Season Passes are the new hotness, and I’m OK with that

I’ve always been a fan of the subscription model vs cash shops in games. Back in the day this conversation was limited to MMOs, but today basically everything uses some hybrid model, either starting with F2P or a box+shop/dlc. It’s not all bad, or good, but either way its just the way things are now. Rare is the game where you pay once, get everything, and that’s it, as was the case not that long ago.

Payment models have been evolving in recent years too. We started with just subs for games like UO and EQ1. Then F2P came along with cash shops. Now we having mega-titles like PUBG, which has a box cost and a cash shop, and recently a season pass. Most recently, Clash of Clans has announced season passes are coming in April.

A season pass is somewhat like a return to subscriptions, only that if you don’t pay, you don’t loss total access to the game, you just don’t get the additional content on offer. It’s a better solution for players, so long as enough people buy the pass, and the pass doesn’t have to include Pay4Power items in order to sell. So far I’m not away of a game selling a pass that is P4P, but maybe I missed something, and I’m sure at some point someone will do exactly that with a game that is struggling.

Overall I like season passes. You know what you are signing up for, the cost is usually reasonable, and I’d rather support the developers that way than through a more in-your-face cash shop. The pass also removes the feeling of being nickel and dimed like a cash shop does, which may be a purely psychological thing, but FEELING good about a game is an important factor in your overall enjoyment.

I bought the first PUBG season pass when I was playing that game more actively. I’ll be buying the first CoC season pass because I am actively playing that game. Going forward, if a game I’m heavily playing offers a pass, I’m likely to give it a shot. I’d do that today for League of Legends, for example.

For those who might argue against season passes becoming popular, its important to answer the question “how else do you want the devs to get money?” Because they need to be paid, one way or the other. Hunting whales is bad business all around IMO, and there is simply too much money being left on the table with just selling a box. As already mentioned, I find almost all cash shops obnoxious and something that detracts from the game, so I’m not in favor of those. Even the more traditional MMO sub model wouldn’t work for most games. So out of all current options, I like season passes most.

Posted in Clash of Clans, League of Legends, PUBG, Rant, RMT | 9 Comments

Epic Game Store exclusives I actually care about

In addition to more favorable rates for developers, a big differentiator from Steam for the Epic Games Store is exclusives. Exclusives overall annoy me because I don’t want more Steam-clones to browse, just like I don’t want more Netflix clones popping up forcing me to search multiple services for the movie/show I want to watch (in addition to the cost increase).

I get why Epic would go that route to try and build up their store, at least on a surface level. Someone who really wants a game, and its exclusive to your platform, will come to you. Where I think this backfires is in all the people you turn away, or at least anger, because you are ‘forcing’ them to miss out on a game or come to your store. Whether the strategy is the right one will ultimately come down to whether an exclusive gets you more customers, or more anger.

So far, I’d say the scales are tipping towards anger, and that anger is rising as more games are announces as exclusives. Up until now the exclusives weren’t of interest to me, but I did have my eye on Phoenix Point, and I’m very, very interested in Obsidian’s Outer Worlds. Both those titles will now debut in the Epic store, and come to Steam a year later.

Today, I’m leaning towards just waiting that year. There are so many gaming choices that I don’t NEED another title, and a game a year after release is going to be more polished, with some likely DLC included. Plus odds are good it will be cheaper. And specifically for a game like Outer Worlds, much like previous Fallout titles, the release version is likely a buggy mess with a lot of broken or incomplete functionality. Fallout 4 I enjoyed at release, but a year after release the game was a significantly better experience.

Posted in Mass Media, Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 9 Comments

A game about watching paint dry would sell more copies

I’m going to add another log to the fire that is “Polygon has an article about an indie dev talking about how hard it is to be an indie dev”. I wrote a post about this back in Oct of 2018, with the ‘problem’ back then being too many games on Steam. Today, the problem is… that and a bunch of other stuff. (Spoiler: making a good game for an audience large enough to support you isn’t on the list of problems, shocker I know).

