Mobile Games: The Good, The Bad, and the Worst

In the last few years mobile gaming has become a phenomena and it’s not hard to see why. With mobile giant Supercell – makers of Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and HayDay – making over 1.55b in revenue in 2014, (Factoring in conversion rates!) most developers would have to be dummies not to want a slice of that juicy, juicy pie.

The reason for the success of mobile games is painfully simple. Almost EVERYONE on the planet has a mobile device at this point. That is an ENORMOUS potential customerbase. And with every device having one of two operating systems and the same basic specs, it is super easy to design simple games for such a small platform variety. Add into that the cost factor. If you make your game free with in app purchases, people are going to think, “FREE!” and go for it. On the other hand, if you set up a $1-2 price tag, most people are going to think, “That’s not too bad, it’s only a dollar.” and buy it. It seems small at first but when millions of people share that logic, suddenly you’re swimming in RIVERS OF MONEY. Flappybird is/was a really good example of this. In summary, the effort to reward ratio for mobile games is staggeringly good.

Nowadays it seems like most people are developing an app or mobile game. Programming or developing a game with as simple a mechanic as: “jump on a platform, now jump on a higher platform” as a hobby can potentially net someone a few extra dollars if 1,000 people download it a month. And honestly, outside of certain issues with the app store, mobile game development is probably one of the most fair and direct developer to consumer markets in the world. You don’t need an agent, you don’t need a CEO. You have an idea, you make it, you list it, you earn money. If you’re ridiculously lucky the game goes viral and you make enough money to fill a swimming pool with chocolate coins and swim around in it Scrooge McDuck style.

All that being said, I am what game marketers and developers refer to as “The Unicorn.” I am an adult with disposable income and a credit card that is willing to purchase whatever I want. I am not prone to the impulse purchases that cause other consumers to get frustrated and turn brand assassin – rather I space my purchases out over time and end up being a repeat customer. Through this I spend a lot of money in a sustained way. I do not have a specific genre of game, I will buy anything that catches my eye. If your game has an interesting hook, I will play it and I have bought currency in almost every free to play mobile game I have played for more than a month.

I realize that last line risks bringing the ire of people who think freemium games are the devil. I respectfully disagree. I think freemium games have their niche and are fine just the way they are. To me there is a difference between freemium and pay to win:

Freemium – The base game is free, and all components are accessible for free. You can spend real money for in game currency to get small advantages such as a shorter build time on a building or more pulls for a slot machine. But these are things all other players have access to as part of the base game. Examples of this would be Clash of Clans, Puzzle and Dragons, or even the dreaded…Farmville!

Pay to Win – MOST of the game is free. Accessing certain portions of it costs money. Acquiring gear, new characters, or items costs money. If you attempt to play the game without spending money, you will likely lag continually further behind and be stomped by other players that have spent money. Examples of this would likely be a metric fluffton of free to play grinder MMOs that sell weapon upgrades in their cash shops or mobile trivia games that charge you for extra turns to boost your worldwide score. I don’t consider these games worth my time and will uninstall them immediately when I get a whiff of something shifty.

Free to play mobile games also have three basic systems in common:

Stamina – Stamina is what it sounds like. You burn your stamina bar to do things like run dungeons or do gameplay. Stamina slowly returns over a set period of time, like 1 stamina every 2 to 3 minutes. Usually you can pay premium currency to have your stamina refilled immediately.

Gachapon/Slot System – The game has a slot system which is commonly referred to as a “gacha” which is short for “Gachapon.” In Japan, Gachapons are little slot vending machines where you put money in and get a capsule toy in exchange. The capsule toys usually come from a line of toys, like characters from a popular game or anime series. Certain toys in the pack are rarer than others, and you end up spinning the gacha more and more in hopes of getting the rare toy you want. This translates into almost exactly the same thing in games. You pull the slot, usually using premium currency, in the hopes of getting something rare to use. Gacha systems are primarily used in non-PVP games, which I find perfectly fair because you’re not screwing up someone else’s good time with your level 3940933492 super rare monster.

Time – It’s as basic as it sounds. “Time is money, friend.” isn’t just a silly quote. So now you’ve upgraded your base, but you have 2-3 hours before it’s done. You can certainly wait, but you want to play NOW! And for $5, you can! Other players, however, are fine with that upgrade taking 2 hours because they can go do other stuff in the meantime.

Most games use one of these systems, or even a combination of two or three of them. It’s how they usually make the big bucks.

