Mood Gaming Snippets: Faking Industry

Most of early March seemed to be themed around feeling a sense of industry, of incrementing numbers and progress.


Mar 11 – 19

Crusaders of the Lost Idols

Total time spent: 6h 8 min

Had a whole series of virtual meetings for work lined up, yet felt antsy about insufficient gaming time. All work, no play, Jack becomes dull boy, all that jazz.

It hit me that the perfect game for such busy periods was an idle game. Set it up, it runs by itself, pop back in to check on it from time to time.

I already had a favorite idle game, so it was just a matter of cranking it up…

Not played since 673 days ago.

Welp, that’s quite a big consolation boost of XP that got converted into some 894 idols of progress when I reset it for a new run.

Wound up steadily playing through the first two tiers of some St Patrick’s day holiday event before interest petered out.


Mar 14

Minecraft: Peace of Mind modpack

6h 4 min of working on the Immersive Engineering mod. Set up a little platform to build the multi-block machines.

Rapidly glass’ed over the lava pool for fear of falling in.

Progress was slow.

Honestly, I dislike the Immersive Engineering mod, hence why I’ve rarely tinkered with it until forced to, by a modpack that lacks more convenient options. It always struck me as deliberately clunky and less efficient – you have to save up a bunch of materials, figure out how to construct a laundry list of building blocks, put those building blocks together in a precise fashion following the manual to finally make the multiblock. All that, for not very much gain. Or the same gain that in other mods, just requires you to build one compact, convenient block.

This is doubtless, by design, so that it provides both an in-between progression option and for it to feel more ‘realistic’ and ‘immersive’ because you can see a giant machine cranking away as the final result, as opposed to a cold impersonal square box. But I’m a simple person with a simple brain and overcomplicated things get to me.


Mar 15 – 18

Factorio

Total time spent: 7h 36 min

Apparently, immersive engineering was not ENOUGH industry. To soothe this need to chain a bunch of boxes together to crank out widgets, I decided to give Factorio another go.

Factorio and I have… not quite a love/hate relationship, it’s not that strong… more of a like/dislike relationship.

I like the idea of Factorio in theory. I dislike actually learning about how precisely it wants me to link things together.

I like linking things together haphazardly. I dislike boxing myself into a corner while doing so. (And heaven forfend that I have to tear things down and start over.)

I dislike the distraction of nasty alien enemies spawning to take apart my designs while I’m barely working out how to get by in the first place. But I also fear the boredom of just sitting there staring in peace at intractable machines (if I customize the game to take them out.)

I think reading a guide and copying someone’s beautifully optimized designs are pointless – even if it is a mathematically superior, efficient, optimal end point. Why play a game for yourself and remove the enjoyment of discovery and puzzle solving, if you’re just going to follow someone else’s instructions from point A to B?

Yet I’m probably not ever going to progress beyond a certain point if I just try to figure it all out by myself. Simple brain, and all that.

Suffice to say, Factorio and I are still figuring out how to get along.

My big progress step this time around was getting past the ‘perfection’ block of desiring things built just right the first go and opening up to the possibility of iteration – yes, tearing things down and starting over. (Brrr.)

Somehow, building in iterated phases in Minecraft Peace of Mind had opened up a space in my mind to just say, “well, it’s a first draft, we can clean it up as we go along.” Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, good enough is good enough, and all that. Games can be toys. Factorio is my toy. I am going to build MY way and enjoy the process.

I tweaked down the alien spawns so my calm wouldn’t be as frequently eroded while figuring out my slow way through the perplexing machinery riddles. (I might have actually taken it too far, as I had nothing attack, and I managed to just stroll over to any uncovered alien nests and assault rifle them into bio-goop.)

I tweaked up the quantity of ores in each spot so I wouldn’t be forced to move my whole setup away too soon. (Tear down in parts to improve is one thing, tear the -whole- thing down is maybe too much open-mindedness to expect at one go.)

Composite base screenshot, in case you’re wondering how I doubled myself

It wound up a rather pleasant time.

I had to re-learn most of the whole thing from scratch. There was some amount of tear-down, but I finally figured out that given the progression tree, this is rather to be expected.

I still have unapologetically a spaghetti conveyor belt sort of base – gives it character! – but it’s mine, and it works, more or less. If it’s a reflection of my brain, so be it.

It started out semi-automated, I tend to like to still have a manual touch here and there. Then as it got more tedious, I just patched in more automation over time.

Have I cornered myself where the science labs are concerned? Probably. I figure it can be moved later, if I ever get around to it.

Red and green science are at least cranking, at the moment.

The next step, after casting around and realizing I didn’t have much else to attempt, was either oil processing or figuring out vehicles / trains.

It was there where my brain overloaded. New concept. Didn’t quite even know where to begin experimenting. I got about as far as walking over to where the oil was shown on the map and haven’t quite gotten back to the game.

The map says there’s oil, but all I see are forests and trees in the world. I have to a) figure out how to get the oil out of the ground, b) figure out what needs to be done at the local oil processing base area, c) semi-guard it with turrets, d) figure out how to get oil by products nearer the main base, or vice versa…. Nope, way too much to process.

Mar 18 – 21

Minecraft: Peace of Mind modpack

Total time spent: 8h

Went back to Immersive Engineering and got more machines built, including the whole fermenter, squeezer chain to feed a diesel generator for RF power.

