Win10 part 2

OK, to follow up my previous post where I had a graphics driver installation left in limbo: not correct, can’t reinstall, can’t uninstall… after fiddling in safe mode for a bit I decided to punt and just clean install. I was also going to search for install logs to see if I could figure out what went wrong, when I realized I didn’t actually care and just wanted the graphics to work. My gaming PC was originally Win 7, upgraded to 8.0, upgraded to 8.1, upgraded to 10… I’m willing to believe there was a certain amount of registry cruft  and orphaned files along the way.

The good news is the reinstall went swimmingly and I now have a perfectly cromulent Win10 box again.

I did NOT install the driver package from nVidia; instead I let Windows auto-detect and eventually update my graphics driver. I am now running driver version 10.18.13.5362 from 7/22/2015, according to Device Manager->Display Adapters->nVidia GeForce GTX 650->Properties. Their latest package is 353.62, release date 7/29/2015, which seems to be contained in the last 5 digits of what Windows reports (i.e. 10.18.13.5362). I’m satisfied and calling it a day as far as the upgrade.

nVidia Driver
nVidia Driver

I have 2560×1440 back, and dxdiag tells me everything is fine and my card’s feature levels run 9.1 to 11.0. Good to go.

I actually prefer this – nVidia’s packages always included a bunch of stuff of questionable utility. They installed a fancier control panel applet, GeForce experience, some PhysX acceleration support, a photo/image viewer that I never used, etc. I’m not sure any of that stuff contributed to my desire to merely have working graphics. I want the driver and for my system to be as stable as possible with the least amount of extras installed. Less stuff = fewer problems and junk to chase around my system.

Thus my recommendation to you if you want to run Win10 – just let Windows Update find and update the graphics drivers. A few days have passed so initial kinks and/or bugs have been fixed and ideally it will just work. (Again, the system I updated stretched back 3 versions so problems with the final update might not be unusual. In addition, the system wasn’t dead it was just stuck in a lower resolution than I knew was supported).

Anyway, a functioning system isn’t any good with no games to play! 😉

So on Fri I queued up a bunch of installs from Steam and GoG Galaxy, and then went to work – after disabling various Power Options so my system wouldn’t go to sleep and cut off the downloads. I returned home and it was still crunching through my list.

After churning on through to Sat, everything finished up in time for me to then run the MMO installers and get a second round of updates. Those would be ESO, GW2, LoTRO, and TSW… and now hours later, it is Sun evening and I have my games back, but don’t have time to play anything. #firstworldproblem

Lastly, I uninstalled the “Akamai NetSession Interface”, which LoTRO installs as part of its download/update cycle. I made a note specifically to remember to get rid of that – I’m sure it is useful and value-add and blah blah blah but now I’ve re-downloaded the data and don’t want it lingering.

Framerates

OK, I don’t have time to play, but I figured I could at least jump in a check on framerates, sort of an update of a post from a few months ago.

  • GW2 – Rock solid at the same 63 fps. GW2 is nice in that is displays the framerate outside the game in a config dialog, which means there isn’t any uncertainty about what’s going on in-game to potentially change it.
GW2 framerate
GW2 framerate

FPS is the bottom right corner of the dialog.

  • LoTRO – in contrast to GW2, the fps is displayed in-game. Which is fine, but I get some different numbers: between 60 and 67. This of course is only important because I can’t remember what I was doing (if anything) when I did a framerate check in my previous post and got 77. That’s a pretty big change. Currently, from where Naerys is standing in Helms Deep, I get 60 looking at Theoden and Aragorn, and 67 with my back to them. 😉
LoTRO Framerate 1
LoTRO Framerate 1
LoTRO Framerate 2
LoTRO Framerate 2

In the above 2 screenshots, FPS is displayed just right of center at the bottom.

  • TSW – I logged in on Wayness and did a quick check. I’m getting 28-29 from where she is standing, which is very close to the 30 I reported last time. But, I don’t remember where she was or what was going on. However, I think the number are so close it is basically equal.
TSW Framerate
TSW Framerate

FPS is towards the top of the screen on the left edge.

Unfortunately, last time I didn’t know how to check framerate in ESO. But now I do: /fps. When you do that, it shows up in the lower left corner.

