web analytics

Seabeard App

seabeard-app

Take elements of Animal Crossing, Rune Factory, Harvest Moon, and everything annoying about In-App Purchases (IAP) and you have a “free” game called Seabeard. Seabeard is all about restoring your island to its former glory. You do so by clearing out overgrowth, restoring ruins, building new houses, and bringing commerce back to your empty corner of the map.

Gameplay is simple: You tap the screen to move and interact. You can decorate buildings, obtain pets, harvest farmable items, explore dungeons, craft recipes, do quests, go fishing, play mini-games, and the typical stuff you’d expect from a game of this type. Watch the video below from the creators of the game for a visual presentation of what you’ll find.

I really enjoy Seabeard’s use of islands. Your have your own island home that you are trying to build up, but you can travel via ship to other islands. Traveling between islands provides an opportunity to play sea-based mini-games where you can earn prizes ranging from gold to rare crafting materials. If you choose not to play a mini-game, you are lifted up by a zeppelin and carried to the next island.

seabeard-islandsOne of my favorite features is the ability to set up vendor stalls on your island to sell your goods to the game itself or to other players. I don’t mind the concept of having to put items up for sale and waiting 5 minutes to an hour for them to sell. I also don’t mind having to earn additional slots. I think this system works well for Seabeard, and it’s something I can see working well in other games. Selling your items to other players is also a novel feature for devices like this, and allows people like me to get my friends and family playing so that we can help each other build up faster.

Seabeard is one of the best graphical presentations I’ve seen on the iOS. The stylized visuals are captivating, the game runs flawlessly on my iPhone 6 Plus, and I’m once again challenging my previously held belief that phone games have no chance of providing a full-featured gaming experience. Seabeard is capable of providing the exact same experience found in games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. The key word here is capable.

 

In-App PurchasesWhere Seabeard falls short is in its use of IAPs. The game starts out decently accommodating. Wait 10 minutes here, 5 hours there, spend a few hours earning coins to afford the next building, etc. Then suddenly you hit this wall where it’ll take several hours of doing the same repetitive tasks before earning enough gold to move on. Conveniently you can purchase Pearls or Gold from their cash shop, but the rates are so ludicrous that you’d quickly spend hundreds of dollars before even putting in a decent amount of time into the game. IAPs take what could be one of the best games ever made for phones and warp it into a cash grabbing annoyance. My heart was crushed when this realization came crashing down on me right in the middle of enjoying the game.

If Seabeard was available for $20 I would be telling everyone I know to get out there and buy the game. Totally worth that price. But now I’m stuck in this weird position of telling people they may as well avoid playing it because they’ll only be disappointed after about 3-4 hours of play.

Despite its enormous and unavoidable flaw, I really do hope people try this out and realize the potential for creating a fully-realized game of this calibre on mobile devices. I like having this type of game with me on my phone — a device I carry with me everywhere — and I like knowing I can pick up and play for 30 seconds or 10 minutes then slide it back into my pocket.

In-App Purchases

In-App Purchases

I’m playing a lot of mobile games these days now that I have an iPhone 6 Plus. Playing on the iPhone 6 Plus screen is way more fun than the iPhone 4. I can actually see stuff and my fingers aren’t blocking 40% of the screen. I’m not really a “mobile gamer” though, so I’m not inclined to spend more than $0.99 on an app, and even then I won’t buy ones that aren’t on a huge sale and critically acclaimed – Terraria for $0.99 today, for example.

The apps I tend to play are “freemium” which means they have In-App purchases (IAP). The IAP are generally the same type of thing you’d expect from a F2P game like League of Legends, or something a little more insidious like the type of model found in a F2P MMO. The worst of the lot are the IAPs tied to the “waiting game.” Freemium apps are notorious for being timer games where the main gameplay element is actually just waiting for time to pass. Token, Pearls, Doodads, or whatever the in-game currency for that particular app can be earned in-game at a tauntingly slow pace (only there to make put you in pain) or bought from the store. Spend the premium currency and the timers speed up.

