Checkpoint: Match Made Edition

Skill based matchmaking is a good idea in theory. Players are paired with other players of similar level which result in more balanced games and fewer bouts of frustrations. A balance must be struck though. You can’t match people strictly on skill because that may draw in players with undesirable connection quality as well. Ideally, the matchmaking should find players matching both attributes but if it can’t do so within a reasonable amount of time, it should bring in players just outside of the skill range with the highest quality connections.

I had no idea skill based match making was a point of contention for the Call of Duty fan base. Apparently Treyarch enabled skill based matchmaking on Friday and caused a shitstorm on Reddit, NeoGAF and other gaming forums across the internet. But you know what? Those who are complaining are in the minority. They’re currently high level players who are now being paired against other high level players and are finding it difficult to pull off what they were doing before.

Those players only have one argument against skill based matchmaking: they’re being paired with players with lower quality connections.

That’s it. That’s the only valid argument against skill based matchmaking. Every other argument is just a poor attempt to mask the fact that they enjoy pubstomping and Treyarch is putting an end to it.

I have to wonder why Treyarch introduced skill based matchmaking so late though. Why not include this at launch? I know why they’re including it now; they want to avoid bombarding the huge influx of Christmas day new comers to the barrage of Motherships, RAPS and other high level scorestreaks. It’s in Treyarch’s best interest to keep the playerbase at large content.

Since I’m a 1.5 KDR player, I wasn’t adversely affected by the skill based matchmaking change. I suspect I’m in the largest pool of players and thus I am largely unaffected by this change.

Needless to say, I’ve been Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer. On top of that, I’ve been playing through The Order 1886. I’m enjoying it but there are some glaring issues that are head scratchers. Who thought all different QTEs were a good idea?

I’ve also been chipping away at Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. I wish Shulk would get impaled by a Mechon. How many times do people have to coax out what he saw in his visions?


Call of Duty: Black Ops III Campaign PS4 Review

posted in: Reviews 0

“Imagine yourself in a frozen forest…”

Now that you’re all relaxed, let’s talk about Treyarch’s latest entry to the Call of Duty franchise. I was concerned when Treyarch announced the campaign included four player co-operative play. I was hoping for a continuation of Black Ops II’s branching campaign and wondered how they were going to pull that off in a co-operative setup. I was also wondering how the BioShock inspired suit powers, the wall running and larger areas would play together. The answer? Not as well as I would have liked.

In my Halo 5 campaign review, I pointed out how a number of the encounters were designed with co-operative players in mind. This resulted in damage sponge bosses or situations where the friendly A.I would fail to draw the attention of bosses and enemies resulting with me being overwhelmed. Bungie tried to make it work for solo players by including A.I partners but they served as glorified fodder most of the time.

With all of that fresh in my mind, I tackled Black Ops III’s campaign co-operatively. I quickly discovered this campaign would have been very tedious by my lonesome. Things are popping off from all angles. Drones were flying everywhere, robots/soldiers were streaming in to do their decade old Call of Duty thing and giant quad legged robots were obsessed with mowing down everything in their path. Would they have toned down the chaos if I were playing solo? Perhaps but just seeing the spectacle of it all with a buddy who is capable of fending for themselves made it an enjoyable experience.

To my surprise, Treyarch designed the gameplay with co-operative play in mind but they didn’t acknowledge the presence of other players in their story. We were a single entity narratively but were split into individual entities during gameplay.

There were three different suit powers of Black Ops III and disappointingly, it wasn’t possible to equip all of them without unlocking a late game power-up. Fortunately, I was playing the game with a buddy which ensured we were able to cover two of the three branches; powers to neutralize humanoid and robotic enemies. The remaining suit movement based power-up wasn’t necessary in co-op but I can see it being very useful playing solo because of the cloaking ability.

We shot Singaporeans and robots through the usual gambit of Call of Duty scenarios. Big bombastic battles, turret sequences and guided aerial dog fights were present but I was surprised the more scripted stealth sequences fell out of favor. I always enjoyed those since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; if they were going to guide me down a path, I wanted it to be the most bad ass guided experience. It was certainly better than stumbling out of the mission area and being warned I was going to die because I shouldn’t be there. It’s counterintuitive and it always irked me when these games punish me for trying to explore.

The Black Ops games were always trying to be clever with the story — the first Black Ops’ imaginary friend immediately comes to mind. Nothing is as it seems and if Black Ops III’s campaign seemed disjointed and erratic, there’s an explanation for it all. I was content that they kept it together enough for me to retain interest in their future cyberspace story to look for answers online.

There wasn’t very much globe trotting in Black Ops III but they still managed to go places. They grounded most of it through their futuristic direct neural interface technology and I was able to follow it all with ease.

