Tapas All The Things

Over at Time to Loot, Naithin penned a post about Genre Burnout. It’s something I’ve been idly pondering over recent months.

On one hand, it’s undeniable that I’m off MMOs as a concept, possibly for good.

Nearly 5 years ago, I wondered what would come out the other side of playing a Guild Wars 2 (now with NEW raids included!) after bitterly railing about the toxic divide that introducing raids would cause.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can answer that question. Frustration, definitely. Sometimes at the game, sometimes at myself, sometimes at other people. Mostly the annoyance of having been proven Cassandra-like correct at the gaping social divide amongst players.

Fortunately, drama was mostly averted, save for one incident where boundaries were trod upon and some workplace skills in mediation, crystal clear communication and compromise had to be hastily yanked out and practiced. Players, by and large, do this really poorly, which feeds into the frustration above.

I’d like to think I avoided most elitist prick-ism, but I confess to being reluctant to join public encounters that exceed a certain level of challenge, on the assumption that the average player group is -not- going to succeed at it, or if I do give it a try, I’ll do the silent “drop out without a word” maneuver after a few failed and obviously-not-going-to-make-it attempts. I’ve watched others be far more elitist than me and simply been silent witness or just quietly thankful that I made it past the ‘barely acceptable’ threshold because I know without a doubt that I’m not investing the time and effort to ‘git gud’ to the point which would make these other people deliriously happy.

Burnout? I’m still raiding twice weekly without fail, barring the odd RL engagement. By any dev metric, surely that is not burnout.

But I feel like I’ve lost my rose-colored glasses on what GW2 could have been, and have accepted that it just wanted to blend into the MMO crowd and appeal to the whole spectrum of MMO players, raid-lovers included. That it is just one MMO among many. That traditional MMO gameplay doesn’t actually do much for me, in terms of being a forever game or tick many of my boxes. (If it did, I’d probably already have been playing Everquest, or World of Warcraft, or Final Fantasy XIV, or The Elder Scrolls or … whatever.)

Been there, done that.

With the last couple years of GW2, been there, done that -again-.

I’m done with main games, primary MMOs, or the one virtual world to rule them all.

I cannot conceive of ever starting over in some brave new world (pun intentional.) What would be the point? To get bigger numbers? To ‘win’ over someone else? To make friends and play with others? To collect all the things and show others that you did?

I’m not sure I ever much had that great enjoyment or use out of Multiplayer, and if the former doesn’t quite do it for me, I think we can safely dispense with the Massively prefix as well.

On the other hand, I am still occasionally finding reasonable levels of amusement playing parts of individual MMOs.

The actual beat-by-beat combat of fighting a raid boss with a character I’m comfortable playing is smooth and relaxing flow.

There was a certain level of RNG lottery fun in joining random PUG strike missions at various timezones during the first two weeks of the Eye of the North introduction – sometimes you luck into a really smooth competent party, sometimes it’s rougher but still manageable, and sometimes it’s utter carnage that is best left wordlessly.

The act of deciding on a small, achievable goal and then following through on it to completion is always going to have a certain ‘click’ of satisfaction at ticking a checkbox, regardless of the game I do it in.

And the same ‘what’s the point?’ argument could be made for singleplayer games as well. Does any progress or learning in a game matter? Is it just about the journey and the experience? One could also have a journey and probably -multiple- experiences in a multiplayer game too.

It’s becoming all equivalent, as I mentioned in my last (now ancient) post four months ago.

I am behind in Warframe. I am always behind. I play it solo singleplayer and like it that way. I have not made a Railjack; I have not yet played Scarlet Spear. I’ll get to it when I get to it.

Instead, I have been chasing the mini goals of relic grinding and building Prime warframes, because I couldn’t be bothered going for ‘lesser’ versions when a Prime one is available. I am super slow because I do it all by my lonesome and never join others in relic sharing missions. I get my Primes anyway, in the end, some gazillion relic farms later. Oberon Prime and Ivara Prime have been on my to-do list for the last month or two, and I just finished popping the last piece today. Now there’s Titania Prime to go.

