Daily #92: Support main

I play support in pretty much every game that has a support class. In MMOs I’m the cleric or paladin, bravely protecting my teammates from harm, or sorting them out after or during a tough fight.

In shooters I’m the field medic, begrudgingly crawling to downed teammates and getting them back in the game. In turn-based games I’m the one flinging out stat boosters and AoE healing.

I’m also the prime target. The one that needs to be taken out first. The easy pickings. Assigned to assassins and overzealous front-liners, I’m the most important – despite dealing barely any damage.

What’s so addictive about playing support? It’s getting a sincere thanks from a teammate after clutching their health bar and dragging it back up, kicking and screaming. It’s spending half the game being incredibly good at running away. It’s weighing up who’s worth saving, and whom you have to let die. It’s being able to contribute in a meaningful way, and not in the typical way.

As someone whose mechanical point-and-shoot aiming isn’t the best, support lets me make a real impact on a game’s outcome. My prowess lies in knowing my teammates, rather than knowing the enemy. My game-sense is on point, and being the one who’s usually on the receiving end, I can sense when the enemy is about to launch a big attack. I can also sense when my teammates will need me for a decisive push.

But what’s the payoff? The frustration of not being able to shake that assassin, because you lack the firepower. The futile efforts to get your teammates to support you back – since, that’s not their job, right? It’s playing against not just the enemy team, but your own team – a team that never checks where you are, or whether you’re even alive or not, but expects you to heal them anyway.

“GG, bad heals.”

Seen far too often. Despite their abysmal K/D, and lack of understanding of what an objective is, they died that one time – so it’s the support’s fault. Never mind that said support was helping the team push on the other side of the map, and had no time to get to a flanker. GG, bad heals.

Support is a scapegoat. It’s difficult to gauge the tank’s impact, unless they’re playing very poorly. Although they might be out of position, if they’re absorbing damage, they’re doing their job. But if their health bar isn’t going up, or if someone dies too many times, it’s not their fault – it’s the support’s. The support should have been there. They shouldn’t have died in the first place; they should have been revived once they did. An easy target for the enemy team. An easy target for blame.

Despite that, I can’t tear myself away. For the moments when a relieved tank spams a thanks emote in the chat after a tough fight. For the moment when a revived DPS player goes on to wipe the enemy team and win the game. Providing just the right stat boost to get my team through a tough choke. Although not all of these are even noticed, I know they happened, and I know I did a good job.

Daily #78: Spiritual successor

Today, I’m going to discuss a game which I’m looking forward to quite a lot. It’s called Hytale, developed by Hypixel Studios. It’s gained quite a following since it posted its announcement trailer back in December 2018.

I was always a big Minecraft player, having been quite deeply embroiled in the multiplayer scene since I was about 13. Since then, I’ve been both a player and creator in the server space, and I follow the game’s updates although I don’t play any more.

Hypixel Studios is a new company started by the founders of Hypixel, which is the world’s largest Minecraft server network. Their involvement in the game stems from creating some of the most imaginative adventure maps seen in the game, and their server has constantly pushed the boundaries of what is possible using the base game (in terms of creating assets and processes).

This is where Hytale comes in. Now they’ve reached the pinnacle of what’s possible in Minecraft, Hypixel want something which extends those possibilities even further – so they decided to develop their own game.

And while they’re there, they seem to introducing a multitude of other features. While it still uses the block-based basics of Minecraft (hence the title of this blog), it builds upon what people value in multiplayer servers too. For example, there’s a quest/levelling system which the other game doesn’t include. Many of the basic mechanics are essentially polished versions of what Minecraft contains – which is why it’s become so anticipated.

The part I (and many others) are excited about, however, are the creation tools that the team are planning to implement. This is one of their main reasons for developing the game, and community creators are looking forward to getting their hands on them:

  • From what’s been released, the Hytale client will include a built-in 3D model editor, which allows creators to make models to be implemented in-game. This opens the doors for completely custom games and worlds, which was never possible in Minecraft without modifying the client.
  • Full in-game scripting capability – similarly to the above, this allows for scripts to be written and immediately tested and implemented in-game, whereas this requires a plugin to be installed on a Minecraft server.
  • There’s a full film-making suite also included in the client, allowing players to create videos similar to the Minecraft “Machinimas” that used to be all over YouTube.

