Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 27, 2013
 
Taking decisions before learning the game

My first character in Everquest ended up getting deleted and being replaced by another character of the same class. I don't know if the game still works like that, but at the time there were two factors here: Different races were not the same in stats, so certain races were better at certain classes than others. And on character creation you had to distribute some bonus stat points. So what happened was that the first character I created I wasn't aware of what the optimum race and stats for that class would be, leading me to create a sub-optimal character. And the only way to fix that was to roll a new character.

I was thinking about that in the context of yesterday's $20 purchase guide for Card Hunter. You can't really make a very wrong decision there forcing you to start over. But if you for example join the Card Hunter Club only after you played through the first few adventures that give out guaranteed epics, you missed out on the second epic the club membership would have given you. I did, and as you are short on items at the start of the game missing out on an extra epic is kind of annoying. There are also those very cheap "simple chests", which are a nice help at low levels. But if you are new to the game and want to save your gold and your pizza (which can be transformed into gold) until you know the game well enough to decide what to buy, it is quite possible that by that point you already got enough low-level items and don't find buying simple chests all that useful any more. In the worst case you might have quit the game out of frustration before, because running the campaign for the first time with few items in your collection can be quite challenging. A lot of people on the beta forums are complaining about the difficulty of the level 6-8 adventures, but if you get a bunch of extra items early those adventures become a lot easier.

The problem is that players are naturally reluctant to take decisions early in a game before they have fully grokked it. If you are forced to take a decision, e.g. on character creation, you might regret it later. If you get the option to postpone the decision you might find out that it would have been better to do something earlier in the game, but you weren't fully aware of your choices and implications thereof at the time.

Good game design can help. For example it is generally a good idea to have some form of reset option that at least enables a player to reverse some earlier decision instead of having to delete a gimped character. If, like in Card Hunter, the issue is that players don't know what to buy early in the game, the solution is to offer a "starter bundle" with the stuff that is essential early on at a discount. And having well designed tutorials to explain your choices and the consequences of those choices is always useful.

Comments:
"And the only way to fix that was to roll a new character"

Or just play the first one anyway, despite it not having optimal stats.

Or roll another and play them both because, being of different races, they offer a different experience.

Both of which I did. and still do.
 
Agreed, Tobold.

It is only though sheer ignorance that I am a human mage. In another world, one in which the unknown hands directing me actually knew what they were doing, I would have been a gnome mage (for the racial abilities), or even a druid (and hence a night elf) so I could tank and heal, as well as dealing damage to my enemies!

Such is life. We play the hand we are dealt, but it would have been better had we understood the choices we were making in the creation screen!

By the way, I usually don't write comments agreeing with a blogger's point of view: "me too!" comments are not so interesting to me as comments with an alternative point of view. So when I'm not disagreeing with a point of view, it's usually because I silently agree with it. That's a long way of saying that I normally agree with most of what you write!
 
@Bhagpuss - Sure those are options. But they require both time and investment - and that you actually find the different play experience fun. (if the only difference is one is slightly better at the same things... not that fun)

I feel Tobold's point went further than just stats though. It's the entire play experience.

Let me speak to another part of that: play styles

I often have similar concerns about character builds in modern games like Deus Ex or the like. I feel like I want to play a sneaky sniper but I don't really know the value or impact on the game the "cloaking lvl 1" choice gives me. I can't know until I play with it. And when I find that actually I don't enjoy playing the style I started to build... what then?

Skyrim did this much better than most by using a system that simply builds up skills based on using them (something they got rather wrong in Oblivion)

-- I'll add that some of my most memorable single player rpgs were the ones I made horrible starting choices and was forced to really play my butt off to make it through the game... But those were rpgs of a different age.

 
I often have similar concerns about character builds in modern games like Deus Ex or the like.

The last Deux Ex was particularly vicious here in that it allowed you to play through the game for hours with a pacifist build, only to then kick you in the teeth with a boss fight you could only survive if you had trained combat skills.
 
One reads a lot of "don't dumb down - need to make it possible to make mistakes" Well the more the game design allows you to make irrecoverable mistakes, the more it penalizes you for just playing the game instead of researching first.

-
--
OTOH, if the game has enough OOG resources, I enjoy learning about the systems and how to max my character. What I call "the most enjoyable part of the game is prelaunch" What are the most useful professions? Optimal class/race for my playstyle, etc. So I will spend dozens of hours with learning the Wildstar/TESO/EQN classes and professions prior to launch. Lots of interesting things to learn and choices to make. After they ship, it will be a lot of kill 10 rats and don't stand in fire.
 
I like games where things are more fixed/restricted very locally, but you have a lot of options/recovery the rest of the time.

Like how you cannot change equipment mid level in card hunter. You see a lot of that in games, where for the duration of an encounter/map/quest you're locked to how you started, but as soon as you get out you can switch everything around freely.

