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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published here in 2011. Some of the facts have changed, but I (and others) still struggle with this every day.


World of Warcraft has 11 million + subscribers right now. Every day a group of people three times as large as the state of Connecticut logs onto Blizzard’s servers to wage a virtual war against monsters, raid bosses and each other. Many of those people wage a more personal battle every day with a devil more devious than any heroic raid encounter: Addiction.

This is a battle that I am all too familiar with.

I was an active World of Warcraft subscriber for about 5 years. I raided. I pvped. I leveled four different characters up to the level cap (all of them dwarves). I had become a part of a tight knit guild full of people that I still think of fondly. I don’t regret the fun that I had or the people that I met, but I am happy to finally be able to look back on it.

If you asked me if I was addicted when I was in my prime, I would have told you no. I was “playing a game instead of watching TV”. It was only “a few hours a day.” It was “No big deal.” It was all too easy to conveniently ignore all of the warning signs and forget all of my most inexcusable acts.

Confession time:

  • I used to be proud that I had never called out of work to play WoW. But, taking a “mental health day” and then spending 6 of the 8 hours I would have been at work playing WoW was perfectly ok? Right.
  • I spent time thinking about WoW incessantly, even when I wasn’t playing. I read websites. I talked on forums. My wife knew what boss my raid group was on and what loot drop I wanted from it.
  • When I started to raid I promised my wife that I would never skip a social function to do so. But, I would lose my mind if my wife tried to schedule a dinner with friends on a raid night.
  • I went home from the hospital the night my first child was born to raid. My wife will tell anyone that she wanted me to leave because she wanted sleep, but she was clearly covering for me.
  • During my most “dedicated times” I would play four to five hours a day. Some weeks would be light and I would only play six days out of the week. Do the math with me folks. That adds up to almost thirty hours a week.
  • I still go through almost overwhelming urges to play. I had to uninstall WoW from my laptop to prevent myself from “relapsing.”
  • I don’t like making phone calls. I especially don’t like making phone calls to our telephone/cable/internet provider. I vividly recall being home one day and having our internet black out. I was on the telephone with them for almost an hour. I don’t think I would have called them for any other reason.

If those don’t sound like the habits of an addict, then I don’t know what they sound like.

I know that some of you are might be getting a little critical with me at this point. I’ve heard it before when I bring this up. I am fully aware that the American Medical Association does not currently consider video game addiction to be an official DSM-IV diagnosis. This is clearly documented on the web. The AMA moves slowly on officially declaring something an official diagnosis (which is more than fair), but that does not change what I (and many others) am dealing with.

The Point:

If you are reading this column, then you likely know someone who is dealing with this right now (it might even BE you). I am writing this to encourage everyone to be aware of it. This is a sickness that often goes unnoticed and can cause irreparable harm. I spent so much time plugged in that I almost lost my wife. If it wasn’t for her and some of my closest friends I don’t know if I ever would have pulled myself away. Someone you know might need that kind of help.

There is a full list of symptoms for video game addiction here. I recommend that you take a look at it. It might open your eyes to things that haven’t occurred to you yet.

Each of us bears a responsibility to our friends, our family and to ourselves. Many of us would refuse to stand idly by if our friend was suffering from alcoholism and while we may have trouble seeing the parallels on the surface they are strikingly similar problems. If you see someone that behaves like I did, or fits any of the symptoms listed on that site… you need to talk to them.

I know that I am grateful for the help I was given. I sure your friends will be grateful too.

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The Strong Museum of Play is Rochester, NY just announced the first six inductees to the World Video Game Hall of Fame!

Those six inductees were chosen from a field of 15 nominees that included games like Angry Birds, Oregon Trail, and FIFA Soccer.

The first class of inductees includes:

  • Pong
  • Pac-Man
  • Tetris
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • DOOM
  • World of Warcraft

When I started writing this article I was hoping to be able to choose one the definitive champion, but after a lot of hand-wringing I surrendered. Each one of these games was a game changer in their own right and did a lot to move the video game industry closer to its present greatness.

Pong helped to popularize the arcade cabinet that _pretty much_ started it all.

Pac-Man was the first true mascot. It was a game with someone to root for, even if it was a weird cheese wheel looking thing.

Tetris was the first true endless puzzle game and without it we likely would not have had Bejeweled, Candy Crush Saga, Threes, or any of the other myriad puzzle games over the years.

Super Mario Bros. needs no introduction. They took the platforming genre and put it right into our living rooms and has helped keep it there for decades.

DOOM may not be a favorite among parents of the day, but it was the first game to feature online multiplayer servers and bring them to the masses. Online infrastructure is a very big deal for so many games now that I am hard pressed to imagine a world without it.

World of Warcraft took the EverQuest model and made it accessible to the masses. At one point the collective WoW population was so large it could apply for recognition with the UN.

