Path of Exile is really freakin cool.

29 10 2013

Straight up, I have been utterly consumed by a new game which I’ve hesitated to Youtube for two reasons:

  1. it’s not really fun to watch;
  2. it’s so fun to play that I’ve been doing it to the exclusion of everything else during fun time.

I’m daydreaming about Don’t Starve (and still have a pending episode to encode) and just  picked up King’s Bounty on TB’s recommendation (and it’s on sale) as well as Saints Row IV (also on sale this past weekend) soooo I’ve got a lot of pending entertainment that I don’t expect to finish prior to the arrival of a certain game that I will no doubt be obsessed with. Seriously, every day I’m seeing previews and opinion pieces praising the changes made to XCOM. I am chomping at the bit to test how resistant EXALT operatives are to bullets.

That all said, Path of Exile has currently taken a hold of me. It’s the Diablo 2 successor that I wanted D3 to be, introducing some brilliant adjustments to the click-fest genre: namely the monumental customization and brilliant gearing.

The passive skill tree is over a thousand nodes and shared between the classes, and while each class has little nests of abilities that the class is angled at, you can in every single case detour around the close nests and bee line for whatever you want, building a character that’s unique to you. The entire thing is very overwhelming, but if you grow your character organically with careful forethought you can have a good time of it; and if you fail, building a new character is actually not as prohibitive as it is in previous games of this type. Their entire market is founded upon that, actually: they have these Leagues in which you create a new character that can’t share assets with your characters in the Standard league, but they Leagues have special events, mobs, drops that you can only get in there. You play the League and, after some amount of time (a number of months) that League merges with Standard and they make a new one with new content. It’s like Ladders from D2. Leveling itself is quick (at least for the first 30 levels) and fun, allowing you to prototype a new character in a few days. Skills themselves are all drops – socketable gems – that level up with you and can be linked with other gems for fun effects.

My current main is a Ranger (the archer class) that uses a 2H sword and pushes Attack Speed and physical damage, using Smoke Bombs and heavy armor to survive. (Here’s the build.) She is super fun to play because she fits my style and – more importantly – breaks the mold. I did something with the Ranger that she was not ostensibly designed for (giant sword melee combat) and it’s working very well. I’ve got her in Act 2 of Merciless mode and her hang ups right now are that only two of my three resists are maxed and being Frozen straight up murders me. (Hence my  pushing for that node cluster on the far, far right of the tree.) Smoke Bombs are a gem, and my Faster Attacks + Double Strike + Mana Leech + Life Leech + Melee Splash (all gems linked together) = I kill stuff FAST. (I swing almost 5-times a second. It’s awesome.)

Now, I say “not ostensibly designed for” when it’s obvious to me that she was tested with builds not dissimilar to mine, but I feel like I broke the mold which is the mark of a good game: this game let me go my own way, use my own approach to the game. Brilliant.

It’s a great game, which I recommend. It’s Free-to-Play and the right kind, mind you: you buy only cosmetic (glowy swords) and quality-of-life (more stash tabs) and no power at all. Try it! It’s free.


The Obnoxious Minority.

8 11 2011


Before I really lay into this long and drawn out thought on the Tribunal, here’s the conclusion: try this game. Please use this link to do it. I would really like to have more Recruiter badges and perks, and –  unabashedly – I want to see Riot succeed as a gaming company. If they do, this Tribunal idea may gain traction. It has the potential to reshape online gaming as – finally – there is a way to hold anonymous jerk-bags accountable for being jerk-bags. (Also, the game is pretty cool; it has a bit of a learning curve and may be an acquired taste…I know I hated it when I started…but it’s worth it. I love it now.)

The community has a voice.

It’s not an unusual assumption to run across in any article regaridng player opinion on MMO game balance: you enjoy Example Game, but some people complain very loudly on forums about Example Class/Ability/Whatever and threaten to pull their subs. Possibly as a result, the devs make a change to Example Class/Ability/Whatever and the game seems fundamentally changed  – perhaps for the worse – and all because of those very, very loud people.

