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.

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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 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.

 

Blaugust Day 14 – Don't be a Jerk

TL;DR – Project Gorgon… no wait, we’ll do that tomorrow. Introvert vs extrovert: don’t be a dick. Oh hey, I should be fired (from MMORPG).

I sat down to post about Project: Gorgon, which I finally got round to trying out for an hour or so yesterday, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I didn’t really get anything done other than being killed in a couple of interesting ways and trying to talk to a wolf who, shockingly, refused to respond in any way but by “Grrrr”.

As I was using my Google-fu to try and figure out where the game had put my screenshots, I saw that Twitter had some updates and clicked over to see this, from Aywren:

Click it. Watch the TED talk. Nod in agreement if introvert (vehemently in my case) or look bemused if extrovert.

And this scratched an old, old itch in my brain, one I still can’t reconcile and one which will presumably never change. Why is it that introverts can understand and empathise with extroverts, but the latter can’t seem to extend the same courtesy to us?

I’ve been here before. (I’m not going to add any other links because that post is dripping with them. The solo vs group introvert/extrovert debate has been going on since before some of you were born.)

Is it just a case of majority privilege? When white people — like me– in the West say we’re not aware of privilege, or when men say they’re not aware of it (especially white, anglo-saxon men), their saying they haven’t noticed something isn’t proof that it doesn’t exist. You may not have noticed that it’s raining but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that it is, actually, raining. (And don’t get me started on the fact versus opinion debate or we’ll be here all week.) Extroverts may not notice that pretty much everything around them is built for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Check out the TED talk, she’s much more eloquent about it than I am.

facts_huxleyI have no hard data but I’m pretty sure extroverts outnumber introverts*, just as group-type players outnumber solo-type players. And I will avoid the obvious fallacy of drawing a direct parallel between introvert and solo, and extrovert and group; even to me things aren’t that cut and dried. All the same, there are some definite parallels in terms of behaviour.

Extroverts tend to think everyone is like them — or if not, that they should be. My family has its fair share of both personality types, and it was my misfortune (and to be fair, my great good fortune) to be raised by a very extroverted mother. She claims to be an introvert but she recovers energy from being around people, which to me is one of the classic signs. She positively thrives on having people around. Me, I thrive madly for a very limited time, after which I become increasingly grumpy, bitchy, and anti-social. There comes a time when I have to physically get the hell away from everyone (or almost everyone) in order to feel like I can breathe again.

Point being, I get that my mother is like she is. I don’t tell her she needs to be more like me — I don’t even think it, because it’s pointless. She is what she is. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert.

And if that’s the case, why does it seem to be such a bad thing to be an introvert? Why does every last extrovert in the galaxy feel we introverts are somehow weird and mutated from the norm? My aunt (an introvert who spent her life pretending she was an extrovert and ended a bitter and angry woman) used to tell me literally ALL THE TIME to smile more. To look pretty. To smile. To not be so quiet. To not be in my corner. To smile…

spock-the-introvert-and-kirk-the-extrovert

To this day, being told to smile makes me want to punch something. Fortunately for the somethings I’m very conflict-avoidant and just punch myself mentally instead.

I’m generalising terribly here and I know it, but that’s because one can’t rant without drawing a few lines in the sand. So here are mine:

  • Extroverts: please, please try to understand (and empathise with) the fact that being around people, even people we love, is extremely exhausting for introverts. We are not like you. We should not have to be like you. If you desperately need other people, which I get that you do, then please find another extrovert to spend time with for a little while. Introverts are not closet extroverts who need to be dragged forcibly into the joy of in-your-face-ness.
  • Groupers: please try to understand that solo players often like to play by themselves, and respect that they do not have to justify this to you. Just because your playstyle is the majority one doesn’t mean we have to shoehorn ourselves into your mould. If you desperately need other people to play with, which I get that you do, then please find another grouper to spend time with for a little while. Just because solo players like to chat does not necessarily mean we’re frustrated groupers who just need to be taught how much better life would be if we could only learn to doublethink group all the time.
  • Introverts: please try to understand that extroverts aren’t really, literally, physically trying to suck the marrow from your soul. They can’t help being energetic around other people, it’s who they are. Understand that a little tact when needing alone-time can go a long way and that the OMFGGETTHEHELLAWAYFROMME! posture is the opposite of tact.
  • Solo players: please try to understand that groupers feel games are designed for them (you know, that MULTI- in MMO, because apparently ‘multi’ is synonymous with ‘always with others’) and that you are breaking the rules when you persist in wanting to play by yourself.