These features, combined with being able to join friends just by clicking on their name in your friends list, and easy transferring of server files with no installs needed, essentially make Hytale into its own game engine. That’s why so many creators and communities are so excited.

While they posted their announcement trailer more than a year ago, Hypixel Studios recently announced that they won’t be releasing the game until 2021. This follows the footsteps of many developers, such as CD Projekt Red (pushing Cyberpunk 2077) and Naughty Dog (The Last of Us Part 2).

There’s been a lot of backlash in recent years towards games that release before they appear to be finished, the most infamous of which being No Man’s Sky. The gaming community are more tolerant of games being delayed to make sure they’re the best they can be, and that’s the stance that Hypixel Studios are taking. I’ll be looking forward to revisiting this game periodically, and finding out more!

Click here for Hytale’s website! Their social media is also quite active, and there’s plenty of fan content to be found while you wait for the game. 🎮

Daily #47: Common interest

Today, I’m going to discuss the projects I’ve involved myself in in the past, and why.

As I’ve mentioned plenty of times, I’ve always been into gaming. Minecraft was one of the staples of my childhood and adolesence. I quickly moved past the singleplayer game into the world of multiplayer servers, and never looked back. If you’re unaware, Minecraft allows anybody to open their own server, and other people can join it using the host’s IP address. All the host needs is something to host it, which can be done on their own computer or purchased online and managed remotely.

Due to the almost endless possibilities of the Minecraft client – to the point where it’s almost a small game engine in itself – there are lots of servers and server networks. Many of these make a considerable amount of money selling cosmetics to thousands of players in-game, such as the Hypixel network. These servers cover a wide range of gameplay types, from straightforward survival, to custom-coded minigames.

After exploring what was available to find games that I liked, I came across the genre of RPG-style servers. The most iconic of these is Wynncraft, which includes fully-fledged quest, skill and economy systems in a simplified version of MMOs such as World of Warcraft. All made within Minecraft. Once I realised these existed, I found other fledgling projects that were looking for staff members – “Lore Writer” being a commonly-sought position.

These projects were most often begun by people who didn’t really understand the scale of the project they were undertaking, so most of them fizzled out in a matter of months. However, I still learned a great deal about how I work, and how to work alongside other writers.

Being part of a community is always fun, and what I found most rewarding about being involved in these projects was the ability for me to have a purpose for my writing, and be able to show it to others often. It helped me grow used to receiving critique, and learn when to heed someone’s advice and when to politely ignore it. As well as this, I used to be far more scornful of my own work. The work I kept to myself was always viewed negatively (by me), but the work I shared in these projects often received praise, which was refreshing.

I did, however, often assume I was right about how to go about things. Generally, I found my own plot ideas more interesting, and often found errors in other writers’ work. As I tended to be older than other participants, my maturity would often have me appointed as an impromptu leader – a position which I initially enjoyed, but started to resent as more projects rolled in. I disliked being responsible for creating work for others, instead preferring to be told what needed to be done.

What I’ve finally been able to achieve recently was to create my own purpose. I’ve used the projects for this in the past, but this time around, my blog and other creative projects have given me the fulfilment I was looking for, but never quite found before. I intend to use it wisely!

Daily #37: Girl, games

You might notice the title is skirting around a well-known phrase – this is deliberate as I am loathe to announce that I’m a ‘girl gamer’ in the title. The phrase is burdened with many connotations, a large portion of those being negative – which is what I’m going to discuss.

Today I’m going to talk about my experiences being a female who plays video games as a hobby. To preface this, what I write here is probably going to sound like I’m looking for sympathy; a ‘woe is me’ article. I still enjoy gaming, and occasionally enjoy the interactions my gender gleans from other players.

The first time I realised that being a girl was a ‘big deal’ was on a random Minecraft multiplayer server, when I was around 13. My skin (in-game appearance) at the time was some kind of rainbow monstrosity that appealed to 13-year-old me. I told some of the other players that I was a girl, and they immediately gave me advice. “Change your skin to a girl skin, and people will give you free stuff”. So, I took that advice, and spent a little time editing a pre-made female “teen” skin. I was never the type to go around volunteering the information that I was, in fact, a girl, but if someone asked, I would confirm it.

That person’s advice worked. As well as being given items, curiously my treatment by other players would be different once they knew my gender. They’d be more patient in conversation, and just be all-round nicer to me. It was quite a jarring experience. But this was Minecraft, where most of the players were under 15, so there wasn’t a whole lot of offensive abuse (especially being limited to text chat only).

