Moving Away From Mobile Gaming

My relationship with mobile gaming goes way back to the portable handheld Tiger games and devices like the Nintendo Gameboy or SEGA Game Gear. I’m only bringing up these devices because they are in my mind the equivalent of current era mobile (phone/tablet) games for my generation. As much as I loved my NES or SEGA Genesis, I still really enjoyed playing these handhelds and beat quite a few titles on offer. They were still limited in the sense that they weren’t able to present as complete of an experience as their hardwired counterparts. My meaning, is that a console game that came out for the SNES but was also released (in a modified fashion) for the Gameboy would be fairly different, this mainly being due to the limitations of portable hardware over more conventional models. As such, I think this correlation to modern gaming is true in the same way. While we have handheld devices like tablets and mobile phones along with newer portable console experiences with the Playstation Vita or the Nintendo Switch, generally speaking your experience playing the same game will likely be better on a gaming PC or next-gen console.

Generally speaking, most companies that offer a mainstream title on current generations of consoles and PC but also have a mobile platform version release different versions of the game for each. So your latest Call of Duty game on PC is not the same game as Call of Duty Mobile, though obvious comparisons can be made. Portable technology is much further along now than it was back in my youth, so the lines are beginning to blur. 

Whatever the case, I started with the idea of portable gaming experiences back then. Later, I would play basic cellphone games prior to the invention of smart phones. Obviously these were very simplistic and not really worth the time. At some point my opinion of mobile gaming was the same as my opinion of browser games, probably because most of the early mobile titles even on smart phones were very similar in design. There was a multitude of people that fed into these trends so obviously I’m not the majority in thinking that sort of time wasting is pointless, but it was still my position for a number of years. 

When smart phones were so mainstream that everyone had one, I started to experiment more with mobile games. Tiny Tower and its spin-offs ended up being one of the first titles that I really enjoyed and played for a longer period of time. It wasn’t until I discovered Clash Royale though, that I was truly swayed into believing that mobile gaming might have something to it. Being able to play games at work on breaks/down time or just when you’re out and about and have a few minutes was nice. The game’s design kept me wanting to log in to complete dailies, earn gold and upgrade my decks for a number of years. I started to branch out from there, and if you’ve been following this blog for the last few years I’ve touched on a couple dozen different games that I put nominal amounts of time into. 

I didn’t think I’d stop playing Clash Royale. A few months ago they introduced a battle pass of sorts, and I was consistently buying in for $5 a month and enjoying myself. I’m not sure if it’s the subscription model that is a turn off (but that shouldn’t matter because it’s completely optional) but I noticed that since the pass was introduced, my play started to wane. I only completed one of them, while most of the time I was only hitting level 10-20 and not really getting my money’s worth. This past time the reset happened, I didn’t even get back to my normal level on the ladder, and instead found myself only logging in to participate in Clan War stuff (collection battles and war battles). I’m not exactly sure where the issue hit, but it seems to have come at a time where I should theoretically have more time than ever, as I’ve been quarantined for weeks. I think perhaps it’s because I have found that I would rather spend my time doing something else, whereas in prior living situations I was spending more time away from my PC/Consoles and as such played more on my phone. I do remember coming home from work and playing on my phone for a couple of hours, and now I’m spending that time in League of Legends, Apex Legends, a single player game, or playing MTG. 

There have been some community posts on burnout and I guess after playing Clash Royale for over three years, maybe I finally hit that point. I know my clan was starting to play another game so perhaps I’m not the only one. Whatever the case is, I know that I’ve experienced this sort of burnout or disinterest with other genres in the past. At some point I was no longer interested in platformers and metroidvanias in favor of RPGs and shooters. I was obsessed with the MMO genre until I wasn’t. I played nothing but MOBAs for a time. I seem to always come back around, as I’ve invested in newer platformers more recently, I still play RPGs and shooters, I’ve given more time to MMOs over the years, and I’ve come back around to playing MOBAs again too. So perhaps its less of a parting of ways and more of a wave that I’m riding. Either way, I’ve not played Clash Royale for a couple of weeks now, and just the other night I uninstalled it altogether. I’ve uninstalled any other games I had as well. At this point, I’m honestly not missing it either. Other things have been filling my time and perhaps at another point in my life mobile gaming will make a resurgence, but for now, I’m content wiping one other obligation from my list. 

