Author Archive: Isey

Anything You Can Do : Warframe

If you haven’t played Warframe (at all or recently) here is a two minute non-commentated clip of an assassination mission I completed this morning to give you an idea of the gameplay. I am using the Frost Prime warframe (free with Twitch Prime! Even better is that it is free with a Twitch Prime *trial account! Which is how I got it. I am using the starter bow as my primary weapon (I like it because it’s silent, which allows for stealthy play around the map) a giant Axe as my melee, and a sidearm as my secondary.

That is the base model (colors and everything) but the only addition is that kickass cape, which I colored myself when I put it on. You’ll notice a few fun things:

  • Enemies try to run to set the alarms a few times, which I am able to stop them from doing (you can do a hack minigame to turn them off. The alarms increase number and frequency of enemies)
  • The beautiful of two bow moves which makes the gunplay incredible – one when I am running away and shooting over my shoulder, and the second when I zoom in, floating down, Legolas style and kill a baddie.
  • I used two of my four abilities in here (and both not well) – first is “freezing” an enemy, and second is sending frozen spikes in a straight line that kills anything it hits (I hit nothing).
  • You can jump, climb, slide, etc – just move over any part of the map. It’s parkour all the way.
  • The little guy (Taxon I think?) is my companion who loots for me (all items within X range), and I have outfitted him with a gun which freezes enemies. He also steals shields from enemies and transfers them to me.
  • Maps are randomly generated, and are varied and well put together. It’s impressive.

There is a taste of the gameplay, of which I wasn’t doing particularly great, but should give you an idea of the style of the game. I was sliding too much. (Bullet jump – the forward moving barrel roll –  is jump+slide buttons together.)

I wanted to show you that before describing the game to give you some background and flavor of style and game substance. Steam says I have put in 25 hours into the game but Warframe says I am at ten and a half – assuming WF is correct here.

It does so much, so much better than Destiny 2 and outside of the FPS vs TPS difference (a biggie, granted) I can now see why people wish Destiny 2 had adopted much of what is good in Warframe. Which is most of it. Caution here is the first 10 hours “new car smell” of it all but I can’t stop playing right now.

The Good:

  • More unique content than I can imagine consuming at this point
  • Playstyle for everyone – over 30 Warframes with different skills and powersets, and hundreds of weapons
  • No barriers to progression in early game – haven’t seen the need to spend money outside of wanting to reward the developers (but, not sure of a good way to do that either!) Feels like F2P done well
  • Personaliztion to the nth degree – colors, addons, weapons, frames, ships, companions – you name it
  • Co-Op Matchmaking for all gameplay and game styles
  • Deep and interesting systems
  • Tight shooting and fighting gameplay
  • Movement. Wow, The Movement.
  • Codex in game
  • You get your  home home base, your ship (which can also be fully personalized)
  • Helpful community in game and on Reddit.
  • Fun, Interesting and varied mission types

The Bad:

  • Story campaign is drip fed. I am still confused on what is going on
  • Codex is gated behind in game scanning. Which is cumbersome and challenging.
  • Third Person only
  • Systems do not interlink effectively or efficiently, and are confusing at first (and persistently so sometimes)
  • Co-Op “rush” mentality
  • New Player Experience needs fixing / updating
  • Biggest new update does not apply/ not effective for new players
  • Art style is love / hate

Unique Content: Good

I am not going to write a paragraph about each thing (today) but going to touch them over a series of posts. First off the universe is gated by jumpgates and repeatable missions. In Destiny 2 they gave you a handful of planets but took away the original handful from Destiny 1. Here is the solar system map in Warframe, through my ship’s Navigation system (pictures taken with my starter Warframe, the Volt, which I personalized to be blue).

When you zoom in a bit it shows how they are connected and gives you an idea of the number of missions available on that planet.

And of course, further zooming in shows how the missions on each planet are connected.

You aren’t going to run out of anything to do in the short term. Each of those planets and missions are very different, and procedurally generated so if you are running them for the second, tenth, or twentieth time at least there is some variation.  You can see with the blue lights the missions I haven’t completed yet. The mission types I have participated in so far include (and I don’t know if I have done them all yet):

  • Assassinate: Kill a high priority target
  • Terminate: kill X number of bad guys
  • Defend: Protect an item at a specific spot for X waves of enemies
  • Mobile Defence: Carry a hack terminal to three different spots in the map, and defend it while it downloads information
  • Spy: Steal data – if you get seen near the hack terminals and alarms get set, the data will get destroyed so have to be stealthy
  • Rescue: Save a hostage(s). Fun part is after you release them from their cell, you can give them your secondary weapon to help fight. You have to be stealthy in the first part (setting them free, or they could be exterminated) and then escort them out of the area safely in the second part
  • Sabotage: Destroy strategic objectives within a map
  • Interception: Capture and hold control points on a map
  • Survival: Be a distraction so a fellow Warframe can run a mission. Set off the alarm and survive for X minutes.

And I think there are more, but those are the ones I have tried.  There are also there “bad guys” at this point – the Grineer, the Corpus, and the Infested, so each of them have their own style and substance to those missions.

Story Clarity: Bad

Remember those factions I mentioned just a couple lines ago? I don’t quite understand why I am killing them all. In fact, I don’t even understand why I exist at all. I know my ‘handler’ The Lotus, who gives me my missions calls me a Tenno. I know she somehow rescued me from Vor and the Grineer who were trying to capture me. I don;t even know what I am! Am I a person inside the suit? Human? Or am I a robot? When I change suits (are they suits?) do I leave one and jump in the other, or is my programming sent over, OR am I some sort of ghost /soul that floats between constructs to do the bidding of the mysterious Lotus? Who am I fighting for?

By paying attention to what I have found IN game I know the Grineer (who freed me to try and use me for their own desires) are dying out because so much cloning has made their DNA fragile and unintelligent, and that they had planned to use me to rebuild themselves. Or something like that. But I don’t know what year it is, (IS THIS TRUMPS AMERICA IN 2025?) or what/who I am, or how I got here. The Corpus, the second enemies I ran into use more robots and look different but I still don’t know why I am killing them either, or what their society looks like, and how they got to where they are.

The infested, on the other hand, I have sorted out through in game means that they were a weapon that the Corpus were testing on and of course they got out. There were some in game mentions that the infested lived long ago but were thought to have been defeated – eliminated, but these mentions and findings in missions are often during periods of hectic fighting and survival and I don’t always absorb all the information fully.

The Codex: Good AND Bad

Big points for having a Codex in game. Big negatives for not having story elements in baseline. All the questions I have about the Story Clarity in my previous paragraph should be solved through the Codex. It still might be. There is a lot of base information available immediately – all the weapons and Warframes – but the things in the world have to be scanned by you.

You can buy a limited charged scanner from the marketplace for in game dollars (and cheaply) but this isn’t explicitly instructed and I had to sort that out on my own. Add to that, how difficult it is to scan in game (you can’t be interrupted, and its hard to be in a non-combat state) so things are not fleshed out. In 2 of 20 possible scans of a single Grineer Fronteir Lancer (They have more than a dozen Grineer enemy types that I have seen so far – maybe far more) I get little information. I want background info, not stats. 18 more scans to find out!

In the first bit of P2WL (Pay to Win – Lore) I saw in the Codex for companions that instead of my companion that steals shields and loots for me, there is one that automatically scans codex entries. You have to pay real money for it (sadly) or find the Prime blueprints (very rare) via in game activities. I have luckily found 1 of 4 components for that particular companion but also have 1 of 4 components for a dozen other items too. It’s not looking good from a lore / story Codex particulars. And I think when you are trying to build context in a world and game that this part should be especially accessible. I am hoping the story becomes more clear and obvious as I unlock new planets – long time readers here know how much I appreciate stories in games. I have really trashed Destiny 2 for this, but that was because they doubled down on a terrible story/premise. I liked it better when there was benefit of the doubt, of which, the story of Warframe still has.

From a pure game perspective it is incredibly fun to navigate through a map, shoot bad guys, find items, and complete objectives – all the while leveling up your items and frames, customizing skills and abilities, and exploring new planets. All items that I will discuss in future articles.

Go the Way of the Dodo : Single Player

Andromeda has been my favorite game this year. I love long, single player rpgs in expansive universes where my decisions impact the gameplay.  While I understand some of the arguments against Andromeda and the ambitions it tried to live up to – as a standalone product it probably would have been better received. Either way – it is sadly mothballed, we will never learned what happened to the Quarians (or any species in that universe) and a huge chunk of alternate gaming realities (the Mass Effect universe) is now, quintessentially, extinct.

And now the Star Wars RPG project is also as EA shuts it down.

Electronic Arts announced yesterday that it is refocusing the Star Wars project that had been in development at Visceral Games, an unannounced action-adventure title with a linear story campaign. EA Vancouver is taking over with a new direction, assisted by other EA studios, while EA is shuttering Visceral Games entirely and looking to shift the studio’s developers elsewhere inside the company.

It’s a sad day for single player game fans who have had a slew of Star Wars titles to enjoy in this manner. Heck, the original Knights of the Old Republic is what put Bioware on the map to begin with.  Of course, I am not really surprised.

Patrick Söderlund described the industry as “evolving faster and more dramatically than ever before,” and pointed to market trends as part of EA’s reasoning.

That is executive speak for we can’t sell loot boxes in single player games“.  

This breaks my heart. We are abandoning narrative for repetitive. Choice for chance. Immersion for twitch streaming capability. Destiny 2, Battlefront 2, Anthem, Overwatch… Its all about the crates. It’s far easier to create repeatable content than meaningful content and more profitable to heavily monetize a small world than to abandon a large piece of one when you move past the narrative. I do get that.

I am just hoping that this is just the new trend, and there will be future market demands for expansive RPGs – hoping Dragon Age, Red Dead Redemption 2 or some other game can hit it out of the park and get other studios back interested in the single player narrative. My worst fear is that they will somehow add a loot crate mechanic to those games. I was very much looking forward to exploring the Star Wars Universe through a personal story lens, as it remains one of my favorite worlds to fantasize about being a part of since childhood.  Very disappointed but not entirely surprised.

No Satisfaction : Destiny 2

Media is reporting that Destiny 2 physical sales are down 50% during this period over the 2014 Destiny 1 release. While not a big surprise as consumers shift away from boxes, analysts hit Activision pretty hard.

“The launch month of Destiny 2 was well short of the original iteration by a material amount,” Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson wrote in a note to clients Friday, citing the NPD data.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter also called the “Destiny 2” sales “underwhelming” in a Friday report.

Pachter added the September NPD “Destiny 2” sales data missed his forecast for the game by 37 percent.

I take no joy in this, but am also somewhat okay with the fact that (if reported correctly) the market is voting with their wallets.

