Strategy

My Influential 15

One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) and he recently posted an Influential 15  list – started by another blogger and other sites are also playing along. The parts I read indicated not too many rules, but just do not overthink it – only take 15 minutes, and list them out.

This sounds like fun. I am going in chronological order!

Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)

I spent most of my allowance money playing this game with two of my best friends at the local bowling alley. It was close enough to our school that we could run there at lunch breaks, and always went right after school as well – but just for 20 minutes before racing home. This introduced me to the side scrolling platform [honorable mentions: Ghost and Goblins, Castlevania, Bionic Commando]

Hardball (c64) (1987)

Two teams – the red, power hitting team and the blue, speedy team. That was it in this baseball game. My brother and I played for hours at home – nice to not have to be at the arcade. (I always got stuck with the blue team). [Honorable mention: Madden (I still buy it every few years]

Police Quest (PC) (1987)

My first foray into the Sierra games series (King’s quest, Space Quest, etc.) and it was always a weekend event at one of my friend’s houses who had it. I think it took us 6 months to complete, since we only had limited weekend time (we mostly played outside – kids those days!)[honorable mention – Maniac Mansion]

Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)

Another arcade favorite the one on one bragging rights was a blast. Learning the combos, fighting friends (and arcade enemies) for the right to stay on the machine for the next challenger… flipping a coin for the left or right hand side. All sorts of home field advantages. [Honorable mention: Mortal Combat]

Star control 2 (PC) (1992)

Exploration, adventure, discovery. Space. Has anyone come close since? I am avoiding throwing my money at Star Citizen yet watching it closely. That is a completely separate blog post. [Honorable Mention: Wing Commander. If only for the space.]

Doom (PC) (1993)

We had huge contests at university with Doom – inter dorm rivalries. My philosophy class suffered fiercely. I made a philosophical argument about augmented reality to the prof and he BFG’d me. University was so cool. [Honorable mention: Half Life]

NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)

Oh Sega hockey, with the one move that would score 100% of the time.. that was up to you do defend properly. Both ends of the rink, there was that ONE move. Yet it was still awesome. Plus bleeding heads.

X com (PC) (1994)

Turn based mastery. This is on many ‘best of ever” lists, so not going to explain its full awesome-ness. Many have explained it better than I ever could. Xcom is the perfect example of a game you loved but refuse to play it again. I have it through steam. It sucked to relive it – but awesome the first time around. We are not conditioned to accept failing the first X missions before we have a chance. (see what I did there?) [Honorable mention – Civ 1 – bit of a stretch, but very turn based]

Baldur’s Gate (PC) (1998)

I had played a lot of Pen and Paper games and this one reminded me the most of them. I hadn’t played a lot of D&D at the time  and this was my first real foray and experience into that. I don’t even remember if I won or what happened in the game – I just remember the hours spent hunched in the darkness… in amazement. Just one more encounter. One more.

Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)

The AI could be buggy as hell when you were planning your rescues, but this was an AMAZING shooter – one shot and you are dead, get caught/spotted and the hostages are dead. Great premise and superbly executed at the time. You could do many missions in many different ways and had the choice of your own path. The planning and thinking part was as exciting for me as the executions. And oh yes, permadeath! [Honorable mention: Counter Strike]

Everquest (PC) (1999)

The MMO game changer that has spawned 100 clones, for better or for worse (often better, jaded vets may argue worse. It doesn’t even matter anymore. It was awesome and really kickstarted the genre.) It has ruined MMOs for me since, but that is also because of the testserver play environment (hint: community). The rose colored glasses often adorned!

Sims (PC) (2000)

Sims the original was the first game that I could get my girlfriends to play. And my non-gaming roommates. It was the first time I realized games could be for everyone. Then I invented the Wii. (or should have, at least). All that being said, I am pretty sure the things my girlfriend at the time did to the Sims (or tried to do) made me realize that maybe she wasn’t the one. Sicko. May have saved my life.

Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)

My second MMO I played the heck out of and my first real PVP experience was also amazing. I also played on the testserver (Pendragon) and the strength of the community there really improved the overall experience. Sadly, game developers have learned that test servers make bad for the quick hitting types of testing they want with enough sample size, and they don’t really exist anymore. The lesson they should have learned is that smaller, more dedicated communities make for stronger ties. Another post. DAOC taught me to embrace PVP and how humans always beat AI on experience – always.

World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)

What to say? The most successful MMO ever made took an inaccessible genre and made it easy for everyone to participate. While I have spent my fair share of time arguing WoW has hurt the MMO space in many ways, you cannot argue against its influence. I still go back every expansion, do the theme park rides, /hug and /hi to my friends still playing, and then out again.  I think the next MMO Blizzard makes is going to say a lot about what they have learned from WoW. I’m intrigued.

Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)

The multiplayer FPS I judge all other FPSs against. It was great. It was better than great – it was awesome. The kits, the vehicles, everything. COD always felt too twitchy and gamey in comparison (even the DICE successors did) and I started playing more strategic, slower paced shooters afterwards. BF2142 was just the perfect balance for *me*. [Honorable Mention: Project Reality]

That’s It!

There is my list! Crazy, and a *bit* sad that the most recent game launch on my list is 8 years old already, but influence is influence. As I re-read this there were a few I wanted to add (RTS such as Warcraft -or- Command & Conquer) but I decided to keep it pure – the ones that spoke to me first. I’m sure as I read through other’s lists I’ll have many an “aha!” moment. I hope mine brought along some positive smiles and memories!

Tempting Tesh

C’mon Tesh, just try to fight it – you know you want to!

Bought Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition (66% off – or 10 bucks – for players who purchased an earlier version) and recalled how amazing turned based strategy games can be.

Which lead to me remember how perfect a MechWarrior game would be in that format.

Which lead me to much googling, and finding that linked site.

Chomping at the bit for this one – need to investigate a bit more but heat sinks, custom build outs, tonnage limits, and hex spaces are all in. They manage to take away the ~300 dice rolls per turn and its a match made in heaven.

Conventions

Sorry - not that kind of convention!

One of the best blog articles I have read recently was at Elder Gamer regarding genre conventions in our beloved MMO’s. It hits on a lot of interesting and valid points, and is a great read. I find it interesting that a lot of the ‘outside of the box’ MMO design discussions (from the armchair folk) tend to look for solutions to twist those around, and try new things. It’s true that we are trained as gamers to expect certain things, and when they deliver on those expectations the moans from the crowd are ‘oh, just like that game’. But we play on. When we throw out interesting and possible ideas that go against those expectations – but make sense to us – it’s likely a non-fundable industry idea. We went from WoW, to games that want to be like WoW (but different!), to games that want to be like games that aren’t quite as successful as WoW because copying WoW has failed. In most industries change is enacted by a need in the market. You get the outliers who work to make that change on their own to position their product or service in a better market position, but those are few and far between. If oil prices and the education about the environment weren’t so front and center in our everyday lives, then we would all still be driving gas guzzling cars – and why not? If it’s the most inexpensive way to create the product, and socially acceptable, that is what we are going to get. Now car companies are struggling to catch up on making fuel efficiency and alternate fueling methods the forefront of their companies – because people actually want them now (and governments are forcing them to). It’s all demand – on different fronts.

The fun part with Elder Gamer’s example, that in AC2 they didn’t want an ammo slot for arrows and how it didn’t work for them then – is that WoW is moving that way now. Goes to show how long, and what it actually takes to, make such a seemingly minor design decision. Imagine the timeline on the bigger ideas.

Where am I going with this? Cutting my lawn! (after the break)

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Blood Bowl Part 2 : When Doves Cry

Online play is pretty spectacular in Blood Bowl. No, not the interface or lobby (needs a lot of work) or the random connection errors (before starting matches – I haven’t had it happen during a match) and the matchfinding needs work too. It updates slow. After a little nudge from Syncaine from Hardcore Casual (the only other blogger I read lately who is playing BB) in the online space, I learned a few lessons.

