Category Archives: Other PC Games

RimWorld Sometimes Be Like That

People I know have been getting into RimWorld of late, which got me back to playing it as well.  It exited early access back in October and had actually changed a bit since I last played.  The changes were mostly in the details rather than any grand direction, but I did spot a few.  Having to stay indoors due to some toxic fallout was a new one on me, for example.

Fortunately the few times I have been hit by that it has been a short duration event, though the description indicates that it could go on for a long time.

I usually play the default scenario without mods and my early game often follows a similar pattern.  I try to be careful in selecting the characters I start with, making sure I have some coverage on all skills.  Inevitably I realize later that the person I need to do something, like research, will end up also being the only person who can plant crops and they spend most of their time on planting.

And then there is the usual scramble for shelter, beds, storage, then cold storage to keep food fresh, then actual food, which involves some planting.  Then I try to get by on the few survival meals and the local berries and animals until the initial rice crop comes in.  And then the potatoes eventually are ready for harvest and I find that I have so many that my food storage is full.  But if I have gotten there at least I get through the first winter and can go on expanding from there.  If a blight hits the potatoes though, it can be tough.

We were comparing notes on Slack about the current state of our various games and I mentioned that I was entering what I would consider the end game with my current colony.  I had research up to the point where I could build components and advanced components, which freed me from yet another constraint.  I had two people with high intellect skills that were swapping off on research and were going at it so fast that I was going to be able to fill out the rest of the tech tree.  I had turrets up for some automated protection, IEDs planted around some of the usual attack routes, everybody who could carry a gun had a light machine gun or an assault rifle, save for my best shooter, who had an excellent quality sniper rifle, and I had half a dozen big dogs trained to help in defense. (And to haul, which is the most useful pet thing ever.)

My colony at that point had grown to 14 people.  Most of them were getting along.  Six of them had paired off into couples.  Morale was high.  Meals were lavish.  The place was clean.  About the only complaint involved tattered clothing, which is always a pain because each character clings to their favorite piece of worn clothing like an eight year old.  I make them drop their worst item, they go pick out a replacement from the warehouse of clothing I had setup, the complaint goes away.  Then I allow the old piece of clothing to be picked up, because it is laying on the floor where it was taken off and the character immediately runs back, takes off the nice new pants or whatever, puts on the old ratty pair, and then starts complaining about having tattered clothing again.

Anyway, things were looking good.  I could see the research wrapping up, me building some final items, and then getting the hell off the planet for the win.

However, the AI seemed to sense my hubris and decided to teach me a lesson.

It started off with a big raid.

There were eight in the raid, but it didn’t seem too bad.  They were forming to the south and were not attacking yet.  I looked at a few of them and they had pistols.  They weren’t going to be the push overs that another local tribe was, they were coming at me with spears and bows and I had been mowing them down and sending them flying pretty handily, but it should be manageable.

I grouped my fire team into a sandbag pit at the south of the camp and prepared to lay into them as they approached.  As they attacked things seemed to be going okay until one of the attackers got close and threw a grenade into my defenses, and then another.  That blew out the sandbags, tore a hole though a granite wall, destroyed a turret, and wounded everybody on my team, incapacitating five of them.

A couple of the wounded were still firing and the dogs were out and attacking, so they managed to defeat the raid, but now my colony was in a bad way.  In the rush to get things back together four of the dogs died, the other two were wounded while four of the incapacitated colonists died within the next hour, with a fifth dying off the next day when another raid hit and he was killed by the spears and bows group as I was low on defenders and had to haul him out of his hospital bed to help fight.

So my colony was a mess.  Defenses on the south were gone, there was a big hole in the main building, there was blood and mess everywhere, and no one had gotten around to burying the bodies.  Morale was taking a serious hit.  All three of my couples lost one person.  Everybody was despondent.

RimWorld is as much about crisis management as it is about base building.  I likened this situation to being a manager at a high tech firm after a big layoff, something I’ve been though.  You have less staff, the same amount of work to do (if not more), and morale is at rock bottom.

The only good news was that one of my non-violent colonists had managed to recruit the prisoner we had been working on, so I had a fresh person who could handle a weapon.  There was that and the smokeweed crop had matured, so I expected there would be some binges on that front.

When colonist morale gets to low they can suffer a mental break, at which point they go off and do whatever it is they takes them on their own.  Some wander or hide in their rooms.  My main researcher, who lost her husband, went off on a smokeweed binge.

But sometimes the reactions are destructive.  I had one colonist throw a tantrum and start breaking things.  That didn’t last too long and was pretty well contained.  But then another colonist broke and went on a fire starting binge.  He ended up in the cold storage for food, setting fire to the potato crop stocked in there.  Apparently frozen potatoes burn very well in enclosed spaces.  The fire in there got out of control, with the temperature rising above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, incapacitating the people who ran in, one by one, to try and put it out.

So I had to haul people out of the fire and just let it burn out.  Since it was by the kitchen and the dining area, all of my prepared meals went up in the conflagration.  Fortunately I hadn’t used wooden walls.  Stone kept the fire contained.

But now, with the only remaining cook incapacitated in a hospital bed, the colonists were reduced to eating raw potatoes, which added to the morale problems.  That set off one colonist who went berserk and started attacking people.  He happened to be a melee combatant too, so had a steel gladius equipped.  He killed everybody in the hospital room and the remaining dogs before he himself was shot dead.

Corpses and blood

Then there was another raid.  At least it was the bows and spears team again.  But after that I was down to three colonists, all wounded, the colony was a disaster, there were unburied bodies all over, and all I could think was that my statement about approaching the end game now seemed premature.

And, of course, the three remaining colonist were all complaining about their tattered apparel.

