The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

GTA 5 rob a store

THE LOWS

Tom Senior: I just want to heist
Like Chris, I've been greatly enjoying GTA Online with friends, but the juiciest parts—the multi-part co-op heists—are hidden behind a wall of unnecessary and boring progression. You have to do a bunch of deathmatch and race events to level up and earn the money to buy a house, which gives you a wall to draw on so you can plan more advanced capers. If you have a pal who's already at that level you can join them providing you've done the prerequisite missions, but the system for organising co-op activities with friends involves a lot of fiddling with your in-game phone. Getting onto the same server as friends also requires that you hop between worlds, which means suffering considerable loading times in the process. GTA Online is brilliant, but could be even better with those barriers removed.

Tim Clark: Oh my mod
Teenage me’s low is being reminded of the time I got headbutted at the Birmingham NEC as part of a Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules dispute during a Games Workshop Games Day. The company bought my silence that day with a free game, but I can stay quiet no longer… *sobs*. Slightly more pertinently, my low of the week is the developing brouhaha over paid mods. At time of writing, Tyler’s (I think incredibly balanced) column outlining some of the pros and cons has over 1000 comments on it, and many of those people are pretty angry.

I get why. Modding, as a phenomenon, encapsulates two of the best things about PC gaming: Community and creativity. The idea that it might become just another way to sell stuff does seem contrary to the spirit of modding, particularly when you see the kind of cuts being taken by those not putting in the work. But, as someone who works in an industry where people often also don’t want to recognize that time and effort has a value attached to it, I’m open to the idea that the good will out, and that the truly brilliant modders being able to finance more, and better, work could be a good thing. What we can say for sure is that in the short term it’s going to be a bit of a mess for a while. As a number of news stories today already demonstrate. We’ll have extensive follow up as this develops.

Deus Ex Cat Slide

Andy Kelly: Call of Duty
So, the new Black Ops trailer has more than a faint whiff of Deus Ex about it, prompting this brilliant reaction from the official Deus Ex Twitter account. I’m sure some Call of Duty fans are excited about the return to Blops, but I just can’t get excited about another futuristic FPS. I’d actually be more excited, and surprised, if the series went BACK in time. Maybe not World War 2 again, but some other conflict. God knows there are plenty to choose from. It doesn’t even have to be a war. Anything involving guns, and not more bloody exosuits.

Tom Marks: PC Gaming is not dead
I understand the folk who think paid mods are a bad idea. I disagree with that opinion (and think it could potentially be a very good thing for modders and modding alike) but I can also sympathize with their point of view. There is a lot of fear that a longstanding part of what makes PC gaming great will change drastically. That could definitely happen and is rightfully scary.

What I have no patience for are the doomsayers and extremists. This will not kill PC gaming. Valve is not suddenly worse to its consumers than EA. Paid mods aren’t equivalent to day one, pre-order DLC.

I understand the fear, honestly, and agree that this could potentially be a bad thing for mod support on Steam—but can we have a discussion about the pros and cons without declaring a state of emergency? There is definitely a more nuanced discussion that needs to happen. The current hyperbole can only hurt the modding scene further. Blanket statements and doomsday declarations won’t help.

Mass Effect 4 Slide

Samuel: Missing Mass Effect
Very little to gripe about for me, this week—one thought I had prompted by the deluge of plausible-but-far-from-confirmed Mass Effect 4 information going around this week is just how much I miss Mass Effect, and the idea of having a big sci-fi RPG on the horizon. Mass Effect 3 is now over three years old (!), and while I’m expecting a full reveal of the next entry in the series at E3, I can say that absence is making the heart grow fonder. Even Citadel feels like a long time ago.

Chris Livingston: Waiting is the hardest part
Some cool news this week: Fantasy Grounds, an application that enables people to play RPG games online with friends, now officially supports 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.

It's not the news that's a Low for me, but my own feelings toward D&D. I played it avidly as a kid and teenager, and loved it. About five years ago I tried to get back into it, playing over mic and chat with some friends. And I found it, frankly, interminable.

It's the waiting, see. A couple decades of PC gaming, mostly instantly gratifying single-player games, has made me incredibly impatient. D&D is, well, slow. You have your turn, and then you wait, sometimes for quite a while, for everyone else to have theirs. I know there have been some rule changes that speed the game up a bit, but the last time I played, it still felt like a major drag to me. I had fun talking to my friends, but found the tempo of game itself agonizingly slow.

It's the same reason I don't do a lot of multiplayer gaming. I briefly fell in with a group of DayZ players last year, which was initially exciting. A big gang of friendly folks to roam around with? Awesome! In practice, though, I found the game itself just ground to a halt. I'd log in, for instance, and quickly find my pals Tony and Cathy, but then we'd have to wait for Dan and Steve to arrive. Once they did, Tony would need a couple minutes to attend to something AFK. Once Tony was back, Steve would pop off for a brief phone call. Cathy would lose her connection, and while we waited for her, Dan would figure it was a good time to start dinner. I had entire sessions where I basically just stood around waiting for the session to actually begin.

It makes me a little sad. I truly loved D&D years ago, but I just can't imagine playing it and enjoying it today. I know the game's changed over the years, but I've changed too.