Friday, June 23, 2017

SuperData Recombines WoW Again for May Chart

The SuperData Research Top Ten chart for May 2017 is out.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2017

The decision as to whether or not to split World of Warcraft into East/West or represent it as a single unit has swung back again.  Last month they were split, this month combined again.

The combined WoW number still dropped a notch, falling from 5th to 6th place, while Overwatch moved up a slot to 8th place on the PC chart.  The top four spots on the PC chart remain unchanged, while DOTA 2 landed on the charts in the 5th spot.  It was last seen on the chart back in February, where it was holding the 10th position… or 9th position when the chart was refactored to combine WoW yet again.

World of Tanks remains behind WoW for yet another month… though I do wonder where it would stand with WoW split into two.

Meanwhile, I am left wondering what the difference between Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and New Westward Journey Online II.  I suppose one might just be the original Fantasy Westward Journey.  SuperData needs to fix their shit I think.

On the mobile chart Pokemon Go dropped off the list for the first time since launch.  The game just deployed a revamp of gyms and added gym raids, so we shall see if that is enough to get it back on the list next month.

Other items from the SuperData report:

U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.

U.S. digital revenue up year-over-year. Gamers spent over $1 billion across all platforms in May, up from April, during what is typically a lackluster point in the year. Growth came primarily from mobile revenue.

Overwatch shows continued growth. Overwatch digital revenues are up from April but down from May 2016, when it launched. Additional Content revenue hit a new high in May on the back of a one-year anniversary event.

Injustice 2 has a solid launch on consoles. We estimate Injustice 2 sold almost 500k digital units on console in May after launching mid-month. This puts it at number four in the top 10 console rankings this month in terms of digital revenue.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 gets another DLC release.  Black Ops 3 grew month-over-month and beating out Infinite Warfare. The jump, which vaulted the game past Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, came from the PS4 release of the “Zombie Chronicles” DLC.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds has another big month.  PUBG had another solid sales month in May with 791,000 units sold, bringing life to date digital sales above 2 million units through May. June looks to be another massive month for the game.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege breaks into console top 10 for the first time since January 2016, thanks to the continued “Year Two” support from Ubisoft.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Steam Summer Sale 2017 Arrives

As predicted/expected/hoped, the Steam Summer Sale went live at 17:00 UTC today.

Summer Sale Comes Again

I have been much less ambivalent about the upcoming sale than I have been in past years.  I am feeling the itch for a new game or three.  So as soon as the sale went live I checked my wishlist and… nothing I added recently is on sale.

Ah well.

This year the activities are driven by quests to obtain sticker by performing various activities.  Going through your discover queue is the obvious one, but there are other tasks.

Sticker pack for checking my prefs

Of course, the immediate heavy load on the store meant that such tasks led to errors, but it will smooth out once the rush to find the inevitably comically mis-priced items has died down.

Since my wishlist let down my initial rush of enthusiasm, I’ll have to stalk the store to see what I can find.  Or maybe I will buy something I really want at full price.  It’s been known to happen.

How are you feeling about Steam this summer?

The Necromancer is Coming

Last year and BlizzCon Blizzard promised two things for Diablo III.

The first was the original Diablo experience mocked up in the Diablo III engine… with Diablo III assets.  The Darkening of Tristram event.  We got that in January, and while the experience was not very old school Diablo, it was, as I opined, at least some new content to play through in the game.

The second was the return of the necromancer class, which we will get next week in the form of the Rise of the Necromancer DLC.

The necromancer arrives soon

One of the questions unanswered at BlizzCon was how much the necromancer DLC would cost, because it was made clear it wouldn’t be free.

The answer is: $15

Not a bad price for DLC I guess.  For your fifteen bucks you get access to the necromancer class, a bunch of cosmetic fluff, two additional stash tabs (PC master race only), and two character slots. (details here)

But no content.

So if you miss the necromancer class from Diablo II and want to see it remastered in Diablo III, this is probably an easy choice.  A new class through the current content is likely draw enough for fifteen bucks.

But if you are indifferent to the class… I played it back during Diablo II and it was interesting, but not a class I finished the game with… it is also easy to pass on.  I thought Blizz might have a hook in there, something to attract those for whom the class and the fluff aren’t much of a draw.