But that is the way it rolls some times with RimWorld.  And it is always fun to see if you can bring things back from the brink.

Looking Back at 2018 Highs and Lows

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

-James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion

We stand together again at the end of of another year; at least those of us who survived the journey do.  And, as has become the tradition here, I set aside some time to reflect and sum up the year that was 2018.

As usual, this is more of a stream of consciousness sort of affair as opposed to a rigorous study of the year.  Some things loom larger in my mind than others, especially the more recent.  I can’t really remember what happened in January, but BlizzCon was in November so my brain is still full of that.  Because of the method, and my general laziness, I don’t link out in this post (save for one exception this year).  You sort of have to know what I am talking about or else just let it pass.

For comparison… I suppose there is a study that could be done on my moods and views over the years… you can read the versions of this post that has come up in past years.

Not everything listed as a “low” is necessarily a tragedy, nor is everything listed as a “high” really something that was headline news to celebrate.  One year I inserted a “middle” category and then found I wanted to put most everything in there, so I set that aside.

There is also something of the accountant in me that tries to turn this into a balance sheet, with every “high” having a corresponding “low” on the list.  That works a lot of the time, but not always.  Some things are just one or the other.

Also, I remain undecided on punctuation in this sort of post.  To my mind, bullet points shouldn’t get punctuation.  Sort of.  They do when the bullet point is a question.  Also, I use a lot of semi-colons while eschewing the sentence ending period.  And then there is that exclamation point.  Does that wreck everything?  I think my life would be easier if I just made them sentences, but I am writing this after all the stuff below and I am NOT going back to change all that.

Anyway, on with the show.

Blizzard

Highs

  • A decent start of the year for Blizzard, building momentum for the WoW expansion and BlizzCon
  • Battle for Azeroth launched very well, with the build-up to the expansion drawing a lot of attention
  • Hearthstone did very well, even breaking into the digital revenue top ten on the PC platform
  • BlizzCon for once did not ignore any of the main Blizzard franchises
  • Blizzard showed they were very serious about getting WoW Classic right
  • There is even going to be progression in WoW Classic so the raiding is done with the right gear
  • We got an official announcement for the second of the three planned remasters, Warcraft III Reforged
  • Plans for upcoming Battle for Azeroth content
  • New expansion for Hearthstone
  • New hero for Overwatch
  • New champion for Heroes of the Storm, plus more plans to fix the game
  • New co-op commander for StarCraft II
  • New game for the Diablo franchise
  • Hey, Lindsey Stirling was one of the BlizzCon closing ceremony acts

Lows

  • BlizzCon seemed to kill fan enthusiasm for the aforementioned momentum
  • Even I am starting to feel that the BlizzCon formula might be wearing a bit thin
  • They say that all press is good press, but burning down that tree is going to take a while for some people to get past
  • After a strong start, flaws in Battle for Azeroth around gear and such began to tarnish the experience
  • Wait, as my ilevel gets higher mobs actually get harder rather than easier to kill?  And Blizz thinks this is fine?
  • BlizzCon divided up by six franchises means a preciously small slice of pie for any fan of only a single franchise
  • WoW Classic might be so authentic as to do to retro servers what WoW did to fantasy MMORPGs
  • Did you say WoW Classic would have progression?  This will inevitably lead to people wanting progression into expansions
  • Still waiting for news on that third remaster, Diablo II
  • The Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t all that exciting, even for a year with no expansion announcement
  • Unsure if the Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t exciting because the game is getting old and tired or I am… or both
  • Heroes of the Storm is losing its epsorts league and most of its devs as Blizz restructured it to keep it going with a smaller staff
  • I’m not even sure what a co-op commander is in StarCraft II
  • Complete fail on the part of Blizzard for expecting core Diablo fans to embrace  the mobile title Diablo Immortal
  • Failed to mitigate the above by not mentioning anything about Diablo VI, more Diablo III content, the Diablo II remaster, or anything else the core fan base might care about; vague references to multiple Diablo projects doesn’t cut it
  • Trifecta of Diablo franchise fails when rumors hit that they were going to announce Diablo IV but pulled it at the last minute, followed by a statement that the rumor wasn’t true, all of which will pretty much pull the punch from any future Diablo IV announcement
  • Gaming press proceeded to vilify Diablo fans, pretty much going full on “Imma let you finish…” over Blizz even as Blizz was owning up to badly setting expectations
  • Few people attended, and no press covered, the “Play Nice, Play Fair” presentation at BlizzCon which, among other things, presented evidence on how vilifying your player base as toxic tends to actually enable toxicity from your worst fans while alienating the 99% of your fan base that isn’t a problem
  • Allen Adham says senior devs at Blizzard are playing mobile games now, and Blizzard makes games they want to play by improving the games they are currently playing, so expect anything new from them to be on your phone

Daybreak

Highs

  • Company not shut down due to connection to Russian oligarchs via Columbus Nova
  • EverQuest still holding on as the standard bearer
  • EverQuest turned 19 and launched a new progression server called Coirnav
  • The Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest progression server is still running
  • Likewise, EverQuest II celebrated its 14th anniversary
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got an expansion again in 2018
  • DC Universe Online continues to hum along, getting some updates
  • As rumors indicated, PlanetSide 2 got a new map and some updates
  • Rumors also mentioned a new Norrath game, possibly EverQuest 3
  • H1Z1 actually left early access and went live, adding in a new vehicle mode along the way
  • H1Z1 became a success on the PlayStation 4
  • Some sort of joint venture with NantWorks to redo H1Z1 as Z1 Battle Royale
  • Just Survive looked to have received a last minute stay of execution
  • They finally announced a new game, PlanetSide Arena, the first since they ceased to be SOE
  • They actually sold out their 4,000 lifetime memberships at $299 a pop for a nice influx of cash

