“Who have balance this game is a blind?”

December 15, 2010
Who have balance this game is a blind?

There's a Neville Chamberlain joke in here somewhere.

Do you like playing COHO? I’ve got one great question for you: “Who have balance this game is a blind?

This phrase has been seared across my neurons. One instant I was scanning for posts in Relic’s official COHO forums, the next I was rolling on the floor with giddy, joyful mirth.

To me this is on the level of such contemporary classics as “All your base are belong to us,” “I can has cheeseburger?” and the old RTS standby, “He’s in ur base killin ur d00dz.

This is taken from the name of a thread on Relic’s official COHO forums, in which a poster named “Suen” — one hopes desperately he is not a native English speaker — offers no reasons why the game is unbalanced. He got as good as he gave; if you read the thread he gets bashed immediately by Relic, no less.

Relic moderator “Noun” replied in this fashion: “Unlike some more basic games for new gamers where the balance is very easy and simple, because they just mirror units on each side, this is a more advanced game for fans of video games.  If you’d like to spend some time playing the game and learning how it works we’d be happy to accept your constructive feedback.  But if you’re just wanting to point out that this isn’t an easy game that’s not as helpful.”

Well, while Suen offers no more than marvelous grammatical constructs — which are a worthy addition to the enterprise of written English — I will take Noun up on his offer. You want some constructive feedback? Trust me, it’s not for a lack of balance problems with your game. Suck on this bullet-point list, buddy.

Read the rest of this entry »


On upcoming patch 2.600 and delays

June 1, 2009

Relic upgrades to honesty 2.0.

The days go rolling by...

Alright, so the Battle Report I promised has yet to materialize. There’s a couple of reasons, one of which is some kind of Fraps bug that is preventing sounds from being converted when I upload gameplay video clips to YouTube. Extremely annoying, because I had no problems with this until recently.

The second excuse is that work (real work) has been mounting, while my social life is starting to deplete my reserves of free time. I’ve also got to fly out to Denver, Colorado this coming weekend for a work-related conference. I guarantee the Battle Report will be done before I leave. Most likely I’ll post it sometime mid-week.

Meanwhile, Relic made a post on the status of retail patch 2.600 on May 20, but there hasn’t been much news since then. It’s mainly a bug patch, though the T17 is getting nerfed. Here are the highlights so far:

– Heavy Machine Guns. We will be introducing a fix to the current delay for an HMG switching windows when in a building and return proper operation for British emplacements and other units that were affected by patch 2.502.

This bug seems to affect American HMGs as well. You will notice this in the Battle Report I’ll post this week. It seems to cause the MG gunner not to relocate for as long as 7-8 seconds at a time, resulting in the MG getting slaughtered.

– Fix the Pak 38 camouflage stacking bonus modifier that increases the gun’s damage beyond the intended effect.

Pretty self-explanatory. It’s a pretty outrageous bug, but my old bones are weary from having yelled at Relic so many times for unimaginably stupid shit in the past.

– Commonly known as the ‘burst fire bug’, we will address an issue that allowed some units to ignore their weapon cooldowns.

I think this affects the Strafing Run primarily; again the Battle Report shows this off (though I think in that game, it didn’t really do anything that was ridiculously overpowered… you’ll see).

Once again, I apologize for my own delay and failure to keep promises, but real life just really seems to enjoy disrupting my time and motivation here. But fear not, sports fans — I’ll never give up on Rifles Ready! I intend to be absolutely Churchillian about keeping this blog alive. You can take that to the bank.

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.

    Relic: Patch process plagued by staff shakeups

    November 16, 2008

    Relic upgrades to honesty 2.0.

    Relic upgrades to honesty 2.0.

    Staff departures and personnel issues are responsible for COH’s lengthy beta patch process and the company’s overall lack of responsiveness for the last three months, according to a Relic official. In a remarkably honest, matter-of-fact audio interview with GR.org, “Thunder” — Relic’s community manager — reveals that the departure of key COH programmers slowed the patching process and admitted that his myriad responsibilities have limited Relic’s overall responsiveness to its fanbase. Thunder also revealed numerous tidbits about COH: Tales of Valor which I’ll sum up below.

