2019 In Gaming: What I Actually Played

Yesterday, I posted about the games I was interested in: what I was excited about, what I was curious about, or just things that caught my eye, from the description. Of all those games (not actually that many to be honest), I’ve only played two: Atelier Lulua, and Pokemon Masters. Of course, I have played other games this year. I’ve written about some of them on this here web space, of course, but most came and went before I started at the end of July.

Before I start, I just want to say that I wish Steam kept track of the actual times played, rather than just the time played. Or rather, that they let me, the player, know that stuff. Maybe they do, but I just don’t know how to access it. Fortunately, at least the achievements have dates and times on them, which can give a good idea of when I started playing a game. GOG, on the other hand, gives a better idea of when I was actually playing any certain game. Still not perfect, but better than Steam. I’m glad I checked, because there were a couple of surprises, that I thought I had played last year, but were actually this year.

So, on to the list. First, are games I was playing before 2019 started, that I still actively played into the year. I’m not going to say too much about them, since these are all games I’ve talked about a lot, since I still play them to this day:

  • Star Trek Online
  • Dragalia Lost
  • Princess Connect Re:Dive
  • Granblue Fantasy

Now, here are the games I actually started in 2019, that didn’t come out this year. I don’t think this is in any real order, but rather in the order I remembered, or discovered looking at my history.

  • Atelier Firis: I was playing Atelier Sophie at the end of the last year, and was just moving on through the trilogy. I think this is my favorite of the Mysterious saga: it actually felt like a journey, and felt like it had stakes, as opposed to Sophie’s almost aimless quest to restore Plachta and do other things I guess. And it didn’t feel like BUY THE DLC FOR THE FULL EXPERIENCE like…
  • Atelier Lydie and Sue: I liked this one a lot too, except for the conflict that didn’t real feel very natural, and neither did story progression. The dialog is much better than the earlier two games, though, and it was nice to bring closure to several of the saga’s earlier characters. But, again, it felt that some things were missing that should have been there in the base game, but were in the DLC; the biggest being the exclusion of a major character from your adventuring party, that definitely should have been there.
  • Conan Exiles: I saw that this had a free weekend, got playing single-player (seems like a griefer’s paradise, to be honest), and loved it enough that I bought it. And played a lot. I mostly played naturally, though I got a few mods to change the crafting/base-building to something that was more balanced for a single player, rather than a whole guild working together. I did kinda cheat a bit there at the end to get the last cheevo or two (like the one that requires a titan or whatever they’re called, which would require a massive amount of grinding materials).
  • Spellforce 2: Just saw this on a GOG sale, bought it cheap, and liked it enough. Don’t know if I actually beat it or not though, it got kinda repetitive there towards the end. But that sort of mix of RTS and RPG was neat, and much improved in…
  • Spellforce 3: Basically more of the same, but improved in most areas. There were a few things missing in the base game that were probably DLC included in the bundle I got of the previous game, like flying units, but still pretty cool. Didn’t really like how the AI cheats on resources, even on Easy, since that made things a lot more frustrating in the RTS sections.
  • Doom 3: I remember when this came out; I didn’t have a PC that could get close to handling it, though my roommate did. I watched him some, and it looked fun. Finally got around to playing it. It was indeed fun. I didn’t expect it to have as much story as it did. Was also a bit jarring to not have iron sights, or anything like that, and the simple damage models were somewhat frustrating to deal with. But still, fun.
  • Baldur’s Gate: My best friend has been going ga-ga over this game for years and years, and the remake was on sale cheap, so I got it. Not a huge fan, mostly due to the combat system and pacing. I guess I’m not going to be playing AD&D anytime soon. Story wasn’t too engaging, either, so I dropped it. Didn’t even get to the titular city. After playing this game, and others like it, I don’t think cRPG’s are for me. Maybe that makes me a pleb, but I just don’t find them very fun.
  • Heat Signature: This one surprised me. Great fun, at least at first. But I’m the sneaky do-everything-perfectly type, that will savescum like mad, and this doesn’t really allow that kind of gameplay (in large part because it doesn’t allow for savescum). The simpler levels are fun, but getting a ton of high-class enemies is much less so. Maybe if I git gud, and use all those fancy teleport toys and shoot out windows and such, it’d be cooler. But still a fun romp if I have a few minutes to kill.
  • FFXIV: I’ve already said a lot about that.
  • ESO: Ditto

So, there you have it. Not too many games. Like I said yesterday, I’m pretty picky about what I play. And as I’ve said before, I don’t think “challenge” is necessarily fun, and frustration definitely isn’t. So there are a lot of games I don’t even want to bother with. That, combined with the fact that I tend to really get into the games I actually do like, means I don’t play a lot of games.

