Crusader Kings II power balance

May 10, 2012

As I play more Crusader Kings II, I’m noticing that outright defeat, while possible, is rarer than in games such as Civilization, and that the balance of power is more dynamic.

For instance, in my current game I had carved out a nice little kingdom of 9 territories on the Spanish peninsula. My current ruler was just 31 years of age, and I had plans to capture more land while upgrading what I already had. Then, randomly, my rules died of disease and his 10 year old daughter (no sons) inherited the kingdom. Sensing a new, weaker ruler, a few of my lords rebelled. On top of this, a Muslim nation also sensed weakness and declared war.

If I was playing Civilization, this would basically be a game-over scenario. One by one my cities would fall, and I’d be wiped out. In Civ, you are either moving forward or you are dead. It’s almost impossible to play a weaker nation and just maintain for long, and it’s also very rare to have a major setback and recover from it.

CK is different. What ended up happening is that the Muslims looked to conquer some of my territory, but they picked the now-rebelling lord’s area to do so. The two-front war for the rebels meant I could fight them back and reclaim some land. In turn, the Muslims captured some territory and declared victory. Once I stabilized the kingdom and recovered a little, I plotted when to recapture the Muslim lands. As fortune would have it, they soon engaged in a Holy War against a different Christian nation, and with most of their troops fighting others, I declared war and began my assault.

While initially I did not face much resistance, soon the Muslim army began its defensive march towards me, and their army was much larger than mine despite already taking losses from the Holy War. I spend most of my remaining funds to hire a mercenary company, and combined the hired soldiers with my army to fight off the defenders. Once that battle was won, I sieged and recaptured all that I had previously lost.

What is really interesting is that although my section of the map looks the same, the people behind the holdings and their relationships with each other are very different. Hard to identify if overall things are better, the same, or worse, but they most certainly are different. That alone makes CK a truly interesting game that has me very enthralled at the moment.


Civ V, The Witcher, M&B:W, and Rift beta

December 28, 2010

Some random notes for today:

Played two games of the scenario included in the first DLC for Civilization V, very entertaining. It’s rather short (limited to 100 turns), somewhat easy (the other sides don’t play with the sense of urgency needed for a 100 turn game), but it’s a nice ‘time period’ scenario. It’s all about the new world, and you can play either the European powers or the natives. If I had paid for it (plus the two new civs), I’d feel a bit cheated, but for free (D2D pre-order bonus) it’s good stuff. Still need to play a full game with the latest patch, but the massive Steam sale, Darkfall, and League of Legends is making that difficult right now.

Speaking of the Steam sale, I picked up Mount and Blade: Warband for under $8 today. When that’s going to get played, I’m not sure, but I’ve heard enough good things about it to have it on my account in waiting.

I am playing the hell out of The Witcher though, and man, so good. My memory of it from last time is a bit hazy, but I have noticed a few things different this time around thanks to some of my in-game decisions. The game does a fantastic job of keeping a general path, yet making choices ‘matter’ beyond it feeling like total fluff. Is it a 100% perfect game all around? No. The combat is not for everyone (I’m cool with it), some of the animations are wonky, as are some voice lines, and loading every little house over and over can get on you, but none of that (for me) ruins what really is one of the best interactive stories in an RPG. The setting, the pace, the grit, the occasional humor, it’s all just so good. Come Witcher 2 time, I’m going to be drooling for its release.

Finally, the Rift beta 3 event kicks off today, and Aria and I are patched up and good to go, so expect some posts about that in the near future.


Patch giveth, and patch… not giveth as much?

December 16, 2010

The bad news is that today’s Darkfall patch did not deliver the items I was hoping it would, and instead ended up just tweaking a few things for balance purposes along with adding in the holiday update. Still nice, and good to see Aventurine releasing smaller patches rather than bundling everything up, but not all that I had hoped for yesterday. Reason to ragequit? Nope, but it will make the wait for the Q1 updates seem just that much longer.

The good news is that Civilization V finally got its long-awaited patch, one that addresses many of the communities concerns. I’ve been itching to play Civ V again for some time now, but knew this patch was coming, so have held off on starting a new game. Time to jump in now! Double bonus that the first DLC pack is now available on Direct2Drive, and since I pre-ordered Civ, I get it free. Two new civs can’t hurt, and hopefully the scenario is fun.


