Self Similar self similar’s personal gaming nonsense blog

9Oct/170

Lost in Erangel (…And in Space!)

This entry is so massively overdue that I’m honestly not sure where to even start at this point, so I’ll just dive in. Apologies if this is a little more “stream of consciousness” than my normal posts.

I started playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (AKA "PUBG") in early April, after an old friend from the TPG days and I linked back up and he mentioned being eager to start playing it with friends. Coincidentally, one of my favorite, randomly discovered YouTube channels, FUBARBUNDY, which is usually dedicated to antics within DayZ, posted a video of some PUBG action. I actually first became intrigued by the idea of this style of game after watching another FUBARBUNDY video in which he played the similar (and related) H1Z1: King of the Kill. I hadn’t seen anything quite like either game. They took some of the core ideas of DayZ and other, similar survival games, and gave them a mega dose of adrenaline.

Lying in wait.
"Lying in wait."

I didn’t mentioned it here, but I did very briefly dabble in DayZ. Only very briefly. I’ve been interested in the game since the early days when it was still a mod, but resisted trying it out, afraid that I’d either hate the harsh playstyle of the game, or become absolutely addicted to it. Again, I largely have FUBARBUNDY’s insane videos to blame for my more recent bout of interest. In DayZ’s case, it was for making the game look far more interesting and dynamic than it actually tends to be. That said, I loved the immersive feel of the world. Exploring the desolate, empty landscape, and the possibility of running into other players was endlessly intriguing, but I didn’t like dealing with zombies or wildlife, or how all of my minor injures started to add up until my focus had to shift from the seemingly impossible task of finding guns and ammo to finding first aid and medical supplies, or how most of the time when you do run into another player it doesn’t lead to teaming up, or an interesting conversation, a stickup, or anything besides a well placed bullet from afar. I took several stabs at it, but in the end the pace was just far too slow. PUBG though? It’s like DayZ for impatient people.

Scoping out a compound before I approach.
"Scoping out a compound before I approach"

Now, most people reading this will already be familiar with PUBG as it has become a bit of a phenomenon since it was released into Steam Early Access. Just in case though, here’s a quick summary:

You and 99 other players are air dropped onto a deserted island devoid of much outside of a disturbing amount of guns, ammunition, body armor, medical supplies, and the occasional vehicle. Your goal is to be the last person left alive. So, at it’s core you have a death match across a huge battlefield with an element of looting and survival tacked on. It’s not some bizarre social experiment though, games could last hours without something to give them a little more focus. Instead, inspired by the likes of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, players are constantly being funneled closer and closer together, as the playable area of the map constricts, eventually forcing anyone left to end up in extremely close quarters. Because of this, matches tend to be over within 40 minute or so, and (more likely) much, much quicker if you die earlier on in the game.

Pro tip: Don't skimp on fashion.
"Pro tip: Don't skimp on fashion."

That is one of the strengths of the gameplay model: total, brutal elimination. The number of players left alive is always displayed in the HUD, and is constantly dwindling down. Thanks to a damage model erring on the side of “realism”, you can die very quickly in this game, and you, without a doubt, will. You will have bad games that end in someone beating you to death within the first few minutes of the match, you will have bad games in which you fully gear up, only to find yourself ambushed as you make your way across the map, all your progress vanishing in seconds, and you will have bad games when you make it to the very end of the match only to be outgunned with only a few other players left alive. The game is so brutal that I’m honestly surprised it gets as much love as it does. There’s something really special about the gameplay loop that just keeps you coming back though, and on those rare occasions when you do actually win? Amazing.

Running through the hay fields.
"Running through the hay fields."

Besides the frustration associated with taking a lot of inspiration from its earliest incarnation as an ArmA mod, tending to lean a bit more towards “realism” in various areas in addition to the aforementioned damage model, the effect of “RNG” on each match is also often a topic of out of game discussion. Where you can land, who lands with you, what items and vehicles you find around you early on, and where the playzone constricts to are all vital to your success. In fact, many of my best matches have been, not coincidentally, when the playzone ended up focusing the fight in the location I was already in, allowing me to spend more time on gearing up and fighting than traveling. Likewise, many of my worse matches found me traveling far across the map, often slogging it without a vehicle, and desperately lacking good gear.

