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!

Offline Adventures – A Plague Tale: Innocence

I really need to do this more often. Stop exclusively playing years- or even decades-old RPGs for a bit and give some contemporary games of other genres a chance, that is. It’s so worth it!

I’ve had Plague Tale (I’m not going to type out the whole damn title every time) on my radar pretty much since it launched two years ago, maybe even before that. However, I was always too busy playing other things, as usual. A couple of months ago it was heavily discounted on GOG, which at least made me pull the trigger on the purchase, and now I’ve finally played it through.

As always, click the pictures to enlarge

My very first impression of the game was “Hell yeah, I’m really going to like the music in this one!”, as the title theme that runs while you look at the starting-screen above instantly hit all the right notes for me (pun intended), not least because the Nyckelharpa is one of my favourite instruments.

Here’s the track, right at the start (the rest is worth a listen too though):

I’ve already bought the album so I can listen to it while I’m not playing. Well, and to support the artist. I really hope he’ll score the sequel too.

My second impression, which I got immediately upon entering the game proper, was “Wow, this looks freaking awesome!”, because it does.

As I alluded to in the beginning, and also already observed back when I was playing The Medium, a lot of technological advancement has obviously happened in recent years without me even noticing. That’s what I get for always playing the same old stuff.

Anyway, about the game itself. The story takes place in 14th century France, which is a pretty original setting for a video game, and also quite an interesting one, what with the Hundred Years’ War going on and the plague running rampant at the same time. It’s pretty bleak though, that’s for sure.

Definitely not for the faint of heart

The game’s main character is Amicia, a teenage girl of noble descent, who has to outgrow herself and take care of her little brother, Hugo, when everything goes to hell.

While the armies of plague-bearing rats that give the game its name and logo are not actually the main antagonist – that questionable honor goes, no surprise there, to other humans – they are often the biggest obstacle to survival during the game’s first half or so.

Having a light source available is usually the main concern, and much of the early gameplay revolves around that.

I’ll admit that I was initially quite nervous about having the little brother around all the time. I mean, let’s be real, in the history of video games escort mechanics have pretty much always sucked, and hard.

But lo and behold, it works surprisingly well here!

Amicia can tell Hugo to stay put or follow her around. The latter is almost always preferable as he gets nervous quickly when his big sister isn’t near him, but that’s ok because he isn’t a burden at all when he’s holding Amicia’s hand, and it happens only once or twice total that game mechanics force them to separate briefly.

Even more surprising: Hugo is actually of help! Due to his size he can slip through openings Amicia can’t, enabling him to open locked doors from the inside and stuff like that. At other times it’s just another pair of hands that’s needed, like when multiple levers have to be pulled simultaneously. Controlling him in these situations is as simple as looking in a specific direction and pressing the corresponding button.

I never thought I’d ever say this, but not only do the escort mechanics not suck in this game, they actually add to the experience by making me as a player feel the bond between these characters, struggle with them and root for them. It’s an astounding feat, but they did it!

In regards to combat the game finds a somewhat believable balance by Amicia neither being completely helpless nor mutating into a first class sword fighter overnight.

In the beginning her only defense is to throw rocks at something (or someone) or shoot those same rocks with her sling for a little more impact. Over the course of the game she adds various tricks to her arsenal though, conveniently right when she needs them to overcome the odds at hand.

Lighting fires or snuffing them out, temporarily luring rats to a specific location, using some sort of acid to make soldiers take their helmets off, making them vulnerable to headshots, and more such gadgets need to be used as the situations the little family finds itself in dictate it. Overall I thought this worked pretty well and prevented the gameplay from getting too samey.

However, I didn’t care much for the (fortunately rare) bossfights, as juggling, timing and aiming all those gadgets while staying on the move got too hectic for my taste. I’m not fond of bossfights in general though, so that’s probably not a huge surprise.

There’s also a rudimentary crafting system, because of course there is. It seems that no Action Adventure (I guess this is what it is, isn’t it?) can not have one of those these days.

To be honest, I could have done without it just fine, but to be fair, it obviously makes sense that Amicia doesn’t just have unlimited amounts of her gadgets on hand. So she collects rocks, sulfur, saltpeter, alcohol and other ingredients as she goes and crafts the various types of ammunition as needed. Upgrades to her sling, bigger pouches and stuff like that are made at crafting benches scattered across the game world. Which is strictly linear, by the way, there’s no open world to get lost in here.

