Innovation through core-shell design
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 November 2014, 1:54 am
I have in the past repeatedly talked about my general model for modern games: A core gameplay that is frequently repeated (e.g. combat), with a shell of other activities (e.g. quests, story) binding those core gameplay elements together. One of the interesting things of this model is that if you look at many different games, you'll notice that the core and the shell are not very strongly connected; you can switch out just one of them to get to a new game, while keeping the other identical. One example would be MMORPGs which generally work like World of Warcraft, but which substituted the WoW core combat by some sort of action combat.

That can lead to quite innovative games if you look far beyond typical game elements for a specific genre, and substitute either the core or the shell of a game by something from a very different genre. This weekend I played Rollers of the Realm, a game with a traditional fantasy shell in which the core combat gameplay has been replaced by a pinball game: Your characters are pinballs of different sizes and attributes. Your healer heals the flippers by bumping into mana, your knight damages enemies by bumping into them, your rogue deals more damage if he bumps into the enemy from behind, and so on. It is not a very huge game, I've completed it in 10 hours, but as it only costs 8 Euros ($10?) that is quite okay. At least it was a very new and unique gameplay experience, and we don't get very many of those any more these days.

Usually it is easier to take a game and replace the core gameplay. But some combinations of core and shell have become so traditional that switching to a different shell can also work. Another game I played this weekend is the somewhat mediocre Battle of Littledom, a fantasy game with core combat gameplay similar to the Final Fantasy series. But instead of a more traditional questing and character management shell, the devs used the shell gameplay from games like Puzzle & Dragons, where you collect characters, fuse them together to gain more levels, and evolve them into stronger characters. Puzzle & Dragons uses this shell with a core match-3 gameplay, but there are games that use the same shell for a trading card game (Elemental Kingdoms) core, or even a carnival coin dozer core (Dragon Coins).

I think there could be more innovative games with unusual combinations of already existing core and shell game elements. I'm still waiting for somebody to make my 10-year old Shandalar project come true, a MMORPG using trading cards for combat.
Tobold's Blog



The Ubisoft formula versus the Blizzard formula
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 November 2014, 4:02 am
This year there has been some discussion in gaming circles about the "Ubisoft formula" for making an open world game. It is basically a recipe that is shared by various Ubisoft games, from the Assassin's Creed series to Watch Dogs, and which has become so well-known that even open world games that aren't from Ubisoft, like Shadow of Mordor, have been shown to conform to that formula. Meanwhile a lot of pundits seemed somewhat confused about what to make of Blizzard's latest announcement of a new brand, Overwatch. Why is Blizzard making a multi-player shooter? Blizzard isn't know for making multi-player shooters, or even just shooters, so why Overwatch?

I do believe that Blizzard has a formula as well. And I would say that it is a much better formula than what Ubisoft has. While the Ubisoft formula allows you to churn out a large number of largely identical games with new coats of paints, the Blizzard formula leads a collection of very different games. Blizzard's formula is taking whatever genre is currently popular and then applying great craftsmanship to that genre, basically trying to make the best possible game of that genre.

That is the secret sauce that game companies making WoW clones for a decade never understood. World of Warcraft isn't successful because it is highly original or the first of its kind or has a specific set of features. World of Warcraft is successful (and currently growing by 3 million players again) because it took a known concept from games like Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot and simply perfected it. Everything just works in a Blizzard game, notwithstanding occasional errors of judgement like the Diablo 3 real-money AH. Blizzard removes barriers to entry and makes games more accessible for a larger audience. And as larger audience means larger income, they get filthy rich in the process.

The ability to look at existing games, find out what exactly makes them tick, find out what doesn't work, and produce a better version is what makes Blizzard so successful. It is the reason why Blizzard is the market leader in MMORPGs, and not for example SOE or Mythic. It is the reason why Blizzard is the market leader in online trading card games, and not Wizards of the Coast. It is the reason why Blizzard is the market leader in real-time strategy games, and not Westwood Studios. And it is the reason why Riot Games should be nervous when Blizzard makes a MOBA, and Valve should be nervous when Blizzard makes a multi-player shooter. It is extremely likely that the Blizzard version of any game is better than the original, because it is SET OUT to be better than the original. Blizzard isn't making "me too" games, they are in the business of finding and polishing raw diamonds.

And who knows, maybe one day Blizzard will make an open-world game that makes Ubisoft look like amateurs.
Tobold's Blog



State of the blog address
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 November 2014, 3:29 am
This used to be "Tobold's MMORPG Blog", but I dropped the "MMORPG" a good while ago. Nevertheless until this year I still considered myself somewhat as a MMORPG player. I don't know if it is just me or the state of the genre, but this year made me lose interest in MMORPGs in a big way. I found the Elder Scrolls Online (played beta) and Wildstar (played beta and release) hugely disappointing. Blizzard sent me 7 free days of WoW earlier this month, before WoD came out, I logged into the game, and found my guild screen saying that on a Saturday night I was the only character out of 586 guildies logged in. That killed the last bit of interest I had in maybe buying the expansion, so this will be the first WoW expansion I'm giving a miss. There is currently no MMORPG out or announced that I currently would want to play. When Wildstar today sent me 7 free days to explore their new "epic, multi-part story designed specifically for solo players", I just snickered and ignored the mail. I'm out!

Now as you might have noticed I am sometimes writing about Dungeons & Dragons. But I wouldn't consider this to be D&D or tabletop role-playing blog either. I mean, MMORPG bloggers are weird, but pen & paper RPG bloggers are a completely different league of weird. I can barely read some of those blogs, especially the so-called OSR blogs. There are endless arguments about how tabletop RPG rules should be "realistic simulations". And not just of real world things like swords and armor. No, people seriously discuss the "realism" of elven racial stats or wizard fireballs. Very few people care about things like whether the game mechanics work or are balanced. Instead most people waste endless time with pseudo-scientific arguments about why their preferred class would be much more realistic if it was a lot more powerful. Not a community I really want to engage in discussion with.

I still play a lot of other games, both on the iPad and on the PC. But I don't always feel the need to write about them. Many modern games, especially the so-called triple-A variety, have perfected the game experience to something almost cinematic. And it is the same cinematic experience for everybody. Even in a purportedly "open world" game the experience that two different players have of the game is very similar. Everything is broken down into very small, easily manageable tasks. When "Le Morte d'Arthur" was written, a "quest" was something you'd expected to last most of your life. Today a quest is "walk 10 meters and click on something, then come back for your reward". In the right situation that can be enjoyable to play, but it isn't really something to write about.

