Microtransactions, Speed Learning, and Absent-Mindedness

Reddit Threads

Last week was a historic one for Reddit. A reply by Electronic Arts on unlocking heroes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 became the most downvoted post in history, currently standing at -675k. It was in response to a customer’s complaint about microtransactions (paying for individual things within the game). Here is the original post:


And the infamous response:


I am generally on the side of EA, mainly because (1) money fuels game development, and (2) the Internet and especially sites like Reddit are prone to witch hunts. That said, I think the timing and bluntness of this particular response are mistakes. A vocal portion of the gaming community hates microtransactions, and defending the concept on a public platform like Reddit seems like an ill-conceived move.

As someone who plays a lot of videogames, I thought this drama really illustrated the debate on microtransactions. I used to be on the fence about it but now I’m clearly in favor of them.

  1. Microtransactions reduce the cost elsewhere. Games like Dota, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm (and just last week, Starcraft II) are free to play, where you aren’t at an in-game disadvantage if you are playing for free (though for some of them you don’t fully get the option to play all the heroes at a given time). Without microtransactions, the games would cost money up-front, and would be less popular and probably make less money overall.
  2. Companies make profits. That’s what they do. If a company spends a lot of money on a game and releases everything for free, you might have a good one-time bargain, but the company will go out of business and the long-term equilibrium state will be worse as there will be fewer competitors. On the flipside, if a company charges too much and nobody buys it, then it will also go out of business, and therefore the invisible hand pushes prices towards reasonable levels.

On the more social side, we all know that we live in political bubbles on social media, and it’s really the way the platform works. Facebook perpetuates bubbles by connecting real life groups of people together, and generally real life networks lean towards one side. Tumblr makes it very hard to argue a dissenting opinion. In addition, Facebook and Tumblr have only upvotes and no downvotes. Reddit is better in comparison, but even so, the combined effects of selection bias of who visits a subreddit and who cares enough to vote leads to populist inquisitions like this.

Speed Learning

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on “speed learner” Max Deutsch who, despite being a chess novice, challenged world champion Magnus Carlsen to a game with one month to learn the game. Carlsen accepted.

I’ve always thought of chess as an interesting game to think about in the context of learning, both human learning and machine learning. Like many other activities, it takes a lot of practice and mistakes to intuitively spot recurring patterns and motifs. Humans are very limited by computation speed, so a lot of the human aspect of the game is having good intuition, whereas computers can roughly calculate everything. I’ve also thought chess is something where a human cannot just read the rules, think about it logically for a long time, and then be really good at it. A thought experiment I always imagined is the following:

Take a young, smart person who doesn’t know how to play chess, and lock them in a room for 20 years. Give them access to all chess rules, chess books, articles, and so forth, but with the caveat that they are not allowed to play a single practice game. Provide them with sustenance and somehow incentivize them so that their only goal is to become the best person in the world at chess. At the end of the 20 years, sit them down across the board from Carlsen and go.

I would expect this person to get crushed in the game. Even if you change Carlsen to a lower ranking grandmaster, or even down to an IM, I think the no-experience person would be overwhelmingly likely to lose. The game requires so much practice and the brain version of muscle memory—reading about it theoretically only gets you so far.

In the article, Max Deutsch had only 1 month, though he could play games with people or computers. As expected, he got totally crushed. The WSJ article makes it sound like an interesting game, as if Deutsch had the advantage for a few moves, but that is nonsense. Carlsen played an odd opening to get Deutsch out of opening book (so by construction Deutsch had an “advantage”), and once Deutsch was out of theory, he makes multiple blunders that immediately sealed the game. It was clearly over on move 14. The blunders were the kind that most tournament players would have caught just from experience.

Chess is a game where, from a human vs human perspective, experience and intuition vastly outweigh theory. For now.


Here’s an article that argues the “absent-minded professor” is really a social dominance behavior. (h/t Marginal Revolution.)

All of this has persuaded me that absent-mindedness should be viewed in much the same way that Talcott Parsons viewed illness. At its root, it is a form of social deviance. Basically, everyone would love to be absent-minded, because it allows you to skip out on all sorts of social obligations. (Again, I have colleagues who miss meetings all the time, or show up hours late saying “I could have sworn we agreed to meet at 5pm…” No one ever shows up early because they forgot what time the meeting was at.) More generally, remembering things involves a certain amount of effort, it’s obviously much easier just to be lazy and forget things. The major reason that we don’t all act this way is that most people get sanctioned for it by others. Absent-mindedness, after all, is just another form of stupidity, and when ordinary people do things like forget where they parked their cars, they get punished for it. People say things to them like, “what are you, stupid?” It’s in order to avoid being seen as stupid or incompetent by others that they feel motivated to make the effort to do things like remember where they parked their car.

Becoming a university professor, however, is a pretty good way of exempting oneself from suspicion of outright or base stupidity. When university professors do stupid things, people don’t say to them “oh my god, you’re so stupid,” or “stop being such an idiot,” instead they start making excuses, like “there he goes with his head in the clouds again,” or “he must have more important things on his mind.” In other words, they give you a free pass. Not only can you get away with being stupid, you wind up with social license to become even more stupid.

I feel like this has some truth to it, but I would also guess there’s another good explanation that accounts for a lot of it—people generally want to fit in, and if there are other absent-minded professors around, new ones will tend to be more absent minded. Similarly, we all know famous stories of great scientists/academics who made great discoveries while being absent-minded (the Archimedes “Eureka” story being the archetypal, even if apocryphal). Emulating the great minds of the past seems like something we encourage.

In addition, there are plenty of absent-minded people who don’t hold much power if any, and the article’s explanation obviously doesn’t apply to them.

But I will agree that probably part of absent-mindedness in certain areas of academia is influenced by this. I would take it further and say that a lot of minor personal details, not just absent-mindedness, are all partly social dominance behaviors. Overall, the article is an interesting read, though I mostly disagree.

Relative vs Absolute Wealth

There’s a stat I often hear in economics, but people rarely see the takeaway. The saying is that even though the annual income threshold to be in the top 1% in the US is around $400,000, for global income it is only $32,000 (Investopedia for US and world). Therefore the US middle class ought to feel like they are doing very well compared to the rest of the world.

While this is partly true, it ignores things like purchasing power and different costs of living in different countries. And people often get bogged down in the details of these objections rather than admiring the giant wealth gap that exists between countries and how well off Americans are who claim they are not.

To demonstrate the point better, I think there are two better comparisons to make. The first is to make the comparison across time and also within countries. The second is to make the comparison in simulated/virtual environments where people all start off on the same footing—video games. People usually care more about relative wealth than absolute. And maybe we should be thinking more about absolute.

Historical Economic Growth

I’ve previously written about human progress over time, and it’s still the case that this is underestimated. People generally think of growth as additive, but in reality it is exponential. Life isn’t just somewhat better than it was 300 years ago. It is orders of magnitude times better:


And yet, people often claim that things are worse than before (e.g., Make America Great Again). We’ve made this exponential curve of progress, and many problems of the past we now don’t ever think about—the diseases that have been conquered, a scientific understanding of the world, advances in healthcare, access to modern technology, democratic society, much lower chance to be murdered, not taking months to communicate with someone on a different continent, instantaneously looking up information from the sum total of human knowledge from a device in your pocket, and so forth.

We only think about the problems that face us now, never thinking about the problems that have already been solved and the things that didn’t exist before. And when we compare ourselves to people, we take all the above for granted and point out most absurd of differences—like claiming how in a hunter-gatherer society, you obtained some food and then had leisure time for much of the day, therefore we should go back to being hunters and gatherers.

Social Comparison

Among the most useful ideas to understand human interactions is that of keeping up with the Joneses. People strive to keep up in material wealth with their neighbors and friends. This is why one common response to the global 1% statistic is “why don’t I feel rich”? Because they are not comparing to the average human; they are comparing to their other global 1% neighbors.

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University has found that money only makes people happier if it improves their social rank. The researchers found that simply being highly paid wasn’t enough — to be happy, people must perceive themselves as being more highly paid than their friends and work colleagues.

The researchers were seeking to explain why people in rich nations have not become any happier on average over the last 40 years even though economic growth has led to substantial increases in average incomes.

Lead researcher on the paper Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology said: “Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.” (ScienceDaily)

This effect has become bigger in recent years, as it has been exacerbated by social media. People are now much more likely to see the day-to-day of people more well off than they are—not just the super rich, but the person you thought you were clearly superior to in high school who is now doing much better than you, and being reminded of this constantly on Facebook. And people show off their best on social media, so if everyone compares their average life with what they see on social media, everyone could be unhappy.

