Thursday, July 20, 2023

Good Things Come

Today's post is a bit of a follow-up to one I wrote back in May, which was itself the forerunner to this one from a couple of days ago. It was going to be a "First Impressions" too, only now it's not, for reasons that will become apparent.

That post back in May talked up two new MMORPGs coming to Steam. One was Coreborn: Nations of the Ultracore. The other was Sky: Children of the Light Apparently no-one can make a damn game these days without a colon. 

At the time, I said I'd wait until Coreborn went into Early Access to give it a try "if it's cheap enough". The date set for EA was 18 July and I'm pleased to say that date was met. The game is now available to play on Steam, where it will cost you £15.95 (Do your own conversion to Dollars, Euros, Groats or whatever it is they use around your place.)

That's the introductory sale price. There's a 24% discount until 25 July, when it goes back to the full £20.99. Presumably it's 24% off rather than the far more comfortable 25% so as to get a discounted price that ends in a five. Numerology is real.

I had the opportunity to play the game during the last Next Fest. I was pretty hot on it but even so I wasn't planning on jumping onboard the first passing build. I said I was going to "keep it in mind for a later, more fully-functional release, particularly one where progress won't be wiped." 

The Early Access FAQ, which is gratifyingly open and straightforward, makes it more than clear most of the content isn't just unfinished - it's unstarted. There's a long road yet to travel before we reach anything you'd call completion: "We anticipate the game being in early access for one to two years", they say, which, if previous experience is anything to go by, might easily stretch to four or five. 

Add to that the proposed payment model: "Once we leave Early Access, we intend for the game to be free to play" and I don't feel much like throwing money in Coreborn's general direction. It is an odd place we've reached, isn't it? We pay to play unfinished content that we could have for nothing if we'd only wait until it's done. It's lucky for the developers that most gamers seem to have the attention span of a kitten on ritalin and the patience of a toddler having a meltdown.

Coreborn reminds me a little of Project: Gorgon in that it's starting out with a very playable base game but also with big intentions to add many more features. As several bloggers of note have found out, that kind of slow, incremental development, even when sustained with admirable determination and consistency, can lead to a feeling of disconnection. 

There never seems to be a good time to commit to the game in the way it requires because everything is constantly in flux. The game is always going to be better if you hold off for a while. No-one with any self-control can ever get going.

I own a copy of Project:Gorgon thanks to backing the final Kickstarter but I've barely played it since it went into official Early Access, more than five years ago. If that seems like a long time, the P:G EA FAQ is even more unflinching in its honesty than Coreborn's: "Based on our experience with the game's development to date, and accounting for the quantity and quality of content and polish we aim to hit, we expect that Project: Gorgon will be in Early Access until it's ready."

For my money (That I paid more than half a decade ago.) Project:Gorgon has been fit to be declared "ready" for years, now. MMORPGs are famously never feature-complete and you only have to read Stingite's many posts on the game over at The Friendly Necromancer to appreciate just how much content there is already. You'd have no problem settling down there and playing for months

Should you feel like doing that, now would be a great time to start. The game's currently discounted a massive 75%, down from £30.99 to £7.74 (Someone's not scared of even numbers...). The reason for the sale is an unusual one. One of the founders is rather ill and they need someone to take a bit of the weight. 

And apparently sales really do bring in the money: "Our last sale went really well and allowed us to work with the indomitable Nick — the engineer responsible for most of the last year-plus of QoL (Quality of Life) improvements. Imagine what we can do with another Nick".

Even though I might seem to be cheerleading for getting in early, I have to say I won't be taking my
own advice where Coreborn's concerned. My experience with P:G tells me I'd be better holding off until the game's a lot closer to whatever counts as "done". Even the very brief and perfunctory look at the current EA build carried out by MMOBomb suggests it's pretty much the same game I played in Next Fest and that was definitely going to take a while before it was ready for primetime.

None of those caveats really apply to Sky: Children of the Light. It's not an in-development title at all. It's a popular, critically-successful live game already up-and-running on Android and iOS. The only thing that's new about it is it's imminent arrival on PC.

Sky, as I'm going to call it from now on, is currently celebrating it's fourth birthday and there's a party going on. Judging by the video developer That Game Company chose to put up on YouTube, it's one you'd be well advised to skip.

Seriously, it looks horrifically bad. Like someone took a blowtorch to a Roblox instance. Don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself.

Why anyone would use something like that to promote their game beats me. Maybe you need to be twelve to appreciate it - although even as I write the words, I realise I'm insulting tweens everywhere. It looks more like the kind of party a particularly culturaly inept parent might imagine a twelve-year-old would like. Thankfully, the video is at least short. 

The other video they put up to showcase in-game selfie feature, is is far more appealing. I like these kinds of built-in photo suites more and more, to the point that playing older games that don't have them is starting to feel a bit strange. I'd love to have a go with this one.

After I watched the video I went to Steam to wishlist Sky, only to find I already had. There was no news of a release date but as I was looking it occured to me that maybe I didn't need to wait. Didn't I used to play Android games on my PC with some app or other?

I did! For a while I played some mobile-only titles using Nox and I seemed pretty happy with the results.

Unfortunately, Nox doesn't seem quite to have kept up with the times. It's still there but it seems to be  stuck on Android 9. The current version is 12 with 13 due in August. I re-installed Nox and tried anyway but all I got was the old favorite, "This app is incompatible with your device".

Nox isn't the only Android Emulator game in town, not by a long shot. It's not even the best-known. That would be Bluestacks. Back in 2019, when I first tried doing this, Bluestacks was supposed to be a bit more effort to set up, which is why I went with Nox. I don't know if that was really true then but now it's incredibly easy. Unfortunately, Bluestacks won't run Sky for me either.I downloaded and installed Bluestacks X, the version that runs in the cloud and also Bluestacks 5, the one that runs on your own PC. That was the easy part.

The hard part was getting Sky to run on either of them. It was so hard, in fact, I never managed to do it at all. I spent the best part of two hours tinkering with all kinds of options, following suggested settings from the official Bluestacks website, from reddit, from YouTube... nothing worked.

After a lot of tinkering (Most of which I really enjoyed, if I'm honest, although I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if any of it had gotten me into the game.) I finally ran across a reddit thread that suggested Sky had been working fine on Bluestacks until about three days ago, when an update screwed things up.

 Timing. It's all about the timing.

There was a response to the thread from Bluestacks Support saying they were looking into it so I figured the best thing to do would be to wait and see if they'd fix whatever the update broke. I'll try and remember to give it a try in a few days.

If that doesn't work, I guess I'll just have to wait for the Steam launch like a normal person. It ought to be easy but of course it won't. You know the old, familiar feeling; you can have a hundred games ready, all of them just begging you to log in and have fun, but it's always the one that's unavailable for some reason that you just have to play right now...

Sod it. I'm going to go watch The Owl House instead.

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