Tag: League of Legends (page 1 of 2)

500 Words on Free-To-Play Games

Courtesy Supercell

I know there are a lot of people who consider “free to play” a dirty word. Or a dirty series of words. A dirty turn of phrase? Anyway, they don’t like it as a concept. And I can understand why: it sounds like a bait-and-switch. A game like League of Legends or Hearthstone or Jetpack Joyride or Clash of Clans is free to download, sure, and yes, there are ways to play that require zero financial investment. But to really compete, or even enjoy the game? Only the first hit’s free, friend.

There are a few instances where this is true. However, not every free-to-play game is pay-to-win. A bunch of folks on message boards will certainly contend that idea. “So-and-so is just pay-to-win bullshit,” regarding some of the games I’ve mentioned. But are they really? I can only speak to gaming experienced I’ve had personally, or am having, but I’d like to think that even with my own experiences, I can contend the points being made by others in a professional, semi-objective manner, without degenerating into name-calling and insults regarding someone’s mother.

League of Legends, and to a similar extent Heroes of the Storm, alleviate their barrier for entry (i.e. paying for the in-game characters players want to use) with a rotation of free characters that changes from week to week. On one level, this means that folks unwilling or unable to invest in the game always have something to try out. On another, it allows those with discretionary spending habits to try before they buy. One of the things I like about the store in Heroes of the Storm is that quick, helpful descriptions of each hero appear when you select them, including what role they fulfill, how they do their combat, and a general level of difficulty in playing them. It makes me more inclined to play the game, actually, since I have a notion of what I’m in for when I try someone out.

Hearthstone is happy to provide you with a brace of basic cards as soon as you get into the game for the first time. And while you might not think it possible, you can put together decks with these cards that actually win games, at least well enough on the ladder to earn you the monthly card back. Decks that have been constructed with Legendary minions and following guides do, in fact, lose to decks built with basic cards from time to time. Such is the nature of a card game with randomization elements like, say, shuffling.

As for the mobile games I’ve mentioned, money tends to get you acceleration rather than outright wins. You can achieve your goals for free, but it takes a long time. It’s more a test of patience than anything else. While I have yet to spend a dime on Clash of Clans, I’m also to a point that I want things like upgraded Barbarians and Wizards NOW, dammit. Blast you, Clash!

I totally blame Liam Neeson.

From the Vault: Theorycrafting

I am giving some serious thought to jumping back into the mix of tactical planning, visceral satisfaction, and utter frustration that is League of Legends. To that end, and since I’m not quite back on the review train yet, here’s a relevant post from back in the day that reflects what I’m doing now: planning builds and investigating new Champions. I am, once again, theorycrafting.


Courtesy Riot Games, Art by Akonstad

In this blogging space I’ve talked about writing and gaming in tandem. I’ve tried to give each a fair amount of time, but I’ve never really examined the connection between the two. Other than the overactive imagination, I think a big part of my inclination towards these activities is my tendency towards theorycrafting.

I haven’t been playing Magic: the Gathering that often in the last couple of weeks, mostly due to the hours I’m spending at the office lately. But I do love deck construction. I like seeing the cards available to a particular set or format and trying to find ways of putting an effective threat together, especially if it’s in a way that’s been unexplored. They don’t always work, of course, but that’s part of the appeal of experimentation: taking a chance to see what happens. I try to plan as many contingencies as I can before the game even starts.

The same could be said for the way I approach League of Legends. I spend some time looking over the abilities, statistics and build orders of various champions, toying with different sequences and combinations. When Nautilus was released a few weeks ago, I found his art, story and kit so appealing I picked him up and started toying with builds immediately. In fact, I’m still doing so, in order to find that balance between taking punishment and dishing it out. I may go more in-depth at another time as to why doing so in this game feels more satisfying to me than, say, StarCraft 2, but like my Magic decks, crafting and tweaking a champion’s progression long before I fire up the game is rewarding, especially when I manage to help the team win.

Part of this may be due to my experiences as a Dungeon Master. I delve into rulebooks and supplementary material, draw up maps, lay out stats and even stories for the NPCs and so on. I used to lay out elaborate and somewhat linear stories to lead my players down, but I realized quickly players want elbow room and freedom to choose for themselves. While this undermined my desire to tell a specific story somewhat, it also allowed me to plan more of those contingencies I like to ponder. DMs and players share these stories in equal measure, after all, there’s no reason for one side of the screen to hog all the fun.

This thread does carry through to my writing. It’s been said that writers are either ‘plotters’ who plan things out before pen hits papers (or fingers hit keyboard), ‘pantsers’ who fly by the seat of their pants, or a combination of the two. You can read more about the distinction here. For my part, I’m definitely more of a plotter than a pantser, with a great deal of time devoted to outlines, character sketches, expansion on background elements, and research relevant to the story. The problem with all of this theorycrafting, though, is that getting wrapped up in it can take time away from the actual writing that needs to happen. Then again, I know that if I don’t take the time to figure out where I’m going in the first place, I will hit a wall and sit looking at it for just as long.

Do you indulge in theorycrafting? Or do you jump right into things?

