Category Archives: Steam

The Steam Summer Sale Returns Again for 2022

Summer has returned, so here we are again at the launch or another Steam Summer Sale.  The sale actually started yesterday, but I didn’t really feel the need to jump right on that with a post as I have done in past years.

Steam Summer Sale 2022

I write about the annual Steam Summer and Winter sales as much out of habit as anything now, and it is beginning to feel almost anachronistic to do so.  There is nothing wrong with the sales.  But the faded enthusiasm within me is a faint echo of a time when these events used to be a big freaking deal.

Steam was a ground breaker, and Steam sales have been loved by many a gamer and hated by many a publisher for years now, to the point that the edge is gone.  Everybody has a summer and winter sale now.  Blizzard just sent me an email about one.  Paradox always has one too that coincides with the Steam sales, in the hopes you’ll give them the money directly rather than giving Steam a cut.

But the landscape of video games has changed, and in a somewhat ironic way.

Well, there is an option to buy…

Back in late 2018 Tim Sweeney threw down the gauntlet, creating the Epic Games Store, with an eye to challenging the almost hegemonic sway that Steam held over PC gaming.  He has thrown money at developers to get exclusives and rarely misses an opportunity to bad mouth Steam or to try and frame himself as the plucky upstart hero, omitting how rich the Unreal Engine and Fortnite has made him.

He has also gone after Apple and Google in his self-declared crusade to break down alleged monopolies.

And during that time the console barons, Microsoft and Sony, whom he let off the hook in his crusade, splitting extremely fine hairs to claim that their absolute control over their platforms was somehow different than Google or Apple or Steam.  He vilified those three while letting the consoles off the hook.

Now, however, it is starting to look like Microsoft and Sony are going to be the real winners here with their competing game pass options growing out from their consoles onto the PC platform even as the acquire more studios so that they control content creation, platform, and sales channels.

The XBox Game Pass for PC… that is a damn sweet deal.  A much younger me, a me that had the energy to dive into new titles all the time, would be all over that subscription, playing new titles every month and barely caring about Steam sales of Epic Games exclusives.

The young and hungry love an all you can eat buffet with new dishes being served up on a regular basis, while old favorites remain an option.

Sony is a little behind in that race, but not by a gap that they can’t bridge.  They aren’t as all-in as Microsoft, but they have always been a somewhat conservative business.  But they will get there.

I do not subscribe to either service at the moment, though I did do a trial of the XBox Game Pass back at the end of last year, playing a lot of Forza Horizon 5 as part of that.  But there wasn’t much else I was completely sold on, so I let that lapse for now.

But at some future date Activision Blizzard will be part of the Microsoft stable of studios.  There is a lot on that plate that could tempt me.  I don’t think a WoW subscription will be on the XBox Game Pass, but if it was I’d be sold.  That could lead to crazy thing, unhooking the WoW team from the box sale pressure somewhat, or at least letting their core audience dabble elsewhere and feel no need to drop the subscription that gives them access to Azeroth.

But that is all in the future, and in no way guaranteed.  I am still not using the XBox Game Pass now, and don’t feel a real need to at the moment.  But that could change as the options it offers grows.

Meanwhile, there is the Steam Summer Sale.  I won’t toss that by the wayside either.  My Steam library still represents a substantial number of titles, and my wishlist is not empty.  I’ll go look at what is one sale and won’t be shocked if I am tempted into buying something.

But it isn’t the same, the Steam sales of a decade back, when they felt rare and the prices were so radically below our expectations that many people bought just because they thought they would never see that kind of discount again.

Instead, the discounts became the norm.  It takes a serious sale to really rouse me to action for a title that I am not set on playing immediately.  On the other hand, the site was pretty slammed yesterday during the first hours of the sale, so it remains popular.  Also, I suspect that the sale has a reputation for first day errors in pricing that lead to unexpected bargains, so people were no doubt scavenging for some extra special deals before they got fixed.

Friday Bullet Points on a Chilly Spring Saturday

[This was supposed to be yesterday’s post, but then I woke up to a big news event, so it is a day late.]

