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Valve is Making a Card Game

Heard about this one yet?

Valve is making Halflife 3  "Artifact" - a DotA Card Game. Yep, that's right, a card game.​

Initial reaction: WTF? Trolled!

Followup reaction: Ugh, don't they know card games are becoming a trope? Whyyyyyy? It's Valve! We want Valve games!​ This is Hearthstone all over again -- no seriously, Hearthstone was made based on Warcraft and so was DotA. So essentially this is Hearthstone.

Thoughtful reaction: Blizzard makes millions on Hearthstone. Ohhhhhh.

They either have absolutely no idea what they're doing (unlikely)


Plan to make gazillions of dollars.​

I'm going with the money making play here. It's no different than making their games free to play then making millions on selling EFFING HATS and cosmetics. Market research and data trump the golden gut every time.

You wouldn't think that based on the fan reaction, though.

Props to Day9 for trying with all he had not to laugh and put some heart into that casting. The crowd wasn't having it.

I think card games are a trope now. They're turning into a "go-to". I haven't found them fun yet. I think Hearthstone is well-made, and certainly polished. I just can't find the fun in there.

​I also feel like card games wreak of cash grabs. I'm coming off a recent F2P burn so maybe I'm sensitive right now. 

Finally, I once read that Valve employees have a lot of freedom to work on whatever projects they want. The multiple sources all talked about how the games that get made are the ones the employees want to work on. Anyone else remember that? If still true (or ever true) then I wonder why this gets made and we don't see games like HL anymore.

Scratch that, I know exactly why. Market research & data show they won't make anywhere near as much as selling hats and card packs.​

P.S. This is relevant.​

Halflife 3 Dota Card Game Troll

Mic drop.


Paid Mods

Update: Bethesda/Zenimax has cancelled their paid mods with Steam. Refunds for all according to Valve.

Steam has once again made a move toward monetizing all things games and placing themselves smack dab in the middle to take a cut. Now the Steam Workshop is going to support “paid creations” aka paying for mods.

I’m not going to come right out and say that I am in blanket opposition to all paid mods. There are some mods that end up being better than the original game. In fact, some of the best games we’ve ever seen come straight from studios who started out as being mod developers. I support this 100%. Some mods are good enough that I have and would in the future donate to the creator.

Part of what makes mods so incredible is the that they are largely free. The people who make these mods are downright passionate about what they do, and they are doing so fueled entirely by that passion. What we see from them is a result of their own desire to create the mod, make a name for themselves, or do something fun. When you monetize modding, something special there is lost. Motivations change.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else's work for profit.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else’s work for profit.

Modding in general has often been what feels like an open-source community. People take mods and combine them with other mods to create the perfect modding packages. Sometimes mod devs would tweak someone else’s mod and create something new. Paid mods have only been available for like 24 hours and Steam has already taken down a mod for “using the work of other modders.” This is just the beginning.

Part of what feels so slimy here is Steam. I don’t like Greenlight, I don’t like their early access stuff, and I don’t like the idea of them creating a marketplace for mods. I don’t like the precedent. Personally, I hope it doesn’t take off. I hope most game studios will not allow their games or brands to be monetized in this fashion.

Good mods do not go unrewarded or unnoticed. There are many examples where mod devs actually get recruited to work at the company that made the game they modded. I’m torn between this feeling that mod devs should be compensated for their work, and a desire to never have to pay $5 to download a map mod for Skyrim. I can’t shake my gut feeling that says, “Keen, this doesn’t seem right.”

Update: Steam is also now removing links to off-site donations. You know those “If you like this mod consider donating to the creator” solicitations? Yep, gone. Looks like Steam wants their cut.


DOTA 2 insight and SWTOR replayability

A mixed bag of stuff tonight.


I’ve been having some great games today in DOTA 2.  I played a couple solo, some with Graev, and some with 3 other guys from the community.  I’m getting better — I can actually tell that my skill is increasing for the first time in a while.  I remember being terrible with certain heroes from the Warcraft 3 days of DOTA… and some things never change.  Valve added Naix (Lifestealer) to the game yesterday, and no matter how hard I try it feels like I’m never as good with him as others are when I face Naix.

