How Not to Include Controller Support

Note:  The following events took place under the influence of beer, which may somewhat explain the difficulties I had, but in no way excuses them.

We started playing a diablo-like last night (which is kind of ironic given how much Diablo we’ve been playing, but it’s about to drop another big patch that will re-consume our lives so we decided to take a break until that happens).  I was mystified by the non-responsive splash screen until I saw the little “Press A to continue” at the bottom.  Ahhh it wants me to use the controller I have plugged in, that’s why my mouse is not responding!  … weird, for a diablo-like, but okay.

I carry on my merry way squinting at button prompts because none of them seem very intuitive and it’s pretty annoying.  A to attack, ok that makes sense.  Trigger buttons to move left and right in menus?!?  Wait which button is this new special attack I just picked up?  Oops shit just used my potions.  Well, I’ll get the hang of this eventually.

Then we finally get somewhere in the story and an item drops!  I… don’t know how to pick it up.  So I ask.

“uh, just click on it?”

“Oh.  I thought I had to use the controller!”

“I’m using the mouse… it’s literally exactly the same as Diablo.”

TO THE OPTIONS SCREEN.  Aha here it is under controls.  “Disable controller”

“The game must be restarted for this to take effect”

Mother.  Fucker.  Fuck it I’ll just figure out this controller.

We level up!  Time to spend a skill point!  Press this button to spend skill point, press that button to unspend skill point (it’s located above the other button, so it’s not intuitive in an “increment one” sort of way…) .  The skills are laid out in this annoying grid that didn’t make any logical sense… some of the skills are dependent on having points in other skills but the layout is just all over the place so I have to move through each box to make it pop up and tell me what it needs.  I end up accidentally spending points in the wrong skills trying to look at them to see what I need, but fortunately I can unspend.

Oh shit the companion levelled up too how do I get there?  Uhhhhh oh it looks like I can trigger-button my way through a couple different menus here.  Oh there are perks to buy?  And reputation points??  Where are those?!?  Damn there’s a lot of shit to spend, I didn’t see any of this before so I have a few points racked up.

A bit later I’m STILL doing fucking like, 1-3 damage despite levelling a bunch, and finally a new weapon drops for me!  Thank god, this was getting embarassing.  Okay pick up the weapon with trigger button, and now… hmm how do I make sure this is equipped?

“How do I get to the inventory?”

“Well… for me I press “I”… so, I dunno how the controller does it…”

fuck.  Scroll through the screens again.  Oh this looks kind of like an inventory?  Maybe?  I’m looking at only one item… is there a way to select a different item type?  Jesus what the hell who designed this shit.  Oh I have to use THIS control stick to select a different item type, kind of like a flyout wheel, except it has no cursor so it just selects whichever one is in the direction you press and you can’t just like scroll around the wheel, so it’s not intuitive or anything.  No, I don’t want that one, the one next to it.  No, not that one either.  God dammit select this one, it’s on a diagonal and I’m fucking pushing diagonal you fuck.

“Seriously I can’t figure out how to equip these guns.  Maybe I should just reboot the stupid game and get the mouse and keyboard back.”

“You’re kind of having a lot of trouble with it, so, yeah.”

*close game*

FUCK I forgot to go back into options and turn off the controller, which means it will default to controller again, which means I have to start the game, go into options, turn it off, turn off the game… fuck it I’ll just unplug the controller instead.

*unplug controller.  Start game.*

Well.  Now it is apparent why you need to restart the game to use the mouse.  The UI is ENTIRELY different (and exactly like Diablo…).  Oh look, when I press “I” it goes straight to the inventory screen, displays ALL of my items at once, and makes it intuitive which ones I am actually wearing.  Not to mention how much space I have left.  Oh look!  I can click directly on the skill type I want to spend points in!  OH LOOK, THE SKILLS SCREEN IS LAID OUT IN A WAY THAT MAKES FUCKING SENSE, NOW.

My god.

