Thoughts on Hextech Crafting

Hextech Crafting went live on the League of Legends NA servers earlier today, along with a new “club” system that essentially allows you to have a clan/guild tag that displays in game. These seem to be the last bits promised for season six, outside of the other rotational game mode queue on weekends which is still in the works. But what is Hextech Crafting you might ask?

Well, to be quite frank, it’s just a lockbox system.

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When I logged in this evening, there was a brief introduction to the system, that I foolishly forgot to screenshot. If you play the game you’ve likely already seen it. After clicking through that and then opening a free chest provided for demonstration purposes, I had the gist of it. I’ve always been the type of person who avoids lockboxes. If there is some sort of way to earn an in-game currency to open lockboxes, I’ll go for it when I can. I’ve done so in games like Call of Duty, where you eventually get enough cash shop currency to open a lockbox once in a while. I’ve not bought any in MMOs, but I’ve heard the complaints from communities, and it usually has to do with lockboxes containing pay to win items, such as gear and other benefits that actually affect gameplay. I’ve praised League of Legends for its cash shop implementation many times before, because they have an in-game currency and a paid currency, and the only thing you absolutely needed to spend real money on was skins. That has changed over the years, where Summoner’s Icons (like the monkey face one I have above), ward skins and bundles have been added for RP, but IP will buy the things that are necessary to play the game, like champions and runes. There is no pay to win scenario in League of Legend’s cash shop, and that hasn’t changed with Hextech Crafting.

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One “premium” chest was given to everyone for free, and it contained multiple items. The normal chests pictured above only contain one item, but I assume there will be expansions upon the system as time goes on. Still, buying a chest with a key is next to nothing, and you have the possibility of getting some cool stuff that in some cases doesn’t seem to be on the store (I could be wrong there, or perhaps they’re legacy items from the vault). Again, this is still just for fluff items, and in the end you could just spend the 975 RP on one skin, or perhaps manage more by buying chests.

Of course there are the ethical issues plagued by all cash shops, in that there are whales out there and this will cater to their inner gambler. However, the prices seem fair and the idea that you can earn chests through game play (along with key fragments that will combine into keys to open said chests) means that you can still avoid paying real money, and now potentially earn skins in the process. Basically Riot just programmed a way to avoid purchasing RP into the game, so really it’s cash shopping done right, in this writer’s opinion.

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I had an odd number of RP lying around from the last time I splurged on it, so I picked up two chests/keys. With that, I ended up with a couple of skin shards, a champion, and a ward skin shard. I also earned a key shard from getting a win this evening, which apparently can be combined to make a key if you have three of them.

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Shards have a number of options to play with, but the obvious goal is to either use essence to permanently unlock that skin or champion, re-roll for a random skin, or disenchant so that you have essence to unlock something in the future. Riot was kind enough to give us 800 essence to start out with, so you can permanently unlock something right off the bat. Unfortunately I ended up with a Nocturne skin but already have one for him, and a Tahm Kench skin that I don’t really care for. I also ended up with Bard whom I already own and a ward skin I wasn’t thrilled with. So my first instinct was to try and reroll something.

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However, you need 3 matching shards to reroll something. This means 3 skin shards, 3 champion shards or 3 ward skin shards. I didn’t have 3 in any of the categories, so at this point I’m stuck waiting for more chests, or buying more the next time I have a tiny bit of RP that I can’t spend on something else. Still, it seems like a fair system considering one more skin shard will get me a free skin. I can’t complain about that!

My overall verdict is that Riot is continuing to do free to play right, in a sea of games that have done nothing but make most of us hate the free to play model.

Couch Podtatoes Episode 81: Love & Sex

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Doone’s back for another round of the Digital Frontier. This time around we’re diving into the topic of love and sex. It was supposed to happen sometime in February since he likes to call that “the month of love” but all of us have had really busy schedules so we’ve been on a sort of bi-weekly schedule for the show recently. This is something I considered doing from now on, dropping to a bi-weekly schedule, but after talking about it with Eri we decided we want to stick to the weekly schedule. So thanks for bearing with us this past month, we’re going to nail down a new schedule and keep it going. We’re nearing two years of the show already, and it would be a shame to let it dwindle into obscurity. So yeah, it’s an interesting topic and we had some fun recording it. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. We’ll see you again in a week.

 

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

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 81: Love & Sex (runtime: 1:23:10)

What are we playing? (starts at 3:27)
Discussion: Love & Sex (starts at 13:33)

Host Contact information:

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

Eri
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Doone
Blog: XP Chronicles
Twitter: @doone_buggy

Music Credits:
“Bit Rush” by Riot Games
“43” by E-40 (from the album Revenue Retrievin’ – Graveyard Shift)
“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 Libsyn.com. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

You can also find the show in video format at The Gaming And Entertainment Network YouTube page. Or, view it here:

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

Rest In Pieces, Everquest Next

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Today is a sad day. Just a couple of weeks ago, myself and Wilhelm had a long discussion about the state of Daybreak games on the podcast. A large chunk of that conversation saw us fanboying over Norrath, and how the company has done a good job of not letting the classic versions of Norrath die, including creating new progression servers and releasing new expansions. The big question on our minds though, was what is happening with EQ Next?