It is cold out, considering it is spring here in California.  It has even rained here in the last 24 hours.  I am wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, which isn’t exactly the gear of arctic explorers, but by this late in April I have generally been well into the “I will wear shorts every day until I have finished off the Halloween candy” state of affairs that working from home forever has brought me to.

Not that the weather has anything to do with the rest of this post, but I needed a headline and the weather will serve when nothing else comes to mind.  So on with another bullet points post or items I thought worth noting but which weren’t worth a whole post on their own.

Enad Global 7

  • EG7 Dropping Russia

On the trend with western companies bailing from Russia after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Enad Global 7 has announced that they will selling off their Innova subsidiary to the management of the team for a total of 32 million Euros, quite a haircut for the company considering they shelled out 109 million Euros for the company when they closed the deal for it a little over a year ago.  Innova was primarily acquired because they held the license to run a number of MMOs in the EU and Russia.  The current state of the Ukraine conflict puts Innova in a tough spot.

Meanwhile EG7 also announced that they would Toadman Interactive, another acquired studio, would be relocated from its current location in Russia to somewhere in the EU.

Database evolution

  • EVE Online Database History

CCP has posted another of the dev blogs that makes them a standout on the communications front in the industry.  Every time I think that they could do better, I have to remind myself how poorly the industry handles this sort of thing.

New database server upgrades have arrived and that has prompted the team to write a history of the databases of EVE Online, spanning from the early days when they had to solve lag problems with people just warping across systems, to being able to cope with 100 vs 100 fights, to the monster servers that they have today which make the original 2003 game look as powerful as a digital watch by comparison. (Though I still think digital watches wee a pretty neat idea.)

Anyway, if this is your sort of thing… and I am all over these sorts of posts… you can find the whole thing on CCPs news site here.

A new drama generator

  • RimWorld is Legal in Australia Again

It was noted previously that, after the Ideology expansion for RimWorld landed, it seemed like maybe the thought of feminist nudist cannibals was too much for the faint hearts in Canberra.

And that could have been it, though the whole thing came up due to the fact that there was a console version of the game on the horizon, which was what got the Classification Review Board taking a look at RimWorld again.  And they didn’t like what they saw, so flagged it as “Refused Classification” which made it unsalable down under.

That was undone earlier this week… on 4/20 if you think there is any significance in that… allowing the people of Australian to once again purchase RimWorld or redeem Steam keys for the game.

And, speaking of console support, RimWorld also announced that the game now has full support for Steam Deck, so perhaps that was what triggered the whole thing.

The return of the classic

  • Diablo II Resurrected Gets Ladders and more

Diablo II Resurrected has gotten its 2.4 patch, which is the biggest update the game has received in a long long time.

The lead story for the update is the unlock of the ladder seasons for those who want a competitive Diablo II experience, but there is so much more in the update such as class updates, mercenary fixes, new rune words, new Horadric Cube recipes, quality of life updates, and even some new levels of legacy graphics emulation for those who play with the old school look.

The great thing is that Blizzard has gone all in on this 22 year old game to make it better and fix things that has been problems for decades.  The sad thing is that this might be the peak of Diablo news this year unless Diablo Immortal is a lot better than I suspect it will be.

Playable Worlds

  • Playable Worlds gets $25 Million in Funding

Finally, news got out this week that Playable Worlds, Raph Koster’s sandbox cloud MMO venture, managed to pick up $25 million in financing for the project from a group that includes Korean video game publisher Kakao Games Corp.

That got Raph Koster to speak a bit more about the vision for the title:

“It’s about having environments that are more alive,” Koster said. “Players can affect things that evolve and change rather than being static. Most games build their maps out of static meshes. Ours are dynamic and come down on the fly from the server. It’s about enabling worlds to feel more alive. That’s really what it comes down to.”

“Offering truly and fully persistent shared environments and massive scale is something else that is really important to us,” Koster said. “These aren’t just theme parks that you ride through, right? Where the developers are the ones who are in control. Giving full persistence also unlocks the ability for players to have far more impact. If you chop down a tree, it is permanently gone from the world for everybody.”

Specifics about the project were not forthcoming.

And we have heard a vision like this before, with the EverQuest Next project, which was eventually shelved by Daybreak, in part because of the processing requirements such a dynamic and player changeable world entailed.