Having a controller option is reallyreally good, because choice is good.  But this.  Do. Not. Do. This.  Any of it.

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Racing (but mostly ranting) (Subtitles and Tutorials rant)

This ostensibly began as a review of Dirt 3, but really I’ve played ~5 minutes or so and can’t really comment on the gameplay all that much.  This review will probably end up being something else altogether…

I recently went on a quest to find a decent PC racing game.  I love Gran Turismo and Forza and the like, but in order to play those I have to move to the couch, adjust the input on the TV to the appropriate console, find the controller, make sure the god damn disc is in the drive… I wanted to have something on my PC so I could be like “Hmm I want to race cars today” and click an exe and *poof*.

I picked up Test Drive Unlimited 2 in the winter sale on Steam and spent several mindboggling hours with it, marvelling at bad design decisions in controls and terrible voice acting during story cutscenes.  The story was added in to make it sorta-kinda like a Grand Theft Auto world, I presume, and the open world was kind of interesting to me, but the story was largely unnecessary and kind of dumb.  It didn’t add anything – the story is “you are a racer trying to make a name for yourself and become a champion”.  Well no shit, what else are you going to be doing in a racing game?  I suppose there could have been curveballs later that make it pay off, but I gave up early for a couple of reasons.  1) The controls and UI were awful.  I could have gotten used to them but simply navigating menus was painful and that’s kind of a bad sign in a game that also expects you to have dedicated buttons for fucking turn signals and stuff.  2) There were no god damn subtitles.  I am not deaf, but I quite often have the sound low or off while other things happen in the room.  I also read a hell of a lot faster than you talk.  A racing game (particularly one with a terrible story) is a perfect place to buzz through the subtitles and advance the cutscenes to get back to actually racing cars like I wanted to do when I installed this damn thing.
If you’ve played Dirt 3 you probably know where I’m going next with this review…
Last but not least, 3) The game requires you to create a separate account to log into their servers (something that deserves its own rant entry in the age of Steam), even if you only intend to play single player.  Once you’ve done this, it sits there and connects to the server making absolutely sure there have been no updates.  Connecting to the server takes an abominable amount of time.  The last time I decided to give the game a whirl, it sat on connecting for about a minute, and then I shut it down and uninstalled the game instead of waiting for it to connect.  Sorry guys, this is the age of instant gratification, and you failed.  I could have gone to the couch and played Gran Turismo in that amount of time!

Then I picked up Dirt 3 in the Humble Weekly Sale.  It was a timely sale, coming immediately after I dumped TDU2 into the trash bin.  It was very promising – it’s not quite Gran Turismo but I like rally racing too, and the graphics are very shiny (which was another thing TDU2 didn’t really have going for it…).  It also starts up immediately instead of fucking around with servers for two minutes.  All thumbs up so far!
(Actually it required me to install GFWL despite GFWL being dead, so that was kind of a thumbs down… but they’re still in the process of excising that particular tumor so I let it go.)

I started out in Dirt 3 like I typically do – my headphones were plugged in but sitting on the desk beside me while I listened to something my husband was doing.  The game kept hanging on me and I couldn’t figure it out.  It was clearly still running but all the button mashing in the world wouldn’t work.  Finally the icons would highlight again and I could advance.  What the hell is going on here?  It cannot possibly be loading anything for that long.

Then I saw it.  A speaker icon in the bottom left corner.  Oh no.

I picked up my headphones and confirmed.  Yup, some douche is talking to me the whole time the game is “frozen”.  There are absolutely no subtitle options anywhere in the settings.  There are absolutely no ways to skip the dialogue.  What’s WORSE: the dialogue is basically “In this event you want to race your car around the track.  The goal is to come in first.  You come in first by racing your car around the track.  In order to race your car around the track, push the button that corresponds to the gas pedal!  Coming in first means you win the race.  You want to win the race – winning is the whole goal of the race.”

I want to strangle the entire design team responsible for this nightmare.  This unskippable, non-subtitled, redundant nightmare.

