Keep your monetization out of my gameplay, ffs!

So, Diablo Immortal is out. What a shitshow, eh? Yeah, this is going to be a rant, however a slightly different one than you might think right now.

I wish I could truthfully say that I’m not at all surprised by the game’s nefarious monetization schemes, but the reality is so much worse than even the most cynical of us were expecting that it boggles the mind. Turns out that in exchange for not needing a phone to play after all one needs a humongous credit limit instead.

Here’s the thing though. In my personal opinion the fact that players can spend bazillions of dollars on a game if they so desire is not a problem in and of itself.* When the entire game is designed to incentivise said spending as aggressively as humanly possible – that’s a problem, because that kind of design unavoidably makes the gameplay experience worse, more often than not even if you are spending.

* Of course spending lots of money on a video game can become a huge problem for some people, and it’s not my intention to downplay things like gambling addiction and debt. However, in this piece I’d like to focus solely on whether or not a game’s monetization has negative ramifications for its gameplay.

Here’s just one little example. Black Desert Online has an elaborate system for taming, breeding and training horses. It’s pretty fun if you’re into that kind of thing, and I’ve spent a lot of hours with it. However, it’s also one of the game’s many systems that not-so-subtly try to make you spend some money.

If you’re lucky (or you’ve spent a couple bucks already to help make it happen) and your horse learns one of the more desired skills like Sprint you might assume that you’ll be riding like the wind right away. Alas, you’d be mistaken.

You see, your steed will need to become proficient with the skill first, which means that for the next couple of hours your gameplay loop will consist of repeatedly playing an annoying minigame which either stops you dead in your tracks (the best possible outcome, believe it or not) or outright throws you off the horse every few yards. It’s completely unfun, and it undoubtedly only exists so they can sell you a ticket that instantly trains a horse’s skill to 100%. Or all of its skills, which is the more expensive option of course.

Stuff like that I can just barely stomach in a F2P or cheap B2P game – it’s terrifying how much bullshit we can somehow get used to, isn’t it? – but I’m going to draw a line now, and that line is where a game tries to a) make me pay money and additionally do specific things at specific times to actually get what I’ve already paid for, or b) make me pay money in order to get something that’s actually supposed to be an integral part of the gameplay experience.

I’ll start with the latter as it applies more to Diablo Immortal than any other game I’ve ever seen, and I also feel it’s not even the slightest bit debatable. A no-brainer, as they say.

What we have here is a game series that’s always been about killing monsters to get shiny loot, so we can kill even more monsters for even shinier loot. Only now the loot is going to be complete crap 99,9% of the time unless you spend real money to “enhance” your dungeon runs. Let me think about that for a second…yeah, fuck the hell off!

I know this is something where opinions will differ, but I for one despise the other scourge I alluded to, namely stuff like “Premium Battle Passes” and their ilk, almost just as much.

I’m not a fan of login-rewards and battle passes at the best of times because I don’t like the feeling of pressure they induce – either log in and do stuff every day or miss out on rewards you could be getting. And there’s even more to it than that, which I think is what many folks fail to realize.

Because if those login- and battle pass-rewards are to make people log in and do stuff even if they weren’t going to anyway, they need to be rather generous. They need to make sure you really don’t want to miss out on them. Which in practice means that they often shower you with more power/wealth/glamour than you could possibly gain by just playing the game whenever you want and doing whatever you want. In other words, the game’s designers need to keep much of that stuff off the game’s normal loot tables, or at the very least be pretty stingy with it. See the problem?

By the way, I consider login-rewards and free-of-charge battle passes as part of a game’s monetization scheme because they’re basically there to keep you logging in and interacting with the game, thus increasing your “opportunities” to part with your money. In this sense they are another case of monetization impacting gameplay in a negative way, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

As for “premium” battle passes…let’s see, I pay for something up front, but only if I log in and do specific stuff every day for weeks on end I’ll actually get the stuff I’ve paid for? Yeah, thanks, but no thanks.

Which is why, although I was moderately interested before and will even get access to it for free as I own its predecessor, I have absolutely no intention to play Overwatch 2 anymore. The other day I got an email informing me about the opportunity to buy the Watchpoint Pack. For “just” 40 bucks I would get (emphasis mine):

    • Two all-new Overwatch 2 Legendary skins: Space Raider Soldier:76 and Cassidy
    • The Season 1 Premium Battle Pass
    • An exclusive Overwatch 2 Player Icon
    • 2000 Overwatch 2 Virtual Currency

So what’s the problem? I don’t need to buy this, nor the individual premium battle passes (plural because after a Season 1 more will surely follow), right? Well, as I said, the mere existence of this crap turns me off, because it does have a negative impact on the gameplay experience. On my gameplay experience, anyway.

All the talk about Diablo Immortal was good for one thing though: it made me feel like playing Diablo II Resurrected again, which I’m totally hooked on right now. And the best part: this is a game that couldn’t care less whether I actually play it or not, and it doesn’t try to dictate my course of action when I do play it either.

How do I know what to do then? Well, I just do whatever the hell I feel like at any given moment. You know, whatever I deem the most fun.

Just having fun playing a video game, fancy that!

