…It pours

Game: Risk of Rain 2

Developer: Hopoo Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Movement and shooting things feels good.

Playing with friends was a lot of fun, made it a lot easier to fight bosses and discover the teleporters. Competing with them for items wasn’t as fun though, and it was a little discouraging to run through an area where all the chests were looted already.

UI is pretty clean and simple for the most part.

I like that there’s an element of discovery and mastery in learning what the items do and which ones you want, and even knowing from the way they look in the 3d world which ones you want to get or avoid. But it’s knowledge that isn’t taught very clearly.

I do feel like I spend a lot of time focusing on and watching health bars go down while simultaneously kind of blindly moving my character around to stay moving and avoid damage. I’m not really looking at the environment or monster models all that much.

It doesn’t seem like you can have a short and meaningful play session here – it simply takes a lot of time to go through levels, earn gold, buy items, get stronger, and move on.

Being able to dodge and aim feels like it’s important, but at the end of the day you need the items, especially certain combos of items to truly be able to chew through the amount of health hard enemies have.

The randomness feels fun in a lot of ways in that the game will feel vastly different from some of the upgrades, but also like you’re at the whim of the RNG a lot of time. There are some design choices to counteract this, like the 3d printer, but even that is pretty RNG.

As with a lot of roguelikes, at the end of the play session I’m always left wondering what I accomplished. It’s weird because games didn’t use to feel like that to me, certainly there wasn’t meaningful progression on a lot of NES games. You played to achieve mastery.

Having double jump really makes the game feel more nimble and fast paced. Once I’ve played with it I never want to play without it and I feel really limited in play sessions I don’t get it.

Dying early in a map and having to wait for your friends to finish doesn’t feel great. It also feels like you’re really falling behind by not participating in obtaining upgrades.

I didn’t like the Hunter nearly as much as the Soldier. The fact that I could only shoot when enemies were around felt broken at first. Then it just felt a little unresponsive. Also felt like I couldn’t really aim where shots were going. I ended up doing lots of damage according to the scoreboard but it didn’t feel like it.

The worm bosses were a bit annoying, especially once they got loads of health. It felt frustrating just to get good dps uptime on them with how often they go under the geometry.

The radar dish equipment felt extremely helpful, almost necessary, but didn’t feel good giving up a huge damage piece to achieve it. I didn’t want to give it up and not be a team player, but it felt bad being stuck with it on boss fights.

The upgrade that lets you use your equipment slot more often is great.

Having health bars on the left side of the screen for all the bots felt cluttered and claustrophobic. Not sure why I needed it. It was cool knowing we had a lot of bots but not at the cost of that much real estate in the UI.

I wish more items were clear what they did, and especially what happened when you got more than one of them. Maybe this is just in the glue screens somewhere?

I didn’t feel like any of the enemy or boss types stood out enough that I altered the way I played the game when fighting them. Maybe there’s a mastery aspect here I haven’t achieved yet.

Beauty in the eye

Game: Beholder

Developer: Warm Lamp Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Played on Trainee mode – I think this is Easy Mode

I don’t enjoy when games do the “Charlie Brown” voice instead of real VO. I’d prefer no VO and just have subtitles. It’s distracting.

The game stresses me out and I can’t really explain why. I’m managing to complete all my quests on time, plenty of time actually, and I have plenty of downtime but I feel like I’m always under pressure.

The game is oppressive, but I think it’s meant to be.

Despite it’s dark nature, the graphics or characters or something about the art style almost feels lighthearted. I do really like the style though.

My strategy feels mostly like just keep talking to everyone until something happens. I don’t feel like I have clear clues on what to do or how to make progress and I’m just kind of reacting to things.

I appreciate the pause feature just to feel like I can prevent the anxiety of time moving on.

Getting government directives all the time also stresses me out. I feel like there’s a growing mental burden that I’m not keeping up with.