Helloooo fellas!

Overall, I’m very satisfied. I played through the game in just shy of 14 hours, which felt neither too long nor too short. The story is good, characters are relatable. The gameplay isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but felt kinda new and fresh nonetheless. Graphics and sound are stellar, as are the controls (I used my XBox 360 controller again). Despite the graphic fidelity (and an install size of 41.5 GB to go with it) loading times off an NVMe-SSD are very short.

It’s a straight A in my book, highly recommended.

This fall is going to be (a) killer

It’s been almost two years since I stumbled across Lost Ark and wondered when the heck I might be able to get my hands on it. Well, it looks like the wait is almost over now.

Turns out the mysterious-but-not-really publishing deal between Smilegate, the game’s Korean developer, and Amazon was indeed about Lost Ark, and now we know that it’s slated to release in the NA and EU regions “this fall”.

Which is great. Of course my personal hype for the game had waned considerably after hearing a whole lot of nothing about a western release for so long, but I’d still very much like to play it, for all the reasons I’ve talked about in the post linked above. So, yeah, bring it!

Only that…

… just yesterday we learned that Diablo II Resurrected will launch very soon too, on September 23rd to be precise.

Half a decade ago this would have been a must-buy no questions asked for Lakisa and myself. However, given how much goodwill Blizzard has managed to squander in recent years, especially when it comes to remastering their old classics, we’re taking a much more cautious stance. In other words, we’ll wait for the launch, see how it goes and what people have to say about it, and then decide.

What we’ve seen until now looks promising though, and if they indeed get it right this time we’ll sure as hell play it. Diablo II is nothing less than one of our all time favourite games after all, and even gems like Path of Exile or Grim Dawn, superior as they are content- and mechanics-wise, haven’t quite managed to recapture its magic.

Which basically leaves just one question: with not one but two great games I’ve been looking forward to for years launching almost simultaneously, how will I find the time to actually play them both as extensively as I intend to? All those monsters aren’t gonna kill themselves, you know.

On the other hand, if that’s my main worry right now things are really looking up, aren’t they?

Year four – more Other Stuff than MMOs

No blogiversary-post without a cake

We’ve circled the sun yet another time and I’m still posting (somewhat) regularly around here, so go me I guess.

Still, the blog’s fourth year has been a weird one, and for once COVID-19 wasn’t the main culprit to blame. I mean, sure, after a while masks, distancing, lockdowns and all that shit started to get to me just like everyone else, and I can’t say I’ve been my usual, upbeat self during these surreal times.

The main reason for my change in gaming habits and, as a result, my blogging is something else though: there just isn’t any MMORPG I’d really like to play right now.

It’s not that there aren’t any good ones available, quite the contrary. And, as Bhagpuss accurately notes, there are currently more new and promising releases waiting in the wings than we’ve had in years. I am definitely keeping an eye on Swords of Legends Online, and I’ll most certainly at least try it out when it launches. I also still log into EVE Online every now and again.

There’s always stuff to shoot in space

My enthusiasm for the MMORPG genre as a whole is at an all-time low however. Of course many things have changed during the 20 years since I started to play Ultima Online, and as far as I’m concerned definitely not all of them for the better. Yet after thinking quite a lot about it lately I’ve come to realize: it’s not the genre, it’s me.

I definitely still love the RPG part of the acronym, and I have no qualms regarding the O being in there either. No, it’s the MM aspect that’s become more and more of a turnoff for me.

Guild drama (and drama in general), bad pugs, trolls, people trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with my free time… I could – and probably will – write a whole post of its own about why having other players around is much more bane than boon to me these days.

Peace and calm…yeah, this is much more like it

I guess that’s why I still very much enjoy playing Genshin Impact, which has been my main game – and, at times, my only game – for eight months straight now. It pushes almost all of the buttons that made me addicted to MMORPGs in the first place – exploration, character progression, combat, getting to know a foreign world and then becoming a part of it, and now even housing – without the “baggage” of having other people around. Sorry folks, but that’s just how I feel right now.

Of course there are downsides to playing in self-imposed seclusion too. I’ve argued myself that other players are what puts the spice, the adventure into online games, and I still stand by that. As much fun as I’ve had playing Genshin, Warframe and a handful of other games this past year, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been on any real adventures while doing so.

