Clash of Clans – Clan War Leagues are here!

Big update today in the world of Clash of Clans with the addition of Clan War Leagues. If you have stepped away from CoC for a while, perhaps now is the time to reconsider and rejoin, we have some room in Supreme Cream!

The wars will be 15v15, with clan leadership deciding who the 15 are via a selection process (slightly different from the normal war process of people opting in, and leadership being able to sit people out or put others in). I expect we will run our top 15 players based on TH maturity and attack skill, but maybe not. That seems to make the most sense based on the info we have, but we will find out when the first week of matches starts in a few hours. The good news is everyone in the clan can be put into the reserves roster, and everyone will at least get some rewards based on performance.

The format is a bit different too. You get grouped with 6 other clans, and each clan then gets paired daily. Ranking is based off the total number of stars collected during the week, and that determines whether a clan moves up or down in the League ranks (somewhat similar to Clan Wars in Clash Royale). As in CR, I’m curious where our clan will place in rank, and how/if we are able to improve as we go.

The other big difference from regular wars, aside from the locked 15v15 size, is that everyone only gets one attack per round, not two. This is HUGE in terms of strategy, both for base building (trick bases now have value) and for picking targets and army composition. Going for a risky 3 star is likely less favorable over a securable 2 star, but we will see. The exciting part is the meta is certainly going to be different!

Again if you have played in the past but stepped away, or if you are interesting in starting up (the early game ramp up has been dramatically shortened), apply to the clan and mention the blog to get accepted.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Inquisition Clan

Inject directly into my veins!

Nov 29nd. That’s the release date for the Battle Brothers DLC/expansion, costing $10.

First, that price point is too low. $15 would have been my minimum, and considering the feature list, I wouldn’t have been taken aback at $20. The developers of BB have never been very good at the whole business side of gaming, so just at this to the list. Hopefully it sells really well, because they have hinted at providing additional paid content if it does. One can hope.

The release date is also a surprise, considering we are in an age where you can wishlist a game on Steam and 5 years later the game is still in early access, or still doesn’t have a release date. This is a quick turn around from announcement to release, which I appreciate.

The content also has me very excited, mostly because I think it adds exactly what the game needs; more of the same. New enemies, new events, new items. There are also new systems, like crafting of consumables and armor modifications. Assuming it all comes together, I expect this will make what is already a varied and sandboxy game all the more so.

The big focus is on exploration, which is an area the base game teases you with (two unique locations) but never really runs with it. Sounds like this expansion seeks to flesh out that early promise, with more unique locations, and a bigger focus on exploring further away from the towns and cities on the map. I like this because I think it will give you a solid reason to break away from running contracts for a bit and go off in a random direction to see what is out there.

Overall I’m pumped, more so than I have been for a while as relates to gaming. Battle Brothers is easily one of my favorite games in the last few years, and getting sucked back into the sandbox is exactly what I need right now. Or Nov 29th anyway.

Posted in Combat Systems, Random | 4 Comments

State of Decay 2 Co-Op issues

As previously mentioned, I caved and purchased State of Decay 2 through the Windows Store. Since the announcement of the game I was waiting for it to come to Steam, because buying a PC game via any method outside of Steam is usually painful in comparison, but decided to break that general rule here because the wife and I really needed a decent co-op game to play together, and SoD2 seemed to be the best fit currently.

The shop experience was maddening because you have to get the store to ‘recognize’ your PC, which you would think would be an easy task given it’s the Microsoft Windows store and your PC runs Microsoft Windows, but nope. The linking part took me far longer than it should have, especially because the process for the first PC was different than the second, despite both running Windows 10.

“Steam is better at all of this” issues aside, lets talk about SoD2 as a co-op game, shall we?

It’s important to keep in mind that a major marketing point of SoD2 was the co-op. So much so in fact that I was a bit worried the focus would change the game too much from what SoD1 was, and, as I explained in the previous post, I don’t want my sequels being totally different games. Luckily SoD2 at its core is very much like SoD1, so bullet dodged there.

