Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Secret Blogging Santa

Who doesn't love a good Secret Santa exchange? Ellen at Livid Lightning coordinated a blogging Secret Santa event. Everyone who signs up gets another blogger assigned to them. The prompt was to give a shout out to your favorite posts on their blog and then gift them a gift from a fictional game/media.

(I do love events like this. I reminds me of old school Webrings. A way to check out other blogs that are all tangentially related to one another.)

My assigned blogger was Michelle from A Geek Girl's Guide. I hadn't actually known about her blog before this so this was a wonderful opportunity to add to my RSS feed. Nothing like a good binge read on the tablet while traveling for the holidays.

A gift from a fiction universe ... that's a tough one. Thankfully Michelle has a Geeky Facts About Me post that simplified this question a lot. She's a hardcore Harry Potter fan and board game geek. Thankfully I happen to be listening to a Harry Potter podcast called Potterless right now so the books are fresh upon my mind. Maybe this is a bit lame, but I kind of feel like a set of Wizard's Chess is the answer. I know, it's not technically a 'board game'. But a game of thinking and magical violence surely has to count. Chess just seems like the game of choice for a Ravenclaw.

Posts That I Recommend
A Geek Girl's Guide focuses on the broader 'geek' landscape than the more video game-centric posts that I do here. So I'm going to focus my recommended posts more on the digital gaming world than the tabletop or fandom aspects. Also, since a good portion of the blog are guides, it makes sense for me to focus on the posts I found most useful.

Board Games for Video Gamers 
A lot of my friends are more into board games than video games and it's sometimes a point of friction when it comes to enjoying a quiet night in with company. I also have a tendency to play board games as just slower video games, instead of enjoying the more social aspects board gaming presents. This list seems to be a good mix that let's one translate a more digital way of thinking onto the folding table. I've played a bit of Pandemic and Betrayal at the House on the Hill and always felt that board games should be more like that. It stands to reason that the other games listed here should also be on my short list.

How to Geekify Holiday Traditions
I love Christmas. It's special. But it also means spending time with people I don't always feel as comfortable around being just myself. I also feel like decorating my house is a bit more railroaded. This is my first year with my new house and our second year living far away from our family and friends. I thought this post has some thoughtful ideas on how to make Christmas a bit more personal and to my own taste.

Video Game Recommendations for the 4 Harry Potter Houses
Ravenclaw  | Slytherin | Hufflepuff | Gryffindor
I have the Harry Potter series on my mind and a reread seems imminent. These posts were a nice mish-mash of video gaming and Potterdom. And I think the selections for my own house (Gryffindor) were spot on.

So there you have it. Obviously it's tough taking someone's blog and reducing it down to just a few hundred words but I don't think I've made too much of a mess of it. I hope you found another nice site to persue and that everyone reading has Merry Christmas! My normal posting has been disrupted by my holiday travels but I'm itching to get back to it soon enough.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Black Desert Mobile for the Holidays

I had the first paragraphs of a draft about how my current genres of choice right now (MMOs, Racing, First Persons Shooters) weren't well represented by the Nintendo Switch I'll be limited to this holiday season. And then Bhagpuss reminded me that cell phones exist.


Wyatt Chang is so mad right now.

While the desktop MMO space has been pretty lacking lately, the genre is booming on mobile platforms. Bhagpuss points out that our particular MMO blogsphere doesn't give the time of day to these titles, but it's easy to see why. Just like my post yesterday about Halo Reach on the PC,  it's difficult to move from a more comfortable input setup to a less comfortable one. (I'm ignoring the riddled-with-microtransactions reputation mobile games have earned. After all, many desktop MMOs aren't much better in that regard.)

But my three year old Pixel has a lot of meat left on these bones. Actually, I suspect it's still more powerful than the hardware in a Switch. Black Desert Online is something that's sat in my Steam backlog for a while now. It goes on sale every holiday for a couple of book and at some point I chucked it into the pile. I never got around to playing it as other MMOs just grabbed my attention more. I feel like we have 10 different MMOs all with the same art style and they blend together in my head. I think I've confused Black Desert and Blade & Soul for years.


But while BDO may not stand out to me in the desktop space, mobile-wise its looking more enticing. It's competitors right now are DC Universe Online on the Switch and Everquest 2 on my aging, mid-range laptop. Both may get a fair shake at some point but it's almost New Year's, let's try a new experience.

Firstly, I kinda hate how these types of games update. They can't just use the Play store like a normal app, you have to actually open the game and then sit through a multi-gigabyte update. And if we're being honest, by the time that's done, my time in the bathroom is done. But BDO had a Flappy Bird-esque minigame to keep us occupied while we wait. That's really cool. Less cool is the 30 second, ear-screechingly loud trailer that loops over top of it. Could have done without that.

Character creation looks good. It seems the classes are gender locked, which always seems to be a point of frustration in reviews. Doesn't matter a ton to me, but it is here. I will say that I was actually able to make a reasonable handsome male in the character creator. I think this is the first time I've been able to make a dude in a Korean MMO that didn't look like a tool. Nonetheless, I decided to play a Valkyrie which is obviously gender locked to women. It seems to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades Paladin type and that's what I'm feeling right now. I guess technically she's a jill-of-all-trades.

Bhagpuss is right, good lord this is a busy UI.



I'm playing on the standard Pixel and not the Pixel XL with it's larger screen size. I'm beginning to see why people might opt for the bigger screen. This reminds me of playing Flight Simulator 95.



Another thing I hate is when I'm bombarded in the starting experience with other events. I've just gained consciousness and Santa Claus is hounding me about BD's Christmas event. Let me get my coffee first old man.


Same thing with a barrage of 'rewards' and check-ins. At least give me a couple of days before filling my inventory with stuff I don't understand to do things I can't yet do.

