Author Archives: Zubon

Selective Vocabulary

I am playing Scribblenauts Unlimited, which is good. I discovered today that the game does not have “beer” in its dictionary. It does, however, have “shoggoth” and “parantha.” Guided by American standards for what is acceptable in children’s entertainment, you can kill people with rocket launchers, but alcohol is edgy. (“Naked” is an acceptable adjective. It puts a big mosaic over the object.)

: Zubon

Quick Review: Go Home Dinosaurs

Cute, simple tower defense themed around rodents protecting a barbeque from dinosaurs. I cannot speculate on why herbivores are holding a barbeque or why they killed cows.

The game crashed five times in the first hour of play. Honestly, you could end a review there.

Gameplay is made exceedingly simple by the low number of moving parts and the limited number of places to put them. You have a lot of flexibility in where you could place most towers, but there are only so many places where it would be sane. Each tower has a different shape, so you can see in a few seconds how the level is meant to be beaten. Drop towers, collect coconuts, win. There is increased flexibility over time as you can pick more towers and in greater variety, as in Plants vs. Zombies, but I don’t think this really deserves to be mentioned on the same page as Plants vs. Zombies.

The preciousness of the graphics would put Japan into insulin shock. This, combined with the simple gameplay and low difficulty, suggests it as a game for small children, although you would not give this to anyone unless they have already played PvZ to the point of boredom. And maybe not then.

Cute, briefly amusing, but not especially good. Wait for a really good sale if you get it at all.

: Zubon

[LoL] P2?

League of Legends has been out for almost four years, and there has been significant rebalancing over time, including completely redoing some champions. They have also given away champions and sold packs with many champions, such as their initial retail box. If you have played a meaningful amount of League of Legends, you probably own some champions you are not interested in playing. You do not pick them, but you may come back to them as the pendulum swings.

Cue ARAM. You now have a game mode where you will get a random champion from all the ones available to you.

This struck me as P2L (pay to lose). People buy packs or every champion as a way of paying Riot for the game, a de facto subscription fee (which reminds me of Kingdom of Loathing and monthly donations for prizes). If you get many champions, you probably have many you are not interested in playing, and you have only so many rerolls.

This has led to a new approach to P2W (pay to win) in creating accounts dedicated to ARAM. Buy only the champions that work well in ARAM. If you are willing to throw a little money at it, you can have most of the best quickly.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. I also have the same question about low-level LoL accounts that I do about low-level WoW characters: how many of these folks around are actual new players, as opposed to smurfs/alts?

: Zubon

What Are You Going to Do With It?

Your game has various sources of gear or whatever your unit of character advancement is (usually gear). You might get it from quests, crafting, events, PvP, single group dungeons, or raids. Of course, whatever sort of gameplay you favor is the one that should produce the best rewards or at least have a chance of eventually earning something comparable to the best. In games with raids, especially progressive raiding, raids usually produce the strongest gear. And I have always been pretty much okay with this, despite never being all that interested in online synchronized dance recitals.

Because what are you going to do with the best weapon in the game as a solo player? None of the solo content assumes that you are going to have an extra thousand DPS, so you will just blow through it even quicker. Of course, by the time you get the best weapon in the game (TV Tropes warning, happy Monday), you don’t need it, so it is even more of a cosmetic reward. You will probably enjoy solo content less if you have raid gear that trivializes it. You do not need raid gear unless you are raiding.

But I know we have some readers who do things with MMO content other than enjoy it, so perhaps you have your reasons.

: Zubon

Changing His Solo Ways

For some reason, this 2006 post appeared in my RSS feed. But of course, the writings of Wilhelm Arcturus are always fresh and ready to be mined for new insights. Such as:

I have not avoided groups in the past because I am anti-social. … I have avoided groups because they make leveling take longer in WoW. Solo play, for levels, is rewarded in WoW. When you group, your exp per kill is reduced, time taken to finish drop related quests goes up dramatically with each person you add to the group (so you do kill more, which mitigates the exp per kill loss somewhat, but a lot of the exp is in finishing the quest, so your exp/hour is still taking a hit), and unless your group all has the same quests, somebody is usually waiting for everybody else to get to their quest.

This of course brought 2008 to mind:

If it is designed as solo content, you gain little to nothing for bringing a friend. Indeed, it might take the two of you longer to do it together than it would to do it separately, say if you each need to loot a dozen ground objects that despawn after they are looted; you would have been better off each going alone, five minutes after each other, rather than going together and waiting for the respawns.

Both of which reinforce the point from yesterday that grouping brings with it the potential for great upsides and downsides. If most of the leveling game takes away most of the upside, that leaves a lot of distance for the increasingly common “solo MMO” to fall.

