Paeroka’s Ponderings: When is a game worth your money?

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for column

I know there are a lot of gamers with a huge backlog of games and a bad conscience whenever they get yet another game even though there is this long list of games they never or hardly played.

Most of the time, I compare the money I spent on the game with the amount of time I played it. Obviously, not counting the ones that I did not like at all as these are obviously a waste of money. So far, my comparison was usually a ticket to the movies. Let’s be generous and say 8 € for 2 hours, because I don’t go to 3D movies and don’t need the extra comfortable seats in the back. :p But in a lot of games, you already spend half an hour or so in the tutorial! With that comparison, if a game has a long tutorial (or you just need longer to get through it like I usually do), a game for 8 € would be worth it already if I get through the tutorial. So while it is a good comparison in a way as its anchor is another pastime that costs money, I think it’s not too good considering the nature of games. That would be a bit more like me comparing it to the trailers that you see in the cinema before the actual movie starts. :p

A colleague of bookahnerk said to him: “I have an easy calculation: 1 € per hour played”. I like it because it’s easy to calculate, but also a lot stricter. For some weird reason, my brain really needs such a calculation, though, to justify getting yet another game. I like that this one is a lot stricter than mine but probably still reasonable and only slightly less arbitrary. :p

Let’s take a look at my Steam profile: The one with the most amount of time played is still Star Trek Online with 258 hours. I would say that I spent most of these hours trying to figure out how the space fights work and how to get a good ship. But MMOs are always different and Star Trek Online is a free to play game on top of it (I think I paid for it once and also bought the original series uniforms? I’m not too sure, but I do know they got some money from me). Then there’s Tropico 4, Civilization V, Tropico 5 and Prison Architect with 139 to 106 hours played. There is no question about these games: They were worth their money if you ask me! Where else can you get that much entertainment for that amount of money? Especially considering I got most of these games on sale.

But let’s look at Tropico 5 as I know I bought it for full price when it came out and only went for the sales for the extra DLCs. Summing everything up (I kept the emails), I spent 62 € on Tropico 5 for 109 hours of entertainment. So yes, it’s in the positive. Phew. Still, as I said, my brain needs some kind of justification and I think this formula will help with that. It will also keep me from buying impulsively, I hope. And I’m sure I’m not the only one coming up with some calculations, right?

And one day… one day I will try out all these tiny little games that I don’t care about because they were part of a bundle. And once I do, I will write about my experiences here. Sometimes these little ones are true gems. Sometimes they’re garbage. You never know until you tried, right?

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Gear and level-advantages in PvP

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for column

Some time ago, I read a topic in the German section of the Black Desert Online forum where a player suggested that the game’s PvP may be better if there were no level-advantages as a higher level gives better stats, for example. He was laughed at by others and called “carebear” for wanting that. Unfortunately, I cannot find the thread anymore – but it would be in German anyway. But this is apparently how PvP should work and it is good this way: If you spend a lot of time in the game, you should have an advantage over those who play less often or are new to the game – other than the already mentioned increased experience and skill in playing your character, of course!

I admit, I am a carebear. I am a huge big carebear! – Why? Because I think that being able to win against somebody who has no chance whatsoever at all, no matter how skilled that player may be, simply because I am higher level and/or have better gear, is a horrible design flaw of PvP in a lot of MMOs. If some new player comes in and has not played the game much but knows how to play so much better than me, then kudos to him! He should be able to win against me. I, on the other hand, should not win simply because I have been playing longer and managed to get my character in better gear. I was just very surprised to see that somebody asking for an even playing field and letting skill and experience decide a battle rather than stronger gear and higher level, is called a carebear. Some people…

Warhammer Online Chicken in Tier 1

Let’s look at other MMOs, though: Warhammer Online, for example, had four different PvP (here called “RvR”, but I’ll continue using PvP to not mix up the terms all the time) tiers and bolstering up. The first tier was for levels 1 to 11. So right from the start, you had your map with PvE zones and PvP zones. If your low level 1 entered the tier 1 PvP zone, it got bolstered up in stats to level 11. It was still weaker than a “real” level 11, but at least, you got much closer to the other player. The best part, however, was when you were too high level for a given tier – in our example, when your character turned level 12 – that you were turned into a chicken which could be one-shot by other players. You regularly had people in chat say: “Okay, that’s it. See you in tier 2” and then you could see the chicken run out of the PvP zone as fast as their little feet could carry them. I do remember some heated discussions about this feature before the game launched but Mark Jacobs stood by that decision. Of course, simply getting downscaled would have been the better option in my opinion, as that would have freed up the whole game to you once you were max. level instead of restricting you only to the highest tier. But I still think the chicken mechanic is better than having high level players repeatedly kill low level players. Especially when you consider that low level players also may be new players which are kind of important to keep in an MMO… ;)

GW2 sPvP with level 2
All specializations are unlocked, even though my character is only level 2. In PvE, you need to work towards unlocking the specializations first

Guild Wars 2’s sPvP (instanced PvP) goes even further: No “artificial” bolstering up, but being at maximum level with exactly the same stats and exactly the same gear as everybody else! When I heard that they were doing it like that, I got pretty excited! Those who have a lot of time (and who are usually the ones with the highest level and the highest gear in other MMOs) are probably also those who get the most practice and as such they will have an advantage over people like me anyway. However, there are also those who do have a lot of time on their hands, who do get a lot of practice and who may turn out to be worse than somebody with less practice but quicker reflexes or whatever the reason. I ask again: Is this bad? Am I a carebear if I say that this is how it should be? That skill should determine the winner of a battle and not the playtime, the level or the gear that a player acquired?