Did your favorite make the cut? Sound off in the comments below!

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Blizzard Entertainment

Available online and on iPad (Coming to Android in the future)

 

Overall Review

I am… was… a man of principle. I was not going to play Hearthstone. I didn’t care that everywhere I looked I heard about its deep strategy, its colorful graphics and sound, and the lure of opening packs. I refused to try it. This was a free-to-play game and I stand for Truth, Justice, and the Console way!

But as the official release grew ever closer, I could feel the desire building. When, at last, a version came to the iPad, I took my first baby steps into a world of gaming I’d not been in since dabbling in Magic: The Gathering back in college.

Hearthstone is a digital CCG (collectible card game) in which you collect cards, build decks, and battle friends and strangers alike. Cards are bought with either 100 in-game “gold” earned through daily challenges or with real money ($2.99 for two packs and up). It’s the fairness of this system that really won me over. Each day you get a challenge, usually worth 40 gold, that might require you to win three games as a certain Warcraft class themed deck, or perhaps deal 100 damage to enemies. Most of these can be done the same day and that equates to a new pack of cards every two to three days. There is also a crafting system that allows you to “disenchant” cards you don’t want into “dust” and use it to create new cards. You can easily play this game seriously and never pay a dime, or you can spend money if you want. It’s a free-to-play game that didn’t make me feel icky.

Hearthstone has a simple premise. Collect cards to build decks and battle others. The cards come in five levels of rarity: free, common, rare, epic, and legendary. As rarity increases so to does the cards power and potential to impact the game. Each card pack contains five cards and at least one of them is guaranteed to be a rare or better. Depending on your luck, you might get additional rares, epics, or legendaries, with a legendary being on par with winning the lottery (that might be a smidgen of exaggeration, but in my months of playing I’ve only found one legendary). You might also get a gold card of any rarity, which are nicely animated and can be disenchanted for a lot of dust.

The point of collecting all these cards is to build a 30-card deck based on one of the eight champions: Warrior, Shaman, Rogue, Paladin, Hunter, Druid, Warlock, Mage, and Priest. Each has a Hero Power that can be used once per turn for 2 mana (we’ll get to mana later). For example, the Hunter can deal two damage to the opponent’s hero or the Warlock can take two damage and draw a card. Each hero is based off a legendary character from the World of Warcraft ethos.  If you like WoW, you’ll know immediately who these heroes are. If you’re like me and have never touched WoW, they are still very cool. While each hero has a pool of class specific cards, there is a much larger pool of Neutral cards that can be used with all classes.

The “mana” system is what you use to play cards. Each card has a cost in the upper left corner, and if you have enough mana you can play it. You start turn one with 1 mana, and each turn after that you get another until you reach the maximum 10 mana per turn. Each turn the pool is refreshed for your playing pleasure. There are also some cards that can affect the mana pool.

When you first start up Hearthstone, after the obligatory account sign up, you are given a single hero, Jaina Proudmoore the Mage. With her you will face a series of tutorials cleverly disguised as battles. Overcome these trials and you’ll unlock the Play area, where you can play ranked games or casual ones. Win in Ranked (also called the Ladder) and you’ll move from level 25 down to 1 and finally Legend, or you can spend your time experimenting in Casual without consequence. When you grow tired of Mage, you can go into Practice mode and battle each of the other CPU-controlled classes to unlock them. Unlock them all and you’ll open a new play area, the Arena.

“The Arena” is a mode where you pick one of three presented classes. Then you get thirty 1-out-of-3 choices to build your deck and off you go to face one online player after another. Lose three matches and you’re out. Win and you get a pack of cards, and maybe some additional gold or dust. Keep winning and your prizes get bigger and bigger. Entry into the Arena costs either 150 gold, or $1.99. Since a pack of cards alone costs 100 gold, it’s often a better deal to save just a bit more for the chance at bigger gains.

A description of Hearthstone’s mechanics doesn’t give justice to the immaculate craftsmanship Blizzard has pulled off here. Each card is played to their own intro. Whether flashy or subtle, they all have a personality and a weight. The cards feel real, and when you see a large minion slam to the ground with a web of cracked earth, you know you just made something significant happen. Beyond the beauty is a deep strategy that is oh so satisfying when you pull off that amazing combo that shatters your opponent. (Literally! If you beat your opponent and their icon break into pieces). 200+ games in and I’m still learning new things every time I play.

Family Gaming Assessment

This game is built on attacks and aggression. Weapons abound, and violence is accentuated by the card portraits, the (well developed) quips of the minions as you play them, and the animations when damage is dealt. Also, the themes of many card portraits and some of the attack descriptions have a dark almost horror theme.

