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Friday, October 25, 2013

Terraria, M&M:DoC and Minecraft 1.7.2

I know it's been a while since my last post. I've been trying yet more games (oddly none of them are actually MMOs), and I'll go over them a little bit here.

First off, I picked up Terraria about a week ago for next to nothing during a Steam Midweek Madness sale. I heard about the title a couple of years ago, but I was busy raiding in DCUO at the time and completely forgotten about it since. Happening onto the sale seemed like the perfect time to finally give it a go.

Image from Nerd Age
I'm sure you've heard all the cries of Minecraft "clone" or "ripoff" by now, so let me address that first. Yes, it's blocky, and you spend a good deal of time mining materials from biomes, and there's even a rudimentary wiring/power system, but that's about where the similarity ends. To claim it's a Minecraft ripoff for these properties would be like saying SWTOR is an Everquest ripoff because they both have classes, races, and experience levels.

While Terraria has the sandbox, block-building thing going on, there's another side to it altogether which is about 2D platforming, game-changing powerups, and epic boss battles. It ends up feeling like a "Minecraft meets Metroid" hybrid, and while that sounds odd, it works very well. I'll likely be talking about this title at some length soon.

After trying SolForge and eagerly awaiting to play Hearthstone, I figured it would be a good time to look at Might & Magic: Duel of Champions as well. Let me start by saying that now is a good time for fans of online/digital card games. I've been playing those since they began (anyone remember Chron X?), and things have certainly changed a lot over the years. There's a pretty vast selection of games to choose from now, and they're available to just about everyone because of the the low system requirements needed. Some are available as apps, and there's even a number of browser-based titles now, so you can play virtually anywhere.

As for Duel of Champions itself, it has a very tactical feel. Sure, some of the common CCG abilities are present, but the layout of the game really makes it feel like a battlefield. You have a front and back line to deploy your creatures (shooters in the back, melee to the front), and extra spaces to play spells affecting certain areas of the field. You can choose to attack with each creature or move it to an adjacent space, which sometimes may be more advantageous or safer depending on the situation.

The game does use a resource system (you typically gain 1 more each turn to play your cards), but it's a bit more complicated than say Hearthstone's due to your hero card and the Might/Magic/Destiny levels. Each turn, you can choose to increase one of those levels (or use a different hero ability). You'll want to increase those levels some as you play, because cards have level requirements in addition to the resource cost.

As if that wasn't enough to remember, all players also have access to the event cards at the bottom of the field, which is reminiscent of the Planechase addition to Magic: the Gathering. This gives you yet more options and ways to use your resources.

There's a lot to understand in this game, and it's about on par with Magic in terms of complexity. Thankfully, the game has a training/tutorial system built into its campaign mode so you can learn these details as you go. Still, I've had a few turns where the timer countdown ran pretty low (against living opponents) due to all the options available. It definitely forces you to manage both your time and resources, which is a good thing.

Finally, it's that time again... Minecraft released version 1.7.2 today. It's packed with new commands, custom settings, clickable chat functions and lots of QoL tweaks. Content-wise, it's doubling the number of biomes (and changing biome placement code), expanding the fishing system, allowing for larger Nether portals, tiled wall maps, and adding colored glass, new wood/sand/dirt variants, and lots of flowers.

I like all the backend improvements without question, and they're preparing the game for the upcoming Plugin API (which is a step in the right direction). In terms of content, there's not much here that wasn't already available via mods. All this does is force what was once optional (modded) content into vanilla play, while spitting on the mod authors that introduced the content in the first place. To my knowledge, only Dr. Zhark has been credited as modded content officially made its way into the game, and that's kinda lame. Even then, he had to come up with a workaround for his horse breeding system to include vanilla horses (which causes confusion to players even now).

We don't need games to add things already available via mods that were already working just fine. We don't need mod authors to actually "lose" by contributing, only to have their work become obsolete and uncredited. It's unoriginal, unnecessary, and inconsiderate - please stop. Why not work on adding truly new content, or perhaps that Mod API everyone is so desperately waiting for?

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