Energy storage is a problem in the Peace of Mind modpack. I’m used to building a big battery or energy tank for holding and storing energy until needed, but the only energy storing thing I can find appears to be a High Voltage Capacitor from Immersive Engineering, and it doesn’t store -that- much energy. I would have to build a huge massive block of them to store what I want.

The other more convenient energy generator/storage option are high level solar generators, but we’re talking immense amounts of iron, redstone and raw materials to build those.

No idea how accurate the spreadsheet is, but it looks/feels about right. I attempted my own spreadsheet and got about 30% of the way into the effort before I thought to Google and see if anyone else had already done so to save me some trouble.

We’re talking 11k glass (aka 11k sand) for the best one. And way more iron than I can mine up manually, at the moment. We would have to automate this. But automation also requires resources, and power.

It’s a bit of a circular puzzle without the more convenient mods I’m used to.

There’s a Quantum Quarry that I sort of can run for a while before I have to shut it off to get more power built up. It digs up an immense amount of stone and dirt, but not actually much more ore than my more manually operated Orechiid.

The other thing to perhaps attempt is the Immersive Engineering Excavator, but it eats exactly the amount of power the Diesel Generator produces (so I had to get that up and running first.)

I got as far as making the core sample drill and sampling two chunks of ground, but the actual Excavator multiblock has yet to be built. Too intimidating a bill of materials and all that.

It got boring. Not enough progress.


There’s a gap in time where my time tracker on the PC doesn’t seem to reflect much gaming. I suspect this is when I turned to the Switch for portable comfort. More on those games in another post.


Mar 26 – 29

Minecraft: Ocean Outlast modpack

Total time spent: 11h 33min

This was a modpack that always showed up as a featured modpack on ATlauncher, which I’m now using to load up Minecraft.

The cover picture looked soo attractive and pretty.

The idea seemed cool. Basically, skyblock – where you generate most of your own resources – but set in an archipelago, with islands and ocean all around.

It started out well. I threw in my standard shaders and texturepack because I’m now spoiled and can’t do the original pixelated Minecraft any more.

It chugged a bit while loading up all the mods, and I had to tweak down the render distance, because I was concerned with my aging computer’s ability to cope.

What eventually broke me was the underwater ocean.

Ocean Outlast has a Better Diving mod that makes the underwater much richer, almost a direct copy of Subnautica stuff. It looks great.

If I could actually see it, that is. My shaders turn underwater almost pitch black. I have to hold a torch in order to light up a local area. Putting lights under the ocean didn’t work, it only lit up dimly a radius of 3 blocks. Night vision didn’t work.

A good part of the last two days were spent experimentally editing shader files ad nauseam, trying to hit upon the appropriate settings to solve the problem.

I actually got rid of underwater fog and turned it crystal clear (was able to see kelp a long distance away – making the computer chug even more) and looking into the water from aboveground was insanely beautiful – like the world’s most pristine tropical beach filled with a riot of colorful coral (RIP my computer).

But the light itself remained stubbornly broken. It seemed tied tightly to the actual Minecraft light levels. Jump into the water and light levels turn to 0 numerically. On top of the underwater light, light levels were 12. Walk a block away and it drops to 9. Two blocks, 6. One block, 3. Anywhere else, zero. Nil. Nada.

So I had the option of dropping my shader and going with boring ol’ Minecraft ambient style light, or leaving the shader on and attempting to light the ocean every 3 blocks… or finding another shader… or giving up…

After what seemed like 20 restarts of the modpack in one day and its super-slow loading time (it’s very mod heavy, and even opening the quest book makes it chug), the last option seemed like the best way to get rid of the problem for good, by removing the folder entirely from my life. (Hence, the lack of pretty screenshots.)

Perhaps another time, with a stronger computer, and maybe some other shaders.

Having dropped it, I veered into another modpack, Skyfactory 4, which I played briefly ages ago, and decided to start a new world. That one’s going fine. But that’s a tale for another day.

A Funny Thing About Valheim & More Peace of Mind

Haha, made you look.

Nope, still not on the Viking bandwagon yet. Quite content to wait out for more development, as I’m just not in the mood for wrangling with annoying monsters in my building sandbox yet.

But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading and watching other people enjoy Valheim, and recently, one of my favorite irreverent Youtubers Josh from Let’s Game It Out got his hands on Valheim.

For those not in the know, he basically makes a living playing games WRONG. Very very wrong. Gamebreakingly framerate droppingly wrong. So destructively wrong that it’s a delightful paean to every Explorer/exploiter type who pushes the game boundaries of rules and has wholesome gleeful fun feeling out the game world’s absurd limits.

It’s hard work being gloriously absurd, but it’s also hilarious and joyful to be reminded that these games are toys and fun can be had in different ways. Even and especially ways completely unintended by the designers. It’s like getting a toy for your cat and realizing the cat is happier sitting in the box that came with the toy and batting around the wreckage of what -was- the toy.

Well, this -was- Valheim, supposedly verisimilitudinous dead Viking simulator.

As a closet game pyromaniac, I love the campfire thing the most. Some of us just like to watch game worlds burn.

On a *cough* brighter note, enjoying the whole video has refined my appreciation of Valheim’s aesthetic to “Okay, I quite like the pixelation of the world, it’s quite close to Minecraft… it’s just the player character model I still can’t stand.”

No worries, I’ll wait. It’ll keep.


