An Incomplete Guide to Streaming Game Services

There are so many different streaming game services out now, and they all seem to have their own business model. I thought I’d gather some data on the ones I’m familiar with. Please note in all cases I’m talking about official support. Some of these services can run on hardware other than what I list by side-loading or other work-arounds.

Also, apologies to Playstation Now fans. I don’t use it or know much about it, so I left it out. It’s $10/month and runs on PCs and PS4s and that’s all I know about it!

Amazon Luna

Resolution: 1080P. 4K ‘coming soon’ for selected titles
Where You Play: PC, Mac, Android, iOS and certain Fire TV devices. For PC & Mac you can download an app, or play through a browser.
Monthly Price: $6
$6 is their introductory price. Amazon hasn’t indicated how long the service will be at this price or what its final cost will be.
What You Get:
Unlimited access to a library of 50 games. Amazon says more games will be added over time. They don’t say that some games will leave the service over time, but I’d be VERY surprised if that doesn’t happen. It happens with every other “Netflix-like” service.
Additional Costs:
Amazon will offer “game channels” that bundle some unknown number of games together for an unknown additional cost. The first one will be an Ubisoft Channel.
Amazon Luna Controller, $50 – This is a controller that connects directly to your WiFi network which is supposed to reduce input lag.
Personal Notes:
This service just came out and is in paid early access. I don’t have a lot to say about it yet but the buzz is that it needs some optimization before it becomes a real contender. The initial library of games is OK but not great. A few AAA titles but a lot of smaller indie games, some that I’ve never heard of.

GeForce Now

Resolution: 1080P (4K coming soon…but has been for quite some time)
Where You Play: Nvidia Shield, PC, Mac, Android, Chromebooks
Monthly Price: $0
What You Get:
Nothing, you have to provide your own games from Steam or Epic Game Store. Not all games are supported. Sometimes games that are supported are removed. Free users are limited to playing in 1 hour sessions, I believe.
Additional Costs:
Founders Edition, $5/month – Founders get priority access to a session (free users sometimes have to wait in a queue), longer session lengths, and for some games, RTX support
Personal Notes:
My experience with GFN has been all over the place. There are several different servers you may connect to and so in one session you may get a game running beautifully at high settings, and the next time you log in it can only manage medium because you happened to connect to a worse server. My biggest issue is with logging in to things though. Every time you play you need to log into Steam or Epic (and you can’t copy/paste your password) which seems like no big deal but can become a headache over time. If you happen to have an Nvidia Shield, it will upscale games to 4K.

Google Stadia

Resolution: 1080P
Where You Play: Chromecast Ultra, Chrome Browsers, Android
Monthly Price: $0
What You Get:
Nothing, you have to buy your games from the Stadia Store. Once you do, you’ll have that game forever, or until Google pulls the plug on Stadia
Additional Costs:
Stadia Pro, $10/month – Pro users gets 4K resolution and surround sound, discounts on Stadia Store games, and anywhere from 4-6 free games/month that you can access for as long as you’re a Pro subscriber. (I think Google actually promises 1 game/month but for the last 6 months it’s been 4-6). Google offers a 1 month free trial of Stadia Pro.
Stadia Premium Edition, $99 — This is a bundle of a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia Controller to use with it. The controller connects to your WiFi which is supposed to reduce input lag.
Personal Notes:
Stadia has been my best game streaming experience. Games run really well and are optimized for the service. The downside is that a game has to be ported to Stadia and the ports vary in quality. For example The Division 2 looks and plays better than it does on my local gaming laptop, (using Stadia Pro so it is in 4K) but other games seem to run at console-level graphics settings. If you want to play with a controller, for example on your TV, all games are guaranteed to support that.
There’s a lot of worry that Google will ‘pull the plug’ on Stadia and our purchases will be lost, but I don’t think that will happen given that there ARE purchases attached. In the same way Google Play movies and Android apps are here to stay, I think Stadia is too (the fact that they own game studios working on titles for Stadia also makes it seem less likely it’ll get canceled.)

