Friday, July 06, 2012

Diablo3, Starcraft2, Trackmania, Poker

For me the shine of Diablo 3's gameplay has faded away into the controversial reality of the option of either grinding for gold or investing real money to continue to be able to progress through the end game deathfest which is Inferno difficulty. I found myself being pulled back to my Starcraft 2 addiction which I'd put on hold while I hacked and slashed my Demonhunter's way to level 60 in Diablo 3, but after completing my placement matches I couldn't help but consider my options.

My enjoyment of Starcraft 2 stems from the deep learning curve and the process of progressing along it. The Starcraft 2 ladder system naturally leads to a Peter Principle; you will be promoted until you reach your own skill ceiling and will then play only matches with those who are of equal skill. I just don't feel that I enjoy the game enough to warrent the amount of time, effort and study which would be required for me to progress beyond my current diamond ranking. Unless you're enjoying that process you've got to ponder why you're doing it at all.

Starcraft 2 has that cycle of learning and development to draw you in, Diablo 3's end game reliance on items and gear to allow you to continue to progress it comes down to receiving lucky item drops, investing further real money into the game to purchase items or grinding for in game gold (which Blizard continuously make harder and harder by patching sections of the game which are found to be the most rewarding in terms of gold collection).

With these thoughts flowing through my mind, I had a flash backs to other games which satisfied my desire for a learning cycle which results in the enjoyment of realising that your skills and knowledge are improving and thus your skill at the game increases. On which I hadn't thought of for some time was Trackmania. As a racing game, at its heart, it is quite simple. The tracks are created using premade sections and can therefore tend to be a little samey, but like most things in life the restrictions lead to amazing creativitiy and imagination. The game puts the track editor into the hands of the players and a huge number of tracks are available. Some which push the boundies of the game engine in spectatular and interesting ways. Players race on these tracks against a number of players from all over the world and an extremely broad and welcoming community has sprung up. It is a real thrill to be battling against players who are playing from countries you only rarely hear about in the news.

The Trackmania end game is an endlessly repetitive, frustrating and punishing thing. Players are driven to shave hundredths of a second off their record times, eeking out the slimmest of advantages and generally getting into "the zone" to produce near perfect laps. I returned to the game for the 1st time in 853 days (I know this because the game told me when I logged back in) and found myself ranked ~2,700,000th on the ladder. After a few sessions I passed other players on the ladder who were also inactive and climbed to around 1,200,000th and decided that I was enjoying myself enough to challenge myself to break into the top million. After a few more enjoyable sessions I reached my goal and also felt that I'd got back to the level of skill I'd had when I played the game all this time ago.

So I was left again pondering if I was enjoying this game enough to invest the time and effort to progress in skill further? Because while I really do get a kick out of chatting with other players who are spread all over the world, in the end my enjoyment of any game hinges on constant learning and development.

I realised that if I was going to go through a reset and invest in a game I should seriously consider diving back into poker. If I'm going to invest time and brain power into something, then poker has the large advantage of actually resulting in money.

After a week, 2,000 hands of cash games and 32 tournaments I'm ahead $500 (roughly 10 buyins for the stakes I'm playing) and really enjoying being back at the tables and more importantly; getting enjoyment from studying the game and learning.