What I'm Playing: One month of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

I said I was done, and I had quit entirely, but for the 2-year anniversary ACPC has old time-limited items available again in the crafting system, so came back for one last month, and was thinking maybe I'd stick around for the Xmas/New Year's event. Not try-hard, not grinding, just play a couple times a day in the can or before bed. Competition makes these events unpleasant.

My old friends list is about half gone from just being out for 2 or 3 months, some people really purge their friends list quick. Because Nintendo hates social and shut down Miitomo, their only attempt at it in recent history, there's no real connection there and you can't say goodbye or anything. This is the worst part of every Nintendo game, just the endless sadness they dump on you because they're such awkward NEETs themselves, they can't conceive that people might want to make friends and talk to them.

For the most part, this last run has been fine. I like just casually catching fish & bugs, I've got some new items and put them in the camp, got some nice screenshots of it. The flower festival was OK, I only got halfway thru the second stage because I wasn't logging in every 3 hours on a no-sleep schedule like the try-hards, but it is pleasant, the festival NPC was Isabelle, and I got an Isabelle-doing-Powerpoint item for the camp, which is hilarious to me. The fishing tourney started a couple days ago, and I'm again in the bottom 5 of my friends list, but it's OK. I won't be buying any real-money "Leaf Tickets" but the anniversary login has given me quite a lot.

The new mechanics for the trash bird ship are both better and hilariously worse than before; now you need specific items, many of which cost the almost-real-money "Sparkle Stones", and you get to pick from 3-5 unlabelled boxes to see if you get a good item, or just animal snacks. I've sent off a lot of ships with cheap egg clocks and 4 mismatched socks, and got 1 animal friend and a couple sparkle stones for my trouble. Not worthwhile. Nintendo apparently knows this sucks, and are promising to fix it in the update next week.

The "Happy Home" minigame really sucked before; if you had all the items crafted, you just tapped the first item in each dialog and you "won" (no prize, really); if you didn't have them all, don't bother, you lose. Either way there's an excruciatingly long cutscene and progress bar and several dialogs. They've slightly improved it now with some guess-the-item "lessons", where there's a little bit of thought and gameplay to it. Many of the lessons are exactly as bad as before. They keep trying to extract Leaf Tickets from me to pass one of these impossible ones, which is just rotten, shitty mercenary behavior; I loathe Lottie as much as I ever did Resetti, and the developers of both.

But then this bullshit paid subscription thing pops up today, and I'm all "hell, no!" and /r/ACPocketCamp is similarly unenthused/angry rioting mob. I guess I won't be making it to New Year's, and the next time I'll see Animal Crossing is New Horizons on the Switch next Spring. Hopefully they don't let micropayments ruin that one, too.

Nintendo Direct: Animal Crossing New Horizons

More Over…watch? Smash. Poke-Man. Don't care. I'm mildly amused that they make a big deal of cooking curry on rice in Poke-Man. I'm not sure what that has to do with cockfighting.

"Dragon Quest XI S Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition" might be the most Microsofty videogame name ever made. Shame on you, Squenix & Nintendo. But it looks pretty.

SNES retro console is pretty great. But we do already have emulators and old ROMS on pirated sites. Some new cheaty features like making Super Ghouls & Ghosts playable instead of a bitter lesson in frustration and failure, knowing that you will never be good enough to see the end of it, are really not appropriate. And they only work while you have a subscription, so when Nintendo shuts that service down in a couple years, your emulator games go away with it. The SNES controller is awesome… but can't be used as a Joy Con, so it's unusable with other games.

More Tetris 99, "daily missions" gamification. Yeah, great, I've already played Puzzle & Dragons.

Mario & Sanic Summer Olympics! Just in time for winter. I do like these kind of games.

Doom 64, Jedi Knights II, Witcher 3, etc. because everyone's porting every old game to Switch.

Grid Autosports is promising. Farming Simulator! That actually makes some sense on a portable console. Xenoblade Chronicles remaster next year.

