Monster Hunter is really fun!

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I’ve been playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate with a friend lately, and I got to thinking about the design of it. I bought the game back in June or July when it was on sale, but never really got around to playing it until now due to real life events. My friend was willing to start a new character, so we started plowing through the game’s multiplayer hunts. It really does have an appeal that few to no other games manage, and I think I’ve figured out a few reasons why.

One of those reasons is that Monster Hunter largely cuts out the baggage with it’s design. It’s a very streamlined setup. You prepare, you fight a monster, you kick it’s ass, you get your precious loot to make better gear, and then you prepare to go kick a more powerful monster’s ass. This feedback loop is very simple and very addicting. The satisfaction of beating a monster never really gets old, because there’s a lot of unique monsters to hunt, each with their own attacks and patterns. The four on one nature of multiplayer also gives it a very David vs Goliath feel, as you tackle on foes that are frequently many times taller.

Another reason is also because of the variety in the skills and weapons you get to pick from. For those unfamiliar with Monster Hunter, there are currently 16 types of weapons as of the latest installment. Each weapon has a completely different handling, which often changes up your playing style. My current preferred weapon is the Hammer, which I can go to town with powerful stunning combos, as well as aerial attacks. Before that, I was fond of the Lance, for it’s defensive properties and allowing me to poke the enemy and play a safe game.

But what really adds to this are the dozens and dozens of skills on the armors. Each armor has points set aside for specific skills, and if you earn enough points in a skill (usually by equipping an entire set of matching armor), then you the skill activates for your character. Combined with the 16 different weapon types, this offers an insane amount of choices for a player. Perhaps you want to take the aforementioned Lance and play super defensive? Or maybe you want to use Sword and Shield while using a skill that lets you chow down on mushrooms for benefits? An aerial style with the Hammer or Great Sword with a skill that makes you good at mounting enemies? The combinations are endless, and the game encourages trying out every style.

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Lastly, Monster Hunter is just devoid of the nonsense that tends to plague similar games, especially MMORPGs. This goes back to the first point about the no baggage aspect. There’s no mandatory filler quests, no absurd level grind, no awkward daily quests for a massive reward, no mandatory weekly lockout on loot. This makes it very easy to get into, once you get past it’s (admittedly intimidating) rules.

Sure, Monster Hunter isn’t perfect. Capcom had issues figuring out the online multiplayer aspect at first, especially in installments before Monster Hunter 3. And the franchise has frequently been neglected to handhelds that aren’t a good fit for western markets. Plus we missed out on a key online enabled installment on the PS2, and for whatever reason only got their local-play only equivalents on the PSP instead.

But it’s getting better all the time. Most of the installments are getting English releases now, and Capcom has improved their online play with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations. It’s very easy to get into a game, even if you don’t have a lot of friends

I’m hyped for Monster Hunter World, which finally seems to be a proper high definition installment, and all the improvements that come with that. I can’t wait to play it with all of my friends. Maybe once day I’ll be able to hunt with you too?

 

Stop making me play every day, game!

 

This has been something that’s been bothering me lately. I haven’t quite been able to put it into words until right now, but I think it accurately describes a big problem I have with a lot of mobile games. It also impacts a handful of non-to free play games in other genres, particularly Massively-Multiplayer Online games.

To put it simply, it’s where a game requests that the player keep playing each day for bonus rewards.

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Mobile games are infested with this, and I feel it’s particularly disrespectful towards the precious time of the players playing the game. The image above is a free to play Japanese mobile game called Fate/Grand Order, that was jut recently released in English. One of the hooks that it has is that if you log in every day, you’ll receive an item called a Saint Quartz, which can be spent for the chance to potentially unlock powerful new heroes. The game also has a login streak feature, where if you continuously log in each day you’ll get even more rewards. Essentially, instead of letting a player play when they feel like it, the developers felt the need to bribe their players with a reward each day.

Fate/Grand Order is not the only game with such a system, of course. Many other mobile games, including the popular Puzzle and Dragons, have such systems as well. Often I lose interest in these mobile games after awhile, or I’m forgetful and play something else., and then I slip up a day. Once I slip up once, I get disillusioned and end up slipping up more. Which means I eventually stop playing, and stop caring.

I understand that a lot of these games run off a free to play model, and thus they need a hook to keep players playing, but I feel like the industry really needs a better way to handle this. For me, when I play games, I tend to dedicate chunks of time to a single game at once. So for example, I might buy a new RPG, dedicate my free time to it for a few months, and then move on once I beat it. Or more commonly whenever I get bored as games tend to be pretty massive these days.

That’s not to say that I stop playing everything else. I have a handful of games that are stress-relievers and stuff. There are games like Overwatch and Playerunknown’s Battleground which I do enjoy from time to time. For the most part, I don’t feel compelled to play these every day however. They have some daily/weekly mechanics revolving around cosmetic items, but I don’t come back to them and feel that I’m at a disadvantage mechanics wise, simply because I didn’t play every day. I can jump in, do a few practice matches, and get up to speed with having fun.

