I was going to ask a friend of mine if he thought that today’s topic would be interesting, then I remembered that interesting is highly subjective. Many people couldn’t care less about how and why a game works than if a game is fun or not. I am not one of those people. Once I get hooked into a game, I want to get an understanding of each of the systems behind it, and today I decided to indulge that curiosity as it applies to Psuedo Random Distribution, or PRD for short.
So what is PRD? If you are diagnosed with PRD, how can you still behave like a normal human being? Many times in games, the game will make a check on whether an attack hits, an effect ‘procs’ (activates or happens...get with the lingo!), you dodge, all sorts of neat stuff. Now if you were playing a pen and paper game, this would be done with an evenly weighted die, and would be subject to random chance. If you observed 100 coin flips 100 times, you would see that you expect to have 50 heads and 50 tails, but some of those trials would be 60/40 in either direction. Given enough observations, you could see it being 30 heads out of 100. Now consider the effect of this on a highly competitive game - if you have an ability with a 10 percent chance of activating, it can happen 10 times in a row, or it can not happen 29 times in a row. Why 29 specifically? Because I have the numbers, of course! The odds of missing a 10 percent chance 29 times in a row with random distribution are about 5%. Ouch. Obviously, either example is going to produce a bad time for someone, and isn’t refined for a competitive environment.
So what can be done? Remove random chance? That’s one avenue. The other is to introduce PRD into your game! So what exactly is it? It is any system that replaces a random event with a new system that works similarly to a random event, but has controls build around it, preventing it from being truly random. Instead it is kind of random. Semi random. The diet coke of random. Not quite random enough.
In DOTA (of course) the PRD system has a ‘seed’ value for the odds. That value is what gets used the first time you attack. The second time you attack, the seed is added to your current odds. If the seed was 5%, by 20 attacks, you would be guaranteed to see the ability happen. So lets get some concrete examples of what the system would do. If you wanted to emulate a 10 percent chance using this PRD method, you would need a seed of ~1.48%. By the 68th attack, you are guaranteed to activate the ability - although we will later see that you expect it to happen by the 23rd attack. Here’s how the math works (I think)....
Your first attack has a 1.48% chance of hitting. Your second attack has a 2.96% chance of hitting, but that only is relevant 98.52 percent of the time - when you miss the first attack. Taking the 1.48 plus the 2.96 x 98.52 gives your cumulative odds of the attack procing by that point. Using the 2.96 x 95.52 x 2 (the second observation) gives what I’m calling the EV for the observation. When you do this across 68 records, you finally reach a 100% chance to proc, given cumulative percentage of 100% and an EV of 10 - which is what we want for a 1 in 10 chance. Using this same logic for the random distribution means that we start with 10% instead of 1.28, but do not tick it up each observation, and also we never ever stop. If you were truly unlucky, you could miss 1,000 times in a row. But thats in ‘killed by a feral gerbil while being struck by lightning on the way to claim your winning lotto ticket’ territory. Theoretically possible. When you take the total EV for the random numbers, you get close to 10 as well, meaning the two systems are just about equal. Neat, huh? So what are the major differences? Lets look at our first chart:
This chart is showing the odds of the ability activating on the Nth hit. So the random attack has a 10 percent chance to happen on hit one, then a 9 percent chance to be on hit number two - you miss ninety percent of the first hits, then you have a ten percent chance. If I were to show the chart all the way out, the random distribution would never actually hit zero. It has an asymptote! (Ok, you got me, that word is just fun to say). Because we are messing with the percentages for the PRD, it actually forms a curve instead of just declining. This curve actually does reach zero by the 68th point, but as I mentioned before, it is practically zero after 36, so I cut off the scale there.
So now that we know what the chart means, what is it telling us? There are 2 places where the lines intersect, so lets talk about what that means. Before the first intersection at the 5th observation, Random has a significantly higher chance to proc over PRD. You are giving up 8% odds on the first attack, which is pretty crazy, actually. After the 5th observation though, PRD is significantly more likely to proc, up until the 20th attack. After that, random is more likely to activate - however, that is actually not desirable in this case, as you don’t want your 1 in 10 chance ability to hit on the 70th attack. So basically, the PRD set up makes it so that your attack is more likely to activate between the 5th and 20th attack than it would randomly. This is enough of a range where it still feels random, but is less likely to happen repeatedly. Imagine a randomized stun hitting three times in a row!
Now for a different view on the same data:
This chart shows the cumulative chance to proc by the Nth attack (instead of on the Nth attack), and is mostly included because I thought it looked cool. Here the inflection point is at about the 12th observation. Up until that point, your odds are actually better of procing the ability with random distribution, but after that, the PRD is better.
Now with all the numbers out of the way, it all becomes a question of philosophy. From the perspective of a designer, I think it is a really cool idea that makes it so that chance has less to do with the game than it would otherwise. As a player though? I don’t think I like it anymore. It feels like it negates the effect until the item has ‘warmed up’ a bit. After I see the ability, I know I have a much longer wait than I should to see it again, even though it is for the intention of being fair.
