Forest, Trees, Burn

Hey Hex fans! Great news! Cory and the team at Crypto know how disappointed all you PvE cats are that its been nearly two years and you still can’t create a character, equip them with a bunch of gear, level them up, and take on dungeons with your friends like they promised.

So they are going to make it up to you! Yes, to make the hurt go away, they are going to allow your free PvP draft tickets to stay active another six months. They can’t imagine why you haven’t used them in the last two years, and they want to give you a nice present.

“Seriously, ha ha, have you tried out PvP drafts they are *SO* much fun, go ahead and head over there, you have lots more time.


Okay, okay, 18 more months! 18 more months, ha ha, there ya go. We are generous and magnanimous in our graciousness.”


I can’t remember the last time I was rooting for Wizards of the Coast this hard. Either they win the lawsuit, Hex gets hammered, and the thick-headed PvP guys who absolutely gloat over the failure to provide PvE will be tasting a dose of their own medicine. Or, Hex manages to finally implement PvE to make the trial an open and shut loss for WotC.

Either way its better than the purgatory we are in right now.

#hextcg, #broken promises, #pve, #pvp, #wotc, #lawsuit, #mmotcg. #fail

The Failure of HEX

It was an ambitious project, with deep aspirations for creating a whole new category of online gaming. The kickstarter was a wild success, driven by the vibrant personalities and veteran industry status of its visionaries and the promise of something that had never been done before.


And today, those same personalities will stand on a podium and tell you that with the release of set two for their digital Trading Card Game (TCG), that this is a cause for great celebration! That you should spend some money buying new packs or to purchase a ticket to enter one of their celebratory drafts. They will tell you that while they introduced three new troop powers and cards that allow for double socketing and double sharding, that there was not power creep in this set and that this will not impact the introduction of PvE at all.

And that is where we have to have some honesty. Hex is a decent, maybe even a good digital TCG. It is flashy, and it has some interesting mechanics. The art is above average. They did a good job of kicking the Alpha and Closed Beta off almost on their projected timeline, which is sometimes tricky with ambitious projects. Backers of the Kickstarter have been able to play the game for over a year now.

The problem is that Hex was never advertized as just a TCG. It was advertized as the world’s first MMOTCG. Create a character, gear them up, take them on cooperative battles against the AI, raid dungeons and face advanced AI bosses, collect treasure, join guilds. A year after backers got their first taste of Alpha, and now well into the game’s Open Beta, not a single one of these advertized features is available.


And with the release of the “celebrated” second set, all of those features will once again be backed up. Why? While PvP and PvE are confirmed to be separate development teams within the company, they are also very much interdependent. PvE had to create a working AI for players to play against. PvP had to design and balance a card set. PvP had to develop sealed and limit tournaments for players to participate in. PvE had to create starter trials and a tutorial…for PvP.

With the PvP team now releasing new mechanics and cards into the game, the PvE team will be forced to go back to the drawing board to update their AI with these new functions. And while the basic AI package is in place, this basic tweak does not apply to the dungeon and raid content which is forced to work with separate skill and rules sets that define the particular experience and decks they are reenacting.

The end result is that we have no idea when, or at this point if, any of the promises that were made to backers, many of whom dropped significant amounts of money on this game will become reality. Four of the five $250 tier packages in the kickstarter were geared to PvE, and none of them have received their rewards yet. Take a look at how many of the backer rewards are still missing (hint: everything in white).

Posters in the forums and on Facebook claim that the unofficial word is that PvE continues to be in development, and that they “hope” that players will start receiving the first components of PvE before the end of the year. But that word was given before the decision to release set 2, and nobody knows how far back that will push what was already a murky promise.

And communication on the MMO side has indeed been murky at best. The last official update was six months ago, in July. An article earlier in the year noting that they were working on completely redesigning mercenaries (NPC characters to lead your deck in place of your main character in PvE) was the last real word we had, and it was somewhat ominous that the general message of that post was that they were dumbing down the character development process. Mercenaries basically went from being able to level up and unlock four abilities down to just having a single active and single passive ability that were available from the start.

