TMGR [11]: Mount & Blade Warband Multiplayer

This was a totally different night from my Napoleonic 20mins, but it doesn’t seem to make so much difference which night you play on the original vanilla game.

I loaded in and was browsing the multiplayer servers in under a minute. I chose the busiest server – it’s always a siege server where one group of plays defends a castle from another group of attacking players – and loaded in. Unfortunately, it was a server that uses custom maps, and big custom maps at that. Cue 2 mins wasted loading that map! That left me a bit miffed, but raring to get going once I was in.

This one was a round nearing its end. I joined the defenders and got stuck in.

To make the most of my small time I decided to go as infantry fighter. I generally like to warm up as an archer or crossbowman on Mount & Blade’s multiplayer, but infantry is where it gets really exciting, so I cut straight to the chase. Funnily enough, I never really play as cavalry online which is a bit ironic for a game called Mount & Blade!

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True to form, the infantry fight was intense. There was 4 mins left, where we were holding a gate from hordes of Nord (essentially Vikings) attacking players. I held it with basic armour but a big shield and long spear. It really did the job and I got a very respectable 4 or so kills for my one life. I find other players on the vanilla multiplayer aren’t so good against spears, which gives me a bit of an advantage as Napoleonic War’s muskets act like spears when you use them in melee. 

We held that gate, and that was awesome feeling when the timer hit 0. There we stood in the gate, undefeated like heroes.

A few seconds later, the next round loaded and it was a much more difficult map to defend. A sort of round village, with our flag to defend at the centre of a half walled square in the middle. The enemy all went as cavalry and trampled us. The first round was over in under a minute, they rushed us before we could even organise, which wasn’t so great.

Next round we were ready though, and I managed to take down 8 horsemen before I got caught by one of their lances. I was dead proud of that.

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Just then the timer went. That has to be the cruelest 20min ending timer yet. I really struggled to drag myself away, but that I did.

All in all, Mount & Blade Warband’s Multiplayer was great fun. Fighting as infantry was a great choice to get the excitement going fast. The only negative was how difficult it was to tear myself away, I wanted to go on for ages longer. For that, it loses a tiny half point, but for an awesome 20mins I’m happy to give it 4.5 out of 5. 

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Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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TMGR [10]: Mount & Blade Full Invasion 2

This is part 2 of my Mount & Blade series of reviews, after last week’s review of the Napoleonic Wars DLC. This week it’s the Full Invasion 2 mod.

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Full Invasion 2 (FI2) is a huge mod, and arguably one of the most popular of the wide variety of free ones out there. FI2 is the same gameplay, with the one mode of co-operatively holding out against increasingly difficult waves of bots.

The major difference between this and my favourite Napoleonic Wars server that I mentioned last week is that this takes place in all sorts of odd settings. You can hold out as the Spartans from the movie 300 against an invasion of anyone from the Persians to Modor from Lord of the Rings to modern army soldiers as just one example.

First things first, it took 5 mins 30secs to load this mod up.

FI2 is a massive mod of countless totally new textures and whatnots. In total its probably bigger than the original game it’s built on – and that hits the load time massively. It was incredibly frustrating waiting on that load-in screen with the time ticking down.

It wasn’t over there though. I picked the busiest server and loaded in. It was WW2 soldiers versus an invasion of skeleton bots. Sounded fun and nice and halloween-y. Trouble is, you only spawn in once a boss is killed, and a boss only spawns every 3 rounds. You guessed it – I loaded in just after they’d killed a boss.

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Partly because of my own bad timing, it wasn’t until 14 mins and 30secs into my 20mins that I actually spawned in to fight. That’s essentially ¾ of my time gone to loading and waiting. Not good! Even if you ignore that I was doing a TMGR, nearly 15mins from pressing play to actually playing just isn’t good enough for a game full stop!

Once I was in to the fight I was having great fun though. I picked to play as a German sniper and started dropping the skeletons. In just 5 mins I managed to kill 14 of them and got through about 4 rounds; we even got a boss kill in. It was great fun working together as a team once I was in, but the trouble was how long it took to get in.

The best game in the world would still be rubbish in practice with a massive load-in time. One of the Digital Salad rule of games design there! 