Lows

  • Not sure who is still playing on the Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest server, its been up for eight years
  • Company changed its mind rather abruptly about who owned it when asked about Russian oligarchs, deleting all references, attempting to scrub Wikipedia, and claiming that they misstated who actually owned the company for three years and on just about every document and press release they published
  •  After all that, Jason Epstein is/was still clearly tied to Columbus Nova
  • In the midst of changing its mind on the ownership question Daybreak took a moment out to lay off a chunk of their staff, showing that all is not well
  • Then, earlier this month they laid off another big chunk of the team
  • H1Z1 pretty much fell by the wayside in the market under pressure from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds then Fortnite
  • The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China also failed when the Chinese ethics review board rejected H1Z1 because of “blood and gore” and “vulgar content”
  • There went that H1Z1 esports league
  • The NantWorks joint venture, NantG Moblie, seems pretty nebulous so far, and uncertainty isn’t helping
  • The NantG Mobile plane, such that it has been stated, sounds suspiciously like “What if H1Z1 were more like Fortnite?
  • EverQuest is tied up in this deal in some way, but nobody has explained how
  • Just Survive’s stay of execution turned out to be an illusion and it was shut down
  • The new game, PlanetSide Arena, seemed to be just PlanetSide 2 with well worn shooter modes… including battle royale, of course
  • Lifetime subscribers are all people who won’t be paying a subscription going forward, so Daybreak essentially took a one-time buyout from some of its core fanbase
  • Lifetime subscriptions only apply to the four oldest games, nothing new-ish is covered nor are any console players covered
  • Not sure if NantG Mobile ought to come under the Daybreak heading
  • Not sure how many products Daybreak really has now
  • Not sure how healthy Daybreak is at this point
  • Nothing so far has really quashed the rumors from early in the year about Daybreak’s plans, for good or bad

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Found new ways to expand LOTRO and hey, it was free content
  • Raised the level cap in LOTRO to 120
  • Continued updating character models
  • High elves were added in, because we need more elves in Middle-earth
  • Possibility of a new class for the game
  • Female dwarves in Middle-earth, so now the Tolkien purists can be angry
  • Some mention of a 64-bit client in the offing
  • LOTRO Legendary server proves so popular they have to open a second server
  • A new musical instrument was added, so now you can play the bassoon
  • LOTRO lifetime subscription remains the best MMO deal I have ever made, all the more so since I am back playing
  • DDO got a new race, so you can unlock your inner wood elf; go team elf
  • DDO also got some other updates I think and sold some of those two year subscription deals

Lows

  • Nothing else on the horizon for the company at all
  • Still really don’t know who owns SSG
  • LOTRO remains difficult to pick up with an aging and awkward UI, a balky client, a patcher that is in no hurry to get you patched, and that whole legendary weapon thing which should have been left behind in Moria
  • The rise in the level cap was not universally applauded, but you have to gate content somehow
  • Managed to screw up the Shire for a bit like they were Sarumann
  • The need to make money meant more focus on lootboxes and making the in-game currency situation worse by adding “ember” currency to the list
  • An announced new Middle-earth game won’t shut down LOTRO, but it won’t help it either
  • The “legendary” aspect of the LOTRO Legendary server seemed more than a bit oversold
  • And yet SSG managed to poorly promote the whole LOTRO Legendary server thing at the same time
  • LOTRO Legendary seems most popular with those already invested in the game, so likely pulled a lot of its population from the live servers of players
  • Those LOTRO Legendary queues pretty much went away inside of two weeks
  • A second server and no more queues portends a server merge when the new server joy wears off
  • DDO news was so sparse that I don’t really have anything besides the wood elf to add
  • There was bluster about what the two year subscription might get you, but since two years of normal VIP actually cost $100 less I expect to hear some buyer’s remorse

CCP

Highs

  • CCP purchased by Pearl Abyss ends having to please direct investors
  • CCP and Pearl Abyss claim to be sympatico in their outlook on games
  • CCP says they will get to keep operating on their own
  • CCP got recognition from Guinness finally for the battle at 94P-I
  • A new war in null sec has made some additional headlines
  • Lots of people got to get their titans out and shot things
  • Lots of updates and improvements over the course of the year
  • Abyssal Deadspace was especially popular
  • It is a good time to be farming Gilas
  • In game events are generally getting better
  • CCP is FINALLY trying to fix War Decs
  • With FLEX structures the problematic POS code is almost ready to be expunged from New Eden
  • New Activity Tracker shows you what you’ve been doing in New Eden
  • New games, EVE Echoes and Project: Nova coming next year
  • Working with NetEase, their new partner, to re-launch EVE Online in China
  • Didn’t lose any major third party sites on which EVE Online depends
  • EVEMon is actually back again after the swap to ESI
  • EVE Vegas was a lot of fun
  • I gave a presentation at EVE Vegas

