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Deep Rock Galactic: No Dwarf Left Behind!

Deep Rock Galactic is a co-op-centric sci-fi FPS that just came out into early access. DRG features a group of awesome dwarves in a 100% full-destructible and procedurally-generated world.

Here are the key features:

  • 4-player co-op
  • 4 unique classes with their own weapons and abilities
  • Fully-destructible environemnts
  • Procedurally-generated caves and missions so no two missions are alike
  • Upgrades to gear & appearance earned from in-game mining and rewards

Before I jump into a quick explanation of how the game works, and a cool story from this evening's session, you can watch the video below to get a feel for what a mission is like. This is Graev and I playing online tonight.

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PSA: ECO Enters Early Access in One Week

A bunch of us in the Keen and Graev Community Discord are really excited about ECO. We’ll be launching a server when it releases into Early Access on Steam.

Just a heads up, that’s in one week!

ECO is a game about community, survival — against both the elements and an incoming meteor — and social responsibility, or something.

What’s our hope and desire? Build a thriving civilization from nothing into something amazing.

ECO isn’t one of those “be all do all solo” games. You really can only specialize one way, and the skill points drive you towards picking one real profession. We’re starting to divvy up responsibilities and public roles for our server. Will you be a carpenter? A mason? A farmer? How will you contribute to society for good? Or …. bad?

We’re all hoping the game, despite its early access state, will be smooth and polished enough to provide the fundamentals of that core community experience. Definitely a good to keep you guys informed about if you won’t be joining us.

It’ll be $30 on Steam. Join us in Discord if interested!

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Kingdom of Loot Early Access Review

Kingdom of Loot released into early access on Steam today. For only $6.74 I felt like I could abandon my “no more early access” rule. I was really, really looking forward to playing. Unfortunately, I really wish I hadn’t.

I don’t like to trash games. I know a lot of hard work goes into making them, bringing them to market, and supporting them. But I have to say Kingdom of Loot is pretty dang rough, even for early access.

Kingdom of Loot is a 2D modern 16-bit ARPG designed with the idea in mind that it wants to be a Diablo meets Secret of Mana. Unfortunately, it really lacks any coherent gameplay at all.

Kingdom of Loot Overworld

The Bad

Starting with the controls, I think they’re broken. The use of a controller feels mandatory because of how all over the place the Keyboard/Mouse controls are, yet if you use a controller you’re still forced to use the K/M for some things. They feel delayed and wonky too like they don’t quite line up with the actions that happen in game.

Combat is abysmal from the start. Spam a single key in the early levels because you don’t have abilities yet, but it’s just whack-a-mole. And that one key is… spacebar to attack? Yeesh.  I really hate the sounds of combat too. I had to turn them completely off so that my ears would stop bleeding.

Kingdom of Loot Combat

Hitting monsters made no sense. I don’t know if it was a bug or what… but some monsters took no damage at all. I couldn’t even lower their HP. Others of the same level I killed in a few swings. I can’t make any sense of it either way.

The open-world / instanced locations idea of the overworld map is neat, but when you zone into the rooms it’s all the same every time. Mobs are just clustered in little groups and I feel as those the entire thing lacks purpose. It’s nothing more than a mob grinder.

The UI is pretty bad. The menus are access by moving your mouse to the side of the screen where they slide in. It’s tough to navigate since the cursor only works if you line it up with the options at just the right spot.

You can make the screen bigger with Shift+F, but this felt like a crummy scaling and not an actual full screen feature.

Kingdom of Loot

Bugs:

  • Chat: I couldn’t use my spacebar and chat was limited to 12 characters. Relogging a few times fixed it but it broke again.
  • The game glitched out several times sending my system to its knees until I managed to force quit and let me system recover. It even jacked up my sound.
  • Quest board was broken entirely.
  • Tons of latency issues.

Things I DO Like

I love the graphics. I think they are charming. I think they are perfect for a pseudo-retro game and would happily welcome more games with these graphics.

I like how town is represented in side-scrolling vs. the isometric view.

The overworld idea works, but so far they’ve done nothing with it except for navigation. This may change later in the game.

The multiplayer aspect could be lots of fun.

Verdict

Avoid it. I’m really saddened by just how bad it turned out. I might even do my first Steam refund. I don’t know. It was only $6.74, but at the same time I think it sends a message that I’m not okay with early access being this bad.

I only needed 35 minutes of play to form these conclusions, which is really quite sad. I’ll keep playing up until the point of being unable to refund the game. If I still feel the same, I’ll have to refund.

QuickCast Episode 3: Rehashisode

[smart_track_player url="http://feeds.soundcloud.com/stream/317747831-keenandgraev-quickcast-episode-3-rehashisode.m4a" ]

Episode Notes

This episode rehashed a few topics from last week (hence the title) and touched upon the latest news surfacing about the Mini NES. Apparently Nintendo has decided to ship the last batch, stating the product was always intended to be temporary.