    GR.org shoutcasters Yoink and Bawx gingerly but persistently eased the explanations out of Thunder, who sounds like an honest, simple guy answering questions with a minimum of PR spin. Why has the beta taken so long? Well, key COH staffers left Relic while others were reassigned to other projects — specifically Dawn of War II and COH: ToV. When key staffers leave, their replacements need time to get backup to speed. “There was definitely some attrition on our end,” Thunder admits,.

    What apparently doesn’t help is the massive workload Relic’s lone community manager must handle. By his own admission, Thunder is responsible for:

    – Reviewing and responding to all drophacking allegations for COH
    – Reading the forums at RelicNews, GR.org and PlanetCOH daily to answer questions and take notes on the state of the community
    – Respond to general user feedback and emails
    – Rinse and repeat for ALL OTHER RELIC GAMES

    The last item probably is responsible for tripling the guy’s responsibilities. I still don’t think that fully justifies the lack of communication (just say you’re busy, that’s better than nothing), but Thunder deserves some slack for the fact that he’s relatively new.

    Other intriguing facts about how Relic works and its future plans for COH:

    – Thunder sits in the same room as the staffers responsible for balancing COH, and communicates usually by yelling in their general direction (i.e. not via emails)
    – Thunder is a “middle man” who communicates player feedback to the programmers without injecting his own opinions
    – Relic has no special plans to push for COH’s entre into professional gaming organizations like World Cyber Games (WCG)
    – Relic is aware of the state of the community and is looking to start wrapping things up
    – Beta patch 2.506 will be the final patch that will ship to retail

    And now, the promised tidbits on COH: ToV:

    Direct fire mode is a mode allowing you to manually control a vehicle, specifically when it fires, what it fires at and how it moves
    – Direct fire mode will NOT EVER be useable against another player (i.e. solo only)
    – Confirmed: the Tiger Ace Campaign is ToV-only material
    – Confirmed: there will be new multiplayer modes (see previous coverage), though Thunder can’t explain exactly what they are

    Relic officially announces second COH expansion

    November 4, 2008

    The rumors are true!

    The rumors are true!

    Wow, has Election Day 2008 been a big news day or what? First Surprise returns, then Rifles Ready! endorses Barack Obama, and now our reporters have gotten ahold of an official press release from THQ announcing a new, standalone COH expansion pack called Tales of Valor. Rifles Ready! was one of the first sites to report the rumors of COH: ToV, but actual verifiable news of its existence, or what it was, has been nonexistent up until the unveiling of the press release yesterday.

    Here’s what we know so far:
    – ToV will be a standalone game, much like Opposing Fronts; presumably a huge patch awaits vCOH and Opposing Fronts-only players when ToV comes out, so they can see new units but not use any new armies
    – Three new single-player campaigns
    – New multiplayer modes
    – New maps and units
    – A new “direct-fire” feature that allows players “more tactical control of their units and more strategic options in-game”
    – THQ lists a release date of “spring 2009” but retailers including Amazon.com have long listed a more specific date of March 9, 2009

    Nowhere in the press release or any official material does it say there are any new armies or factions, but we believe there’s a high probability there will be new armies. Given the ripe history Relic can draw from, it’s not inconceivable to imagine the Russians being added to the Allied side and the Japanese appearing on the Axis side.

    There are no specifics on what the new units will be, aside from the press release’s generic statement that ToV will cover some of the most “historic, tide-turning clashes of World War II.”

    There’s a single canned quote from a PR official, which I excerpt here:

    “‘In Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor, we’re offering players a ton of rich, new content including more strategic options in single-player and multiplayer,’ said Tarrnie Williams, general manager, Relic Entertainment. ‘With fresh new campaigns and multiplayer modes, brand-new units, additional maps and the introduction of the ‘direct-fire’ feature, we’re once again committed to delivering the best in strategic gaming.'”

    You can view the full press release here, but it contains little information that we haven’t covered in this post. We can probably also explain why so little resources appear to have been directed to patching COH and Opposing Fronts; between developing ToV and Dawn of War II, Relic’s relatively small team has been stretched thin.

    Cheers, sports fans! Change IS coming to COH!

    Relic wants YOUR vote for beta changes

    October 13, 2008

    There’s been a lengthy three weeks of doldrums from Relic, with virtually no word on the state of the balance playtest. That ended late last week with Thunder posting a topic on GR.org, asking YOU the player for the top 3 best and worst changes made in the beta. This particular post is only four pages long after five days.