Random thoughts or updates on not-so-random titles

November 29, 2010

Thanks to Comcast being… well Comcast, online gaming for the last week has been sporadic and rage-inducing. I mean nothing says “I’m having fun now” like lagging in League of Legends, where for some insane reason you can still see everything happening in real time, but the game won’t process your commands. The result? Watching for 5-10 seconds as your champion just stands there, slowly dying from creeps or when the opponents realize you are no longer moving. Bonus points when this happens just before a crucial team fight. In a ranked game. Not like I needed those 100 ELO points anyway. Aria has also take part in the rage, so good times all around. (They have someone coming out tonight. Place your bets on ‘everything looks fine to me’ being the result. If I don’t blog tomorrow, it’s because I’m fleeing the country to avoid the murder charge. The internets IS srs bsns!)

Luckily Blood Bowl still works with the ping spikes, as at worse the game will try to reconnect for a second or two before continuing on. Our private league is going strong, and I think we have finally gotten into a good grove with people playing their matches and communicating on the forums. After our first-week growing pains, it’s looking like we have a quality league here. Hopefully later this week I can do a formal week three games write-up with highlights and such.

My matchmaking (MM) human team continues to find ways to pull a draw from the hands of victory. The latest example: In a game against Dark Elves, I KO (rather than injure) five of his players in the first half, scoring once. At the start of the second, four of his five KO’ed guys come back, and it’s looking like all the decent (but not great, no injuries) luck is gone and he is moving the ball nicely. Plus he injuries one of my guys and KO’s another. Then I kill two of his players, an assassin and a linemen, get a key knockdown on his ball carrier, and look to be in position to seal the game away.

My 5agi thrower (yup, super lucky on that) picks up the ball, and with two turns to go, attempts a 3+ throw to a linemen at midfield that, had he caught it, he could have run in for a second TD on turn 16. Instead, the one dark elf still standing, and covered by two of my players, intercepts the ball on a 6 roll. On his turn he dodges away from everyone (3-4 dodge rolls with varying tackle zone values), makes the GFI roll, and scores. Game ends 1-1. FML.

I thought I was near the end of Titan Quest, only to discover that I had simply completed Act 1 (of 3, 4 with the expansion). Act 2 takes place in Egypt, which is a fun change of pace from Greece. The whole game overall is great actually, more-of-the-same Diablo 2 action with enough differences to not make it a straight copy/paste job. Looking back, someone must have seriously dropped the ball on marketing this game, because on pure gameplay it’s a winner, and another total steal for $5.

I was hoping to write about Darkfall today, as I finally made the move and joined a new clan (oddly enough, filled with old Apollo members, small (online) world), but Comcast had other ideas. While playing LoL is annoying, and BB is very doable, DF is a straight no-go, as I get kicked from the server on a spike, and then can’t log back in for five minutes or so due to a relog timer. Hopefully the issue is resolved tonight.

Finally, as I made mention earlier, I picked up Supreme Commander 2 for $3.50 on Steam, and so far both the campaign and skirmish mode have been entertaining. It’s been a while since I lasted played an RTS (not counting my time with the disappointing StarCraft 2 beta), and while this SC2 is by no means perfect, so far it’s been good enough to entertain, and has already done enough to justify the tiny amount spent to get it.

Coming up, later in 2011 we will see the release of Witcher 2 and Dragon Age 2. Something tells me Witcher is going to be even more amazing than its original (which honestly might be one of the best RPGs of the last few years. Gritty done so right), while DA2 is going to be a shadow of its original (a game that, IMO, faded towards the end anyway). Of course, I might not have much time for either if Aventurine releases the next expansion to Darkfall at some point in Q1, but I’m not betting the house on that one.

Having too many good games to play is a wonderful problem.

Edit: Oh, and I almost forgot, I’m also waiting for the next Civ V patch to drop before getting back into that game. You know, during that 25th hour of the day that’s coming ‘soon’.


Milkfat and you

October 6, 2010

Expansion launch day in Darkfall = Return to Darkfall for me, and honestly, I’ve been itching to return. League of Legends is extremely fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not an MMO, and that really is the style of gaming I love most. Not that a return to Darkfall means no more LoL, far from it, but a little more balance will return to my gaming. Unfortunately or otherwise, I’ve got Civilization V on somewhat of a hiatus as I wait for some patching, having finished four games and seen ‘enough’ for now. The great thing about Civ though is that it ages like fine wine, only getting better with time.

