PMI Code of Ethics

When getting my PMP certification, one of the principles hammered repeatedly in the training materials was “no gold plating.” “Gold plating” is going beyond the approved project to give the customer more than was asked for. You give the customer exactly what was asked for, says the code of ethics, and you get approval through an integrated change control process if you want to go beyond that.

When crafting in Shop Heroes, you can randomly get a critical success, which raises the quality of an item. Higher quality items are worth more, are stronger, and break less often on quests. The customer, however, ordered a lance, not a good lance, and will not accept a good lance to fill that order. You can spend energy to suggest the good lance (at a higher price) or spend another 10 minutes crafting a lance. If you get “lucky” with crits, that customer might be waiting a half-hour while you keep trying to work down to his standards.

: Zubon

Shop Heroes: Portable Pro-Sociality

At Tobold’s suggestion, I have been trying Shop Heroes, and I think Recettear converts to a mobile/social media game nicely. Why be an adventurer when you can be a shop owner selling things to adventurers? In the inverse of normal MMO mechanics, it is the adventurers who buy random crap, and they buy a lot of it because most of it has a 5-10% chance to break every adventure. Strangely, they do not actually use equipment you sell them, but rather you sponsor their adventures by equipping them with goods from your shop. Those items they break.

I would like to highlight the game’s City upgrade mechanics. I am not high enough level to see what it does in the late game, but it immediately seems to encourage players to be pro-social in a variety of good ways, while also making the high-level players’ drive for advancement subsidize the low-level players’ development. It does undermine the permanence of social bonds, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your view of this sort of thing.

The City is the equivalent of a guild hall, and it starts with a few buildings. Some of them help you get resources, like a mine for iron. Upgrading it increases the rate of iron provided. Upgrading your town hall expands your City, both in terms of population and getting new buildings. New buildings provide bonuses like new adventurers, bonuses to them, crafting bonuses, and raising the level cap on your crafters and adventurers. Those bonuses are effective for a limited time after anyone invests in building upgrades, 30 minutes for a minimal contribution up to 24 hours for a full upgrade bar. City members’ contributions are broadcast to all members, with an overall contribution rating on the member screen.

While there is an obvious anti-social incentive just to leech off others’ contributions, there are a variety of pro-social incentives here. If you want to raise the level cap for yourself, you contribute to the team. If you want to activate bonuses for yourself, you contribute to the team (even minimal contributions add up). Beyond mechanics, there is the social incentive of receiving public credit for contributions, along with the implicit social obligation to contribute to the team embodied in that members screen. That can turn nasty, in the way some MMO players consider a low gearscore to be leeching, although it also promotes reasonable stratification by player type if hardcore players who contribute a lot end up in cities with other hardcore players who contribute a lot. I would also expect to see social cities, where a few workhorses power their casual friends.

The last detail: your contributions go with you if you change to a new city. Wow, that’s big. Have you ever contributed to a guild only to be the last surviving member? Given it your all and had to abandon your sunk costs? Shop Heroes has no guild sunk costs. If you want greener pastures or to switch to a friend’s guild, you bring your investments with you. If you kick someone out, s/he takes her/his investments too. That might make someone hesitant to kick a toxic but rich person from the city, but I have yet to find how to be toxic in this game. Chat is hidden by default, and we are all off in our own shops.

: Zubon

Realm Grinder: Catching Back Up

Realm Grinder‘s reset mechanic has the important effect of speeding the player back to where s/he left off. In MMO terms, think of this as letting your alt quickly play where you main just was. There are drawbacks, but this seems generally a good thing that could be adopted elsewhere in some form.

For those who have not played this sort of game: after a slow first run while you are learning the game, you reset and advance steadily until you hit a wall in terms of progress, when you run out of new multipliers and abilities; you then reset, which gives you a bigger bonus and pushes the wall further out. Realm Grinder accelerates you towards that wall, which sounds bad to phrase it that way so let’s instead say that it brings you back to your personal late game. You are banking progress and continuing, not starting a long journey over.

