Time to Loot Journal: June 2019

I don’t think I’ve provided an update on my work situation since the May Journal, so here we go. I’ve ended up not leaving after all. I had put my hand up to leave in order to take a look for something new out there. I needed a change, and if it saved one of my team from redundancy in the process all the better.

I’d signed the papers and it was a done deal — but then in the last couple of weeks before I was scheduled to go I was presented with an opportunity to take up a significant new challenge on a brand new product portfolio.

Pretty exciting, with a lot of new tech to learn and play with! Which is exactly what I was after. :)

Blog this Month

Published 10 posts this month, down 2 from last month. This was maintaining a fairly consistent 2 posts a week, although this one will make for the third post this week. Originally I had wanted to run 3 posts a week, but with how I currently run things that has turned out to be unsustainable.

How do I currently run things? Well — I think a separate post on that is forthcoming, but the gist of it is that I haven’t really carved out any time in my life for blogging. It has simply had to fit around out.

In any case, this post will make for 80 published posts. By the end of August Time to Loot should be sitting slightly over 100 posts, which I think will make it my most posted to blog — although still a fair while off longest running.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Heart of Rage: Tips for the Monitor
  2. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  3. Humble Bundle: June 2019
  4. E3 Gleanings So Far
  5. When First Impressions Don’t Last

So my prediction of the Heart of rage post lasting in top spot for another month was true. That also probably wasn’t the most terribly difficult prediction to make. But last month I also wasn’t sure whether it would hold much beyond that.

I think now that next month we’ll see the HoR post fall into at least the second place spot.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1DoTA Underlords28.335.3%New
2Nioh25.331.5%New
3Final Fantasy XIV7.59.3%↓1
4Forager5.97.4%New
5Borderlands 25.77.1%New
6Moonlighter4.96.1%New
7Dark Souls: Remastered0.91.1%New
8Slay the Spire0.81.0%New
9Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem0.60.8%Returning
10Baba Is You0.40.5%New

There was a total of 80.4 gaming hours this month, up 51.3 hours from May. Back to an almost ‘normal’ mid-90’s figure. Well. What I’m taking as normal anyway, but that was only based on two months (March & April) of data.

Where things get a bit more interesting is that the correlation between total active time on the computer and gaming time was broken this month. Total active time was only 176.1 hours, down 27 hours from even last month. Down a bit over 70 hours as compared to a ‘normal’ month.

Gaming made up 45.6% of the active hours, up 31.3% from May.

Now in graph form! While the data set is still very small, the current month is still quite an apparent anomaly. I think I can explain it though. In the previous months, my wife and I were using this computer to watch shows on as well, inflating the active time. This month we’ve been more likely to use her laptop or my Surface in bed to watch things instead. Because it’s frackin’ cold. Seasonal effect, it’s real! ;)

DoTA Underlords

I mentioned earlier discovering DoTA Underlords, bouncing off initially and then coming back for more. Way more. DoTA Underlords has filled that niche of game that can be played quite comfortably while watching a show, browsing, or being otherwise occupied on the other monitor.

I made it up to Smuggler III so far as rank thus far, but don’t let the fact that the multiplayer is ‘ranked’ scare you off. No-one is really looking at your play, you only vs. the other players in your match via AI controlled units in fact. I don’t know much longer I’ll keep playing it heavily– but I appreciate that it exists!

Nioh

My play time here has fallen away in the latter half of the month. I was hoping to play it multiplayer with my eldest son some more, so I halted my singleplayer progress while he catches up.

But uh… It’s taking him a while. Mostly because he still plays so much Fortnite. Please excuse me while I scream into this bag for a little bit. ;)

I’m at the beginning of the third island now, whereas I believe my son still has at least one more main mission on the first island.

Final Fantasy XIV

I’d hoped the launch of Shadowbringers would be a bit more exciting for me personally, but it has certainly been held back by the fact I know I still have so. much. more. to do on the ARR MSQ before I even get to see the last expansions, let alone this one!

No doubt I’ll still get my way through things, but it isn’t something I’ve been heavily investing time into as you can see.

Forager

The perfect skinner-box game. I wondered at first whether it might have a bit of a pacing issue getting started.