Actually, I don’t like Lost Ark quite as much right now…

My interaction with Lost Ark has developed in a weird way during the past couple of weeks. Once the game had clicked with me I really wanted to play as much as possible, which unfortunately turned out to be not all that much because of the long queues. However, the shorter those waiting times – and, consequently, the longer the available time to play – became, the less I’ve actually played.

One reason for this is that I’m pretty big into Arknights and Warframe again right now. Most likely that’s a direct consequence of the second and more important reason though…my excitement for Lost Ark has waned just about as quickly as it had built up.

Here’s why.

As others have said right from the start, the questing- and leveling-process is very, very linear and really not engaging at all. The combat’s fun, yes, but everything around it gets boring quickly. In other words, the game’s a clickfest not only during combat, but also inbetween battles. The most recent CarbotAnimations video depicts this quite accurately:

Hilarious as this is, while actually playing the game it’s really not fun at all. Great set pieces still pop up regularly, but those don’t manage to make playing not feel like a chore either.

A week and a half ago I reached level 50, but my hopes that more gameplay-variety would present itself at that point were smashed as I learned that I apparently still needed to quest through two more continents first. Yawn.

Then there are the forced solo instances I already talked about last time. When I was playing on my own I took offense at those only on principle because the Striker is a very solo-friendly class and, well, I was alone either way.

Whenever Lakisa and I played together their frequent occurrence really started to bother us though. Neither the Bard nor the Artillerist are much fun to play solo (in our opinion at least), and, more importantly, why are we even playing together, in an MMO no less, when we are forced to chew through every bit of somewhat challenging content ( I say challenging in a very loose sense of the word here) on our own anyway? Seriously, this design choice sucks. Wilhelm and his group aren’t too fond of it either.

Now I’m going to talk about gear score for a bit. This will undoubtedly make a certain kind of player, of which there seem to be quite a few in Lost Ark, call me entitled, a crybaby or something along those lines. Or it would, if any of those people would actually ever read this. I don’t care either way.

I knew going in that Lost Ark is designed with a heavy emphasis on gear score, and I fully expected that fact to become a source of irritation or even annoyance for me sooner or later.

What I didn’t expect was that something as innocuous as a Mario Kart style racing event would push my blood pressure to dangerous levels long before I’d even reached a point in the game where my gear score actually mattered a damn.

You see, by participating in this little event once a day you can earn a heap of event currency with which to buy lots of goodies, blue and purple engraving books among them. This is really big as the latter specimens of the more sought after engravings are very rare and thus very expensive on the auction house. Players who now buy these off the event shop to actually use them will be very happy, and those who don’t need them anymore will earn thousands and thousands of gold by selling them to others.

But here’s the thing: when the event went live those rewards came with certain gear score restrictions, pretty high ones too from where I’m standing. At first I thought those values were needed to use these – but no, you couldn’t even buy them if your GS was lower than required.

Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Dividing the playerbase into haves and have-nots by gear score might be acceptable when it comes to normal gameplay (personally I don’t like it under any circumstances, but that’s a topic of its own), but c’mon you guys, GS-locked event rewards? Really?

You’ve probably noticed that I’m using the past tense here. That’s because Amazon and/or Smilegate reacted to the massive community backlash by removing these GS restrictions from all types of engraving books in a hotfix last week. For honing materials and such those requirements are still in place though.

Now, to give credit where it’s due, at least they have listened and made a (partial) change. Still, in my eyes the event shop’s first iteration has clearly shown what kind of design philosophy the people at Smilegate have for their game, and what they expect from its players: grind up that GS or fuck off.

Does this mean that I’m quitting? No, at least not yet. For now I’ll continue to push through the story until I can finally start to participate in proper group content. I sincerely hope that the oft-repeated claim “it gets much better at endgame” really applies in this case.

One thing is certain though: there has to be a serious amount of fun gameplay on offer to make me engage in any kind of gear score grind. I guess I’ll know soon enough whether that’s the case or not.

‘Voting with my wallet’ works both ways

It’s no secret that I’d been hoping for and then looking forward to a Diablo II remaster for ages. Again, it is and always will be one of my favourite games period. Even so, with Blizzard being the trainwreck of a company that we now know it to be I initially wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the release of Resurrected.

After the Warcraft III Reforged debacle I definitely wasn’t going to preorder or buy on launch day, no matter how good people’s beta-impressions had been. That much was certain, and I wasn’t tempted to relent for even a second.

But now it’s been officially live for a while and, some server issues during the first few days aside, all reviews I’ve read since then pretty much boil down to “It’s exactly what you wanted, mate. Buy, you fool!!”

So Lakisa and I did just that a couple of days ago. And what can I say, I don’t regret the purchase in the slightest because it is exactly what I wanted.

Which means, the way I see it, that I did in fact vote with my wallet and that, despite rather not wanting to support a company like ActiBlizz for numerous well-known reasons, it still was the right thing to do – maybe not from a moral standpoint, but certainly from a gamer’s standpoint. Not that these are mutually exclusive, mind you, but in this case there’s a big difference in my opinion.

Let me try to explain.

The act of “voting with one’s wallet”, when proposed by gamers to other gamers, usually means not to spend any (or any more) money on a product, thus sending a message of discontent to the developers or publishers – the assumption being that this is the only kind of message that will actually be heard.