Now, here is my logic with freemium mobile games: If I have played and enjoyed your game for over two months without spending a dime and I can clearly see I am making progress, the door is open for me to spend real money. I find this logic has served me EXTREMELY well in avoiding impulse purchases and also allows me to reward myself with a treat from a game I clearly enjoy. The other added benefit is that it allows me to avoid the dreaded “buyer’s remorse” when it comes to my purchases. Anyone who has spontaneously dropped $30 on a game only to say, “That really wasn’t worth it.” knows what I am talking about and a lot of the time those people stop playing the game to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

As an example, I have played Clash of Clans since October of last year. I don’t usually enjoy PVP style games but Supercell sucked me in with the clan war mechanic and I really enjoy playing with my friends and coworkers, so I’ve stuck around. I’ve purchased their cash currency, gems, a couple of times. Once to add an extra builder for productivity, and a second time to get my barbarian king hero character. I could have gotten both of these things had I waited a bit, but I chose to bypass that and reward the developers with money while getting something for myself along the way.

I also play…or played…Puzzle and Dragons. It’s a monster collection game with RPG elements and a matching game as its base gameplay mechanic. I was SUPER into it for a while. This game has a gacha system, and the developers are EXTREMELY GENEROUS with handing out the premium currency required to pull the gacha. They also regularly adjust and increase drop rates during festivals, insuring players usually have a better experience. Again, I applied my mobile game purchase logic and eventually spent money to get some extra gacha spins. I wasn’t disappointed. Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you still usually get something decent with the odds increased.

‘Well with systems like that, how could a company go wrong?”

I’m so glad you asked, imaginary person! I just happen to have an example!

Final Fantasy: Record Keeper is the new “it” game right now. And it deserves to be, it’s an amazing game. It hits on the key elements of fun gameplay and is a love letter to 20-30somes everywhere who grew up on the Final Fantasy series. All the nostalgia is there in the form of the characters, music, and dungeons. Sounds like a game I’ll be shelling tons of money out on, right?

Nope!

The game uses a gacha system in the same way as Puzzle and Dragons. You spend currency (either mythril earned in game or premium paid gems) for a spin at their relic gacha. This awards you a potentially rare item. However, the developer team made the mistake of having most of the drop rates pretty baseline or even rarer. What this means is that unlike Puzzle and Dragons where I can pay to spin and the increased drop rates means I’m MORE likely to get something good, I can spend $30 for 11 relic pulls in FF:RK and end up with all mediocre items. There is always some luck involved with a gacha system, but setting the baseline to “good” stuff rather than “generic things you can get in the easy dungeons” tips the scales in the player’s favor and makes them likely to be repeat customers.

I admit, the idea of me spending money on these games is purely selfish. I want something good, and the plus is that the developers are rewarded with money. If you don’t offer your users something good, they’re not going to spend money anymore. There are tons of posts about FF:RK all over the net from people dissatisfied that they spent $30 and only got “meh” items. How much do you want to bet that those people aren’t going to be repeat customers? And it also encourages other customers like me to stay the heck away. Sure, the company is going to get that initial money boom from the impulse buyers, but the sustained model just isn’t there and eventually the profits will drop off a cliff.

So ultimately I think properly designed mobile games have their place in an ever-expanding market. As long as you have a good hook and don’t screw up your mechanics or cash shop, there is a good probability you will end up with some money. You don’t even necessarily need to be from a huge publisher to rake it in, either. And that’s fantastic. I LOVE this market because its scope is absolutely enormous and potentially infinite. I think this and indie games in general are the breath of fresh air the gaming subculture needs because it allows a lot of homegrown developers to take the reigns and create things that go directly into the hands of players without being bogged down by company politics. To those that think mobile games are a dumb or casual market, I’d say consider the benefits to indie gaming developers as a whole and don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

***************Also something something Hearthstone something something.I know someone is going to ask me why it wasn’t mentioned so here you go. HEARTHSTONE HEARTHSTONE HEARTHY STONEY STONE! It’s free and has cards that MOVE sometimes!*****************

The Perfect Raid Boss

So there’s been a lot of talk about raid mechanics lately thanks to Blackrock Foundry being released. Some say it’s the most fun raid in years, and others say that overkill mechanics on the final boss, Blackhand, are destroying guilds left and right. You’ve also got Hans and Franz – a fight that apparently requires more dramamine than being on a Carnival cruise while sitting in a moving car and reading a book.

Former WoW developer Xelnath has been posting a series of blog entries about boss encounters he designed. They are definitely worth a read to get a peek into what goes on when it comes to raid boss development. If you don’t want to read it (Shame on you!) and want to know what goes into the process – the short answer is: “A whole lotta.” A whole lot of what? Just a whole lotta. Not half a lotta. A whole lotta. Tons of factors go into the design process including breakpoints, damage calculations, strategery required, etc.

Raid design certainly isn’t easy but I’ve got good news for all the MMO developers out there! I’ve developed what I believe to be the PERFECT raid boss fight. It’s chock-full of mechanics that I know everyone loves. I talked about my ideas on twitter and a bunch of people chimed in with their mechanic ideas as well, so credit goes to those folk too.

