Video Game Tuesday: Gacha Games Aren’t Evil

This week for Video Game Tuesday I’m back with a follow-up to last week’s post. It’s all about why Gacha Games Aren’t Evil!

Gacha?: In these games, there are usually numerous characters, cards, or other items that players can obtain, and most of them are only obtainable via the “gacha” mechanism. The “gacha” mechanism would allow players to “spin” the gacha using a specific amount of in-game currency, which would give player a randomized character or item. Sometimes, these gacha would be limited, such that those characters and items can only be obtained within a specific event time frame. Because some of these items or characters would be given less chance to appear, typically players would need to spin the gacha many times before they can get the most desired outcome.

Isn’t that just the same thing as Loot Boxes in last week’s post?: Well let me make a distinction, what I think of as a proper “Gacha Game” doesn’t actually include all the games that utilize the Gacha mechanic. Many are pretty popular in Japan and the more successful ones are ones that don’t include a PvP component. This removes the need to get the highest tier characters to do well against players who will spend loads of money on the game. They are often called Whales because they are essentially just like the Vegas equivalent.  Games like Battlefront II included loot boxes that had actual gameplay advantages like getting Heroes which offer a significant power boost over the regular player. That goes into the Pay to Win category, and should never be put into any game. The fact that EA thought they could get away with doing something so monumentally sleazy is just further proof that they are run by greedy jerks.

What’s a good example?: Fate/Grand Order is a perfect example of a proper Gacha Game.  The game is highly popular in Japan and while you are highly encouraged to re-roll an account to get a desired rare servant like Artoria from the Stay Night sub-franchise, this isn’t absolutely necessary to succeed in the game. Although it will help you out greatly if you aim for a top tier servant like Jeanne D’Arc or Waver Velvet who were Servants available at launch. I enjoy playing Fate/Grand Order quite a bit, mostly because the story is excellent. I ended up re-rolling about a hundred times to get a Jeanne for myself. That single character has probably saved my butt more times than I can count. I consider the time I spent re-doing the intro over and over again well worth it since I got a top tier Servant that will last me the entire game’s life no matter what comes along in the future.

And before people ask whether I’m a “Whale” let me answer you. No, I don’t have anywhere near the amount of spending money needed to do that sort of thing. If I had the money to do so would I? Maybe, the story of Fate/Grand Order is quite good, and I’d love to make a top tier team with my Jeanne as a highlight. The game earns tons of money because people want their favorite characters and people end up sketching or creating various things to “summon” their desired servants as a weird form of superstition. Sometimes it works for them, other’s not so much.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday, next week I’ll go back to my favorite topic for this column, bashing Destiny!

P.S.: For those wondering how my luck is in Fate/Grand Order, It’s definitely E Rank or lower. RNGs and I have always had a poor relationship. That might end up being a topic for a later column.

Video Game Tuesday: Playing to Win isn’t Always Fun

This week for Video Game Tuesday I’m back with a topic that is about how being super serious isn’t always entertaining. It’s about how Playing to Win isn’t Always Fun!

What do you mean “Playing to Win”: Well I mean that pretty literally, sometimes it’s just more fun to just goof off in games, and in fact some games don’t have set objectives and are made purely for goofing off in.

Like what?: Well Minecraft for one is a perfect example of a game that’s made purely to goof off in, you can create amazing things in the game including working calculators, but it’s really mostly used to just goof off and make stuff. There’s a reason why Rooster Teeth has a weekly episode of their Let’s Play crew just playing Minecraft. It’s got pretty much endless potential to just mess around with friends.

What do you like?: I personally keep Grand Theft Auto V always installed on my PS4 just to load up on days where I’m stressed to just goof off online. I go around creating havoc and just having a blast destroying other players. Sure it’s not always a nice thing to do, and I tend to do it to people who aren’t doing special activities like the Motorcycle Club stuff, but just going around and goofing off is pretty fun.

