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GoW:J Call To Arms DLC

April 20, 2013

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I know that there are only a few of us here that have any interest in Gears of War: Judgment, but since I wrote up my thoughts on the game over on the official forums, I thought I may as well post them here, too (it wouldn’t surprise me if it was deleted by some cowardly admin over there).  Update:  Before I even publish this, my thread has already been deleted.  Whew, glad I thought to publish it here as well.

Update 2:  Epic has made two announcements: Official info on the DLC and a Title Update, and Test Servers.

Update 3:  The official post on the DLC is up, complete with descriptions of the maps and screenshots.

Hit the jump for my thoughts on the game and the DLC.

Some Praise and Criticism On G:J MP From A Grey Bearded Vet

This post is in partial response to Mihawk’s thread on the new DLC. However, as I wrote, I found that I had much more to say than just addressing his point on the DLC. So, I started a new thread. Disclaimer, by “veteran” I mean to this franchise, not of any national armed force.

  1. Execution 4Ever. I agree. It is what separates Gears of War from all the other games out there. No other company is offering that experience. It is uniquely Gears.
  2. With the exception of the return of the 2 Piece (in any form), I haven’t enjoyed a Gears game this much since the original. The shottie, the speed, the control scheme changes – all bold and great decisions. It took guts to make those choices and I agree with them. It may not be as polished as Gears 3 but I find it much more enjoyable.
  3. OverRun is brilliant. The balance, strategy, variety, opportunity and reward for teamwork and creativity put this WAY above all other CoD-wanna-be gametypes that have been added to the franchise since Gears of War original. OverRun is all the best elements of Gears, BF:BC2, L4D, and TF2 (including the humor). Played at a high level with proper teams, it is simply incredible. With the addition of a 100ths of a second timer, it could easily meet requirements for tournament competitive gaming. It is Epic’s second “Lightning in a bottle” (their first being Execution).
  4. Of the symmetrical maps in the franchise, Blood Drive is probably my least liked, so my heart sinks into my shoes that it is one of the lonely and expensive three. If Epic is going to recycle old maps, why don’t they just bring in the other symmetrical maps unretouched – for free or for pennies – so that people have something to put in the rotation?
  5. If Epic and Microsoft don’t drastically drop the price on their game and the recycled DLC that they are offering (and get rid of the 2Piece which has already been proven a disaster for all previous Gears games), they are going to find the population for matchmaking drops below the critical threshold from which it cannot recover.

Some additional thoughts:

I hate Horde mode, but seeing as it was one of the most popular modes for the game, doesn’t it makes sense that some of the previous customers would have come back for G:J if it had been included?

Epic has made some great decisions when it came to the tough and risky choices of gameplay changes – why is it that they are so dense when it comes to the simple stuff like pricing, game modes, and map count? Only 4/4 MPvs maps packed in the game? No Horde mode? 1000 point DLC and Blood Drive is one of the three maps? The return of the 2 Piece in the 4th game?! Really?! REALLY?!

I purchased at least three copies of each Gears game (for family LIVE gaming), I spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours supporting a dedicated Gears of War community. And, I feel like a parent who has to just stand by and watch their children make easy decisions badly and do stupid things that I know will hurt them in the long run. I don’t mean that condescendingly, but as one who loves playing Gears of War and hates seeing wasted opportunity, squandered potential.

The way I see it, if Epic did the following, they would probably see Gears of War:Judgment sustain a position in the top 6 of Major Nelson’s Xbox Live Activity list:

  1. Drop the price now to $19.99, or 29.99 with all DLC – do this now to devalue the used market buy-back, and to encourage new comers to jump in.
  2. Announce and develop a map pack with 10 small symmetrical maps (flashback maps are fine) and charge for them, but give it free to those who purchased and played the game before the price drop (proven by Live record).
  3. Get rid of the 2 Piece in all forms now. Don’t wait until everyone has abandoned the game like they did with the stun smokes in Gears 2.
  4. Continue to tweak, polish, and fix the game and engage the community.
  5. Provide a title Update that offers options for private lobbies and map rotations a la Gears 1, and Horde mode on existing maps if possible.
  1. April 20, 2013 7:46 am

    Wow, I can’t believe they already deleted your thread. What is the point of Gears of War forums if you can’t post there? This game seems well made, but I’m just so over the franchise and their design choices that I just gave up on them.

