One end, you know there is some fire out there (Arma 2/Arma 3 zombie mods 2012-2014; Rust α, 2014)

We definitely reached the time where all the survivalist/zombified games are coming out, few years after the trend was set, either as a full public release or, sometimes after a kickstarter collect, at least alpha playable stage. Here’s my pick regarding pure FPS in openworld, with no RPG element:

I enjoyed Arma 2 Day-Z mod for a few hours. I won’t describe this mod here, because it’s kind of famous. But let just say it was more or less one year ago and it was much too buggy to be enjoyable: especially when bugs were occuring after one hour of gameplay, were as stupid things as clipping troubles leading you to death or broken bones while you just tried to go down of a ladder or go pass through a regular doorway. When it takes you half an hour to gather just a few things, restarting from scratch for nothing but such bugs just wont do. I might giving it one more try to check how it is now.

Day-Z mod

There is Breaking Point, a similar mod for Arma 3. It looks cool but, unfortunately, I cannot get more than 15 frames per seconds with this mod, while in single player Arma 3 gives me a decent 40 frame per second all the time. Apparently there is something very broken in Arma 3 pathfinding for NPCs, it has to do with CPU usage, there’s nothing to do until Arma 3 people fix it. So I’ll have to wait until that happen to get an informed opinion about the mod, even though what I’ve seen with 15 fps was appealing. I like the approach of the whole Arma thing regarding aesthetics, maps design but I’m much more suspicious about their software design/coding practices. The proposed fixes on many webpages about not only Arma 2 but also Arma 3 fps lag cast an odd shadow on the whole. For instance, when you read that you have to put some Arma 3 user directory in read-only mode  to prevent it to write logs (or use an extra command line option to do so the same), not only because the software could be writing too many info in logfiles for the hard drive not to be slowing the whole down (which would be kind of hardcore unpolished releasing, but could almost be acceptable in alpha stage, if really the logged in information is proven necessary for debugging purpose, assuming that this debugging issue matters more than the game being actually playable) but, worse, most likely because of broken implementation of concurrent write access to these log files (to make it short, in case you care about software theory: the game process is divided on several threads, each one of them handling different things; when one decide to write in a log file, it locks it to avoid corrupted content by concurrent writing and it should unlock it as soon as it is finished, so any other thread can get a handle on it. Several threads can then be sleeping if the first one has still to release the lock. So if the code is careless about unlocking as soon as possible or simply if too many of them are set to write at same time, you can have a lot of fuss, even worse if the handling of the failure to lock is clumsy. Normally, you’d want thread to write on different logfiles or to use a logging system, anything so no process is ever put to sleep *just* to write some log). Even without in depth knowledge about multithreaded software coding, anyone can tell that hitting this kind of bugs in alpha stage is bad omen, makes wonder whether it is even fixable without rewriting from scratch big chunks of the software.

I’m not keen to checking Day-Z standalone. I’ve read that, right now, there are only two weapons in the mod and still the many bugs already in the mod. I’m not sure it’s a good sign when you restart some software from scratch but still ends up on the same bugs for less content. And this standalone looks right now like another example that designing good software is not just about pouring money on developers.

Rust is a different take at the whole. In Rust, you actually build refuges, houses, after making planks, furnace, etc. As of today, you can build out of a simple workbench hardware as complicated as modern shotguns or assault rifles, after checking a blueprint for one sec, but the developers said these modern weaponry is just placeholder, it’ll be gradually replaced by artisanal kind of stuff. That’s kind of interesting. People constructs houses and other people use C4 to blow their way in. That’s kind of funny too. Except that C4 is probably out of scope in the whole artisanal concept too, but there are explosives that are not overly complex to produce and could fit-in easily. I’m kind of happy with Rust.

2014-01-25_00002

Except for a few minor issues. For instance, most players put the grass off (grass.on false, ahem). In many cases because their hardware cannot handle it, or because it is buggy. Ok. I play with it with the high grass. It’s immersive, you can see me crouching in the high grass, thinking I’m so coolowy and well hidden. Except that I’m not hidden at all for most other players and from animals, so to get this extra immersive feeling I’m just making myself a blind slow easy to hit target. The game is alpha, I guess that’s part of deal.

Except that, as of today, the server files are not publicly available. So the only servers and the official or rented ones on a limited list of providers that have been given access to server files by the developers. Considering the user base being small, the number of available servers is not really an issue. But obviously, it’s easier to cheat /abuse when you are server admin; and there are too many reports of such troubles about the few available servers not to be a bit concerned. And when you invest in a game, I think you should at least be able to play in on your LAN.

Except that I’m wondering if this Unity engine is really any good and how exactly it was selected.

