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The Sims 4

The Sims 4 – Best mods in 2020

A couple of weeks ago I made a post on COVID-19’s new symptom: Playing The Sims 4. After 7 years of development, The Sims 4 is now a mature game with a solid modding community that has worked to expand and optimize their mods over the years.

As you might have guessed, I too have been playing this game for quite a few hours during this lockdown. As you might also know, I truly love using mods in my games.

Please note: in this article I won’t delve into any Custom Content (CC) – just mods.

In The Sims 4, some people prefer to avoid using mods altogether.

While it is true that mods can affect the game in ways that are detrimental to the game’s vibe or performance, it is also true that mods can add a lot to The Sims experience. They expand the base content and improve gameplay, which adds replayability and fun.

I’m using several mods in my current 2020 The Sims 4 build. They all seem to work together without any conflicts and greatly expanded my game.
I’ll be sharing a list of the top mods in my current build:

One mod to rule them all

The Sims 4

This mod should be at the top of our list, due to the vast array of features and integration with other mods.
It doesn’t add gameplay features, but it allows you to customize almost every aspect of the game and its characters. It also helps to track down issues with in-game notifications and detailed logs.
We’re talking about MC Command Center by Deaderpool (MCCC). A common, must-have, mod.

LittleMsSam’s plethora of juicy mods

Whether you’re a newbie to modding The Sims 4 or an expert family planner, there’s no avoiding LittleMsSam’s vast collection of mods.

Most of LittleMsSam’s mods are actually really small and simple, but the huge collection of useful mods available that actually affect gameplay is astounding. It’s like picking free candy from a candy shop.

Some of LittleMsSam’s mods fix base game bugs and issues, while others expand the game by adding small bits of gameplay mechanics.

When used together, these mods become even more interesting – like adding layers and filling to a cake. And then a cherry on top.

All mods are very well documented, although sometimes the language used to describe them lacks some clearing up. If you’re new to modding The Sims 4 however, this is definitely the place to start.

Some of LittleMsSam’s most interesting mods:

The Sims 4
  • LittleMsSam’s Live in Business – This is my favorite mod in this article. Live in Business allows you to run your own little shop on the same lot where your family lives. Using LittleMsSam’s Live in Business, you won’t have those pesky loading screens, or Sims splitting away for work. Build your own family bakery or art gallery on the same lot where your family lives!
  • LittleMsSam’s Live in Services – A great addon to Live In Business – you’re able to hire services by providing rooms for your maid, gardener, or a nanny. They’ll work harder, better …and you get to spy on them when they’re not working.
  • LittleMsSam’s Roommates – This mod allows you to invite people to live with your household on the same lot. They will pay rent and you get to watch their lives unfold. Useful if you wish to build a small active neighborhood in a single lot. Just don’t forget to lock your doors! (there’s also a mod to help you with that!)
  • LittleMsSam’s More Buyable Venues and new Venue Types – Customize your lot and make it whatever you want it to be! You’ll be able to build prisons, motels, movie theatres, gyms, museums, etc. The astonishing part is that they actually work well and feature some interesting gameplay loops. I built a haunted hotel where my character actually has to use a computer to check-in guests, collect payments, and assign bedrooms. Immersive and fun!

Making money in The Sims 4 is a bit too easy.

Satira’s Lower Salaries and LittleMsSam’s (Zooroo’s) ATM mods make The Sims 4’s finances a bit more interesting, by lowering your job payouts and allowing you to go for a credit loan instead of selling your TV when things go bad. Staying at home picking up collectibles still earns you more than most jobs though.

I haven’t yet found a mod to make your financial life more challenging by adding cool new events. SacrificialMod’s Life Tragedies does add armed robberies, ransoms for kidnappings, and disease treatment costs, but it also adds a ton of non-essential death mechanics, violence, and other unnecessary stuff that kind of breaks The Sim’s happy vibe.

I’m looking for mods that boost this financial aspect of the game. Let me know your suggestions in the comments section below!

Add personality and life to your Sims

A few years ago, I ranted on my Twitch channel that Sims are too flexible with their emotions. They may feel very upset but that doesn’t prevent them from doing certain activities that drastically shift their mood to the exact opposite.
Here’s a list of mods that not only help balance emotions but also add cool new lifestyle mechanics to the game:

The Sims 4
  • RoBurky’s Meaningful Stories – it makes your Sim’s emotional state veer more like a cruise ship rather than a mosquito. It aims to make emotional states more natural and flow through intermediate states. The events in your Sim’s life will feel more important.
  • Simsmodelsimmer’s Realistic Reactions – This modder’s webpage features a bunch of interesting mods to explore, including Set Family Relationships, which adds family degrees to Sims. However, Realistic Reactions is on this list because it adds reactions to cheating between couples and how children react to their parents fighting.
  • Have Some Personality Please! by PolarBearSims – Default Sims are too quick to jump into a relationship. This mod makes romance a bit more challenging and progressive by restricting the number and type of interactions available. It also cuts idle chat and adds additional autonomy to your Sims.
  • KawaiiStacie’s Slice of Life – bring a new level of realism to your The Sims 4 mods with SoL. Your character will blush when embarrassed, cry when sad, or even bruised from a fight. It includes a personality system that acts as traits do. You will experience sicknesses, menstrual cycles, and body insecurities. Also, pimples!
  • Wicked Whims (+18) – This is a very extensive and very graphic mod that adds a ton of sexual interactions and animations. However, if you feel it breaks The Sims 4’s vibe, you are able to disable or tone it down and instead value the other aspects of the mod, such as nudity, pregnancy, STDs, window peeping, emotional reactions or pubic hair.

Quality of life mods

Some mods aim to make things easier to play or to fix small annoying bugs.

The Sims 4
  • Don’t Wash Dishes Where You Angry Poop by Scumbumbo – The very visual name of the mod is actually very accurate. It prevents Sims from washing dishes in bathroom sinks.
  • Nisa’s Lot Trait Extender – Because we always need more lot traits! (especially with other mods that require you to add lot traits)
  • LittleMsSam’s No Auto Food Grab – If you’re planning on setting up a custom bakery or a restaurant, this is a must-have mod. It prevents your Sim from taking a bite out of each cake he bakes for his customers.
  • LittleMsSam’s No Inventory Sharing – This mod prevents stuff that’s in a fridge or chest from being accessible in every other fridge or chest in the lot. Very useful if you’re using LittleMsSam’s Roommates, as it prevents your neighbors from eating your stored food!
  • LittleMsSam’s Force to Leave & Lock Door – Tired of those annoying neighbors dancing all night in your living room? Expel everyone from your house immediately! Then lock the door and sleep comfortably.
  • Scumbumbo’s Unlisted Phone Number – Sims can be kind of creepy, but mostly irritating by regularly calling you in the middle of the night. This mod prevents other Sims from calling you unless you give them your number (which also adds some fun RP to it).

Refresh your game!

When you really like a game, but you’ve explored most of the game’s options, mods are the way to refresh it.

Besides fixing bugs or adding content, mods are able to enable new gameplay mechanics that can be very fun to explore. Being able to play your favorite game as if it was the first time is well worth the time investment of finding the right mods.

So go ahead and push the boundaries of The Sims 4 now!

What are your favorite mods? What mod ideas would you like to see added to The Sims 5? Let me know in the comments section below!

Also, don’t forget to support your mod developers on Patreon!

See you in Strangerville,
-ViLa4480

NVIDIA RTX Voice

Remove microphone noise FREE with revolutionary Nvidia RTX Voice

This COVID-19 situation has many of us working, studying, and streaming from home. But for many, this may be a very difficult task, due to unavoidable sources of noise around them. NVIDIA RTX Voice to the rescue!

The sound of kids running and screaming in the back, dogs barking or mechanical keyboard strokes might be extremely difficult to muffle and may affect your performance or credibility.
You might at first want to gag your kids, but this tool might just solve your problem.

Oftentimes, however, the issue is on the other end of your Teams video call with very loud video partners.

To tackle this, NVIDIA has developed a technology that is currently in a free beta stage. This is called NVIDIA RTX Voice.

Oh, you don’t own an RTX graphics card? Don’t despair!

Even though it is “officially” limited to the RTX range of NVIDIA video cards, we’ve found a way around that and you’ll be able to use it with your non-RTX video card.

Fixing sound with graphics cards?

As many of you might know, dealing with sound has been a reference of what’s trickiest to do in computer sciences since its inception. The fact that it requires very fast computational power demands specific processors and tools to handle sound efficiently.

Ray-tracing in computer graphics has exactly the same problem.
Considering this, then it might come as no surprise that NVIDIA has now tackled complex real-time sound processing with RTX graphics card software.

Nvidia RTX Voice is surprisingly good

There have been many ways to subtract or reduce background noise. However, NVIDIA’s AI solution seems to clearly outperform other approaches.

As a reference, I was talking to my microphone while violently punching my table and having my girlfriend yelling next to me (please note: not at me). The results of NVIDIA’s RTX Voice were outstanding.

My voice did have a slight fluctuation in volume as I hammered the desk. But considering how much noise we were making, in the final recording, I was unable to hear anything else but my voice.
I would say that the result was pretty good and well worth the try.

As a reference, my non-RTX graphics card is an NVIDIA GTX 1080 non-TI. Using this software did increase my old CPU load by 5%, which is perfectly manageable if you toggle it off after each call.
RTX cards shine brighter because the loads for RTX cards are minimal.

How to install NVIDIA RTX Voice

If you own an RTX graphics card, things are easier to set up.
Simply go to NVIDIA RTX Voice’s official website and follow the instructions they provide.

If, however, you DON’T own an RTX NVIDIA graphics card, there’s still a way to make it work.

NVIDIA RTX Voice
NVIDIA RTX Voice

If you own a non-RTX NVIDIA graphics card, you’ll need to manually remove the constraints from the installer. They prevent you from installing the tool in non-RTX computers.

To install it in your non-RTX computer, follow these instructions from the Guru3D forums:

  1. Go to NVIDIA RTX Voice’s official website and download the free beta version (v0.5.12.6 – 386Mb).
  2. Run the file you downloaded. A message stating that your graphics card is not compatible is expected and the installer quits to desktop.
  3. Go to your C:\Temp\NVRTXVoice\NvAFX folder and open the file RTXVoice.nvi with a text editor such as Notepad.
  4. Search and remove a section that reads:
    <constraints>
    <property name=”Feature.RTXVoice” level=”silent” text=”${{InstallBlockedMessage}}”/>
    </constraints>
  5. Save your file and run setup.exe, located at C:\Temp\NVRTXVoice\
  6. Proceed with the installation and follow the configuration instructions at NVIDIA RTX Voice’s official website.

Using this tool to minimize your own background noise is pretty simple.
Just run the app and select your microphone as your input and your regular output (usually speakers). Then go to the tool you wish to use such as OBS for streaming or Skype for meetings. Finally set NVIDIA RTX Voice as your microphone input.

NVIDIA RTX Voice

If instead, you wish to protect your ears and sanity from loud or obnoxious meeting partners, there’s a solution as well.

You are able to set your output device on Teams, Zoom, or Classroom as NVIDIA’s RTX Voice. Then all you need is to set NVIDIA’s RTX Voice’s output to your speakers/headphones.
If you’re having trouble setting up this sound route, you might want to try the free donation-based Voicemeeter Banana/Potato, which gives you full control over input/output paths for sound.

Peace at last

Whether you are a Twitch streamer with a loud mechanical keyboard, using Discord or OBS, or having a Teams meeting that your kids are keen on ruining, or even attending classes via Skype, Google’s Classroom or Zoom, this tool will help you muffle your background noise but also protect your ears from everyone else’s noise as well. The results are stunning and well worth a try.

Let me know how it worked out for you!

If this helped you, consider subscribing to Popcorngamer.com!
-ViLa4480

The Sims 4

COVID-19’s new symptom: Playing The Sims 4

The 7-year old game is apparently making a comeback. Why are people playing it again? What changed in The Sims 4 and how come that this dinosaur is not yet a fossil? What led to this resurgence of the stale-genre game? Who plays it and how?

The rise of an oldie

7-year-old games are considered old by videogame market standards.

A sequel was due for some time now, but it never came. Instead, Maxis and Electronic Arts opted to keep releasing mostly cosmetic but expensive DLCs.

The Sims is pretty much alone in its own market, there’s not much of a competition to worry about (until now with the upcoming Paralives). They’ve always controlled the Life Simulation genre they’ve created and aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

Instead of releasing a new game every two years (like most AAA game sequels), they were keying on setting solid foundations with a solid base game and then update and add new content with expansive (and expensive) DLCs. EA has released 9 large expansions already, yet 12 are expected until the end of The Sims 4 lifecycle.

Even though this strategy keeps current users feeding them with each DLC, it doesn’t do much in the way of attracting new ones.

In March 2020, things were about to change – but not in the way they were expected to.

Trying times

The Sims 4

Nowadays, every social media platform talks about The Sims, plays videos about The Sims, links to podcasts about The Sims, and, like me, people are blogging about The Sims. It almost feels like The Sims 4 had just been released. Also, Animal Crossing.

COVID-19 is the root-solution to our question.
COVID-19, the coronavirus that won the game by putting the world on pause. No more lines at the Post Office, traffic jams, crowded malls, delayed flights, air pollution, noise pollution. Was it not for the sad side-effects of social distancing, this would sound more like a blessing.

However, this horrible virus had an unexpected super-power. It managed to lock most of us in our own homes, afraid to go outside – waiting for it to leave us alone and abandon our doorstep.

Influencer lockdown

Self-isolation caused a huge number of social influencers to stay indoors. It was fun for a while – plenty of exciting chitchat about the situation filled their blogs and vlogs.
…But after a week or two, these fashion and travel influencers were still stuck at home with nothing new and exciting to report about their awesome way of life. No new clothes or makeup to show, no restaurants to try and no foreign places to explore. Their blogs and vlogs were running dry.

Some turned to cooking – but apparently, their cooking skills were not that great… or they just couldn’t make it captivating enough for their audience to enjoy.

Then they turned to gaming – a sensible marketing decision since gaming ranks high in social media projection. Even though these fashion vlogger’s streaming/gaming rigs were pretty much non-existant (as were their games list or gaming skills altogether), they still had their hordes of loyal fans thirsty for content and stuck at home with nothing to watch.

Some of these (mostly female) vloggers, in their early 30’s, went through their early years in an age where The Sims 1 and 2 were all the rage. So they naturally leaned towards The Sims 4.

The fact that it is a non-competitive sandbox game that features endless fashion and decoration customization options, that requires no skills at all and that supports a Mac version, and low computer specs certainly did help those fashion and lifestyle vloggers to take the leap.

The fact is that the stuff that made their Youtube channels popular was all there. In The Sims 4, there were new clothes to try, new makeup to show, new restaurants to experience and plenty of virtual foreign places to explore.

A cringy reality

I noticed some really sad streams, where the host used an uncomfortable wall shelf instead of a desk for gaming/streaming. Where they were unaware that their camera was on or that their microphone was off, that their lighting was terrible or their FPS were lame. Then some of them didn’t know how to handle the controls or built very large concrete boxes instead of real homes for their Sims. Naturally, none of them knew how to interact with the audience properly.

Even though this was a sad thing to watch, what truly frustrated me was the huge numbers of viewers watching. There are plenty of interesting, well-performed streams on Twitch, Mixer, or Youtube that don’t get half the views they deserve.

Some of these streams and videos drew quite a crowd and lead other vloggers to follow their example. Nowadays, Youtube is flooded every day with The Sims 4 videos by popular non-gamer influencers. This drives ads and posts on Twitter, Reddit and Youtube/Google results.

Nowadays, The Sims 4 seems to be everywhere.

The Sims 5 and sharp marketing pencils

In a typically sad EA move, they did once threaten The Sims fanbase by stating that The Sims 5 would never happen if The Sims 4 wasn’t successful. However, and even though it had a rough start with mediocre reviews, The Sims 4 turned out to be a very successful investment. But with 4 DLC expansions to go, EA isn’t going to stop milking its cow and replacing it with a new one anytime soon. The Sims 5 is, for now, just a marketing ploy.

When it comes to marketing, timing is critical …and EA has sharp pencils and minds.
EA cashed-in on the coronavirus unexpected wave of new users and influencers by starting to drip some bits of info regarding The Sims 5, which seems to be in the early stages of development.
In order to cause the most impact, they even started with one of the most anticipated and controversial features: Multiplayer.

