Mobile games the HC community is involved in, and why you should be as well

May 5, 2015

One of the major aspects we originally loved about MMOs is that they got updated, which was somewhat unique to the genre. In 2015 that is no longer the case, with just about every genre having at least a few examples of games with regular support. This means if you played a game at launch, coming back to it later might result in a much different experience, one that is hopefully much improved.

This is certainly the case with Clash of Clans (CoC) and Boom Beach (BB), and something that I hope happens regularly with DomiNations (DN?).

The biggest and IMO most important addition to CoC have been clan wars, as they provide a solid ‘end-game’ activity that is available shortly after you start playing, but that lasts and evolves in complexity, right up to maxing everything out and executing top-level TH10 attacks. With the end-game established and sustainable, updates can focus on tweaks or expanding options, such as new troops or defenses. IMO CoC is in a great spot right now, and doesn’t feature any major design flaws or glaring problems that SuperCell needs to address. I think it’s easily the best mobile game out, and if you haven’t given it a real shot, you are missing out big time.

BB is similar to CoC in the basic concept (build base, attack other bases with troops, upgrade stuff), but has a lot of design tweaks that, beyond the surface, really don’t give it that “CoC-clone” feel. I think BB is far less a clone of CoC than, say, LotRO is of WoW. One of the major differences is that BB has more of a PvE focus compared to the mostly PvP-focus of CoC. You can still attack and be attacked by other players, but the ‘end-game’ is working as a group on very tough PvE bases, and hitting random PvE bases is a constant, more consistent focus.

The big flaw BB had was that being too active resulted in your medal count going up, which exposed you to higher-level players who could attack you for easy loot. This made upgrading very difficult, since you in turn had a tough time hitting players with far more advanced bases. This flaw still somewhat exists, but has been reduced greatly in a number of ways.

First, hitting just the PvE bases that spawn don’t increase your medal count greatly, as usually you only get one medal for a win, and you lose a medal when a new enemy base spawns. 10% (I believe) of the time you will get a second medal, so slowly you will go up, but this is balanced out by the fact that every time you are attacked, you lose a medal.

Second, and more importantly, the latest update will add more PvE events, including one that attacks your base and how well you defend determines your reward. BB is surprisingly fun as a PvE game, especially the group-based stuff, so more focus on this is great. If you tried BB but got frustrated by the “don’t play to do well” aspect, give it another go once this next update is live.

Finally, DN is the newest game I’ve tried of this type, and I like a lot of its basics. It’s more similar to CoC than BB in that it’s pretty heavy on the PvP focus (hitting other players for loot), but differs from CoC in that it allows a good bit of specialization and different game systems. Right at the start you have to pick one of four wonders, each with a different bonus. A bit later, you then pick a nation (Japan, China, France, etc), which gives you access to a unique unit and architecture style. Still further you pick more wonders, and I’m sure more stuff later on (I’m only at the 4th (Classical) age right now). Once a choice is made, it appears to be permanent, which is both perhaps frustrating in that “I picked the ‘wrong’ one”, but I also like because it means you customize your base/army to feature certain strengths/benefits, something that doesn’t exist in either CoC or BB.

DN also has a lot of either new systems (buildings that spawn defending troops in waves) or tweaks to something similar that CoC does (hunting animals around your base is like resource gathering, but is more on-demand and frequent, with various builder requirements), and so far I like the changes and think they provide a lot of depth and interesting decisions to make. It does feel more like a CoC-clone than BB, but I think it’s different enough that playing both doesn’t feel like doing the same thing with a different set of graphics.

The major flaw for DN right now is the lack of end-game. It’s basically pre-Clan Wars CoC; you upgrade your base to better attack/defend, and you attack to get more resources for upgrades, but other than maxing everything out, there is no greater ‘point’. The game already has alliances (clans), so I hope alliance wars are added in a future update soon. The game itself is fairly new, and CoC went over a year without Clan Wars, but still, this or something else is greatly needed.

This blog community has groups in all three games. For CoC you need to be a non-rushed TH7 to join, and we only have two spots open right now. No requirements to join in BB or DN, both with plenty of room. CoC group is “Surpreme Cream!”, BB and DN we are “Hardcore Casual”. Disable the language filter in DN to find us.


GTA: Real GTA

May 4, 2015

Guessing you have seen this already as its being linked all over the place, but just in case, this video of GTA using real people and a drone as the camera is A+ work.


Crowfall: The words on paper still sound good

May 1, 2015

Latest updated here, talking about the Eternal (personal) kingdom. I like everything presented, although I think the real make or break aspect of this is going to be how beneficial it is to join someones EK vs just building up your own. If its easy to build your own, or not really beneficial to join someone who is further along or has put more time/effort into it, I don’t think a lot of the social and ‘live together’ goals are going to really work, which then undermines the taxation and all of that.

