Jaded's Pub

Yesterday was chaotic. I was back at work, the dog was back at the vet, and my new video card and monitor arrived. In case you missed my rant, in the midst of a computer meltdown last week one of my monitors crapped out and needed to be replaced. The new video card was because I was having all kinds of mechanical issues with the old one. I’d had to replace my power supply a month or so ago and the cables of the new one were so stiff that when I plugged the auxiliary power into my old video card, I couldn’t put the case cover back on without it pressing on the cables. When the case pressed on the cables the PC would report that the power wasn’t attached.

Rather than address the issue I ran with no cover on the PC. LOL! Finally I decided I was sick of having a PC that sounded like a vacuum cleaner whenever I ran a game (which I rarely do these days, on PC) so I decided to get a cheap replacement. I settled on an Nvidia TI 1050. It has one fan and requires no auxiliary power, AND it was only $130 or so. It popped in as easy as you please and I finally have the case back on my rig. The only concern I have is that it has one DVI port and one HDMI port. Fortunately my old, still working monitor is DVI and the new one I got is HDMI so I’m good for now but if I ever have to replace that old monitor I’ll have to get some kind of DVI-HDMI adapter cable, or find a monitor that still has a DVI port.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the new monitor would be so desperately in need of calibration when it arrived. I’m not good a calibrating displays. I can see that the image is wrong but my brain just isn’t good at knowing what needs to change to fix it. I tried a few calibration websites and they tell me what to adjust. Problem is they tell you WHAT to adjust, but not which way to adjust it, and I’m not very patient. Do I need more or less contrast? More or less saturation? It’s bad enough with a TV when you’re sitting with a remote in your hand, but with this (and I think most) monitors there’re 4 buttons that map to up, down, exit and enter/menu. The monitor is so light you can’t just press these buttons, you have to hold the monitor with one hand and press them with the other and it’s just so awkward.

In the end, I hit up Google and found someone who had shared their calibration settings for this monitor model (nothing fancy, a 1080P ASUS VS248H, also about $130). I did the same thing with the new TV a few months back and thankfully this technique (if you can call copying numbers a technique) works pretty well for a filthy display casual like me. I know that a display should be calibrated based on that specific piece of hardware (experts will tell you no two displays are exactly alike) and the room it is in but I guess I’m just not that fussy. I have nothing but admiration for people who calibrate displays professionally. It seems likes it’s a real art form, getting things just right.

So knock on wood, my computer is back up and running and now it’s just a matter of re-installing the tools I haven’t gotten to yet.

Once all that was done, I finally sat down for Fairy Fencer F Tuesday. (Angela tells me I should really move Fairy Fencer to Friday for the sake of more alliteration.) Not too much to report, it was mostly a grinding night. My last session I’d added some new characters so I wanted to sort them out and see what they were capable of, and I spent way too long figuring out how an “Item Sonar” ability worked.

The story did take a dark turn when Fang met a girl named Emily. He saved her from some thugs and they got talking and had a nice meal together and then she starts to tell him her story and…well you wouldn’t want me to spoil things, would you? But in a game that has so far been silly and light-hearted, this was a sobering moment. We also learned a little bit about Eryn and why she has no memories, and had our first in what I suspect will be a series of encounters with a new villain.

One thing I find I’m missing in Fairy Fencer F is gear. Each character has a pre-set Fury, which is their weapon for the entire game (at least as far as I’ve gotten). Then they have 1 armor slot and 1 accessory slot and that’s it in terms of gear that impacts stats (they also have appearance items). I kind of like collecting gear in RPGs so I miss that a bit.

But last night battles started getting to where I needed to think a little bit more about what kinds of attacks to use. Each character’s Fury can act as several types of weapon. For instance Harley’s can be a gun, a sword or … that third thing I can’t recall. I’ve been treating her as a gun user but last night I started encountering enemies weak against sword attacks so I had to re-configure her a bit to use more sword skills, and that helped her be much more powerful in these battles.

