[GW2] Reasons to Slow Level my Revenant

I got chided the other day in Guild Wars 2 for using my skill point scrolls in lieu of the upcoming expansion, with new Revenant profession. When used they provide this flashy whirlwind-boom, which lets everybody know I gained a skill point. I politely asked if I should start, “yet another stack of skill points”. The response was a cat-face, my most hated emote ( :3), which makes no sense to me on any level. I could not punch through the internet. Continue reading [GW2] Reasons to Slow Level my Revenant

Crowfall Interview on the Business Model

I contacted ArtCraft Entertainment – who is currently running a Kickstarter for the upcoming Crowfall MMO – to see if they would want to briefly discuss their choice of business model and a few followups. In the midst of the craziness they were more than willing to answer a couple questions.

Crowfall is a “buy once, play forever” game. What made you want to go against the MMO majority of subscription or free-to-play?

It was the right business model for this game and this audience.  There is a lot of fatigue with free-to-play that are actually ‘pay-to-win’ in disguise.  And we were sensitive to the portion of our audience that can’t easily afford a subscription so we made that optional, rather than required.  This allows players with more time than money to be just as competitive as players with more money than time, putting everyone on as even a playing field as possible. Continue reading Crowfall Interview on the Business Model

[GW2] Revenant Reminiscing

The revenant profession coming with the Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns seems like the biggest throwback yet to Guild Wars 1. It operates so differently from any other profession that I would definitely call it an expansion profession. For a really nice overview of the new profession check out GuildMag’s post on it.

The biggest reason I am excited about the revenant is the flavor. While necromancer was my main in Guild Wars 1, the ritualist was my favorite character. The whole power dependent on otherworldly spirits was quite flavorful. The revenant seems no different in channeling legends as power conduits. Even more awesome, the devs have said that the legend will actually speak to the character.

I am also interested in the style of heavy class that revenant represents. Obviously, we don’t have a complete picture having only examples of two weapon sets and two legends.

Jalis seems very guardian-ish. It’s a different and welcome flavor of guardian, but it definitely feels like a similar piece of the pie. Thankfully the corresponding weapon, the hammer feels way different from anything guardian-ish.

I am more interested in Mallyx, which feels completely different from anything on the table. The closest cousin is necromancer, but Mallyx seems to want to turn the revenant into a condition battery, a patient zero, rather than necromancer’s condition reversal.

The devs have said that each legend is going to be a package, and they kept referring to the weapons (and trait lines) as aligning with certain legends. It was pretty clear that mace seemed to line up with Mallyx for condition fun, but hammer seemed a bit broader than just being a Jalis weapon. My feeling is that like weapon set swapping, players will have a primary legend in mind when building and then a secondary legend. I’ve seen lots of talk about the revenant possibly being a great use for the celestial armor set (+x to all stats).

Out of the soldier profession, I am not a fan of the warrior, which has always felt a bit too direct for me. I like the guardian pretty much, but I much prefer the debuff/control side of things, which is why out of spite, the necromancer is my current main. Honestly, the revenant might replace the necromancer, I am not sure. The revenant – the unselfish tank-y necromancer, heh. I will definitely be booting one up with the Heart of Thorns expansion regardless.

–Ravious

[TT] Kayak Chaos

Kayak Chaos is a card and board game about racing down a river. The river unfolds over the course of play as kayaks reach the next segment. Cards let you move down or across the river or alter its course. A mix of strategy and randomization that seemed subject to a runaway leader effect, also with risks of kingmaker scenarios and piling on early leaders.

Gameplay is simple: play 3 of your 5 cards. Cards can provide movement, alter the river, or block altering the river (rarer). Movement is obviously valuable for getting ahead. Altering the river can make your course easier or impede your rivals. For example, you could shift the river over one space, which re-positions rocks or makes someone need to swerve to avoid the river bank, or you could flip a segment of the river to turn someone around. You can even switch two segments or river, pulling back a rival, leapfrogging ahead, or both.

Each of several boards is a short stretch of the river. Boards are revealed as a player gets past the current stretch of river, with that player picking how the new stretch is placed (from four options). This is the source of the runaway leader effect: once you are in the lead, you get free chances to arrange the rest of the board to your advantage. Of course, everyone gets those cards to rearrange the board, so if someone decides to slow you down rather than advancing themselves, an early leader might be severely punished and thrown back; my first game was a three-player game, so using your scarce turns to slow an opponent means not advancing yourself, and the third player clearly comes out ahead in that scenario. Perhaps this works out better with two or four players? With two, you capture all the benefits of slowing your opponent; with four, you can spread the costs. That dynamic is also the source of the kingmaker scenario, where a player left behind with no chance of winning can focus on making life easier or harder for other players.