The technology powering Black Ops III’s campaign was a disappointment. Advanced Warfare looked and performed better. Granted, the scale of the battles in Black Ops III’s campaign was larger but they shouldn’t have pushed the engine to the point of buckling. They employed dynamic resolution scaling in an effort to alleviate the performance issues but when noticeable ugly framerate drops continued to crop up, it’s clear they were trying to do too much with the technology they have.

In games, they say co-op makes everything better and that’s certainly the case with Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s campaign. It would have easily been a disappointing outing if I played the campaign by myself but with a co-op partner, the annoyances and weaknesses of the campaign were easier to stomach. Unfortunately, the co-op was a source of technical issues when the action was too intense and the framerate gave way. And while the narrative has its moments, it falls short of what I was expecting coming from the house who made us care about Call of Duty narratives.

It’s okay

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: GameDealsCanada Q4 2015 Edition

Black Friday is almost upon us and for most people it’s an opportunity to find discounted gifts for themselves or loved ones. For me? It’s that plus the gathering of deals to share with others. This year will be the first with GameDealsCanada’s website which means it should be a little easier to maintain but, at the same time, take a little longer to produce. Early leaks ultimately helps me for that big day. The more time I have to prep deals for both the site and the social media channels the better.

Last year’s debut of the website on Boxing Day was a huge boon. Folks found it helpful and I found it a bit easier to I always want to bring a little extra something and this year I wanted to improve the filtering component. I like to stay with the latest and greatest of things but this filtering plugin is so finicky from version to version, I’ve actually stuck by the old mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with it. And the crazy thing is that I actually paid for this thing and it’s so shoddily maintained.

I believe the next big thing I want to incorporate is search. The basic search is functional but it isn’t as robust or comprehensive as other product searches on other sites. To properly implement search, I will need to do a lot more data entry and I just don’t feel like going down that route.

It’s times like these when I wish I had employees or developers on staff.

I wrapped up Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s campaign earlier this week and I strongly believe that it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable by my lonesome. I’m playing the multiplayer and enjoying my time with it despite the fact that I’m finding myself on the losing side more often than I would like. It’s a combination of matchmaking deficiencies, people not playing for objectives in objective modes and the weight of individual performances in a Call of Duty game.

I started Grow Home but it’s going to take some time before I wrap that one up. I’m enjoying it but the pull of Call of Duty is still too strong to ignore at the moment. That and the pull of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.

Call of Duty: Black Ops PS4 Multiplayer Beta Impressions

posted in: Game Previews 0

This was originally posted in a Call of Duty: Black Ops III beta impressions thread on NeoGAF but I decided to massage it into a post here:

I came away from the Call of Duty: Black Ops III PlayStation 4 multiplayer beta feeling positive and optimistic. The most glaring issue was the networking and matchmaking performance. It would be a damn shame if both of those areas do not improve in the final release. Dedicated servers would be greatly appreciated.

I thought the PS4 beta felt great. I liked the size of the maps and the pace of the game. I enjoyed the mobility options in Advanced Warfare but I felt the games were too frenetic at times and the “time to kill” felt too low for a game that’s trying to promote mobility.

I felt BLOPS3 nailed the blend of TTK and mobility. It reminded me a lot of BLOPS2 with a touch of mobility options. There were numerous occasions where I saw an enemy late, they shot at me, and I was still able to get into cover and retaliate. I didn’t feel like that was the case with AW or in any COD title since BLOPS2. Guns still felt lethal when targets were within the gun’s optimal range but the bullet damage drop off seems to be more drastic outside that range which could explain how I’m surviving more firefights.

The idea behind the AW suit powers was sound but the implementation was flawed because I felt it wasn’t worth the sacrifice of an attachment or a perk. Giving everyone an added ability via the Specialist class without occupying a crucial class slot was the right choice. They served like mini-scorestreak rewards which had the potential to turn around a player’s performance in a round.

For the first time in a long time since I felt the SMG class was a viable option for me in certain maps. I can’t recall a game after COD4 where I actually made an SMG class and used it regularly. I also noticed that silenced weapons were no longer a prevailing option for people. In the last few games, I felt like I was a huge disadvantage if I wasn’t using a silencer.

As for deaths by scorestreaks? I felt it was manageable. The root of much of Call of Duty’s scorestreak related issues stemmed from the ease in which players can obtain the UAV. I was pleased to see that UAV spam was surprisingly low. Even then the high end scorestreaks weren’t wreaking a ridiculous amount of havoc in the games that I participated in.

I liked the fact that maps actually had character and wasn’t just a maze of corridors. It reminded of COD4 and BLOPS2 where maps and battles flowed through a few select distinct alleys.

I know it’s a beta but I hope the final release addresses the texture draw in issues; especially around shrubbery. Finally, it may be too late to address this but I wish it was easier distinguish friend or foe outside of the obvious name tag. Everyone appeared too similarly.

The multiplayer beta showed great promise but there’s still a great deal that’s a mystery to the player base. Will there be a deadly/cheap combination lurking somewhere that will ruin the game for everyone else? We shall see.

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