Last Epoch 1.0. Nightingale Early Access. Lies of P done. Lords of the Fallen in progress. Mitigating microphone noise with console tables. Making Let’s Play videos. Dimension 20. Java.

Leap Day - February 2024 Part 2

4,646 words.

Leap Day - February 2024 Part 2


There’s been some new games lately, and everybody’s out there doing their new game tentpole posts. If you’re a blogger, this is blog sales 101: If a new game comes out, write a post about it. Preferably on launch day or sooner. Follow it up with additional posts explaining how to do stuff in the game. It doesn’t matter if any of it’s accurate or not, as IGN proves month after month.

Last Epoch

First, Last Epoch, the newest in the ARPG genre (which I now call idle-clickers), has launched to some fanfare from the blogging community.

For myself, I don’t really know why my interest in this genre has fallen off a cliff so hard since the days of Diablo II, but it might be because I don’t do anything except click the mouse button repeatedly to create fancy light effects on the screen, followed by an inevitable feeling of disappointment that the loot drops are just junk that has to be shuffled around in endless sessions of inventory management. Maybe this new one is different. I’m happy to let other people spend their time finding that out. If I’m still hearing about it two or three years from now, maybe I’ll take a look at it.


There’s been a flurry of activity from MMORPG bloggers this year so far surrounding a new set of survival-ish games. I guess survival-ish games are the new MMORPG launches, the best we’re likely to ever see again in our lifetimes since the end of the big-budget AAA MMORPG era in the mid 2010s (not counting expansions), and the move into the eternal kickstarted MMORPG project which, at this point, are basically just jobs programs for wayward game developers, let’s face it.

Anyway, Nightingale is the newest survival-but-RPG, joining Palworld and Enshrouded in the 2024 race to be our new daily time sink.

For myself, I initially played it for about 20 minutes, 19 of which were a needless veneer of deep character creation (in a first person game?) and mysterious lore and quest checklists to explain the same basic ARK survival mechanics we’ve seen a hundred times before. Get sticks, get berries, build campfire, don’t starve. Same as always.

I picked a starting loadout difficulty of Extreme and a realm difficulty of Hard to maximize the chances of interesting decisions happening in the first 20 minutes (somewhere, I think it was an ancient episode of Gamers With Jobs, I once heard that the best games are the ones that ask you to make interesting decisions, which I believe is true). I nearly starved to death, so that’s a plus. If a game with the word “survival” in the genre description isn’t asking me to make potentially life-or-death decisions on a minute-by-minute basis, I don’t really have the time or patience for it in my life.

I played roughly another hour, enough to get through the Forest, Desert, and Swamp Byways, and get into the first “sandboxy” area (I picked another Forest). That’s about as far as I could get within the two hour window of deciding whether to return it.

I waffled a bit, but I returned it.

I could see myself playing Nightingale, but it’s nowhere near good enough to supplant any number of other games I’d rather play. I like the general direction of the gameplay, but it has these fairly major problems right now:

  • The graphics and UI are pretty janky.
  • The combat is just awful.
  • The vague Fae worldbuilding and the John Hurt-soundalike Puck didn’t intrigue me.
  • But mostly, there’s no compelling player motivation to engage with the game’s mechanics in the first two hours. I already worked out how to avoid starving on hard difficulty, so the most optimal way for me to play is to stand in one spot doing nothing. I suppose eventually I’d run out of meat and wood for campfires, but it didn’t seem imminent and who wants to wait that long.

The key to a good survival game, for me, is giving the player a reason to survive. Just standing in one place and existing isn’t very satisfying gameplay. Surviving when you’re quickly dying from starvation or cold and there’s no food or clothes in your inventory is a good motivator to act. Surviving when there’s a wandering horde of enemies bearing down on you is a good motivator to build some walls and traps to protect your crafted supplies. Surviving when there’s no resources nearby is a good motivator to move around, explore, and expand or move your base. ARK, The Forest, 7 Days To Die, and even Conan Exiles did those basic things pretty well.

The jury is still out on Nightingale. Nightingale’s problems are fixable, but history has shown us that the building blocks of what we see in the initial version of Early Access games is pretty much what we’re going to get for the lifetime of the game. ARK is still ARK. Valheim is still Valheim. The only thing that usually changes over the course of Early Access is the addition of new features that are just as buggy as the old features. Foundational problems at the game engine level or systemic development pipeline problems are rarely addressed.

