TW:W2 – Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC thoughts

The latest DLC for Total War: Warhammer 2, “Curse of the Vampire Coast” is out, and I’ve been messing around with it for a bit. Overall its more of the same, so if you like TW:W2, you likely will enjoy the DLC, and if you don’t like the base game, this isn’t likely to change your mind.

As the title suggests, the big new addition is the Vampire Pirate faction. Or factions, really, since each legendary lord represents a different location and group, though they do all share similar mechanics and units. Unlike the base vampire faction, this group has a lot of ranged units, all gunpowder-based. They also have access to artillery, which is nice. The difficulty I’m having with the faction right now is traditionally the undead swarm with melee units to win, as their individual units are weak, but with more ranged options, you usually don’t heavily outnumber the enemy in the total number of melee units, and one on one the undead generally lose. That said the ranged units you do have can be devastating, especially the first few volleys that trigger a passive for having full ammo.

As with other full army DLC in TW:W2, the pirates have unique campaign mechanics as well. Instead of being concerned with the vortex, you instead focus on building your reputation as a pirate, and taking out rival pirates to ultimately collect the pieces of a treasure map and slay a giant sea beast. Thematically this works great, and encourages you to sail around, establish pirate havens (when you take over a coastal city, you now have the option of leaving it in the current owner’s hands, and setting up a hidden pirate base), dig up treasure, and overall live the pirate life. To compliment this, pirate lords also function as mini-hordes, meaning they upgrade buildings and can recruit troops without being in a city.

At $18 the DLC can be argued as being pricey, but I’m ok with that. It’s certainly not required to enjoy the base game, and even some of its benefits can be enjoyed without the purchase (the pirates will show up as an NPC faction, you just can’t play them).


Posted in Review, Warhammer Online | Leave a comment

Fallout 76: Bethesda is going to address the issues

I found this post very encouraging and informative about the F76 beta and what Bethasda is going to do with the game prior to launch. Its a bit long so let me save you some time and give you a TLDR:

“Go F yourself, we don’t care” – Love, Bethesda

Ultrawide support is ‘coming’, they believe everyone’s dogs and babies should be heard via voice-chat, and all your other issues and problems don’t matter, just shut up and give us money.

Sad thing is they will get a ton of money anyway.

Why Bethesda (highlight that the world is alive with real people) is trying to become EA (sense of pride and accomplishment) or Blizzard (you have a phone), I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

Posted in Fallout 3, Rant | 8 Comments

A decade of herding derps has finally paid off

I generally avoid posting about overly personal stuff here, mostly because I know you don’t care, and also because for the most part I view SynCaine the blogger as a different entity than the person behind the screen name. That said today will be a little departure from that. Hope you don’t mind.

For most of my real life career I’ve envisioned myself more as someone who works hands-on vs being a manager. In my field (Corporate IT) I like seeing a project progress and seeing the parts I’m personally involved with contribute to a larger goal, whether I’m a small cog or a key player. I didn’t believe I’d enjoying managing because I’d lose that personal connection to things getting done, to having personal ownership of something successful.

At the same time, since high school, I’ve always been a leader in online gaming. I’ve always run a guild in games that allowed it and I was into, and I’ve always been interested in the social along with the gameplay in online games. I did the whole hardcore raiding thing as an officer in an MMO, guild leadership in PvP MMOs, and now for the last 4-5 years I’ve run Supreme Cream! across multiple mobile games. The level of success has varied from title to title, but few if any attempts at the social side have been outright failures (unable to form a guild, have a guild implode shortly after formation), and I’ll take at least some credit in that success to managing those groups correctly.

It was only very recently, when I accepted a new and far more senior position in my career, that I’ve come to realize I do enjoy management in the real world. The sense of ownership and success/failure related to it is still there, only now its just at a higher level. It’s not about solving one issue, but about making sure that we successfully solve all issues that arise in similar fashion, and that we learn and improve as we go. I’m finding it more rewarding, and that has been a pleasant surprise.

Perhaps the most surprising thing however is that my experience in managing online groups in the gaming world is helping me in my career today. The biggest thing is managing expectations I have for others. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I’m a successful individual, one that is able to figure out solutions fairly quickly and, generally, my gut reactions to things tend to be correct (that said, one of the harder skills I’ve had to learn is to not run straight ahead with said gut reactions, but to still ensure the decision is actually the right one). But not everyone, or even 99% of people, are like that. Which doesn’t automatically mean they are wrong or ‘bad workers’, but that different approaches work for different people. And since I can’t clone myself, being successful in management means understanding how to get the most out of the people you have. That’s been true in gaming, and I now realize it’s just as true in real life.