Path of Exile Delirium League is out and I am not actually playing it. I missed the start because I was busy doing something else, then in the middle, I thought, maybe I’ll give it a go, and somehow I got diverted down the track of attempting to solo self farm an Oni-Goroshi unique.

For those not in the know, this mostly means repeat farming the very first map, Twilight Strand, over and over with multiple characters. I idly thought that this reminded me of Guild Wars 1’s Ascalon Defender achievement where one stayed in Pre-Searing Ascalon, and decided to try it once, just for the experience.

Two level 7 characters and one level 8 later, it’s turned into a sort of begrudging grudge match in slow motion. I -refuse- to do anything else but try to pop the sword, and because I’m not actually insane, I don’t farm for more than half an hour at a time. Lately, it’s been just try a few runs and then quit and play another game. The league might end before it drops. So be it.

My Steam recently played games looks like this:

steamplayed-JanMar20

All the red X’s I marked are stuff I’ve not even installed, let alone played. Mostly they are last month’s Humble Bundle Choice games and a free game.

One green tick games are stuff I played a bit.

At my level of no-discernable-skill, Dota Underlords is an amusing RNG gamble that I mess around with Hardcore difficulty bots. It offers me the ability to learn how to recognize various DOTA heroes and what they vaguely do, and the relaxation of letting AI beat on each other. It gives me the realization that it makes no difference to me whether I wind up in sixth place, fifth place, third, second or even, rarely, first. Should it matter? Win some, lose some, it’s a game, it’s fun for a few rounds, and then I put it down.

Ever so slowly, I have been attempting to finish SOMA. I’d like to complete it, and then delete it off my hard disk because that’s 9gb of valuable disk space I’d like to reclaim, and someone, somewhere, said it was a classic game worth the playthrough.

Honestly, it’s one of those games that is not really doing it for me. It’s a slooow as molasses walking simulator that utilizes a bunch of horror tropes (which I don’t really scare or react easily to, or feel much about). I turned off all the actual danger because the one thing that would make me ragequit without ever completing it would be dying repeatedly to some dumbass monster because I didn’t have the patience to hide in shadows until it went away.

I end up wandering in circles because navigating in murky water is not my forte and it is not scary, it is just frustrating and makes me pull up a walkthrough trying to match my steps with the instructions until I’ve figured out where the game wants me to go next. My game session progress is measured in walkthrough pages. I’m about 50% into sunk cost and I’ll get around to a little more progress someday… just not today.

Battlechasers Nightwar is a fun enough JRPG-like game, if a little slowly paced. Played it for a couple hours, then had enough. Eliza was an interesting visual novel experience that I played for a session, then put down and never quite got back to.

Every now and again, when I crave a walk in the woods, I go back to comfort game theHunter: Call of the Wild and tromp around slowly, hoping to bag a virtual deer.

Two green tick games are games I deep dived into:

Stardew Valley – made a new character and played nonstop until Year 3 and grandpa’s ghost came along to tell me I did a fantastic job. Then lost steam because the next couple of goalposts were far away in terms of money and would clean out the bank. So it goes. Maybe someday I’ll get back to it.

sd-house

Don’t Starve – got into Shipwrecked obsession for a while. A nomadic explorer lifestyle is not really me in survival games. I love to bunker down in a base. Shipwrecked almost explicitly disrupts this playstyle. Kept dying of some cause or another before making it into the next season. Going for yet another roguelike run gets addictive, until one day, they are suddenly not.

Risk of Rain 2 has no ticks. It’s on current free weekend trial. So I trialed. Not quite for me. The difficulty is a little beyond me, and I can’t quite get my head around the scavenge-all-the-items-and-hope-for-good-RNG playstyle. Maybe it’s a carry over from Battle Royales. Maybe it’s why I could never really get good at Binding of Isaac.

Unreal World has been a current tapas game poison of choice. I think I’m getting back into turn-based roguelikes – might veer back to Angband and TOME next.

Unreal World is very simulationist, you play an Iron Age Finn and mostly try to live a low tech lifestyle without dying from one thing or another.

