Barrage: Are Walking Simulators Games? (Pt. 1)

My name is RocketEthereal and today we’re going to delve into that most horrific and controversial of video game genres: The Walking Simulator. This… is Barrage.

Walking Simulator controversy boils down to one question: Are walking simulators such as Gone Home and the title I’m playing here, Electric Highways, games? The short answer? NO! They are not games. The long answer is pretty long, so hang in there.

Your first instinct, I hope, would be to consult the dictionary as to what a “game” is. We run into some kinks pretty fast when we try to do that, though. Mirriam-webster says that a game is “an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.” The Oxford dictionary, however, says that a game is “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

Which one of those sounds more like a game to you? It could be argued that movies, books, and youtube videos are all “games” based on the Mirriam-Webster definition, because all of the above are indeed activities that are engaged in for diversion or amusement. Yes, sitting there and processing visual and audial information is an activity. Therefore, it seems that some of our dictionaries are a bit outdated on what a game actually is. According to the superior definition, which specifies that games generally involve competition or fail states, we’ve just stricken walking simulators in general from the record.

I’m not here to make an argument based on dictionary definitions, though. I’m just getting those out of the way – the other definition that we need to settle on is the definition of a “walking simulator.” The reason it’s so important that we decide on a definition for this term is because, well, nearly every first person shooter in existence requires walking or running, and there’s a spectrum of games with varying levels of interactivity leading from Doom and Quake all the way down to The Stanley Parable. Doom and Quake are based entirely around interactivity. The Stanley Parable, however, has barely any interaction throughout its entirely other than the walking itself.

Unfortunately, the only major source of definitions which has attempted to define the term “walking simulator” is… you guessed it, Urban Dictionary. Here’s what they have to say on the subject, paraphrased: “A video game genre….where the walking is a big part of the experience.”

Let’s try to improve on Urban Dictionary’s definition, because I’m really finding it lacking. Let’s say instead that “a walking simulator is a game which relies on a combination of abstracts and simple movement to create value.” Here’s how I got to crafting that definition.

Let’s compare two games: RealMyst, and the game I’m playing here – Electric Highways. RealMyst is a fully-explorable 3D version of old point-and-click classic Myst, which allows you to freely move through the environment. On all accounts, most of the game is walking around, and there’s a significant narrative to be told through your exploration of the game’s worlds. We can’t classify it as a walking simulator, though, because there is genuine challenge to it. Myst is all about puzzles – and not just abstract, narrative puzzles. The game world is chock full of objects that interact with each other to change the environment and unlock new areas, and there are many objects that act as physical puzzles that require you to stare at your screen and rack your brain over how you are to proceed.

Ultimately, RealMyst isn’t incredibly different from Electric Highways, but that’s why we’re making this the dividing line for what is and is not a walking simulator: This is the key difference. Electric Highways has non-linear levels with sparse and minimal puzzles. Nearly all interactivity in the game is activating a panel, then finding the part of the level geometry was modified from you activating that panel. There is not enough focus on any sort of difficulty. For the most part, just walking around for long enough will get you where you need to go.

From this distinction, we can conclude that RealMyst and everything with greater interactivity is not a walking simulator – they are puzzle games, or fit into other genres. Everything with less interactivity, starting with electric sheep and going down from there, is most certainly a walking simulator. There’s more to the picture, though. We haven’t even touched on fail states or content trends yet!

We’ve only scratched the surface on walking simulators, and I will be continuing discussion on this subject in coming videos, so stay tuned. This has been Barrage.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s MR6 Pistol – Analysis & Gameplay

I’m here to help you level up your game in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

Today we’re talking about the MR6 semi-automatic pistol.

The MR6 is unlocked at level 1, and it’s a close-range killer. At close range, the MR6 will kill in two hits if you get a headshot, three if you don’t. At longer ranges, however, it becomes a hitmarker factory, generating up to 6 hitmarkers on distant enemies if you’re having a bad day.

