Endless Space 2 review

I played Endless Space 2 (ES2) during its free weekend last week, and picked it up on Monday before the sale ended. It’s a good 4X strategy title, especially if you liked Endless Legends (basically the fantasy version of Endless Space).

What I like most about the Endless 4X games is that they are a good combo of feeling the same, in a good way, while also introducing some unique elements that really keep the game feeling fresh. They play like a game of Civ, but you don’t play them like a game of Civ, if that makes sense.

In ES2, much like Legends, each of the races/factions is far more unique than in Civ. How they settle new planets is different, how they run their governments, what heroes and tech they have, etc. Each turn is still about moving units, building new colonies, building upgrades and ships at those colonies, and conducting warfare and diplomacy, but what you focus on will depend on who you are playing, as well as who you are facing.

In one game I was playing a peace-loving race, and the closest other major player was also peace-loving. The result was a mostly peaceful game, with us eventually allying. We still competed for star systems, as well as for completing the shared quests that occasionally pop up, but overall the game played to both our strengths. When we finally came into contact with a race that preferred war, together we were simply too strong and they didn’t go after us initially, and when they finally did declare war, we were able to counter-attack them easily.

In a second game I picked a more expansion/war focused race, and used a very heavy military technology focus to be aggressive and go after others. That was working great until three sides all attacked me, and then the game became a desperate struggle to hold my borders and repel fleets as they were coming in. Because of the tech advantage, I had bigger/better ships, and eventually those fleets and heroes gained enough experience from successful combat to return to the offensive and capture/burn more territory.

ES2 is very flexible like that, in that there are truly multiple ways to play and win, and not all of it is under your control. Sometimes even if you want peace, too many people are around you initially, or you want war but the star lanes to travel are terribly long and its just not possible.

Speaking of travel, it’s done very well in ES2. Initially ships can only move along pre-set paths between stars, and some star systems aren’t connected at all. Somewhat soon, you can research a tech that lets you fly in open space, but you must have a target system (you can’t just move one ‘hex’ north like you can in Civ). Also movement outside the paths is very slow, and not really practical most of the time. Finally, you can research and discover worm holes, which are new paths between systems that show up and are instant. This can dramatically change how everyone moves about, because what you thought was a safe dead-end system suddenly might have an instant travel connection to your enemies system. It’s great, and really keeps the ‘game board’ interesting through each phase of travel evolution.

Graphically the game is good. Some of the effects are a little cheap, like ground battles, but others, like the ship battles you can watch, look really good (almost EVE-like really). Sound is good as well, with some decent voice acting. I’ve yet to have the game crash or see a bug, and it loads up and runs very well.

If you are in the market for a 4x title, I’d recommend Endless Space 2.

Posted in Random, Review | 1 Comment

EA disables the ‘rape gaming’ option in SW:BF2, for now

EA has caved, again, over the lockbox situation in SW:BF2. This time by removing the entire cash shop. Non-sheep rejoice, we won! Sheep people, enjoy your improved game despite your complicit sheep actions.

Of course even in their ‘we are trying to do the right thing’ announcement, EA couldn’t help themselves and said the cash shop would be back later, in some form.

The ultra-cynical (read: correct) take on this is that EA wants to grab the money from pre-orders and initial sales again, avoid lower review scores because of the previous garbage cash shop progression system, and will just bring basically the same pay-4-power lootbox cash shop back once the dust has settled and it’s too late for refunds.

The optimistic (read: very likely wrong) view is that after review, the cash shop will come back as a fluff-only shop, and any power progression will remain in-game only, as is the case in ‘good’ cash shop games.

The smart thing to do here is take a ‘wait and see’ approach with the game. Don’t buy it, and if/when the cash shop is back and doesn’t sell power, jump in. The obvious problem is not only did a ton of sheep not cancel pre-orders, but more are likely to get duped by EA here and buy the game thinking it’s not going to revert into garbage once their money is firmly in EA’s pockets.

This entire fiasco has been interesting to watch, especially because it drew a clear line between words and actions for some people. Saying you don’t like lootboxes or pay-4-power games rings very hollow when once a game with your flavor of lightsaber comes up, you dive right in regardless of how many systems you supposedly don’t support it contains, because ‘hey its fun’.

