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Only Blizzard

Overwatch New Blizzard IP

Only Blizzard can both excite and disappoint me at the same time. Only Blizzard can be unoriginal and draw this amount of hype. I wasn’t expecting them to be original. In fact, I wanted them to make another Warcraft RTS game. I’m disappointed by the fact that they are still drawing this out as long as possible. It’s inevitable. There will be another Warcraft RTS game. It’s going to happen. The 20th anniversary of Warcraft would have been a good time.

Instead, we now know that Blizzard’s next new IP/Franchise is going to be Overwatch. Overwatch is a first-person shooter that looks shockingly just like Team Fortress 2. Blizzard is rarely ever completely original. They simply take what has worked well in the past and blown it up into something bigger and arguably in many instances (no pun intended) better.

The basic premise of Overwatch DOES appeal to me. I really do enjoy shooters like this, and I really do enjoy the zaniness brought about by this type of setting. I’m a fan of the art style… I’m just a fan of all of it. They seem to have a great offering for characters to play with different roles and abilities.

I imagine Overwatch will be free to play with the same kind of hats and costumes model as TF2. This is the route they’re going with their games. I keep saying over and over that Blizzard knows their money is in games like Hearthstone (seriously, did you see how much they were hyping it during the opening ceremony of Blizzcon?) and now Overwatch. Their COMMUNITY is in games like WoW. It will be interesting to see how they balance this transition.

Bottom line(s)…

  • I’ve never played a Blizzard game that I did not enjoy immensely.
  • I love each and every one of Blizzard’s franchises.
  • Blizzard makes high-quality games.

Therefore…

Overwatch will be a great franchise full of high-quality games that I enjoy immensely. Damn you for not announcing Warcraft 4.

New Game De-Hype

You know how a highly anticipated title will release and everyone is super excited to play it, but then most people stop playing it after like a week or two tops? What’s that phenomenon called? It’s similar to the MMO 3 monther except it mostly occurs with non-MMO titles.

It happens all the time with games like Call of Duty, Titanfall, sometimes Battlefield, or even a couple MMOs… to be honest I think Wildstar was a 3 weeker. Titanfall in particular I played for maybe a week.  I’m seeing a trend now that I think about it… shooters tend to be that way. I’m also guilty of it in games like Mario Kart and Pokemon. So it’s not an issue of the games sucking — some definitely do, though.

No hook? Good enough to enjoy then put down? New game comes out then two weeks later another new game comes out? I’m trying to figure this one out. Give me your thoughts if you too have observed the huge excitement for a game to release only to play it briefly and put it down.

Roleplay vs. Ruleplay

I’m always analyzing what makes players behave a certain way or more accurately the way in which people play MMOs. My latest thought process brought me to this idea of Roleplay vs. Ruleplay.

Players these days tend to follow rules laid out for them. Players are told to level up so they do. They are told to grind dungeons for gear then move on to the next dungeon, and so they do. Players are told to be the combative hero and center of attention. MMOs tell the player exactly how to play the game. There are parameters — defined parameters — controlling the extent to which a player can exercise conscious thought about what it is they are doing and why.

Older MMOs had fewer parameters or rules. Older MMOs required the player to imagine their own parameters, create their own rules, and the community created the way in which everyone jointly played together.

Throw an average player today into a game roleplay situation and their response will be, “What am I supposed to do?” People haven’t become less intelligent or less creative in the past 10 years. Humanity hasn’t seen a decline that drastic that quickly. The problem rests on the games and the ecosystem which has been created and fostered by developers/publishers looking to stamp our McMMO franchises. Start to change the games and the players will adapt to their surroundings.

When a player can choose their path, choose how to play that path, and have the freedom to cross paths back and forth, the entire experience becomes more organic and dynamic. Constrain the player to one path with every other player on the same route toward one goal or objective and much of that is lost.

I want to stop there because this topic can now split into several specific topics about specific ways in which players are encourage to Roleplay vs. Ruleplay. For now, think about the ways in which you as a player are being confined to a set path and how you might do things differently if given the choice of freedom. What role would you play, and how? Suddenly the game world becomes a virtual world full of possibilities.

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.

Keen’s Thoughts On Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha

hots-shop

I finally got into Heroes of the Storm technical alpha a week or so ago, and after spending several hours going head to head with heroes, villains, and well-known characters from all of Blizzards IPs, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

First impression: Blizzard polish is (duh) amazing. They enter the MOBA scene years after so many others yet create a game that just ‘feels’ great. I don’t need to go into details about the UI being great or the game running smooth. The map is standard MOBA with a Blizzard flare (more on that in a moment). It’s all flawless, and that’s to be expected. Go watch a youtube video if you want to see more.

heroes-of-the-storm-raven

Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

Gameplay centers solely around improving your team’s heroes faster than your enemy. Hero customization comes in the form of choosing talents and abilities that actually make the customization in HotS significantly better than most if not all other mobas out there. As you level you get to choose to upgrade abilities, and you have to make a choice of which ability will receive which upgrade. Upgrades may make an ability do more damage or gain an effect.

hots-arthas

As you play heroes more and win games you unlock new traits for them and gain experience to level those heroes up. This encourages you to pick a hero, buy it (yay cash shop?) and rank it up.

HotS also has mounts. It wouldn’t be a F2P or a Blizzard game without mounts. These can be activated by pressing Z and make moving around the battlefield when traveling a little bit faster. They can also be customized (more later).

hots-muradin2

What makes Heroes of the Storm unique is the interesting gameplay twists. Throughout the match there will be timed events to gather things or beat the enemy team at performing a challenge. In the Halloween map ‘Cursed Hollow’ the goal is to curse your enemies by collecting the tributes. This curse makes the enemy creeps have 1 HP — a great way to push their base. Another map I’ve played had players entering into a goldmine (good ole classic Blizzard gold mines) to slay undead and collect tokens to spawn a boss that would fight for your team.

hots-muradin

The free-to-play component of HotS disappointed me. I hate games that only make certain heroes available each week. It’s like League. I prefer DOTA2’s method of giving you every hero. You’re forced to buy heroes and they ARE NOT CHEAP. Some range from $3.99 up to I think I saw one for like $10? It’s crazy. Yes, you can unlock them with the in-game ‘gold’ you earn slowly by playing normally. Other things like mounts, cosmetic skins, and the usual fair can be found. Blizzard clearly likes Riot’s business model.

Worth playing? Yep! Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun despite being a somewhat obvious cash grab. If you’re like me you’ll look to find the most value possible without paying a cent. I can have plenty of fun for free.