Back on a Minecraft front, the great Pam’s Harvestcraft 83 crop types farm facility is finally done.

Work-in-progress shots:

Second floor skeletal structure going up.
40 crop farm plots… and then 4 extra more when I realized the total number of Pam’s Harvestcraft crops is 83, not 80.
Filling in all the holes – glass roof, fertilized dirt for the crops to grow in, labeled Bibliocraft fancy signs in alphabetical order for each crop.
Second floor with crops all in and beginning to grow.
The finished product, from one angle…
…and another.

Certainly, it’s one of the more massive builds I’ve ever attempted in Minecraft. Feels pretty good to see it done.

Almost feel like doing another big building project. Almost. We’ll see.

In the wake of these things – a big completed goal – I started casting around feeling that usual sense of aimlessness. Drawing a blank, I just went for a short term goal, actually finding an Ender stronghold and an End Portal and popping over to see what’s up in the End.

Possibly one of the more infuriating things I tried.

One is supposed to start with a bunch of Eyes of Ender to toss into the air and follow to the stronghold.

Fortunately, by this time, I had some Ender Lilies growing on End Stone provided by Astral Sorcery mod transmutation, and I’d figured out Blaze Rod creation from compressed Netherrack, so I had no shortage of Ender Pearls and Blaze Powder. I stocked up on about 36 Eyes of Ender and started hurling them into the air.

About 20 eyes later, following at a slow crawl, this not only felt boring but also wasteful. Then I got a bit smarter and said to myself, maybe I should attempt triangulation.

I marked my start point on the Antique Atlas, followed an Eye of Ender and marked where I ended up. Flew on ahead in the extrapolated direction and tried it again. Still one long straight diagonal. Rinse and repeat until I hit a point where the Eye of Ender flew backwards somewhere rather than forward. Aha!

Located the spot the Eye of Ender gravitated to. Dug a 2×2 mineshaft down to bedrock and found absolutely… nothing.

Wtf?

More wiki reading pointed out that a) the Eye of Ender is not as kind as to lead you -directly- the End Portal, nor does it b) lead you to the entrance of the stronghold. No, it c) leads you the CENTER of the chunk the stronghold ENTRANCE is in.

So the center is at 8,8, and the entrance is usually, says the wiki, at 4,4.

So I hit F3 to bring up all the debug coordinates, shifted myself away from 8,8, located 4,4 of the same chunk and dug straight down again.

This time I hit the entrance, and proceeded to explore the stronghold. Fairly peaceful exploration, of course (yay! peaceful mode!), except there were over a dozen rooms with no End Portal in them, one giant ravine that tore straight across the stronghold breaking up its structure, and what might have been the start of a mineshaft set piece. Aka, one super disrupted stronghold architecture.

It got to the point where I was getting extremely lost and decided to mark every single room I’d been in with a white cobblestone block and a torch laid on top of it.

Soon I wound up with what seemed like the whole place explored and no End Portal room.

More third-party website reading suggested that the End Portal room was probably hidden behind some walls, as might happen if other set piece features got layered on top of it.

So there were a few options left to me.

I could give up and try to find another more cooperative stronghold, but I’d have to wander off far enough that the Eyes of Ender didn’t lead me back to this one.

I could dig up every last adjoining wall of the stronghold and basically turn the place into a gigantic square quarry hole in the ground until I found the End Portal room which was -probably- there.

Or I could cheat and turn on /gamemode spectator to ghost through walls and peek at the various structures in the world.

Guess which most simple option I decided to go for.

Observe, all the rooms with lighted torches and a whitish block under them. My absolutely legit wandering exploration of the stronghold. Zero End Portal room.
Turning around 180 degrees. Well, EFF ME, look where that dang portal room is.

It was indeed surrounded by solid rock on all sides, except one entrance leading out to hitherto unexplored stronghold rooms, all completely cut off by mineshaft spawn disruption.

It was SO close to my initial two borehole mineshafts, except that I had gamely just followed the entrance and went off exploring the rest of the stronghold in the completely opposite direction.

So I just pickaxed myself a new entrance to the portal room and popped over to the End.

Where I found out the Ender Dragon still very much exists in Peaceful mode. Whoops.

One hasty escape via the Home teleporting Inventory Pet (best mod and best pet ever), I went back armed with lots of glass bottles to collect Dragon’s Breath and a Terra Shatterer sword and Crystalline Bow from Botania to make quick work of the Ender Dragon. It’s kinda unfair when you can also fly around with an Angel Ring. All good. I already did the suffering in other less well equipped Minecraft game worlds.

So that was that, I had one more Dragon Egg, popped over to the End Islands to collect some Chorus Fruit and am now having a gigantic case of the What Nows?

I suspect the answer will lie in trying to go down another mod that I’ve been avoiding for fear of its overly complicated tech progressions. There aren’t that many mods left in Peace of Mind, alas. Magical Psi looks fiendishly complex. Astral Sorcery seems only a little less so. Botania is always intimidating. Solar Panels is the simplest but requires ridiculous amounts of resources. I would love a Quantum Quarry but that requires tons of RF power and this modpack lacks my usual suspects for generating tons of power.

All signs point to giving my best go at Immersive Engineering. We’ll see. Probably take things more leisurely from now and might start exploring other things in my games library.

The Gaming Attention Span of a Kitten

A friend of mine once commented that it was impossible to play games with me because I rarely stuck to any one game for long.

