MW2... the most popular of all hated games ?
Thursday, February 11 2010 @ 02:44 PM GMT
Written by jockyitch from bashandslash.com
Madam Speaker, members of the CoD Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow gamers:
Since Rob Bowling told us that there would be no dedicated servers for MW2 I dreaded what might happen to the CoD FPS community. Would it kill it off or rejuvinate it? It was hard to say what exactly would happen.
Now, here we are in February. Most CoD clans are still around, while many server companies are not. Competitive gamers have gone the way of the dodo (or is that Dota?) and community modders are simply happy to work for food.
And a few challengers have emerged that could make MW2 a memory...BFBC2, MoH and even CoD7 (from Treyarch).
Perhaps it is time to take stock?
MW2...the most popular of all hated games?
MW2 is the number one played game on Steam, followed closely by CS Source at 102,189 (today's current peak) and another 80K playing CS.
However you slice it, MW2 is the most popular CoD game going and arguably the most popular FPS in the PC world.
An MW2-uninstall coming soon?
Though MW2 continues to be trashed by the hardcore PC community (now a daily ritual since it fell with a sickening thud on our hard-drives last November), the numbers show that is has garnered a good sized community of its own.
This is a painful realization for us hardcore gamers. After all, there is a lot to hate in this game. For many old-school guys and gals, MW2 has been a step-backward. Much of the community work done over the years to refine the online (public, dedicated server) experience has been lost due to coming of IW.net.
- MW2's Listen Server format has created abysmal online gameplay quality, providing poor connectivity, ping and registration. Gone are the days of fat pipes and low pings.
- The adoption of Steam's anti-cheat VAC and loss of community AC services like PBBans, has meant open season for hackers on MW2. Things have gotten so bad that big community names like Matt Pruitt (ex of planetcallofduty.com and now CM at EA's MoH) have risked personal criticism by stating this publicly:
"The hacks needs to be cleaned up. Period." (from Matt's personal Twitter page).
- Noob perks lessen the skill in the game. Players are rewarded for everything and anything. Even continuous failure brings about awards (see Deathstreaks).
- NPC killing machines (AC130's and Cobra gunships) remove the human element, a trend that started in CoD4.
- Douche-classes (like the Tactical Knifer) irritate and infuriate the purists who only want to be killed by gunfire alone.
- With no supervision from server admins, PC gaming has been dehumanized. What was a communal event has been brought down to the XBox-Live experience. Games are routinely punctuated by racist and sexist name-calling. Player bans are a near impossibility, so online behavior has lost all civility.
- A near complete absence of developer feedback or communication has left the PC community groping in the dark and feeling distinctly unwanted and unappreciated.
Contrast that to how new players in MW2 and on IW.net have felt. Their experience is a nearly identical one to that found on consoles, so what's there not to like? Many of these new PC players have graduated from XBox and now own their own PC. Many of these new players have never ever been on dedicated servers, so they know no difference and have no complaint about the service at all.
That has been the real tragedy to IW.net: the new players are trained to like the new way of doing things.
However, by following the money...IW and Activision got this one absolutely right (for their shareholders). By losing the hardcore crowd, they have opened the door for many less intense fans to sample their game. The game may not be respected by the l337-set, but there are many out there who find the game fun to play.
On the positive side, even hardcore guys grudingly admit that:
- IW.net has meant that dictatorial admins are a thing of the past. The game is "gamer focused" not "admin" focused.
- It's easy to find and play with friends using Steam - though the MW2 lobby is another thing (but this is a 'positives' list)
- Taken as it is, the game gets the adrenaline going.
While we hardcore fans have lost "our game", many have found something that they can call theirs.
A mixed bag.
Some clans have defected away from CoD, some have stuck it out and lost some folks along the way and some have even grown a little.
Growing a clan has always been difficult. In fact, since 2006, there seems to have been a general decline in gaming clans. Even Google Trends seems to reflect this fact (link).
Why? Here are some guesses:
1. The latest MP fad: co-op gaming. Whereas, we once needed to band together into large online groups for protection, nowadays, gaming companies are giving us multiplayer experiences that need much fewer players. Total player size needs not be larger than you and a friend. If that's the case...you don't need to depend on the rest of your clan or team to show up to have fun.
