Sunday, August 13, 2017

No Man's Sky 1.3 - again with the galaxy regeneration?

Roughly a year post-initial-release, there's a new major update for No Man's Sky, so I had to check it out.  Note that I didn't bother posting about the 1.2 patch when it came out... yeah, bases and cars, woohoo, these don't support my space hobo-ing in any meaningful way.  This time though, they added some story and sidequest elements to the game... and apparently due to that, they had to regenerate the galaxy once again.

Mind you, last time they regenerated the galaxy, I wasn't exactly pleased or impressed either... but this time definitely showed why holding off until they're done mucking about with the game would be a good idea.  Finding myself booted to the current system's space station wasn't a terrible thing, but then I checked out my base (which I had to build in order to get the techs necessary to gather "advanced" materials needed to improve/repair my ship).  What once was a lush planet with little if any ill effects was now suffused with radiation... and, whether due to that or due to other factors tied to the latest patch, all the personnel I had brought on were gone.  Now, I could have deconstructed that base, found somewhere else to host it, gone through all the associated hassle... but I decided that a fresh start was in order, especially since I figured the new story bits probably tied in to the early game experience more than anything else.

So, a new start, and thereby a proper introduction to some of the systems that had been added to the game over all the patches (like Signal Boosters to help find things like mineral deposits you had to identify visually previously, and special slots on your ships dedicated to tech improvements), as well as more regrettable changes (like Mining Lasers not being standard kit on ships any longer, making survival in space combat decidedly more tricky).  I even got into some of the story bits, I think (likely leading up to the tech needed for one of the enhancements this go around, the possibility of limited co-exploration with friends).  Frankly, though, a lot of the changes I've seen seem aimed at padding out or slowing down playtime (why just let the player discover a tech from a damaged bit of gear found on the planet's surface, when we can have them do a repair (using minimal goods) to collect nanites to buy techs from traders on the space stations at different cost/faction rank limits?), so I wouldn't be too enthused about pursuing the game seriously at this point, especially if there are more major patches planned.

Except... whether it's due to engine improvements or my getting a beefier graphics card than I had at launch, I can now play this game over my Steam Link on my living room TV.  Grinding away at my PC for hours on end doesn't appeal much any longer, but an hour or three on the couch, as an alternative to other games I can do similarly with, that works for me with the pace of this game.  So, yeah, it's back on my radar for the time being.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

So long, Raptr

Long-time readers might notice that something's missing from the right-hand side of the page... I had a play-time tracker there that tied to info collected by Raptr, which I found to be a fun and informative tool to show what really got my gaming attention.  Lately, however, their servers have been anything but stable, and, for all it was a free service, the annoyance factor just got to be too high.

For future reference then... while I did have multiple RPGs clocking in at over 100 hours each (including Skyrim, twice), the undisputed champion was Mabinogi, a free-to-play MMO with some interesting mechanics (enough so that I actually spent subscription-equivalent money with them while I was playing).  Someday, I'll be up for a proper MMO again... but there's simply too many new shinies out there in this Age of Entertainment to settle on one right now!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Spoilerriffic! Seafall, game 7

I'll keep it brief this time as well, since there weren't any "major" changes to speak of... but we're definitely getting closer to the next unlock.  Here's the rundown:
  • One more island was discovered, so all that's left are the two 12-spots and the 30-spot... and, currently, one more island in stock, I believe.
  • Of the leading trio, one of us had some terrible luck with the dice.  Otherwise, there might have been yet another island, and he might have stayed in close contention.
  • As is, the guy who was two points behind me is now two points ahead of me, thanks to some aggressive exploration of existing, lower-difficulty sites.
  • It could have been worse... the last round, I managed to complete my first colony (Gibraltar, king of the Kidney Stones), setting myself up for easier raids on the home territories and the mysterious Arch, if need be.  Unfortunately, the gent who got the first colony last game also managed to get a second built... so now there's three.  One more, and the path to the next unlock is open, and if he gets it, that'll likely trigger a milestone as well.
  • Finally, in the end, I managed to meet the main goal I set out with on this game... acquiring luck tokens to beat back some of the enmity I had accumulated in earlier games.  Once you get to a multi-winter game, the combination of The Grizzled Veteran and The Bosun is a fine way to pump your luck, and the various "every winter" upgrades and buildings aren't too shabby, either.
Oh, and one parting story... I know the line from Ghostbusters is "If someone asks you if you're a god, say YES!", but that didn't work out so well for one of our players.  Remember kids, gold doesn't make you a god, no matter how much of it you may have, as one of our number found out when he discovered the Temple of Bone (I believe it's called).