Waiting on Valheim

I was working on the month in review post for this month, doing the hardest part, which is pulling together the One Year Ago section… for all of the older ones I just go back and copy, paste, and occasionally edit, what I wrote in a past post… and it was pretty clear that the instance group was all in on Valheim in the March of a year ago.

Valheim on Steam

You will get the full sense of it on Thursday, but 10 out of 31 posts in March 2021 were about Valheim. We had gotten past the stumbling first stages of playing in February, setting up a shared and server managing to log in, our first shelter, the perilous raft journeys, the somewhat unnecessary amphibious night assault on another island, building a base in line of sight of a troll spawn, the whole death skeeter incident, and had settled in to expanding our reach in the game.

And we certainly carried on into April with the game, but before the end of that month we had defeated Moder, built a secure base in the plains biome, and were mostly pottering about, exploring, stocking up on supplies, and engaging in base building.  There was still another boss to slay, but after that the next biomes up the ladder in the game were as yet unfinished.

We carried on base building and exploring into May, but we were slowing down and kind of waiting for development to catch up and populate the next biomes.  Something that we’re still waiting for.

Yes, the Valheim development team is very small and they spent most of the first six months just trying to keep up with the runaway success of their game.  A good problem to have.  And eventually they were able to get back to delivering some updates to the game.  But, so far, the further biomes remain unfinished.  Not only are the unfinished, but there is a disincentive to exploring them as Valheim shares an issue with Minecraft in that new features and updates don’t necessarily show up in places you have already explored, and I spent quite a bit of time in May of last year sailing and exploring.

I think, as a group, we’ve decided to roll a fresh world once we get some new content to play.  There have been other changes to the swamp and mountain biomes to change up the game that would give some additional spice to another play through.

But the question remains as to when we will get there.  This past Friday we got an update from the dev team about the next biome, the Mistlands.  But the message in the middle of that was that the release of that update was “quite some time away still.”

That makes it much further out than even the “soon” of developer legend.  When they can’t even promise soon, it is very far away indeed.

And so we wait.  Valheim is the third most played title in my Steam library, not far behind RimWorld… which has been pulling ahead this month.  The Mistlands release and a fresh start would push it into second place.

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.

A Steam Achievements Gripe

I have a post rattling around in my head about achievements, why they work for me in some games and not in other, who I think does them well and who does them poorly.

But for the moment I will say that I mostly like Steam Achievements.  I don’t chase them as much as I do in games like WoW, but I keep an eye on them and have unlocked a good number in games that I have played a lot and which actually have Steam Achievements.

From my profile page

And two of my top five most played games on Steam, Valheim and RimWorld, lack them.  Think of how many more achievements I might have gained with all the hours I put in there.

But my favorite aspect of Steam Achievements is when you mouse over them and it tells you what percentage of players of a given title have earned that particular achievement.

How many Lost Ark players have recovered an ark?

While I don’t chase achievements too hard, it is always interesting to see how popular an achievement is.  That Lost Ark achievement, for example, represents how many people have played so many hours down the main story line.  It is kind of a gimme for the mildly persistent.

On my profile I display my rarest achievements, which are all 1% or 2% of the player base (for Civilization V, Defense Grid, Age of Empires II, and Stellaris respectively).

What I find irksome about that however is Steam’s seeming reluctance to share that bit of information with you.  If, for example, I go to my full list of achievements for Civilization V, I can mouse over them until my hand gets numb, but not one of the achievements on the list will give me any further stats.

Some achievements

Why won’t Steam show me that percentage number anywhere save for a few very specific locations in their client?  They clearly have that information stored.

Also, as an add-on gripe, when I look at my achievements listed out, it would be really nice if I could sort them by date maybe.  That list of achievements, if you can read it, has dates from 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2018 all mixed in a jumble.

If you’re going to have achievements, make the most of them, share all the data, and make them sort… or, crazy talk here, searchable.

Addendum:

Everwake in the comments alerted me to a link I missed on my achievements page that will take me to the global achievement stats, which shows me data for all my achievements, so that gripe has been dismissed.

We underline links where I come from, but whatever

However, that brings up a whole different issue, which Bhagpuss pointed out in the comments.

