From Legacy to Monolith

In a few hours the game I’ve come to love and adore, that I’ve spent days of my life in and the jungle that I could Sherpa a class of blind children through, will be changed forever. Slashed and burned to the ground in order to grow anew, the creators of Paragon over at Epic Games have, in the true spirit of a beta, decided they have learned many a thing in the past few months, culminating in the creation of a new map.

“Travel mode,” the ability to traverse the map quicker after being out of combat for a certain amount of timed was ‘game breaking’ and made the game ‘nearly impossible to imbalance.’ Said by the Devs on numerous streams. But Legacy, the land I came to love, was too big to traverse without a motorcycle, or our beloved travel mode – so they were forced to gut it.

In the spirit of change, they reworked all of the heroes from what seems like the ground up: changing damage points, abilities (along with the cards that power them) movement speed – removing travel mode altogether – and giving us a fetus of a map called Monolith. I am voicing my salt not because I don’t trust Epic Games, but ’cause change is hard. But… I fell in love with a baby (the game is currently in beta). Going into it I knew that this child was not fully grown and I might not like the adult it became. But I put in time, effort, and lots of money to watch it grow. I’ve stuck it out this long, and even if it’s due to sunk costs I’m not going to kick ’em out before they become a teenager. I will wait until the tantrums arrive, the doors are slammed in my face, and I am driven crazy by this new perversion inhabiting the one I used to love before I decide I’m done with it. (You cannot legally abandon fully grown children at fire stations or hospitals, though.)

So, I will hold my judgment until I see how it goes. And like the people that didn’t vote for Trump and are scared out of their minds – we are going to have to trust the people that have now taken control. We have to sit back, relax, and wish them the best; because to wish damnation to the people driving your plane, well…that’s just stupid.

With Added Salt In His Tears,
Slightly Judgy Gamer

@GuanxiGaming

Game of the Year (Jury Selected)

Recognizing a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.”

With my view on the selection process out of the way, let’s look at some of the theories behind how Blizzard Entertainment won Game of the Year for Overwatch, up against these amazing contenders: Doom (id Software/Bethesda), Inside (PlayDead), Titanfall 2 (Respawn/Electronic Arts), and Uncharted 4 (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment).

Logging in, I saw: friends that had never looked down the eye of a scope, in the midst of an Overwatch match. The first few friends I took the time to message, asking how they felt about the demo they weren’t playing. They had purchased it. Outright bought the game and they loved it. Most couldn’t describe what about it they loved, but they knew they were enjoying themselves. When I asked how they could enjoy this perversion of an FPS but not something like Call of Duty, or something more “realistic” like Battlefield I was often met with a scoff as an explanation. I don’t know what drew them to the game, what caused them to hit “buy” or walk into their nearest GameStop, but they were playing it and playing it often. Something Blizzard did, they had done right.

Mixing a MOBA with an FPS wasn’t the magical sauce that made Overwatch, there was a game unfortunate enough to come out simultaneously. Battleborn was compared, torn to shreds and analyzed countless different ways before it’s release and the verdict was out before it was even given time to shine. The people at the wheel, IGN, GameSpot, couldn’t help but ask how similar Battleborn was to Overwatch. Both being cartoon-esc, mixing a MOBA with an FPS, in which people played heroes vs. other people playing heroes, nary a human in sight (but as of this posting they’re all humanoid). Why on that Tuesday people chose Battlefield instead of Overwatch, I’m not sure. Both come from reputable companies. One making the most popular MMORPG in history, and the other creating a video game with both wide appeal and a cult following (Gearbox Software, Borderlands.) These were two titans ready to play, albeit one smaller than the other, not a lion and a mouse. The only difference I can think of is community outreach and public relations. They were advertised the same way but spoken of differently, and with Battleborn constantly being compared to Overwatch, and rarely the other way around, it was made clear to consumers which one was genuine and which one was simply playing dress up. I want to write a paper about how Battleborn failed in its PR and pre-release communication to consumers, but I have a bit more research to do.

Now, as we learned in CS:GO, slap a skin on something and children will steal their parent’s credit cards to buy it. They will pay real money for intangible in game objects, those objects would then be traded, collected, and hoarded ad-nauseum. Even ending up on gambling sites, ultimately leading to a lawsuit and several companies banning the practice in their ToS. Overwatch quickly advertised the ability to make the characters nearly your own, with at least half a dozen skins upon release and others promised in seasonal events. They made the game fun, and nowhere as serious as Battleborn’s dev team was making their’s out to be. Along the same lines, Blizzard made this game different. Not only did they make the game fun, but they gave the heroes personalities. Battleborn had many heroes, but with personalities, you could swap out. They lines they repeated in game might not have fit, but the personalities made no difference. It was not hard to be unattached when it game to their heroes because no one knew who they were. You would never see people cosplaying as Battleborn characters as they did with Overwatch.

