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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 =)

More Paladins Fun

I did a video. My mic was off, so you don’t get to hear me speak but if you are curious about the gameplay or anything of that nature it’s a fun Siege match that goes to 4 points. 1 point for capturing the objective, and 1 for the payload status (if you get it to the end point you get another point, if it is successfully defended the other team gets a point.) This was one of those “wow, we really kicked butt in the first round – I should record this!” thoughts and then I did decide to record it. And then of course the inevitable happened.

Without voice it does lack my paladin-splaining on much of what is going on but I do think most of it is self explanatory. I’ve never been one for streaming or recording and this won’t change much but thought it would be fun for a nice change of pace. I am playing Ying, a fun, illusion based healer.

I love lists and plans and serial gaming – and Paladins really helps with that. I make enough in game gold playing a character to level 5 to buy another character (more or less, so it seems) and that has been my plan. I have one of each type (Flanker, Front Line, Damage, Support) in the leveling process to 5 at any time and I fill the hole most needed for the team. Once they hit 5 I buy another champion of that category and start again. Rinse, repeat. Like most matchmaking games, perfect matchmaking would have you win / lose at 50% of the time when you hit the level where you belong. Much like League of Legends, Paladins uses the ELO system. There is also a really handy third party website (paladins.guru) that pulls your stats.

How am I doing by role?

My flanker win rate was much higher until I started leveling a flanker (Lex) without invisibility or a more clear escape mechanism. I was trending in the 70%+, but coming back down to earth. Not as many players pick support or front lines and I happen to really enjoy both roles. Sometimes in the Front Line role I get stuck playing WITHOUT a healer often which really makes the W/L hard there. Front Liners do not have a lot of built in sustain where a support / healer can still shine healing a bunch of damage dealers. I really suck in the Damage role and I think that is because I lack map awareness. As a Front Liner lacking map awareness is less deadly as you can take a few hits before going down. Support can often heal themselves at least once before it happens. Flankers have escape mechanisms. Damage are more of the sitting ducks and if you get caught on a flank or not paying attention you are a goner. It is also the quickest locked-in role so I don’t get to practice as much. I have a feeling I will have maxed out all the Support and Front Lines before I truly get to dig into the Damage class.

Here is my overall playtime, Win Loss, and K/D/A. Reading this tells me I should still climb to a bit higher of competitive level. It also isn’t a pure indication as I am constantly learning new champions.

I love data. Here are the champs I have been using and how I have done with each:


Based on my previous comment about constantly learning new champions if all I played was Skye, Grover, and Ying it looks like I would be 23-10 with lots of room to climb. Still, I firmly believe that you can’t learn to beat a champion unless you have walked 5 levels in their shoes and I plan on continuing just that. You also get a lot more chests by leveling up (there is an overall level tied to you, and a mastery level tied to each champion) so it’s a quicker and easier path to new cards, skins, and other opportunities for growth. As you can see it takes around 2 hours of playtime to get one to mastery level 5.  You need 12 champions level 4 or higher to take part in competitive, so some time left in casual before I can start playing with the big kids.

The business model isn’t bad, but not great either. My most interested part is building out new decks to customize and personalize the champions for gameplay. That costs essence, of which you can only get by getting duplicate cards. Building a legendary card costs 12,000 essence (which fundamentally changes the way a champion plays, and is hella fun) and you get between 250-500 essence per duplicate card. New to the game, I do not get a lot of duplicate cards, meaning I could probably play another month or so before really getting to the point where every card is essence based. There is no way to buy essence – I find that a miss and have since learned that it never existed in the game before open beta 42 or 44. This tells me that the company was not happy with the profitability and are trying to find creative ways to change that.

There are few ways to spend money. The first is $19.99 to unlock all current and future champions. I like keeping focused on my unlocks as it forces me to practice and learn champions as I go. You can buy crystals which you can ‘boost’ your character with, gaining faster XP, money, extra cards on unlocks, etc. I hate the way they do boosts because it is done on a time basis (7 or 14 days) and I feel like I would not be able to maximize my time under boost so I wouldn’t get the same value. I would probably buy a boost if it were for a set number of matches, for example.

