Review — Heroes of the Storm (Jun. ’18 Edition)

Since Heroes of the Storm is basically the only game I play given how busy I am, I think it’s only fair that I take the time to dedicate a little bit of my blog to it every once in a while (beyond saying “I’m still playing HotS” in the monthly updates). Being an online, MOBA style game, it’s constantly getting new features and characters to play, so reviewing it at one stage of its development will be totally different from another, even in broad strokes like “state of the game” as I intend to talk about here.

So, for timeline context—the newest character and battleground were released a few weeks ago: Yrel and Alterac Pass. This is following the releases of Deckard Cain and Fenix.

Overall, Heroes seems to be in rough shape, even with the newest batch of content. Keeping myself updated on the subreddit for the game means reading a lot of complaints about how toxic people are (as with all MOBAs), how reporting other players does nothing and there’s no reason to do so, and how frustrating a lot of characters are to play against. There’s a power gap between newer characters and older ones simply because the system is advancing, albeit slowly.

Unfortunately, Heroes of the Storm was crippled from the beginning. The game’s foundation is an engine (at least) nine years old, as it started off as a mod to Starcraft II. This means that connectivity issues and overall capabilities are limited from the start, and it can’t compete with new stuff, given how fast the gaming industry evolves. This will always be the biggest issue with the game—it’s built on old foundation.

And you can see the aging in the game, too. Older heroes like Raynor have very simple abilities, such as “increase attack speed” or “push enemies back”, whereas heroes like Fenix have “fire a laser that spins around your hero twice, hurting and slowing enemies it hits as it passes”. This becomes a problem when most of the characters being picked in high level play are the ones that were released in the past few months.

Overall, Heroes of the Storm is pretty solid. The best thing about it is that the vast majority of games last 15-25 minutes, and only on rare occasions can you give or take 5 more minutes. It’s completely free, you can play with up to five friends, and there is absolutely no “buying power”. You simply can’t buy stuff that gives you the upper hand against your enemies. (The only thing is, as with most MOBA’s, you have to play a lot in order to be able to buy the characters with in-game currency. Not a lot, mind you, and there’s no hero that you can’t buy with in-game currency, but it’s worth mentioning.)

It does have loot boxes, which the entire gaming community hates right now, but honestly I think it’s fine in this case because it’s mostly cosmetic, and you get them at a reasonable rate.

The game is, as it always will be, at it’s best when you’re playing with friends that don’t take things too seriously. Being competitive is fine, but there’s something about MOBA’s that really churns up hatred for other people. So as long as you’re fine with losing, and you can have fun without blaming the people you’re playing with (even if it is their fault), you can have a good time.

Me — June ’18 Update

Well, here we are. I’d like to thank the academy for this astounding accomplishment. Spring 2018 semester is over. The Summer (and hopefully my penultimate) semester is fast approaching. I have big news (for me), too. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment in Oregon, after having flown for the first time in seven-ish years. This is the first “vacation” I’ve ever had to myself, but I’ll get to that.

So as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Alright, I finally have some blog news: I will be resuming the weekly fiction portion of my blog! Every Sunday I’ll be posting a flash fiction based on an image writing prompt. I intend to also record them and upload these videos to YouTube around the same time they post to my blog, but we’ll see. I don’t intend to be posting chapter excerpts of anything, though. Just the weekly flash fiction. Plus, that way, you won’t need to have read anything else of mine to enjoy them.

As for writing plans, well… that’s why I’m only posting one thing of fiction a week. I’m still not really devoting any effort to any larger project. Lisa Stenton has once again found herself in a muck of irreconcilable conflicts too large for me to enjoy writing her stories. I just… don’t know how to make technology and urban fantasy marry without copying other writers or making it stupid, and frankly it’s hard to hit the exact right chord I was going for with her stories. I think “The Last Laugh at the Lake of Lava” was pretty good, though. Spear Gate’s new outline is still on the to-do list, but it’s honestly not that interesting to me anymore. ‘Cause, you know, that’s what new writers do. We love something until it’s hard and then find a new passion project. So, as for now, still no bigger project. Oh well.

Lately I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft. Less so HotS because I’m kind of burnt out on it, but I did calculate that in about 600 games (or about 200 hours) I’ll have reached level 10 with every hero in the game. Problem is, all the heroes that are under that cap are because I don’t enjoy them much. So instead I’ve been playing WoW, mostly as a way to pass the time while I listen to podcasts.

Speaking of podcasts, I’ve finally caught up on Story Break! This means I’m caught up on six of the eight podcasts I’m interested in. After that I intend to listen to podcasts I have no hope of being caught up on. Ones that have hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content. I also have some unread audiobooks on my phone, so I still need to dive into those.

