Category Archives: Other PC Games

RimWorld Ideology

The Ideology expansion for RimWorld has been out for quite a while now, having launched back in July of 2021.  I know because I bought it when it came out and fully intended to write about it last summer.  But the expansion went through some needed changes based on feedback pretty quickly, so I waited for that to settle down then moved on to something else and forgot about it.

RimWorld Ideology

But I got RimWorld out again this month and played a bit… this week literally has three posts now about me looking for something to play… and I figured I ought to revisit my thoughts on the expansion.

RimWorld, just to dial back a moment, is a top down survival simulator that has been around for over five years now if we count early access.  My earliest post about playing was back in 2017.  Since then it has had the Royalty and then the Ideology expansion packs.

The basic scenario premise is that of three people having their spaceship crash land on a planet and having to get themselves off planet and home again.

From a mechanics based “win the game” point of view, there is a well established through path which SynCaine covered back in 2017; get food production up, build defenses, ignore missions, do the minimum to keep your people happy, and focus on tech to build that spaceship in order to get off the planet.

Even adhering to that, getting through the game has some challenges.  Raids become more common and more aggressive as you move through time, and when you have that ship built and are getting it ready for launch, the attacks become relentless.

But another way to look at the game is as a story generator.  Each of the people in your game, the colonists, have skills and personality traits that dictate what keeps them happy and how they get along with others.

The game has a whole system of possible interactions, including rivalries, relationships, couples falling in love, marriage, divorce, and simple animosity that can break out into fist fights.

Royalty and Ideology both add more layers to your colonists, though Ideology much more so than RoyaltyRoyalty you can basically play along with or ignore.  Ideology becomes a serious part of the game play.

So one of the first patches to the Ideology expansion was the ability to not use it once you had purchased it.  You cannot just ignore it like Royalty.  After that there was a lot of tuning.

From a pure mechanics “winning” point of view, Ideology makes the game harder because it makes your colonists more difficult to keep happy.  So if that is your gig, then this is hard mode.

For those who enjoy the story of their colonists, this adds in a whole new dynamic.

When starting up the game you can opt out of the expansion or, if you run with it, choose a pre-made ideology, go random, or roll up your own specific ideology.

Choose a path, or go without

The web page for the expansion has a list of the many memes and precepts that can be mixed into an ideology.

An ideology isn’t just a religion, though it can have religious rituals and symbols.  It is more of a total community belief system and, as you can see from the choices on that screen.  It can be anything from a criminal gang to cannibals to tree worshiping vegans.

Some of the pre-made sets you can choose

And with any ideology comes a list of expectations.  There will be rituals they expect, official positions to be filled, clothing to be produced, and activities they will demand, otherwise they won’t be happy.

For example, I had a colony of burka wearing female supremacist dominators who were quite unhappy unless I sent them out on the occasional raid in order to beat down on the locals and capture some of them to enslave.  Every raid gave them a temp happiness boost, every slave in the colony boosted their happiness by a bit, and the person who did the actual enslaving got a big happiness boost.

Interestingly, one of the people they enslaved had the masochist trait and their happiness was improved when the were forced to wear a slave collar and body strap.  That slave was never going to revolt.

Unfortunately, the other slaves were not so inclined and there was a bloodbath when they rose up.  (Pro tip: don’t put the slave quarters next to a storage room that contains weapons.) The slave rebellion left only one colonist alive, one of the slaves, and their wounds got infected and they died a few days later.

One of the reasons for the rebellion was that everybody on the planet has an ideology and if you want to bring people into your colony and keep them happy, then you need to convert them.  That takes time.

Another drug loving colony was wiped out when a raid hit while they were in the middle of getting stoned.  Granted, it was a big raid, but I am not sure all of them being huddled around the communal bong set the right tone for defense.

The expansion opens up a range of new items from apparel to ritual related furniture to quests that can change up your colony completely.

So, is it worth $20?  Certainly more so than the Royalty expansion.

If you like the story of your colonists more than building that spaceship, the Ideology expansion adds a lot of depth to the game.

Fiddling with FreeCiv

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was digging around for possible things to play for a bit earlier this month, and one path I went down for a few days was FreeCiv.

FreeCiv simple start screen

I was actually thinking about getting out Civilzation II yet again… I have the disk on my bookshelf, so I know I can get it running again… but then I thought about FreeCiv, which is an open source project and no doubt up to date and compatible with 64-bit operating systems and large screen monitors and all of the usual pitfalls that come with trying to play older titles.

FreeCiv has been around for more than 25 years at this point, having started off as a way to make a version of the original Civilization that supported network multiplayer gaming.  Big stuff back in 1996.

The Civilization II came and that got looped into the project and then Civilization III and then other ideas were melded into the project and… well, more than 25 years down the road this is an engine that does a crazy amount of things.

Just starting the game gives you a first glimpse into the options available.

Starting a game…

And that doesn’t even get into the breadth of network play options captured in a single entry on that list.

You have to read the manual that comes in the install package, or go to the wiki, to start getting a handle on what the options mean.

Also, given the time this project has been alive, it is probably no surprise that there are also a myriad of nation options to choose from, each with a long list of city names and possible leaders.

50 in the core choices, 555 in the extended

So you make your choices… you can play traditional Civ style, with top down squares, Civ II style with the 2.5D isometric view with squares so popular in the 80s and 90s, or you can have Civ III hexes and boarders with Civ II rules in an interesting mix, or one of the other options… I favor that Civ II Civ III mix currently… and you end up in a game that looks like the start of any Civilization game really, which is what one should expect.

You’ve probably seen a situation like this before

As I noted, it is up to date in a lot of way and can, for example, expand to use all the real estate that my 34″ monitor has to offer.  It plays like the early Civ titles for the most part.  They key commands are mostly the same.  And it looks decent enough, with its own home grown tile set and units that are different from the original games but similar enough to not take too much guess work to figure out.

How it plays though… well, you have to get used to it.  Any open source project will end up with the “good enough” issue or compromises in UI to be able to support things as widely as possible.  You can play on Linux as well, which means the UI has to stay at a somewhat primitive level of development when it comes to giving feedback to the user.

The first stumble for me is getting used to shift-enter to end a turn, rather than having to mouse around to find the end turn button on the left side info bar.  But you get over that pretty quickly.

The UI though, the flip side of it being happy to use up all my screen real estate is that it outputs the information you need in tiny text in windows and tabs that appear at the lower edge of the window, which is easy glance past on a large screen monitor.

Little tabs showing up at the bottom of the screen

Now, before you point it out, those text tabs look pretty substantial in that screen shot, but only because I made the game window a manageable size (~1500 x 1100) rather than the full native size of my monitor (3440 x 1440) just to keep the screen shot from being enormous and completely illegible when scaled down to 600 pixels wide to fit into the column width of the blog.

Nothing like finding that somebody has started attacking you because you missed the Diplomacy alert in blue (it should be flashing red) or realizing you’re not researching anything because you missed the Research alert showing up (should be double flashing red), but then you see if pop up and it is just telling you that it finished something in your queue with the same quite level of assertion.

My immediate solution has been to play at a much smaller resolution in order to not miss so many notifications.

But most of the annoyance is just figuring out how to read some of the windows.  The research screen is interesting and convenient because it allowed you to queue up your research goals… but then reading what is in the actual queue isn’t exactly clear to me.  And there are several windows where you can do things in the wrong order and the games just lets you and moves on because you didn’t, in effect, say “please” to get what you wanted.

Basically, it is the confluence of a very deep game with a lot of features, a mid level “good enough” UI, and having grown used to the Civ series putting up a modal alert that you can’t ignore or move forward past without at least acknowledging the event in question.