For the most part I can’t disagree with this, and I went with that approach myself in some cases, not the least of which when I decided not to give Blizzard – yes, the same Blizzard – any more money unless they’d finally manage to deliver a product again that I’m really, genuinely happy with. That was almost three years ago, right after the infamous Diablo Immortal Blizzcon, and at that point I already hadn’t bought anything with the Blizzard logo on it for at least a year, probably longer. Which means that the forty bucks I paid for Resurrected just now marked the first time in over four years that they made any kind of profit from me.

Of course I could have gone without buying it, thereby not breaking that streak. The original’s still there to play after all, and touched-up graphics, or lack thereof, don’t make or break a great game for me.

But here’s the thing. By not buying any of their stuff for so long I basically told them “You’ll only get my money if you make exactly the game I want”. Now, much to my surprise, they actually went and did just that.

So had I refused to buy this product now, not only would I’ve denied myself the pleasure of playing one of my most beloved games with a really great-looking fresh coat of paint, I’d also have made a mockery of the stance I’ve been taking for years: that I’ll not spend money on their games if I don’t like them, but that I will if I do.

If there’s any hope at all that publishers will continue (or start again) to greenlight and fund the development of games that I want to play, I feel that I’ve got no choice but proving to them that it’s profitable to do so by, well, voting with my wallet.

Here’s hoping that it really does work both ways.

Oh boy, here we go again…

Yes, this is indeed going to be yet another “I really think dailies are the worst feature ever added to video games”-post. It’s not like I’ve talked about it enough already, is it?

The thing is, I feel it just bears repeating. Incentives to do the same stuff over and over – combined with a heavy dose of Fear Of Missing Out – day after day, week after week, manage to sour me on even the greatest of games.

Case in point: Genshin Impact.

Yes, keep me busy please, and thank you

I have played Genshin Impact every day for just over ten months now. Mainly because it is an awesome and fun game, make no mistake. However, for the last couple of weeks I wasn’t feeling it and would most likely have taken a break, were it not for all the stuff that I need to do every day.

Of course I don’t actually need to do any of these things, not really, but the game has conditioned me to feel like I do. Hence, despite not being in the mood, I had quite the routine going. Every fricking day.

In the morning, before work:

    1. Log in and claim the daily Primogem stipend (works like a monthly subscription for five bucks)
    2. Go to the alchemy table and craft Resin into Condensed Resin
    3. Visit the adventurer’s guild, collect expedition rewards and send characters off to do new expeditions
    4. Visit the blacksmith and craft some crystals into weapon XP mats

And in the afternoon or evening:

    1. Log in and claim finished XP mats from the blacksmith
    2. Craft some more Condensed Resin
    3. Decide what to do with said Resin, then run some domains, ley lines or bosses to spend it
    4. Visit the teapot and claim realm curreny and friendship XP
    5. Claim battle pass rewards

In addition there are some weekly tasks that I usually took care of right at the start of the week or, if not, on the weekend:

    1. Kill the four weekly bosses
    2. Do three bounties and three requests for one of the cities
    3. Tick off some more battle pass weeklies like “Spend 500k Mora”
Yeah, no, I really haven’t got anything better to do

Now, I’m not saying doing any of this is unpleasant per se. It’s not. It’s just always the same, and I don’t feel like doing it right now but do it anyway so as to not miss out on the rewards. Also, all of this takes time. Time I’d currently rather spend doing something else.

There have been days lately when I came home from work eager to play Warframe, only that I “had to do” the Genshin stuff first, and once I was done with that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything anymore.

This stops now.

As of today I’m taking a cold turkey kind of break from Genshin Impact, because I just have to. I don’t want the game to sour on me for good. I’d much rather wait for my desire to play and enjoy the game to return, and then have fun with it again.

I feel much better already

Obviously all of this means that without those incentives to log in I would have stopped doing so a couple of weeks earlier than I actually did, which is exactly why they exist in the first place of course.

However, I still doubt that enticing players to keep logging in regularly in this manner is actually beneficial for a game and its makers long-term. If I stop playing a game that I really like for a while because I just need a little change of scenery, chances are I’ll be back sooner rather than later, probably with much renewed vigor to boot.

If I stop playing because I’m fed up with it though…who knows whether I’ll be back at all.

Blaugust 2021 post count: 6

My top 25 music albums of the last 25 years

Graphic by Derek Abella

Ever since Bhagpuss made me aware of Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary People’s List I’ve been thinking about which albums of the last 25 years I would choose as my favourite ones. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as a lot of my most beloved albums were released between 1985 and 1995. I gotta say though, being restricted to 1996 and onward actually made browsing through my stuff, filling out the list and mulling over the exact rankings all the more fun – and also quite surprising.