As with many other entries into the Fantasy genre, Hearthstone is sometimes guilty of showing excessive skin in its character portraits for both heroes and cards. Think excessive cleavage, men in loincloths, that sort of thing. However, they are certainly less guilty than many entries and I found it remarkably subdued for the genre.

Playability Assessment

The game play itself might frustrate younger players, especially considering it has frustrated me enough times. Each turn presents several complex choices that must be made with a timed turn and a thorough understanding of what each card is doing is necessary to play the game effectively.

Players will need to be able to read well and have strong reading comprehension to be able to play this game at all.

Conclusion

This is a free-to-play game so I recommend that everyone who likes the idea of a digital CCG game to give it a try. Iam loving it!

The Future

Blizzard is releasing an update to Hearthstone, Curse of Naxxramas, and it is expected as early as this month. This expansion will introduce thirty new cards into the game through single player adventures. Look for more on Naxxramas and the world of Hearthstone in future articles.

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Family Gaming For Less Part 2 – Hardware Options

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. Last time we talked about where to buy your games and how to save money buying them. 

This time it’s all about the hardware!

Windows PC

Maintaining multiple gaming PCs can be time consuming and expensive. This may work for families with a Windows computer technician in house. When planning your gaming budget keep in mind the cost of hardware upgrades.

There are solutions to play your office computer in the family room. The Steam Link and Nvidia Shield both support this feature. There are limitations and network requirements however so investigate further if this sounds useful.

Mac

Both Steam and GOG support Mac computers. Maintaining multiple Mac computers is easier than Windows PCs for most people. Many games are not available on Mac though. Available games often run slower or with fewer graphical features.

Nintendo Switch

The Switch costs US$300 and has a strong selection of games. Many games on the Switch allow you to share its standard “Joy-Con” controllers for couch co-op multiplayer sessions. This can be awkward for large hands because the Joy-Con is physically small. The Switch Joy-Con controllers are the most expensive at US$80 MSRP. Nintendo also offers a “Pro” controller similar in design to the Xbox and PlayStation controllers. The Pro controller retails for US$70.

The Switch uses microSD cards for data storage. Smaller size microSD cards are inexpensive at 64GB for less than US$20. Prices rise significantly for the cards with the most storage. Switch physical cartridges also require microSD storage for patches. Families planning large Switch game libraries should consider the cost of digital game storage versus the convenience.

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 costs US$300 and has the biggest installed base of modern consoles. It is often the best choice for multiplayer gaming outside the family. There is a limited selection of couch multiplayer games and each player must have their own US$60 MSRP controller. PlayStation 4 owners cannot play online games with players on Xbox One or Switch.

The PlayStation allows you to use a single external USB 3 hard drive to expand the internal storage. This drive can be up to 8TB in size. You cannot use a USB hub to connect the external drive. Once formatted it is only readable by the PlayStation. Moving the drive requires ejecting it from the PlayStation settings menu first. PlayStation supports copying games between the internal console and external hard drive storage.

PlayStation uploads saved games only from the primary console. This is a problem for families using multiple consoles! Accessing saved games requires multiple steps on both consoles. PlayStation limits online storage to 10GB of saved data per user.

The PlayStation 4 supports “remote play” – where a PC, Mac, Vita, or PlayStation TV can access the PlayStation in the same house or over the Internet. The feature requires a PlayStation 4 controller and free software download for PC and Mac. Local and remote players can only play the same game together. Remote Play prevents the PlayStation from playing another game.

Microsoft Xbox

Xbox One S consoles are US$300. There are limited couch multiplayer games on Xbox – similar in quantity to the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One is less popular than the PlayStation 4. This can be a problem when trying to play older multiplayer games online since there are fewer potential players. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers cannot play online games together. Some specific titles do support playing with Switch, Windows PC, and mobile.

Controllers are US$60 MSRP. Microsoft offers a custom controller design option as well for US$70 where you can choose various color options to create a unique controller. This can make a fantastic gift!

Xbox also supports two unique controller options. Copilot allows two controllers to both fully control a single game. This is a great option for a younger player who needs a little help. It is also popular with gamers with disabilities. Even more exciting is the Xbox Adaptive Controller. This uses industry standard assistive devices to connect to a controller base, enabling a range of new options for gamers with disabilities.

Xbox supports attaching two external USB 3 hard drives. Each drive can be up to 8TB in size. Attaching two smaller drives is a cost effective choice as well since they are often inexpensive. Once formatted a drive is only readable by Xboxes. You can move the drive between Xboxes by unplugging the drive.

The Xbox supports moving games between drives on the same system and between Xboxes on the same network. This can save money on metered Internet connections. One Xbox can copy games to other consoles.

The Xbox synchronizes saved games to the cloud so switching between Xbox consoles is painless. Launching a game first time on a new console and it downloads the saved game. Updating saved games occurs in the background while playing. Storage for this saved game syncing is unlimited.

