Category Archives: Steam

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.

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

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

The Tradition Continues

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

So not much of a story to tell there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Steam Winter Sale 2021 Has Begun

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

The Tradition Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forza Horizon in the UK

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

Forza Horizon 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also visible, virtual Potshot… your XBox buddies show up

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

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

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

You even jump the hovercraft, because of course you do

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

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

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

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

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

Even my avatar is wincing at that result

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

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

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

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

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

A clear race until we get to a corner…

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

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

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

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

The Delta S4 in a rally skin

And I was immediately disappointed.

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

Three in a row in NFSW

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

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

I missed him, but still managed to make the turn

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

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

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

Downgrading to Forza Horizon 4

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

Forza Horizon 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August in Review

The Site

Another month goes by.  I hit two minor meaningless milestones in August.  In addition to my 6,000th post I also managed to make it to 500 consecutive days of posting.

Quantity has a quality all its own

That was one that was easy up until I got past 400 posts and then it started to weigh on me.  But I made it.  In fact, today marks 521 days in a row.  But I probably won’t keep it going.  The pressure of starting over again at 1 is starting to be outweighed by inability to really care about that sort of meaningless milestone after a certain point.  500 felt worth it somehow, but beyond that is just yadda yadda yadda.

Otherwise it was kind of a slow month for traffic here, which was odd because Blaugust usually heralds a bit of a boost in page views and visitors.  I appear to have fallen out of favor with Google again, as search engine referrals have tanked over the last three months.  Such is life on the web.

One Year Ago

It was Promptapalooza Blaugust a year ago, a bit of a change up since we kind of did Blaugust as Blapril earlier in the year.  I wrote something about Quote of the Day and my alleged writing process.

The pandemic was still in full swing with no vaccine in sight.  I started writing about the shows we were binge watching around our house.  And then I did it again.

Twitter reminded me I had been on their site for a decade.

Facebook said you would need a Facebook account to log into your Oculus VR headset.

Epic broke the rules for the Apple Store and the Google Play store and, when Fortnite was removed due to this, immediately sued, which was their plan.  But what did Epic really want?

Daybreak bought Cold Iron Studios.  I think.  The press release about the acquisition has since been scrubbed… classic Daybreak, though still available at the Internet Archive… and Cold Iron has since gone on to ship Aliens: Fireteam Elite, which was not published by Daybreak or EG7 so far as I can tell.  Both Massively OP and MMO Fallout followed up on this for me though.

The pandemic was turning out to be quite lucrative for Activision Blizzard and the Shadowlands expansion was just two months out.

Over at SSG they were in danger of entering J. Allen Brack territory in warning people that they didn’t want “classic” LOTRO.  They’re probably right in the case of LOTRO, but it still gets people worked up.

I had returned to Diablo II, writing up my adventures in Act I.

In WoW Classic, which turned one year old, we were getting ready for Sunken Temple.  The road there takes some time.  Our first run went down stairs.

EVE Echoes, the NetEase mobile game based on EVE Online, launched.

In EVE Online CCP was introducing space weather in the form of metaliminal storms.  We got armor plating tiericide, Niarja fell to the Triglavians, and the promised metaliminal storms came out way before the month was out.

I hit my 14th anniversary with the game and wrote something about the spaceship meta.

World War Bee was in full swing.  I’ll just list out the posts on that:

Finally, Brian Green passed away and the community mourned his passing.

Five Years Ago

It was really Blaugust, so I was posting every… single… day even though it was supposed to be the “super relaxed” version of the event.

After spilling Mr. Yoshida’s delicious sauce over my ancient cell phone, I finally joined the smart phone boom with an iPhone 5S.  Of course, that meant playing Pokemon Go, something my wife does better than I do.

I tried to come to grips with the constant whine that every MMORPG should cater to every single play style by asking if any MMORPG had ever managed to find a new audience after launch.  I remain unconvinced that it has ever worked.

Blizzard was telling people that World of Warcraft was still the number one subscription MMORPG. But after their vow of silence on subscription numbers, that brag seemed a bit hollow.