People who get unreasonably vulgar in MMOs – in ways that filters can’t filter so they can still hurt your eyes – also seem the loudest, don’t they? It is perhaps not surprising that people who fit this obnoxious and loud stereotype are currently decrying the Tribunal on the LoL forums (and in other places).

Yes, the League of Legends Tribunal: something I’ve mentioned on this blog before. If a player is unusually vulgar, angry, allows his champion to be killed easily (throwing the balance of the game off), or does anything else that may despoil the game experience for players, you can Report them at the end of the game.

How it works.

These reports are gathered and examined by Riot’s staff; they consider “do we want these people playing our game?” They may decide “No” or “We’re not sure” and either way they stick the case in the Tribunal.

I log into the Tribunal once a day. Each case is presented to me with some number of matches, as follows for a given match:

  • the champion they played;
  • the items they bought throughout the match;
  • their account level, game stat line (kills/deaths/assists);
  • the reports from whatever players reported them for a given game;
  • the game’s chat log.

Sometimes case will have as many as a dozen games attached to it (each with stats and logs as above); other times only a handful (one to three). I’ve played the game enough to know that when a player’s account is at least in the teens, they know enough not to, for instance, buy multiple versions of an item that has no benefit for the champion they’re playing; and that, for instance, a 0/30/0 stat line is blatant evidence that the player purposefully “fed” (ran up and allowed the enemy team to easily kill them).

Feeding is a MOBA concept: every time you kill an enemy champion (player), you get a tiny little windfall of gold that you wouldn’t otherwise have at that point from simply killing minions and dropping towers. Anybody that assisted you with the kill also gets a little gold for their trouble. More gold early means you can buy items faster (and also, level faster, as kills give you a chunk of experience) and this gives your champion (and thus your team) an advantage. Feeding is a process where one player allows the enemy team to kill him freely, giving them massive amounts of gold and a huge advantage. It makes them unbeatable, and is understandably frustrating for everybody involved. (Nobody likes a feeder; they ruin the experience of the game.)

This kind of thing isn’t entirely unique to MOBAs; if you are in a 10v10 match in Halo, for instance, or Blood Gulch, if a significant number of your teammates do nothing useful on purpose it’s massively frustrating. Not to mention if they spend much of their energies harassing you (or your opponents) verbally, with or without vulgarity, it can leave a bad taste in  your mouth. Might frustrate you and make you play a different game.

Well, news flash: this is bad for business, and Riot understands that. So the Tribunal is their way of asking the community “What kind of people do you want to play with” or, put another way, “What kind of crap are you willing to put up with?” When some player thinks it’s amusing to spam racist epithets in chat and basically do nothing else, that’s not enjoyable for me, so I click the PUNISH button (electing that I believe the player deserves a warning, suspension, or a ban).

What happens to the jerks.

You might think “But, Thade, the game is Free-to-Play, so what the real issue with a ban?” Well, as you play, you gain points for your play-time which you use to unlock either champions (so you can play them whether they’re on the free rotation or not) or runes (items that bolster your champion’s ability early in a match…which can help you get or avoid being that early kill). A ban means you lost all of that time; not to mention any real cash you may have put into the game to unlock the latest champion or a cool skin you like.

Bottom-line is that it does have a real impact to be banned, and this is directly evidenced by how loud those banned are on the LoL boards. “The Tribunal is broken” or “is bullshit” or “is bad for business”…etc. etc. The truth of the matter is that it’s obviously good for business, because it’s the community that’s clicking the ban button. Riot’s gone on record saying they believe the player base is actually “too lenient” but it is their decision. Personally, I’m not sure what they’re talking about; I feel that I click the PUNISH button almost every time. It’s not hard; I really really have no patience for racist or homophobic epithets (both of which are popular among those that rage in LoL matches).

If those accused (and banned) were correct – that raging is acceptable and that Riot is hurting themselves – then Riot’s bottom-line would reflect this. They’re keeping it up, however, and these people keep getting banned. That tells me that – in fact – the majority of players don’t want to put up with their crap.

