Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Don't Tell Me! I'll Figure It Out!

is really good. There, I've said it. 

I know. I'm always saying new mmorpgs are really good. It's not because I'm easily pleased or because I have low standards. (Although I am and I might...) It's because a lot of them just are

Of course, a whole lot of the attraction comes from novelty. We all know that. It's why every new release attracts a flurry of tourists. It's not just the new scenery, either. For a lot of people who obsess about these kinds of games (Everyone reading this, by definition.) a huge proportion of the appeal comes from figuring out the systems, then mastering them.

Well, in my case, just the first part. I rarely get to "master" anything in video games, or try to. Only this morning, as I was trotting around Aeternum, picking up presents from the side of the road, I found myself musing on just how much I didn't want to get to sixty in New World

That's going to be the starting-point for an entirely different post, assuming I ever get around to writing it,  but the pertinent fact is I sometimes enjoy learning how to do stuff more than I enjoy doing it when I know how. A lot of the mmorpgs I've written about enthusiastically here, for a few days or weeks, only never to mention them again, have faded only when I finally felt I had a reasonably sound grip on how they worked and was able to see quite clearly where that was leading. 

To give you a sense of scale, the tiny one with the red dot over it is the same model as my mount.
Chimeraland is a good way from that plateau still. An awful lot doesn't make much sense yet and plenty of what does is confusing anyway. It also has a lot of systems and mechanics. A lot. It's going to be a while before I have much of a clue where the game is going.

I mean, all these kinds of games are over-complicated and convoluted but this one takes it to the next level. I keep running into concepts I don't quite get or mechanics that don't seem to make sense. I just love it. It keeps me thinking all the time I'm playing. That's a huge draw for me.

It's not that the game's short of explanations. It has a pretty good in-game play-guide and just about everything has properly informative tool-tips. It's more that the information only ever goes so far and that's never quite far enough. There's always a bit more you have to figure out for yourself. It adds value in my book, although I can see how it might do quite the opposite for some. 

The other side of the mountain.


The UI is well-designed, comfortable, intuitive, all of that and yet there are so many menus and windows and pop-ups to navigate. When it turns out what I read didn't mean what I thought it did and I need to read it again, I frequently can't find my way back.

Judging by the "Busy" sign that hangs over all the servers and the ever-increasing sprawl of half-built houses across the countryside, Chimeraland looks to be quite successful. Normally, a game in that happy state would be spawning all kinds of online, third-party "How Tos" and "Guides" by now. It's not, or if it is I'm not finding them. 

I bet they exist, just in the languages of the countries where those servers are based. The game may be global but I don't imagine it has much market penetration in the West just yet.  

If you'd rezzed me faster, Ape, we might have gotten some loot.


It should. It's a good game. I'm enjoying it a lot. And no-one's killed me. Yet.

Just the opposite, in fact. Well, I suppose the opposite would be that someone had rezzed me, which hasn't happened, although you do get a "Call for Help" option when you fall over. 

I was about to use it yesterday, after some giant beast let fly with an AE and downed me. Again. It served me right. I was trying to leech at the time. Some higher-levels had the massive fluffball down to a few percent when I arrived and I thought I could pop a few bolts into the back of the thing and take the credit. (Will he never learn?)

I thought I'd gotten away with it but just as the monster went down, so did I. Before I could humiliate myself further by begging for someone to pick me up, my pet ape came barreling over and rezzed me. 

It was news to me he knew how and there's another of the complexities of the game, right there. I looked him up on the list of companions and there it is. He rezzes. 

Hey! You with the wagon! How come these AEs don't hit you?
The pets or companions or whtever you want to call them all do different things. So do the mounts. It's probably just as well there only a handful of gear slots because there's more than enough to balance with the plethora of abilities bolted on from pets, mounts, vehicles, star signs and who knows what else.  

Browsing down the list of possible pets (All of which, like every object and entity in the game, come with details of where and how to "obtain" them.) I spotted a couple I really liked. A short while later something really weird happened. The pet I'd earmarked as the first I might go looking for turned up in my bed.

That's a thing that happens in Chimeraland. As soon as you claim a plot of land and start building it's open house for NPCs. Literally. They appear in your house, stand on your terrace, sit on your chairs and, as I found as soon as I made myself somewhere to lie down, sleep in your bed.

The first to take forty winks in my brand-new double bed was a Cthuuluesqe squid-headed creature. He wanted paying to go away, like most of them. When I got back after another hunting trip to find a cat sitting cross-legged on the counterpane I expected the same routine but no, he turned out to be the very same companion I'd been thinking of tracking down. 

Just don't shed, that's all I ask.


I had a chat with him. I offered him an entry-level post in my organization. He said he'd think about if I could come up with a signing-on fee, payable in "Drunken Fish". 

That led to me spending the next half-hour waist-deep in the clear water at the foot of my property, rod in hand, casting into the river, reeling in anything that bit. Until then I hadn't been planning on learning how to fish, even though I'd somehow acquired not one but two fishing rods. 

It turns out be much like fishing in every mmorpg. You equip the rod like a weapon, hit LMB to cast, wait til the float bounces around to tell you you've got a bite, then hit LMB a few more times in a mini-game until your fish is landed. Or gets away. Mostly gets away.