I am not a paid journalist or writer with a certain number of words to write for a certain deadline. I write when I have something to say. And right now I don't have much to say. So don't be surprised if this blog isn't updated daily any more. 
Tobold's Blog



The Favorites of Selune - Skin Deep - Session 6
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 November 2014, 10:27 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune were on the way to a beholder's cave with a magical spring which would turn them back into their real form, but turned back after a fight with a troglodyte patrol. So in this session they made a second attempt and actually arrived at their destination. The cave was behind a chasm, with only a small ledge giving access. So the rogue passed the ledge, and silently sneaked forward to scout. He was lucky and didn't get detected, so he was able to describe the beholder's cave and its inhabitants to the others. The beholder had in fact created the cave with his disintegrate ray to fit his purposes, and was guarded by four troglodyte champions. While creating the cave he had struck the underground water stream of the magical source, and the water was coming down like a shower on the far side of the cave.

The rogue returned over the ledge, and to help the others arranged with the fighter that each of them would hold one end of a rope, the rogue would pass the ledge, and with two people holding the rope stretched it would be easier for the others to pass the ledge. However that plan was done hastily, and the rogue never told the fighter that he'd expect him to also use the rope to keep him safe while he traversed the ledge. So promptly the rogue failed his acrobatics check and fell into the chasm for significant damage, with the rope just being held loosely at the other end. At least it was easy to climb out again from that. :)

After a better second attempt the group made it across the chasm, and lined up in the tunnel to the cave according to a battle plan they had made. And that plan worked surprisingly well: The dwarven fighter went in first, using a power to pull all troglodytes around him, plus a daily power that damaged everybody starting his turn next to him. The priest burned the thus assembled troglodytes with a column of flame. And everybody else was concentrating their fire on the troglodytes before going for the beholder.

Now on paper the beholder fight was a lot tougher than the fight against the troglodyte patrol in the previous session. But the beholder was the creature from the chaos realm that the Favorites of Selune had unleashed on the world in a previous adventure. Being chaotic the beholder never concentrated his fire, but instead used two (later three) random eye rays on random targets. That was sometimes annoying, but ultimately too dispersed to really be a grave danger. The priest used an at-will power that gave additional saving throws, making the various status effects of the eye rays much less efficient. There was one dangerous moment where a sleep ray threatened to render the priest unconscious, but he used his divine chance power for a bonus and then managed to roll exactly as high as he needed to not fall asleep.

During combat the sorceress stepped under the magic spring shower and got transformed back into her real form. Just as in the previous transformation all her belongings changed size as well, except for the tabard that they had just received from the svirvneblin, and which now looked more like a bib. As the transformation had cost the sorceress a minor action (and messed up her plans for that round), nobody else went under the transformation shower voluntarily during the fight. But the priest who at some point stood close was pushed into the shower by an eye ray power of the beholder. And the priest was among those of the group who had freed the beholder previously. So the beholder offered them a truce, like the last time, which this time the heroes refused.

Once the troglodytes were dead, the beholder fell relatively quickly. The group found his treasure of gold and a magic bandanna, and they all transformed back into their human/elf/halfling form with the help of the magic spring. At this point we ended the session.
Tobold's Blog



The beginning of the end for sequels?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 November 2014, 2:44 am
If you follow PC games news you probably heard about the bad reception that the latest Assassin's Creed sequel got. And I am beginning to feel as if that is part of a trend. The latest The Sims sequel, the latest Civilization sequel, the latest Borderlands sequel, the latest Call of Duty sequel, they all didn't get very high review scores. And the list this year goes on and on. Very few sequels this year were really greeted with a lot of enthusiasm. And even the best got remarks like being just more of the same of a still popular formula. Even some new games like Shadow of Mordor got some nasty remarks about being sequel-like and not really original.

In May of this year Steam was found to have already released more games in the first 5 months of 2014 than in the whole of 2013. Steam used to be more similar to a physical games store, with mostly triple-A games most prominently displayed on the limited shelf space. But this year the long tail has really come forward, and on some days the Steam sales charts are dominated by a $10 indie game, or a $20 JRPG which is a port of a 6-year old console game.

Sequels in games are what brands are in clothing. Given the risk of buying something of bad quality, people like buying stuff that carries a familiar name, because that way they think they know what they will be getting. Of course that only works as long as the sequel actually delivers the same quality as the earlier games of the same brand. And at some point playing always the same formulaic type of gameplay gets boring and people want something completely different. Between YouTube Let's Play videos and Steam curator lists recommending some much cheaper games, buying the latest $60 sequel isn't the only option with a pseudo-guarantee of quality any more.

Botching a sequel of a triple-A game can have serious financial consequences. There will always be sequels that earn millions, but it appears as if many series hit a point where the name on the box doesn't help sales all that much any more. Players are spoiled for choice, and there is only so much money and so much time for games around. Rushing a game out in time for the holiday sales and skipping quality control is not something you can still get away with. A brand name is a form of capital that shouldn't be wasted. Game companies better rethink their strategies for sequels before they do irreparable harm to their brand names and their finances.
Tobold's Blog



Rewards and consequences
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 November 2014, 2:26 am
I bought Valkyria Chronicles on Steam yesterday, a new PC release of an old console game. I like it, it is a good mix of tactical combat and strong storytelling. But after three or so battles I noticed something about the game mechanics that made me restart the game and play those battles again in a very different way. And I'm not sure that I am happy about that new way to play.

The problem is that in Valkyria Chronicles you get a HUGE amount of bonus xp and currency for finishing battles as quickly as possible. Not for killing all enemies or protecting your soldiers, no, for pure speed. Suicide rushes are the best possible tactic. And the rwards you get for that are a game changer. The xp bonus for finishing a mission in record time is twice the base xp, so by rushing you level up three times as fast than if you take it slow.

There are several points about this which make me think that this is bad game design. One is that by making one way to play clearly superior, you give players less options to play their way. The other is that you punish those who persist in trying to play their way. They slowly fall behind in levels until they are way behind the curve and face enemies that are too strong for them. I haven't seen any repeatable fights yet which would allow me to grind xp to catch up if I didn't do well in the earlier battles. Basically you are supposed to save your game before the battle, play it once badly and see the scripted events, then reload and play it better.

