What is a Fortnite?

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Editorial, Featured, Fortnite

[Sorry for the lack of images…I absolutely suck at remembering to take screenshots, so enjoy the stock footage included in this post]

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The name Fortnite is a play on words: A “fortnight” is two weeks, but a “fortnite” is a game about building a “fort” in preparation for the “night”-time onslaught of a band of monsters that have appeared across the planet after the arrival of a mysterious storm.

After some 90%+ of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes in the wake of this mega-storm, those left behind can be assigned to one of two categories. There are the survivors who find themselves stranded in the middle of the maelstrom, and then there are the defenders who find their way to a bunker run by a floating droid named Ray whose organization may or may not be accidentally responsible for the storm. Technically, Ray and her bots were set up to prevent the storm, but something bad (and unknown at the start of the game) happened and things went to hell quickly. So with Ray as the dispatcher, the players assume the role of one of the elite agents who deploy technology to push back the storm while also rescuing survivors. This is accomplished in three phases.

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The first is the gathering phase. A team of four players is placed into an open zone which might be a town or a forest (in the initial rounds). During the first phase, players must destroy trees, rocks, buildings, cars, and an amazing array of pretty much anything in a bid to collect building materials (wood, stone, and metal). Along the way players might uncover crafting materials, ammo, or special unlocks by searching shrubs, bookcases, and bunkers.

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Once the players have located their objective, they need to “activate” it in some way, depending on the story of the round. At this point, they need to build a defendable fortress around the objective, made up of walls, floors, and traps. The building can be as simple or as elaborate as the players see fit (although there are sometimes requirements of the mission to build a certain amount, less than a certain amount, or in a certain direction).

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The final phase is when the monsters show up. They appear where the storm-born lightning strikes and amble in towards the fort. It’s up to the players to actively attack the monsters, but also to use their structure to keep the hoards from plowing through the fort and destroying the objective. Monsters come in different forms, starting in the early rounds with your standard shambling zombie-esque creatures. Then there are the tanking monsters who are harder to kill, and even monsters dressed as baseball players who throw electrified shin-bones at you from a distance.

The game is very reminiscent of Orcs Must Die with the addition of the free-roaming collection phase. You have control over how much material you gather to build walls, floors, and ceilings, so it always behooves players to spend time exploring the map. Players can also uncover survivors being swarmed by monsters ahead of the main event, and helping these NPCs provides rewards. Building is advertised as being easy, and it’s no lie: you decide what you want to build (wall, floor/ceiling, or roof) and the material (wood, brick, or metal) and you just place it where the glowing outline allows. Because the monsters will attack your fort, you have to be able to repair it in the heat of battle, which only requires the right material in inventory and the press of the “F” key as you are running past the damaged structure.

Combat is fairly standard. There are ranged and melee characters, although it seems that (at least with primarily ranged characters) anyone can equip both. Rounds that I have played so far are mostly cases where everyone is on the roof mowing down the waves of monsters. I suspect that as the game progresses and both the objectives and the terrain change over time, different structures and strategies will be needed. So far rounds have ranged from stupidly easy to frantic clusterfucks where the team was running around the perimeter to take on the waves and repair the fortification. I suspect that the former example is how the game was intended to be played.

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Is the game fun? Yes. Yes, it is, although I suspect that there’s a narrow set of conditions under which this is true. For example, the initial collection and exploration phase can take as long as you like. I’ve already had fears that some rando on the team is going to get impatient and start the process while the rest of the team is spread out across the map and insufficiently packed for the next phase. I do prefer co-op games over competitive games, but some people still find ways to make things all about them. I’ve played about 50% of my rounds with all random teams and so far everyone has been either cool or just silent, focusing on the game the way I believe it was intended to be played, but we always remember the worst experience above all else, so I’m dreading the time I end up alongside one of those “blame everyone but themselves” type players. That said, playing the game with friends can be a blast. The game doesn’t come with voice comms, so a Discord setup (PC) is very much recommended.

