Saturday I was out of the loop, helping a friend move to a new house. At my age, I’ve determined that I am officially “too old for this shit”, meaning lifting people’s furniture into U-Hauls, and then lifting people’s furniture out of U-Hauls.
Since my last post, the folks at Wildcard have been pumping out updates to ARK: Survival Evolved at a furious pace. If it weren’t for Steam, I’d have spent what little time I had this weekend to play watching the game patch itself. I haven’t been keeping up with the nitty-gritty of the patches, but my experience with the game over the past few days has been quite illuminating.
I die, a lot, which is the “water is wet” equivalent for survival games. Sometimes I’d log in and get killed on spawn (at night it’s even worse, as it’s hard to see when you’ve got nothing to see by). Sometimes I’d make it a good distance and feel cocky, only to get taken out by an armored turtle or eaten by a Raptor. My latest ignoble death was due to starvation. I had found a complete thatch building in a light cache, and set it up on the beach while I was looking for a river that my friends were telling me would lead to their encampment. I opted to go after another light cache nearby instead, but in the process I A) needed food, B) punched some dodo, C) made a campfire, D) lost track of the campfire when it started to rain and the campfire was extinguished, E) had no more stamina to harvest materials for another campfire, and F) died of starvation.
Now, I’m totally OK with the premise of these kinds of games. You must expect that you will die, a lot, and often. It’s a “survival” game, not a “sit on a couch eating Cheetos” game (AKA “the weekend”). Thing is, folks who know me may recall my aversion to repetition, and that I need to see progress in order to feel that the time spent is worthwhile. I’ve got loads of the former, and very little of the latter meaning that survival games, for all intents and purposes, are the antitheses of what I should be spending my time playing.
Last night I finally met up with my friend and he led me to the tribe’s base camp where there were a few huts and a few tame dinos milling around. I took a Raptor out for a spin, and that was nice, but as far as “the game” goes, this twinking more or less meant that I had “made it”, and this rapid about-face in circumstance left me wondering “now what?” If the purpose of the game is to survive and then thrive, what is the purpose once you’ve got those elements down pat? More thriving? Thrive 2: Thrive Harder? Maybe this is an underlying psychological block that I have had all along in regards to progression: at some point you’ll earn most of what you want, and most of what the game offers, and then…?
Powerplay the big update for Elite: Dangerous, was released last week. Frontier has been doing a good job of adding in features to the game to make it more “game-like”, which isn’t really all that difficult from a “what do we add now?” standpoint, considering the gameplay at launch was lacking in real, concrete purpose.
This update blends the lore with the gameplay, allowing players to sign on with a “galactic personality”. Each of the ten scions has their own dossier which lists three key points of their philosophy, and how those points translate into the kinds of missions you can expect to be asked to perform for that faction. Of course, they tend to fall in line with the three main paths of combat, trading, and exploration, but are broken down further into elements such as piracy, diplomacy, and police work. Who you choose also has an effect on how you’re treated in other territories, so signing on with a faction isn’t something to decide lightly. I still haven’t decided who I’ll join, or if I’ll join.
I did get in on my first community goal last night, however. Community goals are game-wide missions that usually require a massive amount of resources to complete, and the rewards that one earns are based on one’s contribution. The CG I chose was to bring exploration data to the Independents, so I started at Sol (where I was when I logged in) and headed down to the system where the CG was being offered, scanning as much as I could as I went. By the time I arrived at the Independent’s station, I had scanned enough to earn 71k credits and was in the top 70% for the CG overall with three weeks left to go until the scenario wraps up. I pointed my ship outwards from the Independent’s holdings on the map and plan on seeing what I can scan for the next week and a half before I have to find a route back in time to sell what I find before the event ends.
One of the criticisms people have levied against Elite: Dangerous is that it’s boring. My wife watched me flying between stations once and asked me what the hell was so interesting about what I was doing. What I was doing at that exact moment wasn’t all the exciting, I admit. It’s kind of the same thing that EVE Online has to deal with: long periods of tedium punctuated by action and/or decision making that will put you on a specific course. This is the curse of the “sandbox game”: you almost have to expect that the game is going to look boring as hell to an observer, and you need to be up to the challenge of finding personal goals to work towards that make the boring parts worthwhile.