Microsoft xCloud

Resolution: 720P
Where You Play: Android devices
Monthly Price: Included as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which is $15/month (though you can often find deals/discounts)
What You Get:
150+ Game Pass games. First party games are permanent in the Game Pass library, third party games are constantly being added and leaving.
Additional Costs:
None
Personal Notes:
xCloud currently runs on Xbox One S hardware which puts a lot of limits on how well games run and in particular, load times. Load times are far worse on xCloud than on any of the other services listed. On the other hand, for Xbox owners, being able to go from playing on the local Xbox to picking up where you left off on your phone during lunch hour at the office is a nice benefit.
In 2021 Microsoft is supposed to update their data centers with Xbox Series S|X hardware which should really improve this service.
Also worth noting you can stream from your Xbox to your Android device. This is called remote play and is free, though games have to be installed on your Xbox.

Drake Hollow super simple beginner tips

Drake Hollow is a new gathering/crafting/tower defense/bunch-of-other-things game out now on Xbox (included in Game Pass) and soon on other platforms. I started playing it last weekend and got tripped up on some of the silliest and most obvious things. I looked dumb so you don’t have to! So here’re a few of them, in no particular order.

1) Drakes are the friendly little plant dudes, not scary dragon-ettes. When you see a Hibernating Drake don’t avoid it thinking you’re not strong enough to fight it. By waking it up you get another adorable friend and your camp level goes up

2) Schematics are the currency you use to unlock new tech. Always save before you unlock something because you never know if that new tech might require pre-requisites you don’t have. For example I unlocked an advanced crafting bench with my only schematic only to find the bench required power which I didn’t yet have (and now couldn’t unlock until I found another schematic)

2a) I was wrong in that last point. The game DOES tell you pre-requisites I was just too dense to notice it. Here’s where you can see the pre-reqs (I put a red box around it, with a couple of arrows. I’m not subtle):

Check the prerequisites before purchase!

3) Aether Wards are craftable crystals that you have to consume to cross Aether (which looks to me like water). They only last for 15 seconds; remember you can sprint!

4) The first Power station you get is a treadmill. If a Drake isn’t running on it, you can do it, and there’s a gauge on the treadmill to show you how much of a charge you’ve built up. To connect it to the thing that needs power, go into Inspect Mode (hold down the right analog stick on Xbox) then press X with the treadmill highlighted. This opens up a radial menu, one of the choices are “Connect”. Then do the same on the thing you want to connect to.

Semi-hidden radial menu

5) Speaking of that Radial menu, that’s where you can demolish unwanted structures, or repair ones that are damaged

6) Small plants re-spawn after a time. I find cattails are a decent source of on-going revenue. Sell them to the magpie to get yourself Shiny Things currency to buy materials you don’t have enough of.

7) Waypoints unlock with the advanced crafting table. Think of them like telephone polls. (Not, as I initially assumed, as fast travel points.) You connect them together and can then ‘grind’ along them. Build bridges over Aether to cut down on the amount of Aether Wards you have to craft/consume.

Setting up a grind route over aether
Grinding!

8) After you defeat the first boss, if you use the Altar you’ll be transported to a whole new map with no way to return as far as I can tell. So before you do that you might want to explore all the islands in your current archipelago to make sure you don’t miss out on any schematics.

9) Drakes have “buffs” that you can transfer onto yourself. Think of them as perks. I don’t think they do anything while on the little Drakes who, let’s face it, mostly spend their days sleeping and bouncing on Yoga Balls.

10) This is a weird one and just my opinion but I find Drake Hollow is best approached as a chill exploring/building game. When I focused on completing the Quests so I could advance the ‘story’ I found it really slow and tedious. After a break I came back and just approached it almost like I would Minecraft; just gathering and building and puttering, and that’s when the game really clicked for me.

That’s all I have for now; 9 tips and 1 unrequested opinion. I’m still really early in the game; as I learn more I’ll add to this post, unless I get distracted which, me being me, is probably more likely!

Home, sweet home…for now!

Sony is letting us register to pre-order a PS5

We’ve heard that quantities of the PS5 (and probably Xbox Series X) will be limited this holiday, but I kind of thought there was a certain amount of “ass-covering” around that announcement. Now I’m not so sure.

Today I got an email from Sony asking if I wanted to register to be among the first to know when PS5 pre-orders are going live. It’s not clear exactly what this means: is it just going to be an announcement email, or are we going to get some kind of personalized link to pre-order? Who knows? It does sound like we’ll be ordering direct from Sony, though.

