A Ban Too Far?

And it hasn’t even been released yet.

Sales of ‘Medal of Honor’ video game blocked on U.S. military bases

Small victory,” was all it said on the subject line of Karen Meredith’s e-mail.

But for the Silicon Valley military mom, who lost her son in the Iraq war, the decision this week by U.S. military base exchanges not to carry the controversial “Medal of Honor” video game was still great news.

“I’m thrilled,” said Meredith, whose son, Lt. Ken Ballard, perished in 2004. She has set off a storm of protest against Redwood City-based Electronic Arts and its “first-person shooter” game, which allows players to pretend they’re Taliban fighters killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. She applauded Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES, for the decision to keep the game out of its stores worldwide.

“I’ve heard from people all over the world, many of them upset about this game, so at least this has started a conversation,” she said. “And this country needs to have a conversation about the place of violent video games in our society, especially a game based on an ongoing war.”

Due out Oct. 12, “Medal of Honor” has drawn accolades from gamers and has been defended even by some U.S. soldiers. But it has unleashed howls of protest from families who have lost loved ones and even from Great Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox, who urged retailers to “ban this tasteless product.”

Electronic Arts spokesman Jeff Brown on Friday issued a statement that said in part: “The criticism of ‘Medal of Honor’ is disappointing because I can’t think of another interactive game that has gone to such lengths to convey respect for soldiers. From the very first day of development, the ‘Medal of Honor’ development team has been dedicated to creating an homage to the soldiers who fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Saying EA feels “a deep sympathy and respect for the soldiers and people with family members killed or wounded in Afghanistan,” Brown wrote that “we don’t see a distinction between a film like ‘Hurt Locker’ and a game like ‘Medal of Honor.’ We don’t agree that it’s OK to depict the war in films and books, but not in games. We don’t see a moral difference.”

See also:
Taliban-Themed Multiplayer Gets EA’s “Medal of Honor” Banned on U.S. Military Bases
Military Exchanges Refuse to Stock New ‘Medal of Honor’ Video Game
Medal of Honor pulled from US military stores
Medal Of Honor Banned On US Military Bases
Medal of Honor not to be sold on US military bases
Medal Of Honor Pre-Orders Banned From Military Stores
Playing as the Enemy

I can understand the sensitivity but, in the end, it’s just a game. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to buy or play it.

/if you outlaw video games, only outlaws will have video games

Did Activision/Infinity Ward Screw The PC Pooch?

I am a PC gamer. I am a huge fan of COD4, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I think it’s the best FPS PC game ever released and its sales figures back up that claim. As with all games of this genre, while the single player experience is fun, the multiplayer mode is why you buy the game and what gives the game its replay value. In this regard, COD4 is awesome, absolutely without peer, IMO.

So, as you might imagine, ever since they announced a release date for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I have been waiting in eager anticipation. Now, imagine my surprise when it turns out that Activision/Infinity Ward, in MW2, has stripped out all the multiplayer features that made COD4 such a success. Not only is this a major multiplayer experience downgrade (which they’re charging $10 more for), but it seems that this was done deliberately, as a slap in the face to the PC gaming community!

Modern Warfare 2: The Battleground for PC Gaming?

Every once in a while (every 10 minutes or so), the death knell of PC gaming is cried out by someone or other. And once in a while, it seems like they might be right. PC gaming is not, however, going anywhere. With such an open platform that allows anyone to get in without buying a dev kit, there will always be something to play. Nonetheless, the release of Modern Warfare 2, to me, signals one of the loudest shots fired from the bow of a major publisher against PC gaming.

Freelancer Mitch Dyer commented on his twitter feed earlier today that he was ranked one million something in Modern Warfare, meaning that in just 12 hours, the game has sold over a million copies on one platform. Any doubt that this game would be huge should be a distant memory by now.

The two console versions are pretty much feature-identical, as far as I know. It comes down to preferences for controllers and online service. Beside that, they’re the same game.

But then there’s the PC version.