Okay fine, that last one was a bit obnoxious; but I am very, very tired of a battle that’s been going on for years. I will never surrender, which makes it even more exhausting. Being in a minority does not make it wrong to be me — because if that were true, then on a global scale that makes it wrong to be male. Yes, it’s that ridiculous. Or left-handed (which I also am). Come to think of it, being left-handed was seen as wrong until not so long ago – my left-handed mother had that hand tied behind her at school so that she could learn to write the ‘right’ way.

Being in the majority does not make you the only possible iteration of a thing. Being the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean that the non-norm is wrong, except possibly at the extremes of that case. Please bear that in mind next time you mentally castigate someone for being in your face, for not being in your face, and for wanting or not wanting to group.

– – – – – – – –

As a final aside, I found this while I was looking for an old MMORPG.com column I wrote on the solo/group subject. As the more astute among you will deduce, that’s my real name. Wait, no. It’s my pseudonym! Whoops.

BURN THE WITCH!
BURN THE WITCH!

The forum post itself doesn’t seem to be there anymore, which is a shame since I never saw that at the time — or maybe it’s a good thing. I didn’t read comments and forum posts over there because of the inanity and vitriol-quotient, so it’s probably for the best. But I sure did like to stir shit among the masses now and then. And no, I don’t really have Bruce Campbell’s chin — there is only one Bruce Campbell.

– – – – – – – – – – –

* Though apparently not by as much as we introverts tend to think

 

Blaugust Day 13 – the Dreaded Doldrums

TL;DR – Much soul-searching as to why I’m ‘meh’ about games. Need people. Don’t want dungeons. Insoluble. Inconceivable!

I keep calling them that, but I think it’s more than the usual “I’d rather be outside reading a book” summer thing. I have a million games I could be playing and yet, as I have lamented more than once of late, I’m not really playing any of them. Not to any degree of involvement, anyway. Actually, when looking for posts to link in that previous sentence, I realised that those two “what shall I play?” posts were in fact not weeks, but rather months apart (January and July). Which means I’ve been feeling this ‘meh-ness’ about gaming for some time.

meh_catFirst I wondered if it might be that I’ve simply grown tired of MMOs or, *gasp* gaming in general. I still have fun playing Sims 4 now and then, though admittedly that’s not a particularly demanding game; but I don’t play for ‘demanding’ so that’s not an issue. I log into WoW more out of duty than any particular desire to do so, but I am paying a sub (and have been for the last 5 years – I might want to rethink that) so I might as well use it. I haven’t logged into EQ2 for almost a year now, even though I love that game. I check in on The Secret World now and then, but that game is demanding, specifically in a theory-crafting kind of way which doesn’t particularly motivate me. (More on TSW some other time.) I’m not logging in to SWGEmu much and if my vendors burn up, I’m not really bothered. Aside from those there’s The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar and Project: Gorgon, and that’s just all the MMOs I have I’m not playing. And I really want to play Project: Gorgon. I’ve backed the Kickstarter and all. But… meh.

And it’s MMOs I want to talk about in particular because I think I know what’s going on.

I don’t really have anyone to play with anymore.

It galls me vaguely to even say that. I’m an introvert. I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I don’t mind — in fact I very much enjoy — bimbling around by myself in games… provided there are other people to chat with. And there’s the rub. While I’m an introvert, I’m also a sociable player and I like to share the experience with people I know. Which means I’m not counting General Chat in any game as an acceptable alternative. Taking part in general chat is like bathing in a sewer — and not the clean, clearly lemon-scented sewers Baghpuss mentions.

Part of the problem is that I play odd hours. I’m not much of an evening player for one, and I’m in a weird time zone for another — 2 hours behind the US East Coast and an hour ahead of the West. (Granted I’m not playing from Australia or Thailand, which I’m sure presents even greater challenges.) I play during the day, which means I tend to interface most with Euro times — and that’s fine, when it works.

Another issue is that while I know eleventy-thousand gamers through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and just general gaming, we’re all playing different games — so even if they’re online when I’m online, chances are we’re not online in the same virtual world or server. And while I am acquainted with many, I don’t really know who they are in the various games; my occasional attempts to hook up with folks in games tend to fall flat because of issue 1 above.

