State of the Game: I have a Problem

Don’t worry, it’s not a new problem, and most gamers have it:  “the new shiny.” The ever expanding free to play market doesn’t help things much. That means even a gamer on a budget cannot escape their problem. Maybe that’s why people sell their children to traffickers… but I digress.

This week I played more Hearthstone than anything. The Curse of Naxxramas released last Tuesday, as you all know, and with it came numerous challenges. Then it was back to the quest grind for gold for the upcoming wings. I’m pushing 2k gold, so I’m not far off from owning them all. I’m sure I’ll have enough gold saved with each release. You can read about my playthrough of the first wing here.

As I mentioned, I did do quite a bit of dailies throughout the week, so I had time to experiment with some of the cards. I have since modified my zoo deck, and thought I’d talk about that. Here’s the cards:

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.25.2014.22.53.47

Click to enlarge

This is still basically the same deck I’ve been using for months, with some tweaks. I added in four new cards from the expansion, x2 Haunted Creeper, and x2 Nerubian Egg. These cards synergize well with the elements of this deck, because a 1/2 that pops out two 1/1’s on death is great, and probably not worth wasting a silence on. Not to mention if a Knife Juggler is already on the board, that’s two free damage. The Egg has great synergy for similar reasons, but it’s a 0/2 and will draw silence, because the 4/4 that pops is a greater threat early on. I also like to throw buffs on it from the Cleric or Argus, and use it for some damage, gaining the 4/4 in the process. I also added in a hellfire for mirror matches, and a molten for those oh shit moments when I need to turn the tide. I will probably change things around again as new cards become available, so expect more discussion about decks in the future.

I rejoined an old friend a couple of nights ago. I hadn’t played League of Legends for a month. We’ve had that kind of relationship — off and on — for a few years now. The new featured game mode drew my attention. It’s called “Doom Bots of Doom” (creative I know), and it’s a pain in the ass. Basically it’s a co-op vs. AI match on Summoner’s Rift with a twist. They did seem to “skin” the level like they used to do around the holidays, but just to give it a darker tone. It looked really nice, but nothing compared to the remake that’s coming. The bots have significantly increased abilities, to the point of being unfair. I made a recent similar comparison with Naxxramas Heroics. Annie’s ultimate creates a Tibbers that is 3x his normal size. Chogath shoots up spikes in multiple places. Galio can taunt long range, and doesn’t get stunned in the process. It’s insane. The group that I was in was fairly well balanced, and we had a fantastic Rengar in the jungle, but my lane was the only one able to hold its outer turret for long. I was playing as Caitlyn on bottom with Taric, and we were pit against Galio and Wukong. It was a nightmare, but I got an early kill. We made a push on the turret, but met resistance, and were consistently pushed back/killed. The whole team was folding upon itself. We couldn’t pull ahead, and we fed hard. Finally we started making headway (I got farmed up and started doing some damage). They were in our base when we killed a couple bots, and I split push on bottom. For whatever reason, they killed all of my team mates and never came after me. I took out their Nexus towers by myself, and they totally forgot about me. I’m not sure we would have won otherwise. It’s gnarly to say the least, but the mode ended as of Sunday.

I ended up with a new-ish game on Steam, another Rogue-like. This time around it’s a FPS, but not like Delver, an actual sci-fi type FPS. It’s called Tower of Guns, and it’s made by a developer who obviously has a AAA pedigree, because it’s well done. For a single developer that is. It’s not without it’s limitations, but overall I love the art style and the twitch gameplay. It also has the procedural generation, loads of guns and imaginative enemies. It’s Serious Sam (bullet hell) meets The Binding of Issac (each room presents new challenges and there’s random power ups). You might have heard me talk about it on the Podcast, so I won’t go into it too much more. To give you an idea what it looks like, here’s some shots from my adventures:

