Got Mongo? Feed On This!"
Become a fan of the STORE on Facebook. Click here.
Become a fan of the BLOG on Facebook. Click Here

Friday, October 26, 2018

Going The Long Way

Want to Listen to This Post?
Watch below or check out more videos on my YouTube Channel.

In the early days of No Man’s Sky, back when no one cared about the game, it often became boring and tedious to world hop.  We would spend hours trying to nail down every flora and fauna discovery in order to complete the collection for the most possible units.  Sometimes you had to travel great distances, at the expense of resources, just to find those last couple crawlers or flying creatures in order to be done.  And while exploration is a big part of what makes No Man’s Sky work, the time it takes to complete a system’s possible discoveries and race other players to the core in order to “be first” to get there, naming everything, became somewhat of a conflict.  In fact, the entire game is a conflict between what you should do to conform to the games story and what you want to do as an open world player, traveler.  After all, grinding in the game was somewhat in direct conflict of what you were supposed to achieve.  As you spend countless hours detailing every inch of every planet before moving on, the game constantly pops up a reminder to “Travel”, “Explore”, and follow Atlas. 

We were given the options to build a base, but the amount of time that you had to dedicate to building and completing all the quests surrounding the base update took away from that whole Atlas path idea because once you left a system, you either had to back track or keep a teleport node to the space station or the base you had unless you wanted to do it all over again.  How many times had I revisited the game, only to have to redo all the worker missions and building of vehicles until the NEXT update game, erasing all of that and rendering 90% of inventory as useless or outdated technology.  It’s almost as if it’s better to complete the game first and then do all the update stuff, or so the developers thought most gamers would have done so when dolling out these new updates.  Some of us, still haven’t reached the core, instead we soak in the landscapes, build wild imaginative structures, and of course, spend a lot of time getting rich.

Yes, back in the early days of the game, you could exploit the mechanics of the game to max out your ship and backpack inventory.  You could invest a lot of time, finding crashed ship after crashed ship in order to exchange it for another one with one more slot.  And if you found a world with some Gravatino Balls or Vortex Cubes you could haul a ton back to the space station and find that one traveler who had some ridiculous need for your valuable items, overpaying for something so useless.  In fact, if you were savvy, you could make millions constructing bypass chips or components of the warp cell recipe and selling them the same way.  I think when I last played the original version, I had amassed something like 26 to 30 million units without travelling more than four systems and never paying for a new ship. 

But, in a way, it ruins your experience.  These days, with the NEXT update, you can exploit a mechanic, making millions by selling cryo-pumps or just farming nanintes from sentinels at an outpost, using the interior as a way to stave off the wave upon wave of attacking bipedal and quadruped level defenses.  While it isn’t cheating, this exploit is basically a way for you to earn fast money and then spend it all on new freighters, tools, ships, or expansions.  Then, what?  What happens NEXT?  Do you build a huge base and just live?  Do you explore the game and finish it which basically restarts everything? 

Part of the overall experience with a game such as this is to immerse yourself in the world or universe.  We are given countless worlds to discover, and even though they tend to be a repetitive exercise, taking things slow and exploring is part of the fun.  Granted, it doesn’t have an overall pro-content spin.  After all, when you, as a content producer want to put forth a game such as No Man’s Sky  in order to satisfy a niche on your channel, you’re given very few options as how to approach it successfully.  You can do hits and bits on general tips to showcase how to discover and build certain things, a basic tutorial style.. or you do an overall long play strategy, where you invite viewers along with you for the experience.

I tend to play that way, because in essence, I want to play the game, not just give tips.  I want to experience what the game is and in the fast paced real world, where gaming time is at a premium, for someone with little time, I don’t want to work twice.  I want to immerse myself into the game and if you want to watch, it’s all the better.  But, in a way, that tends to destroy the experience for others… maybe.  I say maybe, because there are games, like point and click adventures or puzzle based titles, where the long play format tends to ruin the game for someone else.  Now, take a game like Mysterious Cities of Gold, The Bridge, Gone Home, or Back to the Future.  If you bought any of those games and need a tip, Mysterious Cities of Gold, and the Bridge may be a case for doing simple tutorials.   Usually, there is a path to the a goal.  But with games like Back to the Future or Gone Home, it is more of a journey.  It’s not about move here, move here, click this, but what happens when you do those actions.  It’s telling a story, and if you watch someone play the whole way through, it can ruin the experience for you if you were to choose to go back and play it after watching.  

