Monday, April 6, 2020

Brawl Stars' Small Spars Gives Great Memoirs

I've been playing a ton of a great PvP-based mobile game by Supercell. You know Supercell, don't you? You should if you don't. They are the legendary mobile gaming company behind mega million making games like Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale . . . and this particular game I've been playing, Brawl Stars!

It's certain death for Stingy.:(

Brawl Stars is epic! To sum it up, you collect heroes who have unique weapons and power moves, and you play with them in various PvP modes to earn coins, leveling tokens, and trophies.

The 30+ heroes in the game are cute and cartoonish, which immediately makes the gunfire, explosions, and chemical warfare seem much more fun and less in the realistic vein of Call of Duty.

Still feeling excited from pulling this epic brawler in a mega box last night.

The variety of modes keeps it interesting (I think there's about 9 different modes) and you'll be playing everything from a battle royale between 10 players to a co-operative boss hunt mode. You unlock these modes as you play the game and earn trophies.

That's another interesting thing about Brawl Stars, there's the regular currencies (including loot boxes), but there's also a nice "battle-pass" like progression system for earning rank that unlocks new characters, lootboxes, event tickets, and more. I'm calling it a currency, but really trophies are a progression system that tracks your rank and awards you goodies based on how far along you are in "trophy road."

At 2099 trophies, I'm only just starting my journey on Trophy Road.

The quick 3-5 minute matches keep you discovering how to play the game in new ways with new heroes. Honestly, I'll say for me it's the leader of the pack when it comes to this kind of pvp mobile game.  For me it's like Overwatch lite on my phone. I mean, they even had an e-sports broadcast over this past weekend.

That chat stream was too fast to read.

My recent goal in Brawl was to get all my characters to rank 10 . . . DONE! My next goal is to hit rank 15 (Diamond rating). Things apparently get a lot harder at higher ranks and eventually losses in Brawl Stars become more punishing.

If you haven't given it a shot, it's well worth the space on your phone.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

I'm a Smack Talking Bear in Wizard101

So, about a year ago or so, my work buddy Mike Sears let me know that there was a spot in the new Sinbad and the Iron Sultan gauntlet that needed a touch of ambient voiceover. Granted most people are gonna just skip past this spot in Wizard101 as they hurry on their way through the dungeon, but if you're an explorer type of person, you might just take the time to slow down and wander just a bit to the left and over to this shady group of characters.

A Grizzleheim Pirate, an Aquilan Warrior, and a Valencian Rogue walk into a bar . . .

Mike wrote several funny lines and sent them over for me to take a look at . . . done.  About a week later, thee one and only Mr. TJ O'Leary had set up a meeting with me and Mike in his office where the door was closed and the mic was turned on, and the only internal monologue I could hear was, "OMG IT'S HAPPENING!"

Now ya' gotta understand. For seven years I had been bugging TJ, Mike, and anybody else in the creative and sound teams to find a way to put me in the game. I think I even begged for it to happen a couple times on KI Live. In fact, when the Avalon expansion was released, I actually tried my hand at auditioning for a vocal part, but I didn't make the cut. So, this was a pretty big deal for me. LOL!

When I was doing the voiceover, I kind of transformed my whole body to become "the braggadocios bear."

He's got jokes for days . . . or at least 15 minutes . . .

When I did my voiceover lines, I held my hands like they were big bear paws, I cocked my head back like a cocky piece of work, and I let the bullcrap talkin' bear loose from inside me. I had an absolute blast recording those lines.

When the gauntlet finally hit the streets, I logged in, redeemed my gauntlet, and recorded a couple of the voice over lines, grinning ear to ear.

I ain't one for braggin', see? ;)

The Entrance to the Sinbad Gauntlet beckons you!

So, if you happen to have this gauntlet or see this little spot in someone's player housing. Come meander over to the bear . . . I'm sure this Grizzleheim outlaw would love for you to overhear his conversation between an Aquilian and a Valencian.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pushing Past the Pianissimo Pessimisms

I don't usually talk music on this blog, but thanks to a bout of quarantined introspection, recently I've been looking back at a few of the tracks up on my soundcloud page:

The past few days, I'm starting to realize that I never fully recovered from my old band mate committing suicide last year. After the news, I tried to just cleanse myself of all the stuff we wrote together and pushed it out in two big soundcloud dumps.