So let me introduce you to my raid boss. Blorglbloog! Its full name is Blorglbloogastraszagosa’chimonde’jaeden-garRande. (Accent on the “e.”)  As we all well know – long, hard to pronounce names are an absolute must so raid leaders and folks in mumble struggle as much as possible to announce the boss during the fight.

BLARGL

You’ll notice that I created his design with a purpose in mind. He has an incredibly generic shape and a tiny face so it’s next to impossible for melee attackers to tell if they’re actually hitting his backside. It also ensures that his frontal cone breath attack will hit at least 60% of the raid at any given time because the tanks won’t be sure which side they need to run to in order to turn it away.

I chose light blue as a color so that he sticks out in his lime-green dayglo boss room. My hope is that by doing this, the raid is induced to vomiting within 5 attempts. People want a raiding challenge – and there’s nothing more challenging than fighting human biological issues.

As for mechanics? I picked the best possible repertoire for my little Blorglbloog.

Now, it’s a 32 minute fight with approximately 16 phases. There’s also some RP cutscenes in the beginning, middle, 3/4ths of the way, and at the last 1%. These cutscenes are 15 minutes long, mandatory, and are guaranteed to crash your main healer’s WoW client. However, I must warn everyone that the only part of the fight that actually matters is the last 2%. This is when Blorgl will berserk and do every single one of his mechanics with a 75% damage modifier. There’s a hard-enrage at 45 minutes because I wanted to make sure that the fight didn’t drag on too long.

After the raid chips away at 2% of his HP, he’ll use one of his first zone mechanics. Blorgl will spit out four types of colored acid spots on the floor.  The raid will need to stand in the “good” acid spot in order to avoid an enormous raid-wide AoE pulse that happens every .2 seconds. I’ve made a handy chart to demonstrate which color is the right one to stand in:

STAND HERE

After 15 seconds the “bad” zones will melt away, revealing what I personally think is the best possible mechanic in a raid – an elevator. Random raid members will be teleported on to the elevators and have to wait for it to move back up to the top floor in order to rejoin the battle. Sometimes the elevator won’t load properly and they’ll plummet to their deaths, but that’s what they get for having a crappy internet connection lol.

If enough people stand in the “good” zone, the buff they receive will transform their character that specifically chose to play because they know and are experienced at using it into a “boogerling.” These boogerlings are considered vehicles and have their own action bars which may or may not require a UI reload depending on the player’s addons. Boogerlings have 7 unique abilities which the raid won’t have time to read, but one of them is a CRITICAL DoT that must be applied on the boss every 3 seconds or the boss will enrage and it will be an auto-wipe. This transformation happens to healers and tanks as well as DPS because I firmly feel that if you rolled a healer, you secretly want to learn an entirely new DPS mechanic on the fly so here’s your chance!

After the boogerling phase, gigantic ice walls will erupt from the floor. These icewalls provide a line-of-sight barrier around the room. The boss will teleport itself and the two tanks behind a random set of barriers which will leave the healers and DPS to try and figure out where the Hell they need to stand in order to keep the raid going. The walls reset to new positions every 13 seconds so the raid must constantly be on the move. This ensures that ranged DPS will never get to attack due to LOS, and also ensures that melee DPS will never get to attack since the boss is constantly moving.

go dis way

At 50%, the room will flood with a goolike, watery substance and the underwater phase will begin! The raid will be forced to operate on both the X and Y axis while trying to maintain their rotations. After a minute or so, a portion of the water will drain and the raid can hop on to small pieces of floating debris. The collision detection on this debris will purposely be poor so that it adds an extra layer of challenge to the fight! This way everyone can laugh in enjoyment as they can’t navigate the ridiculous jumping angle to get on to stable ground. If more than 1 person is in the goo after 2 minutes, the goo explodes and kills everyone.

At 20% the REAL fun begins as a curse is applied to a new raid member every 15 seconds.This curse MUST NOT be dispelled or it will blow up and automatically kill the tanks from a distance. So tell your healers to uninstall their debuff tracking addons or they’re gonna be in trouble! The curse will last until the end of the fight, so I hope your healers have plenty of mana left 10 minutes in!

Once you whittle Blorglbloog down to 15%, he will begin using his tank mind control mechanic. This is a channeled spell will target both tanks and cause a complete threat wipe. The mind controlled tanks will enrage and gain a 75% damage buff. They will also be specifically programmed to target the healers in the raid. Every time a healer is killed, Blorgl will heal up to 40% of his HP.

So now the raid is in the homestretch at 10%! Along with his other mechanics, Blorgl will begin the “council” phase of the fight. He will summon his 8 most trusted advisers that will rush into the fray! Each adviser has a different ability ranging from a cleave that AT LEAST 15 people must stack in to mitigate raid damage to a timestop spell. The only visual difference between Blorgl and his council of sub-bosses is a very small mustache/goatee combo on the clones.

