Modifying the Rotation: A Rant

You’ve probably noticed for the past year or so I’ve been doing a weekly round up of what it is that I’m playing. If you’ve paid attention, you’ll know that the only constant is that the list of games I’m playing during any given week is always changing. If I pick up a new game (even if it’s just new to me) I’m usually trying that out or perhaps trying to complete it. If I haven’t picked up anything new, I’m working through the backlog or just settling on playing session-based games that can still eat up plenty of time. Sometimes I’ll be playing MMOs, sometimes I can’t be bothered. As such, I have definitely avoided pigeonholing this blog into one niche because my finicky nature doesn’t allow for one topic to be discussed at any given time. Some weeks there is plenty of news or new things to talk about as far as what I’ve been occupying my time with, other weeks I’m reaching for things to write about. Either way, this is a favorite hobby of mine, so even when I have to reach a little, I still enjoy writing and sharing my experiences, finding bits of information or free game leads to share, or rattling off my opinions on whatever topic comes to mind.

You’ll know by now that my steady rotation of games usually includes one or more MOBAs, Hearthstone, an MMO or two, and whatever single player games I’m working on. I’m here to tell you today about one of the games that I’ve been playing religiously all year getting put on the back burner, and another that I’ve played here and there that has come to the forefront of the rotation. The games in question are Awesomenauts and Diablo III. I avoided talking about the former in my State of the Game post yesterday, because it is the one that is getting put on the shelf, and I mentioned what I’ve been doing in D3 briefly. Let’s get into the particulars as to why these changes are occurring, shall we?

My history with Awesomenauts starts way back in 2012 when it released. It was actually free with a Plus membership on Playstation on release day, and I picked it up not even realizing it was a MOBA. I was hooked almost instantly, but I didn’t really get heavily involved in playing it until I took it to my friend’s house and hooked him as well. After he bought a copy, we played together nearly every day. I played through all of the prestige levels and worked my way up the leaderboards into the top 1000 of all players on the console. I was proud of the accomplishment and all, but found out about how the Steam version of the game was getting further support, while the console version was left behind. Many new characters were added, balance tweaks and fixes were implemented, even new maps and game modes were supported on the PC. It was this fact that pushed me to buy a copy on Steam, and though the console version got love on the newest generation of consoles, I don’t own a new gen console so it made sense to just get the game on Steam.

I was happy with that for nearly this entire year. I purchased the game + the Starstorm expansion and have enjoyed all of the new features plus the regular patches that change/add new things. I’ve even enjoyed doing the prestige levels again despite the fact that they take far longer to do on the PC, and I’ve adjusted to the leaderboard that gets wiped every couple of months. Everything was fine until recently, where I became disillusioned with the game. There is a major problem with the game’s network mechanics that causes an undue amount of stress for me. See, I’m a very competitive person, particularly when it comes to PvP oriented games, and having a leaderboard gives incentive to get better at the game. I didn’t have a problem in past seasons where I seemed to fall on the appropriate place on the leaderboard and would slowly work my way up. This season that started at the beginning of the month changed my perspective ever so slightly. At the end of the last season, I was ranked in the 3000 range out of 150k people who had played games during the duration. I felt pretty good with that, as it was the best I had done on the PC version of the game. I figured with the amount of time I have been playing lately, that this season would start and I’d just continue to work my way up. That was exactly the case for the first few days, I ended up placing within the top 1000 players (901 specifically) after having played a dozen or so games. I attributed this to the fact that there have only been 30k players who have placed on the board so far, and figured I might drop a bit when more people played, but was happy with my placement. That was the highest I would place though, as the real issues were about to rear their ugly head.

Awesomenauts uses a peer to peer matchmaking system. This means that the games aren’t hosted on servers provided by the developer, but rather the games are hosted on individual’s computers. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game didn’t have a leaderboard, but because it does there are windows for error that can affect your rating. Basically, if the person who is hosting the game leaves for some reason (voluntary leave, system crash, network error, etc) and for some reason the migration doesn’t complete, you are dropped from the game. This can affect your rating, if the system decides that you “left” the game. Also, if the person hosting the game is far away from you, ping becomes an issue. If the game kept you playing people within a certain radius of you, this wouldn’t be a problem, but I have had games where I was playing with people in different parts of the world, and the different pings affect gameplay. Warping is common, and this creates a disadvantage for players when you need to aim skill shots or dodge attacks. Both of these factors can contribute to losses (or frustration to the point of quitting the game) which causes your rating to go down. Couple that with the fact that though the matchmaking system is supposed to put you in games with people of a similar skill level, but rarely does, your rating can take hits left and right. Simply put, in one day I dropped from that 901 rank on the leaderboard to the 3000 range again, after only losing a handful of matches, all of which had the above issues. How that could ever be considered fair I won’t know. I understand that creating a perfect system is hard, but I rarely have the same issues in a game like LoL. I don’t see warping, I do see disconnects, but there isn’t a leaderboard when you aren’t playing ranked matches, so it’s not as imperative. Basically when you are depending on a network to work and for people to understand the game and know how to play it, having a leaderboard ends up being a de-motivator. Without that factor (or perhaps if I didn’t care) I wouldn’t be upset. I would just play the game and leave whenever it was a laggy mess. I wouldn’t care. But when I’m trying to be one of the better players of the game, I don’t want to play when these issues drag me down. So Awesomenauts is going to collect some dust for a while, until I can get over being pissed off about it.

