ARK – Um It’s Got Issues

Here’s my advice: Do not buy ARK right now. At least, don’t buy it with any expectation of actually playing it. Because on my 12GB system it runs out of memory and crashes. If you run the “low memory” 4GB version it doesn’t crash, but it runs horribly slow. There is a good two minutes of loading screen to wait through before geting into the game (literally–I timed it). Then in order to get it to run at an acceptable frame rate (which to me is a rock-solid 60 fps, but I suppose in a pinch 30-40 fps will do) you have to disable almost every graphical setting, and then the game is painful to look at.

Standing on a moving turtle, the most fun thing I did in ShooterGame. I mean ARK.

If you have a gaming rig powered by nuclear fission and cooled by the vacuum of space, maybe you can play it the way the game is intended. I only have a GTX 770, which is fine to play every other game I’ve bought in the past year at the highest settings, but apparently is woefully inadequate for ARK.

As for the gameplay itself, I was so repulsed by the technical problems that I had zero desire to explore the game. Also, there is very little happening on the screen to make you want to explore the game. I only played in single player, and most times I spawned in and was killed instantly by some carnivore wandering the beach. It’s a great way to make a first impression in an exploration game, let me tell you. Oh hey what’s this on the ground? ROAR! CHOMP! Oops, I’m dinosaur dinner. Then one time I spawned in a grass field by a big turtle and could at least walk around picking up roots and berries. The interface is not very intuitive so I had no idea how to eat or drink or craft or anything. All I accomplished was jumping on top of the turtle while she walked around. And I learned that a big turtle is called a “Carbonemys.”

Also I noticed a big technical red flag: They didn’t bother changing the name of the executable from what I assume is the Unreal engine’s default name of “ShooterGame.exe.” To me that just screams out, “This development team does not have any experienced developers on it.” I mean, seriously, how is that not the very first thing you do when they make a new game project? They need to spend a lot more time working on their code than working on Halloween promotional events*, that’s all I’m saying.

ARK might have a great hook (frickin’ dinosaurs!) but it’s sooooo not ready for prime time yet. I don’t see myself coming back anytime soon unless I see some patch notes that include “massive overhaul of graphics engine.” Otherwise I’m just going to chalk it up to another case of the marketing far exceeding the quality of the product. If you want to see a first-person survival game with fantastic graphics that actually runs well try The Forest.

* Halloween events for Early Access games? Are you kidding me?

Project Gorgon – The New Black?

About a year ago I installed Project Gorgon and played around in the starter cave. It was mildly interesting but of course it wasn’t finished, the graphics were terrible, and there are so many other things to play. So I put it away again, filing it in the back of my mind.

Now suddenly everyone is talking about Project Gorgon. And by everyone I mean MassivelyOP which apparently has turned into the all-Gorgon-all-the-time site. :) Not that there’s anything wrong with that I guess–it’s not like Project Gorgon is a multi-billion-dollar corporation. It’s just a guy and his wife. At this stage in their development it doesn’t bother me to see them getting a media spotlight. And besides, it’s such a niche game that a thousand suns of media spotlight couldn’t possibly make it a mainstream hit.

Anyway I installed it again recently and played around in the starter cave, which is much better than it was last year. It’s still mildly interesting–maybe even somewhat interesting–but it’s still not finished and the graphics are still terrible. If we were living in 1999, the graphics would be awesome, but alas we aren’t.

Hey, it's a shrine just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere. Cool!
Hey, it’s a shrine just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere. Cool!

Still, there’s something very appealing about the game. Maybe not the game itself but the idea of the game. The idea of throwing out any pretense of trying to make a polished audio-visual experience and focusing in on interesting RPG elements is a revolutionary idea. The idea of making a game for role-players is revolutionary, and I think that’s the main reason MassivelyOP is so enamored with it. (I get the impression that 90% of their staff are role-players.)

For myself, I thought it was awesome that I could charm a rat.

The game definitely has a lot of old-school nostalgia appeal to it. It feels a lot like playing Asheron’s Call back in the day. (AC is my nostalgic MMORPG, not EverQuest.) It doesn’t play anything like AC, but the sense of “I wonder what’s over there and I wonder what that is?” is definitely there. The world feels really vast, too, which is something that’s lacking in a lot of modern MMORPGs.

 

Besides, how can you not love these kinds of patch notes? “Bugs! There are some.” LOL.