Actual gameplay seems so far to just be tapping or clicking. The quest text itself will auto-move your character to objectives. Combat seems to be using abilities on a rotation that we all know. Switching to other targets is also automatic, you just keep hitting the combat abilities and it'll pick out a target for you. Even gear upgrades are shown on your screen as soon as you get them. Simply click the flashing icon to switch the gear over.

Ironically, I found BDM to be a bit more compelling when played on my desktop in an emulator than on my actual phone. The gameplay is just a bit too simplistic to hold my full attention. But when I'm multitasking, like say, writing this blog post, folding the laundry, and playing a bit here and there on my other monitor? That feels more compelling.

So while I doubt I'll find much time for BDM over my holiday, I'm genuinely excited to dedicate a monitor to it. I genuinely had no idea Android emulation had come such a long way. When I had tried this exact things years ago it was very laggy and few games played nicely with a controller or mouse/keyboard.

But this could be a promising turn of events, even if it's not in the way the developer's intended.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Halo Reach

Like many a millennial, my memories of Halo revolve around several TVs linked together in a neighbor's garage or basement.

(Nowadays, the idea of physically linking several consoles together with a cable, finding multiple TVs, and coordinating schedules with 4-8 friends feels like an impossibility. The days of youth.)

Outside of that context, the Halo series has never resonated with me. Trying to play a first person shooter with a controller makes me feel like I'm working with two left-hands. I know what I want to do, years of PC gaming inform me on what I should do, I just don't have the motor skills to pull it off.

But I always felt like I missed out a little bit. Both my high school and college friends played Halo religiously in those times, and I didn't even know what the story line was. I eventually played through the Halo 1 remaster, but it was very much a product of its time.

(SPOILER ALERT FOR HALO 1: It's a campaign of maybe 2-3 hours that gets artificially padded by making you go through it again in reverse.)

Multiplayer was probably fine, but my rusty controller skills meant I needed to invest far more time into learning the basics than I wanted. I didn't own an original Xbox at the time to play my copy of Halo 2 anymore, so I just gave up.

But, Microsoft is now wooing the PC crowd again. Microsoft has always struggled to turn its computer gaming dominance into an actual tangible income stream. It's previous attempts mostly seem to center around starting their own Steam competitors: originally with the horrid Games for Windows and then again with the 'Microsoft Store'. Having realized they need to add actual value for people to give them money, they've introduced the Xbox Game Pass service. And part of pushing the Pass (as well as general holiday sales), they've begun releasing the previously console-only Master Chief collection.

Instead of releasing the whole thing of course, they've decided to drip feed the content to us computer plebs, straight away eroding some of my enthusiasm for the Game Pass idea. Either way, Microsoft made the savvy choice to start us off with Halo Reach and not Halo 1. Reach seemed to do well enough critically and it's not the relic that Halo 1 is. Reach is also a prequel to the Halo series so they kinda get away with it from a story perspective.

So how does it play? Fairly well. It certainly isn't a hack job where console controls were swapped out for mouse and keyboard and then called a day. The game is maybe a bit on the easy side, and maybe that's a result of a console game being ported over to a more accurate control scheme, but it seems perfectly playable. I should note that Legendary difficulty feels a bit odd here. The AI is robust enough to make things interesting. But the level of 'bullet sponge' here really leaves the design out to dry.

I think this is where the transfer from console to computer shooter really shows its roots. Being a cover-based shooter is inherently more interesting on a controller than a keyboard. With a keyboard skill can be differentiated by ducking and weaving through your opponent's bullets while you try to hit them with yours. You certainly use bits of the environment, but few games reward overly defensive turtling behavior. The higher level of control favors fast, accurate shooting, aggressive and creative approaches, and just overall higher-speed and dynamic gameplay. You're constantly making decisions and adjustments every second. On an inherently less accurate controller, you can't do this as well. Instead, cover-based shooting makes more sense. The gameplay is more methodical and is more reliant on positioning and defense. Setting up a kill takes more effort, and relies more on the environment, to compensate for the lack of control.

Halo Reach is clearly designed for a slower, more methodical game play style. Against harder enemies you have to slowly navigate the terrain to close the gap and get in your burst of offense. Then, most enemies have some way of punishing you for staying out of cover too long. Then you retreat and begin the process again. But with mouse and keyboard the pacing is just a bit off. Cover is only important on a handful of enemies, but mostly I can just constantly barrage their weakpoints with accurate fire, simply move out of the way of their own offense like a matador with a cape, and then continue firing. That cycle of approach-attack-defend-retreat is no longer as strong and the game is weaker because of it. The gameplay loops instead becomes about keeping as much 'uptime' on your shooting as possible. Eliminating a threat quickly and simplifying an encounter is more valuable than avoiding a threat's offense. Much of what makes the different encounters in the game unique and interesting lose their charm when you can shortcut the cycle with superior aiming and movement. 

It's still quite a fun game. And since I haven't quite finished it yet. Perhaps I'm in for some surprises in the end. But I do think proper pacing is something many games struggle with, and even more games have difficulty matching their difficulty curve to that pace. Games like Dark Souls use their challenge to ask the player to dig deeper into the game's mechanics. It contextualizes and elevates the various systems that make a game what it is. I suspect Halo Reach did a fine job of that back in 2010 on the 360, but it's lost just enough of that in it's conversion to the PC to feel a bit off. Not enough to make the game unfun, mind you, but just enough enough to keep the experience firmly planted as 'good' and not 'great'.

Note, I've not even touched the multiplayer yet. Perhaps I'll leave that for another post after the holidays.

Friday, December 13, 2019

reEverquesting II Part 5 - Family Letters

This is Part 5 of my playthrough of Everquest II. I encourage you to read the previous entries before this one: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Swallowing every last bit of pride that I have is difficult. But since I've ran out of food and money it's the only thing I have to be swallowing. My sister is a wizard. An accomplished one. Has about 15 years of experience and has been party to some of the most famous heroic tales the bards sing.

