I find myself really grumpy as January comes to end, and that will be reflected in my gaming commentary, because for some reason I hate everything about the entire world of gaming right now. It’s probably because it’s the middle of winter and I hate winter and every day is a hellish SAD nightmare of clinging to the last shreds of motivation by the fingernails until the frickin’ sun comes back. (Luckily the solstice has passed and I can already tell the days are getting longer, and it’s starting to feel like there’s slightly more than 6 minutes of daylight every day.)
First, I have to mention the massive Activision-Blizzard layoffs, because everybody else did. I don’t really have a comment about it except, you know, after the hundred thousandth example in a row, it turns out that life isn’t very fair and you should probably plan for life not to be very fair. I’ve been on record advising against getting into the gaming industry as a career path since the 90s and nothing has changed. (The only exception would be if you own the company.)
- Microsoft cuts 1,900 staffers from its games division | GamesIndustry.biz
- Microsoft Layoffs Target Activision Blizzard Staff | The Ancient Gaming Noob
For myself, late January has been spent trying to find a game that feels fun to play in the vacuum left by the conclusion of Baldur’s Gate 3. Preferably something that doesn’t feel like a daily chore.
Anyway, I continued a little further in a rotating cavalcade of narration-heavy CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, Warhammer Rogue Trader, Planescape Torment Enhanced Edition, and Wartales.
I thought about giving Remnant II another try, which I returned immediately when it first came out, but thought better of it. I thought about getting the new Lords of the Fallen, but the first one was a bit annoying and I haven’t seen a single person mention the new one (I did end up buying it, though, since it was 40% off). I thought about getting Alan Wake II but meh I’m just not convinced that it’s going to land for anyone who isn’t in the Alan Wake fanclub.
Lies of P
I’m destined to regret this but I ended up getting Lies of P again on the PC for another shot after I returned it immediately at launch. At first I hated it, again, but it started to grow on me after four hours or so. Buying a new lightning club from a vendor helped a lot (the starting cutlasses are kind of awful, both stylistically and functionally).
I don’t agree it’s as good as the critical consensus, though. I don’t know what it is, but I find myself constantly lacking mobility, or stuck on walls or terrain. I feel like I’m fighting the controls more than I’m fighting enemies. There’s a meme that it’s Bloodborne 2 but mechanically it’s more similar to Sekiro than Bloodborne, in that parry timing is vitally important, and combat is somewhat like a rhythm game. Once that sunk in and I started to play more block/parry-heavy (like Sekiro) than dodge-heavy (like Bloodborne), the game started to get a little more tolerable for me.
And unfortunately, as with so many other Souls-likes, including even Elden Ring toward the end, I’ve found every boss fight pretty annoying. It’s making the classic Souls-like mistake (and gaming in general, to be honest) of designing the regular enemies to be too easy while the bosses are too hard, so you never have a chance to practice combat until you’re fighting for your life against what looks like an impossible boss.
I also find examples of sub-standard animations and sound design all over the place. The sword hitting enemies sounds like a switch hitting a venetian blind. Climbing a ladder sounds like the ladder and your boots are made of solid metal, but walking around immediately afterward sounds like you’re wearing ballet shoes. It sounds like they just grabbed samples out of a royalty-free library, to be honest. Not to mention the aggressively American Millennial-sounding voice actors.
If you run and attack with the starting weapon, the sword swinging animation makes it look like your character runs forward, then stops dead, then leans backwards, then swings. The dodge rolling animation looks like it only has about 5 frames in it. And of course the distracting, anime-style, screen-filling flashes and explosions whenever you do a simple backstab are a big turn-off because I’d rather see what’s happening on the screen than clap giddily at the pretty pretty lights like a toddler. It all adds up to a subliminal feeling of wrongness all over the place.
I don’t want to notice problems all over the place, but what choice do I have? Another thing: The game doesn’t let you change the default WASD keys so it’s annoying to play with mouse and keyboard, if you have a sore thumb from using the controller too much. Especially if you prefer ESDF (insert obligatory comment that I literally can’t understand why anyone in the gaming world who knows how to type doesn’t prefer ESDF over WASD and why nobody who makes games knows how to type). First I had to run an AutoHotkey script to do the remapping, then later I got Microsoft PowerToys to do the remapping, which works slightly better.