A few lessons for anyone thinking about getting into DOTA 2.

  • Have confidence because you never know what your team can accomplish if you work together without fear.  Slink back or not move as one, and your opponents will surround you like sharks.
  • Keep the offensive momentum.
  • Don’t give up -too- early.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it’s over, but tonight reminded me why it’s important to keep trying.  I was playing Earthshaker and couldn’t get any gold early on — I thought we should give up.  We were facing two pairs of Chinese friends and couldn’t get early momentum.  We persevered, despite my despair, and a couple of us got blink daggers + our ults, roam ganked together, and it was a solid victory.


I made a new Imperial Agent last night and he’s now approximately level 8.  I have a few videos you can watch.  The newest patch (or two, now) definitely increased my performance.  I was getting some sluggish play a few weeks ago but each patch has made it much more tolerable.  In fact, today I had zero complaints.  An interesting point I want to get across is SWTOR’s replayability.  I’ve played Hutta a few times now and each time I try to go about it differently.  I still enjoyed the story and the quests, despite having played them several times already.  I still recommend people give SWTOR a chance if they’re on the fence.


DOTA 2 is brilliant

DOTA 2's lobby reminds me of how Battle.net used to be

I’ve logged about 13 hours in DOTA 2 beta in the past couple of days.  Without a doubt, this is a quality production.   The feel of DOTA is there, and when I say DOTA I actually mean Defense of the Ancients and not “MOBA.”  There are a few beta-like glitches with sound, but for the most part the entire game feels remarkable polished.  A few traits stand out.

Steam Integration

There’s something to be said for the truly wonderful multiplayer experience Valve has crafted.  It feels like the original Battle.net and in many ways looks like it too.  Your Steam friends are listed right on the UI and those playing DOTA are highlighted separately.    Forming groups and/or inviting to games is also seamless and equally spectacular because of Steam.

Graphics and Performance

The game is beautiful and runs how I wish every game would run.  It even ran remarkably well on the four year old rig I have back at home.  The game feels polished — you know that ‘feel’ I’m talking about?  It’s like a tangible psychological feeling… like a warm blanket of fuzzy awesomeness that envelopes you and imbues you with mental clarity.

The art design is spot on.  Valve went with their classic stylized graphics but captured what I remember about DOTA from Warcraft 3’s engine.

Hero modernization

Valve did a great job implementing the heroes currently in the game.  There is some artistic license at work with some of the heroes and some of the abilities look and behave slightly different from how I remember them in DOTA1, but for the most part it only took a couple of hours to feel right at home.

DOTA 2 is easily going to take the crown for best MOBA game.  I’m extremely curious to see what Valve does with their TF2 style itemization as well as their payment options.  Valve has the ability to take this game places that other MOBAs have not and cannot go, because they are Valve.


Alien Swarm

Valve’s free title ‘Alien Swarm’ was released on Stream today.  It’s a third person isometric/semi top-down view shooter sharing many, many elements with L4D and other shooter titles.  Moving is done with WASD and aiming is done by moving your mouse which turns your character to face a direction and clicking.  You have a laser sight to help indicate the general area where you’re shooting and also a range indicator-like crosshair where you can determine how far or exactly what you’re shooting at.

Straight up, the game is quite fantastic.  It ‘feels’ perfect.  There’s a shocking number of guns and gear to unlock and multiple dimensions to how you’ll go about playing the game based upon the gear you choose.  Playing with other people, especially friends, is key and the teamwork opportunities make it all the more fun.  You can choose your class from Officer, Medic, Weapon Specialist, and Tech.  Each brings something unique to the group dynamic.  For example, tech can weld doors shut behind you to keep out baddies or unlock doors by playing a quick mini-game.

Right now there is only one campaign but it’s comprised of several levels.  Once you play through a few times you’ll notice that, unfortunately, it’s not randomly generated.  It suffers from the same problems that I feel L4D did with it feeling too repetitive after you’ve played a few times.   Luckily it has three modes that ramp up big time in difficulty.  We played for several hours today and aside from learning the maps really well I haven’t felt bored or tired of playing.