Further cause for concern is the couple of hiccups that HEX has already faced this year. The scrapping of the VIP/Subscription program was a big one. And the well publicized lawsuit from Wizards of the Coast has been another. Adding those two into the exclusive push to get players involved in tourenaments and PvP, and the release of set 2 looks like nothing more or less than a cash grab to make up for lost revenue in subscriptions and increased legal fees.

At this point, with the company remaining completely silent on the subject of the lawsuit and the status of the PvE, and with all the previous updates being negative in nature, I have to draw the conclusion that HEX, the MMOTCG that was advertized, is dead in the water. And that means that since I purchased the King tier at $120 solely for the purpose of backing an MMOTCG, this is the worst and most costly failure I’ve ever experienced as a gamer.

It takes over that dubious distinction from the crew over at Mechwarrior Online, who sold release packages almost right up until the day they cancelled and moved release. Then when development went poorly, they started selling a second set of packages, then ditched their design process to try to bring in more players and revenue, and then begged for players via email with a letter from the president, before finally deciding to do the on thing that has for two decades been the demise of every game set in the Battletech universe: introduce Clans! I only lost $100 to them. Only.

(Note: I guess I could add the SWTOR Collector’s Edition here, but since I did play that game for six months, it wasn’t really a waste so much as it was just overpriced…)

What is sad and disturbing is that HEX seems to have already started down a similar path. And I don’t have anything from other game’s development cycles or this developer that bring me hope. So, I guess I enter 2015 as a wiser person, having now been burned, like so many others, by the dreams sold on Kickstarter. Its almost like the 21st century version of Portobello Road, isn’t it?

Gaming Devs Gone Stupid

Awhile ago I wrote that I hoped for the best with Dan Stahl no longer at the helm over at STO. Turns out my hope was misplaced.

STO announced last week that they would be removing Exploration from the game permanently, and shifting any and all active gameplay tasks related to it into the (passive) duty officer system.

Literally every screenshot I have ever uploaded here comes from Exploration clusters and missions.
Literally every screenshot I have ever uploaded here comes from Exploration clusters and missions.

Want to explore strange new worlds? Hell no. You think this is Star Trek or something?

Have a roleplaying group and want to run a random mission together as the basis of your roleplay? Hell no.

Only have a half hour to kill, but want to enjoy some time in STO? Hell no.

The crazy thing is that they are not replacing this source of content. Their only suggestion is to play player-made Foundry missions. But those are an hour or more of gameplay, and someone else is writing the story for you.

Even crazier is the reason – new players might be turned off by this content. Um, 1) there are very few new players coming in at this point. 2) New players are pointed expressly to the storyline missions and new group content. And in a slightly related 3) Nobody is complaining about the extra content. Nobody.

Why, oh why, would you remove content from the game (without a replacement)? Content that people enjoy and that nobody is complaining about? Content that is in no way unbalancing to the rest of progression or anything else?

This is strike two for STO (strike one being the continuing addition of ridiculous Transformers battleships). At strike two, we are at the point where you get no more of my money.

The only thing I can say at this point is thank God I didn’t buy a lifetime sub!

Eurogamer Embroiled In Another Review Controversy

Speaking of winning, here is another scandal right up there with the Darkfall review from ages ago.

Eurogamer sent in Paul Dean to play World of Warplanes and write a review. He gave it a 6/10. He said the game lacked strategy and depth. How much time to you think he spent in the game? 10 hours? 20 hours?

Well, here is his profile on the EU website, taken from the screenshots in the review. As you can see, the account was a week old as of the writing of the review. But the number of battles…

eurogamer fail

Warplanes FAQ says the average battle lasts 5-7 minutes, and that’s about right. So our stellar reviewer played the game for somewhere between 3.5 and 5 hours total. About the same amount of time Adventurine claimed was spent on the Darkfall review back in the day. And there, the reviewer swore he played the game for at least 9 hours. Which would be only be possible here if every game Dean played lasted 12.5 minutes. Yeah, right.

