Category Archives: Forza

Forza Horizon with a Controller

Playing Forza Horizon 4 & 5 on the PC with the keyboard comes with its own special challenges, which I have mentioned in previous posts.  But, to summarize, there are no half measures on the keyboard.  If you press the W key for the throttle, it is full throttle.  If you press S to brake, it is slamming on the brakes.  And steering is a an exercise in yanking the wheel all the way in one direction or another and then letting go.

Forza Horizon 4

Which honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds.  I played Mario Kart on the DS, which had just a d-pad for steering and a button for acceleration and did well enough, learning the “Mario Kart tap” method to stay on course.  But Forza Horizon has been designed with analog input in mind, so while I wasn’t horrible at the game, and did improve over time, the keyboard as a controller was always going to be a barrier.  Drifting, for example, requires a subtlety of control not possible with the keyboard, so far as I can tell… though we cannot discount me simply being bad.

Analog sticks, with their variable range of input, make a difference… or such was my theory.

I have/had a UBS game pad controller around the house somewhere, a Logitech Dual Action that was $4.99 back in 2011 when the offer for it came up.  I used it a couple of times over the years, but with no great success.  And, since I couldn’t find it after some desultory searching, I decided to buy a new game pad.  XBox compatible seemed to assure compatibility with Windows, so I went to Amazon and…

Well, there are a lot of choices, enough to thwart any decision on my part.  I faced the paralysis of too many choices and not enough information.

And then Belghast tweeted something a few days later recommending the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ Blluetooth gamepad being on sale at Amazon and I jumped on that, getting the black model.

The gamepad in question

Since it was already December, this became a gift from my wife under the tree, to match the Lancome La Vie Este Belle gift set she bought as a present that I could give her.  This is sort of where things end up after 25 years together, though we both still cheated and bought something else for each other, as we do every year.

Anyway, once I had the time to play with my gift, I got it connected to my system via Bluetooth and Forza Horizon 4 recognized it right away when I launched it.  So off I went, to try driving with a controller.

And boy did I suck.

Imagine that, a new controller didn’t magically make me better at the game.  In fact, it made me quite a bit worse.

The thing is, there were bad habits to unlearn.

When you’ve been playing on the keyboard with its binary on/off control mode you have no opportunity to learn any finesse in control, or at least not the control that an analog input gives you.  So it took a couple hours of play to learn to not just jam the throttle all the way down with the R2 button and to not just jam the left analog stick back and forth to its extreme positions while driving.

And then it took a bit longer to grow past my abilities with the keyboard while using the controller.  But it wasn’t bad.  I was already used to driving wildly off the road, through trees, fences, hedges, front yards, construction sites, and whatever other bits of destructible terrain was in the game.  Forza Horizon supports bad game skills quite well really.

So learning some control meant playing no worse that I was used to playing and occasionally getting better.

It was also nice to see how transparently the game moves from controller to keyboard input, depending on what I am doing.  There are still some things that are easier done on the keyboard.  Sometimes it is just quicker to reach up and hit the big Enter key that try to remember which key I need on the controller.

The physical controller itself is nice and solid, if a bit small for me.  I have big hands, so it isn’t like that doesn’t apply to almost any gamepad I pick up.  As I have said in the past, I thought the Wii Remote system was kind of goofy, but it was very good for a big guy like me.

The only odd or objectionable thing about the unit is that, unlike the pictures of it I have included above, which came from the 8BitDo web site, the markings on my controller are completely unreadable.  They are flat black characters in a black font on a black background that it the same texture, lettering or not.  If I hold the controller under a very bright light at an angle I can see lettering in the light reflected off of the places where there is supposed to be writing, though it is still too much black on black to discern what any given section is supposed to say.

I thought for a while that maybe the unit I got was missing its face plate.  But, as I noted, I could discern writing under close, well lit examination.

This was actually a bit of a problem for me for a while, as I don’t use a controller very often, so I had to put up a key layout on my second monitor until I got used to where they buttons were.

Still, if I were to buy another one, I might opt for one of the models in a lighter color with dark lettering.

Anyway, I now have a controller to play Forza Horizon, and it has made me a bit better at the game.  I still haven’t figured out drifting, but you cannot expect hardware to perform miracles I suppose.

The End of the Steam Winter Sale with 2021 Stats and Awards

The Annual Steam Winter Sale wrapped up about fifteen minutes ago, if this post went live when I scheduled it.  I sometimes mess that up, so one can never be too sure.

The Tradition Continues

As with last year, I ended no new games.  I bought a few things during the summer sale, but when it came to winter I wasn’t able to warm up to anything sufficiently.  I did buy some of the DLC for Stellaris that was discounted, so I didn’t walk away completely empty handed.  But, in the end my current policy of “don’t buy it now if you’re not going to play it now” won out.

So not much of a story to tell there.

But Valve has some stuff for me to talk about.  They did their usual “Best Of” post for 2021 that detailed what did well on the platform over the past year. (The blog has links back to past years if you are interested.)

On top of the revenue chart were the following 12 games, sorted alphabetically because they don’t give you actual numbers by which to sort them:

  • Apex Legends
  • Battlefield 2042
  • CS:GO
  • Dead by Daylight 5
  • Destiny 2
  • Dota 2
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Naraka: Bladepoint
  • New World
  • PUBG Battlegrounds
  • Rainbow Siege 6
  • Valheim

Some of the old familiar Valve titles made it, including Dota 2 and CS:GO, along with the aging champion Grand Theft Auto V, which will seemingly never die.  But it was nice to see 2021’s surprise hit, Valheim, make the cut, as did New World.  Two titles I actually played!

Perennial Platinum finisher Warframe remained in the Gold category for 2021, which still shows it to be a strong game.  Also in Gold were both Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Horizon 5.

When it came to the Most Played category, nine titles managed to exceed the 200K concurrent player count to make it into the Platinum rank for 2021.  They were:

  • Apex Legends
  • CS:GO
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Dota 2
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Halo Infinite
  • New World
  • PUBG Battlegrounds
  • Valheim

Again, it probably helps to be a Steam exclusive, but that category is pretty wide, with some of the titles closing in on a million concurrent at times.

And then there were the Steam Awards for 2021, the categories and winners of which were:

  • Game Of The Year: Resident Evil Village
  • VR Game Of The Year: Cooking Simulator VR
  • Labor Of Love: Terraria
  • Better With Friends: It Takes Two
  • Outstanding Visual Style: Forza Horizon 5
  • Most Innovative Gameplay: Deathloop
  • Best Game You Suck At: Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition
  • Best Soundtrack: Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • Outstanding Story-Rich Game: Cyberpunk 2077
  • Sit Back And Relax: Farming Simulator 22

I voted in the award, though given what I play, it was generally a matter of guessing who would win rather than voting for anything I played.  Valheim was a nominee in a category or two, but did not make the cut.  So the only winner that I played was Forza Horizon 5, which I did indeed vote for.

But I also voted for Cooking Simulator VR and that was just me picking the silliest title on the list of VR options.

Anyway, the sale has come and gone, the records have been declared, and the award have been given out.  Back to whatever passes for normal, at least until we get to the summer sale.

December in Review

The Site

Here we are, once again facing a new year.  2022 is just hours away and… well… not much is going to change.  We imbue the artificial construct of time with magic properties, like one more turn around the sun will change us, the world, or human nature.

Still, it is almost the last time I get to use this graphic.

2020 plus 1

This is my 397th and final post of the year.  And you know what I haven’t done yet?  I haven’t uninstalled Adobe Flash.  I still get this alert every few weeks.

The end of Flash is here

I don’t know why I haven’t removed it.  It isn’t like I am invested in Flash.  I’m just being stubborn I guess.

Also, the ad experiment carries on.  The goal of it was to cover the cost of the Premium hosting plan which I switched to due to WP.com threatening to inject sponsored posts into those not paying for hosting.  The goal is to get paid, which means making at least $100 before the next payment comes due.  Three months in and revenue is closing in on $60.  I am not quitting my day job, but at least the blog is revenue neutral.

