Monday, November 18, 2019

Good News vs. Bad News

Good News: I just got back from a trip in San Antonio, Texas and it's a beautiful city to walk through. It has a river system surrounded by walkways that rolls through the heart of the city. The landscaping and architecture is almost Disney World-esque. The food and the weather were decent enough.

Bad News: I got the flu on the plane.

Good News: Planes are loud enough that people in the cabin won't hear you violently throwing up in the plane's lavatory.

Bad News: That's probably not true, and the poor people in the backrow were just being very polite.

Good News: Being bed-stricken leaves plenty of time of for playing Dragon Quest on my Switch.

Bad News: A nasty case of the spins means I'm lucky not to just drop the Switch on my face.

Good News: I felt better on Sunday to give Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night a try on Xbox Game Pass.

 Okay News: So far it's just kinda okay.

I only made it an hour and a half in due to my flu-derived madness so this is not a complete review. I also have never beat Symphony of the Night, but I played through all the Game Boy Advance Castlevanias so I do believe I have a decent background in these types of games.

The first thing I noticed was just how bad the graphics are for a game that's not too overly ambitious in this department. There is a lack of anti-aliasing that very prominent here. The options menus says it uses a form of AA but it must be a very low-resource intensive version of it. 

The jaggies are very prominent even when playing on my 1920x1080 monitor. Additionally, this game has a lot of clipping.

The main's character's feet seem to clip through just about most floors in the game. This has me worried about how accurate the hitboxes are for actual attacks, although my playthough hasn't shown that to be too awkward on the surface.

I think the game's overall art style looks pretty good. I was getting some gothic Trine feelings from the game.

The actual gameplay seems fine. Castlevania has always felt a little bit unresponsive to me. I tend to prefer a more Mega Man or Super Meat Boy level of tightness to character movement that Castlevania is not necessarily about. That's a preference thing, but one that tends to stick with me.

I feel that I've barely scratched the surface into any of the game's systems so far, and most of the enemy types are just copy and pastes from the Castlevania series. So I'll have more to say on this once I get further along.


Hopefully I feel better enough today to get more gametime in. Although, I'm very, very behind in housework at the moment as well. I'm also playing through Dragon Quest 1 on the Switch, but by it's nature, there's not going to be a lot to say about it until I've completed it. I also have about 800 posts in the RSS reader to catch up on.

I have a very busy day planned.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Outer Worlds Complete

Previously, my excuse for not posting in a while was that ArcheAge wasn't inspiring me to say much about it. Now we have the opposite problem. During a busy week, my time was spent engrossed in The Outer Worlds instead of writing.

After approximately 24 hours of game time we've hit the final credits. I do believe I've hit just about every quest and experienced every major decision. Most people seem to have 30 hours for a complete run so I suppose it's possible I may have missed something, but I feel like I had a complete playthrough on Normal difficulty.

So I haven't really played Fallout 3/4/New Vegas so I don't have a great point of reference to compare Outer Worlds with. (I did play bits of Fallout 1/2/Tactics back in the day but I was young enough not to remember much of it.) But in a vacuum I thought it was a competent western RPG that occasionally rose up to great. The voice acting was top-notch for instance, but lacked the dedicated motion capture that Anthem had that really sold the talking bits. The combat was fine and fluid, but I don't feel like my skills or weapon choices had interesting impacts on what I was doing. The overall story was good, but nothing we hadn't really seen before. Some notable exceptions were some of the companion quests, with Vicar Max's questline as an unexpected peak.

Once I started dumping points into the various Dialogue stats, I found the writing rising to the occasion when it needed to. There is a "sorta secret ending" in the game that had me laughing so hard I was nearly in tears. I can't remember the last time a video game did that. The game is genuinely funny, and often (but not always) strings together coherent conversations regardless of how wild your inputs may be. Your choices in the game have some obvious cause and effect that is enjoyable to see play out. However, there are couple of points, one major one in particular, where the game takes a baffling turn in response to one of your choices you are forced to make. I don't want to go into spoilers, and not everyone's play through will run into this, but it was a clear case of the developers wanting to create a cool event and then backing the dialogue choices into causing it.

