‘Voting with my wallet’ works both ways

It’s no secret that I’d been hoping for and then looking forward to a Diablo II remaster for ages. Again, it is and always will be one of my favourite games period. Even so, with Blizzard being the trainwreck of a company that we now know it to be I initially wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the release of Resurrected.

After the Warcraft III Reforged debacle I definitely wasn’t going to preorder or buy on launch day, no matter how good people’s beta-impressions had been. That much was certain, and I wasn’t tempted to relent for even a second.

But now it’s been officially live for a while and, some server issues during the first few days aside, all reviews I’ve read since then pretty much boil down to “It’s exactly what you wanted, mate. Buy, you fool!!”

So Lakisa and I did just that a couple of days ago. And what can I say, I don’t regret the purchase in the slightest because it is exactly what I wanted.

Which means, the way I see it, that I did in fact vote with my wallet and that, despite rather not wanting to support a company like ActiBlizz for numerous well-known reasons, it still was the right thing to do – maybe not from a moral standpoint, but certainly from a gamer’s standpoint. Not that these are mutually exclusive, mind you, but in this case there’s a big difference in my opinion.

Let me try to explain.

The act of “voting with one’s wallet”, when proposed by gamers to other gamers, usually means not to spend any (or any more) money on a product, thus sending a message of discontent to the developers or publishers – the assumption being that this is the only kind of message that will actually be heard.

For the most part I can’t disagree with this, and I went with that approach myself in some cases, not the least of which when I decided not to give Blizzard – yes, the same Blizzard – any more money unless they’d finally manage to deliver a product again that I’m really, genuinely happy with. That was almost three years ago, right after the infamous Diablo Immortal Blizzcon, and at that point I already hadn’t bought anything with the Blizzard logo on it for at least a year, probably longer. Which means that the forty bucks I paid for Resurrected just now marked the first time in over four years that they made any kind of profit from me.

Of course I could have gone without buying it, thereby not breaking that streak. The original’s still there to play after all, and touched-up graphics, or lack thereof, don’t make or break a great game for me.

But here’s the thing. By not buying any of their stuff for so long I basically told them “You’ll only get my money if you make exactly the game I want”. Now, much to my surprise, they actually went and did just that.

So had I refused to buy this product now, not only would I’ve denied myself the pleasure of playing one of my most beloved games with a really great-looking fresh coat of paint, I’d also have made a mockery of the stance I’ve been taking for years: that I’ll not spend money on their games if I don’t like them, but that I will if I do.

If there’s any hope at all that publishers will continue (or start again) to greenlight and fund the development of games that I want to play, I feel that I’ve got no choice but proving to them that it’s profitable to do so by, well, voting with my wallet.

Here’s hoping that it really does work both ways.

The Handy Guide to Warframe‘s Railjack – Part Two

In part one of this guide I talked about how to acquire your very own Railjack in Warframe and how to beat the first and easiest mission with it. Now it’s time to use the spoils of said mission and turn your rookie vessel into a finely tuned instrument of destruction.

Step Four – Pimp my Railjack

At the end of your first successful Empyrian mission you’ll have been rewarded with a lot of stuff you didn’t have before (Railjack-specific mods, resources etc.), and also two new types of XP, labeled Intrinsics and Plexus. All of this will help you upgrade your ship in various ways.

Let’s have a look at the Railjack Configuration console, which is located right where the clan dojo’s or relay’s Dry Dock fast travel option will take you.

This is the default tab, called Components, which you’ll see first every time you use the console.

Shown on the left are the ships’s four main…well…components, responsible for shield and hull strenght, flight speed and battle mod performance (more on those later). They come in different flavors and ranks, and you’ll upgrade them over time.

The better, more specialized parts are acquired by looting wreckage during missions and repairing it afterwards, but for now I’d advise you to use the Research console located right next to this one and research and build the MK III versions of your pre-installed SIGMA parts. You’ll have to research them in order, first MK I, then MK II and so on. However, if you’re in a clan they may well have already been researched and you just need to build and install the MK III’s. These will carry you a good way into the Empyrian star chart.

Later on, when you’ve looted some wreckage parts, you’ll identify them, repair them if they’re good or scrap them for Endo if they aren’t. This is all managed by the three buttons in the upper middle of the screen. The word Capacity there means that you can initially have a maximum of eight repaired/built custom parts. You can buy additional slots for platinum, but unused parts can also be disassembled, returning the bulk of their resources to you.

On the right hand side of the screen you see the ship’s overall stats. If you swap out any parts changes are shown here in green or red, as usual in Warframe.

The second tab, Armaments, works pretty much the same, but for the Railjack’s weaponry.

The first installed turret is the one fired from the pilot’s seat, the second is relevant for the two swivel turrets manned by your co-pilots (you can’t use two different ones for those), the third is the ordnance launcher, also fired by the pilot.

There are many different types of turrets and ordnance. Personally, I like the Talyn as my main turret, the Vort for the swivel turrets and the Tycho Seeker ordnance, but your mileage may vary. I suggest to build and try them all out while repeating the Sover Strait mission a couple of times, see which you like best, and then research and build the MK III versions of those.

The Upgrades tab is practically the same thing as the mods-section of your warframes and weapons, but with some additions.

