Jaded's Pub

I’ve been online for a LONG time. My first experiences were with Compuserve and GENie in the 1980s. On GENie I had 2 accounts and one of them was “JadedGamer.” I was pretty active in GENie’s gaming section and was an (unpaid) part of the staff of the video games roundtable.

At some point I went to work for a computer gaming magazine and this was when the Internet was just starting to become widely available to the public. The magazine I worked for (Strategy Plus) set up a forum and I was volunteered to help moderate it. I stuck with my JadedGamer moniker.

When that shut down, I started my own forum called The Jaded Gamer’s Pub, or Jaded’s Pub for short. I shortened my own handle to Jaded. By that time it was just a name…I wasn’t really feeling all that jaded any more.

When Xbox Live became a thing, I had to pick a gamertag so Jaded was the obvious choice. I’ve had it since basically Day 1 of public access to Xbox Live.

Lately though, I’ve had people contacting my bugging me to sell them my gamertag. I’ve also had (though this was some years back) creepy emails written to me because one of the female pro gaming teams had a member using the handle “Jaded” and creepy xbox live users thought my account was hers. For the most part I’ve just blocked anyone who asked me to sell my gamertag just because I didn’t want to be bothered.

Even more recently though, I’ve started to feel a little embarrassed about sharing my gamertag. My days of thinking it was cool to be jaded and cynical are far, FAR behind me.

For a while I made a half-hearted attempt to change my persona to PapaSnark, but that gamertag wasn’t available. Last night I was once again playing around with the ‘change your gamertag’ feature and realized PappaSnark WAS available.

But then I hesitated. I thought “PappaSnark” was kind of catchy, but it was another gamertag that colored a stranger’s perception of me. “Jaded” implies that I’m jaded, and PappaSnark implies that I’m snarky. While I definitely am both those things from time to time, I don’t want to be defined as either of them.

So in a kind-of snap judgement, I changed my gamertag to Traellan. That’s a tag that has no real meaning; it’s a random name I made up for a character way back in Dark Age of Camelot and it’s the name I generally give my characters in single-player games (when they let you create your own character). So to me (and a few close friends) it has some history at least, but to most people it’s devoid of meaning.

It’s also relatively short…one of the reasons I kept Jaded as long as I did was that it was only 5 characters. Adding 3 didn’t seem too bad. On PSN my “Dragonchasers” tag takes up half the screen when it is floating over my head in a game and I hate it.

So the weirdest part of this story is how happy I am now that I changed my gamertag. It’s like I am free from this baggage I’ve been carrying around. I can just be me and love the games I love and not have strangers referring to me as jaded whenever they address me by gamertag.

Now I need Sony to finally let us change our gamertags over there and maybe I can get the same name on both services.

Kingdom Come Deliverance launched on PC, PS4 and Xbox yesterday. From everything I’ve read the launch went OK on PC and PS4. Yeah the game is buggy on all platforms but I think anyone who has been around the block a few times expected that from a game this ambitious and coming from a small dev like Warhorse. We’re all assuming they’ll continue to patch/polish things.

On Xbox though? Mass confusion. See, there was supposed to be a Day 1 Patch for the game. Steam got it, PS4 got it. Xbox didn’t. Or did it? It was supposed to be a substantial patch — 20 GB or more — and was supposed to make some pretty radical changes in terms of better performance/animations/quest bug fixes and so on.

During the day on Tuesday the Warhorse twitter account kept telling us the patch was coming, and that Microsoft was holding it up. Developer Daniel Vávra said Xbox users should have version while most of us had Further, there was some confusion about whether this day 1 patch would corrupt your save game, with the Warhorse twitter account saying “I've been told that it shouldn't be a problem. however I have been reading that some people are having problems with saves getting corrupted. so i think it would be best to just play it safe and not try and advance too far.”

Most of us figured we’d better wait for the patch.