Crystals also unlock special skins – some are crystals only while others are gold or crystals. You can also upgrade keys to your Radiant Chests to enhance them, giving you a better chance of getting something spiffy. At the end of the day right now I find myself wanting to give Hi-Rez some well earned cash but not sure where to spend it to feel good, so I am just holding onto it until something becomes clear. I don’t want to buy a skin yet for a character I am only playing for 5 levels – and for the record, in all the loot boxes I have earned i have only received one armor piece (a chest, for Ash, a character I don’t play yet. There are skins and armor sets so you can get weapon, body, or head upgrades).

I think I would spend more if the business model was more like League of Legends (who does F2P the best, in my opinion) as of right now I am still trying to understand the relative values between the currencies and opportunities. The good news is, I am just having a ton of fun with this game and I will continue to play it until such time I can sort out how to support it financially.

Paladins – You Might be Missing Out

(click on pictures to see big ones in new windows, I know my frames are small.)

The initial title of “Team shooter perfected” was a bit of a click-bait title and I am far too early in on my Paladins journey to give it that much credit this early. They are well on their way, however, and have definitely solidified themselves as my favorite entry into this genre and deservedly so. Of course, before talking about the present, let’s talk about the past.

I played team shooters back when it was real tough. Rainbow six had message board ladders (nothing in game for rankings, matchmaking, etc.) and a punishing play style. I did do a lot of Counter Strike back in the day as well. Then, for years, there was nothing. I skipped Team Fortress 2 for the most part (which I suspect most would argue is the true inspiration for the new group of bright and cartoony team shooter offerings) and when I did try to get into it the matchmaking was so poor and everyone else was so far ahead of me that I couldn’t find fun or get a foothold. I spent years not playing small map team based shooters, and instead stuck the to the Battlefield 2142’s and Project Reality’s of the world.

My son started playing Overwatch with his friends and in true Blizzard fashion it looked slick, interesting, and fun. I tried to get into it myself only to find things a bit bland for my tastes as well as matchmaking being completely broken (when you are level 14 playing against a guy who is level 314 you know there are issues.) So much clutter onthe screen, claustrophobic maps, lack of customization options and enemies that were just so good it also felt like there was no chance to catch up (already) and that things just weren’t “fair”. Add to the whole buy + microtransactions model that I fundamentally disagree with I just didn’t stick with Overwatch. It wasn’t terrible but just wasn’t a place I wanted to dedicated any more time learning in or trying to have fun in after 20 hours of ‘meh’ gameplay. I gave it a fair chance.

Enter Izlain, and his recommendation for Paladins – the F2P team shooter option from Hi-Rez Studios, and it does everything that Overwatch doesn’t and then some. I have over 7 hours played and  this is my new go to game. So much to discover, to unlock. So much fun. While it isn’t a huge departure from what we know (and what is popular) it does have some neat options which make it a bit more complex and fun. Let’s talk about those after a general explanation about how the game works.

Like most team based shooters there are a lot of different champions. In Paladins they are split into four groups – Damage, Front Line, Support, and Flank. Those are self explanatory for the most part (Damage, Tank, Heal,  Light Armor Damage). There are four modes currently (three standard, and a new one being tested) and they are also very similar:

Pre-match, but clean window and useful UI

  • Payload (moving an object from a starting point to an ending point). Swap from offence to Defence. 1 point for objective, need 2 of 3 to win the round.
  • Siege (battling for a position on a map, which, once won spawns a Payload phase). Need 4 points to win. 1 point for securing the objective, 1 for the payload.
  • Team Elimination (die once, no respawn) first team to 5 full team eliminations wins.
  • Onslaught (control point time + kills). Game is over when the total points hits a threshold.

They are all fun. The maps are varied. Where Paladins truly wins is in the customization. First, characters – you don’t only have different weapons and outfits to equip, you can fundamentally change the way a character plays using the card based system. Here is the best example of this, with Skye.

Skye’s Legendary cards plus some others

Skye is flanker. The flanking play style revolves around sneaking around the back (or side, literally, flanking) and while big heavies and damage dealers are focusing on an objective swoop in and cause havoc from a different angle. Skye has a stealth on a high cooldown (15 seconds). This ability has huge gameplay ramifications as it gives you the freedom to move around the map. The first three cards are the legendary cards and you must choose one before the match. The picture above shows the new card I built (you can loot them or spend in game resources) which changed her default gameplay style from “Do 30% more damage to enemies hit by poison bolts” (secondary attack) to “Reduce all cooldowns by 100% when getting a kill or elimination”.

Totally different playstyle. Striking from the shadows, and immediately entering back into the shadows, versus applying a shred that can take down even the tankiest of enemies fast, but far more exposed. The third legendary option for Skye is an Alpha strike option, doing 300 more damage on the first hit out of stealth. So, now you have a themed character that you can change to better suit a map or playstyle you prefer. The other cards allow you to further personalize your abilities. I am going to use Ying, my first support character, as the example here.

Ying heals by creating illusions of herself that cast heals every second to the most injured team member in their range. They are stationary. Her other abilities are to swap positions with her furthest away illusion (escape),  do damage, and “shatter’ her illusions – they charge the nearest enemy and then blow up. It is a really fun kit and I am having the most fun healing with her.   With all characters you get to select up to 5 cards, and use 12 points (you can improve each card – so if one says increase health by 100 as a base, you can spend three additional points and make that 400. As an example) to make your character yours.

Here is the base Ying.

Base loadout – I kept to the base ones for learning until I better understood the gameplay dynamics for the champion

This impacts her gameplay.

  • Spring Bloom (4) Illusions are on a 5 second timer, and have health. If one dies the counter goes down 2 seconds faster.
  • Squadron (4) Her illusions are a lot beefier with 4 points (+400 health)
  • Disappear (1) Ying can move faster out of combat with a 7% movement speed increase  (and if you added a point there, would most likely be 14% faster).
  • Efficiency (1) Reduces the cooldown of Dimensional Link (the teleport swap skill) by 1s.
  • Tangible (2), increases personal health by 100 (Tangible 1 would have been 50. It moves it very round numbers).

This kit its focusing on personal and illusion survivability with good movement. It’s the base Ying everyone plays. I found that I was ‘shattering’ (exploding) my illusions a lot and that if someone got in my face and I teleport swapped then they would kill the illusion. I also wanted more than one illusion up at a time effectively I loved the theme and mood of Ying but wanted to create a playstyle that was a bit different. This is what I came up with:

Second loadout – 8 per character are available

  • Mesmerism (3) increases the range where you can deploy illusions by 30% (Now I can stay safer and further away)
  • Squadron (2) increases health by 200 (I didn’t need 400 because I was blowing them up a lot anyway to do damage)
  • Rewind (1) swapping to the spot of a dead illusion spawns an illusion with 25% health (great emergency heal escape if low)
  • Carry On (4) – your illusions last 4 sec longer (now I can layer them better)
  • Spring Bloom (2) – when illusions die to an enemy reduce the cooldown of illusions by 1 sec (get them back up faster)

I absolutely loved the new deck, and my first game, kicks some nice butt with it too. There are a few tweaks I might use (taking a point off of Carry On and adding it to Spring Bloom) but that is what is great about this game – you can make the champions your own in a controlled environment.

Here was the results of my first game with Ying v2.0

#flex #epeen #humble #karma

Remember, Ying is a support/healer. I had the highest kill streak, most objective time (escorting the payload), comparable damage, and only healing in the game. My 11/4/13 KDA outshone most of my team (who were all playing pure damage dealers).  It was a great round for me.

The customization doesn’t start there. In game  you can also customize your champion further based on who you are facing in game and how the match is going, through an in game item store – of which, you score points during the match and then spend. Remember that Skye I told you about, that could stealth after every kill and is a great harasser? A skilled player could see that happening and adjust in game to better deal with her by buying the Illuminate skill (increase range you detect stealthed characters). If Ying’s illusions are taking you down during shatters get the Blast Shields – they lower AOE damage. If your support isn’t healing, buy Life Rip – which gives your damage a leech effect. Against some big tanky front lines with shields? Wrecker takes those down fast. The item shop gives you more options to strategically support your success. It is pure awesome. You can lower cooldowns, increase ultimate charge, lower healing on players you did damage to – all sorts of steady states. It is limited to one item per line (Defence, Utility, Healing, Offense) but you can also upgrade the item in the same category for more money. When I was trying to increase my illusion uptime on Ying I would go with level 3 Chronos builds (30% cooldown reduction).

Item Store in game

There are a lot of other topics of discussion to discuss about Paladins and I will more deeply explore them – it is my definite new go to game for the forseeable future. If you feel like picking it up (it’s free) add me as a friend and I’d love to learn the game with you. My in game name is “Founts”. Looking forward to exploring and understanding this title better – and already absolutely in love with it.