One Year Ago

Pandemic binge watching was still under way, which led me to summarize how it felt.  Somewhere in all that binging I found time to read, so had five books to talk about.  I was also promoting the ability to read the blog via FlipBoard.

Then there were predictions to be reviewed, though 2020 was beyond predicting really.

The Steam Winter Sale kicked off yet again.

I played Among Us for an evening.  I have yet to to play it since.

We got the news that Daybreak was set to be purchased by a Swedish company called Enad Global 7.  As part of that we got a look into Daybreak’s financials.  We learned that DC Universe Online had the most players and highest gross revenue of all their titles, yet EverQuest still managed to eke out the highest net profit.  The deal closed before the month was done.

EverQuest also launched the Claws of Veeshan expansion, the 27th for the title, while its younger sibling, EverQuest II, released the Reign of Shadows expansion, its 17th since launch.

In Pokemon Go, the update had arrived that raised the level cap from 40 to 50, so I was sizing up what it was going to take to get to level 41.

In WoW Shadowlands I hit the level cap… which was back to level 60 after the big squish… after which I had to choose my covenant.  We got a look at how Shadowlands stacked up against past launches.  SuperData, in what would be one of its final reports, said WoW subscribers were up with the expansion.

In WoW Classic the instance group was wandering Blackrock Depths and Stormwind with Marshal Windsor, then went back in to go after a couple more of the bosses in that dungeon.  That done, we made it through the bar only get get stopped cold in the lyceum.   But I was working on my blacksmithing skills as well, though I couldn’t tell you why now.

While CCP was still fruitlessly trying to work out how to create an FPS based in New Eden, in EVE Online, their one and only successful ongoing title, World War Bee was raging, and would soon lead to yet another Guinness world record setting battle.  News from EVE Online summed up:

Finally, I tried to sum up 2020 by shooting only for the high points.  It wasn’t easy.

Five Years Ago

As happens every December, I reviewed my predictions for the year, assessed the highs and lows, and made some attempt at a gaming outlook for 2017.  For the last I was feeling somewhat adrift… which turned out to be right on the money for most of 2017!

At Daybreak we found out that Russel Shanks had been replaced as CEO.  Still not sure what changed with that, if anything.

A little later former Daybreak CEO John Smedley announced the end of Hero’s Song and PixelMage Games.

Meanwhile Turbine was losing Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online to a spin-off called Standing Stone Games.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 were to be closed and Turbine was slated to become solely a maker of mobile games.  Standing Stone Games also had some deal with Daybreak, they were even mentioned in the EULA, so maybe that was what changed.

In New Eden we had Blog Banter #78 which asked the pwipe question about EVE Online.

Then there was the rumor that CCP might be up for sale for ONE BILLION DOLLARS!  I followed that up with my thoughts as to what would happen to EVE Online if certain companies bought CCP.  EA, for example, would end up shutting down the game and closing the studio, if history is any guide.

I also listed out what I felt were the top five problems with EVE Online, then added a bonus item, because EVE is like that.

There was also the traditional Yoiul gifts, if the launcher would let you into the game and the last update for YC118, which included music.

Then there was null sec, where I was celebrating my fifth anniversary.  Down in Delve we managed to lose 600 billion ISK on our own cyno beacon.

In space the war in Tribute was heating up.  Asher led us up there to shoot targets of opportunity in M-OEE8 as Pandemic Legion and friends contested the timer on CO2’s Keepstar.  That was also the second day that the PCU passed 50K since the Ascension expansion.  I went back north on my own to be there for the death of that Keepstar.  The heralded the exit of TEST and CO2 from the north.

That in turn led to the opening of a Winter war down south, a war that eventually fizzled when the participants decided nobody wanted to fight a Fozzie Sov war, so new boundaries were negotiated instead.

Reavers went out to help one side in a structure fight in Catch and went to join in on yet another Keepstar fight.  That one survived but another one got popped.

I was mucking around a bit iEverQuest II, trying to find my way in new content.

In Minecraft my mansion road project required the application of TNT to blast a road through a jungle.  Minecraft also had nice packages and Skronk made me a cobblestone generator for Christmas.

And no December would be complete without a Steam Winter Sale, and no such sale would be worth its name without issues!

I didn’t notice it at the time, but a German gaming site called Plarium put me on their list of the 8 best MMO blogs.  Of course they also put Tobold, who doesn’t actually write about MMOs anymore and Tipa of West Karana, who hasn’t been updating for a while now (and who has since lost her domain!), and themselves, which seems like a bit of ego, but still it was cool to find.

Finally I was going on about companies making MMOs… and the people playing them… feeling that every single title had to be all things to all people, leading to dissolute efforts and titles that do a lot of things but don’t really stand out in any particular aspect.

Ten Years Ago

There was the usual looking back at the Highs and Lows of 2011.  And, hand-in-hand with that, there was the look forward at games I might play in 2012.

One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II, while Path of Exile represented a dark horse third. They were all vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II.  So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.

I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.

I was back in EVE Online and I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself.  Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up.

But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE Online.

There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein.  And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.  Also, pretty new nebulae.

Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over for EVE Online.

There was the end of Star Wars Galaxies, though people were saying it had been dead for years.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went live, completing the changing of the Star Wars MMO guard, for all the lack of actual change that brought about.

EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8.  He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA.  And then it was the Mayans.

Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in Rift running the Realm of the Fae.

Toril MUD was still alive and had just added nine more zones to the game.

Playboy Manager the MMO.  Never ended up being a thing.

And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.

Fifteen Years Ago

The short-lived Massive Magazine, dedicated to our chosen niche video game genre, put out its first issue.  I bought a copy.

I told a Christmas story from 1977 about video games.

I followed up on my initial Stellar Emperor post with one about how I won the game.

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EverQuest II.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. These days I am surprised when I see that Digg is still a thing.

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2. I was also running around Runnyeye with Gaff.

correctly predicted the venue for that year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.  I was also wondering about SOE’s trajectory given the changes that came in with Echoes of Faydwer and The Serpent’s Spine.

And in World of Warcraft the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.  I also noted that gold spammers were using in-game mail in WoW.

I also had five features I wanted WoW to steal from EQ2.  I think we got one of them in the form of the WoW Armory.  But no, housing was not on the list.

Derek Smart came up as a topic for the first time on the site.

In a bit of EVE Online history I didn’t write about at the time, though I was vaguely aware that it had happened, the first titan built, an Avatar named “Steve,” owned by Ascendant Frontier, became the first titan destroyed when it was lost to Band of Brothers in C9N-CC on December 11, 2006. The pilot, CYVOK, logged out with aggression, was probed down, and the titan was destroyed.

The Wreck of Steve

There is a memorial wreck in the system to mark the event.

And, finally, just to make this section even longer, the top ten best selling games on the PC in 2006 were:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. The Sims 2: Open for Business
  3. The Sims 2
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  5. Star Wars: Empire at War
  6. Age of Empires III
  7. Civilization IV
  8. The Sims 2: Nightlife
  9. Guild Wars Factions
  10. Zoo Tycoon 2

That was back when Sims ruled the list.  I had forgotten that Guild Wars sold as well as it did too.

Twenty Years Ago

The Shadows of Luclin expansion for EverQuest, the third for the game, brought the Val Shir race, the beastlord class, alternate advancement mechanics, mounts, and a renewed game engine with updated player appearances, and the ability to customize the UI.  It was kind of a big deal.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. I Don’t Know What I Expected from the WoW Community Council
  3. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. The EVE Online New Dawn Quadrant to Start With Mining Changes
  6. WoW and the Endwalker Excuse
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. Life on the M2 Hellcamp
  9. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  10. The Winter Nexus Holiday Events Begin in EVE Online
  11. The State of New Eden at the End of 2021
  12. CCP Begins Inflicting the New Dawn Austerity Plan on EVE Online

Search Terms of the Month

fury at fwst-8 winners
[Everybody who had fun… and CCP]

when was the darkrai event in platonim held
[It was held in 2008]

when is viable run ragefire chasm
[For Alliance players, any time you’re ready to die]

сурамар таверны
[Somewhere in the town I think]

Game Time from ManicTime

The December games look quite different from my January games, except for EVE Online I guess, which has been the one title that I’ve played all year.  While Pokemon Brilliant Pearl seems like a distant third there, all of its play time has been since the day after Christmas.  So it has been top of the stack for the last week.

