Unexpected Reinstalls

I went to wake up my computer this morning and was greeted by a mouse cursor and two blank screens. I gave it a customary restart and was starting to look a little better. I got a Windows boot splash screen and a few seconds later I was back in my profile. Except, I couldn’t click on anything. Not a great sign.

I’ve worked in IT Support for last five years, four of them doing Desktop Support, so my brain instantly kicked in to troubleshooting mode. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do before clocking in this morning but, I knew it was going to bother me all day if I didn’t take a crack at fixing it.

At first, I was worried my graphics card was on the fritz. It’s now five and a half years old now and I’ve had to replace the fan on it twice now. Everything looked good there, even unplugged it and used the onboard graphics which produced the same issue.

Unless the board or the CPU were failing I was confident this was a software issue. Software issues are great, they usually don’t cost anything to fix – well, other than time. It was a struggle but I was able to get the task manager to open. The NVIDIA Container, which I learned houses all of the NVIDIA processes while their doing something, was pegging the CPU to 100%. The Desktop Windows Manager was taking up all of the RAM. That explained why things seemed to be working if I waited long enough for them to open.

I figured at this point it was either a corrupt driver or some corruption with Windows itself. I tried to get to the command line to run some Windows repairs but the UAC prompt would never load to run cmd as administrator. I really should turn that off….

Next, it was on to try a system restore and automatic repair. Both failed to do anything. I tried booting in to safe mode but was met with more black screens that never loaded. I’m sure I could have fought with it some more but time was dwindling before I had to be logged on for work. So I went with the nuclear option. A good, old, fashioned, reinstall of Windows

.I keep my OS on a small SSD and have separate data drives which makes a complete reinstall relatively painless. It was pretty quick too, I think it only took 20 minutes from formatting the drive to logging in to a new profile. I forgot how ugly the default Windows set up is. Who decided the Light Theme was a good choice? I changed that as soon as I could.

Firefox, Steam, and Discord all needed a reinstall but I took this opportunity to do some clean up. Before, my desktop was covered in icons for unused programs, ancient files, and forgotten games. I could have re-added my Steam Library from my D drive but I just deleted the whole thing to start over fresh. I installed the games I’m either playing with other people right now or thinking about playing on my own in the very near future. I’ll reinstall whatever other programs I hadwhen I find that I need them.

For now, the issues seem to be fixed and everything feels less cluttered. As an added bonus, I get a blog post out of it!

Planning Ahead

Blaugust is in full swing as we enter week two. It’s been great to be able to come back to the blog and get so much writing in this month. As always, it’s a amazing to see so much content in my Feedly feed too.

Every year. I’ve always felt a few days of Blaugust makes me think more like a blogger. I come up with more ideas and think about things differently. Theres also that extra boost of motivation to post everyday. But writing every day and posting every day are two different things.

Writing is more or less the easy part given that I have some idea off what I want to say and enough tine to bang it out. Editing, finding pictures, adding/fixing links, and formating is a whole other ball game that sometimes takes longer than writing the actual post.

This past week has been so busy and I found myself struggling to get posts out on time. The posts went live, sometimes at the eleventh hour, but I’m not sure I was completely happy with how they turned out.

At the start of the month I had myself a nice 4 scheduled post buffer. It was nice to work on posts a few days out, polish them up, and put them out. These last few days writing and posting on the same day has not felt quite as enjoyable.

I’ve never been one to plan or work ahead. Usually I write when motivation strikes. Probably explains the sporatic posting I’ve done here over the years.However, I’m starting to think that if I’m going to get 31 posts out this month I’m going to have to give myself some more buffers. Baby Kluwes keeps my schedule just unpredictable enough that I should take advantage of writing when I can, aka at nap time or bed time, and write multiple posts in a day.

The inportant part here is the writing. If I can get some first drafts written I can do all the polishing and bloggy bits later or on the day of if need be. Of course, life just gets in the way sometimes and thats ok too.

We’ll see how it goes!

A Major Life Change

I don’t tend to talk about my personal life here much. Part of it is because I’m a relatively private person but I also just find it hard to write about myself sans hobbies. It took me forever to write my About page when I first started blogging and I rarely revisit to update it.

I have exactly one introduction post from 3 years ago that I wrote for Blaugust 2019. That was also shortly before I changed the blogs name.

I thought using the “Introduce Yourself Week” for Blaugust as motivation to post a bit more about myself sounded like a pretty good idea.

And there is some news I would like to share with you all:

Recently, my Mrs. Kluwes and I have become new parents. The last 4 months have been a a wild ride to say the least. Baby Kluwes was 6 weeks early and thankfully had very little complications from being such an early arrival. She did have an extended stay at the hospital which was incredibly hard for us. But she was discharged much quicker than the other children and families around us and it was all worth it when we finally got her home.

3 months later and she is thriving!

We got to live that new newborn life style/sleep schedule for an extra month and a half but we’re now rounding a corner. Baby goes to sleep earlier than we do now and almost sleeps through the nights. I had just about forgotten what sleeping multiple hours in a row was like…it’s all been an amazing experience so far.

Now that everyone is in more of a routine, I find that I can eek out an hour or maybe even two of free time a day after Baby Kluwes is asleep. Being awake enough to really enjoy it is an added bonusI fill most of my new found time with gaming and writing here.

It’s funny, when I had all the time in the world blogging was just another thing I did sometimes. Now that time is limited I have to prioritize my activities. I’ve been writing here for just over 6 years now and I don’t want it to completely fall by the wayside.

Steam Next Fest: More Demos to Install and Never Play

Hold on a second. Didn’t we just do this?

