Return to No Man’s Sky

It has been a fortuitous week for me and No Man’s Sky. I saw the game on sale at Humble Bundle last week and decided to pick it up again to see how it is with the Foundation and Pathfinder updates. Today, they released the third major patch… Atlas Rises. I’m sure the timing of that sale was not a coincidence but it seems weird coming into it again right before a major update like this. Overall though, even before 1.3 (the newest patch), I kind of decided I was going to return to the game after 10 months of inactivity. And I felt it was worth giving a sort of review here to explain why.

First, probably the biggest thing to me, is that the game feels more diverse. I looked through the 2 major patch notes and it does look like they made additions to plant and animal parts, and made some major world generation changes. The overall result of this is that, I did get a better sense of each world being different. And even more important, I was stepping foot on more planets that seemed to have life on them. Unlike before where it seemed like almost every world was a barren wasteland with a random animal roaming around it. Even when I found myself on a barren world, there were features on it, which made it seem different than other worlds. I appreciate this a lot.

It isn’t perfect. There is still a general sense of same-ness to the worlds, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it once was.A personal pet peeve of mine, still exists… diversity within the same planet. And honestly, I don’t think that one will ever get fixed. To me it is weird that an entire planet basically has the same environment. There are certainly patches where it differs but by and large if you are on a planet it looks a certain way everywhere on that planet. Looking around the NMS reddit, and the one most requested update for 1.4 is to focus on flora and fauna to give even more real planets, and I couldn’t agree with this more. There are other wishlist items I have, but this would make the game feel complete to me.

You can also tell that a major rebalance of the game has occurred. This happened in a number of ways. First, resources. I’m not sure what exactly was already there and what is new, but I do believe that Hello Games has reclassed their star systems and resources so that the hard to get to systems have more rare resources and few planets, whereas the easy to get to systems have more planets but fewer rare resources. I also think they went and basically added logic where each planet in this type of system will have X common, Y uncommon and Z Rare resources. And I feel like they may have created rarity in the first place. Before it seemed like Gold and Copper were everywhere, but these seem far less common than they used to, and honestly this is appreciated. They’ve also added a whole bunch of new resources, I think around 20, since launch. And on top of that, they’ve created barriers to harvest, which I know some people are annoyed by, but the reality is that it helps give you a sense of something to work towards. Now I need an Advanced Mining Laser to mine Titanium, which makes sense. I actually wish there was one or two more mining tiers than just normal and advanced. There is also a Hazmat Glove that you need in order to harvest certain plants. Again, nice touch.

Then there are starships and your multi-tool. Instead of everything just being random, Hello Games has added classes and rarity to both objects in No Man’s Sky. Starships come in Shuttle, Fighter, Explorer and Hauler now. Each class has different looking ships, and each class has bonuses. For instance, Fighter ships do bonus damage when in a fight, but generally have small storage holds. Haulers get bonuses in storage and shields. Explorers get bonus to their Hyperdrive engines. And Shuttles get no bonus but tend to have more storage than Explorers and Fighters. And then there is rarity. Each ship has S, A, B, or C rarity, in that order from most rare to least. Increased rarity means increased price, but higher chance for more storage and it also gets an increase to the bonus that the class provides. So a C class Fighter will do up to 20% bonus damage, but an S class Fighter can do more than 50% bonus. Multi-Tools have been given new weapons that you can install on them and have their own specializations. They can be a Pistol (Mining bonus), Rifle (Damage Bonus), Experimental (Scanning Bonus), or Alien (A mix of bonuses). Like the starship, it has the same rarities that affect how much bonus you get, and I would also guess how many slots for modifications the item has.

I mean, all that is really just restructuring of what was there. And the reality of it is that those additions do a ton for the gameplay loop. They give you things to work for. The new rarity system also gives you more want to go back out there and find the “perfect” starship or multi tool. Resource balancing gives you more reason to explore the galaxy to find rare and exotic resources so that you can build enhancements to your gear that are more powerful. All this leads to a better overall experience… and it doesn’t even get into what they really added.

And that is Bases, Freighters, and Cars. Bases allow you to personalize your home base, increase your storage space, allow you to farm certain resources, and even automate harvesting nearby resources. Freighters allow you to get into and purchase those big ass ships that you always see flying in the distance. They are super expensive so it gives you something to save up for, and it looks like in 1.3 they are adding in classes for freighters too to give more variety and make you now want to find the perfect freighter. Freighters share storage with your base and can carry up to 9 starships and even more cargo than before. So now you can go and get a bunch of starships to make your perfect fleet for your situation. I’m less sold on the cars, I think it’ll be nice for exploring your world and getting more storage while doing it, but I don’t know the limitation of that buggy. They also added the ability to create race tracks and race other player’s track which is a nice touch but I’m unsure how interested I am in that, but I like that it is there.

