Windows Upgrade

Yesterday I worked from home since I had Comcast scheduled to come out and fix my Internet issues. I had been intending to upgrade to Windows 10 for a while, but hadn’t done it yet as every evening I decided I’d rather play games than deal with waiting on the upgrade and fixing any issues afterwards. Since I was at home for the day though it seemed like an ideal time to upgrade.

This was actually the third time I had gone through the Windows 10 upgrade process. I upgraded my old netbook and my wife’s laptop pretty quickly after release. So the actual upgrade itself was pretty uneventful. I did have a bit of fin getting it started though. I had “reserved” an upgrade via the system tray icon months before, yet clicking on it now to start the upgrade just had it sitting on the initial window. To actually start the upgrade I had to get the media tool off of the Windows site. Not a big deal, but it felt like an ominous omen.

Despite my difficulty getting started, the actual upgrade went off without a hitch. Even my Nvidia drivers seemed correct, which I’d heard were problematic initially. Unfortunately when I tried to launch the Nvidia Experience program to make sure my drivers were up to date the program hung. I tried uninstalling, rebooting, and re-installing to no effect. What did fix the application hanging was checking the “clean install” option during a custom install. Besides Nvidia, I also had a slight issue with Cryptic’s Arc launcher. I was getting an unhelpful error dialog when trying to launch any of the three MMOs I had installed. I’m not sure what the cause was, but I found that launching the individual games from the Start menu first fixed it.

But that was it! Considering I was upgrading from Windows 7, I’m pretty impressed that I didn’t have more issues. I haven’t gotten to do much with it yet, so I can’t say whether there have been performance benefits of 10 over 7, but I didn’t notice it being any slower which is a performance increase of a kind.

My plans for the holiday weekend are to launch my Jool exploration, play some Golem Arcana, and get going again on my MMO multitasking experiment.

Farewell GTX, Hello GTX

Saturday night I sat down at my gaming desktop to check in on some MMOs that I hadn’t logged into in months, namely LotRO, Rift, and Defiance.

I spent about 15 minutes in Rift moving all my inventory over to my Vault and then redeeming all of the patronage rewards that had been stacking up before canceling my subscription. I haven’t touched the game since before it went free-to-play, it’s just too much work to get back up to speed with all of the soul changes, and had been waiting on my last renewal to run out.

Then I hopped into LotRO just intending to pay my housing upkeep, but I ended up fiddling around and discovered that the inventory system changed. I was able to merge all my individual bags into a single window! Maybe I’m easily amused, but it makes thing so much easier when only one large window pops open instead of six little windows. I imagine people running mods have been enjoying something similar for a while, but I really dislike messing with mods for MMO clients.

Anyway, I ended up playing with my Hunter a bit and figuring out the big class changes from a few months back. I had just finished and ported back to where I’d left off questing when the game crashed. I chalked it up to LotRO being old, after all it is still slow to load and still doesn’t support full-screen windowed mode, and decided to move on to Defiance.

Watching the Season 2 premiere got me curious about what state the game was in. When I logged in, I found that I had more than a dozen items to claim in the shop. Once I got my inventory squared away, I got on my ATV and headed out only to have the game crash. Again, not thinking anything of it, I relaunched and noticed a button to update appearance on the login screen, and decided to have a makeover. While tweaking my character’s appearance I had the screen go black and then a Windows message popped up that my graphics kernel has crashed and restarted.

I had recently update my drivers and wondered if that had been a mistake, but went ahead and went back to fiddling with my character’s appearance. Then red lines started to appear on the screen, followed by my machine rebooting.

Crap.

When my machine came back up in safe mode and there were still red lines on the screen, I knew it wasn’t the drivers. Or at least wasn’t only the drivers.

I’ve never had a video card die on me before, especially one that’s only a coupe of years old. I’m not sure when but sometime in the last five years I’d upgrades the original GTX 275 that I’d used in the build with a GTX 580, so it’s no older than that. It has seen pretty constant use though.

Regardless, I took a trip to Fry’s on Sunday and picked up a new GTX 760, which isn’t quite top of the line, but is still better than the 580 without being ludicrously expensive. Plus my motherboard is old enough to be PCI-express 2.0 not 3.0 so I’m already capping my performance with the 760 as it is.

Dishonored

I bought Dishonored from Steam. I considered getting it for my Xbox, but didn’t because I was hoping that it would be opened up for mods eventually and because the load times for PC were much faster. The load times were a major decision point for me as I don’t play many stealth games and I knew I would want to be able to obsessively use quick saves to avoid getting frustrated and I didn’t want to spend half my playing time starting at loading screens.
The game begins very similarly to Skyrim, although instead of a wagon ride to the executioner’s block, you are on a boat headed to meet with the Empress. Things go bad quickly with the murder of the Empress, disappearance of her daughter and heir, and Korvo, the main character, being framed for the murder then imprisoned and tortured. The rest of the game involves escaping prison and then finding out who was behind the murder and bringing the evildoers to justice.