I saw Bhagpuss noted that people were complaining that the crafting was too complicated. People are silly. I thought it was exactly in line with a typical survival game: Gather resources, make tools, gather better resources, make the raw processing plants, make even better resources, then manufacture what you actually want. Same as always.

I think people are genuinely confusing survival games with MMORPGs now. (To be fair, Nightingale disguised itself behind an RPG facade. And Valheim went a long way toward mainstreaming the idea that survival sandboxes were mini-MMORPGs, which they kind of are, it’s just that they’re more like old MMORPGs, not the modern treadmill ones.)

I didn’t mind the complex crafting, it’s just that I didn’t see any obvious reasons to bother going through it. With something like ARK, it’s immediately obvious why you need to build stuff, because you’ll die if you don’t keep all the wandering dinosaurs away. I didn’t see anything like that in Nightingale. In the first two hours, at least.

Palworld and Enshrouded

As for the others in the survival class of 2024, I returned Palworld not once, but twice. It’s not really even worth writing about.

I didn’t return Enshrouded, but I keep finding it lackluster. It’s too much RPG and not enough survival for me. There’s very little motivation to engage with the game. I keep logging in, finding nothing to do but a long checklist of chores and nothing particularly interesting in the environment to see or any obstacles trying to challenge me, then logging out again. The days where I would log into a game and idle in it for hours on end waiting for the game to come to me are long gone. Now, I want to be making decisions and making progress within minutes of launching the game.

Despite my own personal lack of enthusiasm, I will say that Enshrouded is definitely the best of the three, and definitely the one you want to play if you’re looking for a semi-MMORPG experience.

Lies of P

My lack of patience for games in later life is one thing that leads me inexorably to the Souls-like genre. They typically have a mechanical vibe that fits my active on-the-go lifestyle perfectly (actively sitting in a chair in my house, that is). They usually have good RPG systems, good progression systems, and they have a beginning, middle, and, most importantly, an end. Many of them can even be replayed for a different experience.

So, I finished Lies of P. I picked the easy way out and just handed over my heart to Geppetto. Apparently it’s an uncommon ending, according to Steam achievement percentages.

Overall, I don’t recommend Lies of P unless you enjoy punishing games and, let’s be real here, the satisfaction of telling people you finished a punishing game (in the same way elitist jerks in MMORPGs hang around banks in raid gear). I completed it mainly to prove to the world that you don’t need 20-year-old athlete reflexes to play Souls-like games, paraphrasing a vague assertion I read on Tobold’s blog about Elden Ring some time back. (Mostly what you need is patience and a willingness to learn.)

When I say “punishing,” by the way, I don’t mean tough-but-fair games like a Dark Souls, mind you, but punishing games. Games that actively troll the player and bully them to the point where you wonder if it’s legally actionable. Games that are unfair and burdensome to complete, where there’s no amount of competance you can bring to stop the random deaths, where there’s no joy or satisfaction for overcoming unfair challenges, because in the end you know you just kind of got lucky that one time to win the fight. It doesn’t take anything special to beat Lies of P except a willingness to continue to throw yourself repetitively at the hard thing with the statistical certainty that one of the attempts will eventually succeed when all the random numbers align with your side.

That’s my two cents, at least. Also, a large portion of the maps and situations in the game were cut-and-paste directly from Soulsborne games, so you might as well play them instead. There was a Sen’s Fortress. There were one (or more) Blighttowns. There was a Sister Friede. There was a Tower Knight. There were boss moves recognizable from myrid Souls bosses (I guess at this point in gaming history, you can probably just download boss movesets from one or more game developer marketplaces). There was that part in Anor Londo when you kept falling off the rafters. There were all the NPC Invaders from every game. There was a Firelink Shrine and a Firekeeper. There wasn’t much from Bloodborne, though, the game everyone said Lies of P is like, which it definitely isn’t, except maybe visually.

Anyway, it’s over and I probably won’t be playing any DLC or replaying it with any different character builds, because there’s only one character build that works in the first place.

