Saturday, February 23, 2013

Episode 55: Robot Ace of Cakes!

Picture The Ace of Geeks Podcast delves into pure science fiction this week, as we Review the new Star Wars RPG, Edge of the Empire, and the new Sci-Fi channel show Robot Combat League! ALSO: Should Orson Scott Card be writing Superman? All this and more!

Episode 55!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Episode 54: Ace of Geeks...In Motion!

Picture This week, the Ace of Geeks Podcast delves into the exciting-ish news that J.J. Abrams will be directing the new Star Wars movie, the controversy over Jonathan Coulton and Glee, comic books by Brian K. Vaughn, movies with singing, and we review Django Unchained!

Episode 54!

Why do people play Call of Duty?

I resisted for months. I passed by it on the shelf, it's faceless marine wielding two pistols and glaring at me out of the darkness. "I've played it before," I said, "What new things could it possibly bring to the table?" It was a waste of sixty dollars, and gosh darn it, I wasn't going to spend that.

You can't see his eyes, but you KNOW he hates you.

Two weeks ago, my co-worked said to me "Hey, do you own Black Ops 2? A bunch of us play it on the weekends." I bought it the next day.

Call of Duty is the most popular video game in the world. It outsells legends and newcomers alike, leaving even your Marios, Assassins Creeds and Uncharteds in the dust. It releases one or two games every year, all of which follow the same basic idea: You are a soldier in the recent past, modern era, or near future. Some sort of terrorist person wants to blow up the US. You blow them up first. The end. The linear nature, unchanging gameplay, flat characterizations, and general silliness lead a lot of gamers to turn up their noses. "Call of Duty? Really?" You hear them say.

And when you look at your typical Call of Duty gamer, it's hard not to see why. Call of Duty is known as much for its fanbase as its gameplay, in the same way Twilight is known for its fans rather than its content. Call of Duty is the sort of game played by Broseph Joe Brody, when he's taking breaks from playing Madden, drinking Bud Light, smoking a fatty and objectifying the nearest woman. It's led to an influx of the sort of guys we never wanted to see after high school, invading our hobby and passing their behavior on to the seemingly endless number of thirteen year olds who have microphones on X-box Live.

"Press X! Now say you had sex with his mother!"

"But Mike," you might say, "You're a gamer with (debatable) taste! You're excited for Fire Emblem: Awakening! Why would you spend $60 on a game with this kind of a stigma, just because your co-worker wants to play?" Well, I'll answer that question in the simplest way possible, and in the same breath, explain why Call of Duty sells so damn well.

It's a good game.

"No!" You gasp, but it's true. And no, it's not a good game in the same way Uncharted, or Final Fantasy 6, or Deadly Rain is. It's not even a good game in the same way Halo is. As explained previously, the story of your typical Call of Duty game is laughably bad. The characters are awful, the voice acting is delivered by talented Hollywood actors phoning it in - hell Black Ops 2's cut scenes look like they come out of a Time Crisis game. But no one plays it for the story. Call of Duty has, for the last five or ten years, had the single tightest multiplayer shooting experience since this game:

You have to forgive Call of Duty. It's hard to top perfection.
How do they do it? Let's break it down.

Instant Gratification

"Boom! Headshot!" ...No? Too much?
 Take a look at the screen above you. This is the image that will greet you every time you bust a cap in a fool while playing Call of Duty. That little yellow number there? That's the exact amount of XP you just recieved. And you get those little yellow pop ups for EVERYTHING. Shoot down an enemy plane? Little yellow pop-up. Get five kills while crouched? Little yellow pop up.

Combine this with the fact that this XP is constantly unlocking new guns, skills, perks, camo styles, name tags, and tons of other things, and you start to understand why playing can become so addictive. You're not just murdering people online for fake points, you're murdering people online so that you can murder them better.


With so many unlockables, the game has to be hideously unbalanced right? Especially since these are such throwaway games? You'd think that, but it's strange, other than the ridiculously powerful knife in the original Modern Warfare, I've never had a complaint about the balance of the game. The better guns are more powerful, sure, but not unreasonably so. It's a game about getting the drop on your opponent. If you can see them and they can't see you, they're gonna die. The opposite is also true. It's only when you both see each other at the same time that who's using what gun comes into play, and then it's usually the guy with the shotgun who wins.


Unreal Tournament was the first real twitch game I played, and it spoiled me. I remember playing Halo for the first time, and thinking, "Man, I'm moving so slow." It took picking up the original Modern Warfare for me to not feel that way anymore. Your default walking speed is pretty fast. Your sprint speed is downright crazy. Aiming takes just a twitch of the thumbstick. (Which is where the name "twitch gaming" comes from. And that moving so fast makes you twitch.) And dying, which in other "realistic" shooters like Counterstrike and Battlfield can banish you to the edge of the battlefield for as long as half a minute, well dying only lasts maybe a second before you're back in and killing some more. It's a damn fast game, and requires lightning reflexes to keep up. Which makes it ten times as fun as most shooters out there, and ten times as addicting.

These three things, along with good map design and a gigantic playerbase that means you're never waiting to play, lead to a game that you can literally play for hours and will almost never get bored. It's the best multiplayer shooter available right now, and because they hardly ever change anything, each new addition that comes out will be just as good. Nothing is ever going to topple Call of Duty until someone, once again, reinvents the wheel. But in order to do that, they can't just make a better shooter - you could argue that's been done. They have to make a better shooter, AND they have to make it more accessible. The only people who've ever come close are Bungie, and even they fell by the wayside. 

Chime in with your thoughts down below.