The thing that really makes the MR6 special is its insane fire rate potential. It is the only gun in the game that will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, which results in DPS that can rival SMGs and assault rifles.

For this gameplay I’m using Prophet with Glitch and I’m playing on Domination. Instead of merely showcasing the MR6’s abilities, I’m playing this game with objectives in mind – I’m a winner, not a kdr hound. I will give you a detailed description of my loadout and why I have it configured the way I do at the end of the video, so be sure to stick around for that. I can tell you that despite playing the objective, I will finish this match as my team’s MVP with a 2.0 kill/death ratio, having capped and defended several points.

The video above has detailed MR6 gameplay commentary, as well as a guide to a winning loadout to use with the MR6! Be sure to watch that to get all the facts and tips you can.

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The Five Key Points of Great Game Design

The following post is an advertisement for paid content by Rocketstomp’s founder.

In my decade of playing thousands of games across a plethora of platforms, I’ve learned a thing or two about what constitutes good games, bad games, and great games. Working with Que Publishing, I’ve been given the opportunity to condense the most valuable knowledge I have to offer on great game design into a six-hour video series filmed in a professional recording studio and edited by a team of experts.

This series, aptly-titled “Designing Great Games,” presents seven chapters in which the five key aspects of game design are presented in great detail, using video examples from games that execute them well! Even better, this video series is being sold at a 70% markdown for the next five days (the promotion ends on 7/20/15 ). There’s no better time than the present to check it out! All you have to do to receive the discount is use the promo code “GIFT70” (minus quotations) at checkout. Click the image below to head right to the video page, on which you can see some free sample chapters to give you an idea of what’s in the full thing. :)

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Next Level: Complacency Killed the Crusader

Ethereal delves into human experience and life lessons as they relate to video games in his “Next Level” column.

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andrew Grove, CEO of Intel Corporation

“Complacency is the enemy of study.” – Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China (1949-1976)

“Complacency is the enemy of excellence.” – Robert Zell, founder of BrassCraft Manufacturing, a highly successful plumbing manufacturer built in the 1940’s (still running today).

Complacency. Rolls off the tongue. Easy to say, easy to fall into.

Merriam-Webster defines “complacency” as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”

What does that have to do with us, and what does it have to do with games?

Complacency is a mental disease, one that a doctor is not authorized to diagnose. We’re all either sick with it, or on the verge of suffering its destructive symptoms, holding it back only by continuing to work, play, and live with everything we’ve got. Sounds easy to keep it in check, doesn’t it? Statistically speaking, I can reasonably guarantee that complacency is present within your own life, somehow. Somewhere, you’re fine with the way things are, and you’ve “succeeded” in your mind. The truth, though – and it’s not the cliche you might think, I promise – is that success is a mindset, not an event. Success is a lifestyle, a manner by which you continue to consciously push to better and greater heights.

For example, let’s take two League of Legends players – I’ll use myself and one of my best friends as examples. I play a great deal of Renekton, a hard-hitting, high-sustain, early-mid game bruiser champ for about 75% of my games. I am an -excellent- Renekton, considering that my game knowledge and gamesense are actually somewhat remedial. Even after upwards of two thousand games on the primary map, I still have to look up the details on what my lane opponent’s abilities do, or how much a core item costs. It doesn’t prevent me from becoming a monster in the late-game, and I either escape or double kill on jungle ganks more often than I die to them.

My friend, on the other hand, owns every champion in the game (I own about 30%, by comparison). He knows them all – I won’t say by heart, but he’s got their abilities down, he knows all the new items, etc. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t possess the raw skill I do. However, he is not complacent with his gameplay.

