The only thing worse than Yahoo mail is the fact that I still use it

As you can see in the top right corner of this blog, I still use Yahoo mail. I’ve had that account for a long, long time, and for most of its history it’s been fine. When Google mail came out, I didn’t register Syncaine@gmail.com in time (I’ve got Syncaine1, but that 1 makes me feel like a pleb, and F whoever did steal my name on gmail), so I’ve stuck with Yahoo.

Well now Yahoo mail is a goddamn dumpster fire that is really pushing me towards using that pleb gmail account. First up, there is currently a bug that effects a ton of people where the first email in your inbox doesn’t show up on your screen in a web browser. It’s there, you can scroll up to it using the arrow keys, but you can’t actually see it on the screen. That’s a bit of a problem when 99.9% of the time the most important email in your inbox is the newest one. This has been happening for weeks now, and while Yahoo has acknowledged it, they haven’t fixed it yet.

The second bug, a more recent one, is that now the top email won’t load. When you scroll to it, it will load the title and who sent it, but will give you a spinning icon for the rest. If you click that icon, it will load the email just fine, but that click is pretty annoying. I have no doubt this bug will remain for weeks before it is fixed, if it ever actually does get fixed.

What’s REALLY insane is I pay for Yahoo mail. Granted, it’s $30 a year to remove ads, so that part of it is worth it for me, but the fact that I’m a paying customer for Yahoo and still have to deal with such basic errors that remain unfixed for so long is really, really bad. I’m not even asking to have a feature-set on par with gmail. It would be nice, but it is what it is at this point. All I’m asking for here is for the most basic functions of email, like seeing the email, to work. Get it together Yahoo!

Posted in Rant, Site update | 7 Comments

Potential specs for the new PC

Here is the link to the config page for the new PC I’m planning to order.

The only item I’m still debating is whether to go with the 1TB Samsung  EVO SSD or the 500gb Samsung 960 PRO. I know I can make 500gb work in terms of storage for games, but having 1TB basically means not having to even worry about it. Leaning towards the higher performing but smaller 960 right now.

Also keep in mind I’ll be putting my current 1080 GTX in, and putting the included 1060 in the PC I’m replacing.

Any hardware suggestions post them below. Plan to place the order sometime this week.

 

Posted in Site update, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

A little chicken dinner in the sand

Desert Chicken

Desert Chicken, still so tasty

Posted in PUBG, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PUBG 1.0 initial impressions

Oh god it’s so good. So so good.

The thing about pre-1.0 PUBG was that it was amazingly fun DESPITE being full of bugs and lacking optimization. The bugs created a lot of charming videos and reactions, sure, but they also sucked when they happened at a key moment, or when they interrupted the limited game time you had. The lack of optimization meant reducing graphics quality, dealing with uneven FPS, and sometimes having your game ruined because a squad mate crashed or didn’t load up properly. Was PUBG worth playing pre-1.0? Absolutely, which is why tens of millions did it. But is PUBG leaps and bounds better in 1.0? Yes, yes it is.

Which in a way is scary, because PUBG was already so good. It hooked people, and then it kept them playing. It will also keep people playing. I don’t see this being a fad that passes. I see this being the next cornerstone of gaming like LoL is. And where PUBG is right now is just the beginning. Yes the new map is amazing, but it’s only one map. The next map, with all the lessons learned for the devs, will be better. And it will be released to a foundation that is more solid than it is today, and certainly more solid than it was a few weeks ago. We will get more weapons, more vehicles, hell even more game modes are going to come and keep things interesting. And that entire time, the core game, the ‘5v5 river map’ of LoL, will be the prime option, the thing that most people enjoy for the long haul.

 

Posted in PUBG, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Skyrim modding, again

I’m back messing around with Skyrim. Yea, Skyrim, that game that came up prior to the internet being invented, I believe.

When the special edition first came out, I tried it, found that most mods didn’t work with it, and put it down. Some time has now passed and more mods are available, so I’ve given it another shot. Much of this was prompted from playing Elder Scrolls Legends, so hey, at least that’s a win for that game and getting people interested (again) in related Elder Scrolls games (ESO still sucks).

Nexus mod manager makes things easier in terms of grabbing mods, but unfortunately some of the more complex mods still need you to tinker with .init files and such. Setting up Skyrim with mods is a game itself for many, and it takes a long-ass time to get it right if you go all-in.

I’m 70+ mods in, and perhaps the most shocking part is my PC with a 1080 GTX can’t run the game at 60 FPS at all times. Again, a lot of those mods are 4k texture mods, I’m pretty sure the ENB I’m running is a FPS killer as well, and since Skyrim doesn’t support 3440×1440, I had to tinker to get that working as well, but come on…

It does look good though, I’ll give it that. The landscape is gorgeous, caves and dungeons drip with atmosphere, and the towns feel alive and active, all of which just makes me madder that Bethesda still hasn’t given us even a hint of the next game in the series.