So what about playing to win?: Well I tend to avoid the PvP aspects of games because I personally don’t find them much fun as people take it way too seriously sometimes. League of Legends is a pretty great example of people getting way too invested in pick up games. Now I’d understand if they were playing in ranked mode, but if they are just playing casually I’m not expecting someone to be perfect. PvE activities for me tend to be more fun as it involves either the plot, or just good old team work oriented gameplay with other players.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday. What are some of your favorite games to just mess around in? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Video Game Tuesday: PvE vs PvP, a Brief Primer.


This week on Video Game Tuesday, I’m continuing my deviation by talking about the differences between the PvE play style and the PvP play style, found most often in MMOs, like World of Warcraft, and sometimes found in other games, like Destiny.

What is PvE and PvP:

PvE stands for a couple of things that essentially all mean the same thing, it stands for either Player vs Environment or Player vs Enemies, but what it comes down to in the end is that the player isn’t facing off against other real people and is just playing against a computer character, sometimes termed an NPC or Non-Player Character.  A PvE play style in games like WoW forgoes any PvP in favor of improving their gear through end game content like high level dungeons or instances, a non MMO example would be the Strike Playlists in Destiny. Further end game progression is found by forming larger groups to complete even harder and often much more complex encounters in things like Raids, or World Events where an entire server takes part in an event that is only active for a short time (ranging from a few hours to a few weeks at the most). A good example of a World Event is the Opening of Ahn’Qiraj in World of Warcraft. Typical reasons a player will prefer PvE content over PvP content can be their lack of motivation to compete with other people, or their lack of skill etc… It often doesn’t matter to the PvE player what a PvPer might enjoy, in fact if something from the PvP side ends up affecting their play in PvE they will be upset at the change. I’m not immune to that frustration as I have complained many times that PvP players ruined my fun in PvE content because of what they perceived to be overpowered or imbalanced game mechanics. Other reasons why a player chooses PvE over PvP is that they prefer to work with people to complete content rather than compete against others, I myself fall into this category.

PvP stands for Player vs Player, and often involves an entirely separate game mode then solo or group play, this is most often found in FPS games like Halo or Call of Duty where the single player and multiplayer are in completely different menu trees. Destiny is a rare middle ground in that it takes very little effort on the players part to participate in PvP, entering the Crucible after completing a Strike takes no more than a few seconds. In MMO’s like World of Warcraft there are often two different types of servers that are usually set up for players to choose from, and while you’ll find that opinions vary on which is the best, they are usually classified as PvE servers and PvP servers. A PvP server has areas in the game, usually any zone after the initial 10 or so player levels, where players from opposing sides, often called factions in MMOs, are able to attack one another without either party’s consent. This can lead to forms of harassment called griefing, ranging from corpse camping(where a player is killed and the player(s) who killed that player stick close to the corpse so as to prevent their escape after reviving) to ganking (where a much higher level player(s) kill lower level player(s)).

Why do PvPers get upset at PvEers and vice-versa?: PvPers and PvEer’s are often notoriously critical of each other and while this usually leads to nothing than a few harsh words, it can escalate into full scale feuds on forums where everyone loses. There is also a form of elitism in that each side views the other as the lesser form of gameplay, a PvPer may see PvE content as nothing other than fighting brainlessly while PvP play is always changing. A PvEer may see PvP as pointlessly aggressive contests that get nothing accomplished except who gets bragging rights.

Which side is right?: Both and Neither, I think that PvE play is a more conducive form of play that will lead to longer lasting player bases compared to PvP play. One needs only look at the yearly release of Call of Duty to realize that nothing really changes between each installment, and the same can be said of single player game series like Assassin’s Creed, although you can pick up a game like Assassin’s Creed 2 ten years from now and enjoy it just as much as you would have on launch day because you don’t have to worry about multiplayer servers being up.  Games like World of Warcraft consistently see player bases rise and fall with each release of PvE content, where as the usually more vocal PvPers don’t change as much patch to patch (Despite their frequent claims otherwise).

