Wot I'm Playing – September 2015

This is a total cop-out post because I’m not actually playing anything, hee hee, ho ho. So you’re about to be regaled with all the games I’m not playing, which has been a quarterly litany this year.

WARNING: Do not click the subheading links unless you want to watch extremely silly and definitely NSFW comedians on YouTube. YHBW.

A Compuder

I’m not playing WoW, even though the Draenor flying patch is in and whatnot. Not for lack of interest — well okay, partly for lack of interest — actually, wait, almost totally for lack of interest. And not just in Warcraft. Nothing is really calling my name these days. I’m also not playing TSW, though I keep both games up to date. I’ll have to log back into TSW soon, if only to take more screenshots. Easily the best game evar for moody and evocative screenshots — and for allowing me to make a character that looks the way I would totally love to look in that grindy-ass Real Life game.

It doesn’t help that MMOs are better with other people. But other people tend to play in the evenings, and in the last 6-36 months I’ve tended to conk out right around the time the sun goes down. (Turns out that’s almost certainly the medications I’m on and not just some weird mutation that’s turning me into a sloth, but that’s a whole other story for another time.)

I got all up in ARK‘s business for what, a week? … and haven’t fired it up since. (Playing alone probably didn’t help that one.) I played Shadowrun: Hong Kong and that was super fun, but when I thought I was about a third of  the way in it turns out I was almost at the end, and I finished it before I truly realised what was happening. Super fun but too damn short! Of course, it includes some sort of development platform so maybe there will be other adventures to play. It was never intended to be another Skyrim or Witcher, after all.

Speaking of the Witcher, been meaning to pick up the 3 that people are raving about but haven’t got round to that either yet. In fact, if you were to check my to-do list you’d notice I haven’t done a single item on it.

I haven’t played my new Sims 4 Legacy family in over a month — but there I’m not so worried, because I always go back to the Sims. After looking down my nose at that game for a number of years (and incarnations 1 and 2), I picked up Sims 3 on a whim in 2009 and have been pretty regularly hooked ever since. I don’t play it all the time, but I do play it several times a year for a month or so. So the Stylishes will be back, sooner or later, and I may even post about them someday.

What I have been doing is preparing for the impending parental visit. My mum will be staying with us for ONE. WHOLE. MONTH., so we have to brace ourselves and assume crash positions. And clean the house. Lots and lots and lots of cleaning the house.

airplane_crash_position

Me? Mobile games? With my reputation?

It’s also possible I’ve been *cough* playing a few mobile games. I never did get the point of those until I got a decent tablet; the only games I have on my phone are sudoku, crosswords and a Bejeweled clone and I hardly ever play those as it is. But on the iPad… hell, if it moves I’ve downloaded it. Well, not quite, but I’ve tried out a few games. And I spend a few moments every day doing whatever non-in-app-purchase moves I can do. Which isn’t many, but when you have about 6 games that’s about an hour’s worth.

I’m currently farting about with Happy Street (which fails to hook me but is super cute and so easy it hurts, and it’s all Syl’s fault), Paradise Bay (ditto with nice Disney-like graphics), Adventure Capitalist (seriously, making money to buy more stuff and make more money faster? I might as well be raiding), Best Fiends (which is super cute and kind of fun, since I like match-3 games), and the standard crosswords, sudoku and mahjongg.

Le tabletop game est sur la table

And of course there’s the attempt at a tabletop group and some games. There’s a G+ community going at the moment with a half-dozen folks, and we’ve met up a couple of times on Roll20. Yesterday we did some character creation with about half the group and will fit the other half in as and when schedules allow.

[Tangent-ish: speaking of which, because the schedules and time zones of the current dirty half-dozen are so hard to reconcile, I’d be happy to sort out two or even more groups – playing or GMing, I’m easy. So if you’re interested in playing something FATE-related, or even finding out what the big deal is about FATE, leave your Pathfinder books at home and holler at me in the comments, or on G+.]

Oddly enough it never occurred to me that scheduling is possibly even harder online than it is in person. I expected it to be the opposite… but we have 2 players from the UK, 4 from the US East Coast, and me in the US South-west, which gives us a 7-hour time-zone spread and makes things a little complicated. Add to that some odd work schedules (some folks have non-Sat/Sun weekeneds, some work rotating shifts, some have pretty hefty workloads, we all have other external commitments, etc. etc. etc.) and I swear it’s been harder getting us to our computers and keyboards than it would be to head down to my local game shop and kidnap a few callow youths.