The achievement I displayed above, “Successor of Fate” currently shows 29.7% of players have gained that achievement, which is a change, so it clearly gets updated as time passes.

But on the global achievements page, it says that 25.7% of players have this achievement.

Cropped a bit for visibility

And the same goes for any of the other achievements I can mouse over.

That is close to the other count, but off by far enough that I have a new gripe about the numbers not lining up.  It points to the idea that the two numbers are being calculated via different data.

Meanwhile, Connor of MMO Fallout says that achievements are questionable now anyway as you can make them come and go with Steam Achievement Manager.  I haven’t even looked into that.

Playing Together in Lost Ark

Having managed to guild up and group up in Lost Ark, the next step in the game was for the group to actually play together.

Welcome to Lost Ark

Fortunately Lost Ark, like New World, has a main set of story line quests that guide you through the game.  And, Lost Ark doesn’t bypass instances the way New World did… or at least it hasn’t yet.

What the game doesn’t do is help you out figuring who is where on the quest chain, at least not directly.  It does, however, give you a list of all of your completed quests, sorted by type, and listed in the correct order, so you can figure it out without a lot of effort by just comparing notes.  And, frankly, that was enough.

I had said on Discord that we should all get past the point where you get your pet, which led to a bit of confusion because you only get that quest once per server.  Lost Ark shares your pets and mounts and a few other things between your characters on the same server.  This is how I ended up with all three default mounts, I picked a different color with each character I created and noticed that my past picks were also available.

Anyway, we got that sorted, Ulajoon had already done the pet quest, but Sneetch needed to do it.  Eventually we got ourselves sorted and three of us rode out to roll up the quest chain.  I was ahead of most of the group, having stopped at The Snake’s Gem, which sends you into an instance.

Main line quests are orange

Ulajoon was part way there and Sneetch was a couple of zones away, so we started working our way towards the instance, one quest at a time.

Riding on to quest completion

While I was ahead in levels and down the quest chain, I wasn’t worried about slaying mobs getting me further out front, because mob xp is trivial.  Most mobs are with 1 or 2xp at a point when levels are already in the tens of thousands to complete.  Questing is the only viable way to level up, grinding won’t do it for you.

Also, the zones in Lost Ark are… not really zones, are they.  I mean, technically they are, but in the spirit of the great overland zones of EverQuest or World of Warcraft, they are kind of small and not very memorable.  They are more a setting for specific encounters, so you go up the narrow path and into the open area to kill some things, or find something, or maybe battle a boss, then you go down another path to a camp with a triport teleport station to turn in a quest and get another one, which sends you on down the line to then next little zone.

This isn’t necessarily bad.  They remind me a bit of Diablo III zones, though not as crafted to support the story.

The instances, however, have been quite memorable so far.  Those are the highlights along the way that give flesh to the game.

The three of us did fairly well overland.  Nandru joined us further on down the line, giving us a group of four made up of:

  • Ulajoon – Gunslinger
  • Nandru – Artillerist
  • Sneetch – Sharpshooter
  • Tistann – Deadeye

While we are all gunners, there is a bit of variety in our skills.  Ulajoon and Tistann are just female and male versions of the same class, with the same abilities, though she was hot on the close range pistols while I was favoring the shotgun and its nice knock-back ability.

Sneetch, as a sharpshooter, carries a bow that would make Ted Nugent jealous.  It looks like a bat-kite on his back.  But for crazy weapons, the award goes to Nandru and the artillerist class.  We’re all a bit goofy, blasting our way across the game, but Nandru’s weapon is something else.

Nandru has a big weapon

When he showed up and started shooting and using special attacks, I was laughing.  That big thing he is hauling around has a mini-gun, a grenade launcher, and a flamethrower as part of its special attacks.

We got ourselves up to the step before the instance, then had to wait a bit on some technical issues.  Nandru and Ulajoon recently moved and have a new house with a new router and new internet service, and there have been some lag and disconnect issues to sort out.  We had some idle time while that was worked out, but we got to a point where connections were stable enough to go into the instance.

All together in The Snakes Gem

It was my first time into an instance in a group, so we were learning as we went.  When Ulajoon ran to it the first time, we all got a pop-up asking for the go/no go response, something like a ready check.  If somebody doesn’t say “Yes” to the alert, then you are all back outside still.