Lows

  • Pearl Abyss, whose reputation from Black Desert Online is that of “cash shop pay to win atrocity horror show” now owns EVE Online.
  • We will see just how sympatico the two companies really are
  • CCP trading external investors for one owner probably means a lot more direct scrutiny
  • CCP will get to run their own show only as long as the money keeps flowing, you can bet on that
  • Monthly updates, some of which can be quite meaty, do make it hard for named expansions to stand out for EVE Online
  • The New Eden concurrency number keeps slowly moving down
  • Null sec wars only last so long, then we all go home and mine
  • Peace is boring since I neither rat nor mine anymore
  • I may, in fact, be a bitter vet at this point
  • The null sec balance of power is now skewed such that the China syndrome seems a possibility, where one power bloc essentially “wins” null sec and everybody else quits
  • Faction Warfare has gone stagnant, with key players leaving it completely
  • The change from passive income to active moon mining sent some low sec groups into decline, hurting low sec even more
  • I’ve added “when will the in-game economy collapse?” to my list of concerns about the game
  • Even the people who used to bristle when it was claimed low sec was dead are starting to feel that low sec has gotten much less active
  • Abyssal Deadspace depends on RNG to stay fresh and still has become mostly a solved problem save for some very bad luck draws
  • Still can’t figure out how CCP went this long without looking into War Decs given how completely problematic the data ended up showing they were; they were pretty much universally declared as horrible years ago
  • Seems likely that CCP will muff fixing war decs, though in their defense there is no simple answer that will please everybody nor one that adheres to the spirit of the game
  • I am going to miss the good old POS bubble when they’re finally removed
  • What were they thinking with that Federation Grand Prix event?
  • Activity Tracker is essentially achievements for New Eden
  • Activity Tracker doesn’t count anything you did before Nov. 13, 2018, which kind of stings for those of us around for more than a decade
  • EVE Echoes is a NetEase mobile game completely disconnected from the main game
  • Project Nova looks nice and could connect to New Eden, but otherwise seems to lack a distinct personality and CCP wants to make it as complicated as EVE Online if they can
  • Oh, and even CCP thinks Project Nova has issues, so it has been delayed
  • Total EVE, EVE Files, and Dotlan EVE Maps all stumbled this year, making us all aware of how fragile the third party ecosystem for New Eden really is
  • There is always a period of post-event malaise for me after the excitement of an event like EVE Vegas wears off
  • In a room with seating for 800 people easy, I had 30 people at my presentation at EVE Vegas, with even some fellow bloggers blowing me off
  • My presentation was also neither streamed nor recorded, so it remains just a special moment in the memory of a very select group
  • Whatever happened to that EVE Online TV series?  I am sure Netflix would buy it

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch continues to prove itself a surprising force in the console market
  • Among titles arriving on the Switch was Diablo III
  • Pokemon for Switch looking to be popular
  • Pokemon Go revenues keep on going
  • Pokemon Go released the 4th generation Pokemon, which was a nostalgia rush for me
  • There will be a link between Pokemon Go and the new Pokemon titles on the Switch

Lows

  • The Switch version of most games cost more than on other platforms
  • The Switch isn’t up to supporting ports from other platforms for some games
  • All that Switch news is cold comfort if you’re invested in the neglected DS handheld platform
  • The Switch is not a handheld, portable platform; it is too big, too fragile, and lacks the battery life to be considered as such
  • No more Pokemon on the DS line, ending more than 20 years of the franchise’s link with Nintendo handheld platforms
  • Hilarious attempts to justify the easy nature of the Switch Pokemon games by claiming that those games are “for children” as though the past 20 years of Pokemon handheld games were not
  • Nintendo actively pushing its latest/last handheld model, the 2DS XL, while pretty much winding down the new game queue for the platform in something that feels a lot like dishonesty
  • Pokemon Go is pretty much the only winner in Nintendo’s mobile strategy
  • Pretty much have to admit that Pokemon games on handhelds were the last thing Nintendo had that interested me, in case you missed that, so they probably won’t even get a category here next year

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD made it to 25 years; long live the MUD!
  • Fortnite found its niche and conquered
  • I enjoyed some time with Rift Prime
  • Having enough leftover credits from the free to play conversion, I didn’t even have to spend a single dime on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar left early access
  • Project: Gorgon arrived on Steam
  • No Man’s Sky seemed to be finally living up to some of its pre-launch promises
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be a rock, able to carry on even as other titles falter and fall into neglect, maintenance mode, acquisitions, or closure
  • Everybody seems to be raving about Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Finally, somebody mad about loot boxes and set to do something about them
  • A ruling from the Library of Congress extending DMCA exemptions for video game archiving and study to include server/client based games like MMORPGs
  • We got a good Minecraft expansion with the Aquatic Update and Pandas are on the way
  • Steam declared they weren’t going to reject any games based on content, save for those titles it felt were just “trolling”
  • Civilization V got an update… it was only to the launcher, but the launcher needed it
  • Bomber Crew ended up being a nice little game, I should write about it