I'm all for achievements and badges that encourage you to play well in games. But in a long, linear game if instead of fluff rewards you give out rewards that make you significantly stronger for playing "well", or in a way the devs intended, you get a very perverse effect: You make the game easier for those already playing well, and you make the game harder for those who already have trouble. Shouldn't that be the other way around? Provide more challenge for the stronger players, and boost the weaker ones!
Tobold's Blog



Exclusivity in massively multiplayer games
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 November 2014, 2:47 am
A new continent opened up in Archeage with lots of housing space. And presumably by hacking all the housing space was sold out within seconds. While there is a certain historical accuracy to having a large number of landless peasants and a tiny number of landed gentry, I think the concept isn't commercially viable. Imagine a player like me who has already played lots of MMORPGs full of mediocre quests, but who would be interested in trying a game like Archeage *because* of having a house and a farm. I'd first be pissed off because the subscription-free part of Archeage doesn't allow me to experience the part of the game I am interested in at all. And then I shell out money for a subscription and find that I still can't get any land? I'd be out of that game again in a heartbeat!

Imagine the same game with a different system: Instead of allowing hackers to grab all land and sell it for their profit, what if the game company sold the land for real money to the highest bidders? I'm pretty sure that would cause howls of outrage, even if the only thing that changes would be who received the money, the game company or the hackers. If we wouldn't be willing to accept a game in which a limited supply is sold for cash by the game company, why would we be willing to accept a game in which the same limited supply is sold for cash by hackers?

Back in the days where people trading virtual items for money was still a subject of intensive discussion on MMORPG blogs, I once pointed out that the problem is that only half of the interaction happens in the game: Player A transfers a virtual property to player B in the game. The other half of the transaction, player B gives money to player A, happens outside the game and is invisible to the game company. The game company can't know whether A gave virtual property to B for money, or because B is his girlfriend, or for some other reason. The only way to stop people from selling virtual property for real money would be to completely disallow the in-game transfer of virtual property.

I am not convinced at all that having virtual property with limited supply in the game is a good idea at all. And I am absolutely certain that if a game has such a feature, it would need to put strong limits on such ownership: Every player being allowed only one plot of land, and no way to transfer that plot of land to another player. But I think it would be even better if for example small plots of land would be available in a quantity that even free players could have one, and only large plots of land would be in somewhat more limited supply. In the end you can't honestly advertise your game as having housing and farming if in practice it is unlikely for the average player to get there without a huge financial investment.
Tobold's Blog



The Favorites of Selune - Skin Deep - Session 5
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 November 2014, 2:38 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune arrived in the Underdark and after a fight with some troglodytes were accepted into a clan of svirfneblin, having previously been transformed by sinister forces into svirfneblin form. In this session (which for real life reasons was a very short one) they set out from the svirfneblin clan towards a magical underground spring which they hope can transform them back. But they know that there are more troglodytes in the way, and the beholder they let loose onto the world in a previous adventure.

The strong point of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons is tactical combat. Tactical combat is helped by interesting terrain, where the obstacles of the battlemap force players to make choices on how to place themselves. Having said that, "interesting" does not necessarily mean complicated. So what happened next to the group was an encounter in one of the simplest possible maps: A long, straight corridor. I made the passage 4 spaces wide, but included a 2x2 spaces large behemoth in the enemy group, plus 5 troglodytes of different types. So the players couldn't get past the behemoth without suffering from attacks of opportunity. And both sides were vulnerable to area attacks, as they couldn't very well disperse sideways.

Given those circumstances the group decided to concentrate fire on the behemoth. But the troglodytes had several powers that were quite powerful in confined spaces: They all had a stench aura around them making attackers suffer a -2 penalty to attacks. And the two spellcasters in the back had area attacks and a debilitating ray which caused weakness in targets already standing in a stench aura. So this turned out to be a tough fight, and the characters were forced to expend a lot of daily powers.

On the up side this fight established the Underdark as a dark and dangerous place. The downside was that with the penalty and weakness it took the players quite some time to finally beat down the troglodytes. And then they found themselves having expended many daily powers and were unwilling to face the beholder like that. So they turned around, went back to the svirfneblin, and spent another night there to recover. Of course having set out to kill a beholder and having returned a short while later because of a few troglodytes the group didn't really impress the svirfneblin, who could be heard snickering behind the adventurers back. Given the short time available this time, we ended the session there.
Tobold's Blog



The Favorites of Selune - Skin Deep - Session 5
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 November 2014, 2:38 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune arrived in the Underdark and after a fight with some troglodytes were accepted into a clan of svirfneblin, having previously been transformed by sinister forces into svirfneblin form. In this session (which for real life reasons was a very short one) they set out from the svirfneblin clan towards a magical underground spring which they hope can transform them back. But they know that there are more troglodytes in the way, and the beholder they let loose onto the world in a previous adventure.

The strong point of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons is tactical combat. Tactical combat is helped by interesting terrain, where the obstacles of the battlemap force players to make choices on how to place themselves. Having said that, "interesting" does not necessarily mean complicated. So what happened next to the group was an encounter in one of the simplest possible maps: A long, straight corridor. I made the passage 4 spaces wide, but included a 2x2 spaces large behemoth in the enemy group, plus 5 troglodytes of different types. So the players couldn't get past the behemoth without suffering from attacks of opportunity. And both sides were vulnerable to area attacks, as they couldn't very well disperse sideways.

Given those circumstances the group decided to concentrate fire on the behemoth. But the troglodytes had several powers that were quite powerful in confined spaces: They all had a stench aura around them making attackers suffer a -2 penalty to attacks. And the two spellcasters in the back had area attacks and a debilitating ray which caused weakness in targets already standing in a stench aura. So this turned out to be a tough fight, and the characters were forced to expend a lot of daily powers.

On the up side this fight established the Underdark as a dark and dangerous place. The downside was that with the penalty and weakness it took the players quite some time to finally beat down the troglodytes. And then they found themselves having expended many daily powers and were unwilling to face the beholder like that. So they turned around, went back to the svirfneblin, and spent another night there to recover. Of course having set out to kill a beholder and having returned a short while later because of a few troglodytes the group didn't really impress the svirfneblin, who could be heard snickering behind the adventurers back. Given the short time available this time, we ended the session there.
Tobold's Blog



Do the players know best?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 November 2014, 3:50 am
I have a mail in my inbox from Stubborn for a month to which I have trouble finding an adequate reply. I was discussing my next D&D campaign with him, and he replied among other things that "the prescriptive elements of it are definitely more your thing than mine". One the one side I know that he is right, the new campaign definitively *is* pushing my players into a style of gameplay they don't usually do. On the other side I believe that this *could* be a good thing. I'm just not 100% sure about it.