And I know, I sound like I am expecting too much for that price, though I will point out that Blizz has added whole new areas for free in the past… and there was the Darkening of Tristram event I opened the post with, which was free as well.  So a bit of content would not have been wholly out of the question to my mind.

As it stands though, I’ll likely let this slide.  But if the necromancer is a must-have for you, look for it on Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is EVE Online a Gankbox?

Syp has been angsty about the “gank culture” of EVE Online this week.  He started on Twitter.

Then he turned that into a post on Massively OP where he declared EVE Online to have a “gankbox” culture.

I had to go look up “gankbox,” as this was a new term to me.  According to Massively OP:

Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.

As somebody coming up on eleven years of playing the game, that does not describe EVE Online to me at all.  New Eden is not a place of unrestricted, free-for-all PvP.  Sure, out in the wilds of null sec space or in wormholes you can shoot at other players without consequence, but in low security and high security space, where Neville Smit tells me most of New Eden plays, there certainly are restrictions on PvP.

I low sec you have guns on gates and stations that will shoot at people who initiate combat, there are suspect timers and kill rights that make people who shoot you vulnerable to attack even in high sec space, and the whole security status system that can make travel to high sec a dicey proposition if you sec status gets too low.

And that is low sec space, which hosts faction warfare, where people are alleged to be shooting each other all the time.

In high sec space, CONCORD lands on you and blows up your ship if you just start shooting at other people, something that I would call a pretty serious restriction on PvP.  Somebody has to declare war on you to shoot you without restriction in high sec, and they can’t do that if you’re still in an NPC corporation.

Which, of course, isn’t to say that people don’t get blown up in high sec space.  It happens all the time.  I’ve been on both ends of that.  I have been blown up traveling the space lanes of high sec.  And I have helped blow other people up as part of Burn Jita and Burn Amarr in the past.

An Obelisk freighter goes up

And suicide ganking is a thing in high sec space every day.  But it has restrictions and it can be avoided with some care.  People engage in it as a for-profit venture, so simply making sure it isn’t profitable to gank you goes a long way to making your journey a success.  You can start by getting the hell away from Jita.  As the center of commerce in New Eden, it attracts all the bad elements, so the further you go from it, the quieter and safer things tend to become.

But the term “gankbox” seems completely off base.  Ganking does not dominate the game.  I live in Delve, PvP barely dominates the game.  We mostly mine, shoot NPCs, build things, and sell them to each other, as the monthly economic report demonstrates.

I will cop to EVE Online have a bad reputation however.  It has provided some cringe worthy moments in gaming.  And even I called out the game’s reputation as one of the top five problems I feel the game has.

But a reputation isn’t reality, it is a perception.  You aren’t going to get ganked and scammed by Goons the moment you undock into the tutorial in your noob ship.  Syp couldn’t have “looked” and the gank culture, because it doesn’t exist as he describes it.  He just let one aspect of the game’s reputation color his point of view.

Sure, people get blown up and get mad, as in this classic Reddit post.  But you’ll note two things in that thread.  The first is the pilot’s disregard for security status, and thus his own safety.  Second is that down in the comments he eventually says he is over his moment of frustration.  Life in New Eden, and on Reddit, where flaws get magnified 100x.

For all of that though, I will predict that Syp wouldn’t like EVE Online.  He seemed to get a bit flustered by RuneScape, which at least follows some recognizable MMORPG conventions.  EVE is just plain right-angles to reality confusing if you’re coming from other games in the genre.

Back to my top five problems post, the game’s name, age, and reputation stop people from playing, but it is the the user interface, the complexity of gear, and (my bonus item) the horrible, mis-used, and sometimes arcane terminology common within the game are much more likely to be a real issue that the game’s reputation.

EVE Online is a place where veterans of the game learn about features by accident all the time.  I saw this gem just the other day.  I don’t have to undock to tinker with overview settings.  Who knew?  For a new user it can be confusing as hell.  And that doesn’t even get into the sandbox nature of the game where, once you’re done with the tutorial, the game leaves you to figure out what you want to do.

All of which is me picking on Syp, which he probably doesn’t deserve.  But I would like to see him try the game and reject it for one of it many real flaws rather than running away due to a flaw he thinks it might have. (Also, his posts on Massively OP about EVE might use the games terminology correctly more often.)