I hope you enjoyed today’s Video Game Tuesday, and I may continue to do posts like this in the future.

Video Game Tuesday: Destiny and the curious case of Balancing


This week for Video Game Tuesday I’m still talking about Destiny, you thought I was done didn’t you? All jokes aside I’m covering the state of Destiny in terms of balancing.

Balancing as a Game Development term: In game design, balance is the concept and the practice of tuning a game’s rules, usually with the goal of preventing any of its component systems from being ineffective or otherwise undesirable when compared to their peers. An unbalanced system represents wasted development resources at the very least, and at worst can undermine the game’s entire ruleset by making important roles or tasks impossible to perform. (Shamelessly stolen, I mean taken with citation, from Wikipedia)

Why it matters: If a game is improperly balanced, like it’s said above, it ruins the game. It doesn’t even have to be on just one scale either. If it’s imbalanced in any way it’s a bad thing. A good design has everything in equality, while still making it interesting to play. What does that really mean in terms of gameplay? It means that a single aspect of the game, be it a weapon or game mode, or even type of play (For instance Player Vs Player[PvP] or Player Vs Enviroment [PvE]) is improperly balanced and it becomes either the only way to play the game effectively, or you avoid that aspect because it’s pointless in doing.

Practical Example: For instance back in my World of Warcraft days during The Burning Crusade Expansion, a common practice for players who were in less hardcore Raiding guilds (meaning they weren’t tackling the newest content regularly and had coordinated teams of players working on a fight for days or weeks to perfect their strategy and gear) often used PvP to obtain Epic gear (The best obtainable tier of item quality in World of Warcraft with the exception of the few Legendary Items that are unique and incredibly hard to get). I did this because my guild was struggling with Karazhan, an entry level raid that only took 10 people instead of the full 25 people it took for harder raids in addition to the gear from Karazhan, and I PvPed every week in order to better equip my character in order to make up just a bit for the less skilled players in my raid team. It got to the point that I hated the system thoroughly, and when Wrath of the Lich King launched it changed the rules completely. PvP gear was now sub-optimal in PvE enviroments, which I lauded. A player should obtain items from the type of play they do that fits that type of play. However not everyone was happy, my by then former guild mates were understandably upset, how were they suppose to obtain gear in order to tackle end game content? Blizzard made it possible by including a system where over the course of many weeks of hard work that a player, no matter how terrible their luck, could obtain some (not all however) gear of epic quality by trading in tokens earned in content that matched the play type. Raiders could get PvE gear by doing a daily heroic, read: hard mode, dungeon and earn 5 tokens each day. If they did that every day by the end of a couple weeks they’d be able to purchase a piece of gear. In that same Heroic content was gear that was obtainable that would make a sufficiently skilled player able to properly enter a raid given they knew what they were doing and had a competent raid team.  This system allowed players of a slower pace, like my former guild mates, to obtain the gear needed to participate in the highest tier of end game content, which at the time meant Raiding or Arenas.

Destiny: It’s been nearly two months since Destiny has launched, as of the writing of this post, and there have already been nerfs (read: Balancing a mechanic or item by lowering it’s effectiveness), and buffs (read: Balancing a mechanic or item by raising it’s effectiveness) to certain playstyles and weapons as well as some bug fixing. This is to be expected of a game that is as close to an MMO as you’ll get on a console, besides FF14:ARR which is a real MMO. MMO’s change over time, hell even most FPS games have balancing patches that come out, although much less frequently then an MMO. However some players are upset that certain things were nerfed, because in their eyes it was unfairly justified. Let me say one thing, if you thought that certain mechanics, like having Auto Rifles being so effective at long range and Shotguns having an excessive amount of range weren’t unfair you don’t understand game balance. If there is only one right way to play, it’s imbalanced by definition. Everyone and their grandmothers were running and gunning with a Suros Regime after week 3 and shotgunning people from 10 meters away in the PvP mode of Crucible. However there are some people who have a legitimate complaint, people like myself, who don’t participate in PvP content and felt unjustifiably weakened by the nerfs to their playstyle in PvE content. There is no real good way of making those people happy, the most often stated solution of separating PvP and PvE content completely (Meaning abilities and weapons act completely differently in those two game modes instead of acting similarly) is often infeasible.