Gorgon Launcher Notes
“Weird stuff happens routinely!” That’s awesome.

Anyway I’m still keeping an eye on it and I hope it goes the distance.

Posted on Blaugust Day 15. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

Reactions To WoW Legion

World of Warcraft Legion

World of Warcraft is so far off my radar right now that the announcement of the new Legion expansion* is about as interesting to me as a deer tick. Even that horrible analogy was more interesting to me. It’s not that I don’t like WoW when I play it. It just doesn’t hold my attention for very long.

There are two things I just don’t understand about WoW fandom: The first is how people can look around at all of the MMORPGs out there and decide that WoW is the only one they want to play, and the second is how anyone can follow any of the lore that happens in WoW.

The “Burning Legion” mentioned in the sort-of-kind-of trailer means absolutely nothing to me. I guess we’ve seen them before? It says they’re “back” so I assume we drove them off in a previous expansion or something. Wait are those all the demon dudes wandering around in Hellfire Penninsula? Hey, maybe I know more than I thought I did.

Before Draenor came out, I remember a lot of discussion about how we were going to be time traveling into the past, or something like that. I bought and played Draenor. I don’t remember one single quest dialog telling me that I was traveling into the past. I didn’t know why there were Orcs and Draenei fighting it out in that expansion. I didn’t know why the Orcs wanted to time travel. Or maybe it was the Draenei doing the time traveling. Maybe it was a cosmic worm hole. I have no idea. Maybe I should have known why Orcs and Draenei were fighting ever since Burning Crusade, when the Draenei first fell out of the sky or whatever. I leveled a Draenei priest through those starter zones, you’d think I would know their backstory.

But I don’t even know how to spell “Draenei” without looking it up, that’s how disconnected I am from WoW lore.

Anyway WoW fans’s heads are probably exploding with disbelief right now, but for a casual player who doesn’t follow WoW, it was not obvious what was happening there at the beginning of that last expansion or why it was happening. And I didn’t just click through the dialogs either. But even if I had, it should still have been obvious what was going on if time-traveling was taking place. You’d think maybe somebody could have said out loud in one of those cut scenes, “Where are we? More like when are we!” Maybe when I re-subscribe for Legion I’ll double-check to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I still haven’t used my free level 90 boost.

Speaking of boosts, I hope they give out another free level boost in this new expansion. They probably won’t, but it would be cool if they did. I think I said it for Draenor too: That level boost alone is easily worth the cost of the expansion, when you consider how much time it takes to get to 90.

The only thing I’ve seen about the expansion so far that might be entertaining for a player like me is the new class. But I’m very wary about WoW classes. One day I should write a post about how nonsensical and weird I find all of the classes. They throw the strangest abilities in there. And you only end up needing to use like four abilities out of the one hundred they give you. (No I haven’t done any raiding–I’m sure it’s more complicated at the high end.)

But despite all my personal feelings about WoW–or lack thereof–I’m happy to see Legion is coming. It’s good for the genre.

* It occurred to me that when I link to MassiveOP I should probably disclose that I did throw a few bucks at their Kickstarter. So yeah I have a tiny, microscopic self-interest in sending traffic their way. Though I seriously doubt that my traffic is making any difference to their business.

Posted on Blaugust Day 10. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

YouTube Gaming Or Something Like It

I don’t stream a lot but I like YouTube Gaming so far. Twitch is okay, and Hitbox is okay, but I almost always see a lot of stuttering, lag, and painful dropouts, both when I stream and when I watch other streams. With YouTube Gaming I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that they’re going to have the best possible video streaming technology working behind the scenes. I had no difficulty uploading at 60fps, 1080p, 9000kbps. I could never get Twitch to work higher than 720p and around 3500kbps.

YouTube Gaming

(I don’t exactly know how I got YouTube Gaming… as of this writing, it still says “coming soon” on the landing page. I guess it’s one of those open beta kind of things that anyone can get into. I can assure you I did nothing special to activate it. I think I might have clicked on the “get notified” button at some point, but I don’t remember. I don’t see any evidence that I received any emails. I think I just stumbled upon it on my regular YouTube video page.)

(Come to think of it, I may not even being using YouTube Gaming at all. But somehow I’m able to stream directly to YouTube which I don’t remember ever being able to do before.)