I have two rants here:
For one, they’re completely leaving deaf people in the cold.  You’d think you’d be safe playing a fucking racing game and not having to worry about missing dialogue even if the dickheads responsible for design neglect to include subtitles for you, but now you’re stuck staring at a completely fucking useless speaker icon for several minutes, while some douche explains that the point of this racing game is to race cars.  It’s infuriating to me and I have the option of actually listening to the fucker.  I can’t imagine how annoying it is if you’re literally just staring at the screen waiting for a chance to continue.

For two, I know how to play a god damn racing game, you ass.  I don’t begrudge the inclusion of some instructions, it just makes me angry that they are mandatory.  A friend of mine linked a blog entry that talked about design decisions in modern video games.  I remember the old days of wading into a new game, getting over my head, then referring to the manual to figure out how to play.  Manuals were exciting!  I still have my old NES manuals and they’re considered collectors items, and people know how to play those games!  Nowadays manuals are extinct (if you’re lucky you’ll get a slip of paper pointing out some of the controls).  Instead, gamers are treated like children who must have their hands held through mandatory tutorials, because god forbid they miss the tutorial and become confused.
And in Dirt 3, not only are there mandatory tutorials, but you can’t skip through the instructions.  Because god forbid you accidentally hit a button and miss the instructions that the goal of the race is to come in first.

It really is happening more and more.  Think of a game you’ve played recently that didn’t have a shoe-horned tutorial in it.

Some games pull it off smoothly – Anno 2070’s campaign is literally all tutorial, progressing slowly from scenario to scenario until you’ve unlocked and used every feature in the game.  It makes sense from an in-game point of view, and introduces all the features to new players without any risk of overwhelming them.  It was mildly annoying to me because I played an unhealthy amount of Anno 1404, but you have the option of going straight to an open game if you want.  Of course, the achievements are to complete the tutorial err campaign to unlock more scenarios so you probably have to go do it at some point, and the longer you delay the more familiar you will be with any new game features and the more annoying it is to have them “taught” to you.

Some games literally will not let you play until you complete it.  Hearthstone annoyed the shit out of me by having an extremely limiting tutorial that was mandatory before you even got to look at the menu screens for regular game play. What’s worse, there were multiple scenarios that took about an hour to get through.  An hour before I could even enter the main game.  It was so linear that I literally could not play a card that it did not tell me to play.  The game only gave you the cards it wanted you to play, so you could just watch a video and have the same damn experience… but in one sequence they must have messed up because I actually had two cards I could have played.  I tried playing the other one, just to see if I could.  It lightly slapped my hand and said “nuh uh, you need to play THIS one.”  I tried just ending my turn rather than following directions (The Stanley Parable was made for people like me), and it incredulously exclaimed “But you still have a card you can play!  This one!  This one right here (not that one NO you can’t play THAT one didn’t you listen??)”  NOT playing the card was a completely valid strategy in that situation I will have you know.  But it wasn’t in the script, so I couldn’t proceed until I followed directions.  It was much like being in some sort of fascist regime and it made for a bitter and resentful start to my Hearthstone experience.
(Incidentally, Hearthstone ALSO had no subtitles, and I was all geared up to write a rant about that… but they patched them in the very day after I got into Beta.  Bullet dodged, Blizzard.  Bullet dodged.)

Look, I know there are stupid people out there who will smash the screen and then cry because nothing worked the way they expected to, but I’m getting very tired of having my intelligence insulted.  Bring back optional tutorials.  Bring back manuals with pretty artwork.  Bring back the ability to skip shit I don’t want to sit through.  If the gamers cannot understand how your game works, then one of two things has happened:  They did not read the instructions, or you created a game that’s hard to understand.  Neither of those things should be solved by enforced hand-holding that alienates the people who actually do understand how your game works.

Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (First Impressions)

This is kind of cheating since I haven’t really played much of it yet, just the prologue stuff, but I already have some things to say so why not.  I was looking forward to this title because I’ve spent way too much time playing the the AssCreed games.  I played the first one and enjoyed it, until I got to the ending and said “What the fuck” and immediately filed it under a Steam category titled “The Ending Sucks”. It was sorta-kinda redeemed when I played AssCreed 2, aided significantly by the fact that AssCreed 2 was an amazing fucking game.  I put so many hours into it.  And then I immediately went from that into Brotherhood which was similarly amazing because it was the exact same game except polished up to be even better.  By the time I was done Brotherhood, Revelations had come out… but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t play more AssCreed yet.  Plus, none of the new mechanics in Revelations really appealed to me.  The tower defense stuff was kind of dumb (I don’t like tower defense in the first place…) and it annoyed me that bomb making took a centre stage spotlight because it meant finding chests was no longer exciting, because all of them held bomb parts now.  Plus Ezio, while still badass, was really old and his facial animations seemed kind of weird to me and enh I dunno it just didn’t appeal to me in the same way.  I figured I would play it one day if only to wrap up the Ezio story, but I never really got around to it.  AssCreed 3 came out and I had no desire whatsoever to play it.  I’ve never been interested in history, and I’m not American, so running around in a forest during the American revolution was wholly uninteresting to me.  Then the reviews came out and they did not inspire me to change my mind.  I didn’t even try a demo of it…

And now I can be a mother fucking pirate oh my god yes.  Whoever is picking the settings for these games, feel free to stand up from your desk right now and announce “Nailed it!” to the office.  I’m saying this without actually having played much of the game, mind you, but I am trusting that it continues to be as awesome as it seems so far.

It also looks amazingly shiny on my computer.  So pretty.  The water makes me want to go swimming.

Quick warning: I rant in this next section.  It is a rant that will probably seem very familiar, and yet no less irrationally angry or profanity laden.  Proceed at your own risk.

My next comment is for the guys in charge of the camera.  You.  Yes you.  You added camera bobbing to Assassin’s Creed and did not add a way to disable it.  You fucking assholes I fucking hate you.  I hope you get fucking fired and never work in this industry again.  Jesus christ it makes me so fucking angry oh my fucking god why.  There was no fucking bobbing in all of the previous games.  I merrily ran around and climbed shit and assassinated people without bobbing for many hundreds of hours and had no headaches or nausea.  It is a THIRD PERSON CAMERA.  IT DOESN’T NEED TO FUCKING BOB.  I HATE YOU ALL.  Is it supposed to enhance immersion by making me go “wow these ships are so real that I actually feel kind of sea sick!” because that’s a STUPID FUCKING THING TO ADD TO YOUR GAME.  I don’t even care if you want to add camera bobbing but let me fucking turn it off.   WHY IS THAT SO FUCKING HARD TO FIGURE OUT.  WHY CAN’T ANYONE IN THIS STUPID GOD DAMN INDUSTRY FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT.  FUCK YOU.  There, I feel better now.

After all that profanity, I will add that the bob isn’t too bad.  It’s enough to give me a headache and probably make me limit my play sessions (which sucks in a game I will probably want to spend 200 hours in, if it’s like the previous ones…) but it’s significantly less worse than Tomb Raider was and I might be able to adjust to it.  I object to that fact that I need to adjust to it at all when it’s completely fucking unnecessary, though.  Fortunately it’s only at its worst when you’re sprinting and jumping, and since this is an Assassin’s Creed game, you don’t do a lot of…….. oh.

Moving on… there are a couple other comments I wanted to make too.

