Dipping the Toe Back In

And almost had it cut off.

With Izlain’s inadvertent prodding and poking I re-downloaded League of Legends. It’s always hard returning to a game you haven’t played in a while and especially so when it is a game that changes frequently. There is a relearning period where not only are you remembering the basics of how to play, but  alsohow and which systems have modified since you had it “on farm”.

I quit League of Legends in 2013 right around the time I made this post. I was determined to play ranked games and climb out of bronze and I was playing daily. Ultimately the frustration of having less than 1 in 5 games being “fun” is what did it for me. You aren’t just fighting champions – often you are fighting the community. It’s 45+ minutes every time you fight either. As I have less time to game, I want to get as much out of my gaming as possible. 20% uptake was a bad average.

That being said, I missed the game and reading Izlain and chatting about it made me boot it back up. And like an old friend who you haven’t seen in a while, there was a comfort immediately, and also a curiosity. “What have you been up to?”

The Summoner’s Rift map rework is beautiful. I don’t know when they changed the style but I love it. I immediately jumped into some bot games with my favourite top laners (Wukong, Zac, and Rumble) and it felt good but I was definitely rusty.  Finally played a normal 5v5 versus real people and I really sucked. My Rumble was off, missing a lot of my ultimates (I had huge winrates with Rumble when last I played). I was laning against Aatrox (a natural counter to Rumble – this was Blind Pick so I didn’t really have a choice)  and with a Jarvan IV jungle (grr) it was a bad combination for me. Still, I played safe but had crappy farm and ended up 1-2 after laning phase. Thankfully we had a good team that carried me and I happily sacrificed myself in team fights (focus the worst player, right?) and my team would mop them up. I also had 1800 RP left so I immediately bought the new Rumble skin. It is so slick, especially after spending so many hours staring at the old, crappy Rumble skin.

compliments of Moobeat at Surrender at 20

I missed the thrill of PVP.

I have a lot of practice to catch back up where I was and a lot of learning the new matchups and how my favourite champs have changed, but I’ll be playing semi-regularly. If you want to keep up with my games you can here at LoLKing (I have thick skin, ridicule away!) and while I think I’ll avoid ranked I’m definitely going to keep my pool of champs small this time around. Less is more, right?

In the meantime, if you have any tips on what are the right websites to follow for guides (I am so out of the loop on what to buy) and/or other good sites to catch me up on what I have missed in the League of Legends world, please point me to them!

Feel free to add me if you play : Summoner name is Couchon.


How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.

Quitting Games

I forgot to mention I quit League of Legends sometime ago. Right around the end of the last season.

It was odd because it wasn’t even a decision. I just stopped playing. It was my daily login and play game, and one day, I just stopped.

A long time ago I did a brief recap of when and why I left certain games (specifically MMOs) and it was just time. I don’t even miss it, and even more importantly can even begin to bother thinking about relearning the whole game now that they are doing sweeping changes to the jungle, laning and items again. My LoL friends tell me that its the best it has been competitive wise, but I am still not interested.

The game that broke the camel’s back was actually Civ 5 now that I think about it. I got it for free for doing a survey, and became engrossed with it. I had never played it before. That is a whole other post though. I rarely juggle multiple games now that I don’t have multiple hours to play them. I tend to stick with just one, ride it hard and fast, then dismount. All sort of places that sentence can go, but just going to stop here.

It’s Friday, after all. have a great weekend. Happy New Year.

Odds Are in My Favour

Still playing League of Legends and I am nearing my placement matches to move up from Bronze (crap) to Silver (less crap). it has been an arduous climb, but somewhat of a positive experience. My top laners (Wukong, Pantheon) continue to be my bread and butter and I have recently added Rumble – and have an over 75% winrate with him. He has been ‘nerfed’ as of late but since I have seen him exactly zero times over 100 games what I suspected is true – no one knows how to play against him.

Rumble is that cat like creature (yordle) riding his mechanized contraption and is a fun character conceptually, and plays hella fun. Anyway, hopefully I can ride him to silver.

Back to the title – what I have realized in the untalented, cesspool that is bronze (which I am so fond of being a bronzie myself) is that if you don’t suck, that means you have an up to 80% chance of having sucky players on your team. This is a benefit because the other team has an up to 100% chance. So the odds are definitely in your favour. Assuming, of course, you don’t suck. (Sometimes I do).

I have hit a neat spot where your League Points get ‘clamped’. Whereas before clamping, you could get 20 LP for a win, now its 3 to 6. This means you really have to power through matches to get to your promotion matches. Also a nice way to slow you down to stop and smell the roses. Or at least the other available scents in bronze.

