Jump to content

Videogames: Spooktober Season


Recommended Posts

When deciding what to write about, there's a good advice that goes "is this the most interesting period in your main character's life, and if not, why aren't you writing about that instead?"

The story of Shepard and the Reapers is the most interesting one in the Mass Effect universe, or at least the most dramatic one. Making the show about anything else wouldn't make much sense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Damn, it's always pretty noticeably that I'm tired and in dire need of a break when I keep installing new games to play them not at all or only a little.

First I needed something turn-based because with Warhammer Gladius I managed to get into a flow to correct one exam, then do a turn, then correct another exam. That motivated me quite a lot to keep going during the last holiday. So now I installed Age of Wonders 2 to try and do the same thing, but noticed I kept clicking away turns because there is so little to do in each one and the game is so unforgiving that I had to keep reloading saves and redo all my moves because all of a sudden three enemy stacks slipped past me and made a beeline for my capital. That made me slip up in my strategy and cost me time that I should have used with more correcting last weekend.

Then I somehow got the itch to drive around in an American city (don't ask) and wondered whether I could try out GTA5... but in the end decided that quite probably my laptop would not be able to run it, I have made rather bad experiences with console ports. So... I went through my free games on Epic and instead installed Saints Row 3 for the heck of it. Drove a little around, bought some shops, did some missions, but it didn't keep me entertained for long.

Driving around in an American city I then kinda did by going back to The Crew 2. They have a new event where they added new open world skills involving... driving to a destination really fast while in a taxi or stretch limo. It's... not exactly the most creative addition, but given how stupidly empty the overworld is, I take everything I can. Still would prefer to be able to get the police cars I missed out on, especially given how stupidly overpowered even the basic police cars are.

Some part of me, I guess the most tired one, just wants to build a shack to hide in. I wanted something with crafting, so I installed No Man's Sky again, but ended up somewhat annoyed when I realized that I didn't think to backup my savefiles when my laptop died the last time. I did start a new character, but it stings that I have lost my resource supply bases and my freighter and am not sure whether I can motivate myself to do the entire game all over again.

There is also a part of me that really wants to build a splendid Roman city because of my researches for a class recently. Gotta suppress the urge to install Grand Ages Rome on top of all this...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/26/2021 at 1:45 PM, Ran said:

Note that this also includes foreign editions which were even split into multiple volumes in some cases, sometimes as many as 3 or even 4. All of these count as "books sold", but they're really padding out the numbers. In France, the series was published in two volumes per book. In Germany, some of the bigger books had four volumes to represent them.

Mass Effect 3 sold 7 million copies. Jordan's 11 books had sold 14 million copies in North America and over 30 million worldwide (which, in retrospect, sounds like 16 million outside of North America, not 44 million total as some sites took it to mean), per Tor.com when they announced in 2007 that Sanderson would finish the series. I suspect there aren't many more people who've read at least one WoT book than have played Mass Effect 3.

(I have to say, I think estimates of how many copies WoT has sold seems wildly ... off. Sanderson comes on to write three books and the total book sales double or even triple in a single decade? That doesn't compute to me. I don't recall some huge surge of WoT back catalog popping again into bestseller lists as ASoIaF did.)

Tor has some weird accounting going on. My various investigations into Tor and Orbit regarding Jordan and Sanderson's sales (which including some correspondence with Sanderson's agent) indicated that the correct sales figures were 44 million in North America alone in 2007 (the report that it was 44 million worldwide on Jordan's death was erroneous and based on 1990s sales information, even when Tor themselves reported it, because Tor.com is run as a different enterprise to Tor the publishing company and frequently fail to get correct information out of them) and substantially more globally. Sanderson announcing completion of the series did drive a renewal of sales and the ending of the series did trigger even more sales, but not a massive degree; the issue was more Tor's iffy initial reporting. I do know from Orbit that the series has sold just under or maybe just over 5 million copies in the UK alone, which is absolutely insane given the size of our market.

I believe it was the French publishers (at least they said as much at the LonCon 2014 Wheel of Time Panel I moderated and excitedly reported as much to Harriet) who led an attempt to do an accurate global sales estimate around 2014 and came up with between 85 and 90 million sales, which seems more less accurate (there is a very rough rule of thumb that for any globally successful series above x number of foreign language translations - around 20- you can double the US numbers to get the global figures, though that doesn't work for hyper-successful authors like Rowling and Tolkien) and Tor have subsequently used that figure in their marketing.