Animal Crossing New Horizons: 3.20.2020

I must say, I don't like the metaphor of phone as UI to everything. AC is more of an old-timey setting, it should just have a book for tutorial.

The bug & fish catching seems deep like the console games. Not much detail shown here, like everything in this long pre-release struggle.

Maybe too much emphasis on multiplayer? I don't want people on my island, only animals.

Still, I'm waiting for AC:NH to get a Switch. I miss my Pocket Camp a bit, but then I see reddit or other videos mention how grindy it's got, and I'm glad I quit.

Game of the Year

I've decided there is no Game of the Year 2018. Everything's been mediocre sequels or ripoffs; that a shitty deathmatch shooter is the most popular makes me disrespect your species nearly as much as sportsball.

I'm still playing old games:

  • Elder Scrolls Online: Mixed bag this year. Summerset's a fantastic "chapter"/DLC they make even subs pay for. Murkmire DLC is awful, its only virtue is that Shadowfen's no longer the worst zone in the game. Mac client performance has been garbage since Murkmire, and the nerf to Sorc shields has annoyed the shit out of me. But, close to 5 years in it's still the best Elder Scrolls game.
  • Unturned: France map is fun and moderately hard, but 3.0's reaching EOL and who knows how buggy 4.0 will be. Ominous.
  • Minecraft: 1.13 update was a buggy shitshow for a while, but it's made the waters interesting. But I build bases in taiga or mountains. Very little time in it this year.
  • Animal Crossing Pocket Camp: Least bad gachapon/daily clicky-toy game in its second year. The monthly cycle of garden event, fishing event, scavenger hunt is pretty solid now. The Cabin recently added lets me save a few favorite animals outside the ever-rotating camp roster. It's OK.

This year's failed contenders:

  • EXAPUNKS: Haven't bought it yet because like TIS-100 and the rest of Zach's games, real coding is more fun than fake-coding, but maybe if I was more fun-not-GTD it'd be on the shortlist at least.
  • World of Warcraft Classic demo: The most exciting pre-release was a 10-year-old version of the most boring MMO.
  • Dragalia Lost: Good but compromised design. I loved it for a few months, the characters are fun and cute, action dungeon's great for quick play, but the gachapon store drives the game and creates too many identical heroes, dragons, and cards, and it nagged me out. This could've been GOTY if it was paid up front, earning heroes by questing instead of random pulls.

My own failure to ship is appalling. I can't justify it. Perilar gameplay is excellent roguelike tactics & resource management, but some dungeon generation's not right yet.

Delvers in Darkness, my new tabletop RPG, is getting another rewrite of the adventure and I haven't done any art direction. I think it's fun in solo tests, but still need table testing.

Nintendo Direct

Nintendo Direct 2018-09-13

  • Luigi's Mansion: Eh. I liked the original some, largely the gag being the Wiimote was like a vacuum cleaner or Ghostbusters particle projector, but no interest in more.
  • Katamari Damacy HD: Neat, but just a remaster. How's that Final Fantasy VII remaster going, Squenix?
  • Nintendo Switch Online: Actually saving your game data between consoles?! From anyone else, this is 20-year-old tech. Nintendo has just discovered "using the cloud to not be dicks"!
  • NES controller for Switch! Though there are good 3rd-party ones, but sweet.
  • Diablo III, some other ports. Eh.
  • Town: Boring generic name for boring generic RPG, but it's NEW content. So, good for you!
  • Daemon x Machina: Maybe the worst-looking mecha game I've ever seen, like a reject from N64 suddenly revived for Switch.
  • Yoshi's Crafted World: Branded LittleBigPlanet ripoff.
  • Asmodeee boardgame mobile adaptations. Yawn.
  • Starlink: Is this the terrible Starfox game they previously canned, or a new one? I dunno. I loved Starfox64, but all since is disappointment.
  • The World Ends With You: Fuck yeah. As previously noted, I resent the iOS port ripoff, but I loved the game.
  • Team Sonic Racing: Arcade racers are a thing I love, but they showed a few seconds of gameplay. Who knows.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: How to turn your friends into bitter enemies, the videogame.
  • Final Fantasy XII, and more ports: Nice, sure, but I've got every one I care about on iOS or Playstation. STILL NO VII HD, SQUENIX! WAY TO RIP MY HEART OUT A SECOND TIME LIKE YA DID WITH AERIS, YA FUCKS! I'm fine, it's fine.
  • Smash: Don't care. Even with Isabelle. Enjoy getting face-wrecked by a fuzzy dog-girl, nerds.
  • Animal Crossing: 2019. Fuck! I've been done with Pocket Camp for months. Minimum 3 more months, and "2019" in Nintendo Time probably means Q3 or Q4. My body is ready NOW.

