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Live Stream: Understanding Path of Exile

Hey all! For tonight's blog post, I'll be streaming Path of Exile. Keep in mind I'm a complete and total noob at the game. I'll be seen trying to figure things out, messing up just about everything, and having a good time exploring the game.

After the stream ends, I'll be converting the live player below into a video for you to watch as well as updating the post with a writeup of what we did in-game.

While live, feel free to interact in the chat and ask any questions. I'll answer whatever I can from a newbie's perspective.​

Thoughts on Tonight's Play Session

I walked away from tonight's play session with two main thoughts.

Maps Respawn / Randomize Behind You

So whenever I left a 'zone' or 'map' and then returned, even in this same play session, the map regenerated and even randomly generated behind me. On one hand it's neat to have what seems like an infinite source of mobs, but it's sort of frustrating for a player like myself that doesn't know where I'm going and ends up backtracking to figure out where I am.​

Lack of Direction

On one hand I like that I sorta have no idea where to go. I'm meandering/roaming and trying to unlock/solve the mysteries of the map. That's super cool.

On the other hand, I'm roaming around and spending a lot of time making little progress - exacerbated by the maps regenerating behind me.​

In fact, I accidently beat act 1 and stumbled into act 2 without even realizing what happened. I was looking for an alternate way around a gate I couldn't open (inexplicably) when I suddenly beat the boss of Act 1 because I wandered into a hole in the ground.

Cool moment, but I don't think I even had a quest to do it!​

I'm really excited to continue with the game because I'm starting to feel like I can get into the story and the world and what's going on.

Come Watch Us Play Fortnite!

We're live playing Fornite! Come hang out and watch us play this new survival fort-building game.

Update: We finished streaming for the night! We hope you all had fun watching as we explored and learned how to play Fornite on launch day.

We have plenty more videos and streaming sessions along with our impressions and more coming soon!​


Just Like Old Times

I had an awesome time tonight playing DAoC with some friends. I made a Skald, and the other two are a Shaman and Thane. We’re playing on Uthgard in the Midgard realm.

We did nothing more than sit on a road and kill mobs while laughing, insulting each other, and reminiscing. You can watch the video and skip around to the good parts.

Tonight’s fun makes me want to get back into streaming again. I think I might try and pick it back up and stream during our nightly sessions. If you’re an MMO vet, you’ll relate to a lot of our banter and pining.

Leveling my RDM in FFXI, Defined Roles, and Lots of Streaming to Come

My progress in FFXI is coming along nicely, I think. I went from level 8-10 tonight slaughtering rabbits, worms, and orcs. When I eventually reached level 10 I was able to make the dangerous trek to the Dunes where I was able to unlock the teleport location. Now I will hopefully never have to make that run ever again.

While leveling up I was talking to my friends who currently play, and have a lot of experience playing FF11 over the years, and one main theme kept sticking out to me: Grouping was about roles. I asked what the role of a RDM would be later and learned that Red Mages are the best debuffers, and will also have a nice Refresh buff to use on groups. So I’m a support character that can do a little bit of this and that. Lower levels I’ll most likely be expected to help with heals and contribute lightly to the group damage output. You guys know me and my love for defined roles, so this sounds exciting.

Not much else to report on the FFXI front today, so I’ll just leave you with the video of my 2 hour play session that I was able stream. I’m pleased with the quality — it’s way better than I had on my other connections. I’ll be streaming every night if possible, so if you’d like to stop by and join me for a chat be sure to follow me @ twitch.tv/keenandgraev and it’ll notify you when I go live.


Camelot Unchained Alpha Footage & MMO Marketing Tips from Keen


I’m still catching up on some news as I get settled back into the captain’s chair (that’s what I call my desk chair).  Just a few days ago, some of the first [public] footage of Camelot Unchained’s alpha made its way to the eyes of the masses, and there’s a few things I want to say regarding both the footage and how it was delivered.