For years I’ve enjoyed starting games more than finishing them because I love learning new game systems and I felt like once I was past the first 5-10 hours I’d encountered everything. But I think for years I haven’t been paying attention because lately I’ve been trying to stick with games longer and what I find is many games continue to layer on complexity that isn’t immediately obvious, like this weapon thing in FFF.

In some ways I feel like I’m enjoying games on a whole new level these days, between finally noticing these nuances, and playing past The End to chase Trophies and stuff. That in turn makes me feel good because I feel like I’m getting more enjoyment and value out of each game. Considering how tight money is these days, that’s a really good thing!

A couple of sales back I picked up Shadow of Mordor, Game of the Year Edition for the PS4. That was actually the THIRD time I’ve bought the game. I bought it when it came out on the PS4, then bought the GotY edition for Xbox One for $10, and now the GotY edition for PS4. I forget how much it was on PS4 but it was cheaper to buy the GotY edition than it was to buy the DLC that came with it.

Three purchases and I’ve never really played the game. I mean I tried it when it first launched but it was HARD for me. I have nothing but frustrating memories of dying over and over again. I may have got through one story mission before moving on.

My most recent purchase was spurred by news that the developers were supporting PS4 Pro, and last night I finally fired it up, bracing myself to be humbled.

And I found the opening hour or so to be pretty easy, and I don’t know why. Now I am NOT complaining. I want to play through this game, not get stymied by the first Orc Captain I encounter. I’m just curious about why I’m finding it so much easier now. I’m pretty sure my gaming skills haven’t improved any. I’m old and any kind of hand-eye coordination activity is on a downward slide now.

Now maybe I’m just remembering wrong and I got farther along before getting tripped up. Fact is I haven’t done the first story quest in this new play-through, but I have killed 3 orc Captains that I just stumbled upon. Or maybe the game was patched to tone down the difficulty (there’s no difficulty setting).

But I was also wondering if it has to do with the new TV and/or the PS4 Pro performance improvements. I have no idea what the imput lag on my old TV was but it was probably big given how old the set was. It was from when 1080P LCD flat screens were pretty new. The new TV (Samsung KS8000) is supposed to have input lag of about 21ms in game mode, which is pretty low. I KNOW I have fewer motion sickness issues since I got the new TV…been meaning to write a post about that. I’m not sure that the PS4 Pro improves performance that much given that I’m playing in “High Resolution” mode but it might smooth out dropped/slow frame pacing issues.

I actually Googled the game and came up with complaints both about the game being too easy and it being too hard, so I’m not even sure what others thought about it. I guess all I can do is keep playing and see how much harder it gets.

I really hope I can enjoy the game more this time around. I certainly was having a good time last night. I was slicing and dicing my way through orcs as if my last name was “Son of Arathorn!”

Another Christmas has come and gone. This time of the year always feels a little melancholy to me, not so much because of the holiday itself, but because of the calendar. I love that chunk of the year between Labor Day and New Year’s Eve, and I hate January-May. That’s just the dead-zone part of the year with the only notable event being paying taxes. Blech. So when Christmas arrives it always reminds me that we’re about to enter the dark months.

Christmas also makes me remember being a kid and having parents and grandparents and a live Christmas tree surrounded by lots of presents and very little responsibility (at least for me, I’m sure my parents didn’t feel nearly as carefree when they looked at that tree). Kids don’t know how good they have it!

My way of keeping Christmas is pretty simple: I read A Christmas Carol to try to remember the spirit of Christmas. I’m not at all religious so the holiday, to me, has nothing to do with Christ. But it has to do with a time of year when people used to be generous, forgiving and kind to each other. If fear of some higher-power was what caused them to be like that, then fine. I never cared WHY it was like that, I just appreciated that it was.

Then I watch A Christmas Story because it reminds me of the few Christmases I got to enjoy with my father, who I remember being as gruff and blustery as the Old Man in the movie. Now mind you I wasn’t a kid in the 40s (when the movie takes place), I’m not THAT old, but the 40s are closer to the 60s than the 60s are to today, and I was a kid in the 60s.