When I think of ganking and annoying player behavior, my mind always goes to WoW.  I have experienced a lot more direct bad user behavior in Azeroth than in New Eden.  But I play EVE and not WoW currently.

To round back to the post topic, do you think EVE Online is a “gankbox” or not?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Three

In which we really start to see systemic optimization.

Week three of our blogger Fantasy Movie League once again seemed to present two possible paths forward.

The choice seemed to be between Wonder Woman, still going strong at the box office having outperformed last week’s big release, The Mummy, and Cars 3, the new challenger.

It seemed pretty clear that Cars 3 would take the top spot.  But FML isn’t about picking the box office winner, but picking eight movies based on a budget, with a bonus available for picking the best price/performance movie of the week.  Cars 3 might do better, but would it be worth the price?  It would limit what other movies one could pick.  And you couldn’t pick Cars 3 AND Wonder Woman.

Cars 3                    $719
Wonder Woman              $478
All Eyez On Me            $327
Rough Night               $243
The Mummy                 $167
47 Meters Down            $105
Captain Underpants        $78
Pirates                   $71
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $60
It Comes At Night         $34
The Book of Henry         $31
Baywatch                  $29
Megan Leavey              $25
Alien Covenant            $11
Everything, Everything    $10

I decided to take a chance this week.

As often happens, as the week progressed I changed my mind and redid my picks.  I do that enough that I would like to be able to save my “shadow” picks just to see how they would have done.

Way back on Tuesday of last week there was a lot of optimism around Rough Night.  Initial guesses put it at $16 million for the week, but that surged past $20 million at one point.  With Cars 3 pegged at $50 million and Wonder Woman less than that, putting Rough Night up on three screens would likely beat either and still leave me room for decent secondary picks.

I was down with three screens of Rough Night.  And then Wednesday rolled around and people who saw previews started talking and reviews started coming out and estimates fell dramatically and ended up being optimistic even then.

So I tinkered around with some other picks.  My daughter was determined to pick Wonder Woman and All Eyez on Me, the latter based on what she was seeing on social media, which turned out to be a decent call.

I ended up sticking with my desire to avoid the two leading contenders.  So when the week’s picks were finalized on Friday morning, the Blogger league had six people going with Cars 3, found people sticking with Wonder Woman, and me all-in on The Mummy.

My Mummy selection and its yield

The Mummy, on five screens!

My logic was that all The Mummy had to do was 50% of its opening week, not an over-optimistic level of performance to my mind, and it could be the optimum pick for the week.

As it turned out, Tom Cruise couldn’t carry that much water and it fell short of the mark, leaving me in 5th place for the week.  However, I was not that far behind the pack as none of us picked the optimum lineup for the week, which was Wonder Woman and seven screens of Pirates of the CaribbeanPotC turned out to be the optimum price/performance choice of the week, rewarding an extra $2 million per showing.

Weekly Top winners

A hell of a way to run a multiplex.

The scores for the week ended up being:

  1. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $95,601,042
  2. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $89,038,632
  3. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $88,324,978
  4. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $87,349,717
  5. Void’s Awesomeplex – $85,782,636
  6. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $80,261,527
  7. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $79,249,812
  8. Ocho’s Octoplex – $76,340,371
  9. Bel’s House of Horrors – $75,251,356
  10. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $74,075,088
  11. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $50,587,837

Surprisingly, Liore did not finish on top this week, with Braxwolf taking the top spot.

Wonder Woman was not a panacea this week.  While it was the main pick of the top two finishers it was also the anchor of the last place entry.  Picking neither Wonder Woman nor Cars 3 got me 4th place.

Weekly wins so far:

  1. Liore – 2
  2. Braxwolf – 1

Liore did not, however, lose much ground by coming in third and remains firmly out in front of the pack.  Season totals after week three.

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $327,705,530
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $294,905,717
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $294,546,672
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $286,728,185
  5. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $281,706,342
  6. Ocho’s Octoplex – $279,942,008
  7. Void’s Awesomeplex – $277,486,309
  8. Bel’s House of Horrors – $260,469,411
  9. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $252,962,484
  10. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $243,483,792
  11. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $203,347,469

I managed to just hold on to second place, while Braxwolf’s strong finish for the week jumped him up to fifth.  The race remains for second place as the gap between first and second place is about the same as the gap between second and eighth place.