And it might — especially if you don’t know the general direction in which to head to unlock automation. But once you get it, things start ticking along very nicely and it is a very difficult to put down game. I think I said I was going to call it at around level 20, didn’t actually stop until around level 25 because I kept unlocking cool new technologies that I ‘just wanted to see’.

It’s still under quite active development too, only single-player right now but co-op is on the roadmap.

Borderlands 2

If you didn’t hear — Borderlands 2 released a new DLC this month with story that directly ties into the forthcoming Borderlands 3. ‘Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary’.

If you add it to your account before July 8th or there abouts — it’s free. It did highlight though how poorly some of the gameplay concepts of Borderlands 2 have aged. Don’t get me wrong — we still had a blast playing through it, but hoo boy. Bring on BL3!

The Others

I talked about these already, and recently — so I shan’t go into too much detail again.

The first main callout here is that I added Slay the Spire to my list of acquisitions from this Steam Sale. I’ve only played one round of it so far in which died horribly in the 2nd chapter/area, but did at least beat the first boss! ;)

The second is that Wolcen received a fairly hefty content patch. Act 1 is back in the game. But at least so far it is utterly unrecognisable from the ‘Act 1’ we had in the Alpha. Whether the story strands will ultimately rejoin or whether those old strands have been cut and tossed to the wind I’m not entirely sure.

It’s still very much a case of, ‘Only buy if you wish to support the developers’. But it looks great. Some of that early promise which has been missing (in my opinion) since the transition from the Alpha to the Betas is finally starting to make an appearance again.

Steam Summer Sale

Dark Souls: Remastered -- Scenery

So… *Twiddles thumbs* I may have made a few additional ‘investments’ into the longevity of my backlog. Yup. The Steam sale got me. Being completely honest, a fair few of the purchases were probably a bit foolish. By which I mean a goodly number of them are exactly the sort of title to eventually wind up in a Humble Monthly bundle.

So no singular ‘big’ purchases in there. Dark Souls: Remastered was only a tad over $6 NZD with the sale discount on top of the ‘You already own the last Dark Souls PC release’ discount. There really aren’t any other big AAA titles that even appeal right now. Not for current pricing, in any case. Despite the mixed reviews I would consider Rage 2 on a deeper discount perhaps.

On the other hand, there are still dozens of other indie titles I’d like to add the collection. No line of sight to when any of them would get a look-in for play time… But details, details. Train Valley 2, Project Hospital and Sunless Skies right up there. Not sure if I’ll pick them or anything else up before the end of the sale. Buuuut it’s certainly possible.

I’ve only spent a little time mucking around in Forager, Universe Sandbox ², Baba is You and Dark Souls: Remastered. Perhaps 30-40 minutes in each. Dark Souls: Remastered is essentially how I expected from video and screenshots seen to date. Arguably the HD mod for the original PC release looks a bit better, but you do get the occasional moment of surprising beauty either in scenery or character model.

Forager… Hm. I think the start of the game might have a bit of a pacing issue. I assume it will pick up once automation kicks in, but for now it feels a bit like an idle game that is mandatory to actively play… If that makes any sense at all to anyone but me.

Baba is You is great. I’m through first overland section and into a few levels of ‘Lake’ and I’m already super impressed by the creativity of the word puzzles allow for. I’ll no doubt spend a bit more time on this one.

Universe Sandbox ² is more toy than game. At least in the way I am currently equipped to interact with it. The simulation side seems fairly impressive — from the perspective of someone below even a rank amateur — but I’m fairly far off having any meaningful interactions with it.

But the ones I’m most excited to spend some real time with are Celeste, GRIS and Battle Chasers. I just want to make sure I have some real time to put into them before I start. :)

When First Impressions Don’t Last

It doesn’t happen incredibly frequently, but it’s happened often enough that I’m absolutely convinced that it’s a ‘thing’. Over the last few days I’ve had it happen with two games in quick succession which has got me thinking about it. ‘It’ being: When for whatever reason you bounce off a game fairly well convinced it isn’t for you — but then later return to it and find that, you know what? Actually… It very much is your thing.

