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Posts tagged “Video Games

Winning Without Winning – Succeeding at Failure in Online Games

It’s the last round; the bomb is planted and nobody has a kit.

There’s just one tower left; before long the base will fall.

Pushed back to the final point and already down a player; it’s time for the defenders to take their last fight.

Sadly, none of these are the enemy team tonight. They’re yours and man, losing is just the worst, isn’t it?

It’s the dual nature of team-based competitive games. When the only difference in whether you win or lose is whether or not your team of players can play better than theirs, the rush of a well-earned win is irreplaceable. Equally though, the competitive drive is just as much a curse as it is a blessing when the semi-random nature of online matchmaking is allowed to poke and prod at your ever-dwindling patience. You can’t pick your teammates without putting a party together, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You sure as heck can’t pick your opponents, and what are you supposed to do about getting matched against amazing players when your own teams seem to consist mostly of orangutans, Tamagotchis and bags of hammers that have somehow been trained to use a mouse and keyboard? It’s so dangerously easy to become apathetic, frustrated, and downright mad at a loss.

Well, you shouldn’t. Harder than it sounds? Absolutely, but I’m here to show you why a hard-fought loss is actually one of the best things that can possibly happen to you in online gaming… as long as you know what to do with it. Winning is great, but only by analysing your mistakes can you improve and those are much easier to spot in a loss than in a victory. You just need to know how to self-analyse, so here are some pointers to help get you started on winning your losses.

The Sliding Scale of Overcome to Overwhelmed

The first step in making the most of a loss is also the most intuitive, because it’s often the first thing that will naturally come to mind anyway. “Wow, that sure was a close game!” and “Wow, we sure got a mudhole stomped in us that would bring a 30% alcohol-by-volume tear to the eye of Stone Cold Steve Austin!” are two very different beasts which have to be approached differently. It’s not always a totally clear immediate distinction, either, because frustrated annoyance can make a close loss feel like getting stomped, while frustrated apathy can make a stomp feel like a close loss. Before asking yourself what went wrong, it’s important to sit back, take a breath and ask yourself: how close, realistically, was that game? This can be done from memory or, if you’re serious about improvement, it’s often worth skimming through the demo/replay, assuming your game of choice has that feature. Identifying how close you came to winning is hugely important in putting everything else about a loss into context.

The Three Points of Focus – Us, Them and Me

To make a productive start on analysing your losses, there are three questions you can ask yourself after a match. The way you look at answering them will change from game to game, since different games have different formats. For some games, like MOBAs, these may apply to entire matches. For others, like CS:GO, individual rounds. However, the concepts can be applied to any player-vs-player competitive game, even 1v1 games with a little tweaking.

The first question: What was our win condition and how did we fail to achieve it?

A win condition is exactly what it sounds like. Within the context of the match you just played, what specifically did you have to do in order to beat their team with your team? This can be tricky to pin down in games with random matchmaking as often everyone on the team has a different idea of what the win condition is, but it’s not impossible. In CS:GO, it may be that their AWPer on B site was getting the vast bulk of their team’s kills, therefore keeping them pressured above all others or, conversely, avoiding and killing their team around them may have left them outmatched in firepower, allowing you to take more fights and win more rounds. In Dota 2 it may be that their heroes were weak in the early-game and strong late-game while yours were the opposite, meaning that your window of opportunity would have been to get aggressive as soon as possible, turn that into tower kills, control the map with wards and presence and never allow them to make a comeback. In Overwatch it may be that the enemy were using far more ultimates than you to secure fights and leaving themselves at what the competitive community often calls an ultimate economy disadvantage and your team could have taken points by capitalizing on that more effectively, or perhaps their supports were frequently out of position and could have been killed early to win fights. To wrap everything together, as well as figuring out the things you didn’t do which could have led to a win, identify any things which you did do which were unnecessary for your win condition. Did you spend that extra 5 minutes farming your next item when you should have been looking for kills? Did you spend 30 seconds looking for solo kills while your team was preparing to push a vulnerable area, and by the time you grouped up with them that area was no longer vulnerable? Identify these and you’re well on your way towards improvement.

The second question: What was their win condition and how could we have stopped them from achieving it?

