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    1. Homeworld 3 review from someone who treasures HW as perhaps the best game in 25 years (w/ minor spoilers)

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I almost need a "thumb sideways" button but I can't give this game a thumbs up.

      Why should you listen to me?

      For background, I beta tested Homeworld for Relic back in '98-99. I've played every single PC Homeworld game. I've sunk hundreds of hours into playing vanilla Homeworld, Complex, and Every. Single. Star Trek mod that anyone has ever made for Homeworld and Homeworld: Remastered.

      That's to say: I adore love Homeworld/Homeworld 2. Over 25 years of PC gaming, they may be my all-time favorite games period!

      Of course, I bought the "Fleet Command" edition. In truth, I did it to encourage the developers to keep pumping out more Homeworld.

      Alas, the only thing I want right now is a complete and amazing mod toolkit so that this game can quickly become the substitute and successor for the original.

      A little history: Homeworld (and Remastered) thrived with its mod community. The original game was not designed for modding. Yet so many intrepid individuals out there struggled their way through cracking the binary format(s?) of the game. And, at least, as I understand it, some of the game behavior is scripted in Lua, a less common but publicly available programming language. Just go look at the Workshop for Homeworld: Remastered. The number of different total conversion mods out there is staggering. The love put into so many of those mods is utterly mind-blowing!

      In a nutshell, HW:3 plays a lot like Homeworld (the original) but, if anything, dumbed-down
      significantly from the original but with 2024 visuals--except for the cut-scenes that oddly look rendered using vintage 2000 technology. The game mechanics lack the depth of any of the HW sequels. The campaign is linear and, at times, glitchy (I'm looking at you, asteroid mission and you, the one cut-scene where some of the lines repeat causing me to wonder if I'm suffering auditory hallucinations or if their QA missed something like that).

      The gameplay is not particularly innovative or deep. The default pace of combat itself tends to be faster than previous Homeworlds. Though, in single player, you can change the game speed. However, the default speed can be overwhelming compared to previous Homeworld games, which can make multiplayer frustrating.

      For fans, while it should not be surprising It's not Homeworld: Complex (or EVO), I expected to see more of the depth, introduced by HW:C and HW:2, For instance, there are no subsystems on ships; you can't target engines or weapons. Ships either blow up or they don't. There's no defense field frigates and no cloak generators.

      My hope is that the mods (Star Trek or The Expanse, anyone?) will make this game shine. But right now? Unless you're a true super-hardcore Homeworld fan, who needs their Homeworld story fix, you should hold off.

      On the plus side: it doesn't crash as often as a NASCAR driver like Helldivers 2 or the original Homeworld, for that matter.

      Ultimately, I'm disappointed that Homeworld 3 plays like a dumbed-down version of Homeworld 1. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, what with game studios increasingly desperate to get that larger market share which means appealing to a broader audience. But that means that if you long for the depth of Homeworld 2 or Complex, you're waiting for mods.

      The modding tools aren't out yet.

      And, so, thumbs down.

      16 votes
    2. Some thoughts about Starfield's world

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I wrote a blog post for basically my first time ever. It's a first draft, but whatever. I never share my thoughts because I lack confidence, but I want to work on that. I welcome criticism of the way I've presented my thoughts, but my main priority is just discussing Starfield here! I want to hear what y'all think, mainly about the world of Starfield.

      I was starry eyed when I first launched Starfield, but it ultimately left me feeling spaced out. After spending around 25 hours with the game I've realized that I wanted something different from Starfield, and that the game just doesn't keep my mind engaged and imagination running. I feel some guilt saying that. It took a buttload of human working hours to bring Starfield to fruition after all, and I don't want to dismiss that work. It's a very pretty game, with a lot of mechanics, characters, and stories. On paper, it's an ideal game for me. It's a first person adventure through the stars meeting strangers and ogling at alien planets packed in with loot and rpg elements. That's my kind of treadmill to be running on. The type of game loop I enjoy. Ultimately though, it did not fill the space in my head that I wanted it to.

      Starting with the core game play, it's what I had the least expectations for. I am no Bethesda mega fan, but I've dabbled in their games. Their combat, stealth, traversal and so on have always registered as just serviceable to me. That's not really even a criticism as I've never gotten the impression that Bethesda's intention was to draw fans on those elements. They want to provide a simple set of tools to interact with their worlds. The tools they've provided here in Starfield feel fine. They all work. Gun play feels fine, traversal feels fine, stealth feels fine. It's the way those tools interact with their environments, characters, and narration that typically attract me, but don't here. Even their newest game play addition in space ship combat echoes their standard approach. It feels simple but solid. No extravagance like a Star Fox 64 barrel roll, but there's enough going on to feel good. Like the rest of the tool set, it's serviceable enough to let the player interact with their world. The world is what has left me cold.