There were several Twitter posts that caused some sensation. We’re likely to get more juicy info on The Sims 5 over the coming months.

How has the game changed and how are people playing it today?

Going back to playing The Sims 4 in 2020. I noticed that there’s a surprising amount of new content out there. Not just the official 32 downloadable content packs and expansions, but also the absurd amount of Custom Content created by users.
These mods didn’t just grow in quantity. They also improved their quality significantly over the many years of updates that a stable build of the game provided for.

As a dedicated PC gamer, I love modding my games.
More than adding customization options to my characters, I really enjoy adding new gameplay elements that make the game more realistic, immersive, or complex.

The Sims 4 is fertile ground for great Custom Content.

Some of the best Custom Content like Slice of Life, Meaningful Stories, Live in Business, or even Wicked Whims (18+), truly add a host of new features and allow you to explore multiple new ways of playing the base game.

A new look

I’ve recently started a brand new The Sims 4 household. I’m trying to create a small neighborhood with multiple families living on the same lot (thank you Roommates mod). I’ve also got my own bakery business on the same lot (thank you Live in Business and ATMs). It’s just awesome seeing an empty lot turning into a small venue and meeting new Sims. My Sims have interesting personality traits and awesome jobs, there are gangs, drugs, and violence on my streets and I’ve got a ton of furniture to decorate my house with.

7 years past, the game is fresher and more polished than ever with many many new ways to explore.

The Sims 5 isn’t really around the corner. When it finally gets released, it will likely lack the depth and polish that The Sims 4 offers right now.
The upcoming life simulation contender, Paralives, will be interesting to explore, given the type of customization it provides. But Paralives’s success will be limited by the lower amount of gameplay content provided by years of development and mods currently available in The Sims 4.

Give The Sims 4 a new try!
There has never been a better time to explore this green gem of a game.

If instead, you’re looking to play something fun in multiplayer, check out the awesome Sea of Thieves.

See you in San Myshuno,
-ViLa4480

Red Dead Redemption 2 Online – Moonshine Recipes

Moonshine recipes in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online give you the ability to make your special booze, own your very own speakeasy and earn a lot of money. It’s a fun addition to the world of RDR2 and in this article I’ll be covering all there is to know about RDR2‘s Moonshine Recipes.

If you’re new to this whole moonshiner business thing, you should first read my Guide to Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2.

To make the most of it, I highly recommend that you also check out my previous post – Red Dead Redemption 2 – Moonshiner – How to lower mash prices. It includes all sorts of tips on how to optimize your moonshining business, including Moonshine shack locations, recipes, and strategies for the Bootlegger Missions.

In this post, however, I will simply go over the recipes and ingredients that are required to make the best moonshine.

A cowboy resting in RDR2
This is what happens when your ‘shine is too strong

Add power to your booze!

First things first: upgrade your distillery as soon as you can.
That will increase profit drastically and the distillation takes longer, which allows you to do other stuff in the meantime. Sure, the upgrade costs are steep, but the value you get in return is well worth the investment.

Here’s a rundown of the upgrade costs:

  • Condenser Upgrade: 2 Role Tokens + 825$ + Moonshiner Rank 5
  • Polished Copper Upgrade: 3 Role Tokens + 875$ + Moonshiner Rank 10
Moonshine Shack Décor Upgrades

The best booze recipe!

Booze recipes come in 3 strengths:

  • 1 Star: Weak Moonshine
  • 2 Stars: Average Moonshine
  • 3 Stars: Strong Moonshine

A stronger distillation sells for a higher price.

To make a batch of a more valuable moonshine you need to upgrade your distillery and then gather all the ingredients.
Some recipes only become available by progressing in the Moonshiner role.

Also, keep in mind that buyers change every two hours or so – so you’ll be wise to account for ingredients for different recipes.

Distillation was strong in this one…

Here’s the full list of recipes available

★ Tropical Punch Moonshine

  • Canned Pineapples
  • Vanilla Flower
  • Pear

★ Wild Cider Moonshine

  • Apple
  • Currant
  • Ginseng

★ Berry Mint Moonshine

  • Canned Berries
  • Blackberry
  • Mint

★★ Evergreen Moonshine

  • Evergreen Huckleberry
  • Wintergreen Berry
  • Ginseng

★★ Apple Berry Crumb Moonshine (Bootlegger Story Progress)

  • Apple
  • Blackberry
  • Vanilla Flower

★★ Berry Cobbler Moonshine (Requires Rank 2)

  • Red Raspberry
  • Peach
  • Canned Peaches

★★★ Wild Creek Moonshine (Requires Rank 6)

  • Wild Mint
  • Vanilla Flower
  • Creek Plum

★★★ Spiced Island Moonshine (Requires Rank 12)

  • Caribbean Rum
  • Golden Currant
  • Canned Apricots

★★★ Agarita Sunrise (Complete Bootlegger story)

  • Agarita
  • Canned Strawberries
  • Evergreen Huckleberries

Time is money

Some of these ingredients are available by picking herbs in the game world. However, others are canned fruits or liqueurs and may be harder to find.

Pro tip: many recipe ingredients are buyable via the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue. Rather than the cost, consider them as an investment of …time – as you won’t have to go find them in the game world.

These will allow you to make higher quality moonshine that sells for a LOT more money, which justifies their initial cost.

Always keep a healthy supply of fruits, herbs and liqueurs with you at all times.

Always keep a healthy supply of fruits, herbs, and liqueurs with you at all times. You should guarantee enough fruits and herbs to fulfill two or three 2-star or 3-star recipes.

Simply buy batches of up to 30 cans of fruit and fetch them from the Post Office and try to gather the few remaining ingredients from the game world.

Rise and ‘Shine

You should aim for the more valuable drinks. Namely, the Wild Creek Moonshine, Spiced Island Moonshine, and the Agarita Sunrise whenever possible. Keep this list at hand:

  • Wild Creek Moonshine: Wild Mint, Vanilla Flower, Creek Plum
  • Spiced Island Moonshine: Caribbean Rum, Golden Currant, Canned Apricots
  • Agarita Sunrise: Agarita, Canned Strawberries, Evergreen Huckleberries
RDR2 Moonshine Shack
Moonshine Shack in Lemoyne

Again, keep in mind that some items are buyable via the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue. I highly recommend that you use the Catalogue’s Online version, as it allows you to quickly find your ingredients by using the search functionality.

In the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue you’ll be able to find:

  • Canned Apricots (0.75$)
  • Canned Strawberries (1.20$)
  • Canned Peaches (1.00$)
  • Orchard Apples (0.40$)
  • Canned Berries (1.20$)
  • Canned Pineapples (1.50$)
  • Bartlett Pears (0.65$).

From Madam Nazar’s shop you’ll also be able to buy:

  • Currant
  • Ginseng
  • Caribbean Rum (via collector map)

Other ingredients are rather easy to find:

  • Golden Currant – West of Van Horn, near Kamassa River
  • Red Raspberry – South East of Stillwater Creek
  • Vanilla Flower – South East of Lake Lagras
  • Wild Mint – South West of Valentine, near the river
  • Wintergreen Berry – North of Brandywine Drop

In order to find these items more easily, consider using JeanRopke’s RDOMap.

The elusive Poison Poppy recipe

There’s one other recipe that I purposely avoided talking about in this article. The reason is simple: it is difficult to understand how to make it and find its ingredients. I will attempt to clarify this topic:

In one of the Moonshine Story missions, you are required to brew a vial of Poison Poppy. However, you don’t get to keep the recipe for this drink. In order to unlock the Poison Poppy recipe, you must first find a recipe pamphlet. There are multiple locations where this spawns.

Try to find a small moonshine operation camp in one of these locations. Go there at night to easily spot the campfire.

Credit: Fun2, Tez

Look for the recipe inside the camp’s chest. Once you have read the pamphlet (in your satchel), gather the following ingredients:

  1. Oleander Sage
  2. Prairie Poppy
  3. Absinthe

Go back to your Moonshine Shack and it should now be available.
This recipe is harder to find, but it is worth 247$, like the most valuable ones. If you’re having trouble, check out GTAO W’s video.

Don’t forget to optimize your Moonshine business by following my tips at my other post – Red Dead Redemption 2 – Moonshiner – How to lower mash prices.

Let me know in the comments section if this guide was valuable!
-ViLa4480

Marcel the Cook Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Online Moonshiners

Red Dead Redemption 2 – Moonshiner – How to lower mash prices

How to lower mash prices in RDR2

Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2 can be a surprisingly profitable business. There are ways to increase revenue and reduce costs (to lower mash prices and even save on supplies). Some up-start investment may be required.

But before I give you a couple of tips, if you’re on the fence on whether to start moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2, let me start by saying that it is a rather fun profession to explore. There are plenty of missions to do and they feel quite varied. Playing with friends also seems to increase the number of available bootlegger missions.

Becoming a moonshiner in RDR2 will also allow you to purchase some fancy clothes and items. However, it is the money aspect that most players are after.

Okay, so how do I lower mash prices in RDR2?

Straight to the point: in order to lower mash prices, all you have to do is to accept Bootlegger missions from Maggie. Talk to her and hold the R key.

RDR2 Maggie
Maggie will guide you through the Moonshiner life

Be aware that there’s a 15-minute timer between missions, during which you’re unable to do another one.
Sometimes Maggie isn’t there, or she’s stuck in an animation sequence – in which case you should go out of the moonshine shack, give it some time and then go back in again. If this becomes a repeating issue, try using my new tool that helps you optimize CPU performance. Its called RDR2 Launch Argument Composer Tool

Bootlegger Missions

By doing Bootlegger missions, you will eventually be able to lower the cost of producing alcohol significantly. As an example, you will be able to lower the 30$ mash cost down to 10$.
This is most noticeable when you upgrade your distillery to be able to produce stronger moonshine. Stronger moonshine requires more time and mash to produce. Instead of paying 30$ per mash dosage, you’ll be paying 50$. The upside is that stronger moonshine sells for a LOT more money. Depending on the quality of the ingredients you’re using, you could sell a batch of booze for up to 247$ per trip. Doing Bootlegger missions also earns you plenty of collectibles, since you’ll be fighting Revenue agents and rival moonshiners that have plenty of expensive items and ammo to loot.

One may argue that the time it takes to do the Bootlegger mission isn’t worth the 20$ discount on mash prices. However, the loot you get from all those revenue agent bodies is worth it in the long run. It earns you special bullets, antique liqueurs, and gold watches, which makes it all much more profitable.

Making the most of your Moonshiner role means optimizing your business in the long run. I highly recommend you check out my additional suggestions on how to make the most of the Moonshiner role:

Oh, and if you would like a detailed overview of the Moonshiner role, Bootlegger mission tips, as well as some other ideas on how to make the best use of this new content, make sure you check out my other postA Guide to Moonshining in RDR2 (my most popular post EVER!).

The best Moonshine Shack Location

RDR2 Moonshine Shack
Moonshine Shack in Lemoyne

Location, location, location

Start by considering where you’ll be placing your Moonshiner shack.
Keep in mind that if you’ve already bought the Moonshine shack, you can talk to Maggie to move it somewhere else for 250$.

It may, at first glance, seem irrelevant or hard to figure out the pros and cons of each location. Here are your options:

  1. Bayou Nwa (Lemoyne)
  2. Grizzlies (Ambarino)
  3. Hennigan’s Stead (New Austin)
  4. The Heartlands (New Hanover)
  5. Tall Trees (West Elizabeth)

So let me give you some perspective: Some locations are easier to access. Some are safer or quicker to traverse. It all pays (literally) in the long run.

I’ve seen a lot of players debating this topic, but none seem to ever have mentioned what I consider to be crucial when picking a location. RDR2 will have other businesses coming out in the near future. Making sure that all your businesses are close together is key to maximizing profits over time by reducing trip lengths.
We may not know exactly what other businesses are coming, but we may have an idea of where Rockstar is going with their updates and try to guess their new business locations.

Upcoming specialist roles in RDR2?

Rockstar has confirmed that they are interested in seeing more roles arriving in RDR2. They are also considering expanding the playable map, which allows new roles to become feasible.

Grand Theft Auto V Online has always surprised players with their extensive expansions. There are lots of new varied businesses, each with their own missions, upgrades, and perks. But all of them required a physical location to use them.
Rockstar did that again with the Trader and Moonshiner roles in Red Dead Redemption 2. Bounty Hunter and Collector roles don’t require a player-controlled HQ or shack, but they do rely on the Sheriff’s office’s Bounty Board and Madam Nazar’s traveling wagon to operate.

Marcel the Cook Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Online Moonshiners
Marcel the Cook

Rockstar seems to be extremely creative when coming up with stuff to do. Let’s see what the community comes up with – here are some community-suggested roles and activities:

  • Rancher
  • Farmer
  • Horse Tamer/Breeder
  • Miner / Hauler
  • Herbalist
  • Bank robbing
  • Monster hunting
  • Chariot robbing
  • Train robbing
  • Photographer
  • Sheriff
  • Pleasure giver

Here are my 6 additions:

  • Cook
  • Gold miner (panning on a river)
  • Miner (in the mines)
  • Funerary services
  • River trader (transporting goods on a ship)
  • Army Mercenary

These ideas are not that wild. Most use gameplay mechanics already in place or easy to add to the game. If Rockstar decides to add any of these roles, they will likely either require a large plot of land, being close to a town, or a brand new map expansion.

Where will the new roles appear?

They will try to pepper the map with new interactive locations, but the far reaches of the map or the most rugged terrain areas tend to become less populated (like the snowy Ambarino regions up north and the Grizzlies to the East). Most of the coastal regions have towns that tend to be crowded and hard to navigate in. The far West towns (Armadillo, Tumbleweed), even though they do feature some mines, are way too barren to be expected that they grow with many new industries.

RDR2 Transporting Moonshine

This leaves us the center core of the map as a prime region for placing role buildings. from the Tall Trees region to the west, most of the New Hannover area, and the non-swampy parts of Scarlett Meadows.

Being at the center also provides you with more options for expansion as every new location option should be close enough.

Van Horn, Annesburg, Tumbleweed, Armadillo, Strawberry, Valentine, and Rodes, all lack either a butcher or a tailor. Both very important requirements for a very practical town.

This is the reason why Blackwater is my favorite town.

Blackwater has most of the stores that you may ever require. It’s small enough that it’s easy to navigate in. It is also very easy to reach via the Great Plains (an amazing hunting ground). Blackwater is also a coastal town with two rivers nearby and it features a Fast Travel post and a bounty board at a convenient location. It doesn’t have a railway line, but it is close to a military fort. No tricky swamps or cliffs to fall and lose your cargo.

All things considered, when choosing a Moonshine shack location, these two would be my ordered best picks:

  1. Tall Trees (West Elizabeth)
  2. The Heartlands (New Hanover)

The Tall Trees region is beautiful and brimming with wildlife. It is easy to transport goods across the Great Plains and to avoid enemies, players and roads entirely. It is also near other areas of potential future interest such as MacFarlane’s ranch, or Thieve’s Landing.
To make the most of it, set your trader camp in the Tall Trees or Great Plains region and supply Cripps while waiting for the booze to be ready for delivery.

How to increase profit when making Moonshine

Some of this information is also covered in my latest special article Red Dead Redemption 2 Online – Moonshine Recipes. It also includes info on how to get the elusive Poison Poppy recipe pamphlet!

There are two ways to increase profit.
Improve your distillery to make stronger moonshine and improve the quality of your recipe.

Add power to your booze!

I highly recommend upgrading your distillery as soon as you may, as it increases profit and the distillation takes longer which allows you to do other stuff meanwhile.

  • Condenser: 2 Role Tokens + 825$ + Moonshiner Rank 5
  • Polished Copper: 3 Role Tokens + 875$ + Moonshiner Rank 10

The best booze recipe!

Booze recipes come in 3 types:

  • 1 Star: Weak Moonshine
  • 2 Stars: Average Moonshine
  • 3 Stars: Strong Moonshine

To make stronger moonshine, all you have to do is to have the right ingredients when you’re picking your flavor. Keep in mind that some recipes are unlocked by progressing in the Moonshiner role. Buyers change every two hours or so – so you’re best going for different recipes each time.

