Pay to play, pay to spawn item

January 16, 2015

One item I want to address today in light of Smed being Smed: Since the beginning of time, you have been able to pay another player real money to get something in a game.

In UO I could buy a fully maxed character, a huge house, a powerful item, or a ‘fluff’ thing like a broken water tile with real money. The same is true for basically every single MMO. If you want to spend money instead of time to get something, you could always and still can do it. In some games this requires more effort, or the ban risk is higher, but its an option in EVERY SINGLE MMO.

And because the above is 100% true, this also means that every single item and account in an MMO has a real-world money value. That you may not be aware of what the value is, or that it even has a value, doesn’t change the fact that it does. That’s just you with your head in the sand, and pretending everyone else is also right there in the sand with you is beyond silly.

Now, the new-ish trend in games, and in MMOs in particular, isn’t the ‘money for items’ exchange, its the ‘money to dev to spawn item’ exchange. That is new, and that is how you go down the Pay-4-Power trail.

The only thing I can give CCP money for in EVE is account time (and cosmetics via Aurum), be it direct (pay my sub) or indirect (PLEX). I can’t give CCP money and have them spawn me a ship, ammo, skill points, or anything else that has direct power. I can give SOE/Smed money and he will spawn guns and ammo for me. That is the critical difference. That’s why people are pissed off, and rightfully so.

Especially because it’s one thing to make a Pay-4-Power game, which itself isn’t the end of the world. Plenty of games are exactly that, and can still be fun games whether you do pay and go all wallet-warrior, or don’t pay and see how far up the hill you can climb. But the worst thing a P4P game dev can do is lie and pretend the game isn’t P4P.

If you embrace what you are and are honest about it, players can make an informed decision, and don’t feel that they are supporting liars who think the players are too stupid to know what they are playing.

Smed taking a piss on every H1Z1 player and tell them its just raining is probably not how SOE wants to be represented, is it?*

* Answer: 50/50, because SOE.


Smed being Smed?

January 16, 2015

SOE being SOE is well established, but do we now need a sub-category for them with Smed being Smed? I think we might. I present you exhibit A:

“We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water… i.e. That’s kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that” - Smed

Right now, in H1Z1, you can PAY to have an airdrop fly by that can drop guns, ammo, food, water, which in my opinion makes the whole game suck. Oh Smed.

But don’t worry everyone, Smed is fixing the airborn lottery lockbox by reducing the chance to get the good stuff. Because the only thing more fun in an ‘MMO’ like H1Z1 than paying for a random lottery chest, is paying for a random lottery chest with really shitty odds to give you what you are paying for. Because who doesn’t love paying to get junk? Certainly not SOE fans!


CoC: State of the Cream update

January 14, 2015

Outside of the war updates from Delpez, I want to write a bit about CoC in general, the clan specifically, and related items, so here goes.

As for CoC itself, I’m still very actively playing the game, and believe it’s easily not just the very best mobile game out by a mile, but one of the best games out period across all of gaming. From its learning/progression curve (quick and simple start, long to ‘max out’ and master) its pro-social design (no weak links, helping others helps you), the ‘F2P done right’ business model (Pay-2-Skip rather than Pay-4-Power, while at the same time being the most successful mobile game year after year), and the solid and active support the game receives (no ‘time to give us more money’ cash grab updates, no massive shifts in power, no horribly imbalanced changes, new stuff like units or buildings/traps that expand the game rather than shift it, appropriate and not obnoxious holiday stuff), it’s just an all-around amazing product well worth anyone’s times.

My clan, “Supreme Cream!”, is also doing extremely well. We are constantly floating between a full 50 man roster and 45+ members (so feel free to apply and we will get you in, either right away or when a spot opens up), we generally do well in wars, and the social aspect of chat and people helping out is very solid.

I’m at a bit of an impasse however with what I want to do with the clan, as it relates to clan wars. For a while now our trend has been that we win most of our wars, but when we run up against a solid, no-derps clan, we generally lose, and I don’t like losing.

This reminds me of early WoW raiding. Our guild started off as a more casual guild, but as we got more and more into raiding, we had to decide if we were fine with not really progressing, or if we were going to make the changes to allow us to keep moving forward. I feel like that’s where the CoC clan is at right now; do I make changes to get us into shape to compete with everyone, or do I keep it very casual and accept defeat from top-shelf clans?

As Delpez tracks war activity, the first change I made is that members must perform 8 attacks in 5 wars, basically allowing someone to miss one and still count as active. The side-note to that is anyone who lets us know they will not be around for RL reasons won’t have that war count against them.

The tricky thing with managing this clan is that everyone in it is a blog reader or friend of a reader, so I feel bad booting people because they are ‘my people’ in a way. On the other hand, like with any game, for any number of reasons people do move on, and they don’t necessarily leave a guild when they do, so the occasional roster ‘clean up’ is needed.

I believe this is important however as winning or progressing is important to keep active members happy. To go back to WoW, if our guild hadn’t made the needed changes to keep progressing, our more motivated members would have left and found another guild, and to be honest I’d rather keep someone like that happy at the expense of a semi-inactive or unmotivated person than vice versa. But as always identifying where that fine line between ‘active’ guild/clan management and being too hardcore lies is tricky, and a big mistake in one direction or another can ruin a good thing.

