The Ubiquitous Boss Battle

Boss fights seem to be everywhere now, a formulaic inclusion because of player expectations, and whatever else could we throw in at the end of a corridor or dungeon full of lesser enemies or minions?

I started thinking about this after Remnant: From the Ashes began to wear down on me. I’d just defeated Ixilis XV, a butterfly-like boss that clones itself into two, in a brutally hard and unforgiving fight on top of a bridge.

This boss had it all. Restricted arena space, yes. Bridge is very much limited. Some attacks might very well push you off the bridge to an instant death. Restrictive camera and field of view, you bet. One has to turn one’s back on at least one boss to properly attack the other. Phases and attack animations to be learned and solved systematically through lethal trial-and-error, not to mention proper stats on gear and consumable use.

I had to learn to dodge with perfect timing when the bosses’ weapon glow green and were held at a horizontal angle, because a wide bridge-clearing swipe was incoming a second after. I still got the other vertical weapon slice regularly confused with the other attack, both of which the boss holds its weapon aloft, but one is a simple melee slice while the other conjures up a bombardment of homing green balls – which had to be shot at to dissipate.

In addition, the boss also tosses a singular yellow-brownish-green ball attack which turns into an AoE gas cloud on the bridge. Twice. The solution being to move or dodge out of the way of the initial hit and then to hopefully avoid standing in the bad until it went away.

All its attacks do corrosion damage, which my scrapper armor has negative resistance to. The corrosion debuff makes armor increasingly ineffective, leading to more damage taken. Problem is, I had no other type of gear as stat pumped as my original set. I tried a switch to some higher corrosion resistance gear, but the lower upgrade level meant taking equivalent amounts of damage. I eventually wound up just pre-emptively chomping down on a consumable that cost 50 currency, which pushed up my corrosion resistance from negative to positive, every attempt at the boss.

The boss had multiple phases. In the initial phase, only one butterfly clone is seen while the other waits in a cocoon. Take it down to 75% health and the other pops out of the cocoon at full health. OR you could take it down to 76% health, turn your back on it (exposing yourself to all its lethal attacks) and shoot the cocoon until it bursts, causing the other to pop out at 75% health as well. Choices, choices.

I went for the latter, but it was painful. I had to notice and use a central bridge obstacle (which eventually breaks after the boss does another type of attack, a hadouken beam attack) to half shelter me to do so.

Once both butterfly bosses are out, they take turns being the main attacker. One continues doing the previous style of attacks while the other one does the abovementioned beam attack that can one-shot kill you by knocking you off the bridge.

It took -forever- and a spate of googling for help for me to eventually grok that the beam attack follows a -fixed- pattern, it starts at one end of the bridge and steadily moves over the course of five beams or so to the other end.

To make matters even more interesting, every now and then, the bosses do a group AoE howl that if both are allowed to perform uninterrupted, does enough damage to one-shot you. To prevent this, one has to shoot the growing energy ball they cultivate until it bursts. Since both are on opposite sides of the bridge, this is a job for either coordinated multiple players (of which a soloist has none) or really good dps (of which, I had none either, because the alternative was stopping and leaving to grind for gear upgrades.)

I settled for locating two high ammo quick firing weapons (spitfire and the chicago typewriter) and blowing up the energy ball of one boss. That exposed me to half the damage of the other boss, which meant healing after each group AoE attempt.

Eventually, the critical realization of the bridge beam attacks being fixed meant that everything else started falling in place. I had figured out solutions (more or less) to every other attack; I just needed to know that I should be keeping in the center until I saw which side the boss I wasn’t going to face was going, and allow it to do a few beams, and then purposefully run to that side of safety in between beams. Then it could be safely left alone and with my back turned while I focused on the main boss.

It was… tiring.

Once victory was ultimately attained, I picked up the next key to unlock the next stage of the game. Faced with the prospect of a new planet of Yeesha to wander through before the final climatic battle of the narrative… I balked, more or less.

It felt like one act too many. Here was going to be another run of a zone, followed by a mini-boss or boss, then another zone, and then another boss. Rinse and repeat 3 or 4 times, and then just maybe… we’ll get to campaign’s end.

*sigh* I kinda prefer the game’s Adventure mode. One mini-dungeon zone and a few boss battles, the end, rinse and repeat when one is ready. Shorter, sweeter.

So I called a hold on Remnant and went to play the next game that had caught my wandering eye.

I found myself back in Terraria, fully intent on trying out the Journey’s End changes, and mostly grinding away in the early game from a very slow start because I got insane enough to try an Expert Mode world. Suffice to say, everything has a lot more hitpoints and does a lot more damage.

Not without some irony, I noted that I was slowly but steadily, attempting to do all matter of prep work for… what purpose, but killing the first few pre-hardmode Terraria bosses so that one could progress to the next stage of gear?

One has ample time to ponder while exploring and farming in Terraria.

Hang on, said I, haven’t the recent games I’ve been playing been full of bosses?

My GW2 raids are nothing but one boss battle after another. Path of Exile has plenty of bosses, some with different phases and attack animations to learn, and they keep ramping up further in this direction – possibly due to customer demand. Monster Hunter is boss after boss.

Most of the singleplayer action or Ubisoft style open-world game layers in plenty of boss battles as the narrative progresses. Platformers have bosses, roguelikes have bosses, if perhaps less dogmatically systematic about it.

It made me stop to wonder if there was ever a time when games weren’t so rabidly obsessed with the necessity of a boss battle after every level. Especially a singular colossal big boss that has to be taken down raid style, pattern puzzle solved per attack animation or phase in order to successfully defeat it.

