After playing stacks of Rocket Arena 3, and having just as many fights on #ausgamers
about it, I thought I might post a quick overview of my impressions of it - mainly to have a whinge, but also because I'd like to get some idea about what it is that people find so intriguing about it that we can have two full RA3 servers almost 24/7. This is mainly from my experiences in playing Clan Arena; duels have never really interested me so I haven't played much 1v1 RA.
Now, I am by no means any good at this game (although I'm better
than Gobo), but at least I can point a gun and shoot people with it (occaisionally, and if its a railgun). I find though that my playing style, which mainly consists of running around mindlessly and just shooting, is rather cruelly smashed down by people's tendencies to play in a much more defensive manner - I guess the thought of dying and having to sit out the rest of the round discourages too much activity. This really wouldn't bother me too much if it meant a lot of games didn't wind up being 1v1, and the final two players stalking each other in those giant arenas - walking and ducking in and out, and running away at the first sign of the other player.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen the "arena" (for want of a better word) shrink in size when it got down to 1v1 to speed up the last bit of gameplay (the Klingon duel anthem thingy should also get played in the background). This sort of behaviour is partly encouraged by the near total lack of teamplay that usually occurs in online games. Not being a CounterStrike afficionado, I'm not sure if something similar happens in CS (comments CS players?). Every now and then, I see someone team up with someone else and wander around together, and that's always great when some real teamplay occurs, but events like that are pretty rare and far between. The games tend to end up as free for alls in which you can only hurt half the players in the level.
One of my major gripes is the rocket jumping that occurs - the first thing everyone does on level join is vote away self-damage so they can bound around the levels like kangaroos on acid. Now, I have no problem with rocket jumping, but unless there is some sort of penalty, its sort of stupid. At _least_ armour damage, although I think it should be health damage as well. This way, you have respect for the rocket jump - its not abused to the point of players doing nothing but describing parabolic arcs with their body as they sail through the air. On a similar note, it would be good to see falling damage stop getting voted off (incidentally, I think its just been forced on on the QGL servers, hah!). Again, a matter of respect; players shouldn't be jumping off giant ledges as if they were nothing; they should learn to fear such falls and only make them when absolutely critical. On the plus side, it has the great advantage of being a game that you can jump into pretty much instantly and have a game.
The overall design of the RA3 package is great; the ability to have multiple arenas within a single level is an awesome idea and makes for some good in-game variety. The integrated mp3 player and IRC client are a good idea, obviously there to try and distract players whilst they are waiting their turn before the next round starts. Additionally, the fact that you start with all the weapons is a good thing, perhaps appealing more to the newbie players that might get stuck at the start of a level whilst trying to figure out where all the weapons are.
Anything that encourages more players to enter the fray is a Good Thing. I think I'd enjoy it a lot more on a LAN, where I'm playing a proper clan game, with people working together (CTF style) to try and beat the other clan - not just kill all the other players. I enjoy playing it every now and then in the more open (arena-like) levels; I guess mainly because I like the railgun, but also because I find those levels are a bit simpler and its a bit easier to keep track of the way the round is flowing (ie, where your team members are, where the enemy players are, etc).
I'm sure this post will generate some slaw from the RA3 lovers (it sure did on IRC). It would be great to see some constructive thoughts about why people like the game so much. Anyway, I'll still be playing it, because it looks like its sucked all the players from the CTF community, dammit.