Skyrim Special Edition

Bethesda yesterday released Skyrim: Special Edition, which if you already owned Skyrim and its three DLC items, you got for free. For consoles, it’s a big upgrade in terms of graphics, but on the PC the baseline Skyrim:SE edition looks significantly worse than a highly modded version of the older Skyrim. That’s not a big surprise to me, but based on the Steam forum, it is for many.

The important part of this new version for PC players is that the core engine is now 64bit, and that shadows have been significantly improved. Why is this important? Because 64bit means far more memory for mods, meaning bigger and hopefully better mods overall. Mods already do some incredible stuff in Skyrim, and expanding on that capability is an exciting prospect. Shadows were something mods had trouble fixing due to engine limits, so those being made better out-of-the-box is important. Plus my guess is most Skyrim players already had all the DLC, so this is literally a free upgrade.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be starting up a new game just yet (I did watch the intro sequence to get a taste of the graphics), but once mods catch up and start to crack into the full potential of the SE, I likely will. Skyrim overall is fantastic, and I wouldn’t mind another go with it ‘soon’.

Edit: One issue I have however, no 3440×1440 support. Seriously how do you release an upgrade to a game engine and not support ultra-wide monitors?

Posted in The Elder Scrolls Online | 3 Comments

EVE: Carrier has arrived

A few days ago I finally joined the big kids club and purchased a carrier in EVE. The only step up left now would be joining the cool kids club and getting a super carrier or titan.

Flying a capital is an interesting experience. The game does a good job of making you realize you are in a large ship, with it turning slow, flying slow, and generally being a large slow-moving monster. Carriers also have the new fighter mechanic, which is different from the other weapon systems in EVE in that you have multiple options for your fighter drones (normal weapon, utility, and special weapon), and the fighters need to reload the special weapon by being told to fly back to the carrier. It’s a bit more interact, which is always nice in EVE.

The hull itself cost 1.5b ISK off contract in Delve, and then another 1b or so was spent to fit it out (not super bling fit, but not all basic T2 either). I don’t remember exactly how much all of the skill books cost, but I think that was at least 500m or so ISK as well, so the overall investment is a good step up from even the bling-fit Rattlesnake (around 1.5b total cost).

Ratting in the carrier is pretty ridiculous compared to even my bling-fit Rattlesnake though. The tank is so strong that you don’t even think about the damage coming in regardless of what site you are running, and even with tech 1 fighters (tech 2 in a few weeks), if you have all of them on one battleship rat and they use the special attack, the rat almost instantly melts. Perhaps even better, the fighters can also track rats as small and hard to hit as elite frigates, so not only are you not worried about your tank, you also aren’t worried about any specific rat being a problem to kill.

So far my ticks (20min) are between 30-40m ISK, and the carrier clears sites so fast that the MTU and the cleanup Noctis can’t keep up. To solve this, I’m now using a second MTU off the carrier. First site the Noctis will drop its MTU once the carrier mostly clears the first wave, and once the site is cleared of all rats, the Noctis will fly back in for cleanup. The carrier flies to the next site and drops its own MTU there. Once the second site is finished, the carrier picks up its MTU (leaving the site about halfway cleaned up in terms of pulling in wrecks) and flies off to a third site. Once the Noctis finishes the first site, it will warp to the second, drop it’s MTU, and finish looting/salvaging the site. The carrier will finish the third site by the time the Noctis finishes cleaning up the second, so one site out of three is left with wrecks/loot on the field (generally 10m ISK in value assuming no rare Dark Blood rat spawns).

Playing both accounts like this isn’t too bad, but having the larger monitor is a huge help here. In terms of clicks, because most of the time the Noctis is waiting for all of the wrecks to be pulled in anyway, I don’t need to target and salvage wrecks asap to keep up. The carrier account requires more attention, but clicking away for the few seconds needed with the Noctis doesn’t have a big impact.

The faster clear time per site also means more chances to get a rare spawn, or an escalation, which I sell off to our escalation running group for what has so far been an average of 100m ISK per escalation for an extra 10 minutes of work (fly to the escalation site, create bookmark, create contract). Overall, I think casually ratting with the carrier will get me into a super carrier somewhat soon, though from a skills perspective I’ve still got a few months of training just to top off the required carrier skills to join capswarm (Goons capital group), and then the super carrier has its own set of skills for its larger fighters.

Having the skills to join capswarm will also mean I can officially bring my carrier on PvP fleets and qualify for SRP. I’m looking forward to that, but the time between now and that point will be nice to just get a feel for the carrier and its mechanics prior to putting it in a hostile situation. I don’t think I’ll be using my carrier for Incursions unless we get an incursion within jump range of our home base in Delve.

My alt is also currently training to fly a FAX (capital-class ‘healer’ ship), and once he has that, it will be another safety blanked for my carrier pilot (should hostiles tackle my carrier for some reason, my alt would be able to cyno in with his FAX and keep the carrier alive for a bit, giving allies more time to come and save me). FAXs are also used when we run Incursions, so that’s another nice bonus and income stream.