Expect to meet strange men in their underwear, and shoot them.
"Expect to meet strange men in their underwear, and shoot them."

So I’ve been playing this game for something like 5 months now which begs the question "what do I like about it?" Well, I actually really enjoy the semi-tactical gameplay, with more realistic handling weapons, including quick time-to-kill, and the ability to move stealthily, or lay prone in wait. Like the ArmA series, I enjoy the wide-open battlefields and the tactical scenarios that kind of freedom can provide, including a nice mix of long range and CQB engagements. I also really enjoy sneaking around and loot old buildings, which is something I'm apparently just into. *cough* State of Decay *cough* I enjoy the intensity of having to spot enemies on the distant horizon and pay attention to the sound of their movements close around you. I also really enjoy the camaraderie of playing these matches with other players when in duo or team matches - being able to work as a team under these conditions is a lot of fun, especially with the added component of being able to revive your fallen teammates, massively altering your priorities versus playing solo.

Proof that I've won at least one match in my life.
"Proof that I've won at least one match in my life."

This game has, no doubt at all, sometimes frustrated the hell out of me. My friends and I have gotten into arguments and left sessions annoyed and irritable on far too many occasions. Yet, at the same time, I’ve also made some new friends and relished practically every “chicken dinner” (PUBG slang for a win) I’ve been able to score, whether I was instrumental in the win or carried by my teammates. With the game continuing to improve with every update, I’m glad I decided to take the plunge. I really don’t know how long its legs will continue to be for me, but I’ve already gotten my money out of it at this point.

Journey to beautiful solar systems...
"Journey to beautiful solar systems..."

Another game I’ve been playing lately is Everspace. Everspace is a cross between an old school, semi-arcadey space sim (think the Wing Commander series, Freespace, etc.) and a rogue-like. You journey from sector to sector exploring randomly generated systems filled with loot, enemies, and other resources but when you die, you die, starting over from scratch. Well, as these things go in rogue-likes, mostly from scratch; you retain any cash you gained in your run which you can spend on skill tree upgrades, and some other special items, such as crafting blueprints, that will also help you in future runs.

...and shoot everyone in them!
"...and shoot everyone in them!"

Not only is it fucking beautiful, but this game has also proven to massively addictive. Your ship controls excellently, even on a controller (I’m playing the Xbox One version) and the space combat is just deep enough to be fun and, at times, a little challenging. My only real complaint is that I wish there was a bit more variety to the random areas and enemies, or even some crazy random scenario ala another space themed rogue-like, FTL: Faster Than Light, as I’ve already hit a bit of a wall with it. Honestly, that's fairly typical with how I play rogue-like style games, so I can't cast any blame there. Even still, it served me well in allowing me brief but highly appreciated vacation into the space combat genre and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre.

Oh, and for you VR types, the PC version has Vive support!

3Jun/170

The Tale of Garn Chapter 54

Warning: potential main quest spoilers ahead!

From Garn's recollections:

Paradise

Martin rode back to Cloud Ruler Temple while I stayed at Bruma to help tend to the wounded and the dead. Many good men died on that day, including many important members of the order of the Blades, and I felt it only right to take a moment to see to them. After helping where I could and ensuring the rest was left in good hands, I met Martin back at the temple. Martin had just finished making his final preparations. After giving me some last minute advice and making sure I was fully prepared the ritual began.

Paradise awaits!
"Paradise awaits!"

Strange smells filled our nostrils and the great hall gradually appeared to be enveloped in a thick, dark haze, then with a mighty crack the ground sprang open and a portal, not unlike a smaller version of the Oblivion gates, appeared before us. At first the portal itself was tiny, but with a second, deafening crack, the portal took on its full shape and after a few brief moments seemed to stabilize. With a quick nod to Martin I gripped my sword and stepped through the gate.

A beautiful backdrop for eternal torment.
"A beautiful backdrop for eternal torment."

In a flash I appeared in a clearing in the middle of a beautiful wood. As Martin predicted there was no return portal behind me - I was simply stuck there. I climbed a nearby hill to take in the area. Exotic wildflowers of rare colors were everywhere and the land was dotted with intricate white marble structures such as bridges and gazebos. I began to follow what seemed to be a path through the hills when I came upon an ice Atronach chasing a man through the trees. I quickly dispatched the Atronach using a flame spell and approached the severely shaken Briton.