 

 


CoC: War stats vs GoHAM Gaming 1/12/2015

January 14, 2015

(Stats and writeup by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! vs. Goham Gaming

 

Supreme Cream Enemy
Average TH Level 7.84 8.08
Average Player Level 70.50 80.16
Score 107 134
Total Attacks Used 81 93
Total 3 Star Attacks 18 35
Total 3 Star % 22.22 37.6
3 Stars Against Same Level 15 23
3 Star % Against Same Level 27.3 32.9
3 Stars Against Lower Level 3 12
3 Star % Against Lower Level 27.3 80.0
TH4,5&6 3 Stars 0 0
TH4,5&6 3 Star % 0.0 #DIV/0!
TH7 3 Stars 3 6
TH7 3 Stars % 18.8 60.0
TH7 3 Stars (same level) 3 4
TH7 3 Stars % (same level) 60.0 100.0
TH8 3 Stars 11 26
TH8 3 Star % 23.4 36.1
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 9 18
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 20.9 30.0
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.7 1.9
TH9&10 3 Stars 4 3
TH9&10 3 Star % 28.6 27.3
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 3 1
TH9&10 3 Star % (same level) 42.9 16.7
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.86 2.00

After a number of easy victories, we got beaten comprehensively in this war. Not only were our enemies stronger in terms of TH level, their average player level was also a lot higher (70.5 vs. 80.2). In other words, it was always going to be tough. We certainly did not do ourselves any favours by a lower activity level (81 attacks vs. 93). The next two tables show the number of players per TH level, and the average player level at each TH:

Players per TH

Supreme Cream! Enemy
Nr of TH10 3 2
Nr of TH9 4 5
Nr of TH8 29 38
Nr of TH7 11 5
Nr of TH6 2 0
Nr of TH5 1 0

Average player level per TH

Supreme Cream! Enemy
TH10 103.0 119.5
TH9 79.5 101.2
TH8 73.5 77.7
TH7 59.3 61.8

We had equal numbers of high level bases, but theirs were much further advanced (as shown by the average player level for TH9&10 bases). Considering this, our top level bases did very well in terms of 3-star numbers.

Our opponents only had a few TH7 bases, but they outperformed our TH7’s by a large margin. Our TH7’s could only manage 60% against same level bases, which is a very low percentage considering all our players have access to dragons. A well executed dragon attack should 3-star a TH7 base almost 100% of the time.

None of those statistics meant much in this war, just because of the sheer number of TH8 bases. Not only did they outnumber us at TH8, but their average player level was also higher. The player level reflects the fact that we have a number of new TH8’s who haven’t maxed their air defences or dragons yet, while most of their TH8’s were quite advanced. However, some errors were made during our dragon attacks; I’m not measuring error by the number of stars here – a bad attack at TH7 can still net 3-stars, while a good attack at TH8 can fail. But there are incorrect ways to execute a dragon attack that significantly reduce the chance for success. I’ve listed those errors, as well as some points for discussion. Note that attack execution is not mentioned, just the general attack strategy.

Typical mistakes with dragon attacks:

By far the most common mistakes are to dump all the dragons in one spot, or failing to create a funnel for the dragons to core into the base. The biggest risk during a dragon attack is that they’ll skirt around the base, hence the funnel. To create a funnel first take out the edges of the side you want to attack, before spreading the rest of the dragons between those two points. This forces the dragons into the base. Spreading them out also minimizes damage from AOE clan troops such as wizards, who can do some serious harm to dragons if they’re all bunched up.

I won’t say it’s impossible to 3-star an advanced TH8 base with level 2 dragons, but it happens very, very rarely. Advanced bases are typically where the combined level of the air defences are over 15. A while ago I kept record of such attacks, and the success rate was exactly 0%! I know in the latest war there were very few weak bases to attack, but if you have level 2 dragons, please make sure all weaker bases have been 3-starred before taking on a strong TH8 base.

Splitting up the dragons to attack more than one side of the base is usually a mistake. It might be tempting to attack air defences on opposite sides, but unless the base is flawed and the AD right on the perimeter, such an attack will fail. Dragons work best in mass; splitting them will only weaken the overall attack.

Some players attack the side of the base with the fewest air defences. With three AD’s you usually have two on one side of the town hall and one on the other. Attacking the side with one AD might be tempting to minimize damage while coring into the base, but the dragons will take a LOT more damage from the remaining AD’s while clearing the town hall. Remember, your objective is to kill as many AD’s as soon as possible, so you need to attack the side with the most powerful air defences.

There are two ways to use balloons: drop them behind the dragon wave, or use them to take out an AD close to the perimeter. The second method only works if the AD is very close to the edge – targeting an AD behind more than one other defensive structure is usually a mistake, as it takes too long for the balloons to get to it.

Level 4 balloons are just not good enough, level 5 balloons are ok and level 6 balloons are great. Using level 4 balloons, whether it’s in the clan castle or as regular troops, only dilutes the overall power of the attack.