Gacha Nose

There's 6 games I've played recently with gachapon or free-to-play mechanics. I have no complaint about these mechanics when made optional, I'm fine with paying some money to a game company if they keep me amused. Not everyone is capable of that.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp: The "fortune cookies" cost 50 Leaf Tickets ($2 or so), with posted chances (3% for the best items), and rarely drop in-game for free. Given that any rare item costs 100-350 LT, cookies are a "deal" but still excessive.

I have more complaint with the goddamned pelican added last month, that wants 10 furniture per trip for apparently a 5% chance at a new animal friend. HATE. HATE. HATE that fucking pelican. 2 animals got, 1 to go. I'd pay real money to make pelican soup of him & get the last animal, but this is not what Nintendo monetized.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery: As of year one, this is barely even a game, but there are game-like elements. I initially started in Ravenclaw, but instantly got bored of goody-goody shit and blue's not my color; by fucking around with the Facebook login (to a defunct account used for developer shit 10 years ago) and a second game on my old phone, I was able to reset and join Slytherin. I'm a bad man, but I look good in black & green. The NPC dialog doesn't change much, and the stupid witch antagonist doesn't realize I'm now the real monster.

The energy economy in this is shitty, but not as shitty as it first looks. There are 1-2 items (paintings, statues, house Elf…) on each floor you can tap to get some energy. Doing a class takes 10-50 energy? So take the 8 hour classes, only tap on the lower-cost action bars (0/1 is better than 0/5), go out and refresh energy, wait a while, it's easy to pass without paying.

Grossly inferior to the LEGO Harry Potter games, but I'll at least finish year one, I think. I have been informed that all these games are for children, but I have the heart of a young boy… in a jar on my shelves.

Elder Scrolls Online: Crown Crates cost ~$12 for 4, each of which has 4-5 items, 1 costume/mount skin/trinket, the rest mostly consumables you can trade for "crown gems" and save 100 of those for a good item. I routinely use the "free" crowns from my ESO+ subscription to buy the crates, and like the results; my Flame Atronach Camel is ridiculous but awesome. Some ESO players are insane with envy (the shittiest of Human emotions) about other players having better luck.

Fate/Grand Order: I liked the anime, so tried playing this and while card/turn battles are a thing I like, the endless VN dialogues with useless parasite "Director" killed me. The gacha? Cruelly unfair, but playable without any money I could see. So when I see articles like Man spends $70,000 on Gacha, I dunno what he was doing it for.

Fire Emblem Heroes: Take all the stock elements of a daily clicker gachapon game. Add very pretty anime girls with swords & spears. Add the blandest tactical pseudo-RPG ever made. So dull and formulaic it makes me wonder how anyone plays this without falling into a coma. Gacha rates seem generous, but who'd care enough to spend money? "FEH" is the sound I make at this game.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius: Before I kicked the habit, a daily struggle… Not really, it's very generous with free "lapis" and summons, and getting a good party was just a matter of time. I'm sure junkies spent money on it but that's not needed. Story drives you thru the map and fighting quests, but it's a real FF game with exploration, crafting, NPCs. Loved it but I'm done and not going back.

New Phone Who Dis?

Dealing with my aging iPhone 6 and iOS 10, and even older iPad 3, was getting on my nerves, so I got a new "space gray" iPhone 8+, 256GB.