My only regret here is that prior to my last break, I trained up Caldari carrier to V, which kinda pushed me into the Caldari carrier (Chimera), which is not an ideal ratting carrier compared to either the Thanatos (Gallente) or the Nidhoggur (Minmittar) based on hull bonuses (the Chimera gets a bonus to shield resists, which is overkill for ratting. A boost to fighter dps would be much better, which is what both the Thanny and Nid provide). On the bright side, the Caldari super carrier, the Wyvern, has solid bonuses that makes training Caldari carrier to V more justified eventually.

Progress is being made, and new long-term goals (the Wyvern) are set. Life is good.


Posted in EVE Online, Goons | 1 Comment

Mordheim – The undead are here!

I’ve mentioned Mordheim: City of the Damned here before, and I want to mention it again today because the game just received its latest piece of DLC, the Undead warband. From just two battles, I can say I already love the Undead, minus the camera shake when zombies move (god I hope that gets fixed asap). The art style is great, the units feel new in terms of gameplay style, and there is a real sense of separation from the very powerful leader (Vampire) and the lowest-tier throwaway zombies.

The best thing about a new warband in Mordheim is that not only do you have a new bunch of units to play as, you also get a new warband to face in combat, and because warbands can have different unit compositions, that’s a lot more variety to the game. It also means you get a slightly different experience on the current maps, as the undead as a whole don’t exactly follow the movement and strategy of other warbands (generally slower, and less of a range focus).

The DLC is also a good reminder of how much better gaming is today than in the past. In the past, prior to DLC, perhaps something like this gets released for free (assuming we are talking internet-era gaming, if we are talking older than that, once a game shipped that was usually it, period), or maybe this and other stuff is part of one large expansion that takes far longer to develop. Today developers can stick with a game for a long time after release and still get rewarded for it (DLC money), while the players continue to have a game they like get better and better.

It also allows for games to start small, see if there is an audience for it, and then grow if enough people support the project. Mordheim started in early access, with four warbands and far more limited features. It now has six warbands, is feature-rich, and going strong. Good stuff.

Posted in RMT | 1 Comment

Civilization VI mini review

I’ve got 20+ hours of Civ VI under my belt now, which I feel is enough to have a good feel for it, especially since I already have plenty of experience with the series overall. Spoiler: Right now, Civ VI feels like a good baseline that needs 2-3 expansions to fully flesh out the game.

From a technical standpoint Civ VI is very solid. It loads up fairly fast, I haven’t had it crash yet, and even late into a game it doesn’t seem to suffer from the same kind of slowdown previous Civ titles were known for. I can’t say how well it performs on lower-end systems, but on my fairly high-end rig even at 3440×1440 FPS stay above 60.

A lot of Civ VI is also similar to Civ V, which for me is a good thing as I think Civ V is brilliant. If you however are expecting a very different experience, or you don’t want any changes to the Civ V formula, Civ VI is going to disappoint.

My biggest grip with the game right now is that it feels shallow. For example, at any era, there are generally only a few viable units for combat, and more often than not you have a simple three-unit setup of rocks-paper-scissors. Early game is the very familiar spearmen, archer, catapult army. New units come slowly, and rather than compliment, they often simple replace/upgrade what you already have.

The same can be said for city building. Districts are a great addition to the series, and do add some variety as well as future-planning gameplay. However within each district, you almost always have only one building to build at a time, and decisions/options are rare (in the military district you can decide between a building that boost mounted or ground units, but such choices are very rare). And while districts are a good addition, the fact that there aren’t that many of them compared to how many you can build in a city means that even those choices aren’t as major as they should be. Most large cities are going to have many of the same districts, so while your city build order isn’t going to be exactly the same, its not going to be as drastically different game-to-game as you might expect.

The result of this is that turns feel very basic and minimal, and the game just moves along almost on auto-pilot far more than in Civ V, especially if you aren’t at war. I didn’t expect to feel that sense of sameness nearly as quickly, but I do (on King difficulty right now, but I’ll be moving that up for the next game). As I wrote at the top, with a few expansions or sizable DLC additions, I think the formula will have enough meat to really be great, because the groundwork that Civ VI introduced is all really good.

Posted in Review | 10 Comments

Quick thoughts on Civilization VI

Sorry for the lack of posts around here, no excuse other than being lazy and nothing in gaming really jumping out to me and screaming “write a post!”.

Civ 6 is out, and I’ve played it a little this morning. So far I’m really enjoying it, from the graphics to the design changes. Its a bit early to tell, but right now I have a feeling Civ 6 is a solid step forward for the franchise, changing enough to feel new, but keeping the spirit of the series alive. More about it next week once I have some solid time under my belt.

