Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Screenshot: Why are you in my bed?

 Months later and I still don't know why this guy is in the bed on my ship in Starfield.

A screenshot of an NPC in a spaceship bed in the game Starfield
Who are you!?

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

I'll be in my canoe

nothern tier scouting america
Northern Tier

 I am off to Northern Tier with my son's Boy Scout Troop.  We'll be spending a week on the water canoeing the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada.  I've scheduled some simple posts to go out on the blog while I am away so enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2024

Fishing Russian Style

 As I dabble around games and completely avoid my Steam backlog I decided to give Russian Fishing 4 a try.  What I found was a deep and complex fishing game.

A screenshot of a fish in Russian Fishing 4

 First, I will admit the fish species and baits are foreign to me as an angler who fishes in the USA.  That does not, however, change the feeling of seeing a fishing pole bend over when a fish is hooked or the relief when the fish lands in your hands.

 My other most recent fishing game experience was with Call of the Wild: the Angler which is much more on the arcade end of the fishing simulation.  In comparison Russian Fishing 4 is much more on the realistic simulation side.

 This more realistic approach is evident from the moment I stepped into the tutorial.  I started with a "cane pole" (fishing line attached to a pole; no reel) and did some float fishing.  The game offers no strike or other indication of a fish.  I was required to watch the float and set the hook when the fish ran off with the bait pulling the float with it.

 The tutorial also goes through fishing with a spinning reel which works without indicator aside from poles pending and fishing line moving.  This is about as realistic as a video game could get aside from having a rumble feature of some sort to give haptic feedback to me as a player.

 I liked this approach more than I do the arcade model of CotW:Angler.  There is also many other "real fishing" features that I liked about my first couple of hours in Russian Fishing 4.  I can place my fishing rods on the ground so I can have one out with bait and use the other for active casting with lures.  Its quite fun to juggle putting down one reel to scramble and get the other one.  Funny as well when you wander a bit far and forget about the rod you set down entirely.

 Underneath the fishing is also a deep and complex progression system.  There are skills for everything from creating your own baits to all the aspects of fishing (cast distance, cast accuracy, retrieval, etc).  I barely scratched the surface so far but it hits that part of your brain where you are always saying "one more cast... one more fish" before realizing its 2 AM and you need to go to sleep.

 The game is free to play but has some form of pass you can buy which looks to expedite progression, but I've not felt compelled so far to buy in.  The free experience scratches that realistic fishing sim itch pretty good.  I'd love a version of this that is more USA focused and it's possible later maps I can get onto have USA waters and fish species, but at the end of the day a fish is a fish is a fish and they are fun to catch anywhere in the world.


A screenshot from the game Russian Fishing 4
Decent enough looking water and maps

A screenshot from the game Russian Fishing 4
Fish on!

A screenshot from the game Russian Fishing 4
One rod float fishing (left) and active fishing right next to it.  A cool mechanic many other fishing games don't offer!

Friday, June 21, 2024

Once Human's Seasonal Resets

 One aspect of Once Human that intrigues me is their plan for seasonal resets.  Every six weeks the world will rest and a new chapter of the story will be revealed.  Along with it characters will start fresh for that new season.  I think this is an interesting model so wanted to share some more thoughts on it.

 First, a summary of what a season is in Once Human 

 In Once Human, seasons will introduce fresh gameplay experiences within a fixed timeframe, featuring new stories, events, and mechanics. Each season is divided into stages with unique challenges and objectives. Players start anew at the beginning of every season, but can carry over certain progress and items to the next season.

 The best comparison I can make is to Crowfall where campaigns came and went and players extracted materials from the campaign to use with their "crow" (character) in the next campaign.  Crowfall also had Eternal Kingdoms that were persistent hubs for players to build up as a more permanent hold.  Once Human is planning a similar feature with Eternaland.

Eternaland serves as a personal "bubble world" for each player that persists between seasons, allowing them to build and keep structures across resets
 This model looks to keep things fresh for players and help avoid power creep in the long run as players are brought back to level playing field regularly.  However it is at the cost of persistence so Eternaland makes sense.  To note; as far as I could tell Eternaland was not available in the demo and its not clear we have any players that can share hands on experience with it.

 Personally what I enjoyed most about the Once Human demo was the core loop of clearing enemy camps, gathering stuff, and coming back to build up the base.  The story helps as it drove me to explore more of the world and thus find more camps to clear/loot. 

 That sort of gameplay loop would eventually run out of steam if the base and my character and base persisted forever.  The season resetting and having me start fresh will keep me in that loop longer.  Now it is yet to be seen if that will be enjoyable to start over as the fine details of what carries over or does not carry over is to be seen, but I like the idea.