It was a fun run, particularly when I effectively spent $1 on it. I tend to grade things on a 5-star system.
  • 5 - A game so good even people who normally don't play video games should give it a try.
  • 4 - A game everyone who owns a console or a decent computer should at least give it a shot.
  • 3 - A game that fans of a particular genre or IP should give a go.
  • 2 - A game that can probably be ignored by everyone.
  • 1 - A game so bad that you have to play it.
I think Outer Worlds is something like a 3.8, rounded up to 4. In a vacuum that's pretty darn good, particularly in a genre that can be as difficult to pull off as Western RPGs are. But considering how many RPGs I play nowadays are so encumbered by their business aspects, it's just refreshing to play a game, enjoy it, finish it, and uninstall it. I've longed for this pedestrian exchange many times on this blog, it's nice to have it fully realized. The game was being developed before Microsoft's purchase of Obsidian added it to the Xbox Game Pass, but it's my hope that subscription services will let single player stories like this stand on their own again, without being swamped in microtransaction bullshit.

I'd like to go into detail about more Outer World specifics, but I'll give people a little bit more time to play through the game themselves. In the mean time, if you were on the fence and have a dollar to spare, I think it's well worth your time.

My goal for the month was to finish 5 Game Pass games. So far that's one down, which is not exactly on pace. Even worse, the next game that I picked up, F1 2018, isn't exactly a game you can "beat". It's a racing sim version of the real life Formula 1 racing series. I've enjoyed previously racing games by Codemasters before, but haven't paid much attention to Formula 1 in general since the 90s. Now that me and Mrs. Everwake have been watching cable again, I've been pleasantly surprised to enjoy some racing coverage on our early Sunday mornings. I've excited by it now, although the current season is almost over. That's probably for the best, as auto racing tends to be a little bit boring to watch, but much more fun to play. Anyways, I'm playing through a race weekend every day, so if I can finish up one full season of the game I'm going to consider that "complete".

Also a negative for my game completion goal: after I finish up this post I begin packing for a 5 day trip to Texas. A good opportunity to use my Switch and escape the Minnesota winter, but not an opportunity to do much PC gaming. I could take my laptop, but it mostly just runs Excel really well, and I suspect Microsoft hasn't added achievement for that program yet.

Either way, I imported a physical copy of the Dragon Quest 1+2+3 remaster for my Switch, and I'm looking forward to grinding out some levels during a very long layover. Going from Outer Worlds to Dragon Quest 1 is certainly some whiplash, but sometimes it's nice to have reminder about how far we've come.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Novemeber Goals - But Mostly Outer Worlds Talk

Last month I decided to try out the 'Goals for the Month' gimmick. It didn't go well. I didn't actually accomplish a singe goal. Yikes. In my defense that was mostly Blizzard imploding and me not wanting to stand in the blast radius. I also didn't get any traction in Breath of the Wild, stopping at my usual place about 5 hours in. I had to evacuate my flooded basement's contents to my workshop area, so fixing up the Japanese PlayStation 2 wasn't really possible.

It's easier to set goals in an MMO, so this post is bit harder to write than last month. ArcheAge didn't pan out in my opinion and so I mostly have Outer Worlds and Minecraft. I don't know enough about Minecraft to actually have goals, and I'm not inclined to look up to much as the exploration of game mechanics has been fairly compelling. 

I'm about 8 hours into Outer Worlds and having a good time. I'm actually enjoying the Bethesda-lite aspect of the game. The game world itself is as large as it needs to be, in contrast to Breath of the Wild which I've complained about as mostly filler. BotW's filler has a purpose, it lends a sense of size and gravitas to the world, but that hasn't translated into enjoyable gameplay. Outer Worlds is made of smaller levels. There seems to be exploration for those who are so inclined, but its also easy to get where you need to go and get on with the story, which is what I'm here for. 