I’m getting a new PC for Christmas, and will start planning that as soon as Digital Storm puts up their holiday discounts, so maybe my next PC can finally run Skyrim correctly. Ha, just kidding, I’ll likely stack enough mods to choke that PC too. It’s what the mod game is all about anyway, right?

Posted in The Elder Scrolls Online | 14 Comments

Examples of good MTX in good games

Continuing down the road of what is good MTX, lets talk specific examples today.

First and foremost is League of Legends, the most popular game out not just right now, but for the last few years. LoL is a F2P game, yet has maintained its AAA status in terms of graphics and support for years, all without ever selling power or abusive MTX. It certain helps that a MOBA like LoL is basically perfect for a full fluff-based MTX model, but keep in mind that SW:BF2 could also have been 100% fluff (SW fans would likely buy a lightsaber of every color under the rainbow), but it wasn’t because of greed and gamers who support such greed. Riot has never done that with LoL, and in turn has been rewarded with amazing fan loyalty and incredible success.

What is especially important about LoL and its MTX model is that it doesn’t just show you can turn a profit, but shows you can be the top dog in all of gaming while using it. The argument can’t be made that Riot has left money on the table, or that they aren’t doing what’s best for their shareholders. They could have, at many points, given in and grabbed higher short-term gains, but in parts because they didn’t (and in large part because their product is overall fantastic), they are and continue to reap the long-term benefits.

EVE is next. EVE is an sub-based MMO, yet has managed to work in a cash shop without devaluing the cost of the sub due to constant and free updates and expansions. CCP also does a good job in balancing work on store fluff with free fluff and said game updates. Has CCP been perfect the entire time? No, but they have corrected errors as they have come up (sometimes too slowly for the fanbase, yes), and compared to the rest of the genre, are miles ahead in this regard.

Another note about EVE is that CCP embraced the fact that some people will pay to skip ahead (skill boosters) without directly selling power made of thin air, or undercutting the game economy itself. The easy way to cater to this is to simply give someone a max level character, and maybe even throw in some gear as well. The better way is to enable a system where one player trades his progress to another. Even better if the transaction is overall a net-negative, because sinks are very much needed in any working economy. It’s these kinds of details that ultimately matter, and don’t lead to a water-down experience with a game, MMO or otherwise.

Finally lets talk about Clash of Clans and Clash Royale, two of the most popular and IMO best mobile games out. Both are F2P, and both allow you to spend a lot of money if you so choose. Both are also competitive PvP games, though each is a bit different in that regard.

CoC allows you to pay-2-skip, and to fully skip to the end you are looking at a cost of thousands. Without paying, you are looking at multiple years of playing/grinding to reach the top levels of a base, and as updates tend to add levels, this will likely increase if you started today. The reason the model works however is that the earlier levels are simpler, and this is important to learn the game if you are going to get involved in the primary PvP activity, clan wars. The game also has a MASSIVE amount of detail to learn, and if you skip ahead, you will be in way over your head, and likely a big drain on your clan as your war weight will be high, but your ability to perform will be low.

Skipping ahead is also negative IMO because each level in CoC has its own unique meta. How a TH5 attacks another TH5 is very different than how a TH9 vs TH9 goes. Things don’t get too complicated until about TH8, but after that it becomes harder and harder to get a 100% attack on an opposing base (always the goal of an attack in a war). If you skip as far ahead as TH9 or TH10, you truly might never recover, or it will be extremely painful for both you and your clan.

That said, SuperCell makes its money because little skips are common, so instead of dropping $500 at once to speed ahead (though I know this happens every update with whales), players will often spend $5 or so to finish a building upgrade, or to get a hero back into action.

Clash Royale is slightly different in that spending does buy you power (higher level cards), which will allow you to get higher in the leaderboard (assuming equal player skill and all that). Being higher on the leaderboard means you get better chests, which leads to getting more cards per chest/season (this has diminishing returns pretty quickly, with all chests being the same at 3800+ trophies). The odd thing here is if you spend and max out a deck, you will move up in rank, but all that does is get you more cards, but since you are already maxed…? ? ?

Also the whole thing works itself out anyway; players of a certain skill and card level will reach the right rank, and then without improving skill and/or cards, won’t progress further. Finally, in the top % (4500+ trophies), most players have max or near-max decks now anyway, so you can’t buy yourself higher than that; if someone really cares about reaching the absolute top, its all skill based at that point.

To be fair there are some ‘interesting’ design decisions, like the fact that after a certain point, you are always short on gold to upgrade cards, to the point where you have to focus on one deck (8 cards) and if you spend on other cards, you likely won’t have gold for the main deck. All of this becomes a non-issue once your main deck is maxed and you can start playing around with other stuff, but that’s 1yr+ into the game playing daily.

Also of note is that all tournaments and special events are played under tourney rules, where cards are capped at much lower levels than max, and many events automatically give you all cards maxed for the event. All events give you the first entry for free, and additional attempts aren’t outrageously priced. I’ve yet to spend money for gems (you slowly earn gems in-game as well) to play events, and I play them all, usually ‘beating’ each one (getting the max number of wins).