You might have noticed that at the top I mentioned GOG and Steam. I haven’t played any console games this year, I don’t think. I have a 3DS, and Vita, and a PS2 and PS3, all charged up and ready to go…and they just sit gathering dust. What mobile games I do play, I play on my tablet. I haven’t even seen a reason to get a current-gen console, not yet. Maybe I’ll make a post about that soon, to see if this Black Friday will be the time to get one.


2019 In Gaming: What I Was, and Am, Looking Forward To

Not relevant, but I do need a picture at the top.

Kim at Later Levels asked a question a few days ago: how has 2019 been treating you, as far as (new) gaming is going? Kim said it’s been pretty disappointing, and I have to agree. I commented over there, in the heat of the comment moment, that I was only really excited beforehand about three releases this year, and I stand by that. To quote myself:

This year has been pretty disappointing indeed, for me. I think I’ve only been excited for three new games this year, and only one has panned out (so far).

-Far Cry New Dawn: I was excited for this, since I like Far Cry, and I liked 5’s story, and wanted to see the continuation. However, I really dislike Borderland’s gameplay, and New Dawn was basically that. Hard pass. Sad!

-Atelier Lulua: this one worked out. A good mix of series fanservice, while also doing its own thing, and continuing the more modern series gameplay conventions. And not too long, either.

-Atelier Ryza: this one hasn’t come out yet, but it looks good.

I looked up the list of major and minor games that did come out this year (and those still scheduled to do so), just to make sure I was actually right about that, and I was. Those three were the only ones that actually got/get me excited, that I actually look(ed) forward to.

But it got me thinking about games that I don’t necessarily look forward to in anticipation, but at least have interest in. You know, the stuff you’re not chomping at the bit to buy when they come out (at least until you hear about something you really don’t like), but stuff you’ll pay attention to the scuttlebutt about, to see if it’s something to investigate further. Now, I’m really into the genres and things that I like, and really not into the things I’m not. So if the following list seems a bit short – remember, it’s just interest – just remember that I’m pretty picky about things, and a bit cynical on top of that. Also, the list is mostly in chronological order, because I was going down the list in the link above, and writing down the ones I was thinking of.

  • Ace Combat 7: I really liked the PS2 Ace Combat games, and this one was a promise to return to form, and actually being in the Ace Combat universe to boot, adding to the lore and all that. Almost an RPG (and I would say it technically is, even if it isn’t really mechanically). But then I heard it had the one thing I really, REALLY don’t like about the series: the tunnel missions. Despite my love of the games, I’ve never actually beaten any of them: either on the penultimate, or ultimate, mission, there is a portion where you have to fly your jet through a tunnel, with obstacles and sometimes enemies shooting at you. I hate it, it’s above my skill level, and most importantly, takes me out of the game, because that’s just a ridiculous concept, even in this setting. I’ll get it if it goes on serious sale (like under $20).
  • Kingdom Hearts 3: I liked the two mainline ones on PS2. But I never played any of the others, and this seemed more like that OC wank than the Disney + Final Fantasy stuff I liked about the first two games. Also, I don’t have a PS4 or XBone, so there’s that.
  • Imperator Rome: I like the Paradox grand strategy games. Or rather, ‘liked’. I don’t like what happened in EU or HoI (CKII still has enough of the old systems, plus enough of its own unique charm, to still be worth playing), and this goes in the same direction. I heard, from people that like these sorts of games, that this game is actually pretty bad. Sad! (Also, incredibly buggy, but I figure most of those have been taken care of by now.)
  • Persona Q 2: I liked the first game, although I’ve never finished it (I think it’s still in my 3DS, actually). Between that, and the inclusion of the P5 cast, whose game I’ve never played, hasn’t exactly been pushing me super excited for it.
  • Senran Kagura Burst RE:newal: I like anime girls, and the gameplay seems fun enough. However, this puts the “titty” in “titty ninja,” and I just don’t like them that big (nor kids, which is the only other option).
  • Metal Wolf Chaos XD: ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH PRESIDENT TO SAVE THE DUDE? I am getting this, but it came out just when I was starting ESO and FFXIV, and I just haven’t had time for it yet.
  • Astral Chain: seems like the kind of thing I’d like, but I don’t have a Switch.
  • River City Girls: I like the concept of playing as anime girl hooligans in this genre, but the more I hear about this specific outing, the less I like.
  • Link’s Awakening: Not my favorite Zelda game by a long shot (heh), and I don’t have a Switch. But it is on the short-list when I do get that system.
  • Code Vein: Again, I think I’d like it, but I’m not going to love it, and I’m not paying full-price for a game I won’t love.
  • Tropico 6: I actually have completely forgotten this game ever came out. I think I remember hearing at the time that it wasn’t good, or at least not good enough to pay full price for. I liked Tropico 4; 5 less so.
  • The Outer Worlds: I think I’ve said before that I have little faith in Obsidian these days. Also, gameplay looks bad. But we’ll see how it is when it comes out.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC): I really liked the first game. Hear this one isn’t as good. But actually having good controls might make up for the other shortcomings.
  • Mechwarrior 5: Oh man, I really should be excited for this, but I’m not. I liked 3 way more than 4, but I’m definitely in the minority on that one. And this seems more like 4. Also, Epic Store Exclusive = NOPE. At least not until they show they can have a competent launcher and store.
She’s talking about the Pokefurs; this game is surprisingly meta sometimes.