One of the most memorable essays from The Occupy Handbook is one precisely on relative vs absolute wealth, specifically on the idea of “last-place aversion”, and I’m not sure it actually makes the reader more or less supportive of the Occupy movement. The authors write:

We also documented last-place aversion outside the laboratory by surveying a sample of Americans about their attitudes toward an increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage obviously affects low-income workers disproportionately, and thus it is reasonable to expect that most low-wage workers would support an increase. Indeed, we generally do observe this pattern, with one major, and telling, exception: those making just above the minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, are far more likely to oppose an increase than those making $7.25 or below or those making more than $9.00. That is, people making $7.50 per hour would rather forgo a small raise than take the chance that an increase in the minimum wage will cause them to earn the “last-place” wage themselves—and to be tied with workers previously below them. (“Where Is the Demand for Redistribution?” from The Occupy Handbook)

So it’s more important to make more money than other people, rather than to just make more money in absolute terms.

Video Games

Now let’s talk about Diablo 3. This game, as originally released in 2012, was an item-grinding game, where you kill monsters to get powerful items, so that you can kill even stronger monsters to collect even more powerful items, and so forth. The following is basically all anecdote, so be warned (I’m not aware of any literature on this).

This game was done very well, but was highly controversial at launch. Its Metacritic rating was 88% from critics but only 40% from site users (averaged from some good ratings and many 0’s).


I claim the controversy came from economics. The central core of the game is described above, where random items drop for you to collect, and you collect better and better items as you play more. This was all fine, except Diablo 3 did one thing that other games did not: have a massively available public online exchange for trading items.

Without trading, the game felt very good. To abstract it a bit for the sake of argument, suppose there are 10 difficulty stages in the game, 1-10, 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. Most people breezed through the easier difficulties got to somewhere 4-7 on their own without much trouble. But the game ramped up in difficulty significantly once you got to 8, 9, and 10, and most people started struggling as soon as they got to 8. I claim this was still fun because the point of the game was to play the game, get better items over time so you can defeat 8 and go to 9, and then beat 9 and 10 eventually. However…

The most hardcore gamers, including many famous streamers on Youtube and Twitch, could get to 8, 9, and 10 very quickly (arguably partly from skill in playing video games, and also from just spending lots of time on the game or spending money on items), and one person even did 10 on a “hardcore” mode where any death is permanent and your character doesn’t respawn.

(For people who know the game, 8 refers to Act 1 Inferno, 9 = Act 2 Inferno, 10 = Acts 3&4 Inferno, and the one person who beat Act 4 Inferno before nerfs was Kripparrian.)

There were millions of players at launch, and they weren’t satisfied struggling in difficulty 8 while streamers were doing well in 9 and 10. And from the social aspect of the game, they weren’t satisfied being stuck on 8 while their real-life friends were on 9 and 10.

Remember the item exchange from earlier? Now all the people stuck on 8 could amass in-game currency and buy items obtained by the people on 9 and 10, and thus move themselves to 9 and 10. They basically bypassed the game itself, skipping the gameplay process of fighting monsters to get better items. And when a critical mass of people did this, the keeping up with the Joneses effect really kicked in. Now all of your friends are trying to take down the boss for 9 and 10, but you’re still stuck on 8 and can’t play with them. So you also go out and buy some items to keep up. The difficulty level you played on was your social status. (Why are you stuck on 8? Are you bad at the game?)

The whole game was a microcosm of economics. There were many different “builds” or strategies that characters could use, but the game soon degenerated into 3-4 common hyper-efficient builds that were borderline exploitative. It should have been that most builds seemed ok and a few were really good. But since everyone else was using the best-possible builds, using any other build was basically crippling yourself and your party. Instead of trying out cool, unique builds on level 8, everyone went to the degenerate builds on levels 9 and 10, which is why the game effectively had no variety. It was a case where buying a really good item made you more powerful in absolute terms, but since you then just went to a higher difficulty level, you didn’t become relatively more powerful, and now you have less flexibility of strategies. This made the game less fun despite being your character being objectively more powerful.

In addition, the more people bought items from the exchange, the lower the chance they would ever find a relatively better item naturally. If you have a 50th percentile item to start, you’ll in expectation find an upgrade in the next two items. But if you go to the exchange and buy a 99.9th percentile item off the bat (as most people did), then it will take 1000 items drops in expectation for you to find a better item naturally. (I think I was one of the people who figured this out at the time, and I wrote a popular forum post on the official Diablo 3 forums. Since then, the game has actually done both suggestions, to remove the exchanges and trading in general, and to soft-reset the items every few months, so people aren’t stuck in the situation where they have the 99.999th percentile items and can’t feasibly get better ones.)

Anyway, this experience in 2012 is why I think about the topic a lot. It’s nice for people to move up and improve their standard of living, but the improvement should be on a personal level and not to be keeping up coworkers and Facebook friends.

Video Game Ratings


Here are my video game ratings on a scale of 1-10. I’m open to (good) suggestions!

Platform is PC unless otherwise stated. Year is when the game was released.


  • 10+ (favorites) – bold orange
  • 10 – bold purple
  • 9 – bold blue
  • 8 – bold green
  • 7 – bold
  • 1 to 6 – normal


  • Agents of Mayhem – 7
  • Everything – 6
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – 9
  • Nier: Automata – 5
  • Prey – 8


  • Battlefield 1 – 6
  • Civilization VI – 9
  • Darkest Dungeon – 2
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – 7
  • Doom – 3
  • Grim Dawn – 2
  • Layers of Fear – 6
  • Offworld Trading Company – 2
  • Quantum Break – 8
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – 7
  • Stellaris – 4
  • The Division – 6
  • The Town of Light – 3
  • The Turing Test – 7
  • Titanfall 2 – 6
  • Valley – 8
  • XCOM 2 – 9


  • Cities: Skylines – 7
  • Fallout 4 – 9
  • Galactic Civilizations III – 3
  • Grand Theft Auto V – 4
  • Heroes of the Storm – 9
  • Kerbal Space Program – 2
  • Life Is Strange – 4
  • Saints Row: Gat out of Hell – 6
  • SOMA – 5
  • Star Wars: Battlefront – 5
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – 5


  • Civilization: Beyond Earth – 8
  • Deadcore – 4
  • Divinity: Original Sin – 1
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition – 7
  • Endless Legend – 8
  • Far Cry 4 – 7
  • Hearthstone – 9
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – 5
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall – 7
  • Sniper Elite 3 – 5
  • The Talos Principle – 5
  • Transistor – 3


  • Bioshock Infinite – 10
  • Dota 2 – 7
  • Europa Universalis IV – 1
  • Gone Home – 6
  • Metro: Last Light – 6
  • Outlast – 6
  • Path of Exile – 10
  • Remember Me – 4
  • Saints Row IV – 9
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist – 7
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – 4
  • The Swapper – 2
  • Tomb Raider – 9


  • Borderlands 2 – 4
  • Diablo III – 10
  • Dishonored – 6
  • Dragon Nest – 6
  • Endless Space – 4
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – 5
  • Mass Effect 3 – 9
  • Spec Ops: The Line – 7
  • Torchlight II – 4
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown – 6


  • Batman: Arkham City – 3
  • Crysis 2 – 6
  • Dead Space 2 – 7
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution – 8
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI – 6
  • Portal 2 – 7
  • Saints Row: The Third – 8
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 3


  • Assassin’s Creed 2 – 2
  • Bayonetta – 4
  • Bioshock 2 – 4
  • Civilization V – 9
  • Fallout: New Vegas – 4
  • Halo: Reach (Xbox 360) – 7
  • Mass Effect 2 – 9
  • Metro 2033 – 6
  • Mirror’s Edge – 2
  • Starcraft 2 – 10
  • Vanquish – 7
  • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm* – 10


  • Batman: Arkham Asylum – 5
  • Dragon Age: Origins – 5


  • Dead Space – 6
  • Far Cry 2 – 3
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – 8


  • Bioshock – 8
  • Crysis – 4
  • Mass Effect – 10
  • Portal – 9


  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – 5


  • Age of Empires III – 4


  • Half-Life 2 – 2


  • Enter the Matrix (PS2) – 4
  • Rise of Nations – 8


  • Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (PS2) – 7
  • Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos – 10


  • Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) – 5
  • RuneScape – 5
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube) – 8


  • Diablo II – 6


  • Age of Empires II – 4


  • Starcraft – 10

*The convention above is to list by release date of the original game, regardless of when I played relative to expansion packs or DLC or beta testing. However, as the expansion World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was released 6 years after the original game, I’ve listed it as separate.

These ratings are my subjective opinion and reflect how much I enjoyed playing each game. For instance, Half-Life 2 (2004) is considered one of the best PC games of all time, but playing it for the first time in 2017, I got bored of it very quickly. On the other hand, I found Quantum Break (2016), which has mixed reviews, to be really fun.

As I’ve mentioned before, rating video games seems a lot harder than rating something more standard like movies. There is a lot more variance in time played, games have different goals, and pricing is not so simple. There are some games that I included which seem like good games for some people or even myself at different points in my life, but at the time of playing it was clearly not for me. For the sake of statistics (not excluding negative results), I have included games even where the time played is very small, in the hope that someone with similar tastes in video games may benefit from such a list.