Sadly I’m going to have to give Full Invasion 2 a 2 out of 5. It pains me, because if the 5mins I had with it were spread to even just 15mins of the 20mins I had to give to it, it would’ve probably been a 4.5 out of 5. After all though, the whole point of these reviews is to be time limited, and Full Invasion 2, despite being awesome, isn’t kind to a time limited gamer.

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Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Steam Workshop Shenanigans

A couple of weeks back Steam made headlines with a big decision. They decided to try out ‘paid’ mods, starting with a trial on Skyrim. Needless to say this didn’t go down too well with gamers, or the modding community itself, and within the space of a weekend Valve completely back tracked.

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So that’s the very basic run down of what happened and I thought I’d take a look and share a few of my thoughts on it.

My disclaimer up front is that my initial reaction at the time Valve launched ‘paid’ mods on Steam was a negative one. I’ve long been a fan of free modding communities and have tried out free community-made mods on loads of my games past and present. These days a lot of these mods have been through the Steam Workshop, which has been a fantastic way of broadening modding and making mods easily accessible to every PC Gamer. That’s where I’m coming from on this whole ‘paid’ mod thingy.

First up, the most obvious lesson of this sorry story is not to mess with established gaming communities! Skyrim’s modding community is infamously strong and vibrant, and its been going for years. Doing an experiment with that was a big risk that probably wasn’t worth taking!

That’s maybe over simplifying it a bit, but it would’ve been a much better decision if Valve really wanted to test out implementing this idea to trial it on anything other than Skyrim and see how it did there.

As it turns out, it seems the ‘paid’ mod thing was just as much, if not more, Bethesda’s idea and they approached Valve about doing it. It’s difficult to really tell how true that is, and we’ll never know whether it was Bethesda’s or Valve’s idea.

That said, both companies should have known their customers better and maybe approached it in a different way if they were really set on trying it with Skyrim.

The big question though is whether the heart of the concept was any good. So, was it?

Well, I can’t help it but the ‘paid’ Steam workshop brought up very unfortunate parallels to App Stores, the likes of Apple and Google Play shops. These are the shops that have brought the world the hugely successful mini-games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga (interestingly reportedly now going to be a pre-installed app on Windows 10!).

I don’t want to belittle the achievements of App-type games in the slightest. These games have been massive finanical successes as well as bringing gaming to whole new audiences. They’ve achieved a lot in their own Disney-esque way.

What the problem that this throws up is that PC game mods are no Angry Birds. These are two opposite ends of the gaming spectrum in many ways, with a pretty much completely different customer base and certainly a completely different customer focus.

Given that, I’m not sure ‘paid’ mods was a good idea being implemented in a micro-transaction app style fashion. I don’t think it would ever gel that well with the user base.

That said, the idea behind the ‘paid’ mods of making modding pay talented people for their work and encourage them; and therefore benefit the whole gaming community, is a pretty sound one.

My solution?

Well, rewarding modders for their work is no new thing. ModDB modders often have ‘donate’ buttons on their pages, which nobody has to pay into but many thousands do willingly. The Steam Workshop doesn’t have this, so what the Steam Workshop could do is introduce a Humble Bundle style system.

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They could add a ‘donate’ option to every mod that gets released on the Steam Workshop. Modders wouldn’t have to put it on the page if they believed strongly that they didn’t want payment – as many do feel. Those that did, it would feature somewhere noticeable.

When you click on the button it allows you to donate whatever you feel like donating – with a blurb explaining that you don’t have to but Valve recommends you donate to modders who’s creations you really enjoy so that you can foster their talents.

Valve is of course a business, so they wouldn’t do all that for free. There was some controversy over the split of revenue for the ‘paid’ mods, which left the modder with just 25%. I guess that’s the price you pay for publishing through Steam and getting those kinds of hits on your creations.

There’s not much that can be done about that, Valve has the ultimate say, but I’d personally love to see the creators of mods getting more than 25% – just as I would love to see musicians getting far more from their record sales.

Anyway, that’s my solution to this whole ‘paid’ mod shenanigan, which I think resolved most of the problems that the initial release threw up and that caused such an epic failure.

What do you think? Could a donate/Humble Bundle style system work? Should mods be free forever? Let me know what you think by commenting! 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com