Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): May 2016

Hey! Hey you. Yeah, you. Psshhhhht! Over here. Look over here. See that? That’s what a guilty feeling looks like.

With considerable guilt I started playing the two free tables offered in The Pinball Arcade and Pinball FX 2. I’d played TPA before some time ago, but after visiting the French alps and finding a company that makes virtual pinball tables, I became more convinced of the viability of simulated pinball than before. I’ve always wanted a real pinball table, but I lack the skills to repair it. And since they constantly break, a virtual one is probably better for me.

The pinball obession

This idea bugged me all month, so I gave up and built my own small virtual pinball cabinet out of pieces of an old table and a PC monitor I found in the trash. I’m  using Zeb’s nudge sensor, because pinball can’t be played without nudge! Here’s a picture of the thing:

RPVUfBO

There are more pictures, with electronics and all, in this album. You’ll see a picture of Pinball Arcade there, but I actually went hardcore and discovered that the real pinball dudes and dudettes are all using Visual Pinball. This has the advantage of only kinda breaking my vow: The Visual Pinball tables are free 🙂  But I plan to not overdo it. One, maybe two tables, that’ll be fine.

The joy of Visual Pinball is that you can use nice frontends to select your tables, and then you customize the shit out of your frontend. You pick exactly which playfield movies, which backglass movies appear, what kind of logo you use for each table, it’s a tinkerer’s wonderland.

A problem with Visual Pinball is that you can end up with inexplicable issues like ball stutter, and I believe its physics model works in a single thread, so raw CPU per-core power matters greatly, and it might not react well to dynamic CPU reclocking. Plus, you want a beefy machine. My laptop (a gaming machine with Core i7 and a GTX 860M) is just barely fast enough. If I want to have proper pinball emulation with Visual Pinball, I’ll have to go to the trash pile once more. I might be able to get my hands on a 3.2 GHz desktop processor, if I can dig up a motherboard, that’ll be fine for Visual Pinball.

Pinball FX 2 uses a lot less CPU. It runs smoothly even on weak machines, and the people of Zen Studios have started on some inroads towards supporting pinball cabinet owners (like me, now! I can say that now!)

For example, you can move the DMD (the score display) to a second screen and display a backglass image of your choice. It’s not nearly as cool as having a DirectB2S backglass running with full interactive lights and colors, but it’s a step. And it’s more than Farsight Studios are doing for cabinet owners (namely: nothing).

You can also rotate the playfield by 0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees. This is useful in a cabinet setup: most Visual Pinball tables are set up so that they show up the “wrong way” if the screen is looked at in landscape mode, but correct for portrait mode. And since most cabinet owners probably use Visual Pinball, it’s nice that Zen Studios adopts that way of doing things. They’ve always had a mode in Pinball FX 2 that would detect whether you’re running a portrait resolution (e.g. 1080 x 1920), but since Visual Pinball is run in full-screen portrait mode but in a landscape resolution (!), that wouldn’t help.

So thanks, Zen Studios. I will buy some tables. I’m struggling like a motherfucker not to.

Fast-ass reflexes, please

I rediscovered Xonotic, a game I had shelved some years ago.  This stuff is tight. It feels like the best of Quake coupled with the best of Unreal Tournament. And it’s free software to boot!

Quake and Xonotic made me rediscover a love of FPS games that I didn’t know had survived. I have Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition which I’ve bought some time ago but shelved earlier because I thought it too fast. Quake somewhat fixed my rusty reflexes so Duke just feels normal now, thus back on the list it goes. Modern FPS games feel spongy and sluggish, with the exception of things like Team Fortress 2 or CS:GO, but this old stuff, I can really dig it.

Shelved or finished

I shelved Shadow of Mordor. Graphics, fantastic; animation, so lifelike; voice acting, nigh-perfect (well, there’s the faux-Scottish dwarves…). But the gameplay was just so boring. It’s “click your mouse to win” combat. But this is cool, one less game to go through, and a 50 GB one at that.

Shelved Ronin as well because, even though I like the idea of its control scheme, I just couldn’t get used to it.

Removed Outlast from the list because I figured out I’m a big pussy when I played Alien: Isolation, thus Outlast won’t be healthy for me. Still, I gave the devs my m0neyz so I hope they’re happy. Removed The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human because the devs can’t get those shared libraries right and so the game won’t even start without faking some outdated GNU/Linux distribution. Other games packaged by GOG don’t have this problem. If Aquatic Adventure gets fixed in future, I might add it again. Would ask for a refund, but that just isn’t fair anymore at this point.

Finished Quake and thinking about shelving Crypt of the NecroDancer.

