How Does Team Fortress 2 Manage to Stay Fun Year After Year?

Team Fortress 2. Now, I must admit, I’ve not been playing TF2 since the beginning (not even close), but after playing for three years and having friends who have been there for the long haul, I can’t help but be amazed by the game’s replayability. Think about Call of Duty, for instance. You can play COD for six months and have a great time, but by the end of a Call of Duty game’s first year, most of the player base is long gone already and playing the next game. It’s not a long-standing sort of environment.

TF2, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. The game was published in 2007, yet over a decade later, it still has a significant player base. New people still pick up the game. Old players may take breaks, but they come back. As I type this, Team Fortress 2 currently has 45 thousand online players, good for the fifth most on Steam. What’s different about TF2 from other PC games to make this happen?

Youtuber LazyPurple recently explored this question in his video “TF2 is a Timeless Masterpiece,” and one of his main conclusions is that the game has been propped up over the years by its fantastic shooting and movement mechanics. I certainly agree that the game is fantastic in both respects, but I’m not sure if that’s really a sufficient enough conclusion given that more modern first-person shooters do well in those areas too.

I think it really just all boils down to the community. TF2 is a free-to-play game. It’s one of the first games many people download when they get a Steam account. Because of this, you get all sorts of people hopping into a TF2 match. Once you get in a match, anything can happen. Sometimes, you may get a serious server where people play the objective and try to win and coordinate attacks like on other shooting games. However, most of the time you get the sort of utter chaos that makes TF2 fun and unique.

One of the servers I landed on in the past couple weeks had a guy screaming bloody murder into his microphone, but no one seemed to care since he was actually leading our team in points. In a different server, my friends and I managed to convince our whole team to play as snipers. We didn’t even manage to get out of our spawn after the first time we all died, but it sure was fun. In yet another game, we ran across two jokers giving a tag-team philosophical lecture to our team while we played.

It’s the little things like that, and they happen all the time. The taunting. The conga lines and Kazotsky Kicks. The Sniper saxophone, Engineer banjo, breakdancing Scout, and Pyro air guitar band that starts playing in spawn before the match and continues to do so THE ENTIRE ROUND without leaving spawn, but hardly anyone cares because it’s hilarious and it’s TF2. That’s the sort of thing that sets TF2 apart from games like CS:GO, COD, Battlefield, and Overwatch. It’s just funny chaos.

Now, I’ve got to say, Valve hasn’t done much to help the TF2 community stay afloat. They give TF2 a significant update maybe once a year, and that’s being generous. They don’t sponsor TF2 tournaments. They do make new hats, but I guess that’s not really a big contributor to gameplay. However, to Valve’s credit. They have kept the servers up and running. They have not made any indication to kill the game, and quite frankly, I’m not sure if they’ll ever need or want to. The TF2 community has kept itself alive all these years, and even though it’s experienced some hardships along the way, it’s still out there having a good laugh and fun times. That’s all that really matters.

 

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Kerbal Space Program is One of the World’s Best Physics-Based Simulation Games

In the world of physics-based games, there’s a lot of variety. There’s the infuriating simplicity of Getting Over It. There are fun sandboxes like Goat Simulator or Garry’s Mod. However, Kerbal Space Program is a lot more than any of those games in terms of one of the key facets of a physics-based game. PHYSICS. KSP has physics in absolute spades. The aircraft and spacecraft which you create behave how you would expect them to, or, at the very least, how the laws of physics dictate them to behave.

You can play in the sandbox mode and just fiddle around, or you can play in career mode where you take mission contracts, try to break milestones, and manage the budget of your space agency. You can build rocket ships and space stations to explore the neighboring planets and beyond. You can ignore space entirely and confine yourself to atmospheric flight, devoting your time to testing new jet airplane designs. Better yet, if you are dissatisfied with or become bored of all the game’s aforementioned features, you can go on Kerbal Space Program’s CurseForge page and find mods which can give your gameplay even more possibilities.

Kerbal Space Program is not an easy game. There is a certain level of unease that goes into launching rockets since at a certain point (generally the point where you have to shut your engines off) your craft is out of your hands and in the mercy of orbital mechanics. Incidentally, this game is a great place to start if you want to learn about orbital mechanics. A Hohmann transfer orbit is great fun to read about, but it’s another thing entirely when you have to learn how to do the thruster burns required to place your spacecraft in the proper orbit.

