Uniformed COH booth babe!

December 5, 2010

Is that a salute or are you showing me the bottom of your hand?

She won't give you her number.

This just in: Apparently Company of Heroes has its own booth babe! You know, booth babes — the disarmingly attractive young females sporting “in-universe” costumes from your favorite video games, who stand by the booths of game companies at various events!

While booth babes were popularized by companies like Square Enix (employers of the original Lara Croft booth babe, who got too naked for Playboy and was fired), they were immortalized by the World of Warcraft Elven booth babes. When a game company’s got scratch, the booth babes come more comely, in greater numbers and seem to sport more revealing attire.

Sadly, as THQ/Relic doesn’t have that kind of scratch. At this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, which ran from June 15-17, there was only one COHO babe and she wore a faux U.S. Army uniform (you can see more Relic photos from E3 on their COHO Facebook page).

Booth babe reporting for duty!

Join the war effort!

As you may infer from these photos, the babe — one Anna Panici, according to her name tag — was tasked with standing in the vicinity of the COHO booth and snapping off salutes, most likely to male passersby.

I couldn’t resist Googling her. She speaks five languages and likes to be shown a good time by RTS players who know how to mold magic with their fingers — around a G3 laser mouse, that is. If you must, click here to view Anna’s Picasa web album, you salacious bastard. I know you would’ve Googled her anyway if I hadn’t provided the link.

That other chick actually just works here.

She'll make that face for for the next guy, too.

All kidding aside: I honestly don’t see the point. COHO is a marketing experiment by a company that obviously doesn’t have the resources to do a proper sequel to one of the best RTS games of all time. It’s also one of the best World War II games of all time. I don’t know what happened after the original COH came out, but it left Relic fielding one lonely booth babe, who had to put up with pick-up lines from gamers all by herself. Imagine the army of Allied and Wehrmacht babes — and the sorts of garments that leave little to the imagination — Relic could have afforded.


The M18 Hellcat: A glaring inaccuracy

April 29, 2009
Does this look lighter, less-armored and faster than the M10?

Does this look lighter, less-armored and faster than the M10?

My reporter sense started tingling when Relic let it be known that the M10 Wolverine would be replaced by the M18 Hellcat (optionally) in Tales of Valor. Relic has largely preserved the basic historical strength of the tanks and vehicles in COH; for example, the M4 Sherman is less powerful than the M26 Pershing in terms of armor, cannon damage and penetration.

This simple concept of translating real-life units into the game goes by the wayside with the M18. In the current game, the Hellcat has more armor, a better cannon and slower speed than the M10. It’s like an American version of the Hetzer, particularly since it can cloak and gains first-strike damage bonuses when firing out of cloak.

But historically, the M18 was much lighter and faster than the M10. To make this possible, it had far less armor. The only thing Relic got right was the M18’s superior cannon. Both the M10 and M18 packed .50 cal machine guns, though the M10 lacks this option in-game.

A much better choice would’ve been to ditch the M18 and instead add the M36 Jackson, yet another American tank destroyer similar to both the M10 and M18. The Jackson had an open top, an optional .50 cal MG, and the same 90mm gun used by the Pershing. It was roughly the same weight and size as the M10, but had much more armor — double the armor of the M10 in some places. Does this sound like the unit represented by the “M18” in the game right now? Sure does. For balance reasons the 90mm gun on the M36 could be made less powerful than the Pershing, but this doesn’t change the fact that the M36 — not the M18 — should be in the game.

NOTE: All data below comes from Wikipedia. Who has no reason to lie about World War II armor specifications.

M-10 Wolverine tank destroyer.

M-10 Wolverine tank destroyer.

M10 Wolverine
29.6 tonnes (65,000 lb)
Armor: 9mm to 57.2 mm (0.3″ to 2.3″)
Primary armament: 76.2 mm M7 gun
Secondary armament: .50 cal Browning M2HB machine gun
Speed: 51 km/h (32 mph)

M18 Hellcat, post-war.

M18 Hellcat, post-war.

M18 Hellcat
Weight: 17.7 tonnes (39,000 lb)
Armor: 5mm to 25 mm (0.2″ to 1.0″)
Primary armament: 76 mm (76.2 mm) M1A1 gun
Secondary armament: .50 cal M2HB machine gun
Speed: 88 km/h (55 mph)

The M36 Jackson, the lone American tank destroyer able to kill Tigers at range

The M36 Jackson, the only tank destroyer able to kill Tigers at range.

