Games I’m playing these days

November 4, 2014

Little roundup of what I’ve been playing recently, because this is info you need to know.

Clash of Clans: “Supreme Cream!” has hit 50 clan member, although a few are alts as we are holding two spots for former members taking a break. Wars have been interesting and really fun, though we haven’t had a real nail-bitter in a while. We got smashed by a clan with way more TH9s and 10s during a recent war, but otherwise we have been rolling everyone rather consistently. Good times. I’m at TH9 now working on upgrades, and really enjoying the added depth at this level. Very much looking forward to TH10, although that’s still a few months off at my current farming pace.

Payday 2: Started playing this little gem again recently and loving it. All of the new additions are great, and the devs (Overkill) do a really good job of mixing free content updates with new DLC releases. Currently my favorite loadout is a heavy with two shotguns, as the new weapon and ammo options give you more flexibility while still retaining that ‘shotgun’ feel.

Civ:BE : The more I play the more I’m thinking that this game would be a blast multiplayer, but I haven’t been able to line that up just yet. Coming off the wealth of options and systems in Civ V with all expansions/dlc, Civ:BE does feel a bit too limited to play single player over and over again. Still worth the cost to play a few rounds IMO.

Endless Legend: I’m enjoying this one more than I expected, but its on the back burner right now as I do run into some slowdown on larger maps, something I expect the new machine (Xmas gift) to solve. Another title I think would absolutely shine with a second player in the game.

LoL: Season 4 has just about come to an end, and I’ll finish it in platinum in the solo queue. Watching the world championships on a big screen TV in the living room with the wife thanks to a wireless bluray player was pretty great. Speaking of Aria, she is going to finish solo queue in Gold, meaning we both moved up a tier since Season 3. Doubt I’m going to hit diamond in season 5, but you never know.

FFXIV: Subbed but not playing due to time constraints. Expecting us to get back into this in a big way after Xmas when we have two machines capable of running it maxed out. Been somewhat keeping up with the news on this game, and the new additions of late sound good.

EVE: EVE Offline’ing my main. 40 day skills never felt so easy.


So dumbed down its just dumb

November 3, 2014

There is a good post and fun comments thread over at K&G about Blizzard’s upcoming League of Legend’s clone (get it), Heroes of the Storm.

Here is Keen’s basic statement of the game:

Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

My initial reaction to reading this is “so what exactly do you do?”. Obviously you fight the other team, but the above sounds like an extremely simplified version of LoL’s ARAM game, which itself is already a really, really dumbed down version of LoL you fire up to kill some time, but if it was the main game, I’d have quit LoL years ago. Go even further and remove items from that equation and yikes, wtf are we even doing here?

But that’s not the real point here; the real question/speculation is how well will HotS ultimately do. LoL is, by a wide margin, the most popular game out right now (outside of Asia, because :Asia:), and DoTA2, while only being a 1/3rd of what LoL is, still ranks in the top 5. Blizzard being Blizzard clearly wants a piece of that pie and has fired up the cloning factory, but what slice are they aiming at is the current debate.

Blizzard cloned EQ1 to make WoW, they were taking a successful niche product and smoothing out the rough edges to make something that would appeal to more people, but the key here is they were starting with something that was complex and difficult to get into, with design flaws begging to be fixed. LoL is the WoW to DoTA1’s EQ1. A dumbed down WoW is Farmville, and once Zynga was forced to stop their shady/illegal practices, they went poof. HotS sounds like the Farmville of MOBAs, and that’s not a good thing IMO.

As I said over at K&G, Blizzard could get 10m+ free accounts out of people if they produced a grass growing simulator. But 10m active players is a blip on the LoL radar, especially if that 10m doesn’t stick around for years and years. A lot of LoL’s success is not only that Riot made DoTA1 easier to get into and fixed a lot of the core issues (no hyper-carry, very limited snowballing), but that they retained the depth and growth potential that kept people playing DoTA1 for so long. Combined with the best implementation of F2P going, along with top-tier talent that continues to improve, and the result is an industry juggernaut.

2014 Blizzard isn’t the Blizzard that made Diablo 2 or even vanilla WoW. 2014 Blizzard is the studio that released Cata/MoP and Diablo 3. To say they have lost some talent is a rather large understatement, and now they are going to compete not with SOE and EQ2 (lulz), but Riot/Valve and LoL/DOTA2. It will be interesting to see what ultimately becomes of HotS, but I’m betting the under.


