It’s Boring At The Top

This past NFL post-season when the playoffs reached the final 4 there were three teams who had never won a Super Bowl Championship – the Jacksonville Jaguars (go Jags!), Minnesota Vikings, and Philadelphia Eagles. The fourth team was the New England Patriots who have been to the Super Bowl 8 times in the last two decades and won 5 of them. Needless to say, the majority of people were rooting for a new team to win the Super Bowl while mostly only New England fans were hoping for the Patriots to win. Similarly in the first season of the Overwatch League, the New York Excelsior were the dominant team for the entire season and people quickly divided into two camps: the NYXL fans who wanted to see the team completely destroy the competition in the playoffs and win it all, and the people who weren’t fans who wanted to see an underdog topple the champions.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that exists – when people are on top of their game in a competitive sphere, they’re everywhere. And if you’re a fan of that person (or team, or group, or whatever) you can’t get enough of them. But if you’re not a diehard fan, you tend to gravitate towards anybody but them – and in some cases start developing outright animosity towards those so good that they’re constantly on top. When you practice and practice and practice, and get to be so good at something you’re probably on top of the world and your fans are right there with you – but you’ll likely have also accumulated a group of haters.

Which brings me to my point of this article: I hate being that good at anything, especially in regards to video games.

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Endgame Discontent

Endgame content (also sometimes referred to as postgame content) has always been a thing in video games. What it refers to is the idea that you’ve been the main story of the game, but now that that’s over there’s more stuff for you to do if you want to keep exploring the game’s world. These are different from sidequests that are just super hard but still available to you before you beat the game: this is specifically content you’re only given access to after you’ve completed the main storyline. One of the more well-known types of endgame content include “raids” that were popularized by World of Warcraft – very hard bosses that you have access to once you’ve completed the game and have hit a high (or max) level with your character. These raid bosses can take anywhere from 3-4 hours to complete and teamwork from many different players. But they aren’t required for the main game – they’re only for people who really love World of Warcraft and want to participate in that kind of epic strategical play.

This content is a way to keep players engaged and challenged in your game after they’ve supposedly done everything they actually need to. Super Mario Odyssey, for example, only requires a certain amount of moons to beat the game – but once you have beaten it a whole bunch more moons are unlocked across all the worlds along with a completely new world. These moons are more challenging to get but are completely unnecessary if you’ve already had your fill with the game. It’s a good way for developers to add more content for people who really enjoy the game but not to overwhelm other people who play the game more casually.

The problem is that as developers are extending game length, the idea of “content” starts selling at a premium. And the emerging idea of Games As A Service (which I talked about in my very first blog post on here) had made it so developers don’t want their games to end at all. So endgame content stops being extra and starts becoming a part of the actual game which becomes a detriment to the game (and overall game design) itself.

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Overwatch’s Failure at Casual Competitiveness

I briefly touched on the new mobile game South Park: Phone Destroyer in the first post I did for this blog. Since then I’ve put a lot more time into it and I’m actually enjoying playing it a lot. The game itself is a weird tower defense/RPG/beat-’em-up/card collecting hybrid where you, as the New Kid, have a deck of cards that you use with your phone to summon other South Park denizens. Collecting cards and upgrade items allows you to make your cards stronger like an RPG, and the main campaign is a side-scrolling beat-’em up where the cards you summon automatically attack enemies on-screen. If you, as the New Kid, die from enemies on screen, the level ends a la tower defense – but as long as you’re alive you can keep summoning your cards over and over ad nauseum to complete the level. It’s surprisingly fun and engaging for a free-to-play mobile game as one person observing me play it actually said “wow, that looks like it needs attention like an actual game and not a phone game.”

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