No Man’s Sky Thoughts

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This morning was an absolutely glorious morning, in part because of a massive cold front that blew through over night.  It is suddenly 70 degrees outside with a lovely breeze, rather than the usual over 100 degree madness that has been happening for weeks.  As a result we decided to get up and walk over to daylight donuts for breakfast and then take it into the backyard and eat it on the patio.  After the generally shit week that I had, I needed this little bit of respite to maybe start to recover.  It is not that anything really went wrong… just the stress of entirely too much maximum level adulting.  The week was one with several adulting raid bosses, and the progress made on them were mixed.  However I am now happy to chill out on the sofa with a cat precariously balanced between my arms trying to find a way to snuggle while I type.  So far it is working but I have a feeling at some point she will wander off because my hands are engaged in something other than serious petting action.  Other than all of this… yesterday a game was released that I had been waiting anxiously for since it was first announced at E3 during the Sony PS4 reveal show, or at least I think that was when I first saw it.  No Man’s Sky promised to be the space exploration game for me.  Elite Dangerous looks awesome, but it is entirely too fiddly for my tastes.  I don’t want to have to care about learning to pilot a ship through the vast expanses of space, or learning how to dogfight when there is no “up”.  I just want a Star Trek away mission simulator that lets me wander around the cosmos and land on interesting new planets to explore.  No Man’s Sky seems to be exactly that, but before I get into the good parts I need to talk about the bad.

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Lots of folks are having trouble playing this game on the PC now that it has been released.  I am not sure what happened during the process of the launch but the “minimum” listed specs seem to have been thrown completely out the window.  I know Tamrielo has already returned his copy through steam because on his pretty hoss machine it simply would not give him more than 10 fps.  First lets go over the minimum specs that were released for the game.

  • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GTX 480, AMD Radeon 7870
  • Storage: 10 GB available space

I’ve played it on two of my machines… first on my Laptop

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: 4th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 960m

On this machine I had to bump it down to 720p/medium to get stable framerates in the range of 30 fps, with the occasional dip into 15 territory.  However nVidia experience claims that this machine does not meet the minimum requirements to play the game, whereas instead every single category above technically outstrips what the suggested minimums are.

My upstairs gaming machine has the following specs…

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor:  AMD fx-6300 3.5 ghz
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 980

As one would expect the beefier graphics card means that I am getting significantly better performance, but not massively so.  I am running the game at 1080p/medium and I get severe dips from the 60fps to 30fps and it is extremely erratic.  What this feels like to me… is a game that was rushed to make last minute changes and is extremely poorly optimized for the PC.  From the sound of it… everyone that chose to get the PS4 copy seems to be just happily playing away.  Those of us on the PC are trying to find that precarious line where the performance to pretty balance is reasonable.  The biggest confusion point that I am seeing thought is having a big badass system doesn’t necessarily make a difference.  It is almost totally random who can and cannot run this game.  As a result I highly suggest you purchase the game through steam, that way if for whatever reason it does not work for you… you can return it to get a full refund.  I believe GOG does the same thing, but I have never actually returned a game there so I am not sure how fast or easy that process is.  Essentially this is definitely a “buyer beware” title… and if you simply want to play it without much fussing then I suggest you check out the PlayStation 4 copy.

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Now that all of that is out of the way…. the game is really pretty and feels like you are exploring alien worlds.  It has this feeling of minecraft, starbound and elite all throw together in the a mixer and some weird hybrid came out of the process.  The key thing that stood in the way of me playing Elite or Star Citizen… is that my player fantasy has nothing to do with flying a ship.  I could give a shit about actually flying anything… and would be perfectly happy just taking “taxis” between planets.  What I want is the exploration of new and interesting places, and that is the fantasy that NMS hones in on.  There are going to be folks that complain that this title is entirely too “walking sim” for them, but the couple of planets have all been filled with rich and interesting environments for me to explore.  Right now my biggest problem is the lack of inventory, and lack of understanding how to increase said inventory.  There is just so much I don’t know how to do, and so many items I pick up that I don’t have a clue what they are even for.  What is the most interesting to me is the fact that when you encounter an alien race, you don’t know how to communicate.  You learn language through finding these knowledge stones, and each of them teaches you a single word in another language.  Now I have yet to see what actually happens when you know some words… because I absolutely lost faction with a race by patting them on the head.

