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Impression: Potion Craft

Potion Craft is one of the most brilliant gameplay experiences I have had in years.

The premise of the game is that you are a new alchemist moving into an inexplicably abandoned former alchemist house. As the title indicates, your job is to wake up, craft potions for townspeople, get paid, buy ingredients, experiment a bit, go to bed, repeat. Unlike a lot of other titles in this sort of storefront genre, there is no looming debt payment or other time constraint whatsoever. It’s just you, the ingredients, and a bit of alchemy.

It’s that very alchemical gameplay though that is so fundamentally brilliant and elegant and intuitive.

To craft a potion, you must move a potion icon around a map and land on a specific, potion-shaped effect. To move around the map requires you to place an ingredient into the caldron and stir. At the beginning, you start off with a limited amount of basic herbs and mushrooms. Hovering over each one reveals the properties of that ingredient, showing you where it will move the potion icon. What you will notice is that there is a sort of baseline distance you move, and then a further distance denoted by a dotted line. If that extra distance is desired, you must place the ingredient into a mortar and then pestle it as desired. Put the resulting mash into the caldron, stir, and repeat until you reach your destination.

Everything about this is so deliciously analog. When using the mortar & pestle, you do not have to grind things up fully – you can choose to stop at almost any pixel distance. Additionally, the quality tier of the potion is dependent on how close you end up overlaying the potion icons. Just touching? Tier 1. More than half? Tier 2. If you want Tier 3 though, you start slowing way down, grinding herbs just so, stirring the caldron ever-so-slightly, and diluting the mixture with water (which moves the icon back towards the center of the map) drop by drop. Until, until… ahh. Perfection.

What continues to amaze me is how… correct all of this feels. The alchemical map starts off nearly blank, and you explore its boundaries by experimenting with what herbs you have available. Finding a new potion effect on the map is exciting because you don’t know what it is until you brew it. Thankfully, Potion Craft does allow you to save custom recipes (limited by magic paper you purchase) so you don’t have to manually recreate every single potion every time. But as you help out your herb/mushroom suppliers, you get greater access to new ingredients that have different pathways. This then allows you to create the same potions with different (and usually) fewer total ingredients, improving the efficiency of your business.

Seriously though, I am deeply, deeply impressed with this gameplay. Indeed, I have spent the last three days trying to figure out if there is a term for what the designers have accomplished here, by so tightly marrying the concept of alchemy with this gameplay that embodies it. The closest I have gotten is “the opposite of Ludonarrative dissonance.” If you have better words for this, let me know.

Having said all this, I do want make an important distinction here: the gameplay is brilliant… but not necessarily engaging long-term.

There are a set of tasks that reward XP that sort of guide you through the general game, which is fine. But after about 8 hours, I have seen pretty much everything I imagine I will be seeing in Potion Craft. It is sometimes fun to realize you can use different herbs in novel ways to improve the efficiency of a recipe, but at the end of the day you are still selling a potion to a random customer for X amount of gold – once you have enough of a income stream, it doesn’t matter too much. And all that XP? It grants you Talent points which you spend to… improve the uncover distance of the alchemy map, increase bonus XP nodes on said map, and increase profit percentages. It’s a very shallow, closed loop.

There does appear to be an ultimate goal to create the Philosopher’s Stone, but it all seems kinda arbitrary. “Craft this precursor with these five potions, craft stage two precursor with these ten potions with an eclectic mixture of effects, etc.” This was all much less interesting than exploring the original map, trying to figure out how in the world you would make it past that obstacle, or figuring out that a potion which previously took 5 herbs to make can be done in two. The process novelty is very finite, in other words.

Be that as it may, I do commend the designers of Potion Craft and encourage anyone subscribed to Game Pass to give it a shot. It is a very unique, grokkable experience which is very rare these days.

End of Year: 2022 Edition

Just like 2021, except we all just gave up.

Workwise, I ended the year still at the same company but promoted to a more senior role. There have been a number of bonuses and raises offered company-wide, as management starts understanding that, yeah, this new labor market is here to stay. There are apparently some more raises in store for my specific department, but we’ll have to see how that pans out. Despite spending literally $15,000 in daycare this year, my family is doing perfectly OK. Which means I made it, I guess. My options trading and crypto are most definitely not making it, but I’m in a position where I can realize some losses and at least not pay taxes on the gains this year, while still having some upside exposure. It has to rally again someday, right guys? Guys?

