FFXIV Back Again

This month has been very light on gaming. Mostly, I think, due to the changes at work. As I mentioned in that post, there were unavoidable impacts to my team where a few positions had to be cut and I know for one in particular this has been quite a heavy and heartfelt impact. Part of it is down to longer hours at work sorting through the process, including looking for redeployment options for people in other areas of the business sure. But I also find that in situations like this I unconsciously choose to drift from gaming.

Which might be a bit of an odd reaction when you consider a large part of the reason for the hobby is as a destressor.

But in any case! Updates to the Games of Interest are afoot. As the title suggests, Final Fantasy XIV makes a return. It seems the seeds I planted in the minds of a few friends when last I was playing finally took root and sprung to life. It was a near thing though, with Elder Scrolls Online’s Elswyer expansion now out I was pretty keen to dip my toes back in there, too.

But we’re also super close to the new content of FFXIV’s Shadowbringer expansion. I’m nowhere near ready at level 35 and running through the Realm Reborn’s main story quest — a mandatory linear chain of quests which you cannot skip or otherwise short circuit by simply leveling past. *grumble*

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • Final Fantasy XIV

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Transport Fever

Nearly Removed

  • Tomb Raider

Removed

  • The Division 2
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

AC:O I’ve taken a pause on while the DLC catches up. Episode 2 of Atlantis just released the other day, so roughly 5-6 weeks until Episode 3 is out concluding that series and I’ll binge through the lot. ;)

Tomb Raider is holding on for now, as I still have a clear intent to go back and finish the second and third games — whether that intent will materialise into action in the context of limited time and an MMO back on the table though… We’ll see. ;)

Sekiro should come as no surprise to be removed. It had been holding on by a finger nail for a while. While I wouldn’t say I bounced off it hard like my very first encounter with a Souls game, it failed to grab me very firmly either. I noted during the April Journal that playing it made me want to jump in Nioh instead. With Nioh 2 starting to make more of an appearance that feeling grows ever stronger. Perhaps it will end up replacing Tomb Raider? ;)

I guess what might come as a bit more of a surprise is the removal of The Division 2. I gave the raid a try in the hopes it would revitalise the game for me. It didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the raid is well constructed and the boss mechanics are actually interesting.

It was better than I expected, speaking frankly. But the decision not to raise the ilvl from the raid’s drops struck me as odd. Although I suppose even had they raised it, it would have been a short lived extension to the game. So! Making it official. The Division 2 is off my list for the time being. I expect I will want to visit again when more story content comes though. :)

Kickstarter 10 Years Old

I may’ve missed the fact Kickstarter just had it’s 10th birthday entirely if not for Kim’s post over at Later Levels. It’s a service I’ve fallen away from over the years. I don’t tend to go actively looking for interesting projects like I once did. Kim says, “Although the quantity and quality of video game campaigns has declined recently” which I find interesting because while I agree with the sentiment — I wasn’t sure whether it was a reality or just a perception born of my inactivity on the site.

Certainly the media frenzy that once existed highlighting every other game to go on Kickstarter has died down. But is this a shift in interest, or as Kim says, an actual reduction in quality and quantity?

In any case, that’s not actually the focus of this post! Kim also went through quite a nice retrospective of the titles she has backed over the years and I’d like to shamelessly copy the idea and do the same. ;)

While I’ve also backed the odd thing on Fig or elsewhere over the years — I’ll keep this one Kickstarter-centric.

First Backed: Planetary Annihilation

Clearly I haven’t been using Kickstarter myself for 10 years, as my first backed project, Planetary Annihilation went up August 2012.

Unfortunately this is a serious contender for the ‘Most disappointing’ backed project as well. The original title has since been pulled from sale, and the ‘Standalone Expansion’ / ‘Oops, let me fix that’ release Planetary Annihilation: TITANS remains in its place.

It was a game of big ideas, coming in to save us from the relative disappointment of Supreme Commander 2 from a couple of years prior. Now we were talking whole planets. Asteroids you could strap rockets onto and use as WMDs.

