Thursday, August 25, 2016

I much prefer "live chat" to phone calls for customer support.

If a company has a live chat service I will always use it in preference to phoning the company to try and get customer support. I find it is is quicker to get in contact with someone and I find that it is generally quicker to get a problem resolved using live chat. This is despite the fact that the actually chat responses can be slow coming and the support reps are almost certainly multitasking multiple customer queries. I suspect that companies put a higher level of support staff on their live chat lines than on their phone lines because of the savings associated with multiplexing.

An added bonus of live chat is that you can keep a transcript of the conversation. Many companies will actually email a transcript but you can usually screen capture it yourself. This can be handy if ever you need to refer back to it.


Enderal, free RPG built on Skyrim is Great

I am currently playing Enderal a free total conversion mod which offers a totally new RPG using the Skyrim engine.

It is great. Not just great for a mod or a free game. It is just great. The story is great. The quests are great. The graphics and sound are great. The voice acting is great (even in English translation). The game is remarkably stable and bug free.  How did they achieve all of this on a budget of zero euro? I have no idea.

If you have Skyrim (any version) then you can download Enderal here in either English or the original German versions. You need to download both the installation package and the launcher. Put the launcher into your Skyrim directory (probably C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\skyrim). Run the launcher and hit "install now". Navigate to the installation package when prompted.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Doom (2016) is great

I have 46 hours recorded in single player mode on Steam and the campaign only takes about 11 hours to beat. This game seamlessly combines old school running and shooting with new school collecting and achievements and it is a tonne of fun.

Favourite weapon has to be the Gauss cannon. It fires a high damage accurate single shot which works great for running and gunning. You can't afford to stand around waiting for the automatic weapons to whittle down opponents. The Gauss cannon takes low level enemies out in a single shot even the really annoying shielded guys. The siege mode upgrade path allows it to charge up a massive area of effect shot. In my opinion the most powerful weapon in the game apart from the BFG. The only disadvantage of the Gauss cannon is that it does some much damage that it kills enemies before you can pull off glory kills.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Is Humble Monthly Worth it (with Spreadsheet)?

I have been subscribed to Humble Monthly for three months. There are usually one or two games I like along with a bunch of stuff I have no interest in or already own.  Every month I dither about whether or not to cancel my subscription so I have decided to go about this in a more scientific fashion. I present to you the Humble Monthly personalised value spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet takes a conservative approach and values games at the lowest price they have ever been on sale at according to isthereanydeal.com. I have multiplied each price by my own level of interest in the game on a subjective 0-100% scale. In this way games I have no interest in are valued at zero. I have also set the value of games I already own to zero even though I may be able to find a home for some of the duplicate keys with younger relatives.

The summary shows that the Humble Monthly bundles are worth an average of over $21 to me which compares favourably with the monthly subscription of $12. Also of note is that there each month has paid its way with at least $18 worth of personal gaming value. A supporting piece of evidence is that every month there has been at least one game that I immediately downloaded to play. Science proves it: Humble Monthly is a good investment for me.

It is worth noting that there are other benefits to Humble monthly not included in the analysis above. It has brought some games to my attention that I would not otherwise have considered and having an active subscription gives 10% off purchases in the Humble Store (although there is a risk of the same item later appearing in a monthly bundle).

Full spreadsheet is available from the link below. Feel free to customise it for your own use:

Humble Monthly Spreadsheet (Google Docs)

Monday, July 04, 2016

More Stuff = Less Happiness.

I used a gift voucher to buy three PS3 games I don't have time to play. I am feeling somewhat perplexed about it even though the voucher was a gift. 

Over the years I have paid real money for hundreds of PC games I never got around to playing but somehow this feels worse. Most of those PC games are digital products that can be hidden away in my Steam library causing no offence to anyone. These PS3 games however will sit accusingly under the TV, increasing clutter and reminding me of the fact that they add negative rather than positive value to my existence. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I don't like roguelikes.

To be more specific I don't like the combination of permadeath and random chance that is a hallmark of all true rogue-likes. It has taken me a while to admit this because serious gamers are supposed to like rogue-likes and respect the many classics of the genre. 

I know that permadeath is supposed to make a game more engrossing by increasing the stakes. I know that it makes your achievements seem more worthwhile when you finally do overcome the game's challenges. 

I also know that randomness makes a game interesting. It means you never know what to expect. Randomness is one of the things which differentiates a game from a puzzle. 

However when you combine randomness and permadeath you condemn yourself to the bitter despair of losing many hours of effort due to a random toss of the dice. In most true rogue-likes a pointless unavoidable death is almost certain. You may die nine times out of ten. More likely you will die ninety nine times out of a hundred but the odds of success are heavily stacked against you and you have go into these games expecting that you will lose. 

The theory is that if you adopt the right attitude you can appreciate the losing playthroughs in their own right and will be all the more ecstatic when lady luck finally smiles on you and grants the impossible victory. 

Well I reject that theory. It doesn't work for me. It doesn't work for me because I like finishing games. I enjoy conquering the final boss and then moving on to another game. Rogue-likes are not designed to be finished. You are supposed to lose and start over again and again. If you ever actually get to kill the final boss it is an unexpected miracle.  This theory also doesn't work for me because it abuses  the one gaming talent I actually have. I don't have instant perception. I don't have  razor sharp reflexes. I don't have incredible dexterity and I don't even have have great strategic vision, All I have is dogged persistence. I tackle a challenge. I fail. I try again with a slightly different approach. I keep doing this until something works.  Rogue-likes demand persistence because they force you start over and over again but they give you no reward for it. Lessons learned in previous  playthroughs become irrelevant when the random number generator rolls against you. 

Grumpiness brought to you courtesy of "FTL Faster Than Light" which I have been playing for the last few days. To be fair I really like the game and repeatedly come back to it over the years. I have even overcome the final boss on more than one occasion. I still don't like rogue-likes though.