That brings me to the next part of the discussion. I’ve basically already replaced Awesomenauts with another game I’ve had for a long time but haven’t devoted much time to in recent months: Diablo III. I picked up the game early this year around the time the 2.0 loot patch came in and played through the original game. I had pre-ordered Reaper of Souls and played through that once it released as well. At that point I didn’t really do much else. A few months back I played it for a while with Doone and Eri, and Eri turned me on to the hardcore mode, which adds the challenge of not being able to die, as death is permanent. A couple of months ago they added in the Seasons, and I also have a character created in that mode, but I hadn’t played since then. Talking about it recently on the podcast got me thinking about it, and I decided it was time to give it a go again, as I’m not really playing an MMO or RPG otherwise, and I always like to have one of those on hand for when I get in the mood. Apologies if this is all repetitive but I’m just going over it all in my mind as I write.

The funny part is that when I originally beat the game and even after I beat Act V of RoS, I had told myself that I was basically done with the game. Just like with the MMOs I have played recently, I just get bored of that repetitive content that many developers call the end game. I’ve had discussions about this in many formats, and I find that if I have to grind the same dungeon/raid/faction/whatever over and over again to get better gear or to further develop my character I’m not usually down for it. I have been in the past, but we grow and change over the years, and having done that sort of thing in more MMOs/RPGs than I can count, I find myself getting bored with it faster and faster. Basically I haven’t reached the end game in an MMO in years, because I usually get bored with the journey, or knowing that the end will be the same as every game before it. I usually have more patience with single player games though, but most are designed to end once you’ve completed the main story, so that’s probably why the repetition grind doesn’t kick in. D3 isn’t traditional in that sense though. Yes, the game does end when you complete the story, but it is designed to be able to play the story over and over again, and still improve your character that way. In that sense, it feels very much like an MMO, having to grind the same content over and over. RoS changed the formula though, and now that I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it, I find that it’s one of the better end game experiences that I’ve had in a long time. I actually can see where this form of end game could be transferred over to MMOs, and would help combat that repetitive nature while still providing progression. Before you say something about how D3 is a Blizzard product and how WoW might have something similar, stop. They aren’t the same. At all. Let me tell you why.

WoW, like all other themepark MMOs, has the standard MMO endgame. Reach the level cap, do dungeons or raids or PvP to get gear, wait for a new expansion and do it all over again. WoW actually lacks in having skill trees or an alternate way to advance your character outside of gear, so once you hit the level cap, you are purely grinding for better gear. Other games that follow the formula but have alternate advancement are the Everquests and Rift, and probably others that I don’t know enough about. This is why I could play EQ for so long, because even after hitting the level cap I had alternate advancement points to earn to place in trees to further customize my character, on top of the gear grind. Only having the gear grind is somewhat limiting in my opinion. Anyway, back to D3. In Diablo, they’ve created the adventure mode, where you are still going to the same locations that you saw in the original story line, but you can instantly warp to various areas without having to follow the normal linear progression, along with giving different quests that stray from the original story. These are all randomly generated and each time you go out to complete some bounties, they will be different, and in different areas of the game. Complete these, get gear. It’s not always what you need/want, but you will be rewarded randomly and it all has some sort of use. Later, doing the Nephalim Rifts, you get full on dungeons that are completely randomly generated, with random enemies, random bosses, and differing loot tables. When things get too easy you can up the difficulty on the fly, and each difficulty provides better rewards. This would compare to normal/heroic/challenge dungeons in WoW, minus the random factors. I think the key element here is randomness, and that’s something that keeps a repetitive grind from feeling repetitive. I think this could translate to MMOs in many interesting ways, they’d just have to be careful in how they do it. Do you agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments.

So anyway, I’ve been plugging away with my Wizard and Hardcore Monk. My Monk is nearing level 40, and I upped the difficulty already because it was simply too easy on normal. I won’t go into his gear or any of that because it’s not end game stuff so it’s not that interesting. However, I am at the end game with my Wizard and have earned a few more paragon levels, which give you that feeling of upping your power without depending solely on gear. I like that, and I like the fact that they aren’t limited, so you can theoretically always increase your passive powers. I’ve also been doing bounties and rifts, and have been researching gear sets and other things to do in the end game. Apparently there’s a place called Whimsyvale (kind of like the cow level from D2) that requires a recipe and other stuff to get access to, but it’s something unique to do. Gear sets are also something that can be worked towards, along with legendary gems and other things that come from Greater Rifts. I have yet to get that far along, but feel that I have some goals to work towards. I moved my difficulty up to Master and seem to be handling it well enough so I think I might actually be ready to try Torment. I also messed around with dyes and transmog stuff, so I have a gear that looks like a full set even if it isn’t. Having tons of achievements to do also gives me more motivation to do things I might not normally care about. I know many of these factors are already in current MMOs, and/or could be added in easily, but for some reason they just feel better in D3 to me. Maybe I’m just weird. I know I’m not getting involved in any MMOs until I can get my hands on H1Z1 though, so this is going to be my MMO-lite for the time being. Anyway, I’ll finish up this word wall with a couple new shots of my main characters, and call it a day. Thanks for reading!

Wizard with winter dye and ascended transmog


My mid-game hardcore Monk (no dyes or transmogs)


#rant #diablo3 #awesomenauts