It's 6:27 AM on a Thursday. Not far off from Christmas and I just got done fighting a bunch of dragons in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I'm trying out the Knight Enchanter class on the hard difficulty and wow, that class truly is overpowered. At some points you don't even need a party. With a self sustaining energy barrier and the ability to deal radical amounts of damage, it's clear why this is the new "meta" for solo Nightmare runs.
I'm sitting here and I'm not even listening to the game audio. I've got my headphones hooked up to my PC and I'm listening to someone who sounds scarily like myself talk about Samurai shit from 500 years ago for reasons I don't know. And while it's entertaining, I'm not even really listening to that either. I'm deep in thought, thinking about my time with Metal Gear Online across the years and multiple games. Subsistence, and my short amount of exposure to that since I bought the game just a few short months before the servers were shut down. Guns of the Patriots, of which I put an embarrassing amount of time into. Portable Ops+ with its attempt to replicate the first MGO but being just different enough for me to not care for it(And also that control scheme sure was nightmarish). Then there's Peace Walker with a decent idea but no execution due to the sheer amount of insanely over-powered weapons making it a joke to play. Sniper-shotguns whaaaaat.
I'm thinking. I'm reminiscing. I'm reliving my past memories of Metal Gear Online. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I'm watching this video, until I remember I've actually seen this video multiple times before.
The distant sounds of soldiers screaming, the intensity of headshots pinging, the codec calls of "Go! Go! Go!", the random lag? They do not know. The nostalgic days of stealth combat action, all the times you really wanted a ration. It's the season of giving(And awkward Metal Gear Online inspired Christmas carols, apparently) and here I am waxing poetic about a dead multiplayer game from 2008... but, what do we say to the angel of death? Not. Today. Motherfucker. (That quote may not be entirely accurate). Anyway. The guys at Kojima Productions L.A. are in charge of the new Metal Gear Online (The link may not work as you must go through an age-gate) that will be included with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. From what I said about the game in my last post, it looks great for what little we've seen so far. But that's not enough, because they want feedback.
We also asked for feedback on #MGO here on our newly launched Twitter account, which now has over 4500 followers! — Metal Gear Online (@MetalGearOnline) December 6, 2014
I decided, being the MGO vet that I am, that I should help out with that.
The Ideal Metal Gear Online
The idea I have is that this MGO should be the continuation of themes and concepts from previous MGO's while improving on them with the new open-world design and mechanical advancements that they have at their disposal thanks to the awesome FOX Engine. The worry is how deep it will end up going. If you look at previous Metal Gear Online games, the options they give players did nothing but add to the depth that the gameplay allowed. You could hang, crawl, shimmy across ledges, fall-grab ledges in a pinch, hide in garbage cans, even go as far as to play dead.
You could grab them, slit their throats, disarm them in several complex ways, choke them out, punch and kick them, or pull out your knife and straight up stab at them. Barrels and boxes and the ability to both roll people over and even "charge" them with the box abilities added in from DLC's furthered the options any player could take advantage of.
You could call MGO a shooter, and you'd be right. But there was so much more there. The ideologies of MGS blurred the lines of typical shooter mechanics, such as "shoot him, stab him, kill kill kill". For example, as I mentioned in my last blog, putting enemies to sleep rewards more points than killing them. CQC-fighting them, choking them out, shooting them with tranq-darts. It went deeper than just "kill that guy and he respawns". You could be cruel to your enemies by knocking them out, stripping them of their weapons and grenades and then leave them alive. They still pose a threat what with their knife and CQC abilities.
That's just one example of the depth you could and would find so very often in Metal Gear Online. I may repeat myself a lot here, but really I say the big secret to MGO, and the reason so many people liked it is because of the options you were given. No two players would play the same. Each employed their own usage of tactics that would rely on skill, ability and luck. That is the core of Metal Gear Online. The soul. Remove that and it's gone.
So when I watch the trailer for this new Metal Gear Online, I see things and I begin to worry. Regenerating health for example. Then I think, man, it's 2014, almost 2015, are we still on the kick that regenerating health somehow degrades a game? Or makes it more "dumbed down?" I don't know. After all, you had a health bar in MGO and could only regenerate health by going into a box and staying idle. It was sometimes impractical as there was a battle raging and there you are, sitting, not contributing. But again, it was an option. That frantic moment as you hide in your box and an enemy soldier walks by, and you think "Did he see me? Does he know?" and the panic sets in. Your health isn't regenerated just yet, do you leave your box and try to brute-force it? Do you wait and see if your ruse has succeeded?
