Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Editorial: Overall Impressions of the Summer Games

So it's nearly been a month since the ROBLOX Summer Games ended and it's about time I shared my thoughts on the event: both the positive and negatives aspects which users and myself have noted. I will be breaking down my thoughts on the different sections that made up the Summer Games, including: the user-sourced games chosen, the gameplay, the prizes, and of course the somewhat controversial use of playerpoints and an exclusive leaderboard system to calculate winners. During this article, I will be making some comparisons to other official ROBLOX events, but please note I will be judging the event purely on its own merits.

Before we dig in, let us first take a step back and discuss the background of the event itself. Following in the footsteps of the largely successful ROBLOX Winter Games which could be played throughout February 2014, the Summer Games sought to build on its achievements. This Summer's event utilised the new 'Playerpoints' introduced by the ROBOX team - points earned in-game, distributed by the developer as they see fit for in-game activities and achievements. Each game has a pot of playerpoints to distribute, with the exact number of points dictated by the amount of Robux spent by players on things such as game passes and consumables. This means the playerpoints pots can de facto run-out, an issue I will be covering later in this editorial. Playerpoints earned are displayed on player profiles next to the white star symbol and players are placed on a leaderboard for weekly, monthly, and all-time playerpoint scores. The key similarity with the Winter Games is that the games chosen were user-created. The main difference is that these games were not purpose built for the Summer Games like some of those featured in the Winter Games, but already existed before the event. However, that's enough background. Time to get into the editorial!

User-sourced games and gameplay

Deathrun Summer Run
Deathrun 2, renamed to 'Deathrun Summer Run', was a popular addition to the Summer Games. The game features two teams - a runner team, and a lone killer. The goal is for the runners to get to the end of a purpose built and detailed obstacle course full of traps, whilst the goal of the killer is to tactically activate these traps to knockout runners. If the runners make it to the end of the course without being turned to ash, falling to their doom, freezing in the lake, or crushed by giant boulders, they are teleported to the killer's 'zone' and are given a trusty sword to defeat their adversary. In the Summer Run version of Deathrun, a number of maps were given a summery theme, whilst the more wintry maps had been dropped from the game temporarily. The summer version includes firework boxes that are activated by players standing on a large green button - this gives the player a number of playerpoints. However, these firework areas are often situated underneath deadly traps so players have to be cautious when approaching them. Players are also given playerpoints if they win a round either as a killer or runner. Large amounts of players winning rounds at the same time meant it should have been difficult to rise up the leaderboard and get into the top 20, there was a solution to this. The addition of playerpoints that were given to the first player to reach the firework button meant the more expert competitors could still jump up the leaderboards, leaving the less able players behind. Therefore Summer Run worked as an excellent game for the event.

Paintball 2
Paintball 2! is the sequel to the much acclaimed Paintball! by Daxter33 which completely revamped ROBLOX paintball mechanics and added realism to the somewhat tired genre. It suited the Summer Games perfectly with its competitive style gameplay and its furious one hit kill gunplay. In Paintball 2, players receive 10 playerpoints for every 3 kills they get in a row (killstreak). This rewarded higher ability players and meant it was easy for the most experienced to get into the top 20 on the leaderboard, like myself (an avid player of Paintball 1). The maps are intelligently designed with vantage points and cover dotted around the terrain, and of course, plenty of killing zones. Notice that the only top 20 Adurite prize I own is the Adurite Paintball Mask, purely for the reason that I really enjoyed getting it. Paintball 2 was adrenaline-filled fun.

Ultimate Marble Rider
Marble Rider was a strange decision for me for its inclusion in the Summer Games. The game revolves around players jumping inside a large marble and rolling down a course whilst picking up gems and of course, playerpoints. This would be an okay premise if it wasn't for the fact that the amount of playerpoints earned is pretty much random - depending on your start, speed on the track, and whether someone knocks you onto bonus tracks (or off the track into oblivion). It just didn't seem like a fair way to distribute playerpoints and suffered from the issue that you had to grind for hours and basically play the long 'waiting game'. This is one of the games focused on time spent on the game rather than skill of the players in the server. An odd choice it would seem considering the Summer Games were supposed to be about competitive gameplay pitting the best players against each other to win a limited amount of prizes. A hint for the ROBLOX devs for the next 'Summer Games' (or equivalent) would be not to include this type of random/non-competitive game in the event. It was a chore.

If you thought Marble Rider was a strange addition to the games, wait till you read about this. Whilst the game features an interesting core concept, its non-competitive gameplay that is entirely focused on grinding really didn't fit in with the likes of Paintball! 2 and Call of Robloxia. Players are tasked with completely minigames and traversing the map to earn points which can be converted to playerpoints once enough are collected. Once the minigames have been played a set number of times, they stop giving out playerpoints so players are forced to walk up and down the paths to earn in-game points. Many players, including myself, developed a method of farming points which involved the use of grapple hooks and animation glitches. You could leave your player afk for twenty minutes and you would still be collecting points if you used this method correctly. Of course, this was incredibly boring and really not worth my time; I could gain playerpoints at Paintball! 2 faster. All in all, ROBLOX Hiking really wasn't the best choice for the Summer Games; its gameplay was non-existent, the GUIs are outdated and it was not an enjoyable experience. I believe I spent the least time at this game, for good reason.