She's also kind of a bitch.

I "borrow" some pen and paper and postage and money and shoes from a local ratonga and write my letter.



Dearest Falcona,

My ventures to the Isle of Refuge went, as one would expect, exceeding well. I now find myself in the heart of Freeport, hobnobbing around the rich and famous of Norrath. With my surely imminent arrival to the tippy-topps of Freeportian society, it is only customary that I secure the prestige of my future station. I've begun my work for the Academy of Arcane Science of course. One of the most promising students they've yet seen I'm assured. (While I'm not technically enrolled I am working for one of the researchers, the structures of education have never fit me as you well know. I specifically prefer it this way.) For my patron, I've catalogued some of the most ferocious and indomitable creatures found on the continent. And yet, despite my work, my once benefactor has reneged on his payment, calling my sketches "amateurish" and "inscrutable". I loathe to impose upon my dearest sister. But with all of your well-earned success as a wizard of the past 15 years, it is my hope that you may have some resources to help correct a frightful wrong done to your sister. 

I have located a suitable bit of lodging in the appropriate section of our humble town. It is my sincere hope that you will provide me with 5,000 platinum pieces to begin establishing our family's deserved outpost here in the city of Freeport. I thank you in advance for your most helpful contribution.

Sincerely,

Aurella



The efficiency of the Overlord's mail carriers is quite impressive. I received a return missive in but an hour.



Dear Aurella,

Good to see you made it out alive. Get out of Freeport, the place is a dump. Here's 50 plat.

-Suck it,




Bitch.

Fine, whatever. 50 plat is nothing to her. I know she has a hundred times that, but that makes me borderline rich to the various peasants walking around Freeport. 

The money will be a meal and a night's rest. Maybe I'll be a bit less cranky in the morning. Apartment hunting will have to wait for a little while longer. I have actually lined up another job, probably a bit more suited to my skillset. While at the Academy, another researcher overheard while I was getting dressed down for my lack of natural artistic abilities. She directed me to a Zaddar Sullissia in the Freeport graveyard. Now that sounds like work more suited to a budding Necromancer!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

rEverquesting II: Part 4 - The Freeport Sewers

This is Part 4 of my playthrough of Everquest II. I encourage you to read the previous entries before this one: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

I got a job.

Obviously I got a job. I'm a very talented necromancer. Even in the capital of evil that sort of talent doesn't just walk by. And the Academy of Arcane Science is where I was walking by when I saw the help wanted poster.

Nerd alert.

So now I'm a researcher. Cataloging the creatures of ... the Freeport Sewers.

Frick.

Whatever. It's fine. Housing in this city is out of hand. Oh sure they give you a studio apartment for free. But that has to come with a caveat. It's an evil city, they're not just giving away free housing. I assume the first night you spend in that apartment and they take your spleen.

I'm fond of my spleen.

So we will figure out my own path. And I hope it's a quick path because it's been 72 hours since I've slept. I'm on my eighth can of Red Bull and I'm starting to see candy canes.



And purple shining lights.


I really need to lay down.

Whatever. I have my handy dandy notebook and pen. I need to observe some select creatures and give them a little sketch. Finally, six years of art school is paying off.

First off is a ravenous cube:


Okay, well he's just a ... cube. Sort of like Jell-o? Just sort of wiggling about in the muck. Cubing. Seems to do nothing but cube about, living its life. I think we can draw this one easily enough.

Nailed it. Okay what else is on the list?A sewage rat. Gross, but doable.


Alrighty, just doodle up a little drawing here and ...:


Got it. Easiest money of my life. What now? A Darkblade fury. Is a sentient being a creature? I think I'm being asked to catalog a dude. Not sure if he's really a part of the fauna here but okay. I've killed loads of these guys, and the researcher was clear they needed to be alive when I cataloged them. So let's see if I missed any during my first go around.


And here's one now. In such a lovely pose. Its very hard to sketch while be attacked but that's why I get paid the not-so-big-bucks.


There we go. I even broke out the colored pencils for that one. That researcher is going to shit bricks when he sees this level of detail. I feel like I really got the gist of her scowl in this one. And the pointiness of her tin sword.

Scrawled on my instructions, it says the next creatures of note belong in The Serpent Sewer. Charming name. I follow the provided map and find my quarry. It's all a bit intimidating though. I consider the first snake in front of me and it looks mean. Maybe a little too mean. Maybe we are best off if we leave these creatures uncatalogued for now.

So, stuck once again. Mostly broke, mostly homeless, and seeing literal visions of sugar plum fairies in my head, I'm resorted to doing the unthinkable. I need to ask for help. From my goodie-two-shoes, thinks-shes-better-than-me, vomits-sparkles-and-butterflies, dads-always-telling-me-why-can't-I-be-more-like-my sister.

Kill me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

rEverquesting II: Part Three - Isle of Refuge Tidy Up, Freeport, and the Freeport Sewers

This is Part 3 of my playthrough of Everquest II. I encourage you to read the previous entries before this one: Part 1 | Part 2

With the Tunarians routed, there isn't all that much more to do on the Isle of Refuge. We finished collecting 5 feathers and 5 sea shells and turned them in to a crazed collector woman for a pair of necklaces. I assume I'm getting ripped off here, but each of the items this woman gave me has more stats than the rest of my gear combined so we will make do.

We helped Bobbie Whirlwidget research submarines. We finished up a research assignment gone wrong for Trainer Sythor the All-Seeing. His poor research assistant was eaten by a large fish. He immediately went to work finding a new one. You have to love when fiction mirrors real life! And then finally we helped a Priestess with a very love/hate relationship with her job.


I spent a decade as a Discipline Priest in another life; I feel you girl.

But with that, sadly, our time with the Isle has come to the end. It was a nice little isle, filled with horrible, incompetent people. Maybe we can do something about that one day. Let's take a visit to our old friend Captain Varlos and get to Freeport.




