In Blackout It Pays To Play Like Solid Snake

The more I play Blackout and find myself getting to the final 15 in solos (often ending up in the top five) the more I see some similarities between my play-style and the general feel of how I played the initial Metal Gear Solid Trilogy.

It gets old dealing with some of the streamers complaining about ‘campers’ in Blackout. Sure, sometimes it can be a pain to deal with it, but it’s not like multiplayer deathmatch where you respawn – it is one life and sometimes you get screwed from your landing point all the way through until the end of the match.

I once won a match where I fell into the game late, landed next to the brick building between Train Station, Hydro Dam, and Asylum. I couldn’t move from my spot and ended up having to seek shelter in a dumpster – no joke. By the time the last three circles started to collapse I had to take a gamble and sneak up the huge mountain outside of Train Station (which also included swimming across the river. The only thing that was missing from this was a cardboard box. I crawled up the mountain and let the opponents take eachother out until I killed the final opponent for my only kill of the match – and the win.

The point of this? I remember seeing a stream of Dr. Disrespect where he raged hard after getting owned in this wonderful way. He went on a rant about how it was probably the person’s only kill of the match, blah blah blah. He was acting as childish as he could at that point. Talking about what ‘real gamers’ do, etc. It left me rolling my eyes and cheering for the person that set him off. Why did I enjoy this so much? Because it reminds me so much of knocking on walls to spook guards and whatnot in MGS.

Blackout is a great mode with its fair share of super frustrating moments for all of us. Level Three Armor on an opponent at the end of a match happens to be my biggest pet peeve at the moment. Seriously, it’s ridiculous that that armor is nearly untouchable with a full clip from most weapons. Yet, I keep coming back for more and most of the time you can find me crouched and moving from cover to cover and picking off people as they clumsily sprint through the world to their demise.

To all those gamers out there in Blackout that get angry when I take them out I only have one thing to say.

Kept you waiting, huh?

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The Legend and Tragedy of All Pro Football 2K8 – And What Could Have Been

In our office/spare room there is a secondary TV with my XBox 360 hooked up just in case some gaming needs to happen and the PS4/Big TV aren’t available. I had about an hour of free time where I found myself looking at my old 360 games and saw All Pro Football 2K8 shining in it’s nostalgic glory. Having just finished another season of Madden 19 Franchise Mode with the same stale feeling that I keep thinking will go away – I decided to boot up 2K8 for a random game. As I expected, I somehow emerged from this game happy with the 2K8 but annoyed by the current (on-going) situation that is the Madden Monopoly.

The Original ‘Legends Game’ can be had for cheap. You will be amazed with the gameplay and animations that might not even be in Madden this year… or ever.

What a game it was at the time for those of us that had only too recently seen the decline of quality in NFL football games after the Madden monopoly happened in 2004/2005. We will start with some of the basics that Madden didn’t flesh out until years later (if at all).

Double-Team Blocking was something that we had never seen carried out in the way that 2K8 introduced it. Add in reach tackles, kickers slipping, long snaps going off course and even late hits on defense (that would result in a penalty). Also, let’s not forget the interactive players on the sideline and injuries that occurred in real time – and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Sure, the wonky Field Pass and player models were the typical hilarious mess that we especially see in retrospect. “Let’s get out there and crack some heads!” was something that got old pretty fast every game you had to hear (and see) a player say it. That’s also one of the smallest aspects of the game that would have been removed in future iterations.

The best part about All Pro Football was and remains the one thing that can’t be denied – it was real football. The weight and motion of the players when you controlled them from quarterback to linebacker felt real and it still does. The tackles on nearly every play looked like their real-life counterparts – and some of the tackles were downright wonderfully brutal. Add in the running mechanics that would make your jaw drop when Barry Sanders turned a juke into a double spin and was off to the races. Also, the way in which Okoye and Campbell would truck defenders was simply nasty.