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Duolingo does Japanese now

Actually, Duolingo has been doing Japanese (on the phone app versions at least) for the past month or so... I decided to give it a go, see how it might fit in to my regular Japanese-learning regimen, that sort of thing.  My verdict:  it's... mostly OK, but I wouldn't recommend it as a primary source for learning the language.

The most obvious problem with this software is that it explains nothing.  At least from what I've seen so far, everything is taught through example, which is fine for most things, like basic nouns, verbs, and sentence structure, but doesn't necessarily serve well for "set phrases" that are roughly translated for the use they serve, without noting the actual translation that's just as valid... a good example would be いただきます, which I think gets translated as something like "let's eat" instead of "I (humbly) receive".  Of course, that may be the same sort of glossing over you see in introductory-level courses anyways, and at least this program actually teaches you the sound associated with individual characters (unlike some programs I've seen)... but then they introduce kanji into the mix early, without any warning that, oh by the way, these characters have multiple pronunciations depending, which isn't really helpful for students long-term, I wouldn't think.

The biggest problem I have with this program, however, is that sometimes it's Japanese is just wrong (from what I think I've learned so far).  I can understand why that might be, based on how I think they pursued their translation engine as a programmer, but that's doesn't excuse mis-teaching their users.  There are two main examples I can think of so far... first, instead of ではありません, I've seen them use じゃないです, which at least parses out alright, but strikes me as the sort of thing that might make a native speaker go "well, they're a foreigner, and they're trying, so it's OK".  A better example might be Duolingo's use of ほしい when you're saying someone else wants something (which you're basically not qualified to say with certainty, the correct version being ほしがる, which is more like they look like/seem like they want that something).

Those complaints aside, it is a good tool for drilling with and expanding your vocabulary, so at the price of free (with ads), it's worth using... but if you want to start learning Japanese, I would still suggest starting with Human Japanese, and maybe use Duolingo alongside... and listen to the dedicated Japanese program if you run into any conflicts between the two.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spoilerriffic! Seafall, game 6

So, yeah, this was a game that stretched over two sessions, but maybe the less said about it the better... the leader after the first session missed the second session, and most of the remaining players had some terrible luck.  The relevant stats, then:

  • No milestones claimed, and no new colonies established
  • Thanks to that, this was the first game to see two winter rounds
  • About an island's worth of exploration was performed on existing islands, leaving about another island's worth left (mostly on Overkill, since the native garrison there interferes with all endeavors, not just raids)
  • Two more tombs were completed, resulting in another tablet and the first relic of the game
  • There are still four open, attainable island slots... but I believe there are only two more islands available at the moment?
 End result:  one of the players tied for third pulled their own overkill maneuver, and I lost a little ground on the player in second... but not enough to actually drop out of first.  Currently, the three of us are all within 3 points of each other in overall score... but there are many games to go yet, and we won't be starting our next game until mid-July, courtesy of the 4th.  We'll see what fun unfolds then.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Steam discovery queue and related stats

Some time back, Steam decided to implement a "discovery queue", whereby they would present their customers with a daily selection of a dozen games (and now, other things like streaming videos), tailored to their tastes, with an eye towards tempting them with things they might like, but otherwise might never see.  Great idea in theory, and I've played along, checking out a batch of games on a more-or-less daily basis.  Steam says I've now been presented with over 10,000 different titles... sounds like a fine time to see how the idea matches up with reality!