And the story has been perfectly fine. Where BotW is about immersing yourself into the world, Outer Worlds is about immersing yourself into the people. It initially seemed odd to me that I would be so interested in character-based storytelling than world-based storytelling. In the real life meat space I operate in the complete opposite. But digital worlds have never held the same allure to me. My idea of a perfect vacation is to grab a hotel in the middle of city, drop off my stuff, and just start walking. Only Skyrim has ever given me that sort of pull in a video game. Video game worlds always feel a bit too designed for me. Real cities are never that well planned, and nature hikes certainly aren't. I'll admit it's not a strong reason, but it is how it is.

 I found the gameplay to be mostly fine. I find first-person melee to be clunky so I've went a full "Long Gun" build. The shooting is mostly fine, although it's clearly built around use of the slow-mo effect to hit constantly rotating weak points on enemy mobs. I often completely forget about the slow-motion mechanic, and just try to treat the game like a pure shooter. I do tend to play games the way I want, instead of the game that the developer's offer. Sometimes that leads to problems, but it's mostly fine here, at least on the Normal difficulty.

 I was up until 2 AM last night playing Outer Worlds, and I'm chomping at the bit to get back into it this morning. So I guess my goal is to finish the game before the end of the month, but I suspect that will not be much a problem. 

I think my goal is to play through at least 5 games on the Xbox Game Pass. I've always been a dabbler, playing a little bit of a game and then moving onto the next. Subscription services is likely to feed into that. But I do get great satisfaction out of a complete experience. It's not about getting my "money's worth", but more about being mindful of what I play. 

And maybe I'll finally get that PS2 fix up as well.

Friday, November 1, 2019

BlizzCon and Live Services

I didn't want to write too much about Blizzcon, partly because everyone else in your RSS feed is already doing that and mostly because I just feel very 'meh' about the company right now. But I thought the 'sorta apology' tied in well to my post from two days ago about game subscriptions. The apology that kicked off the festivities was fine. But we've heard some variation of "We hear you, and promise in the future to make it better" for as long as Blizzard has been a company. It might as well be their motto. It rarely matches with any actual action taken by the company. It is unusual that it was attached to the word 'sorry'. They don't usually break that word out until they've hit the 'mainstream press is noticing' level of notoriety.

(On a side note, I feel my usual ambivalence towards their actual announcements. My backlog is very full and my ability to care about games that I can't actually play yet just isn't there. That's been true for nearly 3 decades for me, so that's just business as usual.)

Back on track, in my last post I mentioned my excitement at game subscription services. A low monthly fee that acts as a content discovery vehicle is something that works for me. But Blizzcon does remind me of one negative aspect of these subscription services, as well as just any live service in general.

I cancelled my World of Warcraft subscription after the big brouhaha. As I mentioned in my post at the time it wasn't some form of formal boycott, nor did I feel like I was sending any sort of message towards Blizzard. Video games are entertainment and its hard to enjoy something tied to a company behaving badly towards something that actually matters. I removed WoW from hard drive to free up some much need disk space.

But GOG's rerelease of Warcraft 1 and 2, as well as Diablo 1 remained on that hard drive. Granted, I didn't play them, but I didn't remove their icons from my desktop either. Being tied to the hip with a misbehaving company on a subscription feels worse than having a static game. After all, I already paid for Warcraft 1. That deal is done. There is no outstanding relationship with Blizzard on that one.

But a subscription fee, or just a live game with microtransactions is a different deal. It's a relationship. But by it's nature it's always a one-sided one. My side of the relationship is an emotional one. I'm fulfilling my need to be entertained. Maybe more if we accept that video games are art and can deliver emotions beyond just bliss. But the company's side of this relationship is pure business. Sure there's some give-and-take. Microsoft wants to populate their service with games people want to play. That's acting on feedback from their playerbase, but only to the extent that it increases sub numbers.

Blizzard is in this place now as well. Blizzard hasn't been in the business of caring about player feedback in a non-business way for a while now (see the entirety of the Battle for Azeroth beta). Changes made to retail WoW are focused on increasing subs and nothing more. Blizzard leadership relented and shipped WoW Classic purely because it made too much fiscal sense not to.