A few neat things happened when I started playing online. I’ll share them with you after the bump.

I started off my rookie online career in the public league, with a spectacular 0-1-7 record before realizing how wrong I was playing my chosen team (the agile, pass happy Wood Elves). I had a few players die, a few injured, and although I was getting destroyed I was having fun – but most importantly – learning how to play the game. Since the dreadful start, I have had a couple great things happen to me, some good roll of the dice, some strategy improvement, and hey, some wins! My record after tonights match is now 4-2-8. Still nothing to write home about but I am really finding a comfort level.

I ran with one Wardancer (one of the best Elf players in the game)- great movement allowance and great starting skills – Leap, Block, and Dodge. The way characters work in BB is based on 4 stats: MA (Movement allowance, how many squares you can move in a turn), ST (Strength, guaged for blocking (attacking) and defence against blocks), AG (Agility, used for dodge rolls) and AV (Armor Value: Used to see if you get injured or killed when blocked (attacked)). Wood Elves have high MA, Average STR, Good AG, but low AV. In a straight up fight-em-up match you don’t only lose, you get maimed. Besides the core stats that every player has, there are skill sets as well. For the Wardancer the base three (as mentioned) allow you to leap over players (Against a wall or cage, you have to go through your opponent typically), Block saves you from going prone on a “both down” roll, and Dodge allows you a reroll on a failed dodge as well as a pushback instead of a ‘defender stumbles’ roll. All of that basically means they can get around the field very well, and are hard to knock down. A player down is a useless player.

Doing things in matches gets you SPP (I don’t know the acronym – Stat Purchase Points? Star Player Points?) which can then be spent. The dice rolls, and if you are lucky you can increase one of your 4 main stats by one (which is huge). If you are unlucky you get to add other skills (which are still huge) – such as Pro (50% reroll chance on a failed roll), Sure Hands, Frenzy, etc. There is a long list and you can tailor your players to your style or team needs.

Back to my Wardancer, the first one I had was injured the first match and lost a point in her AV. That is bad news, meaning she is more likely to get reinjured or die. Regardless, because of how much that player costs I kept playing with her, and I became really lucky. I received a +1 in Agility (already very high), and a +1 in Movement Allowance (she can cover more ground on the field than any other player in the game that I have seen – besides the Wood Elf/Skaven Catcher who is base 9 MA). I also took Pro with her. I ended up saving up and bought another Wardancer, and on her first skillup she got +1MA as well. Now my team has 3 players who cover more ground than anyone else in the game. Needless to say (and Syn will confirm) that is pretty sweet for a 1400 rated team. (Teams are rated by the value of its players.)

I dare EA to put a lust contest on this asskicker. Double dare.

I dare EA to put a lust contest on this asskicker. Double dare.

The main reason why I am writing this tonight is I just had a crazy fun match. I played against a Chaos team (they have horns – and hurt). I kicked off first and it was shallow – on the kickoff event was a Blitz! That means I get to move before the receiving team does. I was able to position myself under the ball I just kicked, dodged a couple rolls and got a quick score. Bad news is, the Chaos guy managed to injure one of my players. Injury roll was “Badly Hurt – no long term damage” which is good – what is bad is that I couldn’t afford any subs. For the rest of the match – 2 turns into 16, I would be down a player (He has 11, I have 10).

Since I scored I kickoff again. It was a decent kick, and his front line injured 2 more players (both no long term damage – but out for game) before he even picked up the ball. He then positioned his players next to mine that were in range (forcing me to either block them, or a dodge roll success to move away from them) and then the rediculous happened. He failed a pickup roll. I ran in my 9 MA Wardancer – she failed a pickup roll. He failed his next pickup roll. I failed my next pickup roll. Finally, he picked the ball up and threw it accross the field to a lone runner, and it was caught – ran it in, Touchdown – but not before he injured ANOTHER one of my players (broken shin, -1MA, miss next match). And then it was my turn to receive a kick.