Then Tuesday night on Reddit, Warhorse seemed to change their story. A mod claiming to have been in contact with Warhorse posted this:

Hey Everyone, we first wanted to thank you very much for all you support and feedback.
Rick wants you to know that he is hearing the feedback and listening, along with the entire team. He is very hard at work and his voice is now being channled through us. We will always try to respond within an approrpiate amount of time, so please hang tight and know that Warhorse is working hard to bring you the best experience possible.
Please also note that the the Xbox One and the PS4 patch are both the day 1 patches, yet both will receive another patch within the next couple of weeks. Thank you all for being the very best part of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

So did this mean Xbox actually HAD the Day 1 patch and we could have been playing all day? It seemed so, at least for a while. Then a reply from “Rick” (who has a Warhorse tag on reddit) just added to the confusion:

Sorry for the confusion guys, I quoted Dan earlier, so please stick with that. We have mods here who are working very hard and clearly the wrong number was put in pinned post:
From Dan Vavra,
“Hello guys, we are aware about the bugs that could happen and working hard on fixing them. Steam has latest patch already, console owners will get this patch (1.0.3 for PS4, Xbox) ASAP. PS4 patches 1.0.1 & 1.0.2 are the same, the difference is only in territory.”

What pinned post? Which number was wrong? He re-quoted the number… is that the wrong number or the right number? WHO KNOWS?

Earlier this morning, the Warhorse twitter account was back to saying the Xbox One patch would be here “soon” and at the time of my writing this they are claiming it is available now, but users are saying they aren’t seeing it, though maybe it is still making its way through the Xbox-verse.

What’s worse than the version confusion has been that they can’t definitively say that patching won’t corrupt your save game. I mean as long as our saves are safe we can deal with bugs for a day or two, right?

A lot of Xbox owners seem to be asking for a refund and I can’t blame them. I mean sure, screw-ups happen sometimes, but for me the frustration is about the confusing messaging around it. Do we have the most up to day version or not? Is just a typo and is latest? Warhorse isn’t saying, at least not definitively.

It seems like just being clear about what is going on would put Xbox owners at ease; I just can’t understand why they can’t provide a definitive answer. And tweets like this one don’t help:

In case that gets removed, the Warhorse Twitter account responded so someone with “Hi, what is your problem? There is many requests, you are not only person on the world.” even though the person was asking what everyone else was asking: Where is the patch?

[Thursday AM update. Now Warhorse is saying the .108 vs .118 thing doesn’t matter and that if you load the game and it says 1.1 then you have the Xbox patch. So yet another bit of info that conflicts with everything else they’ve been telling us. They did, however, apologize for the snippy tweet listed above.]

Didn’t play a lot of Monster Hunter World this weekend. Partially that was because I got it in my head that I was going to finally finish Far Cry Primal (which I did, and wound up earning the Platinum Trophy for it) but part of it is due to two “social” (I guess?) issues I have with the game.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Monster Hunter World. Maybe a little bit too much if I’m being honest. I intend to keep it in my rotation when time permits, which gets me to my first issue.

It demands solid chunks of time. If I don’t know I have an uninterrupted 30-45 minutes to sit and play (and really an hour or more is better), there’s no sense in firing it up unless I just need to farm materials. Most actual monster hunts take me 20-30 minutes solo but there’s prep time and the time it takes to track the monsters down and then there’s those fights that end up taking longer. Quest time limit is 50 minutes and I have failed quests because I ran out of time. Thing is, there’s no pause and no save in the middle of a hunt and that can be a problem for me.

Now to be fair, this is not an issue unique to MHW: any and every multiplayer game comes with the same issue, but that is part of why I don’t play many MP games. I like to be able to pause when a family member (including 4-legged ones) needs me, which they seem to do as soon as I get committed to a hunt. For some reason this seems like a bigger issue in MHW than other MP titles, I think because your whole session tends to be one fight and if you’ve been whittling a monster down for 20 minutes and have to abort, it’s more disheartening than if you have to drop out of a COD match or leave an MMO group between pulls. I guess it’s like having to bail on a raid boss in an MMO. Not that I ever fought raid bosses.