My only complaint so far — which sounds generous until you understand that it covers everything that isn’t the act of collecting, building, and shooting — is that many pre/post round activities are horribly opaque. There are literally too many systems to enumerate here, and almost none of them are explained well enough in the game. For instance, you get “survivor cards” which can be used to build “teams”. You’re asked to slot some of these cards early on, but you can’t use those teams until you unlock certain nodes on your skill tree which, of course, aren’t nodes you unlock up front. You have two (at the start) avenues of advancement. Your research tree runs on credits earned simply through the passage of time, while skills level based on tokens you earn by completing rounds. Both weapons and playable characters can be assigned XP, but there’s no rhyme or reason to how: should we stockpile XP and test drive characters? Is the XP drop rate such that we can spend with wild abandon? And then there’s the blueprint and inventory system, which you can’t actually use until you are in a game.

We also had a bit of a hiccup in a friends-game where no one could build until I (the party leader and hence the map “owner”) gave the rest of the team permission through the shield generator control panel. I don’t remember that being explained at all, and that was an issue considering one goal of the mission was to expand the fort. I’ve also heard of issues where non-round owners couldn’t build or pick up items; I’m not sure if that’s related to the permission control panel, or just a really annoying bug.

Don’t let this dissuade you from considering the game, however. There is so much crap dropping that experimentation is easy and almost consequence-free. Between rounds, you can take as much time as you like to investigate the systems, although you might not be able to activate or use them early on. What I didn’t know was that Gearbox was involved in creating this game, which explains the game’s keyless lock box system of comically literal loot pinatas that you swing at to unleash a torrent of yet more stuff like XP boosters, blueprints, survivor cards, and materials. Like Borderlands, there’s no shortage of crap to fill up your inventory, and I say that in terms of it being a Good Thing(tm).

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Fortnite is a fun group co-op game that’s certainly more enjoyable with friends who can work together and share the same pace. Early on the mechanics are interesting enough between rounds that can range from easy-going to head-on-fire crazy-time. I have no idea what the game will be like in later stages after several dozen rounds of collect-build-defend start to get stale. I do wish the out of round systems were better explained or weren’t accessible until the system was ready to devote time to explain them. There’s a lot going on, and being able to click on things not only raises more questions than they answer but makes me (at least) feel like I’m always only playing at a fraction of the potential I’m allowed simply because the ancillary systems are just a little too black box. Still, the gameplay is fun, the visuals have their own style that lends itself to the sometimes bonkers premise, and the game has enough going for it to be either a primary progression game, or a secondary party game.

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Steam Sale: Morning After Edition

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Featured, Games, Steam Sales

Today marks the end of the 2017 Steam Summer Sale, and I did am not emerging unscathed.

During recent sales, I hadn’t actually bought much if anything at all. I was either in a “let’s slow down on the gaming” phase, or an “I’m playing an MMO and don’t really have an interest in any of these other games” phase. That’s why I opted to use some of my saved money and load up the Steam Wallet this time around. I’m not going to say how much I put in there, but I will say that as of the writing of this post, I have $2.17 left.

I’ve already listed a few titles in a previous post, but there’s a few more to add to the list.

Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! is another game in the Holy Potatoes! series which might be something you’ve never heard of, and also something you’ve never expected to hear of. Basically, everyone in the game is a potato. Not in the Internet sense of potato being a sluggish PC or crappy camera, but a real sentient spud. In this edition, the tubers are — wait for it — in space. WiS?! borrows heavily from games like FTL in many ways, except…with potatoes. I cannot stress that enough. Sentient. Potatoes.

The Little Acre was an impulse buy because the art and animations looked great. It’s apparently a classic point-and-click adventure game which is a genre that has become very difficult for me in my dotage because I don’t have the patience. But the game is rumored to be short, I think, which might help my attention span.

Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville got a lot of good press in our Combat Wombat Discord channel, with one member having lost account of six hours of her life before she realized she’d been playing it for that long. Really, this looks like it would be a…nevermind. You are tasked with growing your zombie-free-zone by reclaiming buildings, scavenging for resources, and fighting off said undead. 