I still believe that Destiny 2 is what happens when you try to launch a big game with as small of a budget as possible. I do believe, since the game is really just a reskin of the first, that it will be Activision’s most profitable game – maybe ever. So little work went into Destiny 2 as a sequel that an expansion team probably built it. So, while the market and analysts may be giving Destiny 2 a hard time I am sure Kotick and company are laughing in the background because they are still going to make billions off of a game they put little effort into improving.

Activision didn’t even really help matters by not gushing over the sales volume of Destiny 2, back like it did for Destiny 1.

Activision Blizzard on September 15 announced Destiny 2 sales “surpassed the original’s records for engagement and digital sales in launch week.” However the company did not reveal a total sales number for “Destiny 2” inclusive of physical retail store sales in contrast to the “more than $325 million” first week press release for original title in 2014.

When you stop bragging about things it’s normally because you have nothing to brag about (cue World of Warcraft subscription numbers). Then again, they may be waiting for the PC release. This too will be skewed information since you can buy Destiny 2 with WoW tokens now. Either way the game has earned it’s negative press. I am nearing max light and I haven’t seen a raid or a nightfall strike. I wait until Tuesday (reset), get my 3 powerful engrams – one of which by doing an activity I hate (Crucible) get a few light levels and abandon the game for the rest of the week. There is nothing there for the 84% of the player base (on PS4) that hasn’t completed the raid.

Outside of the terrible story and the recycled enemies, weapons,and classes the ‘true emperor has no clothes’ moment for me came this week when I was playing and I realized that they didn’t fix the AI. Destiny (1 and 2) had two quirks with it’s AI that I always thought was completely lazy (noticing a theme here?). First, let’s revisit when I called them out on crappy AI in 2014:

The AI is some of the worst I have seen in modern day FPSs (to be fair, I am comparing PC FPS AI – I don’t have a console experience equivalent). At best it is the same as FPS games i have played in the last decade. This was an opportunity to really step up the genre not be the status quo. I was fighting through the final Moon “task” mode last night and there was a room that was hard to complete – I started retreating backwards and I hit an invisible line on the ground that soon as I passed, the mobs stopped attacking and turned around. I could still shoot them. Step forward, they turn around and charge. One step back, they turn their backs to me and walk away, I shoot them. Rinse repeat.

I had not experienced this in Destiny 2 but I found it once again while questing for my Midi Multi tool. Swarms of thralls start rushing me and I think I am going to die. I am backpedaling, pull out my shotgun, grenade is on cooldown, Super is not charged – this is going to be a tense moment and I am probably going to bite it but maybe, just maybe I can pull it off! Continue backpedaling while shooting, health is at 5%, 10-15 enemies are on me AND – they stop and run away. I crossed a line on the ground that made them disengage. Step forward, they stop running away and charge again! Step back one step and they run away again. You can trivialize encounters this way. I did.

It’s the exact same game, kids.

Add to the bad AI is that when you die enemies continue to shoot at your “ghost” / body.  You are dead. Enemies keep shooting you. There is no AI trigger to stop shooting the dead guy and focus on the other, live players in the room.

There re many other games to play and Destiny 2 will be out of the spotlight until the next DLC which I (now regrettably) pre-bought  with high expectations they would improve the game. I will probably complain at that time (rightly so) that the DLC content should have been in at launch since there is so little content to do currently. My guess is that the DLC is already done and they are just waiting for the right lull in interest to fire it up to get back to media sites and good press about the amazing “new” content they have provided.

And yet I play my hour or two each week waiting and hoping the game will somehow just get better. That makes me almost as – or just as – bad as them.

W(TF)arframe

When googling “games like Destiny” one game pops up frequently. I google that phrase quite a bit as I hope and fantasize about another gaming company building a game like Destiny but addressing the shortfalls and applying a bit more effort. The game that pops up frequently is Warframe. Warframe is a free to play third person loot-shooter. It is very different from Destiny in terms of the third person part, and that from what I understand the missions have a tileset, random map function to keep things interesting. Their tagline is also “Ninjas play free”. I am not a Ninja but still was able to play free! When googling and reading about Warframe I kept coming back to one, consistent thought.

“What the F*ck?”

So of course, to all the better answer that, I logged in.

I think the best way to describe Warframe from a Destiny 1 or 2 perspective is that it would be just like it if you only played using your super ability the whole time. It actually works okay (although I wish there was a first person mode). The story is very confusing at first. You are awoken as a “Tenno” by a bad dude (VOR) who is trying to use you for his / his team’s power, of uniting the universe under a single rule. Some emperor or Queen.  The Lotus is a person/group that wants to free you to do what you do best – going against tyranny and oppressive rule. Or something like that. The introductory mission does a good job of teaching you your abilities, and the focus the game has on movement, but not so good and explaining the bigger lore and story of the universe.

The art style is very unique, futuristic and interesting. After the first mission I googled the Warframe story and what I did find was that it is actually reviewed as pretty good, and spoiler warnings were that the story style of the game is meant to be confusing – you were just awoken, and as you play through the game things will be explained to you more. I didn’t read past the spoilers since I am a big sucker for a good story and will explore it in game. I ran three or four missions and it acts as a tutorial of sorts. The fighting is slick, the weapon options are varied, and I’m sorting things out. Although, to be honest, I am still very much confused at this early stage but definitely intrigued enough to keep going. Free to play, after all.

The game makes you make three choices early on. First is your base Warframe – the name of the game. There are three options and it explains each a bit in game which I will let you discover for yourself. I chose Volt, pictured above, which has a caster like electric shock ability. Through out the first mission you also have to choose a melee weapon (Bo staff or Sword, I chose Bo staff) a secondary weapon (throwing knives or pistol, I chose pistol) and a main weapon (bow and arrow or machine gun, I chose the bow). When you finish the first  mission you get your own space ship, which is your base. I like having a cool home base. Of course the various parts aren’t working or are missing so the next few missions you are upgrading core components. The first is the module to upgrade and outfit your gear. The second is the galactic marketplace. I didn’t spend much time at either. Each of these core component discoveries continues the tutorial aspect of what you can do and how you can do it, while also keeping an underlying story going (Vor attached some things to us, that we can’t get off, that gives him access to our mind a bit.. so assuming we have to sort out how to free ourselves from that at some point.)

Then, I find the holy grail in my ship. A Codex. The Codex has a listing of all the available Warframes as well as details about factions, the universe, weapons (Etc.). I spent an hour exploring and reading here. Delicious background information.

There are a TON of frames. How to get them I have no clue yet and I don;t even know what they are – suits I go in? Am I a person?  These things have not yet been revealed to me and I am playing and learning in this game with a lot of enthusiastic confusion.  The Codex, however, has mission recaps (the first picture in this post was from that) and tons of information. Most exciting for me was that there are stories sprinkled throughout. Check out the Codex on the Mag Prime Warframe that I aptly nicknamed “The Geth”:

Warframe Archive – Debrief excerpt

We sat strapped in, safeties off, waiting for the punch. Waiting for death. Through my filthy porthole I saw stars among the outlines of the other Splinter ships queuing for the Solar Rail. It would soon grip us with an incomprehensible power and cast us through the void into the mouth of our enemy.

I watched the ships one-by-one bending and gone. Each crammed with zero-tech soldiers sucking stale air, white knuckling their percussion rifles. Each filled with a desperation that comes from extinction. Our ship would be the last to cross the gap. Our ship had special cargo.

It was essentially empty. Just ten men, like me, strapped in with the best zero-tech suits and weapons the empire could build… and “it”. “It” stood in the aisle, a slender and eyeless metal form. A Tenno inside its Warframe. Vaguely human, vaguely feminine. Was this armor or some ornate carapace for the monster that lived inside? I strained against the harness as the ship yawed for final approach. I could see the Tenno standing there freely. Solemn and gold-gleaming, oblivious to the inertial force.

I had been, until then, a Tenno denier. They were ghosts, propaganda, twisted casualties of the void era. Not possibly real. Yet here it was in the flesh. The Empire, in their desperation, was going to turn the demons loose and hope for the best. Who did we fear more, the enemy or this monster? We had our safeties off, could we trust it? Then it didn’t matter anymore. The punch came – and our windows became blinding. When we could see again our ship was somewhere else, shattered and dead in an instant.

My lungs were flattened, eyes full of death. Ship debris glittered like a night snow. The alien blue star was dark and blinding beyond us. The countless articulating worm-ships of our enemy, ringed in glowing discs, undulating and heat-bursting the surviving soldiers like me. This is where I died. I was in R-disc, sweeping over my right and setting my blood on fire. My vision flattened, the hearing muffled and buzzed. I could feel the side of my face going slack and wet.

I was in a dying dream. I saw a bright spot blurring and weaving toward me. I felt a tug toward it from the metal clasps on my suit. It reached me, rising up – a gleaming beast, a plume of golden wings rising and unfolding behind it. An angel. It snatched me from my death. I could feel my lungs fill as it wrapped me in its wings. Its Void Shield shimmered blue, strained under the enemy beams. I felt a suddenly tug of acceleration. I closed my eyes and held on it like a child.

I awoke on the floor, the sting of crisping flesh on my face and side. It was standing over me, the wings gone. I heard the cracking of weapons echoing down the corridor. Maybe the mission would be saved, but I was dying and so I waved my hand to send it away. I felt a pistol thrust in my hand as I was heaved to my feet. The angel had saved me, pulled me from hell, but it would not pity me. I was to die on my feet, by its side. I turned my good side toward the gunfire and raised the gun. It nodded, its outstretched metal hand surging and pulsing in ancient shapes as blue shimmered around me. It turned, drawing its blade and together we surged headlong into the hailstorm of death and fire that awaited us.

Ok. Still very confused, but also very hooked, lined, and sinker-ed. I do find it interesting that the suits themselves have male/female forms and I am assuming at some point I will be able to jump in between them as I want.

What is Warframe? So far it is fun and I have barely scratched the surface. Whether or not it has staying power for me as a standalone game, or Destiny 2 replacement, remains to be seen. Definitely worth exploring more. The game has been around since 2013, has a ton of contents and updates (all free), and has a huge new open world expansion dropping very soon. I’ll report more back as I play and hopefully there is a lot of war-splaining to come during that exploration.

Blade Runner 2049 – Commentary

Heads up, there will be some spoilers here, so I am going to insert a nice big graphic about Blade Runner that I stole from the internet, and then discuss openly. You have been warned. I don’t typically review movies – I leave that to the experts – because my general expertise and thoughts after I see a movie are two things. First, Did I like it? And secondly, How did it make me feel? I have trouble judging what a good acting performance looks like, progressive cinematic directorial erm.. shindigs? Shenanigans? See, I can’t even make up the right jargon! It’s like how I review wine on Vivino. I can never discern or discover the hints of jasmine undertones and juicy aromatics in a glass of wine. It’s red. It tastes good. It’s affordable. Although when I am really inspired I can explain that glass of wine on how I feel – recent reviews of Ports that I have enjoyed include:

“I went back to this one to see if my tastes have matured. Nope, still a 4. Could have guessed the maturity angle by realizing I still love superhero movies”

and

“Remember your first kiss? It was probably awkward and sweet. Remember your first French kiss? Yeah this Port is like that. More complex and exciting.”