Then there’s the fact that I am primarily a solo player. I did game with bloggers and e-friends at one point, and we even made guilds together, but because I am not particularly keen on the group thing, I don’t really fit in. So I slip out of touch. And then everyone moves on to another (usually different) game and/or stops playing, etc. etc. etc.

I’m beginning to think I’ll have to embrace the group thing in games. I don’t mind grouping at all (ask my SWG buds, if you can find them), but the primary purpose of grouping in most games is to run dungeons and I would really rather not. I’m certain I’ve explained why elsewhere but I can’t find a link, so in 10 words or less: dungeons = too much visual / auditory input for me. I’ve tried the whole desensitisation thing (thanks to friends who kept telling me that if I did lots of dungeons, I’d start to like them), I’ve tried running them with friends (helps because no PUGs, doesn’t help with the whole input-excess thing), I’ve tried running them in different games (and some are less bad, e.g. FFXIV, while some are awful, e.g. WoW). I’ve tried turning off the particles and turning down the sound, but then what exactly is the point? Oh, right — items.

GWdungeon
Makes my eyes bleed (From the GW2 forums)

I am not motivated by items. So the absolute primary reason to run dungeons, which is to obtain stuff so you can run the next dungeon and get even more stuff… just doesn’t matter to me. The only items I care about are my crafting tools, my housing deco, pets, and the occasional piece of clothing. And even then I’m not always motivated enough to get those that I’d crawl over broken glass to get them (i.e. do long & boring quest lines and/or dungeons).

So while I do occasionally run through dungeons by myself when I’m high enough to not get my ass kicked, it’s not something I make a habit of. And it’s not something that really floats my boat or rocks my world.

I have the uneasy feeling that what I really want — which is to be in an MMO for more than 2 months at a time, to have a couple of dozen folks I can hang out with, and to feel at home again in an MMO rather than like a visitor — may not be available to me right now.

Well then. I shall just have to stop whingeing, pull my socks up, and pick a game. Then *I* can be the one player that’s always there even when everyone else ups and wanders off.

Eenie-meenie-minney-mo… PROJECT: GORGON it is! On with the download! And if you decide to join me, chances are you’ll find me as Ysharros*.

– – – – – – – – – –

* Except in all the games where I’m Eloise or Heloise or Alouette or – yeah, whatevs.

Blaugust Day 9 – The Gaming To Do List

A week or so ago, when A Green Mushroom (Void on Anook) posted literally eighteen-thousand writing prompts on the relevant Anook forum post, I read through them.

eighteen thousand writing prompts

“Ha!” I thought to myself, “I have a mind like an explosion in a gummy-bear factory, I never run out of things to write about, I’ll never need those. Ha!” (I like to Ha! I do it in real life too. Occasionally accompanied by a rapier flourish.* Ha!)

I also thought “Damn, that Green Mushroom chap has way too many ideas and way too much energy and is making the rest of us look very bad!” Then I thought, “Oh well, let’s— oooh look, shiny!!”

And now — as you might expect from the blatant telegraphing I just did — I am in fact casting about for things to write. Last weekend was easy (well, relatively-speaking) but I think that was coasting on the wave of OMG I’m really doing this enthusiasm. This weekend I’m more “Geez, again? Can’t I just play something? [whine] It’s national book lovers’ day, not national write said books day!” [Distant sound of Waaahmbulance siren.] “It’s SUNDAY!!”

This final argument has failed to sway my Rational Decision Maker and as of about 5 minutes ago** it has soundly beaten Instant Gratification Monkey*** (buy your own here and get your own damn name!) (yes of course I’m going to end up buying one, probably right after I finish this post, or somewhere in the middle if I can’t manage to get to the point) (and yes of course it’s perfectly fine to keep chaining parentheses like this; trust me, I’m a lit. major).

IGMonkey-1_1024x1024Where was I? Ah yes, here. I’m actually not taking one of AGM/Void’s prompts today but I have learned my lesson and now know that when I do — as I inevitably will — I shall do so with the requisite gratitude and humility. Today, however, I am going to fill out Izlain’s Gamer To-Do List.

As may be relatively evident from my amazing barely passable atrocious Conscientiousness score over at Quantic Foundry (a whopping 6%, which means basically ALL my friends in any grouping of 10 or so are more conscientious than me), I’m not much of one for being constrained by stuff I don’t want to do. Homer holds the upper hand in my subconscious probably 94% of the time. It’s a wonder I manage to finish showering and come out clean.

