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Overwatch’s Halloween Terror

So I'm still on my Overwatch binge, and I had to share how much I really enjoy their Halloween event.

I didn't experience the Halloween even of 2016, but I understand that maybe the endless mode is new in 2017? Anyway, it's really fun. There's a mode where you survive and protect a door from on-coming robotic creations that Junkenstein is sending your way.

I did two modes which I think were Junkenstein's Revenge and Endless Night. Both fun. Endless Night gets way out of control as so many bad guys and bosses come streaming toward you.

Definitely fun for anyone who enjoys horde mode type modes.

Is there an endless PvE mode available for non-Halloween events? That'd be cool to play.

Anyway, I know I've been touting Overwatch lately. Just an out-of-nowhere urge to play that paid off for me.

3

Blizzard’s Polish Makes Other Games Hard to Play

Today I actually managed to get some gaming in! I played Overwatch for the first time in many, many months. The first thing I noticed was how ridiculous smooth and gorgeous the animations were.

I chose to play Junkrat. Lobbing those grenades reminds me of Demoman from TF2 — one of my favorites. The attention to detail is miraculous. Even when you jump, Junkrat’s grenade launcher’s little lid that goes over the barrel flaps with the physics. I seriously would jump just to watch it happen.

I don’t have much more to say for this short entry other than to marvel at the polish and wish that other games would carry that same level of awe-inspiring finish. The gamingverse would be a much different place if they did.

Even Battlefront 2, which felt infinitely better than a game like CoD WW2, pales by comparison.

Anyway, just musing on the observation.

Overwatch has one really nice thing going for it…

Another quick post tonight, guys. I might fill you in on some of the details in the future. Suffice it to say, I’m /LFG!

I had the itch to play Overwatch again. What I like about Overwatch is that there’s no progression mechanics. I’m not missing anything by not having played for so long.

Loot boxes (oh the drama!) are only cosmetic.

Levels get you loot boxes (so who cares anyway?)

Higher Competitive ranking gives you bragging rights and gets you away from noobies (like me!).

Competitive points get you golden guns… so a cosmetic item.

That sounds like a great system to me. I can jump in and play tomorrow, and I won’t have to worry about the guy shooting at me having played for 1,000 hours and destroying me because he unlocked better guns down some talent tree.

P.S. I’m Hanzo main.

16

Breaking Down the Microtransaction Discussion Further

Yesterday’s blog about Battlefront 2 being pay to win started a good F2P / cash shop discussion that warranted further dialog. The main comment that prompted this post comes from Gankatron, a long-time reader and active participate in the comments. I appreciate the active participation, and hope you won’t mind me using your comments to prompt further discussion!

Here are two clips of the comment that I want to discuss.

Selling a fun game the devs purposefully broke that can be repaired with real money is a parasitic monetization scheme.

I can’t believe people will willing buy a box for $60/$80 and then continue to pay real money to remain competitive.

Treating your player base like bags of cash to be repeatedly harvested over time through “fun pain”, on top of a premium priced box purchase, is an extremely disrespectful and exploitative business model that I wish people would stop supporting.

And…

It is hypocritical to condemn F2P games while simultaneously supporting a game that incorporates a F2P P2W type of cash shop, but even worse, on top of a premium box price.

First, let me start by saying that I do not approve of microtransactions or cash shops in any form. Whether they be cosmetic (WoW/Overwatch/PUBG), Pay-to-Win (Battlefront 2), or even only in single-player type games (Shadow of War). I’m also not a fan of “crates” — the industry’s latest cash shop disguise.

Let’s try to separate our dislike for a system and proceed with analyzing this a little further. And please, don’t read two sentences of this and comment. Read the whole thing.

We must separate the idea of “F2P” from “cash shop” or “microtransactions.” They are not the same thing.

Free-to-play games are free to play, and typically (99.999% of the time) built/designed around their cash shop. The goal of the “game” (and they are rarely true games) is always to get you into the shop. This can happen when a game starts out F2P, or after a game becomes F2P. It matters not.

F2P games typically contain predatory pricing schemes. The cash shop comes first, and the gameplay comes second. This is why most F2P “games” are shallow. [Standard Disclaimer: There are exceptions, particularly those with cult followings.]

On the other side of this are the “premium” games that charge a box price (often called “buy-to-play” games) which offer cash shop incentives. These can be “pay-to-win” when they offer an advantage. Developers with a cash shop in their game are obviously drawn to the idea of enticing players into the shop. Blizzard markets the heck of out their cash shop. It’s on the launcher almost every time. Marketing your cash shop does not make you predatory.

Things get a lot more interesting when the cash shop offers an advantage to those who make a purchase.

