Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is now a winter wonderland!
There’s snow in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020! Microsoft has surprised us again with their brand new iteration for the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise.
Snow is now present in Microsoft Flight Simulator!
Their attitude towards this simulator has been very peculiar about this release since its announcement.
There was a 13-year gap between the last version (Microsoft Flight Simulator X) and the latest version announced at E3 2019. It features the most in-depth and accurate representation of the Earth in any digital media (except maybe Bing or Google Maps). However, their announcement seemed to lack enthusiasm. Or maybe they were just being humble – which would be surprising for a Microsoft release.
At the preview event, they mentioned that they had access to the very detailed Bing maps satellite data. They developed a way to integrate that with a game engine, thus providing Microsoft’s Flight Simulator with very accurate satellite imagery for their sim. They said that lightly as if it wasn’t that much of a big deal. In reality, it provides VFR pilots like me an amazing reason to fly and explore the world. As I said in my previous post, I only fly VFR because I enjoy the views and the sense of exploring the world.
A few weeks after their preview event in one of their videos, they released a list of “highly requested features” by the users they had the chance of interacting with. In it, you would find stuff like seasons, ATC, Virtual Reality, etc.
To be honest I was actually displeasantly surprised at the lack of commitment shown when some of these features were first announced. Many of them were present 13 years ago. Most were now being considered as “possible features” to be developed still. The sad truth is that with most games, after their announcement, any additional significant changes either take years to develop or don’t get developed at all due to the complexity of adding new functionality to existing code.
Apparently this is not the case with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, as they just unveiled a *VERY* short video where snow can be seen covering the sim’s very detailed landscape. This was one of the features that were still being considered but not guaranteed.
Seasons in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020?
While this doesn’t entirely remove “seasons” from the wishlist, it does tackle one of the most difficult things to achieve in a flight sim. Snow changes textures globally and locally. But it also adds a variable depth layer to trees and buildings that require some clever tricks to simulate geometry efficiently.
We’ll soon see whether they’re able to make it snow in just specific areas instead of the whole world, according to real-time weather patterns.
The difference between snow and seasons is that an autumn theme requires global texture changes. This is especially true in the forest or green areas of the world to make them look gold or brownish. This is especially difficult with satellite imagery. The precision of maps that sort what is a building or a road or a tree are critical to a believable color correction. You really don’t want a green building changing to brown during the autumn! Another aspect to consider is falling leaves on the sidewalks or trees without any leaf coverage. This would likely have to be affected by geometry changes which are typically very cumbersome to process.
We’ll have to wait and see how they figure out a way to do it. The fact that they’re pre-rendering everything on their servers means that their 2 petabytes of data might have to be slightly multiplied for each season. Not really a problem for the regular user. That is, unless they wish to download everything to their hard drive instead of streaming the geometry from their servers.
What’s your list of wanted features?
I have my very own list of “highly requested features”. Top of the list is Virtual Reality support. I only fly FSX or P3D using VR googles. It is the most immersive VR experience I ever had. I was really sad to learn that it wasn’t announced as featuring in the new Flight Simulator 2020. Instead, it’s listed as one of those features that might or might not be developed.
As we’ve talked about in my previous article, with the latest update to Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar allows you to start producing moonshine in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online for PC and PS4.
I don’t usually drink alcohol at all, but I will be drinking a cup of Bailey’s throughout the writing of this article. Please don’t mind me if the last portions of it are a bit parched weee…
With this update, you’ll be able to produce moonshine, own a bar, hire a band, have patrons showing up and serving them drinks. Smells like profit.
Wheeler Rawson & Co Club Pass 2
With the new update, the Wheeler Rawson & Co Club Pass 2 Outlaw Pack No2 allows players to gain access to a huge selection of exclusive goodies – enough to make you drunk. These include a new dog (huskie), weapon ammo, clothing, horse masks, discounts, treasure maps, gold bars, emotes, etc.
With 100 levels and almost one reward per level, there’s plenty of content there. Regarding price, the pack costs 40 gold bars – but playing through it should unlock approximately the same amount of gold bars, plus all the discounts and ammo savings. It is one humongous task to unlock everything though.
As a reference price point, 55 gold bars cost 20€ at the Rockstar store. If you do the daily quests each day, you should be able to get approximately 5 gold bars per day.
How to start Moonshining
To begin your brave new entrepreneur life, you should find Cripps at your camp (if he hasn’t packed it already!). He will handle you a quest to find Maggie near Emerald Ranch. You should also receive a letter from Cripps asking you to go meet Maggie at the Emerald Ranch. Alternatively, press F1 once the Moonshiner update notification pops up. After the descriptive menu shows up, hold the spacebar to initiate the quest to become a moonshiner.
You will then be able to purchase your very own speakeasy and become a booze baron in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online.
You will first need to pick a location for your moonshiner shack (you’ll need to pay 25 gold bars upfront, although I believe this might come for free with a Twitch Prime subscription). Later on, if you’re not happy with the location you selected, you will be able to change your shop location by paying an additional 250$.
After buying the location, you’ll be awarded several new booze recipes to explore.
Later on you will also be able to upgrade to a bar and even add a dancing stage and a band. The bar expansions or the patrons that show up to your bar do not earn you any money. Most extras are just cosmetic, with the exception of the distilleries that provide you with a stronger alcohol that sells for more money.
Producing and supplying the bar
You can access the Moonshiner Shop when talking to Maggie. There you will be able to expand your moonshine operation with an underground bar. This costs 950$ plus one token – or 38 gold bars instead.
At first, the bar feels empty and sad and more like a milk parlor. There are 6 people in there quietly sipping their milk. Fortunately, you will be able to change this by drawing in more patrons and improving the room decoration.
Marcel, the cook, will supply the bar with whatever recipe is being produced. If you’re not giving Marcel the right ingredients and tools, he will supply the bar with a standard quality recipe. This doesn’t really draw that many customers in. To improve your business, you should upgrade your recipe on the table next to Marcel.
This connects with the supply missions, where your mission is to deliver moonshine to potential customers on the world map. The mash cost can be lowered from 50$ to 30$ by asking Maggie to do Bootlegger Missions, explained further down this article.
On the table next to Marcel you are able to pick the type of moonshine, and the flavoring (ingredients which can be bought or picked outside, like fruit and herbs). Distilling takes time. Once a batch of moonshine is ready, you can go deliver it to your clients. You are transporting fragile cargo, and special care must be taken not to break the bottles of moonshine.
While on your way to your client, you might come across Revenue Agent roadblocks. You can either let them search your cargo or try to break through the barricades and avoid inspection.
The best way to prevent any bottles from being destroyed during the transport is to use the Cinematic Camera. Going off-road is certain to cause damage to your cargo. Bullets will harm your cargo just slightly. So it is best to stop your transport, kill the baddies and then start moving again. Trying to keep running while shooting back at the agents is a recipe for disaster.
To increase your profits you should upgrade the strength of your moonshine. To do that, you must first buy the Condenser and Polished Copper upgrades from Maggie.
A batch of booze that costs approximately 30$ to produce can be sold for 80$ with a weak distillery. If you upgrade it to a strong distillery, you might be able to earn up to 244$. This makes for a very good investment (if all goes well with the delivery). The time it takes to produce a batch varies, but it should take somewhere between 30 minutes (weak distillation) to 60 minutes (strong distillation) to be finished and ready for export.
Setting up shop – the story missions
The first mission Maggie will give you is to find Marcel, the French cook. The mission is rather simple – he has been kidnapped. Just go rescue him by the small bandit camp nearby.
Alternatively (non-exclusively) you can also permanently borrow some moonshining equipment from a nearby rival moonshining operation.
Once these two quests are finished, Marcel will show you the “Engine Room”. This is where he will show you the distillation tools and equipment.
Marcel tip: A stronger alcohol sells for more, but it takes longer to produce.