I did hear from Sanderson's agent in 2018 that his three WoT books had sold 12 million copies, which is interesting as it does suggest sales of 4 million per book, down from the 6 million per book average for the entire series, and may be an indicator, albeit rough, of how many people completed the series and how many it lost along the way

Also worth noting that c. 2006 Tor reported Terry Goodkind having sold 25 million books and they have never, ever updated that figure, despite the NYT placings of his subsequent hardcovers and paperbacks probably adding a million or two in the USA alone subsequently.

Back on point, it looks like ~4 million people globally completing The Wheel of Time and maybe 5-7 million people playing a Mass Effect game. Maybe much more weighted in ME's favour because a lot of people played the series as an action SF game and skipped all the cutscenes and dialogue to get back to shooting things, so it's much less clear-cut that there's as many people automatically playing all four games in the series as reading all fourteen WoT books (whilst if you're only just reading Book 11 of a 14-book series, there's something weird going on).

On 11/26/2021 at 4:23 PM, Corvinus85 said:

How much more popular are the Witcher games than ME? I would venture a guess that only the 3rd game sold better than ME. I think most the TV show audience for The Witcher came because of the games, not the books, and because of Cavill. But on the actor side, Amazon could easily find at least one famous actor to carry the show. Hell, it could be Cavill himself, the guy is an avid gamer.

The Witcher 3 has sold 30 million copies, which is more than the entire ME series (that's all four, not just the trilogy) combined (about 20 million). The entire trilogy has sold over 50 million copies, comfortably two and a half times the combined sales of the ME series.

Cavill hinted last year at being involved in a Mass Effect project, though I believe the thinking at the time was that he'd be voicing a Mass Effect 5 character rather than being involved in some kind of adaptation, which would be almost certainly precluded by his Witcher commitments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Werthead said:

Tor has some weird accounting going on. My various investigations into Tor and Orbit regarding Jordan and Sanderson's sales (which including some correspondence with Sanderson's agent) indicated that the correct sales figures were 44 million in North America alone in 2007

Going to spoiler block this because it's off topic, so as not to make a big block of text for people to scroll by, but...


I think it's literally impossible that there were 44 million copies sold in NA 2007. But once that took hold, then the French publisher doubled things and we get that 90 million figure, and I'm pretty certain it's wrong.

There's no way that Tor did not know how many copies it had sold in North America, because they will know exactly how many they printed and how many got returned. The number of NA sales is going to be decidedly more reliable than worldwide sales since reporting from foreign publishers can be fitful and sometimes unreliable.

A great source is just old Publisher's Weekly reports, because they pulled their data directly from publisher releases and distributors. 1998: "first 7 books ... more than 7 million" in NA . 2000: "Tor calculates that there are more than 10 million in print" seems to be NA and takes us through Winter's Heart2005: "So far, the series has sold more than 12 million copies in North America". That fits perfectly with 2007's announcement from Tor of 14 million NA after Knife of Dreams is included. 

12 million sounds like a global rather than NA number for Sanderson's books, and that's a pretty incredible figure if the ratio of NA to non-NA holds -- it means he sold something like 1.85 million NA and 2.15 non-NA on average. But this does tell me global sales are going to be like 42-45 million, and ~20 million NA. (Though... a part of me wonders if that 12 million figure is "12 million in print" and not "12 million sold". The best first-year sales of any Sanderson WoT book was for The Gathering Storm, which sold almost 440k copies in hardcover on a 1 million print run. That number declined to 406k and 387k respectively for the other books.)

I really think somewhere along the way someone got bamboozled and Tor decided to studiously keep mum about it and allowed the producers [the Red Eagle guys] and Amazon to just use what they found online for their marketing. Even Macmillan's website stuck to 14 million copies from the 2007 figure... until around February of this year, when their Jordan page now uses that same "over 40 million in North America" figure that has been floating around for years. Feels like marketing alignment with Amazon rather than a genuine figure.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got myself a Switch recently, mostly because I've been wanting to play Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey for, apparently, four years now.  Side note: those games came out four fucking years ago?!?!?!

Mario Odyssey is about what you'd expect.  It's a damn good platformer with (mostly) tight controls and some frustrating tacked on motion controls because Nintendo's gotta Nintendo.  