I thought this was interesting. Here’s the bulk of the email:

PS5™ Console Pre-Orders are coming – Register for an opportunity to be one of the first!

PlayStation 5 is coming!

Register for an opportunity to be one of the first to pre-order your PS5™ console directly from PlayStation.

There will be a limited quantity of PS5™ consoles available for pre-order, so we will be inviting some of our existing consumers to be one of the first to pre-order one from PlayStation.

To learn more or register, please click the “Register” button below.

Registration button sends you here:
https://www.playstation.com/en-us/campaigns/2020/ps5-direct-pre-orders/
I think anyone can get in on it.

To learn more about this PS5 Console pre-order opportunity, please visit our FAQs.

Ordering direct from Sony has me wondering about shipping costs, delivery dates and such. I usually pre-order my consoles from Amazon which gets me free-shipping and launch day delivery.

Even if you register, there’s just a chance that you will be selected.

So yeah, this is gonna be a weird launch.

I’ll let you know if I get selected and get a pre-order in.

Playstation 5 & Xbox Series X for PC gamers

Most of my social media friends are primarily PC gamers so I thought I’d write a post helping them to decide if/when they should buy a Playstation 5 [PS5] or an Xbox Series X [XSX]. But before we get into that, lets talk a little bit about the console business model.

Both Sony and Microsoft sell their consoles (particularly near launch) at a loss. The idea is to get you in the door, then they make their money off of you via software and subscription sales. As a general rule of thumb when you buy a game on one of their platforms they get 30% of the sale price, and of course 100% for first party titles. Keep that in mind as we discuss each machine.

Now let’s talk about exclusives. True exclusives are becoming increasingly rare these days. Don’t be fooled when a company says “console exclusive” or “timed exclusive.” The former means the game WILL be on PC (just not on the other console), the latter means it’ll be on PC you’ll just have to wait a while.

Playstation 5

Let’s talk PS5 first. Sony is a ‘traditional’ console seller in that their console is their platform. They want to sell a bunch of PS5s to build market share. This is why they have such high quality exclusives. Sony is willing to devote a ton of resources into exclusives because these are used as the ‘bait’ to get you into the Playstation ecosystem.

Tangent: I’m not a developer so this might be nonsense, but I suspect that true Playstation exclusives look as good as they do because the developers can take advantage of every hardware-specific feature and trick there is. They’re not worried about “how will we do this on Xbox or PC” so they can squeeze every drop of power out of their single target hardware.

Once you buy that PS5 to play an exclusive, Sony hopes you’ll buy other games, plus peripherals and maybe a Playstation+ subscription. The only other Playstation revenue stream they have is their streaming service Playstation Now, but so far Sony has used this mostly to put their back-catalog to use. They really want to force you to buy a Playstation in order for you to play their newest, hottest titles.

So when should you but a PS5? When there are enough exclusives to justify the hardware cost; so 2022 maybe? The truth is you probably won’t use your PS5 very much; all your friends are on PC and if you’re a dedicated PC gamer your rig is probably more powerful than the PS5 is, or at the very least it will be when you upgrade in a couple of years. Most of my die-hard PC gamer friends report that their consoles mostly collect dust after an initial burst of enthusiasm.

Xbox Series X

Now let’s talk about Microsoft. Microsoft diverges from Sony in a huge way in that the Xbox hardware platform is not their only revenue stream. They have this side project called Windows as well. Microsoft’s focus is on selling you software and subscriptions, and they’re leaning harder and harder into subscriptions at this point.

Because of this, XSX exclusives aren’t always as flashy as PS5 exclusives. In fact there are virtually no true XSX exclusives; Microsoft is making a concerted effort to offer all its games on Windows as well as Xbox.

Recently Xbox Game Pass has become a huge focus. It works on Xbox hardware and on Windows machines. Microsoft is happy to sell you an XSX, sure, but what it REALLY wants to sell you is a Game Pass subscription and it doesn’t care where you play the games. Could be on Xbox, could be on PC, could be via Xcloud.

In fact one could argue that they’d prefer you play on PC. Consider that when you buy an XSX, Microsoft loses money. When you buy a new gaming PC that comes with a Windows license, Microsoft earns money. [Granted a lot of PC gamers just carry their Windows license with them, but every time an Alienware, OriginPC or a gaming PC from Best Buy is sold, Microsoft makes money on that Windows license.]

