Category Archives: Asides

Accessibility and Excellence

Popularity is not a guarantee that something is either good or lowest common denominator crap, but it sure is profitable.

Pop music is heartbreaking cuz I’ll write a lovely visual poetic piece and then have to tear it apart and dumb it down. Writing for the masses is a bitch sometimes.
Bonnie McKee

Bonnie McKee’s first album was surprisingly sophisticated and had almost no commercial success. It remains one of my favorites. She then went on to write pop hits for Katy Perry and others, with sales four or more orders of magnitude higher than her own. Ms. McKee learned something that Blizzard did: accessibility drives sales.
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Social Media Linkbait

You are familiar with sites that regurgitate content with provocative headlines as linkbait. You see them on your Facebook wall or as the “related content” gnawing at the edges of web pages. They are fond of lists, gifs, splitting small amounts of content across multiple pages, and generally working their content-to-ad ratio as much as possible.

They are now getting over the headlines of “You won’t BELIEVE what…” and “this one WEIRD thing” that will change your life/pant size/gender. Which is sad, because folks were working on a browser extension to get rid of them. This month, you instead get five dozen headlines advertising a list of similarly AMAZING regurgitated content where some random number is cited as totally worth clicking the link to see their ads. “12 postcards from CHILDREN that will INSPIRE you to be a better person! #6 is a must-see.” “31 Sandwiches that will CHANGE how you see CILANTRO. #17 will REARRANGE your SOCK drawer!”

Comments are open for your bets on the next viral headline template.

: Zubon

Exciting Gaming Weekend Ahead

Steam has the Batman franchises (Arkham and Lego) 75% off, so I now have Arkham Origins. Is it worth springing for the Season Pass or any DLC? I have the Millennium skins from a Humble Bundle.

New Humble sale, so I have a few new indie games to try. I already have and enjoyed Defenders Quest.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 released its future world for the Android, so I have more things to try there. So far: fun! We shall see whether the new content addresses the issues I have been complaining about or pushes further towards monetization. PvZ1′s Zen Garden is back with an altered implementation. It still produces coins, and it now produces one-level plant buffs. The game immediately dumped about 80 plant sprouts on me to encourage me to buy the new gem currency that unlocks more plant slots. I support “here is a lot of free stuff you can use over time or right now if you pay us” as solid F2P design. (Or maybe that was a bug.)

And the new GW2 WvW event is going, so I must try that out. Although, as I type this, I don’t really know why: WvW content has not changed, and I guess we’ll see whether the match-up algorithm for this event is better or worse than Season One or the usual week-to-week system. [Update: nope, us vs. FA and SBI. GG, see you next week.]

: Zubon

Gaming Goals

I usually post after I’m done playing something, rather than the “Wot I’m Playin’” that some game bloggers do. Trying that out:

  • Guild Wars 2 is coasting. I tend to play every other day for less than an hour. My Engineer is approaching level 80, after which only my Necromancer needs levels. I still get all the Living World meta-achievements, but I have no real goals other than “cleaning up” characters. I have missed guild missions for about the last month, so I think I’ll catch some of those and maybe try to get back into WvW.
  • I have a few other games with daily login bonuses that I log in for, but once a game is on that low of coast status, I tend to quit soon. Marvel Puzzle Quest has teetered on the edge of that precipice since I stopped posting about it, but that game keeps putting out low-hanging fruit, and most days I can enjoy a few minutes’ worth of match-3 gameplay.
  • I will usually get the badge of the day at Kongregate unless it looks like no fun. I also play a few new games there each week, which often leads to having the badge of the day before it becomes the badge of the day.
  • I still play Game of Thrones Ascent daily. Some days I pay close attention and binge, some days I just log in a couple of times to reset timers. I am gradually working through reincarnations there to collect skills. I am most of the way through my “reincarnie army” of gold sworn swords, with a goal of 18 (two of each). The hardcore folks in my alliance can reincarnate twice in a week; I reincarnate every two weeks when I am actively playing, every two months when I am coasting. My alliance is in active competition for first place in the current round of Alliance vs. Alliance, and helping with that is slowing down personal goals. I am part of what I describe as our Friendship Squad: we focus on sending support to our allies, rather than attacks to our enemies.
  • I also play Dawn of the Dragons, although there is not a huge difference between active play and coasting in a game with an energy mechanic. Log in, empty bars, reset timers, all set. Our guild is working on gearing folks for campaigns.
  • My Guild Wars guild has spawned a Steam group, and I am managing that for us. I am starting to get events going there. It is harder to find common ground for many people in a multi-game format, unlike the single-game guild where everyone has the one in common, and I expect to be playing around with more games there.
  • Also on Steam, I have been collecting all the trading cards I can by leaving games logged in. I am about done with that. As a result, I have another small set of games to try since I already have them downloaded.
  • Runespell: Overture.
  • About once a week, I play a round of TF2 MvM with friends who are very into that, like 50 tours into that. I am the lesser partner there, but I am known to be non-horrible.
  • I’m enjoying Plants vs. Zombies 2 much more on the endless levels, where you know you’re eventually supposed to hit something unbeatable

