Category Archives: multiplayer

The Secret World: yay or nay

The other weekend I took a peak into The Secret World, during one of their last betas before launch. The game has interested me for a while with it’s modern day setting, hints at Lovecraftian mystery and puzzle-solving aspects that actually require real-world investigation. However, I haven’t been sure whether or not I wanted to invest in it.

I decided to start in the Templar faction. I liked the idea of starting in London, my home town, and the serious self-righteous idealism of them felt comfortable to me. I played through the Templar starter zone and spent a few hours in Kingsmouth, one of the quest areas.

So, conclusions; largely in comparison with LoTRO which is the mmo I know best, and bearing in mind TSW is still in Beta.

Graphics – alright, though not as beautiful as LoTRO can be. I was playing on Ultra-high settings. The World itself is rather static however with groups of NPCs just standing and little movement round about. There was a bus which annoyed me. It was a no. 36 bus and had the correct route on the destination board; it runs from Camberwell to Victoria, I catch it sometimes to get from work to my Monday tabletop gaming group. They’d used a Routemaster, withdrawn from the route in 2005, rather than the modern Volvo-built design but that was forgiveable; Routemasters are more symbolic of London. However, they’d got the bus, totally empty, lights off, parked at the side of the road, not even at a bus stop. I have never ever ever seen a bus like that, ever. Every time I saw it, it felt so wrong. It jarred totally. The tentacles and the gateway to an interdimensional world in the underground station were fine.

Modern no 36 Bus

no. 36 bus in The Secret World


Real world no. 36 Routemaster..look lights, people, driver!

Character creation –  Choices for clothes and appearance are fairly limited. I didn’t like that you could only wear short skirts. You can’t change body size or height. Apparently there will  more more choice after launch.

Skills – it took me a while to work this out properly, but it seems flexible though all looked to be combat based. Each weapon has a particular focus e.g. the hammer is linked to survivability, so if you want a tanking build, you’ll select that and gradually find that the associated skills you build up, have a tanking aspect. You can equip any weapon, so as long as you have the action and skill points gained during play, you can have a number of builds. One thing I was less keen on, the skills are arranged in tiers, and you need to get all the skills in one tier before you can move to the next. This meant that I ended up spending points in skills I didn’t really want.

Levelling – there were no levels as such. You just gain points to put in skills. However, I noticed in chat that people, when forming groups, were asking for QL4 healers etc. This turned out to mean Quality Level of items. As you completed quests you were awarded higher QL, more powerful items.

Classes – in theory there are no pure classes, due to the flexibility of the skill system. However people were still asking for tanks, healers and dps. I couldn’t tell if it was just a case of old habits dying hard, or if classes were needed in this way. It might be, that in a premade group, there might be more flexibility and a greater ability to experiment with mixes of skills and roles.

Quests – I could only do a sample but they seemed fun and interesting, largely because of the setting I think. You select a main quest line and then a number of sub-quests which you can pick up as you move around. A fair number seemed to involve investigating and find things out; one involved finding out the number of a hymn and inputing it into a keypad to get a message. There are also scraps of lore which you find lying round which you can build up to provide more backstory. I’d say all this definately showed promise.

Crafting – there is a crafting system which allows you to create weapons and  items but I didn’t have chance to explore it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It seemed different enough to keep my interest and has potential I think. I’m not sure if it will prove a ‘stayer’, it seems impossible to guess MMO shelflife these days, look at SWTOR, but I think it’ll be fun however long it lasts.

So, The Secret World: yay or nay

Conclusion: yay

TF2 Highlander Double Dance and the end of Highlander S2

Highlander Double Dance? A Double Highland fling for two victories for Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty!

