Interest Has Ebbed Again

Over at HeadBurro Antfarm, the question has been asked: what’re you playing?

It seems that many in the Google+ group for Elite: Dangerous are suffering a similar malaise at the moment.  The game, for all its merits, just isn’t holding the interest as many of us had hoped it would. The Google+ group has been a generally positive sort of place.  The mood on the forums is, of course, slightly more angrily apocalyptic than it has been since 1.0 release.

This is unfortunate, since until quite recently, Dangerous has been my Main Game.  I’ve been playing since Beta 2 (I think – somewhere around there, certainly) and haven’t really let up.  That lasted until sometime just prior to the beta release of the PowerPlay 1.3 update, when I was struck, quite out of the blue, by an almost complete failure of interest.  I just couldn’t bring myself to bother loading the game, and I had quite literally no interest in testing PowerPlay in pre-release.

In fact, I didn’t pick Dangerous up again until PowerPlay was properly released, after which I spent a week or two largely ignoring the PowerPlay content, and instead running the new-and-improved smuggling contracts.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, too.

And now I find that the interest has ebbed again.  I can load it; I can play it; it’s still utterly gorgeous. The visuals and the sound are truly absorbing.  I’ve said this before, but I can’t stress it enough.  The game’s production values are triple-A.  The game underneath them, however…

I don’t know.  I don’t really know what I wanted.  I wanted… something.  I think the problem is that, for me, Dangerous is neither one thing nor the other.  It’s not a space simulator, as many people claim it is, except in the sense that it puts you in the cockpit and lets you drive.  But I’m a sim gamer – always have been.  And I’ve played Microsoft Flight Simulator, Falcon 4.0, Orbiter.  I know what a simulator feels like, and Dangerous isn’t that.  But it isn’t entirely an arcade shoot-’em-up either, because if it had been I wouldn’t have played it as much as I have.  I’m not fond of that sort of game.

I am fond of Dangerous.  I’ve put a fair chunk of time into it, and that it isn’t currently hooking me much… well, this is a little troubling, but it’s not a disaster for me.  It’s not the end of my gaming world.  Over years of game-playing, I’ve built up a substantial collection of titles, most of which I probably don’t play from one day to the next.  But I’m faddy.  I’ll watch something, or read something, and suddenly be inspired to play a particular, vaguely related game until the inspiration dies off and I move on to something else, probably to return a week, a month, a year later.

As far as Dangerous goes, the game as it stands isn’t fully holding my attention right now, but I’m not letting it go entirely.  If I go on hiatus from Dangerous, it doesn’t mean I’m never looking at it again.  It just means that, for now, other things are interesting me more.

Which brings me back to the Burro’s question, which I would answer thuswise:

I am currently playing rather a lot of X3: Albion Prelude.  This is a space trading/fighting game that takes place in a far more restrictive, confined ‘universe’ than Elite: Dangerous does, but presents the player with far more options on how to play.  Through the ability to field more than one ship at once (the limit on ships appears to be ‘what your computer can handle’), to give those ships orders and automate them, through an in-game economy that makes sense, X3:AP presents a highly immersive and complex game.

Declaration: I am someone who uses god modes, infinite money hacks, and all manner of dirty filthy cheatery – and I feel no shame over this.  For me, the purpose of a game is enjoyment, and while I see the argument that there’s more ‘sense of achievement’ in completing a game honestly, my imagination is better fired up if I can explore the game at will, to some extent.  So I used a custom-start script in X3:AP to begin the game with a carrier-class capital ship and a full complement of support vessels and fighters.  I couldn’t have asked for a better Battlestar Galactica game, short of an actual Battlestar Galactica game.

Thanks to a Steam sale, I’ve recently got hold of a copy of Euro Truck Simulator 2.  A friend of mine, on seeing that I’d bought this game, quite understandably asked why.  Not just because a game about driving trucks from A to B must, surely, be excruciatingly boring, but also because he knows me, and I’m not interested in trucks, and I hate driving with every fibre.

But, for some reason, ETS2 is actually quite good fun.  Things that are tedious and soul-sapping in real life can often be surprisingly enjoyable in simulation.  Truck driving is one of these.  Create a driver (there are avatar images to choose from – though, rather unsettlingly, these are photos of real people), pick a starting city, and take jobs to make money.  I find I’m actually really getting on with it.  Journeys are scaled down, so that a two-hundred-mile trip will only take maybe half an hour to drive, but the scenery is stunning, and the attention to detail breathtaking.  Go to the UK and you’ll find road signs and markings in British format (although there are no bilingual signs in Wales); you’ll see British-style cars with British registration plates driving on the left.  Go into mainland Europe and you’ll find corresponding details.  It’s far more enjoyable than trundling along motorways at fifty miles per hour has any right to be.

Among other titles I’ve dipped into recently has been Pixel Piracy from Quadro Delta and Re-Logic – a bizarre side-scrolling Rogue-like which places you as the captain of a small ship and lets you hire crew, and visit islands and encounter other ships, attacking both and seizing plunder and loot and levelling up your crew.  It’s… weird.  It’s basic in structure but can get quite complicated in how you manage things.

Also, I’ve had a couple of stabs at South Park: The Stick of Truth, which is far better than I’d feared it would be.  The first South Park game I played was some horrible 3D nonsense involving something about turkeys, probably sometime in the late nineties.  This was far improved.  You pay the ‘New Kid’, who arrives in South Park and joins in a giant fantasy role-playing game campaign all the neighbourhood children are playing.  The well-known characters are generally the ‘good guys’, while a host of unnamed ‘extras’ play the evil Elves who have seized the powerful ‘Stick of Truth’ (a stick). It’s the player’s job to get the Stick back.  Because of the game-within-a-game setting, SP:TSOT will be familiar to anyone who’s played a fantasy RPG.  The visual style mimics the TV show perfectly; and likewise its humour: if you enjoy South Park either as constant toilet humour or as clever parody, you’ll probably enjoy this.

My wife generally spends her gaming time playing Banished (as do I, on occasion), but when she wants multiplayer we usually go have a run round EverQuest II or Villagers & Heroes (known to Americans, apparently, for some reason, as A Mystical Land).

You asked, Burro!

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