Trion being Trion: Trove edition

August 20, 2015

Trion’s statement: One million monthly users.

Scott’s clarification: It’s anyone who has ever created a free account since launch.

Trion launched July 9th.

So Trion it hurts.


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.


Finally MMO genre is free of Smed, at least for now

July 27, 2015

Back from vacation, and this reentry Monday is ROUGH. After every vacation I question whether actually going on vacation is ‘worth it’, because coming back to 500+ emails to dig through isn’t a lot of fun, especially then all 500+ can be summed up as “we held off doing anything until you got back, but now every deliverable is overdue, enjoy!”

While I was away we had a little bit of SOE being SOE, or more specifically, Smed being Smed. Only here it’s Smed (likely temporarily) going away, in about the timeframe that someone predicted. Being constantly right is the cross I bear, and yes, its heavy.

Now before I get into the meat of the post today, let me get this here first. I don’t have a personal issue with Smed. I’ve only talked to him once or twice in person, and interacted with him a few more times on the web, all of which was cordial. I also don’t support or feel good about the harassment stuff he has dealt with; there is a certain price for fame, but having your plane delayed and some of the other stuff is way over the top. Now, with that out of the way…

Smed ‘moving on’ is a good thing for the MMO genre, and as an MMO dev, I think Smed is about as overrated as you can get. I also hate seeing this ‘Smed was a gamer dev’ notion, because while true (Smed does play games), it didn’t help other MMO gamers one bit.

Smed was and will forever be tied to SOE, so how much of this is Smed’s fault vs just general SOE is up for debate, but when you are the figurehead, you eat the blame.

SOE sucks. Did when they were officially SOE, still do as Daybreak. If you take away EQ1 (and if EQ1 never happens, maybe we don’t spend a decade mired in clone-world themeparks, eh?), SOE has nothing. Planetside, perhaps the only other somewhat successful product they made, was meh at best, and PS2 is a joke. EQ2 was a disaster. Their entire “F2P, ALL THE WAY” push was a disaster that didn’t work out, but sure helped mire the genre once again. They have shut down numerous terrible games, if it wasn’t for EQ1 being such a major cash cow, they perhaps don’t survive past the EQ2 launch.

If Smed is such a gamer, why allow so much of the above to happen? After SOE ruined SWG, why dump a truckload of salt by calling H1Z1 ‘home’ for SWG players prior to it’s release? Hell, why as an MMO gamer are you releasing a DayZ clone years after the DayZ fad has passed, and then releasing something as putrid as H1Z1, and having the gall to call it an MMO? And if the response is “it wasn’t Smed’s call”, then what kind of CEO are you, and what exactly were you doing besides collecting a paycheck, posting on reddit, and tweeting?

What are you doing with Landmark? Again, why are you jumping on the Minecraft bandwagon so late, and bringing nothing to the table? When Trion’s Minecraft clone is ‘better’ (Trove), you know you have hit absolute rock bottom (get it?). And what kind of ‘gamer’ dupes your core audience into forking over $150 for access to Landmark when you know its not going to amount to anything? Just how long as Smed been cashing out at the expense of core SOE/EQ fans?

I could go on, but really just look at the Daybreak wiki page and the list of games and the story writes itself. SOE dying was a good thing. Smed leaving is also a good thing. The MMO genre is better off with both gone, just like it would have been much better off without them originally.


Early Access: Is it working?

July 9, 2015

Being in somewhat of a ‘main game’ lull, I’ve been looking over my 100+ list of Steam games of late. In particular, I’m checking back in with a some of the Early Access titles I’ve purchased in the past but have long since stopped playing. Some I stopped playing because they sucked, but others I played enough to say “this is going to be good” and waited for more development to happen. Consider this a half-time review of Early Access.

Some games haven’t been updated much, which leads me to believe they never will be. Those are the worst examples of Early Access, and the titles that sour people most on the entire thing. If you are a dev responsible for such a title, finish your damn game or go play in traffic, thanks.

