League of Legends isn’t just a game

As previously mentioned, I’m back playing League of Legends a bit. This marks ten years of playing the game on and off, though if I had to guess it’s my most played game overall in that timeframe. It’s also the game I’d say is as close to perfect at what it does as any game out, and I don’t just mean gameplay, I mean the whole package is a master class in game design and business model in 2020. The fact that LoL is one of the most popular and profitable games out also means I’m not alone with that opinion. 

Beyond all of that however, LoL is also the blueprint for how a game can become a hobby and an eSport. It’s a hobby vs just a game because it’s something that has stayed relevant and current in those 10 years. It hasn’t really ‘aged’ by gaming standards; it looks, sounds, and plays as good or better as any modern game. At the same time, the core game IS the same as it was 10 years ago. 5v5 team-based PvP on basically the same map, with heroes having the same setup of 3 skills + ultimate, where you buy items and level up. This is why the eSport piece of it works; if you ever played LoL you can watch a match and know what is going on, and year after year familiar teams and players compete and grow their brand and the sport itself. In gaming circles Faker is the Michael Jordan of eSports, and in South Korea Faker is Michael Jordan in terms of celebrity status. 

Ten years ago I could not imagine a non-MMO staying relevant year after year. Back then we bought a game, played it, maybe returned for an expansion or some DLC, but for the most part you moved on. Today think about how many games are truly more of a service than just a game. Grand Theft Auto 5, Counter Strike, DoTA, PUBG, Rainbow 6, ARK, etc. I think LoL does this best, and I would not be the least bit surprised if in ten years, I’m still playing it, and it’s still a keystone of eSports. 

Posted in League of Legends | 1 Comment

July 16th gaming update

Blogging motivation at an all-time low, sorry. The odd thing is an idea pops into my head almost daily to write about, but then the words never hit digital paper. Here goes a bunch of unrelated gaming thoughts and updates. 

I’m still heavily playing Mighty Party. I’m now in the long-term grind phase, but since I like the core gameplay, that’s a good thing. A big update is expected by end of month, which should shake some thing up, and hopefully doesn’t break a ton of stuff. 

I’ve been playing Darkest Dungeon again, having picked up the two paid expansions when they were on sale recently. It’s still an excellent game, and the expansions nicely enhance it. I especially like the Crimson Court dungeon, which rather than a random layout, is just one giant map you slowly explore that saves your progress. My goal here is to actually beat the game, having never killed the final boss. I think the power creep from the expansions should make the possible now without extreme end-game grind. 

I’ve stopped playing Mount and Blade: Bannerlord after 80 hours not because its bad, but because I’ve played enough for now and want to give the game a nice break for when it comes out of early access. 

I’m back playing League of Legends. This will get its own post later, but here I’ll just saying it’s like coming ‘home’. Just a fun game with top-tier polish and support. 

Baldur’s Gate 3 is coming out in Early Access maybe in August. I’m very torn on jumping in right away as this might be a ‘play it once’ game, and I don’t want that first and most important time to be in a version that is far less than complete. On the other hand, maybe I play the EA version doing something I normally wouldn’t, like playing a full evil character, and seeing how it goes, so when the game is fully out, I can do my ‘normal’ playthough. 

Dwarf Fortress on Steam is still coming along, and still sounds like it might ruin a whole bunch of my gaming time. I have a weak spot for games like this, and if the graphic and UI updates help me dig into the million systems the game has going, it should be a blast. 

Finally the Battle Brother’s expansion is still at the top of my hype list. I’m just very, very ready for another go with that game. 

Posted in beta, iPhone, League of Legends, Mighty Party, Mount and Blade: Warband, Random, Site update | 7 Comments

Mighty Party tips

The basic event loop of Might Party is as follows: Special Event starts on a Friday, and runs for 5 days. The next weekend, the fable “High Growth” (HG) runs, which gives you gems for leveling up heroes. The next Friday another event starts, and so on. You want to save all hero level ups for HG, collect the gems, and then use the gems during the special event to hopefully get into chapter 3. 

