I drive a derp bus, and I drive it well

Leading a clan in a mobile game is like herding cats, if half the herd had crippling physical and emotion disabilities. Oh, and about a third of the herd aren’t cats, they’re kittens.

The bar to avoid getting the boot in my Clash Royale clan is laughable low. Join clan wars more often than not, and when you do, use all three collection-day battles. On war day try to have a win-rate above 20%. Yes… the bar is at 20%. The final item is a more general “don’t annoy me” rule, which includes things like don’t ask for elder, don’t spam chat, and don’t catch me on a bad day being a derp.

And yet with the bar to stay basically laying on the floor, I’m still booting 5-10 people a week. The good news is since our clan is relatively high ranking in terms of trophies, new recruits roll in as soon as the last piece of dead weight is discarded.

The key to the whole thing is having correct expectations and knowing how to manage. On the expectations front, I’m not looking for people like me, because, well, I’m here, and that means 99% of people aren’t, so if I booted everyone not on my level, I’d be in a two account clan; my main account and my alt. Plus you never know when a diamond-in-the-rough might come along; someone who starts out being terrible but actually shows improvement and has a fairly high ceiling. You need to sift through the dreck to find those people, and then to keep them the clan has to overall be worthwhile.

The only way you MIGHT find those people to begin with is by active management. If I wasn’t keeping tabs on who’s terrible, and then quickly removing them regularly, someone decent-to-great might miss us because the derp bus is currently full. On the other hand, as mentioned above, this can’t be too heavy-handed or the clan might death spiral, or decent players get depressed because management is ‘too mean’. It’s all a balancing act.

I enjoy it for two reasons. One, it adds a layer to my online gaming that I find challenging and a different ‘progression path’. I’m not just interesting in my own account climbing the ranks, I’m also invested in my clan climbing as well. Second, I’ve seen that it slowly helps build up my management skills in the real world. While I can’t boot people as easily (if only…), methods that work online to build people up and get them to succeed can also be applied at work, especially in IT when so much of the work is done via online collaboration, and the expectation is that you provide instruction and hand off the work to be done halfway across the globe.

I’ve joke in the past about this blog making me rich via Darkfall, but I’d be lying if this blog hasn’t overall helped me succeed in a roundabout way; blog readers form the core of online groups, and those online groups help develop skills that turn into promotions and opportunities in the real world. Welcome to 2018.

Posted in Clash Royale, Inquisition Clan, Rant | 9 Comments

Two Point Hospital review

Let’s take a break from the heavy topics today and talk about something nice and light; people dying from poor access to healthcare!

I am, of course, talking about the greatness that is Two Point Hospital (TPH)!

For me a good sim game is a true joy, while a poor sim game is a frustrating tease. In a good one, depth comes at you in layers, and eventually comes together to form a solid, challenging, and entertaining end-game. In a poor sim, there is usually a lack of depth, and once you have seen it all once, you have seen it all. TPH is a good sim, where the complexity of the game starts somewhat slow, and by the end has ramped up quiet nicely, without becoming a chore.

TPH is, as you might imagine from the name, a hospital management game. Patients come in, you build rooms to diagnose and cure them, hire the staff to do so, and provide the needed infrastructure like bathrooms, cafes, trash cans, and all that. Staffing is broken down by doctors, nurses, assistance, and janitors. Every member of the staff has different traits, and as they gain xp and level up, can be trained to improve them in different areas (doctors have a better chance to cure someone, janitors can capture the ghosts of the dead, etc).

One feature I really like about the game is how it’s all structured. On the map there are about 12 total hospitals (levels), and each hospital has 3 tiers (stars) of different challenges. Once you earn the first star, you can either move to the next unlocked hospital, or continue to try and earn the second and third star, or go back to a previous hospital. Things like research and what rooms you have unlocked stay with you, so the further you go, the more stuff you have unlocked and the ‘stronger’ you are (upgraded machines work better, access to more rooms means being able to cure more people for more money, etc). This all makes going back to a previous level entertaining, and fully beating the game (getting all the stars) is a lengthy process. However if you stop after getting one star on all the maps, you’ve effectively seen everything in terms of options, you just haven’t tried the higher tier (harder) challenges. IMO that’s pretty great design.