But once we got everybody to click “Yes” we were in, with a new instance quest to guide us.

Quest coloring, with blue being the quest for the instance

We also went into the instance in normal mode rather than hard.  I was thinking hard might be better as a group, as it seemed fairly easy to run solo with my paladin. However, it became clear early on that difficulty scales with group size… or we’re even worse at this game than I imagine.

I am going to go with scaling to preserve my ego.  And we did okay.  It was some work and a lot of staying mobile and drinking potions, but it was fun and a bit frantic as we went.  I was worried with four rather squishy DPS players in the group… I had a paladin leveled up and on that quest as well in case we needed somebody in armor to stand up front… but, as I said, we did okay.

I took zero screen shots during the run, which speaks to how busy I was running and gunning as we moved through.  I believe Ulajoon died during one of the boss fights, but we managed to carry on otherwise, making it to the end.

So, we came here for this?

We completed the quest, leveled up, and were still all together.

It had been a somewhat long evening with interruptions, so we stood together to play the song of escape to leave the dungeon.  I don’t know what they gave gunners electric guitars, but now we look like a Spinal Tap tribute band.

Rock on! Sleeves are optional!

And, after that I said that everybody should hold where they are on the quest line, that we’ll get back together and pick up from where we left off.  Which we can do without having to avoid playing the game because, unlike New World, we can have alts.

Anyway, this was a bit of a test run on an easy, early instance.  We’ll see how it goes as we get further down the line.  The next big instance is a pretty one with some interesting boss fights that will be a challenge with our group.

Opening Weekend with Lost Ark

Lost Ark had quite the launch weekend.  Yes, there were problems.  But they were the sort of problems that come from success, the kind of problems a lot of game studios wish they had to solve.

Welcome to Lost Ark

The launch itself was delayed by several hours as the team prepared for the expected onslaught of players.  They had over half a million concurrent players online in the pre-launch for people (like me) who purchased founder’s packs (the cheapest of which was $15, so there is millions in cash already in the bucket, though some players feel cheated), so it seemed pretty reasonable to expect the free to play launch to exceed that considerably.  And it did, running past 1.3 million concurrent players, putting it at the top of the all time list over at Steam Charts.

Steam DB top ten – Feb 13, 2022

Not bad… but a rush like that leads to the usual set of problems. (Addendum: Apparently 4.7 million people jumped into Lost Ark over the weekend.)

One thing they did was turn off character creation on some of the early servers, which left me in the usual awkward position of having rolled up on one of the pre-launch servers with some friends, and then having people I knew unable to roll on that server, so now I am once again in the situation of having a main on one server (where I already claimed a couple of my once per account benefits from the founder’s pack) and friends I cannot play with unless I roll on their server as well.  Some day this won’t be an issue, but today is not that day.

And, of course, there were queues to get onto servers.

Trying to get in on Friday night

Though, I will say that the queues were only showing up in prime time for me… none in the morning, for example… and that 3,317 deep queue took me less than 20 minutes to get through.  That is fairly benign when compared to past games in similar situations.

Naturally, the most recent queue situation I can recall was the New World launch, where a queue that long on your server meant hours.  But this is very much the difference between a game that has already been running for a couple of years in Korea and one that is being launched fresh by a team that clearly didn’t learn some of the lessons of MMORPG history.

If it were not for the fact that the game seems to take forever to launch… New World seemed like it took a while, but Lost Ark clocks in past 4 minutes to launch off of the HDD where my Steam games are store, and a friend running it off of a SSD goes well past 3 minutes when launching…. and the usual server situation, I would have much to complain about.

Well, there are the other players I suppose.  Area chat was the usual toxic soup one expects to find when you let people howl in public.

WoW reference achievement unlocked

If you just click on the System tab… because who wants to be Normal anyway… all of that goes away and you just get the messages related to your actions.

As for the game itself, I am still figuring out whether or not I really like it.  Steam says I have spent nearly 10 hours playing, but Steam is always the optimist, and I have probably spent close to an hour just waiting for it to launch or in queues to log in.  ManicTime puts my play time closer to 8 hours, which is still substantial.