Breath of the Wild, though...holy shit, what a masterpiece.  Where every other open world game seemingly just throws a shitload of icons on your map for you to beeline for, Breath of the Wild takes an entirely different approach and gives you virtually no guidance.  Instead, it's the world design that pulls you toward certain geographical features, and there's seemingly always something to find, even if it's something minor like a little korok seed puzzle (of which there are 900 in the game).

I was dubious as to whether or not I'd truly get into Breath of the Wild, because a lot of what I read about it made me think it wouldn't be for me.  I've always loved the standard Zelda formula where you go to a dungeon, unlock a new item, and then use that item to both beat the dungeon and then progress in the main quest.  Breath of the Wild tosses that out almost entirely, and you get every key item you'll need in the first few hours or so.  Even the tutorial in the game is open-ended.  You're given a few tips, a large open world that you'll soon discover is just a fraction of the greater map, and an objective to retrieve treasure from four shrines.  These shrines grant you various abilities, such as magnetism, stasis, and two types of bombs (no more bomb bags but rather a brief recharge period between bomb uses).  

The shrines are mostly a hell of a lot of fun, and some of them seem reasonably open-ended.  There's surely a planned way to solve each of them, but I'm equally sure that I've solved a few of them in ways the developers probably didn't intend.  Much like Mario above, though, sometimes Nintendo gets too cute and throws in shrines with motion controls and these are almost uniformly significantly more frustrating than fun, and typically amount to being solved by sheer luck, not through mastery of the controls or any sort of intellect.  I've mostly just been cheesing them, flicking the controller faster than the puzzle design intended to toss a ball over a wall rather than attempting to negotiate it through a tedious maze, or twisting a platform into an awkward position as a ball spawns to get it to land somewhere unintended. 

The main annoyance in the game is the fucking rain.  You can't climb when it's raining, and climbing is such a huge part of the game that you'll frequently be left waiting out a storm, or finding a fire to rest at until morning, although naturally the fires go out during rain storms, adding frustration to an already obnoxious design decision.  Similarly, a few of the game's quests require carrying a blue flame from point A to point B, and as you'd expect, I was hit with rainstorms during both of them, leaving me to just set the controller down and do shit around the apartment until it blessedly cleared up.  I got hit with two fucking rain storms during the second quest of that type, one moments before I got to the end.  That one cleared up after about a minute of real time, leaving me to believe it was just tossed in as a fuck you to me directly, as the previous one lasted a good five minutes, what amounted to about half of an in-game day.

Overall, though, there's a lot more good than bad, especially the further you progress and shed some of the early game's limitations.  Unlocking a few more weapon and shield inventory spots truly opens up the game, as you're no longer as stressed during combat encounters and can focus more on just having fun.  Similarly, adding hearts and stamina free you to take on tougher enemies and climb further than before.  And the enemies in this game are tough.  You start out with three hearts and many if not most of the game's enemies can one-shot you early on.  Even hours later in the game, it's easy to find yourself in over your head as an enemy takes away half of your eight hearts in a single swipe.  

I'm honestly shocked by how open-ended the game is.  Once you obtain the paraglider and thus access to the rest of the map outside of the tutorial area, you're free to pretty much do as you please.  You're basically given two objectives, one of which is to kill Ganon, the game's final boss.  You can even go attempt to fight him right away, although I imagine that won't go well for most gamers.  The other quest is to head to one of the game's villages, and on the way you'll be naturally introduced to some of the game's other mechanics, like how stables work and exchanging korok seeds for inventory slots. 

It's easy to appreciate how clever the game design is in Breath of the Wild.  You're not forced to visit a stable, but you'll organically pass one if you follow the road to the game's first village, which you probably will because it requires navigating through two giant cliffs that you don't have the stamina to easily climb at the game's outset.  Similarly, you'll come across the game's second tower right next to this road, which will unlock the map for the area leading up to the village you're heading to.  From there, these towers get considerably more difficult to scale.  Hell, some of them are hard to even get to.  But the first and second one are more or less given to you for free to teach you how the game works.  

It's just an amazing game, and I'm sad I waited so long to play it.  Better late than never, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^^^Agree with basically everything. I haven’t played BotW in a few years but do remember the rain/climbing thing annoying the shit out of me. Also hated weapons breaking down fairly quickly, but got used to it. Other than those complaints the game was pretty amazing. I’m thinking about going back to it as I don’t think I ever beat it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, Ramsay B. said:

^^^Agree with basically everything. I haven’t played BotW in a few years but do remember the rain/climbing thing annoying the shit out of me. Also hated weapons breaking down fairly quickly, but got used to it. Other than those complaints the game was pretty amazing. I’m thinking about going back to it as I don’t think I ever beat it.

