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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Virtual Battlefields and Confused Card Games

I don’t think I’ve posted anything yet about my current addiction game-wise, so now is as good a time as any (and of course as always it’s quite a bit after-the fact..). Way back in June, when I was in Fargo, North Dakota, I had the wonderful experience of true broadband, as the Americans experience it. The hotel I stayed in (The Radisson, I highly recommend it if you’re ever there-especially for the breakfasts and the lovely blond serving them ;)) had free broadband internet access. After popping down to reception and making 100% sure I wasn’t dreaming, and that they didn’t charge per-meg or something, I settled in to downloading stuff. And by stuff I mean A LOT of stuff. The newest versions of all the mobile tools I could get my hands on, movies, pictures, and of course Game Demos! One of these was BattleField 2, and thanks to the permanent connectivity, I could actually set up a profile and play online-against South Africans on the SAIX servers no less, with better pings than the SA guys! This says something about Telkom and their screwed up local loop if you ask me..

Anyway, that demo was single-handedly responsible for me spending my two weeks in the states with about 10% of the sleep I SHOULD have had (there’s really not much in terms of nightlife in Fargo, so this was a bit of a godsend). Of course when I got back here, to my 56kbps dialup connection that barely hits 40kbps, I thought my BF2 days were over. I was, thankfully, very wrong. When I started at 5DT in November, it turned out that they had uncapped ADSL, and that they didn’t mind us using it for games after-hours! So in the past two months I have managed to rack up about 36 hours online, and I’m still loving it! It’s actually amazing how addictive the game is, and it’s not so much the game itself as the ‘meta-game’ that exists as a result of EA/DICE’s idea of having a stats feed that allows you to track your progress through various sources. My stat site of choice is BF2Tracker.com, and I actually spend some time tracking the progress of people I know as well.. Emergent meta-gameplay at its finest (hmmm.. maybe this is a good topic for a Masters degree). Besides stats sites, some creative sites have come up with systems that dynamically generate signature images based on a player’s game progress as well. TehSig.com generates particularly attractive ones, such as this one based on one of their standard templates, and dynamically updated from my current stats: http://img.tehsig.com/usr_14813/tpl_2/image.jpg.

All in all, the whole stat-whoring and meta-gaming adds to the already brilliant battlefield 2. If you haven’t yet tried it, give it a bash!

So that handles the Virtual Battlefield side of this post, where the heck does the Confused Card Games bit come into it? Well I FINALLY managed to get rid of my copy of Lumines this weekend (I don’t care what the reviewers say, it’s boring and it’s overpriced!) by swapping it for Metal Gear Acid. Now for anyone that has played a Metal Gear game before and thinks they know what to expect from this title-you are dead wrong. Rather than a typical Metal Gear game with 3rd person sneaking and combat, this is a card game. The third person approach we have come to know and love in the MG games is still there in a way, you just don’t directly control the character. Instead, you control the action indirectly by playing cards from a hand that you are dealt. There are various classes of cards, and within those classes various different cards. Anyone who has played one of the big card based RPGs such as Magic: The Gathering or Vampire will catch on to the gameplay quite quickly, others may struggle a little-but make no mistake it’s worth the learning curve. As strange as the idea of a card-based Metal Gear game may seem, it works really well! When judging a game, one of the most important elements to me that elusive ‘just one more go’ feeling that made games like Civilization more than just great, but classics (and which is sorely lacking in most modern games). This title has this in spades. I can’t explain why, and I would be lying if I tried to, but it is incredibly addictive and tough to put down. It has the kind of satisfyingly frustrating and challenging gameplay that will ultimately see it remembered as a classic-even if it does end up being a niche one.

All in all, I definitely scored in this trade, MGA is an infinitely better game than Lumines!

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