Playing (or discarding) 3 of 5 cards in your hand each round means that there will be some interesting decisions but that luck drives a lot of the game. It seems somewhere around the balance between my demand for strategic play and others’ love of randomization, but it is also subject to swings like when I received one forward movement card out of ten cards, while at other times I could sweep through multiple boards in a turn due to favorable randomization. It might also fall into a middle that makes no one happy; I would need more games played to tell.

Basic rules are simple, but there are some complexities and interactions so this might be at the edge of what a casual player is willing to learn for a quick kayaking game. Also not quite as quick if a lot of people spend effort slowing down the leader, but game length can be customized by playing with a shorter river. Enjoyable with surprising depth for a game that looks so simple, but not so deep that a new player is lost or even notices much depth.

: Zubon

Crowfall, Before 5 Days

The timer on the Crowfall website is edged through the 5 days mark as I write this. A lot of people, including myself, believe it to be the launch of their Kickstarter campaign. The founders write that they want to make the game beholden to their customers instead of a worldwide publisher. It is so refreshing when it feels like the devs are talking to me.

I am excited about this game. I’ve wanted a fantasy EVE-ish MMO since I realized I just couldn’t get in to EVE. So here is a little primer so you aren’t blind-sided in 5 days with an inundation of information.

Translated Elevator Pitch

(This I gleamed from their website, forums, and any other source I could find.)

It’s buy-2-play, or buy-the-box, or a conventional video game in point-of-sale.

It’s PvP and economy based, with looting fallen players’ goods and item destruction being part of the economy. Some PvE as well, but not the focus.

Class, race, and role are smashed together into an “archetype”. A Legionnaire will be a centaur focusing on melee DPS.

It’s instanced-ish. There are worlds to fight over, and the worlds have endings.

Where I Expound: Worlds and PvP Economy Continue reading Crowfall, Before 5 Days

[TT] Pack & Stack

Pack & Stack is a game of loading trucks. Every round, you get a random assortment of boxes in different sizes, pick a truck from a random set flipped over, and try to get everything on the truck with as little empty space as possible. You lose points from an initial pool for unpacked boxes and empty space; highest score when someone counts down to 0 wins. The game makes good use of components and simultaneous play, has minimal interactivity, and is strongly subject to randomization. Potentially good for younger players or people who like luck-based games.

The components are good: boxes of five different sizes of colors, dice of corresponding colors with unusual numbers of pips per side, and solid truck boards. In many games, I go with the old idea of having a set of good components to use with many games, rather than whatever cheap pawns, money, etc. come with this box to justify its cost. (I have been using these coins for Seven Wonders, although I think I will be switching all my games’ money to Tech’s new coins.) The components here are essential to the game, well conceived, and of good quality.

Pack & Stack encourages simultaneous play, and if it had more dice, everything could be done simultaneously. You each roll to get your packages one at a time, then all flip trucks simultaneously, then all pack trucks simultaneously, and you can also score losses simultaneously if you trust everyone’s math and honesty. The only interactivity is the dash for trucks, and even then nothing is contested unless two players rolled similar stacks of boxes. Contrast games with no interaction that still officially have everyone acting in play order, or Seven Wonders with simultaneous play and some interaction.

Pack & Stack is mostly a luck-based game. Assuming that you have basic spatial relations skills and can perform single-digit arithmetic, you have all the skills needed for mastery, which you will achieve within five minutes. The one meaningful decision you make each round is which truck to pick, and unless the perfect truck is randomly available, your decision is arithmetic plus least bad choice. If you are on board with my contention that interesting decisions are the fun of gaming, this is not for you. If you like slot machines, this will be an exciting step up in your gaming; you even start with a pool of points and try to be the furthest from zero at the end, so it is like sitting next to your friends at the slots, pulling the bar to see how much you lose this time, and continuing until someone runs out of money and you leave. But you get to arrange little boxes on a truck, which is somewhat more fun than watching the game play itself.

Obviously not something I’m going to play again, but it has a few good uses of rules and could be attractive to some audiences. Its rules fit on a page, not in a book, and the game is not language-dependent, hence my thinking “good for kids?” (old enough not to try to swallow Legos).

: Zubon

Crowfall and Buy-2-Play Collecting

Crowfall with it’s constant drip of small bits of information has released their pricing FAQ. This has raised my interest meter to “high”. There’s small bits of stuff like “PLEX” and a cash shop based on skins, but not stuff that affects the in-game economy. The most important thing is obviously that the game is going to be Buy-2-Play, meaning you buy the box and get the game.