Finally, this is just one method of creating a psuedo random distribution. The numbers can be changed in pretty much any way that you want to as long as you create a system that has the same EV score. For instance, 100% of activating on the10th attack would produce the same results, but is obviously less desirable in a competitive scene, as you can prime it with 9 previous attacks. You could even weight it so it is more likely to happen between attacks 1 through 5, then through attacks 15-20 if you really wanted to. Is that a good idea? No. But its the same outcome, and that’s what really matters. So what are your thoughts? Totally lost? Intrigued? Angry? Suspiciously aroused?
Today is an incredibly exciting day. Do you know why? Today, we get to unravel the secrets of the gaming world by looking at through a lens of analysis instead of baseless conjecture. I have actually been very excited for quite a long time to be able to provide this information to you all, and to unravel its deepest secrets. As an aside, I work with statistics and data, in a very real way. I have several systems at my work with hundreds of thousands of records that I can use to try and mine out information from the data. My boss told me when I first started that one of the larger failings of courses in statistics is that analyzing the data is the last 5% of the project; the real bulk of the work is in collecting the information. So today, I get to that juicy five percent and get to find out information! What information? How long have I been collecting? Well...I have been collecting information starting on November 6th and ending December 30th. Every day I had it in my bookmarks to copy the results from Valve’s top 100 games by the current player count, which you can view
HERE (but don’t click just yet, it will be fun to see some stuff in the blog, I promise!)
And if you want to see the data I collected, it is available HERE
So, already, we have to talk about some of the flaws in this method. I am using current players at my time of sampling to determine a game’s rank. That is to say, 1 is the most popular game for the day, and 100 is the ‘least’ popular game (least being a very relative term considering the 1000’s of games for sale though). However, current players could wax and wane much more than peak players, so I am using peak players for some volume trending, which we will see later. Now, I tried to capture this data as soon as I checked my bookmarks on my computer, which for most Monday through Fridays would have been at about 5 PM. I think that the data may be a 48 hour period, but that timeframe should always be consistent. Weekends I tend to forget to check at the same time, and we also had 2 major holidays making my checks slightly inconsistent. There were even a few days that it slipped my mind completely! In addition, the holidays and the Steam sales will skew these stats in a horrible way, but they will provide some interesting details later, so I think the timing is just fine. It can also be neat to see how much a good sale affects a game! (protip...a lot) However, I still believe that the data is representative enough for what I want to show, so we will say that it is probably good enough. If it wasn't so bothersome to collect and analyze the data, I would be very curious to keep going with it, as there are some games I would love to see more on (Rust and Revengeance come to mind).
Also, one last side note before I get started: Anything that isn't Excel sucks. This makes me very sad. I tried to use Google Docs to analyze the data, but because it is cloud based it runs very slowly. In addition to that, the way that it creates charts is flat out terrible. It was unworkable. I would have done it on my work computer with Excel, but unfortunately, Docs are blocked as a site, so I couldn't move the data over. I ended up using OpenOffice, which is an open source office like product, meaning it is free. It has similar tools to Excel, but it just feels clunky...one of the biggest things I miss was being able to drag a range for a chart up and down the data set to change what the chart was showing, as that would let me see what the charts would look like for all 200 some games. I hate to say it, but when it comes to this kind of stuff, you really can't beat Excel. Who knew? Anyway....
WHAT IS A POPULAR GAME
So obviously, the most important thing it what the top five games played are. Going into this, I could have made a few guesses for one or two, but I don’t think I would ever nail the top five. In the number five slot, taken as an average of rank by the entire timeframe:
#5. Football Manager 2014.
Hah. Wait. What? With an average peak of 58,000 players, those crafty Eurpoeans with their sissy ‘no padding’ ball game managed to crack the top 5. It is worth noting that other iterations of the series are all over the top 100, making bald eagles everywhere cry.
#4. Civ 5
Boasting a lowly 48,000 average players, yet getting an advantage over football manager 2014 by abusing my numbers, the strategy game managed to work its way into the top 5. I actually don’t know much about Civ 5, but I am going to have to learn, clearly…
This game has been around in some form or another for at least a decade, and apparently shows no sign of slowing with 67,000 average peak players each day. Online, refined, strategic, and incredibly tense, its no small wonder that people still love this game today.
This doesn’t surprise me in the least. At 66,000 average peak players, it consistently ranks in the number 2 slot every day. Going free to play may have revitalized this game, or it could have always been this popular, but apparently, headware sells.
No, I can't write a blog NOT about DOTA. Its in my contract
Turns out, DOTA isn’t just ‘popular’ it is incredibly popular. How popular, you ask? Whereas the average rank for TF2 was 3.22, DOTA was uncontested in the number one slot. An average rank of 1. The best, and highest. So how many people play? Take a guess. In terms of TF2, how much more popular is DOTA?
Would five times be insane?
Try eight and a half. With a whopping 567,000 average peak players per day, DOTA is king of Steam.
INDICATORS OF SUCCESS
Successmanship 101 right here
Now, obviously, success is not just having people play your game, but in this instance lets define it as such. The more people playing, the more people bought the game if it was sold for a price, otherwise, the more chance you have to sell people microtransactions.