First, the footage. Any DAoC vet will agree that it looks like… DAoC. Zergs? Check. Bolt spells with ridiculous distance? Check. Milegates? Looks like a check. No complaints there (except for zergs but that’ll never stop). Some of the things I liked or at least felt intrigued by were the summoning of blockades, destruction, and of course the ability builder (all of which we knew about already but it’s nice to see publicly). Overall, I love what I’m seeing and the game is still so far away. MJ and his team are on track to make a great game. I can’t wait to share my thoughts from having been in the testing so far!

Okay, now on to a very serious topic: Marketing your MMORPG in 2015.

Utilizing ‘Streamers’ is one of the biggest mistakes you will ever make in marketing a MMORPG. At first glance it may appear like a very basic marketing tactic where companies use influencers to gain exposure for their brand. However, MMORPGs are not like Crest toothpaste. You can give a famous mommy blogger some free toothpaste, pay her $250, and have her write about why her kids love your toothpaste. Try that with an MMO and you’re in for a world of hurt.

There’s more to MMORPG marketing than getting that huge upswing. When a streamer like Cohh, even though he really is one of the more legitimate experienced MMO streamers out there, plays games he does so for an audience. Streamers move on quickly, and when they do they take their following with them. Every single game that someone like Cohh hypes or plays because they’ve been given “special dispensation” ends up being a game they play for 2-3 weeks then move on. Why? Because the next company in line is ready for him to hype their game.

Pop Quiz: Do you want to see big peaks and big valleys in your player base? If you answered ‘NO’ you are correct.

MMOs are all about building that stable foundation — the community. Instead of handing your game out to a few streamers who can hype your game and be your brand champions, why not build an entire community of brand champions? Do you want a handful of people saying “Camelot Unchained looks amazing let’s all get excited!” Or, do you want thousands of brand champions because you’ve marketed your game around building a community from the ground up.

While CSE hasn’t yet gone the route of SOE in this regard, they’ve taken the first step. I strongly caution against this. Please continue doing what you’ve already done by rallying players to your forums, live streaming your office to bring the players into the experience, and communicate yourselves on websites, forums, and streams. You guys should be the ones streaming this footage on your own channels and letting others pick up on it. Yeah, that means streaming to 500 people rather than 5,000, but those 500 people have a much higher chance of being your strong foundation than any of the 5,000.


Streamer Hype

You guys know I’m not a fan of streamers or how they have encouraged horrible marketing trends. Hopping on the streamer hype train and riding it hard is a very clear tell that your marketing team lacks creativity and a deeper understanding of how to build a lasting and dedicated following for your game.

Streamer hype is out of control. Companies fly dozens of them out to their headquarters, load them up on sugar, swag, and free access to the game then set them free. I have my own personal belief that more than a few of their palms are being greased despite Twitch’s supposed rules against it. From what I have heard (and can not find written verification), Streamers are not allowed to take money to speak highly of a game.

The streamer hype credo: Play it if it’s new. Play it if it gets viewers. Act like a buffoon. 

(Okay I added that last part.)

Very few of the streamers who make $10k+ a month are doing so for the love of the games they play. They are doing it because it’s now a job — an awesome job that makes them ridiculous amounts of sponsorship cash. When something risks the cash (like viewer boredom), they jump ship and hop onto the next new/popular game. I don’t fault them for making money, nor do I fault them for playing what they want when they want. Those are their rights and I respect that. I think it’s crap for game companies to abuse it, especially when it’s detrimental to the games.

Most of these streamers have fan clubs that follow them and lick their heels like lovestruck pups. When the streamers jump ship a couple weeks after launch, so do a huge number of players. When the streamers stop broadcasting, suddenly the marketing for that game dries up. Suddenly you start seeing a lot of banner ads and other knee-jerk reactionary marketing tactics to increase visibility. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a true following of players rather than illegitimately inflated numbers?

Streamers getting games for free and playing them to hype everyone up are killing the industry one game at a time. This type of flash-in-the-pan crap is being used to augment early access antics. Toss a dozen streamers free copies of your early access, give them private servers, and ‘encourage’ them to speak highly of your game when launch is less than ideal. I shouldn’t have to say more.