Lows

  • This section is getting harder to write every year as I rarely seem to play anything new
  • Fortnite has become popular enough to start facing backlash like a ban by the NHL
  • Battle Royale as a feature is now a requirement in all shooters
  • Rift Prime, like Rift the first time around, was guaranteed to lose my attention at Storm Legion; as it was I didn’t even make it that far
  • Trion’s games were bought by Gamingo as Trion folds up shop leaving an uncertain future for their titles; I guess I wasn’t the only one not spending money on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar then proceeded to go free while the studio laid people off
  • I still haven’t given Project: Gorgon much of a shot
  • I can’t really tell anymore, is Star Wars: The Old Republic on an uptick or a down tick this year?
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea developer Portalus Games is calling it a day, leaving it to an even smaller group to run which does not fill one with confidence
  • Wildstar and Carbine Studios are no more, victims of their own hype as much as anything
  • Tried Anarchy Online and, as it turns out, nostalgia for the “good old days” only applied to reliving your own hardships, not the hardships of others
  • Every time I see “RDR2” my brain converts it to “R2D2”
  • RDR2 is a console game and my latest console was a PS3, not counting the 2DS XL
  • Loot boxes became a political football for those looking to score points on the “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” front; actual change outside of Belgium was pretty much zero
  • Riot  Games giving the industry an even worse reputation as Kotaku exposes their caustic bro culture
  • Riot Games attempting to fix their horrible culture through platitudes and PR; I only wish I played League of Legends so I could quit dramatically
  • Library of Congress ruling is essentially useless as it only allows museums and the like to archive MMORPGs if they can legally obtain the server code, which just isn’t going to happen
  • The eventual crashing of fan euphoria as they found out the DMCA exemption also prevents remote, off-site connections to preserved MMORPGs; The Library of Congress is not interested in letting you play SWG just because you miss it
  • The last refuge of closed MMORPGs remains the pirate emulator, which live a perilous existence in the gray space between popularity and a lawsuit
  • The Civilization V launcher update seemed primarily put in place to serve as an advertising platform to push the disappointing Civilization VI
  • Just to repeat, Civilization VI was quite the disappointment so I uninstalled it and play Civilization V when I have the Civ urge
  • As it turns out “trolling” isn’t well defined and Steam pretty much rejects the same games it always has, only now that is their excuse
  • All the same, the number of new games to hit Steam every day continued to grow, leaving only those studios that can afford marketing or who have a solid reputation likely to make any money at all
  • Many game developer careers remain Hobbesian in nature (nasty, short, and brutish) as studios abuse the seemingly endless supply of young developers seeking to do what they love in order to live the dream; the dream being 80 hour weeks, low pay, and no long term employment stability
  • Gaming media, another realm where an endless supply of replacements await those who can’t generate clicks, continues to play both sides of the game as they stoke up fan expectations with uncritical assessments of studio promises and then tar video game fans with whatever negative euphemism comes to hand (e.g. entitled, man babies, entitled man babies) over any backlash when the expectations they helped set fail to deliver; but controversy gets views man
  • And yes, some fans just need to shut the fuck up; but drawing attention to them, bringing them fame, and reporting their every complaint isn’t going to make that happen… and conflating the words of a tiny minority with the views of a whole community remains asinine

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Even more Star Wars in theaters
  • Lots of new shows and movies on services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
  • Season five of Bojack Horseman was excellent
  • The First was slow, but good; despite his personal life, about which I could stand to never hear about again, Sean Penn remains an actor dedicated to his craft
  • Still some really nice, serviceable shows on what one might still call “basic cable” these days
  • Better Call Saul might be better than Breaking Bad
  • Honest Trailers and Honest Game Trailers just never get old for me; the Screen Junkies team is awesome
  • Honest Trailers Commentaries is my new YouTube addiction
  • Somehow Zero Punctuation has stayed pretty fresh for me as well despite the fact that I still reference videos Yahtzee made over a decade back
  • Twitter, for all its faults, remains pretty useful to me

Lows

  • Even Disney now believes that there can be too many Star Wars movies now
  • Solo was there to answer questions nobody was really asking
  • Is there any series or movie so bad that Netflix won’t pick it up as an exclusive?
  • House of Cards ends on a silly/disappointing season though, like the original, the first season was all that really made it matter
  • Whoa, have you seen the Netflix earnings lately?
  • Every network now seems to think they need to get on the exclusive streaming service train to gate in their content leading to market fragmentation and, likely, eventual failure for all but the strong
  • The strong are, inevitably, Amazon and Disney, and we know what they’re like
  • There are so many options on basic cable that I often miss good stuff until a season is part way through and then have to wait until it makes it to Hulu or Netflix in order to watch it
  • Kind of starting to resent shows that only drop an episode a week; I want to binge… and binging helps me keep the plot and characters straight
  • Screen Junkies owned by yet another new company now, I hope they continue to survive
  • CinemaSins has gotten pretty stales for me; I like to hear Jeremy talk on the podcast, but the same old complaints, like “47 seconds of logos,” have been beaten to death
  • Pretty sure at this point that Zero Punctuation is all that is keeping The Escapist alive at this point
  • The Escapist pretty much broke being able to watch Zero Punctuation on their site back in July; I hope they get revenue from posting it to YouTube, because that is where I go to see it now
  • Google announced that, due to low usage and a security issues, they would be closing Google+ in August 2019
  • And then another security issue came up and Google moved the end date for Google+ to April 2019
  • That threat by people to leave Twitter made me realize how much I depend on it
  • Mastadon, a Twitter alternative, is great… if you just want to be in a tiny echo chamber of stifling conformity
  • Facebook looks worse as a company with each passing day

The Blog, Internet, and Like Items

Highs

  • Somehow, after a dozen year, here I am still
  • The month in review posts have become pretty special to me as I get to review past posts every month
  • The MMO Blog Feed in the side bar continues to function, amazing given the hack that it is and that several times the companies involved were set to make changes that would break it completely
  • A really nice Blaugust event this year, combining both the usual activity with some of the Newbie Blogger Initiative stuff
  • Blaugust was low pressure and not even gaming blog oriented, which brought in a lot of faces, new and old, to participate leading to a lot of good cross-pollination
  • Blaugust Discord was fun and has kept going as a place to chat for some of us
  • The whole thing was objectively a success on many fronts, including traffic, which ticked up noticeably
  • Traffic to this site was not only up for August, but stayed up for the months following
  • For the first time since 2012 traffic is actually up for the year when compared to the previous year
  • Average word count per post was up this year; I assume that is a good thing
  • Also, and odd metric, but “likes” were up quite a bit on the site, something I think was directly from Blaugust
  • Stalking the tags and categories feature in the WordPress.com Reader has actually led me to several new blogs, which should be a reminder that people should try to use standard tags if they want their blog to be found

