Trying out Fallout 76

(Somewhat) fresh out the Vault.

I got burned out playing Destiny 2. I hit the wall when they had the power weapons requirement as part of the last Iron Banner quest. It forces people to abandon the game mode and fight over a power weapon ammo spawn that happens once every few minutes instead, 3-4 times a match, tops. It just stopped being fun.

A few days later I noticed that they had auto completed that step in the questline for all players, but by that point I had already stopped to consider whether I was even having fun with Destiny 2 anymore and the answer was no, not really.

I used to love Destiny 2 for the PvP, but now there are so many hackers in PvP matches now that the game mode just isn’t worth playing anymore. It’s ironic that you can’t play Destiny 2 on Linux because of their anti-cheat implementation when that implementation doesn’t catch or prevent any cheating. They seem to rely heavily on user reports, but I’ve never even received a response to a report, so I doubt that it’s effective.

I guess I could do the non-PvP content, but it gets repetitive. The Glykon is interesting, but it’s just too much in one go. If I could load back into it where I left off it would have been better, but the first time through took a few hours and subsequent runs are also a little time intensive considering that you can’t step away and finish it up later.

Also, there really isn’t a core story backbone with Destiny 2 that you can fall back on. There’s no solid lore or narrative. The way the game has been managed with content vaulting and being able to do multiple expansion storylines at the same time, there’s no clear sense of progression through a narrative. At least with most MMOs, you’re experiencing a coherent storyline so even when the content gets a little stale you have something to think about and look forward to, but that doesn’t exist with Destiny 2, so I started looking at other games.

I really love the Elder Scrolls and I really love The Elder Scrolls online, or at least the idea of it, but I hate the combat system. It seems to be completely depending on stacking damage over time attacks and it doesn’t seem well put together. So, as much as I want to play it, I just can’t. I want to enjoy a fight, not sit and watch timers to make sure I’ve reapplied skills. Instead, I figured I’d try another franchise by Bethesda: Fallout, and in particular, Fallout 76, the online multiplayer game.

It just so happens that it’s available on Xbox Game Pass so I can play it for “free”. So far, I’m really enjoying the game’s aesthetic. I love post-apocalyptic shows and stories, so post-nuclear Red Scare America is a wonderful world to explore. The items in the game all have a weird 50s / 60s look.

The learning curve is pretty steep, and I feel like there could be more explanation for certain game mechanics like the hunger/thirst system, C.A.M.P. building, and how setting up your Perk cards works, but I’m figuring things out as I go along.

I’m hoping that when I finish the storyline there will be plenty of engaging things to do still and there are a lot of menu items and modes that suggest that will be the case, but I don’t want to ruin the game for myself looking up strategy guides, min/max builds, etc., so I’m just going to play through it and see where it goes.

I’m not even sure what that is supposed to be. Some sort of mutant dolphin?

Google Stadia test run with Destiny 2

At this point, the challenges of finding gaming hardware is pretty common knowledge, whether it be consoles or graphics cards. Last year, people were having issues finding the Nintendo Switch in stock. Now, you can’t find an Xbox Series X or PS5 to save your life. A graphics card either. At least, not at MSRP. There are plenty being sold for 3-4x the price on reseller sites, which is obscene.

Anyway, I didn’t realize how bad things were but I figured I’d make the best of the situation and give Stadia a whirl. It streams games to your computer screen, TV, or phone, and it’s supposed to be high quality so I thought it might be a nice alternative. Maybe even something to stick with when hardware shortages end, even.

Signing up for Stadia was pretty quick. Since it’s a Google product I just ran through a few screens linking my Google account to my Stadia account, chose what to share and what not to share on the platform (games/achievements/online status/etc), linked my Bungie account and Stadia account, hit play on Destiny 2 and there I was.

A few quick things I noticed are:

  • The video quality is surprisingly poor. My GeForce 970M renders the graphics better.
  • The controls are better than I expected but I can feel the latency drag.
  • I couldn’t access in-game chat in Destiny 2 or see anyone on my Clan Roster except for one guy, so I’m thinking there’s a weird hang-up where Clan interaction is platform specific. I still had my Clan banner and received Clan bonuses, though.
  • The actual Stadia interface and enabling a livestream are not difficult to use, but the menus aren’t very intuitive either.
  • Stadia will work in Microsoft Edge, but it doesn’t perform well.
  • When you open Stadia in Chrome, look for a + icon in the address bar. You can turn the website into a web app and pin it to your taskbar.

Here are two videos I created of Destiny 2 gameplay on Stadia:

Stadia gameplay footage of a Vanguard Strike called The Shadow Keep
Completing a public event on Europa

Connection

Connection speeds are pretty important with something like Stadia. I have a 300/30 connection with low latency. We regularly watch 4k on a 53″ UHD TV with no problems. So, I can’t imagine that negatively impacted my experience.

Summary

Long story short, I can’t see myself paying for games with missing functionality (like the in-game chat) that I probably already own on Steam to stream them at lower quality than my laptop can produce. I don’t actually need to game on my phone that badly.

With a $9.99 per month fee for Pro, which doesn’t seem to offer anything worthwhile at this point (the free monthly games are all low quality except maybe Hitman and a Tomb Raider title), I can’t see keeping Stadia past the free trial. I’m not really clear on the pricing, but some games are tagged “Pro”, so it makes me think I have to pay for the sub and still pay for the game and if I cancel my sub I lose the game?

