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

PUBG: Weapon feel and knowledge

Adventures in PUBG continue. If you’d like to join in, ping me on Steam.

One of the more surprising aspects of the game is how different each gun feels, along with my personal feelings not always aligning with the stats of each gun. For example, based on stats the M16 is the best long-range assault rifle, but for me it’s my worst. I just can’t hit shots with it as consistently as I can with the M416 or the SCAR (I hate the AKM for long-range as well). That’s likely a combination of the stats (recoil mostly) of those guns fitting my style better, and just pure psychology. When I have those guns, especially fully modded, I feel I should hit shots, and so I do more often.

Scopes are similar for me. I like the 2x and 8x, while the 4x I find I don’t hit as well with at range. In close, I like the red dot over the holo. I personally like the UMP, but lately I’ve had significantly better results with the Vector, and I’m finding the Uzi also gets the job done well in close quarter situations.

What I’m a bit worried about is if/when the guns get tweaked. Already using each gun is almost like playing a different game, somewhat similar to playing different champions in LoL. You have your basic knowledge with things like the map, building layouts and loot locations, and then the next layer is actually shooting people, which is a combination of positioning and map location, along with the actual gun and hitting your shots. Feeling comfortable with any one gun takes time, and during that training time, you make mistakes. Mistakes that often lead to not only your own death, but also the potential death of your squad. On the flip side, saving a game with clutch shots is a great feeling, and builds on your confidence with a certain weapon.

When a new map is released, that will reset map knowledge, and if the new map has new buildings, that will also be a partial knowledge reset. And if/when guns get tweaked, that will also cause a knowledge reset, which makes the often-request offline shooting range feature that much more important. Get on it Bluehole!

Posted in Random

XCOM 2, War of the Chosen initial thoughts

Some early impressions today of the new XCOM 2 expansion War of the Chosen (WotC), but first how odd is it that a game released in 2015 is getting a full-blown expansion in 2017, more than a year after it’s last piece of DLC? Also how odd is it that the expansion is so great, while the first bunch of DLC for the game was pretty terrible? Different dev teams maybe?

I think the most impressive thing about the expansion is how well it integrates with the base game. Rather than adding missions to the back-end of the story, or being its own stand-alone side stuff, WotC adds to the core game, while still keeping true to the main mission (stopping the Avatar project and all that). There are new classes, which also come from new factions, and those factions have reputations you need to increase via missions and ‘quests’ you can send soldiers on. There are new alien enemies, from an expanded roster of regular enemies to the three new ‘boss’ aliens that hunt you and can show up during random missions. There are new abilities, and new ways to gain those abilities. All of that makes the game better, but also doesn’t change its core, which is great because the core game was already really freaking good.

Some additional observations:

The new 3rd party faction, The Lost (basically zombies), are awesome. Some missions feature them exclusively, while other missions they are a random occurrence which really spices things up. They attack both sides, and will spawn continuously, with the more noise created, the more spawns. Individually they are weak, with only a melee attack and generally low hp, but they always come in swarms of 5+, so if not countered quickly, have a real chance to overwhelm you. To help in that, anytime you kill one, you get the action point back, so it’s not uncommon to have one soldier in one turn down 3-5 of them, assuming you don’t have to reload or the Lost survives with a few hp.

The aliens don’t get the benefit of the returned action point (95% sure on that), so in some ways The Lost are a bigger issue for them, although generally leaving enemies up for their turn in XCOM is bad, so you don’t really want to gamble and hope that the aliens or The Lost attack each other. But sometimes you don’t have a choice, and being ‘saved’ by The Lost distracting some aliens who would otherwise blast your soldiers is a great feeling. It’s also somewhat cinematic, the way The Lost swarm the aliens, and the aliens really struggling to fend them off, only to have your soldiers push in and kill everyone.

The only downside is that The Lost don’t feel like a real swarm that you fight off in a panic, but that’s mostly due to the fact that the game is turn-based rather than real-time, and the fact that it’s not designed to have your 4-6 soldiers fight off a dozen or more enemies per turn. Often times some Lost will spawn, and one or two soldiers will kill the whole spawn in a turn, which is somewhat anti-climatic to a real threat. But as mentioned, those times when The Lost do play a pivotal role, either positive or negative, more than make up for this shortcoming IMO.

I might do a full review of the expansion once I finish it, but either way, if you enjoyed XCOM, there is zero reason to pass up on picking this up and playing through the game again. It makes an already great TBS game significantly better in almost every way.

Posted in Random, Review | 2 Comments

PUBG: 3rd vs 1st person

I have two groups I play PUBG with. One group is mainly the old Inq guys from way back in the Darkfall days (which has since grown to a rather large network of people between my blog and Paragus streaming on Twitch), while the second group I got introduced to via blog reader and EVE buddy Mainehawk. Inq likes to play first-person, while Maine likes 3rd because he is a terrible human being. Having to switch between modes puts me in the occasional bad situation/decision, as well as constantly reminding me about the strengths and weaknesses of each mode.

Example time: In a duo with Maine, we drove up to a warehouse, where a guy from inside started shooting at us. We drive to the side of the building, and I jump out of the car. I engage the guy who was shooting us near the corner of the building, only for him to light me up and force me to run back. As I do this, his buddy comes around the other corner and starts shooting. I get knocked, but Maine goes GTA on his ass and runs him over before he can finish me.

I crawl inside the warehouse where Maine revives me as the second enemy is rounding the corner. Since we are playing 3rd person, I can see around the corner without him seeing me, so I know exactly when he is about to come around the side to shoot at me, move quickly past his vision, and kill him. In 1st person, I wouldn’t know the exact time he is coming around, which would have made that kill much harder.

