Steam experiment, help out

I copy/pasted yesterdays Grim Dawn review into Steam as a review. Could everyone here with Steam head over to the review and up-vote it? I want to test a theory related to reviews and ratings. Thanks.

Posted in Review, Site update, Steam Stuff, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Grim Dawn review

Since the release of Diablo 2, way back in the year 2000, basically every ARPG has been trying to be Diablo 3, yet none have truly succeeded, not even the actual Diablo 3. I’m not going to go so far as to say Grim Dawn is the ‘real’ Diablo 3, but its the closest an ARPG has come IMO.

For starters, Grim Dawn (GD) has just about everything you would expect. Multiple classes, the ability to mix classes, an additional alternate advancement system, lots and lots of loot in different color flavors, and hordes of various enemies and bosses to slay. You can play solo, or with up to 4 others, and you can even enable PvP if you so choose.

Perhaps its one outstanding difference is that the maps aren’t randomly generated (for the main campaign, you can play custom maps, though I haven’t explored that option), which initially felt odd until I just got over it and realized fully hand-crafted maps look better and are more logical than what even a good random generator can do. Will that hold up through multiple playthroughs? Not likely, but I’ve never been a huge fan of grinding an ARPG over and over again anyway.

The graphics are very serviceable. They won’t blow you away, but they also don’t feel cheap, and there are some nice lighting effects and the overall style is a slightly different take on the traditional fantasy doom world full of zombies and other creatures. Same for the sound, which includes a bit of voice acting; its not top-notch, but once you get into the game you find that it all fits and works well-enough. The game runs well and I’ve only seen it crash once (on my wife’s computers during multiplayer).

The pace is good, and main storyline so far has been interesting (mostly told through lore text items you find), and I’ve liked every area I’ve seen so far. And since the maps aren’t random, they all connect in a logical manner that gives the world of GD a more… worldly feel rather than just randomly connected zones. I think that last part is one of the major reasons I’m really like GD too; it has a better sense of progress as you uncover more of the world and the problems facing it.

I also like that you aren’t bombarded with abilities. Or rather, you have that option, as its very easy to focus-in on a few abilities that sound interesting and skip others during the leveling process. You can go so far as to only unlock and upgrade your auto-attack and passives/buffs, which means less button pushing but without gimping yourself. Again perhaps more min/maxing is needed at the highest difficulty, but for an initial run, that flexibility is there.

GD is also pretty flexible in other areas too. You can undo spent skill points for a small cost, and many skills aren’t exclusive to one type of weapon. So for example an auto-attack modifier will work whether you are using a 1h melee weapon or a 2h ranged weapon. That’s nice and lets you switch up what gear you are using pretty easily as you find new and better drops. A constant flow of upgrades is a huge key to ARPG enjoyment, and GD nails this.

Finally, the game is very co-op friendly. It will auto-party you if you select that option, and loot can also be personal until you drop it, making ‘sharing’ loot much easier. Simply scoop up all the stuff you see drop, and if you find something you think might be good for your buddy, drop it and they can grab it. Easy, quick, and painless. Quests also update for everyone in the party, so it doesn’t matter who landed the last hit or who talked to an NPC. It basically feels like playing the single-player in terms of pace and function, only you also have a buddy running and killing along side you.

If you enjoy ARPGs, Grim Dawn really is a must-play.

Posted in Random, Review | 6 Comments

Gaming is pretty great right now

The “Gaming is in a great spot right now” trend continues, at least outside the MMO space (and in that too, if you happen to be flying a spaceship), so lets talk about a few of the items.

Overall if you care about this hobby, you have to be happy with the top games and what they represent. For a moment a few years back it looked like all of gaming was going to be overtaken by ultra-casual gaming garbage, be it mobile titles like Farmville or post-Cata ‘pug raiding’ WoW. In recent years however higher quality, more ‘core gamer’ titles have taken over, games where if you put in the time, and have the ability, you will progress, but it isn’t simply handed to you for showing up.

League of Legends sits at the top, and not only is it a competitive PvP title, but it also has one of the best implementations of the F2P model, one where only fluff can be bought, and whether you spend or not has zero impact on what happens in-game. It caters to very casual players down in Silver, while also showcasing masters of the game in the pro circuit, all while being managed by Riot, who have established themselves as some of the best and brightest devs in the industry.

