ECTS 2001: Global Operations update

Read about how Barking Dog's squad-based multiplayer game is shaping up now that it's just two months from completion.

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Global Operations has come along way since E3. The multiplayer-only game, which is being copublished by Crave and EA, was on display at the EA UK event timed to coincide with ECTS. The demo build we saw there looked like a good representation of the final game, which recently hit the alpha milestone and is on its way to being complete in November.

Global Operations will ship with 13 maps that vary from medium to very large in size (with a max of 24 players) and all have a unique mix of several mission goals for the counterterrorist and terrorist forces. In order to keep the emphasis on the mission goals, groups of eliminated players are periodically brought back into the game as reinforcements that arrive by helicopter. So, effective assaults play an important part in a team's overall success, but it's not enough just to hunt down the enemy. The maps are set in various hotspots around the world, and there's a unique set of player models on each map that matches the right national or terrorist uniforms for the setting and environment. You won't see arctic gear in the desert, for instance. The game's 32 weapons are available no matter which map you pick, but it hasn't been decided whether the terrorist and counterterrorist sides will be restricted in their initial purchases.

The developers have spent a lot of time modeling the look and feel of the real-world weapons. The character animations are particularly well detailed, as you'll see your thumb move to flip the mode selector between single shot, burst, and full auto, and there's an animation for flipping on the safety between switching weapons--unless the real-world weapon doesn't have a safety. The ballistics model is at least as well thought-out. The game engine supports pixel-accurate collision with objects and location enemy damage, and it calculates how much energy a bullet loses when penetrating different materials. You'll see exit marks as bullets pass through relatively thin objects, but sometimes a bullet won't have enough energy to pierce body armor if it goes on to hit an enemy hiding on on the other side of hard cover. It is possible to shoot several enemies running down a narrow corridor with a single high-caliber round, though.

Several of the mission-based components are new since we last saw the game. There's a reworked equipment selection interface that looks much cleaner, and the intelligence officer player class now has a drag-and-drop interface for watching through the minicamera that each player carries on his or her shoulder. You'll also now enter and wait onboard a helicopter with your squadmates before entering the mission. The multiplayer gamefinder is one of the elements that's still being polished. It's built on a licensed version of the GameSpy browser, and it has been completely integrated into the game's interface.

Global Operations is similar in appeal to Counter-Strike, the most popular multiplayer mod on the Internet, and Barking Dog's game takes the military shooter format to a new level of polish and sophistication. It will be interesting to see how well the five-class system and mission goals succeed in fostering teamwork. Global Operations' success will no doubt depend on how quickly a community forms around the game, but it could well be a compelling alternative to the cheating that's become rampant on public Counter-Strike servers. Global Operations should be complete in November by Crave's schedule, but it's somewhat unclear when the game will hit retail stores, as EA materials specified a February release date.

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