Dat Wukong (aka “That Wukong”)

Great observation by Zubon over at KTR, and I am living that efficiency. He hasn’t played ranked yet so he doesn’t share that you can use ‘Dat’ or ‘Dis’ in place of the proper words, and it looks like he won’t stick around to learn that part. Despite the trash, despite the hate, despite the racism, I still stick around League of Legends for the competition. It’s an interesting setup and gives you something to shoot for.

Once you have the requisite amount of champions (16) and levels (30) you can enter into the dreaded abyss that makes Barren Chat look like Sunday school and play Solo Queue Ranked games in League of Legends. Solo Q matches you with four random strangers on your team, and 5 random strangers on the other, after being “matched” through Riot’s super secret system. You then “discuss” what roles you want to play, throw together a team, and go off to get MOBA glory. If you win, you get League Points (LP). If you lose, you lose LP. The amount you gain or lose depends on who the secret matchmaker things should have won. Win a game that you are supposed to and you get little gains. Lose a game you are favored to win and see the points melt away.

Once you hit 100 points, you get put into a best of 3 situation to move up a League. I need to backup a second – BEFORE you enter ranked, you play 10 ‘placement’ matches which will put you in a skill group and category. Currently it goes from Bronze to Platinum, with each metal having ranks 5 through 1. I was placed in Bronze III. Back to the 100 points. Once you earn 100 LP in your bracket, you are put into a best of 3 situation. Win 2 of 3 and you move up the scale (for me, Bronze III to Bronze II) and once you get into the “I” division of your color, win a best of 5 and you move up to the next precious metal. Bronze to Silver to Gold and so on.

I just won my second of three placement matches and moved up to Bronze II and unlike MMO achievements, it actually felt like an accomplishment. Against the feeders, ragers, AFK’ers, and racists – I persevered and now have earned the distinction of a Bronze II League placement. I have set a goal to make Silver I so wish me luck.

And oh, although I still haven’t had 10 games without trash, I did reward Riot for enjoying this stint of games and bought a skin – General Wukong. I am 10-5 with him in ranked and am proving someone efficient with him.


Playing the Free to Play Field (Non-Committed)

Kind of feels a bit like speed dating.

As good a time as it is to be a gamer these days with all the free-to-play options I am actually a bit sullen. Unlike my wife, I just can’t commit to any games. I could argue it is because of the game themselves but I am starting to think it is more because of the payment model.

I have downloaded a lot of FTP games lately.

Star Trek Online: I have updated it 3x, logged in only once, and haven’t been past character select

Star Wars The Old Republic: Perfect to play as a single player game to check out the storylines now that it is FTP, but I have only managed 8 levels and 3 play sessions over the past 30 days.

EQ(1): Nostalgia. Log in and run around with the old toons. Cannot be bothered to figure out how to play it again =)

GW2: I update it and log in but I never got the feel or enjoyment from this game. I call this FTP because there is no sub!

LoL: I play a match daily still, and it’s getting my best playtime.

Of them all League of Legends is the clear cut winner as I am navigating through a SoloQ ranking system. So there is an investment there, a goal, something to measure my playtime against. I so very badly want to give the others a fair shot but my time is at a premium and I just don’t feel invested – or have enough carrot/stick to GET invested.

When I jumped back into WoW I had a goal to reach max level, and gear up enough to get into Looking For Raid. And since I was paying a sub to play there was an automatic investment.

Maybe that is it – the sub fee helps commit you to the game. Do you find the same thing?

(mis)Quote Of The Week

We always have opportunities to strip down, tear open, expose, pump up, or otherwise put emphasis on the female chest.

Riot art designer Ironstylus on his thoughts on Champion remakes – Sivir, especially.

Go read the original article though, he actually has a chesty, large, bouncing point – although the misquoted version is way better.

(also tagged this as politics, because this demonstrates a skillset to be a press secretary or something like that.)


Continuing my series of posts on LOL I present to you – Pantheon! Anyone who is a fan of Spartans, the movie 300, or just general Manliness loves this guy. He is a mid-game beast in League of Legends, and helped me make my best move of the entire season last night.