Immediately what jumps out at me with this article is the game it’s focused around, HypnoSpace Outlaw. Who in the actual fuck wants to play a game that simulates the shitshow that was the Internet during the Geocities days? If that group is larger than five people I’ll… continue going about my day, but a bit more surprised. Plus the game can’t even trick you into thinking its something else, because it also LOOKS like Geocities back in the 90s, and that’s absolutely not a compliment to their art style. I could sue Polygon for giving me eye cancer just from the opening header of that article.

And look, if you just want to spend time working on a pet project for yourself, that’s one thing. Go nuts. But to make said pet project, for what is likely an audience of one, and then go on and on about how difficult it is to make money being a game dev? GTFO.

I’m not going to rehash my post about this that is linked above, and I don’t think much has changed since that time either. Did Valve maybe change the algorithm in the discovery queue? Sure. But just like Google changing their algorithm and that impacting blog traffic, at the end of the day if I write interesting posts at a frequent pace (been failing hard at that for a long time now), I’ll get traffic. And more importantly, the traffic I get (or eyeballs on Steam for games) will be people actually interested in what I do/write and likely to come back (buy your game) if the quality of the product is high. Visibility isn’t going to help much if quality is low, either for this blog or your indie game.

The thing that always rings most hollow to me here is that right now, in 2019, we are in the best age for gaming. The best quality games, the best distribution model, and the most variety in not only gaming options, but business models as well. And that’s for both consumers and devs.

Posted in Mass Media, Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 10 Comments

A return to Pillars of Eternity 2

I’ve been playing some Pillars of Eternity 2 again, prompted by the recent addition of turn-based battle mode. Funny enough, I’m not actually playing using that mode, because while it’s a mode I normally enjoy in games, it just doesn’t quiet work for me in PoE2.

The big problem is it slows the game down to a crawl. Every battle takes 10x as long, and while that’s maybe ok for the major battles, it makes the more mundane battles simply too long. PoE2 is already 60+ hours in length, and that’s with skipping a large chunk of the side content, so drastically increasing the playtime via combat is just not something I can sign up for.

The shame in this is that in turn-based mode, you really notice more of the nuance in the combat, plus you get to actually watch all of the animations without worrying you are missing something else happening. And those animations are pretty cool, plus watching the impact different abilities and spells have lets you really understand what is going on in a way that real-time just does not.

I would love if Obsidian released a game build from the ground up using turn-based combat, because I think they would nail it and it would be a ton of fun. I know their next game is a ‘true’ Fallout-like FPS RPG, but maybe after that?

Combat mode aside, PoE2 is really an excellent game, and has a scary amount of content. I’ve previously beat the game, and this second run has, so far, played out completely differently. Yes the one main quest line is somewhat linear (though what character you make and the choices you make during that quest line changes things a bit), and the small one-off quests don’t have much variety, but many of the larger side quests and especially the factions can be approached from many different directions. I’m having a blast, and really looking forward to exploring the three DLC content pieces that have since come out.

Posted in Random

Working ranked systems keep you at a 50% winrate

I’ve written in the past about climbing the ranks in League of Legends, and how ELO hell is both a myth and a reality. What that post didn’t really talk about is win rates, and how any game with a working ranking system is going to play out.

Let’s start with a myth that has been making the gaming circles since basically the invention of ranked play; that game X was designed to keep everyone at 50% winrate, to keep everyone happy. At basically every level, that… doesn’t make sense. For starters, losing half the time isn’t going to make those sensitive to losing happy. Second, winning only half your games isn’t going to make those who are higher skilled happy, as they would easily notice ‘the game’ holding them back.

If in LoL I smash my opponent in the laning phase, but in half my games the other lanes hard-fed, I’m going to notice something is up. Any normal player would notice that the other members of his team don’t understand the game as well as the enemy team for objectives, team fights, and other later-game situations. It’s just a very easy thing to spot if you understand the game, and the fact that you don’t most of the time, and especially the fact that smurfs stand out so much, is proof of that.

Which doesn’t mean that games with a working ranked system don’t gravitate players towards a 50% win rate; of course they do. Once you reach your appropriate skill level, and if nothing changes, you SHOULD win half your game and lose the others. That’s basically the definition of a working ranked system. Devs don’t need to rig a system to keep people around 50%, the system does that by itself.

