Micro-transactions in Video Games

Like it or not, micro-transactions are here to stay. Micro-transactions are transactions between player and developer for items within a game. For example, some games may offer experience point bonuses for players for a small cost or access to certain cosmetic items that change how your character looks in the game. The business practice has proven to be very successful, and will likely be staying whether gamers like it or not.

However, Electronic Arts has taken it to the next level. The issue, as laid out by Lilo’s Lair #76 is that EA, who is developing Star Wars Battlefront II, was going to charge an exorbitant amount of money for players to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker which are two staples to the franchise. This is, of course, is a cost that is added on after the customer buys a fully priced game of $60-$80. Reddit responded by downvoting an official EA response to the issue over 675,000 times, shattering the previous record of 25,000.

EA is not the first company to incorporate purchasable “loot boxes” within their game, and they will not be the last. However, many games that feature “loot boxes” use them to reward purely cosmetic, meaning no game-play advantage, items, or are free to play to begin with, meaning they ONLY make money on in-game micro-transactions. An example would be Blizzard’s Overwatch which has had a wildly successful loot box system that players don’t mind because no advantages are given to those willing to spend the money on them.

The issue of loot boxes is gaining a lot of attention recently thanks to EA. So much so, that some governments are looking into considering them a form of gambling since the player doesn’t know what they will get when they buy them. This seems like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, but if it does gain traction it could mean a world of hurt for game developers that rely on this form of micro-transaction, which would be a lot of indie and mobile developers. EA is the least popular company in the gaming community from a consumer standpoint, and if their greed gets loot boxes banned from video games, they may be hated by the entire industry.

Hearthstone Launch Screen

How to build a successful Hearthstone deck in three easy steps!

Having trouble in ranked play? Then you should take a closer look at your deck. Does it capitalize on the hero’s strength? Do the cards have good synergy? Does the mana curve make sense for what you want to do with the deck?

Step One: Choose your hero.

Hearthstone Screenshot Hero Choice

Hearthstone Hero Deck Choice

Each hero has their own hero power along with strengths and  weaknesses in deck building. A good deck builds on the strengths of the class while minimizing its weakness.

Warrior

Power: Armor Up!

Give your hero two armor.

Strength: Board Control

Uses weapons and enraged minions to devastate the enemy.

Weakness: Aggression

Enraging your minions often leaves them vulnerable to an easy removal.

Shaman

Power: Totemic Call

Summon a random totem with that gives utility.

Strength: Adaptability

Overload spells allow powerful spells to be cast for very little mana. However, it sacrifices mana for your next turn as well.

Weakness: Mana Overload

The sacrificed mana from Overload can add up so Overload cards must be played carefully.

Rogue

Power: Dagger Mastery

Equip a 1/2 dagger.

Strength: Aggression

Rogues have a variety of low cost cards with the Combo feature. By playing multiple cards per turn the rogue gains extra damage, buffs, or board control.

Weakness: The Long Game

Since most of their cards are cheap, rogues desire to end the match quickly rather than get stuck against their opponents high cost minions.

Paladin

Power: Reinforce

Summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit minion.

Strength: Diversity

Paladin decks can easily be made to control the tempo or outlast the opponent.

Weakness: Jack of all trades, master of none.

The paladin’s diversity also causes the deck builder to lose focus on what they want the deck to accomplish.

Hunter

Power: Steady Shot

Deal two damage to the enemy hero.

Strength: Aggression

The hero power allows you to deal damage to the enemy hero regardless of taunt cards, so their decks are often focused on dealing damage early in the game so that Steady Shot can finish them off.

Weakness: Control

With somewhat of a lack of class taunt cards, hunters can find themselves outnumbered on the board in the late game.

Druid

Power: Shapeshift

Hero gains one attack and one armor.

Strength: Mana

Druids can gain mana crystals faster than other classes, allowing them to play stronger cards earlier.

Weakness: Lengthy games.

Druids lose their advantage in the late game because the other hero inevitably catches up in available mana.

Warlock

Power: Life Tap

Deal two damage to self and draw a card.

Strength: Card advantage.

By being able to draw an extra card each turn, at the cost of 2 health, the Warlock will hold more cards in his hand and will likely have an answer for whatever the other player chooses to do.

Weakness: Healing

The warlock must include minions with healing battlecries or lifesteal in order to make up for the self-inflicted damage due from Life Tap.

Mage

Power: Fireblast

Deal 1 damage to chosen enemy. (Minion or Hero)

Strength: Board Control

Mages have an answer for any minion the enemy uses. In the early game, Fireblast can be used to clear away 1 health minions to keep your own minions healthy. Then, in the later game spells like Flamestrike can clear an entire enemy board at once.

Weakness: Buffing classes

Classes that can heal or buff their minions out of the damage range of the mage’s board clearing spells can cause problems for an unprepared mage.

Priest

Power: Lesser Heal

Restore two health. (Can choose anyone. Even an enemy.)

Strength: Outlast

Priests have the utility to outlast their opponent through buffing and healing their minions and destroying the enemy’s.

Weakness: Consistency

Priests are very great at dealing with certain decks which makes them struggle against others.

Step Two: Look for synergies.

Hearthstone Screenshot Synergy

Hearthstone Combo Synergy Examples

Make sure you read all of the cards you put in your deck and start thinking about how they might work together.

