Theorycrafting: Why Systematic Engagement Is So Important

A while back I did a video talking about the many methods developers use to engage players.

Looking back at that video, I realized that I wasn’t really delivering valuable information, nor did I explain anything in enough detail as the topic was far too broad to be discussed in a single video.

Now why start with systematic engagement? Well it’s a pretty common method used to engage players in the short term. Systematic engagement involves incentivising players to adjust their behavior in order for them to become more invested in the experience, thus becoming engaged.

Now you may be confused by what this means and for that reason, I shall give some examples. One of the more notable examples of systematic engagement is Devil May Cry’s style system. The style system is a distinctive feature of the Devil May Cry series and is often praised by its fans for making the gameplay experience more enjoyable. The question is, what makes the style system so important?

Anyone who plays the Devil May Cry games for the first time will quickly realize just how relentlessly difficult the games can be and at times it can be tempting for players to button mash out of panic. The style system was designed to circumvent this issue as players who button mash are not enjoying the game to its fullest, therefore they are more likely to become disengaged.

By adding a style rank as an incentive, players will be more likely to experiment with different moves in order for them to finally achieve that S rank that they’ve been working towards. Once players finally manage to reach the highest style rating, they are rewarded with a large quantity of red orbs which can be used to purchase new moves and upgrades to their character.

Another example of systematic engagement can be found in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. In Valkyrie Profile 2, battles require that players only need to defeat the leader to end the fight. The purpose of this is to encourage players to end battles quickly, thus saving the players time instead of forcing them to kill each enemy individually. The other enemies are merely an obstacle, which must be traversed in order for the player to reach and successfully defeat the leader.

Now this is fine and all but where’s the incentive? Why shouldn’t I kill all the other enemies first? On the right hand side of the screen there is a gauge consisting of 5 orbs. This is actually a timer which challenges players to end a battle as quickly as possible, if a battle is won with all 5 orbs lit up on the screen, the player will execute a direct assault which rewards them with a massive chunk of experience as well as occasionally dropping an extra item.

On top of all this, players are able to accumulate magic crystals by attacking enemies who are airborne, the purpose of this is to encourage players to experiment with combos in order for them to juggle enemies and acquire more magic crystals. Magic Crystals not only reward players with bonus experience but they are also used as a form of currency that players can spend to transport sealstones to other dungeons which allows their bonuses and penalties to be used anywhere. This can drastically impact gameplay and as such it is important to collect as many magic crystals as you can to give you the edge in battles, by using those sealstones to your advantage.

The point is that by giving players another factor to be aware of, you have essentially bolstered their level of engagement. Valkyrie Profile 2 not only saves the player’s time, but it also encourages players to learn the mechanics to get the most out of it. This is how Valkyrie Profile 2 manages to maintain the player’s engagement and it would not be possible without these two systems, the same goes for the style system in Devil May Cry, it isn’t just a random gimmick, it’s an important facet of the game that keeps the game from getting stale and when a game becomes stale, players become disengaged, just like how wasting the player’s time can also disengage them.

Now In my engagement video, I used the loot system from Diablo as an example of systematic engagement and you’re probably wondering why it is an essential facet of the game. The purpose of the rarity system is to encourage players to explore in order to locate unique enemies and treasures, doing so will reward players with special loot with unique parameters that distinguishes itself from standard loot, giving players bonuses to make their character stronger. This also encourages players to replay the game in order to collect even more loot, which gives an extra layer of engagement for people who enjoy growth.

Before I wrap up this video, I want to talk about the difference between psychological and systematic engagement. Psychological engagement is manipulating players into tedious layers of compulsive activity and compulsive activity in games is never fun. Many people have argued that level grinding in videogames is a tedious process and this is where the theorycrafting part of this video comes in.

What systematic engagement does is remove the monotony of games by building systems to distract players from this monotony and by doing so, you manage to make tedious tasks such as grinding more fun for players to partake in. As such my argument to Keith Burgun’s theory that grinding is bad game design is that systematic engagement exists and all game developers need to realize this.