I worked fairly hard to reach the Gold league before Season 4 ended. It was after a long period of inactivity in ranked, and I’d climbed from Silver V, a result of heavy elo decay. I wanted to climb the rankings and secure that sweet, sweet Victorious Morgana skin (though I don’t even own the champion), but self-improvement was never on my mind. I recall noting to my friend one day that I felt I had gotten better, but that seems more to me to be a natural result of having practiced and refusing to lose lane. This is where my League game differs from my friend’s. The preseason preceding Season 5 has just begun, and he’s already thrilled about the possibilities of how he can abuse the new, heavily-modified jungle, what champions he can fit back into his primary roster, what crazy new strategies are now viable, etc. Heck, I’m not doing any of that. Up until now, I’ve been satisfied with myself.

The ugly truth there is that I’m missing the “drive” portion of what a successful mindset looks like. I can score well, I can consistently go positive and be a great asset to the team and win nearly every lane I fight as Renekton, and some would argue that my results prove myself to be a “good player.” Maybe that’s true – maybe I am good, but I’m not great, and this failure to recognize that I could be pushing myself to improve instead of merely playing the game and riding off of the skill I currently have is responsible. I am responsible.

Complacency has become a theme for me recently. My thoughts on the subject leaked over the mental dam when I lost my main Diablo III character – a hardcore seasonal 70(64) Crusader. Whups.

In Diablo III, you never stop leveling up. Upon reaching the “cap” at level 70, you then begin to accrue “Paragon Points” indicated in parentheses next to your character’s level. These paragon points are shared across all characters in the same character type (i.e. all hardcore characters receive the same paragon points). At 64, I was getting tired of racking them up so slowly.

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As a Crusader, you are a tank of holy absolution. The amount of force it takes to actually bring you down is far beyond that required for any other class in the game, and even once you’ve lost all your health, you’re not necessarily dead. For example, I use a passive titled “Indestructible,” which gives you another chance to save yourself after taking fatal damage.

In D3, “hardcore” characters die, and don’t come back.

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Let’s put two and two together here.

I screwed up pretty badly.

How did I manage to do this anyway? The answer’s pretty simple, so let’s get the head-shaking, face-palming and noob-calling out of the way: I popped right into Torment 6. The difficulties in D3 are as follows: Normal > Hard > Expert > Master > Torment 1 > Torment 2 > Torment 3 > Torment 4 > Torment 5 > Torment 6. There’s not good enough nouns to name each level of torment, so there’s just six of ’em (I mean I guess you could label them agony, suffering, etc).

As previously mentioned, I had become impatient with the rate at which I was gaining new paragon levels – I had epic achievements to score, after all. Running bounties with a full group elicited several yawns from me – in Torment 1, which I had been in since I hit level 60 (when that difficulty is unlocked), I was taking next to no damage. Thus, I kicked it up a couple notches to Torment 3. Even in T3, I wasn’t under much of a threat. I was clearly gaining xp faster, but the numbers on that glorious T6 panel drew me in, and since some of the greatest rewards in the game are had by playing on T6, I jumped right in.

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Lasted about five minutes. The three players that watched me die (to the most embarrassing of enemies, no less) must have laughed their legendary, triple-socketed boots off. I knew what I was getting into, for the most part. I knew I would struggle to survive, and a small part of me wanted the challenge of doing so, but I had become so comfortable with the idea that I already took no damage. I already had legendary gems in all applicable gear, I already had top-tier regular gems, and half of my gear was set pieces – but I didn’t grind enough paragon levels, and thus, enough bonus stats, to survive. Had I truly a desire to succeed instead of a desire to be carried to success by better-geared players, I would have been more informed, I would have been stronger, and I probably would have been ready. Instead, I took the success I’d already experienced, and attempted to coast off of it.

Complacency killed the Crusader.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty minor loss. I’d only logged just under 28 hours on my beloved paladin before he’d met his untimely demise at the hands of a stationary enemy. I have high-tier gems to give to my low-level characters. My Monk is instantly slaughtering enemies on Master difficulty despite being below level 40. I can repair and rebuild, and it won’t take long – but isn’t it thought-provoking, the idea that you could be succeeding so much more if you didn’t settle for the success you’ve already reached?

