Snowdown 2014

I mentioned some of the sales coming with Snowdown in my post this past Sunday, but at this point the event is officially live. Not only are there three new skins to pick up, but all of the legacy snowdown skins are available along with mystery gifting, new icons, ward skins and a new featured game mode. This year’s game mode takes place on the Howling Abyss, and is called Legend of the Poro King.

Poros are the cute little white balls of fluff that run around on the map, that usually only provide limited interactivity. You can feed them, and if you pay attention to them near the bushes, they can give enemy position away as they tend to flee from champs that are nearby. In this game mode, they become a weapon and a boon. Basically everyone becomes a Lee Sin, being able to throw a poro and then jump to it (like Lee Sin’s Q) and also get the chance to summon the Poro King, who buffs and allows friendlies to jump to it (like that other Lee Sin ability). A full explanation of the game mode along with icons and bits that you can earn can be read about on the official Snowdown page. Conversely, here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure:

One of the Icons is a rehash from last year, which is kind of weird as I haven’t seen that done before. You can also buy one of your choice that acts as a temporary skin for the poros in matches, but I’ll have to investigate further because it was a little confusing. The others are earned by playing the new game mode, so that should be easy enough. More on this as I try it out. If you play the game, you should check out the new mode for yourself!

#leagueoflegends #snowdown

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!

Screenshot002
Wizard with winter dye and ascended transmog

 

Screenshot000
My mid-game hardcore Monk (no dyes or transmogs)

 

#rant #diablo3 #awesomenauts

State of the Game: Mixed Bag

Another week bites the dust, and this time around I’ve been playing a bit of everything. Well, not everything, but I’ve dipped my toes into many different pots. Earlier in the week I covered the launch of the new Hearthstone expansion, and also the news of H1Z1 coming to Steam Early Access. That was the biggest news of the week for me, but I bounced around between finishing up some TV shows and playing an assortment of games, so let’s talk about that next.

I’ve been playing FFXIV sporadically, just enough to get a feel for the different starting areas, and the general feel of the game. I only have a handful of days left on the free trial, so I probably won’t get too much further along before that runs out. Like I said before, I could see myself playing it a bit more seriously but that would require buying the game and subbing, and with the recently announced H1Z1 Early Access, I don’t think I’ll be getting involved. As I mentioned in that H1Z1 post, I’ve been hyped about that game all year and I don’t see myself playing anything else (MMO-wise) once I get my hands on that. I probably won’t jump in on day one, but provided early reports aren’t entirely negative I think I’ll be in it sooner than later. If it is terrible to start off, or otherwise not worth it during EA, then perhaps I’ll dive further into FFXIV.

So aside from that Thurmaturge class I highlighted last week, I also made a Marauder and an Archer, both so that I could see all three starting cities. Of the 3, I preferred the Archer’s starting city, but I spent the most time with the Marauder, leveling to around 12 or so. I didn’t like the Archer at all, so I deleted that character and just played the marauder through a zone and a half of quests and content. I completed Fates (live events), duties (instanced story quests) and regular quests throughout. I’m still amazed by how beautiful the game is, and how it melds the best of computer and console RPGs into one package. Here’s some shots of my Marauder and one of the Archer who now rests in peace:

ffxiv_12082014_012054 ffxiv_12092014_234037 ffxiv_12112014_184212

We spent the last podcast talking about some of our favorite games of the year, and one that me and Eri both agreed on was Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The discussion of the game made me realize I hadn’t played the game in a couple of months (or more). The more I thought about it the more I wanted to play, so before I knew it I was in the game and grinding away. I played my Wizard for a while and decided to experiment with different builds, finally settling on one that used a mix of abilities I had never used before, along with ones that I used all the time. I’m satisfied enough for now. I played through a few bounties and Nephalim Rifts and managed to get a few new legendaries, along with boosting my Paragon level to 17. I also was craving some different gameplay, so I decided it was time to play something else, and perhaps level another class to 70. I already had a Crusader who was level 25 and a Monk at level 19, and both were hardcore characters. I was torn between wanting to level one of them or start a fresh class on the normal ruleset. I like not having to worry about dying, but at the same time I like the challenge that hardcore presents; the game is more satisfying when you know death actually means something. As such I decided to roll with the hardcore Monk, and leveled him from 19-28 in a couple of sessions. I really like the Monk, more than I thought I would, and I think I’m going to try and level him to 70, while breaking things up with my Wizard. The only unfortunate part is that the Paragon levels and other goodies that I’ve leveled up in normal mode doesn’t carry over to Hardcore, which means buying all the stash tabs, leveling the crafters and getting to 70 before I get the benefit of the extra passives. That’s a bummer, but also a motivator. Anyway, here’s what the two look like currently:

Screenshot019 Screenshot020

Otherwise it’s been League of Legends in a major way. I am still playing multiple games per day, and still having a lot of fun with it. Also, this weekend saw the expansion tournament for the North American LCS, because this year they are adding two more teams to the pro scene, so instead of 8 teams duking it out during the Spring Split, there will be 10. I assume that will go for the Summer Split as well. Either way, Team Coast and Curse Academy won their way in, and the games were quite exciting. I think most if not all of the players from both of those teams have been in the LCS before (albeit on different teams) so they aren’t exactly new players or new teams, but some of the teams/players that were in this weekend’s tourney were. Too bad they were all eliminated. Anyway, it wasn’t Worlds but it was still fun to watch.

