Revive or Flatline?

Expansions are intended to reinvigorate games, but they are also what usually convinces me that I am done with an MMO.

When I am into a game, every new thing is exciting. Changes may or may not be good, but I am passionate about them. Revamping major systems is a learning opportunity, a whole new batch of Theory of Fun fun for a spade like me who is an Explorer of design and mechanics. Every set of patch notes is the seasonal menu at a fine restaurant, and an expansion is a smorgasbord of new content.

When I am not into a game, I can coast for a long time. Sometimes that is just downtime, waiting for something new to revive that spark after I have done all the things. Other times, it is a misguided sense of commitment and loyalty, not yet ready to admit that I am done. The current free to play trend lets one drag that out for a long time, logging in for a quick daily to keep a faint spark alive when a subscription fee could force an “is this worth it?” decision point.

An expansion forces that decision point on a grander scale. You need to buy something. Large mechanics are changing. The level cap is probably going up, and if not the population will still be moving to the new areas, so you must follow or be left behind.

And so I look at my emotional reaction. Do big changes inspire interest or dread? You have already made your decision, you just need to recognize it.

: Zubon

[GW2] Lash and Love


Picture this. You are watching your boss on stage at E3. He’s about to launch the pre-order button for something you’ve been working on for months. The community has been positive. You feel good about your work. You have a lot of work left to do. Now people will start to speak with their wallets. It’s a scary time, and then the worst possible public reaction occurs.


This is not a post on the right or wrong of the situation. It’s a post in the hopes that fans who have free voice remain mindful of the power of their words. Continue reading [GW2] Lash and Love

Town of Salem

Mafia (also known as Werewolf and a dozen other variations) is a piece of gaming literature, for which I knew the rules but never got around to playing. This weekend I tried out an online variant under the name Town of Salem and proceeded to play 17 games in a row.

Mafia is a PvP game of social deduction. You have a town of people, a few of whom are secretly the Mafia. The Mafia kills someone every night in their plan to seize power. Every day, the townspeople (including the hidden Mafia) can vote to lynch someone. Night follows day until one side is eliminated.

The town has numerical advantage. They will definitely have some losses, but when there are three Mafia members out of 10-15 in the town, having more bodies means not only more longevity but also more people watching for suspicious behavior. The Mafia has a coordination advantage, because the Mafia members know who is in the Mafia.

Variations include changing team composition, whether notes are allowed, and giving players special abilities. Online games allow more options for secret communication or abilities that might be awkward in physical games. Town of Salem gives every player a role with a special ability and includes neutral roles, such as the Jester who wants to by lynched. I am torn between enjoying the additional flavor and wondering whether it spoils the purity of the original game. The default game only uses about half the roles, with limited variation, but other options can use them all.

As my 17-game binge suggests, it is immediately engrossing and addicting. I can see why some conventions have continuously running games that successfully sell “all you can play” passes.

: Zubon

[GW2] Parenting and the Heart of Thorns Pre-Purchase

My eldest daughter sits across from my youngest. They both have ice cream. I’d rather be sitting at the dinner table I crafted and chatting about the day with my wife than bringing out the laser level to make sure each bowl of ice cream is volumetrically equivalent.

The eldest sits with a scowl on her face because the youngest had the highest ice cream peak, or perhaps a spoonful more, or just better presentation of the dessert. Her enjoyment of her own ice cream is ruined. All she cares about is that her younger sister may have more.

Pretend you are the parent. What would you do? Continue reading [GW2] Parenting and the Heart of Thorns Pre-Purchase

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

[GW2] Nec-reaction to the Trait Update Preview

ArenaNet sent out a big email at midnight last night detailing a huge chunk of next Tuesday’s giga-patch notes. Dragon Season in fine form has them up. A lot is shifting. There are some good changes, and there are some pretty wonky changes.

The reaction from the necromancer community is not what I had hoped for. Yes, we are still in paper mode, and I expect fiddling from the community and  ArenaNet after the patch drops. There’s no way that this is balanced. It’s “pretty good” though, I feel.