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Iron Sharpens Iron – Adventures in Competitive Team Fortress 2; Part 1

In late 2014, I figured out that I was pretty good at playing Scout, the smart-mouthed speedster of the Team Fortress 2 world. Topping every pub (public game) was swiftly growing stale, and I sought more from my TF2 experience. I found the United Gaming Clans TF2 tournament quickly, and thus began my exploits in top-tier gaming.

From the beginning, I’d sought to play Highlander – a server configuration-enforced mode in which two teams composed of one of each of the nine classes duke it out. In Highlander (there can only be one!), I don’t play a Scout – I play THE Scout. My team relies on me to capture the objective, get behind enemy lines and cause chaos, or secure valuable kills (picks) such as by eliminating the enemy medic in a moment of vulnerability.

Yet, despite the relatively lax accessibility provided by UGC’s system, I’m starting at the bottom. My mechanical skill as a Scout is well above the average competitive player’s level, but I need to train myself out of “pub mentality.” I’m not in Valve servers anymore – each of the nine people I’m facing off against is more than capable of capitalizing on big enough mistakes, and my aim remains less-than-godly. Thus, I join a ragtag team of players in UGC’s Iron league (the progression is Iron > Steel > Silver > Gold > Platinum).

Hopping into the selected voice chat client with eight other people on a regular basis is an interesting experience. I don’t know any of my teammates personally, and the only things I’ve learned about them can be divulged from simply listening to them speak. Our Spy is soft-spoken. Our Engineer has a thick, southern drawl. Our team leader, the Soldier, has a way of sounding as if he’s constantly bored, or simply doesn’t care about whatever’s taking place.

This week’s match took place on koth_viaduct_rc5.  An elevated control point and surrounding cliffs make this a haven for Demos and Snipers.

I know these people better by how they play the game. I see the Sniper stepping out of cover just long enough to scope in and hazard a shot at a valuable target before retreating. I catch the Spy sneaking up behind a flanking enemy on one of the side routes. I smile, pop a few bullets into the bogey’s face, and turn my attention elsewhere as my teammate secures the easy backstab. I watch the Soldier fire tactically into heavily-trafficked areas as I run alongside him, working to secure a valuable part of the map for ourselves.

Playing “carry Scout” and doing “all the team’s work” used to be a staple for me. I still carry games for my team by way of securing the most kills or sneakily capturing the objective, but now, I can’t do it without the help of my team. Inevitably, one mano y mano fights happen. I’ll catch the enemy Scout in a small space and we’ll both be at full health. I’ll patrol a flanking route and run into the opposing Spy. A majority of my worth, however, comes from the callouts my team executes over voice – Medic’s lit at 20 health, Sniper’s up on cliffs, Demo’s down. Everything they say is an extra datum I can incorporate into the decisions I make over the next several seconds, and I have to trust their info. I’ve learned to do the same, usually altering my team as to the location of the enemy sentry, or to the Scattergun-related death of an enemy. I have a tendency to loudly repeat that “THEIR MEDIC IS DOWN!” after a successful pick.

I’d be lying if I said any of the official matches we’ve played were easy. Every fight, regardless of who the enemy is, takes nearly everything I have to offer, and it’s getting more difficult every week.

There’s too much I have to tell you about the experience of competitive TF2. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush up on my aim.

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Strife: Striking out MOBA Evil

Familiarity with MOBAs often involves at least a little awareness of the oft-hissed title of Heroes of Newerth. Developed by a group of hardcore DotA fans under the banner of S2 Games, HoN has consistently held a reputation for being incredibly difficult compared to other MOBAs – though the centerpiece of its reputation is the sheer viciousness of its playerbase. No gaming community – none – spits so much venom in each other’s face as the HoN population does. The commonplace hatred between carries makes a rotten League of Legends game (almost) desirable.