But one of the worst examples I’ve seen lately, is not a mobile game, but an MMORPG. Specifically, it’s Final Fantasy XIV. A game that I otherwise love and adore.

Once you complete the main storyline of Final Fantasy XIV and it’s respective expansion packs, you hit endgame. Endgame itself for the most part is fairly typical MMORPG stuff. You do harder content to get better gear to challenge even harder content, or you craft, or do one of the many many side activities. On the whole, Square-Enix is pretty good about keeping the game fresh, and never really feeling boring. Plus, every three months, they add what is basically a miniature expansion pack to the game, including new story content and endgame content to tackle.

But where Final Fantasy XIV’s biggest problem comes in at is in it’s obsession with getting players to play every day, and play enough each week, so that they can obtain an item that lets them get new gear.

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Square calls these Allagan Tomestones. The basic idea is that there’s two of them. One of which you can obtain as many as you like, whenever you like. The other of which you can only obtain so many a week. And the best way to do that is by a roulette of content that gives it’s biggest reward daily. So you’re encouraged to set aside a decent amount of time (on average thirty minutes to two hours) just to do this content each day, for at least a few times a week. And of course, if you fail to max out the amount of the currency within the week, you’re now behind other players in regards to getting the best gear and completing the highest end content. Final Fantasy XIV itself is a social game, so I find myself only maxing out the currency whenever others are really motivated to play. Thus a similar trend to the mobile games above happens, where my friends are ahead of me in gear, or behind me in gear, and someone (usually me) gets disillusioned of playing.

If there’s one wish I had for gaming right now, I really wish games would better respect the time of their players. There has to be a better way to go about this. Games don’t need to dominate our lives to the point that we do nothing else. It’s one thing if a player desires to put in that time because the game stands up on it’s own merits, but this kind of weird desire to force people to play every day has go to stop. Certainly, a game like Final Fantasy XIV, which runs on a monthly subscription, has no reason not to have something better for it’s players then a daily requirement at endgame. Why not have a catch up mechanic so someone doesn’t need to log on several times a week? I don’t get it.

Now Playing: The Zodiac Age

tweeten-1499820584085.jpgI have a love/hate relationship with Final Fantasy XII. I played it a long time ago when it first came out, but I never really finished it or gave the endgame content much thought. Back then, I don’t think I was really in the right mood to appreciate it. A lot was going on in my mind. It was a shame, because I spent many hours with my cousins playing Final Fantasy Tactics, many more playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on my GBA, and the setting of Ivalice was one of my favorite.

Flash forward a few years, and I found out about the International Zodiac Job System version of the game. I didn’t really get to play it that much, as my only options were in emulator due to the region locking on the PS2. But that version solved a ton of issues I had with the original game. I’ve always been a big fan of the Final Fantasy job system, and was really excited to see it added to the game. One of the biggest flaws of the original version of Final Fantasy XII was that you simply ended up with six characters who did everything, so having the jobs be a choice (a permanent one at that) really added a ton of depth to the game.

And now here we are, almost ten years later from the release of the International Zodiac Job System version, and Final Fantasy XII has arrived in glorious high-definition. Unfortunately, I had to settle for the download version of the game as I live in the middle of nowhere. It was really surprising to see that neither of the stores (one of which includes Walmart) didn’t have the game at release date. Usually high profile releases like this are a lock-in even for them. Either way, while I’ve only gotten to play the game a little bit due to the fact that I have to download most of it, I’m in love with the remaster. I feel like this time, being in the right mood to appreciate a Japanese role-playing game like this, plus all the improvements they made to the game will keep my attention to the very end. I definitely can’t wait to dive into all that this game has to offer, and I intend to stream as much of it as possible for others to watch too.

Also, this game is one of the few games on the PS4 that actually lets you play while it downloads. I figured they’d only allow you to do the prologue, but it actually goes a little bit further than that. You get you pick your first job for Vaan and do the game’s first hunt even. Unfortunately, when you try to go back to the city, you get this hilarious scenario…

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Kudos for leaning on the fourth wall there, developers.

Awkward Introductions

Decided I’d start a WordPress for writing various gaming topics. I’m always pretty opinionated, but usually they just go into long tweet chains that are hard to read, assuming I even get the courage to post them at all. So I figured why not put them here instead? I don’t really know why it took me so long to decide to do this, but I’ll try my best to keep this updated and relevant.

So regardless if you came from my Twitter profile, or you discovered this blog from somewhere else, welcome! You’ll find topics on the various games that I’m playing right now, as well as the occasional off-topic subject if it’s relevant. I tend to play almost anything, but a big focus of my blog will definitely no doubt be about role-playing games of all kinds. You’ll also see the occasional topic about game localization, the state of the industry, and my own personal experiences in the realm of MMORPGs. In the future, I may even consider some game reviews too.

Of course, if there’s a particular topic you’d like to hear about from me, feel free to message me through Twitter and I’ll consider writing about it. No guarantees, of course, but if it’s a reasonable request and I’m motivated then we’ll see! I’m going to try and aim for a new post once-a-week. There may or may not be more depending on how motivated I am.