Like I mentioned, there are many elements from L4D.  The menu system and multiplayer grouping system are all the same.  So far it has been flawless.  In-game you’ll notice elements from Gears of War like the reloading mechanic where you need to time it right or else you’ll jam your weapon or take a while to reload.  The game as a whole feels like Left 4 Dead as you maneuver through the level whilst surviving the onslaught of alien bugs while trying to reach what feel like ‘safe points’.  The story is forgettable, but I haven’t cared.

The guns are excellent and each brings, in addition to the roles filled by the class you choose, an addition role to fill.  The longer range weapons like the machine gun really do fit in with the Tesla cannon and the shotgun.  The secondary items such as the combat flares for added aiming help or the damage increase add to the dynamic feel or how your group adapts to completing the levels.  Wrap it all up with an amazing UI ripe with features like drawing on the mini-map and an extremely functional load out pre-mission screen and the features are top notch.

My only real complaint at this point is that there isn’t more.  I want more campaigns.  I want this to be fleshed out but I fear they’re just releasing it as is without plans to continue.   Well done though, Valve, with this title.  I’d be willing to pay $20 or more for a game like it in the future or perhaps some form of payment for continued development via content updates or something like that.

Having Mod Tools on top of it all?  Mind = blown.

The below video is gameplay footage of my friends and I playing through some levels.


Team Fortress 2 Sniper vs. Spy Update is controversial

sniper_vs_spy_posterThe Sniper vs. Spy update for Valve’s Team Fortress 2 went live two days ago.  The anticipation building up to this patch has been rather huge in the community because of all the changes being brought to the game.  Valve’s ongoing commitment to introducing new content for each of the classes is unmatched in the FPS genre and to have two classes receive their update at once is huge.  On top of the class update, new hats now drop for all classes and many classes received additional tweaks on top of fixes and changes brought to the game in general.  And if all of that wasn’t enough, new maps were introduced.

Ideally this would have been an amazing patch.  However, Valve made a rather large change to how items are unlocked.  Items themselves are the content and now they are found randomly just like purple or “epic” items would be found in games like World of Warcraft.  They’re random and lucky drops now instead of being unlocked via achievements.  I can understand why Valve wanted to make the change because achievement servers were rather silly and destroyed the spirit of the game, but this new way is full of confusing and frustrating elements.

I played for six hours yesterday and was on top of the score board many times.  I played multiple classes and even stayed as one class for several hours back to back.  In total over the past two days I have unlocked 4 items:  Sandvich, Force of Nature, Force of Nature, and Flare gun.  Yep, that’s two Force of Natures.  I already owned all of these weapons.  I played the game more than I normally would and all that I have to show for it are redundant items in my new “bag”.

The way items drop aren’t just from killing people either.  Apparently spectators can find them, afkers who just sit there can find them (which has introduced “Idle item farm” servers), and supposedly this is all based on some ‘time spent playing’ algorithm that gives you a chance at a random item.  So if the equations don’t work out in your favor then you could play all day legit and get nothing or get something you already unlocked.

Talking this over with other people (and complaining about it mostly), everyone is in agreement that Valve’s heart was in the right place.  They’ve brought the system closer to be about rewarding the player for simply playing the game.  That’s fantastic.  But why the random items instead of ones that you don’t have and why not allow players to get them by killing someone instead of by being killed or simply playing?  Adding “item trading” is silly because no one is going to trade their new sniper items for a Bonk! Soda.   The system can be fixed to work a whole lot better than it currently does.

Even though this new item dropping debacle has me disheartened, I really like the fixes, polish (I didn’t think it was possible for TF2 to get more polished), and new maps.  I think this is the first time that Valve has let me down and I don’t know how to react.   I’ve always considered them one of those companies that can do no wrong — a reputation they earned with me.  Let’s hope this can be resolved quickly.


L4D Demo Impressions

The Left 4 Dead demo kicked off today for pre-order customers and I’ve put in a lot of playtime already.  I’m not going to write any long-winded review for you guys, but I will give you my quick impressions and let you know if the game is worth buying based on what I’ve seen thus far.