I’d find something new and fascinating, play it for a couple hours, wax rhapsodic about it to anyone who would listen, beg and cajole for interested parties to join in, and… apparently… if said people ever did jump in, I’d be off running to another game in the next few days, while they were still getting their feet wet and figuring out the old game.

(Now, I did think this was a little unfair, because I’m perfectly game to -reverse- directions and play whatever game that required the multiplayer, or be company as needed… even if it was now several games down my list of “currently playing.”

Ultimately, I think the mismatch was more that the friend and I liked different styles of games. And said friend was more the ‘mastery’ sort of player, who liked to focus on one game at a time – often something I had already sampled in my whirlwind couple of days tour and decided wasn’t really to my taste, so ‘generalist’ me promptly dumped it in favor of something else.)

Then there was the extended period of time where I proved the comment wrong by becoming glued to Guild Wars 2 for the better part of 6-8 years, even if unhealthily so for the last couple of them with the relationship having gotten as rocky as it had, between raids, company troubles and network issues.

But of course said friend is an old friend, and old habits die hard.

Without the socio-contractual obligation of multiplayer games to lock me temporally in place, I’m free and unfettered to zip at will around singleplayer games. And boy, can I zip and zoom.

This makes blogging about games hard.

Possibly even harder than trying to catch me interested in a game for enough time to join in, learn and play alongside.

See, the issue is that if I’m interested in a game, I’m probably going to be playing it, as much as I can, for every waking hour. Blogging time? Ha! I could be -in- the game right now.

Then once I stop being interested in a game, it’s not very exciting to blog about now, is it? And there’s that other shinier game that took my attention away from the first game.

Story of my December, really.

At first, there was Hollow Knight.

I’d bounced off the game once. Platformers are not a favorite genre of mine. I am mostly neutral – I can play them, I will obligingly try 10-20 times for difficult jumps but you may dream on if you think I’m doing 50-100 repeat speedrun trials for mastery sorts of challenges. But mere neutral feelings are hard to hold one’s attention for long if there are more favorite, shinier toys lying around.

The game felt a little too big and complex for me to deal with at the time. Come the end of last year though, what with the story of the real world and all, and I was ready for a Death’s Stranding, a Souls-like wander through ghostly desolate lonely environments.

I absolutely got that with Hollow Knight and its atmosphere, with a side of bug mixed with ghostly spirit.

I went pretty deep into it for a week or two, 19 odd hours, suddenly thrilled by the depth and complexity of the world map, which unfolded like one of those oldschool Final Fantasy affairs, revealing a continent, a WORLD, with ZONES full of potential.

I suppose Metroidvania players will be shaking their heads at this. “Yes, that’s what the word Metroidvania MEANS.”

Me, I’m not a platformer player though. I’ve played neither Metroid or Castlevania (beyond a few rooms in some long ago Game Boy cartridge whose name I can no longer recall.)

Dealing with the scope of the levels required a very particular state of mind. A willingness to get sucked down the worm hole and slowly learn and explore all of its nooks and crannies. Absolutely no other distractions that might detract from the mastery of the map, its items, its bosses, its entirety.

My last achievement in Hollow Knight was dated Dec 9, 2020.

Guess what launched on Dec 10.

Yep, a big Cyberpunk distraction.

I’ve already oozed plenty of opinions on Cyberpunk 2077 in three separate blog posts, so enough said about that.

10 days later, on Dec 20, I reached the Legend of The Afterlife achievement of max Street Cred (so sayeth Steam).

It’s not as glorious as it sounds. It just means that I was in that part of the game where I was patiently visiting every marker on the map, uncovering and doing side quests, and gotten into a less new, more repetitive kind of gameplay loop. Still comfortable. Still immersive. (Ditto the crashes were still a mite annoying.)

I wasn’t ready to be -done- with Cyberpunk. So I was avoiding triggering the main quest and rushing toward an ending. Nor was my system really ready to be -playing- Cyberpunk properly – minimally, Windows 10 sounded like a good idea and maximally, a brand spanking new graphics card with a new computer everything to go along with it.

The supply chain and economics were mostly laughing at that second part, so yeah. Kinda left in limbo.

(Though as of writing this post, I see a new hotfix has dropped today, so maybe I might check it out again soon.)

In the midst of this waffling, Christmas sales waltz right along, and I’m thinking, “Eh, this year, of all years, I definitely deserve to treat myself with stuff I was putting off. Just to be grateful for being alive and being able to still afford such luxuries.”

Before you know it, I’d racked up a collection of assorted games on sale for ~$36 USD, some of which I’ve yet to get around to. What else is new?