  1. Forza Horizon 4 – 37.30%
  2. New World – 36.62%
  3. Pokemon Shining Pearl – 12.26%
  4. EVE Online – 8.30%
  5. EverQuest II – 2.98%
  6. World of Tanks – 2.54%

EVE Online

In game it was a modest month of activity.  The Winter Nexus holiday event got people to undock, there login rewards and sales and such.  Out in space the usual low level conflicts persisted.  I went on a few small ops, tended my PI, and spent way too much ISK on a black ops battleship.

Out of game CCP publicly declared to continue the economic beatings until the PCU improved, saying that players will eventually do as they were told and play the game correctly if the company just keeps suppressing the economy.  The promise of “prosperity” earlier this year, like the promise with last year’s economic outlook that scarcity was to be temporary and not the new reality, turned out to be a lie.

If that were not enough, Hilmar has been running around talking to the press about blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and play to earn.  Since CCP has exactly ONE game they could implement those buzz word bingo ideas in, you can expect that to hit New Eden in 2022.

EverQuest II

I remain subscribed to the game and I even bought the new expansion and have been into it for a couple of levels.  The problem has been that there are a few games ahead of EQII in my interest queue, so it gets left out most evenings.  It isn’t bad, there are just things I would rather work on now.

Forza Horizon

Happy, fun, open world driving and racing.  Changing from FH5 to FH4 was a nice change up.  I like the car choices a bit better and England is a bit more varied in terrain and seasons than Mexico.  I even got a controller for Christmas to play it, so I will have to do a post about how that turned out.

New World

The group had a pretty good month in New World.  We managed to get ourselves through the Amrine Excavation after a few tries, which meant figuring out how to actually play as a group.  There is still lots to do and see in the game as we move along at our own pace.

Pokemon Go

Another month climbing the long, long road to level 50.

Level: 42 ( 11.7% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 677 (+4) caught, 697 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 14 of 18
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Sliggoo

Pokemon Shining Pearl

REAL Pokemon!  My daughter and I broke out the retro-Pokemon games on our Switch Lites the day after Christmas and have been having fun in Sinnoh.  I will probably repeat this every time I write about these titles, but there is such a nice mixture of simplicity (compared to Sword & Shield) and nostalgia going on that it is quite pleasant.  It isn’t perfect, but is has been good so far.  We’ve only been playing for a few days at this point, so the final four are still off on the horizon.

World of Tanks

I got in there and played a bit, but WoT suffered from the same problem that EQII did in that there was something else that was filling its niche further up the stack.  In this case, Forza Horizon 4 was my go-to game for light, short term play.  Still fun, still has its appeal, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Zwift

I managed to keep on peddling in our living room in December, adding another 96.5 miles to my total distance as measure by Zwift.  That gets me to… well… nowhere interesting really.  That distance by road puts me in the middle of Nevada or Oregon, in some empty place south of Ensenada, or in Quartzsite, Arizona.  I need to keep going to get somewhere I guess.

  • Level – 12 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 584.4 miles (+96.5 miles)
  • Time – 1d 6h 47m (+5h 59m)
  • Elevation climbed – 24,413 (+4,400 feet)
  • Calories burned – 19,426 (+3,285)

Coming Up

2022 which, as somebody pointed out, is pronounced like “2020 – 2,” which I hope just ends up being a humorous aside and not some horrible premonition of things to come.

Also, I need to come up with a “2022” graphic at some point today because tomorrow will be post one of the year, the inevitable predictions post where I prevent things from happening by publicly declaring that they will.

There are still a couple of 2021 posts I mean to get to including the summary of 2021 gaming and the books managed to read and that sort of thing.

Otherwise 2022 starts off with the group playing New World, my daughter and I playing Pokemon, and the pandemic still hanging around making any return to “normal” as unlikely in the new year as it was in the old.

Looking Back at 2021 Highs and Lows

I think the best we can say about 2021 was that at least it wasn’t 2020 all over again.

2020 plus 1

Well, maybe that isn’t being fair, but after the eternity of 2020 and the election and the pandemic and staying at home, hearing that we were going to have a vaccine and a boring old guy as president gave us hope for some normalcy.

And then shit happened and I am worried I have reached that point in life where everything is just going to be worse every year.  But we’ll get to that.  First the usual round up of past years, because this in an annual thing and has been since been for more than a decade.

This year we are back to highs and lows, divided up into categories based on some criteria that represents how my brain sorts things or relevance to the theme of this blog or something like that.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Burning Crusade Classic launched, keeping the nostalgia party going
  • Diablo II Resurrected landed on PC and consoles to popular acclaim
  • Some actual serious talk about doing more with Diablo II Resurrected
  • We got another run at nostalgia with WoW Classic Season of Mastery
  • BlizzConline was a nice, solid online event that was FREE to all fans
  • Hearthstone carried on and came out with a new solo mode
  • The WoW Community Council could help things if Blizzard deigns to listen

Lows

  • There was the collapse of the WoW Shadowlands expansion as people lost interest and exited the WoW for greener pastures
  • I am pretty sure the big level squish was a sign that Blizz just wants people to get to level cap raiding faster rather than any attempt to make that between content more viable or accessible
  • Diablo IV is still more than a year away
  • Diablo Immortal, which they were letting people play at BlizzCon 2018, still didn’t ship
  • Overwatch 2 seems to be some sort of unsubstantiated myth at this point
  • StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm are on a shelf in the back room
  • No new WoW expansion announced… or any real tangible public plan for the one franchise that pays the bill
  • Tainted the Burning Crusade Classic experience with the bonus pack, with the lizard mount and special hearthstone that mostly marked people out for scorn, though I am sure it made money in the short term
  • So far the WoW Community Council has been a game of Space Invaders, where suggestions are the descending aliens that Blizzard feels they have to destroy before they get too close
  • And then there was the State of California lawsuit about Blizzard being a hostile work place, which seemed supported by some accounts even as Blizzard tried to deny there were any problems at the company, which then exploded as more and more revelations about the company were exposed, often supported by the social media accounts of the people who were the problem, aided and abetted by senior management and HR who all seemed eager to cover up and excuse bad behavior, tarnishing everybody from Mike Morhaime forward
  • Lots of empty promises to clean things up while ignoring employee issues and making sure to jump on top of any hint of a union with the usual round of anti-union lies
  • Eventually there was some cleaning out of those most obviously complicit, but the company was at odds with itself and began to drift like a ship without a rudder as those in the executive suite made sure that they were not held accountable for anything; leading by example is the most basic form of leadership and Bobby Kotick can’t even manage that
  • As bad as Blizzard and Activision corporate behavior has been, I bet only a small sliver of their fans would even care if the studio actually shipped something new and fun

Enad Global 7

Highs

  • 2021 opened with such optimism about what EG7 was going to do now that it had acquired Daybreak
  • Then CEO Robin Floodin seemed eager to invest in the Daybreak portfolio, though he seemed oddly obsessed with H1Z1
  • Even replacement interim EG7 CEO and former Daybreak CEO Ji Ham admitted that the Daybreak portfolio of games had been neglected during his time as leader of Daybreak
  • We got to see Ji Ham speak and, while he wasn’t a font of insight, he did okay for his first public engagement as CEO of a public company
  • Ji Ham actually admitting on camera that Daybreak had not been investing enough in their game portfolio and saying that EG7 wanted to rectify that
  • New expansions for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Lord of the Rings Online
  • Continuing new content for DC Universe Online and PlanetSide 2
  • MechWarrior 5 released on multiple platforms
  • Ongoing promise of a revamped LOTRO and a console version of the game
  • An unannounced Marvel IP MMO in development that got more headlines than anything Daybreak has done in the last five years
  • Daybreak taking over running Magic: The Gathering Online also put the company in the spotlight, adding another very visible franchise to their portfolio