Posted in Civilization Series | 6 Comments

EVE: Gambling banned, shrinking the sandbox

And so gambling in EVE has been banned. Along with that, bans have been handed out to individuals associated with the gambling sites who sold ISK for real money. Right now EVE Reddit (generally an anti-goon place) is rejoicing, as are of course Goons (who lost the Casino War because most of EVE was paid to fight us via casino-made ISK).

I’m glad CCP banned those who they caught selling ISK for real money. That has long been against the rules, and it’s CCP’s job to enforce the rules they created. It’s news-worthy today because of the association to the gambling sites, but these bannings aren’t anything new in terms of policy.

I’m not as happy about the banning of gambling in EVE, because it not only has a rich history in the game, but because it also puts a new limit on the sandbox. Betting on the alliance tournament was fun, and as Jester pointed out on Reddit, a lot of community events were funded or greatly assisted by gambling websites (which is good business for them because the publicity ultimately helps them), and with all of those now banned, we won’t be seeing as many events as we once did.

There is also the reality of how much this actually changes things. One of the main problems Goons had with the Casino War was that there was no in-game way to fight IWI (the gambling site that paid everyone to fight goons). The reality however is that if someone with the means still wants to use outside funding to influence the game, they still can. How do you stop a billionaire in the real world dropping 500k in PLEX to do what Lenny did? They aren’t breaking the rules, and you can do just as much about that situation as Goons could in the Casino War.

Ok, lets say CCP removes PLEX, so you can no longer convert real money into ISK legally. Does that fix the ‘problem’? Nope. Case in point, this story about a $75,000 bounty put on a wormhole alliance to evict them. How do you stop someone outside the game contacting another player and saying “I’ll give you X amount of real money if you declare war on this group”? You can’t, just like you can’t stop the leaders of, say, the top four alliances in the game saying “fuck it, we are all going to ally now and fully control the game to kill it because we can”. With enough motivation, ability, and the means, the players can do just about anything in EVE, which is why the sandbox is as awesome as it is. Banning gambling goes against that, without really solving the problem people perceived as existing.

TAGN post about the topic, with links to others.

Posted in Goons, Rant, RMT | 6 Comments

EVE: Adding PI to the mix to make a little profit

My adventures in EVE continue to entertain. Right now I’m still doing some ratting in my pimp-fit Rattlesnake, with my alt in a Noctis providing cleanup, doing Incursions as they come up in my Barghest, and have most recently added Planetary Interaction (PI) to my marketing mix of importing good from Jita to sell in the KarmaFleet home staging system of 7G.

I don’t have the same level of hate others have for PI. It’s not thrilling, sure, but if you like setting up production chains and dipping into min/max territory, it’s really not that bad. Plus it scales, so if you want it to be really hands off, you can do that with longer cycle times, while if you want to really push it, you can set it up for a daily schedule if not shorter.

PI in null also has the added challenge that you can also get blown up, be it when you go to pick your stuff up or when you try to haul it to a market hub. Delve is fairly safe these days because Goons put in a lot of effort to keep it that way, but it’s still null and danger can always strike. One of the reasons I have my PI setup in 7G is because the travel is reduced. I don’t need to leave the system to pick my goods up, and I can sell them right in our home citadel as well. Prices might not be the best, but with the alliances high need for PI, they aren’t terrible either.

Speaking of profit, PI is a reinforcement of how well the EVE economy works, in that activities that most see as ‘boring’ or ‘unfun’ are the ones that pay the most, and how profit-driven you are will really determine what you do in the game. It’s no secret that ultra-boring activities like station-to-station hauling in high-sec is profitable. But the real reason one can make ISK in that area isn’t market genius, but rather because most players won’t spend their time doing something that boring. For many, ratting is more fun, even if its not as profitable. You still make ‘enough’ ISK, all without constantly doing something that makes you want to blow your brains out.

PI is a ‘blow your brains out’ activity for many, which is why despite being so low-entry and ‘easy’, it pays decent ISK/effort. 5M ISK or so gets you a full setup, while to null-rat at a good clip you need to spent a billion ISK or more (to say nothing about the danger of losing your ratting ship vs the risk of PI-related losses). Yet we have far more ratters than PI people, just like we have far more ratters than haulers or traders.

That’s the massive difference between success in a virtual world vs the real world. In the real world people have to work, which for many is near-zero fun but must be done, and where profit is often times the ONLY motivation. With that profit/fun balance being so different, making a lot of money in the real world becomes far harder, because the competition is far greater. In a virtual world, even one such as EVE, you aren’t competing against most players, as the population of people who play almost exclusively for money is very small, which is also why that group is absurdly rich (multi-trillions of ISK is the low-end here, while organizations like IWI are dealing with ISK amounts in the quadrillions.) If you focus just a bit on profit, you can get ‘enough’ ISK to then go and do whatever it is you consider fun, be it PvP, higher-end PvE, or random side project.

Posted in EVE Online | 2 Comments