2. MW2 has ushered in a new era of Listen-servers connections. Gamers will no longer need to form themselves into groups so as to better share the burden of leasing a dedicated server. After all, there is no server.
The loss of dedicated servers unquestionably has been a setback for the CoD community. However, it has not killed interest - it has just changed it. These changes might hold the key on how to grow your clan.
In my opinion the changes can be summarized in anthropologic terms:
Civilized CoD: The Dedicated Server Era 2004 - 2009
In CoD:UO, CoD2 and CoD4, groups of gamers would cluster around their favorite flavor of CoD, dispensed by dedicated public servers and operated by owner/administrators. These administrators typically provided leadership for the group playing on the server. The leader's vision shaped the clan organization. Everyone in the clan had a role and task specializiation was key to the success of the group.
Invariably, the clan would create complex rules to govern its members conduct and behavior.
The rules kept the barbarian hackers, cheats and low-lifes outside of the play area, theoretically giving the group a great gaming experience. The server and the clan was to be respected and defended.
Hunter-Gatherer CoD: IW.net 2010 - ?
With no server ownership per se, the CoD community moved away from the warm hearth that was their server and began to adopt a "foraging" model. The clan as we knew it changed from a defensive, territorial entity into more of a marauding-band.
Rather than just hanging out at a specific server location, clan members now gather into hunting parties, selected by their chieftan through Steam. There, the group chit-chats, sharpening knives and swords and girdling their loins for battle. Then, with a click...they enter the game lobby and await their foes. Various epithets are exchanged and the two groups enter into battle.
There is no chivalry, no etiquette and very little sportsmanship. After all, it's not likely you will ever see the people you played with again. Everything is impersonal and fleeting. Get your sense of pwnage and move on.
Given IW.net's relative success with this model, all Activision developers could follow suit and this model will be with us for some time.
Most serious gamers have left the scene. MW2 has some ladders, but the lack of reg and a robust anti-cheat make it too dodgy to compete in.
In Oz, they have re-embraced CoD2. Cybergamer CoD2 Invite is up to the finals, with teams heading into the semi finals. In the CoD4 scene, there was a One Day Comp on January 31st that ran all day, shoutcasted by Gamestah.
The Grand Final between Frenetic Array and auRa was a bit of a white wash 13-7 on both mp_backlot and mp_citystreets to Frenetic Array.
To revive the CoD4 scene, Cybergamer has secured some sponsorship by MSI for a Summer Online Tournament (which actually runs summer-autumn). See details. Thanks to Jordan (Sensuki) for the details.
The lack of an MW2 scene is re-focusing energy towards CoD4. It will always be dwarfed by CS, but at least the game is playable both online and in LAN.
For example, CoD4 will be played at the NERV3 LAN in Pennsylvania in a few weeks. Who would have thought NERV3 would ever take place after the fiasco last year?
Now we just have to worry about the Punk Buster contract ending.CoD 7
Vietnam? Korea? For most hardcore guys, we couldn't care where Treyarch takes the next CoD game in November, as long as it has the same features found in previous games. For me, the keys to a successful CoD7 are as follows:
More player control over the game
Chances: slim to none. I would think Treyarch follows IW's lead and removes the console and makes the player config impossible to edit. Yes that is a step backward. No two PC's are identical and modifying the game to suit your rig is essential. Yadayada...it all falls on deaf ears.
PC Support: Dedicated, public servers and Mod Tools
Treyarch has stated publicly they support PC gamers, but Activision may push them to adopt an IW.net style game environment. I'm pinning my hopes on the many PC guys that Trey has hired: JD_2020, Paulo88, PC-Dev, to name a few. Hopefully, these gentlemen can sway this argument in our favor. I'm not holding my breath, but if we do end up with dedicated servers I'm sure the above will have had something to do with it.
Going forward, I can sympathize with Treyarch if they leave out the hook for CoDTV in their new game. They did dedicate time and effort on providing support for it in CoD:WW for example, but sadly the community did not follow through.