  • Morphblade – not tried
  • Heat Signature – not tried
  • It’s a Wipe! – amusing indie that lets you manage an oldschool-feeling MMO raid group by yourself, complete with spammy, scrolling text. Bit primitive and clunky, but is what it is on the cover.
  • NEO Impossible Bosses – same idea as above, except with RTS/DOTA controls, and impossibly hard bosses with different raid phases and all. Given that my grasp of RTS controls is about as skillful as a first-time FPS player managing mouselook and keyboard, this moved the difficulty level from “Impossible” to “Inconceivable / Died Repeatedly to Tutorial Boss.” 18 minutes and as many deaths later, I finally gave up. Refunded.
  • Mini Healer – yet another spin off with the same idea, except you play the MMO healer keeping your four character party alive against ever more difficult bosses. Best gameplay loop of the lot; captures the action of combat casting and juggling heals over time, instant heals, buff/debuff/dispels, group movement, boss phases, etc. while still simplifying it enough that a single player can manage and find it fun. Recommended.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition – not tried (I’m sure it’s lovely. Stop screaming already.)
  • D&D Lords of Waterdeep – have the iPad version, so I knew what to expect, just wanted it on PC to overheat the iPad less. Basically port of the board game. Worker placement, collect resources, spend it on quests, accrue points, sabotage other players in an attempt to earn the most points. Mix of randomness and strategy, I just like the setting and theme.
  • DOOM – not tried (yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get around to it. Some day.)
  • West of Loathing – not tried

I -was- going to give West of Loathing a spin next, as I’d really missed Kingdom of Loathing and have been pining away for its standalone sister game for several years. (Just you wait, it’ll show up in a bundle now that I own it.)

Except that I got really really antsy staring at the Hades banner on the Steam store every time I logged in.

It is an EXCELLENT game. Everybody says so. It looks like polished perfection. It has that glossy cel shaded Supergiant aesthetic.

It was nowhere near my usual rule of 75% off for Steam games, nor even 50% off for stuff I know I will play immediately.

Then again, it is a low priced indie game, so the -absolute- value is not exactly prohibitive. The Steam regional price at 20% off put it at around $17 odd SGD, which is around $13 USD, so that’s already very reasonable and quite a bargain…

… BUT it’s not at the discount that I -swore- I’d stick to for most games. It’s the only way I control my Steam purchases and my predilection to amass the most ridiculous Steam games library of all time.

By the way, not interrupting the argument between you two parts of the same brain, but did you know that you can also find Hades on the Nintendo Switch store? It’s also on the Sales and Deal page, but not as cheap, of course. It’s $19.99 USD. Guess Nintendo has to take their cut, and there’s that whole non-regional pricing thing. But you know, just sayin’.

The Nintendo store is not the Steam store. Your sales discount rule doesn’t hold there. We acknowledge that console games are pricier. Do you think we might ever want to play Hades in a portable format? Like on your bed or sofa? It’s an action game. Maybe gamepad controls are better than keyboard/mouse?

But we -are- better at keyboard/mouse controls than gamepad controls… so I dunno… And $19.99 USD is undeniably objectively more expensive than $13 USD.

But then it’ll be portable! And if Hades ever turns up in a bundle, you won’t curse and swear and you’ll ALSO get it on Steam eventually.

Hmm… Hang on, did we ever check whether Hades supports super ultra-widescreen? We always have that spectre to deal with on PC.

Hrm. I dunno. Let me google and find out… Funny, there’s not that much mention of yea or nay. Maybe it doesn’t? But wait, there’s some bits here that says there is some kind of widescreen support. Maybe?

But is it super-ultra widescreen support? Some games are okay with the 2560×1080 resolution, but we have that chonkingly ridiculous 3840 x 1080 that we still very much like, but is admittedly quite nonstandard for some games to cope with.

Oh, oh wait. Oh. Apparently Hades copes with widescreens by putting these decorative skull pillars on either side of the screen where the black bars are…

… WHHHAAAAAT. Are you SERIOUS?!?!

I mean, I guess it’s not so bad on 2560×1080. It’s kind of pretty… if a bit distracting. How about this Redditor who has a 3440×1440 screen?

A BIT? We have a 3840 x 1080. We’re going to have the WIDEST chonkiest decorative skull pillars (admittedly, the art is pretty, but it doesn’t mean I want to look at them forever), and about 50% of the screen actually moving at any one time. There’ll be more skull pillar than actual game.

We could play on Windowed mode?

Give me the browser. Let’s go to the Nintendo Switch Store. $19.99 it is. It’ll be portable. It’ll blow up to our monitor resolution without skull pillars and just plain non-distracting black bars. Done.

And that was the longwinded story of how my brain persuaded my brain to buy myself Hades for Christmas.

Suffice to say the PC didn’t get very much use for the next week or two.

Hades is exactly as excellent and polished as they say.

As long as you’re okay with, or won’t freak out over action style combat in the vein of Bastion or Cat Quest, you will very much like Hades. It has self-contained endless replayability down to an iterated science.

It took me 49 attempts to finally reach victory point #1 and escape the Underworld, and surface from my intense love affair with the entire game. The core combat, the atmosphere, the elegance of its roguelike mechanics and loops that unveil that aphrodisiac of game content – story progression – by also losing and dying, not just saving it as a drip fed reward for victorious gameplay.

Apparently, one has to escape the Underworld ten times to maybe exhaust the entire main story. Let alone the side stories. Not to mention, there’s the item / weapon / skill / decoration unlocks. And set-your-own-difficulty challenges. Plenty of gameplay left. Possibly the most worthwhile $19.99 ever spent game-wise.

Absolutely no regrets. Highly recommended.

That landmark day of victory was the 9th of January. Surfacing from the depths of the Underworld back to the land of the living, that is.

For some inexplicable reason, I started to think about Path of Exile.

One Google later, I learned that my internal alarm clock was surprisingly, frighteningly accurate. Heist League, which I’d skipped, was ending. The new Ritual League was beginning on Jan 15.

Perfect timing. One week or so of build research, plotting and planning, and we would be off to the races. (That’s only a metaphor. I play super relaxed SSF.)