Of course when you play on Windows, Microsoft doesn’t make anything from you when you buy a game from Steam, Origin, Epic or any other store, and no one that I know chooses to buy from the Windows Store unless they can’t avoid it. But again, this is where Game Pass comes in and why Microsoft is leaning so hard into it. Game Pass is their on-going revenue stream from PC gamers.

So when should you, the PC gamer, buy an Xbox Series X? Never. XSX is for those of us who don’t want/can’t afford a gaming PC. But as long as PC gaming is your jam, there’s very little reason for you to buy an XSX.

Snarky Summary

Hopefully this post will be of some help and will stop some of the complaints from PC gamers about how little incentive there is for them to buy a new console. These consoles are not generally meant for you. You’re wealthy enough that you can buy a $1500-$3000 gaming PC and then a few hundred dollars more every couple of years to keep it up to snuff. Be content with that, and understand that consoles are meant for a different market. Let console gamers enjoy their once-a-decade $400-500 new devices in peace. Don’t be the guy driving around in a Ferrari complaining that Chevrolet is giving you no reason to buy their new Aveo model.

Bravely Default: 45 hours in, sh*t got real

I’m still playing Bravely Default on the 3DS. Way back in May I reported hitting 19 hours. I’m at 45 hours now. It’s my ‘before bed’ game so I only play a bit each night, but I do play it almost every night.

So I’ve been tooling along, grinding a little. I was feeling pretty OP. Early on there were some tough boss fights but I used the “Summon a Friend” system to call in the character of some Nintendo-Friendo who was much further along than I was. That usually was enough to 1-shot the boss.

Difficulty spike!

Last night, things changed. I came up against a boss that just wipes the floor with me. My friends are no longer so high level (I assume they stopped playing LONG ago) that I can lean on them. I gotta figure this one out on my own.

Not going to lie, first thing I did was look online thinking I was missing something. I assumed there was a ‘trick’ to it since nothing had been remotely hard up until this point. Nope. I did read lots of discussions about how different people beat this boss, and those gave me ideas, so I’m glad I looked them up.

FINALLY the job system makes sense. Bravely Default has 24 jobs (basically, classes) and characters can switch between them at will. I still don’t have them all unlocked, but I have to figure out, based on what I have available and how far I’ve leveled them, how to combine jobs & characters to defeat this boss. Up to now I’ve been using whatever seemed cool (Pirate? YES! Salve-Maker? NO!).

Think, think, think….

So I have to *gasp* think about what I’m going to do. I may have to grind to level up some jobs I’ve ignored. That’s fine, I could use the gold that comes along with grinding anyway. Honestly I’m pretty excited that I finally have to come off auto-pilot and figure this out.

Of course the job that, according to the Internet, makes this fight pretty easy is, you guessed it, Salve-Maker.

The Last of Us 2 has a pacing problem [Spoiler Free]

Last night I finished The Last of Us 2; it took me about 35 hours. Granted I tend to be a slow gamer, but still it felt way too long even accounting for my methodical gaming style. This post is Spoiler Free, beyond just talking very generally about the game’s structure.

TLOU2 is part interactive movie, part adventure game, with a healthy dash of survival horror mixed in. The big issue for me is the movie part didn’t flow well since there were such long stretches between story beats. So you get some story (often via in-engine cut scenes) and then you play for a long time, then you get a little more story. This formula has worked nicely for prior Naughty Dog games like the first The Last of Us and the Uncharted series, all of which were some of my favorite games ever.

What bogs this one down is the scavenging. There are several categories of items you need to scavenge for:

Materials: This is stuff like rags, alcohol and bottles. You use this stuff to make health kits, Molotov cocktails and the like. I’ll lump bullets in this category too. Inventory space is quite limited so you never feel over-stocked, but since it is so limited you’ll often want to make sure you’re at capacity. Still once you are full you COULD stop scavenging except for the other categories.

Supplements and Field Manuals: These items are the focus of the skill system. You have to find Field Manuals to unlock skill lines, and supplements (jars of pills) are your currency to buy skills. You want as many of these as you can get, and if you miss a Field Manual it could really hamper you later. I didn’t max my skills by the time the game is finished.