Still ten weeks left to go, which leads us to the week four lineup.

Transformers              $560
Wonder Woman              $286
Cars 3                    $278
All Eyez On Me            $104
The Mummy                 $73
Pirates                   $58
47 Meters Down            $55
Captain Underpants        $45
Rough Night               $39
Tubelight                 $34
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $32
Beatriz at Dinner         $17
Megan Leavy               $16
It Comes At Night         $13
The Book of Henry         $11

Transformers: About Last Night is the big fish in this week’s pond with box office estimates ranging between $60 and $75 million.  That is enough to make it the likely anchor for most picks this week I suppose.  If you do go with it you then have to back fill with what you hope will be this week’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

But if you avoid Transformers: The Last Goodnight, then you have considerably flexibility to experiment with screen builds… as I will now call them.

You can go all-in on Tupac… All Screenz on Me

So we shall see if this is a transformative week or not.

I will follow my usual practice of picking what I think is a good screen build, then I will look at the box office predictions and see how badly I have likely erred.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Two Years of Minecraft

Two years in and my general reflections on Minecraft haven’t really changed.  As I wrote last year, as a game it does scratch the exploration, building, and persistence itches, yet is often falls flat on the purpose front.

And so I do not spend much time building castles or villas or other grand living spaces, as once built there isn’t much you can do with them.  Instead I thrive on overland infrastructure, blazing trails, building roads, bridges, and rail lines, and making practical rest stop and production areas along the way.

This approach has led me to the inevitable laying of track along the north mansion roadway that I spent several months building.  Happened with the last road I built as well.

A new rail stop along the way

A fast horse is faster than a minecart for travel, and can go where you want, but you don’t need to manage a minecart.  A minecart doesn’t wander off… mostly… doesn’t need a corral, and won’t die in the middle of nowhere leaving you to walk home.  You just make another minecart or keep it in your inventory and when it is time to travel you put it on the rails and off you go.

So I am laying tracks.  Tracks require resources… iron mostly, of which I am perennially short.  But among the improvements I have done along the line at every rest stop is dig a mine and an auto furnace.  That can be slow going, but at many of the stops I piled up an excess of iron because I was mostly interesting in getting cobblestone to lay down the road.  So I have some resources to draw on… and Aaron gave me a few stacks or iron blocks, which got me quite a way down the line.

It does keep me logging in, which is the ultimate test.  As I have noted in the past, what I say I enjoy doesn’t always line up with what I will actually do, so I have to side with my actions as opposed to my intentions.  If I keep building road and rail projects, that must be what I like!

Not that the last year hasn’t delivered new things.  There were three updates to Minecraft which delivered  polar bears, llamas, and parrots… among other things.  They were:

All of which added things to the game that extended my play time with it.  Not bad.

So another Father’s Day has passes and I am still playing… and on the same world.  That means that my stats for that world are pretty much my overall stats for the game.  As I did last year, I’ll put up a few stats (after the cut) just to mark where I stand.

General Items

  • Games Quit – 1,205
  • Items Dropped – 914
  • Chests opened – 16,708
  • Trapped chests triggered – 233
  • Hoppers searched – 1,237
  • Droppers searched – 4
  • Records played – 2
  • Ender chests opened – 124
  • Items enchanted – 71

Travel Related

  • Walked – 3,365.36km
  • Sprinted – 37.31km
  • Crouched – 50.31km (most of it backwards)
  • Swum – 23.37km
  • Fallen – 12.59km
  • Climbed – 37.59km
  • Flown – 16.27km
  • Dove – 12.71km
  • Minecart – 974.71km
  • Boat – 237.07km
  • Pig – 335.71m
  • Horse – 675.6km
  • Elytra – 0mm
  • Jumped – 150,928 times
  • Times slept in a bed – 1,990