DoTA 2 is also very popular, and has many similarities to LoL, both in-game and in who manages it (Valve). The whole MOBA genre is really in a good place, with other niche titles offering different takes or styles, but from the titles I’m aware of, they follow the F2P model Riot has set, which is excellent.

Looking at the top steam chart, you also see titles like CS:Go (another skill-based, competitive PvP title) GTA V, (open-world, adult-focused game with decent complexity), Team Fortress 2 (hats!), and ARK/Rust (open-world PvP). I don’t understand why H1Z1 is also near the top, but not everything can be positive I guess?

And outside of the most popular titles, more niche stuff like Darkest Dungeon or Battle Brothers are able to succeed because of Steam, which even just 10 years ago wasn’t the case.

In the mobile space both Clash of Clans and Clash Royale are always near the top, if not at the top spot itself. Again these are two PvP-based games with depth, longevity, and managed by a solid development team in SuperCell.

CR had a rough start in spots, but has really hit its stride with the last update that finally brought purpose to ranking higher than simply the highest arena. Now winning above 4k trophies has value because you earn higher monthly rewards. With special events being more frequent, cards coming out in a more logical way, and the clan chest, there is a lot to do in CR beyond just playing ladder games. The upcoming 2v2 mode should also be very interesting. The CR clan I run does a purge of inactives after every clan chest, though right after a purge we get bombarded with applications so the spots tend to fill quickly (its almost like being in an active clan that always hits 10/10 for the clan chest is something people want, go figure).

CoC is also going strong, and our clan is currently on a nice 6 win streak. We seem to have hit our stride with our top players all being very solid, and our newer recruits coming along nicely as well. The recent addition of cheaper event troops has mixed farming up a little, and a big update is expected to be announced soonish. There are a couple spots in that clan still open, so if you are interested in joining us there (or coming back), apply mentioning the blog.

In the MMO space EVE of course is still the same game it has been for over a decade, and it looks like Crowfall might finally make it out of alpha, and I should be able to test the housing aspect with my kickstarter pledge stuff. I also know Camelot Unchained is moving along, with a few people keeping me updated on that, so maybe 2017 might also finally be a recovery year for the MMO genre. If not, we have the rest of gaming being pretty awesome right now to keep us challenged and entertained.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Crowfall, DoTA, EVE Online, Inquisition Clan, iPhone, League of Legends, MMO design, Random, Steam Stuff, World of Warcraft

EVE: I need a 10t ISK loan please

Wealth in EVE is a funny thing. For a new player, your first million is special. For the average player, a billion ISK is a decent amount to spend on a single ship. For some groups a trillion ISK is a large amount when lost. Yet at the very top, the world is a very different place. You can occasionally catch glimpses of that world when you see something like a 1000+ PLEX buy or sell order (that’s 1.2t+ ISK from one person in one buy/sell order), or when you see someone like Lenny spending 1t a week for months to fund the migration of Goons from the North to the South of New Eden.

Today we have another example of that world with this 10t contract, which initially appears to be a joke until you actually consider whats inside. It’s even more interesting when you consider what that contract is showing; someone who was not just a major producer, but who had access to incredible margins, via T2 BPOs, for some of the games fastest-selling items (the screenshot cuts off a lot of what was inside).

What do you do with trillions of ISK in EVE? Some fund successful projects like Lenny, others do silly things like aggressively PvP in overly expensive ships, and I’m sure many just collect more ISK, because ‘a lot’ is never enough. EVE truly is a unique place in the MMO space, and yet mirrors the real world in so many ways.

Posted in EVE Online | 3 Comments

EVE: CCP is changing how PLEX will work, goodbye Aurum

Changes to how PLEX works in EVE are coming, though no exact date on when this change is going live is given. As with any major change, I expect the PLEX market to be very active between now and whenever this goes live. The proposed changes are good and bad IMO.

The good is that the other secondary currency, Aurum, is going away, meaning one less currency to worry about in EVE when looking to buy something. I also like PLEX becoming a currency rather than one large item, as this will make buying things with that currency easier and more clear, especially for new players.

The bad is the conversion rate, which is currently set to 1 PLEX = 500 new PLEX. 500 PLEX a month is an odd number, as it doesn’t divide evenly by 30. Is the new price of EVE 16.667 new PLEX a day? Why not set the price to 10 new PLEX a day, or 20?