 I can also liken the experience to my experiences in New World; specifically server merge days.  While it wasn't cool to think less players over all were playing the game (hence server merges) it was actually a neat experience those first few days after server merge.  The somewhat stale cycle of your server was turned over and new faces/enemies/friends/etc came available.  Everything felt good for a couple weeks before thing settled in again.  

 I don't think it's wrong to think Once Human's resets will create that same sort of "server merge day" feeling.  Six weeks also feels long enough to be useful for progression but not long enough to feel like you've lost everything because of a reset.  It will likely feel weird for players that start playing right around a season ending but there is always a feeling of "I need to catch up" when you join a game past its launch.

 I will hold my final verdict until I get to move through a reset, but I think its a neat way to keep the game fresh.  I am also interested in Eternaland and what it will offer for players to have a sense of persistent progression outside of the seasons.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Not Pax Dei's Day

 Pax Dei launched into early access with a whimper.  Reviews are mixed and the Steam charts are mediocre compared to other meteoric early access releases this year.  Content creator reactions are tepid.  Jay Oddity summed it up best in his first impressions video when he commented that the game is like a sandbox without any toys.

Steam charts for the early access launch of Pax Dei
Not bad.  Not good.  Pax Dei hitting 11,531 peak concurrent players in a year where we've seen multiple games in the survival/crafting genre hit 100,000+.

 This wasn't too unexpected.  My own feedback after the last alpha test was that there wasn't much to the game other than long crafting grinds and combat so bad you may as well not call it a combat system.  In more recent comments on Blue Sky I mentioned the game had at most a week of content (maybe more since they stuck with the time gated crafting progression from the last alpha).

 I don't want the game to fail.  I want an MMO at some point that does the things that Pax Dei says it will do.  I am also a supporter of games coming to early access as I'd rather play a game and see it evolve than to not be playing.  However, you have to have more than an barren sandbox as Pax Dei does currently.

 For what it's worth; I have no intent to play Pax Dei at this point.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Throne & Liberty Global Release!

 I picked up on the news for Throne & Liberty's global release plan via Mr O on Youtube.  The announcement comes with a new trailer.  The game launches on September 17th with a beta in July.

 I am looking forward to giving the game a try as it looks to have a complex and in depth end game system that has lots of different PvP options.  Also based on updates to the Korean version it sounds like they are working to make the game more friendly to solo / small group players vs the original version in Korea which has been dominated by large guilds.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Where I'm At With New World

New World Aeternum

 After reading Massively OPs article, Massively Overthinking: The New World Aeternum debacle, I wrote a long comment I wanted to capture on my blog as well.  It really captures where I am at with the whole situation and I'd prefer to spend no more energy on the topic for now.

As one of the louder New World fanboys who was devastated by this turn of events I have come around to this take on the situation: they screwed up communication but this is actually the right step for the game.

Out of all the MMORPGs I’ve played (which is practically all of them in the last 30 years) New World is one of the few that I feel makes sense on console. It’s action combat system fits consoles and that action combat extends to the rest of the game where you spend a lot of time involved with the game world and not a bunch of time with UIs like many MMOs.

So I think console was the right direction and having cross play and shared servers between PC and console was the right move. Also since AGS has shown a higher-than-normal focus towards MMORPGs (regardless of this recent genre twisting) and is working on other MMOs then I want them improving the base line tech for future games.

I also think there is some good content coming. The lawless PvP zone, raid, cross server arenas (my key item), sharding (assumed larger server sizes), and gear score increase to 725. All things the community has been begging for. Did they hit everything the community wanted? No, but that is still a fair shake of items.

The only issue with it is the wait time and AGS needs to improve their speed of delivery. I am hoping with the console transition done they go full bore on content delivery. I really think the game has a second wind coming and we’ll be talking about it at it’s 10 year mark similar to how we’ve seen GW2 and ESO both ascend post initial declines.

With that said they absolutely cannot f-up communication like this again. I was a huge “trust but verify” player before this and now I’m “zero trust”.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Screenshot Monday: Mountain Temple in New World

 I was out and about in New World's Ebonscale Reach zone when I caught a chance to grab a screenshot of one of the temple's on the nearby mountain top.  Regardless of all the doom around New World right now it never fails to disappoint in the visuals.

A screenshot of a mountain temple in the game New World's Ebonscale Reach zone


Friday, June 14, 2024

Once Human: I'm Addicted

heart Once Human

 I love Once Human and cannot get enough of the current demo even though I know all of my progress is for nothing when the demo closes down in a few days.  I'm hooked!  Some more screenshots and commentary from this morning's adventure.  