The good news is that many game developers realize this, the bad news is that there is very little in terms of creativity these days when it comes to developing these systems as developers tend to re-use old systems. I personally would prefer if developers experimented with other methods of systematic engagement as old methods usually tend to become worn out over time. Thus my message to game developers is to come up with something new.


Blizzard Are Going To Retcon Warcraft 3’s Story In Warcraft 3 Reforged


So I read a polygon article today (I don’t make a habit of doing this believe me) about Warcraft 3 Reforged and it is just as I feared, Blizzard are planning on retconning the fuck out of the lore.

Seriously fuck this game, fuck Blizzard and most of all fuck Activision.

I have already talked about how terrible World Of Warcraft’s lore is before and why it is a bad idea to change Warcraft 3’s story to fit in with World Of Warcraft’s dumb retcons.

I could make a long written rant about this but I think it would be better if you watch this video, as it conveys my thoughts better than any written article can:

Warcraft 3: Reforged – My Thoughts

So Warcraft 3: Reforged has just been announced and is to be released in 2019. Considering the fact that I have been a big fan of Warcraft 3, I feel that it is important to talk about this remaster.

Before I talk about Warcraft 3: Reforged, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Activision. Warcraft 3: Reforged is obviously going to be published by Activision and as a result I will be boycotting the game, I suggest everybody else does the same.

In any case, after taking a look at the remaster, it seems that the top down cinematics are going to be replaced with fully CGI cutscenes which is cool. I will enjoy watching these on Youtube to see those glorious moments once again but better looking.

One thing that does bother me however is that many of the voices aren’t returning as is hinted by Arthas being played by Patrick Seitz like he is in World Of Warcraft. I have nothing against Patrick Seitz, he’s a great voice actor but it does concern me that the Dreadlord’s voice cast will have changed.

tichondrius tells you to do your job

Tichondrius, Varimathras, Balnazzar and Mal’ganis had great voices in the original but in World Of Warcraft they sound a bit too generic for my tastes… except Balnazzar of course. I really hope that Paul Eiding keeps his role as Varimathras and whoever voiced Tichondrius and Mal’ganis keep their roles as well. They could just use the old voice files if they need to. It just won’t be the same without the original voice cast.

Another thing that bothers me is the story itself. So far it seems ok but I am concerned about any potential retcons occurring. I really hope that Blizzard don’t shoehorn their WOW bullshit in this game, it needs to stay pure and true to the original lore or I will be even more pissed off with them than I already am, just leave Warcraft 3 alone Blizzard… please!!!

Anyways with that aside, I want to talk about and what the future may hold for it. You see, Warcraft 3 has been around for a long time now and this could be the end for it. Just imagine for a moment what could happen to Warcraft 3 when Reforged comes out, the servers might actually become deserted, let that sink in for a minute.

I wonder what Reforged will be like, will it be yet another anarchists paradise like the original? Or will Blizzard finally add moderation to the game? Regardless one thing is for certain, the elitists will be back, trash talk will happen and it’s going to end badly whatever happens, it’s online gaming for heaven’s sake.

Still, Warcraft 3’s anarchy did come with some benefits, for starters, you didn’t have to worry about being banned for saying anything that would offend someone, you had to be a man and suck it up. There’s no safe zone on Warcraft 3 and it should stay that way if you ask me. Moderators are always problematic in both games and forums, give us our goddamn freedom of speech for heaven’s sake. Regardless, even with moderators, the game will still have those annoying elitists that are like “Look at this guy, he’s 10 – 13… hahahaha what a shit noob” and with moderators prowling around, the ability to fight back against these remarks will be removed. I see this as a bad thing.

It’s come to the point where I feel as if nothing good can come out of Blizzard now, even if it is a remake of one of my favorite games of all time, all it serves to do is prove that games aren’t as good as they used to be and they need to compensate by re-releasing older games and tarting them up, welcome to the era of paying for games you played years ago just to play them all over again, why should I buy Warcraft 3 again? I already played it and quite frankly I don’t need to see it get tarted up.

