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