I’m full of praise for Crypt. This is a lovely game, truly creative, that’s not why I’m shelving it. In zone 4, too many enemies start doing their thing at once. I can tackle having two or three enemy types on screen at a time and reacting to their attack patterns. But Crypt of the NecroDancer does not tolerate failure well. One, two mistakes at this level and it’s usually game over. I like hard games, but Crypt puts a sort of stress on me where I have to both think really quickly and deeply while at the same time acting very spontaneously. This doesn’t mix well in my brain. Zone 4 is the last one, at least I got this far.

Shelved Tomb Raider (2013). The camera has massive head bob and that makes me vomit and it can’t be disabled. It’s even there in cutscenes. Shame on you Crystal Dynamics, you should know better.

Ultra Patienceeeeeee!

Someone told me that her sister bought the new Killer Instinct and really liked it, so we got to talking about the old Killer Instinct, c-c-c-combo breaker! and everything. I had that on SNES, but I’d love to play the arcade version via MAME with my own arcade stick. You know, go really deep.

With all these new games coming out, during my buying spree times, I never felt I really had enough time to sit down with a game and learn it to a significant level. 22 years ago, when Killer Instinct was new, I knew most of the specials and combos of at least three characters. That took time to practice, but I remember it felt nice to GIT GUD! at something. In some ways, this is the antipode to mobile gaming, where games fly by in days instead of months and barely anything even offers enough depth to go deep.

Revisiting the arcade version of KI I noticed that this isn’t the game to get good at for the moment. It feels plasticky and cheap after all these years, and I barely managed to pull of my old combos.

Some of the newer fighting games that I have (Capcom vs. SNK Millennium Fight 2000 on Dreamcast or Night Warriors on Saturn, for example) would be a nice thing instead. I never understood all the cancels and bunny hops and all the stuff that is necessary in fighting games today, and I doubt I could go deep enough to derive any fun from that. Games from the Night Warriors era on the other hand had just the right amount of mechanics for me to still understand.

But let’s not discuss fighting games, and certainly not revisiting my console games collection.

Struggles

Even though I tried not to know what’s going on in gaming, somehow Clustertruck and Kopanito All-Stars Soccer managed to sneak on my wishlist.

Rediscovery

I also rediscovered the GameCube and the games I missed on it, some of them excellent: SSX3, Soul Calibur 2, Star Wars: Rogue Leader, Eternal Darkness. And on Wii there’s Muramasa, Sin and Punishment 2, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Xenoblade Chronicles (with frickin HD textures)! So many games, they would add hundreds of hours to my play queue.  I’d be breaking my vow by buying them now. But if I buy them later, they might become more expensive, because pricing for physical games is not the perpetual downward spiral we have in digital.

Sigh.

I was looking at gameplay footage from those games and already researching how nicely they will run in the Dolphin emulator. So far I haven’t given in to this pressure, but it’s clear that my brain is looking for something new to play without finishing the old stuff. After I brought the Steam store popups under control, my mind is now exploring other avenues, the bastard. Any psychologists familiar with addiction symptoms care to comment?

Talking about addiction: On some days, I go back to my collection and look at games that I’d shelved months or years ago. When I was still buying new stuff, I would think “nah, let’s move on,” but now I’m reinstalling some titles. Left 4 Dead 2 didn’t get enough playtime from me, and I didn’t even get a decent number of achievements in Goat Simulator. And since I’m into twitch games right now, Crimsonland comes in just fine.

I’m revisiting those, and if any of them end up staying, they’ll be re-added to the main list.

So far I can really recommend the things I’m doing to anyone who’s addicted to buying games. Ignoring the gaming news and not even looking at sales buys you so much mental space. I feel like I have years to master L4D2 now.

Then there’s stuff I bought but never even played, like Massive Chalice or The Novelist. It’s finally time to go there.

What’s left

Titles in bold are the ones I’m currently focusing on.

  1. The Banner Saga
  2. Chaos Reborn
  3. The Curious Expedition
  4. Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition
  5. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
  6. Dropsy
  7. Hand of Fate
  8. The Long Dark
  9. Nuclear Throne
  10. Quake
  11. Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition
  12. Star Wars: KOTOR II
  13. Tales of Maj’Eyal
  14. Transistor
  15. Victor Vran
  16. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
  17. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Rediscoveries

  1. Crimsonland
  2. Massive Chalice
  3. The Novelist
  4. Serious Sam 3: BFE

The mobile section is missing this month because I’ve realized the error of my ways and stopped playing mobile games.

To track wishlist movements, here’s my Steam wishlist. I usually put things on the Steam wishlist only but may buy them on GOG or Humble. In case you want to follow me, you filthy stalker.

Enjoyed this? Read the other posts in this series.

 

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