: Zubon

Using Game Reviews

I have previously recommended trusting others’ experiences over your own expectations because the preponderance of the data suggests that your expectations are about as high quality as you would expect from a social primate born into an information age. I have recently been going through the many games that have come with Humble Bundles and Steam packs, and I am finding Metacritic really valuable.

Example: Guardians of Middle-earth. “I like Tolkien, that sounds interesting. I missed the LotR games that came out when the movies did.” Click from Library to Store page to see what it’s all about. “Hmm, a MOBA. I don’t know if I need another of those, but LotR DotA could be…” Metacritic: 56%. “Holy crap.”

A useful application of Bayes’ theorem is that sometimes an indicator in one direction means a lot more than an indicator in the other direction. There are classic examples, but gaming journalism provides another: negative reviews mean a lot more than positive reviews, particularly for major studio releases. High scores are the default and low scores on advertisers tend to be rare and dangerous. Games with bugs that would format your hard drive have gotten scores on the standard 7-9 scale. So a 56%? Holy crap. Okay, next game…

: Zubon

Update: commenters mention going beyond scores. Agreed.

Spoiler Ettiquette: Warning as Spoiler

The fact that I am explicitly not giving you information gives you information.

In drafting a post, I wanted to avoid spoiling something, one of those cases when you want to recommend something without saying why so that someone can experience the rare joy of having all the surprises. “Just go watch/play/read it. It’s that good, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you.”

But now you know there is something to be spoiled. If it were a mystery, and I said I did not want to spoil the ending for you, that would not be new information; you expect there to be a big reveal at the end. If it is an action movie, and I tell you I want to avoid spoiling the ending, that immediately tells me the ending is not “the hero kills the bad guy, gets the girl, and saves his child.” If I tell you I cannot tell you anything about it at all, that tells you it will be a deconstruction, mind screw, or otherwise filled with twists and not what it seems. The content of the surprise can still be a surprise, but knowing that a surprise is coming makes it less surprising, and your suspicious mind starts looking for clues that might have passed you by if you were not primed to expect a twist.

At some point, it becomes fair game. If you do not know about Rosebud or Luke’s father, sorry, those are public information. By now, you know that Bioshock and Portal have big surprises at their midpoints, even if you do not know what those are (and you probably know).

But how do you protect the secret without revealing the fact of the secret, other than just lying about it?

: Zubon

MMO Accounting

You know how I love real world applications of game principles and applying game principles to real world analysis. Today’s news provides a good one: healthcare.gov enrollment numbers were reported. While I fear mentioning politics, visible cartoon exclamation points appeared over my head when I saw the US government copying an F2P game press releases in announcing how many people signed up at the website but refusing to mention how many of them are actually paying customers.

: Zubon

The comments are not a forum for arguing for or against policies, but feel free to discuss PR, the presentation of data, game business models, or the prospect of time-traveling pandas.

The Treachery of Images

Regular readers know that I rarely include pictures in my posts. I am not a visual person. My mental world is verbal and quantitative, and embellishment usually strikes me as willful distraction preluding deception. I write about mechanics and gameplay and seem to be made suspicious by great graphics because what are you trying to hide?

I am unusual in this respect. I have poor vision and am somewhere in the bottom ten percent for mental imagery. Those with better sensory gifts may instead see that “embellishment” as the whole point, with the game mechanics there as a framework for the aesthetic experience.
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