Parts: Parts are the currency you use to upgrade weapons. Again, you want as many as you can get and I didn’t fully upgrade my weapons by end of game.

Collectibles: These are mostly for Trophy hunters.

The gameplay loop is basically move into an area, fight the baddies and/or solve some traversal puzzle, then spend a LOT of time exploring every nook and cranny of that area. You’ll want to replenish supplies you used in the battle, of course. More importantly you’ll want to make sure you haven’t missed any supplements, manuals, parts and (if you’re a trophy hunter) collectibles that may be there.

For me the action:searching ratio was probably like 1:4. In other words for every 5 minutes I spent fighting, I spent 20 minutes scrounging for supplies. It got really tedious.

Not only is it tedious but it impacts how you play the game. In theory you could stealth/sneak through an area, which would mean you don’t use up supplies (and keep your body count down). You’ll still want to scavenge the area for supplements and parts though. This is extremely hard to do while enemies are still alive, so effectively needing to scavenge takes stealth off the table. Generally I killed everything, then searched.

I don’t remember this being as much of a problem in the first game. Maybe the areas were smaller or the supplies more generous? There’s nothing like climbing through a building because you see a ‘glint’ the indicates something is there, and when you get there it is 1 bullet or 1 supplement (when you need 40 for your next upgrade).

One trick I did learn was to go into the Accessibility Options, pick the Navigation & Traversal option, and turn on Enhanced Listen Mode. This will let you send out a sonar-like ‘ping’ that will indicate the location of items that you can grab. It’s ‘smart’ too. If you can’t carry any more rags, it won’t ping rags, for example. I set it to maximum range and minimum time and used it a lot. I still missed stuff, though, based on the Trophies I didn’t earn.

I have a lot more thoughts on the game overall, but I’ll hold off until more people have played it, or I’ll just do a spoilerific post. I’m glad I played it, though I was also happy to have finished it so I can move on to other things.

Playstation 5 Showcase reaction

I feel kind of compelled to write something about the Playstation 5 Showcase that Sony streamed on June 6th, 2020, but the fact of the matter is, I didn’t come away with any strong feelings one way or the other about the system in general.

When I watch something like this (or Microsoft’s first game reveal a while back) what is going through my mind is this: am I seeing games that make it worth buying a $500 console to play. (No official prices have been shared yet, I’m assuming $500.)

The Games

I saw a lot of games that, on the surface at least, seemed like they’d work fine on the PS4 or Xbox One, or on a mid-tier gaming PC. So that was a bit of a disappointment. On the other hand, Ratchet & Clank seemed designed to show off what the PS5 can do thanks to its SSD setup. Watch in this trailer as the duo portal between vastly different tilesets really quickly. There’s an intermediate ‘realm’ that they’re in for maybe a second before heading into a new biome.

Now maybe that’s all pre-rendered in which case, no big deal. But if this was captured “live” then it’s pretty impressive.

Of course the feather in Sony’s hat is always exclusives, and the one game shown that made the PS5 a must-have for me was Horizon: Forbidden West. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of my all-time favorite games so I HAVE to play the sequel!

As far as I know we don’t have a release date for Horizon Forbidden West. I would assume if it was a 2020 title — a launch title — then Sony would’ve promoted that fact pretty heavily. So yeah I need a PS5 to play HFW, but that’s not for launch (probably).

In fact it isn’t yet clear what the launch lineup is going to look like; it seems like maybe the new Spiderman game is Sony’s big 1st party launch title. Thing is, I never bothered finishing Spiderman on PS4; I just didn’t like it that much.

One issue both Sony and Microsoft are struggling with is that the new consoles are about more than just graphics. Both companies are talking about fast loading times and higher frame rates than we’ve seen on the current generation. Sony is talking about the haptic feedback of the new controller, too. But you can’t really experience any of these features without actually playing the games

The Competition

Sony is going the classic console generation route. While some (many? most?) PS4 games will run on the PS5, the only ones we can be SURE will work are games coming out between about now and launch. Will there be enough to justify a purchase for me at launch? I’m still up in the air. And what about cross-generation games? If I buy The Last of Us Part 2 this summer, will Sony ask me to buy the PS5 version of The Last of Us Part 2 as a separate SKU? They did that during the PS3 – PS4 transition. Microsoft is NOT doing that. For their 1st party games, the same license covers Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions of the game.

