Why Do We Play Games Nowadays?

Anyone who reads this blog closely or follows me on Twitter would know that I am at a bit of an identity crisis of sorts in gaming. I made this blog and Twitter with the sole purpose of talking Hearthstone. Lately, I’ve had issues with Hearthstone, mainly precipitated by my not enjoying the changed Arena format. I actually did not realize that I liked the Arena so much. In my taking a sabbatical from Arena play, I can barely play the game anymore.

By sinking in less time into Hearthstone, I have opened up time for other games. Notably, I am playing three other card games in addition to Hearthstone. Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is the mobile game I have played since January and podcast about. Shadowverse is the secondary card game I played probably once a week, now more regularly. Gwent is a new card game released in open beta that I am trying out. Playing all these games together has given me some ideas which lead to this post. Why do we play games nowadays?

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The changed landscape

Gaming has evolved tremendously since I was young. While I wasn’t around for almost all of the 80s, I can say I sampled my share of old games. And by old games, I mean titles from SNES and Sega Genesis. I didn’t really play games regularly until my family got a computer, and I have been primarily a PC gamer since. The main evolution in gaming, besides the obvious upgrades to gameplay, graphics, and design, is the ubiquity of the Internet, and the ability to play games with people you’ve never met physically. I admit that I was playing games alone for a really long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing Diablo III that I started to play games with other people.

The fusion of gaming and Internet has not only changed the landscape of gaming, and also the reasons why we play games now. Back when I was playing Operation: Inner Space in my cold basement or Syphon Filter 3 in front of the TV, I can say I did it for fun. Sure, I wanted to set high scores in Inner Space and unlock secrets in Syphon Filter. But now the reasons are more complex and varied. I will try to dig into the reasons why we game using the games I am playing concurrently as an example.

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I feel really old saying I played this a lot

For fun

The generic umbrella reason for why we play games. Games are a hobby and it is something we do for fun when we’re not doing something else (more important) in life.

I have played Hearthstone almost daily since December 2013. While I have taken breaks now and then (including now lol), my enjoyable experiences have kept me in the game for all these years. I have logged thousands of Arena games just because I found it so fun. Arena is known for not being the most generous when it comes to rewards. You don’t make the 3.33 gold/win you get in Ranked play and even in Casual. According to Hearthstone, I have 3710 Arena wins. This equates to 12,366 gold I missed out on because they were Arena wins. When it comes to my enjoyment playing Hearthstone, it lives and dies with Arena.

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Good times before Arena 7.1

As mentioned before, my relationship with the Arena is currently strained. The fun factor is mostly gone as the Arena revamp with Patch 7.1 coupled with Journey to Un’Goro cards has brought on never-ending reactionary play and big power creep on card quality. And truthfully, it isn’t because I’m losing significantly in the Arena now. It’s important to note that these are just my feelings (and some other players), and not those of the entire Arena community. I don’t know if most people share my feelings on the Arena changes. I’m sure people who enjoy Control decks are having a blast.

To fill the void in gaming fun, I have resorted to the other card games. I am having a really fun time playing Gwent,  mostly from the Casual game mode available to me. As someone who is completely foreign to The Witcher universe, I have no idea what the underlying story is. I don’t even know what the ubiquitous keg-opening character is called. A lot of the fun is derived from the game just being a new experience, and a break from the Arena. I am also playing Shadowverse a bit, though the game hasn’t gotten more fun than before. I’ll explain later.

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I have no idea who this guy is, but he opens the kegs.

For fame

Those who graduate past the notion of playing games just for fun are more ambitious in the hobby and want to make something of their gaming career. By playing a game at a high enough level, one can be known for something, and springboard off a new height. This is a new development in gaming, given people were not connected to the Internet to track scores back in the day. It likely started with the seeds of eSports, and have known people play games. All four of the card games I am playing have leaderboards, with your legend tiers, points, or high scores. And by playing at a high enough level, you get invited to participate in tournaments. In the end, you fight the final boss (real life person) for a trophy. Gaming is just like real sports now!

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eSports!

Alternatively, you can achieve fame by doing something with your gaming experience. All of the “creation” nowadays associated with gaming, your streaming, recording, blogging, podcasting, and drawing would all fall into this category. A lot of people I follow on social media and associate with would fall into this category.

In all honestly, I started this blog for a reason. I wanted to be known in the Hearthstone community as an all-purpose writer who talked about Arena a lot. I had ambitions that it would all lead to opportunities in my future. While those dreams are at a moribund state, I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people in the process of creating the blog.