Family is doing great. My kiddo is potty training like a champ.

Enough real life. Let’s talk games. First is the Steam lineup:

  • Meteorfall: Kromit’s Tale
  • Black Book
  • FAR: Lone Sails
  • My Friend Pedro
  • Per Aspera
  • Borderlands 3
  • Before We Leave
  • Raft
  • Necromunda: Hired Gun
  • Legend of Keepers
  • Despotism 3K
  • SOMA
  • Core Keeper
  • Satisfactory
  • Sigil of the Magi
  • Gordian Quest
  • Rimworld
  • DOOM (2017)
  • Cardpcalypse
  • Slay the Spire
  • Noita

Although many of the games don’t necessarily have a defined “win state” (and many are Early Access besides), realistically I only finished Meteorfall, FAR, Per Aspera, and Borderlands 3. It was especially egregious with games like SOMA, wherein I played to the first area where the first monster appears, Alt-Tabbed to see what happens if they get you, realized that there is an EZ-mode with no real consequences, and then never actually booted the game back up again. At the same time, I have been trying to embrace the whole “Spark Joy” Kondo-ism a bit more than in years past. Play games when they are fun, stop when they aren’t. Just a shame that games stop being fun before they’re over.

For the Epic Game Store:

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Everything
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake

I… think that’s literally it. And again, I only really finished FF7R from that list. Going forward, I think I’m going to have to start making a concerted effort to completely ignore side quests and such for the more open-world games. Or maybe not. Sometimes the sidequests end up being much more interesting than the main quest for a lot of those kind of games.

By the way, the Epic Store interface is still embarrassingly shitty in 2022. When I go to my library and choose “Sort by Recently Played,” I would expect the games to be sorted by, you know, how recently they were played. But they’re not. You can’t even have the games sort themselves by most played. Ugh.

For Game Pass:

  • Dreamscaper
  • Amazing Cultivation Simulator
  • Offworld Trading Company
  • Citizen Sleeper
  • Deathloop
  • Grounded
  • Sable
  • Metal: Hellsinger
  • Superliminal
  • Unsighted
  • Vampire Survivors
  • Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker
  • Loot River
  • Nobody Saves the World
  • Tunic
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • We Happy Few
  • Outriders

Once again, Game Pass is the de facto best place to try out games you wouldn’t otherwise play unless they were wedged in a random bundle. Of the list, Grounded was the clear winner here with a whopping 68 hours played… and I haven’t even beaten it yet. We’ll see if I ever pop back in.

For completeness’s sake, I also continued to play Hearthstone and Guild Wars 2 throughout 2022.

Looking at 2023, my goal is to actually sit down and play Red Dead Redemption 2, Disco Elysium, Death Stranding (played 7 hours and fell off), Chained Echos, Wildermyth, and… SOMA. Maybe Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Origins. And finish off Cyberpunk 2077 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. According to HowLongToBeat, that lineup is 256 hours all by itself (main stories only). Which is like 5 hours a week, so not unreasonable even if I pretend to be a responsible father figure. We’ll see.

I really enjoyed Void’s “Games of the Year” schtick over at A Green Mushroom, where there was a running tally of games played and how they sorted themselves over the year. I’ve always struggled with “justifying” creating a blog post about some of the random shit I try to play (e.g. Nobody Saves the World, Metal: Hellsinger, etc), even though personally I enjoy reading every single article by anyone still posting on my blogroll. So, heads up, there may be some experimentation with that format in 2023. Or maybe I just continue doing my own thing, which apparently continues to work.

Well, “work,” for given definitions of work.

…which I’m defining as being awesome. See you in 2023.

Citizen Sleeper

I appreciate a game that hits from an unexpected angle, and that’s why I appreciate Citizen Sleeper.

In Citizen Sleeper, you play as a “Sleeper”: an emulated mind in a biomechanical body, desperately fleeing the corporation that owns your total being. You awake in a shipping container, near broken, starving, and alone. Well… not quite alone. The scrapper who found you is hesitant, but allows you to work with him for some meager pay and sleep in the shipping container. From there, you attempt to build what little life you can from whatever you can cobble together.