NYEHEHE

Now we’re down to 5%! The real DPS race is on as Blorgl begins a countdown to self-destruct. The raid must chip off his remaining 284 million HP within 1 minute or Blorgl will permanently explode for the week, preventing any further attempts and destroying any loot he may have had on his body.

At 2%, Blorgl enrages and uses each of his abilities at a 50% increased rate. Wait, this is the final minute of the fight? Oh, did I say 50%? I mean 150%! If any of his clones are left alive at this point, they will merge back to Blorgl and heal him for 300% of his HP.

DOESN’T THAT JUST SOUND LIKE AN ABSOLUTE BLAST? I think I have developed what is, quite possibly, the must fun raid boss in the history of gaming. Look at all those AMAZING mechanics.

And wait, I’m not finished. Because you face not one, but TWO BLORGLBLOOGMUNGMAWS!

In all seriousness, it’s easy for me to sit in my non-developer chair and criticize raid mechanics. I have the luxury of not being in the industry and knowing how complicated the process really is. As a player I can sit here and demand that they add in a mechanic that causes skittles to spew out of my CD drive as a reward for downing a raid boss without realizing how complicated it may be or if it’s even feasible. Raid development is a lot of work. Blorglbloog agrees!

YAAAAYYYY

Corgi Island Rescue Pet Spotlight: Macabre Marionette

stats

So picture this – I’m strolling along the canals of Stormwind during the annual day of the dead ceremonies and I stumble over a pile discarded bones. They were tiny and vaguely humanoid. Thinking they were perhaps from a gnomish murder most foul, I almost panicked and ran for Horatio Laine until I realized there was a strange noise coming from under the jumbled skeleton.

Upon closer (and incredibly delicate) inspection I realized that the sound I was hearing was coming from a pair of tiny maracas that were buried at the base of the bone pile.

Being a pet rescuer, I’m no stranger to weird creatures. I’ve seen floating skulls, flying books, and even levitating eyeballs. Something about this ridiculous pile of bones that clung so desperately to its maracas made my rescue instincts go wild, so I sat down to begin the arduous task of reassembling the little creeper.

marionettejumpWhile I am a fairly talented restoration shaman, I rarely deal with rebuilding skeletal structures so the entire endeavor took HOURS. Not to mention the danged thing kept shaking and shimmying once it had a few of its limbs reattached. When I was finished, the heap of bones reached for its hat and maracas and just starting dancing away!

I was actually kind of impressed. To go from pile’o’bones to rockin’ out with your maracas out in .5 seconds after being reassembled is pretty impressive for a non-herolike creature. Either way, I figured it had gotten lost and decided to lead it back to the festivities. When I initially returned it to the Day of the Dead celebration area, it shimmied around the crowd trying to get everyone to feel the rhythm. I was content to for it to stay there, but after I turned to leave the little one was at my heels still shaking its thangs and followed me all the way home.

And that’s how I came to adopt my own little rhythm machine!

—-

PLAY HIM OFF, MARIONETTEBefore taking this guy into battle you’re going to want to toss him an undead upgrade stone so he reaches his full potential. And boy, does he have potential. A full arsenal of undead moves makes him a fantastic counter to humanoid pets, plus he has macabre maraca to deal extra damage to dragonkin – the pet family he takes less damage from.

While not particularly speedy or powerful, the marionette DOES have a defense shattering move in dead man’s party. Currently this is the ONLY undead style flock/hunting party style defense shattering move. Bone barrage and death and decay are incredibly useful as well. If you want to use him as a hard counter against a dragonkin pet, set up a dead man’s party and hammer away with macabre maraca for really dancin’ good time.

There are PLENTY of humanoid tamer battles to face off against in Warlords of Draenor, so adding this guy to your repertoire sooner rather than later would be a really good idea. Though be prepared for a lot of maraca shaking around your house.

marionettedancetime

((WARNING: THERE IS NO “OFF” SWITCH FOR THIS PET. BE PREPARED FOR CONSTANT CONGA LINE ATTEMPTS.))

Corgi Island Rescue Pet Spotlight: Spawn of G’nathus

((Heck of a mouthful for a title! With Warlords on the horizon I’ve been doing a lot of battle pet testing on the beta. Before the expansion launches I wanted to make a series of in character posts about pets that I’ve found especially useful against the new team compositions. Starting with…))

gnathusstatsI first found this little spark off the coast of Shan’ze Dao. Despite the deep waters that shelter its much bigger relative, G’nathus, the spawn I found had been beached on the sandy shoreline.  Ever the prepared pet battler, I patched it up with some spare bandages I keep in my pack and then CAREFULLY attempted to get it back into the sea. Unfortunately my task was made more difficult by the fact that the little eel constantly generates electric currents throughout its body!

gnathusportrait2With a little creative rigging and a rope pet leash, I was able to get it back into the water. Not without a few burns to my new armor, however, but eh. Sacrifices. I stood on the shore and watched the little one slither back out to the deep water. Once it got there it was eclipsed by the ENORMOUS shadow of its namesake, and as soon as I saw G’nathus’ electrified fin jut through the waves I bolted out of there as fast as my hooves could carry me.