And the number of useless but hopefully entertaining tangents so far will amply demonstrate how little I actually want to be doing this list thing. I do not like lists. I do not like having to order my brain in coherent, sequential segments. Organising is hard. I’m creative, dammit! Which means I get to be messy, unfocused, messy, easily distracted, messy, occasionally brilliant, and messy. It does not mean lists.

Alison HendrixWhich is pure bullshit, of course. Lists are helpful. I don’t think I’ll ever be Alison Hendrix even if I spent the rest of my life in rehab for the terminally-disorganised procrastinator, but even I can aspire to a modicum of sense and structure in my life. Sometimes I’m so scattered it seems hard to keep a single thought at the front of my mind; I’m not sure if age is making that worse, or if meds are making that worse, or if it’s just one of those things that get bigger and more awful and more noticeable the more you look for them, but it’s a fact that I have real trouble focusing on things I don’t want to be doing. Probably, you know, because I don’t want to be doing them.

I’m not convinced that carefully structuring my entertainment time is going to work for me, not just for the reasons given above but simply because, ironically, I am as spontaneous in games as I am unspontaneous in life (there might have been a time when I was spontaneous but that was before anxiety and comfort zones — now my spontaneity is carefully-planned). There are few things I love more in games than seeing something on the horizon and taking off to see what it is, getting distracted halfway there by an abandoned [insert structure] and exploring that, only to get distracted halfway through that to read up on all the mythological and lore references… etc. etc. etc. (Much as I dislike questing in MMOs with the significant other, he probably hates questing with me for this very reason.)

So here is the damn list already. Chop-chop!

Ysharros’s Gaming To-Do List

1. Make a gaming to-do list. Okay, I’m kidding.

  1. Real number one. Play a Sims 4 legacy family to at least Generation 4.
    This is because my previous Legacy family made it to Gen 3, but I abandoned it amid much grumbling regarding twins/triplets, families who forgot all about each other between dinner and breakfast, and other sundry bugs that have since been fixed. I am currently playing the Stylish family (bien sûr) and have taken a million screenshots, but I haven’t written anything about it partly for fear of jinxing it and partly because starting it coincided with Blaugust and I didn’t reckon the new visitors would be much into the Sims 4. I might be wrong! If you’re a Sims 4 or Legacy challenge fan, previous legacy posts start here
  2. Check out Banished
    The first of a number of Steam games I bought and have never even fired up.
  3. Check out Torchlight II
    See #2 above
  4. Give Elite: Dangerous another shot
    As in, try to make it out of the space station (easy peasy!) and back to the landing pad (not so easy) and maybe even, you know, to somewhere else. No game in the last 25+ years has ever made me feel as incompetent and uncoordinated as E:D did. If that doesn’t work, shoot it in the virtual head.
  5. Get past the intro sequence in Dragon Age: Inquisition
    As you might by now have gathered, this year I have been mostly having problems playing the games I have bought. Games I know I’d like! What is wrong with me?!
  6. Check out Witcher 3
    By which I most likely mean Buy it and forget to play it. See above.
  7. Finish the Garrison Shipyard line/quests/whatever they are on at least one of my WoW characters.
    I’ve got 4 to choose from, 5 if I could be arsed to level the mage, so it’s not like I’m lacking for candidates. I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for WoW at the moment. Come to think of it, I can’t muster much enthusiasm for gaming in general, but that’s another topic for another time (probably this week since I’m definitely not the only Blaugustinian suffering from Summer ennui).
  8. The not gone and not forgotten list — Landmark, SWGEmu, EQ2, STO…
    I’ve played all of those apart from STO. I love SWG and EQ2… but I don’t want to play those either at the moment. At the very least I can schedule time to update them, which with my internet connection requires some actual scheduling.

That’s enough for now. I feel tired already just looking at it!

Last but not least:

We’re almost a third of the way there. Only 22 days to go. Take heart, fellow Blaugdignagians!

* Okay, not since my LARP days 20 years ago, but I have gone Ha! with a rapier. Everyone should do it at least once. Chandelier-swinging is on my bucket list.

** After watching an old Chopped, making an elaborate brunch, cleaning the kitchen, and futzing about on iPad games for a couple of hours…

*** Does he have a name? I think I’ll call mine Homer. You can think it’s a Simpsons reference but I swear it’s epic and Greek.

