Missing the Guild Wars 2 that was, not is

While I never talk about it, every evening I do log into Guild Wars 2. This is part of a quick rotation of games that I currently play or might play again that I do in order to grab daily rewards. Plus, logging in to GW2 unlocks the living world chapters when they come. So it’s kind of hedging on a possible gaming future.

Yet I’m just not sure that I want to play Guild Wars 2… maybe ever again. I wish that was not the case. The core game? I love the core game. I think ArenaNet was at the top of its game with the release of Guild Wars 2 and the way it crafted a world that was fun to explore and engage with public events. In a different universe, I could see development skewing more to feeding us casual-friendly players — particularly with the addition of proper housing.

That’s not the way Guild Wars 2 went. Instead, we got grindy masteries and fractals and — I still don’t know why — raids. Mounts seemed cool, but the game seemed like it drifted far away from what I used to know and love about it.

The other week, ArenaNet actually broke its silence to talk with its fans about the content coming for the game. Obviously, after last year’s studio gutting, Guild Wars 2 isn’t on fire as it once was. Even so, I’d hoped to see something really encouraging from what the remaining team had been up to. Instead… more fractals. More raids. More of stuff that isn’t that appealing and doesn’t call out to me to come back.

It would be much easier to hate on a game and denounce it once and for all. But I think MMO gamers know that special agony of loving a game as it used to be, not as it is at the present. Sometimes change is not for the better at all.

But hey, who knows. Maybe I’ll give GW2 some more time off and revisit it then and enjoy what I can. Maybe I’ll get through all of the living world stuff and expansions I have yet to do. And maybe, just maybe, Guild Wars 3 will emerge one day. For now, however, I’ll log in, grab my goodie bag, and log off without feeling a second of compulsion to actually play.

Sims 4: Making teeny tiny homes

The Sims 4 seems to be really popular in our household at the present. It’s one of those games I feel fine setting my kids loose in, because it’s much more about creation and experience than rampant destruction and violence. For me, it scratches that itch of wanting to create the perfect virtual abode and see how the computer people go about living in it.

This past month, Sims 4 released its Tiny Living stuff pack to feed into the huge Sims tiny house community. I think it’s more fun designing small houses anyway, with the added challenge of making everything fit and functional. It is tough, and perhaps the toughest part is coming up with an idea for a home that works. I’ve been noting some other creations to draw elements from, but I did want to see what I could do under my own steam.

So this here is my first micro home (as defined by being 32 squares or fewer). You get the most buffs from it but have the least space, so it’s not really something you’d want more than a couple of folks living in.

It may not look like much on the outside, but I am still proud of it. I incorporated columns, turned a wastecan into what looks like a pseudo-well, and lined my walk with a dozen or so tea light bags.

Inside, the home definitely shines. It’s a two-room house (the bathroom always needs to be separate or the Sims freak out when they have to use the toilet). I’m electing not to use the new Murphy bed in my tiny homes because of their tendency to kill Sims, so I tried instead to pick furniture that would look at home in a lodge.

The centerpiece of the house is the fireplace. Initially I was reluctant to put something that large into the space, but it really gives the place character — especially when a fire is lit. There’s the bed area, a TV/entertainment area, and what I think is a pretty cozy kitchenette. The counter can be used for both food prep and eating, which is a neat trick that I saw somewhere.

To make this all work, I definitely had to fine-tune it with the “moveobjects” cheat code. Some rooms and objects — like the toilet — wouldn’t work unless they were scooched over just a bit. I also love the fact that someone showed me how you can put up different kitchen cabinet options. None of those are functional, but they really do look great even in a packed home.

I’m not quite done with the house; I’d like to add some more clutter and decorations where I can fit them. But for the most part, it’s done. The yard is going to need a lot of work, but that’s for the future.

I never have completed a full year of a Sims 4 household, so maybe that needs to be next. It’s just that building homes is something way more entertaining than living in them.

Toonstruck: Flushing for fish

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1996’s Toonstruck. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

We begin today’s jaunt in Toonstruck by flushing for fish. In Zanydu, obviously. I love how casual Drew takes all of the weirdness of this world. He understands cartoon rules, being a cartoonist, so I guess that all makes sense.

I mean, if you know cartoon rules, you’ll know how easy it is to kill a vulture by feeding it poison meat. ‘Course, you could do that to normal, non-cartoon vultures as well, but we here at Bio Break do not condone killing the most majestic of birds.

So yeah, lots of bouncing back and forth between areas to use one item to get another. And also to infect my brain with scenes that I dearly wish I could scrub clean. Punisher Polly, why won’t you get out of my nightmares?

Because I love you so much and I know how sensitive you are to spoilers, I won’t reveal the AMAZING SECRET that is locked away in this cupboard. But it is. Truly amazing, I mean. Would blow. your. mind. if you only knew. Whew! So amazing!