Gaming in 2013

SmallWorld with the 'rents

The new year is in full swing. I’m starting it off writing by carving out writing time on a daily basis (for the most part, more tomorrow on that). But once the writing is done, and with Fringe done and Sherlock‘s third season not yet underway, what sort of amusements fill my time once I tear myself away from the allure of social media and videos on the Internet?

Magic Type <2

With the introduction of Gatecrash, you might think that I’m eager to get involved with new decks for Magic: the Gathering‘s Standard format. And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, I have to admit the format is beginning to lose some of its luster. New sets to Magic come out every few months, and when they do, your current Standard decks either need an overhaul or get scrapped altogether. I like theorycrafting and deck-building as much as the next Planeswalker, but the recurring investment is starting to bother me. I’d much rather make small alterations to decks I already have than having to keep build new ones every quarter while sinking money into boxes of new cards.

To that end, I’m turning more towards Modern and Legacy formats of Magic. I’ll talk more about the decks I’ll be fielding next week, but suffice it to say the new expansion does factor into at least one of them…

Warhammer 40k

Oh, 40k. If ever a hobby was even more of a time and money sink than collectible card games, it would be you. Your little plastic men are much pricier, your rules are a great deal more complex, a fighting force takes a lot more to prepare than a deck, there’s painting involved…

…yet I can’t deny there’s appeal. The universe is steeped in baroque, melodramatic lore, the disparate forces guarantee there’s something that will appeal to players, and I’ve played it and other wargames enough to understand the appeal of plotting out a strategy to defeat the enemy, preparing the right mix of troops, seeing how the enemy responds, and the thrill of adaptation on the fly. I have a Dark Vengeance starter kit sitting near my writing desk, just waiting for me to make the time to start doing something with it.

Soon, my minions… soon.

Video Games

I played a bit of the original PlanetSide back in the day, so I figured since it has the same name and is free to play, PlanetSide 2 would be worth checking out. There are plenty of multiplayer shooters out there – Team Fortress 2, Blacklight: Retribution, Tribes: Ascend – but this is the first one where I’ve felt like part of a major military outfit instead of a being out for myself. To succeed in PlanetSide, teamwork is required, not unlike League of Legends. And rather than approaching the enemy with a couple friends, you do so as part of a group that could include 100 or more fellow players. This leads to some chaos, to be sure, but after joining up with an Outfit and getting on Mumble with them, it really provides a gaming experience I hadn’t realized I missed. It feels like a worthwhile investment.

On the single-player front, I have quite a few video games left to finish before I feel comfortable downloading new ones. I kickstarted Strike Suit Zero and definitely need to play more of that before I weigh in on it, I haven’t finished Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and I have an itching desire to play through LA Noire and The Witcher 2, which probably means I should finish the first Witcher as well. At this rate, it might be a while before I finally play FarCry 3 or Dishonored, which is a shame, because I really want to play both of them! Not enough hours in the day, unfortunately.

Board Games

Here we have perhaps the rarest of specimens amongst the games I play. I live with someone who finds board games to be rather boring, and so my boxes containing SmallWorld, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Android: Netrunner, and Lords of Waterdeep go largely unopened. We do play Cards Against Humanity and Chez Geek from time to time, but I don’t think the others will ever really win her over.

But I will not be deterred! There are still board games I want to experience. I am a huge fan of space-themed 4X games, and Eclipse looks poised to scratch that particular itch. After Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop showed me how Alhambra works, I find myself intrigued by a game with such a pastoral theme that still has deep strategy and requires forethought and negotiation. I hear wonderful things about Battlestar Galactica, and the theme in and of itself is enough to encourage me to buy. And tying back into Warhammer is Chaos of the Old World, a game that will require me to scrape together three friends, no more and no less, who will probably get annoyed at me if I keep calling dibs on Tzeensch.

That’s a rundown on what I’ll likely be playing in the year ahead. What about you? What’s on your docket for gameplay and other amusements?

The Speed of Strategy

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment
First contact with the Protoss. Better think fast.

Yesterday’s Extra Credits discussed depth & complexity in games. When discussing complexity, James asks the question “How many mental calculations per second are you asking of your player?” He then goes on to posit that turn-based strategy games are no more complex than first-person shooters, based on the number and types of decisions a player must make based on the pace of play. But turn-based isn’t the only kind of strategy game out there. When considering the degree of challenge presented by a game based on strategic, overarching decision-making, the speed at which the game progresses is very important.

When I think turn-based strategy, I think Civilization. It’s the 4X game I grew up with and, while I miss Master of Orion, the latest iteration is very polished and well-presented. As all of your decisions are done on your turn, and no time limit is imposed on those turns, the pace of play is very leisurely. While you are making complicated choices, especially as you develop more technologies and expand your empire, you are under no temporal pressure to come to a conclusion. You have all the time in the world, and that makes a game of Civ truly relaxing, if incredibly time-consuming.