    It seems to me a strikingly somber indication of what Relic’s erratic, uncommunicative attitude toward the beta has done to player enthusiasm. I honestly miss people like Melissia (anybody remember her? The female player who spammed posts and quoted COH-Stats like it was her job?) and the constant, frenzied flame wars they ignited over a game they loved. It’s much better than stagnation, and the gradual thinning of the COH community, with talented players spending their time and energy on other RTS games (C&C 3 is a big one, to EA’s credit).

    Anyway, I’ll stop the editorial ranting. My quick skim of the post shows a good deal of overlap and agreement on what the best and worst changes were. Frequently cited best changes include nerfing of British emplacement durability, nerfing of Panzer Elite all around, and buffing of Wehrmacht tier 3 and U.S. Armor Company to boost their respective viability.  The most common worst changes tended to be much more focused on very specific issues, such as the Puma’s absurd dodge rate, Churchill being too strong at 3 CPs, Allied resource sharing still too good, and bugs like half-built tank traps stopping vehicles.

    My opinions are as follows, although I have made a clear distinction between intentional balance changes and straight-up bugs resulting from Relic’s incompetence, short-sightedness, or just unforseen interactions between game mechanics.

    Top 3 best beta changes:
    – Panzer Elite nerfed across the board. Thank you Jesus.
    – Armor Company getting buffs (could still use a little more).
    – All British nerfs.

    Worst 3 beta changes:
    – Ungarrisonable upgraded Wehrmacht Bunkers.
    – Strafing Run just about worthless now.
    – Dodge abilities of Puma.

    Top 3 bugs that must be fixed NOW:
    – Half-built tank traps trapping tanks.
    – Commando Gliders still crushing units.
    – Kettenrad acts like a compass in the Bermuda Triangle when U.S. Jeep gets close

    Relic: Beta patch 2.505 hits this week

    September 22, 2008

    It’s that time again — beta patch time, baby. I have to give Relic some credit here, they’re ramping up their COH efforts again, particularly with the 2v2 tournament for the balance beta only. Sadly I find myself too busy with work and friends to participate in the tournament myself, but this move (there’s a cash amount of unspecified value, plus Relic T-shirts!) is sure to flush some pro players out of retail and into the beta — for a few days, anyway. I’d sure love some pro’s thoughts on the balance status of the beta. Word on the street is, the Panzer Elite are fair, Americans are fair, Wehrmacht is fair, and British still too strong.

    Thoughts? If anything, the balance changes listed below ease up on the U.S. and Wehrmacht’s two strong points — though making upgraded Bunkers ungarrisonable seems like a pretty big change. I mean, how long have Medic Bunkers with MGs in them been around? Since the vanilla COH days, since day one, as a matter of fact.


    – Further optimizations & fixes to the new network code.

    – Fixed some issues with Repair Station Engineers.
    – Fixed a number of quite obscure in-game crashes.

    – Fixed incoming projectile sounds.
    – Collisions between physics objects now produce material-specific sounds. *this system is not perfect, and is meant to supplement the regular destruction audio (ie: a sound will not play for every collision, only those with a large enough velocity/mass). It’s fun to push around debris with vehicles though.
    – Some cool new stuff with Nebelwerfers.
    – Reduced volume on BAR to sit better in the mix, as well as many other smaller mix refinements.

    NOTE: Due to technical reasons, some of the audio changes listed in the last patch didn’t make it in (ie. distant arty), but they are included in this one.

    – Removed Riflemen Veterancy bonuses granted through researching grenades
    – Adjusted cost of British Glider HQ to 200 MP from 100 MP
    – Adjusted cost of American HMG Nest to 200 MP/15 Fuel from 240 MP/10 Fuel
    – Reduced cost of Firestorm to 160 munitions from 175 munitions
    – Reverted cost of Wehrmacht Panzer IV back to 80 Fuel
    – Adjusted MP40 medium range accuracy to .45
    – At Vet 2, Volksgrenadiers get a +10 sight range addition.
    – When a Wehrmacht Bunker is upgraded to Medic Bunker/MG Bunker/Repair Bunker, it can no longer be garrisoned.

    – Added Vimoutiers (6)
    – Added Compound Conflict (4)
    – Road to Montherme – Fixed the garrison problem with the upper wooden bunker near left VP
    – Road to Montherme – Replaced the lower building near right VP to balance building capacity and fix garrison/shooting problems