After this is cinematic, you’ll be spawning outside the shack. Once you go back in, Maggie will allow you to access the Moonshiner Store, which grants you access to recipes, bar and band building expansions, bar decorations, equipment to improve the quality (and price) of your booze, and a bunch of pictures to place behind your bar counter. All of this for a price, of course.
At the moonshiner store, you’re able to buy a toxic moonshine bottle or pamphlet (recipe). These create a noxious cloud that chokes and stuns enemies.
If you can’t afford the 1 token + 950$ for the bar, you can always buy the upgrade with 38 gold bars instead. It sounds absurd, but its true. You’re better off trading with Cripps until you get those 950$ and save the 38 gold bar expense for other stuff!
Before we go into the next missions, let me just add that sometimes the game won’t allow you to accept a new one in order to progress with the storyline missions. This could be because either Maggie is stuck in an animation, or maybe because there’s a timer between missions. Relogging seems to solve this issue sometimes. Doing these missions will lower the price of the mash ingredients to make the beverages.
Blood is thicker than ‘shine
You need to pick up Maggie’s nephew Lem. Lem is being transported to the penitentiary. Once you arrive at your destination, you will need to find Lem’s prison transport documents which are located in a chest inside the larger tent to the south (might depend on where the camp spawns). Listen to the officers talking – they will tell you where to look. Stealth is an option if you manage to get to the chest unnoticed. Be careful not to waste any lives – you will need them later on!
After clearing the camp or running with the documents, you will have to wait for the convoy to arrive at a different location. There will be plenty of enemies – I recommend a rolling block rifle and a shotgun. Be careful – these enemies are not your usual bandits. Their weapons are good and their aim is very accurate at long distances.
While taking Lem to your shack, a cutscene shows what happened to Maggie, and what caused her gruesome scars.
Once you finish all the missions, you will be able to replay them at different difficulty levels. Considering this one is tough in regular mode, it should prove challenging to play it in higher difficulty levels.
Where There’s Smoke There’s Firewater
This storyline mission takes you to the swamps of Bayou Nwa.
You will first need to find Maggie’s explosives in the Scarlett Meadows. Look for clues to their location. I highly recommend using a bow and arrow to quietly dispatch the two guys overlooking the stable. The explosives should be inside a lockbox in one of three locations. The clues highlight a trail to those lockboxes.
Further down the road, a wagon will appear. Use it to infiltrate the moonshine camps undetected. Take out the driver as soon as possible, as to avoid being spotted by the camp’s guards.
Once inside the camp, avoid collisions and be prepared. This is a huge camp with many enemies. Alligators roam the outskirts of the mission area. You’ll be fighting Lemoyne Raiders, which are easy to kill – but there are plenty of them. Many of them are carrying sawed-off shotguns – so you’re better off attacking them with a repeater or a rolling block rifle to avoid close-range surprises.
Once you find all the stills, all you have to do is attach a stick of dynamite to it and light the fuse. You can also shoot the stick of dynamite. These are Maggie’s sticks of dynamite and not the ones on your inventory. There’s a collectible tarot card at the entrance to the first house next to the northwestern bridge.
There’s no timer on this mission so take your time to pick them rivals one at a time. Most of these enemies have very little loot, though some collectibles may be found.
Come Hell, Come High Water
In this mission, you are tasked with protecting Lem, during a ship delivery at Van Horn. The mission is rather straightforward – just hop on the boat and shoot at the enemies until Lem manages to reach a safe harbor and deliver his trades.
During this mission you will find enemies on small boats, along the shores and even on a moving train. When facing enemies on the shore, be aware that some carry dynamite to damage Lem’s ship. Make sure to take them out before they reach the ship.
The train is so far away that you need a rolling block rifle to take out those enemies. There are ammo boxes for rifles and shotguns on the top tier of the boat.
A Bitter Means to a Bitter End
In this one, your objective is to ruin a rival’s production by adding a special mixture to the booze. Tainting the vats will earn you a bigger reward. If for some reason you fail to accomplish this, you can always destroy the vats with your weapons.
To make the mixture, you will need fresh ingredients. Maggie points out the location of some of the ingredients. Along the way you will find a bear (watch out) that will supply you with animal fat. Closer to the objective you’ll find a couple of tents with 3 enemies being attacked by a cougar. Try not to be seen by crouching and avoiding them. Grab the Oleander sage past the camp. If they spot you, take the time to loot them and skin the cougar.
Move forward to the next camp and go around it until you find Creeping Thyme. You only need one. Try to avoid the guards as there are many of them.
To craft the mixture hold E to rest and then R to craft.
Next up, you will need to taint the vats without alerting the guards by staying undetected. If they are looking at the vats, wait for them to move away, or deal with them silently.
These guys have an army of dirty, sick dogs that will sniff you out and attack you if you’re detected.
To destroy the vats simply shoot them and they will blow up. They will send a couple of horsemen after you – a fight you can easily avoid by running towards the final objective.
The Certainty of Death and Taxes
In this mission, your job is to protect Lem, capture your rival Danny-Lee and get rid of Hixon.
On the first part of the job you will need to prepare an ambush by spilling moonshine around an area. Then you wait.
Things don’t really go as planned. Grab a shotgun and run after Hixon. Instead of killing them one by one, simply push your enemies into the fire or fire at them into it.
When you finally exit the fire corridor, you’ll find yourself on a road riddled with enemies. Use the trees for cover. There are some crates along the road so try to avoid it. Move to the left of it. It will be easier for you to spot them on the road, behind cover. There’s also a very good reason to move left of the road. There’s a deadly Maxim machine gun at the end of the road. When you move to the left, the machine gunner will have his view obstructed by a tree and thus unable to hurt you.
After dealing with Hixon, avoid all enemies by running into the swamp and over the railway. Keep running towards Danny-Lee, hogtie him and deal with the enemies. If you’re unable to call your horse, grab one from the bandits and stow Danny-Lee on it. Then make a run to the final objective.
This was the last storyline mission.
You are now able to repeat these missions at a different difficulty level. Besides any loot and mission rewards, you should earn 50$ through the Benefits menu that shows up when you access the multiplayer main menu (simply press ESC while in free roam).
“Bootlegger” missions are available from Maggie. These represent simpler-than-storyline-missions that also help you lower mash prices.
In one of them, you need to deviantly poison a rival bootlegger’s stock. Alternatively, you’re able to destroy it and then deal with every enemy around it and the ones that spawn later on. Be careful when approaching the distillery as, when punctured, it fires steaming hot vapors that throw you to the ground. Enemies deal a significant amount of damage with their weapons, and time is a concern as things can get tricky if you start respawning too often. In one situation, the initial mission objective was so far away from my shack that the timer wasn’t enough to go there while going in a rather straight line.
In another mission, Maggie asks you to clear roadblocks placed by the Revenue Agents in two locations. Once you reach the first one, a timer starts, so make sure you don’t waste too much time dealing with all the agents. A stealth approach is possible but very difficult as they face both sides of the road. Revenue Agents are trained shooters. Be aware that they are very precise even at longer distances. Shoot the oil lamps to prevent them from taking cover behind the boxes nearby.
The third one was my favorite. I even giggled a little. You have to escort a drunk patron from the nearest saloon. While doing so, you will face a couple of enemies with their fists raised, ready to strike you. The patron is too drunk to go from point A to point B in a straight line, so expect having to follow him into some dark alleys. This mission is rather simple and easy, but fighting with your fists is always tricky in RDR2. Make sure you do it after drinking a few shots of moonshine.
Corpses, corpses everywhere
The substantial number of corpses leftover from these missions means that there’s plenty of stuff to loot. These Revenue Agents also seem to hold special ammo very often. Considering the number of shots required to take them out, it is only wise to loot them all afterward!
