Chinese Gaming Companies Are Innovating

I never thought I’d say this, but – Chinese gaming companies are actually innovating. Chinese game developers have typically been best known as copycat developers. Opting to copy existing games rather than trying to innovate. Games like 300 Heroes and
Identity V are shameless copycats of their Western counterparts (300 Heroes is a League of Legends clone and Identity V is a total ripoff of Dead by Daylight). Things are starting to change though as Chinese companies are actually focusing on innovation.

Yostar Limited, a Chinese mobile gaming company is worth talking about. Unlike most mobile game developers, they’re actually trying new things and succeeding. Chinese games tend to do well in their home market, but poorly abroad, but Yostar’s titles have proven it doesn’t have to be that way. Their first mobile hit, Azure Lane, has been a big hit in Japan and the United States. In fact, an article on The Wall Street Journal mentioned that Japanese smartphone developers were starting to feel threatened by Chinese ones.

What makes Azur Lane special is that there really aren’t any other mobile games like it. It’s a Gacha horizontal shooter with unique gameplay. While every other gaming company is churning out generic Gacha RPGs similar to Fate / Grand Order or Epic Seven (Epic Seven can be played on PC too) with predictable gameplay, Azur Lane is a breath of fresh air. For the first time, Chinese mobile games are matching and even exceeding their Japanese and American counterparts in production value. So not only is Azur Lane an innovative game, it looks great too.

Yostar Limited’s second title available in English is Arknights and is yet another innovative masterpiece. It’s a Gacha tower defense RPG with a rich storyline and a great cast of characters. Like Azur Lane, Arknights features incredibly polished anime inspired graphics and a great soundtrack. Anyway. The point here isn’t to gush on these games, but to mention that for the first time in a long time, Chinese mobile games are competing with Japanese games on the global stage.

While these games are available on mobile devices, you can also play Arknights on PC using any of the popular Android Emulators (Blue Stacks, Nox, etc). Azur Lane is also available on PC through the same emulators. If you haven’t tried these games, I strongly recommend them.

Hands Free Sneakers, These are Awesome

As a lifelong gamer I’ve always seen everyday products re-branded for gamers and priced at a premium. Stuff like ‘gaming glasses’ and ‘gaming gloves’ have been a thing for a while and are totally necessary.  ‘gaming monitors’ and ‘gaming keyboards’ are a bit different as they tend to have higher refresh rates or extra buttons specifically designed for gamers, but are, for the most part, nothing special. I find that the best products for gamers aren’t specifically branded as ‘gaming’ products.

I recently discovered a brand called Zeba which makes hands-free sneakers, which are sneakers you can put on without having to bend down. I’m a fairly young guy (25) and in decent shape (normal BMI and I get some exercise), so I don’t exactly “need” these shoes,  but I bought them on a whim because I liked the idea and the convenience appealed to me. I finally received them a few days ago and wanted to wear them for a couple days before writing anything up. Over the last few days I’ve been averaging about 9,000 steps (which is about 4 miles per day) in activity, and I’m happy to say I really like them. They work exactly as advertised as they look just like regular sneakers but can be worn without bending down. Every time I have to leave my house, putting on my shoes takes 2 seconds and as weird as it sounds, it feels like a magical experience. I can’t believe Nike or Skechers never had anything like this before.

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Survived By Review – A Unique New MMO

Survived By launched on Steam on December 5th, 2018 and it’s a unique new free to play MMO by the U.S. based company Human Head Studios. The core gameplay in Survived by is remarkably similar to another game called Realm of the Mad God. What makes both of these two games special is that they both feature a permadeath system. Once a character dies, it’s dead forever. Unlike Realm of the Mad God though where death is extremely punishing, dying is a mechanic in Survived By which must be used to grow stronger. Players kill enemies, gain experience, acquire loot, and upon death they gain a special currency called Valr which can be used to gain legacies, which are passive permanent stat boosts which are carried over and applied to all future characters. So the higher level and better geared a character is on death, the more Valr acquired and the better legacies they’ll have access to. It’s actually an innovative concept and something no other MMORPG seems to have done. Permadeath in and of itself isn’t new to MMORPGs. It’s existed in numerous older games like Shaiyafor example and even in some form through hardcore mode in Path of Exile or Diablo 3, but no other game has used it as a means of progression. Continue reading

The Classic MMO Formula Works

I was perusing some new free to play games on Steam the other day and I ended up trying this new shooter from Neowiz Games called Black Squad. It’s a very traditional Korean lobby based tactical shooter that plays almost exactly like Combat Arms or Alliance of Valiant Arms. Everything from the game’s interface to to core gameplay mechanics reminds me of other Korean tactical shooters. Despite not offering anything new the game had over 13,000 concurrent users. Those numbers came down a bit of the last week, but it still gets 7,000 – 10,000 concurrent players. Compare that to the recent open beta of Lawbreakers, an innovative new arena shooter from Boss Key Studios / Nexon which only got 4,500 or so concurrent users and quickly fell off each day of the open beta. How is it that this buy to play FPS that had a significant budget got so outperformed by a run of the mill lobby based shooter? Argo performed equally poorly on Steam despite offering an innovative new experience with an emphasis on realism. I think it’s because despite “generic” being a negative adjective for games it’s what people actually want. Continue reading

