[GW2] That Feature Pack

The household sounds were filled with sounds of enlightenment and confusion as Mrs. Ravious and I dug in to the Guild Wars 2 Feature Pack. Jeromai has the right of it. This feature pack shook things up. Hopefully all for the better, but time will have to tell on a lot of it. As Zubon warned us, most of our night was re-learning our characters.

Our first stop was the wardrobe. We ran through our bank and gear to fill our sticker book of skins, and I gained back about two dozen inventory slots. It was confusing at first with how some skins were working. The equipment was easier to understand because it remained an item even when the copy of the skin went into the wardrobe. Continue reading

[GW2] Login Warning

Read the patch notes and completely re-do every character you have before you do anything. Everything changed, and the mail alerting you that something has been reset can be spotty. I had to play several PvP matches and repeatedly enter the Heart of the Mists before I got any notice that my PvP stats were reset. You may or may not get notice that your WvW ranks were reset. You may or may not get notice that your runes have changed. You may or may not…

Basically, everything you know about your characters and the content may or may not have changed, so go read 10,000 words, and good luck sorting it out. If you’re like me and have characters of all 8 classes, you have a lot of studying and respecing to do.

: Zubon

[TT] Adding Value

As mentioned, the Intrigue expansion was Dominion’s first chance to vary the environment and give more potential to the less valuable cards. Remember, the benchmark is Big Money and streamlining decks, so the design space to be explored is how to make the cards that are not the best still worth seeking. Silver, Gold, and Province are good cards that everyone wants. How do we make Copper, Estate, and Duchy more valuable?

Baron makes money off Estates and gets you more Estates. That’s good. That gives you victory points in small increments while helping you buy them in larger increments. And remember, at the end, you only need to win by one point. Baron also helps you get a quick start, because your odds of drawing Baron + Estate on turns 3 or 4 are pretty good, but if you don’t hit that, your turns will be horrible because you have one turn with Baron and no Estates then a turn with Estates and no Baron.

Duke is worth more victory points when you have more Duchies. That is a straightforward way to make Duchies more appealing: synergy! Duke is kind of the opposite of Baron: Baron shoots for the extreme turn with lots of money (or misses for nothing); Duke works reliably at $5, and you just need cards to support it that let you reliably get moderate amounts of money.

Coppersmith makes Copper produce an extra coin this turn. Straightforward: Coppers are now effectively Silver. This becomes more valuable with multiple actions or cards that double or triple actions. Coppers that are worth as much as gold are not only valuable, but you did not spend the money buying gold.

But you did spend the money buying a Coppersmith or a Baron or a Duke. I do not find this expansion very successful and offsetting the base value of Silver, Gold, and Province. When Baron works, you get a nice head start, but that’s a bit of a gamble, and Baron only gets worse as either you have too few Estates to fuel Baron or too many to do much when you do not draw a Baron. In a long game, a Duke deck can beat someone playing for Provinces, but you are relying on the game running long enough for that investment to pay off without your opponents’ investments paying off sufficiently. Duke decks also get weaker as more players play them; being the only one playing for Duke is a great position to be in, but being one of two or three means the other player(s) get ahead while the dukes squabble. And Coppersmith is just a weak card in most situations. Yes, it is great if you can play two and turn your Copper into Gold, but you need one card to get you +2 Actions plus your two Coppersmiths and then how many cards do you have left for Copper? If you have that many cards and actions, there are probably better things you could be doing than playing with Copper. The opportunity cost of a Baron or Coppersmith is not buying a better card, and then your deck has more Estates and Coppers than you want except for the turn when your combo pays off big.

But future expansions will come back, try again, and in some cases make cards that combo wonderfully with these, perhaps adding enough value.

: Zubon

[GW2] The Impossibility of WvW

The more I play WvW in GW2, the more I must believe that the developers’ goals are different than mine and from what I thought they stated. As implemented, WvW is a PvE system with periodic steamrolls and occasional good fights. Either good fights are contrary to the design or WvW is performing very far from its design.