I wanted to play a summoner, as it’s one of my easier, favored ways to push deep into the Atlas. But then three days before launch, there was word about lots and lots of necromancer / spectre nerfs or something. So I pivoted to MELEE summoner. Dominating Blow, whoo. Seems to be doing okay so far. Ahh.. the pleasures of screen covered in minions actually doing the dirty work of fighting.

One week later, we are back in the early maps endgame, tinkering along at a comfortably slow and steady pace. It’s getting dangerously close to that stage of “fun, comfortable, still good to play, but maybe there’s something even more interesting on the horizon?”

We’ll see. There’s always a shinier, newer, distracting game at some point.

Without anyone to reel me in or anchor me down, I have the attention span of a kitten. That’s where the “wandering worlds” part of the blog byline comes from. Proud to give it full rein.

Cyberpunk 2077: Multiple Solution Side Gigs

60 hours in Cyberpunk 2077 and counting.

Probably 10x that many crashes, but eh, DirectX12 game on Windows 7, that it even runs at all is pretty nice, so you don’t see me complaining. Much.

(I sit around and stare at local computer parts shop catalogues and keep sighing at the current price of the RTX 3070s and 3080s. Low supply, high demand = not paying for that yet.)

My one compromise is that I’ve stripped ARK from the SSD and moved the entirety of Cyberpunk off the HDD and onto the SSD instead. Load times are considerably improved, so at least it’s quicker to get back in once the inevitable crash happens.

Appreciation of the game in many ways reminds me of Guild Wars 2’s open world.

A lot of straightforward nose-to-the-grindstone follow-the-mission-quest-text-markers-and-objectives game players are likely to miss a ton of the subtlety baked into much of Cyberpunk 2077.

It is always possible to speed through the game as a berserk maniac committing mass genocide every step of the way. It is, dare I say it, even rather fun to consider in a power fantasy kind of way and one or two of my future playthroughs might go the corporate guns-blazing Rambo route (I’m sure some corpos think nothing of the poor anyway) or a blunt-weapon berserker just smashing things into non-existence.

But, much like Guild Wars 2, the game is even more rewarding for players who take the world seriously, read all the lore bits, give space for NPCs to do their thing or poke around in unmarked and unlabeled corners just to see what’s there.

Pretty much every encounter, even the side jobs and gigs from fixers, are all hand-crafted and contain their own unique stories. Many, through their level design, will allow for multiple solutions, based on your characters’ skills and your own player ingenuity.

Take for example, this small side gig: Fixer, Merc, Soldier Spy.

(Minor spoilers for this side quest follow, but chances are, you’re unlikely to do it the exact same way I did it.)

Your local Fixer, Regina Jones (she of the incessantly calling, relatively good-hearted fame) needs your mercenary V to do a bit of thievery. Stealing a datashard from the Russians, and preferably doing it so quietly that no one even knows it’s gone.

Strolling casually by the hotel in question, I can see the telltale gleam of a camera over the counter.

Me being the paranoid, sneaky sort, I push myself up against the glass to look in, and see a receptionist at the counter, and two Russian bodyguards watching TV in the hotel lobby.

I scan the area with my Kiroshi optics cyberware and tag all of them, their red outlines showing up like a wall hack. Then I hack into the camera, and use that camera to look around and check for other cameras or other potential threats. Once done, I send the camera another remote signal to turn itself off. All from the outside of the hotel with no one the wiser.

I circle much of the perimeter of the hotel, looking for alternate entries and ways in. I attempt hopping and climbing the fire escape, and leapfrogging from neighboring buildings with my double jump cyberware. (Unfortunately, this particular hotel is quite impregnable to such casual reconnaissance – I didn’t do -that- much serious building climbing though – for all I know, it’s possible to find an accessible building and hop in that way.)

Temporarily giving up that option, I save the game and stroll in to see how the receptionist reacts.

He’s on the phone for a brief period of time. The guards watching TV, thankfully, don’t react at this point. There’s a shiny elevator access pass sitting on the counter. If you grab it at this point though, they will all turn hostile and begin shooting at you (because, after all, that’s suspicious as f–k.)

There are a number of different conversation options once he gets off the phone and attends to you, “the customer.”

You can get a hotel room to gain elevator access. It’ll cost you $4500 to do so. (Yeesh, I don’t think my Fixer is going to pay that much for the job; it’s unlikely I’ll recoup -that- expense.)

If I was a little bit more intelligent than I was (4/5), I could conceivably distract him. I’m guessing that would let me swipe the access card once he was distracted.

My Streetkid background lets me pretend to have a delivery for the Russian VIP.

What kind of delivery? Illicit goods perhaps, or illicit good (singular).

Either way, the receptionist offers up some tricky resistance. He’ll try to call up the VIP to see if he’s expecting anything or anyone. If you stay silent, the VIP will pretty much give him a earful over the phone and you get rejected. So much for social engineering.

Or you can interrupt his call and say it’s a special surprise for him… in which case, the damnable receptionist wants a bribe for turning a blind eye to this. A $1100 bribe. Cheaper than the hotel room, but sheesh.

Yeah, you know what, I’m a gonna go with the first option.

I mean, there’s a reason why my current first playthrough character is so gosh darned stupid. I had decided to pump stats into Body (melee, athletics, strength stuff), Reflexes (ranged, guns, dexterity stuff) and Cool (stealth, resilience, composure, sneaky stuff) and save the intelligence and technical know-how for another smarty pants netrunner playthrough.