This makes it either a one-sided relationship, or at least a very shallow one. Not a problem on the surface. But companies like Blizzard, Microsoft, etc. are motivated to pretend there is more to it than that. Blizzcon is a way to monetize product announcements marketed as a community event. As their CEO said during his apology, Blizzard is motivated to bring gamers together through 'epic entertainment'. Quite a grandiose statement. One that would be more believable if WoW's 15 year old social features were more robust than instant messaging programs from two decades ago. There is no 'higher standard' at Blizzard. There is no 'grand vision'. It's just a video game company that made it's name years ago because it was willing to put the spit shine on releases where other companies would have shipped subpar work out the door. That hasn't been the case for nearly a decade now.

Blizzard gets to charge a premium for its relationship with it's userbase. Blizzard gets to force users to use it's launcher to play its games, and innudate that launcher with it's own adds because of its relationship with it's userbase. It's a tangible, but emotional connection that means real dollars for the company. Blizzard had to make an apology because being perceived as special is worth real world dollars. Otherwise, 15 dollars for a WoW subscription, plus 50 dollars for an expansion every so often, doesn't make a lot of sense in the world of Game Passes, Humble Bundles, and Free to Play titles.

Live services and subscriptions have made content cheaper than ever and that forces companies to find something else to charge a premium for. For Microsoft, Game Pass will subsidize hardware sales and Gold Live subscriptions. For Blizzard, it's an emotional attachment to the IP and the company itself. For me, Blizzard lost the ability to charge that premium.

Users leaving a company because of various reasons has and will always be a thing. But for the next several years it seems most video game companies are really going to need to be on their best behavior and their reputation and reliability are going to matter more than it ever has.

I know this was more rambly than my usual posts, but this has been in the back of my mind for a while. I don't really want a closer relationship with random corporations. I'm perfectly content with purchasing a thing and then said company fucking off. But that's not really the reality for much of the current gaming landscape. Subscription services, I hope, are the way to make the best of that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

ArcheAge and Subscription Services

I think like a lot of people, I juggle various hobbies in my day to day life. What I have been noticing is that I tend to cycle through hobbies pretty consistently based on the year. The months of August-through October tend to be a pretty slow period for me when it comes to video games. I suspect the rise of college (American) football and enjoying the Fall weather tend to be the major culprits. Video game releases seem to be pretty slow usually as well, waiting to until the last week of October and November to release the big hitters.

The difference nowadays is that I have a video gaming blog so there is a new voice in the cacophony of my head telling me to pay more attention to the hobby so I have something to write about.

ArcheAge was an attempt at making that happen and it just didn't.

As I expected, the mandatory world PVP pretty much ended my time with the game. The main gameplay loop of very short battles followed by a whole lot of running wasn't endearing. Both the overarching storyline and the individual stories in each zone are so generic as to not exist. The housing and crafting weren't anything special either. Having overworld housing versus instanced housing doesn't really seem to change anything fundamentally in how I played. I just bought a real house in the past several months so all of my "nesting" efforts are going to that, not a digital equivalent.

The mandatory world PVP is honestly just bizarre. Like every other game with world PVP it comes down to numbers > ganking > gear to determine the outcome of every incident. It's been several decades now and it's still one of the most boring formulas we have in gaming today. ArcheAge brings nothing new to the table. It's clear the developers held no desire to make a good PVP game, they needed to distract from the anemic gameplay and give whales a since of purpose.

The positives of a game with an upfront cost and no subscription fee is that I can change my mind at anytime. I already emptied my bags and placed my character at the beginning of a new zone to ensure little to no friction when I start again. There's also effectively no storyline to care about, so there's no reason to worry about getting lost in the quest text. Compare this to Everquest II, a game possessing charm ArcheAge can only dream about, that I don't play because of the perquisite chores needed to get a character up to questing speed again. Clearing out full 55 slot bags, rereading through 6 hotbars of abilities, and skimming storyline summaries from the Wiki is a to do list, not a distraction.

