Civilization: Beyond Earth – Mod or future greatness?

October 30, 2014

I fully expect to see two basic review styles of Civilization: Beyond Earth. One will lean heavily towards “its a mod/expansion for Civ V”, while the other will dig into specific changes to try and explain why it ultimately feels like a very different game. Let’s call the first one an EG-style review, just to bring back an old joke.

Anyone who has played Civ V a decent amount and plays one or two games of Civ:BE before posting impressions will likely EG it. I think the main reason for this is that you CAN play Civ:BE like you would a game of Civ V and have some success, especially if the difficulty is set low enough. Like a lot of games, if you only scratch the surface of something you might miss the good stuff a layer or two deeper.

Having dug into the game a bit, my take is that Civ:BE is the result of letting the devs spend 90% of their efforts on design and systems, with just 10% focused on the engine, graphics, and all the other superficial stuff. The game plays like a loosely focused story of space colonization, where the direction and ending of the tale is in your hands. It has more of a narrative feel than Civ V, with more focus on the mysteries of space, aliens, and how future technology might shape the human race.

I don’t think the game today is as deep and complex as Civ V after it’s expansions, but it still has plenty of interesting decisions and systems going for it. Unit variety is limited, but it does cover all the bases. Also the way units upgrade is new, ties into your overall progress, and isn’t the ‘new replace old’ system of Civ V. Your starting military unit will self-evolve (rather than require you to pay to upgrade him), and his evolution path isn’t just linear or exclusively tied to researching a technology.

It’s also painfully clear that Civ:BE is a good game, but will be a great game once its ‘finish’ with future expansions. The game needs more civs (especially civs not from earth), more aliens (along with deeper, city-state style options to become a bigger factor), and just overall more ‘stuff’. Also while the game has been technically solid, some bugs can be found and technical glitches do occur, but then it is a Civ game near release so that’s almost expected.


Random: Did someone hack Comcast?

October 30, 2014

Just got off the phone with Comcast, and not only was I put into contact with a human in short order, the human spoke English, didn’t BS me for 30 minutes, and actually clearly explained current options. Then, when I selected the lower-priced option, he didn’t try to convince me that paying more would actually be better.

So… someone hacked Comcast and is rerouting all calls to a company not hell-bend on driving you to madness, right? So pleasantly confused right now.


AA: Good design can’t overcome a bad business model and stupidity

October 27, 2014

Whelp, things went downhill fast huh?

To some extent this should have been obvious, given that ArcheAge is a F2P MMO, the very clear minor-leagues of the genre. Maybe I was trying to convince myself otherwise, or maybe a particularly bleak dry-spell was to blame, or I was just coming off the terribad roller-coaster ride that was DF:UW. Either way, I currently have zero motivation to log into AA, and my sub has been canceled.

What’s interesting about AA is that from a design perspective it gets so much right, both big and little. I’ve covered a lot of them here, and hopefully future MMOs take a note or two on the better aspects of AA. If this is but one of the general directions the genre is going in, I’m ok with that. But ultimately the game was doomed by two major factors, one predictable (F2P), the other somewhat a surprise (Trion).

The F2P aspect is obvious. The Pay4Power aspect is brutal, as is the cheese factor of the cash shop. The taint of F2P is felt in almost all aspects, and the fact that being a subscriber only takes you out of ‘worthless to anyone but bots’ free territory and into ‘you are paying but not enough, give us more!’ land doesn’t make you feel good. The daily loyalty points you get, which only allow you to buy a few things in the shop, are more of a slap to the face than anything else.

But again that part was somewhat predictable, and I’ve played such MMOs before and not minded it that much (Atlantica Online is by far the best example of this IMO).

The F2P factor becomes a bigger issue than normal when mixed with disaster number two; Trion.

I’ve joked and not joked about Trion before, but I say this now being 100% serious; I’ve never experience a bigger disaster than what Trion has done with AA. It’s borderline criminal to be this incompetent on so many levels, and to be so dishonest about all of it.