I believe that pen & paper roleplaying games are about interactive story-telling. Yes, there is also a large part of interesting turn-based tactical combat; but I can do turn-based tactical combat in a computer game, while human players are necessary for interactive story-telling. It is the "unique selling proposition" of tabletop role-playing games. Having said that, interactive story-telling isn't actually all that obvious. I have a whole book shelf full of D&D manuals, and there is very little written in those books about interactive story-telling. It is very easy to confuse role-playing with roll playing, and concentrating on the aspects of the game which are written on your character sheet and resolves with dice rolls.

I have in the past played occasionally with great role-players. I once was in a group that sneaked into a warehouse and was caught by a guard, and another player turned that into a brilliant scene where he convinced the guard that the group was there to conduct a secret safety inspection and commended him for having "caught" the group. If you have several such players, great interactive role-playing will happen in your campaign regardless of how you run it. My problem is that in my current group I'm not really getting the degree of role-playing I would like, and the players are very much concentrated on the more mechanic parts of the game.

So the question is whether as the DM I should conform to the predispositions of my players and run a campaign which is light on role-playing and strong on rolling dice. Or should I use "prescriptive elements" in my campaign that nudge players towards more interactive story-telling?

What I have observed in years of MMORPG playing is that what players do is not necessarily a good indication of what players actually want. And what players say they want is then yet another thing. For example I can honestly not tell you with certainty whether a majority of MMORPG players enjoys playing solo more than playing in a group, or whether it is just the grouping system and the incentives in modern games which turned the majority into solo players. Back in the days of the original Everquest the idea of a solo MMORPG appeared to be somewhat ridiculous. But in EQ playing solo was harder than playing in a group, and now it is the other way around. Are players simply following the path of least resistance to maximum rewards, or are there true preferences hidden underneath all that somewhere?

If in the case of my campaign players don't really have a strong preference, and just play the game as it is presented to them, it appears perfectly possible that by starting a new campaign in which the incentives and the framework are presented differently we can arrive at a different style of gaming and actually all enjoy it more. But if the way they play is because that is what they truly want, trying to push them out of their comfort zone might go down really badly.

What do you think? Do the players know best, or are they flexible and follow the incentives?
Tobold's Blog



Predictability of games
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 October 2014, 8:42 am
Azuriel is talking about Civilization: Beyond Earth and complains that after an interesting start the end game becomes a formality, where you already know you won, but still need to play for hours to actually win. Meanwhile Zubon talks about a board game where the better player always wins. And Stubborn mentions: "Okay, most recently I’ve been playing X-Com (I haven’t fully rage-quit just yet, though I was close the other night when two 90% to hit rocket attacks missed their mark followed by an 88% sniper shot missing, causing one of my people to be killed the following round, but I held it together and played on).".

What do these posts have in common? They are all about predictability of games. Games tend to start out in a state of maximum unpredictability: You usually don't know who is winning before the game has developed a bit further. At some point it becomes very clear who is winning, but unless a player concedes (and an AI player frequently isn't programmed to do so), the game goes on in a very predictable manner. And then it comes down to the amount of randomness in the game whether the game becomes totally boring, or there is still a chance for a reversal of fortunes.

Having said that, a lot of people like knowing early that they are going to win. Not everybody is playing games in a competitive manner. Most people are quite happy for example doing quests in MMORPGs for hundreds of hours, where they always "win", and only rarely encounter minor setbacks. Other players manipulate, cheat, or pay money in order to make a game more predictably a win. Even mild-mannered Stubborn can get close to rage-quitting if his 90% win chance turns into a loss.

That poses a challenge to game design. Do we really want a "No Longer Delay the Inevitable button" as suggested by Azuriel? Or do we want games where up to the very end it isn't predictable who is winning? (There are actually a number of board games with hidden scoring systems that work like that). Do we want more randomness in games, so they become less predictable, or do we prefer less randomness and more predictability?
Tobold's Blog



Steam key resellers
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 October 2014, 4:31 am
If somebody offers you a designer watch or handbag for a very low price, sold out of the boot of his car, you would be suspicious. Either the item is fake, or it is stolen. So obviously I was wondering the same when I bought the Civilization 5 complete edition from a Steam key reseller for 15 Euro, instead of paying Steam 40 Euro for the same item. There are fake and stolen keys around.

While I don't know a way to actually buy a Steam key I could mail to somebody else directly from Steam (is that possible?), I have in the past received Steam keys that were quite definitely legit. For example if you fund a game on Kickstarter and the funded game ends up on Steam, you might get one or several Steam keys as backer rewards. If you buy a game in physical form, a box with a DVD in it, there might be a Steam key in there as well. So it is very possible for somebody to end up with a "spare" Steam key which is neither fake nor stolen.

So unlike that designer handbag or watch this isn't necessarily a black market. But I can't shake the feeling that at the very least it is a grey one. The key I bought "works", as in it allowed me to install and play Civilization 5 on my computer. But I am not 100% sure if somewhere in the process something legally dodgy was going on, and the cheap price is somehow the result of a copyright violation or something similar. You getting a Steam key legitimately and you being allowed to resell that Steam key are two very different things.

A bit of research on the internet finds opinions divided: Some people don't buy anything directly from Steam any more, and only buy resold keys. Others report on the possibility that Steam could either remove a game you bought via key from your library, or even ban your whole account. So right now I'm not sure if getting that game for less than half price was actually a good deal.
Tobold's Blog



Civilized pricing
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 October 2014, 9:18 am
I bought and played pretty much every version of Civilization there is, from the very first to Civ 5, including spin-offs like Colonization or Alpha Centauri, and even Civilization Revolution. So of course I was considering buying Civilization: Beyond Earth as well. But I haven't. After looking at both written and video reviews of Beyond Earth, I can't see a compelling reason to buy it. Most of the engine is still Civ 5, the Sci-Fi scenario seems to be less interesting than the historical one, and the new game appears to be suffering from feature overload and unnecessary complications.