Problem is, I don’t want callow youths. One of the best things about getting older and being an experienced gamer is that you get to play with other older and/or experienced gamers — gamers who don’t think a dungeon crawl with 10,000 gp as a reward is the best thing you can get out of tabletop games. (Not that I have anything against a good Monty Haul campaign, mind you, but I did outgrow those in the 90s.) Or, to be a bit more tolerant of the chronologically-challenged, I don’t want inflexible callow youths. I want to play with folks who don’t mind stretching their gaming comfort zone, as I am currently trying to do.

In fact, what I’m really doing is trying out systems that formalise how my RL friends and I played for years. We didn’t always play so-called storytelling or story-heavy systems, but we always played them as though they were. Character was paramount (possibly herded by a literature major who has very definite opinions about whether character drives plot or the other way around *cough*). And–

And so on. Since this is still nominally an MMO blog, at least until I change the tagline at the top of the page, I won’t froth about tabletop gaming. But the 2 semi-sessions that have been managed have been fun so far; here’s hoping we’ll manage a few more.

The Obligatory Comment-Inducing Question at the End

And you? What have you been playing or wishing you had time to play? Do you think the moon is made of cheese? Who really shot JR? And was the ending of LOST lame or what?

 

Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.

MMO QQ

Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.

bored

I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.

 

* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 24 – Shadowrun: Hong Kong – a brief review

You can get it on Steam.

It’s what I ended up playing the most this weekend, and although I’m only a little ways into it (I think) I figured a brief review wouldn’t hurt for those who are considering picking it up. Note that this, like any other review I might do, is entirely subjective and does not aim to offer anything but my own impressions.

I backed the Kickstarter campaign awhile back, not because I’m a Shadowrun PC game fan (I didn’t even know there had been any) but because I’m a Shadowrun the tabletop game fan. I had the first edition rules and a few modules, and for me Shadowrun is probably the tabletop game that got away — we played it a few times and I was keen to do more, but after the usual romp through D&D / AD&D our group went down the White Wolf path and into all things Vampire for a while before transitioning into Ars Magica, which is what we played for several years until I left for the States in 2001. (And what the group is still playing as far as I know. Without me. Bastards! I know some of you read this!)

Mr. Plastic-Face. Shouldn’t be creepy but is.

All of which is to explain that I approached the game as a tabletop role-player and not as a computer gamer. I had no particular expectations of the game other than that it would allow me to immerse myself in the rather fun Shadowrun mythos for a while. For an approach based more on having played the two previous PC games, check out Wot I Think on RPS; I agree with a lot of it from what I’ve played so far, but I wanted to add my own take on the tabletop or more RPG elements.

The intro is a rainy, grainy, typical cyberpunk/noir tale of things gone wrong shown through a series of moody and evocative semi-animated panels. Some will no doubt miss the grand and expensive full-action cinematic, but I loved the format because it leaves more room for my own imagination to fill in the blanks.

2015-08-21_00007

After that you’re thrown into a normal computer-RPG adventure where you track down mysteries, deal with NPCs good and bad, help the downtrodden or do the treading, and gradually unravel both your own main story and the stories of the group that’s decided to help you out.

RPS is right in saying that there’s a lot of text, but — though I didn’t know it when I started — that was exactly what I wanted from this game. It’s been like playing a tabletop adventure where I’m the only meatsack player and everyone else is computerised, including the GM. The descriptions are long, ornate, even florid on occasion… and they bring me right back to the grand old days of reading out boxed text from Castle Greyhawk or the Temple of Elemental Evil. (It didn’t take us long to grow up from purely parroting those out to doing our own flavour and descriptions, but still, boxed text is just one of those things you never forget.)

Heoi

I’ve even kept the music on, which is something I literally never do in games because no matter how long the loop may be, it’s always a loop. And it’s often way too rumpty-pumpty martial or deedly-wheedly fake-Medieval for me to be able to bear it scritching at my brain for more than a few minutes at a time. The SR:HK music is low-key for the most part and well-adapted to the environments, although it does go up and down in volume in certain locations with no apparent rhyme or reason. I can live with that – even though I’ve kept the music turned on, I’ve also got the volume for it down to about 30%.