But no, Lies of P is not an acceptable substitute for Bloodborne. I have little or no interest in any story or lore so far and the game environment might as well be Tron-like blank walls and floors to me. A few times I’ve thought it looked like a game where the maps were generated by AI with Bloodborne as the seed. The layouts and shortcuts sometimes don’t make much sense.
But at least it runs at 60 fps. And you don’t have to remember to send elevators up before going into the boss fights.
As of this writing, I’ve just finished the King of Puppets boss fight. I found it … you guessed it … pretty annoying. Winning or losing the entire fight hinged on the amount of luck you had in getting through the first phase and surviving one 10-hit combo attack in the second half of the second phase. I have no idea how far along I am in the game but my character is level 55, and I have an alarming amount left to unlock in the P-Organ.
When I was contemplating Alan Wake II, I loaded up Alan Wake, which has been sitting unplayed in my Steam library for who even knows how many years now. It’s basically an amalgamation of a handful of Stephen King books–fan fiction, essentially. I don’t really get why it’s remembered so fondly. I didn’t like Alan or his wife, and I found the controls really annoying, and I rage quit somewhere in the second chapter when the difficulty curve jumped from too easy to too hard all in one go, as so many older or poorly-made games do. The story didn’t seem interesting enough to justify the misery of getting through the combat.
I picked up Palworld because I saw some people talking about it. I regretted it immmediately and returned it in 10 minutes. The placeholder UI was a massive turn-off. I have this weird thing where I like to feel like I’m buying something that the creators actually cared about making, and maybe even displayed some competancy in making. Capitalism, amirite?
But I keep hearing good things about it from MMORPG players, so I bought it again. It’s okay I guess, but it’s no ARK, The Forest, or 7 Days To Die. And the placeholder UI is still a massive turn-off. I have no clue why everyone talks about it. (Then again, I’ve never played or seen anything related to Pokemon, so maybe that’s why I don’t get it.)
I can only guess it’s the convergence of pet-centric gameplay, which is always popular with MMORPG players, the third-person camera that MMORPG players favor, and the difficulty slider so you can turn off the survival part of survival games. And maybe the chance to explore the benefits of slave labor in a fun way, without those pesky long-term, generational consequences? I dunno.
Anyway, I might like it as a PS5 game (the controller controls are pretty good), but it’s not available for the PS5 yet.
- Palworld Thoughts – Pokemon Gray – Scopique
- Impressions: Palworld | In An Age
- Inventory Full: Palworld: First Impressions
UPDATE: I returned Palworld again, because I can’t see myself ever wanting to launch it again. One has to wonder if that will count as two sales for them or zero.
While I was trying the newest generation of survival-ish games, I picked up Enshrouded, too. It’s yet another survival-ish game that looks like it’s slightly modified from a game engine’s tutorial project. (I always thought the first batch of survival games in 2016 were the easiest possible games to make in a game engine, so a lot of people made them as their first game development project.) Enshrouded looks like it’s trying to be everything to everybody, because it has all kinds of kitchen sink stuff thrown in, like lockpicks and base-building and lore books and dangerous fog clouds and I don’t even know what all else. My first impression was slightly better than Palworld, but I can’t see it ever moving up to “my main game” status, or even “my occasional game” status. Games that don’t have an ending aren’t very appealing to me anymore.
Detroit: Become Human
Speaking of the PS5, I saw The Creator recently, so I got the AI-themed Detroit: Become Human on the PS5, which is a game I always wanted to see. (I got a bundle of other Quantic games I wanted to see, too.) It’s a fantastic game for the PS5 because the controls are so weird and controller-specific, and it’s great for my thumb because it’s pretty low impact. It’s not really a game, though–it’s a classic example of an “interactive movie.” (Remember when everyone thought that was the exciting artistic future of gaming? Turned out everyone just wanted the artists to churn out endlessly repetitive factory-produced schlock for monetization instead.) But it’s a good story so far. Way more compelling than The Creator, that’s for sure.