I generally like newer games better than old, but since I play out of order, it may be the case that for two games released in the same year, I played one of them on release and the other 5 years later, and had disparate ratings between the two even if they were similar in quality, depending on which I enjoyed more at the time.

Below are additional comments for each game. For a lot of the newer games I can use Steam or some other tracking to see exactly the hours played; for older games I can only estimate.

Agents of Mayhem (2017)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 43 hours

This is a pretty fun open-world/RPG/shooter game. The humor really nails it at some points (particularly the announcer at the planetarium). It has much less character customization compared to the other Saints Row games, but despite this, it manages to not be boring, probably due to the fast-paced switch-ins. On high difficulty, this game also had one of the coolest final mission/boss fights I’ve seen.

Everything (2017)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 2 hours

There is no central plot, you basically just sandbox the universe, and can zoom to varying degrees of distance. Decent at doing what it intends to do, though I wish there were more features.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 101 hours

This is an excellent game. However, I can see why it got so many negative reviews. I think the main thing is the disconnect between what many people expected and what the game was intended to be. People seemed to want Mass Effect 2 revamped, but Bioware made this an open world game, not a linear cover shooter. Namely, even before release, it was very clearly stated to have open-world elements, and that the plot would involve humans and other Milky Way species exploring parts of a star cluster in the Andromeda galaxy to find a new home. The game’s title even contains another galaxy. Based on that, I went in expecting a focus on exploration and environments, and on these fronts it definitely delivered.

Exploration/Environments – This is where Andromeda shines. The overall graphical look is bright but realistic. Some (though not all) of the planets are breathtaking, and the main player ship and space station look gorgeous. Without spoiling the plot, there are enough varied environments to cover a huge range.

Pacing – The game starts off very slow. It has a couple of large tutorial missions, and it took me about 10 hours to get to the point where I had a full base and could start exploring at will. Once you get to this stage, the game really picks up. Though, because the game is basically open-world, it is still slower than any of the first three Mass Effect games. The slow pacing may be offputting to people, but I thought it was definitely worth it.

Facial animations – For some reason, this game has received an incredible amount of criticism over facial animations, and while I would agree it is not 100% realistic, I would also like to point out that it is a video game. If I wanted 100% accurate facial animations, I could go talk to someone in real life. Also, I noticed that only the human animations seemed off, as if Bioware was really trying to enhance here but made some mistakes. On the other hand, the Turian/Salarian/Asari/Krogan/other-alien animations seemed fine.

Characters/Dialogue – Similar to above, I don’t expect games to have super convincingly realistic characters or dialogue. Regarding the dialogue, there were certainly good moments and cringey moments, but it never took away from the game immersion. Plus, sometimes the game is self-referential in addressing how awkward the dialogue is. My personal order from best to worst of the original trilogy is 1 (known for story/exploration), then 3 (known for combat), then 2 (known for characters).

Combat – I would agree with the critics here that the combat is extremely good.

Plot – The overall premise is really exciting – exploring a star cluster in the Andromeda galaxy and finding a planet for habitation. Of course, things don’t go as planned. The main story was pretty straightforward but was fleshed out enough to be satisfying.

Nier: Automata (2017)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 11 hours

One of my greatest pet peeves is backtracking, and it is exceedingly horrible in this game. Yes, I got to the point in the game where you unlock fast travel, but still, those early hours were incredibly painful. The quests are boring, and the environments seem mostly bland with vast stretches of nothingness.

This could have been a 2/10, but the combat definitely comes to the rescue. The first 30 minutes, which is basically a well-scripted tutorial level that comes before any of the problems mentioned above, was mind-blowingly awesome.

Edit: Months later, I continued on and it got better but I still couldn’t get into it.

Prey (2017)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 24 hours

Basically Deus Ex in space. As someone who is not a fan of the Dishonored series, I thought this was actually enjoyable and well made.

Battlefield 1 (2016)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 10 hours

I’m mainly a person who does single-player, and this game had some decent missions. But I have a feeling most people who enjoy this do so for the multiplayer.

Civilization VI (2016)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 158 hours

This game is a step up from Civilization 5, though I only started playing VI after several patches/new civs came out. Yes this is a pretty costly game since you have to buy some of the civs, but each one is worth many hours. I really like the new district system, though I wish wonders were more impactful, given that they now cost production and tile space.

Darkest Dungeon (2016)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 2 hours

I play games in a perfectionist method, making sure I have max health, etc. This is clearly not a game for me. There are random hits and permanent-ish afflictions that really take away the fun.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 23 hours

This follows up Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), and it definitely lives up to its predecessor. The best thing about the new one is that you have tons of ways to complete missions, giving it a high amount of player choice and replayability. It’s also the first stealth game I’ve played where it actually felt fun to go completely non-lethal; I didn’t feel the same way in Human Revolution, Dishonored (2012), or Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013). (Not that those were bad games—just that I preferred the lethal approach in them.)

The story is very interesting but it gets heavy-handed for a video game; I would normally praise this but I feel like this game basically forced many story elements on you in sometimes annoying ways, e.g. being ID’d by police for the tenth time. Basically, the world is divided into mechanically-augmented people (“augs”) and non-augmented people (“naturals”), and there is lots of blatant discrimination and segregation against augs, including the player character. It’s clear what this parallels in real life. It had potential to be best social commentary in video games, but the story is told in a way that comes off as painfully obvious/sometimes annoying, rather than a more subtle “show, don’t tell “approach.

Doom (2016)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 9 hours

Maybe it’s because I never played the original Doom (1993), but I really couldn’t find anything satisfying in this game. The graphics were nice and detailed, but that was it, and it really didn’t capture the scary feel for me like Dead Space and Dead Space 2. I felt like I was just mindlessly jumping around/dodging/shooting from one level to the next. And maybe I quit the game too soon, but the player character never really felt powerful; every gun that felt good to use ran out of ammo really fast.

Grim Dawn (2016)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 17 hours

This game is pretty fun for the first few hours, but it then devolved into your everyday ARPG. The plot was uninteresting, graphics were meh, and gameplay felt really slow and repetitive. It doesn’t compare at all to Diablo III or Path of Exile, and you’re better off playing either of those if you crave an ARPG.

Layers of Fear (2016)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 3 hours

This game is Escher painting meets jump-scare horror. I’m generally not a fan of walking simulators, but this was well done. The best parts are when the spatial orientation is messed up, such as when you walk into a rectangular room, turn left, go through a door, and end up in the same room.

Offworld Trading Company (2016)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 5 hours

As a professional trader, I was really excited about the premise of this game and really wanted to like it. You get to trade resources, take out loans, and buy out other companies! Better in theory I guess. After I finished one match, I had basically no interest to play another.

Quantum Break (2016)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 8 hours

This is one of gaming’s underrated gems. It has one of the most compelling plots of any game, and it is both perfectly rational and mind-blowing. It’s also a weird game in that it is part game and part live-action TV show. The combat is not spectacular but it’s good enough to not detract from the story.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 37 hours

Something about the combat and environment didn’t feel as good as in its predecessor Tomb Raider (2013), but it’s still a solid game. It just never made me say “wow” like the previous game did. It does have insanely good graphics. Finding collectibles feels really repetitive.

Stellaris (2016)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 23 hours

Had potential to be good, but resource management, combat, and diplomacy were all lacking. At one point in a game against an easy AI, I just wanted to end it so I amassed a fleet and went to war with the AI. However, I didn’t choose the objectives carefully (demanded 3 of their 5 planets), and after a while the AI just surrendered the planets I demanded, thus forcing peace without my ever agreeing to it. Then began one of my most frustrating hours in video gaming. It turns out having 3 extra planets is a nightmare because of resource maintenance and civil unrest, and it was pretty clear that this was just draining my resources, and that I would be better off just giving away these planets. However, the game doesn’t let you do that. I had to wait the requisite amount of time before you could declare war again, and by that time my resources had basically gone to zero and I had been forced to disband most of my fleet.

Edit: I tried it again a year later, and it felt much more solid. Would still take much longer to get used to.

The Division (2016)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 46 hours

Has really beautiful graphics and is an open-world Manhattan! It doesn’t have enough of the city to visit where I currently live, but I did manage to find my former Murray Hill apartment in-game! There are a lot of mixed opinions about this game, but my experience was positive. The graphics are nice, and there is a real sense of progress as you spend more time. The main downside is that the combat feels very repetitive. It’s basically a cover-shooter MMO.

The Town of Light (2016)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 4 hours

This has a great concept and atmosphere, but the actual playing—figuring out what you’re supposed to do—was really frustrating as the game provides minimal information. I basically gave up and resorted to youtubing everything after a certain point.