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The coolest moment so far has to be when I finally repaired my ship, and decided to lift off of the planet and out into space.  I watched as the horizon got darker and darker until all of the sudden I broke through the atmosphere and could see the stars around me.  Similarly awesome was the moment when I realized that landing on this planet… I had to be super careful about my angle of entry.  If you come in too straight you absolutely start to burn up in the atmosphere damaging your shields in the process.  So that mean’t I had to skim along carefully descending slowly enough to avoid taking damage, but that also meant that this was no means a quick process.  There are consequences of pushing off planet, and I burned through all of my fuel on the first planet using my ship to explore.  Each time you thrust off the surface it takes resources, ones that you cannot easily replenish without significant time spent exploring… which in itself costs resources because the environments are usually hostile and stress your life support systems to where they need recharging as well.  There however is a central loop that I find enjoyable of exploring and gathering and exploring and gathering.  In fact last night I absolutely lost two hours of time playing this game.  Not that I was aware that I spent time… but I thought I had maybe spent fifteen minutes playing, until I looked up and realized that two hours had passed.  So if the issues of the launch can get ironed out, I have a feeling that this is going to go down as one of those Minecraft like experiences that just keeps building upon itself.

So final advice is… pick it up definitely. However if you have a Playstation 4, you might lean towards that for your purchase.  Otherwise definitely purchase it through a provider that is going to allow you to return the game on PC if for whatever reason it does not like your machine.

Pax Prime Hopes

The Big Show

It feels like we live in this world where there is always another big games show around the corner.  I remember when quite literally all that existed was the Consumer Electronics show, at least for the United States.  Now we have dozens of shows sprinkled throughout the year, all of which vying for exclusive announcements.  As a result companies have to trickle information out so that everyone that attends one of the shows feels like they are getting to see something unique or special.  This weekend of course is Pax Prime, and I had hoped this year I would be attending.  The truth is however that Pax Prime will likely never be in the cards, as the husband of a teacher…  August is a HORRIBLE time for me to be travelling.  During this month my wife is in full on panic mode as she gets adjusted to another school year, and while for a bit I was bummed at not being able to attend, I am realizing it was ultimately for the best.  As a result I will be a loyal yearly Pax South attendee and pretty much brush aside the thoughts of doing the Pax Prime thing.  Instead at some point I will just go out to Seattle to meet my friends that seem to be pooling there, instead of trying to make one big combo trip.  Having been to a Pax, I have to say in truth the folks at home have a much better view of what is going on there through the live stream.  As a result I am looking forward to spending much of the weekend watching as much as I can.  Which gets to the point of this mornings post.  I thought I would talk a bit about the various things I am hoping to get out of Pax Prime 2015.

Final Fantasy XIV

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The thing that I want this weekend… is a release date for 3.1.  I know we are getting close, but I want to know a firm release date so I know just how long I am going to have to wait.  Right now Final Fantasy XIV is going through a bit of a content lull much like it did after the release of A Realm Reborn.  Quite frankly at this point I am tired of running Neverreap…  since that seems to be the dungeon I get most often.  Two dungeons in a roulette rotation simply is not enough, and I am honestly a bit concerned with the news that 3.1 is only going to add two more as well.  My hope is that they create a four dungeon expert roulette instead of moving Neverreap and Fractal to Hard Roulette and making expert just be the two new dungeons.  The other piece I am really looking forward to is the next 24 player dungeon the Void Ark, aka the creepy airship you sometimes seem flying around in the Sea of Clouds.  The game needs a shot in the arm of content, because folks are starting to slow down… myself included.  More so than this… I would like to see some future vision type stuff for 3.2 and beyond.  In the past we have usually had this list of things that Yoshi P had promised for “future” patches and we are a bit low on that right now.