P.S. I had an idea that I would try to solo all the bosses in NG+ instead of using the Spectres, now that I know all their moves. Turns out–surprise, surprise–NG+ in Lies of P is more punishing than a typical Souls-like NG+, and you aren’t very powerful in the initial stages of NG+ despite having tons of gear to use. You won’t be mowing down any bosses like you did in Dark Souls NG+.

Lords of the Fallen

Having finished with Lies of P, I started another new Souls-like game that has the same name as an old one. The name and the genre are the only things in common between the two Lords of the Fallen, because the new one looks to be a complete rewrite from the ground up by a completely different team. It has little or no mechanical similarity to the first game.

Reviews are “Mixed,” but I don’t really understand why. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s as good of a Souls-like as any other.

To my eye, and many random reviewers’ eyes, it looks and plays a bit like Dark Souls 2, in the sense that it’s more colorful than most dark fantasies and the controls are a bit wonky and take some time to get used to (they’re soooo floaty with momentum).

It has the same “posture” mechanic from Sekiro that Lies of P depended on (use multiple “perfect blocks” or “parries” to break an enemy’s posture and followup with a critical hit), but I find it less mandatory. The “grevious wound” that you do when you break the enemy’s posture is such a modest amount of damage that you could do the same with roughly two additional regular hits. So statistically, it usually doesn’t make much sense to take the high-risk parry path when there’s so little reward for it. In Lies of P, the high risk gave you a high reward: The reward being you do a lot of damage so you can actually defeat the bosses instead of getting killed every time (the same with Sekiro). In Lords of the Fallen, though, the risk-reward doesn’t quite add up, and parrying doesn’t really shorten very many fights. (I think there’s a way to increase the grevious wound damage but I haven’t investigated it yet.) It’s mostly just for fun.

Lords of the Fallen has a cool “3D Screenshot” system, which, as soon as I saw it, I couldn’t help but wonder why every single game doesn’t have such a thing. Instead of taking a picture of your screen, it (presumably) records your 3D position so you can tinker with the resulting picture later on and try different things. Unfortunately I don’t see any way to hit a key and quickly save a 3D screenshot in the middle of, say, a boss fight.

Anyway I’m enjoying Lords of the Fallen more than Lies of P so far. Mostly. Many of the boss fights so far are actually fun and interesting, and don’t feel like some game designers are sitting in a room laughing over how much they’re going to screw over the players (like, say, Lies of P, and the last handful of bosses in Elden Ring).

Most of the boss fights (so far) have that perfect boss fight feeling: When you first see it, you think, “Oh god this is impossible.” Then you see some things you can exploit over the next few attempts, then you start to make some progress, then you think, “Okay I think I can do this,” then you get closer and closer and then you get the victory. And then, you think you’ll probably be able to beat it on the first try on every future time you see that boss. (Which is fortunate, because three bosses so far have become regular enemies later on.) And in an ideal boss fight for me, the path from neophyte to mastery takes place in less than an hour and maybe 10-15 boss fights. (More than that and I start to get impatient and annoyed, possibly because there’s too much random chance in the fight outcome, and also because I have to start doing more intensive video editing later on.)

There are some exceptions, though. Ahem, Gentle Gavarus and Congregator of Flesh, back-to-back bosses of a kind that I wish could be fired from a cannon into the sun.

There’s still plenty of time for me to develop a hatred for the game. At the time of this writing, I’m about halfway through the game I think. At this point I can report that the game makers decided to implement difficulty by throwing a ton of enemies in your path, so expect to be fighting groups constantly, which, as you know, is the worst thing in the world to do in a Souls-like game, where combat is designed and optimized for 1-on-1 fighting. You’ll be getting hit randomly from all directions constantly.

And expect to be running into bosses as regular enemies quite a lot by the middle of the game. I think there’s four of them now? And they’re in your path constantly. And yes, they’re in groups, and they’re surrounded by dogs and little hollow-type enemies and so, so many harrassing ranged attackers that you can’t reach. I’m starting to find it far more effective to just run past everything to the next checkpoint.

And by the way, the game seems to be designed in a way that you’ll die in two hits no matter how many points you pump into your health stat. In most Souls games, I put points into increasing health early, but when I did that in Lords of the Fallen I pretty much wasted all those level up points. Death comes quickly, no matter what. Someday I hope to find a way to respec.

