The GANG Minute: Game Mechanics Show, FTL Advanced, And GANG Cameos

Greetings and salutations, geeks and gamers!

There’s been so much going on in the world of Geeky Antics that we have not been able to report everything as it happens via our blog or even Twitter.  This installment of The GANG Minute will provide some highlights so you can get all caught up…  We’ve got lots cooking and the GANG is ROCKIN!  Here are the highlights…

NOTE:  Be sure to take the poll at the end – we need help brainstorming for our new show!

Gaming Death Podcast

GANG May 2014 Guest Appearances & Previews

On Thursday, May 1st 2014, I will be joining The Gaming Death podcast at 9pm Eastern, which is live on Twitch just like HorsePLAY!  It should be interesting as there will be like five or six people on the show.  Right after, Chip Cella a.k.a. CaptinChaos from The B-Team Podcast will be joining us on HorsePLAY! LIVE Episode 20 (the title is currently undetermined) to talk about some of the following items as part of our #RetroFriday initiative:

  • What the “next-gen” REALLY is..  or should be.
  • The games we’re playing instead of “da newness”.
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest strategies and call-ins.
  • Core concepts in TCG/CCGs.
  • A mini Hearthstone survival guide.
  • What makes strategy games so replayable?
  • Can puzzle fighters be considered strategy games?
  • Some of our favorite strategy games of all time.

We’ll also be setting the stage for a real throwback episode, where we’ll talk about classic and retro-style games.  We’re just waiting to see when Fred Rojas from Gaming History 101 can join us so we can go DEEP!   I’m working on trimming some of the fat for EP20 so we can have  more time for our featured topics and do more community interaction.  We’d also like to do more Freeballin’ to talk about whatever!  Maybe we’ll get to #TheDustOff and talk about the latest games sucking our souls away…

The B-Team Podcast Logo

 

FTL: Advanced Edition – Hidden In Version 1.5x And Up!

In case you missed it, the long-awaited expansion to FTL: Faster Than Light Advanced Edition was released on April 3rd 2014.  If you’re like me, you eagerly anticipated this, couldn’t find a firm release date, and probably got tired of waiting..  Then it snuck up on you like a ninja in your underpants!

FTL Advanced Edition

It turns out that, for many of us, this was not an auto-update thing.  Everyone who owns FTL: Faster Than Light does get the expansion for free BUT you might have to manually download v1.5x from Humble Bundle or wherever you bought the game if you went DRM-free.  Steam FTL players probably did not even notice.

FTL - Clone Bay Is Off - Crew Are Dying!

The changes are very subtle (you won’t see a new intro video or splash screen, in case you were waiting) until you poke around a bit and engage in extended play sessions.  You’ll have to enable Advanced Edition content whilst choosing your ship and prepping your crew members.  You’ll notice that the randomized encounters are more varied now, there are new ships, visuals have been (and usability) improved, and the clone bay provides an alternative to the med bay..  Just to name a few changes.

I hear there are also new ships but I can’t confirm this personally until I unlock more of them.  I currently have around five space ships unlocked, BTW.  The biggest change has to be the clone bay.  The fear of losing crew members used to be the biggest thing for me but the clone bay makes life in space much easier.  Suddenly, having enemies board your ship is not as scary, whether you have blast doors or not.

Other FTL advanced features that excite me:

  • Hacking
  • Mind control
  • Backup battery

FTL used to be one of my most-played games on Twitch and the expansion makes me want to suit up in a bad way.  There are times I wish the game went a little deeper on the simulation side but the rogue-like elements (i.e. permadeath) make the experience new and challenging every time.  I recommend playing on Easy or Normal, difficulty unless you don’t mind dying..  A LOT.

FTL: Faster Than Light - Spool Up The FTL Drive!

Burst lasers – PEW PEW PEW!

A few quick tips for new FTLers: burst lasers and ion weapons are likely your best bets for an aggressive, crippling loadout.  Drones and missiles hog up resources, plus they can be dodged or countered by elite ships.  That said, missiles penetrate shields and can cause really nasty damage.  The last thing you want in outer space is a fire that goes out of control or hull breaches that suck the oxygen away.  I reckon that would suck.