The concepts were excellent. The execution considerably less so, although I will admit I’ve given almost no time to TITANS. It came out a year or two after the original and while given to free for owners of the original, it didn’t appear to be enough of an improvement to warrant a serious look-in.

Best Backed: RimWorld

Looking back over my 25 backed projects (including 3 unsuccessful projects), I realise I’ve been very lucky. There are a great many amazing titles in that list.

Had I not backed RimWorld I would be really, really hard pressed to make a decision. Fortunately, I did back RimWorld so the choice is easy. It launched onto Kickstarter October 2013 at a time when there had been a recent glut of Dwarf Fortress-alikes, but none that could really capture the essence of it.

I’d say it was less a genre and more a series of failed and abandoned experiments. I couldn’t tell you now, why in that context I would have backed RimWorld. I don’t recall what I saw in it that set it apart. Possibly I was still just holding on to some final shred of optimism? ;)

Whatever the reason might’ve been — RimWorld is an amazing experience. I don’t know how many hours I’ve given to this title in the alpha’s before Steam, but it would be… a lot.

If you’re remotely interested in the Colony Survival concept, I can’t recommend this one enough.

Worst Backed: Underworld Ascendant

Sigh.

I think the biggest issue here is one of expectations vs. reality. I don’t feel that they were unwarranted expectations, though. This is from some of the minds behind the original Ultima Underworld series (to which this is a spiritual successor), behind System Shock. Thief.

I would struggle to go all the way to saying Underworld Ascendant is bad, at least not if you can get around all the crash bugs. But it is aggressively mediocre in everything it does.

Still… At least it came out?

Least Likely to Ever Release: The Mandate

It was to be a SciFi RPG. In Spaaaaaaaaaaaace. There was a combat focus to it, you were to be able to upgrade and replace your ship like you might expect in a title of its sort. Space station building was to be in like the X series. There was also to be a heavy crew-focused element to it.

In some ways, I imagine the concept of the game to be similar to what Star Traders: Frontiers has given us, but in a 3D format. (As a side note, Star Traders is fantastic with a pretty impressive rate to updates.)

But uh… The last update was April 2017, talking to the reduction in team down to just a ‘core’. It was still set to continue, but the surveys at the time were very focused around concept simplification — to such a degree that the resemblance to the original concept was becoming minimal.

I no longer expect to see anything from this project, but if anything does come of it — it likely won’t be the original idea we bought into. And this should serve as a timely reminder to all that Kickstarter (and similar) is not a pre-order service.

Latest Backed: Ashes of Creation

I backed this one May 2017, and I remember clearly thinking I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. MMO projects in particular have burnt me in the past. But even so, I liked the ideas they seemed to be chasing.

Ideas around a dynamic world, impacted by players and where/how they chose to build up. They wanted to drive an economy where trade and transport were real considerations.

So far I’ve not seen anything particularly promising. They’ve worked on a battle royale I suppose as a test of the technology and classes.

It may one day come to something, but I’ve well and truly learnt my lesson where new MMOs are concerned. Wait and see, and seeing is believing. Just don’t get invested until that’s possible. ;)

Quitting WoW

Alright, so quitting something I’m not currently doing would be quite the feat. One I’m probably not capable of. But nevermind that, Kaylriene has posted providing a view of the ‘types’ of quitting he has seen. I read through the anecdotes provided and found I didn’t quite fit into any of those categories.

And I’ve quit WoW many times. A few of them I even believed I’d quit permanently.1 I don’t ever really believe that any more. I’m always open to the possibility of rejoining the fold for the next expansion, even if nothing about it grabs me right up until the eve of it’s launch.

But I also make no assumptions any longer than I will be back. It’s not a given. I might be done for good.

The Variety Player

WoW isn’t really a part of my identity. Nor even my identity as a gamer. In the past that might’ve been perhaps more up for debate, as I did run a WoW-centric blog for some time after all. What I mean though, is that I identify as a gamer first and a WoW-gamer second.

I had friends and know of people even now who play WoW exclusively to such an extent, that if you removed WoW from them, they wouldn’t look for a substitute or have any interest in any other title. That would be it.

