James Martini archive

Category : Gaming (11)

Player stats and min/maxing

Categories: Game Design, Gaming
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Published on: July 23, 2015

One of the things I noticed when playing Diablo 3 is that you no longer allocate points to stats when you level up. The justification for that for Diablo 3 makes perfect sense i.e. that players would identify the optimum stats for their class and then stack their main stat and their HP stat and leave everything else as a dump stat. That is exactly what happened in Diablo 2 and Blizzard learned that lesson well. Stats allocation was made redundant by the game mechanics that tied class abilities to one or two stats.

The problem I have with this is that it is ultimately uninteresting. There is no down side for a tank who is only slightly smarter than a bowl of oatmeal, he’s there to act as a meat shield and the player who’s driving him isn’t made dumber by his stats selection. Therefore, all tanks stack endurance, all rogues stack agility, all mages stack intelligence, all prists stack wisdom and all dps warriors stack strength with everyone stacking just enough endurance that they don’t fold when some mob gives them a dirty look.

Min/maxing has become the rule in MMOs because the various stats are so strongly bound to a particular class. Take agility for example. It’s generally the rogue / melee dps stat because it increases avoidance and chance to crit for melee. There is no reason why a mage or priest type character would put a single point in agility. It simply doesn’t affect any of their mechanics. Fast forward to end game and people start complaining when gear has stats that are not optimized for min/maxing a particular class. Why would heavy armor have wisdom or leather gloves intelligence? The gear does not allow players to optimally min/max for a particular role and so players feel cheated looking at those points ‘wasted’ on a stat that they are not stacking. The end result is that gear is designed to reinforce min/maxing and stacking primary role stats and the game loses a degree of freedom.

Ideally, I think that stats should play a more diverse role in game mechanics than they currently do. Players could continue to build the dumb, clumsy brute of a tank but a more interesting system would make that a challenging path to walk. Consider the following stats effects

Strength –
Primary effect: modifies melee damage
Secondary effect: modifies the number of bag slots available

Intelligence –
Primary effect: modifies spell damage and chance to crit
Secondary effect: modifies experience gain

Wisdom –
Primary effect: modifies mana pool
Secondary effect: modifies spell and stun resistance

Endurance:
Primary effect: modifies health
Secondary effect: modifies resistance to status effects like slows, roots

Agility:
Primary effect: modifies avoidance and melee crit chance
Secondary effect: modifies movement speed

Charisma:
Primary effect: modifies reputation gain
Secondary effect: modifies NPC interactions and quest rewards

This adds only a single secondary effect to each stat but the effect is wide ranging. Our dumb brute of a tank who stacks nothing but strength and endurance will be slow to level, vulnerable to spell damage, moves slowly, is vulnerable to stuns and generally has a bad time attempting to gain reputation with NPC factions and gets the short end of the stick on quest rewards.

This is only a simple example intended to illustrate how even a minor change to how stats affect game mechanics opens the door for more player choice. Players are presented with choices and trade offs, do they increase melee damage at the expense of experience gain? Will that improved damage translate into a faster kill rate and thus offset the lower xp/kill ratio? Suddenly, a few points of intelligence on heavy armor doesn’t seem like such a waste.

Doctor Praetorius flies again

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: February 23, 2013

After a brief return to Star Wars: The Old Republic to play with Emily I realized just how tired I was of the whole themepark game model. Same as before, static game world, static story, static gameplay. I’ve been following CCP’s merger with White Wolf and their plans for a World of Darkness MMO for a while now which got me thinking about EVE again. I’ll still play SWTOR with Emily as F2P when she wants to but for my own game time it’s back to playing in the sandbox with internet spaceships.

2013.02.23.15.13.20-a

After reconnecting getting back into things I started where I’d left off with a little exploration. Bounced around Lonetrek and scanned down a low rent pirate complex and, surprisingly, a pair of ladar sites. I can’t say I’d ever seen gas mining sites outside of wormhole space and 0.0 before so I was more than a little surprised. One I probably would have ignored but ignoring two was like ignoring a burning bush that sang a song about free money.

