Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Play rhythm

I played Hero Academy on my iPod Touch all evening yesterday. The bad news is that I didn't manage to finish a single game. Worst case was a game in which my opponent never ever made a single move. Best case was a game in which my opponent made a move about every 15 minutes, and I had to resign after 2 hours when it was getting late and I wanted to go to bed, with the game not even half done. I then promptly deleted the Hero Academy app from my iPod. It is a game that I would love to play against a computer opponent, but as there is only PvP and it's very slow turn-based, the play rhythm of the game doesn't fit my time constraints.

Reading about Hero Academy I found out that people usually launch half a dozen games at once to not wait endlessly, but then of course they contribute to the problem because while they make a move in one game their opponent in another game has to wait. If I had time all day, I could imagine just playing a slow game, playing something else on the PC while waiting for my opponent to move. But for playing 2 hours in the evening, Hero Academy isn't really the most suitable game. If you have any limit to how long you can play, you can't be sure to finish any game.

Another game on the iOS turns out to be somewhat too fast for me. I do like the general style and structure of Battlehearts, but I wished the combat was turn-based instead of real time. On the small iPod Touch screen my fingers aren't the most precise input devices for a game that benefits from fast reaction. My dream game would be something that has the combat system of Hero Academy, but the PvE campaign structure of Battlehearts.

But all this is obviously quite subjective. Different people have different play rhythms, and a game that is too fast or too slow for one person might be just right for another. I like games in which you can adapt the game's speed to your personal rhythm, so that usually means PvE, and either turn-based, or a real-time system with a pause function where you can give commands during the pause. But that is just me.

While i too would like a PvE mode in HA, i think you might be "playing it wrong" (and yes, that is a terribly wrong thing to say, but i think it might be appliable here):

The game isn't really made to be played in a long stretch, with both players bouncing turns back and forth. Sure, that way is fun too, sometimes, but that's not really the point.

The game is asyncronous for a reason: It's a game that's excellent for just inputting a turn now and then, when you just have a moment and a turn free, pretty much like Wordfeud.

So all in all, i think you're "playing it wrong", or at least in a way that it isn't really meant to be played, and thus not facilitated by the design.
i totally feel your sentiment about Hero Academy. the thing i missed the most in it was some way of actually playing in an immediate fashion and not waiting over so long periods of time for each move.

i see two ways of implementing this into the game:

1) they could add a rudimentary PvE - i.e. some AI one can play against;

and 2) even easier - they might add a new PvP mode, where each player has limited time to make a turn and then the other player can move (like in Carcassone for iOS, which btw. I'd recommend greatly)

About Battleheart - I seem to have played a FREE clone of it, but on iPad instead on the phone-sized devices and I thik that's the proper hardware for it.

Lastly - I'd like to recommend "Spice Bandits" (former "Spice Invaders") if you fancy a very well done tower defense game with some progression and specialization added along with coop and versus multiplayer modes. This is a very well done game! (again - I think it must be played on an iPad to be thoroughly enjoyed)
Another vote for "playing it wrong."

I play one turn in 3-4 different games before I go to bed. That's it. When I first got the app, I had 20+ games going and probably had at least one match where we practically played in real-time for about an hour. If you start a bunch of matches, the game suddenly turns into a sort of puzzle game.

Yes, you can lose the sort of ongoing sense of strategy, but honestly? There aren't a lot of possibly strategies past the opening turns; just a lot of 5-move tactics.
So you're solution to me stating that the play rhythm of Hero Academy is not to my liking is "you must change your rhythm!"?

I'd say that is the wrong answer. It assumes that there is some imperative that would force me absolutely to play this game. The far simpler solution to a game being very far from my preferred speed is to simply delete the app from my iPod and play a different game where I don't have to wait so long for my opponent to make his move.

I played play-by-mail games many years ago, but those times are long past. There are thousands of games out there, why should I wait for this slow one?
It is a game that you either like and adjust to the speed or move on. More of a game you log into and make your moves then go on and do other things for a while and come back later to check. And definitely pushes you into started several games to keep from waiting too long.
Why did you say you "had to resign" when it was time to go to bed? You could have just made your next move the next day. Hero Academy is intended to be played over many days. I understand that's not the kind of game you want, but for a lot of people it's great.
I have to agree with the "you're playing it wrong" sentiment here. I know from reading your blog you often enjoy playing small casual games, so why are you trying to force what is clearly intended to be a game that's played very casually into a playstyle that isn't? You tried playing it in a way it was never intended to be played, so obviously you found it unenjoyable. If you'd made an attempt to play it as intended, rather than force the game to behave the way you were looking at it, there's a good chance you would have liked it and continued to play it.

What you've done is the equivalent of using a hammer to drive in screws, and then concluding that screws are terrible and only ever using nails instead, but if you'd try using the screws with a screwdriver, you may find that screws are actually better suited to your needs/desires!

HA is a game that's not intended to be played in long sittings, it's meant to be played for just a few minutes at a time while you're waiting for the bus, meeting, bathroom, etc. And for that purpose, it's a very well designed and thought out game. Furthermore, that's the precise reason it was designed for small mobile platforms such as phones, because they're convenient for keeping entertained for short periods of time

As a side note, I think a very large number of games for small mobile platforms are designed with this periodic play style, simply because the platform is ideally suited to it. Furthermore, they're only likely to become more common as developers recognize this fact and realize they can draw in huge amounts of players by focusing on this extremely casual playstyle. Think farmville on a mobile platform that allows people to check in anywhere, anytime, for just a moment at a time? It's an exceptional match!

Azuriel stated that playing it the way it's intended detracts from a "strategic" feel to the game, but I have to disagree. The maps are small enough and the variety in characters limited enough that it's really quite simple to keep track of, and recognize, each active game you have running as they come up. I play for about 10 mins at a time, once or twice a day, and I haven't had any issues remembering my plans for the ~20 games I have active at any given time.

Again, there's no imperative that you play the game, only the fact that by trying to force it to play the way you think it should be played rather than trying it the way it was intended, you're likely missing out on a game that you would probably very much enjoy in its intended form.
@Tobold:I played play-by-mail games many years ago, but those times are long past. There are thousands of games out there, why should I wait for this slow one?

You don't. You play one of the other games out there. Other players who do enjoy this type of gameplay will play this.

Games don't necessarily need to or want to appeal to everyone. They're not made for you. They're made for people, which may or may not include you.
I don't understand why you would resign a match because it was bed time. I feel bad for your opponent, he/she had a strat going and enjoying the vibe, then all of a sudden his/her opponent gives up for no reason? It couldn't have continued the next day?
I'd say any such vibe would be gone after having to wait 12 hours for your opponent to move.

I can understand let's say playing chess by mail with one move per day. I can understand playing chess face-to-face with one move every few minutes. I can't understand a game in which you don't even know whether your opponent is making one move per day or one move every few minutes.

I can reccomended Battleloot, it's similar to battleheart but with mostly turn based combat.

I think those of us really enjoying HA don't play one game a time. In fact you pretty much lose all association with individual games.

I keep virtually full of games, so when I play I am presented with a series of puzzles. Whats the best you can do with a particular board set up and items in 5 moves?

However I was lucky enough to run into a couple other similarly skilled and active players who I run several games against with diff match ups. And when I play at night we can often go back and forth quickly.

Tobold, you could play as you wish, but not against randoms. People here might be a good idea, and for example the goons on something awful forums put out usernames for quicker matches.

Find opponents who suit your play style!
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