The Elephants in the Room: Microtransactions and Mindshare

poeadvert

Four days ago, Path of Exile hypes up the coming 3.0 expansion (due earliest in June/July) and a day later, they post information about the next Legacy League coming in a fortnight that promises nostalgia revisiting old leagues and the faint dangling hope that maybe, just maybe, one will strike it lottery rich and pop a valuable legacy item that cannot ever be obtained by normal means.

They also post on their website Legacy Supporter Pack bundles of $30 and $60 USD to complement the usual $5, $10, $20 for points offerings, and if you were -really- happy, the Atlas of Worlds supporter packs in the $50, $110, $220 and $440 USD ranges have always been available.

Oh, and you can combine microtransaction point purchases within a certain period towards these packs, so if you bought stuff at $20 and$20 before, you just need to top up $10 and qualify for the first tier…

And if you were like me and bought a $50 pack previously, the “Upgrade for $60” button stares at you in the face until you can’t resist clicking it, raking in a bunch of cosmetics for $5 and the 550 points that you wanted in the first place for storage and additional cosmetics and lockboxes.

Oh, and if you don’t believe in transatlantic or transpacific shipping of free advertisement T-shirts, you can have additional points to bling out your digital avatar.

Did I mention that all stash tabs are now on sale for this weekend?

ffadvert

Three days ago, I sit and stare at the Steam store page where they advertise in large colorful banner headlines that Square Enix is having a 75% off sale and that Final Fantasy is celebrating its 30th anniversary with most games at 50% off.

And as much as I really like buying games at only 75% off, for the Final Fantasy series, 50% off is pretty much as low as it’s going to go, barring really aged games and the odd one or two day rock bottom sale offer.

I hem and I haw.

I look up reviews and try to decide between the better of one odd number or another. I’ve lost track of the franchise since playing through three quarters of 7 and a third of 8.

I have the sudden ambitious surge of an urge to attempt a marathon of Final Fantasy all the way from the original and up…

…except Steam doesn’t offer anything lower than 7 in my region, and it may make more sense to buy 6 and under for Android or IOS, since I’m always carrying phone and iPad around these days. Those aren’t on sale yet though.

I also kind of want to see improvements in what’s changed in the newer versions. Maybe I should attempt the marathon in reverse order!

There are THREE Final Fantasy 13s – the hell, that’s expensive, even at 50% off. Reviews for volume 2 are not great, claiming a bad port. Reviews for volume 3 are -very- good, but add that one should actually experience 1 and 2 for the story before playing 3. Reviews for 1 are mixed, some liking it, some disliking the linearity.

Ohh, this is confusing.

Reviews for Final Fantasy 10 are -very- very good. That seems like a good place to start.

Ha, maybe we should do it in descending order starting from 10 then.

But but if I don’t buy 13 now, it will probably be Christmas before it hits 50 or 75% off again…

Oh, what the heck, I haven’t spent anything on games lately. I can afford the equivalent of a collector’s box edition. Final Fantasy games are classics, after all, and offer tons of gameplay.

Long story short, I end up buying everything from FF8 to FF13, without 12 and the MMO in between (11). Local price $71, or $50 USD.

Given how little free time I actually have, this marathon will take me the better part of forever.

pokedex2

Two days ago, a family member interrupts my morning ritual with excited shrieks over unrecognized Pokemon appearing all over the place.

Oh. Looks like Pokemon Go has finally released the anticipated Gen 2 Pokemon.

I grab my own phone, braving the risk of cubital tunnel syndrome (“keep my arm straight” is a thing I chant to myself now) and have an immense amount of fun watching new silhouettes resolve into cute critters I’ve never seen before.

You know me, novelty is a big deal for me.

Overnight, the phenomenon of locals starting to carry their phones in their palms, stop and make odd flicking motions is visible once more. Less than at launch, but still more than previously.

Oh, and Pokemon trainers? Niantic would like you to know that Pokemon storage upgrades are 50% off, so you have enough space to hold all the extra Gen 2 Pokemon, for a mere 100 coins!