The UI thing is pretty much an object lesson in how much UI design impacts playability and why it is an important aspect of any game.  Here we have a title that is rich and deep in features but which often left me stumbling around trying to figure out things that have been simple in similar commercial titles.

None of which is insurmountable.  But it definitely feels like a game you don’t play casually.  It is more a game you need to invest in, one that becomes a hobby or a regular group activity with friends.

Which, again, isn’t a bad thing.  And it is hard to argue with the price.

Combat Mission Red Thunder

I had the urge for a tactical military sim this month.  Stellaris wasn’t scratching that itch, nor was RimWorld, both of which I had been playing recently.  I wasn’t quite ready for another attempt at War in the Pacific either.  So I though I would go back to an old favorite, Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin.

At this point the game is about 20 years old, having come out in 2002.  But I played it, and posted about it, as late as 2017, so I thought I would give it a try.

Here in 2022, it was not so cooperative.  It didn’t fail to run, but it was struggling to run.  I am pretty sure it was my monitor that was the issue.  A resolution of 3440 x 1440 would have been crazy talk back in 2002, and even in 2009, which was when the game last saw an update.

It didn’t try to use all of those pixels, but it is hard coded to run full screen, so it seemed to be keeping track of them, which made it very slow to respond.  I couple play it, but it was going to take patience and some extra effort.

I like this big monitor for many things, but it is annoying how many titles are rendered unplayable by it.  But at least Combat Mission has the excuse of being old and no longer for sale, having been removed from the Battlefront.com online store since last I was there a few years back.  Lord of the Rings Online, with is also pretty much unplayable at that resolution needs to fix its issues.

Anyway, Battlefront has moved on, extending and improving the series of titles under the Combat Mission banner.  They have long since developed update game engines and shipped new games on them.  I wrote about Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord back in 2011, one of the titles on their new generation of engines.

(I also just noticed from that link that I wrote that I pre-ordered it… I wonder what happened to my activation code… I could have played that.  Wait, crap, there it is in a box on the bookshelf behind me.  Well, I’ll get to that later I guess.)

There are others, including Combat Mission: Black Sea, which focuses on Ukraine… how timely… and their latest title, Combat Mission: Cold War, which covers US and Soviet forces facing each other in Germany from the late 70s into the early 80s. (The most recent titles are even on Steam now.)

But I kind of wanted to go back to the Eastern Front and World War II, so I opted for their 2014 title, Combat Mission: Red Thunder, which covers a timeline from post-Kursk to the Soviets reaching Poland.

Combat Mission: Red Thunder

It would also make for an interesting comparison with Barbarossa to Berlin which is the title of theirs with which I am most familiar.

I actually played through the demo version scenarios a couple of time.  It has a downloadable demo, though the demo is based on the 1.0 version of the game, so isn’t exactly like the current version you can buy, which is on the 4.0 version of their game engine.  But it still worked and proved interesting enough for me to drop the $60 required to buy it.

That is probably a bit steep for an indie title, but titles that serve the grognard military sim market tend to be low volume and labor intensive and are priced to reflect that.

One of the big differences between the original Combat Mission titles and the current generation, which started with Shock Force, is a new play mode.

The old titles only supported a simultaneous turn style, where you looked at the situation, gave orders to units (both players at the same time if you were doing network play or play by email), then let the game calculate what happened, then play out the results, with turns being a full minute of action.  At the end of the minute replay, which you can pause or rewind, you are then able to issue orders again.

The new titles support an RTS-like live play style where the clock keeps running and you give orders and units are on the move all the time, similar to Close Combat back in the day, for a wargame reference.

I have tried that a couple of times, but I think I like the minute by minute turns better.  While I know I can pause RTS mode, at least when playing solo, I find the turn by turn mode more contemplative.  Or maybe I cannot handle troops constantly in motion.

The game itself plays well, and while it also insists on being full screen and doesn’t support the full resolution of my monitor, it didn’t seem to bog down with it either.

The graphics are a step up from 2002, and even pretty decent for an eight year old indie military sim.  The 2002 game’s 3D looked a bit like the Eastern front was being fought in EverQuest; lots of visible polygons.

How many polygons does it take to be a tank commander in 2002?

The new graphics are an upgrade, though due to some fault in the engine, Windows has trouble grabbing a screen shot just using the Print Screen key.  The models seem to come through okay, but the terrain tends to be just a blank sheet.

An SU-85 in the field, some of it has gone blank

The forums say that you can get good screen shots with utilities like FRAPs, which I also own a license for if I could find it, so I might have to drag that out.

The scale of battles is also greater in Red Thunder.  The original would put maybe a company of infantry on the field.   The Red Thunder battles tend to have a lot more units in motion.

My infantry getting caught in the open by German off-board arty… half the terrain not shown

Probably the most difficult thing about either the original or the new game is getting used to the camera controls.  There is a mix of controls for that which overlap using WASD, arrow keys, the mouse, and the scroll wheel that take some time to get comfortable with.

Down in the assault… again, screen shot bug making terrain look blank

So far… I am about a week in with my purchase… I am happy with the game.

Still, though, there are a few features of the old title that are missing from the new.

The information about your own units is a little more sparse than they were… though, in an odd turn, the info the game gives you about enemy units is much greater.  You get too much detail, really.  I will have to check if there is a setting for that.  Or maybe it is something you get at lower difficulty levels.

The old game also used to show you which units your own command was firing at.  If you highlighted a unit it would draw a line to show you its current target.

And, as the name implies, Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin covered the entire was on the Eastern Front, including equipment and scenarios from June 1941 through to May 1945.

Combat Mission: Red Thunder is pretty much focused on Operation Bagration, which ran from mid to late 1944, though there is an expansion pack that gets you to Berlin.  As such the game is missing some of the early war antics, such as German units using captured French and Czech armor, the various German allies, and a lot of the key battles of the war.

That doesn’t mean the game is bad, just that it has to stand in the shadow of an older title that came with so much more.

Anyway, I am working my way into it, playing a few battles a week.

A Return to Stellaris

I have owned Stellaris for a while.

A logo from a long past post

The game launched in May of 2016 and it looks like I picked it up on Steam somewhere in October of that year, if my early achievements are any guide.  Also, there is a blog post about it.

My first achievements… i with they sorted in time order…

The achievements also indicate that I played some in 2018, which is when I no doubt bought some DLC for it.

What is Stellaris?

Stellaris is one of those 4x empire building grand strategy games along the lines of the Civilization series, only in space… so maybe more like Masters of Orion.  It is one of those games you stay up playing late into the night to get in “just one more turn!”

Only there are no turns in Stellaris.  It is a Paradox Interactive game and built on their Clausewitz Engine, which has been powering their deep strategy games since Europa Universalis III, which means that it runs along popping events at you as they occur.  You can speed the game up, slow it down, or pause it at need.  And you’ll need to pause it now and then.

You’ll need to because being a Paradox Interactive title means that the game is incredibly complicated.  The concept is simple; start and maintain a space empire via exploration, military strength, and diplomacy.  The reality is that nearly every aspect of the title is its own mini-game and if you forget to pause while you’re down the rabbit hole of managing your planets or running your fleets you can suddenly find yourself with quite a queue of notifications about scientific research choices, explorers reporting back about artifacts or anomalies, diplomatic requests, and the other bits and pieces that the game would like you to attend to.

And yet it isn’t as dense or complicated to get going as most of their other titles, and I say this who owns most of them.  It is nice and simple when you start out, a lone planet in a cluster of stars as opposed to being thrust into the political economic simulation of some European age.