    Sorta OT: After Blank was telling me about him killing the Epic Reaper, I figured I’d look it up and see it in some gameplay footage – I would probably be pissing my pants seeing that dude flying around shooting Booms all over the place and chainsaw melee insta-killing everyone, haha. That is definitely a cool easter egg they through in. Congrats on getting the bastard, Blank!

  2. Blankman permalink*
    April 20, 2013 11:48 am

    That was an excellent post, Suns! It’s a true shame that the mods over on the Epic forums shut anything down that is remotely controversial. The buzz word that sets them off is often dropping the price of the MSRP of the game. Practically everyone that’s suggested a significant price drop gets their thread not locked, but completely deleted. I think it’s actually MS that has directed the mods to take that kind of severe action.

    Your bulleted suggestions were spot on, Mike. Look, the hardcore players & gamers that have been around since the inception of Gears 1 know a thing or two about what works & doesn’t. We’ve played all of the Gears iterations and have suffered through poor decisions after poor decisions. The decisions that should have been no-brainers were eliminated (i.e. Horde mode). Every review that I’ve read has mentioned that the elimination of the Horde gametype was an asinine move. Why would a studio remove one of the features that helped innovate the games industry? How misguided is that?!? The bare bones offering of Judgment just screamed money grab when everything was parceled out to paid DLC and/or the highest bidding sponsor. If that’s the Gears legacy, no wonder the old guard left. It wasn’t because they couldn’t squeeze every last drop of blood, which is very similar to how 20th Century Fox has treated the Alien & Predator IPs, respectively. Rod, Cliffy, Lee, the PCF three, & Capps left because they wanted, in part, to preserve their credibility. They wanted nothing to do with this game. Heck, even multiplayer lead designer, Quinn DelHoyo, left to join 343 Studios (Halo franchise) a full month before Judgment launched. Have you guys noticed that none of the former Epic people have made any mention or given their impressions of Judgment? That’s not a coincidence. When you’ve left the franchise in good standing, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see it fall from grace; its demise if you will. Your analogy of a parent watching their child constantly make poor decisions couldn’t have been more poignant, Suns. It’s just excruciating to endure.

    Don’t get me started about rehashed maps that make no sense. Blood Drive?!? Really? We need to see a third iteration of it? Sure it’s symmetrical for MP versus, but that map induced camping to no end. I don’t feel like bringing S’Mores, setting up a tent, & roasting marshmallows. Epic couldn’t have brought back maps that made more sense like Mausoleum, War Machine, Tyro Station, or Canals? They’re shortsighted as a “triple-A” developer. Potential doesn’t amount to anything unless it’s realized. With so much experience under their belt from decades of game development, you’d think they’d have good decision-making down to a science. The proof is, however, in the pudding. Then they go ahead and imitate the ‘Gun’ gameplay from CoD:BLOPS which aped the idea from Counterstrike. Look, not very much is innovative or new in this current period of game design. Sure, Gears “borrowed” the cover element from Killswitch. Yet, they refined & expanded on that mechanic, and so many games now utilize cover-based gameplay. Yes, Horde found its copycat aspect onto many other games. That was another “lightning in a bottle” idea. However, to offer the “Master at Arms” gameplay (BLOPS Gun) as paid DLC is a stretch- a huge one. Then MS/Epic price points the DLC at 1,000 MSP to give this fake perception that VIP Season Pass adopters are getting their bang for the buck. This just leaves me shaking my head. Give out free flashback maps to reinvigorate the install base & convince fence sitters or those that left to come back! The general game playing public has spoken with the recently divulged 426k sales. They simply don’t view Judgment as a title that deserves top dollar, & they are not wrong to feel that way. However, MS doesn’t want to discount the price because it would have a negative perception that their triple-A title isn’t worth full retail. Discounted games have a negative stigma associated with it; people think budgeted games suck. MS/Epic needs to get over this & either subsidize the price with retailers or offer free goods, and I’m not talking about the Maxim sponsored DLC.

