June/July Update

Whelp, things didn’t go as planned.

Didn’t even touch my Switch after I put it back. Haven’t gotten any new games in the past month, or played any of the ol’ backlog. Just kinda coasting on what I have.

Did get some of the DLC for Stellaris when it was on sale. These are things that really change the base game. Actually take it from boring nothing to something almost good. Almost, not quite there – that’s just a flaw in the basic game, I think. Even ran a game as techno hivemind zombies. Didn’t turn out well for me – turns out zombies don’t need to trade, which really kills the energy production for some reason. No energy means no research, which means no good ships, which means enemies have an easy time beating you up. And techno zombies don’t do diplomacy either, so you just take, or give up, territory. And wars last until one side or another is destroyed. Whoops. And building tall still isn’t fun, either, since AI’s always spread like a plague, which takes the fun out of exploring, or doing anything really. Like I said, just short of being a good game. Still compelling for a run or two, though.

Spent a lot of time on my mobile games. Bandori scratches the “anime game” itch quite well by itself. I’m still not good at it, but I’m almost good enough, and am getting better. Dragalia Lost is still going, and enjoyable for now (no June Bride banner…I’m not mad, I swear). Pokemon Masters…well, it’s compelling, if nothing else. There’s a post in that, which I might actually get around to writing.

I did do one thing that I am sort of proud of (in a game). One of my Cities Skylines games from like a year ago went kinda poorly. I had tried to be clever, but that didn’t turn out well – I had done basically the worst things possible. Some months ago I tried various tricks I’d learned to try to fix the situation (I find fixing problems in this game is almost the most fun to be had). They worked, a bit, but ultimately weren’t enough. The other night I was looking at it again, and decided that, as sometimes happens, I just needed to rip off the bandage and have a fresh go at the main issue. Fortunately that didn’t involve too much destruction, but it was a more involved than I anticipated. But it worked! (I’d go into more detail, but without screenshots, there’s not much point.)

As for the current Steam Sale…I don’t think I’ll get anything. Like the past several big sales, there aren’t any great sales, compared to the random normal sales throughout the rest of the year. Why buy now? Especially since I’ve bought some more expensive Japanese shelf plastic…being a weeb can get expensive.

I played a bit of ESO this month. The Greymore expansion came out in May, but I didn’t get much time to play then. The main draw for me was the Antiquities system. It took quite a while for me to really get how that worked – while the systems themselves are pretty easy to understand, accessing said systems is unclear. The big breakthrough for me was finally grocking that I could do the same antiquity multiple times – and indeed have to, for it’s a grind in itself. It’s a compelling loop, and mostly enjoyable (it takes a bit too long to find the dig spots once you’ve narrowed down the general area, as the glow effect isn’t obvious until you’re almost on top of it).

For the next month? I’m sure things will continue on as they have been. I don’t see gaming things going much differently. My patience with Pokemon Masters is wearing thin, though. I’ll stick it out until the anniversary in August, though, as if there’s any improvements coming, that’s the time. Summer events in various games are starting, which is exciting.

The City of Cannburg: A Cities Skylines Start

I read a tweet or a post the other day that said they wanted to see more game play posts, and I thought that was a good idea (and idea I’ve already done). So, today we’re going to start up a new city in Cities Skylines.

I have a lot of mods. This game is playable without them, but there are so many quality of life mods out there, and so many good, new assets, that it’s kinda a pain to play without them. And I have so many, I’m not going to list them. If you want to know, just search out any recent “essential mods” list, and I’m sure most will show up. As for DLC, I don’t have the recent “Sunset Harbor,” nor the less-recent “University Life” expansions. And, this is actually my first game after the “Sunset Harbor” update, so we’ll see what we can do without that, but with its ruleset (as Paradox games are wont to do).

I’m going to pick this map, which I’ve never used. Thought I’d try something different. It’s a mod map, as shown by the Steam symbol on the side. And I’m just going to go with the RNG-generated name. It doesn’t really matter to me.

Load it all up…and it’s an awkward start, as shown by the top image. One of my roundabouts isn’t even accessible! Fortunately I have a mod that lets you place certain things outside of the city (as long as they’re not zonable streets), so it’s not too much of a problem. But a bigger problem is that the buildable area is bisected by the highway, and both sides are bounded. And the top part is bisected again by a railroad.

The plan is, then, to put the industry area at top, and the commercial and residential at the bottom. That highway ramp is actually pretty good, and the highway traffic won’t interfere with the traffic between the two sections of the city. I don’t have to worry about unlocking stuff, since I’ve played this before (unlocking stuff is a major bother, so it’s good you only have to do it once – though you can turn it off in the game settings if you want to start completely fresh), so I’m just going to go at it.