As I said, the Spring semester is over. I’m almost done getting two Associate’s Degree’s though. I just need about six classes total, so that’ll be great. I have tentative plans for what I’m going to do after, but nothing concrete. So after the Summer and Fall, I should be done… ish.

Okay, so Oregon. I’ve only been here for about 18 hours as I’m writing this, and roughly half of that has been asleep, but oh my gosh. So many trees. Living in So Cal means that I’m used to sky lines being rocky mounds of… you know, rock. But Oregon is swarmed with trees, I’ve never seen so much green in my life. There’s just… so much. It’s honestly pretty much the same (it’s less than a thousand miles, after all), but at the same time, so different. I’ll talk about it more later.

One thing I didn’t account for on this trip is the fact that I’m introverted. Being around friends for nearly 72 hours straight is… well, let’s just say I’m tired and it’s taking a lot out of me. I want to have fun, but it’ll be a struggle to keep my mental energy running for that long without burning out.

Also, the Tuesday and Wednesday blog posts will be late. I won’t be back home until late Tuesday night.

Me — Competitiveness

I think the way I play games ties back to my early childhood and how I was narcissistic and selfish. Back then, I’m told I was both a sore loser and a sore winner, so I was pretty much the worst. The funny thing is, I don’t think I’m really any different than how I was back then, at least internally. The biggest difference is perhaps the fact that I’m not as open with my inner thoughts as I had been.

In everything I do, I’m very competitive, which is sort of annoying because it means I’m bad at relaxing. I don’t like operating at less than maximum efficiency. It’s so bad that I feel guilty for listening to music while playing video games rather than an audiobook. Ridiculous, I know, but I don’t think it’s a terrible flaw.

One of the ways this manifests itself most in my life is that, especially recently, I don’t like getting into new things. I don’t want to learn a new game, I want to get better at the one I already know. And once I’m good at it, I want to take it a few steps further and be the best at it. I don’t like devoting less than one hundred percent to anything, because it feels like I’m slacking if I do. It’s why I rarely play role-playing games anymore, because they require a time investment I don’t want to commit. It’s not that I don’t have the time if I really wanted to, it’s that spending that time means time not practicing and getting ahead in anything anyone else is doing.

I played a lot of League of Legends back in the day. Assuming I won about half of the games I’ve ever been in, I’ve probably played around eight hundred hours, as a rough estimate. That’s about a month’s time. Now, if you’re not a gamer, that may sound like a lot, but it actually seems low to me. Some of it was playing with friends, sure, but I didn’t play all one-hundred-an- whatever of the champions. I probably spent over half of those hours on the same three characters, playing, practicing, and exploring how to get the most out of their potentials.

As far as World of Warcraft goes, I have several websites that I go to constantly regarding how to optimize how I play just so I can be the best. Getting the best gear to make my numbers the highest, learning which buttons to hit in different situations, that sort of thing. If nothing else, I strive to be the best of my class (mage, of course), and playing any other class simply feels wrong because of how much time I spent on that one.

Lastly, devotion is the biggest thing. If the game isn’t multiplayer or there are noncompetitive ways to play it, I prove how good I am by getting one hundred percent completion, or by beating it quickly. That sort of thing.

The worst part is, it permeates all aspects of my life. I kind of need to be the best at everything. The only thing that changes is what I’m focusing on. I lose interest if my devotion isn’t giving me the results I like, which is exactly how I feel about World of Warcraft right now (because everybody else I know simply has so much more time on their hands than I do.)

I suspect I’ll get back into Stardew Valley very soon and build the best farm the universe has ever seen.

Me — Epic Scope

I can’t be the only one that feels it. That chill down your spine when something awesome in a book or movie happens. Heck, video games can do it, too! That surge of emotion that is almost overwhelming if it hits you the right way. That moment, in any medium, when you realize something is much bigger or different than you had expected. Sometimes these moments come in the form of a plot twist, but it doesn’t have to be. In some cases, it’s simply the execution of the scene or a simple angle in which a scene is shot. Here are a few good examples (from several different genres):

The slow pan at the beginning of Wall-E that shows the enormous towers of garbage that have been meticulously organized, providing context at just how long this has been going on. That reveal in Fullmetal Alchemist when you realize what the characters are truly up against. The moment in Star Wars when you see Darth Vader’s flag ship and see how tiny the star destroyers are compared to it, and realize how terrifying a force the Empire really is. That sense of awe the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King cinematic trailer inspires, both because of the tragedy of the context and the vast might Arthas wields. When Ancalagon, the largest and most powerful dragon that ever lived in the world of Middle-earth, was defeated, and his fall destroyed an entire mountain range.

At its basest form, scenes and moments like these are my true passion. I want somebody to experience something I made, and feel that surge of emotion, be it one of terror, shock, sadness, elation, doesn’t matter. My ultimate goal, as a creator, is to provoke that emotion in as many people as possible.