Lows

  • Blogging continues its decline as an influence, remaining a hold out for those of us who prefer long form, words, and being able to collect our thoughts into a single site
  • The month in review posts are becoming more bloated and no doubt helping to inflate that average word count
  • Always somebody keen to declare any social event like Blaugust a “failure” if their own independent measure wasn’t met, even if they did not participate or understand the premise
  • Not sure traffic boost was solely related to Blaugust as search engine quirks seem to be in play as well given the specific posts that are seeing ongoing interest
  • While likes were up, comments were down for the year, and rather dramatically so; on balance, a good comment is worth a half a dozen likes in my book
  • There are days when I feel I am stuck between people who can accept no criticism of their current favorite game and those who feel that in order for their game to fully succeed somebody else must fail
  • My cynicism about new titles remains driven by the unwarranted optimism certain repeat offenders seem willing to invest in studio generated hype even after they have time and again become resentful when reality fails to meet their inflated expectations
  • So much for net neutrality
  • So much for the alleged benefits of dumping net neutrality as the promised increase in infrastructure building actually went the other way
  • So many bloggers use bad tags or categories for their blogs (e.g. “wow” rather than “warcraft” or “world of warcraft” and “eve” instead of “eve online”) which makes finding them a low percentage accident at the best of times
  • WordPress.com ads have officially crossed the line into obnoxious, proving once again that ad block is pretty much a requirement on the internet
  • My brain has started auto completing words for as my fingers type them, and the result is even worse than when my iPhone does it

Final Thoughts

My temptation is to continue to beat to death the “and so it goes” line from Vonnegut.  I read a lot of Vonnegut in college… I actually read all of Vonnegut in college, or all that there was at the time, short stories included… and it clearly influenced my somewhat fatalistic outlook on life.  Maybe “no damn cat, no damn cradle” would be better.  That might be the lesson of life in the end.

Another year has passes and the trivial pursuits of our lives continue.

Honest Game Trailers – Fortnite Season 5

Honest Game Trailers already did a Fortnite video back at the start of the year, but that was before the game fully exploded across multiple platforms and put PUBG in the corner.  So now they are back to cover what has happened since.

I still haven’t given the game a try.

At one point my daughter tried to play Fortnite on her aging iMac and found it ran about as fast as a PowerPoint presentation.  I expect that she’ll be back to it with her new PC when school starts again and she wants to play what most of her friends are playing.

The Passing of the 2018 Steam Summer Sale

If I scheduled this correctly, the Steam Summer Sale of 2018 should have wrapped up about fifteen minutes before this post went live.

In its way it was the same thing we have come to expect over the years.  The daily deals remain a thing of the past and hundreds… possibly thousands… of games are offered up at a discount.  Also, there was a game to play and cards to collect.  I collected cards via the event game and by browsing my queue three times daily.  That, and some trading, let me craft the badge for the event.  Go me.

Level 4 even…

Going through the queue as many times as I did, I could detect some patterns.  I bought an Anime flagged title in the past… the Valkyria Chronicles… which seemed to make Steam believe that I wanted whole queues of nothing but Anime titles proffered for my inspection.  Generally I flip past those, but this time around I decided to see if I could fix my queue, so I clicked the “not interested” button until the empire of Anime subsided.

That left my queue at least a little more on point.  Not that it came up with gems I might have missed.  Rather, it seemed to confirm the fact that there is a lot of derivative crap on Steam.  I was not aware as to how many psuedo-Civilization knock-offs there were, all with titles that were something like World Civilization Conquest of the Ages.

I did find one possible gem in my queue, OGRE.

I put it on my wishlist, though I did not buy it yet.  I played it, and its companion game GEV, back when they came in zip-lock bags at the hobby shop, but I wasn’t feeling the need to go quite that far back in time.

And, of course, I managed to screw up my queue on my own by putting other things I found funny on my wishlist.  I use the wishlist not so much as a shopping list than as a way to find games later because… so many damn games on Steam, if I don’t remember the title just right I’ll never find it again.

So when I put Blockchain Tycoon on my wishlist for a laugh, I was rewarded on my next few passes through my queue with Bitcoin Tycoon and Bitcoin Mining Empire Tycoon and Bitcoin Trading Master and Bitcon Farm and Bitcoin Collector and Cryptocurrency Clicker and I am tired of linking them.  There are more, including VR variations on the theme.  And they all look like crap.  I mean, I might laugh at something like EuroTruck Simulator now and again, but at least some effort went into that.  What I was seeing was… and I keep using this phrase… cheap, derivative crap, meant only to cash in on a current fad and unlikely to succeed at even that.

But I am not here to get back onto the “you know what’s wrong with Steam…” train again.  I am here to talk about what I bought during the Steam Summer Sale because I did indeed buy a few items this year.

The first item I picked up was Fallout 4.

I have been aware of the Fallout series since the original came out more than 20 years ago.  Despite it being the so-called spiritual successor to the original Wasteland, which I played to death on the Apple II, I have somehow managed to avoid picking up a copy of any of the various versions of the games… until now.  I am about four hours into it at this point.  I’ve collected the big iron suit, killed that nasty monster, and have gone off into the world only to have the batteries on the suit run out.

The second item on the list was Hearts of Iron IV.

This was an after 8pm impulse buy last Friday night when I wanted something in the grand strategy vein to play.  I am sure if I go back and check purchase dates and times, I would find that this is when I purchased most of the games from Paradox that I currently own.

I get all worked up for such a game and then end up defeated trying to pick up the basic flow of the game.  Almost everything from Paradox loves to throw a ton of details at you straight away without necessarily helping you build that into anything like a coherent strategy.

I will admit that it is easier to get a hold of than Hearts of Iron III… or Crusader Kings II or most of the other Paradox titles that languishing in my Steam library… and I feel like I am almost there when it comes to enjoying it.  I just have to find a good 4-6 hour stretch to focus on it.

And the third item was Oxygen Not Included.