Continuing with the Microsoft comparison, Microsoft is bringing games from 4 generations to the Series X. My understanding is (don’t take my word for it tho, I still need to confirm) that I can unplug the external drive from my Xbox One, plug it in to the Xbox Series X, and keep playing all those games, only they’ll run better. For example Destiny 2 will run at 60 FPS on Series X while it runs at 30 FPS on Xbox One X. That makes the Series X something I will buy on Day 1 since I’ll have a huge library to play while waiting for Series X games to arrive.

So for me the Sony showcase gets a “B” grade. I want the equivalent of an Uncharted or a Horizon to play on Day 1, if I can’t bring my old library with me. Hopefully before launch we’ll have a better idea of how many PS4 games will run on PS5. If it turns out MOST will, then PS5 becomes a more likely 2020 purchase for me.

The Hardware

I’d like to know more about the hardware, too. Will it be quiet? I rarely use my PS4 Pro because it is astonishingly loud. Even with headphones on, the sound is annoying: that high-pitched whine like a dentist’s drill. It’s awful.

I’d also like to see how many ports are on the back. PS5 is supposed to support PSVR, which means a port for the camera and a port for the PSVR breakout box. You probably want a port for an external drive as well. So I’m hoping there’s a good number of ports on the back. (The front has 1 USB-C and 1 USB-A.)

The PS5 comes with a TB of SSD space, and I’m reading that about 825 GB of that is available which for a game-grazer like me, isn’t a ton of space. You can add a second SSD drive, but not just any SSD drive; it has to meet certain specs we don’t have yet, and I’m guessing it won’t be cheap SSD drives. PS4 games can still be run off an external USB drive, though it isn’t clear if this will require a special format or if you can just plug in your PS4 drive and start playing.

So yeah, still lots of questions. I’ll be getting a PS5 to play Horizon Forbidden West whenever it launches, but I might make the unusual (for me) choice to skip the new console at launch. We’ll see what other info Sony shares with us over the coming months.

List of ‘Back to WoW’ posts

Just for grins and because I don’t mind making fun of myself, I decided to see how many “back to WoW” posts I’ve written over the years. It actually wasn’t as many as I thought, but here we go.

Back to WoW? Maybe You CAN Go Home Again (5/25/2020)
I just wrote this one, so we’ll see how long it ‘sticks’ this time.

WoW Classic: Why I won’t go home again (8/27/2019)
Including this one because it is a lie. I DID break down and subscribe to WoW Classic and logged in maybe 2-3 times before giving it up again.

Back to WoW?! WTF? (8/09/2015)
Beer was involved with this decision and it initially didn’t end well, but I guess I gave it a 2nd chance since a week later I blogged about having completed 3 zones and reached level 20 but I was about ready to set it aside.

Back to WoW again! (11/27/2010)
Looks like it had only been a few months since my last return so not sure why I jumped back in, but I did. I blogged about it for about a month, ranting about how it was too easy and I guess doing some cross-blog arguing with another WoW blogger.

Back to WoW? (09/06/2010)
This post pairs with the one below. Between July and Sept I logged in once. This “back to WoW” reads more like “farewell to WoW”. Which lasted 2 months. LOL

When I played WoW… (07/23/2010)
This is not technically a ‘back to WoW’ post but I do mention at the end that I’d purchased Wrath of the Lich King so presumably I played at some point soon after.

Willpower saving throw: Failed (11/24/2008)
FOMO got me and I was damned grumpy about it, but soon after I joined Casualties of War (anyone remember that guild) and had some fun for a week or two.

World of Warcraft (3/23/2004)
Not “a back to WoW” but a ‘there’s this new game World Of Warcraft” post. It appears to be my earliest WoW post. I was playing in Beta at the time and having a ball.

Gillain’s Journal – Day 1 (3/24/2004)
And just for grins, an in-character journal of my character’s time in the beta.

Back to WoW? Maybe You CAN Go Home Again

I was a very early adopter of World of Warcraft. Thanks to a friend I played in the Friends & Family alpha and I kept playing pretty heavily until Burning Crusade came out. Then I quit, for reasons I don’t recall.