Like many in my RSS feed, I took Microsoft up on its $1 Game Pass offer in order to get a hold of Outer Worlds. With only a couple of hours in the game I see no need to yet offer my thoughts, but I did want to talk about the concept of Subscription game services.

This weekend I bought yet another hard drive, an 8 TB external HDD that I will likely pull out of it's external enclosure and hook up internally inside my computer's case. I like to keep large portions of my game library installed so I can just jump in at any time. I'm also a bit of digital hoarder. I have about 100+ games on GOG and I keep them all backed up on a hard drive. I also run a Plex server and keep several terabytes of content ready to go at all times.

But I also have subscriptions to most major streaming services, Google Play Music, YouTube Red, Netflix, Amazon Video, PBS, HBO, etc. I usually rotate in an extra niche video streaming service when I can. The local library fills my need for books. And now add the explosion of gaming related subscription services to that list. I tend to use these subscription services as a content discovery system. Most stuff I watch/listen/play will just be consumed. But I will purchase a hard copy of anything I love.

Sometimes it's messier than that. I have zero problem paying for media, but not every industry and company presents their content in a consumer friendly way. I often use a site called MangaDex to read most Manga even though it's technically piracy. A subscription service for ten dollars a month that works on my Kindle would be a no-brainer for me. But that service doesn't exist. So instead, I read fan-translated copies and then hit Barnes and Noble for officially published work when they have their 2-for-1 sale. It's tough to feel bad for the Manga industry, if MangaDex and it's predecessors didn't exist than I would have simply ignored the whole industry and it would never have saw a dime from me, instead of the several hundred dollars I spend a year on it. Help me to help you and all that.

Video games were in a weird place when it came to subscription offerings before this year. The model had been tried before. I would subscribe to GameTap back in the day, even though it's shady business practices regularly got my credit card flagged as attempted fraud But the ability to try out a large number of games for a low monthly fee was an attractive proposition even in the mid-2000s. Brick and mortar rental stores (and GameFly) were also effectively the same thing, but those were in my childhood and college years, a low monthly fee wasn't for content discovery, that was just all the money I had.

Steam sales and Humble Bundles were effectively my subscription service. Purchasing decisions feel a bit less fraught when you could pay $2.50 for a 40-hour AAA title that was only 2 years old. Video game prices aren't quite as slim as they used to be, but you can get quite bit of quality hours/dollar ratio in the video gaming world.

But the equation has changed in a very decisive way now that video game subscription services are either the same price or less as a month of World of Warcraft. And I welcome it. I have nearly 2000 games spread across multiple digital frontends plus hard copy console games. I would own probably a tenth of that amount if subscription services had existed this past decade. Effectively, it's easier to know what I want when you make it easier to know what I want. No matter how cheap these games were, weeding out the "losers" for 15 a month would have been a valuable service.

Instead of spending $60+ on cable TV with ads, I can simply watch Netflix. Instead of driving to a Blockbuster that reeks of smoke to pay my late fees on a movie I can simply pull up Amazon Prime. Ten years ago I didn't even know what manga was, now I read it nearly every night as I fall to sleep. YouTube lets me watch highly polished videos about obscure topics that interest me. A service that flatout didn't exist when I was a boy. Today's entertainment landscape, at least for me, is in such a better place. This paradigm genuinely enriches how I spend my leisure hours.

I suppose this is just a long-winded way of saying that I'm genuinely very excited about the rise of subscription services in gaming. Granted, I reserve the right to withdraw my statement if this ends up killing traditional single-player games, but I suspect it will not. There are cracks in the armor. Nintendo killing off it's virtual console releases for the Nintendo Online subscription is worrisome. But those games were better off emulated anyways. But in general, I think this is the biggest change in the video game industry since the rise of Steam and digital storefronts. I think this will have a positive impact on how I play games on a day to day basis. And maybe I'll be less likely to fall into my yearly rut when it comes to excitement about video games.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ArchAge Unchained

So I went in blind on the recent ArcheAge Unchained released. I know next to nothing about the game and never played its previous incarnation. In brief my thoughts on the game are simple: every time I sat down to write a blog post I ended up wandering away and doing something else. Needless to say, it's not made much of an impression.