Now in cases like this I tend to get price sensitive. There are games where I have doubts (e.g. Civilization: Beyond Earth or Shadow of Mordor) which make me unwilling to pay full price for the game, but I put them on my Steam wishlist anyway. If at the next holiday sale I can get the game for half price or less, I'll reconsider.

In this specific case I also had another idea: I only played Civilization 5 when it came out, and haven't touched it since. So I never bought the two expansions of the game. And I hear that Civ 5 with the expansion is much better than the new Beyond Earth, so that might well be worth trying. But as I was still in price sensitive mode, I was somewhat shocked to find out that each expansion on Steam costs 30 Euro. Hey, I'm not saving 50 Euro on buying Beyond Earth just to spend 60 Euro on two expansions for the older game. If I wanted *all* DLC for Civ 5, I would even have to pay 100 Euro! But only if I bought them individually. Curiously enough I can't buy a bundle of all DLCs for a better price. But I *can* buy Civilization 5 a second time in the "complete edition" and that will get me all DLCs. And that would only cost me 40 Euros.

I haven't made a final decision yet, but if I feel the urge to play a Civilization game, I would probably buy the complete edition. Somehow it annoys me that this means I will have to buy a second copy of the original game. I have a sneaking suspicion that Steam won't even show me owning the game twice, they would just quietly take my money and only put the new DLCs in my library, and not a second copy of Civ 5. After all, there is no way to use two digital copies of the same game on a Steam account. It would be a lot nicer if I had the option for example to gift the second copy to somebody.
Tobold's Blog



The next goal
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 October 2014, 7:11 am
I've been playing Destiny quite casually in the last few weeks. Log on, take a bounty to do some patrol missions, do the patrols, log off again. That was the kind of relaxed gameplay I liked, and I had a specific goal in mind: Reach Vanguard rank 2. I just reached that goal today, and now I can buy epic gear for Vanguard marks. It turned out that for most of my slots that meant replacing some Light +15 item by a Light +18 item, which isn't really worth it. But fortunately I still had some crappy Light +6 gloves, and upgrading those to +18 got me to ding level 24.

The problem with reaching a goal in any persistent online game is that then you have to look for your next goal. And right now in Destiny the goals that are left aren't a good fit to my play preferences. Basically I reached the point where soloing doesn't make sense any more. It isn't impossible, Destiny has a tiny, tiny chance of epic drops from any mob you kill, so theoretically if I soloed thousands of mobs I could still sometimes get an upgrade. But practically if I want to level beyond 24 I would need to play strikes, which are pickup group dungeons. Not the casual content I am looking for.

Of course I could just play an alt. But gameplay in Destiny is 90% independent of your class, so playing a different class (especially solo up to level 20) isn't really much different from the first play through. So somehow I have run out of goals that I'd like to achieve in Destiny, and I think that means game over for me.

There is nothing wrong with playing in groups. There are a lot of games where I enjoy cooperative multiplayer more than I enjoy solo play, especially if playing in a group has tactical options that don't exist in solo play. But I have to question the wisdom of game design where your level of advancement in the game determines whether you should play solo or play group. Wouldn't it be best if at any given level you could choose between solo and group play and still advance? Rate of advancement might need to be a bit faster in groups, to make up for the possibility of landing in a bad group and not advancing much at all. But I do think that is just a matter of balancing incentives. Why do we get so many games where soloing is far superior to grouping up to a certain point, and then the situation reverses? To me that looks like a recipe to get people to quit when their next goal doesn't align with their play style any more.
Tobold's Blog



Slopebrowed weaseldicks
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 October 2014, 4:25 am
I am not a native English speaker. And apart from the time spent on the internet or watching TV in English, I don't live in an English-speaking environment. Thus my vocabulary might not always be very current, especially regarding colloquial language. So I was quite happy to much expand my vocabulary by reading this very well written post by Chris Kluwe. I didn't even know words like "slopebrowed weaseldicks" existed. Recommended!
Tobold's Blog



Death threats are not a good idea
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 October 2014, 3:38 am
This week the gaming news are full of yet another death threat story. Only this time it was a man who received the threat, Gabe Newell. And the threat wasn't made anonymously, but by a game developer unhappy with a technical flaw on the Steam page of his recently released game. Now Gabe could have called the police, as death threats are illegal in many jurisdictions, being a form of coercion. Instead he pulled out the ban hammer and kicked the game in question from Steam. The dev quit and I'd guess his career is finished. But apart from being a funny story about human stupidity, I think this is an opportunity to discuss the frequent use of death threats in gaming, especially on Twitter.

Death threats are illegal, especially so if what is threatened is a mass killing, like a plane bombing or a school massacre. So why did gamers divert John Smedley's plane with a bomb threat, and prevent Anita Sarkeesian to speak at a school by threatening a massacre? Don't they know that is both illegal and unethical? The answer is probably that they think their grievances justify unethical behavior and they don't think anything can happen to them because they made those threats anonymously.

Many people think they have a constitutional right to anonymous free speech. Guess what? Death threats aren't covered by that! If the so-called speech is criminal in itself, the first amendment doesn't protect it. No judge would consider a threat to bomb a plane or to massacre poeople to be "free speech". Which means that the only protection somebody who makes such a threat online has is technical in nature. The person making the threat counts on law enforcement not being technically able to find out who is behind that Twitter sock puppet account.

There are only two possibilities in this case: Either they are right, or they are wrong. If they are wrong, and law enforcement can trace such death threats back, some people will get a nasty surprise when the police rings at their door. What worries me is what happens if they are right. As I said, anonymous death threats are not a right anybody has. So if too many of those happen on Twitter and law enforcement gets frustrated, everybody's right to anonymity on Twitter might get threatened. Under pressure from law enforcement, Twitter might well be forced to change the rules, either openly demanding verified accounts or secretly adding better IP tracing. And if that happens we will have the idiots who made death threats about gaming issues to thank for.
Tobold's Blog



Does McDonald's make the best hamburgers?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 October 2014, 2:54 am
Azuriel argues that things contain a mythical factor called "quality", that reviews should somehow reflect that mythical quality, and that consumers are all idiots because they rarely choose the best thing available. I believe that consumers are quite rational, and that they make choices on a highly complicated multi-factor analysis. Thus McDonald's isn't more popular than other burger joints because they make better hamburgers. It is that in the needs of the consumer the quality of the hamburger plays just a small role. As long as the hamburger is sufficiently good, and not more unhealthy than other burgers, consumers don't put quality of the hamburger on top of their list of criteria. I personally like Burger King more than McDonald's. But as there are no Burger Kings in Belgium, guess where I end up going! I'm not driving to a neighboring country just because the burgers are better! McDonald's is the most popular because they got the MIX of factors that consumers care about right, with location, price, parking, cleanliness, children playing areas, and so on. For many goods consumers care a lot more about price than about quality.