In LoL there are neutral jungle creeps that give gold and some give buffs. One in particular – Baron Nashor (a giant worm-like creature) gives the best team buff in game – so ensuring the other team doesn’t get it later in the game is really important. We were winning early game, but our bottom lane was doing fairly poor. We tried to help them out but everytime we walked away they were dying. By mid game we were dominating every lane EXCEPT the bottom lane. In LoL this is bad – the bottom lane contains your Attack Damage Carry that, when properly fed with kills and farm, usually wins you games – regardless of how other lanes are doing. If you can keep them alive.

Their AD Carry was really strong and as we transitioned into late game we were at a severe disadvantage suddenly – our earlier gains negated. We were pushed into our base to protect our Nexus (the ultimate objective to destroy in the game) and, as expected, the enemy team went to take Baron while we protected our Nexus. They had him down to 2% when I timed my “Ultimate” move (every player has one – Pantheon can leap half way across the map, and damage everyone within a certain radius) perfectly. It was timed perfectly.

I used my Grand Skyfall (official name) right onto the Baron, stunned their jungler, and threw one spear at Baron – stealing the buff for my whole team. We then ‘aced’ their team right after, and caught up on some towers.

We ultimately lost, but it was one of those plays that are fun to pull off and you tend to remember. It’s like hitting a half court shot at the buzzer in basketball, an impossible hail mary pass in Football, etc. etc.

The frustrating part for me of it all was not that we lost, but the *way* we lost. By all accounts, if our bottom lane had just played safe we had the advantage – but they kept pushing their lane and dying needlessly, lowering their own power and raising the power of our opponents. Even more frustrating is that I was one win away from playing my ‘promotion’ games – which is a three game series where you can move up a league. Two losses in a row and now I am three games away from that – and only if I win all three. (LoL has an odd way of granting and taking away points on their random matchmaking.)

I have had extremely bad luck with Fizz, my preferred mid lately and I am feeling like he isn’t the right mid laner for me to be good at right now. My wins with him have been dramatic but I have been less useful than I had hoped in most of my matches. I may try with Pantheon mid as well (he is doable there)- as I have had great games with him lately despite my win loss with him.

Master of None


I have been mostly just playing League of Legends lately. It does free to play exceptionally well. Sadly, my experiment isn’t going as I had hoped although my sample size is small. Through 27 games, 7.41% are decided by an intentional feeder, 7.41% a Troll Pick, 11.11% from an AFK, 55.56% of my games are heavily lopsided. That leaves 18.52% of games that are close and “good” (meaning a marginal improvement at best). Since I am taking the game a bit more serious I realized that the champs I played the most I am the best at (oddly enough, eh?) but I like to mix it up a bit -so I end up not playing optimally.

So, Jack of all trades, Master of none.

My new experiment, along with the outcome tracking, is to only play with 8 champs total – two options per lane. (I don’t jungle, which for non-LOL’ers is a needed role. I never bothered to learn and don’t feel like it. I’d rather support – which teams love to hear -so I can always get out of jungling.)

I am picking my favorite 8 and whatever role I am playing I am solely going to play from those 8. I’m curious if  I will improve enough on those champs that my experience will change. With each LOL article I write I’ll include a picture of one. Wukong (last LOL article linked at the top) is my preferred top laner, and I love playing Fizz (above) mid or top.

I haven’t given Riot money in a long time (mostly because I only get 1 good game out of 5) but for fun I am running 10 game challenges. For every 10 games in a row that don’t have an AFK’er, Intentional Feeder, or someone who needs to be banned (racist, homophobic, typical internet ass-shatery type) I will buy a skin from Riot. (around $10). We’ll see if I have to spend a dime. That is the only part of the game that irks me. Bad part is that I am doing my provisional games for s3 ranked so the scales are definitely tipped in my favor.

And oh, ARAM games don’t count. Although it is a really fun way to play.

18.07% Fun

I played a lot of League of Legends during season two. It is a game that fulfilled my PVP spirit and as my first (and only) MOBA had a lot going for it in the way the games played out. It is kind of like baseball – your individual effort really has an impact on the team as a whole, but you can win (and lose) regardless of how you do. The team and it’s ability to work together at the end of the day is how winners are determined. One amazing player on the team can tip the scales, and LoL has a pretty neat sweet spot of group vs solo play.

Add in a ranking system, roles you can’t auto-join as (but must be filled to win the most effective way) and internet anonymity and you get the expected ass-shattery. So much so that I decided to quit. While Riot has a team of PhD’s and behavioral studs doing some interesting work in the space, the truth is, the results weren’t there.

