State of the Game: A New Year Edition

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It’s been a bit since I talked much about gaming, so I thought another round up post was in order to share what I’ve been up to. We’re looking at the usual suspects here, although I did make a purchase over the holidays that inspired me to finally give a game a chance that I’ve had in my library for almost a year now, but hadn’t really played much. Playing this game has been a two-fold endeavor, in that it’s a pseudo MMO, but it’s also something that can be struck from the backlog once I’ve played my share of it. You all know by now that I have no real love of MMOs anymore, basically writing them off but dipping my toes here and there. The most recent toe-dipping was with World of Warcraft, where the Legion hype managed to suck me in, but I didn’t play for more than a couple of months before writing the game off again. There’s still hope for Crowfall, and supposedly the beta pledges will be able to play the game finally this year, so that’s something, though I don’t know how well that will keep me occupied considering the game isn’t done. I’m still in the guild that was started up about a year ago for Crowfall, but I have been less than active as of late just because I’ve spent less time at the computer than I had earlier in the year.

So the game that I’m playing currently is Destiny. I received a PSN giftcard for Christmas, and decided to use it to buy the Rise of Iron expansion. Previously I had purchased The Taken King, and I mostly did so because I had several friends playing the game at that point in time. I had a bit of a falling out with one of those friends, and a couple others had refused to buy the expansion saying that it cost too much money. Hence, my play time with the game screeched to a halt despite the fact that I could have been playing it solo this whole time (not to mention knowing several bloggers and others on Twitter who play that I could have taken up arms with). Having spent more money on the game, and knowing that a Destiny 2 is in the works, I figured now was the time to really give it a fair shot. I’m glad that I did.

I must say that Destiny is one hell of a game. It’s not a “true” MMO in the traditional sense, but it has plenty of elements that make it feel MMO-like. It’s really more of a lobby type game, but there are plenty of open-world areas and you’ll see other players running around, sometimes joining forces with them while doing a strike mission. It’s also one of the best looking games I’ve played on my PS4. No, I haven’t and don’t intend on upgrading to the PS4 Pro version of the system because I suspect in the next couple of years we’ll see a new Playstation altogether, and I’ve only had mine for a year so spending the money to upgrade didn’t really make sense. Also, it’s not necessary, as the upgrade isn’t really all that impressive. My system works just fine as is, and most of the games I’ve played for it still look great, even if the architecture of the platform is lacking compared to my gaming PC.

To this point I’ve leveled a Hunter to 11, and have been burning through the storyline at a rapid clip. I do have a boost to 40 from buying the expansion, but I figured it was best to go through the game from start to finish first, and then perhaps boost one of the other classes so I don’t have to level through everything again when the time comes. I have a Warlock that is level 8 from my first romp with the game as well, but I’m unsure if I’ll boost that character or if I’ll boost a Titan. Time will tell, but so far I’m enjoying the Hunter very much. I have yet to dip my toes into any of the PvP matches, but I look forward to seeing all the game has to offer. Something about Shooters always pulls me in more so than traditional MMOs, so this has been a great fit, despite the fact that I didn’t think it would grab me like it has.

Otherwise we’re looking at the usual suspects. I’ve played SMITE nearly daily for months now. I’ve mastered over 30 Gods, and I’m nearly level 30 account level with would max me out and allow me to play in the ranked queues. I still have a handful of Gods that I prefer playing, and I still feel like I’m one of the better players in each match that I complete. You can see some evidence of that over on my YouTube channel where I’ve shared some dominating matches. Going forward I want to hit that max account level, try out ranked and continue mastering gods. Oh, and I finished up all of the Odyssey quests, and that was a fun distraction.

On the mobile front, I’m still playing Clash Royale. I joined Syncaine’s clan, Supreme Cream! and have been contributing as I can. There are various aspects of the game that are simply not available without a clan, so it’s been nice to have that. We trade cards back and forth and you can also play in friendly battles. Tournaments are also a thing, but I’m not quite high enough account level to participate. I’ve hit level 7, but 8 is required. The main issue that I’m having at this point is not having the best cards available, as most are earned semi-randomly. I’ve been running my head into the wall against players who have had better luck upgrading their decks, but eventually that should even out and I’ll be back to climbing. I’m in arena 6 currently, but there are a few more to go that require gaining rating. I’ll get there.

Lastly, I’m still building up my establishment in Tiny Tower. Nearing 80 floors and have over 150 bitizens housed. It’s really just maintenance mode at this point, with a little bit of min/maxing regarding the optimal placement of bitizens in their jobs. Still a fun little time waster, but not nearly as engaging as CR.