Which are perhaps some reasons why we are seeing the rise of MOBAs and a renaissance in small group games where you bring your friends rather than trying to seek the questionable benefits of a matchmaker service.

: Zubon

Human Risks

Single-player gaming lacks the peaks that you get in good multiplayer gaming. It also lacks the troughs in bad multiplayer gaming. Your gaming preferences are going to be strongly influenced by how much weight you place on the most extreme experience versus the average experience and your relative weight of positive versus negative experiences.

If one really horrible thing can ruin your entire night, PvP will almost inevitably be a harrowing experience for you, and any multiplayer gaming is a crapshoot. Beyond just the effects of anonymity, wide exposure teaches you that some people are just genuinely horrible human beings. And they want to share that with you.

If you are the sort to laugh it off or counter-troll, the downside of PvP and multiplayer gaming is limited for you. If you seek conflict rather than avoiding it, the internet will always have more for you. If you remember the positive and forget the negative, the downside is temporary while the upside is lasting.

If you evaluate the quality of the evening by how many minutes you were having a good time, something like EVE Online will rarely be a good night for you. Scouting, mining, traveling… the median minute of play is pretty dull. Granted, the average minute of MMO play is poor relative to most other niches, but PvP gaming with lengthy downtime stands out as low average quality. If you evaluate the quality of the evening by the best minute in which you were having a good time, nothing is going to top PvP and multiplayer. If you place more weight on extreme rather than average experiences, even strongly negative events can be rated highly because you take the ebb with the flow.

A related factor is the context in which you will tolerate all this. You might tolerate perverse randomization but rage against human maliciousness. You might laugh off human stupidity but rage against poor design. You might tolerate poor design as long as the company is good. Introverts will have an extra weight against negative multiplayer interactions, because those are excessively psychologically taxing.

: Zubon

500 / 23 = ~22

I have argued before that seeing a game’s achievements tells you a bit about how the developers expect you to play and therefore whether you are likely to enjoy their game design. Even without explicit categories, you can see that a game awards achievements for beating the game, for 100% completion, for beating bosses with one hand tied behind your back, for exploring all the corners of the game, for killing 10 million rats, etc. It says something about the game or the developers if there are hundreds of achievements or they skew towards one category.

In Prime World: Defenders, 46/80 achievements are for defeating each of 23 maps with one of two hands tied behind your back; you will get some of them on accident, others take some relatively precise work like beating them with exactly 1 life left.
Two of the achievements I had not through are power of 10 achievements. If you scroll down to the least achieved achievements, you see “build 10,000 towers” and “win 500 games.” Does this game expect you to grind and reward you for it? Look at the math in the title. A game with 23 maps has an achievement for winning 500 games. Even with procedurally generated content, that is a LOT of times per map.

: Zubon

[LoL] Toxicity Case Study

We had a request for League of Legends Tribunal highlights, and SynCaine linked to a guildmate’s post. I clicked a few “warning” punishments from my case history, and this one stood out.

You can view Tribunal records even if you are not a logged-in LoL player, but just in case this link does not work for you, let me give you a transcript of what the reported player said in the first game. The below transcript, plus being reported 14 more times in 4 other games, will get you a warning. The language used is likely inappropriate for workplace reading, but then you are already at an online gaming blog.
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[LoL] Leaving

I am back to having 4v5 games 50% of the time in League of Legends, so I am giving it up for at least a few months. It is a roaring mix of people who never connect to the game, miss the first 5-10 minutes, AFK after one tower goes town, intentionally feed, wait at base for 200 gold, or (to take my last example) have their mothers tell them to come eat dinner 20 minutes into a game.

Whatever system discourages leaving games has no visible impact. It is tolerant, because technical problems happen. You need to accumulate some number of offenses before action will be considered, and then punishment is possible, and then it may rise as high as a temporary ban. I presume some number of time bans will eventually lead to a permaban, but my short Tribunal history shows no permabans for that, as opposed to cursing at people. In a F2P game, you can have as many accounts as you like, so the main penalty is that you need to log back on and have less IP. Basically, you can do whatever you want, and you have no skin in the game; the sort of person who might get permabanned on a level 30 account would love the chance to start a new account and smurf/troll the newer players.

I have mainly been playing ARAM because the average toxicity seems lower. The attendant lack of concern for playing the game (“eh, it’s just ARAM”) is rather upsetting. I presume I could have fewer of these people if I played high ELO ranked games on Summoner’s Rift, but I don’t feel willing to wade up the stream of toxin to get there. Also, I am far from a platinum player, so I am worried the game would suggest that I park for a few months midstream.

: Zubon