Steam, EUR and UT3 prices

I noticed the “1 USD = 1 EUR” policy on Steam when we were suddenly forced to pay in EUR only, however I decided to buy only cheap stuff anyway (weekend deals, packs I like, etc.). I will not buy game for 50 Euros whatever it is. If you want to read more about this topic, just google for “steam 1 usd is 1 eur” or go directly to this discussion that contains also links to other sources, opinions, etc.

Truth is that it’s stupid but a few games have lower prices here in Europe (Bioshock for example). Anyway, Steam should do better to have prices under the retail level I think. I like Steam, I like that it updates the game, I like their weekend deals (I’d buy Left4Dead for 20€ last weekend… if I had already played all games I have :-))… I don’t mind. I just don’t wanna see the price in $ and while it’s OK in EUR.

But when I hit this banner/price combination I considered it to be funny:

At least, please, don’t show us. 😉

While back in the time when this rip-off started the EUR/USD ratio was more serious, it’s not a big deal now really. Count with me. VAT here is 19% – so the final price would be ~$23.80. That’s not a big difference – thanks to current exchange rate. UT3 is good example how silly those prices are set. You can buy international version of UT3 here for 26.52€, but CZ version is under 15€. I prefer English version (especially after few “professional complete Czech translations” ruining the game experience), that’s also another good reason for Steam in my case – but why it has to be more expensive…

I don’t think it’s hard to understand the game industry marketing. I think there is nothing to understand actually. I presume European prices are higher because of VAT and customer protection laws and similar stuff, but why can’t I buy international version for the very same price? On-line content delivery systems make this more and more obvious – I hope it’s just the matter of time when the prices will be more real – which in most cases means lower, of course. 😉


Unreal Tournament 3 revival?

There seems to be some activity around a game of my (once) favourite franchise – Unreal Tournament 3! After finishing Gears Of War 2 Epic seems to plan so called Titan pack for UT3. I’m really very excited about it because it promises some overdue features like better menus, proper server browser, better AI (hopefully some things I’m gonna mention in just a minute will be covered too), client-side demo recording support… very, very good news indeed.

Following the news that you can also register your retail key via Steam I decided to do so and try the game’s single player campaign again in a meantime (until the Titan Pack comes). And I’ve refreshed a few frustrations that were long forgotten (since I quit UT3 which is nearly a year now). I decided to play Hard (I’m no pushover after all) but how those bots ran wild was just incredible. Their aim is insane (how is their aim on Insane level then? :-)) and in addition to that you are outnumbered in many missions. That’s what makes from “the tournament” suddenly something they consider to be “the story”. Or so, I don’t know. Of course, players are stubborn and the game is catchy. So I am willing to play incredible missions against all odds again and again. UT3 is also technically great. But why oh why they put it down with very stupid yet stupidly precise AI opponents… I don’t know. Not to mention stupidity of your teammates that really strikes the eye. Concrete example for all of them.

Warfare on a map called Serenity. You are four and they are eight (unless you play some of your “play cards” before the match – which I can recommend in this particular case). There is a big and strong vehicle spawn under certain conditions in the middle of the map and the vehicle can be manned by 5 players. Of course all of your three mates goes into the vehicle, they go the wrong place, they are not clever enough to jump out when they are needed somewhere else and/or the vehicle is stuck and the driver can’t do anything about it. That leaves the match literally you vs. the rest of the world. There is no excuse for AI like this for a game as over-hyped as UT3 was. This is what UT3 brings to those many who reportedly never go online (for various reasons I can imagine ;-)). And it’s not only this map. The way bots wander with flag when the only thing they had to do is to bring it the last few meters after I died and dropped it… and they gladly die too, why not, they took the flag but there was some fun in the area so why to hurry, right? First UT was really something big when it came out. I still can’t see any serious differences in AI after all those years (8 to be precise).

I recall some other stoppers where my bots were very bad in attack and their bots were very good in defense. I still have levels like Sandstorm (or how is it called) before me and I hope I’ll survive them in full health. Why do I play the game you ask? It’s suppose to be the current UT game and I’d like to play it with my friends – although most of my friends quit the franchise (hopefully only temporarily). I hope Titan Pack lifts the UT3 a bit because the game and the franchise doesn’t deserve the status it has now – and it’s not only our (fan’s) fault whatever whoever says. Some people already like the game like it is but there are many for whom the Titan Pack is one of those bits that are missing. With some luck a great bit fixing most of current problems. If you like UT series, stay tuned – because big things are about to happen. So say we all. 🙂

Top 10 things I love and hate about UT3

I’ve bought Unreal Tournament III quite soon after it was released. Maybe I wouldn’t do the same now – but I’ve already done it and because I don’t buy games too often I should play the games I have. It’s not that hard to play game that has Unreal Tournament in the title because I love UT games. Yet I have a lot of troubles with this one. Not only because expectations were high. They were high because it’s another instalment as well as because they (Epic) promised us finished game. On my box there stands: Unsurpassed. Unprecedented. Unrivaled. Well… I really expected more from the game that looks so good and from the game that acts like one of the top games around here for the time being.

So what are these top hate & love things? I’ll start with things I like and then I finish with the hate part. It’s bad strategy if I want to serve UT3 well – but the truth is that I don’t want to make it look that good because – really – even after second patch this game simply lacks many important things. Game is playable, game is fine, but it still lacks something. Maybe details, but even details are important. After all… next-gen shooter emphasize focus on details besides the other things. 🙂

Things I love (no particular order):

1. Fast-paced, grounded gameplay. This game simply sounds heavy when you compare it with UT2004. I don’t particularly prefer this – I just like it. It’s the change towards first UT (UT99, or UT GOTY if you want) and it feels good. Your movement is fast, not so floaty and you can’t fly around like before. Trick jumpers might be probably a bit sad, but I saw nice jumps in this game as well.