ESO framerate
ESO framerate

It was bouncing between 26 and 28 so capturing 27 seems fair.

And further unfortunately, I did not reinstall WoW, EVE, or WS… yet. I’m unlikely to play them (boils down to available time really). I would like to check the framerate on WS because it was so terrible, I’m hoping some optimizations to the game have improved it.

Win10 brings some nifty enhancement to games – when I start one I get a temporary hint about shortcuts available. For instance, Windows-Alt-Printscreen to take a screenshot (that’s how I took the GW2 screenshot – if I hit Printscreen or Alt-Printscreen at that GW2 screen, I get a screenshot of my desktop. But Windows-Alt-Printscreen grabs the game screen).

The list of the various Win10 keyboard shortcuts that apply to games:

  • Windows logo key + G: Open Game bar

  • Windows logo key + Alt + G: Record the last 30 seconds (you can change the amount of time recorded in Game bar >Settings

  • Windows logo key + Alt + R: Start/stop recording

  • Windows logo key + Alt + Print Screen: Take a screenshot of your game

  • Windows logo key + Alt + T: Show/hide recording timer

Source

I’ll check out the start/stop recording ones soon.

I’m kinda tempted to upgrade my video card to something a few generations newer. 30 fps is ESO and TSW? Hm… I need that to be better. 😉

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Win10

Ok I’ve been off taking a break from MMOs and computer gaming in general actually. Been playing some roguelikes, newer ones that the good old Moria I use to play back in the day.

Anyway, today I upgraded my Windows PC to Win 10. And it went smoothly overall, except for one minor issue – graphics driver is not doing so well. Instead of the lovely 2560 x 1440 resolution I have become accustom to, I am getting a whopping 1024 x 768.

So it appears I’m getting some generic video driver that does let me set the less-barbaric 1280 x 1024, but that is still far short of a decent resolution for anything much in the modern era. Perhaps I will keep playing roguelikes a bit longer… 😉

Windows update does see a newer driver is out there, but fails to download it.

Win10 Update Error
Win10 Update Error

It seems to be some variant of “File Not Found”. Great.

I went straight to the nVidia website and downloaded the Win 10 353.62 WHQL drivers. Straight from the source, those have got to work, right?

Nope. After a reboot the driver “fails to install while the Add New Hardware Wizard is open” (which it was not) and then it is wedged. It won’t uninstall, and it won’t reinstall:

nVidia install error
nVidia install error

It’s crap like this that makes we want to junk my PC (well, install linux onto it) and just do my gaming on a PS4 or my Mac or my iPad. I can get ESO and FFXIV for the PS4 plus several other games I’ve been eyeing (Witcher 3 now, Fallout 4 later), play the indie-type games on my Mac (my Mini only has integrated graphics so while I can run GW2, LoTRO, and various other games, it is a strain), play the mobile implementation of various boardgames on the iPad, and not have to deal with all this crap.

I’ll fiddle some more, but I have a bad feeling that I’m going to end up clean installing.

On the bright side, the partially failed nVidia install did let me bump my resolution to 1650 x 1080. Which still looks like garbage since that isn’t the native resolution of my nice monitor.

Anyway, the morale here is: don’t be in a rush to upgrade to Win 10. Let early adopter morons like me hit all these problems. 😉

Board Games vs MMOs

My Wed board game group has added an additional Mon “small group”, where the focus will be on 3-4 player games, or ones that play well with 3-4 players even if they support more (Dominant Species) and especially new (to us) games. Playing a game for the first time while also teaching it to others is challenging, so the Mon group are folks that like to try new games, learn as they play, have extra patience to plow through rules, and play slower in general. Somebody has to take the hit to learn so that future plays are faster and more correct (rules-wise); the advantage is also familiarity makes it easier to teach a game to a new player.

Wed is often about playing something everybody who shows up can play, which often comes down to Resistance Avalon, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, or a 7-8 player game like 7 Wonders, Eldritch Horror, and so on. Every once in a while we split into smaller groups but I’d say the group as a whole prefers to play something everybody can join in on.

The impact for MMOs is Mon/Wed perfectly overlaps the 2 days my WoW guild raids. And if push comes to shove, I’m not favoring computer gaming over RL gaming.