I’m so far from that on the spectrum that I have trouble understanding that point of view. I can’t relate to it at all. That’s not to say by any stretch I think it invalid or ‘wrong’. It just isn’t for me.

That I thrive on variety is how I typically choose to interpret this. A less charitable interpretation might be that I lack focus or stickability. ;) The only time I’ve stayed with WoW from launch-to-launch is over Wrath of the Lich King. It was actually a bit longer than that even, covering the end of Burning Crusade and the beginning of Cataclysm.

More typically I would come in for the start of an expansion and then again at the end as a precursor for the next expansion. I have a guild that follows a similar pattern actually, so it works well for me. We will typically run through up to Heroic completion of the first tier raid to achieve ‘Ahead of the Curve’. Whether we stick around for the next tier typically depends on the delay.

When we come back it’s in a trickle, drips and drabs up until the actual launch of the next expansion and then we’re back in force. I like catching up before then on the raid content I missed via LFR and otherwise ‘getting ready’. Just how extensive that ‘getting ready’ is of course depending on how much time my renewed interest has given me.

For Legion I came back with enough time to finish up the Argus storyline and grind out (ugh) the dailies required for the rep for both of the alliance side allied races and unlock flying. Other times it’s just setting up UI again the night before.

Tolerance to Grind

…Is for the most part gone. I would generally far rather go play something else (including non-MMO’s) than stick around and chase whatever the carrot of the moment is. In part this is down to knowing that the grind in question, whatever it is, will almost inevitably be made easier down the line. I’m happy to chase gear, I’m happy to chase raid completion, but rep? Nooo thank-you.

During Wrath I gained a fair amount of enjoyment out of playing the Auction House. One of my main drivers for leveling alts was to get crafting of every kind up. Hah. I would then buy mats to resell as finished product and this was awesome.

The removal of leather patches, tailored patches, much of the value in jewel crafting etc was a major blow to the longevity of the game for me. I miss it greatly.

In any case, I guess I’ve become a WoW Tourist now. Not the classical definition of such, where WoW people went into and annoyed the denizens of other MMOs. More that I come in to a new expansion, see the sites, smell the roses, sample the goods (up to and including the raids, at least first tier) and then swan on out again. ;)

Chasing Truck Fever Part 3: Spend Less, Earn More

This is part of a series in Transport Fever to chase down the ‘Truck Fever’ achievement. Detailed first in Part 1, including a little setup on Calvin and Asher, who will be used as sort of a light story telling element alongside the game.

Setting up had been expensive. It was true you had to spend money to make money, but even Calvin began to realise that leaving not much more than a fart in the wind of their starting funds for operating expenses was perhaps… not entirely wise.

He had no interest in drawing down another loan, trading on his father’s name, but had allowed Asher to draw up the documents even so. It provided the fellow with a little peace of mind, so was worth the irritation. The hope was that in a few months the document could be ripped up.

And for a while, things were good. There was a celebratory round of drinks held as the loan contracts were torn and sent sprinkling out onto the street like confetti.

But perhaps this celebration was premature. As the wagons they owned aged, and horses died and needed replacing at ever increasing rates — the operating costs began to soar, while the income remained steady given the decision to hold off on capital expenses while a financial buffer was built.

It became clear to Calvin and Asher that it would be necessary to start a programme of work to replace the current fleet just to maintain position. After a quick discussion with the local banking office — there was some good news at least. They were prepared to tolerate a small degree of running in the red for operating expenses. Nothing could be purchased mind you without a positive balance, but there was a gentleman’s agreement in place not to come in pursuit of their assets for slight dips.

But otherwise, from there began a series of frustrations and pain. After a flurry of initial replacements — which did drop operating costs for a time — a significant advancement in how these cargo wagons are put together released to market. They could hold more AND travel faster. They required a larger horse team and so cost more to operate, but the speed and cargo increase more than made up for this expense.

Except… It didn’t. The problem was in sharing the road with the older wagons. There was no room to safely pass with the heavy stream of traffic in both directions. And so they were more often that not stuck riding at the heals of a slower traveler.