Now, if you have no intention of playing those games or are unable and want to experience it through someone else, then by all means go for it.  It’s just that so many content creators are more focused on what is going to get them metrics vs. which is more enjoyable to do.  In essence, being demonetized frees me from having to worry about getting “ratings” as it were.  Though, one would think it would be my focus to rebuild my channel to become monetized, in order to get those ratings.  But, I simply don’t care enough about the process.  I’m here to play the game and if that doesn’t fly for you… so be it.

Though, I can see the potential of various types of videos with this game.  It’s art, really.  It can be simple as following someone on their journey or just watching the landscape go by.  The possibilities are endless.  You just have to find them.  I suggest going the long way.

Friday, October 19, 2018

No Man's Filters

Want to Listen to this Post?
Watch below or check out more videos on my YouTube Channel.

I am old enough to remember a time when we had to wait days, if not weeks to see what we took pictures of.  I had a 35mm Instamatic camera that required sticking a flash cube into the top.  The film came in a cartridge that looked like the modern day equivalent of the voice mail symbol on your phone.  You pointed, shot the picture, then had to manually advance the film by a dial on the top that clicked when in place.  You got maybe 24 pictures and had to mail the film away to be processed unless you went to a Fotomat in the mall parking lot, which would still take days.  There was no cloud. We didn’t have filters. We didn’t have ears and noses to stick on our faces. We didn’t even know if we blinked. It was all a mystery to be figured out weeks later.  And we didn’t seem to mind. Nowadays, we have selfie sticks and Snapchats and Instagrams and weird shit that makes our faces look like fun house mirrors.  And now we also take pictures in games.

Now, to be fair, taking a picture of your gameplay in a video game isn’t a new concept. Long before sharing or screenshotting became a thing, some games required you to send in proof that you accomplished some feat or achievement.  Somewhere in a shoe box, is a blurry photo of my high score from Atari 2600 Decathlon, taken prior to 1984.  Again, the ability for us to snap a perfectly framed, in focus, picture with 70s/80s photographic technology was very low and the game would have been turned off or the television would have been burned out before the developed photo ever came back.  But if you were lucky to achieve something so grand as getting over 10,000 points in Decathlon or 20,000 points in Pitfall.  Activision had this thing called Activison Patches which they would send to you in exchange for photographic proof that you finished or attained a particular score in one of their games.  They were these sew on patches you could put on your jean jacket or backpack.  The 80s equivalent to Xbox achievements or PS4 Trophies.  But those were photos of you playing the game.  Then, something happened.  We added taking photos in the game.

Games like the Sims or Second Life took taking photos of your monitor or television and put the power of the photo op into the game.  Minecraft gave players a screenshot feature so that they could share their epic builds or biggest fails with other players.  And other games offered the feature as part of the basic settings, some tongue in cheek like GTA V, complete with selfie mode, filters and sharing capabilities.  Others were more about sharing the environment like Uncharted 4.  But, when you are immersed into a game like Uncharted or even GTA, having to stop and take time to set up a photo op to capture a moment seems counter intuitive to the game itself.  When Uncharted 4 came out, it brought new gameplay features to the decade old franchise.  The first and last title on the 8th generation console wanted to tout the advanced graphics of the PS4 with the opportunity for players to take a moment to stop and look around at their environment, snapping a picture and adding filters and other added effects.  It’s a nice little thing to do but again, it takes away from the rough and tumble, puzzle solving action of the game.  Cinematically, it was on par with the 2nd game which seamlessly blended cutscenes and in game action, but touting the newest bell and whistle brought to the table as being able to Instagram your treasure hunt buried my interest in the game.

