Considering What Makes A Game Too Long

A few weeks ago I mentioned games that outstayed their welcome and how it’s something that’s easy to do. After thinking about it some more, I realized how, in my opinion, a game can do this. Druid’s Duel was the example that I used before and the main problem with that game is that each level, while pseudo-randomly generated, is exactly the same. After you get access to the final fourth Druid (about five levels in if I recall correctly), you won’t see any new mechanics for the rest of the game. Which means, that for the next 15-20 hours of content, you’re doing more or less the exact same thing over and over again. This is not good, particularly for a strategy game where the only mechanic is a turn based strategy system in the first place. The game struggles from being too shallow for the length of time the game lasts. If you look at other games, you see the same sort of pattern… when the game is done introducing you to new mechanics, then you exhaust the depth of the game quite quickly. So, now the next question is… how do you avoid this sort of trap when you’re doing game design? I’ll have some more thoughts about that next time.

Defense of the Ancients 2 vs. League of Legends

If you’ve been reading along lately, you’ll know that I’ve been playing around with DotA2 lately… trying to learn the game as well as a new set of keybinds. I’ve played enough to realize why I keep bouncing off the game at this point, so I thought I’d mention a few thoughts. Firstly, I’ll start by saying that I only play ARAMs in LoL at this point, and generally avoid the normal 5v5 standard mode. At this point, I firmly believe that DotA2 is the better game. They have a better client, a better sense of what to do with events and whatnot, and a better way to build communities than LoL does. That said… the skill floor is incredibly high. Even for champions in DotA2 that are supposed to be for newbies, the game has SO many mechanics that you have to be constantly thinking about. In fact, if you ignore any of them, then you immediately are at a disadvantage against an opponent that is doing them. For example, if your laning opponent is denying your cs, you’re immediately getting behind in gold/exp and you’re going to lose the lane. And… it’s not an easy thing to do… even more so than getting cs, which is incredibly harder in DotA2 than in LoL. LoL is by far the friendlier game… though I wish so SO much that they’d consider making some changes.

Reporting on Keybinds!

So I’ve been playing some games of DotA2 with my new keybinds and I’m finding something interesting… I don’t know how to play MOBAs without doing the normal QWER type of keys. That said, I have been getting better at it and I like it. Particularly having the camera on WASD is incredibly helpful to keep watching the battlefield. It requires quite a bit of new learning and coordination to be able to pull it off, but being able to look around with the keyboard is SO nice and now I’m wishing that I could have that in other games. I love the new keybinds, quite honestly, but have decided that DOTA2 is not for me for other reasons, which will be my post tomorrow for sure. On the upside… seeing these new keybinds gives me a reason to try playing League of Legends without camera locked, so we’ll see how that goes. ARAM-ho!

Keybinds And Their Effect on Efficiency

I’ve been watching Day9 learn DotA2 recently and one thing that I’ve been wondering is whether or not the keybinds in the game really make a difference. I know that in MMOs it is important to put the keys that you use a lot near to your main hand or get a mouse that can handle more options. I found an interesting option in DotA2 where you can reset your keybinds into one of their default profiles. One of them sets the camera controls to wasd, with the rest of the skills arranged around those. I was going off of a guide about keybinds for the game, but I put the skills of the game on Q,E,R,F,X,C and the items in inventory to Alt + those same keys. Then, I can select the hero on the number ‘1’, call the courier with ‘4’, and auto-buy off my guide with ‘5’. Basically, if you put some thought into this, it means that all my keys around my left hand while my right hand is on the mouse. My mouse has a few extra buttons which I’m using for communication and the space bar is auto-attack, which allows me to attack my own minions for denying purposes. It’s a fantastic-ly interesting keybind setup for a MOBA and I look forward to trying it out in a real game. Will report back!

Hidden Objects Blending

I recently finished my playthrough of Hercules IV (a time management game, hence my rant yesterday) and something that I was thinking about was the inclusion of a couple of hidden object type puzzles in the game. Basically, in each level, there is a puzzle piece hidden that you need to collect so that you can put together a puzzle at the end of each world, to access the bonus level. Finally, once all five bonus levels are done, the super bonus level is unlocked and getting gold on it unlocks yet another achievement (which of course is very important to unlock!). When thinking of casual genres, the ones that immediately come to mind are “Hidden Object”, “Time Management”, and “Arcade-type Games”. It’s interesting that many of the casual-type games include elements of each other in them. While the Hercules series doesn’t have any Arcade elements to it, it definitely blends Time Management and Hidden Object well. Of course, that’s if you’re not completely stressed out by the Time Management games.