Last but not least is 911 Operator. I had seen this in my discovery queue but kind skimmed past it until I was lying in bed trying to sleep while my wife was watching TV. A commercial came on that talked about emergency services (I think) and it reminded me of this game, so I bought it. It’s difficult, which isn’t to say that I expected the role of a 911 dispatcher to be easy, but jebus crisp. I found that I had to decide which events were and which were not critical because I only had so many cops, EMTs, and firefighters to distribute. The most interesting thing, though, is that the game will detect where you live (by pinging your ISP-provided IP) and will offer you a local city map. Yes, you can play the game in your hometown, which is both cool and disturbing when you have dispatch cops to your own neighborhood.

In semi-unrelated news, I picked up Topple VR, Darknet, and Super Stardust Ultra VR for the PS4 because when Steam has a seasonal sale, everyone has a seasonal sale.

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Quick Hit: Tethered for VR

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 in Featured, Tethered

Quick Hit: Tethered for VR

I picked up Tethered for the PS4/PSVR a few weeks ago during one of their flash sales, and I hadn’t gotten around to kicking its tires until last night. The game follows in the well-worn footsteps of “ensure that these adorable creatures survive since they can’t think or act for themselves” titles that stretch back to the days of Populus.

Of course being a VR title (though it can be played in “plebe mode” if you’re interested) you get a bird’s eye view of the small floating island that comprises these creature’s living space. Using the PSMove controllers, you can scroll around like you’re creepily dragging your disembodied self across their landscape and can zoom in and out by bringing your hands together or moving them apart (think the finger gestures you use on your phone or tablet to enact the same). By turning your controllers like you’re turning the wheel of a car, you can rotate your view. I had a few issues with these controls at first, but I like how they work. Traversal in VR is a problem that anyone has yet to really solve with confidence, and on a small map, this scheme works as well as any other.

You start with one “Peep” and from there you need to harvest raw materials and food and mystical crystals which give you, the deity, your power to do stuff. New Peeps arrive as eggs, and you need to have an existing Peep sit on the egg so it doesn’t spoil…if it does, it hatches a larva which is bad news for your population. In between you need to build buildings, assign roles like farmer and soldier, and at night, defend your island against ever more aggressive slugs that will destroy your hard work. In addition, you have access to clouds, which are exactly what they sound like. There’s a sunshine cloud, a rain cloud, an ice cloud, and a gyre.

*Grabby hands*

The name Tethered comes from the act of assigning item A to task B. You tether a Peep to a resource to have it harvest. You tether a Peep to an artifact to have them unlock it. And you tether a cloud to an area on the map to enact a specific task. Once the Peeps have farmed a plot dry, tether the sunshine cloud to that plot to re-grow the crops. You can even tether weather to one another to create a rainbow (increases the spirit of the Peep it’s tethered to) or lightning (which I assume blows shit up).

I’ve only done the tutorial but Tethered is a solid, strategy-lite VR game so far. The Peeps are cute, the landscape is well rendered, and when you need to send your minions into battle at night, it can get frantic as you’re jumping all over the island vantage points looking for invaders. My wife played a game called A Kingdom for Keflings on the Xbox which followed a similar arc of guiding helpless villagers to build and survive, albeit without the combat, and I think she’ll like this one as well.

Tethered is also available on Steam, and can be played with and without VR.

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Stream Post-Mortem: The Spatials: Galactology

Posted by on Jun 29, 2017 in Editorial, Scopique Plays, The Spatials

Stream Post-Mortem: The Spatials: Galactology

Last night’s stream was of The Spatials: Galactology which is a sequel to The Spatials. At this point, I’ve heard, said, or said in my head “The Spatials” so many times it’s crossed over from “words applied to a concept” and into the realm of “no, spiders are not printing circuit boards made of sheep saliva, so stop asking!“. I’m just going to call it TSG, which isn’t too far off from another relevant abbreviation you might be familiar with, TNG.

Not my base…yet


TSG
is a two part game. In the first part, you are tasked with creating a space base on a distant asteroid in the far-flung future intended to house your crew of explorers-slash-hoteliers. You begin with several room styles unlocked which allow you to design your single-story station room by room and corridor by corridor. Being the future, your weebles can’t live without amenities, so you also have access to the machinery of life, such as food processors, beds, and research tables that can be deployed to allow your team to survive and thrive.