I’m just going to be doing efficient grids. There’s not enough room here for anything fancy, so I’m not going to be fancy. You’ll see above that I’m making 4×4 squares: this is to get the biggest building possible to fill the space. If you just fill in the whole area with zoning, you will get random smaller buildings, which won’t fill in the whole space behind it – a waste of space. Once those squares start building up, I’ll zone in the spaces between them. Though you do have to be careful…

It turns out, unlike industrial zones, residential zone squares placed in corners will fill in houses on both streets, so you get a bunch of small houses. If you look in all the squares in the corners there, you’ll see a bunch of houses, and an unoccupied 2×2 area behind all the houses. That’s what I’m trying to avoid (also, bigger houses look better, I think). This can be avoided by not putting in the cross streets, but leaving a space for them, like so:

In the center of the picture, you can see two 4×4 squares separated by a two-width space, which is where the street directly above will connect. (You can see the same gap one block up, on the left, where a left-right street will connect.) Also, you can see that I’m not doing the same thing across from that; you can’t see it, but there’s that mountain coming in at an angle at the bottom of the screen.

You might have noticed that, in the above two pictures, I have a wide street with the side streets branching off; the green (residential) is not on the wide street, but the blue (commercial) is. This is because that wide street is a main street, so the stores and stuff go there. Commercial not only gets citizen traffic from shopping and going to work, but they also get supply trucks; you need a bigger street to handle that traffic. I have the same separation on the industrial side, but this time with nothing on the main street. Industrial zones create a ton of traffic, with supply trucks coming and going, same with workers. The trucks stop at the factories, same as the shops, but much more often; you don’t want those trucks clogging up traffic on the main road, so there are no buildings on the main road. Below, you might also notice that I have one-way roads going in and out of the industrial areas from the main road; this is to spread out the trucks, so they’re not all in the same place at once. (I say “might notice,” because there’s a grain filter in this game that I don’t know how to get rid of.)

There isn’t much else to add to that. Just place essential services around (which includes parks and schools in the residential zones). The “Sunset Harbor” DLC changes the rules for citizens aging, requiring both child care and elder care buildings; fortunately, those buildings are included in the regular game update. The nice thing about grids like this is you can just expand in all directions as needed. Bad thing is it all looks the same, just bigger.

One special thing that I do is separate out the trash area. This is not only because of pollution (so you don’t want it in your residential areas), but because there are a lot of trucks coming and going, so you don’t want them in already high-traffic areas. For this particular city, I bought the left city square to expand the city limits (and get that other roundabout), and stuck the trash stuff off one of the spurs.

Dumps are really small, so you need a bunch of them.

And that’s about it. Like I said, I was just starting a city, just to check out some of the changes. The only major difference I made after the beginning was to add some small commercial areas inside the residential areas, especially near the highways (commercial buildings are loud (sound pollution is almost as bad as actual pollution in this game), but they block the highway sounds). Looks pretty good, I’d say. If I were to give this city a story, it’d be “mining ghost town becomes a small-scale manufacturing center and pit stop on a lonely mountain highway.”

Scale in Vidyas: A Rant

One of the things I enjoy in life in general is knowing the scale of things. I’m a pretty visual person, so that allows me to get a better grip on things, and allows me to play with it in my imagination. It’s one thing to know that X ship is Y meters long, but knowing how it looks next to other things helps me to get that picture in my head.

And, when scale is established, in whatever sort of art, I like it to be right. If it’s something that uses an already-established world, I like things to be consistent – one thing I have against all Trek after 2009. Another thing I dislike is how some things are stated, but the visual evidence is counter to it. Mostly what I’m talking today about concerns city stuff, especially in city builders.

When a game has negative achievements.

It grinds my gears more than a little when a place in a game is said to be a great city, a small town, or anything in between, and we don’t see it. Open world games are generally quite guilty of this. Now, I realize that, until fairly recently at least, having a realistically-sized city was practically impossible, for several reasons. A big city, or even a small town, with proper NPC’s, would be very taxing on bad hardware (consoles), and crafting that would be hard on the devs even taking that out of consideration; procedural generation is a possibility, but that’s boring for the player (see Daggerfall). That consolization is a big issue: both Oblivion and Skyrim were heavily impacted by having to fit to X360 and PS3 specs. The Witcher 3 is the best about this, but even there there is some small scaling down in most places.

And then we get to the city builders themselves. Again, there are hardware limitations that we have to consider – for older stuff. But it’s always bugged me that I can’t really make a proper city in something like Cities: Skylines or SimCity 4. I think it might be somewhat possible with SimCity 4, but you have to build it piecemeal, and not have it be one continuous city, with all the gameplay limitations that come with that.

Sounds like a nice place to live.