Freeport Docks

All of our sacrifices and hard work have brought us here.


Alright it's a bit gloomy, but I lived in the US Midwest all my life so I'm used to the permacloud. It's all a bit overwhelming. The guards are surprisingly helpful for an "evil" city. Certainly much nicer than the guards in the real world. Unfortunately, a reality has set in. We are broke. Routing an entire enemy force and conquering an island for our Overlord doesn't pay like it used to.

Unable to find a decent place to stay, we need to figure out where we can at least get shelter. Asking around town gives us some horrible options. But horrible options are apparently the only options we have.


Freeport Sewers




Okay, look. It's definitely a fixer-upper. It smells like raw sewage, looks like raw sewage, and is raw sewage. There are oozes, crabs, snakes, and gnomes living down here. It's not ideal, but it's warm and still cleaner than where I lived back in college.


Sewer crab.

Let's do our best and struggle our way through the night. The denizens all seem weak enough that we don't need to fight most of them. One particularly weak creature, insistently calling herself a ratonga, can apparently talk.



Zatzy claims that she is the victim of a Darkblade death squad. I don't know who the Darkblades are or why they want to kill ratmen, but she claims she can pay me to take the fight to the brigands. They stole a trinket from her and would like it back. I would like the finder's fee so we work out a deal. I probably wasn't going to get much sleep down here anyhow, might as well make ourselves useful.

We saw some shady, murderous types on our way in so let's dispose of them rightly. After killing so many Darkblades that we had to wait for more to show up, we finally find the described trinket on a poor elves' remains. We hike it back to Zatzy.

And...she betrays us. Honestly, we need to stop taking quests from strangers we find in sewers. She attempts to kill us and fails, as we killed her first. She let slip in her hubris that the trinket is really a key to the Darkblade hang out. A hangout might have treasure, or more importantly, a bed to finally sleep in!


But no, there are no beds in the Darkblade Den of Assassins, only assassins. If only it was the Darkblade Den of Decent Nights Sleep! We killed some assassins, and then killed two head honchos: Zaynis and Sinyaz V'rix. What a power couple. They give us the toughest fight we've had yet, and drop the gear to match. Unfortunately, we can't wear any of it. 80% of the gear that has dropped so far has been 'All Fighters, All Priest, All Scouts'. I don't know if this exceptionally bad luck, or exceptionally bad design by the Gods, but it's quite annoying.

Alright, this place sucks. I'm getting out of here. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

rEverquesting II: Day Two - The Isle of Refuge

rEverquesting II
This is part 2 of our epic journey rerolling a character through Everquest 2. Part 1 can be found here. 

Having apparently blacked out again while the Far Journey docked into the Isle of Refuge, we wake up standing in a field. Immediately, a loud noise followed by a strange voice offers up a quest to talk to someone named Tavil N'Velex. Having been shipwrecked at sea for an unknown number of days, experiencing loss of consciousness, memory loss, and hearing voices in our head, we immediately check ourselves into the closest emergency room.


Just kidding, we see something shiny and immediately pick it up. Then we decided to root around in some shrubs. And then root around in some roots. And animal dens. A bit of ore. And speak of the devil, we meet our woman, Tavil N'Velex. She's going to train me up to be a proper Necromancer (Necromanceress? Neceromancera?).


A couple of notes here. Apparently my character volunteered to sail to an isle in order to pass a citizenship test to gain entry into Freeport. Most citizenship tests involve a lot of paperwork and some test taking. Maybe an oath followed by a lot of picture taking. This one is clearly going to involve a lot of murder.

As evidenced by her now waterlogged scouting party, the penalty for failure on this colony is apparently death. Maybe if they just used a write-up system or some demotions they wouldn't need to train new citizens all the time. Maybe give out some gold stars for good behavior. I don't know. Although, to be fair, the scouts missed what literally hundreds of infinitely respawning Tunarians wandering the Isle. They were really bad at their job.

Anyhow, unimpressed by my victories over the seafaring rodents, we are sent Darg Frostwind, Master of Combat Training, to prove our prowess. We are given a choice between a formidable sparring partner, an average sparring partner, and a weak sparring partner. I have my skelly solo the weak sparring partner because I don't get paid by the hour.

Sucks to suck.

My delegating powers proven, we return to Tayil for our next assignment. She rewards us with a pair of gloves which feels ... reasonable? If I'm going to picking berries and stabbing wood elves you probably do want a pair of gloves. Maybe Freeport is more pragmatic about work-place safety concerns than I thought.

Now we are off to cook lunch. Or at least helping the actual chef to cook lunch. I used to work as a prep chef in college so I'm actually in my element here. Seriously, if you ever need 15 pounds of onions diced I'm your guy. I even have a dagger on me that can double as a decent cooking knife ... and no, apparently we are just murdering bees. Why wouldn't we just ransack their hive for honey? What about a bee is edible? Chef Gorga literally doesn't say what part of the bee we are eating. Do I just bring the whole corpse? I just picked 300 berries, I feel fine skipping lunch.

Nothing says 'delicious tasting stew' like .... bees.
Once our bee slaughter is over, now she wants elk meat. This feels doable. I've had venison before, it's fine. It's a totally normal thing for people to eat. But why does she need this?


She has two giant carcasses right next to her. Why not finish the meat we have here? This stuff goes bad when it's just laying outside. I see no attempts at refrigeration. I don't think this is about cooking at all. I think this is just more bloody murder.

Done with my apparent hazing, we return to Tavil and are sent off to Assassin Vamir. You know what makes a good assassin? Subtlety. You know what's subtle? Telling everyone you're an assassin. Right there in his title. Probably puts it on his business card. Uses it to impress girls at the bar. This is less the Isle of Refuge and more the Island of Misfit Toys. We receive our marching orders and are sent out to assassinate .... bears. This is not assassinating, this is hunting. These people are the worst at their jobs.