Today though I want to talk about the recent ‘big deal’ event in League of Legends; this whole Milkfat hubbub. The original thread can be found here (caution its long and rage-filled), but the short story is this: Milkfat claims he is a pro player from DotA/HoN, Riot gives him an account with a TON of RP and LP, people see that due to his live stream, forum post gets made, people rage, Riot says “oops” and takes back the points, life goes on.

One of the big issues people had went something like this “I paid for skins/champs, and this guy gets them all free, not fair!” I’ll just address that with “life’s not fair”. I mean really, are we going to harp on someone being able to drop $1000 instantly on League of Legends because they are a lottery winner, a doctor, or whatever? Is that ‘not fair’ either? Is someone buying champs with RP when you ‘earned’ them with IP ‘not fair’ either? Point being, worry about yourself, because if you compare yourself to others long enough, it’s not going to end well for you.

Second lets look at the precedent set here, is giving someone a maxed out (or close to it) account really all that special? Nope. Reviewers often get such accounts, devs give them to friends/family all the time, and what about all those who win such accounts or exclusives through one contest or another? Point being, it happens, often, and the only difference here is that the guy live streamed and everyone watching saw it, someone made a forum post, and the snowball rolled.

Ultimately though, this just highlights the beauty of the F2P model League of Legends has going. What did that guy REALLY gain when he received that account? Did Riot give him stronger heroes? More mastery points? More powerful runes?

Nope.

He got access to a lot of fluff (skins), access to more heroes, and the ability to fill up some rune pages (of which you can only use one at a time anyway) faster than someone who plays for free. Nice to have, sure, but once hero selection is over and the game loads, he is just another player, no more powerful than anyone else. And that really applies to anyone spending money in LoL; it opens up options, it gets you stuff faster, but once the game loads it has no real impact, and that’s huge. Anyone who reaches level 30 (ranked play) will have more than enough IP to buy some heroes and fill out some rune pages, so whether you have a loaded account or have yet to spend a dime, you are on the same level in terms of in-game power.

Think about that too. Riot is able to make money (and given the rate they are hiring, truckloads of it) from a competitive game without selling a single item of true power. A hyper-competitive game is fully supported by selling, ultimately, fluff. That not only says a lot about your base game, but about your fluff as well.

Chuck-o-the-day: The Burning Man festival got its start when Chuck Norris set fire to a bunch of hippies with his eyebeams.


Civilization V : The flaws

September 28, 2010

As I said before, Civilization V is a phenomenal improvement to an already incredible series, and any fan of TBS games should already have it. But with that said, it’s by no means perfect, and outright lacking in some areas that have me both confused and a little worried.

One of the things that jumps out at me as unfinished or missing is the lack of end-game replay or extensive history information. In previous games you could watch a mini-review of the game you just played, seeing city placement and growth, wars and conquest, and major events like wonders being created or great people being born. I loved this not only for a chance to ‘relive’ the game I just played, but as a learning tool on how to improve. This is simply missing from Civ V, and for me really takes away from the joy of finishing the game. On top of this, the ‘ending’ is just one picture based on your victory type (or loss), and aside from one demographics table, that’s it.

Now I’m hoping a future patch simply adds the replay function to the game, and perhaps gives some extra bang to victory. My fear is that this might be part of some $5-$10-$15 DLC ‘bundle’. I won’t mind having the option to buy different civilizations, units, or technologies, but selling what I would consider core features as extras won’t sit well with me.

Another area that really could use some work is knowing exactly what the AI is thinking. Currently it’s simply too difficult to tell whether someone is buddy buddy with you or getting ready to drop a nuke. It’s also difficult to see the effects of not accepting a deal, of giving someone a resource, or from making demands. One would assume making demands makes people angry, or that giving them a resource makes them happy, but it would be nice to get a little more feedback here. I’m not asking for a +1 Rep! ding to pop up or to see a + – table next to a leader, but I do feel SOMETHING is missing here.