I haven't bought anything in card hunter yet, my main people are only level 8, but I haven't had much trouble with questing. There was a quest with lizard people that I was a level under and I had to retry the final map a couple times, but that happens.

I would ask! What's the point in leveling up a second team of people? Just to be able to play more maps when all the even con stuff is on cooldown?
 
What's the point in leveling up a second team of people? Just to be able to play more maps when all the even con stuff is on cooldown?

Actually you could play the lower level maps with your one group: You won't get xp, and might have to unequip higher level gear, but you will get the item rewards.

I like playing a second team to try out different alternatives in party composition: My first team was a dwarf warrior, elf wizard, human priest team out of pure D&D racial stereotyping. Turns out a dwarf makes a lousy warrior because of his low base speed, even if you give him some fast boots. Since then I've tried an all-human party, and also went for a completely different strategy with a slow all-dwarf party relying on Firestorm cards.

And that is still just parties having one warrior, one wizard, and one priest. I haven't gotten around to try other class combinations, like two warriors and a priest, or three wizards. The larger my collection of items gets, the more extreme groups can I try out.
 
There isn't any essential gear you don't get, not before level 10 anyway. I've got that far without losing an adventurer. I even have a dwarf warrior, along with human wizard and priest! He's okay. I generally play him as a classic tank.


 
I don't get why people complain about levels 6-8. They are harder, yes. Mainly because you encounter enemies with a lot more armor, more health and those annoying 2-squares melee attacks (or -even worst- those horrible 15-damage-one-shot attacks).

That said, the game starts to offer some challenge. If I had a lot of money, pizza and/or gear I am sure I would easily kill everyone and keep progressing without worring too much.

But why? Where's the fun if you "steamroll" enemies like you did at level 1-2?

My party (*) just hit level 10 and I honestly don't really see any real benefit from hard-grinding or spending money for "uber" gear.

(*)
Human warrior
Human mage, focused on sparks/electric stuff
Human priest
 
How hard exactly the level 6-8 adventures are unfortunately depends much on luck of the draw, that is whether you by chance found the kind of cards that can deal with armor and 2-range attacks. Getting more cards early simply increases your chance of having the right tactical options for these maps.
 
Sure, but if you get a great deck every time you just remove the challenge and keep killing enemies over and over.

I like the idea that you are supposed to die horribly sometimes (or insta-kill someone in 2 rounds). Thsi is why I wouldn't think about pumping my deck early on, to reach levels 6-8 and have a smooth ride. I wouldn't feel the fun (with occasional frustration, of course).
 
I don't think the bunch of low-level commons you get from simple chests will make you instakill those adventures. You'll just have more options to find the best strategy.
 
Well, I just don't think those options/benefits are worth an initial investment of 20$. It's a lot of money, compared to what you actually get from it.

Screwing the party is nearly impossible and the game lets you play at your own peace, without pushing you to purchase stuff. Progressing 1->10 isn't really that challenging, unless you're very very inexperienced maybe. And there is always a lot of room to fail and improve.
 
It's a lot of money

No, it isn't. I'm making $50 an hour. That's what I said in my previous post, Card Hunter's target audience is people who were geeks in the 80's playing D&D. Funnily enough, while being a geek in High School didn't make you popular, it actually improved your chances of going on to study something geeky like engineering or science in College, and that correlates with having a good income 30 years later. The Revenge of the Nerds comes in a form that the 1984 movie didn't quite cover.
 
I wrote: "I've got that far without losing an adventurer." I meant, of course, that I've got that far without losing an adventure. I've lost plenty of adventurers!

Powerful items are good, but you will nearly always have weaker items that do the same kind of thing. I don't believe people are really stuck without the necessary gear. A lot of the game is about tactics (and adapting them to suit your draw).
 
> No, it isn't. I'm making $50 an hour


So what? Let's say you spend 3$ for an ice cream that sadly tastes like vomit. Will you just smile because 3$ is nothing, compared to your salary?

Even 200$ is nothing, if you earn 50$/hour for 8 hours a day, that's not the point.
 
@Rugus: So let me get that straight:

A) You said in another thread: "I gave Card Hunter one more try and ... I am in love with it."
B) You could afford spending $20 on a game.
C) You will not spend $20 on Card Hunter unless you'd be forced to.

Did I get that right? Isn't that somewhat unethical?
 
> A) You said in another thread: "I gave Card Hunter one more try and ...
> I am in love with it."
> B) You could afford spending $20 on a game.
> C) You will not spend $20 on Card Hunter unless you'd be forced to


I bet we're talking about different things. You consider 20$ as a good investment from an old roleplayer point of view. Nostalgia and a good salary make you confident that spending 20$ (at level 1) for Card Hunter is the way to go.

I'm on the opposite side: I like (love!) the game and even if I was a roleplayer when I was a teen... I didn't feel the nostalgia call. I used to play without a detailed map, we had no figurines, our DM used to talk a lot... so I honestly didn't see myself back in time when I started playing Card Hunter.

