Doom Therapy

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Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day.  For some reason lately there has been this common theme for me at work.  That is getting pulled into projects that I have never touched before, and don’t even know the history of…  as a sort of troubleshooter in chief.  I apparently have this ability to break through the layers of urban legends and get at the heart of problems.  Largely this all centers on my ability to ask “why are you doing it that way?”… regardless of who happens to be in the room.  I am not mean spirited about it, but in truth what I am trying to do is separate out what is needed and adds value to the process and what is just extra steps that were put in for no apparent reason.  I mean I have worked in environments where I did not have access to the appropriate permissions, and in those environments you sort of make things work however you can.  A prime example is a process that I a digging into right now that involves going for seven hops between what is essentially an FTP drop directory and the actual directory the software loads data from.  I’m trying to peel back the layers of tradition and determine does each of these steps actually do something other than just adding more steps where a file can possibly get corrupted.  Also in this case the file crosses the operating system boundary at least four times which in itself is sort of problematic.

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There are days when I have had my fill of madness and simply need to watch the world burn.  Instead of ACTUALLY watching the world burn… I have a more healthy outlet in the form of video games.  The genre of choice during these days is some form of a shooter, and last night on a whim I decided to boot up the modern incarnation of Doom.  Now I have not spent nearly as much time in this game as it deserves, largely because it ran less than amazing on my previous system.  I mean it was workable but for a game that demands such fast paced action…  my old AMD FX-6300 process wasn’t really doing the job.  Now that I have this spiffy x99 i7 system it runs extremely smooth in both normal and vulcan modes.  In theory I should probably put this game on the SSD because it has quite possibly one of the slowest boot sequences that I have seen from any game.  Whatever the case it absolutely filled my need especially when it comes to “glory kills”, which allows you to rip the heads/arms/various other body parts off of demons when they are low health.  When you are deeply frustrated…  it helps a little bit to inflict massive amounts of digital carnage.

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After about an hour of “Doom Therapy” I was more than ready to strap back into the environmental suit and go exploring in Mass Effect Andromeda.  Last night I arrived at “Not-Tatooine” the obligatory desert world in the Andromeda galaxy.  I think  there is some unwritten rule that if you have an ice wasteland planet… you must then have a desert wasteland planet to balance things out.  The positive is that “Not-Tatooine” is way easier to traverse than “Not-Hoth” due to the lack of giant ice crevices that go on forever.  There are however giant sinkholes that seem to go on forever, but these seem easier to see than the crevices were.  One of the things that you have to know about me is… that essentially roads and paths in videos games don’t exist and I will try my damnedest to figure out how to wall hack my way into a place rather than trying to sort out which direction the game is intending me to approach.  This absolutely wrecks a lot of scripting that intends on players to arrive from a specific vector… and sometimes causes some hilarious moments of me unintentionally “sneaking” up behind guards.  As a result when you apply this instinct to Andromeda it means that I spend a not insignificant amount of time forcing my nomad to climb sheer rock faces by abusing boosts.

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The sad moment of last night unfortunately was when I decided that I should probably abandon my N7 tier 5 gear for something tier 6…  and as a result I wound up putting on a full set of initiative spearhead armor.  It has some perfectly reasonable if generic stats… but the key problem is that it just doesn’t look as cool.  I have yet to find a set of “new” gear that really looks cool… and have been relying on the Quarian themed armor that I got with the collectors edition and the various N7 armor sets that I have been able to scrounge up.  Apparently the Initiative only got to take the ugly armors with them to Andromeda… because all of the cool armor was needed to fight the Collectors and or the Reapers.  I have a massive influx of research points because quite honestly… none of the Helius cluster gear looks very cool.  I’ve never touched any of the Kett weaponry largely because they are ugly as sin, and while the Angaran weapons look a little better…. they are nowhere near as cool as the good old standbys from the Milky Way.  The look and feel of a weapon to me are as important as the function.  In theory what I should do is hang out next to one of the forward supply points and keep swapping weapons until I have tried out everything in my inventory before returning to my practice of mass deconstructing everything.  The inventory upgrades have given me some breathing room to be able to hold onto some extra items.