I’m probably alone in this opinion, but I love that you can turn off chat. I’m not a “hey let’s hang out together and chit-chat” kind of a streamer. I’m more of a “hey I’m playing a game, and I tend to talk to myself when I’m playing anyway, so you can watch if you want, but I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m doing, so I can’t monitor a chat and try to think of witty responses and also get off my damn lawn you hippies” kind of a streamer. On Twitch and Hitbox I believe you’re stuck with chat whether you want it or not.

One thing I don’t like, though, is the length of time it takes for archived streams to publish to your channel. On Twitch, it’s very fast, but with YouTube Gaming it takes basically the same amount of time that it would take to upload a recording from your desktop. That is, a long time. I don’t care so much about my viewers (ha!) but sometimes I want to replay something I did during a stream and I have to wait like a half hour.

If nothing else, it’s a handy way to store my videos on the YouTube servers instead of my hard drive. Videos take up a lot of space, yo.

This post was for Blaugust Day 4.

Why I Didn’t Buy H1Z1 For $10

H1Z1 is one of those early access games that I have a mild interest in playing, if for no other reason than that it looks pretty. In the recent Steam sale, it was discounted 50% to $9.99, which is under that magic $10 mark where I will buy just about anything in any condition. I hovered over the Buy button…

But then I started to think.

I wondered what my reward would be for buying now–what cool stuff I would get after the game launches. How many “credits” or “gems” or “zombie points” I would get, what costumes or guns I would get, what titles I would get, etc. Because obviously there should be some tangible incentives for me to buy a game that’s buggy and broken and not finished.

So I went looking. And looking. And looking. And found… nothing. There is no indication on the official web site that H1Z1 will ever launch, let alone any listings of post-launch rewards I might get for buying now. The web site gives every indication that the game is live now, and you’re buying a finished product now, and the whole “early access” thing isn’t important at all. In fact, it might even be a feature.

So I didn’t buy it, even for that measly $10.

Finding Heavensward

Normally everything related to FFXIV is an absolute pleasure to deal with, but getting into the Heavensward pre-order early access has been quite an unexpected challenge.

FFXIV was down all day Thursday for the big 3.0 patch which I downloaded Thursday night. I had absolutely no idea that I would have to do anything special to see Heavensward. I just assumed the patcher would know I had ordered it, it would download it, and it would magically appear the next time I ran the game after the servers came up.

So I logged into FFXIV before I went to work on Friday just to take a very quick peek at Heavensward. Well, the game didn’t look any different. Oh, I saw a few changes to the UI so I knew something had happened, but that was about it. I was puzzled, but I had to log out and go to work.

When I got home I logged in again to look around more thoroughly. The game still didn’t look any different. I went to Camp Dragonhead to find a quest to start my adventures in Ishgard, but there was no quest. I entered the little intercessory to find a quest-giver standing there with a level 50 quest I couldn’t get.

That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong and I logged out to figure out why I wasn’t seeing Heavensward.

It turns out I had left out the crucial step of applying a “bonus code” to my account to get into the Heavensward early access. Buried at the bottom of the order confirmation email I received from Square Enix early Friday was a link to “Click here to get access to your products.” That took me to a page where I could click a button to make an “activation key” for my pre-order bonus code.

With the activation key in hand, I had to go to another page–the pre-order page–to register the activation key, which then in turn gave me the actual bonus code. The big problem with this step was that, Friday afternoon and evening, the pre-order page was buggy as crap and it took a few hours of re-entering my login information, one-time passwords, and the activation key before it finally got to the end and coughed up a suitable bonus code.

Then it was off to another page in the Mog Station to actually apply the bonus code to my account. As with everything in the Mog Station, the first challenge is finding the right place to go to do the thing you want to do. After a scavenger hunt of clicking, I found a place where I could enter a code that matched the format of my bonus code (naturally I could not just cut and paste it in), and of course it said it was invalid. Whoops, I was trying to redeem a Heavensward code, not a Heavensward early access code. Those are two totally different pages, it turns out, with two totally different-shaped buttons to click. Don’t go to the big giant button that says “Enter the Registration Code for the Expansion,” instead go to a smaller button on the side that says … something I can’t remember because it’s gone from my account page now. On the second try, I successfully applied the pre-order bonus code to my account!

