Dungeon Boss – Grind the game, not the UI

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.

Posted in iPhone, Random

Dungeon Boss: A good and honest way to waste some time

I appreciate honesty in game design. If you are creating a casual ‘time waster’ game that doesn’t do much else, I appreciate when the devs are honest about that. Same goes for ‘hardcore’ games, with Darksouls being one of the better examples recently. Brutally hard is a feature for those looking for it, but can also be something that drives people away, so it’s nice when the devs are upfront and honest, even when it might cost them a sale (which I think they more than recover via goodwill from honesty).

Dungeon Boss, a new mobile game many of us (Clash people) are playing, is pretty honest about its grind, and I appreciate that. First a quick overview of Dungeon Boss (DB).

DB is a game about collect and level characters, use those characters in very short PvE ‘dungeons’ that feature rather simple turn-based combat, and getting a large variety of tokens and such to upgrade your characters, as well as collecting new ones. The core gameplay, running dungeons, is very simple. Each character has at most three special abilities in addition to their standard attack, and you can bring a max of 4 characters on most runs. A run takes no longer than 5 minutes, and often can be done in 1-2 minutes.

It’s a F2P game, with a very strong Pay4Power component. If you spend, you can get stronger characters and upgrade them faster. I would call this Pay2Skip, but there is also a part of the game were you can attack another player for some gold (the gold stolen is only for unclaimed chest gold, so it’s nothing like attacks in CoC/BB where you can lose a lot of resources/progress), so it technically qualifies as P4P. I also believe, but I’m not 100% sure, that there are ‘pay-only’ characters. I do know there are ‘shop only’ characters, but I’ve already got two of those without paying (collected the different shop currencies from just playing the game).

Overall it’s a fun game without the need to spend any money, and if you are looking for another mobile time waster, DB is certainly worth looking into. Right now the only multiplayer is raiding others for their chest gold and trophies (reward ladder system that resets frequently) and being friends with people, which allows you to call their strongest hero into battle for one attack in a dungeon run (I’m SynCaine, send a friend invite if you start playing).

To return to the honesty part, DB is a ‘long grind’ type of game. Collecting all of the characters is going to take a LONG time, as will fully leveling them up. You can figure this out very early, and the game doesn’t really ‘trick’ you into the pace. You don’t speed level/boost early only to have the pace slow down suddenly and push you into the cash shop. The time/numbers DO ramp up as you go, but again you can see this coming almost from the beginning, and can determine if the pace of time wasting will work for you or not.

This ties into the F2P model they use as well. It’s honest. The cash shop is very clear about what is for sale and the impact purchases will have on your game. You don’t need an excel sheet loaded with macros to figure out if one purchase is ‘worth it’ over another, and it even goes so far as having straight dollar prices for things, rather than a ‘buy gems, use gems to buy stuff’ double currency system (you can buy gold and gems, which buy you things, but those currencies are frequently earned in-game as well).

I hope games using this style of F2P do well, because it will show that you don’t need to trick people into giving you money by preying on the lowest common denominator, but instead you can make a good game that gives the option (a real option, not an ‘convenience option’) of spending. More of that please, and fewer hotbar salesmen.

Posted in iPhone, RMT | 7 Comments

Crowfall: Game design that has also grown up

Crowfall is the MMO I’ve pinned my future hopes on (and a decent chunk of change is backing that up), but since it is still fairly far away, and I know I can ‘catch up’ when I get access to the alpha/beta, I’ve not really kept up with all of the info tidbits released.

ARK is the game I’m playing most right now (a recent move has heavily cut into my gaming time, but that is mostly over for now), and while it’s not an MMO technically, in a lot of ways it sorta is. What I find interesting right now is what ‘first post on this blog me’ would think of ARK, especially in terms of “is it an MMO”, vs what ‘current me’ thinks of it.

I think ‘first post me’ would certainly say ARK isn’t an MMO, and possibly be a lot less interested in it. Back then I think I placed a much higher emphasis on massive, but also far rarer ‘epic moments’ in an MMO. One such moment would justify days or even weeks of less-than-awesome gameplay. Basically, my tolerance for long valleys was higher because the high peaks justified them, and I would experience enough of those peaks often enough to keep me going.

Current me still loved the idea of that peak, and still believes it’s the pinnacle of gaming experiences, but also recognizes that the level of effort to reach that peak isn’t always doable anymore, or even something I want to chase after. I think in a lot of ways this explains why I’m not currently playing EVE; I know as far as MMOs go, it’s still a gem amount a sea of trash, but I also know I can’t reasonably obsess over it the way I would need to hit the peaks I’d want to. I’ve been down the EVE rabbit hole far enough that simply playing it casually wouldn’t work for me like it does for others.