The first tab, Integrated, provides one slot for an aura mod and eight for standard mods. As you get them, install and upgrade these as usual; this is pretty self-explanatory. The Plexus-XP mentioned above are for leveling this up, increasing the mod-capacity. The maximum rank is 30, and Forma can be used to apply polarities. It really works just like ‘frames and weapons.

The second and third tabs, Battle and Tactical, are kind of the pendant to warframe abilities. Battle mods give your ship offensive or defensive skills that are activated during missions by pressing 1, 2 or 3, have short or no cooldowns and consume energy. Tactical mods are more situational in nature. They are used by clicking the corresponding button on the tactical map (see Intrinsics below). They don’t consume energy, but have very long cooldowns.

There’s three slots for each, and as far as I can tell these don’t consume any of your available capacity, so in theory you can fully rank them all up right away – if you have the Endo and credits, that is.

Intrinsics, while technically being part of your ship, are what I think of as your character’s personal skills to operate the thing.

There’s five skill trees that start at rank 0 and go up to 10. I won’t go into detail about all of them here, you can see what each rank of each tree does by right-clicking them.

The first few ranks cost next to nothing, and even after your very first successful mission you‘ll probably be able to raise multiple, if not all, classes to at least rank one. In any case, my suggestion would be to start with Tactical and Command rank 1.

Tactical 1 gives you access to the tactical map (L to open it on PC), and lets you use tactical mods. Command 1 allows you to hire your first crew member, which helps immensely if you’re a solo player.

If you’re using a main turret that’s not a hitscan weapon I’d go for Gunnery 1 next, as this unlocks a target lead indicator.

Once you have all five trees at rank 1 and accumulated some more Intrinsics XP I suggest to go straight for Tactical 4. Rank 3 lets you click the white icons on the tactical map to instantly teleport to that part of your Railjack, while rank 4 enables using the Omni tool whenever you’re not aboard your ship to teleport back there whithin seconds. These are both immense time savers and huge QoL-improvements.

After that it’s really down to personal preference. Just keep in mind that some higher level missions have an Intrinsics-requirement, meaning that you need to have raised at least one tree up to that rank to do them. That shouldn’t be a problem though as the XP roll in pretty fast.

The Crew tab does exactly what you’d expect it to: it lets you manage your ship’s crew.

Once you’ve raised your Command Intrinsic to at least rank 1 you can hire crew members from Ticker in Fortuna on Venus. You have three slots from the get-go, more can be purchased for 20 platinum each. You can only ever use three at a time though – and need to have Command rank 5 for that – so there’s no pressing reason to have more.

Crew members have five attributes, Piloting, Gunnery, Repair, Combat and Endurance, with values ranging from 0 to 5. Which stats you’d like them to have depends on what role you want to assign to them. They can be Defender, Pilot, Gunner or Engineer.

A Defender roams your ship, looking to fend off any boarding parties. While this sounds good I don’t think it’s necessary. You’ll soon see why.

Pilot and Gunner are self-explanatory. I don’t need a Pilot as I do that myself (and I hear they aren’t too bright upstairs anyway), but Gunners are great for obvious reasons.

An Engineer looks for fires, leaks etc. and repairs them autonomically. I guess I don’t need to tell you how handy that is. What’s more, as an Engineer isn’t glued to a pilot’s or turret seat they roam around the ship, just like a Defender would, and they, too, shoot enemies when they find any.

That’s why I go with one Engineer and two Gunners, and in my experience this works perfectly. Gunners really only need the Gunnery stat, so once you have two with Gunnery at 3 or so (as you can put more points into it when you’ve sufficiently raised the Command Intrinsic) you’re set. The Engineer should have Repair at rank 4 or 5, obviously, and you can invest any surplus points into Endurance and/or Combat.

If you team up with other players your NPC crew members will be replaced from right to left, by the way, which is why I have my Engineer in the first crew slot.

Every crew member can also be equipped with one of your primary or secondary weapons, with some exceptions. I just give them those that do a lot of AoE damage, with the best one going to the Engineer of course.

You can use captured Kuva Liches or Sisters of Parvos, if you have any, as crew members too, but only at Command Intrinsic rank 8 or higher, and only as a Defender. I really like the idea from a flavor perspective, but that last restriction is a big bummer as, again, I don’t see the need to have a pure defender.

Lastly, you can also change crew members’ appearances, including colors, attachments, syndanas, sigils, the whole shebang. The game isn’t often called Fashionframe for nothing.

Speaking of fashion, the last tab is Customization. I really don’t think I have to explain what you can do with this. Just knock yourself out.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know about configuring and upgrading your Railjack and its crew.

There’s one last thing I feel I should mention. When you’re progressing through the Empyrian star chart you will encounter a new type of mission called Orphix. While in space this is a Railjack mission like any other, but once you’re on foot inside the target station you’ll notice that, as you get near your objective, you’ll be tossed out of your warframe and have to continue in Operator form.

While you technically can go on and fight like this, it’s not the intended way to do it and you’ll most likely run out of time. What you’re supposed to do here is to activate your Necramech.