As for what 2019 games I’ve actually gotten:

  • Atelier Lulua: Was everything I expected it to be, and more (in a good way). Not perfect by any means (which I’ve talked about on this very blog), but it was great, to me.
  • Pokemon Masters: This, on the other hand, was a serious disappointment. Not only is the gameplay not that great, but it technically needs a lot of work, as does the gacha. I was hoping for a game with cute girls, so I wouldn’t need to get Shield/Sword (which is shaping up to be a total fail in every department but that), and technically I got that, but it’s very bare-bones even in this department (they aren’t even properly voiced!).

So yah, that’s a pretty sad 2019 for me: TWO new games played this year.

Well, new to everyone. There were a few more I played this year that were new to me. Next time, I’ll talk about those (since I went though the trouble of making a list and all).

ESO: Progress, of a Sort

(I figured that, as I went to the trouble to upload all my ESO screenshots to THE CLOUD, I should make a post about it.)

As I stated a few posts ago, one of my plans for ESO was to finish the Ebonheart Pact storyline, so I could move on to other things. I was already in the penultimate zone for that storyline, and almost done with it at that point, so not a huge deal. Right?

Wrong! I finished the zone, and King Jorunn tells me the Great Mage (Vanus Galerion) has something to tell me. OK. But he doesn’t. See, I’m a Bosmer, which makes one a member of the Aldmeri Dominion by default (unless you pay for a ‘all races all alliances’ character). But I wasn’t doing the Dominion storyline, I was doing the Pact storyline. Because I started in Vvardenfell, which is part of the Pact, so after completing the Morrowind story, I just hopped over to the next place and started that story. So the trigger to start the next part of the Pact storyline isn’t there, because the last chapter of all the alliance storylines are functionally the same: everyone invades Coldharbor together (or at least let the neutral guilds do it), the realm of Molag Bal, so they can put a stop to his schenanigans, and everyone can get back to the important business of warring against each other without undue daedric interference.

So, what to do? Go through the entire Dominion story, to get that quest to pop?

Fortunately not. (I hope.) It turns out that you can also trigger that quest by going through enough of the Main Story. So, off to do the main story then, right? (Which I’d been avoiding, since it required me to go the the Dominion lowbie area.) No problem. Until I ran into a problem. One of the questgiving NPC’s for the main quest is also one of the main character NPC’s for the Elswyr expansion, and there is a prologue quest that he starts (and is involved in). But I didn’t know that when I randomly talked to him; I just thought he was another random NPC handing me yet another quest. Which I then proceeded to ignore, because it wasn’t what I was focusing on. Well, I was stuck for a while, until I realized that said NPC being on this quest I had started prevented him from giving me the next quest in the main story. So I had to do his quest(s). Which took a lot of time, since this is the prologue to a major expansion.

Now, tonight, I should hopefully be able to continue in the main quest. What a ride.

Quick Review: Elachi Qulash Frigate (Star Trek Online)

In Star Trek Online, a new “season” was released about three weeks ago. I’ve talked about it before, so I won’t get into it. But a big part of it was the ability to get a new end-game ship by grinding out some of the new content every day. Which I did, and I got the ship. Now, the above shot is of my ship; you can see the official news page to see how it looks by default, its stats, and all that fun stuff.

I’m going to talk about my experience with it the past couple of days. I’ve only flown it in a few patrols, so it’s not like I have extensive experience or anything. I’m also probably doing it wrong. I didn’t take any screen shots with my ability bar (or any ui at all), so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I put what I believe is the Lukari T6 vanity shield on it. That’s why it looks so different from the default. I like that shield, though it’s a lot more blue than purple, compared to a lot of other ships I’ve used it on; and thanks to the lighting, it looks pretty gray. But I’ve never really liked the Elachi default skin, so having this makes me a lot happier.