Then, S2 Games did something about it.

They turned away from the worst MOBA community of all time… and created the best. Enter Strife.

Admittedly, I’d heard the name a couple times. A new MOBA? Meh. We’ve got tons of those. The market is easily reaching saturation point with the past couple waves of triple-laned bird’s-eye views that’ve crashed upon the rocky shores of F2P land. Then, I was subjected to Strife’s brilliant little piece of advertising: a flashy banner displaying various characters, with text that read something along the lines of, “Be a hunter, be a warrior, be a cat wizard – just don’t be a d**k.”

Interesting. This banner sent a terribly clear message. “We don’t want rotten behavior anymore.”

To quickly address what might come to mind at that message, S2 Games is certainly not the first MOBA developer to put a heavy focus on improving player behavior. Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, has done some serious work between the “honor” system and the Tribunal, their method of punishing misbehaving players – but both systems are heavily criticized for their effectiveness – or lack thereof. You can’t argue with Riot’s results: the LoL community has grown up a lot over the past couple of years. However, they didn’t have the advantage of starting from scratch.

S2 Games and Strife did. I found myself intrigued from the get-go by the central concept of “real” teamwork. With LoL, I’ve been conditioned to know when to back off of CSing (or last-hitting, the concept of gaining credit for the death of a minion by being the person responsible for directly killing it) in order to give someone else on my team gold that, perhaps, they might be able to better use than myself. I’ve learned to hastily apologize should I play a support role, then proceed to inadvertently “steal” a kill from the carry, thus robbing my team of a little bit of our overall power and efficiency.

Strife, however, operates with the philosophy that “we’re all working hard, here.” Instead of granting certain characters more gold, a few key modifications have taken place on the basic, tried-and-true formula of laning with a total stranger.

1. All characters will automatically regenerate health and mana at a relatively quick rate following a delay after leaving combat.

2. Regardless of who scored the last hit, as long as you or one of your teammates killed the minion (or ‘brawler’, to follow Strife terminology), you and any allies you have in lane with you will gain equal gold. Whoa. No more leaving all the work and calculation to the ranged carry.

The combination of 1 and 2 creates a basic and intuitive strategy: If there’s two allied players in a lane together, they can both work together to secure last hits without fear. Should one of them take significant damage, that person can back off and let their passive regeneration kick in while their lane partner does the last hitting for them. Hmmm…

3. The same goes for player kills. It really doesn’t matter who gets the kill! Are you playing a support tank alongside a heavy damage dealer? Smash away! Strife puts such little weight on the number of kills you have that when you mouse over the portraits of your allies in the middle of the game, it doesn’t even display kills as their own statistic. Instead, you are greeted with that player’s number of combined kills and assists. Ego begone!

Naturally, some characters are better at slaughtering than others, and the game will still prominently announce when someone gets a double-, triple-, quadra-kill, etc. It’s an exciting event. However, as wealth is distributed equally among participants in successful combat, the entire endeavor becomes a much more friendly one. In the 17 wins I’ve had myself (as the game doesn’t even count your losses for you – move on after a defeat, right?), there have been two games with toxic players. Two games, out of roughly 30. My continuing League of Legends experience involves at least one toxic player in ~20% of my games, and I’m being a tad lax with that statement.

In terms of mechanics, there’s not a whole lot that sets Strife apart from its competitors. It’s a fairly standard, though easy-to-play entry in the MOBA flood. The incredible experience of working with a team that is – heaven forbid – kind to you even should you make mistakes is made available with Strife, though. It’s truly phenomenal, and even though I’m working my tail off to get to Gold division in League of Legends before the month ends… my efforts there fail to match the time I’m spending in Strife’s lovely community. You’re onto something, S2.