E1M1

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Doomed

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Awhile back I wrote about my feelings regarding the Doom multiplayer tests on both the PC and PS4.  It felt so much like they had missed the mark, and it seemed very much like someone trying to recreate the experience of the original Doom… without realizing that certain parts of that experience were due to a limit in the ability of the technology at the time.  The experience just was not fun, and that is the most scathing indictment you can honestly give any game.  So as a result I had for the most part decided to ignore that there was ever a Doom 4… or in this case a weird reboot.  Then yesterday I started seeing the first impressions of the single player campaign come in, and they were positive enough that I thought I would take a look for myself.  Even though at this point I have only really played an hour and a half of the game, I am glad I wound up grabbing it.  The impressions I had of the multiplayer were correct, in that this is an attempt to boil the game down to its original roots.  While this doesn’t really work for a multiplayer experience, it does work really well for single player.  The game functions in a way that you don’t really see games function in recent years, in that the game is not open world.  It is a series of closed loop levels that are designed to be approached as a single map.  The first one is quite literally E1M1 as the title of this blog post suggests, borrowing the same naming as the original Doom.  They are a closed puzzle that needs to be solved and involves opening a familiar series of Blue, Yellow and Red key card areas to progress through.

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The combat itself is also really interested and reminds me of the way these games used to play, where you would have a truly frenetic amount of enemies spawn in on you and have to deal with them rapidly.  However once you dealt with that room you were granted time to roam around the area freely before moving ahead and engaging the next set.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the Painkiller games felt, where each room is this challenge to survive and then you restock your ammunition and health in an attempt to prepare for the next such room.  What helps make this manageable is the games “Glory Kill” system.  When mob is near death it will glow slightly and stagger around letting you know that you can sweep in and with the F key engage a sequence where you do an almost Mortal Kombat like fatality.  Sometimes you rip the head off of the monster, other times you rip the arm off and beat it with it.  Other than just being a carnal ballet, they serve the purpose of giving you life or ammunition back allowing you to keep up the killing streak a little longer.  I found it very needed for getting through some of the later rooms.  Often times the mobs will spawn in with such number that you have to keep running around the room to avoid getting wrecked.  The imps are also more frustrating than they have ever been with their ability to hang off the edge of things and gun you down with their fireballs.

Nothing Will Save You

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Unlike the original Doom, there is no “save game” that you can rely on.  Instead there are a sequence of Checkpoints that unlock as you go through the level.  When you die you either fall back to the last check point or restart the level in its entirety.  These checkpoints generally coincide with the various lulls in the action that I talked about.  The only frustrating thing is that they sometimes encompass several rooms worth of encounters.  I ultimately stopped last night playing because I died and rolled back to a check point a few rooms back… and simply didn’t have the strength to deal with the shit storm I had just waded though to get there.  Even on normal difficulty that game is really tough at times, and you find yourself having to keep glory killing just to maintain your health long enough to push through to the next room.  Ammunition also feels like a constant problem with both the 20 round shotgun and the 50 round or so Heavy Machinegun.  Similarly the Chainsaw this time around relies upon gas tanks that you find scattered throughout the levels.  What was surprising is just how fast you get into the action, similar to the original doom you are planted in a room with mobs that you have to chew your way through with only a pistol.  The secret areas that can be found feel every bit as meaningful as they used to in Doom, with them often granting access to a weapon before you would find it in the normal flow of the game.

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One of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay is the weapon modification system.  Each gun has an Unreal Tournament style alternate fire system but these are unlocked by finding weapon kiosks scattered through the levels.  Each mod package changes the way your right mouse button interacts, and once you have unlocked multiple modes you can change between them with your R key.  For example with the shotgun its two alternate fire modes allow you to choose from what is ultimately a grenade launcher and a three round burst that can both be accessed by holding the right button for a charged shot.  I personally tend to favor the grenade launcher because it allows me to bounce a grenade between several different mobs taking out the entire pack.  However for boss fights or tougher enemies I could see how the three round burst would be extremely beneficial.  The problem there however is that when you only have 20 rounds in the weapon, chewing those up 3 rounds at a time means you empty the gun quickly.  The big takeaway is that the game is very much a 90s shooter, with 90s shooter sensibilities…  remastered for the 1080p and beyond world.  Some of these work amazingly well in single player, but not in multiplayer.  However I might change my tune once I see how the snap map system works.  In any case I am definitely enjoying the single player campaign, and it has just enough story and intrigue to keep the game moving forward…. but not so much that you get bogged down in character development.  This is in no way the rich narrative environment that Doom 3 was for me at least, but it has enough atmosphere to keep my interested.  If you want a good shooter, give it a shot… but if you are looking for a deep storyline…  this is not the game for you.

