I have been playing the Battlefield 4 beta these last few days, and I’m not quite sure what to think.
It certainly isn’t the jump in quality from Battlefield 2 to 3, that’s for sure, although there are some interesting moves. For example, the default rocket launcher has a tracking mode that activates when the Recon class designates a target with their binoculars; this sort of solves the incredible power discrepancy between Engineers that had unlocked the, er, lock-on launcher versus newbie players.
Another interesting change was how they gave the Recon class (aka snipers) C4 charges. While this makes roof-top campers extremely annoying – they can drop C4 at the elevators and wait for the door opening sound for an auto-kill – it also creates an amazing tension in the class. Do you run out and C4 that tank while risking being caught in close-quarters with a sniper rifle, or do you hang back and try and snipe with a tank blowing you and your team up? Giving snipers claymore mines and assault classes C4 makes more thematic sense, but reversing those roles makes for more interesting gameplay decisions. Even better, the thermal Binoculars you get not only lets you lock on to vehicles for your teammates to kill (you get bonus XP when they do so), but it lets you more easily spot enemies running around that are too far to hit. Or, honestly, that you aren’t skilled enough to hit. Just spotting them is basically 1/4th a kill though, and it’s a useful service to do so.
However, some design changes have gone in the wrong direction. Technically, it was Battlefield 3 that “introduced” the concept of the medic class having to actually unlock their core ability, i.e. to revive people, but Battlefield 4 is taking that to ridiculous extremes. It takes 11,000 Assault-class XP to unlock the Defibrillator, which I hope to god is a placeholder value. Perhaps if smaller maps were available it might not be so bad, but actually getting that amount of XP on a class that otherwise brings nothing interesting to the table is a massive chore; not only do the other classes have easier ways of racking up easy XP, but remember that BF4 (and BF3) made the change to a regenerating HP model too. Between that and the near-zero Time To Kill numbers, the ability to throw a Med-Pack is only ever useful when you find yourself dueling someone from behind cover.
The unlocking situation gets even more ridiculous when you look at the Support class, aka the ammo guy. While I suppose it was annoying/immersion-breaking when a single Support dude could drop an ammo box and spam infinite grenades over the wall, putting the ammo box behind a 52,000 (!) XP grind-wall is an extreme overreaction. The most obvious trickle-down effect is that it makes every class weaker by extension: what good is an Engineer without rockets? Given how you respawn with full ammo, the smart move is then to play both aggressively and carelessly by spamming everything you have and then effectively suicide yourself for Round N+1.
While there has also been some grumblings over the idea of “Battlepacks” – random lockboxes filled with camos, dog tags, XP bonuses, etc – as someone who played Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer for a while, I don’t see it as such a big deal. Yes, it is a cynical cash grab given how you can pay money to buy those things. However, as far as I can tell, you do not actually unlock more powerful weaponry from these boxes. Which automatically makes them less of an issue than ME3′s lockboxes where opening a rare Widow or Carnifex/Paladin was basically the start of your game.
Beta is beta though, and this one is more restrictive than most. Overall, I can’t say that I’m too impressed. It’s honestly been so long ago that I uninstalled BF3 that I forget if being able to spawn inside a vehicle from the Deploy screen is something new to BF4 or not. And, really, that’s kinda what it comes down to: why do we need Battlefield 4 again? Once all the maps are unlocked, then perhaps we’ll see where the differences lay. Plus, supposedly Commander Mode is back.
But right now I do not see any reason why I would be compelled to purchase Battlefield 4 on Day 1 as opposed to when they bundle the game + first Map Pack together. Or, really, when they bundle the game + Season Pass.
Random news mishmash!
Ken Levine had an AMA on Reddit on Tuesday, in which he took some incredibly soft, er, softball questions about Bioshock Infinite and its upcoming DLC. I am not sure what exactly I expected – perhaps an apology? – but I left pretty disappointed. Actually, I sorta found myself feeling angry every time I read someone proclaiming that Infinite was their “favorite game ever.” I keep thinking: “No it’s not. The game taking place in your head bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual game you are playing.” Yes, there is an ontological difference.