Getting back to Crowfall, I think one of the big reasons I’m high on it is because, on paper, it should allow for a mix of peaks and valleys. I think it will cater to those who obsess over it and give them truly epic moments. I also think it will allow those who don’t obsess as much to still see a peak, but either less often or not to the same scale. The different ‘world’ rules, the continued progression outside of those worlds, and the fact that you can decide to go ‘hardcore’ on one world and then take a more casual approach to the next, all leads me to believe that Crowfall, more than previous MMOs, will more flexibly give you back what you put in.

For someone who, if we are being honest, is still a pretty hardcore gamer, though can’t 100% commit to a ‘raiding schedule’ life anymore, Crowfall sounds like the natural evolution of the genre. ‘Growing up’ doesn’t mean I only have 15 minute chunks of time. It doesn’t mean I expect everything handed to me for an hour’s worth of effort. I am still willing to set that alarm clock if needed. I’m just not going to set the alarm on a regular schedule, or commit to 5 hour chunks 3 days a week, every week, for a year. With Crowfall, I don’t think I’ll need to, but I do also believe the option will exist. So long as both options ‘balance out’, it should be a great experience.

Posted in Crowfall, MMO design | 3 Comments

Blood Bowl 2 is a UI-driven nightmare right now

The Blood Bowl 2 beta has started, which is good, because dear god does BB2 need more time to bake.

Rant incoming.

Making BB2 should be the easiest game in the world to make. You go into it with all of the rules, balance, lore, art style, characters, etc done for you. Not started, but 100% done. All you are responsible for is creating an engine that can emulate the rules, creating the characters and stadiums, and making sure the expected features (online leagues, single-player mode, replays) work. Again, the normal heavy lifting of making a game is 100% done before you even start, so its mind-blowing that BB2 is in such a rough state right now.

The good: Graphics are much improved over BB1, and everything so far does look as you would expect. It also runs well, at least on a high-end machine. Sound is also solid, though the commentary could use more variety. Multiplayer works, doesn’t lag, and so far I haven’t run into any errors or crashes.

The bad: The UI related to everything but actually playing a match is subpar. It takes too many clicks to get into basic stuff like editing your team or viewing a league. I think this is due to the game also being released on consoles, but yea, it’s not good. Also disappointing is that you can currently only play four teams. I don’t know if this is just to limit the beta a bit or if the other teams aren’t ready, but either way pretty lame considering official release is right around the corner.

The ugly: The UI during the match is torture. At first I thought this was simply a learning curve thing to adjust, but I’ve now played 6+ matches and I still fight the UI more than I do the other team. It’s actually hard to describe the way you move units and commit actions because it’s so terribly insane, but here goes; you first left-click a unit to select it. Assuming nothing else was already selected, this will bring up that units movement range and tackle zones. You then right-click to a different square to show the expected action. Right-click again on the new spot to commit the action.

If you right-click on a different spot, the game will update the expected action. So if you clicked to move two squares up, and then right-clicked a square to the left, the expected action will be two up, one to the left. The major issue is clearing the actions to start fresh with a unit (something you normally do a whole lot every turn), because left-click does it sometimes, but not always. Also right-clicking the unit itself works sometimes, but not if you have a blitz or other possible action. I’ve easily spent half a turn time limit trying to just move one unit because the movement mapping and remapping is so terrible.

Dice are seen rolling on the screen, which is nice, but their location isn’t constant, so sometimes the dice will be dangerously near the ‘end turn’ area that is, horribly, located near the bottom-right of the screen. It’s very common right now for someone during a match to hit end turn by accident, either when clicking dice or trying to select a unit.

I could go on, but I’m actually growing frustrated just thinking about it. What really sucks about all of this is that Blood Bowl is a ton of fun to play online, as the game itself is awesome. How a group getting paid to make a video game takes such a good baseline and makes it so, so much worse is really beyond me. I’m hoping the beta leads to some major UI work, but I doubt it.

As fun as BB is, right now in its current state I just can’t recommend BB2.

Posted in Blood Bowl, Rant, Review | 3 Comments

Oh so very lumpy

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.

Posted in Random | 9 Comments

CoC: More fun with numbers! Also spots open in our clan

(Writeup and stats by Delpez. Also our clan, “Supreme Cream!” has a few open spots due to recent roster cleanup. Please mention the blog when applying).

