PokeCoins

The Financial Times reports that Japan’s Financial Services Agency is considering how to treat PokéCoins, which by extension would affect other RMT currencies. It is not the case that Japan is considering making PokéCoins an official currency or anything like that, despite how I expect to see this reported elsewhere.

The issue the FSA is studying is whether PokeCoins and other virtual currencies that can be purchased in-game with actual cash should be legally classified as a prepayment system, and therefore come under the jurisdiction of Japan’s recently updated Payment Services Act.

I know almost nothing about Japanese finance law, but that would presumably mean treating the RMT currencies like pre-paid gift cards, your Steam wallet, etc. I do not know how that would affect the fact that most F2P games also give away small amounts of RMT currency. I do not know how that would create liability in terms of data losses and game changes that negatively affect your RMT currency. It explicitly could mean more paperwork for games with RMT currencies and possibly depositing real cash in a Japanese bank to cover some of the outstanding virtual currency, the way that a store might need to show deposits to cover pre-payments that might be withdrawn.

: Zubon

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

Legends of the Brawl

I have no idea if Legends of the Brawl will be any good or even if it will launch, but they have won my interest with their plan to have playable characters of Teddy Roosevelt, Nikola Tesla, Lizzie Borden, HP Lovecraft (summoner class?), Marie Curie, and JP Morgan. Helen Keller clearly needs to be on the playable character list, if she is not a boss fight already.

: Zubon

Her Story

Her Story is one of the recent not-a-games, in this case “A Video Game About a Woman Talking to the Police.” And that is it: it is a series of interview videos, chopped into short clips, and you find those clips by searching the database for words she says in the clips. To seed your story, the game gives you a starter search of “murder.”

In a way, the game part of this will be familiar. You have done this as a mini-game in a bunch of games, the conversation or interrogation game where you ask the subject questions to get material to ask further questions. On that level, it works really well. You amass some keywords, search the database for them, and find the story in your own, non-linear path. (Avoiding spoilers: but the ending remains ambiguous, so you get to decide what you think the story really is.) It retrospectively creates that experience of conducting the interview yourself, with the oddity of getting bits of several interviews at once.

The story is pretty good. I don’t know whether or not it benefits from the format. If you just sat down and watched the videos from start to finish, would they be worth watching? It’s not bad, but neither is it “must see.” There is some appeal from the broken chronological order, that you know some of what is to come when you see the earliest clips, and some earlier clips explain what it is you heard from later.

The interface is imperfect. It mostly works, but there are some oddities in how the search works, such as treating no (no quotes) and “no” (with quotes) differently, which becomes relevant if you are trying to find all the clips. If you are going for 100% and cannot find everything, that is one of the tricks: you are missing some 3-second clips with only one word in them. That herring is very red. Do you want another trick that can remove the entire game from the game? “BLANK” is not a NULL string in the tags box, and the game sorts clips by chronological order; if you want to watch the clips in order and make sure you’ve seen them all, you can start over and keep searching for “BLANK” while removing that tag after watching each video. But if you are going to do that, you might as well just search for a posted video of the game’s content, because that circumvents the game.

Spoilers are fair game in the comments, if you want to talk about the game’s story.

: Zubon

Player Count

Are there any games that work well outside the recommended number of players? I am thinking of board games, but really any; did LOL Twisted Treeline ever become a thing? The particular thing that comes to mind is games with “variant rules” for more or fewer players, where the game is usually made for 3-4 players with a 2-player (or solitaire) variant and a 5-6 player expansion. That seems really common in board games, but I cannot think of many (any?) where I have seen it done well.

  • Dominion breaks down with 5+ players, particularly if there are attacks. There is not much fun to be had in a game with at least one Torturer per round. Without attacks, you can have a very short game with that many people emptying stacks unimpeded.
  • Starfarers of Catan gets extremely crowded in the early game, leading to a snowball effect where a bad first turn puts you several turns behind everyone else as you need to navigate/colonize around them. I have never tried Settlers of Catan with the 5-6 player expansion, out of a holy respect for the mathematical purity of the base game.
  • 7 Wonders does a great job scaling up or down for 3-7 players, and that is built into the cards to begin with. Well done. The two-player variant is messy and clunky. I am told that 7 Wonders Duel is excellent, intentionally re-designed for two players.
  • I am not sure if Smash Up is bad as a two-player game so much as very different, and the balance shifts massively. Any card that costs you something to hurt an opponent becomes vastly stronger if you have only one opponent, such as most Kittens cards, while factions like Ninjas and Pirates that jump into others’ fights are much weaker in a heads-up game.
  • I should just stop the two-player games, because they play differently and usually pretty badly. Recent examples I have tried include Coup and Havok and Hijinks.

Some games work for two players without rules variations, and they can mostly work. This works better for Eurogames with minimal interaction, such as Dominion. I have played Kingdom Builder mostly with two players, and it becomes a much more strategic game as you limit the number of players.

In my day-to-day life, scaling down is the usual issue, playing with my wife at home. When I go to a game day, scaling up becomes the issue as we try to get more people at the table rather than boxing 3 or 4 people away for a couple of hours. But that often leads to a suboptimal time for several hours.