Events are your best source of getting large amounts of legendary heroes, as well as unlocking new heroes for newer players, so doing well in them is the primary focus. For newer players, events are difficulty to reach chapter 3 as you will be missing many of the heroes, which means you won’t be able to quickly pass the steps that require either hero levels or soulbinds. This is ok, and you can’t do much about it until you play longer. That said spending gems helps, and using gems during events is usually very worthwhile, especially if you calculate that spending will get you into chapter 3. Getting into chapter 3 is huge because the amount of heroes you get out of event chests goes way up in chapter 3. This is especially true for the bonus chest spins, which you want to save until you hit chap 3 or the event is about to end. Finally, for newer players, make sure you at least unlock all of the epics for the event, even if that means spending sparks on epic chests during the “spend 15k sparks” step. 

Some event prep tips: Don’t run Dark Tower on the Wednesday and Thursday before the event; save it for during the event, as chapter 2 has a step for that. Also save up Pit bosses, there is a step to kill 2 of those. Save up normal and Mighty Pass chests to open during the event, both for steps that require getting a certain amount of heroes and because this will get you more sparks and more chances to find the event heroes at 2x gains. During an event the bosses refresh at the same time as Journey bosses; you want to be killing event bosses as many times as you can for the sparks. 

After an event, the next weekend will be High Growth. This is where saving up all your hero level ups becomes worthwhile, as you can earn thousands of gems. A few tips: if you have a pet, during HG is the best time to start a “Hunt”, as many of the steps require leveling heroes. Leveling heroes gets you a lot of XP, and each time you rank up, your journey attempts refresh. Make sure you are using all those attempts before ranking up again. If your journey is fully cleared, wait for it to reset before doing more leveling, you should have plenty of time as HG runs for a few days. Make sure you are running the guild boost for discounted level ups, it will save you a ton of gold. Once you complete a level of HG, reassess if you can hit the next tier. If you can’t, stop leveling up, there is nothing worse than running out of levels 3/4th of the way to a HG tier. 

Additional random tips: Don’t reborn a hero unless there is a fable running for that rebirth, and you can get that hero back up to high levels for events. Don’t soulbind heroes you aren’t using in your lineup until a fable to spend soul dust is running, or you need the soulbinds for an event. Feel free to do the free soulbind for commons, there is no drawback. The Pit is your best source of consistent legendary chests, but it scales to your highest league reached; you don’t want to go into higher leagues until you can safely beat the 5th Pit boss weekly. You DO want to reach league 14 to unlock the pit ASAP however, even if the final push to get into 14 requires you to boost your heroes and use some guild boosts. Even if you drop back out of 14, the Pit will stay unlocked. General Pit strategy is to use your commons first, then your rares, and finally your epics and legends on the harder bosses. If you run out of heroes you can’t do more Pit attempts, so on the earlier bosses sometimes it’s best to ‘skip’ a turn if you have enough on the field to kill them. Finally, outside of events, the best use for gems is to buy the Pirate skin, as its very strong early/mid game. After that you will want the Ogre, who is strongest late game, and then the rest of the skins as they are required for a step in events in Chapter 3. 

Join our discord for additional questions and to join our guild. 

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Mighty Party | 3 Comments

Quick gaming update

Lockdown life continues, ever so slowly.

On the gaming front I’m still playing a good amount of Mighty Party, as the Steam version is the perfect game to have running while you work from home, as it needs very little real attention, but things need clicking ever so often. Of course when I do have 5 minutes or so, I can always manually play a battle, which continues to be enjoyable.

I’m also still playing Bannerlord, which sees frequent patches that continue to improve it. It’s still Mount and Blade, so it’s still awesome, but already my mind wanders to the inevitable mods that will take a great game and make it truly special.

Finally after messing around with multiplayer Northgard for a bit, my buddy and I are testing out Ancestors Legacy. In short it plays like medieval Company of Heroes, which is a huge compliment. Sadly the online scene is pretty dead, and finding a game takes some time. I think perhaps bad marketing is to blame here, as the game itself is solid, so should have a larger playerbase.

Posted in Mount and Blade: Warband, Random

Mount and Blade: Bannerlord – Some additional thoughts on the game

Some more quick thoughts about Bannerlord:

I’ve been in a number of large (500v500) battles now, and can safely say they are far better than in Warband. The AI is smarter, the battlefields more varied, and the performance is already great. I’m sure all of this will continue to improve during Early Access, but even now these battles are awesome.