Cities: Skylines has other issues. Look at the above picture: on the right, there is “low-density” housing: one- or two-story dwellings, with some sort of lawn maybe. On the left, there is high-density housing: skyscrapers and such. If you look closely, those both have the same footprint, generally. That’s crazy. More on that in a bit.

And, if you look on the bottom, with the stats and such, we have 84k people. Obviously, a city of this level of development would have many, many more people. And, if you follow the in-game progression, this is supposed to be a major city; my city irl feels like a mere town, and yet has 100k people. This is something I’m more willing to look past, though: simply add a zero on the end, and it ends up being much more believable and appropriate for the scales the game can reasonably run at.

My bigger problem is with the scaling of space. The devs have given out a scale for this game: 8m per side for a square. That means we can build cities from real life into the game. At least in theory. The above is the main part of my hometown. Each buildable block is 2km x 2km. Thus, the main part of my small town fills almost an entire block, since it is one mile square, which is about 1600m square. Above, you can see the difference between the layout of my irl town, in the right and center, with the normal density of buildings and roads for the game, on the left. Way different. So different, it breaks the game to try to be real.

And, at 8m squares, you get buildings with small footprints. The growable buildings here (the ones the game builds itself) are I believe up to a max of 4×4 squares, maybe 5×5. That gives up to 40m a side, for buildings that are quite tall. Up to, because they tend to have a plot around them. There are plopable buildings (player-placed) that are much bigger, which is ok, but those tend to be limited.

For me, it’s so immersion-breaking to have these huge, hyper-dense cities. I want to be able to rebuild the towns and cities I’m familiar with, to see how traffic breaks, or if the place could survive as it is, in-game. But I can’t. And it bugs me. Oh, how I wish for a city-builder with proper scale! But I doubt it will happen anytime soon, not until the console goes the way of the dodo.

They Got Me, Again (and Again, and Again…)

Man, I hate sales. Or rather, I love them, too much, and just hate what they do to my bank account.

Today, there happened to be a big sale on Paradox-published titles on Steam. And I, being the fool that I am, clicked on it. You know, just to see what was there. The sale advertised up to 80% off, which might be some good times, if there was something I wanted.

Now, my main problem with Paradox stuff is that the base games are OK, and often priced right, and go on deep sales frequently; but they are loaded with expensive DLC to “fix” the problems in the base game. I don’t like to participate in this gaming environment, but modders live and die by the updates the devs make, including DLC.

And Cities Skylines is no exception. I looked at C:S’s page, just to see what was going on: the base game was down below $10 (I think $7.50 more specifically), and wanted to see how the DLC was doing: it’s been a long time since I’ve played, so surely some stuff has come out. And stuff indeed has. That picture above is only the bottom of the list. But it was 51% off! Crazy deals!

Normally, such a lowly sum wouldn’t even bother me. Well, not much. But there are two things wrong: first, it’s DLC. Crazy to pay that much, even at half-off. Second, and more importantly, I’d already spent a bunch of money this month on vidya games. (I think I’ve told this story before, but…) At the beginning of the month (or the end of last month, I don’t remember), Hilda came out in Pokemon Masters. She is the FeMC of Pokemon Black/White, which was my reintroduction to the Pokemon games (having last played the original Red/Blue). She was my main interest in this game [Masters] for that reason. So I rolled and rolled, and even bought out all the original discount gem packs. I don’t normally buy gacha currency just to do more rolls (only ever having done so when I had a lot of extra money to burn and no particular expenses), so this shows my dedication. But what do I get? Not Hilda. Such is life in the gacha game. And it wasn’t a small sum, either. (Not a huge sum, since there were only a few discount packs to buy, but still a larger sum than I’ll readily admit to.)

(Even so, I lost all of what little motivation I had to even get the daily login bonuses. And to add insult to injury, I got Hilbert, the other MC of Black/White. I hear Hilda actually sucks as a unit, but I don’t care.

In an aside, I should mention that the game kinda really sucks, as a game. So much so that both producers wrote an apology letter to the players, acknowledging this fact, and promising to do better in the future. We’ll see if that’s enough to get me to come back. This is the kind of stuff that takes months to make course corrections on.)

So, I bought this stuff, when I didn’t really want to, for a game I’m not going to play anytime soon (get in line behind all the other games, chump!), and didn’t really want to pay that much anyways. But buy it I did. Not that it’s going to make any real financial impact in my life – unless my car explodes tonight or something, $50 isn’t much in the scheme of things – but it’s just embarrassing, or perhaps more accurately, mortifying (since I didn’t have to tell anyone about this), that I keep falling for this. And to fall for this in particular, when I could have used that money to buy actual, full games, and not just pieces of games I already have, that I already enjoy.

I guess I’m the type of customer that keeps these games going. Vote with your wallet, indeed.