XCOM 2, Linux, and Mods

xcom2bannerI run Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon and I’m enjoying the explosion of games available for the platform. One of these is XCOM 2. (A current release! Oh, be still my fluttering heart!) Vanilla, the game ran just fine, but I’m not a vanilla sort of girl. I crave mods. Sweet, juicy mods that enhance the game without turning it into a cheating bastard. Problem was, the launcher only successfully loaded once out of ten or more tries when mods were installed.

I found that the launcher was reading the mod files from .local/share/feral-interactive/XCOM2/VFS/Local/mods_lowercase. However, it took me far longer than it should have to figure out that these weren’t the actual files, but symlinks pointing to the files stored elsewhere. The launcher (or something related to it) was converting the symlink names to all lowercase and reading the mods from the local user folder. It was also deleting and rebuilding the Steam Workshop mod lowercase folder each time the launcher ran, sometimes more than once in a single instance. That multiple deleting and rebuilding always heralded a crash of the launcher.

Mods that I downloaded from Nexus weren’t having that problem, but the few I got from there were stored in /steamapps/common/XCOM 2/share/data/mods and converted to all lowercase in both file and directory names. In the brief moment before the launcher crashed, I could see that those mods were loaded, yet none of the Steam Workshop ones were. Not only that, but the Steam Workshop mods were stored in /steamapps/workshop/content in a folder with a numerical name. Time to run an experiment!

I favorited all of the Steam Workshop mods I subscribed to, so that I could easily find them again, then unsubscribed to all of them. Now, the
only mods were the Nexus mods in the /data/mods folder. I ran the launcher and it opened without a hitch. Now, the Nexus mods were also being symlinked in the local user folder, though in their own subdirectory beside the one used for the Steam Workshop mods. It seems like this second (now only) symlink directory was also being deleted and rebuilt each time the launcher ran, but only once.

So, I’m no Linux guru and I just want to play my damn game with my damn mods. That means that I stop digging into the cause of the problem once I identify enough of it and go after a solution that will achieve my goal.

That meant resubscribing to all of the Workshop mods, and then copying all of them to the /data/mods folder. To make my life easier, I picked up pyRenamer out of the Software Manager and used it to mass rename all of the files and directories within the mods folder to lowercase. Make sure to select both the “Files and directories” and the “Add files recursively” option for the easiest conversion of your mod folder.

I ran the launcher again and it opened without a problem. All of my mods were there and my saved game recognized them. I was able to continue playing where I had left off. Yay!

This solution means that I’ll have to update my mods in a more manual method, but it also protects my save from a mod disappearing from the Workshop and rendering my save unplayable. I’ll take that tradeoff.

Hopefully, this post will help anyone else struggling with the same problem I had. So, how does a modded XCOM 2 play in a Linux environment? Quite nicely, once this whole Workshop mess was sorted out.

Archeage Beta Impressions

Does it live up to the hype? As with most other games, the answer is no. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just not my thing.

tl;dr summary: This is a Korean grinder with an interesting economy mechanic – if you’re a paying “patron”. Otherwise, it’s just a Korean grinder. If you have the time and money to burn, you might be sucked in after level 30, if you like grinding.
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A Brief Return to GW2

Very brief. I’ve been gone since the end of Flame and Frost.

I can see why everyone is saying “go ‘zerker or go home” now, too. DPS is king and everything is balanced around the dodging mechanic and twitch play. Control and support are just theoreticals.

The downside to the Living Story is that, after an absence of several months, nothing substantial has changed in the game and I’m still left with little to do or care about. It’s not like I can spend a week or few to catch up on the story and understand what the deal is with the current events. So, there is no investment in what is going on. There were some zone events with rescuing or protecting Vigil engineers, but nobody was doing them in the maps that I passed through and no one stopped to help on the one that I soloed. Wintersday is Wintersday, but it doesn’t look like I can finish up the achievements from last year. I can make more snowmen, but it doesn’t count for anything. So, there’s the same mix of dungeons and dragons that were there when I left. I was tired of repeating them months ago and I don’t feel any impetus to go back to them.

After running around a bit, I found the new construction in Divinity’s Reach. Not much explanation of what it is or why I can’t get into the blocked off area with the laurel vendor. I don’t have a pass and I didn’t find info on how to get one, if I can get one. I just threw up my hands at that point and decided that I had other things to do with my time.

I still don’t understand the decision to make so much content temporary without any way of visiting it after the event it done. Upon return after several months, there’s really nothing to reconnect to and catch up on. Well, there’s another armor tier. Yay. *shrug*

So, I’m left with an MMO itch that still needs to be scratched.

Laguna’s Cut

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From the Final Fantasy wikia on Laguna Loire:

“Various examples of unused backgrounds hint that Laguna may have possessed a lime-green convertible truck during his time in Winhill. Laguna’s black-and-white intro picture depicts him driving said car and the artisan in Shumi Village, one of the places Laguna spent time in, has a miniature model of it. The car can be found in the garage in Ellone’s parents’ house where Laguna resides during his stay at Winhill if the location is hacked into the game. The car, however, is never used as Laguna’s car in the final game.”

Wait… What?