But, that’s not to say that in game photography isn’t without merit.  I mean, part of the initial gameplay of No Man’s Sky is to scan and observe your surroundings, discovering new species of flora and fauna.  It only makes sense to enhance that initial offering by adding in the ability to put in documenting of your journey into the great wide open by taking some pics.  After all, even though we’re unknown travelers, caught in some weird metaphysical, philosophical mind screw about will and destiny, we’re still tourists, exploring the universe.

The overall aesthetic of No Man’s Sky is based in that kitschy retro-futuristic science fiction art along the vein of Christopher Foss and Ralph McQuarrie.  Those angles and flared pieces of architecture and the animals that look like they were placed in the Cantina scene, straight out of central casting from the Jim Henson’s creature workshop.  Odd shaped necks and horns and flying fish dragons beg to be captured on film. Caves that resemble overgrown maws and throats, ready to devour you.  The skyscape, streaked with jet comtrails from other travelers dividing the space from atmosphere.  It all looks so pretty.  And now, with multiplayer added, Hello Games has given players the ability to gesture in order to help you communicate… or perhaps pose for a selfie.  Saying Thank you or Help or just sitting among the flowing stalks of grass as you contemplate your place in the whole story of Nada and Polo or Atlas.  You thoughts flash towards the meaning of all this… hashtag pensive hashtag Thoughts before falling asleep.

Friday, October 12, 2018

I Need Space

Want to Listen to This Post?
Watch below or check out more videos on my YouTube Channel.

When I went away to college in the fall of 1993 I was travelling to a school over 600 miles away from my home.  I was going to have to have everything I would to survive.  That meant taking a shit ton of stuff, packed into the covered bed of my Dad’s pickup truck with enough space for me to slide in and out of a me shaped hole a couple times over the course of 12 hours.  It wasn’t a great idea.  And after four months, I transferred to another school about 25 miles away from my parents’.  Clearly, I had learned my lesson and didn’t need to pack everything for the hour long trip of which I would be coming home most weekends.  Nope, still packed a single dorm room to the gills.  Then, during the summer of my sophomore and junior years, I spent three months working in an amusement park nearly 4 hours away.  Yep, you guessed it.  I didn’t learn and my parents paid the price literally and figuratively.  

But, by the time I got back from my first summer sojourn I learned exactly what I needed to get by on my own at school.  In five years of college, I never moved out of the dorms.  Best decision I ever made.  First of all, I didn’t need to worry about roommates, the two legged or multi legged variety.  The area apartments were nothing if not short of needing condemned and the last thing I wanted was to have rats or roaches as non-paying residents.  The dorms were furnished.  The bed and furniture supplied were all I needed for myself and any guests.  I had a mini fridge, a B&W TV, microwave, and hot pot along with my toiletries.  That was pretty much all I needed.  There wasn’t a need for multiple rooms or floors because quite frankly, I’d never use them.  Yes, I had to share a bathroom with 26-30 other guys, but I didn’t have to clean it and I didn’t have to stock it.  The rest of campus was my apartment.  I ate in the cafĂ© or our little food court, all rolled into my meal plan as part of my tuition.  No need to go buy a crap ton of food.  Outside of what I ate for lunch and dinner, I only needed cereal, a few boxes of Mac and Cheese, Top Ramen, and some snacks.

Unfortunately, after college I felt this need… or at least I was led to believe that I needed to acquire things as a homeowner.  Things I will never use save once.  Things that sit in an attic or the garage or shoved in a room somewhere, never to be seen until something goes wrong and I have to pitch a lot of damaged or broken items due to a catastrophic event.  I am getting better because mainly I see what lies ahead of myself and my siblings when it comes to my parents.  That house is going to be a ridiculous amount of hoarding to go through.  Still, at some point, while I have time and energy to enjoy it, I’d like to be able to build or move from my current house I deemed a starter house because I never meant it to be a forever home.  I intended it to be a place I would fix up and sell after raising a family and saving money.  I’m half way on one, on my 2nd attempt on the same one, and nowhere near complete on the other.