To demo deck building, I have chosen to create a rogue deck. The rogue’s main synergy is in the use of “combo” cards. If a different card is played before a combo card, the combo card gains an additional effect. This means along with class cards, I want low cost neutral cards to help me flesh out my deck and help me maintain my combos.

Step Three: Mind the mana curve.

The mana curve is a reference to the amount of cards you have at each mana cost. It creates a wave, or curve, when graphed out. Depending on your class and your intended play-style, the curve could lean left for an aggressive deck, a more central curve for a balanced attack, and a right lean for a control or late game attack.

Hearthstone Screenshot Mana Curve

Hearthstone Mana Curve

For an aggressive rogue deck built to take advantage of the Combo cards we mentioned earlier the graph has it’s curve much earlier; favoring cards that cost one or two mana. This tells us that we should prioritize the low cost cards when we mulligan our starting cards so that we can pump out as much damage as we can as soon as we can, because we don’t have much to deal with later threats. It is easy to see all of your combo possibilities and want to hoard them and use them all at once, but if you do that, you’ll likely dig yourself into a whole it will be difficult to climb out of later.

 

Overcoming my worst gaming habit

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Gaming is a costly hobby. A few hundred dollars for a console or PC upgrade, sixty for the latest and greatest game, the inevitable DLC costs, and the memberships required to play online. For me, it seems the worst habit I can think of is stopping, or moving on, before my playthrough is completed. This particular problem is an unnecessarily frequent issue of mine. I spend all this money to play the game, and then get sidetracked with another game, my professional life, relationships, or even the game’s online multiplayer feature. (I’ll play hundreds of hours worth of Call of Duty multiplayer and never finish the campaign.)

This summer, I noticed a friend of mine playing some older games that he had already finished. In the summer slouch of game releases, he had gotten bored and found him self wanting to do another playthrough for achievements and to complete the DLC that had been released since he initially beat it. I realized I hadn’t even gotten around to beating the original campaign of the game even though I bought it. The game in question was, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor; a game that had been in the discussion for every game of the year award in 2014. I remembered loving the rival system, the brutality of the combat system, and the immersive world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. This game is, without question, worth finishing at least once. How did I never finish it in the almost 3 years since release? How dare I call myself a gamer? This is something I needed to fix.

I dove back into Mordor this summer and found myself slicing, stabbing, and shooting an untold number of bloodthirsty orcs while I moved through an epic story. Now, I can proudly say that I beat Shadow of Mordor and all it’s DLC content this summer. I had a blast! Now, I’m even more hyped for it’s sequel coming this fall, Middle-earth: Shadow of War. My mission continues this summer with The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Yet another game garnering just about every award it was eligible for. My problem with this game was a little different. There are so many ways to play it, so many skills to get, so many side-quests to do, that I got burnt out on the game because of all the different characters I was trying out before ever beating the main story line. This is the same problem I had with the Fallout series, another Bethesda masterpiece.

This season my goal is to finish each game I buy before I move on to a different one. I can already see Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WWII breaking that streak for me with the return of classic Call of Duty style gameplay and rage inducing kill streaks that are as rewarding as they are frustrating.

Why I am excited about Call of Duty: WWII

That satisfying “ding” when you expend the clip of your M1 Garand, the intensity of the flames engulfing everything around you, the immersive, intense, and infinitely tragic setting of WWII France having been destroyed by the largest war the world has ever seen. Those were the best parts of World at War and the other classic Call of Duty games, and they are all coming back for Call of Duty: WWII. Gone are the wall running, drone controlling, laser shooting days of the future. Sledgehammer and Activision are returning to the basics this year, and that is the best decision they have made in years.

Sure, call me old-fashioned if you insist. The truth is, I’m tired of the wall running, jet pack using, and laser weaponry of the sci-fi shooters. I want a good old military shooter with a “boots on the ground” feeling, and that is exactly what Sledgehammer Games co-founder Michael Condrey promised in the E3 Making of Call of Duty video. It is about time, sir.

The campaign will surely feel as epic as almost any other Call of Duty’s has, but on the multiplayer side of things the team has added an exciting new game mode called “War Mode.” In this mode players will battle over objectives to move the match along much like Battlefield has done in it’s multiplayer for years. The difference is, Call of Duty: WWII is keeping it’s fast paced style intact, and will still limit your ability to operate vehicles to kill-streak rewards. This seems to be exactly what traditional fans like myself have wanted from Call of Duty for quite some time.

Yet another beneficial change is coming to the multiplayer experience. The addition of a class system called “Divisions.” There are five divisions to choose from: Infantry, Expeditionary, Airborne, Armored, and Mountain. Players will invest into each division individually as they play. Players will do this by gaining experience and unlocking weapons and attachments for that particular division. According to the official Call of Duty website, this change “gives players the ability to reinforce their individual play styles.” In other words, a player who typically plays with a run-and-gun style would likely choose the Airborne division, which favors the SMG, and unlock the skills and weapons that cater to that play style instead of unlocking the sniper rifle that those who like to wait patiently for the perfect opportunity would enjoy. It makes each bit of experience go toward unlocking something the player may look forward to and actually choose to use.

I will see for myself if it lives up to my high expectations this weekend, when I get access to the multiplayer beta on Xbox One. The beta is available to anyone who pre-orders the game. (September 1-4)