Despite a control system that makes me retrain my brain for the first ten minutes I play Lost Ark, and then for the first ten minutes I play something else, It is pretty light and fun.

The story is kind of goofy, suffering from the usual oddities of translation along with somewhat stilted and awkward voice work, but there are far worse titles out there on that front, even ones that were not translated linguistically and culturally.

Are you sure it isn’t just a metaphor?

I like some of the little touches, like the balance beam walks, jumps, climbs, and zip-line runs that are used to both give the setting a sense of greater action as well as to guide and gate your progress.

Try that in a full suit of armor

The game also generally looks good.  The zones can be a little bland, though the detail of the landscape and the creatures are still notable, but the game really comes alive in the dungeons.  The scale can be immense.  Boss fights do feel epic.

A very large and well lit room for a boss fight

Even when you’re facing trash mobs, you tend to face them in the dozens so your attacks… if you remember to upgrade them *cough*… Make you feel powerful as you strike down the host that opposes you.

Here they come

And sometimes you get a bit of both.

All these guys AND the boss…

And I haven’t really explored much of the game.  I’ve only really focused on the one character so far, a Paladin, which isn’t the most dynamic class of the bunch.  And there is a lot of other stuff going on, which I suppose befits a game that has been active in Korea for a couple of years now.

Lost Ark definitely has something going for it.  For all of its oddities, it has played smoothly (once it finally launches), looks good on my big monitor, and is some simple clicky fun.

And, of course, the price is right.  Not having a subscription of any sort is a bonus, though that does tend to cut both ways.  I tend to play the games I am paying for first… though what else have I really been paying for of late?

But I haven’t played that much and I haven’t even begun to look into the cash shop and what investments the game might seem to demand long term.  But it has some fun stuff to buy.  I’ve seen a couple people riding around on a big pink pinata mount and, in the chaos of everything else in the game, they hardly seem out of place.

Others playing Lost Ark:

Looking into Lost Ark

Lost Ark, the free to play ARPG MMO goes live on Steam today for people who didn’t pre-order.  Those who did put in some cash for a founder’s package got to start playing on Tuesday, once they had the update issues worked out.

Welcome to Lost Ark

I actually plunked down for the cheapest founder’s package just to get an early look at the game, and it is probably good that I did.  Over at Steam DB they were showing a half a million people playing concurrently already, and they have already had to add some new servers to support the influx, and are adding more today.  Character creation has been limited on some of the original servers and I imagine things will be more hectic today once the flood gates have opened.

So why Lost Ark?

First, somewhat to my surprise, this game was already on my radar back in 2016 and made the cut of games I might play in 2017.  Of course it and some of the other titles (I had Pantheon and Camelot Unchained on that list as well ferchrissake) did not ship and somewhere along the way since then the game entirely slipped my mind.

Fast forward to 2022 and it has Wikipedia page now, has been out in Korea for a little over two years, and was picked up by Amazon Games to be published in the West.  And it was via Amazon that I heard about it as I follow the Amazon Games discord for news about New World and whatever else they are working on, including Lost Ark.

Yeah, but why Lost Ark?

Basically, because it was described as a clicky action title and an MMORPG all rolled into one.  What is not to like about that?  Also, free, cheap to get on board early, and whatever.  Why not try something new that at least superficially presses a number of my buttons?

So how is Lost Ark?

Initial impressions… it is very Asian in that “giant sword, overwrought armor, stilted dialog” sort of way.  That isn’t necessarily bad.  It has its dedicated fan base in the west, and even I used to watch badly dubbed Asian martial arts films with awkwardly stilted dialog back in the day.  Frankly, they should embrace that.

That should be “somebody sent us up the bomb” to start with

The game itself has a few classes to choose from, though it looks like they left space in the UI for additional classes later on.

The basic class list

Yes, gender locked classes are a thing.  That is very much an Asian MMO thing.  Warriors are men, while mages and assassins are women.  But at least there are his and hers gunners and martial artists, though I didn’t check to see if they were actually identical to each other beyond the sex divide.  Also, all women must wear high heels.

The classes each have a difficulty 1-5 difficulty rating.  I went with warrior because it had a 2 out of 5 difficulty, though if you’re going to make a rating scheme like that and don’t have a 1 and a 5 in the selection, I am not sure you’re doing it right.