OK. Time for spoiler territory and low-set expectations movie discussions.

First off – if you haven’t seen the original Blade Runner you will not understand most of what is good about this movie. This is not a reboot, or a vehicle to introduce new people to the world of Blade Runner. If you go without the prior knowledge you will be treated to a visual treat and three hours of what the f*ck is going on? I am in camp one. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I have watched it too many times. I have not watched it in 10 years, however, and coming into BR:2049 I was pulled back into that place of wonder – so mission accomplished. I think. I enjoyed every minute of the movie.

The picture above I chose very much on purpose. BR:2049 has a lot of social commentary that can apply to what is going on in the world right now but none so interesting and engaging (to me) as the relationship between Joi – a purchasable video AI companion and Officer K – our replicant Blade Runner.  This relationship is introduced early on when K returns home, wading through hundreds of human beings, to lock himself into his apartment. The AI quickly establishes that it has memory (“I am getting cabin fever”) and a sense of understanding that she loves K and is an important part of his life. Throughout the movie that relationship is deepened, challenged, and eventually, destroyed. This made me think deeply about if Joi ever did exist and if capable of thought – is she alive?

This is all thrown for a loop near the end when K interacts with the giant Joi billboard above – where pieces of what she used very personally to K presents itself in an advertisement to buy the AI that “tells you what you want to hear”. Was Joi capable of thought and connection with K, or was she just following a script as programmed? Throughout the movie the former was explored and seemed a sure thing but this moment cast that doubt. Which makes sense in a movie that was designed from front to back to question what it is to be human anyway. This made me think of our current social media and the interactions we share with people there. Are they true interactions? Are they meaningful? Is that possible through a digital lens?

Adding to my struggle with Joi and what she represented in the movie is that she looks like a woman I have had a crush on since high school, and who I only interact with via social media now (as friends). So it has a real world theme to me. (Defining crush here – we are both married and completely happy – but high school nostalgia is a thing, you know?) Seeing her reminded me of the young her and of course with my beer-goggle Ryan status (Reynolds, not Gosling – but hey, stretching! On both.) The scenes where they interacted had an emotional impact on me. It was very strange, uncomfortable and unnatural. Much like the K’s journey of changing from a robotic bounty hunter to unique being (replicant born, not created) to conceded pawn grasping at what it means to be human (via sacrifice).

And, if you haven’t seen the movie and still read this post anyway, not worried about spoilers, you are probably as confused as someone who didn’t see the first movie and walked into this one. And congratulations – what I just explained covers less than 10 minutes of screen time of the whopping 2 hours, 45 minutes. So plenty more to discover and be curious about. There are so many themes to explore and so much homage to the first all wrapped up in incredible visuals (with slight peaty undertones). Sorry about those last four words, confusing my next whiskey review with this one. They all feel the same.

I label this movie a must watch for fans of the first, and a must watch for science fiction fans who are willing to watch the first movie before seeing this one. It is time well spent.

Property Rights and Wrongs :

Longtime reader(s) of this blog will know that I have referenced the British based but globally inspired news magazine The Economist several times. I read it weekly. I enjoy it’s very neutral and open views on the world as a “liberal newspaper”. Quotations there because while they consider themselves liberal, I find them liberal on social issues yet conservative on fiscal issues (for the most part). The word liberal definitely means different things depending on what country you are in (in Canada, my home country, for example, the Liberal Party leader is a handsome, rich, spoiled kid – the very definitely of privilege (father was a former Prime Minister) –  who says the right things and takes amazing selfies yet isn’t so great at running a country – and the world adores him! Personally I think they should make him a mascot. He excels in the outward facing, ineffective role.). But those thoughts and terms and politicizing are for another day. I hope I didn’t make my fellow Canucks angry with the honesty.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect property rights in Canada (Constitutionally). There has been some debate on whether there is anything to be worried about there and that property rights protections may be covered elsewhere. I know – it’s hard to be tough on a document written and adopted by old people who had zero thought or idea on how the world would look today. Just look at our US neighbors and the battles they have over modern day constitutional rights compared to historical context on execution of such rights. IE: No person needs 40+ guns in a hotel room in the USA unless they plan on killing 50+ people and injuring 10x that amount in quick succession. BUT, the 1800’s law protects that guy who might be able to afford a single shot musket. Those are the same things, right?

Still off track. Let’s see, offended Canada for their PM-darlingism, and offended the 29% or so of hardcore Republican Americans for their guns above lives mindset (at least one, of which, reads this blog. Hi Mehlan! I still love you. And your country).. can I pick on the EU or the Middle East? North Korea? Wait – SO off track. That’s right. Property Rights.

The Economist had a nice article about Digital property rights. It’s a nice read. It basically covers the thought of how manufacturers are now licencing everything as services now instead of actual products so the buyer has less rights in the end. The good old days if I bought something I could do what I wanted with it, including reselling it. That of course has gone the way of the dodo bird in favor of paying for access, terms of service, and the like. This is moving from strict software platforms to even actual, hard goods. For example – did you know that if you own a Tesla you cannot use it to be employed by Uber? They explicitly restrict that specifically.  Could you imagine if every other car company said that? (Why haven’t they yet? It’s coming, soon. So then they can sell more taxi fleet vehicles..).

I’m tired today and uncharacteristically snarky about some things in the world, which we are supposed to just accept now as the way things are. They weren’t always that way, and don’t have to be.  Property rights in general are starting to give me concern and while it is very early in the changes to hard goods it doesn’t seem unrealistic that the world of business is moving further in the wrong direction there. A direction our beloved video games have lead the charge in and continue to constrict for their users and markets.

I might start reading more, and do a book blog instead. As long as it’s not a digital book, of which I would only own access to.

Third Party Markets – Destiny 2

In 2008 I argued that the best way to solve WoW’s third party gold selling problem was to sell gold themselves. They had lost the ability to control their own in game economy and the best way to fix that would be to crowd out the third party markets making it not worthwhile for the hackers and bots.  At that time, I didn’t even suggest to exchange that purchase for more in game time but I did suggest you support the buyer with a lower subscription fee. That would balance out the developer greed of inflating the in game economy further. While I did not envision the WoW token it was a problem that needed to be solved back then. And here we are, with it solved in WoW.

Destiny 2 is now also facing this problem. I have two of my character classes in the mid 270s and at this stage I can only improve my character by grinding super hard for the fraction of a chance for a fraction of an increase, join a clan and tackle very challenging end game content, or stop playing. I instead moved to my third character slot and have my Warlock in the mid 200s meaning I have another week of playing before parking my characters and waiting for DLC to arrive.  I have (and keep) mentioning how frustrating that is considering the way the market is and how a game like WoW realized how to engage the casual core by making content accessible. Destiny 2 opted against that for the weakest of reasons, that they were worried it would create ‘toxic’ behavior. Clearly, if WoW can have Mythic+10 PUGS not go toxic so could Destiny with a little bit of effort.

I keep making that argument because I am still not buying it. And instead of an average game with amazing mechanics I believe D2 could be an amazing game with amazing mechanics. A little bit of investment and effort would help that.

Of course, what Destiny 2 takes away from the casual player base is now being monetized by third parties.

Whether or not this marketplace would exist with accessible content is anyone’s guess s- but the truth is WoW gold selling websites now sell gold for more than Blizzard does – meaning the market shouldn’t exist, isn’t profitable, and has been successfully neutered. I don’t care enough about the game to invest on third party sites to see the content, but I do care enough about the game to wish they would do the right thing and provide that content to their customers. Only 11% of the player base has been in a raid. Their “guided games” feature will not improve that. It should be 80% – which they will never hit.

In my WoW RMT article linked at the top I admitted I bought gold. I was raiding hard and didn’t have the time to grind the gold to get the mats to build the things I needed to raid effectively. That is a work/play balance WoW had wrong back then.

Good games learn from mistakes (theirs and others) and it is not too late for Destiny 2 to add matchmaking to their more challenging content. The base content has ZERO challenge and I think they would be surprised at both the quality of their player base and their ability to play the game as intended with matchmaking.  They have specifically stated this will not happen but I hope with all the negative feedback they are getting on this issue they will reconsider – even if legacy content is added with new DLC or some way to get the players playing the game they paid for. There is not a reasonable argument to not have your game’s content easily accessible in a walk in the park game like Destiny 2, and it may even encourage and support in game RMT purchases.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say : Destiny 2

Then do a sh*t sandwich! For those who are not aware of what a sh*t sandwich is, it is a criticism sandwiched between two compliments. That way the entity on the receiving end hears something positive about them, then something negative, but ends on a high note with something positive again. It’s a way to make giving (and receiving) criticism – no matter how constructive or beneficial – more pallatable for both the receiver and the giver. A lot of businesses use this technique around employee review time.

I *do* have nice things to say about Destiny 2 – chiefly among them is that I am still playing despite the corners cut, excuses made on features that should/shouldn’t be in the game, and overall development laziness with the title. It fills a niche that nothing else does (please, someone – anyone – please?) and is fun to play. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t challenge the status quo and push for better. Because it could be so, so much better. In an effort to be more balanced to D2 I will do that galactic gaming version of the sh*t sandwich!

The Top Bread

The musical score in Destiny 2 is immersive and incredible. I am not a music “guy” per se – I often play my games on mute so I can be in the same room as my family as they watch TV / movies. This way I can still play games while still conversing and feeling like a part of the group – instead of tucked away in an office with a headset on. Sometimes I do put in one earbud on a quiet level to make sure i don’t miss in game cues to events or gameplay but for the most part I am completely happy playing my games in silence.  This is one of the rare cases for me that the game is far less immersive without the music. The score (that is the proper way to use the terminology, right?) captures the mood of the planets, the pace of whatever event you may be doing and just adds so much to gameplay. I know there are some blogs dedicated to music in games but it has not been a personal priority for me – Destiny 2 has done such a good job I am inclined to explore music in gaming further.

The Sh*t

(Don’t ask why I am self censoring on my texts while I let the GIF swear away. I mean, it’s not me, it’s the GIF! This is a family friendly blog!)

Lack of a group finder. Please, for the love of Cayde-6, extend your group finder to Nightfall Strikes and Raids, even if you have to make an “easier” version of each that rewards a bit less. This is 2017. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN! It was the most requested feature in 2014 and will continue to be so for the typical, casual, solo player who would like to enjoy all content. There is a reason why World of Warcraft continues to be the best at inclusivity (just ask them, and they will probably even show you how it’s done, since you are buddies with them!) and also reasons why games that exclude content for the “hardcore only” lose out in the end. Take some of the millions saved on your writers and voice actors and apply it to a LFG matchmaking mode. I know I have said this before but in the era of accessible gaming this does come down to laziness. If randoms can PUG Mythic +7 dungeons in Legion, randoms can PUG your raids. Don’t be that company.