So let’s talk about these results a bit, while diving deeper into the top 25 games. Out of the top 25 games, 21 are online capable, with many focusing entirely on an online only, PvP or MMO style. Again, out of the top 25, 5 are free to play games, with a few more as the list goes on. So what can we learn from this? Well, if you are an executive in a suit looking at these games, it is almost impossible to argue against multiplayer. Successful (in our definition, remember) single player games are only 20% of the market. Naturally, there is a bunch of crap that isn’t on the top 100 with multiplayer - say, Homefront - but the fact remains that multiplayer PvP action is incredibly popular. Next, we see that the F2P model is wildly successful, with the top 2 most played games being completely free (and also super well made). Are these systems abused? At times. But are they successful? No one can argue.
As an aside, the wild success of DOTA really proves a point for the MOBA trend...it literally is as popular as the next 15 games combined. Out of the total of the 200 games on the top 100, DOTA makes up 31% of the total peak volume, and 7% of all players on Steam, assuming 7 million concurrent users. Any business man will tell you that is worth trying to crack into. Yet, we see Awesomenauts, another MOBA, sitting down in 148th...maybe not fantastic, but still in the top 100 at times.
Sorry, but I do have to soapbox just a little bit here, as well...out of the 200 some games that appeared in the top 100 games in a given day, Call of Duty shows up in 11 of those slots. Ghosts was in rank 18 for multiplayer with nearly 20,000 users (and 78th for single player). These games are actually really popular, and many iterations are still being played today. Despite the imbalance, despite the not updated engine, and all of its flaws, the games are still really fun and popular. Its sort of strange to affirm that with numbers, but there ya go….why Ghosts was made, and why we will see another one this year.
IS IT REALLY SUCCESSFUL?
So, what does the bottom of the top 100 look like? It should come as no surprise when good games do incredibly, but how many games are really in rotation at one time? It reminds me of a concept known as the monkeysphere, where we only consider a good 50 people as humans, and the rest as just filler space. The bottom of the top 100 has games like Poker Night 2. Mass Effect (the first one). Half Life 2. Serious Sam 3. Portal.
If someone asked me to name 100 games that over 2 months would have been more popular than the original Portal, I would have chuckled and rambled off any game made in the past 2 years. And yet...There really aren’t that many games out there. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here, but it seems so odd to me that Half Life 2 is still one of the most popular games played on Steam, with 1,000 concurrent users at a time. It just seems like there should be more games to bump it off the top 100. And more recent! But maybe games just fall off.
Speaking of falling off..
BEING AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Arguably, the most interesting part of all of this is looking at what happens to games over the course of two months. How fast do we latch on, and how quickly do we forget? So to start, let's look at Path of Exile.
The game was released to the public in late October, meaning it was basically brand spanking new at the first data point. And after two months, we see that the number has fallen to about 15,000 players, down from its peak of 30,000. So in about 2 months, half of the player base dropped off completely. Now obviously, there is a good reason for this with any game: people have beaten the game. Once you complete the game once, you have less reason to go back to it. In the case of PoE, the game has a large multiplayer base, along with several different builds, so the 50% drop off doesn't seem too harsh. Another thing that I really like about this chart, and many of the others, is that you can clearly tell when the date is a weekend. When dealing with daily data, it can often resemble a ECG machine - or whatever those are called...I am on a long list of people you shouldn't ask for medical advice. In this case, we see the weekend volume get a small bump up, then decline when it is back to the weekday. Weekend gamers are really a thing.
So lets look at something else!
Haha! My dumb sampling time with the holidays pays off yet again, as Call of Duty was released just at the start of the window as well! As a note, all Call of Duty games have separate games for single player and multiplayer as far as Steam cares, so this is only looking at single player, for now. Remember the 50% drop rate for PoE? Well, Call of Duty actually drops off the top 100 within the same time period, meaning it has a horrid drop off, but one could argue it levels out at about 2000 (still, 14% is nothing to be proud of). Also, the time it takes to get there is significantly shorter than PoE. Then again, the campaign is much shorter, and is less robust as far as multiple playthroughs. However, as mentioned above, the game was still pretty successful, at least from a 'broke the top 100' perspective. But no one plays for single player, right! So lets look at the multiplayer:
For Ghosts, the playerbase ends at about where the single player begins, which definitely passes the sense check. No one really buys the games for campaign. Again, that dropoff of pretty horrendous. After what looks to be only a week, the game suffers a 15,000 player drop, with spikes for each weekend, as expected. However, we see that all of the multiplayers for COD are still well represented in the top 100, and are in fact pretty reliable. Apparently, people still have fun with these! Combining every non-Ghost game gives an average of about 30,000 players putting its combined count in the top 10 most played. Really, not a bad showing for a game that people shout about so often. Also, props to Modern Warfare 2 for staying relevant 4 years after release. A small community, sure, but still bigger than many others! Another amusing tidbit, is that I believe the popularity is more or less in order of year released. Now I know I'm being preachy here, but these are online focused games, and after years they still have a large player base. PvP keeps a game alive, folks!