It took me a while to get the feel of it. There's a clear explanation in game, with anotated screenshots, yet it still manages to leave out a couple of essential points, like which button to press to "Reel In" and, crucially, how you need to wait a fraction of a second between the bite and hitting that button or you'll fail every time. Or I guess that could have been lag.

Have I really been at this since lunchtime?


Once I'd got the rhythm it was easy. I came home with a selection of fish and started throwing them into the Stove, the home cooking station I'd made for expressly for the purpose. 

Cooking in Chimeraland works a little like it does in Guild Wars 2 in that you can put any ingredients you like into the pot and hope it makes something edible. If it does, you get the recipe. Sometimes, you also get completely unrelated recipes for things you definitely didn't put in, even for things you don't have. I have no idea how that works.

What you don't get, if you're me, is a recipe for "Drunken Fish". By the time I'd used up all my fish with nothing to show for it other than some quite tasty fish stew, the cat had gone. I have his agreement to join me, if I can come up with what he wants, safely signed and sealed in my quest journal, so I'm sure he'll be back... assuming I can ever find those pesky Drunken Fish.

This is what it's like. This is why I like it. I love it when I don't know what's going on and then slowly I do.

Did I mention you can go on dream adventures from your bed? Well, you can.


I was fiddling about in the menus looking for something, when I noticed an exclamation mark against one of the tiny social icons. Red exclamation marks always mean you've done something that needs attention - set a flag, met a goal, earned an achievement. There's often a reward or points to spend so even though I normally keep well clear of the social functions in strange mmorpgs, I clicked on it to see what might be there.

Two people had sent me "Friend" invites. I thought about it for a bit. Again, normally I turn down those kinds of drive-bys. Then I noticed I also had three "Likes" for my house. 

I had no idea you could "Like" someone's house. I can also tell you now, after twenty minutes of trying to find out, I have no idea how you do it. I accepted the invites and went to visit my nearest neighbor to see if I could figure out how to "Like" her house. It deserves a "Like". It's very impressive.  

I like it. I just can't "Like" it.


I went all around it, clicking on everything, including the name panel that appears as you approach but nothing. I googled it with no more success. I'm wondering if it's a function of the social panel but I don't want to find myself accidentally starting a conversation with someone I haven't even met.

That, by the way, is what I meant earlier, when I suggested my experience in the game so far has been the opposite of being gamked by strangers. I'm not sure a friend invite is the exact mirror of a murder but it's close enough.

I played Chimeraland a lot yesterday. Four or five hours, at least. I would have played more if it hadn't been for the lag. My experience so far has been remarkably smooth, given the servers are on another continent, but yesterday afternoon I was rubber-banding all over the place and there were several disconnects.

It shows how much of a good time I must be having that I didn't just pack it in and go play something else instead. I weathered the storm, complained a lot (To myself.) and felt rewarded when I came back for a second session after tea to find everything as smooth as butter once again.

Does your Home Insurance cover damage from flying trees?


Speaking of storms, boy do they have them in Chimeraland! The rain lashes, lightning strikes, the wind whips whole trees out of the ground and hurls them into the sky. It's spectacular but it's more than just special effects.

Chimeraland has an extensive set of climactic conditions that directly affect your character's abilities. There are stats for cold, heat and humidity and gear, food and potions to offset the negative effects. When I got near the top of a mountain last night I could see my character shivering in the snow. It's yet another system I don't yet understand but just knowing it exists makes me want to dig in and get to grips.

I did manage to work out how to hatch a mount from an egg. It involves making a Hatcher, putting the egg in on it and then sitting on to of both of them. There's a timer and you have to sit on your egg until it runs out. 

I had an egg in my bag, from I have no idea where. I made a Hatcher, sat on the egg and hatched it. It took a few minutes. Now I have a Leoparbeak, which looks just like you'd think it would, with that name.

Inset is the hatch timer and the two temperature gauges. All I really had to do was sit and wait, though.

One of the few English-language guides I have been able to find says "Leoparbeak is undoubtedly one of the fastest pets that players get to use as a mount on land. " It certainly is a major improvement on the horse, that's for sure. It feels great to ride and it fairly zips around. 

Mount animations are very well done. They look convincing and feel solid, as do the mounts themselves. They should. - They appear to have full collision. If you run into a tree at speed sometimes the tree will break. Well, it happened once. I tried riding into some more trees after that but I couldn't get it to happen again. I did stun my horse, though.

Slopes have a more reliable effect. I tried riding my leoparbeak up a mountain and he balked and rolled over, throwing both of us onto the ground. Luckily, you tend to cling to sheer surfaces like you do in EverQuest and there's very little in the way of falling damage.  

Sometimes the graphics are mundane. Other times they're magical.


I'm painfully aware I'm just shotgunning facts and anecdotes about the game now. The trouble is, I don't know nearly enough to go into any of it in depth and if I did, no-one but me would care. I have to get something of my experience down on paper all the same because it's all whirring around in my mind.

I play mmorpgs for a lot of reasons - fun, entertainment, relaxation, excitement, socializing - but of all them I fancy the most compelling is this: to find out how they work. Sometimes, when you peel away the surface there's not much there beneath. Perhaps Chimeraland will turn out to be a hollow shell. A chimera, if you will.

I don't think so, though. Like the mounts, it feels solid. I'm going to keep on digging. I'll let you know what I find.

