Important Stuff!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Smurfs, or, "Ethical issues caused by tiny blue people."

Once upon a time games had no matchmaker systems; you joined, you played...sometimes you had even teams and the game was plenty of fun! Other times you had the advantage and got to "ROFLstomp" (a technical term) the other team, and the rest you were the one being ROFLstomped. Eventually enough vocal players decided that they didn't like this paradigm; they didn't like that the majority of their games were becoming either the latter or former...either due to opponents that were not challenging, or opponents that they had no chance against. So developers stepped up and introduced ELO and other history-based matchmaking systems in an attempt to encourage more of those "even" games. This has not been without its consequences, especially for free-2-play games.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fun > Realism? Or the other way around?

This dichotomy seems to permeate every media, but lately I've heard it more and more in the realm of video games. The argument takes many sides, and thankfully the wide market can often accommodate both in other forms...sci-fi fans have hard sci-fi for those who want scientific accuracy and soft sci-fi for those more interested in the fantasy or philosophical. In video games, the prohibitive cost of triple A titles tends to mean that they are rarer and the variation more sparse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seen but not heard, or, "Introducing 'Quiet'."

So the Metal Gear Solid series has an interesting history with female characters. For the most part it has been around the middle of the pack...or at least, it has not been among the egregious offenders. I think generally Hideo Kojima has good intentions with his design, but...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Love-Hate Relationship with ARAM (All Random All Mid)

So the budding craze among the MOBA scene is the new game-mode called ARAM, or All-Random All-Mid. Short version is that everyone picks a random hero, then everyone goes to the middle lane and dukes it out. Originally this came from DotA in which it was just a tacit agreement amongst the players to honor that rule, but now that it's sort of caught fire because of its emphasis on team-fights other MOBAs such as League of Legends and SMITE have adopted it. Both have created maps specifically for ARAM gameplay to help enforce the previously oral rules. Because the game is random and focuses more on team-fighting, I can stand it much more than the traditional MOBA gameplay. I'm not stuck in a lane alone or with a single other person and more or less entirely at fault if things go south. Lower stress = Happier Clockwork. The problem is ARAM is not without is issues...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Timely and Responsive Patching!? Not in my Game Industry!

These days a game can often go on for weeks or months in a "broken" state in which exists some serious imbalance. Planetside 2 players right now would probably agree that aircraft are in an especially bad place right now, but SOE has no plans to fix them until the next major patch. Developers seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place; letting the imbalances sit can drive away players that are affected by them, but knee-jerk patching and repairing could cause even more problems.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Marvel Heroes - 10 Hour Review

Just a few days ago Marvel Heroes, a new free-to-play Action RPG in the style of Diablo, released on Steam. Marvel Heroes is being put out there by Gazillion Entertainment, most notable for being lead by David Brevik, one of the three founders of Blizzard North of Diablo fame. While it's release was rocky (though I have yet to see a game have a smooth one) and marred by crashed servers and client issues, at this point it seems to be fairly stable (in my time of playing I have not encountered any problems).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lessons from Games (SMITE) #1: All Goddesses wore heels

Apparently I am on a bit of a feminist kick but the topic was too good to pass up. Today's lesson comes from SMITE, Hi-Rez's (of Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend fame) foray into the MOBA genre. For this they decided to use various gods, spirits, and heroes from religions worldwide (though not from Judeo-Christian religions, we wouldn't want to offend anyone....that we might know). Unflapped by the potential risk of offending the billions of Hindus, Taoists, or Greek polytheists (and others) out there, Hi-Rez has given its art department the monumental task of making every single female god a "10/10, would bang". I've mocked League of Legends before, but I admit, even Riot is making improvements (reworking Sejuani, adding Quinn, etc)...while Hi-Rez is setting new lows.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Goblin fixed sexism!

Obviously the title is meant facetiously. While I have a respect for the knowledge of everyone's favorite goblin with regards to making money in games, I fear this time he's let his ego pull him unprepared into a new arena he is unfamiliar with. Here is the link to his post, and here are the links to the Tropes vs. Women videos he refers to.

Trigger warning: Mentions of rape jokes. Murder. War

Be warned, the post below is quite long, and sadly does not lend itself to a tl;dr any better than what I said above.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cheapness, Part 2

"That move is cheap!"

I said it before, you've said it before, we've all been there...bested by some tactic or move we couldn't get around. To some players, there is no such thing; so long as the player can do it, then it's fair. I take a different stance. There are "cheap" things, but the claim is often a knee-jerk reaction to not understanding what someone just did. Cheap tactics usually fall within the rules of the game, but are often of the type that most players do not want to engage in for one reason or another. Some players attest that nothing is cheap, that so long as it is within the rules that everything is allowed. In a literal sense, this might be true, but that doesn't mean that the accused act should be within the rules.

Lets apply this to video games, being as its my main focus here. Video games are a special kind of beast; where developers can, at will, change the rules.

If there is no such thing as cheap in video games, then what is the purpose of a balance patch? If you think about it, all a balance patch really is, is a list of admissions by the developers of the things that are "cheap". They are abilities, units, moves, depending on the game, that are cheap or otherwise over-performing. Sometimes, things are broken, sometimes moves are being abused. We don't even need to be able to perfectly define something to consider it cheap; we have referees in sports who make determinations based on evidence, we can have them in e-sports.

The gist, the moral, if you will, is that things CAN be cheap.

How do we tell? Are a disproportionate number of players using this item/move/ability/class/character? Is it basically mandatory at the higher end of player? Is there adequate counter-play with similar risk-reward profiles? These questions are not exhaustive, but should give you the idea that the main question is whether the risk/reward of whatever is in question is out of sync with the rest of the game.

Viewers of all competition love risk/reward; we love seeing poker players go all in on a bluff, of watching a football team throw a Hail Mary on a 4th and long, a designer trying a new and different image...the situation can be found anywhere. As players, this should be our same emphasis, we want to gauge risk, and reap rewards as appropriate.

As a result, I think it is important to be able to differentiate between the knee-jerk "That's cheap!" and genuine criticism, and it's never easy, but not good for a community or game to outright dismiss it.