Tag Archives: Forza Horizon 5

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.

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.

November in Review

The Site

Spam comment bots will hate you if you know this one special trick!  Or they would if they had the capacity to hate.

Over the years I have mentioned how many spam comments that Askismet racks up and how many I end up having to clear out of the spam filter because it isn’t sure.  And then, in looking through yet another thousand spam comment day, hoping to find any false positives in the mix, I noticed that almost all of the spam comments were on old posts, in the 8-12 year old time frame.

Then I was hit by a blinding flash of the obvious and went and set WordPress to not allow comments on posts over a certain age.

The setting I was looking for

Once I clicked the check box it actually worked.

This was not an completely slam dunk idea for me as I don’t mind comments on old posts, and there are a few, like an old one about the Kesmai game Air Warrior that attracts somebody new now and then.  But eventually real people stop showing up.  So I set the timer to turn off comments on posts once they were up for 800 days.  That should give anybody looking to leave a comment plenty of time and I am now much more likely to find false positives in the spam bucket.

And then there are the ads.  Despite serving up only slightly more ads than last month, the total amount earned was over $20, up from $15 in October.  I won’t be able to give up my day job, but the Premium account option will at least pay for itself.  I also think the quality of the ads might be getting better, though I don’t check often enough to make a blanket statement on the topic.

As always, I encourage you to use some sort of ad blocker to keep your browsing safe.  I have on a number of occasions hit a site that demanded I turn off my ad blocker to be able to view their content, only to the have Malwarebytes, my virus protection software of choice, throw an alert that it had to block an ad due to malware.  I never want to be that site.  Be safe on the internet friends.

One Year Ago

EverQuest II celebrated its sweet sixteen with some unexpected downtime.  Oops.  EverQuest was getting ready for the Claws of Veeshan expansion.

World of Warcraft was spinning up for the Shadowlands expansion, and I was getting in a few tasks before it landed.  There was also the beta and something about multiboxing software and the fact that BlizzCon Online being free.  I was also wondering if anybody really needed a level booster after the big level squish.  The ride to 50 was pretty fast.

We were still playing around a bit in the level squished Northrend, trying to do a three person with Prince Keleseth.  That did not end well.  I also started a demon hunter to try the run to 50 in the level squish.  It was a quick run, though it got strange because I wasn’t in quite the right timeline.

Then there were the pre-events in Northrend… and I always love going to Northrend.  There was plenty to do up there.

And then there was the pre-launch calm before we were finally let into Shadowlands.  It seemed like a pretty smooth launch once you got past the crowd in Stormwind.  The zones were quick and fun and I was soon making my debut in the theater of pain. and then off into Ardenweald.

Meanwhile, in WoW Classic, we were working out way to the detention block in Blackrock Depths and then Shadowforge City after which we went walking with Marshal Windsor.

On the WoW Classic front Blizz was talking about plans and bans.

I hit level 40 in Pokemon Go.  I was also using Discord to get overseas raid invites to catch special legendaries.

There were some more shows to write about in the great pandemic binge watch.

And of course there was EVE Online and World War Bee, which I will just sum up in a list of posts:

And so it went.

Five Years Ago

I got back from EVE Vegas and reviewed a bit of what I saw including SKIN changes.  I also borrowed CCP Rise’s Vegas Alpha fit for a trial run.  Of course the Ascension expansion and Alpha Clones were the big deal.  Logging in when the expansion hit wasn’t always easy, but the PCU passed the long distant 50K user mark.

Then suddenly it was election night.  I was in a fleet during which the winner projections turned on their head.  At least we got a tower kill.

Meanwhile back in our old home in the north, the war in Tribute started to come alive.  Sort of.  A bit.  Well, there was some propaganda.

BlizzCon was underway a week after EVE Vegas, and I first projected what I wanted to see/thought I might see and then reconciled that with what I actually saw.  It took a while for me to see Weird Al though.

Project: Gorgon was back to crowd funding.