I generally have no problem with people having different favorite games than me. If you liked Zelda: Wind Waker more than anything else in the world, good for you. And, hey, now you can buy the High Definition cel-shading version with 300% more bloom! And with basically all the extremely annoying shit you had to do back in 2003 tossed right out: your sailboat can go 50% faster, you don’t have to bother with changing the wind while sailing (pretty sad how exciting that sounds in a game called Wind Waker), and there is significantly less trolling the ocean floor for maps that lead you to pieces of the pieces of the Tri-Force, i.e. what you do for 60% of the game.
See? No judgment here.
I suppose I should be more accommodating for peoples’ favorite games, given how my top-list basically came out in 1997-1998. But, seriously, if Bioshock Infinite registered anywhere higher than Top 50 for you, I’m going to need you to play some other games because damn. It looked pretty and the soundtrack was awesome, but the gunplay and story… you know, it’s not worth it anymore. I’ve said my piece.
Let’s just smother that baby and pretend these paragraphs didn’t happen. ¹
Remember that not-Halo game Bungie was making? Me neither. Kotaku posted an article/video yesterday about how Bungie was coining the term “shared world shooter” for Destiny, and basically contrasting that with more traditional MMO player experiences. Which is actually a sort of interesting game design/philosophy argument when you think about it.
As the video points out, a game like Destiny or GTA: Online simply couldn’t work with 100s of players dicking around and causing mass mayhem. It got me thinking about how MMOs themselves manage to pull it off, and I realized that our extremely limited interaction capability is probably due to precisely this problem. The more people you put in one place, the less they are able to change or influence the environment, lest you spend your gaming hours traversing barren craters everywhere.
This is not a new subject by any means; I posted something similar way back in 2011 and the concept of TTP goes even further back (if not to cave paintings). The angle I had not considered was how ridiculous (and abusive) something like WoW would be if you could impact other players to degree you can in GTA: Online. Mount-jacking, being pushed off cliffs via collision-detection, and so on. Some sandboxes advertise these as features, of course, but I’m starting to wonder which one comes first. Like maybe you have to rely on player-driven content simply because players would just create a constant shitstorm in any sort of PvE content if they had to ability to directly
grief interact with others.
Getting back to Destiny… well, I’d rather not. Once I realized that they are basically making a non-cel-shaded Borderlands, my interest level plummeted. Just watch that E3 video again. Dungeons? Check. Bosses? Check. Random loot drops? Check. Raids? Check. It can still be fun, no doubt, and maybe they will be able to do some things better than Borderlands did. But the game is “Bungie’s Borderlands” to me now, and I am very much burned out from Borderlands 2 right now.
FF6 Coming to iOS/Android
I don’t have much to add to what’s already out there. Well, other than how I think it’s amusing how much these old properties are being mined for residual income in an environment that (I assume) is dominated by ROMs. Actually, it’s probably pretty smart in that even a relatively tech-savvy person like me balks a little bit at the steps necessary to play SNES games on my phone. Hell, I’m not even sure I want to play these games on my phone in the first place; my commute is a short drive and my breaks/lunches get filled pretty quickly via Feedly and Reddit all on their own. And even if I did want to play these games, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to play them using a SNES controller overlay on the touch-screen.
Although I have perked up a few times hearing that I could play Xenogears on the PSP and Vita, I just can’t envision a scenario in which I would be playing it and not be near either my computer or television. If I’m not playing ROMs on the computer right now, why would I be doing so on a handheld? Help me out here, people: when would you be playing these classics on portable devices?
Plus, you know, Sony is still selling 32gb memory sticks for $72 like it’s goddamn 2005.
¹ That’s a Bioshock Infinite joke. If you don’t get it, be thankful.
(Edit: MMO-Champ basically just posted the same goddamn thing. For the record, I wrote the below first, but since I schedule posts to go live at 7am the next day… FML. I want those 28 minutes back.)
So there was a 5.4 Developer Roundtable released on Monday that I am going to sum up for you because, really, nobody should have to sit through those same 28 awkward minutes that I already threw in a hole. I mean, technically, it’s even longer than 28 minutes because I actually paused and rewound the video to take some notes inbetween the cringes. Whenever Ion Hazzikostas talks, I get flashbacks of that one guy in raids – you know the one – where when he speaks, you just want to punch him in the throat and/or yourself in the ears. “Just… fucking say it and stop filling up space with your rhetorical flourishes, Christ!” And he’s a raid leader. Those poor bastards.