It seems like there are quests that are just money sinks to make my family happy. Not sure what the mechanic or decision is there – but then I’m playing on easy mode and have a huge surplus of money.

I’m trying to play as a nice guy and not just be a jerk to my tenants. Maybe it’s a totally different experience when playing as an agent of the government?

It seems like the money situation is rapidly deteriorating. Makes me kind of hate my family and never want to talk to them! I’m starting to make decisions around the need for money but it doesn’t feel like there are direct consequences of doing so. Maybe they’re just not obvious consequences.

I think I’m doing quite a lot of stuff that’s illegal but I can’t be sure if it’s hurting me. Maybe it comes back to haunt me later?

The suspense of wanting to know what’s next is a pretty good draw – there’s a part of me that always just wants to do one more quest.

Never really took advantage of the surveillance cameras or searching apartments. I was always afraid of being found out in someone’s apartment. Not sure what even happens if you get found out.

Glad I wasn’t on that voyage

Game: Return of the Obra Dinn

Developer: Lucas Pope

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Had some trouble figuring out what to do and how to interact with anything. Walked around the ship quite a bit before anything happened. Seems like a deliberate tutorial style choice.

The mystery aspect of this is already compelling.

The concept of identifying bodies and identities and causes of death is pretty interesting. But opening that book and seeing all the blank pages is somewhat intimidating.

Getting enough clues to make the first few guesses was a good early win. Maybe I can do this after all.

The monster attack is pretty cool.

It’s somewhat difficult to jump back into this after a few days of not playing it. There’s quite a lot of “wait, what is happening here”

I have some confusion about the transitions, sometimes it fades to black quickly in the scenes other times it doesn’t. Seems somewhat related to looking at all the others present?

I’m starting to learn some of the rules about when I need to press A to get to the next corpse, and then do it back in the “real world” to see the trail to it. But it’s still not totally clear to me.

I’m at a point where I’m now looking at scenes from the monster attack and the escape and the mutiny and holding it all in my head is kind of stressful and I haven’t made any good deductions. Doesn’t feel great. Feels stressful.

I really feel like I need more easy wins early in the game. I think it was three hours in before I got my second three solves. That’s too long, definitely discouraging.

As much as I’m frustrated, I do keep playing to try to figure out the next thing. The story is interesting to me, and learning more about it and discovering more is keeping me going.

I don’t understand why sometimes there’s a door and it unlocks after I look at the book.

I wish doors would stop closing behind me!

That’s an intimidating Talent Tree

Game: Path of Exile

Developer: Grinding Gear Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

I like the “Flask” concept, how you use charges and they refill when you go back to town. Feels pretty streamlined, but maybe a little complicated for someone unfamiliar with the genre?

That skill tree is imposing. It’s big enough where I’m not curious to explore it – feels like too much to worry about and i’ll just spend points one at a time as I get them without making a plan.

Socketing spells into weapons feels kind of cool initially, will re-evaulate after I get another weapon.

Looks like socketed gems gain experience? Maybe they get stronger? Kind of an interesting idea, need to watch it.

Support gems is kind of a cool idea too, giving up more attacks for utility maybe?

I get notifications to level up my gems. I’m not sure why I wouldn’t do this? What is the decision I’m making here?

It seems cool that my gems level up, but I’m wondering what happens if I’m high level and get gem drops. Do they level up super fast, or start at a reasonable level compared to me? Will have to see.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better balance between wanting to start the game off simple so players can learn, but not being bland/boring. I want to start off already as a badass, and get even more badass. Having just one spell and it’s simple and bland isn’t a great way to get hooked.

I feel so limited by inventory space. Not enjoying that aspect of the game.

I feel like there’s good pacing of getting levels, or gem levels up, or new gear. I’m not sure if it feels significant though, no individual event is making me feel more powerful although i’m gaining in power.

The Lord’s Labyrinth spike trap thing is an interesting idea. Difficult though! Ok maybe not that difficult.

There are some really satisfying explosions of monsters at times.

