Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ghillie suits in the Modern Warfare games: a perfect example of concealment done right

Too many games use unrealistic, easy-way-out devices to render concealed players invisible. In many cases, they fade into nothing, or become literally no more than a shadow. In some - ArmA 2, looking at you - they would barely stand up to a cursory glance. But of all the games I've seen so far, only one series has really done concealment right. You might be surprised to know that it's the Modern Warfare series - then again, if you play the game, probably not.

Without a doubt, this is as good as it gets. Unlike ArmA 2, your suit matches the grass sprites perfectly. Colour, density, shape - it's all there. You don't fade as you lie there on the ground, as seen in Empires or many RTS titles. Instead, your suit is what renders you invisible. To discover exactly how effective the suit was in a controlled (i.e. not mid-game in a crowded TDM server) environment, and partially to kill some time, Kolby and I took to an empty server on Overgrown, by far one of my favourite maps and easily the best map for concealment. I had long suspected the suit as modelled by Infinity Ward's artists would be effective, but it wasn't until we put it to the test that I realised just how incredibly so it was.

The guidelines were simple: one of us would stare into a corner of the barn, the other would find a position and conceal themselves. To make things fairer and a little faster, the concealed man would give a rough location so the seeker would know which area to concentrate on; if this didn't result in a find, the location would be narrowed down until the former was standing up and talking the seeker onto his position.

The results were astounding. Even when I knew exactly where Kolby was, I could only just make out his outline - if it hadn't been for the outline of his rifle, I would never have seen him. Numerous times I stepped on him, and when my turn came, he walked past me some six times before I rose up into a crouch; he passed me again twice before I stood and talked him to a point only a few feet in front of me, by which time he only noticed me because the muzzle of my rifle was right in his face.

While browsing Youtube out of boredom I happened upon the following video, which demonstrates this rather well - notice how the sniper remains nigh invisible even when he takes a knee, and how hard he is to see while prone, even while moving slowly:

If only as many developers followed the example set by IW, the gaming world would be a much better place - particularly for people like myself.

The dust settles: MW2 and matchmaking


What a drama that was, and how unwarranted it was, too. As I'm painfully aware, there are still plenty of people who will waste no time in extolling the horrors of matchmaking and just what a low and depraved group of individuals comprise Infinity Ward; no doubt they do this despite begrudgingly playing (and probably enjoying) the game. MW2 created such an uproar that despite being literally half the world away from my own PC, I figured it pertinent to look back on the entire fiasco and share my thoughts here. I've also got little else to do for the next few hours, so naturally, typing this will amuse me enough to kill some of that time.

Right from the outset, my predicament varies drastically from that of many MW2 owners; I had the game pre-loaded, all ready to go, but I couldn't play it. It wasn't until four weeks after its release - nearly five, in fact - that I finally got to fire up the game which has caused one of the biggest online shitfights I can recall. Communities fractured, friends became arch enemies... it was absolutely ridiculous, and in the end, it was also absolutely pointless. While I have no doubt at all that various people will disagree with me, I thought MW2's multiplayer a drastic improvement over the ever-frustrating experience of the original Modern Warfare. The touted lag was nowehere to be seen; in fact, I ran into no more trouble with it than I have in any of the locally-based dedicated servers I frequent. Yes, occasionally the game has to pause for a minute or two while it migrates hosts, and yes, that has resulted in my painful and very avoidable death on multiple occasions. So what? It's a minor annoyance. It happens maybe once every five games for me, and that's at most - some days it won't happen at all. One unfair death or missed kill a day is hardly justification for the mess that followed the big announcement.

One of the other major concerns was the tactical nuke; again, this was something I found to be a non-issue. If one person can seriously get that many kills in a row without dying, it's a pretty sure sign to me that there's a severe skill stack going on, and most of the time that results in the game being little to no fun at all for those of us who still whoop with glee when we get killstreaks of more than five. An early ending to a game is hardly a life-ruining experience, and if it keeps happening, there's nothing stopping you from dropping out to find another match. I guess we're all just so used to being spoon-fed by developers that today's gamers will suffer a severe mental breakdown at the thought of actually needing to act on their own behalf.

Another concern - the customisable killstreaks. Again, non-issue. Don't like getting hammered by that C-130? Then find some cover and stay there, like any sensible being equipped with a survival instinct would do. I don't see how the new killstreaks are any worse than MW's helicopters or airstrikes were - in fact, a number of them are significantly less destructive and in the case of the care package, even useful to the other team if captured. Truth be told, the two killstreaks which proved most disruptive were - and brace for a shock here - the air strike and the helicopter. Amazing.

After several days solid of enjoyable play in various gametypes using matchmaking, I can honestly say that I'm glad Infinity Ward dared to rattle the cage of the PC gaming community. I'd even go so far as to say I'm glad that they went on to thrust a gigantic middle finger at those who couldn't accept this change.