Don’t have one yet? Look around you, just beyond the energy barrier that forces you into Operator mode there should be an inactive Necramech lying around somewhere. Go near it, press 5 and boom, you got yourself a temporary ‘mech. Unfortunately it isn’t very strong and can’t take much beating either – and you will be attacked by lots of sentients, these missions aren’t a cakewalk – but at least for the first such mission on Venus it should suffice.

The goal here is to destroy all Orphix Resonators (shown in red on your map, they all look like the one on the screenshot above), which will render the Orphix itself vulnerable. Shoot its eye until it’s at 50%, at which point it’ll close again and more resonators will spawn. Once those are gone too you can finish the Orphix off, and the Sentient Control meter will go down by a good chunk. If that meter ever reaches 100% the mission will fail. Rinse and repeat the process until you have destroyed enough Orphixes to extract.

And there you have it, this is Warframe’s Railjack system in a nutshell.

Just not so small a nutshell. Maybe it’s a coconut? Anyhow, fly safe!

The Handy Guide to Warframe‘s Railjack – Part One

The other day my Xbox-based buddy told me that he‘d just finished building his very own Railjack in Warframe. I still remember my initial confusion and frustration with that particular piece of content vividly because the game explains jack shit about how it all works, so I intended to spare him that headache and started to give a rundown of the basics.

However, I wasn‘t even halfway through with my explanation when he asked me to slow the hell down. „Jeez, this is another whole game inside the game, isn’t it?“ he asked, pretty much hitting the nail on the head. Warframe‘s nothing if not complex.

Of course all there is to know already exists out there on the interwebs in some form or another, but back when I was in my mate‘s position I had to piece together the info I was looking for from various different sources, and some blanks still remained that I had to fill in for myself. I would’ve much preferred one complete and chronological step-by-step guide for beginners. Since I couldn’t find such a piece I‘ve decided to write one myself, and this is the first part of it.

Step One – Starting the journey

In order to get the quest that has you recover old Railjack parts and build a new ship from them you need to

    • have finished the Second Dream quest,
    • buy the Railjack Cephalon blueprint from the market and build it in your foundry, and
    • have access to a drydock.

Collecting the Cephalon, who goes by the name of Cy, from your foundry will start the actual quest, called Rising Tide, and it will guide you through the process of reconstructing the old Railjack from here on out.

A drydock can be built in every Clan Dojo, so if you‘re a member of an active clan chances are it‘s already been done and you can use the fast travel option from anywhere in the dojo to get there.

Alternatively, the relays around Saturn, Europa, Eris and Pluto all sport a public drydock, providing access to its functionality for players who aren’t in a clan or don‘t want to build one in their own dojo for whatever reason. The fast travel option is available here too.

As you obviously don‘t have your Railjack yet the only thing you can do here at this point is install your freshly built Cephalon into the marked terminal, which will advance the quest.

Step Two – Building the Railjack

You will now be sent on a journey to recover said Railjack parts, six in total. The missions aren’t too difficult, but you should be prepared to fight sentient enemies. Having a good Amp (basically anything other than the Mote Amp) and/or a strong frame should suffice. I just blasted them to bits with Mesa, for example.

After each step you have to finish constructing the part in question, which costs some credits and resources – nothing too expensive after DE did a couple rounds of nerfs (or buffs? Depends on how you look at it) – and takes one hour to finish.

After having repaired and installed the sixth part your Railjack is basically complete and you can enter it, either directly from the drydock (go down the ramp that leads to the ship’s bottom end) or by using the middle platform on your Orbiter‘s lower deck (right outside the Operator room).

However, before you can actually take off a key part for the ship‘s drive still has to be acquired, so you‘re sent on one last fetch-mission. After that your Railjack is finally operational, and from now on you can select space missions (called Empyrian missions) directly by using a new button in the upper right corner of your usual navigation menu.

Step Three – Playing (and beating) the first missions

This is unfortunately where the game fails horribly at guiding players towards a smooth, successful and thus fun start to flying their shiny new Railjack.

First of all, do not try your luck with the Call of the Tempestarii mission that’s most likely marked on your map from the moment your vessel is ready to go just yet. That mission is not meant to be a tutorial or something along those lines. In fact it was added to the game quite a bit later than the Railjack system itself. It‘s a story mission that unlocks access to the warframe Sevagoth, and you‘ll probably not able to beat it with a vanilla Railjack.

Instead, I advise you to navigate to Earth Proxima and select the Free Flight mission first. As the name suggests you can fly around at your own leisure here, and nobody will attack you. Steering the ship and firing your guns doesn‘t really need a whole lot of practice, but you can and should use this opportunity to acquaint yourself with the Railjack‘s layout and functions, because unfortunately this isn‘t something that‘s explained to you at any point, and once you‘re in a real mission you‘ll definitely need this knowledge.