The big missing piece of info for me with Crowfall is the PvE. I think even in a heavily PvP-focused MMO, PvE is very important, and not just what monsters you can kill, but how loot works, how difficulty works, all of that. Hopefully that update is coming soon.


FFXIV: Should I be worried about the expansion?

April 29, 2015

Quick concern here; currently I’m lvl 35 in FFXIV, and odds aren’t great that I’ll have time to hit 50 and do most of the end-game stuff in the game before the expansion hits. From those who are 50 and have been following the expansion news, is this something to worry about?

My main concern is that once the expansion hits, finding groups for the older content will become impossible or require super-long queues, and that any progress or systems at the current level cap will become obsolete due to the level increase (basically what happens in most other themeparks when they soft reset via cap increase). Again, based on current info available, is this going to be the case or does SquareEnix have something in place to not repeat this common mistake of the themepark model?


More Steam mod talk, including Gabe comments

April 27, 2015

And the “Steam selling mods” debate rages on. Good times, around what is honestly a great topic and, IMO, a major shift in gaming overall. And just to be very clear, I am 100% for this shift, as I think it will greatly improve gaming once some of the kinks are worked out, and I trust Valve that they will work them out.

This video is a nice quick update, including forum statements made by Gabe from Valve. Also more statements here on a Reddit AMA, including that the 75% cut from mods on Skyrim was set by Bethesda, not Valve, and that other devs can set the pay rate differently.

Already the process has changed that you can ‘sell’ a mod for zero, and then have a donation option where someone can select what they want to pay. Also from the video you will note that the most popular Skyrim mod, SkyUI, is getting an update thanks 100% because of this change, which is proof that this is already working in terms of getting more of the stuff we want and giving mod makers the motivation to keep going or return.

The other side of this is all of the freeloaders bitching and being children in comments sections because they can no longer get everything they want for free. Honestly these people are the absolute worst, and are a major reason why I overall despise F2P; the paywall with something not being free helps keep them out, and I’m glad for that if nothing else.

Ultimately I think we will see more examples like the SkyUI team coming back; we are going to have modders be motivated to keep going, and I think we will also see the natural growth of mod teams around successful ideas. For instance, I think the greatest mod I’ve ever played is Prophecy of Pendor for Mount and Blade. It is, quite literally, a better game with better systems than 95% of all professional games IMO (and is the game I’ve spent more time with than any other game, period), and it always drove me nuts that all of that work was given away for free, and that support/work on the mod would come and go. If PoP was on Steam for a price of $10 or so, I think not only would the mod still be supported today, it would likely have a much bigger team and be a much better mod than it is today. For $10, that is such a crazy bargain, and one that wasn’t possible prior to Valve making this change.

I also think this will be a major change in gaming much like Kickstarter has already shifted gaming, giving us gems like Pillars, Divinity, and plenty of other games that would have never happened without it. Again lets take Mount and Blade, a game with awesome mod support. Imagine if selling mods had been around when the game was released. How much money would the original developers have made off mod sales vs what little they still make off the sale of the original game for $5-10? How much better would Mount and Blade be with that increased support? How much better would the modding tools be? Would we already have the next game, Bannerlord, finished and delivered with a larger budget than what it has now?

This change would also lead to more products like Mount and Blade; where the original game is good, but the true value in the software is the mod tools it provides. Now that top-shelf mods can be sold on a solid platform like Steam, its reasonable to assume we will see more stuff like this, and again, basically everyone benefits. More games, more creativity, more flexibility, and lower reliance on a major publisher and the need for VC money. Sure, we aren’t going to see anything on the scale of a GTA V, but not everything needs to be that, and as good as that game is in large part thanks to its mega budget, I’ll still ultimately have far more hours played on M&B PoP than I will in GTA V, so what really is more ‘valuable’ to me? Or to you?


CoC: TH8.5 strategy writeup

April 24, 2015

(Written by Delpez)

TH8.5

Since we have a number of players on the brink of TH9, I thought I’ll share my experiences as a new TH9, especially the upgrade system known as 8.5.

A while ago we ran into a complete mismatch against a clan called War & Glory – compared to us they had a ridiculous number of TH9’s with very powerful attacks. It turned out the mismatch was orchestrated by manipulating the matchmaker. Defence carries a higher rating than offence, so by focusing on offensive upgrades first the clan gets matched against weaker opponents. This is especially noticeable at TH9, and bases that follow this philosophy are referred to as TH8.5 (TH8 defence with TH9 offense). Ever since hitting TH9 I’ve also been following this system, not to manipulate war rankings but because I find attacking more satisfying than defending. This method gives you access to powerful TH9 attacks earlier, which suits my playstyle to a tee.