Dealing with MOBs

  • MOB Kills – 34,693
  • Damage Dealt – 94,452
  • Damage Taken – 8,171
  • Players Killed – 0
  • Number of Deaths – 39
  • Animals Bred – 1,220
  • Zombies killed – 1,908 (killed me 4 times)
  • Skeletons killed – 1,182 (killed me 2 times)
  • Spiders killed – 735
  • Creepers killed – 877
  • Zombie Pigmen killed – 278 (killed me 4 times)
  • Magma Cubes killed – 239
  • Blazes killed – 185
  • Cows killed – 162
  • Slimes killed – 203
  • Sheep killed – 160
  • Silverfish killed – 165 (killed me 2 times, both when AFK)
  • Chickens killed – 123
  • Ghasts killed – 118 (killed me 1 time)
  • Cave Spiders killed – 88
  • Endermen killed – 76 (killed me 1 time)
  • Husks killed – 73
  • Witches killed – 87 (killed me 3 times)
  • Pigs killed – 53
  • Zombie villagers killed – 26
  • Rabbits killed – 23
  • Squids killed – 18
  • Vindicators killed – 11
  • Bats killed – 7
  • Villagers killed – 4
  • Vexes killed – 4
  • Evokers killed – 2
  • Ocelots killed – 2
  • Wolves killed – 3
  • Guardians killed – 1
  • Strays – 1
  • Parrots killed – 1

Some Crafting

  • Most Crafted item – Stick (needed for rails, torches, fences, tools, and more)
  • Most used item – Pick
  • Most depleted item – Pick
  • Most dropped item – Grass Seeds
  • Most mined item – Stone
  • Most picked up item – Potatoes
  • Most crafted block – Stone Brick

Another year looms.  We’ll see if I finish my current rail line before the next one turns.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Keepstar Down in Auga

I was done with work today just in time to get online and get over to see another Keepstar citadel get blown up.  This one belonged to the No Handlebars alliance and was being anchored in the low sec system of Auga in the Heimatar region.

My alt had a jump clone in Amarr, just 7 jumps away, so I popped him over there, grabbed a Purifier stealth bomber, and headed towards the sound of the guns.  The Imperium had a few fleets in system when I arrived, so I was able to join up and warp to people until I ended up on grid with the target.

Purifier uncloaked by the Keepstar

NCDot looked to be sponsoring the Keepstar as they showed up in force to defend it, with a super capital fleet tethered up on the citadel and a T3 cruiser fleet engaging attackers.

NC Dot supers hanging on the Keepstar

When I arrived I took a few shots at the Keepstar, but it looked like the defenders might carry the day.  The 15 minute repair timer had been stopped at 9 minutes, but the attackers were pretty consistently falling below the 7,500 DPS mark needed to keep the timer from advancing.  The timer kept starting up again, and once it reached zero, the Keepstar would be anchored and secure.

When there was still about 25% structure left to destroy, the timer fell to 1 minute.  It seemed unlikely that the attackers could do a quarter of the damage necessary.

Timer paused at 1 minute

However, more attackers had arrived including a fresh reinforcement fleet from Imperium space.  Fighters from the defending super carriers chased subcap fleets around, but one set of attackers would warp off only to have another set land and resume the attack from another position.

I had to run along and warp myself off a few times as I caught the attention of interceptors now and again.  I was a bit worried I might not get on the kill mail as my last couple of attempts to warp in and take a shot landed me very close to hostile fleets… attackers and defenders.  A lone stealth bomber is a soft target.  But then the last hit point was gone and the whole thing started to brew up.

Explosions starting to appear

And then there was the grand super bright explosion that always catches me by surprise.

The explosion starts to fade

The kill mail was up very quickly and my alt had damaged the structure recently enough to be counted among the almost 1,700 pilots who on the tally.  That is a lot of people, considering I only saw about 2,200 pilots in system at peak.

Local shows 2,202

There was some speculation as to what might happen with NCDot’s super capital fleet once the safety of the Keepstar tethering was removed.  There was a chunk of titans hanging around.

Titan when they could tether

However, nobody had anything on hand capable of giving those supers any sort of concern.  The left the scene, and I did shortly there after.

That is the fifth Keepstar to be destroyed in New Eden, though only four appear on zKillboard, as the first failed to generate a kill mail.  I’ve went to two of those kills, the one today and the Circle of Two Keepstar that died in M-OEE8.  It hasn’t gotten old yet.

A few more screen shots from the even below.

 

Pushing into the Harathi Hinterlands

My time with Guild Wars 2 continues as the game of chasing objectives on the map gets me to log in for a bit every day.

That game

My time spent per session slipped some over the last week or so by my reckoning.  I did manage to wrap up the Glendarran Fields zone.

All boxes checked off

There is something of a pattern to finishing off a zone which includes the inevitable vista that I have to Google in order to figure out how to access it.

