A few months ago, everything was in lockdown. Then it lifted for a couple of months, which was just long enough to move to our new place. Now everything is shutting down again. These are strange days, but luck seems to be with us for now.
I’m still trying to get my home office put together.
Everything Old is Even Older
I’ve got a stack of old computer books and magazines from the 80s and 90s. At the old place, I had these on a bookshelf. But now that my office is set up, I like how open and sparse it is and I’m not eager to add shelves full of crap. So now I’ve got three large containers filled with stuff I don’t want to unpack but can’t bear to throw away.
I feel like it would be a shame to just send these old programming books to a landfill. If nothing else, they ought to be scanned for historical purposes / reference. But then, that’s a ton of work and I can’t be bothered.
I’ve got a bunch of old PC Gamer magazines here that I can’t bear to throw away because of the bygone era they represent. Like, I’ve got the WORLD EXCLUSIVE FIRST REVIEW! of Half-Life 2 from December 2004. These magazines don’t just represent a dying medium, but also the glory days of my once-favorite gaming magazine. They offer a peek into an exuberant gaming culture that no longer exists.
I’ve also got boxed copies of many 90s games. I already did a huge purge of my collection 15 years ago when I threw away a lot of floppy-based games that had perished due to bit rot. I feel like I need to do another purge to clear out the stuff that I now have access to digitally, but damn it… I miss the days of physical media and owning stuff. These shiny disks are, in a practical sense, the last games I will ever really own. Everything since then has come prepackaged with Sword of Damocles 2.0.
On the other hand, this stuff takes up a ton of space, collects a ton of dust, and I never use any of it. I’m going to have to throw some of this crap away eventually. I just need to figure out which items I’m least likely to regret discarding.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to…
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order EA™
Spoiler: This is my next big retrospective. I’m currently on my third trip through the game, gathering footage and trying to organize my thoughts into some sort of order. As it turns out, I have a lot to say about Star Wars, Star Wars games, EA’s relationship with Star Wars, and how Star Wars media has evolved since 1983.
I don’t have a firm release date yet, but I expect the series will launch sometime in August.
No Man’s Sky
Like I said on the Diecast earlier this week, I tried to play a little NMS just to see what’s changed. I haven’t really spent any time with the game since the summer of 2018, and there have been several major updates since then.
So I fired up the game to discover it kept auto-minimizing itself for no discernible reason. I’d start the game, it would appear on screen for a single frame, and then vanish to the background. I click on the icon in the taskbar, and the same thing happens: A single blink-and-you-miss-it frame, and then back to desktop.
I searched online and found scattered complaints about this going back to 2018. It’s not a common problem, but it’s apparently an old one with no known solution.
I decided to check on the settings file. Maybe I could force it into windowed mode? For whatever reason, the settings are stored in the game’s install directory under /binaries. That’s wrong twice. You’re supposed to store settings files under /users/Username/whateverI hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there., and the settings file is an XML and thus not a binary.
I set the game to windowed mode and tried again. This time, when the game opened up it had the window centered on the upper-left corner of my monitor. No, I don’t mean the window was on the top-left side of my screen. I mean the exact center of the game window was the top-left point on my monitor. This means I could only see one-quarter of the screen. I couldn’t reach the title bar to bring the window into view.
I have never seen a game make this mistake and it seems like it would take extra work to even make it possible.
Once I straightened all that out , I loaded an old 2018 save and discovered that all the stuff in my base was powered down. Apparently you now have to build generators to keep your base going. That seemed reasonable enough. But then I realized this was going to be yet another system that will have you shoving fuel into yet another gizmo. The need to obsessively fill random bars to complete mundane tasks was my biggest gripe with the core “gameplay” in my previous interactions with the game. And now developer Hello Games is taking that mind-numbing busywork and expanding it even further.
I stared at the screen for a good fifteen seconds before saying, “Nah.” and hitting Alt-F4.
I’m sure I’ll be back in another year or so for my next dose of disappointment.
What a fascinating game. You can change the background color at will. Any foreground objects of the same color will then blend into the background and effectively cease to exist. I didn’t think that could yield a lot of interesting puzzles, but the game has been tickling my brain for hours without running out of ideas. You run into situations like…
“If I just switch to orange then I’ll be able to walk through this wall to the exit. Easy. Except… the FLOOR is also orange, so if I do that I’ll fall through and land on those spikes. Maybe I could switch to blue, but then the ceiling will vanish and drop all those boulders on me. But if I switch to purple and then move this red thing to stand on then maybe I could… hm. Interesting. I need to think about this for a minute.“
Now, if this was the whole game then I’d be happy. But sadly, about one out of every four levels is more reflex-based. It’s not really a puzzle, it just has you hopping around while switching colors to avoid being trapped / crushed / dropped. These levels are more irritating than fun, and I get the sense that the fun vs. irritation balance is gradually pushing me away.
Still, I like how this simple idea has yielded so many interesting puzzles.
What a strange / charming game. I’ll talk more about this on the Podcast with SoldierHawke next week.
It looks like some games are finally going to come out. Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC) and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 are both due in August. We’ll see which one I get.
So what have you been playing lately?
 I hate this rule, but this is the way you’re supposed to do things in Windows land. I’d rather have games store their settings with the app itself, but Windows doesn’t like that and requires administrator privs just to write there.
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