Thursday, June 10, 2021

Bullet Time

There was no post here yesterday because I had to take my mother to the eye hospital to have a cataract removed. That went well but I didn't get home until just before dark so I thought I'd skip a day. 

It's only the sixth I've missed this year. Probably some kind of record. I'm not really sure. I find I'm less and less interested in statistics where the blog's concerned. In the early years I used to pore over them obsessively but as time went on my interest waned, partly because I felt they were becoming less and less reliable but mostly because I realized I just didn't care much any more.

That drift has started to accelerate recently to the extent that I began googling for ways to turn google analytics off. Oh, the irony! Didn't find any, either. 

I could just not look at them, of course. I was down to no more than a five minute glance at the monthly report but then Google started sending me emails. Quite snippy, they are, telling me things are wrong with my blog and I damn well ought to do something about them  because I'm letting the side down. At least that's how I take them. It might just be me.

At first I tried to comply with their peremptory demands but after a while I got irritated and looked into what might happen if I didn't. Apparently my rankings would slip and the blog might not show up in searches any more.

So be it. I think it's probably too late to worry about that now. If my intent had ever been to attract random page views I pretty much scuppered any hope when I started to insist on using incomprehensible and utterly irrelevant titles for almost every post. I even dropped the little coda I used to use saying which game a post was about because I felt it detracted from my obscurantist aesthetic.

I am planning on adjusting some of that attitude later this year. Indeed, I've already started, although more informative titles are about as far as I'm likely to take it. I am not going to be digging into the html code Blogger generates to correct the perceived anomalies that unsettle Google's crawlers. I would suggest that since Google owns both of them they might want to do it themselves if they're that bothered.

And with that passive-aggressive opening (alright, just aggressive) it's on to the meat of the post. Except there isn't any meat to speak of. More like a few table scraps. I have a few teeny-tiny topics that barely merit a paragraph, let alone a post. Time to break out the bullet points.


  • Welcome to the neighborhood.

The EverQuest franchise has a new Community Manager. Since I thought it was worth a mention when the old one left I guess I ought to extend the same courtesy to the new one now he's here. His name is Accendo and yes, he is a he. Someone asked and he said so. 

Both the threads (old game and new) pour yet more praise on the departed Dreamweaver while putting pressure on the new guy to step up and follow his lead. Based solely on the answers Accendo gives I suspect that pressure will be resisted but we'll see.

  • Oops! I missed one.

There was (at least) one obvious name missing from my recent list of mmorpgs to look out for this summer: Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. Really trips off the tongue, doesn't it? Then again, probably better than Phantasy Star Online 2.5, which is what it seems to be.

I really wasn't interested at all in PSO2 (much neater) when it finally made its long-overdue debut in the West last year. Belghast wrote about it several times and it neither sounded nor looked like anything I'd want to play so I didn't bother. The revamped version looks considerably more interesting. It's been given a complete graphical revamp and from screenshots it looks orders of magnitude better. The old quests and combat have been completely replaced and the game now has a proper open world. I'm still not sure it's for me but at least now it looks interesting enough that I want to find out for sure.

It's available on Steam, although it's a huge download, just shy of 100GB. I have it all set up and ready to go so expect an ignorant, uninformed and highly inaccurate first impressions piece any day now.


  • Dust on the lens.

Shintar queried in the comments whether I had my graphics settings for Crowfall turned down to the minimum. I said I'd check next time I logged in so I did and I had. 

Not my choice. I usually allow a new game to choose its own settings but if things look odd I go in and fiddle about. Crowfall didn't look odd, just bland. When I checked, though, I'd been assigned the lower of two settings: Basic. That didn't sound good. The only other option was Medium, which didn't sound much better. 

