Archive for the ‘League of Legends’ Tag

The future of Dota 2?   Leave a comment

The issues surrounding Dota 2 are news to few and Valve have done something very unusual in creating this game. While it is the case that Valve have taken what were essentially mods and created full-blown games in the past, a practice now often seen in the indie movement, in this case they have taken a mod so deeply entrentched in a specific game and its world that controversy was bound to follow.

And, to an extent, I can understand the backlash by Blizzard, original DotA fans, Riot Games and others over this. It does seem a bit strange for Valve to take Dota 2 like this without getting a more workable response from the community as well as Blizzard. They only ever recruited the lead developer from the past 7 years, there were two developers before IceFrog, one of whom was the creator of what is the almost exclusively played version of the map. That creates a pretty strong case against Valve’s claim that they can register Dota 2 as a trademark.

Valve have a problem as it seems Blizzard are very willing to take them to task over the Dota 2 trademark claim and I think, as much as I dislike anything part of the great beast that is Activision, Blizzard are in the right about this one. The disappointing thing is that I have played the Dota 2 beta and Valve have a great products on their hands but I can’t help and wonder whether Valve’s aggressive push forward in developing and trademarking this while these issues remain was a bit more shrewd and manipulative that it might appear to some. Valve don’t normally have a reputation for developing something so polished, so quickly.

Certainly, Valve’s Dota 2 will come out in some form even if Blizzard wins its case and I have lost all ability to see Valve as the little guy fighting the big bad beast here because, as small as they are compared to what they now go against, they aren’t little and they should have forseen these problems. I just don’t trust Valve to throw straight dice in this. The questions I wonder are, if Valve wins this upcoming battle, will it affect Blizzard’s own DotA efforts or any continued development of the original Defense of the Ancients? With Team Fortress, Valve hired anyone and everyone who was part of the modding team and it wasn’t tied into one game’s world or mythology so deeply. IceFrog’s claim to the DotA trademark is suspect at best and the game is so bound up with Warcraft III that I can’t see Valve winning this one. At the end of it all, though, I am cheering for Blizzard on this one and I think it’ll be a good thing if Valve don’t get that trademark.

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Pointless offers   Leave a comment

Last week, the recently F2P MMO Crimecraft: Bleedout had a special offer on that was typical of special offers on the F2P sections of Steam: join, try it now and you’ll get in-game advances and items for which you normally pay. These offers work because it gives an incentive to try a F2P game out of the bunch that you wouldn’t normally pick up.

I play a few F2P games, I generally aim to be cost-effective when it comes to gaming, a hangover from bygone unemployed days and F2P games give a lot of room to try before cash changes hands. This is good and I generally find the games that I pay into are not ones I feel I need to pay into to get ahead, they are games like League of Legends that end up making pay cash almost as a ‘thank you’ to the developers. That’s the attitude I’ve stuck by, games that feel like they are wrangling cash from me fall by the wayside.

Now, this sort of offer on Steam is great because I can’t download and try every F2P, nor would I want to. My games catalogue is massive on PC alone, not adding in the catalogues of my retro home computer and console gaming or the tabletop gaming I do. I will never run out of what I already have to play unless I moved into my dad’s attic and quit my job and all social contact. Further, I would need to wade through as much rubbish as my current catalogues to find the League of Legendses or Lord of the Rings Onlines. These offers are a great way to tapping the flow, as it were, and offering up the F2P buffet in manageable plate-loads.

The problem is when a game company seems to want more players than it is willing to reasonably support. So this offer on Crimecraft was up until the 29th and I made several attempts to get in there, create a character and play. I download the game via Steam, create my account, login. There are two servers. The first (Exeter) is full and the other has a population of high (Euricho). So I try Euricho first and I’m put in a queue of nearly 700 people. I estimated by the drop rate that it would take me about half an hour to forty-five minutes to get in, so I try later.

Later does not work. The same problem in both servers. They are stretched beyond what they can reasonably support. I don’t mind the game supporting such a limited userbase, it’s ultimately up to the game publishers, but why have a special offer trying to draw more players in when the special offer will only be accessible to a remote portion of those players?

Sure, it will potentially increase the player base and, therefore, income for the game. I tried logging in today and neither server was a problem this time, so it was short-term, but it doesn’t say much for the game’s attitude to its players. Imagine logging on to the game as a loyal player who’d been playing that game before the offer. Suddenly, you cannot play or are forced to wait up to an hour because they want to cram their servers full with potential cash-giving players.