It felt like, maybe once upon a time, there were.

I seem to recall roleplaying games like Baldur’s Gate where yes, there were a couple of bosses, but they were mostly a group of enemies with a central stronger character that you had to take down, and normally always part of the narrative of that encounter. Sometimes you could bypass the battle by talking it through. But otherwise, they were like any other combat encounter, just with a few more dangerous combatants.

Granted, I might be being a little unfair. Surely there are games in the present day without boss battles. Strategy games in a Civilization vein are unlikely to have boss battles per se, as we’re more on an army scale here. Crafting or optimizing games like Factorio or Satisfactory lack boss battles, if only because the combat is not quite centered around the concept – at most, combat climaxes are waves of tougher enemies (something the tower defense genre favors a little more.)

Multiplayer PvP games -probably- don’t have boss battles, if only because the main opponents are intended to be other players, rather than a computer controlled opponent.

Regardless, it does seem like recently, the concept of boss battles has been increasingly put up on a pedestal of desirability, or at least something that -has- to be included in most games, along with vertically progressing gear numbers and levels, and crafting which mostly consists of assembling a bunch of ingredients into another new object with the click of a button.

Wherever are the experiments away from this format?

Remnant: From the Ashes – The Game Hellgate: London Wishes It Was

It’s odd. Remnant: From the Ashes is a mish-mash of pretty much every game genre you can think of.

In the opening cutscene after character creation, we zoom in to your hero, a proud warrior in fantasy-style garb, complete with sword on back, as they sail off into the sunset in a medieval sailboat.

Not my video, but illustrative of the intro

The narrator gabs on about beasts and dragons and your quest… right up to the point you see a perfectly modern-day lighthouse…

It segues right into ye olde standard shipwrecked on the beach game trope (plenty of RPGs do this too, not just MMOs) and as you pick yourself up and explore further, you find yourself facing the rusted husks of modern-day industrial warehouses and fences.

Oh, you think, revising your initial concept hastily, it looks like we’re in a Numenera or Dying Earth sort of world, a far future fantasy where post-apocalyptic Earth has passed us by long enough for folks to create new tribes and forget much of old Earth. Cool, cool, the genre seems to be taking off in popularity lately, what with Horizon Zero Dawn and all that.

Then as you walk further, the occult red glow of demonic entities teleporting in to devour you body and soul blends the genre further, as we move towards horror and The Secret World.

There are so many genres contained with this game, just to satisfy the conceit of being able to portal around to different procedurally generated worlds and take on varied enemies for loot, challenge and progression.

There are gates or portals, and an demon-like plant-like enemy known as the Root invading worlds, you discover, as you roam the streets of apocalyptic Earth, dressed in Fallout-style scrap armor and getting serious Hellgate: London vibes every time you pass an abandoned ruined subway and contemplate them stuffed full of demons.

And that’s just the early game setting. Eventually, once you break through to a place where you can access other worlds, science fiction and pulp will cheerily join hands to play.

Warhammer 40K, anyone?
Conan the Barbarian meets Martian aliens?

Gameplay-wise, the moment you swing your sword and feel the measured pace of your character locked into an animation, you realize you’re playing a Souls-like where observing enemy attack animations are key, dodging or evading appropriately before striking only when there is opportunity.

The only thing possibly original about Remnant: From the Ashes is their incorporation of modern ranged weapons like guns into Souls-like gameplay. No rapid-fire hipshooting allowed here. Guns must be aimed by holding down the right mouse button, and there are limited number of shots you can make before reloading.

Staying too long in aim or zoom mode gets dangerous, because your field of view is not wide enough to realize that an enemy is flanking or coming up from behind to gank you. It cleverly turns gunplay into an exchange that follows the real time, semi-turn-based style of Souls-like games.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get to the end of a mini-instanced dungeon chain and walk into a boss room, where you now play Monster Hunter against a Colossally Big Boss, and realize there’s more genres that can be crammed in still.

The Singe dragon boss has one of the more glorious-looking and sounding fireball attacks I’ve ever seen though. It is seriously fearsome and breaks walls, shattering your cover as part of its gimmick. I enjoyed the immersive glimpse into what it might be like to face a fantasy dragon.

The only genre we’ve lost along the way is a Diablo-like looter, if only because gameplay where you can mow down hundreds of enemies with a single button click is the antithesis of a Souls-like game.

Yet, somehow, the mashup works.

The overriding flavor is Hellgate: London meets Dark Souls, with mix-ins of every other genre mentioned above, and a final The Secret World cherry on top.

Honey, we’re not in Kansas anymore

The pace is stately, yet compelling.

It’s maybe a little too stately for me at times, being more of a fast frenetic action fan gamer-motivation-wise, but I can appreciate the appeal objectively. The originality of getting to play Dark Souls with slightly more modern day graphics and guns is more or less carrying me through the slow bits, while I’m intrigued to discover all the various worlds and see the monster designs.

I’m really enjoying the Sniper Rifle because I can pick off most things at range. The rest of my kit is still the original Scrapper melee archetype, so if things get up close, it’s down to pistol and a big hammer to take care of things. Realizing I can change weapons even mid-zone has been another one of those revelations. So in the rare case where sniper rifle doesn’t work, I just switch back out to my trusty shotgun and become close combat specialist extraordinaire.