The saddest part about this is that finally you have more diplomatic options in Civ V, like the ability to show your displeasure about another civ settling in ‘your’ area, or the ability to work against another civ without declaring outright war. These and others are great additions, but they are somewhat muted by the fact that you can’t really tell their full effect.

Finally, the AI could use a few lessons in the art of war. While I don’t feel the AI is as bad as some make it out to be, it’s always a little disheartening when you see an enemy charging you with cannons, his infantry a few hexes behind. Or outright frustrating when your city-state ally prefers to bomb spearmen in a jungle two hexes away when the city has three units of knights right next to it ready to overtake it in the following turn.

So far most of my wars have not really been much of a challenge, and when they are it’s because the AI outguns me by a large margin. Watching a war between two AI opponents is at times like watching a cripple fight (no offense to my normal-life-function-challenge readers (that’s the current PC term for the handicapped, right?)). My guess here is that a future patch will have some AI improvements, but hopefully it arrives sooner rather than later.

I’m not going to address multiplayer myself as I’ve yet to try it, but Paragus has a good Civ V review up that raises some issues on that topic. Again, it just sounds like Civ V got shipped a little early, and some of the final polish is still missing. The MMO gamer in me accept it and can look past it for now, but I’m wondering how many ‘normal’ gamers are feeling a little down right now. I’ll lay the blame firmly on the city that declared the release date “Civ Day”, that’s a lot of hype to live up to and you can’t really delay once that’s happened, now can you?


Civilization V : City States

September 24, 2010

City States are one of the major additions to Civilization V, and during my initial playthrough I found them to be slightly more than gimmicks used to ‘populate’ the world. In my current game they are invaluable, and really add a huge new element to the game. They also fit well with how Civ V truly splits economy, culture, and science, rather than having them all interdependent like in previous games.

I’ll start with my first game. In that game I played Civ V like I played Civ IV, focusing on getting ahead in technology in order to get better units to eventually crush my enemies. In Civ IV that meant keeping your science slider as close to 100% as possible, and your bank account at a constant minimum. This resulted in everything gold-related being minimized, at least for the most part. You could still do goofy stuff like, for just a few turns, go 100% income and get a massive amount of gold, then immediately switch back to science.

So in my first Civ V game, I had very limited gold, which meant I could not give the various city states gifts to keep them friendly or allied. And when I finally did have the 250 gold needed, I would only be able to bump one city state to friendly for a few turns before it went back to neutral, which seemed rather pointless to me. After all, I could just conquer the city if I wanted its land and resources. So in that game city states were just blobs of ‘useless’ terrain, or something for my enemies to use as an additional source of trouble. They never heavily factored into anything I was doing directly (this was on Prince difficulty), and I never noticed them being major factors between the other AI-controlled civilizations.

In my current game (King difficulty), I set out to better control the economic side of things, which meant only getting the buildings I truly needed in each city, not going crazy with infrastructure, and focusing more on trading posts to generate extra gold per hex, all to keep the gold flowing. In this game I’ve managed to have a steady income of around 40 gold per turn, which made paying the 250 gold to get on good terms with a city state much easier. I also more actively completed various missions for them, the result of which sometimes put me at 150+ favor with them, meaning they would stay allied for a long, long time without further investment.

The current result is that I occasionally get free military units from some city states, get increased food production in my cities (especially the capital, which is huge for my Roman civ), and my culture rate is increasing much faster than in the previous game, allowing me to pick up civics earlier (and by spending some of those points in the Piety tree, I get even better results from city states). It’s a very rewarding snowball effect overall, plus seeing my allied city states join in against my enemies is a nice bonus, and at times very helpful to the overall war effort.

City States highlight the fundamental shift in Civ V, that although on the surface it’s a ‘simpler’ game, the actual decisions you make are not only more profound, but lead to a wide variety of strategies. It’s perfectly viable to ignore City States, just like it’s perfectly viable to focus on them and propel your civilization through them. I get the feeling the same can be said for focusing on economy, science, or culture. I’ve yet to try it, but I also suspect that growing the absolute biggest empire is also no longer the only viable strategy, as a smaller, hyper-focused empire could work thanks to the various systems and civics.

The funny thing about Civ V is that although the real core of the game is similar to Civ IV, enough has been changed to really make it a completely different game in terms of the decisions you make, and that ultimately is what makes it brilliant.

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167 other followers