Pokemon Sun & Moon were coming and I got ready by wrapping up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.  I took Pokemon Sun while my daughter went with Pokemon Moon.

In Minecraft Aaron was using the in-game maps to create art to hang on his walls.  Then there was the update with forest mansions… and llamas!  That meant going on an expedition to find my own mansion.  And once you have your own mansion, you have to do something with it.  Like burn it down.

Daybreak, in looking after Norrath new and old, launched the Kunark expansion twins, with Empires of Kunark going live for EverQuest and Kunark Ascending going live for EverQuest II.

And, finally, in a bullet points post on Black Friday it was death to The Mittani, a new Google widget in my side bar, and some Pokemon news.

Ten Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.  Also, it is 30 years old now.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit. (Turns out the answer was “everything,” or at least everything that they didn’t shut down.)

Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new Veil of Alaris expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.  Amazing!

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. Actually, the real money part wasn’t the bad bit, it was that there was an auction house at all… and crap itemization.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.  Can you even find one on the market these days?

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down Wow.com. That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. Still, I’d take bad UI Google reader over no Google Reader.

A little game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launched.  A pity nobody played it and it never got ported to very many platforms or got several remasters.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Fifteen Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

In EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

The Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

I was talking about Diablo II, because that comes up every few years.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Also, I was apparently hosting my blog screen shots on Image Shack back in 2006 and they’re all gone from many of those posts now.  I went back and fixed all the WoW instance groups posts at some point… probably five or ten years ago… but the EQ and EQII posts are just going to require you to use your imagination.

Twenty Years Ago

EverQuest went to the moon with its third expansion Shadows of Luclin.

Nintendo released the Game Cube in North America.

Microsoft launched its first game console, the original XBox, also in North America.

IL-2 Sturmovik, one of the more important combat flight sims for flight sim nerds, launched.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. The Crimson Harvest Returns to EVE Online
  3. The EVE Online New Dawn Quadrant to Start With Mining Changes
  4. Life on the M2 Hellcamp
  5. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  6. A 64-bit EverQuest Client is Coming
  7. The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch
  8. Protests in Jita Over New Dawn Changes
  9. Robbing Some Space Banks
  10. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  11. Why Harry Potter Wizards Unite Failed
  12. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor

Search Terms of the Month

eve online [barghest]
[The flying griddle!]

defeat the lord of flies in this java game
[No, u]

is there supposed to be a fence with torch on top of it in minecraft in the savanna village
[An oddly specific question. Yes?]

гипер врата в космических играх
[There are jump gates in EVE, but they aren’t hyper]

(Google made some change and now so few search terms make it through that I am down to single digits to pick from.  This might be a dying feature, and just when I killed off spam comments as well!)

Game Time from ManicTime

For the first time in a long stretch there was no significant WoW or WoW Classic play time recorded.  Basically my six month subscription expired at the end of October and that was that.  I did log in quickly to get the 17th anniversary achievement with a level 18 character, so I guess I will boost their MAU for November, but I have spent my last cash on Blizzard for a while.

  1. New World – 35.56%
  2. Forza Horizon 5 – 30.95%
  3. EVE Online – 12.83%
  4. Diablo II – 9.68%
  5. World of Tanks – 8.76%
  6. EverQuest II – 2.20%
  7. World of Warcraft – 0.02%

Considering how far into the month I grabbed FH5, you can see I spent a lot of time on the road.

Diablo II

I managed to get a necromancer through nightmare and into hell difficulty, and the instance group carried through and defeated Diablo, before we ran out of steam on the game.  It is a solid game still, 20 years down the road, though it could use some improvements.  But for purposes of nostalgia I own it and can go back and play some more whenever I want.

EVE Online

I did not spend much time in EVE Online this past month.  I got in, went on a fleet op or three, got on my requisite kill mail for the month, and even lost a ship… which was fine because my hangar has more ships in it than I will ever fly unless PAPI invades Delve again.  So at least losing a ship meant SRP and some more ISK back in my wallet.  Otherwise I let all but my main account lapse into alpha status.