– Ethereal

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Review: Dance Pad Mania – High Quality PC DDR-Type Peripherals


What does a Dance Dance Revolution player (or Pump It Up-er, if you’re a hipster) do when they’re sick of the cheap, fragile, plastic “dance mats” that slide all over the place? You know the kind – they ship with the game, there’s twenty differently skinned copies of the exact same product on eBay and Amazon, and they’re all… trash. Functional trash. They’re bad for your feet if you’re someone who plays on the harder difficulties, and they’ll wear out swiftly without proper treatment.

Enter our lovely third-party manufacturer, a company also tired of the cheap mats – tired enough that they provide a better option: DancePadMania.com.

DancePadMania sells a model of pad similar to the more common variety, though we’ve not gotten to try those out. Instead, we shot for the gold, and secured two of the crown jewel of their stock – the (admittedly generically named) Deluxe Pads. What makes these babies different?

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At first glance, it appears that the deluxe models are just thicker (or curvier, if you’re politically correct). There’s a clear distinction in that they are more of a platform than their slimmer counterpart, with a zipper around the edge. This is because each pad ships with several large foam “puzzle pieces” which can be assembled inside the opened pad. This yields a few benefits.

1. Comfort. Instead of smacking your feet down into the floor with minimal cushioning, the foam inserts provide for much softer stepping, which matters exponentially more with harder step maps.

2. Durability. The sensors, which you definitely don’t want to break, are also pressed down against the foam, instead of into, again, minimal separation between themselves and the floor. Theoretically, this increases the pad’s lifespan.

3. Stability. These pads are significantly ore resistant to sliding. This is partially due to the superior friction of the deluxe’s underside, but also partially due to the physics of the heightened/heavier pad. I found, roughly, an 80% decrease in sliding when I compared the Dance Pad Mania deluxe units with the traditional stock pads that I’ve used for a decade.

Now, these are USB pads we are talking about – they’re simply not designed for use with, say, a Nintendo unit, and not necessarily optimized for Playstations or Xboxes. These are primarily designed for PC/Mac machines, for play with Stepmania and whatever other DDR emulator you can find. However, the recent PC release of indie rhythm game Crypt of the Necrodancer is easily playable with the pads as well, which opens up some interesting possibilities for the future – perhaps more music-based games designed for use with such peripherals?

At a sharp $80, you’re buying into quite the investment with the deluxe Dance Pad Mania unit – but given its benefits over the pads that you typically receive from third-party vendors, DDR and PIU gamers alike will find these units worth every penny.

Thanks to DancePadMania.com for providing us with promotional deluxe pads! These units in no way affected the integrity of the above review.

 

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Dragons and Titans – Brave New MOBA

It’s been out on Steam for a couple months now, but you may not yet have heard of the all-dragon, some-titan free-to-play MOBA that’s challenging the genre with new ideas – Dragons and Titans! I had the privilege of picking the brains behind this beastly brawler – check out the interview below in whichever format is tastier.

 

Rocketstomp: Hey everybody, thanks for tuning in tonight. Now, when you think about MOBAs, the first things that come to mind are League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients. But because these two giants have really set the bar, they’ve left a lot of room open for experimentation and a lot of these little independent studios have really jumped on this opportunity to stretch out and explore the unexplored realm within the genre. Tonight I have with me Scott Brown, the founder of Wyrmbyte Studios.

They have produced a free-to-play MOBA called Dragons and Titans, which originated on Facebook with the Unity engine, and released on Steam in the past week. Thanks for coming out here tonight, Scott.

Wyrmbyte: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Rocketstomp: Because the MOBA genre is still pretty infantile, and there has been a lot of room for you to explore new concepts, what are the core concepts that Dragons and Titans brings to challenge the competition?