His death hurt. It took all the steam out of me, but the show must go on and I still have been able to work a bit on music regardless. This too shall pass.

At first I wanted to make a set of tribute songs to 80's and 90's music that helped frame my life. That was just too overwhelming, and I couldn't quite rise to the essence that made those songs so special to me. Ha! I did manage to remake 1/3rd of the song Now My Heart is Full by Morrissey.

Another little experiment I did with my daughter's help was I would go to her and have her give me themes and ideas, then I'd go try to stretch myself by writing a jam around whatever inspiration she offered me. I called our project "Happy Sounds Good" based off of the Dairy Queen "Happy Tastes Good" promotion that the My Brother My Brother and Me podcast made fun of.

I've only shared these, uh, happy hardcore-esque jams with a few people, but I might as well get them out here on my blog. Now presenting! Three jams I wrote in the summer of 2019! Tada!

The last "music assignment" from my daughter was to write a song that combined the sounds of biting into a Kit Kat with electronic bubble popping . . . but I switched computers since then and haven't even installed music software on my computer yet. I really need to get that going again. Yes, it's been a tough couple of years for me musically, but I think I can overcome it all.

To be honest, and this may sound out of left field, what I'd really like to do now is just sell my drum set and buy an electronic one . . . for some reason in my mind I'm thinking that'll help.

Then again, that's another thing that kind of crashed for me last year.

About once a month I used to go jam with a couple of guys in a tucked-away studio near downtown Austin. It was great to get all that energy out on a drum set, you know?

. . . but . . . I had to call this quits after developing Tennis Elbow from playing too aggressively while also playing so infrequently. LOL! I can laugh about it now, but it really really hurt to play the drums for a while.

So to sum it up . . . let me know if you like what you hear or have some great thoughts to share. My music is probably not your style, but any positive thought could go a long way.

Happy Dueling

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Raid Shadow Legends: It gave me the Bird

The game everybody loves to hate is Raid Shadow Legends. I ain't kidding. I watched a 13 minute long rant video on YouTube (which I won't link here due to language) that DESTROYED not only Raid Shadow Legends, but the players who play it, and the advertising companies who continually hound him about being sponsored by Raid Shadow Legends. Oof. Brutal.

Raid itself has inspired an entire truckload of memes simply based on its aggressive YouTube advertising and sponsorship.

FYI, this post isn't sponsored by Raid Shadow Legends

Beyond that, the reviews have been scathing: "Absolute Hot Mitigated Garbage." Or how about this one where it proclaims Raid Shadow Legends is "the epitome of pay to win."

So . . . now that we know all that . . . right? *Deep Breath* Can we just appreciate the fact that Sensortower estimated the game most likely generated 7 million dollars in profit in February 2020 alone? Despite all of the hate and all of the warnings and all of the memes, mobile gamers are in fact playing it and paying for it; they're thoroughly enjoying their hot mitigated garbage and happily paying to win.

None of the vocalized hate can stop the money making machine that is Raid Shadow Legends from trying to get "you" to play, and I guess that does naturally feel invasive and like you're falling into a viral trap, but isn't that just marketing fallout from a game that generates much more money than it costs to make and advertise? I didn't let the furor stop me from downloading it.

Speaking of marketing furor, let's see what's behind door number one:

Anyway, a few work friends who enjoy mobile games are playing Raid, and yup, I'm one of 'em. For me, however, the game is now headed to the downward side of my attention span. I have four level 60 heroes, completed the battle pass, completed the campaign map into Brutal mode, and claimed all of the Amazon Prime rewards. I can now put a pretty sizable dent in the Clan Boss (for a new player at least), and I'm sitting in the gold ranks for PvP.  I'm good now. I've played it pretty deep.

I'd say my Raid apex point was reached one day when I pulled yet another "trash rare" out of a shard. Mind you, I've never won a legendary from this game that I didn't buy and then earn in the Battle Pass (and TBH that legendary isn't that great).