Asher tried hard to keep his worries to himself, but wore an unconscious frown more often than not. Calvin spent most nights in the bar nursing a drink. They both knew what they had to do, but struggled to put it to words.

Without additional capital, sure, they could keep this business going — but growth…? It seems they had failed at both aspects of the current plan. They were spending just as much if not more to keep the fleet up to date and running smoothly, and not earning more in turn.

Calvin downed his now mostly warm beer in a single chug and got up to leave. He wasn’t happy, per se, but at least with the decision made he could feel more resolute. Tomorrow he and Asher would take another loan and expand their area of control with all modern technology. Ideally on the power of his own name. But he had decided he would draw in his father’s if necessary.

Living a Day Ahead

You ever have those weeks where you are constantly in a state of belief that you’re a day ahead of where you actually are? Where every individual day seems so long, that surely by now multiple have passed?

Yep… One of those weeks. Exciting times, but incredibly busy. My place of work is undergoing one of our relatively common restructures and rounds of redundancies. This time? I opted out. I chose voluntary redundancy in order to take a look at what else is out there, beyond the industry where to date I have spent the vast majority of my working life. Also, it will preserve a slot for someone else to stay.

But there is no hitting the exit lounge quite yet. You see, I also have a team where there is unavoidable downsizing to occur, even with me jumping out. So it has been a week of interviews, HR attended sessions, consultation packs and team redesign. Tomorrow this all comes to a head with a session with all the leads to see what trading of people may occur to preserve as many roles as possible, which I’ll still be involved with to advocate for my people.

So, there hasn’t been a great deal of gaming this month! I’m trying to convince myself that I’m looking forward to the raid going live for The Division 2 tomorrow, but I’m not positive that I am.

It’s hard to tell whether it is just life events or a general level of disinterest in The Division 2, or a combination of both. All are entirely possible answers. The trailer doesn’t show a lot beyond a brief glimpse at the setting, there is no indication as to the degree of mechanical challenge in boss fights that we might be expected to challenge.

Tomorrow being Friday here1 When Friday rolls around, I’ll no doubt jump in for the run at the raid regardless, so it’s entirely possible the excitement will be more present in the moment.

I’ll let you know. ;)

In the meantime, not dead! Just long hours at work for a bit while I get this sorted. I’ll be around til late-ish June in the job to aid the transition with whomever we raise into my role, but I expect the current level of madness to end sooner than that when the worst of the reshuffling and planning has been completed (later this week, early next).

Chasing Truck Fever Part 2: Permit to Roll

This is part of a series in Transport Fever to chase down the ‘Truck Fever’ achievement. Detailed first in Part 1, including a little setup on Calvin and Asher, who will be used as sort of a light story telling element alongside the game.

Calvin blew out an exasperated breath, stepping out from the bureaucratic prison that was the permit office. The sun rode much higher in the sky than it had when he entered that morning. Midday at least. So not years of his life lost after all. Just several hours. Asher emerged next and blew a near identical sigh. “I’m not entirely sure, Sir, whether our ordeal at sea or our ordeal in there,” Asher said with a nod back toward the ornate wooden doors, “was worse.”

A slight pause in Calvin’s step was the only sign, but Asher caught it. He opened his mouth to apologise but Calvin turned first, and with a tight smile said, “The sea. Definitely the sea. As odious as being in there was, I at least knew we would leave alive.” Calvin’s smile grew broader and a little more genuine, “I was pretty sure, at least.”

The pair walked back through the streets of Long Beach to where they had setup shop. A small office above the general goods store. Apparently Long Beach was a big town so far as this frontier land, but it was hard to avoid drawing comparisons to back home. There were almost no horse drawn carts. Porters at best had hand-wagons. Armed with the sheath of papers obtained from the permit office and a modest capital investment from Calvin’s father — it was time to get to work, building a logistics network the likes of this country had never seen.