It’s an interesting contrast to UltrViolet’s take on Remnant: From the Ashes where presumably Mastery is a primary motivator, needing to keep going back and pounding away to beat bosses and the game, and being pissed off if the game appears not to be playing fair. Challenge-wise, he’s got it cranked up on Hard, while I’m pretty darned comfy being Normal, thank you.

I’m probably still dying the same amount of times that he is. It’s that kind of game. Souls-like games are pretty much puzzle games of observation and trial-and-error of all the different tools and tactics at one’s disposal, where what doesn’t work is promptly and directly fed back to you by dint of a Game Over, You Died screen.

Punishing, they call it.

Some people like it that way.

Me, I can very much take it or leave it. Meaning I accept the game premise, unless something annoys me enough to not want to spend any more time on it.

What’s mostly preventing a ragequit is Remnant’s careful design in incorporating the equivalent of a Dark Souls campfire, a checkpoint in this game, after a short segment of adventure and most definitely, there’s one just before a boss fight. So getting back into the fray is not a depressing contemplation of having to run past or slowly defeat two zone’s worth of enemies before getting to the actual boss you want to deal with – just more like five to ten seconds of “OK, that didn’t work, what else can I try now?” contemplation before you’re back into the thick of things.

What does perplex me somewhat is Remnant’s surfeit of enemy types. I think for most people who enjoy more challenge, this is a good thing, to have SO MANY varied enemies with tons of different attack patterns and styles.

This particular Root enemy is highly annoying, armed with a gun that fires five shots, and with excellent AI that encourages it to take cover and flank you. Once four or five of them get into the fray, it becomes a crossfire of shots exchanged from cover, keeping you pinned down while one or two of them do their little flanking maneuver.

In the campaign, Remnant is also very eager to park different enemies in every zone you wander past, so what you learned in the previous zone… is likely not going to apply in the next zone. I think, for mastery motivated players, this is probably something that keeps them wanting to keep going, because there’s always something new to beat around every corner.

Me, it miffs me, every so slightly. After I learn something, I want a little time to be able to rest on my laurels and -enjoy- being able to blow up that enemy without a scratch, thank you. At least for one more zone or two. You can throw in a few more surprise enemy types, no problem, but seriously, enemy A in zone 1, then enemy B in zone 2 and enemy C in zone 3?!

How about AAA in zone 1, ABA in zone 2, ABBC in zone 3 or something? Let me feel at least a little clever in dealing with enemy A when I see it again.

Nope. Remnant’s solution is that you can jolly well just revisit that zone again, after a checkpoint respawns enemies… for not that much reward besides XP, since you’ve already looted the place once. Or you can generate a short adventure on that planet that -may- or may not contain the zone, and just encounter whatever on your way. Rinse and repeat until you’ve played plenty of adventures long enough to master all the enemy types on that planet.

As mentioned in one of my comments to UltrViolet, it makes me crave a nice little walkthrough or guide where someone has written up a nice little enemy types dossier, complete with mugshot, a profile of attacks and suggested tactics on how to deal with each… just to shortcut the process. Because it takes so long, and is so stately.

I know I lack the time to play this game like an MMO, while the assumption seems to be very much that you can and -should- indeed play through multiple campaigns, as well as visit friends and have co-op adventures together. All very well for people who really love the game, I dare say.

Me, I’m going through one or two zones a night, and that’s about all the time I have for it. It’s a pleasant experience at the moment.

But knowing my intense distractability where I certainly do not finish things, a slow stately game is at imminent risk of “Oooh, look at that other shiny thing” syndrome where it gets dropped midway through, for no real reason.

No harm, no foul. I got it free on Epic.

(The offer lasts approximately one more day, so interested parties reading this blog post early may want to nab it, if they haven’t. It’s certainly worth a try, at the price of free. I’d only pay for it if you like Dark Souls-like games. If you’re more on the fence about them like me, then I wouldn’t.)

I’d love to see more of the art design while my interest holds though.

PC Building Simulator: No Cash, Much Build

Finally caught PC Building Simulator going for 50% off on Steam the other day.

Considering that I was lusting after it during the Summer sale and still stingy not to bite at 40% then, I decided the threshold of 50% was sufficient for something I really wanted to play.

Prior plans for new computer replacement in real life are now overdue, thanks to the current pandemic climate we find ourselves in.

While mulling on plan B (buying parts in a face to face setting is now much more inconvenient – do I trust delivery options to not damage stuff in transit / wherever am I going to put a new computer case when prior room renovation plans are hold / which month can I take the leap on this for best financial management in a pandemic situation, etc. etc.), I needed a virtual stopgap to feed the “new PC” desire.

It’s certainly much cheaper.

And dare I say it, kinda addictively fun to be able to simulate build after build in a compressed amount of time.

Naturally, the first thing anyone would do (or at least I did) was jump into the Free Build mode to build a dream PC of choice, unrestrained by anything so prosaic as a budget.

Honestly, the build below is completely unresearched, so it cannot be considered “my” dream PC of choice, but given that my criteria was mostly “what is super-expensive in this catalog that also sounds good,” it is certainly -a- fantasy PC.

Random bits of shiny
Wheeee…

It’s certainly not a maxed out 3DMark score. All stock parts, no overclocking, no doubled graphics cards or ludicrous amounts of memory, but just to get the feel of how PC building simulator worked.

Then I started in on the campaign, where the story is that you’ve taken over a modest little PC repair/build shop from your uncle. Customers send you email with their requests, and their PC if you accept. You order in any necessary parts and assemble and troubleshoot as necessary.

