The older form of Paying-4-Power, and some reading for laugh only

My old iPhone 5s was starting to break down. For one, the battery was going south, but more importantly, I could only charge it if I put the charger in JUST RIGHT, and it would stop charging if you even looked at it funny. Granted, I used that phone a ton, so I’m happy it survived as many years as it did, but it was time to replace it before I drove myself mad.

I picked up an iPhone 7, because I’m not a fan of the larger S models, and paying $100+ more for the 8 didn’t seem to make sense (had the X been out that would have been a harder decision). The 7 is a pretty significant upgrade over the 5s anyway, from its sharper screen to the fact it loads everything up faster. Perhaps most surprisingly though? It runs CoC and CR flawlessly, and I only noticed that my old phone wasn’t in retrospect. For example, in CR I’d sometimes ‘lag’ in a match, seeing units drop milliseconds after they actually did. That might not seem gamebreaking, but when you are pushing 4600+ trophies against equally near-maxed decks, every little bit helps. In CoC the difference is less noticeable, but everything does run smoother and thus things are easier to react to, such as dropping a rage spell at the exact right time to save your archer queen.

All of this reminds me that buying better hardware is the oldest form of Pay-4-Power in gaming. I’ve written about it before, but back in the 90s when my family had broadband, playing UO on that vs people on dial-up was basically like running a legal speed hack. I’d move around the screen faster, I’d load transitions faster, and I had far lower delay on abilities/spells. Getting a newer iPhone is that for mobile gaming, as is having a top-tier PC for traditional PC games.

Speaking of that, the group I play PUBG has been seeing our fair share of chicken dinners lately, and one of the trends is we generally do better when we drop in Yas when it makes sense. A little bit of background on Yas. People avoid it because its the largest city on the map, meaning it takes the most processing power to render, and on slower computers that means lower FPS or even crashes if someone has a real potato of a PC. On the plus side, Yas has great loot, is centrally located, and almost always has vehicles nearby. Since our group has decent to great PCs, Yas isn’t a problem in that regard, and since PUBG is so popular, it’s filled with more ‘casual’ players who likely aren’t running with a 1080GT, so the odds of multiple other squads also dropping in Yas is pretty low. Obviously getting better at shooting people and all that is also a factor, but the option to drop in Yas is a nice little boost.

And on the topic of winning, my favorite unintentional comedy blog has a well-timed post today. It’s another ‘how to win’ post from Gevlon, who current sits at… still zero wins out of 570+ games (keep in mind this is a game where people have won while afk and while getting zero kills in a solo match, so still having zero is impressive in terms of how badly one has to play to accomplish that…). This one delivers on the same level as Gevlon’s “queue dodge to rank up in LoL” advice, or his “haul badgers to get rich” EVE advice.

‘But but but Syn, his rating, his rating! (read in Trump-supporter ‘but but her emails!’ voice please). Here is a fun little experiment for ya; queue up at the exact same time with someone who has a significantly different rating then you. Guess what? You’re most likely in the same game! Why? Because the rating system doesn’t matter. Its literally a fake number that does absolutely nothing right now. It doesn’t change who you play against, and it is worth zero point zero in terms of showing how good a player is, in large part because its a work-in-progress system that the devs really don’t care to actually fix right now.

Want another example of why no one but the dumbest of players takes the ratings seriously? Better player, zero wins Gevlon or Shroud? Because if you are Gevlon-dumb, you believe Shroud is significantly worse at PUBG than Gevlon based on ratings… but then readers here aren’t Gevlon-dumb, now are you?

What is interesting though is how far Gevlon has to twist to try to justify it all to himself and the few readers that don’t visit him for laughs. I’d say he is trolling with stuff like “That’s what streamers do, they just don’t stream the ‘lose on purpose’ part”, because if you watch 10 minutes of Shroud, you know he does stream his early losses, but it’s Gevlon so I don’t think he is saying it to troll, he is saying it because he ignorantly actually believes it. It’s similar to his ‘all devs are corrupt’ theory where the guy responsible for the art in a  single player game is clearly getting paid off by the RMT cartel, despite that making absolutely no sense in any way.

