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Review - EA Sports NHL Legacy Edition

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It was 1994, and my buddy and I were looking for games we could play together. At the time, that meant DOS games running on a PC. Neither of us particularly enjoyed playing against each other, so we were trying to find games that could be played cooperatively. We invented cooperative modes of play in turn-based strategy games like Panzer General and Warlords II. We hot-seated single-player games like Duke Nukem. But that killer cooperative game remained elusive.

When we discovered that EA's NHL '94 could be played cooperatively, it was a revelation, and began a never-ending quest to find more great cooperative games.

Many single-computer sports games are uniquely positioned to provide a multiplayer experience, since there's typically only one view (an arena or stadium, or the portion of it where the action is currently taking place), and all players are almost always visible. All that's required is support for multiple controllers, and an understanding on the part of the developers - that cooperative play is worthwhile.

EA's NHL '94 was a lot of fun to play cooperatively. We quickly learned how to work together: one player digging the puck out of the corner while the other fought to stay in scoring position in front of the net, waiting for that perfect pass. Sure, the graphics were crude, and the audio limited, but the overall experience was a blast. EA also understood the value of having real NHL players in the game, and licensed the use of their names. Roster updates were provided by EA for free. Epic, weekly sessions ensued.

We also discovered that we could play cooperatively with as many as four people, and eventually started doing that as often as possible, although it could sometimes get a bit crazy. Still, four people around a single computer, bashing away on their controllers, with excited yells as we scored, high-fives all around, are some of my fondest gaming memories.

The EA NHL game changed over the years: the visuals and audio improved with available technology. Platforms were added, and we shifted from DOS to Windows, then eventually to consoles. We switched from joysticks to gamepads, then to console controllers. Features were added and removed, sometimes seemingly at random; some of the best features appeared appeared only once, such as individual user stats. Indeed, we started to notice early on that EA seemed to be starting from scratch each year, with the result always having better graphics, but with various aspects of gameplay either improving or actually getting worse. It became a running joke to wonder whether each year's game would actually be an improvement over the previous year. One year, the EA game was so terrible that we played the 2K NHL game instead.

Along the way, LAN and Internet gaming became possible as well. Until recently, we never found it necessary to use any of the network-based multiplayer modes, because we were always able to get together in the same place and play on one computer or console. Now, sadly, that's changed. We live in different cities, and our living situations (and health) aren't necessarily conducive to loud, beer-fueled, all-night hockey sessions.

Okay, so what about online gaming? Sure, it's not going to be quite as much fun as being in the same room; virtual high-fives just aren't the same. But at least we'd still be able to play, right? Not so fast.

There are several major hurdles to getting two or more people connected to play online. First, they all need their own computer or console, and they have to be the SAME KIND of computer or console. For PC gaming, that means a graphics card, which adds several hundred dollars to the price of a PC. Each PC would need to be able to run the most recent game, so the CPU and RAM specs needed to be current. Of course, consoles get around that problem, as long as everyone has the same make and model. Still, the expense involved in everyone having up to date hardware made this difficult.

But there are more hurdles to playing online. Everyone would also need to buy their own copy of the game. Since we always wanted to play the most recent edition, that meant everyone would have to shell out $60+ every year. For many of us, this was just too expensive to consider. Keep in mind that this was never an issue when we were huddled around a single computer or console; only one copy was required.

And so our epic hockey sessions gradually reduced in frequency, then stopped happening completely. Sad faces all around.

But that's not the end of the story. A few weeks ago, while commiserating with one of my hockey buddies, he proposed a solution: he would buy an XBox 360 (the same console I currently own), and we would both purchase the most recent EA NHL game we could find that still runs on the 360. We quickly determined that our best bet was EA Sports NHL Legacy Edition, which was released in 2015.

And it works. We're able to play cooperatively online. But there are some serious limitations. YES, there are good reasons for these limitations, but they only apply to competitive, human vs. human games where the players aren't actually friends.

