Easy call was easy

Well that didn’t take long. The Epic Store return policy now matches that of Steam, because I guess they realized letting people return games 2 weeks after purchase without an hours limit means a LOT of ‘game finished’ returns that crush smaller studios. Or anyone that makes games which aren’t 60+ hours long.

I suspect the only reason Steam hasn’t matched Epic in developer compensation is because they don’t have to, at least not yet. If/when they do, that’s when you know the Epic Store has actually become a real competitor.

Posted in Steam Stuff, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

LoL: I am the goblin king

I’m back playing some League of Legends, after missing all of Season 8, and I think most of Season 7. Taking such an extended break means I’m basically starting from scratch in terms of knowing the meta, all champions, and the details of all items. What isn’t completely gone is my general understanding of the game and most champions, and the learning curve this time is significantly tamer.

With all that said, did you know that now, below Bronze, there exists the Iron level in ranked? I didn’t either, but I’m in it! I guess I played a few ranked games at some point with some pretty random champions (or my account got hacked?), and then when I came back I played a few games with new champ Zoe, also in ranked, that resulted in basically losing most of my placement matches. That combined with the lack of playing Season 8, and the result is Iron league. I am amongst the one-armed blind children!

So far in 12 games played, I’ve won 9, moving from Iron IV to Iron I. I’m curious if I’ll be in a series to go to Bronze, or if the game will ‘smurf detected’ boost me up like it has through Iron. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that bashing the blindos I’m facing in games hasn’t been fun, though the frustration of seeing the actions of the cripples on my team has offset that enjoyment somewhat. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ll be back in Silver in 30-40 games (again depending on how hard the anti-smurfing system jumps me), and then it shouldn’t be much longer to get into Gold. Whether I get out of Gold and back into Plat will depend on whether the game truly holds my interest long-term again. So far, it does feel good to have it back in rotation, if only for a game or two a night.

Posted in League of Legends | 3 Comments

Battle Brothers: Fighting the Kraken

Want to quickly update a topic I’ve discussed here a lot in the past; that difficulty often leads you to learning the inner mechanics of a game, and that is one spot a good game will shine. In the linked post I mention Battle Brothers, and I want to provide additional context to that today.

One of the big things the Beasts and Exploration expansion adds is, well, beast, and the biggest/hardest of those is the Kraken. After you complete some steps at a legendary location, you unlock the Kraken fight, which is very unique from a mechanics standpoint, mostly in a good way, but with some flaws.

The Kraken head is immovable, one-shot kills anyone standing next to it, and has very high armor/hp. The Kraken also has 8 tentacles (small arms that are function like an enemy unit) that will move towards you, wrap you up, and then drag you back towards the head. They also occasionally melee attack you. When you kill one, the head takes damage, but the tentacle will respawn in a random location around the head. The fight always takes place in a swamp, which greatly hinders movement.

The basic pattern of the fight goes like this: tentacles move towards you, and wrap up some of your guys. You can then attempt to free your guys with others if they are standing next to them. Anyone who doesn’t need to free someone attacks a tentacle. Each kill chips away at the health of the head. Anyone who doesn’t get freed is moved towards the head, which is almost inevitable death as others can’t reach them, and while they can attempt to free themselves, doing so leaves them without enough movement to return to safety. The fight is a long one, and really an endurance test of whether you can keep enough people alive long enough to kill the needed number of tentacles. Each lost brother is one fewer person to break someone out, and after even just a few loses you basically spiral into defeat.

I think the biggest flaw or frustration with the fight right now is the occasional attacks from the tentacles. They hit too hard, being able to kill even a top-geared/leveled brother in a few hits, which pushes you away from critical mass to free everyone and keep going. The fight needs some damage, otherwise the strategy would be to go in naked (max fatigue), and that eliminates the benefits of gearing up, which is key to the whole game. Instead, I’d suggest the damage be way toned down, so brothers take hits, but don’t die nearly as fast.

Another tweak to make is to increase the damage the head takes from dead tentacles. Right now the fight takes way too long, which means that bad RNG factors in a little too much, and its just overall not as enjoyable as it should be because of the time commitment.

I think the wrap/pull mechanic works well, so I wouldn’t make any major changes to that (maybe reduce the movement a little of the tentacles, so a failed rescue isn’t instant-death).