Here’s the full list of recipes available

★ Tropical Punch Moonshine

  • Canned Pineapples
  • Vanilla Flower
  • Pear

★ Wild Cider Moonshine

  • Apple
  • Currant
  • Ginseng

★ Berry Mint Moonshine

  • Canned Berries
  • Blackberry
  • Mint

★★ Evergreen Moonshine

  • Evergreen Huckleberry
  • Wintergreen Berry
  • Ginseng

★★ Apple Berry Crumb Moonshine (Bootlegger Story Progress)

  • Apple
  • Blackberry
  • Vanilla Flower

★★ Berry Cobbler Moonshine (Requires Rank 2)

  • Red Raspberry
  • Peach
  • Canned Peaches

★★★ Wild Creek Moonshine (Requires Rank 6)

  • Wild Mint
  • Vanilla Flower
  • Creek Plum

★★★ Spiced Island Moonshine (Requires Rank 12)

  • Caribbean Rum
  • Golden Currant
  • Canned Apricots

★★★ Agarita Sunrise (Complete Bootlegger story)

  • Agarita
  • Canned Strawberries
  • Evergreen Huckleberries

There’s also the secretive but very profitable Poison Poppy recipe, for which you will find in-depth info on how to get it here.

Some of these ingredients are available by picking herbs in the game world. However, others are canned or liqueurs and harder to get.

So here’s my tip: many recipe ingredients are actually buyable via the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue. They’re not that expensive and they will allow you to make higher quality moonshine that sells for a LOT more money.

Always keep a healthy supply of fruits, herbs and liqueurs with you at all times.

Always keep a healthy supply of fruits, herbs, and liqueurs with you at all times. You should guarantee enough fruits and herbs to fulfill two or three 2-star or 3-star recipes. I usually buy batches of up to 30 cans and fetch them from the post office whenever I need them.

That being said, you should aim for the most valuable drinks. Namely the Wild Creek Moonshine, Spiced Island Moonshine, and the Agarita Sunrise whenever possible.

  • Wild Creek Moonshine: Wild Mint, Vanilla Flower, Creek Plum
  • Spiced Island Moonshine: Caribbean Rum, Golden Currant, Canned Apricots
  • Agarita Sunrise: Agarita, Canned Strawberries, Evergreen Huckleberries

Again, keep in mind that some items are buyable via the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue. I highly recommend you use the Catalogue’s Online version, as it allows you to quickly find your ingredients by using the search functionality.

In the Wheeler Rawson Catalogue you’ll be able to find:

  • Canned Apricots (0.75$)
  • Canned Strawberries (1.20$)
  • Canned Peaches (1.00$)
  • Orchard Apples (0.40$)
  • Canned Berries (1.20$)
  • Canned Pineapples (1.50$)
  • Bartlett Pears (0.65$).

From Madam Nazar’s shop you’ll also be able to buy:

  • Currant
  • Ginseng
  • Caribbean Rum (via collector map)

Other ingredients are rather easy to find:

  • Golden Currant – West of Van Horn, near Kamassa River
  • Red Raspberry – South East of Stillwater Creek
  • Vanilla Flower – South East of Lake Lagras
  • Wild Mint – South West of Valentine, near the river
  • Wintergreen Berry – North of Brandywine Drop

How to minimize losses

Once your booze is ready you will have to deliver your batch to a local buyer. When delivering your moonshine, make sure you stick to the road at a medium-fast pace.

Going off-road will guaranteedly break your bottles and your profit will take a toll. I highly recommend using the cinematic camera (V) and then control the vehicle’s speed using Shift or Ctrl.

RDR2 Transporting Moonshine

I don’t usually stop at the Revenue Agent’s roadblocks. There are a couple of reasons why I don’t do that:

Sometimes they won’t stop you at all. If you stop, there’s a very low chance that they let you pass unharmed. Their shots damage your cargo but only slightly. It is much more dangerous to the integrity of your cargo to go off-road.

If you’re being chased, you’re best served by slowing down your vehicle, kill them and then proceed with your trip. Going too fast will likely send you off-track. Stopping will consume time and their bullets will start to hit you.

I’ve seen players kill the revenue agents before they reach the roadblock. But the truth is that you’ll be fighting a lot more agents than you really need to – and in this business, time is money. Just go past them as fast as you can without going off-road or breaking your bottles. You may also want to experiment with the Toxic Moonshine bottles thrown at the roadblock Revenue agents, although I think it might be too expensive to do so every time they show up.

Closing thoughts

Moonshining is a fun specialist role to experience. It certainly earns you quite a bit of money – and you’re able to go hunt or do other stuff while you wait for your next batch of booze to be ready. However, some argue that the bootlegger missions are pointless, as the 20$ savings don’t justify the time cost of doing them. On the other hand, revenue agents tend to carry pretty good loot and collectibles. Thus, in order to justify your time, make sure to always go for their loot!

Keep this page and its useful hints at hand!

If you’re new to this business I highly recommend you check out my other in-detail post called A Guide to Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2 in which I share a bunch of other useful tips.

Oh and check out my new tool that allows you to optimize your game – RDR2 Launch Argument Composer tool.

If this article helped you, let me know in the comments section below!
Which other specialist roles would you like to see?

Stay WANTED for life!
– Rui Sampaio AKA ViLa4480

Battlefield Update 6.0 Miasaki Yamashiro

Battlefield V – Update 6.0 Launched Today – See what’s new!

Battlefield V‘s Update 6.0 moves the war forward and into the jungle.

Moving further away from the ruins of Europe, it also leads us closer to the end of the war. Nevertheless, DICE mentioned it has plenty of content to deliver until mid-2021. The latest update was featured in Battlefield V’s latest teaser trailer.

DICE just recently released patch notes for their latest update. The free expansion features a brand new map, a bunch of new weapons and a new elite commander, Misaki Yamashiro.

Battlefield Update 6.0 Misaki Yamashiro
Battlefield V – Elite Commander Misaki Yamashiro

The new Battlefield V update is now available for download, but it will only go live next Thursday, February 6, at 9AM GMT.
PS4 and Xbox updates will go live 1 and 2 hours later respectively.

Welcome to the Jungle

The new Battlefield map takes inspiration from the Solomon Islands. It features a river that runs across the whole map. As expected, it includes plenty of choke points and close-quarters action.
The new map will be available on Conquest, Squad Conquest, Breakthrough and Team Deathmatch.

The update also brings a crate of brand new old weapons, including the Type-11 LMB, Model 37 Shotgun, M2 Carbine, and the M1A1 Bazooka.

A new suicidal Lunge Mine is also expected. Lunge Mines are literally bombs on a stick that you use to banzai-charge tanks – hopefully harming them and certainly killing yourself.

Further updates incoming

DICE has announced that they expect to release a bunch more fixes, balances and even new content in the coming months. Two new elite commanders are expected later in the chapter. Update 6.2 will also feature a considerable change to weapon balancing.

Tank customization seems to have been progressing steadily with the latest teaser trailer which featured a tank with a “Coming Soon” text and an American flag.

Battlefield 5 Tank Customization Teaser
Battlefield 5 Tank Customization Teaser

My thoughts on the new update

This is my own personal viewpoint.

I love playing Battlefield games. I certainly do enjoy Battlefield V – but somehow, it feels like its getting less and less enjoyable by the day.

Maybe I’m getting old, but even though many players seem to really enjoy game modes such as “Grind”, I find them extremely chaotic and tactic-less. Personally I prefer matches where intelligence plays a part. Where you can make use of the map’s scale and try to outsmart and flank your enemy.

Unfortunately (for me), maps seem to be getting more and more focused on close-quarters combat, even when their scale is enormous. New weapons seem to be faster, more deadly and less precise. The age of long-range hunts is at an end.

Battlefield 5 Jungle Update 6.0
Battlefield 5 – In the Jungle, the mighty Jungle…

The new update brings even more of this with the new choke points, new shotgun and even the Lunge Mine that prevents tanks from pushing into enemy territory. Coward tank pilots are definitely NOT something we need in this game.

Because of this, and even though I appreciate any new content, I’m shrugging at the sight of the new update.

Do you feel like there’s something strange going on with Battlefield V? Check out my other post!

See you on the battlefield,
-ViLa4480

RDR 2 Online Poker Table

Red Dead Redemption 2 Online – How to play Poker?

Red Dead Redemption 2 Poker – not for everyone

Would you like to play Poker with your posse on Red Dead Redemption 2 Online? Well, you might be out of luck. Not everyone is allowed.

…But is there a way around it?

This isn’t the first time Rockstar cashed out on players.

A sad day for GTA V

GTA-Online-Casino-Exterior
GTA V Online Diamond Casino Exterior

6 months ago Rockstar surprised a lot of players by launching an update to Grand Theft Auto 5. It featured the eagerly awaited Diamond Casino Spa & Resort in Los Santos. Unfortunately, the seats at this casino’s tables were not available to everyone.

Many players were facing issues when attempting to use the casino’s chips, tables or slots. Rockstar did not release any information regarding this issue which made players think it was a bug of sorts. It appeared like there was a connection issue – but nothing mentioned that gambling was disabled for certain players.

Rockstar was blocking players from certain countries

The restrictions were unclear and apparently unreasonable. Some countries have strict legislation against gambling and were able to access Rockstar’s casino games.
Now, I live in Portugal. We have a ton of casinos and gambling halls in our country. Plenty of online sports betting websites. Pokerstars and mobile gambling. There’s even state-endorsed gambling available and yet we’re unable to access the Diamond Casino games in Grand Theft Auto 5. Meanwhile, our friends over in Spain who have pretty much the same regulations as we do, have no issues playing at GTA V‘s online casino.

It is kind of sad that some players get free items, free content to play with and all sorts of activities that many others are prevented from accessing altogether.

This is even more ridiculous if you consider the fact that you can’t even cash-out the money you earn. It’s all virtual. It isn’t really a gambling addiction problem, just a regulatory one.
In GTA V you do have the option to buy GTA$, but you can’t convert it into real money. However, in RDR 2 Online, you can’t even buy $ – only gold, which is a very different currency.

Here’s a list of countries unable to gamble in GTA 5‘s online casino, according to Reddit user SlapshotTommy:

Afghanistan
Algeria
American Samoa
Argentina
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bhutan
Bosnia Herzg.
Belarus
Brunei
Cambodia
Cayman Islands
China
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Ecuador
Greece
Iceland
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Libya
Liechtenstein
Luxembourg
Maldives
Mali
Mauritania
Malta
Malaysia
North Korea
Oman
Paraguay
Peru
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
South Africa
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Syria
Taiwan
Thailand
Tuvalu
UAE
Vietnam
Venezuela

Red Dead Redemption 2 Poker? Same thing, different game

RDR 2 online Poker Table
RDR 2 Online Poker Table

I like playing Poker. It’s fun and relaxing and a great way to socialize and meet new people.

One of the reasons why I bought RDR 2 was because Poker was a thing. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun to play against other players online.
There aren’t that many 3D Poker games out there since PKR was terminated a few years ago, so I thought this would be great fun.

Apparently I was wrong.
I was not going to be allowed to play Poker in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online. I’m guessing Blackjack won’t work either, even if you’re just playing against an NPC like in singleplayer…

Rockstar does not inform RDR 2 players properly

I’m a PC player. I missed the news that this was an issue back in May 2019, when it first came up to the PS4 and XBOX players.

In fact, I thought that this was not yet implemented. Until yesterday, when a random player approached me in role-playing style. He asked me if I would like to play poker with him.
I laughed and said that I would love to – but that the only way to play Poker right now is the singleplayer game mode. Then he replied that he had been playing with his mates.

I was confused.

Rockstar did not release any info regarding this topic. There’s no contextual info or error message. Nothing. You can see the NPCs playing by themselves, but there’s no interaction button or error message.

The reality is that they’re hiding content to avoid complaints. In a way it kind of angers me more that they hide this content instead of informing players in-game that the content isn’t available for players in their specific region.

How to play Poker in RDR 2 if you’re excluded?

RDR 2 Online Poker Table
RDR 2 Online Poker Table

The answer is simple. Go live somewhere where your IP isn’t blocked by Rockstar… or get an IP from a different country instead.

VPN networks seem to have been working as a great workaround for players in GTA V wanting to play at the casino. This isn’t a cheat, this isn’t a mod. Now, the question is:

  • Will Rockstar ban you for using a VPN? Unlikely.
  • Is it possible they will? Sure.
  • Is it reasonable to do it? Nope.
  • Is Rockstar known for being reasonable at anything… ever? Nope.

Alternatively, play in singleplayer mode. Boring. I know.

Cashing out.

I can’t understand Rockstar’s criteria for picking certain countries, but not others.
The lack of info regarding this topic as if it wasn’t an issue at all is ridiculous.
I won’t accept that they would advertise something that really isn’t available at all.

Rockstar is weird when it comes to gambling. I sure will remember that the next time I avoid buying a game with that feature.

I won’t see you at the Poker table,
-ViLa4480

Microsoft Flight Simulator plane

Snow is falling in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020!

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
A Winter Wonderland!

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Will we have vortex snow in the cockpit?

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Will the whole world be covered in snow?

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.

Second on my list of requested features is geological and extreme weather effects, like volcanoes, tornadoes, forest fires, geysers, etc. I mentioned this on my Reddit post a while back.

Third would be crew and passenger flight models and sounds. I just feel like flying an empty plane feels… empty! Something that Star Citizen aims to tackle with their passenger transport roles.

Fourth would be Multiplayer shared cockpit. Because it would allow me to introduce my non-flight-fan friends to flight sims!

How about snow piling up on the wings?

Anyways, I’m sure we’ll have another video explaining their snow coverage technology very soon – and I’ll be here to review it for you guys!

What other features would you like to see in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020?

Oh and go check out my other post on Microsoft Flight Simulator and how Flight Sims landed on me!

Clear Skies!
-ViLa4480

A Guide to Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2

How to moonshine in Red Dead Redemption 2

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.

Want to know how to increase revenue and lower mash costs?

If you’re reading this article, looking for info on how to reduce mash costs in RDR2, please know that this article details all aspects of moonshining – including how to lower mash costs. However, you should definitely check out my other specialist post as well. It focuses not only on ways to reduce mash prices, but also on how to improve revenue via other means.

Improve your game with the new Launch Argument Composer

Let me also share a free tool that I’ve developed recently. It helps you set up Launch Arguments to improve graphics, performance and help with bugs, crashes, stuttering, etc.
Go check it out at this page: PopcornGamer’s Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Argument Composer.

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 tipsy!
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

Before you start, please keep in mind that you need to rank up your Trader role to rank 5, or at least completed a sale.

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.

Maggie will pack your bar when you’re not looking

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.

Marcel the Cook Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Online Moonshiners
Meet Marcel the Cook

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 247$. 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!

Just another beautiful day in the West

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.

Possible locations for the lockboxes in the first part of Where There’s Smoke There’s Firewater

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.

Arriving at the camp using the wagon avoids detection

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.

Shoot the dynamite instead of lighting the fuse!

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

A trip from Annesburg to Van Horn should be easy, right?

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.

Hixon, the moronic hick

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.

We must be vewy vewy quiet… shhhh!!

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.

BA-DA-BOOM!

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.

Inferno at the swamp

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

“Bootlegger” missions are available from Maggie. These represent simpler-than-storyline-missions that also help you lower mash prices.

The lighting effects in RDR2 are phenomenal.

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)

The original Reddit post is available right here.

Moonshiners in Red Dead Redemption 2 will require swag.

Moonshine & Economy – Red Dead Redemption 2

Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2

Moonshiners Red Dead Redemption 2
Moonshiners Red Dead Redemption 2

It’s official! You will be Moonshining in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online very soon. Starting on the 13th of December with the new Frontier Pursuit update.

Moonshine? Owning a speakeasy?

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.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Moonshine
Let the Moonshiner Operation begin!

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!

Moonshiners in Red Dead Redemption 2 will require swag.
Moonshiners in Red Dead Redemption 2 will require swag.

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

Meet Maggie. She will pack your speakeasy and move it somewhere else when you’re not looking.

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.

Moonshine Red Dead Redemption 2

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?

Leave me a comment below this post!

Meanwhile, check out my recent posts on fixing CPU, Lag and widescreen fixes for Red Dead Redemption 2, or my latest one on whether to avoid or embrace Star Citizen!

I’ll find you at sunset,
-ViLa4480

Star Citizen Black Hole

Star Citizen – One game to avoid or one to embrace?

…and will Star Citizen ever be delivered?

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.

I used to stream Star Citizen all the time on Twitch (you will make me smile if you go follow my channel right now!).

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 Cockpit
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.

Star Citizen FPS Mining

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?

890 Jump
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 CitizenFreelancer, 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“.