On the topic of picking up momentum, staying relevant, and multiplayer, how about a game that was released 3 years ago (2010), and was recently given life by the modding community?
Chart is for multiplayer only
Wow! Talk about some good press! Pretty much out of nowhere, the game skyrocketed out to 10,000 players. Various avenues covered the mod, and word of mouth really helped the game's popularity rise up out of complete obscurity....for a little while at any rate. I think this shows a really interesting example in what good a little press does. There were several examples of games that went on sale and had similar trends, but this one was particularly awesome.
And finally, just because I thought it was funny, here is what Portal 2 was doing:
I just....what....how does it? What does it mean? It looks like there were 3 different sales in the 60 day window, but that doesn't make much sense. What is that middle hump? Was there an LP somewhere that revitalized the Portal 2 community? I missed it. Sometimes with data, you get your Portal 2's: somewhere out there is the rhyme and reason for what is happening, and if you aren't tuned into it, the data is just meaningless.
If you want to see the charts for any games, let me know, and I can pull them up and post what the chart is. Otherwise, what do you think? Is there anything on here that doesn't match up to what you would expect?
I decided to merge together 3 different things that I like, and make them into a blog today! They are a love of math, a love of video games, and a burning desire to use my video capturing software! So I decided to mix things up and talk over some video instead of typing out walls of text explaining some basic mechanics.
This chart on was heavily inspired by my playthrough of EDF. The game gives you an incredibly varied selections of guns, with new guns unlocking constantly as you play. So to a normal player, this is the opportunity to play around, see what each gun feels like, and determine the best one by feel, right? Well for a mad statistician, this is the perfect opportunity to talk more about numbers! My entire playthrough was based on the best weapon for each tier, as determined by its DPS: Damage Per Second. The formulas required weren't that hard to come up with, and it was actually very interesting to see how different some of the weapons would be.If for whatever reason you want to see the spreadsheet I used for EDF, you can view it here. As you can tell (or if you didn't click the link), the spread of DPS is actually pretty crazy...anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 damage were represented in the second highest tier of weapons! Where it got really fun for me was, of course, the insecticide rifle, boasting an insane 100,000 dps! Thats with its incredibly slow reload animation included! And that doesn't even take into account burst damage, which was the main reason for using the Boham Bay grenade launcher as my primary weapon the highest difficulty. It also has a massive AOE explosion that was pretty critical when clearing out large waves of ants.
Naturally, this applies to any game that has a system where you deal damage over a period of time, so it is pretty flexible, but the math ins't all that difficult. So want to know all the secrets and listen to my soothing Midwestern baritone? Then watch this:
Ive got a few other episodes in the works, but I am starting to run out of questions as I shift deeper and deeper into my backlog away from RPGs and more into a territory of a sandbox, so if you have any suggestions for future topics, I would love to hear them!
Whoo! It has been quite a year hasn’t it? For me, it has been an INSANE year. I wound up buying my first house, my second car, paid off two student loans, built my own computer, received a hefty bonus, and gotten two promotions! I have beaten Dark Souls to death on variouschallengeruns, started a YouTube channel, started a community series, made the front page, watched all of Fist of the North Star, and gotten crazy, wicked, pass out drunk more than a few times.
The first of many asides - if you like to drink, make friends with a bartender. Just be kind, tip well, and keep your first few drinks in order so they remember you. Don’t be a pain. Why? One place has gotten to know me pretty well, and they usually ‘forget’ that I order a drink or two, which I pass on to the bartender as a tip. Its a system. Anyway. One guy knew that I liked scotch, so asked if I wanted a pour of this bottle he had taken down, so I said sure. He gave it to me, told me what it was, then told me the price. Laphroag. 30 year. 50 dollars a pour. Delicious.
However that isn’t what I wanted to talk about! I wanted to talk about my Steam Backlog! See, after building a PC I indulged in many a sale, then immediately realized the task at hand. To date, I own 169 games. I play with the games in grid view, and when I finish one, I “X” it out so I don’t have to worry about it. Plus, it feels really gratifying to change that image. So I wanted to list and recap and note all the games. With that, in almost chronological order, and an asterisk next to my favorites …
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers - nowhere close to real magic!
Home - this is one of the most artsy fartsy smells its own farts head up its ass indie games I have ever played. To me, it is a showcase of literally every thing that the indie scene does wrong. Retro for the sake of retro, telling an interactive story instead of being a game, and a super vague up to your interpretation ending.
Jamestown - A fantastic shooter, made even better by the historically accurate alternate dialog option. Seriously, this game is great on several levels and I am super glad I picked it up.
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 - Now with MORE CARDS
Spec Ops: The Line* - I shouldn’t even have to mention that I love this game with all my heart and soul. This was also the first game to technically benchmark my new computer, so a lot of my love for it goes to how well my rig actually run. That being said, this is easily on the top games of the year that I have played, and you owe it to yourself to play the game. Not watch. Not read about. Play. Do it.