Basically, a female cybernetic Agent 47.

Convinced there was another way around this (I refuse to be ripped off), I tested the limits of my sneakiness and tried to skirt around the receptionist as far as possible, into the elevator hall.

The Russian bodyguards remained completely oblivious. (The VIP should really fire those guys.)

Turns out, it was very possible to, and the receptionist didn’t bother raising any alarm. When I hit the elevator, I figured out why. Because the elevator requires the access card. (Dang it.)

There is a side door off the elevator lobby though. It leads to a back room behind the receptionist’s counter. In it, is a spare elevator access card.

(I know this, because in one of my scouting attempts before reloading a save, I just broke out my mantis blades, hopped the counter, turning everyone hostile, and just went cyber-berserk on them all while opening the door behind the receptionist to see where it went. I was hoping for an actual access point from the outside. No such luck.)

Unfortunately, opening this particular side door requires a level of Technical skill that I, once again, do NOT have because I’m busy pretending to be Agent 47 in 2077.

Grrrrr…

… what would Agent 47 do? (in a game that unfortunately does not allow disguising oneself.)

I attempted a bunch of “Distract Enemy” quickhacks on the electronics around the receptionist, but unfortunately, a lot of them weren’t connected to any system, and he refused to take the bait even when I hit “Distract Enemy” on the computer directly in front of his face.

Then I said, to heck with it, the Russian bodyguards look really oblivious anyway.

I triggered the “Reboot Optics” quickhack on the receptionist. This blinds them, preventing them from sounding an alarm for the critical few seconds it took me to sneak up behind that arrogant ass, press F to grab him, and be offered a Kill or Non-Lethal finisher.

Because I am a nice person *ahem* (just stingy), I non-lethally knocked him out and then yoinked his body into the back room with the two TV addicts none the wiser.

Let this be a lesson to people who think they can get some cash off Agent 47.

He actually has an elevator access card on him, so you can take it off his body, or from the table in the backroom. The backroom has a computer terminal where one can fiddle with the cameras, as well as read some background lore on this comatose gentleman (an email exchange where you learn he’s pretty open to shady dealings, hence the request for a bribe, I suppose.)

Getting up the elevator is not the end of the story though.

One side of the hallway leads to a bunch of inaccessible doors and a cleaner who doesn’t really give a f–k.

The end of the hallway leads to a glass door and a balcony just one floor below the penthouse, and a climbing route with some convenient ivy-covered railings that lets you access the first floor of the penthouse – almost directly under the noses of two Russians having an interesting conversation – one is the VIP, the other seems to be a female corporate businesswoman.

You can pretty much sit and listen to their entire conversation for more lore. Except there’s cameras that may detect you, and the first floor of the penthouse is full of floor-to-ceiling glass so one has to skip really fast between parts of the wall that obscure the NPCs’ view. The Russian VIP will also walk out from time to time for a smoke on the balcony, conveniently separating them for sneaking past or even a sneak assassination (if one was so inclined, one presumes, though that -might- just trigger alarms.)

OR one could take a right turn in the same hallway and walk through a stairwell. (If one has the technical ability, there’s a door in the stairwell that leads into the penthouse also.)

There’s also roof access from said stairwell. With a convenient forklift.

The lowered forklift provides a really convenient platform for checking out the penthouse at a distance, including taking control of the surveillance cameras and looking through the cameras’ eyes and basically, getting it turned off before even strolling over to said penthouse.

You can even see me crouched on the forklift through the camera’s eye view!

Then if you activate the forklift, it helpfully raises you up to the second floor of the penthouse, where you can also find a convenient doorway of ingress.

You can prowl through the whole second floor, more or less undisturbed while the two NPCs are conversing downstairs, and look through *unfortunately* red herring shards that aren’t the datashard you need, and a computer terminal with access to the camera network and emails about how the Russians had set up their own personal VPN and camera system for security.

(If you talked to the receptionist, he mentions how the hotel cameras on the Russians’ floor have been all turned off, so you could be lulled into a fake sense of security if you trusted him. But eh, who trusts such a greedy bastard anyway, right?)

Eventually, you figure out that the shard you need is directly on the first penthouse floor, pretty much next to those two Russians.

Me, I eventually took advantage of their time of separation (smoke break and bar break) to dance through the shadows of pillars like a cybernetic ghost, keeping out of view of both of them, snatch the datashard and then duck down behind a counter and snuck out the penthouse door when they weren’t looking.

I had to use the Body stat to force open a door to get back to the elevator hallway (no problems there) and I casually strolled past the two TV watchers and the missing receptionist (serves him right, still) and left the hotel environs, no one the wiser.

Your Fixer calls then, and you can have a conversation with her about this not being her typical bleeding heart jobs (turns out, even she has favors to pay off and people with a hold over her).

You still have to drop the datashard off with the client, who is waiting some distance away in a car. Turns out, they’re the Chinese. Corp vs corp, and your merc is just a small bit player in a much larger affair.

They take the shard off you, have a short convo between themselves and drive off. Fixer calls you, relieved it’s over, and pays you. If you did it quietly, you get a bonus.

All that, for just one side gig.

That is -lavish- amounts of loving detail. Which presumably, many people are completely missing, if they don’t even bother to do this side gig.