Vogster (the developers) have a more than healthy sized community playing their game for the resources they allot it, unless their servers report false stats about player numbers. If they want to increase their base beyond what they currently have, they need an extra server.

The bigger problem is that this is indicative of some of the bad thinking behind F2P models. Players aren’t there to sell a set product to or build relationships with, they are cash pumps and you fit as many of them as you can in your game. Crimecraft isn’t necessarily advocating this outlook, but it would seem it given they made a drive to get more players than they can support comfortably. People need to be very sceptical of F2P games and I think they really need to know the sorts of business models being used before they feel comfortable investing.

Piracy’s effects and the F2P model.   Leave a comment

I wrote an article a few weeks back on the conflicting claims about the effects of piracy on the PC games market. A friend then recommended to me a very interesting article by Tadhg Kelly in GameSetWatch, arguing that piracy itself can be a beneficial marketing technique and that building relationships with gamers is more profitable in the long term than viewing games development as what he calls a “content business” where the game’s content has value.

My intent here is to show several reasons to view his arguments with suspicion. I think that a certain model of game does lend itself to his view of piracy and that this model (the free-to-play model) has produced some excellent games (League of Legends and Bloodline Champions are two shining examples), some enjoyable, but ultimately more average, games (Champions Online or Dreamlords: Resurrection) as well as some really bland stuff that is often fairly ruthless in getting your money (a lot of Facebook games belong here). While I believe that the gems that this model produced has clearly justifies its existence (the majority of the non-World of Warcraft MMO market runs on this model), it should not ever become the sole gaming market model and that’s one part of what Kelly seems to be saying.

Before he talks about this though, he makes several assumptions to which I take objection and are contentious. He writes:

“[Most game developers are] seeing their business as a content business, where the content is the thing that has value. This is not the case.

The games industry, like all the arts, is about finding and interacting with fans, so that value comes from a relationship. As we slowly move into the post-platform, single-franchise future, understanding the difference between the two is crucial.”

His emphasis on content business and relationship are the crux here. He describes most developers as belonging to the former view, that they create a certain piece of content that has value and attempt to sell it whereas the ideal is the latter. I think there is both an overt and a tacit assumption here that I want to knock out.

First, the overt assumption is that games development is like creating a piece of art. While a lot of ardent games are art types will treat this idea as sacrosanct and often not even debate any of its critics properly, their belief extends exactly zero metres beyond the borders of people already keeping the faith. I would not defend the idea of games as art, even as I ardently defend their value and worth, because even if games could be art (which, in their thousands of years of existence, they still fail to be even as younger things like cinema and photography take up the mantle of art uncontroversially), I don’t want aesthetic concerns to ever override what I want from games: to be entertained and enjoy myself.

The more subtle assumption is that this view between games as a content business and games as creating relationships is presented as a dichotomy, that there is no ability to view games as a content business while building relationships with customers. I spoke in my last article on piracy of games like Gratuitous Space Battles and The Void where the designers did create an outreach to customers, but did not ever assume piracy to be a good thing. They did view their content as being stolen, but seized an opportunity to build relationships and encourage sales.

It’s clearly not the case that you need to abandon the view, as Kelly recommends, that there is value to your content. I find it borderline offensive, even, that a man whose work seems to consist largely in basic microtransaction-based Facebook games like Soccer Hero has the audacity to tell Ice-Pick Lodge or Positech Games that their work has no value.

Kelly goes on to make an analogy between the circulation and sale of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and sale of sequels in gaming. Piracy of originals, he argues, could raise awareness of potential sequels in which people are more likely to invest. He compares this to the higher success of the second part of Paine’s Rights of Man in terms of sales than the first part despite the necessity of familiarity with the first in order to understand the more successful second.

The problem I have with this analogy is that it simply doesn’t require piracy in the equation. Borrowing games, watching friends play games, playing them with your friends, these are what are needed and there is another strong argument against DRM within this, but not piracy. Paine’s first book was not widely known because of piracy of the text, but because people shared the physical medium of the text. Piracy never came into it.

