Casually playing Adventure Era

A nifty little game called Adventura Era by Game Insight & Krivorukoff has me a little distracted (thanks to Tobold’s post). I’m playing enough that my wife first asked “what is that you’re doing” and then “put that down”. It’s a good game, and playing it on my mobile means that I always have it around when I want to, but I can also ignore it I choose.

Nothing really bad happens if you don’t play. Well, ahem, it is frustrating to come back to the game after 3-4 hours and ALWAYS find three monsters attempting to ravish my humble village, but paying off the monsters is part of the resource sink mechanics. It happens every damn time! So now I’ve decided to move almost all of my important buildings away from the areas with the monsters, so that I’m almost unaffected by them. That will take some additional effort and a bit more grinding that I like, but afterward I’ll rarely pay the 15 food, 50 lumber, or 100 stone resources that they need to be shushed and sent away when my cyclops-for-hire yells at them.

Apart from the basic build, expand, research cycle which repeats as your village increases in size and resources there are aspects of the game which I think are clever. The game is all about expanding your resource pool, and deciding when to spend your resources in the various resource sinks. All of the progressive choices are forgone conclusions, where you have to do X to get to Y, so start saving, building, or expanding. I don’t mind that the game is extensibility on rails, as I’m not looking for life changing gameplay. I’m looking for overly simplified entertainment. It allows small choices with almost no side effects, so for me the game’s fun is about efficiently. What worked, what do I need to plan for now, so that I’m not resource locked for too long later.

I also like the way that money really isn’t being begged for at every turn. The game is free and thankfully you can avoid the nag-ware style of other mobile/social games. My Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other followers have no bloody interest in how many pets or lumber yards I have; just as I don’t give a damn about theirs.This is a casual distraction, not a thing to brag about on social media (but then isn’t most of social media a free casual distraction seeking to commercialise your attention?).

Each advance takes time, and during that time you can be clicking to earn your coins, rather than spending real money. It does not have a long life though, as I’m already seeing the increase in the repetition for grinding money, which is expected but undesirable for me. I can just as easily be entertained by my rss feed, so something that feels like work will have an expiration date.

For now, as the village’s ruler…I kind of pity those small virtual pixel-folk. They’re lucky I’m not give the option for human sacrifice to increase build time. Hmm, maybe something to recommended for v2.

adventure_era_screenshotHappy clicking, TyphoonAndrew

Well D3 was darn popular

Well it seems Blizzard has more than one cash cow after all, as Diablo 3 made a fair crop of cash for the studio (Polygon article). 20 million sales of the game. The subscribers numbers for WoW have lead some folk to say that WoW is in trouble, and perhaps even the concept of an MMO is in trouble too (MMO’s are dying). I don’t buy into that because frankly I think MMOs are another arrow in the quiver of game styles that gamers like myself enjoy. D3 was popular, as was D1&D2; they’re not the same as WoW, but they represent that games are still able to make a tidy profit and that the audience for games hasn’t evaporated as much as some of the end of the world style blog titles imply. These games don’t signal the end of anything except the short period while one game has it’s pinnacle of popularity. I’ll wait for D4 happily, or a variant clone from another source happily.

The games will transform, might shudder a bit, but multiplayer games have been around for a darn long time, and we’re only seeing better and better graphics and gameplay as the decades roll along. A good game is worth paying for. A great game is worth following, and any studio which can release a solid product often will garner loyalty from wallets. As much as I sometimes dislike small parts of Blizzard’s approach, they do keep creatig things I find fun. I don’t kickstart/crowdfund much at all because I think I could use my money on other things, and the risk is not worth it. That might mean that I’m not on the cutting edge of new games, but I’m also not dropping US$80 every three or four months on the same set of tripe shooter, mmo clone, or games that never get completed.