The exploration gameplay is fairly standard – click to move, right-click to pan, click on things to interact with them – and the combat gameplay is probably nothing too new either (I wouldn’t know, I don’t play many of these games). It’s turn-based and was quite easy to pick up on. This is a plus for me, since I’m far more interested in the story than in the combat.

2015-08-22_00009

But it does lead me to one of the game’s failings, which is the utter lack of a tutorial. There are a few help screens that are more useful as a reminder than as an introduction, and basically that’s your lot. Fortunately I elected to play on Easy mode — because as I said, I’m far more interested in the story — and wasn’t penalised too badly for making the odd mistake; and after a few fights you pick up most of what you need to know. But still. There’s zero help on the Matrix and what you might want to do in there, or how, so it’s a good thing I’m a cyberpunk fan and could figure most of it out for myself.

2015-08-22_00002
In the Matrix

There’s no real help on how stats and skills work, what builds you might want to use and how you might want to develop your character, other than rather ironic warnings that you don’t want to mess up your own development or that of your crew, because you can’t go back and that would be bad!

In fact after a few hours of play I restarted with a new character, partly because I did mess up my xp allocation a bit and partly because the archetype I chose (Decker, i.e. hacker) was already far better covered by one of my crewmates. My second character is a shaman and although there’s one of those on the crew also, two shamans on the same mission crew isn’t as redundant as having two deckers.

I played quite a lot over the weekend so I’m probably a dozen hours in. Not being very well-versed in these games I’m not sure how far into things I am, but it feels like I’ve just hit the opening of the second act — not even, in fact, because I have a couple of missions I want to wrap up before I move on (and the game kindly reminded me to consider doing just that). I’m a very slow player in these games because I like to read everything, talk to everyone, and interact with every last object, so a super goal-oriented playstyle might have got to the same point in 2-3 hours if not faster.

My character choices throughout have been consistent with the persona I play in most games: street-smart, cynical, skimming on the border between legal and not, but generally a decent person. I give NPCs the benefit of the doubt and let people live when they surrender (including the rather fun ghoul crew-member you can get). I try to find non-violent solutions where possible, and the game gives you quite a few of these and fully supports not killing everything in sight. I don’t shoot my mouth off too much — just enough to exemplify my characters’ usual distaste for any kind of authority. And so on.

vamp queen

All in all I’m having a great time, as evidenced by the fact that I totally forgot that I’d invited folks to check out the ARK server I can fire up when needed. ARK didn’t get loaded up at all; nothing did, actually, since SR:HK was the only game I did play this weekend.

I’ll definitely play some more as soon as time allows, and this might be the one and only SRPG game of the last 10 years I actually finish. For some reason I usually lose steam about two-thirds of the way through (DA:O, DA2, DA:I…). But I have a feeling that SR:HK’s combination of screen-based running around and text-based depth is exactly what I’m looking for in a SRPG. Yes, it has a few flaws — the lack of newbie help, for one, and the rather unwieldy inventory and team UIs; for example, I can’t check my crew’s stats when trying to buy weapons or armour for them — is that because their gear updates (which it may do, but not in any way that’s been mentioned to me in game) or because they forgot to include that functionality?

But ultimately, when it came down to spending crowdfunding on tutorials or content — as I’m sure it did — I’m glad they opted for content. I’m at a little over a dollar an hour for my entertainment right now and that’s excellent value for money in my book.

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 20 – Only Slightly Early

It’s only 2 hours till midnight where I am and it’s long past that in parts east of me, so I’m going to call this Day 20. That’s what the scheduling button is for (yes, the one I said I’d try not to use then totally forgot to use. Sigh).

This time you really are getting your image = 1k words post, because I have a crapton of work to do and too little time in which to do it. I’d like to blame ARK for this but can’t even do that; I spent a fair bit of my dozen hours of playtime so far sat at the main menu while work mail asploded. What I did manage to play I chronicled (except for the bits I forgot to chronicle) in screenshots, a selection of which have been posted to the brand new ARK page and its sub-page (+s, but there’s currently only one):

ARK screenshots from August 19th, 2015

I’ll add more as and when. Since I have gigabytes and gigabytes of unused media upload space I can add a great many more as uncommented screenshots somewhere if people are interested; as an example, I took 61 (quite passable) screenshots today but only posted 16 of them to the daily session page.

And that’s it for today. There are 1000 words in that screenshot page anyway. I just don’t know how not to babble.