The first was against Hurmeesta herkistyvä hurmaava herrasväki, a team from Finland. I’m not sure what their name means, I just hope it’s in keeping with the family friendly nature of Berath’s Brain Burps. Anyway, we played Foundry and Lakeside, a repeat from the week before last. Both were very intense matches, and close. We managed to win 3 0 on Lakeside, but only just, HHHH putting up a good fight. However, we’d won on Lakeside last time too. Foundry had been the sticking point, although we’d won a practice match on it since. This time, however, we managed our pushes off middle – this was where we’d had particular difficulty. On round ended in stalemate, but overall we won 1 0. The game went far better for me as well, though I still need to improve keeping up with the ebb, flow and direction of the fight as I build my buildings, difficult on 5 cp maps where to a certain extent you are always running to keep up.

The second was yesterday evening, against my UKCS Community colleagues, Cats Don’t Eat Haggis. This was on Barnblitz (payload map). I’d suspected that it would be a tightly fought match and it was. We were all of us having to play pretty hard out. We ended up winning 6 0 but the game was a lot closer than the result implies.

I felt I played a good game. One of the problems with Defence Engineer on this map, is that the sentry locations are now well known. And teams know that they will be wrangled. So they prepare and take the guns down pretty easily if the team is any good, and this happened. The main purpose seems to be to provide a distraction or split the attack. But after the first couple of points, I managed to be a bit more creative and found some useful sentry positions and managed to keep the teleporters going and the dispensers up near the frontline; easier than on 5 cp maps since it doesn’t change to the same extent. I’ve played the map quite a lot on pub and I think that really helped too. Our sniper had as well so he’d managed to plan his sight lines. This was one time when pub play balanced 6v6 experience, as payload maps are played more on pub servers.

To keep up the excitement, it also became clear that there was a certain amount of confusion amongst the team after the first round. We’d won but what did it all mean? Would we have to play another round? What would happen if we lost? How many points had we got? When could we stop? Fortunately Lefty understood and explained, but unfortunately most of us were too confused and over-stimulated by this time to listen. It turned out that we were defending again,  for some reason, in a second round but we managed to stop CDEH capping and that seemed to be the end and so we stopped. But then we were on the offence again and after that we really did stop because we’d won.

Lazytown; Lazyday, Lazynite: Team Fortress

Think of a map, a 5cp map.

Ensure it consists almost entirely of chokes between each point, ideal for spamming. Now set it to 32-man. Now make it insta-spawn. Make sure crits are allowed.

Congratulations, you may have thought of Lazytown on the GFTO server.


This map is one of the most chaotic, spam-filled, manic maps out there, I’m sure. Yet I play it all the time. It has a daytime version, Lazyday, and a night time version, Lazynite.

Most of the time I play Demoman. The map is made for Demomen. We can sticky trap the choke points and spam our grenades through them. With an uber we can wipe out an engie nest and with a kritz, well just go for it. It’s a good map for Engineers too, if they’re fine about constant building destruction. Engineers are vital, two is really the bare minimum, unusual – normally two is the maximum that any team needs on a map. But this map is so spammy, dispensers are essential to dispense ammo and due to the instaspawn, teams need to be teleported to the front line at top speed to hold positions. The only class which really has difficulty is the Scout. Flanking opportunites are a problem and they are easily taken out by the large number of sentry guns and spamming Demomen and Soldiers.

The extreme ebb and flow of the game is marked too. I suspect here, that the server I play on benefits from the majority of players having got many hours of TF2 play under their belts, much gained on the Lazytown map. Without the co-ordinated attacks that you can get with experienced players, the map would just end in a defensive stalemate. As it is, one moment you can be about to cap final point, the next a couple of well-timed ubers from the opposition could find you driven back to defend your last. Games can go on for a long time.

I’m not sure if it’s improving my game much. I do think I’m getting better at dodging because of all the flying grenades and rockets. Also at bouncing grenades round corners.  And at timing detonating sticky traps; just as ubers wear off for instance. And at spamming. Always spamming. It’s a map where no-one is annoying because everyone is.

A TF2 Grand Finale and a LoTRO Christmas Party.

Had a fully fun packed evening yesterday.

It started with my kinship’s online Yule Party. We have one every year (obviously). To mitigate our geeky sadness, we actually have a real life one too, or at least those local to London. We meet in a pub in for an afternoon drinking session; this year, finishing off in a local Indian restaurant. Pleasant.