Mobile games, the games meant to be ‘on the go and quick’ end up being slow and tedious upkeep games. It’s this weird juxtaposition of time and convenience, and that’s what makes mobile gamers the perfect prey for this type of business model. In order to keep a game that should be quick and convenient actually quick and convenient, money has to be spent.

IAPs have become a license to make bad design decisions or in many games entirely bad games. Games that would be AMAZING — even better than so many PC/Console games — are destroyed by IAPs having to dictate design direction. It’s sad because had the game simply been sold for $5 or $10 or heck even $20 I would have happily bought the game rather than feel like I have to be nickeled and dimed (many times to extreme sums of $$$) just to find the level of enjoyment I could have by paying the initial cost.

I truly believe we are entering an era where mobile devices are capable of providing as-good or better gaming experiences. For that to happen these games can not continue to exist predominantly as IAP waiting games.

iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 6 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 4

I’ve had the same iPhone 4 since 2010, and I’m finally looking to make an upgrade. I’ve never felt the desire to be the type of consumer to upgrade my phone every time a new model comes out. I’m definitely not the type of person to follow the tech blogs and watch unboxing videos explaining the specs of each new phone. The whole cell phone race is something I’ve always avoided entirely.

My iPhone 4 is a little small, it’s sluggish with all of Apple’s iOS updates adding new features pushing the limits of its capabilities, and I’m simply ready for something new. My dilemma now is which of these new phones do I choose: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Here’s what I use my “phone” for these days:

  • Texting – I use this excessively on a daily basis to communicate with family, work, etc.
  • Internet – My phone is constantly one access point to the internet these days. I’m on the go a lot and I need a quick way to look something up.
  • Games – I’m playing a lot of games these days like Boom Beach, Star Wars Commander, and Clash of Clans.
  • Organization – I like a good calendar and tools to keep me organized.

I can already tell you without much research that all of the phones out there on the market handle these things well. But now that you know that what I normally do, I can tell you a bit more of what I want it to do.

  • Take amazing photos. I’m a lot more active now that I’m engaged, and I’m going places and doing things worthy of documenting with photos. I’ve come to realize my iPhone 4’s camera is not quite as good as some of these photos I see out there lately.
  • Video chat. I want to face time and be able to video chat with my fiance and family.
  • Integrate more with the rest of my life. I feel like my phone has always been detached from everything I do. I’m a PC user which means I’ve been in this weird juxtaposition of technology having an iPhone.

I can tell you now I’m already leaning toward the iPhone 6, but here are my thoughts on all of these devices after playing around with them in the store.

iphone6vs6plusiPhone 6

The iPhone is a solid phone. I’ve used iOS for years. I’m used to it. The phone is larger than my iPhone 4, has a lot of upgrades, and would easily do everything I want it to do. My problems with the iPhone 6 are that it’s … another iPhone.  Is it different enough? I’m not one to ever spend lots of money in an app store, so despite being a pure iOS user for years I haven’t really invested so deep that my switching costs are too high to matter. That said, I still have lots of apps and keeping things consistent would be nice.

Pros: I’m comfortable with the iPhone. It does what I need.

Cons: It’s another iPhone.

iPhone 6 Plus

The “phablet” version of the iPhone. It’s big and has better screen resolution than the basic 6, but is it too big? I have large hands, but I don’t know if I want it to feel like a tablet in my hands. I don’t want to have to always use two hands when using it. I put my phone in my pocket and I’m not sure whether or not this is too big to fit nicely in my jeans, slacks, or shorts. All of my thoughts on the iPhone 6 apply to the Plus as well.

Pros: Big screen with great resolution. It’s the iPhone experience I know.

Cons: Too big to fit in my pocket? Would it be cumbersome? It’s another iPhone.

note4Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Alright… here is a tough one. I’ve never used Android except for these past few weeks as I’ve played with a Galaxy tablet I borrowed. I went into the store and I tried out the Note 4 and immediately felt somewhat turned off by the ‘experience’ of the operating system. However, I like certain features.