 

#RetroFriday – The Granddaddy Of MOBAs And RTS Games

I’ve been teasing Herzog Zwei for a long time and finally got the ROM recording environment perfected.  I’ve been super stoked to share this with you.  I’m a big fan of SEGA but Herzog Zwei is more than just a great SEGA Genesis game.  Herzog Zwei inspired MOBAs and RTS games as we know them today. yet it remains mostly unknown.

Herzog Zwei - Two-Player PvP - SEGA Genesis

Two-player Herzog Zwei takes place in a split screen.. no peeking!

Please like, favorite, and comment on the YouTube video.  I think everyone should play this game at least once.  Herzog Zwei holds up surprisingly well today..  And it is not the hand-holding BS we see today, either.  Did I mention the game let’s you play as a mech (Land-Armor)?  It’s like Transformers..  Without Michael Bey.

We also invite you to join our #RetroFriday Steam community group Herzog Zwei and AirMech discussion.  If you love strategy games but need something fast-paced, these are two fantastic games worth checking out.  Let me know which 8-bit and 16-bit classics you’d like me to play [more of].  Every #RetroFriday, I’ll stream and record retro games from indie developers and classic consoles.  Others are doing the same so be sure to check out the hashtag.

 

Hearthstone Heroes Of Warcraft Title Banner

#YOHTAI – Join Us For Hearthstone Streams & Game Nights!

Our beloved Stan Faryna, the hardest working man in social media, has been rallying our fellow geeks and get #YOHTAI off the ground.  Ye Olde Hearthstone Tavern And Inn is a place for Hearthstone players to share their Battle Tag and make new friends.  We have a Steam community group, too:

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/_hearthstone

This Hearthstone Steam community group is unofficial..  But it’s fun to be one of the handful of groups dedicated to the game.  Let’s make #YOHTAI the biggest unofficial community for Hearthstone and play more together.  Join us and we can do some Twitch streams and videos together, maybe even exchange some tips!

In around two weeks since we started this social initiative, I have made five new friends on Hearthstone.  That’s significant considering I have been bad about adding people I play against during matchmaking.  Sworen from The B-Team Podcast recently whooped my ass with a Warlock “test deck”.  It was brutal..   I need new Hearthstone friends.

 

We Need Help Coming Up With A Show Name!

We’re getting closer to releasing a pilot episode for our NEW! game theory/mechanics and strategy podcast.  Right now, I am unsure about the name but I have some good ideas for logos and banners.  Could you give us a hand?

This new show, codenamed “Strategery” (yes, we know that’s not a real word), will have revolving hosts and guest hosts that will include hardcore gamers, casual players, game developers, marketing specialists, analysts, and scientists.  The idea is to provide fresh perspectives on the inner workings of games, both tabletop and digital.  We’re gonna go hard and deep with our ANALysis!

Game Mechanics Table / Graph By Incentive Research Foundation (IRF)

[ source: Incentive Research Foundation ]

As this table shows, there’s lots in play when we are playing games.  Analyzing these subleties can help us foster a greater appreciation for the amount of work that goes into gaming.  If you’re not into game design or any of the business-side, the knowledge is helpful for identifying right-fit experiences or developing new strategies..  Break the meta!

Currently, we are leaning towards the first half or so being deep discussion on a theme for the week (along with the usual pleasantries and banter) and the second half shifting to tips, tricks, and strategies.  There will be a heavy focus on strategy games and anything with an online or team focus.  Our game spotlights will include Hearthstone, SolForge, League of Legends, Smite, DotA 2, Marvel PuzzleQuest, and AirMech.

Once I get some concept art together and firm things up a bit, expect an update to this article or some quick comments.  For now, I think that covers all the stuff we’ve been meaning to cover here on GANGnet.  Stay tuned for more great content.  There’s going to be lots more variety coming up (if all goes well) including stuff covering Doctor Who, geek social issues, anime picks, and comic strips.

Want the latest Geeky Antics right in your inbox?  Sign up for our FREE newsletter.  Once we get enough e-mail subscribers, we’ll start sending out weekly newsletters and kick off more community events, giveaways, contests, and MORE!

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Many thanks to the over 100 people who are following and subscribed to our blog via RSS and e-mail digest.  We are humbled by the tremendous response we have gotten in just a few short months.  #GeeksUnite

Game Theory: The Barriers & Mishaps In League Of Legends

Game Theory Podcast
Episode 21 – League of Legends with JT Eberhard and Michaelyn

I only recently discovered this podcast, thanks to Stitcher Radio, and boy is it right up my alley!  The show is the culmination of avid gaming fandom, psychoanalysis, and game development/design knowledge.  It’s the perfect podcast for anyone that wants a complete look at video games from a mostly scholastic perspective.