The weapon thing was super annoying early on when all of your weapons break after a few hits, but it gets less annoying as the game goes on since you get more durable weapons and more weapon slots in your inventory.  I can carry like ten weapons and seven or eight bows now and it takes a lot of the strain out of combat, as I know there's virtually no chance I'll run out of weapons, which was a legit concern early on during tougher fights.

I remember trying to take on one of those Guardians near one of your first shrines.  It couldn't move, as it was one of the ones that pretends to be dead but then activates when you get too close, but this was within the first two hours of the game when I was still stuck on the tutorial plateau and all of my weapons would break after about three hits on the thing.  I quickly decided that it was out of my league and just snuck around it instead of trying to take it on.  I suppose that's another learning experience in the game.  You learn very early that there are some enemies that you're not prepared to take on and you need to figure out when to cut your losses and go around.

I've actually come to appreciate the weapon degrading simply because basically every enemy drops a weapon in the game and it's fun to find new and often more powerful items constantly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just made the trek up Death Mountain to Goron City in Breath of the Wild.  Doing so, I was just hit with this heavy wave of nostalgia, bringing me back to doing the same thing in Ocarina of Time over twenty years ago.  It's obviously a lot prettier and even more epic this time around, but the vibe was very much the same.  You're in a dangerous, hostile environment and death is always a mistake away.

I really love how the journey to each of the game's Divine Beasts is every bit as fun as actually taking down the Beasts.  The Divine Beasts essentially serve as this game's version of dungeons, giant mechanical creatures that were corrupted by Ganon a hundred years ago when Hyrule effectively lost the war but managed to seal Ganon away for a century.  They've begun to stir again just as Link was woken from his stasis, and it's your job to find a way to destroy their corruption and bring them back to your side.

I've already finished one of the Divine Beast quests, freeing Vah Ruta in the Zora section of the map.  Vah Ruta was causing a torrential downpour that threatened to flood both Zora's Domain and Hyrule at large, and so the journey to the top of the mountain to stop it had to be made entirely on foot along a path swarmed with monsters.  Once in the Zora city, I found that I would need shock arrows in order to stop the rain and gain entry into Vah Ruta, which led to a harrowing stealth mission to the top of a nearby mountain to loot the arrows without being spotted by a Lynel, a centaur-esque enemy that was, at that time (and probably still), far too powerful for me to take on and could kill me in a single hit.  I was informed that I needed twenty shock arrows, which turned out to be a wild overestimation, but the mission itself was a ton of fun.  

I did save and attempt to take on the Lynel, and it ended about as well as you'd expect.  I got dead and I got dead quick.

The journey to Goron City was even more fun.  Death Mountain is constantly in view, and one of the coolest moments in the game thus far was when I finally got close enough to see Vah Rudania, a giant robot lizard, slowly circling the volcano far above me, a creature so massive in scale that it brought to mind Shadow of the Colossus.  I quit shortly after unlocking the warp point to Goron City, but the trek there was much as you'd expect.  Lots of fire-based enemies, a few puzzles, rolling boulders to dodge, and, at one point, a fiery eruption from the volcano that rained down fiery debris around me.  

I really can't overstate how massive the world is in Breath of the Wild.  I've played plenty of games with giant maps, but I think the verticality presented here adds so much to the scale.  You can climb to the top of the highest peak and look out upon miles and miles and miles of Hyrule, and you can visit basically everything that you see.  Sure, a lot of it is just empty land, but that's part of the appeal here.  You get to traverse this lonely, dying world that has been overtaken by nature, corrupted machines, and monsters, with the various non-monster races having been pushed to the edges in order to survive.  And there's a wonderful, somber piano score that really hammers home the isolation.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, briantw said:

Where every other open world game seemingly just throws a shitload of icons on your map for you to beeline for, Breath of the Wild takes an entirely different approach and gives you virtually no guidance.  Instead, it's the world design that pulls you toward certain geographical features, and there's seemingly always something to find, even if it's something minor like a little korok seed puzzle (of which there are 900 in the game).

