Blog Archives

Tank One for the Team

I have been following Overwatch’s “one-trick pony” debacle off-and-on for a few months now. The official word is that no one gets banned for picking just 1-2 heroes and ignoring the team composition. The unofficial word is that you should be banned for not picking a character that best helps the team. Several Top 500 players seemingly get banned for one-tricking, and Gevlon sees a conspiracy to sell lootboxes.

Thing is, the overall system is such a shitshow that I almost agree with Gevlon that there has to be a conspiracy. The alternative is that the designers A) have never participated in a school project in their life, B) never played WoW, and/or C) never played their own damn game for 5 minutes.

See, the problem is this:

We built Overwatch around the concept of teamwork, and we believe the game is much more fun for everyone in a match when we’re picking heroes that contribute to the overall success of the team. At times, this means we’ll be playing our mains; other times, we should be trying to help the team by choosing heroes that round out the team’s composition. We won’t be actioning you if you only play your main, but we also don’t believe this is the ideal way to play Overwatch—especially in competitive settings.

Imagine the following: you are playing WoW and you hit the queue button for Looking For Dungeon. After a minute or so, you zone into the dungeon with five other people. As you stand there looking at one another, you have 40 or so seconds to figure out who is going to be the tank, who the healer, and who the DPS. Oh, and the dungeon itself has a time limit, and the bosses will change based on the classes and specs you choose. Good luck!

It’s an absurdity in a MMO-like setting, but the designers actually think it works in Overwatch. And it does for a bit, because there are X number of people who are willing to take one for the team and choose a character they don’t like to play in order to give the team composition a chance at success.

A team composition that was not chosen as a team, mind you, but rather by the whims of whoever insta-locked the DPS first. So in order to have a chance at winning, you have to reward the selfish behavior of others. And let me tell you, there is nothing more toxic than the feeling you experience when you take one for the team and the team loses.

Possible solutions are relatively straight-forward:

  • Allow players to queue for roles (Tank, Healer, DPS, Flex)
  • Create in-game Guild or Clan functionality, so players can organize themselves
  • Only allow premades in Competitive modes
  • Do nothing, while tacitly admitting your failure as a designer

Thus far, the Overwatch team is decidedly choosing the last option.

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Dungeon Run Strategy

I had a much longer article started on the various strategy considerations one needs to ponder in order to clear Hearthstone’s Dungeon Run game mode with all nine classes. Then I realized that perhaps a TL;DR version might be better. So here it is:

Passive Buff:

  • Captured Flag (+1/+1 to your minions)
  • Cloak of Invisibility (permanent Stealth)

Treasure:

  • Wax Rager (5/1 Deathrattle: resummon)
  • The Candle (4 damage to enemy minions, reshuffle into deck)

You can win without this combination of passives and treasures, and you can absolutely lose even if you get all of them. Dungeon Runs are the typical Hearthstone clown fiesta of RNG cranked to 11. But the short version is that giving all your minions +1/+1 allows you to counter a ton of boss gimmicks, permanent Stealth bypasses targeted removal and bad trades, and Wax Rager can usually win the game on the spot with infinite value.

As far as deck composition, you will want two things: creature-based tempo plays and an emergency value generator. Spells are incredibly discouraged in Dungeon Runs, as Boss health generally makes it impossible to kill them before getting overwhelmed yourself, and several Bosses actively punish spell use. At the same time, it’s possible to run out of gas if you’ve been trading all game, and bosses have more cards than you do. In those cases, having an Antonidas or Lyra can pull you from the brink. Those value cards just can’t be your win condition themselves, as they are much too slow versus the bosses that win on Turn 5.

And… that’s basically it.

If you’re looking for tips regarding specific classes, it can basically be summed up as:

  • Shaman/Druid/Rogue: Picks Jades.
  • Everyone Else: RNGesus will guide you home

Priest was by far the worst class for me, although Shaman cut it close. In both cases, the starting deck is just bad, so you have to lean hard on getting good Passives/Treasures and strong card picks after each boss. I had perfect picks in half a dozen of my Priest runs, and it still took a total of 15 attempts before I squeaked by. Even then, the winning run was due Lyra giving me a Power Word: Glory, which I was able to leverage into an incredibly unlikely win versus Waxmancer Sturmi as he repeatedly copied the enchanted Sylvanas.

 

[Hearthstone] Seriously, Blizzard?

The latest round of Hearthstone nerfs have been announced ahead of the set rotation, and they’re great… if it was 2016.