You can play for a bit without worrying about too much.  Just explore, do some research, claim some systems, build up your fleet, maybe colonize another planet.  You feel like you are making progress, doing okay, maybe even doing well.

Yes, I use a lot of EVE Online names in my games

And then you run into another civilizations, or some space amoebas eat one of your exploration ships, or you realize you’ve built out too quickly ahead of your resource generation capacity, or the governor of your home planet has died and there is a political process to choose a replacement, or there is unrest or starvation on a colony, or half a hundred other little details that the game is often so very eager to inform you about, yet quite taciturn when it comes to how to deal with them.

But by that point you’re probably hours into the game, it is past your bed time, and you are hooked.  And, in any case, that is why you have a pause option.  It is an option I use quite a bit.

I use it because since I last played I have forgotten most of the details about how to play, so there have been quite a few pause, tab out, Google, tab back moments.

Also, the game has actually changed quite a bit since I first played it. I didn’t realize how much it had changed until I looked back at some of the early screen shots I took of the game.  A lot has happened in five or so years.

There is more info on that bar than there used to be for sure…

Fortunately the game has a pretty forgiving easy mode setting that will let you run your empire in… if not peace, then at least mild chaos.  Pirates and space beings and random hostile NPCs jumping out of black holes will keep you from snoozing too much.

I had to try a couple of games before I availed myself of the easy mode.  It is bad enough getting stomped by the AI, but when you can’t even figure out why or how to respond, it is time for training.

Of course, I still probably bit off more than I should of with my current game.  A smaller cluster with fewer civs to deal with might have served me better.

The current political situation in the galaxy

In the end it isn’t that difficult.  Each individual system is quite comprehensible and things like fleet combat isn’t a lot more complex than, say, Spaceward Ho! used to be back in the day.  There are just a lot of systems to master and they do influence each other in their own special ways.

As I said, it is a game that will eat up your time.  Steam says I have played over 24 hours of it so far this year, though ManicTime puts me closer to 16 hours.  Some of that was because I tabbed out and walked away with the game paused, but I have no doubt that a chunk was also me tabbed out and looking stuff up as well.

And not having turns seems to make it even harder to put it away for the night, as there is always one more event to deal with or another fleet move or diplomatic scheme that is coming due soon.  I expect that Stellaris will figure prominently in my month in review time summary.

Playing Forza Horizon 5 for a Dollar

I have been quietly looking for a driving game that covered the elements I found appealing in Need for Speed: World back before the end of its days.  I liked the open world, the racing bits, collecting cars, customization, and the ability to get out and drive and race with friends now and then.

I have looked at a number of games since the demise of NFSW.  ( I even miss that acronym, being so close to NSFW.)  But a lot of titles were too limited or too focused on racing or only focused on modern cars or hae no open world to drive around or were made by UbiSoft, one of the few companies lower in my esteem than EA, and so failed to grab my attention sufficiently.

Then some friends over on Slack were talking about Forza Horizon 5, which I had not even considered.  It sounded like it had many of the elements I was looking for.  But it was also a $60 title that felt like it was focused mostly on consoles, and I wasn’t willing to put down that much money to find out.

Forza Horizon 5

And then I saw that it was available as part of Microsoft’s XBox Game Pass for PC (all gaming at Microsoft is XBox branded it seems), which is their subscription service for which you play a monthly fee to play whatever titles they throw in.  It is normally $10 a month, which isn’t bad.  That is less than an MMORPG subscription, so if there was a game I was into, that wouldn’t be a bad deal.

But when I went to go look into it at the Microsoft Store I saw they were having a special.  I could sign up for three months of the for the XBox Game Pass for PC one dollar.  I wouldn’t have to pay the $10 toll until February, and a lot can happen in three months.  So I figured I could go all in for just ONE DOLLAR.

An Interlude to Complain about Microsoft

Going from “ready to buy” to actually playing the game was… annoying.

I already had a Microsoft account associated with my computer and I even have OneDrive active, so there is a credit card hooked up.  All I should have to do is click “buy” and be ready to go, right?

Well, I could buy the game pass, but to proceed the Microsoft Store had be click on a link that opened up a browser window.  However, despite the fact that I was logged into the machine with the credential I used at the store, the store didn’t want to pass those credentials along to the browser, which isn’t exactly a tough thing to do Microsoft.

So I had to log into the XBox site on my own.  But, as it turns out, I have close to a dozen Microsoft accounts which I have accumulated over the years, some of which were for work, some of which were for other machines in the house, and a couple of which were just folded in from other companies that Microsoft has purchases over the year, and many of them have the same email address, so Microsoft seemed at least as confused as I was as it tried to force me to use one particular account… which didn’t even have the right email address… so I am pretty sure I have at least four XBox accounts now, including one connected to my early 2000s Skype account, something I am sure won’t ever come back to haunt me.

Eventually though I got signed in, read the obscure messages over and over again until I realized that it wanted me to download the XBox for PC app, which involved another ten minutes of getting it to go to the right account… I mean, JFC Microsoft… before I was finally able to see my game pass options, select Forza Horizon 5, and start to download it… through a soda straw.

I mean, it is a big game, but my internet connection isn’t that slow.  At least that was just time.  I had time, and eventually the download completed.

In the end though, I was able to get the game up and running and after a weekend of playing it, I have come up with the following.

The Good

Overall, Fora Horizon 5 , which I am going to call FH5 from here on out, scratches just about all the itches I was looking for and it plays very well on my now three year old PC which, between crypto miners and chip shortages, seems like it is never going to get an upgrade.

It looks good on the big monitor, draws well, plays well with keyboard controls… I was told I really should use a controller, and I have one somewhere, but the keyboard works well enough for me… and it is a big sprawling game with lots of things to do so you can play to your level of commitment at the moment.

It also has a wide range of difficulty settings.  I have a post in me somewhere about how important having an “easy mode” is in games.  I started off doing poorly in races and the game suggested to me some ways to dial things back.  In doing so I was able to get my footing.  It set the computer opponents to novice level and I turned on auto braking, which basically keeps your speed in check coming into corners automatically so every turn isn’t a physics demonstration as your car keeps going one direction while you’re trying go in another.

By the end of the weekend I had put the opponents back to average and turned off auto-braking, option for anti-lock brakes, but the fact that I even had those options helped me get past the initial stage of getting used to how to play.

I did tinker with some of the settings to see what they did.  You can go as far as having your car auto-steer and auto-brake, which I think means you just press the W key and go.  I tried assisted steering for a bit, but the way I drive it was like fighting a car with a bad alignment; it kept trying to pull me to the optimum line on the road while I was trying to hit some sign or cactus along the shoulder.

Oh, yeah, destructible terrain.  You can crash through and destroy a huge amount of stuff.  It is almost jarring to hit something that isn’t destructible, like a building, after plowing through a light forest, half a dozen guard rails, two telephone poles, and a billboard.  Your car takes a bit of cosmetic damage… I think there is a setting for this as well… but keeps on going.  It can be hilariously fun.

And then there are the cars.  You start off with some modern models, but you have the option to buy some older marques.  My interest tends to be in things 1995 and earlier, so I was all in on those options, the first purchase being a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.

Donuts on the lawn…

After the modern Corvette I got, this thing was slow and very floaty when it got to high speed, but still fun as hell.

I also grabbed a 93 Nissan Silvia K, which actually turned out to be on par with the modern stuff.  I could drive this and no be hilariously out of date.

Okay, maybe I do donuts too much…

There are all sorts of race type, including off road, so one of the early cars you get is a modern Ford Bronco.  But once I got one of my barn finds… a game mechanic where you go find a car that then gets restored for you… was a late 70s GMC Jimmy, which became my go-to off road ride.