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Lastly, I downloaded yet another MMO, but it was mainly for research. I made a statement about Wildstar, saying that it’s combat seemed similar to TERA’s, but I hadn’t ever played TERA. I figured I should rectify that, and with the game being free to play I could do just that. I ended up trying out a Sorcerer, Warrior and Slayer. I can’t decide which I like better. They all seem to control fairly the same, at least in the early game. I’m sure there’s a lot more to the game than the sample I’ve had thus far, but I’m honestly not sure that I’ll play much more. The same goes for SWTOR. I wanted to try the games that are out there so that I can say I have, and to compare mechanics, markets, and ideas. I still haven’t found a game that hooks me to the point I want to play it an nothing else. That hasn’t happened since I first fell in love with Everquest II, and most people would laugh at that remark. If WoW wasn’t your first love, there’s something wrong with you… I can hear it now. But seriously, I’ve been looking for a long time for something to fill that MMO void, and I’ve played a lot of games. Some people might say “the game doesn’t start til you hit the cap” or other such nonsense, but I can’t be bothered with that logic. I feel like a game should sink it’s claws into you and not let go. If it doesn’t do that, it hasn’t succeeded. None of the games I’ve played recently, despite positive or negative commentary, have hooked me. But there’s more games on the horizon (Firefall will be live on Tuesday and the Archeage beta I was invited to starts Wednesday), so who knows, maybe one of them will do the trick. If not, there’s always H1Z1 or something else I haven’t heard about yet. Time will tell, but for now the hunt for a new MMO home continues. I might still dabble in some of these regardless. No promises though. I will say TERA was a hell of a lot better looking than Wildstar.

That’s about it for this week. Until next episode.

#stateofthegame #gaming #roundup

Soapbox Derby

I think it’s time to put some things to bed.

First, let’s cover the back story. Syp over at Bio Break, recently wrote a post about ArcheAge. I should also make clear that I have yet to play ArcheAge and I haven’t been following it all that closely. I know there was a paid Alpha, and I know I didn’t spend money on that. I was recently invited to the closed beta that’s starting next week, but that’s not clouding anything I’m going to say here. Regardless of my knowledge of the game or lack thereof, I was presented with some opinions about the game and it’s community in his post.

I should also mention that I didn’t read his post first. I actually read J3w3l’s response which lead me to his, but that’s not super relevant because I read both blogs almost daily. I basically read both posts at the same time, and here’s the gist of them:

Syp believes that because ArcheAge is an MMO, it should cater to all audiences. ArcheAge was apparently (correct me if I’m wrong) built to be a open-world PvP-only game. This means that even the most basic systems were composed with PvP conflict in mind. Something like that is rarely done, and Syp himself is part of the reason why. He isn’t a PvP player. People who aren’t PvP players would prefer PvE servers that at the very most have instanced PvP, but preferably none at all. That’s fine, to each their own I say. But the dilution of the MMO industry has occurred because of people who don’t allow games like this to be untouched, meaning the developers get to make the game they envision. Next thing you know, a game like ArcheAge is another run-of-the-mill themepark, just because someone who doesn’t like PvP games demanded that a PvE version be made.

J3w3l was a bit more hostile in her reply, though knowing her and her personality, she’s mostly joking. But the passion is there, and that’s what’s important. Passion makes good games. Good games don’t always cater to everyone. If you want to knock it down to its most basic level, there are many other MMOs on the market that already cater to everyone, and have a little bit of both. Go play one. But when a game that’s breaking out of the mold comes along you cry that it needs to be more of the same. That’s a shame, and as a result we’d never see anything new again. I’m glad some developers are still willing to take risks.

So that’s the basic argument, with a splash of my opinion sprinkled throughout. On J3w3l’s post, I commented:

The PvPers manifesto right here.

I read Syp’s post, and I too felt as combative as the players on the forums that he referenced. The entire industry (outside of instanced pvp or the call of duty series or MOBAs as a whole) is built on PvE. PvAI more like. And I’ve been a major supporter of PvP because it does create ever-changing dynamic content. Sure there are RP servers that do some pretty amazing things in other MMOs, but it’s still not dynamic, and it usually equates to do some frivolous stuff and standing around a bunch. The ability to have the dynamics that games like EVE had (and I’m glad Wilhelm brought that up) where PvE players can still participate in farming/mining/economy — whatever — is where PvE players could still get some fun out of PvP games, and maybe even learn to enjoy them. Supposedly the majority of EVE players stay out of the PvP areas.

One way or the other, I am all for diversity amongst games, and not just with race/class/sex issues, but also for the types of mechanics they use. There are very few successful PvP-only MMOs, and if ArcheAge is able to bring a new one to the fold without catering to the entitled folks, I’m all for it. I actually just got a closed beta invite yesterday, so I’ll be checking it out myself next week.

Kudos for the article. Well done.

That went unnoticed for a couple of days. Sure enough, it wouldn’t be for long. My buddy Doone, ever the antagonizer, had this to say:

I see people throw this term around a lot. Dynamic suggests unexpected things can happen in game, and to that end whenever there are players around doing ANYTHING, the game is dynamic. The constant threat of losing assets you spent a lot of time to get doesn’t add dynamism. It just adds risk. So what is this dynamic gameplay you all are referring to which can only be present when players are killing each other?