In the years since I’ve gone back a few times but it always felt…lonely, I guess. When I was hardcore in WoW I was in an active guild and we would play and chat for hours and hours. One of the few times in my life I’ve found a gaming group I really fit into.

Going back and them not being around was like going back to your hometown and visiting your old hang-outs, but your friends were no longer there.

With enough adds even Elywnn Forest can be dangerous

Every so often my Twitter timeline has a surge of folks who’ve gone back to WoW and I generally ignore them. For some reason, this time my FOMO overcame my reticence and I logged back in.

It’s a much different game

A LOT has changed in the 13-ish years since I played seriously. I DO remember going back after Cataclysm and HATING it. I zoomed through zones so fast and leveled so quickly it just felt frantic and bland. I’m that (apparently) rare player who enjoys reading the quest text and enjoys the leveling process and just exploring.

This time back, I started a level 1 character, human, in Elwynn Forest, same as I’ve done a dozen or more times. Difference is, this time I’m really enjoying myself. Maybe its just been long enough that I don’t feel lonely any more. Or maybe its the system itself.

The biggest change is that zones now scale. I can putter around Elwynn as long as I like and the mobs scale to my level, which keeps the gameplay really fun. I much prefer this to having a bunch of ‘gray’ quests to kill trivial enemies, and I like that I don’t feel pressured to move to the next zone. There’s a 100% experience buff so I am leveling like mad but Elwynn remains a place where I can and do die if I’m not careful (bloody murloc swarms).

No quest giver will lead you to this big spider, but it drops decent newbie loot

Questing quietly

It is also really quiet in the low level zones. I DID try to return when WoW Classic launched and the newbie zones were packed. Chat was so toxic I immediately turned it off, but I couldn’t turn off competing for spawns and being annoyed at knuckleheads cavorting around like a bunch of 8 years olds that just came home from an ice-cream eating contest where absolutely nothing was sugar-free.

I have nothing really earth shattering to reveal about a game this old that has been extensively covered my just about anyone who writes about games. But if like me you’ve been away for a LONG time, well…it just might be worth it to take another look. You can play to level 20 for free, so it won’t cost you anything to try. You might find there’s some fun to be had.

Fallout 76 Do-Over

I bought Fallout 76 for the Xbox One X when it first came out. BIG mistake. But you know that drama. The game was janky as heck, and the design had some major flaws, the biggest one being no NPCs. There’s nothing more depressing than doing a bunch of quests to track down people when you (the player) already know you’re just going to find their desiccated corpses.

Bethesda got the message, and it took them a year and a half but recently they rolled out the big Wastelanders update that adds NPCs, more quests and more things to do. It has improved the game a ton (though the jank, while better, certainly hasn’t been eliminated).

My little camp near a river.

A Fresh Start

I started playing again and I was liking it OK over in Xbox-land. This past weekend Bethesda had a free trial weekend, though, and on a whim I decided to download it on PC. I generally prefer gaming on console to PC (that’s a whole other post) but this time, wow, is Fallout 76 ever better on PC. The graphics are way better and using a mouse & keyboard, particularly when building your CAMP, is so much less frustrating. I know, I know, most of you PC gamers are saying “Well duh” but I generally use a controller even on PC. I find them much more comfortable.

Anyway, I decided to fully commit to the PC version, and snagged a copy while it was on sale for $30. It was a good time to make the switch since along with the free-trial weekend was a double-experience event, so I’m already higher level (all of 14, so still very low) than I was on Xbox where I’d started a new character for Wastelanders. I’m not as far along in the quest lines, but I’m higher level.

There’s some bad stuff happening in West Virginia

In fact I’m liking Fallout 76 so much I may go over to the dark side and buy a month of Fallout 1st, their much reviled “pay-to-win” (I guess?) system. I was thinking about buying some “Atoms” (their RMT currency) anyway and you get more with a month of Fallout 1st than you’d get buying the Atoms directly, plus you get some other nice perks including Private Servers and a Stash Box that sounds a lot life the Crafting Bags you get with ESO Plus for The Elder Scrolls Online. I don’t fret much about whether something is “pay-to-win” since I play solo anyway. Mostly I just want to make my CAMP look prettier by buying some cosmetics from the cash shop.

Polly the Robot is always trying to get ahead of herself /cringe