That's not entirely fair, but it's close enough. I had to actually log in again real quick to figure out what level I had reached (28). So far the game has been as cookie cutter as one can get. Accept a quest from a NPC, walk 100 feet to kill or collect, walk back and turn in, get breadcrumb to next quest, repeat.

There are some storyline missions about people who find a magical door and become gods and then screw everything up. This is mostly told through cutscenes of static images with a Ken Burns effect applied. My own character's motivation seems to change on a whim, looking for revenge against man who killed the friends and family I don't recall every actually meeting. I learned that skimming the quest text is the more prudent option.

I'm also a bit disappointed graphics wise. The game looks quite bad for only being a couple of years old. The textures are PS3/Xbox 360 level and no amount of anti-aliasing seems to get rid of all the jaggies. At max settings the game never dips under 100 FPS and the view distance is quite good. Like most MMOs the UI doesn't scale for 4K displays and I'm forced to play in either cumbersome Fullscreen  mode or Windowed with too small to see UI elements. No matter what I do, I can't get the game to play on my 1080p monitor either.

As I'm playing, I'm struck by the fact that Rift looks just as good as this game. Maybe that won't hold up to a side-by-side comparison but I'm very underwhelmed by how ArcheAge looks on good hardware.

There's also a nasty sound bug. At some point in your gameplay session you will hear a loud pop and all game sound and music will go out until you restart the game. Turning your sound quality to the lowest seems to fix it, but now my character continuously makes the same grunt every 0.5 second I'm in combat. The music is odd but catchy. This has lead to me muting in game noise while keeping the game music on full volume. That's a new one for me.

Character skills are interesting enough. Character creation asks you to pick a starting skill tree, analogous to an individual talent tree or spec in World of Warcraft. By the time you are level 15 you'll have three trees you can pick skills and passives from. I think it works well and I've built a sword-and-board warrior who alternates between one-shotting mobs and killing them in less than 7 seconds. I don't recall ever having died.

One thing I appreciate is that your "filler" abilities don't need to be spammed like in most games. You simply hold the appropriate button down until you need to cast something else. Both my wrist and 'R' key are thankful.

I didn't take part in the land grab on Sunday. ArcheAge doesn't have instanced housing but simply allows you to grab materials and money and plop a house down in the overworld. It's a neat idea but so far there has been no in-game explanation of any of it. Or of crafting for that matter either. Or what the ArcheAge Pass even does. Or what any of the currencies mean either. I was able to figure out how to upgrade my equipment from a combination of trial and error and reading general chat. I still have no idea what most of the buttons on my (tiny) UI even do. To say the game is non intuitive is an understatement. Google searching for answers is also often not helpful. There just isn't very much info out there for ArcheAge and a lot of it is out of date or needlessly verbose. I'll get to experimenting eventually, but I've simply not been in an experimenting mood yet.

Apparently level 30 is when I'm whisked way from the comforts of the leveling zones to the warfields on forced world PVP. Needless to say I did not know about this when I bought the game. Perhaps it won't be a big deal and I can mostly level in peace. But it probably will just be a giant pain in the ass and will mark the end of the ArcheAge experiment. It's not 2004 and there's just no real need to stick with a game that's underperforming. I want to make an honest effort at the leveling cap, see what the big deal is with farming, and see if the game has anything else to surprise me with. But so far things aren't looking bright.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Weekend Full of Water and Vacuuming

I've not had a ton of time to enjoy any gaming these past couple of days. My basement partially flooded and I'm still spending hours vacuuming water out of the carpet. The carpet is probably a lost cause and that'll be about $500 to replace and install. The joys of home ownership.

