Friday, June 24, 2022

ARK: Fjordur

By Nydia Tungsten

I have been playing ARK pretty much since it came out in Beta. For the most part, I enjoy it, except when the devs started pandering strictly to the PvP crowd. Changing the game's mechanics almost destroyed the PvE players' enjoyment. I had left the game for a while until I learned that the modding community came to the PvE community's rescue, undoing everything the Devs tossed aside chasing the PvP demands. So I started playing again and enjoying it again. The best maps came from outside, and this is one of those maps: Fjordur.

It is a brand new map, as of this writing it is only maybe a week old, but it is packed with so much to explore, so much to lore. And the graphics seem like they have improved as well.

The other maps only have certain Dino’s for that map alone, but Fjord opens that door and brings in almost every animal, they probably have every animal I just hadn’t found the small ones yet as of this writing.

It is full of prime base areas not only to build in but move into as well. There are ruins both inside and outside you can take over, there are also houses, I found one abandoned village, the one I moved into the is very close to a pillar in case I need it

This Viking-looking building is where I am putting my workshop

But like I said there are more places you can build your own home or base or compound. I really can’t wait to see what some master builders will build in there, I can only imagine what Jazmare or Lomgren or Brandi or Snowy, (any of whom can build circles around me) will end up building once they decide to visit.

Let's talk about graphics, I don’t know if this map builder did some tweaking, but everything looks great! 

Here are a few pics just to emphasize that.

Those are just a few of the many I have.

There is a Viking theme to this map and it shows

I have found out there there are three more levels to this themed map, but you need to get “Ruin stones” to activate the teleporters to reach them.

This is the teleporter chamber that will take you to the other “Realms”

There are secrets hidden all over the map on each of the islands that you will find and have a blast exploring, I won’t give anything away because this is the type of map you want to explore yourself.

There is beauty here, but also death!

This map IS a bit more difficult to start on, but so far it is worth it.

But if you do want more hints and tips on where things are with more spoilers just hit youtube where you will find them all.

So until next time, GOOD GAMING TO YOU!

Nydia Tungsten

Friday, May 6, 2022

"The Great Wacky Race" on Rust

By Bixyl Shuftan

It's been about eight years since my friends and I first heard about the Survival MMO "Rust." It's gone a long ways since its early days in 2014 of dodging zombies and zombie animals on a circular road. The game was overhauled in 2015 to more or less it's current form, though has gotten numerous updates over time to tweak and add things such as hostile NPCs, new areas such as the scientist and bandit compounds, boats and diver gear, and more. But some things remain the same, such as the infamous chopper. And while the adage "never trust anyone on Rust" may be slightly exaggerated, it's still a good one to hold onto in the more vicious Player versus Player servers which aggressive players find it their mission to crack into any base they can, and wary players set up eleborate defenses that clobber anyone, hostile or frendly, within range. But not everyone wanting to play Rust wants to raid or deal with raiders. So there are numerous Player versus Environment servers for the more peaceful gamers.

Over the years, Nydia and her friends have had their share of adventures in Rust, notably on Nydia's Angel server when it's active. Recently when Nydia asked her group of Second Life friends on her Discord server what game they wanted to play together on, the majority chose Rust. Unfortunately, my computer has a hard time with the Rust, taking over an hour to access a server when it took just twenty minutes to download the game. So after a couple last visits to finish my last review, that meant I had to do little more than wish them well and know what was going on through Discord chatter and the occasional streamed session by a player, such as Brandi Streusel.

As I mentioned, the game has been continued to be tweaked and have things added. In the most recent update, driveable cars became an option. Vehicle cabs began appearing across the island, and players could either turn them to scrap or rebuild them. One could make a basic car to get around, or a truck to haul stuff. From the chatter and the streams I saw, my friends were having fun with them.

Then I heard some chatter about a race. And before long, it happened. I only heard scattered details, then Jasmine told me in her own words what happened at "The Wacky Races" as the race came to be called. Presumably it got it's name from the Hana-Barbera cartoon that first aired in the late 60s in which a number of zany characters competed in various cross-country races, with most giving an honest but competitive effort and Dick Dastardly always trying to cheat his way to victory (fun fact: Dick Dastardly almost won a couple races honestly, but blew it when he couldn't resist stopping to pose for a camera.or giving someone his autograph).