First, the numbers... of those 10,002 items I've been exposed to, 4,151 I've rejected outright.  I think that illustrates how well tailored their recommendation engine is... and it's no surprise to me, really.  Their tool allows you to define tags you're not interested in.  For example, I've told it I don't care about any "VR" titles (because if there's one thing I hate, it's wearing goggles over my glasses), yet still they show up in my queue.

How about the positive results?  Well, at this moment, I have 66 games in my "wishlist", waiting for sales or an unexpected "dead zone" in my gaming desires to snatch up.  I have another 21 games in "early access" or otherwise "coming soon" that I'm following - I don't buy unfinished games (what with the bounty I already have and/or are finished and waiting in my wishlist), and that lets me keep an eye on promising titles and see who makes it to a properly finished game, and who gets abandoned or rushed out the door in an unfinished state.  As for actual purchases, I've currently got 445 games in my library, along with three pieces of non-game software and three series of streaming videos... at first blush, 4%+ sales might not seem like a bad thing, but those numbers also include games I purchased before this program launched, and games I bought through the Humble Bundle, where I've often picked up a game or two I wanted, along with 6 or 8 that I didn't care about, because, at a buck a piece or so, with proceeds going to charity, why not?  Side note:  you should look at the current Humble Bundle... I'd be all over it, if I didn't already own the games I care about in it.

I guess the takeaway here would be, if you haven't tried Steam's discovery queue, it wouldn't hurt to give it a go for a few days, but expect diminishing returns to set in quick.  Unless you're like me, that is... I find it entertaining in its own right, seeing some of the dreck people try to pass off as a worthwhile, playable game, never mind some of the straight-out weirdness you can find.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spoilerriffic! Seafall, game 5

Not a lot of new mechanics to reveal this time or anything... frankly, this will mainly be a sort of "victory lap" post, since I managed to not only win my first game, but also managed to take the overall lead in the standings.  There is one minor bit of mechanics and schadenfreude to enjoy, but we'll get to that.

We started the game with two partially-explored islands in play, so a fair deal of energy was devoted to further exploring those.  Personally, I intended to limit my militaristic exploits, in the interest of minimizing my fortune token expenditures, the better to buy down my on-board enmity at game end... but I also started out with a Pirate as my carry-over adviser, and being able to basically do a raid each year without generating enmity does help somewhat with that.  Beyond that, I fully intended to start collecting goods, the better to get a colony started, but turn order and finances effectively put that out of reach long enough that, by the time one of my opponents succeeded in building one (the only one this game), we were in a tight-knit pack midway to the target glory score.  From past experience, I knew the odds of succeeding at building a colony this time were very slim, so I cast about for something else useful to do.

...and there it was.  One of the milestones in play was set to trigger at getting 30+ gold from selling goods in one turn, and between different advisors and buildings, I worked out how to use my meager finances to get 10 gold each out of the three goods I had collected so far.  From reactions at the table, I'm pretty sure nobody even saw it coming until it was done, and I was launched ahead of the pack, two glory shy of the target.  There was some talk about trying to sink one of my ships to drag me back, but everybody pretty well shifted to "get some glory while the getting's good" mode.  Just as well for them... I spent most of the gold I got the turn prior on a 2-glory treasure, then padded my score by discovering an island (now officially named 'Overkill').  One of my competitors discovered another island that same turn, so next game is just going to be exploration mad.

Not everyone's final round plans went as well, though... the leader since the first game went for the seeming sure bet of exploring a tomb of the ancients (both prior successes had resulted in a tablet and glory equivalent to a milestone).  On his last turn, he succeeded flawlessly in his endeavor, and received... 45 gold, and no way to do anything with it this game, doubly painful since there's a "have 60+ gold in your treasury" milestone waiting to be claimed as well.  On the plus side (?), that result also didn't call for the closing of the tomb afterwards, so it will still be a draw as well.

So, yeah, loads of fun this time around (the more so for me, since I won and finally got an appellation for my leader, making her Princess Kitty the Vengeful).  On to the next game!