So I'm left with a pretty good beta game that has a lot of potential, but it's also quite easy from levels 1 to 10. Not "ultra" easy, but the challenge starts around level 7-8.

In the era of F2P and cheap games/apps, 20 dollars is not cheap at all, in my opinion. And in this specific case if you remove the nostalgia element you get a nice game that offers almost nothing for that amount of money. By "nothing" I mean "useful, or at least worth 20$". Compared to other games, I consider the figurines extremely expensive too.

Your A) and B) statements are correct. But you're wrong on C). I've didn't say "I would never spend money for CH". I just said that spending those dollars at level 1, when you start playing, in my opinion makes not sense because it's absolutely not worth it. You can do that for the love of supporting them, of course, but that has nothing to do with the game strategies/benefits.

Does it make sense to spend money in CH? Yes, it does, because at some point things become harder, plus you have those nice locked adventures that can be intriguing. But that comes later, not at level 1 where you really don't need additional gear.



> Did I get that right? Isn't that somewhat unethical?


You got it wrong, but even if you were right... you're not making a valid point here. If you consider me/others unethical because we don't cash out some money in advance for a free game, then we're all monsters: what about your blog, for example? Thousands of us read your posts on a daily basis, for free. And the list of "free things that would be worth a lot of money" is infinite, even in real life. I think the ethic is out of question here.

I respect you and I like your blog. But I think you're judging others just because -as you said- your 50$/hours income lets you spend money for videogames as much as you like. In this case I think you gave a wrong advice, in your 20$ post. That's all.

 
I think my response to that merits a separate post.
 
I kinda disagree with this blog post. I was thinking about it when they announced the new Game of thrones mmo

http://mmo-play.com/mmo-blog/what-we-want-to-see-in-a-game-of-thrones-mmo

^ a good article on it

I know it sounds wishy washy but choosing a character without knowing the game is all part of the experience. It also stops people from choosing the bets class/race all the time

In relation to game of thrones however, I can't imagine pledging myself to a house that I didn't know anything about. Politics is so important in that universe. They said something about that being one of the most important factos in the article.
 
I couldn't care less about PnP RPGs. Card Hunter's riff on it gives an amusing enough ambience and a decent interface that doesn't require amazing production values, so I think it's a good choice - but if they produced the same game in different trappings I would like it just as much. I like it mainly because it's an interesting single-player card-based tactics/strategy game. I *might* at some point get into multiplayer.

I disagree with Rugus - even in those terms as a beta game and without allowing for multiplayer and future development I think it is well worth about $20 to me. I don't know any other games that are quite like it. If it were released as a single-player game for $20 I'd buy it. But Rugus may not like it so much and that's his right.


 
@ Gerry

No, that's not what I said. I agree that the game is (very) good. And I also agree that it could be worth 20$. But we're talking about different thigs, which are:

a) paying 20$ "because I like it"
b) paying 20$ "to obtain something"

Tobold's article was a mixture of things: from one side he correctly states that the developers deserve the money because the game is well done. On the other side he gives a mini-guide, saying that investing 20$ for ingame benefits (gear and club) is a good choice if you do that at level 1.

That's where I don't agree: 20$ for ingame benefits is NOT a good choiche, because you don't need them at all (the game is quite easy from levels 1 to 8).

Donating for the cause is a completely different thing and I support that.
 
That's where I don't agree: 20$ for ingame benefits is NOT a good choiche, because you don't need them at all (the game is quite easy from levels 1 to 8).

But what is your alternative? I found that the game isn't getting much harder in the later levels (of course the beta is limited to level 20, so I can't say anything about level 50). And if you want to buy stuff at the higher levels, you get a lot less bang for your bucks. $20 only buys you 4 epic chests when epics is all you still need.
 
There are no alternatives, in my opinion, apart from spending to unlock adventures or getting some cosmetic stuff (figurines). The gear bonus itself is not worth the real money, at least from my point of view.

Of course spending dollars to support the developers without actually thinking about the benefits is a good thing, as you stated many times.
 
>"worth 20$"

I'd add a big 'TO ME!' to the end of that.

Complaining that spending some amount of money on something is bad decision for everyone is like saying 'This game is so easy, why are you having trouble with such an easy game, you must be terrible, stop being bad.'

At the same time insisting that it is a good value for everyone is like saying 'Stop being so poor'. Both arguments are pretty terrible.

For some people $20 is good value and for others it is not. Those for whom it is not still get to play because the developer decided community is more important than free rider problems. That's the company's decision, not ours.

People who don't want to pay, don't whine about those who chose to. If it was a big enough difference in game enjoyment, you would have been willing to pay for it. People who did pay, less whining about the free riders, please. Few people appreciate those complaining that other people have things they don't deserve, when their having it doesn't cause you direct harm.
 
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