“Game X” Is Only as Fun as…

Keystone gameplay elements, called so because if they’re taken out the game isn’t that much fun anymore. I started thinking about this during a bitter game of Overwatch and I’ve applied it here to bunch of other games:

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is only as fun as the loot you find in the first five minutes. If you’re in the top-20 on Miramar without a a scope you’re going to have a difficult time going forward. The same is somewhat true for the Erangel map but there’s much more consistent cover and loot is a little more dense from the start too.

Fortnite is only as fun as the rarity level of the guns you find. Unlike the staggered –textile mixed– loot spawns of PUBG, the potions (armor) and type of weapons you find in the beginning do not so much influence your fun in the long run.

Overwatch is only as fun as your teammates are willing to cooperate. This is independent of game mode, there’s this strange contrast between Quick Play and Competitive game modes. In competitive, people can be resistant to changing characters which put the team at a deficit, even to the point where they’ll spitefully throw the game. In Quick Play, people play the characters they want to play, leading to deficient and unusual compositions of all DPS and tanks or or all DPS and one secondary healer. Usually, the team to take some composition initiative get’s momentum and wins.

DOTA 2, LoL, Heroes of the Storm (MOBA’s) are similarly fun to Overwatch. It’s only as fun as your team mates are willing to cooperate. Unlike Overwatch though, it’s much harder for a single person to carry the team.

Hearthstone is only as fun as the cards you initially get and how well they align with the current meta. However, you will always be outspent by the people who take the game seriously.

World of Warcraft is only as fun as your character’s level and/or your guild’s ability to organize and raid. There are some truly amazing sights through out the game but until you’re of a certain level you’ll never get to see them. The even larger content needs to be done through raids which need a guild to do. Once, I was lucky enough to raid Molten Core with 39 other people and it was very exciting.

Path of Exile is only as fun as the quality of your build. The game has a staggeringly complex skill tree, while most basic builds can work through the first and second difficulty levels the third one will really test it, and it’s usually where I’m forced to scrap my characters. There are plenty of sample builds on the forums but they too often require unique equipment which is extremely expensive and drop very, very, rarely.

Kerbal Space Program is only as fun as the length of your patience and determination to reach other planets or build space stations. With a little experience missions to the Mun and Minmus can become routine. However missions to the Jool and the far outer/inner planets consist of lots of time waiting for comparatively small maneuvers only to get there and find out you don’t have enough fuel to complete the orbital burn or you forgot to deploy the solar panels and you’re out of power. Being honorable, you revert the save to vehicle assembly and redesign your rocket only to go through that whole process again.

Rocket League is only as fun as the mean skill all players compared to your skill individual. If your skill is lower than all other players it can be a bit daunting to have cars of all variety flying around while you drive in circles just trying to get some boost. This does not apply to 4×4 modes, anything can happen there.

Minecraft is only as fun as your desire to explore and create. The caverns are deep and endless, but what is over that hill? The sun is low, the monsters are coming, are there enough torches? To my 1:1 scale model of Helm’s Deep!

Starcraft 2 is only as fun as you know your build order and it’s the right build order to counter your opponent. Contrary to popular belief, unless you’re Master league or higher, the game is not so heavily depended on super-human actions per minute (APM) and micro ability.

X-Com[1] is only as fun as your ability to best position a squad of units against an unknown enemy. Though ultimately, it relies on the secret RNG which determines the actual probability of your shots to hit the target.

Civilization (chose your version I through VI) is only as fun as the AI is able to be even to you point-wise. An experienced player playing on Settler (easiest) difficulty won’t have much fun as they stomp across the globe. On higher difficulties, it feels as though each move is precious and the struggle against your digital strategic equals will not be firmly decided until the last move!

No Man’s Sky is only as fun as you can convince yourself you’re having fun collecting resources in order to build better tools used to collect more resources to collect more tools.

  1. This is only applicable to the current iterations of the game, the original games in the 90’s have some mechanical differences which do not apply.

All the Podcasts I Listen to

This is an update to a post from four years ago with the same title.

Regular listens

Occasional listens:

It will be fun to see how these have shifted around or disappeared in the next four years.

Alto’s Odyssey Review

I place the first game, Alto’s Adventure, high in the echelons of great iOS games. Alto’s Odyssey builds on the simplicity of Adventure in just the right ways. While I still greatly recommend the first game, after playing all the way through Odyssey I’m starting to think you should skip it entirely.

The core difference between the games is the terrain, there are three new “zones” Dunes, Canyons, and Temples. Each have their own unique set pieces and corresponding tricks you can do in that zone. For some examples: Canyons has cliff faces you can do wall rides on, it’s really satisfying to chain these however if you’re not paying attention you can end up beginning a flip and soon crash. You can only wall ride when in the standing orientation not in the middle of a flip like the wing suit. In the Temple zone there are waterfalls who’s water runoff is similar to the ice flow feature in Adventure. Sometimes, at the end of these flows are pools which act as trampolines if you land in them with enough force. The Dunes are pretty plain but has many air balloons which have lines you can ride between them, being non-fixed points the lines oscillate, making them a little more challenging to land on. The variety of landscapes is simply a joy to endlessly ride through, where going over 20km in Adventure becomes quickly repetitive, 20k in Odyssey is a cool breeze on a hot day.

The next three paragraphs are for if you have played all the way through Adventure. There is a potential spoiler about an unlockable character’s abilities in the second paragraph.

If you have played all the way through Adventure, be prepared to do it all over again with the same characters and similar power-ups. For having completed Adventure you get nothing, I was hoping for maybe some extra currency, maybe half of the power-ups I’ve already grinded for or not having to go through roughly the first 10 levels of essentially the same challenges all over again. (Let’s face it, you won’t use anyone but Maya until you unlock the final character or a challenge requires someone else.)

In the theme with swapping old mechanics for new yet similar ones, instead of disturbing elders who then chase you, there are lemurs you startle. (I guess that cements the game’s setting in Madagascar?) The chases are shorter but more dangerous, the lemurs are a bit faster, can run on rope lines, and will jump at you even if you aren’t on the ground. However, the final character is immune to these leaping lemurs! A great addition to the game, Elder chases are the number one reason why my runs would end in Adventure and it’s a relief I don’t have to pull the same acrobatics to avoid late-game lemurs here.

There are no more llamas and I miss them. Birds of Paradise will fly with you for a minute or two and nearby collect coins, but it’s not the same as wrangling a herd after running over a horn in the first game. A radio beacon replaces the llama horn, running over the radio drops some vessels with coins and power-ups in them, if you level the beacon up twice it can be significantly lucrative.

Adventure is still a joy to play to this day, only until the final character was unlocked did Odyssey replace that for me. I expect I’ll be playing it as much in the coming years. The early drafts of this review were rough on Odyssey, perhaps it was that I could not get fully used to the new and sometimes unfair terrains, or maybe the grind of getting all my characters and power-ups back soured me, but once you get through it Odyssey becomes much more rewarding to play than Adventure. (It’s so tempting to end this review with “See you on the slopes!“ but then again I guess I just did, sorry.)