Just as you and your team have a win condition, so do the opponents. The easiest way to stop them from achieving their win condition is, of course, to reach your own first, but often when push comes to shove that’s not a viable option and you’re left to identify what they have to do to win and stop them from doing it. Let’s take our earlier Dota 2 example. If your team has failed to dominate the early-game, the enemy are now free to work towards their own win condition of avoiding fights and farming until their heroes hit their main power spikes and suddenly they can throw you so far across the map that you land in a Heroes of the Storm match. In this situation it’s often productive to focus on their win condition and anything you can do to mess with it. Stealing their jungle camps, forcing their attention with split pushes which spread them around the map where they can be picked off, doing anything possible to prevent them from comfortably preparing for a late-game win. Being able to look back at a loss and recognize times where the enemy were doing something to work towards their win condition which you could have prevented can prepare you for those improbable, clawed-back-from-the-brink games where you win by leaving the opponents unable to close out the match and slowly neutralising their advantage.

The third question: What could I, individually, have done better?

In team games, by far the most common trap I see people falling into is blaming their team for everything, not taking full responsibility for their personal screw-ups. This is rarely conscious and almost everyone falls victim to it at some point. This can boil over into becoming frustrated in-game and giving your teammates grief which, for the record, never helps. If someone’s being counter-productive, mute them. If you’re considering communicating in a way which is counter-productive, follow the system of Stay Targeted, Focused and Understanding.

In other words, if you’re considering giving people grief, remember to S.T.F.U. and keep playing.

But I digress. The final and arguably most important question to ask yourself following a loss. Disregard your teammates’ mistakes – it’s good to recognize them so that you don’t make the same ones yourself but – and I cannot possibly stress this enough – you can’t control or change what other players do. Ask yourself, simply, what you could have done better. Look at the shots you missed, the kills you could have gotten by acting just two seconds faster, the teammates you could have saved by healing them instead of someone already close to full health. Don’t focus on how your teammate let you die that time, focus on how you died and shouldn’t have been in that position. Don’t focus on how your teammate couldn’t finish that important kill, focus on how you also missed the shot in the first place. It’s especially important not to forget this in games where you felt like you carried your team. Even if you did, you did not play a perfect game, because in pretty much any modern competitive game that’s impossible when you account for human error. No matter how hard you carried, there’s always something you could have done something better. That goes for every player of every skill level and any successful professional gamer will tell you the same.

Applying the theory

All of this, of course, is just a set of pointers and guidelines, something to point you in the right direction. The most important part – and if you only take one thing away from this, it should be this – is that winning isn’t everything. A loss can be just as valuable as a win, if not more, if you take the time to look at how and why they happen and for that reason, why be upset by them? Losses are a necessity, and a beautiful one. Competitive games are all about the rush of competition, about proving your skill, about the satisfaction of being the better player. Without the sting of losing, winning wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet. So, embrace it. You’ll get that win back sooner or later.


Digital Download vs Physical – What’s Best?

In the current era of video games, we seem to have hit a weird snag. We’re seeing the prices of digital downloads rise whilst the cost of a physical copy is falling – it all seems to make no sense! However, what really is best for consumers? What is the best distribution method for developers and why are we seeing this weird shift in prices? When a physical copy sells for £35 and a digital copy sells for £45, is there a reason to back digital?

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GOVG – Video Game Night #3

We’ve done alright recently with our GOVG nights, so if you’re looking for an event to pass the time this coming Saturday, then why not consider joining us for an evening of fun and games? We’ll be playing some free to play games, as well as some other games that people choose throughout the night. It’s always a good laugh, so if you’re up for joining a bunch of the GeekOut UK community for some laughs, then join us on Discord today.

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EliteMeet Bristol 2017

Every year, the community of gamers that enjoy Elite: Dangerous (the massively multiplayer space epic from Frontier Developments) come together for some face-to-face fun and gaming. However, this meet is so much more than just a gathering of Elite Dangerous fans. This year, the event is moving down to the South-West; so come along and have a look at what’s going down at EliteMeet in Bristol. This might be the event to satisfy your gaming and socialising itch!

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GeekOut Bristol Meet – March 10th: SUPERHEROES ASSEMBLE

Up there in the skies! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s just the GeekOut Bristol Meet attendees flying over to the Old Market Tavern for a night of fun, games, drinks, discussion and much, much more. But of course, not everyone knows what we get up to during our meetups, so if you’re new to what we do, or if you’re simply curious about what’s going down this month, then join us today for a quick chat about what’s new, what’s not and what’s hot about this upcoming meetup.

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Top 10 Unfitting Characters

GeekOut Top 10s

When you’re making a cast of pirates, do you ever think of putting a bouncy ball in amongst the crew? Not really. When you’re making a story about war, do you ever think of putting scantily clad ladies all over it? Probably not. What about those times you’re designing a fantasy RPG and you design one of the main characters to be… A robot? Ah well, at least we remember these characters, right?

