League of Legends – Second ranked queue fun

Riot adding a second, separate ranked ladder this season to League of Legends is an interesting development, especially because the new ladder allows for people to queue up with up to 4 others. Personally my wife and I use that ladder to play ranked games together, which is nice because it keeps our individual progress on the solo/duo ladder separate.

It’s been a season or two since I’ve really been serious about climbing ranks in LoL, where I topped out at just under diamond (if I remember correctly, I was in a promo or two to diamond, but was never able to complete one successfully). That doesn’t mean I don’t try to win every game I play, or that I completely stop caring about getting better. I’ve just accepted the reality that since I don’t track all patch changes or meta shifts, nor playing enough games to stay sharp with as many champions, my ability to climb is more limited, and right now it seems mid/lower plat is where I’m at.

My wife, also playing less, is at upper gold, though she did finish last season in plat. The skill gap isn’t huge, but it does exist, which previously made playing together in ranked games… not ideal for our marriage long-term. The old adage of ‘friends don’t let friends play ranked games together’ is all too true about LoL. But with a second queue, one we both treat as less important, that is no longer the case. We still try to win each game, and we don’t pick joke champs or ‘fun comps’, but where we rank isn’t really important, so immediately after a game we both move on win or lose. It’s actually pretty great.

What is also hilarious is that after her 10 placement games, my wife is in Silver V on that ladder (going 5/10. I’m in gold 2 after going 6/10). After some merciless teasing about being down with the mutants, and warning her about embracing her inner bronzy, another fun reality set in: When we queue up, we are playing with people generally below plat. Sometimes far below plat, which is… interesting. Having been in plat for years now, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not have someone leash at the start of a game, or never roam from a lane, or to just generally have such poor mechanics or game fundamentals.

In that queue I play mid or jungle, so I’m less reliant on my team early (though having a gank go sideways because a teammate is far worse than you expect and doesn’t understand chaining CC is a pain), but my wife plays support, and it’s a wild ride. Because of the larger range of skill levels, and also because it’s still early in the season, game to game you never know if your adc is good, terrible, or average. You also don’t know if on the other side their two players are a duo with a diamond smurf, or two silver-level players still learning the game. This makes playing ‘correctly’ very hard. If you have a good adc vs a weaker two, you should play aggressive, but it takes some time to identify if that is indeed the case. Sometimes the adc seems competent, and completely freezes and botches things in a major engagement.

My wife is really good about keeping her cool and playing steady, and as she mostly plays Sona, it also means she can ‘babysit’ an adc well if they are bad, while also being able to play a more punishing style in a favorable matchup. When I play support (solo queue), it’s either with Braum or Leona, who unlike Sona are far more ‘all-in’ style champs. If my adc is good, we crush the lane. If they aren’t, it’s either a frustrating ‘do nothing’ lane, or the deaths pile up and things go south real fast.

Overall though I really like the new setup for ranked, and it’s working really well for us. We play one game a night when we can, and can easily step away without any blowback once the game is done. I’m also very curious to see where we shake out in terms of rank. If I had to guess, I’d say upper gold, but we will see.

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Tyranny – Spells and story

More Tyranny musings for today.

Spell Mechanics: Being able to customize spells is a major feature in Tyranny. In my first game I didn’t do a lot with it, mostly because my main character wasn’t a spellcaster, so I just did the occasional minor tweak to spells for a companion, but that was about it.

The way the system works is that you first select an element (fire, cold, earth, etc), then a style (ranged, touch, aoe, etc), and finally there are additions to spells (more power, shorter cooldown, larger aoe, etc). Lore is the stat that determines what spells you can use, with stronger or more complex spells requiring more lore. Tyranny has no mana system, just cooldowns. You must find a spell part before you can use it to adjust spells, with the stronger additions coming later in the game, or costing more at a vendor.

