Video Game Tuesday: Randomized Content and Replayability

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This week I’m going to talk about a content that is very contentious in the gaming industry for this week’s Video Game Tuesday! It’s all about Randomized Content and Replayability!

What is Randomized Content: Randomized Content is content that is not actually random, it just has a set of outcomes that vary each time the operation is run, usually meaning each time the player enters the content’s area. What does this mean for replayablity? In the best cast scenario it means that after about 5 times the number of outcomes (5 x Y where Y is the total number of outcomes) before it becomes no longer “Random” and it loses all sense of being random to the user. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth bringing up with the soon™ to be released No Man’s Sky and it’s Procedurally Generated Content engine.

What is Procedurally Generated Content?: Procedurally Generated Content, or PGC for short or incredibly lazy types like myself, is essentially a system of equations that produce a pretty much random variation infinitely. Minecraft is a good example of PGC as each seed world is different if you choose to have it be random, no two worlds are exactly alike, sure there may be a Temple near a Village always but that’s part of the equations.

What does this have to do with Replayability?: Recently Bungie released Destiny’s second expansion The House of Wolves with the highlight being the Prison of Elders which is randomized each time a player enters. It’s really not, as I state above, and after a short amount of time everything will go back to the same grind. If they really wanted it to be random they’d have to do something like Diablo 3’s Rift System where it’s a random dungeon every time you enter and even then after a few thousand times through the rifts you’ll start seeing the patterns. Given how fast people played through Destiny’s content I’m disappointed in the lack of foresight on Bungie’s part, but that’s a story for another day.

So what it boils down to is if you want to really play a randomized game you need to play something like Minecraft and hopefully soon No Man’s Sky, don’t take the marketing bullcrap about randomized content at face value.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday!

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Video Game Tuesday: Heroes of the Storm [Technical Alpha Impressions]

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This week I’m going over a game that isn’t even close to being in Beta let alone released yet! It’s Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s take on the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre.

Plot Synopsis: There is no plot as of right now, and it’s highly unlikely that there will be one, however if were to be one it’d be weird.

Gameplay: This is going to be the main section of this review since it’s in Technical Alpha right now and things are very likely to change gameplay wise for individual heroes, however the core gameplay will stay most likely. If you’ve never played a MOBA before here is quick rundown from the League of Legends wikipedia entry:  Players gain levels from killing the opposing team’s Champions, controlled by other players or bots, and minions that regularly spawn and attack the other team’s turrets, minions, and champions. In the classic game mode, the map is typically divided into “lanes”, which are paths that spawned minions take, the “jungle”, an area between lanes where neutral monsters spawn, and “bases”.

The main differences between HotS and other MOBA games is that you don’t get any currency to spend back at base to buy items to improve your hero, instead you get talents at certain level milestones that let you modify your abilities and at level 10 you unlock a choice between two different ultimate abilities. In addition you gain experience as a team instead of as an individual which removes the need for last-hitting and kill stealing, which is a major skill in other games that can be very aggravating to your teammates and opponents. Everything you do gains experience for your team, be it healing other teammates or lane minions as a support character, laying traps down to ambush the other team as a specalist hero (more on them later) or taking down the opposing team as a warrior or assassin hero. This makes playing as a healer on your team fun instead of something you do cause you drew the short stick, and you can still kick butt even as a healer, just not as much as other heroes can. Specialist heroes, like Gazlowe from the Warcraft universe, are special heroes that focus on laning (progressing your minions and therefore your teams overall progress towards victory) and aren’t very offensive oriented. They are more adept at laying traps although some like Abathur can be very offensively capable with their abilities. As of right now there are only 4 specialist heroes in the game, and I’d love to see more because I hate playing as all the ones that are out at the moment.

I recently played as Malfurion, from the Warcraft universe, and had a blast even though I tend to hate healing in games. I prefer heroes like Nova, a stealthy ranged assassin from the Starcraft universe that specializes in taking down the enemies but has terrible health) in other games like League of Legends. I also don’t tend to like playing against other people in games, but I really enjoy playing against humans in HotS because you can’t really be bad as long as you learn throughout the match.

That said there are things that concern me, it takes way too long to accrue enough in game money to unlock certain heroes, like Nova, whereas other heroes, like Malfurion, are easily bought. I think the upper limit on in game money purchases should be no higher than 5,000 gold, which if you are lucky for 10 days and did every daily those days, you could buy any hero. 10,000 is too large a number even when you are just starting out and getting a lot of money from leveling up your account. Also you should be able to complete a daily with any hero rotation, this last week I got a daily to play as a specialist hero and couldn’t finish it without buying a hero because there were none in the free rotation. Also you should be able to buy vanity items like hero skins for a very high amount of gold, something like 10,000 for a skin would be reasonable, because all things should be unlockable given enough time. If people want to just buy something with real money outright and earn that immediately that’s okay, I’d rather earn it without spending real money but still be able to have fun skins or mounts.

Art: The art is pretty amazing, but I expect it to get better by launch. Certain things bug me, like the little puddles in the Raven Lords map which has the same effect as cloaked units like Nova or Zerateul which is very confusing for some players.

Music: While I enjoy the fact that it’s a mixture of the three main Blizzard universes I really would love for some more variety, like taking really popular songs from each franchise and being able to have that play in the background. Maybe even being able to pick your own favorite BGM from a selection of BGM’s from each franchise in the menu.

Overall: I’m going to enjoy playing HotS much more than I ever enjoyed playing League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients All-Stars back in Warcraft 3.

For those who like: MOBAs, Blizzard Games, Online Multiplayer.

Not for those who don’t like: Any of the above.