On a similar note, sieges are also much improved, in many of the same ways. The AI here does need some work (soldiers run past enemies to get to the location they want to reach), but again compared to Warband they are far more fun. One interesting note is that defending a castle isn’t a huge boost in strength; you can beat a slightly stronger army, but its not close to as difficult to take a castle as it was in Warband. I’d like to see defense boosted just a bit, especially making breaching the walls take a little longer. Right now ladders go up really quick, and then its just a melee on the walls.

Itemization is ok, but feels a little too easy to reach the best gear too quickly. You also progress from junk gear to the highest tier stuff too fast, with little room or reason to use the mid-tier items. That said, the feel of different weapons is very noticeable, and becoming a master with one item doesn’t instantly make you a master overall at combat, which I really like.

Finally, the game has had a patch fixing issues daily, which has been great. I have not had a technical issue after the first day, and none of the smaller issues have been enough to impact my enjoyment of the game.

Posted in Combat Systems, Mount and Blade: Warband | 6 Comments

Mount and Blade: Bannerlord – Early Access impressions

The below is based on roughly 12 hours of Bannerlord Early Access, much of it prior to the patch yesterday. In short, Bannerlord is a sequel to Warband; better graphics, newer engine, larger scope, but ultimately the same core game. If you liked Warband, I suspect you will like Bannerlord. If you hated Warband, first wtf is wrong with you? But second you likely still won’t love Bannerlord.

I mentioned the patch yesterday, because prior to that the game was crashing for me a good bit, which was getting very annoying. In a similar vein, Bannerlord is very much an Early Access title. The core stuff like combat, the overworld, and the overall ‘point’ of kingdoms fighting is there, but a lot of smaller stuff is either incomplete or not balanced.

I do love the graphics. The overworld is beautiful, and the character models are good-enough, which is important because this is a game where you can have 500+ characters, so if each one had a million polygons, performance would be terrible. And right now performance is solid; I’m getting 70 FPS or so with the graphics on high, and I’m guessing this will only improve as EA continues.

 One early highlight so far: I joined an existing army (collection of lords) and as part of that army we went around sacking enemy villages. As you aren’t the commander, you follow around the leader, so it was fun sitting back and watching them pick targets and sharing in the spoils, all while beating down the helpless villagers. The whole things was rather profitable, and culminated in my first large (200v200) battle, which looked and played great.

If you are dying for more Mount and Blade, get Bannerlord now, what is there is more than worth the cost of entry. If you can wait and don’t want to deal with a true Early Access title, maybe do that. Bannerlord is planned for a whole year of EA, just to give an idea of where the dev team things they are and where they want to end up.

Posted in Combat Systems, Mount and Blade: Warband, Steam Stuff

Mount and Blade: Bannerlord is finally here!

Exactly ten years after the release of Warband, the Bannerlord Early Access starts today. Expect some posts about it assuming I can stop playing it long enough to write something.

Posted in Mount and Blade: Warband, Steam Stuff | 4 Comments

Quick little update

While the rest of the world is stuck at home, I’m stuck at home and swamped with work due to Covid-19. It could be worse, of course, but it could be better too.

Anyway on the gaming front, I’m loving the recent Rimworld expansion, Royalty. The key problem with games like Rimworld is once you master them, playing again becomes too routine. The best thing about Royalty is how much it mixed things up via its quests and the needs or royals. It’s a great addition on top of the excellent base game.

On the mobile front I’m still very much into Mighty Party, as I still find the combat system really fun and there are lots of different varieties to it. The guild is doing really well too, with a solid active core that has so far performed well during Turf Wars. We have a couple of open spots, so if you are interested message me in-game under ID IXBZHG.

Posted in iPhone, Random, Site update | 1 Comment

How to enforce everyone staying isolated for a few months in just one easy step

Release Mount and Blade: Bannerlord early you cowards! 12 more days? 12! That’s just not responsible in a time when people need reasons to stay away from others.

PS: Covid-19 is serious and you should stay home and avoid contact with people. Stay safe everyone!

Posted in Mount and Blade: Warband, Rant | 4 Comments

I paid to skip the fun parts of this game and now I’m mad the game isn’t fun!

A few gameplay observations for Mighty Party, and then some commentary on the business model.