The other downside, though not completely, is that with the addition of the PLEX vault, we likely lose PLEX tanking” ships, where someone loses a ton of PLEX while being dumb or horribly unlucky. Oddly this hurts CCP the most, as any destroyed PLEX was a loss of a game time someone already paid for, without it being converted into actual game time. On the other hand, a lot of PLEX losses were from new players, and I’m guessing CCP has the stats behind someone instantly quitting the game the moment they lose their newly purchased PLEX before they were able to sell it for ISK and get a jump-start in the game. Saving players willing to spend more on the game than just the baseline sub price from themselves likely makes up the losses from PLEX being removed before being cashed in.

I’d say overall this is a good move, and if they tweak to make the price-per-day a bit more clear, that would really make this great.

Posted in EVE Online

EVE: Incursion running double feature

Quick little EVE update for today. Due to mostly RL factors, I haven’t been able to play as much EVE lately as I’ve wanted. In particular, I haven’t been able to sit down for a 2+ hr chunk of time to do things like bigger fleet ops or run incursions. For the most part I’ve been logging into my industry pilot to update orders, queue up new production, and manage PI. Hell I’ve actually started buying minerals in Delve because I haven’t even ratted enough to reprocess junk and feed my production chain.

Things have settled down a little, and as luck would have it an incursion has spawned one carrier jump away from our home system. I got in a few runs there, but again not as many as I’d have liked. But wouldn’t you know, I think this month CCP has picked Goons to win EVE, and the incursion respawned in the exact same spot, meaning the incursion SIG went right back to printing money. RL having settled down a bit, I’ve managed to stay in a fleet for a decent chunk of time, and the ISK has been flowing nicely.

There is also a rumor that Concord-themed ships are coming to EVE ‘soon’, and will be bought via Concord LP, which is the secondary currency you also get from Incursions. People in the SIG are sitting on massive piles of the stuff (one pilot made 1.8m LP last Incursion, which is next-level grinding), and as Goons are the only major alliance who run null-sec Incursions, that could be a very nice break for us all. But, this being CCP, that ‘coming soon’ could be a ways off. Until then, the grind continues, and I’ll just keep letting my LP stack grow.

Posted in EVE Online, Goons

Battle Brothers – Keeping pace, recovering from setback

It’s rare in single-player games that you can bounce back from a setback. Usually you are either progressing towards victory, or you are defeated.

Take for example a typical game of Civilization. At the start (on a decent difficulty level) you are behind the computer, and you either slowly climb up, or you don’t climb fast enough and lose when the AI beats you to an ending or defeats you in war via superior tech/units. Its very rare that you can fight the AI, lose a bit, and then come back. It’s also pretty rare that you can be winning and have the AI bounce back against you.

The same can generally be said about XCOM. If you are keeping pace, you are winning. If you fall behind the pace, you will lose and have to restart. If a mission goes very poorly, you again lose (this is less the case in the Long War mod). The balance just isn’t there to get a very tough mission, have it go poorly (multiple soldiers die), and for you to bounce back and recover.

Battle Brothers manages to achieve that feeling of things going south, but still giving you a chance (though no guarantee) that you can still turn things around, and its a rather thrilling feeling. I’ve mentioned before that interesting decisions pop up when a guy goes down, or gets serious injuries, but as I finished my first epic event, I can also say that those type of decisions also exist at a higher level as well.

Here is how it can play out. It’s around day 90, and you are doing well. You have a full company of 12 brothers, all decently geared, and your supplies/gold are solid. The epic event starts, and you take a 2 skull contract. That contract ends up being far more difficult than you predicted, but you only realize this after the fact. Now you are faced with a choice; fight the battle and potentially lose it all, or decline the contract/fight and take the reputation hit, along with the epic event getting worse (a town is burned, for example).

Assuming the decision you made didn’t result in complete defeat, you must now recover. The tricky thing is what do you do? If most contracts are event-related, maybe more of them will be too difficult or risky, but you have to do something or you will run out of gold/supplies. Wandering the world looking for fights is an option, and a viable one at that. Taking one-skull contracts is another option, though that might be tricky as the pay may not justify your ongoing expenses, or the gains might be too small for the amount of time spent.

The whole time, you are balancing getting stronger with the world overall getting more dangerous. The more you push yourself, the faster you will progress, but pushing too far could either result in a total defeat, or a setback that requires more recovery/pushing. The epic events just ramp this aspect up, with more dangerous fights and contracts coming up, along with far greater rewards. It’s an impressive display of game design and balance, and makes the later stages of Battle Brothers as engaging and challenging as the early.

Posted in Random | 2 Comments