules because they have a vision of dominance over everything and everyone. Or commands what everyone does down to the tiniest detail like they were chess pieces.
  7. That one white kid who gets on Ventrillo and tries to lead. But when things go wrong, he becomes unforgiving and grows frustrated very quickly. It ends with him calling his team a bunch of idiots and cussing them out. Team work degrades. In certain games, the situation may grow so bad that people start fragging their ‘commander.’
  8. That one quintessential drama queen who makes up stories. The annoyance increases three fold if the drama queen has attracted a boy who believes her sob stories. The irritation increases ten fold if the attracted male just happens to be the guild master himself. (Although in all fairness, I was present through one reversed example of this.)

But there are things that MMORPGs do that other games don’t. They’re expansive. Not just the worlds, but the sheer number of items and ingredients and crafting recipes. Your achievements in MMOs are quite rewarding because you can show them off or help your guild or clan. The social aspect is a major draw, especially when you hit it off with some other players and become friends.

Still, I suspect that DMO saying no to MMOs is probably for the best.