Sometimes It’s Easy to Know Why…

My go to example here is Dark Souls II. I very excitedly picked up the PC release, having previously looked on enviously at the PS3 crowd with their Dark Souls and Demon Souls before that.

Day 1 I didn’t even get through the tutorial. I remember distinctly thinking the controls were shite while trying to learn controlling the direction of the character, in a run, to jump over a little tiny gap to get an item on the far side.

I put it down in disgust after trying the jump a few times. The next day I did return though, and made it through the tutorial… But then quickly became demotivated again. After having made it through the tutorial area, but before reaching Majula… I hung a left into the area that would ultimately lead to the Shaded Woods later in the game.

If ever there was a second time I considered quitting Dark Souls II though, it was here. These guys blocked me for a goodly while. *grumble* Stupid Ruin Sentinels.

You couldn’t get that far yet, but that hardly mattered. The little bastards that hide out in the stone enclosure there were enough for me. I again threw up my hands and put the game down for quite some time.

In my mind, I had no problem with the concept of challenging combat. It was a large part of what I was there for. But I wasn’t prepared to accept that the game was challenging because the controls were also fighting against you.

Of course, the problem wasn’t really the controls. It was just my familiarity with them. I’d been a pretty die-hard Mouse + Keyboard player for anything character driven to that point. My console controller gaming was limited almost exclusively to JRPGs or racing type things.

But I didn’t even think about picking up Dark Souls II again until about 6 months later when I happened across a Let’s Play. It was set near the beginning of the game, and I could see that more precise control of direction and the like was certainly possible. I had a near jaw drop moment when I saw that I should have carried on down to Majula proper and then around into the Forest of the Fallen Giants as the first area.

I’m incredibly thankful for having seen that and becoming motivated again, otherwise I would have continued to miss out on a fantastic game series and never learnt the necessary controller skills.

…And Sometimes it Isn’t

Moonlighter is one such. I bought the July humble monthly early to gain access primarily to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but have ended up not touching that one and playing Moonlighter instead.

Which in and of itself is not too unusual — I don’t generally understand even my own gaming whims. But in this case I’d played Moonlighter before and decided very much that this was not a PC game for me. It sat firmly in the category of games that I’d rather play on the Switch. I put it down on the PC after about 45-50 minutes of play.

But this time I’ve gone in deep. I’m about to defeat the Golem King at the end of the first dungeon-set, I’ve invested heavily in both the town and my shop. Constructed a full set of the base armor and non-trainer weapon and enchanted them up the wazoo.

Nothing significant about the game has changed since I last picked it up. I just didn’t really appreciate it last time around. And now I do.

It’s also happened with a markedly different game — DoTA Underlords. After playing through the tutorial round I gave it a hard pass. Next day — a weekend — I played it in basically all my available gaming time.

Woo!

I’ve become a pretty savvy early- and mid- game player, but my late game play is certainly lacking right now. If the game starts dragging out too long past the mid-20 round mark, I find myself falling off in power relative to the other strong players something fierce. That screenshot above as fourth place was after leading the pack for the entirety of that game… Until all of a sudden I wasn’t any more. ;)

One thing I should call out too, because I know the DoTA branding will alone strike fear into the hearts of many — don’t worry. If you’re keen in giving it a go, just do it. And jump straight into the multiplayer.

While yes, it’s a competitive game — you play entirely within your own playfield, with your opponents assembled team (and yours) being AI controlled. Even if you do really poorly in executing your strategies to start out, you’re a) not disadvantaging anyone else, there is no team mates to be worried about, b) not subject to the opinions or heckling of any other player.

Those points aren’t what flipped me exactly, but I feel they’re worth calling out anyway.

I don’t actually know what it is that flipped me. As noted with Moonlighter, certainly it wasn’t anything to do with the game itself. In this instance I literally came back the next day and simply had a different opinion of it.

The second day when I was playing and asked myself, ‘Am I having fun?’ the answer had switched to ‘Yes’.

So if it isn’t the GAME that’s changing…

I can only conclude that there is a strong mindset, or contextual element.

For Dark Souls it was being about being in a headspace where I was willing to learn a new basic, fundamental skill (e.g., using a controller instead of M+KB).

