Gears of War is Broken: FIX IT!

Posted in Xbox 360 by Michael Pica on the January 24th, 2007

Those who know me well know I’m not much of a shooter fan. I’ll play though the occasional shooter that I think has an interesting story and unique gameplay elements (like Prey) or has just flat out fantastic and addictive gameplay (like COD2) but for the most part I don’t get all that excited about them. I never buy a console based on it’s shooters, they’re the kind of game I’ll pickup and play if I’m bored with whatever else I’ve got. There are a few shooters that I do play if for no other reason then that’s what 90% of my friends want to play, so if I want to play online with my friends that’s the game I have to play. Gears of War is such a game, as is the Halo series. Don’t get me wrong they’re quality games, just not my cup of tea. I usually have more fun conversing with my friends then I do actually playing these games.

Having two friends recently get new Xbox 360s and the only common game among all of us being Gears of War it’s what I’ve been subject to regardless of my liking. Let me start by commenting that that single-player experience and more-so the co-op play is exquisite. The gameplay is really well done and the campaign mode level design and script are all top notch, easily one of the best campaign modes of any shooter I’ve played in a while. This degrades rather quickly when you reach the multiplayer “Versus” mode and unfortunately unless you like playing the story mode again, and again, and again, and again it only offers a few hours worth of game.

Nothing is really wrong with the gameplay available right now, nor is there anything really wrong with the levels available or the current game types available. Most people will tell you there isn’t enough options, or levels, or game types, and I agree whole heartedly, when stacked up against fully loaded Mercedes of a shooter the multiplayer options in GoW fell like a base model pinto with a stolen stereo and the doors removed. But beyond that the real problem comes in Ranked mode.

Whats Broken
The problem with Ranked mode is simple: the match making and lobby system is some kind of ridiculous joke staring YOU as the punchline. Seriously, the only type of game you can play is team based 3v3 or 4v4, which is fine because the game is designed to be a team based game. However I’d like to know what planet the game designers come from where it’s acceptable to make a team only game with no support for teams. I’d like to see how people would react to a similar situation in football play-offs where all the teams meet in a big room and get split up randomly into completely new teams under the ridiculous assumption that this is some how a good way to do things, and then after each game the teams are all randomly regenerated. When the game first came out at least you could maybe find another teammate and try to at least be in the same game as them, maybe being forced to play against them, but now everyone has been blindfolded where the only mode of feeling your way around is by sound. Actually playing a game with your clan requires far more planning then should be necessary for a game, the way in which it must be carried out requires the organization analogous to that of an under-the-table million dollar arms deal.

  • Boosters begone
    I understand the reasoning why Epic removed host names from the ranked match listing, but it’s as if the game had a broken leg and rather then fixing it, they took a sledge hammer to the other leg and said “hey, now you don’t even have to worry about walking” meanwhile players hobble around trying to play the game they though they were buying when they plunked down their cash last November. The problem they’re trying to solve is team stacking, they don’t want someone on Team B really playing as a member of Team A and sabotaging the rest of their members. Ok that’s noble, but they “fixed” it by removing the host name when you select your room. Think about that last statement for a second “…select your room” since when do you get to select your specific room in a ranked mode? doesn’t that seem to undermine the whole “match making” and “trueskill” system just a tad. If I want to play against people my own skill level how exactly does it help me if most people are able to choose their room? Searching for a custom match is fine, but it should select the room for you, you know, based on trueskill, like every other decent online shooter. This fixes the problems of boosters, and team stacking, but it doesn’t even come close to fixing the greater issue at hand.
  • Why can’t we be friends?
    You can’t play a team game with your team, I don’t understand how you can throw millions of dollars into a game with hundreds of highly intelligent people writing code and making detailed and complex graphics, physics and AI… and now where… NO WHERE did someone think to raise their hand a little and mumble “hey, do you think think people might want to play this [team based] game as a team?”… it boggles the mind. Listen up Epic here is how you do it: Make a clan lobby where you can build a team of 3 or 4 players, you can send invites to your friends, etc. Once you have your team assembled the host can select a quick match or custom match, AS A TEAM, and true ranking will be used to find other teams for you to play against… Gee, what a novel idea! It blocks people from boosting to the best you can and prevents people from stacking teams. It also allows people to play the way they want to, you know, as a team. Theres no synergy when you get thrown into a team full of random people, you don’t know if MasterChafe22 is going to quit mid-round or if sinkyfeet isn’t talking because he doesn’t own a headset, maybe he just doesn’t realize his headset is muted maybe he himself is mute? That’s not a team, that’s a collection of dazed and confused strangers that somehow have to work together as a well oiled machine for 5 minutes before being tossed into the fray again. I’m repeating myself but I’m having a hard time trying to fathom how such a gross oversight even made it to disc. Team games need clan support PERIOD. It’s as simple as the sky being blue and grass being green. Even more insulting is that the PS3′s answer to Gears is of course Resistance and for all Sony’s online system’s faults they some how managed to implement clan support, and it’s not even a team based game. Normally I’d assume that such a rebuttal from you competitor stings like slap to the face but I imagine things don’t sting so much when you’re numb.
  • Over Achievers
    Beyond the problems with boosting and the lack of clan support I think a lot of people would even loose their desire to boost if the online achievements weren’t so ridiculous. Honestly I don’t have a problem with the goals, you want to make them lofty, that’s ok, I have no problems with the bar being set high but it seems that Epic didn’t pay attention to the fairly large number of Gamerscore Whores out there. There are people on Xbox live, quite a few of them actually, that want nothing more then to rape a game of it’s achievement points and move on to the next victim. These groups of gamers do whatever they can just to earn the achievements, and as a result it ruins the gaming experience for the other players that actually care more about the game then growing their e-penis. People are going to do that crap regardless, they’ll do everything in their power to get those points no matter how much it bothers the other players, or how much their trueskill or reputation drop. These players will do their thing and by requiring that these achievements be earned only in ranked mode it means these players (who will blatantly admit to having no interest in actually playing the game the way it was meant to be played) erode the experience out from under people who are there to play the game proper. A better solution would be to open the achievements up into player match as well as ranked. Those who would rather boost for their achievements can play there without bothering those of us who would rather play the game legit and those who are playing games legit can continue to build towards their achievements are a normal pace. It’s not like reaching 10,000 or even 100 kills is any easy task anyway; in my opinion if someone wants to waste 10+ hours a day for two weeks straight shooting meat Popsicles they deserve their 50 points just as much as the guy who did by playing the game every night for 5 years because they love it. I do have a problem when you require those two types of player to play against each other, they both have a right to play the game, but it degrades the experience for everyone involved when you force them to co-exist.
  • Gracious Hosts
    One of the things I hear people complaining about most often is “host advantage”, basically the idea that the person hosting the match has a substantial advantage over the other players in the game. I’ve experienced this with others hosting and I’ve taken to hosting my own matches. I try to keep my connection free from lag and I actually receive compliments quite often about how good my connection is. People comment that they don’t feel at a disadvantage (I received no less then three such compliments just last night)… I try… but I wish I didn’t have to. If the system was setup like a true ranked mode where it automatically selects a room for you based on trueskill there’s no reason it couldn’t also make whoever has the best connection speed the host. Dead or Alive 4 scores each player by how lag free and bandwidth rich their connection is, I don’t see why the host couldn’t be switched on the fly to whoever has the highest connection score. Thus eliminating the “host advantage” or at very least reducing it’s occurrence.