Jimmy at the race

Also, unlike old NFSW, you don’t need to stick to the roads.  You can bust through the guard rails and go straight across country. (The game has a very relaxed view on guard rails, chain link fences, and road construction, often having you drive straight through these if the situation is right.)  While the Jimmy has to huff and puff a bit to break 100 MPH without driving off a cliff… also an option… it is very good at taking the straight route across country and through whatever gets in your way.

Also, there is a whole cosmetic system for cars which I have yet to figure out beyond doing very simple pain jobs.  But you can find car skins from other people, so I can sometimes be seen tooling around in a Hello Kitty bug-eye Sprite.

Styling on the road

There is a lot to like about this game and I have barely gotten myself started.

The Bad

My A1 complaint about the game so far is when I want to exit and it tells me that all unsaved progress will be lost.

This is the message I hate

I mean, this message annoys me in most games, but in most games I know how to save and am just annoyed that it tells me that even after I saved just 3 seconds ago. (Looking at you Pokemon.)

But I have no idea how to save in FH5.  I have tried to look this up and so far as I can tell, the game automatically saves, but only at specific points.  If I finish a race it saves, if I buy a new car it saves, if I complete some story objective, it saves, but otherwise it doesn’t seem keen to keep up with your progress.  You can free roam knocking over telephone poles and cactus for hours and if the game crashes, you will come back having lost all the xp you earned, and losing progress pretty much suck.

Basically, my “I need to log off because it is way too late and I need to go to bed” strategy is to go find an event to complete or, if I am in a hurry, to just go buy a new car.  That seems to be the only way to ensure my progress is saved, which is kind of awkward.  At some point I am going to run out of cheap cars to buy and I am saving up for that Aston Martin DB5.

Having mentioned crashing above brings me to the second issue, the game will crash.  I have only had it happen a couple of times, but I will say that in the three years I have had this PC, the only time I have had it crash into a BSOD is with FH5.  Still, I consider myself lucky as I know people for whom the game crashes constantly making it literally unplayable.  But you can see why I want to know how to force a save.

It also gets disconnected rather regularly during peak play hours.  I see this message off and on.

Once again it has come to my attention…

The thing is, in an open world game where you are often zipping around alone, it can be hard to tell if you are connected or not.  And this relates to the save thing in a way, because I am also unsure if what I am doing/earning gets saved when I am in this disconnected state.  The only bright side is that it seems to reconnect readily after short interval, so I have never been able to test whether or not it keeps progress.

Finally, I would really like to take more screen shots, but I haven’t figured out how.

Well, that isn’t exactly true, I have figured out three ways.

The first is to smash the Print Screen key, then tab out and paste whatever is in the clipboard into Paint.net or PaintShop Pro, but that is a little awkward and doesn’t lend itself to grabbing action during, say, a race.

Then there is the XBox PC overlay, which wants you to hit the Windows key and the Alt key along with the Print Screen key, which is a two handed operation that requires me to basically stop controlling the vehicle, which is generally barreling along at past 100 MPH, for what feels like an awkwardly long time.

Finally, there is photo mode, where one can take pictures of your stationary vehicle from very precise angles.  I would have thought this odd except that NFSW had this very same feature, so it must be something that driving games or console players are really into.  For me, my car sitting still is much less interesting than my car chewing up another section of guard rail because I am so bad at this game.

I get points in game for this too!

So there we go.  Nothing horrible, but some annoyances.

The Weird

Boy oh boy, this is really a console title, which means that its UI follows conventions that can seem Bizarro world strange to me.  Why, for example, does M open the map but then not close it?  Map toggling on the same key is very much a standard UI practice on the PC games I play.

And yes, I get it, the game was written primarily for XBox and PlayStation 5, where you have a limited number of buttons on the standard controller so, when translated to the PC the ESC key is the universal “make this bit of the UI go away” key.

Also, since this is FH5, which implies four predecessors plus however many other titles in the Forza series, there is no doubt a long UI convention history to be assumed in the design, things done a certain way because the company has always done it that way and now the players are used to it so they dare not change.

But as the outsider coming in to both series conventions and console design norms, I often cannot figure out exactly what I am supposed to do.  I mean, sometimes it is obvious, but at other times… for example, I cannot figure out how to buy a car from the sales interface without apply a custom skin to it.  Not that I mind, just look at that Hello Kitty skin on the Sprite, but it seems to be required, which seems odd.

The game is also telling me things or popping up rewards or what not all the time.  A+ for feedback, but there are times where I am trying to drive or whatever and it is cool that I have hit another level and have three wheelspins to collect and whatever, but that all pops up, goes away, and fades from memory and I discover half of it by accident some time down the road.

Some of the things I want to do, like make skins for cars, well the UI is just at right angles to my view of reality.   And there are guides out there about how to do all of this I am sure, but because it is primarily a console title, it doesn’t matter if I put “PC” and “Windows” in the search string, 80% of what I get back assumes I am on an XBox or PlayStation 5.

So some effort will need to be applied.  But I am often just trying to figure out how the hell to do something or reacting oddly to why in the hell something is done in a particular way.  The only analogy I can come up with is a long time WoW player trying to play EVE Online.  It is just a bunch of new stuff to learn.

And then there is the XBox app, which you need to use for a number of things, including screen shots.  I don’t think I have hit the Windows key on my keyboard on purpose more than two dozen times in the last 20 years, but everything in that app has you pressing it.  Strange times.

The Verdict

This game would have totally been worth $60 to me. But for a DOLLAR?  Amazing!

In fact, if it falls off of XBox play I will probably just buy it outright.

It is light and fun when you want and as serious as you need it to be when you’re down for that.  I have had a blast playing it.

It certainly fills the niche I was looking for since the demise of NFSW.  In fact, I was going on about it enough that Potshot decided to give it a go… and had the same problems as I did even getting signed up and downloaded, so it wasn’t just me… so he too is in FH5.

Of course, that meant we had to try to play together, but that is for another blog post.

The Fermi Paradox in Early Access

I mentioned back at the end of the Steam Summer Sale, which somehow finished up over a month ago at this point, that I had purchased a few titles. I have played through them all a bit, so it is time to start writing, and the first on the board is The Fermi Paradox.

The basic idea is that you play the hand of fate, the galactic gardener, who helps guide intelligent life along their developmental path with an eye towards them eventually heading to the stars and possibly encountering other civilizations.

You get to influence multiple civilizations in your corner of the galaxy, making choices that influence their advancement or watching them collapse.  The Drake Equation plays into this.

Somebody fell out of the race again…

As you juggle the various budding civilizations, jumping from one to another as significant events occur, you earn “synthesis,” a currency of sorts that you can spend on your decisions, because not all choices are free.  You have often have to spend a bit to get somebody on what seems like the right path.

For example, one of my civs, the Prun, on Gliese, discovered radio.

Probably playing loud music all night

You have to decide where they should go with that.  Do you let it be, push them towards radio silence to avoid stirring up a neighbor that might be hostile, or get them to pump up the volume?  The fist is free, the second earns you some sythesis, while the last will cost.

The radio choices for their civ

I went for the last, deciding that there wasn’t much danger… after all, I know what the other civs are up to… and hoping it might spur another civ to look to the stars.  And then, of course, the Prun disappointed me.  They’re too much like us I guess.

Of course they did

You also get to collect “flares,” which look like little snowflakes on the screen, which are a bit like loot boxes I suppose, except that they don’t cost anything.  These bestow benefits or woes, give you some synthesis or cause some issue.  Some of them have a generic icon, others had indicators as to what they might influence.

So it goes.  You pop back and forth as events happen or new civilizations rise.  And naturally you get humans arising in the Sol system.