Blaugust Day 6 – Anook AMA

Because Blaugust isn’t hard enough as it is, our friendly blogging taskmistress (aka Syl) decided a little extra sadism was appropriate so she started the Blaugust AMA thread over on Anook. Seeing that I’d get to ask TAGN a question I went for it, only to discover he’d already more than covered my question in his blog (curse you, Wilhelm!). Jaedia from Dragons & Whimsy then asked me a question and I had no choice but to meekly comply. So here we are.

Q: Do you feel as though MMOs have lost their way over time? Or are you excited for the future and the unique ideas that it brings?

A: Yes, and no. Yes, and no.

Okay, whew, that was easy! See you tomorrow!

Double-curses! I’m not meeting the length requirement! (Thank God there’s no ‘meaningful content’ requirement.) Surely I’ve done a post about this in the past!

/starts searching

/realises that searching archives from 5-6 years ago will take longer than actually posting

/goes back to posting

Do you feel as though MMOs have lost their way over time?

Yes, because they’re not at all like they used to be 10 or 15 years ago… And no, because change isn’t necessarily a bad thing — despite the way most gamers react to it. Games have changed quite a bit over the last decade: to name just one example, we’ve gone from super-simple combat interfaces (smash monster) to having eleventy-million buttons to hit (see EQ2-Exhibit_A) and back to having fewer buttons to hit. Because it turns out that having lots of things to do in combat is fun, but mashing buttons as an interpretation of that ‘things to do’ concept is actually un-fun.

hotbar_madness
Buffs and debuffs and HoTs oh no!

And no, because change is inevitable. For one thing MMO gamers are an incredibly opinionated and whiny lot (you wonderful people excepted of course, at least as far as whining goes) and we demand change all the time. Then we complain about the changes that were made. And when those changes are toned down (by developers who really ought to know better), we complain about the changes to the changes! But if no changes were ever made to games (I’d add an example but I can’t think of one) we’d complain about them being too static and… unchanging.

You know, I think the world needs another post on how MMO gamers are probably the most annoying people in the world. But not today.

As far as ‘losing their way’ goes… No, I don’t think so. The MMO industry is still really quite young, considering — I don’t know the insider stuff but I’d guesstimate we’ve had maybe 4-6 ‘real’ development generations for MMOs, if we can call them that, and that’s not a lot. Games aren’t made in a vacuum: studios and devs see what other studios and devs are doing, play what other studios are doing, like some of it and emulate it, don’t like some of it and try to correct it or make it better, and so on. We tend to forget that we’re still figuring out what makes a great MMO — and given the variety of playstyles, preferences and genre options I’m not sure there is such a thing as The One MMO to Rule Them All. World of Warcrack did a great job at the ‘One Size Fits All’ genre, but now we’re seeing that smaller, so-called ‘niche’ MMOs are not only doable but possibly a better option.SOTA

Do I miss the old-school MMOs? Of course. No game will ever be the same to me as my first MMO was. Asheron’s Call was weird, quirky, and amazeballs… but much of that comes from the fact that it was my first MMO. And because I had hours and hours to play back then. And because I was younger. And because MMOs weren’t as sophisticated (and neither were their players) nor as widespread as they are now and we didn’t have as much choice, so we were less picky. And because I met some of my best RL- and e-friends in that game, many of whom I still hang out with in person or online.

But I don’t think that means they’ve lost their way. If anything, I would contend that gamers have lost their way. And we won’t even touch the whole GamerGate thing which makes many of us hesitant to even use the G word anymore. (For the record, I come down hard on the side of the so-called SJW and if that bothers you so much you can’t get over it, feel free to read some other blog in your spare time.)

…or are you excited for the future and the unique ideas that it brings?