From Glendarran Fields it was into the Hirathi Hinterlands, featuring more of the same objectives and the now normal herds of centaurs.

A couple of people have suggested other zones to avoid the centaurs, but I do not find them to be objectionable in any way.  At worst, fighting them is no worse than fighting goblins or orc or gnolls or whatever bad guy stand-in you care to choose.  Also, gotta avenge my sister.  Also, they do seem a bit comic when examined closely.  I keep wondering how they pick things up when they drop them.  The upright humanoid torso at the front of their otherwise equine bodies don’t seem to have the reach.

In the Hirathi Hinterlands I made it to level 40.

Level 40 unlocks

However, the last three levels came about due to a daily reward that gave me three boosts good for one level each.  That was timely, as I had taken the wrong path in the zone and was getting in a bit over my head.  It is better to be a couple levels too high and get down-leveled in GW2.

Hitting level 40 also unlocked the next round of my personal story, this time in Lion’s Arch.  That yielded some upgrades and another level.  While there I used the opportunity to buy and collect a couple more upgrades, including a significantly better longbow.  Then I ran around and picked up some of the points of interest in the city as well.

After that it was back out to the hinterlands to lay in wait for more centaurs.

Waiting for the next wave to hit

And so it goes.  The centaur menace must be opposed.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Further Mining of Console Nostalgia

One of the nostalgia stories of the year so far has been how deeply Nintendo underestimated the demand for their Classic Nintendo Entertainment System retro console.

NES Nostalgia… for the lucky few

This apparently bottomless pool of demand was bound to spark some sort of reaction.  Nintendo itself plans another jaunt into the retro-console pool with a SNES Classic Edition come the holiday season.

But there has been word of other attempts to cash in on this sort of rosy glasses wish for days more innocent.  And last week a company called AT Games announced two such ventures, one for the Atari 2600 and one for the Sega Genesis.

I actually owned both of those consoles… which is saying something since I have never really been a console gamer.  As I noted previously, I have no nostalgia for the NES because I already owned a PC before it ever saw the light of day.  But what about these two stand outs from an otherwise console avoiding past?

Let’s talk about the Atari 2600.

Flash Back to This

This was a breakthrough console, a success, and back in 1977 I wanted nothing so much for Christmas as to find one of these under the tree.  And I got one too, despite the steep price for the time of $144.

And I played the hell out of it.  Well, out of some of the games.  The sad but true story though is that a lot of the games for the 2600 really sucked.  And the marketing was shameless, promoting cartridges with 27 games when most of the games represented minor variations on a theme.

I’m looking at you Air-Sea Battle

And that wasn’t even the worst exaggeration.  I think Space Invaders might hold that title.

You lying sack of shit! There is ONE game here!

Not that there were not some good games out there.  We could play Adventure endlessly, and Surround and Raiders of the Lost Ark kept us going.  I even liked Space Invaders.

We could find fun in this!

But I also remember saving up birthday money and my two dollar a week allowance to walk up to Long’s Drugs to buy Slot Racers for $30 in 1978, only to be so horribly disappointed that I feel the shame of it to this day.

I knew that the time that the technology of the 2600 wasn’t up to the standard of the arcades, but there were still some games that were shockingly bad even for the low standards of the medium… and I never even had a copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

But the real problem here is that I don’t feel much nostalgia for the games.  Somebody wrote that the internet would eventually kill nostalgia because nothing would ever really go away.  You could always go back and read up about Quisp cereal or popular events or fads or video games any time you wanted.

And the Atari 2600 has been way ahead of the curve on this front.  While the unit was introduced about 40 years ago, it has come back in some new cheap-ass retro console form a few times already.

Furthermore, even if we leave hardware aside, emulated software packages featuring “Atari Classics” have been around for about 20 years on their own as well.  I own a couple of those, so I can play the half dozen games I want to remember any time I want.  And even if I were to lose those somehow, I can wander over to the Internet Archive and play them.

Basically, for me, this aquifer of nostalgia couldn’t have been pumped drier if a California almond grower lived on top of it.  So why would I want more clutter around the house?

Ah well.  So what about Sega then?

More Flashing back

My feeling about this is a bit different.  The Sega Gensis was never a console I sought out, and I have written the tale about how I ended up with one.