Then, at around 17, I began playing CS:GO. I was fortunately with a group of online friends at that point, but I still came across a handful of random players. And I was in for a bit of a shock. CS:GO relies on voice communication to play the game effectively, so there was no way of witholding the information that I was female. There were many unsavoury interactions in those games. As an example (which I feel encapsulates them all), a Russian player heard my voice, and asked me “Are you girl?” I confirmed that I was, and his reply was an unheP “suck my dick bitch”.

I know that many girls like to pretend they’re pre-pubescent boys, or simply not speak at all, in order to avoid the inevitable altercations with other players. Personally, I don’t like to do that – over time, I’ve grown a thick skin, and if I’m insulted, I try and give it back just as hard.

I’ve seen plenty of posts on Reddit, either from female gamers or their male partners or friends, complaining about the level of toxicity in <insert game here>. While I agree that it’s highly annoying, and can be distracting when one is just trying to enjoy a game, I feel that reports of women becoming truly upset at the comments they receive is an overreaction. These cases are usually in relation to particlarly crude comments, such as highly gendered insults, or even rape threats (a surprisingly common trend).

However, I think that it’s also worth listening to insults thrown at any group of people. Those whose voices haven’t broken yet are called kids, which is an insult in itself. Men are called virgins, as well as a smattering of homophobic or racist slurs. Whether they’re based in reality or not, the toxic people that make insults over voice chat just try and find something that sticks. If it’s a woman, then they can attack that aspect of the other person very easily.

I’m not saying that I like the toxicity in gaming. It’s highly offensive to many groups, and often based in uninclusive views that collectively have decided that certain groups of people = ‘bad’. But it comes with the territory whether you like it or not, and almost all games offer ways to mute, squelch or kick the perpetrators if you just don’t want to hear it anymore.

I might continue this one tomorrow.

Daily #33: Memory lane

The big news in the gaming scene at the moment is that the Halo franchise has just been released on PC. Halo was a well-known series of first-person shooter games which is widely considered to have helped shape the genre. Until now, the games were only ever available on the Xbox series of consoles.

I personally owned an Xbox for only around a year, and it was acquired second-hand so I could play the Assassin’s Creed games. As such, I never played a Halo game. My partner, on the other hand, enjoyed a number of the games as a child. Trying them out on PC, the games are certainly fun, but I don’t feel like they’re particularly special in any way. There are obviously a number of shooters that have been released since that I find better.

My partner is in love with the re-released games, as you might expect. I wanted to discuss why. In my experience, playing a game that one played as a child brings on a positive set of emotions disproportional to the quality of the game. Last year, we set up our old Wii console and tried out a few of the games (yes, I’m quite young). The games weren’t critically-acclaimed – just Wii Party and MarioKart Wii. But the happiness I felt, hearing the familiar music and even the menu animations, was through the roof.

It’s common knowledge that we associate different memories with the sensory inputs we experienced at that time, such as sounds, sights and smells. Games can be such an immersive experience, so it makes sense that playing an old video game brings on the happiness of that memory quite strongly.

Discussing video games in particular – it also makes sense that it is almost always a positive emotion that is felt upon replaying a childhood game. If one still plays games, they evidently enjoy doing so, and would likely be in a stable and positive environment while playing them as a child.

However, the intensity of nostalgia is also quick to wear off. Ultimately, bar very few exceptions, games made more than a decade ago are technically and graphically less impressive than games made more recently. Playing one of those games is still rewarding, and I still fully recommend it, but don’t expect to be constantly impressed.

For one thing, in a story-based game you’re likely to already know where the story will take you. This diminishes the reward gained by playing somewhat, as you won’t feel the genuine surprise you felt as a child, seeing it for the first time. I feel like for this reason, multiplayer games tend to trigger more nostalgia than single-player games. The repetitive nature of titles like Halo mean that the experience you receive is the same in every match, regardless of your age when playing it.

However, even in a multiplayer game, you’ll probably still become bored of it after a while. Halo, while it will no doubt retain a solid player-base comprised of old and new players alike, will undoubtedly ‘wear off’ on the majority.

Nostalgia is a great experience. Connecting with one’s younger self over a shared positive experience is something which should be done as much as possible. But I also think that it’s best not to dwell in the past – learn what makes you happy now, whether it’s the same as your childhood or something completely different.