Surprisingly, though, I can kinda live with that. As I’ve come to realize it can actually be quite soothing to know in advance that any given play session will most likely not turn into an adrenaline-filled frenzy.

Home is where the heart is

However, I started this blog to write about my gaming adventures first and foremost. You know, about stuff that really excited me when it happened, that I feel the need to preserve and also show to other people, to maybe help them understand why I like to sit at my desk and play these games so much.

It’s probably no surpsise, then, that I’ve published less posts during the blog’s fourth year than any other. Even my first year, when I was still finding my footing and nothing I did had any regularity or plan to it, saw 34 posts published, compared to just 29 within the past twelve months.

Will that change again? Most likely. I’ve been fed up with MMORPGs in the past, and I’ve always come back. I do like having those adventures very much, after all.

Until then my posting cadence will probably remain on the lower end. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.

A teapot to call home

Two weeks ago Version 1.5 went live in Genshin Impact. As that number suggests it’s the game’s fifth major update since its launch in September 2020, and for me personally it’s the most important one yet: among other cool things like new bosses to fight we got – cue drum roll – a housing system! Yes, really.

Puntastically called the Serenitea Pot it’s not “just” an apartment or a house, but a whole archipelago or mountain plateau for players to furnish and design to their liking. It isn’t flawless, but miHoYo already said that they’re still working on improving and expanding it, and even as it is now it’s already surprisingly good.

After a short questline we get to choose one of three layouts (to begin with) for our very own magical realm located inside an actual teapot. This fits the game’s lore as we’ve already visited a couple of those realms during the Liyue storyline.

Initially the area is completely empty except for a main building – your actual house – and an NPC appropriately named Tubby.

Sitting here all day is obviously bad for your health, mate

Tubby is the realm’s manager of sorts. Obtaining realm currency, buying furniture and blueprints with said currency as well as crafting items is managed here. Your trust rank is raised by building furnishings for the first time, which in turn unlocks more blueprints, additional slots for the crafting queue and even grants access to more real estate around your main island.

Realm currency accumulates in real time whether you’re logged in or not, which is good. The amount you get per hour depends on your realm’s score…which ain’t so good, at least initially. The more items you’ve placed inside and outside of your house the higher your score; consequently you’ll most likely plop down everything you have, even if it doesn’t really fit your artistic vision. I do think that this is only a beginner’s issue though, reaching (or keeping) the highest score by building your dream realm just the way you want it should be an organic process and sort itself out over time.

It’s not talked about much, but alongside the teapot we also got a new form of gathering: woodcutting.

Unsurprisingly, in order to craft furnishings some materials are needed. Silk flowers to make fabric, various fruits and plants for dyes, ore for…well, stuff that’s made out of metal, and, of course, various types of wood for most furniture.

The gathering process isn’t elaborate at all, but somehow strangely satisfying: you whack any tree in the open world with whatever weapon you have equipped, and it drops one piece of wood, up to three pieces total.  As trees are abundant and wood respawns daily or upon relogging (Ha, get it? I only just now got it!) acquiring the desired amounts isn’t hard. The only thing left to figure out is which of the seven types of wood spawns where, but that’s not too hard to deduce either. Anyhow, I like it.

Now to the most important part. Placing furnishings is easy and – thank god – not constrained by an anchor system or nonsense like that. There are some restrictions though. For example, most items are strictly classified as indoor- or outdoor-furniture and can only be used as such; if there’s a way to work around that I haven’t found it yet. Also, not everything is stackable on top of each other. I can place lamps and vases on a table, but not a pile of books on a bookshelf, although it looks like it should have plenty of space for that.

Some features, on the other hand, are not only really good but, in my opinion, bordering on groundbreaking. “Furniture Sets”, for instance.

You acquire a variety of these sets over time, and each one gives you the ability to place a pre-arranged combination of furnishings, like the dining area above. You still have to build or buy the items needed for the set first, but once you have them all you can place the whole set en bloc with just a few clicks. Even better, you can still tweak each piece individually after placing the set, giving the arrangement a personal note if you’re so inclined.

Not only is this easier and quicker than placing the items one by one, the sets can also be a great source of inspiration for folks who aren’t all that creative in this regard.