And now… 1.3… The big flashy thing they added was Stargates which let you portal from one planet to another, if you know the address. This alone is pretty awesome, but they also added 30+ hours of story and lore, a fourth race, new buildings and base parts, crashed freighters, new farming branches, and NPC missions. All of this again, fleshing out the universe that much more and giving the player more to do.

I’m actually kind of excited for the game again. And unlike the last time, the game is already out! I can go play it! I have been playing it for about a week now and still enjoying going in and exploring more. I am probably going to restart with 1.3. And I’m probably going to YouTube it like I said I was going to over a year ago. It seems surreal that the game took an extra year, but it feels like it is finally starting to live up to its promise.

An Ode to the Wii U

With the Switch being officially announced, and only one real game left on the Wii U, and one that will also be launched on the Switch at that. I think we can safely say that the Nintendo Wii U is dead in the water.  With that, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the good and the bad of the console as there was definitely both.

First the name. It’s funny, the Wii took a lot of criticism for the name as well, but I think we all got kind of used to it. But by naming this console the Wii U instead of say the Wii 2, people didn’t fully understand it was a sequel to the Wii instead of an Update to the WIi. I personally don’t entirely understand the confusion with people thinking the Wii U was just a tablet add on for the Wii but there it is, people did. From the similar name, to the similar look of the console, to the similar graphics, people just thought it was the same console, so why buy? It’s been a much talked about issue and it was one of the larger ones that held the console back.

And that tablet addon? Well that never really functioned I think the way that Nintendo was hoping. They were hoping for divergent gameplay but really outside of Nintendoland and a couple other outside games, no one, even Nintendo, ever really used the gamepad. Instead it became a way to play your Wii U games without using the Television screen… a precursor in concept to the Nintendo Switch.

The menu… I have a love hate relationship with. I absolutely love the idea of the Miiverse and think Nintendo did a fair job of incorporating it. But I really never liked how they used the television to show recent things people are talking about in the mii community. I always wanted the menu on the TV. I feel like they could have done something else to bring the miiverse into the menu but I don’t know what. The menu itself was an evolution of what they had started in the Wii. You have tiles, you can arrange tiles. But it took designs from the 3DS as well. You could now change the number of rows on a screen and, more importantly, you could add folders which really helped keep the menus clean and organized. I will say, for whatever reason I like the simplicity of the Wii Shop menu a little more than what we got on the Wii U menu, but I think game developers liked the Wii U better as it did a better job showcasing various games that were out and on sale.

But really it’s all about the games. And to be honest, I really loved the games of the Wii U and feel like they have gone very under appreciated. Could there have been more? Hell yes! But I felt like where the WIi concentrated on casual games more, as evidenced by all the mario sports games, mario party games, and games like Wii Fit and Wii Music… the Wii U took a step back to the core gamer. Sure it had the updated version of Wii Fit and Wii Sports. But gone was the bevy of Mario Sports and other casual games. We never really got a stand alone Zelda or Mario, but I feel like that was largely due to the short lifespan of the system itself.  We did get a Pikmin, a Bayonetta, what I think is the best version of New Super Mario, to date, a new Yoshi game, and another new Xenoblade,  We also saw the creation of some great new IPs that I hope to see again some day in Wonderful 101 and Splatoon, as well as new takes o n old games like NES Remix and Super Mario Maker. And lastly we saw what has become a plague of remasters with the Zelda remasters. I will say I was kind of disappointed in the overall Virtual Console for the Wii U, it never really hit its stride as much as it did on the Wii… fewer games were released on it and many I still have to page back to the Wii in order to play, but it is sufficient. I was also disappointed that they never did start releasing Gamecube VC games, instead opting to release Wii VC games which I still find somewhat odd and puzzling. We did get Earthbound and Earthbound beginnings launched on the system’s VC though so I really can’t complain (sure I can!)

Overall, I feel like the Wii U has been a bittersweet system. Full of new and original ideas that Nintendo had never made before, but with launch dates that never really picked up the way that they did on the DS and the 3DS (both of which had a difficult time pumping out software early in their cycles). All in all, I think I ended up liking what I got from the Wii U slightly more than what I got from the WIi. I feel like had it gotten a couple more years and a bit more in the sales department people would have been more behind this system than what it ended up to be. I still rate N64 as my favorite all time console, but the Wii U has somehow squeaked into my top 5 I think. But then, I always have appreciated systems where there was a low level of shovelware.