The simulation is both detailed and simplified enough to be satisfying. It glosses over real PC building woes like misplacing screws and trying to fat finger in parts in cramped surroundings without dropping or damaging them (or is that just me) but allows you to plan and systematically attack the assembly of multiple PCs, meditatively inserting components by mouse clicking and holding.

There is the satisfaction of meeting a customer’s requests and their parts budget, as well as color-coordinating cables and components for reasons of pure cosmetic vanity.

There is a simulation aspect of balancing the customer’s requests, budget and your own company goals – max profit, be super efficient, just meet minimum requirements, shortchange the customer, play unethically, or go the distance for super customer satisfaction at possibly time and labor cost to oneself? Or anything in between.

The above customer had a huge budget of $1500, and her requirements were exceedingly minimal. A computer that can play Euro Truck Simulator 2 (Recommended Spec). Heck, you could probably build a PC that fits those requirements for half the price, and save the customer money.

I was in the mood for a -nice- build though, and since the customer was agreeable to footing the bill for up to $1500 in parts… why not get top of the line components up to the budget and put it together?

The final result completely exceeded the requirements by far, but I liked putting it together. It was a PC I wouldn’t have minded owning myself.

The cherry on top? The customer liked it too! Sense of accomplishment achieved. Never mind that it is completely pretend.

The multitude of cases one gets to go through is fun. Some are dreams to assemble and disassemble, and others, well, you’re left cursing and swearing as you pull off both the sides and the top, just to get components to go in. Certainly helps contribute some ideas for further research when it comes time to figure out what real life case to buy.

Probably my only chance to get relatively up close and personal with artistic cases. Certainly nice to look at.

In reality, I’m far too concerned with factors like good ventilation, given the hot and humid country I live in, as well as ease of assembly/disassembly for regular dust cleaning.

There are some amusing mini-stories in the emails that customers send you, providing a sort of voyeuristic view of various character’s lives, a kind of simulated reality drama.

“The good news is, I found my hamster.” Emphasis mine. Riiight.

There’s a cute, almost campaign-like story saga which I guess might segue into the PC Building Simulator’s recent eSports DLC (which has more middling reviews at this point, so holding off on that for now). But the story in the main game itself is fun.

There’s this kid who is into League of Legends and dreams of being an eSports star. Mum doesn’t approve. Naturally, he saves up his own money, then sends you an email and begs for as budget a PC as possible, that can still play League of Legends.

Do that, and he starts winning a few competitions, mum’s opinion changing slowly as she sees the prize money come in. He comes back to you for PC upgrades through this little mini drama.

Here’s a sample where he wins some extra cash and wants to reward himself with some bling for his PC:

Good on ya kid, here’s some shiny RGB lighting and color-coordinated cables.

Because these little things matter when you value your computer.

And I guess that’s why anyone would wind up playing PC Building Simulator for long periods of time. Because you like PCs and find value in the simulated assembly process of multiple computers.

16 hours and counting for me. Worth it. Recommended if you like PC building (and aren’t burned out with repeating the process over and over.)

Sorting Out Virtual Stuff

Last week’s lament seems to have gotten to the root of the problem in a roundabout manner.

Clutter in all my virtual houses was creating clutter in the mind, and making it difficult to take in more input – be it actual digital stuff, or just thinking about acquiring more digital stuff.

One thing I’m not good at is handling the urge towards crippling perfectionism, which then turns promptly into procrastination.

That is, if I can’t clean it all up to picture perfect standards, I may as well not start at all.

This is a line of thinking that leads absolutely nowhere.

So in small, baby steps, going real easy on myself, I tried to nip away at the problem from different angles, like a baby piranha trying to eat a brontosaurus.

Problem, The First

Overloaded Guild Wars 2 inventories make it impossible to do anything.

You can’t play, more things will come in to clog the works up. You can’t move them anywhere, because there’s no more space left. Throwing them away is a waste, because you never know when you’ll need a ton of them, and/or make a killing selling stuff on the TP.

You could use them, but you’d have to figure out exactly which esoteric ingredients need using in what precise order, which means lots of wiki recipe reading… aka absolute tedium.

Eternal ice and eitrite ingots were the main panic inducing currencies, because I get to do strikes once or twice weekly, after raiding. When you’re not actively doing anything else with the game, this adds up.

Illuminated boreal weapons were bottlenecked by a lot of tedious mystic forging and/or buying ingredients towards amalgamated draconic somethings. I made one or two, then left it on the back burner.

Eternal ice can be converting into other Living Story currencies, which is the main reason I’m hanging onto the main morass. I just haven’t figured out exactly how much I need of whichever currency yet.

The last option was to use a smidgen of the excess into building larger sized boreal bags. This is attractive for multiple reasons – use up some excess currency and get more space, and literally get more space by owning bigger bags.

The bottleneck here is Supreme Runes of Holding, which are obtainable by gamble-flushing stacks of ectoplasm in the hope of getting lucky. Or buying it off the TP for 8.5-9 gold each. Not exactly cheap, which is why I never did anything about it earlier, but I’ve been accumulating raid gold and not spending these past months, so… eh.

3 Supreme Runes can net 28-slot bags, which is a distinct size improvement from my regular miserly 18-slot or 20-slot ones.

So I made a couple and did some desultory cleaning up.

I’m sure it will still induce anxiety in most people, but hey, there is some visible space. I have some room to play tetris with things, and that’s about all the motivation I can muster for this game and this project, so… good enough.

Problem, The Second

Disk space was more of the main mentally pressing issue.