I mean, who would have thought that not even one of my list’s top four spots can be clearly categorized as Metal? I sure as hell wouldn’t have. Pick number four isn’t even Rock, for crying out loud.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Without further ado, here are my top 25 albums released since 1996:

      1. Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
      2. Meteora – Linkin Park
      3. Billy Talent II – Billy Talent
      4. The Fat Of The Land – The Prodigy
      5. Ghost Reveries – Opeth
      6. 10,000 Days – Tool
      7. Scenes From A Memory – Dream Theater
      8. Bannkreis – Subway To Sally
      9. Herzblut – Subway To Sally
      10. Toxicity – System Of A Down
      11. Follow The Leader – Korn
      12. Human Nature – Alphastates
      13. Morningrise – Opeth
      14. Passage – Samael
      15. In Absentia – Porcupine Tree
      16. The Family Jewels – Marina & The Diamonds
      17. Where Shadows Forever Reign – Dark Funeral
      18. Issues – Korn
      19. And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer – Haggard
      20. And This Glow… – Joy Of Colour
      21. Kasmodiah – Deine Lakaien
      22. Ten Thousand Fists – Disturbed
      23. Take To The Skies – Enter Shikari
      24. Wishmaster – Nightwish
      25. Heaven & Hell – Ava Max

Of course everything below the top three our four spots is more or less interchangeable. I don’t think it’s really possible to nail down such a subjective evaluation permanently, not least because it can vary even from one day to the next depending on mood, nostalgia or whathaveyou.

I’ll probably not talk about each and every one of these here because some of those posts would pretty much just amount to “Well…I really like it, is all”. It would be an easy way to get my Blaugust post count up, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

So how about I just start off with the first two spots for now, what with those being performed by the same band and also, well, being my top picks?

I didn’t have Linkin Park on my radar until a colleague of mine brought along their Live In Texas DVD one day in early 2004. I’d heard one or two songs before (at least I immediately recognized One Step Closer when I watched the video) and liked them, but hadn’t looked into it any further at the time for one reason or another.

This show though, holy crap. The raw energy the band brought to the stage gripped me and didn’t let go anymore. I immediately bought the studio outputs too, and they’ve become two of my all-time favourite albums for several reasons.

First of all, said energy is there in full. Studio albums often tend to sound a bit too clean and thus lose some of their power, but not these. If anything they’re even more powerful, the production is just superb.

Of course the music itself is what matters, and this is where all that energy comes from. I’ve read that Chester Bennington (rest in peace), the band’s lead singer, used these albums to process his very troublesome childhood and youth, and I think you can clearly hear it. I’m lucky enough to not have experienced most of the things the songs are about, but they still always carry me away on a wave of passion and sometimes even anger – in a good way. I’ve always said that channeling one’s bad feelings through aggressive music is a much more healthy way to deal with them than most others. At least it works for me.

The alternation between Bennington’s clear vocals and primal screams, and Mike Shinoda’s backing vocals and rapped parts are another of the band’s standout features that I really love. I’ve always liked polyphonic singing, and these two really did a phenomenal job at it (listening recommendation: Papercut, from two minutes onward). The rapping and screams add another dimension and fit the overall sound and feel very well.

What’s also great about both albums is that there are no duds on it. How many long-players have you bought because you knew and liked one or two songs, only to then realize that those are really the only good songs on there? My answer: too many. These two albums are great from start to finish, and given that some of my all-time favourites are among those songs that’s a high bar to clear indeed.

Lastly, the wave of excitement Linkin Park made me ride on in 2004 even rekindled my love for making music myself, and I went looking for a new band to join after a three-year break, resulting in me regularly hanging out in rehearsal rooms and on stage again for the following four years.

A playlist that consists of nothing but those two albums plus the song What I’ve Done from their third studio output, Minutes To Midnight, still runs regularly in my car or on my earpods, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

And there you have it. What are your favourite albums of the past 25 years?

Blaugust 2021 post count: 5

Three changes that would make Genshin Impact even better

Having played the game daily for about five months now I think I have a pretty good grasp of which aspects of its design do and do not work well. It’s a great game overall, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion it could be even more enjoyable with some tweaks here and there.

I’m going to try and keep it reasonable though, so don’t expect me to say “They should get rid of the gacha mechanics and make their monetization non-predatory and fair” because, while I obviously would welcome such a change, it’s just not going to happen.

Without further ado, here are three possible adjustments to Genshin Impact that I think would be really great for its players while not hurting miHoYo’s bottom line – at least I assume they wouldn’t; in fact they might actually turn out to be beneficial for the company’s profits.

Usual combat rewards on the left, expenses at lvl 79 on the right

Greatly increase XP and Mora rewarded for combat

While we do get some character-XP and Mora for killing monsters in the open world the amounts are so negligible that they might not even be there.

Despite this being the case I still only level most of my characters to 79 instead of 80, for example, but that’s just because I’m weird like that and won’t let anything go to waste, however little it might be. In reality though, it would take years for an 80+ character to gain another level this way.

The thing is, unless there’s an event going on getting hold of XP materials and Mora in actually useful amounts is, like most everything, gated by the resin system. I get why they do it that way, but at least in this case I think it’s a mistake.

Here’s why: being able to level up all my characters would feel much better, be more fun and also make me want to have even more characters.

This is so sad…

You see, at the time of this writing I have 26 characters at my disposal, and the max level is 90. However, the current level-distribution is as follows (rounded):

    • Level 90: zero (!)
    • Level 80: seven
    • Level 70: five
    • Level 2-60: four
    • Level 1: ten

Now, it’s not that I can’t play the game well with these characters, quite the contrary. As a matter of fact the difficulty curve I talked about a while ago flattened considerably once I’d reached adventure rank 40 and stopped doing daily comissions, and by now my teams smash everything but the lowest two levels of Spiral Abyss with relative ease.