Character creation has the usual set of hairstyles and faces you might expect from an Asian title, with hair and makeup options that apparently have quite a range of color options.  I stayed pretty conservative, but I saw some crazy samples out there.

The classes each have subclass specializations.  For the warrior I had the option of berserker, gunlancer, and paladin.  You get to try out the subclass specializations as part of the character creation process.

What warriors can be

After some fiddling around, I went with paladin first, which seemed to suit me.  But I still went back and made a berserker, just to see if it played differently.

I made it through the tutorial into the first town where you learn about the arks and their loss and how the tablet that describes where they are has a big chunk missing, which has critical aspects of the tale.

Somebody took a bite out of it

The combat seems to vary between facing masses of mobs that you dispatch with your special attacks and the occasional boss mob with a special mechanic that you have to dance around… or just lay into and DPS down while keeping the health potions flowing.  Just don’t run away if it is a public boss, because it will reset for everybody.

Another pack of bads to lay the smack down on

The main problem for me so far has been the control scheme.

I am not saying that you cannot have your own special set of controls, but there was probably smoke coming out of my ears early on as I tried to come to grips with a control scheme that put abilities in the WASD section of the keyboard.

Not the control scheme I was expecting

So far it has been entertaining enough.  The story really starts in the first town where you learn what is going on and where you need to go next.  You also get a mount pretty much right away.

Riding on day one

Otherwise it is very much in the ARPG genre.  You fight things.  You gain xp.  Loot drops on the ground.  You carry on.  It is an interesting mix of Diablo-style click fest and Asian MMORPG.

The title is also full up on all of the things you expect to find in a no subscription, free to play title.  It is fully formed on that front in a way that New World is not with a large cash shop, daily login rewards, and all the trimmings.

Welcome to the cash shop

But one of my New Year’s predictions was that New World would end up moving in that direction as time passes.  It pretty much has to in order to survive.  “Cosmetics Only” is the cash shop ideal.  The reality is you gotta sell the crap out of everything possible to make money.

I am not completely sold on it yet, and I bet it will be full up come this evening with people trying it out this weekend, so we’ll see if I can even get on to play at that point.  But it has potential.

Related:

Addendum:

Looks like there will be some delay in the launch.

Update:

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.

My Games Played for 2021 and Looking Forward into 2022

It is that time again, time to look back at what I played last year and maybe try to get an idea as to what I might play in the coming year.

2020 plus 1

Past Entries

Last year I wasn’t really feeling it for what I might play, probably because the list I made didn’t really pan out, so when I made the call for 2021 I kept it short and sweet.

The likely candidates were:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW
  • Burning Crusade Classic

I also threw out RimWorld, Civilzation V, and maybe World of Tanks as possible candidates to which I might return.

So now is when I look at what I actually played.  I don’t go as into as much detail as Belghast, but my chart is more colorful!  The top ten titles, which represent the games I spent 10 or more hours with in 2021, were:

2021 in gaming for me

Overall I tracked time for 20 games, so the bottom half of the list did not make it to the ten hour mark.

  1. WoW Classic – 29.61%
  2. Valheim – 23.10%
  3. EVE Online – 18.73%
  4. Diablo II – 7.18%
  5. New World – 6.67%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 3.68%
  7. Forza Horizon 5 – 2.36%
  8. RimWorld – 2.21%
  9. EverQuest II – 1.77%
  10. Pokemon Pearl – 1.21%
  11. World of Tanks – 0.92%
  12. War in the Pacific – 0.56%
  13. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.49%
  14. The Fermi Paradox – 0.48%
  15. World of Warcraft – 0.38%
  16. Flashing Lights – 0.36%
  17. Runes of Magic – 0.18%
  18. Art of Rally – 0.13%
  19. Hearthstone – 0.05%
  20. LOTRO – 0.05%

EVE Online was the only title I played through all year, and even that was fairly light once World War Bee ended, which explains why it ranked in third in overall time played.

WoW Classic, which includes Burning Crusade Classic, topped the total time played, but petered out when we were reminded that we did not exactly love The Burning Crusade the first time around.  Our WoW Classic time probably peaked in Blackrock Depths, which we ran into a dozen times at least.  Leaving was made easier by having Blizzard’s behavior exposed.