These characters stand out amongst the crowd; they’re odd-balled, they’re different and that’s why we remember them the most. They are against the grain of the rest of their cast – And today we’re listing down our Top 10 most Unfitting Characters. STOP! Before we continue with this, just be aware: If a whole series is weird, chances are the character actually fits in.


Top 10

10) Tails Doll – Sonic Racing R

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The Tails Doll, a character who is so insignificant, so useless and so basically average that you’d hardly believe that they’d put it in the game at all. Let alone the fact that it’s a character that didn’t exist within the Sonic universe before going into Sonic Racing R, you’ve got what’s basically just a filler character who barely fits in with the lore and mythos of the Sonic world. Yes: There’s definitely a lore behind it, don’t question it.

However, one thing that constantly bewilders me is the fact that this little weird possessed doll became one of the biggest talking points of the game. From the Evil Tails Doll Curse, to the Acid Remix of Can You Feel The Sunshine, it’s really out of place for the rest of this rather happy go lucky Mario Kart clone. Still: You can’t really blame them for adding a character like this into the game… He even ended up going into the comics as an evil doll.

9) Manta – Shaman King

oyamada_manta

Manta is really small, which isn’t too much of a surprise with a name like that. He’s tiny, he’s got a strange haircut, we know him as Morty in the English dubs of Shaman King and he’s a smart guy. In fact, he’s probably one of, if not the smartest guy in the entire anime. But there’s always been a small feeling of aloofness about him – Like, he’s not all there. Almost as if he’s strung along by Yoh just because he has nothing better to do.

I don’t know why Manta decides to journey through the incredibly dangerous Shaman King tournament, but he seems to stay around because he’s friends with Yoh. Morty isn’t a shaman, but he can see spirits. He isn’t strong, but he’s smart. He isn’t even all that brave, except for rare circumstances, but you know what? The series wouldn’t have been the same without his worrying.

8) Twoflower – Discworld

The Colour of MagicSean Astin as Twoflower©RHI/Bill Kaye

The Disc is filled with people and narratives that point a big fat finger to real-world things and says “This is you, this is what you look like, you burk.” and no one but no one does that quite so overtly as Twoflower, the little man from the Counterweight Continent who goes on holiday and starts a revolution. He doesn’t quite fit in around Ankh-Morpork, as a generally quite dingy and unpleasant city a man with a cheerful disposition and a penchant for offensively colourful shirts stands out a mile, and yet he doesn’t quite fit in at home either.

He is, in every regard, the oddball, and that makes Rincewind a perfect companion because though he looks the part and generally fits in a whole lot better in society, he’s not exactly full-blown wizard material himself. However out of the entire cast of characters from the glorious Discworld series, say if they were laid out à la one of those Simpsons character ensembles, Twoflower would light up like a beacon.

7) Monkey – Time Splitters

monkey

This little monkey packs a serious punch. I mean, it’s literally just a monkey and the game is very happy to tell you this over and over again. From the first Time Splitters, where the Monkey’s entry simply says “It’s a monkey” to Time Splitters 2, where the entry is updated to “Yep, it’s still a monkey”. He’s not a durable character, he’s not even all that great – but he can still wield a gun like it’s nobodies business.

The oddness of the Monkey knows no bounds. From it’s little ooks and aaks, to the fact that it’s simply a joke character, the fact that this Monkey became the mascot of the game is both hilarious and odd. They could have chosen the rather witty characters from this shooter, but they chose the goddamn Monkey!! Also, don’t get me started on just how many times I was killed by this little Monkey in the multiplayer modes.

6) Tex – Red vs Blue

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Amidst the warring teams of idiots duking it out in a box canyon of absolutely no strategic value it seems like a single well-trained individual would be able to massacre both sides* and get out unscathed, but it just wouldn’t be funny like the rest of the series. Red vs Blue began life fourteen years ago in the early days of the internet creativity boom, a crude animation made in the Halo multiplayer. Now it’s immense, and creators at Rooster Teeth are now a major animation studio, thanks in no small part to Tex.

Tex is a badass mercenary gone renegade from an elite military unit who brings a layer of seriousness to the comedy stylings of Red team and Blue team, acting as a “straight-guy” to their “funny-guy”. She’s better trained, in fact she’s the best, and she’s mostly there to save the Blood Gulch boys from all of the terrible forces that want them dead! And she also spends much of that time listening to their arguments and non-sequiturs wondering why she’s going to all the trouble.