Who Had "Microsoft To Buy Blizzard" In Their Prediction Post For 2022, Then?

I'm going to do a proper post later today but I just came back from lunch to see this and I thought I might mention it...

Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard

Or so GamesIndustry.biz has it. At first it looked like the ink wasn't quite dry on the deal yet, according to the sub-heading...

Sources tell Wall Street Journal a deal is near

but a bit further down in the piece we get confirmation direct from Microsoft...

"This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft's gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse'"

Because of course it's all about the metaverse.

The deal apparently went through at around $70b and makes Microsoft the world's third-largest gaming company, behind TenCent and Sony.

Bobby Kotick carries over...

"Microsoft has said that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will continue to serve in that position, but will report to Spencer after the deal closes"

Right. Sure. Of course he does.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming, which is going to be, yes you guessed it, more about Chimeraland. All the stories that matter, here on Inventory Full.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday Morning Miscellany

Why save the scraps 'til Friday, eh? I wasn't planning on doing this but the day started with a flurry of weird oddities and peculiar news items and I didn't have anything much planned beyond the inevitable next post about Chimeraland, so why not?

I get my news, such as it is, from a variety of sources, the majority mediated by Feedly, the rss aggregator I swapped to when Google nuked their popular Reader service. People using their stuff and being happy with it has never cut much ice with Google.

Feedly was the best of a mediocre bunch, when it came to alternative options back then but it's improved over time. I'd be as annoyed now if it vanished as I was when Reader itself went. 

Luckily, there doesn't seem to be much chance of that happening. Rather, the idea seems to be to grow and improve Feedly's functionality, even in the free version. To that end, there's currently an effort going on to improve the accuracy of the algorithm that decides how to label things.

A few weeks ago I started to notice a pop-up on many of the feeds, asking me what the linked piece might be about. "Is this article about Entertainment?" the AI would enquire or "Is this article about video games?"

As you can see, that's not an easy question to answer. Or, rather, it's all too easy. Since almost all the blogs and websites I've fed into Feedly are focused on music or gaming, just about everything I ever see could reasonably be described as being about "entertainment".

Still, I do my best to help. I answer as I feel appropriate and Leo thanks me. Leo is the name of the AI, by the way, because of course it has a name. Leo tells me how sure it was about its choice before I came and put the seed of doubt into its silicon mind and then we both go on our way.

Sometimes the categories Leo picks are slightly off-kilter but usually by no more than a judgment call. Then this morning there was this:

Excuse me? Agriculture? How did Leo get there? So I put him straight. (See how I'm already anthropomorphizing the AI? That's what they want you to do...) Leo thanked me and let me know he hadn't been all that sure to begin with:

That's the lowest percentage guess I've seen Leo make. I hope I am making him smarter but I'm not so sure. He seems to be getting worse.

Of course, had he said "Is this article about Sport?" it would have seemed just as unlikely and yet it wouldn't have been all that far from the unfortunate truth. What the piece told me, when I finally clicked through to read it, was this: "St. Vincent, Honey Dijon, and TOKiMONSTA made exclusive David Bowie remixes for Peloton, the popular exercise equipment line. Their three remixes are being released as a celebration of Bowie’s entire catalog being available through Peloton to work out to starting on January 19."

It's tempting to say Bowie must be spinning in his space-grave but of course it's just the kind of thing he might have set up for himself. He was nothing if not unpredictable and he had a clear-eyed understanding of the commercial value of his work.

Moving on from one iconic singer-songwriter to another, the next news squib to spark up was the rumor (Nothing more.) that a new Lana del Rey song might feature in the second series of Euphoria. Just how in-demand do you have to be for a murmur of a single song that might appear on a TV show to make the news? Or how voracious is the demand for things to write about in our modern never-stop world?

Euphoria sounds like exactly the kind of show I'd watch if it wasn't on HBO. I'm currently subscribed to both Netflix and Amazon Prime and I'm actively considering subbing Disney+ as well but there's only so much money in the fun pot, not to mention only so many hours to watch tv shows.

Sounds like a great song. Looks like an intriguing show. Probably just going to go with the song for now.

Speaking of the interface between songs and shows there's also music and movies. Or the names of movies. I guess there's value in name recognition even if it makes for the kind of car-crash cut&shut that would give Leo concussion trying to categorise.

There used to be that trope in the eighties, where Japanese clothing firms would pump out tees with English language phrases seemingly pulled at random from the aisles of supermarkets, a trend seen in reverse, of course, in the mirror-trope of westerners tattooing themselves with unfortunate, misunderstood phrases in languages whose alphabets they couldn't parse. I thought we'd done with that.

Seems like maybe not but who knows? I'm trapped inside my own trope-shaming. I have no idea what Hyolyn's singing here. Maybe Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is wholly appropriate and insightful in the context of the lyric.

Hard to imagine and the onscreen English lyric translation certainly doesn't help, reading as it does, when it says anything at all, "Blah Blah". Oh, no, that's not fair. Once in a while there'll be a phrase in English and then the subtitles get it exactly!

Noting this is actually a cover, I was curious enough to check out the Lee Hyo Ri  original in search of enlightment. If the video's anything to go by the song seems to cover an invasion by space aliens with a dastardly plan to dance us all to death. Or something.