Wyrmbyte: One of the things we had when we were playing these [MOBAs] – what we were running into was that the match time was just a little bit too long for us. And also, you know, they’re pretty complicated games with the item shops. They’re very competitive, which is what they’re built to be. And we thought a more lightweight version of something that could still be sort of competitive, but with much shorter matches would be the right thing to make. And also we love dragons, and we thought, “hey, no one’s really done this” so there’s unlimited types of dragons and skills and abilities you could [equip them with] so that seemed like a really good fit and that’s how we started.

Rocketstomp: Yeah, I’ve really noticed. Some matches – I’ve been trained as a heavy MOBA player to go into a match just bracing myself for possibly 40 minutes to an hour of a long, grueling battler. Then [Dragons and Titans] is over in ten minutes because you level quickly, structures go down quickly, and if your team is working together you progress so fast through the flow of the game. And then there is that other thing that makes Dragons and Titans unique – all of the characters are dragons. All of the heroes are various kinds of wyrms. Now where did that idea come from? Was it because you had never seen anything like it, and because of the whole love of dragons to begin with?

Wyrmbyte: Well certainly we liked the idea of dragons – we’d been wanting to make some kind of dragon game for a long time, a bunch of those who are working on this. The cool thing is it gave us a kind of interesting way where we could allow the player to exist in the world. Like in League of Legends you have your summoner, and then in DotA I don’t think they call it anything. It’s just your account. We thought, “hey, here’s a cool thing – you can have your rider which you can view, and so it’s kind of separate from the “champion” which is the dragon. So that kind of came together really well. And then there’s the other idea we had, which was to take out the item shops. We just found [in other MOBAs] that we were just making the recommended purchases from the item shop and we just weren’t advanced enough. We weren’t doing any specific item builds and so we thought “why don’t we put the item shop outside the game instead of inside?” And we came up with this – instead of putting all the skills on the dragon, we put two on the dragon and two on the weapon and that gives you a really interesting way to combine when you start a match, that’s where it all came from. You’ve got you, you’ve got your dragon, you’ve got your weapon, and you’ve got this combination of things that sort of determines what combination you bring to the battle.

Rocketstomp: So, bit of groundbreaking – you equip one weapon that decides half your skills. Anybody who just takes  a glance at that will realize “holy crap, the options are limitless.” But you didn’t stop there with the loadout customization. You also have a system that’s inspired by League of Legends’ “summoner spells” where players pick from a shared pool of abilities and then you have the passive stat increases in the form of runes. Do you think that might be a little overwhelming to some players?

Wyrmbyte: Yeah , there was that challenge of balancing between “not enough complexity” and not having enough meat to get into as you go so one of the things we tried to do was reveal these things slowly to you as you play. Like the runes don’t even unlock until you’ve reached rank 3 or 4 now. So we want to introduce these things to you slowly, and it’s pretty simple once you get used to it.

Rocketstomp: So you really try to ease the players along the learning curve – I really like that idea. Now – probably the biggest weakness I’ve seen in the game so far, there are bonuses that you can acquire over time for using the same dragon and the same weapon called “mastery.” And as you achieve better and greater ranks of mastery – I believe it goes bronze, silver, gold, platinum – your base stats increase and your ability cooldowns decrease. Now, because there is so much customization, a lot of players are going to be generalists and want to explore a lot more possibilities, but right now, they’re being punished by this system. Do you see a way to reward those players that want to explore the customization more thoroughly in the future?

Wyrmbyte: That’s a great point. There’s certainly something – I wouldn’t say we’re far enough along to describe it yet, but I think what you’re getting at is exactly right. What we’ve been working on is a sort of generic mastery system where it’s not only about getting better at a dragon or weapon the more you use it, but about being a better dragon rider or weapon master the more weapons [you use] or dragons you ride. Using more of them will give you some benefits and specializing will give you some benefits.

Rocketstomp: I’m sure that’s going to be very encouraging news to those generalist players that are listening in on this. So – one weapon really caught my eye. You added the symbol for the Unity engine, which you used to build the game, into the game as a usable weapon called the “Unity Mark.” *holds back laughter* How did that come about?