*twitches*

I’d bought storage upgrades some time before, in anticipation of the Gen 2 launch, but that was a very long time ago – a month or two – and I’d been taking full advantage of the extra space, packing in Gen 1 Pokemon to the tune of 550 of them until the last Valentine’s festival, which offered double candy to clean out the Pokemon.

Suspecting that this was my last chance to do so and get extra candy to boot before Gen 2, I forced myself one night to sit down and do inventory management, tidying everything up.

(Glad I did, because sure enough, it happened.)

But I did have firsthand experience in just how HANDY these pokemon storage upgrades were…

*twitches again at the temptation*

100 coins!

I grabbed one from the free coins I had from fighting and sitting in gyms, but but surely one cannot go wrong with MORE storage?

7 local dollars (or $5 USD) gets you 550 coins. That’s a LOT of pokemons that can be stored – 5 x 50 = 250 – at the current discounted offer.

*twitches*

I have until Feb 26 to think about it.

Less than a Starbucks coffee, y’know. *twitch*

gw2advert

Over in Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet would like you to know that Episode 4 of Living World Season 3 is called the Head of the Snake; that there’s a new raid called Bastion of the Penitent, and that And More includes one legendary rifle in the shape of a ship with a giant cannon on it….

…and here, have some screenshots and a wallpaper.

Our watchword: The less said the better!

Oh, and Evon Gnashblade would like to sell you a $5 USD mini of Demmi Beetlestone (who will never make it back to his office to collect), a $5 USD set of recolored white and pink wings and a $6.56 USD outfit of Gwen’s clothing.

The less said the better, indeed.

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Path of Exile: Acts 5-10 Coming

I am 15 hours late into realizing this.

I blame work and living on the other side of the world.

I have no wall of text for this.

My brain just exploded.

Here, have some links to everyone celebrating this announcement instead:

http://massivelyop.com/2017/02/14/path-of-exile-the-fall-of-oriath-reveal/

Oh fuck it, just read the whole reddit while you’re at it.

https://www.reddit.com/r/pathofexile/

I will be nowhere else when this update comes, and probably so will many others, so all other MMOs better watch out for a population drop.

Now -this- is hype.

Minecraft TFP: The House

The plan was to play through the story episodes in Guild Wars 2 today, but when I sat down at the computer, I realized that what I really wanted to do was putter around in peace and quiet, working bit by bit on my Minecraft: Terrafirmapunk house.

So I did.

Terrafirmacraft variants really extend the time it takes to accomplish stuff in Minecraft, opting for a more ‘realistic’ simulation over gameplay convenience.

As a result, house building is less of an hour or two affair and more extended across time.

It reminds me a bit of the pace of Wurm Online, in that there’s going to be a lot of open walls just sitting there for a while, incrementing by degrees, but much less aggravating in that you’re not necessarily starving to death and really really needing a shelter to begin with.

foundations

Maybe some two real life weeks ago, I started working on the ‘foundations’ of the house, or at least the ground floor flooring.

This was deliberately a big departure from my regular functional but ugly rectangular house styles that conserved materials and produced a roof over one’s head super-quickly.

A Youtube video I’d watched suggested that starting with an irregular shape would make the house more aesthetically pleasing to look at later.

So I crafted stone shovels and dug all the dirt out of the area in a semi-random pattern of rectangles.

The smooth stone blocks have to be chiseled out from raw stone, and then mined out. The type of stone determines the color. This rough light greyish flooring is gneiss, the stone around my home locale. I figured I’d be spending most of my time on the ground floor, sorting items into various chests, so it had to be something light and netural on the eyes.

Chisels require metal to make, so first I’d have to smelt the metal alloy in the forge and crucible, and hammer out the necessary tools on the anvil.

Armed with hammer and chisel and pick, I traveled over to the nearest pile of raw stone to chisel smooth blocks out of them (feeling a bit like an ancient Egyptian or some other rock quarrier – fortunately these are pretty small blocks and the game is kind enough to let you just carry them in your inventory and not have to roll them on logs or float them downriver in rafts in order to move them.)

The floor was laid in.