Dark Souls* - 114 hours and going strong. Technically my first modding experience!
The Walking Dead - Not the most demanding technically, but this was probably the best story of the year...although it is reallllly close with To the Moon. I think Walking Dead was a better experience 100 times over, but it didn’t tug at my heartstrings nearly as hard as To the Moon.
Homefront - here’s an odd recommendation. Play this game after playing Spec Ops. It does everything Spec Ops does, but completely straight faced. It should come with a bald eagle feather in the case. Team America should play in the background constantly while playing it. That said, it controls incredibly well, and is a solid shooter if you can overlook all the plot.
Bionnic Commando Rearmed - if this were released as an original game instead of an NES remake, the world would have never known. The fresh paint job on this game was fantastic, and the mechanics were actually had a really good feel and a lot of depth to them. Worth playing, even, or maybe especially, if you never played the original.
Borderlands - grind, loot, shoot. Yay!
Spoice Mahrine* - Space Marine is probably one of the best games ever created. It has almost a Saints Row dedication to fun, but with way more gore and action. You regenerate health in this shooter by being in melee range of your enemies and killing them with your bare hands. You get a jetpack and a sledgehammer. It reminds me of the military quote “they have us surrounded? Those poor bastards”. Play this game!
Hotline Miami - lets make a stealth game with unpredictable AI, so the same movement results in a different reaction! One hit kills! Twitch reflexes! Fun! I actually didn’t beat it, but I rage quit at the 2nd to last level, and frankly, I’m amazed I made it that far. The game is cool, has a great atmosphere, but the gameplay is ultimately too much for me to handle...coming from a guy who loves Dark Souls. At least Dark Souls was fair, and you knew why you died.
Ys Origin* - This is another sleeper hit for me. The gameplay feels really good, it has a meaty amount of challenge to it, and it has a plot that actually gets really touching at a few points. It was a game that made me incredibly sad at the end because I only wanted more. It didn’t overstay its welcome, and left me craving, and if a game does that, hell, I have to recommend it.
Binary Domain - I can’t tell you why anymore, but I had a blast with this game. Don’t use voice controls with it, but everything about it just has some weird charm.
Antichamber - Fantastically immersive puzzle game that bends the rules of physics. Yep.
Bioshock Infinite - I really liked the combat in Infinite. I saw it more like a Fallout or Skyrim where you try to find a way to build around a certain weapon or vigor, which was a lot of fun. If you just tried to find the most OP gun it wasn’t nearly as entertaining. I am sadly missing a single audio log, and I have no idea where. This also has one of the best opening scenes in a game released in recent memory. It all goes to shit so fast!
Tomb Raider - Fun gameplay, great hair. Another game that is hard to put into words why I liked it, but every part about it was solid enough to make a great overall experience.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon - We need more like this. Every series. I want an Assassins Creed game like this.
Darksiders - it didn’t age well.
Proteus - Remember Home above? Its like that, but worse. Hate this game with a fiery passion.
Bastion - Really solid gameplay, a fantastic story, cool art, and that steampunk guitar music thats been in vogue lately. Kind of overstayed its welcome. I stuck with only a few weapons though, so I feel like I missed a lot.
Capsized - This game has a lot of annoying design to it, and I never finished it, and never want to.
Dear Esther - I hate indie games so much...usually. This game has its head up its ass, but its heart is in the right place. It tells a good story, left me wanting to research some possible endings, and was very brief in presentation. Even using a modded half life engine (I believe), it delivered some amazing scenery. Almost any screenshot could be a desktop picture. Its actually really good. In price and content, justify it as a movie more than a game.
Borderlands 2* - My 3rd most played game this and last year (beat by Dark Souls and DOTA)
Battlefield 3 (Origin!) - It sure did check all the boxes!
Darksiders II - I did not see this game coming. It is actually incredible, with a decently deep combat system, good RPG elements, a compelling enough story, and some cool bosses. You can skip the first for this one, but it actually is something I unironically liked a lot.
EDF: IA - Just wanted to see the BIGGEST boom. And I did. Awesome.
Magic 2014 - the computer cheats so hard, but it does make it fun to be challenged. Even still, the AI is nothing compared to a human, so it is still disappointingly hollow.
Hitman Absolution - This was my first Hitman game, and I really liked it. It was like a puzzle game more than a stealth game. It lasted a few more missions than I would have liked, but I could see revisiting it to find all the things that I missed the first few times. It has a lot of life in it if you are into that sort of thing.
Sniper Elite Nazi Zombie Army - Boom headshot.
Sniper Elite Nazi Zombie Army 2 - BOOM HEADSHOT. Worse than 1, but still a good amount of fun. They made some good decisions, and some really really bad ones as far as enemies and level design.
DMC - I liked it, but I can see where people are coming from. I thought Dante came off as being a teen rather well...cocky, headsure, and swears for no reason. It fit well enough into the story where I didn’t mind him ‘not being Dante’. But I have only played DMC 4. Still need to get to 1, 2, and 3….someday. The combat was really fun, and the trigger based weapon switching felt really, really good. Plus, Limbo had some fun designs at some points, like the Nightclub.