The Turing Test (2016)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 6 hours

Decent puzzle game in the style of Portal/The Talos Principle with interesting enough mechanics and pretty nice story and graphics. The Europa landing scene that happens early on was epic, one of the best landing on the ground scenes in video gaming and film. I enjoyed this game much more than The Talos Principle. For the most part, there weren’t any super gimmick puzzles, and the philosophy was pretty elementary but well organized, and it didn’t feel like too much.

Titanfall 2 (2016)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 4 hours

Not a bad game, though a bit disappointing given the hype around it. I exclusively played singleplayer, and it felt like a walking simulator at times (which is fine but it felt like a weird change of pace every time).

Valley (2016)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 4 hours

A great walking simulator with a top-notch story. Some of the running missions felt awesome.

XCOM 2 (2016)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 85 hours

I liked this one better than the 2012 game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It has really solid graphics and customization, and the core turn-based squad combat feels great. The DLC was a blast. It is brutal in terms of difficulty: I played on the easiest setting and still felt like I needed to save/reload constantly.

Edit: I replayed with the War of the Chosen expansion and it was awesome. Bumping up from 8 to 9. Also, the Reaper makes the game so much more fun.

Cities: Skylines (2015)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 10 hours

Had fun building a city. It was exactly the experience I expected.

Fallout 4 (2015)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 128 hours

I had recently gotten bored of open-world games. GTA5 and Witcher 3 felt super overrated and not that entertaining, while Far Cry 4 was actually good but became boring towards the end. However, Fallout 4 drew me back in. The RPG, combat, story, open-world, and crafting elements are all superb.

My last real-life vacation was in Boston, but exploring a fictional future post-apocalyptic Boston was so much better than exploring real Boston. It’s incredibly detailed as well: you can find all kinds of historical landmarks, and even the Freedom Trail exists in-game. I found the DLC to be pretty good, though I think I’m one of the odd few who prefers Nuka World over Far Harbor.

I’m giving it a 9 instead of 10 because I really didn’t like using the settlements: the system itself seemed fine, but I didn’t like having it be required rather than optional. Also, the load screens could get annoying. For example, why are there three load screens between the Commonwealth and the main deck of the Prydwen?

Galactic Civilizations III (2015)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 1 hour

I really just wanted to play Civilization 5 or even Beyond Earth instead. The 4x genre is interesting but I felt like this didn’t had anything new.

Grand Theft Auto V (2015)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 7 hours

It had some good plot moments, the character switching is pretty cool, graphics are decent, and there is a ton of content. But the thing I can’t stand about this game is the realism and slow pace (at least in the beginning). Yes, I’m complaining about GTA5 not because it is violent, but because it is boring. For a game that literally has “theft” in its title, there’s not too going on.

In contrast, if I go 7 hours into Saints Row IV, much more plot and action will have occurred. It feels like in my 7 hours of play in GTA5, nothing really happened, and to make something happen, I will need to elaborately plan the details of a heist and spend effort doing that. I quit the game after being asked to prepare for the first heist.

Heroes of the Storm (2015)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: est. 200 hours

A very solid game, and since I’ve played Blizzard games extensively, it’s cool to see all the crossovers from different franchises. I could see myself playing this if I get bored.

The game is has a much faster pace than Dota and is much less stressful, while simultaneously having more action from constant teamfights.

Kerbal Space Program (2015)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 44 minutes

This sandbox spaceship-building game is probably awesome for some people but I’m clearly just not the target audience. As much I love space and sci-fi, this was among the most boring 44 minutes I have ever spent in a game.

Life is Strange (2015)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 16 hours

Definitely had a great plot with some memorable and gut-wrenching moments, but the whole experience (all 5 episodes) felt excruciatingly slow and could have been over in half the time. I also encountered a very frustrating glitch near the beginning which meant I had to restart the first un-skippable minutes a couple of times. It had potential to be an 8 or 9.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell (2015)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 4 hours

A solid follow-up to Saints Row IV, though definitely short.

SOMA (2015)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 1 hour

Really nice atmosphere but the style of gameplay (survival horror) is just not for me.

Star Wars: Battlefront (2015)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 5 hours

The singleplayer was lacking. And I actually tried the multiplayer too though it was probably too long after the game release for it to be fun.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 58 hours

This has got to be the most overrated game of the last few years  (along with maybe Skyrim). It’s not a bad game—in fact, it is pretty good. But I really don’t understand how it has universal acclaim from both critics and the wider playerbase. It is not even close to “the best RPG of all time” as some claim.

The combat was boring and extremely repetitive, and nothing else could really make up for this. Player control and movement never felt good, though briefly controlling Ciri at times was a surprisingly good exception. Graphics were awesome, but the controls made exploration more annoying than exciting. And the backtracking through certain paths in the main Novigrad quest chain was horrible. Basically, the first 5 hours are very good (before repetition sets in) and “On Thin Ice” is one of the best video game set pieces ever, but everything else felt lacking.

Civilization: Beyond Earth (2014)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 39 hours

Definitely an underrated game. It is often criticized as being Civ 5 in space, but how is that a bad thing? You build a settlement on an alien planet. The soundtrack is ridiculously good and somehow makes me think of actual grand space exploration, of solemn optimism and hope after a great tragedy (like 2016). The main thing lacking is definitely the uniqueness of the sponsors/beginning choices. It never felt like you were really choosing between different options.

Deadcore (2014)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 2 hours

A pretty interesting/fun platformer for an hour or two. The game gets intense quickly and becomes far too hardcore. Beating certain puzzles felt very rewarding, but it devolves into having to perfect the art of insane controls/timings, which is not for me.

Divinity: Original Sin (2014)

Rating: 1/10

Time played: 10 hours

A game where I clearly lack the required patience level. It was good for the first 30 minutes, including a tutorial highlighting the combat system. But it went massively downhill once I entered the first city. I got stuck quickly on the main quest, and all the gates leading out of the city were shut and the guards told me I didn’t have enough experience to venture outside. After some frustration in figuring out what I was supposed to do, I did one of the things I dread most in gaming: look up online how to get past the first level.

As an aside, I strongly believe a well-designed game should not make you do this. For example, Portal is an extremely well-designed game in terms of difficulty curve and I never felt like I needed to look up solutions online even for hard puzzles. In Divinity: Original Sin, not only could I not figure out how to do anything, but I could not even figure out what it was I was supposed to do. I should not be brickwalled in the very first town.

Other things: graphics were meh, controls felt bad at times and movement especially in a city felt really slow. The dialogue is pretty boring and I ended up just skipping them as quickly as possible. Once I finally ventured outside the gates, I found combat to be much less interesting than I had thought at first (although this was after ~4 hours of frustration and I felt pretty negatively at this point). I really wanted to like this game, probably because of sunk time fallacy, but it was to no avail.

Overall, I can see how the game can be really fun for some people, but it was probably the worst gaming experience I’ve ever had.

Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 57 hours

This is a wonderful game, with some amazing landscapes and scenery. The combat is pretty good but again repetitive. However, it is definitely a step up from Dragon Age: Origins (2009). The quest system felt kind of weak, in that it was vastly overwhelming and I ended up not caring much for most of them. Exploring was awesome though.

Endless Legend (2014)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 25 hours

Solid 4x game. The game and ui are very pleasing to look at and it feels very polished. The factions all feel cool and unique. Some of the tech choices seemed useless but I haven’t spent so much time on it. Also, the tactical fight view felt like a waste of time, as there aren’t that many decisions to make, nor are there difficult decisions. I eventually just had combat always auto-run.

Far Cry 4 (2014)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 39 hours

Overall a pretty fun open-world game, though nothing was spectacular. The main quest is good, side content is good, combat/stealth is okay, and exploration is great.

Hearthstone (2014)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: est. 450 hours

A card game where you can basically spend countless hours. It’s made by Blizzard so it’s super well polished. The actual mechanics are pretty simple but combining cards in different combinations is really cool, and the classes all feel unique even if they are just WoW classes.

The only reason I am not giving it a 10/10 is that for a game that is always online and probably 90% multiplayer, it has roughly no interface for talking to other players other than a bizarre 6-emote system. I understand why Blizzard left out chat, but this really bugs me. Overall, the game is excellent.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 23 hours

This game is often praised for its combat, and I definitely agree, at least for the first few hours. At the beginning, the story, exploration, and combat are all superb (other than ranged combat).  However, after a while it becomes very repetitive—every fight and side quest feels the same. Still, there is enough cool stuff left to plow through the rest of the game.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall (2014)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 20 hours

An XCOM-like squad game set as a cyperpunk RPG. The plot and initial gameplay were great. It got very repetitive though, and it felt like it lacked some of XCOM’s depth (in XCOM you could counter RNG by positioning/playing very carefully; in this game it felt much more often like I would get screwed due to being unlucky and have been able to play around it). It is overall solid though and I loved the cyberpunk atmosphere.

Sniper Elite 3 (2014)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 3 hours

A solid sniper game but a bit too conventional for me.