2014-01-23_00002

Except for more major issues. Recently, they added sleepers in the mix. It means that when you are offline, you character is still on the server you were playing, but sleeping. It can be killed, people can take your stuff. Ok, that’s fun at first glance. But it is really sleeping or comatose we’re talking about? Because unless I get a headshot, I think I’d wake up if someone is chopping my leg.I mean I’m familiar enough with broken bones to tell you that, usually, when it’s fresh and new, it does not help sleeping so good. Or I guess I’d wake up if someone is using C4 against the house I’m sleeping in, even though I must admit I never experienced this in real life. In reply to messages posted about such concerns, the developers mentioned something about having an alert by mail or whatever. And to people saying they are casual players, or saying they are intensive players during the weekend but have strict serious long work hours during the week, that any notion of alert wont do because they simply cannot/do not want to have their life set by one video game, the developers replied on the forum they just can provide their steam account id to get refunded for the game (fuck off it is, then?). Talking about bad omen, that’s one too. I always refused to play things like WoW or anything else that dictacte your schedule. Not that I have such an important schedule, but I dont want to play a game that makes me feeling I’m forced to play all the time not to loose what I have.

The sleepers are here to stay. So even though there are mods to put them off, there is not much point in trying to play without. For instance, there are already players that disconnect when they are loosing a fight to avoid getting killed. On Day-Z mod, you cannot disconnect without loosing your gear during a fight. As the reply of Rust developers to people expressing concerns about this sleepers things is go get refunded, can we seriously expect them to devote time to implement a similar system for a concern non-existent with sleepers? So sleepers are here. It could be a fun part of the game to say, ok, I’ll be comatose when disconnected for a week, whatever, I’m just about to build a cool refuge to maybe it’ll to save my life during my coma. But, no, you cannot. Rust implemented decay. Buildings are destroyed by decay. After 24h, your wood-based house will loose parts, which is good in general, so you don’t end up visiting enormous overly clean ghost towns. But after one week offline, actually, your comatose body could just be lying on a house with wall parts missing. I suggested on Rust forum that they stop decay when there is a sleeper in the building (which could make sense gameplay wise: it’s not an absolute protection, since a non decaying building is a good sign there’s someone to kill inside), that would actually do for me, but got no echo. So right now whenever I want to play Rust, in on non sleepers servers. But that’s a band aid.

So, what to make of all of that? Maybe I’m overly critical and something good will come out of the whole. And some people are writing, on forum, that anyway good mods will still be possible to write. Yeah. Weird, though: we are talking about alpha games. I understand that to write a good software, the main developers must have a vision of what they are doing and not changing direction each time a user suggests or complains. Still, when you are paying for a non-released software, I think you reach the point that are you are not paying really for the end product but for the coding as a service. You are basically saying: I’m giving you money so you code this. So I’m reaching the point where I feel a bit stolen by the developers that license the work I’m paying for in a way that I cannot do anything with it, I cannot legally fork it or whatever. Modding an unreleased software, especially when the mod, like many rust mods, providing things that should be part of the main software (ability to set options on or off, ability to share doors), is really really wrong in so many ways. And I think that it is so mainly for licensing/copyright issue.

Post your request on Rust forum

My point? To me, this kickstarter/alpha development model is losely based on Free Software development model. Except that you do not get any right for the money spent (who’s the hippie now?). While I prefer this development model to the basic traditional proprietary model (pay once in a while when a public release is made and deal with it), it’s certainly still unsatisfying. With basic traditional proprietary model, you are just a simple customer and if you dont like what you get, you are just a simple victim. Here, you get a taster of what it could be, what you could have. But just a small taste. Nice and…disappoiting altogether. You told us this is paradise, you told us everything’’s gonna be fine, and then you took us for slaves

Side note: if you are bored, go read Facepunch (Rust devs) forum. You can find cookies like “Right now, Rust is very vulnerable to cheating, because it’s far easier to write code that way.” Overly funny or sad, considering no guy from Facepunch is contradicting this statement. I do sincerely hope the most vocal people on these forum are not representative of Facepunch in any regards, otherwise I’d recommend you not to have any hope in the future of this game.

5 thoughts on “One end, you know there is some fire out there (Arma 2/Arma 3 zombie mods 2012-2014; Rust α, 2014)

  1. Pingback: Inconsistency #5: Z Nation S01E01 | Line Them Up (& Put Them Down)

  2. Pingback: Line Them Up (& Put Them Down)

  3. Pingback: Altis Life: My Ridealong With Arma 3 | MonkeyGrumpiness

  4. Pingback: Inconsistency #5: Z Nation S01E01 | Crusader ✟ Ping

  5. Pingback: Altis Life: My Ridealong With Arma 3 | Crusader ✟ Ping

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