I like that it’s linked into my Google accounts. I’m a heavy Google user. I like the feature where multiple apps can be open on the screen at a time or ‘minimized’ and quickly brought back up. I think the Google app store (Play store?) is fine. A few years ago it was trash and this wouldn’t even be a debate, but there really isn’t much of a difference now in app offerings. It has a stylus… I’m a little weirded out by that.

Pros: Great features that trump the iPhone. It’s connected to Google and probably integrates best with my life.

Cons: It’s huge. It feels more like a tablet. I don’t like the overall ‘experience’ as much as the iPhone.

As I mentioned before, I’m leaning toward the iPhone 6. It will fit into my pocket nicely, do everything I need, keep my experience consistent, and integrate with the other people in my life despite not quite integrating well with things I do on other devices.

Anyone out there have experience with these devices and want to share your insights? I’ll probably buy within the next week or two.

Clash of Clans & Star Wars Commander: I’ve Sunk This Low

clash-of-clansI’m in a gaming slump lately. All of the MMOS outright now fail to meet my standards of looking for a rich and deep virtual world experience like I had in all of the MMOs I played from 1999 to 2005.  I play Diablo 3 on the weekends, and I poke around occasionally in other games like Albion Online during the week. I’m actually starting to hate myself for playing 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there of games like Star Wars Commander.

Star Wars Commander, Clash of Clans, and Boom Beach are all sorta this same type of game where you spend real time waiting to build up a base or pay in gems or other currency you can buy to expedite things. Yeah, they are all pay to win in some form but capable of being played for several hours (at least in my experience) if you’re wiling to wait a while in-between sessions. These are all time-waster “games” yet I find myself playing.

star-wars-commanderI wish I could build up a base and play something like this without the pay-to-win elements. I wish I could build up my empire base and run attacks on other squads or make a clan in clash of clans and play on my desktop. I’m not a fan of the little phone screen (my iPhone 4 is kinda small now compared to the other iPhones out there).

I like the jump-in-jump-out nature. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, I know. If I can’t lose countless hours to a MMO then I want my games capable of being consumed in bite-sized pieces.

I’m hoping to see H1Z1 hit Steam soon. I’ll buy the early access out of sheer boredom.

Lego Minifigures Online

I was browsing around gaming news sites when I noticed that “Lego Minifigures Online has entered open beta.” I think I vaguely remember hearing something about the game a while back so I decided to try it out. Surprisingly enough I saw Funcom’s name attached to it. Anyway, I love Legos and video games and even Lego video games so this should be great, right? Here are my thoughts after playing for around three hours.

Lego1The Basics

Lego Minifigurs Online is pretty much Diablo: Jr. Edition. You run around from a birds-eye perspective and whack monsters and break stuff. The game doesn’t seem to be terribly demanding spec-wise so I was able to run everything on Ultra with ease. It may not have looked quite as good as some of the other Lego Games out there but it still had its own charm. There are also several different genres of Lego represented in the game from stuff like sci fi, fantasy, and even real world.

The gameplay is fairly simple. You run around on a somewhat linear map fighting monsters. Along the way you will come across quests that will automatically activate for you and they usually boil down to stuff like “Break a bunch of this” or “Collect a bunch of that” and so on. When first starting out you get to choose between three sets of minifigures that make your party. I went with the one that had a cyclops, plumber, and some fantasy lady with a bow. Each character represented a different category: Striker, Builder, Defender. Strikers do more damage, builders build faster, and Defenders are beefier I guess. Each Minifig has a different basic attack along with a special attack. My cyclops smashes with his club and shoots an eye laser, the plumber throws plungers that I think slow and also has an AoE pop-up attack, and the defender lady shoots three arrows at once and also has a rope shot that AoE roots guys. You play one character at a time and can switch between them by pressing their respective number slot of 1,2 or 3. Each character has their own life bar so if one isn’t doing to hot you can swap them out. As you gain exp you can level up your minifigs with some of the stars you collect and give them various bonuses.