M36 Jackson
29 tonnes (64,000 lb)
Crew: 5
Armor: 9mm to 108 mm (0.35″ to 4.25″)
Primary armament: 90 mm M3 gun
Secondary armament: .50 cal Browning M2HB machine gun
Speed: 50 km/h (30 mph)

In-game reflections on 2.501

April 12, 2009

I took the time this weekend to play a good four or five games of COH with 2.501 in full effect. Now, first off, I still don’t have Tales of Valor, nor did I run into anyone using the new units. Still, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

interface2The new interface changes are stupid/unnecessary. I’m talking about the veterancy indicator changes and the infantry weapon icon change. Certainly this is open to debate, but I personally liked the American rank stripes and Wehrmacht dots. I also don’t see why Relic placed the weapon icons beneath the unit identification bar, though I’m more agnostic on this one. The real problem is with the veterancy change. It’s harder to notice the little white bar indicating veterancy, particularly when you’ve got multiple units running around.

interface1The interface changes also introduce some minor glitches. Two things I noticed in my brief play period were the manpower indicator and the sound effects for the American Medic Tent. As you can see in the shot to the right, the current manpower rate isn’t properly spaced anymore, as it runs into the +XXX figures for whatever reason. The Medic Tents make the same noise that Observation Posts do when you click on them. Random buggery, Relic-style.

Game balance
It felt pretty good to me. I know the issue that’s all the rage on GR.org is how effective the “new” units are, but as I said I can’t comment on that yet. Overall balance felt good to me, particularly in the U.S./Panzer Elite matchup. I didn’t really fight any strong players, so this impression remains tentative.

New/tweaked sound effects
On this front there’s good and bad, though more good in my opinion. The new Strafing Run sounds are a massive improvement, while the dull, punchy new Ostwind firing effect is much less intimidating than before. I haven’t really messed with the tanks yet, so no comment on that.

Look for more thoughts and a full review of Tales of Valor late next week. I should be getting the game on Tuesday or Wednesday.

No joke: Patch 2.400 a major disaster

April 4, 2009
He's really disappointed this time.

He's really disappointed this time.

I have really, really tried to give Relic/THQ the benefit of the doubt. Not just in print here at Rifles Ready!, where I’ve largely refrained from any outraged outbursts, but mentally, all the time. These geniuses made COH not only one of the best RTS games ever, but one of the best WWII games as well. Clearly something has happened at Relic. Either the geniuses are gone, replaced with significantly more incompetent people, or the geniuses have suddenly had their brains sucked out by aliens and are now retards. I guess it’s also possible that, following the established patterns of most gaming companies, now that 90% of the profits on a product have been made, there’s just about zero financial sense in supporting it vigorously. In the context of my “gaming company of geniuses” analogy, this would be like the corporate paymasters allowing the geniuses one hour a month to support COH.

A few days ago I referenced the Captain Picard facepalm with tongue firmly in cheek, celebrating April Fool’s Day. Given the laughable state of 2.400, a Picard facepalm alone is no longer sufficient.

"No words, Number One. No words for this."

"No words, Number One. No words for this."

Maybe you haven’t seen the 2.400 bug list? Well, here’s a few bile-provoking highlights:

  • Tiger crew has no speech.
  • MGs switching targets while garrisoned.
  • Gliders can be landed in Axis HQ sectors.
  • AT guns, Flak 88, Howitzers, and Nebelwerfers cannot be repaired.
  • Audio announcements (under attack, unit complete etc) are half as loud as they were, and hardly noticeable if anything is going on onscreen.
  • The capture sector audio notification mixes up fuel and ammo.
  • All vehicles (tanks, light armor and most unarmored vehicles) get stuck when moving near a Kettenkrad. The unit will not move until you order the Kettenkrad to another location.
  • Map goes black when M8 collides with building.
  • Commando artillery now drops onto the map one second after being called in.
  • Officer Artillery from the RCA British doctrine drops instantly as soon as it is used.
  • All mortar barrages can only be used in areas with line of sight, but no longer in the fog of war
  • picard_wtfHow the flying f*ck do you manage to remove audio from a unit, grant MGs free-fire abilities and prevent units from being repaired ACCIDENTALLY? How the hell is COH coded on the inside? It feels like most of these bugs could only occur if legitimate patch changes, like adjusting tank penetration and range values, were tied to ALL SORTS OF RANDOM SHIT, like audio notifications and such.

    Even if this were the case (and COH would rank as the most poorly programmed game of all time if true), there is no way bugs this significant could have been missed during QA testing. It feels fair to say there was no meaningful QA testing done on patch 2.400.

    I tried to list the most game-breaking bugs, most of which have actually been reproduced and confirmed by Relic. You can click the above link for the full list of bugs (in fairness some of them probably existed in 2.301 and a few probably are one-time flukes).

    We’re being told these bugs will be squashed quickly, with the biggest ones being fixed in patch 2.500 (to release alongside COH: Tales of Valor). Patch 2.501 will follow suit, and this will mop up whatever is left. But this is no excuse. One YEAR to release this shit? Tales of Valor is the last Relic game I’m buying. If COH2 rolls around, I’ll reconsider. But I’m done with this fucking company.

    Beta ends; 2.400 goes retail

    March 31, 2009
    Mr. La Forge, why don't we have warp speed?

    Mr. La Forge, why don't we have warp speed?