In the game though things were looking up as the pre-Legion expansion event , the demon invasions, proved to be a boon to leveling up alts as they built up momentum.  And I still had that level 100 boost with the expansion to look forward to.

And then WoW Legion launched and it was on to the Broken Isles and class halls and what not.

I speculated what WoW expansions would look like if they were done like Pokemon games.

The Stormhold server in EverQuest II was facing a unlock voting crisis over the Rise of Kunark expansion.  It failed the first two votes, and failing a third would put votes in a moratorium for a while.  However, it passed on the third try.  I also shared my secret EQII shame.  Of course, with the coming of WoW Legion I was out of the game… like Legends of Norrath… just in time to miss some deals.

In EVE Online we had the YC118.7 update.  I was wondering if better PvE could save the game, though I remain unsure as to what “better” would really look like.

I was also celebrating my ten year anniversary with EVE Online.  Meanwhile CCP had a free to play plan lined up for New Eden.  It looked like it had some holes in it though… which we later learned it did.

Down in the southwest of New Eden the Imperium had set up shop in Sakht and was banging on the door of Delve, dropping citadels, blowing up citadels, and fighting LUMPY over sov timers.  Despite threats to keep the Imperium down for good, the locals in Delve got very little support in their fight and we were into the region shortly.

Back up north I was able to slip my last belongings out of the newly quiet system of Saranen.  Meanwhile, Executive Outcomes, which rode out the struggle as part of the Imperium, parted ways once the Casino War was over.

And somewhere along the line I found the time to get out Half-Life 2 and give it another spin.

Ten Years Ago

Blizzard announced some crazy idea that you would have to be logged on to Battle.net at all times to play Diablo III.  Glad that never came up again.  Oh, wait

SOE finally got a comprehensive server status page, and Scars of Velious opened up on Fippy Darkpaw.  I was wondering if they had “made good” with customers after the great hacking in April/May of the year.

I hit 70 million skill points in EVE Online and prepared to check out after the summer or rage.

I was back playing LOTRO for a bit.  I made it into Moria, then went looking for hoes.  I also wrote a post summing up my relationship with LOTRO up to that point.  It’s complicated.

Wargaming.net announced World of Battleships.  They have since changed the name to World of Warships, because we cannot have enough games we can shorted to WoW yet.  This got me musing on battleships and related games.

Meanwhile, World or Warplanes (another WoW) got a web site with cool pictures and stuff.

David Reid was telling people that Rift had ONE MILLION CUSTOMERS.  How one actually defines a customer was left as an exercise to the student.

I was still playing some Need for Speed World.  I was enjoying destructible terrain, though the weekend the police broke lead to some different destruction.

I mentioned some of the little things I liked in MMOs.

I was wondering about World of Warcraft Magazine issue 5.  It seemed to be very late.

And Namaste put out a Very Short History of MMOs video.

Fifteen Years Ago

This is the last month in review where I have to pull things from fifteen years ago without linking back to my own blog posts.

AOL, which is still a thing even today (I strongly suspect my mother-in-law still gives them money every month), bought the GameDaily site which, in a case of foreshadowing, was eventually disappeared into the Joystiq brand.

I started playing EVE Online on August 29, 2006.  It was my last “pre-blog” MMO start.  It was certainly another stepping stone on the way to the blog, as I felt I have to tell somebody about the horrible new player experience.  Some things never change.

Thirty Years Ago

Tim Berners-Lee released to the public the first browser for something he called the World Wide Web.  Geocities sites and pop-up ads and massive link rot are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds announced the operating system he was working on to the Usenet news group comp.os.minix.  While he wanted to call the OS Freax, it would eventually get the name Linux.

Forty Years Ago

IBM launched the IBM Personal Computer, perhaps the most influential and least IBM-like product the company has ever created.  After failing to come up with an internal design and feeling the market slipping away, IBM let a team working outside of the normal company hierarchy put together a machine with off the shelf parts and an open architecture that was the essential foundation of the PC market we have today.