As for question 2, I’ve probably halfway answered that already. I am excited for the future of MMOs, though I hope there will be some re-adoption of old mechanics and ideas — in my case I’m desperate for a game that doesn’t offer much loot and depends almost entirely on a player-driven, player-crafted economy like SWG did in its early days. There are games in development that offer exactly that. Project Gorgon for one (I think – don’t shoot me if I’m wrong), whose current Kickstarter project has 17 days to go. I backed it because Eric & co of Elder Game have some design ideals that are very close to my heart. Camelot Unchained is another that I’m intrigued about. And then of course there’s Shroud of the Avatar, which I also backed last year and still can’t find the time to explore as much as I’d like. And if sci-fi is more your thing, there’s The Repopulation. [Note that those are all sandboxes. That’s my personal preference. I’m sure there are old-school less-sandboxy games in development as well.]

repop

I expect the future of MMOs will certainly include more mega-titles, because some companies can afford to make them (EA, Blizzard, Square Enix), but I think it will include a great many more ‘homebrew’ or ‘indie’ or, you know, normal-sized titles. And I suspect that the ‘niche’ games will be just as successful as their larger brethren, once the smaller studios find out how to plan, develop and publish them in a way that doesn’t bankrupt them or force them to expect unrealistic revenue. Crowd-funding is one option and it’s certainly worked for the tabletop and MMO projects I’ve backed (even if it took Project Gorgon three tries – we’re all learning as we go here).

If we add technology changes into the mix (Oculus, anyone?) we’re looking at an evolving sector with evolving players, evolving technologies and evolving platforms, and it’s a wonder MMOs today are still recognisably the same type of game as they were 15 years ago. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be like in 2030, assuming I’m still around.

Damn straight I intend to be an MMO-playing pensioner!

Synchronicity

In reply to my previous post, pskinner mentioned Trove, which apparently could be a crafter’s paradise. I saw that this morning, just before checking my mail…

In which I found this:

trove

And then I remember why I quit ArcheAge before the alpha phased into beta, and why I’m unlikely to ever pay for a Glyph game again. It’s one thing to give actual perks for subscribing; it’s quite another to offer features that nobody would want to be without. If you’re going to be free to play, BE free to play. If you’re going to be subs-only, then man up and admit that’s what you are – it works pretty well for WoW after all.

Maybe the whole ArcheAge thing just left a sour taste ($150 for the privilege of Alpha testing being the first thing, and I won’t get started on the rest or this will become a rant of epic proportions). It was my choice to spend the money, after all. Just like it’s my choice to not play any of their other games now. There’s just something too… grasping about the whole Glyph money model.

I’d also forgotten Trove is supposed to be a Minecraft-alike. If it’s very much like it — specifically with how the camera works — then the only thing that will happen is me hurling my breakfast all over the room, so that’s another no right there. I think if I want a voxel game I’ll just go back to Landmark; it’s been over a year and a great deal of water has gone under that bridge (which isn’t even a Sony bridge anymore), so maybe those pesky graphics issues — the ones where anyone with an nVidia card would crash — have been fixed.

 

The Repopulation – Hour 1

It’s on sale on Steam for a few more days. Find out more about the game here, or do a Google search you lazy bastards. Here are my very brief first impressions.

  • It’s in alpha. Read it again: ALPHA. Repeat after me: Aaaaalllph-aaaaaa. So stop crying about the bugs, the disconnects, the crashes, the bugs. (And it’s running very stably for me so QQ bitches.) If you don’t want that experience, wait a few months. It’ll be on sale again and it doesn’t launch till Q4 (that’s dev-speak, so I’m guessing May 2016).
  • It’s a sandbox. There’s a basic “here’s how you walk, talk and shoot things” tutorial and then you’re dumped in Mos Eisley one of the two faction starter-cities to sink or swim. However, NPCs are literally spamming your inbox with mission offers and the rest is pretty self-explanatory for anyone with a working braincell. Want to harvest? Find some nodes, swing that axe. Want to fight? Find some mobs, pewpew that pistol.
  • It feels a lot like SWG and the UI elements borrowed all the nastiest, clunkiest, screen-hoggingest crappy bits of the SWG UI (of all the things to copy), but it is most definitely not SWG or UO, so don’t go buying it because someone said it was. It’s ‘inspired by’ — and that’s definitely true. It’s not a clone. Your character may be, but it isn’t.
  • I’m not a huge fan of the graphics or even the art style, but that’s highly subjective. Bodies are reasonably well-proportioned and fairly realistic (moreso than in most games). The buildings in the starter cities are suitably grimy. The outside bits are suitably tree-y and rock-y… But somehow it leaves me cold. I’d almost rather SWG’s cartoonish art than this gritty, realistic and ultimately unpoetic view. So far the landscapes haven’t made me catch my breath, but I haven’t gone far. AND it’s alpha. Always remember alpha.