A couple weeks later I was fishing for carp near Niuzao’s temple when within seconds, a nearby school of fish keeled over and bubbled to the surface. Then another school went belly up. Then another. Then another! I realized that the path of fishy death was headed straight for my bobber so I reeled in my line so quickly it almost caught fire. Just as I pulled the bait free from the water, I noticed a quick pulse of electricity and then the school I had been fishing from was no more.

I was positively aghast at the sight until a familiar looking purple fin popped through the waves. On the one hand I was flattered that the spawn of G’nathus I rescued weeks ago had gone to such lengths to find me. But on the other hand…those poor fish.  Still, I’m not one to turn down a pet, so I welcomed my new little friend into corgi island’s ranks!

Though…I’m careful to keep him away from all my other aquatic pets…

—–

gnathusportraitBattlewise, a spawn of g’nathus is a fabulous aquatic pet to keep around for elemental battles. I’ve used it COUNTLESS times in the WoD beta because there is no shortage of new elemental pets/bosses you’ll be fighting.

Swallow you whole and dive are some of the best aquatic moves you can get. Dive does high damage and adds in a built in dodge as well. Lil G’nathus also comes with paralyzing shock – which prevents enemies from swapping for 3 rounds.

PLUS this little spark has a great repertoire of elemental moves, which gives him an edge against mechanical pets like the lifelike mechanical toad that have a counter for an elemental family pet.

If you have one of these in your journal, now would be a great time to get it to level 25 for WoD. There are a couple of tamer battles that G’nathus can handle practically solo. And there are PLENTY of elemental battles where he’s a useful lead-in or secondary pet as well.

Plus they make surprisingly affectionate pets!

gnathushug

((WARNING: DO NOT HUG IN OPEN BODIES OF WATER.))

Gimme Gimme Gimme These 5 Upcoming games

This has been a bit of a dry year for me in terms of gaming; – mostly due to my tighter budget and the lack of titles that interest me. I have really eclectic taste in games, so there are periods where nothing I’m interested in is on the table, and then other periods where the stars align and shower me with new titles. And honestly, when you don’t have as much disposable income to spend – you become really conscious of what you’re buying and how long it may or may not last.

There have been a couple games that I liked enough to spend money on, Wildstar being the most recent. But this Autumn into Winter has a lineup of games that I’ve been keeping a close eye on while drumming my fingers together going: “Soon. Sooooon.” I figured I would share a list of 5 of them in case there are any other eclectic gamers like me. Most of these games are for the 3DS, so don’t be surprised. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that handheld/traveling gaming is much more convenient when it comes to non-MMOs.

1) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse by Wayforward Games – release date TBA Q3

I came across the Shantae series by pure happenstance in the 3DS e-shop one day. I wish I had known about it waaay before then because it is SUCH a great platforming series. It really takes me back to the oldschool NES/SNES days when I would sit together with my best friend and our babysitter and try to beat whatever game she had brought over. We would fight over turns until we came to a particularly hard part and begged our babysitter to beat it for us. She was good, too. She was the reason we were able to see the ending of Super Mario Bros 2.

The initial Shantae games focused on her being a half-genie and using shapeshifting powers to plow through beautifully designed levels and fend off her rival, the piratess Risky Boots. The latest game takes it in a different direction by removing the magic from the equation and instead focusing on feats of weaponeering that achieve the same kinds of effects.

Also, look at the art. LOOK AT IT. In the worlds of Molly Shannon from one of my favorite SNL skits: “I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT.” *kicks legs off chair* I have a weakness for well-done spriting and this is just…I mean, not in my wildest dreams could I hope, as an artist, to achieve this kind of work. If you want to reward good art and fantastic gameplay then these people deserve your money. I know they deserve mine. *throws dollar bills at the screen*

2) Harvest Moon The Lost Valley (Natsume)/Story of Seasons (Marvelous USA)-  release date TBA Q3 for both

(As a note, I sure would love to link actual company pages for these two games but neither Natsume nor Marvelous interactive have them listed on their official NA/English websites, so I settled for the biggest HM fansite instead. If anyone FINDS an official link so I can source it, please post it. Otherwise shame on you Natsume and Marvelous for not promoting your own games on your own websites.)