All Pro Football 2K8 was ahead of it’s time and basically gave Madden the blueprint for what would eventually destroy sports games in general – using all time great players to build dream teams must have stuck because only three years later Madden 10 introduced Madden Ultimate Team and the rest is micro-transaction history. Say what you will, but ultimate team modes have completely gutted the dreams of many sports gamers that have no desire to play online modes with other people that pour money into their teams or pick exploit plays at every turn – sports gaming has died and gone to a fiery hell reserved for all corporate hacks.

There are two reasons All Pro Football 2K8 failed in terms of sales and as a game. The first reason it failed from a sales perspective was that it didn’t have any of the rights to NFL teams. This was an obvious downer, but it should have been fully expected as EA and the NFL decided to wreck things with the monopoly as mentioned above. The second reason APF 2K8 failed was because it was such a stripped down game to begin with. The options for customizing your team uniforms and building a squad with a limited amount of real players were cool, but hardly worth bragging about as a ‘back of the box feature’.

I believe to this day that had 2K Sports continued their football development after 2K8 with fictional rosters and a full-fledged franchise mode they would have challenged Madden in terms of game quality and eventually surpassed them. If you see what 2K was able to do with the gameplay of NBA 2K it makes a football fan look up to the sky and say ‘Why, God… Why must we only have Madden?’.

As we enter the last five days until Christmas I want to once again share my one gaming wish with the wonderful people at 2K Sports.

Please… I beg you. Bring back 2K Football with the following features.

A fully fictional roster of 32 teams with players of different ages, etc. would be a nice start. Couple that with a franchise mode that can be played for 30+ seasons. Give us an experience for scouting players that involves more depth than pressing an unlock button for three attributes. Give us real football that we can enjoy – with late hits, concussions, broken bones and real time injuries in general. Give us an improved football experience based on the great start that 2K8 had in gameplay (which I can only imagine how great it would be after 10 years of development…).

Release the game on a 2 or 3 year development rotation with fixes and patches for gameplay and exploit issues as you won’t ever have to worry about roster updates.

Please, just give us a sign that you haven’t forgotten about 2K Football fans. We are still out here and we are still waiting for a decent football game.

Accessibility – The Game Changer We Should All Want

I was playing Blackout Duos with one of my friends the other day.  We were having a good time going through the map (even without finding any armor WHATSOEVER!!!! ARRRRRGH!!!).  As we were advancing towards the border of the first circle I said I could hear an enemy vehicle coming from the left side of our advance.  I expected him to say that he heard it as well.  Only, he didn’t hear it at all.

I learned at that moment that one of my gaming friends was deaf in his left ear and it didn’t make me think any less of him – but it did change our tactics for the rest of the match and from that point forward.  I didn’t really make a big deal about it, but I did suggest that I could take the left side of our tiny formation at that point.  He agreed that it would be a good idea and we moved on – it was that simple.

I haven’t been able to shake that experience over the last few days.  As a former teacher I had to take into account all sorts of learning disabilities and different general learning styles.  One of the biggest aspects of allowing all students the same opportunities to learn in a classroom is access above all other things (this also goes hand-in-hand with what those in education call full-inclusion).  If you went to public school during the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s you might remember a lot of classmates being pulled from class in order to get assistance with their schoolwork in any number of subjects.  They might have had dyslexia or some other issue that simply meant they needed extra help to stay with the class or at least accomplish the same requirements of others.  I never liked the idea of removing students from the classroom when I was a student and I certainly didn’t like it as a teacher.  While there are some aspects that might require occasional departures from the class, most students with disabilities want to be with their classmates.  This is the same case with gaming… except, there isn’t an opportunity for those with disabilities to seek access to games where they aren’t at what we could consider a competitive disadvantage.

That’s where our assumptions still get us in trouble.  The idea that someone needs special treatment in order to succeed in gaming is the complete opposite of what needs to happen.  How you treat your fellow gamer has nothing to do with their mental or physical capabilities.  You treat them like any other friend or family member.  The one aspect you might start demanding is for developers (both hardware and software) to consider making changes and modifications to controllers, sound mixing, and other aspects that move everyone closer to full-inclusion.

Microsoft has a great commercial that focuses on access being something that allows ALL gamers to play the same games and support each other.  

