Tag Archives: game

The Slow, Agonizing Death of AE Missions

deathofaemissions
Author’s Note: Though this post references the currently slumbering MMO City of Heroes, it’s an important historical post because it reminds us players of what we need to be careful of if/when the game returns. I’d like to see true Architect Entertainment missions enjoy a renaissance along with the game itself!

Architect Entertainment missions (also known as AE missions) enjoyed a great popularity when issue 14 of City of Heroes/Villains was released back in 2009. For the first time, City of Heroes players could write their own missions and have other players play them, instead of doing runs of the same in-game content over and over again. The week i14 released, you couldn’t even walk your character by the Architect Entertainment buildings without lagging, because there were so many heroes crammed inside waiting to take part in the new facet of gameplay.

But in 2011, just two scant years after the AE system was introduced, the AE building stood mostly deserted. If you came in to play a player-created arc, you likely had the run of the whole place to yourself. New players didn’t even know what the building was for, because nobody much played there anymore.

As a CoH player who dabbled in creating her own arcs (and as a player with an arc-crazy boyfriend), I’ve wondered why this creative outlet lost its charm, when it had been such a hopping, popular place to be for months on end after its addition. But, with a little digging, I believe I discovered at least some of the reasons why the AE mission system’s novelty wore off:

“XP Farm” missions were outlawed.

When the AE building was first unveiled, crafty and clever gamers were quick to jump on the bandwagon of making missions–but these players were making missions that focused solely on gaining XP, throwing storylines and character creation completely out the window. Some missions were created around enemies that wouldn’t fight back, so they were easy kills; others were made of thousands of copies of the same purple Elite Boss enemy, so the XP was maximized and the sheer challenge level was lifted. These and other types of missions like these were called “farms,” because you could easily gain XP from them.

Needless to say, the game developers were not happy with this–suddenly, people were leveling their characters so fast that it wasn’t even about enjoying the gameplay anymore, but about having the most level 50 characters! Thus, the devs began to put in place several “safeguards” against farm creation in the Architect Mission editor (for instance, you couldn’t pick enemy groups that don’t fight back), which lowered the power levels of these “farm” missions severely. (Not to say that all farm missions were gone–they just became less XP-crazy than before.)

More interesting in-game content was added.

The AE building predated several of the most important game updates: the Going Rogue expansion, Alignment Missions, and the Incarnate system. All 3 of these innovations drew attention away from the AE system.

Going Rogue

The Going Rogue expansion box allowed for two totally new character alignments (Vigilante and Rogue), as well as the ability to cross Heroes over to City of Villains, and vice versa. Not only that, but there was a whole new area of the game to explore, a group of three islands known collectively as Praetoria (a level 1 to 20 city).

Alignment Missions

Players suddenly got the chance to change their status from “Hero” to “Villain” (or vice versa) with what were called “Tip” missions, or spur-of-the-moment missions you could run in any zone you happened to be in. “Tip” missions aided a player’s ability to either reinforce their character’s current alignment or to start the process of changing alignment.

For instance, I had a Villain character that I wanted to change over to Hero, so I ran 10 Heroic Tip missions, then a Morality Mission that allowed me to change my alignment to Rogue. From there, I was able to run 10 more Heroic Tip missions and another Morality Mission that allowed me to finally change over to Hero. The Tip missions were fairly easy to complete and didn’t require returning to a contact, so they were much faster and easier processes, while still being good ways to gain XP, especially with a team.

The Incarnate System

Lastly, with the game update called issue 20, the game developers released the Incarnate in-game content, made specifically for level 50 characters. Pre-issue 20, City of Heroes mirrored real life in a way–your character got to level 50 (was done leveling up), and they didn’t really get to do anything more of importance except make you double money every time you defeat a bad guy. It was like a middle-aged person having worked 30 strong years only to retire, sit at home, and do nothing.

With the addition of Incarnate content, there was suddenly something to strive for on your level 50 toons. Not only were there new challenges to unlock (like the super-challenging Incarnate Trials), but a whole new system of upgrading your character’s performance, called the Incarnate slot, was unveiled. Now you could potentially choose to upgrade all your characters’ powers at once with one Enhancement, to boost Damage, Accuracy, Endurance Cost, or Recharge Time. In short, there was a reason to play your level 50 characters again, those characters that you worked so hard on. Thus, less attention was paid to AE missions.