(PS: Only 11 posting days to go. WOOOOOHOOOO! I love the initiative, but this daily posting thing is killing me. Srsly.)

Blaugust Day 19 – ARK: lazy blogging day pix

It’s my turn to claim that if a picture is worth 1000 words, you’re about to get way more than I should need to write in a single day. That’s because a) it’s already late in the day and the later it gets, the less I want to write and b) there’s only so many different ways I can say “…and a dinosaur killed me and devoured my corpse.”

I did do and learn a few things yesterday though, the first being that for all my maniacal crowing (here’s a reminder:)

quoting myself

the server options shockingly only affect server-based games and not single-player games.

Bummer.

The second was that telling literally the whole freaking world (well, Twitter), first thing in the morning, how you’re going to spend the entire day in a blissed-out gaming state is guara-fucking-teed to screw up said day.

Third: Setting up a server for myself and the spousal unit to play on wasn’t as easy as it looked, until I found better instructions and this handy-dandy utility: ARK Server Manager. Get it. Use it. I spent a couple of hours faffing around with firewall and router settings and didn’t even need to since it’ll do that for you. I was wrong. You DO have to open those ports on your router but the walkthrough you’re pointed to is excellent.

ARK server manager 2
Click for larger version

Just be sure to point your “Installation Location:” to your existing ARK install (generally SteamSteamAppscommonARK) and not some other folder — I thought it was asking for something else until I realised it was redownloading the whole bloody game (not on my internet connection, you don’t!). And if it doesn’t enter the required ports (orange boxes above), make sure those are entered.

The utility lets you set ALL the variables for the server and then some – the screenie below is just the first quarter of them.

ARK server manager
Click for larger version

Also, if you run your own server, know that it takes a while to get up and running — especially the first time. Mine currently takes about 2 minutes to get going but that’ll vary depending on your rig. Finally, if you find you’re getting timed out a lot once you’re playing on your server, set the client bandwidth to lower than epic — which you have to do from within the game since I assume it’s a local setting; worked like a charm for us.

Fourth: When you brag about how you’re going to play all day, you should know that there will be a patch. It’s a law of gaming. And lo, as soon as the server was set up, there was a patch.

And because I was running the server, my patch was corrupt. So here’s another thing about running a server: shut the server down before you patch. If you get a corruption, shut down the server and just let Steam run the validation; it’ll redo the patch and things will be fine. And if you have a decent internet connection you won’t have to get so mad that you have to clean a parrot cage (no, this is not a euphemism) just to channel your fury into something more constructive than whining on Twitter.

When I finally did get on it was kinda late in the day. The spousal unit and Ysh 3.0 spawned into South Zone 1 to see a brontosaurus happily clomping around crushing every tree in sight. Then we got repeatedly killed by a (to quote him) dildosaurus but was in fact a dilophosaur — yes, the same wee bastards that killed me before. He left to go watch TV but I persevered and have a few screenshots to prove it.

Turns out third time might be the charm — I did not get killed (after the first 3 times), I got revenge on the wee bastard, and I made a house!!11oneone!! There. You may now switch channels, the rest is just pix.

bronto invader
Not a dino you can easily push out of the way.
Note: do not light its foot on fire by mistake while demonstrating a torch to the SO

A quick note: Ysharros 3.0 does not have Thunder-butt, to quote @Wolfy. Men can be so judgy! Maybe just Minor Tremor Butt, because I refuse to make females who look like stick-figures with hot-air balloons stuck to their chests. (Only men make female characters like that in games, BTW.)

Take THAT, dildodocus!
Take THAT, dildodocus!
very very dark
This is what night is like without a torch or fire nearby
fire good
Fire good! And house half-built
ill cut you
If you get near my house I’ll CUT you!
house 1 done
House 1 done. And fancy Indy hat.

I promise I will write about something other than ARK tomorrow.

Maybe.

PS: See how what I’m playing right now fits really well into my Gaming To-Do List? That’s my 6% conscientiousness showing its true colours right there.

Blaugust Day 18 – ARK: Die Another Day

…and another, and another, and another.

(EDIT – ARK had the last laugh. Seems that the server settings sliders do *not* affect single-player games, judging by the GameUserSettings.ini file I just poked around in. Which explains why I wasn’t godlike… or even nooblike… Anyway, read on.)