This article was made possible by the contributions of several Redditors: Waydownunder91, dbern707, Freejaveliner, (adding more as they come)
Coming up with the new update, you will be able to own your very own moonshine production facility. You will require a place to do it. Soon after, patrons will start pouring in asking for your very spicy miracle tonics served in a glass.
Eventually, you will be able to upgrade your moonshine “facility” into a very dandy and customizable speakeasy. Afterward, you’ll surely want to add some entertainment – like a local band and a dance floor.
Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2 wouldn’t be complete without new gear to make you look like a proper booze king. You will also meet a new character, Maggie who will provide some missions to help you set up shop.
Strangely enough, this will require the player to be Trader rank 5. This might be kind of cumbersome to obtain. Alternatively, you are able to acquire it by completing a sale. Selling is ridiculously easy once you’ve obtained the Butcher’s table. I will eventually post a guide on how to progress your trade rank quickly! Subscribe to my blog via the sidebar on the left to be the first to know!
Now that I’ve given you the latest news, let’s delve deeper into what this effectively means but also how economy systems can add immersiveness to a game, or break it entirely – and why I feel like Rockstar’s fears are a missed opportunity (if at least they allowed us to mod it…).
The gaming dreams of a trader
Trading and owning a store is one of the coolest things I love seeing in a videogame. Unfortunately, this ability doesn’t come along often. Most games do not support this feature. The ones that do are usually limited in their nature to have it run at a very basic level.
In particular, I love the concept of buying and selling stuff online, to other players and NPCs.
I’m pretty sure I am not alone.
Star Citizen‘s most profitable month in 2019 just passed. It featured a concept sale of a ship (the Kraken Privateer – more like a mobile station) that allows other ships and players to dock and shop inside it. It also marks the detailing of the game’s economy system. This system is definitely of the juiciest and most complex ones I’ve seen in ages. I’ll detail this subject later on in another post.
A balancing act
The problem with most PTPE (player-to-player-economy) game mechanics will always be balancing supply and demand.
There’s only a limited variety of stocks – which everyone is getting all the time from actively farming the game. There’s also a need to have a surplus stock of every item to avoid absurd prices or unavailability of stock. This means that supply needs to exceed demand, which in turn lowers prices over time to a nil-value.
Most games that feature an economic system, have centralized market prices or, instead, player-driven shops. The first reduces your liberty to set the prices for your items but makes it easier (and boring) to buy/sell goods. The second one creates an anarchic price system where each player charges whatever he wants to charge for exotic seashells.
–How much are exotic seashells worth right now? Oh well. I’ll just spend all of my money on this one right here sir, thank you.
Other games tackle this challenge more creatively.
I remember playing Pirates of the Burning Sea – almost 10 years ago now – and spending most of my gameplay time at the game’s player auction house. Until I realized… it was rigged! Well, supposedly it wasn’t, at the start, but having a fully realized player-driven economy is no easy feat. Commodity prices were skyrocketing and plummeting at such a quick rate that it became impossible to figure out the value of your items. Large trade guilds were able to sell silly amounts of supplies in an instant – thus selling their wares at a very steep price and forcing the price to plummet for everyone else in one server tick – just before they were affected by price updates. This made the auction house obsolete and the game’s economy was ruined.
As mentioned before, Star Citizen attempts to fix this imbalance caused by the players by introducing a majority of NPC-generated trades. However, these NPCs aren’t just averages and hidden calculations. They are actually real NPCs present within instances of the game world, hauling cargo, consuming and producing goods. Moreover, the developers devised a system in which the whole universe breathes economics. NPCs will become unemployed and wander aimlessly on the streets or, instead, the city booms with trade and becomes fancier and more crowded. The minerals for every missile that players use need to extracted, transformed and sold as missiles. This will be a very interesting economics system to study.
One other big concern for online games with an economic system is cheating – and Rockstar haaaaaates cheating. They avoid the problems of failing economies by tackling this in a very smart, albeit slightly frustrating way.
Rockstar’s economy system isn’t frustrating because of what it is, but because of what it could be and isn’t.
In reality, they only give you the illusion of an economy system. All the money you own only exists in the bubble that is you.
In Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2, you may be incredibly rich and feel like a boss (no, I mean, literally) by owning several companies and employing NPCs that generate revenue on their own – but you will never ever exchange money with another player. One example is buying drinks at your friend’s bar in Grand Theft Auto V which earns him 0$, yet your wallet shrinks a little.
In Red Dead Redemption 2 Your hunting sales aren’t affected by the price of fur in a particular area and all the money you make can only be used to buy cosmetics or other means of making money. You can’t buy a horse for your girlfriend. You can’t even gift her a hat or buy her a drink.
No sugar daddies allowed in RDR2.
Ah… Taxes. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without.
One other issue with Grand Theft Auto V – that I predict will be coming to Red Dead Redemption 2 soon enough – is the time and money cost of maintaining these establishments. Grand Theft Auto businesses follow the same logic as the Trader role in RDR2. They only generate revenue when you constantly supply them with tools or stock. The butcher table in RDR2 does give you revenue semi-passively, but it consumes time. A lot of it.
What happens with GTA V is that, when you own many different businesses, you will have to pay regular fees to keep them running. To a point where it will eventually become too expensive to keep them running without supplies. This is only an issue if you’re running around trolling other players or role-playing with your friends or if you just want to have fun without having to worry about sustaining your businesses.
With the incoming moonshiner trader role update, which adds a speakeasy with a band, I’m prrrreety sure these recurring fees will be applied.
These fees act as an economy-balancing mechanism or money-sink. Even if the economic system is just an illusion and individually-set, they keep adding new content to the game and they charge prices according to the global value of money. You will notice that the average price for new cars in GTA has been increasing proportionally to the global amount of money available to purchase them.
In Red Dead Redemption 2 you will likely see this price climb more significantly in most items.
To slightly counter the effects of having too much money in-game, they charge the wealthiest players, who actually own several money-making establishments, with these unavoidable regular fees.
Riding into the sunset…
Don’t get me wrong. Their system works really well. It makes players focus on the fun aspects of the game instead of turning this into a spreadsheet simulator like EVE Online. However, there’s a layer of economic strategy that is missing as well.
As I said before, I feel like It’s a shame for what it isn’t – an immersive, real player-driven economy, where your money is made and lost by the effects of other players around you and where your actions affect others. However, it is really good for what it is – a simple game that entices players to keep playing it for arcadey fun.
There’s room for modding – if only Rockstar would allow us to do so…
I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that I had gotten the wrong impression before buying the game. I thought that being able to open up shops was already a feature present in the game. It wasn’t. My bad.
Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2 makes things more interesting and I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait for December 13th and all the missions and assets that the new update brings. These updates are free content that we all get to enjoy piece by piece.
Do you think the economy could be improved in RDR 2? Variety of content to spend your money on seems to be a common request. What are your thoughts on this?
Ah. Star Citizen. I avoided posting anything about Star Citizen on my blog for years now.
I’m an original backer since when it first was announced way back in 2012.
I wanted to distance myself from the game before posting on my blog since Star Citizen is (still) in development. Thoughts about the game’s development tend to be polarized and I did not want my fan enthusiasm to compromise my perception of the game.
Maybe now’s the time to clarify some misconceptions and point some concerns regarding Chris Robert’s massively crowdfunded project.
I won’t hide it.
I am biased in favor of Star Citizen. The skepticism of some people is understandable, and the wait isn’t for everyone. -Are you one of these people?
Hopefully, you’ll find out after reading this article.
I will try to analyze some of the frustrations, doubts, and expectations that the fans and the haters are experiencing or discussing – hopefully enlightening newcomers to the game.
The aim of this article is to clarify and avoid buyer regrets.
Should you avoid Star Citizen?
A little bit of context first.
What is Star Citizen?
Star Citizen is hard to define, but let’s start by saying that it is one gigantic sandbox for many different types of emergent gameplay. Composed of two parts, it will feature a single-player campaign (Squadron 42) and an online Persistent Universe (MMOG-like).