So what did I need to get started with gas mining? Well there was the 30M ISK skillbook to start with. Pricey but not a huge hit to my wallet. Next up were a pair of cloud harvesters at another 3M each. Then came the realization that I can’t fit them to the Explorodrake. D’oh! Need a boat with turret hardpoints so I locate my Hulk which is parked a few systems away. A few jumps later and I learn I can’t fit the gas harvesters to a mining barge either. I guess they’re serious when they mean those strip miner slots are strip miner only.

At this point I’m beginning to question whether this was a good idea but decided that I’d succumb to the sunk cost fallacy and forge ahead by buying a new hull. Osprey acquired. Not too small and has some decent mining bonuses.

Or at least it used to. Apparently CCP revamped a lot of ships in the last year and completely reset the Osprey from a mining cruiser to a low rent fleet support boat. Damn thing has only one turret hardpoint now. This is really starting to look like a losing proposition but I forge onward and fit some random crap to the cruiser, jump to the gas site and start mining while I do the research I should have done first.

2013.02.23.15.29.04-b

Thirty minutes later I’ve picked up one of the new Venture mining frigates, fitted it with the gas miners, put the pointless Osprey hull back up for sale and I’m happily strip mining nebulae. I’m still down by close to 40M but I’ll have to console myself with the fact that lessons and skills have been learned, a ship fitted and I now have the ability to exploit the one exploration site that I previously had to ignore.

Now I just need to mine 40M in gas…

Not quite Dora the Explorer

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: June 29, 2012

I’ve been kicking around ideas for what it is that I want to do in EVE. I’m not committed enough to want to start my own corp, solo hisec mining ops are okay when I feel like reading or am just generally braindead but are otherwise boring, I still haven’t decided on whether I want to move out to 0.0 and, if so, what corp I should court, and finally whether I can reasonably join a w-space corp with only 7.7 million skill points. While I figure this out I decided to fit out a Drake and do a little exploration.

Tooling around Lonetrek high and low sec for an evening with my new Explorodrake (as opposed to the Explododrake) I started hitting Radar sites one after another. I don’t know if CCP increased their spawn rate but I can’t recall getting so many hits in so short a time the last time I tried exploring. Three Local Guristas Mainframes later and I’m up 20 million for the evening not counting whatever the looted blueprints are worth.

The thing about exploration is that it isn’t consistent isk unless you’re working lowsec, 0.0 or w-space. I did well tonight but that is no guarantee that I won’t spend the next week digging up nothing but wormholes, grav sites and pirates. I’m working on a long circular route through Lonetrek’s seedier side of high security space and the less frequented low security space. It’s a nice break from grinding out L3 missions in order to get updated implants on the cheap.

Now I just need to decide whether I should allocate more training time to my astrometrics skills. I’ll certainly need them if I decide to go live in a wormhole.

What to do…

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: June 28, 2012

Thanks to my wonderful wife I now have a brand new Star Wars Limited Edition XBox 360 so now I can get off my computer and start hogging the TV in the living room. Finally started playing Skyrim (arrow to the knee etc) and moving from a PC to a console is taking a little acclimation. I haven’t used a game pad in years and have to retrain my hands.

I love Star Wars but SWTOR is taking up less and less of my game time these days. I’m mostly just grinding out the story lines at this point and have no interest in end game. I spent years raiding in WoW and end game in TOR is looking increasingly like end game in Wrath of the Lich King with its interminable dailies. Consequently, the EVE icon on my desktop has been getting a lot more activity.

Diablo 3 has been fun but after the initial burst of activity it’s really not that different from Diablo 2 apart from having more flexibility in skill selection and fewer consequences for poor skill choice. It’s a nice break from other games but in the end it’s a gear grind with a pretty skin. Great in terms of a Skinner Box but the awareness that it’s a Skinner Box tends to detract from the enjoyment. Each game is functionally the same challenge as the last unless you switch between difficulty modes. Normal is pretty easy with a pretty steep curve from there. Nightmare and Hell modes require a very different play style than Normal. I cannot imagine what Inferno is like but I suspect it’s unplayable by anyone but the Koreans.

I’ve been kicking around ideas regarding what it is that I enjoy in games and what drives me to continue them. What it is that draws me back to a game after other games fall by the wayside and the lessons I’ve learned from the mistakes of both successful and failed games. I’m no game designer but maybe someone will run across my blog and decide to build that game.