      Bethesda introduces us to Starfield's world in a baffling place, a place almost opposite to space, a mine. Sure, they planet isn't Earth, but it might as well be Earth. It's dark, dirty, rocky and far from a feast for the eyes. It's no surprise that mines are in the game as Bethesda has always included similar spaces in their games. Such environments are perfect for stuffing loot and combat encounters into, but imagine if Skyrim had began in a cave instead of out in its beautiful landscape. Starfield could've opened in space on a ship or on a number of visually alien worlds, and I think it's a misstep to begin the player in the most unappealing of its environments. Unfortunately, I think it's telling of a large part of the way you will be seeing Starfield's world. From a lot of interior spaces. It's often easy to forget that I'm playing a sci-fi game set in an open world space setting.

      Starfield's world looks like what I imagine it would look like if human space colonization were to actually happen. In that regard, I think they were incredibly successful. It's the realization of this image that I think held Starfield back. Just like a lot of our own real universe, it is often empty and dull. Many landscapes of the planets and moons of Starfield, while sometimes pretty, are more often unremarkable. Procedural generation is an incredible tool that can easily lead to unimaginative results. I'm never able to escape the thought that what I'm looking at was probably computer generated. After visiting around 15 planets, I began to feel as though I'd seen it all before, just in different colors. Often fauna and foliage looked strange but lacked a certain spark of hand crafted creativity. I was never struck by their beauty nor their horror but only their only seemingly random assortment of attributes. On planets with human inhabitants their lacked personality in their work and living spaces with exceptions being the hand crafted major settlements. Buildings and structures felt modular and mass produced by the same manufacturer. All of this is probably an accurate depiction of a real future where we branched out into space, but it doesn't make for a fun video game to see and soak in. Major cities like New Atlantis and Akira City lent much more life to Starfield's world with obvious heart put into their creation. You can see their influences from the sci-fi genre in their construction. Instead of aiming for a large and marketable open world, it's a smaller handcrafted galaxy I wish we would have gotten. Somewhere with its own politics and drama taking place on landscapes with intent and personality. A larger existing universe could be hinted at with follow ups in sequels. Bethesda is bursting at the seems with creative talent, but there was simply too much space to make aesthetically daring from every angle. Instead that talent was stretched an inch thin and a mile wild.

      The inhabitants of Starfield are offensively inoffensive and so dry they'll leave you parched. They're boring, full stop. They lack nuance and detail in their personalities. They begin and end at their core archetypes. The meaning of their existence is only to facilitate the player and be impressed by you. In my 25 hours of play, I didn't find my self endeared to any character except for a sweet old grandma exploring space, but I only liked her because I like that trope. Characters are very formal and professional which I believe was Bethesda's intent. After all, the context of most every interaction has you acting in an official capacity for one of the factions. You're a representative for the professional work these factions are doing, like being a volunteer cop for the United Colonies or Freestar Collective's Rangers or an explorer-researcher for the stuffy Constellation. It makes sense that conversations would be formal, professional, and often to the point. Ultimately that just doesn't make for compelling conversation. I engage with fiction, especially genre fiction, for its strong sense of personality. The characters I found in Starfield feel like they're just going through the motions of their 9 to 5 job. Their framing as a talking head when having conversations with them only highlights their stiffness.

      I believe Starfield is a well-done realization of Bethesda's intent. It's a very corporate and made by committee vision, but it's well executed. It seems they wanted to create a world that resembles a legitimate future where humans leave Earth and colonize the stars. The result is barren unremarkable planets, sterile labs, boring mining and manufacturing facilities, mass produce modular homes, and plenty of empty space. I think they're right, this is what a settled galaxy looks like, but it just doesn't make for a satisfying video game.

      edit: fixed spelling from "feel" to "fill"

      26 votes
    3. Browser game recommendations

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I'm traveling for the holidays and only have my laptop, which I don't really have many full fledged games I can run on it (it's a macbook, so a combination of poor macOS support in general + the 32bit cliff means many games just don't run on here). I'm also more interested in casual games while traveling anyways.

      Let me know if you have any recommendations for browser-based games, ideally something a little off the beaten path. Multiplayer suggestions welcome too for completeness.