We chatted about the NES Mini's moddability as well. Graev brought up the Retropie which uses a Raspberry Pi to create a retro gaming system. Really cool.

The latest Nintendo Direct showed a lot for the 3DS, and a few decent titles for the Switch as well. Mario Kart comes out at the end of this month!

Graev shared his very brief and broad impressions of Persona 5 in response to a question from one of our listeners.

Keen is looking forward to trying Kingdom of Loot (impressions to come) and bemoans early access.

We round off the episode by talking about what's coming up in gaming.​

Episode Links

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Embodiment of What’s Wrong with Crowdfunding and Early Access Games

I’m going to pick on Smed and Hero’s Song for a second. I don’t mean to be cruel, but these issues require the scrutiny.

Smed left (was kicked out) of SOE (or Daybreak, or whatever it is now) and started his own little studio (Pixelmage Games) to make games. The first game they worked on was Hero’s Song, an open world roguelike fantasy action RPG.

They tried Kickstarter, but cancelled after 1 week when it was obvious the game would not reach funding.

Hero's Song Kickstarter

Then they proceeded to launch and Indiegogo campaign and seek funding that would be easier to grab quickly. It fell rather flat.

hero's song indiegogo

After a few months of development with not much more than hype, they went to their next stop: Steam early access. On November 7, Hero’s Song was on Steam and available for players to purchase for a whopping $20.

To the complete shock and dismay of those who purchased (I was not one of them), the game was far from complete. In fact, it was in a very rough state. A few patches came out, then Pixelmage went quiet on the updates.

Just 3 hours ago, Smed put the following on the Hero’s Song reddit:

Hi folks,

Sorry for the lack of news or updates. To put it bluntly here part of being a startup means money is tight and funding is a major part of what we have to do as a startup. We’re working through some things and I appreciate your patience. Sorry for not being more transparent on this particular issue but the simple truth is sometimes there isn’t much that we can say. More info soon.

Smed

The Kickstarter failing was the first red flag. That should have been an indication to rethink your premise, marketing, and honestly the game you’re making entirely.

What irks me the most is that companies like this know they are going to fail. They know they won’t have the cash to properly finish the game, but they release it in “early access” on Steam in an effort to try and get enough cash to patch the game to the point where someone influential might say something nice about it to drive just a few more sales in order to keep the lights on. It doesn’t happen.

I feel that this behavior is akin to fraud.

The studios end up hemorrhaging what little talent they had to begin with — you know, because people like to know they’ll be able to feed their families when they suspect the next check won’t clear.

The whole early access and crowdfunded game movement wreaks of cash grabs and dishonesty. It’s exactly what the F2P movement was just a few years ago. I hope this too shall pass.

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Having a Blast in Portal Knights

Portal Knights

Portal Knights is awesome. It’s a sandbox RPG that reminds me a lot of Minecraft meets action RPG. The trailer will do a far better job than I come at showcasing the breadth of the game’s capabilities. Let’s watch and then I’ll fill you in on a bit of what we’ve experienced thus far.

[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/yKInhAFkGGM” width=”700″]

Think Minecraft where you can break blocks. The “world” is broken up into fractured islands must be rebuilt with portal blocks. Traveling between them leads to different biomes with different monsters, items, resources, etc.

You can build bases/homes/whatever you want. There’s crafting for weapons, spells, armor, etc., too. Classes are Warrior, Mage, or Ranger with their own abilities and gear. Combat is real time but fairly simple.

So far Graev and I have reached level 5. We’re a couple of hours in and have established a little makeshift workshops/home in a level 3 world. We use that as our home and return after adventuring out through other portals. We gather up all our loot then come back to drop it off.

With the worlds each having different resources, we find ourselves bouncing around to gather up enough copper ore and coal. Certain monsters are only on certain worlds too so things like Scales (which are used in lots of weapons we can currently craft) become a hot commodity.

I’m taking some video that I’ll highlight for you guys. Graev and I are really having a lot of fun playing — it’s up to 4-player co-op Local or steam friends.

Portal Knights is available on Steam in early access. They are patching the game fairly often, including adding controller support and soon larger worlds. Totally worth the $14.99 I paid and really shining as a sleeper hit for me. I’m really looking forward to the bigger worlds and upcoming patches.

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Good Teams Delay Games

Feels like early access, alphas, betas — whatever you want to call them these days — are so heavily monetized and marketed that the next logical step is QVC/HSN. Even browsing the news sites this morning I see games that aren’t even in beta going ‘on sale’ for a discount — Wtf?  When someone sells access to their game and pushes it hard I start losing respect for them and their product.

Over the past few days I’ve witnessed what feels like a breath of fresh air: Devs failing to meet a deadline. Yep, I love it. Why? Because (1) They had a deadline and (2) They are communicating about it. Who am I referring to? The City State team working on Camelot Unchained.