This video pulled at my heartstrings.  Pretty sure that was the idea.

The other reason every gamer should be demanding changes and modifications to games, hardware, and peripherals (controllers, etc.) is because it will not only open the games we love to play to those with disabilities, but it will continue to drive further innovation in ways we might not even consider.  We continue to see so many amazing changes in technology at a pace that is difficult to grasp – it’s only a matter of time before we will be able to play games with our friends that can’t grasp a controller in the first place.  Actually, nevermind… there are already people that are finding a way to wreck on Blackout without actually being able to hold the controller.

Don’t forget the value of opening your mind a little bit.  You might actually like what happens when you come to better understand the needs of others.  

Here are a couple websites for you to check out if you want to dive a bit deeper into helping fellow gamers.

Able Gamers –
People with disabilities wants the same thing that all gamers want, to have fun with their friends, and family. There are so many challenges that come with living with a disability, social isolation, is one of them. Video games are unique in that we ALL use them to excape our days, and join our friends, and total strangers in a quest to win. That is where AbleGamers comes in.https://ablegamers.org/

StackUp –
Founded in 2015, Stack Up brings both veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming through our primary programs: The StacksSupply CratesAir Assaults and the Stack Up Overwatch Program [StOP].https://stackup.org/

The Biggest House Rules For Madden – Play Books and Playcalling

For those of you looking for a reason to continue playing Madden 19 I have a challenge for you.  Invest some serious time in two things – designing a playbook that doesn’t include the money plays you have come to find honestly (or … less than honestly?) and then go through that playbook and set up the Down and Distance star ratings for each play.  

I have found that All-Pro seems to become more challenging when my plays are limited to whatever shows up on my ‘Coach Selection’ rather than going through the playbook to find my go-to plays.  While this by no means fixes what is seemingly a consistently broken game, it does add a bit more fun in your gameplan and it also keeps you on your toes as some plays might become new favorites.

I am still at a point in Madden 19 where I am frustrated by the lack of difficulty in All-Pro and the annoying cheating of the CPU on All-Madden.  I don’t think there’s a fix for that at this point.  Slider sets and other such mechanics are less than desirable fixes for an issue that has plagued Madden for over a decade.  

I am to a point where this is my last go-round with Madden 19.  It’s sad to say, but I would probably get more enjoyment out of uninstalling than playing through another easy season of Franchise Mode.  I would certainly have more enjoyment in uninstalling rather than playing a single snap of the toxic Ultimate Team.

All I Want For Madden Christmas Is A Smarter CPU… And A Better Franchise Mode

I try my best to enjoy playing Madden every year.  As much as I gripe about the game every year in one way or another I truly go into each iteration with high hopes only to have them dashed by the time I get into my Franchise Mode.

I tried to play with the Bills on All-Madden after winning the Super Bowl with the Browns on All-Pro in the first season.  It was the same old story – All-Madden is artificially difficult while All-Pro wants to be challenging, it is still hamstrung with the same problems.  The CPU doesn’t adjust to certain plays being called on succession (HB Toss plays from a Twin WR set will almost always get you 7+ Yards if the CPU is in Man Coverage, for instance.).  Money plays are alive and well – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The other issue that plagues this game is the idiotic Free Agency process and logic of the CPU.  After the latest update you will see that LeVeon Bell becomes a free agent (which is nice), but then I see him get signed by the Cardinals… the same Cardinals that already have David Johnson.  I rolled my eyes when I saw the signing during this latest run with the Browns (I used the Cloud Franchise to start my season in Week 12 or so).  It doesn’t stop there, unfortunately.

By the time the draft comes around and after I see Bell get signed by the Cardinals the idiocy continues in the draft.  I am convinced that the CPU is programmed to look at your Draft Board and make picks that will push you to take certain players earlier than you should if you want them.  While I enjoy the idea of this at face value I am also annoyed by the relative troll mentality.