Pay it forward, people, pay it forward.
0:00 – 12:25: Time in a hole.
12:26: Lead Encounter designs states that Wrath of the Lich King “arguably” had the best raiding environment at any point in the game. I concur.
15:27: Flex raiding has exceeded Blizzard’s expectations. Out of the Flex raids, over 50% changed in raid size within the duration of the raid itself, e.g. people actually took advantage of the ability to gain/drop people on the fly. More interestingly, the devs stated that in the last week, more people did Flex raiding in NA/EU than did Scenarios. So either Scenarios aren’t as popular as I thought, or Flex raiding is bringing in a lot of new raiding blood.
16:28: “Will there be more zones like the Timeless Isle in the next expansion?” Yes. Timeless Isle will serve as a general template for endgame open-world zones from now on, although there might be a little more structure with goals that evolve over the course of weeks. “We are moving away from the dailies that we done in the past.” Also, more discoverable stuff as people level up.
17:40: “Can we expect any real solutions to (bag/bank) storage problems?” Inventory management is gameplay. But… possibly a toy closet. Also, heirlooms will be like pets/mounts somehow.
19:50: “Do you think you can do better to prevent stacking ranged damage in raiding?” Yes… but not really. The problem is fundamental design: all the fun raid mechanics like movement and target switching are naturally easier done at range. We are looking at ways to make melee more valuable and more fun to play.
21:16: “When will gnomes appear in cinematics?” Funny story: gnomes were not in the original WoW cinematic because they were not even in the game until the cinematic already had a storyboard and was in full production mode. Beyond that, there simply hasn’t been a particularly good time to show them off; all the subsequent cinematics have been to develop bosses of the expansion.
22:20: “5.4.1?” Yes. Major feature of the patch is a rework of the Recruit-A-Friend system. Supposedly more of it will be done in-game instead of game/email/web interface switching. Also, the reward will be a token you can use to choose from a menu of old/brand new mounts/pets.
23:37 – ????: Drink heavily.
Don’t say I never did anything for you.
All Hearthstone progress was wiped last Wednesday, and we are now Live for all intents and purposes; no further wipes are planned between now and (eventual) release. In addition to that news, a number of careful changes have been made to cards across the game. Perhaps too careful.
The full patch notes can be read here. Some examples:
- Gold gained in Play mode has changed from 5 gold per 5 wins to 10 gold per 3 wins.
- Arena rewards now give less dust and more cards.
- More gold is guaranteed at 5 & 6 Arena wins.
- At 9 Arena wins, you are now guaranteed an extra pack or a Golden card.
- Pint-sized Summoner – The cost reduction has been reduced from 2 to 1.
- Wrath can no longer be cast on heroes.
There are a few surprising changes in there. Going from 5g for 5 wins to 10g for 3 wins is rather huge. As in, “literally a 33% increase in gold” huge. While I still doubt grinding out an entire Arena Pass in a single day is particularly viable (or sane), it will likely allow you to get a free Arena after every three days of dailies instead of four without too much extra grinding. We’re talking six extra games on average across three days instead of, you know, fifty. Plus, the Arena rewards are supposedly better, with less dust and more goodies.
The card-specific buffs/nerfs run the gamut of expected to boggling. Pint-Sized Summoner got nerfed down to (1)-crystal cost reduction from (2), Defias Ringleader is no longer inexplicably a 2/3 creature, and so on. Druid cards got an unexpected nerf, with many of their otherwise-too-versatile direct damage spells being unable to hit players any more. Rogues can no longer pump up weapon with their hero power, which probably has more long-reaching consequences than appears at first.
Then again, maybe not.
See, when I was browsing for more commentary on the patch changes, I ended up finding what lies at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Take a look at these Youtube “reviews” for some of the top Hearthstone decks, if you dare: Miracle Rogue, Divine Paladin, Pyro-Smith Warrior. Now, it’s possible that the Miracle Rogue deck was disrupted a bit by the patch, but the point is that that is what the game can be boiled down to. And that, quite frankly, scares me.
I have no illusions regarding my own competence level or willingness to compete on some higher level. Winning is great, but I would much rather win as a result of a deck I created than copy & paste a top-tier deck and harvest some tears. The feeling might be a holdover from my Magic: the Gathering days where I had an absolute advantage over my high school friends because I was willing to eBay cards; where was the fun in burying your opponents (who are also, you know, your friends) under piles of money? Skill in the form of tactical moves to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or building decks that create esoteric, but functional combos is way more interesting to me.