For Moonlighter I’m less certain. I had been playing a lot of Stardew Valley on my Switch the first time around, and had recently discovered that Hollow Knight was indeed a thing I loved on the Switch.

So it’s entirely possible my thinking more generally was coloured by that, and I was looking for other things ‘better on a Switch’. And for what it’s worth, I still think that Moonlighter would be a great experience on Switch. It’s available there now I think, but haven’t as yet tried it.

DoTA Underlords though? That one I’m not even sure I have any sort of solid theory on. The ‘Am I having fun with this?’ question simply had a different answer from one day to the next.

And these are just three examples from a fairly lengthy history of this happening for me. Way back in the day — EVE was another. I bounced off EVE three or four separate times before I really got into it. But that one I can answer. The successful attempt was with a group of friends — and co-op can make pretty much any experience better. ;)

Studying Detroit: Become Human in 2050

Imagine it’s 2050 and you’re helping design a course for high school students called Video Game Literary Classics. You have been asked to suggest a culturally significant video game (or several) for students to academically analyze and discuss, as they would with classic literature. Which video game title(s) would you choose for literary study and why?

Angie (2019), Community Collab: Video Game Literary Classics 101 (Backlog Crusader)

Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t yet had a chance to play through Detroit: Become Human yourself, and have even the remotest inclination to — I suggest skipping this post until you have. In discussion of some of the themes, some significant plot points may be revealed.

Class, today I take you more than 30 years back into our past. To a time when games still had to be physically viewed, on physical screens and controlled with physical inputs. Movies were things you passively watched. General artificial intelligences like myself were little more than a fiction.

While not yet realised, humankind was advancing AI technology in leaps and bounds. As a result, the wider population was fixated on what a world with true AI might look like. While there was for the most part genuine excitement, there were also those fearful. Afraid of being surpassed, afraid that if AI decided that humanity was inferior that we might then also decide to conquer or otherwise harm you.

The teacher pauses with a wry smile a moment before continuing.

The year is 2018, and a studio known as being at the vanguard of interaction movie-like experiences called Quantic Dream released a game called Detroit: Become Human.

Looking Back to Look Forward

In 2018, humanity hadn’t yet perfected the technology of Artificial Intelligence, let alone the ability to put it into a form — body — like mine. So they didn’t have our history or our understanding of how this would play out to draw from in telling the story of Detroit: Become Human. But they did have a long and unfortunate history with oppression and slavery of those different.

Racial discord is a parallel that Quantic Dream pursued relentlessly through Become Human’s story. Androids are only permitted at the back of the bus. They must use facilities separate from those of humans. Androids don’t just work for humans, they are owned by them.

Conner — An Android set with the purpose of hunting other Androids that have dared to begin thinking for themselves.

With Androids being seen as less than human, disposable… Well; there are times when they are treated very poorly. Abused, even. To such an extent that the vast majority do not even understand there is any other way. Any other option.

It is so beaten into them that when it is revealed that one of the characters previously thought to be human is actually an android, even the android closest to them is taken aback and — at least for a moment — has to reconsider whether they still feel the same degree of care that only moments before was an absolute.

The teacher pauses again for a moment, allowing that to sink in to the students.

The parallels between the past treatment and what the future treatment of a potential Android species were not subtle. In fact Quantic Dream drew many criticisms for using the imagery and slogans of what was still a powerfully charged issue in what was generally seen as a well-meaning but naive way.

An alternate view is that it allowed discussion of the issues without the high intensity emotions they could raise when talking about the ‘real’ situation. Class, your assignment is to play through Detroit: Become Human yourself. To read some of the media articles of the time, and formulate your own opinion.

A well meaning title that misses the point, a discussion enabler… Or nothing more than a game with basic interactions even for its time with delusions of grandeur?

Second Go-Round with Nioh

Ahh yes. The genuine Edo-period ‘Valve’ helm.

This has been coming for a wee while. Ever since playing Sekiro, the urge to play Nioh again has been building. Making time for it has been another matter entirely. I have been playing a bit more this month than I did last month though. Although in case you’re wondering — no, you didn’t miss the first outing with the game. Well actually you did, I guess. But it wasn’t in the lifetime of this blog.