2015-06-19_00004 2015-06-19_00002

  • The crafting system looks complex. It may still  depend on grinding 1000 craft-foozles to master, but there’s very little way around that in an MMO – at least no fair way. I haven’t really crafted anything but I have chopped down some trees and harvested some flowers and ore. Oddly enough if it reminds me of anything, it’s Anarchy Online, simply because it’s so freaking complex and there are so many recipes and Recipe 1 depends on subcomponents A – M each of which is made by a different crafting profession…
  • However, the game does have a Work Order system, which is the only way you can make genuine crafting interdependence work. I have already sold little bits and pieces to people who needed them for whatever mysterious purpose they needed them for. I’m guessing grinding.
  • I have no idea what combat is like, other than a bit buggy. I pewpew-ed shit with my trusty handgun as needed to reach nodes. I don’t care about combat.

I have a feeling there is a LOT to discover under the surface, especially with harvesting and crafting and perhaps even housing. I will probably carry on discovering, but I doubt it’ll pull me away from SWG or WoW or my main games, not for a while.

SWG – Hangin' with my Thune and other handy slash commands

Got a little bit of time to play in between massive work-dumps, so here are some more screenshots. They mostly involve Heloise, who is going to be my swordsman/doctor and just got her AOE melee attack (also known as Spinning Attack of Massive Lair Doom). If you scroll down past all that, you might even get some useful chat commands relating to structures (houses, harvesters, factories).

Below, Ysharros hanging with her thune pet in a purely decorative role. She’s not buffed (and just got killed by gurks for being a n00b), so she’s just using her level and her pet’s level to ensure Heloise can get the snorbal missions she desires. For the uninitiated, SWG missions are level-related and although I have no idea how the details work, I do know that more levels = more money (and harder missions, but not that much harder).

hangin-with-my-thune
Hangin’ in Hispania, Lok

Next, Heloise standing in a big pile of dead snorbals. Basically, once you acquire the Spinning Attack of Massive Lair Doom (aka SAMLAD), you target the lair and just spam that one attack while the three waves spawn and stampede in to attack you. Which is perfectly justified if you ask me, but it didn’t stop me from doing my best to cause a mass snorbal extinction event. For the more uninitiated, snorbals are non-aggro, perfectly harmless elephant-type creatures. They’re good milking too, incidentally, but that day I was all about the FILTHY LUCRE. Oh hey, that might be a good character name.

pile-o-snorbals-2
GREAT WHITE ZABRAK HUNTER

In another Hemmingway moment, here’s Heloise killing a Kimogila, yeah baby!!!

…OK, it’s actually only a baby kimogila. I feel guilty about it but I did take a selfie all the same.

Kimokill
RAWR

Let’s see, what else is in the pix folder… Oh yeah, my Entertainer-to-be busting some really, really, REALLY bad moves in Mos Eisley. I’d forgotten quite how bad beginning dancers are. She hasn’t had much playtime so she hasn’t improved, and I haven’t quite made up my mind to go the AFK-levelling route yet. I did it at the keyboard the first two times, dammit, and it was FUN. And, as it happens, Mos Eisley cantina is a totally happenin’ place, so maybe I’ll give it I shot. Dunno yet. Having too much fun using the SALAD — no, wait, SAMLAD attack on snorbal lairs.

Fleurette_begins_her_career
Stayin’ alive

OK last one, just to show folks the effect of using the various SweetFX mods as well as the ClearSkies mod (direct DL link here). It lets you see almost too far into the distance, something 2003 computers probably would have struggled to do — I know mine did — but it does cut out the insanity-inducing whistling sandstorms and the incredibly thundery rainstorms. Which, since I now live on Lok as a proud member of SWG-U, does make playing a little quieter. Even if those distant mountains look a little polygon-y…

clearskies-and-Nims
Nym’s Stronghold, Lok

Now on to some actually useful stuff for other SWG-EMU players. And if you’re not playing, come join us. You know you want to.

SWG Slash commands

These are for people — like me — who don’t like using radial menus because they’re slow, clunky, slow, annoying, and slow. If you’re extra-super-smart you’ll find ways to combine these into macros, such as a harvester maintenance-adminchars-power-naming macro that lets you do a bunch of things with a single button press (in this case add money and power to the harvester, name whatever alts you need as admins, and give it a funky coloured name if you’re into that sort of thing – which I am). They won’t make coffee, select a resource to harvest, empty a hopper or decorate for you, but they are useful. Check out this page if you want even more of them, just note that not all these commands are available in SWGEMU.