HS_Patches

The biggest news in there is the nerf to Patches, a card that was released in December 2016 and has been a meta-defining, chase Legendary ever since. Blizzard has acknowledged his power several times, but their explanation for the timing is… well…

As we move closer to the new Hearthstone Year, we had some concerns about allowing Patches to remain in his current state after moving out of Standard. Patches’ strength has caused almost every class to add some Pirates just to benefit from him, and his early game power forces control decks to include a good answer to him. This change should give Wild players more flexibility when building their decks.

What the literal shit, man? Can that be read any other way than “we are fine with Patches’ current state in Standard”? I mean, obviously they were fine with the card’s broken state up to this point as evidenced by a lack of any nerf for over a year. But to me, this just says that Blizzard genuinely believes that card set rotations should be the arbiter of balance in this game. And that’s fucking nuts.

Granted, Corridor Creeper is also getting deleted from the game nerfed in this upcoming patch. That does not particularly make me feel any better though, because A) how they nerfed it, and B) what they didn’t nerf. All Corridor Creeper needed was to only count your minions, rather than every minion. Hell, most of the pros that previewed the card felt like it was Epic trash because they read it that way to begin with. Instead, they turned it into literal garbage that you will be very disappointed to open in a pack after February. Meanwhile, no changes to Cubelock or Ultimate Infestation, etc etc.

Why does any of this matter given the clown fiesta that is Hearthstone’s RNG? Well, I still like playing the game occasionally. And really, the RNG does not particularly bother me – sometimes it’s in your favor, sometimes it’s not. The more fundamental problem is Blizzard’s current balance philosophy undermines any faith I have in the game’s long-term direction. Set rotations are not how you balance a goddamn game… unless the entire goal is pump & dump. Sell those packs to people chasing overpowered Legendaries/Epics and then nerf them later so the next set appears just as OP as the last. Otherwise known as the Supercell Gambit (Clash Royale says Hello).

It’s all cynical, unnecessary bullshit. These are supposed to be games, not vehicles for quarterly profits. I mean, they are that too, but I shouldn’t have to open the latest expense report to understand what the designers are smoking and where they are taking the game’s direction.

It Worked

The final (?) chapter of my GTA 5 woes has come to its end.

After uninstalling the “corrupted” GTA 5 installation, I emailed GameBillet to ask them to reinstate their download page that I had brief access to when I originally bought the GTA 5 key from them. From there, I committed myself to downloading 30 individual 1.9 GB files from their servers.

Nothing (other than Steam) is ever that simple though. The first problem I encountered was the fact that Chrome would hang on 100% download completion without actually “finishing” the file. This was not a GTA 5-specific issue, but rather something I have been experiencing for the past month or two with Chrome, even on 125 KB downloads.

Chrome_Stop

Ain’t nobody got time for that. Except for me.

To ensure this would not be a factor, I ended up reinstalling Firefox and downloading from there. This prevented the hung downloads, but Firefox was unable to handle downloading more than six files at a time, so that is what I limited myself to.

The next issue was that after a day of this, I couldn’t log into my GameBillet account, and the “forgotten password” request couldn’t be completed because it stated that my email account didn’t exist. Pretty goddamn strange considering I had two emails from their support team not four days ago. Luckily, I was able to find the original email that contained the download links, so I could still download direct from there.

The final boss, as in most RPGs, was somewhat of a let-down. Having downloaded all the .bin files, I had to run the installer to combine them. Which meant duplicating the 60 GB files on my SSD because of course. After deleting some other games I doubt I’d ever play again (or at all), I logged into Rockstar’s shitty Social Club interface…

…and had to download a 2 GB patch. At 200 kb/s. Fine. I made the time.

Then, the moment of truth.

GTA5_Success1

Never felt so good driving around a corner.

It worked. It really worked. I was able to get to and through the 2nd mission. I didn’t play for much longer beyond that point, but at least I did not run into the exact same breaking point as before, and that’s something.

While this remains another example of my parsimony biting me in the ass, I don’t really blame GameBillet in this scenario: I blame Rockstar and every game maker with their own shitty download client. If Social Club downloaded at more than 200 kb/s, I wouldn’t have had to use a VPN and it wouldn’t have corrupted my files. The real lesson learned here is that Steam fucking earns their 30% cut, and Rockstar is going to eat that cut every goddamn time from here on out.

The Curse that Keeps Cursing

Hey, do you recall the travails associated with my attempting to install GTA 5 through Rockstar’s shitty “Social Club” nonsense? Well, I finally decided to quit hesitating and go ahead and start playing the game.

Oh, wait, there’s a 1 GB patch to download first. At 200 kb/s, again. I think the most baffling part of this – besides the fact that I can use a VPN to magically make the download go back to 2 mb/s – is how it says it is downloading at 200 kb/s, but literally nothing else will load properly. I tried to load Google to see if this shit got fixed somehow else, but Google literally timed out. So whatever the launcher is doing, it is doing so badly to effectively kill the entirety of my internet.