If you’re into space or engineering or physics, then Kerbal Space Program is definitely the game for you. The $20 that you’ll pay for it on Steam (when it’s on sale) are going to become well-worth it quicker than you’d think.

And remember, if all else fails, add more boosters.

 

 

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, aka Psychological Torture: The Game (Review)

A man in a pot holding a hammer. A sarcastic, sadistic narrator. An endless mountain. These three sentences are all that you need to know to get an understanding of this game, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.

I got this game for myself off of Steam after seeing numerous Youtubers struggle and struggle and struggle in their attempts to complete it. That in itself really ought to be enough, and I am actually going to advise all sane human beings to just watch videos and laugh at all the poor saps who decide to subject themselves to Getting Over It. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to see how bad it really was.

The description of the game which Bennett Foddy wrote up for Steam reads, “A game I made for a certain kind of person. To hurt them.” When you first enter the game, you quickly learn that Getting Over It is not a test of video game skills so much as it is a test of your willpower. The game is difficult, yes, but the real frustration is the falling. As you progress up the mountain, there are multiple obstacles which can lead to you falling all the way back down a significant portion of the mountain (sometimes to the very beginning of the game). These falls are often accompanied by Bennett Foddy (the game’s creator and narrator) taunting you with philosophical quotes and smooth jazz music.

With all that being said, I like Getting Over It a lot. The game’s controls are clunky, but that is more of a user-related issue than the actual game itself. The obstacles are sometimes absurd, but once you figure out how to overcome them a single time, every subsequent struggle with a particular obstacle feels like the player’s fault. The narration is either comical or infuriating, depending on your point of view.

If you’re weak-willed, then maybe Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is not the best game for you. In fact, it’ll probably just make you feel bad. But if you want a game that will give you a proper sense of accomplishment as you progress (and I’ve not yet finished), then you can find this game on Steam.

Fallout: New Vegas 2 is the Game Fans Need in 2018

Fallout: New Vegas came out in 2010, and in my opinion, it was the perfect Fallout game. Created by Obsidian Entertainment, the game had a general feeling of immersiveness which I feel is yet unmatched by either of Bethesda Game Studios’ two Fallout games, including 2015’s Fallout 4.

In contrast to Fallout 3’s desolate (and oddly green) Capital Wasteland, the Mojave is alive and vibrant. The distance and emptiness between settled towns gives each settlement in Fallout: New Vegas its own, truly unique identity, and the massive city of New Vegas in the middle of the map is the perfect centerpiece to draw all corners of the map together. The branching endings in the game gave players a high degree of choice, and the ample number of things to do and places to explore beyond the main storyline afforded the game a high replayability.

Fallout 4 and Bethesda Game Studios did not match the storytelling quality or immersion of New Vegas. Remember the opening scene in New Vegas where Benny shoots you in the head? That scene had charm. It made the game feel less serious, and that allowed players to concentrate on the journey whether than the actual story. Creating a proper storyline in video games is very difficult, so games that make the journey feel like the story tend to be the ones we consider to have the best storylines. These games pull us in and make us feel like we’re part of the environment our character is navigating through. Bethesda Game Studios just doesn’t make the Fallout series have the same charm.

I’d like to see a Fallout: New Vegas 2 get announced in 2018. Why New Vegas 2, you ask? Why not a different site? I feel like Las Vegas was already perfect, to some extent, and on the updated engine that came to the series with Fallout 4, the Mojave Wasteland could be turned into a beautiful game world. Now don’t get me wrong: the night skies and scenes around the Mojave were already very nice, but Skyrim and Fallout 4’s Creation Engine would turn it into a breathtaking desert landscape. Perhaps a new Obsidian Fallout game could happen in other western settings like San Diego, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, or San Antonio, but Las Vegas offers mobster and gambling elements which are not natural to implement in other settings.

Hopefully, Bethesda Softworks will allow Obsidian Entertainment to make another Fallout game someday. Bethesda Game Studios ought to be busy with Elder Scrolls VI by now (hopefully), so that may open the door for Obsidian if Bethesda wants to put out a new Fallout game sooner rather than later. Let’s hope for an announcement for a new Fallout game (maybe New Vegas 2?) sometime in 2018.