Beyond this, he moves into another suspect analysis of the industry. He writes that the industry commits the “one shot fallacy” which is that developers seem to think of games in an atomistic sense. They don’t talk of games with sequel potential unless the game has been successful enough to merit sequels. My only response to this at what game industry is Kelly actually looking? Has he not looked at one of the overriding criticisms of Activision? Activision has long been criticised for only seeing games in terms of long-term exploitable intellectual property, it effectively tried to bury Brutal Legend because it didn’t think it would produce sequels, just compete with its own IP. This view of games in terms of sequel potential is simply not a healthy approach and Activision is the proof one needs of that.

Furthermore, let’s look at the sort of model he suggests, building social features into a game that requires purchasing features (such as support or extra content) after the game is already in the hands of the gamers. This is effectively the F2P model and that’s all well and good except the fact I don’t want every game having this model and neither do the majority of gamers. One of the key criticisms on Metacritic from users of Portal 2 was that it had an in-game store for a game that required a base payment.

I can take this further, one criticism a friend made of recent versions of Team Fortress 2 was that it now has boxes that contains items which you need to pay to unlock and get the contents. This is, in an otherwise great game, a rather awful feature. Even if this was a game where there was no initial payment, is that what we would would be happy with in every game?

Would we be happy where every game is freely distributed only to then get its money from you via social features and in-game quirks like the locked box idea of games such as Team Fortress 2 or Allods Online? It’s nice that the F2P model exists, but it occupies a niche, I simply don’t want every game to work on this model because the F2P model has produced a few gems and mounds of rubbish Facebook apps that I have to keep blocking.

Of course, the other part of this is that copying the raw install files for League of Legends or Bloodline Champions for a friend is not piracy, it’s legitimate distribution (unless I messed with the files somehow). What he describes as piracy is in fact, perfectly legal under the F2P model and not piracy in any sense of the word. Where it would be piracy is if I gave a friend an unlocked version of either game with all the characters unlocked already (apparently, with League of Legends, unlocking extra skins illegally was once possible). Something tells me that if I distributed genuinely pirated copies of Tadhg Kelly’s game, all the social features and extra content promised after the gamer started playing already unlocked, he might have a bit more of a problem with what I was doing than his article would suggest. That is piracy.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: 11 bit studios
Published by: 11 bit studios
Out now
Reviewed on: 21st April, 2011.

Presentation: The graphics and sound effects are very fitting to the setting and it looks very polished for an indie title. I particularly liked the good use of contrast on route-planning maps with the enemies coming up bright red against the blue backdrop and the interesting choice of setting (the cities of Baghdad and Tokyo) means the mission visuals don’t get boring quickly.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere is dark with the overall narrative seemingly describing a tale in retrospect (i.e. a cutscene ending with “I know, I was there”). It’s a little more plot heavy that these sorts of games tend to be, the atmosphere is tense, even if the soldiers under your command have a bit of a jockish attitude.

Control and Mechanics: The controls would be fine with any use of the mouse and a single key press. A few keys are used to access menus during the game (such as purchases or special abilities) but the game pauses at this point, allowing you to make your selection at leisure. The game also pauses during tactical map mode, allowing planned movements.

Who should buy this: Anyone who likes the tower defence genre and wants a new breath of life added to it. Anyone who likes the MOBA-style game of having one directly controlled character with special abilities, but placed to the role of a support character aiding and directing troops. Anyone who wants a game that really succeeds in doing something different.

Who should avoid it: If you really don’t like tower defence, you probably won’t like this inversion of the formula (but don’t hold me to that). If you don’t like thinking on your feet or the tense, last minute changes your plans will require, you could do better elsewhere. If you want multiplayer too, this game won’t be for you.

If I have to give a score: A solid game that is strong in all areas, it is let down only by the lack of multiplayer and small number of game modes. It does do interesting things with an increasingly stale genre and it belongs on any serious gamer’s machine. 3/4

Review

Tower defence games are, alongside MOBA games like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, one of the two genres to descend from a Warcraft 3 mod (and, arguably, the first MOBA game) commonly called DotA (shortened from Defense of the Ancients). In tower defence games, your aim is to construct defences against a set number of enemies marching along a set path or paths before they reach a certain target or do a certain amount of damage.

