Other Commentary

Posts that aren't specifically related to games

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary

    Some thoughts about ESO+

    I haven’t been playing Elder Scrolls Online for very long, but I’ve been on the game long enough that I’ve already been able to form an opinion about the ESO+ stuff. I’m putting this into a separate post since this commentary is not directly related to any playthrough, and I have enough to say here that I feel like it deserves its own post.

    Let me be abundantly clear: I’m sick to death of everybody on the planet making their users pony up for subscriptions. The banking software I’m using went to a subscription model for its latest version. Microsoft Office does it. Certain other pieces of software I have on my system do it, like software I’ve got for scanning my drive for duplicate files. Hell, several of the plugins I’m using in WordPress for this very site do it. So do apps on my phone and iPad.

    Streaming services do it too, and of course there are eighty bajillion streaming services now, so you have to get a bunch of them if there’s content in multiple places you actually want to watch.

    It’s not a question of whether I can afford it–I can, for which I am grateful. Rather, it’s a question of my being annoyed that the capitalistic society we live in is geared around so many providers of software going “let’s try to milk our users for as much money as possible.” Because that shit does add up. And people who are less able to afford this kind of thing than I am are screwed if they don’t have enough money in their budgets to account for buying additional shiny things in whatever software they’re trying to use, whether it’s a game, Microsoft Office, banking software, a streaming service, or what have you.

    Also, while I can afford these things now, I grew up poor, and to this day that informs my choices about how I want to spend my money. I am extremely reluctant to pay for a subscription service unless it’s absolutely critical to something I need to do.

    How this specifically relates to ESO for me as a player: it means I have a powerful and instinctive aversion to the idea that if I throw the game an additional fifteen bucks a month, then I get access to a whole bunch of shiny things. But if I stop paying, my access to those shiny things stops.

    (Also, hi, i’m old, and I remember the days when buying a particular software release just meant you got that specific release. If you wanted an upgrade to it, you paid for the upgrade. I miss that business model. It was a lot more straightforward.)

    Now, I’m coming into ESO after over a year and a half playing Skyrim. A game which, let me also be abundantly clear, I’ve loved passionately enough that I’ve paid for Skyrim content four times already–once for the base game on the Switch, once on Steam to get the PC build, once on Steam to get the Anniversary Edition upgrade, and once on the Switch to get the AE there too when it recently dropped.

    Relatedly, while I was still playing Dungeon Boss, I threw a stupendously stupid amount of money at that game, too.

    The difference in these situations vs. ESO+: it was entirely à la carte. One-time transactions that got me immediate benefits, which could not be then taken away later if I stopped providing money.

    As I’ve said in previous posts, intellectually, I am aware that ESO is an MMO and as such, it has to make certain accommodations that a single-player, not-online game doesn’t have to care about. So I am willing to put up with limitations on my carry capacity for now.

    In Skyrim, now that I’m able to play the AE on all my gaming-capable things, I can have a staggering number of houses to live in, all of which have their own storage space. And the game lets me carry as many things as I want, with the cost of having to be hampered in movement speed unless I get on a mount.

    Morrowind is a lot less forgiving about this. I don’t have a house yet in my Morrowind playthrough, and also, that game does not let me carry an infinite number of things in my inventory. If I go over carry weight, I cannot move.

    ESO so far feels more like Morrowind to me in this respect, even though its processing of carrying things seems to be more oriented around “how many carry slots you are allowed” rather than by “actual item weight”. And I actually don’t hate that. It means that right now, on ESO, I have to apply a strategy similar to what I do in Morrowind: i.e., I need to be prudent about which things I pick up. Do I really need another six hide scraps? Do I really need that steel helm dropped by that dire wolf I just killed? Do I have enough space in my inventory that I can get boss loot once I finish the dungeon I’m in?

    And I feel like that actually improves my immersion. Because realistically speaking, my character shouldn’t be able to pick up an unlimited number of things while adventuring.

    But that said: because Skyrim was the Elder Scrolls game I fell in love with first, that’s the one whose model I tend to prefer. I like being able to amass a dozen different kinds of armor and weapons, and show them off in my character’s living space. I like to be able to switch between different types of gear as whim dictates.

    So I can tell right now, even after only a handful of days spent on ESO so far, that additional storage space is the thing most likely to make me want to give the game extra money. But I will strongly prefer doing that on an à la carte basis, i.e., buying a certain number of crowns and then spending those on the additional storage space.

    Likewise, I feel like there’s a distinct possibility that once I feel like I’ve adequately explored what areas of the game I currently have access to, I might drop additional money on buying new content DLCs. And since I do enjoy playing the Thieves Guild in Skyrim, there’s a non-zero chance that I’ll want the DLC for that in this game too.