But how does it fly? Pretty good, I guess. It’s a lot slower than I thought it was going to be. I think I was just expecting it to be more of a raider than an escort, based on its size, and the fact that most of its boff slots are universal. But it still turns well enough to use cannons or dual beam banks effectively, especially when using the Competitive reputation engines.

As I said, I don’t think I’m using the thing right. It has an Intel specialization boff slot, but I’m not using any of those abilities; I’m just sticking to the boring ol’ vanilla stuff. I’m not going to upload my whole build (mostly because I don’t have the game with me, and I don’t remember), but for the universal slots I have tactical and science in the LtCdr slots, engineer in the Lt slot, and tactical in the Ens slot.

Also, the thing is pretty squishy, as one would expect from a “frigate”. I really don’t know where Cryptic is going with this in its naming scheme: NPC frigates are the lowest of the low, while this thing is actually rather good. I think I should have put five DBB’s in the front, instead of three with two regular beams. It’s clear this thing was meant for cannons (and that’s what the NPC version has), but I’m not a huge fan of them. (Now, going full turrets, THAT’S where the fun is. But it’s also not terribly effective.)

So, overall? Not really sure. But even in the last two days it’s grown on me. I’ll call this one a success.

September Gaming in Review, and October Plans

Another month has come and the last one is gone. Let’s see what I’ve done, compared to what I was thinking on doing. Well, I did make level cap in ESO, as expected. And I also made it to the next “content” cap, 160 Champion Points. Everything after that is gravy, I guess. I’ve also maxed crafting on all the actual crafting things (blacksmith, clothier, and woodworking), so I can make gear for my maxed-out level. I’ve gotten into The Rift in the Ebonheart Pact storyline, and am working on that.

Didn’t even boot up FFXIV, though. I’ve been so engrossed in ESO that I haven’t had time or will to even start a new sub in FFXIV, after the first month expired. Might re-sub for the Halloween-ish event, but might not. So, obviously no progress there, still at like lvl 30 or 31. I do plan on playing it again, it isn’t dropped.

In STO I did the new content for the season. Not that there was much there. And I did the daily event, every day. More or less every day. But I got the new ship a couple days ago; I don’t know if that was on Sep 30 or October 1, though. I mostly did it with two TFO’s per day; that seemed like the shortest, easiest, and most fun path. (Today I tested out said ship; more on that in a future post.)

In mobage land, I mostly did the bare minimum. I’ve been sorta burnt out on all of them; or rather, my gaming energies are fully focused on ESO, so I don’t have much spare thought for them. This recent event in Dragalia Lost was surprisingly good though (the actual event, not the anniversary celebrations, which are also pretty neato). The boss is something a little different, and actually impressive. Like, it actually looks impressive to just watch someone play; this is a rarity with mobage in general, and DL is no exception. In GBF I skipped Guild Wars, completely. I haven’t really participated more than the barest minimum in half a year, if not more, and these past couple of times I just checked out completely (sorry dancho, exams…). The recent event was good, but it’s just the same thing as far as gameplay goes, just like every non-summer event for the past 5.5 years. Since I’m at the point where these events don’t give me good gear I need, but I’m not good/dedicated enough to grind out the boxes, I’m kinda just out of it. And in Pokemon Masters, there’s a new event, but again, not really doing it. I spent money buying all the one-time crystal packs, and didn’t get Hilda. Very sad, since she’s the reason I bothered with the game in the first place. Still in chapter five or six there, too, because performance issues.

Now, for October. I expect my play patterns will mostly stay the same. There will be events towards the end of the month for all the continuing-content games I play, so I’ll participate in those as needed. But I figure it will mostly be ESO, with dailies (or less) for the rest. For ESO in particular, I’m going to finish the EP quest line, then go to the Summerset expansion, to get jewelry crafting kicked into high gear (and also the content, I guess…).

As for games coming out this month, the only one I’m really looking forward to is Atelier Ryza. I’ve heard little but good things, and it’s selling like hotcakes in Japan (well, as far as a niche series like Atelier goes, at any rate). But that’s the 31st (according to Gamespot), so it won’t really affect my October gaming much, I think. Also keeping an eye on The Outer World; while Fallout New Vegas is one of my most very favorite games, I’ve mostly lost my faith in Obsidian. But we’ll see.

What Games I Keep Installed

Over at Massively, today’s Daily Grind asks “Which MMORPG’s do you keep installed long-term, even when you aren’t playing them?” Well, MMO’s are their thing, so of course they’re being specific about that, but as I’m a more general-purpose blogger, I’ll answer the question more generally.