Civilization: Beyond Earth – Mod or future greatness?

October 30, 2014

I fully expect to see two basic review styles of Civilization: Beyond Earth. One will lean heavily towards “its a mod/expansion for Civ V”, while the other will dig into specific changes to try and explain why it ultimately feels like a very different game. Let’s call the first one an EG-style review, just to bring back an old joke.

Anyone who has played Civ V a decent amount and plays one or two games of Civ:BE before posting impressions will likely EG it. I think the main reason for this is that you CAN play Civ:BE like you would a game of Civ V and have some success, especially if the difficulty is set low enough. Like a lot of games, if you only scratch the surface of something you might miss the good stuff a layer or two deeper.

Having dug into the game a bit, my take is that Civ:BE is the result of letting the devs spend 90% of their efforts on design and systems, with just 10% focused on the engine, graphics, and all the other superficial stuff. The game plays like a loosely focused story of space colonization, where the direction and ending of the tale is in your hands. It has more of a narrative feel than Civ V, with more focus on the mysteries of space, aliens, and how future technology might shape the human race.

I don’t think the game today is as deep and complex as Civ V after it’s expansions, but it still has plenty of interesting decisions and systems going for it. Unit variety is limited, but it does cover all the bases. Also the way units upgrade is new, ties into your overall progress, and isn’t the ‘new replace old’ system of Civ V. Your starting military unit will self-evolve (rather than require you to pay to upgrade him), and his evolution path isn’t just linear or exclusively tied to researching a technology.

It’s also painfully clear that Civ:BE is a good game, but will be a great game once its ‘finish’ with future expansions. The game needs more civs (especially civs not from earth), more aliens (along with deeper, city-state style options to become a bigger factor), and just overall more ‘stuff’. Also while the game has been technically solid, some bugs can be found and technical glitches do occur, but then it is a Civ game near release so that’s almost expected.


Random: Did someone hack Comcast?

October 30, 2014

Just got off the phone with Comcast, and not only was I put into contact with a human in short order, the human spoke English, didn’t BS me for 30 minutes, and actually clearly explained current options. Then, when I selected the lower-priced option, he didn’t try to convince me that paying more would actually be better.

So… someone hacked Comcast and is rerouting all calls to a company not hell-bend on driving you to madness, right? So pleasantly confused right now.


AA: Good design can’t overcome a bad business model and stupidity

October 27, 2014

Whelp, things went downhill fast huh?

To some extent this should have been obvious, given that ArcheAge is a F2P MMO, the very clear minor-leagues of the genre. Maybe I was trying to convince myself otherwise, or maybe a particularly bleak dry-spell was to blame, or I was just coming off the terribad roller-coaster ride that was DF:UW. Either way, I currently have zero motivation to log into AA, and my sub has been canceled.

What’s interesting about AA is that from a design perspective it gets so much right, both big and little. I’ve covered a lot of them here, and hopefully future MMOs take a note or two on the better aspects of AA. If this is but one of the general directions the genre is going in, I’m ok with that. But ultimately the game was doomed by two major factors, one predictable (F2P), the other somewhat a surprise (Trion).

The F2P aspect is obvious. The Pay4Power aspect is brutal, as is the cheese factor of the cash shop. The taint of F2P is felt in almost all aspects, and the fact that being a subscriber only takes you out of ‘worthless to anyone but bots’ free territory and into ‘you are paying but not enough, give us more!’ land doesn’t make you feel good. The daily loyalty points you get, which only allow you to buy a few things in the shop, are more of a slap to the face than anything else.

But again that part was somewhat predictable, and I’ve played such MMOs before and not minded it that much (Atlantica Online is by far the best example of this IMO).

The F2P factor becomes a bigger issue than normal when mixed with disaster number two; Trion.

I’ve joked and not joked about Trion before, but I say this now being 100% serious; I’ve never experience a bigger disaster than what Trion has done with AA. It’s borderline criminal to be this incompetent on so many levels, and to be so dishonest about all of it.