My current run lucked into a bear very early on, which I somewhat foolishly chucked a javelin at. That wound up with the bear charging me and a duel to the death of mad dodging and stabbing.

urw-bear

It broke one arm, which left me crippled on doing various activities for many days until the fracture healed, but hey, I lived, and it died!

urw-cabin

Set up a little log cabin before winter set in. I love the bunkering playstyle in survival games, I may have mentioned.

urw-elkgift

Doing well through winter. A reindeer actually blundered into the pit trap that surrounded my log cabin, something that felt really lucky. I usually spend days checking on all the traps I’ve set up with no returns.

So it goes. I’ll play it till it gets boring or I get distracted, and then I’ll move on to something else.

Ever since mentioning Master of Magic to Syp in a comment, I’ve been thinking of giving that a replay at some point.

My Epic Games list is filling with free games. This months Humble Choice Bundle has arrived. Super Adventure Box is coming. Who has time to play just one game?

Who has time to play -all- the games?

I’ll set a goal, play one game a little. Set another goal, play another game a little. Don’t bother with a goal at all and play yet another game for a while on a whim. Rinse and repeat.

Listmas 2014: Random Things You Can Do in Don’t Starve Together

The more the merrier! Or more mouths to feed....

1) Die promptly to darkness due to Steam chatting with a friend.

2) Resurrect as a lonely ghost and go exploring.

3) Discover you can turn pigs into werepigs. Including guardian pigs. Who will promptly fight each other.

dst-pigbattle

4) Give in to your inner pyromaniac by haunting trees.

dst-fire1

5) Admire the fruits of your ghostly labor. Just a perfectly, totally normal tree carcass on the left there.

dst-fire2

6) View the aftermath of mating beefalo herd + frog ponds as not a bonanza, but just enough to feed all the hungry mouths at home for a few days.

dst-meat

7) Spectate a beefalo shaving attempt gone horribly wrong, knowing you had no hand in it this time!

dst-fire3

A big thank you to Syl and her friends for hosting the server and graciously welcoming the lil’ robot onto their world.

(Disclaimer: Experimental ghostly antics were explored with a PUG server, though with the amount of -intentional- forest fires started, who’d really notice one more?)

Steam Sale Recommendation: Don’t Starve

I almost hesitate to recommend this one.

For a variety of reasons.

The biggest one is that this game eats your time. I’m not sure where the weekend went.

It’s also not the cheapest it could go, at only 40% off, but it won’t hit any longer during the summer sale. (It will probably have a daily deal after the sale at 50% though.)

Miserly me has also been sitting back on this one as it’s barely reached 50% off once, and I thought I would wait until it got cheaper.

But now I regret hesitating to pick it up then, as the thought of being able to play a good modern survival game kept preying on the back of my mind like a hallucinatory spider until I decided I would just get it, at whatever price it was being offered at the summer sale.

The last reason to hold back on the purchase would be what people typically say about Don’t Starve, it’s a hard and challenging game in the survival genre and thus may not be to everyone’s taste.

But ehhh, those words don’t describe it very well at all.

Don’t Starve is part of an as yet rare breed in the PC world, a true survival style game in the vein of games like Lost in Blue (Nintendo DS) and Unreal World (PC ascii rogue-like.)

The key is the hunger meter, a ticking time bomb that steadily drops as the hours and days pass, and your goal is to strive to maintain it for long enough to accomplish other goals like exploration and crafting and possibly story progress, depending on the game.

Entropy relentlessly wears away at it. Mistakes are costly to recover from. Many game turns or days are spent running back and forth involved with repetitive action while one strives to maintain a happy medium between progress and bar maintenance.

This repetition is sometimes criticized, but really, if people can mine endless tunnels in Minecraft looking for diamonds or play farming games like Harvest Moon, there’s really no difference except whether the player has accepted it as part of the goal and gameplay.

What Don’t Starve has going for it is, first of all, a very unique aesthetic.

It’s a Tim Burton-esque style of dark, quirky, macabre and comedic and it works very very well. The game universe has a bizarre logic to it, even when you run into the strangest of oddities and are expecting an unpleasant surprise.