There have been a lot of these games popping up in the last few years. Games like Defense Grid: the Awakening or Revenge of the Titans have done interesting things with the genre but there is only so much that can be done with a genre that consists in taking out a set number of enemies along a set path with finite defence configuration possibilities. The thing that A:WE brings to the table is that it inverts the play. In this, you are the force trundling along the ground being attacked by enemy towers and weapons trying to stop you from reaching a certain goal.

The setting is that in 2018, two objects fall from the sky and land in the cities of Baghdad and Tokyo, each forming a large shield of energy that envelopes much of the two cities. Six months later, at day zero, your team enters a crack within the shield at Baghdad and it all goes downhill from there as the alien presence within the dome has grown, leaving the city inside a wasteland.

Navigating your way through the cluttered streets does give one a real sense of being in command of a tactical operation. You only have direct control over your commander unit, as in MOBA games, but can direct which routes you take through the city to optimise your attempts to reach your goal. Each level gives you medals based on the efficiency and directness of your mission completeness, which adds the temptation to occasionally take that more dangerous route for directness or hold off that repair until the last minute for efficiency. Add a healthy dose of achievements to this mix (the game has 42 on Steam) and you have a lot of replay value there.

You also have the fact that individual units can be bought and upgraded with a variety of options being available to your convoy as you progress. The layout of your troops can be adjusted to put a line of damage-absorbing units at the front or a set of heavy-hitters depending on for what the situation calls. Your command unit can scout out ahead in his combat suit to collect upgrades that give his suit to ability to do a variety of things such as repair units (the most used ability given the damage they will take). These help you through the imposing enemy forces and it really is a buzz when you take down that first dangerous foe or wipe out a line of towers.

The only criticism I do have of the game is the relatively small number of game modes. It’s the sort of game that I felt lent itself to a variety of different styles of play and would have been excellent with more mod potential and multiplayer elements, but these are lacking. For the modest price tag, especially, this criticism is a minor one, but it seems like such an obvious thing to miss out.

Overall, a great game and a fine addition to a cluttered genre that comes as a breath of fresh air. For the small price tag, it is a great addition for anyone who is a fan of the genre or just wants to try something new and original.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is out now and available for several platforms, priced £8.99. The website is here. Be warned that the Gamers Gate version has SecuROM.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Quick cap news

* League of Legends developers, Riot Games, announced that 100% of sales on the Akali character would go towards relief in Japan. Also, a rare copy of Final Fantasy Tactics is being auctioned by Play for Japan.

* Value have upgraded Steam’s VoIP system by using the SILK codec most commonly found in Skype, increasing bandwidth but allowing much greater quality.

* Crytek are still pretending that they think DRM is at best “a minor inconvenience” and about trying to stop piracy, using simple arguments that have already been knocked out.

* Darkspore gets delayed for another month, but news of an open beta should keep the waiting bearable. New date is 26th April.

* Bioware have warned that SWTOR beta scams have been appearing on the net. Watch out any would-be beta testers that you aren’t getting a raw deal.

* Battlestar Galactica Online was BigPoint’s biggest game launch so far and success was attributed to strong community involvement.

* UKIE welcomed the new budget benefits being offered to UK developers. The benefits are designed to increase investment and encourage smaller developers to grow.

* EA are getting rid of physical copies of manuals in favour of electronic-only copies.

* Deep Shiver has given a very convincing reason why the child violence in the trailer of Dead Island is acceptable. However, there were assurances that there would be no children in the game.

* Finally, the Torchlight MMO will not be charging a monthly subscription, with developers Runic Games arguing that model is no longer viable.

Main news

In a twist of fate, Gearbox announced that Duke Nukem Forever will be delayed a little longer. This means everyone can stop the “it’s finally going to be released” and switch to the “it’s fated not to be released” jokes. Randy Pitchford later explained the delay as trying to bring the game more up to scratch. There was a reveal of a tongue-in-cheek game which lead to the usual sort of responses that most of us are tired of, and once again, Penny Arcade states the obvious and wins my heart.

Also, Peter Molyneux has once again followed his old tactic of slamming his last game to make his next look better. This after Molyneux had already apologised for leading game journalists on a merry chase half the time. Game journalists themselves were unsurprised by his interview. Molyneux also, strangely, claimed that Minecraft was the best game he played in the past ten years, giving rather unusual reasoning, which implies a distinct lack of gaming on his part (not that Minecraft is actually bad, I can just think of a lot better). This shows that Molyneux can occasionally ramble on semi-coherently about games that are not his.