The games were not bad at the time.  Playing on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s didn’t feel like a let down from the arcade, which probably helped speed along the demise of the arcades by the end of the decade.  But they still lacked the depth of what I could play on my PC.  I had friggin’ Civilization to play back then.

There are a couple of titles that might tempt me down nostalgia lane for the Sega Genesys.  NBA Jams or Desert Storm or Populous might fit the bill.  The problem is that none of the titles I would be interested in made the list for inclusion.  Instead the titles available are heavy with Sonic the Whorehog in his various forms, and the problem with Sonic is that Sega has already reproduced any of his titles on every platform possible.

All of which seems to go back to the point I referenced a few paragraphs back, nostalgia requires some absence, and Sonic, like the Atari 2600, never really left.  As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away!”

So neither of these retro consoles seem ripe for me, as both are attempting to mine nostalgia that just isn’t there.  But then again, I am probably an outlier in that regard.  I am sure there is somebody out there who remembers the 2600 or the Genesis fondly and hasn’t seen or played any of the games from them since back in the day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Return of the Shang Rush

There is a correlation between some of my past jobs and certain video games.  For a long stretch of time there was usually a video game, or a series of video games over time, that whatever team I was on would play at the office after hours.

Games like NetTrek or Marathon or Diablo or Warcraft II or StarCraft took their turns at various companies as the game to play after hours.

That all ended late in the last decade when HR reached a point of ascendancy in Silicon Valley in companies above a certain size and decreed that people enjoying themselves on company property was bad unless they were doing so in company organized and controlled events.

Before that we were able to find support against IT for our after hours fun.  After that IT was cleared to keep our machines free from anything not specifically mandated by them.  And so ended after hours bonding.  Now we just talk about video games that we play ourselves.  Nobody sticks around late to hang out any more, we all just go home.  Life in enterprise software, where everything is super serious.

There is probably a correlation between the wind down of games after hours or work and finding time at home to blog about games.

The funny thing is how certain games were popular at one company but not another.  In 1998 I moved to a new company.  The previous one had been very much Warcraft II and early Total Annihilation.  The new company was just getting into StarCraft.  The timing was just about perfect, as I was in for the early learning curve of StarCraft, which had just been released.

StarCraft supplanted the previous dev team champion, Age of Empires.  There were still some people who played it, but the new game supplanted the old pretty firmly.

(Side note: As somebody who has played the same MMOs for years at a stretch, it now seems odd that such games had such a short shelf life and how keen we could be to move on to new ones.)

Some people on the team missed the game while others found the balance of the game to be off and much preferred the fine edge balance of the StarCraft races.  The Rise of Rome expansion for Age of Empires came along, but it wasn’t enough to get the game back in play.

Then of course Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings came along and eclipsed the game completely with its improved controls and balance of civilizations that gave each one their special niche.  There was no looking back at that point.

Somewhere along the line I grabbed a copy of Age of Empires just to try it out, but it never really stuck with me.  Ensemble Studios even rolled back some of the UI and control changes that came with Age of Kings to try and improve the game, but it remained in the shadow of its successor.  People have kept playing and modding and expanding Age of Kings while Age of Empires has languished.

I’ve been playing Age of Kings off and on ever since it came out.  The game still (mostly) ran through the last decade until it got an HD upgrade/revamp a few years back that brought it into the age of higher resolution monitors.

Soon though, almost 20 years since it launched, we will all have a chance to take another look at Age of Empires.  One of the tidbits to come out of E3 was news of an Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, featuring 4K graphics, remastered sound track, and improved game play.

Age of Empires

Microsoft has spruced up the long neglected Age of Empires site so you can sort of get a handle on what they are doing.  Information is sparse and the site seems pretty slow, but you can see they have something planned.   I don’t know who is actually doing the work.  The site proudly talks about somebody on the “About Us” page, but Ensemble Studios that did the original game has been gone for eight years, while Hidden Path Entertainment did the Age of Kings HD update and they aren’t mentioned anywhere.

Also, I am pretty sure this statement from the “About Us” page is laughably wrong:

Considered by many as the top selling PC game of all time

If you’re one of the alleged “many,” maybe you had better check that chart again.

Anyway, I’ll hold out for more information before I make an actual purchase decision, but I am leaning towards picking this up when it goes live.  We’ll see if the Shang rush is still a thing.