In gaming I’ve been successful in group management because I’ve been active in managing the roster. If someone is toxic, you remove them before the toxin spreads. Being proactive in that is important, because if you wait or give them too many chances, they cause damage. At the same time, you can’t just kick anyone you feel is underperforming, as you will likely end up with a tiny or non-existent roster. Some of the best members have been slow starters, for any number of reasons. Being able to identify who has potential, having the patience to see it through, and having the skill to get them up to the level they should be at; all of that took a lot of time/learning on my end. Hell, I’m still learning, and likely always will.

Another important aspect of running a successful group is setting the right culture and expectations. If you are a bleeding-edge raid guild, you have different expectations than a more casual mobile game group. But at the same time, you want whatever group you are leading to always improve, to grow, and to keep people engaged/entertained. If you fail any of those, you risk not just losing people, but most likely losing the most important/dedicated people. When a raiding guild isn’t making progress because of leadership, the first people to go won’t be the bottom rung who are just happy to be there, it will be the most dedicated members putting in the most effort to succeed. Soon as you start losing those people, you death spiral fast.

Managing in the real world is somewhat different, but not really. Sure, you can’t just /kick someone as easily as you can online, but the same general rules about toxic individuals vs slow starters applies. It sounds like a joke, but I swear that years of dealing with derps online in mobile gaming has sharpened me in dealing with individuals in the real world, both in a higher level of patience, and in my ability to identify and deal with them.

Maybe more importantly, being able to tap into an individual in a way that makes them successful is critical, and their success is its own gratifying reward. I’ve been doing that online for more than a decade, and all of that experience is now paying off. It sounds almost insane, but it’s true.

Now I’m not saying to list your guild leadership experience on your resume, or to suggest that all good leaders online are also good leaders in the real world. What I am saying is that for me personally, the experience of managing online gaming groups has translated to a real world skillset, one that is very useful and highly desired. That was never the goal, or an expected result, but it does put a very nice cherry on top of all the enjoyment I’ve had over the years leading those groups.


Posted in Inquisition Clan, Site update | 11 Comments

Friday Conspiracy Theory – WoW Classic edition

First, the fact that WoW Classic won’t be out until Summer 2019 is a joke, even by Blizzard ‘soon’ slow ass development standards, but we aren’t here to talk about that.

What we are going to talk about is the fact that Classic access will be available to all WoW subscribers. You know why they did that? Because people, of which there are many, have said Classic will have more players than current WoW, so to save themselves the embarrassment of admitting that the game they had in 2005 was better than the version they have ‘enhanced and updated’ all the way into 2019, they rolled the two into one offering. Shameful in how cowardly that is!

PS: Would there be a single EVE player playing EVE Classic over the current game? I think not.

Posted in EVE Online, MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft | 10 Comments

Fallout76 – Nope

This Reddit thread about the PC version of the beta is… not good. No ultra-wide monitor support is brutal. Voice chat not being push-to-talk is insane, and voice chat turning back on every time you load up is likely going to get fixed/changed, but if not, holy shit is that bad. And since its all online, you can’t mod the game to fix the usual issues Bethesda games have, especially at launch.

The above is reason enough for me to put off buying the game, especially since it won’t be on Steam so that’s yet another hurdle to jump over. Luckily I know I’ll be playing Battle Brothers with the new DLC around this time, so I won’t be dying for something to play. And with time, I’m hoping F76 gets fixed up enough to justify buying a non-Steam game, especially because I suspect the actual content/gameplay of F76 will be solid.

Posted in Fallout 3, Rant | 4 Comments

CoC – Early War League thoughts

We aren’t quite done with the first League War in Clash of Clans, but I already have thoughts to share, so here goes. Overall I like the feature, and some warts aside, I think it makes CoC a better game.

The big things for me are the fact that every attack, from all 15 participants, matters. The wars are no longer about the upper bases cleaning up, or about the lower bases not mattering as much defensively since they will get rolled anyway. Now everyone matters, and not only do you have to execute your one attack well, you have to do so in all 7 wars for the clan to overall win.