Thoughts on MTG: ManaStrike

Being a connoisseur of all things Magic: The Gathering, it should be no surprise that I’ll try out just about anything relating to the IP. Though I didn’t care for other mobile titles like the Duals games or the match-3 title that I can’t recall the name of, this one seemed like it would appeal to me mainly because it didn’t rely on MTG to determine it’s path. Instead, it seems like a copy of other games I’ve played in the past with an MTG skin tacked on (which is what I expect when we get that new ARPG in development — Diablo with an MTG skin). In some ways, an appealing base concept then layered with a design that I enjoy (the art/world of MTG is amazing) should equal a good game, right?

Magic: ManaStrike came out of left field. For whatever reason Google Play decided to ping me that the game had released today. Being my day off, I had been lazing around in bed and looking at my phone, so I thought I’d download it and give it a whirl. It turns out, it is a pretty decent game, though I went into it filled with doubt. There is a tutorial that gets you familiar with the controls and systems, but after that it’s straight into PvP matches, just like the games it took inspiration from. If you can’t tell what games I’m referencing by looking at these screenshots, you must not have been paying attention to one of the biggest mobile titles around.

I’m sure you’ve got it by now, but I’ve written about one of these games extensively, but also made comparisons to a PC title that I enjoyed, and Magic: ManaStrike seems to be a meld of the two. Yes, this title plays just like Clash Royale in that you have two lanes and place cards on the field in real time, but then the creatures you create will automatically battle based on a set of rules. However, the game looks much more like Minion Masters in that the field is horizontal and instead of towers there are creatures that act as such. A new feature that neither of those games had is the ability to call down a Planeswalker, and depending on which one you choose, they have various abilities when entering the battlefield, while also having different active abilities. It’s like Clash Royale if you had a hero card you could use periodically through the game (a good thought too, I’d like to see that in CR). A leaderboard exists where you’ll rank up and move on to fight opponents more in line with your abilities. I played several matches in a row and managed to hit rank 2, and afterwards started playing against people who actually put up a good fight whereas I started off steamrolling everyone in my way.

Monetization seems to follow the norm. There is a battle pass called the “Magic Pass” which allows you to earn extra rewards on top of what you would earn by playing for free. There are two currencies, gold and gems, which allow you to buy new Planeswalkers, buy copies of cards and of course you can spend real money to get more of these currencies for use in game. It seems fine, I don’t see the need to spend money either, but I suppose if I play it long enough that could happen. Upgrading your cards keeps you more viable in battles, and you’ll earn packs of cards at a pretty rapid clip. After acquiring a set amount of copies of a card, you can then level it up, much like you do in Clash Royale. It seems to have taken the best aspects of multiple similar games and layered it with real magic cards to keep the lore straight for the fans. I like the concept and I enjoy this style of game so perhaps this one will find a long term home on my phone. Time will tell, I suppose.

Void Tyrant: A Mobile Rogue-Like

I should first note that the only reason I’m even checking out another new mobile game is because I’m trying to fill a void. SEGA Heroes was one of my steady games for the past year or so, but recent changes to the game left a bad taste in my mouth. As such, I deleted it. I’m also not really playing Pokemon Go anymore, but it is still installed. So, I was in the market for another mobile game to play when I’m not in the mood for Clash Royale. On a whim I went to the Google Play store and this little gem caught my eye. Void Tyrant is a nice mixture of game genres with an aesthetic that I can get behind. It’s equal parts Rogue-Like, RPG and Card Game. It plays from a first person view point, and is reminiscent of games like Dragon Warrior, along with feeling similar to games like Dungeon Master.

You’ll start the game running through a short tutorial, and then you’ll get your random hero. To start, you can only play as a Knight, but there are ways to unlock a Priest and Ranger class through gameplay. You have a starting town where you can do various town things, but the meat and potatoes of the game starts once your space ship leaves town and heads towards the end goal. You’ll be presented with a star map, where two planets are available to explore. Complete a planet and you’ll move on to the next set. Eventually you’ll get to the end of the line and I assume that is where extra bits will open up, or perhaps that is the end of the game — being a Rogue-Like, getting there will take several tries.

