Thoughts on Team Fight Tactics

About a month ago, I shared some thoughts I had about an emerging genre – called Auto Chess or Auto Battlers, and my experience with the beta of DOTA Overlords. I really had no idea what to expect with this particular game or the genre as a whole. The name relays the fact that something automatic is happening, but other than that it’s a far cry from the real-time combat and tactics of DOTA 2 that it is named and modeled after. What I found was something that is nothing like Chess either, outside of having a chess like board to place your troops on. I wasn’t overly impressed with DOTA Overlords, but I attributed that to the fact that it was something new, it was still in beta, and I honestly don’t know much about DOTA itself to really know what these characters were going to do.

Given that DOTA Overlords was based on characters from DOTA 2, it was fitting that another game company famous for MOBAs would make their own version of the game. Enter Riot Games with Teamfight Tactics. This is the same style of game, but essentially reskinned with League of Legends assets. It plays in a similar fashion, but I’m sure there are some differences that the more trained eye would catch. I know that I was able to make it further in a game of Overlords than I was this title, so it seems to have a more difficult learning curve. Honestly I didn’t play all that much, I just wanted to check it out and share what I found, but I have to say that I’m not really a fan of this genre. I like controlling my character and using intellect and reflex to outplay my opponents. Watching a squad of characters I threw together perform actions without input from me feels like less of a game and more of a chore.

I prefer the visual style of this game over the DOTA version. That’s probably a personal bias though, and not reflective of anything — the graphics aren’t too far off from each other as it is.  The gameplay is exactly the same from what I saw. You get some money each turn, you’ll fight against some creeps to get more money, then you’ll take turns having battles with single opponents until someone’s life total is reduced to zero. It takes far too long to complete matches and I get bore far too easily for this shit. You’ll gain the ability to play more heroes, upgrade them (it doesn’t appear that there are items, so there’s a difference for ya) and I found that despite my knowledge of LoL characters, I really wasn’t able to put together a squad that would get me very far.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a game that someone out there will enjoy. People who suck at League would likely be able to play this more ably due to the complete lack of twitch skills required. At this point, the first determination should be if this style of game even appeals to you, and from there I’d probably point you in the direction of which MOBA appeals to you more, then play that developer’s version of the game. Outside of that though, I can’t really recommend it.

Thoughts on Worlds 2018

I’ve been following the League of Legends pro scene almost as long as I’ve been playing the game. I didn’t get in right when the game released though, my first game was played in 2011, and I didn’t start watching the pros play until 2012. Esports weren’t really a thing here in America yet; definitely not at the level of production that they are now. Being from the US myself, I’ve primarily kept up with the teams from the NALCS and have watched plenty of games throughout Spring and Summer splits that took place on our home turf. I do occassionally watch games from other regions as well, but my focus has always been on my region first, followed by international tournaments. Worlds has been something I’ve looked forward to for years, but always with baited breath. You see, there has only been one champion crowned in the west, and by west I mean NA and EU. Fnatic were the Season 1 champions, but Koreans weren’t even playing the game at that point (unless playing on western servers, with terrible ping). As such, the west has little credit when it comes to being “the best in the world.”

NA and EU have always had some standout performances at Worlds but outside of that first season they haven’t really gone too far. From my recollection, NA hasn’t made it past the group stage in all of the years I’ve been watching, and I don’t think EU has gone past the Quarterfinals — definitely not the Semis. Inevitably the top seed in NA would dominate their competition locally, but when they were at international tournaments they would fizzle out and simply look not good enough. Some EU teams looked a bit better but then still failed to come through. After season one, we’ve have Korean teams with five world championships, Taiwan came away with one, and now China has finally claimed their first crown.