Dragon attack discussion points:

Something I almost put under mistakes is attacking the corner of a base (as opposed to a side). However, I’ve seen numerous corner attacks that yield 3-stars, so it’s obviously a valid strategy. Just realize that it’s more difficult to create a funnel if you attack a corner, since by definition the base flares out from the corner. Also, you have a smaller area to deploy your dragons in, which increases the risk against AOE clan troops or the dragons going the wrong way. None of these factors are deal breakers, but they should be taken into account when planning a corner attack.

The Rage/Heal spell combination is more powerful, but zapping an AD with Lightning spells is more consistent. There is really no reason to use Rage spells at TH7, you don’t need the additional power and the odds of failure with Lightning spells are small (as long as you manage to drop the Lightnings dead centre on the AD). Lightning spells can also be used against many low to mid TH8 bases, but against the higher TH8’s you might need to extra power of the Rage/Heal combination.

When to deploy the King is obviously dependant on the base and the level of the King. A lot of people use him at the start to create a funnel for the dragons – while this is not wrong, you’re giving up a lot of utility and damage by dropping him early. Towards the end of an attack the King can deal a ton of damage and help clear the base – especially against anti-dragon bases where he does not have to go through walls. He can also play tank and soak damage from towers and teslas while your dragons do their thing. Finally, he can be used to force wayward dragons into the base by taking out some strategic perimeter structures. I suspect that the higher the level of the King, the more sense it makes to drop him later.


Farcry 4 finished, some thoughts

January 13, 2015

So a few days ago I ‘finished’ Farcry 4. I say finished in ‘finished’ because I didn’t complete all of the side quests before finishing the main storyline mission, and there is certainly plenty of other stuff for me to do. I might still do some of it, as overall I really enjoyed the game. To cut to the very end, it’s certainly a game I would highly recommend to anyone, FPS fan or not.

I’ve already posted about how alive the world in Farcry feels, but I also want to add that the level of detail is mostly interconnected, and if you take the time to put the pieces together, you get more out of the world and the events in it than if you just blast through everything.

I feel that’s a somewhat rare thing in gaming today. For comparison, remember how odd some things felt in Skyrim? You had a civil war going and dragons flying around, yet most people you met didn’t seem aware of this and were still really focused on you just collecting X for them or completing a few tasks so you can become a member of their guild. How much cooler would Skyrim have been if the overall world was aware of the actions happening; be it the civil war being decided or the dragons being defeated? In Farcry, while it’s not 100% perfect, the world certainly feels far more aligned with what you are doing and the impact you are making.

I also appreciate the game knowing what it is and what it’s not. The shooting mechanics feel really solid, the weapon selection is excellent, and the stealth gameplay feels incredibly natural and is a ton of fun. Perhaps even more importantly, the game understands it’s not a platformer, so while it does have minor jumping puzzles and such, the controls don’t force you into a pixel-thin margin of error. Walking across a smaller-looking plank for instance isn’t something you are going to fall off of because you didn’t line up perfectly, just like jumping to a ledge has a large margin of error. I appreciate that because it reduces frustration, and I’m not playing a game like Farcry to get platformer-level of difficulty from timing jumps or scaling cliffs.

So yes, excellent game all around, and a really fun break from what I usually play. It’s also the type of game I’d be more than willing to buy DLC for, like for instance a chance to play on the side of the main enemy.

 


Lifeless-like (get it)

January 12, 2015
Look what 2003 gave us!

Look what 2003 gave us!

 

Little Monday morning trivia for everyone, is the above image:

A: An upcoming one-man indie game

B: Something I created in the last ten minutes using free software and default art

C: SOE being SOE


Heroes of Might and Magic 3 HD – Why am I not excited?

January 7, 2015

There have been a lot of solid turn based strategy games released in recent years. Just off the top of my head, we have Civ V, XCOM, Heroes of Might and Magic 6, Eador, Fallen Enchantress, Endless Legend, Age of Wonders 3, Warlock 2, Crusader Kings 2, and I’m sure at least a few others I’m missing. This is a bit surprising considering that genre has always been, and I think still is, pretty niche. Other than Civ and XCOM, are any of the other titles ‘best sellers’?

Not that I am in any way complaining, as TBS is a personal favorite of mine, and for a long time the genre wasn’t getting many releases or ‘big budget’ games. But all of these choices make a game standing out, lasting, and being ‘something special’ harder, which brings me to Heroes of Might and Magic 3 HD; I just don’t have any interesting in the re-release of a game I played the hell out of originally.

I’m personally a little surprised by this. I mean, I ate up the Baldur’s Gate remakes, so you would think something like this would be right up my alley, but nope. I glanced at the screen shots on Steam, never got really excited, and moved on. That said the pre-order is a top seller on Steam, so clearly a lot of people feel differently, and maybe if I hadn’t played so many of the titles listed above, I’d be up for this remake too. And who knows, maybe the nostalgia bug will bite me during a Steam sale, I’ll pick this up, and be reminded of just how great this game was (is?).

 


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