Other titles have gotten updates, but either the ‘vision’ has changed, or the updates just don’t do it for me. Sometimes an early access game will be in such a state that you believe something good will come of it, because there isn’t enough there just yet to really know, and once the devs do hit those critical ‘pull the game together’ parts, it just doesn’t work. While these titles aren’t great games, they aren’t a terrible example of early access either. You are buying in early to see how a game shapes up. It won’t always shape up how you expected, and since the price is generally low, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Then there are the titles that either made it out of Early Access as great games, or are still in Early Access but are clearly progressing and getting better as time goes on. If the devs throw in some stuff about how the Early Access-based funding has contributed to the game improving, all the better. It’s these titles that show the true strength of the system, especially for titles in genres or themes that aren’t viewed as major sellers or ‘viable’ by suits.

Finally, sometimes a title is in Early Access for so long that, despite it being ‘finished’, feels old or dated. Whether its the graphics, or the ‘unique twist’, or the combination of features, sometimes the gaming landscape changes so fast that what was cool or interesting a year or two ago is now tired and boring. Great games and great ideas age well, but sometimes a quirky little title just stops being quirky.

Overall I can only say I’ve truly regretted a small percentage of Early Access purchases, and have been very happy with many. I like the system, and while not perfect, is a plus to gaming IMO.


GW doesn’t want my money after all

April 23, 2015

Great, a Total War game without mod support, yay!

I was actually going to write today about how I fear for my wallet with TW: Warhammer, because if there was ever an IP to milk DLC, it’s freaking Warhammer. $10-$15 army DLC, $5-$10 magic item packs, $20 campaigns, etc. And what would have really sucked is I bet most of it would have been a good buy. I mean if you are telling me that having access to, say, Skaven is going to cost me $10, I’m giving you $10.

But in classic Games Workshop fashion, they have already screwed up another Warhammer game with this idiotic decision. Pro-tip: If you assume your future customers can’t be trusted, you won’t have a lot of future customers. And relax with ‘protecting the IP’. While Warhammer is an awesome IP, it’s not some sacred treasure that must be defended at all times. If the LotR IP can be bastardized as heavily as it is thanks to Turbine and LotRO, I think some mods for what should be a popular game won’t really cause irreparable damage.

Moving this from pre-order to “wait for the $20 ‘all DLC included’ Steam sale. Nice work GW.


GTA V: The corpse of the Skyrim UI designer got reanimated I guess?

April 14, 2015

Making a UI for a game can’t be hard. Now I don’t have personal experience making one, but seeing how often a mod for a game is a UI edit or complete overhaul, I’d bet good money it’s not THAT hard to make something decent.

I bring this up because the UI in GTA V for the PC is a console-port abortion. If I have to click more than twice to close the damn game, your UI sucks. Also if during the tutorial you leave in using the left arrow key on the keyboard as something you expect players to normally do, your UI sucks. And again, this stuff isn’t that hard, and there are plenty of examples to refer to on how to make a basic, acceptable UI for the PC. Pro-tip; using the mouse shouldn’t be an afterthought!

This reminds me of Skyrim all over again, only this UI isn’t AS BAD as Skyrim was, but its perhaps more frustrating because the PC version of GTA V is coming out YEARS after the console versions, so clearly the devs have had plenty of time and budget to make changes, but they didn’t so instead they could focus on a built-in movie editor? Really?

And much like Skyrim, the fact that the UI sucks isn’t enough to ruin the game. GTA V on the PC is glorious. The big change is of course the graphics, and yes, GTA V looks phenomenal maxed out. First person view is also very nice, especially since you can switch between it quickly, so shooting-heavy parts I go first person, but for most other situations I use the standard view. But man would the whole thing be much better if the UI didn’t get in the way as often as it does. Bring on the mods I guess.


HotS: Shut up newbie

March 24, 2015

First, we have one spot open in our CoC clan, “Supreme Cream!”. If you are at least TH7 with lvl 2 dragons and a functioning brain, feel free to apply and just mention the blog. Also the Boom Beach Task Force has two open spots as well; Hardcore Casual. No requirement on that as BB is more casual than CoC, so the braindead are welcome!