These are the “Good Fights” that people like Gevlon despise, but at the end of the day, all you keep from your hours and hours spent playing videogames are memories. Will you remember winning those hundreds of games on Turn 5 against opponents who had no chance to survive make your time? Or will you remember the egde-of-your-seat victories and when you created an off-beat deck/strategy that actually worked in opposition to all logic and reason?
If you aren’t shooting the moon, you’re just killing time.
I finally beat Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep a few nights ago. It was… painful.
The DLC itself was fine – it is humorous and touching and has a lot of D&D/MMO jokes. What ended up happening with my situation though is that I completed the DLC on Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode, aka the highest difficulty (well, I guess it goes higher now). This decision was sort of cemented when one of the Treant mobs dropped The Bee, which is a legendary shield whose shield stats are kinda lame, but adds something like 50,000 damage per shot when you fire with full shields. Either intentionally or unintentionally, that extra 50k damage is added per bullet to my Double Penetrating Unkempt Harold (DPUK), which means mobs typically melted in the fury of 2+ million damage with each trigger pull.
Things got even more ridiculous when I acquired the Grog Nozzle, a quest gun that doesn’t deal a whole lot of damage by itself, but has a high chance of Slagging enemies (increasing subsequent damage by 200-300%) while also healing you for ~65% of the damage you deal with it equipped. Even more bizarrely, since it is technically a quest gun (that you can take anywhere) it doesn’t take up an inventory slot either.
The “painful” part to all this was simply playing the game at all. All non-legendary item drops were useless, especially any shields given how The Bee was pretty much required to deal damage. I did swap it out for a bit in a few areas, but I was leaning real hard on the DPUK to carry me through. Other weapons were pretty much a joke: dealing 32k/bullet damage is irrelevant to mobs with tens of millions of HP and the ability to regenerate health extremely quickly. At one point around level 54, I entertained the notion of going back to some of the DLCs to acquire some (upgraded) legendaries just to spice things up and not be shooting a pistol all day. The Sand Hawk would have been interesting, for example, as a submachine gun shooting bullets in the pattern of a bird flapping its wings. But that would mean extending my Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode stay in content I already seen twice now just to complete the current DLC after which I was likely to uninstall immediately.
All of this really struck home how important it is for games to have a smooth progression curve. Where I “screwed up” was hitting the level cap at the end of Mister Torgue’s DLC; thereafter I was stuck in a limbo of too-easy content on one side and content that’s designed to challenge the people who farmed legendaries at the old level cap. While I suppose the latter group needs catered to – especially given how they’re likely to be still playing, and thus willing to buy DLC – the end result is an extremely warped play experience. Your weapons are so strong because the enemies are ridiculous, and the ridiculous enemies makes your shields/HP basically irrelevant, which means you are awkwardly trying to dodge their melee/ranged attacks with generic movement, none of which really feels like Borderlands anymore.
By the way, calling it now: Borderlands 3 will have a more formal Dash/Dodge button, ala MMOs these days. If Gearbox doesn’t add this, it’ll be because they’re really dumb because goddamn precision movement is awkward and annoying right now for how much they require you to do it.
And have I mentioned that because the death penalty is a percentage of your wealth, that you end up losing $400,000 each time you respawn? There is also a few places with instant-death traps, which was
a lot of fun not at all fun. Granted, you can’t really purchase anything for $5,000,000, but that’s another whole issue entirely. It kinda makes even picking up and vendoring loot a waste of time.
The more I think about it, the more I come to understand that Borderlands 2 basically ends at level 50. A full playthrough of the vanilla game will end around level 35, and that was a fun experience. After that? Still sorta fun, but the “optimal” path was going straight through the story missions again, skipping all sidequests, until you hit 2.5 mode at level 50. Then you can safely do sidequests for the unique rewards that would stay useful. Increasing the level cap basically screwed over everyone that hit the old cap without legendaries, as you get left with a Faustian bargain of farming bosses for hours or doing DLC missions for no reward.