There was very little special reward for playing AE missions, outside of getting AE Tickets and a few badges.

AE Tickets could purchase in-game Invention Salvage, Enhancement Recipes, Inspirations…and very little else. It wasn’t exactly the most enticing prize ever. Not to mention that the CoH developers began to dislike the system itself because of all the farm missions, which meant they withdrew much of their official support. While the AE system was still an occasional showcase for creative talent, it wasn’t attractive to most players, who were not willing to put that much effort into creating their own game content.

The “rating” and “searching” system for player-created missions was idiotic at best.
Picture this: when you finished playing an AE mission, you had the option to rate it and type in a comment, which was then sent as a private message to the author of the mission. But since most people don’t like giving 5-star (top) ratings to just any mission, they often just gave a mission 4 stars.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But in fact, when you rated a player-created mission 4 stars, you doomed that player to never having their mission played again. Basically, if a mission didn’t show up on the first 3 pages of the Architect Editor’s simplistic search function, nobody saw it, and so nobody would play it unless you talked it up on the CoH forums or to other players directly. There is a reason players referred to this phenomenon as “Four-Star Hell”–when your mission dropped to a 4-star rating, you could just about trust that your hard work wasn’t going to be seen by other players. (Trust me. I made a mission that got rated 4 stars, and it got maybe 5 plays over a 16 month period–and it only got that because my boyfriend suggested it to a team I was playing on.)

There was really no way to type in a “type” of mission and search for it–you either had to know the mission arc’s ID number/title, or you needed to know the author name. Again, nobody was willing to put in that kind of effort for a game, so the same old missions on pages 1-3 of the AE Machine got played over and over again.

What Could Be Done Differently This Time Around?

  1. Giving some kind of more tangible reward, such as a special costume choice, extra influence, a cool power, etc., for mission creators; maybe even extending that to players who do certain numbers of AE missions.
  2. Making it possible to search missions by keyword, custom character names, enemy groups used, etc–in essence, making the search engine more diversified.
  3. Supporting mission creators by picking a mission with very few plays and hyping it every week or every month–just knowing that someone else actually cares about player-created missions is a huge boost for shy creators like me who don’t like to holler and shout about their creations.

These are just my ideas–what do y’all think?

Boomshine

This relaxing and yet mentally stimulating game is based on chain reactions–you try to set down your beginning dot in a place where it will ripple out and catch the most dots in its ripples. It is deceptively easy at first, with its soft piano accompaniment and simple goals. Just wait ’til level 12. ๐Ÿ˜€

Basic Gameplay


Level 2: The goal is to get 2 dots. Your goal number of dots is always in the bottom left part of the screen; there are currently 10 floating around in this level, hence the words “from 10”. For each level, you click a spot on the screen; the mouse cursor in this shot is the clearish dot with the pale halo around it.

Once you click, a white dot will expand out from where you clicked for a few seconds, and any dot that comes close enough to touch the white dot will expand out as well, showing that it’s been activated.


Here, I clicked close enough to 2 dots to get my goal, and then a third knocked into the first two I got, making my total score “3 of 2”–basically, I got more than the requirement. This is normal.

When you have reached the goal for the level, the screen turns a paler shade of blue-green, and then closes out; thus, the reason for the screen color change in the screenshots.

The chain reaction continues until either the goal for the level is reached, or the last activated dot shrinks away into nothingness.

You have infinite tries at the game, but if you can do it in as few rounds as possible (minimum 12 rounds), you’ll have a better score at the end.

Strategy

Boomshine is a patience game more than anything. I’ve found it requires a sense of timing and observation–you observe where the dots on the screen are bouncing around, and try to time your click to when the most dots possible will be intersecting with the dot you are about to place.

Do not feel compelled to click within the first five seconds–there is no time penalty! You’ll actually waste more time if you keep clicking and not getting enough dots every time you try. Waiting for just the right time and place to put down your dot will help you achieve your goal faster, especially in the harder, later levels.

Have fun–this is a great “don’t worry, be happy” game, with great music and a fun, simple interface!

Play the Game: Boomshine

Dice Wars

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This Risk-like Flash game has been both a favorite addiction and a source of frustration for me for the last several years. Even though your opponents are computerized and the dice rolls are random, there is plenty of room for strategy and plenty of ways that the game can change up, every time!