The big surprise though? The co-op is stupidly limited. One person is always the host, and everyone else you play with is a visitor. This means that the host is the person who’s game is advancing, while everyone else is just there to help move the host’s progression forward. You can’t actually have a co-op game where both players are considered core players for progression. That, alone, is INSANELY stupid.

But it gets worse in small but critical details. For instance, your main character can push aside friendly NPC characters, so things like getting stuck in doorways doesn’t happen. That’s kinda important in a zombie survival game where being able to quickly react to surprise zombies is a core gameplay loop. It’s also important because all buildings have narrow doorways and limited exits, so you very, very frequently run around/into a friendly character. In co-op, you don’t push aside/move through each other. Instead you block each other. Guess how enjoyable clearing a small house with a half-dozen doorways is? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the game’s collision detection is rather unforgiving, so everyone has a huge hitbox and you really, really can’t squeeze by each other, or jump over/around. You almost always have to have one person fully back out of the way, and then proceed in an orderly fashion. That’s super fun when a dozen zombies are descending on you and you need to quickly escape…

Now sure, that’s something you can eventually learn to play around, even if it is annoying. Want to know what you can’t play around? The fact that visitor players can’t fully interact with your base, most specifically they can’t build or drop off supply sacks. Base building/interaction is a major focus of the game, yet if you play co-op, the host gets to do all of it, while the visitor just gets to watch. I’d love to talk with the developer who thought this was a smart system, especially one you can’t turn off. I’d then love to punch them in the face at the end of said conversation.

Another core loop of the game is recruiting additional survivors, and then playing as those characters to take advantage of their unique skills. This is also needed because characters get tired, so you are forced to switch to allow others to rest and recover at base. Guess what visitor players can’t do? Yup, you can’t switch characters. The only way (that I’m aware of anyway) for a visitor to switch to a different character is to exit the game and rejoin as someone else (and then of course whatever character they are no longer playing is gone from the game, rather than recovering and still contributing via passive skills).

Nothing says “we are having fun together as equals in this co-op game” more than having one person play the ‘full’ game, and having the second person playing 60% of said game with zero real progression. AND THIS IS A GAME THAT TOUTED CO-OP AS A CORE FEATURE!

What really sucks about all this is that the actual gameplay, collision insanity aside, is really fun together. Bashing zombies, getting loot, driving around, all more fun shared with someone else. It would be really great if the game actually encouraged you to play like that, rather than treating whoever you play with as a gimped second-class citizen.

 

PS: I hope I’m missing some major switch/feature to enable full co-op play, but searching around via Google has not yielded anything helpful, so don’t believe it exists.

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 10 Comments

Avengers 4 would be better if it was a musical

“This sequel is too much like the original” statements drive me absolutely mad when I see them in reviews. It just doesn’t make sense, on so many levels.

First, we are talking about a sequel to a game, right? The only time a game gets a sequel to begin with is because the original did well enough to earn one. Bad games (as defined by sales) don’t get sequels, so you basically never have the situation of a ‘bad’ game getting a second title, that is just more of that badness. Successful games get sequels, so at the most basic level, ‘more of the same’ is more of a ‘good’ game (again, mostly defined by sales, not your personal definition of what a good game is). Now perhaps people who liked the original are tired of that formula, but the history of all sequels to anything (movies, books, tv) strongly suggests people do, in fact, enjoy more of the same thing they liked before.

Second, think of the opposite position here. Would more people enjoy sequels overall if they were radically different from the original? “Oh you liked this deep TBS title? Here is its fast-paced FPS ‘sequel’, enjoy!”. Remember when Fallout 3 came out, and people raged about the switch to first person, even though Fallout 3 was still basically the same Fallout game just from a different perspective (more of the same, from a different view)? Now imagine if instead of just the view switch, Fallout 3 also did away with the lore, questing, and strong focus on story, and then tossed forced multiplayer in (Hi Fallout76, good luck). Would you rather most sequels go that route, or the more traditional ‘more of the same’ route?