Very recent and easy example; remember how for the first month, whenever anything was going wrong with AA, Trion would answer everything with basically “we’ll pass a note to XLGames, as we are just the publisher and can’t do anything”? Funny how for some reason (accounts unsubbing) suddenly a month later Trion is having GMs spam chat with how often they catch a hacker, and it seems not a day goes by that Trion is releasing a statement about what they are doing about the rampant cheating in the game. They have even gone so far as following up on specific Reddit threads, supposedly having someone go into the database and confirm that so-and-so was legit and didn’t hack.

You know what might have helped Trion? You not waiting until people slapped you with the wallet-vote before you did something. Maybe instead of waiting until everyone has chat turned off due to spam, you could have launched the game with chat restrictions? It’s a joke, especially because the ‘crackdown’ on hacking is not only too late, it also only catches the idiots stupid enough to run a well-known and easily available hack kit on patch day. Everyone else is still sitting pretty, and Trion knows it but won’t do a thing about it.

The real shame here is that in a genre with so few decent options, one was taking away not because of its core design, but because of its business model and the incompetent fools tasked with simply porting the game over and doing some basic maintenance.

Even when we get something nice, it’s tainted to such a degree that you are forced out. Real shame.


CoC: War stats vs Dayana 10/20/2014

October 22, 2014

(Post and stats by Delpez. Also a quick note; we are now at 50 members, the cap in CoC.)

Supreme Cream! vs Dayana

Supreme Cream Enemy
Average TH Level 6.98 7.38
Score 141 126
Total Attacks Used 88 90
Total 3 Star Attacks 42 33
Total 3 Star % 47.7 36.7
3 Stars Against Same Level 27 14
3 Star % Against Same Level 46.6 30.4
3 Stars Against Lower Level 10 19
3 Star % Against Lower Level 55.6 44.2
TH4,5&6 3 Stars 4 3
TH4,5&6 3 Star % 19.0 30.0
TH7 3 Stars 20 17
TH7 3 Stars % 55.6 47.2
TH7 3 Stars (same level) 12 6
TH7 3 Stars % (same level) 57.1 31.6
TH8 3 Stars 15 9
TH8 3 Star % 62.5 27.3
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 9 4
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 75.0 30.8
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.5 1.7
TH9&10 3 Stars 3 4
TH9&10 2 Star % 42.9 36.4
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 2 1
TH9&10 2 Star % (same level) 40.0 25.0
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.20 1.50

 

Fun war and a great win, especially since our opponents were a lot stronger than us (based on average TH level). The average difference of 0.4 TH levels translates to twenty town halls in a fifty player war. Meaning if you line up same TH bases against each other, twenty of their players were matched against a lower level base. It’s basically starting twenty 3-stars ahead! I checked this average TH strength before the war started, and thought we were in for a tough time if our opponents were active. Well, they were active and we still won!

The basis for the victory was once again our higher 3-star numbers, especially against same TH levels. The only exception was the lower TH’s, but here we had numerous TH5’s against their TH6’s. Our TH7’s did well as always, and our TH8’s also smashed them hard with very high 3-star numbers. At the top we did better where it mattered: 3-star percentages and average stars against high level bases.

Some advice for our low TH players (specifically TH5, but also TH6 to some extent). Try to use both your war attacks, even if you can’t contribute towards the war. You can get a lot of loot from clan wars, as long as you score at least one star from an attack. Doesn’t matter if that base was 3-starred before, if you can’t make a meaningful contribution just get one star from ANY base for the full war loot. By the way, this loot goes to your clan castle after the war, so don’t forget to collect it! Also, in war attacks you use different troops and tactics from normal farming. The only way to get used to these tactics is by practicing. Watch lots of replays, plan your attacks carefully and attack! Don’t worry if it goes haywire, as long as you are learning and having fun.