The funny part about all this is that Doone doesn’t have a problem with PvP, he just likes to argue. So I responded again, and I think I made my point clear:

The dynamic you are missing is that killing isn’t necessarily what is meant by PvP. It’s the dynamic element of HUMAN INTELLIGENCE which eclipses that of AI, and can create conflict from nothing, can create situations that wouldn’t occur when it’s a program run by a script. Tell me that running the same stupid pattern in a dungeon or raid over and over again doesn’t get old fast. Tell me that it would be more fun if you knew the enemy was able to actually ADAPT to what you’re doing, rather than wondering why he can’t hit you with the fire, but some other dumb player will stand in it?

I think that people who swear off PvP are afraid of a challenge. Each camp has its trolls, sure, but I think pro-PvP gamers are mostly looking for something dynamic and engaging. We are tired of the rails.

Now, I know that this isn’t speaking for the entirety of PvP players. I’m sure there are plenty of assholes out there who love to grief, and who might take things a bit too far. But there’s a breed of PvP player who feels just like the paragraph above, and I think they would agree that it puts the argument to rest. It won’t ever stop, but I feel like I got the best word in.

EDIT (7/28):
The discussion has continued, beyond comments here and on the posts linked above. Syp has posted a follow up to his original post. You can read that here. I’m sure we’ve all been entitled players at one point or another, so I’ll agree with him that we’re all hypocrites. But at the same time, I still stand firm that if a game was designed to be an open-world PvP sandbox, it shouldn’t have a separate PvE server. I also think that the way PvP servers are added in as an afterthought to PvE-centric games is stupid. I’m not against PvE games whatsoever. I simply want the market to continue and try new things, so we aren’t stuck with more of the same over and over. I think it’s a pretty logical position.

#opinion #gamediscussion #pvevspvp #archeage

Couch Podtatoes Episode 6: Successful Sexism

Welcome to another episode of your new favorite podcast! It’s been a month since we’ve had Doone on our show, and it’s time for another “Doone’s Digital Frontier” segment. This time around, Doone wanted to talk about Sexism — done right. This means that the author acknowledges the content created has sexist content, but is using it to create a discussion in a positive light. You’ll understand more clearly by listening, I promise :P Otherwise, the usual idiots are still doing stupid things on the internet, and we’re highlighting the Blaugust initative that was started by Belghast of Tales from the Aggronaut (see link below or on sidebar).

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Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 6: Successful Sexism (runtime: 50:36)

Breaking the Ice: what are we playing? (starts at 1:53)
Doone’s Digital Frontier: Successful Sexism (starts at 16:00)
Idiots on the Internet: AREAL Fail(starts at 39:09)
Community Talk: Blaugust (starts at 46:08)

Host Contact information:

Izlain
Blog: Me vs. Myself and I
Twitter:@mevsmyselfandi

J3w3l
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Doone
Blog: XP Chronicles
Twitter: @trredskies

Idiots on the Internet article:http://motherboard.vice.com/read/did-vladimir-putin-just-endorse-a-ukrainian-post-apocalyptic-video-game and related: https://www.facebook.com/areal.game?fref=nf

Community Spotlight:
Belghast: Tales from the Aggronaut
the article: http://aggronaut.com/2014/07/21/fear-of-the-tonberry/

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“Shattered Like Glass” by Warbringer (from the album Worlds Torn Asunder)
“Built For Sin” by The Black Dahlia Murder (from the album Miasma)
“Hello” by Going Quantum (from the album Monstercat 2011)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. You can visit our official podcast page at http://couchpodtatoes.podomatic.com/. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

#couchpodtatoes #podcast #gamesdiscussion #gaming

The Arachnid Quarter

Most of you not living under a rock know the the new Naxxramas expansion for Hearthstone has gone live. The first of five wings released this past Tuesday, The Arachnid Quarter. In it, three new bosses (similar to the bosses of the tutorial) are out to see you dead, coming at you with all new hero powers and cards exclusive to the expansion. Not only is there a normal difficulty for these three bosses, but also a heroic mode, where the difficulty is cranked up from cake walk to unfair — at least until you know what you’re doing. It’s good that Blizzard has tried to challenge us into changing around our best decks, and giving us new cards in the process. Yeah, that’s right, beating these bosses give cards, and once you’ve done it all, you’re even rewarded with a Legendary. Outside of the bosses, are two class challenges that allow you to earn the class cards that I went over not too long ago. This time around it was the Rogue and Druid. I play Rogue pretty regularly but the card doesn’t really work in the deck I have, and I don’t play Druid so I could care less there. Further wings will be releasing each week, and I’ve been saving gold in preparation for them. I don’t feel bad, because I’ve dropped money for packs in the past (I still don’t have every card from the original set, and I’ve been playing since beta).