Additionally, we have plenty of evidence, from smurfs with 60%+ winrates to people dropping down via sub-50% winrates, that the system isn’t hardcoded, but rather its just difficult to make progress quickly. Slow progress frustrates the average person, and for some that frustration manifests itself into rage and silly conspiracy theories.

What also really plays into this is what the linked post above got into; the fact that most people aren’t realistic with their personal skill level, and think they are better than they actually are. It’s why people almost always blame their team for a loss, and rarely acknowledge their own play influenced the result. Same goes for people not understanding that while a 55% win rate is really good, it still results in a lot of losses, and a slow climb up the ranks.

Posted in Combat Systems, League of Legends, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Top AI beats SC pros, who else could it beat?

Bit of interesting news in the world of gaming from a while back; an AI beat a couple top StarCraft 2 players. Here is a link to get you started, but if you dig deeper there is a lot more context on how it happened, and how the AI evolved.

The main reason why the AI won, however, is that it was able to perform more action-per-minute (APM) than even a pro human player is capable of, and because of this, it was able to heavily out-macro during battles and win. Part of why this happened is that because in a game like Starcraft, the ‘strategy’ part isn’t nearly as deep or complex as the macro part, at least at the top end. Even a decent player will know the right build order, the right way to scout, and the right counters to what they see. Games at that level come down to who clicks better/faster when a battle breaks out, and its here that the AI was simply inhuman.

Which isn’t to downplay the accomplishments of the AI, it’s still impressive (and scary in a very Terminator-like way), but does raise the question about which games an AI could win at today, and which games I don’t believe it could. For starters, obviously an AI would dominate in a FPS, which is why aimbot hacks are banned in the first place. A slow, but zero RNG game like Chess is also one where an AI will win; it can simply calculate every possible combination, and always pick the best one (that Chess has a lot of said combinations is just a temporary issue, not a hard barrier).

I’d be very curious to see how such an AI would do in a game like League of Legends however. On the one hand, it would be very, very strong in things like perfect timing on last hits, and perfect coordination of skill usage and cooldown management. On the other hand, top players are already near-perfect at last hitting, and not that far off in CD management. But what makes LoL much different from SC is that LoL is less about APM, and more about situational decision making. How a team fight happens, and what happens in it, is a lot more chaotic than a SC battle, as there is simply more ‘stuff’ involved (more unique abilities, item builds, positioning, etc). I’m not saying the AI would lose, but I think it would certainly struggle more than in a game like SC.

I think the AI would get crushed in a game like Civilization. It would have zero APM advantage, but its calculating power like in chess would also be more limited as Civ has a lot of RNG in it, and how you react to that RNG is what really makes someone at great player. It’s also why in LoL when you face the in-game AI its decent, while the in-game AI in Civ has to get massive hard-coded bonuses to challenge a decent player, and even then by the mid/late game the AI is still pretty bad/dumb.

Fun topic to think about IMO, and one that I’m sure will evolve as AI development improves.

Posted in League of Legends, Mass Media, Random, StarCraft Online | 12 Comments

Potential return to Life is Feudal MMO?

Quick note: We might be heading back to Life is Feudal MMO. The game recently released a major update, which among other things includes a new massive map (everyone on basically one ‘server’ ala EVE), offline training (EVE), vulnerability windows for holdings (EVE), some new PvE content, and a bunch of other changes.

I don’t know how this return will look honestly. I personally have a LOT less time right now, as I can’t semi-afk play during the day while working from home. That said, our core knows the base game, so we don’t need as much initial time to invest to make progress. Also I think our goals will be simpler; we want to see the new content, progress through the game again, and see what happens. Ideally we align with another, larger guild, and get PvP content via them.

This isn’t an official announcement of our return, but more of a heads up and to again judge interest from former players and potentially new readers. What I can say is that I like a lot of the changes they had made to the game (on paper), and the base game itself was fun with a ton of potential. Maybe some of that potential is finally being realized?

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Life is Feudal, MMO design, Uncategorized | 6 Comments