I was gifted a few games for Christmas, and I tried those out over my break. Some were pretty cool, others were only so-so. I’ll try to share more about those at a later date. But for now, I’m going to finish off this work day so I can get home to play more Destiny!

State of the Game: Progress Report Time

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It’s been a minute, and I’ve found that I rather enjoy doing these round up posts from time to time. I don’t know why I go in the waves that I do, where I end up doing something for a long time and then fall out of the habit just to pick it back up again. It does look like bringing this column back around has at least kept this blog alive so to speak. It also helps that it’s football season, so those by the numbers posts are some easy filler. And I realize it’s just filler, because most of you could give two shits about football but hey, it’s my blog. 😛

I have much to cover, so I’ll just get right to it. More blog posts to follow this one, so stay tuned. In the recent past, I’ve spoken about the majority of what I’ve been playing, so none of this should come as a surprise (unless you haven’t been keeping up with ol’ what’s his face). The primary games I’ve been playing are still SMITE, WoW, and the mobile game Tiny Tower. As those are the most recent games I’ve made full on individual posts about, let’s start there, shall we?

My progress in SMITE has been slow going, but I’m still managing to play at least a game almost daily. League has been phased out at this point. I’m not even going to attempt to raise my rank there, and if I do start playing it again it will probably be during the next preseason in a month or so. Awesomenauts has taken a bit of the back burner as well, mainly because I only really play it with my best friend, and the last few times we played it was frustrating enough to just outright quit. I love the guy, but man is he bad at the game. Rather than taking it out on him, I’ve just been playing more SMITE more often, and he’s at least halfway decent at it. I still haven’t managed to earn the trophy for 5 warriors mastered just yet, but I’m only shy one or two at this point. Outside of that, I’m account level 23 and have the same amount of gods mastered. It’s going to take a long time to get one up to mastery level 10, and to master 70 gods, but the platinum trophy is definitely doable and something I’m going to continue to work towards. I’ve also been focused on completing all of the Odyssey 2017 quests as the become available. The Japanese quests were completed that week, and this past week the Chinese questline opened up. I have two left to complete and then it will be back to waiting for the next pantheon to open up. Either way it’s been fun having these psuedo tasks to do, despite the fact that I’m really just playing the same old game.

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He still basically looks like this, just a few levels bigger.

WoW has been slow going as well. I’ve basically put my entire backlog on hold, and have been primarily playing these two games. When I’m in the mood for PvP I play SMITE and when I feel like a mindless level grind I play WoW. My Warlock just hit level 40 the other night, and I’m sitting in the Western Plaguelands, about to head East. Soon I’ll get to the portions of the game that I’ve never seen and that’s exciting enough to keep me subscribed and trudging along. I’ve plenty of created alts including my boosted Rogue, but I think I’ll see the entirety of the game prior to fully diving into Legion. This has worked for me. I have yet to play with anyone outside of using the dungeon finder, and despite all my complaints, the game is fun. So I play it. It’s the weirdest thing, just letting go of all of your preconceived notions, all of your past opinions and just playing the game in front of you. You really can enjoy nearly anything once you give it a chance. But man that other side of me is screaming that “I HATE THEME PARK MMOs” the entire time. Someday I’ll play Crowfall and forget these dark times.

Slow and steady seems to be the trend this week. I’ve progressed to the point of having 38 levels in my Tiny Tower along with 70 bitizens. Floors are costing nearly a million coins. Most of my shops have bitizens in their “dream jobs” and I’ve upgraded every shop to level 4 at this point. It’s the same tedium over and over but it helps kill time when things are slow at work, on the toilet, you name it. I can perform a couple of actions and then go about my business. I see how this works for most mobile games, but this one literally takes zero effort or brain power and yet stays enthralling. It baffles the mind but works.

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I never thought to take screens of the action…