Modding Minecraft

I have been spending a lot of time of late thinking about what mods to incorporate into my next minecraft world and it is interesting thinking about it as it is a very interesting balance that must be sought.  I wrote an article a little more than a year ago talking about some of my favorite mods, and I don’t entirely want to turn this into that. For one, that article was full of a bunch of “no duh” type mods which really tend to find their place in most modpacks. But really I want to talk more about what I really want out of a modpack in theory and where other mod packs have strayed wrong.

I first fell in love with mods the same way a lot of people did, with Feed the Beast. A widely popular modpack back in the day which was loaded with tons of mods. FTB through the years has lost a lot of favor with a lot of popular minecrafters through the years for a number of different reasons. It was hard to get your own modpack created and then updated, FTB was slow to update to the latest version of modded minecraft1, and their attempts to turn a profit.2

My personal issue with FTB and the many modpacks that others start is that I feel like they just try to add everything under the sun and kind of forget what Minecraft is all about. I know the Mindcrack crew try to keep theirs somewhat balanced, and am sure Direwolf tries to as well. Although Yogscast and Attack of the B-Team I think purposely try to break balance, instead hoping that everyone can get everything they could possibly need and automated rather quickly so that building can occur. 3

The problem with the concept of bypassing and automating the resource gathering is that is the game. Honestly people can and have made very wondrous things in creative, but I find it less impressive than people who build such wondrous things in survival. When you automate everything in order to bypass it and just do the building, I’m not entirely sure why you are even bothering to go into survival… why not just play creative where everything is unlimited and no work is required?

Automation isn’t in itself the evil, you can automate in vanilla and a lot of the cool stuff I see people doing in survival is this sort of automation. The automation in mods is supposed to help make automation slightly less annoying but it shouldn’t give you everything. An example is Thermal Expansion which gives you the ability to automate item transportation, stone/obsidian creation, water creation and a few other things. To me, the main thing that it gets you is the item transportation which you can do in vanilla but not well and it is extremely annoying. TE follows the path Buildcraft started and BC did it right. Essentially giving you tubes and a few machines that you have to power in order to use. Adding in the power aspect actually adds to the game because, yeah it actually gives you the ability to do something easier and more efficiently but it also creates a need to do something else for that ease so it is a fair trade off.

When it goes to far, i think of Applied Energistics which a lot of players love, and I totally understand why… I hate it though. When I first saw it I loved it. I mean it gives you insane amounts of storage that is instantly sorted and searchable for almost no effort. What isn’t to love? Well the almost no effort is the part that breaks it in my mind. I mean yeah you have to power it just like other machines, but what you get out of it (searching and storage, not to mention transportation) is actually worth MORE that just power. There needs to be something else to make it difficult because getting an automatic sorting and storage system (and automatic crafting system for that matter which AE does too easily) needs to require some effort. This is elder game type stuff in my mind. You can do these things using Thermal Expansion already and it does require a little more effort to do, and in fact I think the correct amount. It isn’t easy, and it takes space but it can be done and considering what you get it is totally worth it. So in my modpack… AE is out TE is in.

Tinker’s Construct is a weird one. I actually think this particular mod is extremely well balanced. Nothing comes easy in it, it’s a mod that makes sense and actually makes for a slightly more realistic game. However, I sat and thought of this mod and asked myself… what does it give me? The answer is 1) Double Ore Production 2) Some advanced tools 2b) a few new ores which lend to 2 and 3) Some new types of enchantments. For the first, that is already being done in just about every other major mod out there, I actually like Tinker’s Construct Ore Doubling the best, but it is also redundant thanks to others, so while I could use it, it isn’t worth having the mod for. The second, I do enjoy the faster tools at the top tier and the tools that let  you ore more than one block at a time, but they are minor and also can be gotten elsewhere. And for the third, well yeah it has a few new enchantments, some of which are quite good. But the trade-off is that it takes out the vanilla enchanting process altogether. It kind of makes levels pointless. And to be honest, I kind of like the vanilla enchanting process and the randomness it provides. This mod strips any randomness of loot completely away and while I think it does so in a fairly balanced way, I can’t help but feel the game loses something without getting that uber pick with Fortune IV naturally by luck… So though I kinda like the mod, I’m going without it. I might have given it more consideration if the mod dev ever gives it the armor that he has been working on for what seems like ever.