Call of Robloxia 5 - Roblox at War
As with Paintball 2!, Call of Robloxia 5 (CoR 5) is an adrenaline filled FPS game that fitted well into the competitive nature of the ROBLOX Summer Games. Well scripted, and fairly well balanced, CoR 5's tight and responsive controls feel at home in the hands of a skilled player. As with Paintball 2!, and Deathrun Summer Run to some extent, the game rewards impressive gameplay such as killstreaks with player points rather than focusing solely on the time spent in-game regardless of ability. However, the game doesn't just reward lone wolves, but also team players, with playerpoints for capturing objectives and winning matches. There are some rewards for playing for extended amounts of time with playerpoints awarded for ranking up and purchasing new weapons with in-game currency. Completing challenges will also provide playerpoints - this appeases CoD players to a great extent. In conclusion, this was a fantastic addition to the Summer Games due to its fun, exhilarating gameplay and because of the fact it rewarded all kinds of gameplay, including skill-based competitive PvP gunplay that the top players engage in.

Use of playerpoints
This was perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Summer
Games and was a major overhaul of the leaderboard system that was used in Winter Games 2014. Whilst playerpoints are awarded for gameplay, as you all know they are 'topped-up' by in-game purchases such as gamepasses and consumables. If people didn't buy enough of this DLC content, the game would simply run out of playerpoints. This was pretty problematic for those players who reached the top 30 and then could progress no further because there were no playerpoints left to scour for. I encountered this numerous times the event and had to server hop in order to find servers with a small pot of playerpoints left. This was a real issue during the course of the Summer Games, but thankfully was patched by the ROBLOX developers who vastly increased the number of playerpoints in each Summer Games' pot, making it almost impossible for their number to completely diminish. This occurred around 1/4 to 1/3 a way through the event and made it the second half run extremely smoothly. Much to players surprise, you didn't need to purchase anything in-game in order to earn enough points to get to the top of the leaderboard.

A second issue with playerpoints that was temporarily solved by the ROBLOX developers was of course 'exploiting'. A number of script-kiddies managed to exploit the reward system for playerpoints and hand themselves thousands without actually doing anything in-game. Thankfully, the ROBLOX devs and the game creators noticed this abnormalities in the leaderboards quickly and skipped any players suspected of exploiting. This meant they would scour the leaderboard until they found the top 20 players who a) hadn't exploited their playerpoints b) hadn't already earned the top 20 prize. I'm not sure of the fate of many of the exploiters, but I did notice a number of them were banned on the website. That'll teach you.

When scrolling through the Summer Games' comments and the forums, I noticed complaints about the difficult about obtaining the prizes when compared to the Winter Games. There is some truth in this criticism. Players were right in saying that there were only limited amounts of prizes given out - there was a set number of them in fact: 10,000 players for weekly, and 100 players for daily (20 top players x 5 games). When comparing this to the Winter Games (380,000 people got the most common prize which could be earned at the main Lodge) we can see the prizes were a lot less obtainable. However, I am glad that they rewarded the higher skilled players in this event. This was not a problem as far I could see because everyone won a prize in the Winter Games - there had already been an event this year that included everybody, even newbies. Having said that, you didn't actually need to be a 'pro-gamer' to get into the top 10k - just moderately active and competent at the games. Players could also skip the FPS 'twitch-reaction' games entirely and choose to spend their time at Ultimate Marble Rider, Deathrun Summer Run, or even ROBLOX Hiking. If they had a fair amount of time on their hands they could easily get up onto the top 10k leaderboard with the other experienced FPS players. However, I still don't see this as an argument to include the 'grinding-games' - they could have included other non-PvP games that are objective based such as The Quarry and Disaster Survival. To summarise my view on the rarity of the prizes; I think they were fair. Perhaps they could have included a participation prize to everyone who played one of the Summer Games in order to grant a small reward to those who didn't make the top 10k cut.

Now, onto the prizes themselves. As I was relieved to see, nearly all of the top 20 daily prizes were completely new hats and were not just retextures that we saw almost exclusively at the Winter Games. Whilst I have no problem with retextures, it's nice to see new items being given out of prizes - they become more exclusive. All of the weekly prizes, however, were retextures, but this was not a problem because they chose very wearable items: teapot, fedora, and modern shades. Whilst the textures on the fedora and teapot could do with some work, they were still great prizes for the top 10k winners. It was nice to see that created an entirely new ROBLOX material for this single event: Adurite. I'm sure we will be seeing lots of these items in future. Verdict: very solid.

So to conclude my views on the event; I would say that it was largely successful and that I had a lot of fun playing the FPS games that were featured. Of course, improvements could have been made - a smoother launch with the use of playerpoints, better security to prevent exploiting of said points, and perhaps a couple of prizes for those didn't make any of the top 10k weekly scores. There was also the unforgivable inclusion of ROBLOX Hiking, which as many of you know was a grind-fest and completely un-enjoyable.

I believe Deathrun Summer Run, Paintball 2!, and CoR 5 were excellent choices for this user-sourced event. If the staff were to run the Summer Games in 2015, I would say drop Ultimate Marble Rider and ROBLOX Hiking and do not include similar types of games. Perhaps Lumber Inc 3 would be a good replacement? Who knows?

Thanks for reading! As always, leave your comments below. If you have any suggestions for games to be used in the potential Summer Games 2014, let us know!

Editor-in-chief of Roblox News