The house itself is spacious and looks pretty nice on the inside too. Both versions (there’s Mondstadt style as seen throughout this post, and Liyue style) have two stories, with a large open space and three adjacent rooms on the ground floor and a gallery-like level above that. The latter also has two doors, but unfortunately those won’t open as of yet. To get to my really nice balconies I actually have to scale my manor’s outside walls like a burglar. I hope they’ll do something about that in future updates.

Once you’ve bought the corresponding blueprints you can even replace floors, ceilings, walls and the main chandeliers with different looking ones; by now I have a much nicer cedar parquet floor in my main hall instead of the chequered one you see above.

At higher trust ranks the currency I mentioned can also be used to buy progression items like resin replenishments, weapon or character XP and Mora. While it’s certainly a smart move from miHoYo’s perspective to incentivise using the teapot even if you’re not a fan of housing, I don’t like this very much.

Firstly, it excacerbates the compulsion to unlock, build and place stuff as quickly as possible even further, which kind of defeats the purpose of a housing system as a more “zen” activity.

Secondly, it’s most likely the reason for the whole thing being locked behind reaching Adventure Rank 35 – which I hadn’t really taken note of in the patch notes as AR restrictions usually don’t affect me anymore, but Bhagpuss reminded me of it. Now, it doesn’t take that long to reach AR 35 if you set your mind to it, but I think it’s pretty stupid to gate a housing system like that at all.

All things considered I’m pretty happy though, especially since I know more is coming still. Also, in case you forgot, this isn’t an MMORPG. For what’s basically a single player RPG with optional four player Co-Op, primarily developed for mobile platforms, a housing system as substantial as this is already much more than I’d dared to hope for.

I do have a wishlist for those future updates however, because of course I do:

  • Make the house’s interior part of the teapot’s main-instance instead of the separate instance it is now. This would spare us the additional loading screens each time we’re going in our out, and also greatly increase the immersion factor. Also, what good is a balcony for when I can’t actually get to it?
  • Let us use all furnishings wherever we want, inside or out (except those that are too large for indoor use, obviously).
  • Let us stack more items on top of each other.  Encouraging creativity is king.
  • Some more functionality would be great. We already have forge, stove and alchemy table (awesome!), access to the adventurer’s guild is pretty much the only important thing that’s missing now.
  • Add new blueprints to our crafting selections immediately, don’t make us go to our inventories and consume them first.
  • Maybe think about lowering the AR restriction. Making players wait this long until they can experience a game’s housing system really doesn’t make sense to me.
  • And please, for the love of god, let us switch between Tubby’s menus without having to start the conversation all over again each time (this goes for pretty much all of the game’s NPCs, by the way). I swear, I’ll throw that fat finch into the stove when I have to listen to its greeting line just one more time!

Fingers crossed.

EVE’s wretched hive of scum and villainy finally looks the part

If you’ve played EVE Online at any point during the past 15 or so years you’re well aware that the NPC station Caldari Navy Assembly Plant located at Planet IV Moon 4 of the Jita star system is the game’s major trade hub most players use to buy and sell their wares. And scam, and lie, and cheat, obviously. Hell, even if you’ve only heard or read about the game chances are “Jita 4-4” means something to you.

Despite its huge importance to the community the station looked like just another Caldari station for the longest time, on the inside as well as the outside.

Well, not anymore.

About half a year ago CCP completely remodeled the station’s exterior, and I think they did a pretty good job. It looks sprawling and busy, with electronic billboards plastered everywhere.

The thing is though, the station isn’t actually looked at much from the outside. As a matter of fact most arriving players dock as quickly as they can, and warp the hell off right after undocking when they leave again. The reason for this, of course, is the fear of suicide gankers.

The opposite is true for the station’s interior however. Thousands of characters basically live there. I assume more ship spinning happens in Jita 4-4 than any other station, so one might argue that in order to give players something nice to look at this should have been the priority.

Anyway, the wait is over now. A couple of days ago the station’s bowels followed suit at last. As I don’t log on my Jita alt often these days I’d probably missed it if not for Wilhelm. Which would’ve been a shame because I think it looks glorious.

Now, I know that there are much more important things CCP’s devs should be working on. Nevertheless I applaud that they took the time to do this because, for me, EVE isn’t just ‘spreadsheets in space’. It’s a virtual world, and while immersion doesn’t come easy in a game where I can’t run around and identify with an avatar, stuff like this definitely helps.