It's pretty good, anyway. Better than the cover. It does have a car in it, too, but it doesn't fly. It mostly runs into the back of the invulnerable singer and crumples. 

Which is what this post is about to do along with my grip on reality. Back to Chimeraland for some sanity, I think. A ride in a wheelchair pushed by a cat-bee seems almost quaint compared to real life.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

To L And Back

As promised, or maybe that should be threatened, here's the second instalment of my unstructured rummage through the NME's 100 Essential Emerging Artists for 2022.  The list is organized alphabetically and I'm drifting down from the As, grabbing onto anything I fancy. 

Given that I started yesterday's first run-through in the Es, you might assume I didn't find too much of interest in the first four letters but that would be unfair to all those no doubt fine acts. I just haven't listened to many of them yet. Also a couple I do like had videos I didn't particularly want to link for one reason or another and I hadn't had time to ferret out alternatives.

To demonstrate how no-one should read anything significant into any omissions, I left out one of my favorites yesterday, even though it's a name beginning with "F". I already knew about flowerkid before the NME told me I should pay attention, although only by a few weeks. I think enough of him not to throw his first appearance here away on a portmanteau post, whose main reason for existing is that I'm too tired to write a real one. We'll get to him later.

Today we still haven't gotten out of the Gs. Here's Grrrl Gang.

I know them! Of them, I mean. They're in a post from almost exactly two years ago, when I described them as "excellent". Two points to me! Not that I'm keeping score. Indonesia seems like a great place for indie bands. And so does Australia.

That could honestly have been written and recorded almost any time in the last forty years. Or the next forty, most likely. Speaking of sounds that never go out of style, I'd follow High School with the next-but-one on the NME's list, Horsegirl doing Billy, only we already had it here, back in November. Two points! Okay, I'll stop doing that now.

This isn't the track listed for Infinite Coles, who's the son of Ghostface Killah from Wu-Tang Clan, if that matters. (I guess it always matters and doesn't at the same time, when people have heritage.) I like this one better, plus it has pictures that move.

I'm not just going to link the whole list as it comes, although if you're checking it does look like I am. Sometimes stuff clumps up. I listen to a fair amount of contemporary Spanish music, what with having Elefant Records on sub. They have a storming twee scene, not that it has anything to do with this.

Irenegarrry is new to me, which surprises me a little, if only because, according to the NME's notes, "her first hit was an equally potty-mouthed Spanish cover of Lana Del ReysNorman Fucking Rockwell’" I tend to notice things like that.

Took me a while to find it, too. She changed the title into Spanish as well. Here it is. Enjoy it. It's delicious.

Skipping over a whole bunch of acts and songs I liked but didn't love, let's end on this one. Not sure I love the whole thing but I know I do love the colors in the video and the wigout at the end.

 That'll do for now. If I'm careful I can get a month or two of weekends out of this!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ones To Watch. E.G. These

As promised, one very quick post on a musical theme. Very likely another tomorrow. We'll see when we get there. At least it's not another post about Chimeraland, eh? There's something to cheer about.

Weekends are likely to go this way in future. My work pattern looks to be every Sunday and every other Saturday so weekends are going be my weeks, mostly. 

Weekends are a good time for music posts anyway. It's a blogging truism that fewer people read blogs on weekends and music posts have the twin benefits of not going out of date quite as fast as gaming posts, so it matters less if people don't get to them for a few days.

Plus no-one really reads them, probably. I do them for my own amusement, mostly.

Here's what I'm going to do this time and maybe the next few times. Following on from the two New Year lists I plundered for ideas on who to look out for next, this week I was very pleased to get this alphebitized selection of one hundred "Essential Emerging Artists" from the NME. I only recognized a handful of names so I've been digging in to see if there's anyone I ought to know about.

I've found a few. Not too many so far, if I'm honest, but a hundred is a lot. I haven't seen half of them yet. I've been cherry-picking the ones that look like they ought to be interesting, which isn't the way to do it. 

Good enough to give me a couple or three for this post, all the same.

It's a pity Charlie XCX says hyperpop is over. I'm just realizing almost every new thing I really like says "hyperpop" somewhere in the description. Always late to the party, me. Fantasize is the ericdoa track the NME recommends as a starting point. It's fine but but I prefer his collab with glaive.

Glaive is an even bigger name in hyperpop than ericdoa, apparently. I'm not surprised with tunes like i  wanna slam my head against the wall. It reels with that classic pop twist. I love the lack of love for upper case, too. Sucker for that, always.

Just so it's not all glitch glitch glitch here's three girls with guitars and for a bonus they come from about twelve miles west of where I'm sitting. I have a feeling I know where that video was shot.

So reminiscent. SO. That's where my wheelhouse used to be until I moved it. I still have the keys, though. Grazer, up next, also remind me of a lot of people I like. Different people, obviously.

Describing bands by comparing them to other bands is crass but anyone who's been paying attention here knows just who I think Grazer sound like. 

And that's enough for one post. Thirty minutes that took me. Still got time to do some dailies before bed.

It was fun! Let's do it again tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Are You Sure You're Taking This Seriously?

After an annoying couple of days involving long waits in freezing cars, unanticipated taxi trips and four mile walks (Car Trouble, to quote Adam Ant.) it was great to get back to Chimeraland for a long, uninterrupted four hour session this afternoon. I'm starting to think it might be a genuinely good game, not just a curio and a novelty. I'm certainly getting a lot out of it. 