Star Citizen Pay to Win Youtube Video

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:

  1. To support the game development process if you believe in it
  2. 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?

Star Citizen Cockpit

COMPLAINT #3 – The game is too expensive!

You’ll often see news titles like “Player X has spent over 15.000$ to play Star Citizen“, or “Star Citizen’s new ship pack costs an absurd amount of money

Today, the cheapest game package costs 50$.

A few years ago you could buy one for 26$…

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!

Banu Merchantman

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 Citizen has 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.

Feature Creep

Star Citizen Drake Dragonfly
Drake Dragonfly – hover bike

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 medical

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.

Star Citizen Tumbril Ranger Bike
Tumbril Ranger Bike

Drinking Mojitos

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!

My concern

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 as financially 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.

Eclipsing thoughts

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!

I just made a new post on the economy of Red Dead Redemption 2 that analyzes Star Citizen’s economy layout. Go check it out!

See you in the ‘verse!
-ViLa4480

A cowboy resting in RDR2

Red Dead Redemption 2 – Fix CPU Lag, Disconnects

Welcome to the Wild […LAG SPIKE…] West!

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)

ALERT: You have been disconnected from Red Dead Online due to a fault on Rockstar game services (Error: 0x20010006)
This is the error many players are getting because of poor CPU/GPU performance

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.

How to fix stuttering, disconnects, and performance with Launch Arguments

Before following through this post for more in-depth fixes, check out a tool I developed to help you set up Red Dead Redemption 2 launch arguments. One of the sections on that tool is specific to performance. It also helps with graphics, bugs, stuttering, etc.

Go check it out at this page: PopcornGamer’s Unofficial Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Argument Composer.

If it helps you, let me know!

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):

-cpuLoadRebalancing

Red Dead Redemption 2
Don’t forget the “-“!

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 are the CPU and I’m giving you a paper which says 3+5=?. Easy. Right?

Red Dead Redemption 2

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 your RAM. 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 your DISK.

Slowing down to a halt

Okay, so my CPU isn’t the best.
I’ve been using it for a few years now and it is starting to feel the weight of age with heavier processes and games.
GTA V was also very CPU intensive. I also love flight simulators which also consume a TON of CPU capacity. I’m really looking forward to the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. You have got to check it out. It is absgorgeously beautiful.

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.

Red Dead Redemption 2
The tabs are in Portuguese, but notice how RDR2 chews up so much CPU!
I’ve opened up a folder on Windows Explorer and it consumes 7% CPU just for laying there!

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

Red Dead Redemption 2 Lasso

I’ve been using Process Lasso recently.

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!

In conclusion…

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.

I play RDR2 in an Ultra Wide resolution. See how.

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!

Stay WANTED for life!
-ViLa4480

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 – Fix Ultra-Wide Resolution

Extend your ride into the sunset!

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.

How to set triple-screen ultra-wide 5760x1080 on Red Dead Redemption 2
Click for a higher resolution.

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.

In this post, I’ll be going over several ways to fixing your screen resolution.
Please consider this a repository of suggestions. I can’t promise that they’ll all currently fix the issue, but they have worked in the past. Give it a try and let us know which one worked for you!

How to fix ultra-wide surround screen resolutions the easy way with Launch Arguments

Before following through this post for more in-depth fixes, check out a tool I developed to help you set up Red Dead Redemption 2 launch arguments. One of the sections on that tool is specific to screen resolutions. It also helps with performance, bugs, stuttering, etc.

Go check it out at this page: PopcornGamer’s Unofficial Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Argument Composer.

If it helps you, let me know!

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!

A couple of years ago I posted a video on Youtube explaining how to make GTA V work at 5760×1080. Guessing that the engine was the same I thought about doing the same on my blog, but this time regarding Red Dead Redemption 2.

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

How to set triple-screen ultra-wide 5760x1080 on Red Dead Redemption 2

In my computer this is located at:
C:/Users/[windows username]/Rockstar Games/Red Dead Redemption 2/Settings/system.xml

In this file, down at the bottom, you’ll find:

<video>
    <adapterIndex value="0" />
    <outputIndex value="0" />
    <resolutionIndex value="14" />
    <screenWidth value="5760" />
    <screenHeight value="1080" />
    <refreshRateIndex value="0" />
    <refreshRateNumerator value="50000" />
    <refreshRateDenominator value="1000" />
    <windowed value="2" />
    <vSync value="0" />
    <tripleBuffered value="false" />
    <pauseOnFocusLoss value="true" />
    <constrainMousePointer value="false" />
  </video>

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.

How to set triple-screen ultra-wide 5760x1080 on Red Dead Redemption 2
The cowboy rests.

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

-allowResizeWindow

…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.

How to fix the UI being displaced or stretched

Some players might be able to set their screen resolution correctly, but the UI elements (the map, the menus) might show off-center, displaced or distorted. To fix this, you may want to try using -noDPIAdjust in your command line arguments list.
A special thank you to one of our users, Jon, who shared this solution by another player who helped him, NorbzFR.

You’re done!

Now bask in the glorious landscapes that this game has to offer.
They look absurdly beautiful at a 3840×1080 or even 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!

Stay WANTED for life,
-ViLa4480

GTA-Online-Casino-Exterior

Not everyone is allowed to play at the new GTA Online Casino

GTA Online – Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase.

ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to:

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.

GTA Online Casino
GTA Online Casino

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.

ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to:

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.

Nope. She ain’t givin’ you no moneys.

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

So frustrating!

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.

GTA-Online-Casino-Exterior

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*

If, like me, you’re not able to play at the Casino, check out my post on How I became an Undead Pirate in Sea of Thieves. A fun read. I promise. And you won’t lose any chips.

Alternatively, you may also want to check out my Twitch channel and join me playing this and other games!

I’ll see you in Los Santos (but not at the Casino),
-ViLa4480

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

What to expect of Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1982

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!

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

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.

Beauty matters.

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

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 Flight Simulator Screenshot

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

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!

Answer in the comments below!

Oh! And make sure you check out my previous post on Microsoft Flight Simulator and how flight sims landed on me!

Clear skies everyone!
-ViLa4480

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Microsoft Flight Simulator and how Flight Sims landed on me

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!

It hurts to look at… Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

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).

X-Plane Orbx
When you can’t afford a passenger seat – X-Plane 11 + Orbx

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 sim War 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.

War Thunder – Those trees are moving way too fast!

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.

DCS
DCS

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 mods to 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.

A photo of the Douro Valley – I’ll take a screenie later on!

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.

X-Plane Photorealistic
X-Plane + Orbx

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 boxes out there!

Add to that the mandatory joystick and the processor and graphics card upgrades – and now your wallet cries.

BBJSimRacing Buttonbox

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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

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!

Steel Division 2

Steel Division 2 – A battle too far

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.

Fighting time

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.

One-man army

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.

Afterwind

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. 

Popcorn Score:

I’ll see you on the battlefield!
-ViLa4480


Tropico 6

Tropico 6 – Guess Who’s Back!

The red carpet is set, the people have been groomed, the rebels silenced.
All is ready for your speech, El Presidente!

With Anno 1800 on the very near horizon, Tropico 6 has just released.

With its unique serious-but-silly tone, Tropico 6 sets itself apart from other city-building and management games.

Take a vacation from the polluted, traffic-ridden, industrial metropolises in Simcity or the cold and way-too-clean streets of Cities: Skylines.

Come to Tropico.
Now! -Or else.

Welcome to Tropico!

Eyes in the skies to “protect” your people!

If you’re new to Tropico, let me explain why you need to try it out:
‘Dictatorship is just a rude label.
You have been divinely appointed to guide your people… but now you need to stay in power. By any means necessary.

Things get trickier over time, as each and every decision you make tips the 8-sided scale of your people’s support towards a certain faction. If you appease the communists with a shiny new school, the capitalists will surely dislike the costs it imposes on your budget and might even rebel.
Ah… do not worry Mr. El Presidente, bribery is still an option, and there’s plenty of jail cells available in your island!

Draw tourists to your beautiful nuclear powerplant!

The game becomes more and more complex as you play it. It steadily grows the number of actions you’re able to perform, the number of buildings available to build, and the number of factions present. This level-up scalability keeps things fresh and interesting, even for experienced players.

Shiny, sweaty engines & bananas

The landmark game in the city-building genre has a brand new game engine – and it looks amazing. It allows for even prettier graphics, which have always been key to the Tropico series.

This is Tropico 6 – the banana-republic simulator!

One of its major improvements is the new archipelagoes system.
El Presidente is now able to expand his godly benevolence to nearby islands.
This new iteration also adds true multiplayer features. There might be some concerns over saving 4h-long multiplayer games. However, the prospect of having an archipelago run by several dictators with different ideologies is quite thrilling.

A lot of the game has changed but the essence is still there. You get to run a beautiful Caribbean island whilst struggling with famine, poverty, explosive cigars, religion, rebellions, allegiance to foreign superpowers and rivalry with Caribbean neighbors. You are still able to turn your island into a religious commune or a capitalistic intellectual haven.

Why bother making new landmarks when you can steal them instead?

The introduction of world landmarks (that actually serve a purpose), raids, and the expanded trade options feel like all previous Tropico DLCs have been added to this new game for free. It also seems like it has plenty of room for new, solid, expansions.

The combat system is still bad, as it has always been in the series, but they’ve added plenty of new buildings, factions, and abilities, which keeps things interesting.

Final speech

Tropico 6 does not set itself apart from the series.
We wouldn’t want that anyway – but it does a few things very well.

The game is really fun to play and explore. New and experienced players will enjoy the type of complexity and progression it provides – and it feels like a substantial upgrade to previous iterations of the Tropico series, without changing its core concepts. Even though it seems like there’s a bit of “soul” missing to the game, it still gets my vote and I can’t wait to play more.

Popcorn Score:

5/5 Pops – a solid score for a solid game that orders you to go play it. Now.

If you enjoy this soviet-era funny-but-not-so-funny approach, you might be interested in checking Papers, Please: The Short Film! Go check it out now!

If instead you would prefer to support this blog and get Tropico 6 at a discount price, buy it through here!

I’ll see you at my speech,
-ViLa “El Prez” 4480

Between The Stars – A Space Oddity

Between the Stars is an odd game. In a good way!

We’re talking about a new successful Kickstarter campaign. It raised almost 38.000$ for the indie game dev studio Isolated Games in Barcelona. It is scheduled to be released in Q1 (maybe Q2) 2019.

This game set in space is actually an RPG hybrid with roguelike, management and shooter aspects.

Following the story of an experienced captain who just lost his/her ship, your objective is to upgrade your ship and crew, make decisions, convince others to join your cause and, obviously, fight the baddies.

The RPG aspects of the game have been reinforced with dialogue choices that actually matter and …dice throwing. -I know. Throwing dice in space is funny.

A space oddity

To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out where to start my analysis for this game. It is so different from other games that it becomes hard to pick a corner to start unveiling it.
At the same time, it shares similarities with so many “very” different space games like Star Citizen, Freelancer, X4: Foundations, Fractured Space, Avorion or FTL.

Your path through the stars

Something I love about space games is the inevitability of movement. You’re always going somewhere doing some thing – and the way game devs mimic the movement of a large ship truly enthuses me. I love feeling the (weightless) weight of a large ship moving slowly and sometimes carelessly through an asteroid field.

Oh, by the way check out my post on Sea of Thieves! You’ll understand where my poor space sailing skills come from!

Even though Between the Stars focuses on combat between medium-sized ships, it does that very well. It is not that easy to fight in an asteroid field and you’ll notice that it almost feels like you’re commandeering a real sea ship instead of a space combat fighter.

This somehow adds glimmer to that special Enterprise feel of exploring space and interacting with other crews – which happens often. Combat can be dangerous and …unnecessary.

As expected, they’ve added space stations and planets where you’re able to dock, trade, repair and interact with quest givers. Crew combat is also possible against other ships and it relies strongly on dice throws and crew experience.

To boldly go somewhere

You never really know where the game will lead you to next – you get to interact with other ship crews, explore abandoned shipwrecks or delve into dangerous uncharted territory. Your choices on how to approach these events are critical as they will affect the outcome of the situation.

When exploring an abandoned ship stranded in space I came face to face with a beserk A.I. in critical defense mode. It was trying to protect the ship’s components from intruders.

I felt like my poor choice of words mattered. Even though I knew the final outcome was likely going to be similar since it was still an early mission.

The fact that the game tries to present itself as unique in each playthrough is very refreshing as it does so gracefully.

Procedurally generated space, crews and events work well with the space theme, since you truly feel like an explorer in an unscripted universe.

Here’s a notice to the general public: please stop comparing procedural games to No Man’s Sky. Don’t take one bad marketing example to kill a dev technique that can be incredibly fruitful.

Sound in space

The audio experience is great, except for certain dialogues that seem poorly recorded and an average voice acting.

This is not yet the final release version of the game, but it feels a bit sad that the game lacks characters with a strong… character… and an enticing voice to go along.

The audio graphic representation is incredibly accurate though! It feels like they’ve spent more time coding the audio bars than actually recording the audio!

In the absence of physical characters and advanced facial expressions, the sound is critical to convey strong emotions that will drive the narrative! I know we’re in space but… sound matters!

The color of a black hole

The graphics are incredibly sharp and colorful.

Even though the UI, space stations and asteroids lack some style and sophistication, the ships planets and backdrops look amazing and combat and special effects are a delight to the eye. 5760×1080 resolution is supported, but the UI does not adapt well.

The game also lacks the complexity of trade lanes that Elite Dangerous or X4: Foundations sport, but we must keep in mind that this is not really a trading game.

Trading is somewhat present, but this is more like a shooter action-based game where trade lanes are, for the most part, purely cosmetic.

Overall I did enjoy this fresh new take on Space RPGs. I tend to prefer longer campaign-based games, but it felt fresh and I’m curious to explore the release version which will feature more content, stories and new gameplay mechanics.

It is not a triple-A game, but considering the budget for the game it truly is fantastic.

Development is still unfinished and unpolished. I will refrain from rating it. But I will point out that it looks gorgeous, has great potential for an enticing storyline and I’m looking forward to playing the final version.

I will add this game to my “Best Upcoming Games 2019” list. Go check it out!

I will see you in my ship,
-Capt. ViLa4480

Oh and by the way – do you enjoy refreshing indie games? Check out my post on Volcanoids – A steampunk survival-management game!

The Division 2

The Division 2 – The Revolution Continues

I just got my hands on Division 2!
It was okay, as expected. I was happy enough.

There’s a reason why The Division 2 is called “The Division 2”.
It is not an army reference as one might think at first glance. It instead reflects on the game’s premise: the United States of America are divided into two factions (…and a half – I’ll explain later on).

Good on one side, Evil on the other. Classic.

The Division 2 takes place 7 months after Ubisoft’s 2016’s controversial success The Division. Unlike the original title which was set in a very snowy New York, this one is set in Washington D.C.

The Division 2
There are terrible drivers in this city

The reason for this change, according to the developers, is that, besides the political aspects – that the franchise seems to enjoy tackling – the city of Washington allows them to expand the playable map into new types of areas.

Green spaces, wide open regions, open rooftops and suburban zones that are harder to depict in the much more urban New York. Wider roads also allow for much more interesting combat with more room for flanking maneuvres.

What has changed?

Not that much! Is it a better game than its predecessor? Sure is. Here’s why:

The Division 2
Really, Ubisoft?

Gaming development cycles dictate when you’re getting a sequel and whether it is going to be good or bad, innovative or unsurprising.
With a bunch of new releases and solid sequels, 2019 is expected to be a good year for the gaming industry.

When a new franchise pops up, it usually delivers a brand new game engine. That was the case with The Division.
It had a rough start – it was riddled with bugs and people were complaining about everything from server instability, bugs, weapons getting stuck all the way down to violence and political concerns.

Technical issues tend to occur more often with new game engines. These obstacles take time to fix, rebalance and adjust. When a developer starts working on a sequel, they don’t design a whole new engine from scratch. Instead, they upgrade the one they’ve got from the previous game, which makes it sturdier and feature-rich. It is also much more cost-effective to build and market.

The Division 2
Resilient Christmas decorations are still on after 7 months

That is why the first sequel to a successful game tends to be technically better than the original (even though narratives are likely to be worse as they’re harder to connect with the previous one).
Check out my previous post on Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and how it improved upon its predecessor.

This is the case with The Division 2. It is a solid, expanded and well-polished game, but kind of …unsurprising.