Make no mistake, the assassination of Archduke Franz Beardinand began the events we now call World War I.
With the fall of the Wilderbear empire, we move our target to the local hawk population. Again, not an assassination, although we do use bait to bring them into range. So at least we are using something resembling a strategy? It's not necessary, I'm a spellcaster and the hawks are well within range. But this is effort and it's better than we've gotten so far.

As we tidy up from our avian dispatching, we run into another fella, by the name of Charles Arker. This is a high fantasy setting and the dude's name is Charles. Please try to keep up with the aesthetic Charlie. Charley has found an incomplete note containing orders for the Tunarian spies in the area and would like me to kill a few more to piece it altogether. This feels like actual spy stuff. Good work, Chip.

The Tunarian horseriders are formidable, not because of their combat prowess (they die in seconds), but because they apparently have the ability to turn on a dime and ride their horse backwards. Some are able to move quite swiftly despite the horse's legs in no way conforming to the speed they are traveling. One is able to hit me with their weapon despite no movement form their arms whatsoever. Truly magical and fascinating people who all die quickly to a two foot tall skeleton punching them in the horse.

Next we are instructed to kill ... the bears again. The Tunarians are taming the bears and using them to help fight. So we kill the bears? There are almost certainly more bears than Tunarians. Why not kill the Tunarians? My character isn't any smarter than everyone else. I belong here.

Let's get back to Tavil, she'll probably murder us if we don't come running along soon. Now she wants to mess up the Tunarian economy by messing with their mine. Again, if we just kill all the Tunarians or at least drive them off the Isle, we don't need to worry about these things. They weren't turning rock into weapons that fast. This feels like busywork.

Does this even qualify as a mine? This is just shoveling.

We kill some miners and take some ore samples. We're supposed to report to a new guy again, Coercer Zilth. That's a title, but first, let's check in with Charlton. And here it is, the truth comes out. He's got a crush on a local wood elf named Laena. To stop this temptress from seducing him with her feminine wiles, he wants me to kill her. This guy is like the final boss of incels.

So we double back to the bears, to the mine, to the hawks, and she just isn't there. Right when I give up I spot her standing next to some trees. In hindsight this feels exactly where one would fine a wood elf. We murder her, much to the ambivalence of the surrounding elves

We move on to Coercer Zilth who wants us to murder more horseriders. Apparently previous murderings don't count. We need new horses punched in the face. All to create some sort of distraction.


Me in action.

 

Horses punched, and we begin the final assault of the Tunarians. Finally. It's time to actually assassinate the leader! We kill a Captain Tyreth and burn some tents! Fuck yeah! Murder and mild property damage!

But now we have to kill the real leader!

Overseer Adrium in his dreaded ... treehouse. We just have to do the murder this time, although it would make significantly more sense to burn down the permanent structure than some tents. Either way, we finish up the murdering.

But now we have to kill the real leaders!

The Circle of Elders in their dreaded ... cave. We enter the cave and are met with a gauntlet of challengers, including a hawk, a bear, a wolf, and an old man! The old man is level 40, so Tavil comes in and one shots him for me. Literally no reason for me to be involved here. If the training outpost is a bureaucratic waste of time, boy am I sure in a hurry to get to Freeport!

Let's tie up some loose ends. Chucky thanks us for offing his crush, explaining that he is already betrothed, but is new fiance looks like a horse. Killing the elf was clearly the only way to keep these two from just ruining some marital vows.

Charlemagne clearly can't keep the ladies of him.

Yeah this guy must be shooing the women of him. In regards to the Tunarian intelligence, he now wants to meet at a second location to discuss it. Apparently me having routed the Tunarians is unimportant. So this is clearly going to go well.

We meet at "The Nook" which sounds more like a makeout spot than an intelligence drop off point. He explains that he wrote the note to his elf girlfriend, hoping to meet her, but someone else intercepted the note and asked him to investigate it. Except why did the horseriders have copies of the note then? Also it's revealed that I didn't kill Laena, someone else did. Except I did do it. I was there. That literally happened. I pressed the button that lead to her death. I didn't even delegate to my minions. I think we've ran into our first honest-to-goodness bug.

So I guess we're just ignoring that bit? I'm asked to get rid of the evidence by burning it in a very specific firepit. I'm discovered by a field investigator, really more of a private detective, who gives me a quest to question others around the Isle of Refuge about our friend Chuckles's dalliance. Agreeing to go along with this can only potentially implicate me in the fiasco. On the other hand, the investigator is offering a free belt buckle.

I'm a sucker for free swag.

Interviewing a half dozen people leads to the conclusion that no one has heard of the guy. Honestly at this point I'm too tired to care. I collect my Isle of Refuge commemorative belt buckle and call it a day. Tomorrow we'll finish up the side quests on the Isle of Refuge and take our first baby steps into Freeport.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

rEverquesting II: Day One - The Far Journey

Feeling the hankering for a proper MMO again, I've decided to get back into Everquest 2. Rolling a new character is currently more appealing to me than dusting off my level 100 Wizard. I feel like doing something a little different with this post. I'm doing this bit as a travelogue of my character's adventures. I think this is will not only be fun to write (and hopefully to read), but also enjoyable to look back upon years from now. Also, it might actually help me keep track of some of the story, as it's been fifteen years and I still know fuck all of what's happening in this game.


This time around my character is going to be a necromancer. Mostly because I've never played a Necromancer typed character in any video game other than Diablo 3 (and that one doesn't really count). I also choose to be a Dark Elf. There really are two reasons. I don't know much about fantasy tropes, but I'm to understand Elves are generally dicks. I figure I might as well be the dickiest of the bunch. Secondly, my goal is to play an Evil character so I eventually get to the Commonlands. This is important, because as all gods-fearing Norrathians know, the Commonlands background theme slaps.


It's a damn jaunty tune.