If we want to rank burger chains, we need to look what people care about when choosing a burger chain. If we want to rank books, we need to look what people care about when choosing a book. If we want to rank video games, we need to look what people care about when choosing a book. It is as simple as that. If, as Azuriel pointed out, more people like 50 Shades of Grey than Nineteen Eighty-Four, that doesn't mean that people buying books are stupid and unable to recognize the more culturally relevant book. It means that cultural relevance isn't very high up on their list of criteria of choice. If you buy a book for entertainment, for reading on the beach, the Da Vinci Code or 50 Shades of Grey *are* better than Nineteen Eighty-Four or Ulysses.

In the case of books ranking books by cultural relevance and education value still makes some sort of sense. I was born before computer games even existed, and my childhood was filled with books. A whole lot of my education comes from books. If you put all books on the same list just by sales numbers, you get a mix of books that sell because they are entertaining and books that sell because they have cultural value. So looking at those two factors separately would be a good idea.

I doubt the same is true for video games. Yes, there are cultural / artsy video "games". But they aren't a huge cultural influence. Very, very few people choose their games based on cultural qualities. Video games are nearly exclusively chosen for their entertainment qualities. Games like Mountain or Dear Esther are more curiosities which sell because they are so very different from the usual fare (and cheap). I doubt you can get to the same degree of education by playing video games than you can get by reading books. The overwhelming reason why people buy video games is for fun, for entertainment. And that is why I think video game reviews should look mostly at that entertainment value factor. The "best" game is the most entertaining, most fun game. And what I want from reading a review is that it tells me how likely it is that I will have fun when playing the game, and not regret the purchase.
Tobold's Blog



Still undecided about ArcheAge
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 October 2014, 5:59 am
I am generally interested in MMORPGs which have a strong virtual world element, where I can have my own property with actual activities, and where there is a player-run economy with crafting. Given that ArcheAge has all this, that people repeatedly tell me that at least at the start I could be safe from ganking, and that it is possible to try the game for free, I should be all over this. But then the kind of people who tell me that PvP isn't so bad in ArcheAge are the same kind of people who think that Darkfail is a game perfectly suitable for carebears like me. And in my newsreader I constantly see posts of people quitting ArcheAge.

Apparently ArcheAge has a huge hacking problem, which ruins the player economy. Hackers control the available land through cheats, and drive up the prices of everything by flooding the economy with illegally obtained gold. And while people can't gank you if you stay in safe places, they can very well grief you with other methods, like pushing a cart onto your farm and thereby preventing you from planting. If there is really no way to burn down somebody else's cart on your land, what do you do? I also hear a lot about the toxic community. Some people say it is because it is a PvP sandbox game, others say that it is because it is a Free2Play game. I really don't care. I simply don't want to play with assholes all day, regardless of their motivation.

So with all this negativity about ArcheAge, I haven't had the motivation yet to download the game and try it out. Hell is other people, and I don't have much of a desire to enter that particular sort of hell just to test out whether I like some game mechanics.
Tobold's Blog



Cured?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 October 2014, 5:06 am
Sometimes MMORPGs in general, or specific popular MMORPGs like World of Warcraft are described as being "addictive". So I was wondering whether I have been miraculously cured: I'm reading about the big changes to WoW with patch 6.0 this week in preparation for the next expansion, and I feel no desire whatsoever to resubscribe or buy that expansion.

If the miracle cure explanation isn't the good one, then the alternative explanation I have is that I expect WoW 6.0+ to be not fundamentally different from all the previous versions of World of Warcraft. Sure, there will be some new content. But most of that new content is based on already very familiar modes of gameplay: New quests in new zones, new dungeons, and so on. Some minor additions like housing don't turn this into a radically new game. A WoW expansion is always mostly "more of the same", with some tweaks.

Of course that depends on how far you zoom out your view, or how closely you look. You could say that there are a lot of "WoW-like" games out there which have the same leveling by questing, with some dungeons mixed in sort of gameplay. If one finds other games not worth playing because they are too similar to WoW, then surely a WoW expansion, which is even more like WoW, isn't worth playing either. Unless of course one thinks one has to play one of the bunch, in which case WoW isn't the worst possible choice. Nevertheless some people might prefer for example Guild Wars 2, either for gameplay reasons, or simply because they don't have to buy a new expansion and pay $15 per month to play that.

What about you? Does patch 6.0 and the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion tempt you to resubscribe to World of Warcraft? Or maybe you never left? Or have you been "cured"?
Tobold's Blog



On the relevancy of video game reviews
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 October 2014, 3:55 am
The news this week was that Destiny has 3.2 million players on average every day on the servers, a month after release. That information clashes somewhat with Destiny's bad Metacritic score of 76, which doesn't suggest that the game would still be fun to play after a month. Which leads to the interesting question in how far a review score answers the question "Is this a fun game to play?".

The trope for movie reviews is that nobody wants to see the critically acclaimed movies, while the box office hits get bad reviews. That isn't 100% true, but Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the highest grossing films of this year, shares Destiny's middling Metacritic score of 76, although it scores much better on Rotten Tomatoes. So there is some truth in saying that at least some movie critics review films to answer the question whether watching that movie would make you a better person, instead of asking whether watching that movie would be a fun night out.

Metacritic scores for video games *used to be* more relevant for seeing whether a game would be fun to play, and thus worth buying. Game developers often have contracts that include bonuses based on Metacritic scores, because game companies think that those scores result in sales. I wonder what the bonus for the marketing people is based on. I could very well imagine a situation where Bungie / Activision Blizzard is paying a bonus to the marketing people of Destiny based on the great sales, but not to the game developers, based on the mediocre Metacritic score. And that wouldn't be just.