Yesterday’s play session was the typical second session of any new game, and this applies to all games — computer-based, card games, board games — you get the picture. It’s also known as Your Beginner’s Luck Has Run Out, Byatch!

I went on and on about dying in yesterday’s post, but truth be told I did more almost-dying than real dying — hell, it was only 3 or 4 times in total over a few hours and most of those were newbie mistakes from gawking at the scenery too much and not seeing the dinosaur for the trees.

So when I fired up the game this afternoon, it was with confidence that I was going to get way more done than yesterday, since I was no longer such a noob.

wrong
WRONG!

Yeah…

It started out nicely enough, just to lull me into a false sense of security. I made it back to my original ‘house’ (well, foundations) and was admiring the gradual goldening of the beach as the sun came up behind the headland…

sunrise
I think I found the perfect spot

…when I noticed the brontosaurus who had spent most of the previous day peacefully browsing by the water’s edge coming my way.

That’s nice, I thought to myself. Large peaceful herbivore, not too smart. I’ll have to shoo him away so he doesn’t squash my foundations.

And then he fell over, and I noticed he was kind of covered in gore. Yes, it’s really obvious! Maybe I was dazzled by the sunrise or something.

dino dinner
“Oh look,” I thought, “he’s sleeping! How cute.”

… And then I saw the dinosaur chewing on his ass. Literally.

Hmmm, I wondered. I sure hope that huge brontosaurus will be enough to keep the aggressive one sated for a while and— is it looking at me? Is it coming this way? IT’S COMING THIS WAY!!!!

You can guess that happened next. And the damned thing was only level 1. AND I had the settings skewed in my favour! (Or so I thought. After this afternoon I’m wondering if maybe I’m moving the sliders towards the DIE BYATCH! end of the scale.)

dead again

I respawned in a hurry because I’d just found out that you can loot your shit off your own corpse if you get there fast enough, and I’m lucky (so I think at the time) to respawn right on that same beach, which as I now know is not a given. The Dickosaurus is still hanging around, probably burping up an Ysharros rib or something…

Bad dino

…because, as it turns out, if you’re killed by a carnivore then you’re SOL — or (to be gross), soon to be SOD. You have been eaten by a grue.

(NOTE: Poop is a thing in this game, so get used to it. Dinosaur poop comes in small and medium that I’ve seen so far, but there’s also human poop (which I should never never NEVER have picked up, even if it was my own) and presumably other-entity-poop that I just haven’t yet come across. YHBW.)

Let’s cut to the chase and make the rest of this a bit more concise.

dodo love
Ysharros is such a noob she thinks the dodo loves her. It’s just a health icon.

Dino won’t leave and eats Ysh a few more times. Ysh, driven by death-rage, decides to make a new survivor – for no reason whatsoever other than to not only lose all her items but also lose all her levels, only to get a change of hair colour. Kids, don’t let /rage-quitting drive you!

clue_by_fours
Note to self: broken tree stumps do NOT happen by themselves

Okay then, I think proudly to myself, I figured something out! Avoid big dinos!

And then I ran into these little guys (and their even smaller brethren), who killed me. And killed me. And killed me. And I found the best use for selfie-cam, because it sure as hell isn’t to send pix to my besties on Whatsapp-ARK.

shitlist dino

I know their names now. The Shitlist has them forever. I may have to tame one just so I can kill it– okay that’s a lie, but I’ll think really bad thoughts about them!

By this time I’ve spawned somewhere way to the east of where I started, probably because I didn’t pay attention to the spawn-zone choice, and I’m probably lucky it didn’t respawn me on the north side of the island which is apparently where dinos go to play with tasty human treats. I get killed a few more times trying to work my way back west to see if Ysharros 1.0’s house foundations are still where she put them even though I made a new character, but I never make it that far because I keep dying and the dinos that kill me are getting smaller and smaller. They’re mocking me, I know it.

dilpho death

raptor death
x2 because I ran right into him AGAIN

…and so on.

Ysh, driven by death-weariness after something like 8 deaths — all of them to carnivores so screw you and your attempted corpse run, byatch! — decides to hit back in the only way she can.

SHE DELETES THE FREAKING WORLD

Take that, dinosaurs!

(BUT NOT HERSELF)

(AND SETS THE OPTIONS TO EVEN MOAR EASY*)

(And takes to writing about herself in the third person)

Bwahahahaha! … Isn’t that kind of cheaty? Oh who cares, this is a solo game.