A hard fight like this pushes you to understand the mechanics of the whole game. You can no longer bring a brother that has just OK stats, or has sub-par gear. It truly is an ‘end-game’ encounter, and requires near-mastery of the game itself. That’s good IMO, because the depth of Battle Brothers is excellent.

Posted in Random | 3 Comments

Steam winter sale of 2018

The Steam winter sale has come and gone, and I didn’t purchase a single title. I did get a bunch of trading cards though, so that’s something.

One reason I didn’t buy anything is currently Battle Brothers is hording all my non-mobile gaming time (Though I have started playing League of Legends a bit as well, more on that in another post). I’m on day 280 of my current campaign, with the goal of beating some of the tougher pre-set fights, and then retiring to start up a new company. I’m not sure when my attention will wane from BB, but my guess is ‘not soon’.

Another reason for not making a purchase is based around the fact that Steam has conditioned me to believe 75% off is a good deal, and anything less than that is just ok. I think they have backed away from frequently having titles at 75% off, or even 66%, but my mind isn’t there yet. I still see 50% and think that’s not a great deal. I’ve also noticed that, more frequently now, a title will be 50% off, but that 50% is off the full $50-$60 price-point, which again doesn’t strike me as much of a deal on titles that are now months old.

That said price really isn’t the issue itself, its what I would be buying. Nothing on my wishlist right now is a must-buy (or I’d already own it); its all titles I think look interesting, but I’m not dying to play them right now. Some of those titles are also games I know will last a few hours, rather than be a major investment of time, and those titles especially I know I can wait for the ‘right’ sale.

I was gifted Gloria Victis by Jonneh, as we had talked about it in Discord and it does look like an interesting game. I’ve played it for about an hour so far, just to see how well it runs and what the controls feel like, and so far so good. But with my time devoted to BB right now, I don’t want to jump halfway into a MMO right now, especially a PvP-focused title.

Posted in League of Legends, Random, Site update, Steam Stuff | 9 Comments

Battle Brothers: Inching towards legendary victory

I’m now 200+ days into my current campaign in Battle Brothers, and things are going well overall, though I’ve yet to complete a single legendary site. I have resolved two end-game crisis events however (orcs and noble war).

What I really like about the design of BB is how smooth the scaling is. Early on (first 50 days) progress and change are rapid. You hire lots of brothers, a bunch likely die, and you are changing/upgrading gear constantly. The mid-game (50-150) is slower in terms of change, but is where your core brothers finish their builds, and when you really start locking down what style of gear/weapons they use. You also focus more on creating a complete 12 man battle squad vs focusing on just gearing/leveling individual brothers with whatever you happen to have. The end-game (150+) is all about finishing the final levels of newer brothers, replacing decent brothers with higher-quality recruits, and about finding/buying the best gear, with a focus on hunting down legendary items.

The kind of contracts you take and who you fight also evolves. Early on its all small skirmishes with weaker monsters or bandit thugs. Mid-game you get into larger battles (maybe 12-15 enemies), with some higher tier/special enemies thrown in. In the late game, you are generally facing 20+ enemies, and/or the upper elite monsters that require careful planning. It’s also in this phase when you start facing the unique encounters, be it the goblin city, black obelisk, or any of the new pieces of content included in the DLC. As mentioned above, I’ve yet to beat such a site, though I did get close against the goblin city (it’s a massive fight vs 45+ enemies).

Even in the late-game, I can still chip away with short place sessions. If I only have 30 minutes, maybe I run a simpler contract, or do some exploring. A single battle might take 15-20 minutes, so that fits as well. If I have more time, longer contracts are in play, or I can do something focused like hunt down a legendary location via tavern rumors.

Regardless, the game is still very much keeping me entertained, and I already have an itch for a second campaign.

Posted in Combat Systems, Random

The influencer and the eSport star

I’d love to say influencers don’t matter. I’d love to point and laugh at the Kardashians and call them talentless wastes of space, or joke about how vapid and soulless ‘instagram models’ are. Or to ridicule a game company for trying to cozy up to a popular streamer who is going to dump them when the next shiny comes along.