I do not believe that those scores are much influenced by either marketing money nor by social justice concerns of left-wing video game journalists. Grand Theft Auto 5 has a Metacritic score of 97, while The Sims 4 has one of 70, so violence and sexism obviously isn't a criterion for the score. But with The Sims 4 topping some PC game sales charts, and Destiny obviously being very popular as well, there is an obvious disagreement between reviewers and actual players about whether these games are good or not. The reviewers might claim that the players have been duped by extensive marketing into buying those games, but then why are millions of people still playing Destiny every day? As famous video game critic Abraham Lincoln remarked, you cannot fool all the people all the time.

My personal theory is that video game reviews get increasingly irrelevant because the video game critics have been playing games for too long. They don't answer the question "is this game fun to play?" any more, but are doing a far too complicated comparison of the new game with all the best features of all the games that came before. That is a comparison that no game can withstand, and one that isn't actually all that relevant. Even *if* you played The Sims 3 and find that The Sims 4 has less features, you might still want to buy and play The Sims 4, because you are sick and tired of The Sims 3 which you have been playing for the last 5 years. And even if the MMO elements of Destiny don't compare well with the best MMO games out there, you probably won't mind if you mostly played shooters before and those MMO elements are new and exciting to you. Not to mention that part of the audience for video games is much younger than the reviewers, and simply hasn't played all those previous games for that reason.

To me there is something inherently wrong in a headline like Destiny Is A Bad Game, But I Can't Stop Playing It. It is indicative of the reviewer's gut feeling being disconnected from his brain. And the review readers are probably more interested in the gut feeling than in the brainy intellectual analysis. They just want to know whether if they spend $60 on a game, they will have fun for many hours, or whether they will quickly regret that purchase. When reviews don't answer that question any more, they become irrelevant.
Tobold's Blog



Just a link
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 October 2014, 4:49 am
As I have nothing to add which isn't already said in Belghast's excellent post about the experience of a PvE player in a PvP game like ArchAge, I'm just posting a link to that article.
Tobold's Blog



The Favorites of Selune - Skin Deep - Session 4
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 October 2014, 8:32 am
In the previous session the Favorites of Selune killed a dragon in return for the druid Bredel advising them on how to reverse their transformation into svirfneblin. So this session started with them being led by Bredel to the entrance of the Underdark which had recently opened in the area. The entrance was one day's march south of Bredel's home. So to find the underground source of the spring they knew they had to walk the same distance back north in the Underdark, probably taking longer due to winding tunnels. They also knew that the Underdark had an upper region (the shallows) and a lower region (the deeps), and that a source reaching the surface was more likely to be found in the shallows. Thus they could navigate generally northwards, generally upwards at any tunnel branch.

While as svirfneblin everybody had darkvision, that vision requires at least some dim light to work. But they had their adventuring gear, including a lantern with several flasks of oil, and an eternal torch. They also had iron rations, and they were able to find some edible mushrooms. Still it was a long trek through winding, dark tunnels. And while previously they had benefited from the druids create campsite ritual, that didn't work underground and they had a less comfortable night after their first day in the Underdark.

On their second day the Favorites of Selune entered a cave and came close to a giant mushroom, which poisoned the rogue (who was ahead of the group). And then troglodytes who were hidden behind the stalagmites and rocks attacked with javelins. That combat was quite interesting, because the mushroom poisoned a 7x7 square area in the middle of the cave every round, which the combatants tried to avoid. The group druid used that cleverly with a spell that pulled enemies towards him, so that they ended up in the poison zone. The warrior, presumably tired from slaying dragons, exchanged ineffective blows with one troglodyte savage.

I especially liked the design of the troglodyte deepscourge (ranged caster type), who had a ray attack which did very little damage, but weakened enemies if they already were in the troglodyte savages stinking aura. And he had a recharging area attack which also weakened "non-reptile creatures", so he could fire it into melee and not affect his allies. As I had used the wrong stats for the dragon, the troglodytes also hit a lot harder than the dragon, and the fight was more interesting. The cleric cast a lot of daily spells and kept everybody alive, plus he set the mushroom on fire with a column of fire spell. As the mushroom wasn't a creature, I didn't give it a saving throw to extinguish the fire, and so it slowly burned down. And the group killed the troglodytes one after another.

Resting after the fight, the Favorites of Selune are found by a patrol of *real* svirfneblin. They wore tabards with strange symbols, which a nature / arcane check revealed to be crystallographic structures: A Fluorite was leading half a dozen Gypsum. With three chemists in the room the players quickly figured out that the svirfneblin had military ranks named after Mohs scale of mineral hardness, so this was a sort of sergeant leading a group of privates first class. The svirfneblin spoke common, but always referred to svirfneblin in the first person plural. So the sergeant asked them "What are we doing here? Why aren’t we wearing our tabards?". But the sorceress quickly came up with an idea and said that they had been on a secret mission for the Diamond to the surface, "in disguise", with a rather high roll on his bluff check. So the sergeant believed them and led them to the cave where the svirfneblin lived.

The cave, or rather network of caves, was lighted by luminescent mushrooms. They were handed from one rank to the next, until they stood before the king of the svirfneblin, Diamond Quirrit. The king was wise enough to see that not only he hadn't sent any secret missions out, but also that while the adventurers looked like svirfneblin, they didn't behave right. Nevertheless he was quite friendly, and when the adventurers revealed that they had been transformed into svirfneblin and were looking for the source of a magical spring to turn them back, he offered his help. He drew them a map to the spring, but warned them that recently a strange beholder, all deformed, had moved into the cave with the spring and subjugated the local troglodytes. The players immediately realized that this was the beholder they had let go from Gardmore Abbey.

With the troglodyte fight and the svirfneblin roleplaying encounter the players had gained enough xp to reach level 10. So we stopped at this point and leveled up.
Tobold's Blog



What do you think of hybrid business models?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 October 2014, 3:40 am
Carbine announced that they are "rethinking" the business model of Wildstar. Most people interpret that as switching to some sort of Free2Play model. Theoretically a MMORPG could switch to a "buy-once-play-forever" business model like Guild Wars 2; but such a "conversion" basically would just mean dropping the monthly fee. That would sure be popular, but it is hard to imagine that the added income from people who only waited for the subscription to disappear before buying the game would make up for the loss of revenue. So some sort of Free2Play is more likely.

Now several games which have made such a switch went for a hybrid model: The game goes free, but free players suffer from certain restrictions, for example on inventory space or number of characters. There is still an optional subscription, and if you buy that, the restrictions don't apply to you. Such a subscription might also include a certain amount of a special currency usable to buy items in the real money item shop.

