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#1 Pave Low

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 10:18 PM

Ubisoft have just announced Ghost Recon Online, a free-to-play multiplayer game in their near-future combat series. I had the chance to play it at their offices in Paris earlier this month, and it’s surprisingly good.

I say ‘surprisingly’ because free-to-play can sometimes mean cheap. Ubisoft have been working on GRO for 2 years, and it feels like a proper shooter – in fact it’s remarkably slick. The visual fidelity is intentionally a notch below stuff like Crysis, to let it run on a wide range of systems, but the movement and shooting are satisfying. It feels to me like the halfway point between Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2: a modern-day military setting, but with classes based around unique and crazy abilities. But unlike either of those games, it’s also cover-based, and stays in third person until you aim down your sights.


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#2 BS PALADIN

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 10:34 PM

Sounds dreadful.
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#3 CanucksFAN911

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 11:38 PM

its a free to play shooter, probably with the Korean cliché micro transaction system in addition to in game currency, correct me if im wrong but first impressions i see that its like a third person combat arms with current gen graphics, it should be fun and ubi can lay down the law for all the hacking

Edited by CanucksFAN911, 25 May 2011 - 12:13 AM.

OMG STANLEY CUP FINALS W00T !

#4 TrueGiga

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 11:41 PM

its a free to play shooter, probably with the Korean cliché micro transaction system in addition to in game currency, correct me if im wrong but first impressions i see that its like a third person combat arms with current gen graphics, it should be fun and ubi can law down the law for all the hacking

You got that right! =) Glad you made it to the forums CanucksFAN911

#5 CanucksFAN911

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:14 AM

thanks lol
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#6 Parabellum

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 05:13 PM

GR Online sounds horrible, in my opinion. I'm not sure which made the game sound worse to me, the PCG hands-on, or the Theo Sanders interview. Let me provide a few examples, first from the interview:

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.


How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.

During our earlier experiments with more open-ended maps, we had a much more run & gun flavor of game play that just didn’t feel right. Part of the problem is the player’s expectation of a moderate amount of safety when they use cover. If you’re consistently getting shot from behind, while in cover, you quickly stop using it.


Someone should be watching your flanks and your rear. That someone should be one of your teammates. With an 8-man team as described by Mr. Sanders, clearly there are enough people to have someone watching your back. 360 security is called 360 security for a reason. If players are that horrible that they can't even coordinate security, then they need to be shot.

To be frank, when we started the GRO development, we weren’t convinced we could get away with third person. However, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted the game to ultimately feel like and, on paper, third person had a lot to offer to achieve that flow. The problem was – it has never been done very well on PC (especially multiplayer).


No, 3rd person hasn't ever been done very well, at least not by UbiSoft. Suddenly, after ten years of destroying Tom Clancy titles left and right, UbiSoft has gotten it right? Yes, and Conan O'Brien's hair no longer looks stupid. Er....


Jumping back to the PC Gamer hands-on:

The cover system is surprisingly good – you see a highlight on the patch of wall you’ll hug, then press the cover key to move to it. If you then hit ‘Aim’, you can peer round bit by bit in first-person, so you only expose as much of yourself as you need to.


Where have I seen this before? Oh, I know! The diarrheal abyss of a title known as Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. UbiSoft did the same thing in that game: They forced you into head-on confrontations with the AI enemies, where you essentially used the cover system and slugged it out with the enemy while trying to figure out how to outflank them. In the process, sometimes you had no choice but to get shot X number of times. The only thing memorable about R6V:2 is how bad it was. I can only surmise that if GR Online plays anything like R6:V2, then it'll be just as forgettable.

Two things really impressed me about the way abilities work in GRO. One, that Assault shield-charge is immediately fun. The previously vicious kill zone becomes a hilarious playground with you as the bully, smacking people down as they try to scramble away from you. If you stop to finish one off, that’s the end of your charge. But if you have a team-mate covering you, you can keep bashing people while your friend finishes them off.


