What I'm Playing: Mostly iOS Edition

Apple Arcade

  • Various Daylife: Previously described, an RPG life simulator. Slow, tedious, but mildly interesting. Worst title of any game I've heard of. Mediocre.
  • Chu-Chu Universe: Yes, this is another Chu-Chu Rocket, in 3D with shitty controls. I like the slow logic puzzles, but I've played the better version of this game hundreds of hours on the DS (yes, I hear you, two lonely Dreamcast users out there), don't really need a new one. Also, it makes my iPhone 8+ extremely hot along the top-right corner; GPU-heavy with no way to turn that off? Mediocre.
  • What The Golf: Sort of a ripoff of Desert Golfing with a mini-golf course and QWOP or RSSS style physics antics. I'm easily amused by bad physics games, they remind me of Waterful Ring Toss from my childhood. Nice.
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts: Very pretty neon style. Unplayably sluggish movement even at "high" sensitivity setting, forces you to sit through minutes of slow dialogue about hippie tarot bullshit before you can play anything. Deleted after one track. And I like endless runners, so if that's not your thing it'll be even less pleasant. Fail.
  • Inmost: Monochrome pixely, but pretentious starting text "is a moving story of loss and hope, with themes". Incredibly slow, "platformer" but with very little platforming. No dialogue, tap or X does everything so you just have to pixel-hump targets and wait for the action to appear. Fail.

So far this is not a service I'll be renewing. There's nothing here I couldn't get better for that money.

Not Apple Arcade

  • World of Warcraft Classic: I was happy at the start, but rapidly got less so: The sharding is really interfering with gameplay, so I took a break, and then Blizzard decided they'd rather support the totalitarian citizen-murdering dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party than one streamer calling for the independence of democratic Hong Kong. Just to make my position clear: Free Hong Kong! Break up China! Do not punish people for expressing support for democracy, you evil corporate douchebags. Yeah, they gave him back his prize money, but still banned him. Screw that. Cancelled my sub.
  • Elder Scrolls Online: ZOS has a new combat team this year, and they've ruined my Sorcerer build, even worse nerfs are coming in the next patch, and I don't want to pursue total changes to his skills, gear, and gameplay in hopes of maybe ever clearing content again. I was thinking about ending my ESO+ sub for a while, but then WoW blew up so I'm playing my Khajiit Vampire Mag Necromancer "Mortissa Kamidjanni" as main, and having a fun time again; ZOS haven't nerfed the new class yet, ha ha! (I also have a Stam Warden, who was born nerfed, and a Mag Nightblade which is usually the unnerfed class but I don't like the gameplay for that combo). ESO has four kinds of content: Overworld content, which has quests but combat is trivial and boring; Bosses (world or dungeon), which have no interesting quests, combat can be fun but often needs a group and I hate PUGs; Trading, which is slightly interesting but I'm obscenely rich in-game already; and Housing decoration, which is sort of the endgame when you have millions of gold. So my Necro kitty does some overworld quests to get skill points, mats, and recipes, then switch to my Sorc Elf to do housing. It's something to do. Good but so disappointing compared to what it could be.
  • Mario Kart Tour: It's Mario Kart with gacha-like unlocks. Just as stupidly unfair as ever. Mildly fun if you have no attachment to skill determining who "wins" a race. Recommended age range: 1-7.
  • Mirage Memorial: Big-titty waifu versions of historical and mythical figures (many are men converted to women… King Arthur, Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, etc wtf, but also Lucifer, Athena, etc). Unskippable tutorial with no choices for the entire first chapter, and every time a new feature unlocks. Combat is an auto-idler thing; you CAN turn auto off and hit portraits to activate a random skill, but that's it. Somewhat interesting character level-up system, no character is "useless" but may need a lot of grinding to build up. I did a level grind up to 17 in a couple hours while watching Netflix, got bored out of my skull, turned it off. I'm not saying avoid or delete this, but be aware of what it is, which is nothing.
  • Another Eden: Has had a couple new chapter updates, I intend to get back into this.
  • Last Cloudia: Just launching today, looks very pretty. Here's a beginner's guide

Elder Scrolls: Blades Actual Play Notes

Controls kinda suck. Movement in landscape is OK, but the camera is often stuck forward, waiting for a tap to move to. I want to disable tap-to-move so I can just use a right virtual stick to control the camera. Everything in portrait is awful, tap tap tap to inch along forward because I can't see far enough ahead to hit the ground.