Still, all those characters sitting glumly at level 1? I really would like to level those up too, and getting my main damage dealers up to 90 wouldn’t hurt either. Alas, I can’t afford it. As a consequence I’m not looking forward to any new character banners right now. Even if they look really interesting, I just don’t need any more when I can’t even use half of those I already have.

What’s more, roaming the open world and killing stuff would be much more enjoyable and feel more rewarding if we could actually level up our characters that way and also earn some Mora while we’re at it.

As long as it isn’t excessively overtuned I don’t think this would break anything either. The game has so bloody many progression-bottlenecks – character ascension- and XP-mats, weapon ascension- and XP-mats, talent books, artifacts, Mora – that loosening the chains a bit on two of those wouldn’t result in us getting bored or fed up anytime soon.

So, what happens when players have more fun, feel more rewarded and are even encouraged to get hold of and level up more characters? If you gave this a shot it might well turn into a win-win situation, you folks at miHoYo. Just sayin’.

This was really fun…while it lasted

Make event-content permanent with reduced rewards

All those great gameplay additions that came alongside the numerous events we got to play since the game’s release? Yeah, they’re all gone now.

I’m not a developer, so I don’t have a realistic notion of how much work went into that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it was too much to just throw it all away after a week or two.

What’s more, it was ‘something else to do’ for players. And also fun. Why not make it permanent?

Oh, I get it, they want us to feel that FOMO really bad. But trust me, as long as the rewards remain on the generous side (a tad more primogems would be even better though!) we’ll still log in every day to participate in the actual events for sure. But once those are over, just dial the rewards back considerably and let us continue to play the stuff if we want to.

I’ll use Theater Mechanicus as an example. They could bring this back and let us play it as often as we like. The reward per match could be a choice of either, say, 30k Mora, two blue talent books or two blue ascension mats. The first two matches per week are free, after that it costs 10 resin per. Maybe those numbers aren’t quite optimal yet, but you get the idea.

This would encourage all players to engage with the content at least from time to time, while giving those who really love doing it the option to earn their Mora or character mats this way instead of doing leylines and domains, without either being the obviously better choice.

Fire ventures with you? Fine, but please leave me out of it!

Make constellations toggleable

For non-whales constellations mainly exist to take the sting out of getting duplicates from the gacha system and are supposed to make the characters in question stronger.

However, the effects of some character’s constellations can actually have a negative impact, depending on how you play them and which other characters you team them up with.

The most obvious one is Bennett’s C6 (shown above), which makes his ultimate ability convert most characters’ normal and charged attacks to Pyro damage. Under the right circumstances this can be really great. Unfortunately, if your group’s main damage dealer mainly relies on physical damage (and thus probably wears gear with bonuses to that type of damage on it) this actually lowers their damage output considerably.

So…you’d like us to happily pull for more characters and constellations, right? Then at least make sure that we can’t accidentally mess up our characters by doing so and give us a toggle for all constellations please.

This is supposed to always be a joyous moment, isn’t it?

And there you have it. I think these changes would make an already great game even better, and while I’m not an expert on such things I really believe that none of this would make players spend less money on it…so why not do it?

Accuracy is a bad stat in MMORPGs

The other day I was fiddling around with my characters’ artifacts in Genshin Impact, pondering which ones to keep or ditch, which to upgrade further or leave as is and so forth.

Getting really good artifacts like the one seen above is quite hard as there’s a lot of RNG involved.

Firstly, the main- and sub-stats they drop with are – with a few exceptions – completely random. You can (and regularly do) even get pieces of such a set, this one is obviously meant for Hydro characters for example, with a bonus to, say, Pyro damage as its main stat. While such an item isn’t necessarily useless it certainly isn’t what you’re hoping for when farming a particular set.

Secondly, each time you raise an artifact’s level by 4 it gets an additional (random) sub-stat unless it already had four. In the latter case one of the existing sub-stats is chosen, you guessed it, randomly to get a boost.

MOAR CRITS, MOAR DAMAGE, MUCH GOOD!!

It isn’t all bad though. With perseverance and a bit of luck it’s absolutely possible to get very strong artifacts, as you can see here.

The main reason for this, I believe, is that there aren’t actually that many different stats for the RNG to choose from. Therefore you’re gonna hit the desired combination eventually.

Anyway, all this made me think about the different kinds of stats I’ve encountered over the decades in various RPGs, MMO or otherwise, which finally brings us to the point I’m trying to make today: depending on class, playstyle et cetera there are always desirable stats and undesirable stats…

…and then there’s Accuracy.

Seriously though…why?

I’m really glad that Accuracy doesn’t exist in Genshin Impact because, as far as I’m concerned, it is the most annoying, unnecessary and, above all, unfun stat of them all.

The way I see it Accuracy, sometimes called Hit Rating or somesuch instead, is a remnant of Pen & Paper RPGs that should never have made its way into RPGs played on digital devices in real time.

“But Mail, when characters in Dungeons & Dragons have a THAC0 it makes sense that characters in computer- or console-RPGs have it too, right?”