There is an odd bit to this, for me, though. Back in spring I got a new PC (from my tax refund money). My older PC was getting a bit long in the tooth, and I had money, so why not? (This is why I’m poor.) Just upgrades were straight-out, since updating anything that needed upgrading would require upgrading other things, which meant upgrading other things, etc. A new build was what I needed. So, as of spring sometime, I had a fresh, clean hard drive.

Suddenly, this question was really necessary. (I mean, the question itself wasn’t, because it was several months ago.) Just what exactly would I bring back? What would get the precious space on my hard drive? (Having two SSD’s, but neither particularly big, for games; there’s a regular 1TB HDD, but that’s no fun.) There was also the possible trouble of W10 compatibility; would my favorite older games play nice with W10? (I was planning on installing W7, but was unable to get the the installer to recognize my keyboard and mouse – USB only.)

What I decided was…I’ll answer that question when I wanted to play those games. My biggest hurdle was Fallout: New Vegas: one of my favorite games, but one modded all up; even though I have the mod files themselves imported, I’d have to redo everything to get things in working order. So, instead of bothering with that, I just decided to leave it be. Same with Deus Ex, my number-one-favorite game of all time: when I want to play it, I’ll install it then.

The game I was playing at the time was Conan Exiles. The upgrades really showed on that game. I was just playing single-player, and did pretty much what I had wanted to do. It’s still installed, but I haven’t played it in a while.

Star Trek Online gets an ‘of course’ mark. I haven’t been playing it that much, besides when there’s a ship grind event going (like right now). But I figure I’ll stick with that game, even if I’m not actively playing it, until the end.

I’m not playing FFXIV right now. Haven’t really since the middle of August. But it’s still there, waiting for me to have specific reason to log in. I liked it, it just didn’t grab me by the throat like ESO did.

Once I feel the urge, Cities Skylines is coming back. That was one of the games that was an impetus to get me to upgrade in the first place: it sucks up all the rams, so I needed more. But I was stuck playing one game, then another, and soon I’d almost forgotten about it.

Same thing with Crusader Kings II. That’s a fun game to go through a for a few hours at a time, then forget about it for months.

I also figure ESO will stay on my computer. No reason not to at this point.

An Update

I have been playing games. Really. I’ve been playing ESO almost religiously. It’s just, there’s not a lot to write about here. I’ve been mostly going through the faction story areas for the Ebonheart Pact, and am just cleaning up Eastmarch right now. Not a lot to blog about there, though I have gotten some amusing screenshots, at least. (The above isn’t mine, because I’m not at my PC, but I have one identical to it, because of course you take a screen of Naryu being cute.) I also did the Clockwork City DLC quests, which were a nice break from the main stuff.

I hit the “max level” (Really for reals this time!) again, meaning CP 160. So now I can max out my gear and stuff. I’ve been trying to improve my builds and play, so I don’t embarrass myself out there in dungeons. But I’ve discovered that I don’t really like that aspect of the game, and that the gear I can get that’s good for my build isn’t in the dungeons (there’s some in trials, and some from crafting). I’m going bow/bow, like a chump, but it’s pretty simple for my casual brain. Not the ideal setup for dps, but I like to actually fit into my role and class (which is apparently what the devs want too), and five active abilities doesn’t really do that for me. I still need a better self-heal than what I’ve got, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Granblue Fantasy got a new event, and in short, it’s kino. It’s also somewhat amusing how some people miss what little subtlety and literary merit is in these mobage stories – they say it sucks, when it’s clear that they are the problem. Not to say it’s going to change anyone’s life, or get any sort of writing award, but it’s not bad in the slightest. Now, there were some missed expectations – some were hoping for an All Siegman All the Time flashback event, when it was instead the usual fujo/yume-pandering Dragon Knights event, but that should have been expected. Lancelot got another skin, but at least it’s free this time. And no deus-ex-Siegman this time (though they accomplished this by making him part of the problem…).

And the Dragalia Lost 1st Anniversary is upon us. No event at all, but lots of free stuff. Euden got the gala this time, as expected; and he’s not broken, which was somewhat unexpected: I guess Cleo was just a fluke. (Though looking at the actual history of the game and genre, that much powercreep was really out of the ordinary, and it’s kinda a surprise that she hasn’t been even slightly nerfed yet.)