For Stadia to be worthwhile, the library of available games would have to be bigger. For the subscription to work, it would have to be like Netflix. Bump up the price a bit and allow people to play what they want as much as they want. Right now, if you catch games on sale on Steam you can build your library at a reasonable price and not have to worry about the technical issues that can come with streaming games.

Stadia right now feels like something you would use in an emergency if your regular gaming system broke and you needed some time to get new parts or a new console.

Things to be grateful for 4/26 – 5/1

So, last week was pretty low key. That in itself is something to be grateful for given the circumstances. We’re still in one of the worst outbreak areas of COVID-19 in the world and no one in my family has gotten sick yet, thankfully. I’m a little concerned about how things are going to go with that. We’ve been having warmer weather so more people are congregating and other States are relaxing restrictions already even though they’re still on the upswing of the outbreak.

Some highlights for this week:

  • After many months, our cast iron skillet is finally developing a significant non-stick layer. We’ve baked chicken in the skillet with good results and also made filet mignon (stovetop + oven) that turned out amazing.
  • The filet mignon. We hadn’t had any since last year.
  • Got a lot of work done on last year’s taxes. I should be done with them by this weekend.
  • Got to actually binge watch a series for the first time in a few years. We found a show called “Into the Night” on Netflix that was really good. It has a lot of edge of your seat suspense that kept us reaching for the “Next Episode” button.
  • We finally found out when our stimulus deposit will hit our account.

Sitting at home all the time, I’m not doing a lot that’s exciting. I was thinking the other day that I haven’t posted anything to Instagram in a while because I haven’t been out to see anything that I felt was worth posting. But I’ve been using the time to read more, study foreign languages more, and to try to finish video games that I bought years ago and never got through.

For example, I’m about 60% of the way through “Grand Theft Auto V”. I bought the game about 7 years ago, got about 37% of the way through it and never finished it. I’m having a lot of fun watching Michael and Trevor’s bromance unfold.

Things to be grateful for 4/19 – 4/25

Dapper relaxing on the table

1. Our cats are still happy and healthy.

April 21st, 2020 tornado warning alert for the Bronx, New York City

2. We did not get wrecked by a tornado on Tuesday.

IRS “Get My Payment” tool success message

3. We finally stopped getting the “Payment Status Not Available” error and were able to enter our direct deposit information with the IRS for the stimulus deposits.

4. I talked to our ISP and got an upgrade from 100 Mbs to 300 Mbs and we’re paying $20 less a month than before. The price is locked in for two years. I’m not even sure what to do with all of that bandwidth. It might be my imagination, but streamed shows on Netflix seem to be clearer.

5. We have our health. Based on symptoms posted online, we think we probably had mild cases of COVID-19 in February. We were both experiencing the same weird symptoms at the same time, like both having weird lower back pain, muscle aches, fatigue, etc. Our social circle includes someone who had recently traveled to Hubei Province in China. I guess things could have been a lot worse for us. We’re still doing fine, though, even though we know quite a few people who aren’t.

6. I rediscovered and am having fun with some PS4 games I haven’t played in about 6 years. I never even finished GTA V and I haven’t finished the cop story in Need For Speed Rivals.

7. I’ve been seeing a lot online about mental health issues during this crisis. I was thinking about that a few days ago, wondering how being stuck inside is complicating the usual rise in mental health problems during the winter months. It’s already so gray, cold, and depressing outside and now we can’t even go outside. It felt great to just open the windows yesterday and I’m enjoying walking around in crowds in GTA V. LOL. Anyway, staying strong mentally.

Ordinary men hate solitude. But the master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.

Lao Tzu

My First FarmVille Card

A $10 FarmVille card.

Oh yes, I’m serious.  I didn’t buy this.  It was given to me as a gift.  I did certainly use it though.

You see, I’m in Georgia right now visiting relatives and I’m staying at my aunt’s house.  My mother, aunt and aunt’s mother are all FarmVille addicts.  After a few nights of laying around just surfing the net as usual, I got caught up in their constant chatter about the game.  I used to play FarmVille, over a year ago, but gave up on it as too boring.

There have apparently been some big changes since then, including bakeries, wineries and spas, as well as cooperative crop growing with benefits, all of which have done nothing but make the game far more social, and in a way, more obligatory.  It locks people in and makes them feel like they’re required to keep playing for their friends’ sakes.  It makes good sense, from a business perspective.  It snagged my attention because I used to really enjoy crafting (weird, but I did) in MMOs like UO, DAoC, FFXI and WoW.  Before I knew it I was loading up the game to see what they were talking about.

While I was overseas I heard a lot about how FarmVille was taking off, and how people were dropping real cash on FarmVille items via these cards.  I laughed it off, but now here I am with FarmVille running in full swing and 110 Farm Cash (about 20 real dollars) worth the virtual currency loaded into the thing.  Granted, I haven’t put any of my own money into it…yet.  My mom and aunt seem to think of it as an investment towards their further enjoyment of the game, but I’m probably going to be hard pressed not to grab one of these off a shelf myself sometime in the near future, after checking to make sure no one is looking first of course.

It’s oddly addictive, and yet pleasantly casual with no massive demands on my time.  Well, not too much anyway.  And what’s even more odd is that more real cash has gone into my game during the last week than I ever put out for any mainstream MMO monthly subscription.  Zynga really does have a cash cow on its hands here.

Now, whether I continue to keep up with FarmVille after I get back to NYC and start working again is up for debate, but for now… I have to go check on my grapes.