Backlog Battle Report (18th Sept 2017)

This week saw very little in the way of console activity, instead seeing long stretches of me glued to my 3DS or else tinkering with settings on my PC to get specific old games working. Monster Hunter Stories, Witcher 3 and Yakuza Kiwami are all surprisingly absent from this week’s report, but that’s almost certain to change in the coming days. I’ve also got the new Prey, the first Warhammer Total War, and a number of recent RPGs I never played through properly on my agenda. Let’s go through it, shall we?

Pokemon Shuffle (3DS) — A puzzling time filler

Match 3 games have been a guilty pleasure of mine forever, usually filling the void when I wasn’t regularly playing Tetris. It’s a simple and addictive concept, though some games take the concept and run with it in interesting ways. Puzzle Quest turned it into an RPG, 10000000 and its sequel You Must Build A Boat merged the genre with endless runners, and HuniePop had dating sim aspects.

Pokemon Shuffle does none of these things, really. The idea is that you have a limited number of turns to inflict damage on the target Pokemon, then get a chance to catch them. You can level up the Pokemon caught through these puzzle battles and make them stronger. It’s RPG-esque, but it’s pretty basic. Still, it’s an addictive way to fill in time when in game queues or some other situation.

It’s also free to play, meaning small time brackets are the only ones you’ll get anyway without tossing money at Nintendo. I have other products to give money to however, so for now it’s just something to do.

Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (18th Sept 2017)”

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Right Click to Zoom — The Value Proposition Issue of ARPGs

Welcome to this week’s iteration of Right Click to Zoom, the more in-depth article side of this blog. Today I’m going to be talking about the growing concept and issues of the value proposition of games, particularly how they relate to hack-and-slash action RPGs (referred to as ARPGs for the remainder of the article).

The idea of a value proposition is simple: it’s the idea that a product, in this case a video game, presents itself in its entirety and then asks the consumer for the purchase price. A user deciding that the game is too expensive or doesn’t offer enough gameplay, longevity, or some other criteria is saying that the proposition fails; it’s not worth the value they’re asking.

A number of these concepts can be applied to video games as a whole, but I’m going to relate them back to this one genre for the sake of the article today. This is largely because they are a kind of game that can fall into this discussion fairly quickly by the very nature of how they play. To demonstrate what I mean, let’s start with the poster child of the hack-and-slash ARPG genre: the Diablo series.

The original Diablo is one of the more iconic games of its time, releasing nearly a year before the first Fallout game and simplifying the oft convoluted RPG genre down to a more accessible format. The huge, complex and intricate worlds with fiddly systems of the Ultima series and its ilk were instead reduced to a single town. From this town, you would descend into the catacombs beneath the cathedral, diving deeper until you reached Hell itself to defeat titular demon Diablo.

While still gaining power through traditional level ups, much of your character’s strength came from the randomised loot that would drop as you explored. Some drops were guaranteed from quests that would appear within the dungeon, but they too were randomly assigned; not everyone would find the quest to kill the Butcher or the Skeleton King in their run. You could play through it multiple times and still discover something new, and the same character could become wildly skewed in power. This became the core of the hack-and-slash ARPG: the loot.

If Diablo popularised the concept and genre, Diablo 2 refined and polished it. More character classes, more intricate and variable skill trees, more in-depth storytelling and world building, a bigger world to explore and play with… but most importantly, more loot. Winning a whole slew of awards and quickly becoming the fastest selling video game in history at the time, Diablo 2 opened up the genre to more people than ever before.

The inclusion of additional difficulty levels encouraged repeat playthroughs with the one character. Combine this with a strong multiplayer aspect and options, and the game saw continual play for years afterwards. Arguably, that is where the problems inherent in the modern day perception of the genre began, and few points can highlight this better than the launch of the next game in the Diablo chain.

Continue reading “Right Click to Zoom — The Value Proposition Issue of ARPGs”

Backlog Battle Report (11th Sept 2017)

I spent some time looking at options and possibilities for extending the activities on this blog to YouTube and recording versions of this for those who would rather listen than read. Unfortunately, the internet connections and speeds available in this part of Australia effectively limit my options to “move elsewhere” or “suck it up”. Since only one of those is viable, this’ll probably remain a text only venture for a while.

Still, I like writing, so hopefully people still like the reading. With all that said, let’s get into the games.

Heroes of the Storm (PC) — Obey the Call!

Let’s start with the new patch of Heroes, which I’ve played a good chunk of games on. Of the four hero reworks in the patch, I’ve only had the chance to play two of them so far, meaning Morales and Jaina I have no comment on. Chromie and Leoric I’ve played a couple of games of apiece, and then a number of Kel’thuzad games to cap it off.