As I said, I skipped 3, so the intro to 4 is my first real experience with “Forest Parkour”.  It gets a resounding *shrug* from me – it’s certainly not as exciting as climbing on historical monuments, but I also don’t hate it as much as a lot of the internet seemed to for 3.  Maybe it’s improved since then.  What did annoy me, though, was looking at a cliff covered in lovely climbable looking ivy and branches and launching Edward at it, only to have him scrabble at it like a cat that just tried to leap up a slanted window.  There were very few walls that you could not make an attempt at climbing in the cities, and when you weren’t going to be able to make it it was pretty obvious due to the lack of features on said wall, so you’d circle around and look for a window or board that looked grabbable.  I found it really hard to determine which cliff walls were climbable or not (any rock climber could climb this shit, come on man) and spent a lot of time experimentally hurling myself into them until I finally just gave up and started looking for obvious paths.  It felt a lot more restrictive than I am used to in AssCreed.  Also Edward was unable to climb up an absolutely perfectly square three-walled “chimney” that any idiot (presuming said idiot was a remarkably in-shape assassin) could have climbed up using mario-style wall jumping or just shimmying.  Even Sam Fisher can do this shit!  Maybe I can buy that as an upgrade later or something but it was VERY disappointing.  Shame on you Edward.  You pussy.

Camera headaches aside, I am very excited to sail around finding treasure maps.  I’m liking the characters so far (they have plenty of time to piss me off though) and I’m looking forward to obsessively collecting shit again.  Unless there are feathers.  Fuck those feathers.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We were watching “Oz the Great and Powerful” (which was decent, but pretty shallow, and very Disney), and I realized I had never actually read any of the original Oz books. I knew I had them so I figured I should probably remedy that.

I’m probably going to piss someone off with this, but, what surprised me the most about it was how bad it was. Not the story! The story was imaginative and unique and perfectly captures that “fairy tale” feeling. What was bad was the writing. I was trying to put my finger on it, and I think it just feels amateur, which probably makes sense. It’s similar to what you would expect from a young author – there’s almost an obsession with documenting each and every trivial action of the characters, almost as if there’s a fear that the reader will either become confused, or call out the story for not describing how something came to be (even when obvious). It makes several parts of it unwieldy and wordy, but even more bizarre, it flip-flops into sections where absolutely nothing is described in detail, which is quite glaring after the painstaking details in every other section.
The oiling of the Woodman is a good example. The whole section is like: “Oil my neck”, said the Woodman. So Dorothy oiled his neck. “Now oil my arms”, said the Woodman. So Dorothy oiled his arms. “Now oil my legs”, said the Woodman. So Dorothy… okay we get it. There’s like two pages that could be condensed into the sentence “Dorothy oiled the Woodman until his joints moved once more.”
In another section, Dorothy pulls out a whistle and the book explains that she always wears it around her neck so it’s been there the whole time. My version was annotated, and the accompanying footnote said “Commentary has been unable to explain this suddenly appearing accessory.” I can take a crack at explaining it though – it’s lazy writing. Either the whistle was mentioned in a section that later got hastily chopped out and not cleaned up, or it was never mentioned and when this part got written, the explanation was jammed in on top with some hand waving.  That’s my interpretation.

Speaking of the annotations… I know this book has been analyzed backwards and forwards and inside and out for the past century, but I read books for the entertainment value, and I tend to analyze them on the same level. I generally prefer going into a book “blind”, without any encounters with any outside opinions to colour the formation of my own opinions. Which is why it drives me absolutely nuts (and I know I’ve bitched about this before in reviews…) to have a classic edition like this that spends literally the first 25% of the book going over the history of the creation of the book, the life and times of the author, their favourite passages from the book, and what they think those passages mean in a symbolic and allegorical sense, all before letting me start to read the fucking book. Put that shit at the END of the book, AFTER I have read the book. It’s absolutely mind boggling. What possible reason do you have for putting all of this shit before the content of the book itself. It’s not reasonable to expect that everyone on the planet has already read the book. What if a 5 year old child is reading this as the first book they have ever read, and now you’ve ruined the story for them! Way to go! [/rant].