IBM, seeing all the clones spawning in its wake, eventually decided to make a more proprietary model, so introduced the IBM Personal System/2 in 1987.  The rest of the market said, “No thanks!” and the clones became the standard and IBM no longer makes desktop or laptop PCs.  I think the most lasting legacy of that 1987 design is the PS/2 port.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. The Blizzard Name Will Go
  7. PAPI Begins Pulling Out of Delve
  8. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  9. Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials
  10. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  11. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  12. Tempering Expectations with the Diablo II Resurrected Beta

Search Terms of the Month

Карта страны майнкрафт
[There are some map generators out there]

база майнкрафт
[I have made many]

симулятор секса игры на пк
[I get this search term in English a lot]

test alliance please ignore
[Easier to do these days]

ancient winter poncho
[No Ponchos!]

Game Time from ManicTime

The usual suspects top the list, though I was on EVE Online a lot more in the first couple weeks of the month.  Then, once Delve was recovered, that fell off somewhat.  The others I mention in their own entries below.

  • EVE Online – 45.29%
  • WoW Classic – 27.87%
  • RimWorld – 15.47%
  • Diablo II Resurrected beta – 6.20%
  • The Fermi Paradox – 4.96%

Diablo II

The Diablo II Resurrected beta was available for two weekends for some of us, so I was able to get a look at it.  It is good, though the team clearly still has some bugs to work out.  We’ll get to see if for real come the end of next month.

EVE Online

World War Bee is over.  The enemy has retreated from our territory, various parties are still finding new homes, Legacy Coalition is no more, PAPI has effectively been disbanded, and the threat of the dreaded blue donut has been averted once again.  There is lots of rebuilding left to be done and lessons to be absorbed.  Absent our Ansiblex jump gate network Delve has become a target for neutrals looking for easy kills and gates camps pop up all over, so the Home Defense fleet has been pretty active.  The jump gates will be back up again in less than two weeks though.  Then there will be a new transit network to learn.

Pokemon Go

My wanted Pokemon, Heracross, showed up in raids in August, so I got my wish and finished off the Johto Pokedex.  So what do I wish for next?

Otherwise the month was okay.  After the high of Pokemon Go Fest last month I haven’t been too excited about playing, and was all the more turned off when Niantic went back to the 40m radius for gyms and Pokestops.  It is nice that it is back to 80m permanently, but I need something to spark my interest.  Level 41 is dragging on and every level after is that much more of a grind.

Level: 41 (77% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 662 (+8) caught, 686 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

I kept on playing with the Ideology expansion for RimWorld.  It is pretty neat.  I have been meaning to write up a little review of it, but the dev has been adapting it from player feedback and it has evolved some, so it is probably better that I have waited.

The Fermi Paradox

I wrote a post about this during the month.  I played it for a while, but it felt a little light to me.  As I noted, it is in early access, and just arrived there in July, so it has plenty of room to grow.  I will likely revisit it at a later date because I like the concept, even if the initial execution isn’t quite there yet.

WoW Classic

As I mentioned in a post this month, our group has decided to stick with WoW Classic despite the troubles at Blizzard.  It is just the game that brings us together and I am not sure another title would work as well in the long term.  We spent the month working on epic mounts and then finally finished up Hellfire Ramparts as a group of four.

Coming Up

It is rumored that we will be getting the Valheim Hearth & Home update mid-month.  Our server is still running, so we might have to log in and see what that brings us.

By the end of the month we should also see the launch of Diablo II Resurrected.  I’m down for that.  It even sounds like mod support might be in place for it.  There was a piece about how the Median XL mod would be ready to go for it at launch.

There is also a likelihood that Amazon’s New World will ship next month, though I am in kind of “I’ll believe it when it happens” state of mind there.

In EVE Online it will be a time of rebuilding and homeland defense fleets.  In WoW Classic it is time for us to try the Blood Furnace, the second dungeon in Outland.

And, of course, there will be the biggest of my annual meaningless milestones in about two weeks when the blog will turn 15 years old.

The Fermi Paradox in Early Access

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

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

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

Somebody fell out of the race again…

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

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

Probably playing loud music all night

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

The radio choices for their civ

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

Of course they did

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

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

Early human civilization, with some flares to collect

So how is it?