Anyhow, to allow the spreading of Yuletide cheer amongst all the kinship, we have our online party, hosted by the Officers in our kinhouse; the Stoop in the hobbit homestead in the Shire. This year one of the kin would be performing a poem, a quiz was planned then two raffles with fireworks afterwards. And, as is traditional we,the Officers, would be wearing identical and ridiculous outfits, this year a white cloak, an unflattering green trouser suit effort and a rather peculiar red and white checked tassled hat (Turbine cannot design hats).


This conveniently and coincidentally leads me to the other part of my evening, TF2. Originally the evening had been free and I’d been looking forward to an evening of just LoTRO frolics.

But no, Thursday evening turned out to be the date of the Season 10 ETF2L Grand Finale between Infused.Tt and Epsilon eSports. The readership may recall, assuming they’ve been reading that long and that their memories have held out sufficiently, that these were the same two teams that met in the final at i43 in August. This is because there are only two teams that play TF2 in the Premiere Division. No. I lie. I am funny. Really there are eight(ish), counting drops. It just turned out that, again, these were the teams that made it through.

Anyhow, this was happening, and it was a fair bet that with these teams and at this level, there’d be some excellent play plus the game Casters were known to be good. So, both laptops came out. The VanillaTV Stream went on one plus the chat channel, on the other I booted up LoTRO and partied.

And the party was good; and as for TF2, three maps were played. On the first, cp_Badlands, it initially looked as if Infused were heading for a steamrolling, but they managed to pull themselves back in a fantastic comeback (simultaneous to the Stream crashing and the screen going black for everyone) and eventually won 4-3 with a Golden Cap. Game-on. Epsilon took the next map, cp_snakewater 0-5, so it was on to the third, cp_gullywash. Again this was tightly fought,…until, until, until during the dying moments of the last match, Epsilon brought on two Heavies, or so I’m told. My Internet chose this moment to disconnect. When I returned, the TF2 world was in turmoil. Only one Heavy is allowed in comp play. So was it cheating? Was it all part of a desperate plot (not sure by whom)? Did Heavy no.2 have chance move or shoot; if he didn’t he sort of didn’t count. How much damage did Heavy no.1 do/take; if it was the same as a scout, well he sort of was one then. It was obvious the League admins couldn’t make an immediate decision, tapes would have to be scrutinised and either the final result upheld or an additional Golden Cap played.

Edit: at time of posting, it looks like the result has been upheld and Epsilon are the winners. Whatever, there was good play from both sides and either team would have been a worthy winner.

Battling on Battlefield 3

I had some good games in Battlefield 3, the other night, on our new BF3 server. Yes, after years of rejecting the realism of the standard first-person shooter, I’ve started playing one. Having been softened up by TF2, I reckon.

TF2 = downward spiral

Anyhow, we’re trialling a server. Many in the clan and community have moved away from TF2 now, they’ve been playing it since it began and there’ve been many changes in the game, which some feel have diluted it’s nature. So it made sense for the Clan to look at other games being played. And BF3, being one of the most recent and biggest releases seemed an obvious choice.

We decided to start modest and get a 32-slot servers and trial it for 3 months. It’s been set to a mix of Rush and Conquest maps (Rush: basically attack and defend, Conquest: basically capture points) with a 2-player start up. The default is 8-player but this is a large number of players for a small community to guarantee being available to start a server up (below that number, you’re just frozen in place waiting for others to join).

The first night we only managed to play with three or four of us, with no randoms joining us. Randoms tend to be the key to a server’s success; players who either find the server via the Quick Play option or via the server filter. Regulars are also vital of course, but unless you have a huge pool, there are often not enough fill a server. The hope is, of course, that enough randoms will favourite the server and become Regulars to do this and build a community. It’s the same really in TF2.

The other night, however, we managed to more-or-less fill the server. A fair few were us, along with various friends, but others I didn’t recognise. I hope they were randoms.  There have been complaints in BF3 forums that the Quick Play system wasn’t picking up some servers so they weren’t getting random players. Also that only a certain number of servers ever showed up in the browse servers option, this option seriously needs refining anyway. You can’t filter for ping for starters which means a large number of the servers that show up after a search are of little use. But maybe the other night showed that the WDG server was managing to get itself picked up.