Eventually every game will get a remaster… yes even Valkyrie Profile 2 but what then? What will happen when every single game is remastered? Will they remaster them again? Who knows? Regardless, I can’t wait for this era of remasters to end, not because I don’t want these classics to be immortalized, quite the contrary actually, I want them all to be remastered as fast as possible so that once every single game has been remastered, we can move on to playing games that are new and fresh… oh wait, games like that don’t exist anymore.

Call me cynical if you want (it’s literally what my blog is all about) but I don’t really feel any excitement or anticipation for this game, in fact you could actually say that this announcement has made me feel even more upset about the state of the Warcraft series as it merely serves as a reminder to how the series fell apart to begin with.

As such, Warcraft 3: Reforged’s announcement feels like I’m attending a wake at a funeral that should have happened back in 2008… yes I’m talking about the year Wrath Of The Lich King was released because as much as I despise World Of Warcraft, it wasn’t really all that bad until Wrath Of The Lich King came out. I cannot stress just how much of a love/hate relationship I have for this undying series, it’s ironically no different from Arthas’ descent into madness and that moment the song “Invincible” played at the end of Wrath Of The Lich King, Arthas was already dead the moment he took up frostmorne, just like Warcraft was already dead the moment they released World Of Warcraft and while World Of Warcraft was tame at first, it was a deadly poison that slowly crippled the series like a form of cancer.

The History Of Blizzard

Blizzard essentially walked the same path as the very character they created, Arthas was once a paladin who only wanted to protect his people, much like Blizzard were a team of developers who actually made good quality games but both of them descended into madness. Sure you could argue that Blizzard didn’t murder anybody in the process but they did whatever they legally possibly could to make all of their fans miserable and fuck the consumer in the asshole.

The fact that Blizzard partnered with Activision really speaks for itself to be honest, in the words of Arthas in Warcraft 3, all I have to say to Blizzard Entertainment is: “You are past redemption”.

Update: Still busy, Need a new TV for Screencapping too.

Well it has finally happened, My Digilogic CRT TV died last night. All I can say is thank god it wasn’t my computer. In any case, the loss of my CRT has set me back a little. Not that it makes any difference anyways as I am busy trying to deal with home refurbishments at the moment and planning on moving, hence why I have been busy recently and unable to work on much content. Almost all of my games have been packed away into storage and soon, many of my consoles will join them as well as my PC.

So I will have to get a new TV, probably an HD one, the problem is that up until now, I have always recorded via composite cables, I have never recorded via HDMI which leaves me with some unanswered questions that I will need to solve once I get my HDTV. Can I still record from my PS2/WII/PS3/Xbox 360 with an HD TV using composite cables? Is it possible for me to put composite cable splitters in a HDMI/AV converter and still record footage that way? I hope so because otherwise I’ll probably have a bit of trouble recording footage and who knows, I may end up needing to get an elgato.

Other than that, I may still have time to do the occasional stream or two but right now I don’t want to get started on a review project since I have a lot on my plate right now. The main reason for this update was to announce the death of my CRT TV, this means that I’m going to have a really difficult time playing Time Crisis without being able to use a lightgun… oh well, I’m pretty shit at that game anyways so it doesn’t matter really.

So all in all, apologies for the lack of content recently, it’s bothering me as much as it’s bothering you guys, if not more but I have to get all this stuff sorted out so that my mind is cleared, that way I can put my all into it.

Warriors Orochi 4’s launch price on PC is an insult. Koei Tecmo are ripping off Musou fans.

So there’s this game I’ve been excited for wanting to try called Warriors Orochi 4. As someone who shows an interest in 3D beat em ups, I cannot simply ignore musou games as the warriors series shaped the 3D beat em ups we know today and as such I want to play more of them to see if I can actually get invested in the genre or not.

Many consider musou games to be cheap, throwaway titles built around catharsis. Sure they can be entertaining to play but they aren’t exactly known for having much depth/flexibility, they’re just games that let you kill hundreds of cannon fodder with flashy attack strings. Put simply, musou games are no different from sports games like Fifa in the sense that once you’ve played one of them, you’ve pretty much played all of them, however there is a bit of nuance that slightly differentiates them and as someone who shows interest in 3D beat em ups, I want to see how the genre has grown.

warriors orochi 4 is a rip off 2

Unfortunately however, Koei Tecmo appears to be a little overconfident with their pricing of Warriors Orochi 4 as they have decided to price the PC version at £49.49… oh but wait, that’s actually a special offer, the base price for Warriors Orochi 4 is a whopping £54.99! Yeah you heard me, they have the audacity to charge the same price of a collectors/deluxe edition for a standard edition game which is insulting to all fans of the series and pretty much everybody who has very little money to spend.