So, the Ghost Recon series has gone from a tactical, thinking-man's shooter, to a futuristic "Oh, look at the pretty lights!" shooter, to a "Rawr! Hulk Smash!" shooter where you take a riot shield and pummel everything you see. Right. Got it. Funny, when I read "tactical combat puzzle" in the interview, I wasn't thinking of charging through enemy lines with a riot shield. Maybe "tactical" means something else at UbiSoft.

You unlock new weapons, upgrades and abilities as you play, but not necessarily for cash. Senior producer Hugues Ricour says “a player that decides to never pay can have the full game and the complete experience. We don’t want a paying user to have a competitive advantage.” You don’t buy weapons earlier than you’d normally earn them, but you can buy consumables like grenades. Ricour says the other stuff you can spend money on includes new uniforms, special ammo, armour boosts and extra inventory space to store this stuff.


Here, we have yet another gem where someone from UbiSoft is saying two things - one out of each side of his mouth. First, he says that they don't want paying users to have a competitive advantage. Then, he says you can buy consumables like grenades. It's good to know that those extra grenades won't give the other guy an advantage over me. Perhaps when they detonate, said grenades will pepper the air with confetti that spells "I used my mommy's credit card to buy this!" instead of peppering my character with shrapnel. Awesome. Also, it's good to know that special ammo and armor boosts won't give the enemy an advantage over me, either. Perhaps the armor boost will just flash a screen message to the wearer proclaiming "You are being shot! Move, you idiot!" that I wouldn't get on my screen, since I haven't shelled out for the awesome armor. It's refreshing to know that the armor boost won't ... you know ... make the guy harder to kill, thus giving him an advantage over me.

I have to admit I was pretty sceptical about a free-to-play Ghost Recon. I was imagining a drearily realistic online shooter with a bare-minimum design philosophy


Drearily realistic sounds much better than some fool with a riot shield shouting Leroy Jenkins as he charges the enemy and I crouch down behind cover and wait for the "I don't know what this class does" specialist to sneak up on us and kill us. Drearily realistic also sounds a lot like Ghost Recon. While it wasn't that "realistic", in many ways, Ghost Recon was - and is - a much better game than anything else to come out of the rectal regions of UbiSoft. I can't see this title being any better than RS:V2, except that this time, we know it's coming. That's more than I can say for some of UbiSoft's other diarrheal encounters.

Edited by Parabellum, 04 June 2011 - 05:20 PM.

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#7 ApexMods

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 07:00 PM

:rofl:

Brilliant post, Parabellum. Simply brilliant.

#8 wombat50

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 08:01 PM

I agree about Para's post. Inspired :thumbsup:

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#9 petsfed

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 08:32 PM

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.


How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.


I know that you wanted to criticize the awful trend of on-rails shooters, but you have to recognize that the real art of video games is in the selection of means to interact with the environment. Put another way, the environmental designer is tasked with producing a setting that remains interesting even when mediated by a limited set of permissible interactions. Ghost Recon does not provide total freedom of interactions. You are limited to walking around things, shooting at things, or dropping objects next to things. In that sense, their gameplay design is more expansive than your ideal because now you can gain another set of interactions (or more conservatively, you get different versions of the original interactions) while still allowing the original interactions. Honestly, I wish Ghost Recon had a more robust cover system, because it seems a little silly to me that basic cover interactions have to be so error prone. I don't like approaching a corner, pressing the lean key, discovering that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking a little bit farther over, pressing the lean key again, discovering (again) that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking further still, having the enemy spot my shoulder as it comes around the corner although my vision without lean is still blocked by the wall I'm attempting to lean out from, and promptly being shot in the face when I lean out and finally see past the corner.

As for the rest of the post, tactics in the real world typically reduce to finding ways to suppress and outflank your opponents, and Ghost Recon modeled that especially well despite its now-apparent shortcomings in its cover system. Thus, if Ubi observed that most fun part is that cover battle, and made their interaction option choices so as to encourage that, then good for them for finding a way to force the fun sequence in a way that is authentic, rather than implementing some ridiculous, unrealistic system (or as is often the case, writing a two-sentence suggestion in the manual) that forces the player to do so in a way that reminds the player that they are, in fact, playing a game.