These players will play again, or will start new accounts just so they can rage and not worry about the account being banned. It’s a bit troublesome for business, still, as it means new players have to endure the brunt of the vulgarity, the rage, and the frustrating annoyances of people meta-ing the game because they (for some reason) enjoy ruining the experience for others. But I’ve found that – most games – the players are friendly and enjoy a good jibe, no matter who is winning or losing. This is especially true now that my account is max level (30); it’s  nice. The ragers are very, very rare. Perhaps because they’re getting banned.

One of the staffers put it best:

“[Players] that are toxic to the League of Legends are going to do one of two things… 1. Shape up and learn to play the game without causing others to have a negative experience; 2. find a new game.” (Source.)

Blizzard. Bioware. Take notes.

The best part.

Spend some time on the Tribunal forum. You’ll find among the predictable posts of “The Tribunal is stupid” and “F U Ri0t” that there are occasionally posts where someone suspended or banned will say “I’m sorry; you’re right. I’ve been inappropriate.” And that, to me, is marvelous.


22 06 2011

I’ve come to the conclusion that no post is going to make me entirely happy, so now I’m going to just dump whatever comes to mind into a post and see how that works out. I’d call it experimental (because it is), but using the word experimental is the kind of thing one does when one wants to sound edgy. I am not edgy. I’m just trying out something based on a hypothesis. My hypothesis is that it will not work.

I’ve been super distracted by Warhammer 40k lately (the table top game)…so distracted that I am going to now start yammering about it here in this blog. There will still be video game related posts; I’m just going to branch out a bit here so as to expose you all to new nerd things, possibly expanding your horizons in the process (edgy!), possibly rekindling my blogging drive. The drive waned in the wake of lacking contentment with my attempts at edgy posts.

I’m sorry you had to read that sentence. I didn’t like it either.

The word either there sounds better if said (aloud) “eye-ther” instead of the more canonical American fashion of saying it “eee-ther”; wouldn’t you agree? Regardless, I bet you agree that it is not edgy.

I am technically still playing (read “paying subscription fees for”) Rift and I’m still fond of it. Sadly I’ve only logged in once over the past week and a half. I could blame the weekend-long bachelor party camping trip that got rained out (in which I got to off-road through hills, tall grass, and mud with my RAV-4), the upcoming software release at work, or the sheer number of hours I’ve thrown into League of Legends, but really it’s all of those things. The camping trip was awesome, by the way.

League of Legends is also awesome. I have a handful of heroes I’ve gotten somewhat skilled with. Surprise, surprise: half of them are Support characters.

Kayle (pronounced “Kay-lee”) is an angel (literally, big pearly wings, beautiful silver armor, a dazzling array of blonde hair…yes I bought a skin for her) that has a slow/snare shot that does moderate damage, a small single-hit heal that boosts the target’s speed temporarily, an invinci-bubble I can throw on an ally, and the ability to ignite her sword and do MASSIVE ranged damage late game (with the right upgrades). Her massive damage can’t be done if she’s moving (she has to sit still and swing, she can’t move and swing): not so good against enemies, but remarkably effective at dismantling towers. What I’ll do with her is sit her near a tower we’re sacking as a team and while I sew support spells through the fight, I light up my sword and work on their tower. I end games with a lot of building kills. This character is the one I use the most.

Soraka is new on me. She does next-to-no damage but the amount of healing she will do is insane and I have to try very hard to burn her out of mana. She’s typically a goat-girl of some kind…but I skinned her as a Greek Goddess. Much cooler and worth the cash, in my opinion.

Karma is another favorite of mine. She does pretty good damage and heals the least of the bunch, but has a very good shield and a neat beam that “anchors” between her and either a friendly or a foe. Friendly anchors (including me) get speed boosts; foe anchors are slowed and take damage…and while they’re taking damage, I can rush around and hit other enemies (minions and players) with that beam between us and hurt/slow them all. She’s complicated to play but a good time. She can also push lanes like crazy all on her own.