It was all afforded by the fact that you had a health bar, and not regenerating health. And so I wonder if that is just one experience lost to an innovative new addition to the game. I mean, the box does remain as a staple of the Metal Gear Solid series, so could it be that I'm just over thinking it? I must warn you that I am one of those stereotypical people that hate change. I can't stand it. My biggest fear is that MGO is almost perfect. That maybe it gets everything right but some minute and miniscule feature that I just don't like. But that's a topic for later. Going further, Konami released a press release for Metal Gear Online that just happens to mention that the game will feature a "class system". The quote in full:
KONAMI used the online event to debut the first glimpse of METAL GEAR ONLINE, which will go live alongside THE PHANTOM PAIN’s launch. METAL GEAR ONLINE represents the third iteration of the popular multiplayer game, newly redesigned with the familiar gameplay and aesthetic styling of its companion single-player campaign METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. With a focus on Tactical Team Operations, the game features a ‘class system’ that more uniquely defines the strengths and abilities of player characters on the battle field. Key characters from the series including Venom Snake and Ocelot will also make appearances in the anticipated multiplayer feature. To view the trailer, please visit: www.konami.jp/mgsv
Regenerating health could very well be me just being weird like a caveman is afraid of fire, I'm not sure, but the "class system" is something that concerns me greatly. Allow me to take a moment of self-awareness here. It's hard for me to not come off as whiny or aggressive sometimes, especially when I'm so invested and passionate about not just MGS as a whole, but MGO on an entirely different level as well. So I'm not exactly trying to "attack" these new ideas or design bases, I'm just... I don't know, thinking out loud. Which is really what this blog is about. Speaking of that, back on topic!
The beautiful thing about MGO was that it doesn't need classes. By it's very nature it is an open game for you to come in at any direction for any purpose, rhyme or reason and do what you want. Now, MGO2(The one featured in MGS4) did feature a skill system that allowed you to choose among a list of many skills and then level them up. They were skills like "Runner" which increased how fast you ran(And boy did you run slow in that game), "Assault Rifles" that decreased recoil, increased reload speed and reduced spread on all assault rifles as you leveled up. Then you had skills like CQC that could dramatically increase how fast you could knock someone out. "Knife" level 3 allowed you to slit throats, provided you had the "CQC" level 1 perk equipped.
I mean sure, there was "CQC EX" that got introduced and gave players Solid Snake level CQC, which allowed them to counter any CQC attempt from behind(Or was it from the front? I can't remember) and it also allowed them to instantly knock players out. It was intense and hard to combat, so much so that players would openly kick people for using it. But as for classes, man, I just don't know about that. I have never played MGO and then decided "Boy we could really use some assault right now!". Or "A stealth device could come in handy!" I mean, sure, it could come in handy, but the beauty(Why am I saying beauty over and over again? Yeah I have no idea myself) was that anyone could fill that role at any given time. Anyone could be stealth or assault or whatever they wanted and/or needed to be.
I would often rely on subterfuge and sneaky tactics to get behind enemies, but I did carry an M4 so I was able to mow them down when the opportunity presented itself. But then I would mix it up and go for CQC's, to knock players out for extended periods of time so we could focus on capturing objectives or holding zones, since killing them would just allow them to respawn. How does that work now? That's the question. Will different classes have access to different weapon sets, or even abilities? In this screen shot, you can see a multitude of different headgear among the soldiers. Is this just aesthetic to look super cool(Which it totally does by the way) or will it actually have a function on the battlefield?
|Still Sneaky Snake and the Funky Monkeys. Still fresh. Still Dre. Still.|
The thing that gets me the most is the inclusion of stealth camo for multiplayer. Early in the trailer, you could see a soldier going invisible and then choking out another soldier. The logical reaction would be "But wouldn't this just be spammed until it's the only thing used?" much like "Ghost" in Call of Duty Black Ops II, a perk that made you hidden to the various methods of displaying you on enemy radar's. After all, stealth camo was only available in specific modes in the other MGO's, most notably in Team Sneaking(Which was arguably the best multiplayer mode in existence).