So, my time as a WoW raider might be coming to an end. I’m paid up through the middle of Aug, so I can see if the new Mon group sticks or not, but if it does, I won’t be resubbing WoW.

I’d like to whittle the MMOs I play even further, so we’ll see. I’d rather spend $15 to $20 a month in the cash shops of B2P/F2P games I enjoy, in order to support them.

Board Games

Lately, I’m finding more enjoyment in board games than MMOs. There are some interesting parallels between them and MMOs.

It seems most MMOs are F2P with micro-transactions, however board games are generally B2P. But, only one person in the group needs to buy the game in order for everyone to play.

Some MMOs have subscription fees, and the admittedly stretched analogy here are collectible/living card games, such as Magic the Gathering or Fantasy Flight’s various LCGs (“Living” Card Games – Fantasy Flight’s variant where the expansion packs are fixed sets). This is still advantage board game, because if you stop paying an MMO sub fee you have to quit playing; stop buying expansion/booster packs and you can still play with whatever you have already bought.

The board game equivalent to a F2P MMO is a cafe or store that has demo games for play testing. They may even expect a micro-transaction (buying food/drink from them) in return.

Like MMOs, board games feature PvP, except the PvP in board games is generally better balanced, especially in 1 on 1 scenarios. There is more variety in the conflict, from direct attack (Neuroshima Hex, War of the Ring) to out-maneuvering (Tzolk’in, Carcassonne; basically any traditional euro-strategy game). Some games are noted for their balance and different playstyles of the opposite factions (Android Netrunner).

Like a dungeon or raid in an MMO, board games also feature cooperative modes, where everybody fights a common enemy, solves the group puzzle, or defeats the “AI” represented as the game mechanics (Ghost Stories, Pandemic).

MMOs let players solo, and so do some board games. Some are designed for 1 player (Friday), many others have single-player scenarios (Onirim, Mage Knight). You can take most cooperative games and play more than one player (Forbidden Desert, Samurai Spirit), but not all as some feature hidden information or traitor mechanics (Hanabi, Battlestar Galactica).

Some MMOs have fairly developed economies, so games where you build an economy and try to outpace everyone else may appeal (Le Harve, Puerto Rico, Macao).

Theme and immersion are arguably better in MMOs, since graphics, sound, and a 3D environment go a long way. However, board games offer a wider variety of settings and roles, from underwater robot programmer (Aquasphere) to wine merchant (Viticulture) to post-apocalyptic tribes fighting for control (New Era) to spaceship crew member (Space Alert) to wizard battling others via summoned proxies (Tash-Kalar) to humans trying to flee a zombie attack (Escape: Zombie City) to… well, you get the idea.

As much as enjoy playing MMOs, it is also nice to do something besides killing as the bulk of the in-game activity. In a board game I can be fairly relaxed as a jewelry merchant (Splendor), raise bamboo (Takenoko), run my estate (Castles of Burgundy), be a spice trader (Jaipur) or monk sorting monastery gifts (Biblios), complete quests as a samurai (Yedo), or research and publish potion formulas (Alchemists).

Board games definitely have the edge in grouping and interaction as well, no text chat or Mumble/Teamspeak config required.

With my limited time these days, I’m finding it hard to pay as much attention to MMOs and computer games in general. The obvious solution will be to trim out ones I can’t effectively play solo on ~5-6 hours a week or less, scheduled 100% at my convenience. The culling has begun and I’ll report more on that later. 🙂

And yes, I own all the board games (except Magic the Gathering) I mentioned in this post.

Storyline

A few weeks Jeromai asked about interacting with people and the extent of it, while gaming. I’m one of “those” mostly-solo MMOers, because I prefer and get player interaction with RL friends face-to-face via board gaming. Thus I never really sought out much interaction in MMOs, because random groups and disembodied voices are a pale imitation of actual interaction.

Plus, after burning out playing Asheron’s Call, I came back to the genre with Guild Wars which had henchmen/heroes to help round out needing a full group of people. Not to say I haven’t been in great groups or guilds or even had long-term online friends via gaming.