 

As nothing comes from nothing, the second half of the game involves sending exploration vessels out into the galaxy to find resources to harvest. Your crew of two or more set down, find deposits of fruit, slime, and bacteria, and deploy machines to continuously collect the materials for transport back to your growing interstellar utopia. Along the way, however, you may run into hostile fauna or even other civilizations who might not be amenable to your presence, so be sure to arm your away team…strictly for defense, of course.

According to the literature, the later game has you opening your station for business. You’ll get visitors arriving who want to see the sights of your solar system, so you need to provide entertainment, food services, and even tourist brochures to ensure their happiness. If the videos on Steam are accurate, this doesn’t always go so well and your weebles may be called upon to defend their base against angry mobs.

Galactology is a sequel, and I picked up both in a bundle during the Steam sale, although I jumped straight into the Early Access sequel because there were comments regarding opinions on the depth of the first game that I’d hope would wash out in the second, although I’m not far enough into it to tell one way or another. As far as builders go, it’s as good as any. You start with a single room, six (?) explorers inside, and some water, fruit, and aluminum. From there, expansion is as easy as selecting a corridor or room style and dragging it out across the ground where you want the crew to build. There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions inherent in this: no need to power anything or provide running water or O2; in the future, everything Just Works.

Speaking of work, TSG takes a page out of RimWorld’s book and couples workstations with your colonist’s work schedule. You’ll need a kitchen device to convert organic resources into food, and a food distribution kiosk to avoid leaving the food lying on the floor. In order to use these devices, at least one of your weebles needs to be assigned to cooking duty through the work schedule panel. Unlike RimWorld, though, your people all start out as “redshirts” — generalists who earn XP by doing tasks which can then be applied to promoting them into a more specialized role which, I assume, removes their ability to be assigned certain work functions in exchange for success rate and efficiency increases.

“Captain’s log…literally…there’s so many trees here…”

On the planet, your explorers basically just teleport around (literally, or you can make them walk) to resource nodes in order to build harvesters. They then only need to hang around until the cargo hold is full, at which point they can take off and return home to deliver the groceries. I was able to secure a good number of resources without any incident, which made the harvesting portion kind of boring considering the fact that exploration maps were Of Good Size, and populated with friendly colonist NPCs who had little to no bearing on my activities. I hope there’s more planned for exploration, because right now it’s a 30-40% deadweight around the neck of a pretty decent building game.

The complaints levied against the first game in the series centered on the realization that there’s not a lot to do overall, and that there’s no real strategy to building out your base aside from space management. Looking at videos for either game show massive bases with dozens upon dozens of rooms serving many functions, all of which need to be unlocked through continuous research. For a game like TSG I look towards other builders such as RimWorld and Prison Architect and even Dungeon Keeper, Dungeons, or War for the Overworld where positioning of rooms matters because of transit limitations or internal resource availability. I’d like to see those kinds of potentially limiting factors come into play when building the station because I think that would put the management aspect into play. There does seem to be a RW-style NPC simulation system in its infancy, where your explorers care about their aesthetics and interpersonal relationships, so I hope that expands to include more options as well. As much as I hate it when a pyro burns down my generator in RW, I appreciate the freedom that the devs allowed for him or her to do so.

What I really like is the visual approach that the devs have taken here. I’ve been using the term “weebles”, which might be over the head of some readers, but surely strikes a chord with others; I didn’t choose that term arbitrarily because on some level the characters remind me of those egg-shaped toys and make me giggle when these cute little critters are shown trying to look bad-ass. Some of the animations are sometimes a little silly, but I’m ok with the status quo: these folks are representative of time-sinks and resources so I don’t expect mo-cap realism here. The one thing that I felt could use some real polish in the interem is the UI. It’s pretty massive, and while I don’t think it’s actually intrusive in any way, when there are popups (like the work-in-progress tutorial), it’s very difficult to manage anything but that popup. Mind you, I don’t hold any of these aspects against the devs because this is in Early Access, and I want to close this paragraph by saying that during my play time I didn’t run into any technical issues, which is always a big plus when trying EA games.

Bottom line: The Spatials: Galactology is off to a good start, which is a way of saying that hopefully the devs have more features up their sleeves so that there’s more strategy, risk, and reward in building the bases, and that there are additional purposes in exploring other planets aside from just setting up harvesters and coming back on occasion to pick up the spoils. Granted, I’ve only played for the “learning hour” and these points may be addressed later on, but I’d like to see TSG grow to RimWorld level proportions in feature set and acclaim.

