Bonus Quote for the Weekend

Richard Bartle on EVE’s pivot:

“we look at what our players do and less of what they say” works only if your players aren’t the hardest-of-the-hard-core who do exactly what they say they’ll do

The post also includes a lovely, expandable economic model for game servers and customization, although MOBAs and modded games are covering a fair amount of that territory in the non-persistent world.

: Zubon

Quotes of the Week

Heartless. on Star Wars: The Old Republic:

All you need to know is that the game is under tight NDA wraps with less than two months until launch.

Melmoth on Mists of Pandaria:

Werewolves in top hats, gnomes performing the dance moves from Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, … ridiculous sexual dimorphism in PC races, non-combat pets, Haris Pilton, giant cow-men riding on chocobos, … shoulder pads you could hide a small village under, remote-controlled fighting robots, … escorting mechanical chickens, ludicrous retcons, kobold candles, Forsaken Death Knights, teleporters, steam car vs rocket car racetrack, … dressing up in a murloc suit, orbital death satellites, pink elekks…

And you’re worried about pandas?

Anjin on arguing about Mists of Pandaria:

When people argue that World of Warcraft is a silly game, they are talking about the world. When people argue that it is a serious game, they are talking about the systems.

On second thought, let’s not go to Azeroth. It is a silly place.

: Zubon

[Rift] Defeating the Defeatist

Jaradcel writes up another in-depth guest post on Rift PvP. Enjoy! –Ravious

Lately with the amount of PvP I have been doing, it feels like my brain is beginning to bleed “learn2play” attitudes. I have caught myself replying to obvious troll bait yells or even doing so myself.

Upon consideration, I feel like one of the root causes of this, which is far less prevalent in a PvE aspect, is because of the way developers tend to design for PvP. There are several reasons, but to start the ball rolling: Developers tend to cater to the defeatist.

Continue reading [Rift] Defeating the Defeatist

Powers of Two

This is a fundamentals post. You need those sometimes. Today’s goal is to know your powers of two.

For any readers who have not reached exponents in their math classes yet, this just means 2×2=4, 2x2x2=8, 2x2x2x2=16, 2x2x2x2x2=32, and so on. Even if you are completely innumerate, you have surely noticed that the numbers 128, 256, and 512 proliferate around computers. These are higher powers of two. Computers are binary (two-based), so everything tends to be in powers of two. We talk about gaming here, and lots of things in games are 50% chances, coin-flips, however they phrase it: it is all 2s, and if you know the basic math behind what is going on, you will better prosper and be emotionally and intellectually prepared for the likely outcomes. There are two that I want to focus on today.

2^5=32. 1 in 32 series of 5 coin flips will be all heads, another 1/32 all tails. If there is a 50-50 chance of something happening, there is a 1/32 chance of its happening (or not) 5 times in a row. That’s roughly a 3% chance: unlikely, but not exactly a rare event when you are doing something hundreds of times, so be ready for it. As a concrete example, if you are playing Tyrant and a Xeno Forcefield comes out, you can probably take it out in one attack. On average, it regenerates (refills its hit points) once, but about 3% of the time, you will need to knock that wall down 6 times before it stays down. Given how much you play whatever game it is, you may hit the 1 in 32 chance every day. Watch for it, plan for it.

2^10=1024. Ten doublings gives you a thousand. This is a convenient bit of quick arithmetic to keep in your head, mostly because it stacks. If ten doublings is one thousand, twenty is one million, and thirty is one billion (American billion or British milliard). Doubling adds up quickly. There is the old story about asking for a reward of a single grain of rice/wheat on the first square of a chessboard, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth, and so on. A chessboard has 64 squares, so it will still be a few from the end when we clear 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Doubling is powerful, and most people lose track of how the exponents work. The easy math to remember is that 10 doublings gives you another set of ,000 on the end of a number. Use this to estimate large quantities.

: Zubon

Skipping the Low Levels

Dungeon Defenders has many account-wide features rather than character-specific ones. Your characters share a single bank for money and items, and you can pass upgraded items to the next generation. Your tavern o’ achievements is the same for all characters, rather than suggesting that you repeat all the achievements on every character. You unlock levels for your account rather than your characters, so beat the game once to make everything available for all future characters. You probably cannot beat the end boss with your level 1, but the map is there.