UPDATE: I finished the game. It was carnage at the end. According to the statistics, only 1% of players got to the ending I did.
Other 2024 Games Coming Soon
I saw that Hellblade II has a release date in May, 2024, so that’s now an unprecedented second new game, after Dragon’s Dogma 2 in March, that I’m looking forward to this year, already making it a better gaming year for me than 2023, which was supposedly the best gaming year ever.
By the way, I loaded up Dragon’s Dogma again (I haven’t finished it), but it’s kind of a chore to play. There’s some kind of portal stone for fast traveling, but I haven’t worked out how it works yet I don’t particularly want to return to the ancient past of Ultima Online-style of gameplay anyway.
I only noticed this in the last month, but there’s a “verified” badge for YouTube channels now, but only if you have 100k+ subscribers.
At press time I just learned how to render videos from DaVinci Resolve with multiple audio tracks. This is very useful in my video production workflow, so that I can use Resolve to edit together a boss fight video and render it with a track format like OBS, so I can still use my ffmpeg scripts and upload scripts. I didn’t want to invest this much time in Lies of P videos, but the King of Puppets boss fight demanded a more complex video edit.
I started using Voicemeeter Banana (sic) on my gaming PC, something that I’ve meant to do for quite a while. All the sound from my gaming PC used to go out through the HDMI port to the recording PC, where I monitored the sound in OBS, which resulted in a slight 50ms-ish delay when I heard it in my headset. It isn’t enough to worry about, but I figured that if I was going to play Lies of P, a game where a 50ms delay could theoretically be life-threatening, I should make sure the sound I was hearing from the game was fully realtime.
Technically I think the simpler VoiceMeeter program would also work, but I’ve used Banana before and I know it works. It’s an old-looking program that I normally wouldn’t want to run on a modern PC, but I couldn’t find anything else to do it. It allows splitting an audio output so you can send it two places, in my case the HDMI output for recording and also to the mixer output so I can monitor it (and the microphone) in headphones in realtime. It seems like a really simple thing that every PC should be able to do, but for some reason, none of them do. On the one hand, I don’t like that Banana adds a potential for failure into the game recording (failing to record game sound is the worst possible recording failure). But on the other hand, realtime game sound is pretty cool. It hasn’t helped with playing Lies of P, though.
There is a persistent problem where the sound will sometimes stop working, after the computer goes to sleep and wakes up, and I have to check Banana and make sure the outputs are working. I have to be vigilant about it, because I won’t hear the problem when I push the record button, because I’m not monitoring the recording output anymore. Living dangerously, just to avoid a 50ms audio delay.
Røde PodMic USB
I bought a new microphone for no particular reason: A Røde PodMic USB. It’s a dynamic microphone with an XLR output and also a USB-C output with built-in audio interface, so you can just plug it directly into a computer and it just works. (Sadly you can’t use the XLR output and USB output at the same time.)
It’s a microphone that does what it’s supposed to do. Reviews of microphones are pretty simple: It either works or it doesn’t. For evaluation purposes, there’s really only charts and graphs and scientific measurements to talk about with microphones. (I could not find a frequency response graph for the PodMic. It sounds fairly flat to me. Ah, here it is. It is pretty flat. Suspiciously flat, actually. The non-USB PodMic, which I have to assume is the same hardware, is not flat at all.)
I will say that it handles plosive pretty well without a pop filter, but nothing stops breathing on the microphone, so you might want something to deal with that. I got a furry mic cover and that seems to cut out most of the “H” problems.
The other technical thing I’ll say is it’s a dynamic microphone (not condenser), which basically means it’s a good choice when you don’t have a quiet room to record in and you can get up within inches of the microphone. And it should go without saying that it’s a cardoid pattern, so you do need to be within about a foot of the PodMic for optimal performance, so no leaning back while playing games.
The problem is that I’ve been using an Audio Technica headset for so long now that I’m a little reluctant to switch. It’s not perfect, and I accidentally breathe on the mic or bump it sometimes, but it sounds pretty good (as good as the Røde PodMic) and it’s really convenient when playing games, and I get very little room noise from it. (I have a way-too-expensive Shure headset that actually sounds slightly better, but it’s hypercardoid and it really accentuates sibilance, and it’s not very comfortable to wear for very long.)
