Monday, 21 July 2014

Blood Wall

I'm sure you're as enthusiastic about Camelot Unchained as I am, and noticed the recent slide pack about character progression in CU. One slide in particular caught my attention. The one that says:
Our mantra is "Use it to improve it!"
In other words, to improve a skill, just use it, and you will get better at it. Sounds like a great idea doesn't it? the more I use a sword, the better at sword-fighting I get. the more I cast fireball spells, the better I get at casting them.

While that sounds good, it reminds me of another game that tried that strategy. Do you remember Blood Walls in Darkfall Online?

Blood Walls, for those who have forgotten, is lines of clan members standing facing each other continually hitting each other with weapons to improve their weapons skills, and yet others heal them continuously to improve their healing skills.

It was the ultimate grindy experience, and one that lent itself to macros and I dare say botting. But it was required behaviour if you wanted your skills to be as good as your enemies. While enemy clans and alliances were doing it, your clan had to do it as well, or find yourselves at a disadvantage in battle.

So what started out as a good idea - improving skills through just playing the game - turned into a nightmare of unavoidable grind for everyone. Darkfall Unholy Wars had to get rid of this system before its players got rid of Darkfall. I hope Camelot Unchained has learned this lesson.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Titanic Struggle

Do you think Rob Pardo's resignation is because he's hacked off that he's not going to get a chance to make Titan?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Honouring the flame

Like almost every year, Blizzard have once again forgotten to reset the Midsummer bonfires from last year, so if you honoured a flame last year, your won't be able to honour it this year, until Blizzard reset those quests. This happens every year. You'd think it's about time it was fixed, so that those quests automatically reset every year.


Monday, 5 May 2014

The cleansing fires of Beltane

Beltane, the Celtic festival marking the beginning of the summer's fertility. It falls around Mayday. Cleansing, purifying fires are lit, burning away old dead growth, preparing the soil for new growth. The festival is held in the gap between spring and summer,the interval between the youth of spring and the adulthood of summer. The fires are lit in this space between seasons. It's not only a void in time, but also in space. Worlds collide in this gap, and the fires purify not only the soil, but anything that passes over them. Man and beast cross the fires, purifying themselves, ridding themselves of evil. Spirits from the dark underworld are cleansed.

My poor monk Paoquan tried to leap across the flames on the eve of the day of the dead, trying desperately to escape from the misty world of the great turtle Shen-zin Su's back, where she had been trapped for a year and a day, and into our world. She leapt across the fires, trying to cross the void. But fell into the interstitial gap between worlds, to perish forever. Or so I thought at the time. This Mayday, the spirit of Paoquan drifted through the void into our world again and was burned and cleansed by the fires of Beltane, and was reborn, not as a childish level 10, but as an adult level 90. The Beltane fires renewed  and revitalized. But the rebirth brought another change. She is now a he.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Happy Time

German U-Boat crews referred to the second half of 1940 as "Die Glückliche Zeit", when the Kriegsmarine had perfected their "Wolf Pack" tactics and British merchant fleets were poorly defended. They were easy pickings.

I felt a bit like a shark among the fish, a wolf among the sheep, this weekend in Hearthstone. The new season started with the official release, and after winning the obligatory three games to earn my hearthsteed, I more or less ignored it until this weekend. Too many other things going on. When I got back to it on Saturday, I realized what a great advertisement those hearthsteeds are. Practically everybody in  Azeroth is now playing Hearthstone, trying the game out (presumably having won their hearthsteed by now, and still enjoying it). And they are making all the foolish mistakes that everyone makes when they first start the game: decks that don't synergize, that ignore the particular strengths of their heroes, that are stacked with high cost cards.

We've all been there. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be this: if you're losing the early rounds due to a lack of low-mana cards, it's pretty unlikely that you'll make a comeback later. And in card-selection at the start of a game, replace any card that costs 4+ mana. Okay, so that's two pieces of advice.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Pre-ordering

As you know, Blizzard announced that you can now pre-order Warlords of Draenor now for €45 (or €60 for the deluxe version, which includes a mount and a pet). Blizzard say they'll deliver "on or before 20/12/2014", so why would anyone bother to pre-order now? Because of the free Level 90 Character Boost. Is your raid short of a particular role? Order Warlords of Draenor today, and you can probably have your new level 90 raid-ready in a week's time. I'm considering it to solve Paoquan's dilemma, and get a tank/healer for our raids.

Wilhelm Arcturus has a list of what you get with your insta-90.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ransomware

The European Commission1 wants to stop games companies from misleading consumers about the true costs of games advertised as "free". Here's what Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for Consumer Policy says

  • Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
  • Games should not contain direct exhortations to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements and purchases should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
    [source]

One might imagine that such aims are laudable. After all, we are all well aware of how so-called "free" games (especially those on mobile platforms) have mostly morphed into the most blatant adware, trying to sell you the means to actually enjoy playing the game (through in-app purchases) you thought was free to play.

The most pernicious of these games wait until you've invested your time in the game before telling you that to continue playing you must pay money. In other words, they hold your personal investment (for instance, your character if its an RPG) to ransom until you pay them money. I don't mind paying money for games, but I do mind when a game advertises itself as free, and then asks me for money, so I'm very happy with the EC

Azuriel, who describes himself as "as pro-consumer as you can possibly get" is annoyed, though, by Mimica trying to define what "free" means. Especially that it might only be applied to "games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis".

I'm pretty pleased with the EC's proposals. If games companies want to sell stuff to us or our kids, it's right that they be up-front about the costs, rather than trying to hide behind the word free. Azuriel's view seems to be "if I can play any part of it for free, I'm happy with it being described as 'free'" (feel free to correct me if that's wrong, Azuriel). So for instance, he thinks Dungeon Keeper is a great example of a free game. Take a look at Thomas Baekdal's comparison of the current EA ransomware version of dungeon keeper and it's 1997 original version before you make up your mind.

There's no reason why we shouldn't demand that games companies be more upfront about the costs of playing a game. For instance, here's how these games could be described:


This is Thomas Baekdal's suggestion for fixing the problem. What's wrong with that?

These changes are coming. The EU is fed up with ransomware and is going to do something about it. The UK is fed up with ransomware and is going to do something about it. The US is fed up with ransomware and is going to do something about it. Make sure you have your say on what you want done. Commissioner Mimica can be contacted through http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/mimica/index_en.htm


1. The European Commission is basically the executive government of the European Union, and the Commissioners are the equivalent of ministers or departmental secretaries of state.