I considered the iPhone X, but after doing some maintenance on my apps, I loathe coding around the notch, and I loathe the way it looks. Chris Pirillo had some thoughts and followup that echo mine. Chris has since gone to Android, which to me is like eating only Soylent Green because you once got an undercooked meatloaf; overreaction isn't always wrong, though.

I would prefer the SE form factor, but I don't like a years-old hardware platform. And if this is going to be my only iOS device, I should get the biggest one possible so I can use it as a phablet. It's not like I ever hold a phone up to my ear anyway, it's either on speaker or headphones (dual speakers in the iPhone 8+! But USB-C headphone dongles 😡).

The device arrives, and I go to set up, and immediately hit a roadblock: I can't access my iTunes backups. I've used them to recover before, but now I have no idea what the password is, and it's not any of my previous device passwords. Well, now I'm boned. Had to upgrade iCloud and backup to iCloud, which doesn't preserve on-device logins or the actual apps. Many hours later (slow asymmetric bandwidth), it's done.

Restoring the phone from that backup wasn't bad, but now I have a blank phone with placeholders for every single app, which I have to tap on, wait for it to spin and decide "keep/delete" if it's not 64-bit, or paradoxically tell me to buy the app if the app is no longer for sale. And then for every app, go in and restore purchases if it has any, login if necessary, etc. I didn't set Downcast to archive all podcasts, so it had to sit there for hours downloading the last 2 eps of dozens of podcasts.

At this point, let me say: Going 64-bit only is the most user-hostile, art-destroying thing Apple has ever done, and it SUCKS. All of Llamasoft's and CAVE's games are gone from the App Store, and were 32-bit. So I can still play them on old dying devices, but that's it. I miss Gridrunner and Deathsmiles. Atari Greatest Hits is still updated, and works perfectly; Activision Anthology is not, so no Pitfall! Midway Arcade is gone. Lost Treasures of Infocom is lost.

Apple's actually fucked up in 3 ways here, by not supporting 32-bit with an optional API download, by not providing legacy download of apps, and by making the App Store a toxic race for the bottom by EA and other literal motherfucking mega-studios, so no independent developer can make money except the 1 in a billion jackpots. I'm not advocating leaving for Google Play, because that's even less profitable, it's just open theft. I'm advocating burning down the entire system and starting over. But for now I'll take my Big Brother-issued gruel and pretend to enjoy it.

That was most of day 1 before I could do anything with the phone at all.

iBooks is a special level of Hell. It's the shittiest-written app Apple's ever released, syncing barely works at all, downloading is flaky and eats the main UI thread. So I'd go Purchased > Books > Not on this iPhone > All Books, which actually shows maybe 20 books and then stops listing them, then click the download arrow for the 5-6 items visible, then the UI would lock up and I'd have to wait for 5-15 minutes for it to finish. Then once I had all my books, they weren't organized correctly anymore, which is I guess my fault for having slightly different setups on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. So I went full-on librarian. Protip: Disable 3D touch in Settings, because the 3D touch in iBooks is useless and makes it impossible to move books. I spent a good 15 minutes struggling with this before I learned. So here goes most of day 2.

ibooks-hell-1 ibooks-hell-2
ibooks-hell-3 ibooks-hell-4

Taking those screenshots reveals a new screenshot UI, which PISSES ME OFF: iPhone demands that I triage or edit every screenshot immediately, sitting in the corner of the screen like a Jony Ive dog turd. I don't see any way to turn this bullshit feature off.

Additional stress comes from my entertainments: The ESO Jester's Festival was all weekend, which I grind for items worth a lot of gold, but had to spend most of a day tapping thru my phone and then looking back to the game.

And at the same time, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has two events running, a Mario anniversary crafting thing, and a gardening event. Happily I can still clear these in bed, in the bathroom, or while out, but having my phone be busy downloading books interferes with that.

I know, "do something useful, Mark", but really, games are supposed to be what recharge me, not extra stress.

I still haven't loaded my music onto the phone. I have enough space now for a good portion of my music library, instead of only the highest-rated curated lists. Yes, I still have a music library, so when I'm away from wifi, I can listen to music without burning thru my data cap. Ha ha suck it streaming-only kiddies. But I could also just take my iPod classic out, which has everything, but Apple doesn't want you to have nice things like that anymore.