For the most part, the game is essentially a visual novel with some “diceplay” bolted on. Each morning, you roll up to five dice depending on the condition of your body, and then choose what actions to spend those die on. The numbers on the dice you spend correspond to RNG outcomes associated with the actions – a 6 is always a 100% positive outcome, whereas lower numbers can be as poor as 50% neutral/50% negative. In this way, you have some measure of control over actions, even though things are random. However, since your condition dictates how many dice you have in the first place, this is definitely a “rich get richer” slash failure cascade mechanic. Especially considering how you must earn money to purchase food (starving results in condition damage), earn money to purchase the drugs that repairs condition damage (you decay each day), and negative results can sometimes lead directly to condition damage.

If that sounds stressful… that is kind of the point. Probably.

Once you manage to get a toehold somewhere though, the ramshackle space station begins to open up. You can start spending dice on things other than immediate needs. Start socializing at the neighborhood bar. Chat up the noodle vendor. Start helping the mercenary stuck in the docks. Maybe utilize your quasi-AI mind to dive into the abandoned corners of station. Each encounter adds a splash of color to the otherwise bleak setting, both emphasizing how alone everyone is and yet how much a helping hand can change one’s trajectory.

The unexpected hit I got from Citizen Sleeper was the understated poignancy of the many offramp endings. There are quite a few different endings you can focus towards, but the nature of the game sometimes passively (dice rolls) and actively (wait periods) prevents you from just mainlining them. Which leads you to perhaps explore some of the other stories and meet other kindred spirits. And so there I ended up at the precipice of one such ending, a simple Yes away from escaping my fate on the station… and realizing that in so doing I would be abandoning everyone I met. That particular ending was not Good or Bad – you are not a Chosen One, you have no preexisting connection or responsibility to anyone, and the station and its inhabitants would have just grinded on without you.

But I was there. I was making a difference for people I could touch. And so I chose to continue doing so.

Now, granted, I also was interested in getting all the various storylines fully maxed out before choosing a preferred ending. Yeah, I optimize even visual novels. HOWEVER! I did actually get a pang of melancholy there, despite the fact that I had copied the save file to a separate location so that I could choose other endings without having the play the game all over again. I never did though. I completed all the storylines and chose to stay behind, until it was time to go with the family I made over the course of the game.

Overall, I recommend giving Citizen Sleeper a try on GamePass.

Upcoming Game Pass List

A few weeks ago, Microsoft had a presentation regarding some of the upcoming Game Pass titles. As someone who ended up purchasing 12 months ahead at a steep discount – not quite the $1 deal, but way below market – this is relevant to my interests.

  • Grounded (full release)
  • Persona 3 & 4 & 5
  • Slime Rancher 2
  • ARK 2
  • Diablo 4
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
  • Starfield

Only typing out the ones that interest me makes it seem… well, not as many.

Nevertheless, I continue to appreciate Game Pass insofar as it removes any convoluted parsimony when it comes to titles large or small. For example, I had Hardspace: Shipbreaker on my radar for a while. No dilemma about whether to have bought it for cheaper in Early Access – been playing it for hours for free*. Same with Grounded, which is a survival crafting game right in my wheelhouse. Then you got the larger titles like Starfield, STALKER 2, and Diablo 4. The latter of which was surprising until, oh yeah, Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard.

Not saying Game Pass is worth subscribing for everyone. I have literally 22 games installed right now though, not counting what I’ve played this year or the larger titles I know I don’t have time for.

But you know what? Let’s make that list. Here is what I have installed:

  • Citizen Sleeper
  • Death’s Door
  • Dreamscaper
  • Eiyuden Chronical: Rising
  • FAR: Changing Tides
  • Firewatch
  • Grounded
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker
  • Infernax
  • Loot River
  • Nobody Saves the World
  • Octopath Traveler
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Sable
  • Skul: the Hero Slayer
  • Solasta: Crown of the Magister
  • Superliminal
  • TUNIC
  • Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion
  • Unpacking
  • Unsighted
  • Vampire Survivors
  • We Happy Few

I have only played the ones underlined. There’s a risk of leaving so many unplayed in that games frequently leave the service, unlikely to return. At the same time, there are only so many hours in the day. Plus, if I wanted to play something, would I really have let it sit on my hard drive for months?

…Yeah, actually, my preferences are whimsey-based more than anything. Whatever. I’m working on it.