They create the universe, you make the rules.
As with most 4X space games, FREEDOM is the keyword for the universe. Star Citizen allows you to become a space farmer, a miner, a bounty hunter, an explorer, a smuggler, a racer, a law enforcer and anything in-between.
The Star Citizen team is looking to develop a sandbox universe that provides a fertile ground for emergent gameplay. They are creating the tools for you to become whatever you want to be. As an example, for a while, I had fancy a ship called Constellation Phoenix, which I planned to rent out to factions interested in using it for important meetings. During their stay, I would provide them with drinks, entertainment, and security.
I eventually traded the Connie for the Endeavour – a sprawling modular ship that will allow me to cultivate plants and make drugs on the same ship (legal …or otherwise) – it even stars a hangar to allow willing traders to dock with my ship!
The game will feature unprecedented sci-fi realism and a ton of complex missions and mini-games that will require learning and skill to master.
Nothing is dull or simple in Star Citizen.
As an example, mining requires foreplanning and skill – unlike most space games, you actually have to learn how to mine and be very careful when doing it in order to avoid damage to your ship or even loss of life. Selling your minerals won’t be linear either. Prices fluctuate according to supply and demand in different parts of the Universe, influenced by real-time player and NPC interaction. This was also analyzed in my other post that discusses economics.
This sandbox gameplay leads to many venues of gameplay exploration. This freedom to do whatever you want is the core focus of Star Citizen.
I also expect this game to become a major social hub for me and my friends.
COMPLAINT #1 – The game has no objective.
Objective – Achieve fun (0/100)
There’s no denying it. It’s true. Is that REALLY a problem though?
Just like Grand Theft Auto online, or Red Dead Redemption 2 online. Star Citizen’s Persistent Universe won’t hold your hand or set you on a campaign path. You get to choose what to do, where to go, what to see and who to meet.
If you really think you need guidance, then why not set YOUR OWN goals? Why not set a personal goal to explore every single system? …or instead to amass wealth and spend it all on a luxury liner like the 890 Jump?
The ghost cruise ship of enjoyment
A long time ago, I used to play a game that had very much the same essence of Star Citizen – Freelancer, a game by the same head developer (Chris Roberts) that I mentioned in my previous post. When playing Freelancer online, you would find yourself cruising the star lanes for long periods of time on your way to make a trade. One day I was crossing a remote part of the game’s universe when I spotted a massive player ship that was constantly communicating in system chat. Oblivious to my presence, this was his message to his own imaginary crew of tourists:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have now arrived at the Tau-31 system. To our left, you will be able to spot the beautiful semi-desertic landscape of Planet Harris, one of the first terraforming efforts by Planetform, Inc. Please return to your seats. We will dock at the Holman Outpost in 5 minutes.”
To think that this player was investing his time roleplaying as a tourist cruise ship really blew my mind. That route was probably not even profitable – but he didn’t care – because having fun was his objective. And whatever he was doing was fun for him.
Oh, by the way, there’s no “endgame” in Star Citizen either. Sandbox.
If you can’t understand the concept of setting your own goals, then please stop reading now. This is NOT the game for you – Abandon ship!
COMPLAINT #2 – The game is pay-to-win.
As I discussed in one of my previous Youtube videos, the concept of Pay-to-Win is that you get an edge in a competitive environment by injecting real money into the game. Whoever pays the most has the most chances of “winning“.
Although it is true that you are able, through various means, to buy in-game credits or ships with real money, the real question is WHY would you do it when the game has no end-goal…
Star Citizen is not about genital length comparisons. There’s no point in spending money in this game except for two very honorable reasons:
To support the game development process if you believe in it
To unlock new gameplay layers without having to grind to get there
However, if grinding is made fun (which seems like it will be with so many different things to do), you will actually be LOSING content by skipping gameplay aspects that you would otherwise have to explore and experience to achieve your final objective.
That sense of progression
This is exactly the reason why I’ve considered giving away all my ships – so I could start with the smallest, cheapest one ever and see my own game story grow from there.
If you believe SC is still pay-to-win then embrace it this way – or Abandon ship!
Instead, think of the guy cruising his tourists for fun. -Does it really matter how he bought his ship? -How does his enjoyment affect you? -What are his goals?
Sure, there are ships that cost over 400$ and there are ship packages which include a ton of ships (which are actually at a bargain price when you consider each ship’s individual price). But those ships and packages are NOT intended for just one person or a newcomer. They require several people to play.
Think of the Banu Merchantman which has a crew capacity for 8 people and costs 430$. Divide 430$ by 8 people and you get the price of the cheapest game package. Go gather your friends and buy one!
These massive ships are NOT intended for solo play.
People who buy large ships now are simply trying to support the game’s development.
Also: every ship will be available to purchase with in-game money. GTA V does this well. It gives people a reason to try to make in-game money. Something to strive for. An objective.
COMPLAINT #4 – The game will never be finished
Star Citizenhas been in development for 8 years now. The same amount of time as the sci-fi single-player game Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt Red studios – which is expected to be delivered in 2020.
However, unlike Cyberpunk, Star Citizen is nowhere near completion. At the same time, and unlike Cyberpunk, it shares its progress with the community regularly, instead of working behind the scenes and ultimately presenting a finished game. The complexity of developing each game is also radically different.
Some claim that the game will never be finished because of the feature-creep-Cthulhu. Others say their plan is actually to never even deliver a finished game. Even more skeptic ones say that Chris Roberts has run away with the crowdfunded money to a tropical island in the Pacific.
If you’re one of the investors (a.k.a. players) who feels frustrated by the way that they seem to keep adding new features and delaying the final delivery – then consider accepting it as a requirement or, instead, by blaming it on the idealistic dreams of the community.
A couple of years into development Chris Roberts suggested he could deliver a simplified game in two or three years. One day a poll showed up on the Star Citizen website. The developer wanted to figure out whether the community would prefer to see a simplified version of Star Citizen within their initially planned timeframe or instead to deliver a more in-depth experience, one which would require a longer development stage.
As I somewhat expected, the community overwhelmingly (I believe almost 70%) asked for the later without knowing exactly what the real timeframe would be.
This meant that Chris Roberts could freely deliver his dream game. One he had been preparing for most of his career as a film director and game developer (Wing Commander, Privateer, Freelancer). Now he had big plans for Star Citizen and hiring the feature expansionist Tony Zuroveck (Ultima series) would only reinforce his interest in developing very in-depth and detailed game mechanics.
Innovation and delay
Even though many of these features or minigames are a gameplay delight, they take time to develop. A very long time for some. They also exponentially increase the number of bugs to tackle and problems to solve.
One of these features is the planetary tech they’ve developed. To render such massive planets and avoid loading screens sure was impressive – but it was also one of the reasons why the so-difficult 64-bit precision had to be accomplished in the engine.
Ships, in order to support the newly added features or concepts also have to be redesigned from scratch, like the Cutlass Red which serves as an ambulance and integrates with the health system, or the Carrack for the exploratory aspects of the game.
As a result, yes, feature creep is real and a real concern. It does divide the community between those who just want to play the game as is but in a more polished state and those who instead want the game to become better, with more content, features, and professions to explore.
Star Citizen will never be released!
We should consider that the initial team for Star Citizen was rather small (50 employees) and the company had to slowly grow. Now they employ approximately 500 people in 5 studios across the world. This meant that more people had to be introduced, and teams still had to learn to work together on core aspects of the game, which ultimately lead to a slow start.
To support the growing number of employees, the initial record sales of the game wouldn’t suffice.
Looking at their latest financial report, one would quickly realize that what’s keeping this game in active development aren’t the initial sales anymore, but rather the on-going ship purchases, upgrades and merchandising. These sales sustain the whole team throughout the year.
Some people claim that they’re only making ships and concepts for ships to make money.
