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Three Moves Ahead Episode 13 – Tom vs Bruce vs Troy vs Julian

May 19th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 19 Comments · Multiplayer, Podcast, Relic, RTS, Three Moves Ahead

ThreeMovesAhead

Four men enter, two men leave as Tom and Bruce welcome their podcast partners into the oldest continuous rivalry in strategy gaming. In the first official multiplayer recap session in TMA history, the panel talks about Dawn of War 2, how the multiplayer experience holds up under the pressures of age and infirmity.

Bonus files include a replay you can watch to see us flail about and an audio of us setting up the game and playing.

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • SwiftRanger

    Hmm, I was looking forward to watching that replay until I realised Relic just released the 1.3.2 hotfix patch today. Replay doesn’t show up in the game… :(

    There was a way to watch replays of older DoW II versions before (at GR) but I am not sure if it still works. Seems like Relic is thinking about a tool to watch older versions but they’re working on a lot of other things as well it seems (trying to churn out that Ork campaign DLC probably).

  • Troy

    What the hell? That really, really sucks. We just played this last night and can’t replay the game?

  • LintMan

    I agree 100% about the lack of speed adjustability in RTS’s. Let me slow the game down a bit so I can enjoy watching all those fancy graphics and animations they spent so much time creating! I even wish Plants vs. Zombies had a speed slider – there’s a lot of cute little animations and stuff there that I never felt I had a chance to enjoy.

    Also, I want to have the time be able to use the mouse to ssometimes select units, use abilities, select upgrades, purchase units, and scroll the map. Hotkeys are much faster, and I do use them sometimes, but I don’t want to have to memorize and master using hotkeys for every little thing. They should be a convenience not a hurdle to jump – the game’s pace shouldn’t force me to use them to be able to keep up.

    Related to this is that I also agree with Bruce’s friend – I’ve been playing games for 30+ years now (from arcade Space Invaders and my Atari VCS), and I have absolutely no need or desire to “prove” myself via gaming. I have a career and a family and more games I’d like to play than time to actually play them. I just want to have fun rather than a way to establish myself in some sort of geek pecking order.

    As a suggestion for a game to play, how about Dominions 3? You could play it by email over a few weeks.

  • Alan Au

    Yeah, the patching system is going to cause problems when you try to watch replays. You can thank Relic for that one.

    I get far less out of hearing you guys you talk about a game I haven’t played. I mean, I enjoy hearing you chat about generic issues like game speed. I even sort of get a sense of what’s going on during your discussion of end-of-game summary stats, but not even being able to watch the replays really puts a damper on the whole experience.

    As thin as the “warm-up game” excuse is, I think there’s some merit to playing a practice game first. It sounds like you (Troy) and Bruce did in fact practice, and it really makes all the difference.

    Hmmm, game suggestions? How about Rise of Nations? It’s old, but you’re planning to talk about it next week anyway. Otherwise, I recommend picking a discussion topic, and then seeing if there’s a multiplayer game that will provide some context for that topic.

  • Andrew S

    If you are looking for a turn based game (as Julian mentioned I think), why not Armageddon Empires? With four different sides I could almost guarantee that would be entertaining.

  • Craig

    Damn it. I just spent 10 minutes trying to get the replay to work, and then looking for why it didn’t, when looking at the comments would’ve saved me the trouble. :P

    Well, you guys did go on about how great DoW2′s short multiplayer matches are. Just record another! ;)

  • steve

    If anyone wants to view the replay I used some internet magic on posted replay and converted it for use with version 1.3.2. Tested using the Steam version of the game and it appears to work ok, only watched it once at 4x. You can grab it from http://bit.ly/19lPCl (links over to FileFront).

  • spelk

    I enjoyed the podcast discussion about the game, and a big thanks to Steve for sorting out the replay so I could watch it before listening to the podcast. Although I never actually caught any of the original Tom vs Bruce articles, I used to always enjoy the battle debriefings published in the White Dwarf magazine. I’m no Games Workshop follower of any sort, but I used to buy White Dwarf just for the after action reports described with photo’s and battle maps. For future games I’d like to see the group play something more strategic and slower paced or turn based. I do favour the tactical side of things, so perhaps a random generated map on something like Advanced Tactics: WWII? If we had to settle for RTS then how about something like Cossacks 2, it plays out slower and hopefully unit placement and the environment play a bigger role in the victory? I’m sure the AAR for a game like Advanced Tactics could be supplemented with a piece on Flash of Steel complete with additional plans, comments and reactions for a more detailed varied account. Another old-ish game I’d like to see given some more life is Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, an RTS that actually had a command heirarchy, custom groups of units and a proper strategic supply and reinforcement system.