Graphics & Performance – Let’s get this one out of the way
Fantastic! The game runs at amazing FPS with zero slowdown. The graphics, which include a lot of lighting and cinema effects, are perfect for the game and leave nothing to be desired. The environmental details and the attention that went into creating the levels (or at least the one we get to play in the demo) is top notch.

Gameplay – Pure win
The basic gameplay in L4D is a rush of adrenaline and excitement. Every second of play feels fresh and exhilarating. The premise of the game is cooperative play and, for the first time in a first-person shooter, I feel like I have to work with the people I’m playing with in order to survive. Probably the biggest contributor to this feeling is the AI Director – a little piece of design that scales the difficulty and experience of the game depending on how well (or horrible) you’re doing. If you’ve been following the game at all then you don’t need me to go into much more detail. The important thing here is that the AI director functions exactly as promised and delivers a unique zombie survival experience every time. The levels may be laid out exactly the same each play through, but the minute-to-minute happenings are all different and the feel of the levels change as the AI director makes different parts of the map feel more dangerous than others. It’s very, very well done.

We’ve had a blast shooting zombies all day! The level is really well designed and begins with the survivors on the rooftop; as seen at the end of the introduction video. The goal of this level is to work your way through an apartment complex to the street level where you’ll find the first “safe room”. This acts as a check point or the end of the first part of the map. From there it leads you into a subway system… or death trap as it should be referred to… where you’ll eventually … Heck, I won’t spoil it for you. I’ll just say that it is very fun and I really, really, can’t wait for the full version.

Multiplayer Functionality – The game ain’t perfect!
This is one of the neatest and worst features of the game currently. L4D introduces a matchmaking feature to Steam for L4D and, in theory, the system seems great. It effortlessly lets you set up games with your friends and join, or create, a server together to play. However, in practice the system lacks polish and 9/10 leads to a laggy or disconnect game. If Valve can get this part of the game under control then the game will easily be on its way to a perfect score across the charts.

The modding community is going to have a field day with this game. I can already see the massive potential for maps and modes that will lead to months, if not years, of enjoyment.

Left 4 Dead is fun, scary, and well worth the money.


The wait for Left 4 Dead has gotten just a little bit harder…

Yesterday (on Halloween) the Left 4 Dead team released the intro movie.

Less than week from today, everyone who pre-ordered will be playing the Left 4 Dead demo. We know! We can’t believe it either. To make the wait easier, we’ve released the five minute movie that opens the game. Caution: The movie may actually make the wait harder. Anyway, happy Halloween.

Just a warning… before you watch it… their caution must be taken seriously.  This movie WILL make your wait harder.  But since that won’t stop you, here you go:

I warned you, but you didn’t listen.  Now you’re just going to have to suffer like the rest of us. 😛

There’s a bit more info for you, in case you didn’t already know, that should quadruple the wait pains.  The demo for L4D is available on Nov. 6th for everyone who pre-orders the game.  You can pre-order through Steam, at Gamestop, or probably anywhere and get to play from the 6th.  On the 11th, if I’m not mistaken, the demo becomes public and you’ll get to play up until sometime before or at release.  If you pre-order you’ll also save 10%.  I’m planning to pre-order through Steam since I’m a Steam fanboy.

If you’re looking for a community to hang out with, talk about L4D, play with after release, and any of that good stuff then feel free to check out our L4D community over on K&G’s Forums.  You’ll notice that our forum community is quite active and we plan to keep it that way for all the games that we play.

Graev an I both plan to play L4D a lot and get extremely involved with our friends in the L4D community.  It’s shaping up to be a fantastic game!