Let’s finish up today with two can’t-miss Gevlon quotes that work perfectly together:

“Show me a bad player, and I’ll show you a bad person” – Gevlon

“If you are in a situation where your win is unlikely, just blow yourself up with a grenade.” – Same Gevlon

Couldn’t have said it any better myself honestly.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, PUBG, Rant, RMT, Site update, Ultima Online | 3 Comments

The Elder Scrolls Legends review

I’m a fan of trade card games (Magic the Gathering). I’ve been a fan since I was a child. It’s one reason why I stuck with Hearthstone for as long as I did, despite that game being an online dice-roll simulator in disguise. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise that I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Legends. Here is why.

For starters, unlike HS, Legends has far less random elements in its cards and gameplay. It’s still a card game, so luck is still a factor, but its not as over-the-top as in HS, and the game also gives you far more tools to deal with it. For example, certain cards will have a bonus effect if the next card in your deck is of a certain color. Decks can be a combination of two colors, BUT, you can also make a deck out of just one. Knowing that, you could potentially stack a deck to remove that random element, or build a two-color deck heavily favoring one color to at least increase your odds. Again, it’s still some randomness, but its more controllable, which IMO makes a significant difference.

There are also far fewer “hit random creature” type cards, be it with effects or damage. More commonly, the game lets you select a target, or hits every creature in a lane. Speaking of which, a major difference in Legends is that boards have lanes, usually two, where creatures can only attack other creatures in that lane (or the player). On top of that, lanes can have effects, the most common being that all summoned creatures will be hidden for their initial turn, meaning enemy creatures can’t attack them on the next turn (abilities can still hit these creatures however).

Lanes really shine in single player, because they can be tailored for a specific encounter. One example was a lane where each time a creature died, it left behind a 1/1 skeleton. You could ignore that, or you could play a deck that benefits from creature spam, and really have some fun with the encounter (the AI’s deck was of course designed with that lane in mind).

Single player overall is also strong in Legends. In addition to a somewhat short campaign (and additional campaigns you can buy with in-game gold or real money), you can play Arena mode vs the AI, which I’m enjoying. The game understands that the AI isn’t as smart as a player, so gives some of your arena opponents additional boosts, which in addition to the fact that you can’t bring a custom deck into Arena, keeps it challenging. There is also the more traditional PvP Arena mode, but I haven’t tried that yet (saving up gold to buy the campaigns currently).

Between being able to build decks from two colors (and common cards), the more serious tone (I’ve grown very tired of New Blizzard’s over-the-top comedy), and the mechanics that freshen the game up, Legends is very enjoyable, be it on the PC via Steam or on my iPad. It’s rough to play on the iPhone due to the small screen however. Will Legends last for me? We will see, but so far so good.

Posted in iPhone, Random, Review, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Divinity: Original Sin 2 review

Note: This review is based off completing the first major area/chapter of the game, Fort Joy. I’ll update if the later areas are dramatically different.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 (D:OS2) is, IMO, the game the first one should have been. It has the same great combat, still has fantastic graphics and sound, but removes the non-stop immersion-breaking meta jokes and has a far more serious tone. After 30 hours of the first game I just couldn’t push past all the humor, so I’m very happy that D:OS2 has mostly curbed that, and what comedy it does have is placed much better.

As mentioned, D:OS2 has great combat. It’s turn-based, and relies very heavily on environmental effects, both what is around you right now (water, fire, high ground, doorways, etc), and what you and enemies create with spells and abilities (setting fire to poison, freezing water, making it rain blood, etc). Perhaps it’s just perception, but I also feel that the sequel has fewer ‘gimmick’ fights, and is more natural in terms of what is around you. It does still have plenty of oddly placed fire, water, and poison barrels, but beyond that most of the stuff around you makes sense.