Every time you bust open a summoning shard hoping for the cooler edges of the Gacha to happen, there's this feeling of . . . COME ON, COME ON, COMMMME ONNNNNN . . . BAM! UGH! NO!

Hello there, C rank Rare . . .

But let me tell you it was also that exact moment when I discovered Hal . . . my trash rare HERO!

Now typically you're going to take a character like this and simply use it for food as you level up another character with more potential or maybe use it for a very specific case. But I looked at Halberdier . . . and his helmet suddenly appeared more like something else thanks to a couple of well-placed ventilation holes in his helmet:

Hello there, HalBIRDier!!

. . . and I fell in love. At that point I had found everything I ever really want in a game: dumb meme material. I mean, screw trying to get legendaries and S-rank heroes, HalBIRDier is here to save the day!

"See" what I did there?

Now when my Raid buddies were talking about min maxing and how to get the most bang for your buck with artifact efficiency, I would simply interject with a new statement from Hal.

Hal has to eat too you know!

He was right there to chime in when Plarium gave us all 2000 Energy to combat the Coronavirus Quarantined blues.

It really was awesome to get all that free energy.

Hal was even there to chime in on things like love, happiness, and death at the start of every day.

Did Hal sound a bit ironic quoting Dr. Seuss like that?

So here's the moral of the story, kids, when life hands you C-rank rares in Raid Shadow Legends, make Bird-onade. Whether you want to banish Raid down to the depths of the deepest hell, actually enjoy playing it, or simply admire the revenue it makes . . . Hal will be there for you to understand your uniqueness. Some birds are not meant to be caged.

Happy Dueling

Friday, March 20, 2020

Finding the Zen in Overwatch

I haven't talked much about it here on my blog, but I'm still playing Overwatch every Wednesday night with my coworkers. I first mentioned our group back in August 2019, but I'm pretty sure we've been at this for over a year now. (KI Krushers never stuck as a team name *frown*)

For most of our group, the Wednesday night game has become our only time spent in Overwatch for the entire week. Because of this, our CR ratings have suffered or floundered a bit. I feel like you can't really REALLY get good at this game unless you have a knack for being nimble-fingered, watch a ton of training videos, or play until the game just flows through your veins. I kind of feel like we're not alone here though. I'm sure they're more of us dirty casuals than there are Overwatch Adonis dopplegangers.

That all said, man, we had some solid placement matches this week! Things have really evolved in Overwatch over the past year: new heroes, hero balancing, role locking, and now hero rotation (being the most recent change) to name a few.

Hero rotation can be really impactful, or not at all, depending on which character you typically play in game. Now every Thursday in competitive play, four or five characters get put out of play and are unable to be used. Last week that took away several of the characters our team typically plays, and it had me doing something I typically don't do . . . playing Zenyatta.

Throwing a fastball or two at Orisa! Talk to the hand!

I have the "Fastball" skin on Zenyatta that turns him from looking like a robot monk into a robot shortstop, and it felt amazing to break him out for some reason. In fact, he was pretty much all I played for our comp games on Wednesday! I was putting Orb of Discord on people and calling it out in our Discord channel like it was made for that purpose. BOOM! And for the most part it worked really well. Put Discord on someone and they really start taking damage or flee until it goes away.

After our matches I went back into the game to use another newer feature in Overwatch that I LOVE -- Replays. I imagine most people use Replays to watch their game play over so they can improve or really digest what happened in a match.  Me?  I'm looking for screenshot moments! :)

Here's a few I snapped from our first game of the evening:

Velo looking as fierce as a Hamster can.

I fear the day that Velo can't play on his Hammond character. He really knows how to disrupt the enemy team . . . especially if there isn't a Mei on the other side. ;)

Are you really not going to shield against Kajind's Hanzo?

In our first match of the night, we believed we had a Reinhardt player who was trying out Sigma for the first time. It was pretty bad. He was consistently out of position without a shield, and boy did we take advantage of that.

Show 'em who's the better Sigma, Snarky! 

Sigma's bare feet were a perfect target for my fastballs turns out. ;)

Some people go for headshots, not me! Footshots FTW. 