What we've lost in going online with EA NHL Legacy Edition

  • No way to pause the game. Have to pee? Hold it until the end of the game! Need to get another beer? Sorry, you have to wait. Girlfriend called? Send her to voicemail. Pizza arrived? Let it get cold.
  • No way to change controller settings during a game. Using the wrong scheme? Too bad; suffer with it or cancel the game and start over.
  • No way to choose player colour. Used to being blue? Sorry, you're stuck being the almost-invisible yellow.
  • No way to remove yourself from a game, or join one in progress.
  • Replays are automatic and un-skippable. There's no way to stop play and manually check a replay to see what just happened.
  • Most gameplay settings are simply unavailable. In the local multiplayer game, you can tweak gameplay in numerous ways, to make the game more fun. In the past, we adjusted these settings frequently, gradually ramping up the difficulty as we got better. Being able to adjust game speed, pass speed, pass accuracy, pass interceptions, and automatic shot aim all made the game a lot more enjoyable, especially when a particular edition had gameplay bugs. Playing Legacy online, there's a single difficulty setting and that's about it, and even that is limited to GM mode.

Is there a solution?

Here's a suggestion for EA: add a 'couch experience' option for multiplayer modes. Show a big red warning message if you must, but please let us experience the game without all these restrictions. Open leagues and games would never use this option, because doing so would be untenable when the participants don't even know each other: the result would be both unfair and awkward. But for those of us who are used to playing cooperatively with good friends, it would be wonderful.

Your move, EA.

Sega shows Nintendo how to relate to fans

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While Nintendo continues to treat its biggest fans like criminals, competitor Sega recognizes the value of fan goodwill and free promotion, and embraces fan projects.

One of the people involved in developing a 3D Sonic game called Green Hill Paradise Act 2 was nicely surprised when a Sega representative saw a review and stopped by in the comments to give an official thumbs-up.

One can easily image Sega's lawyers going apoplectic as their advice (to sue, sue, sue) goes unheeded. Perhaps those lawyers can find employement at more litigious and fan-hostile companies - like Nintendo.

Nintendo wields copyright hammer: damages self

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In a beautiful demonstration of how not to run a company, Nintendo once again loses fans and public good will by issuing a DMCA complaint against the developers of an hours-old game, developed as part of the Ludum Dare competition.

No Mario's Sky (the title a play on the recently-released No Man's Sky and the classic Mario games), is a game about “exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated universe.” The main character in the game is clearly Mario of the Nintendo games. This was enough to wake up the lawyers at Nintendo, and they did what comes naturally to people locked in their dark, nasty little copyright-is-all reality, issuing the DMCA complaint and warning the developers to cease and desist.

But the people behind No Mario's Sky, a group called ASMB, were clearly ready for this move; they immediately changed the game's main character, and re-released the game as DMCA's Sky (hee hee). They also withdrew the game from the Ludum Dare competition.

Let's look at the score card for this incident:

ASMB: received plenty of support and publicity, with very little effort. Had to withdraw their entry from Ludum Dare, but the extra publicity more than makes up for this.

Nintendo: had an opportunity to win fans with no actual downside (since the idea that this game could somehow dilute their brand is simply laughable). Instead, lost even more fans and the positive publicity that comes with not being a bunch of corporate dicks.

Reminder: Nintendo hates you

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If you love Nintendo and their games, it's a good idea to remember that they don't reciprocate. The more you love them, the more they want to hurt you.

The latest demonstration of Nintendo's loathing for its most ardent fans: they shut down a fan remake of the twenty-five year old game Metroid II: The Return of Samus called AM2R.

The people behind AM2R have been working on this labour of love since 2012. Just as it was about to be released, Nintendo decided to shut it down, citing completely bogus trademark issues.

Minecraft 1.10.2 released

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Minecraft 1.10.2 was released within a few hours of 1.10.1 on June 22. According to Mojang, it fixes a single bug that was causing crashing problems for some users. The JDRGaming server is now running Minecraft 1.10.2.

