I just fixed Early Access

I have a massive love/hate relationship with Early Access, but I think I finally cleared the final mental hurdle with it. Two primary issues bother me with EA.

The first is when a game drags in EA, either because of slow patching speed (Stonehearth) or because the scope of the project keeps increasing (ARK). With most games I’m not here to ‘help you develop’ the game, I’m here to play it, and its hard to fully dig in sometimes knowing the EA banner still hangs over a game. This leads to half-playing, and that can result in playing a game enough to get kinda bored, but not enough to complete it or play through fully.

The second issue is playing an EA game too much, and then when changes happen not going back to play the better version. This happened to me with Darkest Dungeon. When I first bought it I loved it, and played it a lot. I hit a point where it wasn’t all that fun anymore, and stopped playing. The game continued to be updated, and was made much better. When I went back to play it however, too much of it still felt the same, and while I could see and appreciate the new stuff, it just wasn’t enough. That’s frustrating because ultimately I like Darkest enough to want to beat it, but can’t commit to getting through the middle phase anymore to actually do it (luckily in the case of Darkest, the next update adds a ‘faster progression’ mode, which I’m very interested in).

So what grand revelation have I come to with EA?

The moment you buy an EA title, that’s the moment the game has left EA for you. Everything after is post-release patching or free (hopefully free… ARK) expansions/DLC. If you buy a game and it still feels off after less than 2hrs, use the Steam refund policy, its quick and easy. If you see enough there to actually play it, congrats on your purchase, but pretend the game is no longer in EA, and don’t play it with that mindset.

That mindset also helps mitigate disappointment when scope is cut short or delivery is delayed. The moment you bought it was the moment EA ended, so any promises about future stuff are just hopes, not guarantees. The only thing you should feel owed is what the game is RIGHT NOW, and again if that isn’t up to par move on.

Posted in beta, Rant, Steam Stuff | 4 Comments

Battle Brothers review

Battle Brothers is one of those “how f’n hard is this game?” types that I love. It’s not unfair hard, and its not ‘super hard to learn’ hard either. The difficulty is that every little decision before and during battle matters, and that combined with some healthy RNG can result in a battle, and ultimately your campaign, going south quickly.

Let me back up a bit. Battle Brothers is like a scaled down version of Mount and Blade on the world map; you travel around, other parties travel as well, there are towns and villages where you can buy, recruit, and heal, and you complete tasks for lords and villages for gold and reputation. Once combat starts however the game is turn-based on a hex grid (think fantasy XCOM, minus the terrain destruction). The setting is very low fantasy, though you do face orcs, goblins, and the undead.

The graphics have a somewhat unique style, with really great attention to detail: each piece of armor is visible, and when damages it shows. Same for characters, when injured they show it, and each injury has a different look. The music is good, the sound effects give you a good idea of what is happening, and I’ve yet to have the game crash or bug out on me.

The game is designed to be played multiple times, and the world map is randomly created at the start, which is pretty amazing for replayability. A lot of other things are also randomized, like your starting guys, what recruits you see, and what missions you can pick up from all of the different towns. I’ve now started a half dozen games and they do really feel different.

The game is early access, but I think leaving that soon. The next patch is also going to be a big one, giving the game a system to retire, a major event system, and a few other big changes. If you don’t have to play something fun now, wait for that, though even in its state right now its a ton of fun.

Going back to the difficulty and why its fun, combat is pretty brutal. Armor acts like a second HP bar, and each style of weapon (sword, axe, hammer, etc) has different abilities associated to them. Creating a good mix in your company is important, but is also somewhat dictated by what you find or what you can buy. Funds are almost always tight, and even when you win, sometimes you ‘lose’ because you have lost key characters or simply taken so much damage to your gear and guys that the cost of recovery is higher than the reward you will get.

I like that, because it rewards not just winning, but winning while limiting damage. It also means retreating from a tough encounter, even perhaps one you might win, is a viable strategy, and an important thing to do when playing on Ironman (which is an option, but is honestly the way the game is designed to be played, as save scumming kinda ruins the whole thing). There are multiple difficulty levels as well, with easy giving you bonus gold, while hard limits it.

At $16 right now (Steam sale), I think its a great buy for anyone who likes strategy titles with a bit of bite to them.

Posted in Random, Review

BB down, CR and CoC way up!

My three main mobile games update time.

First the bad news; we are on break from Boom Beach. We lost a few key members over the last few weeks, and many of us had reached the cap in terms of offensive power growth. Replacing people was getting harder and harder, and without a major shakeup to the game (the new event where you face player bases is very eh), it just kinda got boring.

Its also one of the flaws of BB that, unlike Clash of Clans or Clash Royale, BB is ultimately a PvE game, and PvE gets boring much faster than PvP when you have to repeat the same stuff over and over. I’m not fully writing the game off as a major update could bring me back, and Supercell has a good history of doing just that. On the downside, with BB being the third wheel at Supercell, it might be some time until that big update hits.

