Hex+Hearthstone: What should have been

December 5, 2014

Having just wrapped up an arena winning 7 games, my main thought for the last 3-4 games was “make it end”. I kept playing just because, but yea, not really fun. Mage deck that happened to pull 4 flamestrikes, zzzz but effective. Oh and the new cards are in the arena, and let me tell you, they are a HOOT with all the random BS they cause. A total hoot!

On the flip side was my experience with Hex. The intro tutorial had no sound. The default size of the chat window is so small its kind of a joke. The whole thing doesn’t feel as polished or solid as Hearthstone, and Hex is a PC game where Hearthstone is an ipad app.

On the other hand, even two games into the PvE series (campaign?), I’ve already made more interesting decisions and felt more in control of the game than 99% of Hearthstone games, and that’s using the intro deck which I’m pretty sure is designed to be really basic (though maybe not, see less polish issue above). I could see myself playing Hex for a long time, if once I get over the learning curve it overall ‘works’. Too early to say just yet, but so far so good.

Playing Hex actually made me realize just HOW dumbed down Hearthstone is. I mean I had a good idea of what a normal game of MtG plays like, but it’s been a few years since I’ve actually done it. Playing Hex reminded me just how many decision points during one full round Blizzard removed, to say nothing about the actual cards or other game systems.

Which highlights why I’m so hard on Hearthstone; there is no reason Blizzard couldn’t have gone with the design of Hex, and the polish of Hearthstone. Yes, I know Blizzard was hoping to capture the masses with this ‘casual’ app, but they failed. “The masses” isn’t a game in the top 50 for revenue, and out of the top 200 in terms of downloads when it has the Blizzard name and Warcraft IP behind it.

If Hearthstone was a massive success I wouldn’t be ranting about it, but rather would just accept that its a game not for me but clearly for a lot of others. But it isn’t. Maybe with future updates it might be, but right now it isn’t. And it could have been something far more interesting and successful. Old Blizzard would have delivered that. New Blizzard didn’t. Maybe they can’t.


Hearthstone: Wake up, roll dice, return to nap

December 4, 2014

If you’re like most people, well actually if you are like most people you aren’t playing Hearthstone. But if you are among the select few who found the game way, way down in the app store somehow, I’m sure by now you are really annoyed at the games biggest flaw; sometimes when you are awake-enough to notice what is happening, you are very, very occasionally forced to make a decision that might actually effect the outcome of the game. Super frustrating right? Give me dice or give me death! Player decisions and skill are for weirdos and such game never succeed to attract the masses! (please ignore the fact that many of the top games today are heavily skill based, please!)

But fear not fellow fans of Candyland, Blizzard is set to fix this horrible problem shortly! Check out all of the wonderful new cards coming. Now count up the number of times you see the word “random”. Or just stop after the count of 50, no need to spend half a day here. Awesome right?

Random weapon for BOTH players, random minion summoning, random damage cards being put into your deck, minions going back into your deck randomly, 50% chance to attack something randomly (this is a whole new monster skill line, which is almost too sad to mock. Almost), summon a random LEGENDARY monster, random skills to your minions, random random random…

I love that New Blizzard is trying to fix Hearthstone being a shallow, sleep-inducing title not by expanding the cards to add more depth, but by going in the exact opposite direction and just making even more things random and further removing the impact of player actions. I’m honestly surprised one of the cards isn’t “50% chance to reduce your opponent to zero health, 50% to reduce you to zero”. Oh what a fun silly goblin card that would be, wheee!

Can’t wait to watch the next world championship played out between two dice cups sitting at a table. Heavily leaning towards betting on the blue cup, his dice seem to have that ‘it’ factor.


LoL – The future is here, and everyone is watching

December 3, 2014

As mentioned before, I greatly enjoyed watching much of the League of Legends world championship, taking in about two dozen or so matches (though all on replay due to the time zone differences), including watching the final matches on the big screen TV with the wife. Just in terms of pure entertainment, the product was on par with other offerings on cable TV.

