This week Josh, Evan, Tyler and T.J. talk about what it means for Diablo 3 to be the PC's fastest-selling game as we do some critiquing of its bosses and item drops balancing. We also touch on the TOR layoffs, leaked information that sheds light on Bungie's development of a massively multiplayer-style sci-fantasy, over-hyphenated action-shooter for the PC, and RO2's new patch. At 55:00, Evan shares a tale from Day Z.
PC Gamer US Podcast 317: Bosses From Hell
Have a question, comment, complaint or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext 724 or email the mp3 to email@example.com.
The Steam fairies are ferrying an updated version of Red Orchestra 2 to PCs today. This is RO2's "GOTY Content Pack," a free patch that includes a new map and a heap of fixes. To commemorate the occasion, Tripwire has sent along a grim bit of video that you can watch above. Bunkers! Ditches! These are the places you'll die.
"One of the things we learned from the fans after the release was that many of them thought the game was too hardcore, not hardcore enough, or just not enough like the original game," Tripwire President John Gibson says in the video above. Most developers absorb an array of contradictory feedback after a game launches, and observing that strange soup of commingled praise and hatred while you decide how to react to it isn't something I envy about game development.
Red Orchestra 2's GOTY Edition Free Content Pack represents Tripwire's response to player feedback, and it seems like a truly comprehensive update to a game we already love. To kick off the roll-out of the update later this week, Red Orchestra 2 will also be free to play on Steam this weekend, beginning on Thursday.
What's in the update?
Mamayev Kurgan, a new multiplayer map lined with bunkers and trenches "'Action' mode - Featuring a crosshair, easier aiming and toned down recoil, reduced damage and open access to a wide range of weaponry Action mode is the perfect first step for players into the world of Red Orchestra." "'Classic' mode blends the gameplay innovations of the new game with the tactical and edgy gameplay of the original giving the fans of the first game exactly what they want." Vehicle improvements, including a toning-down of AI tank accuracy Machineguns are now "easier to use," according to Tripwire Performance improvements, including revamp of dynamic shadows, changes to UI rendering, map optimizations, and more Optional client-side hit detection Refinement of spawn-on-squad leader, spawn protection, overtime, and Lockdown
Red Orchestra 2 will be free to play on Steam beginning at 10 AM PST on Thursday, May 24 until Sunday, May 27.
I love a good weld. And Killing Floor features my favourite welding mechanics of all! The average Killing Floor player is probably more interested in slo-mo dismemberment and headshots, which also feature, but it's that's not really my bag. I like sealing doors, having a panic, then blowing up said door with a pile of grenades.
Tripwire Interactive have just announced that Killing Floor has sold a million copies. They've even managed to sell two million pieces of DLC. To celebrate, they're knocking 85 per cent discount as part of Steam's Midweek Madness sale. The discount applies to the vanilla version and the bundle that comes with a pile of skins for your characters.
Are you still playing Killing Floor? Everyone has nightmares about the Patriarch, right?
The full version of the Red Orchestra 2 SDK has been released for free, giving RO2 owners the opportunity to create maps and game modes for Tripwire's multiplayer shooter. The developers have released a few limited versions of the SDK, but the full suite of tools is now available.
"Users can now make and publish everything from simple mods and mutators, through custom maps and on to full total conversion mods," Tripwire say, mentioning that big mods like Rising Storm, In Country Vietnam and Iron Europe are already in development. You can grab the mod tools from the Tools tab of your Steam account.
Tripwire are no strangers to the modding scene. Killing Floor and Red Orchestra started out as mods for Unreal 2004. Hopefully the SDK release can inspire another wave of talented modders.
The rather good co-op survival shooter, Killing Floor, will be free to play on Steam from this Thursday through Sunday, giving everyone a chance to try out the new goodies added by this year's Twisted Christmas event. I hope you enjoy nightmares about six foot tall gingerbread men with a taste for human flesh, because Killing Floor will throw hordes of them at your face on the new Ice Cave map.
The event will also give you the chance to shoot Christmas in the face with new weapons, including a vintage revolver, automatic shotgun, a huge sword and a powerful Husk cannon. Find out more on the official Twisted Christmas page (warning: contains large image of nightmarish gingerbread man). The event starts today, and will run until January 4.
Red Orchestra 2 is the best murder simulator I’ve ever played. It’s not the best first-person shooter or multiplayer game, or even the best team-based multiplayer game. It’s certainly not the best World War II game, and its singleplayer is the worst I’ve played in years. But in the killing, and in the being killed, Red Orchestra 2 is a terrifying and satisfying experience.
Let’s talk about you for a minute. You’re a soldier in either Hitler or Stalin’s army, and you’re shit-scared. You’ve got your back against the wall in a room with one door, two windows and three walls, and you’re peeking around a corner into the exposed core of a half-destroyed building. Every room could conceal an enemy soldier, and you’ve died a hundred times already, always from that one angle you didn’t check.
