Hey, did you guys hear that Crowfall launched a Kickstarter today?
I’m not a big user of Kickstarter myself. A lot of people who I like and respect are into it so no slight to them, but it’s never been my thing. I’m too miserly to spend money on a concept that may or may not ever come to pass, and my internal hipster voice could never hop on a project just because it was popular. In fact the only time I’ve ever used Kickstarter was to throw $20 at Reading Rainbow because I was a kid too once.
I do, however, enjoy reading other people’s Kickstarters. You can learn a lot about marketing and content (my day job, man) by examining what works and what does not. For example, unsuccessful campaigns often treat Kickstarter as the first thing on the to-do list and that’s totally wrong. Nowadays just having a Kickstarter is not notable — you need to have your marketing and awareness campaign in full swing first, and then lay down the rails for the gravy train.
Wilhelm feels that Crowfall hit this sweet spot, and I totally agree. The game has drummed up a great deal of ground support and buzz since it was announced at the end of December, organically sliding into my Twitter stream on enough occasions that even I found myself wondering what this Crowfall game was and whether I should care about it or not. They’ve had numerous marketing pushes with new art work and class descriptions. Wilhelm mentions in his post that the clever observer could spot a Kickstarter campaign in the works, but as someone who wasn’t really playing close attention to the game I found the news this morning to make a lot of sense.
The Kickstarter page itself is very well put together. There are a few recognizable industry vets and a lot of previous experience, a ton of details about the game, and many screenshots and pieces of concept art. There’s not a lot to indicate how much of the game has actually been developed so far, which is smart. The reward tiers make sense, and walk the fine line of giving rewards that backers would actually value and not just t-shirts and thank you letters. Personally I would highlight their target completion dates more prominently, and I’m assuming their stretch goals will not be Star Citizen levels of crazy.
As of this post Crowfall has raised $350,000 on their first day, so it seems pretty likely that they’ll make their $800,000 goal. Even if I was Kickstarter-inclined I probably wouldn’t contribute because I’m not sure it’s my kind of game and I’m a little put off by some of their rhetoric, but they’ve definitely put together a great offering and I think it’ll serve as a excellent example to more niche MMOs in the future.
So I finally got around to playing and finishing Transistor, and while I knew going in that the game was good it was actually so much better than I imagined. In retrospect, had I played this when it came out in 2014 it would have been one of my favorite games of the year, without a doubt.
If you played Supergiant Games’ last effort, Bastion, then you already know that they excel at world building and story telling. (And if you haven’t played Bastion yet then I just don’t know what to say.) Transistor and Bastion have some narrative similarities: they both have a quiet protagonist and a third party “narrator” who helps guide you through a crumbling world. Both games tell their story gradually as you progress, and in both cases the story is laced with melancholy. The music is amazing in both games, although I’d have to tip Transistor as having the superior soundtrack.
The big difference between Bastion and Transistor is the combat. Bastion was praised for having “fun” combat when it came out and there was nice flexibility in which weapons you chose to use and upgrade which created a few different ways to approach encounters. That being said, Bastion was still real-time, twitch style combat which is not something I’m great at and I can find it a little stressful in long stretches. In fact, part of the reason it took me so long to play Transistor was just steeling myself for another twitchy combat game.
My concerns, as it turns out, were completely unfounded because the combat in Transistor is so much more.
Supergiant took the idea of flexible combat and expanded on it to the point where it’s possible for two players to go through encounters in entirely different ways. Instead of just assigning a couple of weapons, Transistor provides a number of skills (the exact selection is up to each player) and then lets you combine them in strange and beautiful ways. The player has a points cap, basically, and can juggle skills between being base skills, upgrade skills, or passive skills assuming the slot is open and the total resources used are under the points cap. Each skill has a theme but applies it in slightly different ways depending on whether it’s in a base, upgrade, or passive slot. Even just directly swapping two skills can make huge changes in the results.
Now add to all this the tools for turn-based, non-twitchy combat. In Transistor the player is able to pause the game and map out their next few moves. How many moves you can fit into your turn depends on how much distance you travel and how much time the skills you are using take. When your turn is over and you un-pause, the protagonist zips around executing all the moves and then you have to wait a while before your next turn. Between the use of turns and the highly customizable skill system, combat in Transistor becomes more of a puzzle than a shoot ‘em up.