Outside of Automation, the next thing that I look at with mods is variety. This kind of goes back to the question I asked of Tinker’s Construct… What does it add? Really I want mods to give me more in minecraft. More to explore, more to do, without breaking the game. Ironically stuff like Forestry and Natura I add into the game because they add variety to trees and biomes even though the companion mods that they were created for (Buildcraft and Tinker’s Construct) I have done without. I actually didn’t particularly want the bees from Forestry in it and was initially thinking of ditching Forestry altogether because of them. But they aren’t overly bad. I just felt they were overdone and can get kind of annoying, but they aren’t OP. These are the types of things I want though, give me variety! I considered at least one of the huge monster mods, but they either have a lot of really strange looking creatures or tend to give me server some issues. But there were other similar mods that added some variety into the game like Forestry & Natura.

Then there are convenience mods. I won’t say much about them because there isn’t much to say. There are a lot of mods out there that do little things to make life easy. For instance, there is a mod that helps sort things in your inventory and chests automatically. These are good to add into a pack and don’t break the game. They really are stuff that Microsoft should be adding in by themselves.

Lastly is what I consider the trade off mods. I feel like something needs to be added in exchange for the ease that is being added by the little bit of automation and ease of use the other mods are adding. The reason for this is watching some of the streams and videos out there of people who play modded a lot. Let’s face it, Minecraft in and of itself isn’t so hard anymore. A big reason that a lot of people get into mods is to extend the play experience. But the experience  they are extending is how to automate more and do things easier. That is backwards, they should be extending the play of the difficulty. So I am adding mobs like “You Will Die,” Deadly Worlds, and Infernal Mobs just to name a few.

Overall, i really like the strategy I am going with. I think it does a good job of keeping the essence of Minecraft while adding more difficulty and variety while also adding a touch of automation and ease of use. I have pretty high hopes for it and my enjoyment of it.

SimCity: Nearly a year later

I don’t know why, but I was feeling the mood to give SimCity another shot so I bought the expansion which deals with futuristic stuff and decided to sit down and play SimCity again. As you may or may not remember from my previous post, my main gripes about it were that you couldn’t play offline, its reliance on having multiple cities, small city areas, and unrealistic population numbers.

Continue reading “SimCity: Nearly a year later”

New Project: RPG Complex

Shortly before I went MIA on this blog for the summer, I put up a post that I was starting work on a new RPG project. Well, we have since started on a new project and called it RPG Complex.

I will say this project hit the same hiatus as my blog. The summer was busy for both of us and it was too busy for that blog too. My friend and I sat down over the last couple of weeks however and talked about whether we do in fact want to continue it or whether we wanted to ditch the idea due to busy lives and we decided that we would continue it, though with modifications to our original plan.

The main modifications that we decided to go with is that we are no longer both doing all of the RPGs. Instead, the two of us together will go through and do many of the “main” RPGs in history and then we will split apart and do the others individually.

This was done largely because the hole that Rogue created for us. My friend gave up on the game rather early and then had to sit while I finished up the next 50+ hours of playtime. We decided that if this is how it is going to be we are probably going to stumble upon a lot of dead spots on the blog. So the idea was that while one guy is finishing up the joint game, the other guy will go in and do non-main games to fill in the blanks.

What that means is that we likely won’t be completing all of the RPGs at all. In fact, we kind of just flat out decided against doing a grand majority of the 1981 and earlier games because most of them were difficult to find and buggy as hell.

We also talked a little bit about making sure we have “while we are playing” blog entries talking about our experiences within the game. So even if we are both playing a particularly long game that the blog doesn’t become stagnant.

I actually think what we figured out will be a happy balance that will allow us to both work on new games all the time, without getting bored waiting for the other. It will also readers to get a decent mix of game, hopefully getting a good majority of games reviewed in hopefully faster time than maybe we would have each of us did them all.

At this time, I have lined up already 4 blog posts just from me, one per week so hopefully that particular blog can keep active for the time being.1 So if you want to read about our adventures in historical Role-Playing Games, please head on over to RPGComplex.com.

The End of Shadowrun Gaming…

For well over a year now, I have been playing in a Shadowrun Pen and Paper RPG group on Tuesday nights. The group was introduced by a friend from work and we for the most part have been enjoying the time we’ve spent with it. However, recently one of our members got a job out in Rochester, New York which would put us down to 4 members and so brings an end to the group as we know it. Continue reading “The End of Shadowrun Gaming…”