I was wondering what people are thinking about this hybrid model. Is it the best of two worlds, giving the players who prefer a subscription game all the options of a subscription model, while giving the players who prefer Free2Play all the options of a Free2Play model? Or is it a bad compromise that makes nobody really happy?
Tobold's Blog



Winning a culture war
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 October 2014, 6:11 am
I consider myself a neutral observer in the culture war commonly known under the name Gamergate. I believe that both sides use lies, propaganda, and other means of interaction that I personally find unacceptable. But anybody looking from the outside at any war is wondering who is "winning". In a culture war it is usually two rather small groups who are fighting for the attention and positive opinion of the mainstream, and this one isn't any different. It doesn't matter very much how much the culture warriors on each side agree with each other, because there is usually a lot of self-delusion going on within such groups. It matters more how the people who aren't in either group see the culture war.

The Boston Globe is a newspaper founded in 1872. Due to the lack of video games in 1872 it would be hard to accuse the Boston Globe to be a video game publication. One could say that it is leaning slightly left-ward, but in general it would be very much considered a mainstream newspaper rather than "communist" or "SJW". So if I read articles like this one in the Boston Globe, I believe that this is what the main-stream press sees and thinks.

Now I have no opinion on how it came to pass that the police is investigating death threats made against female video game developer Brianna Wu. I'm sure that some people believe those threats were fabricated, or that at least making such threats against outspoken women in gaming "isn't what Gamergate is about". But I do know how this looks. Gamergate might not *be* a movement whose whole purpose it is to discourage women in gaming, but it sure *looks* like one in the mainstream press.

We can all agree that only talking about the persecution of women in gaming is an extremely one-sided and narrow view of this culture war. But the problem is that the other side isn't represented in mainstream media. There is no article on Fox News about Gamergate, explaining the problems of video game journalism ethics or about pushing left-wing agendas in video games. The "harassment of women" theme is present in every single mainstream reporting of Gamergate, even in those that defend the movement.

Some people actually believe that this unbalanced presentation of the issue is due to a huge world-wide conspiracy. If find that extremely unlikely. There are tons of mainstream newspapers that have a conservative view of the world. Why would those be controllable by a conspiracy of "social justice warriors"? So somewhere something in the strategy of Gamergate isn't working. If you want to win "hearts and minds", you can't win if your opponent gets all the good press in mainstream news outlets, while the people defending your side do so on Twitter, YouTube, and niche blogs where the message is only seen by the people who already agree with it.

I believe that the Gamergate movement needs to think very carefully what their message should be and how they could get it into the mainstream. Sorry, "I feel insulted by left-wing misrepresentation of gamers", while very true and understandable, isn't going to get you an article in a mainstream newspaper. What is Gamergate really about, and how can you formulate a mission statement that isn't easily dismissed as a first-world problem of privileged, misogynistic, white males? If you don't have a response to that, it will be impossible to win this culture war. 
Tobold's Blog



Combat controls
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 October 2014, 3:27 am
I watched Totalbiscuit's uncorrupted Shadow of Mordor YouTube video in order to find out whether I would like to play that game. The answer was: No. And the reason for that was the part where Totalbiscuit described the combat system as being the same as in the Batman: Arkham series. I played only one Batman: Arkham game, and the reason I stopped half-way through was because I hated the combat system.

Then I noticed the coincidence that there is another Lord of the Rings game I am not playing because of the combat system: Lord of the Rings Online. And that in spite of having paid for a lifetime subscription. So I was thinking what is was that made certain combat systems unpalatable to me. And I think the answer is how much the combat system feels as if I was in immediate control.

For Lord of the Rings Online the problem is that the combat system queues your key-presses and executes them some time later when the previous actions have been completed. This skill queue leads to combat not feeling very responsive. Sure, the character will do what you ordered him to do, but not at the moment where you press the button.

For Batman: Arkham the problem is similar, but somewhat different: You press a button, Batman does something immediately, but it isn't necessarily what you wanted him to do, or what you thought that button press would do. Batman frequently overperforms, making rather complicated moves in response to rather simple commands. That all looks very elegant and sophisticated (and combat *looks* great in a Shadow of Mordor gameplay video), but the player holding the controller isn't necessarily feeling all that much in control. You pressed a button because you wanted to hit the guy to your left, but the character decided that it would be better to hit the guy on your right and does that instead. Even if that was probably the better move, you feel that your role in controlling the character isn't all that important. Just mashing buttons also results in an elegant combat.

I think hand-to-hand combat in video games is somewhat problematic. Whether it is fists or knives, for cinematic reasons the hero character is fighting half a dozen villains at the same time, which is not very realistic. Shooters work better, because a single man with a gun looks less improbable if he kills half a dozen villains, using distance and cover to his advantage. That allows a shooter game to give perfect control to the player, letting him aim and see the immediate result of his shots. The game simulating hand-to-hand combat can't leave the player in perfect control, because he'd be overwhelmed if the fight was simulated realistically.

I'm still planning to give the Assassin's Creed series a second chance (didn't like the first one all that much). While it also suffers to some degree from that hand-to-hand combat system, AC has the advantage of combat not being the default option for every enemy you meet. But otherwise I am somewhat wary of those hand-to-hand combat action adventure games.
Tobold's Blog



· Older Entries >>

Show: [ALL] [NEWS] [BLOGS] [PODCASTS]

Updated Today:
Gamers with Jobs [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Massively [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
MmoQuests.com [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Mystic Worlds [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Raph Koster [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Reign of Gaming [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
The Ancient Gaming Noob [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
The Old Republic News from Bioware [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Tobold [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Zen of Design [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Updated this Week:
Bethesda Blog [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Bio Break [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Bioware TOR Dev Blog [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Cloth 5 [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Game Truth [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
GWJ Conference Call [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Joystiq MMO [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Lineage II [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
MMO Gamer Chick [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
mmocam! [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
MMORPG.COM News [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
No Prisoners, No Mercy [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
The Instance [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
World of Warcast [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Write the Game [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Updated this Month:
A Casual Stroll to Modor [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
A Casual Stroll to Modor Podcast [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
DDOcast [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
DocHoliday's MMO Saloon [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Heartless Gamer [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Low Elo [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Morphisat's Blog [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Player Versus Developer [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Terra Nova [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
The Crusading Noob [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Welshtroll [HTML] [XML] [FULL]
Wondrous Inventions [HTML] [XML] [FULL]