TESO Beta launch the disaster

4 days back, I was pumped up to get the beta invite for The Elder Scrolls Online. This is my experience over the weekend.

Mega Download

The launcher expected 25 GB of free disk space, and the entire download was around 21 GB.

It took me a total of 80 hours to download this monster and my poor desktop was running all this while. Today morning as I checked the download progress (there was some 2.5 GB left to be done overnight), I got the shock of my life. With around 20 GB to spare on my HDD, the launcher is informing me that there is no more disk space … so even a total of 45 GB was not enough.

The Horrors

To make things worse, when I started the launcher, it started the download again from scratch! Ughhh … the beta event was supposed to last till the end of today, I would never be able to finish the gargantuan download. Gamer’s would know the term – Rage Quit … yes, I raged and I uninstalled the game. The uninstall was too fast and it did not do anything … I still had to manually delete the 21 GB occupying my drive.

To summarize the beta, the launcher and download was a shitty experience … Bethesda should realize that partnering with Zenimax may not necessarily be the smart move.

User Experience gone bad

The Out-Of-The-Box experience (OOBE) of any product is important for creating hype and ultimately invoking desire and the urge to purchase. One industry which does this brilliantly is the electronics segment, where people take photos of the unboxing and share with others. I believe the same applies in a game as well … the download and launcher is part of the OOBE. After today, I am not going to try the TESO Betas any more.

How does this matter? No urge, no purchase.

Ergo, I may not even buy the silly game. A quick google informed me that I was not the only person who faced this issue … it seems you need a total of 60 GB free disk space to run this thing … well, then why did you not say so in the first place Bethesda??

The last time this had happened with me was in 2011 when I was beta testing another MMO (the Star Wars one). Look where it is languishing now.

These things may not seem like such a big deal in a country where you measure download speed in GBps … however in India, we are still measuring it in KBps and that makes us your common denominator.

The Economy of Games

Relying on the US and European markets for the growth of games is a common marketing strategy. The main reason behind this is that these economies have mature markets where the average revenue per user (ARPU) is higher than the South Asian markets. However, this trend has been slowly changing … ever since the Chinese Prisons of World of Warcraft, people in South Asia are looking at games as a viable career option. The most successful example of this is undeniably DOTA2 championships which features many asian teams. What this means is that slowly South Asia is figuring out as a viable market for games.

MMOs are starting to have Singapore as one of their server locations, and rightly so. This market has high numbers and with the correct pricing (look at the average price of $2.49 in DOTA2), you can really tap the bottom of the pyramid in gaming. The minute you plan to run a subscription based service like WoW (which is loosing subscribers fast), you are asking for trouble and are not figuring how the numbers in South Asia can help your game be a success.

Rants or Prophecies?

Do I feel anger? Do I feel vengeful after this experience … perhaps.

Am I ranting … maybe.

Will this game fail? Well if you continue to be like this then definitely yes … however lets keep in mind that its a Beta folks and that means there is tremendous room for improvement.

With a heavy heart, I bid the beta of this game adieu and this time around, I will await it to launch and mature before trying the gargantuan download again.

The Elder Scrolls Online Beta Invite

When Zenimax and Bethesda Studios announced the making of The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) MMORPG, I was thrilled!! Having played Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim … I am completely familiar with the TES Lore. The one pet peeve (which almost all TES players would agree) was the fact that none of the games hitherto did not have multi-player support.

Multi-player Support

Multi-player is not a health factor in making a game famous … Skyrim has already taught us that. However the way the games industry is evolving, it makes sense to make the game multi-player and evolve the game over a period of time. A good example of this is World of Warcraft. I keep coming back to this game because it is by far the highest revenue grossing MMORPG out there. It is true that even WoW is loosing subscribers to the other games out there … but this is the only other game which has successfully shown that a 15 USD per month subscription can work.

The Elder Scrolls Online is also structured around the same subscription concept. If you want to play, you have to pay.

Does a Payment Subscription work?

A payment subscription is not something many gamers like shelling out. Having played World of Warcraft for more than a year, I stopped playing the day I realized that I had spent well over 50,000 INR in subscription and upgrades. However, the effort and content that needs to be put in to make this work is huge. Many have tried and failed at making their games a paid subscription. The most notable among this would be the Star Wars MMO, which started off as a paid subscription but did not gather enough users … to attract more users they eventually changed their model to a free to play + pay 2 win.