The ultra-extreme but still accurate example of this is saying you are against rape, but then at a party when you spot a ‘fun’ girl, you rape her anyway, because while you are generally against rape, this particular case you choose fun over the values you claim to have. Retaining your SW:BF2 pre-order when it was clear the cash shop was selling power lootboxes was raping gamers that don’t want that junk in our games. At least for now, in this situation, enough people said “Regardless of how fun that girl looks, lets not rape her”. And knowing EA, the ‘eh, rape her’ option is coming back. Don’t support that, even if it means missing out on this particular a fun time.

Posted in Blogroll, Random, Rant, RMT | 11 Comments

Think we can put a hotbar inside a loot box?

First off, when did SW:TOR let go of the hotbar saleman? Who the hell is selling you chunks of the UI for the low low price of ‘bend over this barrel please’ in that dumpster fire of a game now?

That aside, today he is talking about lockboxes, because everyone is (thanks EA, have a downvote!), and, no joke, is talking about how to ethically design them. That’s right, the guy who use to sell you pieces of the UI that was intentionally taken out to make playing without paying suck, is now talking about how to fairly design lockboxes. I think his next topic is going to be “Heroin, not that bad in small doses, try some kids!”.

Wait nevermind:

I’m pretty fine with those guys paying a lot of money so that a whole bunch of kids without money or credit cards can play my games for free “ – Damion “The whole UI is extra” Schubert

And of course he jumps on the whole “but but its 2017, videogames are oh so expensive to make now whaaa” train, which pulls up right behind the “but but what about the kids?” express of fake outrage over something.

You know what 1995 videogame devs had to pay to sell a game? Thousands and thousands for a short window of shelf space in a store, assuming they even had that possibility if Nintendo or Sega let them make a game for their console. Also the PC gaming market was super hot compared to today… The other option? Not make games and get a ‘real’ job instead.

Today? It’s $100 or so to get listed on Steam, which will put your game in front of millions of people, forever. Gee which one sounds cheaper? Oh you know what else cost money in 1995 but is absolutely free today? The physical box, the printing of the manual, and having to ship a game that is 100% fully done because you can’t change it later. But boo hoo in 2017 video game devs have it so rough because they can’t all take an existing engine, change a bit of code, throw in some pre-made art assets, call it PUBG, and be literally set for life after 20+ million copies sold in early access. Or hey, just take your fan made mod, give it a new title, and be able to retire at 30 because you own the company running LoL.

Banished and Stardew valley, both A+ quality games, were made by one person. ARK was made by a small team. How many games were successfully funded via Kickstarter and delivered? None of that was happening in 1995. The average game dev in 2017 is MUCH better off than that same dev in 1995, and it’s not even remotely close. And for gamers? Steam sales, humble bundle, the fact we have thousands of new titles a year? Please, 1995 sucked in comparison as well.

Of course if your gaming ‘talent’ caps out at “I removed the UI and sold it back to people boss!” you are going to cry about how rough it is, but spare me the sob story. Blowing 500m to bring us the much-wanted 4th pillar isn’t an example of the rising cost of video games, its an example of not having the first clue on how to make a decent game. The cost was just icing on the shit cake. You want to know the difference between 500m for SW:TOR and whatever GTA:V cost? One game was good and made money, the other drove all the big money out of a genre for a decade.

The saddest thing in all this garbage related to power lockboxes is that plenty of examples already exist in gaming of in-game purchases done right. LoL doesn’t sell power and somehow not only manages to be the biggest game out year after year, but pulls in a ton of cash. PUBG is the new hotness, and surprise, also only sells you fluff. Yes, via lockboxes, but if its fluff, I don’t care if its delivered on a unicorn or at the bottom of the ocean.

The reason games like SW:BF2 sell you power items in lockboxes isn’t because they are ‘trying something new’ or want you to feel a sense of accomplishment, but because they are shit-tier games that won’t be relevant or popular in 6 months, so they need to collect as much cash as possible right away. The lack of ethics here is knowing that if you polish a turd enough, you will fool people into buying in short-term. It’s pump-and-dump, but in the videogame world. And the saddest thing about all of it is that people get burned, get mad for a minute, and then when the next polished turd comes around, they get right back in line asking for more. That model will never lead to anything great or resume-worthy, but hey, it makes some money, and for some that’s all that matters.