My fear is that I'll be playing and maybe I'm killed by someone using stealth camo and so I react with "Well then I'll wear stealth camo!" and the circle of stealth camo goes on and on. Much like in The Last of Us, when someone brings out the all-mighty Bow, which incites everyone to pull out their own Bow class on the logic of "It's so overpowered that by not using a bow of my own I'm at a grave disadvantage!" I just hope they make sure these things are useful but not overpowered.
I am interested in the freedom of movement that MGSV allows will carry over to MGO, with players being able to climb into more advantageous positions and navigate the battlefield more accurately than ever before. Say what you will about the older MGO games, but you weren't really able to climb freely. You were bound pretty harshly to climb only waist high boxes and ladders. That restriction has been removed and it takes one step to opening up the gameplay into interesting directions. That's one thing I'm totally in favor of. Freedom of movement is always great.
It's really exciting to think about the situations we can expect with the idea that anyone could be hanging around anywhere(Within reason, of course). One thing that's on my mind are how will vehicles come into play? In the trailer we can see a truck but the question is: Can someone just jump right on in and start driving? What can we expect from that? It's not known if you can shoot out of vehicles in MGO or even The Phantom Pain, but you couldn't in Ground Zeroes. Perhaps your companions can shoot from the back or even the passenger seats to provide cover? Interesting questions and I'm very excited to learn more. Also, who doesn't love running people over? It's hilarious! "Stealth action this!" as you ram Snake with a jeep. Haha, yeah, take it Snake.
Bulletpoints! (Bang bang!)
So I've made this huge blog, like I always do, and I rambled, and I'm subconcious of my writing so I'm always afraid that I wasn't able to proficiently discuss what I intended, but let's finish this up with what I think Metal Gear Online can do without.
- Awkward invincibility frames after getting shot. In MGO's of old, when you get shot, you actually enter a momentary i-frame stasis that allows other bullets to pass through you. It was never explained why this happened, but it was certainly the bane of my existence during certain exchanges where I'm shooting through someone, not quite managing to pull off the headshot that I need to save my life. Just look in the video I provided above, it features someone getting shot and some bullets just pass right through. Not cool.
- LAG. Seriously. MGO was peer-to-peer which means you could play with some downright janky people. People could also use this to their advantage and lag-switch. It was not cool and not handled with enough care to actually make any progress. I would very much enjoy some actual servers to ensure lag-switching and other terrible instances of getting shot by ghosts because on their screen they are standing right in front of you, but on yours they are way off in the distance. Also not cool.
- Box popping. It was the worst. Box popping, for those who aren't into the MGO mythos, is when someone rapidly equips and unequips a cardboard box while also aiming and shooting their gun. When you equip and unequip a box, you enter a series of i-frames that allows you to basically avoid all damage and continue dishing it out yourself. It didn't make much sense and it got really annoying as people were able to, in most cases, walk right through firefights without taking a hit. Because not only are they making themselves a smaller target by entering the box, they gain temporary invincibility. Some would argue it is a legit strategy, I would argue it was one of MGO's many flaws.
- No more weird point reward system locking off customization options. When MGO rolled out the rewards store, everyone was filled with the purest of hype. It allowed us to finally customize our soldiers and make them truly our own. The problem was the only way to get points was to spend forever in auto-matching or join weekly tournaments in which you were set up against other teams for the ultimate reward: Reward points. It was a fantastic idea that was executed on well enough, but the problem was the lack of reward points given. With the prices of items going as high as 50,000 reward points, getting 25 points for winning a match just doesn't cut it. Sure, it's good to have goals, but there are better ways to go about it. And judging from the trailer, this new Metal Gear Online will feature a lot of character customization.(Awesome customization too). Let's just hope they are reasonable to obtain with many options(Colors, camos).
- No region locking. Seriously. I have friends from all over the world that I never got to play MGO with because the servers were region locked. The communities were fragmented from the very beginning because of this and it was a severe letdown. It's 2014, let's do away with region locked servers and let us play with all of our friends. That's the way of the future.
Okay, well those bulletpoints look fucked up. God damnit if I can't do anything right. Well, anyway, I should say that while Kojima Productions L.A. are the new kid on the block, I have the utmost faith that no matter what they do, they will reinvigorate Metal Gear Online with new ideas and design philosophies. I mean, just look at these guys.
The team who manned each trailer character on screen wear many hats at KJP-LA. We took a moment to capture a few #MGO pic.twitter.com/GM7wFCptOR
— Metal Gear Online (@MetalGearOnline) December 11, 2014
They got shit under lock and key.