Your first days and first games, will, in a rogue-like vein, be mostly a learning experience as you run headlong into all manners of horrible ways to die.

Totalbiscuit, in his WTF of it, has commented that Don’t Starve is very much a wiki game, in that reading the wiki and all manners of guides are pretty much accepted and expected – the game does not handhold you.

Then again, Minecraft and Terraria are also very much wiki games after the first few discovery and exploration attempts (did anyone really try to figure out redstone circuits from scratch?) and Don’t Starve is no different. You may choose to play the first few games unknowing and enjoy the process of learning through repeated deaths, but eventually, I think most players reach a point where they reach the limit of their own resources and start to type things into google to find out how others are handling the same thing.

And from that wiki understanding, your next games will be deeper and richer and so on.

I started a new game to take screenshots, as I didn’t want to jinx my existing game. The following will describe various occurrences and mention in brief some strategies of play, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, please look away now and just buy the game already.

I took the opportunity to play a completely new to me to character, Wolfgang the Strongman, described as being “stronger with a full belly” and “is afraid of the dark and monsters,” which didn’t tell me very much.

Day 1: Wolfgang wakes and runs around.

thenightmareneverends

Exploring one’s surroundings is critical to getting an idea of where all the various resources are, and where best to place one’s camp.

Totalbiscuit’s other criticism of Don’t Starve is that the starting layouts can be rather arbitrary. Some may place you in a good position, and others may stack the deck against you from the very beginning. On this, I think he’s spot on, though I think there can be some mitigation once a player understands the game well enough to hunt around for a good base camp site.

I immediately realize that this is a much better arrangement of resources than my last two games.

firstdaysmap

I find a rocks biome to the north, which will provide rocks, flint and gold. There’s even a tallbird nest or two.

I run into a cobblestone road, something I’ve never seen before prior to this, only encountering dirt paths in my previous plays. It’s an excellent speedy highway, which reveals lightly forested land to the northeast (which will have twigs and berry bushes), deepening to denser forest (more trees) and expose a spider den, which I give a wide berth for now (good silk and monster meat for later farming.)

There’s a pond that will produce frogs near my original start location, and south of that is savannah, filled with grass and rabbit holes.

This is the spot, I decide, as the day is evaporating fast. Camping out near an accessible road and near rabbits for a constant source of food, a decent amount of various resources nearby.

Having learned the hard way in the first few playthroughs, I have been grabbing every last tuft of grass and twigs to create traps as I explore the map. It isn’t until the day is nearly gone that I realize that I’ve almost forgotten to get wood to start a fire. I hastily assemble an axe and make a mad dash for a tree or two for logs.

The controls are not obvious. I’d previously ended up clicking a lot trying to find an ideal rhythm for woodcutting and stopping and starting. I’ll tell you now that one has to hold down the left mouse button or spacebar, and that seems to chop the easiest.

I’m fast enough that there’s enough light left and I decide to go for broke and race to mine some boulders for rocks and get an efficient firepit going since I’d decided on my base camp spot, rather than the dinky little temporary campfire that one normally starts off with.

I have not done much of anything about food, having not encountered any berries or carrots yet. Wolfgang’s gnawing stomach and plummeting meter makes itself known, and to my surprise, he physically shrinks and becomes wimpy.

allaloneinthenight

The first night, with only a small supply of logs to hold back the encircling darkness.

Tomorrow, food is a big priority. I need to forage urgently. I need to find a biome and a promising direction to go in. Nighttime is a good time to decide on the next day’s goals and open the map to make plans.

In Don’t Starve, one has to constantly think ahead and plan how best to spend the few precious hours (really, minutes) of light.

forestberries

Day 2: Wolfgang strips the bush of anything edible.

I hurtle southward along the road, hoping to find a more hospitable forest with berry bushes and carrots, while collecting the world’s biggest collection of twigs and grasses.