Papa y Yo - This game shits whimsy. Everywhere. But beats you over the head with its thinly veiled message. Endearing enough to finish, but didn’t leave a lasting impact. I thought it would hit a lot harder when I started up, because I have been known to hit the sauce, and I do know I have some anger like issues, so I was hoping not to stare too deeply back at myself, but I just never saw it.
To the Moon* - This thing. Yeah. Needlessly 8 bit, frustrating at times, inconsistent in tone...but also unbelievably amazing. The tone issue is taken care of by the characters created, really, and they go through a crazy arc. The game drags on for 3 hours for a half hour payoff, but it hits like a ton of bricks. This is up there with NieR as far as ‘games that have made me feel the saddest thing ever’. Be patient with it. Play it. Love it.
Little Inferno - Its a game about waiting! That's the whole mechanic! Wait….then burn things….so you can wait...for more things! I played this off and on for what felt like 6 months, and hated the mechanics every time I started it up. I’m sure there’s some message. I guess the end was different. But man….I did not care for this one either. I whipped out a guide just to be able to say I beat it because I wanted to see what it had to offer at the end. Ech.
Mark of the Ninja - Yeah. This was a game. Not bad. Not fantastic. I did get to sick carnivorous insects on a guy in front of his two friends, and while they gnawed through his bones, another guard panicked and shot his friend in the face. So there’s that.
Saints Row 2 - I had already completed 2 and 3 on the Xbox, but switched to PC for Saints Row 4. I collected 2 and 3 on PC because they were cheap, and decided to revisit 2. It has aged poorly. The graphics are underwhelming, you have to mod in controller support, and the control scheme is nothing short of archaic. But the story that it tells is oddly compelling and often revolting, so still wound up being a fun experience, with only a few cheats enabled.
Then there are the games that you can never really beat, so these are the ongoing games:
DOTA* - I’m afflicted, you’re addicted.
Path of Exile* - See above. Year of the FTP model. So many hours wasted between these two guys, at a cost of zero dollars. You should at least try these games if you are remotely interested as there is no cost to do so. Beaten on 2/3 difficulties with 1 character, with another rolled.
Binding of Isaac - Roguelikes never die. This has been beaten, at least!
FTL -see above, but not beaten.
Rogue Legacy - this one does die, but its a small filesize, so it can stay. Not yet beaten, but getting ever closer!
Skullgirls - after getting the Beta codes from this wonderful site, I got addicted pretty hard into this game. I was incredibly sad when the beta was over, so I waited until the game went on sale then pounced on it. This is one of my favorites fighters in a long time!
Howdy everyone! Hope you all enjoyed the holidays! Mine were, in a word, interesting. First of all, you have to know that I live in Iowa, which is about six hours away from my original home back in Illinois, so I had quite a commute to go. In addition, I wanted to see one friend who had some intense personal drama, had to deal with families, manage poor weather, and keep my sanity with my family for the week that I took off of work...meaning there’s going to be plenty when I get back. So I thought, knowing my own Christmas list and plans for the week, that I would break out the ol’ Wii U for the trip, and get some more mileage out of the system.
I was actually a day 1 buyer of the Wii U, a decision which I don’t really regret because I have disposable income. However, since I built my gaming PC in January (see above: disposable income) I was in no rush to play pretty much any console games. Not to be elitist, but most multi platform games that exist will run better and be cheaper on PC. Long story short, I played NSMB U, Rayman, and half played a few other games on the console, so I was actually interested in giving it a fair shake, especially with some of the stellar titles coming out this holiday. I know I had asked for the new Mario and the Wind Waker remake, among other things, so I figured I would have some time. I needed something before the actual holiday, though, so I decided to pick up a game that I had previously played, hated, demoed, hated, and generally knew I didn’t care for: Monster Hunter 3.
Let me tell you about Quropeco. Let me tell you:
You have limited item slots, and limited recovery items. As you fight monsters in MH3, you are facing the depleting of about 5 different gauges: your health, your stamina, your weapon sharpness, time, and the monster’s health. You have 50 minutes to kill the monster, or you can die after you have used up every single steak (stamina recovery) and potion (hp recovery). Against most monsters, this is just a matter of evading attacks, and counter attacking - something I am intimately familiar with given my history in Dark Souls. The thing that is different between these two games is that in Dark Souls, bosses are confined to a room, and have a visible health bar. In Monster Hunter, you don’t know how much damage you have done to the monster, how close you are to victory, so it is hard to grasp which moments are clutch and which are not. After fighting a monster for twenty minutes (yes, seriously, this is common) you can see the monster begin to limp, meaning your victory is close! In a last act of desperation, the monster runs away from you into a new zone. For most monsters, they either leave through an exit for the zone, or through a gate that clearly telegraphs their path. And, if you have some foresight, you can tag them with a paintball that tells you where they are. Then there’s Quropeco. The flamboyant bastard bird. Quropeco has a call that summons another monster to fight, sometimes a boss monster. Sometimes THE boss monster. He has another call that heals him. And oh yeah he flies. As in he can run to any area on the map whenever he feels like it. There, he can eat fish to recover health, or just sing to recover health. So after twenty minutes, five whetstones, ten potions, and three paintballs, you can have no idea where he is, and no idea how much health he has left. Plus, he has thick armor that makes your weapon rebound off his skin, lights you on fire, and is a general jackass. I quit this game on the Wii because of that ass, and I have no regrets. He is absolutely infuriating. But Gamestop had a sale. And I’ll be damned if I pass up a good sale. So I got MH3 yet again. After trying the demo and remembering why I hated it. After remembering the terrorizing memories of that flying Mardi Gras float. And its pretty fun!