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

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

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

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

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

July in Review

The Site

There has been some discussion of the summer slump that EVE Online has been in, with the peak concurrent user numbers taking a dive over the last month or so.  There are several theories and lots of possible influences on that number, not the least of which is that it is summer and pandemic restrictions have been relaxed so some people just want to go on vacation after 15 months stuck at home.

EVE Online gets the focus here because they let people see their online numbers all the time and there is a site dedicated to tracking them.  Other games are less forthcoming with these sorts of stats, which makes it look like it might just be a New Eden problem.

Looking at my own blog stats however, I see a similar trend when it comes to pages view when I bring up the week by week stats.

Weekly page views – May – July 2021

The current week is a little low due to the measurement being from Monday to Sunday, but you can see the trend down from May to July, which lines up pretty well with the weekly peak concurrent user number I have been tracking in my weekly World War Bee updates.

This is not to say that CCP doesn’t have other problems, but it feels like there is a bit of a slump in interest in video games after more than a year of people binging on them.

One Year Ago

The 2020 Steam Summer Sale finished up.  I bought some things.

In TorilMUD, aging was abolished.

SSG was compensating people for outages in Lord of the Rings Online.

Minecraft gave us the Nether Update.  I went out and found a crimson forest in the nether.

I was reflecting on Diablo II at its twenty year anniversary.  We didn’t know for sure there would be a remaster at that point.

Blizzard was getting us more details about the Shadowlands beta and launch.

In WoW Classic the instance group was finishing up Zul’Farrak and then meandering about Maraudon, which we finished up on our second run.

Blizzard was banning botters in classic while getting ready to open up the Ahn’Qiraj war effort event.  As part of the anti-botting effort they were limiting the number of instances players could spawn in a day, but we were at least getting some extra bag slots.

CCP cancelled their San Diego player event as Covid did not look to be going away any time soon.

I also resigned myself to the fact that, despite past promises, CCP was going to keep selling skill points in EVE Online.  (I’d feel better if they stopped being so dumb about it.)

In game we saw the launch of the Zenith Quadrant, the first part which was a small update to command ships, and an official capsuleer cemetery at Molea.  The June MER showed that mining was shifting to high sec after the resource changes.

But the bulk of my posts in July were about the opening of World War Bee, which I am just going to list out rather than try to create a paragraph narrative:

Five Years Ago

Pokemon Go was everywhere after it launched.  Everywhere.

I listed out the NBI Class of 2016.  I haven’t gone to check how many survived the year.

Daybreak turned off the last PlanetSide server and the game was gone… though it lingered on the server status page for a while.

Daybreak did launch a pair of special event servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  I was keen enough to go earn the special mount on the EQII server.

There was strange news for Turbine as their parent company, Warner Brothers, announced that they were transitioning into a mobile app development studio.  We wondered what that meant for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

In Minecraft I was tinkering with maps and night renders while Aaron created a huge map room in game.

In World of Warcraft I managed to unlock flying in Draenor.  Just in time too, as the 7.0 patch was already pre-loading.  Soon the garrison gold mine would be turned off.  And then it hit, bringing new features.

In EVE Online the Casino War was winding down.  There was a Keepstar to chase, the alleged hellcamp, and some sovereignty exchanges in Pure Blind.  That wasn’t really going anywhere though.  We killed four titans in Okagaiken and blew up a CSAA just to show we were still fighting.  But in the end we admitted defeat and began packing for our trek to greener pastures.

Our destination was Delve, ever the region that calls to Goons.  But first we had to get through Rakapas.  I was there for a bit before I ended up soloing my carrier down to our staging in Sakht, accruing the maximum about of jump fatigue possible.

I also hit 160 million skill points while the Blog Banter spoke of malaise.

Ten Years Ago

Google+ was already starting to become annoying. (At the end of that post I also link out to an article that predicts that social media in general, and Facebook specifically, will start to fade by 2014.)

I tried Civ World, the Facebook interpretation of the classic Civilization series of games.  I didn’t like it.