For gameplay, our guild is finishing up our first Turf War, which is the guild-based PvP event. Basically how this works is there is a board of squares, and guild members can assign troops to those squares to take them. Rewards are based on the squares you hold, but you only get the rewards at the end of each round. During a round there are multiple phases where you can assign troops and the board will change based on who has the most troops. To prevent a guild from dominating, neutral troops can riot (attack) a square, and if you don’t use enough troops to defend, you lose that square. How many troops each player has is based on the cards you own and their levels.

This setup initially looks simple, just assign some troops and you are done. But to maximize rewards, the guild must coordinate well, and pick its battles. If you expand too quickly in the early rounds (as we did), neutral forces will end up taking your tiles, and the guild simply won’t have enough troops to both defend everything and keep expanding. Other guilds are also a factor; battling over a single square might cost both sides a lot of troops, for ultimately not much gain. On the flip side, being in a position to take a lot of squares late with few troops is incredibly beneficial.

From my initial experience with the system, I’m really liking it. It’s quick in terms of time commitment per member, but feels very open-ended from a leadership/coordination aspect.

Drifting towards the business model side, early on in Mighty Party it’s tough to fully complete events and challenges, in large part because not having access to things like Raids and the Dark Tower means you can’t collect event points around doing those activities. The game ‘helpfully’ lets you pay to gain event progress (usually indirectly), and this can feel both tempting and unfair.

At least until you take a step back and realize that the point of doing well in events and challenges is to get more loot, and you want more loot to progress forward. Progressing forward is the entire point of playing, because 99.999% of players won’t come close to competing to ‘win by being #1 on a leaderboard. You play and try to do well so you can get more stuff, and more stuff helps you do better, which in turn gets you more stuff, and on and on the circle goes.

In games like Mighty Party and other such F2P games, you go around the circle fastest at the beginning. Every reward has a legitimate chance to be an upgrade, and generally things unlock quickly for you and you really feel like you are making progress. The more you play, the longer it takes to go around and around the circle. In Mighty Party, the first chests you earn take 5 minutes to open, while for me right now the fastest chest takes 2 hours. That’s a dramatic increase, and that kind of increase is basically found in all parts of the game. A hero going from level 1 to 2 takes 25 copies, but then you need 50 to go to 3, 75 to 4, etc. Early on you are upgrading frequently, and this slows as you play more.

This is all ‘normal’ in many games. In an MMO it takes far less xp to get to level 2 than it takes to hit level 100. You find item upgrades faster as you level than you do from end-game raiding. What’s different about F2P games, because they need to make money (imagine that!) is they sell you the ability to progress faster. Some games sell less, some sell more, but there is a fine line between selling progress and selling power. Selling power is being able to buy something only money can buy that helps you. Imagine in an MMO if one non-fluff equipment slot could only be filled via the cash shop; that’s power. Selling a powerful item directly to you that also drops in a raid is selling progress; instead of raiding for that item you can just skip the ‘playing’ part and buy the reward.

To return to Mighty Party, spending money gets you heroes, often times the higher tier epic or even legendary ones. That helps you progress faster, maybe even MUCH faster because legendary heroes even at level 1 are much stronger than lower rarity cards. If you face such cards in PvP, it feels extra bad to lose to them because of how strong they seem, vs losing to higher level heroes of the same rarity you are using. The end result is the same (you lost), but seeing that legendary smash you just feels worse. And make no mistake, part of the game’s design is to elicit that emotion so you get mad and ‘fight back’ via your wallet.

What amuses me is people get mad at this AND then get mad at the game’s business model. This anger completely misses the point, which is not that they haven’t spend enough money, or that they are being ‘force to’, but the simple fact that they have not progresses far enough into the game to be at that level. It’s the very reason levels exist in the first place. We don’t complain that a level 1 MMO character can’t defeat a raid boss, but we do just that in F2P ‘pay to progress’ games.

The anger is especially misguided because paying just pushes you into the slower circles of progression. It’s like buying an RPG for the story, and then buying the ‘skip all story elements’ DLC, and then ranting about how the RPG sucks because its all grind and no story. YOU PAID TO SKIP THE GOOD PARTS DUMMY! If you like progression, and that’s what a lot of these games are all about, maybe don’t pay to skip it?

Posted in Combat Systems, Inquisition Clan, Mighty Party, Rant, RMT | 3 Comments