I forage it bare, as I might not have done on an earlier, more cautious game with Wilson, as Wolfgang appears to have a cavernous stomach and an enormous hunger meter to fill, and my main plan to sustain his hunger is really to set up a whole bunch of rabbit traps near my savannah base.

Except he better not starve before that gets going.

day2

Daylight is running out again and more importantly his hunger meter needed to be filled. I rush back to “base camp” or the one lonely firepit with a handful of berries and some carrots, and cook them all, then scarf them down. It’s not much, but it’s something.

I realize to my annoyance that I can’t make beams from logs to burn yet. I forgot a Science Machine. (Or rather, hunger came first.)

Another lonely night is spent, slowly feeding in logs every 90ish seconds or so before the fire goes out. I weave some more rabbit traps in the meantime.

They will be dumped on top of the rabbit holes first thing tomorrow morning.

(Which seems to be the most efficient way to catch rabbits. My initial game wasted a lot of resources trying to bait the trap with carrots, and placing it a distance from the rabbit holes.)

Day 3: The Quest for the Science Machine

rocksandaringwut

I run up to the rocky area with a pickaxe to mine for gold for the science machine. I also find a strange ring surrounded by evil flowers. (Dear gods, this is a dense layout I’ve gotten. I have no clue what it does and don’t want to wiki it up yet. I leave it well alone.)

chasedbytallbird

Mining is interrupted by a tallbird, who seems to think I’ve gotten too close to its nest, and aggressively attacks. Brave Sir Wolfgang gallantly runs away.

Cowardice seems to be the better part of valour in this game. There’s a lot of kiting involved, even when one is equipped with a spear and log coat armor for combat. I haven’t as yet tech’ed up to the ranged weapons, so I don’t know how that goes. And most times, leading monsters into traps or other monsters to let them fight it out seems to be the best way to profit without being hurt.

I get back at around dusk to check on and reset my traps. Dinner is served.

roastrabbit

Oh, that terrible squeal when you murder them. I don’t suppose cooking them alive is any better.

The brilliant blaze courtesy of the new science machine, which helped to prototype the technology of “beam” – ie. a plank from 4 logs, which according to the wiki, burns for 360 seconds and can generally last the night. It’s a lot easier than trying to feed in 4 logs without risking the fire going out.

day4map

Day 4’s map is more developed. South of my basecamp is a beehive, and a patch of swampland that has a ring of Tentacle monsters (never saw those before either) surrounding a skeleton, a beefalo hat, and some hound’s teeth. While a scary sight and a big shock when I first ran into them (runaway runaway!) these will turn out to be be my most favorite saviors later on, as hound attacks are easily dealt with by getting them to fight each other.

day5bats

Day 5: Wolfgang is chased by very angry, very toothy bats.

I unplug a sinkhole (that leads into experimental caves that I have not DARED to venture in yet.) I do this for the guano they leave behind, which is apparently good fertilizer later on if I ever get around to making farms. They also burn as fuel in a pinch.

day6charcoal

Day 6: Wolfgang lights himself on fire.

While burning up trees to make charcoal. Which we need for drying racks. I’m already worrying about winter, which I was under the mistaken impression arrives on day 15. (It’s really day 21, as I found out later.) It lasts for 15 days, which is probably where the confusion came in. This guy’s stomach is insatiable and I was already having trouble keeping up with the original Wilson.

Day 7: Wolfgang stuffs his face. He does that a lot.

day7homesweethome

This is a good place to end off the post before it gets too long. Base camp is beginning to look more set up. The first of a few drying racks are placed. I rushed an alchemy machine for lightning rods, because I lost my entire berry bush farm in my last game to a lightning strike (oh.. the flames…) Some collected saplings are laying on the ground to be put up in a twig farm once I got another lightning rod in place.

Hunger is still a constant companion that I didn’t quite begin to crack until the middle of winter and the beginnings of spring – around day 31-35. And there’s still a ways to go on that.

Don’t Starve is a great game. Full of things to discover. The next update is apparently due in nine days, which should have even more nasty surprises.

Is it worth $9? Hell, yeah.

Just make sure you don’t have anything scheduled for the next eight hours when you play it.