I asked for a "switch" to turn off ambient occlusion in future Treyarch games. I was told this is possible and I expect to find this functionality in CoD7. Competitive gaming depends on sights and sounds. We need to hear the enemy near us.
Focus on gameplay (high FPS)
Treyarch wants to wow its fans and that means graphical eye-candy. They will jam as much gee-wiz stuff into their offerings as possible. CoD:WW stuttered in at 30 fps on a console...I expect their new one to be in that ballpark.
All this talk is a moot point. CoD7 is nearly done.
Look at it this way, Thaine Lyman, Vice President of Production at Activision put up this chart recently during a presentation on video game licensing (source --- thanks England4Eva).
If CoD7 is due in November, CoD's usual release date, then the game will effectively be completed in May, after which time only tweaks will be applied.
Based on the timeline above, you can see why community requests are rarely incorporated. By the time we hear about the game (usually post-Alpha), it's too late to add functionality.
CoD: An FPS Monopoly
Where's the competition?
Last weekend, there were approximately 1400 "MW2"-related tweets on Twitter - it was the fifth most tweeted gaming subject. Ranking behind the Wii, Mass Effect and the XBox360.
BFBC2 merited only 873, a distant sixth. BFBC2 Beta was out on both PC and XBox (source; Aggretweet.com).
The lower rate for BFBC2 is not a shocker, given the much smaller publicity budget it has had. Or, perhaps, as BASHandSlash.com reader Whiskey thinks, "...maybe, Battlefield gamer demographics, just don't use Twitter".
BFBC2 will pick up some of the discarded hardcore community, but more than likely, it will just share them. BFBC2 will not compete with MW2. It's a different game. Some of the social (clan-based) gamers and tactical guys will head over to BFBC2, while the lone-wolfers and andrenaline junkies will stay on MW2. The games are different.
Different enough to realize that there really is no direct competitor to CoD.
Up-market FPS's are very expensive to make and it is that very high barrier to entry that has meant that only two companies are seriously competing for marketshare: EA and Activision.
Lately, only Activision has shown the ability to make visceral, heart-pounding excitement that appeal to a vast army of gamers.
This has made Activision a defacto monopoly in "purist" shooters. EA's Battlefield franchise adds a large mechanized element that carves out its own niche, but I'm talking about foot soldier versus foot soldier combat.
In that vein, everything is now riding on EA's MoH to give CoD a run for its money.
MoH has sputtered the last few years and has lost much of its fanbase. Will a new gaming engine and two developers (EA's LA and Sweden's DICE) working together bring it back to glory? Key to whether MoH will be a good game rides on communication. This is hard to achieve within one studio, but having two, half a world apart, will make things rough indeed.
I will not be betting MoH will succeed in its new incarnation, but I will be rooting for it.
The Activision monopoly has meant that it can force changes down every gamer's throat with few consequences.
For the hardcore gamer's voice to be heard, we need more developers to take CoD head-on to return the balance towards the consumer. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen. The average player wants eye candy and cool effects, they are unlikely to be interested in whether there is a record feature, or whether their framerate can't be adjusted higher than 80 fps.
Not unless they are taught the benefits of doing so.
And education here is the key. Unless you want your game to continue to regress, you all need to spread the word to your fellow gamers that there are better ways of doing things out there.
Our CoD Union is...
The truth is that the CoD community had undergone much change lately and is morphing from an admin and mod-centric group to a player-centric group.
The way we play as a community has also changed drastically and some say, not for the better.
Changes may also be shaking apart the developer world. Rumors that Infinity Ward will not be doing an MW3 are rife. If so, CoD might go into the next decade under Treyarch's custodial care.
They have shown some interest in our PC community in the past and recent hirings indicate that this will continue. Perhaps it's time we let them know we are still here, that we support them and would like to keep the gains we have made in this community over the past six years.
There's not a lot of time to let them know before they finish up CoD7...we have only a few months left.
Let's tell them we no longer wish to go backwards.
I'll end with this quote from BASHandSlash.com reader XKaan:
"I'm just holding out hope that SOMEONE gets the FPS thing right sometime soon..." - XKaan