Stand with Ukraine Bundle

Humble Bundle has a new mega bundle for $40 with all of the proceeds going to Ukraine relief. Since I was browsing through the list anyway, here are what stands out:

  • Satisfactory
  • Metro: Exodus Own
  • Sunset Overdrive Game Pass
  • This War of Mine Own
  • Slay the Spire Own/Game Pass
  • The Long Dark Own/Game Pass
  • Ring of Pain Own/Game Pass
  • Starbound Own/Game Pass
  • Supraland Game Pass
  • Wizard of Legend
  • Vagante
  • Wargroove
  • Warsaw
  • Superhot Own
  • Pathway Game Pass

The above aren’t all the games, just the ones I would have been interested in. For example, Back 4 Blood Game Pass is one of the “headliners” but I have no interest in Left 4 Dead-esque games these days.

As you can see though, a large number of these games are currently available via Game Pass. While pure value isn’t the purpose of the bundles, I do think it’s worth pointing out that this will be much more heavily weighted on the donation side of things. That said, a few of these games – like Starbound, for instance – are better off in a more permanent library where you can easily mod them. So there’s that.

Humble Choices

You would be forgiven for not following the changes to the Humble Choice subscription, as it has gone through a number of iterations over the years. The latest move was to basically do away with all the previous nonsense of four tiers and go back to “pay $12 for X games.” I mean, it was clever of them to crank up the FOMO in canceling your Classic subscription, knowing it would cost you 60% more a month if you came crawling back. But unfortunately for them, that coincided with both a dearth of worthwhile bundle offerings and blistering competition from Game Pass and Epic Store (to an extent).

Seriously, looking at my Humble account, the last bundle I actually purchased was in April 2020. I maintained my Classic subscription this whole time by “Pausing” it each month, in the hopes I would find something worthwhile next time. I forgot to pause it like six times overall, but requested and received refunds each time. Not everyone bothers though, and that is why companies pull this shit.

Ironically, due to the changes, I was actually feeling good about finally canceling the subscription altogether instead of constantly pausing. The sweeteners that Humble are adding to keep people subscribed… don’t quite it hit the mark. Unless the mark was my face, in which case it slapped.

Previously, if you were an Active subscriber in the Classic/Premium tier, you had a 20% discount in the Humble Store. Pause a month and you lost that discount, but it went back to 20% if you actually bought a particular month’s bundle. Now there is a loyalty system in which consecutive months of subscribership are necessary to reach the 20%. Crucially, if you pause/skip a month, the discount resets to the lowest level (10%). Buy 11 months in a row but not feeling the 12th? Back to 10% for you.

Granted, some of this concern is moot. The only game I have ever directly bought off the Humble Store was Rimworld, precisely because the devs never let it go on sale, thus getting a discount via storefront was worthwhile. However, over the intervening years other storefronts (GMG, Fanatical) have better/comparable discounts without the hoops.

Humble is also introducing a standalone app that will let you play a small assortment of Humble-owned games as long as you are subscribed. Many of these are already on the Game Pass or given away for free on Epic. This is in addition to the “Trove” of DRM-free games that you could download and keep playing forever afterwards. Neither of which seem particularly compelling considering you could probably just subscribe for a month, get your fill, and be done. A Game Pass this is not.

That said… I might actually comp this month:

Black Book is a deck-building whatever, so I’m in; Per Aspera is another Mars building sim; Everhood is an Undertale-esque rhythm game; Calico is cats; Before We Leave and Paradise Lost are probably good for an evening.

Then we have Borderlands 3, which I have mixed feelings about. Loved BL2, bounce on Pre-Sequel after 18 hours, and otherwise feel that the particular sub-genre the franchise belongs to has been supplanted. Seriously, I’m not sure how you can play a looter-shooter with bullet-sponge bosses anymore without, you know, a dodge-roll or something. Does BL3 have dodges? If not, I’m going to struggle a bit. And that’s besides the logistical point that the game has two Season Passes worth of DLC on top. Some people have mentioned that there isn’t a “complete the bundle” option for BL3 on Steam, so it might end up being more expensive buying it via Humble and then buying the DLC.

Then again, what use would DLC be if I never make it through the base game?