I’m sure the effect will wear off soon enough, but for now I’ll spin my ship in Jita 4-4 again from time to time, which I hadn’t done in quite a while.

Offline Adventures – The Medium

I’d read about The Medium here and there a while ago, but although it did look somewhat interesting I wasn’t intrigued enough to actually give it a shot. Until I learned that none other than Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill fame) had contributed to the game’s soundtrack, that is. At that point I just had to buy the deluxe edition – including a digital artbook and, most importantly, the soundtrack – right away, so off to GOG I went.

I’m glad that I did because the ~12 hours it took me to see the end credits were a pretty good experience. I’d describe The Medium as a rather easy third-person adventure game with light to moderate stealth elements and psychological horror. It’s not an all-time classic, but if you’re a fan of the genre(s) I can recommend it.

I won’t spoil anything about the story as I feel it’s actually the game’s strong point, and I think knowing too much about it beforehand would seriously lessen the experience. Instead I’ll talk more about gameplay, controls, sound and graphics, which are also pretty important for a game like this in my opinion.

I had to crank up the brightness of all screenshots significantly – the whole setting is pretty bleak

First of all – the graphics are simply stunning. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite come across on stills, but this is easily the most realistic looking game I’ve played to date. As usual the characters’ faces don’t quite reach that high standard, but apart from that I felt totally immersed in the environments – well, at least those located in the real world.

The game’s advertised standout feature is its “Dual-Reality-Gameplay”. The main character, Marianne, is the eponymous medium, her ‘special ability’ being to let her consciousness slip into the spirit world. Well, I say let, but most of the time it doesn’t actually happen by choice. Also, she can’t stay separated from her body for too long in that state, so most of the time she’s moving and acting in both worlds at once and in unison. These scenes are shown in split-screen, sometimes divided horizontally, sometimes vertically.

When an obstacle is blocking her passage in either world she can’t pass it, which is when she has to temporarily leave her body behind and hurry to cook up a solution in the spirit world, or alternatively find a way around in the real world. Many of the game’s puzzles revolve around this.

The feature isn’t as revolutionary as advertised, but it is quite neat. Navigating a character through two worlds at once that look kinda the same but also very different feels pretty cool. As this is all rendered in real time it’s also taxing on the hardware though, so a newish gaming rig is recommended.

During the course of the game Marianne is confronted by a nightmarish creature every now and again. It can’t be defeated, because of course it can’t, so the only option is to hide and sneak, as it were. I’m not a fan of such mechanics, but it didn’t bother me too much here as these scenes are short and not terribly hard to beat. They feel pretty intense too, so op success I guess.

As Marianne advances through the game she finds more and more story clues, often in text form (letters, postcards and such), but there are also disturbing sketches like this as well as conversations that happened long ago, still existing as echoes in the spirit world.

If there’s one thing I’d have to criticize it’s that the amount of objects actually being utilized in puzzles is miniscule compared to the stuff that’s “just” there to unveil the story. Consequently there aren’t that many puzzles to solve overall, so as far as adventures go this one is an ‘adventure light’ at best.

At certain points in the story you take control of another character’s spirit form. This tormented soul, obviously also a medium and central to the plot, has to face some really dark places, which are the game’s most impressive set pieces.

But what about the music? That’s what I bought the game for, isn’t it?

Well, it’s quite good. Really good, actually, now that I’m listening to it again as I type this. The crux is, it’s neither as atmospheric nor as disturbing as Silent Hill’s soundtrack, so I guess the fact that I’m not totally over the moon is simply due to too high expectations. What else is new?

As for controls, I used my trusty Xbox 360 pad and had no problems, except that I use it too rarely and always need an hour or two to memorize where A, B, X and Y are located. I assume using mouse and keyboard would work just fine too, but haven’t tested it.

Checkpoint placement is regular and fair. I was annoyed only once during my playthrough when I had to repeat a section a couple of times, and that wasn’t because of the checkpoint itself, but because of the 20 second-long unskippable cutscene right before the tricky part.

And there you have it. Overall I really liked the game, and if I were to make one of those tier-lists that are so popular these days I’d give it a solid B.

Towards the end the atmosphere even lightens up somewhat. Whether that’s a harbinger of a happy ending you’ll have to go and see for yourself.

Three changes that would make Genshin Impact even better

Having played the game daily for about five months now I think I have a pretty good grasp of which aspects of its design do and do not work well. It’s a great game overall, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion it could be even more enjoyable with some tweaks here and there.