Or if they just walked in, screwed it up and decided to charge around guns blazing.

But mind you, that’s also a different can of fun. I re-loaded a game save to just try it out, for the purposes of this blog post.

Triggering the alarm will send a carful of Russians pulling up outside the hotel to provide reinforcements. The female Russian businesswoman with the VIP turns out to be a cyber’ed up bodyguard. She’ll pull out mantis blades and charge you, while ordering the VIP to hide.

She and I went at each other, me pulling out MY own thermal mantis blades, like the world’s most insane catfight gone horribly wrong with cyberpsychosis.

(I’m a little outleveled for this area by this point in the game, so I won quite handily.)

Her body contains another lore shard – which presumably you can only read if you put her on the ground somehow – lethally or non-lethally. (Much of the game contains these sort of details, a little bit of humanising of the NPCs you may have carved up or riddled with bullets thoughtlessly while fulfilling quest objectives.)

Are we all monsters then? Ah, that’s the beauty of dystopian Cyberpunk.

After taking out all resistance, you can stroll past the Russian VIP cowering behind a sofa (whom you can choose to leave alive or put out of his misery, with no consequences except questions for your own morality) and pick up the datashard.

Then calmly walk out of the hotel with carnage in your wake, call your Fixer and pass it on to the Chinese. Whatever works. You don’t get a bonus, but eh, not that it really matters. Whatever floats your boat. Or the character you were role-playing (your V could hate corpos after all, or just be a complete psychopath.)

One side quest.

The whole city is dotted with such opportunities. Small cyberpunk stories. Mini-bites and quick looks at various characters trying to make a living in Night City.

(Many of them failing the “living” part once your V hurricane crosses paths with them. Unless, of course, you choose differently and exercise non-lethal options.

Does it matter? Not in the sense that there is some kind of moralistic Paragon/Renegade counter judging your every move and enacting a final ending consequence. Cyberpunk has never been about that kind of black-and-white Mass Effect morality. It is not kind enough to tell you straight off and label Option 1: Good, Option 2: Evil, pick one to see that story path play out.)

Cyberpunk is shades of grey. It is about the journey as well, and not solely the destination. It’s not as mean as the Witcher in that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But it is about trust and betrayal – who you choose to put trust in, who you choose to be honest with – some of whom will reward it and some of whom will stab you in the back.

It is about friendship and human relations, honesty and corruption, wealth and poverty, living safely or dying gloriously, freedom and control, retro and future, and all those beautiful and bitter juxtapositions that is the sum of human existence.

And that’s what makes Cyberpunk 2077 such a pleasure to play. 60 hours and counting. And no signs of stopping.

Yes, even through 600 “Gpu Crash for unknown reasons! Callstack here is probably irrelevant. Check if Breadcrumbs or Aftermath logged anything useful” crash errors. *sighs*

Cyberpunk 2077: A Study in Contrasts

For such a visually forward game, Cyberpunk 2077 makes it hard like hell to get any good screenshots.

My Steam overlay refuses to work – it has cheerfully wrapped itself around the launcher, but not the main game. (Maybe a Windows 7 thing.)

It provides a fantastic photo mode with a whole bunch of levers and sliders and poses – that only captures PNG screenshots in 1920×1080 resolution.

Lately, the photo mode has also just been crashing my game when I hit spacebar, and leaving a blank empty 0 byte PNG file in the screenshot folder.

The photo mode allows you to turn off all the UI – except it keeps a dumb rectangular cyan box that acts as your mouse cursor around, so I have to stuff it in a corner somewhere (in an invisible box that borders 1920×1080), hit print screen, alt-tab, paste the result into a paint program and then image crop to the point where the cyan box is no longer visible.

But because there are so many fantastic visual moments in Cyberpunk 2077, I will keep crashing the sh-t out of my system to screen cap some of it.

Take this part of the city I walked past, while on a gig to retrieve some stolen goods for a fixer.

I’d just come out of the grungy high density housing on the right, home to many poor apartment dwellers, when it hit me that these people were literally living in an area where… right across the river, this view greeted them everyday.

Swivel 180 degrees, and this is what you get:

There is a sad little side story in an apartment very similar to the ones above. A cyborg veteran sits around alone, abandoned, angry and bitter, with severe PTSD. He is severely unstable. He pulls a shotgun on your character as you go by, attempting to complete your mission. Suffice to say, whatever you choose to do, it does not end well.

If you check out his computer before you leave, there is a sorrowful email trail of some people trying to reach out to him, get him coming back to some PTSD support group… except he stopped going two months ago and cut off all contact. Just one more number in a city of night…

Which reminds me. Miracle of Sound released a remake of his 2013 song City of Night, with new Cyberpunk 2077 visuals. It is eerie how the lyrics composed seven years ago so closely match some of the visual themes of this game.

Perhaps some game designers were listening to the song on repeat loop while making it. (Ha!)

The chorus gives me chills.

Just like the casual ease the game throws you in situations where you get to see lifestyles of the rich and famous…

…and then a couple minutes drive away, areas distinctly much less rich and famous.

Then, since two faction games are always less complex than three factions… if you escape the pull of Night City proper, why not throw in some post-apocalyptic cowboy themes to boot?

The moment you really regret playing female V for your first playthrough.
(Boy, do I miss those multi-romance mods I used decades ago for Baldur’s Gate II. One can only hope it’s just a matter of time…)