The other highlight for me is the humor of the game. It’s just funny in a simple, ‘doesn’t try too too hard’ way. Someone suffering from being lightheaded literally has a lightbulb for a head, and the machine that cures them unscrews the lightbulb, puts it in a bin, and takes a head out of another bin to screw on to the patient. Simple joke, but made me chuckle. Most of the rooms/diseases are similar jokes. The announcer and radio DJ also have some pretty good lines, with my favorite being “We are sorry for the litter YOU dropped on OUR floor.” Just the casual hate in the voice during that line is great.

If you enjoy management sims, TPH is a must-buy IMO. It does a lot of things really well, and on top of that solid foundation is a game that is both visually and audible enjoyable. It’s a ‘casual’ game that isn’t a cakewalk, and one that offers hours and hours of gameplay.

Posted in Review | Leave a comment

Gamers are dumb

I was reading an article about the recent lootbox stuff in Europe (forget which article/site) and was amused by how many comments were cheering governments getting involved in regulating video games. Cheering on old, out-of-touch politicians who for sure aren’t looking into this for easy future votes, and instead have the best interests of gamers in mind and will finally, finally force companies like EA and Activision to make games you want, with you (collectively) giving them less money for the product. What could possibly go wrong here…

Let’s put aside for now what the future laws could be, and pretend they nail the wording of the laws and they accomplish exactly what these gamers expect; no more lootboxes without negative side effects. Fantasyland, but let’s pretend.

After the laws are passed, what do you think EA is going to do? Put the same amount of resources into making games, remove the revenue stream that dwarves the income from selling just the box, AND keep cost/quality the same? No, that’s not how things work.

Best bet is that EA and others will come up with a different way to sell lootbox content. Maybe it simply won’t be random, and you can buy common tier whatever for a certain price, and epic tier stuff for another. Is that an improvement you (collectively) want to see? If that doesn’t sell, maybe we start seeing more content gated behind DLC. Maybe the first level is free, and then each level after has a cost, one that adds up to more than the normal $60 price tag if you buy the whole experience. Is that better?

What is almost certain to happen is reduced funding for smaller projects. When companies have money, they can afford to be riskier, trying ideas in the hopes of having a new hit, knowing that failure won’t cripple them. When money is tight, you focus on your safer bets. That means more sequels, more early updates of an established franchise, and far, far fewer niche titles. Regardless of how you feel about the big IPs, how is fewer games a GOOD thing for gamers?

Finally, all the rage about lootboxes (to say nothing about the fake outrage based around ‘save the kids!’) is misguided anyway. You know why lootboxes exist? Because gamers like them. They like them so much, in fact, that they walletvote for them, and walletvotes count for a hell of a lot more than comments on an article/blog or a freaking tweet. Asking someone else, and especially the government, to step in and override the walletvotes of gamers is, point blank, idiotic.

Posted in Rant, RMT | 31 Comments

CoC and CR guild and game update 9/13/18

Time for a progress update on Supreme Creams! adventures in Clash of Clans (CoC) and Clash Royale (CR), and also some commentary on the overall state of both games.

Starting with CoC, we are typically going to war with 15 or 20 accounts. We have 5-10 additional active accounts, but folks either don’t opt into a war, or have something updating that they decide to sit out a war. I’d love for us to return to having at least 25+ in a war, as the larger wars are more interesting in terms of picking targets and how things finish up. Especially in 15 account wars, they typically come down to the top 1-2 bases and whether either side can get a three star, which marginalizes the efforts of everything below.

On a personal note, I have one account currently upgrading to TH12, and another midway through TH10. Both are very fun in wars, with the TH12 using a valk/hogs/AQwalk army, while the TH10 I’ve gone for a full hog army with an AQ walk. My plan is for the TH12 to eventually max everything, while the TH10 will limit troop/spell upgrades to just the hog army until it also hits TH12.