2. Idea of single player story. I don’t like the execution and story-line though, but I like matinees, their quality… the idea. I hope the next UT will bring something that’s better than “forgettable”. I don’t have anything against previous tournament campaigns – they were straight – but these days require solid story. This was the first try and it was the step into right direction. Just work more on the story itself, guys. 😉

3. I really like visuals. Sure – post-processing is overdone here and there, but visuals are nice and rich. Maps are really detailed – even those big battlefields are highly detailed – and there’s a lot of work in it. I like this.

4. I like player visibility in team-based games. Too sad I can’t say the same about free for all deathmatch, here default skins are really hard to spot. And please don’t call me blind. I can see that there is something moving over there but it’s hard to recognize player itself. Team games bring nice glow effect for player skins which is much more adequate than glow-sticks from UTComp. Funny thing is that you can sometimes see players better when they are further from you (they glow more). Akasha on dark Necris map “right to your face” should definitely glow more even from close distance. Still step into right direction.

5. Bio-rifle death delay. It’s a nice touch – you know that you’re probably gonna die when you have that green mess on you but that duration effect is nice. I like it more than instant death from previous UT.

6. Lorem Ipsum on some screens that are not supposed to be seen. Ok, not really a thing I like but it made me smile. 🙂

7. I love the content in packages you can use in your maps. Packages are sorted out much better than in UT2004 and it finally makes sense to find garbage in a package called so. Also the volume of assets is good. I like this.

8. Another UnrealEd feature I have to praise – Sync Generic Browser. That’s just cool thing. UnrealEd in general has some very nice touches and it went its way since UT2004. Very good. Not that it’s solely UT3 related thing – but hey – it’s in the package! 🙂

9. CTF-Vertebrae! You can think whatever you want – but this map is great. Maybe not pr0, but it’s cool, it’s crazily vertical, you just need some time to navigate it. But it’s worth it. This map is something fresh in CTF.

10. It’s UT! It’s fast, crazy, brutal, unreal and however I keep distance I still like it because it’s UT.

Ok, I know – things I like were accompanied with some irony in some cases. But it was really hard to find real big things I like on this game except for a few gameplay shifts which have their drawbacks as well.

Things I don’t like:

1. Small and fast moving targets. This game is not that hit-scan oriented like before, but to hit with sniper or shock now it’s really hard. Even bots above average levels are moving like crazy and it’s nearly impossible to hit them. This – of course – relates to thing I like – fast movement. But bodies could be a bit bigger and maybe the movement could be just a bit slower. If you mix this up with (again) poor visibility of skins in non team-based gametypes – it really sucks.

2. Spam and splash damage weapons dominance. You can still find good snipers here – of course – but in general you’ll do good with rockets (faster than in UT2004), flak and similar weapons. Rockets are extremely annoying when you’re playing with bots – and especially if it’s arena like map. Not to mention overpowered stinger.

3. Bot’s precision. It just sucks as always. But this time they are much better aimbots from distance. And with stinger – they are unbearable. I can’t play lower difficulties because bots are clearly stupid there. But playing higher ones is very frustrating because they let you sense that they are bots. Also if you just appear from behind some wall and they hit you with sniper – well, that’s… inhuman? 🙂

4. Add bot’s taunt every time they kill you. No, you can’t turn this off (at least not in the UI). Unbelievably stupid feature that is probably seemed funny in Epic. I can’t explain it otherwise. Retarded. Maybe it’s intended as a nerves training.

5. Client-side demos. They are broken, buggy and instead of repairing them Epic’s stance is “not supported”. Well, what the heck? Game is out for over four months and I can hardly find one file with 1on1 demos? It’s also hard for movie-makers.

6. UI forgets settings when you get back to Main menu. If you want just to change player count you have to check and select your map again! That’s pathetic. Bot level and count is not preserved between runs of the game like it was before.

7. You can’t spectate instant action. You might think it’s stupid idea but it’s actually quite usable feature especially for mappers.

8. If you’re in a ghost mode and you get into solid matter screen starts to jitter. Funny – not with behind view. Being partially in wall is good for some snapshots so this shaky cam is very disturbing.

9. Hm, I’m running out of list! Ugly sounds if you use mouse wheel fast in lists (map list, server list). They probably tested it only with PS3 controller. You also can’t copy&paste into console (for instance server IP), you can’t even set any server as your favourite. Because you have to visit the server first to appear in History tab from where you can move it to Favorites. But if you connect to server using “open <ip>” command it’s not added to History. What a mess. I don’t care Gamespy integration – but I care that Friends system is messy and very badly integrated and all is billions of clicks away.

10. Last point is general – unfulfilled promises. A lot of them. Broken. And when you read (otherwise nice) art book delivered with Collector’s edition with bullshits about “we’re the company that can deliver things when they are done” and you have to interact with half-baked product… that’s sad.

As months goes by guys from Epic tries to blame (weak) PC market, piracy or whatever else. But there are some good points. They finally admitted some flaws and there are already two patches released that makes UT3 better deal. Anyway – all my points are still valid after second patch and I have to wait for third (and next). 🙂

So that’s it. It’s VERY personal and I bet you can agree with a lot and disagree with many points as well. I’d probably adjust this list later after much more playing of UT3, now it’s just the list of a player who did his best to overcome that second list (things I don’t like) and play another game from his favourite franchise. And yes – Unreal is my favourite game series. Yet shortly after UT3 is out I expect the next one. But maybe one more patch and more players on servers… and we’re there – and we have our good UT we wanted. We’ll see.