I’ve been a fan of the Harvest Moon series for literal years. It’s one of the few series that I will purchase new games from without even questioning. I love the simulation aspect of it as well as the time management requirements. The series is a micromanager’s dream, and that is me so helloooooo entire HM series.

Story of Seasons originated in Japan under the title “Connect to a New World” due to its heavily emphasized street pass farm visiting functions. During its localization in the US, the name swapped and as far as I know – some of the connectivity features are being done away with as well. SoS is what I would consider the next general step in the HM series. It’s not really bringing anything new to the table. It’s just a new Harvest Moon to play with a new town and new characters. And since I like that kind of thing, I’ll be buying it.

The Lost Valley was created from the ground up by Natsume to bring a new style of gameplay to the Harvest Moon series. People at E3 called it a combination of Minecraft and Harvest Moon. Initially that didn’t seem appealing to me, but I’m willing to give it a shot. The art style is a little…stylized…even for a Harvest Moon game. But hopefully the new worldbuilding features will make it a fun experience.

3) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire by Gamefreak release date November 21st 2014

I mentioned above that I am prone to buying series games that people think are otherwise repetitive and Pokemon is really no exception. Game Freak has nailed the pet RPG battle formula and just continues to tweak it in ways that make it seem familiar but fresh. That is why I will forever preorder Pokemon games as soon as they are announced.

Obviously Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of the original Ruby and Sapphire games. While those weren’t my favorites in the series, I’m looking forward to the revamp with the updated 3D battle graphics and other general improvements as well. Out of all of Nintendo’s developers, Game Freak are the ones who have made online connectivity the most accessible, which makes trading, battling, or just farting around watching your pokemon have tea with friends fun as ever.

The coolest part of OR/AS is the complete overhaul of the secret base system. If you ever wanted housing in a pokemon game then welp. You got it. If anyone invades your base, your can set up your character to battle them with a specific team of your choosing. You can also recruit people from your friend list to “guard” your base as well. The major pitch for the new bases is that it’s a way for players to FINALLY make their own “gyms” in a sense. You can set traps, theme your pokemon, etc.

Also mega-sceptile okay. Just…mega-sceptile.

4) Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS by Sora Ltd. – release date October 3rd 2014

Hello yes ask me how long I’ve been waiting for a game like this on a portable console because the answer is “a while.” I DON’T mean “game like this” as in a fighting game. I mean an easily accessible fighting game that emphasizes playing with your friends at a distance through wireless connectivity.

The Smash series is notoriously easy to pick up but difficult to master, much like a lot of Nintendo’s multiplayer games. The ease of access makes me hope that my friends who have a 3DS will be picking this up as well so I have as many people as possible to play with.

I never thought they would port Smash to a portable console. Not in a million years. I guess that’s why Nintendo is considered one of the biggest revolutionary companies in gaming. When I see all the features they’re adding to the 3DS version all I can do is marvel that they can fit THAT MUCH into a single game.

Also I am going to pretty much kick everyone’s butt using Charizard. JS.

5) Warlords of Draenor by Blizzard Entertainment – release date ????? “Soon”

I mean. Come on. You had to see this coming.

Warlords is. Ah. Hm. Well.

Let’s just go with “Savage” and call it a day.

Ultimately I’m looking forward to a jampacked Q3 and Q4 in terms of gaming. I can’t wait to dust my 3DS off and really fall into that land of gaming where you’re so into it that you don’t realize it’s 4am. I just hope my wallet can handle it!

Garrisons: Stop Expecting the Expected

Garrison GatesLet me be blunt and get this out of the way immediately: Garrisons are NOT player housing. I have played FFXIV and Wildstar, and THOSE are games with player housing. If you go into Warlords of Draenor expecting the same kind of experience with garrisons, you are going to be disappointed and that’s unfortunate. It would be better to instead go into WoD looking for a different kind of experience, because there is a LOT of good here. Unfortunately that good is trapped under the shadow of the “Housing HOUSING HOUSING!!” monster.

I COMPLETELY understand the appeal of regular player housing. Trust me. My Wildstar home is decked to the roof with all kinds of neat stuff. There isn’t really any of that customization with garrisons. You’re not going to have neighbors, and you’re not going to be able to change the roof/walls/flooring of your buildings.

“How can it possibly feel like home, then?”

pets pets PETSThere are other ways. For example, once you open your pet menagerie following a brief pet battle questline, the pets from your pet journal will wander around your entire garrison. Occasionally they’ll stop and chill with you.

If you choose to build a stable building, your mounts will wander around that area as well.

innIf you choose to build an inn, you can go in and see your followers and garrison workers enjoying a nice meal together. It gives it a very homey feel. In a way you could almost think of the followers as your customizable furniture, but…that’s awful. It’s kinda true though, since they’re the main feature of what brings the garrison to life.

left right leftThere are also the NPCs that will wander throughout the area, giving it a sense of hustle and bustle. Most of these NPCs are followers you’ve picked up throughout your questing travels in WoD. So I know that they seem like strangers now, but by the time you finish certain questlines you’ll be glad to welcome them to your stronghold. If they spot you walking by, they’ll either greet you as a friend or commander which is pretty nice.