That question has been answered at this point, with the president of Daybreak Games announcing today that the game has been cancelled for simply being “not fun.”

I sort of wish they would have let us be the judge of that, but that’s more than likely developer speak for “we don’t have the money to finish it” or something to that effect. It’s unfortunate for people like me, Wilhelm, and others I’m sure, because some of us had our first MMO experiences in Norrath, and we would love to go back to the world in which we first fell in love. As I said on the podcast, I would be happy with a visual and client overhaul of the original or the sequel with today’s technology, but it’s not likely that’s going to happen. Here’s the snippet from the President:

To Our Daybreak Community,

I’m writing today to let you know that, after much review and consideration, Daybreak is discontinuing development of EverQuest Next.

For the past 20 years EverQuest has been a labor of love. What started as a deep passion of ours, as game creators, grew into a much larger passion shared by you, millions of players and Daybreakers alike. Watching EverQuest’s ability to entertain and bring people together has inspired and humbled us. It’s shaped our culture and has emboldened us to take aggressive risks with our game ideas and products. When we decided to create the next chapter in the EverQuest journey, we didn’t aim low. We set out to make something revolutionary.

For those familiar with the internals of game development, you know that cancellations are a reality we must face from time to time. Inherent to the creative process are dreaming big, pushing hard and being brutally honest with where you land. In the case of EverQuest Next, we accomplished incredible feats that astonished industry insiders. Unfortunately, as we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun. We know you have high standards when it comes to Norrath and we do too. In final review, we had to face the fact that EverQuest Nextwould not meet the expectations we – and all of you – have for the worlds of Norrath.

The future of the EverQuest franchise as a whole is important to us here at Daybreak. EverQuest in all its forms is near and dear to our hearts. EverQuest and EverQuest II are going strong. Rest assured that our passion to grow the world of EverQuest remains undiminished.

Yours truly,

Russell Shanks
President, Daybreak Games

Reading through the press release, it seems like they just threw their hands up and are either just going to focus on H1Z1 and the classic EQ games, or perhaps they do have plans to do something more with the franchise, but we won’t know for a while from the sound of it. I for one will play a new version of an Everquest game, just based on nostalgia and love for the franchise, but I’m not holding my breath for that title to ever surface.

Like I mentioned in my post about H1Z1 splitting up, I have been losing faith in the company as a whole. This announcement that there isn’t a new Everquest game on the horizon and the fact that I have basically found myself done with the classic titles in the franchise makes me lose it altogether. I still own H1Z1 so I’m likely to play it sometime after it releases, but unless they come up with some new title that is worth my time and enthusiasm, I may no longer be a fan of the company that was once Verant.

The Cult of The New

“The Cult of the New” isn’t a phrase that is always related to the gaming sphere. It can be used to describe anyone who “needs” to have something on the day that it comes out — or before — to feel that they are part of the “in crowd.” However, in today’s rant we’re going to be talking about gaming, because that’s what we do around these parts.

I have fallen victim to wanting to keep up with the Joneses. I pre-ordered Street Fighter V. I backed Crowfall on Kickstarter. I pre-ordered Vermintide. I even bought Fallout 4 on day one. I am not immune to wanting to be one of the first people to experience something. Some games are simply too tempting, or are something you’ve been waiting for for weeks, months, even years. Sometimes you can’t avoid the hype train generated by those around you, and get swept up into paying full price for a game you know is going to go on sale in a week or two.

Then there’s the flip side — being a frugal gamer. If you were to buy every game the day it came out for full price, you’d be spending a pretty penny each month. Most of us can’t afford to do so. Most of us don’t have the time to consume all of those games, on top of the games we already have and the free to play or subscription games that eat up time on their own. Finding a balance between the two can be a difficult but worthy effort.

There have been times in my life when I had enough money to buy whatever game I pleased, and other times when I was so poor I was only playing free to play titles (it’s how I found my love for League of Legends). Knowing that sales are around every corner, and knowing where to find the best deals is a great skill to have, but sometimes you simply must have that new title, right now.

Some games feel worth spending the full amount for. Others feel like bargain bin titles. This sort of logic applied when we used to do all of our shopping in brick and mortar stores, and bought physical media, so it most certainly still applies for digital purchases. If I love a series, I’m going to immediately purchase the newest title unless something holds me back (be it rumors of a shitty port, shitty servers, shitty business practices, or other expenditures making the purchase impossible at that juncture). If I know nothing about a title, or think it’s something I can hold off on, I’ll get it when I see it for half off. It’s a practice most people follow, but it gets even more difficult when considering multiple platforms. Then you’ll be thinking about which control scheme would work better, who you know that you can play with on the console or PC, which platform will run the game better, and other factors. Regardless, there’s a lot you can consider when buying video games these days, or you can throw caution to the wind and get that day one copy without putting any thought into it at all.