Moving on, a few follow up points from yesterday’s HotS post:

If HotS is your first MOBA, I would expect you to enjoy it, but that has more to do with you finally playing a MOBA rather than specifically playing HotS. Imagine if your first-ever MMO was current-day LotRO. You’d enjoy it more than a seasoned MMO player because all of the normal MMO stuff would be new to you, and only after some time would you come to realize that LotRO is a pretty poor MMO.

MOBAs until LoL were the hidden gem of gaming, and the core ideas behind the genre are solid and great. There is a reason DOTA was such a popular WC3 mod for so long, and why LoL today is the top game out year after year. The model works long-term, and HotS doesn’t appear to destroy that model (it does, but that’s not something you will notice immediately). Much like I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in someone telling me LotRO is amazing because you can group with other players to complete quests, people who haven’t played a MOBA before saying HotS is a lot of fun should be taken in the correct context. Not saying you’re wrong, but… you’re kinda wrong.

The “Blizzard wasn’t aiming at LoL” argument. This goes back to the Hearthstone discussion about that game being a bearly-top-50 mobile app. Old Blizzard didn’t release niche products; they made niche products/genres mega-hits and mainstream. If the argument for New Blizzard with both HS and now HotS is that New Blizzard is just aiming at a little slice of the pie, that alone shows how far Blizzard has fallen. Also I’m not sure investors on the stock market would agree that Blizzard is the little guy just hoping to attract a niche audience to one of its ‘different’ titles.

I think it’s more accurately to say that with both HS and HotS, Blizzard simply missed the mark and created two sub-par games. Games that area very easy to pick up, but also very easy to put down due to a lack of depth, a quality previous Blizzard titles always had. And with both games not having a box price, and business models that rely on long-term retention (and continued spending as the dev teams continue to work on them, although I’m not sure I’d call the Hearthstone support ‘work’), that’s a big problem.

Shorter games: I haven’t played a HotS game under 20 minutes yet, while I believe the average ARAM in LoL is less than that, and I’ve personally had plenty end in 15 minutes or less. The surrender time in a ranked game is 20 minutes as well. Worse still, every game so far in HotS has taken that long regardless of what is actually happening. Very close game in terms of kills? 20ish minutes. Complete faceroll? 20ish minutes. It’s almost like what you do in the game doesn’t matter, which linking back to Hearthstone, is perhaps the New Blizzard design mantra? Creating games where player action matters as little as humanly possible?

Same for the community; don’t confuse people not caring to flame you because actions don’t matter with somehow the actual community being better. Let’s not even get into the whisper spam from bots/hackers that doesn’t happen in LoL but is rampant in HotS already.

Where HotS is facing an even bigger challenge than Hearthstone is that we have direct comparisons to other games. People got very upset when I compared Blizzard’s mobile game to the top mobile game out (oh how crazy of me!), but at least there they are very different games. HotS is a very poor LoL, and there is no denying that. Regardless of how much you try to explain the ‘Blizzard twist’ on HotS, it’s a MOBA. And in the MOBA genre, updates are expected to come quickly and with solid depth. Mechanics get tweaked, skills get adjusted, and new heroes are released. Blizzard can get away without updating Hearthstone for months (as is currently the case, in the last few months exactly two cards have been tweaked and NOTHING else has been done with the game), but that won’t fly in the MOBA market, especially when said MOBA is already a kiddie pool of depth banking mostly on a gimmick rather than core gameplay.

That rapid update requirement is going to be a big problem for Blizzard when HotS underperforms, especially after you take into consideration how slow in general Blizzard is about updating anything. How big is the HotS team going to remain when things go south? And how quickly will whatever players the game has left begin to jump ship when the updates slow due to the dev team getting cut back?

HotS is shaping up to be a rather beautiful disaster, one that will be fun to watch unfold.

 

 


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