This type of “pay-to-win” can be handled in so many different ways. Here are both extremes:

  1. You simply can’t play without paying. You have to drop dozens, maybe hundreds to even matter. You can’t simply play and ever achieve the success of paying players.
  2. You can completely enjoy the game without paying. The advantages provided offer a bonus, a boost ahead, and a lot of pizzazz to your gameplay, but can be skipped or achieved by playing the game without paying.

I don’t know where Star Wars Battlefront 2 falls on this list, but having seen what the star cards do, I have a hard time believing it will be closer to the first than the second.

Where would you place a game like Hearthstone on the scale? I would place it closer to #2. Is it pay-to-win? OMFG yes. The more you pay, the more cards you get. The more cards you get, the better your chance of getting better cards. The better your cards, the better your deck, and the better you’ll do.  Hint: people pay a lot more than a box price on card packs.

In the case of Battlefront 2, it has a box price. It has a cash shop. It has pay-to-win elements within that shop. Ouch, that is indeed a trifecta. HOWEVER…

It also has a fully-functional game behind it. It doesn’t feel designed to force anyone into the cash shop. You can obtain the same rewards by playing the game and purchasing as you can with spending real money (think Hearthstone here). And… there’s no season pass. There’s no paying for more maps or more content. They’re making that portion free, which is typically a very pricey and in my opinion much worse way to charge players. I also do not see a broken game needing to be fixed with a cash shop purchase.

Much remains to be seen with how EA/whoever is in charge over there handles this business model. Much, indeed. But please don’t obfuscate the separation between F2P games and games with stupid cash shops. There can be a very, very big difference. The main one being one being the core game behind the business model.

The “vote with your wallet and show EA who’s boss” mantra falls flat for me on games like this. I have too much fun to deprive myself of hours, and hours of enjoyment. I reserve the right to change my mind if EA screws things up worse.

And finally, we must realize the key factor in all of this is truly what is “fun.” If a cash shop offering any P2W at all is not fun for you, then I respect that. For me, there’s more ‘fun’ and game here in Battlefront 2 than many games recently, and I look past some P2W when I enjoy the core experience well enough.

16

Overwatch: Proof Blizzard Can Sell Anything

My review and thoughts on Overwatch will be straight forward and to the point as many or most of you likely already own the game. Overwatch is a rather generic and mediocre shooter when you strip away the Blizzard logo and look at it critically for what it really is. If this were released as a brand new IP from an unknown company, Overwatch would have gone relatively unknown and stood no chance against its competition in the space; In fact I have a feeling most would have knocked it hard for its shortcomings.

Overwatch is a straight copy of TF2 from character mechanics to game modes and even down to the zany nature of its characters personalities. They innovated some on certain abilities and attacks, tossed in more characters, but left it very vanilla after that.

There’s not much to Overwatch, and unfortunately little room to evolve the model. I’m sure they’ll add hats and gimmicks to the cash shop over the years to keep things fresh. That should work.

Team composition matters too much — probably the only legitimate comparison to a moba that I’ll allow. Have a poor team comp and you’re done. There’s also too much cheese. For example, stack a bunch of Toblerones and it breaks certain maps. Certain heroes have abilities which just aren’t balanced — and no, I don’t count having to swap heroes to take them out as balance. I had this discussion with Graev tonight about playing what you want to play vs playing what you have to play or are compelled to play. I like Hanzo the most, but I simply can’t play him when the enemy team comp won’t allow it or my team refuses to play a comp that stands a chance. If you’re on a team where everyone only picks the one hero they love to play, you’re doomed.

Summary:
People aren’t going to stick with Overwatch long, but they’ll get their money’s worth (the single biggest positive influence on my scoring). Overwatch is a ‘good’ game, but it simply rehashes what has already been seen and done before. If you look past the rage-inducing balance issues, cheese, team stacking, and overly formulaic design, chances are you’ll have a blast.

8

This Week at a Glance

Crazy week of 14 hour work days and trying to get a few projects off the group for my little startup project I’m doing. Starting a business is a lot of work. Let’s play catch up.

Chronicles of Elyria

Several of you emailed me or commented about Chronicles of Elyria with a “Check this out, Keen!” or “Hey have you seen this?” Yep, I see it. I think there’s a lot of really, really baseless hype right now. I can’t get excited for Kickstarter projects anymore. I’ve been pretty vocal about my dislike for the crowdfunding model for video games. While it has worked wonderfully for some games, I think it’s been the death sentence for twice as many more.

Don’t get me wrong here. I think the game has plenty of awesome ideas. In fact, I’m hyped myself at the thought of how some of these ideas can translate into a more dynamic and “living” world (sandbox?) rather than a themepark.