Lots of junk items. Doesn’t feel great seeing so much junk drop. Not sure if I’m supposed to be picking all this up.

I don’t understand the vendoring system. There’s no money? Just materials?

I like the ability to toggle between the overlay map and the minimap in the upper right corner.

 

On the verge of a great Metroidvania

Game: Axiom Verge

Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

The guns feel very different from each other, but so far I haven’t found a good reason to use the new ones (purple six way explosion and short range green electricity) other than to get past gates. Most weapons I fire once or twice and then don’t use again. I used the blue one that splits off at perpendicular angles most of the game. The laser was pretty cool too.

When fighting bosses I really want a clear indication of how much life they have left. This would be nice for some normal enemies too.

The difficulty curve feels pretty good, and I’m appreciating how helpful the powerups are.

Not sure how I feel about this scorpion tail upgrade. Is it helpful?

The third(?) boss where you can damage the parts of it that fire at you is pretty cool.

The disruptor tool is interesting, I like how it can turn enemies into weaker or non hostile versions.

The various tools (laser drill, disruptor tool, walking through walls) feel like they have very specific uses just to get through gates. Maybe too much and not enough concentrated coolness?

I like the idea of the little drone, and being able to get through places the main guy can’t.

Something about the grappling hook doesn’t work the way I expect, having trouble using it and chaining together hooks.

The boss where you are the boss and fight yourself is great!

The part on Edin where you use the little steam powered lifts to get higher, and then have to grapple and teleport when at the max swing of your grapple – that was frustrating. It didn’t seem like something I could do, so after I failed at it multiple times, and wasted a bunch of time trying other things, I had to look it up online.

The extended drone and warp to drone are a pretty interesting way to get a lot of mobility. That really slight cooldown between being able to fire a drone again though really trips me up often though.

There’s a place where you have to fire the drone against a wall, teleport to it, and then double tap left to go through a wall. I can’t do it. It just requires too many unique button presses in too short a time. Somewhat frustrating.

Wasp boss was cool, but I didn’t use his adds against him. Just beat him normally.

The “metroid” type enemies feel like a pretty steep difficulty step from other normal enemies.

I’m constantly accidentally switching weapons.

Tim Sweeney is coming for you.

Article: Fortnite Is the Future, but Probably Not for the Reasons You Think

Author: Matthew Ball

Link: https://redef.com/original/5c599eb966c7bb710656c824

Hype

  • – Fortnite’s revenue is large but not unprecedented, especially if you include China.
  • – Free to play is nothing new. Also, other free to play games are cheaper to develop and maintain.
  • – Cross Platform games already exist. Though Fortnite’s success convincing Sony to be a part of this was rather amazing.
  • – Having 200MM registered accounts, 5MM active players and another 4MM via  stream watching their season six live finale is significant.
  • – Epic has other successful games, and it seems likely that the Battle Royale pivot was planned, not accidental.

Common thought is that without a defined story/character IP that Fortnite might not have longevity.

In terms of average revenue per user per year, Fortnite beats the four major social media giants combined. This comparison is interesting because the platform has become somewhat of a social square  where friends and families meet up and play from one to one and a half hours per day, vs thirty minutes for Snapchat or Instagram.

Some challenges to Unreal are a major competitor in Unity, the fact that most major publishers don’t use it, and that cloud based gaming could drastically reduce the value of a multi platform engine like Unreal.

The Epic games store becomes more powerful when you consider that Fortnite has given them over 200MM accounts. They now have a really broad reach they didn’t have before.

The Metaverse

Perhaps the most interesting take is if you think about Fortnite in the context of Sweeney’s desire to make a virtual universe where users have the ability to pay, sell, and buy, and there’s a real economy where Epic’s goal is to facilitate this, not obscenely profit directly from it.

Marshmello (a top 10 DJ) held a live concert entirely inside Fortnite that was attended by more than 10MM accounts, with millions more watching on streaming services.