Combat is interesting. Tap-release with a full ring and you get a critical hit. Shield works OK for defense, until you meet heavy weapons foes who smash it down. Spells are fine, but you have to be careful to use them when you won't be interrupted. I'm using Dodging Strike to open and give me defense, then if they're slow I can cast, if not I shield up until they strike and then I cast. Fireball nukes most enemies in one shot, Lightning does not but it's faster so less likely to be interrupted, Absorb is a nice shield so I can just sword-murder heavy weapon types.

I do sometimes have a weapon-and-shield enemy who's a pain because we both shield up and wait. Even if I can Fireball, they don't die in one hit. They can't kill me, but it takes forever to kill them.

Chest opening is annoying. Wood chests at 5 seconds require tap, wait just long enough to get bored, tap open, tap skip, tap OK, takes ~15 seconds per chest with a little bit of mats and maybe a potion. Chests should automatically open & skip to contents if you're on the chest screen. Silver chests at 3 hours are far too long for the contents, which aren't that much better than Wood. Gold at 6 hours are 1 per night, plus maybe 1 more during a workday. I'm backed up to 1 Gold, 10 Silver; I increased my chest inventory to 30 but the next +10 costs 80 gems which I'm not willing to do yet.

Daily grind seems OK, do all the 1-2 skull quests/job boards, then do something hard if you can: I did one 3 skull that went fine, then another full of berserkers and wights just demolished me, I died and revived with a scroll, and soon died again! Had to abandon that job. Quests are story, they don't go away, jobs are temporary and refill daily, I haven't run out of things to do before filling up my chest inventory.

Once a quest completes, I always hit Explore and finish the delve, but then I have to hit menu, Quest Details, Complete. It should be a top-of-screen button when available, and I'd like to set it to always Explore, never auto-complete.

Mapping is going to be a real problem. Some of the delves have 2-3 branches, and my left-hand-path rule makes them navigable, but it's hard to be sure I've got every corner. No compass, no automap, just Clairvoyance lighting the "happy path" but that misses so much stuff.

I'm finally getting some delves that aren't just Imperial prisons, but natural tunnels and Ayleid ruins. The standard rooms are very repetitive, I sure hope they increase the variety soon. The intro adventure outside was nice, but I haven't seen a wilderness since.

Abyss is the endless dungeon, but at least the first 10 floors are literally a linear path with one or two rooms, and then a stair down to the next floor. Treasure is accumulated for how far you go, there's no treasure on the floor, and no food to eat. On floor 10 I just got murdered by the skeletons, there's a steep power curve there.

Arena just unlocked after I rescued some more villagers, but it isn't open yet.

Town building is very slow. I made the town hall, forge, a house, and a dwelling (different styles), each takes 2-3 hours, but I need to grind a ton of limestone and copper to make the alchemist. I did get a job which rewarded 10 limestone, so it's possible to get there. But I can't go inside any buildings, and there's still smoke rising from the walls.

A little while later, I have an alchemist, though all I've made yet are resist poison potions, which have been nice on spider delves, and I'm 2 resources short of upgrading the forge to level 2, which will hopefully let me craft & improve steel gear, my current gear isn't good enough for higher-level content.

Elder Scrolls: Blades

Early access just dropped, the app appeared on my phone! Starts with a fire screensaver with some intro text that immediately becomes a mini-tutorial. Log in with a Bethesda.net account, and… downloading day 0 update.

Walk down a little forest path, and there's a couple of fights, one of which, the Orc with a shield, is a little more demanding than tap tap kill, you need to learn to use a shield, which is awkward in portrait mode.

Then character creation! All 10 races, 2 genders, a dozen or more each settings each for body, skin color, face, hair style, hair color, eyes, eye color, nose, mouth, facial feature (beard, etc), facial feature color, face markings, face markings color. More choices than Oblivion, less than Elder Scrolls Online. I have as usual made an Altmer with long hair, Kaminarion.

There's a big tree of skills, perks, and spells, ones at the bottom are 1 point, ones at the top are 10 points, so this may take a while!

You get a quest and go. Switching to landscape view, so I can try that instead of awkward portrait combat. Increase the look sensitivity to max, it's very sluggish by default, but follows your finger at max.

Glowing objects in each room can be looted; it's not tapping on every barrel, but there is world loot. Chests are on timers, one of the uses for gems ($$$ currency), but you can also just let them run their timers out. I'm somewhat vexed that you can't carry excess food to restore health, you have to run back to it. There's health potions, but I should be able to take some cabbages with me.