Figuring out when to drop Zen's ultimate is all about the timing. Transcendence makes me invulnerable, and everyone around me gets a ton of healing. Typically you wouldn't want to use it for trying to save your team from rip tire, but I was nice and cozy here when I was obviously his first intended target. The blast has a radius, so you can typically save a few people, but at the epicenter of riptire is a 600 damage bomb, and no amount of healing will make you safe. The people on the fringes of the explosion will be good though.

He circled me a few times with the tire hoping trans would end early. 

Fastball coming in! 

It became kind of comical how out of position this guy was. 

This last screenshot I have for you today was of the enemy Symmetra. I just loved how tech noir this shot looked. I mean, two seconds later she died a horrible death to Hammond and Pharah, but thanks to the Replay feature, I got a shot I wouldn't mind using as a Desktop Background. ;)

As a bonus she's wearing the new Holi skin!

I may have played a lot of Zen in the games on Wednesday, but I really found the "zen" by going through the replays after the matches. The ability to zoom around and pan to epic moments in replays is probably the coolest thing about Overwatch for me.  I wish replays like this were more a standard feature in all games . . . as impossible a request as that might be.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

GW2: It's such a pretty (confounding) game

About a week ago I was talking with a few of my old friends from Team Spode. We have our own Discord channel, and I drop by to say hello once in a while to see how their adventures in DCUO and otherwise have been going.

It was there that I started chatting with my old gaming pal, Ellie aka Clever Clara, who has been thoroughly enjoying the World vs. World PvP in GW2 for several years now. Lord Spode of Team Spode also mentioned that he still drops in daily to collect his rewards in GW2 . . . and he's been doing this for 3 or 4 years.  He logs in, he grabs his stuff, he logs off.  Amazing, the dedication on that one.

The Heart of Thorns beckons you deeper into this tangled web of a blogpost.

This got me to thinking about my Necromancer in Guild Wars 2, so I loaded up the game and logged in. It immediately struck me all over again just how pretty this game is . . . especially after playing the visual mess known as Project Gorgon for so long.

Here it's as if I'm constantly running and jumping through a concept artist's portfolio, leaping from one page to the next. It's such a pretty game.

The level of detail in Lion's Arch is staggering.

It was also then that I remembered I haven't picked up the Heart of Thorns or Path of Fire expansions, and lo and behold a THIRD expansion is now in development!

That's a perfect storm: friends still playing, tons of content I haven't explored, a visual feast after a season of starving, and promises of a bright future. SOLD!

So after picking up the HoT/PoF expansion bundle, I jumped into the new content only to remember . . . oh crap, combat in this game is lengthy, I don't remember anything, and there's a bunch of "things" now like wings and mounts. Oh man, what have I done?

In fact, I spent a few days just logging on, playing 15-20 minutes, and logging back off in frustration thinking perhaps I made a mistake . . . until last night.

  I'm in blue and that's my crew!

Clara gathered the troops yesterday, and soon I was playing GW2 with my old podcasting friends of Ravenwood Radio and Spiral Radio fame. Yup, Steve, Icy, and John . . . all in one group!

I can't even explain what a relief it was to get on a Discord call and have John talk us through the UI, new features, and the world event in the Verdant Brink. A little handholding and laughs between old friends goes a long way to establishing some hope.

We played around for a couple hours and broke the group for dinner, but I logged on later and did just a bit more of my story quest, just enough to take on this wicked vine beast.

Scary vine wyrm thingys are scary!

So there you have it . . . I'm back in GW2 for a bit to explore new content, hang with some old friends, and learn new tidbits of information: things like, Friendly Necromancers can now wield giant two-handed swords! Looks like it's the season of the Reaper for me in Guild Wars 2.

Yup, that's about the size of it.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Dungeon Keeper Mobile: It wasn't made for you

I'm continuing to look for good dungeon making games and decided to give the mobile version of Dungeon Keeper a download.

What's interesting here is that back in 2014, this game was raked over the coals by fans and media who weren't ready for a free-to-play mobile version of the games they had grown to love: Dungeon Keeper 1 and Dungeon Keeper 2. Games, which to be honest, I've never even played. 

(Um, Yeah, I uh, wanted to play them, but I was too busy with other games to give them a shot at the time. *grin*)

Because of this, I did a lot of reading when I downloaded the game, and I found some really good quotes . . . gems of thought about the release as it were.