The straw thatch forming the outline was a whimsical decision on my part, mostly intended to save on raw material (that’s a lot of rocks to chisel out for something that will remain hidden from view.)

I thought it was rather clever though, as using some other cheap material like dirt or cobblestone or gravel would be risky later if I decided to dig a basement and end up with a small cave-in. Dirt also had the disadvantage of getting overgrown by grass and blending in, rather than forming a clear boundary.

I also liked the pretend simulation aspect of using the thatch as a kind of building insulation. Granted, a better simulation of insulation would be putting thatch in between two walls, but that would be one massively thick wall and be hard on materials cost to boot. Not that desperate for verisimilitude.

housemap

The result some time later: one pretty layer of floor, visible on the map.

Enter another game session, and it was time for the walls. This took more experimental time deciding on a nice color of brick, from relatively nearby stone biomes.

I knew I wanted them out of stone. I’m scared of flammable houses.

Eventually, I settled on chert.

One has to mine the raw stone with a pickaxe, yielding small rocks of chert.

One then crafts these small chert rocks with a chisel in the crafting grid, to form lone chert bricks.

These chert bricks are then crafted with another item, mortar, made from soaking sand in a barrel of limewater over time, to form the final buildable-with chert bricks block.

chertwalls1

After making a sizeable quantity of bricks, I start laying in the walls, making building decisions on the go.

I like looking out of any house, so I leave room for big window panes to be put in later, assuming I ever figure out glass. (The compound is all fenced up anyway, so it’s pretty safe, even minus the glass.)

chertwalls2

I’d already gotten the first floor of walls set up and a set of simple stairs leading up to the next floor, when I came in this afternoon to work on the house again.

The second floor was being problematic.

I hadn’t decided on an appropriate color of flooring for the second floor.

The outside join between the first and second floor had to be worked out, since I didn’t want just a straight flat brick surface like I’d usually just resort to.

I had a number of false starts experimenting with small quantities of slate and claystone bricks, thinking a different lighter color might offer some variety of look. I tried chiseling them into microblocks – Terrafirmacraft’s microblocks are really annoying as you cannot retrieve the material once chiseled. I tried different shapes with Carpenter’s Blocks, that let you make sloped surfaces.

No go. They just wound up looking bad or just not nice.

I ended up taking a break to work on another project. I wanted to make a controlled tree farm on a raised, fenced platform keeping dirt in, and high enough to make a nice flat surface.

treefarmscaffold

I had to search for cheap gravity defying materials.

The oak scaffolding was interesting, relatively cheaply made from a lot of sticks, but in an episode of hilarity, the moment I dropped the first dirt block on it, the dirt block sank right through, caving-in that particular scaffolding block it was placed on.

Oops, apparently it couldn’t support the weight of gravity-affected blocks, even though it would support a player standing on it and gravity-defying blocks could be placed on it.

roguedungeontower

Well, I’d always intended to attack the rogue dungeon next to my house and break it down for spare parts. Maybe some of the blocks could be repurposed.

towerroof

Enter a Minecraft night or two of shimmying up to the top and demolishing every layer with an axe.

It yielded a surprisingly respectable amount of treated wood stairs, and white cedar paneled blocks.

The white cedar panels were what I was after to form the base of my gravity-defying tree farm platform, but what was I going to do with all these treated wood stairs? The staircase to the tree farm only needs to go up so high.

Hmm…

wootawoodframe

Hey, this doesn’t look half bad.

So all I need to do now is continue with the same color chert bricks to make a second floor, and it should still look somewhat-aesthetically-together.

insideroof

A look at the inside while under construction.

On the right is one of my false starts with slate bricks. Just doesn’t color coordinate and looks flat and ugly.

I’m especially tickled that this plan lets me stack yet another layer of thatch. More “insulation.”

The inside of the thatch will be hidden by the stone floor, whatever color I decide it to be eventually.

The outside of the thatch is the treated wooden stairs frame.

Then I’ll stack chert bricks on top of the thatch, and no one but me will be the wiser that there’s thatch inside.

And so the house progresses, little by little, session after session.