The biggest changes

The game seems like a meatier, tougher, more solid version of the original rather than a brand new sequel – but it introduces a series of small but rather interesting changes.

The Division 2
Nature quickly finds its way to claim the land
  • Scenery: the most obvious change. It has moved from snowy New York to summer Washington D.C. It is still an American urban region that looks somewhat similar to its predecessor. There’s so much more garbage on the streets now!
  • Lighting has been improved with more detailed light sources and reflections. It also feels less saturated and dramatic when compared to its predecessor. Water effects and glass reflections look brilliant.
  • Specializations have been added to the game. Three skill trees are now able to be unlocked once you reach the level cap.
  • Photo mode is a new feature with which you’re able to take the prettiest selfies – it even includes filters that make your eyes pop!
  • New gadgets available, namely barricade-standing turrets and rolling seeking mines, among others.
  • Spongier enemies: They seem to absorb bullets! Low-level enemies seem to require a huge amount of bullets to die. It doesn’t really break the game, but it affects immersion and realism and drives the player into much longer (often slightly boring) fights.
A simple “NO TRESPASSING” sign would do it. Right?
  • Smarter enemies – with the new wider combat zones, you’ll see them perform flanking and cover maneuvres as a group. This makes combat much more interesting as it forces you to retreat and move to cover more often.
  • NPC settlements form in newly liberated areas. It is actually pretty cool to see them go out and fetch supplies, food, etc. Adds immersion.
  • NPC Backup – they seem to request and offer backup in sporadic fights across town.
  • “Free” DLCs for a year. No further comments.
  • GUI is definitely different, but the changes are mostly cosmetic as the core features are all there from the previous game.
  • New faction. Once you finish the campaign the game will reshuffle and redraw by introducing a whole new faction called the Black Tusk. They will occupy previously liberated areas with their drones and robotic dogs and gadgets. Exciting!

Got issues?

It is worth mentioning that the character creator was awful in the public beta, only allowing you to pick randomly generated characters.

All of them looked like hillbillies…
And they’ve occupied the White house
Hmm…

The Division 2
The new Photo mode allows you to take photos of you taking selfies in front of the White house

Sure. There are still problems to be fixed – as expected – but in terms of core gameplay, The Division 2 sure is well-built.

A couple of issues stand out from my (limited) experience in the public beta:

  • Enemies seem to suddenly spawn right in front of the player, preventing a stealth approach on occasion.
  • All melee enemies are female – why not add more variety?
  • The yelling sounds by the enemy faction seem repetitive and very limited
  • Game crashes every hour – apparently due to desynch between the server and the client

I’m pretty confident that all of these issues will be fixed before the release on March 15th.

The Division 2
New safezones now even have rooftop barbeques!

Should I get it?

Here are some more bullets for you:

  • Did you enjoy The Division and want some more of that? Then yes – definitely. Get it now with my referral link!
  • Have you never played The Division? Then get it at a cheaper price and with a Season Pass discount here! It is still well worth playing the first one before The Division 2 is released!
  • Did you not enjoy The Division at all? Then this might not be the game for you as it only feels like an improvement to the first one! Or instead… try playing it with friends… They make everything more fun!
The Division 2
So much filth. Everywhere!

In the end, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with the private beta and I can’t wait to play with my friends tonight! The game is fun and it is actually pretty cool to see all the little details that set it apart from the 2016 title.

I’m curious about the story behind it, but I’m sure it won’t be the main reason why I’ll be playing this game. Guaranteed buy though.

I look forward to publishing a lengthier and updated review once the game is finally released! Stay tuned (subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter for updates)!

I’ll see you in my squad,
-ViLa4480

The Division 2
Life is (almost) back to normal.

Volcanoids – A steampunk adventure!

I’ve got a love for steampunk.
I enjoy things that clank and bang – and feeling that awesome sensation of pushing a mechanical button or pulling a lever.

I dig that.

It came to me as a great surprise the fact that I had never heard about Volcanoids before until I saw it at the front page on Steam!
This surprised me even more since Steam has been failing miserably at providing me with good suggestions for games that I’ll enjoy.

Volcanoids has a great premise.

I’m a huge fan of the Guns of Icarus franchise.
Flying a steampunk balloon-ship, firing cannons at the enemy ships and repairing damage with a huge hammer and a group of friends is solid-steel fun and the type of fun you’re able to find in Sea of Thieves as well.
Even if it was a different concept, I thought Volcanoids could be just as fun – so I decided to try it out.

Volcanoids

Volcanoids puts you in control of a mechanical contraption that works pretty much like a submarine… but on land… It digs like a mole rat!

Apparently, some mean mechanical beings have triggered several massive volcanic eruptions to sustain their own energy needs.
Those explosions destroyed villages and turned the land into a sad gray wasteland. It is now up to you to survive and explore and eventually find and dismantle the enemy’s mechanical drill.

You need to be careful though as the volcano is still active and spewing rocks and ash from time to time.
When the volcano erupts you need to run to your drill and go underground to avoid damage.

…And the mean robots are still out there.
…And they don’t like you.

Because these guys will attack you and your drill, you need to craft bullets and turrets to protect your beautiful machinery. To craft, you will need to gather materials from nearby mining sources.

Managing power supply is also very interesting. You need to bring coal to your drill and turn your systems on and off to be able to keep the whole thing running without going out of energy.
This adds a welcome new layer of complexity to the game.

Make it do things!

The game really shines when it comes to the feeling of presence and the immersion you get when you enter the drill and make it do things.
When you first start your machine all those cogwheels turning and the noise makes you feel like you’ve given life to Frankenstein. IT’S ALIVE!!!

Just like Frankenstein, this game is still missing some bolts.

We have to keep in mind that this is an early access game by a very small indie dev team. They’ve got a great concept to explore but still many things to fix or improve.

In my view, Volcanoids shouldn’t be available on Steam just yet.
It lacks polish – especially in terms of gameplay mechanics that were, in my opinion, missing.

This decision to go public this early in the project might unfortunately result in a cascade of bad and undeserved reviews by unaware or unwilling buyers.

I’m hoping that this won’t dishearten the devs into giving up on this project and move on to something else. That would be worse than a volcano covering us all in ash!

For such a small team of devs they’ve accomplished something worthy of note – it is just the many small things here and there that need improvement.

Under construction

Volcanoids
Now that’s a nuclear volcano!

The truth is that besides the obvious bug fixing that is expected from an early access game (I didn’t encounter any bugs whatsoever – and I was playing at 5760×1080 just fine!), it lacks some core gameplay mechanics and graphics improvements.

I really enjoyed building and expanding the drill piece by piece, section by section. I even enjoyed the countdown (the volcano erupts as timely as a geyser!), which, even though it isn’t very realistic, adds an urge and a sense of purpose to the game.

It would be great to have a seismographer that warns you whenever a random eruption is about to happen but, instead, we’ve got a very precise countdown which is very …predictable.

The tutorial is incredibly long as it details all of the complex crafting processes one by one instead of mixing it with quests and letting the player explore the machines by himself.

Tutorials tend to be unpolished in Early Access games and that’s okay given the circumstances. But let’s be honest, at the very beginning, Minecraft didn’t have a tutorial and it succeeded because the gameplay aspect of building something over time was easy and very captivating.

The same happened with Kerbal Space Program where the player is free to build and make mistakes without a guiding hand going through all of the processes – as long as they’re easy enough to figure out.

Making mistakes is part of the fun.

Nuts & Bolts

I felt like the knobs and bobs inside the drill weren’t as interesting as they could be.
There’s a very (unnecessarily?) complex crafting system in place but, to my disappointment, it mostly requires that you use GUI crafting menus instead of pulling levers and pressing buttons.
Most of the machines inside the drill are very similar to each other and are often times duplicated, which makes it even more confusing and somewhat frustrating to find the right one. You are able to build them wherever you like as long as they’re on the walls of your drill. This will let you organize them somewhat.

The gameplay aspect lacks some depth. You just go around gathering minerals to build new structures in your drill and destroying the enemy’s structures.
The game would certainly benefit from posing challenges to the player, like new minions, more complex quests, exploration areas and gameplay challenges.
You also get this feeling that the narrative ends when you start playing as there’s not much of a story afterwards.

Volcanoids

The control you have over the drill is very limited.
Whenever you wish to move it, a cinematic shows what’s happening from the outside.
I found out that I preferred skipping the cinematic and instead look at the inside of the drill moving around like a snake as it digs deeper into the earth.
I expected the drilling process to be riddled with clanks and bangs and shakes and smokes – it was instead very smooth, unfortunately!

To graphic or not to graphic

Volcanoids

The game looks gorgeous in the screenshots – especially the driller.
That’s the beauty of steampunk! It always looks great!

But the reality is that everything else seems a bit too simple, low-poly and jagged. Some would call it “dated” – which is a terrible tag for a new game.

This could be improved by using a different text font, a new lighting system, better resolution textures, more detailed terrains and objects or, instead, a minimalistic and innovative graphic style – which is tricky when it comes to steampunk.

As it is, Volcanoids looks above-average-good.
Not yet great – but… with room for improvement.
The unique theme makes screenshots very interesting at first glance, but in-game everything seems a bit too simple.

Multiplayer

Volcanoids

One of the features I fear the most in their development plans is adding co-op multiplayer and PvP.
From my own experience as a game developer, single and multiplayer games have two very different development cycles.
Adding multiplayer to a singleplayer game is VERY tricky and time-consuming.
They’ve got a great premise for a single-player game with a lot of work yet to be done. Allocating resources for the development of multiplayer is a risk that I wouldn’t take… although it could be fun to play with minions on your side and attacking someone else… but the game has to shine in areas like gathering and UI interactions first.

Back to the surface

Volcanoids

I won’t give a rating to this game just yet.
It wouldn’t be
fair to rate it as it is clearly still missing features.
We can’t really judge it on what it currently is or what it could become.

However, as I stated before, the game has some curious and unique aspects to it that make it fun to discover – but the player will lose interest quickly if he finds nothing new to explore. Multiplayer could be interesting but given the amount of polish and content that is still required, I’m hoping to one day see this just as a good singleplayer game.

If you’re unsure whether to get this game or not, my suggestion would be to let it cook for a little longer before trying it out. If instead, you would like to try something new then go ahead – get this one while it’s hot!

Volcanoids has a Trello page where you’re able to keep up-to-date with development and see what they’re up to. It also features a Discord channel where extremely friendly devs are regularly giving away keys.

I’ll be paying attention to Volcanoids as it could turn into something really fun in a year or so. I’ll review it again by that time!

Meanwhile, why not check out my other post about this other innovative game called Dungeon of the Endless? Go try it out!

I’ll see you underground!
-ViLa4480

Battlefield V Revive 2

There’s something weird about Battlefield V…

I’m trying to figure out what it is…
Something feels different when playing Battlefield V.

As you might have noticed from my previous post on gender wars in Battlefield V, there’s a bunch of stuff in that game that feels out of place.
Slightly strange and even awkward at times!

I know – it all sounds silly – and it is indeed hard to explain.
Battlefield V is very similar to its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (again, EA has trouble with numbering systems), but somehow …its gameplay FEELS totally different.
It isn’t easy to figure out what has changed – but something definitely did.

Overwhelming!

When playing on my first map ever someone was crying in chat:

-“This game has way too many animations!”

I thought that was laughable at first. I couldn’t figure out how that could be a bad thing.

The quantity and especially the quality of animations is one of the key factors in driving immersion in a game. Consider the effort that AAA games are putting into animation nowadays!

GTA V, Star Citizen, The Last of Us or L.A. Noire have amazing casts and technology to provide a truly credible cinematic experience.

Competitive multiplayer games have specific needs…

But I think I get it. He might even be right.
There are so many things moving, running, burning, falling, firing, exploding… down to the micro animations that each character and weapon has!

Player characters are now even able to run while crouched or lay on their backs while firing and also roll around while waiting for a revive.

It does take some time before we’re able to get used to all of that.
For a new player, it may indeed feel a bit overwhelming.

Size matters. Its… complicated.

The maps have been a concern for players since DICE announced they would add “ENORMOUS” maps to Battlefield. Many players are now complaining that they are too small and comparing Battlefield to Call of Duty. No one is ever happy!

The truth is that maps are indeed ENORMOUS …and too small at the same time!
It comes down to what maps are available in each game mode and how player respawns work. Indeed there are gigantic maps but most of the action is focused around one or two objectives and nothing else is going on on the rest of the map.
This is not entirely bad. The problem is the map layout.

The way they built most of the maps as a narrow rectangle doesn’t really entice the enemy to flank and capture an objective behind enemy lines in the Conquest game mode. Which is a good thing as it prevents massive waves of enemies from spawning behind the player.

The problem seems to be the fact that it condenses the action around those two choke or capture points. It becomes a slaughterfest for both sides.

Add to that how easier it is now to spawn next to your squadmate in the middle of a thick battle.

Maps are also uncommonly detailed with plenty of open buildings, rocks and hills, where it is easy to hide for a whole match without the enemy ever seeing you.
Yesterday I spent the whole match lying down inside a truck capping an objective and forcing the enemy to stay in that area not to lose it. They never found me.
Summit1g also did that a few days ago. He just stood there while waves of enemies went by.
Interestingly, at the same time, there are groves everywhere yet it is still terribly difficult for a sniper to get a good and clear vantage point. This pleases some and angers many.

This is actually a very light fog!


Add weather to the mix: wall-thick fog shows up quite often in larger maps.

Thick fog reduces visibility drastically and it forces players to go into close-quarters and melee combat.

Chaos ensues.

Busy bees

Then there’s the fact that there’s so much more to do now.
Starting with the new ability to build fortifications. You are now able to build sandbag defenses, barbed wire, and anti-tank barriers.
This is a cool new feature, but plenty of players die trying to build these often times ineffective defenses.

Imma build ma own fortification now!

Sure, medics are still healing and recons are still sniping.
But you are now able to find new perk packs to picking a class that are probably ignored by most players.
They certainly affect gameplay and may take some time for a new player to figure out.

As an example, Support is the only class able to build stationary turrets in specific maps but that isn’t clear to most players.

Every player is now also able to revive squad members – but medics do it faster and can even run faster IF they equip the Swift Effort perk AND tag a wounded soldier.
We’re not just talking about class-based effects, but combat perk packs that affect how a class performs.

MEDIC!!! I mean.. Squadmates!!!

Having so many new perk options makes the game smarter.
Not everyone appreciates these changes, however.

Personally, I don’t dislike them, but information is lacking when you first start to learn to play with these classes – there are many of them – and indeed they do feel very different to play with – starting with the weapons.

Bang bang!

Weapons feel incredibly different from class to class. Many people complain that medics have water guns and that support isn’t able to use their LMGs to actually kill enemies – instead only able to lay down suppressive fire.
I feel like that’s actually a good thing in disguise.

Even though it is frustrating to play as a medic and not be able to kill the enemy in front of you most of the times, it forces players to focus on their class abilities. In this case, healing and reviving players.

Laying down suppressive fire still feels pointless – and you won’t last long until a sniper gets to you. It only works well in choke points or bad weather where there’s too much going on before a sniper scope finds you.

All these factors only add to the complexity of learning the quirks of the game. It overwhelms new players and it justifies the frustration that many complain about.

Something Fishy…

There’s also something very strange going on with close-quarter combats.

My ping isn’t high, but it seems like I always lose very close quarters 1-on-1 gunfights.
I’m not missing any shots – but somehow I never get to kill the enemy. As if their weapon fires more rounds in the same amount of time. Or if they started firing before me, even though their animation didn’t start before I shot.

Other players complained about this as well.
I’m convinced that this has to do with packet delay management or lag compensation for large numbers of players. It feels unfair quite often.

Above all else, the game has a very different pace.

I’m pretty sure it comes down to the aiming system.
In Battlefield V it seems to be harder to aim properly until you get used to the way it works.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a complex aiming options menu.
You can actually go into detail by adjusting the aiming speed according to the zoom value of your weapon!

Battlefield V - Aiming sensitivity options according to sight zoom levels
Aiming sensitivity options according to sight zoom levels

There are also other options that I’ve never seen before in other FPS franchises like “Soldier Aim Ratio” or “Uniform Soldier Aiming”. They include lengthy descriptions that only make it more cumbersome to understand.

The truth is that this only makes good players better and newbie players worse – as most new players don’t even know how to adjust these settings properly. This leads to newbies calling out good players as cheaters and a lot of bad vibes in chat and frustration to both sides.