(Or more specifically it COULD be more of a puzzle, if that’s how you enjoy playing. You don’t even have to use turns at all if you don’t want to and ahhhhhh have I mentioned yet how great this game is at letting you play how you want?)
Exploring your options when it comes to skills is highly encouraged in the game. Much like Bastion’s challenge zones, Transistor eventually opens up a hub where the player is given a number of different types of combat puzzles like “kill all of these mobs in one turn” or “stay alive for the next two minutes”. There’s also a sandbox mode where you can kill stuff to your heart’s content. And as if that wasn’t enough, the game’s lore is also tied to combat! Use each skill in battle in all three slots (base, upgrade, or passive) to unlock three pieces of story. I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons, but in an age where combat can feel so disparate from story in games (Bioshock Infinite, talking to you) it’s delightful to see a developer combine them together in a way that does justice to both.
Basically what I’m saying is that if you if you love lore and world building you should play Transistor. Oh, and if you love gorgeous graphics and music. And highly flexible combat. And great story-telling. Look, just play Transistor.
How is it that the Final Fantasy 14 community is so gosh darn nice?
I was thinking about it while making coffee this morning — during my last sojourn in WoW back in the middle of Pandaria I ran a loooot of LFG and LFR and yet I find it hard to remember a single run that didn’t have at least one jerkwad in it. Complaints about healing/DPS meters, slurs in chat, revenge group kicks, “go go go go go”.. for just about every random group I would put a movie on the other monitor and explicitly ignore chat. When I think about queuing up for a random group in WoW, I feel nervous about the possibility of being insulted by strangers.
To be fair I’m only level 31 in FFXIV, but I have had plenty of opportunities to use the Duty Finder (aka LFG) while working on the main storyline and seriously every single time I’ve been matched with folks who are at best friendly and helpful and at worst quietly competent. It’s almost spooky.
In FFXIV, the first time you visit each dungeon using the Duty Finder your entire group is informed that “someone” in the party is new. The first time I saw that notice it was actually a little worrying. Oh no, someone will figure out that I’m a supernoob! Prepare for insults or maybe a group kick! But no, instead I discovered very experienced players who actually volunteered to clear extra pathways for my achievements or quests. Once I was even in what turned out to be an all-noobie group, and we took turns quickly reading boss fight descriptions and relaying critical moves to the rest of the party. It has been a universally pleasant experience. What’s the deal?
I can think of two differences between WoW and FFXIV that might point to a reason, and first is the age of each game. WoW has been around long enough for folks to get pretty jaded. (If you too are an old school player you need to read this Dark Legacy comic right now because oh my god it’s pitch perfect.) Everyone is expected to know exactly what to do because, ugh, where have you been for the past decade? It doesn’t matter if this is a reasonable expectation or not.
The other difference is that FFXIV moves at a much slower pace than WoW, and so perhaps appeals more to players who are feeling pretty relaxed about their leisure time. WoW has a rush to level cap, while FFXIV has a rush to level cap… and then whoa, slow down and repeat that like a dozen more times for each class. Grinds that might take hours in WoW are stretched out to days in FFXIV. (Whether you enjoy that kind of thing varies, of course.)
Even more importantly I suspect is the fact that WoW’s Global Cooldown is 1.5 seconds while in FFXIV the GCD is a whopping 2.5 seconds. That extra second actually makes a huge difference in play, meaning less frenetic combat, more measured response. In WoW I would spend groups spamming flash heal or hitting Circle of Healing on every cooldown, but in FFXIV the emphasis is on aggro management so I spend less time casting and more time planning my next spell. It’s not for everyone, but I think that slower pace keeps some of the “go go go” crowd away.
Obviously I’m not saying that everyone in WoW is a meanie, but that game sure does have its loud, rotten apples and it’s been extremely pleasant to play a game where I feel good about running random group content on my own. Way to be impressively nice, FFXIV folks!
There’s been a bit of discussion going around for the last few days about online friendships. Most of the talk has been between Belghast and Braxwolf, with Bel writing that he treats online friends the same as offline friends and Brax doubting that online friendships can have the same depth as those found offline.
I have strong opinions on this topic!
