Kenneth on Games: Multiplayer in “No Man’s Sky”

A while ago, I said that “it’s rare to see a game as divisive as Pokemon Go.” Apparently, I was wrong, because here comes No Man’s Sky and its angry lynchmob. This game has been hyped for years, and in a tragically predictable turn of events, the hype has backfired. One of the main points of contention is the lack of real-time persistent multiplayer, which is something that players have been expecting and the developers have been promising. But does real-time persistent multiplayer truly belong in the No Man’s Sky vision?

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Kenneth on Games: Myr in “Puzzle and Dragons”

Puzzle and Dragons is a strange case of game design. It’s a mobile game that’s as maliciously monetized as they come, but it’s built upon an amazingly deep mechanic that the developers seem to have stumbled upon by accident. Even with their latest updates, they struggle constantly to balance the two attributes of character-based statistics versus player-based skill. The latest content to hit NA is a dungeon where you fight against a half-dragon girl named Myr, and she introduces several new mechanics that force players to change the way they play… but for better, or for worse?

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Kenneth on Games: Grinding In “Pokemon Go”

It’s rare to see a game as divisive as Pokemon Go. Half of its players say that this is the game that will save the world. The other half would burn Niantic at the stake with their own overheated servers. Even though the game has been successful in terms of numbers and statistics, players are starting to see the cracks through the nostalgia glasses. Once the magic fades, it seems all that’s left is a long grind. How could this be solved?

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Kenneth on Games: Randomness in “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”

A week ago, I picked up XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it was on sale. I haven’t put it down since. Why is this game so fun despite being built almost completely off of a random number generator? As far as I’m concerned, Invisible Inc proves that you don’t need a percent hit chance to make the XCOM formula work. But this got me thinking: what would actually happen if XCOM removed randomness? What consequences would this change have on the rest of the system?

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Kenneth on Games: Consistency In “Pyre”

I’ve never really been big on sports, but when the world gets in an uproar about Iceland vs. England, even game designers should be taking note. Why is it that soccer can stay the same for hundreds of years, but every online game nowadays needs to be patched every few months? As it turns out, controlling a physical body rather than a digital avatar actually makes a big difference. And what would be a better way to analyze that difference than to compare Iceland vs. England to Supergiant’s surprise sports game, Pyre?

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Kenneth on Games: TTK in “Titanfall 2”

Like it or hate it, modern shooters always seem to be defined by a fast time to kill (TTK), starting with the infamous Call of Duty series and even moving into Halo 5’s Breakout mode. But this E3, Respawn teased a bit of work-in-progress footage from Titanfall 2, and I was a big fan of the first one. One of the most interesting things about Titanfall is how it twists the idea of TTK through the relationship between pilots and titans. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems like the sequel is committed to exploring this connection even futher.

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Kenneth on Games: The Main Character In “Watch Dogs 2”

Like most of the gaming world, I was super excited about the first Watch Dogs. Well… it didn’t turn out to be a masterpiece, and I fully expected Ubisoft to drop the IP. Imagine how surprised I was when they announced Watch Dogs 2 before even trying to do anything about their bad reputation. But I want to get off the Ubisoft hate train and look for the silver lining. From what we know so far, Watch Dogs 2 starts off with a new character in a new setting, and I honestly think that they’re moving on the right track considering the prequel’s mistakes.

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Kenneth on Games: Tracking in “Salt and Sanctuary”

It’s hard to hear anything about Salt and Sanctuary without the inevitable comparison to Dark Souls. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. People love Soulsian design and want to see more of it, but that makes it hard to appreciate SaS for what it is rather than what it mimics. The first major difference is that SaS is a 2D sidescrolling platformer whereas Dark Souls is in 3D, and it’s truly impressive how SaS managed to retain so much of the Soulsian feel despite the perspective shift. But I think that one major aspect of Soulsian combat is tracking, and it got a little bit lost in translation.

WARNING: Boss spoilers for both Dark Souls 3 and Salt and Sanctuary.

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Kenneth on Games: Horizontal Scaling In “Offworld Trading Company”

I’m going to confess that I’m a little bit scared of RTS games. They’re always so difficult to get into and you have to memorize so many build paths and then you just get killed by a strategy you didn’t know was possible. If only there was an RTS that was about reactions and decision making, rather than memorization. Luckily, Soren Johnson has been thinking about this problem too, and the result is Offworld Trading Company. This game takes heavy advantage of horizontal scaling to simultaneously ease the learning curve and encourage reactive strategies at the same time.

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Kenneth on Games: Recoil in “Overwatch”

The Overwatch open beta was last weekend, so by now there are plenty of first-hand experiences floating around. A lot of people talk about how Overwatch isn’t really a shooter, and they’re partially right. But I would say that it’s still a shooter, just not a modern-styled one. FPS games have changed in many subtle ways over the years, and nowadays there’s a certain feeling that players have just started taking for granted in a shooter. When you play a game like Overwatch and those little pieces are gone, it can be a little jarring. There are plenty of things in that vein that are ripe for discussion, but here, I want to talk about recoil.

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