AA: Trion being Trion at it’s finest

October 21, 2014

If even half of this is true, Trion is far more incompetent than even I have joked about. It honestly has taken most of the wind out of the game for me, which is a complete shame because the game itself is brilliant. But it feels utterly pointless to spend time gathering 3-15 gold or whatever progress you make knowing that not only is hacking so rampant, but that the company behind the game does next to nothing about it. And because AA is more virtual world than instances sRPG, someone running a 3rd party program to generate infinite gold or resources DOES impact my game.

But don’t worry, they are banning 5k free accounts a day! F2P model doing it big yet again.


AA: View from level 50

October 21, 2014

I recently hit the current level cap of 50 in ArcheAge, so now is a good time to talk about that experience, what changes, and plans going forward.

First thing however is how effortless getting to 50 was. Not only is the leveling experience fairly short by MMO standards, but almost everything you do in the game gives XP. Spend some timing mining? You got a ton of XP. Did some work around the farm? XP. Trade run? Bit of XP. I’d say easily 40% of my XP was gained from non-quest activities, and that number could have been a lot higher had I wanted it to be (I actually enjoyed blitzing the quests and just whacking mobs).

In AA however, more than in any themepark I’ve played so far, getting to the cap isn’t a game-shifting event. There really is no “game starts at cap” for AA, for a number of reasons.

One is that you still care about getting more XP. Because of how the skill trees work, and the large number of them, you will likely want to level more than your original three up (assuming you didn’t switch midway to 50, in which case you haven’t hit 50 in all 3 of your current trees anyway). Additionally things like your combat pet or mount also need to hit 50, so you care about XP there. Keeping XP relevant even though your character level is at the cap is pretty brilliant, because you avoid the motivational and design issue of only some players benefitting from an activity that factors XP into its reward. Blizzard had this problem in WoW (TBC days anyway), and tried to solve the problem by having quests convert their XP reward into giving out more gold, but the way AA does it is not only cleaner, but feels more natural as well.

Beyond the issue of XP, what you actually do at 50 is what you were doing at 49. You still do your farming, you still work on your crafting skills, you still chase after better gear, and you still jump into stuff like rifts, zone battles, trade routes, the arena, etc. And because all of those things still give XP, you are also progressing on that front should you decide to as well. The whole thing just feels very ‘sandbox’, while still using more themeparky elements like XP and quests.

Going forward I have plenty of personal goals to chase after, in addition to working on larger, guild-wide goals (dungeon runs, zone bosses, arena team, getting more land and a bigger house, pirate adventures, etc). And assuming Trion doesn’t Trion things (ha), the next continent is opening soon with additional content options as well.


Some people play MMOs, some play EVE

October 20, 2014

To say that EVE is a different kind of MMO is perhaps the biggest understatement in gaming. Year after year events happen in EVE that no other game will likely ever come close to replicating, and the game’s depth, complexity, and sheer scale draw and hold some of the best and brightest players. There is perhaps no finer example of this then the most recent Rooks and Kings’ masterpiece, Clarion Call 4. It’s over an hour long, and my only criticisms is that it isn’t two.

There is just so much to love here. There is of course the utter brilliance of the tactics used, and the razor sharp execution of those tactics. But almost as amazing is the begrudging respect you hear from the victims. The name “Rooks and Kings” means something (usual quick death) to tens of thousands, despite the group being very small by EVE Corp or Alliance standards.

That kind of earned respect, over many years of excellence, just doesn’t happen in other MMOs. In WoW the ‘top’ raiding guild and roster changes yearly, if not monthly, and the excitement or respect generated by being a world first is both short lived and quickly forgotten. In LoL, which just had it’s amazing world championship (more on that in another post), who is king also changes year to year, and while the names and teams impress, they also quickly burn out of view. Who won season 1, and who was on those teams? Would even 1% of all LoL players know? Because certainly far more than 1% of all EVE players know R&K, and have known about them since before the first game of LoL was ever played.

That R&K have been around in EVE for so long isn’t an accident, just like the CFC being so large and dominant is no accident. It’s a reflect of what CCP has created, and a reminder that no one else is even close, and haven’t been for more than ten years now.

Edit: H/T to TAGN for reminding me to blog about this video.


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