The second, bigger issue, is that I’m kind of an asshole while playing. I find the game so intense that I get really focused on it, and when that happens I start getting really snippy towards poor Angela if she’s sitting with me, which she often is. Because of this, I’ve started to only play when I’m alone. I know I should modify my behavior and I try, but MHW is the kind of game where I get so engrossed that I forget to blink. After a session my eyes are always red and dry from staring intently at the screen. I don’t realize I’ve been being an asshole until after the hunt.

So right now, I play MHW when I know Angela is elsewhere doing stuff and will be for the next hour, and I know that Lola has been fed and taken out and there’re no scary wind storms to freak her out and no delivery men will be coming and… well really just about anything sets Lola off these days. And one last thing…playing it right before bed isn’t great either because I get so amped I can’t sleep after. So finding that perfect time period to play can be a challenge, and this weekend the stars never aligned.

I guess my problem comes down to the fact that MHW is too good and too engaging. How’s that for a complaint?

When I was a wee lad, every weekend in winter my mother would drop me off at the local movie theater to see a matinee. I’m going back to the 1960s & early 70s now. The theater had one screen so you paid your 75 cents for a ticket and you watched what they were showing. And usually what they were showing was a monster movie.

I’m talking about the classic giant monster movies. Godzilla was the superstar of course, but there was also Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others I’ve since forgotten. All these monsters tended to fight each other over and over in different films. Think of them like the Marvel characters of today where we see the same characters showing up in many films. Man I LOVED these movies back then, because I loved these monsters. I knew all their attacks and abilities (as did my friends) and we’d nerd out talking about who would win in a fight.

Which brings me to Monster Hunter. Now listen, I’m new to Monster Hunter. I mean I’ve dabbled in a few of the earlier games but was never willing to put in the work to get good at them, so all the monsters in Monster Hunter World are new to me. Part of learning the game has included watching lots of videos and reading lots of blog posts from long-time fans of the series though, and from them I learned that most (maybe all?) of these monsters have been in earlier games. These long-time players talk about them with the same fondness that I had for Gamera, and running up to launch they’d start geeking out whenever they’d learn another old favorite would be in the game.

(Gamera was one of my favorites because clearly a giant turtle who could retract his legs inside his shell and then have jet rockets shoot out of the leg-holes to make him spin and fly is the BEST monster. Sometimes his attack would just to fling himself at his enemy and now I’m wondering if he was the inspiration for the turtles in Super Mario games.)

I’m sure the developers have changed up the monsters in MHW somewhat just to keep things from getting stale, but my sense is that in broad terms, they’re familiar old frenemies come back to fight you again. I’m kind of envious of the people who have a history with these monsters, but at the same time I’m enjoying getting to know them for the first time. Here’s hoping MHW isn’t the last game in the series to hit the PS4/XBox/PC.

The recent Sea of Thieves beta seems to have been well-received by most. I least that’s the vibe I’m getting… I don’t have detailed analytics or anything. Now I’m curious to see how it does at launch. Why? Because I think at least some people approach beta tests differently than they approach launched games. Before I go too much further into that, let’s back up a little.

Sea of Thieves is a PvP game of piracy. You can play solo or with a crew but the devs warn that solo is for “experienced players.” The basic game loop is spend money to buy a treasure map, follow the clues in that map to go find a buried chest, and bring the chest back to port to earn a reward. Alternatively, the game loop is hunt for other players hauling chests, board them and steal the chest, bring the chest back to port to earn a reward.

The best analog I can think of in terms of other games is the Dark Zone in the Division. There too you can do quests to get stuff that you then have to get to safety and another player can kill you and take that stuff.

I may be remembering incorrectly (and someone will correct me if I am) but I think the Dark Zone was seen as kind of fun in the beta, but most of the people I know avoided it after launch.