Our intrepid necromancer Aurella begins the game as ... debris. Or at least former debris. Shipwrecked for an unexplained reason after traveling for an unexplained reason, our hero was spotted and rescued by the ship The Far Journey. Either the shipping routes in Norrath are very busy or we are very lucky.

It's not much but it's better than floating.

Our hotbars blessedly only have four abilities on it. This is in contrast to the 2,378 buttons on my Wizard's hotbars. We have a hearthstone, a DoT, a nuke, and the ability to summon a skeleton. Combine this with a skeleton butler cosmetic from /claim and we've got the beginning of a happy evil family.

You could say we are running a ... skeleton crew.

Greeting our savior, the good Captain Varlos, we are immediately put to work. First we help a chap find his hat in some boxes. This is why I always sharpie the contents of boxes when I move house, it really reduces this stress of this sort of thing. We also find a small bag and a threadbare tunic. For some reason we steal these things from the people who just saved our life. Role playing as evil begins quick and early in Everquest II.

Our now hooded chap gives us a commemorative coin for our hard work. I presume these are the same bits and bobs I find being advertised on cable TV late at night. We then immediately sell this charm for next to nothing and buy a piece of the moon. I can't help but thinking bits of the moon should be more valuable. I understand that the moon exploded, and a good deal of it landed on Norrath, but I don't remember huge piles of moon in Antonica or anything. It feels like a shard of Luclin should be worth more than the commemorative coin that was destined to sit in the bottom of a closet forever.

Anyhow, a rat infestation is becoming a problem and Captain Varlos has dispatched our necromancer to do the job. We do not receive traps to do this job. We do not receive some sort of poisonous spray. We don't even get the luxury of some gloves. We get a club. It's time to go whack-a-mole.

The first of God-knows how many things we will be killing during our time in Norrath.

(Tangent: In college our house had a minor mouse problem. I had a few traps set in my bedroom that mostly worked. But one mouse was too smart to be caught. Unfortunately, said mouse had both eaten through the wires in my headphones but also gotten into my food stores. One day, while playing WoW, I heard the tell-tale scamper of the mouse behind me. Frustrated, I did the only thing I could think of, grabbing the broken leg of a table stand that sat next to my desk and took a swing. I got him. I did not gain XP. I just felt incredibly gross.)

Anyhow, after blasting two Mickeys we get attacked by a drakota, which I believe is a dragon going through puberty.


Having been denied access to the car by his father, our pimply dragon sets the bow of the boat on fire and sets a goblin free. It's never explained why a goblin was imprisoned on the front of the ship. Personally, I would be more concerned about a full-grown necromancer than a goblin but sailors are a quirky bunch. The dragon runs off (explaining the we are not it's real dad), the goblin is murdered, and we finish our Far Journey. Onto the Isle of Refuge.

Monday, December 2, 2019

December Goals and Vrooms

My goal at the beginning of the month was to complete 5 games from the Xbox Game Pass for PC. And for the second month in a row I did not actually complete that goal.

But I'm very fine with that. A 5 day trip to San Antonio followed by nearly a week of being on the shelf with the flu shortened my PC gaming availability this month. But even with the extra week and a half I would have failed my goals.

I did complete one game this month: I finished off Outer Worlds. I've already talked about what an enjoyable experience that was, and since this month of Game Pass was a dollar it's pretty difficult to say I didn't get my moneys worth from just that.

I also gave Bloodstained a shot. I like Metroidvanias, but it's an okay game in a genre filled with pretty great ones. I'm glad I was able to give it a try so cheaply. Maybe I'll come back to it one day.

But the main surprise of the month, and the game that at this point has taken up more playing time than anything was ... Formula 1 2018.

I guess we're a motorsports blog now.


A combination of subscribing to cable to watch college football and having nothing else to watch on Sunday mornings reignited my interest for both Formula 1 and motorsports in general. With F1 2018 being available on the Game Pass and it was basically frictionless to give the game a try.

I don't think I've ever mentioned it here on this blog, but I used to be an avid player of racing games. MMOs are certainly the genre I've invested the most hours of my life into, but at one point race 'em ups weren't too far behind. 

But just like everything else in the video game industry, most racing titles moved into a direction that I didn't much care for. Around the mid 2000s, the focus moved to online racing and paid DLC. I don't have a personal issue with racing online, in fact it could be an improvement to the dismal AI these games have had for the past two decades. But developers have refused to put the time and effort into making the online experience enjoyable.

In 2017, the newest Gran Turismo, GT Sport, had just released. I rented a copy to see if it was still my cup of tea and was disappointed to see very little single player content and an extreme focus on the multiplayer eSports leagues. 

Giving it a shot, I joined an online event. First was qualifying, a round of play where everyone attempts to get the fastest single lap around the track to see who gets to start at the beginning of the field. Being experienced, I managed to get first.

And then the race starts, I get a good start, we move down the straight and get to the first corner. I slow my car in the same manner I did during my qualifying lap ... and get spun out by the driver behind me who simply plows through my car. Most of the drivers also take an opportunity to side swipe me. I'm now spun out of the race with no chance to compete.

To add insult to injury, leaving a race early, even when there's no possible point in continuing, damages your online reputation meter: which limits your online ranking and will eventually cause you difficulties queuing up in matches. I pull my car out of the grass, and limp towards the road, when the screen flashes yellow text at me.

"Penalty for collision: 15 seconds"

The game was penalizing me for getting rear ended and spun out by another player. Additionally, that reputation meter I mentioned before? Penalized. I'm a dangerous driver.

Naturally, I popped the disc out of my PS4 and sent that game back. The situation is similarly bad in pretty much every game in the genre.  My exodus from the world of electronic vrooms continued until this month.  Game Pass has both F1 2018 and Forza Horizon 4. Giving both games a try has showed me that developers have started adding some decent single player back into their games. The online problems continue, but its clear developers have learned they need to add some meat to the single player bones to satisfy players like me.