The Star Wars Battlefront II Debacle Reveals a Growing Problem in Gaming

“Microtransactions” is the buzzword that is getting thrown around in conjunction with the still-brewing controversy surrounding EA, DICE, and their upcoming title Star Wars Battlefront II, and you can read all about that situation here.

What I’m more concerned about, however, is the idea of greed and the widening gap between the makers and the players. EA, of course, has always been a somewhat prominent example of this concept. Ubisoft is another example, although their problem is that they tend to push out titles before they’re properly polished in order to get their studios working on the next title. EA, on the other hand, takes the route of making decent games in terms of actual gameplay and polish, but they pull greedy stunts like adding content that ought to be in the original game later on as expensive DLC. Beyond that, now they’ve gone on to add loot crates to games like Star Wars Battlefront which just acts as another unnecessary cash grab.

EA and other video game publishers need to wake up. They say that they “listen” to community feedback, but in reality, they just hear, ignore, and continue going about their business. EA, for instance, says they are delaying the launch of lootboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II, but I fully expect them to just add them back to Battlefront II after everyone is already done buying the game during the holiday season. This motion to take away the lootboxes from the game’s launch is just a way for EA to conduct damage control in order to lessen the brunt of the bad press hitting before the holiday season.

In the future, the video game industry is going to have to take a hard look at itself and start realizing that most consumers don’t want to have to buy games piece-by-piece. We want a whole game, no DLC, no lootbox nonsense. Unfortunately, the only way to make them truly realize this is to punish them with our wallets. Don’t buy games if you know you’re going to have to shell out an extra $40+ on top of the base price of $60 just to get a full experience. It’s not worth it.

 

 

DEFCON is an Easy RTS Game for Fans of the Cold War Era

Have you ever seen the movie WarGames? DEFCON is basically just that. The US Military’s DEFCON system is supposed to rate threat levels and indicate which level of alertness American armed forces ought to be at. DEFCON 5 is the least alert/dangerous level, and DEFCON 1 is supposed to indicate the imminency of nuclear war and calls for a full mobilization of troops.

In the game DEFCON, you are in charge of a nation-continent’s air force, navy, and nuclear weapons. At the start of the game, you are able to place down nuclear silos, naval fleets, radar installations, and airfields across your continent. The game clock ticks down from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1, at which point you may launch ICBMs.

While it is definitely a game within the RTS genre, DEFCON differs from traditional RTS games because you don’t really have many units to control. Also, you cannot build any more units once the game begins. DEFCON‘s gameplay is also very structured in terms of early-game and late-game due to the presence of the DEFCON timer restricting your actions.

It’s an interesting game. I’d not spend a fortune on it, but luckily it’s on Steam for super-cheap (especially during sales).

R.U.S.E. is a Real-Time Strategy Game That Does Justice to Its WWII Setting

R.U.S.E. is a 2011 real-time strategy video game that puts you in the role of a WWII commander. There is a campaign which takes you through a number of historic WWII battles. R.U.S.E. is available to play on Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3; I have personally played both the PS3 and Windows Steam versions. The Steam version is, of course, much better, but the console version was surprisingly playable, too. The game works mostly like a traditional RTS, except it incorporates special abilities called “ruses” which give the players on the battlefield various advantages. The game includes units from every European faction from World War II, and you can play as all the factions in the game’s skirmish mode.RUSE 2RUSE 1

The game is getting old now, but it’s aged well. In a time where few games are being made anymore that do well to represent the RTS genre, it’s never bad to go back and try some old games. If you can find it, pick up R.U.S.E.  sometime and see how you like it.

 

 

Fallout Shelter Is More Fun Now Than Ever Before

Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout Shelter became a hit the very night it was announced and released at E3 2015. The title is part of the normal base-building mobile game genre, but Fallout Shelter is also extremely unique since instead of building a village like most games, you are constructing a Vault-Tec vault in the setting of the Fallout universe.

Personally speaking, I love everything to do with Fallout, and I think the game is great. I recently picked it up again for the first time since its original release in 2015, and I am happy to see that Bethesda has kept developing it since then. Fallout Shelter captures the essence of the Fallout universe so that all of us would-be wastelanders have something to play on the go. 