Why? Because when you’re playing a beta you know your progress is going to get wiped so you’re not that invested in the development of your character. You found a great item and got ganked and it was stolen? Well it would’ve gone away at the end of beta anyway. But once you hit launch, you get more invested in things and now losing progression hurts more. At least, that’s my working theory.

In The Divsion, most people I know just avoided the Dark Zone and there was still plenty to do in the game. In Sea of Thieves, everything is the Dark Zone. This is why I’m curious about how people will feel about the gameplay after launch.

On the other hand, there’s a big difference between Sea of Thieves and The Division. The Division is an RPG and stats are everything, and the stuff you were losing to other players in the Dark Zone might have had a significant impact on the strength of your character had you managed to extract it. In Sea of Thieves, chests (at least in the beta) are just a token to be turned in for currency/reputation. That might be enough to keep players from rage quitting when they lose a chest to another player. There was nothing super unique about that chest, after all.

On the other-other hand, if chests aren’t rewarding enough, will everyone just be attacking each other since that’s more fun/rewarding than actually going through the bother of finding and digging up a chest? If everyone is pirating and no one is treasure hunting…well that just becomes a treadmill too. Someone needs to be digging up those chests!

So I think they need to balance things REALLY carefully. Make chests rewarding enough that players bother going after then, but not so rewarding that the average player gets genuinely upset if they get stolen.

It’s still not clear to me what progression in Sea of Thieves looks like. Clearly there are plenty of PvP-only games that are super popular (COD, Overwatch, League of Legends) but I’m just not sure if any of them have the direct exchange of “You work for something, then I kill you and take that thing away from you.” I mean, that sounds really fun for the pirates, and of course plenty of pirates will mix up treasure hunting and pirating, and that might be enough audience to sustain them. I just don’t see a place for people who strictly enjoy the puzzle aspects of figuring out the clues that lead you to the buried treasure, but not every game has to be for everyone.

Sea of Thieves is a free-for-all world and that’s a bold move for Rare. I hope it works out for them. The good news is since the game will be in Game Pass at launch, a $10 1-month subscription will let us all give it a go. Or if you’ve never been in Game Pass you can get a 14-day trial and play it for free. If I had to plunk down $60 for Sea of Thieves I don’t think I’d do it; I’m not social enough and I’m the kind of gamer who’ll get annoyed when the same crew kills me for the 3rd time in an evening. But for $10 I’ll probably at least TRY it. Maybe they’ve thought about all this and have a system built that allows for different kinds of play styles, or maybe they really don’t care of it isn’t fun for people who don’t want to join a full crew.

I’m writing this post because right now Sea of Thieves is the current ‘darling’ of the game journalists and their followers and no one is saying a thing bad about it. I just wonder how big the audience for this type of experience is. The first time you join a crew it’s going to be fun, but what happens if you’re the guy who is always in the chart room shouting directions to the pilot? How long will that be fun for? Or how about being in the crow’s nest keeping a lookout? That’s going to get tedious after a while, I think. But again, maybe they’ve thought about this and we just haven’t seen it yet. I hope so.

Last night I took on my first capture quest. I did this solo since it was before dinner and I wasn’t sure when I’d be suddenly called away to eat so didn’t want to involve friends, so I had to figure stuff out on my own.

My “Handler” was there to give advice but her advice seemed wrong. First she told me to grab the trap and tranq bombs from the supply chest, so I did. Then she said to find and fight the monster (one of those dodo looking rock-grabber things…google says Kulu-Ya-Ku) until it was weak. Check and Check. Once it was limping along, she told me to place the trap in its path. Did that. It stepping on the shock trap and was paralyzed by electricity. Then she said to throw tranq bombs at it to capture it. I threw all my tranq bombs at it, to no apparent effect. It either broke free from the trap or the trap expired, not sure which. The Handler, aka Captain Obvious, said “It’s broken free, you’ll have to trap it again.” but I only had the one trap. I forget what went down next but I wound up killing the Kulu-Ya-Ku and failing the quest.