That said, I found the footnotes amusing, in that they reinforced my belief that I will never get along with literary analysis. My god, the sheer effort spent trying to derive meaning from every little thing. The tin man rusts, but tin cannot rust! What can it mean! Well, it could have some sort of allegorical meaning, or, it could be that, back in 1900, L. Frank Baum didn’t understand how rust works. It’s probably one of those things. I skimmed over the whole “Oz as an allegory for economics”, as well as something about how Dorothy must have been a vegan because she is only ever seen eating nuts and fruit, and all I can think is that it’s entirely too exhausting to read things while trying to dig up clues that may or may not exist under the words.

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Tomb Raider (The “Bobbing” Rant…)

I was very interested in the new Tomb Raider game when it came out, but I figured I have enough shit to do so I would wait for a sale.  Now it’s on sale at Green Man Gaming for 13 bucks.  Sold.  It probably means it will be 5 bucks in the Steam summer sale, but fuck it, 13 is a good price point.

I haven’t gotten very far yet, just through the tutorial section (at which point I can already say that the game should really be subtitled “Lara Croft has a very bad day.”), but I have a couple of things I want to say.

First: Holy shit this game is running incredibly well on my 5 year old computer that I am about to replace because the motherboard is starting to die.  Also it looks fantastic.  I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the game in that it’s just a series of quicktime events carrying you from cutscene to cutscene, but you know what, if it looks like this, I’m fine with that.  Lara is incredibly expressive, and the action events pull you in and make you jump.  And then you die horribly in brutal fashion, but it’s okay because it only sets you back to the beginning of the sequence.  So that you can die again.  It’s pretty awesome!  I’ve heard many complaints about that, too, but I’m mostly worried that it will become frustrating later on.  It’s not yet, though… but I would hope the tutorial sections wouldn’t be…

Second: The real reason I am writing this entry despite having spent about 30 minutes in game is because I need to take a break because the game has camera bob, and it’s not possible to disable it.

There are few things which make me as angry as mandatory camera bobbing.

The thing is, a large number of people (myself included, obviously) have issues with motion sickness when what your eye sees (lots of bobbing) does not match up with what the inner ear is detecting (not lots of bobbing).  Usually this is an issue in first person games where the camera attempts to emulate walking by bobbing up and down… except it never made any sense to me to do that because our brains compensate for the bobbing motion and we don’t really see everything bobbing up and fucking down while we walk, so why would you artificially emulate it?  Lots of people do not have motion sickness issues and do seem to like bobbing, though, to the degree that if you search for the easiest way to disable bobbing, you’ll inevitably find pages upon pages of people replying with “lol it doesn’t bother me just get over it lol” (except usually with worse spelling and grammar).  My issue isn’t so much that the bobbing is included – by all means include it if people like it and they feel it enhances their experience – my issue is that it is not offered as a mother fucking option that can be fucking TURNED OFF.  

That was probably unnecessarily harsh, but I’m getting really fucking sick of digging around in ini files to find the little line that says “head_bob = 1” and changing it to a 0, when you could put that fucking option in the settings screen so people like me wouldn’t be irrationally fucking angry at your shitty UI designers that should all be fired for not putting the fucking option there, assholes.

I did say “irrationally”, right?  Ok, good.

We include subtitles for the deaf (well… usually…), and colourblind modes for the colourblind (well… hopefully…), so why can we not include “no fucking headbobbing” modes for the bobbing impaired?  This is an important issue that must be addressed, guys!  Those of us who are going to vomit on our keyboards are being neglected by the game development community :(

I was actually surprised when I felt the familiar headache creeping in after 15 minutes of Tomb Raider, because it’s actually a third person game where you see Lara in front of you as you move around.  Usually if there’s an obvious thing in front of the eye (like Lara Croft’s huge boobs… actually they’re surprisingly mild in this game, come to think of it) the bobbing doesn’t trigger the “oh god our readings aren’t lining up ABORT ABORT ABANDON SHIP” reaction from the equilibrium system.  The camera shakes a lot, but it doesn’t really bother me so much in the cutscenes.  It’s a lot like watching a movie shot with shaky-cam (and motion sickness aside… why the fuck would you choose to emulate THAT of all things???) so if those kinds of movies bother you, the game might too.  The actiony scenes actually helped my headache ease off a bit because it’s more like the shaking is expected.  What brought it on in full was when Lara was staggering on a lovely grassy path in an otherwise calm scene, and the camera is swaying back and forth and jittering like the cameraman was dying of hypothermia on the deck of a sinking ship.  I can see Lara swaying, why does the camera need to be swaying?  I am not seeing this through Lara’s swaying eyes.  I do not need the camera to explain to me that she is swaying right now.  Why can’t I turn this fucking swaying off?  Fuck you.