The Leoric rework is, in a word, awesome. Don’t know how he is in terms of power overall, but the adjustments to his spells and auto attack pattern feel a lot more responsive and his talent choices feel much more interesting. While I haven’t picked up a set build yet, the talents that give Wraith Walk more utility that leads into more damage makes for a decent way to start a fight. Both his ults feel like viable choices now as opposed to just the one, though I still need to play around with the 20 talents. He’s great fun.

Chromie is a little less stellar in the long run, but comes with the caveat that I might just be completely awful at her. Either way, her ability to combo and delete somebody instantly is gone unless you manage to ramp up early by getting good hits and completing your baseline quest. That said, in two games I only managed to finish it in one, and then only just before the game ended. Does that mean I’m an awful shot, or is she undertuned? Probably more the former, but either way I can’t really give a full opinion on how she is numbers wise. This needs a bit more time. Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (11th Sept 2017)”

Right Click to Zoom — Competency and Professionalism in Games Journalism

I had intended for the first iteration of this segment to be on an entirely different topic, but after this recent controversy arose within the games journalism community, I felt it prudent to start here. It’s current news, it’s better to talk about it now, and it will hopefully segue into a good mission statement about what I’m trying to accomplish with these write-ups.

With that said, welcome to Right Click to Zoom, the more in-depth article side of this blog. Today’s topic is “competency and professionalism in video game journalism”.

Allow me to begin by asking a question: if you go out to eat at a restaurant, you want the chef to know what they’re doing, yes? They don’t necessarily have to be world-class gourmet chefs, but if your food comes out uncooked and smelling foul as if the kitchen didn’t know what a stove was, you’d have issues with it. You would complain, take it back, or perhaps leave. When you go out to eat, that is the desire you would have of your chef: competency.

This can be applied to just about anything we do in our lives. We don’t want people unskilled and untrained to be repairing our cars, doing our taxes or running our stores.

Why, then, is it so hard for people to apply this to video game journalism? Continue reading “Right Click to Zoom — Competency and Professionalism in Games Journalism”

Backlog Battle Report (4th September 2017)

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m planning on setting up a weekly routine of a more serious and in-depth article, and then a more casual article detailing my gaming experiences for the past week. This is the first of the latter! It made sense to name it the Backlog Battle Report given the name and aim of the page, and I’ll be getting these out every Monday night/Tuesday morning as time permits from here on if all goes well. As for the other article type, that will probably debut on Friday, so keep an eye out.

For now, let’s talk about the games I’ve played over the last week. I’ll also include a few things that reach a bit further back just because I’ve been inactive for so long. Let’s kick it off.

Heroes of the Storm — As always

I won’t be mentioning this much in the future reports unless something stands out, but Heroes of the Storm is still my primary go-to when I feel like playing a competitive multiplayer game or MOBA. I’m sure some of you may scoff at the thought of calling it “competitive”, but the game is as deep and competitive as you want it to be, and I like to push myself in it.

The latest ranked season will be ending in a matter of days, so there’s something of a mad scramble to get last minute rankings for the rewards, but I’ve been abstaining and keeping to the non-ranked modes for a while. This is mostly just due to queue times for ranked being considerably longer in Australia, or else it’s because I’m playing with friends who take the game much more casually. However, it’s also because I’ve already reached Diamond 5 rank after a couple of seasons coasting in high Platinum since tanking my MMR last year. I’ve got the rewards I sought, so I can hold off any further attempts until the next season kicks off.

Kel’thuzad is due to be the next hero release in just a couple of days, and his patch comes with a number of character reworks, so I’ll have a good amount of new things to learn and play shortly. Should be a good time. Continue reading “Backlog Battle Report (4th September 2017)”

Let’s try this again…

And here I was saying I was being slack nearly two months ago for not posting in a month. Fancy that.

So I could defend my inaction with a slew of excuses and rationale of all descriptions, much of which would be valid, but there’s really no point to that. Instead, I will point out at least one observation I’ve made about this whole thing: the conversational and casual approach to a standard blog post was proving to be at odds for some of the article-esque pieces I was writing.

For example, I currently have a half finished draft that was started but a few days since my last post about Fire Emblem Echoes. The reason I didn’t finish and post that was mostly because it was growing increasingly detailed and formal, so I wanted to be thorough and do it properly. It’s the kind of thing I might have posted on a website with more traffic and more structure, were more of them available to me that might actually have a readership for that kind of stuff.

As it stands, however, there’s only ever a handful of people reading this blog already, and I’m not sure how well that would be received. Moreover, I felt that since I was straying from the more casual nature of this blog in general, I wasn’t really sure if there was much of a point going ahead with the post. Whatever my reasoning, the point remained that I lost the drive to keep working on it, trapped as it was between mediums and approaches, so it has languished. The longer it took, the less fresh Fire Emblem was in my mind, and now it feels like the timing for that post has well and truly sailed.

So this is a problem. I don’t like to leave things unfinished and scrap them in favour of other stuff… yet at the same time, I’m somewhat bad at maintaining a structured approach and getting the unfinished pieces completed. Couple all of that with the other unrelated issues and distractions of the past quarter year, and here’s where we stand with Delfeir vs. the Backlog.