The Talos Principle (2014)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 12 hours

A puzzle game with a philosophical twist, but it doesn’t compare to Portal or Portal 2 at all. Some of the actual puzzles were superb, but the story really got in the way. I grew increasingly annoyed every time Elohim talked, which was like every five minutes. A good number of the puzzles felt like filler, making the game length pretty bloated. For context, I spent more time on this game than Portal and Portal 2 combined, and it was maybe half as fun as either.

The puzzle distribution was as follows: 20% were tutorial-ish (but still pretty fun as there are interesting mechanics), 30% were really satisfying to solve, 40% were grindy/a bit repetitive, and 10% felt like cheap gimmicks where you had to know or stumble upon some trick. But overall, it’s solid, and there are many puzzles.

Transistor (2014)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 41 minutes

I disliked the gameplay and the story. I’m generally a fan of futuristic/cyberpunk settings but the environment felt too unrealistic here. The constant narration also got annoying.

Bioshock Infinite (2013)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: 39 hours

Easily one of the best video games I have ever played. The plot is unmatched. It continues to explore social and philosophical themes like in the original Bioshock (2007), and it does so in even greater depth. Character development is among the best in any video game. The city of Columbia looks amazing and inspires just as much awe as Rapture. And you get to see some of the apparent utopia in action before conflict breaks out, as opposed to how in the original Bioshock, you start well after society has already crumbled.

Level design and atmosphere are superb. It had one of the most memorable enemy types ever, which was simultaneously comical, scary, and very sensible in terms of how it fits into the plot: Motorized Patriots. Everything fit together very well, making Columbia a living, real place.

Dota 2 (2013)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: est. 50 hours

I’ve played many more hours of Dota 1 than 2, so I’m not really sure if I’m rating Dota 2‘s improvements over Dota 1, or just Dota 1 itself. Anyway Dota 1/Dota 2 is a really good game, though I cannot see myself having fun playing this as I did 10 years ago.

Europa Universalis IV (2013)

Rating: 1/10

Time played: 51 minutes

Similarly to Kerbal Space Program and Divinity: Original Sin, this game isn’t actually bad but it was a combination of realizing “obviously not for me” and “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do and the tutorial clarified almost nothing.”

Gone Home (2013)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 54 minutes

Decent mystery/walking simulator, has a good amount of content while not wasting any time.

Metro: Last Light (2013)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 8 hours

A dark, gritty post-apocalyptic shooter. Felt very similar to the original Metro 2033 (2010), but had enough improvements and the story felt fresh enough.

Outlast (2013)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 1 hour

A survival horror that is the only game I have ever quit due to its being too scary. So I’m giving it a solid rating despite that I stopped playing.

Path of Exile (2013)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: est. 300 hours

This might stay the best ARPG of the decade. It has a combat system that is easy to get the basics of, but it is incredibly complex, allowing for tons of depth. It has a mind-boggling amount of customization in both active and passive skills. And the combat can actually be fast. There are not many games that feel anywhere near as good when you are super geared, where you can use one skill to clear an entire screen full of enemies, use a very fast movement skill to get to the next screen in under a second, clear that screen, and so forth. I think Diablo III is a really good game, but Path of Exile is just better.

Remember Me (2013)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 4 hours

Storytelling and scenery were impressive, but combat was super frustrating. You often fought multiple enemies at once, and there was basically no AOE. Combat was based on combos, but you had to break combos to dodge attacks from many enemies. And there were invisible enemies that you couldn’t attack without doing certain things.

Saints Row IV (2013)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 38 hours

This is basically the Family Guy/Monty Python of video games. It’s very fun, mainly from the outrageous plot, relentless parody of other video games (the GTA and Mass Effect series immediately come to mind), numerous jokes/references to pop culture, and some unexpected mini-games (like Family Guy cutaway gags). You get to play an old-style 2D side-scroller game within the game during a key plot moment, and at other times you can chase a fast-moving, flying golden orb in what is essentially street Quidditch. And you can shoot people with a dubstep gun that causes them to move in beat. Oh and you get superpowers.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 19 hours

Solid stealth game. One of the few games that actually got me to replay some levels.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2013)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 3 hours

A squad tactical shooter that had really weird controls and it took a long time for combat to feel reasonable. The intro mission was actually pretty fun because you had squadmates with powerful abilities and the visuals of the base. However, the game lost its luster after that. I also encountered various technical issues with this game that were quite frustrating.

The Swapper (2013)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 1 hour

Learned that it was not for me. The first few chambers were pretty cool, but the entire point of the game (clone/swapping mechanic) quickly became a chore.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 25 hours

Excellent storytelling and environment. The protagonist’s character development is one of the best in recent gaming. Graphics and combat were also really good.

I felt like I can’t give it a 10/10 because of one particular annoyance, which was that the early levels were littered with things/areas that couldn’t be explored until you get mechanics from later, and this fact was very unapparent. I spent what felt like a couple of hours early on trying to get past a certain area, before I realized much later that you need to get rope arrows for it.

Borderlands 2 (2012)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 11 hours

Was genuinely fun for the first couple hours, but then it felt like a leveling grind. There were some humorous aspects of the story, but it felt very over-the-top and disjointed. I never cared for any of the characters. The RPG elements were mediocre, while shooting was good but had its annoyances. I wasn’t a fan of the graphics style, and I could not stand the backtracking.

Diablo III (2012)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: est. 600 hours

I still think this was an amazing game on release, and that the early criticism and subsequent nerfs to Infero, the hardest difficulty level, were unjustified. The game definitely did have some issues. The variety of skills was excellent, and the ability to respec was awesome for trying out new things.

Most of the controversy I think comes from socio-economics/behavioral-economics, in that the original Auction House allowed players to bypass all of the end-game and immediately get the best items, thus the chance of ever finding a better item is exceedingly small. Once I realized this, I played without using the Auction House, and the game was actually incredibly fun. (Yep, that linked post was me, and I still wonder if it contributed at all to the Auction House’s demise.)

Dishonored (2012)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 26 hours

Overall a good game. I encountered weird and devastating technical issues that definitely bring down the rating. In addition, the game provides you with the option to go combat over stealth, but the combat aspect was definitely lacking. I remember reloading from saves over and over and over again.

Dragon Nest (2012)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: est. 30 hours

Still has among the best combat I’ve seen in an MMO. However, the game was extremely grindy and repetitive.

Endless Space (2012)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 2 hours

I played this game after Endless Legends (which came out later, but still), and I thought this was like an inferior version of that game, from the races to the mechanics to the music. In a vacuum it might be good.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (2012)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 47 hours

A decent RPG, gets repetitive but is enjoyable most of the time.

Mass Effect 3 (2012)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 51 hours

An excellent game. It felt like Mass Effect 2 with better combat/RPG elements. I don’t understand why people hated the ending; I thought it was fine. Instead, the reason I can’t give it a 10/10 is that it didn’t feel like it improved upon Mass Effect 2 very much.

Spec Ops: The Line (2012)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 6 hours

I can’t tell whether this game is overrated or underrated. Combat-wise, it is a simple pretty boring shooter, but it has a pretty deep plot where you really reflect on the actions you have done. Without giving away too much, I thought the white phosphorous scene was among the most memorable and disturbing in video gaming.

Torchlight II (2012)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 4 hours

It would be a pretty good ARPG in a world without Diablo 3 and Path of Exile, but it just doesn’t compare to them. I had some fun but the combat pace feels really slow (in comparison to D3 and POE), the story is basically as filler as a video game story can be, and the skill system has nowhere near as much depth.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 18 hours

A really solid game. The missions are really fun, but from the strategic perspective it always felt like you were in a rush, though it gets better once you start building satellites.

Batman: Arkham City (2011)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 1 hour

I didn’t play much of it, but it felt identical to Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), and I couldn’t stand playing a game like that again.

Crysis 2 (2011)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 6 hours

I liked this game a lot more than the original Crysis (2007), as it had much better gameplay, graphics, and story. As a New Yorker, I found the exploration in New York City is pretty amazing. However, I still could not stand the general repetitiveness of fighting the same enemies ad infinitum.

Dead Space 2 (2011)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 10 hours

A very scary and enjoyable game. The environment/atmosphere is amazing. Graphics were fine, and shooting was done well.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 28 hours

Gameplay was not very fun at the start, but it becomes phenomenal once you start building up augments. Excellent story and settings. Good stealth and action. It really gives you many ways to complete a mission.

Might and Magic: Heroes VI (2011)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 80 hours

A pretty interesting premise where you coordinate strategy on a grand map and also run tactics on smaller map. The tactical battles are actually really fun, if a bit repetitive. The campaign was excruciatingly difficult and I gave up somewhere along the Sanctuary campaign (I had beaten the Haven, Necropolis, and Inferno campaigns and some of the missions I had beaten only by exploiting certain AI behaviors). The games are very snowball-y, where the more units you preserve early on, the fewer units you will lose later on. And the computer scales up in power every so often, so if you snowball too slowly, you reach a point where it’s impossible to win.