I'm still not impressed with the description of the game (seriously, Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2? And its still called Ghost Recon? Ugh!), but I think you're throwing bile without really considering your words first.
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#10 ApexMods

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Posted 04 June 2011 - 11:57 PM

You're making a good point on cover system vs. lean, petsfed. Both options have their advantages and shortcomings, and the debate about their pros and cons has been going on for some time. In the end it's the implementation that matters, and as has been stated in the Theo Sanders interview, we might be in for a positive surprise here.

What is so disturbing is the way Ubisoft and PC Gamer try to sell some of the design decisions, and that is one aspect Parabellum has criticized quite eloquently. And as you noted yourself in your last paragraph, calling the game Ghost Recon keeps striking a very sensitive nerve with many fans.

As I said before, I think Ubisoft would be wise to reconsider slapping the GR label on everything. If I encountered this game under any other name I would simply view it as an interesting addition to the shooter genre. Trying to carry the heavy weight of the legendary Ghost Recon on its narrow shoulders is what drags it down in my opinion.

But maybe it's time to get used to the idea that the series irreversibly expands into new directions. It would of course be nice to see it find its way back to its roots one day, but in the meantime we should at least welcome the fact that any new Ghost Recon game also introduces new gamers to the series. Who knows, maybe the players of the new games also turn into fans of old-school GR one day, and that wouldn't be a bad development at all.

#11 Parabellum

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 01:14 AM

We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.


How about UbiSoft let players decide how they want to play the game? That's part of what made Ghost Recon a great game; you could play it how you wanted. You don't create great game play by forcing people into scenario A, and giving them choices X,Y, and Z. You create great game play by making something that's fun and memorable, and then letting people play it as they wish.


I know that you wanted to criticize the awful trend of on-rails shooters, but you have to recognize that the real art of video games is in the selection of means to interact with the environment. Put another way, the environmental designer is tasked with producing a setting that remains interesting even when mediated by a limited set of permissible interactions. Ghost Recon does not provide total freedom of interactions. You are limited to walking around things, shooting at things, or dropping objects next to things. In that sense, their gameplay design is more expansive than your ideal because now you can gain another set of interactions (or more conservatively, you get different versions of the original interactions) while still allowing the original interactions. Honestly, I wish Ghost Recon had a more robust cover system, because it seems a little silly to me that basic cover interactions have to be so error prone. I don't like approaching a corner, pressing the lean key, discovering that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking a little bit farther over, pressing the lean key again, discovering (again) that I haven't approached the corner closely enough, walking further still, having the enemy spot my shoulder as it comes around the corner although my vision without lean is still blocked by the wall I'm attempting to lean out from, and promptly being shot in the face when I lean out and finally see past the corner.

As for the rest of the post, tactics in the real world typically reduce to finding ways to suppress and outflank your opponents, and Ghost Recon modeled that especially well despite its now-apparent shortcomings in its cover system. Thus, if Ubi observed that most fun part is that cover battle, and made their interaction option choices so as to encourage that, then good for them for finding a way to force the fun sequence in a way that is authentic, rather than implementing some ridiculous, unrealistic system (or as is often the case, writing a two-sentence suggestion in the manual) that forces the player to do so in a way that reminds the player that they are, in fact, playing a game.

I'm still not impressed with the description of the game (seriously, Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2? And its still called Ghost Recon? Ugh!), but I think you're throwing bile without really considering your words first.


We can agree to disagree, my friend. I chose my words carefully. :) UbiSoft has a long history of making crappy, linear, arcade shooters, slapping "Rainbow Six" or "Ghost Recon" on them, and calling them good. GRAW 2, Lockdown, and R6:V2 were some of the worst shooters that I have ever played, for instance. The company is, in my opinion, incapable of making a game that's not a linear, arcade shooter.
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#12 ROCO*AFZ*

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 02:26 AM

Another Ghost Recon Title, another title without an injury model. Bleh.
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#13 petsfed

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 07:28 PM

Personally, I would've hammered on the outright admission of making linear maps (as in the Theo Sanders interview) first, rather than the cover system. I habitually quote the relevant part of people's posts to isolate particular points that I want to reply to, and I think your choice of quote was what misled me.