Wyrmbyte: So we were talking to Unity about what we were doing with the game and one of the coolest things about Unity is that it runs on so many different platforms  and we were like, “hey, we’ve got this game idea. It’s going on Facebook first, then it’s going on – at the time, we were trying to get Greenlight on Steam so we’re trying to go to Steam next” and we’re like “hey, what if we put something cool in the game and you guys give us PR and talk about it and show off what we’re doing?” And so they thought that was really cool. And they’ve got this thing where instead of having to say “made with Unity” – that little splash screen you see with all the other engines – they’re like “hey, if you do something fun, we’ll really support it and you won’t have to be so bland.” So we brainstormed about what Unity is all about, and it’s about empowering people so that’s where the whole backstory came from- it’s pretty fun.

Rocketstomp: I did notice that its second ability “empowers your allies” which I believe increases their damage. That is such a fantastic way to strike a little deal and eliminate a step from the launch process. Now, with all of the dragon / weapon combinations available, which one is your favorite?

Wyrmbyte: So the Hellfire with Phoenix is just a fun little “mash-in of doing lots of fire damage” combination. It’s got really strong – the Hellfire Breath has a really good DoT on it, the phoenix has a really good DoT on it so it’s a really powerful combination.

Rocketstomp: I’ve really taken a liking to Magmascale and – it’s the axe, where one of its abilities fires the axe in a straight line –

Wyrmbyte: Yup, the axe can give you all your health back if you get a killing blow with it.

Rocketstomp: Right, when you use the chop ability – the number 5.

Wyrmbyte: Yup, and it is our only weapon that attacks in front and behind you – if you get someone right behind you you can hit them with it and that was a really fun one to make.

GameCheetah: Right, great baiting tool. Brief PSA to the players – if you’re using Magmascale for anything that is not primarily structure destruction you are doing it wrong, use the meteor shower to take out those turrets – just a free little tip for you.

Wyrmbyte: Yeah, it’s a pretty powerful dragon, I really like it. It’s also the only one that has that sort of shotgun-style breath.

Rocketstomp: Yeah, that’s also pretty interesting. Now, obviously you’re definitely still in development even though you’ve moved on to PC and Mac. So what are the features that you’re coming up on and we can expect to see soon?

Wyrmbyte: You know, a lot of it has just been getting out on Steam – it’s interesting to see how Steam players play, had a few balance issues so we’ve been tweaking and working on those. Some of the bigger features in the pipe, we’re working on a clan or a tournament system so you can have organized tournaments between groups of players – that’s something that’s hopefully coming pretty soon. We’re doing some stuff with the avatars. We’re not really happy with how those are right now, so we’re working on a way to show those off and include those in the game a little bit better. That’s all I can really talk about right now – of course, we are continuing to build more acts and dragons and weapons. And then we’re doing a – we do a new season every quarter so we’re going to be starting our first season with all the Steam players on April first. That’s fun so we’re gearing up for that, too.

Rocketstomp: So [the players] are going to have clan wars and better player customization soon, keep an eye out for that. Give our players a bit of a hand – what is the most valuable advice you can give to a fledgling dragon rider?

Wyrmbyte: Typical MOBA thinking works well here too, right? So stick together, don’t overextend, don’t get greedy going for that tower kill and then you’re injured when another dragon comes along… return gold often. Protect your chaos titan… *both laugh.*

Rocketstomp: Okay, so you heard it – lots of teamwork, make sure you’re paying attention to the gold in your stash, and don’t believe that just because you have a chaos titan on the field that you can let it roam and think it’s going to do a lot of good. Thank you so much for your time, Scott, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Again, Dragons and Titans is available on Facebook and Steam for both PC and Mac, and it is only supported by purchases of ingame items and avatars. Thanks again, Scott.

Wyrmbyte: Yep, and thank you!

 

You can check Dragons and Titans out for free on Steam here.

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