The second thing I really like is watching the League leaderboard and seeing which clans are doing well, and which ones are closest to challenging you. This makes eventually facing a clan close to you in standing matter that much more, and during the war you get a good feel for how competent (or not) the other clans are. I expect that once rankings settle and everyone is more or less in their correct bracket, League wars will be intense and very close. Right now we are steamrolling our league, but I know that will change.

As for the warts, the big one is having to fill clan castles every war. Doing this daily is just annoying, and hopefully the system gets changes so that you can fill once and have the troops stay for the whole week, with the option to remove and edit troops should you want.

The other wart is the 15 person limit, as it excludes basically anyone lower than the 15 highest people in a clan. I know the system wouldn’t work if they didn’t set a specific amount of people, and 15 is likely ‘fair’ based on their metrics, but it still feels bad to leave clan members on the outside looking in. Yes it should motivate them to upgrade and get into the top 15, or to be a viable swap (if we had 20 near-max TH11s for example, that would be easy to swap people in), but at least short-term it still kinda divides the clan into the upper 15 and everyone else.

Likely more to share once the war is over, especially around the rewards, since we will finish first in our league and move up.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Inquisition Clan | 9 Comments

Game difficulty forces you to learn the details

Az has a post up about his recent adventures in Hollow Knight and Dead Cells, two Metroidvania-style games (a style a very much do not enjoy). That post and the one before it sounded, to me, like he was playing the games despite not actually enjoying them, but I might have misunderstood what he was getting at in that regard (although I have a friend who is big into those types of games and streams, and every time he is playing it looks/sounds like he is undergoing torture rather than playing a game he enjoys, and all his viewers are basically along for the pain ride. It’s a weird genre…)

That point aside, he also mentioned difficulty and the role it plays in enjoying a game, which is a topic I’ve posted about before, and feel this is a good time to dive into it again. In short, difficulty is what forces you to actually learn a game, and the absence of it is the absence of that motivation.

For example, if you are playing an MMO and a boss puts down red circles of fire, with the mechanic being to step out of them, that mechanic only really works if you must step out. If you can beat the boss while still standing in the fire, or getting out slowly, because the difficulty is that low, you aren’t motivated to learn the mechanic. In a vacuum that might not be a huge issue, but if the overall design of the game hinges on players learning and appreciating the mechanics, the difficulty being too low ruins that entire design, regardless of how good the actual mechanic is. Responsive controls so getting out of the fire feels skillful, interesting abilities to assist in moving out, gearing up correctly so you buy yourself more response time, etc, none of that will matter or feel important if the game doesn’t punish you enough for ignore said fire.

This is one of the key reasons why I love Battle Brothers. It’s a hard game, but only part of that difficulty is based on learning the mechanics. Once you know them, the real difficulty is in putting all that knowledge to good use, and not just beating battles, but winning cleanly so as to roll into the next battle in good shape. Pyrrhic victories are actually bad in that game, and a huge reason behind that is because of the difficulty.

If BB was an easy game, you wouldn’t care nearly as much about finding quality recruits, because you could still win with flawed ones. If the difficulty was lower, hunting down the right gear for your men, based on their skillsets and your overall battle plan, wouldn’t really matter, and you wouldn’t be all that motivated to do so. In short, the game would get pretty boring very quickly, because the details that drive so much of it wouldn’t matter enough to prevent success.

This is also why, in part, I suspect WoW Classic will have more subs/players than current WoW when its released. WoW in 2004 wasn’t the hardest game ever, but compared to current WoW, and 99% of all MMOs today, 2004 WoW might as well be Dwarf Fortress or Darksouls, and that matters because the core design in WoW back when was pretty solid (not perfect, but very very good). Successfully running a dungeon, let alone raiding, meant understanding your class, and you were rewarded for playing well with better loot (relative to your level for pre-cap content). That’s a very important feedback loop, one that is completely lost when everything scales, and that scale is set to faceroll easy welfare-epics status.

Which isn’t to say difficulty is everything, or that ‘hard’ is the right option for all games. Some games are better as more casual experiences, or work when the difficulty can be changed based on preference. But if a game is heavily based around learning and using mechanics well, a lack of difficulty can make that core design feel flat or unimportant.

Posted in Combat Systems, MMO design, Random, Rant, World of Warcraft | 6 Comments