Starting Ashes of Ariandel DLC

Over the weekend I tapered off of Civ 6 to push through to the end of my umpteenth Dark Souls 3 playthrough so I would finally have a character ready for the Ashes of Ariandel DLC. It took a total of about 18 hours to go through all the bosses and all the areas (over the course of a couple weeks, not two days :).

I had to make a new character because, if you didn’t know, you can’t transfer DS2 or DS3 characters from one PC to another. That’s really annoying, From Software. All those high-level characters I have on my old PC are now worthless unless I want to play the DLC on that old PC, which I don’t, because old PC is old.

The aptly-named Snowfield
The aptly-named Snowfield

The point is that I finally got into the Ashes DLC for the first time Sunday night, and soon I will be uploading a blind playthrough to YouTube. I’ll probably hold off on uploading for a few days so I don’t get influenced by any comments telling me I’m doing everything wrong. (Not that anybody ever watches my videos anyway heh.)

It’ll be interesting because starting tomorrow, I’ll have to juggle playing the DLC and writing for NaNoWriMo.

A Writing Stream?

Speaking of writing, many weeks ago, I saw on Twitch that there were “creative” channels dedicated to writing. At first I thought the idea was laughable, because how is a slowly expanding text document fun to watch? In fact, the only two people streaming were basically just sitting around with an open document staring at the Twitch chat and not writing.

Anyway, for weeks now, I’ve been thinking about what a “good” writing stream would look like, and how it might actually be more useful to me as the writer than to the viewer. So I might do a writing stream in November, say from 7-9 on weeknights. The only thing stopping me is that I don’t want to monitor a chat channel, because that would be incredibly distracting and defeat the whole purpose of it for me.

P. S. Eventually I’m going to finish a post about Battlefield 1’s historical accuracy. TL;DR – It’s not very accurate.

Battlefield 1 and (not) Civilization 6

Fridays are the worst days of the week for me, in terms of being bored. Usually half of the workforce is gone on Fridays, so it’s abnormally quiet and I have to spend eight solid hours trying to entertain myself in library-like silence. Using only my phone, mind you, because god forbid we have access to anything “fun” or “entertaining” on our work computers. The most interesting thing I can manage on my work computer is reading Wikipedia articles. My personal favorite is the On This Day page.

And no, I refuse to think about doing work on a Friday. Come on. That’s just crazy talk.

Anyway, one other thing I can do on the work computer is write, so here I am.

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I ordered Battlefield 1 a while back and pre-loaded it a couple days ago. I noticed right before I left the house this morning that it has unlocked, so I’ll be playing that tonight and this weekend. (Right after I publish this post, most likely.) I’m planning to record the single-player campaign and put it up on YouTube because why the hell not.

I learned from my Doom recordings that it’s a terrible idea to record a blind playthrough on the hardest difficulty, so I think I’ll stick to the normal difficulty this time. It turns out that repetition, such as that which occurs when you die over and over again in the same area, is boring to watch. Also kind of frustrating to play. Not to mention the challenge of thinking of something uniquely entertaining to say after the 20th time you’ve died to the same mobs. The only good option is to edit the video into an amusing death montage, but I’m usually too lazy to do that.

Anyway, as I mentioned on Twitter, my only real interest in the game is to criticize the historical inaccuracies in their depiction of World War I, the war I know the most about. If I see a French Renault tank driven by a British soldier, you better believe I’m going to have something to say about that!

Since I’ll be playing Battlefield 1, I won’t be playing what it sounds like everyone else in my circle of the Internet will be playing: Civilization 6. (Or is it VI?)

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It’s VI.

I’m sure I’m in the minority here but I didn’t like Civ 4 or 5. I wanted to like them, because I loved Civ 2, but I don’t think I ever made it into the AD years. It just felt soooooo sloooooow in those initial stages when you explore with your Warriors and Scouts and Settlers. (And that exploration didn’t feel very satisfying.) It felt like it took hours and hours and hours (ie. days and days, for me) of drudgery to get to the fun parts of the game that I remembered enjoying the most. For whatever reason, I just don’t have the patience for it anymore. Still, I’ll probably get Civ 6 eventually. In a sale, probably.

But first, Battlefield 1!

Audiobooks, NaNoWriMo, and other Miscellany

This is one of those rambling posts about everything and nothing, because I don’t have much to say. Just writing for the sake of writing because I was bored at work.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks again, trying to use up my credits. I recently finished Stephen King’s 11.22.63, which was beautifully read by Craig Wasson. He’s the actor who played the lead in that weird 80s movie Body Double. Now I’m listening to Stephen King’s End of Watch, which is beautifully read by Will Patton. Later I might listen to Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, the beauty of which I know nothing. [Editor’s note: I spent a lot of time wording and re-wording that last sentence, and I still don’t think it’s right.]

Unfortunately audiobooks (and regular books) eat into my gaming time. I can’t play any game that requires attention while listening to an audiobook, so the only productive gaming I’ve done is playing through Dark Souls 3 again so I’ll have a character ready for the upcoming Ashes of Ariandel DLC. (My five or six existing characters from my old PC apparently cannot be transferred to my new PC.)

Where I've been in Rift for the last 50 days.
Where I’ve been in Rift for the last 50 days.

I try to log into Rift every day to pick up my Starfall Prophecy pre-order token thingy. I spent 20 tokens already on a massive bag, and I have another 30 or so tokens now, but I discovered to my annoyance that you can only buy one bag per character. So now I guess I’ll try to collect 50 tokens so I can buy the silly squirrel mount that I’ll probably never use. That means I’m actually rooting for them to delay the expansion as much as possible. More delay means more tokens for me!

As Eri alluded to in her post, there isn’t much to write about in the news either. One Tamriel sounds cool, but unfortunately ESO is one of those MMORPGs that requires my full attention to play it (others in this category are The Secret World and SWTOR). At least I finally installed it on my new PC. The FFXIV Bloodstorm (or was it Stormblood?) expansion was announced by showing a Street Fighter video, but as yet there’s not many details to talk about. Mostly the announcement only reminded me of how far behind I am in that game.

I never played Red Dead Redemption, so the collective Internet freak-out over Red Dead Redemption 2 means nothing to me. Since they aren’t making a PC version, I probably won’t ever see it. (Although I still plan to buy a PS4 someday.)

So let’s talk about politics! Wait, no, let’s not. But I feel it’s my duty to remind everyone to stock up on batteries and water for the post-election riots.

How about that Westworld? After three episodes I’m prepared to say: I’m losing interest. I have a hard time getting invested in a story when it’s not clear what the objectives of the main characters are. It’s not even clear whether a story is taking place. Stories typically have a beginning, and I haven’t seen a beginning yet. All I’ve seen is backstory. Remember the good old days when every episode of a series had a beginning, a middle, and an end? Now every episode is a middle.

NaNoWriMo? I’m preparing for it, in my usual disorganized fashion. I happened to see a tweet from Alternative Chat mentioning she had both a book cover and a tag line for her project already:

That boggles my mind. I have nothing whatsoever, except the vague idea that I want to set the book in Belgium in the first year of World War I, and I want one of the characters to be an American war correspondent, and I want a plot reminiscent of the adventures of E. Alexander Powell and photographer Donald Thompson in Fighting In Flanders. I don’t know if I’m going to write in first person or third person, past or present tense, or what the story might be, or who’s going to be in it, or who’s going to win in the end, or who’s going to live or die, or how I’m going to deal with the fact that I don’t know German, French, or Flemish, or anything about military operations or occupations or relief efforts, or much of anything about life in 1914. The only real goal I have is to avoid getting too bogged down in the general horror of World War I. Unless it works better to do so. At this point I’m trusting that a story will reveal itself as I’m writing.

Hopes and Predictions for New World

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Based on the video, this poor fellow is apparently the only person working on New World artwork. :)

Since Amazon was kind enough to tell us they were working on an MMORPG without telling us anything about it, I thought it might be fun to throw out a wish list for it, and also try to predict what they’ll actually do.* Check back in two or three or four years to see how well I did! (Actually it probably won’t take that long to find out I’m completely wrong.)

Business Model. First the cynical stuff. I hope it’s a full-blown subscription model like WoW and FFXIV because that will result in the highest level of immersion. But I predict it will be a modestly-priced buy-to-play game with a cash shop. With several expensive pay-to-play early access options. And a soft launch without all of its promised features. Because that’s the law now. Also I predict they will try to monetize Twitch broadcasters in some way (eg. you’ll be able to buy “something” which will make your stream more entertaining for viewers to watch, like a giveaway prize, or unlock of an event, or colorful fireworks and dance parties, or something like that).

Setting. When I first heard “New World” I assumed they meant Jamestown-era (early) 17th century. But then they said (paraphrasing) “all the supernatural stuff is real” in their game, and after re-watching the video, I now think they mean the Salem-era (late) 17th century. Then again, building mechanics would be more in line with a Jamestown-era game, because Salem was already built. Personally I would prefer a Jamestown setting, since Salem is well-trodden story territory.

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This still from the video seems to show a 17th century town. To my eye it looks more late 17th century than early 17th century. (Actually it almost looks technologically advanced enough to be the Old West to me.)

Story. I am 95% sure that the game will begin with your character standing on a beach while a clipper ship sails away. If not that, you’ll be washed up on the beach from a shipwreck of said clipper ship. I predict that our character will not be “the chosen one.” We’ll be just another “Adventurer,” as the early settlers were called.

Map. I hope the game uses real-life North American names and places. But I predict they will use a made-up map that won’t match up with historical geography, for ease of development. I predict there will be some “otherworldly” places you can go, like an astral plane zone or a Hell zone.

POV. I obviously hope it’s a third-person view, and not first-person, and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t do this. When dressing your character is a major feature of the game, a first-person view makes no sense.

Combat Style. I predict it’s going to be action combat and not tab-targeting combat, presumably playable with a controller so they can port it to consoles. I imagine the combat will feel quite similar to the other two games, as it would make sense to share that code. I’m fine with that. I suspect there will be a lot of ranged combat because historically, everyone was ditching swords in favor of muskets. Or maybe pikes. Possibly rapiers.

Of the action combat implementations, Dark Souls is obviously my favorite and I hope they copy that. But among MMORPGs, I think Neverwinter has one of the best implementations. ESO and TERA are also very good. Black Desert is a little too button mashy for me–more reminscent of Diablo. I prefer to fight one or two mobs at a time, rather than slash through hordes of them. WildStar is unacceptable because simultaneously having to move and press hot keys to fire off abilities is awkward, and it’s one of the main reasons I can’t get back into that game.

Classes. I hope it’s a skill-based system and not class-based, because they are objectively superior in every way. But since we haven’t seen a mainstream game use a skill system since the 1990s I doubt Amazon will be that brave. Rift has the best class system so I hope they copy that one. But I predict we’ll see a traditional trinity-based, limited-function class system more in line with WoW, where each class is very distinct and there is no possibility for overlapping roles. I predict there will only be about five or six different classes at the start. There will be a Conquistador kind of class (it’s right there in the video), which I bet will be a tank. There will be a Witch class. There will be an Explorer/Scout type of class who runs around in furs and a Davy Crockett hat. I predict it will be one class per character (as opposed to being able to change classes like FFXIV or Skyforge). I predict each class will have their own unique type of weapon (as opposed to any class being able to pick up any kind of weapon and use it).

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Whoever is dressed in that steel armor in the upper right corner is probably going to be the tank.

Races. Humans, obviously. Not sure what else would make sense in a 17th century setting. Even the Salem witches were humans. :) I suppose they could divide that into Europeans and different Native American tribes but I think that would just be inviting racism controversy. Sticking with humans is fine with me. I definitely don’t want to see any elves or dwarves in there.

Genders. Just guessing here, but … male and female? I only put this category here because I hope they won’t gender-lock anything. I predict they won’t. (It’ll be interesting to see how they sexy-up the traditional Puritan garb.)

Factions. European, Native American, and Supernatural would be the three obvious choices, but again, I agree with @Sypster that they’ll have to be careful there. Maybe they’ll just go with English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I have no particular wishes or predictions here, except that I hope they don’t prevent people in different factions from grouping together. (Though I will throw out an incredibly safe prediction that there will be Indians–it’s right there in the video.)

Leveling. I predict traditional leveling, with an optional questing path. (By which I mean quests will be available if one wants to follow them. And by “traditional leveling” I mean it won’t be a level-less system.) I hope we’ll see some form of dynamic events as the main form of leveling. Maybe we’ll see a way for Twitch broadcasters to create their own events.