Thankfully, we have so many games around that I think everybody can find a game that does it the way they prefer. So, I know that even though Black Desert Online looks like an interesting game, it is not the game for me. I do prefer Guild Wars 2 where level and gear don’t matter!

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Gaming disappointments of 2015

In general, 2015 has been a really good year for me gaming-wise (or in general even!), but there are also a few negative points that stick out for me. Not games in general, but part of the games that I otherwise liked or was looking forward to. So if you see something on the list here, it of course doesn’t mean that I think the whole game is crap. :p The list is also in no particular order as it would be really difficult to compare and rank the issues I’m having with the various games or aspects.

The ending (episode 5) of “Life is Strange” (spoiler-free!)

It is simply not possible to say anything about this part without spoiling, but I will try. I had read about some players’ opinions that they had been disappointed about the ending and I had wished not to belong to that group, but rather to the one who enjoyed and liked the last episode. Unfortunately, I am disappointed as well. I am not saying it’s a bad episode. The problem for me was that it did not feel as great as episodes 2 to 4 did. On the other hand, it being the last episode, I also did kind of rush through it to experience the ending of the story. So this could be part of it.

Guild Wars 2 throughout the year

Yes, I know they prepared for their first expansion and the whole company was busy working on it, but having the game with nothing new to do content-wise for most of the year still seemed very weird to me, especially considering the game is still very young and received its first expansion. So, no matter what I think of the expansion, for most of the year, Guild Wars 2 was the same than it was in 2014 and that was disappointing for me and not what I had expected.

Rift_Level 41

Rift and the Primalist

In October 2014, Rift had launched its second expansion “Nightmare Tide”. While the content itself is free, other things (like new souls for your callings) need to be bought. I did pay for a few things (I bought the new souls, for example). Now they are asking me to give them 30-something € again for 6/10 of a new class, the Primalist. 6/10 because 4 souls are not released or done yet, but they already said that the remaining four souls would be a separate purchase. I know, I know, I don’t have to pay for it, I don’t have to play it and it certainly isn’t “pay to win”. But it still felt too fast after the release of the expansion to ask for such a large amount of money for 60 % of a new class. The price is just too much.

Valhalla Hills and lack of depth

I had such high hopes when I heard who was developing this game (some developers who were responsible for the early Settlers games and for the Cultures series) and when I saw the first trailer. After I had gotten the game (as a prize from winning in the Blaugust challenge), I did have fun in the game for a while. However, it is nowhere near Cultures or Settlers. Asking for 30 € for this game just seems like much too much and part of me just can’t get rid of the feeling that this would have been a great mobile game. But on a PC? It just doesn’t really work for me. It is lacking the depth that Settlers and Cultures had. Maybe one day it will get close, but so far, I’d rather play the old Cultures games again (which I can, because I have all of them and they work wonderfully with Windows 7).

ValhallaHills-Grola

Neocore Games’ communication techniques

Van Helsing’s “Final Cut” did get released in 2015 after all. Two times, Neocore Games decided to postpone the release. Important: them postponing the release is not my complaint here! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know which issues caused them to postpone the release twice and that’s a good sign, because it means the issues are clearly not part of the game anymore! However, both times the company decided to announce the postponing within 24 hours or less than its scheduled release date. I would think they should have known longer before that. In a time where people take days off work to play a game on release day, this should be handled with more foresight. Thankfully, I don’t belong to those people. :p But I had still planned my evening around being able to play the game and it was disappointing. Having a bit more warning ahead of time is much better and lets a company seem much more professional. With these short windows between the announcements and the originally scheduled release, they did come off as less professional than they probably are. Still, all is well that ends well. So let me emphasize this once more: My complaint is about their communication, but not about their game at all which I happen to love. :)

The Repopulation’s engine woes

I feel so bad for the developers of “The Repopulation”. Not being able to continue working on your game and selling it to players (especially now with the holiday sales) must be heart-breaking. They have done really well so far if you ask me and the game’s been coming along nicely. In case you don’t know what’s going on with the Repopulation: They are working with the HeroCloud Engine. The company behind that engine is having some kind of issues. You can read up on it on MassivelyOP if you like. By now, it seems that there is cause to be optimistic that the issues will be resolved soon. What’s so sad here is that none of this is the fault of the developers of The Repopulation and they certainly don’t deserve such a scare or missing out on sales. So yeah, the game itself or any of its parts are NOT on my disappointment-list. On the contrary!