Well, no. Let me explain why.

When you play Pen & Paper a dice roll is usually the only way to determine whether or not your character succeeds at whatever it is you want them to do (unless the GM hates you or something). If you didn’t need to win those rolls your alter ego would be pretty much infallible because in order to make them do something you but need to say it.

Go ahead, try to do that in a real time video game. I’ll wait.

Didn’t work out so well, did it? That’s the thing. ‘Telling’ your character what to do is so much more complex and, at times, difficult in Action RPGs, MMORPGs and other games of their ilk nowadays that this already is the challenge. Adding an arbitrary dice roll to decide whether you succeed or not is not only unnecessary, it’s downright mean.

So you’ve positioned your character correctly, selected the right target and pushed your myriad of buttons in the optimal order and all at the right time? Well done to you, mate, but unfortunately the dice roll says that you failed to interrupt the boss’s one-shot mechanic, and now you’re dead.

Sounds like fun? Yeah, didn’t think so.

In order to minimize those frustrations you can try to maximize your Accuracy-stat of course. I see two problems with that though.

One, more than a few games that have a Chance To Hit mechanic also have a hard cap for it, so you’ll still fail a roll every so often no matter how much of the stat you stack on your gear, which makes it even more unfun.

Two, and this is what bugs me the most, it’s a must-have stat that does basically nothing for you. In The Secret World and SWTOR I stacked as much Accuracy on my tank gear as theorycrafters had figured out was necessary to practically (in SWTOR’s case literally) have a 100% chance to hit in any situation, just to be sure I’d never miss an important impair or taunt, respectively.

So what I did was, in essence, to waste a whole lot of my available stat pool to make sure I’d never realize it’s even there.

Ok, maybe I just fell off the platform this time…

But isn’t raising our characters’ stats supposed to be one of the really fun things about playing RPGs? Hitting harder, running faster, jumping higher, all that jazz…that’s fun! Notice how “Missing less often” isn’t on that list, and it feels even worse when I’m basically forced to pour stats into this instead of those other things that are actually enjoyable.

And, again, having another way to fail in video games where the difference between victory and defeat hinges as much on my skill as a player as it does on my character’s stats anyway is just not necessary. I can easily manage to screw up on my own, thank you very much.

So, yeah, I know where the Accuracy stat is coming from and why it makes sense in its original context. But can we please get rid of it in MMO- and Action-RPGs? Like, for good?

Just let us play our characters please!

The other day I finished the Glassmaker storyline in Warframe. I’d been looking forward to the big finale quite a lot, as this was the first Nightwave episode that I really liked in terms of lore as well as gameplay.

The investigation part played out as usual, and while the last item gave me a bit of grief because it was really hard to spot I still enjoyed it overall.

Then came the inevitable boss fight.

Dude, where’s MY big-ass sword??

I’m not a big fan of boss fights in general – multiplayer games usually being the exception – though this one, while a forced 1 vs 1, wouldn’t have been too bad were it not for one huge design “twist” that all too many game devs seem to be so very fond of using – taking away our weapons and/or abilities and replacing them with something else.

So here I am facing off a 50-foot monster, having equipped my most efficient, highly powered tools of destruction, the acquisition of which has taken much effort over the course of months – and I can’t fricking use any of it.

Instead, I have to dodge lumps of glass the baddie is throwing at me (when he’s not busy swinging his one-hit-kill sword), then pick them up and throw them back at him. I’m not even kidding!

Did I still whup his ass on the third try and got my rewards? Sure. Was it fun though? Hell no.

Game devs use this weird design crutch again and again – and that’s what it really is, isn’t it? A crutch. Beating this particular boss would’ve been a cakewalk had I been able to use my regular weapons and frame abilities, so they just didn’t let me.

*sigh* Alright…let’s do this!

Ok, sometimes it might not be that. When The Secret World takes away our powers so we have to punch our way out of the baddies’ underground lair with bare fists it’s for lore reasons and also for, well, fun, I guess. That whole mission chain is one big homage to the Indiana Jones movies after all.

And it is fun…for about two minutes. Unfortunately it gets old really fast, but the cultists keep on coming. By the time we got out of there on our very first playthrough I was determined to never do that mission again.

If this is what the afterlife’s like I want no part of it!

Over in Transylvania another quest tranforms us into some sort of wraith – and again all of our familiar abilities vanish from the hotbar, to be replaced with two simple, rather underwhelming attacks and one self-heal once more. The following fight was…not pleasant.

I sure hope you will, because I fucking can’t

Of course Everquest II did it too. I guess over the span of 16 years it was bound to happen at some point. Being a rat was good for some laughs at least, I’ll give them that.

Look, I get it. Stuff like this probably seems like a good idea on paper.

It gives players a diversion from their usual gameplay – which can get somewhat stale when you play an MMO for long enough, no argument there – and might also serve as an unexpected twist or even comic relief when done right.

I do not think that the benefits ever outweigh the drawbacks however.

You see, dear devs, by the time you throw this stuff at me I’ve most likely long made my choices. The class I play or frame I use, the abilities or skillsets I’ve picked and the weapons I wield – all of this makes up the character I want to play. You know, because it’s the combination I have the most fun playing.