Of all the examples, CR is easily the most ‘aggressive’ MTX game, but with just limited spending over the last 1+ year ($30 or so?) I’m consistently finishing each season in the top 1% (I think it’s much higher than that, but forgot to check at season end last time), so it’s not a game like many F2P MMOs where if you don’t spend, you really can’t compete.

There are countless other examples of both good and bad MTX in games, but the overall point I’m trying to make here is that not only can you make money without predatory MTX, you can become the market leader in your segment. I’m also not aware of a single predatory MTX game that is the market leader in its segment. Companies like Electronic Arts are profitable preying on sheep, yes, but I’d argue they and everyone else would be BETTER off using MTX correctly. Especially because much like with F2P in the MMO genre, eventually even the sheep smarten up and learn to stay away or be cautious.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, EVE Online, League of Legends, RMT | 4 Comments

MTX is a long-term model, so think long-term

I posted a few days ago, on the discussion of MTX, that good games do well, and bad games don’t (really a next-level statement if you think about it long enough). While I still stand by that bold proclamation, today I want to break down just what I feel is acceptable MTX in a game today, and what can work for both developers and players. Good MTX is always a long-term thing, where you have a game and support it, with your players making purchases over a long period of time.

I’ll start by repeating that there is no ‘this is good, this is bad’ blanket statement about MTX that holds true, ignoring something like “MTX designed with the intent purpose of deceiving the buyer” of course. For example most games won’t be better by the inclusion of loot-box based pay-4-power items, but would you really want to play a card game like Elder Scroll Legends or Hearthstone without that model?

Instead of opening packs of cards, each game would instead reward you with a currency, and then you would use that currency to buy specific cards, right? This already somewhat exists because we can turn cards to dust, and then use dust to create a specific card, but what would happen if the entire game was like that? Each viable deck would have a ‘dust’ value, as they do today, but each player would need to grind exactly that amount of dust, and the dust/hr rate would be known. That wouldn’t be fun, as players already don’t enjoy knowing just how far away they are from something they want in games like an MMO (raid tokens vs bosses dropping random gear).

But yes, in most games, especially competitive games of skill (LoL, CS:GO, Street Fighter, Madden football), you really really don’t want to sell power, and you especially don’t want to sell power randomly. But as LoL has shown, you can profit immensely using MTX even in such games by offering to sell fluff in the form of skins, badge icons, and emotes. That said, you must ensure that the fluff on sale is deemed high-quality enough to justify the price. For example, a simple reshade really should be cheap, because most players know it was fairly easy to design. On the other hand, players will pay a premium price for truly standout fluff, such as legendary skins in LoL. A purchase should feel good, so that the buyer is open to another, and giving someone quality they deem worthy of the price is key to that.

On that note, another very important factor is to not overly ‘sell’ your MTX. Don’t put more effort into the splash art of your fluff in the store if it won’t match what it really is in-game. That’s going to upset the buyer, and while in the short-term it might net you a few additional sales, in the long term you put effort into the wrong area to sustain long-term revenue (selling the fluff vs putting value into the fluff) . Along with this, your item shop really should do a great job in showing the buy exactly what they are getting. LoL is still fairly poor in this regard, as they don’t show what a skin looks like in-game within the client (you can see all skins on youtube).

Selling items or content is also fine in the right context. Giving a buyer the option to buy more of what they already enjoy in a game is good. So if your core game has 10 levels, and those 10 levels are the full core game (so the ending isn’t missing, or key systems you advertised aren’t shadows until you buy the MTX), selling more levels at a reasonable price is giving gamers what they want. Selling items in a game like Fallout or Skyrim is also fine, because the base games include plenty, and you don’t NEED more to beat and enjoy those games, plus they are single player games so the choice to buy or not only impacts the buyer.

Another key to creating a favorable MTX scene for your game is that you must balance additions to the shop with free ongoing support. The worst-case is when a dev adds more paid content to a shop, but their base game still has crippling bugs, performance issues, or missing core content. That’s going to sour everyone early, and it’s hard to recover from. This drifts back to ‘make a good game’ territory, but it’s true, you can establish a game for long-term success if you don’t first create a quality core to build MTX on top of.

Done right, MTX creates a favorable ‘circle of life’ for everyone involved. Devs continue to get paid while supporting their product, and when done really right, get paid far above the old model of just selling a box. For the players, they not only get a good game, they continue to get more of what they are enjoying. Done right, this also creates a long-term relationship between devs and customers. Today I trust Riot because of my experience with them over the last few years with LoL, just like I trust CCP with how they have handled EVE, and SuperCell thanks to CoC/CR. On the flip side, I don’t touch any Electronic Arts products because of their history with shady MTX, so even if they release the ‘perfect for me and really fun’ game tomorrow, I’m still giving it a pass.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, EVE Online, League of Legends, MMO design, RMT, SW:TOR | 4 Comments