For money

Those who become really famous for gaming may eventually reach the top tier of gaming for money. There are those who are full-time video game players for a living, making money through tournaments, streaming, endorsements, and donations. Others work for a living or go to school, and have supplementary revenue streams from gaming. Obviously, gaming for money didn’t happen for decades, and is just a recent development.

Unfortunately, the window of gaming for money is closing for existing games, as the market is gets more and more saturated. Gamers who enter the game (lol) later are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have to compete with existing players and personalities. It is a more prudent idea to try to forecast the next big game, and become an established player in that realm. For example, it is much really difficult to make a name in Hearthstone, given it has been in existence for close to 4 years. Your big name competitive Hearthstone players are mostly making money with their streaming brand now. It has become really difficult to make a name for yourself, with so much competition. This goes for other forms of creation in Hearthstone. I doubt that a newbie bug-finder can dethrone Disguised Toast at this point.

It could be easier to game for money in newer games. Notably, Lifecoach has become the first professional Gwent player signed to a team. Right now, I don’t think there are any Duel Links players who play the game for money, but that could change, given the World Championships coming in August. I do not know if there are Shadowverse players who game for money. The challenge is knowing if the game will stick around for the long term, long enough for your efforts to come to fruition.

For community

Gaming has always had an occasional social aspect, as multiple people playing a console was a way to hang out. As a kid and teenager, I fondly remember going to friend’s houses to play video games for hours. With the availability of Internet, the social aspect of gaming has evolved into playing games with people online.

Hmm… I don’t remember girls being around

In the Blizzard world, Battle.net was once the site you used to connect to online servers. Now known as the Blizzard Launcher, it is a one-stop-shop with an instant messaging list to your friends, online news, etc. Hearthstone has quests for playing games with friends, and now allows questing to be done in friend games. Duel Links has the Vagabond sharing system with friends. Spectator mode is another aspect that gives a social aspect to gaming.

 

For rewards

In my card game carousel discussion, I mentioned I am playing more Shadowverse than in the past. This is because they are offering doubled rewards for completed daily missions. This means 2 free card packs for 4 Ranked Wins, or 100 rupies for 4 wins with x class. The rewards are so good that Shadowverse isn’t the second fiddle card game for this month. They also have the Freshman Lou promotion, so I am trying to earn those card sleeves.

Freshman Lou is quickly becoming my one of my favorite cards

Shadowverse has really exemplified the gaming for rewards aspect. We are playing games for in-game currency, so we don’t have to (or spend less) spend real money. This is something that clearly didn’t exist in older games. You bought your game at the store or online, and you paid it. That ended the spending. In the age of Internet and microtranscations, companies want you to continually spend money on a game, by adding more new features. It really is an interesting thought to think we are playing a game a lot because we don’t want to pay for it.

For experience

A lot of people play new games for the sheer experience of trying something new. Trying new games has numerous advantages, as you can discover really fun aspects of games that are not apparently obvious. Steam is now the go-to source for PC gamers to get access to a wide swath of games. Monthly Humble Bundle deals allow one to discover a lot of new games at a low price. One can also purchase old games online, though this is mostly a thing done on consoles now.

My fun playing Gwent is mostly a gaming for experience venture. Given all the comparisons to Hearthstone, I just had to play the game to see for myself. What I discovered is that Gwent is nothing like Hearthstone, and is just linked to it because of Lifecoach’s endorsement of the game. Part of the new experience is learning names in Gwent and trying to understand the unexplained rules in the game.

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An unfamliiar deck building interface

In climbing the Shadowverse Ranked ladder, the experience is turning less fun, as I start seeing the same “good decks.” I typically go in as a Tempo Runecraft deck, which is not a meta deck in a class that primarily plays the fun and interactive Dimensional Shift deck. However, I see a lot of Forest Roach decks, and Heavenly Aegis Haven, popular climbing decks. In Hearthstone, seeing the same variants of decks was always second nature to me, and something that was burned in the brain as normal. Going into a game like Shadowverse, the same emphasis on bringing the same good decks still applies, but I was just not inured to it.

For loyalty

By loyalty, I mean loyalty to a brand or franchise. It is unlikely that Hearthstone would’ve been the success it is without being under the “Heroes of Warcraft” title and Blizzard flagship. People who bought WoW, or Diablo, or Starcraft were willing to give Hearthstone a try since it was made by Blizzard. This is not unlike buying a brand of clothes or car. Trust is earned through reliable workmanship and satisfaction.

I bought into the loyalty to Blizzard games long ago when I first played Diablo when in 1997. Then I played Starcraft, Warcraft III, Diablo II, and flash foward to Diablo III and the Bnet launcher era. Who knew that entering the Cathedral, and spending hours and days walking (couldn’t run back then) through the labyrinth in Diablo would lead me to everything else Blizz has now.