Before trying again, I crafted extra traps and bombs. On my second try, the silly monster died before I could trap it. I dunno if I got a crit or what, but it never went into the limping stage. Quest Failed. Third time was the charm. It started similar to the first attempt. Trapping it, chucked tranq bombs at it, they did nothing and it broke free. This time I had more traps though. I fought it a little more, threw down a trap. It stepped in the trap and QUEST COMPLETED. Huh? So why am I throwing tranq bombs at it? I got the quest complete just using traps. I wonder if the Handler tells you the wrong order? Maybe I’m supposed to use tranq bombs THEN trap it?

I need to figure this out because for sure this one was frustrating. The good news was that each attempt was pretty quick.

After dinner I got social and loaded into a session with the AGE Squad. I started up the quest to take down Anjanath and almost immediately three other hunters joined me. It was a good thing too because in general I was having an “off” night and couldn’t seem to land any decent hits. The game does scale monsters to the number of players so that may have been part of it too. Whatever the reason, they were definitely carrying me in this hunt.

Then a Ratholos arrived and started fighting Anjanath. For a while the two of them duked it out and we were generally content to sit back and let that play out, but then Ratholos seemed to start taking an interest in us hunters. Somehow I remembered a tip I’d picked up from a YouTube vid. I loaded up a Dung Pod into my slinger (made from monster poo, of course) and flung it, hitting Ratholos right in the face. Disgusted, he flew off home to take a hot shower, leaving us to focus on Anjanath once again. I felt inexplicably good about this move…there’s so much happening in MHW that I watch videos to learn to do stuff but don’t retain much of it. Remembering that the scent of a Dung Pod will drive (some) monsters away felt good. Carrying out the attack and getting him right in the snout felt amazing.

And thanks to a lot of help from my friends, Anjanath was vanquished. Woohoo!

After that I returned the favor by jumping into someone else’s quest to defeat Barroth, that mud-flinging pain-in-the-butt. That battle went well too. The person completed their quest and I got the parts I needed to craft some new armor. Everybody wins!

So all in all, a good night of Monster Hunting.

Tough night in Monster Hunter World last night, but a strange thing happened to me.

I was tasked with hunting Anjanath, the big (early game big, anyway) t-rex with wings and fire breath dude. On my first attempt I took my trusty longsword and went hunting. It was a long and pitched battle. I fainted once early (you get 3 faints per mission) but then I settled into a routine. I hacked off the beastie’s tail and had it limping and struggling to get around. It retreated to its nest for a snooze. I thought the battle was won, and attacked with vigor, but then he became enraged and went crazy on me. He knocked me out twice in quick succession. (Both times I was using the tracking camera — which keeps your quarry in view — and “evaded” into an obstacle. I don’t think I’ll be using that again.) Quest Failed. Time spent was something like 40 minutes.

On the bright side, I’d collected parts from his tail and he’d been dropping scales which may be “intel” and may be materials. I forgot to look. And my kitty side-kick leveled up. Unlike players, the cats do grow stronger as they level. So I didn’t feel like the time was wasted, but still it was a little frustrating.

I decided to try again using the bow, which is new to me. I figured I could stay at range and it would be easy-peasy. It had been the first time I used a bow against a Great Jagras. Another lesson learned. Great Jagras is SLOW compared to some other monsters. It turns out Anjanath can cover the distance between himself and you at bow range really quickly. I was back to evading for my life. I fainted twice pretty quickly, both times when I didn’t anticipate his speed and didn’t evade in time. At about that point an AGE Squad member popped in to help me but it was too late. I fainted a third time. Quest Failed. This hunt had only lasted 20 minutes or so, but I really didn’t get anything from it.