Hide. Think. Act.

I REALLY like to have additional complexity in games. I like to feel that my skills and battle sense are progressing over time. But I think that, in the end, Battlefield V is not as newbie-friendly as other previous games.

Enjoy the countryside!

Last night I had a great run.
I was determined to figuring out how to play Battlefield V properly.
I decided to take a more relaxed, counterattacking stance. If someone fired at me I would… Hide. Think. Act.

I wasn’t going to run towards the enemy nor would I shoot as many bullets as possible at them. I realized that two shots to the head or three to the body were all it took for my weapon to kill.
So I started being more mindful of my presence and taking aim before firing or revealing my position.

Aha! I became the top player in most rounds!
I think I may have figured the key to succeeding in Battlefield V.

Something different, something new

In the end, it feels like there’s definitely some balance to do and a learning curve that most players aren’t used to from previous games.

It is hard to understand exactly what to learn and how to progress… 
But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you manage to relax, learn and enjoy the game for what it is, without expecting it to be something else.

Instead of becoming frustrated, I’m actually enjoying the game now!

If you liked this post check out my previous one on Battlefield V’s clubfooted gender wars or how I became an Undead Pirate in Sea of Thieves (funny).
…Or instead subscribe to my blog to receive monthly updates on any new posts! 😊

P.S.: DICE fix the PIAT damn it! It is NOT to be used as a shotgun!

I’ll see you in my squad,
-ViLa4480

Dungeon of the Endless – An Indie Game you won’t dare label!

Did you know Dungeon of the Endless was free for the weekend? If you didn’t that’s likely because you’re not following my Twitter feed!

How innovative can you be these days?

We live in a world where stamping labels on things and people is, sadly, mandatory. There’s no time to waste!
The flow and amount of information to be processed and the need to clarify what something is, or is not, demands that we categorize everything and everyone as quickly as possible.

We have truly entered The Age of Labels.

It is part of who we are as humans.
The Universe doesn’t care whether there’s light or shade, day or night, a half-full glass, a dead cat in a box or a tree falling in an unpopulated forest.

But we humans do care.

This is how our brains save disk storage space. We compress info into tiny boxes with labels.

Concepts are easier to access and we can figure them out quickly by simply reading the label on the box.

Unfortunately, this somewhat compromises our ability to think differently. To be innovative. To think out of the box – and to be appreciated and recognized for that.

Music that doesn’t belong to any genre in particular tends to be ignored by most people, as we tend to flock to our tried-and-true favorite genres. The same happens with movies and games.

This tends to become an even bigger issue when you consider the way we access this content. Check out my ramble on how Valve has made me lose interest in Steam – their content delivery platform – by improving it.

With so much new content available to us each day, the most productive way for a developer to innovate nowadays is to mix genres.
However, like with a nice cocktail, to mix it up properly requires real talent. These guys nailed it.

Missing a label?


Somehow I missed Dungeon of the Endless when it first came out in 2014.

Luckily it isn’t a game that gets old with age!
I managed to pick it up recently since it was free-to-play during the weekend and being sold at a discount.

I just tried it out and it really surprised me:

Amplitude delivered Dungeon of the Endless back in 2014 – and it caused an issue for most gaming blogs. Why? Well… there was no easy way to categorize it!

It is NOT a strategy game, not a survival game, not a tower-defense game, not an RPG, not a MOBA, not a dungeon-crawler!
It is all of those things at the same time… and yet, very different.

The point of the game is to exit an abandoned sci-fi ship with a team of heroes and a crystal (similar to Dungeon Keeper’s dungeon heart).

Unfortunately, the ship’s architects decided that it would be fun to build elevators that only take you to the next floor… and build them in different rooms on each floor.
The type of insanity that GlaDOS would be proud of.

Unique.

Dungeon of the Endless is a unique game, yet very familiar. It delivers a real-time-turn-based game pace.
Does that sound confusing enough?

The game presents a real-time game flow, but it grows and expands as you open up doors in an abandoned ship. So, in reality, it only advances when you unlock the next “turn” by opening up doors in real-time.

Over time (aka turns, aka doors opened), you will be gathering supplies and building resource miners or defensive turrets or evolving your heroes.


All these abilities will come in handy when little alien insects start to show up. Apparently, they HATE your beautiful crystal for some reason and will try to destroy it.

Luckily, with all the resources you managed to mine so far, you’ll also be able to unlock new weapons and abilities for your heroes and your temporary “base”.

The game is unlike any other, yet similar to many.

The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game. The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship. However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.


The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game.

The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship.

However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.

The crystal being attacked!
Now's the time to panic.
The crystal being attacked!
Now’s the time to panic.

An endless dungeon

The gameplay is fast and fun, and the base-building aspect adds a lot of flavor to it. Unlocking new abilities, characters and weapons is definitely the main drive for the player. The superb audio and music also make it a very pleasant experience.
I had some trouble with the controls. They’re not complex at all – just very uncommon.
Sadly, there’s not much of a storyline to the game, except for a few less-than-funny jokes between heroes. Co-op is a plus, but not necessary since it truly shines as a great singleplayer game.


I really felt like this innovative game was a breath of fresh air.
That freshness that started around 2010 with very popular indie titles like Braid, Minecraft or Spelunky seems to have faded with all the sequels and adaptations of those popular games (just think of how many games mirrored Minecraft’s gameplay mechanics!) and innovation started to take a toll.

Dungeon of the Endless proves that there are many unlikely game genre combos that haven’t yet been explored.

I’m looking forward to trying out Amplitude’s following success Endless Legend.

Popcorn Score:

I truly enjoyed this game.
Even though it lacks a good storyline, it balances that with a fast and fun gameplay, beautiful graphics and a great ambiance.
If you’re looking for something FRESH, this is the game you want to try.

Do you like my ramblings? Would you like to read some more? Check out my previous post on How Sci-fi changed my life!
You may also want to subscribe to my blog by entering your e-mail on the form to the left or by following me on Twitter!

I’ll find you at my crystal,
-ViLa4480

WW2 – The clubfooted gender war in …Battlefield V

I would like to apologize in advance if this review offends you. If you feel offended, please send me a private message. My views are moderate but I may sound blunt sometimes – English isn’t my first language and this article features sensitive topics that can be easily misunderstood.
Thank you for your understanding.

The saddest day of the year

So, apparently, today is the saddest day of the year.
-“That’s ridiculous!” I thought to myself.
Apparently, it relates to the fact that the holiday season has come and gone and what was new and exciting a couple of weeks ago is now uninspired and unsurprising.
Enough time has passed and now you realize that all your New Year’s resolutions and attempts at becoming a better human have caved miserably – like in every previous year. All that is left is an indiscriminate number of uneventful work days until something happens that actually sparks your interest.

This past season was VERY intense for me. Personal investments, social interactions, and even a brand new blog distracted me… and the season flew by very quickly.
The truth is, I got to skip a load of games and new releases.
But yesterday I felt the need to play something new and something decent.

battlefield 5 women

I was holding back on buying Battlefield V.
The franchise features an over-the-top base price (+DLC content) – and prices tend to lower past the holiday season. So I decided to give it a go.
After a painstakingly lengthy 53Gb download and installation (which I cleverly decided to sleep through it), I finally got to try it out.

This drew me to a very tense debate going on in-game.

Repeating History

Following the footsteps of its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (numbering systems are broken at EA btw), which included a negro-based squad that historically did fight bravely in WW1, Battlefield V surprised everyone when it showcased several female protagonists in a World War 2 setting.

When I first saw the trailer for Battlefield V I thought it was so awesome that they included female characters. At the same time players watching the trailer at the event were concerned on how that could impact the game experience.

Even though the role of women was determinant – and there were a LOT of women fighting throughout Europe – the proportion of battling women in this game is pretty much equal to that of men.
This can be tricky when you’re attempting to be historically accurate in a game.

Apparently, Battlefield V took a huge amount of flak for that decision.
So much that the Battlefield V subReddit moderators started banning users and removing topic-related posts.

“My immersion is RUINED!!!” – someone cried on Twitter.

EA would likely have replied:
Dear Bob,
We are very sorry that your immersion is ruined.

Our statistics show that at least 10% of our audience is female and they are not being accurately represented in our game. This is why we’ve made a game where 50% of our characters are female.
Thank you for understanding.

The gravity and complexity of the situation was clear to me when I noticed 3 female characters dressed as German generals stabbing players in the heat of battle while they were using voicechat to scream “FEMINAZI BANZAI CHARGE!!!”

I felt like My trust in Humanity was gone for good.
At the same time, my history-nerdy-brain proceeded to die a little.

Resultado de imagem para battlefield 5 women

A sad day for a sad society

The truth is, we live in a sad society where women are still being treated differently… and that is truly unnecessary.
EA has taken a bold step to try and break that mold that society imposes on itself. But at what cost? Does it make sense for an entertainment media that takes pride on a certain degree of realism to bring a contemporary perspective to a historical reality through politicized fiction?
Will that somehow affect our understanding of the past and blind us to the future?
Even though it does spark debate, it mostly seems to anger a majority of their mostly male playerbase.

I am a true believer of diversity and equality, but politicized entertainment feels cringy at best.
Are they going for the long run? Re-educating boys into accepting girls in games (when a kid spends 4h every day playing a game he does learn something…), or maybe trying to motivate girls to play in order to expand their female playerbase?

It might be commendable to a certain extent, but let me clarify why this affects me:
I see human beings as human beings.
If I ran a company, “race”, gender, sexual orientation or religion would be irrelevant to me – but being the nerdy type that I am, sacrificing historical accuracy – for what appears to be a business decision based on modern-day politic concerns – is …disappointing.
Playing Battlefield V somehow feels like an advertisement that you paid to play.

Lost in Action

I would LOVE to see a game that focused on the resistance fighters or spies (many of which were women). I would love to see a dramatic aspect to the game that highlighted the effort that young widow mothers had to endure during the war. Women also kept the gun, ammo and canning industries running throughout the war – without that effort who knows how the war would have progressed!
…But a game like this wouldn’t be Battlefield would it?

Imagem relacionada

Battlefield V also fails to represent – and thus lacks respect – for the life and death of the men and women who perished in those fights. Instead it leads young players to believe that this was the true reality of war and even treat it more as a fun historic fact rather than an actual tragic event.

While I value the fact that they’ve actually thought about women and “minorities” and made real steps towards embracing them as equals, I feel like this isn’t the right game nor the right way to demonstrate that so profusely.
It’s like making surgery with a butcher’s knife – and the player’s reaction might even backfire in the long run.
Will EA make every game follow the same logic now? Should it?

It is understandable that Mass Effect does it.

Mass Effect is set in a fictionalized future in an alternate reality of mindset.
…Should we be concerned about how to depict our past if we wish to learn from it?

Resultado de imagem para battlefield 5 women
Battlefield 1

…On a side note, they forgot to add women to Battlefield 1 until the last patch – and she had to be bald – were there no women before WW2?

So, yeah I do understand Bob who shouted that his immersion was ruined… but Bob must realize that even if clubfooted, messy and somewhat reprimandable, this was a step in the right direction.

The features they’ve included are all okay – just in the wrong proportions – and definitely the wrong battlefield.

It’s great that a player is able to pick a female character to play with. It is also great to see more variety in the game and even that women play a non-sexualized protagonist role – just do it in an alternate universe where factual history isn’t a problem.

…well I guess at least EA made sure their clothes weren’t camo bikinis in this game.

Imagem relacionada

I’ll see you on the battlefield,
-ViLa4480

Prison Architect

Paradox is the new Warden for Prison Architect – PANIC!

This is one of my favorite management games of all time.

Prison Architect is now 3 years old (since its final release), but it was first released as an alpha version 6 years ago after a very successful crowdfunding campaign.

Paradox Interactive has recently acquired the rights to the franchise from Introversion Software. How will that affect the game? Why are so many fans outraged? Why would Introversion do it?…

Introversion Software is a small team of developers known for creating small but deeply innovative games such as Multiwinia, Defcon, Darwinia or Uplink.

Prison Architect is their crown jewel.

In fact, the whole Prison Architect venture has been very successful throughout its crowdfunded open development cycle.
The devs kept releasing regular updates with brand new content which maintained a healthy and engaged community over the past few years.

The latest update actually introduced an unexpected and seemingly inadequate feature for a game that has passed its maturity.
They added multiplayer!

You might ask: oh really? Why is multiplayer such a surprise ViLa? Other games have it…
-True. But besides the fact that you won’t find that many multiplayer management games, most of them haven’t been adapted from a single-player game to a multiplayer one.
To have multiplayer in a game is as big as… deciding whether you’re building a 2D or a 3D game! You don’t just build a single-player game and then try to fit multiplayer into it. It doesn’t work that way!
Not if you’re a sane developer that is!

However, we’re talking about Introversion Software here… and adding multiplayer to a singleplayer management game is pretty damn cool.

A new warden has arrived!

The hidden 3D game mode

This is why the news of Paradox buying the Prison Architect franchise hit the fans like a rock. They’re afraid that the garage-built feeling that they get from playing this amazing management game will fade in the hands of Paradox. Above all they fear that Paradox will do what it has done to all of their other games: DLC spam!

In the good old days before the internet, games would either have sequels or expansions. A sequel pretty much meant recycling of previous game ideas and graphics updates.

Expansions or content packs, on the other hand, increased the depth of the current game. This kept the player base interested in the game – at a fraction of the price – until a sequel would be available. If the game was successful, more expansions would be available. This was as a good commercial compromise for a developer.
Instead of building a whole new game they would use the tools that were already in place – this, in turn, saves time and money.
Expansions were actually large when compared to the base game and relatively expensive as they had to justify the physical distribution costs.
Nowadays, expansions are called DLCs and due to the fact that they are now downloaded, they tend to be cheaper and distributed in smaller chunks.

Paradox has become a master at releasing DLCs – Paradox’s Crusader Kings 2 has 30 DLCs.
The reason why Paradox does this is because they specialize in creating niche games (high value to their niche players) that rely on very complex game engines that only they own.

Game engines are the core of a game.

They are the technical aspect of the game that takes the longest to build. It provides games with their core attributes – UI systems, Audio, 2D/3D Rendering, Multiplayer etc.

Resultado de imagem para hearts of iron map

So instead of building a brand new engine for each game, most companies decide to make different games with the same engine. Europa Universalis, Victoria, Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings, Sengoku, and even Stellaris all use Paradox’s own Clauswitz Engine.

Paradox Interactive (the publisher) is often seen supporting innovative smaller developers such as Colossal Order (Cities in Motion, Cities: Skylines). They seem to be drawn towards developers who own solid custom engines that will be able to support great games in the long-run. Engines that lean towards having less sequels but more expansions.
Paradox is also well known for allowing people to mod their games to exhaustion. Modding adds even more life and value to their games.

DLCspam!

The reason why Crusader Kings 2 has got 30 DLCs in its bag is because the game has been released in February 2012! …Think about it… the game is now 7 years old and it still gets brand new updates like Holy Fury which was released last November.

Most of the DLCs are cheap, most of them are cosmetic, many of their major expansions are VERY deep and have parts of it released for free and most of them are fully available for free when you’re playing in multiplayer if the other player owns them.
The best part: Paradox’s games are deep and solid enough at launch to provide countless hours of gameplay without the need for DLCs.

The reality is… you don’t need to buy any DLCs if you don’t want to.

Now, I understand that my position regarding DLCs will surely anger most fans. And I must clarify that I completely disaprove the idea of launching DLCs when the game has just been released. That is simply ridiculous.

However, most people see DLCs as a money-grab opportunity – which it is… but… is it that bad really? DLCs represent optional content that you’re able to get if you REALLY like the game. It helps support the company so they are able to keep on updating the games you love with brand new content.

-No, Crusader Kings 3 isn’t coming out tomorrow. But an amazing Holy Fury expansion has just been released at a fraction of the cost – have you played it yet?

A Peace Treaty! Please!

Introversion made a good deal when selling their most-valued franchise when their sales after 3 years are surely gone. Let’s celebrate that! A small company making a ton of money that they can use to come up with brand new ideas!

They would not be making Prison Architect 2 anytime soon – it is not in their DNA to rehash games like that. They would likely need a new engine and many new ideas to pick it up again.

Paradox has likely bought the “Architect” franchise so they can make brand new games with the “Architect” title in them …not necessarily Prison Architect 2+50 DLCs!