*This link has rude words AND AN AWESOME FIGHT SCENE but it gets a little too rude for this site.

5) Tingle – The Legend of Zelda

tingle_artwork_majoras_maskIf you know anything about The Legend of Zelda, it’s that some characters seemingly don’t know when to quit. Even Link, the hero of Hyrule, is barely able to stop for a second. Tingle, meanwhile, depending on the game you see him in, is either a collector, a fan or other. Tingle is annoying and we all get annoyed when we see his stupid face around. Couple that face with the stupid green spandex he wears, damn it Tingle, why are you even in this game?!

But he does serve a purpose, so it’s not all lost. However, just because he serves a purpose, it doesn’t really mean he should be there. In all honesty, he wasn’t too bad in Minish Cap, when really he mostly served as a way to deal with all of the Kinstones. He’s been around since Majora’s Mask, so you can bet your butt that he’s not going anywhere soon. Actually, probably not a bad idea, considering he usually has useful stuff on him. Let the fairy fantasizer be, I guess.

4) Kon – Bleach

kon-bleach

I feel like somewhere in Shonen Jump’s contract there is a requirement for a fluffy and adorable character, or just some bracket with “Grim and Gritty” at one end and “Childish and Adorable” at the other, and all Shonen Jump properties must fall somewhere inside that bracket. So in a world of lost and murderous souls put down by a semi-divine enforcement agency with a solemn duty to save the living from the dead… put in a teddy bear. Make him wear a dress sometimes.

Kon… why? He serves the very occasional purpose for a story, or maybe he just gets a narrative of his own from time to time, and it’s usually better than the filler arcs. He’s a constructed artificial soul placed into a vessel that he brings to life, and while he’s mostly there to occupy Ichigo’s body while he’s on Shinigami duty and saving the world, off-duty he lives inside a fluffy teddy… maybe a lion? On the bright side, he’s just as irritated about the whole thing as we are.

3) Chiaotzu – Dragon Ball

chiaotzu

This one has always confused me, because Chiaotzu is a tiny little human. A tiny human who has always seemingly been able to fly. A tiny human who has always been at the side of Tien and a tiny human who doesn’t look at all like the rest of the humans from Dragon Ball. Now, don’t get me wrong: Dragon Ball is full of ridiculous characters, as we all know and love it for… But Chiaotzu? He seriously seems more out of place than the rest. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it before, but now I think I know why he’s so misplaced.

According to the Dragon Ball Wiki, he’s supposed to be like a Chinese Vampire. From the way he floats around the place, to the way he attacks with his arms stretched out, he seemingly is a perfect fit to this description. Even the white skin and red cheeks are a reference. Dragon Ball is full of myths and fantasy stories: Heck, it was originally even a loose adaptation on The Journey to the West… But Vampires..?

2) Squirrel Girl – Marvel

wolverine-vs-squirrel-girl

Ok, so Marvel have got just about everything in their arsenal so far as superheroes go. Every viable superpower from the incredible to the insignificant, the terrible to the ridiculous. If a reasonable backstory cannot be conjured then the mutations of the X-Men can always fill in the blanks. That Squirrel Girl exists is not a shock, at most it’s a mild surprise, and the only reasonable response is “Seriously?”, to be repeated, louder, when you find out she’s one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe!

Doreen Green is a human with squirrel attributes born of some odd genetic quirk, a long fluffy tail, robust buck-teeth, claws, agility, and yes, the power to talk with squirrels. With this incredible arsenal of abilities she has killed Thanos, bested Deadpool, and turned aside Galactus himself. She’s good enough to beat Wolverine in a straight fist-fight (no claws allowed), she’s got her own Iron-Suit, and amongst the foremost members of the Great Lakes Avengers.

But she’s a SQUIRREL! And she made friends with the World Eater! Deadpool just doesn’t hold up to that, so if you were expecting him on this list then clearly my friend, you don’t know Squirrel Girl.

1) Giygas – Earthbound

Giygas is literally the embodiment of evil. That’s what it represents; that’s what it is. It’s pure hatred in an ethereal form. It’s also a villain that we’ve grown to both fear and respect at the same time. From that menacing music, to the frightful appearance of Giygas, this is a terrifying concept for most people, as he says some of the creepiest dialogue in the game. Words like “I… Feel… H..A..P..P..Y.” Creepy.

