Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

CoD Modern Warfare 2: I’ll pass, thanks

call-of-duty-modern-warfare-2-20090326051750466Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out today. Hordes of fans stampeded stores at midnight, grabbed their own copy, and ran home to play the damn thing. Gamers have proclaimed it their favorite shooter ever, a generic shooter, an excellent story, and a practically non-existent one. Worldwide, it’s retailing for more than most AAA games do. From the US to the UK to Australia and everywhere in between, gamers are grumbling and kicking and generally raising hell. Right before, you know, they eagerly swipe their credit cards at the checkout line.

Me? I haven’t bought it.

Sure, the game looks good. If you’ve checked out any of the spoilers (confession: I’ve seen bits here and there), you might be convinced that the newest installment in the Call of Duty franchise could actually be worthwhile.

Despite all that, here’s the deal: I’m a PC gamer. Always have been, always will be. Don’t get me wrong, consoles are lovely, but given the choice I’ll take my games hard-boiled, over PC (see what I did there? oh, puns that rhyme are fun). I’m a PC gamer, through and through, and I take pride in it.

And here’s the thing: Activision, and Infinity Ward by proxy, have collectively asked PC gamers to drop their pants and bend over. Oh, and by the way, you’re going to pay $59.99 this time around, not the $49.99 standard of the platform, all for the privilege of getting less content and capabilities than the last time around.

Modern Warfare 2, let me count the ways in which you’ve given us a weaker product:

  • No dedicated servers – I’m all for the DIY ethic, but not all gamers are hardware-savvy. Some of them just want to game. A few snobbier PC gamers would suggest they go buy a console if they can’t figure it out, but I would argue otherwise. If multiplayer is essential to the experience – and it is – Activision and Infinity Ward should have used their noggins and sprung for DEDICATED SERVERS. Shipping what will almost certainly be one of the highest-selling games of the year without dedicated multiplayer servers is like selling a house with a basement, but no stairs leading down to it.
  • 9v9 – Assuming you do decide to play Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer mode, PC gamers will only able to have eighteen players per server. The standard is 16v16, and some games manage more. Would that really have been so hard for MW2?
  • Steam unlock – Activision has a policy of releasing games digitally 48 hours after the brick-and-mortar launch. What that means for PC gamers that buy on Steam is that they can’t play their god-forsaken game when everyone else does. Even if they pre-order, they still have to sit around twiddling their thumbs while console gamers run around fragging each other like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Massive patching – I can’t confirm this one, but I’ve heard that if you buy a retail copy and activate through Steam, there’s a 1.3 GB patch you’ll need to immediately download. Frankly, there’s no way the amount of fixes they could’ve come up with between printing the discs and now would equal that much. It’s sheer irresponsibility on Activision’s part.

Now, I know that developers and publishers scream on and on about the rampant piracy in the videogame industry. They throw numbers around like 90%, which is the number of users some companies claim are running pirated copies of their products. They wring their hands worrying about how to outsmart the pirates, and slap level upon level of DRM on their product, and then wonder why gamers get upset at them and move elsewhere.

There might be pirates out there, but there are honest gamers, too. I can’t say that I’ve never pirated any media, but I will say with absolute honesty that games are one thing I’ve never stolen. There’s no logic behind that, no reasoning as to why I refuse to break that barrier, but regardless, I won’t do it. I only buy games that are deserving of my money, and I invest enough into my computer’s hardware to ensure a smooth experience. Why am I being punished?

I’m getting a little sidetracked, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this: when developers and publishers make it clear they don’t think the PC is viable as a gaming platform any longer, it makes me avoid their products. Then they use dropping sales as reasoning to remove developmental support, which in turn ends up making their first statement a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My solution? I do my absolute best to reward the companies that still care, or at least do a good job of seeming like they do. I buy indie games, both because it’s important to encourage creativity and because I like supporting the little guy. I buy Valve products because they’re fun, and because they’ve used the Steam platform to do some amazing things with regard to price plasticity and periodic sales. I’m starting to go more for games from Eastern-European developers, too. The market for PC games is still very strong there, and the games they’re churning out are a fresh change from the boring console-ports we’re used to getting over here.

None of those changes are truly solutions, just work-arounds. At least for the time being, we’ll probably see more and more Western developers choose to no longer make PC versions of their games, mumbling one excuse or another, and to a certain extent a few gamers might make the move to console. Those of us that remain on PC will become increasingly irritable and sulky, but we’ll also get to enjoy much more variety, and dare I say more mature titles (not the Rated M for Mature kind, the designed-for-adults-with-half-a-brain kind) as we learn to branch out and explore games from lesser-known devs.

This isn’t exactly a new trend, but MW2 is a painful reminder that in the eyes of many developers and publishers, PC gamers are second-class citizens.


November 10, 2009 - Posted by | Gaming, News, PC gaming, Personal, Tech | , , , , , , ,

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