Where it all started

The gaming for loyalty aspect is a also big reason for why I started playing Duel Links. @hsdecktech posted some screenshots one day on Twitter, and I haven’t put down the game since. My enjoyment playing the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 7th and 8th grade awoke, and I destined to relive the nostalgia I had playing cards. And this is allure to Yu-Gi-Oh is not a unique thing, as Duel Links is catching on like wildfire, hitting 45 million downloads recently. Konami created a great franchise, buoyed by a TV show and card game, and that loyalty now it is manifesting in Duel Links’ popularity.

For fulfillment

Back in the day, playing a game for a new high score at the end was the goal. When my ship blew up in Operation: Inner Space, I wanted to get on that leaderboard. This isn’t lost in today’s games. In Hearthstone, competitive players have a goal of hitting Legend in Ranked Play. Some just want to do it, for the sake of doing it, and others have the goal of hitting it every month. This is playing games for fulfillment. You’re trying to hit a goal. Another common fulfillment goal in Hearthstone is getting golden characters. While getting Legend and golden characters technically result in rewards, it is more of a set goal, as the rewards are paltry.

As an Arena guy, hitting 12 wins for the Lightforge Key was a sense of fulfillment. I tracked my 12 win runs for a time with screenshots. I set a goal to hit 12 wins for every class, and that is something that still eludes me. I’ve never hit Legend in Ranked, but getting Golden Rogue was very satisfying.

Gaming for a sense of fulfillment really is a fascinating thing. Most of it is how one derives fun, by continually winning. I wouldn’t have fun if I lost a game many times. Some of it is fueled by competitive drive. Some of it is fueled by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But you’re sinking in hours into a game for something that isn’t even tenable. And by not hitting the goal, you could become angry or depressed (usually both). Crazy right? But hey, it is the reason many play games now.

Well, that’s all I have to say about why we play games in these present times. There probably are a lot more reasons out there, but this post is long enough already. Why do you play games?

Nostalgia Trip: Playthrough of Diablo III’s Darkening of Tristram’

When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of games. We didn’t have a console in our home (until later), and I shared a computer with my sister that had a hard drive of 4 gigabytes. And the computer was in our cold, moist basement, which was pretty cold over half of the year. While this gaming experience left much to be desired, we did have an epic game in our childhood, Diablo. I can list a handful of games that were influential to me, but maybe the reason I still play various Blizzard games today, and have trust in the company, is because of Diablo.

You can imagine that I was excited when I heard of a Diablo I remake within Diablo III, The Darkening of Tristram. I played the heck out of Diablo III, but I haven’t paid much attention to the game in recent years. I decided to hop back into the game, just to play this nostalgia event.

Getting there

The Darkening of Tristram event is active in Diablo III during the month of January 2017. To get there, you just portal of Old Tristram, and there is a portal to Tristram. So you’re going to “Old Tristram” to take a portal to “Tristram” which is the current Old Tristram from decades ago. Cool!

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Town

Your character enters town (with companion), and you instantly serenaded with the classic Tristram acoustic guitar twang. You are treated with the reduced graphics experience of the remake, though it looks worse than that of the original Diablo game. You see a mix of completely new Diablo III UI, and a slightly modified version of the health and resource pools to look like old school Diablo UI.

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The town has the same map as Old Tristram, and is connected to the areas with Adria’s Hut and the Tristram Cathedral. The town is in shambles, presumably taking place around the events of Diablo II, when the town was newly destroyed. You see a bunch of dead bodies with Pepin, Farnham, Ogden, and cows among the victims. I think Wirt is somewhere, but I couldn’t find his body in my playthrough.

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Cow ghosts!
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This dude has been dead/dying for 20 years.

“The Cathedral”

The first four levels in Diablo I, known as Cathedral levels, fittingly takes place in the same Tristram Cathedral levels in Diablo III, as they take place in the same place.

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All the monsters you fight are renamed as creatures in Diablo I, but they are the same minions as they are in Diablo III. The gameplay is unchanged from Diablo III, and you use the same moves you would. There were questions about how your mobility will be compromised, but it isn’t really affected. You move around in an odd manner, which imitates the Diablo I walk, but is more of a run.

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Side quests you would see in Diablo I are replicated in Diablo III as zones, but not necessarily as quests. For example, the Poisoned Water Supply Level, is just a random outlet that leads to a Cave level.

You do get to fight the Butcher again, a much smaller version of the Diablo III Butcher, to scale for the Diablo I size. The room of butchered bodies was also recreated, which marks the most gore/bodies in Diablo III.