My only complaint is that the show hosts are sometimes a little TOO smart for their own good.  We are taking a different approach with our upcoming Bit-By-Bit Gaming show (formerly Game Mechanics 101).  I think the voice of the gamer needs to be heard more and, if you listen to TGP episodes, they often look at game mechanics from the outside in (i.e. their LoL and rogue-like episodes).

In Episode 21, League of Legends (LoL) is scrutinized heavily.  While I do not agree with all their conclusions and lament the fact that the general consensus is that the game should be avoided, I see their points.  LoL is a mainstream game so it’s to be expected that there will be plenty of trolls and little kids ruining the fun for the rest..  But the issues extend far beyond that.

One aspect that is common in all first impressions of League of Legends or any MOBA is that the communities tend to be very caustic.  LoL is particularly bad in this area for a few reasons:

  • Every Tom, Dick, and Harry aspires to be a pro player and make tons of money, or at least score free stuff.
  • Due to the aforementioned, no one wants to admit that they are not as good as they’d like to think.
  • Poor sportsmanship leads to externalization of opportunities, so the trolls rarely improve and new players are scared away.
  • The way the game rewards and announces game highlights caters to a selfish style of gameplay and more finger-pointing.
  • Since the game is free, there’s very little keep young, angsty squeakers away from the general populice.

The list goes on and on but, essentially, League of Legends has been both a boon and a bane to MOBAs.  With LoL’s massive popularity and eSports buzz, everyone feels more pressured to step up their game rather than enjoy the experience.  What’s more is that the scoring and team dynamics feel more like Call of Duty than a MOBA.  It’s very centered around K/D (kill/death) ratio rather than teamwork and setting up plays.  What’s more is that it’s hard to play LoL casually, even with friends (sorry Obi), because everything is about winning rather than just having fun.

With this heavy focus on frags, people tend to get desperate when they die more than they kill.  When a sure-fire kill ends up in a death, the frustration piles on.  Throw in teammates that are feeding or screaming at you for seeming like a total newbie and now an otherwise fun game becomes a vein-popping, heart-attack-inducing experience.

Wow, this is sounding a lot like Call of Duty, eh?

ms-paint-rages-league-of-legends-ryze-misses-last-hit

One of the biggest frustrations for me is how Riot decided that, in all their infinite wisdom, they would focus on individual performance most of the time and only bring the team focus into play when it is least logical.  In ranked play, you can literally have five or more consecutive games where random teammates throw matches or just rage quit.

Leavers, flamers, and ragers are only a symptom of the root issues.  I concur with the folks at GTP that the design of LoL encourages poor sportsmanship.  The tribunal, loading screen tips, and honor point systems are decent enough band-aids but they are flawed because…

  • There is no incentive to giving honor to other people.
  • It is human nature to complain rather than compliment.
  • The visual feedback (i.e. profile ribbons) attached to honor points seems unattainable and/or worthless.
  • Most people go pee, grab a snack, or watch videos/Vines while the game is loading, ignoring the sportsmanship advice and game preparation (the same happens post-game).
  • The core mechanics do not support good sportsmanship.

Riot has been campaigning to remind people that people who are helpful and calm during gameplay win more matches, but they do not support the behavior organically or internally, if you prefer.  The core mechanics could easily be fixed to address the glaring issues with the game.  If you are curious what some of these issues could possibly be, just watch to see how people always fight to play certain roles or positions.  Most want the glory to themselves, so ADC, Mid, and Top are always the preferred picks.  There’s too much pressure for Jungler so they are usually the last picked and the most blamed..  And Support players are often expected to be miracle workers.  If you get first pick and go as any of offense-focused positions, do not under-perform because jealous people will troll you hard.

Welcome to League of Legends!