Basic Rules and Gameplay

You start out as the purple player in this game, and you get a random number of dice allotted to you, automatically spread out for you over 2 to 5 spaces (at least in my gameplay). (If you don’t like the number of spaces or dice you’re given, you can hit “No” when the game asks you “Do you play this map?” and it will give you another scenario.)

Each round, every player on the map tries to take over other territories from other players. To attack, click your space, and then click the adjacent space you want to try to take over. If the attacker’s dice roll exceeds that of the defender’s dice roll, the attacker gets that space (very Risk-like). With every space you gain, you get access to another die at the end of your turn; those dice are applied randomly to the spaces you control when you click “End Turn.” Luck and chance determine where your extra dice will be placed, so you have to play carefully to outlast your opponents.

The dice stack up on your owned spaces, from 1 measly die all the way to 2 stacks of 4 dice each (the highest you can go). I refer to dice stacks in-game by how many dice are in them–for instance, the 2 stacks of 4 dice I refer to as an “8-stack,” and the 1-die spaces are 1-stacks, etc.

A Typical Game

The following is a funny PowerPoint I put together to show a typical game of Dice Wars, almost turn-by-turn, with funny and real written commentary. My commentary was not recorded audibly because I want this site to be PG-rated. ๐Ÿ˜›

dicewars_typicalgame

Strategies

How Many Players?
I’ve found that I play best in a game with 7 other players, because I like to build my dice empire from the ground up rather than rely on the game to give me either a greatly stacked-up territory or territories of one- and two-dice stacks each. With 7 other people, you can easily take over the smaller territories and then camp out, waiting for the big guys to thrash each other while you build up and build up.

When To Attack and When to Hold Back?
Generally, you can attack an enemy territory and win it if you have a number of dice equal to or greater than what they’ve got defending that territory. For instance, you wouldn’t want to try attacking an 8-stack with a 2-stack, because you have no chance of winning those odds. But you could attack a 4-stack with a 5- or 6-stack, easy. You might not get it, but the chances are greater that you’ll take that territory over.

Turning Your Flank
In most cases, turning your weakest flank to the enemy is a bad idea. Where possible, move your strongest defenders (your 6-, 7-, and 8-stacks) to be your new borderlands–this can be accomplished with some creative arrangement, taking over territories carefully so that you have a smooth line of big dice stacks moving across the map.

Never leave a 1- or 2-stack open where an enemy can just stampede in, unless you’re like me and like to leave a small hole for your enemies to fall in. In my PowerPoint, I left a 1-stack of mine right beside a larger stack belonging to an opponent. That opponent attacked my 1-stack and took it over, but it freed me up to attack back with my 6-stack that had been inaccessible and unusable before. Sometimes, you can tempt opponents to push their luck, and they end up spending down their 8-stack into a much more manageable 5- or 6-stack, which you can then take over with a free 8-stack of yours adjacent to it.

To Play the Game

Play Dice Wars

For More Information

Dice Wars @ JayIsGames.com

Resident Evil DBG: Alliance

residentevildbgalliance
Resident Evil: Alliance works as a standalone game box or as an addition to the Resident Evil: DBG basic box. I’ve played Alliance as both its own game and as a addition, and I have to say, it offers some pretty amazing cards to amp up your Basic box.ย  12 new character cards (some revisions of existing cards, and some totally-new characters) await, as well as some awesome new game mechanics.

New Rules: Partners

The Alliance box brings with it a totally new envisioning of the Resident Evil game–playing with two characters instead of one. You get two Character cards, usually at random, at the beginning of the game, and you choose one to be your Main and one to be your Partner, playing both characters together. Your Partner is basically another character to use when you Explore, and another pair of hands to hold a Weapon or two; whenever your Partner character takes lethal damage, however, he or she is removed from the game completely, and you continue on with just your Main character, who respawns one turn after death as usual.

Who Leads When Exploring the Mansion? You Decide!

Whenever you Explore, you declare one character to be the leader, but both characters help Explore with their weapons. The only time this matters is if one of your characters has a special effect that specifies that it happens when he or she explores. For instance, Ada Wong’s Level 1 “peek” ability specifies that it can only happen when she is the one to lead an exploration; thus, you must declare her the leader if you want to use that ability. Your leading character does not have to be your Main character.