And that’s not even touching the fact that Dean’s stats are well below average – so bad he doesn’t even register in the game’s rankings. Beyond that are some suspect moments from the pictures themselves. One of them shows Dean using his Bf 109B, a high altitude plane, trying to attack a low altitude Japanese fighter, at a mere 300 meters off the deck. Even worse, the screenshot implies that he has killed the fighter, when the game stats on the sidebar make it clear that someone else killed the plane and he just took a screenshot of the explosion!

So we have a bad player, that did not follow even basic strategy that the game itself provides to you in the UI, and who played the game for what can only be considered the equivalent of one or two evenings, has impacted the games intended audience in a significant way.

Any bets on whether or not Wargaming will be responding to this the way Adventurine did?

Even In Death, WAR can’t be bothered to PvE

Remember how Mythic/Bioware/EA promised power ups for characters to enjoy the last month that they were giving away free?

From the forums:

I have seen players asking about that NPC in /advice so I will just post some info here.

First of all – its NOT power up NPC that offer anything unique or give u some high renown character with gear, gold, mounts etc. Also nothing is for free – war crests is what u need in this case.

War crests are new currency (instead of medailons, insignias and emblems). U get it for rvr activities – killing players, locking zones, doing scenarios and as reward in keep loot bag.

NPC is located in t1 warcamps (Nordland).

It was the beginning of their death within the first two months of the game’s existence, and it continues to be a disappointment right up until the last day. I wonder if WAR might have been successful if they had spent a little more time delivering the MMORPG they promised, and a little less time delivering a glorified MOBA nobody wanted.

Wargaming opens WoWS Alpha to Bronies, Forum Addicts

The day has finally arrived. You can apply for the WoWS Alpha here.

Provided you have posted at least 150 posts on the forums.

That’s right folks, Wargaming is not interested in your previous experience with Alphas. They don’t care if you are willing to do testing for them. They are completely okay with having testers that will never once submit a bug report. The first and foremost criteria is that you have been active on a dead set of forums that, until today, had nothing to do but speculate over a game not yet released, and salivate over wikipedia articles. Or, you know, post off topic, as this very honest gentleman pointed out in what has become the official complaint thread:

The 150 post count can be seen as people who “care” about the game, but they probably have 150 posts in the my little pony section.

So where does that leave Wargaming? Well, it means people like Shwedor, who has been a very dedicated and useful Alpha tester for WoWp, who gives great feedback and is very active on the forums, is not going to be doing any testing. Meanwhile, people like Goldeneye54, who has received a ban in WoT for griefing and trolling after the first campaign, is clearly a great asset to the community and the testing process.

Should I also mention that to test the Alpha, you will need to be 3x more active in the forums than the developer selecting applications, and 10 times more active than the developer who posted in the unofficial complaint thread that getting to 150 posts was easy and for the community to suck it up?

Great job WG, we are off to a stellar start.

My First TERA Disappoint

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

TERA is doing their Fall Carnival/Halloween Event right now, and it looks pretty cool. A daily mission where you break up the “Banquet of Blood” – a Vampire party. A group instance of defending a candy mound from a ridiculously evil “Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” And, for those who are into that sort of thing, even a Halloween Costume Party!

I guess the answer is N.
I guess the answer is N.

The problem is the location. Flight points in TERA are unlocked not by having to visit the Flight Master, but by your character level, something I have applauded as a positive change to the usual. But it also means that I can’t get to the event locations, because I’m of a high enough level. I could run there, the old fashion way, having the nifty founder’s mount with a good bit of speed on it. But that’s not the only restriction…

If this event is anything like the last two (and a brief jaunt through the official forums confirms it is), then the daily carnival quests I described above are limited to high level characters – as in, my 20-something can’t even get the quest. No quest means no candy, no candy means no goodies from the Halloween vendor. And while it used to be that the gameworld itself was rigged to drop you some stuff no matter where you were, that no longer seems to be the case, so I literally have no way to get candy. None.

Back to leveling with you peon! Only those who have maxed level get to participate in the fun!

Which seems odd from a game design standpoint, but okay. Just means that instead of logging into TERA everyday to get candy (I really wanted the pet ghost, Boo), I will just do my usual leveling night here and there and keep logging into other games. Lost opportunity guys, lost opportunity.

Cute little feller, ain't he?
Cute little feller, ain’t he?