Before I had wrote that I felt subscription services held an important place for me as a content discovery system. That's exactly what happened here and I'm pretty darn happy about it. I purchased the more up to date Formula 1 2019 from the Steam sale and am currently working my way through the career mode. I don't know if this is a brief infatuation or if I'll start investing stupid amounts of money into racing wheel setups, but Game Pass served its purpose for a month. 

Not bad for a dollar.

My goal for the next month is to complete a season of racing in F1 2019 and to settle down and finally pick a decent MMO to play through for a little while. Ultima Online has proven to be a fun curiosity, but I think my time with it is coming to a close (which I'll have more on in a future post). I'll be leaving for a 2 week trip back home for the holidays, so the Switch will probably see more play than the PC. But with EQ2's new expansion and updates from other games I'm still itching to do some grinding.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Ultima Online - A Tale of One MMO

Ultima Online is the best of it's time, and it's the worst of it's time, it was the hallmark of lasting game design, it was the feature of design foolishness, it's a game that looks like Diablo 1, it's a game that can actually be played at 4K, it's stat system is inscrutable, its quest system is straightforward, it's appeal as a game is obvious, it's appeal as a game in 2019 is questionable - in short, Ultima Online was so far like present MMOs, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

It's almost impossible to come at UO in a vacuum.

At it's heart, its a game where one slowly clicks on their screen while watching numbers slowly go up. This inherently describes just about every RPG ever made. But the spice is always in the details of how one surrounds that formula, and Ultima Online (at least from the several hours I've now put into it) is as bland as Minnesota cooking. Combat is clicking on an enemy. Several hours in, hotbar abilities are present, but seem unusable and unnecessary. The story was a three paragraph blurb during character creation that I've already forgotten. Character creation and customization (so far) was picking from one of several templates that we've all seen a hundred time before. Also, his beard is crooked.

Who's mamma's handsome boy?
UO's playability today suffers from everything that isn't in it's control. The neatness of an online open world is obviously no longer a novel feature. The Ultima brand has dissipated into nearly nothing. The many, many skills one must level for their character feels onerous instead of freeing. (Leveling parrying isn't fun. And no game will ever make it so.)

The developer's over the years have clearly worked hard to keep the game up to date though. The UI feels archaic but is perfectly usable after 5 minutes of getting familiar with everything. The game plays well with a 4K monitor and is perfectly usable with a second monitor (a feat that ArcheAge and Everquest 2 could not do). The graphics are obviously not great, but they've been updated with the enhanced client to be perfectly usable from a gameplay standpoint.



So while the base gameplay is failing to hook me, the dev team has done everything possible to actually get the game up and playable to a total newbie in 2019. It's a game about grinding (in one form or another) and technically there's very little in the way of that, other than my own desire to play something else.

But I know that there is more here. Crafting and housing for one. I also suspect that there is more charm and challenge to be had once I grind my way off this starter island. So I'm going to stick with this one. Maybe not as my main game, but as an enjoyable distraction while watching TV or a podcast.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Let's start at the beginning. A very good place to start.

As I covered yesterday, I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by the size of my backlog. I'm in the mood again to get my MMO on but I'm not really sure where to go with it.

I've decided to hear the sound of music and to start at the beginning.


Actually deciding where the "beginning" of the MMO genre is a bit fraught. Obviously the old MUDs are probably the answer. Meridian and Avalon have better claims as the first graphical MMO. But I've played bits and pieces of those and they just aren't that fun for me. And since I'm not a museum, I'm going to concentrate on Ultima Online.

Granted, I never actually played Ultima Online. So it might suck. In fact it's old enough that I'm presuming it will suck. But as I mentioned in my post about dead MMOs, I have some regrets on not trying out certain games before they bit the dust. I suspect UO won't be biting the dust any time soon, but there's no time like the present.

I'm also going into the game relatively blind. Unlike Runescape, UO doesn't seem to have much of a presence on Twitch or social media, so they only gameplay I've ever seen is from years old grainy YouTube videos. I know there's no character levels, it's mostly a sandbox, PVP and PVE servers exist, and I've seen tales of the time Lord British got dunked on in his own game.

I'm also not that familiar with the Ultima series in general. I've owned the series on GOG for several years now but Akalabeth and Ultimas 1-3 are old enough that it's difficult for me to get into. The dungeon crawling reads less to me as a video game and more as tech demo curiosity. I've held out hope for some sort of fan recreation or "remaster" from EA, but it's pretty clear this series is dead in their eyes. I'm hesitant to get into any of the later Ultima games because I'm just not sure when they start getting into a playable state, and I'm rarely in the mood to install them all and find out. One day. Maybe.

(I did play a browser game called Lords of Ultima for a hot minute in college. Most notable for being the first, and one of the few times I've ever spent money on a microtransaction. But that game had little to do with the series from what I can tell.)

Looking into the near future, Everquest feels like the next candidate after UO. EQ I have significantly more experience with, both when it was the premiere MMO on the market and later on as more "legacy" title. But I've never actually gotten a character to max level. I think the last time I played with any sort of earnestness was right when mercenaries got released. According to Google that was nearly 8 years ago. With fewer social commitments for the holidays this year compared to usual, I might  have my hands full with some very old games.

But this is all getting ahead of myself. I'm still waiting on UO to finally stop updating. I understand there is decades of content here, but I was really expecting this to be a quicker process. I'm not sure what the publishing situation is for UO, but the launcher could stand to show a bit more hustle. I had to sign in with EA Origin account to play the game, and the Origin launcher updates much quicker than this.

Tonight's dinner is Thanksgiving-eve Spaghetti and handmade tomato sauce. Let's hope I can get some game in before I'm called away to my domestic duties.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Where Have All the Good MMO Gone? And Where Are All The MUDS?