Is your pocketbook ready to train all these monsters?

To illustrate what I'm talking about, let me quote IGN's review of the game:
"The original Dungeon Keeper thrives on speed and the frantic rush to build your dungeons and set up traps before heroes arrive; under this model, clicking on the campaign maps that unleash the adventurers to face their doom feels more like a pulling the string on a wind-up toy and watching it until it slows down and dies all too quickly. Attempt to play Dungeon Keeper at the pace of the 1997 version, and you'd find that your bank account drains faster than your dungeon's gold hoards after heroes reach them. Having any fun in this game would cost a fortune. "
Probably the harshest of reviews came from Eurogamer which gave the game and appalling 1 out of 10. It was so harsh that Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, sat down for an interview with Eurogamer at E3. It's an amazing read to be honest . . . especially for someone in the business of making mobile games..  I especially like this particular paragraph:
Who is to blame for that? Don't blame the developers, Molyneux pleaded. They're just doing their job. Instead, point the finger at "analytics people" who impose tried and trusted monetisation techniques on the gameplay, forcing players to do this and that at this time and then in order to get X and Y number of gems. It's a carefully crafted, heavily researched dark art that players of many free mobile games are familiar with. Indeed, for millions of gamers this kind of monetisation is all they know.
This was even further discussed in a Kotaku article that juxtaposed fans of a long standing PC title that had been converted into a free-to-play mobile game. The title of the article itself is amazing: "Welcome To Mobile Gaming, Angry Dungeon Keeper Fans" LOL! 

The article explains Mobile gamers to PC gamers and why this game in particular caused things to come to a head:

"These mobile gamers play for distraction instead of passion. They are passing the time. They aren't as emotionally invested in what they are playing, so when a meter or timer pops up, it doesn't affect them as strongly. They have no experience paying $60 to play a game — to them, microtransactions are the way these things are done.  
They're unwise to the ways of the greater gaming world, and they won't be wising up anytime soon. When they pick up their phone or tablet with gaming in mind, they're going to play. They aren't going to surf the web for forums. They aren't looking for a gaming site to see what new mobile games are on the horizon. They're in their own mobile gaming bubble. Games pop up on their screens. If they look interesting, they will play them. If the game's got the right addictive formula, they'll pay to play. 
They're odd. They're casuals. They're also legion. "
The article comes to a brilliant one-line realization within its apex: "The Real Problem with EA's New Dungeon Keeper — It Wasn't Made For Us" 

It's funny . . . I see harsh reviews of mobile games by PC Players and that line just resonates in my mind "It wasn't made for you."

With all that in mind . . . the Dungeon Keeper I played over last week wasn't a terrible mobile game to be honest, and there was a lot I liked.  It kind of seems like EA might have even backed away from the harsher monetization timers that were originally in the game.  Clicking on a wall of dirt to remove it didn't take an hour . . . it took 3 seconds. I was quite easily able to craft a couple of nice long walkways that would keep my opponents wandering around while the timer ticked away.

Welcome to my dungeon! MUHAHAHA!

I loaded it full of doors and traps and spent the week leveling up my traps and storage bins. Yes, things could have gone A LOT faster if I was paying, but I was taking it like I take most of my mobile games: casually and afk.

There really is no rush here at all to be honest. You build a bit, click to collect your gold and stone, raid a couple other people's dungeons, and log off while your timers are ticking. And honestly, I'm not trying to be the biggest or the baddest in this game, but I must say I loved watching a couple replays where people couldn't 3-star my dungeon. MUHAHAHAHA!

I'm sure I haven't "seen nothing yet" as this game has been around so long that the people at the top of the game who have been playing since 2014 must certainly have crazy impenetrable fortresses. I shudder to think of my skeletons and trolls trying to make it through more difficult player-crafted dungeons.

All in all, this was a nice casual dungeon making distraction from last week.  Probably my favorite "feature" was that you were forced to slap an imp to even load into the game.


If anything, this experience made me more excited to download the old Dungeon Keeper games and play through them.  Since you can find 'em online now for pretty cheap, they're now on my list of things to play.

Happy Dueling!