Early human civilization, with some flares to collect

So how is it?

I like the idea of it, and it is in early access… very early, as it just hit that in early July… so I want to give it some benefit of the doubt.  The concept seems like it has something to it.

On the other hand, what is there right now is very light.  If you’re expecting something like RimWorld or any of the Civilization titles, this is nowhere close to that end of the simulation spectrum.  Your choices are quick and general and sometimes go well and other times turn out poorly, but I always felt very much removed from the civilizations I was shepherding.  If somebody goes extinct, well you have some other options.  You root for one group or another, but there isn’t a lot there to get you invested in them.  And they regularly go down paths that you know won’t end well.

Occasionally you make a choice that has a large impact on a civilization, but most of it is light.  The flares give some sense of randomness to it, but there isn’t enough variation in them.  After a while you start seeing patterns and similar trajectories.

After a couple hours of play I wasn’t feeling all that invested in how the various civilizations were moving along.  There is a promise of depth that it cannot quite achieve yet and I felt like I was just clicking on things in a way that wasn’t very satisfying.

Still, I am interested and will keep an eye on it for now.  Maybe some big update to the game will grab me.

What I Have Played so far in 2021

2021 is past the half way mark now and, as usual, the months seem to have slipped by.  But it did seem like a good time to maybe stop and look at what video games I played in the first six months of the year.  Thanks to ManicTime I have a handy list to work with.

Unfortunately, ManicTime can only tell me what I have played.  It cannot make my list longer or more interesting.  Still, let’s see where I spent my play time budget.

  1. Valheim – 40.18%
  2. WoW Classic – 39.50%
  3. EVE Online – 17.89%
  4. War in the Pacific – 0.97%
  5. Burning Crusade Classic Beta – 0.43%
  6. World of Warcraft – 0.39%
  7. Runes of Magic – 0.31%
  8. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.24%
  9. LOTRO – 0.09%

Not even an even ten games, though these are just games on my PC.  We can add Pokemon Go if I need the round number I suppose, but I don’t have times for that, so we’ll skip it.  Anyway, looking at that list we have:

  • Valheim

Proof that I do play new games now and again.  It came out of nowhere in February and distracted the instance group from WoW Classic for more than two months.  It is actually in second place now in my Steam library based on hours played, just barely ahead of RimWorld and out in front of Age of Empires II and War Thunder, but still quite a ways behind Civilization V.

  • WoW Classic

The title I expected to be in first place, though it isn’t far behind Valheim.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while it making the list is probably no surprise to you

  • EVE Online

I am sure it is a sign of the current state of World War Bee that my time spent in New Eden is less than half of the time played in either of the first two titles.  Still, it is in the top three that together make up about 97.5% of my PC gaming time so far this year.  I do wonder sometimes if I should give EVE a multiplier for play time because there is no other game I spend so much time playing while tabbed out in a browser looking something up, and ManicTime only counts the time when the game has focus.  Then again, I do also sit docked in a hangar doing nothing a good chunk of time too.

  • War in the Pacific

My apparent attempt to prove that I no longer have the patience to get into a complicated war game title.  22 year old me would have managed it.  Even 35 year old me might have made it.  But far side of 50s me isn’t getting there it seems.  I blame the tiny text and the lack of a zoom feature.  And even as a failed experiment it makes it into 4th spot, so I tried!

  • Burning Crusade Classic Beta

You can argue that this ought to be under WoW Classic, but it had its own executable and was tracked on its own line.  Plus, given how little time I spent in beta, about which I have posted, there is a statement on how little I played anything below this.

  • World of Warcraft

Oh retail WoW, I was so into your Shadowlands expansion right up until I got my first character to level cap and decided I didn’t want to do dailies and grind anima or whatever it is.  I was seriously excited about some of the zones.  I’ll probably come back next year when the catch up mechanics kick in and make everybody who did it the hard way feel like a schmuck.  I mean, unless you enjoyed the journey.  I don’t want to take that away from you.  Anyway, my time spent here is mostly the monthly Darkmoon Faire login… and I even missed a month of that.

  • Runes of Magic

This isn’t a bad game, and it even works on my big monitor.  It suffers from the fact that there are just half a dozen other games at least that I would rather play.  I got hooked up into it for its anniversary for a bit.  Actually, it is probably for the best I didn’t carry on, because I never got as far as having to rent bag space or the dreaded $10 horse, which would have made me pissy about them having converted my account somehow causing me to lose all my diamonds.  Maybe it is a bad game.

  • MMO Tycoon 2

A single player game?  Whaaaaa?  Purchased this on a bit of a whim at the end of last month.  It seemed like it might be a bit of a laugh.  How meta, the one game on my list that has no MMO characteristics is about simulating the creation of an MMO!  Me so crazy!

  • Lord of the Rings Online

Grumble, grumble, monitor size and UI scaling.  I do log into the game once in a while, though I suspect if I went back into ManicTime and added up the time spent in the launcher patching and added that to the list, it would push LOTRO down another position.  Some day SSG will get around to supporting large screens.

What an entirely predictable list!

The good news, I suppose, is that I have picked up a couple items on Steam so the list ought to be a bit deeper before year’s end.  Everything won’t be “the siege of 1DQ carries on” and “the instance group rides again!”

June in Review

The Site

After a bit of a traffic boom in mid to late May, something I mentioned in the May review, search traffic fell off quite a bit on June 1st.

Peak Search Impressions in May

Google is the main variable in my traffic.  Without that my daily visitors and page views are pretty flat.  The same few people show up here regularly, so if you’re one of those… Hi!

Anyway, I am always a bit curious as to what attracts Google results, and for the back half of May my position in Google search was related heavily the Dire Maul summoning stone.  Google gives you a nice little report about the last 28 days if you know where to find it in their search console stuff.

When you need that summoning stone

Nice positioning too.  I am the top result for most of those search terms.

Bing also has a search console that tells you about your traffic, and I likewise saw a spike from Bing for “Dire Maul summoning stone.”  However, traffic from Bing is approximately 5% of the Google traffic, so not as big of an impact on my stats.  Still, some traffic.

So my guess is that once the Dark Portal was open and we were all rushing into Hellfire Peninsula, the need to summon people to Dire Maul fell off and my search traffic went with it.

Here at the end of June “Dire Maul Summoning Stone” is still my top search term, but it is just not as popular.  “Jintha’alor Altar” is still there in 4th spot with about the same amount of traffic.  But “How to find a Warm Ocean in Minecraft” is on the list now as are two variations of “EVE Online cloak stabilization,” which relates to the cloaky camping nerfs CCP introduced this month.

One Year Ago

My daughter graduated from high school.  It was a pandemic graduation, but we made do.

My poll about voice chat indicated that Discord now rules that roost.

Pokemon Go gave us remote raid passes since we all had to stay home.

I was giving Minecraft Dungeons a try.  I finished the main story fairly quickly and found the game to be light and fun, but not very deep or replayable.  Other reviews were even less charitable.

Daybreak was still having problems with their Aradune progression server.

We were getting down to the final days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft and I was wondering how it would rank in the pantheon of expansions and how much the previous expansion plays into how people feel about the current or next expansion.

WoW Classic was still going strong enough that Blizz had to turn layering back on for several realms.  There was also the Summer Bowl and the campaign against bots.

The instance group was still working on Zul’Farrak, failing the stairs when Sergeant Bly and his crew died.  Then, the next time, Bly and his crew survived, but disappeared as we looted the field.

My hunter became my first character to hit level 50 in WoW Classic.

