The FOMO carrot

For many online games encouraging a continual influx of first time players is good, but retaining players is the most advantageous since those player are already invested.
Of course this isn’t anything new and many games now contain systems that encourage players to log in and stick around for daily activities, events or rewards.

If you have played these games you only just need look at your inbox during Christmas time, almost every title has some kind of event on, maybe some unique skins in the game store, a special unlock if you sign in each day.
It gets to the point that you have to prioritise your time and energy on those you actually want to participate in, which you need to reinstall.

Personally I used to get easily pulled into these traps, Daily login rewards are the most frequently implemented tactic to draw you back into a game, while time limited events keep you engaged for longer, spending more time inside game, and ultimately that is the real cost of these systems, your valuable time (and Hard Drive Space).

Some games of course do it better than others, some wrap the whole thing up in pomp and ceremony that obfuscate the fact from players.

The harnessing of player time

In games where players are your content (PVP), not only do you need to encourage that returning player mentality, there also has to be more impetus to play for longer periods. That where the motherload of all mechanics the “Battlepass” is the system of choice, often a dual tiered reward system, a free tier and a paid tier, where you can pay a cost for more possible rewards.

With the promise of better rewards or XP, unlocks/skins that you can only get via that system, the Fear Of Missing Out now weaponised against the players and comes with a price tag, but not only could you miss out by not purchasing the battle pass, but if you don’t put enough effort in then you also miss out. A 2 pronged attack.

To ensure early adoption of the paid Battlepass, there is normally a boost of some kind that means that players could reach the upper tiers easier and faster, plus those players that purchase don’t want to waste their money so will be sure to login to grind, secured content.
However If you don’t buy the paid version then no XP boost, means if you want to unlock free tier content you have to grind more, which ultimately means you are giving more content for free.

The event calendar

I have played World of Tanks on and off since beta, I occasionally dip a toe back into the Wargaming title once a year, but every year I return, the shine wears off faster and the business model shows a little clearer.

WOT - Event Calendar

The last time I was playing it was very apparent that there is a continual drive to ALWAYS have an event for players to participate in, often they have win conditions like “Rank in the top 3 for damage in 10 battles” or  “each tier of this event you complete reduces the cost of this Premium Tank by 10%”.

For a good player these are achievable without breaking a sweat, for more standard players it becomes much harder, everyone on the server is trying to achieve the same thing, players use tanks that are better at achieving their goal, better ammo & equipment.
Even player’s approaches to matches then alter, not going for a win but purely aiming for their daily goal, you find people throw matches to ensure they check that box for their reward.

This ultimately ruins the game for those trying to play the game normally and undermines the goal the company are trying to achieve, which is retaining players as it just pisses them all off.

Hardspace : Shipbreaker

Music to break ships to

There has been a rise of games that are focused around a career in doing virtual jobs and building up experience/knowledge as you go, I’m thinking of HouseFlipper, Powerwash Simulator, Cooking Simulator and Gas Station Simulator to name a few, I feel that Hardspace : Shipbreaker kicks the whole thing up a level, it released from early access in May this year.

You work as a Shipbreaker for LYNX Corporation working to pay them back for giving you this great opportunity, you spend your days slicing apart derelict spaceships in one of the most hostile environments imaginable.
The Zero-G life can take a bit of getting used to, but there is no time for that as each part of the ship has to be correctly salvaged and processed, otherwise it’s money lost for the company. Chop Chop!

Keeping one eye on your Oxygen reserves and the other on your fuel tanks, you learn very quickly that one wrong cut or unplanned depressurisation can be costly either to your health, bank balance or both.

What starts off as a relaxing reverse house flipper soon becomes the complete opposite, the game does a good job of introducing new mechanics but sometimes they aren’t covered in depth and you kind of have to figure out things yourself, or worse trial and error.

Hardspace : Shipbreaker not only tells a tale, it also gives glimpses at humanity’s steps into the wider solar system, you also learn more about your employer, co-workers and their lives, hopes and dreams and what the future may hold for you all.

Thoughts

After seeing one of my Charity team mates playing the game, I knew it was going to be the sort of game I’d love to get my teeth into and I wasn’t wrong. Plus it’s got a kick-ass soundtrack with strummed acoustic folk guitar that just somehow fits the space setting, most likely pulling on those Firefly strings.

However I can see how this game may not appeal to everyone, the Zero gravity can be very disorientating, things like oxygen depletion is a real threat as and the game often conveys a claustrophobic feeling through the use of visuals and audio cues.

There are 4 difficulty types in the game :

  • Open Shift – Removed shift timer and togglable oxygen drain
  • Standard – Unlimited lives, but you work on the clock
  • Limited – 30 Revives for the campaign
  • No Revival – One life only.

Each difficulty type requires a new character account and the progress is tracked separately mostly as you can do things at different speeds. No shift timer allows you to salvage a whole ship in one go, compared to the 2 maybe even 3 shifts for other game modes.