Finally, some people are also loudly complaining about the fact that a crowdfunded game was sold to a publisher.
Now that the game has been released for 3 years …does that REALLY matter anymore?
Is it possible to be happy for having been able to make this game a reality and enjoy it as it is?

TLDR: This is how I see it:

  • Prison Architect isn’t going anywhere – It is still here. If you own it you’re still able to download and play it!
  • Introversion made some money – I’m happy for them. Can’t wait for more of their innovative game concepts!
  • Paradox bought a great franchise – a great publisher might start using the “Architect” theme in other games we’ll love!
  • DLCs – don’t buy them if you don’t want them!

Have you seen my recent post on How Steam broke my Valve? You might find it interesting! Go check it out!

I’ll see you in the warden’s office!
-ViLa4480

Sea of Thieves - the undead pirate captain

How I became an Undead Pirate Captain – Sea of Thieves

I’ve got a tale to tell.
It will shiver yer bones.

If you would like to read my previous review on Sea of Thieves, check out my previous post: The Best Co-op Games 2018 – Sea of Thieves.

Something out of this world happened to me in Sea of Thieves…

I was sailing the high seas with my scallywag crewmates.
We were chasing a skull in the skies.

Skeleton fort in sight! – yelled my crewmate from the crow’s nest.

The crows nest in sea of thieves

We turned off the oil lamps, raised the sails and slowly docked our ship next to a cliff. Having the ship so close to the island meant we would be barely visible on the horizon. Pirates often roam raiding locations waiting for us to unlock its treasures… and then they attack – so it is important to stay hidden.

However…

Something strange and something wicked was bound to happen…

Once we defeated the last skeleton on the island we unlocked a treasure vault full of gold relics, silver cups, gemstones, rare spices and gold chests!

WOHOO! Someone cryed.

We started hauling our stuff back to the ship… but once we got there…
I mean… …once we got there… …ONCE WE GOT THERE…

WE COULDN’T GET ON THE SHIP!!!

Somehow, whenever we climbed the ladder, we would fall through the ship and into the ocean below it!

There we were… treasures in hand and unable to haul them back to the outpost.

Maybe the issue was the sand bank below the ship?

I decided that we were not going to be defeated by a bug!
So I climbed to the nearest watchtower and jumped onto the ship – hoping that I’d be able to lower the sails before falling through the lower deck again…

So I jumped…

Unfortunately, I forgot that I was low on health due to having fought the skeletons before. I died once I hit the ship’s upper deck.

Or did I?…

The quickest visit to the Ferry of the Damned

The Ferry of the Damned in Sea of Thieves
The Ferry of the Damned

I saw my restless body fall under the ship and then being dragged to the Ferry of the Damned – the place where dead souls linger before being returned to life.

However… my soul’s body fell off the Ferry of the Damned!!
…and it kept falling
…falling
…falling

The screen slowly faded to black…


*SPLASH*
I woke up under water.

While I’m pulling myself back to the surface I’m noticing that my arms are green… ghost green! I’m a ghost!

I am a ghost in the realm of the living!

How could this be?!
As I get my head above the water I can see the fort island far far away – easily recognizable in the distance because of the big cloudy skull above it!

As I turn around I had to take some time to contemplate and try to figure out what I was seeing.

A massive blob of chests and artifacts was floating above me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I touched them and they fell to the sea floating above the water… several high-end chests and skulls! What were they doing here?!

I was in the middle of the ocean, my skin was ghost-green and there’s a bunch of chests hovering right above me. Wow!

A flying blob of treasure in Sea of Thieves
A flying blob of treasure chests!

While stranded in the middle of nowhere, I ask my crewmates to come and get me before I drown… I give them instructions on how to find me as there’s no mermaid in sight to get me back to my ship.

Then a small fin appears above the water. IT’S A SHARK!!!

While trying to grab my sword I notice that it is nowhere to be found!
Ghosts have no weapons – I thought to myself! – and I can’t really punch it or negotiate a truce!

The shark tries to bite me… but no damage is dealt. I am dead after all… You can’t re-die if you’re dead!

I dove as deep as I could… yet there was no damage to my non-existent health bar. …You can’t drown if you’re dead!

As I come back up to the surface I notice the chests that were previously floating above the water slowly falling down into the abyss. I managed to grab them and brought them up to the surface again and again like a juggling act!

A ship approaches me! My friends have arrived!

They’re stunned when they see my character undead which granted a few laughs and some poorly constructed jokes!

A friendly ghost waving in Sea of Thieves
A friendly ghost waving

We proceeded to haul all the chests and skulls floating above the water… we weren’t going to let them go to waste! We headed back to the fort to finish what we started and then proceeded towards the outpost to sell our stuff.

On the way there I saw something shiny in the distance – so I aimed the cannon, got myself inside it and fired it to go check it out.


Meanwhile, the sea around the ship turned ink-black and we were attacked by a giant 10-legged Kraken!
That slimy creature wrecked our ship! My crewmates were running very low on supplies and unable to survive the fight!

The Kraken has a terrible sense of timing.

I ran and swam towards the ship as fast as I could and when I got there all of our treasures were floating above the water and the ship was nowhere to be seen!

My crewmate was being attacked by sharks and I kept feeding him my bananas – a ghost has no need for bananas.
Eventually he died and I was left there by myself hauling stuff above the water as they sank slowly.

Our ship’s silhouette was visible in the distance! They picked me up and we hauled everything back onto the new ship.

so much booty - sea of thieves
So much booty!

After what seemed to take ages hauling stuff, we were finally able to sell our loot for a massive profit.

What exactly does it mean to be a ghost in the realm of the living?!

Maybe it was all just a bug that caused an exception and made me live when I should be dead.
Apparently immortal – but without weapons, I wasn’t able to cause any harm.
I was able to cross rock walls… would that be an issue for the game in the long run? Would that make me able to go through fort walls and steal the loot?

We joked that I should go to other player’s ships and act as an NPC giving them weird quests like “Fetch me a spotted 4-legged pig so a golden chest you may pick!” and then handing them a skeleton captain’s chest or something.
Or instead, pose as having a Ghost-Legendary Character Skin unique to the pirates that delivered 500 chicken!

We had a lot of fun with that peculiar bug for a while but, eventually, the server spit me out and I had to reconnect – back to being a regular living pirate with the sun laying down above a small ship floating on the waves of the Sea of Thieves.

YARR!

A ghost in sea of thieves

If you would like to join me in Sea of Thieves, add me on Steam and use this referral link to get Sea of Thieves at a special discount price.

Also, check my list of the Best Upcoming Games – 2019!

While writing this post I found a video on Youtube by Cyx in which he finds what they think is the ship of the damned deep underwater at the exact same location where I came back from the dead!
You can check it out here.

I’ll see you on the Ferry of the Damned,
-Cap’n ViLa4480

The Best Upcoming Games – 2019

Which games are you most looking forward to play in 2019?

This list will always be under construction!
Let’s build The Best Upcoming Games 2019 list together!

Check it out below and share your suggestions!

Please note that this is an ever-evolving and ever-incomplete list of games based mostly on my own personal taste – but if you guys have any cool suggestions please drop a comment here or via Twitter!
-ViLa4480

[cool-timeline layout=”default” designs=”design-2″ skin=”default” category=”upcoming-games-2019″ show-posts=”10″ order=”ASC” icons=”NO” animations=”none” date-format=”default” story-content=”full” based=”custom” compact-ele-pos=”main-date” pagination=”ajax_load_more” filters=”yes”]

Do you have other games you’d like to see highlighted?

Maybe even a full review? Leave a comment below or via Twitter!

Curious to know what the Best Co-op Game of 2018 was? Check out the extensive reviews here!

Would you like to buy games at a discount? Follow this referral link for discounted games at Kinguin. Go check it out if you would like to support this blog!

I’ll see you in-game!
-ViLa4480

Best co-op games of the year (Part 2) Sea of Thieves

Before reading this post, make sure you check out Part 1 of the best co-op games of the year 2018! My previous post focuses on Warhammer: Vermintide 2.

Also, you totally must check out what happened to me when I became a Ghost in the Realm of the Living in Sea of Thieves!!!

Yarr!!! Everyone loves pirates!

Have you ever wanted to be a pirate?
Not an online pirate you scallywag!
A real swashbuckling, wood legged, parrot carrying, hook fingered, golden tooth pirate! Yarr!!!

Well I got good news for you, the aspiring pirate!

Both Sea of Thieves and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 were released on the same month of March in 2018. Both compete for the prestigious PopcornGamer title of being the best co-op game of 2018.

Sea of Thieves is a predominantly co-op multiplayer game in a very large map where pirates, AKA players, roam the high water mountains in search for treasures, adventure and plunder.

At first, what will really strike you is the graphic style of the game.

Sea of Thieves is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.

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It features very clean and appealing graphics (unlike Atlas. Ew.). It really conveys a lighthearted, sunny and happy swashbuckling experience …an extreme opposite to the surprisingly gruesome Warhammer: Vermintide 2!

Sea of Thieves feels like a simple game (maybe a wee bit too simple?).
The game peppers the seas with tiny curious islands and it gives you a map or a riddle that you need to figure out in order to find a treasure chest.

Oh… and remember: X marks the spot.

A day in the life of a Pirate!

You dig, dig, dig …until you hear a loud *THUMP!*.

YES!!!
You found it!
That wood casket is sure to bear all sorts of precious metals and gems!

Your grin turns to grimace when you realize that you’ve angered the lost souls protecting that cursed chest!
Now there’s a horde of skeletons rushing towards you. You can’t hit them while holding your precious chest… so you run back to your ship!

Resultado de imagem para sea of thieves combat

When you hear the *clikety clack* that the banana-eating skeletons make while trying to catch you shiver slightly, but that doesn’t stop you. Once you are on your ship and you lower the ship’s sails it gently picks up speed and you wave at the skeletons that can’t figure out how to swim to get to you.

Riches onboard.
You head towards the nearest outpost.

It must be worth a fortune – you say to yourself!

Still dreaming of the brand new hat that you’ll be able to buy with all that money, you fail to notice the dark sails that approach your ship from the East. Too late.

Trouble on the horizon

*CRUSHCRACKSHHWSHSPSH!!!* – Your ship is being rammed from the side by a massive galleon. PIRATES! PIRAAATES!!!

Resultado de imagem para sea of thieves combat

You rush to the lower deck to fix the geiser-like holes in the hull of your ship. The enemy cannons are roaring outside! You need to hurry the repairs and come back up to divert your ship from their firing lines!

You turn around and a strange wood-legged pirate stands next to you. Sword in hand.

“DUEL ME OR DIE” – he says. The request doesn’t really make much sense… but you rush to your sword and the fight begins.

A dirty fight with a one-eyed pirate

The dirty pirate lunges straight at you with very fast swings. All you can do is evade the massive sword spam. He hits you once… twice! But you still breathe! Putting the sword at an angle blocks his next attack and he is pushed back with a surprised stance!

Resultado de imagem para sea of thieves fight

The enemy clearly has an advantage now that he has hit you but… dang it… you’re a pirate too! Rules mean little to you!

You grab your pistol and BAM! shoot him in the empty eye socket!

He falls to the ground and you rush to the helm and steer away from that despicable pirate’s ship.

Apparently, in the midst of battle, they started being attacked by a mythical giant shark!
It’s probably best to grab this opportunity and rush towards the nearest outpost and sell the treasure chest as quickly as possible before they dispatch the giant fish and catch up to you again!

As you move away from the battle you feel a strong sense of relief!

The sails are being raised and the battered ship will soon be safely parked at the dock.
Selling the cursed Captain’s Chest earns you just the money you needed to buy that fancy hat that you were dreaming of.

HA! The next time you encounter those pirates you’ll impress them with your brand new hat!

Hats, hats everywhere!

Indeed, a gold hoarder like you needs to spend all of your hard earned money on something. They say that money can buy anything. Well, not in this game.

Unfortunately, in Sea of Hats you are only able to buy cosmetic items!

It is a shame because, if you’re like me, you dress like a very sleazy pirate (in fact, that’s the only way a pirate should dress like!). Once you own your favorite character outfit and ship equipment, there’s not much else to crave for.

There’s no character progression, no skills, no weapon upgrades, no crafting or equipment upgrades for your ship, not even craftable banana sandwiches!
This makes the game feel pointless at times. My in-game bank account is filled to the brim but I don’t feel like spending my gold on anything. And, to be honest, I feel like I’ve only been playing it whenever a new regular update comes along, bringing with it brand new content to explore.

One could argue whether or not the lack of upgradable items is an issue if the game succeeds in entertaining you with every other aspect of it.

Resultado de imagem para sea of thieves

The truth is that it would turn a great game into an amazing one.
To have something to crave for… an objective that pushes the players into exploration and adventure.

Who knows… maybe they’ll add a bit more of that in future updates…

A game to be played… just for fun? We’re not used to that!

It is kind of amazing to think that a great quality game from a large enough developer managed to avoid pay-to-win schemes or major grind systems.

The truth is that it doesn’t feel like you’re grinding when you’re distracted by the fact that you are actually enjoying it.
They focused solely on making a game that is fun to play and that brings people together. And they succeeded brilliantly.

Even if the islands look very similar to eachother, the quests obvious, the monsters predictable and the combat too simple, there’s a lot of plain fun to be had with your friends.
The emergent gameplay that comes from having PvP in the open world really drives you into incredibly epic battles with other players.

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Very seldom did I get angry for losing a fight, since the excitement you get from it is well worth the money lost.

Friends improve every game!

I must underline the need to play with friends.
You will feel lonely playing it alone in your tiny sloop in such a large ocean.

However, if you have no friends, you really don’t have to worry.

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It is SUPER easy to make new friends by playing this game with an open crew.
The Sea of Thieves community is surprisingly friendly and they often ask you to add them to your contacts list.

Almost everyone uses a microphone, which is critical to interact with other players when you’re busy repairing 13 holes in your sinking ship.
If for some strange reason you don’t own a microphone, you’re going to want to get one after playing Sea of Thieves.

It is true, the game lacks content and diversity for its steep price, but they seem to keep adding new stuff every now and then which is well worth checking out regularly.

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I won’t lie. It is expensive for the content it provides.

They claim that the price tag is worth it since you can use the same copy in Windows as well as Xbox. We both know however that it is uncommon for a gamer to buy the same game twice for different platforms.

But considering the enjoyment you’ll get from playing it – it is still well worth it.

What an amazing game!

Games aren’t perfect. They can’t make everyone happy.
Sea of Thieves has got flaws. Every game has got flaws.

But it brings something new to the table. And puts a grin on your face.

If you’re looking for something innovative that features beautiful art, very polished gameplay and that guarantees laughter while meeting new people – this is it.

Go get Sea of Thieves right now!

And no, you do not want to play Atlas just because it is popular on Twitch.
Get a better game instead. Any other game will do.

So long 2018!

2018 was a great year for co-op games.
Lots of new releases kept us well entertained throughout the whole year.
Now we’re all looking forward towards 2019 upcoming releases.

I have considered many of the co-op games that I’ve played this year… Rainbow Six: Siege, Kingdom: Two Crowns, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, A Way Out, Destiny 2…

Sea of Thieves blatantly stands out as being the one that made me smile the most. And that is priceless.

Popcorn Score:

5 out of 5 Pops!

After much consideration and a strong competition by other great co-op games PopcornGamer declares that Sea of Thieves is the Best Co-op Game of 2018.

Thank you for all the fun times I’ve had this year, Rare studios.
You made me happy.

If you would like to join me in Sea of Thieves, add me on Steam and use this referral link to get Sea of Thieves at a special discount price.

Click here to check out Part 1 of the Best Co-op Games for 2018.

Also, you totally must check out what happened to me when I became a Ghost in the Realm of the Living in Sea of Thieves!!!

The most anticipated games of 2019 list is out! See if your favorite game is in there!

I’ll see you on-board,
-ViLa4480

Vermintide 2 heroes

Best co-op games of the year 2018 (Part 1) Vermintide 2

After reading this post, make sure you check out Part 2 of the best co-op games of the year 2018!
My next post focuses on Sea of Thieves! Yarr!

So long 2018…

This was a good year for games.

We’ve had plenty of great new releases and decent sequels, great events, big tournament prizes and awesome streaming, video and social media content.

The time has now come to recap some of the Best co-op games of 2018 and unveil the Most anticipated games of 2019!

This is also the best time to enjoy great games at a discounted price!

Most companies have released their brand new games prior to the holiday season. This in turn made them drop their prices for previous releases and their competitor’s as well.