So here’s the strange thing that happened. Instead of being frustrated and rage-quitting because by this time I’d spent my entire night trying to do this one quest and failing, I felt more determined than ever to go back in there tonight. I mean, for sure I was frustrated, but the “I can DO this” feeling was stronger than the frustrations. I say I didn’t get anything from my second attempt but of course that’s wrong. I learned a lot about using the bow against fast monsters. I also learned (the hard way) that the ghillie suit prevents monsters from SEEING you, but they can still SMELL you. LOL

Before I take him on again I think I’ll do some side quests. I’ve been trying to rush through the main quests to get to where I can do the time-limited Horizon Zero Dawn event, but my suspicions are that I’m missing out on some of the tools of the hunter trade by not doing side quests where they are introduced. I think, at the least, I’ll learn about building traps and bombs. When Anjanath was napping, I could’ve set up traps or bombs around him before rousing him, and I bet that would’ve finished him off. We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, need to start treating the game like a marathon, not a sprint, and special time-limited events can go to hell for now.

Spent a decent amount of time playing Monster Hunter World this weekend. I think I’ve finally found a monster hunting game that hooks me. The challenge for me has always been the learning curve. For whatever reason, monster hunting games seem to always have pretty wonky UIs and systems, and I think it helps to have a real cheerleader for a game to help you get over that hump. This time out, there’s enough folks stoked about the game that I’ve had that.

For the most part I’ve played “alone” though last night I joined the AGE group and had a great time, but even playing “alone” I was often playing with others due to one really great (to me) features. The SOS Flare. If you’re out doing a quest and struggling you can send up an SOS Flare. Once you do that, back at camp, other players can join your quest to help you out. This has been my preferred way to play with randoms. I figure if they’ve sent up a flare they need help, and my low gamer self-esteem doesn’t prevent me from joining them. Poor help is better than no help, right? I usually hate inserting myself into multiplayer groups because I’m really not a very skilled gamer, and especially so as a MHW newbie. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers and at worse I’ll be a distraction for the monster you’re hunting, right?

Anyway, no regrets on this purchase. I mean, it is a WEIRD game with some pretty frustrating design decisions, honestly. Sometimes it feels like the controls are intended to be a challenge to overcome. Most quests have a time limit of 50 minutes and there’s no way to ‘save’ mid-quest as far as I know. I’ve had quests where I’ve taken almost the whole 50 minutes, too, and if I’d had to quit for real life reasons after 45 minutes I would’ve been pissed. And OMG the “Clan” invite system is a mess. Only the founder of a clan can invite others, and you and that person have to be on at the same time for him to invite you, or you to accept. And you can’t be in a mission to accept. So your friend invites you and you’re in the middle of a 50 minute quest, that friend has to hang around until you’re done so you can accept. Hopefully they’ll get that sorted.

Of course the only screen shot I have is of me and my cat companion, not of a big fierce monster.

One saving grace for me, at least in regards to time management, is expeditions. When you don’t know that you have an hour to play, you can go on an expedition which is basically a free-roam through an area. You can fight stuff (and get parts) as well as gather materials and study monster footprints and such (this lets you track the monster more easily next time you’re hunting one). It’s good to study the maps anyway (once you find something like a rare cluster of mushrooms, that feature will appear on your map in future) so expeditions are a great way to stock up and expand your knowledge, and you can quit them whenever you need to.

It’s still really early days for me. I’m still trying to decide on a “main” weapon and there are a ton of systems I don’t really understand yet, but I’m hooked on “the loop” of fighting monsters, harvesting parts, crafting/upgrading weapons and armor, and repeating. And I’ve had the first inklings of the satisfaction that comes with learning about how a monster fights. The monsters don’t have health bars; instead you have to watch their behavior. Some things are obvious: if a monster starts limping it’s clear that it is hurt. Others less so. Someone last night pointed out to be that if a monster starts to drool, that means it is getting tired/hurt.