Second example: Later in that same game we engage with another duo. They are by a tree, but we come from behind and down one quickly. He crawls behind the tree, and his buddy comes from the side to also duck behind the tree (potato aim on my part for not downing him as he ran in). I decide to rush the tree while Maine provides covering fire. That’s a mistake in 3rd person. In 1st person, someone behind a tree can’t see you unless you can also see/shoot them. In 3rd of course they can see around the tree while you can’t see/shoot at them, so rushing someone in that situation in 3rd person is not exactly ideal. Similar to the example above, but in reverse, here they knew exactly when I was close, and could time/aim their shots. I go down, and Maine has to finish the game solo in what was otherwise a very favorable-looking game.

 

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Random | 2 Comments

Black Desert Online T20s itself

Oops.

The really odd thing about this though is why is it news? I mean, I’ve heard from very, very reliable sources that all MMO devs are corrupt, so this happens in every game. What’s the big deal about this one?

Posted in Random, RMT | 6 Comments

Watching Early Access games progress, or not

Following Early Access games, especially smaller indie games, is both fascinating and very frustrating. On the one hand, you get to see a game shape up in almost real-time, as well as see how they are learning and adapting their game. On the other hand, since the games progress is at the mercy of a small group, if not one person, that sometimes leads to large gaps in progress, uneven development velocity, and sometimes a game going in a very different direction than you initially expected.

I’ve mentioned Rimworld here before, and when I was playing it earlier in the summer, updates were pretty frequent. However the last update/news was back on 6/3/2017. That’s… not great. Is Rimworld dead? Is a huge update coming? Did the guy making it just take a little break? The joys of small-time early access…

I posted about Castle Story, another EA title, a few days ago. Having now played it, I can safely say its about 30 minutes to maybe an hour of fun before you see the whole game. How the hell do you spend 5+ years working on something that simple and small? Just makes no sense, especially because the foundation (or in this case, the whole game) is pretty solid. Building stuff is fun, the resource gathering isn’t terrible, and the animations/graphics are cute. But if you have beaten back one wave of enemies, you have beat back all of them. Very strange, and kinda disappointing.

On the other hand you have a game like PUBG, which is also in EA, but at the same time is one of the most popular games out. Such an odd dynamic. And who knows how long PUBG will be popular. Will it be like LoL or CS:GO, where it becomes a staple of gaming? Or will it be a game like DayZ, massively popular while in development, and then dies before it even makes it out for official release?

Humor corner: Just watched a PUBG eSport event, where in the final game, the eventual winner of a best-of-three series won despite just looting meds, sitting in a rock, and eventually dying to the circle. Guess Gevlon was right all along!

Oh wait, he also outright won the second game and had a K/D above 0.1. Nevermind.

Posted in beta, League of Legends, Random, Steam Stuff | 4 Comments

PUBG: If a broken ladder falls in the woods…

Gevlon’s last project in PUBG has come to an end, with a result very similar to his LoL project. He played a huge amount of hours, come up with a pretty terrible plan/strategy, and failed utterly. The main different between his inability to escape the starter ranks in LoL and his almost mathematically impossible feat of never winning a PUBG game out of the hundreds he played however is that at least in PUBG, he was high on a leaderboard.

Now, if you want to debate whether the point of PUBG is to win matchs vs being high on a leaderboard, have fun dying on that hill with Gevlon, you’ll be in quality company.

But, days of real life spent ‘playing’ a game of ‘hide and collect the medicine’ inside a shooter aside, Gevlon inadvertently does bring up one interesting item; how important are such leaderboards when they are clearly so highly flawed, and how much priority should a developer devote to fixing them into something reasonable?

Even to someone who has never played PUBG, it should be pretty clear that when someone who almost never kills anyone AND has never won a single game can get close to the top 100 in a region, something is broken. But just how broken is it? Gevlon is a unique snowflake in gaming, with his combination of being immune to boring bot-like actions, having 7+ hours a day to play a single game daily, and with an end-goal of blog traffic (regardless of why that traffic shows up) rather than playing for fun or achieving actual success. A very well designed system like the one in LoL he can’t exploit (so it must be dev corruption, obviously…), but does it matter if he can in PUBG? (guess no dev corruption here yet…) It’s not a must-team game like LoL, so Gevlon being in a game with 99 other people of much higher skill isn’t a big impact; he is basically a delayed disconnected player in every one of his games. That’s very, very minimal impact to everyone but Gevlon, and Gevlon doesn’t care that he isn’t actually playing the game.

PUBG is in Early Access and still rapidly developing, so the next question is what priority should fixing the ranking system really take? Would a normal player want more weapons and better balance, or a leaderboard system he likely doesn’t look at or care about fixed? Can PUBG leave EA with this flawed system and still be fine? Right now PUBG is one of the most popular games out, period, so clearly a bad leaderboard isn’t influencing many from staying away, nor is it discouraging people and having them stop playing.

The big difference between PUBG matches and say LoL matches is that in PUBG, winning is rare (or impossible in some cases…), so when people do win, that alone is a highlight and makes playing ‘worth it’, and it’s also why the ladder is an afterthought. A better ladder would be nice, but it wouldn’t honestly add all that much to the game. In LoL, you win about 50% of the time, so the victory screen itself isn’t that special. In LoL, it’s winning more often than not and climbing the ladder that most players focus on, which is why a working ranking system is so important.

PS: I do find it incredibly comical that Gevlon, in his own post, includes a screen shot of a player he thinks plays like him. The player is ranked #2, but has only 80 games played, 14 of which he has won, along with a K/D ratio of 1.5. The guy with hundreds of games and zero wins is basically the same as the guy with a respectable K/D ratio and a 17% win rate (which is very high for PUBG) in the mind of Gevlon. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Posted in beta, Blogroll, Random, Rant | 28 Comments