A free Windows 10 Xbox app allows remote play with an Xbox console at home. The Xbox can only play one game at a time however.

Mixed Platforms and Cross Play

Playing together using multiple video game platforms has limitations. Most games rely on the video game console or Steam multiplayer services. Only games with “cross play” features can play together across different systems. A “party” – a group of people like a family – playing together is often a separate consideration; not all cross play games support cross parties.

Fortnite, Rocket League, and Minecraft are the most popular games with crossplay. Rocket League plans to add cross-party play in late 2018. These games support Xbox, Switch, PC, and – excepting Rocket League – even mobile devices. Absent from any cross play is PlayStation. Sony has so far not made cross play possible according to developers.

A more limited version of cross play is Microsoft’s “Xbox Play Anywhere” and “cross platform” programs. Xbox Play Anywhere provides a license for both the Xbox and Windows 10 version of the game with a digital purchase. A single account shares the game with all users on the computer. With an Xbox and Windows 10 PC this can save money! However, the small game selection limits the usefulness of Xbox Play Anywhere.

Not all Xbox Play Anywhere titles support cross platform multiplayer. Look for these features on the game’s store page. Some examples of games with Xbox Play Anywhere and cross-play are: Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizons 3, and Ark: Survival Evolved.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part three soon!!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Family Gaming For Less!  Part 1 – Where to Buy Games!

We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories. 

We’ll be paying special attention to saving money when playing on multiple systems in the same house.

That’s because finding enjoyable couch co-op games is challenging. Finding couch co-op games suitable for the entire family is an epic quest! Many games now support multiplayer exclusively online with only one player per system. Families are increasingly purchasing one console per family member. It isn’t uncommon to have a house with several Xboxes anymore.

Video game system prices have dropped in recent years but multiple gaming consoles is still an expensive proposition! Picking the right gaming platform can save thousands over the lifetime of that system.

The Game Stores

The first, and probably most important decision, is where you will by your games. There are several online platforms or “digital stores” selling games online. The games they sell don’t have discs or cartridges. They exist only as files on your computer or console. The online stores use Digital Rights Management (DRM) to control how you can use their downloaded games.

These are small details that might not seem important, but you need to know and understand them in order to stretch your budget.

Windows – Steam

Steam is an online store that sells digital games for PC, Mac, and Linux. Steam provides a guide to enable Family Sharing. This feature enables sharing your game library with up to five family members. Only one person at a time can use the library however.

Logging in to Steam kicks other users out after a few minutes. Multiplayer requires purchasing a copy of each game for each player.

Steam games are often on sale. Many games are 20% off at launch, which is appealing on its own.. There are also several Steam sales throughout the year (a Summer sale in May and a Winter Sale in January for example).

You can also buy digital games for use on the Steam platform on other sites. Websites like Humble Store and GreenManGaming sell “game keys” composed of strings of number and letters. You can use these keys to add the game to your Steam library.

The competitive marketplace keeps prices low, but purchasing 4 copies, even at 20% off, is not the most cost effective option.

Windows – GOG

An alternative to Steam is GOG. This is a service that offers DRM-free PC games. GOG games are downloaded as ZIP files or using an optional client named GOG Galaxy. The client downloads, installs, and updates games. It is possible to purchase games from GOG once and copy them to multiple computers since they are DRM free. This isn’t a perfect solution because some games require GOG Galaxy for multiplayer. If that is the case, then each player must have their own copy of the game.

Games using the Steam multiplayer system can only be sold through the Steam store. GOG has made it easy for game developers to use the GOG multiplayer system instead. Usually playing the GOG version of a game means playing with only other GOG customers. That’s fine – maybe even preferable – for family gaming. It will, however, cause frustration if you try to play with friends who own the Steam version of a game. You won’t be able to see those Steam friends!

Editor’s note: GOG used to be called Good Old Games because they focused on keeping older games playable on modern PC operating systems. They recently changed their name to GOG and I had no idea until Adrian corrected me. Just goes to show… I don’t know EVERYTHING. 😉

Nintendo eShop

The Switch is an appealing platform. The same games can be played on the TV at home or on the go. And Switch has a great library of family friendly couch co-op games. But multiple Switch consoles is a budget buster for many families. Nintendo’s DRM restricts digital games to a single console, even when online. Playing together requires that each family member own a copy of the game.

PlayStation Store and Xbox Store

Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles have similar DRM policies. They allow an account to play a purchased digital game on the “primary” or “home” console. Each account picks a single, specific console as home. This can be the same console for multiple accounts. Sony and Microsoft permit the home console to change only a few times however.

Each account can simultaneously play a purchased game on the home console and any other console while online. Buying two copies of a game allows four family members to play – including multiplayer! This is known as “Game Sharing”. This works with two consoles and even four – with two copies of games. 