Except with necromancer. There’s still no feeling of “wow, we should get a necromancer on our team so we can [something awesome]”. I am hoping that some of the developers’ decisions on the necromancer’s “purity of purpose” shines through in actual play. Continue reading [GW2] Nec-reaction to the Trait Update Preview

Card Hunter: Puzzles?

I have reached the mid levels of Card Hunter, where “more brute force” is no longer always the right answer. Maybe. I am not grinding, so I am far from “best in slot,” so I am likely having some trouble because my characters are twice the level of some of my equipment.

I am undecided on how I feel about the fights that call for changing your build. They are usually because of setups like fighting opponents with multiple times your hit points, fighting enemies who are immune to a damage type, or being on a map with victory point tiles, where the enemy gets them unless you are built for that race (say, you are outnumbered and on movement-impeding terrain while your opponent can just walk a few steps forward).

On the one hand, thinking, woohoo! On the other, this is only a challenge because you do not know what you will need to build before you go into the fight. Once you see the opponents and learn what sorts of cards they have, you can counter. It is like in adventure games where you open a door, a trap kills you, and you learn to open the other door. This fight has skeletons, so equip blunt weapons; this fight has zombies, so are these the ones that are immune to elemental attacks or is that the other group of very similar zombies?

If your characters could switch weapons mid-fight, that would be one thing. You cannot. The adventures now usually have four fights, so you do not have the option of going in, losing to see what cards the opponent has, then choosing equipment now that you have adequate information. That is an exaggeration, because you get a few losses before they kick you out and you can probably beat half-ish the fights with your default deck. But then you can also lose any fight due to bad luck, and it may take several fights before you see enough of their cards to know what new and one-off opponents do. It is starting to feel like Guild Wars 1, where the appropriate answer is to check the wiki before going in and potentially to change your build before every map. You do not need to look up a build, because thinking, but in-game does not provide enough information in advance to plan without intentionally wiping on some fights to see what the mechanics of the fight are.

I am enjoying it less because my options seem to be “waste time” or “read spoilers.” Most of the fights can reasonably be done with any reasonable build. a fair number require something special, and you don’t really know that in advance, and you also don’t know until you try it a couple of times whether you have the wrong build, wrong tactics, mistakes in execution, or bad luck. Or if you are just supposed to grind for a while, which is never a good answer either, even though it is the right answer in almost any game with RPG elements.

: Zubon

Heroes of the Storm: Gazlowe

Ravious mentions playing HotS as an assassin. My experience has been completely different because I have mostly been playing Gazlowe, an anti-NPC specialist. This isn’t LoL, it does not play like LoL, and if I am going with it I am going with it.

I picked up Gazlowe because I got a daily quest to play three games as a specialist, with no specialists available in the free rotation unless I gained a bunch of levels (poor design). Gazlowe was the cheapest, and he sounded interesting. Melee is not my strength, but he is a melee with Heimerdinger’s skills and anti-structure talents. I’m in.

I get that some people manage to be bad at Heroes of the Storm, but either Gazlowe is top tier or I’m just rather good with him. I do 30-40% of our team’s siege damage, sometimes more. There are games where I have top score for siege and hero damage and xp contribution. In a MOBA that focuses more on NPCs than killing other players, Gazlowe focuses on NPCs. You could build him another way, but why?

I take the passive for Gazlowe’s R: +150% damage against minions, mercenaries, and structures. Turrets do a bit of tanking, and Gazlowe chops down the towers. You can even upgrade him to melee the ammo out of towers, although I prefer more mana for more turrets. Against minions, he starts with two AE attacks, and you can upgrade his turrets and basic attack to hit multiple targets and then add a damage aura. Late game, it takes me longer to get back on my horse than to clear a wave of minions.

It is making the game pall for me the way that cultural victories did in Civ V. Players are what provide the variety in MOBAs, and Heroes of the Storm makes the other players less important. Gazlowe can make them irrelevant. And he wins.

: Zubon