I ran the patcher, eagerly anticipating that I would now be able to log in and see all the cool stuff that I had downloaded the previous day. And then I discovered that I had not yet even downloaded Heavensward. I had only downloaded the 3.0 patches that applied to the old world. I watched helplessly while the patcher cheerfully started in on another 4-5 GB download.

Now, as I type this, the patcher is “Updating” and the Time Remaining is “Unknown.” Windows tells me the patcher is “not responding” and suggests that I either close the program or continue waiting for it. I’m not yet sure what I’m going to decide. Perhaps I should plan on doing something else tonight.

P.S. I stopped the patcher and re-ran it.

Heavensward

Success at last!

FFXIV – UI Wish List for Heavensward

With the Final Fantasy XIV expansion Heavensward coming soon (June 23), I thought I would put together a list of all the nagging UI issues that I hope are addressed in 3.0. It’s a testament to how good the game already is that I have trouble coming up with any significant gameplay issues to complain about–only these nitpicky UI faults.

(Knowing how good Square Enix is at patch notes, I could probably go somewhere and find a detailed list of exactly what’s going to be in Heavensward, but let’s just assume there’s still some doubt about the feature set. And also that I haven’t seen much of anything about Heavensward except what I’ve seen in FC chat and that benchmark.)

Naturally I have the same wish that everyone who plays FFXIV has: I wish I didn’t have to put away my Chocobo to queue in the Duty Finder. But I’m guessing that if they haven’t fixed this by now, they never will.

I so desperately want to be able to turn off the Okay/Cancel dialogs that pop up all the time. Only the ones that prevent you from destroying important gear should remain. I’m thinking in particular of the ones that come up when you teleport.

I wish there was a key I could press to begin Synthesis. Right now I always have to grab the mouse to click the button.

Of course I want more inventory space, or at least more armoury space. I have purchased (ie. rented) 2 extra retainers and I still find myself juggling all of the stuff I keep, and I only have 9 of the 20 classes at 50. Barring that, I would love to be able to mail gear to an alt. (I realize that would undermine Square’s retainer revenue stream, but I can dream.)

On a related note, which would help alleviate the above issue, I would love to be able to access retainer inventories with fewer mouse clicks. It’s bad enough opening one, but switching between one and another is a chore, and there is a lot of waiting. Showing all of the retainer inventories at once would be a Godsend.

Being able to craft with materials stored with your retainers would be a really, really nice improvement for crafters. That way you wouldn’t have to keep moving things from your retainer to your inventory and vice versa all the time. It would also solve the issue of having to switch between retainers a lot.

Showing the number of items in your retainers’ inventory in crafting dialogs would be very helpful, too.

I also wish the game didn’t close the crafting window when you start talking to a retainer.

Speaking of retainers, it would be really nice if they could come to you instead of me always having to go to them. I mean, one of mine is a 50 Archer so there’s no reason she can’t meet me out in the field or in a dungeon somewhere. :)

Somewhat related to retainers and inventories, I wish there were better searching tools to find gear. Or maybe a way to save different sorting presets.

I would love to have a key to toggle nameplates on and off. Sometimes I want to temporarily disable player nameplates in raids (when stacking) or in Mor Dhona (for obvious reasons). As far as I can tell, there is no way to macro this yet.

And speaking of nameplates, it always surprises me that there is no way to change the nameplate color of members of your Free Company.

I would also love to have a key to toggle between mouse/keyboard controls and the controller. I always have to open the UI panel and click the toggle. (I often use the controller for gathering or fishing.)

I wish there was a way to set the opacity of UI panels, such as the party list or the threat list.

In need/greed dialogs, it would be nice if it took into account your retainer inventories, too. Usually it won’t let you roll on a unique item if you already have it, but if you’ve moved that item to your retainer, it doesn’t know you already have it. I can’t remember all the gear I’ve gotten so I rely on the game to tell me whether I should roll on something or not. (I don’t want to hinder anyone else’s chances of getting something I already have.) (And I sure can’t keep everything I get in my inventory.)

Especially during cut scenes with voiceovers, I wish I didn’t have to keep clicking to continue after every paragraph of dialog. Sometimes I just want to sit back and watch. (A great example would be the finale cut scenes at the end of the 2.5 Main Scenario.) If there’s an option for this, I haven’t seen it.

Camera controls, camera controls, and more camera controls. I know some people don’t like it, but I love moving the camera to the left or right, a la ESO, so that your avatar’s head isn’t in the exact center of the screen. Moving up and down would also be nice so that you could have your avatar fill the screen from top to bottom. Mainly this would be for screenshots but I would probably use it in combat, too.