Oh, and part of what kept me from writing is that I finally had my gallbladder surgery a few days ago. (I do have a picture of what they took out of me, but I’m not going to post it, since that’s probably what would be the Twitter post picture…) Probably the best-case scenario, as far as recovery goes: I was up and at ’em five hours after walking into the surgery center, and haven’t had any additional pain medication needed; indeed, I’ve actually used less (fewer?) painkiller than I normally do! Still sore – feels like someone(s) punched me in the gut a few dozen times – but not painful unless I do something that uses my core muscles. There was one uncomfortable complication, but I hear that’s normal with general anesthetic, and it seems to be resolved at this time. But this basically gave me another weekend to play games (ESO), which was nice.

Holonerds: A Star Trek [Online] Rant

The Star Trek Online twitter put up the above poll. Pretty self-explanatory. I’ll tell you what I voted for, why I think other people voted the way they did, and then why I don’t like the holographic helpers that Trek does occasionally (which came to mind because it happens again in the above episode).

First off, I voted for the TFO as my favorite new thing this time around. Partially, that’s because I just plain like it. I like ground combat generally. And this queue (Cryptic calls them TFO’s because they have to be special snowflakes) avoids most of the pitfalls that make ground queues bad: there are no convoluted mechanics, there are no time gates, and it’s not just wave after wave of mobs. There is some mechanical involvement (get your bug-buddy to the red monolith), but it isn’t difficult. There is a timer, but it sets a maximum time the group can spend in a task: it’s short enough that if your team fails, it’s not a huge drag, but long enough that your team has to go Full Packled to fail it. I also like the enemies: the Elachi are somewhat interesting in that their shields are a lot tougher than their health, so shield-penetrating weapons – which typically have less pure damage to balance the fact that they go straight through shields – are viable here. This lets me use my tommy gun, which is great fun. Lastly, the queue itself is short, which is great for repeatable content like this.

Another reason I picked the TFO as my favorite is that the other stuff just didn’t excite me. The episode was pretty much just pure STD, despite the tricks Cryptic made to make us think it was for the modern timeline. That, and it heavily featured themes I heavily dislike: multiverse theory, holonerds, and bad pulp biology becoming bad sci-fi plot devices. I’ve ranted on this already, so I won’t go on. I also wasn’t impressed with the patrols, which all have an “undending wave” style mob at the end of the traditional patrol, which I feel is unnecessary and unfun. And the new event system…it’s just a ui element. I can understand why the devs think it’s great and hype – it’s apparently way different for them – but as a user, it’s just a menu that places the relevant content in an easy-to-access place. Nice, but nothing to get excited about.

As for the rest of everyone, their thoughts seem to be the opposite of mine. Understandable. The episode being the main popular thing makes sense – people tend to play the game for the story, and there it is. Some people seem to actually like STD, so getting one of the main cast is cool for them. Though I think that a lot of people picked the “event system” because they didn’t like the rest. The patrols are kinda blah, but not offensive, and if you want to level your ships, they’re a really good place to go. And ground queues tend to be rather unpopular with the players in general (they want spaceships to go pewpew, not layzorgunz), and apparently there’s a huge afk problem, though I have never seen it myself (might just be that I play at a low-traffic time).

Now, I’ve told you all that to get to the rant. It’s about a think that Trek has done a few times, that STO does here in this episode (and has done before), what I will call the Holonerd. Basically, it’s using the holodeck to recreate a person with expertise to help solve the problem of the week. It was first used in the TNG episode “Booby Trap,” where Geordi makes a holographic recreation of one of the Enterprise’s design engineers, Leah Brahms, to help him figure out a way out of the eponymous booby trap. (It’s also a holowaifu episode, since of course that huge nerd can’t get a real gf amirite?) It’s done again at least once in Voyager (adding an additional ethical problem, because they recreate a Cardassian Mengele to solve the issue), and as I said, here in this episode of STO, where they recreate Stamets from STD, because he’s an expert on space shrooms.

Why does this bother me? Well, because it makes no sense. It’s not like the holodeck actually has the soul, or even merely the memories, of the person in question. All it has is, at best, historical recordings of the person, and whatever research they’ve done and is in the computer. Now, I can get how a problem-solver might want to have a personage to bounce ideas off of, rather than just a terminal, or disembodied voice. But there is no reason to try to recreate an actual person, because they aren’t the actual person, no matter how they might look and sound (as Geordi found out later, the real Brahms was not the holowaifu). In STO, there was no reason to get a Stamets hologram, certainly no reason to get the personality (although the episode did lampshade this a bit, since the computer initially brought up a grouchy, retired Stamets first, before the more cooperative Starfleet Officer version). And of course, the holonerd doesn’t actually think like the person in question, nor have their memories and expertise. (Again, to STO’s credit, they bring this up with the holoStamets – he can’t really help you, in the end, until the shroom people just happen to give the faker the real deal’s memories/soul/whatever that was left behind when they went there in that one episode – so now holoStamets is as close to a Real Boy as possible [this is not to STO’s credit, in my opinion].)