Thoughts from KTR readers, games that do this well or badly and why?

: Zubon

Restaurant Almost Done

This week, I will probably reach the end of Cook, Serve, Delicious! It is incredibly engrossing and establishes flow wonderfully. I have now done just about everything you can do in the game, with a few more achievements to go to round it out. I 100%ed the main game and have moved on to Extreme Difficulty new game+.

“This mode is almost impossible. It will likely destroy you.” It really is as difficult as they advertise, what with the big boost in buzz (number of customers) and 0 patience. Getting the “table snacks” upgrade that gives them any patience was a huge boost in Extreme Difficulty. I wondered how one could sanely get the “serve 15,000 customers” achievement when you need fewer than 10,000 to complete the main game. I am, however, really good by now, so I have a buzz well north of 100% and am just about keeping up, which nets you more than 200 customers per day. Around the time I complete the two remaining Extreme Difficulty achievements, I should have that one too. The hard part will be getting a perfect day once I can have six items on my menu. I can almost keep up with 4, and those are probably the 4 easiest. I think I need to intentionally tank one day to get a big buzz penalty, then I should be able to ace it in a time or two.

Oddly, I am well past 10,000 customers and have yet to see a robbery. The security upgrade must really work. To get that last achievement, I will either need to keep pushing in Extreme Mode (ouch) or start a new game, not buying the security upgrade and hoping someone tries to rob me. “Too few robberies” is not a problem I expected to have. Hey, robbers, my restaurant in the main game has about $100,000 lying around because I kept playing long after having bought everything. Take my money, please.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is scheduled for next year and available for your Steam wishlist. I hope it lives up to the original; I fear that it will get unnecessary complexity that detracts from its elegance.

: Zubon

Greenland

I have been playing Plague Inc.: Evolved, which is pretty good, if a bit formulaic across the diseases in a way that makes differences seem like inconsistencies rather than variety.

Greenland, though. Man, Greenland. Greenland is the Madagascar of this game.

: Zubon

I can recommend the PC version. I do not recommend the mobile version, which is a bit heavily ad-ware, although maybe that goes away if you give them a dollar? There were too many screens asking me for money to skip things.

The Stanley Parable

I played The Stanley Parable, but “played” feels somehow both wrong and perfect. It is closer to an interactive story than a game as such, but unusually for that genre it has a branching story tree — a “choose your own adventure” walking simulator. It is also a deconstruction of games in ways that I will avoid spoiling, but the comments section is fair game for all spoilers.

I will note that even the achievements are deconstructions. Three of the achievements are meta-commentary on achievements, one of which is literally “unachievable.” One achievement is to leave the game running for all of a Tuesday, another to log off and not come back for five years. 7% of players have that one on a game that has been out for less than five years, and 4% have the literally unachievable achievement, so I am wondering if cheating on those is meta-meta-achievement commentary. But for some reason only 1% of players have “leave the game on for an entire Tuesday,” despite that being something you can do AFK.

: Zubon

Feedback

I have been trying some of the Battle Kitchen – Strike Challenge – Extreme Difficulty challenges in Cook, Serve, Delicious! As you might expect, they can be somewhat difficult, and the only answer is to git gud. They are, however, a spectacularly awful place to learn things because of the lack of feedback. If you make a mistake, you fail and are kicked out. I cannot normally go several minutes without making a typo, so doing so under time pressure with unfamiliar keys where “onion” might be O for one recipe and N for another … is somewhat difficult. And if when you fail a round, you do not know if your brain had the wrong letter for an ingredient, you clicked the wrong key, maybe something else you did not notice? There is something to be said for kill cams.

Then again, the Olympics are not where you go to learn new sports. There are recipes I have never made in the game, and it seems that I should master them before approaching this mode. But I do not have everything fully upgraded in story mode, so the challenges are the best place for me to see all the ingredients in all the recipes. I should probably just ignore the time pressure and practice a bit there, or look up ingredients and recipes online if I want to learn them in advance.

Hardcore cooking sim!

: Zubon

Balanced Forces

I love and fear asymmetric PvP. It is so hard to balance well and so good when it is done right.

There is something satisfying about being the big monster fighting several of your friends, or being that group of friends taking down a big monster we know to have a capable pilot. About pitting goblins against elves against dragons. About ninja and samurai, pirates and ninja, merchants and pirates. Symmetry is elegant and much easier to balance, but teams with different advantages and disadvantages add so much more color.

But it is so easy to get wrong, and if you mess it up, it may not be fixable. Or maybe the balance really is perfect, but not in your local gaming group, where one person is especially good with one strategy and makes all the other factions look like trash. It is hard to tell whether the im/balance is in your game or your gamers, and imbalanced gamers can lead to runaway differences in-game.

I see the latest thing on Kickstarter or Steam, and my interest is piqued, but it will take many hours of (hopefully someone else’s) play to see whether the game has the chops to make it work. A bit of randomness in the game can hide imbalances for a long time, and really for as many times as I am likely to play a game, “close enough” is probably good enough.

: Zubon