AoW3 solves the ‘one and done’ problems of most TBS titles

May 22, 2015

Long-game TBS games like Age of Wonders 3 take a long time to fully judge, especially if you are interested in how well the game holds up after a dozen or so multiplayer games, when the players know what they are doing and the ‘new shine’ has worn off.

I’m happy to report AoW3 is holding up very well, and the most recent expansion has only been a major bonus.

For starters, its important to note that AoW3 is overall a very good game. It looks good, sounds good, has lots of content/variety, and is technically solid (no crashing and the multiplayer doesn’t disconnect or throw weird errors). Bonus points for loading quickly, having a UI that doesn’t get in the way, and having units/races that are both traditional (dwarfs with axes/shields, elves with bows) and different (tiger-like race with pounce, lucky halflings).

Beyond that very solid foundation, perhaps the most important improvement AoW3 has going for it over similar games like Heroes of Might and Magic 6 or even Civilization V is that rarely does a multiplayer game ultimately come down to ‘one big fight’. If you have played similar games before, you know that the general pattern of each game is: buildup, fight neutrals, position for major fight, major fight happens, someone wins the fight and basically the game.

In AoW3, because stacks are limited and moving all your units near each other is discouraged (you will fall behind in exploration and clearing neutral camps/treasures), its very common that you will have multiple major battles during a game, and winning any one battle won’t instantly decide the game. This may sounds simple or minor, but it makes a world of difference and the whole experience is far more entertaining because of it.

In many of the games I’ve played, who is winning has shifted multiple times, and even as a game looked to be winding down, a late turnaround is possible if things line up. That is huge, and really keeps the game from feeling like an inevitable slog towards victory after a certain point. I would say this is even more true in play-by-email games, as in those you must use auto-battle when fighting another player, which prevents cheese builds/strategies from being effective and also adds a final bit of randomness to everything.

Highly recommended title for any TBS fan, and both expansions are worth picking up as well, since they just add ‘more’ of everything without the game feeling like it has TOO much going on.


CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Spergs of War

May 9, 2015

(Writeup and stats by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! Vs Spergs of War

That was close (and fun!) – with about an hour left on the clock we were still trailing by six stars, and with eight minutes left we were four stars behind! However Lui, Justin and Syn pulled it through for a one star victory, but there were good clutch attacks by a number of people. First let’s have a look at the relative clan strengths.

Nr. of TH’s

SC! Enemy
Nr of TH10 3 1
Nr of TH9 11 12
Nr of TH8 24 25
Nr of TH6&7 2 2
Ave TH level 8.38 8.28

Average experience per TH

SC! Enemy
TH9&10 98.2 101.0
TH8 79.3 79.2
TH6&7 62.5 49.5
Overall 84.5 84.5

The matchmaker seems to be doing a decent job these days– this is probably as close as you’re going to get. We had one more top level base, but they had an extra base at TH8. Their TH9&10 and TH8 bases were slightly more advanced than ours, but we had three TH10’s compared to one. War stats are shown next:

Attack stats

SC! Enemy
Score 100 99
Total Attacks Used 73 75
Total 3 Star Attacks 24 22
Total 3 Star % 32.9 29.3
3 Stars Against Same Level 17 16
3 Star % Against Same Level 27.0 28.1
3 Stars Against Lower Level 7 5
3 Star % Against Lower Level 70.0 50.0
TH8 3 Stars 12 17
TH8 3 Star % 27.9 34.7
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 12 14
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 27.9 33.3
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.9 2.1
TH9&10 3 Stars 8 5
TH9&10 3 Star % 30.8 22.7
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 4 2
TH9&10 3 Star % (same level) 21.1 14.3
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.58 2.00

As you would expect, things were extremely close. We scored the same number of new 3-stars (22-22). The record says we scored 24 3-stars, but two of those were repeat attacks by TH7’s, probably because they believed that they had no chance against the remaining TH8 bases. Just a comment on that: if you have level 2 dragons you can always try and get a 3-star from a TH8 base, no matter how advanced it is. Your chance of success might be low, but what’s the worst that can happen? You’re almost guaranteed a star and much better war loot.

Our participation was ok, but not great; missing seven attack in a close 40-man war can be game-breaking. Otherwise we were beaten at TH8; our opponents scored more 3-stars at a higher percentage. To compensate we outperformed them when looking at 3-stars numbers at the top. This is shown in the number of stars left behind by TH level:

Stars left

SC! Enemy
TH10 6 1
TH9 8 10
TH8 7 9

At TH10 we established a big advantage, which could be expected since they only had one TH10 against three. Dotcalm and Sicarius made this advantage count, each scoring a 2-star and a 3-star. This is a huge return at the very top, and the reason we won. Both at TH9 and TH8 we left two stars more behind than our opponents, but the TH10 advantage was just enough to secure the win.

