Category Archives: General


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

Sneaky Rocks

You fight several rocks in Runespell, ones that you can see from a long ways away and at least one that you challenge to a duel. (While I have never seen Yu-Gi-Oh!, I am led to believe that challenging magic rocks to duels via card games makes much more sense for that audience.) If the rock gets the first turn, the game announces, “You have been ambushed!”

And I’ll be honest, I did not see that one coming.

: Zubon

Your TV Tropes link of the day.

What’s In a Name?

A Song of Ice and Fire has been popularized under the name of the first book, (A) Game of Thrones. There is a show and about a dozen games under that title. The title refers to the nobles’ struggle for position and power, which is central to the series and a dangerous distraction from the metaplot. Or is that backwards?
Continue reading

Windborne and the Soul of Games

Early access is often hit or miss on Steam, Kickstarter, and elsewhere. It’s not just about setting expectations, but about communication. I find that the best thing is to head for the forums. If the customers are clamoring for communication, it will probably be bad. That’s why I haven’t funded Godus or Castle Story even though conceptually they are a must-see. Communication is why I funded Windborne, and thus far I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

What the Wooly is Windborne?

There will never be a Tweet-length review that won’t compare Windborne to Minecraft, at least right now. Hyperbole, perhaps… in concept Windborne is going to attempt to be much more. For now though the $30 will get players a build-a-block sandbox with three biomes and a bit more.

There are already many critical differences that sets Windborne apart from Minecraft clone. The first is that blocks can be shaped. Their corners can be sheared so that there are rolling hills or rounded pillars. This small feature is a huge change for anybody used to forcing square blocks to be used as round pegs in Minecraft. It goes a lot further too with arches, windows, beds, lights, flower pots, and all sorts of architectural goodies that simply blow Minecraft’s options away. Continue reading

On the Benefits of Coasting

I have trouble letting go. For long periods of time, I have games that I am not interested in playing but for which I expect to regain interest later. For single-player games, that means shelving them, and I can play Civilization again when I have the free hours. These days, most of my games are online multiplayer games with incentives for frequent play over binging, so I spend a fair amount of time “coasting.”

Efficient use of dailies is a core example. Most MMOs have dailies now, and many have rested bonuses, once per day rewards, etc. You can cash in several of those quickly and call it a day. Most social media games have a daily login bonus, a process you can productively reset every 24 hours, etc. You can bounce off a half-dozen of those while reading your RSS feed. Games with updates frequently have festivals and events, and you can get 50% of the reward in 5% of the time if you just log in, pick the low-hanging fruit, and accept that you are not going to grind enough to get the top tier reward.

This is a reason why I have never run out of karma, money, laurels, etc, in Guild Wars 2 and why I have 600 levels of characters despite having been “on break” for about half the game’s lifespan. In less than 30 minutes, I can get a small stack of rewards. I don’t need to do that every day to have a huge stockpile when I get seriously interested in playing 3 months later. I have a routine of visiting a half-dozen games, seeing if there is anything new, getting double rewards for whatever strikes my fancy, and wandering off.

Because I am exactly the sort of player who likes to play in binges, and nothing fuels that like coming back to a stack of gold pieces, 20 points to assign to abilities, an entire screen of unlocked rewards, a new festival…

: Zubon