Windows 8

Something as terrifying as the Eye of Sauron was released recently… duh duh duhnnn… Windows 8!

Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic. A few weeks ago I decided to make some minor upgrades to my gaming notebook. I bought a 256 GB SSD, and Windows 8. They arrived and I did the SSD swap, and then plunged ahead and installed Windows 8. I like some of the enhancements (mostly under the hood improvements to the system) especially the newer file copy dialog and task manager. However, my gaming notebook isn’t touch-screen so I lose about half of the design benefit. That’s OK because I spend 99% in desktop mode where it is pretty much like Windows 7, just with a very different Start Menu.

The first thing I installed was Google Chrome. Next was Steam, and I started the download of LoTRO. Then I installed Guild Wars 2 and started it downloading. I took an overnight of downloading to get the bare minimum games from my Steam Library installed. Other than a handful of games, that’s gonna be it except for (maybe) Virtual Box. I’m going to be crazy fascist about keeping this system “clean”, to the point of setting up a VM to contain other stuff, like Adobe Reader, Flash, java anything, compilers/debuggers and so on. This is my gaming system!

After LoTRO installed, I fired it up and it ran just fine. WHEW! I was worried about that actually. Some other games I wanted to try (after all, this blog is MMO Juggler, whereby I dabble amongst the many MMOs) didn’t fare so well.

Vindictus locked up big time, and even after I managed to terminate the process, it left a thread in the System process pounding my disk at 100%. Yes I have an SSD now, but 100% disk activity still drags the system down. Since this system has none of my usual triage tools, such as the SysInterals suite, or a debugger of any kind, I couldn’t see what was going on. Not that it would have told me much anyway, other than “yep, busted on Windows 8”. I had to restart my notebook so for now, bye bye Vindictus.

Vindictus Lock Up
Vindictus Lock Up

I also tried cranking up Everquest II. Back in the day, when the “big three” were UO, EQ, and AC, I played Asheron’s Call. I never did play EQ so when I saw that EQ2 went free-to-play I thought, hey I’ll check it out. Unfortunately, EQ2 did not start either. More specifically, it never exited the first time install “setting up DirectX” portion after launching from Steam. It just sat there, claiming to be installing DX9. I guess the detection method is confused on Windows 8. I’m not sure if this is a Steam thing or a app thing – LoTRO popped up the same “installing DX9” dialog, but it moved on. Another uninstall. Sorry but I’m a little tighter on disk space now (currently ~90 GB free) and I’m not going to have an MMO that doesn’t even run sucking up disk space.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had no problems – it installed, launched, and popped up the Login screen. I don’t have an account, so I just exited and will make one later.

Star Trek Online hasn’t completed the download yet.

Other MMOs I have also run fine: Guild Wars 2, DDO, and Fallen Earth. I logged into both and played a little bit of each. I also fired up other games I enjoy (Defense Grid: The Awakening, Skyrim, SpaceChem, a few others) just to see if they ran on Windows 8, and they also had no problems. Overall Windows 8 works for the games most important to me. I gave most games a cursory play, but I’ve played LoTRO several hours on Windows 8 at this point and it is fine. If LoTRO didn’t work, that’s a 100% deal breaker and I would have wiped the disk, dug out my Windows 7 DVD, and installed that instead.

One odd thing with GW2 – I linked my account with the mobile authenticator, an app from Google that implements two-factor authentication. I’m not asked for the authentication code when I log in, but still have it enabled according to my account profile. Not sure what is going on there, maybe I need to unlink/relink to get that working again (due to my reinstall)?

In conclusion, most my games are working fine under Windows 8. I’m sure the issues that prevent EQ2 and Vindictus from running are straightfoward, so if those are your top games, don’t worry just be patient. Besides, only crazy people jump on an OS upgrade so soon after release. 😉

EDIT (Mon Nov 12):

STO finally downloaded (I guess the servers were busy) and I went to install it. It hit the same “Installing DirectX” dialog that EQ2 appeared hung at, but I decided to let to go because I had some other minor errands I could finish up. About 10-15 minutes later (seriously, it was about that long), it finally continued on and I got the splash screen.