Whether it's a good mmorpg is another matter entirely. It certainly is one. It has all the relevant social options and group content as well as a plethora of progression mechanics. It also has non-consensual PvP with very few restrictions, as I understand it.

So far, though, despite the server being flagged "Busy" every time I log in, I've seen very few other players. Chat seems to be off by default, one of an increasing number of non-standard choices made by the development team. Since I haven't bothered to switch it on, my experience so far has been quiet and peaceful.

One guy did let fly a ten-second burst of gunfire at me yesterday but since I hadn't then reached fifteen, the fateful level at which PvP opts you in whether you want it or not, I just ignored him and he soon went on his way. 

You can eat the flowers if you want but don't blame me if you get colic.

It's a very long time since being ganked in an mmorpg bothered me any more than being jumped by a mob. Indeed, I just consider gankers to be mobs with marginally better AI. I was considerably more concerned when I read that non-consensual PvP extends to buildings. Someone can come round your house and smash it up with a hammer. Or something.

I don't know how it works, to be honest. I guess I'll find out when it happens. I'm not even sure whether you have to be logged in or whether people can just wander about vandalizing structures as they feel the urge. 

I know from the documentation you lose nothing other than the time it takes you to make repairs. All the mats and furniture get returned to you. Really, it's not that different from Valheim, where giants frequently rock up uninvited to bash down the walls you spent hours putting up. I suspect it will happen a lot less often in Chimeraland. At least I hope so.

This looks like a good spot.

As I mentioned yesterday I was planning to do, today I scoped out a better spot and moved house. It's an extraordinarily simple process, arguably too simple. A single key press with no confirmation returns your entire home to your packs, leaving no trace it was ever there.

In the end I didn't move far. I was thinking of looking for a spot where the almond blossom grows thick beneath the waterfall but when I got there the area seemed pretty well settled already. I would probably have pressed on further but I saw some fiery flashes in the distance that looked intriguing. 

I cantered over to see what was happening. Mounts swim, fight and follow without being asked so it's easy to change plans on the fly. When I got there, I found a couple of players engaging a forty-foot scorpion. The beast was around half-health so I thought I might join in without too much fear of drawing aggro. I have no clue what the protocol for this kind of thing is in Chimeraland but it seemed like a good way to find out.

Chimeraland's mounts are everything Guild Wars 2's aren't. Thank god.

Another thing I learned yesterday, after I cracked and read the official new player guide, is that low-mid players ought to stick to ranged attacks. I had been meleeing and making quite a meal of it so that sounded like welcome advice. I had a decent crossbow from some reward or other so I made a couple of thousand bolts (Very cheap and easy to do.) and gave it a try.

Oh. My. God! What a difference! The crossbow works more like a sub-machine gun or a semi-automatic rifle. Stand well back and spray it like a firehose! 

I went from fights with even-level mobs being touch-and-go to being able to exterminate creatures well above my level long before they could get in range to do anything about it. Sometimes the impact of dozens of crossbow bolts seems to knock creatures off their feet. I don't think a single mob I've attacked has got a hit in on me since I changed to range.

That went well...

Unfortunately, forty-foot scorpions don't need to close to kill you. I was blithely blasting away from extreme range when the monster launched a massive AE and killed me instantly. Fair enough. I revived  back at my home (The old one.) and made the decision right then to move to a lovely spot I'd noticed just around the bend in the river.

It's a beautiful setting. I'd noticed a few houses built on or around natural features so I set my Spirit Stone in an outcrop of rock beside the water, just down the slope from a magnificent mature ironwood tree, one that can't be targeted for lumber by players.

Even though I had a ton of wood in my packs I was determined to emulate the wisest of the pigs and build my house of stone. If someone's going to blow my house down I'm damned if I'll make it easy for them. 

All building work should stop after 11pm. But it doesn't.

There are plenty of nodes that drop stone but as a resource it's still a lot scarcer than wood. I had to make numerous trips into the foothills to resupply. You might think that would get dull. Far from it.

Chimeraland reminds me of a number of games I've played and now I'm going to add another to the list: Zentia. I only played Zentia a few times but I still miss it when I think about it. It had an idiosyncratic style that I've rarely experienced elsewhere, a playful, imaginative, childlike sensibility that managed to feel intelligent and frivolous at the same time. 

When you're out hunting and cats keep running past pushing market stalls in front of them or apes ride by on wooden motorcycles, looking like one of the Troublemakers from McKenzie Crook's reinvented Worzel Gummidge, it's hard to take the whole thing too seriously. When a six-foot tall cross between a cat and a bee jogs past, pushing an empty wheel-chair and yelling how no-one rambles like he does, you might well think about checking the gas supply. 

Slow down! You'll have me out!

I wasn't hallucinating. It really happened. I have the pictures to prove it. What's more, I took them while I was sitting in the wheel chair. As I got close, to take a selfie with the cat-bee, I spotted the "Mount" icon on screen. An NPC running through the countryside hoping players will let him give them a ride in his wheelchair. Why the hell not?