Anyway, time will tell.

Edit: patch came out today which seemed to set minimum number of players to 4, to prevent stats padding apparently. They have also reduced idle time before you get kicked. Together these are potentially not good.

(shameless plug: server name WDG)

Going to i43

Tomorrow I’m off to i43, now set to be the biggest LAN ever to take place in the UK (at time of writing 2223)

I’ll be meeting up with people from my Clan who’ve managed to make it and dropping by to say hello to various people who play on the set of Community servers I most frequently play on, UKCS. All TF2 of course.

Apart from that, I’ll just be hanging out, soaking up the atmosphere. I haven’t bought a BYOC (Bring your own computer) ticket which would give me the use of an internet connection and a neat little table to put my pc on, because I’m going up on the Saturday; it starts officially on Friday with an early arrival service on Thursday allowing entry from 6pm. I felt that I couldn’t justify the cost, UK LANs seem to be more expensive comparatively, than mainland EU LANs. There was an early bird offer which knocked 30% off but I missed that because I was still fiffing and faffing about going.

I’m not 100% sure what to expect. There will be a TF2 tournament which I’ll be watching. There’ll be two teams from UKCS playing and my Clan is putting up a team too. A lot of the main comp players/teams will be playing as well so it will be interesting to see that live.

Apart from that, there is an Exhibition Hall to look around and other games to spectate (including CoD, Starcraft 2, CS:S, L4D2). There is wireless/Internet in my hotel, so I can retreat there to do some gaming if I want, plus I’ve checked and the games I’ve got all play in off-line mode. It sounds, as well, as if all the usual boozing and cavorting associated with any Convention will be going on; there’s a pub quiz and a Boat Race.

Anyhow, it all should be pretty entertaining and certainly interesting. I’ll report back.

Brink, now, and Engineering

Last week I bought Brink, the new  fps from Splash Damage. There are currently a lot of issues with it concerning general bugginess and lack of balance in classes and maps, but I’ve been enjoying it.

I’m only playing the single-player at the moment, mainly to get a grip on the game and to unlock all my abilities. And, since Engineer is my favourite class in TF2, I’ve been playing the engineer in Brink. In Brink, various abilities differentiate the classes, apart from these, all use the same weapons and can have light/medium/heavy builds. This is, of course different in TF2 where each class plays and handles very differently in it’s own right. In Brink, I’ve now reached level 10, rank 3. I can buff weapons and armour and I can use sentry guns or turrets, I can now use medium turrets. The buffing is straightforward but the turrets are more interesting. Reading the forums, opinion is divided over whether they’re any use. Some people feel they’re underpowered, others feel they don’t not lock on to their targets or track fast enough, or at least consistently. This last point, I think is fair enough. I haven’t really noticed it yet, but as I said, I’ve only played off-line up to now.

But saying they are underpowered, that to me is debatable. A lot of the time, the turrets are being compared with TF2 sentry guns. Now in TF2 there are basically two ways of playing Engie, defensive and offensive. The defensive Engineer will often build a level 3 sentry gun and with one of these, and a level 3 dispenser at his back to provide healing and metal, can pretty much defend a control point or hold a choke point on his own until taken out by an uber, a spy or a  focussed attack by the enemy.

TF2 Sentry guns (l to r); level 1, level 2, level 3

However, playing offensively, the Engineer needs to be able to move more, keeping up with the front line and is often a Gunslinger Engineer, equipping a gunslinger melee weapon, raising his health and allowing him  to build combat mini-sentries. Now these are totally disposable. The damage they give out is even less than a level 1 sentry gun and they are easily destroyed, so it’s pretty obvious that they can’t be used for holding control points. But they can be built very quickly for less metal, so the Gunslinger Engineer will sling one up where it can distract,  where it  take people out unawares, or where it can provide back-up and kill assists. And as soon as one goes up, the Gunslinger Engineer is already thinking about where the next one can go.