Portal 2 (2011)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 8 hours

Great game but for me it lacked the intrigue/mystery of the original Portal (2007). And I thought it dragged on for way too long.

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 32 hours

An awesome game. I played this after Saints Row IV, and while much of the absurdity exists in The Third, it was much more down-to-earth and I liked it less. However, one of the final missions was ridiculously good (the one where “Holding Out for a Hero” starts playing).

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 77 hours

While the game was a pretty solid open-world RPG, I found it to be vastly overrated. I also had one of my worst experiences in video gaming ever. Pretty early on, I unwitting contracted Sanguinare Vampiris and became a vampire, which was super annoying. Trying to live as such a creature, I repeatedly failed to feed on the blood of NPCs, as they would just start attacking me. Finally, I went online to lookup how to get rid of it, and it took a couple hours of maddeningly following online instructions (and once getting glitched and having to start over again) to finally cure myself.

Apart from that, the game is probably okay (6 or 7/10), but the vampire experience was very memorably horrible. I also got glitched on multiple other quests that I couldn’t finish. And the story is not very good. The only thing it has going for it is that it does open-world gaming correctly. (Even so, having played World of Warcraft for 3400+ hours, I did not find a generic buggy fantasy open-world game to be super compelling.)

Assassin’s Creed 2 (2010)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 1 hour

In the not-for-me category. I found the combat pretty uninteresting, the setting uninteresting, and even the parkour/platforming/stealth pretty bland. Also, it had some really weird controls for PC.

Bayonetta (2010)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 4 hours

I played the PC port that came out in 2017, but because of the massive time gap, I’m including it under the original release year.

The graphics and style are really nice, and it also has a good sense of outlandishness in terms of plot and characters. The environments are very good. The combat was cool at the beginning but it soon became repetitive, and some of the “trials” in-game were very annoying. I could not get myself to finish the game.

Bioshock 2 (2010)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 1 hour

Could be good, but I literally could not play it much due to a game-crash bug that would happen as soon as I stepped into a certain area needed for the main story. During the moments when I did play, it seemed very much like the original Bioshock.

Civilization V (2010)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 110 hours

An awesome game. It is one of the few non-Blizzard games I have spent over 100 hours in. There’s just something about building up civilizations from scratch.

Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 6 hours

I played this game after Fallout 4 and (maybe I’m spoiled but) it felt basically unplayable. I basically wandered around for a while and couldn’t do anything.

Halo: Reach (Xbox 360) (2010)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 8 hours

One of the few console games on this list. Reach was a solid game, though I’m not really that opinionated about it.

Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 46 hours

I replayed the game recently (2017) in anticipation of Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017), and I feel like there’s no way this is the best title in the Mass Effect series so far. In fact, it might be my least favorite (though still miles better than most video games). I forgot how boring the planet resource mining was, or how annoying the hacking/bypass puzzles are. Still, its RPG/combat/sci-fi/plot/character-development/atmosphere/graphics are all insanely good.

Metro 2033 (2010)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 8 hours

I got glitched at the end of a level and didn’t want to replay the whole level. Otherwise, it is a pretty solid post-apocalyptic shooter.

Mirror’s Edge (2010)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 33 minutes

A parkour/platformer. It was super frustrating to play, I died repeatedly in the first level. The controls did not feel very fluid for a game all about running. Then I got to a point indoors where the frame rate dropped dramatically. The graphics and environment was really cool, and the plot was not bad so far.

Starcraft 2 (2010)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: est. 500 hours

It was the only relevant RTS game for a long time. Multiplayer is great, and the campaigns are spectacular. Co-op (with the Legacy of the Void expansion) is also a very underrated gem in video gaming. I can open up the game in 2017 and it doesn’t feel outdated at all.

Vanquish (2010)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: 5 hours

A solid game. Simple but really engaging.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (2010)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: 3472 hours

Of all the games I’ve ever played, this one has the most time spent by a long shot. Also, while the original game World of Warcraft was released in 2004, I started playing in late 2010, which was technically during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, but 95% of my playtime and 100% of my endgame play was during Catalcysm. Thus, I’m counting the game as Cataclysm for the purpose of the review, but it’s really a review of WoW in general.

The game is unmatched in terms of quality. It’s a 12-year old game and it still does certain things much better than any game I’ve seen. Having a spell book and being able to drag skills to a menu of hotkeys is amazing—I’m surprised how many newer games have obviously worse control systems than this. The inventory system is 10/10—you just press B and you see all of your items at once and can use or examine any of them while still running or fighting, without having to scroll through menus or lists (*cough* Skyrim, Witcher 3Fallout 4). I guess that’s the advantage of being designed specifically for PC. The UI is just so much better than games released even a decade later.

And it did open-world 7 years before everyone went “omg open-world is awesome” with Skyrim. You could walk from one end of Kalimdor to the other without a loading screen. And Kalimdor/Lordaeron/Outland/Northrend are each much bigger than Skyrim. The classes all feel unique and have tons of backstory behind them (partly because it was based on a lore-rich franchise). And while the graphics are a bit dated, they do enough to maintain a sense of awe and wonder.

The way I describe WoW to people who haven’t played is this: WoW is actually two games in one. The first is a leveling game, in which you get to max level and which feels like every other RPG except it is much more polished and the story is better. That is about 10% of the game. The other 90% is after you hit max level. Then the real game starts, with dungeons into raids.

Most of my memorable experience was during Tier 11, or the first set of raid bosses in Cataclysm. The fights were not trivial and had pretty complex mechanics, which I was unused to in an RPG game at the time. Up to that point, most “boss fights” I was accustomed to were just big things with tons of HP and damage, and to beat the boss, you just get really strong weapons and armor and you win. However, WoW bosses were largely not like this. Sure, they had big HP bars, but they also had plenty of mechanics. There were bosses where even if your group’s gear sucked, you could still win if your coordination was good enough. And for most bosses, even if you had insanely good gear, your whole group would die if you didn’t respond to boss mechanics properly. There were 10-person boss fights where if 9 people played perfectly and the last person made one mistake during a critical time, it was game over for the whole group. And that was the fun part—getting 10-25 strangers on the Internet to communicate and coordinate effectively with one another.

The only problem is that the game is too good, to the point where it is addicting. I spent literally a third of second-semester-freshman/first-semester-sophomore years of college on this game.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 7 hours

Was pretty fun at first but the combat became quite repetitive. Fortunately it was a pretty short game. It had some great levels with Scarecrow.

Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 31 hours

While the combat was really cool for the first few hours, the game got super repetitive. The RPG elements are ok but plenty of the dialogue is very boring and should be skipped. I could not hold enough interest to finish the game.

Dead Space (2008)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: 5 hours

A really scary game. I actually liked Dead Space 2 better than than this one.

Far Cry 2 (2008)

Rating: 3/10

Time played: 1 hour

Fits the not-for-me category. I picked this up in 2015 along with Far Cry 4. The graphics/controls felt pretty aged and the malaria was already annoying.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) (2008)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: est. 20 hours

It was good like Melee. I still don’t see why people liked Melee so much over this.

Bioshock (2007)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: 18 hours

Had excellent philosophy and exploration of Objectivist themes and also a stunning environment of Rapture. However, some of the levels felt pointless, there was a medium though not a frustrating amount of backtracking, and there was the escort mission.

Crysis (2007)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 12 hours

This game didn’t really feel complete. It had numerous graphics issues even setting it on low (though the same computer could run Crysis 2 with no problem), there were large quantities of basically the same enemies, and the plot was super lacking until entering the alien structure. This game basically felt like a sandbox though I wasn’t expecting it to be one.

Mass Effect (2007)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: 19 hours

Basically a perfect game. Great story, sci-fi, combat, RPG elements, and environments. Exploration using the Mako was pretty cool. Some of the planets—Noveria, Virmire, and Ilos—are still memorable. Saren/Sovereign were impressive antagonists.

Portal (2007)

Rating: 9/10

Time played: 3 hours

Despite being a short and simple game, Portal was extremely enjoyable. It had a surprisingly good story given that there were only two characters, one who never spoke and the other who was an AI. The pacing/learning curve was perfect.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: 9 hours

Pretty solid, though it had extremely dated graphics/interactions by the time I played it (in 2014). Still, it was fun enough.

Age of Empires III (2005)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: 18 hours

I never really got why Age of Empires II was so popular (or why it’s better than III). I thought III was a reasonable game.

Half-Life 2 (2004)

Rating: 2/10

Time played: 1 hour

This game is either vastly overrated or it has not aged well. Either way, I had no fun playing this game in 2017. The plot, graphics, and physics system don’t compare at all to later games. One of the physics puzzles, the one where you stack a bunch of cinder blocks on one side of a balance beam, seemed to be bugged, as even after figuring out the stacking immediately, it took a good 10 minutes before I glitched my way across. Even with all the blocks on one side, I could not jump across normally. I also got stuck more than once and had to reload the level.