Anyway, on to the recap, such that it is. I didn’t really play too much. It just feels a little weird playing a game where you’re trying to stealth kill 25 dudes with a combat knife (one of the Tomb Raider trophies I’ve been trying for) on Christmas. 🙂 I did download and enjoy demos of both Gravity Rush 2 and NieR: Automata, both on PS4.

NieR in particular surprised me. It’s basically a hack & slasher where you’re fighting robots, but it goes from a 3D game to a 2d side-scroller to and overhead brawler and back again, constantly changing, but doing so seamlessly so you kind of run in and out of dimensions as you play. I was really enjoying myself until I got to a boss battle; the combat up to then felt fluid and impactful and very satisfying. Then the boss battle just kind of frustrated me, as boss battles are designed to do. I tell you what, if the demo had stopped before that boss battle I probably would’ve pre-ordered it, so I’m glad it didn’t.

I also bought a bundle of a bunch of Telltale Walking Dead games and 7 Days to Die. Thanks to the holiday sale the bundle was $12 or $13. I started Episode 1 of The Walking Dead, which I’ve done many times on many systems. I made it farther than I usually do but adventure games just piss me off. In this one I got to a point where I needed to get past a locked door to get some medicine for a character who is dying. So, y’know, it’s kind of urgent. The only way to get through this door is to find a key. “Sorry dying dude, yes I could kick this door open but y’know, that wouldn’t be proper. Keep dying while I find the key.” So dumb.

I finally googled how to get the key after I’d spent 10 minutes growing more and more frustrated and irritated looking around and around the environment. Turns out there’s like 5 steps you have to do to get the key and they involve leaving the building (and the dying dude) to go rescue someone else and then running hither and yon and finally you get the key far from where the door is.

I don’t know how you’d figure out this puzzle. No, correction. The way to “solve” this puzzle is to suspend your sense of reason and logic. You accept that this is a video game and the dying guy will not actually die, so you just ignore him and forge on with what the game wants you to do, because this isn’t real, it’s a game. You need to apply game logic because you’re playing a game and games are inherently stupid.

And that was the end of my time with The Walking Dead. I hate when a game forces you to act like a gamer instead of letting you kind of exist inside the fiction of the game world. I don’t want to be constantly reminded that this isn’t real, it’s a video game. I don’t know why, as an artist, you’d create a game that screams “It’s just a stupid game” at the player.

My friend Tipa says she doesn’t play single player games anymore because (I’m paraphrasing and hopefully won’t twist her words too much) the only point of them is to press the buttons that the developer wants you to press when they want you to press them. I never really got that until right now. Don’t think about solving the puzzle. Think about what the game designer wants you to do.

Anyway enough hating on The Walking Dead since I know a ton of people love it. I actually was enjoying the dialog stuff and had it been basically a ‘choose your own adventure’ non-game I probably would’ve enjoyed it. Like Firewatch, for example.

Anyway, other than the above I keep on picking away at Rise of the Tomb Raider trophies. I got the 100% trophy finally (finish the story, do all the sidequests and challenges, find all the collectibles) and now I’m working on odd stuff like the Bacon trophy (kill a boar with a molotov cocktail) and cheerful holiday tasks like taking out 5 enemies with one poison gas arrow. 🙂

I think today I may go back to Far Cry Primal. Or maybe give FF XV another try. We’ll see.

This week I offended some ancient technology demi-god somehow, and I paid the price.

It all started Wednesday when folks were talking about LOTRO. I was wondering if my old characters still existed so I fired up Steam and installed the game. When it finished installing through Steam I fired it up and it did that thing where every damned Steam game seems to need to install C++ libraries and assorted other things. In this case ANCIENT versions. Then it had to patch. Then I let it download high-resolution textures.

When it was finally done I started the game, with the intention of literally taking a screen shot of my characters to share on Imzy. I had no intention of actually playing the game. LOTRO started, my primary monitor when black. Stayed black. I could hear sounds but they were broken and stuttering. So I jumped over to monitor #2 and right clicked LOTRO and picked Close Window and nothing happened. So I hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE and nothing happened. Task manager wouldn’t come up. Vexed, I held down the power button on the machine to kill it. And that’s when trouble really began.