Well… this is… true. They need to do so, in order to keep the project alive and proceed with development.
The reality is that the players are frequently buying paper ideas that aren’t yet realized in-game and are likely to change. Understandably, spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t yet exist seems difficult to accept for many outsiders.
Tic Tac Tic Tac
Adding to all this, as time goes by, age takes a toll on the game’s engine and assets, which has to be updated from time to time. Physics-Based Rendering (PBR) wasn’t a common feature in games back in 2012, but as time passes and technology evolves, it had to be introduced to avoid the pitfall of ending up with an already outdated game on release. This meant refactoring all ships once again.
The same happened when the components feature was introduced. Ship components are parts of the ship that can be handled, fixed or replaced. The ships weren’t prepared for that and had to be refactored one more time.
Due to the live development approach, CIG prefers to deliver functional updates to allow the players to access other features or content. These features are developed iteratively, being later on optimized, improved or further developed to add new innovations. The fact that they keep revamping the same features over and over is not a pre-planning issue but instead a requirement of the live development process.
I don’t think Chris Roberts is on an island in the Pacific.
This is his dream work. His unique chance to build his masterpiece.
His previous games have revolved around this theme and now he’s finally got a chance to make his vision truly come to fruition on his terms without any form of corporate pressure. Why waste the opportunity?
This is what led me to back this project. I’m a huge fan of his sadly incomplete Freelancer and I really want to see Star Citizen succeed. I’m usually relaxed and I don’t excited about a game easily. Well maybe except for Red Dead Redemption 2 and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020!
The fact that the game development costs are just as high as their regular revenue is a concern as there’s a point when players stop investing in new ships and merchandise. They will constantly need to reach out to new players in order to keep development going. This could also be seen asfinancially and strategically sound to work as fast as they can with the assets they have access to.
Apparently, last month was one of the most profitable ones for Star Citizen with many new citizens joining the ranks.
I’m convinced by my peer’s attitudes towards this game that there is a significant amount of people who are actually interested in the game but still patiently waiting for it to release before buying it. Maybe still afraid of it being vaporware. If true, this should act as a life-saving device as they can “release” the game whenever they want and get a large influx of fresh new money to sustain development for a few more months or years. The truth is that the game is more than playable right now, even if it still lacks content.
Star Citizen is said to be being developed to achieve a 10-year longevity goal. This is the main reason why they wish to build a solid core game engine that allows for improvements and extra content over time.
Game development tends to become faster and faster as more of the foundational game mechanics are set in place. We should see a LOT more content coming in 2020.
What are your thoughts on Star Citizen and this article? Do you share my view? What are your concerns?
Leave me a comment below, or check one of my other posts! If you liked this one, you might also like THIS one.
You should also check out my Star Citizen Ship Comparison Tool which is currently on standby waiting for some support from the community. Leave me a comment if you would like to see it shine again!
As you might remember from my previous post I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 recently. Unfortunately, sometimes, as with Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Division 2, I would experience CPU and graphics card usage peaks that caused the game to pause for a few seconds or even disconnect from the online game when the peak was too long. Sometimes I would get stuck in a loading screen for ages until finally, the game’s online status timed out.
The game “loses” connection to the server, not because of an Internet connection problem, but instead due to an extended delay in a response to the server. This is caused by the local CPU/GPU.
Because of this issue, many players get this message when playing Red Dead Redemption 2 online:
ALERT: You have been disconnected from Red Dead Online due to a fault on Rockstar game services (Error: 0x20010006)
This was particularly common when Red Dead Redemption 2 got released, but I thought I had fixed it until yesterday (14th November 2019) when the new patch was delivered. Apparently, this affects some CPUs and NVidia graphics cards.
I’ll go over the official and the non-official fixes. I’m currently using both.
Hold your horses! Update your drivers!
Before changing anything, make sure you update your graphics card drivers! I’m pretty sure this is a CPU+graphics card issue and it definitely might help to make sure you’ve got the latest graphics driver – especially for NVidia graphics cards.
The Official Patch
This new official patch actually introduces a CPU load balancing feature – but it has to be enabled manually in the Rockstar Games Launcher. To do this, you should go to your Rockstar Games Launcher and click Settings on the top right corner. Then at the lower-left corner select Red Dead Redemption 2, which will display your options for the game. Scrolling down to the bottom you’ll find a Launch Arguments section, where you should input the newly added argument (on the 14th November 2019 patch):
Another Official Update – 14 Nov 2019
On the same day, Rockstar dropped an article on how to fix an issue related to certain NVidia graphics cards. Check it out:
Players with NVIDIA graphics cards and 4-core or 6-core CPUs should install the GeForce Hotfix Driver Version 441.34 from NVIDIA and remove any launch arguments to resolve this issue. – ROCKSTAR
This alternative hotfix is available right here by installing the latest GeForce Hotfix Driver Version 441.34. Apparently, if CPU isn’t your problem, then the graphics card might be the culprit! Let me know if this solution fixes it for you!
The non-official way to improve system stability
Let’s start by reducing your current CPU load.
By doing so, we’ll be giving more room for the game to function properly without resorting to RAM buildup or disk caching which both may cause bottlenecks and thus stutters, disconnects, and crashes.
CPU, RAM, DISK, how does that even work… and why is that a problem?!
As you know, a processor makes mathematical calculations, but it takes some time to deliver them. Let’s say you arethe CPU and I’m giving you a paper which says 3+5=?. Easy. Right?
Now I’m giving you a sheet of fifty pieces of paper, each one with a different calculation to perform. Aaaand now I’m giving you one hundred more calculations.
You can’t really hold them all in your hands and you need more time to deliver those results before I give you more calculations to perform!
…This sounds a lot like my old boss.
So you put those sheets of paper on your desk while you make your calculations. That’s yourRAM. Once your desk is filled up and there’s nowhere else to put more paper on it you start using your desk’s drawers, which takes a bit longer because now you need to open them up before placing the paper in there. That’s yourDISK.
This has led me to try and find ways to circumvent this issue and get the best performance out of my rig. So let’s get right to it.
Steps to reduce CPU usage
Let’s start by freeing up your CPU from unnecessary calculations and clearing up your RAM usage by turning off stuff that isn’t required to run the game.
Start by closing EVERY browser window, WhatsApp, Spotify, opened Windows folders, etc. also check your tray icons next to your system clock for useless software that might be running in the background. Disable any on-going anti-virus full system scans (no need to turn real-time protection off).
Google Chrome is a heavy CPU load hog – make sure you save this page to your bookmarks and close it now! I mean, later, when you’ve read through this post!
Check your system load by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to bring up your Windows Task Manager and click on the CPU tab to check which processes are consuming the most out of your processor and make try to turn them off if you can.
Note: to the right you’ll also see a tab for GPU usage. If you notice that your GPU usage is above 70% then you definitely should consider upgrading your graphics card. Check your graphics card at GPUCheck and see how it performs compared to more recent card models. If instead you wish to see how your CPU compares, check out PassMark.
An alternative to improve CPU usage and reduce stalling
It helps to maintain system stability by adjusting CPU process priorities. This means that it will do its best to make sure that your system keeps running smoothly by prioritizing processes that are critical to System stability. RDR2 likes to peak CPU usage from time to time – to a point where it will make the whole system unresponsive, which leads to a crash to desktop or a BSOD (it did happen to me before using Process Lasso!).
You may also use it to safely free up RAM automagically.
I have to say that I noticed a significant improvement in system stability since I started using Process Lasso.
They have very nice documentation that explains how to use it in detail. Make sure to check them out beforehand!
Sure, maybe your old machine needs an upgrade – but the truth is that even with new PC builds, you’re prone to encounter issues like these again, as the CPU usage spikes are abnormal and caused by bad programming and rushed software development.
Before spending any more money, follow my tips and see if they solve your problem!
Let me know if they help you play this awesome game!