    As far as killing the Epic Reaper goes, it was very enjoyable to earn something that is rare. That’s the geek in me. Thanks for the big ups, Grymmie! The Reaper has an infinite Boomshot, instant gib melee kill, moves twice as fast, & floats/glides through vertical levels. I managed to stick it with a tossed frag grenade followed with two rounds of Gnasher shells, and I reaped the rewards for my effort. Ha! It’s refreshing to see that Epic is taking strides by involving the community. What happened to the Epic that used to embrace their community back in the Unreal Tournament days? With the socially inept Sweeney, asshole Rein, & Chinese internet conglomerate, Tencent, at the helm, I guess we have an answer to my question. We need less half baked ideas and a focus on making sound, solid ones. The flame of hope is diminishing. We will see in a month where Judgment stands. It doesn’t look good, folks. 😦

    BTW: Judgment is on sale at Best Buy next week for $40. That is the first significant sale since its launch.

    • April 20, 2013 9:51 pm

      $60.00 USD is simply too much for a game. Furthermore, adding additional gametypes as DLC is laughable. And the DLC on this is paltry and not worth your buck (which is often the case with DLC anyway and harms the community). I think fresh blood behind the helm was very useful, but as you all have said, MANY poor decisions have been made regarding this game.

      The biggest point where this franchise has probably grown stale however, is the tech. With games this gen, they’ve pretty much squeezed all they can out of them. Everything else is just a new coat of paint. If they make a sequel to this on the next Ad Box, I imagine it will bring the series forward in many ways.

      I’ve simply been pampered by PC games. I look at titles around $25.00 USD and even then, strongly look at the quality. Even the newest Far Cry game, a standalone title with about 8-14 hours of gameplay, is going for $15.00 USD at launch. There are simply too many great games out there to shell out $60.00 USD. If you’re gonna do that, it better have ALL the bells and whistles, and it’s apparent this Gears has not. It seems like an expansion in many ways, but it’s being charged full-price as a sequel.

      Furthermore, imagine if these guys thought out of the box and made an online-only Gears with Horde and competitive MP. You could charge $30.00 to $50.00 USD on an annual basis and people would love it. You could support and grow the title. Apparently, that’s too out of the box though, and is definitely one of the problems with triple-A studios. They need to look at things from a different angle.

      Random bit, Unknown Worlds, the team behind Natural Selection 2 had a mod jam this week. They created 3 mods that will be available to the community Monday. A heist-type game, an MK-fighter, and a Last Stand mode, but instead of computer-controlled AI opponents, they’re all human.

      Oh, and it’s free too! 😉

      Come on guys! Come on!

    • Blankman permalink*
      April 20, 2013 10:56 pm

      PCF was in charge of the campaign & that part of the game delivered. However, the MP versus is all Epic Games. That’s where it falters because they keep making poor decisions followed with even more poor decisions.

      The tech of this current generation is maxed to a point as you said. Zos just commented in last night’s party chat that Gears 1 kind of looks ugly when you compare it to the latest games out now & we all basically agreed. While jaw dropping when it came out, it pales to what’s out there now. This console generation has essentially squeezed out as much as they can. I can’t wait until the next-gen consoles to show what they can do. Zos also mentioned that developers haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible on Direct X 11. Exciting times for sure!

      After the Games for Windows initiative failed, MS has dropped the PC-gaming platform faster than a hot potato. MS won’t even consider allowing their published console games to grace the PC. There’s simply nothing for them gain on that platform. Look at what MS did with all of those PC-centric studios like Ensemble (Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Halo Wars), FASA (Shadowrun), etc. They shuttered them when GFW went bust. Making a Gears game for the PC doesn’t sell any Xbox 360s or benefit their strategy of making the Xbox the living room entertainment hub. There won’t be much support for PC-gaming in the near future with the next-gen consoles being ushered in by holiday ’13. Then again, the PC-gaming community doesn’t need MS dabbling on their platform. After all, there are so many digital distribution services available that it’s an embarrassment of riches.

      P.S. I got to hand it to you for continuing to beat that PC drum, Ty. LOL We don’t have $700 to drop on a decent build-it-yourself rig!