Furthermore, Franchise Mode continues to gut the experience and immersion that should be the primary focus of the mode itself.  There is no living breathing league for you to enjoy – its as stale as the cereal at your grandparents’ house.  The ‘News’ section is hidden in the depths of the CFM menu and it’s basically a bunch of crappy tweets from Captain Obvious with a few half-assed tips about the draft class.  I don’t understand how this mode continues to be included in the game if they obviously don’t care about it from the revenue perspective.  The effort all goes into Ultimate Team and the cash cow that it has become.

Madden continues to be the distant second place in sports games for me as MLB The Show maintains a clear advantage in consistent efforts to improve.  Both games are going towards the Ultimate Team/Diamond Dynasty slippery slope, but I still have hope that Franchise Mode will become what I have dreamed for over the years.  I doubt I will get this for Christmas… but I can always hope.

Is There A Right Way to Play Blackout (or any type of Battle Royale)?

Am I the only one that gets a kick out of hearing an enemy say something in that half-second after killing their character in Call of Duty?  I have a feeling I’m not alone in this joy.  However, I must admit that one verbal reaction makes me smile more than others when it comes to verbal rage and that is when I kill an opponent as they loudly run or sprint in my vicinity – as I lay quietly on the ground, usually in the shadow of a bush or in some thick vegetation.  I will spare you the details of their limited vocabulary, but chances are good that you know some of the words that get shouted.

It did make me think for a moment about my tactics and whether or not they were lacking gamesmanship.  I quickly came to reason that this was not the case at all.  First and foremost, this game is about surviving – not stacking up the most kills.  If that was the goal, you’d see a lot more people aggressively pursuing kills and most likely resulting in a shorter match where the storm circle remains large ever at the end of the game.

This is why I think it is bad practice to camp in Team Deathmatch or any other sort of mode that requires you to pile up kills rather than survive.  It isn’t camping when you are defending in Search and Destroy – it is called tactical advantage.  It is camping when you are spawn killing opponents in Team Deathmatch because the spawning AI is broken.  Some may disagree, and I would love to hear your input in this regard.

What is your take on hiding in Battle Royale?  Is it gutless or is it tactical?


Madden Needs A Coaching Carousel

The biggest aspect that seems to be missing from Madden that was one of the most enjoyable aspects in NCAA Football for years is a coaching carousel.  Throughout the year without fail all sorts of coaches meet their doom.  Whether it is on Black Monday after the final week of the regular season, or just after the halfway point of the season as we saw with Hue Jackson this week (THANK YOU, FOOTBALL GOD!).

carousel

Madden NFL needs to add two aspects to their Franchise Mode if they hope to continue building it up.  They need to bring in offensive and defensive coordinators as well as position coaches (some of these can even be fictionalized).  Once you bring this aspect into the game it can more easily flow into opening up a coaching carousel like that in the NCAA Football games of yore.

Imagine opening your career as an offensive or defensive coordinator and building your resume after a year or two.  Maybe you can take the Bills or 49ers defense from the depths of terribad and build them into a beast with your amazing skills.  The unfortunate aspect is that your team is doing poorly and the head coach gets fired in week 12.  Suddenly, the ownership wants to bring you up a notch to coach the team and make the big decision on both sides of the ball and determine the depth chart in full.  As you make a splash to finish the season with a few wins you might not want to stick with the team you’ve been struggling with.  The end of the season comes and the Jaguars have finished a lackluster campaign and you are now their number one target.  What do they have to offer you outside of a great defense and some weapons on offense (that aren’t named Bortles… *shudders*).  That would be pretty awesome.  What would make it better?

I think the next step in making it an experience to build multiple seasons and truly view it as a career mode would be making the role of General Manager something you have to earn.  Instead of being the owner, GM, and coach from the get-go, you should be given different offers from different teams as you play through your career.  One of those options should be GM/Coach offers (much like what Belichick does and some other coaches have done in some cases).  You would pay so much more attention to the draft if you weren’t put in charge of the scouting as just a head coach that had to take the players you got… or deal with players being traded.

Until that day comes, we will have to continue to create and maintain house rules to make our career mode more interesting.

Do you have other ideas for franchise mode?  Hit up the comment button to share!