Breath of the Wild
After finishing up the Xbox 360 version of Portal I renewed my efforts in Breath of the Wild. I finished up most of the side quests in Kakariko and Hateno Village as well as nabbing most of the Korok Seeds in the adjacent areas. I've been using the fantastic interactive world map from to track down all the discoverables in this game. I don't particularly enjoy aimlessly wandering around digital worlds, at least not ones as empty as the Breath of the Wild map, so being able to cut to the chase and get to the actual content in a reasonable amount of time is a blessing. Much like my Skyrim playthroughs, I'm in no particular hurry to get the main quest up and running.

ArcheAge Unchained
ArcheAge Unchained, the buy to play version of ArcheAge, launched today and I decided to throw my $25 in the bucket to see what it gets me. So far it's been this:

I never played any of the original so I'm curious to give this a shot. I honestly don't expect the developers/publishers of this title to behave and keep the usual microtransaction tricks at bay very long. My hope is that I'll get a couple of months out this before I get pushed out for the whales. A perfectly fine value for $25, and I might even get proven wrong.

It's my understanding that this is more a sandbox MMO than a theme park, and I can honestly say I have next to no experience with a sandbox. Hopefully this game represents this subgenre's best foot forward and I can see what I've been missing.

I did manage to find some time during the weekend to play a little Minecraft, although when you're spare bedroom is doing it's best swamp imitation my attention was a bit divided. Me and the wife are slowly building are humble abode. We aren't making any progress in the tech tree or whatever game system is there, we are simply building our house and the areas nearby. I've never really "decorated" in a game before, outside of emptying my bags of furniture into whatever free housing I got in Everquest 2. But this has been enjoyable. Maybe I'm just in the "nesting" part of my life. At least my Minecraft house doesn't flood.

It's a pretty standard grey block of a house because at this point I don't know how to do much else and I've felt no real compulsion to look up anything fancier. Ignore the zombie near the stairs; I evicted him soon after this picture was taken. The moochers never pay any rent.

Over the course of our relationship, my and my wife have collected a number of stuffed sheep.I often buy here one when she's feeling particularly stressed out so we've gained an affinity for the creatures. Happily, Minecraft let's us have our own digital flock. Apparently, dying their wool changes their color permanently. Video game logic.

I find navigating small elevation changes in Minecraft to be surprisingly clunky. I suppose that's the nature of game with very few curves in it. Much like the Romans, I enjoy building roads into territory that doesn't really belong to me. In the background you can see the much more impressive structure built by a coworker of my brother. We are not keeping up with the Jonses.

Nvidia might be bankrolling new PC Game Remasters
So shelling out the extra 50 bucks or so for a 'RTX' 2080 instead of GTX 1080Ti has proven to be not really worth it. These two cards are mostly comparable from a pure throughput standpoint, but the newer RTX line can do "ray tracing". So far, only a couple of games really support it. With the PS5 and next Xbox promising ray tracing support there is hope that this number will increase, but for now it's not doing me much. The only game I've played which really uses it is Anthem. Anthem probably would have looked damn good either way but also wasn't exactly a barn burner in terms of gameplay.

One thing I did enjoy though was the RTX enabled version of Quake II that Nvidia released. The game really did end up looking completely different and I ended up messing around with it for a couple of hours.

If Nvidia wants to remaster some old classics in order to advertise their graphics cards then i see that as a win-win. I haven't played Minecraft with ray tracing shaders on but they look pretty incredible from what I've seen. If you can make Minecraft look good then I'm pretty eager to see what we can do with the likes of Duke Nukem 3D or the the old Thief games.

Riot Announces 15 Years of Games At Once 
I have played exactly one game of League Legends in my lifetime. It was an introductory 5 vs. Bots match that was mandatory to continuing on into the real game. One helpful teammate was devastatingly unhappy with my character choice. Another called me a "bastardo" for stealing his kill. I suspect that's a Portuguese to English cognate, but I don't speak the language. We won decisively. I then played something else for the next 10 years.

More competition is always good, but since Riot makes Blizzard look like a competently run company, I'd rather steer clear of an unusually long burning car wreck.