At TH9 we are definitely getting better, which is a big reason for our recent win record (11/12). As our TH9’s progress further we should start beating the other team at this level. TH8 performance is probably due to the fact that most of our advanced TH8’s have made the jump to TH9, which means that we’ve lost a number of GoWiPe and Hog attacks at TH8. For the remaining players getting access to those attacks will make a big difference to our performance at TH8.

Finally, there had been some discussion in chat regarding our attack strategy. Currently we use the first attack against our direct opposite number, and the second to clean up. Our opponents in this war hit two down with their first attacks, and we played a clan once that hit ten down. I believe two factors are critical for any attack strategy. Firstly a unique base for every player to attack, meaning that a specific base is mine to attack, and mine only. This allows for detailed planning of an attack – nothing worse than cooking up a Hog attack against a specific base and someone else jumping the queue! Secondly, the strategy should allow for redundancy, especially against TH9&10 bases. Executing attacks against tough bases are hard, and fails often happen. Real life also intervenes and people sometimes miss wars. This means that you should have back-up attacks – to clean up all the zero- and 1-stars. That’s why I believe our current strategy is successful; every player targets a unique base for his first attack, and can clean up with the second.

The lower down you hit with the first attack the less redundancy you have against top bases. For instance, the clan who attacked ten bases down scored fantastically well during the first round of attacks, but they still had zero stars against our top ten bases. Because their top bases hit so far down, they only had ten (fifteen max) effective attacks against our top ten and left way too many stars behind. To give another example, in the current war we scored four 0-stars and five 1-stars against their TH9&10 bases. If we didn’t have redundancy those attacks would have been final, and we would have been crushed at TH9&10.

Having said that, I also believe that we shouldn’t be shy to hit down with our second attacks. A tough TH9 base with 1-star and an average TH8 base with 2-stars against it represents about the same likely return – one star. However, it might be a lot easier to get the star from the TH8 base. This becomes more and more important as time is running out. With ten hours to go you don’t want to take attacks away from our TH8’s, but with an hour left I think you should go for the easy star every time.


HS: Now not even a footnote, and the clock has officially started for the FFXIV takeover of WoW

May 6, 2015

Bla bla bla WoW is dying, will soon be overtaken by FFXIV for most subs, SynCaine right again, etc etc etc.

Honestly if any of this is still surprising to you, that’s on you. Pay attention and join the cool kids table already.

What is mildly surprising is that Blizzard’s footnote title, Hearthstone, isn’t even a footnote now. How can you do an article about digital sales growth and not even mention HS? What, just because the title can’t crack the top 10 grossing chart on the iPhone, and plays “wheres Waldo” on the iPad chart, you can’t even mention it? You have to lump it into ‘accounts created’ Turbine territory with Destiny?

At least give me a cute tweet or two? Just something like “oh hey remember that art we reused from that game we are slowing killing due to laziness? Um we are still doing that, care to roll some dice with us? Or at least ‘+likeHeart’ our Twitch channel? Anyone? Hello… hello?”


Dear KTR, unblock me

September 16, 2014

I miss leaving extremely witty one-liners, get me out of your spam bin.


Spam, freebies, rewards

September 9, 2014

Slow days in blogging land of late, unless you are really into ‘debating’ definitions or pounding away at the corpse of a long-dead horse, so just a quick couple of notes for today.

First, if you own a blog that I occasionally comment on, check your spam filter. Seems I pop into spam filters now. Not entirely sure that’s in error…

Second, I’ve noticed that if a company outright sends me a copy/code for a game, I’m far more likely to at least give it a shot than if someone sends me one of those “would you be interested in…” emails. Just something about getting right to it and not pre-filtering it with a wink wink nudge about a positive review works for me. Still doesn’t guarantee you anything, but if you have a solid product, it removes one barrier I have to giving you a shot.

Finally, I like how Final Fantasy XIV handles subscription longevity rewards, in that you can see what you will get the longer you stay subscribed, and (I think) all of the rewards fall into the fluff category. It’s not THE reason to stay subscribed, but at the same time it is a nice bonus and does its part to justify the monthly cost. FFXIV maybe not have the one killer feature to make it amazing, but so far it seems that everything it does, it at least does well, and the sum of all those solid parts makes for a great MMO.


CoC: All we do is win win win no matter what

August 17, 2014

Just a friendly reminder that if you aren’t playing Clash of Clans with us, you’re missing out big-time. Great group of blog readers just helping each other out in a great game and having a great time all around. Great.

Oh and since I took over leadership of “Supreme Cream!” and did a little house cleaning, we haven’t lost a clan war. Coincidence? I think not.

We accept anyone willing to learn and who will be active during wars, don’t worry about being low-level, we’ll train you up quick. Clan space maxes out at 50, we are at 34 right now. Don’t wait and then live with unbearable regret forever.


Return to sanity

February 11, 2013

So this happened over the weekend. Head on over and enjoy, especially the comments section. If you skim, don’t worry, I’ve got a lot of the choice quotes here.