Combat is interesting. There are a variety of weird creatures, and of course bosses. As you can see in the pictures above, you have standard RPG elements mixed with cards. Enemy’s life and energy points are on display at the top of the screen, while your stats are at the bottom. You have a deck of cards, and they are used in different ways. Each combat you’ll play a card and it will have a value between 1-6. You opponents will also have cards they play, but they vary dependent on the creature. The little battery gauges in the middle of the screen will fill up based on the cards drawn. You can draw to a total of 12, so in a way this portion plays a lot like Blackjack. If you’re at 8, you might not want to risk drawing a 6 and going over 12, because if you do you will lose that round and take damage from the enemy. Conversely, if the enemy over fills their gauge they will automatically take damage from you. Each enemy also has a “sweet spot” where they will lock in their number and not go any higher. This gives you a slight advantage because you can typically go higher, but RNG isn’t always on your side. If you happen to hit a 12, you’ll automatically win and “overcharge” which nets critical strikes. The other cards in the middle of the screen are activated using your energy points. You restore these by making hits on the enemy. Cards can be direct attacks, equipment usage or modifiers that give you extra points on your gauge. I assume there are plenty that I haven’t seen to this point but the variety is there and does feel very fun. Bosses are a whole other cup of tea, they have huge life bars and take some strategy on your part to beat, but I’ve managed to do so a couple of times.

Of course, you won’t always make it to the boss or will die to him. Each time you die you get some rewards that help you in your next go. If you do happen to beat a boss, you’ll get a chaos key, multiples of these are needed to open up the pyramid at the end of the map. Afterwards you’ll be able to go to the next planet, and the gameplay loop continues from there.

So far I’ve only seen two forms of monetization. There are several times through your gameplay session where you’ll be presented with the option above, where you can buy the individual spirit needed for the task, or for $5 you can buy them all, which in effect makes the game ad free. Of course you can just watch the ads and still get the benefit of the spirit. The fortune spirit above gives you extra gold when you open chests (which are kind of rare but I’ve seen several in one play session). There’s a life spirit that will rez you once if you are to die, and then there’s a secrets spirit that helps you to get mystery packs of cards on occasion. I think it’s worth spending the $5 just to not have to watch ads. The classes I mentioned earlier are the ones included with the game as it released and as I said they are unlockable via gameplay. However, a recent patch introduced an assassin class that at this point is only available for purchase. Overall it’s not too bad of a deal, and honestly the ads aren’t so often that it’s annoying so you really can play and enjoy this one for free. I’d recommend it for fans of any of the games I mentioned above. You’ll get a kick out of it.

League of Legends Ports and Other Riot Games

I can’t recall the actual day, but recently Riot Games had a 10th anniversary livestream featuring League of Legends and other stuff. First of all, what an accomplishment to keep LoL going for ten years and building the Esports community up around it. Professional play has gone from some nerds in back rooms of warehouses to huge arena-filling events with famous live performers and a quality of production rivaling ESPN and other mainstream outlets — all of this on what I’m sure is less income and all done over the Internet eschewing traditional TV outlets. I started playing LoL back in 2011 which was around the end of season 1 heading into season 2. I’ve seen the majority of the champions release, I’ve seen a ton of events and in-game happenings along with changes to the game, its launcher, the main maps/modes, and Riot itself. I’ve watched the World Championship nearly every year since I first heard about it. I’ve watched regular season games of each of the major regions, even participating in their Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football) for a couple of seasons. I’ve collected vinyl figures, owned T-shirts, and have a rather large poster hanging on my wall. You could say League became a major part of my life, despite the fact that I haven’t really played very regularly in the past couple of years. Still, when I heard the news coming out of this live stream, I knew I had to talk about it. To be fair, there’s even more that was announced that I’m not going to touch on, but IGN has a great article encapsulating all of the news.

What excited me the most out of all that was said during the live stream was that League of Legends will be ported to consoles and mobile. Called “Wild Rift,” this version of League is not a direct port, it’s the same game rebuilt from the ground up for these other devices. I’m not a huge fan of complex games on mobile phones because usually the screen isn’t big enough and touch controls can be pretty wonky… but on console, I’ll play the shit out of this. It’s not so much that I dislike the game on PC, no, I’d rather play it there. But I have friends who don’t own PCs and probably never will, along with having never played LoL before and I’d love to introduce it to them. Also, the potential for a nice long trophy list makes the trophy whore in me lick his lips. I did play a different MOBA on PS4 recently and it had some fairly intuitive controls, so I assume if they are anything like that, this version of the game will be very enjoyable even with a controller in lieu of keyboard/mouse.

Teamfight Tactics, which I wrote about when I first tried it (and I’m still not into this auto-battler genre) is getting ported to mobile now as well. This makes sense since their main competitor DOTA Underlords is also both on PC and mobile. I assume this would probably be more fun on a mobile device since you can be doing other things while playing it. I get bored too fast with this type of game so this news wasn’t particularly interesting to me.