I blame peer pressure for this one as several people in the MCats Slack channel have been going on and on about it.

And it is pretty fun.  Of my three purchases I have spent the most time with this.  It is a base building survival game which, I must admit, there are many variations of on Steam.  In fact, I already own one of those in the form of RimWorld, which I wrote about previously.

Oxygen Not Included is done from a side scroll perspective and spends a lot of time dealing with very basic issues, like getting enough air to breath and toilets overflowing.  Also you do a lot of digging up and down.  RimWorld has a top down perspective and you spend more time constructing buildings, furnishing them, fighting off the locals, and recruiting passers by to join your colony.  Also the weather plays into things a lot and you end up in the HVAC business eventually.

Overall I think I prefer RimWorld more… but I also think RimWorld is further along in its development.  But both of them largely involve moving from one crises to the next until you hit some level of stability.

So those are my three purchases.  I feel good that I have actually played all three.  My vow with Steam is not to buy something unless I plan to play it TODAY.

Steam also had some info up about games overall so far in 2018.  They had lists of the overall top sellers so far in 2018.

Top Sellers so far for 2018

They were divided into categories without any numbers attached.  Interesting that Warframe is on the list.  It has been out for ages, I’ve barely heard anything about it, but it seems to be doing well.  Somebody on my Steam friend’s list played 100 hours of it over a 2 week period.  Perhaps something to put on my list.

Comparing it to the Best of 2017 list that Steam had with the Winter sale, a lot of the titles are repeats.

Other categories were top sellers among games launched this year so far and top sellers among VR titles, which wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to make the first two lists.

The other interesting one for me was the top simultaneous players list, those games that had more that 100K at a time.

Most simultaneous players so far in 2018

Again, looks a bit like the December numbers as well as lining up with the best sellers.

Anyway, another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone.  Time to go clean up my wish list so my queue isn’t full of Bitcoin games come the winter.

Pillars of Eternity Free for Amazon Prime Members

I mentioned last month that Amazon had five free video games for Amazon Prime members.  All you had to do was link your Amazon Prime account to your Twitch account and you could select and download the games.

This month, to coincide with Prime Day and such, Amazon has a bunch of games available.  Each are available only for a couple of days, and the first on the list is the excellent Pillars of Eternity: Definitive Edition.

Pillars for Free

That game is only available through the end of the day tomorrow, July 4, 2018.  So if you’re reading this after that date, it’s gone.

To claim the game you need to have a Twitch account and have the Twitch Client installed.  The Twitch Client used to be the Curse Client until Amazon bought Curse and Twitch and combined them.  It still keeps your WoW addons up to date, but you can also watch Twitch on it… and download free games.

When you have that setup you can go to the Twitch Prime page, login to your Twitch account, link your Twitch account with your Amazon Prime account if you have not done that already, and then claim the games in which you are interested.

Once you have click claim on the web site the game will be available to download in the Twitch client.

Other games are available over the course of the month.

Twitch Prime free games for July 2018

Amazon is clearly trying to push Twitch into the arena of online game sales to compete with Steam, GoG, and whoever.  As Ars Technica points out, the Twitch interface is a long way from anything like Steam when it comes to information or utility.

Resupply in the Jungle

The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…

– Sun Tzu

At some point last year I picked up the game Vietnam 65 on Steam.  I’d read a favorable review of it elsewhere and put it on my wish list and, when it came up on a sale, I bought it.

Vietnam 65 Splash Screen

And then I sat on it for many months.  It was installed, but unlauched, not an unheard of situation for games purchased on Steam.

Then came the Steam Spring Cleaning Sale a few weeks back which, among other things, encouraged Steam users to play games they hadn’t played in a while or had sitting in their library yet hadn’t played at all.  They were offering a badge as a bribe and convincingly listed titles that applied for each category and Vietnam 65 covered a couple of those.  So I launched it at last.

The reviews for the game were good and I can see why now.  Vietnam 65 is simple for a war game.  I pretty much picked up most of what I needed in the tutorial mission.  After that there were just a couple of units to learn about and I had the basics.  Then it was just up to me to actually play the game.

Winning is measured by the state of the hearts and minds of the province you’ve been assigned to protect.  Defeating Viet Cong or National Vietnamese Army units strengthens your position in the province so the locals will trust you.  Letting the VC or NVA run wild or mass their forces turns the locals away from you.

A fresh province to win

Those two also affect the political will of the people at home which impacts your supply and replacement situation.  If you’re winning, the folks at home are happy to reinforce success, but if you end up losing badly you’ll find it tough to climb back as supplies and replacements dry up.

Generally speaking the US forces can dominate any situation.  Infantry, tanks, Green Berets, air strikes, attack helicopters, and artillery will lay Charlie low when you spot him.  The key is finding Charlie.  The fog of war is your main barrier to success.  You have to keep scouting.

An rare moment of contact

I’ve been most effective with a fire base planted in the midst of some villages and a couple of Green Beret units, scouts who can spot from a distance without being seen, and dropping artillery from the base, along with air strikes when available, on targets of opportunity, with a Chinook helicopter keeping the fire base supplied with ammo.

Supply is key.  You units out in the field can only survive for so long without being resupplied.  A lot of the effort of the game is keeping the supplies coming to your units out looking for the enemy.  And your helicopters, which can only move so far in a turn, also need to get back to base to refuel before they can haul more supplies.  Some of my early disasters have been caused by too many units spread far afield and waiting too long to start supply runs.

Operations around a firebase

The combat is pretty basic.  There is a simple win/lose mechanic for straight up fights and a hit/miss roll for artillery, air strikes, and other indirect fire.  US units are eliminated after two losses.  This includes your helicopters, which can come under fire from the ground when trying to get supplies out to your units in the field.  One such hit means they need to get back to base for repair, while the second hit sends them crashing into the jungle, leaving a wreck behind to remind you of your mistake.