Pulling off combos is still a thing, but again it feels less ‘must do’ than the first game, where if you didn’t teleport someone off their healing pad and into the ‘damage zone’, you simply couldn’t beat a fight. One items that still annoys me, and I think will go away with more experience, is the accidental triggering of things. One example that happens all the time is lighting poison on fire when I don’t mean to, because it’s hard to tell when a puddle connects to another, and when enough space exists that a fire won’t spread.

Just based off the first chapter, and on normal difficulty, fights overall have been pretty challenging. There are no random battles in the game, so each encounter is a set piece battle. They also don’t scale to your level (even though chest loot does), so it’s entirely possible to encounter something you shouldn’t for another level or two. Early on this is huge, because not only can you be under-leveled, you will be massively behind in gear as well. I found towards the end of the chapter this was less an issue, but early on (first 3-4 levels, so about 10 hours) I was reloading a ton and having to not take certain fights until later. Considering how fairly open the map is, and how many ways you can open areas up, you might be running into too-difficult battle often on your first playthrough.

D:OS2 has great characters, and I love that even if you pick from one of the six pre-defined backgrounds you can still edit almost everything about the character. And when you find a party member, you can also decide what class they will start as (though you can’t fully edit them like you can for your main character, which is a little limiting as the pre-set classes aren’t fully ideal from a min/max standpoint). What this means is you can select a party based on the look and personality of the characters, while also but separately put together a mix of classes that will work for you. Most RPGs you have to choose between picking a cleric because you need healing, and picking a non-cleric because you like the style/background of a character, which in retrospect is pretty silly when it seems so easily ‘fixed’ in D:OS2.

Surprisingly, I really like all six pre-defined characters from a story standpoint, and I’m almost sad I can only adventure with four of them (the max party size). It adds more replayability I guess, especially if future updates add more characters so you can go with a completely different party, but right now it just means missing out on two of the six unique interactions. That said, who your main character is has impact on the story vs that same character being just a party member, so to see all of the story content you are going to need to replay the game a bunch anyway.

I’ve encountered a few bugs so far, mostly around quests not updating properly and leaving their marker on the map even once they have been finished. Annoying, but not game-breaking. I’ve yet to have the game crash, and overall performance is perfect even on max settings.

One reason I’m doing this review now is that I’ve decided to restart the game, picking a party composition that fits a little better than the one I originally had. It’s not that I couldn’t progress because of difficulty, but the min/maxer in me saw too much potential in certain combos, and too many wasted skill points spread across characters to continue. That said, it’s been fun going over the starter area again, this time with some prior knowledge, and seeing how differently things can play out. If you are someone who enjoys replaying games, especially RPGs, I think D:OS 2 has a lot to offer you here.

Overall the game so far is really fantastic, and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good, deep RPG experience.

 

Posted in Random, Review | 8 Comments

Community service post

Too many good games to play right now. I’m deep into my XCOM 2 game, I just picked up Divinity Original Sin 2, I’ve been messing around with ARK a little, I’m getting into Elder Scrolls Legends, and of course still playing PUBG when people are around. Oh and I’m mostly afk-managing my EVE pilots for PI and Industry while getting into the occasional fleet. Blog posts about most of that coming ‘soon’.

My gaming activity aside, two little bits of entertainment from my current favorite comedy blog. First is Gevlon STILL not understanding that MoA is insulting him via station name in EVE. I guess the renter-roaches don’t want to let the meme die? Dear Gevlon, go watch Fight Club, because after you do I’m guessing you’re going to do your normal fake news act and heavily edit that post, if not outright delete it. You’re welcome.