In EVE Online I was reminding people about why CCP gave Upwell structures asset safety… because they took it away with the Forsaken Fortress update.  Another case of people foolishly believing in company promises.  So we went out and shot our own abandoned state structures in Delve just to keep other groups from coming along and doing it.

Meanwhile, the CCP mineral starvation plan was driving mineral prices to an all time high.

We did, however, get new ships for the EDENCOM faction as part of the Triglavian invasion event as well as a Project Discovery update that moved its focus onto the coronavirus.  And we got character log off!  People had only been asking for that since forever.

The CSM15 elections kicked off, with the results being announced by mid-month.

Also a little something about how opaque the game UI can be.

Actually in space the GEF was still up north fighting over various objectives.  But that all came to a screeching halt when we we found out that most of null sec was planning to gang up against us and invade.  They denied it, but then the evidence was found.  Our deployment up north ended and we began consolidating the empire into our core space, pulling down the last Keepstar in Cloud Ring before the month was out.  World War Bee was coming.

We were playing some Minecraft and seeing how villages had changed.

I was getting promotions for an Atari branded online casino complete with its own crypto-currency.  I guess, as a brand, Atari still has some value.

Five Years Ago

Daybreak’s Landmark finally went live just a few days short of summer.  However, it was the end of the road for PlanetSide and Legends of Norrath.

There was also the launch of the Isle of Refuge free trade server for EverQuest II.

There was a Newbie Blogger Initiative, for which I put up a post.

It was reported that Minecraft had sold more than 100 million copies.

Minecraft put out the Frostburn Update, version 1.10.  I was building the last stretches of what would become the 22km rail loop.

I also reflected on a year of playing Minecraft, then added in some statistics.

Blizzard had the Warcraft Movie open.  I didn’t like it, nor did that many people outside of China.  Meanwhile Blizzard was also explaining that WoW expansions were just going to take time.  While WoW Legion was still weeks away, my daughter and I went back to finish up Warlords of Draenor and get ready for the new expansion.  Meanwhile the whole Nostalius thing was still simmering.

And I was playing EVE Online.  There was the YC118.6 update, which brought us more overview tabs and the Shadow of the Serpent event, among other things.  Recurring opportunities, in which you could earn some skill points by undocking and shooting an NPC, were removed after their short runDX9 was also dead in EVE.  And there was Blog Banter 76, which was about FC’s and how vulnerable they should be.

But mostly I was flying in fleets out of Saranen as we kept up the tempo of operations in what would become the final full month of the Casino War.  There were just too many posts about that to try and sting them together in a single paragraph narrative, so I will just list them out:

Ten Years Ago

I had to get out my Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD.

Team Fortress 2 went free to play.  Begin the hat-based economy!

I was wondering if people were picking on Lord British.  This was before he started talking about his “ultimate RPG” and made picking on him a very entertaining sport.

We were not playing WoW, but guild accounts were being hacked.  And we were not even among those 600K WoW players that supposedly went to Rift.

LOTRO announced the Rise of Isengard expansion and offered up a exp boosting item for pre-orders.

I was wondering what launch conditions would be like for SWTOR.  Of course, I sort of figured it might launch before mid-December.

LEGO Universe announced it was going free to play.  At our house, my daughter enjoyed it for a bit, but eventually dropped it for Animal Jam.

CCP began a slow and deliberate campaign of alternating between shooting itself in the foot and sticking said foot in its mouth, all in the name of the Incarna expansion.  And my sentry drones were still boring.  And then LulzSec brought them down.  At least they had finally made it much easier to find an agent in the game.

SOE announced a new version of Station Access, its “all games for one low monthly price.”  Called SOE All Access, which had a price of $19.95 a month.  This was a welcome drop from the previous $29.99 a month price.

However, by this point, SOE had dropped The Matrix Online and had just announced they were killing Star Wars Galaxies, so there were certainly fewer games to play.  Of course, that was also back when they had some games that were not free to play already.

At least SOE was up and running after the PSN/SOE outage.  A pity they fumbled the marketing opportunities offered by their make good plan.

The instance group had finally gotten out of the damn starter zone in EverQuest II Extended, but the game still wasn’t sitting well.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, the Ruins of Kunark expansion was opened up and then “finished” in short order.

And finally, on June 29, 2010 I created a Reddit account so I could reply to something on /r/eve.  Apparently I have yet to learn my lesson on that front.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sonic the Hedgehog turned 15, which I guess means it is 30 now.  Maybe I shouldn’t do call backs to birthdays.

Bill Gates announced that he was planning to relinquish his remaining full time positions at Microsoft in order to focus on his foundation.  Though Steve “Uncle Fester” Ballmer had been CEO since 2000, Gates was still Chief Software Architect and Chief Research & Strategy Officer (along with being chairman of the board).  More recently he’s been accused of trying to microchip us via vaccines and is in the midst of a divorce.

EverQuest II got the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack, the last such pack until 2015’s Rum Cellar.

Nintendo finally shipped the Nintendo DS Lite in Europe, though $3.2 million worth of them went missing en route from China.

Half-Life 2: Episode One was released as Valve briefly tried to pay attention to the core of their biggest franchise at the time.  Still waiting for Episode Three.

Titan Quest, one of the great post-Diablo II ARPGs launched.  It even got a remaster way before Diablo II.

Twenty Years Ago

Anarchy Online launched in what became one of the more tragic opening day break downs in early MMO history.  I mean, they were always bad back then, but AO had to introduce a free tial program, which eventually became a free to play option, to recover, making it one of the early free to play conversions.  The game recovered and carries on to this day, but it was a shaky start.

WWII Online launched as well and was also another troubled title.  And yet somehow it still survives to this day.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. New Eden and the Death of the Subscription Model
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. Robbing Some Space Banks
  6. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  7. EverQuest Launches the Mischief and Thornblade Servers
  8. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  11. Where Does WoW Classic End?
  12. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend

Search Terms of the Month

dcuo pay for skill points
[I think that is more an EVE Online thing]

eve online female characters
[They’re mostly men]

ancient winter poncho
[No Ponchos!]

everquest 2 pvp server 2021
[Get there fast before it closes]

Game Time from ManicTime

This month ManicTime shows a pretty solid trend in my play time.

  • WoW Classic – 89.21%
  • EVE Online – 9.07%
  • MMO Tycoon 2 – 1.41%
  • Valheim – 0.19%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.12%

The launch of Burning Crusade Classic was clearly the focus of my play time in June.

EVE Online

Stalemate in the war, CCP’s ongoing economic starvation plan, the end of Covid restrictions, and the coming of summer have conspired to make New Eden a bit quiet.  Well, quiet save for the bits of the game where people are angry.  There was some desultory shooting of the monument in Jita at one point of packs and pop-ups, but that seemed to fade pretty quickly.  There wasn’t enough anger to sustain it, which means CCP successfully pushed monetization forward another step or tow.

MMORPG Tycoon 2

A Steam purchase, though not because it was on sale.  I saw Lum tweeting about it last weekend and asked if you could play with business models and monetization.  He said you could, so I grabbed a copy.  It is early access, but seems pretty solid so far.  At some point I will write a post about it and my first game, Attractive Nuisance.

Pokemon Go

I am a bit concerned about how much Niantic is planning to pull back from the changes put into the game during Covid.  Specifically, how close you need to be to a gym or Pokestop to interact with it is going to get cut way back, which seems a bit dumb.  It isn’t like you can spin one from a mile away, the change is a matter of yards/meters, but for a few gyms it means the difference from parking my car close by to get in or having to get out and walk across some grass.  Not a huge hassle, but enough to make it less likely that I will bother at all.