Incidentally, I went offline pretty quickly after two different PvP invasions within a 30 minute span. I don’t mind the Dark Souls PvP concept, in the sense that I don’t mind dying to some kid who thinks ganking people is fun (dying is dying in a Souls-like, it doesn’t matter the cause, and most modern Souls-likes (and FromSoftware games) provide an overabundance of checkpoints so you never lose a significant amount of progress anymore). But… it’s a pointless interruption of my game and I don’t have any interest in finding the latest meta of most overpowered PvP weapon combos. (Insert side rant about how PvP enthusiasts are usually only interested in one-sided fights, otherwise known as cyber bullying.)

Anyway, Lords of the Fallen isn’t nearly as bad as the Steam reviews might lead you to believe. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly playable if you’re a fan of the genre.

Nioh Replay

Continuing to replay the parts of Nioh that I previously completed, to replace the set of videos that I lost in a hard drive crash. I typically only play on weekends though. I got through the bat lady boss at the bottom of the caves, which reminded me why I hated Nioh boss fights. Anyway I’m at the point where you can sail to the next part of the map.

I tried the Invitation from the Warrior of the West sub-mission, the one where you fight a dude who cuts through your armor like butter and kills you about 1.5 seconds after the start of the fight, and gave up on it again. It’s ludicrous and thank god it’s optional.

Nioh is the only game I can think of where the parts I like, I really love, but the parts I don’t like, I hate with such a burning passion that I don’t want to play it anymore. It’s the most toxic game I can think of.

Media Production

I’ve started to use the PodMic with recording videos when I don’t want to wear the AT headset for extended periods of time. If I’m really enjoying a game, and recording it, I’ll end up wearing the headset for hours and it starts to hurt my ears. So in those situations I can put in more comfortable ear buds and switch to the PodMic (it’s as easy as muting the headset mixer input and un-muting the PodMic mixer input, no OBS changes required). The quality is roughly the same.

Except for one problem: Mechanical noise. Also known as handling noise. It’s the noise you get when you bump a microphone. Except in this case, it’s noise from moving the mouse around on the table or bumping the table. There’s a mechanical connection between the desk and the microphone, so every time I pick up the mouse and thump it back down, that noise transfers from the desk to the mic arm to the microphone. It’s a big problem. It’s why they make things called “shock mounts” or “spider mounts” for condenser microphones, which suspend the microphone from elastic bands so that mechanical noise doesn’t reach the microphone. Sadly I can’t find one for this style of end-address microphone.

So I bought a little “console table,” a category of furniture that I previously did not know existed. It’s a long, thin rectangular table, presumably for putting a television on or for setting up behind a couch. I’m going to put it behind my gaming desk, so I can attach the microphone arm to a different table, physically separated from the gaming desk. (My gaming desk is out from the wall, so I can easily walk behind it to change cabling, so there’s room for a 9-inch-wide table there.) I’ll probably put my speakers on it, too, because they take up way too much space on the gaming desk. Unfortunately Amazon lost the first one I ordered and the second one isn’t here yet.

Making A Let’s Play Series

Completely at random, I want to highlight a video that popped up in my YouTube recommendations for reasons I can’t fathom, because I literally never click on vlogger videos. It’s a video from someone I’ve never heard of and someone I can’t endorse, who explains why they’re never going to make another Let’s Play series on YouTube. It’s extremely long and tropey and self-indulgent in that way that vlogger videos always are, but it’s very accurate to the experience of making and publishing game videos on YouTube. I guess some people out there might not know these lessons she learned and shared in her video, so I’ll share it here. Maybe you’ll listen to someone from her generation instead of someone from my generation.

TLDR; no YouTube Let’s Player ever wants help with their playthrough. Never, ever. No YouTube Let’s Player actually wants commenters to answer the questions that they pose rhetorically while playing. Every YouTube Let’s Player misses stuff in the game while they’re playing that viewers easily spot while they’re watching. It’s much easier to see things as a viewer than as the player for a variety of reasons (mainly because, as a player, your attention is usually focused on one point of the screen at a time, but as a viewer, you tend to see the picture as a whole). And yes, I can confirm it’s a frick-ton of work to prepare for and make a fully edited Let’s Play video series, and there’s very little return for it beyond self-satisfaction.

