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.


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