    Still, enjoyed watching the game, and hearing the players thoughts on it.. I must say I infinitely more impressed with the Eldar now, and my son informs me that Troy was commanding a Warp Spider Exarch, and as much as I marvelled at Bruce’s play with his flamer Dreadnought, the Exarch Storm raining from Troy’s fingertips was impressive. I suppose kudos has to go to Tom for using the Tyranid commander’s tongue lash/lasso on Troy at one point, I thought the Exarch was truly done for at that point, swarmed by Tom’s little ‘nids, but no, he seemed to ‘leg it’ and escape in one piece.

    Isn’t the ability to manage and process RTS games at a twitch fast pace called ‘micro’, or having “leet skillz” or something? I’ve never been up to the job there, DoW2 moves too fast for me to appreciate tactics at a higher level. Slowing it down would benefit the game greatly, because not only will you be able to make more tactical decisions in the time allotted but also you’ll be able appreciate the art and design work thats gone into the units and the combat animations. I mean Sunday morning in a Games Workshop over here in the UK, you have a cluster of busied teenagers fawning all over static lifeless metallic painted figurines. In DoW2, you have the same characters and units, but they are alive, and under your command – why would you want the experience to race ahead at the wrong pace, so you miss all the “beauty” of a skirmish? I’m primarily a co-operative player, I’m always cautious when it comes to competitive play especially online, and especially against over inflated ego’s with a point to prove. So I wondered, have any of you played the DoW2 campaign in co-op? I’ve played it with my son, and its quite a rewarding experience in that you can take the game at a slower pace, because you only control part of the troops. You can focus more on playing out tactics and manoeuvres together, and thus co-ordinate them slighty easier than if you were alone.

    Anyway, looking forward to next weeks offerings. Is it me, or does Bruce come across as having the same comedic deadpan wit as the great Rich Hall (aka Otis Lee Crenshaw)? Or should I say Dr Bruce.

  • Troy

    Steve, you’re a god. Thanks a lot.

  • Thomas Kiley

    While I see your point about the speed, I think there is plenty of room for both. I am under the magic age of 22, and playing Dawn of War 2 (which, contrary to your view, I don’t play every day) gives me an adrenaline rush that no slow paced RTS ever could. A really balanced game on Dawn of War is one of my favourite experiences in games.

    I also completely agree divisions create problems. The second you start making different online things, you hit problems. Already there are issues with Dawn of War 2′s split between Ranked and Custom, where the ranked people are about a million times better, so bad people are driven to custom, so ranked becomes even harder, forming an infinite cycle.

  • spelk

    This mirrors a similar division in MMO’s between players who can devote the time and effort into being raid ready and able, and those who play MMO’s as a more relaxed and casual escape. The developers have to try and balance a game to cater for both needs, but ultimately the raiding experience requires a lot more time and dedication to the game itself to make progress. Plus you get raiding guilds spring up where they will only let you in if you are prepared to put in serious committment. Again dividing the population and often limiting the content available to a whole sub section of the paying gamers.

    With RTS’s its more about the time you spend to acquire the “micro” skills to be able to play at the speed and level where you can compete with others. The game rewards time investment and more or less penalises casual/relaxed play.

    Online games where there is a ranking mechanism, you’ll often find particular maps or tactics show up that cheat the system so people can rank up more efficiently. Small maps are usually favoured because you can learn them quickly, theres a likelihood of more kills and the rank reward per unit of time spent is often a lot higher. Its these sort of competitive edge “exploits” (and I’m loathed to use that term) that spoil a decent team based/competitive game.

  • SwiftRanger

    I thought the game was relatively even for a while (thx for getting the replay working steve), Victory Points score aside. Tom was pretty good in the beginning until he lost nearly all his Warrior Brood squads one at a time when running around those Shuriken Cannons. The major thing I noticed was the easy loss of squads on both sides sometimes, you guys really need to retreat earlier. :) Maybe you could have tried the Annihilation game mode, it usually drags on at the end but it’s a bit more relaxed than the Victory Point mode.

    Now, I have been playing mostly 3vs3 ranked games (if you want to play, I am SwiftRanger9 on Live), not just for stats and glory but also for the visual rewards you get when going up in rank. It’s not a fully developed feature but it’s a nice motivation nonetheless. Getting people of all skill levels and ages playing together is a major hurdle for any RTS with online multiplayer (DoW II doesn’t really help itself with the lack of a tutorial and so much obfuscated statistics information). That’s why I think providing extra online metagame goals would be a good solution to keep everyone involved in some way (cfr. those visual rewards or a persistent global war map). In the end it does come down to how much time you’re willing to spend on it as spelk says, a high level DoW II replay is almost from another universe when seeing your replay ;) but there must be some way to keep everyone moderately interested and evenly matched. The current traditional setup of ranked ladders and custom games your see in almost every RTS needs some revamping if the genre wants to attract all kinds of players.