This is exactly what brought me to Warhammer: Vermintide 2.

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Winter is coming

Prior to release (in March 2018) I told my friends that Vermintide 2 was going to be my next purchase.

I’ve been trying to save some bucks as I’m looking forward to move to a new home. I had also just bought Sea of Thieves. So I decided that I wasn’t going to spend any more money at that time.

Instead I added Vermintide 2 to my wishlist and left it there to rot slightly like a good cheese. The truth is, I kind of forgot I had it there.

Meanwhile, other games showed up. I have to admit that I invested quite some time in playing the great new update for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (AKA awesome card game!) and Gwent: Thronebreaker. Two great releases for 2018 as well.

Check out my unlisted youtube review for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game:

Winter has come.

…And I got a Steam giftcard for Christmas from my girlfriend!
She totally gets me by the way!

Instead of spending the whole giftcard buying Battlefield V to play alone, I decided to do something different this time around since my Battlefield needs were still very much satisfied with Battlefield 1.

I went on to search for a co-op game that I could gift and play with my friends.

I checked my steam homepage – which, nowadays, is actually quite lame.
There I found my lost promised love, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 with a 60% discount for just 11€!

Blood & Teeth

Now, this game isn’t as expensive as other AAA games because… well… it really isn’t a very deep and complex game that would deserve “full price” status.

I had previously played Warhammer: Vermintide “1”, so I kind of knew what to expect.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a rather simple game of head smashing and limb cutting explicit violence. It is gruesome – but fun.

Vermintide features a first-person action (mostly melee) run and gun gameplay with absurdly large waves of enemies and interesting minibosses with unique abilities.
It pretty much uses the same mechanics as Valve’s Left 4 Dead. To the point where it feels like a rip-off with a few brand new additions and a very different theme.

It tells a decent enough story (unlike L4D) that has beautiful, although gruesome scenery, great heroes, great villains, and enough depth to keep you entertained for days – yet still very challenging on each playthrough.

They also make you stand on your toes in each run – you never really know what to expect next. Sudden hordes of enemies and sneaky minions with special abilities tend to often show up uninvited.

warhammer vermintide 2

The game isn’t perfect – but the pace at which you need to run, fight and focus on defending your party from the enemies that are coming from all sides really gets your adrenaline pumping.

Surviving large *MASSIVE* waves of enemies by coordinating effective positioning with your friends is plain and simple fun.

It lacks a bit of the sophistication from some of the maps from its predecessor. It could also feature a slightly more intelligent approach to each map.

Instead, it often drives you into a brainless killing spree with no particular challenge other than positioning and speed. This isn’t all that bad. But requiring the player to think with additional puzzles or more complex bosses wouldn’t hurt either.

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Left 4 Dead-Dead

Okay, okay – we’ll forgive Fatshark, Warhammer: Vermintide‘s developer, for copying many of the game mechanics from Left 4 Dead since they were indeed able to deliver a great quality game at a very reasonable price (now at a discount!).

The fact that each player uses a different class with its own progression, set of weapons, abilities and talents increases Vermintide‘s replayability value and sets it apart from Left 4 Dead.

Even if the games are set apart by a small number of small changes, the truth is that they do matter.
When you consider that the last L4D iteration was released 8 years ago, you realize it created a void in a very specific game style.

Don’t get me wrong here: I’ve enjoyed Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 quite a lot. But I had major issues with some of its gameplay choices.
One of them relates to Source, the game engine that Valve created and uses for most of their games.

Portal, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead are some of the best cleverly built games I have ever played – yet their character movement precision, speed, and hitbox leaves much to be desired.

It all comes down to the game engine Valve uses and how they set it to have character movement feel pretty much the same in every game.

Resultado de imagem para left 4 dead 2 vs vermintide 2

Considering Fatshark’s success with both Vermintide 1 and Vermintide 2, I really think Valve will have to think twice on their own gameplay mechanics before deciding to go ahead and make Left 4 Dead 3 (if that ever happens!).
Valve would still sell more copies due to franchise value – but Vermintide (and Dead Island!) has raised the bar and players will now expect more from any upcoming Left 4 Dead iteration.

The final tide

The truth is that I’ve been enjoying this game quite a lot with my online friends and I hope to keep playing with them over the next few months.

Popcorn Score:

A great (and cheap) co-op game with an astounding fun factor, amazing graphics, character progression and great replayability grant Warhammer: Vermintide 2 a solid 5/5 pops.

But… was this the best Co-op game of 2018?
PC Gamer thinks so – what do YOU think?

Make sure you check out Part 2 of the best co-op games of the year 2018!
My next post focuses on Sea of Thieves! Yarr!

Most anticipated games of 2019 – also to be published later this week!

Here’s a referral link to get Warhammer: Vermintide 2 at a discounted price!

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 8 years and would instead like to try out Left 4 Dead 2 for the first time, make sure you grab it quickly as it is on sale for just 1.63€ on Steam for a limited time.

If I managed to spark your interest in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game or Gwent: Thronebreaker, grab them here!

I’ll see you in game-game!
-ViLa4480

Papers, Please: the short film

Papers, Please: The short …Film?

Free to read: there are no movie spoils ahead

A broken Valve

Have you read my previous article on How Steam broke my Valve? That’s the prelude to this post!
Go check it out!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Steam has let me down in the past few years, as I used to scroll its shop homepage on a regular basis… Steam then started showing very targeted results and my Steam shop started looking less and less interesting to me. It was showing the same results over and over again!
Somehow this led me to Papers, Please: the short film.

I was bored yesterday.

So I decided to go see what’s new on Steam. But since my Steam shop homepage is kind lame nowadays I went on to figure out what were the best-rated games of all time on Steam.

I was surprised! The top result didn’t belong to a game… It was a movie!
-A short film to be precise.
But not just any film… Papers, Please: the short film!

I have to admit that my jaw dropped a bit and my finger trembled with excitement when I hovered my mouse over it. Was this possible? What kind of black magic is this?!

Papers, Please: logo

Glory to Arstotzka!

Papers, Please is one of my greatest heroes when it comes to games.
As I understand it was mostly built by one guy (Lucas Pope) with the help of a small team of Arstotzkan loyal subjects.

The game is set in 1982 at the national border of a very closed soviet-like regime. You were one of the lucky picks of the October labour lottery as your name was pulled for immediate placement as a border admissions control officer. What an honour!

Your job is to allow or deny entry of people into the country – for the Glory of Arstotzka! to feed your family.


To me, games are about making choices.

…Making the right decisions that bring you the most benefit in order to “win” the game (even though winning something isn’t always required for a player to be entertained or to feel connected to a story).

However, the best games are the ones that make you think twice.
 
Papers, Please excels at this.


It presents you with tough choices over and over. 
To the point where you feel the misery of these immigrants and you still have to deny their entry into your country, knowing that they will die otherwise.

What an incredibly contemporary theme.

Corruption, bribery and even secret societies are also on the table as some people will try to do anything to get into Arstotzka …and you still have to feed your family.

Papers, Please Screenshot

The reason why I love this game is due to its gameplay simplicity in a cutthroat environment where each decision is critical to the migrant, the State and to your family. A bureaucracy simulator that is actually memorable.
As usual, Lucas Pope turned what at first would appear to be a technical graphics limitation into a graphic style on its own. One that not only simplifies interactions and leverages the narrative, but also that glorifies that great retro ambiance that drives the player back in time to a period of cold walls and warm tensions.

How does this translate into a film?!

I don’t know.
But they did it really well.

The film focuses on the usual role that the player performs. The Inspector sifts through all the data in the documents that he is provided by the migrants to look for info that’s missing or incorrect.

I won’t go into any further details as I don’t think it is necessary to spoil anything in a 10-minute long film.

Papers, Please: the short film

However, I will say that I was impressed at how carefully well executed the scenario and the attention to detail was in this film. It really captures the essence of the game.
The actors also do a great job at conveying that this is a life/death situation… and yet… just a job.

Summing-up, I would like to congratulate Lucas Pope and his team on being brave enough to make this great short film.

Art isn’t perfect, but this is a great 10-minute piece of art.
It isn’t priceless either – but it is FREE on Steam and Youtube.

Check it out in 4K glory right now:

Regarding the film I will rate it 4/5 Pops – it is great, but it lacks a little bit more depth and desperation that the game is better at conveying …but hey, it is free…

I will rate the must-have-played game 5/5 Pops.
No questions asked.

Film Popcorn Score:

Game Popcorn Score:

I’ll see you in Arstotzka,
-ViLa4480

Missed the first part of this story?
Go check it out now!

Interested in this game?
Click here to get a discount for Papers, Please.

Steam Shop

How Steam broke my Valve.

The kid at the toy shop

I love exploring Steam.
I just used to go through all of their pages, looking at all the new games being released and all of the innovative game concepts that they bring to every genre – and, on occasion, I would buy a strange new game that caught my eye. Have I mentioned that I am a true multigamer?

I REALLY used to enjoy scrolling through their shop’s homepage. It was fun looking at all the different games – I felt like a kid in a toy shop!

Unfortunately, Steam has been “improving” certain features over the years. 

A great idea.

In the past couple of years, however, they started to target audiences for their games. They started showing games that were similar to the types of games each player likes or plays. They even picked games that have just recently been released – or because they’re popular among my friends. What a great idea!…

While this was amazing for the first few months, I started to realize that the main store page on my girlfriend’s computer was so much more interesting than mine!
I thought… well… this couldn’t be right. How could it be that I was having more fun looking at her targeted games rather than my own?!

Suddenly I realized that my Steam homepage was pretty much static most of the time. Even though games jump up and down the page, they’re mostly showing me the same games over and over.

Steam Shop
My Steam shop homepage

The toy shop that only sells Pet Rocks


I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I open up my Steam homepage right now, Star Wars: Jedi Knight and Star Wars: Republic Commando, as well as every single Commandos game will show up at the top of all game suggestions.


The reason for this being that I’ve added Star Wars Battlefront to my wishlist (back in 2011) and I’ve added Commandos 2 to my wishlist (in 2012).
 
Now, I’m not saying these are bad games. They’re not. But I’ve seen them on my homepage every single day for several years now!


…and for some odd reason, after all these years, Steam still thinks that today is the day when ViLa4480 is going to buy all these games!

Ah… Bugger – maybe tomorrow


I can’t help but think that they have someone in their offices wearing a cap and deciding which games are going to show up on my homepage…

Cranking the levers up and down (Steam Powered!) with an eager smile as my mouse hovers over those games. 

“…He never gets to buy them! 
Ah… Bugger – maybe tomorrow” – he says to himself.

Closing the shop


The truth is… I don’t enjoy going through the Steam homepage as much as I once did.
I used to enjoy the variety of games that showed up. But now I find myself mostly looking at the “Popular Releases” and the “Most sold” tabs as those reflect a little bit more variety than the rest of my targeted homepage.

While looking for something different, I decided to check which games were the best ranked of all time on steam. 

I was surprised.
The first one… wasn’t even a game.

And this is how I got to find Papers, Please – The short film.

Kingdom: Two Crowns logo

Kingdom: Two Crowns …One and a Half?

This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.

A mighty Kingdom

Kingdom: Two Crowns has just been released earlier this month and I decided to give it a go.

Kingdom: Two Crowns is a 2D side-scrolling “kingdom-builder” game. The kind of satisfaction you get from playing a tower-defense game, mixed with the satisfaction you get from playing an exploration game like Terraria.

Being insanely addictive, this game uses very smart and staggeringly simple game mechanics which I am able to describe in three sentences: 

  • You’ve got a bag of gold coins.
  • You buy improvements to your fort.
  • You survive waves of enemies.

Ah. But things are never this simple.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Splitscreen

Building and growing your fort means expanding your borders further into wild,unexplored territory. This not only means that trees will have to be mercilessly cut down, but also that other, harder decisions must be made:

-Will you destroy a homeless person’s shelter to expand your fort into fertile lands?
-What about the trader’s hut that regularly supplies you with a huge influx of coins?
-Will you spend all your money building new walls or instead hiring more archers to protect your current walls?


Decisions, decisions…

Know thy land

The game is a great exploration adventure game however… even though you can’t deny that there is a huge amount of geographic exploration to do… Let’s be honest and recognize that most islands in the game all look very similar and that the game mechanics never really change much throughout the map.

Nevertheless, what really drives the player to keep “exploring” the game is the huge amount of “interactibles” – mysterious statues, strange meteorites, portals and a never-ending list of upgrades to your fort that grant you game-changing special abilities.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Statue

Line of succession

Having bought the previous Kingdom: Classic and the sequel Kingdom: New Lands  I must say I was a bit skeptical about buying this new version. The reason for that was that when I first bought Kingdom: New Lands I had two reasons to buy it: First, I’d like to support the developers who had previously created such a simple and cool game. Secondly, I was also looking for new content and new interactions that would expand my experience of ruling a very 2D kingdom.

However, I must say I was a wee bit disappointed with Kingdom: New Lands since it was being promoted almost as if it was a standalone DLC.
-Does that make sense?
Nope.

It is basically the same game as Kingdom: Classic being resold full-price with an added expansion.

The problem wasn’t really that the expansion was bad. The problem was how it was being sold as something truly new – which it wasn’t since the new mechanics that were introduced weren’t really that different from the base game and many of the changes were merely cosmetic.

Don’t get me wrong: any expansion to this great base game is welcome – but paying a full bag of gold for a new DLC is …bittersweet.

Just one more crown…

Kingdom: Two Crowns Scary night

Along comes November and the video announcement for Kingdom: Two Crowns and I couldn’t be more curious. 
A developer starts by explaining that he was watching a player stream (not me, unfortunately!) with his girlfriend and that at one point one of them said “I wish we could play together”… the developer’s heart melted and so he decided to make that wish come true in Kingdom: Two Crowns.

This was huge news for me!
I love coop games.

…And I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play one of my favorite games with my usual test subject (A.K.A. my girlfriend).

What a great idea.
Then I saw the 20€ price tag.

Here we go again?

I’m not a cheapskate – but I don’t like paying for the same game three times either!
If they had added new cosmetic content I’m sure I wouldn’t have bought it… but coop… My only weakness… How could I resist? How could I?!

Yeah, I bought Kingdom: Two Crowns.
After an insane amount of time spent tackling screen-resolution, UI and gamepad issues I proudly decided to demonstrate to my girlfriend that I had finally managed to remove all blockers and smash all bugs and went to Mordor and back to get the game ready and working!

“It’s ugly.” – she said.
She does that. She has a way with words.

After convincing her that pixel art is actually an art form and not a technical limitation of the game, she conceded that she would allow me to play with her. I often get the feeling that I’m dating my cat.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Splitscreen

One crown. Two crowns.

The King and Queen of Choulândia were now crowned and ready to cleanse this Kingdom of all evil minions roaming the land.

Until I died in the first 3 minutes of gameplay.
Then we got desperately poor.
Then we decided to restart the game.

BUT THEN the Mighty Kingdom of Choulândia arose from the ashes, prospered and grew in size! We had thick stone walls, fertile farms, an army of archers!

Then my Queen bluntly said: “I’m bored.”
She does that. She has a way with words.

…Usually that tends to happen within the first 5-10 minutes of playing a game. So the fact that we were playing for almost two hours before she said that really struck me as being a great compliment to Kingdom: Two Crowns.
I was truly having fun playing with her!

We got to explore a new island, got some diamond-like gems and started building a new ship to come back home with our bounty.

We had to stop there.
But I can honestly say that I had great fun playing Kingdom: Two Crowns with myself and with my Queen and we had some good laughs with very poor fort-building decisions about building walls at the exact time that the enemy is attacking.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Sunset


Locking the gates

Overall Kingdom: Two Crowns is an amazing game for playing as co-op or single-player – especially if you’ve never had the chance to play one of the previous versions.
It is extremely addicting, fun, with a lot of content to explore and a great Christmas Gift for your soulmate (as long as you get to play with him/her).

However, the slightly steeper price for the content that has been added might not be entirely adequate if you’ve played the previous iterations since it feels like a small DLC rather than an entirely brand new game. I’d value this at 15€ for returning players, instead of the standard 20€, and despite the price point and the lack of apparent new gameplay mechanics at the start of the game, I would still rate it 4/5 pops due to its replayability and blunt fun factor.

Popcorn Score:

This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.

I’ll see you in-game,
-ViLa4480

Interested in this game?
Click here to get a discount for Kingdom: Two Crowns.