    All the above said, I’m not going to completely discount the possibility of ever buying into ESO+. If I find that I want to play this game as long as I’ve played Skyrim, I may well tilt over to the side of “this game is giving me ongoing entertainment and it is worth it to me to pay some money to its ongoing ability to exist.” And right now, even after just the short time I’ve played it so far, I can tell that that possibility is on the board. See above commentary re: throwing money multiple times at both Skyrim and Dungeon Boss.

    And let me also be clear on this: if you’re an ESO player and you do feel like ESO+ is worth it to you, great! I’m happy for you! Everybody should play a game the way they best see fit, including how much money they feel comfortable spending on it. All of this commentary in this post is one hundred percent just about me, not about anybody else’s choices in how they spend their money.

    I am just not yet ready to commit to ESO+ yet personally. We will see what happens as I continue to play.

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary

    Update on my ability to play ESO on my Mac

    As I mentioned in my earlier post about starting Gyllerah on ESO, I filed a support ticket with Bethesda about how the ESO launcher crashed out on me as soon as I hit the Play button, when trying to run natively on my new Mac.

    Unsurprisingly, their primary answer to this was “sorry, we don’t support the game on M1 Macs”. They likewise also had to tell me that they don’t support playing in VMs, either.

    I was not surprised by this answer. There is an announcement Bethesda put up that basically says the same thing, and I’d already seen that announcement. And speaking as an SDET who’s had quite a bit of experience with software development, even if I haven’t worked on something as huge and complex as a worldwide MMO, I can see where they’re coming from when they say it’d be a huge deal for them to try to rework ESO’s code base to make it support ARM machines.

    (Further extensive geekery about this behind the fold.)

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary,  Site Updates,  Skyrim

    Gaming surprise of the week No. 2: new M1 MacBook Pro!

    I’d already called out in my pages for the Anna Play Skyrim site that I’d been planning to upgrade my primary laptop and get an M1 version of the MacBook Pro. Dara’s also recently upgraded her laptop, but I wanted one with the fancier M1 Pro Max chip, because I knew for sure that I wanted to game on it. And I also wanted 32GB of RAM.

    The surprising part that comes in here is this: Apple dropping a bunch of security updates and Catalina, the version of the operating system my prior machine has, not receiving any. Apple never actually announces these things to the public, but that round of security updates strongly suggested to Dara and me that Catalina had fallen off their official support matrix.

    Which meant that that machine, Aroree, is probably now unpatchable. Which is not acceptable for any machine actively talking to the Internet.

    So I’d been setting aside some funds already intending to save up for the new machine. The security update situation, though, accelerated my and Dara’s timetable for when we were willing to get me a machine, too. I went ahead and ordered one a couple of weeks ago.

    And now Apple actually shipped it to me this week, a whole week earlier than expected. 😀

    I’ve gotten it set up now, including with a Windows 11 VM. Which means that this new machine–dubbed Lydia–is now in play as a thing I can game on.

    I’d hoped to try to run Elder Scrolls Online on this machine, but that’s proving problematic. (More on this in my next post.)

    So for now my primary gaming intentions on this machine are going to be Skyrim-focused. Primarily, that’s going to be Skyrim Together Reborn. I have STR functional on the Deck now, but doing it on the laptop will actually be better, because I’ll have a bigger screen and a full keyboard at the same time. And can plug in headphones for voice chat purposes.

    That said, it’s also pretty much guaranteed that I will experiment with mods on this machine as well! It may be even better for modded playthroughs than the Deck, I dunno yet. It’ll be fun to find out!

    I’ll be updating relevant Anna Plays Skyrim site pages to include this new addition to my gaming-capable electronics! And I’ll have plenty to say about the machine in general over on the main annathepiper.org blog soon.

  • Morrowind,  Other Commentary

    How to fix misnamed save files in Morrowind

    Tried out my Morrowind playthrough on the Deck tonight, and this mostly went swimmingly (with a couple of minor exceptions which I’ll go into when I do the session post). This post, however, is me running into an unexpected hurdle that I didn’t run into with Skyrim: namely, that Morrowind actually makes you name your save files when you save your game.

    Which you have to do often! Ten sessions in, and I am so far definitely saving more often than I do in Skyrim, just because Morrowind’s been prone to crashing on me a lot more often than Skyrim is.

    And here’s the problem with doing that on the Steam Deck: I am still not comfortable with its on-screen keyboard, and this caused me to wind up creating bad save file names for most of tonight’s saves.

    I’d been trying to maintain a pattern of “Tembriel” followed by simple increasing numbers. So tonight my last save was supposed to be “Tembriel 46”. But I fucked this up in various creative ways, which wound up getting me save file names like “46” and ” Tembriel 40 ” (with spaces on either side) and “Temm”.