I’ve developed strategies to mitigate most of those problems, or I wouldn’t be publishing videos. The summary is:

  • I don’t call my videos Let’s Play videos even though they are that.
  • I setup all my gear so I can just push a button and make foolproof recordings every time, and I setup scripts so I can just push a button to mix and render foolproof videos every time without the need to load them into a video editor, so post-processing time is negligable.
  • I don’t record a camera because it simplifies production immensely and there has never been a game video improved by a little dude or dudette down in the corner with a green screen, especially if they’re not going to, you know, perform for the camera. The only way I would add a camera is if I could work out a way to hide it most of the time and only show it periodically when I want to make a speech or a visual gag. But I haven’t yet hit upon a way to do that without intense post-processing work, and recording the camera video separate from the game video and syncing them up, and that’s not super easy to do.
  • I already knew it’s too time-consuming to edit game videos, so I don’t, unless I absolutely have to (e.g. boss fights, or when I spend 5 or more minutes getting lost or managing inventory).
  • I ignore comments and I don’t care about subscribers because I have a day job that pays way more than YouTube could.
  • What I get from making my videos outweighs what you get from watching my videos; mainly I get an archive of what I played, but more than that I get to practice talking, because otherwise I’d only be talking to cats all day. And I get to practice talking with divided attention, which is incredibly hard.


Continuing to watch Dimension 20 Fantasy High Junior Year on Dropout. Also finished re-watching Starstruck Odyssey. Re-watched Mentopolis which I didn’t finish the first time. Re-watched Mice and Murder. These shows are very useful to have handy for annoying boss fights in any number of Souls-like games.

While I was on Dropout, I rewatched the one and only WTF 101 season, which I think is one of the best animated series of all time and I wish there were 50 seasons of it.

Health and Wellness

Feeling pretty tired and blah lately. Winter sucks. Also, my previous attempts to maintain normal levels of nutrition have fallen off a cliff again, and my sleep schedule has been a little off.

Day Job

More enterprisey Java coding. What I’m learning is various unexotic database and unit testing techniques used in Java. I’m finding myself disliking Java the more I use it. I remembering why I liked C# better in the early 2000s.

Java is so verbose. It feels like it takes forever to accomplish the simplest things. They still do getters and setters like it’s a thing that’s normal. Although there are various shortcuts now which end up looking like C code that’s been decorated with a million #defines - i.e. not like Java. Also there’s an emphasis on functional programming in Java now that makes Java look like not-Java. At that point, why not just, you know, not use Java?

Anyway, I saw Wilhelm’s post about enterprise software: When I say “enterprisey” coding, it means taking data from one place and putting it in another place, and/or taking data from somewhere and displaying it on a page for a “subject matter expert” to see and make business decisions. It invariably involves ORM. And he’s right, enterprise engineers are typically overpaid. Except in government. But, relatively speaking, they are paid more than other government counterparts. It’s a great gig if you can get it. But you have to find ways to entertain and enrich yourself because the job sure isn’t going to do it for you.

World Context

A minor political rant. Sometimes I look at my Twitter timeline to see what everyone is outraged about and the life-or-death political battles that people (a.k.a. “people”) are engaging in every day. It’s hilarious to imagine someone who is genuinely up-in-arms about Google Gemini, and not just performatively and cynically writing propaganda for their team. But somehow it’s even more hilarious to imagine people who make a living writing propaganda for their team on social media. Imagine the amount of self-justifying b.s. that spills out of their mouth when they try to explain their job to someone.

  • Jon Stewart started hosting The Daily Show on Mondays again, because newer comedians aren’t funny anymore apparently.
  • Google Gemini launched. Conservatives were outraged. Something about how Gemini is committing genocide like Hitler did. Seriously. That’s what they wrote. I took a screenshot. I don’t even need to exaggerate for comedic effect.
  • Odysseus, the first U.S. commercial lunar mission, landed on the moon, prompting many to wonder when the U.S. will start commericial missions to fix a bridge or pothole maybe. The lander apparently tipped over, though, and will die soon.
  • 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).


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