2015-08-17_00041
Yay! Supply crate! Noooooo! It’s Level 15+ to open. This game hates me.

I eventually made it all the way back to my starting beach because — well, I don’t know why since it wasn’t even the same world, but after you start working on your toes to count the number of times you’ve died your goals tend to become a little more basic.

Only to find $#*@$^# Spinosaur 2.0 waiting for Ysharros 2.0. Crouching, by the way, is surprisingly helpful for avoiding becoming dinner. Who’da thunk it? Dickosaur 2.0 got bored and went off to kill dodos on the other side of the river and I crept out of hiding.

2015-08-17_00046

I’ll be taming me one of those bad boys right after I’m done hiding. And finding food. And building a house. And putting down my boxes (oh yeah, that was my one piece of good luck – the newbie beach supply drop had 2 small boxes in it, woot storage… once I can figure out how to get into them once they’re dropped). And making some weapons, preferably nukes.

Actually, it was 18:51 in game when I had to log out and I’m currently just hoping I’ll make it through the next night. What if surviving nights 1 and 2 was sheer luck and my campfire attracts my hungry dinosaurs?

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I have since discovered that I am not alone in being damn near corpse-camped by ARKian dinosaurs. Be warned, the language is colourful. This is the same person who made the very simple, easy-to-follow Dinosaur Taming!! video Aywren originally linked to.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Assuming she’s right about the way the sliders work. This is up for debate.

Blaugust S -15 – Lost in the ARKger Games

I passed on ARK when it was on the Steam Summer Sale, and then regretted it — but regretting missed Steam Sale opportunities is like a twice-yearly ritual for me anyway — so when it was on sale again yesterday I went ahead and picked it up.

One of the reasons I passed on it before was the vast amount of ZOMGPVPganked stuff I read about it, until I realised that ZOMGPVPgank mode isn’t the only one available for the game. You can play solo, on a restricted server, or on other people’s servers. Which at least gave me the chance to dip my toes in the water (metaphorically – you want to be careful about actually doing that in ARK) yesterday and see what all the fuss has been about.

In case you live under a rock like I mostly do, ARK: Survival Evolved, as it’s officially called (because it’s not a real game these days if it doesn’t have a colon somewhere in its name) is… a survival game. In which you try to avoid dying from: heat, dinosaurs, cold, exhaustion, dinosaurs, lack of oxygen, dinosaurs, starvation, dehydration, swimming dinosaurs, the weather, dinosaurs, and (if you want) other players. And that’s only the methods I’ve discovered so far.

It’s less One Million Years B.C. and more LOST or The Land That Time Forgot, though given the costume similarity some confusion is understandable.

ARK_million years
Does my bum look bigger than hers in this?

Aside from the basic premise — don’t die — which is a fairly important one, there are more extended goals. Escape from the Island is the obvious one, though I’m not sure how achievable it’s meant to be and since I haven’t even left the beach I started on, it’s hardly a priority for me yet. Tame dinosaurs!! is another and yes, it must always be spoken or written with exclamation marks. Duh. I haven’t got to that yet either.

Heeere, dino dino dino!
Heeere, dino dino dino!

You’ll also find the standard game goals of exploration, character levelling and skills, building (so that you don’t die from being stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus), and killing shit so you can take its loot (so you can make more shit and aren’t so easy to kill when stomped on by a distracted brontosaurus). And last but not least, there’s finding out what the giant glowy towers are all about, which I suspect ties in with the whole survive-and-escape goal. Unless it opens up a Master Of The Dinosaur Island option, which I’d be okay with too.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

For my trial run I decided to play in single-player mode, which means you can pause the game and the world doesn’t persist when you’re not ‘logged in’. After getting my ass handed to me a bunch of times by dodos, pteranodons*, some kind of giant turtle-thing and a whole freaking school of blood-frenzied megalodons before I’d even made a pair of shorts, I played in dumbed-way-the-hell-down-for-21st-century-slickers mode. In fact, the game lets you customise all manner of things from how tough you are, how tough the dinos are, how long the day/night cycle is (or how long day and night last individually), how quickly you go through food, and so on. You get 24 sliders to play with, not counting the basic ‘game difficulty’ one which I set to jeez-why’d-you-even-bother-buying-the-game?! Because death gets boring after a few run-throughs.

Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki
Thanks to Dracosaurian and the ARK wiki

The very first thing you notice — other than being almost naked and definitely not alone on a beach – is that the game is stupdendously beautiful, at least on my spanky not-quite-new-anymore machine. I can’t run in ultra settings because I only have a ‘lowly’ GTX970, but the high settings weren’t bad at all.

Brontosaurus

The next thing you notice is that everything that isn’t you either wants to kill you or won’t hesitate to kill you if you are foolish enough to attack it — even the trees. Since you start with nothing, you literally have to bang your head fists against a few trees in order to get some basic materials and yes, you take damage every time.

After that you realise that time is passing, tick-tick-tick, that you’re near-naked, surrounded by dinosaurs, dinosaur-infested jungle and dinosaur-infested waters, observed by ominous structures in the distance (which almost certainly have something to do with the glowy carbuncle on the inside of your left wrist), and that you’re probably about to die quickly and unpleasantly (chomp!) or slowly and unpleasantly (brrr!) if you don’t start doing something about it. And all you have is your hands.

Which is fine, because it’s enough to start pulling up berries, leaves, rocks and whatever else you can fit into your capacious and invisible pockets. And soon enough you have enough to cobble together an axe-like thing, which makes you more efficient at getting more stuff to make more stuff to oh shit it’s dark and cold and raining and I don’t have a fire and I’m dyyyyyyiiinnngggg….

Dark night 1
The night *is* dark and full of terrors

So you find a tutorial, because it’s one thing to admire the landscape and quite another to realise that sundown will likely kill you. This one (written) and this one (YouTube) were both basic enough and helpful enough to get me past that first half-hour of frustration. If you’re more used to this kind of game and its UI/controls than I am, you might not even need those. I kept banging my head on the desk because I couldn’t move the mouse to the icons on the right-hand side of the screen (until I realised they’re status icons, not menu icons…). It was just a happy coincidence that the YouTuber chap started in the same spot as I did – or vice versa. But I can tell you that the S1 spawn (I think) on Footloose island, or some such name, is a good, relatively safe spot to start. Yes, even with all the dying I did, because most of that dying was self-inflicted.

Rebuilding
Rebuilding after yet another death

And so you make yourself a couple of tools, eat a couple of berries, kill a couple of dodos, and become cocky enough to investigate the actinic shaft of light shouting Oi! Come check me out! to every gamer within miles. Fortunately I’m the only one on this version of The Island, and when I investigate my first one I get a few goodies like a sling and a flare gun. A little while later (after having levelled, gained some new crafting recipes, and become engrossed enough to totally forget about screenshots) I spot another one a little ways around a headland to the south-west, and I hurry to investigate it before sundown. Being careful of my megalodon nemeses, who mostly avoid the shallow channel between my spawn spot and that other headland apart from the occasional foray, I swim and scuttle over and am rewarded with a thatch foundation, 3 walls, a doorframe and a door. Since I’d already built and placed four foundations at my starting point I was stoked, as this would be the start of a proper house…

Supply cache!
Supply cache!

And then the sun went down, the rain started, the temperature plummeted, and as soon as I stepped into the water to get back to my side of the channel the game warned me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t just cold, I was about to freeze to death. So — disappointed but smarter — I quickly placed my single-foundation hut just off the sand, closed the door behind me, lit a torch, and stood there waiting for daylight.

And that’s where I left it. Tune in next week for another episode of LOST in the ARK!

After a few hours of play, my basic impressions are that it’s definitely a fun game, if you like that sort of thing, which I do — and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I also think it’s probably a lot more fun with friends, so Mort and I may try running a local two-player version when we can find the time (and if I can drag him away from his renewed love-affair with EVE). After that, once we’re not as likely to be a drag on whoever takes me/us in, I may try to see if anyone is running a more-people server, because joining a tribe probably opens up a whole new dimension of fun, and who doesn’t want to be an Ooga-Booga? I probably won’t touch the PvP side of things but that’s ok, I don’t have to.

I even got used to the insanely annoying non-MMO controls pretty quick, though I’m sure I will suck at combat until the end of time. But that’s ok. I’ll find a dino or something to protect me.

– – – – – – – – –

* I’m lying about those. They actually flew away from me before I could hit them, with or without an axe-type-thing — which was probably the only thing that prevented me from impaling myself on their claws.