Monthly Archive: August 2017

Destiny – A Game With No Competitor

It did strike me as odd, as I played through the Destiny 2 ‘beta’ on PC last night that no other company has tried their hand at taking dollars away from Destiny.  This is quite shocking, actually, when you think about it. Gaming studios are much like movie studios – they tend to launch the same kind of movies and themes around the same time to not lose out on market share and dollars. We see this all the time in gaming too. Overwatch and Paladins are fighting for the resurgent twitchy team shooting space originally built by Team Fortress 2, and you can add Gigantic and Lawbreakers to that list as well (among others). Success breeds spawns of similar design, some of which may end up being more successful than the original. There is effort to do this, at bare minimum.

League of Legends popularity spawned DOTA 2, Heroes of the Storm, SMITE, and a whole other slew of MOBAs. There are usually a lot of competition among popular genres at any given time. This is why it completely shocks me that no other studio is battling for the CO-OP RPG-PVE shooter environment that Destiny has built. There isn’t a title I know similar to Destiny and when there is a multi-billion dollar property out there, ripe to cash in on and around, I just can’t fathom why other studios aren’t taking a shot at the space.

There are really low hanging fruit to capture here. Destiny 2 still refused to offer LFG matchmaking for their Raids – arguably the most requested feature by the player base. It was completely ignored in favor of a method of picking up singles into pre-made groups. This was clearly done so they could save themselves the man hours of tweaking the difficulties of the raid and/or reprogramming rewards based on difficulty. The entire rest of the game is already based on auto-matchmaking so we know there is no  lack of expertise or network code for it. With their ties to Blizzard there is also internal expertise on how to do a proper casual raid LFG style stystem. I still haven’t seen the raids in Destiny 1 (and I never will) and that will most likely be the same in D2. In this day and age of accessibility it just doesn’t make sense. Less than 20% of players were able to enjoy that content.

The road less traveled?

The second improvement is still the story. While they plan on much improving the narrative in Destiny 2 they did double down on the zombie narrative, that I made a complete mockery of, way back in 2014 when it launched. The story was so broken upon launch that the best sense we could make of it is that we are a zombie army, arisen to terrorize the universe. It made as much sense as what they were offering at the time. In Destiny 2, Bungie actually enforced silliness that with the Zavala origin story video showing that Guardians are indeed, immortal. He dies, is brought back to life, keeps fighting, dies, rinses, repeats. Not at any one point do the bad guys try to really, really kill him. They shoot him once and then walk away. (cut off the head, burn the body, launch into space… try SOMETHING).  I also made fun of this more recently as it continues to be completely absurd. In Destiny 2 the story does revolve around losing the ability to be reincarnated and I sincerely hope that is gone for good, and this is Bungie’s way of finally killing off the immortal zombie apocalypse from a good-guy perspective narrative.

Every time I complain about the story, I feel compelled to mention how every other part of the game works near perfectly – from the missions, to the open world mission opportunities, to the RPG aspects, and tight shooting mechanics. I know it sounds silly to say this next line – but it is a multi-billion dollar franchise that hasn’t even met it’s full potential yet. Which is why I wish another studio would take a crack at it, to build upon the solid foundation. With Destiny 2 feeling more like an expansion than a whole new game at this point there are probably a lot of  Destiny players open to a new experience as well.

And for some reason, no one is interested in giving them a run for their money, to take a piece of the pie, or to build something even more coherent, tangible, and fun.

That shocks me more than the terrible story narrative.

Lack of Trust – Loot Boxes

I commented on Bhagpuss’s latest post about how I largely agree that loot boxes are a fun mechanic. This was in the context for me that it is a method of advancement and not the sole one. The example I used in Fortnite that it is basically the *only* way you can progress meaningfully so when that is gated behind a hard paywall it is frustrating and not fun. This has caused me to stop logging in execept for the idle game portion – I collect research points per hour and they max out, so I find myself logging in, collecting them, spending them, and logging out. All without really playing. Not sure how long this will go on.  They either need to grant a Llama after every cooperative round (LLama is their loot box/pinata) or greatly increase the quality of the items found within it. It is still in early access so I may revisit it once/if they announce changes.

In my last post I complained a bit about Paladins but found myself in a shooter mood last night and time to spare so decided to log in and see how things are. They added another new champion, Strix, who is a sniper with stealth.

I am going to pause there, to let that sink in. Just for people who have ever played games that had a stealth mechanic and how unfun and difficult to balance that is.