Letting us pick – or, more often than not, work hard for – our favourite toys and then, out of the blue, being all like “Nah, you can’t use those now; here, have a dull teaspoon and some cotton balls instead” is, honestly, kind of a dick move.

I can’t be the only one feeling that way either. Actually, I know that I’m not. Bhagpuss talked about really disliking it when several of Guild Wars 2’s Living World issues pulled that kind of stunt more than once, for example.

I feel aversion is quite a natural reaction to this, because, again, we don’t play the characters we play by accident. We do because we like them just the way they are.

What my Bruiser’s hotbars normally look like…

Of course the fact that whatever it is that our familiar gameplay loop gets replaced with in such cases is, more often than not, objectively worse and less fun doesn’t help one bit. But that’s not really a surprise, is it? The core gameplay of every MMO, even a freshly released one, has usually been years in the making. How could some ‘gimmick mechanic’, only meant for one event, one quest or one boss fight ever match that?

So, dear game devs, please stop doing that kind of stuff.

My favourite restaurant doesn’t serve an old loaf of bread instead of the meal I ordered for the sake of ‘variety’ or ‘surprise’ – or just because it’s easier and cheaper to do – either, does it?

This is why I don’t play video games on mobile

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing Genshin Impact. A lot. It’s really awesome. I’ll probably talk about it in more detail sometime, however Bhagpuss’s first impressions and his fondness of the game’s fantastic exploration aspects mirror mine to a T, so I feel like I don’t have much to add at this point.

What I do want to talk about is my experience playing it on mobile, which is what the majority of players seems to be doing (I don’t know this for a fact, but I highly doubt that the PC and console versions combined come even remotely close to mobile’s 23+ million downloads).

In a word: Thanks, but no thanks!

Ok, that’s actually four words, but you get the idea.

Of course I was pretty stoked about the possibilities at first. Being able to play my current favourite game on PC when I’m at home and on my phone whenever I’m not? Hell yeah!

During my first two weeks in GI I made it a habit to fit 10-15 minute play sessions into my lunch breaks to burn some resin, the obvious benefit being that I didn’t run into the resin cap before getting home. Also, well, playing a great game during lunch break for a bit – what’s not to like?

Here’s the thing though: it isn’t nearly as much fun to play on the phone. At least to me it isn’t.

Genshin Impact might have been developed with mobile platforms in mind first and foremost, yet as far as I’m concerned it is a ‘real’, a ‘proper’ video game. What I mean by that is that it sports a fair amount of complexity, not only in terms of progression systems and such, but also when it comes to the actual gameplay and control schemes needed to execute said gameplay. Play itself this game does not.

Maybe I’m just too old for that kind of stuff, but playing the game on my phone instead of the PC kinda feels like playing with one hand tied behind my back. Hitting the right buttons for normal attack, special attack, ultimate and dodge, swapping characters in and out as needed, all while making sure to actually face the enemy I want to hit and being in range…it’s too fiddly and, frankly, too much for my thumbs to handle. I have only two, after all.

It isn’t just the combat either. Exploring the game’s gorgeous open world, collecting countless doodads and solving puzzles is tons of fun – actually more fun than the combat in my opinion – if the controls play ball. Which, on mobile, they do not.

On PC I have no problems whatsoever climbing walls and statues, doing balancing acts across narrow ledges or performing pinpoint-accurate landings with my glider. On the phone though? Oh boy. I couldn’t walk in a straight line with those controls if my driver’s licence was at stake. When one quest asked me to scale the largest statue in Mondstadt, stand on its hands and spread some dandelion seeds to the winds I was this close to throw the damn thing out the window.

So, yeah, it’s not fun and I’ve stopped doing it.

Gameplay issues aside, my phone doesn’t like the game much either.

I use an iPhone SE2, which sports the same CPU as the iPhone 11, so processing power shouldn’t be lacking. The game runs smooth enough for sure, but the device gets freaking hot within minutes. I’m not talking Need-to-wear-oven-mitts-hot, but it comes really close to that.

Also, the game sucks battery life like crazy. I usually charge the thing every three days or so; while I played those mere 10-15 minutes per day I had to plug it in every evening. Longer sessions would only be possible while charging at the same time – provided the phone doesn’t melt when doing that – which kind of defeats the purpose of playing on a mobile device, no?

In conclusion, playing Genshin Impact on my phone has, in my mind, confirmed what I’d assumed all along: there are mobile games and there are high-quality video games, and a game can be one or the other, but not both.

When I think of mobile games I mean those that are quick and easy to play, can be interrupted at any time and don’t strain hardware or player too much. Back when I had to commute I played stuff like Bejeweled or SEGA Heroes (which is Bejeweled, essentially) every now and then just to kill some time. It’s a good thing that games like those exist, don’t get me wrong. Even so, going by my definition this kind of game has as much in common with high-quality video gaming as Big Brother has with high-quality TV entertainment.

So yeah, please keep your promises of Our mobile game will be just as great as its predecessor on PC/console to yourself, dear developers – *cough*Blizzard*cough* – because it fricking won’t be.