In EVE Online, the results of the emergency CSM Incarna summit were released with CCP basically saying, “Ooops.”

I hit level 50 in LOTRO, got into Eregion, and actually saw the door into Moria.   Only a couple of years had passed since I bought the expansion. Gaff was ahead of me, as usual.   Meanwhile, Isengard was in beta, but nobody was supposed to talk about it.

Getting lost… rules.

EA, BioWare, and their new Origin service got together and combined my accounts without bothering to mention they were doing it in advance.  Just another day at EA as I understand it.  Customers come behind their own convenience.  Still, I was interested in their authenticator and how it stacked up against others.

Speaking of authenticators, SOE made one available as well that looked just like the Blizzard model.  But they cannot be swapped, one for the other.  I got the official line from VASCO on that.

And on the EverQuest II front, they announced that they were going to revamp Freeport, which I took as a waste of time.  (Plus, of course, Qeynos got shoved off until later.)  I am still not convinced that either revamp was worth the effort of the time spent downloading the assets.  But I am not sure Beastlords were either.  They seemed pretty broken when they launched.

The instance group wrapped up our last adventure in EverQuest II Extended.  There were a number of ways the game wasn’t right for us.  It wasn’t just the ugly mounts.

The pending closure of Star Wars Galaxies led to interest (and concerns) about SWG emulation.

But PlanetSide 2 news was coming.

I started playing Need for Speed: World, a driving MMO.  It wasn’t a bad game with the right music playing.

Zynga helped reveal the two faces of Tobold.

And World of Warplanes was announced, which got me wondering if this might not be a spiritual successor to Air Warrior of old. [The answer to that was “no.”]

Fifteen Years Ago

Twitter launched.  This blog has been entirely part of the Twitter era.

Microsoft was talking about a device to challenge the iPod and denying they would ship an XBox 360 with an HD DVD drive.  Being on the mark half the time is pretty good for them.

EA was trying to retain people by giving out more stock options and revising under water options while Take-Two Interactive was being investigated over stock grant shenanigans.

The ESA announced they were downsizing their yearly E3 conference.

The Civ IV – Warlords, the first expansion for the title, came out on Windows,

Twenty-Five Years Ago

The perhaps unfortunately named (and all the more so given the current scandal) CUC International purchased Blizzard Entertainment parent Davidson & Associates and Sierra Online, which became the heart of the new CUC Software.  The company later became Cedant Software, Havas Interactive, and eventually Vivendi Games.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. California Explores Gaming Power Usage
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. LOTRO Launches the Shadowfax and Treebeard Legendary Servers
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. On Immersion
  11. The End of Scarcity Foreseen in EVE Online in Q4 2021
  12. The Fraternity Alliance Update and the Direction of the War

Search Terms of the Month

is imperiume tech stock the one that bill gates called the holy grail
[Google says “no”]

how to get to the scarlet desert eq
[I actually have a whole post about that]

sylvanas x anduin wordpress
[The math doesn’t add up]

minecraft warm biome near cold biome
[I have screenshots of an ice biome taken from a desert biome]

Game Time from ManicTime

I came into the month working pretty hard on WoW Classic, or at least alts there.  Then the war started heating up a bit in New Eden and I tried a playing a few other titles.

  • WoW Classic – 51.04%
  • EVE Online – 24.36%
  • RimWorld – 12.44%
  • Flashing Lights – 4.64%
  • MMO Tycoon 2 – 4.51%
  • World of Warcraft – 1.06%
  • New World – 0.95%

EVE Online

Lots of little things going on in New Eden, but the war itself wasn’t very exciting.  PAPI decided to take the summer off at one point, then changes their minds and now are coming back for a final try to take our capitol.  They’ve only had a Keepstar next door since November.

New World

So yeah, I pre-ordered and have played a tiny bit in the beta.  Things have changed a lot since I was in one of the early betas a couple of years back at this point.  I am not sure I am happy with the direction the game took.  But more on all of that at a later date.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go Fest was the big deal this month.  My wife and I did a lot of that.  But the climb from 40 to 50… that’s a lot of xp.  To get from level 47 to level 48 you need 21 million xp, which is more than levels 1-40 combined.  You need to be pretty hard core for that, and yet I met a level 50 player during the event.  In talking to him, he just does everything I do, just a lot more often.  For example, he has caught almost 400K Pokemon, while my total is about 18K.