In my currently game my main is a mage, and so each time I find a new component, I go into the spell design UI (which itself is very clean and works well) and tweak my spells. This results in noticing the minor changes more, and seeing how different spells are modified by some items. For example, one modification increases AoE range. For a spell like fireball, that just means a larger explosion radius. For a cone spell, that increases the size of the cone, which is pretty powerful. Increasing the AoE of a heal spell might have less value, especially if the size is already large (you only have 4 party members, and fights normally are pretty compact).

Each modification also has levels of power, and those levels costs more lore, so as you find more powerful versions, how you adjust the lore cost is also a fun min/max game. For example; my fireball spells has both a range and power adjustment. I find a new level of the power adjustment, but I can’t fit both the new power and the range enhancement to my current lore value. I can drop range to add more power, or keep the spell as-is until my lore value increases. This all gets even more involved as you get more modifiers, levels, and lore skill. I have spells right now with 5 modifiers, and some of those are level 2 or 3. It’s a lot of fun, and really does feel like you are designing spells rather than applying small modifications.

Content: I finished my first game siding with the Disfavored. My second game I’m allied with the rebels, and almost right from the beginning the game is drastically different. One town that was controlled by a certain faction in game one is controlled by a different in game two, which completely changes what quests are available, and what side areas open up. The main locations are all still there, because it’s the same world, and the major pre-game events also all happen, but sometimes a little differently, but all of this comes together to create pretty different starting points, which further branch based on the decisions you make as you go. It really does feel like playing a different story in the same world, rather than playing the same story with some plot points adjusted. Pretty incredible.

I’ve also read that the anarchist playthrough, where you are not allied with anyone, so another very different take on the game, one that I’m pretty excited to experience as well. That’s also the nice thing about the game being about 25-30hrs in length; a full game isn’t a crushing time commitment.

 

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Tyranny review

Note: This review is going to talk heavily about the story, including the ending, of Tyranny, so if you don’t want any of it spoiled, best to skip this post.

I’ve beaten Tyranny once, in about 30 hours, and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I basically sprinted the final 10 hours or so because it was so good (helped that I was on vacation). It has it’s flaws (more on those later), but none of the flaws hurt the overall enjoyment much for me, and what Tyranny does well, it does so better than most games.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. The graphics are great, the sound is good, I didn’t run into any bugs or crashes, and it ran well on my system at max settings. The UI works well, the game loads up quickly, and basically all other technical aspects are solid and don’t get in your way.

I mentioned before that the game is very text-heavy to start, and throws a LOT of back story at you. I think some of this could have been done via a longer intro movie, but once you have that baseline established (basically the middle of act 1), the plot kicks in and off you go. The pacing was good, at least until the very end. At the end of act 2, you realize you can cast your own edicts, but right after that you immediately go from possibly being loyal to Kyros to considering yourself a potential equal. That felt a little abrupt to me, as did the final hour or two where I killed so many key characters right in a row.

Perhaps this is intended, in that once things escalate, they would escalate QUICK, but I would have likely a slightly smoother transition from Fatebinder to potential Overlord. Also I might have missed it, but it seems the only choice you have is to accept being super powerful and independent, rather than gaining power but staying loyal to Kyros/Tunon.

In my play-through I stayed loyal to the Disfavored, and tried to stay on Tunon’s good side. Ultimately I was successful in keeping Ashe alive and to have him serve under me, but I failed my trial with Tunon and had to kill him along with Bleden Mark, which was a bit of a negative in that I failed to achieve my character’s goal with Tunon.

Those bits aside, I really did like the other parts of the story. The progression with gaining the towers was great, as was the interaction with the different edicts and what working with them means for who you are. I also really liked the slow unfolding of how power works in the game, in that as more people believe or fear you, the more power you have. This was explained well both with Ashe and his backstory, and ultimately how you become powerful enough to cast an edict. The whole thing of course feels very “believe in Jesus” religious, only here you are real and actually gain real power from others believing in you. I also like how this ties back to Kyros, where its easy to see that she has great power because the rest of the world believes or is in fear of her.