Buying Multiple Copies of Games

Rewards

There are easy ways to save money on games for any platform. There are free rewards programs available: Nintendo Gold Points, Sony Rewards, and Microsoft Rewards. Each offers about 1% of purchases back as points. You can then redeem points for gift cards or other rewards. Make sure to check the program details as they each have their own quirks.

For example, you earn points using Bing web search and by completing surveys in the Microsoft program. There are many rewards available, including Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass memberships at discounted prices. Many people find they can pay for a year of both Xbox Live and Game Pass membership just by using Bing search daily.

Sales and Wishlists

Look for the weekly digital game sales on your platform of choice. Savings range from 25% to 75% off. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus often save an additional 10% on sale items. Xbox Live Gold members have a special weekly sale. Patience pays off as most games will go on sale at least once a year.

If you don’t have time to track the weekly sales you can still save. Steam, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo’s eShop for Switch all have wishlist features in their digital game stores. Steam will even email you when something on your wishlist is on sale! There are also many third party sites which offer price tracking like IsThereAnyDeal for Steam, TrueAchievements for Xbox One, and TrueTrophies for PlayStation. Each sites offers multiple notification options. These sites require an account to track your wishlist.

Saving on Digital Games

Using specific payment options can also save money.

Sony offers the Sony Card with 5X points (~5%) on entertainment purchases, including those from the PlayStation Store. The credit card company deposits points in the linked Sony Rewards account each month. This discount stacks with the rewards points earned from purchases via Sony’s digital game store. Redeem points for PlayStation gift cards.

Families may already have a Target Red credit or debit card, offering 5% off purchases at Target. This discount applies to gift cards. Target charges an additional 5% on digital gift cards delivered by email however. Saving requires a trip to the store.

Amazon offers the Amazon Prime Store credit card with 5% back on purchases at Amazon. You must be a paying Amazon Prime member to qualify. Amazon offers Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox digital gift cards delivered by email.

Remember gift cards are not subject to sales tax. And the discounted gift cards “stack” with any game sales for more savings!

Gifting Games

Gifting digital games is available on Steam and the Xbox Store. This is helpful as it allows you to maintain a single account with funds. Use this “primary” account to purchase games for the whole family and gift them to your children’s accounts. This also serves as an anti-fraud measure, because you won’t have to add a payment method to your children’s accounts.

Microsoft rewards points are also in a single account when using this approach with Xbox for faster accumulation. Microsoft parental controls also support “request to purchase” on child accounts. However, you can only gift DLC as “request to purchase” does not work. In-game currency such as Fortnite V-bucks require purchasing from the child account. In this situation you can apply a gift card to your child’s account only for the needed amount. Microsoft has said they are working to improve the process.

PlayStation and Xbox Online Services

PlayStation and Xbox require a paid membership subscription to play games online named Sony PlayStation Plus and Microsoft Xbox Live Gold. Each costs US$60 per year. Alternate subscription lengths are also available. Buying a membership for one account will enable online play for anyone logged into that player’s primary or home console. The paying account can also play online from any console while logged into the Internet.

Subscription Services

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft has a Netflix-style service dubbed Xbox Game Pass for US$10 per month. This offers a library of “over 100” games available for download. Game Pass games are available to anyone on the purchaser’s home console. The paying account can also play these games from any console while logged into the Internet.

With Game Pass for the family you have games everyone can play together. Microsoft has stated games they publish will remain in the library. Microsoft adds or removes other games periodically. Game Pass offers a sliding discount up to 20% to buy games in the library based on the game’s age. Game Pass games don’t include DLC but there is a 10% discount to buy it. The Game Pass discount only applies to full price games and DLC.

It is worth mentioning that not all games in Game Pass are family friendly, nor are they all multiplayer titles. Some are older Xbox 360 games that play on Xbox One but lack the high resolution and performance of newer games. There are multiple games from many genres including multiplayer family favorites Zoo Tycoon, Rocket League, and Lego Star Wars. The complete list is available here.

EA Access for Xbox

EA Access is a subscription specific to game publisher EA. It is available for US$30 per year on Xbox One only. Sports gamers can enjoy last year’s version of EA’s Madden, FIFA, hockey, and basketball games. EA also makes Battlefield, Need for Speed, and Plants vs. Zombies series which all have games included. Overall EA Access offers a smaller and older selection of games compared to Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass includes none of EA’s games.

EA Origin Access Basic and Premiere for PC

EA Origin is the PC counterpart to EA Access on Xbox. There are two levels available: Basic and Premiere. Basic is a separate PC-only subscription also for US$30 per year. The game selection is similar to EA Access on Xbox One but includes games from other publishers.