      35 votes
    4. Mass Effect: How do you feel about where it started vs where it went?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Let me start by saying I really enjoyed playing the Mass Effect games. They are awesome.

      I found the plot, though, incoherent. Especially in ME3. I don't mind small conveniences like "good thing this random teleporter beam designed to suck up corpses has easy entrée to the reaper's command center," because it's a game.

      But how on earth did Cerberus amass seemingly billions of elite special operations forces with nobody noticing? What do you mean the secret weapon against the reapers has been improved each cycle by people who didn't know what it was supposed to do? How could that possibly result in a functional device?

      It's clear, I think, that this wasn't necessarily the direction the first game was going. Cerberus was the subject of a side quest, but nothing more. The authors of the lore seemed to be taking great pains to ensure everything was logical, based on the in-universe rules they had established.

      ...and then ME2 kicks off and the series is almost as much about Cerberus, from this point on, as it is about the reapers.

      What did you think about how the plot unrolled?

      (You may also wish to read this series of essays. It's about 18 billion words long, though - fair warning. https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=27792)

      33 votes
    5. Starfield and the problem of scale

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Minor Starfield lore spoiler's ahead

      Originally written for /r/games, but the last discussion thread of Starfield in that place saw many user who said they personally like the game downvoted and replied to by mentally-questionable individuals that said not-so-nice things.

      As I pass 170 hours in Bethesda newest, hottest, controversial game. I am happy because it is just as fun as I had hoped it to be.
      Yet as I explore the cities it has to offer there is always a small detail that I keep failing to ignore (whenever I'm not busy thinking of new ship designs that is).

      200,000 units are ready with a million more on the way

      So say the slender being that has been tasked with creating an army to defend a galactic spanning government of countless worlds. At this point Montgomery, Zhukov, MacArthur, Jodl, or any-other-WW2-command-figure-of-your-choosing are rolling on the ground clapping each other's backs laughing their socks off. Because 1.2 million is an absolutely puny and pathetic number of troops for a galactic war.
      I'm no Star Wars deep lore fan, I understand that fans and later authors has since tried to 'fix it' by making the Clone War more that just the clones. And yet those 1.2M clones was all there was when episode 2 released to theatres.
      Most Sci-fi writings has similar a problem with scaling to their subject. It is not news. It even has a tv tropes page (the page is more about distances, but it's in the same ballpark).

      Quest for the Peoplefield

      So where does Starfield go wrong in this? The ships are puny. The wars and the numbers stated are puny.
      Certainty more ways than one, but the one that I wish to focus on is this: where the hell are all the people?
      A brief summary of the lore. Humanity has invented FTL and has seemingly solved all energy problems. They had to evacuate Earth, but this was successful and so the starfield should be absolutely teeming with tens of billions of human souls spreading to all corners of the galaxy and its many already habitable worlds.
      And yet, Starfield feels so barren. I see no grand interstellar civilizations. Only dirt huts on a hill surrounded by walls that support barely a thousand people. Yet this dirt hill is supposed to be a capital or an interstellar superpower. Heck, they are even scared shitless of their own fauna.
      The opposites capital is no dirt hill, yet still smaller than a modern earth country town.
      And it's not like the main population centers are just outside player-accessible areas. All the NPCs ever talk about are Akila, New Atlantis, and Neon. These tiny puny cities.
      It doesn't feel like the evacuation of Earth was a success. It feels like it was a catastrophe, and all that remains are scattered remnants playing civilization.

      And yet... The Starfield is actually lively, just not where it should be. There is a scale imbalance, because spread across nearly every world in the settled systems are countless research stations, outposts, deserted or populated, you name it.
      Yes, those procedually-generated buildings that spawn nearly everywhere you land in the settled systems.
      Where did these come from? Surely the UC couldn't have built them. Manning just the ones that I have come across in my playthrough would empty New Atlantis 10 times over!

      Bethesda built their open-world game style upon Fallout and Elder Scrolls. For both it makes sense that the worlds are sparely populated. One being post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the other a medieval society.
      But now they have built something in a completely different realm. But they way in which Bethesda built the scale at which the game is presented remains the same.
      So why did they go with this approach? I don't know. Maybe they just like making "small" worlds and didn't want to fit the new universe. Maybe the idea of 'climbing any mountain you can see' is a very hard rule and they didn't want to limit player movement in metropolises, that would undoubtedly be unfeasible to make fully traversable.

      But lets pretend they actually tried. And perhaps it can be done without really changing how the game is designed or played.

      So you can do it better huh?