You also fight a number of memorable enemies, like Leoric, Gharbad the Weak, and Snotspill.

“The Catacombs”

The Catacombs levels are recreated with the Ruins of Corvus maps, which lead to longish levels.

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One of the more memorable sidequests, the Halls of the Blind is present with various Acid Beasts and Illusion Weavers in tow, making it a very deadly area, which is easy to die in. The Chamber of Bone is also recreated. Minions like Horned Demons and Illusion Weavers don’t give much signal that they are coming, which could possibly hit squishy characters really hard unexpectedly.

“The Caves”

The Caves are easily replicated with the generic cave dungeon levels in Diablo III, which have a boring circular map format. In Diablo I, the music  for this zone was always my favorite, so it was great to hear it again.

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There weren’t many  notable quests in this level, but you get to find Griswold’s Edge and the “Slain Hero.” But he just gives you a boring blue item. Magma Demons are especially dangerous in this zone, as they hit pretty hard from a long range.

“Hell”

Finally, the Hell levels are replicated with the Halls of Agony levels in Diablo III.

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Succubus minions are as dangerous as they are in Diablo I, much more than the ones in Diablo III. The Unholy Altar and Archbishop Lazarus parts were very well done I must say, with the leading cinematic with Lazarus.

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Hexagrams are no longer PC

Finally, you fight Diablo (in a scaled down size). They did correctly replicate the various levers you have to pull down before fighting the final boss. You kill Diablo, and get sent to the classic cinematic showing Diablo becoming the captured Prince, and your hero shoving the soul stone into his/her forehead.

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The main drop that you get for completing The Darkening of Tristram is a special gem, the Red Soul Shard.

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What I Liked

  • Having the same 5 music tracks in Diablo I was easily the biggest highlight of this event.
  • Decent attention to detail for sidequest mappings/mechanics.There honestly were a bunch of sidequests I had completely forgotten about, until this event. I guess the goal of bringing back some nostalgia was achieved.
  • Some minions like Acid Beasts, which don’t exist in Diablo III, were created well.
  • Getting hit in the dark unexpectedly was a plus for me. Diablo I had a ton of this, and Diablo III is known for being too bright and colorful. It was dark enough to make it look dangerous.

What Could’ve Been Better

  • Better attention to items/drops. You get some iconic items which have the old artwork, but nothing can conceivably be used at all. You also only get one transmog, with the Butcher’s Cleaver. Something nice would’ve been old transmogs of current items. An example would be old transmog of Windforce for bows.
  • More items would’ve been nice. You get a lot of generic blue “Godly Plate of the Whale” and staves, but no flashbacks to legendary item drops.
  • The levels felt more like Diablo III than Diablo I. While there are obviously limitations with using the same level/monster/character models as they are in Diablo III, I think more could’ve been done, given how much time they spent on this project. There was a lull in “sidequests” for a while in the Caves, and it felt like a bit of a drag.
  • Similarly, a lot of minions could’ve benefited by looking more like their analogs in Diablo I. Using a Goat Demon as a Horned Demon doesn’t quite translate well.
  • Some of the old UI could’ve been used easily. An example is the “broken item” symbol, which could’ve easily been replicated with the Diablo I icons, but chose to stick with the Diablo III version.

Overall, the whole thing took me an hour to complete, and I was somewhat satisfied with the undertaking. Though it was fun, it left much to be desired, in terms of creating a more memorable experience.

 

Enter the Shadows: Diablo 3 Patch 2.4

Enter the Shadows: Diablo 3 Patch 2.4

This is not a Hearthstone post, be warned!

Diablo was likely the first “violent video game” I ever played to a great degree alone. Sure there were your Street Fighters, Mortal Kombats and Contras on gamepad consoles that I didn’t own. But Diablo was something that I played at my leisure from my home, in a cold dark basement. And as a child, the striking red and black demonic themes, the dismembered bodies with bone and blood, and the haunting sounds of the game all had a great sensory effect on me.

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One of these demons looks fake…

Flash forward to today, and Diablo 3 is out with Patch 2.4 in full throttle. No, the game isn’t scary like it once was. Nor is it something that completely galvanizes my attention. But Patch 2.4 is something that has successfully brought me back to the game, and many others.

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I’m worthy!