Supreme Cream Performance

During a previous CoC blog post, a comment was made that we should start tracking individual war performance. That sounded like great fun to me – another opportunity to gather and play with large amounts of data! I also didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, because a while ago we played against JTJU, and they already tracked lots of metrics which I took as a starting point. I only used their output sheet to get the metrics – the raw data capturing is manual (takes about 30 minutes per war) and the rest is calculated by a new Excel macro. So a big hats off to JTJU for saving me the trouble of finding metrics by myself. They also have a really cool website and YouTube channel where all kinds of strategies are discussed. We might consider joining their affiliate program – you get a clan advertisement on their site, and also access to various war tools. The most useful seems to be the ‘one tree’ – a decision tree to help decide what attack to use and a checklist on how to execute the attack. If nothing else it’s a decent place to recruit (via the clan add), since players from a site like that usually have an interest in wars and improving their game.

But on to the performance tracker. Here’s a link to a picture of the final output file:


If you want to have a look at the Excel files behind these numbers, just drop your email in the comments or chat and I’ll send it along. The VBA macro and formats don’t seem to play well with Google Drive. I would appreciate any comments, spot checks or troubleshooting; it’s a ton of data, and although I’ve checked as much as I can, it’s quite possible that errors have crept in. So view this as an early beta version.

So what’s the use of this? I don’t think it should become a measuring stick to punish people – as far as I’m concerned, players only need to execute proper attacks (no barcher!) and try to improve. However, this should give you something to measure your performance against. Obviously you can’t compare an early TH8 with a late TH9, so I think it’s best if you compare with your peers. Look at the performance of players with similar experience and TH levels, and see how you match up – or pat yourself on the back if you are already the best! Currently the numbers are organized by TH level, but I may split it into experience level at a later stage. Also, JTJU have seasons and careers stats – I’m thinking of letting a season last for 10 wars, after which the seasonal tracker resets. On to an explanation of the metrics:

Wars: The number of wars a player participated in.

Attacked: Was the player attacked or not in a war? This is a yes or no trigger (1 or 0).

Bleeds: How many times a player was attacked over and above the first. So if you are attacked three times in a war, you score two bleeds. This is an indication of how many attacks are wasted on your base. There are big differences between high and low level bases here, because typically a clan will keep attacking TH8’s until they get 3-stars (or run out of attacks), but usually won’t bleed much against a high level base with some stars against it.

Holds: How many stars did the player manage to hold onto – if your base is 2-starred at the end of a war you score one hold. If you were not attacked you don’t get any holds, but you’re also not penalized in the normalized numbers. Holds are the opposite of bleeds, in that high level bases usually score high holds and low bleeds, whereas low level bases score low holds and high bleeds.

Overall Closer: The first player to score the highest number of stars against a base will get the closer stars for that base. For example, if player A scores a 2-star and later in the war player B scores a 3-star, B will get three closer stars and A none. However, if B also scored a 2-star, A will get two closer stars (he was first) and B none. Overall Closer just means that all attacks are considered, whether the player attacked up, down or sideways.

Overall All Stars: This just adds all the stars a player scored – doesn’t matter if it’s closer, up, down or sideways.

Overall 3 Stars: The total number of 3-stars achieved, irrespective of up, down or sideways.

>= Same Level Closer, All Stars and 3-stars: This tracks exactly the same metrics as before, but you don’t get credit for attacking down.

MIA: Missing in action – the number of attacks a player has missed in wars he participated in. Sometimes a player will miss attacks when opted in by Syncaine to make up numbers. I don’t have a way to track it here, but it is recorded in a separate activity sheet.

In the second half of the spreadsheet these numbers are normalized by using the attacked trigger (for defensive stats) and war participation (for offensive stats). These normalized numbers should be analyzed for any performance based comparison or discussions.

In the context of wars, Overall Closer is an indication of how much a player contributed to the overall war result, while Overall All Stars show how well a player attacks in general, irrespective of the effect it had on wars. If Overall and Same Level attacks look similar, it means the player attacks mostly sideways and up, whereas a significant difference means the player is attacking down a lot. As mentioned before, you should compare yourself with your peers and keep in mind the type of attacks you’re doing. We need players to take out same level bases, but we also need players who hit down and clean up. Issues with players hitting too low should be picked up during wars and addressed in chat – these numbers don’t give enough context to make assumptions regarding the suitability of an attack.