Zentia had an NPC that ran around town wearing a papier-mache dragon's head. You could grab on to him and run along behind and then other players could grab on to you and each other untile there was a conga line of twenty or more, turning the busy streets into a chaotic party. This is the nearest to that glorious insanity I've seen since. Given that, so far, I've barely travelled a couple of miles past the starting area, it does make me wonder what else there is out there.

Penguins, for sure. There are penguins. Big ones. I've seen them. Why penguins are waddling about in what feels like a semi-tropical river valley I couldn't tell you but there they are. Six-foot storks that look like Big Bird, those too. And giant wasps but every game has those.

Let's just carry on and pretend we didn't see it.

There won't be much time for me to go looking for more weirdness this weekend. I'm working both days and with the car off the road until the middle of next week, I'll be walking to work and back, which is going to leave me with neither the time nor the energy to play or to post. Expect a couple of very short music posts at best.

Any time I do get to play, I'll be working on my house. It's coming along nicely albeit at the expense of the progress I was hoping to make on decorating my Mourningdale home in New World. The Winter Convergence event looks like it's going to go unfinished. The trials of a second home-owner, eh? 

No, I wouldn't sympathise with me, either.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Location, Location, Location

I woke up this morning with a sudden insight into that problem I mentioned yesterday, the one where I couldn't upgrade my house in Chimeraland. Problem solving while you sleep is tight!

It turns out you don't use the menu on the Spirit Orb to add more foundations to your plot, not after the first time. That was where I'd been going wrong. Instead, you use the Build function, a completely separate process you acess from the menu that pops up when you hit "V".

Once I'd gotten that sorted, I was away. I laid down a wooden deck and trimmed it with stone flagging. Then I put up some low walls around three quarters of the plot with some big picture windows facing the water. 

I moved all my stations from the original base and spaced them out along the perimeter with the heavy-duty ones on the stone area and the dressing table and meditation thingy next to the windows, so I'd have the nice view to look at while I was using them.

Twice, as I worked, I had to break off to deal with agressive Gripines, a kind of wolf that roams around the shoreline and the woods nearby. The first came in before I had the walls up. I had to punch it to death because my broom had broken. 

The second Gripine found its way in through the corridor I'd left at the back of the house, the one I was planning on securing with a door later. By then I'd found a Lute in my pack and equipped that instead of my broom. The tool tip said the lute shoots fireballs and heals the user at the same time. I guess that  makes me some kind of bardic wizard. It fries the hell out of wolves, I'll tell you that much!

Once I'd put the local wildlife in its place I set about putting in a staircase. I was just about to start on the second floor when I hit the next snag. There seems to be some kind of timer or limit on how many "blocks" you can place in quick succession. What the limit is or how long the timer has to run before it resets I have no idea. I'll have to do some research on that.

Since I couldn't carry on with my building I decided to get back to the main quest but before I could get going on that I noticed some kind of monkey hanging about at the back of the house. He was wearing a duster coat and at first I thought it was a player but it turned out to be some chancer of an NPC, scamming me to pay him to go away.

This is a wrinkle I can't recall seeing before. It happened again later, when I got home to find a cat sitting at my dressing table. She also wanted paying to leave. I grudgingly gave each of them five hundred cowries, the basic currency of which I currently have nearly thirty thousand but it's not the money I object to, it's the principle of the thing!

When they go, the uninvited guests leave you a present. It seems to be a kind of upgrade material for a progression mechanic I haven't delved into yet. I'm guessing when I know more about it I'll be hoping for more of these visitations. I wonder if they can even get in once you have the place secured and locked?

When I was able to get back to the main quest, which at this stage is still very much a tutorial with no discernible narrative or storyline, Bella sent me off to find a totem. Totems are scattered all across the landscape, marked on the map as question-marks. Interacting with them spawns a wave event, where you kill some humanoid types and a mini-boss. That nets you gear and rewards.

I'd already done one yesterday so I had a vague idea how it worked. I set off to find another, which was when I discovered the inadequacies of the map. Everything is marked clearly enough but the pointer that represents your character is so fricken' huge it's hard to tell exactly what it's pointing at. If there's a mini-map, I haven't got it, so I had to keep opening the main map and we all know how awkward that can be.

After a while I gave up trying to go anywhere in particular and just went exploring instead. It was educational to say the least. I learned two things very quickly:

  • It's not a good idea to settle down in the first spot you find.
  • My house-building skills need some serious polishing.

It was deep in the night when I came over a rise to see by far the most advanced structure I'd seen so far. I stopped to look at it. I took a screenshot. I was sure it had to be the first proper settlement or town I'd come across.

It wasn't. It was a player's house. Vanida's house, to be precise. She deserves the credit because her house is amazing. It's a gorgeous, terraced villa built into the hillside overlooking the river. It has sweeping stone staircases, curving walls and slate roofs with turrets. The many sundecks have loungers you can lie back in to watch the clouds sail overhead. 

Inside, the spacious rooms are filled with devices of all kinds. Houses in Chimeraland seem to be open to the public by default but I noticed not all of the devices are in public use. Whether there are privacy settings is something I'll have to find out when I have something worth being private about.

I spent a while looking around Vanida's charming home, taking photos. Before I knew it the sun was coming up. Sunrises and sunsets in the game can be quite spectacular and everything looks very different in the rosy light of dawn. There were rainbows across the bay and butterflies in the air. I wished I was really there.