EA Origin Access Premiere is US$15 per month and adds newly EA published games immediately. This can be appealing for gamers who buy several EA titles for PC each year.

Sony PlayStation Now

PlayStation has the PlayStation Now service for US$30 for three months. This offers a library of games for PlayStation 3 plus a few for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4. The service streams gameplay across the Internet rather than downloading games to the console. For any multiplayer games you will need a great Internet connection to support four or even two players. Instead of streaming games over the Internet it is rumored Sony will add support for downloading Playstation 4 games to a Playstation 4 console. PlayStation families should check back in the coming months for updates.

Xbox Backward Compatibility

One budget-friendly option for families is backward compatibility on Xbox One. Simply insert a supported original Xbox or Xbox 360 game disc into the Xbox One. The console downloads a small update and the games are ready to play. The list of Backward Compatible games is available from Xbox Community Manager Major Nelson’s site.

There are several sources for inexpensive used Xbox 360 game discs. eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon all sell used Xbox 360 games. This can be a cost effective way to expand your family game library. Also, digital copies of almost all backward compatible games are available in the Xbox store.

Game Sharing and Always Online

Game sharing lets you use digital game licenses on two consoles simultaneously. This is key to economical family gaming on both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. Xbox accounts have a home console. Similarly for PlayStation accounts there is a primary console. Changing the home console is possible only a few times.

The home or primary console can always play games. The second console must be always online and connected to the Internet. If the Internet is not available then the console will not be able to play purchased digital games. If PlayStation Network or Xbox Live are down the second console will also be unable to play. This has ruined Christmas for some people.


That was a whole lot of info right? And we aren’t even close to done! Come check back for part two tomorrow!


About the Author

Adrian Luff is a lifelong video gamer with three video game obsessed boys and a very understanding wife. He is fortunate enough to have worked in the video game industry for over 20 years building online services for multiplayer gaming. He worked on servers for Battle.net used by the Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft games. He also designed the launch infrastructure for World of Warcraft. Adrian leads a team of engineers building robust systems, infrastructure, and developer tools for Twitch.tv (a division of Amazon).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

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WoW_Battle_for_Azeroth_Art

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that Battle for Azeroth, the newest expansion for the hit MMO World of Warcraft, will launch this summer. Further, Blizzard went on to explain that the expansion to the hit MMO will be available for pre-purchase on the World of Warcraft website.

Battle for Azeroth will bring an entirely new dimension to the battle between the Horde and the Alliance. The expansion will include a new continent to explore for each faction as well as brand-new game play features including allied races for each faction, new randomized island expansions,  and large-scale encounters called Warfronts.

One of the key features among those listed above is the inclusion of Allied Races. These are factions that existed as part of the game previously, but were limited to NPC roles. You’ve been able to do battle with Dark Iron Dwarves in the past.  In fact, they were the main enemies in some areas in the game. In the new expansion, however, they are able to join the Alliance and help them fight against their enemies. The same is true of the Zandalari trolls and their ability to join the Horde.

Players who choose to level up new characters and the expansion will be able to take advantage of newly revamped zones that will take them from level 1 to 100. Questing experience has been changed entirely. This new experience is built upon the popular feature that was introduced on the Broken Isles in the most recent expansion Legion. Zones across Azeroth, Outland, and Draenor  will now scale to a wide range of character levels. This makes it so that players can enjoy the quests stories and other content that they find there at their own pace.

The days of having to leave a quest line half finished because it’s no longer providing you experience are now over. You will be able to continue to earn all the experience that you need while completing quests that you are interested in. This is an interesting and exciting new addition to people that are interested in playing World of Warcraft as a role-playing game instead of racing through the original parts of the game just to see their way to the end as quickly as possible.

Standard and Deluxe Digital Edition

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is available for pre-purchase digitally in a Standard Edition that costs $49.99 and a Digital Deluxe Edition the cost $69.99 in addition to the expansion the Digital Deluxe Edition also includes a cache of in-game bonuses that allow you to proudly proclaim it your allegiance to the Horde or the Alliance in a variety of Blizzard games. These digital goods include the following:

  • World of Warcraft – “Charge into battle astride the Seabraid Stallion (Alliance) and Gilded Ravasaur (Horde) mounts, and explore new frontiers with Tottle, the baby Tortollan pet, at your side.”
  • Hearthstone – “After a rough day on the front, rest up at the tavern and play a few hands of Hearthstone with your hot new Azeroth Is Burning card back.”
  • StarCraft II –  “Make your mark on distant worlds with Horde- and Alliance-themed sprays.”
  • Heroes of the Storm – “Roar onto the Battlegrounds of the Nexus riding your Primal Flamesaber, a fiery new mount with three variants.”
  • Overwatch – “Champion your faction on the battlefields of tomorrow with Horde and Alliance voice lines for Torbjörn and emotes for Tracer; sprays featuring Anduin, Sylvanas, Jaina, and Varok Saurfang; and player icons representing Kul Tiras and Zandalar.”