I’m an original Kickstarter backer for Camelot Unchained so I get the almost-daily emails from Mark and the team about their progress. What I love is the ‘realness’ in them. The ‘crap we missed a deadline and failed you’ and the ‘Here’s what’s actually happening in the office’ live streams. Yep, I’m still a fan of transparency.

While I’m not a huge fan of the “buy access to our game through one of fifty tiers” shops, even those in Camelot Unchained, I like and respect a team that won’t launch a half-baked product and respects quality control.

What I REALLY want to see is a MMO gets announced, the team works on the game, they market the game, recruit testers, sell the game, launch the game, then support the game and continue development. Sounds like 1995-2007, I know, right?!

Anyway, keep up the good work CSE. Delay the alpha. Delay the beta. Delay it all. Rushing is for games with overlords and no vision with a lifespan of 3 months to a year. It’s not worth being in that category.

21

Pay 2 Win

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 days, you probably saw something about H1Z1’s early-access launch debacle. SOE clearly stated several times that guns, ammo, etc., would not be something players could acquire with real money. They would not be purchasable from the cash shop, yada yada. Turns out that wasn’t entirely true.

In what is now being apologized for as a misspeak by a dev during an interview, SOE is cleverly getting guns into players’ hands via the cash shop … indirectly. Players can buy airdrops with a random chance of dropping these types of items.  The problem with the airdrops was that they were landing too close to where the player ordered them. Supposedly these have been tweaked for balance already.

So yes, players can get guns and ammo from the cash shop. It’s just not a direct option. You can’t go to the cash shop and buy an AR-15 with ammo. You have to order an air drop and hope no one steals it from you. I’ll let you decide for yourself if the semantics matter. Smed and his team are 100% pro-air drop, so unless they change their minds it looks like it’ll stay.

What I love about this entire affair is how hard the community policed the anti-pay-to-win philosophy. Reddit blew up on Smed, players started demanding refunds (to which SOE is currently obliging) and a massive spotlight was shined on some pretty crappy decisions and (maybe) bugs leading to a style of play that isn’t in-line with what players want these days.

If only the community would pick up on the design implications of F2P and police it just as hard. The world would be a better place.

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H1Z1 Early Access Commentary

SOE was building up to yesterday’s H1Z1 announcement with a modest level of hype. Lots of “It’s coming!” and “Soon®©™” and “Be sure to tune in for our live stream and reddit stuff!” I’m looking forward to H1Z1 as much as the next person… I thought. Some people are flipping tables and spitting as they scream about the “six week delay” before the early access begins. Once again we are faced with an early access situation that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

From the mouth of Smed:

“Is it going to be a finished game? Absolutely not. If that’s what you’re expecting, DO NOT BUY EARLY ACCESS. The goal here is to let you in early and help us mold it into a game you want to be a part of for quite a long time.” [Source]

Before I jump into a devil’s advocate discussion here, let me preface this by saying I get exactly what they are doing. Deep down you do too. This is marketing. This is business. The sooner everyone realizes this, accepts it, and moves on, the better. Most of us interested in H1Z1 will buy early access or wait until it is free. I certainly will. It sounds like a ton of fun. Okay, now that the grownup version is out there, let’s chat.

I find it fascinating (from the perspective of a player and a human being and not a demon from the business realm) that this idea of selling early access to a game is done with such a hot potato style. This is how I read it all: “Get excited about our unfinished game, but don’t buy it okay? But maybe you should…. but just know it’s not done… but please pay $19.99 now isntead of waiting for it to be free. Oh and if you want more game modes we’ll charge you more. BUT DON’T BUY IT! Seriously, don’t buy it (but please do).”

Here’s another interesting spin from Smed:

“Is H1Z1 going to be better than Day Z day 1? No it won’t. We’ll get asked that question a lot and I wanted to be up front about it. We’re not as feature rich and they have a lot of really cool stuff we just don’t have yet. That being said, we’re also a different game. We’re an MMO and our goals are to create a large scale world that gives you the incredible feeling of being a survivor in a zombie apocalypse.”

Downplay downplay downplay PLAY IT UP PLAY IT UP PLAY IT UP! We’re back to the hot potato. “We’re probably not going to be as good so don’t buy us on Steam for $19.99 January 15, 2015 Click here for more info to get you excited!” Huh.

Another angle begging for commentary here is this idea that you charge more money to let people test more game modes. On one side of the coin it makes sense to charge more for more features. I can sorta accept that. On the other side we have reality where this is an alpha or a beta and people are being given a pay wall to participate in what is being publicized as an opportunity to work alongside the devs. … Incomplete game…. with pay walls… to help test the most incomplete parts of the game where the goal is to let you in to help mold it into a game you want to be apart of for a long time. I’m sure it makes way more sense if you don’t think about it.

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