So I ran through the normal bosses bosses first, though that wasn’t a choice, as the other modes are locked when first starting up.

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.18.13

The first boss on my list to kill was Anub’Rekhan, a giant beetle looking thing. His special ability allowed for him to summon a creature for 2 mana. At first I didn’t know what to expect, so I just went with the tried and true Warlock deck — and managed to kill him by turn 6. This was going well.

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My reward:

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.22.05

These cards ended up being significant for more than one reason. I have added them to my zoo deck for now, but more on them in a bit. Next, it was time to face Grand Widow Faerlina. She came equipped with another new hero power, the ability to shoot firebolts at random enemies (me and my minions) based on the cards in my had. Seems like a job for the Warlock, once again.

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.22.52

Zoo works perfectly to counter her hero power, mainly because cards are so cheap and you burn through your hand rather quickly. Keeping next to no cards on my hands mean she needed to throw up taunts or destroy my minions as fast as possible, but it wasn’t going to happen. Another boss down, and another reward:

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I can see a use for this card, but you would have to make sure that you weren’t running a bunch of cards with battlecry. That wouldn’t fit with zoo, and not really with any of the decks I run. Perhaps this card will synergize well with further cards from the set, but for now they are just collecting dust. The next boss up was the final one, and seemingly most difficult. Maexxna is a giant spider who has a rather annoying hero power, particularly for the zoo deck. Her web ability returns a minion to your hand. Now that can be good if it has a battlecry or was low on health, but otherwise it’s rather annoying.

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She was annoying, but not difficult. I still beat all three bosses on the first try and didn’t think twice about it. The reward from this battle was two fold:

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.29.28 Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.29.15

Firstly, the egg card is phenomenal, and went right into my zoo deck. A cheap 2 cost minion that later dies and becomes a 4/4? I’m all about that. The fun part too is with a cleric or power overwhelming, you can use them for damage and still get your 4/4. Best card of the wing in my opinion. The legendary card for the wing is also earned at this point, and though it’s not the most phenomenal legendary I’ve seen, it’s still a nice card, and a beast to boot. This one went right into my Hunter deck, and gives King Krush some company.

The next part to tackle was the class challenges. In them, you play with a preconstructed class deck, and have to play against the bosses again. Rogue and Druid were both rather easy, and gave up these cards as rewards:

Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.48.18 Hearthstone_Screenshot_7.22.2014.22.42.03

I’ve already gone over what I think about these cards, so no further commentary needed. The final step of the Arachnid Quarter was to defeat the original bosses in Heroic mode. Having felt that everything was rather easy up to this point, I still went into the first boss with my zoo deck, and got quite a surprise. Anub kicked my ass on my first couple of tries. I figured that meant that I should use another deck. Trying out my Hunter, it was a whole ‘nother story. With that victory in the books, I moved to the second boss. I didn’t have much success with the Hunter, so I went back to zoo, and that worked well again, for the same reasons it worked on normal mode. I guess I should mention that the difference with Heroic bosses is that they have 45 health instead of 30 (but you still only have 30) and their hero powers are more potent (they cost less and do more). Getting back to Maexxna, I had trouble beating her with any deck I tried, and I tried with most of them. The trouble is, that you have to realize the pattern, and plan accordingly. That’s not the same as traditional deck building, and I wasn’t prepared for it. In the end, I finally found something that worked: Paladin deck with lots of heals and cheap charge minions. For an example of how I did it, here’s a video I recorded:

The basics of the strat is to wait for the spiders (earned above, that I said there would be more significance to them) to fill the board. Maexxna starts off the bat with two, and she will web two minions every single turn. So if you don’t play more than two each turn, you don’t have to worry about having anything die. Once you have 3+ of those spiders you can use an AOE (consecrate here) to clear them, and each will spawn two 1/1’s.  Once you’ve flooded the board with 1/1’s or even another creature whom you can use humility on to lower their attack to 1, you will take 7 points of damage each turn. From there, you can eventually heal for more than the damage you’re taking, and whittle her health down. Watch the vid, you’ll see what I mean.

My only complaint was that beating all the bosses on Heroic mode didn’t yield a reward. I suspect that perhaps beating all the wings on heroic might, or that there will be some other tie-in. Time will tell. I’ll be back next week with tales from the Plague Quarter!