Probably worth noting…

Time in Transport Fever is a little… odd. It’s not uncommon by any means for the genre, but time runs significantly faster than the actual distances traveled would indicate. From a story perspective, I’ll probably consider ~10 years game time to be ~1 year of passed time for the characters… Somehow. We’ll see how it goes. ;)

It was time to order construction of a vehicle depot and a few freight stations. However this didn’t completely go without incident. Asher thought it best to spend minimally and construct the passenger depot at the edge of town, with stagecoach stops in the town to cart people back and forth.

Calvin wanted to place the passenger depot in the town centre. Become part of the hustle and bustle. Sure it meant paying through the nose to take over a couple of properties, but one day that would pay back.

The conversation grew heated, but ultimately Calvin won. They called it a compromise through placing the freight depots on the edge of town in uncontested land. But the passenger depots were placed right in the middle, and Calvin wore the smile.

Then it was a matter of getting the oil line up and running. Something like this:

With the infrastructure in place and the plans drawn up for the routes. There was just one thing left to put in place.

Lots and lots of horses — pulling a variety of passenger carriages and freight wagons.

The company bank account at the end of the (game 10) year period was a meagre $17.5k, down from their starting pool of $1.2m.

It seemed to paint a poor picture. It certainly worried Asher to no end to not to have a healthier amount left over for operating expenses. Capital expenditure was all good and well, but one poor year or unexpected need for replacements could destroy them.

Calvin understood he was driving them close to the wire, but there was still demand taking far too long to fill. The balance sheets with capital expenditure removed were positive and that was good enough for him. He was beyond loathe to admit it, but in the back Calvin’s mind was always the knowledge that he could trade on his father’s name for a significant degree of local investment in the way of loans if it really came to it.

He would rather walk backwards, barefoot over coals than to do so. But it was an option. Still, it was clearly weighing on his friend. … Huh. Friend. The thought still took him by surprise at times. Asher was currently looking down at the maps in their office with the frown that had become his constant companion.

“Look Asher,” Calvin started, “We’ll slow down our rate of purchase of more horse teams. Build a bit of a buffer in our books again. But soon after,” he paused with a gleam entering his eye, “We should look to extend our reach to another town.”

Nostalgia and Moving On

Sometimes I feel a bit… Old. Especially when I make realisations like this one: I could probably wax nostalgic about waxing nostalgic. Not quite what we’re here for today though. Isey started a conversation, wondering why nostalgia works. He reaches a conclusion in his post that it might be to do with taking a snapshot in time and freezing it as a memento of the surrounding life conditions and the feelings they evoke.

There is a recognition that we can’t — in most respects — freeze time. But in the context of games and the likes of Project 99 to a greater or lesser extent, you actually can. Here, we might be able to take some control. It’s worth taking a look at the Isey’s whole post for additional context, too.

Asheron’s Call. My own usual trip down MMO-memory lane. (Image Source: Asheron’s Call Archive)

I’m not entirely sure Isey’s conclusion holds true for me. At first, I was sure it didn’t actually. But upon further reflection, there might be an element of this.

Sure, I can recall aspects of my life from the times spent gaming. With some very vivid snapshots in time recalled in short-form but otherwise very complete narrative form even. I remember well my room, it’s layout and contents, the anticipation of the loading/patching ‘tubes’ of loading up Asheron’s Call.

I remember when I had moved out into my first flat and was downloading the Shadowbane beta client (All 600+MB of it) on 28.8k dial-up. And then having it not work. (The Shadowbane beta was very rough.)

These experiences were objectively bad. Long waits. Things not working. Yet even though this is something I recognise looking back at those times now? Yeah, I remember them fondly. In a sort of, ‘I was there’ and ‘Look how far we’ve come’ type way. More about the ‘cred’ of being there ‘back in the day’ than anything else, I think.

But that’s the experiences surrounding the games.

What About the Nostalgia in Actually Playing?

One principle of nostalgia that typically holds true for me is that I need to have experienced the specific ‘thing’ (TV show, game, movie, whatever it is) when it was current.

I get essentially nil nostalgic value out of experiencing something from the same timeframe, even if it is almost identical in look, execution and general approach to something else I did experience at the time.