But that’s not the whole story. What’s funny here is that there were Korean teams in the Quarterfinals. There were also two Chinese teams, two European and the lone North American representative in Cloud 9. The top seed from NA wasn’t even present, and many of us thought Team Liquid was the real deal after winning back-to-back splits at home. Admittedly I didn’t really watch the group stages. With the event being held in Asian countries, all of the matches occurred while I was asleep, but I managed to start catching up on the following day once we got to the playoffs. The first Korean team was knocked off by Invictus Gaming, while the European team G2 Esports took care of China’s RNG. Fnatic eliminated the other Chinese team, Edward Gaming. Most surprising was seeing Cloud 9 3-0 the last remaining Korean team, Afreeca Freecs. At this point, an NA team had gone further than any at Worlds, and there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps a western team might finally win a championship.

In the Semifinals, we had two matches that no one really saw coming. China’s Invictus Gaming vs. Europe’s G2 Esports, and Fnatic vs Cloud 9. Who would have thought? Seeing Invictus tear through G2 wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest, but I did not expect Cloud 9 to be 3-0’d by Fnatic — I was thinking it would have been a more competitive match up.

We came to the Finals this weekend. At 1 am this morning the tournament began to come to a close. Of course I was sleeping again, but I got caught up this morning and sadly, the western hopes were dashed once again. Invictus convincingly shut down Fnatic, just as they had done to G2 before them, and Fnatic had done to Cloud 9 before that. One the one hand, congrats to China for finally getting your World Championship! On the other hand, it was a bummer to see things end up the way they did. Had Cloud 9 made it to the finals I would have said they proved that NA isn’t a joke anymore, but they fell short. Had Fnatic taken it all, I would have been happier with the result, but less so than an NA crown. At the end of the day though, China takes it home and I’m still happier with this result than another Korean Champion. Time to let the other regions get some of the action.

State of the Game: Fall Update

I thought I would take today to write about some of the other little odds and ends that I’ve been dabbling with since I haven’t done a round-up post in a bit. The new Playstation Plus titles for October were pretty meh compared to the month prior when we got Destiny 2, but not every month can be amazing. There was one of those asymmetrical horror games, Friday the 13th, but I skipped playing that as I had played Dead by Daylight a few months ago and didn’t find it to be a fun experience. There were a couple of other so-so titles that I didn’t have interest in either, and then there was Rocketbirds 2: Evolution.

Rocketbirds 2:

I played the original Rocketbirds back on the PS3 and if I recall correctly, it was also a Plus freebie. I rather enjoyed it, played it to completion and even downloaded the soundtrack because it was pretty damn good. The sequel changes things up ever so slightly, but keeps the same general formula that made the original good. It’s a side-scrolling platforming shooter, similar to games like Metal Slug or Guns, Gore & Cannoli. It has more similarities to the latter though, a comparison I made when writing about GC&C. There’s a sense of humor here that I enjoy, the soundtrack rocks again, and the gameplay is similar though some new tricks were added. Graphically it looks a bit better but still has the same style. Overall it was a worthy addition to my library and I’m glad I finally got to try it out.

Titanfall 2:

A while back I wrote about a handful of games that I had picked up on sale for dirt cheap. Titanfall 2 was one of them. I worried that the game would have a dead multiplayer community but it turns out that it’s still alive and well. This title, unlike its predecessor, has a single player campaign as well, and it’s been a blast.

I always liked the concept of Titanfall, being a FPS game in the same vein as Call of Duty and others, but having that added element of jet packs, wall running and mechs you call down from the sky to pilot. This is still true in the sequel, though having the campaign to play through is an added benefit. Not only do you get to test out different weapons and mech load outs, it gets you re-familiarized with the controls (and since I played the first on PC, there was a small learning curve moving over to the console) before diving into multiplayer matches (of which I have done as well). I’ve put a handful of hours into it so far, and I look forward to seeing the conclusion of the story.