When I restarted the machine it blue-screened with an error of BAD_SYSTEM_CONFIG_INFO. Someone suggested this could be a video card issue, so I dragged the system out and swapped it with an old card I had. No help there. Swapped it back and started googling solutions. Tried various things for the next day or so. Some of them, like an extended chkdsk, took hours and hours to run. Tried to restore but Windows said it couldn’t find any restore points.

Finally found this solution online and it got me back to the desktop. Basically you’re replacing a bunch of files in C:\Windows\System32\config with backup copies.

So now I was at my desktop but my Start menu wouldn’t come up and everything felt really slow and sluggish. Virus maybe? Ran a bunch of checkers but found nothing. That was another few hours gone. Ever since installing LOTRO when the system starts up, about 20-30 seconds after I see a desktop, one of my monitors goes black for a few seconds. I see a ‘loading cursor’ and then the desktop appears, but with limited functionality (no Start menu, can’t open more than 1 file explorer window from the task bar, and some other stuff). I kind of feel like whatever this is, it’s undoing my fixes.

But at least I could get to my files. First thing I did was check to make sure my backups were up to date and…my backup system had quietly stopped working last June! Nothing since then was backed up. OK well I decided to back stuff up manually. Starting copying stuff to an external USB drive and it was going at like 18 Kbs and was going to take two days to copy, then it crapped out completely. USB was apparently out, but I could still copy across my home network to my Linux server. But first I had to clear out a bunch of stuff from that to make room.

I had to blow away a bunch of dev sites but freed up the space and starting copying my files to the Linux server. That was going to take a couple hours. 25% of the way through, I get an error that the PC can’t talk to Linux any more. I look at the Linux box and it was frozen. It has never done this, and had been running flawlessly for months. NOW it decides to crap out. So I reboot THAT and when I get it back online, the PC can no longer see it.

Interspersed with all of this I’m trying a bunch of things to repair the Windows installation but nothing is working. OK time to Reset the machine. By this time it’s about 4 pm Thursday. I start the reset process. It gets about 40% done and reboots to a black screen with a circle of dots indicating some process is happening. I let it sit like that for 7 hours. At about 11:30 I manually restart the machine and I get a “Loading Windows…” screen. Yay! I go to bed. In the morning I find that same black screen with the circle of dots. I reboot again and I get “Restoring files” and when that finishes I’m right back to where I started. The Reset failed.

At some point you start trying crazy shit. I read somewhere to unplug all USB devices. I do that and try the Reset again and it fails again. And for some reason when I re-attached the external USB drive I plug it into another USB port and… it works perfectly. So apparently one of my USB ports is blown. At least that means I can backup my files, so I do that. Now the pressure is off.

I try to reset or restore the system through a bunch of different techniques and none of them work. Half-way through this process, my main monitor stops working. Now to be fair this monitor has been a little wonky for a while. It would get stuck in standby mode and I’d have to cut the power to reset it. Now it’s frozen and won’t come back, but the thing is, it APPEARS to be working. So now I start to wonder how many times in the past days I’ve thought Windows was frozen but it’s just the monitor freezing. Anyway I crawl under the desk and disconnect that, and switch the backup monitor to the port that main monitor was using just to be sure it isn’t the video card connection.

So count so far: 1 fubar’d Windows OS, 1 fubar’d USB port, 1 fubar’d Linux service, 1 fubar’d monitor. All in the course of 3 days. AND my laptop has been acting up; the cursor keeps going nuts. Oh well.

Finally I just give in and install Windows from scratch. This works but I see a lot more partitions than I expect to see. There are 2 System Restore partitions, one that’s a few hundred megs, the other and about 3 GB. Then there’s another UEFI partition, if I recall correctly. Not being as up on Windows as I should be, I leave them all be. I hope I don’t regret that.

So now I’m re-installing apps and I’ve confirmed that my backup is actually running again. I ordered a new cheap monitor (money is tight right now or I would’ve just gone and bought a new system…this one is 6 years old) and a new video card because my Spidey Sense is telling me that my current card might have had something to do with this issue (sometimes when I start this machine it reports that the card’s supplementary power cable isn’t attached…in fact I replaced the power supply because of this not too long ago).

Hopefully it won’t take me too long to get everything back where it was. I’m going to have to re-create those dev sites on the Linux server, and I need to get all my tools re-installed on the PC and pull down all my work repos. And then the next thing I am not ever going to do is reinstall LOTRO! In fact I don’t think I’ll mess with installing games on the system again. I don’t play PC games and I just don’t need these kinds of headaches. Maybe games from the Windows Store since they are sandboxed and can’t bork your whole system.

Now I’m going to go give my game consoles a big ‘ol hug!

It has been a crappy week here at Dragonchasers HQ. One of those weeks where every piece of tech you touch decides to go belly up. My main PC is down, my laptop is acting weird and my Linux box suddenly started crashing. Ergo no blog posts for the last few days.

By yesterday evening I decided it was time to step away from it all and enjoy No Man’s Sky since I skipped No Man’s Thursday last week. Of course the first order of business was remembering what I was in the middle of. Now that I have a base and some employees that’s easier than it used to be. I just ask them what it was they wanted.

You could certainly call these tasks fetch quests but in a game as open as NMS I actually appreciate having some specific things I need to do. Each of my employees needs a different exotic element, and none of them was available in my home system. So off I went in search of.

I wound up in a system that had been discovered by someone else back in August but ~gasp~ that person had discovered the system but not the planets inside it. Must’ve been one of those people determined to ‘finish’ NMS as soon as possible. His or her loss, I’ll be happy to collect the credits from discovering these planets and better yet one of them was a snow biome (I named it Christmas Village) that had the Coryzagen my armorer needed to cure a disease he’d contracted.

Of course before I went to collect that I had to save a Freighter that was under attack, then docked and drank rum with the captain and got some flush rewards (well ok, pretty minor rewards). I don’t know why these pirates keep picking fights with me. I guess they can’t see the 100 hash marks on the side of my ship until it is too late.

Christmas Village was a lovely little planet and gathering up the Coryzagen was a pleasant enough task. Next I needed Candensium and that, I’d been told, I could find on radiated planets. Luckily enough there was one of those in this same system and I’d already crafted the Haz-Mat Gloves I’d need to collect it. Still this was a tough challenge as my exo-suit was not set up well to fend off radiation. I had to recharge pretty frequently, and then a radiation storm hit and things just got ridiculous. I nearly died. I can’t recall the last time I died in No Man’s Sky, but it’s been a while. In the end I got back to my ship and hung out until the storm blew itself out. Then I quickly gathered the materials I needed and hit the skies again.

There were a few more planets to visit in this system; I couldn’t just leave any undiscovered. A few more space battles, a few gathering excursions and it was getting late. I zipped off to the system’s space station and teleported back home. I LOVE teleporting home since the galactic map is so damned confusing. Knowing I can just jump back to base from any space station means I can just roam around star systems without worrying about getting lost.

The end result of my trouble was a new ship weapon blueprint, and I learned to make non-ferrous plates which I need for circuit boards. Circuit boards I need in order to make automated mining systems. Of course getting the blueprints is one thing; now I have to gather materials again. That’ll be next week’s goal.

Yesterday I mentioned needing a gaming palette cleanser to put between two somewhat similar open world games. I found it in Firewatch.

I’m probably the last person to play this game, which is available on Steam & GoG for Mac, Windows and Linux, as well as on PS4 and Xbox One. I’d heard lots of great things about it which made me skeptical because I’m just inherently contrary like that.

Turns out I was wrong. It was pretty good. I’m not sure it’s a game… I guess it’s what some folks call a walking simulator. It’s more like a story that you have to turn a crank to hear. And by turn a crank, I mean walk around in this world. Since the whole game is the story I don’t want to say too much about it, other than I really was interested to see how things turned out.

It was a perfect palette cleanser because yesterday was cold and rainy and I wrapped myself up in a blanket on the couch and played through the entire thing, with just a break for Lola walking and to have dinner. I didn’t time myself but howlongtobeat.com says it’s a 4 hour game and that feels about right to me.