A good example of this is the ol’ Sierra adventure games. I played and loved the ever-loving heck out of the Quest for Glory series.1 There was a time when I was playing through these every year or two. Yet I never played the King’s Quest or Space Quest games when they were current. I once thought to try them out but I bounced off them almost immediately. My love for QFG remained untarnished, but there was no getting on board with KQ and SQ.

The same holds true of MMOs. You couldn’t pay me enough to spend any serious time in Project 99 from all I’ve heard. Two weeks on a single camp? Level percentages in measured in turn by their own percentages? *Gack*

In an alternate timeline where I played EQ instead of Asheron’s Call though I could imagine being all over it. Or at least… I would love to have the option to be all over it. To know it still existed and that I could jump in at any time and revisit the world I’d known.

“…a stroll around the old neighborhood is plenty. It’s like stopping off in the village where I grew up. Sometimes I do that, when I pass by on my way to somewhere else. Take a wander round, see what’s changed. What hasn’t. Yet. Then back in the car and move on.”

Bhagpuss (2019), Two Weeks in Another Camp: Everquest (Inventory Full)

Bhagpuss nailed it for me with this. Although the gaming equivalent might be weeks or a month — this was how I was treating Asheron’s Call before it’s shut down at the start of 2017. It was a place to visit, look around, remember the history fondly. Play a little. Smile. Move on.

Pushing into the DLC of Odyssey

Since last time, I rose to the top of the Mercenary food-chain. … Or so I thought. And more importantly, the Cult of Kosmos is no more. I will admit too, that I was legitimately surprised at how that whole saga played out. Even after collecting the majority of the clues, I still hadn’t suspected the person it ultimately turned out to be.

With those things done, I would consider all the main threads of the base game to be completed. There are dozens upon dozens of hours worth of additional side quest content available, but this is certainly more of a mixed bag when it comes to quality. I’ve done a fair share of it in my adventures throughout the ancient isles of Greece, but I have no real interest in actively pursuing the rest of it.

What I have been interested in, is finally getting to sink my teeth into the DLC. Technically I could have done it earlier. The game doesn’t require you to finish every (or really, any) thread of the main game to start. But without spoiling anything I can say that the story it presents makes a lot more sense should you wait.

Wait. Did I step back into The Witcher 3?

I was mostly excited by the prospect of digging into the game’s second major set of DLC, Fate of Atlantis.1 I was a bit more curious on the curious side about how I would find having to go through the first set of DLC, Legacy of the First Blade.2 It didn’t review very strongly at all.

I’ve avoided digging too deeply into said reviews for worry of spoilers, but from the few I did — the main complaint seemed to centre around Legacy using existing areas on the map to tell it’s story. I can kinda see this. If you had been waiting and waiting for this DLC to come, and had been exploring the map to extract every ounce of questly-value you could, and then received the DLC and it didn’t take you anywhere new… Sure.

A moment of quiet reflection on action and consequence.

That isn’t my situation though. I had it ready in full the moment I was ready for it. The area it covers was still largely new to me as the main story chain only ever briefly takes you there. So I was impressed. I’ve only completed Chapter 1 (of 3) so far. So to be sure there is certainly time for it to change my mind. But I really enjoy the story it has started to tell. I really enjoy the extension to the gameplay it offers.

Legacy of the First Blade is telling a bit of a darker story so far. I haven’t yet come to the point of controversy either. (Note: Clicking through to that will spoil the end of Chapter 2.)

I have to be honest and say that without the coverage of the issue, I probably wouldn’t even have thought twice about it on my own with the perspective through which I’m playing. Nonetheless, I applaud Ubisoft’s response to the criticism they received. It was a heck of a lot more than I expected.

I’ve had way less gaming (or writing) time this week. Seems to be a bit of a theme at beginning of each month actually, although I couldn’t tell you why. In any case, I’m OK with pacing the remaining content I have with Odyssey out a wee bit.

The first chapter of The Fate of Atlantis is out, but there is a 6 week delay between releases of the remaining chapters and I far prefer being able to binge my content, or at least have the option of setting my own pace. :)