Basically, what the holodeck is doing is making an avatar of the ship’s computer. That’s actually kinda neat (and I believe the show Andromeda does this), so why not just go with that? It still gives all the other aspects of the plot (such as the holowaifu thing, or the ethical dilemma of using the gains of evil), and it isn’t just plain dumb. As far as STO goes, it gives a reason to use STD’s cast (since it’s 160 years after the show, you can’t just have the characters show up). But in the rest of Trek doesn’t have this excuse.

While I’m here, I’ll rant on another bad use of the holodeck, this time reserved for STO specifically. In the episode “Butterfly” the Allies have built an Anti-Plot Gun, which erases whatever from time itself, in order to change the past so we don’t get shreked by the Iconians (who are a whole Kardashev level above even Starfleet). (It’s the same weapon Annorax used in the Voyager episode “Year of Hell”.) Since changing even a little thing can lead to huge changes down the line, of course we want to make sure that we’ve got it all calculated out: the whole thing with “Year of Hell” was that Annorax tried to change history by erasing things, but he could never get the history he wanted. But in STO, we use the holodeck to recreate what might happen if we made this change or that. Now, why do we need to enter the holodeck and run some simulation of some particular event. Indeed, what the PC is actually doing is just grabbing some historical info at the end of the simulation. The simulation didn’t need to be run – the simulation that the PC goes through is based entirely on the simulation of history the computer has already run! It’s literally a waste of computing power (it takes a lot to simulate all that stuff going on) and time (since the computer already has the answer before you even go into the room, or at least before the end!). Even in “Year of Hell” the computer doing the simulation just did its calculations, then displayed the results – no need for holomumbojumbo.

So, this is another instance of writers not thinking through the implications of their plot devices. Though this time they go for the more complicated answer, rather than the simpler solution!

Everyone of you reading this…

Pecan Pie m&m’s: A short review

I like m&m’s. I eat them a lot. Way more than I should. I have this thing where, if I don’t eat, I get headaches. I don’t know why, but it’s been this way since 6th grade. At least it’s my head that’s broken, and not my brain. Anyways, m&m’s are about perfect, since you have to chew them (which also helps prevent tension headaches from me clenching my jaws constantly), they are small, and the come in bags big enough to last for a while. Also, they come at the right price.

I’ve tried a lot of different flavors. Probably most of them, certainly not all of them. I of course have my favorites. I like the physically bigger ones, not the least because they are harder to go crazy with (feel more guilty eating a bunch). However, I don’t really like the nutty ones, especially if I’m going to be eating them all day. Just have the wrong mouth-feel for it. I also don’t usually like the stronger flavors – I like to taste the chocolate primarily, not something else with a bit of choco.

Of course, there’s also the problems of availability – I have to be able to get them in the first place. And price. My local Wal-Mart down the street is one of those Neighborhood ones – small, even for a grocery store. They don’t have a lot of flavors in the sizes that I want. So I have to go to the other store further away, but even then they don’t always have what I want, where I want it.

All the above considered, I’d rate my favorites (for work snacking) thusly:

  • Crunchy
  • Crunchy Mint
  • Hazelnut

But, being in the Halloween Candy season, I checked out that section of the store to see what was cheaper than usual. Of course you have the fun-size stuff, which is also ideal for work, in a greatly discounted state. So I got some of my favorites there (Kit-Kats, Twix). I also was looking for m&m’s, since they tend to have seasonal stuff too (in the normal flavors). But, lo and behold, I found something amazing. Yep, it’s what I’m writing the post about.

They’re just about perfect. The individual pieces are big enough that I don’t have to grab a bunch to be satisfied moment-to-moment. The primary flavor is the chocolate, but it has a pleasant, but not too-rich, separate aspect to it. I’m not a huge fan of pecan pie, but this has just the right amount of pecan-pie-ness to it. It doesn’t have any separate bits that mess up the mouthfeel of the candy.

I might say that this is my new favorite m&m flavor. Get it. It’s good stuff. Maybe, just maybe, if we buy enough of it, they’ll make it available all year.

Dragalia Lost: Missed Opportunities

No game is perfect. Nothing is perfect, not on this world, anyhow. But you can try your best. Or at least make an attempt at all. It can be disappointing when you enjoy a thing, but come across an example of that thing which didn’t have the effort you’d expect in it.