To make matters worse, many people have had salt poured into the wound by having the game run at an abysmal framerate. It appears that people are complaining about the PC port being terrible. When you consider the fact that they have the audacity to charge £54.99 for the game, it’s pretty understandable as to why people are angry about this. Now I understand that the pound has dropped recently and as such, the prices for games are going up (even though the quality is still not up to scratch with the games of sixth generation) and as such, we are forced to accept higher prices as a standard now. However, I have noticed that these prices fluctuate between £45.00, £50.00 and now with the release of Warriors Orochi 4, £55.00… all for standard edition games with no bonuses of any kind.

Warriors orochi 4 is a rip off

Of course this doesn’t stop Koei Tecmo from selling a separate season pass on top of the base game for an additional £24.99 because apparently, paying £54.99 isn’t enough for us to be allowed to purchase a complete game. So if you’re wondering why I named the site Cynical Gaming Blog, it’s because of bullshit like this.

Welcome to modern gaming, where customers end up paying more for less, developers work longer hours for less pay and publishers are practically drowning in money to the point that they claim to need more money in order to resurface… except it just ends up making things worse and now they’re drowning in even more money.

Fuck the gaming industry.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards Live – Watch me get my ass kicked by a kids game + Update

Update: Sadly something came up recently and as a result,  the site is going to be on hiatus for a bit longer… I’ll try to get back to making content ASAP.

E-Sports were a mistake…

Remember when playing videogames was about having fun and not a contest of ego’s? Those were good times. Unfortunately due to the fact that people are making ludicrous amounts of money playing videogames professionally, videogames are no longer about having fun, they are serious fucking business, you want proof? How about the recent shooting that occurred today at Jacksonville?

You’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for generalizing the entire E-Sports community with this one insane individual… but the fact of the matter is that competitive gaming as a whole has influenced this. Why? Because ever since gaming has rewarded large sums of money, people have taken games more seriously to the point that every single online multiplayer game is filled with toxic gamers, particularly Warcraft 3.

Now it’s one thing to call people names and taunt people and another to go out shooting people but if you think about it, it kind of makes sense how a shooting could occur at such an event considering how toxic gaming has become due to the rise of E-Sports. Even without the violence, E-Sports and all form of online gaming have been known to have heated arguments and conversations. Because of this, many gamers have developed not only a massive ego, but also a hostile temperament.

You can’t play any game online these days without meeting at least 1 hostile individual and who knows what that individual would be capable of if you were playing with them face to face. Considering what happened at Jacksonville, it’s pretty scary to think about the people who we are actually playing with or against in a videogame.

So you’re probably wondering, what actually happened at Jacksonville? Well apparently one person who just happened to lose in the competition decided to shoot one of the competitors, presumably out of spite. This makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that competitive gaming is a battle of ego’s. Even if money was not involved, competitive gaming has always had this problem, it is merely amplified by the fact that money is involved.

My point is that if you have a community that is hostile to one another, you are eventually going to encounter situations like this. It only takes one person to snap before they start getting violent. Now I’m not advocating against videogames in general, rather I am advocating against E-Sports. Videogames do not inherently encourage violence, ego’s on the other hand do. It’s just like getting drunk at a sports bar watching a football and getting into a bar fight just because your team lost and their team won, there really is no difference.

It just saddens me that gaming has this problem as well. I hate what E-Sports has done to gaming and I utterly despise the person who committed the shooting. I hope they rot in hell forever.

I really don’t know what else to say… this is just an absolutely fucking shit day for all gamers, even the innocent competitors. Though I may despise the competitive gaming community, none of them deserve to be shot.


If you want the full news article on what happened, here’s the link: