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Poking, Grinding, Pining Over Space, And Other Typical Human Pursuits

You know, I think I'd like to buy Stardrive.  It has just the right focus for what I want to get out of a space 4X game:
  • Great ship design emphasis where you can take 45 minutes decking out a space station in really cool weapons and other tech (or, if you're feeling like saving time, just load an existing design).
  • Good combat that puts the player in complete control with great fidelity of the finer details (such as sectional damage) without being overwhelming or awkward (being a 2D game).
  • Moderately well-featured diplomacy screens that are highly reminiscent of Master Of Orion 2 and also feature powerful espionage support.
  • A nice galactic scope size, handled with a reasonably functional GUI.
  • A humble tech tree, maybe you don't agree with how the sections are put together, but it is easy to understand the benefits of each technology, and each technology unlocked is palpably powerful.
The only trouble is, I have no idea when I'd have the time to play it.  I simply have too many games on my plate right now!  Ah well, it still has some bugs to quash anyway, so I should sit on it for a month... no promises, though, as this game really looks like something that may be right up my alley.
TotalBisquit really does the best previews of Indy games.  Steam forums seem to be full of conflicting information right now about whether or not Stardrive has managed to release in a state that fixed the issues reported when this view rolled a couple weeks ago.

In the meanwhile, I guess I'm still playing DC Universe Online and Planetside 2... oh, and also Don't Starve and Poker Night 2.

Actually, if you look over the past day of my Steam activity, you'd see I've managed to get in a lot of Poker Night 2 lately.  10 hours!  That's a heck of a lot of time to play a game that is largely a poker game with four digital animatronics: Sam (from Sam And Max), Ash (from Evil Dead), Brock (from Venture Brothers), and Claptrap (from Borderlands).

I think the best, most overlooked thing about Poker Night 2 is how much effort they went into simulating the psychology of the players, they each have unique personality and quite a bit of skill is in trying to understand their "tells."  Lets face it, in a overblown game of chance like poker, implementing psychology is the only way to make it interesting.
I'm a little apprehensive about playing against Brock Sampson as, if he was canonical Venture Brothers, I'd probably be dead five times before I won my first hand.

Yet, a psychological angle to the design (as fascinating as it is) is really not adequate explaination as to why I've been playing so much of Poker Night 2...  I think it was mostly because I was in the mood for something relaxing.  You really should be in the mood to relax when playing this game, because if you're feeling anxious you probably will find yourself unable to humor how often Telltale Games recycled the same old joke or how long these exchanges drag out the game of poker.

Next topic: My progress in DC Universe Online since my last entry has gone about as well as could be expected.
  • My Green Lantern-based hero, Grevar (who apparently shares his name with many Scandinavian dogs) managed to hit the level 30 level cap without any particular problem at all.   "Light" is a very powerful set, capable of putting out quite a bit of damage while controlling and even possessing redundant self-heals.
  • At that point, I found myself largely tired of making yet another run from 1 to 30 on the hero's side, so I created a villain who wields electricity powers and a staff weapon whilst being mentored by Joker... honestly, my sensibilities lay with the heroes, and I'm finding that easily half the content on the villains side is just recycled hero content, so I can't say things are going much better.  
  • It really annoys me that a recent DC Universe Online patch introduced a nag screen to subscribe, I'm tempted to boycott all future F2P purchases until they remove it.  Show some respect for your F2P premium micro-transaction buyers!  (After all, they're collectively paying you more than your subscriber base.)
No wonder I'm playing so many other games lately: I need to pace myself for DC Universe Online more, I played up to 100 hours of it over the past few weeks; one character from 1 to 30 a week would be reasonable, but I'm did considerably more than that... especially if you counted the levels thrown away to alting.

Well, despite my dissatisfaction at SOE's implementation of a nag screen in DC Universe Online, it seems they're in no immediate danger of my micro-transactions stopping: a friend of mine pointed out that SOE Game Cards sold by 7-Eleven were being honored for double the station points this weekend (and if he had not told me about that deal, it seems SOE also sent me an email and reminded me in all of its game launchers).

I chose to snap up four of them, a $60 investment for $120 worth of Station Cash.  Does, "A penny saved is a penny earned" count when you're just buying half-off play money?  No; Ben Franklin would not be impressed.  However, it's still a heck of a lot easier for me to swallow buying something in the game priced at $7 when it's actually $3.50 due to the discount means I used to obtain the station cash, and I was feeling bad that I had spent all of it.

Next topic: I splurged about 2000 worth of Station Cash on Planetside 2 buying a cool new revolver that works on all my characters and then a nice long ranged battle rifle and anti-vehicular turret for my engineer.  So now I have a character who can handle threats at short range, long range, and vehicular.  I guess I'm set for awhile, as far as Planetside 2 is concerned.