Stern on the left, bow on the right hand side

This is a tactical view of your ship (green stuff added by me, obviously). You don’t have access to it ingame just yet, but this should help you find your way around for the time being. You can ignore the blue numbers, those depict NPC crew members. Here’s the legend:

    1. Bridge – The pilot’s seat is located here, all the way up front where you’d expect it. A bit behind it you have the navigation console, and the forward artillery seat right behind that.
    2. Turrets – In addition to the pilot’s guns you have two turrets that can either be manned by other players or, once you have them, by NPC crewmates.
    3. Airlocks – You can exit the Railjack here and fly around in space with your Archwing. This is needed to board crewships or to get to on-foot objectives. The rightmost airlock is just a floor panel between the turret stations and easy to miss. The two on the left are on the lower deck.
    4. Slingshot – Another way to exit the ship, but with a twist: the slingshot shoots you out like a living cannon ball. The range is about 4km, which helps you get to places faster. Also, if you aim at a crewship that’s in range you are propelled right through its hull and don’t need to use your Archwing at all. Very handy. It’s all the way in the back of the upper deck.
    5. Forge – Used to replenish ordnance and artillery charges, among other things, but this has to be unlocked first. Like the rear airlocks this is on the lower deck.
    6. This is you. Or rather, in this case it’s me.

Once you feel comfortable with all of this it‘s time for some action. The first and easiest combat mission is Sover Strait on Earth Proxima. Select it, and the Railjack will warp into the battle zone by itself. All you need to do here is shoot anything that moves and stay alive while doing so. Easy, right? Well, yes and no.

Blasting regular fighters out of the sky is straightforward enough, but crewships, of which you encounter at least a couple in every mission, are a different matter. When their hitpoints are depleted they shut down and float helpless in space, but they aren‘t destroyed. After a while their HP regenerate, and they start fighting you again.

To defeat them you need to do either of two things: shoot them once with the forward artillery when their HP are low or down, or board them and destroy their reactor from the inside. The artillery is much faster of course, but you have limited ammo for it and can’t resupply during missions yet.

Another thing you need to know is how to repair damage to your own vehicle. Whenever your ship‘s HP hit zero you can‘t maneuver or shoot anymore – just like crewships, basically – an alarm sounds and a countdown starts. You have that much time to find the damaged hull section and repair it; the mission fails if you don‘t. As it’s marked on the minimap it usually isn’t hard to find. But how do I repair it? I hear you ask. Here’s the thing: unbeknownst to you a tool called Omni is added to your first open gear wheel slot every time upon entering a Railjack mission. When there’s damage to repair equip the Omni, “shoot” the fire or leak with it until it‘s gone, and voilà.

If you‘re boarded just kill the bad guys, repair any damage if needed and continue with what you were doing.

If you keep these things in mind it should be no problem to successfully finish this mission. Once the objectives are marked as completed you can use the navigation console to either return to the drydock or start another mission (or the same one) right away.

The really good news is that you’ve now overcome the hard part and things are going to get a lot more fun from here on out. I mean, who wouldn’t want to pimp their very own space-ride?

The second and last part of this guide will show you how to do just that.

Oh boy, here we go again…

Yes, this is indeed going to be yet another “I really think dailies are the worst feature ever added to video games”-post. It’s not like I’ve talked about it enough already, is it?

The thing is, I feel it just bears repeating. Incentives to do the same stuff over and over – combined with a heavy dose of Fear Of Missing Out – day after day, week after week, manage to sour me on even the greatest of games.

Case in point: Genshin Impact.

Yes, keep me busy please, and thank you

I have played Genshin Impact every day for just over ten months now. Mainly because it is an awesome and fun game, make no mistake. However, for the last couple of weeks I wasn’t feeling it and would most likely have taken a break, were it not for all the stuff that I need to do every day.

Of course I don’t actually need to do any of these things, not really, but the game has conditioned me to feel like I do. Hence, despite not being in the mood, I had quite the routine going. Every fricking day.

In the morning, before work:

    1. Log in and claim the daily Primogem stipend (works like a monthly subscription for five bucks)
    2. Go to the alchemy table and craft Resin into Condensed Resin
    3. Visit the adventurer’s guild, collect expedition rewards and send characters off to do new expeditions
    4. Visit the blacksmith and craft some crystals into weapon XP mats

And in the afternoon or evening:

    1. Log in and claim finished XP mats from the blacksmith
    2. Craft some more Condensed Resin
    3. Decide what to do with said Resin, then run some domains, ley lines or bosses to spend it
    4. Visit the teapot and claim realm curreny and friendship XP
    5. Claim battle pass rewards

In addition there are some weekly tasks that I usually took care of right at the start of the week or, if not, on the weekend:

    1. Kill the four weekly bosses
    2. Do three bounties and three requests for one of the cities
    3. Tick off some more battle pass weeklies like “Spend 500k Mora”
Yeah, no, I really haven’t got anything better to do

Now, I’m not saying doing any of this is unpleasant per se. It’s not. It’s just always the same, and I don’t feel like doing it right now but do it anyway so as to not miss out on the rewards. Also, all of this takes time. Time I’d currently rather spend doing something else.

There have been days lately when I came home from work eager to play Warframe, only that I “had to do” the Genshin stuff first, and once I was done with that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything anymore.

This stops now.

As of today I’m taking a cold turkey kind of break from Genshin Impact, because I just have to. I don’t want the game to sour on me for good. I’d much rather wait for my desire to play and enjoy the game to return, and then have fun with it again.

I feel much better already

Obviously all of this means that without those incentives to log in I would have stopped doing so a couple of weeks earlier than I actually did, which is exactly why they exist in the first place of course.

However, I still doubt that enticing players to keep logging in regularly in this manner is actually beneficial for a game and its makers long-term. If I stop playing a game that I really like for a while because I just need a little change of scenery, chances are I’ll be back sooner rather than later, probably with much renewed vigor to boot.

If I stop playing because I’m fed up with it though…who knows whether I’ll be back at all.

Blaugust 2021 post count: 6

My top 25 music albums of the last 25 years

Graphic by Derek Abella

Ever since Bhagpuss made me aware of Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary People’s List I’ve been thinking about which albums of the last 25 years I would choose as my favourite ones. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as a lot of my most beloved albums were released between 1985 and 1995. I gotta say though, being restricted to 1996 and onward actually made browsing through my stuff, filling out the list and mulling over the exact rankings all the more fun – and also quite surprising.

I mean, who would have thought that not even one of my list’s top four spots can be clearly categorized as Metal? I sure as hell wouldn’t have. Pick number four isn’t even Rock, for crying out loud.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Without further ado, here are my top 25 albums released since 1996:

      1. Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
      2. Meteora – Linkin Park
      3. Billy Talent II – Billy Talent
      4. The Fat Of The Land – The Prodigy
      5. Ghost Reveries – Opeth
      6. 10,000 Days – Tool
      7. Scenes From A Memory – Dream Theater
      8. Bannkreis – Subway To Sally
      9. Herzblut – Subway To Sally
      10. Toxicity – System Of A Down
      11. Follow The Leader – Korn
      12. Human Nature – Alphastates
      13. Morningrise – Opeth
      14. Passage – Samael
      15. In Absentia – Porcupine Tree
      16. The Family Jewels – Marina & The Diamonds
      17. Where Shadows Forever Reign – Dark Funeral
      18. Issues – Korn
      19. And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer – Haggard
      20. And This Glow… – Joy Of Colour
      21. Kasmodiah – Deine Lakaien
      22. Ten Thousand Fists – Disturbed
      23. Take To The Skies – Enter Shikari
      24. Wishmaster – Nightwish
      25. Heaven & Hell – Ava Max

Of course everything below the top three our four spots is more or less interchangeable. I don’t think it’s really possible to nail down such a subjective evaluation permanently, not least because it can vary even from one day to the next depending on mood, nostalgia or whathaveyou.

I’ll probably not talk about each and every one of these here because some of those posts would pretty much just amount to “Well…I really like it, is all”. It would be an easy way to get my Blaugust post count up, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

So how about I just start off with the first two spots for now, what with those being performed by the same band and also, well, being my top picks?

I didn’t have Linkin Park on my radar until a colleague of mine brought along their Live In Texas DVD one day in early 2004. I’d heard one or two songs before (at least I immediately recognized One Step Closer when I watched the video) and liked them, but hadn’t looked into it any further at the time for one reason or another.

This show though, holy crap. The raw energy the band brought to the stage gripped me and didn’t let go anymore. I immediately bought the studio outputs too, and they’ve become two of my all-time favourite albums for several reasons.

First of all, said energy is there in full. Studio albums often tend to sound a bit too clean and thus lose some of their power, but not these. If anything they’re even more powerful, the production is just superb.

Of course the music itself is what matters, and this is where all that energy comes from. I’ve read that Chester Bennington (rest in peace), the band’s lead singer, used these albums to process his very troublesome childhood and youth, and I think you can clearly hear it. I’m lucky enough to not have experienced most of the things the songs are about, but they still always carry me away on a wave of passion and sometimes even anger – in a good way. I’ve always said that channeling one’s bad feelings through aggressive music is a much more healthy way to deal with them than most others. At least it works for me.

The alternation between Bennington’s clear vocals and primal screams, and Mike Shinoda’s backing vocals and rapped parts are another of the band’s standout features that I really love. I’ve always liked polyphonic singing, and these two really did a phenomenal job at it (listening recommendation: Papercut, from two minutes onward). The rapping and screams add another dimension and fit the overall sound and feel very well.

What’s also great about both albums is that there are no duds on it. How many long-players have you bought because you knew and liked one or two songs, only to then realize that those are really the only good songs on there? My answer: too many. These two albums are great from start to finish, and given that some of my all-time favourites are among those songs that’s a high bar to clear indeed.

Lastly, the wave of excitement Linkin Park made me ride on in 2004 even rekindled my love for making music myself, and I went looking for a new band to join after a three-year break, resulting in me regularly hanging out in rehearsal rooms and on stage again for the following four years.

A playlist that consists of nothing but those two albums plus the song What I’ve Done from their third studio output, Minutes To Midnight, still runs regularly in my car or on my earpods, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

And there you have it. What are your favourite albums of the past 25 years?

Blaugust 2021 post count: 5

About Necramechs, archguns and profit takers

You didn’t think making progress with the Railjack system in Warframe was as easy as just using the Railjack, did you? Well, I did. Silly me.

First of all, as space mission goals always require someone to disembark the ship at some point it seems reasonable to also have an Archwing that can take a beating and some good weaponry to go alongside it. It’s not strictly necessary, but definitely a big convenience.