Why does this matter almost the most at this point? One of my favorite devs, Jeff Strain, wrote way back in 2007 some of the most important words for MMO creators, in my humble pundit opinion. Unfortunately, ArenaNet took his speech down since Strain moved on to create Undead Labs, but thankfully it appears archived here.

Decide on your business model first, and then build your game around it.

So simple. Anecdotally, this is why I had such a tough time with Wildstar‘s pre-launch hype because they were holding their cards way too close.

Anyway, since Crowfall is eager to share their business model so soon, and my favorite one to boot, I am on board. I was already on board since I’ve been wanting a non-spaceship EVE for some time. I am a early backer to Camelot Unchained as well, which is subscription based.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against subscriptions. I feel they can definitely work and have worth as as business model that a customer would want. EVE, once again, being the shining star, in my opinion, for how a subscription game should work. The subscription+expansion model of World of Warcraft, I do not as much appreciate.

I think the main thing with Buy-2-Play is it hits that feeling of my Steam library. This is both good and bad for the MMO dev. Good because it gives them money they might not otherwise get, such as the case of Elder Scrolls Online getting my money in a month for going Buy-2-Play. Bad because the business model in itself does not create “stickiness” or “community”.

That’s the thing, if I subscribe, I feel like I have to use that service. If I own it, say in the case of the excellent The Secret World, I am fine “getting around to it”. Clearly I belong to no true community in The Secret World, and I mostly play it to muck around with friends or go solo through the story.

Guild Wars 2, which is Buy-2-Play, is clearly aiming a lot of it’s content and updates at people who are lightly part of the community. Weekend warriors, perhaps. With WvW and PvP, it offers more, in that sense, but both are still easy to get in to for said weekend warriors.

This is why Crowfall is verrrrry interesting. They are creating a game that appears to have community investment of some sort, at least more than Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, and the like, but they are using a business model driven towards people that want to accumulate. I am both pleased (put me in the sure-buy category) and worried.

Anyway, I’ve been following it ever since they started their countdown, which is probably going to be their Kickstarter. They have interesting ideas, which deserve some punditry.

–Ravious

Another Open Letter

A supplemental response to Penny Arcade’s response to Ice Weasel X’s Open Letter Parents of League of Legends Players.

Dear Ice Weasel X (and most players signing on to the open letter),

You aren’t a parent. This is pretty clear from your letter. If you are a parent, apologies, but you come across like those childless friends who seem to think they know how to parent by giving seemingly simple and reasonable solutions. The delivery is therefore akin to a pre-pubescent child in VOIP trying to tell you strats for LoL. Ask any parent the worth of a childless person’s advice.

There are events every decent parent understands called “Teachable Moments”. If you are not a teacher or don’t have children you might not recognize this idea. A dependent child overplaying his or her time on the computer when there are other responsibilities is one such Teachable Moment.

It is good that you correlate the effect on the parent’s punishment to the 9 other players. However, as a parent having faced similar Teachable Moments I would tell you that I could not care less about those 9 human beings enjoyment of a luxury (i.e., video game). My only care in that event is for my child.

I would pull the plug. I would use the moment to teach my child how they affected those 9 human beings with their poor responsibility. I would discuss potential fallout from their lack of responsibility. I would discuss how to approach the event next time it could occur.

Letting my child finish the game and then grounding him is a poor way to teach the child, which is why again I assume you are childless. If the occurrence became repetitive taking away luxuries is definitely on the table, but doing it without creating a Teaching Moment is just a waste. I find that with my children creating preemptive groundings where they can make a decision is much better than reactive groundings (e.g., “next time this happens you won’t get screen time for the weekend”).

The best thing is for a parent of a young video gamer to understand the games their child is playing, especially online games where my child can be affected by other people, and vice-versa. A parent with such knowledge would understand how to illuminate the possible pitfalls of a child’s allotted play time. I can then illustrate that my child “probably has only time for one match before dinner”, etc.

I then create an understanding between me and my child. The match might go overlong, but the deal was struck. I let my child play because I said “one match”. It works both ways in a good relationship with a child, which is why I slightly disagree with Penny Arcade’s response. My word is law in my household, but I definitely want my child to have decisions to make within it.

I will tell you, Ice Weasel X, that if a parent does not care enough about his or her child to do this much: to create Teachable Moments, to understand and learn about a child’s hobbies, to learn how a child is affected by / can affect other people in online activities… they certainly don’t give a shit about you.

–Ravious