Tag Archives: The Fermi Paradox

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.

Wrapping Up the Steam Summer Sale 2021

By the time this post goes live the Steam Summer sale should be about 15 minutes in the past.  Another one for the books.

There we go again!

My enthusiasm for the sale was at pretty low ebb, as it has been for a few years now.  Steam puts things on my wishlist on sale as often as Safeway discounts canned corn, and both generate about the same level of excitement these days.

So it is probably a bit of a surprise that I actually bought a few games during the sale.  Though, to be fair to Steam and its sale, I did not purchase anything that was on my wishlist or anything that they were pushing at me during the sale.  These came from outside recommendations.

Anyway, what did I buy?

  • MMORPG Tycoon 2

I mentioned this in the June month in review post already, but Lum was playing this and posting about it on Twitter.  It is in early access and wasn’t even on sale, but seemed meta enough to take a shot at.  My initial game, Attractive Nuisance, would tend to suggest that the title of the game perhaps ought to be WoW Clone Tycoon, but I haven’t dived into hard mode yet, which is launching a free to play game with monetization fun to deal with.

  • Art of Rally

This came up as part of a post on Ars Technica about the best titles in the Steam summer sale for under $25.  It also happened to coincide with me starting up on the whole immersion topic when I was making a mental list of games I missed and Need for Speed: World popped into my head.  I was able to achieve some serious “in the zone” time with it and the TRON: Legacy sound track.  This is a cool little game set in the golden age of rally racing in the 60s and 70s.  However, it really needs a controller to play it, so I am going to try and dig out the one I have for my PC before I pass judgement on it beyond the fact that you shouldn’t bother with just keyboard and mouse.

That said, it is a very nice, stylized racing game.  Could be a winner.  We shall see.  It will also be available on consoles soon, including the Switch, so it might be a better choice there… controllers being part of the bargain.

  • The Fermi Paradox

One of my favorite episodes of This American Life involves David Kestenbaum talking about why the Fermi Paradox, summed up as “where is everybody?” in the universe, makes him sad.  It makes me sad too, though so does the immense size of the universe and the relatively slow speed at which light travels.  We can barely get to the moon and Mars seems like a distant dream still, so how do we even consider other stars?

Anyway, The Fermi Paradox lets you play God over the rise and fall of sentient life in a corner of our galaxy where you make choices that guide civilizations along the path up the technology tree and get to see who fails or goes extinct and who, if anyone, makes it to the stars.  This is also in early access and is currently pretty raw, but there could be the germ of a good game here.

  • Flashing Lights

This is more of a special mention, because I purchased it on sale during a previous sale, but only started playing it during this past summer sale.  This went on my list because I was interested in the Grand Theft Auto V mod that let you play as the police, but I wasn’t up to getting into GTA V that deep.  This sat on my wishlist for quite a while before I eventually bought it.  It lets you play as fire, medical, or police responders, but the fun is running around in a police cruiser.  This is also in early access.

Play Time

I did follow my current Steam rule, which is not to buy a game unless I plan to play it that day.  I have between 30 minutes and 3 hours on each of these titles.  Not enough to write a review yet, but close enough to an initial impression blog post I suppose.  I am sure I will get to those.