Wildstar

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Similar to FFXIV…  and honestly a lot of the things I am going to talk about this morning….  I just want a date for when the Free to Play conversion will happen.  They keep putting new patches on the test server and it is starting to feel like maybe they are close, but what I need from them is a date.  I am enjoying Wildstar so much more than I have at any point in the past, and a lot of the changes that are coming in with the free to play conversion are going to be generally good for the game as well.  Past the free to play conversion… I would like to see some information about what their long range plans are.  I don’t even know if they have a presence at Pax Prime this weekend, but even if folks don’t they tend to time announcements around major shows as well.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

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Since the expansion announcement at Pax South, I have had a strange connection with this title.  Traditionally speaking I do not really enjoy Guild Wars 2 that much.  That said I have to say the revenant looks more interesting than any of the previous classes. I fully expect that I will be picking this title up when it launches if for no reason other than the fact that it is once again “buy to play” and I have gotten my original purchase out of the game.  This has been the year of announcements completely unfettered by timelines, and it is starting to get frustrating.  Once again we have a big title looming on the horizon with zero date announced for when we will be expecting to play it.  I am expecting that this one is going to be a lot like Heavensward was, where they announce the launch date and it is only a few months away.  My hope is that Pax Prime finally is going to be the show where they talk about this at.  Give your fans some firm dates.

Blizzard Titles

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I am honestly not expecting anything new to come out of this conference from Blizzard.  They did their big reveal of the World of Warcraft expansion at Gamescom, and I fully expect that with Blizzcon coming up in November that they will be holding everything else closely waiting on their big show to reveal it.  I fully expect that they might announce a new Overwatch champion at Pax Prime, and potentially some more Heroes of the Storm champions or maps.  What I am really wanting from them is an announcement for when Overwatch testing will begin and a beta key delivered in my mailbox.  Everytime I launch the patcher and see that Overwatch button at the bottom of it…  I get a little sad in side.  I really want to play this game, and I sincerely doubt I will be doing so anytime soon.  Over the last few weeks I have come to the realization that I still very much love Blizzard games… it is apparently only World of Warcraft that I am on tentative terms with.  I would love beyond love them to announce something for Diablo 3…  like maybe another expansion?  They have already hinted that they might be doing a Warcraft RTS after they wrap up with Starcraft II… so that alone has me pretty pumped.

No Man’s Sky

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I am so irrationally hopeful about this title, even though I keep telling myself that there is no way it can deliver on everything it has been promising.  I love exploring new areas, and I love killing strange and interesting creatures.  No Man’s Sky promises to give me a procedural generated world where I can do this… over and over again throughout the galaxy.  On top of that the graphics are kinda cool as well with their hyper saturated version of reality.  Again…  all I really want from Hello Games is a release date.  I have a feeling that we will have an announcement for some sort of beta testing to begin soon.  Supposedly Amazon UK is already taking pre-orders so hopefully we will get a date this weekend.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

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At this point I just want more information on this title.  We saw a short trailer from E3 and I have been wanting more information since.  Once again I have no clue if there will be a presence at Pax Prime, but I am hoping!  I want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how this title is actually going to work.  I want to know if there is going to be a multiplayer aspect, or if this is just one big single player skyrim-esc sandbox.  I also want to know more about the world that surrounds the game.

Devilian

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With my recent foray back into Diablo 3, it has made me extremely interested in Devilian a Diablo like Korean game that Trion is going to be publishing.  I know Trion is going to have a good presence at the show so I am hoping we find out when the beta process is going to begin.  I ended up with a key from Gamescom and I keep checking my Glyph launcher expecting it to show up in the list of games that are playable at some point soon.  While on the topic of Trion Games, it is too soon to hope for a Rift expansion but I would still like to get more information about where that game is heading, and some more detail on the future plans for ArcheAge.  The folks at Trion Worlds are awesome so I am always interested in what they have to say.