An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.
An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.

And finally, this is a wish I have for every MMO: I’d love to be able to chart the history of how all of my stats have changed over time. I’ve taken to documenting my class levels in a spreadsheet so I can look back and see how long it’s taken me to reach milestones and so forth. It would be nice if the game did that for me, or at least allowed me to export data that I could then import into my own spreadsheet. It would be cool to look at how my Accuracy stat has grown over time (by class), for example. It’s totally worthless to the game, but statistics are cool.

FFXIV_Spreadsheet
Serious nerdity.

On The Radar For 2015

Last time I did this.

Note that some games aren’t on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them.

MMORPGs I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m still anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play, because I haven’t yet seen or heard anything to wreck my enthusiasm.

Black Desert. I keep seeing good things.

Skyforge. I keep hearing good things.

Otherland. I have enjoyed some Tad Williams books in the past, so surely a game based on some of his books I haven’t read would be good.

MMORPGs I’m Ambivalent About

I’m not excited about these games per se, but I’ll probably buy or try them because of hype and/or boredom and/or peer pressure.

GW2: Heart of Thorns. I’ll play it, but because it’s GW2 aka. The One RPG Without Meaningful Rewards I’m anticipating that I’ll get bored quickly.

Crowfall. To me, this isn’t even an MMORPG, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by that after the hype wears off. My latest concern is that the ambitious class customization plans will result in PvP balance issues that will ruin the game. (Everyone will keep chasing that one overlooked combination that is bugged and overpowered, resulting in an endless cycle of nerfing disappointment and forum rage.)

EQNext. I’m not burdened by EQ nostalgia, plus I have no reason to think this game will be good. (Where is ACNext Turbine??)

Pathfinder Online*. I’ve never played the tabletop version, and the gameplay appears uninteresting (and the animations are terrible), and it’s open world PvP. When will they learn?

Camelot Unchained*. I hear a lot of buzz about this game but it doesn’t look that great to me. That YouTube video honestly makes it look like the most boring thing in the entire universe. Given the way the devs talk about it, I get the impression that this game is more about being a game engine technology demo than a game.

MMORPGs I’m Undecided About

These are games that are on my radar, but I don’t know enough yet to form an opinion about how much I’d be willing to spend on them.

Shroud of the Avatar*. Seems to be flying under the radar. I hear little or nothing about it, but the gameplay looks tolerable.

Gloria Victis*. I like the look of this game but, you know, it’s open world PvP so it will mostly be a game of staying in town or hiding from people.

Wander. Saw it on Steam. It looks cool. It’s not clear to me if this is a PC game or not though.

MMORPGs I’ve Lost Interest In

These would probably have to be free or sold at a deep discount for me to even try them, unless I start to see a lot more positive buzz.

Star Citizen*. Honestly I’m not sure what this game is right now, but anything targeted at EVE players probably isn’t for me, plus we all know this is vaporware, right? (Just kidding! Don’t freak out!) But seriously, I think the smart money is on this game self-destructing from too much ambition.

Life is Feudal*. I thought there might be something to this game, but so far it looks like a plain old survival building game, and the models and animation need serious work.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. Why, god, why?

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Seems unlikely this will ever see the light of day, but if it does, only those handful of people who backed it will delude themselves into thinking it’s fun to replicate late-1990s mechanics. Sorry but this game looks awful right now.

H1Z1*. I don’t even consider this an MMORPG.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Trove*. (I think it’s still technically beta.) I like it. Good casual game.

Landmark*. Meh. Just meh. Do we really need a game that’s a thinly-disguised 3D modelling program with a 1980s-style UI font?

The Repopulation*. I haven’t played enough to know what to think of it. But I feel like it’s probably trying to do too much and it’ll never capture that SWG feeling.

Advice To Game Developers

Please perfect your basic artwork assets, models, and animations before releasing anything to the public. It’s a huge turn-off to see placeholder models and animations that make your game look like a high school project. It’s literally the first thing I evaluate to determine if your development effort is serious business or you’re just a bunch of kids messing around in somebody’s basement. Great results can and do come from people’s basements, but honestly not very often.

* These games can be bought and played now in some early access form or another. (I think. Don’t hold me to it.)