I’m going to try and keep it reasonable though, so don’t expect me to say “They should get rid of the gacha mechanics and make their monetization non-predatory and fair” because, while I obviously would welcome such a change, it’s just not going to happen.

Without further ado, here are three possible adjustments to Genshin Impact that I think would be really great for its players while not hurting miHoYo’s bottom line – at least I assume they wouldn’t; in fact they might actually turn out to be beneficial for the company’s profits.

Usual combat rewards on the left, expenses at lvl 79 on the right

Greatly increase XP and Mora rewarded for combat

While we do get some character-XP and Mora for killing monsters in the open world the amounts are so negligible that they might not even be there.

Despite this being the case I still only level most of my characters to 79 instead of 80, for example, but that’s just because I’m weird like that and won’t let anything go to waste, however little it might be. In reality though, it would take years for an 80+ character to gain another level this way.

The thing is, unless there’s an event going on getting hold of XP materials and Mora in actually useful amounts is, like most everything, gated by the resin system. I get why they do it that way, but at least in this case I think it’s a mistake.

Here’s why: being able to level up all my characters would feel much better, be more fun and also make me want to have even more characters.

This is so sad…

You see, at the time of this writing I have 26 characters at my disposal, and the max level is 90. However, the current level-distribution is as follows (rounded):

    • Level 90: zero (!)
    • Level 80: seven
    • Level 70: five
    • Level 2-60: four
    • Level 1: ten

Now, it’s not that I can’t play the game well with these characters, quite the contrary. As a matter of fact the difficulty curve I talked about a while ago flattened considerably once I’d reached adventure rank 40 and stopped doing daily comissions, and by now my teams smash everything but the lowest two levels of Spiral Abyss with relative ease.

Still, all those characters sitting glumly at level 1? I really would like to level those up too, and getting my main damage dealers up to 90 wouldn’t hurt either. Alas, I can’t afford it. As a consequence I’m not looking forward to any new character banners right now. Even if they look really interesting, I just don’t need any more when I can’t even use half of those I already have.

What’s more, roaming the open world and killing stuff would be much more enjoyable and feel more rewarding if we could actually level up our characters that way and also earn some Mora while we’re at it.

As long as it isn’t excessively overtuned I don’t think this would break anything either. The game has so bloody many progression-bottlenecks – character ascension- and XP-mats, weapon ascension- and XP-mats, talent books, artifacts, Mora – that loosening the chains a bit on two of those wouldn’t result in us getting bored or fed up anytime soon.

So, what happens when players have more fun, feel more rewarded and are even encouraged to get hold of and level up more characters? If you gave this a shot it might well turn into a win-win situation, you folks at miHoYo. Just sayin’.

This was really fun…while it lasted

Make event-content permanent with reduced rewards

All those great gameplay additions that came alongside the numerous events we got to play since the game’s release? Yeah, they’re all gone now.

I’m not a developer, so I don’t have a realistic notion of how much work went into that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it was too much to just throw it all away after a week or two.

What’s more, it was ‘something else to do’ for players. And also fun. Why not make it permanent?

Oh, I get it, they want us to feel that FOMO really bad. But trust me, as long as the rewards remain on the generous side (a tad more primogems would be even better though!) we’ll still log in every day to participate in the actual events for sure. But once those are over, just dial the rewards back considerably and let us continue to play the stuff if we want to.

I’ll use Theater Mechanicus as an example. They could bring this back and let us play it as often as we like. The reward per match could be a choice of either, say, 30k Mora, two blue talent books or two blue ascension mats. The first two matches per week are free, after that it costs 10 resin per. Maybe those numbers aren’t quite optimal yet, but you get the idea.

This would encourage all players to engage with the content at least from time to time, while giving those who really love doing it the option to earn their Mora or character mats this way instead of doing leylines and domains, without either being the obviously better choice.

Fire ventures with you? Fine, but please leave me out of it!

Make constellations toggleable

For non-whales constellations mainly exist to take the sting out of getting duplicates from the gacha system and are supposed to make the characters in question stronger.

However, the effects of some character’s constellations can actually have a negative impact, depending on how you play them and which other characters you team them up with.