All of that said, let me get one thing straight: I enjoy watching streams. I watch some of the big names like Cohh and Lirik. I find them entertaining at times (albeit sometimes I have to stop watching because they go too far and start acting up for attention). I especially like Lirik who will openly act like a complete dick and decline being a puppet just to be different. It’s his shtick. But he’s definitely a sponsor-whore like the rest. Smaller streams are where you’ll find more of the real fans of the game and less of the hypers. Not always, but it’s reliable.

You and I might be intelligent. We can watch someone playing a game and hyping it all in that moment as super fun and think, “yeah but I wonder what it’s REALLY like…” But Some people watching streams get sucked into the hype and think the game is awesome because their favorite streamer is playing. Their favorite streamer is showing a version of the game that will not resemble their own experience. It’s an illusion.

Using streamers to market your game is asking to be a flavor of the month. If your goal is to grab a bunch of cash in the first 14 days then go for it. If your goal is to attract ‘real’ players who stick around, and you have long-term goals for your game then I recommend you look elsewhere.


Streaming vs. Blogging

I’ve been talking with Graev and our K&G Community for a long time about the rise of video game streams.  A couple of them were harassing me last night because I do tend to rant and “QQ” when it comes to this new found medium for gaming commentary and entertainment.  It’s big.  There’s no doubt about it.  Seriously, people are making a living doing it, all the consoles are building it right into their feature list, and game developers are starting to pay (too) much attention to those who stream their games.  Let’s break this down.

Streaming vs. Blogging

Yeah, it was inevitable.  Podcasts, Blogs, Youtube videos, etc., all had their big day.  Streaming is in the spotlight now and it will be for a long time.  About a year ago was when the start of the decline began.  We certainly haven’t let up around here, and never will, but we’re feeling the burn.  Streaming provides that TV level of visual stimulation.  I won’t lie — even I prefer watching streams over reading blogs!

I feel like blogs and written commentary typically provide a higher level of quality commentary.  Streams are entertaining, and blogs are more analytical / academic / theoretical / philosophical/etc. It’s watching a tv vs. reading a magazine or a book.

Streaming is becoming a money maker.  In all the time we have ever blogged we’ve never once turned a profit.  We run ads here and receive donations to help us cover costs, but we still lose.   I can’t even fathom how or why I would want to do this for a living — it’s simply not the feel we’re going for here.  Streaming on the other hand feels, as a whole, more like a capitalistic endeavor.  That’s really not a bad thing, but it sets a tone. Continue reading


Too many Games, too little time

Sorry for the slow few days around here.  We’ve actually been *gasp* playing games.

The Elder Scrolls Online

ESO launched two days ago, and I’m actually having more fun than I thought I would.  No that’s not an April Fool’s day psych-out.  I think it’s partially how we’re going about things.  Three days in we are still only level 8.  We are going really, really slow.  I long for the days when I could play 10 hours at a time — those are my weekends — but playing slow has helped avoid the burnout.  ESO is quest-heavy leveling.  The quests themselves are 85% boring and “go here do this” lead you by the nose stuff, but you don’t get lead one quest to the next — that’s part is less linear.  If I can actually get to 10, we’ll be able to PvP!  Stay tuned.

Live Streaming

We are making a serious push to stream more of the games we play and even upload to Youtube.  I got Graev a microphone, the new Playstation Gold headset, and a Live Gamer Portable.  He better stream or I’ll kick his butt.

Look for his streams every morning between 9am-12pm pacific time.  He’ll most likely be streaming a lot of Xbox One Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.  Then look for me to stream in the evenings.  Probably a lot of ESO and EQ Next Landmark.  You can find our stream on Twitch.tv or on our stream page here on the blog.  Be sure to follow us to know when we go live!

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

Graev and I picked up RoS and started completely new characters.  We’re now on Act 5 and just (minor spoilers) beat Adra.  So far so good.  I think Diablo 3 has been patched for the better over the past year, especially in loot patch 2.0. The legendary loot drops are pretty sweet now that they have been tuned to give you pretty much a guaranteed drop every 2-3 hours.  Each boss you kill for the first time is also a guaranteed drop.  We’ll write up more formal thoughts once we finish the campaign and run some of the new Rift and Bounties.