I did see a level 50 at last.  The highest person on my friend’s list is level 44 and they seem to be running out of steam.  But I was in a raid last weekend and saw this person:

Level 50 among us

I hadn’t even seen the requirements for levels 49 and 50 yet, as Niantic held them back when the new levels were unlocked.  But I guess they are in now.  So that person is starting to accumulate xp for the next level cap increase I guess.  Meanwhile I am not even half way to 42 yet.

Level: 41 (47.5% of the way to 42 in xp, 3 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 646 (+3) caught, 675 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: I accidentally transferred my Vanillite before I evolved it
Current buddy: Event Slowpoke wit a special evolve

Valheim

I did log in for a bit to check out the latest update and to make a maypole.  Still waiting for a major update before I resume a more active focus on it.

World of Warcraft

Once more my venture into retail WoW was just to run the Darkmoon Faire crafting quests in order to boost those skills up another 5 points.  At some point as the expansion is winding down and everything has been unlocked I will probably come back and finish things up.

WoW Classic

As noted above, the launch of Burning Crusade Classic dominated June for me though, given how much I have played, I certainly haven’t gotten very deep into the expansion.  My highest level character is 62 and is only just into Zangarmarsh.  Meanwhile I am already angry at level 70s with flying mounts swooping down to grab harvest nodes while I am fighting a mob that was blocking me from grabbing it.  Some things never change.

Coming Up

Umm… what is coming up in July?  Vacation?  I know some people are going on vacation.  My wife was at the mall the other day and told me that there wasn’t a piece of luggage to be had at any department store.  But I’m not going anywhere.  We have vacation plans for later in the year when, one hopes, the immediate rush might be over.

Otherwise what do we have?

More Burning Crusade Classic for sure.  Maybe something will happen in the war in New Eden.   A new pair of Legendary servers from LOTRO.  All this and more I suppose.  Maybe I’ll even buy something else at the Steam Summer Sale.

May in Review

The Site

Activity-wise, it was kind of an odd month.  Page views were falling at the end of April and that led to a very weak showing at the beginning of the month.  And then the Burning Crusade Classic pre-patch hit and suddenly daily traffic doubled.  You can see from the most viewed posts list that people were interested in things that might help them level up their brand new Draenei or Blood Elf characters.

I also managed to continue on with the post a day record.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal… I this will be post 43 for the month of May… and it probably isn’t, but the way things work out I often end up with a week of multiple posts per day due to timeliness of a topic, then get to the weekend with nothing to hand.  Still, I made it.

The streak continues

I guess my goal now is 500 days in a row, which should happen before the fifteen year anniversary of the blog.  Go me.

One Year Ago

As Blapril came to an end I did a post about my top five most viewed posts over various points during the life of the blog.  After that there was the usual summing up of the event.  I also joined in and did my gamer profile again and did that “have you ever” quiz thing.

Daybreak was changing up the plan for the Rizlona and Aradune progression servers they had planned for EverQuest.  They launched, but not without the usual issues and overcrowding.  They also finally merged the Fippy Darkpaw server into the Vox server after its nine year run as a progression server.

Blizzard revenue and margins were starting to look up and we were getting hints of a Diablo II remaster.  However, BlizzCon 2020 was not going to happen.

The instance group made its first run into Zul’Farrak.

I went out and explored a bit in our old Minecraft world and we started tinkering around in a new world.

CCP was celebrating 17 years of EVE Online.  They also gave us PLEX trading in the companion app for… reasons.  We got the candidate list for the CSM15 election and the Forsaken Fortress update that made Upwell structures easier to kill.  Then there was the MER which showed mineral prices starting the rise and ratting numbers starting to fall.

I correctly predicted Burn Jita was unlikely to happen.  I also was looking to earn some ISK.

Out in space were up north defending structures in a couple places.  That led to the GEF moving to Cloud Ring for some action for fights.  We even got to fight in Notoras, the best system in low sec.

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was announced, which sounded great.  It was later delayed.  There was also a promise of more Grand Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn.

The regional groups forming in the US in response to the pandemic were starting to look like some post-US strategic game.

Five Years Ago

Overwatch went live.  Still haven’t played it.

DUST 514 went offline.  Never did play it.

Landmark’s official launch date was announced.  Never did buy it.

There was word about Pokemon Sun & MoonCivilization VIEverQuest II prestige servers, the tribulations of WildStar, and the WoW Legion Beta, all in one bullet points post.

One thing I did end up playing was Stellaris, which launched back in 2016 as well.

In EVE Online I saw my first citadel.  Now they’re everywhere.  There was also a free weekend on Steam that got a lot of accounts created, but which still faced the wall of the new player experience.  There was a Blog Banter about Project Nova and that brief experiment with recurring opportunities that granted skill points. There were also details from the CSMXI election and that whole 85% thing, which did not add up for me.

In space the Casino War was still a thing.  We were huddled up in the back room of the Quafe Warehouse in Saranen plotting ways to strike back and keep the war going.  We threw industrials at sovereignty.  That got us a foothold back in Fade for a bit.

Mostly though it was battles in low sec.  Asher led us out to battle in his Phantasm, we squared off against capitals, blew up some fax machines.  There were battles over structures in Saranen and we managed to anchor an Astrahus to face the citadels arrayed against us.  Lots of shooting, but not much changed.

Oh, and SynCaine joined KarmaFleet.  I even saw him on an op.

Outside of New Eden Blizzard could only talk about MAUs after renouncing discussion of subscription numbers.  Given the whole Nostalrius situation I was wondering what Vanilla WoW really was.  And the Warcraft movie was approaching.

In Minecraft I was planning a rail line and finding a path for it to run.  Aaron’s project of the month was a facility in the nether to make the collection of Ghast tears easier.

I was also momentarily nostalgic for Starsiege: Tribes… or for what I could remember of it.

And in TorilMUD the elves were no longer restricted to the isle of Evermeet until level 20.

Ten Years Ago

May 2011 was the time of the great Sony outage, with the PlayStation Network down for 24 days and Sony Online Entertainment down for 13 days.  It was a communication fiasco from start to finish, with bad updates almost daily.  About all they could do was promise us all goodies for when they finally came back up.

CCP was starting the build up to the Incarna fiasco with the introduction of Aurum.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, there was agitation to vote NO on unlocking the Kunark expansion.  Such agitation shows up with every unlock vote.  But no vote failed until Gates of Discord came along.

The instance group was in EverQuest II… when it was up… and trying to get the hell out of the starter area.  We managed it, but it took a lot more time than I would have thought.  We started in on some dungeons and got ourselves a guild hall.

World of Warcraft subscriptions started to decline, down to 11.4 million (those were the days!) while Trion started offering free server transfers in Rift.

My daughter was asking me about Dungeons & Dragons.  There was a thread going around about making better MMO players.  There were clearly some bad players about.

And finally, as hot as things seemed to be around here, there was no rapture.  You just couldn’t buy a break that month.

Fifteen Years Ago

World of Warcraft lead designer Rob Pardo was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2006.

The Wii “steals the show” when it comes to the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3.  Despite a drop in attendees, there are long lines to try out Nintendo’s new console.  This was the last E3 before the “new format” of 2007 and 2008.

The ESRB changed the rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from “Teen” to “Mature” in part due to topless female art assets in the game that could be accessed by mods.  Former California Assemblyman Leland Yee (later Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 19629-111) took time out of his organized crime activities to slam the ESRB for missing these hidden art assets.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. Robbing Some Space Banks
  3. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  4. Bloodmyst Isle – The Worst Zone in WoW
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  7. Mischief is Coming to EverQuest
  8. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  9. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  10. CCP Changes to Nullification and Warp Core Stabilizers hit the Test Server
  11. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  12. How Long can the Fifteen Dollar Subscription Hold Out?