Late breaking addendum: You can apparently get The Spatials on the iTunes store for $1.99!

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Secret World Legends; Steam Summer Sale 2017

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Secret World Legends, Steam Sales, The Secret World

Secret World Legends; Steam Summer Sale 2017

Secret World Legends

Kelly “Keliel” Olivar found her way over to SWL.

Secret World Legends is (almost literally) an answer to a question nobody asked: what if instead of fixing issues in a standing game, the developers copied and pasted that game, changed a bunch of stuff (but left other stuff alone) and released it as a whole new game? The existing game — the one people have been playing for years and have a history with, but which wasn’t doing as well as it undoubtedly should have — would be placed in “maintenance mode”, meaning no more new features and only updates when critical. Add to that the fact that no previous progress would carry over, so everyone — everyone — starts fresh, both people new to the franchise and those who have played since launch.

Does that sound like a good idea to you? On the surface, no. No, it does not. Yet this is what Funcom decided that The Secret World needed in order to survive and move forward. The reasons are unfortunately their own, buried behind the typical marketing platitudes we get from game companies that are coy about their strategies. Even so, the anticipation for the head start for SWL was high in my timelines. People had been waiting all of last week for notification that they could download the new client, create and migrate some of their TSW progress to the new game, and log in ahead of this week’s release. On Friday, the head start began and went pretty OK as far as I could tell. On Saturday, things were also humming along quite nicely. Sunday, however, the bill came due: there was an exploit which allowed players to generate millions of units of what SWL uses for cash-bought currency. Funcom kept the game offline for most of the day in order to fix it, which raised hackles; on one hand, fuck those who used the exploit and ruined it for the rest of us, but on the other hand, the fact that people were anxious to log in a play was a Good Sign.

I’m not going to enumerate all of the changes SWL introduces to TSW because I’m not entirely aware of all of them myself. Some of the most notable ones are that the free-form character builds are still present, but much harder to get at. This is good because my first TSW character was messed up early on because I didn’t know how to use the build system. Likewise, missions in SWL now follow a more structured path, with some leading into others, others having their pickup locations moved, some have been changed into “mission-on-zone-entry” grants, and others have been done away with entirely. They’ve also added levels to the game and made the game much easier to solo. I think that all of these changes are a result of the realization that while TSW was a game that attempted to break the MMO mold, a lot of what it did to that end was simply for the sake of being different. The game never put enough emphasis on being approachable in a genre that had been trending towards making things easier to understand for new and elder players alike.

New character sheet and weapon upgrade screens.

The question of why create a parallel game instead of just fixing what was in place might be answered in this light: TSW had tried many things and as a result garnered itself much baggage as far as the MMO community was concerned. I think the majority of people love the investigation missions. Others love the horror-themed atmosphere. Some even loved the EVE Online-like manner in which we could build custom characters so that not everyone was just following a class-based trajectory. But the game had many issues that Funcom struggled with over the years which cost them players and forced them from a sub to a free to play model. Along the way, they tried to update the game to repair problems or address shortcomings, but it never seemed to be enough. That’s why I can understand that SWL isn’t a reboot or even a reset, but a total cleansing of (hopefully) what plagued TSW for so long. Funcom (hopefully) took all of the feedback they received over the years and decided that there was just so much work that needed to be done — and done all at once — that it made more sense to copy the game, modify in parallel, and release as a new product with a beta phase and everything. Had they tried to make these changes to the live TSW, they would only be able to eek out changes in spurts through patches, and only to the public test center which is available for current players — and who knows the percentage of current players who opt to get into the PTR for any game, let alone a game that many believe has been on life support long before SWL was announced.

Despite having a lifetime sub to the game, I never made it off of Solomon Island in TSW so the idea of starting over doesn’t phase me. SWL is a game I want to succeed because it is unique, in setting, presentation, and content. I am liking a lot of the changes I’m seeing in SWL, although some are coming into conflict which what I expect from my days playing TSW and that causes me some confusion. I hope Funcom does well by SWL. They get a lot of shit for their games, some rightfully so, but also way more than they deserve. It’d be nice for them to catch a break with SWL because I’d sad to see it’s demise used as proof that there’s no room for non-high-fantasy, non-sci-fi MMOs.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

 

Steam Sale 2017

It’s in full swing this week, so here’s the current body count from my perspective.