I bring this up because a lot of the reviews for State of Decay 2 complain about it being too similar to the first. One review in particular was also critical because now that the studio was owned by Microsoft, they expected the game to be more ‘AAA’. What does that even mean in this context? The original State of Decay was great because it was pretty open-ended, and somewhat of a sandbox survival game. Pouring more money into the game to make it more linear, to have more ‘AAA’ set-pieces wouldn’t have resulted in a better game, just something very different.

I’ll get to whether the game itself is good in a later post, but I’ll just say today that compared to Steam, the Microsoft store is an abomination in so, so many ways, so thank you Microsoft for making me endure that just to play your game.

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

That same old feeling

Getting crushed at work right now so blogging is taking a backseat. Who knew taking a major leap forward in your career and being near the top of a major company would be time-consuming…

I’ve been playing a bit of Rimworld lately, and its just reminded of me that no matter how much changes, once you play a game, going back to it means feeling a sense of ‘sameness’. That’s not always bad (I’ve happily gone back to Mount and Blade many times), but it can be, and in the case of Rimworld, kinda is.

Since I last played and the upcoming 1.0 official release, the game has certainly improved and expanded, but not so much that it feels new. And the core problem I have with such games is once you master the basics (how to keep your people alive and progressing), a large part of the game is ‘done’. Sure, there are new traits, items, and technologies to see, but grinding to see them is just that, grinding. I’m not in danger of losing the game, since the basics of growing food and keeping people happy are still the same.

Not that any of the above is a knock on Rimworld, its an AWESOME game, but its more a reflection of that style of game. The fun is in figuring out how the systems all work, and seeing that knowledge applied to move the game forward. The real fun isn’t in seeing the ‘stuff’ that you accomplish, it’s about taking the steps to accomplish said goals.

The tricky thing, at least for me, is that when I see a game like Rimworld in Early Access, I have a hard time not playing it until the full release. Part of that is full release can take years (Rimworld was in development for 5+ years). Another part is sometimes (often) I want to play that kind of game RIGHT NOW, and so I do. Plus for many games the 1.0 release isn’t the end, so even if I wait for that, I might still not play the ‘final’ version if said game gets future DLC or an expansion. So it’s a gamble either way, and most of the time, I’d rather have slightly less fun in that moment, than delay playing a game until its ‘done’.

Posted in beta, Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 4 Comments

EVE: Tales from a war-dec facing CEO

Interesting post over at TAGN about the latest CSM minutes out of EVE, particularly the part about war decs. As someone who has experience in this area as a former CEO of a high-sec corp, I have some thoughts.

First its important to understand who might be in a high-sec corp, especially one most likely to get an unwanted war-dec that goes south and leads to the above-mentioned drop in activity. Most of these corps are newish and/or small. They likely started from a group of friends wanting to play EVE together, and then if successful, that momentum might lead to friends-of-friends joining in. As these players and groups are new, they are still learning the basics of the impossibly complex game that is EVE Online. The PvE is ‘hard’ by MMO standards, the economy is the most complex and competitive in all of gaming, crafting is hard just to get started, and nearly impossible if you want to turn a profit. And PvP is the deep-end of the game, where the complexity is turned to 11, and the consequences are some of the most punishing in the entire MMO genre.

In addition to all that, most of the players in these newer corps likely aren’t hardcore PvP gamers. Most of those go directly to null-sec. But there is a significant draw to EVE beyond just PvP, and there is certainly excellent gameplay (in terms of the larger picture, not necessarily the minute-to-minute clicking) to be had even if you never fire a single shot at another player’s ship. Also consider what a hurdle someone has already jumped as a new player just joining a Corp; that is a player who likely the game enough to join a group, and is motivated enough to do so. You really, really don’t want to drive these people away if you can help it.

Given the above, the data shared by CCP supports a simple story: Young corps of newish players, who likely aren’t super excited by PvP, have their time in EVE negatively impacted by a small group of veteran players who war-dec in high-sec. And the most common result of this cycle is that young corp of new players goes inactive.