Lows

  • Time and reality seemed to crush that initial wave of optimism that the acquisition instilled in us, as it tends to
  • Difficult to find anything real (as opposed to promised) where one can accurately declarre, “This is better today, right now, because of EG7” since the Daybreak acquisition
  • Worrisome feeling of deja vu when Ji Ham replaced the popular Robin Floodin as CEO
  • Some clearly impractical promises like LOTRO on consoles or bringing back H1Z1
  • Even the more practical promises are still out in the distant future
  • Really kind of business as usual for most of the games, which isn’t bad, but we were hyped for more

CCP

Highs

  • Opened the year with another Guinness Book World Record internet spaceship battle at M2-XFE
  • World War Bee proved once again that things happen in New Eden that no other game comes close to achieving
  • Lots of work on the whole new player experience thing and making things within the game more comprehensible
  • Came up with not bad solutions to the endless complaints about warp core stabilizers and interdiction nullification
  • Server upgrades to raise bar on performance in New Eden
  • Return of the Alliance Tournament

Lows

  • Economic starvation policy directly contributed to the stalemate that marked the last six months of World War Bee
  • The economy, the dull end of the war, and the COVID vaccine combined to slam the weekly peak concurrent user count
  • The promise of “prosperity” by CCP turned out to define “prosperity” as “more scarcity”
  • The CCP plan to make capital ships rare by making them expensive after years of them being way too cheap was both way too late to fix the proliferation issue and made capital pilots much less likely to risk their now very expensive hulls
  • The new player experience work has been focused pretty strongly on the initial tutorial, after which new players are still sent into the mediocre and now comically out of date career agents
  • Introduction of NFTs into the Alliance Tournament with the promise that this is just the start of those shenanigans
  • For some reason CCP can’t even ship what seems like a slam dunk improvement, like the new skill management interface, without screwing it up on the first pass and having to go back and fix blatant issues that were reported on the test server… and which should have been obvious to anybody with eyes honestly
  • UI design team philosophy seems to always default to “what if we added an additional UI pane to the game?”
  • I guess EVE Echoes is still a thing… oh, look, it has become a horrible, cash shop focused vision of what might be the future of the main game
  • Weren’t they working on a first person shooter or something?

Amazon

Highs

  • New World was an undisputed success at launch
  • Server queues are bad for players, but they are a good problem to have to solve when compared to server merges
  • Huge player numbers in the first month, with almost a million concurrent at its peak
  • Even when things died down, low six digit concurrent numbers are something many live games would kill for
  • Actually an MMORPG that felt different from the WoW-centric experiences we’ve been having the last fifteen plus years
  • Being skill and not class based means your character can do it all… theoretically
  • Planned for the future with a very obvious server merge path

Lows

  • When you’re getting 5 digit server queues with a game that has a low four digit player limit per server, you have not launched enough servers
  • So many bugs, so many problems that won’t go away, so much time spent waiting for the damn game to load
  • A lot of “nice to have” features left on the cutting room floor
  • You know “Azoth” makes half of us think of “Azeroth” every time we see that word
  • Some very odd UI design choices… beyond the clearly “designed for consoles” aspect even
  • An attempt to forestall players leaving made crafting and high end content so grindy it accelerated players leaving
  • In reality, I desperately want an alt so my main doesn’t literally have to do it all and respec with every change
  • Also, alts aside, two freaking character slots per region?  I remember the EQII launch and being dismayed that they only gave us four character slots, and New World somehow topped that
  • Server merges already as it is a game that has a minimum population in order to be viable
  • Getting to the “so what are you going to do next?” phase in New World
  • Didn’t Amazon have some other games in development?

Pokemon

Highs

  • We finally got a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
  • A great Pokemon Go Fest back in July
  • Pokemon Go keeps adapting and getting better

Lows

  • We will see how well a faithful remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl plays in 2022 I guess
  • Pokemon Go Fest was largely a success because they cut the price down to something reasonable
  • Sitting at level 42 in Pokemon Go it looks like a long, long ways to level 50

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

Highs

  • Valheim came out of nowhere and was amazing
  • Forza Horizon 5 turned out to be the open world driving game I was looking for
  • Hey, Forza Horizon 4 was that also, but cheaper and with all the DLC shipped, so I went there instead
  • World of Tanks, still fun a decade later
  • Raph Koster was telling us about his visions of the metaverse and, while being quite coy with details, seemed at least grounded in the reality of the situation
  • Steam Deck looks like a very promising platform
  • XBox Game Pass for PC is a pretty darn good deal for gamers
  • TorilMUD is still around 28 years down the line and even has an active Discord server
  • Minecraft got some nice updates this past year
  • Final Fantasy XIV was well positioned to grab refugees from World of Warcraft
  • FFXIV also kicked off their highly anticipated Endwalker expansion

Lows

  • Pretty much impossible to buy a new mid-range video card for under $1K
  • Steam Deck delayed until February, so none under the tree for Christmas
  • The biggest problem with Forza Horizon is the integration into Microsoft, which makes tasks like finding your friends surprisingly difficult
  • I am still very bad at World of Tanks a decade later
  • A three person studio was basically incapable of both keeping Valheim going and getting out some updates, so it has stayed pretty close to the launch state for most of the year and new zones are off in the distance
  • As with Minecraft, updates to biomes in Valheim will only apply to areas you haven’t been to, so you if you explored a lot like I did, you’re left having to start over to get to see new stuff when we get it
  • Speaking of Minecraft, it still gives me motion sickness, a rare effect on me, on the big 34″ curved ultrawide monitor
  • If you thought the New World queues were bad, let me tell you about FFXIV and Endwalker
  • Mark Zuckerberg was threatening us with his dystopian metaverse vision, complete with VR mask strapped to our collective faces and forcing his legless, uncanny valley horror show into our optic receptors
  • Too much meaningless NFT and blockchain hype, and it has only just gotten started
  • UbiSoft trying to one-up Blizzard with toxic workplace issues AND getting on board with NFTs
  • Et tu Bungie on the toxicity?

Television, Books, and the Media

Highs

  • The binge watching continued into 2021 and there was a lot to watch
  • Some solid IPs hitting the airwaves with series based on The Wheel of Time and Azimov’s Foundation series
  • A new attempt at a Dune movie, as well as a new Bond and Matrix movies
  • Ghostbusters Afterlife was the sequel the original deserved
  • Actually went out to the movies a few times; the popcorn was excellent
  • Lots of new seasons for things we like previously
  • Managed to get through 28 books this year
  • I did a lot of podcast listening as well
  • Twitter remains a fairly hospitable place for me

Lows

  • The problem with binging TV is that you become very aware of the tropes of the genre and the clues indicating where the plot is going
  • A lot of what I call “next season” fatigue, where I find that shows I liked in past seasons don’t really live up
  • We watched such a breadth of shows that when a new season drops I cannot remember what the hell went on before
  • Some extremely crap “previously on X” 30 second recaps in front of a new season that don’t help at all
  • Not a lot of new movies interesting enough to risk going to the theater, and a couple I might have gone out to see were released simultaneously on streaming, and our couch at home wins by default even if the popcorn isn’t as good
  • The whole Dune “we’re hiding the fact it is only part one until you see the opening credits” thing bugged me
  • Bond should have stayed retired
  • A lot of my reading this year was re-reading books for comfort, so not a lot new managed to get on my list
  • A lot of what I call “podcasts” today, such as This American Life, I would have just called “shows on the radio” 15 years back, while I rarely if ever find time for the amateur affairs that represented podcasts back then

Blogging and Such

Highs

  • The blog, it lives still, fifteen years into the game
  • I once again posted more than once a day in 2021
  • For no good reason I have been on a post-a-day streak since April 2020, which puts me into the mid-600s for days in a row of posting
  • Blaugust was a thing again this year
  • The local blogging community still carries on