At the moment, my writing is definitely in a slump. With a lack of dedicated readers — and rightfully so given that this blog lacks a dedicated and reliable writer — it’s hard to motivate myself to push my drives into seeing it further. At the same time, other websites are somewhat out of reach now, as I’ve become somewhat distant with GameSkinny and don’t really have other places to currently write for that might get the viewers I’d like to reach.

Still, at the end of the day, I am reminded of the fact that as much as I write to entertain and share my stories and viewpoints with readers, I’m mostly still doing this for the enjoyment I draw from writing. I like doing this stuff and I don’t want to just give it up. As such, if I lack the other platforms to kill two birds with one stone, I shall just have to be satisfied with the one I had.

So what am I going to do with this blog? Well, rather than keep writing in that awkward space between conversational blog posts like this one and proper articles like I publish elsewhere, I’m going to simply set aside a schedule to accomplish both.

I’ve yet to set days for this, but here are my current plans: I’m going to try and update this blog three times a week. There’ll be a schedule for at least two of these posts on spaced out days once I set it up. One post per week will be a more conversational run-down of where I’ve been at for the past week in terms of gaming and working on the Backlog that this page is titled after. Another post each week will be a more dedicated article going into either a specific game, mechanic, narrative element etc. of something I’ve played recently and diving more deeply into that. Reviews may fall under this if appropriate, but we’ll see.

If I can manage it, I’ll try to get a third post going as well. If the scheduled day’s post is on more recent games, this third post will probably be about other topics entirely. They might be retrospectives, rambling thoughts on a specific topic, or just some kind of video game related pondering. Either way, the guidelines will be looser on this one so it’ll largely just be a free post. Might set a day for it, might just post these when I feel like it, but either way I’ll be trying for it.

Admittedly, I’m not the greatest at planning ahead or keeping to a schedule historically, so I have no idea if I’ll actually be successful with this endeavour. But it’s still a goal I’m going to set myself and then try to work towards. So keep an eye on this space, and hopefully I’ll get that set up within the next week and lay out what days will see what posts.

If I don’t post that soon, well… I’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and try something else again instead! Either way, I don’t just want this blog to forever collect dust, just like I don’t want my video game related writing to fade away.

Thoughts, feedback, opinions and suggestions would be much appreciated on this, but even if I’m writing to an audience of none I shall still keep trying this for my own entertainment. Let’s see what happens then.

 

A Storm of Blood

Due to various circumstances I’ve been very remiss in doing much in the way of writing for the past month, and what little I’ve been doing has largely been things that aren’t ready for public eyes just yet. I did have a chance to review two games over on GameSkinny: Tokyo 42, an interesting but frustrating cyberpunk action game in the vein of Syndicate; and a visual novel about dating girls in North Korea that was bought for me as a dare to review. Never let it be said that I won’t take on such a challenge.

In addition to not writing too much, I’ve not actually had much opportunity to chip away at the backlog over the past month. Instead, I played Final Fantasy 14. A lot of Final Fantasy 14. Talking about my time with that will be the brunt of this article.

There have been a few other games that I’ll quickly go over to acknowledge my playtime. First, my go to aside from FF14 remains Heroes of the Storm, which I’ve still been plugging away at in short intervals and downtime with or without friends. I made it back to Diamond this season after an uncharacteristically good run of placement games (8-2), which was a pleasant return after floating around Platinum for the last couple of seasons. In addition, the upcoming Starcraft hero Stukov is both a huge favourite of mine and is also of my most frequented support role, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on him.

Beyond those two games, I bought and completed Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on 3DS. Well, rather, I completed Chapter 5 which is where the plot ends, but I didn’t dabble in any of the post-game stuff. It was a reasonably enjoyable game and I intend to make a post dedicated to it soon.

I also picked up Ever Oasis for 3DS on its release, mostly on a whim. It’s an interesting little game with a mix of Zelda-lite exploration and combat combined with a basic Harvest Moon system of town management. Sadly, while it started out interesting, there’s a few little issues that serve to bog the game down in terms of enjoyment, and it ended up feeling quite shallow and more like busywork rather than fun gameplay. Not sure I’ll get back to that, but again, planning to talk more on that.

Oh yeah, and E3 happened. Naturally I was in no position to attend, being on the wrong hemisphere, but I did pay some attention to it. I was mostly uninteresting by the vast majority of games on offer, but just about broke my chair in excitement when they announced Metroid Prime 4. I’ll most definitely be getting a Switch at some point now, that’s clear enough. Overall though, the presentation was largely meh and didn’t really have many highlights, so I won’t speak too much on this just yet. If anything interesting does come from it, well, odds are I’ll be able to write about those games when I play them.

So with that out of the way, let’s get into Final Fantasy 14 and its newest expansion then. Continue reading “A Storm of Blood”