With everything downloaded (via VPN), I finally booted up the game. And it worked through the tutorial and the first few missions. Then… it didn’t:

GTA5_1

Really? Really?

I was on the way to repo a motorcycle in the game, passed some invisible line, and the entire game crashes with that error. After several repeated experiments, it appears the crashing is related to either loading a cutscene that would trigger in that area of town, or simply loading that section of town. Either way, the game is functionally useless because I cannot progress past this point.

I looked online for solutions, and the culprit is likely some kind of corrupted file. Which, per the source, can occur if the original download is interrupted. Hmm. Where have I…

The one “quirk” with this “solution” is that Ultrasurf cycles through various proxy servers at certain intervals, which technically interrupts the download. For the most part, the GTA 5 launcher will pause and then resume the download no problem. After 5-10 cycles of this though, it will stop the download entirely, forcing you to press Retry to get it moving again. I’m not in a particular mood to babysit this download for eight real-time hours, so I had to look for another solution.

Enter Advanced Mouse Auto Clicker 4.0

…oh.

There is no official way to check for corrupted files via Social Club’s launcher, for the record. I ended up finding a Reddit thread talking about downloading and creating a goddamn Python script to check your files. Which I did so, and everything came back OK. Found a slightly more up-to-date list to add to the script, but still no errors. Rockstar themselves suggests uninstalling and reinstalling.

Fuck. That. Shit.

Honestly, at this point, I’m sorely tempted to chalk the whole thing up as a total loss. As in, deleting GTA 5 and just never playing it. I mean, technically I can wait for another year or whatever and try and snag the game in a Steam-specific sale and be done with it that way. But I’m already out $28, so there is no “deal” possible in this scenario.

There is one other scenario in which I might salvage this situation: I contacted the retailer to re-enable a direct download of the individual installation pieces of the game. My hope is that it won’t download at 200 kb/s, and thus I can download sans VPN and without mid-download micro-interruptions. There is no guarantee that it will work, and shit is already annoying as hell, so this may just be another variation of Sunk Cost Fallacy.

But Christ Almighty, have I learned my lesson. Some people might cry about Steam being a monopoly, but if Steam is a monopoly, it is precisely because of the incompetence of everyone else. It has literally been 5-10 years since I’ve remembered that I’m a PC gamer. You know, that unfortunate kind of gamer who can buy shit that doesn’t work out of the goddamn box. Who else would put up with that?

This is Why People Pirate Things

You might have read that I picked up Grand Theft Auto 5. You might also have heard that “Rockstar Social Club” is Rockstar’s laughably bad, Origin-esque attempt at creating a platform for their, like, two games or whatever. Why not just use Steam (which they are also on)? Probably because they must be digging through the couch cushions for quarters, given how they already cut corners on their goddamn server technology.

Case in point:

Party like it's 1999.

Party like it’s 1999.

I knew the download was big (60gb), so I started it overnight. I woke up to that. 230 KBs? You’re telling me I have to leave my computer on for three days straight to finish a download? My Steam games download at 1.2 MBs on average. It’d be one thing if I were trying to download from a small outfit or whatever, but this shit is a clown show. “It’s after Black Friday and everyone is downloading at the same time, overloading the servers.” You know who doesn’t have this problem? Steam. Blizzard (minus Diablo 3 launch). Pirate Bay. Any semi-intelligent network engineer who can plan ahead.

I mean, seriously, after seeing that speed I started researching to see if I could just download a pirated copy and sign in with a legit account at the end. That was when I found this Youtube video talking about a program called Ultrasurf. Downloaded, launched it, and picked my jaw up off the floor:

GTA5_Download2

The one “quirk” with this “solution” is that Ultrasurf cycles through various proxy servers at certain intervals, which technically interrupts the download. For the most part, the GTA 5 launcher will pause and then resume the download no problem. After 5-10 cycles of this though, it will stop the download entirely, forcing you to press Retry to get it moving again. I’m not in a particular mood to babysit this download for eight real-time hours, so I had to look for another solution.

Enter Advanced Mouse Auto Clicker 4.0:

Embrace the Dark Side.

Embrace the Dark Side.

Just so we’re clear, I had to download a proxy server program that can supposedly defeat the Great Firewall of China, then set up an auto-mouse clicker program that checks to see if the Pause button changes into the Retry button. Just to fucking download my legitimate copy of GTA 5. I mean, sure, I could have bought it from Steam and paid an extra $9 to get a stable download. Or I could have paid nothing and got a stable download from Pirate Bay.

HMM. I wonder what I might be more inclined to do next time?

Rant over.