I could always buy some costumes from the store I guess…

…for $20?! I could almost buy my own horse for that.

Nevermind. I am disappoint.

There’s a First Time For Everything

So…I got kicked out of my guild last week.

Yeah, I know, not what you would expect from this guy. And I hadn’t intended to say anything about it, but, after reading Rowan’s piece on Guild Drama, and the original posts behind it, most poignantly, A Resolution, I decided I would throw my voice in as well, because it resonated with my own story. (If you want the TL;DR, you can skip to the last three paragraphs, if you want the whole story: read on.)

In my case, I got thrown out for something I have gotten in trouble with before in real life. People who know me IRL know that, personality-wise, I am that little kid in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I’m the one that says something when nobody else will, and the one who is not fooled by hand-waving, and is genuinely perplexed at people’s ability to lie to themselves.

A friend of mine in the Clan (as we call them in Tanks) was set to be an FC – a field commander, the one who directs the strategy of a match in Clan Wars – the World of Tanks equivalent of raiding I suppose – an end game activity with high stakes. And, in a surprising twist, the commander (“guild leader”) went ape-shit on Teamspeak when he found out – with my friend in the same room. He told him to his face that there was no way in hell he would let him lead such a crucial battle (…it was just another battle), and that he was bad at tanks and didn’t need to be involved in Clan Wars at all. A surprising statement given that my friends stats are light years beyond where the commander’s stats are. It was unexpected, painful (for all of us), and more than a little embarrassing. My friend, a bit blindsided and more than pissed, sent a PM the next day asking for an apology.

And was kicked out of the clan.

Now…it happened so fast, and so much out of the public eye, that for most of the guild, they went to bed wondering why my buddy was getting yelled at and woke up to him having been booted out. Questions were asked, in private. But rather than answer them in private, the commander, perhaps feeling the pressure, started a public forum post. Several of us commented that this wasn’t a good idea, and at least one person who so commented had their post erased by him. And three of us were threatened with boots for questioning him. And then, the entire thread went missing.

Which only kicked up more dust.

So, the next day, another thread, again public, only this time…with a garnish of lies. My buddy had been a problem for weeks, FC’s didn’t want him on their team, and although the boot process happened fast, all guild protocols had been included and both deputy commanders had signed off on the decision to boot him.

So..remember, I’m the little boy, right? So I told my commander that since he was desperate to have this conversation in public, so be it. And then I went on to call him a liar and call for him to step down. And he basically said “prove it.” So I did.

See, I had a copy of the PM’s that had been sent. And I posted them. And then…poof, posts started disappearing again. Funny how that happens. Eventually he posted again that either we needed to get in line or else. I got a PM from one of the two deputy commanders with the same message.

So I explained to the deputy commander (again) that our commander had lied and booted someone for the sole reason that he didn’t like him, and that this was unacceptable by guild standards. I presented, again, the proof. The deputy commander admitted that while he had known nothing of it, an FC and the other deputy commander did. At which point I told him that I’d already spoken with the FC in question and that he admitted that he had never spoken with my buddy about being a problem and never asked for him to be kicked. And then I told him that if it really was that big a deal to support the commander – no matter what – then fine, I would shut up and play. After all, we’d switched commanders twice in six months, I’m sure eventually things would change. The other deputy commander remained (strangely) silent throughout this entire venture.

And when I went to log in that night (I sent the last PM earlier in the day), I was no longer in the clan. Actually, more than that, I was permabanned from the clan forums and website. That they keep open for everyone – including and most especially former members. Nobody has ever been banned from there, even people who regularly come in to the public portion of the forums and do nothing but make trouble and insult the clan.

But me? I get banned and kicked. For telling the truth I guess. On top of that, as an unrelated issue – I had been removed from my guild diplomat position a week earlier – and nobody told me. And right up until the day I got booted, nobody could tell me why or who had done it!