Anyway. I have until the end of the month to waffle on whether Humble deserves my $12. This is certainly an improvement on the last two years of offerings, but time will tell how they follow up. Or if they can follow up, given how much goodwill they burned up to this point between the multiple tier nonsense, the poor game bundles, and pulling the rug from out under legacy subscribers.

MFST and ATVI Sitting in a Tree

… M E R G I N G.

Sorta. More like Activision Blizzard being bought by Microsoft for about $70 billion. You already knew that though, because your news feed was probably about as filled as mine was yesterday. And now I’m adding this one to the pile. At least I went with a different title, eh?

There are really just two thoughts I wanted to examine, and leave everyone else with the more mundane (IMO) details.

First, this does interesting things for Game Pass. From the Microsoft article:

Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.

Will we really see the next Call of Duty come out as a Day 1 Game Pass release? The franchise has been a cash cow forever, and almost never sees a discount of any appreciable amount. It’s a given that Overwatch will be on there. Probably Diablo 2 Resurrected, along with all the StarCrafts.

But… what about WoW?

My guess is that WoW will remain off of the Game Pass, assuming the merger occurs. It’s cute to imagine the possibilities of a Game Pass subscription taking the place of a WoW subscription, but The Elder Scrolls Online is not currently on the PC version of the Game Pass, and maintains its separate subscription option even for consoles (according to this). Then you would have issues with what happens with WoW Tokens and game time. EA Play is currently included as a free bonus in Game Pass, but that is more of a general subscription service and not something for a specific game.

The second thought came from Tobold’s take on the news:

My take on it: They overpaid. Whatever made Blizzard great back then is gone, and they pay big money for a rather empty shell.

As pointed out by others, Blizzard is really the third wheel to the cash motorcycle that is Activision and King. Blizzard ain’t nothing, but they clearly weren’t the draw here.

It does raise an interesting point about studios and rockstar talent though. Is the current state of Blizzard, and WoW specifically, due to the immense brain drain of talent over the past few years? Greg Street in 2013, Chris Metzen in 2016, Mike Morhaime in 2019, Michael Chu in 2020, Jeff Kaplan in 2021, and Alex Afrasiabi. The last one was a bit of a joke… but do we actually know what he contributed (beyond sexual harassment)? We would hope nothing, but there are certainly plenty of examples of famous artists with fantastic output that we then pretend is meaningless after finding out how awful they are IRL. Mel Gibson, Keven Spacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Louis CK, and so on.

Don’t be too smug – Joss Whedon is next, by the way.

Comment bait aside, it’s an open question as to whether WoW can, literally, ever be as good as it was (to us) again. Was it only ever good because of these specific frat boys in this specific Cosby room? Shadowlands represent a new low from a narrative standpoint, and Blizzard’s “reinvent the wheel every patch” systems floundering looks especially amateurish as the flagship burns. Many games are a product of their time, groundbreaking because they broke ground first. So there’s a time, a place, and then there’s specific people too. Can it actually ever be recreated with competent, nameless devs?

I suppose the existence of WoW Classic is a testament to the bones remaining solid, for at least X amount of people. And the present state of FF14 proves that MMOs can still thrive and grow its playerbase years later. But can the latter’s success be attributed to the committee of devs that surely exists, or to specific rockstars like Yoshi-P, aka Naoki Yoshida? Would a hypothetical acquisition of FF14 be moot if it did not include him?

I don’t know. A lot of this may be Survivorship Bias – these individual devs are famous because their games were successful and they made themselves the face of it. Who is the face of Hades? Or Doom? Or GTA5? But perhaps in the final tally, having the right person in the right place at the right time does make all the difference.

And then you get bought by Microsoft for $70 billion.

End of Year: 2021 Edition

Just like 2020, but with a little extra.

Aside from the still-raging pandemic, this has been a rather banner year, personally. Had some grueling work projects to grind through, but where they have passed, only I remain. For now. I’ve applied to some other places that are paying 30% more for the same job description. I’ve also taken up options trading as a side hustle, mainly because I got lucky with GME in January and now I’m an expert. I beat the S&P500 this year but also spent considerably more time developing ulcers in the process, so who knows with that. Think I might stick with something easier, like cryptocurrency.

Family is doing great.

Now, it’s time for what you really care about: my personal gaming habits for the year. First, Steam.