I would spend something on a single player, turn based, strategy game set either in misc fantasy land or space … if it was a revamped and upgraded Master of Orion 2. MoO3 was awful, and MoO2 hit that sweet spot of fun that I still think about. What happened to the popularity of the turn based games? I guess I’ll wait for them to come back into favor.

d3-angel

WoW sub stats published – Unsurprisingly Downward

I know reading about World of Warcraft subscriptions is more click bait and flame war material, but I can’t help be interested. The stats show a clear downward trend in subscriptions, and I find that obvious.

Without new content the player base leaves, and it has been a long time since new content has been put into the game. Further the community has been told that it will be a while to go before the Warlords updates, which acts as a negative incentive to keep subscribed during the quiet time. Wrath was the game’s peak, but The Burning Crusade added a huge amount of players to the game.

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

At 6.8 million accounts the game is back to subscriber numbers from the Original release. Warlords will be the 5th expansion for WoW, and any gamer or marketer will know that holding interest over ten years and 4 previous expansions is difficult. Continue reading

New Toy for WoD – Haunting Memento

Discussing WoW and other MMOs a few friends were pondering what our favorite items were and how much the might be worth. I love my Legendary items and also love the Haunted Memento.

haunting-momento-wod

The Memento dropped as part of the Scourge Invasion many expansions ago, and allows a strange shadow to follow your player as long as you have it in your inventory. An item of years go which is special within the world.

WoD (listed as patch 6.0.1) will add a new Haunting Momento to the game as a toy, obtainable through the Darkmoon Fair. I like the fact they are adding the toy for those who were not around for the previous expansion, but also hope they make it different somehow, both in the cosmetic effect and also the application. It appears that it can be used on another target, which is already nice – and perhaps the haunting will have a different animation?

The Sha default model would be very suitable as an alternative to the typical specter model used in the original. An odd thought, and odd too that a similar item is being added to the game in WoD.

Expectations are very difficult to manage. Rant.

I was reading about the Blood Elf models not making the WoW – Warlords release, and through the comments people are extrapolating from that (a) Blizzard are rushing, (b) release might be around the corner, (c) the community deserve a little more information, (d) Blizzard have had plenty of time already and they are lazy, (e) the expansion will be terrible.

The variety and breadth of perspectives on the next expansion is telling of two things. The fan-base isn’t sure of many details they consider important, and that Blizzard isn’t actually served (in the short term) by being honest with their fans.

The company who is infamous for releasing when they are ready, and who has already said that the game will be released closer to December than July – I just don’t get it. A feature set was broad brushed a long time ago, and details are being released to keep the fans interested and also to keep WoW’s long tail of blogs, news, etc alive. The release dates cycle is very long (basically impossible to argue against) but it is not significantly longer than other expansions.

I do not think the studio deserve to be derided for communicating about status, delays, and where their thinking is, because the alternative is that they just go silent and do press releases for the blogs to recycle. For pity’s sake fan-base, start being fans.

If the long view is taken, a fan can look back at the 10 years of discussion and banter between the vendor and customer, it demonstrates that talking to fans is a good thing. Many other game devs do not discuss their products in this way, and I think they suffer less bad comments pre-release.

Comments such as this is superficially reasonable, until you start to ponder what answer would actually be satisfactory…

The only thing that worries me is this;  what has to be scrapped to allow extra time to get this in at a later date now?  Meaning, if this was supposed to be done at launch, that allowed for room for other content to be released later on.  Since this is being pushed, what content may get pushed even further or now scrapped because of this?

There is no useful answer to this question. Speaking as a manager of software projects, I see questions similar to this all the time, and the answers cannot be specific without creating another set of clarifying questions. It becomes an endless cycle of q&a…but what if…why can’t we just…why wasn’t I consulted?

As much as it might be hurtful to say the end consumers of the expansion are not stakeholders who should be involved in the timing and planning stages, so releasing information to them is done for customer engagement purposes, not to actually ask which feature should be in or out to meet a flexible deadline. Yes, they are the end paying customer, but your needs and views have been analysed and incorporated into the product strategy already. I’m certain that Blizzard are taking every feature seriously as they’ve released so many good quality products in the past. A flippant approach to features, quality, or deadlines doesn’t match their history.