Now the bad news. I played it on the PS4 Pro (where it runs at 4K) and performance wasn’t great. There was a lot of draw in, frequent stutters and some items you interact with could be needlessly fiddly. Y’know the drill, you’re moving around to get the little “Activate” prompt to pop up. None of these were crucial problems because there’s nothing that requires reflexes or anything, but it just took away from the aesthetics of the experience a little bit. I wish they’d given us an option to run at 1080P with a smoother performance.

Still, really glad I played it. Wasn’t completely happy with the ending but hey, some stories don’t turn out the way you expect them to or want them to. I think the biggest praise I can give the game is I wish I could learn more about what happened with these characters after the story ends.

One note about price, I paid $10 for this on sale, I think it’s normally $15, so about the same as buying a new movie digitally. I would welcome more short, narrative driven experiences for around this price. If Firewatch had been 20 hours I would’ve gotten so bored with it; the 4-5 hours it took me to play through it felt perfect. Now I’ll put it on the shelf and maybe take it out and replay it in a few years in the same way you pull out an old movie for a re-watch. Seems like an awesome niche to me.

I didn’t accomplish much at all this past weekend. Part of the reason is that Lola was sick and we went on LOTS of walks so she could frequently answer the call of nature. Every time I sat down to do something she’d be there, sitting in front of me and beaming “NEED TO GO” thoughts into my brain.

But even the gaming time I did carve out wasn’t too productive. I mentioned that I finished the storyline for Rise of the Tomb Raider last week, and whenever I finish a game like this I enter a period where I feel a little adrift, grasping around to find the next game that is really going to click with me.

So I spent time checking out the holiday and limited time stuff I wrote about last week. That was mostly disappointing to me. The multiplayer mode of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare still makes me anxious. I wrote about Elder Scrolls Online’s New Life festival on Friday. I haven’t felt any desire to go back and do more of that, and in fact it has somehow turned me off TESO completely (temporarily, I’m sure). I installed DC Universe Online but you have to be level 10 to partake in that game’s winter holiday event and I was level 7. I started leveling up but the game is just so janky on consoles…I couldn’t deal with it. I played Trove a few times and that felt like enough. It just starts feeling really repetitive really fast; I’m assuming it gets more interesting if you stick with it so don’t take this as a bad judgement of the game. I’m just not ready to put in the time to get to the good stuff.

I fired up Destiny but I might be done with Destiny. I think I have a whole post about that so I’ll save it.

In the end I spent a lot of time back in Tomb Raider trying to 100% the game (which is way different than 100%ing the trophies). I’m up to 92 or 93% now. I think I was around 70% when I finished the story. In this context 100% means you’ve found all the collectibles, done all the side missions and challenges, solved all the tombs and stuff. I have all the big stuff done, now I’m mostly hunting collectibles and finishing up challenges (challenges are tasks like “Cut down 5 Soviet flags” and usually the trick is finding the objectives since they don’t show up on the mini-map).

I also started Far Cry Primal, which a friend of mine is really enjoying. This is a game I snagged for cheap during a Black Friday sale — one of those “I’ll get this now and play it during a gaming drought” — titles. (Do we really still have gaming droughts?) Anyway I was really enjoying the bow combat in Rise of the Tomb Raider and there’s a lot of bow combat in Primal too, so I downloaded it. I think I’m really going to like it some day, but for now maybe going from one “open world semi-stealth bow-combat wilderness adventure” game to another is too much of a good thing. I might need to find a palette cleanser between Tomb Raid and FC Primal. I’ll give it one more shot before a back burner it though.

So here it is Monday, and I have the day off, and I still don’t know what to play! #FirstWorldProblems Maybe I should watch movies all day or something.

I skipped No Man’s Thursday last night in favor of checking out some of the limited time events I mentioned yesterday. I tried my hand at Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer mode and that went about as well as expected (in other words, it was a disaster). Why can’t game companies do matchmaking right? The match I was in, and I believe it is 5 on 5, my side had two level 1 players (me and another guy) and we were short a man. The other team had 5 guys level 40+ (our other two guys were also 40+). Needless to say we lost, badly. Though honestly I got more kills than I expected to.