Second bit of comedy is that Gevlon is rapidly approaching the same level of ‘success’ he saw in LoL in PUBG. He’s not quite at 1000+ games in the starter league just yet, but with 500+ games and exactly zero wins, he is getting there (and this season has a pretty nice .03 K/D, his longest kill going out to all of 5 meters, so I’m guessing he has able to successfully punch some afk people? Good thing he has said he is focusing more on killing people now, having realized after 500+ games that’s kinda important to winning in PUBG). That does means the inevitable ‘PUBG devs are corrupt and out to get me!’ loony-tune post is surely coming, because if nothing else, Gevlon is very consistent with pushing his failures on anyone but himself and his very, very slow rate of learning. But just how bad is 500+ games and zero wins? Well considering you can win while literally afk, it’s not good…

PS: I do love in that afk video the person behind is realized showing someone win afk would be boring, so they sped it up, yet STILL left it as a 4m+ video. Good try good effort?

Posted in Blogroll, EVE Online, PUBG, Random, Rant

PUBG: Chicken with a side of fog

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Who needs a 4th squad member…

The fog effect in PUBG is really fantastic, and changes so much in terms of how you play the game. Sniping is greatly reduced, close quarters combat is far more common, and mid-range combat is full of new unknowns.

Areas of the map you normally have a great view from you now likely don’t, and previous spots that left you too open can work because the fog limits how far you can be seen.

Great addition, and I wish it occurred more often, or replaced the damn rain.

Posted in PUBG, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

PUBG is to 2017 what WoW was to 2004

The parallels between the current explosive growth and influence of PUBG and WoW back in 2004 are many, though there are also some very interesting differences.

Neither game was the first in its genre. WoW wasn’t the first MMO, and PUBG isn’t the first Battle Royale game. But both games are the most successful in each genre, and by a large margin. Prior to WoW, EQ1 was the most successful MMO with 500k subs, while WoW peaked at 12m or so. H1Z1 King of the Hill was seeing around 70k or so Steam players daily (or something like that), while PUBG just broke 1m+ concurrent users and is still growing.

Side-note: Pretty comical that both WoW and PUBG rapidly passed SOE/Daybreak titles to take the crown. It’s also funny that EQ2 tried to be more like WoW without success, and Daybreak tried to make H1Z1 more like PUBG and also haven’t seen success.

Once WoW exploded, everyone jumped on the MMO bandwagon. Seemingly every studio suddenly had an MMO in production, and for a bit all the big releases were going to be a ‘WoW killer’. As we know, most of those titles were either poor WoW clones, or just bad MMOs in general. That said, we did get a few gems, mostly in niche areas (RIP Darkfall), but the MMO bubble started and basically ended with WoW.

Today it seems that seemingly everyone is either announcing a battle royale-style game, or adding that option to their existing game (whether it makes sense or not). The big difference is that unlike MMOs, making a PUBG clone is fast and ‘easy’. Just grab the Unreal engine license, get some of the free weapons and buildings, and boom, you have a game. And since we are still in an age where F2P is a thing and getting a game on Steam is cheap, the barrier of entry is low, so almost any title can get enough initial players to not have it be a complete flop (population so low you can’t get a game going).

Of course just like with WoW, these PUBG clones aren’t likely going to become the next PUBG or a PUBG killer. The perfect storm that helped push WoW into the millions is also happening with PUBG, where the game design is good, yes, but the rapid growth has as much if not more to do with a snowball effect of ‘hey everyone is playing this, I should too’ and ‘hey this is super popular, lets cover it in the news’ than it does with the game itself being significantly much better than everyone else.

The differences between WoW and PUBG however might be even more interesting. A lot of WoW success was attributed to it being more accessible compared to prior MMOs (true). But then that got pushed too far starting with WotLK, where even bad players/people could successfully raid, and WoW stopped growing. Worse still, many other MMOs didn’t just copy WoW, but copied WotLK+ WoW, and we know how all of that turned out.

PUBG on the other hand is a massive (by non-EVE standards) multiplayer game featuring PvP-only full loot combat. It doesn’t hold your hand, it doesn’t feature anything close to welfare epics, and the player skill required to actually win a game is fairly high. And yet it’s the most popular game out right now, alongside League of Legends (another high skill PvP game). Which isn’t to say ultra-casual games can’t be successful, of course they can be, but it does refute the point that ‘hardcore’ PvP games can’t hit the mass market, or that if you want mega success, you must cater to casuals. The casuals will come to you, and sure, they might struggle and see very limited if any success, but that won’t stop them from playing.