So if you haven’t played Borderlands 2 yet and are waiting for the GotY edition, that is my advice: play the vanilla game while doing everything, then the DLCs in order, and then pat yourself on the back and be done with it. You can get 120 hours (or more) of play time like I did, but the you’ll face some pretty ridiculous diminishing returns on both fun and sanity.
Tobold made a post the other day that got me thinking about the more philosophical angle of the differences between themepark and sandbox games. In the post, Tobold relates the common DM nightmare of players striking off on their own, plundering the crypt/castle/ruins before technically getting the quest to do so. While one solution is the Warhammer-esque “Bears bears bears” method (retroactive credit), Tobold went with “All roads lead to Rome” where he simply moved the quest-giver to where the players were going. As I mentioned in the comments to his post, the latter is not particularly innovative; WoW has had the occasional mid-quest updates since Cataclysm, and GW2′s Hearts are all location-based and automatic rather than relying on quest-givers.
The thought that struck me though, was this: at what point does a sandbox become a themepark?
Take, for instance, Darkfall. I don’t think anyone would claim that Darkfall is anything other than a sandbox. But it also has what amounts to “quests” in any other game: Feats. I suppose these are more similar to achievements than quests per se, but they are basically “Do X, Receive Y” activities that drive player behavior. Would having Feats tied to NPCs in a town or camp change Darkfall into a themepark? I don’t see why they would.
It seems clear to me that the difference between sandboxes and themeparks are the difference between player-motivated actions and developer-motivated actions. Do what you want in Darkfall, do Siege of Orgrimmar/Timeless Isle/LDR/etc in WoW. But I am starting to think that that line is a bit fuzzier than it is typically portrayed. “Do what you want in Darkfall, but farming X over in Y is more rewarding than Z.” How different is that really than themeparks? And isn’t it possible for someone to treat a traditional themepark MMO as a sandbox?
So, now I’m thinking that the line between these two paradigms really comes down to developer attitude regarding content. If the developers feel that they have to create the content themselves, it’s a themepark; if the developers let players amuse themselves, it’s a sandbox. Am I missing something critical? I mean, player housing and non-instanced dungeons are prototypical sandbox qualities, but a Darkfall without either is still a sandbox, right? And clearly the line is not drawn at the mere existence of quests or directed player activity either.
Are these themepark/sandbox distinctions more arbitrary than we have been led to believe?
October is shaping up to be a busy month.
Hearthstone is going to have its first (and only) beta wipe coinciding with a large rebalancing patch. And apparently more opt-in beta waves. Which is an important distinction from open beta, which this will not be. The good news is that there isn’t going to be any further beta wipes, so progression for those that are in the beta is going to be permanent thereafter.
The “rebalancing” is of most interest to me (of course), as Blizzard is going to have a thread a needle made out of graphene. I have talked about some of the imbalanced cards before, but the most salient point is that the devs do not have the same access to the balance “knobs” as they do in, say, WoW or Diablo 3. Hypothetically, making the Pint-Sized Summoner go from costing 2 mana to 3, for example, is an enormous balancing change that has wide-ranging repercussions on how (and if) the card is played at all. I would personally change the Pint-Sized Summoner to be a 1/1 or maybe a 1/2; the former makes it a dead draw against Mage and Rogue decks, but honestly, I don’t feel like an Arena game should revolve around whether you have a turn-2 removal spell in your opening hand. Maybe they could change it to be only 1 mana off the cost of creatures and leave the rest alone?
Speaking of digital card games, Hex will be beginning its Alpha testing on October 8th. To be honest, even with the weekly Kickstarter updates, I sorta forgot about the fact that I pledged $85 (!) to this game nearly 5 months ago. And even more honestly, Hearthstone kinda sucked all the oxygen out of the CCG room. For however lame its been to go 0-3 or my most recent 3-3 record in the Hearthstone Arena, at least I could choose to pay $0 for those games; going back to $6 drafts will be rough. The Alpha test will give everyone 4 copies of all PvP cards, so at least I won’t have to decide whether to “waste” all my Kickstarter packs before the game comes out (which hopefully dilute the skill pool a bit).
Although I have not been playing it regularly, PlanetSide 2 is due for a huge optimization patch on October 23rd. I’m not actually all that excited about it, even though the devs are supposedly touting a ~30% gain in frame rates across all types of computer configurations. Why? First of all, this optimization work is at the expense of everything else. Changes to the Infiltrator class? Pushed back. New air weapons pushed back. New continent pushed back. And so on.