The genius of this is made even more apparent if you play Immortals: Fenyx Rising, a Ubisoft game clearly inspired by BotW. That game has its pluses, and in some aspects it's much more theme-parky design works for what it's doing, but when you stand in a high spot and look out there's very little clue to where things might be hidden, and of course the game does the Ubisoft thing of puking symbols at you so you know where to go (slightly differently in that you get a magic spyglass and have to manually track over things to put the symbols in, but if anything that's even more annoying, because it's not a well-tuned system, and because the spyglass warns you when there's something near-but-not-quite in its frame so you spend time tracking back and forth over a bit of landscape that doesn't look at all significant till you can get the marker to spawn).

That problem is exacerbated by the world design and lay of the land being such that if you're not following objectives with their markers and just go for a wander, you're always ultimately guided outwards to the edge of the map by the geography rather than BotW's design of having multiple focal points and guiding lines so you could end up anywhere. It really is brilliant, and so well thought out.

Mind you, re: your opening post, don't discount the exploratory brilliance of Odyssey either. Obviously on the first run you're directed reasonably tightly through the levels even though they are open, but you get a glimpse in each level when you have to collect the extra moons to power the ship of how it can be, and once you get to the postgame and are just free to do what you like the genius of much of the level design and its encouragement to explore shines through. It's a different thing to BotW, of course, but it's brilliant in its own right. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Werthead said:


There's going to be a vanishingly small number of people who read a random book in the series. But I suspect there's going to be quite a few that only read the first book, or only read the first three books; enjoyed them, but didn't keep going. Or readers who stopped at some point in the middle but came back and skipped ahead to Sanderson's books to see how it all ended.

Anyway, back to video games...

I made the seasonal tournament in Legends of Runeterra. Got completely wrecked, but just qualifying is the most competitive video game success I've ever had.

And I picked up SMT V. That's quite a game. I knew going in that SMT games don't have the same amount of story or characterization as Persona games, so there's no disappointment there. I do wish there was though, because if there was the quality of story to match the quality of gameplay (which is similar, but more complex and harder than Persona games) this would be one hell of a thing. As is, it's still a good time though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Elite Dangerous:

Four years after leaving Earth in my Asp Explorer in a long-range exploration mission to Colonia and then the centre of the galaxy, and Playing very intermittently over past 4 years (had a child for 3 of them) I finally got back to earth.

Took me about 600 jumps from Sag-A (black hole at centre of galaxy) to grt back. Sold my exploration data for 110 mill credits altogether!

Bought an Imperial Courier and refitted it. Found a system that’s good for courier missions to increase my Imperial rank.

Also want to Dolphin cruise ship and do passenger missions.

And refit my Asp Explorer for general purpose duties. For exploration, it had no shields or weapons. Basically a hull wrapped around a power plant, a hyperdrive, sensors and a fuel scoop


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Finally finished Mass Effect 2: Legendary Edition. Did pretty much every quest I could find, and wrapped up the game in about 58 hours. 

Have launched immediately into Mass Effect 3: Legendary Edition. Have already gotten to Mars after some rooftop climbing and discovering that...the holster feature is gone. For some arbitrary and inane reason. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shin Megami Tensei V remains a very strange game. There's almost no plot, except that every 10ish hours when there's a break from combat/exploration and you get about an hourlong heavy dose of plot. But I don't care about the plot because the game spent no time at all establishing who these characters are or why I should care about them. However, combat is really good. It's the only turn-based JRPG I've ever played that's legit challenging and makes me consider every action. Combine that with the fusion stuff, and it's basically adult Pokémon; which is a lot of fun.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Replaying Skyrim and I continue to marvel at how this game which has so very, very many flaws is still very weirdly compelling. Like I planned to quickly run through the game for the anniversary but I've ended up sinking 30 hours into it and will probably finish out the main quest at least, though I don't feel the urge to go as crazy with it as I did my Fallout 4 replay.

I would say that the Anniversary Edition update was total bullshit though. Look, this game from 2011 that looked like it was from 2008 when it came out now looks like it's actually from 2011 for real. Congratulations!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The excellent Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun got a new expansion today, Aiko's Choice. It's presented as a standalone game, although you'll probably appreciate it more if you've played the original game (which is currently like £3 on Steam).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Elite Dangerous, found a system (Ngalinn) which is great for progressing Imperial Navy ranks. Got from Master to Squire in no time at all.

Decided to refit my Cobra III for combat rather than my Asp. Its modules arenow mostly A-rated, and took out the x3 pirates the Imp Navy contracted me to kill easily. Just had to find them and pull them from warp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...