The Bottom Slice

There is no lack of progression early and often and there is just so much to do that I am overwhelmed with content. I know this won’t last long, but my Titan is at 265, Hunter at 250, and Warlock isn’t even level 20 yet so I know that even without the opportunity to enjoy all parts of the game I will be able to enjoy some fully. I am nervous that when I hit that wall I have nothing to do but wait for DLC (which happened last time) but I am probably a week or two away from that  – meaning that if I got a full month out of the game that that is a fair expectation by today’s gaming “standards”. (I had well over 100 hours in ME:Andromeda, but that is a different story!) My complaints towards Destiny 2 is only because it could be so much better with just a little effort.

Just don’t eat the sandwich.

Lack of Trust with Loot Boxes : Part 2

I have previously discussed my lack of trust for loot box mechanics very recently. I will repeat the fact that I believe that they need a level of self-regulation before they face imposed regulation. This makes sense – consumers have a right to know the odds of what they are seeking versus what they are willing to gamble. Casinos are forced to do this and rightly so. This doesn’t stop people from gambling but at least gives transparency so people can make informed decisions. Every single gaming company currently selling loot boxes is running what amounts to an unfair mechanic. You have no clue if there is a fair chance for something good to drop, if it’s 10% or 1% – and you should. Everyone should. The reason for this makes sense too – it stops the seller of the services from cheating. Not only do you not know if you have a 10% chance or a 1% chance for that item from a loot box, it actually might be 0% or you have to hit a certain “spend” threshold because there is nothing stopping a company from making it those odds, in the desire to make profits. In fact it’s good corporate and shareholder governance.

Exhibit A of my ‘mistrust’ is Clash Royale. I enjoy that game. It’s fun. I have spent some money it and have justly rewarded the company for making a fun game. I think I have spent around $60 over the past couple of years on the game. I don’t even remember. (That is probably good for them that I don’t recall. It is probably more). Clash Royale has chests and opportunities to get cards you want out of those chests. I have spent weeks getting card donations for the “furnace” card (449 of 800, bottom right on the picture above). You get card donation requests every seven hours, meaning every day I get 1 to 8 cards from my Clan mates (due to the level of the card I can only receive so many). I have finally passed the halfway point on my way to 800 cards to upgrade it. Do the math on how long that will take. I can also get the same cards from chests randomly from playing. Yesterday, in the store, was this compelling offer:

Anyway – the lack of trust comes from the fact that I log in once or twice a day and request “free” cards from my clan mates. Miraculously, this pops up in my store in CoC: The store is suddenly selling the card that I have been chipping away at with chests that have a guaranteed drop (and maybe more!). Each chest would save me 4-26 days of in game time. 490 gems is around $5. so for $15 I can save 12 days to 3 months. Not a bad investment! There are a few ways of looking at this:

  • This was a random, scheduled event in the store, that everyone received. (This was the first time i have ever seen a chest like this, so even if it wasn’t targeted to me specifically then it is experimentation)
  • This was targeted to me since I have been requesting the cards repeatedly, and they are using their knowledge of my in game actions to encourage a commercial purchase
  • This was targeted to me since I have been requesting the cards repeatedly, and they are using their knowledge of my in game actions to allow me to progress at a faster pace if I want to. Basically, a nice “shopkeeper”.

Games are a business and I don’t have a problem with any three, but I hate not knowing why this offer came up at this specific time. I prefer a heavy dose of honesty – if this said “Hey, we can tell you have been trying to build this card up, here is an option for you to speed up that process!” I would like it better over that creepy feeling that I am being spied on (completely silly, I know). While ignorance may be bliss, enlightenment is highly underrated. Why this nags at me is that I have long encouraged computer companies to use what they know of us – the data they collect about us – to better engage us, reward loyalty, and act like normal kinds of businesses in treating different kinds of customers in different ways.  Using it in perhaps a sneaky manner to pry more money from our hands wasn’t what I had in mind.

Guess I am just old school in my commercialism – you buy something, it’s yours. You have it for life, it’s tangible, and you can resell it, use it, throw it out, heck, torch it by holding a lighter and a spray can of WD-40 for fun (sorry, GI JOES!) , or just cram it in a box to support latent hording. I am also somewhat understanding on traditional commercial behaviors of the constant sale to induce purchase, lost leaders, etc. as well. Because all of those typically have a tangible component and because everyone knows this is happening, it just doesn’t feel as sneaky.

How about you? Have you ever had a commercial opportunity in game jump out at you that just didn’t quite pass the smell test? Is that fair game for you or do you wish there was more transparency? Am I too old to be playing Clash Royale in the first place?

You don’t have to answer that last one. You can if you want to. I do believe that this is a post I will reference back to in a few years when North American governments enact legislation around loot boxes and gambling, and I will take full credit for it at that point. <note: sarcasm. mostly.>

Happy Monday!

Rant On : Fornite, Rant Off: Destiny 2

Rant On

The news that the Fortnite Battle Royale Mode – which currently does not have the capability for a revenue stream – is going completely free to play in 6 days is another head scratcher.

Read the release here. With a line about some PVE content that may or may not be coming, at some point.

Forget the fact that you have diverted away all of your paid for resources (PVE content) from your base game (PVE content) to crunch time develop a free PVP mode instead of supporting your paid for early access player base (PVE content). Forget all of that for just a second. (I can’t)

Would be an interesting idea to let everyone play the Free To Play (eventually) base game (PVE content) to make sure people have lots of other people to play with. There is also a revenue stream there in Llamas that could further build development budgets. But I get it – in order to that you would have to have a worthwhile to play game beyond the first city with compelling and immersive PVE content. Which, I am sure they will get to fixing and developing as soon as this side mode (PVP) is all fixed up and no longer a distraction.

Of course – to compensate for this change they are offering a refund! Well, a refund to anyone who bought the game to play Battle Royale between September 12th and September 19th. If you bought the game to support Early Access development of compelling PVE content you can’t have a refund. Even though they are abandoning ¹ that part of the game.

OK, I get it. the PVE part is done. Better to accept defeat and move on! Just say so. Admit it.

Bait and switch, losers.²

Rant Off

Destiny is not forgiven for failing to living up to my lofty expectations being awesome (or at least, much better) but it did give me some fun gameplay last night. I played through some Strikes (5 mans in MMOs are my most-favorit-ed thing, and I have always enjoyed them in Destiny as well) and also played some Crucible matches. The Crucible matchmaking wasn’t well done (4 randoms mish-mashed against a clan of 4, all of which had over 290 Light) but that was over quickly and painlessly anyway. They have a system to somewhat normalize the gear and levels – unfortunately you can’t do that to coordination of a clan team versus a rag tag crew. Premades only fighting premades is a good place to start.

The Strikes I did were fun, challenging, and introduced some old mechanics in new ways to keep it interesting. The story line is pushing into “so bad that it’s good” territory – cringe worthy cut scenes that are fun to laugh at and accept the ludicricy that anyone involved in the game would think it would be an engaging narrative. It’s the video game story equivalent of Sharknado. The acceptance here is that they are way too far down the path to actually fix the story now, and I need to prepare myself ³ for Sharknado 1 through 5 – the Destiny 2 version.  Is phase three acceptance? or is that something else? I found this flow chart to help me deal with that I will never get what I want from Destiny 2. It’s too late.

The Psychology of Disappointment

But, at least, I can still get some good. Which remains to be seen if that is possible with Fortnite. Their next PVE patch needs to be bigger and better than anything they have launched, and needs to outshine their new PVP mode – IF they hope to keep their PVE group (many of which feel like I do) which in the end may be the lesson they learned from their Early Access experiment – that their core game is too broken to fix.

______________________________________________________

Footnotes

¹ abandoning in actions, not words. So far.

² I am one of the losers. Fortnite is the first early access title I have ever regretted buying. And as a reminder, I bought Landmark.

³ I find the O button, ‘skip cut scene’, as the current  best solution

Destiny 2 – Not a Sequel, as Suspected.

I am not picking on Destiny 2 for the sake of it. I like the game. My disappointment rests on the fact that it has underachieved in my eyes as a true sequel and opportunity to move the game forward. This thought was further compounded by the seemingly light and lack of content in the game. “Four new planets!” you say. The truth is, each has very little in terms of content to begin with. Everyone who has played D2 a reasonable amount is already pushing up against the hard Light level cap, and are even trying to find ways to “game” the system to not feel like they are crushing their skull against it. Two weeks in.  My own experience has been they have given us these neat new planets, but very little story missions on each. The game also really feels like they channel you to these little narrow spaces (tightly on rails) and when you pull back the curtain the new areas feel really, really small. Back to the story missions – I remembered how much time and enjoyment I had with the Taken King expansion in Destiny so I used that as a comparative.

Destiny 2 comes with 16 story missions in the main campaign.

The Taken King expansion had 31. That is not a typo.

You might argue on varied length, etc. I haven’t gone back through to time them all, but there was definitely more content in TTK.

Destiny 2 has two strikes to start off their new “sequel”. One of which is a PlayStation exclusive. So, technically, it launched with a single strike.

The Taken King (again an expansion) has five. FIVE.

I think what Destiny 2, Bungie, and Blizzard has pulled off here is amazing. They built a sequel by recycling 90% all enemy assets, some minor visual and gameplay tweaks, hired a high school writer and AV club to do the voice acting for the cut-scenes (my apologies to High School AV clubs – you deserve better!). In terms of dedicated budget this expansion had to have been minimal investment (based off of what we got) – and with the huge sales it may be one of the industry’s largest returns in 2017. So from a business perspective, it’s brilliant. What will be even more brilliant <sarcasm alert> is that the next two DLCs (which many pre-bought) will probably bring the total content up to what a real launch of a real new game – especially an IP as deserving of Destiny – should be. It’s really frustrating and depressing when you look at it through that lens. Worse yet, the DLC might actually have more content than what is available in D2 now. It should, unless they are skimming on that also.

Heck, User scores on Metacritic [5.9] (which I am not a huge fan of to begin with) are approaching Mass Effect: Andromeda levels [5.0] which is a shocker considering there is no Alt-Right / SJW arguments about sexuality and social agendas with Destiny 2. Not yet, anyway.   On the upside, the Metacritic fan reviews are actually surrounding gameplay, lack of change, missed opportunities, and attacking the terrible story line. I haven’t read through all 1000+ of them but the reviews are actually focusing on the game – not the people who made it, or the perceived issues that need to be in or out of the video game narrative.

Gosh, I have been cranky lately around here, haven’t I? So unlike me.