But I don’t (or at least not often). Because while I might dislike all of the above personally, I can’t deny that not only does it have value, it in many ways has far more value than more traditional means of advertising and getting people to buy a product. On a significantly smaller scale, I speak from experience. I’ve ‘sold’ a lot of copies of games over the years here by blogging about them, and even at its peak this blog wasn’t a top X of anything, or receiving millions of daily views like a top influencer gets. Yet I still helped sales. I still convinced people to spend their money on a certain game that they otherwise might not have. If you are a dev and have a game I’m interested in, providing me a review copy that ends up being solid gets you more sales. From a business standpoint, that just makes sense.

It’s why someone like Shroud of Ninja, people who influence millions, are so valuable. Its also why they themselves earn millions, and why a budding new industry (eSports) is likely to overtake traditional sports in popularity in the very near future. I’d bet today more kids under the age of 18 watch eSports or streams then watch pro sports, and when those kids grow up a little more and start having disposable income, you can bet it won’t go towards traditional sports as much as it will towards eSports. I wrote a bit about this back in 2015, and now as we approach 2019 I’m even more confident in that future.

At the same time, I think the age of the ‘influencer because influencer’ will come to an end. The Kardashians are the WoW of social media influencers. There will never be anyone bigger, there are a countless number of imitators, and the whole thing being main-steam is more pop culture blip than a shift in how things will be going forward. The MMO genre peaked with WoW and won’t return to that high a spot ever again, and I think Instagram and all that peaks with the Kardashians. I suspect there will be a downturn in Twitter/Instagram interest (there basically already is with Twitter, to say nothing about MySpace and now Facebook), and the decline will be somewhat swift. Being social media popular will be looked back on as somewhat of a joke, much like the pet rock, even if the truth is that whoever invented the pet rock did make a million dollars.

eSports are different though. There is a legitimate skill there, and legitimate entertainment. Humans love sport/competition, and eSports is simply the modernization of that primal interest. Right now influencer is a tag used for both eSport stars and the ‘popular because popular’ crowd. That will change, and eSports will be left standing, more popular than most would have ever expected.

Posted in League of Legends, Mass Media, PUBG, Rant, World of Warcraft | 5 Comments

Blizzard confirms that Blizzard stinks now

It took longer than I expected, but Blizzard has announced that Heroes of the Storm’s days are numbered. I’m sure all three current players are very disappointed.

The news is significant for one major reason; this is the first time Blizzard has ‘failed’ with a released title. Games like Ghost and Warcraft Adventures, titles that likely weren’t going to succeed, never made it out the door. HotS did, and now its being put out to pasture. Regardless of ‘why’, that’s a bad look PR-wise.

Which isn’t to suggest that is unexpected. Again, the surprise from my side is it took until 2018 to happen. Unlike in the past, HotS was coming into a genre that had established titles run by competent developers. This wasn’t WoW coming in and facing the launch-state dumpster fire that was EQ2, run by clownshoes SoE. It wasn’t even Diablo 3 launching into a genre that didn’t have major players (though one could argue Path of Exile has now firmly eclipsed D3 for top ARPG, another dark spot on Blizzard). No, this was a poorly-executed game, lacking the usual Blizzard polish, running face first into the two-headed monster of LoL and DOTA2, run by Riot and Valve respectively, and got chewed up.

It’s hard for anyone to stay at the top forever. Blizzard had an incredibly impressive run, starting in 1994 with Warcraft (Rock and Roll Racing in 1993 for the SNES was solid btw) and going until WotLK started the decline of WoW and, really, Blizzard itself in 2008. SC2 was fine but really a reskin of SC1. Diablo 3 was a launch disaster with the auction house. Hearthstone was never a number one mobile title, though it has done well-enough for what it is. HotS came after that. The only big title of note since 2008 has been Overwatch, and that title is a rebrand of the long-rumored and ultimately unmade Titan MMO. Add all the dumpster expansions to WoW since 2008, and yea, a fall from grace compared to shipping WC1, WC2, WC3, D1, D2, SC. The studio that once only released massive hits has only struck gold (relatively even then, with OW) for basically a decade.

I’m sure their next title, Diablo Immortal, will turn it all around though…

Posted in DoTA, EQ2, League of Legends, Mass Media, MMO design, Rant, SOE being SOE, World of Warcraft | 16 Comments