Dungeon Boss – Grind the game, not the UI

September 28, 2015

Dungeon Boss continues to impress and entertain me, so if you haven’t already, pick it up and lets be ‘friends’.

I mentioned before about the honesty of the games ‘grind’ (air quote because for many grind is a bad word, for me what a lot of people call grind is just gameplay you repeat but still enjoy. If you didn’t enjoy it you wouldn’t ‘grind’ it, you’d quit). Today I want to talk about how DB makes the grind more enjoyable.

It’s mostly little things, like when you complete a dungeon the UI already has a ‘run that dungeon again’ button, recognizing the fact that you are very likely to want to run that again if you didn’t get the drop you wanted. The grind part is the RNG with getting hero tokens or upgrade pieces, but the grind part would be more annoying without that ‘repeat’ button.

Another nice/smart UI piece is that in the hero info screen, you can find out which dungeon drops that heroes tokens or upgrade pieces, and then go directly into any of those dungeons. That makes farming specific pieces to upgrade a specific hero much easier, which is a big deal when your hero roster goes to 20+ heroes. Your daily quest log also has this functionality; with a button to take you to the areas you need to farm to finish those quests.

Likely a post for another day, but the games depth is starting to take shape for me. Initially you will just use whatever heroes you get, and ‘team composition’ won’t really be a factor, but I think once you have a fuller roster and more evolutions, combos will come into play and some additional min/maxing will happen. Looking forward to that.

Programming note: We have spots open in our Boom Beach group (Hardcore Casual) and the Clash of Clans… clan (Supreme Cream!). Mention the blog when you apply so I don’t confuse you with some rando.

Oh so very lumpy

September 9, 2015

Remember when we (Az) were doing a breakdown of that oddball grouping of Destiny and Hearthstone? Trying to figure out what percentage of the pie was Destiny and what crumbs HS contributed?


Giving HS credit for crumbs was grossly overestimating things.

But hey, recycling existing art assets at the expense of your brand is still profitable, so that’s nice.

Fantasy Football – Need one more team!

August 29, 2015

Our Fantasy Football league (NFL, not the kickball and pretend your injured activity) needs one more team. Post a comment here with your email (email can be in your profile, not in the comment Guess WP changed that, leave email in comments or email me directly at the email found in the top right) and I’ll send you an invite. Our live draft is tomorrow at 1pm EST, so this will get rolling quickly.

One new player will make it a ten player league, but it can go to twelve if three people express interest.

HS: New Blizzard’s method of balancing the game is to not balance it at all

August 10, 2015

When Blizzard’s MOBA game was first announced, one of the items I wanted to keep an eye on was how well Blizzard would do at balancing the game, because Blizzard is always slow to make changes, and most recently hasn’t been very good at much of anything when they finally DO release something.

Unfortunately HotS is such an abortion I can’t even be bothered to keep up with it on any level, but ‘luckily’ I do keep up with Hearthstone, and can see how well New Blizzard does in balancing that PvP game. Spoiler alert: Not well, not well at all.

First the ‘how often do they balance anything?” question can be answered by this link, showing not only that balance patches don’t come often, but that when they do, they aren’t much of anything anyway.

But beyond the somewhat expected “Blizzard doesn’t do anything quickly” issue, we have this quote from Blizzard I pulled from Az over at In An Age:

“I think we’re going to keep making some crazy cards in every set that are dangerous and hopefully going to work out.”

Another spoiler: It hasn’t worked out. Patron Warrior is an absurdly strong, very easy-to-play deck. It’s also a cheap deck to make (been playing a version myself since the release of the card, before finding out its also a pro-level deck), so perhaps I’ll find the motivation to faceroll myself up the ranks with the refined internet version just to prove that point. Likely spoiler: Won’t happen because my patience with rolling my face across the keyboard is pretty low, especially for no gain other than “SynCaine’s right again”, and that happens so often anyway even I’m growing tired of it.

The biggest problem however isn’t even the strength of that deck (a huge problem), but the fact that in a serious environment where someone cares if they win or lose (which, given how hard Blizzard is trying to push HS as an eSport title, would suggest HS should be considered such a game), having something so strong means other options aren’t viable, which leads to not just a boring pro scene, but a boring game overall.

Imagine if Riot was Blizzard, and left LoL’s champions as brokenly powerful as Patron Warrior in the game; in every pro game you would see that option banned or picked, and if Riot was Blizzard, the pool of viable champions would be a fraction of what it really is today.

The quote above shows a gross misunderstanding of how game balance works in a PvP environment. Players always flock to whats powerful, and they do it so strongly that anyone NOT doing so is simply fodder. Proper balance means not just fixing a broken aspect of your game (Patron Warrior IMO isn’t strong, it’s broken), but also allowing more options for players, and more options means more diversity and a more interesting pro scene. I recently watch (don’t ask why) a few minutes of a HS ‘pro’ broadcast, and deck diversity was a joke. In fact, it was almost as big a joke as the games themselves (insert dice rant here).

As a random, ‘who cares’ game, you can have broken stuff like Patron Warrior exist, because people won’t care enough to win meaningless games and will more focus on finding the fun. But when you push a game as being serious, that changes, and you have to change how you run the game as well. So far, Blizzard is failing horribly in that aspect with HS.