"Those little cars there are a blast to drive," Jasmine would tell me, "And if you can ramp them they get serious air time, to the point I worry if the server will ban me for fly hacking." Of the race, "Yeah the race literally started out as a silly idea I passed on to Skylark, a challenge to her to build a three engine, three-mod car, and had already figured it out and was curious to see if she could. At first she said it wasnt possible till I told her. And then the first and second of the rave cars was built. I was at my place, commandeered Umbras three-mod water tanker, and refit it to become the third racer. Then me and Umbra worked on his four-mod to make it the first four-mod racer.  The thing actually looked like a rolling cock, I at least thought it was funny

"Then I did a shout out to Nydia to get on the server cause I was up to shenanigans. She had NO clue what I had in mind. I used a three-mod that had been sitting out beside the road since the server was last wiped, made that one into yet another 3mod racer. (I then) grabbed some wood, scanned the map for a good start point and chose the Entrance to Bandit Camp. I let.everyone, know and that we would be racing along the rail line. If your wondering why we raced along the rail line is because the ground was reasonably flat and it eliminated all the curves that plagued the map."

"By the time everyone had arrived, I had made a proper starting point building. We had wait for the Patrol helicopter to leave.

"Nydia finally got logged in and was instructed to go by my vehicle bay and grab the car sitting there, and to hustle her *ss up. Her exact words if I recall was, "HOLY S**T!" Once she arrived, I explained the rules. Nobody was friendly during the race. It was a single lap around the map. First one back (would win) my hat, I liked that Snowman head hat, plus 1000 scrap.

"We lined up, and off ripping it up racing along the rails. I honestly think I hit every tree, and backed into the ones I missed. These cars moved soo fast the smallest bump or collision would send them barreling out of control. I somehow managed to get in the lead for the most of the map race, right up till a chicken, yes a chicken, walked out in front of me. I hit the bird and was flipped end over end, and landed in the trees and got stuck.

"Right as I got back on the rails, Nydia went flying passed me to take the lead and won the race. I came in second place. Umbra took third place. Nikki took 4th and Skylark came in last. Sky wasn't control the car, leaving her to collide and tumble in the snow biome area. But we all stayed there cheering her on and finally sent Umbra looking for her. She was soo mad and I can understand why. Maybe by the time we have another Wacky Race she will mop the floor with us.

"There ya go Bix, your you a first hand account of the recent Wacky Race. Maybe next race I'll get Nydia to live stream it."

Snowy, who had a few pictures, was saying it wasn't too bad, "I was not all upset with the races. I thought the races were fun, but I was frustrated. I was getting no where fast."

It's going to be some time before I get back into Rust again. Recent events have not been kind to neither my wallet or amount of gaming time. But in the meantime, it's good to hear my friends are still having fun with it, and finding creative ways to do so.

Image Credit: Skylark Lefavre/Snowy AngelBun Lefavre

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

News And Commentary: Questions Raised About Horizon Following Zuckerburg's Comments, Announcement of Creator Fees

By Bixyl Shuftan

Facebook/Meta's virtual world of "Horizon" has gotten it's share of criticism (and jokes) over time. But two recent developments have added to it. There was an inworld meeting not long ago in which Mark Zuckerberg met with several online creators. That the owner of Facebook goes online to meet the people there is certainly a positive development. But among the things he had to say was something at one point when they were discussing the ability of people to build things within Horizon using existing tools there, rather than building them outside the game and importing them. Just after the six minute mark in the video of the meeting, Zuckerburg makes this comment:

" of the things that we've just tried to do differently is the whole co-developing experience, the fact that everything that you're building is in Horizon itself. I think that is really just different from all of the other experiences out there."

Anyone even remotely familiar with Second Life knows this is not true at all. Since the begining, it's residents have had the ability to build items. Among the first things yours truly did was make a new shirt and jacket. So surely Zuckerburg would know this? Probably, though it's not outside the realm of possibility that he's been so disinterested in Second Life, he hasn't bothered to learn much more about it than it exists (If he's spoken anything about our virtual world, I haven't heard it).

Another possibility is that he is aware that Second Life, and other virtual worlds, do allow inworld building. So why would he just up and tell a mistruth? Maybe he sees that as part of a "spin" to promote his virtual world, pretending that there's no one else that can match him. Or maybe he doesn't want to acknowledge Second Life's existence and feels he doesn't have to.

So either he's unaware of basic details of other virtual worlds, perhaps unaware of them entirely, or he's not telling the truth. Neither one looks good.