The strategy can be roughly divided into three stages: offense, existing defences and new defences. Although the system I’m discussing is based upon War & Glory’s strategy (I did make some changes), it’s pretty common for serious war clans. Note that the upgrade sequence within a stage is not that important, although the first four are pretty non-negotiable:

Stage 1:

Laboratory

Clan Castle

Archer Queen Altar

Spell Factory

New Air Defence (level 6)

Army Camps

New Walls (level 8)

New Traps (same level as existing traps)

Dark Elixir Drills (at least level 4)

New Hidden Tesla (level 6)

First Dark Elixir Barrack (level 6)

Archer Queen (level 10)

New Gold & Elixir Storages (level 11)

Barbarian King (any upgrade a bonus)

Traps (dump excess gold)

Stage 2

Archer Queen (at least level 15)

Barbarian King (at least level 15)

All traps (maximum level)

Walls (start level 9)

Dark Elixir Drills (level 6)

Air Defences (level 7)

Hidden Teslas (level 7)

Second Dark Elixir Barrack (level 6)

Existing Wizard Towers (level 7)

Existing Mortars (level 7)

Existing Archer Towers (level 11)

Existing Cannons (Level 11)

Dark Elixir Storage (level 5)

Stage 3

Build and max X-Bows

Build and max Wizard Tower

Build and max Archer Tower

Max King and Queen

Walls (dump excess elixir and gold)

Laboratory upgrades depend on your war and farming strategies, as well as dark and normal elixir availability. I’ve done archers and barbarians first to speed up farming, after which I’ll focus on war troops (balloons, hogs, golems etc.) Currently I’m about three-quarters through with Stage 1, and by far the biggest issue is elixir availability. Troop upgrades are ridiculous at TH9 (6 million elixir is typical), and most stage 1 structural upgrades also require elixir. Combine this with very few gold sinks and it’s quite hard to keep your builders occupied. The upshot is that you’ll be swimming in gold during stage 1, so it should be easy to upgrade your new walls and lots of traps. Also, once you get to stage 2 you’ll have a ton of elixir to dump on walls – all the more reason to max those walls at TH8! To overcome the elixir shortage during stage 1 you have three options: raid like crazy, make peace with the fact that some builders will be idle or cheat a little. That means starting some of the stage 2 gold upgrades in stage 1 already. Obviously this will dilute the positive and negative impacts of TH8.5; just don’t touch stage 3 prematurely because that will defeat the purpose of the exercise.

So is it worth it? For wars it’s a bit early to say. I’m still ranked last of the TH9’s, although I’m also the newest TH9. Have a look at our TH9 bases and troops and decide where I should fit in. The bases I get ranked against in wars are invariable weaker than mine, which is the point of the exercise I guess. Another big advantage for me is that I really enjoy attacking, and those additional troops, spells and the queen makes raiding much easier and enjoyable, not to mention war attacks! I also believe that splitting your elixir and gold requirements into two distinct stages helps a lot with wall upgrades. On the negative side, besides the elixir shortage your defences are not very powerful for a TH9. Other TH9’s and especially TH10’s will raid you quite hard – the only way to overcome this is by raiding at a lower trophy level, or to just out raid them! In wars the lack of defensive strength is not such a big issue; 4 AD’s and teslas mean that TH8’s and low TH9’s can’t 3-star you, which is all you can ask for as a new TH9.

In summary, I really enjoy the rush to offensive power this strategy brings, and I just relax about idle builders and TH10’s bullying me (most guys still just snipe my TH). So if you raid a lot, or like easier match-ups in clan wars, I would recommend giving this system a go. If you don’t raid that much, or enjoy building intricate defences and traps, I guess you’ll find more value and enjoyment from your new X-Bows!


Steam: Paying for content? GTFO!

April 23, 2015

Valve today announced that Steam now supports mod creators selling mods via the workshop. My guess is the initial reaction of most will be “this sucks!”, but relax, this is going to be a good thing. Allow me to explain.

First, you aren’t forced to pay. No gun to your head here. It’s not even a case of “the devs shipped half the product and expect you to buy the DLC to finish it”.

Second, bad or broken mods will be outed quickly, because the internet today loves nothing more than taking up a random cause, especially if said random cause also cost them money. Maybe for once something actually positive will come from all those SJW out there.

Third, and best of all, great mods that really make the author(s) money will likely see greater support. If you are some part-timer with real skill and make some great mod that suddenly hits the big time, you are far more likely to put at least some of that money back into the mod than to keep your current pace, or step away. There are plenty of Skyrim or Mount and Blade mods I’d have paid for, and maybe had I been able to in the past those mods would be even better today :cough: unfinished Warhammer mod for M&B :cough:

So I’m all for this, because ultimately I think it will result in better gaming through better mods.


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