Fortnite is already a social hub. It’s monetization is based on identity (avatars, skins, cosmetics)

They’ve had in game events such as Thanos from the Avengers, NFL jerseys, or Wreck It Ralph. Here the fact that Fortnite doesn’t have an IP is powerful. You wouldn’t be able to do this in Warcraft.

Having a multi platform capability, and a somewhat open situation to have multiple “tenants” to their world means they could start the Metaverse right here and right now.

Thoughts:

One thing not mentioned in the article is that because Unreal is free to use, and taught in many curriculums means that in just a few years there will be an entire generation of Fortnite (and Epic) fans that will be extremely well versed in their engine. This could increase the pressure of the major publishers to use these engines to speed up development times and decrease costs.

The second fall of Titans

Game: Titanfall 2

By: Respawn Entertainment

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

The opening cinematic does a good job of showing you why you’re cool and powerful and setting up the fantasy of what your character will be doing.

I would like an audio cue when the loading screen is finished and wants me to interact to continue.

UI seems super minimalist. I don’t know how many grenades I have. Oh I just had to wait to get my special Titan helmet to see it. That’s more what I expected.

Environments look great. Bestial enemies look great.

The dialog options are an interesting addition. I’m not sure I really care about them. Do they even do anything? Why am I given this choice?

The ghost runner thing is an interesting way to show me the ropes, but the fantasy of it doesn’t seem great. Maybe it’s not there on higher difficulties?

The Kane fight really just felt like a brute force no strategy encounter. I just kept hitting him until he died.

Combat

Movement feels really smooth and intuitive. Easy to transition from wall running to double jumping to sliding and then shooting.

I like the way you hold your weapon differently when kneeling. Makes it really easy to tell your current stance.

You can shoot the legs off robots! I really like the way the robots can be brought down. Headshots, damaging their reactor? or just putting enough ammo into them. I like they way they keep crawling after you.

Level Design

Objective point system and fairly linear level design makes it obvious to know where to go next. This first level has very clear environment cues for where wall running is encouraged.

I’m surprised with just how much time you spend out of the Titan in the campaign. But I think the Pilot’s mobility and jumping skill opens up a lot more possibilities. The Titan seems to require pretty flat bland levels.

I really like the level design and environments in the factory level. But all the platforming in first person is pretty frustrating.The top of the factory “arena” was extremely cool and kind of a neat payoff for getting to that point, and it really fit with the fantasy that things were being constructed.

The destroyed and overgrown lab is a really cool area. The flashbacks are a little weird though.

The time travel functionality was actually quite a bit of fun. I loved the fantasy of popping in and out of time when fighting enemies, getting behind them to deliver a punch or shotgun blast, and then disappearing again.  The times when there were enemies in both times was a tricky touch. The platforming parts that required time travel were pretty interesting, though somewhat tricky.

Titans

I don’t really like the way the Titans look. I prefer bulkier slower armored and heavily armed ala Mechwarrior.

The Titan is kind of a stark contrast to how mobile the pilot is. The weapons systems are cool but don’t feel as powerful as I would expect.

The animation for getting into a Titan is very cool. I love the way the screens turn on.

Titan v Titan combat doesn’t feel like two huge machines going at it to me

It’s a little silly that the Titan can’t get over like a 10 meter barrier. No jump I guess. I also want it to be able to bust through smaller environmental objects like cars and busses. Doesn’t feel powerful being blocked by them.

Kind of cool that the Titan can do stuff while own it’s own like lay suppressing fire. Doesn’t seem too smart or useful though. Maybe it gets better.

The different Titan loadouts do a pretty good job of feeling different from each other. I really enjoyed the combos of the fire mech. The Brute one didn’t appeal to me. The default one is kind of the most useful.

I’m not convinced that my Titan actually needs a pilot, other than the contrived situations that it gets captured, stuck, or can’t go in small areas. But it seems just as intelligent and combat effective as me.