Attaching Weapons and Other Cards to Your Partner

You can attach up to 2 weapons or action cards to your Partner unless otherwise indicated. This is a wonderful asset–the act of attaching a card to your Partner gets it out of your deck, and it can be a constant weapon that you don’t need to Reload onto every turn. Best of all, any cards attached to your Partner character cannot be removed, except by your choosing to replace it, or a small number of specific game effects. For instance, there’s a Zombie that removes the highest-costing card from your Partner if you didn’t kill it with exactly 35 damage, and there’s an Action that makes everyone else discard down to 1 card or less on their Partners.

New Cards

There are several new weapons and actions, lots of them able to be abused, such as Gathering Forces and the Flamethrower. My personal favorites so far, however, are as follows:

Quirk of Fate: like Ominous Battle in that it allows you to Trash a card from your hand, plus you get an Action back and get to draw a card. Drawback: you can’t Trash Quirk of Fate out of your deck once you buy it (unlike Shattered Memories), making it a dead card late-game.
  Russian Assault Rifle & Signature Special: X Ammo required, X damage cost. The RARs can only be filled with a max of 20 ammo for 20 damage, and the Signature Special has a max of 60 damage. But these are both awesome, since you fill them with just as much ammo as you have available and that’s exactly how much damage you deal.
Star-Crossed Duo: attached to your Partner, this gives them +10 damage if they are the ones leading the Explore. Helps out more than you might think! You also get +2 cards and +1 Buy when you first play this on your Partner.
Fierce Battle: Have somebody else in the game draw 1 card, and you draw 4 cards. Absolutely awesome with a deck full of Russian Assault Rifles and the Signature Special, and/or with the new Jack Krauser–you have the possibility of drawing tons of ammo and rifles to feed said ammo into!

For More Information

Images courtesy of: BoardGameGeek.com’s Resident Evil DBG: Alliance page.

Resident Evil Deck Building Game

residentevildbg
For those who are not familiar with any of the Resident Evil video game series, the whole concept sounds like something you don’t want to mess with. Arming yourself with various and sundry weapons to fight zombies? Sounds like a horror movie gone crazy.

I certainly thought this way about the video games, and wasn’t too enthused about playing a deck building game based on the same mythos. Horror and killing stuff really isn’t my bag in movies or video games either one, so when my boyfriend (a major Resident Evil fan) asked if I would like to try the deck-building game, I expected it to be not much fun.

Boy, was I proved wrong! In the Resident Evil DBG, like many other deck building games such as Ascension and Dominion, the long-term strategy is the winning strategy, which means lots of fun happy times for gamers like me who like to play for the long-term gain rather than the short-term strike.

To Begin The Game

All players in the Resident Evil DBG start out with a character card of your choice (more about those later) and the same 10 cards in their decks:

7 ammunition/gold cards, worth 10 ammo and 10 gold each, used for powering your weapons and purchasing upgraded items and ammo
2 combat knives, each of which can deal 5 damage and doesn’t require any ammo
1 handgun, which requires 20 ammo to work and which can deal 10 damage

From this original 10-card deck, you draw 5 cards and begin your turn. On your turn, you may buy 1 resource from the rows of resources laid out on the table, play 1 action, and explore the Mansion 1 time if you choose. Once your turn is over, you take all the cards you’ve played this turn and place them in the graveyard (your used cards), and draw 5 new cards to prepare for your next turn.

Wait, What’s the Mansion?

The Mansion is familiar to those who have played the Resident Evil video games, but in the context of the game, it’s simply another deck of cards on the table. When you want to “explore the Mansion”, you must have a weapon (like the Combat Knife, the Handgun, or other sundry upgrades to these items) in your hand, as well as enough ammo to power it. You then declare you’re going to explore, and then turn over the top card of the Mansion deck. Whatever Infected zombie creature is revealed, your weapons must deal it enough damage to defeat it in one hit, otherwise the Infected creature deals your character damage and then goes back under the deck.

Say, if you explored the mansion with two Combat Knives and a Handgun. You’re able to do 20 damage, because each Combat Knife does 5 damage, and the Handgun does 10. All the weapons you play combine together for total damage, unless otherwise specified on the card or the character.


If a Male Zombie shows up as the top card, you’re in luck, because it has 20 health and will be defeated with your combined 20 damage. You then get 1 decoration for having defeated it.