Progression. I predict it will be more of a horizontal progression style than vertical, like GW2. Character progression will just involve unlocking abilities (sort of like GW2). (I hope I’m wrong because I don’t like horizontal progression.)

Dungeons. Sandboxes (the way I think of them) typically don’t have dungeons, so I wouldn’t expect to see any.

Endgame. A lot of times, my “endgame” for an MMORPG is leveling a different character, so I’m clearly not qualified to predict what we might see in an endgame. It will probably be a traditional sandbox endgame, by which I mean the focus will be on making gold, getting achievements, hoarding junk you’ll never use, building things (aka. housing), and PvP. There might be some form of raiding, but given their Twitch-heavy plans I wouldn’t be surprised to see their “raids” come in the form of sponsored tournaments (like GW2 and WoW PvP tournaments).

Crafting. My only wish for the crafting system is that it be useful to craft gear while leveling. ESO is the only recent MMORPG I can remember where it made sense to craft gear for myself as I was leveling. In every other game, you out-level your crafting ability way too fast, and/or you get better drops from mobs than what you can craft. I predict crafting will be a simplistic system like WoW or GW2, and not a more complex system like Vanguard or FFXIV. I also predict crafting won’t be a high priority for them because it won’t help their Twitch integration.

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Careful squinting at this still from the video shows a brush texture called *_struc_crafting_alchemy_* so I predict there will be an Alchemy profession, and this is the place you’ll do it. :)

Gathering. Gathering is an essential part of an MMORPG experience for me. If I can’t run around finding glowing nodes to click on while I’m exploring, the world feels incomplete. I can’t imagine they would leave this out, but I predict it will be a simplistic gathering system (by which I mean, not like FFXIV where there are gathering abilities and such). I hope they use shareable nodes like GW2, but if they don’t, it might provide an automatic form of competition between players which would make for some dramatic Twitch broadcasts. (“Today we’re going to take over the gold-ore farming spot!”)

Servers. This is a key question, and I just don’t know what they’re going to do. Will there be a list of servers or one big mega-server like ESO? I hope the latter. I hate picking servers. But I predict they will separate NA and EU, because they always do.

Guilds. I predict guilds will be a major feature of the game, to promote the “us” versus “them” mentality that is great for Twitch streaming. I predict it will be the same old guild feature set that every other game has, with nothing innovative.

LFG. I predict there will not be an LFG tool when the game launches. (If there are no dungeons or raids it won’t be needed.)

PvP. I predict the PvP system will be similar to ArcheAge: Open world PvP with safe zones, enforced by NPC guards. I am fine with that. It will not be full loot, instead the death penalty will be negligible. I don’t think they will do siege combat like GW2 or ESO, because I don’t think that makes good viewing. I predict there will be nothing innovative about the PvP to make PvE players change their minds about playing.

Housing. I’m not sure about this one. They’ve talked about being able to build, but I can’t imagine they would allow open-world building like we see in ARK or ArcheAge (resulting in land grabs). I imagine that’s very difficult to develop. Personal and guild housing simply has to be instanced if they want anyone from the traditional MMORPG world to play this game. I imagine this will be a low priority for them because nobody is going to tune into Twitch to see somebody’s house.

Art Style. At first I thought they would use a similar visual style in all three games, which looks to be slightly stylized, somewhat like Crowfall. But upon reviewing the video I predict that New World will be the most realistic-looking of the three, which I approve.

* By the way, I have exactly zero information on which to base any of these predictions. But I’m making these assumptions:

  • All three games will share code and assets
  • Amazon’s business interests are more important than gamers’ interests (this is the downside of all AAA game development)
  • Twitch synergy will be an important corporate goal
  • New World will probably get less resources than the other two, more marketable games
  • Rapid and easy development will be in their best interest
  • Amazon’s teaser video accurately reflects the direction they are heading

Doom’s Problems

I haven’t played very much lately. Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting time into reading up on World War I (research for what I hope will be a historical fiction story for NaNoWriMo), reading Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, listening to Stephen King’s 11.22.63 audiobook, and even playing with composing some music in Renoise. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say the frenzy over the 2016 election has turned into a really entertaining Jerry Springer episode.

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A carefully un-cropped screenshot of a video player.