In other words, if I had the choice between LoL Worlds and say, Game of Thrones, it would be a 50/50 situation (I’d end up watching both, but gun to my head and being only able to watch one… think I’d lean towards LoL honestly).

The production quality was top-notch, the matches were filled with surprises, upsets, and comebacks (though the final winner was the favorite going in, so ultimately things played out as expected in that regard), and technically the product was error-free from what I watched.

All of this is especially impressive considering the size of the audience. Riot has provided the numbers here, and again if we compare this to TV viewership, the LoL Worlds would have been amongst the highest rated shows on TV, and extremely valuable due to it catering to the highest-sought demographic (18-35 males) in terms of advertising. Network execs would KILL for those numbers in that demo for a prime-time show or event.

Consider that by far the most valuable TV property right now, the NFL, averages just under 20 million viewers per game (granted Worlds is closer to the Superbowl in terms of frequency and importance, but the Superbowl blows EVERYTHING out of the water in terms of viewership, and the Superbowl comparison is like comparing MMO success using WoW as the starting point). The average prime-time TV show averages around 7 million viewers, and more and more the viewership is NOT the key 18-35 demo.

I was going to say I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point in the near future, we see eSports on TV here in the US in a major way (this is already the case in Korea), but that might not happen simply because the TV model itself is a dinosaur. Pro players today aren’t looking to get on TV, they are looking to build streaming viewership numbers, which in turn result in more ad revenue and sponsorships. They don’t NEED a network or TV deal, because they have Twitch, and anyone can start up a Twitch channel. In a way it’s like how the news business has changed; in days past a reporter and the newspaper company behind him were in control of the information and when/how it was shared, while today anyone with a Twitter account can tweet and ‘break the news’. For better or worse, technology has changed the news industry, just like today it is changing the TV industry.

And because change is scary and the internet allows us to view fear as it happens, the Massively comments section does it big once again on this story. Worth reading if only for GoldenGirl, clearly a new gem to keep an eye on going forward.


The Settlers 2 – Lessons from the past

December 2, 2014

I’ve been playing The Settlers 2: Tenth Anniversary edition (via GoG.com) a good bit lately, and it’s been a nice reminder to what gaming was ‘back in the day’, mostly in a good way.

I won’t explain the basics of Settlers, but ultimately the core challenge comes down to managing traffic congestion; avoiding having any spot get too busy so as to cause a bottleneck. This is rather simplistic in the game as the only travel options are roads, and roads only have one auto-upgrade to a stone path that doubles the rate at which goods move from one point to the other. Everything else, from when to build something, finding resources, organizing buildings into logical groups, the entire military aspect; all of that ultimately boils down to how well the busiest part of your road network performs.

Yet that simplicity still leads to a lot of interesting decisions, and ultimately a fairly challenging game. Because each map is different, you can’t repeat the same building layout, so while general themes work (smithy near mines), you never get too comfortable and unexpected issues arise all the time. This however is only noticeable when the map challenges you, which is another critical factor in my current enjoyment; the game isn’t easy.

A challenging game basically forces you to improve, and one way to improve is to really understand the various game systems you are playing with. Without that challenge, you could fully complete a game and not pick up on some of the depth, and if that depth is critical to the overall ‘vision’ of the game, you won’t enjoy things nearly as much as you might/should.

On the other hand, having to fully restart a map in Settlers is a bit brutal, as a restart easily wipes away an hour or more of progress, and playing the same map again means you already know where a lot of resources are located and when you will encounter the enemy. It’s not hard to imagine that a lot of gamers today would simply walk away from the game after the first failure, and leave with a negative view of the game. While this problem isn’t beyond solving using more modern design techniques (random maps, scaling difficulty, etc), the core issue of challenge vs frustration is interesting.

Ultimately I am pleasantly surprised to see how well the game’s core design has held up. More modern city builders have far more features, options, and tech-driven bells and whistles, yet few if any amount to the number of interesting player decisions and critical thinking that The Settlers requires from you. Certainly recommended, just make sure not to rage-quit when things get a little tough!


CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Kaskus Cavalry 11/30/2014

December 2, 2014

(Stats and writeup provided by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! vs Kaskus Cavalry

Supreme Cream Enemy
Average TH Level 7.71 7.78
Score 126 122
Total Attacks Used 82 77
Total 3 Star Attacks 39 37
Total 3 Star % 47.56 48.1
3 Stars Against Same Level 31 20
3 Star % Against Same Level 51.7 39.2
3 Stars Against Lower Level 4 13
3 Star % Against Lower Level 66.7 76.5
TH4,5&6 3 Stars 0 2
TH4,5&6 3 Star % 0.0 66.7
TH7 3 Stars 19 13
TH7 3 Stars % 65.5 61.9
TH7 3 Stars (same level) 13 8
TH7 3 Stars % (same level) 76.5 80.0
TH8 3 Stars 17 15
TH8 3 Star % 41.5 35.7
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 17 9
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 50.0 26.5
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.3 1.7
TH9&10 3 Stars 3 7
TH9&10 2 Star % 33.3 63.6
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 1 1
TH9&10 3 Star % (same level) 16.7 25.0
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.67 1.50

 

Another close war and another close win. In fact, this was the smallest victory margin (4) since I started reporting on the wars. If you analyse this margin, two of the stars came from 3-star attacks, and another two from stars against top level bases.

We have only three TH6 bases left, so their performance doesn’t really influence the wars. However, pulling clan troops is still a problem preventing some low level 3-stars. At TH7 the percentages were similar, but it’s worth noting that half our TH7’s were smashed by higher levels. At TH8 we did well, smashing their TH8’s half the time while they could only manage one in four – our recent focus on defense is still paying dividends. This forced their top bases to attack down – six of our TH8’s were smashed by higher levels. However, this meant less attacks against our TH9&10’s, and we beat them by two crucial stars at the top.

This war shows the inherent redundancy in war attacks. You can be quite inefficient and still get close, because each clan gets 90 attacks but only 45 targets. The war also showed the difference between attacking lower versus same level bases. Many wars can be won with a downward attacking policy, but you are sacrificing stars at the top. In a close war it’s better to have a predominant sideways attacking policy – if your TH7 and TH8’s manage to clear most of the opposing bases, it leaves more same level attacks for top bases. Having said that, it’s usually better for rushed or newly promoted bases to attack down until they acquire the necessary attacking power.

Some observations:

Livercat’s anti-dragon base weathered eight (!) attacks before being smashed. However, these bases can be unlocked, as a TH7 showed against my own anti dragon base. The advantage of these bases is that they really punish careless dragon attacks and forces the opponent to be more precise.

Lightning is still working well for me, even against anti-dragon bases. In fact, the TH7 who smashed my base used triple Lightning. My gut feel is that Rage and/or Heal spells are more powerful against most TH8’s, but Lightning spells are easier to use and more consistent against flawed bases (with an AD close to the edge). Against TH7’s there is no contest – triple Lightning is the best and cheapest.

Rushed TH9 bases with crappy air defenses are surprisingly hard to 3-star. Their #16 looked like a juicy target, yet he defended seven of our dragon attacks with his low level air defenses. The problem is that he had four AD’s, and even at a low level they deal a ton of damage. So even if you deal with two or three AD’s, the fourth usually got the remaining dragons.


Reader vote: Wasteland 2 or Divinity?

December 1, 2014

Both are on sale right now for $26. If you could only pick one, which would it be?

(I’m going to own both at some point, but which one should I grab first to fill time until after Xmas?)


/taunt

November 28, 2014

Can’t use till after Christmas.

It whispers sweet nothings while I play

It whispers sweet nothings while I play

 

Not playing Total War: Rome 2, Farcry 4, FFXIV, and Endless Legends right now because I want to play them without a single hitch maxed out. Luckily The Settlers II – 10th Anniversary edition isn’t a demanding game, and a great reminder of what gaming was ‘back in the day’ (it gets brutally hard, but that’s a post for another day).


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