Devilian’s server Seadrift

This came in at the last minute, more or less. Seadrift is one of the two European servers for Devilian. Of course, it is the one with my character on it. What happened is that some weird data loss issue had emerged causing Trion to work overtime to try and fix it. Characters had lost their items (in an ARPG title like Devilian, this is really bad, of course) and quest progress has been lost as well. I, for example, could now re-do some quests. In fact, I also have a tutorial quest which I can’t do, because I can’t access the tutorial area anymore. Unfortunately, this also means that I do not have that box with items that you can open every few levels to get some rewards out of it. It also doesn’t feel right to know that while I did do those quest chains, the game itself lost the data and there is no trace of it left. In the “aftermath”, the server had to undergo maintenance several more times, compensation has been given out and so on. But it still feels weird with the character not being as it used to be. I have since started playing on the other European server, because I don’t trust Seadrift anymore. One good thing about this whole issue was Trion’s communication, by the way. They did frequently post updates about what is going on! I did feel it would be a bit unfair to the company to post this complaint here without also posting the positive aspect of it.

Devilian

Now that my complaints are out there, look forward to “My personal top 5 of 2015” list coming soon (as soon as I have made my final decision on which games should be on there and at which position :p).

Diversity in regional design: Spring

I really love spring in “real life”. When the sun starts to feel warm on your skin again. The snow is melting (if there had been some). The first birds are chirping again in the morning (as opposed to the cooing of pigeons). The trees and first flowers are starting to bloom. It’s just something I can’t get enough looking at.

In MMOs, you usually find a wide variety of regions all with different looks and feels: The desert, the jungle, grassland and so on. Of course, regions with snow or regions with lots of sun near a beach exist as well. But are there any regions that depict spring?

In Rift, the only one that came to my mind is Tempest Bay.

spring_rift_tempest bay

The rest of the city mainly consists of buildings and water – it’s basically a little island far away from the other regions in the game. But of course, I may forget some region at the moment.

Guild Wars 2 was equally difficult. Maybe the Grove or Caledon Forest. They’re not really spring-like, but they feature vibrant colours in the pinkish-spectrum.

spring_guild wars 2_caledon forest

It is a tiny bit disappointing to not see more spring regions. You could have them with snow in some areas, melting in others. Some flowers looking through the snow and all that. I would certainly love to see it. :)

Class names and expectations

Trove Candy BiomeI was just baking some bread while listening to a Trove stream (this one, to be precise) when the streamer was asked if Trove was going to add a healing class any time soon. I thought: Oooh, I would love that! But the streamer’s reply surprised me. “Yes, the candy barbarian will be somewhat of a healing class” (quoted by memory here). Candy barbarian… A healer. When I had heard that class’s name, I imagined a pastel coloured slightly pinkish guy running through cotton balls with an equally pastel coloured axe. Never once did I think that this guy could heal. I also always thought of “him” as a guy, even though my own character, Paeroka, is female and will always be female no matter which class I activate.

Back to the classes – I do have certain expectations towards classes. When I see a game (MMOs and RPGs mostly) I always look at what the classes are called. When they have “mage”, “warrior”, “hunter” and “priest”, I close the website almost immediately. No, thank you. If you can’t even have enough imagination to a) have more than those standard classes or b) at least give them more imaginative names, I can already assume that the game itself won’t offer anything new or intriguing either. Maybe I won’t do the game justice then, but that’s the thing about expectations.

Rift_Warrior fighting
Her build is a pretty standard warrior build: Run in, watch enemies die.

Of course, Rift is falling into that category. The main callings are named “warrior”, “mage”, “rogue” and “cleric”. But Rift advertised having souls and those do have unfamiliar names. My cleric can choose three our of ten callings: Sentinel, inquisitor, justicar, oracle, defiler, cabalist, purifier, warden, shaman and druid. Druid can call faeries to assist in combat, by the way. Purifier is a healing soul. So they clearly fit my expectations. But here comes to downside of having all those nice and imaginative names: I can never remember which soul is which. Justicar or inquisitor – which one was the tank soul?

GW2_Mesmer_Illusions
For those who don’t know, the mesmer in Guild Wars 2 can create clones of itself.

What I’m trying to say here is that a class’s name should ideally give you some kind of an idea what it is about but not be as bland and boring as “warrior”. Or at least, a game should offer more classes to choose from with some “better” names. Warhammer Online comes to my mind (though they had it easy seeing how it was an already established IP): Black orc, Disciple of Khaine, Zealot on the one hand and Engineer, Shaman and Swordmaster on the other. Guild Wars 2 has pretty generic class names mostly (warrior, elementalist, necromancer), but at least, they have more than standard 4 classes and add the mesmer which is a class name I haven’t seen anywhere else yet.

Long story short: Candy Barbarian will be a healer. Okay. I’m still looking forward to trying that class – I love healers, after all!