Gaming-wise, over the long rainy weekend, I thought I would make a push to finish recording my Doom Ultra-Violence blind playthrough. I didn’t think it would take that long, but boy was I wrong. That game just goes on and on and on and on forever. I feel like I saw everything there was to see in the game by about the halfway point, and beyond that it’s just an exhausting slog through room-to-room fighting.

You know exactly what’s going to happen every time: You get to a certain fairly obvious trigger point, then the quasi-metal music plays, a bunch of demons spawn, and you have to kill them all before you can go to the next room. At first the formula is fun, then it gets a bit tiresome, especially when you’re trying to finish it quickly.

Other than that, I have two main problems with Doom. One is the amount of exposition and narrative, which are 100% pointless in this kind of game. I really don’t need a detailed explanation for why my character is running around shooting Hell minions on Mars. I don’t need to know where they came from, who released them, or why. Even if I did, this story is not the slightest bit surprising or entertaining. Every single chapter is like, “You need to go to X, but first you’ll need to get Y and Z.”

The second problem I have with the game is the excessive size and complexity of the levels. This is a shooter. I shouldn’t have to spend half an hour trying to puzzle out how to get to the next level. Sure, I don’t mind hiding the secrets behind mazes of jumping puzzles and whatnot, but not the exit! Also these levels are enormous compared to the old Doom and Quake levels. Instead of 13 massive levels, I would have preferred to see 50 small levels.

Otherwise it’s a fun game. I wouldn’t recommend playing it on Ultra-Violence though. It’s too much work for too little payoff. I can’t even imagine playing it on Nightmare or whatever the one above that is.

FFXIV – Palace of the Dead Discovered

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Most of my gaming over the weekend was preempted by other media consumption. First it was Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, which I could not put down between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, until I reached the third part of the book and had to have a break. (It’s a convenient stopping point, the reasons for which should be fairly obvious upon reading the table of contents.)

And then Sunday night I noticed that Deadpool was on HBO prior to Westworld, which I hadn’t yet seen. It wasn’t that funny, since surprise is essential for comedy and most of the gags were predictable, but I thought the serious parts were pretty good. (I have zero knowledge of the comic book on which it’s based.) I found it somewhat amusing to see Collosus in the movie, which was a character I played a bit in Marvel Heros, seemingly a million years ago.

Then of course I had to watch Westworld, HBO’s new thing, which was suitably creepy. I’m not sure how they’re going to make a whole series out of it though without going into cliche territory. (I haven’t seen any of the original Westworld incarnations, though for some reason I can’t even explain I instantly recognized the “Westworld” name as a famous science-fiction property.)

Amid all that, I managed to play a little bit of FFXIV, and mainly worked on the main scenario. Lately Alphinaud and Tataru (probably spelled those wrong) have been concerned with finding certain people who went missing pre-Heavensward. However, when the scenario took me through Gridania, I got distracted when I stumbled onto a new-to-me quest that took me out to Quarrymill and opened up the Palace of the Dead, that new randomized … um, thing. I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s kind of like a rogue-like instanced mini-game.

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It’s a fun diversion, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know what I’m doing because after three tries*, I’m still “failing” my duty (by dying). With the last two attempts I made it easily to the 10th floor where a big nasty boss awaits. Said boss pummeled me to death very quickly with his unavoidable room-wide AoEs and massive hits. (I did this solo, because if there’s a solo option, I’m usually going to take it.)

My current theory is that since the boss was level 20, I need to make sure I’m a lot higher than level 20 before I get to it. Clearing all the upper floors only put me at roughly level 20 when I got to the 10th floor, which I suppose means I need to spend more time farming levels on the upper floors by waiting for mobs to respawn and clearing them out multiple times. That doesn’t sound particularly fun, but it’s something I could do while watching Netflix.

At this point, though, I don’t really see the point of it other than to get achievements, because the only “real” reward (usable outside the instance) I got was a bunch of health potions. I can only assume the rewards get more meaningful when you get way down to the lower floors. (A recent post from Aywren confirms this.)

* Technically it was four attempts, but I’m not counting the first one since my UPS shut off for some reason almost immediately after I entered and I didn’t even get beyond the first room.

Update: Added the link to Aywren’s post which I forgot to do before publishing.