To pull from personal experience, this is exactly what happened to my corp. Not too long after we formed, we got war-decced. And then war-decced again, and again, and again. The reason we survived is because we did have a few players interested in PvP, and a few who had pilots that weren’t completely new. This allowed us to fight back sometimes, and sometimes enough that the aggressors gave up and moved to a different target. But even with our core, sometimes the aggressors were simply better, or had higher numbers, and fighting back wasn’t an option. During those times our activity was way down, and while we did ok to retain players, it wasn’t easy or perfect. And while we had some good highlight moments, I’d say overall the whole war-dec in high-sec situation was a negative, even for us.

In contrast, our same corp (but now much larger and more seasoned) had a great time with PvP during our wormhole days. We went looking for fights, and we enjoyed the PvP that come to us. I bring this up simply to show that EVE players, even those that start as almost pure PvE players, can eventually warm up to PvP, but being assaulted by it immediately is more the issue.

My proposed solution? Allow the formation of ‘starter Corporations’. These would be immune to war-decs, but also could not war-dec or place structures (cits, POCOs, etc). Perhaps other restrictions I’m not considering as well. This would allow the ‘group of friends all start playing together’ scenario to be protected, without opening the system up for vet player abuse via structure spam.

What I find most interesting about the whole thing is that CCP has likely know of this issue for a long time, and for a long time they have really struggled to convert new players into long-term players. The war-dec situation is clearly one of the major causes for this lack of retention, yet they haven’t even attempted to fix it. Pretty insane.

 

Posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, Inquisition Clan, MMO design, PvP | 7 Comments

Dear devs: Get gud

Polygon has an article up about the challenges of indie game devs, focusing around the fact that there are so many games being made and released on Steam that it’s hard to stand out. It reminded me of my post back in 2017, and especially the discussion in the comments section between myself and Raph Koster, which is well worth checking out again, and not just because I was right again about the next PUBG coming along (Fortnite).

This quote from the Polygon article really stuck out to me though?

He relates a story of a developer friend of his who lives just down the block who obsessively combs through SteamSpy and other public data, trying to pinpoint the perfect genre to strike, but remains paralyzed by a lurking sense of uncertainty, the buck and jolt of a market stuffed to the gills with excellent games.

So we have a (presumably) struggling indie dev trying to dig into Steam sale numbers to find the perfect time to launch a game in the perfect genre to profit. You know what’s missing from all of that? Said indie dev having a great idea for a great game and making it. Wild huh? Do you think Minecraft, ARK, Stardew Valley, Banished, PUBG, or LoL came about because someone picked the perfect genre at the perfect time, or because the people behind those games were passionate about an idea and ran with it?

I also find the whole complaint about too many games a bit comical. The ONLY reason there are ‘too many’ games is because there are too many devs, and the ONLY reason there are too many devs is because too many people want to get into that line of work. The ‘problem’ really is self-correcting.

Additionally, we have to accept the fact that most indie devs just aren’t good at what they do. They make bad games with bad marketing plans and bad business models because they don’t have the ability to do better. Gamer time is limited, especially, as the article points out, since we have titles like PUBG/Fortnite eating an inordinate amount of gamer time with no real end in site (how very MMO-like of them, eh?), so why would you play a game made by an average dev when there are tons of titles made by  top 10% or higher devs? And that’s the problem most people don’t want to accept; being average at anything that’s highly competitive means you are likely to fail. I’m sorry (I’m not), but that’s just how the world works.

If the bottom half of all Steam games disappeared overnight, the average game dev would still struggle, because the average player still isn’t going to have time (even if they have the money) to play something average in what is easily the golden age of gaming. Gamers are absolutely spoiled right now not simply with choices, but with top-tier choices in almost all genres. That’s great for all gamers, even the average ones, but it’s a tough environment for the average dev.

Posted in ARK, League of Legends, Mass Media, PUBG, Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 9 Comments