E3 Day 2: Paul Barnett and a ton of games

Day 2 of E3 is just about over. Actually, if I’m not quick it will be midnight before this blog entry appears. I feel like there is only one word to describe the day: Amazing. Here was today’s schedule:

10:00 am: Appointment with Bethesda for Fallout 3
10:30-11:49 am: Roam the Showcase Floor playing games
12:00 noon: Appointment with Atari for Neverwinter Nights 2 Expansion
12:30 pm: Appointment with Atari for The Witcher Enhanced Edition
1:00 pm – Closing: Showcase Floor and Working my way into every room I can to check out games

Before I go into details about the games, I want to share a really cool experiene I had. (see Graev’s picture poking fun at me on the right)

I was roaming the convention center wasting time until my 10am with Bethesda when I came to the EA room. Standing outside was none other than Paul Barnett himself! I introduced myself to Paul and long story short we ended up taking a walk together around the convention center talking about WAR and gaming in general. Our walk took us down to the showcase floor where Paul shared his thoughts on several games with me. I had never met Paul until today and I had no idea how truly brilliant this guy is when it comes to games. He sees them in ways like no one else I have ever met. Definitely the highlight of my trip.

Now it’s time to talk about the game. I’m going to write about the first games that come to mind starting with the appointments. After that I’ll work through the other games until I get too tired to write (It’s already midnight, heh)

Fallout 3: I had 30 minutes of hands-on time where I was allowed to roam a particular area of the game. My writeup will be up on the Vault soon and I’ll link to it for you guys. Basically it’s FPS game with minor rpg elements mixed in. I’m not particularly a fan of the Fallout series but the game seems solid and will likely go over well with the fans. Probably going to be like the rest of the Fallout games where people love it or hate it.

Neverwinter Nights 2 Expansion: Looks fantastic. An entire new campaign designed for levels 1-18 but capable of sustaining players until 30. This is a standalone campaign. Improvements were made to the enemy AI, textures/artwork, and the implementation of skills. Although it’s set in DnD 3.5 it ties in to the 4.0 story. A new class is available called the Swashbucker (dex based figher). There are tons of new features like group based text windows, make your own party right from the start (if you want all fighters you can), and the biggest new feature of all – The Overland Map which allows you to actually walk place to place instead of warping there. Think almost like a FF7 overland map. I’ll post all my notes on this in the comments.

The Witcher Enhanced Edition: My writeup will be up on the vault. Basically they’ve improved all the stuff that totally sucked and went the extra mile to make it up to the fans. They actually did a pretty darn good job on this and I might actually play through the entire game now. Big props to them for listening to the players and making changes – For free.

Left 4 Dead: AMAZING GAME!!! I can’t say enough good things about this game. I played co-op with 3 other guys at E3 and we had to survive in a city against zombies. We started on the rooftop of a building and picked up weapons from a table and stocked up on ammo and health kits. We then moved down through the building which was several floors tall. Zombies were coming at us from all over and we had to work together. We got to this one factory building after about 10 minutes and came to a boss fight of sorts where we had to activate an elevator. In the corner was a gatling gun that we defended as the zombies rushed at us in uncountable numbers. We were overwhelmed and taken out very quickly by some freakishly cool zombies. As the guys from Valve said to us: “Work together or YOU WILL DIE!” (Emphasis is theirs). I took tons of video of the game and will post it tomorrow. Super psyched about this one.

DC vs. Mortal Kombat: Cool fighter game. I played as Batman against Subzero and Superman against Scorpian. The game uses a lot of cool combo moves from these super heroes and the graphics look good. It feels like almost every other fighter out there these days which makes it a bit boring but it’s still so cool to play as these guys fighting eachother.

Fable 2: Interesting experience. I’m not sure what to think about it. I got to play co-op mode and experience melee and spells. The new spell system rocks and the graphics are great. I think the melee is comfortable and flows well. I didn’t get to see much more in my playthrough than a single area they were demoing. Co-op mode is weird since only the player designated as “the hero” gets to progress his character. Lots of promises on this one and at this point I’m hoping they can deliver on them. I wish I got to see more.

Rise of the Argonauts: I was actually pretty bored and unimpressed with it. It doesn’t have anything interesting that grabs me and says “play me!” The combat was really boring and the graphics were nothing to boast about. I think the best thing it has going for it is the character development system where you dedicate your big victories to the god of your choice and you do things in the name of a god of your choice. For example if I’m short with people and abrasive I’ll dedicate things to Ares (the dev’s words *shrug*)

Okay, I’m tired now. I’ll write more about games tomorrow. Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.