In other League news, patch 4.21 came down the pipeline, nerfing Warwick (who needed it), adding the Negatron Cloak back in (we missed it!) and making a slew of other tweaks and changes. Rek’Sai also released, and I’ve seen her in action and she is a tanky, elusive, DPS powerhouse. One of the more annoying junglers in recent memory. Here’s her champion spotlight in case you missed it:

Lastly, Snowdown is on it’s way to the Rift, meaning there will be skin sales, new skins added, and probably a new featured game mode (or a rehash of an old one). This also means we’ll be earning new summoner icons and things like that. I’ll have more about that as the new stuff is announced, which should be this week.

On the TV front, I’ve watched the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, and we’re nearing the end of this season of American Horror Story. TWD had a shocking end, but I won’t give anything away with spoilers. SOA’s ending was shitty, but you pretty much knew it was coming to an end in the way that it did. I’m sad to see the show go, but the last couple of seasons were reaching a bit, and it’s better to end on a semi-high note rather than drag it out past its natural conclusion. AHS has been alright, but this season and last weren’t nearly as good as the first two seasons. I’ll keep watching but I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to keep this going without some better writing. Then again the last season started to pick up at the end so we’ll see how it goes. That’s really all I’m watching on TV, most of the shows I enjoy are either over for the season or over for good. On the horizon is the end of Mad Men, which is another show I’m sad to see go. Around that time we’ll get the end of this season of TWD as well. From there I really don’t know, as quite a few of the shows I’ve watched in recent years won’t be coming back, so we’ll see what new stuff comes out. I do see people talking about all kinds of other shows out there, but my general rule of thumb is that if it’s on the big networks (CBS, ABC, NBC — basically channels 2-13), it’s not going to be any good. They keep rehashing comic book stuff and other things that just don’t appeal to me. I’m curious to see what AMC is going to do to replace some of the stellar shows that have ended… Better Call Saul is most likely not going to be better than or even as good as Breaking Bad was, despite the tie-in. Replacing Mad Men is also going to be tough, and FX will have a tough time replacing SOA, though The Strain was a good addition. I guess time will tell. That’s about all for this week.

#stateofthegame #roundup #gaming #television

By The Numbers: Week 15, 2014

bythenumbers

 

I’m sticking to the infographic and short form picks format this week, and as I said before I’ll probably stick to this format for the remainder of the season (and into the post season, though I might have a bit more to talk about when the playoffs start). So this week the Packers are facing the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, and at the beginning of the season I would have said this was a nothing match up, but the Bills have proven to be a pretty decent team this year. Not only do they have a veteran QB in Kyle Orton (although not the best QB in the league, he’s a decent game manager), but their defense ranks in the top ten in three categories. Their defense should be the biggest challenge of the game, but with our defense faltering final half last week, I’m slightly concerned about the Bills’ offense being able to get on the board while the defense keeps things close. We’ll see how that all works out early tomorrow, but I’m still confident in picking the Packers to win it. With the win, we’d be 11-3, tied with the Cardinals for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and stay a game ahead of the Lions should they win their game. If the Lions lose, we’re close enough to the end of the season that we’d probably lock up the North. We do lock up a wild card berth with a win tomorrow, so there’s a lot on the line, especially because the Bills are still alive in the playoff race, so they aren’t going to go out without a fight. Here’s the infographic for the game:

141212-infographic-bills-920

Again, I missed the pick for Thursday, but honestly that game could have gone either way. The Rams have been upsetting teams left and right and the Cardinals have been struggling since they lost their starting QB. The Cards hung on to win it, but it was definitely a very defensive minded game. Anyway, on to the picks for the rest of the games:

Steelers 21, Falcons 17
Ravens 27, Jags 10
Packers 23, Bills 17
Panthers 17, Bucs 10
Bengals 20, Browns 14
Colts 24, Texans 21
Chiefs 30, Raiders 7
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17
Giants 17, Skins 13
Broncos 37, Chargers 24
Titans 21, Jets 20
Lions 31, Vikings 20
Seahawks 34, 49ers 21
Cowboys 24, Eagles 17
Saints 31, Bears 13

#NFL #picks #infographic

Couch Podtatoes Episode 25: Favorites of 2014

CP4

Being December, the year is coming to a close. We chose to round up some of the best games of 2014 and talk about them. To pick these games, we just decided that they had to have released (or entered early access, or completed [think episodic games]) in 2014 and we had to have played the game. As such, some of the games that we chose as our favorites might not line up with yours, but you might also be made of money, and we are not (at least, I’m not). Our lists had a little bit of cross over and I think that the discussion that ensued was pretty fun. Light-hearted if you will. We skipped over the other sections of the regular show format, and be warned we ramble a lot, so this show is on the longer side. It is our second to last episode of the year though, so why not? I should also mention that being episode #25, and the month of December, we’ve now been around for 6 whole months already! Thanks for keeping us motivated by listening, commenting, reviewing, and generally being a part of the community. Here’s to 6 more months! Enjoy the show.

 

Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 25: Favorites of 2014 (runtime: 1:34:58)

What are we playing? (starts at 1:40)
Discussion: 2014 Favs (starts at 22:08)

Host Contact information:

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

J3w3l
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” by The Black Dahlia Murder (from the album Ritual)
“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.libsyn.com/. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

#couchpodtatoes #podcast #gamesdiscussion #gaming