The addition of quests and pets since the last time I played have really taken Fallout Shelter to the next level in my book. Questing makes the game feel more like a true Fallout game instead of just another base-building game, and I’m sure my fellow Fallout fans appreciate that as much as I do. The ability to give your vault dwellers pets is also a welcome feature, although I admit I do have one gripe… there’s no cocker spaniel! There are numerous dog breeds available, but I just want to give one of my vault dwellers a happy little cocker spaniel. They aren’t in the game. Sad times.

Overall, Fallout Shelter is a delightful little mobile game to play, and I’m excited to see what Bethesda does with it in the future. The game is currently available for download on iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox One. 

Paradox Interactive’s Europa Universalis IV Is Still a Fantastic Grand Strategy Game

Nearly 4 years after its August 2013 release, Europa Universalis IV is still at the pinnacle of the grand strategy genre. Forget the likes of Civilization or Total War. EU4 is a game which continues to impress me even after pouring endless hours into it over the past few years.

To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised at myself for not having made an EU4 post sooner than this. I can wholeheartedly say that it’s my favorite game in terms of both enjoyment and time played, and it’s not aged at all since I’ve begun playing it. In fact, Paradox’s team is still developing the game and updates it regularly, so it’s actually gotten much more enjoyable over the years.

EU4 Nation Select

A shory summary for those new to the game: in Europa Universalis IV, you can select any nation in the world and lead them to war or victory as you see fit. The game begins in the year 1444 and runs until 1821, but it also has bookmarks which can allow you to start your game in a number of historically significant years from throughout the time in between the end dates. Many nations, especially the more prominent ones, feature unique gameplay mechanics and events which allow the player to either follow the course of history or take control and make their nation their own. The basic gameplay feels—at least to me– like a mix between Total War (the video game) and Risk (the board game) but in real-time strategy form. It’s a unique experience.

EU4 Tunis

The game is also notorious for its massive and still-growing number of Steam achievments to unlock. I admittedly have spent a lot of time trying (and often failing) to achieve them. However, the only thing on Steam that has the Europa Universalis community talking nowadays is the game’s reviews.

Europa Universalis IV currently holds an 79% approval rating on Steam, and that rating is only 33% amongst recent reviews. I’m writing this now to lend my voice to the disapproval, but also to explain it to anyone looking for a new strategy game. EU4 is and always has been a fantastic game to play. Those reviews do not reflect the gameplay; read the comments if you don’t believe me. The reason the reviews are so negative is because Paradox has recently raised their DLC prices significantly and inexplicably.

Two of EU4’s DLC’s (namely Art of War and Conquest of Paradise) are somewhat essential for having decent games, so the uproar is understandable. However, don’t give up on EU4! It’s a great game, and I would highly recommend it. Just wait for the prices to go down, or buy it now (with some DLC) if you happen to have a wad of cash burning through your pocket.

Reflecting on Bethesda Softworks’ 2017 E3 Conference; Nothing New from Bethesda Game Studios?

Bethesda’s 2017 E3 conference is over, and I must admit that I’m disappointed. They talked about some expected things I mentioned in my preview post like Quake Champions, Fallout VR, and Skyrim for Switch, but the reveals they had seemed a bit underwhelming.

Bethesda Game Studios needs something new. There had been plenty of speculation about BGS coming out with a new space-themed IP at E3 2017, but this proved not to be the case. If there wasn’t any announcement for this “Starfield” IP, I had at least expected Bethesda Game Studios to come out with something new, but the studio had nothing to offer.

On the other hand, Bethesda Softworks as a whole did reveal two new games, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The Evil Within 2 looks pretty decent, and I’m sure it’ll end up being a good horror game just like The Evil Within 2… but my word, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks absolutely amazing. I’ve never actually played a Wolfenstein game (yes, I know, I’m a disappointment), but this game looks like a ton of fun. From the trailer, it feels a lot like the popular book and Amazon series, The Man in the High Castle, and it feeds off the American Dream of killing Nazis and restoring the Stars and Stripes to their rightful place on every flagpole in America.

Bethesda had a disappointing conference overall (we didn’t even get to see Todd Howard!), but on the bright side, E3 2018 will probably be huge.