 

Elves: A rant

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: October 18, 2011

I’ve always been annoyed by elves, particularly J.R.R. Tolkein’s elves. I never spent much time analyzing why they get under my skin the way they do but I had an epiphany this evening. I realized why I’d probably start punching elves in the face ten minutes if I ever found myself in one of their hauntingly beautiful cities.

Lets look at what they have going for them

  1. Beautiful – you never read about a homely elf, they’re all ethereal and beautiful
  2. Live practically forever – barring accident the either never die or live a ridiculously long time
  3. Good health – they’re usually immune to disease and the complaints of mere mortals. Seriously, when did you ever read about an elf complaining about their sciatica?
  4. Good at everything – I guess if you can spend twenty years perfecting the G chord on your mandolin you can’t help but be ridiculously good at whatever you set your mind to learning.

So what’s not to like? Well, lets take a look.

They’re vaguely racist . Elves pretty much reek of condescension. The lowest elf on the garland wrapped pole still knows that he’s going to outlive just about anyone else and in better health. Sure they’ll smile and be polite but it’s the politeness adults afford to the three year old who has wandered into the conversation.

They’re lazy. Orcs come in and burn down one of your mystic towers? Tree spirits forbid that you actually, oh I don’t know, rebuild it. No, a better use of your time is to spend the next fifty years writing a song about how beautiful it was. Which brings me to their mortal sin…

They’re emo hipsters. The thing that absolutely sets my teeth on edge about Tolkien’s elves is that they are irredeemably wrapped up in how things just aren’t as cool as they used to be.  You think the ruins of this vast decaying elf city deep in the heart of the forest are beautiful? You should have seen it back when humans were still inventing fire and cracking each other over the head with rocks. Nothing is as good as it was and so they spend their timeless, endless youth sighing about how cool things were before your civilization was even founded. That was my epiphany, they live in a constant state of nostalgia.

Barring accident or violence they live their functionally eternal lives, enjoying permanent youth, vigor and beauty complaining about how the sprinkles on their double chocolate sundae existence aren’t quite the right color and the sorrows of knowing that the fallen city of Cuiviénen had sprinkles of just the right shade.

How’s your oatmeal, human? Cold enough?

LOL: Resistance Is Futile

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: September 2, 2011

I was weak. I thought League of Legends looked pretty cool but didn’t want to pick up another game habit with SWTOR just around the corner. Unfortunately I got to talking about it with a friend who was looking for someone to play with rather than grouping with random psychopaths. So I thought, well it’s free, I’ll check it out just to see what all the hype is about ignoring the first rule of dealing with a dealer: you never accept the first one for free.

I’ve got things I need to do. There are the regular chores, my reading list, writing in this thing, guild related work, the gym, EVE… well, you get the idea. I absolutely cannot add another addictive game into the mix which is why I’m uninstalling League of Legends.

 

 

Just as soon as I’m done with this next match…

I shouldn’t love this but I do

Categories: Buddhism, Gaming
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Published on: August 15, 2011

 

Achievement Unlocked!

Categories: Family, Fitness, Gaming
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Published on: August 14, 2011

I’ve tried a number of ways of staying motivated when it comes to exercise and other long term goals. I’ve written the goals out, stuck them to my wall, put reminders in my phone, just about everything recommended to self motivate but in the long run it’s usually failed. I even tried recasting the activities in my mind as ‘leveling up’ various stats i.e. the gamer’s fitness program.

Looking back, everything I always achieved at had some sort of cert, diploma or other badge of completion at the end. When playing MMOs I always set my eye on the high end achievements and every session attempted to make some progress towards that goal. The more difficult the achievement the more I wanted it. The Loremaster? No problem. Hand of A’dal? Now we’re talking.

A few weeks ago I really didn’t feel like going to the gym. I wasn’t sick or anything, just being generally lazy but I went anyway. When I got back I posted the following on Facebook: “Achievement Unlocked: I Lift Things Up And Put Them Down.” It got a few odd responses from friends who either didn’t play video games or hadn’t seen the Planet Fitness ad. I didn’t realize it at the time but I may have finally hit on the perfect motivational tool for hardcore gamers.