Minecraft 1.10.1 released

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Minecraft 1.10.1, released earlier today, addresses several bugs that were apparently introduced in version 1.10.

The JDRGaming Minecraft page has been updated with the latest information, and the JDRGaming Minecraft server is running 1.10.1.

JDRGaming BF2 server now running FH2 version 2.52

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The FH2 development team released FH2 version 2.52 on June 16.

Changes in FH2 2.52:

  • balance changes made to several maps
  • aircraft sound balance improved
  • Tellermine 43 added
  • Binoculars and some tanks and anti-tank guns have had their mis-aligned crosshairs fixed
  • improvements to AI driving, including better pathfinding and negotiation of smaller obstacles
  • AI-controlled aircraft bomb deadliness has been reduced
  • Static AA guns now follow air targets better
  • Improved handling of handheld AT explosives, especially the ones that explode on impact (e.g., the Italian AT grenade)
  • Bardia: fixed broken push mode, general gameplay tweaks
  • Operation Hyacinth: fixed flare spamming by bots, better (more steady and continuous) "firing" of the spotlights
  • Operation Totalize: general gameplay tweaks

The JDRGaming BF2 server is now running FH2 2.52. You'll need to install the FH2 2.52 client to play on the JDRGaming server.

The FH2 client launcher should automatically detect the new version and offer to download it.

As always, please let me know if you encounter any problems.

A Lament for the LAN Party

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Multi-player gaming these days almost always involves playing against (and only occasionally with) strangers on the Internet. But there was a time, starting in the nineties, when multi-player meant getting together with friends and their computers in the same room. Like co-operative multi-player gaming, LAN parties are largely disappearing. Why bother schlepping around your PC, when you can connect with other players via the Internet? RockPaperShotgun takes a retrospective look at the LAN party phenomenon.

Minecraft 1.10 released

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Minecraft 1.10 was released yesterday. Here's the list of changes from the announcement:

  • Many bug fixes
  • Added Polar Bear
  • Added Husk and Stray
  • An auto-jump option
  • Improvements to some commands
  • Structure blocks for custom maps
  • Underground fossils made from bone blocks
  • Added Magma Block
  • Added Nether Wart Block and Red Nether Bricks
  • Some huge mushrooms can be even larger
  • A rare chance to find lonely trees in plains
  • Find abandoned mineshafts filled with gold in mesa biomes
  • Villages generate better paths between the buildings
  • More variations of villages, based on the biomes they are built in
  • Endermen have been spotted in the Nether

The JDRGaming Minecraft server is now running version 1.10.

JDRGaming BF2 server now running additional FH2 maps

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The FH2: 2.5 COOP Map Pack is an attempt to make the new Eastern Front FH2 2.51 maps work in co-op mode. Sadly, none of the four Eastern Front maps works properly with a dedicated server, but the pack also includes a co-op version of Pegasus Bridge, and that map works fine on the JDRGaming dedicated server. I've added the 64 player version of Pegasus Bridge to the map rotation. To play the map, you need to download and install the pack to your BF2 FH2 mod folder. You can find the pack on this site's Files and Downloads page as well.

The FH2: Forgotten Maps Pack is a collection of maps from other mods that have been modified to support co-op play and work with the FH2 mod. About half of the 20 maps work with the JDRGaming BF2 server, and I've added those to the map rotation. The new maps are Operation Aberdeen, Siege of Tobruk Night v3, Mersa Matruh Coop, El Agheila, Sidi Muftah, Fort Capuzzo, Argentan, Carentan, Advance on Foy, Malmedy (Operation Greif), and Operation Nordwind. To play these new maps, you need to download and install four packages to your BF2 FH2 mod folder. You can also find the required files on this site's Files and Downloads page.

UPDATE: a play tester discovered the problem with several of the non-working Forgotten Maps (thanks, Andrew!) The following maps are now working as well: Beda Fomm, Bloody Gulch, Juin 44, Longues sur Mer, and Orscholtz Switch.

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