The reason is a key rule of game design. KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid, is behind the core of all good game design, having abilities and weapons act differently in one instance over another is highly confusing to the standard player. More hardcore gamers, like myself, may be able to maintain the ability to separate their playstyle when switching between those activities, but that is a skill that takes years of mastering and isn’t simple to do. This isn’t even mentioning the hundreds of man hours it would take to redesign each and every gun, ability and game mode around those new abilities. If a perk acts one way in PvE, but completely differently in PvP how do you convey that to the standard gamer? It would take either a wall of text for each and every perk listing both effects or it’d require you to hide the effect that isn’t currently active at the moment. Doing so prevents some players who might train how to correctly use a weapon, like a fusion rifle, in PvE in order to use it more effectively use it in PvP. If it acts differently and they want to practice it becomes impossible to do it outside of that game activity, and everyone hates losing. I don’t care how masochistic you may be, no one likes to lose.

So before you start complaining on the forums of your favorite game about how the most recent patch, or round of hotfixes, has ruined the game for you ask yourself if the change was necessary and if it was don’t complain. If it wasn’t necessary, for example the change that makes Atheon the last boss in the Vault of Glass in Destiny choose 3 players at random to be sent into the time stream instead of the 3 farthest away, you may complain. I personally think that the change should only have affected Hard Mode Vault of Glass, as those players who don’t know what they are doing shouldn’t be in your raid group. Allowing players to choose which people get sent in is a good mechanic for a normal mode Vault of Glass, for example you have a new guy who just joined your group and whose never seen the time streams, to be helped out by two more experienced players in the time stream. This allows the player to contribute and learn the mechanics of a fight by having more experience players help them out. It also makes the Hard Mode version of that encounter actually much harder because each player is by that point expected to know what to do for the normal mode of that encounter by heart, which allows the game designer to throw more curveballs at a group without making the encounter too hard to complete by those players sufficiently skilled enough to do so.


A word about Exploits: I find that some exploits are either hilariously funny (usually graphical bugs that have no effect on gameplay whatsoever like the picture above), Interesting use of game mechanics to make something slightly easier for the player (Something like crawling into a corner with boxes to avoid gunfire and have the opportunity to shoot back out “cough” Valus Ta’Aurc “cough”), or an outright exploit that allows a player to bypass core mechanics of an encounter thereby making the encounter incredibly trivial and too easy to beat (Like pushing Atheon off the edge with Grenades). The first two aren’t that bad and usually are left in to allow the player who is more knowledgable than most others to complete a task in quicker time, or for just laughs in the case of the graphical bugs. Using that hiding spot in the Valus Ta’Aurc encounter isn’t an exploit as you will eventually have to leave that little corner to continue damaging the boss and it’s really only allowing a player a place to rest with little to no fear of being overwhelmed. If you could sit and shoot the boss without ever having danger of him killing you it would be an outright exploit and I’d expect that to be fixed. However most “exploits” aren’t really worth fixing because it’s an interesting use of game mechanics. For instance on the final boss fight of Ocarina of Time you can roll under the bosses legs to avoid all his attacks, thereby making that part of the fight ridiculously easy, however doing so was difficult for most people and required you to be very precise in terms of timing and distance to pull it off. I’d classify that as an interesting use of game mechanics and not an outright exploit.

Overall: I hope everyone’s a learned a little more about what goes into making games this week, and remember Balancing in a game is a good thing, even if your favorite playstyle gets nerfed it often deserved to be nerfed in order for the game to continue to thrive.