Unlike Skyrim, Dishonored is not an open-ended game. It is split into nine missions plus some interludes, with each mission having a specific goal that Korvo must accomplish. The freedom in Dishonored comes from the many ways in which you can achieve the mission goals. All of the missions have optional objectives and offer both lethal and non-lethal ways of completing the missions, plus you have myriad choices in how to make it through the mission map and deal with obstacles and soldiers.

The actual stealth gameplay reminded me quite a lot of Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham City. So much so that I overly relied on sleep darts and the Blink and Dark Vision powers for more than half of the game. While it was fun to play that way, I was missing out on some fun by not making use of Possession and Bend Time as well.

I completed the game with the low chaos (good) ending in about 20 hours. I chose non-lethal solutions to all of the missions, although I did blunder around a bit in the first few missions so I didn’t completely get away without killing everyone. I say this just about every time I finish I game I enjoy that offers multiple endings, but I’m looking through to playing Dishonored a second time. Of course I never finish these second goes, although I think I have a pretty good shot and succeeding with Dishonored.

At one point in a mission, I was trying to get past a locked door but I couldn’t find the key. I realized could keep sneaking around hunting for it, which would take a long time while trying to keep from getting spotted, or I could look on YouTube, or I could make a save point and just go on a rampage until I found the key. I ended up taking the rampage option and had a lot of fun cutting loose with Korvo. While I never did find the key, I did figure out an alternate way past that door and had a lot of fun doing it.

In the time I spent playing more assassin than thief, I found that the game played quite a bit differently, and I think this’ll make a difference in keeping me engaged a second time through.

MMO free weekend.

I did something over the weekend I haven’t done in a while. I played no MMOs. I did played several hours of the Torchlight 2 beta, but I spent a lot of my gaming time reading gamebooks. I played through Tin Man Games’ Gamebook Adventures 1: An Assassin in Orlandes and started on Michael J. Ward’s Destiny Quest: The Legion of Shadow.

Torchlight 2

Torchlight 2 was lots of fun. I think they’ve improved quite a bit over the sequel, but it’s been years since I played it so my memory if the first game is fuzzy. There seems to be more customization for your character and there’s definitely more for your character’s pet. Combat still feels great, and advancement is open enough that each of the four classes can be played very differently.

I played about five hours as an Embermage and another four as an Outsider and had a blast with both. Luckily the beta “weekend” runs through Tuesday, so I’ll get some more time to play tonight. I plan try out the Engineer so I can see what a melee focus is like.

Gamebooks

My gamebook kick started with an email about my hard backed copy of the Destiny Quest Book 1 re-release by Gollancz. That got me to pick up the original self-published edition that I have, and that got me wanting to read (or should I say play?) some during lunch breaks last week. DQ1 is a bit massive to haul around with me, plus it’s signed by the author, so I’d rather not get it too worn out or drip ketchup on it. Instead, I checked on the Android market and found that Tin Man Games has started porting their game books from iOS to Android, so I bought their first book, An Assassin in Orlandes (store link).

Assassin is more of a classic style gamebook. Its a linear story but still interesting and fun, and it is also much easier to come to a bad end or die. Dieing while reading a gamebook in an app has been a new experience. With paper gamebooks, I usually go back a section when I come to a bad end. It is cheating, but it saves me time and hassle from starting over and making all of the sale choices again until I get back to the spot I wanted to be in. Fortunately, Tin Man Games accommodates this a little bit by allowing multiple modes and offering bookmarks.

In the Classic mode, you’re allowed three bookmarks which you can return to at any point. You can’t move a bookmark though, so once one is placed that’s it. Bookworm mode is identical to Classic as far as character creation, but you’re allowed ten bookmarks. The only difference is finishing the book on Classic unlocks the ability to cheat on dice rolls (which is nice for exploring all of the plot branches). There’s also a Beginner mode forward readers new to the genre. It allows ten bookmarks and also changes the character creation process to allow for more powerful characters.

Assassin was well worth the $4.99 for their app. Of course that might seem expensive for an app, but that’s what a paper version would cost, and the app adds the convenience of tracking combat and inventory for you, which I think is well worth it. Tin Man Games has app added in some extras. There’s a nice map, some additional background info on the setting, and even achievements.

I’ve already picked up Gamebook Adventures Volume 2, The Siege of the Necromancer (store link). Tin Man has eight gamebooks so far for iOS, hopefully there rest come to Android as well.

Speed matters.

Pro-tip for the next time you decide to do some Spring cleaning on your computer like I did recently. Make sure before you spend the weekend replacing your primary hard drive and reinstalling Windows and hundreds of gigabytes of games, that you are sure that the new drive is the correct speed. I mistakenly used a 2TB drive that I’d originally intended to use in my Blacx SATA dock. That’s important because I usually get 5400 RPM drives for that purpose as they generate less heat, and the speed isn’t that necessary. Unfortunately a 5400 RPM drive is noticeably slower on a Windows install, especially when launching the Skyrim Creation Kit and loading all of the required data files.

After much cursing, some drive imaging, trying a 3TB drive that couldn’t be partitioned correctly as a bootable drive, more cursing, and then reinstalling (again) on a 1.5TB drive, everything is back to the way it should be.