A fire was clearly lit under someone’s ass about poor performance, but with players leaving in droves, I’m not sure that chasing after the ones that left over computer issues is a winning proposition. And that leads me to reason number two: it’s all really a cynical ploy to get the game ready for the PlayStation 4. “Cynical” as in they only bothered caring about performance nearly a year after release, and only when the opportunity to cash in on a new market presented itself.
I’m a little bitter, if you can’t tell. Every time I get the bug to go play some more of PS2, I hit Instant Action and am sent to some deserted facility that changed hands an hour ago. And when I do happen to find some action, it inevitably dies down quickly and I’m left staring at the 5, 10, 15 minute capture timer. “Open world” and “emergent gameplay” is nice and all, but when I end up playing longer on my phone waiting for something to happen in the main game, something has gone horribly wrong. Ain’t nobody got time to wait around empty bases.
Luckily for me, and rather unfortunately for Sony, Battlefield 4 comes out October 29th.
I am not really all that certain I will be purchasing it on Day 1, although I had a blast playing Battlefield 3 for the six or so months that I was doing so. Looking back in my archives, I didn’t really talk about my experiences with it all that much. Basically, I see it as PlanetSide 2 without the waiting. While BF3 is technically more similar to Call of Duty than a sort of “open world” like PS2, the reality is that all PS2 brings to the table (or my table, anyway) is the ability to hop into a vehicle or airplane without having to wait/steal it from someone else. Every single other thing is better in BF3 – the shooting, the graphics, the action, the tactics, the depth. Again, technically, PS2 can have deeper strategy via Outfits and the like, but to the average player in the average game session, BF3 can’t be beat.
I haven’t really been following the Battlefield 4 news all that closely, but I find it interesting that the new game modes are being heavily skewed towards Call of Duty. Not that CoD invented any of them, of course, but I am more referring to that sort of play-style. Domination, Defuse, Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, and Rush are all CoDish to me. Conquest is still there in all its glory though, and Obliteration sounds somewhat interesting with its hot potato gameplay. But sometimes I just feel like shooting people in the face, you know? So that’s probably okay. Plus, technically every game mode will be available in all 10 maps, so it is not as though you’re stuck in the same handful of maps for every Conquest game.
Also coming in October: Terraria‘s 1.2 Patch, Don’t Starve‘s final two content patches (October 1st and presumably the final one 3 weeks later), and I guess GTA Online.
Regarding the latter, I am, of course, holding out for the PC release.
Game: Dungeon Raid [Android]
Recommended price: $1.99 (full)
Metacritic Score: 80
Completion Time: 10+ hours
Buy If You Like: Match-3 games, Time Killing, 10000000
Dungeon Raid is a rather brilliant and addicting “Match 3″ roguelike game in the same sort of design space as 10000000. Whereas 10000000 focused on fast reflexes combined with steady progression, Dungeon Raid has a more tactical focus with only sporadic RPG-esque progression.
The first thing you’ll notice when playing is that there is no timer or other reason to rush. Additionally, while three is technically the minimum number you need to match to capture tiles, there is no limit on how long a chain can run. Even more interesting, you can capture/trace a path diagonally if you like, opening up many more opportunities to capture tiles.
The tiles themselves are relatively simple: potion, coin, sword, shield, and skull. At the end of each move, all the skulls on-screen will deal their damage to your armor and then your HP. You “capture” skull tiles by dealing enough damage to them to bypass their armor and reduce their HP to 0. The damage you deal is determined by your base attack and then increases by your weapon damage for each sword tile you cross; skulls and swords can be chained, of course. Potions tiles refill your HP, Shield your armor, and coins increase your wealth.
The RPG mechanics come in several forms. You earn XP mainly for killing Skulls, and each level lets you pick 2 of 4 random upgrades. Some of those upgrades will be special powers (max of 4) which can have impressive effects like turning all Coins to Swords, or getting an entirely fresh board (Teleport); once used, these skills take X number of turns to recharge. Capturing Shield tiles while already at full armor will increase an armor XP bar, which lets you chose 1 of 4 upgrade options for your current gear. Filling up the Coin “XP” bar will also let you upgrade gear.