Anyway, then I logged into The Elder Scrolls Online to check out the New Life Festival. I’m not sure what to think of it so far. Maybe what I think is that rushing to do these the first day isn’t the best idea. For me, I’ve only explored one of the 3 factions in TESO, and the quest began with an NPC (Brega) deep in the Ebonheart Pact area. So step 1 was riding through three zones trying to find a path the the NPC (there’s probably some way to teleport there but I couldn’t find it). Once you find the main quest giver she sends you off on a series of sub-quests to see how the different people of Tamriel celebrate New Life Festival (which is essentially New Year’s Eve, so no decorated trees or anything).

First quest sent me back to the Daggerfall Covenant lands so I took a wayshrine to where I needed to go and did that. (I had to perform for various crowds… simply push a button in the right place.) Then back to Brega for a box ‘o loot and my next quest. Number 2 took place right near her so that was simple. The next took place along the trail of wayshrines I’d tagged on the way to starting a quest. After that I had to go to Grahtwood. I had no idea where that was but after a bit of scouring the map I saw I could take a boat from Wayrest to Grahtwood, so I did that. The Grahtwood quest actually involved a tad of combat (the earlier ones are basically go somewhere and click a button to perform some task) and the poor mobs barely spawned before they were slaughtered.

After talking to Brega again I was sent to Shadowfen, another place I’d never been. I couldn’t find a shortcut to get there so more riding across zones. For this quest I had to do some fishing, and this is where things got ugly. There’re a couple of areas where you can catch the event fish and the first one was packed!

People were selling the needed fish in chat for large sums of gold. Other people were shouting they wanted to buy fish. And a third faction was cursing out the people selling the fish for ruining a Christmas event (reminder: not a Christmas event) by their greed. I decided to move on to the second spot to fish in. It was much less crowded and after maybe 5 minutes I had the fish I needed. Turned them in and back to Brega who sent me off to Betnikh for some big party. At that point I’d had enough running back and forth for one night so I left the rest for another time.

Each completed sub-quest got you a box of stuff. Some event motifs, some recipes, some silly trinkets like fake swords so you can do a sword swallowing emote, and some materials for making the holiday crafted items. I dunno what happens when you get through all of Bregas stuff. I assume there is one per race so I should have 4 more to do.

Its kind of sad that these events can bring out the worst in people. The folks who need to have EVERYTHING as soon as possible just seem to get crazy at the start of events. I don’t understand why anyone would care if someone was selling those fish. Personally I don’t see the point of buying stuff…I mean catching the silly fish is part of playing the game. But I guess for some people the point is to Have All The Things rather than to play the game. Or possibly they’re crafters who want to have all the motifs so they can sell holiday-themed gear for major amounts of gold.

Anyway, it all kind of turned me off the event. People shouldn’t be getting so angry about a game; games are supposed to be fun.

Also, I watched Tipa streaming some of the Final Fantasy XIV holiday event and from the few minutes I watched (I was at work, shhhhh) it seemed much more narrative-based and much less “OMG GET STUFF NAO!” than the Elder Scrolls one. TESO’s event felt like “OK we wrote some lore about this festival, now let’s dole in out in bite sized chunks via isolated simple quests.” while FF XIV seemed like it was telling the player a story. I’m a little bit jealous of FF XIV players right now.

There’s so much free stuff (some of it add-ons to games you’ve already bought) going on in console gaming that I decided I needed to make a list of stuff I want to check out in the next week or three. I’m going to break this list into two parts, the time-limited stuff and then the permanent additions.

Time Limited

1) Destiny’s “The Dawning” update brings some kind of holiday-themed events as well as Sparrow Racing. I’d point you to Belghast for details, he’s on top of the Destiny stuff far more than I am.

2) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is free to play for 5 days starting today. You can play the first two levels of the singly player campaign and I guess all the MP and Zombie stuff

3) Microsoft is giving away Lost Odyssey on Xbox 360 and Xbox One (via backwards compatibility in the latter case). I had no luck ‘buying’ this on the Xbox One so here’s a link to it on the web store.

4) DC Universe has some kind of Holiday event going; I just re-installed that on my PS4. I think I’m level 5 or thereabouts; I’m kind of a big deal. Anyway, here’s the official post with all the details.

5) Mentioning this for others because I don’t play, but Overwatch has a holiday event of some sort. I still wish Overwatch was a single player game. I LOVE the characters but hate arena-based competitive stuff like this.

6) The Elder Scrolls Online has it’s first “Nondenominational Winter Holiday Based Event” called The New Life Festival

7) Neverwinter has the Winter Festival of Simril starting today.

Permanent New Stuff

1) Trove just entered beta on Xbox One and PS4. Since I never really played it on PC I’m excited to give it a try. They call it beta but they’re not going to have a wipe for launch.

2) Uncharted 4’s “Survival” mode just launched. Play solo or co-cp against 50 waves of enemies. Earn CHEEVOS. PROFIT!

3) There’s a new update for Battlefield 1 that adds both a map and a custom game mode, Standard Issue Rifles.

4) I still haven’t played the cheerful (that’s sarcasm, it’s super violent and gory) free-to-play Let it Die on PS4.

And I think that’s everything. Or is it??? (Let me know if I missed anything, console-wise. I know virtually every PC MMO has some kind of holiday thing but I’d be here all day if I listed all of those!)

Of course in addition to all of the above, I just gave in to temptation about bought Gravity Rush Remastered and Darkest Dungeons from the PSN Holiday Sale Week 2 and I’ve got peer pressure telling me I should grab Firewatch, too.

Reindeer Mount from TESO

I finished up the story mode of Rise of the Tomb Raider last night. What a great game that was. If you’re not a Playstation owner and ever wondered what all the fuss about the Uncharted games is about, the modern Tomb Raider games are quite similar in a lot of ways. A fun mix of climbing around and exploring, solving puzzles, and combat. I love the Uncharted games so I guess its no surprise I love the Tomb Raider games as well.

I thought the mix of these three pillars was pretty good, but keep in mind my bias of enjoying the climbing and the combat a lot. I’ve heard some complaints there weren’t enough tombs to explore (I believe there are nine in all). Of course there are also what I call exploration puzzles. Lara is here, she has to get there, how’s she going to do it?

One of the nice mechanics is this kind of “Lara vision” that you can activate at any time. It shows you were you need to go next and highlights objects you can interact with and nearby collectibles. Lara will also give you hints if you’ve been in the same place too long, and this hint system is really good because they really are hints rather than explicit instructions. “I need to free this gear before that lever will work.” she’ll say, and then if you still don’t make progress. “Maybe if I got up higher I could find a solution.” In other words progressively more helpful hints.

RoTR is semi-open world. You have to move through the story to unlock new areas (or obtain new gear that lets you access previously inaccessible areas) but then you can fast travel back in order to do side quests or search for collectibles. I did a lot of this; I took my time playing. Maybe because of this I was over-leveled a bit. Lara earns experience points that she spends in various combat and survival skills, and she can craft better weapons as she collects more stuff. Whatever the reason I actually found the combat pretty easy on the “Tomb Raider” difficulty level, which was the default setting (there’s an even easier level called Adventurer). That was fine for enjoying the story (and it was a decent story) but I think it’ll be fun to play again with the difficulty bumped up.

I’d love to be sharing all my great screenshots from the end of the game but I was SO engrossed I forgot to take any!!! LOL

My post-credits save file says I’m 84% complete and I’ve barely scratched the surface on Trophies so there’s still a lot more to do. There’re also other modes, like a Survival Mode and Expeditions, which are replays of chunks of the game for high scores and stuff (at least that’s what I think it is, I haven’t tried those modes yet).

After the story is over you can jump back in and keep exploring and collecting and doing side-challenges and stuff. It’s a big game. Great value.

Overall, very very happy with this one.