Level: 41 (69% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 654 (+8) caught, 677 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Heracross would finish my Johto Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

With the coming of the Ideology update for the game, I bought it and gave it a try.  I will no doubt have some words to write about what changed, but in general it is an easy game to sink back into even with the updates.

Steam Games

As I noted, I bought a few titles during the Steam Summer Sale.  You can see I’ve played them a bit in the Game Time section this post.  I plan to write something about each of them.  But plans often fall by the wayside.  I thought I would have a post up about at least one of them by this point, and yet here we are.

World of Warcraft

It was a bit more than the usual routine for retail WoW this month.  I did the Darkmoon Faire quests, but then I spent some time with pet battles when they had the bonus event running.  Still, over all, I didn’t spend much more than an hour with the game.

WoW Classic

I went into July strong on Burning Crusade Classic.  Or, at least the vanilla content as re-worked by the Burning Crusade updates.  I leveled my rogue from 21 to 37 while working on crafting and some other things.  And then the giant harassment scandal blew up at Blizz and, while my subscription hasn’t lapsed yet and our group is still playing a bit… we have paid for the privileged… we’re also discussing what we ought to do.

Coming Up

August means we will be getting some Q2 2021 financial reports.  Activision Blizzard should be interesting because it ought to give some insight into what the end of the lockdown in many places has meant to video games.

When it comes to WoW specifically the 9.1 patch came out at the very end of Q2, so the impact of that and the flow of players from retail WoW into FFXIV won’t be reflected until Q3 results.  And Q3… well, now that the state of California is after Activision Blizzard for creating and abetting a hostile workplace, I can only see things getting worse for the company.  They’re just another Riot and all their words about diversity and inclusiveness were just BS.  If you needed an actual example of virtue signalling… trying to ride on a popular wave that you don’t really care about… this might be it.  The question time for the Q2 call should be lit.

Then there is EVE Online.  August is traditionally a slow month for CCP as it is the nicest weather all year in Iceland, so they tend to emulate the French and go on vacation if possible.  But World War Bee still… rages?  I am not sure it has “raged” at all in the last six months.  But PAPI has promised an all out assault on the Imperium capitol, so maybe the rage will return to space, rather than hanging out in r/eve.

And, of course, it is the start of Blaugust, the annual blogging celebration.  It is not too late to join in.  There will be more about that tomorrow.

Friday Bullet Points on Deck for Summer

Back in the day I used to have a regular “mail bag” feature that took items from the blog inbox… reader submissions and press releases… that I thought might be interesting.  I don’t get much reader email these days and the press releases… where to even start?  Leaving aside the non-gaming updates, and the interview offers for random “experts” on even more random topics, the best one I’ve seen in months was about a Hello Kitty mobile app.  It even has a video, if that is your thing.

Bullet points though… I can pull those from anywhere.  All of which was a too long way of saying we’re back to the Friday Bullet Points thing again.

  • Steam Deck

Probably the big PC gaming announcement of the week was the Valve announcement of the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck hardware

Basically it feels like Valve looked at the Nintendo Switch and said, “Yeah, we can do that and then some.”  No doubt experience garnered with the failed Steam Machine helped them along

It runs on the Linux based SteamOS, plays games directly from your Steam library, has a docking option that allows you to hook up a keyboard, mouse, and monitor if you so desire, and is supposed to be available by December, with pre-orders opening up today.

Pricing is “aggressive” according to the company, starting at $399 for the 64GB base model and rising to $649 for the 512GB top end unit.  It seems pretty cool.  There are games in my Steam library that certainly favor a controller for input, and $400 for a mini gaming PC seems like a pretty good deal.  But I’ll probably wait and see on this one all the same.

Picking additional coverage to link to is tough as literally any web site that has any connection to video games has an article up by now, so there is plenty out there about the device.  Still, IGN’s article links to a FAQ they put together with Valve, so I’ll link to that.