In happier news, Clash Royale got easily its best updates recently. First was a great tourney event where you picked one card out of an option of two, four times (half a deck), and your opponent got the other card. It was a tourney so card levels were set, and the event didn’t require you to own the card to be able to play it. It was awesome fun in-house, and also against other people. That style really needs to be a permanent feature of the game!

The other addition was the clan chest. The way this works is every crown you earn goes towards the clan chest, and the more crowns everyone earns in a week, the bigger the chest everyone gets (the chest has 10 levels, each level requiring more crowns). A nice detail is that even if your personal crown chest isn’t up, winning still contributes clan crowns, and we have a few people in our clan SERIOUSLY grinding crowns, which is awesome. Its also just a general fun thing to work towards as a group, and lets me see who is active and who isn’t for easier roster cleanup. I’m having more fun with CR today than I’ve had since its release.

Finally, Clash of Clans recently release an update as well, that added new troop levels and defensive building changes. Not a huge update, but still something new to work towards, and a meta shift is always fun in CoC.

Also I’m not sure if they changed the war match formula, but for a while now every one of our wars have been really good, including our last that came down to destruction % (sadly we lost by a tiny margin on the final attack). A while back war matching was really hit or miss, and it wasn’t all that rare to have a war be a total mismatch, but lately that simply hasn’t been the case, which is pretty awesome.

As always, if you would like to join us in CoC or CR (BB on hold), apply to “Supreme Cream!” and mention the blog.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Inquisition Clan, iPhone | 2 Comments

How to climb up in rank in League of Legends

My climb out of Silver was short and full of S rankings, which wasn’t that surprising (was in plat 4 prior to the reset) but still interesting, as it has been years since I was that low. Here are some takeaway thoughts that might help you climb as well.

First lets address ELO hell. ELO hell exists, but it isn’t any specific overall range, but rather its a personal range. Say for instance your skill level is Gold 3. ELO hell won’t exist for you in silver, because you are so much better than silver players that you will progress rather quickly. Your ELO hell will be Gold 4-5, where you are still better, but not so much better to really swing the odds heavily in your favor. Winning 51% of your games is still good, but its slow progress. What that means is you are going to need to play a lot of games (grind) to advance, which can feel like hell if you are overly focused on moving up the ranks (vs just playing to have fun and getting better while also advancing).

The key to ELO hell however is actually being realistic with your abilities. To return to the above example, maybe you THINK you are a Gold 3 player, but in reality are actually closer to Gold 5. In that case, your real ELO hell will be upper silver, and should you get into Gold, your progress will halt until you personally improve. Fully knowing your real skill level can be tough, especially as the meta changes and your preferred champs go up or down on the power scale.

Another key to move up is understanding the entire game, not just your champ. On my climb I saw a lot of players who had high mechanically skills (high CS), but lacked the overall awareness of the game that better players posses. They would be slow to rotate, or late to objectives, or didn’t know when to push a lane vs when to freeze it.

Worse still is if you don’t understand the importance of learning that part of the game. Say you play ADC, and you think that so long as you have a good CS score and solid KDA, you are doing well. Your so focus on those two things that you ignore the rest of the game, especially during laning. In your mind when the jungler doesn’t do well, or another lane ‘feeds’, its not your fault, because look at your CS/KDA, but that might be very wrong. If the jungler came to your lane but you didn’t set the gank up correctly, you wasted his time. It’s no loss to your personally (you still last hit your minions and didn’t die), but you put the jungler behind. Those mistakes can snowball a game, or at least reduce your chances of actually winning the game.

On the flip side, if you are far below where you should be, you can help to carry your team not just with personal performance on your champ, but by playing team captain. Tell the team when to hit certain objectives, when to push/freeze, or general items to buy. Since you are a better player, you watch the mini-map more, so use the pings to help another lane when you see a gank coming. You will be surprised how much this helps (sure, you will get people who ignore the advice, but that’s also why they are stuck in those ranks, so just do your best and you will move past them eventually), and again snowballs your game to a victory. LoL is designed to make it very hard for one champion to fully carry a game 1v5, but you can do a lot of other things to ‘carry’ and tip your win rate above 50%.

Finally, its important to understand that even if you are far above your current ranking (when I was Silver as a Plat player), you aren’t going to win every game. Hell, you might not even win your lane every time, either because of a bad matchup or because the other player is also a high ranker still moving up. All you can do is to understand how you can influence the game the most, both via personal play (be aggressive in lane, roam as often as possible, buy high risk/reward items) and team coordination. The climb will happen, but its important to understand that it still won’t be perfectly smooth.

Posted in League of Legends

2016 predictions review

So my 2016 prediction post wasn’t much, mostly because I wasn’t all that into the MMO space at the time. I’m more into it right now (thanks EVE!), but lets see how I did with the little I said about 2016.

Crowfall: I was pretty off on this one. The game has made progress, but its not close to release, and it spent most of 2016 making small steps in evolving the deathmatch mode it had going for testing purposes, which just didn’t do much for me.