Screen real estate, hardware specifications, power supply and, above all, controls – these are important things that set phones and tablets apart from ‘real’ gaming hardware, which is why even the highest-quality mobile game in existence – which, most likely, is Genshin Impact right now – can’t be nearly as enjoyable as its stationary counterpart, if it has one.

Hence, however great your game might be, if it can only be played on mobile I’ll never touch it, period.

I like having stuff to do, but I hate dailies

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy in Warframe – in a good way. Almost a year ago I praised the fact that the game gives me specific tasks to achieve specific things, which I much prefer over just doing whatever and hoping for the RNG gods’ blessing.

Despite having played for quite some time already there was still a whole lot of stuff I hadn’t done yet, so I set myself an array of goals and got to it.

For example, there’s a plethora of advanced modifications for frames and weapons players can and definitely should get their hands on. Especially those frame-mods enable highly specialized builds that are very powerful and couldn’t be achieved any other way.

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Who would have known that less strenght can be a good thing?

So I ran Spy missions with the specific intent to crack all three data vaults (because the mods in question can only drop from the third), did Nightmare missions, hunted for Orokin vaults, purged the Plains of Eidolon of a ghoul plague and beat some puzzle rooms on Lua.

In order to get rid of my annoying Kuva Lich sooner rather than later I also ran mission nodes occupied by his thralls to gather intel, and Kuva Siphon missions to get my hands on more requiem relics.

Sometimes the stars align and I can even combine two or more of these tasks into one, for example when a Spy mission I want to do anyway is temporarily flagged as a Kuva Siphon mission, giving me the chance to nab a desired mod and a requiem relic in one go.

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What I like the most about all of this, as I’ve come to realize, is the fact that with very few exceptions I can do everything entirely at my own pace.

You see, almost no mission in Warframe has a cooldown or other form of time-gated restriction to entry. Ran a mission and didn’t get what you want? Just run it again if you like. And again. And again.

Of course that can get boring, and maybe also frustrating if you still don’t get your desired price after your umpteenth run. To circumvent that I try to mix it up. My play sessions in recent weeks mostly looked like this: run two or three spy missions, then a couple derelicts, followed by a bit of stuff in the open world zones or maybe a Kuva mission or two. If I still have time and desire to play after that, rinse and repeat.

As I use different frames, and thus different playstyles, for most of these activities it doesn’t get boring at all, and it’s oh so satisfying to tick one goal after the other off the list, even more so when the rewards enable me to make my favourite frames and weapons considerably stronger.

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Or just my hoverboard…err, K-Drive faster

What’s all of this got to do with the fact that he hates dailies? I hear you ask.

Well, that I don’t like ’em much isn’t exactly news, but having so much fun while ‘working’ towards my goals in Warframe – and the process not actually feeling like work at all – made me compare this experience with the other game that had me busy trying to progress in recent months: ArcheAge Unchained.

There’s still much that I love about AAU, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that upgrading your gear is pretty much hard-gated by daily and, to a lesser extent, weekly activities really sucks the fun out of it after a while. And that’s coming from someone who has not religiously done them each and every day, not even close.

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I’ve done my fair share though, because there’s just no other way to achieve this

In my opinion the problem with dailies in general is twofold.

One, the amount of progress you can make on any given day is capped, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Have a day off work and want to knock yourself out? Well, sucks to be you I guess.

Two, and this is the biggie, miss a day and you’ll never get it back. It’s no wonder that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a term I’d never heard until maybe two years ago, is used in context with online games quite often nowadays, because daily tasks or quests are the very embodiment of it.

Ask yourself this: how often have you logged into a game while not really feeling a desire to do so, but because you felt you kind of had to? If your answer is “never” you have much more self-restraint than I do, and kudos!

Now, what do I propose? After all, criticizing without having suggestions for improvement doesn’t help matters, does it?

Ok then, how about removing the timer from repeatable content? Let me do it as often as I like. And while you’re at it, make all content repeatable, not only a select few quests, and spread rewards out more.

Not only does this work well in Warframe, The Secret World has shown that even a proper MMORPG can benefit greatly from this kind of design. Ok, quests in TSW do have a cooldown, but it’s short enough to do the same quests at least twice a day, and – and this is the kicker – there are so many quests on offer that it’s just not necessary to do the same ones over and over.

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However, some quests I just wouldn’t want to do again. Ever! Again!

Of course I do realize that this might cause balancing-problems as there will always be activities that are ‘worth’ more measured against the time they take than others, and it also greatly benefits folks with a lot of free time on their hands.

Well…so? It doesn’t happen often, but for once I agree with MOP’s Eliot when he posits that balance in MMOs is overrated.

Especially in PvE-centric games, who the hell cares if other players progress more quickly than I do? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. PvP-heavy titles are obviously a different beast, but those should be much more skill-dependent than gear-dependent anyway – which is a discussion for another day though.

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MMOs need repeatable content, that much is obvious. Even I, as far from being a ‘hardcore gamer’ as I am, have proven time and again that I can consume content much faster than developers can provide it – much like reading this has taken you but a fracture of the time it took me to write it.

But dailies, login-campaigns, rewards on a time-logged-in basis…all this stuff that has nothing to do with us having fun playing your games and everything with MAUs and other such crappy statistics you can proudly present to your shareholders…that kind of shit can’t go extinct soon enough as far as I’m concerned.