Each has a free play mode where you can just break apart ships without the story and if you play at difficultly Open Shift you have the ability to toggling off the oxygen depletion too.
This is great for learning the ships but also if you want a break from the restrictions/expectations of the story mode.

Naturally there is a inherent danger of death in the game however I feel it’s worth a content warning for an event near the beginning of the game, each time you start a new character, I have added detail on the click/tap of the warning if you want more information.

Content warning: Implied Surgery (click to expand)

When you see and click a button for genetic extraction the audio that follows implies surgery and could be upsetting to some people, it lasts until screen fades to black.
Whole section can be skipped using ESCAPE when you get the Welcome to Morrigan Station screen and LYNX welcome video.

 

Rating?

I used to rate games whenever I blogged about them, so think I shall revive that feature since I’m likely to be posting about games going forward.

Playability 3/5
Graphics 4/5
Audio 4/5
Longevity 4/5
Originality 5/5
Total 20 out of 25

Want more?

I found this great talk from the developers explaining how the game started life as a hack-day idea and evolved continually until it became what it is today.

Android Apps 2022 Edition

The apps I use most frequently.

I have not shared a list of my Android apps for a while and it’s very weird a number them haven’t really changed much in the last 5 years or so. Take this as my “Frequently used” list of Apps for my Pixel 3a, which I’d had for a year or so now and other than the lack of SD card slot has been a rather decent phone.

Fenix (2) – Twitter App

I have tried a number of Twitter apps over the years, going back to my Nokia N95 (Twibble) there were apps that tried to offer a half decent experience outside of the website. As Applications and phones evolved there were more dedicated apps like those on the Blackberrys.

For me Fenix (original) made some great strides towards offering the functionality  that I was looking for in a twitter app, the second version of the application built on that even further.
To be perfectly frank I haven’t bothered to shop around in recent years as I don’t feel I’m lacking in any functionality currently.

My favourite feature is the ability to favourite users, which acts like it’s own list that you can see in it’s own column and generate notifications for. This is especially useful if you want to keep up with certain users and not miss their content.

Deezer – Music

Tried a handful of times but I never got on with Spotify, previously we used Google Music as it was easily integrated to the family setup but when they decided to merge it into Youtube, we decided to move to something else.
We went for a change and opted for French company Deezer’s service, I knew a few people using it all of whom had good experiences and the interface wasn’t terribly dissimilar to the .

It does the trick has lots of the usual features that i suppose all music services do nowadays, my main requirement was that it allowed me to upload some of my rarer tracks that don’t exist on any streaming platform.
Bonus if I can use it in the car, the TV less important.

I like shortcutting my playlists so that can just set it going without having to open anything up.

Bandcamp

Some of the music I pick up isn’t on many stream sites yet, or may never be. The band camp app is great for playing those tracks as well as browsing for new stuff. Plus if you have favourited an artist you can configure it to notify you on any new releases rather than having to rely on email, or you could get both I’m not your keeper.

Pocket Casts

I have been using pocket casts since I bought it in 2013, it  has seen a lot of changes in appearance and functionality but the underlying functionality that originally drew me to using it  thankfully still remains.
There are some additional features that are locked behind another upgrade but I’ve not had any need to purchase that.

Carrot

Not gonna lie the only reason I have the Carrot Weather App is for the LOLs.

Stupid yes, but gives me a giggle sometimes when I need it. Careful using swear mode at work, especially if you have text to speech on.

Trello

Organise all the things.
I swear I use Trello more for organising my brain than anything else. I love to visually see a task list, sometime I may split them into multiple tasks or add checklists to allow me to focus on the subtasks of something bigger, but yes ultimately I am looking for a simple view of those tasks.

Normally I use it mostly on the PC or laptop, but sometimes I want to add some new ideas that just popped into my head and I know I will not remember then by the time I am home. Other times I just want to see what things, I have listed, that need attention.

Trello uses a simple board configuration to allow you to drag and drop labelled activities, you are able to configure tags and dates and descriptions for tasks.

NovaLaucher

Nova Launcher remains one of the best things about my phone, it has taken away that fear of having rebuild/reconfigure your home screen and settings when you wipe or  upgrade your hardware. This one feature alone is amazing but the vast array of options that you can configure allows you to make your Phones home screens and App trays work in the way best suited for you.

I will always generally have at least one app tab for applications I use on a high-frequency basis, in the past I had a tab just for games. Being able to split the app tray into more logical and meaningful groups works so well for how I use my phone and speeds up finding applications. Plus you can hide any apps that you don’t use or that are baked into the device.

Some of the other features I really enjoy as things like tapping the media folder on bottom bar opens a folder with 4 applications contained inside it. However when you swipe up on that folder I have configured it to open the Deezer application. Another example is that tapping my wife’s avatar opens up our messages, swiping up dials her  mobile directly.