I like gaming for the relaxing pass time that it is and don’t get overly wound up by pvp losses or wiping in raids. I enjoy pvp and raiding for themselves and while motivated to win I can accept losses as part of the ebb and flow of the game. Achievements, however, are another matter. A list of achievements does something deep down in a part of my brain that is obsessively neat and ordered. I will choose an achievement and work towards it with each gaming session. I won’t make myself unhappy with grinding but each achievement comes with a set of goals and each play session allows me to take a step towards those goals. In short, it focuses and guides what would otherwise be unstructured game play.

Yesterday, while working on this website, I thought it might be funny to include an Achievements page like those found in most MMOs and on XBox. I jotted a few down and found that as I went more and more came to mind. Joke achievement lists I’d seen on the internet were looked up and merged in and I started looking at expanding the list beyond just fitness. The list currently stands at 24 achievements and is growing.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal but I’ve spent thousands of hours playing games and pursuing achievements over the past few years. That’s thousands of hours of training my mind to hold on to a goal and to shape my actions towards achieving it.

I put the list up yesterday. As I went about my day today I realized that the list was in the back of my mind and that I was sorting out what could be done in the short term and what needed a long term siege approach, which achievements could be worked on simultaneously and which ones it wasn’t feasible to do at the same time. By plugging my goals into the same achievement/reward model I’ve been trained to pursue by MMOs it looks like I can leverage years of conditioning to accomplish real life goals.

I’m pretty sure that after reading this my wife is going to hack my wordpress account so she can add housework achievements to the list.

What? You mean it was a scam?

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: August 13, 2011

One of the largest EVE scams finally closed it’s doors netting the perpetrators over a trillion in ISK which is valued about about $50,000 it you translate that into plex/game time. I remember seeing somebody pimping the Phaser Inc ponzi scheme some time ago in Jita and dropped a little math on him but apparently even nerds playing internet spaceships can be suckered by the siren call of a deal that is just way too good to be true.

I have to hand it to the two guys who ran it (Eddie and Mordor), this scam was unbelievably successful and far more clever than the standard hot, lonely teenage girl scams or even the manipulation of buy orders and contracts via Margin Trading.

The Phaser Inc website is closed with this message:

Today is the day many expected to come.

Today, the 12th of August 2011, is the day where it all comes together.
Phaser Inc. is done, over, finished.
After a stunning period of eight months, we decided it’s enough. 

No more new accounts. 
No more mails.
No more payout days.
No more ISK.

No more Phaser Inc.

Most likely, this will cause a lot of questions.
The most important question will be answered right here, right now.
The ISK is gone; you will not see it ever again.
You’ve invested it, got a chance on some profit, but it turned out to be not the best choice you’ve ever made. That’s how investing works. At least, that’s how it went for the most of you.

Epic way to part a host of fools from their money guys. P.T. Barnum is applying to your corp from beyond the grave. Well played.

Pulling the Trigger

Categories: Gaming
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Published on: August 12, 2011

 

I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a guild in Star Wars: The Old Republic very loosely based on Buddhist ethical principles. I think it might be a good thing and to some extent might act as an antidote to some of the more egregious behavior that is becoming the norm in MMOs. Bioware has provided a system with which you can pre-register a guild and I’m already camping the name I want (Luminous Beings) but I’ve held off on recruiting because it’s difficult to know what a person is like until you’ve actually played with them.

When it comes down to it, forming a stable guild with a purpose other than having a cool tag over your head is a daunting endeavor. It’s like starting a business, you need to identify the value proposition which will set it apart from other guilds, prepare documents like a mission statements, procedures and an org chart. Once it’s more than a few people you need to appoint officers and delegate authority. There’s a guild bank to manage and the internal culture to develop. And then there’s the drama. No guild of more than five people is complete without drama.

So the question before me is this: do I pull the trigger and begin development of a guild website, charter, mission statement and code of conduct before I know more than a couple people in this game? My old guild isn’t migrating from WoW and I’ve been out of touch with most of them for over a year so I’ll essentially be starting from scratch.

I’ll guess I’ll put off the website decision for a while as I get the mission statement, organization, and code of conduct put together.

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