It’s still, hard as it tries, not Diablo 2 .  Really fun though, and much improved.  Now that I think about it… D3 is probably awesome on consoles.  More on that in the D3 post to come.

So many games…

Aside from Diablo 3 and Elder Scrolls, I’m also enjoying the heck out of Landmark.  I claimed an awesome bit of open land where I’m going to build a a Harvest Moon style farm (pictures coming soon!).  It’s an awesome piece of property overlooking a lake and the ocean on a flat hilltop.  Man I love Landmark.  I’m also wanting to jump in and play more Albion Online, some original EverQuest, and Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.  Sheesh, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.


Age of Empires Online Massive Summer Update

Update: Our ‘NEW’ Age of Empires Online REVIEW is available here.

Age of Empires Online is still offline for a scheduled 36 hour maintenance to receive its massive Summer Update.  I played AoEO when it was in beta, and had a decent experience.  The game was polished and fun with its mission-based gameplay, but I felt that something was missing. The free-to-play model wasn’t really free-to-play because too much of the game required real money to unlock.   I didn’t sense the traditional Age of Empires RTS gameplay, or something unique enough to justify the game going in a different direction.

I was contacted by someone on the community team for AoEO and asked to give the game another look now that the summer patch is here. Over the past few months, AoEO has received several updates in a move to make the game more polished, more like a RTS, and to prepare for the Summer Update.  Graev and I decided to play quite a bit over the past week to get a feel for these changes and to prepare for the coming update.  Not only did we have a good time playing with some of the already-implemented improvements, we’re both actually anxiously awaiting the update.  Here are some of the improvements AoEO is getting in the update:

  • End-game Alliance Wars – Choose a faction and contribute.  The video below explains the Alliance Wars well.  These wars function as a way for players to contribute to an alliance and win challenges, battles, quests, and ultimately earn Empire Points.

  • Overhauled tech trees – Enough points to unlock a whole tree, revised choices and a focus on versatility instead of flat out bonuses.

  • Completely revisited the unit tuning for each civilization.
  • Champion Tech – Introduces new strategies by altering unit costs, damage, and can shift the direction of gameplay.
  • Vanity Upgrades – Customize the way your units look in battle with new vanity items.
  • Each civilization should feel sufficiently different and units within each should feel specialized.

Perhaps the most important change to potential new players is the shift in focus towards a more “free-to-play” model.  Everything (Skirmish pack, Premium Civs, etc.) can now be purchased with Empire Points, and you can earn EP while simply playing the game. If you don’t want to invest the time, you can also purchase EP with real money and unlock them the quick way.

How much of a time investment does it take to earn enough EP to get a premium civ or buy things you want in-game?  That’s the main question I want to answer for myself when I play over the coming days.   I’ll also be paying close attention to the new balance changes, the overhauled tech tree, and the other improvements to form my own conclusions about whether or not Age of Empires Online is a game that RTS fans should be playing.  Watch for our review coming soon.

We’re giving away Premium Civ codes and goodies!

The AoEO Community team was kind enough to give us a bunch of keys for premium civilizations and ‘goodies’ for your city.  We’ll be giving these keys away TODAY at our Twitch.tv channel while we check out the new patch.  To be eligible for a key you must follow our Twitch.tv channel and be present in the chat.  We’re also giving them out via Twitter (Follow!) and in a blog post I’ll be putting up later today.

UPDATE: Giveaways are over.


DOTA 2 Stream

If you’re interested in watching me play some DOTA 2, check out our streaming page or  our Twitch.tv page.

Once I’m done streaming, I’ll add the recorded video to this entry.  Feel free to ask question.  I’m mic’d up.

Update: Two hour session is over.  Need to take a break to work on some homework, but we’ll be back this afternoon.  Video of the stream is processing.  When it’s up, I’ll post it here. We had a really great game!  It was Graev’s first game … and there’s a funny story behind it.  His keyboard broke so he used his iPad to connect to his PC and a Bluetooth keyboard to connect to his iPad.  Then he sat on the couch and played DOTA on the 52” tv.