Monday, July 04, 2005

Ranting about Battlefield 2

The best thing about playing online is playing with other people. The worse thing about playing online is playing with other people.
So I am playing a good deal of Battlefield 2. Although I really like FPS games I hadn’t played one seriously online in a very long time. I was going to write a bit about the ‘online’ part mentioning how I usually just play the single player versions of the FPS games. I would then back up that admission with some quotes from one of the Unreal developers who mentioned that something like 80% of the people who bought the previous versions of Unreal Tournament didn’t play online. Some of us don’t like showing off how much we suck at the game in front of others and nobody likes to get killed over and over before they even learn the game.

But instead I am going to rant about Battlefield 2. I haven’t had such a love/hate relationship with a game since the early days of Ultima Online.

First of all the menus are horrible. When you are in the game there is a pause to get the menu up. Why? Because they are playing a full screen movie behind the menu and it has to load. You may think a few seconds delay to bring up the menu isn’t a big problem but it really starts to get on your nerves, especially when you meant to press RETURN to bring up a different menu but accidentally hit ESC instead. No option to turn this movie off.

While I am going on about the menu not only does the delay in opening it suck, but it and its various other information screens suck as well. Now I have created quite a few game menus in my time. I am building a few right now at work. I know how hard it is to plan out and display a whole slew of information on screen in a way that is readable and doesn’t look too busy. So I won’t make any disparaging remarks about the menu layouts but rather how they work.

Let’s start with selecting a server which uses and embedded Gamespy server. I play on local Game Arena servers (I would normally play on an Internode server who are my local ISP but BF2 keeps kicking me off their servers keep kicking me offline with a punk buster warning) and in order to find them I type gamearena in the server filter (which works most of the time). Now because the game is new most of the servers are full, but since it would be too hard to update the population of each server in real time you have to press the refresh button which also works most of the time. Only when you do so it doesn’t keep the filter text. There also isn’t any queue to get onto a server so you wind up just clicking on the server, try to enter, say okay to the window that says the server is full, and then click on the server again, repeat until you get in. There is also no way to see what servers your friends are playing on except to select each server and then scroll through the player names on both sides until you find them. Like I said at the beginning I haven’t played an FPS online in quite some time so I can’t really compare their server stuff to other games but one reviewer did ask why all other game servers seem to be getting better while Gamespy is getting worse.

Okay you’ve played the game and the round is over. It throws up a menu screen with loads of information about the previous battle except it doesn’t tell you what any of it means. Hey look I got 32 trophies, 12 checker board thing, 16 crosshairs and 10 skulls! Would it have killed them to have some tool tips or at least a page in the manual that explains what all that means instead of making me go searching through inane message boards for the info? And even when I know what they mean it doesn’t help that much since its really vague how the total score is arrived at.

You can go to the Battlefield HQ and look at your character stats and see what awards and medals you have won. All the awards that you haven’t earned are grayed out and there is no way to see what they are. You can’t select them and there is no tool-tip for them. I can just imagine the frustration of the achiever archetype player who has only 1 or 2 medals left to earn but has no clue what they are let alone what element of the game he has to master to earn them. Again searching though fan sites and such shouldn't be what you have to do.

Now there are bunch of little things I could nit pick about the game itself like how the auto balance feature loves to switch me to the loosing side seconds before the end of the match, but the thing that pushed me over the edge this weekend that had me screaming and pulling my hair out is that I went out and spent 60 bucks on a new joystick because I want to fly helicopters and jets. I didn’t want to do it online because constantly taking these vehicles and smashing them into the ground while I try to adjust my joystick settings and get comfortable flying isn’t really fair the rest of the people on my team. But the only offline maps you can play are the small 16 versus 16 player maps that are very small. If you are lucky you can shoot down your own helicopter before the NPCs, who have jumped in as soon as the map started, take off with it. Then you can fly for a few minutes before you wind up drifting off the map and getting killed for being AWOL before you even get a chance to smash it into the ground. Would it have been hard to give me access to the large maps in some sort of training mode so we could practice flying? How about a specific ‘training map’? You can’t create your own server and play by yourself either, you need a second player to start the game. (Edit: I was just able to start a server and get into the game by myself, it still says it is waiting for a second player but it lets me start.)

There is some love in the love/hate relationship though. It is really fun to play especially when you are on a squad with your friends who have microphones that work. Mine doesn’t, I am guessing it has something to do with the onboard sound card in my machine and we will see what happens once I get a real sound card in there. The graphics are incredible, especially on my new monster PC in 1600x1200. I guess the best thing I can say about it is that I am going to skip proof reading this post and get online. Bye.

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