Complete Feature List

The full list of features in the expansion is as follows:

  • Explore Two Fabled Kingdoms – “As a champion of the Horde, travel to the empire of Zandalar to persuade the trolls to lend their naval might. As a defender of the Alliance, venture to the seafaring kingdom of Kul Tiras, home of Jaina Proudmoore, and rally its inhabitants to fight for your cause.”
  • Recruit Allied Races – “Take a new form for your adventures as several new playable Allied Races, each with unique racial abilities. Earn the favor of the Highmountain tauren, Void elves, Dark Iron dwarves, and others to create a new character of that race and add their strength to your faction.”
  • Plunder the Islands of the Great Sea – “Set out on Island Expeditions and conquer an ever-changing array of enemies, environments, and objectives. Battle in groups of three as you race against cunning rival intruders—or enemy players—to collect each island’s resources and fuel the war effort.”
  • Charge Into a Warfront –  “Fight on the battlefields of a large-scale, 20-player cooperative Warfront to claim a key strategic location. Capture resources to build your faction’s forces, lead the charge as your troops lay siege to objectives, and fight the enemy commander to claim victory in this new PvE mode inspired by classic Warcraft real-time strategy-game battles.”
  • Infuse Your Armor With Titanic Might – “Seek out Azerite, an invaluable new resource that has emerged in the Burning Legion’s wake. Imbue the Heart of Azeroth—a legendary neck piece entrusted to each hero by Magni Bronzebeard—with Azerite to customize your armor with new powers and traits.”
  • Battle to Level 120 – “Trace the corruption of the Blood God to the Underrot, unearth the secrets of a lost titan vault, escape from the Drust Realm of the Dead, and more as you quest through 10 new levels—then continue to grow in power through new World Quests, raids, dungeons, and more.”

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne Has Released!

Developer: Blizzard

Platform: PC/Mobile/Tablet

Release Date: 8/10/17

Teaser Trailer:

Website

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone is one the first and most popular digital collectible card games. It was created as a spin-off of the popular Warcraft and World of Warcraft game series but has since taken on a life of its own. Hearthstone has set the tone for game design in online games the same way Magic the Gathering has influenced all other physical collectable card games.

Hearthstone is primarily a player against player game, where each player takes turns as they slowly collect mana crystals to play cards in their hand. These cards represent iconic Warcraft monsters, spells, items, and events that can be used to reduce the health of your opponent from 30 to 0. The art style and design is meant to bring out a very casual and relaxed feel. The vary name “Hearthstone” refers to the World of Warcraft item that let you return to the safety of an inn.

Where Magic: the Gathering distinguishes their cards using color to represent various themes and mechanics. Hearthstone cards are primarily divided into groups based on iconic Warcraft heroes and their classes. Players build a deck by selecting a hero and using cards based on that heroes’ class as well as a collection of neutral cards. Each hero also has a unique “hero power” that can be used once a turn to support their style of play. It is this combination of hero based deck building and the steady build up of resources to play cards that makes Hearthstone a lot easier of a game to play than Magic: the Gathering for some family gamers.

What also sets apart Hearthstone and other digital card games from their physical brethren is their free-to-play model of game expansion. Playing games as various heroes initially unlocks cards from that class and completing quests, tasks that require specific actions during a game, reward you with coins that can be used to purchase more packs of cards. While you can use money to purchase additional packs, daily quests and a weekly casual event known as a “Tavern Brawl” provide a steady stream of resources. There is also process for taking extra cards and turning them into a flexible resource for crafting specific cards. There is something satisfying to someone who has played for years with paper card games, to be able to turn a pile of extra cards into that elusive card.

What is Knights of the Frozen Throne?

Knights of the Frozen Throne is the 5th large expansion for Hearthstone. With this expansion comes cards that feature iconic characters and themes from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas the Lich King and his lieutenants of the Icecrown Citadel are available as creatures to summon along with legions of monsters and spells inspired by the treacherous Northrend.

 

Why is the Awesome?

A single player story mode featuring The Lich King himself will be available for all players. The challenge is a series of matches versus computer opponents with special hero cards and decks based on iconic villains of the Icecrown Citadel. Players who conquer this gauntlet of challenges are rewarded with a free legendary card that is a card type unique to this set…

Death Knight Hero Cards

This set features a new set of legendary cards that represent the nine iconic heroes falling under the sway of the Lich King. These cards have an immediate effect when they are played and replace each character’s hero power with an evil, and significantly more powerful, effect. Personally I am excited for the corrupted

Priest hero: Shadow Reaper Anduin

Rarity adjustments geared towards newer players

While announced several weeks ago, this set marks the starting of new features that are geared towards newer players. A legendary card is guaranteed to be opened in the first ten packs of any set purchased, and duplicate legends will never be opened. If a player would open a legendary that a player already has, the game replaces it with a different legendary that the player does not own. These changes were made in response to player feedback on the frustration of opening duplicate legends or very few epic or legendary cards at all.