The man had little in the way of clothing and was covered in minor scratches and bruises yet to my surprise he addressed me with pompousness not typically heard from someone who was cowering for their lives not seconds earlier. I met several such people while navigating these gardens. From what I could piece together they were servants of Mankar Camoran’s who died and, fulfilling his promise, were blessed with immortality and sent to his paradise. When Mehrunes Dagon had conquered our world they’d return to rule over it as lords. At least, that was the plan.

Always read the small print when signing up for a Daedric cult.
"Always read the small print when signing up for a Daedric cult."

While in this place (which they called Gaiar Alata) they were constantly tormented by the Daedric creatures who shared it with them and if they were killed they would simply be reborn to continue the torturous cycle. Most of them seemed to have been driven to the point of despair, if not utter madness, and seemed to have deep regret for their service to Camoran and Prince Dagon though surprisingly a few still remained loyal.

My retribution is ongoing, actually...
"My retribution is ongoing, actually..."

Eventually I came across a single bridge guarded by a Dremora warrior in full battle gear. To my surprise he greeted me on sight instead of charging at me like so many others I had faced. The Dremora introduced himself as Kathutet and claimed that his kin had fought me and said I fought well for a mortal, so well that they they had a certain respect for me and therefore it was no dishonor to speak with me. He told me he would let me pass if I could do a service for him, that, or challenge him. Either option would bring him honor. While I was unaccustomed to a talkative Dremora, he still served the Daedra, and I would not serve him. I drew my sword. He smiled with approval.

Kethutet: Not-so-adoring fan.
"Kethutet: Not-so-adoring fan."

Kethutet was strong, and his mighty Daedric longsword slammed against my Crusader’s blade, nearly pushing me off of my feet. As I slammed him back I found time to unleash a flame blast and hit him directly, causing him to unleash a horrific roar of pain. I parried his next attack as well, and another I blocked with my shield. Pushing him off of me a second time, I again cast a flame blast at him, knocking him off of his feet. I crossed the bridge and into the cave that he seemed to have been guarding.

I soon found myself in a complicated cave system that appeared to be some sort of Mythic Dawn dungeon. The cultists here were, seemingly, torturing other servants of Mankar Camoran. Given that everyone here was immortal, many of the torture methods I witnessed were particularly brutal. Soon I heard the voice of Mankar Camoran himself booming throughout the cave system. He seemed to be speaking directly to me, so no doubt his servants and guards knew I was here, somewhere.

There's actually a guy at the end of this chain. Yep, glad I skipped Mythic Dawn recruitment day.
"There's actually a guy at the end of this chain. Yep, glad I skipped Mythic Dawn recruitment day."

He spoke of the Daedra being the true gods, and the Divines I serve being false pretenders. He spoke of Tamriel being just another realm of Oblivion. Some of these ideas I heard before, read from some of the heretical books I studied in the Imperial City while searching for clues to my past. In the present though, I had faith in the Divines, and attempted to ignore Camoran’s ceaseless saber rattling.

I tried my best to avoid detection while I continued through the grotto but found myself face to face with one of the torturers. I drew my sword but he put his hands up, pleading for me to stop. He claimed that he could help me escape this place and take my revenge upon Mankar Camoran. Since at this point I had found myself quite lost in these maze-like caverns my curiosity peaked. I listened. He said his name was Eldamil and that he was one of Mankar Camoran’s chief lieutenants before he was slain in the battle of Kvatch. He claimed he had since had much time to come to regret his part of seeing the Mythic Dawn’s plans to fruition. He wanted to attone for his sins by helping me defeat Mankar Camoran. I had no particular reason to trust Eldamil but given what I had witnessed in my short time in “paradise” I also had no reason to doubt that he might have come to regret his place at Camoran’s side. Camoran already knew I was here, after all, so there was no point in attempting to deceive me with someone like Eldamil.

It turns out that the Dremora still hate me after all. :(
"It turns out that the Dremora still hate me after all. :("

Eldamil escorted me through the dungeon as if I was another one of Camoran’s men condemned to torture and while the other ascended immortals ignored me, some of the Dremora who guarded the grotto saw through our ruse. Eldamil and I soon found ourselves in an all out fight to escape the caverns. Thankfully, after defeating several fierce Dremora guards we found the exit and made haste to Carac Agailor, Mankar Camoran’s palace.