I knew about the truck showing up as a toy model in the Shumi Village and that it was something that was connected to Laguna during FFVIII’s development. It also explained why the shops sold fuel, even though you rarely used a car in the game. I did not know about the garage, or the full-sized model, or the rendered background version of it. How late in the development was this piece cut?

I always figured that Laguna’s story had suffered some major cuts by the final release. In a way, I can see why. A story about some dude and his war buddies traveling across the world to save a little girl from an evil sorceress and ending a war (perhaps even saving the world) in the process really is a game that could and should stand alone. To see that it was pared down after so much work was already put into it makes me wonder if someone on the higher level looked at the development and said, “Wait, why are we doing two games at once? Which one are we making? The teenage romance or save the princess?” Looks like Laguna had a habit of stealing spotlights even before the game’s release.

Squaresoft (later Square-Enix) seems to have a chronic problem when it comes to preproduction. It’s like they get a group of guys together, throw around really cool ideas, and then start making the game, hoping that enough of the ideas will gel together into a coherent whole by the time they get to the release date. Every Final Fantasy from FFVII onward has been plagued by this and it seems to get worse as the years go on.

As to the green truck, it does look like a cheap little rig that’s been owner-modified for some adventuring. Rather fitting for Laguna. It’s too bad that we never got to see the entirety of his story.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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I’ve been playing around with the character creator and benchmark for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

This utility is one of those things I wish more MMOs made available. It certainly piqued my interest in the game. I’m a sucker for detailed character creators to begin with and the benchmark test takes the character created and puts it in a series of scenes, so you can see it in action.

If only this wasn’t a subscription-only game, I would give it a chance. Sure, the word is out that it’s just okay in gameplay, but it would be nice to play something that felt like a Final Fantasy again. The environment of the game is strongly reminiscent of the Ivalice setting. I’m already gravitating to the chance to play the Dragoon and Summoner classes. However, it doesn’t strike me as a game that’s worth $30 for the base PC version, plus $13 per month minimum to play, unless I played it hard for a month or two, then dropped it.

I’ll keep watch for news of the game going buy-to-play with micro-transactions and a likely VIP subscription model. If it takes that route, I’ll pick it up and give it a try. Who knows, maybe by then, the devs will have turned the game into something fun and engaging, worthy of an AAA title.

First Look: The Sims 4 Official Gameplay Trailer

 

First Look: The Sims 4 Official Gameplay Trailer

So far, this looks intriguing. I didn’t get into the Sims 3, because of the more narrow focus of gameplay versus the god-mode of Sims 2. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the gameplay is like for Sims 4.

The character creator with the push and pull action is a nice change from the sliders, allowing for the builds that many mod-users looked for. Some people complain about the cartoonish appearance for Sims 4, but I think that it works in its favor by avoiding a dive into the uncanny valley. Besides, the Sims has always had an active modding community. Someone or three will come up with realistic skin and hair textures to download.

The emotional aspect looks interesting too, but I wasn’t much of a soap opera player in the previous iterations. It’s also nice to see the crazy, over the top elements pop up, like the voodoo doll. Hopefully, the emotional aspect is a harbinger of an improved overall AI for the Sims. Having to micromanage the survival functions of the pixelated lemmings was not my favorite aspect of the game. Sometimes I would just throw my hands up in the air, declare Darwinism, and let the morons die.

Onto the aspect of the game that I liked the most: Construction. Faster and easier house building with the option to move entire rooms around? Yes, please! Diagonal furniture without a cheat code? Finally! That the decor affects moods will be an interesting thing to play with.

My biggest reservations about the game come from the publisher being EA. So far, the site states that Sims 4 won’t require a persistent online connection and that it’s designed to be played offline. It looks like EA learned its lesson from the spectacular fail that was the SimCity launch earlier this year, but there’s no full guarantee of that. It will require an EA Origin account to install the game. So, there’s still the risk of having to deal with login server overloads just on that point. While the game is designed for offline play and no persistent online connection, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of the game requiring an online “check” to begin playing each session and flirting with the disastrous server overload message.

With the game slated to come out in 2014, my first instinct is to wait a month or two after release to consider purchasing it. That will let me see how EA will try to control their game, plus allow for patches for the inevitable release bugs.

Fragments of Memories

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Hedgemage was my main character from first day I logged on to the end of days in City of Heroes. He was an Energy/Energy blapper that I had fun running epic adventures with. I always figured that his nemesis would be Circle of Thorns or some other magic-based group. Instead, he was always tangling with Devouring Earth. “Hippies with the brains of rocks! Even rocks!” He was the sort of guy who would be on his way to pay the rent, have an alien invasion drop on him, beat back the invasion, and then continue on to City Hall to drop off the check. That really did happen in the game. I still find it funny. “I just wanted to pay the rent!”

I was browsing a folder of old writing bits and found this fragment amongst the files. It’s a piece I wrote during the City of Heroes 2009 Halloween event. It’s short and I don’t remember what the next part was supposed to be, but I got all nostalgic reading it. You can find it hiding under the cut below:

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City of Heroes

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There are days where I really miss playing City of Heroes. Even after so many months after the game’s closing, I still get the urge to fly around Paragon City or run through its streets. I also miss looking down at my chat window and seeing Pinnbadges in sore need of context. Sometimes, there wasn’t any, which made it more hilarious.