The most obvious one is Bennett’s C6 (shown above), which makes his ultimate ability convert most characters’ normal and charged attacks to Pyro damage. Under the right circumstances this can be really great. Unfortunately, if your group’s main damage dealer mainly relies on physical damage (and thus probably wears gear with bonuses to that type of damage on it) this actually lowers their damage output considerably.

So…you’d like us to happily pull for more characters and constellations, right? Then at least make sure that we can’t accidentally mess up our characters by doing so and give us a toggle for all constellations please.

This is supposed to always be a joyous moment, isn’t it?

And there you have it. I think these changes would make an already great game even better, and while I’m not an expert on such things I really believe that none of this would make players spend less money on it…so why not do it?

Accuracy is a bad stat in MMORPGs

The other day I was fiddling around with my characters’ artifacts in Genshin Impact, pondering which ones to keep or ditch, which to upgrade further or leave as is and so forth.

Getting really good artifacts like the one seen above is quite hard as there’s a lot of RNG involved.

Firstly, the main- and sub-stats they drop with are – with a few exceptions – completely random. You can (and regularly do) even get pieces of such a set, this one is obviously meant for Hydro characters for example, with a bonus to, say, Pyro damage as its main stat. While such an item isn’t necessarily useless it certainly isn’t what you’re hoping for when farming a particular set.

Secondly, each time you raise an artifact’s level by 4 it gets an additional (random) sub-stat unless it already had four. In the latter case one of the existing sub-stats is chosen, you guessed it, randomly to get a boost.

MOAR CRITS, MOAR DAMAGE, MUCH GOOD!!

It isn’t all bad though. With perseverance and a bit of luck it’s absolutely possible to get very strong artifacts, as you can see here.

The main reason for this, I believe, is that there aren’t actually that many different stats for the RNG to choose from. Therefore you’re gonna hit the desired combination eventually.

Anyway, all this made me think about the different kinds of stats I’ve encountered over the decades in various RPGs, MMO or otherwise, which finally brings us to the point I’m trying to make today: depending on class, playstyle et cetera there are always desirable stats and undesirable stats…

…and then there’s Accuracy.

Seriously though…why?

I’m really glad that Accuracy doesn’t exist in Genshin Impact because, as far as I’m concerned, it is the most annoying, unnecessary and, above all, unfun stat of them all.

The way I see it Accuracy, sometimes called Hit Rating or somesuch instead, is a remnant of Pen & Paper RPGs that should never have made its way into RPGs played on digital devices in real time.

“But Mail, when characters in Dungeons & Dragons have a THAC0 it makes sense that characters in computer- or console-RPGs have it too, right?”

Well, no. Let me explain why.

When you play Pen & Paper a dice roll is usually the only way to determine whether or not your character succeeds at whatever it is you want them to do (unless the GM hates you or something). If you didn’t need to win those rolls your alter ego would be pretty much infallible because in order to make them do something you but need to say it.

Go ahead, try to do that in a real time video game. I’ll wait.

Didn’t work out so well, did it? That’s the thing. ‘Telling’ your character what to do is so much more complex and, at times, difficult in Action RPGs, MMORPGs and other games of their ilk nowadays that this already is the challenge. Adding an arbitrary dice roll to decide whether you succeed or not is not only unnecessary, it’s downright mean.

So you’ve positioned your character correctly, selected the right target and pushed your myriad of buttons in the optimal order and all at the right time? Well done to you, mate, but unfortunately the dice roll says that you failed to interrupt the boss’s one-shot mechanic, and now you’re dead.

Sounds like fun? Yeah, didn’t think so.

In order to minimize those frustrations you can try to maximize your Accuracy-stat of course. I see two problems with that though.

One, more than a few games that have a Chance To Hit mechanic also have a hard cap for it, so you’ll still fail a roll every so often no matter how much of the stat you stack on your gear, which makes it even more unfun.

Two, and this is what bugs me the most, it’s a must-have stat that does basically nothing for you. In The Secret World and SWTOR I stacked as much Accuracy on my tank gear as theorycrafters had figured out was necessary to practically (in SWTOR’s case literally) have a 100% chance to hit in any situation, just to be sure I’d never miss an important impair or taunt, respectively.

So what I did was, in essence, to waste a whole lot of my available stat pool to make sure I’d never realize it’s even there.