Many game critiques have already declared this game as 2014’s game disaster, not only because of the payment subscription model but also because of the huge budget that both the companies have declared.

Time will tell

There will be people who will make predictions … yes it will be a huge success, no it will be a trouncing failure. When the dust settles, one of these parties will say … see, we told you so! We said it first.

However, for now instead of making forecasts, I would rather focus on getting into the Beta this weekend. The amount of hype generated this weekend will help in understanding whether people are willing to give more attention to this game and whether TESO can reach mainstream adoption rates … just the way Skyrim did.

Free to Play != Pay to Win

There have been games and there have been great games. Most of these games require a huge amount of time and effort to create and maintain. Along with just the technical overheads, there is also the community management aspect of the game. In short, if a company or a publishing house is releasing a game, they have to make money. Otherwise it will not be sustainable, and the gaming community which is playing that game will have to rely on the developer to keep supporting that game. Having said that, there are still few games which are still played, are free and have a large team of developers supporting them.

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Solstice Arena – Zynga’s answer to MOBA

This week Zynga launched their version of a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA). Some of the other well known titles in this genre of gaming are League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and of course the ever so popular and by now the clear leader, Defense of the Ancients 2. My personal favourite in this is by far DOTA2 and I have been also written simple tips on how to avoid dying often in DOTA2. Having said that, I was quite piqued to see how the company which did scientific data analysis and extensive research on how users planted crops in their fields in Farmville, will create a game for this audience.

Solstice Arena’s different take on MOBA

Zynga have taken a different look at MOBA, where the standard game is to keep killing creeps and farms and get enough money for weapons. Once you have equipped yourself to the hilt, then the actual game begins. Thus, the initial game is almost always wait and watch farm. This is where Solstice shines through … there are no creeps.

Yes, you read it right the first time around. There are absolutely no creeps. In fact Zynga calls this game a Speed MOBA, where the focus is to start battling as soon as possible. Which means, the entire game is a series of team fights. The better team wins.

Simple Gameplay

Gameplay - Solstice Arena

Unlike other arena games where you get kills, then XP and then unlock your skills, Solstice Arena gives you all the skills you require right off the bat.

Even weapon selection is minimal. In short, there is no point in farming, the whole focus is to kill the enemy and take down their towers. This simplicity ensures that games are short … sometimes short enough to not even let you fully equip your hero! The game involves taking down three towers and then the main oracle of the opposing team.

What makes the game interesting is a rich source of power-ups which are available throughout the map. Certain power-ups are made for you specially, and certain are meant for other team members.

Hero Development

So this is how Zynga is introducing the replay value of the game. By rewarding the player to keep playing more games with the same hero!

What this means is that for each game played, the user gets experience points per hero. Every time the hero levels up (this is outside the game), he gets to increase the effectiveness of his spells. Thus a fully enhanced hero would be far stronger than a new hero.

It also ensures that the user gets acquainted with a few heroes and works towards getting to know them.

Pros

  • The game is pretty simple and enjoyable. The focus is not on rich character development, the focus is on team fights. There would be lots of these. Since there is no character level, loosing a team fight is not such a big thing and you can always come back.
  • The game cannot last more than 20 minutes. If it is getting stretched beyond that, then you are doing something wrong.
  • There is a limit to which you can farm, after which you cannot even use all that gold you have amassed. The message is clear. Stop farming, start killing.
  • It’s fun and simple.
  • Installation is a breeze, only 500 MB in an age where games are on an average 10-12 GB.
  • Even a newbie can start playing, the community is not yet fully vocal and accepts mistakes :) … unlike the other MOBAs you see where a simple mistake can lead you getting blasted by your own teammates or even worse reported.

Cons

  • You cannot play with all heroes. You have to unlock each of them. This could mean quite a grind.
  • The game is Free to Play (F2P), but for the person willing to pay money, he gets to up his heroes and be far stronger in the game.
  • Free players are going to be fodder for paying customers. This although is the complaint of almost all F2P games, with the exception of DOTA2.

Will Solstice Arena save Zynga?

I thoroughly enjoyed Solstice Arena, in fact when I started playing it initially, I was not even aware that this is a Zynga product! For people who have been following Zynga for the past few years. you would know that the company has seen a few ups and a lot of downs. Ever since they went public with an IPO, they have had to fire their CEO, layoff a lot of their staff and drive their current set of employees to work longer hours. This was primarily due to the fact that almost all of their games were solely relying on Facebook and Facebook at one point stopped cooperating with Zynga.