The dominant problem remains the mismatch in weight classes, and I have heard no solution for it nor even real awareness that it is a problem. Let me narrow that: it is not the case that the weight classes are in neat groups of three, so the majority of the matchups will feature an odd server out (two heavweights with a middleweight or one heavyweight with two middleweights) or even worse matches. The Spring Tourney system designed to mitigate this problem has yet to do so, and unless there is some reason to unite against the winning server, I am not sure that any system can.
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Multiple Unlock Options

Hunting for traits in the wild sounds disturbingly like New Content, while being able to buy our way out of playing through parts of the game that we don’t care for seems like a sound compromise.
Bhagpuss

I find this an enormously wise decision, both for players and the developer.

On the player side, part of the draw of GW2 was “play how you like,” meaning visit whatever zones and repeat whatever events you like, WVW to level 80 if you like, and get your exotic equipment from the open world, dungeons, crafting, WvW, or jumping puzzles. I don’t know how everyone felt about it in GW1, but I don’t think the GW2 crowd would be entirely happy with being required to hit specific dungeons or bosses to get traits. I don’t think the hardcore WvW crowd will be entirely happy with diverting gold from rams to trait books; maybe they will (soon/someday?) allow those to be bought with Badges of Honor or currencies other than cash.

I stepped away from Reus due to its unlocks, and I have yet to get back to it. To unlock iron, which seems like a pretty basic resource, you need to make a fairly prosperous town with no animals. Recall that Reus has animals, plants, and minerals, so you are giving up a third of the game for this attempt, and many plants and minerals depend on animals for bonuses. I made a short game, set up a few towns with no animals on the map so I had a few chances, and proceeded to have almost every special project appear with animal-related bonuses or requirements. I am reasonably certain that I could tough it out, finish that map, and finish my unlock, but doing this just raises the specter of future unlocks that will require similar annoyances. Annoyance is not what I want in my gaming time.

As a developer: gold sink, ho! Players can buy gems and sell them for gold, so new ways to spend large quantities of gold prop up the price of gems and make purchases more appealing. Players are paying to skip the game? Normally, that would sound like a design issue, but $$$.

: Zubon

Ingress

Friends started playing Ingress and invited us to join him on the losing team (Enlightened). I leaped at the chance, of course.

Ingress is a Google-made augmented reality game, which is to say you use your mobile device to interact with your environment. The gameplay looks minimal. It is Foursquare or geocaching with a sci fi theme: you collect and deploy “exotic material” at “portal” landmarks, seizing control for your faction.

It is useful data collection for Google. Its energy mechanic is “go for a walk,” which is a good thing, and it encourages you to go see the sites of your neighborhood with your friends. There is not a lot of there there, but the local weather just surged above freezing, and I could use the nudge to go walk a few kilometers. Most of our games encourage less healthy habits.

The neighborhood around my workplace is a hotbed of Resistance activity. Sadly, I don’t think I can take this thing on vacation and link from my workplace to Disney World. Not many portals in your area? Great, Google would like you to establish your own so it has pictures and walking maps of your local landmarks.

: Zubon

Naturally, folks have long since worked out how to fake GPS coordinates wherever you like. Get rid of that pesky walking, exploration, etc.

[RR] Skills as Story

In the ramshackle of numbers we call a character sheet there is usually a place for skills. Skills are usually learned or honed abilities or knowledges. A bootlegger might have some really good driving skills. A mediator will have something like diplomacy. Of course, they are virtually worthless without the gamemaster (GM) presenting a challenge. There are many ways to incorporate a skill in to the story, and I am going to look at a few tools a GM can use to enliven a game with skills.

Skill Checks

Climbing checks have become legendary in my gaming group. We were in some sort of badlands, and we needed to climb some cliff faces. The problem was that none of us were great climbers, or if we had some inkling the dice hated us.

‘Climb check.’ Continue reading

[TT] Dominion: Intrigue

While you could play most of forever using the base set of Dominion, it now has a lot of expansions. The first of them is an expandalone, which contains a second set of the base cards so you could play without the base set or play 5- to 6-player games. (They now sell the base cards separately as well.) Intrigue cards have with more flexibility than the original game.
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