But combat can be simple, as it is an end result of your efforts.  You need to get out in the field and find the enemy.  The local villagers will help you with intel if you have proven yourself around them.  Defeating nearby hostile units will help, as will clearing mines from the vicinity of their town of hooking them up to the road network with your engineers.

Turn 13 and I am doing well

Once you get used to things and find you’re winning every game decisively you can start fiddling with the difficulty.  There are two presets; Normal, which is where you start, and Veteran, which is all the sliders moved to “hard.”  In between there is Custom, which lets you tinker with the sliders so you can build up to Veteran.

All the sliders

Veteran is a challenge.  You start behind on hearts and minds, your supply pool is low, the enemy is very aggressive, the weather is bad, and the jungle is very dense.  I’ve survived a few rounds of Veteran, but faced defeat as I could not repair or replace units due to a loss of public support from about the halfway point of the game.

The game is single player only.  It also comes with 51 achievements which, because it is single player, you can go out and earn without having to interact with anybody else.  Some are easy, and some are not, requiring you be running in Veteran settings to start with.

All in all an approachable war game that has enough depth and replayability to keep you going for a while.  Play time for a 45 round game is a little over an hour.  Some turns take time, some go by fast.  Overall I recommend the game.  You can read up about it over on Steam.

Vietnam 65 is actually a few years old now and the company that made it has released something of a successor, Afghanistan 11.  In the same vein as the original, you are fighting a counter insurgency and have to win the hearts and minds by finding the insurgents and proving you can protect the locals.

I have already purchased Afghanistan 11, but haven’t dug into it yet because I am not done with the original.  But if you want to move on to more recent conflicts, you can find it on Steam as well.

Age of Kings Continues to Expand

As I mentioned in the previous month in review post, I have been playing some Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings recently.

In part that has been because it is an easy game to fall back on.  I have a long history with it and it is one of the best RTS games I’ve played.  It is well balanced and the AI can be pretty good.  Finding myself without a burning interest in much else besides EVE Online of late, it is pretty natural that I end up here.

There as also a bit of achievement farming driving my return.  I don’t generally chase achievements on Steam unless I am really into a game (like Defense Grid for example).  But I was looking at the list for Age of Kings and had to ask myself things like, “Have I really never won against the Spanish?”  So I started using that as a guide for who I should face.

But mostly I am back because a few weeks ago I got a notice that the expansions for the game were on sale, so I decided to pick them up.

There are now three expansions for the game available on Steam.  These are all recent expansions, as the original 2000 expansion for the game, The Conquerors, comes with the base game now.

I actually already owned the first expansion, The Forgotten, but hadn’t had a lot of time with it.  But I picked up The African Kingdoms and Rise of the Rajas, which add empires from Africa and Southeast Asia.

I have to say I am actually pretty impressed with these expansions.  Even at their normal price of $10 they deliver quite a bit of content.  The all include four new empires to play, with structure graphic to go along with their themes.  I immediately gravitate to that.  But they also come with some new technologies, new units, new map types, new game modes, and four full on campaigns to play through.

I’ve always gone straight to the skirmish mode against the AI or friends, but with a dozen new campaigns to hand I might have to start exploring that aspect of the game.

Meanwhile, I have to say that the additions to the game are pretty good.  The new map types comes with their own biome, so rather than sheep you might have some other livestock to harvest right off.

Grabbing water buffalo on the Mangrove Swamp map

Everybody starts with the same Dark Age buildings, but once you get to the Feudal Age and beyond the buildings in the new expansions reflect the various civilizations.

Burmese in the Castle Age

The new map types have some interesting ideas.  Pictured above is the mangrove swamp map, which limits you to a modest patch of land.  The rest of the map is shallow swamp and trees.  You cannot build on the swamp, so you have to manage and hold your starting spot.  Also, additional gold and stone harvest spots, as well as all the relics, are located within the trees so you have to harvest your way to them or use a siege engine to tear out a path.

Mangrove Swamp map

This would be an interesting map to use against other players.  It certainly eliminates the whole “hide a villager and build a town center in some corner of the map” aspect of the game.  You have to stand and fight because you can’t build elsewhere.

Totally This

On the other hand, this was a map style that the AI wasn’t able to handle.  After repulsing the first attack from the AI and battling it again mid path, I arrived in the AI town to find all the villagers standing around idle.  The AI had harvested up everything on the land patch, used up those resources, and then stopped.

I suspect that the AI has something in it about being efficient, so it won’t harvest wood or mine unless it has a resource collection building close to hand.  However, since you cannot build on the water your villagers have to cross a fairly wide gap to start in on the trees around your land patch.  So despite the fact that the AI was surrounded by woods and had two exposed gold patches nearby, it ignored them as unharvestable.

Still, I have been enjoying some time back with Age of Kings, a game that launched back in 1999.  Thanks to the HD update, which itself is now past the five year mark, it is still very much playable and enjoyable after all this time.

Meanwhile I haven’t really heard anything about Age of Empires Definitive Edition that Microsoft was touting about a year back.  It was supposed to be out on February 20th of this year, a date that came and went without me noticing even a peep.  I haven’t seen any news and since I cannot even purchase it, not having Windows 10, I cannot tell how things went.  I guess it launched, according to Wikipedia, but didn’t make much of a splash.  That’s what making it a Microsoft Store exclusive gets you I guess.

Likewise, the hype around the otherwise vaguely described Age of Empires IV seems to have dissipated as no further news about it has popped up anywhere that I have seen.  So I guess I will stick with what I have.