Unfortunately, I also can’t seem to find any sort of camera sway options in the ini files.  It doesn’t look like there’s an easy fix for it.  The camera effects in the cinematic sections make sense, and I probably wouldn’t even want to turn those off… but just moving from place to place… uggghhh.  But I guess if they’re all part of the same programming it would be pretty hard to put in a way to disable one and not the other.  Still, I would like an option to disable it wholesale and deal with the decreased experience that not having a cinematic camera leaves me with.  Right now it’s a choice between having a decreased experience of having a splitting headache and nausea vs a decreased experience of having to take a break (and write an irrationally angry blog entry) every hour or so.

But the headache is easing off now so I think I will go see what hilarious end Lara will meet next.

Update:  I mentioned to my husband that I had bought Tomb Raider and he said “How big are her boobs?”
So I said “Pretty average, really.”
“I hate it already. Worst game ever.”

Powerplay Manager (sort of)

This isn’t so much a review of a game as it is a rant about the current status of certain things. I ended up tagging this both “I like it” AND “I don’t like it” because there are elements of both, I guess.

I’ve been playing “Powerplay Manager” which is a browser game where you manage a hockey team.  I started playing it because there are absolutely no worthwhile hockey manager games on the market right now, and the ones that ARE available via being propped up by the fan modding community (like Eastside Hockey Manager) all use current rosters of teams and players.  I’m keeping an eye on the Hockey manager game being produced by OOTP… but it looks like they’re going for the current roster deal, too, since they’re basically trying to make a modern Eastside Hockey Manager.  I’m not interested in simulating the NHL, I just wanted to play with fantasy teams and players where the “stars” are not based on real-life reputation.  I want to build my own unique team and play against opponents who are not modelled after existing teams, so that I can learn their strengths and weaknesses as I go, rather than try to figure it out based on real history.  It’s actually kind of amazing to me that there aren’t more fantasy sports games available which aren’t just trying to emulate reality.
I actually REALLY want ‘Football Manager’, except Hockey, not Football.  I wonder who I can send letters to in order to accomplish that…

Anyway, PPM is kind of cool in that every player and every team is either player controlled, or computer controlled waiting for a player to make an account and take over.  They’re not based on real teams or players at all, it’s all generated with RNG.  Half of your job as manager is to take your roster and tell them how to train and delegate the players into the best position for their stats.  Each player has a ‘quality’ rating which dictates how well they learn in each stat, and each position values certain stats over others.  At the same time, an offensive player with a higher defense stat will still contribute to preventing the other team from getting scoring chances, and stuff like “shooting” isn’t necessarily tied to any one position but will dictate whether your scoring chances actually turn into goals.  You set “tactics” for the team too which can take advantage of the way you’ve designed their stats – if your defense is high in offense as well, you can go for an aggressive approach, or if your offense is high in defense, go for a shutdown approach… and there are some other, more subtle options, as well.

The other half of your job is to upgrade your arena (making room for people to sit so they can come to your games, buy your shitty food and souvenirs, and give you $$$$$ to provide more capital to upgrade or hire players), upgrade your facilities (if you have better training facilities your players learn better… medical facilities for injuries… yadda yadda), and hiring and training staff to man those positions.  Periodically you have to review applications for new staff or players, and decide if you want to take them on or just reject their resume.