Speaking of her, I do like that the game kept most of Kyros a mystery, and even the fact that you find out her gender was a big deal. I know some people feel the game ended early and would have liked a confrontation with Kyros to be the ending, but I feel that’s another huge story to tell, fitting for a sequel.

One thing that did bother me about the ending wasn’t so much the story, but the mechanics. I never used either the forge or the library much, and I basically did nothing with the other spire options besides build them. There are just so many unique items in the game, including artifacts, that you really don’t need another source (the forge/library) to gear up. The same can be said for character skills and magic; until about 3/4th of the way through, new stuff feels good and worthwhile, but towards the very end you just don’t need more, and you already feel plenty powerful.

Minor issues aside however, Tyranny really is a fantastic RPG, with a truly unique story and setting. Plus it also greatly benefits from multiple play-throughs; I’m on my second right now, and already so many things are different because of my choices. Choices in Tyranny truly do matter, and more often than not, in surprising ways. Pick it up if you are an RPG fan, its a great ride.

Posted in Random, Review

Gevlon has promised to delete his blog

To quote the batshit insane one himself:

“So no more pundit trying to explain how he was right while everything he predicted was wrong”

Now where will the world go for tackle titan fits, how to get scammed by TEST, New Jita theory-crafting, how not to run a Corp, how to spend 4 years and completely fail to influence null beyond becoming a meme, or how to stay a bronzy in LoL?

Sad day really. The world has lost a special little treasure today.

Posted in Blogroll | 8 Comments

Tyranny – Getting the hang of evil

I mentioned before that one of my worries about Tyranny was whether playing the ‘bad guy’ would feel as good as playing the more traditional role of the good guy in an RPG, and how that would all be handled. This post is based on having completed Act 1 (about 7 hours in), so while certainly not the whole picture, I think I get enough of what is going on to write up some initial thoughts.

First a quick comment on Tyranny in general though; if you are going to play it, don’t judge it until you have completed Act 1. I say this because the game throws you into the deep end right away (it honestly feels like Tyranny is a sequel to a first game, and expects you to know the back story and mechanics from that game, and I don’t mean Pillars being the first game), and I don’t think what it’s trying to do clicks until around that point. If you put it down after an hour or so, I really think you might be doing yourself and the game a great disservice. If you still don’t like it after Act 1, that’s fair IMO.

Anyway, to the topic at hand. Playing the bad guy does feel odd for me still, mostly because I have a hard time ‘staying in character’ all the time. Plus I don’t really know who my guy is yet. I picked the diplomat back story, but my guy uses 2h weapons and has high strength/athletics, so in a lot of dialog I go for the brute force answer. I’m trying not to be sadist evil, but also not take crap from those I imagine are below me, while at the same time trying to stay on the good side of my traveling companions. That balance is tricky, especially when choices are limited. In some ways that’s great and forces hard decisions, but at other times it feels like my character is inconsistent in terms of motivations.

That said, once I got rolling a bit things did start to fit into place, which is one reason I stated to play at least until the first act is complete. By that point it seemed my character had more control over situations, and I was better able to mold things around me. Having options in terms of who travels with you was also pretty huge.

So far I like the game, and I’m eager to see where it goes as I dig into act 2. Full review coming at some point as well.

 

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EVE:Still not actually F2P, but feel free to be lazy

Today the unlimited trial accounts hit EVE. Or, if you just like using terms without actually considering meaning behind the words (Hi P2W), EVE is now ‘free to play’. Lets talk about that shall we?

A simple question first. Can you name a single MMO that has done the F2P conversion and had zero impact to current subscribers? Because that’s the case today in EVE. If you subbed yesterday, today the game is the same in terms of what you are getting for your $15. There isn’t a new shop. There aren’t ‘money only’ features today that weren’t there yesterday. At most now certain items have a yellow border indicating they require an Omega (paying) pilot to use, and while I’m sure someone will bitch about that (because regardless of what you change, you can always find one person to bitch on the internet), its so minor its almost not worth bringing up.