 One new thing I unlocked was gardening which includes in-ground gardens, raised garden beds, and a composting system.  The composting system was key because I also learned that all the food I cooked has now gone spoiled.  Apparently you need to build a refrigerator and place the food there to keep it fresh (or craft dried foods that last longer before spoiling).  I was able to turn 100+ spoiled food into compost which any gardener knows is "black gold" for plants.  Adding the compost to my growing plants let them grow faster.

 Continuing with the theme of the game dripping out surprises I met a new character in the story quest named T-Man who had a television as a head.  That is on point for a game where many characters have various real world objects as an appendage.

 I also got quite a surprise with what I thought was a routine "go and get this item" quest when after interacting with the "item" I ended up teleporting into a rift zone of some sort.  I had to battle tangled giant roots before I faced off with a big boss.  This was honestly the first challenging fight I've encountered in the game.  I ended up having to cheese it a bit by standing behind a rock that it couldn't figure out away to attack me behind.  

 As noted in my other post they need to make the enemies smarter so their difficulty can shine through.  Other than cheesing behind the rock the fight was really cool and full of mechanics.

A screenshot from the game Once Human showing T-Man
T-Man my good friend; what's on tonight?

A screenshot from the game Once Human
I probably shouldn't have touched this.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Teleported to a rift zone of some sort.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
A new deviation.  This one goes out and collects ore for me. Note it get's bonuses from me having a radio playing music in my base as well as being next to a furnace giving it warmth.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Gardening in real life is one of my favorite hobbies alongside gaming so I LOVE being able to garden in games as well!


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Once Human is a multiplayer survival game with a Stranger Things vibe

Once Human

 With the dark days of New World upon us and Elder Scrolls Online not cutting it I was on the search for newer games to give a try.  I had caught bits and pieces of Once Human in various places, but did not realize it was so close to release.  To my surprise there was a demo available.  One download later I was in and enjoying a new game!  Hours later I think I'm hooked!

 Once Human is a looter shooter survival crafting builder sandbox massively online game with a theme that is hard to explain.  Players play as a "mayfly" that has some connection to some alternate realm (maybe time travel?) and go around the world fighting sci-fi zombie-like creatures.  Simpler: it's a multiplayer survival game with a Stranger Things vibe.

A screenshot of a player created in Once Human
The character creator offers a lot of options; heart face tattoos included!

 The introduction to the game walks the player through some background about being a mayfly and having access to what are called deviations.  Deviations are best compared to Pokemon.  When a player encounters one you have a % chance of capturing it.  Once captured players can stick it in their backpack containment unit and use it in combat (though later on there are some that I've found that are more general purpose; like a balloon animal dog that generates balloons for crafting).

A screenshot showing a deviation from the game Once Human
The starting deviation

 Along with the deviations the player also gets access to an arsenal of modern day weapons and armor.  My favorite weapon set up far has been using a crossbow for ranged fights and a machete and shotgun for up close and personal encounters.  Of course all the weapon and armor can be crafted, upgraded, and eventually recycled.

 The tutorial progresses through the survival game staples: build a camp, chop down trees, break up rocks, and do a little starter crafting.  The tutorial then culminates in a big boss fight and when I say big I mean BIG.  A giant shadow creature with what looks like an embedded cell phone tower attacks the tutorial base with waves of creatures.  The base has functional defense systems that start mowing down the creatures while the player takes on the big boss.  Thematically amazing but mechanically easy.


A screenshot from the game Once Human showing a big tower boss
The tutorial boss is a giant tower creature!

 Past the tutorial the player is left to venture the world.  The game has a clever journey system that sets out a series of tasks that help the player learn the game.  It also gives step by step instructions on how to complete each step.  For example; "train this skill", then open this menu and press K, then do this specific action.  It is a simple idea and well done.  I found myself using it regularly to find things to do.

 There is also a story quest to follow which takes the player around the world.  I didn't want to go too far into the story since this was a demo period.  So far the story was nothing amazing but so far has been fully voice acted which is nice and each segment doesn't overstay it's welcome.

 Like other survival games one of the main objectives is to build a base and upgrade it so once I was past the initial story quest I got busy chopping down trees, breaking up rocks, and collecting material.  I started my base at the top of a hill but soon realized that limited expansion.  Fortunately the game makes it easy to move your entire base; just open up the build mode, press Z, and plop it down anywhere you want.  I ended up selecting a nice and flat roadside location.