I love small quality of life features that make using the phone easier. As I said settings can be backed up and restored so when you move to a new device you can just import them without having to remember the thousands of steps and changes you made to get it just so.

Lastly

I am still using Pixlr as mentioned on my 2018 post for most of my Photo Editing tasks however they altered how their payment model worked and the option that I bought to remove adverts is now a month or annual subscription where as I paid £1.61 to permanently remove them in 2015, which is still being honoured , but the made reason this isn’t in the top section of the list.

Previously I listed Google Keep, I still use it but for mostly when I want a way to list items and check them off, Keep has that functionality build it for shopping  lists or holiday item packing, plus it’s easier to share Keep list than a Trello board.

I use DuckDuckGo Browser but want to save that for a dedicated post.

That’s all from me.


What apps do you use day in & day out? Or that you would struggle without?

But we didn’t order any extras

I thought that Blaugust was going to be more straight forward this year but alas life throws whole bags of spanners into the mix once more.

cherry blossom lemonade
Cherry Blossom Lemonade

On the weekend we did a little shopping then headed to Wagamama as a treat, for those not familiar Wagamama is a British restaurant chain that serve Asian food based on Japanese cuisine.
Pictured is the cherry blossom lemonade I had that was bloody delicious.

We discovered on Monday that at some point during the weekend adventure, Munki (my other half), ended her 2 year 5 month streak of being COVID free.
We live in a small house so there isn’t any real  meaningful isolation that can happen, however Munki tried to keep away from the kids, I have only recently gotten over having COVID 4 weeks ago, thankfully it was while the family were away,  it meant I wasn’t too concerned about getting it again myself.

The problem is that our 16 month old Tiny Troll is of course still needing a lot of attention so I was picking up all those duties to let Munki stay out of close proximity, add into the mix doing my day job, a dash of gaming and mustering some blog posts  too, it’s been a juggling act to say the least.

Well today TinyTroll woke with a high temperature which after a test turned out to be positive too. He has only displayed the fever so we are hopeful that will be the extent of it.
Naturally Munki feels awful that he has caught it, but thankful that she is now able to help out with some baby related tasks since they are both in the same boat.

LittleTroll (our eldest) remains negative on tests and to be honest is making himself as useful as a 12 year old can.

So fingers crossed that everyone in the house starts to get better in the coming days and we can return to our usual family chaos instead of is COVID branded one.

While my dice collection gently weeps

Touching on my favourite TTRPG system and my go to system for most new games.

When it comes to Table Top RPG games, despite being weaned on AD&D 2E and the occasional game of Shadowrun my favourite RPG system still remains FATE (plus the FAE and FATE Condensed variants), mostly as it not only allows the players to guide the narrative, but it encourages creative exploration of player characters and how the various facets of their personality evolving over the course of gameplay.

I feel it really captures the collaborative nature that is sought after in our TTRPG worlds, interpretation of descriptions both character and world can be played on and alters how the game evolves.

I’m not going to lie the system isn’t for everyone, if a player struggles to be imaginative and/or creative then they aren’t likely to find as much enjoyment from the mechanics and gameplay to the same extent as someone that does.

A new player joins

However over the last few years a new contender has turned my head and has fast become my go to system/framework when I want to run a game that my players can  pick up easily and dive straight into.

I am, of course, talking about Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) framework (or games inspired by it), originally created for the Apocalypse World game it has re-enforced the concept of fiction first TTRPGs.
By simplifying systems and player classes it actually paves the way for the storytelling to shine through, making it great for both one-shots and campaigns alike.

I have run a number of games that are PbtA and the familiarity of the core mechanics means that as the GM or player it has a familiar feeling, which is one of the factors in my turning to it as my first port of call when pondering a new game. There are a large number of PbtA games out in the world and they cover so many genres that you are likely to find something that fits your needs.

My first experience of a PbtA game was Monster of the Week , the game that mimics the episodic style of ‘Monster of the Week’ TV shows like Buffy, X-Files and Supernatural.
It’s a blast setting the players up as Monster Hunters, exploring their history and reasons for becoming one, what makes them tick and what their relationship is like with the other team members. I also love crafting settings, monsters and characters for this game as I can almost picture them featured in a show and it lends itself to my creative process when fleshing out details and behaviours.

If you want to play something different and memorable with your gaming group, I can’t encourage you enough to look into running a Monster of the Week game.

Need a quick overview?
Check out this “How to Play” video from World of Game Design, which does a great job of summing up the game key features in 15 minutes.

Last minute plug

I am going to do a small plug here for a friends PbtA game, created by the wonderful Remescient (funnily who I met while watching MotW streams on Twitch) Starhold is a space-themed survival horror TTRPG set on the very fringes of our universe, a hostile and unforgiving environment, where one false move could spell disaster.

Originally released in 2020 earlier this year the game was made free via Ko-Fi, not only does it come with 8 Playbooks, each one has 3 variants too, so you have a possible 32 different combinations to choose from.