We were met at the gates by Ruma and Raven Camoran, Mankar’s children. They escorted us to see Mankar Camoran himself. Mankar spoke of the changes Tamriel would face under he and Prince Dagon’s reign and how fate had brought him and I together, as one final test of his supremacy. He assumed that I was a pretender and that they could make some sort of an example out of me as well as end Martin’s chances of stopping the invasion in a single, decisive move. They were quite wrong. While they might have the Daedra on their side, I was the Divine Crusader, and I had the Nine watching over me.

Err. A little sadistic to kill his children in front of him, but the ends justify the means, right?
"Err. A little sadistic to kill his children in front of him, but the ends justify the means, right?"

Ruma and Raven summoned Daedric armor and weapons and charged me while Mankar sat in his throne, an amused smirk on his face. Eldamil crippled Raven with a surprise electric bolt from behind me as Ruma and I traded swings. Soon it was two against one, and soon, just two. Mankar Camoran no longer wore his smile but instead became enraged. Standing up from his throne and raising his staff over his head he pointed at Eldamil who instantly dropped dead, electricity cracking over his body. I raised my shield and charged.

Catching him by surprise, I hit Mankar Camoran with a mighty shield bash and pinned in him the corner of his throne room, then quickly darted back. I peppered him with fireballs while he answered with a strong blast of lightning from his staff. I blasted him with fire bolt, tumbled to my right, and blasted him yet again. While I had no doubt that Mankar was a powerful mage, and one which had been bestowed the many gifts of a Daedric Prince at that, he seemed to have grown out of practice when it came to dueling. I rolled toward him as he cast his own fire bolt at me causing him to shoot wide and miss me entirely. As I rolled back to my feet the gleaming steel blade of Sword of the Crusader plunged deep into his belly. He he collapsed clutching his wounds I reached out for the Amulet of Kings and snatched it off of his neck.

As soon as Mankar Camoran had drawn his final breath his palace, and indeed his entire world, began to crumble around me. I raised my shield above my head and attempted to weave through the falling debris but it was pointless. Whatever magic bound that realm to our Mundus had been broken and I found myself suddenly tripping over a table in the great hall of Cloud Ruler Temple and stumbling to the ground. I was back.

28May/170

80 Years of First Person

I was as surprised as anyone to hear that Battlefield 1 was, in fact, really fucking good. Battlefield Bad Company 2 was the last of the franchise I got into, avoiding Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 due to hearing about how shitty they were at launch. Yeah, I’ve heard Battlefield 4 has improved massively since then, but sometimes a bad launch is enough for me to pass over a game entirely. Still, Battlefield 1942 is easily one of my all time favorite online games, and one I have some amazingly fond memories of, and Battlefield 1 has, to some degree, rekindled a bit of what made me love the series in the first place.

Doing a little scouting for Lawrence of Arabia in BF1's single player campaign.
"Doing a little scouting for Lawrence of Arabia in BF1's single player campaign."

So what does it do so right? Well, first it has a fun mini-single player campaign that serves as a nice introduction to some of the basic systems of the game, such as flying a plane, driving a tank, riding a horse, and of course running around on foot. While not incredible, it’s presence is definitely appreciated. Next, the graphics and sound are just great: very epic, with detailed, varied environments, awesome particle effects, it’s exceedingly immersive, and I’ve been literally wowed by how intense being caught in the middle of the (frequently extremely chaotic) firefights can feel on more than one occasion as a result. Adding to that, the maps feel nicely dynamic thanks in large part to a return of the type of large scale destructible terrain/buildings we had in BC2, and then some, the introduction of behemoths, and a dynamic weather system. Absolutely great!

I admit I don’t play THAT much and outside of a couple of epic Rambo rounds and individual moments I’m not exactly a pro at the game. I’m usually either on foot (Support being my current preferred role due to a fondness of these old LMGs) or riding along in a tank most of the time. I really like the balance between infantry and vehicles, with tanks feeling intimidatingly tough but far from invulnerable as infantry, and capable for lasting a long time if played intelligently as a tank crew. Despite being sniped by a skilled bi-plane pilot or vaporized by a bomber on many occasions, planes also don’t feel like total ownage to be up against either. I still get owned by snipers way more often than I’d like, but the scope glint is quite helpful when you have the opportunity to exploit it.