  • Chasm
  • Valheim
  • Battle Brothers
  • Card Hunter
  • Trials of Fire
  • Dead in Vinland
  • Tangledeep
  • Ring of Pain
  • Raft
  • Dishonored 2
  • Fate Hunters
  • ARK
  • Dreamgate
  • Dicey Dungeons
  • Dream Quest
  • She Remember Caterpillars
  • Undertale

A bit more than the seven games I played last year, but many were kind of one-and-done. Or perhaps more accurately “tried-and-dropped.” One of the standouts is Valheim, which continues to get updates. I have not played any more Valheim since I stopped though, and I am content to wait until its full release (whenever that is) before paying attention again. I was also very impressed with Trials of Fire, but perhaps not enough to play it again after sinking 13 hours into it. Really liked Ring of Pain too.

Next is Epic:

  • Celeste
  • Axiom Verge
  • Ape Out
  • Magic: Legends
  • Pathway
  • God’s Trigger
  • Outward
  • Crying Suns
  • Crashlands
  • Hades
  • Griftlands
  • Tharsis
  • Faeria
  • Borderlands: the Pre-Sequel
  • Death Stranding
  • Loop Hero
  • Inscryption

Epic’s twice-yearly $10 coupon insanity is finally driving me to spend more time in their ecosystem than any others. That and all the free games, but the coupon really sells the sales. I’m presently splitting my time between Loop Hero and Inscryption, with both being rather fun. Hades won all sorts of awards, but I was content with just beating it once. Griftlands was compelling for a time, even above other decking-building roguelikes, but it’s hard to stay as engaged when an average run is 7+ hours. Death Stranding is on the list for getting more attention, and I suspect I am still in the tutorial even after three hours of Amazon Prime deliveries hauling literal garbage around the haunted landscape.

Finally, we have Game Pass:

  • Monster Sanctuary
  • Neoverse
  • Star Renegades
  • Greedfall
  • Supraland
  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Second Extinction
  • Frostpunk
  • Slime Rancher
  • Monster Train
  • Halo: Master Chief Collection
  • Grounded
  • Control
  • Solasta: Crown of the Magister
  • Atomicrops
  • Curse of the Dead Gods
  • Library of Ruina
  • Medieval Dynasty
  • Subnautica: Below Zero
  • Into the Pit
  • Tainted Grail: Conquest
  • The Riftbreaker
  • One Step from Eden
  • Crown Trick
  • Unpacking

Laid out like that, were the 25 listed games worth $120ish to access during the year? Eh, maybe. Looking back, it’s clear that I got more overall value in 2020. Then again, presuming that I would have paid to play some of these games, I probably did end up saving money overall. In any case, some of these games will be on the 2022 list as they receive updates and/or I get around to focusing on them.

I am tempted to entertain the notion of identifying a Game of the Year out of the ones I played… but nah. Hades would certainly be a safe bet and conform with all the critics. It’s good and I certainly see the argument. Looking at what actually impressed me though, are games like Valheim and then stuff like Ring of Pain, Inscryption, and so on. I don’t usually play relevant games in the year they release, so it’s kind of a futile exercise anyway.

The gaming goals from last year:

  • Continue working on the Steam backlog [Yes]
  • …but don’t get bogged down with mediocre games [Absolutely yes]
  • Maybe buy a Switch. For the wife. [Nope. Probably not even in 2022]
  • (Re)Play through the Halo games via Master Chief Collection [Did Halo Reach]
  • Give FF14 another shot [Didn’t, and now couldn’t anyway]
  • Resist the urge to buy a new gaming PC [Success!]

I don’t see much of a point in identifying gaming goals for 2022, and this post is plenty long anyway. What I anticipate happening is buying a new prebuilt PC – prebuilt due to graphics card shortages and not being super comfortable replacing motherboards/CPU – getting a new monitor, and otherwise sprucing up my battlestation. After that, I’ll pick up Cyberpunk, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Red Dead Redemption 2 for $15-$20 apiece from the Epic summer or winter sale, depending on when a value prebuilt come available. Then, I will bask in the glory of #PCMasterRace or cry in an empty wallet.

Here’s to another year of running my mouth. And thanks for listening.

Downsides to PC Gaming

Sometimes shit just doesn’t work.

