All posts by brian

Making Mistakes Online

I know MMO games are not really my thing. It doesn’t stop me from playing them.

It started with Everquest. I saw one of my friends in high school playing it and I thought it looked like nothing I’d ever played before. I bought my own copy. But I was in high school, and broke, and had a short attention span. I played it for all of a week under the 30 days of game time it came with, uninstall, and never played it again.

Since then I’ve picked up and played some Champions Online (free), a lot of Star Trek Online (free), some Guild Wars (one time purchase), some Guild Wars 2 (one time purchase), a little Star Wars: The Old Republic (free), a little World of Warcraft (free trial), and a lot of Elder Scrolls Online (one time purchase). I’ve never considered playing a subscription MMO since Everquest. I don’t count WOW as I was never going to pay for WOW, I just wanted to see what the fuss was about long after it was on the decline.

Final Fantasy XIV gets a lot of positive reviews though, and it’s a subscription MMO. Every time I’ve considered it, I’ve installed and played ESO instead. But ESO is bad. It’s just an ugly, dreadfully boring game. I call it my depression game because I can only play it when I’m depressed. I demand too much for my time to play it otherwise.

This time, though, I’m giving FFXIV a shot. It has a generous free trial. I can get the full game + a month of subscription for cheap if I enjoy it. And so far, maybe two or three hours in, I’m enjoying it.

The mistake here is that I could be playing any of the hundreds of games I already own. But here I am, starting an MMO that will takes hundreds of hours to “complete”.

The Quiet Man

When I was a teenager, a game called The Bouncer came out. It was an early PS2 game, when the PS2 desperately needed new games. But the reviews and chat around the Babbage’s was that The Bouncer was bad. Short, repetitive, linear. A good looking but dumb beat-em-up. I didn’t play The Bouncer, largely because of this reputation but also because I was pretty broke.

The Quiet Man is a The Bouncer for this generation. I should have treated it accordingly.

This game is a movie that you play. Half of it is cutscenes. The other half is a simple beat-em-up, except that the game does nothing to explain its own systems. How to fight, how to counter, how to finish a fight, none of that is explained at all. It’s also extremely cheap and frustrating. The button that dodges attacks will dodge right into the attack even if you’re pulling away from the punch. Some enemies seemingly can only be beaten with a special attack mode, but I couldn’t figure out what it took to trigger. Overall, terrible gameplay.

But half of the game is cutscenes, and these are all professionally shot. It’s not a bad looking game and blends well between cutscene and gameplay. But your character is deaf and the whole game is from his perspective. In a completely bizarre stylistic choice, you can’t hear anything. Every spoken word sounds like muffled harps. Even your own sign language isn’t captioned. You can’t do anything but watch a mostly silent movie.

You can’t skip cutscenes, even if you’ve already seen them. You can’t save mid chapter, and most chapters start with a long cutscene. Once you finish the game once, you can replay it with the actual dialog and sound back in. But you’ve suffered enough, really. Doing this twice is just cruel.

Do not play The Quiet Man.

Resistance 3

When I didn’t have a PS3, the Resistance series gave me a reason to want one. It’s my thing. A first-person shooter set in an alternate timeline where World War 2 is replaced with a fight against an invading alien species. But what really drew me in was the reviews for Resistance 3. It was compared to Half-Life 2 frequently. I played the two games before this so I could get to Resistance 3, and then I didn’t finish it. I guess I got distracted.

Here, almost 10 years post release, I am finishing this game. Were the comparisons to Half-Life 2 warranted? Maybe 10 years ago. But it comes up a little short on Half-Life 2. There are clear parallels here, with the focus on a journey to stop an alien invasion, and some of the levels are fairly comparable to each other, but Resistance 3 lacks some of Half-Life 2’s hallmarks.