I know people are enjoying it and I admit that I am too – but the nagging thought that we have all been part of a big scam, a rouse, is hard to ignore when you look at how little content was actually provided with how little change. It feels like I ordered the Prime Rib at a fancy restaurant but instead got ground beef that was shaped to look like Prime Rib. Failed analogy – I don’t even like red meat. Point is, it just feels off. Feels Wrong.

I like gaming sequels and I accept that things need to change, and that companies might take risks with that. The best part of sequels is that you normally get some familiarity with a bunch of new “stuff”, and usually a slew of improvements and, well, change.  They may not always hit the mark but at least you can tell there was effort – that they tried.

Ultimately, I think, that is why Destiny 2 missed the mark for me.

Straws, Backs and Camels Part 2 : Consoles

My first post about the last straw – losing it on a company was about Electronic Arts. That was way back in 2010. My self imposed EA exile lasted all of almost a year, but I caved in when Dragon Age 2 launched. (Dragon Age is one of the best RPG games out there, ever. DA:2 was a disappointment in comparison, but I still just couldn’t help myself). In the past seven years I am certain there were other principled stands I should have / could have / would have taken but nope, I haven’t. Glad I could so firmly stick to my ideals.

For years I have struggled with the console world. I was X-Box, to X-Box 360  (friends were there), then they switched to PS4 when the new models came out, and I followed. I love PC gaming more for the most part but gaming on a 60″ TV is fun and consoles allow a different kind of gaming with my son as well. There are two things that have always bothered me with consoles. First, is the lack of backwards compatibility. If there was backwards compatibility out of the gate I would definitely have stuck to X-Box One, but once I learned I needed to keep my own system anyway then that gave me the freedom to move to a new system. Both have to stay plugged in regardless. Of course, there is no true technical reason that the old games cannot play on the new hardware except the console makers do not want you playing the old games. They want you buying the new games. So in Microsoft’s greed to try and force me to buy new X-box consoles and games I went to the other team and have spent thousands of dollars between the console, games, and monthly fees. Sorry X-Box, your fault.

The second thing that has always nagged at me is the lack of cross platform play. While console makers have explained this away over the years we learned yesterday just about how much bullshit they have spewed.

Fortnite, by accident, allowed cross-play between PS4 and XBONE. By hitting a switch on their server configuration. The consoles didn’t even have to do a thing. It works as a native function. All of these years of not being able to play with friends, and making purchase decisions based off of that.. I was rarely and perhaps unfairly incensed by that news. Gaming by definition is all about the friends. Console makers are holding back on us because, well, they can. Think of all the times you needed help in a game, or had a hard time with unfair matchmaking, or wish the player base was just a bit bigger on your console so you could enjoy the system and game you bought more fully. It’s available. They just won’t let you have it.

I understand why. Sony, the dominant player, is forcing people to choose because they realize (much like my situation) that people are choosing their console over their competitors. It makes financial sense to them. Although, people who have already made their decision have already made their decision – unlikely someone who has invested their gaming in XBONE after all these years is suddenly going out to buy a PS4. Xbox is getting better with this allowing cross play with PC gamers on titles designed for it (Looking at you, Sea of Thieves!) of which I have participated in and it works gloriously. I doubt the purchase decision is that quantifiable and perhaps as hard to quantify as the extra joy the people who play on PS4 would get by being able to play with their X-friends. Make no doubt about it, not a single console player on either side would not be thankful to have this option. In fact, it’s a no-brainer. In every sense of the statement. I hope enough people care enough to voice their displeasure to Sony.

I’m done. I’m not buying another console game. I’m not supporting Sony anymore. And, if a new console comes out, and for some crazy reason we decide to hop on that train again, it will be going back to Microsoft. This by the very definition is voting with my wallet. Yes, I know it’s not going to have any impact, and I will write emails explaining why to Sony, who won’t care because of the millions of others of people who probably don”t care.  But I do.

 

Start the timer. Let’s see if I can break my previous record. I mean, this is also the very definition of first world problems. Next week I take on people who double park!

With Friends Like These…. Fortnite

Fortnite is quickly becoming my new Landmark. Awesome ideas, terribly implemented, confused development group, Early Access Flop… In fact, does Daybreak own them already?

To recap quickly – Fortnite is an artful blend of a building game (Minecraft / Landmark), Survival zombie game (7D2D, H1Z1, L4D2), and card collecting PVE Co-Op game. There is a lot it does well – the gameplay is tight, the shooting, crafting, building is intuitive and the art style is well done and creative. The use of traps for defence is clever and even harvesting is a zen-like grind.. The main problem with Fortnite is that there isn’t any sort of point to it all.

And now they can add a Battle Royale mode to it as well.

Nothing screams “Cooperative PVE storm-fighting adventure!” like a free for all PVP mode that doesn’t use any of your existing characters or progress, has a complete separate login at the start screen, and has already fractured a delicate community. Players already have a laundry list of things that need to be adjusted or fixed in the PVE mode and this PVP mode drops, without even a hint they were working on it. It was a complete surprise. How a company can work on a feature that was never in their public game plan without even a  hint that they were considering PVP is the very definition of “left field”. The second biggest patch in their development history is ignoring the issues in their core game and fundamentally changing the entire experience. Sounds like a good idea.

Either way, it is here, and people are loving it. Well, some people are. Not the PVE people who have early backed this game promised a rich, PVE experience of course. And those people are pretty upset about it. By the early sounds of it, the PVP popularity may even eclipse the PVE portion which means, well, will Fortnite PVE ever see the light of day? I have already stopped playing it due to the major issues (that are seemingly being ignored for the PVP patch) and the whole pointless nature of the game. There is a great opportunity here to make a great game, but now I fear things have gone off the rails.

I still log in for this:

It seems as though I have another 8 logins for rewards, so I go get them. Although I am completely confused because on daily rewards it says I am 36/42, but my next Epic reward is day 49. I may or may not find out. I also login daily to collect and spend my research points.

Again – I don’t know why – but I do. Takes me all of a minute a day. I may have a level 21, maxed out on research character with nothing to do and see.

What I will say with this pivot – if you were on the fence about Fortnite but curious about the PVE and building elements – RUN AWAY. RUN FAST AND DON’T LOOK BACK.

Well, maybe look back in a few months and see if its rebranded as a “Competitive PVP Battle Royale Adventure!” if that kind of thing floats your boat. Heck, by then, judging by how focused the dev team is capable of being, it might be a fully fledged MMO.

Destiny 2 – What Could / Should Have Been

I think the Aggronaut and I are the main discussors of all things Destiny in this corner of Blognation, (Adding Dragonchasers to this short list) so I won’t continue to link to him on each post but chances are you are already reading him anyway. We are on different paths of our initial enjoyment of Destiny 2 and it will be interesting to see how or if they converge at some point. Will his satisfaction start to wane while mine grows over time? Will he stay strong and I’ll hit some new part of the expansion that surprises and delights me ramping up my happiness with the game? Who knows – it definitely will be interesting to see and we’ll no doubt revisit that in the month(s) to come. Because, for all of my issues with it, I do expect to be playing Destiny 2 the way through. I am about half way through the campaign at this point.

I still can’t ignore the missed opportunities. There are several, low hanging fruit that I fully expect in a major expansion, worth of the “2” label. There are many examples of this – Diablo 3 is very different from 2 or 1. Look at the way major titles have changed and improved over the years. A true sequel should be a major step forward  where an expansion is often a small step. Here (in no particular order) are the easy and obvious things Destiny 2 missed out on.

New Class

There isn’t much that is more exciting than a new way to experience a game. A new class is probably the biggest. The Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes are different enough to be worth playing them all in look and feel – but no reason why a fourth class couldn’t have been introduced. The game did introduce a new subclass to each of the main classes but took away one as well – in the end, you have more of the same. I do like the new subclasses but I also liked the old ones that they took away. Why not have 4? Why not add a whole new class to begin with, with another four subclasses? Why not actually invest some time and energy in moving the game forward?

New  Race

The Humans, Awoken and Exo have always been your options and I am not even that concerned that you needed to add a new player race – but at bare minimum they should have added a new enemy race! No, you are still fighting the fat-bastards from Mars, the sentient microwaves from Venus,  the Walking dead on the Moon not-Zombies and the four armed gang members from Earth all over again. Not a single new race. Each got a few minor tweaks (Fallen stealth classes now shoot from range instead of melee with swords, for example) but we are very much in the “you have seen this before. Nothing new. Move along” territory of it all. And that is extremely disappointing.  They literally mostly spent time recoloring skins on enemies.

New Narrative

Much has been made of the story being front and center in Destiny 2 and they have definitely upped the production value there. I will give them that. The problem is, the story is just bad.  Somehow our defenses that have stood for centuries were easily overcome by a Cabal member and his army and our immortality stolen by a fence put around a moon. For an hour. Then you lose all of your gear and everyone hides on three new planets. You can’t visit the old planets, or areas – they are no longer accessible – magically poofed away – but the new planets have the same enemies with minor changes and soft excuses to go explore them. They didn’t even add voice lines for the hero. They doubled down on the Mute Immortal  Zombie Savior story line. It’s weak. It’s bad. It was mailed in. This was their chance to reset this part of the game (and it has always been my biggest complaint) and they did it very poorly.

There is some Good

I don’t have that many great weapons yet but whoever designed the guns, scoping in/iron sights, feel of shooting should get a raise. The guns feel so very different and so very cool – I always enjoyed scout rifles and recently got one that has a scope on it – not as far as a sniper rifle but just enough zoom – and every time I get a new gun to play around with I marvel with how different it feels and how well they have done with that aspect. Each class now also has a third special ability and that does feel new and great (my Titan can make a half wall, and scoping in/out behind it auto reloads my gun – this makes taking out large groups of enemies from range smooth and extra fun. Bonus is that my teammates also get the advantage. Guilds/Clans looks to be an great new feature – hopefully as a solo player I can find one that will take me in.

Destiny 2 struggles because it isn’t a MMO per se, but a shared world RPG shooter.  The complaints people had about Destiny 1 were given some attention but not really solved, and in some ways it feels like  more was taken away then added. The shooting is still great but I feel like their attempt at a narrative took away from being forced to build your own in D1 – many players probably had a more coherent, believable story line in their own heads for what was going on. I know I did.

When the bosses to date are all re-skins of the old bosses with most of the same gameplay mechanics you can tell this “sequel” should have been called an expansion and they could have introduced these new mechanics on the new planets and left the old worlds around – giving more content for players to enjoy. Instead, we have all bought in on the new title purchase (and many, including myself, pre-bought two DLC packs). I have heard some praise it that this what Destiny 1 should have been and they have dealt with some of the inventory and loot issues (while adding blatant, money grabbing mechanic issues – google “Destiny 2 shaders”) and if you are a new player who doesn’t care about story depth this is an ok place to start in the Destiny IP. If you are a Destiny 1 player who just loves the gun play of D1 and the hunt for marginal, iterative loot improvements this will also make you pretty happy. If you were a Destiny 1 Crucible player you may want to read someone more on the PVP side of things – I know they made smaller fire teams and less control of maps, etc. – but I haven’t done PVP yet. If you were a Destiny 1 player who saw incredible bones of a game with much unrealized potential then Destiny 2 – so far – is the exact same feeling.