The third option is to be like me, and buy up more games that you can possibly play, and then not play any of them!

What brought up this train of thought — and bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this — is the recent flood of posts and tweets I’ve been seeing about several recently released titles. The Cult of the New have all jumped on board with these games, and seem to be enjoying the hell out of them. Titles like Black Desert Online, Stardew Valley and The Division seem to be all the rage. Looking at those titles, I see all sorts of problems and reasons why I personally wouldn’t like them, so they aren’t tempting me whatsoever. It’s curious though, because in other recent hype cycles I was swept up and made purchases I didn’t think I would, or even said I wasn’t going to make.

When XCOM2 released, I knew it was a game I would like and would buy eventually, but I had no plans on picking it up right away. The same goes for Fallout 4, I was going to wait a while for all of the bugs to be squashed and then ended up getting it on day one. Of course, these are games that appeal to me for various reasons, and the games that have released in the past couple weeks do not, but it’s funny that being a part of TCotN is sort of selective, at least for me. I mean, when it comes to a game like Uncharted 4 that I’ve been talking about for years, it makes sense that I would buy it on day one. But when it’s a game I’m sort of on the fence about, I only end up buying on day one when I get swept up in the hype. It seems that me and The Cult are only seeing each other on a part time basis.

Anyway, I’m starting to lose my train of thought. You won’t see me posting about Black Desert, Stardew Valley or The Division, as an MMO import, farming simulator and psuedo-MMO don’t really interest me, but I’m happy for those who are enjoying themselves. Perhaps I should get back to clearing my backlog so maybe I’ll have more to write about. I’ll see y’all around.

 

Season Journey Complete

I’ve finally completed the Season’s Journey for Diablo III. This would have been a much easier feat to accomplish if I was playing the game on normal, but playing it on hardcore meant that there was the potential for stumbling blocks, which is exactly what happened. I’ve gone over it before, but just to recap, I leveled a Barbarian to 70 and was working through the journey when he died, and due to playing on hardcore mode, that death was permanent. I also lost some of my Haedrig’s gift set pieces, so that meant grinding til I found a set on my Crusader. I was at the point that I had nearly all set pieces for multiple sets, but just couldn’t complete one. I ended up getting a piece last night that was a duplicate, but I only needed one more piece of the Akkhan set to finally enter a set dungeon. You can use Kanai’s Cube to reforge these items into another piece of the set, so after spending a bunch of death’s breath and forgotten souls, I finally had the last piece that I needed.

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The set focuses on giving bonuses when you use Akarat’s Champion, which is an ability I was already using, but the overall stats of the set were less effective than the Invoker set. I started to feel how much harder I was getting hit on Torment VI in this set as opposed to the mixed up pieces I had on before. Part of that was due to having a few ancient pieces in other sets. Anyway, the first step towards getting the season journey was done, now it was time to find the dungeon. I headed to the Royal Quarters, and found a clue.

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Being too lazy to figure that out (and also trying to make some progress in a limited amount of time) I looked up where to go for the set dungeon. This particular one is in Bastion’s Keep in Act III. It was easy enough to find, after knowing where I was going.

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Set dungeons come with a list of things to complete, and have a timer, so there are similar to Greater Rifts, but have more specific things that you have to do. This particular set dungeon had these goals:

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I already use Condemn and Akarat’s Champion normally, so these objectives sounded rather easy, but I went into the set dungeon on Torment VI, and ended up dying. Thankfully, even on hardcore mode you don’t actually die if you die inside of a set dungeon. I’m thankful, because I was about to rage and never play this game again. I lowered the difficulty to Torment III and managed to complete the dungeon, but didn’t complete one of the primary objectives, so I had to run it once more. I dropped the difficulty to Torment I and at that point I was at least able to complete one primary objective, but ran out of time so got no mastery for it, and I’m not sure what that does anyway.

Hitting ten enemies at once with condemn is harder than it sounds. Perhaps I should have lowered the difficulty even further, and perhaps I will in the future while doing these. With that, my season journey was complete, and I earned the portrait border, a pet, and a new sigil for completing that dungeon. I was surprised to find out that there was more to the season journey after the fact though, and I have already completed a couple of the tasks:

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I’m not sure if I’ll actually complete this section of the journey, as all it does is give you another portrait frame and an achievement. Those are all well and good, but I may have had my fill at this point. I think I’m ready to wait for the next season and move forward with a new character. But maybe I’ll play more, I’m not sure. I still love this game but I think it’s time for another break.