Is it worth playing 10 years later? Sure. It’s easily my favorite of the three games. I didn’t finish the first, and the second was okay. Once I got really rolling in this one, I was having a hard time stopping. The last couple levels, though, really tried my patience. They’re some of the most action heavy and least forgiving. But in 2021, if you like PS3/X360 era first person shooters, Resistance 3 is one of the best. Play it while you can. The Resistance series apparently isn’t moving beyond this era of Sony console.

Support your independent creators

James Stephanie Sterling is a youtuber whose work I’ve been following for several years. They recently came out as trans-feminine non-binary. Since then, they’ve lost thousands of Youtube followers. Part of this is because Youtube’s algorithms routinely punish and de-value works from LGBTQ creators, and part of this is simply that bigots who are intolerant of Jim’s identity are leaving. As they say in this video, it’s a good thing their livelihood doesn’t depend solely on Youtube, because Youtube is a terrible platform. Without Patreon supporters, like myself, they’d be in a much worse position.

Likewise, May Leitz from the Youtube channel Nyx Fears also finds her videos being de-prioritized or hidden by Youtube’s algorithms. She put a lot of work into this touching and personal video about childhood neglect, and it’s gotten less views than a week-old video about her DVD collection. It’s sad.

In one of her videos, she started it with (paraphasing) “This video is sponsored by no one. Nobody is going to sponsor me. I’m a trans youtuber talking about weird horror. No one is going to pay me for that.” And she’s right. That was the day I subscribed to her Patreon. Corporations might be scared to sponsor a trans youtuber, and Youtube is definitely fucking with her videos, but I can throw her some of my money. I like what she makes and I want her to keep doing it.

Another Youtuber I love whose work isn’t completely supported by Youtube is Patrick H Willems. He makes fun, thoughtful videos about movies. He’s been connecting the last year+ of videos with a side story about an evil coconut. He’s going to dedicate a whole video to wrapping up the coconut storyline with a mini-movie. But instead of his youtube channel, he’s putting it on Nebula. He had to take to twitter to elaborate on that decision because some people were mad about it.

It’s pretty clear to me that Youtube isn’t enough. Maybe when you’re at the tippy-top it’s enough, but everyone else isn’t getting enough out of it, especially queer creators. So please, if you have a favorite youtuber, find ways to support them outside of Youtube. A couple weeks ago, Youtube recommended a Jon Tron video to me, and today they showed me a Prager U ad. This thing sucks and I’d sure love it if these folks could all make enough outside of Youtube to leave it entirely.

https://www.patreon.com/jimquisition
https://www.patreon.com/nyxfears
https://www.patreon.com/patrickhwillems

The End is Near

I think I’m coming to the end of my interest in continuing to play Fallout 76. Xbox tells me I’m just past the 49 hour mark, with maybe 10 of those being played before this most recent stretch.

This is a huge game and it lands in the same place for me as playing a solo MMO like Elder Scrolls Online. I can walk around this endless world and see the sights, read some stories, and barely interact with it. It consumes my time. Even though I’m having some fun with it, at some point I want to “finish” it. But that’s not the point of this game. The point is for me to play it forever.

I could go back to Nier Replicant and continue my Ending B run, but that’s turning into a bit of a chore. I know what needs to be done and I’m not looking forward to doing it. I’ve run out the fun in playing it.

I have The Quiet Man. I know The Quiet Man isn’t a good game. But I also know The Quiet Man is a short game. I can run through this bad game and get to an ending and feel that satisfaction in finishing something.

I’ve also gotten a sudden urge to complete Resistance 3. I never finished Resistance: Fall of Man. It was a bit too early PS3 for my taste, a bit too rough and boring. I did finish Resistance 2, but I had to check my PS3 trophies because I sure don’t remember that at all. It’s a bit funny or sad that the Resistance games didn’t get caught up in the wave of reboots, remakes, restarts on PS4 or PS5. I think of them as kind of a tentpole of Sony exclusives that kept the PS3 going, but it seems they were less important to the platform than I thought.

Where do I go?