The CCP team however went through its periodic routine of setting themselves on fire, this time with the “New Dawn: Age of Prosperity” dev blog, then denying there was even smoke while the player base yelled at them.  They appeared to acknowledge that, perhaps, there was some sort of combustion, but we won’t know what they’re really thinking until we get the next dev blog.  The only thing that is sure is that “prosperity” won’t be on the agenda for any reasonable definition of the word.

Also, what is going on with the algorithmic false positive bans?  CCP seems to have it in for certain activities.

EverQuest II

I played a bit more of EQII, finished out the Days of Summer/Panda quests, did a little mucking about with some alts, and then drifted off to play something else.  Unless there is something seriously unexpected in the new expansion next month, my account there will likely lapse as well.

Forza Horizon 5

Bought this on a lark for a freaking dollar… well, I didn’t really buy it so much as rent it for three months via XBox Game Pass for PC… and have played the hell out of it at times over the month.  A fun driving game with a lot of different options to suit anybody from the casual to the hard core.

New World

The instance group has found its way into New World and we are trying to move through it as a group.  The game itself seems to be deep in a new crisis every week and more than a few of them could be on the list of “why does this happen with every MMO launch?” But it is good looking and the combat is different and the trade skills are… well, there is a lot there to be done.  We’re all at level 20 at this point, so we might be able to do some group things soon.

Pokemon Go

The big event in November for me was hitting level 42 at last.  A big enough deal that I am including a picture!

Level 42 level up graphic – what I did on my way from 41 to 42

The downside is that now the mountain of xp needed to get to level 43 seems all the taller.  9 million experience will take a while.

Level: 42 (+1, 1.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 673 (+3) caught, 695 (+1) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 13 of 17
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat, but not for long

World of Tanks

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I cranked this up again to have something quick to drop into and play.  I started in at the beginning of the month and played quite a bit… then I got Forza Horizon 5 and play time fell off a cliff as I binged on that.  But I have come back and played some more since.  I have enough coins and bennies that I can drop in and out for a few days at a time and still play in premium mode most days.


Another month in with Zwift.  I am a bit surprised I have kept up as well as I have, as one of my defining attributes is laziness. I haven’t really lost any weight, though I have redistributed some of it.  I know this because I need to cinch my belt up one notch further.

My distance cycled at this point is almost exactly the distance between my house and the happiest place on Earth; Tijuana!

  • Level – 11 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 487.9 miles (+115.5 miles)
  • Time – 1d 1h 48m (+5h 48m)
  • Elevation climbed – 20,013 (+4,875 feet)
  • Calories burned – 16,141 (+3,845)

Coming Up

Last month I had a list of things that were due in November or seemed likely to arrive and… a few didn’t make it, so I guess I get to rerun them.  The FFXIV expansion is now set to land on December 7th, while EverQuest and EverQuest II have expansions that should land on the 7th and the 1st respectively.  You can probably foresee tomorrow’s post in that.

Also, for those who know the blog, December means a series of end of year posts to sum things up and check on things like predictions and all of that.  Those posts are coming.

Otherwise it seems like there will be more New World in the offing and maybe things will heat up a bit in EVE Online after the post-war slump.

Oh, and there is a a sequel to The Matrix landing in December, The Matrix Resurrections.  I might have to go see it.  That is probably one you need to see on the big screen.

Forza Horizon 5 with Friends

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

Forza Horizon 5

How hard indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xmas GTO

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

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

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

Waiting for him to find something on the map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many roads must a man drive down…

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

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

Faux Potshot ahead of me

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

Anyway, op success.  We managed to drive together.

Playing Forza Horizon 5 for a Dollar

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

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

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

Forza Horizon 5

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

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

An Interlude to Complain about Microsoft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donuts on the lawn…

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

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

Okay, maybe I do donuts too much…

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

Jimmy at the race

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

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

Styling on the road

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

The Bad

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

This is the message I hate

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

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

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

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

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

Once again it has come to my attention…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get points in game for this too!

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

The Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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