Lows

  • Finding something to write about that I also care to put the effort into… ideas are cheap and plentiful, time and enthusiasm are much more rare… is becoming more difficult
  • The backbone of the blog was MMORPGs, which lend themselves to blogging as they are very much progression based and tell the story of your character, and since I am barely playing any MMORPGs at this point, those tales of progression have largely gone missing
  • There is no feature that WP.com cannot screw up on the first three tries
  • WP.com tech support will tell you you’re wrong when you say they’ve broken something, then fix it two weeks later

Just Life

Highs

  • As I stated at the top, at least it isn’t 2020 anymore
  • Still hanging on; my wife and I combined made more money in 2021 than any year previous, so we’re not too worried about the immediate future and doing okay compared to many in these trying times
  • Managed to refinance our house, lower our monthly payment, and pull out enough cash to pay for the last two years of college for our daughter
  • Back to having a boring president is good for the blood pressure
  • Covid vaccines available for most everybody at this point; I got my booster just ten days back
  • Even Donald Trump says you should get vaccinated
  • Managed not to contract Covid myself yet
  • Going to the store was mostly back to normal, save for masks, and there was toilet paper and antiseptic wipes available
  • The news wasn’t one outrage or horror show after the another; we let things slide in 2020 that would have been headlines with two week life cycles in a normal year

Lows

  • 2021 would seem like a pretty bad year if it hadn’t followed 2020
  • The price of the final two years of college for our daughter is easily going to get into six figures
  • Oh, and everything else is more expensive, so we’re not actually gaining any ground, just holding on
  • Everything is still worse than before Covid; prices are up, quality is down, portions are smaller, supply is unreliable, and the chip shortage remains
  • I didn’t catch Covid, but I got an inner ear infection that made me deaf in my right ear for about a month, and I have still not fully recovered my hearing there months later
  • Delta and Omicron variants have made it clear than Covid isn’t going away any time soon
  • Covid boosters are likely to become like flu shots, something we’ll need to get every year it seems, and masks in enclosed public spaces are going to be a thing for the rest of my life it seems
  • Apparently the ONE thing Donald Trump’s fans cannot abide is him endorsing Covid vaccines
  • We have reached a point where billionaires have their own space programs like Bond villains
  • I’ve really had trouble recalibrating to a news cycle that isn’t one insane thing after another, so when the top story of the day is about Biden’s dog or Kamala Harris buying cookware my gut reaction is “who gives a flying fuck?”
  • Remember when we were worried about Democracy in Hong Kong?  Yeah, China stomped that idea out of existence
  • China is starting to seem impatient about bringing Taiwan under its control
  • Russia is still working on reconquering the old Soviet/Imperial Russian empire, with an invasion of the remaining unoccupied parts of Ukraine as a distinct possibility, and we know how well wars in Europe work out for everybody
  • Boring presidents don’t actually do much it seems, so the new James Buchanan we have now is just forestalling conflicts to come
  • The November 2022 elections could very well decide whether or not democracy is a thing in the USA
  • We’ll be close to 8 billion people on earth soon, well up from the 3.3 billion who were around when I was born; Thomas Malthus would be telling us, “told you so” if he were still around today

Anyway, I had better stop there before I get myself too down.  Bad news does tend to push out anything good, so I should be happy that the bad news hasn’t been as frequent or as close to home.

Tomorrow is the last day of the year.  Enjoy it.  2022 is coming, and I am sure it is keen to leave its own mark on our collective hides.

The Steam Winter Sale 2021 Has Begun

The annual holiday tradition of video game discounts has arrive at Steam as they unleash the 2021 version of their Winter Sale.

The Tradition Continues

It seems to be off to as smooth of a start as one could expect.  Often the first hour of the sale is a time to find mid-priced items and other oddities in the mix… not to mention some performance issues as people rush in to find that price typo that will get you a game for a fraction of its intended price.

If you were interested in Forza Horizon 4, which I have been writing about, it is available for $20 again as part of the sale, down from its $60 base price.  Also on the list are New World for $30, Valheim for $15, and a host of other titles marked off at least a bit, even some new-ish titles like Age of Empires IV.

It is a chance to spend some of those Winter Sales tokens you may have saved up or earned on cosmetic items.

It is also your opportunity to vote in the Steam Awards.  The Autumn Sale around Thanksgiving is when you get to nominate games and the Winter Sale is when you get to see who made the cut for inclusion.  It will be a tough choice for Game of the Year for me as Valheim, New World, and Forza Horizon 5 are all on the list, and they all have their merits in my book.

The sale runs from today through January 5th, though you only have until January 2nd to vote as the sale will culminate with the announcement of the winners and all sorts of statistics about which video games did the best on the Steam platform in 2021.

And then it will be 2022 and we will have a whole new year to fret about.

Answers to My Questions for 2021

Back at the start of the year I eschewed the usual predictions post and instead went in for a round of questions.  After 2020 I was clearly feeling unprepared to predict anything, though this was not the first time I went down that path.  Now we have hit the middle of December and it is time to see if any of my questions got answers we like.

2020 plus 1

There is a long pattern of me making such posts on the first of the year.

Anyway, let’s get tucked in and see what I can come up with.

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

Right off the bat I am going to have to object here to the assumption that we’ve returned to anything like normalcy.  We’re not in 2020 anymore, but we’re not not in 2020 anymore either.  The shadow of that year lay heavily over this one, its poison seeping in.  People who can are still working from home, Covid is still spreading, the economy is still in a bind from the pandemic, and the world still seems to be going to hell at a rapid pace.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Well, at least we have an easy one here.  The answer is “no.”  There are a few reasons, not the least of which is Blizzard not releasing much in the way of additional content and Blizzard being revealed as a nightmarish Dickensian workhouse of misogyny and intolerance.  Also, maybe “run Torghast every day for the next two years” wasn’t the winning plan that somebody thought it was.

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

Another easy one!  And another “no.”   Wyatt Cheng once asked if we had phones.  Many of us probably have new ones since he asked that question at BlizzCon 2018.  Now does he have a game?  That seems to be a more pertinent question at this point.

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

Three for three here on the easy questions, with another big “no” on the tally.  Diablo II Resurrected is about as “new” as they got, and they had Vicarious Visions do the remaster of a twenty year old title for that.  It was a good remaster, but it wasn’t new.

Along with that we had Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic Season of Mastery, also not new.  Even the solo mode for Hearthstone didn’t feel very new.  I guess their bigger company issues got in the way for some of that, but it still feels like they came into 2021 just winging it and hoping something would come up.  And, honestly, they don’t seem to have much lined up for 2022.  How can such a big studio… more people work on WoW than most MMO studios have total employees… deliver so little?

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

A reverse merger, with Ji Ham now at the helm?  I wouldn’t have called that one.  Otherwise there has been some promises for the future, but the first year really seemed like business as usual for Daybreak… except maybe they didn’t lay so many people off in 2021.  That’s a plus.

Will Norrath continue to boom?

Kinda, maybe, sorta.  As noted above, things were mostly business as usual.  That has generally been good for the Norrath titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, which get an expansion in November/December and a major content drop in late spring/early summer every year.  So things roll on there.

But when it comes to doing anything new, it is LOTRO they want to put on consoles, DCUO they want to update, and an unannounced Marvel IP MMO that gets all the headlines.  They even keep bringing up H1Z1.  But EverQuest as a franchise?  Any plans for that look to be dead.

What happens with H1Z1?

Nothing.  As I wrote above, EG7 keeps bringing it up when they talk about the important IPs they control.  There is clearly some wishcasting going on about the title returning to the top of the battle royale genre. But actual progress?  There was some mention that they had a few people look into being able to run a build, but otherwise nobody appears to be working H1Z1 in any meaningful way.

At least they stopped renaming it I suppose.