  • Pokemon Go Fest

Pokemon Go turned five this month and the annual Pokemon Go Fest is this weekend to celebrate.  I haven’t really felt the need to buy the $14.99 in-game ticket to join in on the event in the past.  Some things, like all the special raids, are there for everybody.  But this time around they knocked the price down to $4.99 and have a pile of thing available for those who buy in, so my wife and I spent the money.

the 2021 event price

It is summer, we can go outside again, and it isn’t like the war in New Eden will miss me for a couple of afternoons.  I also have to go feed somebody’s cat on Saturday, a walk which will take me past at least three gyms.

  • Pokemon Go Five Year Collection Event

It is lucky for Naintic that we bought the event tickets before we finished the warm up event.  For the five year anniversary there was a run to collect all of the starter Pokemon from the first six generations of the game.  They were out in the wild, so the first dozen or so were easy enough to collect.  But there are always a few who seem reluctant to show up.  We found out that the daily tasks related to the event always had one of the starters, so the night before the deadline we were out at the community center, which has a a bunch of Pokestops, doing tasks to try and get the last two we needed.

Take 5 pictures of a wild Pokemon was a common task

After some persistence, my wife ended up getting her final catch.  I got my final one the next morning… a totodile if you are interested… so we were able to collect the rewards.

All of the starters checked off

They were some Pokeballs (yawn), a few rare candies (decent), and a special encounter.  The hope was that it would be something good.   Instead it was the anniversary Pikachu.

5 year Pika

That would have been cool… had that Pikachu not been littering the pavement throughout the event.  They were everywhere.  I wasn’t even bothering to catch them.  My wife about exploded when she saw the reward for the effort.  So here is hoping we get a bit more from the weekend’s run.

  • Pokemon Go Raid Achievements

Earlier this month, in advance of the anniversary, Pokemon Go got some big updates on the graphical front.  It is no longer either day or night.  Dusk and dawn see the light change as the sun moves through the sky.  Shadows are also more realistic.  When joining a raid there are some splashy new graphics.  And, there are now raid level achievements for things like most damage, final blow, and best dressed.

My wife got the final blow, but I just make this look good

There are, of course, badges for getting raid achievements… achievements for achievements are my favorite achievements I guess.

I can hit hard when I want

The interesting one is the traveler award, which goes to the remote raid pass person furthest from the gym.  I’ve had one friend from Japan get the furthest I’ve seen so far.

That is pretty far away… I was about 1km from the gym

  • Diablo II Technical Alpha Updates

I am trying to be cool about Diablo II: Resurrected.  We’re not getting it for a while, so no need to get all excited about it.

The return of the classic

But then we get updates from the company about how the technical alpha is going and it becomes hard to sit on my hands.  I want to play.  As a pre-order I will get a chance in about a month I guess.  That isn’t too far down the road.  Time flies.

  • Reserve Bank Keys are Coming

Back when CCP was nerfing ratting by forcing the ESS on it last November, they setup a main bank, which can be stolen from ratters, and a reserve bank, which would require special keys that were not yet available.  Since then trillions of ISK has built up in the reserve banks across null and low sec space.

CCP has announced that the reserve bank keys are finally coming.  They have put the keys, which can be found in low sec sites, up on the test server so people can try them out.

I expect comedy will ensue.  A few keen players will get in, figure out the system, keep quiet about whatever flaws there are, and otherwise position themselves to act the moment that the keys are released on the live server, at which point there will be a rush for them.  The winners will likely be the preppers and large groups that will rob their own reserve banks.

I expect that the reserve bank keys will be live on July 27th unless some tragic flaw is found, reported, and actually investigated by CCP.  At least they put the ISK payout flow on a timer,  made the keys specific to a particular quadrant of New Eden, and gave us two flavors (5 minute and 15 minute) so all the reserve banks won’t be empty in a week of furious activity like they did with structures a while back.  And, like the main bank, the payout is in bonds that need to be redeemed at an NPC, so they can be lost even after the heist.