Carrying on along the river I came to a spectacular waterfall. Someone had built into the rocks beneath it. Someone else was working on a house that jutted out from the top of the cliffs above. The river opened out into a delta of shallow lakes and pools and across the water I could see the pink blossom of almond trees.

There were houses everywhere, some built of stone, others of wood, some finished, others still under construction. The standard here seemed far higher than the upstream flatlands where I'd set my Spirit Orb. It was about then that I realized I'd chosen to build my home in a slum.

Yep. Gonna have to move. Good thing I haven't really gotten started yet. That time limit thing looks like it's saved me a lot of wasted work.

I don't know how you relocate but I know you can. There's a tip in the tutorial that tells you not to worry too much about your first choice of plot because you can always move. I'm guessing you just tear it all down and start again somewhere else. Next time I'm going to pick somewhere that has a much better view and no wild animals passing through.

I'll have plenty of resources to get started. The whole time I was travelling this morning I was also mining and gathering. I kept seeing new and different resources so of course I had to have them all. Pretty much every kind of rock or mineral gives a load of stone as the common material along with a few crystals or gems or chunks of ore. 

I'm guessing as your mining, gathering and logging skills increase, your chance of getting rarer materials goes up as well. Too early to say for sure but there has to be some benefit to higher numbers and it doesn't look like the game uses skill level as a gatekeeper to more advanced nodes. I haven't run into anything I can't hack to pieces - I just get mostly the same stuff from whatever it might be.

There's no reason to hold back because nothing appears to have weight. It's a refreshing change after New World to know that no matter how much stone you throw into your packs you'll still be able to move at normal speed. Storage space is extremely generous, too. Basic inventory begins at four hundred slots and most materials stack to ninety-nine.

After a couple of hours wandering aimlessly, I decided I probably should make an effort and find that totem. I worked out where the nearest one was. It wasn't all that close, which was when I remembered I have a horse. I whistled him up, fed him some slushies and off we went.

I found the totem and clicked on it, which dismounted me and began the event. Once summoned, mounts seem to stay in the world, very much as they do in Fallen Earth. They can be damaged or attacked like they can in that game, too, but what I didn't know, until the Hansel cat-bear mobs spawned from the totem and attacked, is that your horse fights back!

All the time I was flinging fireballs at cat-bears with my lute, my horse was rearing up and flailing at them with his hooves. He didn't even bother to back me up. If I finished one off he'd pick another target for himself and charge. 

Unfortunately, as usual I'd been neglecting my health. I still haven't figured out how to keep an eye on it during combat and I was gambling on having just enough to get the job done before I opened my bags to see what I could use to recover. I lost that gamble.

It was very close. Horse and I were on the Foreman, the final mob. I thought we had him on the ropes, when I suddenly fell over. I lay there, cheering my horse on, hoping he'd finish the job even though I had no idea what would happen if he did. I still don't because the horse lost. I imagine he was as beaten-up as I was at that point.

I took the option to respawn back at my house, even though it was miles away. If I'd thought I was likely to lose I'd have placed a camp nearby to act as a respawn point so I could go again but I didn't even think of it. Next time.

Before then, I have to work out where I'm going to live. It's a very big world and I've seen almost none of it. Best not rush into anything.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Chimeraland: Second First Impressions

Chimeraland is a curious game. Or I guess it might be. Too soon to tell for sure. Maybe it'll turn out to be ordinary in the end. Hard to say. 

From what I've seen so far, it seems to have a little of everything or maybe that should be a lot. When I first heard about it I imagined it would be a cheap knock-off of the Monster Hunter games. Not that I've played any of those but I've read a lot of posts by people who have. It also sounded a bit like Riders of Icarus, the mmorpg where you collect flying mounts. I know that one.

Backing away slowly...

Having played Chimeraland for five or six hours now, I'm not so sure it's like either of those. There certainly are some very large monsters wandering about but they mind their own business and nothing has yet prompted me to attack one. 

There's also absolutely no hint of any kind of story, quest or narative so far, no questgivers other than Bella, the woman who handholds you through the tutorial, the one I said yesterday the game doesn't have. It does, only it's one of the very old kind, where everything just happens in the game, not in some instance or on some island, so it took me a while to notice.

I think you're going to need to make that fence higher.

The tutorial is so laid back I'd done a chunk of it on my own just exploring and experimenting. I only found out about making campsites, cooking and building a base after I'd figured all three out for myself. Fortunately Bella's smart enough to give credit for work you've already done, so I didn't have to do it all twice.

Wandering around the world, or rather the very, very small corner of it I've seen since I fell out of the sky, I couldn't help but be reminded of Landmark. There are building plots everywhere, some of them beginning to sprout elaborate structures, others still bare rock and boards. 

Housing in Chimeraland is open plan. It seems you can put down marker just about anywhere the ground is flat enough and start building. I picked a spot close to the beach that looked too good to have been missed by all the other would-be homeowners. I think I might know why, now.

That's me, dead on the sand. It happened just before I was about to log out to come and write this post. I was in the middle of feeding an apple slushie to my horse when the screen filled with flame and we both caught on fire and fell over. I still don't really know what happened.

The "Starfall" message is misleading. You get that every time you die. I've died a lot, mostly attcking animals to see how tough they are. They do show their levels but some seem a lot easier than others and I got a drop off one, once, so I'm always hopeful.