The idea of the garrison is less about homey personalized housing and more about building a military foothold on Draenor. You’re not going to invite neighbors over for a BBQ, but you are going to defend the base from attacks, help it grow, and utilize it for strategic missions. You are, in essence, taking control of your own quest hub.

salute me!Yes. For once you get to be the maniacal taskmaster that sends hoards of minions out on dangerous missions. From your command table within the town hall, you’ll be doling out various forms of strategery to the followers you’ve amassed throughout your questing escapades. These “missions” (queeeests) range from 25 minutes to 8 hours and reward anything from new followers to gold to gear appropriate for your spec.

command tableDo…do you feel that? That’s the power. The power that NPCs like Varian and Thrall have wielded for all these years. Ah, yes, it feels so nice. Dance, my little minions, dance!!

You also get to kind of sort of customize your garrison by picking out the specific buildings you want. Certain buildings like the pet menagerie, herb garden, and fishing shack exist for everyone and must be unlocked via quests. Others like the barracks, inn, stables, and profession tents are chosen by the player. It’s like a sim game on rails, and long time players of strategic or sim games aren’t going to find anything challenging here.

SsssstablesAnd that’s okay. Because this is a multi-player game that shouldn’t be made or broken based on tiny buildings in one area of the game. The garrison profession buildings provide a nice bonus, for sure, but there’s a careful balance to maintain between “necessary” and “fun but gives a small bonus.” Once things start falling into the “necessary” range, people get shoehorned into doing things in order to progress more smarterer or betterer. As it stands now, I’d wager that every progression raider is probably going to have the dwarven bunker once they cap as it allows an extra raid bonus roll per week. Imagine if the garrison were FILLED with “must haves” instead of “want to have” and you can see why they put it on rails.

herbgardenRight now the garrisons are still a work in progress. There are parts of it that are clunky. Specifically you need to return to your garrison while questing to send your followers out on new missions. You’re provided a special hearthstone for this task, but having to hearth and then fly back to resume questing is a bit of a pain. Other games manage this by allowing you to teleport to the housing map and then teleport right back to the spot you initially left. Unless any changes are made, you’re probably just going to set things up to run, quest, and then return once you hit an area that has a flight path. This sometimes means you lose time on sending followers out on new missions.

But it’s still very early in beta and things are always subject to change. Hint. Hint hint Blizzard. HINT HINT HINT.

PondOh, and I should also mention that the alliance garrison is FRICKIN’ BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. I know we lost the ability to build wherever we wanted, but I think the alliance garrison in SMV more than makes up for it with its own ambiance.

So again I say – cast off your expectations or hopes for this to be WoW’s answer to player housing. It’s not. This is a different genre entirely. Perhaps someday WoW will add in real player housing, but poopooing the garrisons because they aren’t on that level is like comparing apples to coffee beans.  I think with enough polish and adaptation for it at endgame, this could be something that keeps WoD interesting well throughout the expansion for players like me. We’ll certainly see.

 

 

5 Outdated MMO Tropes That Need to Go!

MMOs are a growing and evolving genre. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve progressed in the last couple of decades. And yet, despite all the growth there are still some nagging issues built into the core idea of what an MMO “should” have. MMORPGs tend to build on the ideas of games that came before, but unfortunately sometimes that means they take the negatives along for the ride.

I wanted to write a short list of some of these features that have aged so poorly, I feel it’s about time they be retired.Some of these can be attributed to insufficient coding abilities – which I think is less of an excuse than it was 5 years ago. Others can be attributed to just plain developer stubbornness, which is ridiculous given the growing scope of the MMO playerbase. Anyway, I can’t think of a good segue so…on to the list!

1) Factions.

I HATE UOkay, I wanted to get what I figured would be the most controversial item out of the way immediately. Why do I think factions are a waste in the modern game-scape? Let me put it this way…

If a player downloads your MMO and their first thought is: “Gosh, I really want to play with my friends, but I also really want to play the race I like the most. Since they’re on opposite factions, I guess I have to choose.”

Then that is a failure right off the bat. Playing with friends, or playing a character you feel you can most identify with and potentially enjoy longer. Hmm. See the problem here? There are several inherent issues with factions but this is the biggest one. Anyone who has experienced that indecision and sadness when first playing a factional MMO can tell you how much this kind of choice sucks.

“But Gloria, factions add another layer of storyline and content!”