I am not giving up on it yet, I will finish the campaign and hope things turn around.

Stop Me If You Think You Have Played This One Before : Destiny 2

I have. It was called Destiny.

I know it isn’t fair to judge a game solely on the first hour and a half of playtime – but it is definitely fair to comment on that time as the “first impression”. And that is, sadly, that Destiny 2 feels like a poorly done expansion to Destiny 1. Somehow, the graphics feel worse. Everything else feels perfectly familiar except now you are starting from square one. Not sure how an expansion negates the total effort of the previous three years plus feels like a step back in the game overall. It actually kind of felt like a step back from the demo/beta. I don’t think I have felt this disappointed in a game I was very excited for at launch. At least not so quickly.

First off I ultimately decided to get Destiny 2 for PS4 although I was convinced I would save myself for PC.  Not because I want to play it on all systems (I won’t – I don’t like the thought of going through all the same motions in 6 weeks when the PC launches. Cross saves / progression should be a thing by now). It was because when I did the ‘beta’ PC version something was missing that I really loved about playing Destiny on the PS4. The haptic feedback. It is missing from the PC version and I didn’t realize how much immersion that adds. So, in order to get all the shiny bonuses, I bought the Digital Deluxe version of the game and it pre-loaded last night when I was sleeping. I was up early this morning and booted up the game for a fresh start at 5am.

Except nothing was fresh about it. The introductory mission was the same we did, except we didn’t get to play with the new super / spec. The whole “you have lost your powers and are weak now” angle lasted for the whole entirety of the first hour. All that changed in the game is that you lost your loot and you lost your abilities. It’s like World of Warcraft deleting all of your character and forcing you to start from level one again, on the old graphics engine, as their new expansion premise. This doesn’t feel new or exciting  – it feels like an expansion – but one that does not build off of the past but replaces it. The first “mission” is a slow slog through a decimated city – which has some merit if you stop to look around, but the game forces you to a slow crawl. You shoot 10-15 dogs in the wilderness and then get “rescued”. The second “mission” is basically a reskin of the Destiny 1 mission where you unlock your third sub-spec. You get unlimited supers and get to bash around. That was fun! Except, again, I have already played that mission in Destiny 1 (which was a better, longer and more interesting version of it) It isn’t new. It was a step backwards.

The real kick in the jeans is that there is no new race, no new class, and actually less specializations to start.  Again, backwards.

Those are my first impressions. I haven’t given up on the game but am preparing myself to just be playing a new version of Destiny 1. I have no clue how they are going to surprise or impress me at this point, or move away from that. I really hope they do and that it is just a slow start.

My tears aren’t the same as the Aggronaut’s, at this point. Unfortunately so.

Destiny – A Game With No Competitor

It did strike me as odd, as I played through the Destiny 2 ‘beta’ on PC last night that no other company has tried their hand at taking dollars away from Destiny.  This is quite shocking, actually, when you think about it. Gaming studios are much like movie studios – they tend to launch the same kind of movies and themes around the same time to not lose out on market share and dollars. We see this all the time in gaming too. Overwatch and Paladins are fighting for the resurgent twitchy team shooting space originally built by Team Fortress 2, and you can add Gigantic and Lawbreakers to that list as well (among others). Success breeds spawns of similar design, some of which may end up being more successful than the original. There is effort to do this, at bare minimum.

League of Legends popularity spawned DOTA 2, Heroes of the Storm, SMITE, and a whole other slew of MOBAs. There are usually a lot of competition among popular genres at any given time. This is why it completely shocks me that no other studio is battling for the CO-OP RPG-PVE shooter environment that Destiny has built. There isn’t a title I know similar to Destiny and when there is a multi-billion dollar property out there, ripe to cash in on and around, I just can’t fathom why other studios aren’t taking a shot at the space.

There are really low hanging fruit to capture here. Destiny 2 still refused to offer LFG matchmaking for their Raids – arguably the most requested feature by the player base. It was completely ignored in favor of a method of picking up singles into pre-made groups. This was clearly done so they could save themselves the man hours of tweaking the difficulties of the raid and/or reprogramming rewards based on difficulty. The entire rest of the game is already based on auto-matchmaking so we know there is no  lack of expertise or network code for it. With their ties to Blizzard there is also internal expertise on how to do a proper casual raid LFG style stystem. I still haven’t seen the raids in Destiny 1 (and I never will) and that will most likely be the same in D2. In this day and age of accessibility it just doesn’t make sense. Less than 20% of players were able to enjoy that content.

The road less traveled?

The second improvement is still the story. While they plan on much improving the narrative in Destiny 2 they did double down on the zombie narrative, that I made a complete mockery of, way back in 2014 when it launched. The story was so broken upon launch that the best sense we could make of it is that we are a zombie army, arisen to terrorize the universe. It made as much sense as what they were offering at the time. In Destiny 2, Bungie actually enforced silliness that with the Zavala origin story video showing that Guardians are indeed, immortal. He dies, is brought back to life, keeps fighting, dies, rinses, repeats. Not at any one point do the bad guys try to really, really kill him. They shoot him once and then walk away. (cut off the head, burn the body, launch into space… try SOMETHING).  I also made fun of this more recently as it continues to be completely absurd. In Destiny 2 the story does revolve around losing the ability to be reincarnated and I sincerely hope that is gone for good, and this is Bungie’s way of finally killing off the immortal zombie apocalypse from a good-guy perspective narrative.

Every time I complain about the story, I feel compelled to mention how every other part of the game works near perfectly – from the missions, to the open world mission opportunities, to the RPG aspects, and tight shooting mechanics. I know it sounds silly to say this next line – but it is a multi-billion dollar franchise that hasn’t even met it’s full potential yet. Which is why I wish another studio would take a crack at it, to build upon the solid foundation. With Destiny 2 feeling more like an expansion than a whole new game at this point there are probably a lot of  Destiny players open to a new experience as well.

And for some reason, no one is interested in giving them a run for their money, to take a piece of the pie, or to build something even more coherent, tangible, and fun.

That shocks me more than the terrible story narrative.

Lack of Trust – Loot Boxes

I commented on Bhagpuss’s latest post about how I largely agree that loot boxes are a fun mechanic. This was in the context for me that it is a method of advancement and not the sole one. The example I used in Fortnite that it is basically the *only* way you can progress meaningfully so when that is gated behind a hard paywall it is frustrating and not fun. This has caused me to stop logging in execept for the idle game portion – I collect research points per hour and they max out, so I find myself logging in, collecting them, spending them, and logging out. All without really playing. Not sure how long this will go on.  They either need to grant a Llama after every cooperative round (LLama is their loot box/pinata) or greatly increase the quality of the items found within it. It is still in early access so I may revisit it once/if they announce changes.

In my last post I complained a bit about Paladins but found myself in a shooter mood last night and time to spare so decided to log in and see how things are. They added another new champion, Strix, who is a sniper with stealth.

I am going to pause there, to let that sink in. Just for people who have ever played games that had a stealth mechanic and how unfun and difficult to balance that is.

Not only does the sniper have stealth, but can shoot from it, and can 1 or 2 shot most characters. Take a guess how much fun that is. The facepalm moment about this is that they already have a stealth character (Skye) who kept getting nerfed because her stealth was so hard to balance – and she had to basically be in melee range to do excellent damage. Now take triple the damage from triple the distance with a better stealth mechanic – PLUS the ability to reveal all of your enemies on the screen in a large radius so you know where to aim (ie: no hiding!) and after the first round I was about to uninstall the game. (I still might). Things got better when every round had one Strix on each side because they had to focus on each other, but it was, largely, the most unfun way to die in a game. When you have zero chance or control to the outcome. Bonus frustration is that he doesn’t have to lead you and the bullet doesn’t path. If he is lined up at the second he pulls the trigger you are dead

This is still about lootboxes.

Paladins is also loot-box based but you can buy everything with two three types of currencies – gold, essence, and crystals. Crystals are mostly cash only (you get 50 a week for logging in 7 days in a row) and crystals are mostly used for skins and cosmetic items, so it’s not bad. I can get behind this kind of loot box. All the important things in games (champions, cards, etc) are available through gameplay – and not even that hard. A purely F2P player can literally play the entire game and unlock everything without a ton of effort. Playing a hour a day, you would unlock a champion at the rate of one per week quite easily. It would take you far longer to master that champion. I paid $20 for the founders pack which gives you every existing champion AND all future ones (plus a bunch of lootboxes for ability cards and customization outfits, etc.) It was a great investment as I have already racked up over 100 hours in the game, and even bought crystals ($35) to get some skins I like.  The tough part about their skins is that you don’t buy them directly, you still buy a loot box for a chance to get the skin. These are pretty limited (ie: hold 16 different items) and you can’t get duplicates in special chests. (Duplicates on common, Radiant chests). The challenge here is that you have a min/max on spend, based on chance. When you know you want ONE particular thing it would be better to know that cost and make that decision. In those chests might be many different things that you aren’t interested in.

This just happened to me.

I now play 4 Champions regularly. Lex (Flank), Ruckus (Tank), Inara (Tank) and Ying (Heals). Recently Inara got a skin, which I bought crystals for, and which I ended up getting half way through the chest items (8/16) and it cost me around $9. If I would have received it on the first it would have been $1. That is a big range. I wasn’t stoked with it completely.

Then, Lex got a shiny new skin.

I knew I wanted it and I still had crystals left over from my Inara skin bonanza, the question became – how lucky would I get? Turns out – not lucky at all. I got it on 16/16. To which I immediately thought:

Was that fair?

And not fair in the sense that I had bad luck, but there is no governing body to ensure that video game loot mechanics are based off of real randomization or chance. In fact, there is nothing, anywhere stating that you have an equal chance to get any item in that box. They should be 1/16 but a smart company, not required to disclose, would make the lesser, not as cool items (of which there are many in each chest) have a 4/16 chance of dropping. Sure, the chances get better as the person unlocks the items but it could drive more crystal use and hence more revenues to head office. There is no reason to suspect this isn’t happening, and no recourse or need for the company to provide drop rates.

Unless you live in China, and are selling to Chinese customers. How do the Communists get this more right than the west?

To prove my point further, I didn’t get the two best skins until the last two chests.

The V1-KTOR and L-Exo suit were the two new skins in this patch and chest

The V1-KTOR and L-Exo suit were the two new skins in this patch and chest. What are the chances that they drop 15th and 16th in a pure, random environment? Not sure.