As you get materials and people in quests, you get to rebuild your town, which is a nice first-person Imperial-style town, except right now it's all ruins. The townsfolk are a little hard to click on, the ones with quest diamonds over their heads you can target that, otherwise you tap into them and it hits the ground, try again and it might work.

There's no overview map for town or dungeons, sadly. The starter dungeon is just a linear delve (but make sure you find the secret area, though it only has a low-value wood chest), but I expect they'll get more complex. Maybe have to break out graph paper for this.

I would've had a combat picture, but it didn't come out well, I'll have to figure out tapping screenshot while not being killed.

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.

TES: Legends

TES: Legends finally gets its new-developer update! It might be playable now!

Update on Steam … update again because that update needed an update … binary not found. OK, look in the local files, it's renamed "app.app", which is stupid. Click, error.

status page:

Current Status: TES Legends is currently undergoing maintenance.

I mean, it's Bethesda, so I'm lucky it didn't clip thru the floor and fall out of the world.

Maybe tomorrow.

Bethesda #BE3

Rage 2 has the guns & blood of the idiotic rail-shooters I normally condemn, but it's open-world and goofy. I openly laughed at the skeet-shooting carnival cannon. The rock show singing "Better get ready to kill better get ready to die" is a perfect tone setter for this. It looks like how Doom 1 played, fun and stupid. The environments look great, very cartoony and colorful. Down side, you apparently have to play some doofus "Ranger Walker" and endure bad dialogue on some mystical quest. I prefer games where you make your own character and do whatever you want. So… pass, but maybe if it's discounted.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends card game is… not great. I love TES, I like card games and board games, but it's very slow-paced, trick-card-based, and the story mode is often excruciatingly dull and dumb. Maybe now that it has a new studio Sparkypants, it'll move into my casual-gaming slot. Bethesda didn't talk about this change at all.

The Elder Scrolls Online, "MMO of the year" for the last 3 years, is my home world. Earth I tolerate, but Tamriel is beautiful and terrifying. Summerset is gorgeous and I'm just wandering around to solve problems, or kill world bosses, nowhere near done with main quest, and really far from finishing my jewelry crafting skill or Psiijic Order. I loved Morrowind and Clockwork City last year. The announcements for this year of a Werewolf-based dungeon DLC, and then Murkmire, eh. I don't do the group dungeons much, and Shadowfen's the worst zone in the game. More silly lizards in mud are not really what I wanted, but it's free for me on ESO+.

I feel sorry for the shambling corpse of iD software, ever since Carmack fucked off to build rockets, Romero had a rough time for a while but he's made a cool original Doom level, and Gunman Taco Truck with his kid, and has a new studio.

Doom Eternal? Couple bros in suits. "You want even more badass demons? We got twice as many!" Fucking punch it into a spreadsheet why don't you? Goddamn how Doom has fallen, into a rail-shooter. Guy calls the character "The Doomslayer", not "space trooper Henry Rollins".

"Let's hear it for Quakecon!" (very muted pity applause from like 3 guys who still care about Quake)

Prey, rail-shooter, couldn't care less.

Wolfenstein reboots, ha ha BJ has two daughters so now you can be girls shooting guns in a grim Nazi world. Original Wolfenstein was fun, remember? Dumbass Nazis shouting "Mein leben!" as you shot them in a bright 16-color world.

So enough of that.

Todd Howard's oral history of E3, and the new Skyrim platforms, are amazing. Watch the stream. Skyrim Alexa is just D&D, man. That's what we do when we play any role-playing game.

Fallout 76? I haven't played Fallout in a long time, since Fallout 1 on classic Mac, a bit of Fallout 3 on PS3, and some of the iOS Fallout Shelter. But Fallout 76 being an online might be fun. Looks like they're doing a megaserver like ESO. A bit of survival murder, a bit of building game. It's kind of Unturned but more hostile? Might be worth trying the BETA.

"I read on the Internet that sometimes our games have bugs?" —Todd Howard

Release on 14 Nov 2018? I'm surprised they've got this far without everything leaking everywhere.

The Elder Scrolls Blades: A mobile TES game? Procedural dungeons?! Town-building? YEEEK! Put me in a coma until it comes out! playblades once their servers come back up, it seems they've been E3-balled into failure so bad it can't even return an error page.

A few seconds previews of Starfield, and TES 6. Zero details.

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.

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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.

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