Another reason why I don’t view this as a F2P conversion is that alpha (free) accounts aren’t just slower accounts that can eventually do everything; they are hard-limited to what they can do. Very hard limited in fact. So much so that anyone who gets into the game and likes it will very likely end up paying a sub. How many F2P MMOs is that not the case? How many can you go free and see most of the game and do most things, if annoyingly slow or under pop-up hell? In EVE a free account will NEVER get past the hard limits set on skills, and that restricts you to perhaps 10% of ships in EVE.

Which isn’t to say that alpha accounts are useless, or that someone using an alpha account can’t have fun. Far from it actually. Because while skill and item usage is limited, where you can go is not, so an alpha can head out to null and become a member of a major power, or into low-sec and do some budget pirating. They can still get most of the high-sec experience of mining or mission running to work your way up, at least up as high as the alpha will allow. And you can do all of that at your own pace, without a price or timer ticking down, which I think is especially important in EVE, where the ramp up is a bitch and ‘getting it’ can take a long time.

Will this save EVE? No, because EVE didn’t need saving, it was doing more than fine (see CCP financial statements). Will it help? I think it will. I think that number of 90% or so players trying EVE but quitting will go down. Even if it goes down to 80% quitting almost instantly, that’s a lot more people sticking with it now than before. All at basically zero cost/harm to current players (and the gain of more new pilots to play with/against).

Important note: The initial question is limited to MMOs. There are plenty of games that are F2P that are fair or solid (LoL, CoC, etc), but that’s simply not the case in the MMO space. Either EVE is the first, or EVE isn’t really ‘F2P’ now.

Posted in EVE Online, Rant, RMT | 12 Comments

Beholder review

Note: I received a full copy of Beholder to review.

Beholder is a weird game. On the surface, its a game where you are a building manager of an apartment in a fictional dictatorship, charged with the task of spying on the tenants and reporting them to the authorities. Underneath that premise, Beholder plays somewhat like a choose-your-own-adventure game, where one choice leads to others and the story progresses. The actual gameplay is limited to talking to people, settings up spy cameras, searching furniture for items, and filing reports based on your findings.

Initially Beholders feels incredibly different from most games. The art style is pretty unique, the setting is very quickly well established, and the characters you interact with are interesting. The first hour or so of gameplay also feels different, as there are almost always multiple ways to accomplish the different tasks you have, and events chain very well most of the time.

For me the game broke down shortly after that however. For one, you can lose the game very abruptly. One quest was to sell stolen food, and when I sold it to a certain character, that character didn’t end up paying full price. Going back to the original seller and informing him of this resulting in him shooting me dead. Game over. It was shocking, and that was a good emoting to get, but after that it just resulting in loading up the game, going down a different path with that quest, and seeing the result (worse still, it seemed all of the results I had available ended poorly, so I ended up declining the quest chain altogether, which didn’t end my game, but I think hurt me later).

You rinse/repeat this pattern a lot (the game auto-saves after every quest progression, and you can’t save on-demand), sometimes having to go back pretty far because the key event that triggered a certain ‘death chain’ was a long time ago. After a bit, the interesting world and character dialog fades (because you have seen it multiple times already), and what is left are just menu options that you pick and test to progress.

Worse still, I’ve had multiple attempts where I wasn’t able to progress at all. One quest asks for a crazy amount of money, and if you can’t pay it in time, game over. I’m sure there is a way around paying the money, but I’ve not found it, and I don’t know which events in the past could be done differently to ultimately get me past this roadblock. Its just not that fun for me to reload over and over again and tweaking what selections I made. The game really hurts itself IMO by being so brutal/difficult. If more quest results were slightly negative vs a full-stop, you could continue to progress and enjoy the setting/writing, and could then play it a second/third time to experience different results. As it is right now, with so many full-stops, you won’t go too long before you end up in a reload cycle, and that breaks the immersion terribly.

It’s hard for me to recommend Beholder unless you enjoy the reload/retry style of gaming. As mentioned, if the difficulty or game-over choices were tuned down, I think it would be a fun game to explore a different world and narrative with a somewhat unique playstyle.

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