So I packed my bags to make the treacherous journey across the mighty Miss. My dad who recently retired came out to pick me up, which was very nice of him, so I didn’t have to stress about the trip. However, he has a nasty habit of waking up at around 5, so we were off about two hours earlier than I had anticipated. In my hurried packing, I forgot to bring the charger for the Wii U Gamepad (Okama Gameshpere!), which was going to be a problem. Its not a huge deal, but it is a sizeable complaint that despite the fact that every other technology uses 2-3 different methods (USB, the smaller USB, or batteries), the gamepad has a charge hole that is more or less unique. Not a problem! Surely, GameStop carries a charger! And for all I know they do, but the staff working there that day didn’t. Se we tried Best Buy the next day and found a Nyko charger that said it fit the gamepad! I took it home, and...well...Nyko lied. Pretty hard. The product that they clearly state should fit didn’t. I wouldn’t normally care, and would just visit with family for a week, but I was sick of reddit after a few hours, so I went back to Best Buy, returned the open product (props to them for doing that, by the way), and got an Energizer stand/charger which actually worked. Hooray! I could finally game!
No seriously, I hate Nyko right now
So lets talk about the Gamepad, good and bad. Bad? Short battery life. About 3-4 hours. And when I get to 2 bars I worry about death in the middle of a long encounter, so I was at about 2 hour sessions, and then 1 hour of charging before I got sick of my family again. Not ideal. What was really nice about it though was that I was playing in the living room where my folks were watching TV, and was able to play entirely on the gamepad. I didn’t have to lock myself away in a room, secluded during the holidays (as much as I would have liked to at some points), but instead I could carry half conversations! The screen is a little bit too small to get some of the finer details visible, like your location on the minimap in MH3U, but the game was clearly designed to be played with gamepad only - there is a ‘zoom in’ feature for the minimap! The controller is very conducive to ‘the claw’. I often forgot where my fingers were resting moments before, but then remembered that the claw is simply the best way to play almost any 3d game. Embrace the claw. Love the claw. Overall, I was very happy with how the off screen play worked in general. Specific to MH3U and Wind Waker, it needs to be better communicated. the Minus button in Wind Waker switches between gamepad and tv, and in MH3U, it is buried deep within the options. Not impossible, but not intuitive. Easier with the help of a full screen, a luxury that I didn’t have.
Then I went to my super Danish Christmas Eve celebration, which I will explain here because diversity and holidays. We have some odd traditions, and odder family members. For starters, the Christmas tree is decorated in red and white heart baskets made out of paper. There are many patterns, and they range from a simple checkered style to some amazingly intricate designs. It isn’t uncommon that my grandfather puts up a string of Danish flags going around the tree similar to how the lights are set up. Dinner is more or less American style with the exception of dessert. We have a dish called ‘citronfromage’ (citron from osh ah is how I hear it pronounced). It is kind of like an orange flavored pudding, but a little firmer and lighter. Whoever makes it hides a single almond in the dish while it sets, which is then the ‘object’ of the dessert: whoever finds the nut wins a prize! And just to be cruel, you hide the nut when you find it to make everyone stuff their already bloated selves trying to find it. The traditional prize in our family is a marzipan pig. After digestion and coffee, we then sing songs while dancing around the Christmas tree, ending with “Jingle Bells” because of reasons. I really have no idea why...then gifts, and finally returning back home to feed the dogs - and play more video games!
We use a really far removed recipe for the citronfromage, so it doesn't look much like this, but this is what google gave, so hey. There it is.
Even after receiving more games for the Wii U, I found myself drawn to Monster Hunter. Mario was fun, Zelda was good as always, and Rayman is still a treat to play, but Monster Hunter was just...the best. It is like a condensed Dark Souls. Find the rare stuff, find the boss, kill the boss for a long, long time. The game is rarely cheap - each move has a tell, and larger monsters only have a few moves. All of your actions have to be deliberate as attacks have a very small area that they hit, and every single thing has an insane animation window. Want to sharpen your sword? You have to unequip it, find a whetstone in your inventory, then sharpen for what feels like 2 seconds (without getting hit), then wait a second while you admire your work (getting hit is annoying, but not end of the world). It rewards caution and patience very well, basically, and isn’t something that many other games offer. Granted, I am only at the 4 star quests now, so maybe it becomes a dick later, but I spent 17 hours over the course of a week playing it, and hell, that isn’t half bad.