League of Legends:

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been dabbling with League of Legends again. It’s been a fun experience, and though I felt rusty the first couple of matches I played, I am now feeling myself getting back to form. I was never a top tier player, only playing for fun and used to play ARAM and rotating game modes more often than not. When I played ranked I managed to make it into the Silver tier a few times but never any further as I didn’t dedicate that much time to it but imagine I could have made it into at least Gold if I put my mind to it. I still don’t really want to dedicate that time to it, and this season ends next month so perhaps after the reset I’ll try out some ranked again.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up with the changes. Summoner’s Rift is a different place compared to when I last played. The Rune system seems good, but I also don’t like it as much as the old runes/masteries system. I made some generic pages for the different types of champions in the game, but they need to be honed in before I try and play anything more competitive. I’ve made a few purchases with essence (which used to be IP) for some of the champions that released since my hiatus. Of those, I’ve only played Kled, whom I like but was not very good with. Otherwise I’ve played Swain and Graves since their reworks, and they seem fine. Another big change is that they removed the Summoner Level cap, so I’ve rolled over level 30. I’m not sure if hitting a higher level rewards anything, but I’m sure I’ll find out.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!:

Lastly, I’ve played a bit of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! As I mentioned in my last post about it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start fresh, or try and pick up where I left off. I should also note that I thought I had been playing Jack through that session, but it turns out I was actually playing Wilhelm, who is my highest level character at this point. Jack was only level 3.

I ended up starting fresh with Claptrap, but after playing for a bit I realized that I remembered what had been going on and didn’t feel the need for the refresher. At that point I loaded up Wilhelm and worked through a handful of quests before calling it a night. I plan to add this game to my active rotation and try to clear it out of the backlog!

That’s all for this round-up. I have a new deck idea I want to share sometime over the weekend, so stay tuned for that. Until then, Happy Gaming!

Checking in on League of Legends

League of Legends is probably my most played game of all time. If it isn’t, it’s a close second to EverQuest 2, but I imagine that I have spent more time playing LoL due to the fact that I started playing the game way back in 2011, and only took a couple of breaks here and there for short amounts of time outside of my most recent break from the game. Whereas with EQ2, my only regular play time was from about 2006-2008, and then it was very sporadic and for only a couple of months at a time. My most recent trek back to Norrath was through the end of last year into early this year and only lasted for that short amount of time. With LoL I played nearly every day for years, and then when I didn’t play for like a month I’d be sucked back in by some new champion or event.

If you take a look at my match history, you’ll see that the last game I had played was in August of 2016, until the other day when I played, a full two years and a couple of months later. I honestly don’t know where that time went, outside of the fact that I know what changes occurred in my life around that time. I met my girlfriend earlier in 2016, but we were officially “an item” by August, and from then on I spent less time gaming and more time with her. That’s not to say that gaming has fallen by the wayside, as clearly I have been plugging away at my backlog along with trying new things since then. It’s just at that point I sort of put LoL on the back burner after having played pretty seriously for years prior. And somehow or another, despite thinking about firing it up on multiple occasions, it took me til now to actual do so. But hey, my backlog thanks me for the break, I suppose.

Boy, things have changed. They redesigned the launcher at some point, and apparently I did log in sometime in 2017, as my launcher was already updated there were just the normal game patches to get through. I also earned a few icons that were applied to my account last year so I know I had to have logged in, but I didn’t play as my match history has shown. Now you can see your “collection” of champions, skins, icons, ward skins and more in a handy interface that is less convoluted than it was before. It’s also neat to learn how you earned said skins/icons and when that occurred, something that was missing from the prior version of the launcher. There’s now a season pass sort of option as well, something that we’ve seen in games like SMITE and other lobby games where you pay an upfront fee to access new cosmetic items and participate in a limited-time event. Speaking of limited events, there are also still those good ol’ rotating game modes, but the most recent that I participated in was a 5 player co-op map where you kill a bunch of NPC enemies and that was interesting! I’ve never played co-op in LoL before, and in this instance I feel like you could make a skill based isometric RPG/MMO in this vein and it would be a ton of fun! But that’s a thought for another day.