Focusing this objective towards writing epic fantasy, I have so many of these scenes in my head that I hope will one day translate onto the page. A single man halting a wall of arrows, then hurling them back towards an oncoming army. A floating city, thought to be untouchable, falling from the sky and crashing into the landscape below. A person, whose name is synonymous with death itself, strolling through the city streets, searching for the main character. Three people mortals would consider gods, standing in opposition of a being that dwarfs their immense power.

I could go on, but these descriptions may mean nothing to you. These are each fully mapped out scenes begging to be written. Unfortunately, a scene with epic scope such as these require context. If I write a short story about an impervious city being torn down, it’s a bit difficult to sell the idea that it’s an “impervious city”. My universe is literally built upon scenes like this, whether I realized it at the time or not. In fact, this universe was birthed from what I intend to be a big reveal (though if you know me or do any sort of research on my website you probably know what that reveal is).

I don’t know if I will ever tell a story that brings a chill down somebody’s spine. It’s one thing to describe an epic scene, but it’s another thing entirely to experience that scene after having been given context as to how big a deal that moment really is.

Me — Gaming Experience Pt. 2

Last time I talked about my childhood and the games I’m most nostalgic about. We left off circa 2005 when the XBox 360 and Wii were announced.

Never had I been more excited for a game than Super Smash Bros: Brawl and Halo 3. Unlike a lot of the current games that are being thrown into circulation, they really held up to the hype. Halo 3 to this day definitely still has my favorite campaign in any first-person shooter. And as far as Brawl goes, we somehow managed to melt the original disc we had. I still have no idea how that even happened, but man, we played that game so much.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I started getting to the age where I started trying really hard. Now that I knew how games work, I could practice a lot and be the best, too. (As a tangent I won’t get into now, I was also completely narcissistic until sometime during high school). Halo 3 was also the first game that I played online. (I was around ten or eleven at the time. No I didn’t have a mic.) These games I played on the 360 were the generally the first installments of games I really got into (Halo being the exception). I played a ton of Elder Scrolls: OblivionGuitar Hero 3 and its later games, Call of Duty (Modern Warfare 2 was definitely the best one), Assassin’s CreedBioshock (the first game I beat on Hard mode the first time through), Left 4 Dead, etc. This is the point where I’m not simply old enough to remember these games, but I am starting to understand and play them well.

wii-2310On the Wii, we played Super Smash Bros: Brawl the most, as I said, but I played Wii Sports a lot. Tennis most of all, which I did so much my skill was literally off the charts (in the game). I also played Mario Kart: Wii a bunch. I played it so much, in fact, that I got three stars on every grand prix (meaning first place on every single course), and then proceeded to beat half of the “expert” ghosts, which were designed to be difficult. I did a review in which I compared that game to the new one, Mario Kart 8. I liked the old one better. I also played Super Mario Galaxy and beat my first Zelda game, Twilight Princess. Mostly, though I played Brawl. I’m that guy that plays Marth a lot. Sorry.

As far as PC gaming goes, it didn’t really catch on for me yet. I played some old browser games like Neopets (you can still find my profile page at “kollin5”), Adventure Quest, and a few other websites with questionable trustworthiness. Later, I was introduced to World of Warcraft. I remember running around Loch Modan with a level twenty-ish night elf hunter auto-attacking creatures with a vendor bought sword. Don’t judge me I was like eight. But having a very limited number of computers (basically one), the introduction of WoW to us made the sibling war of who got to play and for how long got so bad that at one point we were only allowed on for an hour at a time and we had a schedule printed out that told us what time slot we had that day. Seriously. Those were dark times.

rgdrc(As a side note, my brother and I also played some other RPGs with a friend after we stopped playing WoW for a while. We went through at least three, probably playing each for about a month or so. Also Minecraft fits in here somewhere. Probably around 2011 or so. Guild Wars 2 was also a big one for a while.)

It continued like that for a while. For several years we played games until the next one came out. Halo: ODST and later Halo: Reach, all the Assassin’s Creed games, and when Elder Scrolls: Skyrim came out that was another huge time sink. In general, though, we stayed where we were at for a few years. That is, until League of Legends came along.

I’ve probably played about two thousand games of League. Each game being an average of about thirty minutes or so, that equals quite a bit of hours. The funny thing about that is that it probably doesn’t hold a candle to my current playtime of Warcraft, but we played it with varying frequency for several years. I even have about five different League t-shirts. During the last five years I’ve also put a lot of time into Diablo 3TerrariaDestiny, Heroes of the StormHearthstone and some other things that escape my mind.

These days, I don’t have a whole lot of free time. But if I did, I would be playing more Warcraft and Overwatch.