I’ve been playing way too much Fallout 76 lately. It’s really weird coming into it the way I did. I started it a couple years ago, stopped playing without making much progress, and now I’ve come back in. The game has received several large scale updates, including an update that put human NPCs into it.

Yes, in the before times of Fallout 76, there were no humans. Just robots, mutants, and monsters. Putting humans into the game is a big deal. There are friendly people and non-friendly people. Settlements and raider camps. None of this stuff existed before.

The problem is that these additions put in more quests and stuff to do. But I’m neither coming in brand new, nor coming in having played this to the end. I hit a bit of a wall with the main original storyline by walking into a boss fight that I was way too low level to finish. But now what? Side quests? I stumbled around a lot to find out that the Wastelanders update brought in a different low level quest storyline. So now I’m following those quests.

I’m not mad really, because I did a lot of side stuff in the mean time, but I wish a game like this would do a better job of communicating what I should do next. The Division 2 had that figured out. There’s a page that tells you what to do next. Fallout 76 has something like that for daily and weekly challenges, which seem largely directed at people who have done everything. But it needs that for people like me who get a wild idea to play a bunch of Fallout 76 after putting it down shortly after launch.

“I have to kill Evan”

Spoilers for Fallout 76.

“I’ll make dinner as soon as I finish this. I have to kill Evan.”

“Evan?”

“Yeah, Evan. Evan is the Overseer’s high school sweetheart. When they finished high school, she went to the Overseer school and he went to the mines. When it came time to enter the vault, she could have brought Evan with her but she didn’t. There were many more qualified people to save, so she waived her spousal exception. When the vault opened, she came to the mine to find him. Turns out he’s a mole man, or some kind of mutant.”

“Okay.”

I enter the area marked “Kill Evan”. I unbar a door and open it. Behind the door is a feral ghoul, whom I shoot right in the face with a shotgun. Evan dies immediately. An achievement pops. I absolutely lose my mind laughing.

“Wait, was that it? It took you longer to explain who Evan was than it did for you to kill him.”

“Yep. I killed Evan.”

Rebellion

Star Wars: Rogue One might be the best Star Wars movie. It’s only a maybe because it hits harder when you have something to compare it to, like the original trilogy. It’s showing an entirely different side of the rebellion, and it’s a side that’s sorely missed from those movies. Spoilers below.

Rogue One has rebels who are rebels. Saw Gerrera is a rebel that makes the rebellion uncomfortable. His fight on Jedha isn’t just moving pieces on a board. They’re getting their hands dirty and it looks so much different from the rebels in the rest of the movies. Sometimes rebellion is ugly.

When the rebellion learns about the Death Star, a lot of leadership doesn’t believe in it and won’t commit to stopping its construction. Imagine how differently A New Hope plays out if the rebels don’t have a plan to stop the Death Star because they don’t believe it exists until it’s built and blowing up Alderaan. The rebellion commits to stealing the Death Star plans because a handful of rebels believe in the Death Star’s threat and go off to try to stop it.

It also shows different sides of the force, and conflict within the empire. It’s just so compelling to see what this universe looks like from the side of people who aren’t The Chosen.

The Wasteland

Something about having a crappy time playing Fallout 76 in XCloud made me want to play it on Xbox One X.

I’ve actually owned an original disc copy of this game for quite a while. I got it for less than free. Amazon was doing a special where you could get the game for something like $5 and get a $10 gift card with it. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to turn $5 into $10.

When I first started playing it, a couple months after launch and fully aware of its issues, it didn’t grab me. The wasteland is empty. There’s nothing out there but bots and ghouls. I don’t even think raiders were in the original release. I didn’t play it much because there wasn’t a lot to it. Base building, survival, exploration, and listening to audio logs.

A couple years later and I’m still not super into it, but there are people out there now. I’ve got something like three or four main quests to follow. Some side quests that are pretty long. I don’t think I’ve run into a human player yet, but they exist somewhere.

In a lot of ways, Fallout 76 reminds me of Elder Scrolls Online. Big microtransaction store. Time killer. Too big.