Overwatch’s rise to the top could not be the topic of conversation without talking about accessibility. This MOBA treated their beginners like gods. They walked them through every step of an  FPS, made it fun not daunting, and encouraged them to go for the flag. Overwatch’s “Play of the Game” system has people prioritizing good moves and teamwork instead of just a high kill count, and at the end of a match players are encouraged to vote on each other’s performance; concerned more with working towards the objectives and healing teammates than having a positive K/D. To someone outside of the industry, these could seem like frivolous distinctions, but it’s things like kill death ratios that keep people from picking up an FPS. With the main objective being to kill other people, people that weren’t good at shooting down others rarely enjoyed themselves. Seeing the respawn screen seconds after just spawning is exhausting, and shooters are not fun if you’re the only one being shot. Overwatch took that away and allowed players to enjoy themselves in a variety of ways, only one of which were taking down the opposing team. And I think that, was one of the main things drawing people that only played JRPGs and Animal Crossing to this quasi-shooter.

This year, Inc.com named Riot Games their Company of the Year Award. Now, this might seem disjointed, but the point is that one of the reasons Riot Games was at the top, was because of their response to their “customers.” An average business might help you with your problem, apologize, and move on, but Riot Games’ League of Legends was a game in which players got not only a response but a change. If players voiced that they had a problem with X, the dev team would come out and communicate with them about X, if it was a feasible fix, they would do it. If they felt it would ruin the balance of their game they would hem and haw, but eventually, they found a way around their obstacle. Within the first week of release, there were complaints about the sexualization of one of the characters, Tracer, and enough complaints were made that they redesigned her. They took the time and effort to draw and reanimate the part of a character’s body simply due to complaints. Amazon.com might ship your items on time, but they won’t change the shape of the box if you find it offensive. Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment would – and did.

Overwatch became a powerhouse before it even hit the street. But it’s player base grew instead of faltered due to the richness of the game and it’s characters; how quickly, without even noticing, players became attached to the game’s heroes; the ease of entry they provided for people who have never picked up a controller where the bottom-right bumper was the most used button, and the communication they had with their most avid and vocal players. Although I must admit I could never get myself to play beyond the beta I think, above all else, this is why blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, was voted Game of the Year.

@GuanxiGaming

The Game Awards 2016 – Post Mortem

Now, I don’t want to start my first editorial by bashing the biggest (or the only) gaming award show there is, but it’s hard not to see this show as an offshoot of the Oscars. Never mind that the majority of the categories are voted on by a Jury, when letting consumers vote really wouldn’t be that complicated, the nominees can only be described as the games that scream from GameStop TV, as you walk into the store. Now, as an employee I often forgot the television was there; when you have a line of customers in front of you and are searching for a game, some more esoteric than others, the TV just fades into the background – if you even hear it at all. But the people that walk into the store notice it when they stand in line that is the one thing that can keep them company, besides the tiny screen in their pockets. And those publishers pay for their video games to show up on that screen, for the GameStop TV hosts to glow over them and contemplate how they’re going to be the biggest games of the year.

This year’s award show was GameStop TV, less flashy, and wish jokes and skits a lot less polished; instead of playing in every GameStop in the country, it was watched on Twitch by 93k viewers and an untold amount across all other platforms. It provided the gaming world with, not only a look at gaming’s future but the biggest budget and AAA titles released this year. There were genuine moments, giving Hideo Kojima an award he missed out on last year, the winners showing appreciation for voter’s consideration, but the presenters did not take the time to share even partially, why a game deserved to win what it did. Writers and bloggers like me are forced to speculate on why a game won its particular category. I think speculation and rumors exist enough in this industry as it is. Gaming is multi-million dollar industry, one us gamers pour hours of our lives into, and we can respect any game studio for a good game they create. But gamers are a passionate bunch, and although in the big scheme of things, who won may not be important in our daily lives, some of us feel we have the right to know why one game won over the one we put 200+ hours into this year.

The Game Awards 2016

The time of year has arrived. The voting is over, most of us unaware voting was taking place, but the trailers that are released tonight will be analyzed and dissected for hundreds of hours over the next few weeks. The personalities and the performances might be cringe worthy, but we often forget to stop and thank the people that pour everything they have into the games we spend hours of our lives consuming. Tonight is the night we take time out for the heroes, who make us feel like heroes – our way to show appreciation, outside of our wallets, for the joy that they bring to our lives.

In the next week, I’ll be adding to the fray and contributing my thoughts on why I think the winner of each category went home with the prize.