/pay [amount] — e.g. /pay 1000

Adds the specified amount of maintenance to the structure you’re in, near, or have targeted. Easy enough for houses and factories, can be a bit more hit-or-miss when you have a harvester targeted but are closer to another (assuming it’s also yours). You can’t add maintenance to structures you’re not admin for, so no worries there.

/setpermission admin [charname] — e.g. /setpermission admin Ysharros

Toggle command which adds [or removes] the specified character from a structure’s admin list. This can be a house, harvester or factory.

/setprivacy (toggle)

Makes the specified structure private or public. Pretty sure this only affects houses, and it allows other people in. Or not, depending on which way you’re toggling.

/addpower [amount] — e.g. /addpower 20000

Or if you’re really lazy — like me — /addpo 20000. Adds the specified amount of power to the harvester you’re near or have targeted. Can be a bit hit-or-miss when you have a harvester targeted but are closer to another (assuming it’s also yours). You can’t add maintenance to harvs you’re not admin for, so no worries there. I think.

/structurestatus

Brings up a structure’s status menu that tells you how much maintenance is in it and other details depending on the structure.

/transferstructure [charname]/target — e.g. /transferstructure Ysharros (or to whoever you have targeted)

Does exactly what it says on the tin. I can’t remember if it works for ALL structures or just houses and factories, but I suspect all. You get a lot back and your target loses a lot (or more depending on the structure).

/createvendor

Go on, guess what it does. Useful for creating vendors without going to the structure control terminal or whatever it’s called. Vendors are created in your inventory and require a house to be public, because what’s the point of having vendors if nobody can come in? (Storage. Company. Decoration. Moving on.)

/tip [amount] [charname]/target bank — e.g. /tip 1000000 Ysharros bank or /tip 1000000 bank (with target selected)

Tips someone from your bank with a 5% service charge if you’re lacking in ready cash as I always am. I could also be wrong on this one. I always forget the syntax. You’re welcome to try it out exactly as written above if you’re playing SWG. /halo

That’ll do for now. I may turn that list into a handier and dandier reference page if there seems to be enough interest. Or maybe just to remind myself how to bank tip someone. Speaking of mundungous tips, apparently I missed out on a ONE MILLION CREDIT handout two of my fellow Donkeys lucked into the other day. Dammit.

On the RL front, the rescuees are doing well, thanks to those who have asked. 🙂 Here’s a crappy phone pic of them enjoying some sun. It’s still extremely hard to get near the black one, but she’ll creep closer when her sister is getting tickles.

girlygirls

 

SWG – May the Fourth be with you

I had to.

The screenshot has the UI in it so SWG-oldies can see nothing has really changed. Which is both good and bad. Remember the auto-targeting?

Fourth

Got some playing time in during the weekend, even if it was less than I would have liked because I’m still sick and yes Mum, I’m going to the doctor tomorrow. (At 7:30 in the morning. Who DOES that? Military doctors, that’s who. Ungh.)

Ysharros is now 4-4-2-4 in Creature Handler, while my crafty characters have done exactly nothing other than leech all Ysharros’ hard-earned credits. Making money as a crafter is going to be difficult on a server where everyone can have 10 characters and some of the older players probably do. You don’t see 2-4 vendors in most houses, you see 5-8, and the malls have over a dozen. The South Eisley mall has so many vendors in the guild hall main room that you can’t even tell what their names are. Doesn’t help that they’re all identical, which wasn’t a style call I would have made, but other than that it’s an impressive shopping venue — and for all I know, it’s all run by one player.

So for the time being, Ysharros is the money-maker, which means there isn’t much money floating around because I only have a very small capacity for fighting things just to be fighting things. Instead, I spent my buffs going to Endor and taming everything that moved, which included a cowardly gurreck, a couple of mereks (nasty male drow looking things, spiders with humanoid torsos and heads), and a mantigrue. No real gurreck and no bluurg – yet. But anyway, I’m not making money very fast because I get distracted and/or have to quit and go lie down.

But hey, who cares. It’s SWG. 🙂

Last but not least, for those who want to come back and take a look, check out Obzzarver’s site. It’s where we’re hanging out. We’re currently trying to decide on a guild to join because who knows how long the nostalgia kick will last for any of us, so making our own is not the best idea.