Time Management Games

Why are time management games a thing? What is with this genre? Why do people want to try to manage a bunch of things really quickly while making decisions and priority checks on the fly? I’m entirely confused why this exists… even though I’ve played through several of the games. Hercules series, in particular, is something that I tend to play a decent amount, having beaten the first four games so far. But I’m just confused why someone would really enjoy playing this genre in general. It’s not very story driven, so there’s not usually that, I would imagine. It’s just generally stressful and requires you to make a hundred decisions about priorities, how’s that different than real life? The popularity of the games definitely confuse me.

Cookie Cutter Story

I started reading a new set of novels that I picked up on Amazon when they were being released for free. While I forget the name off the top of my head, the story itself is a very common one in fantasy literature, basically kid doesn’t know about magic, realizes he/she is a great wizard, then saves the realm. It’s a very cookie cutter stereotype in fantasy, and yet for some reason I don’t mind. I have realized that if a book/game has enough random plot twists and interesting story points, I don’t mind if they just keep using the same exact plot as every other entertainment. I tend to watch quite a bit of anime and I find myself almost comforted by the tropes and stereotypes because it’s what I’m used to. This is also what I feel about fantasy literature and don’t mind the same old story told different ways each time. Of course, it still means that the writer has to find ways to make it their own each time through character/plot twists or some other medium.

Over Staying The Welcome

I’ve been playing Druid’s Duel lately and, while it’s a fun strategy game, there are definitely elements of it that I don’t like. For those who don’t know, it’s a small turn-based strategy game which has four different types of druids all battling for control of a specific area. Within a few missions, you’ve unlocked all druids and all their powers. The game says that I have around 360 minutes in the campaign so far, and I’m just over halfway done with it. I would have been happier had the game ended at about the 120 minute mark. With no variation in the following levels other than what you start with, the game is just hours of the same sort of strategy. There’s not enough varied unit types to be interesting anymore, and to increase difficulty in the campaign, the game just gives you less units and the enemy more units to start with. The game was clearly made longer just to be longer, without any reason to keep going or see new things after the 1/6th mark. I’ve seen quite a few games that have done this, Druid’s Duel just being the most recent example for me. Inflated campaign times is not worth it, just put your game a bit cheaper so that we can truly enjoy it without having to slog through hours of the same thing to find the elusive ending.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Now

Barring Rocket League (which I still find incredibly fun with friends), I honestly think that my competitive game of choice is CounterStrike:Global Offensive. That said, I don’t think I can recommend it to people anymore. The community has taken several downturns in the last while, including a large number of people “de-ranking” in the competitive ladder. Beyond the fact that I don’t even mildly understand how this works or why one would want to do it, the mentality of de-ranking is very detrimental for a community. When half of the community is trying to get better, win games, and increase their statistics, the other half is dragging them down with throwing games because they want to “de-rank”. From a development perspective, I’m also incredibly confused by some of the design decisions lately, including removing all the original gun sounds and replacing them. Not only do the guns feel weaker as you’re firing them now, but some of the sounds are plainly ridiculous. The new sound for the P250 handgun makes it sound like a paintball gun. Furthermore, most of the guns sound more or less the same, it’s almost impossible to tell which gun is actually firing anymore, which is a sad thing. In my opinion, it’s another case of a game that was awesome going poorly down a direction which I didn’t like.

Permadeath As A Difficulty Tool

In an era where AI in video games hasn’t quite caught up to human players without flagrantly cheating, it becomes an interesting problem to try and increase difficulty. After reading a fascinating article by Cody Cook on the subject, he convinced me that permadeath is a difficulty increase. When you consider a game like Tales of Maj’Eyal which has varying difficulty levels, one of the largest changes as you make the game harder is the number of lives you have in the game. Finally, at the hardest difficulty level, you’re given one life to beat the game with. Even in games with no life limit, challenge runs of those games are often things like “deathless” or “1 life”, with Dark Souls in particular coming to mind. When viewed this way, it is an interesting design choice to include a “hardcore”/”ironman” mode to your game. X-COM, as a series, encourages ironman play, due to the fact that it creates more difficulty when you permanently lose soldiers. Darkest Dungeon is another example of that particular brand of permadeath as a difficulty level.