  • Characters age and die
  • Characters can permanently die
  • Characters stay in the world and if merchants they will be turned into NPCs (really cool concept?)
  • No in-game maps
  • Game enforced palyer contracts (also really cool)

What I can already say I dislike immediately are the ideas of players being Kings and a less than super simple business model. I have never seen the promise of player Kings or rulers or mayors or whatever they may be actually pan out into something that makes ANY sort of sense. So that idea already throws a red flag for me. And the concept of having pre-launch currency, in-game currency earned by playing, yada yada, all makes me frown and wish they’d just charge $14.99 a month.

Chronicles of Elyria is on my radar for sure. Let’s hope Kickstarter works, they actually make the game, and it’s what they promised the world.

Overwatch Open Beta

I’m enjoying Overwatch Open Beta significantly more than the Alpha I played a few months ago. However, the game still suffers from immense balance issues. Some characters are just worthless due to team composition needs. Some characters are still ridiculously powerful unless hard-countered by a specific character. I like Overwatch, but end up feeling frustrated 50% of the time I play, but that’s shooters in general.

World of Warcraft – Ding 100

My Monk reached level 100 and I was able to start my Tanaan dailies. In just 3 days of dailies I now have a full set of gear for my healing spec. I’m up to like 650 iLvl or something. Half my items are 675-680 epics. I’m planning to start dungeons soon, and farming raids for cash.

10

Blizzcon is Upon Us: WoW Legion’s Launch Date, Predictions, et al

Blizzcon’s opening ceremony kicks off in exactly 4 hours from now, and I’m going to squeeze in here and drop a few predictions as well as what I hope to see announced.

World of Warcraft: Legion

First, I have to address the gorilla in the room: Legion’s launch date. Check out the marketing collateral below and pay attention to the fine print at the bottom (click to enlarge):

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/wow-legion-perks.jpg” class=”pointer”]wow-legion-perks[/su_lightbox]

Legion will release on or before September 21, 2016. There are a few ways to interpret this information.

  1. The people convinced this is the release date and are cancelling their subscriptions because they won’t do HFC for 10 more months.
  2. The “I knew there was a reason to hide subscription numbers!” group (who likely do not play)
  3. People who look at WoD coming out a month before its drop dead date who now think August is the date.
  4. The people who think this really doesn’t mean a whole lot / will happily play WoD / don’t care.

I personally think this is their drop dead date and that they will release sooner. I’m also pretty sure they’re going to giving Overwatch a very nice window. I’m predicting April 2016. I think that’s a nice 5-6 month window for them to hold a beta and finish up. I’m on the bleeding edge of extremes here, I know. The likely release date probably IS September 2016.

Overwatch

We’ll get a release date. They’ll talk about the cost of the game, some business model plans, etc. Lots, and lots, and lots of hype. The more I think about how badly they want to hype Overwatch, the more I think we’ll see Overwatch in April, and Legion in August-September.

Starcraft

I’m not expecting any announcements for Starcraft’s current projects. I think Legacy of the Void coming out is a big enough deal that they won’t overshadow it with anything else in the SC2 universe. However, I want to see announcements regarding a modernized version of the original Starcraft and Broodwar being brought to the SC2 engine — with multiplayer — by 2017.

Diablo

I’m actually expecting nothing for Diablo except for a similar announcement about Diablo and Diablo 2 (plus expansions, minus Hellfire) being modernized to the D3 engine and coming out as full games — with multiplayer — by 2017 as well.

Classic Games

I’ll continue in the same vein and say that I hope a nice part of the opening ceremony will hype their revival of the ‘classics’ and for them to official come out and state that they are working on these revitalization projects. The job listings are there for these projects already, it’s just time to make it official. I truly hope to see Warcrafts 1-3 being a big part of this project.

Hearthstone

Cards? (And probably a huge emphasis since this game prints money)

Heroes of the Storm

More heroes and stuff. I will be shocked if HotS gets much if any time in the opening ceremony.

Warcraft 4’s Announcement

Yes, I look forward to Warcraft 4’s announcement every single year. I hold my breath, I get disappointed, and I come back next year to do it all again. I really do think they could build off the hype of Legion and a Warcraft 3 revival to announce Warcraft 4 coming in 2018 or something.

Console and Tablet Announcements

We know that Overwatch is coming to consoles. I think this is a big market for them. Now, as far as tablets go, I think we won’t hear a thing. They kept Hearthstone — their juggernaut F2P — completely nonchalant when it came to iOS releases. I doubt we see much pomp and circumstance over tablets.

A Big Year for Blizzard

Blizzard can go big this year in ways they haven’t been able or willing to in the past few years. With Overwatch, classic revivals, and a strong expansion on their list it’s entirely their game to lose right now. This Blizzcon can set the pace for the next three years without even breaking a sweat. Let’s see what happens!

47

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.

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