Of the games I play, the key draws for me are: storyline in two of them (LoTRO and TSW), plain fun and enjoyment in another (WildStar), and grouping in one more (WoW). I’m too inconsistent as a GW2 player to count it in my game rotation, but I’m mostly there to quest/explore and work along in the storyline as well. I do enjoy all the games and attempt to follow the story (as it is) in each, but let me say that as far as WoW goes, I’m there because I’m in a casual guild whose raid schedule works for me – and I have 2 coworkers that play… I wouldn’t be there for the storyline or questing otherwise.

To get me in the mood to try ESO:TU, I restarted Skyrim. I got partway through on a swordsman and an archer, but both fizzled out because I didn’t enjoy (read: wasn’t good at) combat. So this next start I will go with a good old destruction mage, similar to what I played in Morrowind.

The other thing I’m going to do is let my EVE sub run out. It’s a great game with many design features I like, but overall I’m not looking for what it does the best. I still have 6 weeks left since I pay in 3 month increments so we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m pecking away at Skyrim and recently defeated Mirmulnir. I absorbed the Dragon’s power when it was slain and am led to believe I’m “Dragonborn”.

Dragon Attack
Dragon Attack

What I’m really hoping for is ESO:TU to go on a nice big sale tomorrow!

Random Answers

Jeromai throws down the gauntlet. <wildstar voice>Challenge Accepted!</wildstar voice> 😉

  • How much time do you spend gaming each day or each week?
  • I spend about 20 hours a week playing games… divided between board games and computer games. I’m a long time board gamer, starting in 1998, 2 years before trying an MMO.

    I don’t schedule meeting real-life friends and events ahead of computer gaming, so my computer game time is mostly confined to weekend afternoons and Mon evening – that’s when the WoW guild I’m in raids (the guild also raids Wed evening, but that’s a board gaming night and takes precedence. If something else comes up Mon evening, it will take precedence over the WoW raid).

    I do steal an hour here and there every day during the week, which is why themepark MMOs work so well for me. Especially ones I can solo decently in, or can drop in/out of easily, or have short easy-to-do tasks available (like Garrison upkeep in WoW), or do not feature significant PvP (battleground/alliance-battle style PvP is OK due to ease of joining/leaving. Anything more complicated means difficulty predicting how much time it will take). Essentially, sometimes all I have time for is advancing a few quests and then recalling to a safe spot to log off.

    I also have a bunch of games on Steam I like to play from time to time, and I fit those in whenever I have spare time because that’s easy to do for single player games.

  • How many people do you roughly interact with while gaming, and what’s the extent of your interactions?
  • For small board game night, 3 or 4. For big board game night, 5 to 8 and sometimes more. We also occasionally play trivia and then board games, because we’re near a board game cafe that has Thu night trivia.

    In computer games, well that varies a ton. I mostly solo due to time constraints. In WoW I raid once a week, so anywhere from 10-25, the FlexRaid system is pretty nice to allow a lot of variance in player numbers. In LoTRO, everybody else I know that plays has stopped, so it is just me at this point. Same in GW2, but that is an active game so I could probably join a guild if I wanted, including the one I was in back in GW – I did a server transfer to the server they play on, luckily for free back when they were balancing WvW stuff. I have a friend that plays TSW, but not so much anymore (and we also played GW and LoTRO together) and if I were more active I might try to find a small cabal to join. In WildStar, I joined a small guild of new players and returning vets and we had enough to do a 5-man instance, and it was huge fun. See tomorrow’s post. And then in EVE, I have 2 chars in a wormhole corp and usually only see 3-4 others on and nobody chats much, and I have my main char in Brave Newbies which is like a roaring hurricane compared to the quiet I’m used to.

    In summary – mostly solo with a few small group content (~5ish player) instances thrown in. A weekly raid size outing, 10-25 in WoW and sometimes I’ll do LFR for fun. Huge numbers in EVE, except I’ve missed every call to defense since I’ve joined due to bad timing.

  • What emotions do you enjoy experiencing while playing a game?
  • A feeling I had fun, whatever I did was enjoyable and not tedious. It’s great to overcome some obstacle and advance (computer game), win a game or be on the winning team (board game), see something new/different or more of the story (computer), puzzle out or try different skill combos/builds (computer game – WildStar, TSW), learn a new board game, work towards a common goal (everything: computer, cooperative board game, trivia).