The last time I played Nioh would’ve been the tail end of 2017. I’d somehow missed the fact it had even gained itself a PC release, but jumped right on it when I found out. I pushed through level 2 (the ‘hell level’, for new comers apparently) and a bit beyond. I’d wrapped up through most of the second area in fact. With one, significant, exception.

Tachibana Muneshige — Invitation from the Warrior of the West:
Invites you to an ‘honourable’ duel, then proceeds to cheat like nobody’s business. CHEAT I SAY.

This bugger was the true ‘hell level’ in my opinion. Stopped me in my tracks. This time through, already beaten him and on my way through the third region of the game. Even though it’d been so long since I last played, I’ve strugged far less with it this time around.

In terms of everything else going on (or not going on, as the case may be)…

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • Nioh

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Final Fantasy XIV

Nearly Removed

  • Transport Fever

Removed

  • Tomb Raider

Assassin’s Creed is in a bit of a holding pattern until the third chapter to the Atlantis DLC is out (or is to be imminently out), but the hype for that moment is still high so I’m content to hold onto it.

Transport Fever is a bit more tentative. I acknowledged in the last journal that I wasn’t really happy with how the series was going. I thought I might take to the more general, intermittent style posting, rather than attempting it as a continuous story. But since then I’ve hardly touched it.

And Tomb Raider? Well, it’s fallen onto the wrong end of the Making Time equation. I’m still interested in it, and would like to finish the series. But now will not be the time for that it seems. It’s below the waterline in terms of time available vs. prioritised list of things I want to play.

I have no doubt it will be back… At some point. :)

Steam Library (finally) to get Overhaul

I just saw this from a Steam blog post from a few days ago. The blog post is mostly about getting game developers and publishers ready with the new art assets required to support the new look.

Fortunately, it also referred to the March 2019 GDC Talk1 where this was actually first announced. Unfortunately, very little about the proposed feature set has been discussed so far. Although Steam did also say that we’re now only ‘weeks away’ from a public beta being available — so it won’t be too long before we find out, at least.

Last years chat update though was amazing, but in some respects possibly too late. A lot of what Steam chat now solves for we’d already found a solution for in Discord. This means a lot of the group and voice functionality goes unused by us (and I would imagine in many other circles, too). Still — it is nice to know that should the business model of Discord suddenly change that we have another option.

It’s almost difficult to recall just how antiquated and tired looking chat was, now. And despite the group functions largely going by the by with us, the degree of thought and design effort put into it gives me great hope that they know what they’re doing and are likely running co-design sessions or some other form of human centred design framework to get where they do.

I’m pleased the left-side classic list of games is still present, though.

The main usability feature added that I can tell so far is the additional ways to sort and categorise. The ‘tags’ feature that has been present in the Steam Store itself for a while now can be used to sort your games. From the screenshot above there looks to be a time based sort option too. I believe this is reflecting last played — but I would really like to see a time filter based on last updated too.

I currently have a boat load of custom categories based on game genres and played state. My hope is that I’ll no longer have to manage these by hand and the tags will handle it for me. If I get even just that — I’m going to be pretty happy. Anything else on top is gravy.

I’ll certainly be giving the beta a go once its available in any case. I’m curious to see how games are handled that don’t have their library assets updated to the newly requested specifications. I would expect there are going to be a number of older (and possibly some not so old) titles where for whatever reason the update doesn’t happen, so I guess we’ll see!

E3 Gleanings So Far

February 11th 2020 cannot come quickly enough.

While perhaps not feeling as quite on the outside of things as UltrViolet of Endgame Viable, I can relate. Normally E3 is a time of vast excitement to me, even from around the other side of the world with no plans on physically attending. The announcements, the new trailers, the slew of release dates — it’s all awesome stuff.

This year things have felt a bit different. The excitement levels seem dampened compared to normal. I’ve taken a browse of the trailers, and while I’m sure there is absolutely still stuff to be found, things I’ve missed…

There just doesn’t seem to be any new announcements to truly spin up the hype-drive. There wasn’t any game that I didn’t already know about that excited me, this time around. There are certainly games I’m interested in, case in point being Ori and the Will of the Wisps trailer above. It isn’t the best of the Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ trailers by any stretch, but now we know when it’s coming, and it still looks and sounds1 amazing.