Camelot Unchained: The same as above I think? It certainly didn’t launch, so way off on that, but otherwise I think 2016 was mostly about making some progress without any major shakeups or big events. I don’t follow CU closely honestly, and while I will look into it once it gets close, it doesn’t feel close right now.

FFXIV: I stopped playing FFXIV shortly after my wife stopped playing due to time constraints. I never got into the content of the first expansion, and now another is coming out shortly, which really puts me behind the ball. Personal stuff with the game aside, I think 2016 was another good year for the best themepark out, but I don’t think it made the buzz it did in 2015. Or perhaps the thirst for the ‘next big themepark’ just isn’t there anymore overall.

WoW: Legion was a good expansion compared to recent WoW expansions, but it didn’t turn WoW around or stop it from being a title most visit briefly to eat up the latest content.

F2P stuff: 2016 was a turn-around year IMO in terms of acceptance of the model. I think most MMO players now dislike it, while I think the predatory nature of hooking whales still keeps some otherwise pretty terrible games chugging along. I’m sure a bunch of F2P MMOs shut down in 2016, but I can’t even remember any memorable event on that front.

And that’s it. Will 2017 be better? I mean, I’m playing EVE, so already its better in that regard, but will the genre as a whole have a good year? That’s coming in the next post.

Posted in Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, MMO design, RMT, Site update, World of Warcraft

SW:TOR and HotS win big!

Hotbar salesman wins big award! Congrats to all those working on SW:TOR for proving that just because so many others are a cesspit of terrible decisions, that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels and just sell hotbars. Put lockboxes inside lockboxes, kill your in-game economy to collect a few bucks, and basically continue to cripple your game in any and all ways at the alter of terrible MMO business models. Huge win. Huge. And you know come 2017 award season, SW:TOR will be right back in the conversation.

Also shout out to HotS for just generally still being terrible. Who would have thought a dumbed down (and all around awful) version of an already casual game like LoL wouldn’t be a great idea? I think my favorite part of that whole article is the mention that failed LoL pros are kings of the shit castle in HotS. Basically tells you absolutely everything you need to know about that game.

Oh and shout out to the first guy to comment on that article trying to defend it, which the author identified as a HotS coach (seriously…). Keep fighting the good fight buddy, I’m sure those servers will stay up for a little bit longer.

Posted in Mass Media, MMO design, Random, RMT, SW:TOR | 2 Comments

EVE – Circle of (production) life complete

Until a few days ago my main sources of income in EVE have been ratting in my carrier, cleaning sites up with a Noctis, running Incursions with the Goon group, a bit of PI, and a little importing from Jita. A good mix of active and passive income, and enough to put me on the short path to a Super Carrier once my main pilot’s skills round out.

Then I noticed that, from my previous EVE days of running the Inq FiS corp, the old POCO’s we put up in our wormhole were being used, and so were collecting taxes. The tax rate was set to 5%, and I guess the current residence don’t mind paying it. It’s not huge money (about 200m a month), but considering it literally comes in without me doing anything, I’ll take it. I did have to remove everyone’s rights from the Corp, as someone I didn’t recognize was in the corp (I left a few people as directors, and it seems they then either made alts or invited other people) and that person also had access to the corp wallet and was taking some funds out. The free money is all mine damnit!

Another leftover bonus from those days were a bunch of researched blueprint originals, so I had those shipped out to Delve and started mapping out what best to do with them. As they were all T1, production wasn’t a terrible choice, but also not the only one. I asked in our ISK-focused Jabber channel, a place populated with some of the richest and smartest players in the game (people who toss around the idea of throwing hundreds of billions of ISK as ‘pet projects’ like it was nothing), and got some very good advice from them.

I’m going to dig into invention, as my industry pilot has most of the skills associated with that (filling in the holes now), and T2 items move far better and with higher margins in Delve. I’ve also started reprocessing the site junk I’ve collected rather than selling it off, as this will provide a lot of the materials I need for production. The rest I can grab off the market, or even do some mining when I’m able to do some mostly-afk gaming.

What’s really interesting about the market in our capital is that it’s basically a mini-Jita. Huge population, so huge volume, and while much of the market is covered, there are still plenty of gaps, and plenty of high margins to grab. It will take a little bit of time to build all of this up, and to learn the ins and outs in terms of what really moves and what sits, but that’s all part of the fun. I also like the fact that between my two pilots, I’m basically completing the ‘circle of life’ in EVE. Blow stuff up, get drops, turn drops into minerals, convert minerals into stuff, sell stuff so others can blow stuff up. Pretty cool.

PS: TAGN covered the recent Op to blow up a PL Keepstar as it was coming online. I was part of that effort, and while PL didn’t show up, seeing Goons fill up almost four full fleets was nice to see from a ‘dead’ and ‘weak’ alliance, to say nothing of the 3-4 other major powers who also showed up hoping to take some shots at PL as well.

Posted in EVE Online, Goons | 5 Comments