Diablo 3 in a nutshell

Diablo 3 came out a good 4.5 years ago, so it is practically in it’s “middle age” by now, until the next game. Back then, the game was strikingly simple. There was only a story mode. You cap out at level 60. I remember certain bosses in the game, like Belial, being impossible to beat at the highest difficulties. Through trial-and-error, bosses were beat, gear was pretty good, and the game shifted to “what’s next?” This stale era persisted for a couple years, and there was a change in management. An expansion came out, clans were added, and adventure mode came out, providing virtually infinite gameplay. But the seemingly similar problem occurred, in which the game gets stale when everyone hits the peak. Thus, we are in the phase of D3 now, where content patches come out a few times a year. New content seems to emerge in the form of Seasons, various lootable items, new levels, ramped difficulty levels and challenges, etc. This has been going on for the last couple years, and 2.4 is the latest of these new content patches.

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Sometime during my Unhallowed Essence era.
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Season challenges

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97 million?! Where’s the Auction house?

Throwing knives – the Demon Hunter shift

As someone who is often afraid of change, I have been playing exclusively with the Demon Hunter class, the class I played most often in D3. Patch 2.4 brings about a huge shift in the Demon Hunter gameplay. Prior to the patch, Demon Hunters were essentially bound to weapons involving Bows, Crossbows, and Quivers. The Shadow’s Mantle, a previously unused armor set, changed that. First, using a melee weapon increased all damage by 600%, and special Demon Hunter daggers were released. This allowed Demon Hunters to hold a melee weapon with a quiver. Second, the set brought Impale into prominence, probably the first time in D3’s existence. Impale is a skill that lets the Demon Hunter throw a knife at an enemy for moderate damage and a low-moderate cost. It was trumped by virtually every Hatred spender, until the new Shadow’s Set, which gives a 40000% damage boost for Impaling the first enemy. Coupled with the dagger Karlei’s Point, Impale Demon Hunters are now a competitive entity.

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One knife, big damage
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Knife juggling

More about the impale build

  1. Specialists – Demon Hunters using the impale build are pigeonholed more than ever as the “damage class.” Demon Hunters have always been classified as the damage class, but now the Impale build makes them Rift Guardian and Boss specialists. Ambush and Single Out are two passive skills that amp out the Impale damage even further, making the Demon Hunter standout over the other classes. At high levels, Rift Guardians have a lot of HP. The Impale amplification provides a huge time saving in killing a Rift Guardian, which is vital to completing a 15 minute Greater Rift.
  2. More Damage – Gems like Bane of the Trapped and Bane of the Stricken provide flat damage bonuses, and should be included for this DH. Marked for Death is another flat damage source, and the Contagion rune will help out greatly, especially in group play. Having high Dexterity, Critical hit chance, and Critical hit damage are always key for a DH. Area Damage is pretty important to help out against group mobs, which are a weakness of this build.
  3. Resource Generation – With Impale becoming a premium skill, the generation of Hatred has become very important. Karlei’s Point, which returns about half the Hatred of an Impale, helps. Vengeance has become staple skill for DHs in this patch, and it helps out a lot for the Impale DH. The Seethe rune, which generates 10 Hatred a second, can help replenish the resource quickly. Vengeance downtime is reduced greatly by the Dawn crossbow, which should be absorbed by Kanai’s cube. It also helps to have a generator rune which generates 7 Hatred, like the Thunder Ball rune for Bolas.
  4. Defense – My gameplay with the Imaple DH has been very physical compared to past builds. Unhallowed Essence had an emphasis of having no enemies near you. Marauder’s focused on Sentries doing the dirty work. With the Shadow Impale DH, I am constantly in the middle of a gigantic mob, in a huge scrum with the melee classes. The main source of damage reduction comes from the Visage of Gunes, which reduces damage by 50% when Vengeance is active. With the reduced downtime of Vengeance thanks to Dawn, Visage of Gunes becomes a near auto-include in Kanai’s Cube as well. The Chain of Shadows belt removes the cost of Vault after using Imaple, and is essential. The Elusive Ring reduces damage another 50% after using Vault. Plus, the Shadow Set allows all runes of Shadow Power to activate, providing more defense. With this huge damage reduction, it works well to fight in the middle of a scrum, in order to better pinpoint the boss or elite in a pack.
  5. Element – As far as I can see, the Lightning and Cold Impale runes are the best, as they allow Impale to hit multiple enemies. Lightning allows a guarantee hit of 3 enemies, while Cold has big time upside of hitting everything in a line. So it’s good to have at least 2 elemental bonuses in your armor or quiver.
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Inventory, gear check
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Lightning impale shadow DH
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In the middle of the action

Other thoughts

I am still building up materials to play the other DH builds, to see how they fare. But I feel as if I have played the most radical build so far with the Imaple DH. The gameplay shift is truly refreshing, and needed. I’ll see how long D3 Patch 2.4 keeps me entertained, before some new thing comes out for another game (Hearthstone, I’m looking at you).

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Paragoning