The thing about PC gamers is, they expect certain things out of their games, things that have always been there as far back as Quake. First and foremost is the exclusion of support for dedicated servers. Back in the Quake II days, I remember logging into the same server (Nostromo) every night over the summer to play deathmatch over dial-up. On the 360 and PS3, matchmaking is an accepted part of the platform.

To not have that, as little an inconvenience as it may be in reality, seems like a major affront to PC gamers. Having the option to get familiar with a server and the group that shows up there has always been one of the benefits of the game, along with having the option to vote users off the server if they’re being disruptive without having to wait for an admin to get to it. Also, when the game isn’t hosted by a player, no one gets the home field advantage and no one affects the game when they pull the plug mid-match.

Of course on the publisher side, you get problems like servers with weird settings that encourage cheating and most importantly, servers that don’t verify that your copy of the game is legal. That’s the big thing. By having the entire online game run through a service, you force all your users to verify their copies of the game if they want to play online. Even if it means no clan home servers and worse, no local play.

Another missing aspect is the lack of console access. The best way to describe a PC gamer, to me, is to compare them to those car nuts that build hot rods from scratch. PC gamers build their systems, know the specs of every part in their computer, and have everything set-up just the way they like. Check out their World of Warcraft interfaces when they get to higher levels, and you’ll see something that barely looks like the same game. Similarly, some gamers like to have their shooters set-up just-so. Tweaking the field of view settings and sensitivity of the controls are things gamers expect to have the option to do as necessary. Instead, Infinity Ward has told gamers that they’d like them to play the game as they designed it, regardless of any user preferences that may not conform to what the publisher thinks is important.

Other limitations include restricting the maps to 9v9 (when the first Modern Warfare allowed games with 16v16) and the exclusion of the lean move, in the name of not having to recalibrate the maps. That lower team limit is a major thing for all the clans that formed on Modern Warfare servers trying to make the jump to the sequel. Split the team up? Have Alpha and Bravo teams? Not play the new one?

I won’t even mention that the PC version of the game is selling for the same price—$59.99—as the console equivalents. Oops, I just mentioned it.

All this together makes me think Infinity Ward/Activision is excluding expected features in hopes of discouraging PC users. Maybe not discouraging them, but taking away many of the advantages that have drawn PC users in the past while doing as much as possible to combat piracy. Of course, where there’s a will there’s a way, and there’s always a will in PC gaming, and I won’t be surprised if we see dedicated servers with 16v16 games within a few months.

Whether the mad geniuses of the mod world come up with a solution, Activision’s decision strikes me as a very clear message that PC games—or at least hardcore PC gamers—do not play a large role in their equation. While indie gaming and MMORPGs thrive, I have a feeling that some of the bigger publishers are going to give the PC less and less attention when they have a much more reliable option available.

chart-noscale

See also:
Modern Warfare PC compared to Modern Warfare 2 PC
Modern Warfare 2 PC User reviews low…
PC Gamers Fear Modern Warfare 2 Is A Console Port [Video]
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 PC Multiplayer Capped at 18 players
Modern Warfare 2 (PC) Capped at 9v9
PC Players Revolting Against Modern Warfare 2
PC Modern Warfare 2: it’s much worse than you thought
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PC review
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PC Review
Activision Not Concerned With Modern Warfare 2 PC Negativity
Modern Warfare 2 Hacks Already Available on PC

Needless to say, I’m extremely dissapointed and conflicted by this fiasco. I was really looking forward to playing this game but, on the other hand, on principle, I don’t want to financially reward Activision/Infinity Ward for their blatantly arrogant and hostile treatment of loyal PC gamers. They expect us to pay more for an inferior product after we’ve already seen that they’re capable of putting out an excellent multiplayer game like COD4. It sucks.

/for now, I guess I’m going to sit back, think about it some more, and wait and see how this controversy plays itself out

Call Of Duty Six: Modern Warfare 2

After what many consider to be a rather disappointing effort in Call of Duty 5: World at War, this time, acclaimed developer Infinity Ward is back at the designing helm for Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to the best-selling shooter of all-time, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

/I can’t wait!