I finally hooked up my Wii U to my normal TV today to see how it holds up on a larger screen. First off, I had an issue with my HDMI cable, in that the Wii U and TV refused to talk to each other. After trying to change every setting on both, I finally resorted to the stupidest idea that came to mind and switched which end was plugged into what device, and voila! it was fixed. By the way, googling support on this problem is infuriating. It seems to be fairly common, but most people just ask questions like ‘is your tv HD? Is it plugged in? Are you sure its plugged in?’ People on gamefaqs forums aren’t 80, alright, internet? C’mon. After addressing that issue, I really like the way that everything looks. I’m used to equating jaggies and Nintendo so much that how good MH3 looks in 62” HD glory made me smile. And HD Wind Waker? Yum! Now I associate Nintendo with Jaggis! Hah. Monster Hunter humor. The gamepad features on those two games are also wonderful in my experience so far. Being able to check the map while sailing without pausing, switching items on the fly, and navigating a pouch full of items all on a touch device absolutely nail the simple possibilities that the gamepad offers, and maybe what smartglass or whatever the hell XBox/PS4 are doing these days.
So basically, what I’m driving at here, is that I think that the Wii U is pretty cool. It works as advertised on the ‘not hogging the tv’ front, and is pretty comfortable to use. While not a graphical powerhouse, I think that the HD looks plenty good enough to justify it. The always excellent Nintendo exclusives, and some of the possibilities with control schemes (gamepad menus, wiimote for RTS likegames) are pretty dang cool. Overall, after this holiday, I’m really happy to own a Wii U, and I’m hoping to see it shine.
Besides people who don't get this reference, of course
I hate people who post ‘gamer logic’ pictures. Quite a bit. “Hey, did you know the police will give up on chasing you after 50 feet? Lol, not like real life at all” “Falls into hay off Empire State Building. Survives”. Shut up. No one cares. Games are about fun, not realism. Any game that sacrifices fun for being realistic has failed as entertainment, in my mind. Take for instance, Receiver: a first person shooter where you have to reload in a real fashion. As a thought experiment, it is really fun. PvP in the game would be a wonderful fustercluck. The novelty is interesting, but the actual gameplay is less entertaining, than say, pressing R then continuing to shoot stuff. I think FarCry handled it very well, but on the fly, brutal self surgeries, but still keeping pace.
Whoa dude, you are soooooo right! I can never play Mario the same way again! But seriously, headbutt a bullet.
So why do I bring all this up? Well, I have one complaint that actually does drive me crazy about videogames. It’s like some weird kind of fear. And that is that I am almost never standing on solid ground. Ever. I am playing a game in a papercraft diorama of what a real world situation might look like.
For anyone who has played Dark Souls on PC, you may be familiar with the DSFix mod. One aspect is that you can unlock the frame rate which comes with the ominous message that you ‘may’ fall through the floor on occasion. And that is genuinely what happens. Instead of sliding down a ladder and having your feet touch ground, your slide shreds the paper flood beneath you as you descend into the dark void.
Thanks to the Game Grumps I now know how flimsy the world of Skyrim is. Everything in the game is paper thin. The floors. The walls. Mountains. Stairs. Other humans. There are no guts...no brains...just a shell with facial muscles, eyes, and teeth. Some kind of walking talking flesh heap. But even worse, these systems allow the player to abuse these systems by the use of a bowl...you can literally use a bowl to walk through walls, falling through the abyss and seeing the darkness of the world outside of your doll house. It’s just...creepy.
Almost every game where you are playing in a 3D environment has the same situation. You can often tell this just by moving the camera so that it clips through the one dimensional layer. Behind every brick is just another flat surface. No dirt. No minerals. No fossils. Just...nothing. Its like walking on ice.
Oh yeah, thats the good stuff.
So this explains why it is so comforting to me when the games let me know what is around me. Minecraft is a fantastic example. Every single structure is actually made up of blocks. You start on grass, but you can see the feet of dirt, stone, and eventually bedrock beneath you, and even if you find a gap in the bedrock, you just fall into the core of the earth and die. It almost makes sense in that regard. Terraria uses the same system, so it is also nice to see that other people share my odd phobia. As far as the people, there have been some fairly good advances in this as well! Most zombie games at least recognize that humans are made up of 4 limbs, a torso, and a head with a brain. Sniper Elite even goes a step further and fills in the remaining organs and bones, and even shows how people die as your bullets rip through their organs. The entry and exit wounds leave something to be desired, but remember what I was saying above about reality? Bloody gaping wounds followed by muffled screaming? Not fun. There are also the new Mortal Kombat games which used the XRay system to show the damage that was done. Was it exclusive to a QTE? Sure. But it helped to...flesh out the world.
I was musing on this a bit, and I realized that only modern games have this problem. See, back in the good old days of the NES and SNES, a few bricks were reserved for the ground. Mario had a brick and a half beneath his feet. Even if, for some reason, he jumped super hard, he would still have a lot of brick to go through. Even Simon Belmont had a good block beneath his feet most of the time.
I know I’m crazy, but does anybody else share this kind of paranoia?