Just for example, I’ll use burgers. I happen to like Carl’s Jr. burgers. Like, a lot. They’re my favorite of the big chains’ burgers, for sure. I had good examples of good burgers from many different stores, across several states in the U.S., so I know a good Carl’s Jr. burger isn’t a fluke. But I’ve also had bad examples of burgers from this joint, in multiple places, some consistently. I’ve noticed it’s all about the effort put into it. You’d think that there would be a lot of standardization in a burger from a big, national joint, and you’d be right. No matter how disappointing the burger is in itself, it always has the same flavors, because the ingredients are standardized, and cooked in a standard way. No, the difference comes in the effort made to put it all together right. If things are sloppy, in a way they’re not supposed to be (“if it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face”…), the overall burger experience is significantly lessened. If all the lettuce is on one side, if the patty is a quarter hanging out of the bun, if the sauce is all in a clump in the middle, all those things can be destructive to the burger. And it doesn’t have to be. Just a bit more effort, and the product could be great, even superlative. (And it’s one thing if I’m customer #500 in the hour; I understand that, but if a store gets things wrong consistently, there’s a culture there, or at the very least a systemic problem.)

It’s the same thing with stories. I know, not everyone is a good writer. Not everyone has to be. I’m certainly not. But there’s a reason I don’t write for games – I’m certainly not paid to do it. There are so many examples of good writing, that one could expect that things might be better, in certain circumstances. Or at least that things would be decent. I’m of course talking about Dragalia Lost here: it’s in the title of the post. I’m not expecting something great here, especially from a phone game, but I’d like something that represents some effort. I know that this game can do good stuff – I’ve experienced it. But the main story, especially the most recent chapter, leaves a lot to be desired. To explain why, I’ll have to summarize the story a bit, so forgive me if you’re already familiar with it.

The story begins with the Main Character, Euden, the 7th prince and youngest heir to the throne of the kingdom. Euden has a younger twin sister, Zethia, but she’s the dragon pope, and has relinquished all claim to the throne. MC is called to adventure, stuff happens, his dad the king gets possessed and is eventually killed by the Big Bad, who happens to basically be the devil in this country’s religion; and then Big Bad possesses Zethia, who takes claim to the kingdom in her father’s place, and renames said kingdom to what boils down to Devil’s Empire, as far as this country’s history and religion are concerned. MC fortunately has a nice abandoned castle he happened to come across, which becomes the base, which is fortunate because he’s been branded as a traitor prince (as he was fighting the possessed king at the time said dies). The other heirs are out running their own thing, either as governors or generals (except the 6th prince, who fills the role of useless wastrel). Also, around this time the military teams up with the already ubiquitous monsters to basically terrorize random villages, because, you know, the Devil is Evil and all that. And we know that the Big Bad is currently in a weakened state and is looking to regain its true power.

Now, just in that, you should be able to see some interesting possibilities. How did the no-claim Zethia take over? What gives her legitimacy? What do the other siblings (and actual claimants) think about this? What do the people in the kingdom think about their country being renamed to Evil Empire? What about the other surrounding countries, what do they think of this new development? What will happen to the Traitor Prince now? And there are other things, for sure.

Now, we do get some at least partial answers to these questions. Whether they’re satisfying or not is up to the individual player’s tastes. And the situation does change over time, at least subtly (as in, the game doesn’t bring attention to the changes, they just change). Euden is explicitly tested, and develops as a ruler, as he takes his base (and the refugees flowing in from all those attacked villages) an declares his independence from the Evil Empire. Things get safer for him and his in the surrounding areas (at least when direct combat with monsters or evil troopers isn’t happening) – at first he was being hunted down in town, but later he can move about freely. He gets allies. He encounters his siblings and tries to get them on his side.

We have a complicated situation, so I expect that the writers wouldn’t go for a simple answer for everything. But that’s exactly what happened in this last chapter. All the siblings are brought together with the Devil, and they all side with the Big Bad. We already know they have their own motivations, and things might get more nuanced in the future, but for now we’re back where we were at launch: the prince arrayed against everyone else.

Now, I wasn’t expecting Game of Thrones here. I wasn’t even expecting Crusader Kings. But some depth would have been nice. Not returning to effectively the same place we were half a story ago would have been nice. Giving the siblings some better motivation to joining the actual, literal, unequivocal evil Devil being would have been nice (even if it was just “I’m afraid of that guy”). Even MC’s motivation could have been better: not just “I’m a siscon so I can go with you as long as you’re possessing my sister!”, but something even so simple as “your past actions don’t match with your present words, Satan” would have been an improvement.

Now, none of this is unsalvagable. We could be given satisfying results and explanations for all this in the future. But as for right now, it kinda sucks. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time, with all the hype that’s been built up, combined with the slow month otherwise, the low sales, and other expectations being dashed.