What’s even more disheartening is how LoL does not factor in how well you played with your team or the fact that leavers cost you a match.  A loss is a loss and, thus, you get stuck in elo hell..  Unless maybe you assemble a reliable pre-made team and avoid solo/duo queue.  If a teammate loses his Internet connection during your qualifying matches, you’re pretty much fubared.  Bronze and Silver tiers consists of taking two steps forwards and three steps back.  Not very fun.  Normal matches are a similar hellish experience.

league-of-legends-why-did-you-leave

While Diamond Tier players and above may argue that elo hell is a myth, I argue that it is very real.  On a greater scale, the design decisions behind League of Legends make it a rather exclusive experience.  In spite of that fact, millions of people worldwide play the game and it is the #1 online game for the PC, heck, all platforms.  Statistically speaking, that means there are a lot of frustrated, bitter scrubs and wannabe pro players out there..  and most of them only stick around to troll and make others miserable too.

Misery loves company.

For the more casual MOBA players, there’s ARAM (All Random All Mid), a battle-royale style mode focused more on action than strategy, and bot matches.  There is also Domination, which shifts the focus more to land control and objective-driven play rather than straight-up killing and lane pushing.  Still, the core experience resides in the traditional 5v5 three-lane game mode..  And there’s lots to be desired there.

I will reiterate that I LOVE League of Legends but, as I listen to these brilliant GTP folks talk about LoL from the perspective of newbies, I can’t help but nod in agreement.  One of the strongest points made in this episode of the Game Theory Podcast is that League of Legends rewards the end result rather than the process.  I could not agree more.  Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm seems to be doing a better job of making each match fun from beginning to end, mainly by using a team-leveling system and starting players fully powered-up.  Plus, there’s no loot so you can focus on the action and team strategies.

Another aspect of League of Legends that sucks is the overall sense you get of feeling like you need to grind.  LoL is “free to play” (more like freemium) but, in order to truly enjoy the game, you have to put in many hours before you can unlock enough champions to experiment with and find your strongest picks.  The amount of IP (Influence Points), the free in-game currency, you earn does not vary much, whether you play well or terribly.  There is a slight bump for high frag rates but nothing for setting up plays.

The defense for this design decision is that catering to K/D makes it easy to see who is fed and set up plays accordingly.  I disagree.  That is what pressing Tab and viewing score summary screen is for.  All the announcements and point distribution puts a heavy focus on K/D and this really hurts the game.

feeder-trouble-league-of-legends-parody

One reason there is such a huge rift between players in League of Legends is that feeding is often seen as a single-person issue.  What people fail to see is that feeding is often a missed opportunity for teams as a whole.. and Riot.  People tend to get antsy when matches take too long (LoL and most MOBAs are inherently slow-paced by design) or they give up when their teammates badger them too much (including unsolicited “advice”).  Riot could help alleviate some of these issues by creating more fast-paced modes.  Another good update would be to create a coaching mode where know-it-alls could help out the players that opt-in for “pro tips”.

UPDATE:  The new Team Builder mode alleviates many of the aforementioned issues by allowing players to queue up for the positions they really want to play..  But this is just a start.

Speaking from firsthand experience, I have seen a huge difference between matches where I just play and don’t bother communicating, and matches where I encourage my teammates and engage in authentic, friendly banter.  Every now and then you’ll have the asshat who decides to be an Internet tough guy when you’re just trying to create some synergy and good will, but usually people will respond in kind to your efforts.

Our own Stan Faryna has a brilliant suggestion here: remove anonymity.  People don’t act as tough when they are exposed and vunerable like everyone else.

Sadly, the notion of preemptive good will goes against most Internet rationale as people prefer their anonymity and  ability to just blend in with everyone else.  LoL’s honor system was supposed to help encourage more good will but it’s not quite working out that way.  People these days are also quite jaded and cynical so, if someone is being nice, they always suspect there are hidden motives.

I can knit-pick about LoL’s shortcomings all day long but, at the end of the day, it remains a game I truly enjoy in one of my favorite genres.  I do feel Riot needs to step up their game as there are more quality MOBAs coming out.  DotA 2 and Smite are taking more risks to find what works best whereas League of Legends has remained mostly the same for around four years now.

It’s easy to blame the community or human nature for the issues in League of Legends but the truth is that it’s lazy programming that make the players the way they are (or at least augment their ignorance and angst).  Most players have enough knowledge to be dangerous but not enough to understand that it’s a team game.  As such, if you’re entering LoL for the first time, brace yourself: it is a fun game but the trolls will try to eat you alive.  Play with some friends – it makes things FAR more enjoyable!

Welcome to League of Duty!

Source:  http://gametheorypodcast.libsyn.com/episode-21-league-of-legends-with-jt-eberhard-and-michaelyn