For the final ingredient for the Cutifier, Drew and Flux have to do some serious bowling in the Malevolands. This involves making a “bear trap” (gluing a bowling ball to a bear) and then bowling for a strike using Flux as the ball. Eh, whatever works. And as Flux said, “For a minute there I was afraid you’d have to shoot me out of your butt!” Er… what now?

This right here is the ultimate goal of the first part of the game — to collect and assemble 12 items into the Cutifier. They’re all pun opposites of what’s in the Malevolator, such as a roasting spit to the Malevolator’s polish.

So the good news is that Drew and Flux are able to use the machine to reverse all of the damaging effects that Nefarious did to Cutopia. The bad news? It turns out that King Hugh has gone a little off his rocker… well, a LOT off his rocker. He orders Drew to use the machine to turn every land cute, including Zanydu and the Malevolands — and Hugh won’t help Drew get home until he does it. Drew refuses, and Hugh unmasks to reveal that he’s…

Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun! OK, I saw the “Hugh being evil” thing coming, but not the fact that he was actually a bunny (who apparently kidnapped and imprisoned the real King Hugh). In the ensuing 10 minute cutscene, Flux gets zapped and gets a mental transformation, Drew goes on the run from the guards, Nefarious’ minions show up, and Drew gets kidnapped and brought to Nefarious’ castle.

And that’s not the end of it! Seriously, it’s a very long mid-game cutscene. Nefarious shows up to taunt Drew and attempt to turn him over to his cause. Drew discovers that he’s been injected with a serum that will transform him into a toon himself (which is a weird counterpoint to Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s mystery dip) — and to make matters worse, Nefarious’ number two, Miss Fortune, hypnotizes Drew and gets him to tell them where the Cutifier is and what Drew intends to do to escape. It’s certainly a very dark moment for our heroes!

Star Trek Online: These are the voyages of the Kuchi Kopi

It is time. After taking a full year off playing Star Trek Online in 2019, I felt that it was a perfect time — especially with the 10th anniversary in full swing — to return. And you know me, that means starting alllll over again instead of picking up where I left off. It’s just more satisfying that way, you know?

Plus, this time I can test out the newish ability to play a Tier 6 ship all the way from the start through endgame without swapping out ships numerous times. I have a trio of T6s unlocked on my account, so after some deliberation, I went with the updated Pathfinder (science) ship. It wasn’t a carrier, which is my usual preference, but I always have loved the look and function of science ships, and this one even comes with an aeroshuttle combat pet. So it’s like a mini-carrier in that regard.

The first night I came back to STO, I don’t think I did a single mission. Instead, I spent a couple of hours working on making a character and designing her outfit. This above look was a work-in-progress — the picture at the top of this post is my final result.

So meet Myfanwy, captain of the Kuchi Kopi (a nod to Bob’s Burgers). I had fun customizing the ship as well, choosing more “chunky” elements and those really neat nacelles that have stabilizer-like fins that move when it goes in and out of warp.

It’s pretty astounding to think that we’re already a full decade into this game. When Star Trek Online launched in 2010, it was a far more ramshackle deal with half-baked systems and lopsided factions. Now we have an MMO that’s fleshed out with expansions, races, eras, hundreds of shops, and a half-dozen factions.

I do think that a giant hologram proclaiming the name of the game and its age is a bit immersion-breaking to put right in the middle of Stardock, but I’ll allow this indulgence.

Finally, my voyages were underway. I’m tempted to jump into the 10th anniversary stuff, but it’s not going anywhere and I want to get into the groove with this crew first. Right now, I’m logging in to do about two missions a night and then moving on to a different game. No sense chugging when there’s no urgency for it.

I will say that I have missed the gameplay — the stories, the ship battles, and yes, even the ground combat. I think the ground combat gets a lot of jibing when it’s honestly not that bad. There aren’t many MMOs that let you lead around your own personal army all the time, so as a pet guy, I always feel like I’m fielding a crew of them.

And let’s not forget all of the cameos. Hearing Spock’s voice from time to time gave me a bit of a heart-twinge at Nimoy’s passing, but it’s good to know that he and others have a legacy in this game as well.

A friend said the other day that Star Trek Online’s writing team does an amazing job bringing all of the different shows and plot threads together — and that it often does this far better than the shows do (especially the newer ones). I kind of agree with this. The Discovery/Picard era shows feel so far removed from Star Trek even though they can be enjoyable on their own terms. But I’m having a hard time mentally meshing them with what came before. Maybe the MMO can be the bridge there.