    It’s ironic Relic chose to release 2.400 to retail on the eve of April Fool’s Day. After such a long wait, many of you may be asking yourselves, “is this for real?” Indeed, GR.org pushed home this very point with its April 1 shenanigan, which features everyone’s favorite bald Starfleet officer. Let it be known that reporters are never fooled by April Fool’s Day jokes, of course.

    In fact, I’m taking this occasion to declare that Rifles Ready! has and always will be a shining beacon of light and truth — and as such I will never attempt to con you with some scandalous, obviously untrue, screamingly fake falsehood.

    In unrelated news, I just landed a date with this chick. She called and said “Corkscrew, I love your blog. I read your last Battle Report and I just about had an orgasm when I read the part about the Strafing Run and the P47 flying over the ground like an avenging angel. You are sooo poetic for a COH player. I wanna have your babies.” Seriously, she said that. I’ve got the number she called me from on my cell phone.

    Speaking of Battle Reports and the sexy A-list babes who love them, the release of 2.400 means you probably won’t wanna watch the replay of my upcoming Battle Report — it’s for a 2.301 match. Still, I plan to finishing writing it up and I’ll post it by Saturday. I already spent hours taking screen captures and editing them, so I’m not about to waste all that effort. I get the feeling most folks rarely watch the replay in full, anyway. In the future I’m considering doing a podcast-style audio that can stream on WordPress to accompany the text-and-screenshot Battle Reports. They say I have a good speaking voice, so I’ll work on this project in my spare time.

    Remember to read my reaction to key 2.400 changes in this post.

    Sepha’s blog bites the dust

    March 27, 2009

    sephaFriends, fellow Romans and countrymen — ’tis with great regret that I bring you sad tidings. Sepha’s blog, called “Sepha on Gaming,” is no more. This probably happened during my own all-too-lengthy hiatus at Rifles Ready!, but that’s neither the here nor there. Sepha continues to be active on GR.org, but it’s a great pity he won’t be sharing his own sage insights online. I am hereby extending to Sepha an opportunity to contribute to Rifles Ready! on all things COH-related (or even broader, given my own propensity to post irrelevant material, like trips to the White House). If he responds in the affirmative, you can be assured there will be much cheering, feasting and slaughtering of fatted calfs. If he regretfully declines, there is likely to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I have of course removed Sepha on Gaming from our blog roll, sadly.

    DirectX 10 vs. DirectX 9

    March 24, 2009

    With the completion of my beast-tacular new gaming rig, I thought I’d flip COH over to DirectX 10 and try out some of these crazy new graphics enhancements. You’ll all remember of course, that COH was among the first games to have DX10 support, which was added via patch update in late May 2007. Now, while I certainly enjoy having the latest and greatest PC hardware just the same as the next tech-geek, I have to admit I barely noticed a difference in the actual game.

    The first thing I did notice was the presence of little rocks and flowers — all over the place. I loaded up a replay on Angoville to find the American base looking like a rock garden had been emptied into it. You can see for yourself what I mean. Relic’s official patch changelog describes the addition of “thousands of additional litter objects.” When they said thousands, they weren’t kidding.

    The first thing you notice with DirectX 10 activated.

    The first thing you notice with DirectX 10 activated.

    Now, you guys may like all these Mars rocks scattered everywhere. I think it looks absolutely retarded. I can see a few rocks — maybe 10% or 20% of the rocks and flora that currently appear in DX 10. But it’s way too much, kinda like the two-year-old who discovers crayons for the first time. Next thing you know, crayon art is over every smooth-textured object you own. It’s just immature art direction on the part of Relic.

    Here’s a comparison shot of the strategic point by the southern base, first in DirectX 9 and then in DirectX 10. Click the images to enlarge them.

    DirectX 9, graphics settings at maximum.

    DirectX 9, graphics settings at maximum.

    Rockville McFlowerland, graphics settings at maximum

    Rockville McFlowerland, graphics settings at maximum

    I looked carefully at other aspects of COH’s graphics with DX 10 on, but I really can’t make out much, if any, differences. Not even improvements — I mean I literally find it impossible to tell them apart if I ignore the rocks, pebbles and dandelions.

    There are supposed to be numerous lighting and shadow improvements, but I can’t notice them. Here’s the full list of claims:

  • Edges of particles are softened where intersecting 3D objects
  • Thousands of additional ‘litter’ objects in the world
  • Improved user control over anti aliasing settings
  • Alpha to coverage anti aliasing to improve quality of alpha test objects such as shrubs
  • Lighting quality has improved by moving all calculations per pixel
  • More precise point light calculations
  • Point lights can now cast shadows
  • 3D short grass on the terrain
  • Vertical refresh synchronization is enabled by default to improve visual quality
  • Hardware PCF for improved shadow quality
  • If someone can defend these based on my screenshots (or the ones in the Legit Reviews article), feel free to comment. Anybody else with a DX-10-capable graphics card care to weigh in?