Legends of Runeterra is new. It’s not an existing game getting ported to other devices. It’s free-to-play. It’s a card game. That’s really all I know. The above trailer will give more detail than I can. What I do know is that I do enjoy card games. I just haven’t really found a digital one that I can play for a long term. I did play Hearthstone for quite a while, but then it got stupid (as Blizzard games tend to do). I can’t get into any of the Magic: The Gathering digital versions because I simply like playing the paper version so much more. This is a world/lore that I enjoy, and depending on what they do to make this stand out from the competition, this could finally be the card game I play when I need a fix.

Project A, as it’s being call at this juncture, is Riot’s attempt at a tactical FPS, but also looks to be a hero shooter. So think games like Paladins or Overwatch. I’m intrigued by this one, mainly because it’s such a far cry from a MOBA and this company has only been known for one game for so long. A card game based on the world is great and all, but I’m a FPS player through and through, so this is very appealing. My hope is that they do something different enough to make this feel better than existing games on the market. Graphically it looks okay, but I think that will get bumped up a notch when it gets closer to release. Gameplay looks fine, but I want some heroes with crazy abilities and I want tight gunplay. I’d also like to see some objectives and things that are different from what’s out there, but time will tell. Keeping an eye on this one.

Project L was announced as a fighting game. If this is 2-D hand drawn and plays like a Street Fighter title, I’m all in. If we’re looking at more of a Tekken style fighter, I’m less excited. We’ll have to wait for more details but I love me a good fighting game and Riot has already developed so many cool characters I’d love to fight as them. It’s unknown if that’s what’s happening or if all of the characters would be original. Also keeping an eye on this one.

Lastly, stuff that isn’t game related. A documentary about LoL called “League of Legends: Origins” was released on Netflix the other day and I watched it. It was a really good look into the origin of the company via Ryze and Tryndamere, along with the rise of the game itself and Esports. Basically all stuff that I lived through, but fun to see it in a different context. If you haven’t paid attention to LoL or Esports, or just don’t “get it,” I’d recommend giving this a watch. Also, an animated series called “Arcane” is being developed and looks to deal with stories about LoL characters. You can watch the trailer above, it looks really cool and I’ll definitely watch it when the time comes.

That’s all I’m going to touch on today, but some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline. There were a few other tidbits in the article I linked at the beginning of this post, so if you haven’t had your fill you can read more there. What do you guys think about Riot Games finally branching out?

Thoughts on Teppen

Seeing advertisements all over the Internet is a common thing. Be it while browsing websites, seeing adverts on social media, or even within the apps we are already using, these things are everywhere. I happened to catch wind of a new game called Teppen due to one of these advertisements, and initially ignored it. Licensed IPs or no, I won’t always fall for the usual trappings of these targeted ads. After seeing it several more times though, I found myself at the Google Play store page, and well, I downloaded the game.

Being a game featuring many of my favorite Capcom characters, I thought this might actually be a licensed game that could actually be good. It’s supposed to be a card game utilizing these symbolic characters, but it doesn’t play like the typical digital card games I’ve played previously.

So above is the battlefield. As you can see, there are familiar concepts here as you have your hand down below, a mana bar that is more similar to Hearthstone and a life total one either side of the characters who are fighting. What’s different, is that your character isn’t really fighting, more like just waiting for their special ability to charge (the AP meters in the corners) and then you can do some various things including direct damage to creatures or the enemy character. Otherwise, the combat is done via your cards, and are typically other characters from Capcom games that have various power and life points. When placed on the battlefield, an arrow will slowly travel towards the enemy from the unit you placed. If there is another card placed directly across from it, the cards will damage each other. If there is no blocker, then you damage the enemy general. That’s really all there is to it. I’m sure other depth might arise due to having different characters to play as, but overall it was very simplistic and not something I see holding my attention.

After a few battles  you’ll get to the main menu, which functions like most mobile game menus do. There are various currencies used to buy things, “Hero Stories” where you’ll play characters through several missions and learn more about them. Missions are like dailies. There are other various modes that allow for PvP and those that provide additional challenges. I can see that there’s plenty to do here, but with the core gameplay loop being so boring, I couldn’t be assed to go any further.

I just figured I’d share my thoughts about this one to hopefully prevent someone else from wasting their time.