Facebook/Meta was criticized over another detail of Horizons: how much of a cut do the owners of the virtual world take from content creators? An article in Business Insider stated that they would charge content creators 47.5% in fees, almost half. "We think it's a pretty competitive rate in the market," Facebook/Meta's Vice President would say of it. But in the past, Zuckerberg had been critical of Apple charging 30% for developers to sell in it's App Store. Naturally, Apple was quick to point this out. A spokesman would say the "announcement lays bare Meta’s hypocrisy. It goes to show that while they seek to use Apple’s platform for free, they happily take from the creators and small businesses that use their own."

PC Gamer suggested a better comparison was Second Life in which fees to "move money into or out ... range from 3.5% to 7.5%" Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager would say, "I can't imagine that Meta's nearly 50% take will be that motivating to creators," pointing out that the Lab had paid 86 million USD to content creators last year. Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden Lab, would tell PC Gamer, Facebook/Meta's fee "seems like a great way to dissuade creators from actually participating in its economy, but, frankly I would expect nothing less from them. They need to find some way to fill the coffers as their surveillance model loses steam."

Meta/Facebook seems rather untruthful and greedy, which will not help it's reputation, or that of it's virtual world Horizons, and will discourage people, regular users and content creators alike, from using it.

Hat tip: Hamlet Au, Mattie Carlton

Sources: Vidyuu Nights, PC Gamer, Marketwatch, Buisiness Insider

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, February 21, 2022

Call of War

By Bixyl Shuftan

One of the games I see advertised numerous times online is "Call of War," also known as "Call of War: World War II" or "Call of War: 1942."  The game is a free-to-play browser-based World War Two style strategy game developed by Bytro Labs. The company also made "Supremacy 1914" and "Conflict of Nations: World War III," which play much the same.

After playing it a number of times, my conclusion is it's enjoyable, but be prepared to spend plenty of gold currency if you want to achieve victory in this Pay to Win game.

To play the game, make a new account, and after reading the rules go to "new games" and select a scenario. There are several from "Europe - Clash of Nations" in which 22 people can play to "World at War" in which a whopping 100 players can take part. games will list how many openings remain, so obviously the more who are already taking part the fewer nations that are left to play. In "American Homefront," some of the nations are really states or provinces in this "alternate history scenario." Once in, you pick one of the available nations. All start with a roughly equal number of cities and resources and a small number of units.

 All cities and provinces have build menus, though cities have larger ones. In cities, you can construct buildings, such as barracks, ports, air bases, factories, etc. Barracks allow you to produce infantry units. Ports allow you to make ships. Aircraft factories will allow you to make planes. Tank factories allow you to make tanks. Ordinance factories allow you to manufacture artillery and similar guns. Secret factories will allow you to make rockets, and eventually atomic weapons. In provinces, you can build infrastructure aka roads, that allow units to move faster, air bases that aircraft can fly missions from or stop to refuel on trips, local industry to increase local resources, and a few more.

But in order to make units, you need two things. You'll need to have researched the particular kind of unit, and you'll need the required resources. Provinces produce a small amount of manpower and money, which are needed for all units and all buildings need money. Cities produce much more of them, in addition to producing one of several resources: food, goods, metal, oil, and rare materials. Most units need some of most of these, though some more than others such as infantry needing more food, tanks ships and planes needing metal and oil, artillery needing goods. If you're short on one or more goods or have more of one or more than you need, you can buy and sell goods on the stock market. And once a unit is produced, that isn't the end. Each needs a small amount of manpower and resources to be maintained.

Research will make new units available. At first, you'll only be able to research a few units and the earliest tiers of, such as level one infantry and level one destroyers. But most of these only need a few resources and not much time. As time goes on, more are unlocked. But further ones available cost more units and take more time. You can research two kinds of units at once, and they are in several categories, such as infantry, tanks, naval, etc. Nuclear weapons are not available until late in the game. The highest tier units need blueprints that cannot be researched but found on the map via airdrops. When a new tier of unit is researched, you can upgrade old units, but that takes resources and time.

Each province has different terrain that various units can use to their advantage. Infantry are strongest in the city, and get smaller bonuses in hilly and wooded terrain. Tanks are strongest in open fields. If there are fortifications, defenders in the owner's province get a defensive bonus when attacked.

One new feature is Doctrine. Each of the nations subscribes to one of four doctrines, each with it's advantages and disadvantages. Countries with the Axis doctrine have more hitpoints and can deal more damage, but cost more to make. Pan-Asian countries move faster, can see further away, and get greater terrain bonuses, but have fewer hit points. Allied countries can produce units faster and can research and upgrade faster. Comintern countries can produce and maintain units using less resources, but they deal less damage.