Looking down through the rubble, you see an enemy soldier break from behind a wall. You aim and fire in a single motion. You’ve shot him and now he’s dead. It’s exactly like a million other games, but it feels nothing like any other game. It’s the little things that make the difference, such as the sound of your own breathing when you lifted the rifle to your face, and the way it bobbed slightly in your hands. It’s in the mark on your enemy’s chest where the bullet hit, and the way his blood spritzed from his back, marking that bullet’s exit. It’s in the way he fell, forced by some terrible weight. Sometimes, but not this time, it would be the way he clutches his stomach, yelling in Russian, or the way he fires his machinegun madly during his last few seconds of life.
At some point, the developers of Red Orchestra 2 realised that if the primary interaction in your game is killing, then you should probably make the killing feel incredible. It’s this attention to detail that turns an otherwise ordinary game, a slightly more realistic Battlefield, into something great, with Soviets fighting Nazis across mother Russia.
Take the game modes, for example. The most popular is Territory, in which one team starts in control of a map’s capturable points and the enemy must take them. In this mode, reinforcements spawn every 20 seconds or so, and on maps designed to support 64 players it does a fine job of focusing attention on the shifting frontline. But it did the same in Battlefield 2, where it was called Conquest mode. Countdown mode has similar attack/defend objectives, but players get just one life per round, and the teams swap sides midway. No one is currently playing it. The third mode is Firefight, a team deathmatch variant which is popular, but feels as if it’s missing the point of Red Orchestra.
While the weapons feel remarkable, the classes that carry them are familiar. There’s the Assault class, with a sub-machinegun; the Marksman, with a sniper rifle; the Rifleman and Elite Rifleman; and a few others. The few inventive classes, such as Squad Leaders and Commanders, do little to change the flow of battle. Both roles have valuable abilities, but nobody follows orders on public servers.
Even tanks don’t add much to the experience. They require a whole different set of skills to use well, and have lovingly detailed interiors, but they are an easily ignored nuisance on the few maps that actually include them. On any server I’ve ever joined, the one tank-only map is the moment in the war when everyone disappears to write letters home to their mothers.
Let’s be clear: none of these things are bad, they’re just not why Red Orchestra is great. Ignore how dull the idea of another World War 2 shooter sounds, and look to the experiences RO2 provides. Again, it’s the little things that have made me play it for 25 hours in a week.
It’s creeping through the ruined buildings of Pavlov’s House, one of the best maps, and jumping every time you see a piece of paper float through the air. It’s listening to the footsteps echoing through the building, and freezing as you hear creaking on the stairs. It’s the time I rounded a corner to come face to face with a Nazi holding a grenade above his head, bayoneted him in the stomach, and then dived down some stairs to escape the blast. It’s the thrill of sprinting across an open field, enemy machinegun fire whizzing all around you.
Death in RO2 is so sudden and violent that you’re constantly on edge, an experience that’s exacerbated by all the little pieces of information the game is keeping from you.
Firstly, at a distance there’s no easy, instant way to tell if a soldier is on your side. The uniforms are distinct, but not the fluorescent green cycling jackets you need on a smoky battlefield. If you’re close to someone, looking at them, and they’re on your side, their name will appear, but often you don’t have that kind of time.
Secondly, there’s no instant kill confirmation. You’ll be fighting across the ruined tenements on the wonderful Pavlov’s House map, and you’ll spot a head in a window across the street. From the shape of the helmet, you’ll infer that it’s an enemy and fire. The head will disappear from view. Are they dead? Did you miss? Are they wounded and bandaging themselves? Is it safe to move on? You can only hope. Wherever it can, RO2 makes murky what other games want to be clear. There’s no ammo display on the HUD; you have to check the barrel for a rough estimate, or count your own shots. Realism mode, which is activated on roughly half of the servers currently running, removes certainty altogether by taking out friendly names, kill confirmations and the radar. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but I had more fun in non-realism mode.
Lastly, the heart-munching adrenaline you feel in front of your PC is mirrored in the soldier you’re controlling. When you’re stood at a window and bullets start to chip against the frame, all the colour drains from the screen, the world blurs, and your aim becomes worse than a drunk teenager in a nightclub bathroom. You need to get out of there to catch your breath, like the person who enters the bathroom after the teenager. It’s a smart way to stop camping.
All this attention to detail hasn’t prevented the game from being miserably broken. Connecting to a server frequently plops me on to a team selection screen where the buttons don’t work. The server browser refreshes only once, meaning I have to restart the game to try again. If I do successfully connect to a server, the bugs don’t stop. Sometimes when I die, I’m unable to re-spawn until I re-select my class. The XP system, which is supposed to reward you with new weapons, is completely broken, and the Steam achievements system will often reward you for things you haven’t done. At least once every two hours, on two different PCs, the game crashed entirely.