    I knew this was going to nag at me if I didn’t figure out how to fix it, so after I stopped actually playing Tembriel tonight, I dug into this problem. And found, once I located Morrowind’s save files, that I’d also fucked up a few earlier ones from the PC side, too, where I’d mistyped “Tembriel” as “Temtiel”. And I hadn’t figured it out at the time because the font that Morrowind uses for its text makes it very hard to tell a small r and a small t apart.

    It ultimately had to be solved on my PC, just so that I could manipulate files without having to fight with the Deck’s on-screen keyboard, or try to manipulate files in its file explorer, Dolphin.

    This is what I had to do, in two phases, first re-saving each impacted save file in-game to generate better in-game save names, and then renaming the actual physical save files outside the game itself. Like so:

    1. Open up Morrowind and load each save file in sequence, starting with the first one with a fucked up name, which happened to be “Temtiel 33”. I saved back out correctly as “Tembriel 33”. I had to start with the oldest one first, so that they’d still be in chronological order next time I actually played.
    2. Exit the game.
    3. Then re-load the launcher from Steam, to make a point of having it open, so that when I changed my files locally the changes would immediately go up to the cloud.
    4. Starting with the newest save file, I worked my way backwards to rename the actual files that had been badly named before, now that they had better save names inside the game data.

    What made that process of renaming the physical save files a bit more interesting than I expected: I discovered they were named with hex numbering. So not just Tembriel0001, etc. They ran up through Tembriel001A, Tembriel001B, etc. So I had to rename files accordingly, which took me up through Tembriel002D.

    And yes, this was absolutely fucking tedious, but I knew it was going to nag me if I didn’t do it, so I went ahead and did it.

    Only afterwards did I also see that I’d missed a t in the save file for “Tembtiel 35”. That one I have decided to let stand, just because doing this once was enough. Wanted to write this up in a post, though, for the sake of Future Me in case I have to do this again. And also for any curious Morrowind players who might need to know what I did.

    In the process of doing all this, it’s also worth noting that I did finally figure out a control combination on the Deck that let me properly double-click in its Dolphin: Steam button + Right Trigger, which is a Left Mouse action. So if I do it twice, it’s a double-click.

    I was driven to look this up after repeatedly trying and failing to double-click via the right side trackpad. Which can work in theory, I guess? But I find it super awkward to do correctly. Steam + Right Trigger worked much better and will help me a lot in working in Dolphin when I need to.

  • Other Commentary

    Still to do on the Deck

    As an addendum to the two posts I’ve already put up last night and this afternoon about the Steam Deck, here are some quick notes about things I still need to test out on it:

    1. It occurred to me that since I did make a successful connection to our house network’s NAS while in Desktop mode, I can just use that to retrieve screenshots, which would cut out several steps, so I need to try that out
    2. Playtesting my current Morrowind playthrough, and seeing if that’s significantly easier than playing on the PC or what, and what changes I might need to make to my controller mappings
    3. See whether those extra buttons on the back will in fact be useful in Morrowind
    4. How well it behaves when plugged into our TV via HDMI
    5. And by extension of previous, how well it’ll talk to my Nintendo Switch Pro controller
    6. Research recommended ways to get mods for Skyrim and possibly also Morrowind onto the thing
    7. Research how big a pain in the neck it may or may not be to get Elder Scrolls Online running on it, or whether ESO is going to have to wait till I upgrade my computer

    Plenty more to try out here. Looking forward to this. <3

    Anybody with recommendations for or experience in any of these things, let me know your thoughts!

  • Other Commentary

    First impressions of my new Steam Deck

    To follow up on the post I made last night, here’s a more general post about my overall initial impressions of the Steam Deck. The super short form: this thing is amazing, with only a few things I’ve found a bumpy experience so far. <3

    Longer form: I’m not going to review this thing in great technical depth. Lots of other sites, such as Ars Technica, have done that already. Go looking for your favorite gaming review site of choice and you’ll probably find they put up a review of this device months ago, with as much technical detail as you might want.

    Me, I’m going to focus instead on my immediate impressions of it, and what this is going to mean for me in my gaming moving forward.

  • Other Commentary

    How to Get Screenshots off a Steam Deck

    We interrupt my regular playthrough posts with this important news bulletin:


    I’tm about to do TWO posts about this. One with general overall impressions of the thing, and also this post, which is going to be about the hoops I had to jump through in order to get at the screenshots I love to take for my playthrough posts. This did, I feel, deserve a whole separate post because it’s one of the few things I don’t like about the Deck so far. And I wanted to write up the steps I followed for my workaround, in case any other gamers out there also finally getting Decks want to do the same thing.

    This is going to be long, so here’s a More tag, y’all: