Monthly Archive: July 2017

Fortnite

I always get sucked into these things. Early access.

And I have yet to be disappointed.

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

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

Oh, the ‘E’ word again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official Forums

as always, click on photos to enlarge!

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

Boy, did I get sucked in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My posting on the forums will no doubt support that.

#delusionsofgrandeur.

Mr. Unpopular

Paladins

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

Level 6 for all, here I come!

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

My BAE

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

Battletech – Backer’s Beta

Big robots waltzing

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

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

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

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