There’s also another interesting element to customize your stats. A Brick Menu can be accessed and it shows you a gray lego figure. Using various colors of legos (red for striking, Blue for Defending, Yellow for creativity) you can add to the bonuses of your character. At least I think that’s how it works since they didn’t really explain it at all. You eventually unlock larger pieces and the pieces you already have level up to become more effective. It’s interesting trying to fit them in different ways to maximize the kinds of bonuses you get.

lego3Things Quickly Head South From Here

Lego Minifigures Online may not be a very deep or thrilling experience but there is something there that makes you want to keep playing. Unfortunately, for me at least, I won’t be doing so due to a large number of factors. I’ll detail them below.

Pocket Adventures & Epic Dungeons – As you travel through you game you come across several little side areas which lead off to things called “Pocket Adventures.” However the only way to gain access to said adventures is through the game’s first paywall. Only subscribers get to enter into the Pocket Adventures. As I played through I must have passed five or six of these and each time it felt like a small flick to my eyeball. Then I came across my first “Epic Dungeon” which also requires a subscription. That’s just not cool. I don’t mind paying subs for games but I find it really annoying when a F2P game has not only subs but a huge number of nickel-and-diming shop items, but I’ll get to that next.

NotCoolMicrotransactions & Diamonds – The business model for LMO is pretty heinous. In the game there are two types of currency: Stars and Diamonds. You can find stars and they are the basic currency that is used to buy upgrades and such. Diamonds can also be found but their drop rate seems to be astronomically low. You can get a decent amount from completing story quests but I have a feeling that the well will run dry sooner rather than later. Diamonds are what you use to purchase everything in the store. You cannot buy a minifig of your choice and must instead buy a pouch for 750 diamonds and it will give you one figure at random. It’s actually fairly interesting to note that you can only buy the lowest amount of diamonds in chunks of around 1250 for $4.99. I find that interesting because it’s not quite enough to cover the price of two minifigs so you will be left with extra diamonds. It’s the same kind of BS that Microsoft did back when they dealt in Microsoft Points.

You can also use your diamonds for other stuff though. Lets say you want to upgrade your character once he levels up. You could spend your stars, and you will, but you will barely have enough to cover one character. So you will either have to be happy grinding away trying to collect stars OR you could take the easy way out and throw a few dozen diamonds at them. Need some health potions? That’s some more diamonds. Heck, you can even buy a months subscription for something like 2000 diamonds. The amount of time it would take to farm that many would not even be worth the effort. You are better off just subscribing to the game for $8 a month.

lego4Smashed Characters – From what I’ve experienced it is not very easy to die in Lego Minifigs Online. I’ve come close but never actually had it happen. I was curious though so I decided to let all three of my characters get wiped out and this is when the ugliest aspect of the game showed up. Each time one of your characters dies he becomes “Smashed” and is not playable for a certain period of time. For me it was 20 minutes, but I would not be surprised if the time goes up as you get farther in the game. So you are basically put in time-out if you wipe out all of your minifigs. But wait, what’s this? Oh, of course! Diamonds! You can pay diamonds to unsmash your minifigs! That’s when I exited the game and uninstalled it.

Oh what could have been…

I’d love to imagine that somewhere out there in an alternate reality Lego Minifures Online was a great game. Not only accessible for all ages while still having depth, but featuring a fair balance in its free-to-play model. Too bad we don’t live in that universe. Instead LMO is a shallow F2P game that locks content behind paywalls and features ridiculous microtransactions. I just don’t get it, honestly. I don’t think it’s impossible to make a fair and balanced F2P game. I just wrote about Marvel Heroes and how great I think they are doing. Maybe it’s not fair to judge the game when it’s still in Beta. Things COULD get better, right? It’s possible, sure, but anybody who is considering sinking any real money into this “beta” should really think it through and possibly wait.

I just can’t shake this bothersome feeling I get when I think about the microtransactions in this game. Two types of currency, paywalls, pay-to-skip options… This seems a lot like the ugly model that a lot of cell phone and tablet games use. But it couldn’t… Could it? *GOOGLES*

“Platform(s) PC, Android, iOS”