Final Fantasy XIV – A Small Critique

Final Fantasy XIV is my favorite modern MMORPG. I’m reluctant to say favorite MMORPG, because I grew up playing Dark Age of Camelot and EverQuest, so both of those games will hold an extra special place in my heart. There’s a lot to love about FF14, namely its gorgeous graphics, unique multi classing system, adorable emotes, countless glamors, and excellent late game boss mechanics. It also has the best player housing system I’ve seen in an MMORPG, but I haven’t seen the new homesteads in Elder Scrolls Online, which I heard was great. The one thing that nags me about FF14 though is that each job has zero actual customization. This means that every single Black Mage has access to the exact same set of skills. In fact, there’s ZERO difference between every max level black mage in the game. That’s right; zero class customization. Most people don’t criticize this feature because the class system overall is pretty great, as everyone can play EVERY class on a single character. Switching between classes only requires a player to equip a new weapon. Tired of being a mage? Just equip a bow and now you’re an archer! Being able to play every class on one character is great, but it doesn’t excuse the lack of customization on a per class basis. Yes, there are stat points, but there’s only ever 1 viable stat point build per class.

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Revelation Online’s Early Game Sucks

Having played both phase 1 and phase 2 of Revelation Online‘s closed beta tests I think it’s time for me to share some of my feelings about the game. This is by no means a full review for Revelation Online, but rather a quick overview of my thoughts. First of all, I really like the game’s graphics – not so much its sharpness, as games like Black Desert Online and Moonlight Blade both look way nicer, but I really like the open world persistence of the game. It feels like a lot of modern MMORPGs gave up on having a seemlesss open world. Even great games like Final Fantasy XIV and Blade and Soul don’t have expansive worlds. Instead, everything is gated in smaller zones. I’m glad to see some Chinese MMORPGs go back to the wide open worlds that MMOs became famous for. Prior to BDO and Revelation, I remember this style being a big part of Lineage 2. (Even Lineage 2: Revolution, the mobile MMORPG, has an open world!) Continue reading

Hearthstone Has A lot of Competition

Every passing month seems to bring forth a new collectible card game trying to dethrone Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone as the #1 online CCG. And with good reason. According to gaming analytics firm SuperDataResearch Hearthstone brings in about $20 million a month for Blizzard due to its tremendous success on PC and Mobile. Prior to Hearthstone’s launch the online CCG industry was relatively small with only a handful of relatively unknown projects. After Hearthstone, it’s a whole another story. It seems like every major game studio worth their salt is chasing after the market that Hearthstone created. Obviously CCGs were around well before Hearthstone, but it wasn’t popular on mobile or PC, just offline. Continue reading

Steam Greenlight Lets Private Server Through

Steam Greenlight proves once again that Valve, despite all its success, can be quite incompetent. A private server made its way through Greenlight all the way up to official launch. Khan: Absolute Power from “Blaze Gamers” is absolutely a private server and the company behind the game doesn’t own the license to the game. The funny thing is, despite this being public knowledge at this point, Valve has not removed the game from its store. Not removing the game from the store sends the wrong signal to the gaming community and opens Valve to potential lawsuits from IP holders. The thing about Khan Online is that the IP holder is likely some bankrupt South Korean company, so Valve won’t be getting any complaints from them, but it does send the signal that Valve sanctions private servers. Continue reading

Playing some Mobile MMOs!

As many of you are already aware, I’m not a fan of most mobile games. I simply cannot stand monotonous pay to win mobile strategy games like Clash of Clans, Clash of Kings, or Clash of whatever. It blows my mind that a game like Clash of Clans makes over $1 billion a year (according to SuperDataResearch) when they’re extremely 1 dimensional and require no skill. But somehow all my friends play Clash of Clans…. I guess I need new friends. I recently when on a road trip from California to Las Vegas and since I didn’t need to drive it gave me some time to explore the vast world of free to play mobile games. I’ve always been a fan of MMORPGs so I started my quest by searching the Google Play store for “MMORPG”. Continue reading

Oddball MMOs

With the hundreds of MMOs out there including mainstream titles like The Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft there are quite a few oddball games out there too. Games most people probably never heard of. One such title is Areeb World from Remal IT, a Middle Eastern technology conglomerate. Most of MMORPGs nowadays are developed in South Korea or China with a few titles hailing from Japan, but Areeb World is from Saudi Arabia. I personally haven’t played Areeb World yet and probably never will because of its business model. The game is buy to play and costs a cool $54.99 on Steam. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to shell out $54.99 for an oddball game that looks like a mix between Spirit Tales and Dragon Oath, which for those that don’t know are two really old sub-par games. The explosive growth of free to play MMOs has reshaped the entire industry. Nowadays, only the premium franchises (think Final Fantasy XIV and The Elder Scrolls Online) can get away with charging money these days. Continue reading