It’s like buying a beautiful dining table from eBay, having your editor help you carry it up two flights of stairs, and then discovering it has Death Watch Beetles pupating inside it. Tripwire say they are aware of the issues, and I’m confident they’ll fix them, but right now it makes playing a chore.
Less likely to be fixed any time soon are the German and Soviet singleplayer ‘campaigns’, which amount to nothing more than multiplayer matches with bots, connected by brief, animated history lessons. They would be fine, but the bot AI is more stupid than the larvae tunnelling under my dinner plates.
Let’s make a list, then. The AI soldiers are blind, and will run directly past soldiers on the enemy team without firing. They’re cripplingly indecisive, and will leap in and out of the same window over and over. If an enemy is close enough, he’ll try to melee you, but if you run backwards, he’ll chase you interminably and never fire.
I’ve seen machinegunners set up with their backs to the enemy. I’ve seen machinegunners set up on top of kitchen cabinets, facing a wall. I’ve seen soldiers run in infinite circles, unable to navigate a corner. I’ve seen enemy tanks drive forever into walls, and crash into the front of me, but never fire.
The singleplayer option appears at the top of the main menu, and to newcomers who aren’t familiar with Red Orchestra it provides a terrible introduction. It should not have been released. Ignore it.
But don’t ignore the game. By perfecting a lot of tiny, gruesome details, its developers have created an experience where killing a man is as satisfying as getting a tetris, and when I close my eyes I’m still firing rifles in my head.
15 years ago, the original Diablo hacked and slashed its way into PC gaming history. Now, on the run-up to Diablo III, we take a trip to Blizzard to look back at how all began, and forward at where it’s going—including insight into the Diablo III that almost was! Plus, we’ve got Battlefield 3 sniper survival tips, a special report on what Windows 8 means for gamers, and an emergency guide to wrestling your accounts back from hackers. Then read our reviews of Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, Rage, Hard Reset, Driver: San Francisco, and more!
It's all on newsstands now! Or, if you can’t make it to the store, we’re available on Coverleaf.com and Apple Newsstand.
At Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera tells the searing story of a young medic who joins an assault team charged with storming enemy positions. The only problem is, the assault team is composed entirely of snipers, and refuses to move out. He asks his CO about it:
"The squad leader grinned coldly before bringing the binoculars up to his eyes. 'Of course we're the attacking force. That's why it's so important for every man under my command to pick up a sniper rifle and wait here, at our base.'
He nodded to himself, sure of his strategy. 'Snipers as far as the eye can see. Sooner or later... they'll come to us.'"
This and other anecdotes are hilarious gags at the expense of the way games like Battlefield work, and gamers' seemingly bottomless appetite for killing things through long-range sights, and driving vehicles they don't know how to use.
It also reminds me of Red Orchestra 2, and the kinds of stories that come out of its more structured missions and teams. Sometimes I'm a little sad that I rarely get the chance to work on my sniping, or my tank-driving skills, but I also have to admire how harshly RO2 enforces balanced teams and cooperation. The temptation to go lone-wolf in a RO2 match is tempered by how indifferent it is to kill-to-death ratios, and how difficult it is to operate in isolation from the team.
I wonder if it's just a question of audience, or whether RO2 has created a set of acceptable behaviors through classes and scoring. If you took the same people who are parking on hillsides in Bad Company 2 and put them in RO2, would they still camp? I'm not sure. There is something about RO2 that is authentic, that creates stories not about what I did, but what "we" did.
A post on the Red Orchestra blog announces Rising Storm as the first expansion pack for Red Orchestra 2. It'll ferry Red Orchestra 2's bloody, muddy realism out to the sunny, sandy beaches of the Pacific theatre, where American forces will battle the Japanese army on famous battlefields like Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Peleliu.
The expansion is a total conversion created with help from Red Orchestra's active modding community. Tripwire recruited a "hit-list" of modders who had worked with Tripwire before, and asked them to help produce the expansion.
"As Red Orchestra: Ostfront had such an avid modding community, producing some pretty good content, it made sense for the Tripwire team, the core of whom were ex-modders themselves, to offer this opportunity to a team of modders," Rising Storm producer Tony Gillham tells Gamespy.
The US and Japanese factions will be asymmetrically equipped. Gilham tells Gamespy that balancing the well-equipped US forces against a Japanese army that hardly used automatic weapons at the time is the biggest design challenge for the team at the moment, but they're hoping that carefully constructed maps can help to even out each battle. The expansion's due to arrive at an unspecified point this year, and IGN have the announcement trailer, which you can see below.