Valheim, which came out of nowhere to become our obsession for a few months managed to come in second.  We got our money’s worth out of that title, though the content ran out of steam for us and the small team working on it was overwhelmed trying to just keep things going.

Diablo II Resurrected was also a good time for a bit.  New World showed up in September, but we didn’t really start playing it in earnest until more than a month had gone by and the login queues began to subside.

The two flavors of Forza Horizon were in there as well.  I combined them into one row on the chart, though they would have easily both made it on their own.

RimWorld made the cut when the Ideology expansion hit, giving your colonists their own belief systems to work around.

I wandered into EverQuest II for a bit, as I tend to do, but didn’t make a big commitment.

Once it arrived, Pokemon Shining Pearl was a hit for me, making it into the top ten for time played in just the last five days of the year.

And then there was World of Tanks, after which time played starts to drop off rather quickly on the chart.  I suppose my one regret was not being able to get into War in the Pacific, though honestly the biggest hurdle was how tiny the print was on my 34″ monitor.  It is a war game from an earlier age of small monitors with large pixels.

So of the four likely candidates, I did end up playing three of them.  Retail WoW quickly fell off the rotation for me in 2021 as the Shadowlands expansion turned into a repetitive grind for somebody not interested in raiding.  Technically I logged in for quiet a while into the year, but I am not sure you should count the monthly run at Darkmoon Faire as really “playing” the game.  I only did that because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.

Which I guess brings us to the 2022 outlook.

2022 is what we get

Here is what I can see from where I sit this week.

Sure Things

  • EVE Online
  • Forza Horizon
  • New World
  • Pokemon Shining Pearl
  • Stellaris

I already have time logged for all of those this year.  I might give up on them sooner rather than later, but they will be somewhere on the list.  I certainly have much still to do in Shining Pearl and the group seems committed to New World for the time being.  And I just bought some of the DLC for Stellaris, so I’ll play a bit of that I am sure.

Likely Candidates

  • EverQuest II
  • RimWorld
  • World of Tanks
  • WoW Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I own the latest expansion for EQII and am subscribed for another two months, I’ll probably play some.  Likewise, it is easy enough to pick up World of Tanks whenever.

And, naturally,l I started thinking about RimWorld again since I started writing this, which makes it more likely that I will go back and play it.  It happens.

WotLK Classic though, that depends on Blizzard actually shipping it this year, though it feels like that is all the WoW team will manage in 2022, and Blizzard not being a complete shit show that makes me feel bad handing them money.  I am biased towards playing it, that expansion representing what is my likely peak in Azeroth, but I am also wary of Blizz and how they might screw it up or just make doing business with them so unpalatable that I’d rather just stick with the memories.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Age of Empires IV
  • LOTRO
  • Valheim

AOE4 is part of the XBox PC subscription, so I just need to download it.  I am just wary of another 100 megabyte download for a title that might not pan out for me.  I haven’t liked anything in the series since AOE2.

LOTRO I want to go back and play now and again, but it looks so bad on my big monitor that they have to do something for wide screen support before I will commit.  If they do that I’ll give it a shot, otherwise I’ll pass.

And then there is Valheim.  I am wary of this because any updates they ship will only apply to unexplored areas, and on the world we build up we explored a lot, including into biomes that should be getting content.  So going back for new content means started over again on a new world, abandoning all of our work.  That might be too much to ask.

Unlikely

  • World of Warcraft
  • Burning Crusade Classic
  • WoW Season of Mastery
  • Diablo Immortal

Okay, I might  try Diablo: Immortal when it arrives, having a phone and all that… though I’ll likely play it on the iPad instead.  But otherwise the theme here is clearly Blizzard games I would be likely to play in past years not drawing much appeal from me in 2021… and honestly it is as much because of their own lack of merit as much as because of anything Blizzard is up to.

And then there are the new games that might show up.  As I have noted in the past, in January of 2021 I wouldn’t have called Valheim, New World, or Pokemon Shining Pearl even being options, yet they all made the cut.  So I am open to some new things, but I cannot see far enough into the future to tell what might show up and tickle my fancy.