However, if the top card is a Licker instead, you’re out of luck–it has 40 health, and will not be defeated by two Combat Knives and a Handgun combined. You will instead take 30 damage from the undefeated Licker, which will then go under the Mansion deck to be rediscovered later. (Be careful–you can end up taking enough damage from undefeated monsters to actually kill your character!)

Different enemies have varying levels of decorations–some give you 2, 3, or 4 decorations if you defeat them, and the two strongest monsters in the Mansion (Nemesis T-Type and Uroboros Aheri) give you 5 and 8 decorations, respectively. Whenever Uroboros Aheri is successfully defeated, the game ends, and everybody counts up decorations–the highest total wins.

Character Cards

Fans of Resident Evil games will recognize the various characters included in each box of Resident Evil:DBG. Familiar faces like Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are there, alongside others like Jack Krauser, Sheva Alomar, and Ada Wong (my personal favorite).

Some characters have weapon specialties–you’ll want to give Jill all the Grenades she can carry, for instance, while Sheva makes magic with Rifles and Krauser is a beast with Knives.

Each character in the original DBG has two abilities that activate when they have gained a certain number of decorations. At Level 1, the character can use the first ability listed on their card; at Level 2, they can use both abilities.

The reason Ada Wong (at left) is my favorite is because of her Level 1 ability, which allows her to “peek” at the top card to see if it’s something she can defeat with her current damage total. Ada can put the “peeked” card on the bottom of the Mansion instead of trying to defeat it, and she can then go for the second-from-the-top card instead. (This is great for moving Uroboros Aheri out of the way when I don’t have 90 damage to defeat his 90 health, because with my luck, I’m ALWAYS drawing the boss. XD)

Another important point to remember: each character also has a set amount of health. Some characters can survive a 70-point hit by Uroboros and live to tell about it next turn. Unfortunately, Ada and several other characters only have 70 health to begin with, so they have to be played more carefully. No haphazard reckless exploring the mansion for them!

Look through each of the character cards and see which ones fit your playstyle. Since I’m horribly unlucky in my Mansion draws, Ada’s ability suits me well. But you may find that another character is your favorite!

Game Modes and Resources

You can play Resident Evil: DBG several ways–a list of possible scenarios follows.

  • “First-Timer:” helps you get used to the game mechanics, basic and fun
  • “Mercenaries:” timed game, with various mini-scenarios to act out
  • “Versus:” where instead of fighting the zombies, you try to defeat the other players!
  • “Custom:” you and your fellow players choose resources to purchase, and play much like First-Timer

There are many, many different resources you can use to build your perfect streamlined deck in the game, such as upgraded weapons, healing herbs, and cards that let you get weapons back, trade out items, draw more cards, etc. Each game mode has its own set variety of resource cards–in First-Timer, for instance, there are some cards in the box that aren’t even allowed on the table, whereas in Versus mode, you’d make copious use of those cards.

My Personal Strategies

After several times of playing the game, I generally know what some of my first purchases are going to be. Purchasing upgraded ammunition cards is the first order of business–trading out all those 10s for 20s and eventually 30s will help power bigger weapons and will help you pay for those bigger weapons, too. Also, purchasing cards that help you clean out the cards you no longer need is very important. (Once you’ve purchased bigger and better weapons, you’ll want to get rid of the Handguns and Knives unless your chosen character has a specialty with them, for instance.)


The Six Shooter is kind of an upgrade from the Handgun, is it not?

Action cards such as Shattered Memories, Ominous Battle, and Item Management (no image) are great support cards for early- to mid-game deck thinning and streamlining. Other helpful Actions include Reload (get a weapon back from your graveyard, get 2 actions), Umbrella Corporation (draw 2 cards, put 1 card from your hand back on top of your deck, get one more Action to play), and Escape from the Dead City (draw 1 card, get 2 actions).

I generally don’t explore the Mansion for about half of the game–most of the first half of the game is getting my deck streamlined, and I usually avoid getting damaged by too-strong monsters until I’m ready to take them on.

However, by not exploring the Mansion, I sometimes miss out on the two most epic weapons in the game, which are actually hidden in the Mansion. Sometimes, you’ll Explore and come across one of these babies as the top card:

 
The Gatling Gun can be filled with any amount of ammo for equal amount of damage; the Rocket Launcher deals a flat 90 damage for 0 ammo investment.

