Tom Senior: Bungie jump
It’s been a rough month or so for Bungie. This week the team announced a bunch of changes that will hopefully give players more reason to return to the shooty sandbox and earn some more loot. I admired some of the changes Bungie made in Destiny 2—it’s a far more generous game than the chronically grindy original—however I can’t deny that the game has lost its appeal quickly and next week’s Curse of Osiris expansion can’t come soon enough.
The problem Bungie faces is that the most memorable weapons and events in Destiny 1 worked because of fundamental inequalities in its balance and loot distribution systems. The Gjallahorn rocket launcher is infamous now, because it was so amazing that raid and strike teams would reject you outright if you hadn’t RNGd one. The community fixated on god rolls, which may return with the addition of Masterwork Weapons in the coming weeks, creating stratas of elite players and normies, separated by each player’s capacity to grind out enough dice rolls to get the best drops. The Destiny 1 faithful will trade war stories about the era of Thorn in Crucible, another memorable power spike in the armoury. For me, these stories created a love/hate relationship with Destiny 1, but here is the question now for Destiny 2: is a love/hate relationship better than no relationship at all? I wonder if it was the pain that ultimately made Destiny 1 feel worthwhile.
Philippa Warr: Baby trouble
Raising a child in The Sims 4 seemed like such a good idea at the time. I’d gain a toddler and thus justification for all of the toys and ball pools I have ever dreamed of. Now that I actually have the child my two adult sims are exhausted, their schedules are all over the place and there is paint everywhere, despite me not owning any paint.
I guess you could argue that this is pretty faithful to the real life experience of toddlers. All you’d need to add is a mod that makes everything you own mildly sticky and which removes the possibility of uninterrupted baths for about two years.
Currently, and despite many many bowls of cereal plonked atop the high chair, the child’s hunger bar is in the red and I’m getting warnings that if I don’t buck my ideas up the in-game social services will intervene. Oh my goodness, it is so tempting to just let them repossess her and go back to my gardening projects.
Evan Lahti: Pandora's loot box
Various regulators and government officials weighed in on loot boxes over the past couple of weeks, mostly stating concern that they expose kids to exploitative systems. The comments section of the internet was broadly enthusiastic about this—one of our early stories hit /r/worldnews and other non-gaming subreddits: a lot of folks were surprised and grateful to hear that loot boxes were receiving negative pressure and attention from people who might be able to do something about them.
But when it comes to government regulation of games, we should be careful what we wish for. Any American who played games in the '90s remembers the period of pearl-clutching and pseudoscientific fear-mongering from senators like Joe Lieberman, who led a call to ban violent videogames. Government regulation of loot boxes would likely take us a step in that direction, opening the door for more laws around gaming content. Do we truly want to inch closer to Australia and Germany in that regard?
I'm with Tyler on this, who wrote a great opinion piece on the issue for us this week. I want fewer, and less insidious loot boxes in gaming. But that change ultimately has to come from within—from players who reject the abusive implementations of these systems.
James Davenport: Elder drolls
OK, small admittal of blasphemy here. I’ve been playing Skyrim… on a console. The Nintendo Switch version of Skyrim just came out, and the allure of playing of my favorite games on the morning train was impossible to ignore. It’s a great port for such a small device, and seeing Skyrim’s massive world running on something so small is incredible, but, phew, without mods that game does not age well.
It looks fine, but I forgot how godawful the default inventory management system is. Fumbling with tiny joysticks to scroll through a massive list of items with a UI that doesn’t scale is a great way to make you question the gift of sight if it’s going to be abused like this.
Chris Livingston: Idle hands
James Norris put together a nice explainer on Steam trading card idling, how it works, will it get you banned, and so forth. After hemming and hawing over it, I decided to try it. I got games, see, and in them games be cards. And I want to get those cards without playing those games.
After running Idle Master all day, I had like three cards worth a total of 11 cents. I don't know what I was expecting. (Actually, I do: I was expecting hundreds of cards worth a small fortune, because I didn't read the article very closely.) Poor me! Why can't I get everything I want instantly without having to do anything, including clicking a button to let something do nothing for me?
Joe Donnelly: Ruby ruby ruby ruby
As noted in my Highs entry overleaf, I’m back playing Final Fantasy 7. And despite this being my fifth playthrough of Square’s two decade-old(!) RPG, I’ve never managed to topple its toughest boss—Ruby Weapon.
To be honest, I’m a wee bit scared. Levelling and gathering the requisite tools will likely take me hundreds of hours, however I’m most intimidated by working out a strategy. A quick glance at Google throws up umpteen suggestions and I can’t decide which one will work best for me. Do I simply beast in and hit level 9999, or do I learn 4x-Cut and have my subordinate party members cast Mime leveraging their Ultimate Weapons? Perhaps I should breed a gold chocobo and rely on the Knights of the Round summon—or have my character with W-Item use Dazers of Ruby while I apply Megalixir to my part? And even if I pick one of those, who knows who I’ll take with me into battle.