Category Archives: General


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.

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


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.

Offline Games: Also Bugged

I think I am somewhere around the middle of the story mode of Batman: Arkham Origins, although it is tough to tell without looking up something spoiler-tastic. The Arkham games really are some of the best around. I am, however, becoming rather frustrated by the poorer quality control at WB Montreal (makers of this game) versus Rocksteady (makers of the first two).
Continue reading

Everyone Wins?

Asynchronous PvP creates the unusual possibility of having something called “PvP” that never brings you into direct conflict with another player, where everyone playing wins, and the computer takes the losses on behalf of the players. Reward-seeking players will often create nigh-asynchronous PvP situations.

Given the chance to pick the fight, most people pick fights they know they will win. Given three potential targets to attack, with equal rewards for each, most players will pick the weakest target. Or the weakest (for them) — if you play Scissors, you will choose to attack Paper while you are online, then your offline team will be attacked by Rock.

It can be frustrating to have offline losses you cannot do anything about, particularly if those are scored for competitive rewards, but if PvP must come out to 50% wins on average, everyone seems happier when the computer takes almost all of the 50% losses.

Most of my links there cite examples from Marvel Puzzle Quest, where indeed you almost always win any fight you choose to participate in and lose most of the offline fights. Reference also Guild Wars 2, where karma trains are 90+% PvE content under the name WvW, where everyone gets more reward from trading captures on undefended towers. Look back to the less extreme case of early LotRO PvMP, where most people won most of the time because each team flocked to the battlefield where it was winning.

I can’t say it is much/any worse than the regular PvE grind, apart from the design time half-wasted on PvP content that will not be used for PvP. Maybe I should be pleased for the species that self-interest makes cooperation a favored path even with an explicitly defined competitor. But it seems hollow.

: Zubon

Magicite: A Good Walk Ruined

I’ve been on a roll with Steam early access games, but I still stick to my rule of thumb: read the discussion before buying. Magicite seemed good and fun. It is a rogue-like sidescroller with crafting and leveling aspects similar to Starbound or Terraria. It also has a bit of between-death progression I loved in Rogue Legacy. As a hint to the future, one achievement to unlock a race demands you beat the game in an hour. So far I am liking all the design on paper. So I buy it.

The game is in Early Access, but it is apparent right away that more love needs to go to crafting. It’s a nice system where you shift+click two things to combine them. Two sticks become an axe handle. Add another stick to an axe handle and it becomes a pick handle. The problem comes in two parts. The first is that this all occurs in the inventory, and it requires separate stacks of items. If I wanted to combine two sticks, I had to separate one stick from my stack of sticks. It is possible I was just doing it wrong. Continue reading

“Chicken From Hell”

In Plants vs. Zombies 2, my wife’s bane is the zombie chicken. The Wild West’s Chicken Wrangler Zombie (!!) leaks chickens when he is damaged. The chickens are archetypal fragile speedsters: they move and attack much faster than zombies but instantly die from any damage. (Spikeweeds are particularly funny, as huge waves of chicken wranglers become massive clouds of feathers.)

What kinds of chickens are these that can sprint faster than zombies on rockets and kill you just as effectively as the Gargantuar? Recent news stories explain: that kind of chicken. Time travel is dangerous!

: Zubon

Grind Intentional Losses

MPQ I previously used a bit of understatement to describe Marvel Puzzle Quest’s match-making algorithm as unfortunate. “Horrible” might still be an understatement. The game pushes towards asynchronous PvP, and the only way to face reasonable opponents is to intentionally, repeatedly lose. This is not a bug or emergent gameplay; this is how the game is actually designed. If you win, you face opponents who also won. If you are good, you will keep getting better opponents until the level-based numerics make it impossible to win against a squad of level 100+ enemies. You can boost your numbers further by buying boosts, and then get harder opponents, and so on until you run out of money and/or go back to intentionally losing.

Because the game is still live, I presume that a fair number of people went with “spend money.” Because the sheep fed into this system cannot stick around long.

This is an improvement over a period of time when the game did something similar in PvE. If you won a fight in a PvE event, all the PvE enemies leveled up. Repeat unto level 200+ in a game where your heroes mostly cap at level 40-85. Imagine that in your MMO: for every monster you kill since you last died, every monster attacking you gets a stacking buff to damage and resistance. Actually, that could be an interesting challenge for instanced content, except that MPQ left it on for all their PvE events for weeks.

: Zubon