Now I couldn’t actually start the game, due to an issue obtaining an account. That’s just the usual “create an account vs send me password reminder” thing so I anticipate having that squared away soon.

Since EQ2 looked stuck at the same point, I thought I would give it another chance too. I gave up after about 5 minutes the previous time, maybe there is some quirk that makes it take so long. So I re-downloaded EQ2, went to run it… and boom it zipped through the dialog in seconds. I already have a SOE account, and EQ2 launched just fine.

Since letting the DirectX setup take its own sweet time for STO somehow corrected the issue for EQ2, I think the most likely explanation is that DirectX version check isn’t matching what Steam or the game expects, so it goes to download it. The download is the unusually long delay.

I ran EQ2 long enough to create two characters and do the combat training, so it seems to work under Windows 8 as well. As soon as I get my account info straightened out for STO I’ll try there as well.

FE – Embry Crossroads

I hadn’t played Fallen Earth in a few weeks, so I decided to wander around in the Wasteland again. Ouch, it was a tough evening, as in difficult to play because I forgot quite a bit and/or had a challenging time just doing basic things!

Nearby thugs
Nearby thugs

First up, I forgot how to enter “fight” mode. I finally stumbled on… the TAB key. This let me fight some nearby thugs and mine the copper they were guarding.

As close as it gets to a hospital
As close as it gets to a hospital

After getting that sorted out, I went to clear two lingering crafting quests I had: Do No Harm, and Brewing Trouble. Both involved making supplies for the outpost, and involved items that were easily found or purchased. I went to the medicine crafting section in South Bluff and purchased some trade skill books, and soon enough was almost ready to craft the needed items.

While fighting mutant prairie chickens looking for tainted eggs (needed for one of the potions), I leveled up. This opened up more quest givers and I got one that took me to the next larger outpost in the area: Embry Crossroads. So I saddled up my trusty horse and rode there… but just outside my horse slowed down and I walked in the rest of the way. I couldn’t figure out what happened, when it hit me: I hadn’t fed my horse so it was low on food and thus very slow. Oops, sorry about that horsey!

Embry Crossroads
Embry Crossroads

Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out where to by extra feed – previously, I bought some at a garage outside South Bluff, but that would be a really long way to go on foot and/or a super slow horse, from Embry Crossroads. I wandered around to no avail; I need to find a garage near Embry Crossroads to get more horse feed.

Food for my horse
Food for my horse

EDIT: I got a little more time to play later in the evening, and decided I couldn’t stand having my horse starve. Oh, and also be stuck walking everywhere. 😉 So I searched around and found the garage on the outskirts – basically head north out of Embry Crossroads, take a right, and it is right off the road after a bit.

I attempted another quest, to collect DNA samples from four species surrounding Embry. I had to bumble around to figure out what to do here as well. The first species on the list was a creeper, so I search and found some of these scorpion-like animals. I fought and killed one, but the quest wouldn’t update. I didn’t have the skill to harvest it (needed my Nature skill to be higher) so I was stumped until I tried using the DNA kit in my inventory on a live creeper. That worked, except I died taking damage while taking the sample. I repeated this pattern two more times, including the deaths, for lizard and coyote samples. Fortunately, the prairie chicken didn’t kill me too, and I was able to get my fourth sample without dying.

Maybe I need to level up a bit more, or upgrade my armor or skills or figure things out more. 🙂

FE – Welcome to the Apocalypse

Fallen Earth has been on my list of MMOs to check out for many, many months. In an embarrassing admission, I bought the game in early 2010, before it went F2P. Then I got too busy to check it out, and I never installed it. When I heard it went F2P I was thrilled, because I’d be able to play a little bit and not feel guilty about a subscription. (The fact that monthly fees are an entertainment bargain is a whole ‘nother post. Besides, I am willing to support games I enjoy by buying stuff from in-game stores – the subscription thing is more feeling that I have to prioritize a game I’m paying for over one I’m not).

Anyway, I finally decided to give it a go, and rolled up a character.

The tutorial was fun, and covered typical ground: movement, interacting with objects, looting, equipping and switching weapons, combat, etc. It ended with a choice of starter area to travel to. I wasn’t sure, and since the list categorized areas by combat or crafting focus, I chose a crafting one, and soon emerged at South Burb as a Vista faction member.

