Been thinking of branching back out into some non-tabletop related gaming posts, and this seems like the perfect place to start:
Call of Duty: BlackOps was a game I was reluctant to pick up. I loved COD4: Modern Warfare. I also enjoyed Modern Warfare 2, but was really really really let down by the multiplayer. For the brief stint I had it on the PS3, it was fine. But I traded it in to grab the PC version to go run and gun with my guildies/clanmates over in [PIG], and due to the server-less setup organizing a game night was a real shitter. And I’m sorry, I play COD for the Multiplayer.
What lead to me picking up BlackOps was simply that I traded in a few of my PS3 games, originally wanting to get the new Goldeneye for the Wii, but a friend of mine managed to dig out the last copy of the PC version of COD:BO in their store. Ah, hell, why not?
The first night playing (launch night) was an abomination. This is my exact, unedited forum post giving my first impression:
“So far, this is an abortion. Horrible fucking sound stutter, the controls feel like I’m in a sponge straight jacket, and even dropping it to the lowest settings and resolutions isn’t fucking make it run better. It looks good, but holy fucking shit guys this plays like the main character is using one hand to masturbate, shot himself in the left foot, and is drunkenly trying to fight his way out of these situations involving zerg rushes of enemies and explosions for no reason.”
Pretty damn harsh. And it’s funny that a week later, I’m fucking hooked on this game.
A Return to “The Old Days”:
Remember the early 90’s, where the simple act of getting a game to play on your PC ended up being a crash course on learning how to configure your software? Well, that’s kind of what Black Ops has done for me. In order to get the game to run good on my gaming rig (which, by the way, is far from outdated…) I had to crack open the multiplayer config file with Notepad++ and manually tell the damn thing that I had a multicore processor, that I had 4 gigs of RAM, and some other silly little changes and tweaks. None of these were available in-game with any kind of menu or toggle.
As soon as I did that, the game went from stuttery abortion to blazing bad-assery. If you suffer from these problems in singleplayer and multiplayer, this page helped me out a lot.
My Unfortunate Dilemma:
There is still, however, one problem that is plaguing me with the game: The Server Browser. Anytime I refresh the server list in multiplayer, it bogs down my whole home network and even disconnects everyone else who is
on it from the web. As soon as I’m in-game, it loosens up and gradually everyone can get back on. It annoys the piss out of me that my network can handle my fiancee and myself playing MMORPGs, streaming Pandora stations and watching Netflix on my PS3 all at the same time, but the single act of refreshing a COD:BO serverlist crashes the whole thing.
I’ve tried countless fixes. I’ve flashed my router’s firmware and installed DD-WRT to attempt to restrict the maximum number of IP port connections. This didn’t fix the problem, just made things screw up quicker.
What I’ve monitored is that the BlackOps server list reaches out and grabs as much connections as it can. With a default limit of 4096 ports on my router, 2 PC’s on the network barely scraped ~200 connections just browsing the web and such. BlackOps managed to hit 4000 ports in a minute. I’ve actually tried changing the max number of ports on my router from 4096 to about 16,000 (since I noticed it barely broke a sweat when it got capped out) and as it approached 4K port connections, the network still crumbled. I ultimately hooked myself up directly to my DSL modem, and got similar results. So, I’m guessing my modem is the choke point?
Even funnier, though, was the correspondence with Activision’s tech support. I’ve described every step of my endeavor to them, including the new firmware on my router and monitoring the connections. Their responses included such great hits as “Reset the Router and the Modem for 30 seconds” and “Disable any Anti-Virus you have going.” You’re right, guys, I totally forgot to reset my router FUCKING FLASHING THE FIRMWARE ON IT. Fuck, I even mentioned it twice before they recommended it, that I did cycle my router and modems regularly trying to work on this.
I finally said “Look, your damn server browser is gobbling all of the bandwidth. Could you at least tell me a way to limit the amount of connections it tries? A way to throttle it on my end?”
Official response: Unfortunately there is no way to limit the amount of pinging that is performed on the master server list. Do you use any anti-virus/firewall programs on your PC? Go ahead and shut off your router/modem for about 30 seconds, now turn your router back on and try the game again. This will help with your issue if the router/modem is becoming clogged with data.
The Good with the Bad:
Aside from this issue, the game is damn beautiful. I’m loving the singleplayer story, which feels very Manchurian Candidate-esque. You’re going to be fighting over a wide period of time, from the end of WWII to the later parts of the Cold War in covert operations. All of this told via flashbacks which hop around the time line pretty well.
The multiplayer is a hoot, and I’m glad Treyarch brought the private server format back. Unfortunately, all of the dedicated servers are ran exclusively through GameServers, so we’re unable to keep our own dedicated one up unless we shell out for the service. That said, we’ve had little trouble having someone hosting a match and all of us gathering to play. In the case of my Server List issues, I mostly just wait for when my significant other isn’t online to hop on without fear of kicking her off. Even when she is on, I’m able to bypass the server list by joining friends via their Playercards.
Honestly, this has the potential to be on par with the first Modern Warfare. I actually feel invested in the storyline of the singleplayer, and multiplayer is a hoot despite my one issue. But it appears Treyarch and Activision are trying to remedy the problem. Friday night, a patch hit that did some work and tweaks to the server list. It, unfortunately, hasn’t solved my issue but it did make it “not as bad.” I’m hoping they continue to polish this one up.