New solo games I want to play in 2020

Last week, PC Gamer asked its community what games everyone was looking forward to playing this year. While I’ve talked about the MMOs and updates that I’m anticipating, I haven’t spoken as much about solo games. That’s partially because I have too many on my backlog as it is, but also because it’s not where my head is at most of the time. But if I had to pick a half-dozen or so titles that I wouldn’t mind playing in 2020, they would be…

Cyberpunk 2077

Everyone seems to be hotly anticipating this one. I’m more like lukewarm anticipating while I wait to see what the final product looks like. The cyberpunk setting is a huge draw, though, and I hope to Keanu that the studio gets it right.

Space Haven

This Rimworld-esque colony sim should be going into “stable early access” this year, and I will be there for day one. It looks amazing and if it’s even half as good as Rimworld but with pixel art, then I’ll be so content.

Bloodlines 2

Having just played through Bloodlines 1 last year for retro gaming, sure, I’ll see what the fuss is about when the sequel arrives. Not the biggest vampire fan in the world, but the first game nailed a great setting and roleplay experience. Here’s hoping for a solid follow-up.

Age of Empires IV

May AoE4 herald the great return of the real-time strategy game! I deeply love the Age of Empires series and can’t wait to see what the fourth installment will be like.

Baldur’s Gate 3

Mostly because I liked the second game — like any other RPG fan, I wager — I’ll be on board with this title. I know very little about it, so I’ll wait until a release date grows near to do some serious research.

Wasteland 3 & Wasteland Remastered

Man, I need to play Wasteland 2, don’t I? It’s been sitting in my bin forever. But the third game, set in the Rockies, has been getting some serious buzz. AND the studio just announced that it’s remastering the first game, which definitely deserves a shot. Can do a whole trilogy with modern aesthetics now.

The Outer Worlds DLC

I think Obsidian said that it’s working on DLC for Outer Worlds, so here’s hoping we see some in 2020. It was a great game and I’ll be wanting to replay it — but I’ll probably wait until there’s some more content in it for a second try.

Sunday Serenade: Belau, Star Stable, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with…

“Pleasure Palace” from Point Blank — I don’t… I don’t even know what I listened to. But it infected my soul with its groove.

“Blackout” by AViVA — Yeah, this one deserves to be put on a few repeat loops. Blackout! Blackout!

“Not Afraid” by Basic Tape — If you’re looking for a good, solid party track, I’d nominate this one.

“Oui ou non” by Angele — Don’t understand a lick of French, but this is subtlely catchy even so.

“Essence” by Belau — I allllmost dismissed this one before pausing to give it a second listen. It clicked firmly that time around thanks to the mellow and emotional flow that empties into a beautiful chorus.

“Dusk” by Alex Lisi — Some no-nonsense EDM beats.

“To Pandoria” from Star Stable — This MMO is bowling me over with its extensive and somewhat incredible soundtrack. It’s been a while since I’ve had a discovery like this!

“Made for You” by Alexander Cardinale — I feel like I’ve heard this type of song with the instrumentation and humming a lot. It’s nice, but it does give a “Millennial” tone to it, if that makes sense.

“Yung Luv” by Andrelli — This song solely exists to make me feel old. Thanks.

“Devil I Know” by Allie X — This doesn’t seem to be a ringing endorsement for these two people to stick together. Sick beat, though.

The Secret World shows me a (little) love

I honestly thought I was done with The Secret World. That’s because Funcom up and stopped developing for the game, all but abandoning it over the last year. Case in point, the last time I blogged about playing it, the date was August 2018 — and that’s because I had just finished up South Africa, the most recent content update for the game. 2019 came and went without much of anything, so I figured Funcom had given up. And it might have, but here’s something quite fortuitous for Valentine’s Day: A special, new investigation mission.

So yeah, sure, I’ll come back to see it.

The fun — such as it is — begins in the April Fools pocket dimension of Tabula Rasa. Here sits a weirdly sparking Soulmate arcade cabinet, which pairs me with another player. I thought we’d have to go somewhere together and cuddle, but no, it meant we needed to don some boxing gloves and smack the crap out of each other until one of us won.

I won. Bully for me.

It’s not the most intricate of investigation missions, but from where I’m sitting, it seems to involve the anonymous faction known as The Swarm (aka the anti-bees who dress up like wasps). From what I remember of two years ago, the game only started to tease the Swarm as a new wrinkle in the whole Secret World. I think they want to recruit me, and if so, I’m all up for that.

The mission tasks me with tracking one of the members of the Swarm, a purple-haired girl who is annoying adept at throwing all sorts of obstacles in my path as we weave and bob around London. After one failed attempt, I finally tracked her down to a portal and we had it out in a tepid fight (thanks, story mode). She narrowly escaped but Isabel — the daughter of Tabula Rasa’s owner — dropped her phone with some incriminating contacts and emails.

I like that, once again, the mission ends on a choice to help out the Swarm (wipe the phone) or obey my faction (send the info to the Templars). I’ll all pro-Swarm, assuming that this storyline ever actually continues, so I wiped it.

Thanks for the half-hour diversion, Secret World. See you again in two years?