New Blizzard investor call ‘highlights’

August 5, 2015

Items that jumped out at me from the Activision Blizzard investor call:

“Destiny now has over 20 million registered players, with an average of about 100 hours of game play each”

First, the statement that the average gameplay length from 20 million people is 100 hours is pretty incredible. It would be interesting to see the number of people who didn’t like the game (under 5 hours let’s say) and the number who fiend on it (1000+ hours or so), but either way that 100 hour average is impressive.

Also it caught my eye that they call users ‘registered players’, because that can be dismissed as ‘registered account’ in the F2P world, but you can’t register in Destiny without buying the game, so those ‘registered players’ are in fact paying customers. First FFXIV, and now Destiny, is ‘registered players’ some legal-driven term or what?

On to Blizzard.

“In Q2, the average MAU across Blizzard games was up more than 50% year over year, achieving its highest level ever.”

It’s almost as if allowing people to create free accounts, and allowing the same person to create multiple free accounts on different devices, results in more accounts than ever. Go figure, and a really strong number to LEAD OFF with.

Bet he gets into the real numbers shortly…

“Engagement for Hearthstone, which was already very strong, nearly doubled year over year in terms of active players and time spent.”

Is this a “how many free accounts do you have now?” or an earnings call?

“This year alone, the community has already held more than 1,300 Fireside Gatherings globally.”

Oh. Well ok then. Nothing of real substance was provided about HS, and (I haven’t seen it myself yet) I guess they lump HS with Destiny in the actual numbers again?

The HoTS part had as much depth as the game itself. My guess is every analyst on the call at this point was making a wanking motion and praying for something of substance to be said.

Then D3 was talked about and, because that game is doing well in China, financial numbers were given. Funny how that works.

On to the Q&A.

First question was about Hearthstone revenue. The answer given?

“We saw almost double the amount of active players and times spent year over year, and an increase in more than 50% quarter over quarter. Revenue on the new platforms appear to be incremental to PC.”

So when asked about revenue, the first answer is to talk about free accounts still being played, and then tossing out that maybe, perhaps, it could be possible that mobile is helping revenue along with PC sales. Solid answer Mike, really solid. Quick follow-up question though, how much of a factor is a title barely in the top 20 for revenue in the app store on iPhone (can’t find it on the iPad, fingers got too tired)? Is that a rounding error or a blip? Just wondering…

Skipping down to the HotS question:

“I was hoping you could discuss where you are with the players, and more specifically, the paying players for Heroes of the Storm”

Part of the answer, the rest was wank-motion nothingness:

“I think if you look at other games in the genre, they all had more gradual growth of their player base, so that is what we would expect to see with Heroes of the Storm.”

Translation: HotS numbers are in the toilet, but hopefully they turn around, because hey MOBAs need time to grow? I mean sure, LoL didn’t start with tens of millions, nor did DOTA2, but neither of those games are kiddie-pool shallow, nor did either of those games come with other major product tie-ins or as massive a marketing push as HotS. You weren’t watching LoL or DOTA2 commercials on TV when those games launched, were you now? Did you get a free mount or whatever in WoW when you signed up for LoL/DoTA2? But yea no, HotS is totally going to be saved by its eSport performance. That’s totally going to work out, hopefully as well as it did for Hearthstone last year, right?

New Blizzard just doing its thing yet again, good job all around everyone. Is there another China you could launch D3 in next quarter?

ARK Survival Evolve quick thoughts

August 3, 2015

I picked up ARK Survival Evolved because a few people have bugged me to get it, and also because it was on a small Steam sale. I’ve only spend a few hours with it, and currently all of my characters are bugged, stuck in some kind of permanent spectator mode where I can’t do anything, including dying or creating a new character. Have an email into support, hopefully will hear back ‘soon’.

Anyway, assuming that issue does get resolved, here are some quick thoughts on ARK. For starters, its a Unity engine game, and feels like it. While Unity has been used to make a million games, the style used in ARK is the same used in Rust and many other games, and while the theme and details of these games are all different, the just feel like the same game. If you told me ARK was a fan mod for Rust, I’d believe you.

That said, it would still be a pretty cool mod. Lets be honest, dinosaurs are cool, as is the idea of taming them and using them in combat, or fighting them when they attack you in the wild. Put that together with the usual ‘gather resources, build a base, go blow up other people’ gameplay with these type of games, and ARK is interesting for sure.

ARK also has a good character progression model, where every level you not only pick a stat to increase, but get some points to spend on unlocking new crafting blueprints. You can also find blueprints, but it’s nice that as you play more, you character is able to craft more, and also gets a bit stronger.

The downside of ARK is if you played Rust or games like it to death recently, not enough is new to get you hyped IMO. Like I said, the main object of the game is still the same, just with dinos and other details changed up. Plus from a software maturity perspective, Rust is much further along, so if dinos aren’t a make-or-break for you, I’m not sure why you would go with ARK over Rust, or start up ARK if you are already playing Rust.

HS: What’s the problem again?

July 28, 2015

So rumor has it tournament Hearthstone games are being decided by a coin flip.

What a minute…

What HS game isn’t decided by a coin flip?


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