The C: drive was running at some 8 GB remaining out of a 238 GB SSD (ostensibly it’s 256 GB, but apparently Windows and hard disk manufacturers count GB in different units of bytes.)

The other SSD wasn’t doing much better (20-30 GB out of 238 GB), nor the 1 TB hard disk drive (80ish GB out of 931 GB available.)

Since that is a lot of STUFF taking up room to deal with, I thought I’d attack it from the easiest target for the biggest impact front.

I ran Spacesniffer to visually see the conglomerations of folders taking up the MOST space.

Turns out that the only big things in the C: drive were Windows, Guild Wars 2 and Path of Exile, plus some scattered stuff in Documents folders. GW2 was pushing 47 GB, PoE 30ish GB, and Windows in that 30-40GB ballpark.

It gradually became obvious that keeping the three together would not help the C: drive any, nor are any of them viable candidates for immediate removal. So the last option eventually clarified itself as move either GW2 or PoE out of the C: drive and into another drive.

Yours truly is a lot less confident about GW2 acting right on a non-C: or non-SSD, so that eventually distilled itself into next action: Transfer PoE out of there, and into the other SSD (since I do still want PoE to perform nicely.)

Segueing Issues, The Third

Cleaning up the other two drives to make a bit more room was essentially a collaboration between Spacesniffer and Steam.

Most of the large space hogs were Steam games. I took out 40 GB of Van Helsing 1 and Van Helsing 2. I’ve played the first game, once upon a time, and was sort of halfway through the second. I figure I have a ton of other ARPGs I’d rather get around to first, so I can install them again later, if ever.

Attempting Talos Principle for the third time was the right time.

Laser and block puzzles are fun. The recording ones can go to hell.

I raced through most of the puzzles in four days or so, only going for hints and outright solutions for stars and some later puzzles that got a bit too headachy and tedious to deal with.

The main head rush was the joy of insight, of being able to figure out something new, logically or intuitively, from the components at hand.

Getting to see pretty scenery in super-ultrawide didn’t hurt either.
Oddly, the second world reminded me a LOT of A Tale in the Desert visually, just with more graphical sparkle.

The difficulty started to get a little out of hand during the later puzzles of the third and final world. I started feeling a little antsy and impatient, so I went for only the easy and medium endings, and gave up on the most completionist Messenger ending. There was also Road to Gehenna DLC I picked up in a bundle somewhere, which mostly provoked a “oh no, not -more- puzzles” response, so that quite decided things.

As much fun as annoying and chating with the Serpent is… when you’re sick of the puzzles, you’re very much done with Talos Principle.

Out went another 20 GB, with much relief. I can always reinstall later if I ever want to re-do the Messenger ending, or if I’m finally ready for more puzzles.

I gave BATTLETECH a go.

It was surprisingly text-laden and crunchy, systems-wise. Seemed very faithful to the original tabletop franchise, from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about said franchise.

It was also amazingly unforgiving. I died twice in the tutorial and had to restart from scratch, mostly because I had no clue what I was doing, the tutorials didn’t tell me, and the controls and UI were a little obtuse.

It took a little skimming of some third party guides to begin to grasp the initial basics – like being able to selectively choose weapons to shoot, what “health” was (aka armor and structure), and the odd turn/phase order.

I dunno, but I kinda needed this screen in the ACTUAL first tutorial mission, not AFTER I gained enough knowledge to complete the tutorial.

Being really stubborn, after a brief ragequit and some reading, I played like a really careful X-COM strategist for the third tutorial attempt and blew through with flying colors and a lot less instant death failure.

It still felt slow and tedious, and I had no clue what I was doing on the first story mission after the tutorial, and it was a 30 GB monster. So I gave up and deleted it.

Of course, after that, I got curious enough to Google “Battletech slow” and learned there are mods / easy ini fixes to adjust the pacing and everything, so eh, maybe. I’ll reinstall it when I’m ready.

On one hand, I really find the concept of playing some big stompy robots and strategically shooting up hit locations magnetically attractive. On the other, the thought of needing to understand every last stat and detail of every single Battletech mech and weapon in order to play well is a little off-putting.

Not to mention, Battletech’s apparent habit of cheerfully killing you off ruthlessly if you didn’t immediately know the correct approach to deal with a particular situation. (Destroyed twice in tutorial mission; promptly shredded up by turrets in first story mission while trying to work out how to get LOS to a turret generator to destroy it.)

This Dark Souls difficulty thing is a trend that is getting out of hand.

And then there was SOMA.

I finally completed it today.

Really happy about that. Possibly a little too happy, given that it’s supposed to be a horror game about undersea robot monsters.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that I get bored shitless with walking simulators, really quickly.

I really need the ability to interact and WHACK things with a stick, at the very least. Heck, even Subnautica lets you stab things with a knife, if ineffectually. Most of the time, you would still play as intended, if only because killing things with the death of a thousand paper cuts is beyond tedious, but one needs the option for action, in order to feel less artificially restricted.

Since horror stealth games are an immediate NO GO zone – because jump scares feel artificial and jump scares where you die immediately if you didn’t crouch and wait for eons in darkness while listening to scary noises are time-wasting bullshit – doing it walking simulator style with no immediate death possibility was the only way I’m ever completing the game and the story.

The story was not bad. I can understand why people like it. There’s a certain Gone Home verisimilitude in poking around the leavings of a setting and other peoples’ belongings. I half-enjoyed that part, except the controls felt a bit slow. The thematic and moral questions were quite good for stimulating philosophical thought on issues of humanity.