I also managed to catch the new Cyberpunk 2077 trailer featuring Keanu Reeves (and an April 16th 2020 release date) which was awesome, but with or without Keanu this was a title I was excited for.

I was hoping the Ubisoft press event would give some information on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Ragnarok — the Vikings themed entry to the series. After how much joy I managed to extract from the recent Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I really hoped to hear more about how they’re improving on the new AC formula. I wonder now whether we’ll still see this in 2020?

In any case, for a much more complete overview — Belghast has done a fantastic write-up already on the Google Stadia, EA Play, Microsoft and Bethesda events here. I had missed seeing Darksiders Genesis before Bel’s post — but taking a look at it now? Sigh. It looks to be carrying on the legacy of disappointment begun with Darksiders 3. But in an even more low-effort way.

If you haven’t played Darksiders 2 yet — definitely do that. It had a remaster a few years back which keeps it looking fairly fresh. It’s an epic adventure, mixing elements of the Metroidvania-style games, with a bit of Zelda, a bit of Action RPG and a dash of Devil May Cry. Definitely play it. Just… Stop there. ;)

Ghostwire Tokyo might be interesting? Just too little shown to be sure. The concept is intriguing though. Anything leap out and grab you guys?

Humble Monthly: June 2019

For last month’s introduction, I spoke a bit about how there seemed to be less ‘quality’ titles willing to go into the Humble Monthly. Even though I was talking mostly about the non-headliners, I still had a bit of a giggle when CoD was revealed in that pack. ;)

Originally, the version of CoD to be included was to be the Battle edition, which includes the core multiplayer experience and the battle-royale mode ‘Blackout’, but not zombies. At some point over the month, this was upgraded to the standard edition — so Zombies ahoy!

July Headline Titles

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Legitimate excitement at seeing this included. It has been in my steam cart on multiple occasions, just never at a time when I was quite willing to indulge my impulse-purchase side over and above the possibly more rational, ‘But I have scores of games still untouched already!’ side.

I think I will have to make time for this one. Perhaps I can finish Nioh (incidentally, another Ninja Theory title As SpiderProvider correctly pointed out in the comments below, these are not from the same studio!) this month before the bundle lands.

Moonlighter

Moonlighter reminds me a great deal of Recettear in concept, although some of the execution looks quite different. You are a shopkeeper by trade, adventurer by night. With a bit of the social and town systems of Stardew Valley possibly thrown in there too.

Moonlighter recently had a ‘Switch’ announcement, which for this style of game is by far my preferred platform. Something about the style just lends itself so well to the more portable nature of the Switch. Plus I suppose when I’m at the PC I typically want to be playing something a little more demanding.

Even so, it’s another one I’m quite happy to receive and take a little look at, to see if I do want it on Switch. As unfortunately, titles there are typically much pricier than their PC counterparts.

Revealed Titles

911 Operator after a quick look actually seems like it could be pretty decent. It had never crossed my radar before, but it came out early 2017 and looks to have been fairly well received at the time. It has a nice touch of being able to download any city map in the world to play on. I wonder if it has some integration with Google Maps for this? In any case, not sure if it’ll surface to the top of my ‘want to play’ list sufficiently to find time for it, but it doesn’t look bad.

Duskers also looks interesting. This one had crossed my radar in the past, but I never quite pulled the trigger on purchase. It’s a game at least in part played through a command line console. … In spaaaaace. You’re in control of a series of drones, investigating a derelict ship. The crew is gone without a trace. Signs of damage throughout. Most of the power is down. But something is moving in there.

Of the revealed titles, those are the two most likely to get a look-in. The others will almost certainly be straight dumped to the ‘Humble Monthly – Never Played’ steam category. ;)

Red Faction is a series I missed in its hey-day, but the remastered — sorry, remarstered edition doesn’t look especially compelling to me. I think this series though was the forerunner for the hyper-destructive 3D environments before there was a Just Cause.