Not only does the sniper have stealth, but can shoot from it, and can 1 or 2 shot most characters. Take a guess how much fun that is. The facepalm moment about this is that they already have a stealth character (Skye) who kept getting nerfed because her stealth was so hard to balance – and she had to basically be in melee range to do excellent damage. Now take triple the damage from triple the distance with a better stealth mechanic – PLUS the ability to reveal all of your enemies on the screen in a large radius so you know where to aim (ie: no hiding!) and after the first round I was about to uninstall the game. (I still might). Things got better when every round had one Strix on each side because they had to focus on each other, but it was, largely, the most unfun way to die in a game. When you have zero chance or control to the outcome. Bonus frustration is that he doesn’t have to lead you and the bullet doesn’t path. If he is lined up at the second he pulls the trigger you are dead

This is still about lootboxes.

Paladins is also loot-box based but you can buy everything with two three types of currencies – gold, essence, and crystals. Crystals are mostly cash only (you get 50 a week for logging in 7 days in a row) and crystals are mostly used for skins and cosmetic items, so it’s not bad. I can get behind this kind of loot box. All the important things in games (champions, cards, etc) are available through gameplay – and not even that hard. A purely F2P player can literally play the entire game and unlock everything without a ton of effort. Playing a hour a day, you would unlock a champion at the rate of one per week quite easily. It would take you far longer to master that champion. I paid $20 for the founders pack which gives you every existing champion AND all future ones (plus a bunch of lootboxes for ability cards and customization outfits, etc.) It was a great investment as I have already racked up over 100 hours in the game, and even bought crystals ($35) to get some skins I like.  The tough part about their skins is that you don’t buy them directly, you still buy a loot box for a chance to get the skin. These are pretty limited (ie: hold 16 different items) and you can’t get duplicates in special chests. (Duplicates on common, Radiant chests). The challenge here is that you have a min/max on spend, based on chance. When you know you want ONE particular thing it would be better to know that cost and make that decision. In those chests might be many different things that you aren’t interested in.

This just happened to me.

I now play 4 Champions regularly. Lex (Flank), Ruckus (Tank), Inara (Tank) and Ying (Heals). Recently Inara got a skin, which I bought crystals for, and which I ended up getting half way through the chest items (8/16) and it cost me around $9. If I would have received it on the first it would have been $1. That is a big range. I wasn’t stoked with it completely.

Then, Lex got a shiny new skin.

I knew I wanted it and I still had crystals left over from my Inara skin bonanza, the question became – how lucky would I get? Turns out – not lucky at all. I got it on 16/16. To which I immediately thought:

Was that fair?

And not fair in the sense that I had bad luck, but there is no governing body to ensure that video game loot mechanics are based off of real randomization or chance. In fact, there is nothing, anywhere stating that you have an equal chance to get any item in that box. They should be 1/16 but a smart company, not required to disclose, would make the lesser, not as cool items (of which there are many in each chest) have a 4/16 chance of dropping. Sure, the chances get better as the person unlocks the items but it could drive more crystal use and hence more revenues to head office. There is no reason to suspect this isn’t happening, and no recourse or need for the company to provide drop rates.

Unless you live in China, and are selling to Chinese customers. How do the Communists get this more right than the west?

To prove my point further, I didn’t get the two best skins until the last two chests.

The V1-KTOR and L-Exo suit were the two new skins in this patch and chest

The V1-KTOR and L-Exo suit were the two new skins in this patch and chest. What are the chances that they drop 15th and 16th in a pure, random environment? Not sure.

I believe loot boxes need to be upfront, honest, and regulated, so people can make fair purchase decisions.

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.

Post Vacation Post

Not sure if you noticed, but I was gone for two weeks.

Add to that, my site went down. I was pretty sure it was a foreign oppressive regime – North Korea or Maybe Russia – but my tech guy claims it was just some update error. Maybe the foreign oppressive regime put that there. My time away from work and gaming wasn’t a full vacation, I was teaching at a hockey camp up in the Muskokas. Hockey camp was a ton of fun and it is always great to teach kids about anything. Muskoka is a beautiful cottage area in Ontario full of lakes, cottage living, and bad internet.

A couple quick observations from being away.

  • Cottage life is amazing life. Spending days at the rink in the summer sounds a bit like madness, but getting back to the rental cottage at 3:30pm, jumping in the lake, going fishing, drinking beer – tons of fun.
  • I didn’t miss gaming that much – I suspect it was because we were so busy the whole time. When I got home this weekend I had a lot of fun booting up Fortnite. Of which, I’ll have another post about soon.

Just letting you know I am back, in case you were wondering. <ahem>