Enter the Matrix (PS2) (2003)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: est. 20 hours

Had some pretty good cutscenes, even if the best were just taken from the movie, and had pretty cool fights/scenes. Still, I got super glitched even on a PS2 and literally could not proceed with one of the characters due to an infinite load screen.

Rise of Nations (2003)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: est. 60 hours

I always thought this game was better than Age of Empires II, mainly because the UI was so much more modern. The “Conquer the World” campaigns are really fun, and 1v1 skirmishes are great. The different nations were sufficiently different from one another to feel unique.

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (PS2) (2002)

Rating: 7/10

Time played: est. 30 hours

I remember this as a great platformer/exploration/Australia game for the PS2. It is also maybe the only game with collectibles that I 100%’d, collecting every single thunder egg.

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: est. 500 hours

Had a really good campaign with fleshed-out characters whose moralities are not black and white. Really good multiplayer, and the best map editor I’ve ever seen (better than that of Starcraft II in terms of ease of use). Maybe half the time I’ve spent on this game was in the map editor, learning how to code and do things (and developing Smota and helping out with Battleships Pro). The map editor was good enough for maps like Dota to be created, spawning the entire MOBA genre.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) (2001)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: est. 5 hours

I didn’t play much of this game, though I remember not being an FPS player at the time and therefore not being too impressed.

RuneScape (2001)

Rating: 5/10

Time played: est. 50 hours

This was the first RPG game I ever played, and it was pretty cool though super grindy. I also learned market making. Basically, stand at a bank and offer to buy coal for 100 gold a piece, and then immediately offer to sell at 200 gold a piece. People traded a lot, and I collected the spread a lot.

Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube) (2001)

Rating: 8/10

Time played: est. 15 hours

This was basically the ultimate party game for years. Still, I never got why people obsessed that this was better than Brawl.

Diablo II (2000)

Rating: 6/10

Time played: est. 50 hours

Maybe I didn’t go far enough in this game, but I basically never found a really impressive item or got to the part where my character felt strong. Most of my playtime is also without the expansion Lord of Destruction. The game was certainly fun, but I think it is overrated.

Age of Empires II (1999)

Rating: 4/10

Time played: est. 10 hours

Having played Starcraft at the time, I could not understand why people liked Age of Empires II so much. The controls seemed obviously worse than in Starcraft, though I still remember it being ok.

Starcraft (1998)

Rating: 10/10

Time played: est. 100 hours

A very good game. It was my introduction to the RTS genre, and it was a blast. All three races Protoss, Terran, and Zerg felt cool and unique. Controlling units was very difficult at first but it became pretty cool. The map editor was just good enough that many good custom maps were created, and the multiplayer was a really fun experience.



I’m planning to update this list every once in a while with new games.

I also have a list of movie ratings.

Is the Virtual World Really An Escape from Reality? (Part 2)

On September 17th, Blizzard announced that they would be removing the auction houses in Diablo 3. For gamers, this may seem like a very strange move. It is very rare that a company will remove a significant feature of a game, especially when there is no stated replacement plan.

Real World Finances

But from a sociological perspective, this is a very interesting move that signifies a reaction to the merging of the virtual and real worlds. It seems like the warnings from Jesse Schell in 2010 are manifesting. Last year, Diablo 3 launched with two widespread auction houses, allowing players to trade their virtual items. The gold auction house used in-game currency, while the real money auction house used… real money. Real US dollars. And other worldwide currencies.

The Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House. The $250 max buyout is the limit.
The Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House. The $250 max buyout is the limit.

As I said in part 1, the virtual world, used to be an escape from reality:

One of the strongest effects of these games was to cause players to disregard socioeconomic stratification that existed in the real world. In the virtual worlds of RPG’s, everyone starts equal and has the same opportunities.

From an extensive CNN report on gaming:

A professor: “…people do not feel they have the freedom and kind of  their own power to change their own social roles and their own identities. But in cyberspace, people do not remember… your wealth.”

However, Facebook (among others, though Facebook arguably had the largest effect) changed this with microtransactions that allowed players with more wealth in real life, or more willingness to use the wealth, to translate it to in-game wealth. Schell’s talk has a lot more on how Facebook changed gaming.

But despite the influence of Facebook, many gamers stayed on non-FB games. It took Diablo 3 to have a large enough impact on affecting socioeconomics within a game. To some degree, those who were wealthier in real life were wealthier in the game. And to some degree, it was impossible to progress forward unless one was already wealthy.

In one sense, Blizzard’s removal of the auction houses signifies a break from the trend of the ever increasingly tangled web of real and imaginary.

An Efficiency Problem

Of course, we cannot discount Blizzard’s stated reasons for removing the auction houses:

When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But as we’ve mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot.

Indeed, the problem was that there was too much trading and the system became too efficient. I actually wrote a lengthy post about this on the Diablo 3 forums last year, called “Why the Auction House is the Main Problem,” which was also mathematically oriented. This article was highly rated and was spread around the interwebs.

Basically, the problem was that the increased market efficiency from the auction houses allowed the average player to obtain much better items than they otherwise would, thereby short-circuiting the actual game.

Although it seems fairly obvious now as to what happened, the sentiment at the time was that the real money auction house was causing the main problems, but that the gold auction house was fine. Before my thread, I don’t recall anyone making a coherent argument against the efficiency of the gold auction house.

The Future of Gaming

Thus it is not all that surprising that Blizzard is removing both auction houses. And even considering Blizzard’s official reason, it is interesting that the economic system in the game has so many analogs in real life.

A vision of the future virtual world, from part 1:

It will not be a place where we can set aside our real world and escape our problems for a few hours. It will not be a place where we have fun or meet people we would never see otherwise and talk about the little things in life without worrying about our financial position.

Instead, it will be an extension of the real world and everything in it. Those who are wealthier in the real world will have more options in the virtual world, and those who are poorer will remain poor. Ultimately, if virtual reality does not return to its roots as an escape from reality, people will end up escaping the virtual world as well.

So given the recent news, perhaps we are not quite as firmly on that road as we were last year—a wrench has been thrown in the works. But in the end, the real and virtual worlds are still on a collision course. We should definitely be prepared.

The Popularity of Starcraft in Korea (and Elsewhere)

Today’s topic as originally chosen by William G (at UT Dallas) was the “Popularity of K-Pop“; however, given that I know almost nothing about K-Pop, and that it would be ironic if I had to do a lot of research to write about the popularity of something, I decided to jump topics slightly. Just slightly. The new topic is also popular in Korea. It is a sport that has filled stadiums and put speed, strategies, and reflexes to the ultimate test. It is the phenomenon known as Starcraft.

A video demonstrating the point:

This one is a full (but very short) game, with Korean commentary. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to actually understand Korean to see how fanatic they are:

This one is of the announcement of Starcraft II, back in May 2007 at Seoul, Korea. You should pay attention not to Blizzard’s actual trailer, but to the audience’s response, which occurs during the last 20 seconds or so:

Got it? Cool, you now understand all you really need to know about why Starcraft is so popular.

Just one final thing: Starcraft can get popular outside of Korea too. It just needs the right beat:

This has 4 million views so far—not bad for a video less than a month old and related to gaming.


Anyways, this is a very early post (it’s 12:25 am right now) because I will be leaving Ithaca very shortly to catch a 1 am bus to NYC. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the JFK airport; I have an idea for a really fun blog post, and I’ll see what I can do with it. See ya next time in Austin!

The End of an Experiment

I played World of Warcraft for 20 days.

WoW Screenshot

During this time, I spent logged into the game a total of 6 days and 9 hours (plus 1 minute and 7 seconds, if you look closely at the yellow text on the screenshot), which averages to 7.65 hours per day. This is 27.5% higher than my estimate of 6 hours per day that I made on the previous post! Percentage-wise, I spent 31.9% of my real time logged into WoW. In other words, I spent significantly more time on WoW than on sleep.

In these 20 days I leveled from 1 to 70, for an average of 3.5 levels per day. I was a human mage, for those of you interested.

I completed 538 quests, earned 3097 gold (plus 17 silver and 9 copper), landed 17,352 kills, and dealt 30,163,105 damage.

Wow Time Graph Revised

In this time I averaged approximately 5 hours of sleep a night (estimated), pulled two all-nighters (I had never done even one all-nighter before), and took way more naps than I normally do. While I didn’t miss any classes or homework, I did wake up past noon twice (on weekends). But let me emphasize this point: I kept up with school.

Not only was my sleeping schedule messed up, but so was my dining schedule. In these 20 days, I changed from a person who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner quite regularly to someone who eats almost randomly one to three times a day, and not at set times. For example, as I mentioned last post, I ate only two meals total in three consecutive days. (While last post I considered this to be an experiment on its own, I now consider it a result of the WoW experiment.)

Being in a somewhat scientific mood, I asked myself the following question and came up with four answers:

So Why is WoW So Addicting?