It rankles just a bit that I may have just "paid to win" though (something I said I would not do when I was whining about Planetside 2 not too long ago, just for the principal of the thing).  Well, these weapons may have evened the playing ground for me considerably in that they actually allow me to dominate in specialized roles, but I guess the starting weapons can technically complete reasonably well.  All I was really doing was cutting this ridiculous Planetside 2 grind to something that I was willing to humor.
 The Underboss may not be the most effective handgun there is - I was pwned by a default NC pistol - but it's certainly a lot of fun to play with.  Put just two of those six bullets into an enemy, and they're not slinking away with a full health bar.

That said, it's a pity that Planetside 2 is horribly optimized on the CPU front; this game just enjoys punishing me for my weaksauce computer.  Yes, I was cutting corners when I bought an AMD CPU, but I think it's very much a legitimate assumption that there should be extremely few games out there in which a CPU is going to be the bottleneck before the video card.  However, Planetside 2 is massively CPU dependent, much more than the average game so, when the bottleneck ends up being the CPU before the VPU, this is highly unusual of any game I can be expected to run.

This CPU dependency happens even on much better rigs than mine, including those with an Intel CPU (much to the frustration of those running multiple-VPU rigs) but it hits me even harder because Planetside 2 is somewhat notorious for being poorly optimized for AMD.    I have tried optimized settings, even "unparking my CPU cores," and those tweaks seemed to have helped a bit... but, according to Planetside 2's frames per second readout, I am still getting around 20-45 FPS (fluctuating wildly depending on what I'm looking at) and the limiting factor is mostly the CPU.

It would not be such a problem, but it seems to me that your performance as a player in Planetside 2 will scale exponentially with your computer's performance.  You ever notice those videos of players running around dominating other players in Planetside 2?  Their frames per second are always great.   Well, I think what might be happening is that people with slower computers are actually having a higher "practical ping" due to backlogged packets.  I say "practical ping" because this won't show up on a command line ping - your ping will be as low as anyone's - but your actual network performance in the game will be significantly delayed due a CPU bottleneck.
Is this guy really a whole lot better than me?  Probably, yeah!  However, look at how the enemies react to him: with a significant delay of even realizing he's there.  I think this may be due to Planetside 2's CPU performance bottleneck, and his computer being significantly better than average.  It's not exactly cheating, but it's exactly the kind of client-side advantage that hackers want.

So there's a reason why all those people in those "leet Planetside player" videos are acting like such easy targets: it's because they can't even see the guy with the faster computer before they're dead (or close to it).  That's typically what happens to me: if it's me versus a guy with a CPU that can better handle Planetside 2, he's going to have maybe a second or two more to gun me down before my packets catch up, resulting in either my death or a mutual one.

But maybe I'm just getting frustrated at Planetside 2 because I played too much of it this weekend.  Just as I am thinking I should pace myself in DC Universe Online, perhaps I would be best served to only play Planetside 2 long enough each day to get my 5 daily service ribbons.  (Frankly, alerts and service ribbon bonuses are the only way F2P players can make certification points at rate tolerable by any but the most grind-resistant of us.)
If you're playing Don't Starve correctly, even with some previous experience in Minecraft and/or Terraria, this is about as well as you can expect to do on your first dozen attempts or so.

Next topic: Don't Starve.  You know, I'm still barely getting into this game, but let me tell you: Don't Starve is hard.  Minecraft and Terraria are comparatively easy on the survival front.  Don't Starve just kicks your ass.
  • Finding food is hard, hooking up a reliable means of food production even moreso.  
  • If you manage to not starve, you'll find that the monsters become more common and more dangerous the longer you survive.  It is rather difficult to restore health, this is more of a survival balance, so being dragged into a several fights for your life in short succession will almost invariably be the end of you.
  • If you manage to overcome the monsters, you'll soon find yourself snowed in by the coming winter which (I can only imagine) introduce even more challenges to not starving and probably even deadlier monsters.  
Like a true roguelike, death is inevitable in Don't Starve.  It would not be so bad, but there's a lot of monotony involved in just building yourself up to where you were at in your previous life: this is the game's lead problem.  It's something you can get around in Cataclysm: DDA by revisiting the previously procedurally generated world and just recovering all the spoils of your previous character, but I have not seen that in Don't Starve.  But then, Don't Starve is a lot more stylish than a text-based roguelike.

Last topic: Both me and a friend are anxiously awaiting our chance to play Starbound... that beta should be opening up any week now.  He showed me a gameplay video and, yes, it's pretty much what I expected it would be: Terraria, in space, with improvements.   You know, if this game was just Terraria 2, I think I would be interested in playing it.  It's more like Terraria 2++, so I'm even more interested.

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