For me, I’m not willing to risk Ada on the possibility of getting one of these weapons, so I play carefully. If the other players get the Gatling Gun or the Rocket Launcher, that’s great for them–I am simply more comfortable using tried-and-true (and safe) methods to last through the game. I don’t know if this playstyle would work for everyone, but it’s won me most of the games I’ve played so far!

To Find Out More

Unfortunately, the official game website has been closed because Bandai is no longer publishing RE:DBG as of 2013. But you can still find information through the RE:DBG page on the Resident Evil Wikia. Also, BoardGameGeek’s page on this game is a great resource as well, and I used it heavily while writing this article.

Magic: the Gathering

mtg
Magic: the Gathering is a collectible, fantasy-based card game, involving decks of at least 60 cards that you construct yourself. The basic premise is that you and your opponent are each given 20 life points to start. In a two-player game, the one who runs out of those 20 life points first loses. The game is about finding ways to protect your own life points while devising ways to take down the other player’s life points.

To Start: Find Your Preferred Way to Win

There are five basic “colors” of cards you can use to build your deck: White, Red, Green, Blue, and Black. Each color has a different philosophy of how to win:

There are also Artifact cards (which can be used with any color) and Hybrid/Multicolor (blends of two or more colors). Some philosophies of winning work well together (Blue and Black, for instance, or White and Green), and some philosophies have a harder time working together (like Red and Blue, or White and Black).

Literally endless strategies are available to be explored–there’s something for every personality. If you like to win by simply blocking anything your opponent tries to do, there’s a strategy for you (Blue and sometimes White). If you like to steamroll your opponent with huge creatures that trample across the field, there’s a strategy for you, too (Green all the way). And if you just like to blow your opponent’s stuff up, there’s a strategy for you, too (Red and sometimes Black).

Modes of Play: It’s Not Just a Two-Player Duel!

Magic: the Gathering does involve one-on-one games, but that’s not the only way you can play. Multiplayer (three or more players) games are allowed–in these situations, the last player left standing wins. Also, there’s alternative forms of the game as well, generally meant for casual play:

  • Two-Headed Giant (teams of two playing off against each other)
  • Archenemy (one player is the “villain” while a team of three players are the “heroes”)
  • Vanguard (special large-size cards with various characters from Magic lore are used to change up the rules of the game slightly)
  • Elder Dragon Highlander/Commander (choose a Legendary creature as your “general” and build a deck around him/her)
  • Mental Magic (pick up a card off a stack of random cards. You cannot play the card as itself–rather, you must play it as another card with the exact same cost. Requires lots of knowledge of various cards!)

For More Information

Visit MagicTheGathering.com for official product updates and informative articles; MTGSalvation.com also has lots of information on the history and lore of the game. I also have a website called The Gamer’s Repose, which has a fairly large Magic: the Gathering section featuring tips for beginners, and gameplay advice.

Why I Don’t Bother with Farmville Anymore

nomorefarmville
I used to like Farmville quite a bit–actually, I played it for months and got addicted to it (I wish I was kidding). I even wrote a post here showcasing it…but I could not in good faith keep recommending a game that I know now is too ridiculous to get involved in.

Why might I say something like that? Well, there are 3 big reasons for me:

#1: It’s Time-Consuming/Isolating

When I started playing Farmville, it was pretty easy to manage–I had a few neighbors and a few crop plots, and I could usually take care of it all in a few minutes. But once I had played for a while, it got to where I was spending an hour a day just visiting other people’s farms and trying to help them, not to mention time spent “harvesting” and “using” virtual crops. (Also, during the time I played, I didn’t have internet at home, so I ended up having to play at the local coffee shop or friends’ houses–which meant that for at least the first hour of hanging out, I was isolating myself staring at the computer screen. Not really conducive to conversation, you know?)

#2: You Really Have to Spend Real Money to Get All the Best Stuff

Farmville and games like it have really become “pay-to-win” games. When I first started playing, you could end up getting “good” stuff if you were just patient and saved up your Farm Cash from leveling up. But after a while, the amounts of Farm Cash you had to spend just to get the essentials for operating larger virtual farms became ridiculous. There were plenty of ways you could pour real money into the game to get more Farm Cash, but I was simply not willing to invest REAL money in a fake farm!

#3: Clogs Up Facebook Feed with Notifications, Bogs Down Computers

Since I purged Farmville and other such games from my Facebook life, my notification feed is about 1000 times less congested. How liberating! When I played daily, my Notifications would overflow with people asking for Farmville help, requesting materials, etc.–there was literally so much to do on Farmville that I ended up accidentally ignoring the friends who didn’t play!