Of course, it’s a browser game.  Which means your team plays one hockey match every two days, and everything happens at pretty much a real-time pace.  I’ve been playing for over a year now, logging in once a day or so to check up on my game schedule, see if any players need to switch to training a different stat, and deciding if I have enough cash to start a new arena upgrade (upgrades take upwards of 45 real-time days to complete, usually).  It’s taken a year, and I’m still not anywhere near in contention for any sort of playoff position or even winning any sort of trophies, but my stars are actually starting to score goals, and my prospects are getting to the point where they’re starting to move into the line-up and bump out the low-quality losers I started with who just sort of take up space.  I kind of want a not-browser based version just so it doesn’t take over a year for my team to start winning a game every now and then; There is a certain appeal to being able to hit “next day” and have it immediately jump instead of literally waiting 24 hours.  Sadly there is no game like that which exists.

Which brings me to my next rant.  I’ve been playing this game for a year… and I’ve been reasonably enjoying it.  They (like most browser games) offer perks if you throw money at them.  In the case of this game, there are a couple “one off” purchases like designing a custom puck you can trade with teams, or customizing your arena, designing a goalie mask… lots of little neat cosmetic things.  There is also a Pro Pack which brings a lot of features, such as designing a jersey logo, assigning numbers to your players, automated training so they can train a number of stats at once without having to micromanage it, and access to a lot of in-depth stats which might help you decide how to train your players (on top of just being kind of interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing).  I thought to myself “It’s probably worth supporting them… let’s see how much a pro pack costs”.

The pack only lasts for a limited amount of time, and works out to about 15 bucks a week.  Seriously?  Seriously?
If you buy in bulk you get a huge discount, so you can buy a year for 50 bucks, but seriously?  I’ve been playing this game for a year but my actual playtime is only a couple of days worth.  Is it worth 50 bucks to get some nifty stats I can look at for 5 minutes a day?  Fuck no.  Especially not when it expires.  If it were a permanent account upgrade maybe, maybe I would consider it… but even then I would be thinking “eeennnghhh…”

Not quite as egregious as playing 65 fucking dollars for a mine in Mine Things, but the mines don’t fucking expire at least. (unless you rent them… and then you get two weeks for 7 bucks or so, instead of one for fifteen.)

Why do these companies feel the need to be so greedy?  I was perfectly willing to support them because I like the game they’ve set up, but the moneygrabbing is so disgusting that I’m not even sure I want to continue logging in.  According to the statistics screen, they have 4000-5000 people logged in at any point in time, so it’s not even really a question of volume.  Have we learned nothing from the age of Steam Sales, where games fly off the shelves and make a killing at 2.50 a pop simply because people are like “fuck it, it’s 2.50” even if they never bother to get around to installing the damn thing?  If it was a year of Pro Pack for 10 bucks I would probably talk myself into it, even with the expiry.  4000 people talking themselves into it is 40,000 dollars.  Is 1/4 of the current player base going to talk themselves into dropping 50 bucks on a year of pro pack?  It’s possible I suppose, but I can tell you I’ve seen maybe two opponents who weren’t on their introductory free week of pro who actually had a logo.  And if they weren’t so greedy with the pack fees I’d probably be more willing to design a puck for my team, or buy in to some of the other cosmetic fun stuff.  Instead, I continue to pay zero.  Which is actually more likely to be a negative number because of bandwidth costs (although I probably don’t use THAT much bandwidth logging in for 5 minutes a day, I guess).

Ugh it’s a shame.  I guess I should have expected it, though… I followed a link to one of their associated games once, which turned out to be a “Mafia-Wars-Esque” style game where you have X number of action points and you try to fill up the little bars and unlock the boss at the end of a stage, collecting money and items as you go.  Mindless and pointless, but progressing is kind of fun to do since it only takes a couple minutes each day, right?  Except every time you went to do an action it would pop up a window saying “Gosh if you gave us money this window would go away!  But since you haven’t given us any money you will be able to play in 3…… 2…… 1……”

Guess what game I’M not playing!