CoC itself is in a good spot right now. Clan wars remain very fun, while clan games continue to be a nice addition that motivates a clan and provides some good bonus rewards. Recruiting new players is significantly harder than in CR, which is unfortunate for the war reasons listed above.

In CR our group is currently in Gold 2 for wars, and we average about 40 accounts in a war. My goal is to have us as close to the 50 account max as possible. The good news here is almost as soon as I remove an inactive, a new application comes in, so clan management is less about hoping someone new comes, and more about keeping the roster pruned of inactive or horribly ineffective accounts.

Personally my main account last season hit Master III rank, which I believe is top 0.1% or so, with my second account reaching Master II (buff Royal Giant…). For card levels both accounts have max (other than legendary) decks, and I’m working on hitting level 11+ for all cards for wars right now. Hopefully once all/most cards are 11+, I’ll be able to max out some new cards and start start switching up cards in the ladder decks, as I’ve been playing the same two decks for well over a year now.

CR itself is better than it has even been IMO. Clan war collection day matches now have great variety, with my current favorite being 2x elixir draft battles. On match days I really enjoy creating decks for clan mates to use, and then watching how they do (usually poorly for derps like Maine…). Back when clan wars started I doubted we would even hit Gold, yet now I’m thinking we can push into the upper levels of gold and maybe even beyond.

The new cards added to the game have mostly been fantastic, with the newest, the goblin giant, being perhaps my favorite. The game is well balanced, as evident by the wide range of decks on both the ladder and in clan wars. I wish events were more frequent, but when they do happen I almost always enjoy and finish them.

If any reads would like to join (or rejoin), we have spots in CoC so just apply. In CR I most likely will need to make a spot, so just drop a note here and I’ll clear some space. Just be sure to mention the blog in your application for either game.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Inquisition Clan, iPhone | 4 Comments

EVE might save the MMO genre

Continuing the conversation started yesterday about the MMO genre, and how I don’t believe its time has passed or that the genre ‘doesn’t work’ anymore, let’s talk about EVE.

But first, what do you see when you look at EQ1 today? An outdated title that is most likely a nostalgia trip, right? Same for basically any older MMO not named WoW (which today is in its final form as a single-player RPG), and even WoW isn’t fooling anyone into believe it’s a new release with top-end graphics and technology.

EVE though? EVE looks like a game released in 2018. From a technology perspective, there isn’t another game on the market, MMO or otherwise, that can handle battles as large as EVE, or that has an economy as deep, complex, and balanced as EVE. The largest groups of players, with the longest history, exist and thrive in EVE. For a game released in 2003, EVE still does many things better than any other game out, and much of that can be attributed to the fact that EVE has been upgraded at a consistent rate since 2003.

It’s sad that the above is almost exclusively limited to EVE, when in reality it should be the basic formula for most MMOs. And hence a major reason why the genre has been stuck in neutral for years now. Everyone has forgotten what made MMOs work, and why they offered something unique to gaming.

To get back to EVE, the recent purchase of CCP by Pearl Abyss could be a disaster (if the game drifts away from being EVE and more towards being a generic F2P cash-shop dumpster title), or it could be wonderful (CCP can finally stop trying to make something else, and focus 100% on doing what they do well, EVE Online). If we assume the latter, I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest EVE could see a second revival in terms of popularity. I’m not predicting WoW-like numbers, but 500k+ I could see.

There are a TON of former EVE players who have drifted away, but most likely aren’t sick of the game, or never want to touch it again. Many just got bored, or tired of waiting for feature X or fix Y. With new focus, perhaps CCP can finally deliver on the wants of some, if not most, of those players. Growth would also snowball for a few reasons. Socially, if many of your former friends and corpmates are returning and enjoying things, you are far more likely to return as well. And as the population increases, in-game conflict and drama increases as well, which further grabs peoples attention and sparks an interest to return.