The other thing I noticed was that my computer would perform slowly while on Farmville. One wouldn’t think a Facebook game could eat RAM like that, but for whatever reason, my computer did not like it one bit. (One more reason I felt liberated when I got out of playing–suddenly I had a fast-performing computer again!)

Summary

For a while, Farmville was a delightful diversion…but it quickly devolved into an obligation, and then into a huge pain, especially when I realized how addicted to the game I had become. I got out of it before I had started paying real money, but I know folks who have gotten into serious money trouble this way. Take it from me: don’t even get involved with this kind of “pay-to-win” game; it might seem fun at first, but that’s how it hooks you. It’s just like gambling or any other kind of addiction–it’ll eat your life if you’re not careful!

City of Heroes

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(Note: The following post was first published in February 2011; however, City of Heroes was unceremoniously shut down by its parent company, NCSoft, in November of 2012, amid much outcry from its devoted fans, myself among them. Currently, many of us are fighting for NCSoft to release the intellectual property rights so that we can keep CoH going as a fan-based game. After some debate, I have chosen to let the original post stand–with some minor edits–as a testament to how awesome this game was and still can be if certain folks will let it be.)

City of Heroes is an experience-based superhero game, which is only similar to World of Warcraft and its ilk on the surface. Boasting a powerful, nuanced character design module which has been touted by players of many different MMOs, plus a user-friendly screen design and playstyle which make the game approachable for even younger players, CoH is at once an environment rich in creativity but relaxing to play.

As a superhero in the fictional Paragon City, your job is to defeat bad guys (โ€œarrestโ€ them), get experience and items from them, level up, and get new powers. You can create your own superheroes based on several different archetypes:

The Five Basic Hero Types

Controller

Helps neutralize baddies by slowing them, holding or immobilizing them, putting them to sleep, confusing them, or scaring them into submission. Not a damage-dealing class necessarily, but wonderful for supporting teams, especially for helping to soften up lieutenants, bosses, and elite bosses.

Defender

Does a little bit of everything–Defenders can be second-string ranged attackers, can buff allies and debuff enemies, or heal and protect allies. This is a hard class to develop because there are so many directions you can go with it, but it is a great team-support class. You can literally become a Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades with a Defender!

Blaster

Superior ranged attacker. Not so good up close, though the Blaster secondary powersets get some close-combat powers as backup. They are definitely not Tanks, so they can be fragile, but usually you’re taking out the enemies so fast it doesn’t matter. Good to play either solo or in teams, as they provide excellent cover fire for close-combat allies.

Scrapper

Superior close-combat attacker. Can get shot to pieces before they can get close enough to attack, but the secondary defensive powersets can help a Scrapper stay alive longer. Again, they’re not Tanks, but their fragility is offset by their damage potential. Great for playing solo, can play in teams (just be careful not to go off by yourself and get killed!).

Tanker

Usually “Last Man/Last Woman Standing” of a team. Has the highest defense of any class, so Tanks can take lots more damage before being defeated. They are close-combat attackers, like Scrappers, but they don’t deal nearly the same amount of damage; however, teams benefit greatly from Tanks drawing fire away from the more fragile classes. They can play solo, but it’s usually faster and more enjoyable to level if you play your Tank in a team.

The Two Epic Hero Types

There are also two Epic classes, called the Peacebringer and the Warshade. They operate fairly similarly in terms of gameplay and build–you can build your PB or WS to be close-combat, range, or a cool blend of the two. They function like a combo of Blaster and Scrapper, with all the fragility and damage potential included. They also have three forms–human (balance of offense and defense), Nova (flight, higher offense, lower defense) and Dwarf (heavy, higher defense, lower offense). They are like a Swiss Army Knife hero!

Which form you prefer depends on how you like to play, but you can change the form up on the fly with a push of a button. The only caveat? You can’t build a Peacebringer or Warshade until you have a regular hero (Blaster, Controller, etc.) leveled up to level 20.

Basic Gameplay

Players can play missions (quests, for WoW players) by themselves, or they can play their missions with teams of superheroes working together. You can make a team with anybody–just ask somebody if they want to team! Some people play solo much better, and some players, like me, play in teams much better. It all depends on your personality. For me, CoH is such a social game that I have a lot more fun playing with others; playing by myself tends to make me feel lonely.