Anyway, I tell you this story to recommend to you Sheep’s five priniciples for handling guilds better. Because all four of them come directly into play in my own situation. The (1) overuse of middlemanagement (the clan has nearly a dozen different commanders and less than one hundred members) meant that the commander could play “he said, she said” and be indignant behind a smoke screen long enough to get away with causing drama and making a power play. I can only assume that there was a (2) clique at play, because I can’t fathom why things unfolded the way they did unless some people held their friends above the good of the group. Secrecy (3) was clearly a problem here since apparently my buddy was on thin ice and never knew it. At least, according to them. In reality secrecy is still a problem because decisions were made behind closed doors and without the proper checks and balances being followed, and when the fail was discovered, the decided course of action was to cover it up rather than fix it.

And finally, (4) and (5) go hand in hand. My former clan’s tagline is now a tremendous joke: “Securing victory is our goal: doing so with respectful fun is the method.” It prides itself on allowing “no asshats” and actively screening applicants to keep out people who are dirty, underhanded, trollish, or…well, asshats. And yet, I discovered in short ordere that those traits are not only allowed in the guild – they are in control of it. The culture of the clan does not match the recruiting line, and some people are more valuable than others based on their “longevity.”

I have written on this same topic before, when I left my first EVE corporation – and it boils down to this: do what you say you are going to do. And if you make a mistake and fail in that, do whatever it takes to make it right. Because fixing it will always take less time, less energy, and cause less drama and problems then trying to cover it up. Whether you think so or not. Otherwise you will end up like my former clan – a revolving door with a 15% average monthly dropout rate – a stat I wish I had uncovered before I had joined.

Quote of the Day: SWTOR Tackles Starfighters

MMORPG has a link to a piece talking about the second grand – expansion, content update – whatever, to SWTOR, entitled Galactic Starfighter.

The TL; DR version is that while 12v12 matches in space seems like it might be a fun little PvP minigame, its not up to snuff with SWG’s Jump To Lightspeed expansion, and that is, in the eyes of the author, and okay thing. So, a little shining star of an update right?

However, the opening comment on the article steals the thunder and takes the cake:


Wargaming Rolls Out Their Anniversary Special to Copious Yawning

Lets face it, tanks players are looking for one of three things when it comes to their WoT (or WoWp these days) specials:


1)  x3 or x5 first win bonuses.    There is something about having a nice match and jumping 8-10k XP that just feels insanely good.  And no matter how terrible the weekend is, just one good first win can make up for all of it.


2)  Premium discounts.   We all covet many of the premium tanks – and in an online world that charges $10 for a mount, charting $50 is pretty steep.  We can’t afford as many of those, so its nice that we can save up some money and buy one on sale every now and then.


3)  Equipment sales.  Gear for the tanks is expensive, and its not practical to just move gear from tank to tank for most items.  So we are always looking to save some cash so that we can continue to buy the fun new shiny in the form of new tanks.   I’ve said before (and I think most WoT players would agree) that silver/credits is the single most limiting factor to advancement in the game.  It takes the longest to farm and gets spent the fastest when the price for tanks is in the millions.   So we want to save those creds for buying new tanks, not a 10% loading bonus for a tank we already had.


Wargaming, somehow, after six months of running their mouth about how awesome this sale and special was going to be, have managed to give their player base none of the above.   They did offer a few of the rare premiums, like the KV-5 and German-captured Char B1s, but they bundled them in multi-tank packages available only through the Gift Shop and charged *even more* for them.    Been waiting for that Char, which is a tier 4 premium?   $90.   Ninety.  Nine-oh.   Yes, you get another tier 8 premium, some premium time, some credits, and so on and so forth…but who wants to spend $90?   And the KV-5, which I bought straight up for $34 I think it was the last time it was on sale?  Now its $55 with all the stuff they have added into the bundle.


Not that the KV-5 isn't worth it.  A very rewarding tank for discerning players...
Not that the KV-5 isn’t worth it. A very rewarding tank for discerning players…


Of course, I could be biased.  I was hoping for at least a small discount on the SU-122-44 that I wanted, so maybe its just my personal disappointment peaking through.   But I can’t help thinking that maybe the $30 I was saving up for that SU will now get spent elsewhere.   Because the other great thing about the big sales is that *everything* usually goes on sale.  Without that fourth important component to match with  the ones above, I have no way of knowing when I will get my shot at the tank.    So I might as well carry on in another game and adopt a “wait and see” approach.