I already had an Amesha class archwing at the ready, but was still using the default gun that came with the newbie model way back when I earned my first wings. Suffice it to say that it’s not very good. Now, getting hold of a better shooter wasn’t the issue, but leveling it up? Man, that stuff takes a lot of time, and archwing missions aren’t exactly fun either.

Hold on a sec though, wasn’t there some gadget or other enabling players to use heavy guns on the ground too?

Hell yeah, THAT’S what I’m talking about!

Turns out there is, but I didn’t have it yet, and of course it isn’t something you can just buy.

Some more googling revealed that in order to get my hands on the “Archgun Deployer” I had to do the first three quests of a chain that I hadn’t even started up to that point. The reason: those quests lead up to the big boss-fight in the Orb Vallis on Venus, the boss in question being the Profit-Taker Orb.

Whatever profits this thing takes, they must be huge…Bobby, is that you?

The first two quests were no biggie, the third however pits players against the big bad itself, albeit in a somewhat easier version compared to the grand finale that awaits aferwards.

Easier it may be, but I got my ass handed to me regardless the first couple of times I tried. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t do enough damage, I just couldn’t take the beating the boss and its seemingly countless henchmen continuously dished out.

Back to the drawing board. Fortunately one guide I found suggested an Inaros build that’s supposed to be pretty much immortal, exactly what I was looking for. I already had the frame and all recommended mods on hand, so I tried it and I’m happy to report that it really is as sturdy as advertised. I will most definitely use this build for other stuff too now.

No Formas invested, empty slots, mods only partially leveled…doesn’t matter at all

This actually reduced the fight’s difficulty to just over ‘walk in the park’ level, and just like that I was done with the quest. I didn’t hang around to also try the real fight though. Once I’d received my reward I went and used the usual quick-leveling methods to get my new archgun up to 30, and that was that. For now. Once crossplay is here the Profit-Taker and I will meet again!

With my newly acquired and leveled weaponry I went back to doing Railjack missions. But wait, what’s that? A new (to me) mission type named Orphix? Oh well, how hard can it be?

You already know where this is going. Turns out that, while again not strictly necessary, having a Necramech is highly advisable for these missions.

A what now?

Hey, what are you looking at?

Necramechs were introduced last year alongside the Heart of Deimos update. In the game’s lore they are old war machines predating the conception of Warframes, and players can acquire their very own to use in all open world zones and Orphix missions by doing various bounties (which is a mission type) in the Cambion Drift and raising their reputation with the locals.

I don’t like faction grinds all that much, so of course I hadn’t done this yet. Le sigh.

However, as is most often the case with these things (if they’re balanced properly, which, in Warframe, they usually are after a couple rounds of fixes), what looked like an insurmountable heap of work at first glance didn’t actually take all that long. After doing maybe two dozen bounties above and below the ground as well as some mining, fishing and hunting I was able to buy the needed blueprints, then build the sub-components and, finally, the finished Voidrig class Necramech.

Feels like playing Battletech all over again, which ain’t a bad thing at all

Now I’ve got to level up that thing too. It’s slow going, but I gotta say stomping around and shooting stuff with it is pretty fun, and I can already feel that it will be quite powerful once I’ve modded it and its armaments properly.

At which point I will finally be able to do what I set out to do: successfully play any and all Railjack missions.

Or will I? In Warframe you never know.

Blaugust 2021 post count: 4

A different kind of Internet Spaceships

Every time I pick up Warframe after a bit of a break I try not to get immediately overwhelmed by the vast amounts of content and systems. Why not just focus on one or two specific things at a time and leave it at that?

Yeah, fat chance.

I’ve already talked about how one thing very quickly leads to another in this game as most types of content are somehow intertwined with one another. Which is great, because pretty much nothing ever becomes obsolete. But, again, it can all feel a bit overwhelming at times.

This time around my plan was to just focus on vanquishing my current Kuva Lich, which had become one of my favourite activities once I’d made myself familiar with how it all works sometime last year. What’s more, I’d recently read that the last big update brought a new version of these baddies into the game, and I wanted to tackle those next.

However, as it turned out said update also changed the last step of defeating any kind of lich: after having kicked their butt the old fashioned way players additionally need to complete one final mission now, and that one is a Railjack mission.

Well, bugger me.

Railjacks were added to Warframe about two years ago. They were basically Digital Extremes’ answer to many some a few Anyone? Bueller? err…an unspecified number of players’ requests for proper space combat in the game.

Joking aside, I personally didn’t mind the idea, I just found the execution quite lacking at the time. The ship was very expensive to build, its systems not well explained and, frankly, it wasn’t much fun to fly. It has been overhauled twice since then though, so I thought I might as well give it another chance.

Unfortunately my second first impression wasn’t much better. Once a mission had started I didn’t really know what to do aside from wildly shooting at things. Things that were shooting back, I might add, and at some point my Railjack’s hitpoints were depleted and a countdown started ticking. I was supposed to repair the damage before the timer ran out, but I had no idea how to do that and the mission failed.

Dear Digital Extremes, if you’re reading this, the Railjack system desperately needs some kind of tutorial!

Anyhow, I wasn’t going to give up just yet. I want those liches vanquished, dammit! So I looked for some guides and/or videos explaining all that stuff, and, unsurprisingly, I found plenty. Armed with that knowledge I tried again, and lo and behold, it actually isn’t all that hard. Even more importantly, with the first successes also came the fun. What else is new?