Search Terms of the Month (Yandex Edition!)

летящие буквы как в звездных войнах фш
[Not sure, you mean like this?]

как украсить стену дома в майнкрафте
[Paintings?]

подводный риф 3.3.5 на карте
[Warm oceans are work to find]

схема Аннуминас kjnh
[I like Annuminas]

особняк майнкрафт данж
[I have a couple of posts about that]

забытый город камень встреч
[The Lost City of the Tol’vir?]

ферма призмарина майнкрафт
[Aaron made a whole farm for that]

cat is 4 fite
[Dude, speak English]

Game Time from ManicTime

May saw us hit the end of our hype cycle with Valheim.  I logged in and did a bit of exploring.  But focus clearly turned to WoW Classic and getting ready for the coming of The Burning Crusade expansion.

  1. WoW Classic – 63.39%
  2. EVE Online – 29.64%
  3. Burning Crusade Classic Beta – 2.90%
  4. Valheim – 2.22%
  5. World of Warcraft – 1.19%
  6. War in the Pacific – 0.66%

EVE Online

The war carried on into its eleventh month, with forces stalemated at the Imperium capitol constellation.  The enemy can still bring double our numbers if they ping for operations in advance, but haven’t been able to break into our home.  We, on the other hand, are somewhat limited by how far we can reach from that constellation.  TEST miners and ratters in Delve get dropped on regularly in their new home, but operations beyond that require groups to find bases far off, which takes them out of the Delve fights.

Pokemon Go

I set a new personal record for the longest time defending a single gym, managing 19 days, 1 hour, and 24 minutes.  We drove up to Portland to drive our daughter home from her first year at college and I got into a gym on campus… and then nobody kicked the defenders out for almost three weeks.  Other than that we managed to do all the events in May, which meant fighting a lot of Team Rocket grunts and leaders.

Level: 41 (38% of the way to 42 in xp, 2 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 643 (+10) caught, 673 (+11) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Still need Eevees for the level 42 tasks
Current buddy: Eevee

Valheim

We still have another boss to slay, but that wouldn’t buy us anything, so our efforts have tapered off.  The small team that made the game can only manage a monthly patch for bug fixes while serious updates still seem far away.  I have no doubt we will return, and I do log in to do a bit of base building now and then, but our goals have pretty much been completed.

War in the Pacific

I put some more effort into this, grabbing a more focused scenario about the 1942 Burma campaign to see if that would get me up to speed more quickly.  It is hard to tell what I am doing still however.

World of Warcraft

As usual, not much time spent in the retail side of Azeroth.  I did Darkmoon Faire on my main, then actually did a few pet battles during the week that they had the xp bonus, getting a few more battle pets up to level 25.

WoW Classic

May was prep for Burning Crusade Classic.  Three characters to level 60 now, new specs explored, and some work on a fourth character who managed to go from 36 to 45 over the last week or so.  Plus I spent a bit of time in the beta.   Basically all eyes on Outland and the changes that come with it.

Coming up

Tomorrow at 3pm my time we transition into Outland as Burning Crusade Classic opens the Dark Portal.  Expect a report on that I suppose.

In EVE Online the war carries on, heading towards its one-year anniversary.  PAPI, the blue donut coalition, will continue to camp us in the south with their numbers advantage while also rolling over any small groups in the north to expand their own ratting and mining empires, basically doing what they allege the Imperium did.

Meanwhile, CCP has the CSM16 elections coming up on June 8th and their cloaky camper fix is likely to hit us suddenly next month as well, if recent company behavior is any indicator.

And… I am sure other things are coming up in June, but the war and the Dark Portal are both immediate and of interest to me.

Stumbling Into War in the Pacific

I said I would get to this in the April month in review post.

I ended up owning War in the Pacific in the usual way these things come to pass.  In this case a friend has been posting to twitter about an epic, full war campaign they have been playing.

War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition

As is often the case, when watching or reading about somebody else playing a game, my immediate thought is, “I want to play too!”  I am bad at watching people stream video games.  If I own the game, I tend to stop and go play it myself instead.  If I don’t, I end up tabbing out and looking into the game.  A while back I had been watching videos about people playing IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad and had to suppress the urge to go buy it and try it out.

Anyway, as I was watching the Twitter threat unfold, the virtual campaign moving along almost in real time to the actual war, but taking different twist, I became invested and wanted to try it myself.

The title is available from Matrix Games, which specializes in war game niche.  The price of the game, however, is $80, which is a bit much for me to drop on a whim.  But then on Easter weekend they had a big sale and I violated the standard purchase limitation rule and bought something after 8pm on a Friday night because I was a bit bored.

And now I am wondering what I have gotten myself into.

Development work on the game started back in 2003 and the goals set for it were highly ambitious.  Creating the game was quite a trial, or so I have read, and it finally released in 2009.

In 2015 the game got an overhaul, and is now referred to as War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition to distinguish it from the original release.

I knew that in advance and was prepared for some bad UI design.  War games are a niche market and few developers will worry about horrific interface choices getting in the way of the simulation they are trying to achieve.  Even more mainstream titles, like the Hearts of Iron series has been known do things like scroll information past you and off screen before you can read it.

And I was not disappointed.  WitP has a UI that feels like a war game from the turn of the century in many ways.

What I was not prepared for was the difficulty in figuring out how to play.  Not how to play well, or to know all the options, but how to play at all.

There is no tutorial, no simple scenario, or other “babby’s first campaign” option, unless you count jumping into the battle for the Coral Sea or the Guadalcanal campaign as such.  I am not sure they should count, even if their scope is reduced from fighting the whole war against Japan.

The basic scenario options

Nor is there a manual [edit: There is, just not at the link on the download page. It is a .pdf in the install directory.] or any sort of guide to get you started, so I have spent a considerable amount of time just figuring out what to do in a very basic, mechanics sense.  Turn based games tend to have a cycle of play, a series of steps like “supply, orders, movement, combat, resolution, start again,” and it is clear that WitP follows that general idea.  But the game is opaque enough that I cannot quite grab onto it.

Again, I am not struggling to play well, I am struggling to play at all.  I would be happy to play badly but at least feel like I had some grasp of the turn cycle and basic mechanics.

But this is what the internet if for, right?  My ability to fix things as a home owner is directly proportional to how many YouTube videos exist related to whatever is broken.  And there is a very passionate community around WitP, so there is lots of material to explore.  There are some community patches that fix some issues, make the map more readable, and even a utility to set up the launch alias to set it to the right screen resolution and settings.  Unfortunately, when it comes to actual game play I have yet to find the right bit of material.

What I have run into tends to either be strategy and tactics that assumes you know what the hell you’re doing at a basic level, which I clearly do not, or so basic and introductory as to leave me feeling I have made little progress.  I spent two hours watching a series of videos that went through the basic premise, the map, icons, and the types of units each side has access to, but which never once actually played a turn of the game.

I saw a bit of advice that suggested I pick one the smaller scenarios and set it to play through with both sides run by the AI.  This is kind of a neat feature.  The AI is said to be good and you can use the scenario editor to create situations and watch the AI battle it out as kind of an observers view.  You can turn off the fog of war even to see what both sides are up to.

The basic game play options

Unfortunately the AI doesn’t use the UI to give orders, set ship courses, select patrol areas, or any of the other many bits and pieces of the game.  It does that in the background, so you can see the results, but the mechanics, the simple “how to” bit is missing.

Anyway, I am not giving up yet.  I put a bit of time in now and then trying to get over the hump that separates me from feeling like I am playing the game.  I am still looking for that tutorial or description that will get me into it.