It’s actually somewhat difficult for me to tell the difference between the PodMic and the AT headset when I listen back to my test recordings. If I didn’t know which was recorded with which, I might not be able to tell.
The first few episodes of Dimenson 20 Fantasy High Junior Year are frickin’ amazing. I thought I was going to actually die from laughing so much. “So tactical, so late.” I also started watching The Sleeping City (the first one) again, for like the twentieth time. For some reason, that one just never clicked with me.
I keep trying to watch Candela Obscura but I just can’t get into it. Improvised high drama isn’t very compelling. It needs to be edited to make it watchable.
I’ve been watching the newest campaign of High Rollers DnD too.
Rick and Morty season 7 showed up on Max. It’s okay. I noticed the new voices, but they weren’t different enough to matter. I personally don’t think Rick and Morty has been very good since around season 3. These days it’s just a lot of noise shouted at your face.
At the end of Rick and Morty there was a recommendation for Robot Chicken on Max, so I watched a bunch of those. I contend that Robot Chicken is the best TikTok before TikTok existed.
I started watching True Detective: The Night Country. It’s pretty good drama, but I don’t remember True Detective having any supernatural components before.
I’ve been listening to some episodes of NADDPOD Campaign 3, and also a series of 8-bit Book Club episodes about the Sonic Motor City Mayhem Adventure Book. Listening to podcasts is a bit of a chore, though, because I’m almost never in a situation where I can zone out and listen to voices talking without interfering with the main thing I’m doing, and I have to force myself to make time for them. The best time for me to listen to them is while falling asleep, but if it’s a good podcast, it’s going to keep me from falling asleep, which is bad.
Been working on some enterprisey Java code. Not very exciting or discussion-worthy. I find myself learning to hate Hibernate and Liquibase.
Health and Wellness
I was supposed to get new glasses but I’m just realizing I haven’t yet gotten a call about them.
I have a Twitter tab open now. It sucks. The Twitter web page just sucks. I used to be able to see some 50 tweets at a glance. Now I see one or maybe two on the screen at a time. It’s always a tweet of somebody yelling about how Trump was right all along.
- It was like flicking a light switch at the start of 2024. All news, all the time is now about the election. It made sense for everyone to be shocked and amazed by the spectacle in 2016, when we suddenly realized that American democracy is governed more by traditions than any enforceable laws, but you have to be living in a bubble quite far from the real world if you’re still surprised in 2024 that flamboyant demogoguery wins out over logic or competancy with a voting electorate every single time.
- Trump won the 2024 Iowa Caucuses with 51%. Ron DeSantis and Nicki Haley were a distant second and third.
- DeSantis and Ramaswarmy both left the Republican nomination contest after the Iowa Caucuses, leaving only Trump and Nicki Haley.
- Trump won the 2024 New Hampshire primary with 54% of the vote. You have no way of verifying this, but that’s within 1% of what I predicted when I confidently pre-wrote this entry. Everyone’s thinking it, so I’ll just say it: The only thing that’s going to stop a Biden v. Trump rematch is one of them dying.
- The U.N. made a ruling in the South Africa v. Israel genocide case, prompting world leaders to immediately ignore it completely.
- Kansas City defeated Baltimore in the AFC Championship and San Francisco defeated Detroit in the NFC Championship, setting up a Chiefs versus 49ers Superbowl and making Washington fans wonder when Kansas City is going to have to change their team name too.
- House Republicans voted to start impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, prompting citizens to try to learn whether impeachment has actually happened, is about to start, is in progress, is almost over, is being thought about, is being considered to be thought about, or is even a real word.
- Ongoing Trainwrecks of the Year: 2024 Presidential Election, War in Israel (since 10/2023), Nigerian Coup (since 7/2023), Sudanese Civil War (since 4/2023), War in Ukraine (since 2/2022), Myanmar Civil War (since 2021).
- Celebrity Deaths: Nobody?