I just recently decided to hop into Westworld… I mean, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC knowing that this would be a game I would enjoy. I’m currently writing a review for it (If only I could stop playing it to write my review…).
Unfortunately, just like its older brother, Grand Theft Auto 5, it doesn’t natively support my NVidia Surround ultra-wide screen resolution for my triple-screen setup.
This fix may not be required for everyone, but for some reason, the resolution simply didn’t show up on the game’s graphical settings. It only went up to 1920×1080.
Just to be clear, I’ve got 3 monitors and I’m also a streamer on Twitch with a streaming computer that uses one of my screens when I stream, which automatically changes my screen resolution to 3840×1080 – I’m using DisplayFusion to achieve this behavior. Plus HDMI routers, DVI adapters, screen recorders… Not even my computer understands what’s going on with my screen resolutions.
This fix should make the game run in any screen resolution.
UPDATE: As of the last patch, it seems like some of these tricks aren’t working for some users. Check the bottom of this post for alternative ways to make it work! Leave me a comment if it does!
Apparently, the game engine has progressed quite significantly since GTA V. Back then, I managed to find a work-around for GTA V, but RDR2 seems to accept 5760×1080, much more easily.
To make 5760×1080 work, I had to go through My Documents folder and find the Rockstar Games folder. Within it, the Red Dead Redemption Folder and then the Settings folder. In it, you should find a file called system.xml
In my computer this is located at: C:/Users/[windows username]/Rockstar Games/Red Dead Redemption 2/Settings/system.xml
Here, you should set the screenWidth and screenHeight to your desired screen resolution. After this step, you should save and close the file and then right-click on it and go to File Properties and set it to Read-Only. This prevents the game from making any changes to it. Keep in mind that setting this to Read-Only will keep you from saving adjusted game settings from within the game. This means that if you make any changes in-game, the settings will be reset every time you launch the game.
Also note that, for even more exotic users, if you’re using several screens but only wish to use one set of them, then you should change the outputIndex and/or the adapterIndex value. This may only be required if you’re using more than 3 screens, or when you’re having trouble with stretching or positioning on 2 screens.
Alternatively, if this change fails to set your resolution correctly, try following my GTA V video which uses windowed mode and a piece of software called ResizeEnable.
An updated method to get 5760×1080 in RDR2!
As of the last update, it seems like some of these tricks aren’t working for some users. Instead, try using the command line.
Go to your Rockstar Games Launcher -> Settings -> Red Dead Redemption 2 (on the left sidebar) -> search for the launch arguments text field Then type the following:
-width 5760 -height 1080 -borderless
You may also replace borderless with “-windowed“. Alternatively, try using
…and then try to stretch the frame of the window to your screen resolution (can’t do this in borderless mode)
The reason why you’re not usually able to go full resolution is that when not in surround mode, the game knows you have 3 screens but thinks that you only play in one of them so it sets itself to 1920×1080.
Now bask in the glorious landscapes that this game has to offer. They look absurdly beautiful at a 5760×1080 resolution.
Next step: VR.
If this guide helped you, send me your best Ultra Wide Wide West Screen Shots! Too many puns. Bang!
GTA Online – Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase.
This is the message that a bunch of players are seeing when they try buying chips from the cashier at the newly established GTA Online Diamond Casino Spa & Resort in bloody Los Santos.
The very anticipated Casino has just opened today – but gambling is not for everyone. Killing, stealing, trafficking is all well and good in GTA Online but DON’T YOU DARE GAMBLE!
Apparently, people from at least 50 countries, including Portugal, Hungary, Israel and Argentina have been prevented from trading in any chips.
These left-out players aren’t able to access the free daily bonuses at the cashier, or the wheel spin at all. It may also affect bonuses from the Penthouse, missions, world collectibles, and unique clothing and items.
Apparently, there’s a region lock to access the Casino’s features. This includes buying chips and playing with them – effectively limiting all gambling activity for some players.
We’re talking funny money here. In-game cash translates to the same amount of in-game casino chips which can only be refunded to in-game cash.
If there’s one thing Rockstar is used to deal with …is lawsuits.
Apparently, the reason for this region lock is that Rockstar does not want to register as a gambling entity (such as with other online gambling websites). Even if you now have to accept a new EULA, this effectively means that they’re not able to deliver this type of content to a large number of countries.
As far as I understand the law (and other games that do this), the real problem here is the fact that players are able to buy in-game currency with real money and then spend it all gambling (instead of buying new in-game cars). Well, if that’s the problem, then the already present chip currency could be used to *legally* buy stuff without having to convert it to the real-cash-connected GTA bucks – that wouldn’t be gambling and that would solve the legal conundrum. Think about it Rockstar!
Make sure you follow me on Twitch if you wish to stay up to date about when these things change or a legal alternative has been found!
Most countries have grey-area laws on online gambling. Most regulate physical gambling effectively but lack online regulation.
Here in the EU, only a few players in Germany seem to be able to access the Casino features. This has sparked a rush to VPN services. Players are trying to connect via VPN to get a German or American IP address in order to play at the Diamond Casino. Note: Some people argue that this practice may get your account banned for trying to bypass common online identity checks.
Rockstar support is inefficient
Rockstar support is completely inefficient at informing players why they’re unable to use the Casino. There’s not a single official reply to queries regarding this situation and the players were left to figure it out for themselves.
I’m hoping that they eventually revise their region-lock limitations or that, at the very least, they inform players that they won’t be able to access this content beforehand. Some people are complaining that they bought Twitch Prime to access the “free” content and Penthouse at the now pointless Casino.
Players will eventually find a way around this issue. They’ve done that before with private servers, hacks and the RP server boom in the past couple of years.
They will find a way to make it work – legally, or otherwise.
In any case, it feels lame that the largest GTA Online update in years is locked to so many players around the world.
And there I was. Looking at the shiny new slot machine. Press E to interact. ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to: www.rockstargames.com/support
This update should never have been developed in the first place. Their energy should have been spent on new content that everyone would be able to enjoy. Besides the Casino and the Penthouse, the remaining content is just a couple of missions, a few new unremarkable vehicles, and a pair of easily-outdated cosmetics.
Heists is where GTA Online truly shines – co-op missions with cinematics and a story to play with your friends. Yet, no new heists have been released in a VERY long time. Instead, we’ve been stuck with mostly cosmetic updates that don’t effectively expand the story or the replayability of the game.
The truth is that the game is still fun.
Rockstar-outlawed private servers and RP have given it a boost recently. But the updates have mostly been delivering content that is both very expensive and insubstantial.
I live in Portugal. I’ve got a casino across the street from my home and I’m not able to play on GTA Online with funny money. *shrug*
A long, long time ago (back in 1982), Microsoft came up with the first iteration for Microsoft Flight Simulator. It looked amazing for that era and featured unrivaled 3D graphics! It was the start of a whole lineage of popular flight sims.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I did not get to experience the joy in flight sims until very recently. However, even if things look different nowadays, I’m 100% sure that the feeling of accomplishment for taking off the runway was the same as today’s.
Sure, the game grew over time. Immensely. Better graphics, more planes, more buildings, better flight mechanics, multiplayer.
But at its core, the fun of the hobbyist flight sim experience is definitely the sense of achievement you get for taking off, landing and the idea of freedom, movement, and control (or lack thereof).
I won’t lie. To me, that’s not enough to truly enjoy flight simming. I love the notion of purpose in a sim.
I decided to turn the sim into a game – by adding an objective!
Make it a game!
During my streams on Twitch and Youtube, I did a trip around the world using Microsoft Flight Simulator X and FSEconomy.
FSE allows you to rent planes and do cargo runs. What usually happened was that I would rent a plane and do short cargo runs from one place to another. I started back in Iceland with a small Cessna 172 hauling mail.