The two main halves of the South Burb outpost have a number of quests available, trainers, and merchants. I spent some time getting familiar with combat, doing some quests, gathering and crafting (of which there is a lot!).

The difference between combat mode and exploration mode was something I had to get used to. It reminded me of Asheron’s Call, which also had a “fight” mode and a “movement” mode – something I haven’t seen in a game I’ve played since then!

Two nits I have: the quest tracker doesn’t always work (popup when hovering the mouse over the X on the mini-map doesn’t consistently show for me), and the in-game map seems locked at a detail level (dragging it larger just makes it blurrier). But those aren’t really big issues that detract from the game as a whole.

I’m having a lot of fun so far. The landscape and setting are a fantastic break from the fantasy world so many other MMOs use.

South Burb at Night
South Burb at Night

Sci-Fi game

I played EVE Online for 18 months or so. Well, more like 9 or 10 months, since the last half of my playtime was largely me logging in long enough to fiddle with my skill queue.

Reading the recent posts over at TAGN on EVE, and all the posts at KTR on EVE, kinda makes me was to resub. Plus my coworker plays, which I mentioned earlier…

Still, I remember that the PvE combat wasn’t terribly exciting. Syp’s comment on a Massively post, about how EVE Online is “mindless circling and autofiring” reminded me that yeah, that’s kinda true, at least for PvE. Of course there is the PvP option, but that would be a very abrupt change. Somewhere between “PVP: very high risk and probably very difficult” and “PVE: too easy” is a happy medium. Perhaps the key is harder agent missions: accepting challenging missions in lower security systems. On the other hand, how much should “exciting” combat matter, versus exploration content? EVE Online, I think, is unsurpassed in exploration opportunities.

I would like to play a sci-fi game, and these days, there are some great options. Fallen Earth looks interesting, as does Star Trek Online, especially since both are free-to-play. Then there is EVE Online, with a monthly fee but honestly that isn’t exactly the barrier. I’d certainly feel more casual about a free-to-play game, which meshes well with the actual available time I am able to devote.

But I suppose that even as much as I lean towards reactivating EVE Online, I should give Fallen Earth and Star Trek Online a whirl first, or perhaps even Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Haitus

Has it really been 10 months since I last posted? I must be lazy since plenty of other MMO bloggers like Syp (BioBreak) or Wilhelm (TAGN) post several times a week.

So I haven’t been playing MMOs recently; instead I’ve been off trying some Indie games (SpaceChem!) and regular RPGs, like Skyrim. However, I feel the lure once again, now I just need to carve out the time. But what games to focus on?

  • LoTRO – still my favorite and after a break I’ll be motivated to proceed to Isengard
  • DDO – I’d like to level my monk a bit more
  • Guild Wars (at this point I’m really just waiting for Guild Wars 2) – I haven’t finished the extra “War in Kryta” content nor have I ventured into most EoTN dungeons
  • Fallen Earth – now it is F2P and I have it installed
  • EVE – a coworker plays this and offered to help me with some in-game cash and help should I reactivate
  • SWTOR – I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’d like to try this out for a few weeks

Six games I am interested in, and the first four are F2P! That’s sweet and is several hobbies/distractions worth of content no matter how you look at it. I’ve justified two subscriptions to MMOs in the past (reasoning that at $30/month it is a good deal if I can squeeze as little as 5 hours a week of play in), and am tempted to pick up EVE again as my only pay MMO.

EVE is a bit of a surprise because I never expected to return, when I unsubbed back in 2009. It’s a great game but I wasn’t getting too much out of it because I was chronically poor. Now it is tempting because I’d know somebody that also play – my coworker runs his own corp, has sufficient funds (he’s apparently reasonably wealthy in game) and offered to provide me with some in-game cash should I reactivate. This is very tempting because I’d like to train all the exploring skills (and associated stealth “hide me from other players” skills) and give that a try. With some seed money I could buy the skill books I need, buy a decent ship and outfit it, etc.

And that’s why EVE bumps out SWTOR, as far as piquing my interest. If my coworker didn’t play, I’d definitely try SWTOR first. Actually, I still might since I am curious. It would be nice to have a good sci-fi MMO to play rather than just fantasy MMOs.