  3. Blankman permalink*
    April 21, 2013 10:51 pm

    Check this out, I just posted this comment & the Epic mods locked the thread:
    “(Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, friend.) There was no malice intended in my comment. I think that the community has to realize that Epic has made some questionable decisions ever since Gears 2. They’ve stumbled pretty consistently & took too long to rectify situations. Their community relations were sporadic at best when they decided to disseminate information on social media rather than their own forums. People that have followed the Gears franchise have all experienced this lack of focus. It is imperative that Epic injects some positive PR & have the Gears community, social media, & game sites spread the news. If they made a goodwill gesture of free flashback maps (not the Maxim-sponsored content), there would be some buzz that could ultimately bring gamers back & change the minds of those sitting on the fence. The window to resuscitate Judgment is closing fast. If they don’t change the general gaming public’s perception of their game as well as their studio image, it’s all for naught.

    Epic used to be about fan service back in the UT days. They need to force MS’ hand on free DLC because they need to preserve their IP for future iterations, and stop using MS as the excuse on why they have to charge for content. The negative perception that’s lingered from Judgment’s launch needs to be seriously addressed before their reputation as a studio becomes irreparably damaged. Why do you think there was such a mass exodus of upper management & talent? It wasn’t merely coincidence. Remember, potential doesn’t mean anything unless it’s realized.”

    It’s incredible that any suggestions on how to improve their perception & revive Judgment is completely c-blocked. State of denial & hubris make terrible bedfellows.

    • April 22, 2013 8:46 am

      Sorry to hear that, Kenny. It is intensely frustrating having reasonable comments deleted or locked.

  4. rEDChief55 permalink*
    April 22, 2013 9:23 am

    I lose interest in them and their games with every day that passes by. Why support them financially when they won’t support us through reasonable communication and welcomed feedback? The demo is fun, but I don’t see the full retail game sustaining longevity if their big-headed ways continue to not only butcher their image but the satisfaction of playing their game.

  5. Blankman permalink*
    April 23, 2013 3:58 pm

    Yet another one of my posts that sparked a locked thread:

    Originally Posted by The Philosophy
    “When you’re so used to playing games that are great and actually worth $60 and then played this crap heap (which has made “significant strides towards failure”, if not completely reached it) you really can’t expect people NOT to complain.”

    My response:
    “I expect customers/gamers who have invested in any game to offer realistic & constructive criticism. If you’ve read any of my other posts throughout this entire forum dating back to 2006, you’d understand that I’m not a blind fanboy. I’ve been one of the franchise’s most outspoken critics dating back to the defunct & current sites, respectively. However, we have to give credit where credit is due. Epic has shown a more focused attempt at resolving issues that should not have existed in the first place, as well as increased accessibility in terms of communication. I do agree that Epic always seems to take two steps backward with every step forward, but to keep lambasting them seems egregious. The only way to resuscitate Judgment & this franchise is if we all work together to fix what’s broken. However, we need to do this in a constructive & logical manner.”

    • April 23, 2013 4:39 pm

      Nice response. Having taken out stopping power and the active reload boost alone puts Judgment MPvs above Gears 2 and 3.

      As far as I am concerned, the only real problem with Judgment is the pricing for which I would be more tolerant if it weren’t for the fact that my investments in Gears 2 and 3 were greeted with such incredible disappointment. Even then, if I had any cash on hand at all, I would probably still end up buying it.

      As it stands, I don’t mind waiting until the dust settles and the price drops (or it becomes available on GoD). When I do finally buy it, I will have no one to blame but myself, and I won’t feel like I have been ripped off.

      Good for you wavin’ the banner over there, Blanky!

  6. April 23, 2013 5:51 pm

    Good points, Blank, but there is money to be made in the PC gaming space. Just as far as M$ is concerned, there isn’t. I can’t stop beating the PC drum because once you see the freedom, there’s no going back. So many possibilities with mod support. L4D2 now has Steam workshop support and everything seems new again. It’s insane! You can actually build a decent rig for $400.00 USD. If you want something top of the line, it’ll cost you a cool grand. Regardless, you can swap out parts and not void any warranty by building a PC. Lastly, because there is often some kind of mod support, you can indefinitely play a game. It’s amazing. But that’s my rant. I’ve got nothing but love for you guys. I just want to see ya’ll come over! The water’s fine!

    And don’t forget the Oculus Rift. That shit is going to take gaming to the next level!

  7. rEDChief55 permalink*
    April 24, 2013 11:22 am

    Somebody feel free to make a post about this

    • April 24, 2013 4:35 pm

      Hey rED, thanks for the heads-up. I think that is good enough. As a general rule, I don’t like to make announcements about upcoming announcements, but if someone else wants to write it up, that is great.

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