To bring this back to talking about 1995, games that rely on power lockboxes to make money are the 2017 version of a movie-based videogame; a piece of shit produced by people who didn’t care, but knew they would sell enough simply based on the fact that they had a popular movie on the cover to fool enough people to make the next one.

Posted in Rant, RMT, SW:TOR | 4 Comments

Sheep sheeping it up like sheep

The new Star Wars Battlefield game has been in the news a lot recently, and mostly for negative reasons. For those unaware, SW:BF2 is a game made by EA that is the current poster child of shitty cash grabs. You buy the box, and then either play as a gimp until you grind out upgrades, or put money down on top of your box price to unlock things like, say, Darth Vader. Vader is locked in a SW game that has a box price folks.

Now listen, anyone who actually buys SW:BF2 is part of the problem, unless said person doesn’t consider the box+lockbox model a problem, and then that makes them an asshole. So while its cute that in the SW:BF2 subreddit an EA community manager is sitting at -280k+ downvotes over telling someone who paid $80 to keep grinding or pay more to play Vader, everyone who owns a copy of that game (guessing most of the people in that subreddit) and downvoted is also part of the problem. You aren’t ‘taking a stand’ with your downvote, you’re just being a hypocrite.

The only way companies like EA won’t continue to pump this garbage out and bend players over a barrel is if said players stop actually giving them money to be bent over. Paying and then crying while bent just likely makes whoever from EA is giving it to you chuckle while giving it to you, you dumb sheep.

Edit: An important note about all these kinds of games. Playing but not paying (either zero in a F2P game or only the box in something like SW:BF2) also makes you complicit in all of this, just marginally less so. The whole system works because a small percentage of the playerbase dives head-first into the cash shop, which an even smaller percentage going full whale. But if a game is overall unpopular, the whales won’t drop 10k to show off in an unpopular game.

Part of the scumbag mechanic in a lot of the worst examples isn’t just that they have lockboxes or a cash shop, but they design them such that whales have an easy time showing off. That mechanic fails if no one is around to witness said showing off.

Posted in Random, Rant | 18 Comments

Gevlon wins super-elite level PUBG game! Proof inside!

Every time I think Gevlon has reached the depths of his personal stupidity, he goes ahead and digs just a little deeper. It truly is an impressive talent.

As you may recall, the statistically worst player on the internet had 735 games played without stumbling into a single win, an almost impossible feat considering the amount of RNG in PUBG. Well not anymore everyone! Was he shamed into finally winning? Did the PUBG RMG gods finally take pity on him? Did he go afk so his personal play wouldn’t get in the way of winning?

Naw, you see Gevlon is super smart and a top-ranked player, so he only plays against other top-ranked players because thats definitely how the rating system works in PUBG. His games are really hard, and all us plebs are playing in lowbie ranked games that are super easy to win. I mean, Gevlon can’t possibly be wrong about that and then post clear evidence on his own blog proving it, can he?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Here it is (at the bottom, the garbage about is another Grrr CCP nonsense rant). Congrats on 700+ failed efforts and then finally getting a single win. Huge accomplishment, uugh!

The money quote:

While winning a top 0.5% ranked game isn’t nothing (and nothing like winning a 1200 rated lolgame), luck had a part in it (guy shoots me to 10% HP when drops dead from a headshot from mr-soon-to-be-#2). – Ultra-leet goblin leader Gevlon

Of course he only had one kill, the final one. And who did he kill? A 1600 rated player who’s name you can see in his screenshot (with an aggregate skill rating of, of course, 1200, because clearly even the universe enjoys laughing at Gevlon at this point). A player who has also never won a single game, though in that players defense, he only has 100 games played total, so he might not be a complete goblin.