Avorion: This is another in a string of Minecraft meets [insert other genre here] games. In this one, you get to harvest materials and build space ships and space stations. It looked good to me because while the graphics are OK if you play on public servers there’s open PvP in a massive universe which could be fun — if you’re into that. There’s supposedly also a story in single player mode. The ship building uses real physics, which speaks to my inner The Expanse fan…so yes, I will be trying to build a Rocinente when I am able.

The Curious Expedition: I have it installed but haven’t played it because I think this might be a good one to stream in succession. It’s a pixellated adventure story about a group of explorers who head to the Arctic and…something.

Oxenfree: I had put this on my wishlist at one point, but never jumped on it. However, friends claim that it’s a Really Good Game, Guys! so I bought it.

What Remains of Edith Finch: Now, I never played The Unfinished Swan, but it got high marks for presentation. Edith Finch has been getting some stellar reviews, and a lot of the Steam comments say that it’s a seriously moving game. I am eager to give this a try, but it sounds like the timing has to be right for the full impact to take effect. I just don’t know when that will be.

Hidden Folks: My wife plays a lot of hidden object games that she downloads from those junk game aggregator sites. I, on the other hand, am not a fan. Usually. Hidden Folks came up in conversation several times over the weekend and is cheaper during the sale than anything you could buy at Starbucks, so why the hell not. I was immediately laughing because this game’s appeal is only partly to do with it being a hidden object game. The whole thing was hand-drawn (which is impressive when you see some of the levels), and all of the sound effects are what I assume to be the developer making noises in a microphone. There are no canned sound effects here, except whatever comes out of this guy’s mouth and that can be hilarious at times. It doesn’t look to be a very long game, but it’s relaxing, small, has a low operational footprint, making it a great game to play when you’re waiting for other games to download or patch.

Waldo is for amateurs

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Trip to Maia; Lost in Tamriel; Grand Theft Coaster

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Elite Dangerous, Planet Coaster, The Elder Scrolls Online

Trip to Maia; Lost in Tamriel; Grand Theft Coaster

This past weekend was rather dull: Saturday was spent…I can’t remember what the hell I did on Saturday, to be honest. It was kind of overcast and blah, and I know I didn’t do anything that I should have been doing, so I guess that makes it a success. On Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day at the in-laws. Because it was Father’s Day, I was allowed to return home before the ceremonial Canasta game. Hooray for small victories.

Trip to Maia

Speaking of small victories, I spent a good deal of time in Elite Dangerous this weekend and fulfilled my long-delayed goal of venturing to Maia in the Pleiades. The only real significance of this is that the Pleiades is where all of the alien activity has been going down, although I didn’t do any investigation of such while there. Maia and it’s surrounding environment is basically a ghost-town, as most of the nearby systems aren’t as well populated with stations as other parts of the bubble that I’m used to. There is a community goal happening in Maia as of the writing of this post, but it requires the delivery of materials that are only available a good number of jumps away. Traveling in Elite is one of the absolute worst, most boring parts of the game, so I quickly lost interest in participating once I learned that.

However, I did need to hit up Maia to pick up meta-alloys. I needed this to unlock an Engineer. The Engineers are NPCs that can create new or boost existing ship gear. As you play the game you’ll come across various materials that are needed for the creation/upgrade process. Each approach has a specific outcome but of a random magnitude, so you spend these special materials on a single spin of the RNG. If you like what you see, you can have the Engineer apply the changes; if not, you can spin again if you have enough materials. The meta-alloy was just an introduction gift to get me in to see the NPC but thankfully I had a hold full of several of the materials needed to squeeze some better performance from my FSD and sensors.

The good news is that I’m now only less than a dozen hops away from my current home range of Wu Guinagi. The original trip to Maia was something like 33 jumps; the trip to Deciat where the Engineer lives clocked in at only about 11, and I only have about 11 or so jumps back to Wu. Yeah, the math doesn’t add up, but Elite‘s route calculation is sometimes screwy like that.