I think its a dramatic misstep on their part to produce a specifically multiplayer game that, by their own admission, is terribly linear. If every game plays out the same way every time, it gets boring, fast. Its why Rainbow Six and subsequently Ghost Recon did so well: there was a lot of latitude even when doing everything right. I still enjoy crafting the perfect plan for every possible random tango placement in Raven Shield, and I'll bet my perfect plans are considerably different from others. I find, while seeking out the best possible route through a GRAW map, that there isn't as much variation. This "metagame" is what strategy guides exist to explain, and a game designer that fails to consider that metagame under the belief that they are giving the player freedom will find that the most competitive players will always find ways to use the designed in limitations to their advantage. For instance, in GRAW, I would neurotically reload well before empty because there was no real reason not to. When GRAW2 came out and I couldn't nick mags off of dead rebels, I went back to my habits from OGR and RVS, which was reload only when I was actually low and use single-shot a lot more because I didn't have the ammo to waste. Once I noticed that I could pick up ammo in GRAW, my gameplay style changed, drastically. The easier it is to master the metagame, the sooner it will become boring or frustrating.

Sure, a lot of people got to be really good at OGR, but actually mastering the metagame proved nigh-on-impossible, which is the main reason we're all still here.
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#14 Theo_S

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 05:07 AM

Hey all,

First off I just want to say "thanks". I take the issues you guys are airing to heart, even the really critical ones, and we're humble enough to realize the onus is on us to prove - and not on the community to simply accept - that the game mechanics in conjunction with level design create a tactical, teamplay-oriented game rather than a shoot 'em up.

I won't try and convince anyone otherwise at this point. But will say that, as the beta opens up and people have actually played the game, I'll be listening closely to hear if people still have these same fundamental concerns. I'm not expecting we'll get it perfectly right on the first try, but the whole idea of an online game is that it can evolve with the community's feedback.

What I would like to reflect on, however, is more generally how game mechanics interplay with level design, with each other, and with a hundred other things to culminate in the final flow & feel of a game.

In other words, whether a level is somewhat linear or whether it's an open spaghetti-web design by itself doesn't mean much. In both cases, you could have gameplay that is either very tactical or very arcade-like. The same is true for whether or not gameplay is inherently dynamic or whether almost every game feels repetitive in flow.

What I'm getting at it is very rarely possible to make deterministic decisions about gameplay, flow, and feel from any kind of Recipe-approach to game mechanics. E.g. "I want variety in my game. So, I'll make my maps open. Check & done." I wish it was true, because our lives as developers would be a hell of a lot simpler :) But frankly - development is a highly iterative process. You try, you fail, and you try again until you get it right. The most subtle adjustment to any game mechanic (let's say running speed) will dramatically, and completely change the feel of a game.

What we zoomed in on with GRO is finding a set of mix of all these mechanics and other choices that ultimately achieve a few things we considered core to the franchise: 1) rewarding thinking before acting. 2) rewarding tactical play, 3) an emphasis on the value of Intel, 4) getting away from a run 'n gun style action shooter (of which we think there enough out there already), and 5) having a dynamic game (the person posting about meta-gaming is exactly right).

Not everyone will like every choice of mechanic, but I hope you guys will come around on some of the specific ones after you play. But if not, we’ll be listening.

Thanks,

-- Theo

#15 ApexMods

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 07:01 AM

Welcome to the forums, Theo!

First of all, you personally facing the storm here at GR.net instantly earns you the title "Ubisoft Developer of the Year" in my book. Before I can begin to address your thoughts on game mechanics etc. I have the fundamental need to express my deepest gratitude for this mere effort alone. You have no idea how many times I wished that someone at the development helm of Ubisoft would finally take it upon himself to face the music like this, and I'm pretty sure that many in the GR fan community feel the same way.

Moreover, that you acknowledge the need for Ubisoft to put their money where their mouth is for once, is an altogether flabbergastingly impressive experience. We've had (more than) our fair share of PR lingo dumped on us in the past, without any facts backing up the claims, so for you to admit to the obligation of convincing us earns you my additional respect.

Kudos, Theo! May the dialogue be a productive one!

Cheers,
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