      A Microsoft executive plays the game as it's nearing launch. He feels there is something missing with the scale of the Starfield universe.
      So he does the only rational thing he can think of and storms into the street and picks the first rando he can find, puts the Bethesda crown upon his head, and orders him to fix Starfield's problem of scale.
      The exec is later found to be mentally ill and fired, but it does not matter for I am now king of Bethesda and my words are design directives.

      Tell, don't show

      The simple solution that requires no real work but some change in lore. New Atlantis is no longer a capital, just a administrative and diplomatic outpost. Akila is now just a small border city. The real population centers are now on entirely different worlds. Inaccessible to the player.
      Why can't players go there? Well it shouldn't take much suspension of disbelief to acknowledge that governments might not want any random idiot, in a flying hunk of metal capable of tearing space-time at it seams, to go anywhere near their main population centers without considerable control.
      NPCs should no longer talk of sprawling New Atlantis, Neon, or Akila, but rather these other places that you can see on the map but are not allowed to go to.

      Show enough

      The population planets are now accessible, but restricted in where you can land freely. On the map it should show big cities. And just like how you cannot land in water, you can neither land anywhere in cities or its surroundings.
      Just like with New Atlantis and Akila, you can land at a designated spot. The difference is when you look into the horizon, because rather than a procedurally generated landscape you will instead see a sprawling metropolis that tells you "Yes here! Here are all the people!".
      The other change would be that, unlike the landscape, if you try to go beyond the player-area of the city you will hit a wall. But that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
      New Atlantis and Akila can stay, but like the other solution they would change status.

      All in all the scale issue is no big problem and the game is fine as it is. This was just something that has been on mind for some time and I wanted to put it to writing. So do you agree that Starfield has a scale problem? If yes, how would you fix it? Or maybe I missed some crucial info-dump and the entire premise of this writing is wrong?

      39 votes
    6. Starfield - Thoughts on the main quest?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I just finished the Starfield main quest! Everything else will be in the Spoilerbox text but if you haven't, consider yourself warned! I would try and go through the main quest as much as you can and maybe a couple of temples before you finish the main story if you havent.

      Starfield spoilers! What does everyone think about the Unity idea and the way it's integrated in New Game Plus? I loveeee the multiverse explaination and the little things they changed in New Game Plus, I imagine it'll be different every "loop". While I kinda wish you didn't lose everything, it was amazing to respawn in a new Starborn ship.

      I do feel bad for the people who invested a lot in base building though! I kinda wish they had a better solution for that, honestly I can see how it'd be discouraging to go through new game plus again. I kinda wish they could somehow make it a bit more clear that you'll lose everything and to not invest too much in the playthrough.

      At the same time, I really do love the way the game makes me feel on a meta level. I'm usually a hoarder in these types of games, getting all that I can and dumping it all somewhere, but once I realized that nothing matters I found myself kinda letting go of that notion and just enjoying the game. I'm used to Bethesda jank so I just enjoyed it haha.

      Overall probably some of the smarter writing Bethesda put out, and I'm really excited to see the rest of my loops!

      12 votes
    7. Starfield - what are your thoughts?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      For those of us who caved and got the Early Access, what are your thoughts on the game so far? Please remember to tag spoilers!

      And for anyone looking forward to it coming out on Wednesday, got any plans for a build or character?

      61 votes
    8. So I'm new-ish to cRPG's. I played the first four-ish hours of Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access.

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      ... and I think I'm going to be very hooked.

      Spoilers for being 4ish hours into early access..

      Spoilers for being 4ish hours into early access.. It reminds me of the Anakain meme. I found the druid caged disguise as a bear and I killed all the goblins...

      Not what I QUITE wanted, but once I found the druid he insisted his bear form what trigger combat with most goblins

      And I'm fine with that. I'm trying to lean into the emergent story telling of the game and accept my choice as they roll and as they come.

      I want to hear your thoughts on early access. Is it what you thought the game would be? For cRPG veterans, is it going to live up to meet your expectations for what one should be? Care to share your outcomes for the situation I engaged with (spoilered of course for players who want to go in completely fresh)? I've not played 5e, what do you think of the adaptation? And any other thoughts you have in that old noggin?

      to clarify the "new-ish to cRPG's", I've played the opening hours to a handful of them including Pillars of Eternity, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Mechajammer, Disco Elysium and Encased. I liked them all, but I have trouble committing although I did complete Disco Elysium and LOVE and ADORE it. I will return one day including games like that Fallout 1/2, Planescape: Torment, and others on my list.

      Love and candy to you all

      33 votes