Monthly Archives: November 2016

Treasure Hunting: Secret Areas and Items

As you finish the final cutscene and smugly sit there watching the credits roll by, completely content with finishing the entire game, you go to view your save file and what’s this? This isn’t a shiny, gleaming, 3-digit 100% on there! That’s a big fat 98%!

Yes, you’ve forgotten about the secrets and hidden items somewhere along your journey to defeat the evil demon lord! Looks like it’s time to start from square one again…

Hidden items and secrets in games are a small yet satisfying little diversion for players to complete (especially it it was a long and frustrating way to get it) that can extend the time they spend on the game. Small rewards like a special-yet-useless Inifinty -1 Sword or a Badass Scarf can be well worth it to players, especially if it means completing that variant outfit. Even little things like a simple extra life would do, for those little nooks and crannies where noone really looks would work.

Of course, the journey to such rare and optional items wouldn’t be the same without it’s own hazards. Like earlier posts, ledges, traps, enemies and the like can make the player work for their reward. And let’s not forget creating a shortcut exit for them… or not.

Pick Your Poison: Status Ailments

Knees weak, palms sweaty, blood on your shirt- poisoned spaghetti.

You take a step- green flash. Another step- green flash. Suddenly your thief is unconscious while in the middle of the dungeon.

Status ailments are one of those really cool things that can be implemented in games that will always annoy your players to hell and back. It forces them to actually think about their own well-being and stop- Antidote Time. Mainly due to not actually being able to feel pain in video game (Physical pain. As for emotional pain- maybe), just throwing enemies at your player gets rather boring after a while, so things like poison gas clouds, pits of quicksand (be careful not to lose your handcarts), or flame-spewing pipes are different ways to harm your player while not necessarily  dropping them into combat.

Of course, status ailments during combat is also a fun way to kill your player. Poison aside, there’s the good ol’ slow status, rendering your players helpless as hordes of enemies line up to smack them.

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You can probably tell things didn’t work out very well.

Of course status ailments can also be added to players’ arsenals too, to give those enemies a taste of their own medicine, or vice versa. Nothing’s more relaxing than slowing a room of enemies down to a snail’s pace all while chopping them down one by one.

 

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Things got kinda busy, but here I am. Kevin out.

A Rite of Mastery

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Battlerite (pictured above) is a team based multiplayer action game, which focuses on 2v2 and 3v3 battles in small arenas. Like MOBAs and other multiplayer focused games, the difficulty comes from individual player’s skills and how they face off against each other and work together. But instead of talking about these person-to-person difficulty changes, a main concept of Battlerite is being able to use each character’s abilities successfully.

In Battlerite each character has a basic attack ability (M1) 5 special abilities (M2, Space, Q, E, and R) an ultimate ability (F) and two EX abilities (shift+specific ability key) in their arsenal. Being able to efficiently use each of these abilities determines how well you can perform and are in a way the difficulty bar that players must overcome.

Mastering a character that you want to play is the first difficulty hurdle, as recklessly picking a champion and expecting to immediately have success is a rookie mistake and can quickly turn into a Button Mashing scenario, where the player expects wonderful things to happen if every button is pressed. In Battlerite this is far from the fact and players must know optimal situations to use an ability and not be left helpless when an ability is on cooldown. Additionally understanding the best approach to dealing damage or assisting teammates in a given situation is fundamentally important. So after practicing and fully understanding the ins and outs of a specific character, one would think they are ready to get out into the arena and to start battling players right? Wrong.

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While this would work if there was only one existing character, Battlerite contains a current roster of 17 characters, which will continue to expand, each with their own set of different abilities and strategies they use. And each person playing them will (more than likely) understand how to play them and to a basic level understand the best way to play them. This adds another level of difficulty to the game, in which not only do you have to understand the character you have chosen, it is equally important to understand the opposition’s characters. What is their primary role? Are they a support, melee, or ranged? Do they have gap-closers or escapes? What are their defensive abilities? What abilities do they have that I should be careful about avoiding?

Understanding the opposition is important but just as equally important is understanding your teammates’ champions. Understanding their own roles and what they want to do against your opponents so you can change your own strategy accordingly. All these are paramount for succeeding in Battlerite and define its difficulty for players. Even if you have superb mastery over the character you are playing and understand them to a T, this whole advantage disappears if you have no idea what your teammates and enemies can do.

-Michael

Mastering The Meta

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While difficulty in¬† competitive multiplayer games is almost entirely based off each player’s relative skill and how they play against each other, there still is a slight nuance in difficulty that the developer has a hand in influencing for these games. In most cases of MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena), the entire infrastructure is based on a team based game where players battle against each other in an attempt to destroy the enemy’s base. This involves a plethora of different characters that players can choose to control for each game, each controlling radically differently from the next with there own set of goals.

While players are free to choose their favorite champion and have fun playing them, there is often a metagame that determines effective strategies within the game such as that of League of Legends. The metagame, or meta for short, is often built around a set of strategies and a select few characters within the game that are determined optimal for the current state of the game. These are often seen as the best characters to play as, to a degree that they over perform and overshadow other characters. While largely the meta is influenced by the player base and in a game like League of Legends the meta is often dictated by the upper echelon of players in the professional esports scene, the developers, in this case Riot Games, have a very large acting say in what the game’s current meta is.

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Most developers, including Riot Games, shake up and alter this game within the game by periodically updating and changing the game through patches. These patches will often buff champions who are deemed weak by Riot, and nerf champions who are too strong. Although often times Riot will also tweak certain champions to try and slightly alter them, sometimes resulting in a champion who all of a sudden receives tweaks that make them incredibly strong. This along with the very infrequent changes to items that can be bought, alter the state of the metagame and determine what are best picks. For example in one of the most recent patches, 6.18 (the world championship patch) they made slight changes to the game with the goal of not shaking up the foundation weeks before a major tournament. As a result the meta that had developed over the past few patches stayed, resulting in a handful of champions being determined optimal for each position. Anything outside of these 3-5 champions per role are considered risky picks that can easily flop miserably.

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In a large part the meta influences difficulty on the player, as they may struggle with not being able to play or simply not being comfortable on the strong champions, requiring them to overcome a learning curve and engage in a matchup that is working against them. In a way difficulty in these multiplayer focused games comes directly from how well the player can mold and adapt themselves to fit the metagame, and their inability to do so makes the game that much more difficult for them.

-Michael