Twitter sucks at depth
Brax’s post in particular seems to focus on Twitter as the primary avenue of online socializing, and how poorly it does in that role. And in this case I think Brax is totally correct because Twitter is absolutely terrible at in-depth communication. It’s also, I would argue, not what it was designed to do.
Twitter is a constant stream of information. Tweets are fairly impermanent — while a tweet does exist in archived form, as they slide down the front page of our Twitter clients we become less and less likely to read them. Trying to keep up with your Twitter stream at all times is not how it was intended to be used, and will probably just make you feel frantic and perpetually left behind. I found that I enjoyed the network much more when I accepted that lots of stuff would be said while I was away from a screen, and that’s okay.
Twitter is really great for meeting people with similar interests. It’s a great medium for telling funny jokes. It’s a really good way to get a general survey of impressions, and catch breaking news from around the world. Twitter was invaluable to me during the Ferguson protests, for example, because I was able to listen to a number of people who were on the ground and get first-hand information.
On the other hand, 140 characters on Twitter is not a great way to form deep friendships. I agree with Brax there.
Other online methods of communication do not suck at depth
I think Brax’s post did a disservice to online friendships by focusing on Twitter when there are a myriad of other alternatives that people use every day.
For example, for the last 5 years I’ve spent almost every workday hanging out in an IRC channel with the same half dozen-ish people. Some days we have a lot to talk about, from politics to travel plans to how to best get stains out of a carpet. Other days we just say hi and complain about the local weather. A few of these people I have never met in person, although some I have. I have never even seen a photo of one of these people! And yet this group is contained in my “inner circle” of friends. If any one of these folks needed me to inconvenience myself to help them out, I would do so without hesitation.
As for the concept that we can never really know someone from only their online communication… well, that’s just not true. Not to pick on Brax, but he doesn’t share a lot about his offline life and just from reading his blog and listening to his podcasts I can tell that he’s literate, kind, reliable, community- and family-minded, likes gadgets, and we both enjoy writing and playing MMOs. Those are pretty darn good qualifications for being my friend, and I would think the same whether I met him online or offline. Best buddies? Of course not! But a friend for sure.
And that’s not even getting into non-text communication. Guilds often spend hours together talking via voice chat, and YouTube has had the greatest growth of any social network, particularly among the younger demographics. I not only type at my online friends, I listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. I have Hangouts with them where we play tabletop games together, and follow their Spotify playlists of music that’s important to them.
You get what you give
So how do Brax and I disagree so much on the potential depth of online friendships? After much pondering, I think it’s safe to say that you get out of your online friendships what you feel prepared to put into them. Some people are totally satisfied with their offline friendships and aren’t really interested in doing the same online for whatever reason. And that’s perfectly okay!
Others, such as myself and Bel (I assume), actively look to develop online friendships. We write about our lives on our blogs, we worry about people on Twitter when they sound sad. We reach out over different media to people, and we feel kinship with folks who we encounter online and meet our individual requirements for basic friendship. (Similar interests, smarts, and a kind nature in my case.)
All in all, I disagree with the idea that online friendships cannot achieve the same depth as offline friendships. It seems more accurate to me to say that some people are not looking for depth in their online friendships, and therefore it does not exist for them. And that’s totally, absolutely fine, to each their own and yadda yadda, but those two are not the same thing.
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This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide are full of shame. Well, sort of. Okay, so we’re probably not as full of shame as we should be, but we are talking about things that should make us shameful, namely our terrible taste in movies and television.
For movies, it appears that more than one of us has a weakness for dumb rom-coms and Julia Roberts movies. We also sing the praises of late 2000’s PG-13 horror movies (just awful) and movies featuring supernatural teens (the worst). Also for no particular reason Liore is inspired by the topic to talk about accidentally seeing Jupiter Ascending on opening day. You know. For no reason. (Shaaaaaame.)
But even the big screen cannot contain our appetite for crappy entertainment! We boldly go public with our shameful love for home renovation shows, horrible reality shows that are designed to make you feel superior, and … inexpensive Canadian shows. (CanCon for my fellow Canucks.) Elly also admits to enjoying something called “Ink Master”, but the less said about that the better.
Also, Aro knows or is related to everyone in the world! Elly literally laughs until he cries! Liore is not ashamed about watching all that Korean television, so whatever!
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