Another big change is how runes and masteries work. This was a big thing for me, I spent a lot of time trying to dial in rune and mastery pages for the champions I played regularly, and I also gave general advice for building these pages here on the blog. It seems now that runes and masteries are gone as we knew them, instead of being separate pages they are now consolidated into one. This also means that there are a ton of build paths, but you basically pick a major tree, which gives you a four sets of three choices to make, and then a secondary tree that you can pick two passives from. As such, I have made a few builds to test out, each representing the different types of characters you’ll play in the game. It appears that I did not get my tank build uploaded and I’m not at home so I’ll have to add that in later, but above you’ll see ADC, Assassin, Mage and Support builds. I know I built a tank page as well but I guess it’s not all that important. These are first draft builds, so your mileage may vary.

So far I’ve played a few nights now, but I’ve only played ARAM and the co-op mode because I felt like I would be super rusty. It turns out it is a bit like riding a bike, I still have the muscle memory to handle the controls and thus far I’ve performed okay, but as you know in ARAM you get a random character, so some I’ve done better with than others. There are probably a dozen new champions that were added to the game since I last played, along with several re-worked characters, though I am familiar with most of them due to watching pro esports despite not actually playing myself. I’m actually rather pleased with the experience and intend to play more in the coming weeks. I have another post in the works discussing my backlog and play time, and I’ll cover more of why I have time to play LoL again during that time.

Thoughts on Collections

At one point or another on the Couch Podtatoes podcast we recorded an episode about collections, and at that time I was surprised to note that I didn’t really have anything I was actively collecting. I did note that I had a small amount of Green Bay Packers memorabilia, and that I had collected Comic Books and cards when I was a kid. Needless to say, things have changed!

Within the last couple of years I started buying League of Legends merch, whenever it was that they opened up their merch store. I started picking up some of the collectible figures that they were selling, which are comparable to Funko Pop figures, though a little higher quality and a bit more expensive (though some of the Pops out there go for large sums of money).  At that time I was still playing League of Legends regularly, though I haven’t played it in over a year at this point. Regardless, I found the figures to be something I desired, so I started off the collection with those. Later I was gifted a Funko Pop figure, and that started a new obsession with trying to pick up more of them. Lastly, my girlfriend discovered some of these die-cast metal Street Fighter figures and has nearly completed the set for me. All of these are present in this picture:

From left to right, we have Urf, Zed, Nautilus, Braum and my newest addition, Ziggs (these are the League of Legends figures). Then there’s the Power Armor from Fallout, Jace the Planeswalker from MTG, Spider-Man, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Jon Snow (GoT). Above are a set of Poros and a Lucian mini-figure (also from LoL). The Street Fighter characters are on top — Ryu, Dhalsim, Vega, Bison, Ken, Blanka, Chun-Li and Guile. On the shelf below, I have my small Green Bay collection:

I’ve been getting Green Bay related gifts for years from friends and family, and have collated most of it here, with an Aaron Rodgers Pop, and other various figures and items. I do have a Jersey, hats and some wall hangings in the room as well. My girlfriend and I both have nerdy tastes when it comes to decor, so we have melded our interests together in our room and it’s become a home.

I also commissioned something extra for my room when I discovered like items online. My sister happens to be fairly crafty, and I set her to the task of making me some MTG Mana Symbols to hang on the wall. I purchased little wooden discs for her to paint which she did and the result was pretty amazing!

They look great on the wall, and the process didn’t take her too long, though I was pestering her for updates and she sent me pictures along the way:

I also had her make another set for my roommate as he is also a MTG nut like me, and I figured they would look great in the garage where we typically play the game.

For a very long time I didn’t put much stock in finding decor or things that I would want to collect, but now that I’ve started I really enjoy it. These items don’t necessarily get used, but they do add life to a room and it’s cool to be able to show off your nerdy interests with pride. What sorts of things do you find yourself collecting as an adult?