Express your frustration or opinion without the dramatic rhetoric, and you might even find the vendor listening. Attack the vendor with no constructive feedback and you’ll be muted. We all know that an attack creates more clicks, but at this stage the whining is just tiresome. If you don’t like waiting, then go do something else because you’ll be waiting regardless.

The fact that one of the racial character models won’t be updated isn’t a show stopper. This announcement proves that, and tells us that they are willing to drop some non-core features to meet their target dates. Heck, drop more character models for all I care. The content (worlds, raids, quests, etc) being finished to a high quality and without defects is a showstopper, the upgrade process for the game is critical, the distribution method is critical. Even the comms plan for marketing and the planning a round their own other products and the products of their competitors is important. New character models? Sit down (imho*).

Keep in mind too that the models are not being shelved, but being delayed. This isn’t the dance studio. That is a box feature that is wonderful to drop into a discussion like this to demonstrate why something which was all but pointless to a wide range of players can also create a blather of negative feedback from a loud minority. It should never be anything except a silly nice-to-have feature. By comparison I think the new models are more important, but trivial compared to the actual story and event content for the expansion.

We need to deal with what we get at launch. Not what you wanted? Then don’t buy it.

If the lack of a particular widget ruins the game for you, then wait till it is present and join the game again during that content patch. I’ve unsubscribed during the downtime period and cannot understand the parts of the fan-base who are angry that they don’t have new content in the period where it was well communicated that there would be no new content. Too long between expansions is only true if you’re choosing to not play or not enjoying what you have now.

I’ve previously blogged about the time to expansion release being long, but it was an observation targeting the idea of doings something else with my time and money. If you are choosing to pay for something you don’t like, or sitting in front of a game which we know won’t be changing for months and expecting something new; then I think there are other issues. PEBKAC.

Happy gaming, TyphoonAndrew.

* ok, not humble.

Thoughts through the quiet time

Now that it’s gone a bit quiet around my house, and I’ve been out of game for a while I feel like sharing some short thoughts on gaming, which touch on MMORPGS and WoW.

Gaming wise, a few odd sessions of D3 and Sir, You are Being Hunted is all I’m fitting in, and that was/is mostly months ago. I finally finished the basic story of D3 and watched the lovely cut-scene/movie. Those Blizzard folks still know how to make a reasonable ending. Playing on with D3 without the expansion feels like running on a hamster wheel because the story is over. So now I either pay for the next story segment or do something else. Fair choice too, the game had enough content to make the initial purchase worth while, and its not like I finished it early.

Even if I had more time I’m not sure I would be installing a new MMO either. The banter about WildStar seems to say its pretty and interesting, but is very much the same as what has come before. That is not a bad idea for games as a moderate subscriber base can keep a company profitable for years; but after the zest and spin of the announcements – its kind of a dull outcome. I ran-up an Eve trail account and almost logged in. Almost, but then remembered that the game is slow and takes more time than I’ve got at the moment, and the account has lapsed. I thought about StarWars too as it’s free, and I could play the each of the class quests through to max level and then delete the character/account. Hmm, perhaps.

I miss logging in to something to play. I’d like to run WoW’s UP for the mount once a week, and perhaps a few other mindless farming tasks, but only to be able to say I’ve collected those pixels. Knowing that I’ll likely play WoW in the future means that the heat is drained from the desire to login to farm. I can farm later between other activities.

So now its books, pen and paper games, and catching up on TV shows.

hmm, really. A little interested now.

Staying away from news and distractions tends to mean that when I do see something from Beta news, or an upcoming game I can get a raw impression. I’ve not over invested or drained my enthusiasm. But I saw some loading screen art for Warlords today which I really liked. It reminded me of many years ago while playing Burning Crusade. I’m a little interested now.

So much so that I’m going to crawl back under my rock and not read much more till a lot more of the details are resolved. I don’t want to be part of the whine fest, and also do not want to fan the flames of fan-dom. Oh, and the T17 armor for the Death Knight looks darn interesting too (have to block MMO Champion’s updates in my rss reader).