I started tracking how my games were ending up to personally judge my experience in the game. I focused on removing my emotions from it (in the name of SCIENCE!) and to be as accurate as possible. The goal, for me, was to see what it took to have fun games in LoL – I didn’t have the aggregate data to play with that team PB&J (Player Behavior and Justice – for Riot – fun name!) had, but I had my hours. I tracked 167 games – which average around 45 minutes each. That’s over 125 hours of gaming for me. Here is what I found.

9.64% of all games were decided because of a troll pick or intentional feeding. (someone purposely meant to lose)

15.66% of all games were decided because of an AFK (one team missing 20% or more of their team)

56.63% were lopsided (20 minute surrender or should have been. Only one team had a legit chance of winning)

All of that means, only 18.07% were ‘close’ or ‘good’ games. That’s around 1 in 5, and if that is what it takes to make a good MOBA, then you can count me out.

I am only bringing this up because I recently read/watched this article at Gamasutra that talks about player behaviour and the things that Riot are working on in that arena.

I am going to try and replicate my own experiment and see if it has gotten any better. I loved the game – but the investment of  only getting 20% ‘good’ time while playing it wasn’t worth the headaches of the other 80%.

Late to the Party – League of Legends

I have really been enjoying myself in League of Legends. It’s a pretty good PVP game, and one area in particular I think scales well in general (and a good lesson for other games) – the learning curve.

I did the tutorial(s), and jumped into Co-Op vs AI pretty quick for a bunch of levels. Here is where I learned the basics of the game, and familiarized myself with a few different champs (both playing, and against). Took me a while to get comfortable with the constant running away, but hey, it’s a feature!

Level 10 jumped into PVP and they were pretty basic matches – stay in your lane, push towers, clear your lane of towers, push base, win.

I am now only level 16, and sitting at a 36W-26L record. Not spectacular, I know – but it’s all part of the learning. As I progress, the game around me changes naturally as more advanced players are introduced and more advanced tactics. I’m sure somewhere around 20 random teams will start worrying about comps and junglers, but right now the game is advancing in difficulty (generally) as I am advancing in skill (generally). I don’t actually play to win as much as I play to learn. Seems the more I focus on the latter the more the former happens.

This pace, if the average player pays attention and is willing to adapt, is providing a good learning curve. I suspect as I push 30 the games will continue to change to more of what the lvl 30 ranked games look like – I have a long way to go, but looking forward to learning and getting there. While not a MMO, I am actually enjoying the journey.

I even bought some Riot Points (LoL is FTP) and all that really does is helps me to get to 30 faster, if I feel my skills are outpacing my advancement (which it did) and I find I enjoy challenging games more than RoFL stomps anyway.

I’m playing Morgana, who is classified as support – but feels more like ranged damage. I also already own Soraka (support), Taric (support), Amumu (tank) and Pantheon (Melee/Damage). Morgana is who I play the best (and most) but I’m told that it’s good to get good with a various amount of champions in case your team requires a role (at 16, no one seems to care about team comps – everyone just picks their favorite). So I’m twisting in different champs to get familiar and comfortable.

It’s free and worth picking up, just get to level 10 before you decide the gameplay sucks. First few games I really didn’t enjoy myself – but that is because I didn’t take the time to learn the expectations (didn’t watch a video, nada) – the team and strategy aspects really shines through once you get comfortable and a full grasp of what the point is.

Always seem to be late to the good parties. Fashionably late, of course.


Customer Service Win

After reading this great customer service example over at World of Shadow, I’m back thinking of my own CS purchase experiences in the gaming world. Of course, from there, I can’t help but continue to think, and discuss, why customer service basics don’t flow over into the gaming sphere.

In my first link above, the author purchased from Riot (a la League of Legends fame) and their internal records notified him that within the preset 2 week time frame of his purchase, the item he bought had a price reduction. They credited his account the difference.

In my second link, I bought a game off of Steam for $19.99, only to have it go on sale the next day for $1.99. I was politely told “too bad, so sad” (aka – pound salt) when I asked if it was possible to get a credit for the difference.

The author from the first link is already planning a second purchase from Riot for their good customer service. I haven’t bought anything from Steam since ( and almost a full year) and probably won’t again. Not because I’m that jaded of a buyer, but because there are other means to buy games, and I’d prefer to purchase through services that value me as a client.

Not that I’ll have much luck finding a retailer that rewards customer satisfaction. In the most basic of terms, customer satisfaction is the best predictor of future purchases. You would think the gaming world would get that by now – instead they seem intent that it is better to not get some money from many people, and get full price from people who do buy.

Some quick and easy ideas on how to retain customer satisfaction in gaming after the jump.