Stay Tuned,
Slightly Judgy Gamer

Why I Haven’t Finished the Last Four Generations of Pokémon 

I started Pokémon Sun minutes after it’s North American launch, and within 15 minutes of starting the game, I found myself texting my friend for some clarification. “Is Hau supposed to be my rival?”
“He’s less of a rival and more of a competitor.”
“Okay because he just showed up for a battle, with the Pokémon that is weaker (by type) than the one I selected.”

And my friend really didn’t have a response for that. Apparently, this rival turned challenger was something that had been changing over the years that I hadn’t really noticed. I was mesmerized by the new Pokémon and the new 3D nature of the game to realize that the challenge had completely evaporated. After talking to him, I remembered the days that I used to be terrified upon my Rival’s appearance. Seeing Red and Gary show up was always a stress-inducing situation, they had chosen the stronger type, in Pokémon’s rock-paper-scissor power structure, they were usually 2-3 levels above me, and blacking out and waking up at a Pokémon center was a risk that could not be overlooked with confidence.

Although wandering aimlessly looking for my next objective was borderline infuriating in Pokémon Yellow, it’s the first thing I miss upon encountering this game. Starting up my game, I am greeted with a little happy face on the map telling my exactly where to go – and for me, this is a problem. One of the reasons I could never put down the first few generations of Pokémon was because I literally could not put it down. Abandoning the game mid-objective would result in my starting the game and having no idea where I was, what I was doing the last time I played, and where I was supposed to be going. I had to power through the game or I may never complete it. Some of the newer games remedied this by adding a journal feature, telling you what was going on in-game the last time you played, but by then challenge had been removed in other areas and my interest was waning.

Off the bat, some may argue that I am playing a children’s game. That I’m expecting challenge from a game made for 12-year-olds, and if I want thought-provoking story and a challenging experience I should look elsewhere. But my argument to that is two-fold. Game Freak, Pokémon’s publisher, knows exactly who is buying their games. They know that nostalgia sells and that a big part of their player base is already into the second decade of their lives. And my second argument would be that the games used to be harder. It’s not just that I’m getting older, so I’m learning to play more efficiently, the game has changed. Whether it’s been dumbed down to have a lower barrier to entry, or because – well I can’t imagine another reason why a developer would remove challenge and by proxy, curiosity, from their game.

I haven’t even reached my first trial, so I cannot speak to the specifics of the game – if I reach that far I will do so – but I posted this because I wanted to know: How do you guys feel about Pokémon Sun and Moon? Do you feel it’s regressing in both story line and challenge? I mean, an Exp Share for the entire team? What is grinding a sin now? Or am I just imagining it, making it all up, and in need of a new fix?

Let me know, in the comments below.

https://redd.it/5k62yi

tldr;
– The lack of challenge in Pokemon has resulted in players no longer feeling accomplished once they’ve finished it, or being too bored to even get to the end.
– They’ve taken out the MacGuffin. With so many Pokemon, all of which are within reach, there’s no longer anything to fight for; no ultimate goal.
– Them lowering the barrier to entry has alienated the players that have been playing for the last twenty years, and ultimately: Pokemon has lost its bite. 

Affair in Agora

Every time my ‘PlayStation On” chime sings it should be accompanied by Paragon theme music. As someone with the shortest attention span in recorded history – whose only completed game is Pokemon –  the fact that I’ve put 7 days and 13 hours into this game is miraculous. 181 hours spent playing a video game can be looked upon with confidence and shame. As I writer I wish I could say I’ve spent 181 hours writing, but I am almost 90% sure I’ve come nowhere near close that number. But when I sit and think “I should have been doing something productive.” what does that mean? When a video game offers you reprieve from everyday life and makes you happy, what better thing could you currently be doing? Yes, writing for all that time would probably have helped with advancing my career, but in that time, what I needed was a distraction, and Paragon provided that.

Paragon is my first MOBA, so talking to me about the real merits and it’s improvements over things like Smite and LOL, and how it’s competent in some places but severely lacking in others – are things I just don’t notice. I have no idea how good this game is because I have no idea what the barometer is. I don’t know how someone calculates that certain kits aren’t balanced or that certain characters need a buff or a nerf, all I know is that I don’t need experience to know I’m thoroughly enjoying this game.

Like a 7-year-old watching Minecraft videos in anticipation of their parents buying them the game for Christmas, I devoured this game – but once I already had it. When I was hype and ready to kill, I played Paragon myself; when I was passive and wanted to relax I watched the top streamers and tried to learn from them. I consumed this game more than I’ve assumed any other, aside from World of Warcraft, but I would never have been satisfied sitting and just learning others play WOW as I am diligently studying and learning this game.

I might not know if this is a good MOBA, but I know this is an amazing video game. And I will continue to post about it until my passion fades.