Solstice comes in as a breath of fresh air and may yet give hope for the company to survive. This is a game which is fast being adopted by a lot of players, is available for free on Steam, and yet has enough products to give Zynga a fair shot in the MOBA genre. Definitely worth downloading!!

Civilization V: Brave New World

Released this year, Civilization V: Brave New World is probably the best game in the successful franchise by Sid Meier. In case if you do not know who is Sid Meier then stop reading this article right now, go and read his wiki entry instead!! Civilization series have been turn based strategy games, and had gone silent for quite some time.

We had seen other war oriented turn based games (Total War series), but the Civilization series has a cult following. Yours truly included. So what has changed since the last version?

Tactical Genius over sheer Numbers

The important part of keeping any game active is that

What has changed is the sheer importance of tactical gameplay over numbers. In the previous versions of Civilization, we had the option of stacking multiple units on the same tile and then spamming units to defeat the other player in military domination. In the current version of the game, you cannot stack military units, however you can stack a general with your military unit or a civilian unit with it.

Choke Point

What this means is that now you can keep a strong unit to protect a choke point and protect your area. Exactly like in the movie 300, this will be far more effective than spamming units!!

More ways to win a game

You do not have to be a war lord to win this game, there are other victory conditions. You could use your culture (new concept!), you could use diplomacy and of course the science method to win the game. This makes for interesting games, since you could actually be dominating throughout the game with an army, but a weaker player could be Allies with all the other players and beat you still!

Hexagonal Tiles

Well, gone are the square tiles of yore! We now have hexagonal tiles and with more than 200 hours in the game, these are feeling natural to me. This means, that the player now has to smartly position his units to win battles.

Hexagonal tiles makes it easier for an isometric world as well. I feel changing the tiles has actually added to the game dynamics.

All in all, this is one game you have to try! Leaving you with a wallpaper with all the keyboard shortcuts in this game!

Civilization V: Brave New World

Civilization V: Brave New World Hotkeys

10 tips to save you from dying in DOTA2

DOTA 2 has been around for less than a year, but the gaming community has been fast adopting to this game. This community is mostly made of people who have been playing League of Legends, or Heroes of Newerth … and also the successful predecessor DOTA. What this means, that sometimes this community can be unforgiving for newbies.

There is a reason for that as well … when you die unnecessarily, the enemy hero gains money and experience

I have not seen a Pub game wherein the newbie does not get flamed for unnecessarily dying and feeding the opposition. To survive this onslaught, you just need to follow these steps … and people will stop calling you a n00b!

Tips to increase your survival

  1. Always carry a Tango at the start. That will help you stay in the lanes longer.
  2. Do NOT auto-attack. It’s tempting to do so … yes I know … even I used to do this. But it works out better if you don’t. When you auto-attack, you end up pushing the creep wave towards the enemy tower making ganks and one-on-ones all the more difficult. As it is, the only thing that matters is getting last hits. If you can get 100+ last hits in a game, you should be good.
  3. Keep a tab on the mini-map. You can tell by looking at the mini-map where are the other enemy heroes. Tracking them is useful since this can help you avoid possible ganks on you.
  4. Before you commit to any fight, ask yourself this question – Can I survive, are my team mates around to push/defend if I die?
  5. Farm happily, but stay away of towers. Some of the best farmers out there do not farm if they do not see the enemy heroes on the mini-map.
  6. Know your hero’s build. All the hero’s are meant to be used in a certain way. Practice with them before hand to know the best way to use them.
  7. To stay longer in a lane, learn how to use a courier to fetch items for you.
  8. Do not initiate a fight wherein you are going against multiple enemies. If your lane partner is not around, stay back and focus on getting last hits.
  9. If you are running low on health and do not have a courier at your disposal, go back to the base. The loss in XP for not being around action is lesser than the loss in XP when you die.
  10. If you are saving up gold for a particular item, remember that most items are made up of composite items. These composite items can be seen in your Quick Buy panel (Shift + Click on the item for this). If you know you are going to die, then just go ahead and buy as many composites as possible. That way at least the money is put to good use.
  11. (Bonus) Relics are good, but if you cannot farm, then getting intermediate items work better. Consider Power Treads for their versatility.

Practice on these tips and you should be safe enough!!