Actually – I would argue that they don’t. Factional content in MMOs is usually relegated to the EXACT SAME kill/fetch/gather quests on BOTH sides. It’s the same mechanics, just with a different bit of flavor text added. You’re still killing the same bosses in dungeons, you’re still exploring the same zones with the same quests. It’s all EXACTLY the same with the exception of the storyline blurbs. And it NEEDS to be exactly the same because both sides have got to maintain balance, otherwise you end up with accusations of favoritism.

Imagine if the time spent essentially copying quests for both factions in the same zone went into building a second brand new zone instead? Or a new dungeon? And you could experience it with all your friends. In fact, you’d have more access to these dungeons because an entire half of the playerbase isn’t arbitrarily blocked off from you. That means lower dungeon finder queue times.

Factions initially were a way of extending samey-content to give the game an illusion of having more depth. After years of this, I really think factions do more harm than good and any time a new MMO uses factions as a feature, I immediately drop it a peg lower on my, “I GOTTA BUY DIS!” list.

2) Ownership/Tagging Quest Mobs

WELPLet’s all fight over the same 6 spawned monsters in a starting zone at the launch of an expansion or game. Boy that sounds really fun. That’s how I want to remember my first foray into a new world. Oh and that guy who runs up and taps all of them only to just AOE each and every mob down before you can get there? That is a cool guy. Yep.

I guess I don’t really understand the point of mob “ownership.” If people are in the area, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone is trying to get the quests done. Pitting people against each other in a race to be first for what is inherently a grind just adds a layer of unnecessary frustration.

“But people will take advantage of it!”

Look, if I’m killing a quest mob and Johnny Q Magey comes up and hits it with his wand just to get credit and then afks while I do the brunt of the work…I don’t care! Because I’m still getting my quest credit! *throws confetti*

3) Lack of body shape options.

THREE WHOLE OPTIONS?!In this the year of our lord after the year of Luigi 2014 we are still experiencing MMOs that have a single body option for male and female characters. And in most cases your options are generic thin lady and hulking manbeast. Above all else I find this sad. Customization for a character can truly make it identifiable for the person playing it.

There’s nothing wrong with “pretty” models – or even the ones that are super boobalicious. What IS wrong is the lack of choice given to players. Even Nintendo Miis can have their body shapes customized – and the most you use those for are streetpasses, let alone diving into an immersive role playing game.

What’s even worse is that in a lot of these games, the NPCs have a wide range of body types. You value your NPCs enough to give them variety but you don’t value your playerbase enough to give them that same option? Come on.

4) Expansions for subscription-based games.

And you'll pay it, too.Okay, I knew this would be the other controversial one. Allow me to explain my reasoning –

If I am paying a subscription fee each month, I know that I am paying to access content. In order for me to keep my fee active, I need a steady stream of content. In my years playing MMOs I’ve found that the idea of expansions stunts the flow of content rather than improves it. You wait and wait and wait and then this huge pile of new stuff falls right into your lap for you to rush into and enjoy.

Instead of having points of small content releases like patches and then dumping a HUGE BUNDLE O’NEW’SHIT on people in the form of expansions, subscription MMOs would do better to simply stagger medium content patches throughout the lifecycle of the game. A steady stream of new content is better than nothing…nothing…nothing..LOTS OF SOMETHINGS! ESPECIALLY when people are paying MONTHLY for said content.

You cannot dump a ginormous single content patch on people and say, “Now now, this needs to last for a while so don’t go experiencing it all at once!” because…hello? Have you ever met humanity? That’s not how our species works. Even worse is dumping said large content and then gating it off just outside of reach until a designated amount of time has passed.

Spread that content out – like a nice even coating of peanut butter on PB&J. That way you don’t have people who swallow entire mouthfuls and get sick of the taste.

5) Linear leveling.

neeeiiigghhhhWhat I mean by linear leveling is essentially when your character is dropped from starting zone A to questing zone B. You then quest through B and go to questing zone C. From there it’s off to D, E, F and so on and so forth until you’ve reached level cap. Zones are usually relegated to character level. So if you’re level 4 you’re gonna stick to the level 1-5 zone because it’s a killing field anywhere else.

This means that from level 1 to whatever, our characters are put on a little quest train that follows the quest tracks and gives them a safe and properly organized tour of the leveling content. Wee.

A necessity borne from the days of coding restrictions – this is something that needs to GOOO AWAAAAYYYY. Especially with the new scaling technology most MMOs have available.

Imagine your fresh-off-the-docks lowbie arrives on a new continent and it’s time to level. And what’s this? EVERY zone is available to you because the mobs are going to scale to your level when you get there! So where do you want to go first? WHO KNOWS! The exploration potential is unlimited!

“But Gloria, how would this work with the removal of mob tagging?”

“…shut up.”

Anyway, enough prattling from me. Obviously these are just thoughts I had bouncing around in my head.  Aaand I can’t think of a way to end this soooo. Bye!