I made a version of Azarola from Bane and Black Mark and he was my third character to reach level 50. He was a renegade Arachnos Soldier of the Huntsman variety. Back when I created him, it made more sense because of where I originally started the story. When Going Rogue came out, he went Rogue as fast as I could manage it. Running around and making choices within the game helped me figure out Az’s mindset and settle into the character. I’m not sure what archetype I would have chosen for him now. Dual pistol? A little too flashy and Az considers gun control as using both hands. Assault Rifle? A little on the large side.

Funny enough, he ended up as my most powerful character, despite having no magic or other superpowers, like the rest of my stable. There wasn’t much that he couldn’t take on with his trusty SMG and robot spiders. He “liberated” those spiders from the Arachnos repair shop. They were “refurbished” and acted like it. I wished that I could have Az ride on top of one of those big metal puppies. He even named them Fluffy and Cuddles. Fluffy was the “special” one. If a giant robot spider could derp, Fluffy was a master of it. Az also made great use of temp powers, including ALL of the grenades. He never went without them.

I also miss AE and I wish I had a chance to make missions based on the Black Mark series. Gangsters, fortunetellers, witches, and curses! Choices between gray and black, then rising above the darkness, dragging a piece of the criminal underworld with you.

Unfortunately, Paragon City is now just a memory. However, I’ve been watching three different projects take up the torch. The Phoenix Project, Heroes and Villains, and Valiance are working their way to pre-alphas. The spirit of heroes lives on.

Been there. Done that.

Finally got World Completion on my Norn Ranger.

I’ve taken a break from GW2 since my last post on the subject a few weeks ago. Sit out the Living Story ratrace and wait for the Orr temple event scaling to get fixed. The only motivation left was map completion, but my server hadn’t been green in WvW for months. Those green strongholds were the only places left to explore. Then word reached me that my server was now in the green.

So, I hauled my Norn Ranger over to WvW, cursed at the invisible barriers that are halfway onto a series of beams in a jumping puzzle to a vista, and ran with a zerg until we could push to the last point I needed. Yay! WvW maps complete! But what’s this? No Gifts of Exploration? Why is that?

I found a couple Guild Puzzle waypoints that were added after I completed their respective maps, but still no avail. So, I go to the all-knowing wiki. Go to the Chantry of Secrets? Okay. It’s about time my Ranger checked in with her Order, anyways. Apparently, the Tyrian Explorer’s Society mail pigeons didn’t know where to find her and forwarded the Gifts of Exploration to the Order of Whispers base. I imagine that some poor Initiate on mailroom duty stealthed up to the wandering Lightbringer and dumped a couple of scrolls into her hands.

So, now that achievement is complete, I’ll let my Norn Ranger kick back in the Chantry of Secrets for a while and enjoy tormenting Initiates with her Jaguar. “You call that stealth? Sic ‘em!” My break from GW2 continues, mostly because my guild has entirely left the game and I don’t find the Living Story disappearing carrot that compelling. Like I’ve said before, I prefer layers upon layers of stories, so that it’s possible for each character I have to not overlap in their story. That’s the sort of thing that takes time to build and it’s hard to do when the slate keeps getting wiped.

 

Flame and Frost wrapup

Well, never did get around to finishing the Molten Alliance dungeon. Two weeks only, really? And now there’s more Living Story coming down the pipe? I dunno about anyone else, but getting slapped with a fixed 5-man dungeon at the end of a soloable story arc that stretched over months and then that dungeon disappears faster than the holiday events kinda burned me. I just got nothing. No enthusiasm, no desire to play, nothing. I should feel excited that there’s going to be more story and that the Southsun zone is getting a change. But instead all I got is “Meh.” The thought of doing more bait-and-switch vapor content just isn’t appealing. I could be using that time in the evening to do more work.

I still play, but that’s only when there’s someone already there to play with. It’s a small existential crisis in regards to the game. Why am I playing? What is the point? I had been thinking about trying to bring my guild back before this last dungeon, but how the hell do I try to convince them now? Yeah, there were some new stories, but you missed ‘em. They’re gone. Two weeks was all you had to finish it. Oh, out of the country? Too bad. Crunch time at work? Too bad. You all despise GW2 dungeon design? Too bad.

I don’t think I’m getting my guild back. Especially if there ends up being no way for them to experience all of the storylines they missed.

I still haven’t finished the Personal Story either. As soon as I found out that my soloable instanced story would end in a fixed 5-man dungeon, I dropped it. Cabbage-head wasn’t helping either. For a while, I just tossed the arc out of the mental window and came up with my own. Even thought about writing down the story for my human guardian from Ebonhawke. My enthusiasm is dying for even that. That’s actually a really bad sign, now that I think of it.

I’d like to see GW2 make more use of its dynamic scaling ability. I’d like to see layers upon layers of story built up, so that it was possible for each character to take a completely different storyline. I’d like to see GW2 use the tools it has to really set itself apart from the other games.