Layered on top of all of this are the bonus/penalties that come from your class, your race, and what abilities you put in your pool to randomly pick from. Classes need to be unlocked by defeating boss Skull tiles, which have their own special abilities and necessary tactics. Sometimes they drop nothing but gold, sometimes they drop a new class item, and sometimes they drop class upgrade items instead. The higher level a class is, the more you can customize it by, say, turning your priest into an Orc for the racial bonus (etc). Nothing caries over inbetween games other than these class unlock/upgrade items though, so a run in which no boss drops a token is basically “wasted” (hence the “sporadic” progression). This does suck once you realize it, but the plus side is that you won’t be “beating” the game as quickly as 10000000.
All of this sounds complicated, sure, but it becomes intuitive and fun pretty quickly and ends up feeling more like FTL and Binding of Isaac than a typical phone game. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’ll break your heart when you lose +10 Regenerating, 30 Armor, +8 Poison Weapon toon. But you’ll immediately start again despite the fact that your lunch break ended two hours ago.
My gaming time, when I actually use it to game, is all over the place lately.
While the Currently Playing sidebar is technically correct, I find myself at the end of the day spending crazy amounts of time playing an Android game called Dungeon Raid. I think the problem is that my current gaming menu is full of open-ended loot games that lack otherwise meaningful progression. While I am genuinely interested in the Tiny Tina DLC storyline in Borderlands 2, for example, I have a hard time treating it like a “normal” game. Could I plow through the story missions and call it a day? Certainly. But… it’s DLC. Skipping the sidequests feels like a waste – especially when the sidequests in BL2 proper are usually hilarious/fun – and that goes double when they are DLC quests. I don’t feel the need to find all the secrets, but the sidequests? I need them all.
Of course, not all sidequests are created equal. Spending 15-20 minutes on some boring chores saps the motivation to go further. And while I largely solved the gun issue I had earlier, I am approaching the other side insofar as I suspect I should be playing this on Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode. Which means finding a Slag weapon. Which means more grinding. Sigh.
I thought I was done with Hearthstone, but I came slinking back in a moment of CCG weakness. Finally did an Arena as a Shaman. Went 0-3. And while I was mercilessly curb-stomped in all three games, on a certain level I just had to be impressed with the thoroughness. One of the games was against a Priest at 12 HP who Mind Controlled my 6/6 creature with Windfury one turn, and then followed up the next with a temporary Mind Control on my Taunt blocker and then cast a copy of Bloodlust from my own goddamn deck. I mean, Jesus Christ, man… good job. My secret Arena MMR must be setting me up against fucking top-decking wizards whereas I never even had an epic card available to pick from.
If that is really what’s going on – as opposed to a huge coincidence of pro players after 9pm – it’s definitely a strike against what I thought was an awesome innovation in Booster Draft gameplay. You always had “that guy” in your Magic Online drafting group, but there were at least even-odds that you’d face similar players first. Scrubbing out at 0-3 when you spent four days doing dailies to get enough gold to get it is demoralizing, to say the least. Is asynchronous Booster play worth it? I’m not so sure anymore.
Card Hunter is as it was (i.e. excellent), but I can’t seem to get any information as to whether the campaign is actually any longer than it was in the Beta. Because if it just sort of peters out at where it did, then I’m not sure purchasing the 30-day subscription/buying the Treasure campaigns is worth the $20 or whatever. And as both I and Tobold pointed out, you basically need to make that decision early on, as it decreases in value/usefulness pretty quickly.
Path of Exile is alright, but after wondering whether my minions build (think Diablo 2 Necromancer) would actually be useful at the higher levels – the boss battle I did a few days ago was an exercise in frustration when she one-shot my zombies and there were no more corpses to resurrect – I more or less metagamed a bit too deep. Once you see things like this, there is no going back. Which is somewhat literally true, since I already “wasted” a lot of my talent points and PoE is “old-school” when it comes to respecing. Even my more modest goal of acquiring a Summon Skeleton gem so my Witch isn’t left defenseless during bosses appears to be best achieved by rolling an alt and completing quests in Chapter 1.
So as I muse on which game I want to play that leaves me least hollow and empty on the inside, I fill the void with Dungeon Raid. Which is a roguelike akin to 10000000 minus the assured progression. But it’s shiny, it’s on my shiny phone, and it’s goddamn addicting in that Candy Crush way without microtransactions.