The body horror bits were a little lost on me. Yes, there was a great deal of aesthetic ugliness around the place. But eh, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the ugliness is also about adaptations to a deep sea environment. At one point, I also thought that if we were shrunk to the size of a cell and crawling around the human body, it would also look like a godawful gory mess of horror too.

At any rate, it wasn’t a waste of time to experience it once, and I’m also VERY HAPPY that I don’t have to waste any more time experiencing more of it. It is DONE. Finally. Strike off another 20 GB.

The end goal of all the rampant deletion is that all three drives are back to a nice looking blue in Windows Explorer, with ~40 – 140 GB free space remaining. One has a little more mental bandwidth. (Ironically odd statement, since as far as I checked, I’m not an AI or a brain scan reliant on disk space. Yet.)

It’s also helped to target a few more low-hanging fruit goals of games to play and deal with first. Ample disk space is a very powerful motivator.

New Acquisitions, The Fourth

Sorting out the whole Steam nonsense was next on the list.

In went this month’s Humble Bundle Choice serials. I even managed to install some of them to try out before the month is out.

Off the list for me were Verlet Swing (too absurdly trippy for me) and Yuppie Psycho (I don’t really enjoy horror genres enough to play through ’em. I’ll watch someone else play, no problem, but firsthand playing them isn’t really rewarding enough for me.)

In went the Road Trip Special purchase.

Turns out, it’s all DLC.

With all the games I’m now motivated to play through and boot off the hard disk, I don’t actually see myself needing any new games for the time being. At least, I can certainly wait till the Christmas sale.

I do have about $6.50 in local currency or ~$4.70 USD of odd duck games (ie. games with known issues like glitches or pacing or just not very fun, but the concepts sound interesting to explore for cheap) sitting in the cart. I may or may not jump on it later tonight.

But it’s also interesting that I ended up prioritizing the purchase of DLC for games I -know- I enjoy.

I received Boundless free from Chestnut. Given that I’m 430+ hours into the game, I’m starting to feel like I should give the company something in exchange for all this enjoyment I’m having with it. So I did.

I don’t strictly need the deluxe edition upgrade. I was doing fine without it. But as a thank you, with some bonuses attached, I feel pretty good about it.

I get a month of Gleam Club (worth $5usd a month) where I don’t have to worry about keeping beacons topped up – granted, stuffing 10 foliage worth of fuel into my small number of beacons per month is no big deal to me either. The Gleam Club comes with colored chat text, which I am unlikely to use since I am not a chatterbox, but perhaps I can get some use out of emojis in signs.

I get 500 cubits and 10% more plots, not as if I was running out of the free cubits or plots any time soon either.

And I get to make a special weapon called the Golden Fist, which I could have bought from other players or asked other players with the Deluxe edition to fire off my machines to make them. Still, since I now have the ability, I mass crafted 10 of them and will eventually have to get around to forging them and then taking them for a spin to see how they work. (I could have just stuck to normal slingbows also, which have more range than the fist weapons.)

Virtual House Expansion, the Fifth

The Boundless base has been extended in three compass directions with extra plots, to reserve space for future planned expansions of storage, farms, and machines.

I’ve been digging out the holes slowly and steadily, but have been interrupted in these pursuits by the arrival of exoworlds, in shiny colors, that I feel like I need to snatch up, before they disappear in a few days.

Being someone who loves the color green, I so want to stay on this planet forevah!

The sorting/tidying/cleaning/ordering bug has hit well enough to at least do a tiny bit of a constructive thing.

In this case, the new basement corridor that will eventually lead to rooms of machines. Initial sketches using placeholder blocks, while the actual marble and concrete were still getting mixed up and crafted in the machines.
The more-or-less finished product.

Mostly less, because I added a bit more decoration on the mid-level stair landing, and I want to do something more decorative and make a proper fountain/water feature later on.

(The water was left over from trying to make a safe landing spot in the basement, before giving up and doing the L-shaped ramp as stairs route.)

Addendum, the Final

I’d intended to get a quick 30 min game out of one of this month’s recent Humble Bundle Choice, so that one could feel virtuous about actually having played a game I newly own.

I wound up nearly 2 hours into it.

Suffice to say that Beat Hazard 2 is still pretty durned good.

Mind you, it takes a little getting used to.

There’s a Steam review on it where the author calls it “How to make yourself legally blind 2: the game.” Accurate.

My first encounter with its predecessor Beat Hazard, and I recoiled like a vampire from its riot of color and sheer visual excess.

I was ridiculously motivated by Steam achievements in those days though, and there was one nasty one in Beat Hazard that was in the way of my brilliant completionism. So I gritted my teeth and just stuck it out.

At some point, your brain learns to compensate and literally tune all the visual bling out as merely background noise. The trick is to just zone out and let your eyes defocus on the background where the lightshow is, while mostly feeling the rhythm of the music and focusing only on important things – like where your ship is, where the killer bullets are, and where to just spray your own bullets in the general direction of targets.

One big improvement upgrade on the original is that Beat Hazard 2 allows you to play your own music from any streaming site or Youtube by using desktop mic to listen and some third party music identification service to figure out what the song is.

Given how esoteric my music choice can be, that it identified correctly about 50-75% of the Youtube videos I was using as actual music tracks, that’s not too shabby. (We’re talking Melodicka Bros, Miracle of Sound, Wind Rose, Sam Tsui, etc. It kinda half gave up with earlier Miracle of Sound and Peter Hollens videos and it more or less surrendered with nightcore.)