If you don’t know League of Legends, those past three paragraphs were a waste of your time. I apologize.

You need to try it. It’s free to play. It’s the best free-to-play model I’ve yet seen. Play for free, earn Influence Points (IP). Spend IP to unlock champions that you can play whenever you want; otherwise just use whatever champions are set for free-play in the current week. IP also buys Runes (which you don’t want to buy until summoner level 20) which are a huge boon during your early game. Love the game? Spend cash-monies on it and you can buy champions and skins to decorate them with. You cannot buy Runes (or any kind of power) with cash-monies; only with IP. In otherwords, only longevity and success in the game will grant you more power.

Also, the community is uncommonly nice in the wake of the Tribunal-thing. Maybe it’s a placebo, maybe it doesn’t hold up in ranked play (I’m lv25 or so, not yet 30) but it definitely feels more friendly. People who are jerks for no reason are pretty rare.

In other news, I’m very likely going to buy several boxes of Grey Knights (models for Warhammer 40k) tomorrow evening…as well as a hardcover copy of the In Nomine rule set. I’m slated to play in the game of the latter; a system I’ve always wanted to try. It’s basically a morality play more srs version of Buffy the Vampire slayer, in which I get to be an Angel and pound the poopie out of Demons. That’s my kind of nerdery.

Playing in a pseudo judeo-christian mythos setting might count as edgy in some circles.

Yea, I failed to tie that together.


What am I playing?

4 04 2011

As I look over the options for a new MMO to play (shall I try RIFT, return to Champions, force myself to try more LOTRO?) I’ve been keeping myself busy with two free-to-play titles that have some pretty impressive attributes for being (mostly) free.

Recently I’ve taken to playing World of Tanks and – while I sometimes find myself wishing these tanks had legs, it’s a pretty good time. The theme is well done (WWII era tanks) and the game play is challenging. While most tanks can weather a few hits from one another, one solid shot from artillery can take you out of commission and – Counterstrike-style – you’ll be sitting out to watch the remainder of the match. The control is very tasteful: your vehicle handles like it’s got treads and you have to wait for the turret to turn before you can fire on something. This is especially true with artillery, which has a tight front-end firing arc and the base has to turn toward a target before the turret can hit it. Light, fast tanks for scouting; very light tanks for tank-hunting or long range artillery (SPGs…my favorite), and medium to heavy tanks for in-your-face skirmishing. I’ve only been playing a few days so I can’t really do it justice in a formal review, so I’ll just say that – for free – it’s totally worth picking up and checking out.

One downside to WoT is how it handles friends. Two things, actually. First, while you have a Contacts/Friends list in the game, it doesn’t work “in the field”…only in your shop (where you spend experience and money to upgrade current and purchase new tanks); so far as I can tell you can’t send or receive PMs when driving your tank around. Even worse, without a Premium Account you can’t elect to play games with your friends. This wiki suggests that only one person in a trio needs the Premium account for it to work, so that’s almost a plus. Paying to play with friends isn’t something I’ve seen before, but while I don’t like it I can see it working. I do wish they’d drop the idea, though, and take some notes from League of Legends.

League of Legends is the second F2P title I’ve been playing lately. It allows you to play with your friends very easily, and – like WoT – you earn points as you play which you can use to unlock new units to play with. You can spend money to accelerate this process, but points come in easy enough that it’s almost needless. Now, if you want to spend money (you know, because you like the game and would like to show your support) you can do so. There is one thing that you can get with money that you can’t get with points-earned-by-playing, and that’s decorative skins for your champions. Some of these skins look pretty cool and, honestly, I intend to spend my money on those (just as soon as I can pick a favorite champ to decorate). I’ll give LoL a review in another post; merits it’s own stage-time given it’s tenure and polish-level.

So, WoT: what do you say? How about giving us a fully functional friends list and instead charging us to put tiger stripes and the like on our tanks? You know people will pay for tiger stripes.