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not with Daybreak and EG7, we know that much.  Somewhere between the announcement that Daybreak was purchasing Cold Iron and the launch of their game Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Cold Iron went somewhere else.  Details are hazy, the story is mostly inferred, but Cold Iron never made it into the EG7 stable of studios.

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Pretend nothing has changed and announce an expansion?  This is the problem with bringing up studios and games I do not watch closely.  A bunch of key people left ANet last year, but back in August they announced the End of Dragons, slated for February 2022, so I guess everything is good.  Maybe?  I don’t really know.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

Nowhere?  Seriously, after the Triglavian story cycle the company has been been focused on the new player experience and trying to force the in-game economy into a form that they believe is best for the long term survival of the game, ignoring the short term “hey, can you give us something fun?” requests from the players.  Short sheeting the economy isn’t fun.  Even if you don’t care about the economy and mock miners and industrialists who are complaining, you have to admit that there is very little fun in what CCP has been doing for the last year.

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

No.  There was a promise over the summer that the end of scarcity was coming.  But the Q4 quadrant, New Dawn: Age of Prosperity, involved very little prosperity.  For every relaxation of the economic restrictions there was some matching nerf to offset things, often hidden behind some oppressive new game mechanic.  CCP said they were listening to feedback, but they mostly slowed their roll a bit (compression will be in 2022 now) and tried re-arranging the deck chairs some (“waste” got renamed to “residue”) as they carried forward with the goal of resetting the economy to some past halcyon state.  I am sure this will end well.

How Will World War Bee End?

The side with the 3:1 numbers advantage got tired and went home.

There are many ways to spin who “won” the war.  PAPI can claim that they forced the Imperium down from four regions to one constellation and destroyed trillions of ISK in ships and structures.  The Imperium can claim that they held out, denied PAPI their stated victory conditions, and in the end destroyed as much in ships and structures as PAPI did.

As for losing the war, that award generally goes to the group that loses their space and has to move elsewhere.  That makes Legacy Coalition, the main instigators of the war under Vily, the losers.  TEST, the leading alliance in Legacy, lost their old space, couldn’t hold their new space, and ended up trying to live as far away from the Imperium as they possibly could.  Brave gets a special mention for losing hardest of all, as not only did they lose their old space and their new space, but now the rest of PAPI is attacking them because Brave sold structures to the Imperium so they could at least asset safety their stuff and get some seed ISK in the bank to carry on.

Really though, the honor of ending the war goes to CCP.  It was already somewhat obvious after the second battle of M2-XFE that their servers were not going to be up to a final mighty battle.  And then CCP made changes to resources and production that made capital ships too valuable to expend freely, so the attackers were limited to subcaps.  In the choice between investing a lot of time and effort in a real blockade of the final Imperium constellation or just going home, they opted to go home.

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

Yes, goddammit, yes they did.  About freaking time.  And it has shipped and there is a copy for me and my daughter under the Christmas tree.  We’ll see how that plays out soon enough.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  I mean, Crowfall went live I think.  I am not sure it will survive, but it shipped.  And they are a stand out in the stable of crowd funded MMOs, which mostly promised things they couldn’t deliver.  Don’t spend money on things that you cannot play today.

Project: Gorgon is the right path, as it was in playable form from the day of the first monetary ask. Camelot Unchained is the wrong path, asking for money, blowing through every promised date ever, and starting a new project before the promised one is even in beta.  And then there is Star Citizen… well, they certainly know how to milk a community.  Star Citizen is a lot of things, but being an actual video game seems to be a few bullets down the list.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

The metaverse maybe?  That seemed to be the topic for 2021.  I don’t know if it is Raph Koster’s desire to remake the simple days of MUDs in the 90s or Mark Zuckerberg’s dystopian vision of an all controlling metaverse that turns our very desires against us, but I guess either might be something new… at least for MMORPGs.

Oh, and something about crypto and NFTs.  But we’ll probably burst that bubble in 2022.

Will I play anything new this year?

Valheim.  That was a bit of a left field star, but ended up being our main game for about two months earlier this year.  New World showed up and, once the initial chaos settled down, the instance group got into the game.  And then there was Forza Horizon 4 & 5.  Open world driving for the win.  There were a couple of other small titles that were new, but nothing that I invested more than a couple of hours in.

That I played three new games made 2021 a departure from the usual routine.  In 2020 80% of my game time was spent in WoW, WoW Classic, and EVE Online.  The year isn’t over yet, but so far those three titles represent less than 50% of my tracked play time.

Will VR get a killer app this year?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  VR will remain a niche so long as it requires a real world obscuring mask strapped to your face… oh, and the motion sickness issue gets addressed.  Ready Player One and Zuckerberg’s idea that we’re all going to live in his ad laden VR metaverse hell is a pipe dream.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

Not really.  The industry’s best defense so far has been regulators being interested in other things to further their own interests.  It has to be a slow news day for lockboxes to make the headlines of late, so politicians and regulators have mostly been busy elsewhere.   Except for Blizzard.   Yeah, Blizzard is having some regulatory issues, though not over lockboxes and that sort of thing, just mundane things like running a hostile, discriminatory work place.  The usual corporate thing.

But the industry keeps on trying to get the government to come down on them hard, with cryto and NFTs on their list of things to try next.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not yet, though Facebook seems to be pushing to have that taken away, because they have the money and the staffing to deal with any new regulations which would help them cement their place in creating our dystopian future… and present… and recent past.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

Write a post about it.  That is my answer for most things I suppose.

So that was the list for 2021.  As those were just questions rather than predictions there is no score.

I think I’ll be able to warm up to doing some predictions for 2022.  I have a couple of weeks to get on it.  But first I need to make a 2022 graphic.

Forza Horizon 4 as a Destination Today

In exploring the similarities between Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Horizon 5, one concern of mine was that the older game might not be as good.  This did not end up being an issue as, at their cores, both titles are twins, both fun, open world racing games with lots to do and explore.

Forza Horizon 4

A secondary concern of mine was the fact that I was taking on a title that the studio was apparently done with.  With FH5 out early last month and selling like gangbusters, there was a bit of worry in the back of my mind that it might be a bit late to jump on board with FH4.  What happens to the older sibling when a brand new baby shows up in the house?

So far that worry has been groundless.  In fact, it might be a bit of a boon.

The game is, I suspect, “done” for whatever value you assign to an online title that won’t be getting any new DLC but which is online and supported and still being played regularly by many.

In fact, it is likely giving me a peek at how FH5 will develop as the DLC and additions are already all in place and I can kind of see how things might develop for the newer title.

I am also happy I opted for the FH4 Ultimate Edition, which had been marked down from $100 to $35 for the Steam Autumn sale, which means that I appear to have the great bulk of the additional items available with the game.

The only real problem I have, which isn’t really a problem at all, is that there is so much to do and explore in the game that I do feel like I’ve barely dented the game in a few weeks of play.

Some of that is how I approach the title.  Often it is something I launch at the end of the evening to play, something relaxing, and I just drive around, chasing down some of the minor achievements, like driving all the roads on the main map.

How many roads must a man drive down? 531 I guess

Or I will re-run races I have already done, but in a different class of vehicles.  FH4 mostly does a good job of filling up a race grid with cars of comparable rating and class.  If you go in with big American iron, you generally end up facing the same, for example, though I am not sure if a 58 Plymouth Fury is really in the same league as an American Motors Javelin AMX, which is more than a decade newer.

I say that and yet the Plymouth is beating me

Having run down the roads on the main map I traveled to Fortune Island, some additional content in the game.

Welcome to Fortune Island

It has its own roads and races and achievements to conquer, plus its own cryptic treasure hunt where you have to figure out the car you need to drive and the feat you need to perform in it in order to unlock a treasure chest… which you also have to go find.  But the treasure chest has a million credits in it, which is a lot.

A Million Credits!

Given that some of the more rare vehicles on the market can be priced at 10 million credits or beyond I’ll need some big cash influxes like that if I want to own them all.

Even though I am well past the 30 hour mark for playing the game and am closing in on level 100… content unlocks with levels as a surprising rate, and levels come from just running into stuff at times, which makes me very prone to leveling up… I still have a lot of things to discover.