Now that I know what I’m doing playing Railjack missions feels a bit like a throwback to the Wing Commander series, which isn’t a bad thing at all in my book.

The main difference is that a Railjack is meant to be piloted by a full group of people. There’s the pilot’s seat, two gunner seats (the Millenium Falcon says Hi), a forward artillery seat, and in case damage has to be repaired, ammo to be restocked or enemy boarding parties to be repelled someone has to take care of that too. Fortunately solo players can hire up to three NPC crewmates and assign some of these tasks to them, but with other players it’s obviously more effective and also (potentially) more fun.

As if that weren’t enough each and every mission also requires someone to leave the Railjack at some point and board enemy ships or stations to do some stuff there. As NPCs can’t do this a solo player has quite a lot of hopping around to do, so getting other players aboard (pun intended) is definitely preferable.

Which is just as well, because the biggest new feature that was announced at this year’s Tennocon a few weeks ago is cross-save and crossplay across all platforms, and it’s supposed to arrive before the end of this year!

I’m extremely happy about this as my console-devoted buddy and I are still looking for more opportunities to get camp PC and camp Xbox together. Ever since I recommended Warframe to him and another pal of ours a couple of months ago they play it all the time, and it really bugs us that I can’t join them. Soon™ this intolerable situation will be remedied, and until then I’ll make sure that my Railjack is up to snuff and ready to go.

As I alluded to in the beginning this will still require a lot of “work” though, not all of which directly related to the Railjack itself. More on that next time.

Blaugust 2021 post count: 3

Why I spent a fortune on a new graphics card

Work in progress – July 2020

When I assembled my new gaming rig almost exactly a year ago I decided to keep using my old GTX 980, pictured above, for the time being. It seemed like a good idea at the time, what with Nvidia and AMD both being relatively close to releasing their new lineups, presumably offering me the choice between either jumping onto the new hotness or getting one of the older cards on the cheap in the near future.

My plan was to buy the new card, whenever and whichever one it would have been, with a water cooling block pre-installed, and then swap the CPU block too and cool the whole system with water. Maybe sometime around (last year’s) Christmas or so.

I obviously should have had more foresight than that. I’m not sure when, exactly, the first news about silicon shortages in general and graphics card shortages in particular made the rounds last year, but I’m just going to assume that people who keep themselves informed about such things most likely saw this coming from a mile away. Well, I didn’t.

Oh well, I thought, I can’t really complain too much about performance issues even with my old card in there, so I’ll just wait until availability and prices have gone back to normal.

Yeah, no such luck of course.

Two weeks ago I was happily playing Grim Dawn when my PC suddenly shut itself down, accompanied by a sharp popping noise and a clearly visible flash from inside the case. The various LEDs were still alight, so I knew at least that the power supply hadn’t kicked the bucket, but other than that everything went dark and silent. Also, after a few more seconds I started to smell that something had actually burned up in there.

I immediately cut off the power and opened the case to see what’s what. I already kind of assumed that it was the graphics card, given that at almost 6 1/2 years it was by far the oldest component, and sure enough it was clearly where the smell emanated from. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it on the outside, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to plug it in again and risk damaging other parts too.

So…what to do?

As not having a functioning gaming PC even for a week is out of the question for me – I know, I have a (first world) problem – I knew I had no choice but to start looking for a new card right away, and also that I couldn’t afford to be too picky about its brand and exact features, let alone the price tag. With that in mind off to the interwebs I went.

I obviously wasn’t going to risk plugging a new card into my rig without knowing whether anything else might be damaged too though, so I simultaneously tried to figure out how to verify that beforehand. Fortunately a friend of Lakisa’s seems to always have old PC parts lying around. We asked him for a cheap PCIe card that he wouldn’t miss if it blew up, and luckily he had one. It was the tiniest graphics card I had seen in a very long time, but hopefully it would do the trick.

I installed it, crossed all my fingers, toes and other parts that shall not be mentioned here, and turned the PC on. It seemed to boot normally, Windows came up, and once the card had acquainted itself with my preset screen resolution everything looked just as usual. Phew. I launched Genshin Impact for good measure, which ran without problems too. Well, I say ran…at about 5 FPS it was more of a slideshow, but I still deemed that a successful test. Now all I needed was an actual gaming card.

Which wasn’t going to come cheap, that much I’d found out in the meantime. Since I’d never done proper research about whether I preferred the current generation of Nvidia’s or AMD’s cards up to that point, and was too impatient to do it then, I decided to just stick with Nvidia out of habit and best practice. Well, “best practice” apart from the last card blowing up, that is.

Hence I basically had the choice to either buy an RTX 3070, a slower card than I’d originally planned, to cut the cost at least somewhat (but still pay close to a thousand bucks), or to buy what I actually wanted, an RTX 3080, and pay whatever I needed to.

Since I’m fortunate enough not to be in any financial straits right now I chose the latter.

On the very next day this arrived at my doorstep, while almost 1500€ vanished from my bank account. The exorbitant price hurts for sure, but at least I should now be set for the next five years or so.