Yeah, I’m scared too.
The big news of the week has been Blizzard’s rather unprecedented decision to shut down the Diablo 3 AH in March of next year. While I suppose that the start of a new expansion is as good a time as any, I still find it interesting that they are bothering at all – a bit late to close those barn doors, yeah? Then again, I suppose with all the other changes they have made in the time since I stopped playing (a whole year ago?!), the “economy” has become more warped and functionally useless than before. Making it five feet in Act 2 Inferno used to require Resistance scores out the ass, but between the general elite nerfs, the player-decided mob-levels, and the Paragon system, you can probably make it through the game without buying anything.
You would still want to, of course. Even a child should be able to understand that a 5% chance at something good is worth less than buying exactly what you want from someone who was going to vendor the thing anyway. Or anyone playing the game for more than an hour during the open beta weekend, for that matter.
The question though, is what system will replace it? Apparently Blizzard feels it is Loot 2.0:
- New game modes including Loot Runs with guaranteed special item drops when successfully completed.
- Smart drops where a dropped item is guaranteed to roll the appropriate mainstat for the class that finds it.
- Fewer but better item drops, where players will see far fewer items, but the items (especially the rares) will have better stats.
- A new NPC Artisan, the Mystic who has the abiilty to reroll one selected affix on an item.
- Legendary (including Set Items) will get an across the board quality buff.
- Legendary items will drop more often, especially for lower level characters with guaranteed legendary drops from the first kill of many story/quest bosses.
- Legendary items will roll with less low-end variability, to reduce the likelihood that they are complete junk.
- Legendary items will gain variable item levels with stats scaling appropriately — current high level items legendaries will drop on lower difficulties and low level Legendaries will drop in the end game. All stats on these items will scale up or down to be appropriate for the level of the monster that drops them.
Item binding is going to be a key feature of Loot 2.0, with some of the found items, and most or all of the crafted items or items upgraded with the Mystic gaining BoA or BoE to restrict them from being traded or sold. Full details are not yet finalized.
I counted three instances of the word “guaranteed” in there. Not something I usually associate with Diablo games, but hey.
While the above is not an exhaustive list of the Loot 2.0 paradigm – I’m pretty sure that not even Blizzard knows what else they’ll toss against the wall before March – we can see the sort of trajectory taking shape. What is a huge unknown to me though, is what exactly Blizzard plans to do with all the gold left in the economy when the AH doors close. Will the Mystic be an expensive gold sink? That might work… but what about the people who haven’t stockpiled? Will the feature not be for them? Between that and the possible stockpiling of crafting materials, I almost have to assume that Blizzard plans a “currency reset” with the expansion, to go with the inevitable gear reset that comes with an increased level cap.
In any case, watching things play out this week has been interesting while playing Path of Exile on the side. I mentioned before that PoE has something more akin to a lore-based barter economy, but I am finding it even more interesting than before. Effectively, I find myself rolling my own loot back in town when I go to vendor things. Useful Magic/Rare/Unique items do drop out in the wild, but I am finding that the addition of colored gem slots adds another depressing layer of randomness to everything; a given item might be awesome for your class/build, but if it is replacing an item with a good spell-gem configuration, you might end up banking it instead. While there are “currency” items that can add/change sockets, I am finding it almost easier to hold onto normal items with good sockets and then spend my “money” turning that into a Magic/Rare item instead.
That can sort of happen in Diablo 3′s crafting system, but it lacks the granularity and impressive nuance that PoE brings to the table. Scrapping four items to get another shot at getting a useful fifth isn’t the same as being able to choose to reroll an item’s magic properties, adding a new property, adding sockets, adding connections between sockets, changing a socket’s color, and/or stripping the item clean and then possibly rerolling it into a Rare/Unique.
Can I also just mention how addicting just leveling in Path of Exile can be? It’s the standard sort of hack-n-slash, but since your gems can level up too, it feels like I “level” a half-dozen times every 30-40 minutes. “Getting kinda sleepy and I still have 8 bars before level 24. Oh, wait, there’s like a centimeter left on my Raise Zombie gem XP bar. Hmm… let’s go clear out the NW corner.”
But, yeah, loot systems. Borderlands 2 is feeling pretty archaic right now in comparison.