Fortune Island vista

So a pretty good purchase for me.  I’ll me interested to see if the game goes on sale again for the Steam Winter Sale, which should show up next week.  At a discounted price it is a pretty good deal, all the content is now available, and FH5 isn’t going anywhere while I play this.

Forza Horizon in the UK

My experiment/investment in trying Forza Horion 4 has been something of a success… success being defined as having fun end basically enjoying myself.

Forza Horizon 4

My basic premise was that FH4 was similar FH5 with just a different setting, story, and a slightly different set of vehicles… which was just about right.

I can see why some people have been complaining that FH5 is a lot like FH4 because they are a lot alike.  But they are not exactly alike, and having played the two back to back in a pair of two week sprints, I am perhaps well positioned to spot the differences.

The core of the game is the same… because why would you mess with that?  And the differences, aside from the setting, can be a but subtle, but they are there.

To start with, it seems to take a while longer to get into FH4 and be unleashed on the open world core of the game.  I am sure it felt even longer because I immediately wanted to jump into the menus to do things only to find most of they grayed out until I progressed far enough.

You also start with just one car, rather that the trio you get at the start of FH5, and I picked the 69 Dodge Charger, thinking I would get something more appropriate for the next race, only to find myself driving that through the whole intro to the game phase.  That wasn’t horrible, but as a street racer the Charger is much better on the straight away than in any situation where lateral G forces come into play.

One of the reasons I wanted to get into the menus right away was that I hit Enter by mistake when customizing my license plate intially, so spent some time driving around with “WORIZON” on my back bumper.

Also visible, virtual Potshot… your XBox buddies show up

But it did get me into my initial game persona, which was that of the Kevin Kline character in A Fish Called Wanda, diving on the right side of the road in a big American car and shouting at the unwitting locals… because, being the UK, they’re all driving on the left, which was a bit more disorienting at first than I thought it would be. (I even found a black baseball cap to wear while I did this.)

Later on in another big American car… with corrected license plate

Eventually I got to the open world and was able to go freely about my business.  The basics are the same, with the big map and all the things you can do, find, and race.  There are some UK-centric items, like a race against a hovercraft (eel status: unspecified) or The Stig from Top Gear.

You even jump the hovercraft, because of course you do

And, of course, it isn’t Mexico, so there are a lot of forests and it snows.  In facts, it seems to be stuck on winter for me most of the time.  It occasionally switches to spring or autumn, but mostly it seems to be snowy, though at least that means I can drive across frozen lakes.

The levels and progression and what not, which I don’t fully understand and really can’t be bothered with most of the time, seems more complicated in FH4.  It feels like they went through a streamlining process in developing FH5, which was probably a good thing… though, with both games, as you level up you map ends up becoming so cluttered it is hard to tell what is going on unless you use the filter… and know what it is you want to exclude.

Finally, I think the RNG in FH4 is against me.  I suspect that somewhere in the code there is a statement like:

if (platform = Steam) {
wheelspin = Suxor;
}

or some such, because in FH5 the random Wheelspin give away was awesome.  I won a lot of cars in it, and when I didn’t win cars I mostly won money with which I could buy cars.  In FH4 the Wheelspin… and especially the Super Wheelspin… seem set on making me cry.  I’ll see a bunch of awesome cars, some of which you can only get via a Wheelspin (or at the auction house), roll on by, but in the end the wheel will settle on cosmetics, horn sounds, or emotes.

Even my avatar is wincing at that result

In the end though, the game plays the same, which means I am not very good at it.

Part of that is because I have never been very good at driving games, and part of that is because I am playing with keyboard controls.  When using the keyboard most controls, like the accelerator, are either completely off or, when pressed, opened up to the extreme.

Let me tell you about driving in snow when you can only stomp on the accelerator.  That is its own flavor of wheel spin.  Likewise, when every turn input is “crank the wheel hard” you start to appreciate long straightaways.

So, for me, a lot of the game is finding the right car and the right kind of events to run… or finding the wrong car and going very fast until I hit a sharp turn and Newtonian physics takes over and I slide through a hedge, a stone wall, some trees, and whatever else happens to be in my way, until I shed my velocity or run into something solid, like a building or mountain side.

And part of the point of my going to FH4 was to drive Italian and British (and a few French) vehicles.  I had some good luck at first with the Fiat 131 and the Triumph TR6.

A clear race until we get to a corner…

But the car I wanted, the car that drew me to FH4 in the first place, was the Lancia Delta HF integrale Evoluzione.  However, that wasn’t a car you could simply buy on the main market.  In looking it up, I found you could only get it as a wheelspin prize… and you’ve seen my rant above about how well that has worked out for me.

But I did find it finally in the auction house, though there it is listed as the Lancia Delta S4, which is actually the Group B rally car version, which was totally what I wanted.

The auction house is… odd… and behaves like eBay in the old days, where somebody snipes your low bid at the last second of the auction.  I can’t tell if sellers are working the system to bid up prices or if somebody just always wants when I have bid on exactly ten seconds before the end of an auction that has seen no bids at all, but the results are generally a loss for me.

So I just did a buyout on the cheapest one I could find on the auction house.  I had my car.

The Delta S4 in a rally skin

And I was immediately disappointed.

I had, perhaps, built the car up a little too much in my head based on our Need for Speed: World shenanigans from a decade back.

Three in a row in NFSW

I had imbued it with an almost magical aura in my brain.  But it isn’t Superman.  It cannot do everything better than anything else on the road.

It is, however, a Group B rally car, so if you put it in the right race and handle it correctly, it can do great things.  Not that I am claiming I know anything about handling the car correctly… my main plan coming into turns is generally to hit somebody else and bounce off in the right direction… but on cross country races I have been winning regularly against above average computer drivers.

I missed him, but still managed to make the turn

So the Lancia has been my go to vehicle as I run down the various off road and cross country races.

I still have a lot to explore in the game… it is jammed packed with things to do… and I keep telling myself I am going to settle down and concentrate and learn how to make car skins or do tuner upgrades… but then I log in and just drive around or race.  Just driving can be quite relaxing as I listen to a podcast or an audio book.

I think, overall, FH5 is a slight improvement over FH4… and it seems to be easier to just go cross country in Mexico than in the UK… but they are so close that little things like the cars available can tip the balance.

Downgrading to Forza Horizon 4

One of the big complaints I have heard about Forza Horizon 5 since I started playing it last month has been that it isn’t very different from its predecessor, Forza Horizon 4, which also happened to be the first title in the series to be available on PC. [Edit: Or the first in the series available on Steam maybe, as I am informed FH3 was on PC as well.]

Forza Horizon 4

Now, since I have been enjoying FH5, hearing that FH4 is mostly the same stuff in a different setting seems like something of an endorsement.  In fact, it was one of the first things I heard about FH5, such that before I even went down the XBox Game Pass route I checked out FH4 on Steam thinking that it might be cheaper, being the older title.

It was not cheaper.  It was the same price, $59.99, as its younger sibling.  Faced with that, I opted for the new title on the game pass.

And then Steam has a sale around Thanksgiving.  Their autumnal sale.  They have a sale for each season at this point, and some big sales events in between, no doubt to keep us all from simply waiting for the Winter and Summer sales, but those two tend to be the big ones in my mind, the Winter sale especially, which comes grouped with the Steam awards, the annual statistics at the end of the sale, and the holiday season when people tend to have some free time and are in a buying mood.

And, as part of the sale there was FH4 for just $20.

Now, I was already playing FH5 for a buck, at least until February, so it wasn’t like I was dying for, or even needed, another driving game, and especially one that is very much like the one I already had access to.  But there was the whole renting versus owning… such that it is when we’re talking about software… plus the idea of not having to deal with the console-centric XBox Live software… that made me start to ponder it.

