Review: Monday Night Combat

I’ve put 45 hours into Monday Night Combat and have deinstalled it. The game could be decent but it suffers from problems that pretty much every neophyte FPS suffers. Little-to-no consideration given to mitigating spawn camping, class balance that borders on laughable, maps which are too small, too simplistic and give horrible advantage to teams which press an early game spawn camp (Steel Peel & Lazor Razor, I’m looking at you).

I’ve been on far too many steamrolls where one team simply cannot leave spawn in less than 1 minute of play. Both sides. Don’t like it when I’m trapped in spawn. Dislike it when I have the other team pinned down in their spawn. The game swings from excessively frustrating to stupidly boring.

Don’t get me wrong. The style is great. I like how the classes play if not the class balance. The announcer is hilarious and the concept is sound. But the implementation just kills any fun there is to be had.


Goodbye Mini! Hello Vaio!

Back in August of 2009 Fedex delivered my long desired Dell Mini 10v.  After a year and a half of near daily usage I had retired my Mini as my portable/productivity machine.  Yesterday I sold it to a coworker.

I don’t regret the purchase.  While I did lament some of the trials of using a variant of Linux on it I was generally pleased with the performance of the machine.  It did all that I could reasonably ask of it and did it well.  Dell did good on the specs and did good by offering Ubuntu as an install option.

However in the past few months I found that my desires for a portable/productivity machine had shifted outside what a Netbook could reasonably be expected to meet.  It couldn’t view Hulu videos at anything higher than 288p; a problem more with Hulu’s inefficient player than anything else.  Nor could it run Minecraft at a reasonable frame rate.

So for a while I was considering saving up for a proper laptop, probably something from System76.  However one of my coworkers presented me with an offer I simply could not refuse.  He had a 2-year old 17″ Vaio laptop he was willing to sell for about 1/4th of what I could obtain it elsewhere.  Less than 1/10th of what they sold for brand new.  The catch?  It didn’t have a hard drive.

Not a problem.

As I write this it has been two weeks since I bought the Vaio.  I was able to use it within 20 minutes of purchasing it.  I simply had to find a video showing how to open up a Mini 10v.  Once opened I swapped the hard drive from my Mini into the Vaio.  It booted the first time without a hitch.  No chance in hell of Windows allowing you to do that, let alone actually being able to do it.

The wireless worked right away, full resolution on the screen, keyboard worked, trackpad worked, audio worked.  The only hiccup was that the hard drive did not have the nVidia drivers installed and my headphone volume is set to 0 upon boot.  The nVidia drivers took less than 5 minutes to install.   The headphone levels I can fix each boot, I just haven’t automated the process.

Hulu?  480p (the max they offer), no problem.  Yotube?  1080p is a cakewalk.  Minecraft?  70fps in while windowed.

Free to Play (F2P) or Free? is running a series of articles called “Bang for your Buck“.  In this series they are reviewing F2P games to see how free they are.  While I agree that this is a good metric to run for F2P games I think the start point of the series as well as the perception it feeds is flawed.

We old crusty MMO gamers are well aware that MMOs cost money for the companies to run on a monthly basis.  That means they need to recoup their investment somehow.  So in no sense of the word are F2P games ever truly free.  However some of the neophyte MMO players are seeing the word Free and presuming it means just that, free.  However Free in F2P suffers from the same fate as Role-Playing does in the term MMORPG.  The context of the phrase changes everything.

Any MMORPG player should know that the RPG portion harkens back to the old-school RPGs where the player guided a character through the story.  While they got to make some decisions and guide some conversation what defined these early RPGs was not the character the player was guiding but the statistics which defined what that character could/could not do, that governed interactions of that character and his/her equipment with the outside world, etc.  So thinking Role-Playing in MMORPG is about playing a role misses that it is part of a larger phrase which describes a style of game which nominally was about actually playing of a role.

So, too, does Free in Free to Play get modified accordingly.  We already have a term for games for which a player does not spend any money to purchase and or play.  It’s called Free.  One of my favorite free games is Angband.  An ASCII graphic dungeon crawler (early form RPG, really) which was originally released 20 years ago.  It was free then, remains free now.  Give it a whirl, you’ll never have to pay anything for it.  Clearly if Free means Free then attaching to Play means we’re intending a different meaning.

Free to Play is a revenue model which is intended to be the opposite of Pay to Play (P2P).  In the P2P model one must have an active subscription before being able to log into the game to play.  The F2P model does not require an active subscription before the player is able to log into the game to play.  That’s it.  At no time is the implication that all portions of the game, all content in the game, is free.  Again, we have a term for that.  Free.

In the article I linked the author points out that at some point you have to pay for content in LotRO.  While technically this isn’t true, for practical purposes he is correct.  But this in no way invalidates the F2P model.  Currently I subscribe to LotRO.  I simply find the subscription much easier to handle than the a la carte purchasing of content.  However if I cancelled my subscription tomorrow I would not be prevented from playing.  I could still log in, still progress my character, still group with my wife’s characters, still be in the same kinship, still be an active participant in the game.  I am still free to play the game.

Having a series which shows which portions of a F2P game are available for free and which aren’t is a laudable endeavor.  However, presenting some F2P games as more or less free than others is to feed a misconception that the games themselves are intended to be free in their entirety, not just the activity of being able to play the games.