If we assume all of the above comes to fruition, it would be somewhat poetic if EVE was the reason we see a second coming of the MMO genre, and in particular, a return to the genre being about virtual worlds rather than short-stay themepark rides. Not holding my breath or anything, but it’s not that crazy if things fall into place.

Posted in EQ2, EVE Online, MMO design, World of Warcraft | 6 Comments

The MMO genre isn’t dead, its just lacking good MMOs

I’m of the firm believe that the MMO genre is struggling primarily because there hasn’t been a good MMO released in years (insert “since EVE” or “since Darkfall” joke here). The struggle isn’t about gamer tastes changing to loves MOBA titles, or now Battle Royale titles, or that people in 2018 won’t pay a subscription for a service, or that because there are a million ‘free’ games on the iPhone, people don’t need an MMO anymore. I’m not saying a good MMO hits peak WoW numbers, but I am saying a good title could be a top 10 game in the year its released.

So why hasn’t it happened in a long, long time? Part of the problem is a drain on talent; there just aren’t a lot of brilliant MMO devs willing and able to make the kind of MMO that would work. Kickstater MMOs lack the funding and talent to make that happen, even when they are on the scale of a Star Citizen. Major studio titles play it too safe, which ultimately never works because ‘too safe’ isn’t a winning recipe in this genre. Plus with each failed title, the odds of the next studio being willing to give the genre a real, risky shot decline.

Another factor working against the genre is the continued influence of the F2P model, which straight up doesn’t work for an MMO that wants to be anything more than a short-term cash grab (or for older MMOs, the occasional nostalgia tour spot). This is made all the trickery because F2P does work for other genres, be it MOBAs or BR games, so I’m sure its hard to sell someone who could potentially fund development on going back to the ‘old’ subscription model. At the same time, you absolutely need the subscription model (with or without a cash shop alongside it) to truly sustain and grow an MMO long-term.

Why do I think the genre can still work? Because at the core, a real MMO is about endless progression, and today just like yesterday, gamers love progression. The sad part is so many MMOs today, like Life is Feudal, fail at this basic principle, with a very real, and very abrupt end of progression, which just kills the game regardless of almost anything else they have going for them.

I also think that today, more than at any other time, people are ok with paying a subscription for a service. When Ultima Online came out, it was a very, very weird concept. Today paying monthly for Netflix, or HBO, or Hulu, or the countless specific streaming platforms is very common, and very successful. Both the XBOX and Playstation have subscription services, so even console gamers accept the concept.

Technology is also on the side of the MMO genre. Server costs are lower, server power is greater, and basically everyone has high-speed internet now at nearly uncapped data amounts. As with subscriptions above, there has never been a BETTER time for something like an MMO from a technology standpoint then today.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about one title I think can take advantage of all this. Spoiler: If you’ve been here for a minute, you can already guess the title.

Posted in Kickstarter, MMO design, Rant | 6 Comments

Digital board games are fine, mostly

Quick post today, just to officially start the “back in the office” blogging era.

Humble Bundle had a deal on PC games base on board games, like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Pathfinder Adventures. Overall I’m happy with the purchase, but playing the digital versions of the games isn’t all rainbows.

For starters, Carcassonne has a super-annoying bug with achievements, where it doesn’t remember what you have earned. The result? Because some of the achievements will always happen (make your first city, or your first road), you get spammed with them every single game. Very annoying, and just drives the point home that not every game needs or is made better by achievements.

Pathfinder Adventures on the other hand is the definition of a game that, at all times, has me questioning whether I’m actually having fun, which means I’m not. The game is ‘fine’, but I found I was closing it down after every single game, win or lose, until I just realized I probably should stop opening it in the first place.

The digital versions also play much faster than the physical versions, which is convenient, but leads you to finding the flaws or annoyances much faster. Plus physically playing with real humans leads to general interaction, and without that the games feel kinda sterile. It’s not that their bad, it’s just that they’re not as good as ‘pure’ videogames in most cases, even with the option for online play.

Posted in Random, Rant | 4 Comments