Epic Games

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

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.

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.

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.