In order to attack another country, there needs to be a declaration of war, either you on it, or it on you. Early in the game, it's unlikely a computer-controlled country will attack you. As the game goes on, there is that chance of it happening. Player-controlled countries can attack you at any time. When a territory is conquered, it delivers a fraction of the resources to the new owner as it did the original. It's morale also goes down to the point a successful rebellion is possible. Raising it will mean keeping a couple units there for a while. Capturing one of a country's core cities will mean a big loss of the production of one of it's resources, in addition to one less place they can raise units. The loss of two or three will mean the country's in serious trouble and defeat is near without intervention.

The score in games is determined by Victory Points. In most games, conquering cities will get you those, with capital cities delivering the most. But it's how many you have at the end of the game that determine who wins, so taking the lead in the middle of the game won't help if you lose it.

Diplomacy is a part of the game. You can message other players and make deals. You're free to honor them, or surprise and backstab. However, they're free to do the same. You can also join a collation of states, or form one of your own and try to attract members.

And then there are different maps. There's an European map in which players can take charge of a major country (or a faction of a broken-up major country). Or you could play on a world map, one with a moderate number of players, or one with a whopping 100 players. More recent maps include American Homefront in which the US and Canada are split apart, and Antarctica.

One interesting detail is the newspaper. There you can read about who's at war with who. Players can also write their own articles. Some write "news" stories describing why such a country was attacked. But gamers being gamers, there can be charges of certain players being cheaters, backstabbers, or "wallet warriors."

So how can such a detailed game be free to play? This is where Premium Accounts and gold come in. You have the option of paying to get a premium account, which means a few more options. And then there's buying gold. So why buy gold? With gold, you can get money and resources on the stock exchange, you can hurry up the construction of a building, hurry up the construction of a unit, hurry up the research of a technology, heal a unit completely, or raise the morale of a province to maximum. While you can get some gold by accomplishing achievements, such as destroying so many of a particular kind of enemy unit, the easiest way you can get it is to spend real-world money to buy it. So this puts the game in the category of "Pay to Win."

Another problem can be the real-time progress of the game. While someone is sleeping, working, or doing anything else, others are free to attack his country and units. So someone could easily go to bed in the middle of a campaign, and wake up to find his country attacked where his units aren't and the enemy already having marched over much territory and cities. This causes some players to walk away out of frustration, or not willing to play a losing campaign as they don't have the time to spend to make it a winning one.

Call of War isn't a bad game. It can be an enjoyable challenge to come up with the right combination of units for a successful military campaign, and if you have the time to spare, even better. But if you don't have a lot of time due to being a full-time worker (or working two jobs), playing other games, or other activities, then you're going to have trouble winning games unless you're a member of a league, and they may get unhappy if they think you're not playing very often. So some gamers are better off with playing "Hearts of Iron" or some other strategy game they can play whenever they have the time.

I rate the game a medium at three stars out of five. While I can't recommend this game, I won't call it not recommended either. For more information, check the wiki here.

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When launching an attack on a country, leave a few units to help cover other parts of your lands to keep from leaving your backside completely exposed. You also might want to invest in infrastructure to speed up the movement of units from one part of your lands to another.

Different units have different strengths and weaknesses in different terrains. Infantry is vulnerable to armor in plains. But is stronger against it in woods, and moreso in cities.

Don't completely neglect artillery, especially when mobile artillery is available. A stack of units can defend itself from air attacks with an anti-aircraft unit or two. But there's no defense against an artillery bombardment, especially a bombardment from multiple artillery units, except to retreat out of range or attack. A computer controlled stack of units when under artillery bombardment will sometimes try to attack it, either splitting or sending everything. So be prepared.

Keep in mind the higher tier of a unit, the longer it takes to produce. So you may want to delay research for a while until you upgrade your barracks, tank factories, shipyards, etc.

If you have a coastline, watch out for the possibility of an invasion by sea. Make a navy when you can, and build battleships when you can (and don't forget to give them escorts). Seaplanes and artillery can help defend against bombardment by ships. Land units are vulnerable when being transported by water, and take time to disembark, where they can be attacked by land units or bombarded by artillery or bombers.

If you're a free player, save your gold for emergencies. If someone attacks you where you're wide open, you can use it to build units and buy resources for them, in a hurry.

A single game can last for many weeks. If a game isn't fun anymore, or if all of a sudden your real life demands a lot more time than you can spare from your game, don't be ashamed to walk away (after messaging any allies of yours). You can always start a new game later.

Bixyl Shuftan