Now, in the world of gaming, my first ever attempt at building a house in Minecraft was pretty much indicative of my loss of imagination and creativity.  The only defense I have is that I began playing back in the days of Beta 1.3.  Upside down stairs were not a thing and if you broke a stair, aka roofing … it was gone forever.  There was no corner stairs either.  So, my house, consisting of mostly stone walls and cobblestone steps for a roof was pretty sad.   It didn’t even have windows.  I would go in there and just store all my resources.  I made connecting tunnels to other parts of the area, including my first place of refuge, the dirt house.  The Minecraft equivalent to living in a cardboard box.

Since then, I built many bases but always struggled when it came to building a house.  And usually, that’s the thing we want to build in Minecraft and now in No Man’s Sky.  We all geeked out over the prospect of building that dream base we all envisioned in our life only to find that spatial proportions made it look like a sad Barbie dream crack house. On subsequent worlds, especially ones I’ve recorded the house was either a requirement, for instance in Skyblock, or a nicety to show off whatever building skills I thought I possessed.  But in reality, the house in Minecraft is never really a functional space, it’s more for show and often times it is a pain in the ass to even have one, causing you to traipse up and down steps to get to your bed in order to quell the banging of monsters outside your door, or to store all your extra gubbins in your storage areas.

At one point, I condensed everything into an area that, disregarding chests for all your shit would be an area roughly equivalent to a 6x6x12 space. That takes into account the 2nd floor containing an enchanting table and bookshelves.  The bottom would have a stacked crafting table/furnace/brewing stand next to a bed and an avil/cauldron.  Granted you would be highly visible and vulnerable to any monsters that followed you home you run the risk of not being able to sleep because they are nearby.  Also, if you’re not careful, waking up can place you outside your house.

I guess I never saw the need or desire to build a house because I saw so much wasted space.  It never had any use other than to look pretty from the outside and everything inside would be so far apart and an inefficient use of space for a game such as this. For any game that involves building, adventuring, or exploring, inventory management this is the furthest thing from fun.  Every episode I recorded for Skyrim involved me taking a good hour to travel back to my house in Whiterun to drop off stuff, switch out gear, and stock up or sell items.  There is about 50% of the experience you never saw because it was boring and usually involved at least one instance where I accidentally took everything out of a bag or chest which caused me to curse and cry.  7 Days to Die took so much time to sort your inventory and you had only so much daylight or night to do it before you needed to get to whatever your were doing next before the horde, which took all your focus. 

But in Minecraft I always felt like a great use of mods or automation was to have a way to get stuff dropped into a central location to be sorted into storage and then recalled when needed without the mundane task of searching through every chest and walking up or down steps to find where I put that thing I needed for the thing. I get that there is a mod that has a computer that can hold all your items and allow you to craft on the fly and that’s cool and all, but unless you’re playing with mods it doesn’t help anything.  And other mods allow for pipes and sorting but those are usually resource heavy causing lag.  It also solves a problem but it leaned more heavily on function following form.  These industrial looking engines and pipes stand out as a stark contrast to the environment of Minecraft which usually exists in nature.  Now, if you were building a modern looking city that relies on a lot of electricity or metal working or concrete, then yes, these engines and macerators and whiz bang gadgets that automate processes would be appropriate.  However, I would like to see ones that match the era of technological evolution a game like Minecraft sets itself in. 

In the ancient city of Petra, you know the one that inspired the end scenes of the Holy Grail temple in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there was a complex piping system using math and terracotta pipes to transport water from a source over three miles away.  If you could demonstrate through crafting functional machines from clay or sand or other primitive materials as to solve the problems a game like Minecraft presents to you without deviating from the aesthetics of your progression and surroundings I would be all for that.  Simply playing for ten minutes, building a dirt hut, then constructing metal machines that run on electricity just seems to bring me out of the immersion of such a game. After all, ancient civilizations had irrigation systems and even piped methane gas to nearby settlements which were far superior in their design compared to their relative place in history. Fully fleshed out and functional water wheels instead of a block that generates RF would be astounding… but probably lag inducing.