What Makes CoH Different

In City of Heroes, the more relaxed pace of gaming makes it stand out among MMOs. You don’t just have to play missions and beat baddie butt; in fact, the game’s many Easter eggs and side quests encourage you to stop and smell the roses while you level up. Sure, you can power-level if you want, but you’ll be missing out on what makes CoH great. Run around aimlessly in zones, see all the scenery, listen to NPC chat, click historical plaques, and run every mission you can, even the ones you think aren’t useful; you’ll learn more about the City of Heroes lore than you ever knew.

Also, you don’t have to play CoH 12 hours a day to get the absolute best of everything. This game attracts working people, students, and even parents and grandparents because it’s more approachable–the emphasis of the game lies more in developing your own heroes rather than constant raids and long quests (though raids and quests ARE available for those who want them). Also, “gear” is not worn, but equipped, and has no effect on your costume, so you can design your costume any way you want!

Lastly, creativity is important. In CoH, it’s not about mimicking an established comic book hero (since that kind of thing can get you in trouble); it’s about developing your own character and fitting them into the landscape of Paragon City, perhaps combining powersets you always wanted to try together, just for curiosity’s sake. Many players, like me, go on to make involved backstories for their characters even if they’re not on a roleplay server (which is available, by the way).

To Learn More about City of Heroes

Though CoH may be playing the role of Sleeping Beauty (or perhaps Lazarus) at the moment, we fans are keeping it alive and active in our memories and stories. The “official” CoH site has been recreated by fans on cityofheroes.ca, and I myself have created a fansite for it called Skies over Atlas, which has its own Twitter account, @skiesoveratlas. You can also check the #SaveCoH tag on Twitter to follow fan communications about the game. Rest assured, we won’t forget!

Onslaught 2 (Tower Defense)

onslaught
With several different maps, multiple difficulty levels, and dozens of towers to choose from, Onslaught 2 is one of the most detailed and customizable tower defense games I’ve ever played. Read on, and see why I enjoy it so much!

Basic Gameplay

In Onslaught 2, you are trying to guard the military base (marked “Area 51”) from being invaded by waves of enemies. To that end, you have to build towers of varying types to defend the winding route to the base. If 10 enemies get past you and invade the base, game over. With every enemy you shoot down, you get a certain amount of money, which increases by 1 dollar with each wave of enemies.

This money is for upgrading your towers’ damage, rate of attack, and range–but you have to upgrade strategically! For instance, if you upgrade the tower’s range all the way and forget about its damage, soon you’re going to be pinging away at enemies that barely even feel the bullets, even if you can shoot them from way far away. Thinking and planning ahead is key (see next section for my strategies).

As you progress in the game, shooting down enemies and getting money, you also get access to different types of towers you can build. For instance, you can build a taser tower (temporarily paralyzes enemies), a sniper tower (epic, one-shot damage) and even a railgun tower (zaps the enemy it’s aimed at, as well as all the enemies in a straight line behind that enemy). As the enemies get stronger, you’ll need those better towers to aid you!

My Strategies

I find that upgrading a tower’s damage is of the utmost importance, followed very closely by upgrading its rate of attack. A tower that can shoot for massive damage multiple times in a few seconds is likely not going to need a long range to defeat its enemies. But some players have done well balancing upgrades to damage and rate of attack with upgrades to range; it’s all in what your particular playstyle is.

Though I liked to use the pellet gun tower (blue) when I started playing, I have found that it’s not so helpful after the 100th wave. Likewise, the laser tower (green) isn’t really of much use late-game unless you get a whole chain of them together so they can help each other out. Thankfully, you can sell off older, fully-upgraded towers later on if you need the money to upgrade stronger towers.

As in most games, there are very powerful combos; you can put two or three towers side by side to create much more damage output. I like to use the Rocket (red tower) and the Taser (yellow tower) together–once both their damage output is fully upgraded, they unleash homing rockets that are pretty much one-hit kills for at least 5 enemies. Great for clearing out a clump of baddies!

You can find more strategies and combos by visiting About Combos on the Onslaught website, or by visiting the Onslaught 2 page at JayIsGames.com. One thing’s for sure, there are many ways to succeed in Onslaught–there’s always new things to try!

Play the game: Onslaught 2