Lost in Tamriel

Of course, I’m back to playing The Elder Scrolls Online since I had gotten a great deal on the Morrowind expansion. Although I’d only been off the wagon for a few weeks, the One Tamriel setup is officially screwing with my ability to figure out where the heck I am, and where I need to be.

The good thing is that I don’t need to focus on the main story (although I do on occasion). I can do nothing but side-quests because the design is such that quest visibility is organic: while you’re in an area doing quest A, B, and C, you can also pick up D, E, and F, which will lead to an area where you can get G, H, and I, and so on. This is great when the game forces you into a level-based box because you can only focus on the quests that you are lead to. With One Tamriel where levels don’t matter, you can skip D, E, and F and go straight across the continent for quests J, O, Pi, 721, and the Realization That The Universe is Ambivalent Re: Your Being, just to name a few.

I’ve been playing with Mindstrike and my brother Egon, and we’ve gotten to the point where the best content is currently dungeons and collecting the delve sky shards that we’re missing. So we’re all over the map, basically. That means I’m sometimes picking up quests that need to be solved within those dungeons or delves, or “accidentally” pick up a quest out in the world, or at least see quests in other zones. When we’re done, I head back to my current “home” zone and…forget what the hell I was doing or have no idea what I might be missing in the current zone by way of quests so I can get that all important zone closure achievement.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to track quests that need to be done in a zone in order to reach the closure achievement, or if there’s an add-on to help with that. I’d like to be able to close things out zone by zone since I can do so as if each zone were level appropriate thanks to One Tamriel. Nevermind the fact that I’ve not even considered touching the DLC content. I’m trying to stay away from the Morrowind official content (except for dungeons and delves) because I want Sedya Neen to be my first official landing spot — once again — in that region.

Grand Theft Coaster

On Sunday evening I sat at the desk and lamented my lack of streaming time. At this point, I’ve spent a lot of time and money getting things ready to put together the best-looking stream I possibly can, complete with multi-focal lighting, green screen, upgraded webcam, custom graphics AND animations, and the Elgato Stream Deck. Really, the only thing that I’m missing is a dedicated game capture device before I can say that I am officially the most overprepared non-streamer in existence.

Streaming is fun and non-fun. It’s fun because you get the warm fuzzies when you see people tune in, and even better if they interact with you. It’s also non-fun in many ways, such as seeing strangers vanish without having engaged, or even the pressure to “put on a show” in an effort to get people to stick around longer than they might if you’re just concentrating on playing the game. Streaming is, after all, a show. On one hand I know that this is patently false but on the other hand, you might as well aim high if you’re going to make the effort. I find myself caught between the desire to make the effort and my desire to just play the damned game without feeling like I have to emcee everything.

That’s why I decided to stream on Sunday evening, but not announce it. 75% of crossing the hurdle is to press the STREAMING button on the Stream Deck to get the broadcast started, and I figured that if I wanted to overcome my reticence to make the effort, I could make the effort in anonymity. That way I’d technically be streaming, but would also probably not have an audience to play up for. I did garner one random viewer who came and left (I hardly knew ye!) and got views from two Combat Wombat friends who were notified of the stream via our Discord server announcement bot.

I played Planet Coaster, a game that I find more relaxing than the high-stakes planet of RimWorld. I started the Campaign over from scratch and managed to cap the HIGH marks on the first scenario. One thing that constantly vexed me in the game: my visitors are apparently really easy marks for pickpockets. Every few ticks I’d get notified that someone was robbed. I hired a whole platoon of security guards, and they eventually apprehended a lot of the thieves, but I couldn’t figure out how to get out in front of that problem. In the end, it didn’t matter, though, as my park became popular enough for me to attract the 1100 guests and earn $15,000 needed for the third star in the scenario.

I enjoyed playing Planet Coaster with strict goals because it meant that I only had to reach those goals, and anything after that could be considered arson for the insurance money. It was also a good game to stream, I think since there’s a lot to do, a lot to keep track of, and a lot of ways for things to go hilariously wrong. I’ll probably stick with this as my streaming game and hopefully, in doing so I can overcome my hesitation to broadcast.

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