As for the hardware:

The size is preposterous. 158.4mm x 78.1mm x 7.5mm, 202g. The old Palm III was 119mm x 81mm x 18mm, 160g, and the LifeDrive aka iPod touch 5 years before the iPod touch, was 121mm x 73mm x 19mm, 190g. I thought the Palm devices were almost too big for a pocket, but this is a big goddamned thing.

The screen's nice, bright, and rectangular. No fucking around with maybe-unusable areas at the bottom and top, just a big canvas for software to draw on. I can see the time, battery, AND phone signal at once. I can't really use it one-handed all the time. If I cradle it at the base of my fingers in my left hand, I can barely reach the other side of the screen with my thumb. I treat it more like the iPad already, set it down on a table or my leg and work on it.

The glossy case is irresponsible vanity. It should have a matte, grippable back, not be a perfectly-smooth, sliding-onto-concrete frictionless surface. FUCK Jony Ive and his obsession with things that look like nothing, and suck to actually use. I guess I need to find a new sticker-backing or very thin case for this. I don't want to add bulk.

Home button has a VERY satisfying haptic click, it really feels like the entire front of the device is pivoting down about 1mm, even tho it's solid glass. I do use TouchID when I'm somewhere safe, tho I'd disable that if I was travelling; I don't want the pigs to force me to unlock my device.

I haven't done any real photography with this phone yet, but the giant 2-camera hunchback is supposed to be quite nice.

Current setup, which will probably change again soon. Elric covers were just convenient, but the text under the icons doesn't look good, so I have to change that soon. You know what I want? Custom wallpaper per desktop, like we have on Mac OS X.

iphone-2018apr-1
iphone-2018apr-2
iphone-2018apr-3

Miitomo End of Life

When Miitomo came out, I thought finally, Nintendo had got a clue about online services, made someplace that could be a hub for your "Nintendo identity", let you make custom Miis to play in other games, or even use as avatars for other places, hook up chat and friends list for all other Nintendo games…

But, none of that happened. It stayed a small closed service that connected to nothing, never let you do more than change clothes, change the wallpaper and flooring of your tiny empty room, and chatter at annoying questions, the talking people do when they have nothing to say.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has its own much more primitive avatars and limited set of clothing, at least it's active for now, but there's very little "social" to it.

Some years ago, I went into Line Play with someone, and despite spending no money, just freebie coins, I ended up decorating this house, which is still there (had to stitch some screenshots together, there's no "photograph whole room", only a video capture). This is what Miitomo should've been like:

Line Play house

Animal Crossing: Winter Wonderland Edition

Shut down the animal schools, snow is here! In the console/handheld AC, there's weather and snow leading up to the full snow day of Dec 11, but in PC it just flipped over this morning. Everywhere except the island is now frosty, whether snow on the coconut palms makes sense or not.

I haven't noticed any actual gameplay changes from the weather yet, but it's early days. I miss Wild World where I'd roll up snowmen, and skid when running, but it crunches nicely under my feet.

I finished the rock stage yesterday, so now my Cool animals can all go up to Level 20. It's pretty loud in the concert pit when a crowd goes over there, and KK Slider's just sitting there trying to play his guitar, man. But now I have another construction box next to it. In a few weeks when all the amenities are built, it'll be nice to not hear hammering and sawing constantly.

And Nintendo announced the gardening and clothing crafting will be coming soon. Interesting they're pushing the expansions out so fast, expected them to wait at least until spring. It's been a pretty flawless launch and support, which I don't really understand how they do it, most mobile launches are garbage for months or years (Poke Mongo, for instance).

I like these day-for-night nighttime shots, since I mostly play in the dark, but it'll be interesting to see how it looks in actual (simulated) daylight.

Autumn River

Winter River

Winter Hollow

Winter Beach

Winter Island

Rock Stars

Winter Camp 1

Winter Camp 2

Winter Market

Winter OK