Lifesteal, a familiar mechanic comes to Hearthstone

Players of Magic: The Gathering and other card games will know this by names like Lifelink and Drain. Cards with Lifesteal heal your hero for as much damage as they deal. This ability is put on creatures and spells, and some death knight hero cards give lifestealing weapons or hero powers. While life gain by itself is not a strong ability, pairing it with a creature or a removal spell can never be a bad thing.

 

Divine Shield and Deathrattle

Two mechanics that are at the core of Hearthstone are getting a large infusion of cards from this set.

Divine Shield is an ability on a minion that prevents all damage from the first time it is attacked or hit by a spell. Not only are there a lot of divine shield minions that have been added, but several paladin cards benefit from divine shield minions going into the fray.

 

 

Deathrattle is an ability that happens when that minion dies, and Knights of the Frozen throne has a lot of creatures that care about when they die. New to the theme are creatures that care when they die and punish opponents who aggressively destroy your creatures.

 

Why should you pick up this game?

Hearthstone, and its recent expansion Knights of the Frozen throne, is a game that is easy to learn and play for computers, tablets and mobile devices. It offers one of the best free to play experiences around and its short games are perfect for gaming opportunities when time is short or physical space is limited. With it being an online only game, it is important to note that chat and social interactions are opt in, which is important for younger family gamers.

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You Asked… So We Found 19 Awesome Video Game Themed Fidget Spinners
Fidget Spinners are all the rage right now. So much so, in fact, that they are being banned in many schools across the country. With that said, we know that a lot of people are looking for custom spinners to help suit their interests. Below is a list of video game themed fidget spinners that we found on Etsy.com. They vary wildly by price, but they all look super sweet. Take a look below!
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Blizzard Announces Overwatch One Year Anniversary Celebration!

It is hard to imagine, but Overwatch is still less than a year old. That all changes next week though. Blizzard has announced that they will be celebrating their new baby’s first birthday with a massive anniversary celebration that will run from May 23rd through June 12th.

The event will kick off on May 23rd with the digital release of the Overwatch: Game of the Year Edition. It will launch simultaneously on PS4, Xbox One, and PC and will include the following:

  • 10 Bonus Loot Boxes
  • Blackwatch Reyes and Strike-Commander Morrison skins
  • Tracer in Heroes of the Storm
  • Baby Winston Pet in World of Warcraft
  • Mercy’s Wings in Diablo III
  • In-game portraits of Tracer, Reaper, Pharah, Winston, Bastion, and Soldier: 76 in StarCraft II
  • A Hearthstone card back

They haven’t made any official announcements yet, but generally celebrations in online games like this include special events and skins. I expect we will hear all about that shortly.

Blizzard also announced that May 26th – May 29th (Memorial Day Weekend in the States) will be a free weekend to give people a chance to try out the experience. Any progression earned by a player will carry over into the full game should they choose to buy it after the weekend is over.

 

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black pen and notebook on wooden table

Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!

This week we are going to define the game design term “gameplay loop.” This is, admittedly, a heavier word than we have defined before, but understanding what a gameplay loop is will help understand the games that our kids (and we) play a great deal!


A Gameplay Loop is a game design term that is used to describe the repetitive activities that a player will take while playing a game. It, essentially, defines what the player DOES while playing. Every level you complete in Super Mario Run, Pokemon you catch in Pokemon Go, and level you gain in Final Fantasy XV is an example of one (or more) gameplay loops.

Example

One gameplay loop example from a shooting game might work like this: (Shout out to Morten Grauballe for the killer example.)

  • a target appears
  • you aim at the target
  • you pull the trigger
  • the projectile moves towards the target
  • you hit the target
  • the target loses life

This is a “core” gameplay loop because, with a shooter, this is the activity that a player will be doing most often. It is worth noting, though, that games will often have more than one loop going at the same time. This is especially true in more complex games like RPGs.

Take a look a this example of a gameplay loop you might take from the game World of Warcraft. This is very complex game so each of these steps might include several other smaller loops that players would complete in the process.

  • You enter a new zone
  • You gather all of the quests from all of the different NPCs in the first quest hub
  • You move around the zone completing quest objectives
  • You return to the quest hub
  • You turn in all of the quests you have completed and collect your rewards
  • You move to the next quest hub
  • … and so on.

Thinking critically about the games our kids play and the way that our kids play them provides great insight. It is also a great way to connect with them. You’ll understand the games they enjoy better. You might even enjoy them a little better too!

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