One unusual feature is that you can swap characters during the Build Phase of each wave. The tip screen encourages you to combine towers from different heroes, which is a nice synergy bonus for having multiple characters. You can also have a tower-focused character build then a combat-focused character fight through the round. It’s a bit of micro-management, but what are optimizers if not micro-managers? (There are limits here. You cannot have unlimited build time on the highest difficulty, so you are limited by how quickly you can swap characters, run around the map, build, repeat.)

This lets you skip the low levels at which map difficulty scales poorly. My Squire is 40-ish and can clear the first level on Insane difficulty with a half-dozen towers. Start the map, clear the first wave (6 enemies), you now have enough mana to build the first round of defenses. Swap to your new, level 0 character. Watch the defenses clear a couple of waves, bring back the Squire to build the upper-level defenses. Swap back, watch the rest of the round happen. Congratulations, your new character is now level 13 with 40,000 experience points. It feels like an exploit, and the character has no useful equipment, but it does have all its basic tools to play for real rather than fumbling about with minimal mana and one tower.

: Zubon

Dungeon Derriere

Dungeon Defenders Huntress In our occasional series on blatant objectification of women in gaming, we have the Dungeon Defenders contribution. The Apprentice and Monk are covered in cloth, the Knight has no visible skin except for his knees, and the Huntress is wearing this. The halter top is common enough female “armor” to escape comment, but note the line showing where the whale tail would be if she were not obviously commando under her skirt that droops around her hips.

Note also her pose. At the character select screen, the Apprentice spins his staff, the Squire brandishes his sword, the Monk floats meditatively, and the Huntress shakes her tush. The male gaze comes before the tutorial.

: Zubon

Dance Fight

While I have no interest in playing Sequence, I like the combination of notions: an RPG using DDR as its combat mechanic. What mechanic you use to represent conflict in your game is essentially arbitrary. We already have several Puzzle Quest-like games where fights are won by something like Bejeweled. It’s all a mini-game anyway, so if you like rhythm games, here is one where you use it to vanquish your foes.

Where is the anime-style game using karaoke mechanics to let you defeat your opponents through the power of song? Giant robots and singing have been merged so successfully on the screen, why not on the PlayStation?

: Zubon

Dungeon Defenders Second Impressions

  • Recent patches have improved the interface reliability. The Ranked server is still less reliable than, oh, what you might expect from a MMO in its first week.
  • The solo difficulty curve levels out several hours into the game. You can reasonably solo medium difficulty once you have enough levels to access most of your tools and a decent weapon.
  • A good weapon makes all the difference in the world. You might start out swinging for 10s, then you find the weapon that gets a bonus 50 elemental damage that increases by 10 (and increasing) every time you invest mana. When your damage triples, the impossible becomes the trivial.
  • Hey, neat, a boss fight!
  • The looting mechanics are anti-social. SynCaine comments on the anti-social xp mechanic. This is exacerbated by the mana mechanic: grab as much mana as you can to build/upgrade as much as you can to get as much xp as you can, however little that makes sense in the context of your team. Mana is both the in-level economy and the between-game economy, so you have an extra incentive to undermine your current game/team for minor personal profit. The loot mechanic is at least as bad, with items going to whoever hits E at them first. Sold trash items seem to be the primary source of mana for long-term upgrades and buying pets, so everyone has an incentive to grab everything. This games needs some version of “everyone gets everything picked up” to avoid competitions and races for acquiring personal benefits. The Nash equilibrium is not at a good point here. Of course, then you get into the leecher problem…
  • I like the loot mechanic of only dropping items for the classes that are there. No Huntress? No Huntress items drop.
  • You get several layers of customization. You have 10 spots to put your points when you level, half for you and half for your towers. You can pick from the variety of loot that drops or shop the few in the store. You can invest mana in your equipment and choose which aspect to upgrade, although you can only upgrade extant aspects rather than building from scratch. Pets are treated like items.
  • I’m really liking the Squire. I have melee towers that knock things back and ranged towers to shoot from behind them. If I repair the Bouncing Barrier up front during this, I am tank, DPS, and healer all in one. Better than repairing, I can just run around slashing at things with my sword that cuts a hole in the world while the towers deal with other directions.
  • You really do feel more powerful as you level up. There must be a treadmill effect going on here, but I am not feeling it. My numbers are big and growing faster than the enemies’ numbers, although the quantity of enemies may be growing to offset that. All the better.

: Zubon