If you’re interested, though, do be aware that this is a game about grinding. You’ll fight the same monsters over and over to get the parts you need to make better gear so you can fight a stronger monster over and over to get even better gear. Your character doesn’t have stats so it’s not like s/he gets stronger…all your strength comes from gear and from you, the player, getting better/smarter about playing. On paper that actually sounds terrible to me, but in practice I’m enjoying it. It’s a kick to have a monster hand your ass to you, then come back later and dispatch it easily, knowing that you’re doing so not because your STR stat has gone up, but because you’ve learned how it behaves and how to exploit its weaknesses (and yeah, your gear is better but you had to work to get that gear, too).

The Sea of Thieves beta started last night and I decided to give it a go. Sea of Thieves is really designed for multiplayer but you can play solo, though the game tells you solo play is for advanced players. Never one to pay attention to warnings, I jumped in alone. Here’s the gameplay loop.

You spawn in on an island with a kind of town. I was alone here so I’m not sure if PvP is enabled or not. I talked to an NPC and bought a treasure map…essentially I got a quest from him. Since I had no gold, the only map I could get was his freebie map. Other (better, I assume) maps cost money.

With map in hand I head to my ship. It’s set up to be sailed solo but doing so is still a bit challenging. First, while still docked, I go below to the chart room. First I examine the treasure map and study the contours of the island. Then I search the charts looking for an island with the same shape. There are no magic indicators in Sea of Thieves.

This being a newbie quest, the island I need is very distinctive looking and close by. I see I need to sail NorthWest to get to it, so I head topside.

To get underway, I first raise the anchor by grabbing the capstan and walking around it to turn it. The ship immediately starts to drift a bit. Then I run to the gunwale where there are two sheets. I use one of them to unfurl the sails. The other sheet is used to trim but the game seems to be pretty forgiving in that just having the sails open gives you some forward momentum; trimming them properly enhances your speed (you can see the direction of the wind by looking up at the sky and spotting contrails). Next I run to the wheel and start steering. There’s a compass mounted on the wheel.

Yo-ho, ah the open sea! I’m thinking this is pretty easy, though I’m not sure I’m going in exactly the right direction. Letting go of the wheel, I pull out my spyglass and have a look around but I’m still not certain, so I dash below decks to consult the chart. The game does at least show you where you are on the chart. I’m going in about the right direction but need to navigate around a smaller island.

Run back topside and oh shit, we’re headed straight for the island I need to go around. I grab the wheel and spin it but too late. With a smash I run aground. Immediately the boat lists and I know we’re taking on water. I hit the capstan to drop anchor, grab the sheet and furl the sail, then I run below. There’s a hole in the hull in the chart room. I take out a board (glad I’d grabbed a few ahead of time) and nail it over the hole, patching it. Then I run down into the hold, which is nearly full of water. I locate a second hole and patch it. Then I grab my bucket. Scoop it full of water, run topside, empty it over the side, run back below, get another bucketful, then back topside. Happily this activity is abstracted a bit and it only takes me 3 buckets of water to empty the ship. Ready to sail again.

So once again, raise the anchor, unfurl the sail, grab the wheel. I clear the obstacle island and see my destination ahead. But I also see sails on the horizon. A bigger ship, headed my way. I do have a couple of cannons but I don’t think I’m up to the task of both steering/sailing and running to midships to fire them. It’d be nice if they gave us a chaser on the stern but nope.

I opt to keep heading to my target island. Get to it ahead of my pursuer, drop anchor, furl the sails and dive overboard and head to land. I’m hoping maybe I can ambush my enemy or something. I’m in the tree line peering back when something hits me. I turn around and a skeleton is attacking. In retrospect I’d heard its footsteps approaching but they didn’t really register. So now I’m trying to remember the button to pull out my cutlass while running from first 1, then 2, and eventually 4 skeletons.

Chaos ensues and eventually I swim for it. The skeletons don’t follow but I know there are sharks in the water. My ship is on the other side of the island. I need to get back to shore. I look up and… there’s one of the pirates from the ship that was chasing me, standing on the shore. He raises his flintlock, there’s a loud BANG and…

I’m dead. I’m on the Ferry of the Damned, which is a kind of ghost ship. After a few minutes a door opens and I pass through it and, a miracle! I’m back on my ship! But my enemy is right there as well. More chaos and soon I’m back on the Ferry of the Damned, dead again. I think this is going to really suck if I keep respawning right next to my pursuers, but when I spawn again, he is moving off.