Some games present the choices of the player in relative real time but mitigate the pace with the use of a pause function. So it is with FTL. Weapons fire and teleporters activate just as soon as their cooldowns make them available, which can lead to some intensity, especially when you have multiple hull breaches and you have Mantis invaders chewing on your crew. But you can hit the Pause button at any time, catch your breath, and consider the situation from a broad perspective. This reduces the immediate burden on your brain and mitigates the pressure, thus making decision-making a bit easier and reducing what appears to be a daunting amount of complexity.

Online games do not afford the luxury of a pause function. Time manipulation in the real world would be a titanic advantage, but chronomancy is unfortunately restricted to speculative fiction. However, team-based play like that in League of Legends tends to take the burden off of the individual player. Ideally, five brains are better than one, and being able to at least discuss the situation at hand if not develop a plan of attack based on that information lessens the cognitive burden on the individual. The pace is still fast and some decisions will need to be made immediately without help from the team, but that ‘safety net’ is still there.

And then you have solo real-time strategy experiences like StarCraft 2. While a team mode does exist for the game, the play that earns the most attention, accolades, and money is the one-on-one experience. You can strategize and theorycraft until the exploding sheep come home, but when the game begins, all of your decisions need to be made immediately. You must process information on the fly, while carrying out your own plans. You must both out-smart and out-play your opponent, even if you’re going for a held-back strategy that works from the angle of base expansion, defense, area control, and technological upgrades as opposed to, say, a cannon rush.

Yet the decisions you have to make in a game of StarCraft – unit composition, the approach to the objective, examination of opponent’s weaknesses to exploit – are not that different from those in Civilization. They simply need to happen more quickly, and while this may make the game seem more complex, I dare say it really isn’t. The complexity of the decisions is magnified by the pace of play, but taken on their own the decisions themselves are not that difficult. It is, however, difficult to make a solid decision in a very limited span of time, and still have the confidence to know it was the right one to make (see also The Walking Dead).

This is both the challenge and the appeal of strategy. No matter what the pace of play might be, the brain is fully engaged in making decisions and carrying out strategies. Playing well is definitely more a case of mind over matter, and I for one am a huge fan of thinking your way out of a difficult position.

Forever OP

Courtesy Riot Games
Double Darius action! But which one is more OP?

League of Legends has been called many things, from a DOTA knock-off to an ongoing Dunning-Kruger effect study. I know people who consistently call it a terrible game. It has its share of flaws, to be sure: the art direction of female champions can be quite dodgy at times, the model of its microtransactions and the seemingly arbitrary nature of sales and point gain rate can be called into question, and the community can be quite caustic and deriding, though not (thank the Maker) to the degree of X-Box Live. Yet.

Over and above other objections are those regarding the characters players choose to represent them in the Fields of Justice. Every few weeks, sometimes more often, Riot Games introduces a new champion. More often than not, the newcomer’s abilities and scaling power dwarfs that of other long-standing champions instead of rivaling it. While this is not always the case, it happens often enough that the new champions are labelled as overpowered, and Riot is forced to take time to re-examine them and perhaps adjust the balance of power in the next patch.

Along with this comes a less obvious but more insidious problem. As competitive players lean towards certain champions for their team compositions, and new champions join the roster, some older champions, around since the inception of the game, fall by the wayside. Their abilities may get tuned down in power (“nerfed”) but never readjusted to remain on par with others (“buffed”). Thus, they rarely see play, and some have even come to be regarded almost universally as bad champions that no sane champion would ever pick, unless they were trolling.

The source of this apparent problem, according to some, is that League is growing vertically, not horizontally. Given that it’s a young game, going through spurts like this is perfectly natural. If the trend continues, however, other games may learn from this failing before Riot does. As new champions with hitherto unknown abilities continue to join the roster while previous champs remain as they are, naturally the older ones will be outclassed. But did you notice how I used the word “apparent”? It’s possible this “problem” isn’t a problem at all.

With a few exceptions, no champion can be slapped with the broad label of “bad”. Every champion has something – a crowd control ability, a natural escape, a snowballing capacity for damage – they can offer a team. If the summoner who chooses that champion is competent with them, a relatively unknown or underused champion can suddenly be dominating the game. And even if domination doesn’t happen, competent players can often work around or directly against the power of new champions. It’s possible that the skill set of the “OP” newcomer gets entirely shut down when a much older champ ends up against them. It’s just a matter of finding the ‘bad’ champ and dusting them off, so to speak.

Theorycrafting remains a big part of strategy games in general and League in particular. Sites and communities are dedicated solely to examining the entire roster, providing guidance on how to build champions for certain situations or modes of play, and arguing about which champs are OP and which are terrible. As much as major tournament setups may try to convince you otherwise, not every team needs to have one golden composition to always win. Every player on the team has different taste, abilities, skills, and flaws, and they can and should choose their champions accordingly. The more a champ is in line with a particular player’s style of competition, the more fun that player will have, regardless of the outcome of the game. There will be the occasional hard counter situation where a player’s entirely locked down, but these incidents tend to be isolated. And the plethora of champion choice in League of Legends, for all of its inherent balance issues, means that no player is ever railroaded into a single choice of champion or even role. Nor should they be.

This, then, is my advice, fellow summoners: do what you like, and if you’re not having fun, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

Older posts

© 2021 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