I ended up transporting tourists in Brazil, by going through the eastern coasts of Canada, the US, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Colombia, Venezuela and, finally, Brazil. My plan was to make the cross to Africa, but I couldn’t yet afford a plane large enough to cross the Atlantic. What an adventure!
FSEconomy changed the way I saw flight simulation forever.
Over time, graphics have improved drastically. They went from being an IFR flight mechanics simulation to becoming a true world representation simulator which featured accurate flight mechanics.
The new Microsoft Flight Simulator trailer seems to showcase just that.
I’m sure that there’s a lot more to the whole. But the graphics engine and the weather effects are the real stars in this E3 trailer.
I usually don’t fly large planes. I get excited by the beautiful landscape and the prospect of doing short hops towards a far-away destination. The detailed scenery is vital for VFR (low-altitude visual) flights.
Microsoft seems to have nailed this in the previous trailer, by showcasing VERY detailed scenery. The pyramids in Egipt, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the Seattle Space Needle are rendered in very high detail.
More than that, it features outstanding (and massive) cloud formations and weather effects. It also shows detailed traffic that is sure to melt CPUs and GPUs everywhere.
To me, however, it is the dynamic details that tease me the most. The pink flamingos flying over the coral area or the giraffes on the plateau demonstrate unprecedented attention to detail towards fauna and flora in different regions of the world.
I’m also expecting Virtual Reality and Multiplayer to be included by default. One can also hope for some degree of mod compatibility with previous releases.
The eternal wait
Microsoft took too long between Flight Simulator versions. The last one, Flight Simulator X was released back in 2006. It was effectively being laid as an improvement to its predecessor, Flight Simulator 2004.
This 13-year hiatus has led to Microsoft losing its unbeaten lead in the world of flight sims. Nowadays, X-Plane, P3D (a third-party updated FSX version) and AeroflyFS2 are major contenders for the title (Dovetail’s Flight Sim World now excluded!). In the past few years, combat flight sims have also resurged with games like DCS, War Thunder or World of Warplanes.
Nevertheless, the impact of FSX in the flight sim universe was huge – and any new version that Microsoft puts forward will be regarded with hope and expectation.
It will be a few more years until the mod community catches up to the new flight sim. But the prospect of having a brand new engine capable of doing new things is very enticing for every flight sim enthusiast.
Now that we finally have some serious competition from other contenders, it should also spark innovation in the coming years.
Looking forward to the future!
What are your thoughts on this? -How will Microsoft Flight Simulator succeed in the current Flight Simming scene? -Do you think that the focus on low-altitude visuals will affect the jetliner flight experience?
I will be sharing more details on this title as they become available. Subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitch or Twitter to be notified when a new post is published!
It flew under the radar – Microsoft Flight Simulator was “quietly” announced at E3 this year to be released in 2020. It reminded me of how I forced myself to learn to enjoy flight sims. Here’s a story for you:
In the beginning…
I didn’t enjoy flight sims until very recently. In fact, I couldn’t figure out why people would spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware to be able to fly virtually.
This topic first came to me quite a few years ago. An old gentleman at the local electronics store prompted my colleague about his newly-bought computer hardware. He was unsure whether his graphics card was good enough when compared to whatever was out there on the market.
Now, I don’t really keep up to date with hardware parts and their specs – but my friend does – and he was baffled.
Apparently, he had bought THE most expensive graphics card at the time. That graphics card wasn’t even being sold in my country yet. He was asking my friend on how to “assemble” it. He clearly had no idea what he was doing. -But something drove that old man to spend that much money on a piece of hardware. We talked for a little longer and eventually found out he was a flight sim enthusiast. It all sounded very alien – and outrageous to us – poor Medal of Honor (1999) players. To spend that much and waste it on a flight sim? Pffft!
He certainly did not look like a gamer… But flight sims aren’t games… are they? How can you enjoy spending time on them? I’ll admit it, I had a certain prejudice and naivety towards flight sims. Back then flight sims looked ugly, boring, complex and geeky. I was young and unprepared.
But that encounter really stuck with me for quite a few more years and it gently brewed questions in my mind.
It triggered my need to understand flight sims and their appeal.
It took me on the most unexpected voyage in my whole gaming life. One that would consume a few thousand hours and a few hundred bucks.
Surprisingly, the real turning point was Star Citizen. And Freelancer (2003). And Freespace (1999).
I’ve talked about Freespace in this blog before. A space fighter game which truly opened my eyes to the beauty of sci-fi themes. Then Freelancer, another space sim, came along and it blew my mind with its unprecedented freedom of exploration and trading. One day I was casually going through Kickstarter titles and I noticed Star Citizen – a space sim from the creator of Freelancer. That description was all it took to get me hooked.
Star Citizen was the game that Chris Roberts dreamed of making all along. With the massive support from the fans, he now had the chance to make the “Best Damn Space Sim Ever“. His vision was so expansive and focused so much on immersion that it triggered in me a need to become one with the game. So… I bought a joystick! …A HOTAS actually (it has the thrust control)!
One day I was casually setting up my joystick to try out the WW2 flight simWar Thunder, (in “Realistic” mode). I was having some trouble figuring out how to take off from the runway… and then it clicked.
The large hunk of scrap slowly started to move. It made a lot of noise, the plane jiggled, the aluminum frame clanked… and then… I was flying.
Fighting was awful with a joystick in War Thunder
…But the views were absurdly beautiful. The sunlight bouncing off the wings and the cockpit. The dials, knobs, and buttons begging to be read and squeezed. That’s when flight Simming started to make sense to me.
Sure, I had flown planes in the past: Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, Arma. None had the unavoidable and demanding level of detail you’d find in War Thunder.
I accepted the challenge. If I was able to appreciate the non-combat aspects of War Thunder or World of Warplanes, maybe I was now able to put prejudice aside and try a real flight sim.
It was the 25th of January of 2015 and I had just bought the oldie Microsoft’s Flight Simulator: X (FSX, 2006).
That horrible AND EXTREMELY LOUD music played. The dark omen for all the pain and pleasure I would endure in the upcoming months.
It took me hours of reading tutorials on how to start a plane. You need to check the levels, man the radios, get the injectors flowing, magnetos, batteries, fuel, parking brakes… -> or instead just press Ctrl+E and it does all of that for you – and off you go!
WEEEEEEE! In a couple of minutes, I was flying over my small town. -It looked terrible.
But there was potential there!
So I decided to install a couple of free HD textures modsto update the old graphics engine.
I live in a very dense, steep-mountainous wine region. The birds-eye view of the Douro valley near Porto, in Portugal, was absurd.
It felt great to be able to go anywhere in the world and see the landmarks, the rivers, the cities, and the mountain tops. Feeling the old C172 (small plane) engine growling to my command was awesome. Preparing to land is surprisingly tense – your attention levels skyrocket!
My perception of what flight simming was had changed dramatically.
Some people care about all the engineering parts of a plane or the technical aspects of flight – I don’t. What I love is that each trip feels like a long cargo run in Freelancer, where, if you’re not careful, you might lose your cargo, your plane, your life! I also only do low-altitude flights as I love watching the views in my tiny paper planes.
Over time I realized that flight simming represents freedom. Freedom to go anywhere and to decide what to do next.
Flight simming is made of layers.
If you truly enjoy flight simulators, then you’ll be spending quite a lot of money on hardware and software. Here’s some of the stuff I bought (I get no commission!):
If you follow this blog or my Twitch stream, I’m sure you’ve noticed how I love management games. I found out that by using AirHauler you can turn flight sims into an amazing online management game. You’re able to build airports, buy planes, do cargo runs, manage other pilots, build a fleet!
By using Flyinside to add Virtual Reality to the simulation, you’ll be blown away by the realism you get – and the real fear of heights when you open the plane’s door mid-flight (I almost fell off my chair…).