However, Giygas is probably one of the most unfitting characters of any video game made to date. Earthbound is renowned for being really surreal and silly. I mean, one of the enemies is the New Age Retro Hippy, who likes to get rulers out and measure… Stuff. We don’t know what, but that’s one of his attacks. Couple this with the colourful characters, the zany plot and the lovable story behind it, Giygas comes completely out of the blue. Even though you spend the whole game preparing for it.


Honourable Mentions

Okay, we’ve seen some downright weird characters today. But don’t you worry, we’re not finished yet. Here are two more examples of characters that really do not fit within their properties… But yet, they kind of do in a story-related fashion. You’ll see what we mean…

Mr Poopybutthole – Rick and Morty

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Here’s an example that makes itself. The little yellow blob in the top hat joins the cast of Rick and Morty during an episode that generates all manner of kooky and poorly conceived characters like Bacon Samurai, Reverse Giraffe and Pencylvester. All of them are introduced through a series of flashbacks that make it seem like they’ve been in the series the whole time, but they’re all parasites that shapeshift into wild characters to prey on those whose trust they acquire.

The way to spot a parasite is to check your memory to see if you have any bad memories of the beloved part of your family. If they’ve never shot you, kicked you in the face or abandoned you to some terrible fate then they’re a parasite, and need to be killed. They clear out the house of all of these crazy and wacky characters they once thought were friends and settle back down to a meal of the crummiest people in the family… and Mr Poopybutthole. Oh but it turns out that he’s real, which we find out when Beth shoots him and hurts a real friend, a friend who has never hurt her.

I guess sometimes it pays to fit in, just a little more. Mr Poopybutthole is there to stand out, to be “wrong” compared to the others, because he’s the punchline to an episode that makes a huge joke out of badly introduced characters who just don’t work.

Khajiit and Argonians – The Elder Scrolls

khajiit-vs-argonian

Not a character, but there’s something a little jarring about the bestial races of the Elder Scrolls games when you first begin. Having the sapient cats and lizards pop up in the choices for playable races mixed in amongst the variations of Man and Mer starts out as unusual until you get used to seeing them around, and their particular cultural quirks, and in Morrowind being unable to wear boots or helmets was a nuisance, albeit one that made sense.

They never seem more out of place than in Skyrim however. Cold blooded Argonians in the freezing north? Desert dwelling Khajiit treading the snow instead of the warm sands they adore? There are opportunities for them both in the proud nation, more so than for the displaced Dunmer who are hated and shunned by the more nationalist Nords, but I cannot imagine that any one of them would rather be anywhere but home.


Okay, now will you kindly stop sending me pictures of Jelly Jiggler? I understand he’s pretty weird, but we’ve been through this: Some series are just too weird to have any one unfitting character. But alas, we’re done with weirding everyone out with these rather odd characters who happen to just be there. It’s time for you all to help us for our next Top 10 – I wonder how fitting these selections will be?

That’s it for this week, we can finally stop thinking about the evil that is Giygas. Hopefully, we’ll be saved by the unbeatable Squirrel Girl and who knows… Perhaps Chiaotzu will finally have a new use. But what did you make of this really rather unfitting list? Did we do good, or did we do bad? Did we order the list the way you would have? As always, let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


UK Games Expo 2017

Last year I managed to attend the Play Expo up in Manchester, got to meet one of my heroes, played some fun games, spoke to some lovely people and in general had a really nice time. We asked you last year if there are any more Expo’s that you think GeekOut should try to attend and report on. I have already asked my niece to see if they would want me to take them to one of the many Anime Expo’s scattered around the country but this week whilst browsing one of my regular sites I saw a link that I found sparked my interest.

2017advert

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Palette Swapping – Elemental Cues

Let me pick up from where I started last march by saying that a palette swapped creature in a game needn’t simply be a conservation of resources, and can be representative of something notably different or important, something made distinct by a change of colour.

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Video Game Trends of 2017

2016 was certainly the year of VR and the revival of Pokemon, but what does 2017 hold for us? Are we going to be getting more game franchises come back and make a big statement, or is it time for some entirely new IPs to come about? What’s coming in the upcoming year? Will Nintendo get us to Switch to their newest console, or will people be sticking to the tried old method of PlayStation and Xbox?

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GeekOut Bristol Meet – December 31st: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Aha, you didn’t think we’d leave you with absolutely no information about what’s going to make our New Years Eve event so special now, did you? It’s a short event, which requires that you sign up to it – So clearly we’ll be doing something a little different. Well, finally, it’s time to reveal all about the New Years Eve GeekOut Meetup.

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