The infamous B.A.R. in action.
"The infamous B.A.R. in action."

Outside of the occasional annoying sniper and/or artillery barrage ruining my day, one of the only things left to complain about how is how virtually everyone is running around with an automatic weapon - it definitely feels more like a World War II game to me most of the time, which has me daydreaming of a proper modern day sequel to Battlefield 1942. For the moment BF1 has totally unseated Planetside 2 as my go to online FPS, despite it not having nearly the pick up and play potential, given that a normal round of Conquest is going to take at least 20 minutes. Still, if I have 20-30 minutes free, I’m often compelled to jump into a game of BF1 instead of playing anything else.

Speaking of playing something else, I finally got around to checking out indie darling Gone Home. Despite all of the flak it got for being a “walking simulator” the premise of a short, narrative, exploration based first person game was appealing to me. That, and I was familiar with Steve Gaynor, the designer, from his time with the Idle Thumbs crew and his work with Irrational.

WW1's massive tanks are quite a lot of fun too.
"WW1's massive tanks are quite a lot of fun too."

In case you’re somehow unfamiliar with Gone Home, the premise is that your character arrives at her family home after being away for quite some time to find it empty. As you begin poking around you start to find various clues as to what has been going on in the lives of your family members, particularly your younger sister, since you’ve been away. That’s essentially it, in a nutshell.

At first I was fairly underwhelmed by the game’s minimalist, oddly scaled graphics. For a game that takes place entirely within a single family home it seemed like the developers could have done a bit better with making this actually feel like a real house. Despite that, I soon found myself captivated by the mundanity and the mystery of it all.

Sifting through every unremarkable artifact of everyday life for some tiny clue as to what has been going on probably won’t sound captivating to anyone but the most perverse voyuers reading this, but enough of the old bills, letters, and notes you find are peppered with intriguing details that it somehow works. Soon you find yourself digging through every interactable object you can looking for a new clue, another answer. A storm rages outside, adding a creepy layer to the already slightly off-putting feeling of sneaking around in someone else’s house. If it weren’t for frequent references to your family and the game’s mid 90s setting, I might have felt like I was in some sort of film noir style detective game.

Gone Home looks even worse next to BF1, but don't judge a book by its cover.
"Gone Home looks even worse next to BF1, but don't judge a book by its cover."

As for that mystery, early on I found myself trying to figure out what question I was even trying to answer, and without spoiling too much, let me just say that I felt like I knew a lot about where Gone Home’s plot went from hearing about it on various podcasts and the like, yet I still found myself questioning what was REALLY going on up until the very end of the game. Unfortunately this wasn’t helped by the fact that I somehow managed to miss a giant portion of the narrative which made the end seriously confusing. Admittedly, I doubt many people had that issue, as if you follow all of the clues properly you’re going to be finding almost everything, and in the correct order, but it still frustrated my particular experience. Regardless, as it unravels the story feels incredibly intimate and personal, which is likely the game’s biggest single strength.

I’ll have to stop myself before I spoil anything and just say that if you think you’d enjoy a quick, exploration heavy game then it’s hard not to recommend Gone Home. There’s something special about the game that comes together to feel like more than the sum of its parts. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other, similar games in the future, including Fullbright’s next game, Tacoma.

Now it's Gwendolyn turn to put her adventuring hat on.
"Now it's Gwendolyn turn to put her adventuring hat on."

Finally, a quick update. While putting together my last post I discovered that King's Quest had a short Epilogue episode in which you play as Gwendolyn, Graham's granddaughter. The concept of passing Graham's spirit of adventure from onto Gwendolyn was a major point of the overarching plot of King's Quest, so a quick teaser episode that has you adventuring as her before a full on, follow up series is totally logical. What's less logical is that it is only available to those who bought the "Complete Collection" package, not to people who bought the episodes piecemeal or bought the season pass like I did. Lame, very lame. I had to settle for watching a walkthrough of it on YouTube. Thanks guys... 🙁