Old School New School

Overwatch 2016-04-16 09-26-45-77

Doomed

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Firstly if you didn’t check it out I highly suggest you read yesterday’s blog post if for no reason other than the amazing custom artwork by my friend @Ammosart.  As far as this weekend went, it was a bit of an odd one.  I once again played a lot of Destiny, but this morning that is not one of the shooter experiences I am going to be talking about.  I really hate it when game companies gang up on each other, because this weekend there were “special” beta tests going on for Overwatch, Battleborn and Doom.  While at first they might not seem all that related, they are each chasing a multiplayer experience that they would really love you to care about.  Battleborn is not even on the list of games I was interested in, thanks to a really bad alpha experience causing me to pitch it to the curb.  Doom however…  I really want to like and keep giving it ample attempts to sell me on its regressive notion of what first person shooter multiplayer should be.  Now please note…  I’ve had access to the alpha for quite awhile now thanks to a strange presell deal that they had for Wolfenstein The New Order.  I have not really talked about it before now however due to the NDA it has been wrapped in, but with this weekends big beta event… that has been dropped.

Doom Multiplayer is a game that really hopes that you remember Quake 3 Arena fondly, and have been craving that sort of gameplay with marginally better graphics.  The gameplay honestly gives flash backs to playing Rocket Arena… during a time when even then I thought the Quake Arena experience was far inferior to Unreal Tournament that I tended to play more often.  If you miss the days of being shot across the map from someone you can’t even see as you spawn in… then this is going to be the game you have been hankering for.  The big problem I had was in all of the matches that I have played… I never really found myself having fun.  I mean I did okayish, but it very much felt like wandering around the same claustrophobic hallways that we used to in Quake.  The worst sin however is the movement… it feels completely unrealistic and the same sort of stiff speedy running that those original Quake games had.  What it is trying to be is fast paced run and gun action, but in an era when we can do that without sacrificing animation and design aesthetics.  I’ve now played several different PC alpha tests, and installed it on the PS4 to give it a go there… and no matter what I keep coming up with the same impression.  This is not a fun multiplayer experience.

Molten Core!

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The general “unfun” nature of Doom was only drilled home thanks to also being in Overwatch this weekend.  It feels like both games are trying really hard to deliver something similar, at least in the department of a faced paced shooter department.  Also both games really want you to want to watch them as some sort of an e-sports extravaganza.  However Doom is a world that traded the drab green and brown nothingness of Quake for various shades of orange and blood red… whereas Overwatch is almost more game world than it actually needs to support the combat.  As you wander around the world there is a constant barrage of tiny details.  Posters on the wall, images up on computer screens… advertisements for murloc themed restaurants.  The world is vibrant and feels alive, and almost begs you to inhabit it, and what makes it even better is that every single character is just as vibrant and well designed.  Playing Torbjorn feels unique and completely different from playing Pharah or Reaper or Reinhardt.  The only negative here is that at times they almost feel too unique, in that the control scheme of one champion doesn’t begin to map up to playing another one.  It is fairly normal for “league” style champion design to differ wildly, but at least in League you are always going to be using QWE, but for Overwatch champions there is essentially an array of hotkeys that get used… and not all champions use all hotkeys.  The most confusing aspect of this is how some champions have a movement key and others don’t…  and even among the ones that do they don’t always sync up to exactly the same key.

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So what ended up having to happen is that I started to compartmentalize “this is how I play this champion” from “this is how I play overwatch”.  The only unfortunate thing about this game is that you can see how much effort they put into building the world, and personally I get a little nostalgic about “what might have been”.  Titan was supposed to be Overwatch the MMO, and I would have loved that.  Even if they had given me a game along the lines of Destiny or Division I would have eaten it up completely.  So as you are playing through the levels you see signs of what might have been.  As far as the game play itself it centers around running multiplayer matches, to rank up… to unlock loot crates… to get sweet skins and other cosmetic stuff…  that improve your game play experience for those champions that you really love.  At its core this game is a really tight multiplayer team based shooter, and if that is not the experience you have been looking for… this probably isn’t the game for you.  It plays like a modern version of Team Fortress 2 and feels tighter than that game ever did.  Every aspect of the experience seems like it has been painstakingly planned and the awesome thing about it is that for once Blizzard is probably being more forthcoming with information than any other multiplayer game has been.  For example they went into more detail about the netcode behind the game play than any company I have ever seen.  The only unfortunate thing is that I am going to have to likely wait until May 3rd to get to play the game again, given that is when the pre-launch open beta period begins.  The game lived up to all of my expectations, and I am amped to get to play it with friends.