 I got to crafting all the various crafting work benches and followed the various journey steps to unlock different aspects of crafting and upgrading.  One of the neat items that can be built is a containment vessel for the deviations that are collected through your journeys.  Once contained they seem to do various things.  One deviation which was literally a balloon animal dog that once in the unit started generating balloons as a crafting material.  Another deviation was an electric eel (which I got from fishing) that can supplement my base's power supply (I don't have electricity generation yet).


A screenshot from Once Human showing crafting work stations
Crafting and refining work stations

 My upgrade spree brought to me the garage option which caught me by surprise as I did not realize the game has vehicles.  A little digging around  I found a quest I needed to complete to get my starting motorcycle and voila there was a motorcycle in my garage in my base!

 Riding around on the motorcycle I ended up at the game's first dungeon.  This was a single boss fight, but it featured some cool mechanics including at one point picking up the minigun that the boss was holding. There are other temporarily usable items that enemies drop in the rest of the game as well.

A screenshot showing a player using the minigun in Once Human on the first rift boss
A satisfying brrrrrt!  Giving back to the boss with it's own weapon!

 There are also some bosses scattered across the open world as well and right when I didn't think the game had any more surprises I ran into a mutant bus creature that you can jump inside and catch a ridge to it's next destination.  I have no idea the purpose of this thing but it was pretty cool to run into.

A screenshot from the game Once Human showing the motorcylce and mutant bus monster
Vrrrrrroooommmm! (and the mutant bus)

 And that is really what I liked most about Once Human.  It surprised me around every corner.  Whether it was the mutant bus, getting my motorcycle, finding out I could relocate my entire base in one step, or the time my base was invaded because I started up a stardust converter thingy the game just keeps dripping interesting things into the players path.

 Will that drip drip drip last across the entire game?  Based on the demo I can't answer that but so far several hours in the drips haven't stopped and have kept me going.  I honestly can't say how cool I found the mutant bus thing (it also had a chest to loot inside).  I've not had a new game hook me like this since New World's preview beta.


A screenshot of the map inside the game Once Human
Even the map is well done and thought out.

 There is still work needed to make the game better.  I found the PvE way too easy and from reading other testers comments the content was harder in past beta tests but then simplified. At no point in the demo, even fighting these towering bosses, did I feel at risk.  I also took on the "recommend bringing friends" dungeons with ease as a solo player.  Don't get me wrong, I like to play solo, but this is too easy.

 Weapon balance also needs a pass.  I was excited to get my first guns, a shotgun and an SMG, only to find out they were far less powerful than the crossbow I got in the tutorial.  Balance between weapons is a key progression for survival games so if unlocking and crafting new weapons just leaves me wanting to use my old weapon then the progression can fall flat.  With that said I barely scratched weapon crafting in the demo so this may not be an issue later on.

 Building your base also has some quirks.  I kept getting an error about being too close to a stronghold but only when trying to place a specific triangle wall piece.  Placing a square wall worked fine.  Also sometimes structures don't snap together and it's not clear why.   I had to give up building a fence around my base.  Also when placing your territory it does not indicate to you in anyway what part of that land is not buildable.  I only found out after placing my base down that I couldn't build on the nice flat road area.

A base in the game Once Human
My roadside base after a few hours of effort.

 Performance was good but could be better.  I did play on the highest settings (AMD 5800x3D CPU / Radeon 7900XT GPU) and average FPS was 233.  Boss fights though dipped to low FPS and from time to time I would get a freeze or stutter.

 Visually the game looks great and I really enjoy the apocalyptic world feel and exploring ruined buildings.  The game has a sixth sense ability where when you press Q it highlights objects in the world you can interact with.  This was a nice feature saving a lot of time going bucket to box to can to see what could be picked up.

 Over all I was really impressed with the game.  Everything I mentioned was all done in a shared game world inhabited by other players that were also building bases next to me and we passed each other going here and there.  The game launches in July and since New World's next update is not until October I can see myself giving this one a spin.

 Some more screenshots:

A screenshot from the game Once Human
The crafting survival game staple: your first camp

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Base #1 on a hill; it didn't work out

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Don't forget your gas to fuel up your motorcycle

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Oh crap!  My base is under attack!

A screenshot from the game Once Human
My stardust converter thingy on the roof is what is attracting the enemy!

A screenshot from the game Once Human
The Journey system not only teaches the game but also rewards the player.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
My balloon animal dog deviation.  It makes balloons (literally).

A screenshot from the game Once Human
The map is very useful and it will give you directions via the roads in game to reach marked destinations.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
The first rift (aka dungeon) entrance.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
Gotta catch em all!  A chance to catch a deviation at the end of the first dungeon.

A screenshot from the game Once Human
A peaceful evening at home.  I really need to get electricity going and some lights!