So I started looking into the differences.  FH5 is set in Mexico, while FH4 is set in the UK.  The list of cars that both offer is fairly comparable…  again, one of the complaints I have heard… but as I was digging into the FH4 list I found it offered a wealth of British and Italian cars that FH5 had omitted.

And that kind of sold me.  For a game like this, the cars are important, and once I get my fix of pre-2000 Nissan models… all of which are in FH4… Fiats and Lancias and Alfa Romeos along with an assortment of Triumphs and MGs are on my list.  I mean sure, big American iron is on my list too, but my taste in style tend to run to the Italians at times.

I asked a couple of people about the title, then poked Potshot to see what he thought, and we both figured we should buy it.

And then, of course, I didn’t buy the $19.99 base option, but opted for throw in another fifteen bucks for the Ultimate Edition, which had been marked down from $99.99 to $34.99, and included all the car packs that had been added to the game, including a range of Hondas, Mistubishis, some Hot Wheels models, and the James Bond collection.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Potshot threw down for that as well.

Then came the big install, as another 100GB of data had to find space on my computer.

Of course, my desire to be rid of the XBox PC client was still thwarted.  You don’t have to dive into it, but you do have to link your Steam account to your XBox PC account.  The game won’t start until you do.

It wasn’t a horrible process… not as bad as trying to get from buying XBox Game Pass PC in the Microsoft Store then trying to get it setup outside of the store… but there was still some stupidity involved.

When asked to link your Steam account to your Microsoft account, my Microsoft account was actually presented in the dialog as an option.  My PC is linked to that account through the OS as is the Microsoft Store and the XBox PC client.  Linking the accounts should have been as simple as clicking on that account.  But it wasn’t.  For whatever reason, that was not allowed and I had to click on the “select account” option and then remember my password for the login, which is unique to Microsoft, so I never remember it.

And since I didn’t remember it I had to go to the password managed where I couldn’t find it because the URL for logging into your Microsoft account doesn’t have the word “microsoft” in it.  Instead it is “login.live.com” because Microsoft secretly hates us.

Still, that was only a 10 minute frustration loop rather than the one hour loop with FH5.

But now I have it install and running and can compare the two.  We shall see just how similar the two games are!

Meanwhile, the sale is over and FH4 is back up to being the same price as FH5.  But the Steam Winter Sale will soon be upon us.  The price might be $20 again soon.

Forza Horizon 5 with Friends

As I mentioned in my first post about Forza Horizon 5, my talking about it go Potshot interested enough to take the plunge for a dollar as well and, after having faced the same issues I did trying to go from Microsoft Store to actually playing the game, we found ourselves both in the game and decided to try to play together.  Again, it was something we had managed in Need For Speed: World back in the day, how hard could it be?

Forza Horizon 5

How hard indeed.

I was already vaguely aware that there was a grouping mechanism in the game that allowed you to create a “convoy” with friends (or strangers I guess) in order to drive/race together.  So once we were chatting on Discord we started exploring the UI to see if we could create a convoy.

In digging through FH5 we found a screen that would let us invite a seemingly random list of people to a convoy or see nearby convoys, but there didn’t seem to be a way to search and find a specific player to convoy with.

It seemed like proximity might help the situation, so we picked a spot on the map and both drove there hoping to see each other and group up that way.  I had seen options pop up when close to other players in the game and had even had some rando invite me to a convoy at one point, so off we went to meet up, choosing one of Horizon event points to meet up.

However, when we both had announced our arrival we couldn’t see one another.  I don’t know much about FH5 really, having purchased it on a whim, but I know it is a shared world AND that it sold something like ten million copies in its first week, so I was not entirely surprised that we were not just parked next to each other.  I barely seem more than a few people on the road generally, so the partitions between parallel worlds seem numerous.

There didn’t seem to be a way to make friends, invite, or otherwise see each other on demand from within the game, so it was time to go to Google.

Google said that for those of use using the XBox Game Pass PC version of the game needed to be friends in the XBox app, which meant finding each other there.  It was time to press the Windows key once more and fumble about.

Somehow we managed to get on each others list in the XBox Social window.  But getting into a convoy was another matter.  Back in the FH5 UI we were still lost as how to invite each other.  It might be possible, but we haven’t figured it out yet.  But you can also invite people to play from the XBox Social window.

We had greater success there, though even that took a few tries.  You have to invite in the social window, the other person gets a pop up in the game, but you have to open up the social window to accept it.  Honestly, I am not sure I could replicate the process as we were just poking buttons by that point.

Eventually though he managed to invite me to a convoy and I managed to hit the right buttons to accept and we were together.

In a convoy at last, a GMC Jimmy and a Pontiac GTO

His handle in FH5 was potshot3285 because apparently when 10 million people buy your game it feels the need to append a four digit number to the end of your default XBox handle just to keep track of you.

Unless, of course, your XBox handle already has a four digit number appended to it.  Mine is wilhelm2451 by default, also my Twitter and blog email address ID, so the game felt it could leave me be without appending any additional digits… though you can see in the background of the screen shot above somebody with the name YourMAD5244614, so maybe it isn’t limited to just four digits.

Also, as an aside, I pointed out to Potshot that way back in the Need for Speed: World days he also opted for the ’64 Pontiac GTO.  I even have some screen shots of that here on the blog.

The Xmas GTO

Anyway, we were now grouped up, time to figure out something to do.

FH5 has the same problem that vehicle based games seem to… and I include EVE Online in this category… in that there is a very impersonal feeling that comes from just being in cars or spaceships or whatever, as opposed to having a human avatar.  Also, just driving around it is easy to get separated or lost.

So, in search of some focus, we decided to run some races.  Potshot looked at the map while I swapped into a car more akin to what he was driving.

Waiting for him to find something on the map

Races are all over, but you have to drive to them and the convoy system doesn’t seem to have a way to pin a route or destination for everyone, so after some time going back and forth over things that were on his map but not my map, we picked the closest thing to hand and ran that.

Races went… well, as expected for the two of us the way we play.  We did co-op, which meant only one of us had to win, which still ended up being a tall order.  We mostly alternated holding down 12th place.

In a convoy only the convoy leader can start the race and if the convoy leader chooses an event that is part of the festival story line, you may not get credit for running it if it isn’t already on your list.  We did a run through one of the Aztec sites… you cannot actually four wheel over (most of) those pyramids, but you can have drag races and do donuts to your heart’s content in Teotihuacan… that Potshot had on his event unlock list and you basically get another identical car to run the event, but I didn’t get credit.

Not that it was a big deal, just an advisory.  And when I ran the event later on my own, at least I knew what I was supposed to do, having run it before.

Also, whenever we ran a race or an event Potshot got an echo on voice comms.  We were using Discord to talk, but it seemed like when you go into a race or event as a group, the game opens up a voice channel as well, and one of the channels was slightly behind the other, causing the sense of an echo.  Of course, there wasn’t anything I could see on the screen that indicated that voice was live, but since we already had voice live I suppose it doesn’t matter.

And then, of course, one of us got disconnected from the game and we managed to disband the convoy and had to go through the “did you push the button? I don’t see anything?  push it again?” routine to get back together.  But we got there.

So we accomplished our goals.  We managed to get on our respective friends lists and we were able to play together.

But the game wasn’t done with this.  Once you have somebody on your friends list, the game immediately starts comparing the two of you.  Every time I notch up one of the things they track, like signs crashed through or roads discovered, I get my total then a comparison with Potshot’s progress.

How many roads must a man drive down…

I assume if you have more than one friend it compares you with the friend you’re ranked closest to.  But with just Posthot on my list, it is always him.

And the game also takes names from your friends list when you go on to race solo later on.  So now whenever I run a race on my own there is Potshot’s name on one of the cars.

Faux Potshot ahead of me

The game does seem to like to put him in some odd cars though.  For a stretch he was always in a Mazda MX-5 which, while a fine car in its league, seemed to get matched up against me in a 90s Nissan GT-R.  Even in that screen shot he is in a Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R which, while not a bad car, used to be referred to as the starship back in the day for its sci-fi look.

Anyway, op success.  We managed to drive together.