Why was a 1600 rating zero-wins player in Gevlon’s ‘leet’ top-tier game, and why did he make it to the final two players in a game that also contained Gevlon? Because as Gevlon has now perfectly shown, the rating system in PUBG doesn’t do anything, which is why only idiot goblins care about it. The game just grabs the first 100 players who queue up and puts them in a game. That’s why the queue is almost instant regardless of when and where (what region) you play, and why 12 people of VASTLY different ranks can all queue up in 3 squads and get into the same exact game 99% of the time, as we do often in INQ. It’s why stream sniping is possible in PUBG but doesn’t exist in LoL (Gevlon thinks stream snipers are just bots hired by the streamer to boost their stats, but that’s a joke for another day).

Anyway, grats on your ‘leet’ win Gevlon, I’m sure many, many more are going to follow, even with you playing at the top-tier of the ratings against fellow top-tier players. Can’t wait for your guide to teach us all how we too can be as ‘successful’ as a goblin. Personally I can only hope its as good as your LoL “just queue dodge, it’s fine, lots of people stay in Silver for 1000+ games” guide.

Posted in Blogroll, PUBG | 13 Comments

I’d play Classic WoW

I think I’m in for vanilla WoW if its done right. ‘Done right’ is of course the key, and with New Blizzard, I think its safe to say the odds are great they are going to screw it up by enabling something dumb like cross-realms, or phasing, or some form of WotLK-era welfare. But that’s a topic for another day, when Blizzard gives us more info.

Today I want to talk about why I’d go back. For one, vanilla WoW was some of the best MMO gaming for me in my long run with the genre, and at least some of that time was prior to getting into top-end raiding. I want to see if it still holds up, in large part because I believe it will. A lot of people are saying that quests like “kill 10 of this, then kill 5 of that in the same place” are terrible and should be replaced, but to me that sounds far too similar to people saying that mining in EVE is boring and should be made more fun and interactive. On paper that sounds correct, but when you consider how that gameplay HAS held up, and how many people enjoy it, there must be something to it.

That something is the fact that you play an MMO for a long time, so the basics need to be… well basic. If every quest is some new ‘figure it out’ thing, you not only tire of that after the 100th quest, but you also run into quests that really suck, and content that sucks sticks out far more than good/great content. If you keep it consistent (kill 10), you keep the fun consistent. The same goes for combat; its the most basic and core activity you do in an MMO like WoW, and if its too taxing (long rotations, too heavy an emphasis on movement), it goes from being fun and engaging for the first few hours to a chore in hour 100, and hour 100+ is what you should judge an MMO by, not the first 100. Yes, that sounds crazy, but WoW in 2005 wasn’t successful because the first 100 hours were magic (though they were for most because it was their first MMO), it was successful because it kept millions playing well beyond the first 100 hours.

I’m also personally interested in playing it because I could duo with my wife, and vanilla leveling content was very good for duos. Sure you spent more time on the ‘collect x’ quests, but there were plenty of areas where having another player helped, and dungeon content is far easier when you already have 2 of the 5 people you need to bring. I’m also guessing that if this is done right, a lot of the INQ crew would give it a shot, so putting together full groups for dungeons would also be pretty easy and fun.

I also hope this happens correctly because it would be a very interesting test for the genre as a whole. If Classic WoW is basically 2005 WoW, and it becomes massively successful, that will send a strong message to everyone. It could, potentially, undo all the damage WotLK+ did, where devs were copying the bad version of WoW and bringing all its junk forward, then claiming its the players and not the games that were the reason for failure.

Will any of this happen? Guess we will find out ‘soon’.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, MMO design, World of Warcraft | 7 Comments

PUBG: 735 losses before a game is rigged now I guess

I knew it was coming. You knew it was coming. Now here it is; Gevlon trying to explain how PUBG is rigged. Honestly its a sad attempt even by his standards (buying fluff boxes means the devs flag your account for better circle placement, really Gevlon, that’s the best tinfoil you got?).

For those keeping track at home, it took Gevlon about 1000 LoL games in Silver before he explained that failure away to rigging, but in PUBG the rigging excuse is up after only 735 or so games without a single win. He is getting weaker at face-slamming a wall I guess. (That said, 735 games without RNG handing you a win is insane in PUBG. That’s literally ‘intentionally trying not to win’ territory of unlikely.)



Posted in Blogroll, PUBG | 5 Comments