Ok, maybe I just fell off the platform this time…

But isn’t raising our characters’ stats supposed to be one of the really fun things about playing RPGs? Hitting harder, running faster, jumping higher, all that jazz…that’s fun! Notice how “Missing less often” isn’t on that list, and it feels even worse when I’m basically forced to pour stats into this instead of those other things that are actually enjoyable.

And, again, having another way to fail in video games where the difference between victory and defeat hinges as much on my skill as a player as it does on my character’s stats anyway is just not necessary. I can easily manage to screw up on my own, thank you very much.

So, yeah, I know where the Accuracy stat is coming from and why it makes sense in its original context. But can we please get rid of it in MMO- and Action-RPGs? Like, for good?

Don’t miss out on this – Genshin Impact

An event is currently running in Genshin Impact – as per usual – and I highly advise anyone who’s played and liked the game before to put Valheim away for a bit (c’mon, we all know you’re playing that one right now) and take a look. It’s so worth it on every level!

The event is called Lantern Rite and is most likely based on the Chinese spring lantern festival. Storywise it’s full of feelgood-moments and laughs, the new gameplay mode is awesome, rewards are great and festively decorated Liyue Harbor is a sight to behold.

The quests are all centered around helping Liyue’s populace with their various preparations for the festival, and they’re quite numerous.

I won’t lie, gameplay-wise these aren’t revelatory in any way, shape or form. But, again, the stories are mostly quite good, and you learn a lot about various people, many of which you’ve already met before while doing world quests or daily comissions. I’m really curious now about what the future might bring for some of those NPCs, which is a feat not many games have managed to accomplish.

The new game mode is called Theater Mechanicus, and it’s basically tower defense, Genshin Impact style.

On first glance it’s simple: monsters come out of one or more purple portals and walk (or run) towards one or more blue exit portals. You can’t deal damage with your characters directly, but applying elemental statuses with your attacks works. The only way to actually damage the mobs is to build automated turrets. They come in different flavors, and those that deal elemental damage can also trigger one of the various elemental reactions for even more damage.

The turrets have varying ranges and attack speeds, so careful placement is key, as is choosing the right characters going in. Those that match the turrets you’re intending to use best for setting up the strongest elemental reactions will yield the most devastating results.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like this mode as tower defence isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I gotta tell you, this is so much fun!

It’s incredibly satisfying to set up big reactions and see a whole bunch of those big shield-wielding hilichurls explode in an instant. Or, even better, once I’d upgraded my hydro turret to level 5 and thus unlocked its ability to trap monsters in a bubble of water I instantly knew what I was going to do: give those annoying Abyss mages a taste of their own damn medicine!

Setting this up took a bit of work, but the result made me squeal with glee

It’s even more fun with a partner – yes, two player Co-Op is enabled for this mode. Lakisa and I play at least a couple of rounds every evening since the event went live.

Of course the rewards are nothing to sneeze at either.

As you can see I’ve already accumulated a lot of the event currency. What can I say, I’m saving up for a big shopping spree, hehe. There’s talent and ascension materials on offer, XP scrolls, Mora, the lot. A very rare Crown of Insight, an item needed to get a character’s talents to level 10, can also be bought, as well as an event-exclusive namecard style.

Probably the best reward of all, at least for F2P players, is a free four-star character. This isn’t the first time that’s happened, but which character we’d get had always been predetermined until now. Well, not this time:

All of these characters are really strong in their own way, so there should be something there for everyone.

At the time of this writing there’s 10 days and 15 hours remaining to play the event, so there’s still plenty of time to see and do everything. What are you waiting for?

I gotta say though, in my opinion it’s a shame that it’s all going to go away so soon. I really hope miHoYo is at least considering leaving Theater Mechanicus in the game in some form. It would be a real waste to take it out completely because it’s well made content that surely took quite a while to develop, and, well, is a lot of fun.

Thanks Paimon, I’ll take it!

Technically not tied to the event, but still worth patching up the game for too, is the current log-in campaign. Most notable are the up to ten Intertwined Fates you can get, which means ten free pulls from one of the time-limited gacha banners containing characters and weapons exclusive to those banners. There’s 8 days and 15 hours left to claim these seven reward tiers, so better get to it right now.

I’m still surprised about the high quality and quantity of content this game keeps getting. Again though, it’s a shame that so much of it isn’t permament, and I really hope they’re planning to bring the best events back at some point – maybe on a yearly schedule or something?

Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me, those turrets aren’t gonna build themselves…