#naxxramas #hearthstone #arachnidquarter #playthrough

Amid the Ruins

Amid the Ruins is the fourth episode of season two of The Walking Dead Game, by TellTale. With very little downtime, this episode ended up being pretty chaotic from start to finish, and brought more deaths along with it than most of the other episodes. Usually a choice will come about where you decide who lives and who dies. In this case, multiple choices and multiple deaths were possible. First, we’ll start with the results: (SPOILERS AHEAD)

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Right away, we see a life and death choice, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The final choice from the last episode revolved around whether or not you attacked a walker that had bitten Sarita, or chopping off her arm. For reasons I already explained, I ended up chopping off her arm. I assumed that would mean she would live, or at least get out of the herd and die later, on her own terms. This wasn’t the case. Instead, attacking her caused her to recoil from Clementine, and walkers collapsed on her anyway. Kenny sees what happened, blames you for Sarita’s death, and you wander off through the herd with Jane and Rebecca. There are some QTEs and tension, but it goes rather smoothly.

Meeting up with some of the other people from the group, it’s realized that Sarah has disappeared, and Luke and Nick go off to find her. You drop Rebecca off with Mike, Kenny and Bonnie, and go with Jane to look for the prior group. Coming to a trailer park, you find a already zombified Nick, and end him. Death #2 already. Inside the park, you create a distraction and get inside the trailer where Luke and Sarah are holed up. Sarah is catatonic, and Luke can’t get through to her. As walkers are busting into the house you are faced with the first choice above, and I managed to convince her to leave with us, but at the last possible moment. The majority of players did the same.

Arriving back at the temporary camp, Kenny is in bad shape. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone, and yeah, he’s blaming you for Sarita still. Eventually it’s decided that Rebecca’s baby is coming, and there are a few places nearby that might be suitable at least until she has had the baby. You go with Jane at the behest of Bonnie, who thinks Jane is useful to the group, but such a loner that she might “take off.” Bonnie and Mike head in the opposite direction to check out a Civil War museum. You and Jane head to an observation deck that has a gift shop. Once there, Jane is trying to break into the gift shop, when a figure approaches in the distance. You hide, and when he gets close enough, reveal yourself. His name is Arvo, and he has a thick accent, breaking into Russian every so often. He has a bag full of medicine he’s taking to his “sick sister,” but I chose to take the medicine for my group, because he seems alone and shady. It appears a large chunk of people didn’t do this, and I’m wondering how that would affect the end of the episode.

Jane threatens Arvo, and he leaves. She tells Clem to head back to the camp while she busts into the gift shop. Heading back you run into Luke, talk briefly, and then go back to the camp. Once there, Kenny is still pissed off, and the others tell you to go check on Mike and Bonnie. Off to the museum. Once there, you help them look around for supplies. You find a coat, and a locked up office with water inside. The door is locked, and a shutter is open part way. I volunteered to crawl inside and open the door, and of course a walker was inside. Mike ended up kicking the door down and coming to aid, and the walker was dispatched. Taking the coat and the water, the group headed back. At this point, it’s time to move and someone needs to talk to Kenny. I volunteered again, and he had calmed down a bit. He comes back to his senses, and we head to the observation deck.

We almost walk in on Luke and Jane getting it on. Kenny gets pissed at Luke, and they start arguing just like they always have. Then a rather large group of walkers is seen heading towards them. With the deck being so high, it seemed like they’d be safe, but then the deck starts to crack and fall away. In the process Sarah falls to the ground and Clem helped Luke to pull Jane up, who almost fell as well. Looks like helping Sarah before didn’t prevent her death after all. Death #3.

Soon, Rebecca has her baby, and everyone is trying to get some rest. At some point you are asked if you want to hold the baby, and I went ahead and said yes. This seemed a bit inconsequential, but I guess there could be something to it later. You find Jane outside and she says she’s going to leave. She’s a loner and that’s just what she’s going to do. Luke finds out afterward and gets upset, and then Kenny starts in on him too. Kenny wants to leave right away because this place isn’t safe. Luke thinks that Rebecca needs a couple of days to rest. I sided with Luke, and we stayed a couple more days.

Once we headed out on the road, it had started to snow. Rebecca wasn’t looking so good. We trudged on, and a familiar face appeared further up the road. It was Arvo. And he wasn’t alone. A bunch of burly Russian dudes pops out from around the group, all brandishing weapons and shouting in their native tongue. Arvo explains that because we robbed him, they would now take all of the group’s possessions. Tensions were high, and it appeared that there would be a shootout. Rebecca had sat down on the side of the road, and I watched as she turned into a walker. I could have shouted out, but instead my instincts told me to kill her and save the baby. Unfortunately my gunshot set off gunshots all around, and the screen went blank. Death #4.

The episode ended on that note. I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next. I imagine the finale will be crazy.

#thewalkingdead #telltale #amidtheruins #interactivestory #narrative