The Overwatch Conundrum

My son and all of his friends play Overwatch. Typically that style of first person shooter (spammy, jumpy, TF2-ish is probably a fair description) has never been high on my list. And yet, I find myself playing it. The oddity of this isn’t the fact that I am playing it (I play all sorts of games) but the fact that I am playing it and still haven’t figured out if I like it or not. It is a strange beast. After 10 hours or so and getting into online matchmaking there are some things I know I DISLIKE about it, but I am having a hard time putting my finger on the things that I DO like about it.

compliments of razerone since screenshots are hard to port over from PS4

I dislike that you can change characters upon death. While that makes sense for matchmaking purposes, I find that it helps the winning team more. As soon as you switch thinking you are bringing a counter to the table to balance it out more the other side just does the same thing. There is no strategy behind this and it becomes a guessing game of who is going to pick who. I would change this to the losing side can only change at any given time (to balance it out) or not have it change at all. Of course, the game is not up for changing something as fundamental as that design choice. It is pushing me away from the game. I yearn for a mode like League of Legends where people pick one at a time and stick with it.

I also dislike the lack of customization options. The skins, for the most part, are just re-coloration on the low end and things like tags and voice lines you don’t get to really enjoy. If you stop to check out a cool tag you are dead, plain and simple. If you are paying attention to interesting or fun in game speak you are dead. The game is too fast and spammy to enjoy the majority of the loot box items – emotes, voice overs, and tags. The only weapon customization that I have seen is golden guns which feels like a HUGE miss.

I dislike the lack of strategy. Things happen so fast that there is no time to work out any sort of fundamental strategy outside of spam here and spam there. Objectives are won and lost so quickly that it’s simply run back, try to find a group, and spam/shoot away. I know you are probably thinking “well duh, that’s the beauty of it!” but I don’t see it that way. I wish there was more to it but it feels very shallow in so many ways.

And yet, I play it. I don’t know if it fits in mindless zen grinding for loot boxes territory (which I do like, actually, but think you should get one for every match – not level – as a B2P game it’s a bit crappy) or the semblance of semi interesting characters (albeit devoid of story or purpose). There is definitely some sort of hook to it that I just can’t put my finger on. Maybe someday soon I can explain, if I continue playing it.

Enter the competitor, Paladins.

Izlain over at Me Myself and I made a post that included Paladins and when I checked out some reviews and videos it hits a lot of the check boxes of things I dislike about Overwatch. Player is locked in for the match, but they are further customized by cards you collect as well as in game gear you can buy (much like League of Legends). There is a loot box pathway in the game that doesn’t also charge you a box fee. The gameplay and characters also look varied semi interesting. I also have nothing to lose by trying it, so I will. Will be interesting to comp the two.

easy peeyzy lemon breezy

Bonus here, as a PS4 noob that I could get the game and download it to my home PS4 from the PS store in my browser at work. I didn’t realize it had that functionality and quite frankly, that is awesome. I was honestly thinking that I wished I could do that from here, and tried it for the heck of it, and sure enough it worked. Makes so much sense and removed another barrier to purchase. This could end up being a costly and dangerous feature for me.

What do you think? Do you play either? What do you love about it? I am going to continue to explore this further and any tips or suggestions would be helpful.

Here’s Your Answer, Tesh!

I suppose the Global Agenda ‘strike while the iron is hot’ promo is, uh, striking while the iron is hot.

Last chance for APB refugees and other Shooter/MMO fans to receive discount

Dear Shooter/MMO Fans:Image

Recently, I wrote an open letter to APB Refugees and other fans of the Shooter/MMO genre. In that letter, we offered players 30% Off Global Agenda when purchasing from our webstore using the promotion code “LongLiveShooterMMOs” (that’s $20.99, £13.12 and €15.75).

Since that letter, we’ve had thousands of new players join the game! With each additional Shooter/MMO fan the Global Agenda community grows stronger and the online multiplayer competition becomes more intense.

Based on this, we’ve extended the promotion through Monday, October 4.

So if you are interested in Global Agenda’s high-flying shooter combat inside a futuristic game world, there’s no better time to strap on that jetpack! And, remember, the game has no monthly fees.

Still unsure? You can try before you buy by playing the free trial, available here.

We welcome all the new players that have recently joined us, and hope to see the rest of you in game soon!

Todd Harris
Executive Producer, Global Agenda

Hi-Rez Studios

________________________________________________________

My own emphasis on the ‘thousands of new players’.