  • What are some of your favorite genres/settings/worlds to read about in a book?
  • I like sci-fi/fantasy, spy thrillers, and misc other non-fiction topics.

  • Are they any different from the genres/settings/worlds you might like in a game? (Be it a computer game or a tabletop RPG.)
  • I think Sanderson’s Mistborn world would make an interesting setting. It has a physics based magic system (burning/consuming metals for various effects) so the game version would require an economy with ore node harvesting not for crafting, but for powering skills.

    I’m not sure a spy thriller would make a good MMO setting – that would be more like a solo stealth-based game or RPG, such as the Thief series or Splinter Cell.

  • What Warhammer 40k army would you choose (assuming unlimited budget)?
  • I have to punt on this, I don’t know much about Warhammer 40K so my answer would basically be a coin flip.

    Geez, I googled Warhammer 40K and looked at their website. Not a coin flip, more like a d20 roll. Still have no idea.

  • ASCII art, yea or nay?
  • Overall all, nay. I recognize that some ascii art is creative and impressive working within the limitations of the medium. All the same, I’m not seeking it out to admire. I suppose I’m neutral on it.

  • Your favorite vegetable, and your most loathed one…
  • My most loathed one is brussel sprouts. Ugh. As for favorite… there are many I like, but my favorite are green beans.

  • Unlimited budget, pick one country in the world, that you haven’t been to, that you’d like to visit.
  • There are countries I’d like to revisit on an unlimited budget. But for a country I haven’t been to, that would be Egypt to do history/archaeology tours, and on my unlimited budget 😉 do some desert camping/caravan adventure.

  • You cannot choose a human for your next MMO character. Would you pick a tall race or a short race first? (Width or muscularity, bestial features or lack thereof is up to you.)
  • I usually pick a non-human when possible and I do like short races. In LoTRO, I like Hobbits. In GW2, I like Asuras. In WildStar… well the Chua look decent but I like the looks of the Granok and Mechari much more. In WoW, I like the Draenei (a tall race, another exception) and Gnomes. But overall I like the look of the Draenei better.

    TSW and EVE have human characters only.

    I like the Hobbits especially in LoTRO because of the occasional size mismatch. My highest level character is a Hobbit guardian and I love the size mismatch when fighting a troll or something large and I’m swiping at its legs.

    What I don’t like are excessively cute characters. I can’t explain it better, this would just be lumped in with personal aesthetics and what I like in an avatar which is difficult to describe fully. As an example, if I were to start playing FFXIV:ARR, I would probably choose a Roegadyn. The cat people (Miqo’te) and the child race (Lalafell) are just straight out of consideration for me, the Hyur appear to be the human race, so that leaves it between the Roegadyn and the Elezen. So in this game I’d be a tall race.

    Another example: I dabbled in Allods Online and rolled a Gibberling. 5 mins later I decided I hated the looks of the char so it was gone. All the other non-human choices were large or bestial.

  • Wings or no wings?
  • No wings for me, I don’t like the look. Back in GW1 I specifically chose Istani armor for my paragon because it was the least wing-like. I’m behind the curve in GW2, I’m not even sure what cosmetic armor is depicted.

LoTR – real world pics

I meant to post this a few weeks ago, 10 years after I took a trip to New Zealand and managed to visit a few movie locations. I forgot until today and was reminded because some friends posted other pics on Facebook as a #TBT.

A little over 10 years ago, in Nov 2004, I had the chance to travel to New Zealand with two friends. It was a great trip overall, with tons of great memories.

We started planning the trip months in advance, and being an enormous Lord of the Rings fan, I bought the Lord of the Rings Guidebook with the hope I’d get a chance to get a tour in somewhere. I definitely wanted to do it, but I was also touring with my friends and knew that we might not have full agreement or even have time to squeeze it in.