For those keeping track of players to this point, on the field it was 11 of his players against 7 of mine, at 5 of 16 turns. NOT a good sign, and with the score 1-1 with 3/4 of the match to go, I was starting to worry more about having a team left instead of winning the game. His players were pulverizing mine.

He kicks off to me, and leaves a hole on the left side while stacking the right side of the field (where my two Wardancers were – I had my Catcher (another MA:9) on the left hand side). A “hole” is when there is 3 movement spaces between two defenders. If you move within a “Tackle Zone” of a defender (the 8 squares surrounding him) he gets a free swing at you (Dodge roll to avoid). Because there was three spaces between two defenders I could sneak a player through without the chance of harm. I send my Catcher long, pickup the ball with a Wardancer, run my MA, hand it off to my Thrower, run until I have a clear passing lane (to avoid interception rolls), and Pass the ball to the Catcher. He catches it, but can’t make the endzone in 1 turn (no players can). With my remaining moves I stack a row of defenders around him, including my other Wardancer. If I can stave off his block/attack turn, I can make the endzone on my next turn.

He has a few players near where I am, and surrounds the ball carrier and the defender. The basic way group blocking works is this: if he has 3 players in the Tackle zone of my one player, he gets to roll three dice and choose the best result from the three (modified by Strength). Now, if I have defenders around my ball carrier, the surrounding players in adjacent tackle zones can cancel out the extra dice roll – giving him a much lower chance for success. If he has three blockers, and I have three attackers around the ball carrier and we have even Strength he only gets one dice to roll, and must take the result of that roll (be it good, bad, or ugly). There are skills that help you defend even if a player is in your tackle zone, but I will stick to basics here so it doesn’t get too confusing.

With his defenders around my ball carrier, he blitzes (you can only block ONE player per round from distance – the rest have to be in your tackle zone – so use that blitz wisely!) and knocks down the ball carrier – forcing a dropped ball. After bouncing around a bit, it ends up in the hands of my Wardancer. He has one player in her TZ (tackle zone) so gets another chance to knock her down – it fails, and pushes me back a square. No other player is in my TZ now besides the last attacker (who has the default option to “follow” a push to stay in the TZ – but since he has used up his action for the round cannot reattack). He gets the rest of his in range players to form a cage (Box) around my Wardancer – so next round he can pummel her good and force another fumble. Except, now it is my turn.

I use my Leap skill, hop out of the box, and bam, in for a touchdown. 2-1 for me. Yay. Except, I forgot to mention he Injured (no long term effect) another player. it’s now 11 Chaos, 6 WE on the match. He has double my players. My slim lead won’t hold. I manage to play out the half, 2-1 score and do not sustain any other injuries (yay). At halftime it’s just like football – if you received the kickoff at the start of the game, you kick off to begin the second half.

Without going into too much level of detail, with a lot of luck and some well skilled players I won the game 4-1. At the end of the game, I only had 2 players left on the field that weren’t Injured or KO’d (KO’s happen for temporary out of game injuries. After the ball changes hands they get to roll to see if they come back in or stay down for another drive). He had all 11. Goes to show what you can do against a frustrated player who wasn’t used to the Movement and Dodge ability of the Wood Elf team.

With a little lot of luck, some skill, I was able to beat all odds. Try doing that in your Raid team if 3 healers go down.

As a quick “prologue” here, I have had several matches go the complete opposite way – where I felt I did everything right but couldn’t buy good dice rolls for the life of me. I didn’t get frustrated though, because that is the magic in this game. ANYTHING can happen, and it does, and will, when you least expect it. While my gaming time is still very limited, I manage to squeeze in a quick 30 minute match or two a night when I need that break from work – it has been a great escape. I am curious how private league play works, and may start looking into it after I hit .500.