I believe loot boxes need to be upfront, honest, and regulated, so people can make fair purchase decisions.

The Dog-Gaming Days of Summer

Ok, I messed that phrase up in a proper context, but I am still using it in the way I originally perceived it – the “lazy” days of summer. It lines up nicely with my mood and current gaming habits. (Here is the NG article explaining what it should mean)

This summer has been lazy gaming. I went through a few interesting phases – Paladins became a darling for me (until it didn’t). Fortnite came in with a bang, and out with a whimper. I realized I kind of stopped playing both. I haven’t loaded up the Battletech early access in months. There hasn’t been an urge or joy to game much. That’s ok, as there is a lot of other things to do in the summer months and I have been camping, fishing, and sailing quite a bit. Something about water and back to nature. Still, there is some excitement with Destiny 2 coming to PC (October) and Yet Another PVE Co-OP F2P Grindfest in Dauntless (sometime in 2017) but outside of that, besides the frequent yet unfilled desires to go play titles I have left on the shelf (GW2 – yes, started again. DCUO was loaded back up. LOTRO. Really? LOTRO?) just shows that I am reaching.

Doesn’t mean I am lacking in insights in the games I was involved in, and those are worth discussing.

Paladins suffered from League of Legends syndrome. In that post of mine I was enjoying League of Legends but found that due to people and matchmaking that the amount of time you had to endure not having fun in order to get to the games that were actually fun was extremely unbalanced. So much so, that while tracking games it turned out that only 18.07% of the games I played were “fun”. I defined fun not as winning, but by a game that was close enough that either team had a legitimate chance of winning. Such is the balance in most games that between troll picks, afks, and complete stomps on either side I had to play. In over 125 hours of gaming, the “fun” gaming portion was 22.5 hours – basically 1 in 5. There aren’t many hobbies I can think of that if I was told I had to spend 4 hours of un-enjoyment to get 1 hour of enjoyment I’d find a new hobby. And that is exactly what I did.

Paladins is feeling very much the same, but I can’t be bothered to spend 100+ hours and do the experiment to see where it lays in the LoL spectrum. I just know that when I hit the “play” button, I am expecting something to go wrong in champ selection which will impact the rest of the game in such a way that it isn’t fun. This always has been a danger in MOBA style games where there are optimum team compositions and strengths of weaknesses of available in game champions while also having strengths and weaknesses. Plus they add a new champion every month and with constant balance changes there is a lot to balance and it is very difficult to get all of those things to line up to have a fair and balanced game. When that does happen, it feels awesome. When it doesn’t – and lately it feels like it is getting worse – that is frustrating. I found Overwatch even worse, just so I could add in a dash that I am still a fanboy comparatively.

Fortnite is unfair-stereotype “gold-digger” good. It’s really pretty. Charming sometimes. Lots of different outfits. Great potential. Fun to hang out with. Undress it all and it is expensive as hell for a long term relationship, if you measure nice things as good progress. World of Warcraft figured this out quickly and Fortnite has not. I only keep “epics” or better “gear”. I have several Legendaries and even two Mythics! The challenge with Fortnite is that in order to progress meaningfully, you need to buy Llamas (loot boxes). They have terrible drop rates for anything halfway decent. And with so many variables, currencies, and playstyles it is impossible to make meaningful steps without a lot of cash and good luck. You can’t go for the things you enjoy specifically and there is so much out there to discover and get lucky with. It seems like – fairly or unfairly – that the game was built ground up with whale-based monetization in mind first. The gameplay is also getting way to competitive and there are a lot of nonsense barriers in the game in terms of collecting, building, and inventory space.

Compounding that problem – if you read the Fortnite Reddit – the devs do not address anything. There are so many threads about the monetization and gating model there that perception will become reality and them putting their heads into the sand is not helping matters.  A simple “we are getting great data on these and will make appropriate changes” would be helpful for the crowd.

I can’t even excuse them for it because it’s a F2P game that people paid for to early access for them. When you play it its clearly stable and would stand up fine as “done”. I just finally realized the ridiculousness of paying to early test a F2P title. I don’t mmind EA titles knowing other people will pay (and probably more) afterwards, for a feature complete experiences but struggling on that. I’ll create some kind of justification for my investment =)

Destiny 2 PC beta starts tomorrow, which I will thoroughly enjoy. Outside of that, I don’t know where I am going to spend my future gaming time.

Fortnite Gameplay

Here is a 10 minute gameplay video (non-narrated) from Fortnite. You can watch it without sound and it gives a pretty good idea how hectic things can get when the husks attack. This part is right after we triggered an event – we had built a base and are protecting weather satellite data. The good news is, we built an awesome front part of a base with tons of traps from which we can easily defend (which quickly starts falling apart).. the bad part is that the husks switched attack angles and after the first group there were attacking from a side where we didn’t have traps.

Some items of note:

I am playing a soldier. I have the following abilities and gadgets slotted: heal, aerial strike, minigun, grenades. I am using a baseball bat primarily for the sole fact that it is low on durability and I wanted to open up an inventory slot. Funny enough it lasted forever (probably because it is ‘epic’ – ie: purple). I have two legendary guns on my quickbar as well – one a minigun version of a handgun (which I found – I do NOT have the schematic for it so once it is gone it is gone) and the legendary shotgun I do have the schematic for.

Have a watch and let me know if you have any questions – it is really hectic and fast paced (as these attacks should be) and I tried to use all of my abilities and different weapons to show you different glimpses of the gameplay, as well as some repair/building elements. I am going to do a post about procedural generation next (probably another video!) as it does a GREAT job of that.

This is currently getting my Zombie fix, Landmark/Minecraft fix, and card game fix all at once.

Post Vacation Post

Not sure if you noticed, but I was gone for two weeks.

Add to that, my site went down. I was pretty sure it was a foreign oppressive regime – North Korea or Maybe Russia – but my tech guy claims it was just some update error. Maybe the foreign oppressive regime put that there. My time away from work and gaming wasn’t a full vacation, I was teaching at a hockey camp up in the Muskokas. Hockey camp was a ton of fun and it is always great to teach kids about anything. Muskoka is a beautiful cottage area in Ontario full of lakes, cottage living, and bad internet.

A couple quick observations from being away.

  • Cottage life is amazing life. Spending days at the rink in the summer sounds a bit like madness, but getting back to the rental cottage at 3:30pm, jumping in the lake, going fishing, drinking beer – tons of fun.
  • I didn’t miss gaming that much – I suspect it was because we were so busy the whole time. When I got home this weekend I had a lot of fun booting up Fortnite. Of which, I’ll have another post about soon.

Just letting you know I am back, in case you were wondering. <ahem>

Fortnite

I always get sucked into these things. Early access.

And I have yet to be disappointed.

The big one –  Landmark – the complete failure of a game that is now vaporware (along with the hopes and dreams of Everquest fans). I played the hell out of that game.. was it a game? That… interface. Anyway – it was a blast. Darkest Dungeon, Battletech, 5 Days to Die, Project Zomboid, March of the Living, RimWorld – most of the games I have enjoyed over the past couple of years were/are early access titles. It is definitely a thing now. Of course, many of them are/were pretty complete games just hidden under the guise of ‘early access’ to deflect bugs and gameplay criticisms. I think my new job title is going to be CEO – Early Access so I can do the same with my own performance.

I was searching for a game I could play with my 12 year old. He picked Overwatch, I picked Paladins. Very similar games but we both do not like the other one’s choices. Probably not a shock that 30 years age difference and gaming experience has garnered different tastes. We have done some Minecraft server play but it hasn’t stuck as regular. Now, during gaming time, he goes to the basement on the PS4 and I sit on my laptop in the kitchen. Both gaming in completely different worlds.

Oh, the ‘E’ word again…

I watched some videos about Fortnite with him quite randomly, and we were both intrigued. When it launched we read some reviews and did a bit more reading and by all accounts it fits the type of game we both enjoy. It’s a shooter. It has Minecraft-esque building elements. It has zombies. Co-op. Bonus points for a cutesy and fun world, and a Super Deluxe Edition that includes a friend code. Let’s jump in. And we did last night.

The game is extremely polished. It coIuld be “released” today. The big confusion about this game is that it is paid early access now, but free to play sometime in 2018. I feel like that is a long lead time and by the time it launches this game will probably have already peaked. You can’t have content being pushed out for too long when the game is in such a playable state that it seems very disingenuous to call it early access. Either way, I am playing it.

The biggest surprise to me was the depth of the systems and the many layers that exist. This is a very complex and interconnected game. It starts with your home base, that (by all accounts) remains static. You can build, set traps, bring back resources from missions (etc.). Everything in game (but people) end up wearing down and needing to be replaced and you cannot repair weapons (but can rebuild new ones if you gather the materials). From your home base you extend to side missions, saving people, visiting towns, exploring, finding loot/materials, and completing objectives. I’ll run you through the main menu to better explain just how detailed the systems are.

Entering the game lands you on the ‘Play Now’ screen with your current quests and the rewards you will get from it. The quests I have done so far (very early) have three basic phases. First is search/collect (find this item, find this person). The environments are procedurally generated and are VERY well done. There are empty neighborhoods you can explore. Items to find – it really hits on the explorer aspect. This search/find phase has been unlimited in the early go around although on some streams are saw the future ones have timers. There are some randomly generated quests (ran into a survivor being attacked, have to push back the waves, etc.)

The second phase is build/activate – you have something to protect and you have collected resources now build a mini base. Once the base is done to your liking you activate the next phase and the bad guys come, with a defend timer, and you fight to win. The only issues I have seen with this so far is that on co-op games with strangers some are off on their own just collecting, while others might trigger the build phase too early. The early quests have been pretty easy so it hasn’t been an issue but yet again another good reason to try and play with friends.

(On that note, my playername is FOUNTS if you want to add me!)

The map shows available quests (which are repeatable plus your home base and the size of the ‘protected area’. I already had one quest to expand that zone and suspect much of the game will be expanding territory.

The Heroes tab is the current player you use in game. They come in several levels (purple being epic, blue being rare, grey being common… sound familiar?) and I assume you can unlock squads as you expand on Research and Skill trees (more on that soon). I was lucky enough to get a Lengendary hero in one of my loot Llamas (more on THAT later) and he has been the one I have been sticking with.

This is where things start getting a bit more interesting – you have the ability to unlock, build, and upgrade NPC squads.

Here I slotted my best ‘survivor’ (people that join you that you can’t directly control, unlike the Hero slot) but she did not have a leadership capability. I haven’t been able to deploy a squad yet and assuming that is part of the overall mission progression – so far they have introduced all mechanics of the games via missions. This really peaks my interest!

Now here is the meat and potatoes of much of the game and some of these parts will be expanding upon the Survivor and Hero menus I brought up earlier. First: Schematics!