But I have truly got of track because those are solutions to a different problem.  The Minecraft house is such an impractical structure, in my opinion, because it doesn’t do anything except protect us from the dangers of the outside, something a dirt hole can do.  It’s a status symbol without the benefit of bragging rights because it isn’t earned any differently whether you work all day mining for precious resources or just dig up some rocks and chop down some trees.  It’s all about imagination and design and maybe that’s its saving grace.  It exists as a testament to the builder’s creativity, not development as a player in this world.  I’m just the stupid one who feels he can’t be bothered either because I am too lazy or not creative enough to embrace it.

Since base building became a thing in No Man’s Sky it’s been more of a distraction than an integral part of the game.  Think about it.  What purpose does a base serve in No Man’s Sky?
Shelter?  You spend 80% of your game in a ship, flying around.  The time you do spend on a planet is for exploration or gathering.  Any shelter you need is likely because you are on a planet with adverse conditions so you retreat underground or towards your ship.

Resources?  It makes more sense to just make simplified bases on every planet with rare or valuable resources and just portal to them when needed.  I remember spending a ridiculous amount of time doing the base missions, then doing them again, and then again only to have my base removed with the NEXT update.  The farming aspect was neat but not really very profitable unless you expand to a larger operation and then, it becomes unmanageable unless you multiplay. 

Cool aesthetics?  Yes.  This is the main reason.  Again, the only reason you build a house in any game that gives you some form of creative control over the process is to build something with some kind of aesthetics.  And No Man’s Sky has a very cool 70s retro sci-fi look to it.  Those of us who grew up in the shadow of Flash Gordon or Speed Racer and remember the original Ralph McQuarrie artwork from Star Wars have this exposure to a definite style of futurism with specific colors and shapes that we saw in other games like Prey.  And No Man’s Sky plays into that motif with the shapes and architecture available to us along with the planetary backdrops.  I’ve always had an affinity for space and science fiction.  Movies like Blade Runner, The Black Hole, again Flash Gordon, or Logan’s Run were favorites.  Art from McQuarrie or Chris Foss.  I was a big lover of the 70s and 80s space LEGO sets.  In fact, a recent episode of This Old House featured a guy wearing the space logo from that LEGO series which made me geek out, wanting to get one.  Moonraker, as bad as it was, was another favorite in that cheesy operatic space motif versus the 50s and 60s B&W space style.  For me, it wasn’t steampunk, it was that retro futuristic look.

But the real problem with base building is that it sucks up cycles to complete the quests to build the bases.  And quite frankly, like other games, bases in No Man’s Sky are not practical, they’re cool.  Yes, you need rooms for certain things, mostly storage as No Man’s Sky should have been called, “No More Room: An Inventory Management Simulator.” 

On my first go round with No Man’s Sky, I hurriedly completed all of the quests surrounding the base building aspect because I wanted to A: Complete the Game and B: Build a damn base.  I had grand plans to get towards the core of the universe and find a nice temperate planet to move all my slapdash placement of structures to and rebuild.  The original planet I was on that offered me a base was a cold tundra whose weather constantly fought me, even indoors, to keep from freezing.  And while I did all those necessary quests.. .TWICE mind you, I just sort of plopped things down wherever.  I needed containers.  I needed a place to store all the crap that was in my suit so that I could get stuff for building the base. That was the main issue.  And I still wanted to build out a freighter to hold stuff but it became so resource heavy to build all the stuff that you forget that there were other things you were supposed to be doing, especially when the Atlas update came out.  And then everything in those containers became obsolete or no longer usable.  Still, I can see where a base can be purposeful, but usually, I need a spot for storage, and a place for equipment.  The constant wandering around, looking for things when I need to grab it is wasteful, just like it was in Minecraft or 7 Days.

Still, the prospect of being able to construct a cool base in this genre I so love is something I want to explore, if for no other reason than the photo mode alone.  That has been one of the updates that I do approve of.  We’ll talk more on that another time.

Shredded Tweets