Outriders is one of the games I had an eye on, and thus was pretty thrilled when I saw it pop up on Game Pass. Downloaded it and tried to play. Emphasis on tried. Game crashes 100% of the time on the title menu. After Googling a bit, find out that this is a fairly widespread issue with a lot of voodoo workarounds. Someone noted that crashing is common if you haven’t updated your video card drivers.

OK, cool, let’s update some drivers.

Welp… maybe not. My current driver is from a year ago, but Nvidia appears to not be able to update it. I first got the helpful error message during the October/November patch and decided to wait for the next patch to see if that one would work. New patch indeed came out in December but it gives me the same error.

In the spectrum of potential PC nonsense, this issue is very mild. And I may very well may be able to find some workaround or another to get past the roadblock if I want to dedicate 2-3 hours to doing so. But I don’t. At least, not for now, not for Outriders.

What Do I Really Want?

Specifically: what do I really want to buy with money?

Short answer: I dunno.

Long answer: buckle up.

The other night, I spent literally 40 minutes agonizing on whether I was going to buy 2000 discounted gems in Guild Wars 2. The agony was specifically derived from the fact that there was a 20% discount on Shared Inventory Slots, but only for one day. Discount of a discount is a great deal, yeah? The way the math worked, I could buy 3 Shared Inventory Slots for about 1500 gems, then combine the leftover gems with an upcoming 400 free gems I was earning for hitting 5000 in-game achievement points and then buy a 800 gem Character Slot. Best of all worlds!

Alternatively, I could not buy Shared Inventory Slots at all and just get three Character Slots with the same gems. Which got me thinking: “what’s the actual value to me of… any of these things?”

A Shared Inventory Slot is what it sounds like: a slot that is shared across all of your characters. I have two of them currently, as one comes with each expansion. Right now, the first slot is filled with a gem-store item that basically disenchants gear. That’s helpful when cleaning up all the random crap gear you get showered with in this game. The second slot used to have a portal scroll to the most effective farm area (Bitterfrost). I now have it filled with the Quartz resource, as I use my alts to farm 10 Quartz at a specific area, then log into my main and turn 25 of that Quartz into one Charged Quartz, which is a time-gated crafting material for goods down the road. All of which is convenient, but not particularly exciting.

So what would I even do with three more? Don’t get me wrong, those slots would get filled with something of marginal utility. There’s a neat “positional rewinder” item you can get to help with Jumping Puzzles, for example. But I’m not using my alts for Jumping Puzzles. In fact, right now, I’m not playing my alts at all, beyond the 30 seconds of farming Quartz. I’m really focused on the “Return To X” achievements, both for the rewards and the fact that I actually never played some of these Living World stories. So even in the case of Character Slots, it is not as though I would be utilizing them right away. So maybe I just don’t buy anything at all.

“Besides, there is so much more I could buy for $20-$40.”

That thought got me down another rabbit hole. Because… is there anything else I want to buy? Surely, yes? I have 44 items in my Steam Wishlist, for example. But even with deep, current discounts, I have had zero compunction to purchase any of them. About the closest ones are Wildermyth, Red Dead Redemption 2, Disco Elysium, Horizon Zero Dawn, and some random assorted Roguelikes and Early Access Survival (redundant, much?) games. But would I really stop my current routine to play them immediately? And if I didn’t, what are the odds they would end up on the Game Pass by the time I did?

Yes, folks, Game Pass really has broke me. Know what the final straw was? Dicey Dungeon.

I really had not played a single game on Steam throughout all of August and September and most of October. Then I bought Dicey Dungeons on October 24th for about $5. Played it about 3-4 hours. Guess what showed up on November 11th? Yep.

“It’s just $5, who cares?” It’s the principle. I already have hundreds of purchased games I’m not playing, on top of free* games I’m not, to be buying more. Although I guess in this case I actually did play it right away, so whatever. The principle!

This journey of self-flagellation did reveal something a bit deeper to me. Namely, that I can’t really answer the question in the title. I’m apparently actively avoiding spending money in Guild Wars 2, I don’t want to buy games on sale lest they become free on Game Pass, but I’m also not particularly saving towards anything either. I mean, I’m not a mindless consumer that feels as empty as my shopping cart. But is that also a proxy thought to not looking forward to anything? What am I excited about? It was going to be Battlefield 2042, honestly, but it plummeted to the the top 10 worst-reviewed games on Steam within two days of release.

So, yeah. I got nothing. Or maybe just gaming ennui.