It always tells you, in the top left corner, the name of what killed you. Wildfire got me. I think that's the name of a specific creature not just the proximate cause of death. My strong suspicion is it must be the fifty-foot glowing alligator that wallows in the river across the beach from where I built my honme. It would certainly explain why no-one else wanted to live there.

Looks like a nice spot. Wonder why no-one's nabbed it?

I say my "home". So far it's nothing more than a block of concrete with a bunch of crafting stations and services crammed wherever they'll fit. I spent a good while trying to figure out the building and crafting system by trial and error before I realised Bella was waiting to walk me through it.

It's an interesting system compared to several I've used recently, Valheim and New World particularly. At the extremely low level I'm operating it seems very straightforward and yet I still can't quite understand it. 

Currently I'm stymied by a Catch 22 I can't figure out. I need to have an upgraded house before I can progress a number of the crafting skills but I need to progress the crafting skills to make what I need to upgrade the house. I'm obviously missing something. There aren't a lot of guides around as yet but I'm sure I could find the answer somewhere, if it wasn't more fun trying to puzzle it out for myself.

I shall name him Midnight! Or maybe Dobbin.

I'm not sure I'd have found a way to get a mount had Bella not given me a horse to ride. I'm guessing you can tame a wild horse. I've seen one, walking along the beach. I imagine you can tame and ride all kinds of creatures, seeing as how it's a core part of the game but that whole aspect  is shrouded in mystery for me right now. 

I learned  the basics from my arcade machine. Oh yes, I have a video game in my video game. I crafted it. It's on the slab I call home. It has four mini-games that put you in an instance where you can fight things or shoot at targets for loot and it also lets you practice taming.

As in many games I've played, you have to beat an animal to within an inch of its life before you can capture it. I've never played one where you have to catch it with a crossbow that fires a net but that's a mere detail. Unfortunately, when I was in the instance trying to do that I didn't have a net-firing crossbow because I didn't realize I was supposed to have crafted one. I just had the regular one that shoots bolts so you can imagine how that went.

Who put you in that thing, kitty? Tell me and I'll get them for you!

From what I've read in the extensive in-game information, the creatures you tame that way aren't permanent pets anyway. More like the food you need to feed others to get a permanent companion. Or something. Honestly, I'll have to read it again. It was weird.

Not as weird as what happens almost every time I mine a rock or harvest a plant, though. Most times when I do that a small, cute animal appears. There's a cat wearing a backpack I've seen a bunch of time and a racoon. There was a frog, once. 

When one of these guys pops out, so does an icon telling me to press F to "Pet" it. Under that is a greyed-out icon marked "Tame". I've hammered the "F" key like crazy and filled half the screen with floating hearts to prove I'm doing something right but that other key never comes live. Eventually the little animals wander off and disappear.

Now we're cooking with wood!

It's all very mysterious. Cooking was a lot easier to figure out. I worked out how to craft a campsite, then how to place it, then I just started throwing in everything from my packs that looked like it might be edible and hoping for the best. At first all I got was something called "Dark Cuisine", which is basically inedible, burned gunk but eventually I managed to make some Orchid Soup and after that a whole load of recipes appeared, seemingly unrelated to what I was throwing into the pot.

I have yet to work out how eating restores health. There's a stat called "Fullness", which seems to be a hunger meter but I don't think it directly affects your hit points, which have to be restored separately. Some foods are supposed to do both but I can't reliably see my current hit point state without opening the stats page, so I don't always know whether eating something has made a difference. That's another reason for all the deaths.

Trying to make sense of it all is a huge amount of fun. It's like doing a puzzle, All the pieces are there, it's just getting them to fit together.

One thing that's very much in the game's favor in that respect is the English translation, which is excellent. There's a great deal of in-game information in the form of guides. tool-tips and explanatory text and it's all in good, clear, grammatically correct, culturally appropriate English, while still somehow managing to feel exotic at the same time. 

I haven't heard much in the way of voice-over yet but what there is has been good, too. As usual, it seems someone might have knocked over a couple of canisters of helium and nitrous oxide in the recording studio, but the high-pitched hilarity doesn't obscure the meaning. 

Visually, Chimeraland is oddly old-fashioned. After the hyper-detailed character creation, the world itself seems somewhat low-res but what it lacks in realism it makes up for in charm. 

The game's PR team like to make a big deal of the size of the world, which is supposedly vast but I suspect the size comes at the expense of detail. It's no Gensin Impact, that's for sure. Except in some strange way it does remind me of that groundbreaking game, if only the way that, for free to play, it seems to give you an awful lot of your fun up front. It's far too early to know how that's going to play out over time but I do feel the same kind of vibe I felt when I first started playing G.I.

Early days but a solid start. For the moment I can say that when I sit down at my PC, Chimeraland is the game I want to play and when I stop playing it's the game I want to write about. Both of those are common factors with a lot of fresh mmorpgs. Novelty counts for a lot. It's far easier to get fired up over new things than the same old same old even when the new is just the old with a thin coat of paint.

In this case, though, it's a whole bunch of old things, gussied up to look fresh and banded together. It's like one of those old Top of the Pops albums, with all the hits of the last few years redone by session musicians. Competent ones. 

It's familiar and peculiar all at the same time. I like it.

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