Mini sentry

So, is this how turrets should be used in Brink? They’re only under powered if you try and use them like a TF2 level 3 sentry gun, and that’s not  supposed to be their purpose. I’m looking forward to trying the turrets out under ‘live’ conditions, as it were, on-line. Like I said, interesting.

Turret from Brink

Defending the Point in Team Fortress 2

So we have the classes and we have game objectives. But what’s it actually like playing TF2? For starters, for anyone used to playing PvP in MMOs, it’s pretty familiar. It’s fast; it needs quick reactions, and it needs knowledge of class movement, skills and weapons. When you first start, you need to be prepared to die many, many times. In one of my first games I died 22 times in 20 minutes.

It also needs teamwork.

The classes are designed to work together and to counter each other. What one lacks in one aspect, another makes up for. The team that plays best together and communicates, tends to be the team that wins even if individual members are less experienced or good. To look at a very basic scenario;

A point is to be defended. The Engineer puts up a Sentry gun. He has put up a teleporter to get the team from spawn to the point as quickly as possible. He has a dispenser nearby to keep the team topped up with health and ammo as they defend. Whilst the engineer builds, he is vulnerable to an enemy Spy; Spies can cloak themselves and become invisible, sneak up on Engineers, backstab them and sap their buildings. They can also disguise themselves as friendly team members and do the same thing. However, pyro flames light up spies. So while the defensive Engineer builds, the Pyro can spy check. In the meantime the friendly Spy is trying to do the same to any offensive Engineers. He may also be trying to take out key targets, the enemy Medic perhaps. The Demoman has his stickies…basically small round mines that the Demoman can detonate. He can perhaps place these on the point; he can detonate them if any of the enemy reach it. Or perhaps he can place them where he knows the enemy will pass through. He also has his explosive grenades…these give him a bit of range, he can shoot through upper windows or bounce them round corners. The Demoman can also use either his stickies or grenades to destroy Engineer buildings.

Meanwhile the Scout is out and about. The Scout is basically an irritant. He flanks the enemy, moving in and out fast, taking them down before they have a chance to react. He can also double-jump, a technique that allows him to access high and out-of-the way areas. The Soldier is on the front-line, largely being offensive. He can jump, propelled by his rockets, to give him height and allow him to fire from unexpected directions. His rockets carry over a fair distance allowing him to kill at range. The Heavy is slow but with his minigun can deliver much damage that very little can survive. The Medic is healing. Often the Medic will be healing the Heavy, both pushing the defensive line forwards in an offense with the Soldier and the Demoman, dropping back to the Dispenser for ammo. A Medic/Heavy pair is a strong combination to take down. This can be the job of the Sniper. One headshot can finish one or the other.

And at any stage, an enemy Pyro, deciding to have a rest from spychecking can flank the team and set them on fire, to be countered by the friendly Pyro extinguishing the flames. Oh and throughout, everyone needs to protect the Medic.

So, while all this is going on, communication should be constant. There is often a Caller who will let the team know the location of various enemy classes. There are automatic calls which alert everyone to spies and enemy pushes. A Pyro distracts an enemy Engineer while a spy attacks from the back, and a Demoman fires grenades into an upper floor window allowing a Medic and Heavy to advance, safe from the enemy Sniper upstairs. And the Medic? Well he doesn’t ‘just’ heal. He builds ubercharge by healing. When his charge bar reaches 100% he discharges it making him and his ‘patient’ invulnerable for 8 seconds if he is using his medigun or cause his patient to shoot 100% critical hits for 8 seconds if he is using his kritzrieg. So often an entire push is based upon a Medic’s ubercharge.

And it’s happening fast, fast, fast. I’ve been killed through a moment’s inattention scratching my nose; you really need to get someone to do it for you. Like I said, at the start, it all seems to be a confusing whirl, there is so much to get used to especially to someone new to the genre like me, but gradually it does start to make sense as you listen and observe. And then as you learn, it just gets better and better.