For me personally the difference here is I don’t want/need the Darkfall or even EVE of PUBG, whatever that might be. I needed Darkfall because WoW (especially post TBC) wasn’t giving me what I wanted in an MMO (PvP focus and a clan-based endgame). PUBG gives me everything I’d want in a battle royale game, which is mostly playing with friends and having a good laugh about what is happening, while still trying and occasionally winning games or having a solid round in terms of K/D. So I’m out on the coming rush of PUBG clones; hopefully the wave comes and dies quickly.

 

Posted in Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, EQ2, EVE Online, Inquisition Clan, League of Legends, Lord of the Rings Online, Mass Media, MMO design, PvP, Rift, SOE being SOE, SW:TOR, Tobold being Wrong, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments

XCOM 2: Value and enjoyment in failure

Soldiers are dying in my XCOM 2 game. A lot of them. Missions are being failed, the Avatar project is dangerously close to finishing, and the Chosen are getting stronger and more aggressive. I think I’m losing, the situation is pretty dire, and it’s awesome.

One of my general complaints about most games is either you are winning or you lose. When winning you are building up and getting stronger, likely increasing your lead. When you lose, that’s it, game over. Very few games manage the feat of having you struggle or fail, but not have that be an instant game over situation, or a situation you really can’t come back from (tons of Civilization games are like that, where if you fall behind, you can still struggle along, but you won’t pull victory from the jaws of defeat).

XCOM 2 originally was like that as well. If you failed a mission and had some key soldiers die, you might not see the ‘game over’ screen, but it basically was. The War of the Chosen expansion fixes that, mostly in requiring you to have a larger roster of soldiers, so any one death isn’t as bad, and by also having missions where you can fail the main objective but still get your soldiers out in one piece.

The larger roster need is due to the fact that in addition to the missions soldiers go on, they can now also be sent on covert operations that also reward xp, and the addition of soldiers being tired after a mission even if they didn’t take damage and become wounded. Also the three new factions also providing you recruits means a deeper and more diverse roster.

Losing soldiers is now a bigger part of the game as well. In addition to losing and having to replace any gear they might have had, soldiers who share a bond also get impacted when their friend dies, thus doubling how many soldiers you need to replace short-term for the next few missions. This also makes losing a soldier a bit more painful, because those bonds take time to form and you really need to plan ahead to make them happen (not send one soldier into a mission when his buddy is healing, for example).

I’ve lost missions in a variety of ways. On one, I had to defend a relay node, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time because of some Lost swarms. As this was a counter mission to the Dark Events and I failed it, on future missions the enemy had more armor than normal, which made things a bit more challenging. When I originally played XCOM 2, I don’t think I ever failed such a mission, so while I saw those consequences, I never actually had to deal with them. Now I do, and it makes for a more spicy game.

On another mission, this time to capture or assassinate a target, it took too long to fight through the enemies before I got to the target, so in addition to having to assassinate him rather than the more optimal capture, I also could only get four of my six soldiers to the exit point before the timer ran out. This resulted in those two being captured, and so far I’ve only been able to rescue one of them on a later mission. Technically the mission was a success (target died), but it was certainly not a complete success.

Finally, I just killed one of the Chosen, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll just say that the mission to do that is awesome, and feels like an appropriate and epic boss fight. There is a good bit of cinematics around the whole thing too, which again makes it feel like a major event. Success was a little bittersweet here too, as I brought my six best soldiers, and only four walked out alive (and heavily wounded at that). The loss included breaking a maxed-out bond, as well as losing a special faction character.

Obviously I’m playing Ironman mode, which is really the only way to play XCOM in my opinion. Otherwise it’s just way too tempting to reload when bad things happen, and if you do that, you never have to struggle to overcome the many obstacles failure places in front of you, which I think is a huge part of the game.

Posted in Random