I swapped to Medium and it made a surprising amount of difference. There was nothing the higher definition could do about the exceptionally bland and undetailed design but it did do plenty for the lighting and the textures as should be evident from the screenshots. I'm guessing there are settings above Medium. There'd have to be, wouldn't there, or else you couldn't really call it "Medium". I assume the game has checked my aging hardware and decided anything higher would be a fire hazard. Probably best to bear that in mind whenever I say anything uncomplimentary about Crowfall's graphics from now on.

  • How much?!

I took the hint and thought about upgrades. I forget how long ago I bought this PC but it could have been five years. It might even be more than that. And it was low mid-range then. Given the kind of games I play, though, it's very much more than adequate and I haven't seen much reason to change anything.

Until now. It's not so much that time's catching up with me. It's more that there are finally some new games I'd like to play coming on stream and they have recommended specs significantly higher than anything I can match. I probably should do something about it before I can't even meet the minimum specs.

With that in mind I went to look at new CPUs and graphics cards. I specifically bought a PC that's easy to upgrade with the intention of doing just that rather than replacing the entire thing. What I wasn't expecting was that I'd be able to replace the entire rig for scarcely more than the cost of the two key components. I'm not sure how that works but it makes me think I might as well soldier on as I am until the time comes to scrap the whole thing and start over.

And maybe Crowfall's an exception, anyway. New World's coming later in the summer. I never had any problems with that in the betas. It ran smoothly and looked amazing. If the release build does the same I think I'm fine for now. If not, I guess I'm going to have to spend some serious money.


  • Garbage In, Garbage Out

In common with many of us, the Nosy Gamer has been wondering whether Final Fantasy XIV on its  way up might have passed World of Warcraft on its way down. As part of the evidence he referenced a website I hadn't heard of before: MMO Populations

I've always been interested in specifics on how many people play certain games but the methodology employed didn't inspire confidence: "By combining online social activity, sentiment tracking, public statistics, rankings and more MMO Populations estimates the total subscribers, players and active daily players for the top MMOs". Still, I thought it was worth a look.

I didn't spend very long on it. By the time I'd scanned through the "big list" of more than a hundred mmorpgs I'd seen as much as I wanted. 

The list includes several of my all-time favorites, including Vanguard, City of Steam and Fallen Earth as well as some I wish I'd been able to play, like EverQuest Online Adventures and others I yet hope to play, like Pantheon and Ashes of Creation. You'll notice all of those either closed down years ago or haven't yet been made available for general play.

According to the list Vanguard "is estimated to have 42,600 total players or subscribers". The detail does say that this month's estimate for daily players is zero but if you mouse over the graph on the same page, for June 2021 the figure is 1209. Even if they were polling the emulator, the most people I've ever seen logged on at once didn't hit double digits.

As for City of Steam ("estimated to have 4,865 total players or subscribers") 462 people supposedly logged in this week. Logged in to what is the question. As far as I know there isn't even a private server for City of Steam and believe me I've looked. I'd be playing on it if there was.

There are lots more fascinating facts where those came from. I'm sure I feel far more confident about Pantheon's prospects, for example, now I know that "12,484 people play per day, with a total player base of 1,314,070." Go have a dig for yourself. It's very entertaining.


And that will have to do for now. I have a feeling there were other burning issues of the day I was going to be flippant about but I can't remember what they were and anyway I want to go try Phantasy Star Online: New Genesis. Or PSO:NG as I'm happy to call it. It's  nice to say out loud, too, so long as you sound the "P". Otherwise you're just saying "song" and that's very weird.

Next week and the week after that I'm officially on holiday, although since I'm still furloughed the only material difference from every other week this year will be twenty per cent more in my pay packet. We've abandoned any plans for foreign travel in 2021 but I will be taking a day or two out of my busy schedule of staying home playing video games to go visit some interest spots a little farther afield than normal. 

We might even stay overnight. If so, that will almost certainly mean a few more missed posts, although maybe "missed" isn't exactly the right word. I'm fairly confident it'll take more than a few days of me not posting for anyone to start "missing" anything.

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