On the surface this just sounds like a bitter ex-MMO blogger venting because others are talking about a PvP MMO, and to them those types of games are scary monsters to be shunned. More of the same, right?

Except it’s not just that, especially if you go into the comments section. There, it’s an interesting look into the MMO genre and how it’s currently in a state of correction.

To put it bluntly, SW:TOR was the last of a dying breed. We will never see another mega-expensive themepark focused on refining what made WoW work, primarily because it’s now been confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the model does not work; not in WoW now, not in titles trying to be it.

In part, it’s because this is who you are targeting:

MMOs are DESIGNED to be a quick and replaceable pastime, they are easy to pick up and require minimal investment (like all games compared to any real-life activity). Nobody ever designed them to be the Mozart-equivalent of anything. Just because you’re not able to retain perspective, and treat them as the *games* they are, does not turn them into anything different.

You expect the player above to play/pay for months and months in order to make your money back. As EA themselves stated so well: “if SW:TOR can’t do it, no one can”. Oh how right they were.

I find all of this comical in a way. These are the players always telling us that in PvP games, the wolves eat the sheep, and then the sheep leave, and the wolves are left with nothing; yet here we have the sheep leaving their pastures after a month or so, dooming one title after another. Not that I blame them of course; when you are only given a month-worth of content, why stay indeed.

What really seems silly here is the perception of expectations. Let’s start with this:

If today a game released and got 250,000 players, it would be considered a failure

That’s a funny metric isn’t it? Because by that standard, only a few MMOs qualify as a success, and only two of them can be solidly confirmed (WoW and EVE). Everything else? Either hovering near that, or they are far below.

(WoW) remains the yard stick with which other games have to be measured:

If this was 2007, then the above statement would only appear foolish to a few :cough: But its 2013. It’s been almost 9 years since WoW has been released, and in those 9 years, how many titles and how much money has been spent without a single title even coming close to retaining a tenth of what WoW peaked at? No, today no one is using WoW as a yard stick, just like no new music record is using Thriller as the make-or-break point.

But the angst is understandable, because the slow confirmation is sinking in; those who enjoyed what WoW offered will be left out in the cold soon. That ‘mass market’ is, shockingly, just not profitable. The content is too expensive to produce, the players don’t stick around long enough, and even when you seem to get most things right, you still fall about ten million subs short of expectations. Again, in 2007 maybe this was a debate, in 2013, it’s not.

In the whole subset of humanity, people who like MMOs are a small subset, and guys who will always like MMOs are a tiny subset in that subset. Basically not worth even considering when talking about MMO gamers as a whole.

Ah yes, our little niche. The problem with the above is rather simple. If you aim to retain 500k subs, and only get 250k, you have failed. And if all you can plan for is that 500k, the MMO genre seems like a really difficult place to do business. And for years now, all most have heard about is the go-big-or-go-home mantra of WoW-cloning. Why aim at 50k when you can target that juicy 12m?

Because the 12m is a lie, isn’t it? For a multitude of factors already well-covered, the 12m that played WoW back in vanilla/TBC just don’t have a real interest in MMOs as a whole. They never did, and while they were briefly attracted to a bright light every now and again, the tourists always came back, or just left and went home altogether (though ‘9m’ still remain, right?). Yet for years studio after studio tried to chase them, dressing their offering up as a robot, or a superhero, or countless variations of Gandalf. And all failed. All of them.

What has always worked in this genre is accurate targeting and delivery. To most Darkfall 1 was not a success, because it never got above 100k subs and Aventurine’s track record was and is, well, let’s call it special. And yet DF1 was a sub-based MMO for three years, had three expansions and launched a second server six months after release, and now has a sequel of impeccable quality (snicker) in beta. From a players perspective, it’s exactly what you could hope for. More importantly, for those at AV, from the original crew to the new hires, they get to continue doing what they love and getting paid for it. And DF is just one example among many, with by far the most prominent being EVE; a title still growing after ten years that is more true to its vision than just about anything else. A title that started in a niche of niches and carved itself into the second-biggest MMO out. Not bad for Excel Online.

More importantly, Camelot Unchained and others show that the future of the genre is, finally, not in chasing the mythical WoW unicorn, but in reproducing what actually worked; delivering a measured product aimed at the crowd that actually wants it. And if that crowd is only 30k strong, as Mark Jacob’s estimates will be the case for CU, so be it. 30k people paying you each month is more than doable from a business standpoint; you just can’t spend 300m to get there.

And that’s where the fear comes in from the WoW-clone crowd. Titles like CU offer nothing for them. Nothing. They are too focused, too targeted, and demand too much from them. Worst of all, these titles don’t NEED the WoW-cloners, and that scares them to death. After all these years of being catered to, of having one massively over-produced monthly snack after another, the next wave will ignore them and move right past them.

It’s what niche products do. And MMOs are most certainly niche, one unique and unreproducible outlier aside.


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