Why? I guess there’s really no profit in killing a broke pirate. Whatever the reason, I go ashore again. Now I know where my cutlass is, I dispatch the skeletons without too much trouble. Then I pull up my treasure map and study it. There’s a red X by some distinctive rocks. Again, there’re no HUD indicators telling you where the treasure is, you have to consult the map, look at your surroundings, and deduce the location. I go there, pull out my shovel and am rewarded with a metallic clank as I shove it into the sand. A treasure chest! It takes me a few minutes to dig it up, then I grab it and run for my ship.

I am inexplicably able to swim while holding the chest. I get back aboard, stash the chest in the chart room and get underway again, sailing back to “Plunder Island” where the quest giver is. But alas, my harasser is back, though a ways off. I am able to to make it back to Plunder Island ahead of him and I don’t even worry about docking, I run below, grab the chest and jump overboard. Again, no one else around, so I deliver the chest and am rewarded with some experience with this particular faction and some gold.

I head back to the docks where I see my ship sailing itself in circles, hitting the rocks over and over again, until it finally sinks. Then a mermaid appears in the water. If I swim out to her she’ll give me a new ship but instead I just chill. The pirate crew that was chasing me is now in pursuit of another small craft who is fighting back. I take out my spyglass and watch the battle. It goes on for a while; neither seems able to get a solid hit on the other.

It was getting late so I called it a night. It was fun doing a solo run once, but without a crew the inherent silliness of the game doesn’t really come out, and you really are at the mercy of lady luck in terms of who you might stumble across.

I don’t know that I’d buy Sea of Thieves for $60 but I’ll definitely subscribe to Game Pass for $10/month in order to play it at launch. And as far as I know it is ‘cross-play’ with Windows 10 so maybe I can even join the crew of my PC gamer friends, if they decide to play.

PS Sorry for the lack of visuals. I had planned to pluck some of my video clips from Xbox DVR but they’re not showing up there, I guess because the game is in beta. 🙁

Microsoft dropped a bomb this morning. Game Pass (the Xbox subscription service) will get Microsoft Studios exclusive games the same day they launch globally. So why is this a great deal for Xbox gamers?

Game Pass is a $10/month service. Once you are subscribed you can download and play any of the games in its library. Of course if you unsubscribe you lose access to them. These aren’t streaming games like Playstation Now, you download the games and play them normally. There are currently 164 titles in the program though admittedly a lot of them are old Xbox 360 titles that play on Xbox via Backwards Compatibility, but there are some solid titles in the library too. Stuff like Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2.

It already seems like a good deal and something I’d be signed up for if I didn’t have such a huge backlog, but today’s news changes that. Microsoft says that Microsoft Studios exclusives will come to Game Pass on the day of release. Specifically they name-dropped Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 and in general terms say that all new Halo, Forza and Gears games will be handled the same way.

So say you’re on the fence when it comes to Sea of Thieves. You can spend $10 for a month of Game Pass and play it as much as you want (plus play the other 164 games in the service). If you decide you like it, you can then buy it for $60 (which admittedly means you’re paying $70 for the game instead of $60), or keep spending $10/month until you’re done with it. If you’re anything like me, not a lot of games hold your attention for more than 6 months. And again, you’ll have access to the entire Game Pass library, not just Sea of Thieves.

I was planning on getting the 3 titles mentioned, and together they would have cost me $180. Instead I can get a year and a half of Game Pass (on a month by month basis…there is no contract or anything as far as I know).

It seems crazy on Microsoft’s part, but hey I’ll take it. I know some people just need to own things, and for those people Game Pass won’t ever be of interest. For those of us who tend to play a game then never go back to it, it seems like a solid deal now that we KNOW some of the games that will be hitting the service.