Very recent and easy example; remember how for the first month, whenever anything was going wrong with AA, Trion would answer everything with basically “we’ll pass a note to XLGames, as we are just the publisher and can’t do anything”? Funny how for some reason (accounts unsubbing) suddenly a month later Trion is having GMs spam chat with how often they catch a hacker, and it seems not a day goes by that Trion is releasing a statement about what they are doing about the rampant cheating in the game. They have even gone so far as following up on specific Reddit threads, supposedly having someone go into the database and confirm that so-and-so was legit and didn’t hack.

You know what might have helped Trion? You not waiting until people slapped you with the wallet-vote before you did something. Maybe instead of waiting until everyone has chat turned off due to spam, you could have launched the game with chat restrictions? It’s a joke, especially because the ‘crackdown’ on hacking is not only too late, it also only catches the idiots stupid enough to run a well-known and easily available hack kit on patch day. Everyone else is still sitting pretty, and Trion knows it but won’t do a thing about it.

The real shame here is that in a genre with so few decent options, one was taking away not because of its core design, but because of its business model and the incompetent fools tasked with simply porting the game over and doing some basic maintenance.

Even when we get something nice, it’s tainted to such a degree that you are forced out. Real shame.


CoC: War stats vs Dayana 10/20/2014

October 22, 2014

(Post and stats by Delpez. Also a quick note; we are now at 50 members, the cap in CoC.)

Supreme Cream! vs Dayana

Supreme Cream Enemy
Average TH Level 6.98 7.38
Score 141 126
Total Attacks Used 88 90
Total 3 Star Attacks 42 33
Total 3 Star % 47.7 36.7
3 Stars Against Same Level 27 14
3 Star % Against Same Level 46.6 30.4
3 Stars Against Lower Level 10 19
3 Star % Against Lower Level 55.6 44.2
TH4,5&6 3 Stars 4 3
TH4,5&6 3 Star % 19.0 30.0
TH7 3 Stars 20 17
TH7 3 Stars % 55.6 47.2
TH7 3 Stars (same level) 12 6
TH7 3 Stars % (same level) 57.1 31.6
TH8 3 Stars 15 9
TH8 3 Star % 62.5 27.3
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 9 4
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 75.0 30.8
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.5 1.7
TH9&10 3 Stars 3 4
TH9&10 2 Star % 42.9 36.4
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 2 1
TH9&10 2 Star % (same level) 40.0 25.0
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.20 1.50

 

Fun war and a great win, especially since our opponents were a lot stronger than us (based on average TH level). The average difference of 0.4 TH levels translates to twenty town halls in a fifty player war. Meaning if you line up same TH bases against each other, twenty of their players were matched against a lower level base. It’s basically starting twenty 3-stars ahead! I checked this average TH strength before the war started, and thought we were in for a tough time if our opponents were active. Well, they were active and we still won!

The basis for the victory was once again our higher 3-star numbers, especially against same TH levels. The only exception was the lower TH’s, but here we had numerous TH5’s against their TH6’s. Our TH7’s did well as always, and our TH8’s also smashed them hard with very high 3-star numbers. At the top we did better where it mattered: 3-star percentages and average stars against high level bases.

Some advice for our low TH players (specifically TH5, but also TH6 to some extent). Try to use both your war attacks, even if you can’t contribute towards the war. You can get a lot of loot from clan wars, as long as you score at least one star from an attack. Doesn’t matter if that base was 3-starred before, if you can’t make a meaningful contribution just get one star from ANY base for the full war loot. By the way, this loot goes to your clan castle after the war, so don’t forget to collect it! Also, in war attacks you use different troops and tactics from normal farming. The only way to get used to these tactics is by practicing. Watch lots of replays, plan your attacks carefully and attack! Don’t worry if it goes haywire, as long as you are learning and having fun.


AA: Trion being Trion at it’s finest

October 21, 2014

If even half of this is true, Trion is far more incompetent than even I have joked about. It honestly has taken most of the wind out of the game for me, which is a complete shame because the game itself is brilliant. But it feels utterly pointless to spend time gathering 3-15 gold or whatever progress you make knowing that not only is hacking so rampant, but that the company behind the game does next to nothing about it. And because AA is more virtual world than instances sRPG, someone running a 3rd party program to generate infinite gold or resources DOES impact my game.

But don’t worry, they are banning 5k free accounts a day! F2P model doing it big yet again.


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