What is pretty cool is that each track dynamically generates for you a new ship that you could purchase (with in-game cash, not real cash – sad we have to specify this now) and use.

So you might find potentially find good or bad ships, and tell your friends to go play those music tracks to get good ships, etc.

Each ship also has special missions to upgrade them further, mostly based about the artist or words in the track, so it keeps unlocking potentially limitless gameplay tasks.

But mostly, Beat Hazard 2 is about chilling to as intense or relaxing an experience as you personally want to make it (you can dial down visual intensity to 50% and use really slow songs, or if you’re score-motivated and highly competitive, then you need 300% visual intensity for the best score multiplier – in which case, good luck to your eyes) while listening to music you enjoy.

I could think of worse ways to waste 2 hours.

-Not- Not Playing Boundless…

…aka the one where I wind up down the slippery slope of “how did I do this to myself again?!”

Regular readers will recall that I am not a builder by nature, and have no intention of constructing anything even remotely similar to the player monuments I have been happily screenshotting, perfectly content to admire from afar.

I was going to keep my home base / camp as small as possible, and keep it mostly functional. Square rectangular box? Underground hidey hobbit hole? No problem.

Except there was one itty bitty little issue.

The next upgrade to the functional machines that I was idly considering slowly accumulating as an incremental long term goal simply wouldn’t fit.

The next step in crafting progression are power coils and advanced power coils. Given the current prices in player shops and the ability of veteran players to leapfrog past new player bottlenecks, I was giving serious thought to just buying the advanced power coils slowly, one at a time, off said player shops.

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Power coils (and the advanced version) are blocks that need to have a 1 block air gap between them and the machine they are powering. They then shoot a little colored laser beam at the machine they’re affecting.

The machines themselves comprise of 4 blocks, which can be arranged in any fashion, as long as they connect.

Up to 24 power coils can be connected to one machine. The machine also needs to be powered by an electrical wire equivalent – spark cable lines that will eventually connect to a spark generator.

I am not terribly good at this sort of spatial math.

I watched a Youtube video of some suggested Power Coil Placement ideas. I looked at screenshots I had taken of other players’ bases to see how they did it.

I wasn’t quite convinced about the top/down placement in the screenshots. It seems there were much less than 24 coils, and not much room for future expansion if needed.

I tried drawing some layouts on paper, only to realize that I’m not great at drawing squares, and keeping track of things in three-dimensions on a two-dimensional sheet? Forget it.

Now…where else could I actually build things in three dimensions, and mutter to myself while basically sketching out a prototype?

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Yep, Minecraft Creative Mode. Super flat world. Wound up near a village and a ton of bored green slimes.

I’d just grabbed the nearest modpack I had already installed, that might conceivably contain similar-ish blocks. It just happened to be Stoneblock, which has a number of tech mods included.

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The four blue workbenches simulate the Boundless “machine,” which I crinked up into an “L” shape.

The T shaped dynamos surrounding it are the future “power coils,” in a 2×3 arrangement on all four sides, that should be 24 quite handily.

Instead of burying the “spark line” or sticking it on the ceiling (Boundless, unfortunately, lacks modded Minecraft covers or facades to hide wiring), I put it low to the ground at the back of the machine. I figure this will create a little 1 block crawlspace behind each machine, where I can hop over the spark lines, in case I ever need to access the back of any machine.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at one. I had to figure out how each machine group of blocks would fit together, both for easy access and for expansion if needed.

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Leaving two blocks of space created too claustrophobic a corridor, so I tried three blocks of space in between and that seemed a good enough compromise.

I didn’t want to make massive builds in Boundless, after all, and each 8 x 8 plot of land in Boundless has to be bought with cubits (which, granted, a large quantity of are generously given free to each character, enough to build -massive- constructions, as we’ve all seen in past screenshots.)

And why stop there? Now I had to figure out just how many corridors of two row machines I might need, in order to accommodate multiples for industrial factory processing.

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Presumably, the corridors can also be extended down the end, or I could build a new floor on top of the old one when it becomes necessary.

(It would just be really annoying if I had to climb up and down multiple stairs when I make stuff, so I eventually need to position the correct machines next to each other.)

Finally, I decided an array of 12 machine groups should be enough for now. It would probably take forever to earn enough for so many power coils anyway.

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So how big a base was I going to need to fit this entire contraption in? Enter lots of block counting measurements and the convenient Minecraft sign to help me keep track of numbers.

Theoretically, the whole thing would fit in a space 33 blocks long by 14 blocks wide or thereabouts, and about 5 blocks high. Each Boundless plot is 8 x 8 x 8 though.

The ceiling was no problem. A 16 block wide building would make things awfully cramped and leave no room for other storage or decorations, so 24 block wide it would be, or three plots. As for the length, well, 32 was a nice number, but I didn’t want to lose any wiring or symmetry, so heck, 40 blocks or 5 plots long it will be.

Wow. Starting from a dinky little 2 x 2 plot base, I’d now be sticking an additional 3 x 5 base right next to it. That was quick.

Then it struck me. Since I was already -here- in Minecraft Creative mode, why not do some color tests and plan that too?

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I knew I wanted to explore the gradients of green and turquoise I had seen in the world that reminded me of GW2 necromancer colors.

It also so happened that black was a rock in ample supply on the first Aus server world I started with, so that would be a good color to use too.