Schematics are found / looted and they provide the recipes of weapons you can build in game – if you have the necessary components. Each Hero can wield 4 weapons (one of which is a resource gathering pickaxe) and each has ammo and durability. When the durability is zero the weapons is broken and you have to craft a new one. There is a ‘recycle’ feature on weapons so you can save some of the materials once the item is almost fully used but that is something you have to keep a close eye on. Even ammo has to be crafted and if you run out of ammo, and don’t have the resources to create that specific ammo for that weapon, you have no weapon! It is something you have to manage. The game keeps it interesting because sometimes you find a weapon in game but you do NOT have the schematic- meaning when the durability of that weapon hits zero you cannot recreate it. Its good to keep a varied amount of different schematics. As you can see, there are duplicates and you can ‘recycle’ a schematic to get weapon XP – which you can then use to upgrade the schematic. (See right side of picture above).

Here is a closeup of the legendary rocket launcher I have but I have not been able to create it in game yet – I haven’t found coal, of which is half the item. I am now always on the lookout for coal.

Defenders are another type of person you can add to missions with you if you want to play solo but need help. The downside is you have to equip the with weapons and they are not very ammo conservative. Someone suggested sticking to melee defenders only, but I haven’t explored using any yet. The early missions are very easy to get by.

Still on the Armory tab is the Survivors – of which, you can make squads out of. Which I haven’t been able to do yet.

Heroes, Survivors, and Defenders can all be leveled up. These give additional benefits and bonuses including new skills and abilities. I currently have around 30 Heroes, Survivors and Defenders – that is a LOT of upgrading potential. Of course, I tend to just pick my favourite ones and keep them rolling up in levels but the completionist in some people will struggle!

The last tab in the armory is the resources tab which holds various XP boosts for yourself, friends, teams, etc. I have been hoarding these for some reason. I really need to start using them. Overwhelmed yet? These are just the menu options! I haven’t even delved into gameplay yet. The next tab on the menu, Skills, really starts getting complex and deep.

There are different Tiers of both research and skills, and the next picture is a snapshot of *some* of the Tier 1 skill tree:

I couldn’t zoom out far enough to get the whole thing and have barely scratched the surface. The fact that there are four tiers to obtain is really blowing my mind.

The research tab seems a bit more manageable. The first tier, anyway.

Loot is fun in the sense that it is another loot box game, but they literally made them Pinatas. Not sure why Llamas. You get different currencies in game (and some with cash, more on that soon).

At least you actually get to swing and hit it too, although it takes no skill. It is a clever way to do a loot box. If you swing and it changes color that means the chance to get something better out of it improves. I have had a silver Llama (which is where I got my Legendary hero from) and they do switch what you are hitting with frequently. I’ve had a guitar, a pickaxe, and this hammer so far. Their eyes dart about before you hit them, which is kind of creepy – but it is a Llama so its ok, right?

Loot bounces up off the ground to see what you received and in this instance I finally got a Survivor Lead – so hoping putting her in the EMT squad will give me an option to do something with the squad.

Zooming in on her here to show they have different traits (curious, explorer) which is yet another thing to factor in.

The second last menu item, which has the most clarity of it all, is the store.

Epic games let  you upgrade your founders pack (if you should want to) and also have a lot of early access ways to give them early access to your wallet. I haven’t felt the need to do this yet, having just plunked down $90 for two copies and I hope that the loot boxes are a luxury rather than a necessity. Time will tell.

The last tab is similar to the first page but shows all the quests you have available. I have had at most two so far but I am also doing quests that introduce the core concepts of the game and how to manage various resources.

Future posts will share gameplay experiences but I did want to demonstrate how much is already in this game – before you even play. There are so many systems and how they all balance and work together will be very interesting (and challenging for Epic Games, no doubt).

At the very minimum looking at this as a long term project – there is so much to do, to understand, and the game early on captures many different play styles that if monetized fairly, may be a hit. I am an early fan.

Official Forums

as always, click on photos to enlarge!

As I delve deeper and deeper into Paladins I have made the leap from casual Paladins player to forum poster. Forum poster started off fine, but has since graduated to game defender, common sense freedom fighter, and general anti-anger enthusiast.

Boy, did I get sucked in.

I am not sure what drove me to go to the forums in the first place but there I was, filling out a profile, selecting an avatar, and combing through the various sections on the boards. They make you use your in game name as your forum name so cross referencing games and performance is quite easy. This builds some semblance of justification of opinion (oh, you are complaining about Bomb King? I have 250 wins as BK! Look at my stats!) but in truth I appreciate it because it removes a small layer of anonymity that often fuels negative behaviour online. When it’s harder to hide who you are, it’s harder to act differently than you do “in real life”.

The fact that escapes so many on message boards / twitter / facebook (etc.) still shocks me. Especially on  platforms that don’t use aliases. Either way, it’s all out there.

You can’t go down there. I wish you could.

Paladins seems to use ELO as a ranking system and I am very familiar with ELO through League of Legends – which arguably is the “best” (most successful?) MOBA out there, and back when I did play seemed to be the shining light of how to do Free 2 Play. Bonus is that it also makes a ton of money. ELO is a grind – lose a match? -12 rating. Win a Match? +13. Because of the closeness of proximity of the scores (typically between 12 and 19) and with base ELOs around 1500 you quickly learn that it is a very long haul to climb the ladder. I actually agree with this system because it smooths out disconnects and general poor teammates/afk’s, etc. Sure, you might get a troll but chances are they are ranked low, so you only lose 12 rating. Next game, with the fully competent team you gain 15. I have played 25 “ranked” matches and have had a troll/purposely incompetent player/afk exactly one time. If it sticks to a 4% rate then this game will be spectacular.  Using those small increments getting into the top tiers (4500 ELO) is in the hundreds of games – heck, the top two players have well over 1000 games played.  I love that there is a third party website, Paladins.guru, that tracks all of this.

I am a bit confused because in game they have a competitive rating instead. Now I am not sure if ELO is thier system or that websites. I wish there was more clarity. Either way my point is how many people are arguing about the outliers of games that is “ruining” their ranking. The truth about ELO is that it works, and you are placed in the correct ranking when you win/lose 50% of your games. That is great balance. What players tend to forget is that if you are routinely seeing a specific type of player at a general skill level that means you are home. People do not like the ELO system because everyone thinks they are better than their results show they really are. I am not telling you anything new here at all, am I?

I didn’t mean for that comment to come off as passive/aggressive or anything, but trying to illustrate facts to people when emotion are removed from it all.  The other, frequent commonality I see on the boards are with nerfs “Thanks DEVELOPER for dropping my damage by 2% This means I am TRASH and now I am QUITTING!” To these I normally get this kind of responses.

I end up having to say this alot. Repetitively. it’s a common misconception that nerfing one character is bad for the game. It is good, it makes it more fun for everyone else who is sick and tired of facing the same overpowered champion again and again. If you are that good with that champion, it might be for a reason (other than you are an elite, master gamer at 1200 ELO).

And of course, when people get angry and attack other forum posters for their counter opinion, and how theirs is more important than everyone else’s:

Needless to say I have been down this road before (ie: every other forums I have participated on in one way or anvother since the late 90s) but this time it feels a bit different. Like I am a wise, old soothsayer dispensing emotionless truth to the needed masses. Or something far less modest and it’s just a Zen like way to kill time. An out of game grind.

I care about my results in ranked (which is where you are supposed to try) but am absolutely getting killed in Casual play for two reasons. First is because I have decided I am going to play every champion to level 6. That takes about three hours of play. Some champions I am just terrible at, so that makes it a long three hours.  Still, I do improve but some I just don’t gel with well and once I get to 6 may never play again. The second reason is because few people want to play Front Line and Support, when I am not playing those (which I prefer) it usually means we have a poor team composition. Which makes playing the other roles I am already not that great at that much harder.

This game absolutely destroys Overwatch in terms of flavor, strategy, champion design, in game skill adjustment, builds (etc.). I don’t even understand how OW is still in business when you compare the two. It’s like Vanilla ice cream (OW) vs a full banana split with three kinds of ice creams, chocolate and caramel sauce smothered all over it, and cashews, chocolate chops, and little pieces of peanut butter cups on top. There is no comparison from the amount I have played of each. I hope it has a strong, bright future.

My posting on the forums will no doubt support that.

#delusionsofgrandeur.

Mr. Unpopular

Paladins

I am a Paladins fan. I couldn’t enjoy Overwatch and found it entirely bland and boring. Paladins, on the other hand, has depth, strategy, customization and challenge. I have started to flesh out my champions experience and availability quite well. Here is my level with each:

Level 6 for all, here I come!

Players get ‘free’ Radiant chests at level one, four and six so to really maximize your opportunity (with better cards, skins, etc.) it makes sense to have level 6 as a goal for all champions. You need several at level 4 to get into competitive so the extra two levels isn’t that much harder. I still have a lot of work to do although I have firmly sorted out that I am only good at two roles – Front Line and Flanking.  I can service as a support but do not seem to excel at it. The good news for me is that the ‘meta’ for team composition is two Front Line, one Support, and two Damage and few people want to play Front Line so I pretty much always get to do it. It takes around three hours to get to level 6 so on that basis alone with 28 champs is a lot of game play. Of course this also skews my stats because playing my best champions I have nice stats – constantly learning and jumping between champions takes away the comfort and skill level. The good news is there are two game modes (Casual and Ranked) so I use my good champions for ranked and learning champions for casual. (Sorry, casual players).

My BAE

Inara is my favourite and I am climbing the ELO ladder in ranked with her. She doesn’t have a lot of flash and her skills are mostly about staying alive which isn’t glorified gameplay for those who want to shine. It is more of an unsung hero type champion which suits me just fine. In a world of Overwatch, I am a big Paladins fan. It’s a fantastic shooter and I hope it can continue to iterate and improve (it is currently in Beta).

Battletech – Backer’s Beta

Big robots waltzing

Battletech has always been a pen and paper game that should have translated into an even better game on the computer. We have a slew of FPS style games with MechWarrior series but not a pure or true translation. This game plans on being more of that. Tesh and I have been talking about the need for this game going on 6-7 years.

It was always known as a very ‘math’ game to work on so using the processing power of a computer should enhance the gaming experience. Early stages are promising but some of the current limitations (4 mechs regardless of budget, map size, etc.) keeps the game really focused. I think there are some opportunities to expand on this to make the game really exciting but it is very early  so will give time to see how it develops. Currently you can only play against the computer, there isn’t a ton of customization options, and a map selection of 4. Looking forward to seeing this title expand and grow, and the company (Harebrained Schemes) had some great titles with the Shadowrun series which gives high hopes. Inserting a gallery here of a ton of screenshots of some gameplay for those interested!

(click on any part of the gallery above to get it rolling!)

I continue to play games that aren’t that popular but that I thoroughly enjoy – which tends to limit engagement and page views – thankfully I don’t do this for a living =)