  • Customization
  • Progress
  • Optimization
  • Nature


Customization is pretty self-explanatory—you have so many options, not just in the beginning, but at any point of the game. Even before you start, you have the objective of selecting two important features of your character: race and class. At the moment there are 10 races, with five on the Alliance (Humans, Dwarfs, Gnomes, Night Elves, Draenei) and five on the Horde (Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, Undead, Blood Elves). There are also 10 classes, and this choice will have a huge impact on your gameplay. Now, not each race and class combination is available, but there are still a great number of options available even before you start the game. Oh, and within each race, you can customize your appearance.

Once you’re in the game, you can basically choose whatever you want to do. You can complete quests (they’re entirely optional), kill monsters, train professions, explore, or just chat. World of Warcraft is the start of super-interactive virtual reality.

As you gain levels, you choose different items to use. You’ll decide what stat to focus on. At level 10 you specialize into one of three talent trees (there are three unique trees for each class), giving you even more flexibility. Within each talent tree, you’ll make decisions on which talents to learn. And later on, you’ll be able to switch between two different talent trees.

You can choose two primary professions out of a total of 11. They range from Mining to Enchanting, Jewelcrafting to Tailoring, and more.

As you discover the world, you decide which quests you do, which monsters to kill, which areas to explore. You decide what you set as your home. You can visit different capital cities. You can choose to clear dungeons, or fight other players in battlegrounds.

You can trade items, put items up at the Auction House and bid on items there, and how much gold you want from (or for) them.

You start out walking and running, but at higher levels, you can ride a mount, which makes your travels much shorter. In some places, given the right requirements, you can explore the world from the air and travel even more rapidly with a flying mount.

You can fight solo or with a party. Within a fight, you have a wide selection of abilities and spells to choose from. You can play offensively or defensively, or choose not to directly fight at all.

All these customization options give you a vast amount of things to choose from. Because of this, the game really never becomes boring. There is so much content that to explore every secret of the world, every combination of races, classes, and professions, and every style of play, would require infinite time.


When you play this game, almost no matter what you do, you feel as if you are advancing in something. The basic form of progress is leveling, in which you become stronger by having your stats increased, and by which you unlock different gameplay mechanics. In the beginning, your options are relatively limited (though still huge). As you level, you gain new skills, spells, gold, and other abilities. Your ability to kill monsters, complete quests, and even travel around the world increases.

Exploring the world really feels like progress. At first, the map is mostly blank, giving you only an outline of the world. As you travel around, landmarks and regions start appearing on your map.

WoW Screenshot 4

Completing quests for different factions increases your Reputation with that faction. As your reputation increases, you gain ranks and receive bonuses when dealing with that faction.

At certain levels there are new things you can do. You can unlock the talent panel, the dungeon finder, mounts, as well as the continents of Outland and Northrend.

And then there are Achievements. Doing certain things will earn you Achievements, which increase the number of Achievement points you own. This is addicting as it gives you an incentive to do something that would have otherwise no gameplay value. You are doing it just for the achievement.


When you hit the max level, or are in any fixed situation, you will still want to improve. You do this by optimizing everything. If there’s an item you have that adds 50 armor, and there’s another that is otherwise identical but with 55 armor, you will feel very strongly compelled to obtain the more powerful one. You’ll hunger for the sword that gives 200 damage over the one you have that gives 185.

Within a battle you’ll want to optimize the amount of damage you are doing, to try to finish the battle as quickly as possible. You’ll figure out the optimal order in which you use your abilities, the optimal equipment for doing so, the optimal setup, the optimal environment, etc. You’ll want to be the most efficient.

Even in travel, you’ll want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. You’ll find the optimal route, and you’ll use the fastest mount you can. If you have 5 quests to complete in 5 different locations, you’ll figure out the optimal order in which to complete them as to minimize the traveling time.

You can never be the best. You can always be better.


Of the four reasons I list, this one is the most separate. Largely, WoW is a move away from modernity and towards the old, if not ancient, past. Besides the Dwarf and Gnome engineering projects, which are more funny than representative of technology, the game is almost completely at peace with nature. The Night Elves especially represent a love towards nature, and they guard it with utmost respect.

It happens to match the environmentalist movement happening right now. There are quest lines aimed at stopping a deforestation (of Ashenvale Forest). In The Burning Crusade, the Fel Reaver is a colossal enemy war machine portrayed as highly destructive. In general, many enemies are associated with trying to destroy the environment, and this is an idea that definitely rings in our current society.

World of Warcraft’s scenery in some zones can be very beautiful, and they show a pristine nature that we cannot easily visit in our own world. Therefore, playing WoW is like visiting with nature. Just google wow screenshots and look at the ones that are outside. Some of those areas make you feel that the game world is so close to nature that it is more real than our own. Hence we don’t want to leave it.

Just as WoW is a throwback to nature, it is also a throwback to mythology and the belief in magic. Azeroth is a world of imagination that can seem more convincing than our Earth, and far more mystical.

WoW Screenshot 2

If what we are looking at is a representation of a more primitive way of life, it is no wonder than World of Warcraft is so successful. Even the interface looks ancient: for reading, it is often scrolls and parchment. Even the professions, such as fishing, cooking, and herb gathering, are a nostalgia for an earlier time.


  1. World of Warcraft is a great and successful game, but it is also terribly addicting. It will drain hours per day and affect schedules.
  2. It is addicting because it allows us to not only play a game, but also to experience and live in a new world. This world allows us to connect with nature, or at least, what we perceive to be nature.
  3. In the future, what will dominate virtual reality might not be a virtual reality of the real world, but instead, a virtual representation of an older, more forgotten world, with ties to our ancient past, its history and its traditions.

I thought it was a fun 20 days, but I must tell myself to stop the experiment now, while I still can.

Finally, for a parting to WoW, I created this Halloween screenshot. Enjoy!

WoW Screenshot 3

This experiment, needless to say, has had some major effects on me. I will be trying to get back to normal schedule the next few days. So while I am not going to conduct another experiment like this for some time, I am opening this up to the public as to what my next experiment should be. I’d rather it not be playing another video game. Also, I will not consider anything with drugs or alcohol, etc. If the idea is feasible, and has some worth to it, I’ll consider it.

Starcraft II Editor — Second Look

Random fact: On the day of my last post, which was about a short story considered a brilliant piece of American literature, my blog received its lowest daily view count in more than three months (130 views). I guess the Internet is just that antagonistic towards American literature.

Today’s topic is much different: the StarCraft II map editor. Four months ago, during the beta, I was able to play around with the editor very basically, and wrote up a post comparing the SC2 editor to the SC1 and WC3 editors.

Recently I was able to mess around with the editor again, this time trying to create the basic gameplay for an AoS-type map. After all, I had plenty of experience with the WC3 editor, and the SC2 editor, as I mentioned in the linked post, is very similar.

That turns out less true than I thought. The truth is, the SC2 editor is not only far more powerful, as I had mentioned, but also far, far more complicated. Of course, diving into any new thing takes a while of getting used to, but on the SC2 editor, I spent eight hours just trying to make a hero system and setting up the map and triggers for an AoS, and didn’t even succeed in creating items or an inventory. To change even a single stat on a weapon took me a couple minutes of messing around the first time.

My new argument: While the WC3 editor and the SC2 editor look very much alike, the WC3 editor is in fact more like the SC1 editor than the SC2 editor. Actually, there is an important caveat here: I’m talking only about the Object/Data editor. For Terrain and Triggers, it still stands that WC3 and SC2 are closer.

The object editor in WC3 is essentially the unit editor of SC1 with significantly more fields, and also more tabs (not only units, but also abilities, items, doodads, destructibles, buffs). Suppose I wanted to change the damage of a Marine/Footman. In SC1 I would go to the Marine unit, and change the damage field from 6 to whatever I wanted it to be. For the WC3 Footman, the process is exactly the same.

SC2, on the other hand, is modular. So, to change the damage of the Marine, you can’t just go to the Marine unit. From the Marine, you have to find the link to the weapon, which in turn has a link to the damage. Once you’re at the damage, you can modify it.

Alright, it takes two more steps—so what? Well, this makes multi-object things WAY more complicated. Letsay I wanted to create an item that adds an aura in WC3. I would need an Item, Ability, and Buff. The Ability must known which Buff the aura uses, and the Item must know what Ability it is supposed to carry. Nice and simple. In SC2… let’s just say I haven’t figured it out yet.

Even supposing I could create an item, I would also need the inventory, which is incredibly difficult to make, at least without a very careful and detailed tutorial. Even looking at the source of another map (which was an excellent way to learn the WC3 editor) seemed to not help, because there were several inter-object links that I did not know how to make.

Anyway, I’m not saying the SC2 editor sucks or anything—I’m just saying it’s far, far more complicated than what I’m used to, and it will most likely have a long adaptation time. Even figuring out the basics is a challenging task. Right now, the editor just seems far more complex than it needs to be, but we’ll see.