I am not an artist. I was basically going to build a rectangular box. A flatted factory for my machines. But I could make it a box with a pleasant gradient of greens.

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Boundless has gleam blocks that provide light. Since I’m already here, I may as well work out just how many spaces per “light” block I’d need to create something symmetrical.

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Of course, I’d need windows and doors, because I cannot imagine being cooped up in a Minecraft or Boundless building for too long without being able to look out at the scenery and horizon outside.

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You know, I’d better light the interior as well. “Fluorescent” lights for the factory.

Bonus, I could use the lights in the roof as floor lights when it comes time to expand upwards and build an additional floor.

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Yep, planned interior looking pretty good.

Back over in Boundless, the first decision I was going to have to make was what -texture- of block to use.

It had to be something cheap and easy enough for a newbie to make, no multi-step elaborate marble or concrete recipes for moi.

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The three basic rocks are sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic, and they all have rough hewn stone textures. So those wouldn’t exactly be very nice for what I had in mind.

After going through a bunch of wiki links and mostly choking on the high recipe cost of the extremely decorative blocks, I decided that “refined metamorphic rock” and “refined sedimentary rock” were relatively presentable and -actually- doable.

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The conversion was still going to be mine out 18 rocks to convert into 50 stone (4 min 10 sec x 6 times), and 288 stones (25 min) for 50 refined rocks. Essentially, 108 rocks for 50 refined rocks, with some leftovers.

I’d pulled out over 5000 rocks in roughly 30min of flailing away underground with a 3×3 hammer on a T1 world, so it didn’t seem too impossible. The trick would be getting the right colors though.

Each world sports different colors of rock. I spent even more time clicking away at the Worlds tab on the third-party Boundless Crafting website, trying to figure out which world had the shades of green I wanted. Then I figured out going the reverse route by checking out the item, which then shows which planet to get it from.

But but… surely the colors on a web browser and the colors in-game don’t quite match. Neither was I convinced that this other player spreadsheet summarizing the planets and color info exactly replicated the colors.

Nothing for it. I was just going to have to adventure to each world, and yank out some rock color samples. Self-assigned quest time!

That turned into a series of mini-adventures in themselves.

Midway through the quest to dig mini potholes in various worlds, I walk through a portal to the planet Gellis… to find myself standing in a museum of ALL blocks.

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You could probably hear my jaw drop a mile away.

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All the types of ice.

Wandered it for at least half an hour, taking screenshots aplenty.

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One of the gleam corridors.

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Even more gleam. So shiny.

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Stone. All the textures and things you can make from rock and stone.

There was a brief pause where one attempted to cut and paste from various screenshots to see if I could cross reference colors that way.

Nope. Still didn’t look good enough. Onward to the next planet!

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More jaw-dropping. Also at player creations.

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I had to expand windowed mode back to full ultra-widescreen for this one. The music soundtrack that suddenly started while I stared at the landscape and the two planets slowly drifting across the sky gave me chills. Most of the portals were closed and the place uninhabited, remnants of a community that had moved on. It felt like walking in ancient ruins, on an alien planet.

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Then I get to the edge of town and gasp, because this is a -floating- city in the sky and the planet is below. Way below. How on earth am I getting down to where the rock is?! All the portals are closed…

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I run around town, looking for open portals and find nothing. I stand on thin floating black roads, afraid to touch the empty spaces because there -could- be absolutely clear glass protecting me from a drop… or there could be absolutely nothing but air and a long long plummet. Then I see it. Do you?

Yeah, there’s a water elevator a la Minecraft that flows down. Right in the center of the tree.

Going down it was a trip because it alternated between running out of air if I stayed in the center, and plummeting through air if I moved out to grab a breath. I did end up smacking right into the ground at the final bit, but was near enough to not die from the fall damage.

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If I ever get strong enough, I would love to build a base on this T6 planet, Malurialakrib. It’s got all the shades of green I love. It’s even conveniently an Aus server planet, so I’ll get 80ms ping. Sweet. Now if only I could figure out what to do about the extremely lethal wildlife pests…

Some hours later… I eventually wind up at home base with all my geologic loot.

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Impromptu color palettes are assembled, for an audience of one.

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Less favored colors get hammered out of the running. I hem and haw some more.

This won’t work. I need to see them in my planned building format as a solid wall…

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Ok, strike out the rightmost column, that one is too dark at night.

Oh yeah, it’s night. I also came home with a bunch of colored gleam. LIGHT TEST.

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They’re all so very pretty.

But the highest contrast one with the tinge of blue is closest to what I have in mind, so that one wins for now.

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Still indecisive on the exact color arrangement of the green gradient wall… eh… I think I’ll go for the glowiest on the left.

But do I put them light to dark, or dark to light?!

A thin strip is not working, I think I need a bigger wall sample…

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Hmmm…. I still don’t know!

Oh wait, I need to knock out some blocks to simulate the windows…

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An extreme amount of dithering later, over which two in-game days pass, I eventually settle on one.

Only to realize that the work has just begun.

First, clearing out all the natural landscape in the new plots, digging out soil and rock. (The pink shows the boundaries of the 8 x 8 plots.)

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I started laying some basic flooring in basic black stone, for lack of anything better… and I’ve run out about a third of the way through.

Now I have to go mine more black rock, go back to the planets to collect more green rocks, turn those into refined rocks, and start laying them, one block at a time.

This should keep me busy over this weekend and most of next week… and I’m not even earning any extra coin by doing so, beyond some along-the-way feat/achievement completion rewards.

However did I get down this rabbit hole again?