Whats Missing
Now that we’ve covered the broken parts lets change gears and talk about features. While I may vent my aggravations over the lobby and match making systems, extra features not being included are forgivable. Project time lines and such get compressed, things need to be cut out etc. I know that Epic will be releasing patches and expansions to provide us with new features, and I think that’s great. However rumors would point to them going in certain directions that I find to be terribly generic where there is great opportunity for them to do something great with the game they’ve got.

  • Death Match:
    I hear a lot of people begging for a free for all, or ever man for himself mode, which I think isn’t terribly appropriate for this game considering it’s really team based, but at the same time I think such a mode would be well received and as long as some new spawn locations were added to the maps as well as the ability to re-spawn and play until a specified time or number of kills was added I think it would make a decent addition, at least for variety’s sake.
  • Capture the Flag:
    I also hear a lot of rumors that a capture the flag mode will be added. This again feels terribly generic to me but at least it’s team oriented. The problem that both of these modes suffer from is the requirement that players re-spawn which really doesn’t fit in the theme of the game. Maybe a good way to work something into a capture the flag mode would be to allow all of your fallen team members to re-spawn after each successful flag capture.
  • Domination:
    This is where they could start using the uniqueness of the Gear’s gameplay to implement unique game modes. The ultimate goal here might be to knock out all four of the other team’s members at once. Instead of re-spawning you can only get downed with no way to be killed completely, allowing your team mates to revive them any number of times. To win you would be required to completely dominate the entirety of the other team. You could also set a time limit a choose a winner by who had the the opposing team down the most.
  • Zombie Locus:
    The idea here would be to have two or more of COG players against one Locus, each COG the Locus takes out is re-spawned as a Locus. The Locus players can win by taking out all of the COGs or the COGs can win by taking out all of the Locus. For games with two or more rounds per match the highest ranked player of the previous round would be selected to be the starting Locus in the next.
  • Scenarios:
    This mode would basically take small slices of the campaign mode and set them up as multiplayer battles. The idea here is one team would have a single goal to achieve and the other team would attempt to stop them. In the campaign the COGs were held up in the mansion and had to fight through the Locus and make it to the APC without getting killed. The idea is to take small scenarios like this and put them in a multiplayer environment with human control over all four of the COGs as well as all or some of the Locus. Rounds could come in pairs with the sides trading roles. Some could have multiple objectives like the fueling up the vehicle before you can leave, or retrieving a guarded item, or even extracting a prisoner and helping them get out alive. There’s a lot of potential here, some of these scenarios could be implemented into existing levels and it would truly bring the co-operative team work elements from the campaign mode into the multiplayer realm.
  • Customization:
    Probably the biggest area that’s lacking is customization of the online experience, add to that saved preferences. I want to be able to finely tune my online experience. I want to play a game where everyone starts off with two Boom Shots and some Frag Grenades I want to be able to choose the kinds of weapons I find around the level, I want to be able to turn off melee attacks or maybe make the round only melee attacks. I want to be able to save these settings as a custom game type that I can simply select from a list when I go online. I want to be able adjust and set preferences for nearly every aspect of the game. It’s this kind of customization that has given games like Golden Eye 007, and Counterstrike such staying power over the years. There’s no reason that game like GoW with such solid gameplay mechanics should suffer a shortened lifespan just because of a few factors that aren’t player adjustable.

Though I am a software developer I am not a game developer, I don’t know how easy or difficult these things would be to implement. I don’t have any sympathy as I feel strongly that many of these things, particularly in terms of the debacle that is ranked mode, should have been ironed out long before the game launched. I may not be a game developer but I am an avid gamer and I have seen many many games and know what works and what doesn’t. Though, I have seen some pretty amazing and drastic changes to other games so I would imagine quite a bit of this is possible. I do hope this message gets to the right people (are you listening Epic?) I think if these things were implemented into the game, I actually might start enjoying the multiplayer experience in GoW beyond just talking to my friend while I push some buttons to keep myself occupied.

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