Since this card obviously does not have a pre-installed water cooling block the idea to switch was off the table, but I still wanted to get rid of the original AMD cooler because it got too noisy for my taste during heavy CPU load. I went for a be quiet! Shadow Rock 3, which isn’t too expensive, does a solid job and is, well, quiet.

Yeah, the cables are a mess…I just couldn’t be bothered after all that hassle

So now my “new” gaming system is finally complete, and thankfully the performance is as great as it should be. To test it I launched Cyberpunk 2077 (for the first time in months), set all graphics options to max – some of which I didn’t even have before – and still got just under 100 FPS during firefights and car chases. Not bad, I guess.

As for what killed the old card? To be honest, I have no idea. Maybe the fan(s) croaked after all those years and the chips overheated. I unwisely didn’t have an alarm tool for that kind of thing running – now I have. Whatever the reason, the event forced my hand, and now my rig is quite different than I’d originally planned. Oh well, maybe the next one will actually be water cooled. Or the one after that…

Blaugust 2021 post count: 2

Blaugust 2021 Kick-Off

So here we are, Blaugust 2021 is a go, and despite my initial doubts I did decide to sign up after all. The thought of giving such a great event a hard pass just didn’t feel right. Which means, of course, that I’ll try and post at least a tad more regularly than I have in recent months.

As I’m in a bit of a gaming slump right now…no, that’s not actually true. I’m in a blogging about gaming slump, I guess that’s what it is…they key to that will most likely be to also write about stuff I usually don’t write about, or at least not nearly as often.

Which, incidentally, is what I already did during Blaugust 2018. Of the 31 posts I penned during my first ever Blaugust participation eight had pretty much nothing to do with video games at all.

Since this week’s theme is “Welcome to Blaugust” and veteran bloggers are encouraged to give some advice to newbies – not sure whether I would call myself a veteran quite yet, but let’s just roll with it for the moment – I guess this would be mine: don’t feel obligated to only post about a certain range of topics.

First of all, your blog is exactly that – yours. As long as you don’t intend to reach a very specific audience and keep it happy and/or plan to make a living with your writing you can post about whatever floats your boat at any given moment.

Sure, on first glance this corner of the blogosphere is all about gaming, but that doesn’t mean we don’t read and enjoy each other’s posts when they’re about something else for a change. You’ve probably heard this truism about giving speeches: “It’s 70% how you look, 20% how you sound and only 10% what you say”. I think there’s some truth to that, and despite the negative connotation it also has its upsides and kind of applies to writing as well. For example, it’s because of their writing style, their use of language and their sense of humour that I always enjoy some bloggers’ posts, no matter the topic.

And, again, it’s your blog. Whether I like your posts doesn’t really matter. As long as you enjoy the process of writing and are happy with the outcome yourself, you’ve already won. And you’ll have done something a great many people never do: stopped just consuming and started creating. Go you!

In the spirit of leading by example my next post will indeed not be about gaming. Well, not about actually playing games at least, so I guess it counts. What the heck, my blog, my rules – it’s gonna count! 😉

Happy Blaugust, everyone!

Blaugust 2021 post count: 1

Buckle up, folks, it’s almost (Bl)August-time again!

As July slowly but surely draws to a close we’re once more approaching the season of Blaugust, and as Bhagpuss accurately noted we’re collectively gonna let you know about it, like it or not!

Despite having lots of other things on his plate Belghast has graciously decided to host another round of our (well, his, but also kinda our) great annual blogging festival.

Why? Let’s ask the man himself:

The why is pretty simple. The blogging community is nowhere near as large as it once was. Many of us have aged out of blogging with real-world responsibilities or just moved on to other time-consuming hobbies. Blaugust gives us a chance to infuse the community with a fresh lease on life as we court new bloggers to join the fray. Those of us who have been carrying the torch of blogging for decades now, can sometimes lose hope as our blogroll loses a few voices each year. I’ve come to learn that getting out and mingling and mentoring a new crop of fresh bloggers can give us the perspective to stay engaged and hopefully make this community thrive. The thing is… it has over the last several years as we migrated from “just blogs” to a bustling Discord community that takes place year round instead of just during this one month.

As I’m not much of a socializer I’ve never been very active on that Discord myself, but I absolutely feel like being part of a great community regardless, and it all started with my first Blaugust participation back in 2018.

That being said, I haven’t decided yet whether or not to chime in this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I’d very much like to. It’s just that blogging isn’t very high on my priority list right now, and it has also started to feel more like work than fun more often than not. I’ve talked about one of the reasons for this in my blogiversary-post back in June. Another is that work has been very stressful lately, and chances are it won’t be any different during the whole of August.

Now, I know that nobody is obligated to post more than they feel comfortable with. Still, the event’s stated goal is to post every day for a month, and signing up for it without even having the slightest intention to put my back into it and at least post a little more often than in recent months kinda feels like cheating to me. There’s still some time left to decide though, so maybe I’ll change my mind.

Either way, it’s an awesome event, and if you have a blog or are thinking about starting one you should absolutely seize the opportunity! No need to be shy, everybody in this community is extremely helpful, and we appreciate each other tremendously.

Should you consider participating, all you need to know is in this post over at Tales of the Aggronaut. Here’s looking forward to reading even more terrific posts than usual!