The only new addition I have to talk about is a new indie game that’s currently in Early Access on Steam called Battlerite. It’s from the creators of the game Bloodline Champions, which some of you might remember me talking about circa 2011. When I finally weaned myself from the teat of whatever MMOs I had been playing at the time and was looking for something completely different to sink my teeth into, I stumbled upon MOBAs… Most of the rest is history, and League of Legends was the game that stole my heart, but I remember actually enjoying the control scheme for Bloodline Champions moreso than the more contemporary click to move of LoL and others in the genre. There was a bit of a lack of depth with the original game though, and this sequel of sorts has that same sort of lack of depth, but it seems that they have ideas that have yet to come to fruition, and that’s okay. Basically it’s a 2v2 or 3v3 arena brawler, similar to Arenas in WoW in playstyle, though lacking gear customization and the need to level. It’s MOBA combat at it’s simplest, yet complex enough to be a blast. Instead of buying items, you get cards between matches. These become your build of sorts. You can customize the characters, but it is only cosmetic. There are also mounts, which really don’t make a lot of sense, but are cool nonetheless (this is how I felt about the mounts in HotS too). Honestly, it feels lacking in some areas, but given that it’s in Early Access and there are already new characters being developed, there’s a good chance that the amount of possible interactions will be great enough that the gameplay doesn’t get stale. But I think it might suffer in the long run due to the lack of a macro game. Time will tell I suppose.

And that’s about all for this week. Happy gaming, friends.

Chasing The Flow

I’ve been playing a game on my phone again. Shocking, I know. I’ve been very vocal in the past that I’m not really into mobile gaming, particularly games that have a shit load of ads, RMT, and lack in fulfilling gameplay. Ports of Facebook games are the worst. Virtual gambling? No thanks. Catching Pokemon? What’s a Pokemans? For the most part, mobile gaming has been very much a thing I have avoided. Not only have I not owned a flagship phone that has the power to really run most of the games out there (they seem to be more designed for top end phones or tablets), most of the gameplay mechanics just don’t appeal to me. When it comes to something like Hearthstone or a game that I can buy on steam but has an Android version, I’m not bothered because these feel like “real” games. Others feel more like they’re in the realm of the Facebook game, complete with shared post features and needing friends to do things for you to progress. That’s garbage time if you ask me, but you probably didn’t ask.

screenshot_2016-09-28-12-16-27You’ll probably remember a few years back, I was playing the game Star Wars: Tiny Death Star. It had just released, and was from the same company that made Tiny Tower and Tiny Tower: Vegas. Being a star wars fan, I downloading it on a whim, and I found that I really enjoyed the game, despite it really just being a skin for an already existing game (which I had never played to that point). I got to thinking about it the other day, because there are times at work when it’s slow so a game on my phone sounded like a no-brainer. I also go places at times and would like a distraction that isn’t Twitter or Facebook. However, being at work or with others means not having a lot of down time, but sporadic spurts where I might be able to play a game, but only for a little while. Tiny Tower is perfect for times just like this, where I might have a moment or two to stock a store, move bitizens to the floors they need to go, or do some other management of the tower. I can perform a couple of actions and then get back to whatever else I happen to be doing.

screenshot_2016-09-28-11-13-56When it comes down to it though, The game is really just mindless repetition. Moving the elevator up to the bitizen’s desired floor, stocking floors, and micro-managing the happiness of your bitizens. They love being put into their dream jobs, and they will ask you to do things for them at times. There are some additional random events that will happen and usually result in some “bux,” which seems to be often. Instead of in-game ads plastered all over, there is a nice feature where you are bribed to watch them in video form, and receive 20 bux in trade. When I am multi-tasking, this is an easy thing to click on and set my phone down. I haven’t been watching these ads, but I’ve been racking up the bux anyway. I wish more games that relied on ads and RMT went this sort of route. Compared to Tiny Death Star, this version of the game feels less buggy and easier to progress through. I do miss the Star Wars theme, but there are enough easter eggs in this title that continue to surprise me (including storm troopers).

Despite being an exercise in mindless repetition, there is a zen-like quality to the title. I was curious as to why things like this would appeal to me when I am so typically critical of simplicity and/or lack of depth. This thought pattern moved on to why I enjoy Diablo so much, or why I’ve let WoW get it’s hooks into me, despite being a repetitive quest-grind, killing ten rats hundreds of times along the way. I ran across this article, where a concept known as “flow” is explained. It seems that we are not hard wired to multi-task, and our brains can’t differentiate between a 10 o’clock meeting with our boss and being attacked by a tiger. Stress manifests the same way and we are unable to control that, particularly with our fast-paced deadline-based culture. Repetitive tasks that are found in this particular mobile game, or the titles I mentioned above actually trick your brain into focusing on the task at hand and ignoring everything else. It eliminates stress and lowers your heart rate. It’s like meditation in a way, and I’m slowly coming around to this being a good thing, rather than needing the added stress of depth. I’ve got my PvP oriented games for stress when I’m at home.

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What do you guys think? Do you prefer repetition in your games, or emergent gameplay that requires deeper thought? I think there’s a time and place for both, and I’m seeing the value in both more readily as of late.