This will not be to everyone’s liking because some people really love the early game. Alts! New characters! A simpler game in a purer spirit! Let’s say that incremental games do not have the early game feel that The Shire does. And games recognize that you have played the early game enough, hence boosts to near-max level or GW2’s birthday gifts of scrolls to skip the early game. To the extent that the early game is exactly the same whenever you start over, you want to accelerate/skip it; in a game like Civilization, the early game is often more interesting than a same-ish late game.

In Realm Grinder, this works out very well because you explore the early game diversity pretty completely the first time you play a faction. After that, your new multipliers quickly get you back to where you were. If you are going ten or a thousand times as fast, there is no more early game. You go through it as quickly as you can click. As you accummulate gems, you skip the early game and get back to prestige races in minutes rather than days. As you accummulate reincarnations, you zip back to the Mercenary stage in hours rather than weeks. In the late game, these bonuses just push The Wall out a little further, but they are ridiculously effective in burning through the early game, which you already know, to the late game, which might have something new for you.

If you are a “the real game starts at the level cap” player, really trying something new involves getting back to the level cap.

: Zubon

Realm Grinder: Customization

Realm Grinder is an incremental game that explicitly merges idle games and clickers. The emergence of “incremental game” demonstrates the convergence of the two, but Realm Grinder embraces both sides with options that gave it more interest and life for me than most incremental games. I may even go back.

Realm Grinder starts with six factions, whose abilities support different playstyles. Elves are the purest clicker faction, Undead the purest idle faction. Demons favor big buildings and Fairies favor many small buildings. Angels like magic and Goblins like money. As you advance further, the game offers prestige factions, first neutral factions to go with the good and evil trios, then a faction to add on top of good/evil. More recent updates have added Mercenaries that combine abilities across factions, along with bloodlines and heritages to let you bring forward racial strengths. These choices let you customize according to your playstyle, although only the Mercenaries allow much customization beyond the initial choice of a faction.

Like most incremental games, Realm Grinder lets you reset (“abdicate”) and start over with a stronger start, potentially changing factions. Then there is another tier of reset (“reincarnate”) that resets that process for a different series of bonuses; the progress currency from abdications is eventually cashed in for reincarnations, your “I beat the game” reset rather than “bank and go faster.”

The customization is more notionally interesting than relevant as balance is not quite there. This is a manager game about increasing numbers, and it can be mathematically proven that some options are orders of magnitude stronger than others. For all the potential options, only a few are in the range of “optimal” at any given point, although what works best for you might vary based on whether you play actively, leave the game running idle, check in occasionally, use offline progress, etc. So it matters a bit, just not as much as one might dream.

The diversity of abilities and factions, the existence of multiple paths, and the support of different playstyles makes it the best incremental game I have seen.

: Zubon

Card Hunter on Steam, New Expansion

ch expansion sci fi Card Hunter is now on Steam, free to play with cash shop (same as in browser). The new sci fi-themed Expedition to the Sky Citadel expansion is also live, free unlock once you’ve completed the main campaign, with free loot daily for launch week.

The Steam client seems less responsive than the in-browser client. [ETA: I was wrong. The game is now running more slowly in the in-browser client as well. It is a problem with the game, not Steam.]

: Zubon

Order of Operations

Minor virtue of Card Hunter: the end of round steps put “check victory squares for points” and “check if someone has won” before “discard excess cards.” It is a small thing, but it saves annoyance. It is a good practice to check “is this necessary” before “has this been done.”

: Zubon

Too Good Not to Farm

While I have been avoiding grinding or farming in Card Hunter, I am currently at the right level range for Lord Batford’s Manor, which is like an instant selling point for the “buy the treasure hunts” pack that is letting me catch up on my gear without trying. Being a subscriber gets you an extra piece of loot per fight. This adventure has 6 fights, half of which have only two enemies that you need to defeat.

I don’t even need to farm this thing very much. Heck, visiting once per day like a daily quest isn’t even farming, just normal play. And 2 or 3 days gets me all the loot I’m likely to need for this level range.

Gotta catch ’em all? They provided a treasure hunt to fill out your menu of loot. I’m torn between thinking this was a horrible idea in terms of risk vs. reward and thinking this is a great idea in terms of getting to the endgame without really needing to farm.

: Zubon