To sum it up, I got a chance to spend an afternoon in Wellington looking for various locations, and later in Queenstown, got to take a “Lord of the Rings” tour. At the time, I wasn’t even playing any MMOs; I had stopped Asheron’s Call nearly 2 years earlier, and had yet to start Guild Wars (I think its release was still a few months away). WoW hadn’t even been released, but that was just days away – in fact it released while I was touring. I visited some friends in New Zealand who showed me the game during the first week it was out, but I didn’t wind up trying it until summer 2007, when I also picked up LoTRO.

Anyway, here are some Lord of the Rings related pics I took while I was there 10 years ago.

Reaching for the Ring
Reaching for the Ring
Nazgûl path
Nazgûl path

This spot on path in a park in Wellington, as far as I could determine given my GPS accuracy, etc. is where the hobbits hid from the Nazgûl. Basically just off the path served as the location. I had a tough time navigating to the “exact” location due to bouncy GPS readings, and unfortunately is was getting late so I had to hurry to beat sundown.

Tour Vehicles
Tour Vehicles

Later outside Queenstown, I took a guided tour to various shooting locations. I rode in the Arwen jeep and this was a tour where I knew more than the guide about the lore of the movies. 🙂

Ford of Bruinen
Ford of Bruinen

This unassuming river (stream…) served as the Ford of Bruinen for the movies. One thing to keep in mind is the amount of post-processing done in a modern movie. According to the guide and the book, principal shooting was done here, and later various digital effects added (foreground, background, etc) so it doesn’t resemble the final product in the movie. Which is good because I didn’t want to be swept away by Elrond invoking the power of Vilya.

Gladden Fields
Gladden Fields

Here is where Isildur was ambushed by Orcs and lost the Ring into a river.

We also saw some mountains that appeared as various background shots, as well as the formation that was used for the Argonath. That one was interesting in that much like the Ford of Bruinen, the filming location was digitally edited to add in the Pillars of the Kings monuments.

Anyway, it was a great vacation in general, and for me in particular the Lord of the Rings tour was a highlight. If I return to New Zealand, I’d like to take other ones. Queenstown alone had ~3 location tours (of which I only had time to take one). The North island had some filming locations too: Lake Taupo and surroundings (Mount Doom and Mordor) as well as Matamata (Hobbiton set); I was fortunate to have some time in Wellington to see some of the film locations in that area but didn’t get to tour Weta Studios. Now there might be a few newer things to see because of the Hobbit trilogy – I see there is a new Hobbit Guidebook!

Maybe I’ll get a chance to return and if so, I will definitely make a point to take more LoTR/Hobbit tours. 😉

Hope you enjoyed the pics!

Civ – Cultural Victory

One thing I wanted to accomplish before Beyond Earth releases is to win a cultural victory in Civ 5.

So I started a small map, 2 continents, 1 other civilization, and several city-states (4 or 5). And besides fight off barbarians, I didn’t do any other fighting: I just left the other civ alone (easy since it was on the other continent), and ignored the city-state on my own land mass.

I spent the game working my land/sea and building up my empire. In the mid-game I had a surplus of gold, so I simply bought a few buildings and otherwise built up anything with a culture bonus. Every great musician/artist born in my empire created a great work; most great scientists build labs or instantly researched technology, etc.

Since I dominated the research tree, I placed all my spies in my own cities to work as counter-intelligence. They caught/killed at least a dozen of the other civ’s spies. Every time the game showed the apology screen, I forgave rather than take the other option (which I supposed was declare war?).

Basically, I spent the game working my economy and not fighting anyone. I’ve been drawn into long wars in previous games and was determined to avoid that. It helped that nobody attacked me. I did build a few military units, and got a few free ones from trade plus something about receiving 6 free foreign legion units (I don’t remember what I built). When I could, I upgraded them and they were sufficiently advanced to scare off my would-be war monger rival. 😉

In the late 1960’s, as I was about to click “next turn”, I got the “you’ve won a cultural victory” screen. Woot!

Cultural Victory
Cultural Victory

I did really well, the highest ranking I’ve gotten in the game:

High Ranking
High Ranking

But to be fair, this was on normal difficulty against one other computer civilization. I’m sure another player would present a much greater challenge. As would playing a larger map with more civilizations. Being on the other continent with only a single city-state on my side to compete with was a major boon.

Still, it was fun just building an infrastructure and not winning through military victory. I’m looking forward to Beyond Earth!