    Relic did provide new campaign items in the 1.3.1 patch. They also introduced a campaign bug but hotfixed that in 1.3.2.

    Play as the Orks in skirmish/multiplayer idd, if you just want to have fun and a good laugh, that’s the race to go with. Haven’t been playing much else to be honest. They’re probably the first race to get their own DLC campaign (there are already unfinished Ork and Eldar campaign outro/intro movies in the game directory).

  • Joseph T.

    It is to my amusement that you laud the game for having short matches but also for being too quick to allow for proper control. As a mediocre but active player I can attest that there is a noticeable twitch element in the game that you hone through a trial by fire, where you’ll flounder in a few matches figuring out what’s going on. I would have liked to see you guys go on for a few more games and see if anything ended up clicking with you, but maybe time constraints prevented that from happening. Either way, you had an interesting first impression to share.

    I’m looking forward to Blood Bowl, the next video game backed by Games Workshop. They’re making concessions to both casual and hardcore players by providing turn based and real-time modes of play. It would be quite a spectacle to see Relic try their hand at this.

  • Troy

    Yeah, it’s a paradox but it’s not. Anything under 25 or 30 minutes is good for me, but I never felt like C&C3 – another fast playing RTS – was too frantic. It’s not just speed, after all, but how much you have to manage in that speed. This is why C&C3 works for me and Red Alert 3 does not. Similarly, DoW 2, a much better game than RA3, has all kinds of neat stuff you never really get to use because it just takes too much damn time.

    And this wasn’t our first time ever with the game. Just first in a while. We would certainly get more used to the pace, of course.

    Agreed on Blood Bowl, btw. I hope we can talk about it on the podcast if Tom ever gets over his fear of sports themed games even though it’s really a wargame in sports clothing.

  • Thomas Kiley

    To be fair to Dawn of War, it does keep the games closely matched, or at least partly interesting for all parties, even when the skills are drastically different. Things like, expensive units, virtually no resources at any stage, the ability for a small army to quickly out manoeuvre a large one, capturing points helping turn the tide of battle. Things like Special Powers that, even if you have been playing poorly, by the end you will have unlocked. All these things keep the game interesting, even when you are on the verge of defeat.

  • Charris

    I’m really glad you guys are doing this type of feature and especially glad that you kicked off with my current RTS of choice.

    I’m not a great player myself but I did pick out some tips that everyone would find useful. I definitely agree with SwiftRanger, retreat much much earlier and avoid sending any units below 1/2 strength anywhere before reinforcing them. Drop at least 2 generators at your safest power source asap and similarly upgrade to Tier 2 when your power reaches 50 (I often spend power on units or upgrades 2-4 times before this happens). The first team to tier 2 often overwhelms the opponent.

    A quick word on the Tyranids, once you get to grips with their Synapse (buff stacking) mechanic they really start to kick ass. Their swarming/hivemind traits mean that lesser units become much more powerful when you upgrade your base or have them fight alongside larger units.

    Here’s an example: Take 2 Hormagaunt (lesser melee) squads. Upgrade your base to level 2 and they gain 25% extra health. Put them in the presence of a Warrior Brood and they gain 20% damage reduction and a 25% damage boost. Upgrade the Warrior unit with Adrenal Glands and those Hormagaunts gain the ability to jump over cover at foes and get another 30% damage boost. These 2 cheap Hormagaunt squads are now lethal to anything that isn’t a vehicle or suppressing them! You can then bring over more units with different buffs (i.e. a Zoanthrope with health regen) to yadda yadda yadda ZERG!!! …. Plus the Ravener Alpha’s ability to dig tunnels all over the map is awesome.

  • Mike H.

    I’d echo some of the other sentiments I heard on the podcast and in these posts about the “twitch” factor that seems to be infesting strategy games of the last several years. I realize that every game cannot be as slow and deliberate as, say, chess. However, it seems to me that in some of these one-speed-fits-all games, that any true strategy–if you can call it that–is reduced towards sets of prepackaged move/countermove with the advantage clearly in the corner of the player with the fastest finger or the one best able to “game” the system. Hardly seems very strategic to me, but I guess at age 40, I’m like 95 in “gamer years” these days? Gulp!

  • Mike H.

    Oh..also want to say good podcast, guys. I really look forward to hearing it each week.

  • Andy B

    Great podcast as always guys, thanks for making the hours at work a little more bearable