Finally, I really don’t want to mention names (for fear of leaving someone out!), but I do like to point out some numbers as an example of what to look out for. I’ve been tracking performance for the past four wars (last one was Kosarmaniacs), and three of those were non-events. Thus, the values are skewed by players hitting for loot or practicing new attacks. Having said that, Mikrakov’s attack numbers at TH9 is really impressive, and they were all done against same or higher level bases. At TH8 Zelazny is averaging 5.5 closer stars per war, and all against same level bases. Alistair is average 6 closer stars per war – a perfect record! The difference between his Overall and Same Level stats means that some of those attacks were clean-up against TH7’s, but as a low TH8 that’s part of the job. On defense people seem to like Caldazar’s base, even though they struggle to crack it – he has recorded 12 bleeds! Not many bleeds at TH9, but Adam and Saate have both managed to hold onto 8 stars in four wars.

Lots of other interesting stuff, but I’ll let this run for a couple more wars before commenting further. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Posted in Clash of Clans | 11 Comments

ARK – Taming a Diodicurous

The ARK obsession continues! Today is the story of my Diodicurous (Diod) tame, and all of the game design aspects that factored in and made it an all-around good time.

The Diod is one of the newer dinos added to the game, and its specialty is rock collecting. This is a very big deal because rocks are one of the most frequently used resources, and prior to this dino there were no great methods of gathering lots of rocks quickly. Once you have one, collecting 1000 stones goes from ‘ugh, need to run up and down a mountain with my ‘E-spam’ macro running’ to ‘lets go smash a few rocks Diod, I need 1k stone!’.

Very recently I kibble-tamed a level 112 Diod, who ended up at level 166 with very solid stats, meaning once he is maxed-out on XP, he will be just over level 200. Even now, at around 170ish, he is a rock-collecting machine, and the fact that he isn’t a huge dino means he gets around on a mountain very well, and is able to keep up when following you between rocks and trees (huge dinos are a major pain, as they get stuck on EVERYTHING).

So how did this tame happen, and what went into it? For that we need to go back a few days/weeks. Diod kibble (special taming food) requires Dilo eggs, some berries, some meat, a bit of oil, and water in a lit cook pot. The two somewhat difficult resources are the eggs and oil.

Oil you get from the ocean, where smaller amounts can be gotten without special gear, but for larger (100+) amounts you really need scuba gear and a tamed dolphin (story for another day). I initially got my first bit of oil the manual way, then traded for a bit more, and currently have scuba gear and a tamed dolphin that I use to gather ocean resources (oil, pearls).

Dilo eggs come from the Dilophosaur, a small carnivore that isn’t too difficult to tame. The best method to get a steady supply of Dilo eggs is to tame a bunch of Dilos, put them in a pen, and collect the eggs. Building the pen wasn’t too difficult, as it’s a simple 4×4 stone structure with a roof, although its rather important that the pen doesn’t have a floor as eggs have a bad habit of dropping through or into a placed structure. Once built, it does take a bit of time to find, tame, and bring back the dinos, and then more time to collect eggs and keep the dinos fed. Oh and hopefully an alpha dino doesn’t come along and murder the whole pen, which is very possible if the pen isn’t constructed well.

Once you have your kibble cooked up, you then need to find the right dino. Levels can range from 4 to 120, and using kibble on a dino below 100 is generally seen as a waste. Finding a level 100+ dino, and especially a ‘perfect tame’ 120, can take some time, or you might get lucky and find one quickly. Also the further from base you go looking, the harder it’s going to be to get the dino back either prior to the tame, or after.

In my case a tribe-mate found the 112 somewhat nearby, and as I have a flying dino, I was able to get my supplies and find him and the dino quickly. Once at the location, I took it down with tranq arrows, sat around for about two hours to get it nice and hungry (a tranq’ed dino is defenseless, so you can’t be too far or they might get eaten by another dino), and finally fed it the 50+ kibble to complete the tame. After that it was just the matter of getting the new Diod, along with my bird, back to base.

The Diod represents a huge investment in time and planning, but ultimately rewards you with greatly improved stone-gathering efficiency. It’s a great risk/reward mechanic, along with a solid progression milestone. It’s also not ‘one and done’ content, as the dino can be killed or lost and require replacing.

Overall I think ARK does a good job of providing both types of progression; you have permanent progression like your character level and your basic game knowledge, and then you have repeatable stuff like building a base or taming dinos. Now time to get back to smashing rocks, in preparation for the next goal.

Posted in ARK | 1 Comment