Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rocket, meet face. Face, meet oblivion.

This blog entry is just more babbling about Halo 3, so if you're not at all interested in the game, you might be in for some disappointment.

Last night I got to try out a few custom gametypes with some friends and SA goons. Overall the night was a success and everyone had fun, but I definitely have some ideas in mind to make custom games more fun in the future. Here's an overview of what we played...

Mongoose Jousting - Teams of two, unlimited rocket launcher ammo, and a huge vehicle yard full of Mongooses (Mongeese?). We played a few rounds last night, and it was a high-speed carnage extravaganza. However, there are a few problems right now:

- The Mongoose respawn timer doesn't start until the previous vehicle's wreck disappears from the map. It can take up to 30 seconds for a Mongoose to respawn after it has been killed. This can probably be remedied by simply adding a few more spawn points on the map. The only problem is a limited amount of space that doesn’t interfere with the main driving paths.

- People cheat like crazy. They'll camp the Mongoose yard and nail a team right as they mount up, or even fire at passing vehicles while still on foot. Not much we can do about this one, other than clarify the rules before each game. It would be nice if the editor had a way to simply spawn teams with (or on) a vehicle. Another idea is to make teams invulnerable for a few seconds after spawning, but we'll have to see how abusable this is.

- There isn't really a great map for the gametype. You need a large open area where teams can get up to speed, with enough terrain that you're not always in the open. Sandtrap is okay, but there are so many dunes and ramps that the vehicles flip over a lot more than I'd like. It would be nice if you could remove the huge-ass Elephant transports from the map, but they seem to be a permanent fixture.

Super Rocketball - A lot like standard RocketBall, in which there's a "ball" (skull) that a player can pick up and score points while carrying it. The differences are lower gravity and automatic skull pickup. I'm going to modify this to remove the low gravity -- on open maps, players can just bounce around and easily avoid rockets (on Isolation, I ran around with the skull for about forty seconds with seven other people chasing me). Normal gravity would fix this. I'm also toying with the idea of making it so the skull-carrier does no damage with melee attacks, to make ball-handling a bit more frantic and desperate. An interesting addition would be the ability to score a point for killing other players, and maybe three points for killing the skull-carrier. It wouldn't be enough to win, but it'd make the game even more violent and reward good rocket skills.

Instagib Last Man Standing - It's a good idea in theory: a free-for-all with one-shot kills, where players only get limited lives. The problem is that the idea of Instagib matches is to promote aggressive play, where Last Man Standing games promote hiding/camping so you don't lose lives while there are still a lot of players on the map. The two rulesets conflict and make for a boring gametype. I think we're going to have to convert it to straight Slayer Instagib and see how things go. Also, the best weapon for this gametype (the Covenant Carbine) can't be selected as the default weapon. I'm not sure why -- you can choose almost anything else. We'll have to experiment with other weapons to see what works (obviously, an automatic weapon like the assault rifle is just ridiculous for one-shot-kill rules).

If there’s anyone reading this who has Halo 3 and wants to try out some of these custom games, please feel free to add me to your friends list (and mention who you are – I get a lot of random invites from people I’ve been in public games with). My gamertag is WhiteH0wler (with a zero) and I’m online most nights, if only for a quick round of Hexic 2 before bed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I lo, you lo, we all lo for Halo

I'm not usually one to buy into video game hype. If I can't play a demo and haven't played a previous game in the series, I tend to shy away from dropping $60 on a new title, even if it's hailed as the second coming of Zombie Jesus.

I'm even less inclined toward buying an upcoming game where the primary focus is online multiplayer. Online communities tend to die out quickly; for example, Chromehounds: an incredible Mech game which unfortunately has little offline content and an extremely cumbersome multiplayer system that requires you to permanently join a specific team of players (who are destined to stop playing a week later) to even be able to play online. Add into this the fact that, like the guy from Zero Punctuation, I generally don't give a flying pair of elephant testicles about online play. Especially in first-person shooters, and especially with the general population of Xbox Live, which seems to consist mostly of eleven-year-olds who are constantly impressing me with their ability to string together curse words and racial epithets.

Enter Halo 3. We obviously know that the online community won't be going anywhere, at least until Halo 4 comes along (which probably won't be happening). I figured the single-player would be disappointing, much like other multiplayer-centric games (Gears of War, I'm looking at you). Then I heard that you can play through the campaign with up to three other players in co-op mode. Including any combination of people on the local Xbox and on Live. That sold me, because even a mediocre shooter is more fun as you add more players.

Over the weekend, I finally got to play online a bit. It's a lot more fun than I expected. There's a huge variety of game types other than your normal free-for-all "kill everything" mode. Capture the Flag, Assault, Territories, VIP, Infected, Oddball, Juggernaut. You can also customize virtually every aspect of a mode. Want everyone to spawn with rocket launchers, invisible, and with low gravity? No problem. You can even change the spawns on the maps around to fit your gametype.

As an example, yesterday we tried a variant of team play called "Mongoose Rocket Jousting". Four teams of two, each with a Mongoose (a small ATV with a back seat and no built-in weaponry). Players spawn with a rocket launcher containing unlimited ammo. Everyone drives very quickly while their passenger tries to splatter the other teams with a well-placed rocket. It's a blast, and it's easy to set up with a few map and ruleset tweaks.

The final selling point for me is that virtually every Something Awful goon with a 360 is playing the game, so I rarely have to plunge myself into the cesspool of random Xbox Live games.

It makes for a solid play experience, and I definitely don't regret dropping $60 for the game, sight unseen.