I really enjoyed writing my previous blog post about defunct MMOs of years past. Not that I'm happy so many games have shut up shop but rather it brought me back to that time when new, weird, niche, and AAA MMOs were reliably coming out. This is ostensibly a MMO blog but in the second half of this year there just haven't been any news or releases that excite me. Classic Wow had me feeling great up until the point that Blizzard decided to poop in it's own hand. ArcheAge never clicked with me.

At minimum we are blessed with some workhorse titles that are all seeing updates. The brothers Everquest are still churning. I see Knights of the Old Republic got a new update. Guild Wars 2 seems to be somewhat disappointing it's fans but that's certainly better than nothing at all.

So I guess I'm at an impasse as to what exactly to play.  EverQuest 2 sounds promising with all the Anniversary stuff going around. But logging into my main greets me with this:


Combine that with several hotbars filled with spells that I don't remember the purpose of and I feel it's an uphill battle just to get back to the content. I'm tempted to just start a new character and use this blog as a nice convenient journal so I don't lose the knowledge of how to play that particular class or where exactly I left out.

But at that point I might as well try one of the many MMOs that I've not spent a lot of time with. Half of the MMOs on that PC Gamer article are games that I never tried. Some, like Wildstar, I really regret not giving a chance when I had the ability to.

So really I'm staring at the age old backlog problem. There's too much to play and I'm overwhelmed by choice. This is not the first time I've complained about this "problem" on this blog.

Perhaps will be a night of reorganization. I have two different hard drives and a SSD that are filled to the brim with installed games but very few of them are actually getting played. Perhaps it's time to make my ISP earn it's month's pay and download a bunch of MMOs, get them updated, sign into all of the accounts, and clear out bag space. If I remove all the friction from actually playing the game, maybe I'll spend less time sitting in my chair being "bored".

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Wake for MMOs Gone Past

Paeroke over at Nerdy Bookahs linked to an old PC Gamer UK article of 25 MMOs that lived and died since World of Warcraft launched. I love both a good list and an opportunity to reminiscence.

As a longtime MMO-Dabbler, I'm surprised that I never played a majority of these games. For the older titles, it was a matter of being stuck on dial-up at the time and having to pick and choose my games. It didn't help that free-to-play didn't exist yet and I was on a high schooler's budget. For the newer titles, it was about waiting for a lull in my play of other MMOs, so that I could dedicate a couple of weeks and play them "right". Unfortunately, that means I waited too long and never got to play Wildstar. Same situation with City of Heroes, although at least that has a thriving emulation community I can rectify that mistake with.

Of the games I did get to play though:

Club Penguin
I was never the target age for Club Penguin back when it was running, so I was always more of a tourist. But it had charm and the minigames were worth the hour or two of play. Mostly, I remember Club Penguin for the Banned from Club Penguin (NSFW) subreddit and a community forming around speedruns from getting banned by the automatic language filter.

Pirates of the Caribbean Online
I played this at the tail end of game's life, after it had been announced that it was shutting down. The graphics were pretty dated by the time I got to it. It was a mix between a small-scale Pirates of the Burning Sea and the single-player Pirates of the Caribbean game that was released several years later. The mix of third person action and some rudimentary naval combat were really fun for the 2-3 weeks I played of it, but by the time I got there the entire game was a ghost town.

It makes me nostalgic for a time when Disney was all in on "interactive medium", whether that was genuinely decent MMOs, satanically difficult flash games, or Disney Quest. Gigantic media conglomerates are more fun when they're making weird stuff.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
I had a boxed copy of Vanguard and would give it an install every now and then, but it never ran well on any of the laptops I was using at the time. I did begin playing more in earnest once SOE got the publishing rights back and made it a part of their standard $15 a month MMO fee along with EQ, EQ2, and others. It always felt like a game made by people who like making systems instead of games. That sometimes works, but it often felt like I was staring at someone else's spreadsheet. I recall Bhagpuss mentioning that this game has an emulator starting to form, so I'm looking forward to giving this game a proper shake when that project matures.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
Another game I could never really get to work on my computer right. Not being a fan of the Warhammer IP or off open-world PVP in general I didn't really try to struggle through the low framerates.

I do remember having a ton of fun with an extremely short-lived spin off of this game called Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes. It was basically World of Warcraft Arenas but as it's own separate game. I recall the number of abilities being pruned down to a MOBA level. It was the only game I played for what must have been a month or two. The game never got out of beta, and I do remember us being a very small and tight knit community fighting each over and over again. I don't even remember what the business model was, although it was obviously insufficient.

Free Realms
Ooof. Like Club Penguin I was never the appropriate age for this game, but nonetheless it was one of my favorite MMOs of all time. I use the word charm for SOE titles a lot and this game absolutely deserved it. The music, the animation, and just the general sense of cartoonish whimsy always felt great. There is an emulator project working on this, but actual details on it over the past few years have been scarce, and it seems the group is prioritizing other projects first. I keep waiting on the emulator to launch a public beta so I can do a big retrospective on the title. I do hope I get to do that soon.

Hello Kitty Online
I downloaded this game as a joke in college to show my roommates. What I remember though is how maddeningly difficult the flash-based minigames it featured were. I got my ass kicked by Hello Kitty Online in front of all of my friends.

Marvel Heroes
One of the few ARPGs that I preferred to play with a controller instead of a mouse. I had fun with it, but it's bizarre shutdown story was more interesting to me than the actual game.

Firefall
Speaking of games where the shutdown is more interesting than the game itself: Firefall! I played this game for a week and don't remember a thing about it. I think they completely overhauled the game play a month after anyhow.

Everquest Next/Landmark
A SOE game that never got around to developing that SOE charm. It had an annoying time-limited beta that meant I could play for a week before I had to scrounge up another beta "ticket". The game was never in a good enough state to actually pay for, but I kept dropping in and hoping it would turn into something cohesive.  I'm obviously never a fan of a game getting shut down, but I wonder if even the developers were giving a sigh of relief once this one was over.

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.