If immersion is your thing, the Buttkicker bass shaker makes your chair rumble to the plane’s engine and the wind and rain effects on your plane! Hands-down the most surprising piece of hardware I ever bought!
Also check out the really cool custom button boxesout there!
Add to that the mandatory joystick and the processor and graphics card upgrades – and now your wallet cries.
It took me years to understand the hobby.
Flight Sims truly push the limits of your hardware in exchange for immersion and fun.
I can FINALLY relate to that old man, who spent that much money on a graphics card that he wasn’t even sure how to install.
We’ll celebrate 14 years between Microsoft’s Flight Simulator: X (2006) and Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020). I will be reviewing this on my following post – next week! Subscribe to the blog and stay tuned!
Clear skies! -ViLa4480
Thank you DCS, X-Plane, War Thunder, Prepar3D, FSX, Microsoft Flight Simulator – and the amazing Pickinthatbanjo!
I got the chance to try out the new Steel Division 2!
Before we start dissecting Steel Division 2, let me clarify that most official screenshots suck. They’re done at a very high zoom level to showcase the 3D unit model details. The game isn’t played like that so let’s cut the crap. Every screenshot I will add to this post will feature the average camera angle and zoom for most players. Sorry if it doesn’t look as pretty as those incredibly detailed tanks and planes – but that’s the reality of how the game looks because that’s how you will play it. The game is beautiful in its own way, but the screenie close-ups aren’t fair to what the game truly plays like. This bad habit of showcasing aspects of games that aren’t relevant really upsets me as it tricks players into buying something that doesn’t look like what is shown. I also hate cinematic trailers btw. So this will be the first and last close-up you’ll see in this post:
Steel Division 2 – I was excited but slightly skeptic at the same time. There were a few good reasons for that.
Steel Division 2 picks up where Steel Division: Normandy 44 left off. Instead of hitting the beaches of Normandy in operation Overlord, this time you’ll be fighting its eastern counterpart, Operation Bagration.
Eugen Systems has been developing this engine for quite some time now. The game shares similarities with one of my favorite games of all time: A magnificent war tabletop-like game called R.U.S.E. Man, I wish I had this blog when R.U.S.E. first came out back in 2010!
I promise I won’t spend this article talking about the oldie. The truth is that most of the game mechanics present in 2019’s Steel Division 2 were already present in 2010’s R.U.S.E…. as well as every game in the Wargame series.
The 3 rules of war: location, location, location.
Steel Division 2 features a GIGANTIC war map where you’re able to scheme, plot and outthink your opponent using clever unit maneuvers and critical timing for moving your troops.
The game demands that you think in advance, that you prepare for all possible attacks and counter-attacks. It demands concealment, ambushes, suppression and quick battle-critical decisions.
As a general, you focus on securing key locations on the map. It’s simple: the more you have, the more likely you are to win the battle. To achieve that you need to put boots on the ground.
Occupy and fortify villages with your infantry units. Place anti-tank guns at the main roads and anti-air units in the forest. Support with long-range artillery and have a couple of big, heavy tanks ready to flank any attacking force. Fuel and repair your planes to help push back the enemy.
Yet, you’re going to lose this fight. Sorry.
You forgot to place your recon units where they can spot the enemy at a distance.
The enemy force advances towards the town. You know they’re advancing as they slowly push the red line that splits the map between your sector and the enemy’s.
You don’t know what’s coming your way so you move your tanks towards the enemy. BAM! They’re blown into tiny pieces by the enemy tank destroyer. You can’t even see it as it is too far away and your recon units are nowhere to be seen. The enemy rushes towards your position. Once they’re in sight of your anti-tank gun you realize they actually have no tanks and your gun is useless at this point.
Too late to fall back. A number of storm infantry rushes towards your anti-tank gun and quickly take care of it. Your infantry units are holed up inside the village houses and are able to effectively suppress the enemy infantry. Enemy artillery falls on your units and it completely destroys their hideout. As a final act of despair you send your planes to destroy the enemy artillery. Unfortunately, they’re shot down by a couple of enemy anti-air units hiding in the woods.
The inevitability of war
The truth is that Steel Division 2 feels a bit pre-scripted in the sense that it is hard to bounce-back once you’re losing a match. The story of the match is mostly written during the first 15 minutes of it. Efforts to change that are often met with resistance. It is pointless to throw new units to lock your position as they will take too long to get there.
Your allies won’t help you. They’ve got problems of their own – and due to the size of the map they’re too far away to be of any help. In fact, it kind of feels like your allies are mostly just cosmetic. Fortifying and defending a position tends to be easier than to attack an enemy outpost, but you can’t defend forever. The enemy will eventually score. This inevitability of battle actually forces you to keep adjusting your tactics. You will now need to use choke-points for ambushes and to support your troops with a different mix of units. Hopefully, the enemy won’t be prepared for those.
Good timing and a plan for falling back is most times a requirement and a prelude to a successful counterattack. A counterattack victory is glorious but oftentimes happens due to the enemy spending all of their units before the battle timer runs out.
The Phase system splits the match into three timed phases where you’re able to deploy different types of units. It allows you to set up your forces in any way you like during each phase, allowing you to carry more units and more experienced ones as time progresses. You lay out your own strategy as a tabletop card game.
You will decide how many tanks you’re carrying into battle, how many artillery pieces, planes, snipers, but also which vehicle is transporting them and which weapons are they carrying.
This breathes new life into any stagnant fight. It ultimately forces players to re-adjust their tactics to fight the new enemy units. Even if daunting at first (when you just want to rush and play the game), it becomes the key to your strategy. Something uniquely yours to surprise your enemy with.
The game truly shines in multiplayer, where battles are dynamic and unpredictable. Even though communication is lacking and, in most public games, pointless.
Singleplayer, however, lacks that. The AI is very slow and very predictable.
Matches seem to last for hours. It seems like both AI sides are just too polite to hurt each other.
The most exciting single-player feature is the Army General maps. In this game mode, Real-time battles are just a fraction of a much larger turn-based conflict. Akin to the likes of a Total War campaign map, you’re able to move your armies in a large conflict map and fight the battles in real time. This however is a brand new feature that still requires some polishing.
The UI lacks context information and it is unclear how units move and which units will fight in a battle. The missing tutorial is also a major downside. The fact that real-time maps are always the same (instead of being dynamically generated based on the campaign map) is also a downside.
I would love to see Hearts of Iron sized maps of the whole conflict and being able to truly wage war at a continental scale. However, these maps only represent a few hundred square kilometers. Due to the scale of the units on the map and how fast they reinforce, you’re not really able to plot a major flanking or bubble maneuver with your units. Instead you’ll see a blob of units spread along a slowly-moving borderline. The fact that you’re forced to reach a destination within a limited number of turns also prevents you from planning a massive invasion.
This game tires your brain. In a good, albeit costly way. I really enjoy playing just a single match per day.
The constant need for micro-management at a massive scale and battles taking longer than 30 minutes (up to 2h in single-player AG) really tire your brain and I usually turn to a brainless shooter like Battlefield V afterwards.
To be fair, Steel Division 2 doesn’t feel like a brand new game. It is very similar to other games being developed for the past 10 years by the same company. However, its game mechanics are solid and it feels like there’s plenty of different battle strategies to explore. The complexity of war and the tiny victories you get in each battle makes it very enjoyable. You’ll feel that losing a match can be very enjoyable if the battle was fair.
Steel Division 2 is a realistic and complex combat representation that really forces you to think ahead.
The learning curve is steep. Especially if you’ve never played any previous games of the series – or if you wish to become an expert and keep track of all the stats and micro-manage each unit.
However, the massive scale, beautiful graphics, detailed and accurate combat systems and the dynamic multiplayer, make it one of the best and most realistic games of its kind.
Just don’t expect to have your hand held in war.
I would value this game at 60€ if you’re a war enthusiast, 25€ if you’re a Tropico 6 player and 15€ if you prefer non-RTS games.