Checks notes…

Ah yes, way back in February. Well then, it’s time to wade our way through another virtual bazaar teeming with demos. Complete with live streams that follow you around, hawking their wares, form page to page!

I guess I know what I’ll be writing about this week.

This time around, I had more of an idea of games I was looking for. I’ve been in the mood for more relaxed and colorful games as of late. Probably because I’ve been playing a lot of Yonder over the last week or two. Lucky for me there is a Colorful filter by which to sort out games.

I was also on the hunt for demos I could try out on the Steam Deck. Being new demos, most of them are labeled as Untested for the Deck. Still, I was on the lookout for games that looked like they would be fun to play on a handheld if they worked. Plus, I figure I can probably get another blog post out of it….

After an hour of searching I ended up with 17 demos. Probably way more than I’ll have time to play in the coming week. I’d rather download them now and have them sit on my desktop where I can see them rather than sticking them on my wish list.

Still, there are demos I am making a priority to check out this week. There’s 5 of them so that seems reasonable.

Genfanad

Some games break the fourth wall. We simply forgot to put one in ours.

A self-aware parody of beloved MMORPG legends like (insert huge MMORPG franchise that our lawyers won’t let us mention here), manifested in the form of the world’s most committed meme, Genfanad doesn’t take itself too seriously.

In fact, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The one thing we are serious about? Giant rats.

It caught my eye because it looked like a Runescape parody. Upon further investigation, it is a Runescape parody. That’s more than enough reason for me to check it out.

Nanomon

Nanomon is a tiny virtual pet that sits on your desktop. Only with your love and training can they evolve into the perfect companion!

I’ve been looking for a new idle game. A Tamagatchi/Pokemon mash up seems like an interesting combination.

The Courier

The Courier is an open world game about running a mail delivery business on a mysterious island. The more letters you deliver, the more you uncover the island’s secrets.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game delivering mail was the focus. I’m also down to uncover secrets of a mysterious island in the process! I was also drawn to the colorful visuals and the stylized graphics. There’s also some mention of dark secrets of the island and I’m a sucker for things that look happy turning dark. I’m not sure what that says about me

Glitched

When a glitch appears in the video game world of Soren, an NPC named Gus becomes aware of you- the player. Travel together to solve the mystery of the glitch and save Gus’s friends, hometown, and digital world. As the story unfolds, Gus might start to question what role you play in his world.

This is one of those games that looked like it would be fun to play on the Steam deck. We shall see if it actually runs. Also, and NPC gaining self awareness sounds like an interesting plot hook.

Nobody’s Quest

You start with nothing, not even your body!

Play as a wandering soul in this cozy sandbox RPG adventure and discover a mini pixelated open world!

Explore the realm of Hubbington, collect crafting materials and resources, save the citizens of Hubb Burg so they can help you in return, defeat Evil spawns and eventually face the Lord Of All That Horrible Evil… at your own pace!

Ah I see what you did there with the title. This is another one that looks like a good Deck candidate. Interested to see what this one plays like.

Honarable mention to the other icons on my desktop. These are the “get to them if I have time” demos.

I’m Not a Fan of Hard Games

This is a fact I have to remind myself from time to time. This isn’t to say I don’t like a challenge in my video games but that I don’t like when difficulty is a core feature of a game. One or two difficult bosses in a game is a challenge. The game only having difficult bosses is tiresome.

What happens with the “difficulty as feature” games is that they start off harder than your average game and they get harder from there. At the start I might die a lot. The game is suppose to be hard so it’s expected. But then the mechanics click for me and I’m able to progress a bit. That feels good so I keep going. There are a few bumpy parts, some times it takes longer to do something but eventually I succeed.

But in all of these games there comes a point where I don’t have the mechanical skill and/or I don’t have the motivation to put in the effort to improve to continue. Not to mention, as time goes on the feeling of accomplishment from “overcoming” an obstacle fades and what’s left is just fatigue.

Which leads to even less motivation to overcome it. With all that said you think I would know when to hang it up. But by this point I’ve invested so much time it’s hard to walk away. Until I step back and realize I’m not having fun and probably haven’t been for a while.

In my defense, I didn’t know Valfaris was a game that wanted me to “git gud”. I didn’t even know I owned it until it showed up in my Steam Deck Verified collection. Admittedly, I should have realized what kind of game it was going to be when I not only died in the tutorial but received an achievement called “Get Used to It”. Yeah, ok that should have tipped me off.

Originally, this post was going to be about how the short distances between checkpoints made Valfaris’s difficulty a fun rather than frustrating challenge. It’s something I could pick up and play for a level/checkpoint or two and put down which makes it an ideal game for the Steam Deck and it looks really good on the Deck too. Playing in small sessions mitigated the frustration I usually feel when playing games like this.

Or so I thought.

7 and a half hours in I had to bow out. As things got more difficult, I found myself dead more often than not. By the time I got to a boss called the Bloodroot Demon and died a handful of times I was done. By that point I spent more time feeling frustrated and angry than anything remotely resembling fun.

This is by no means unique to this game. Probably against my better judgement I bought Elden Ring on day one.

But Kluwes, you haven’t played a Souls game since Demon Souls….

That’s true, but it’s been a while, I’m ready to try that style of game again!

You do recall the only way you beat Demon Souls was by getting each boss stuck on a piece of scenery and picking them off with a bow?

Ok fine…but this is Elden Ring, the most accessible Souls game yet! I’ll be fine, I know what I’m getting in to even though I probably won’t be able to pull that trick again.

Some things never change.

And it was fine until it wasn’t.

After playing it for 40 hours, I found myself more and more frustrated when I was playing but more importantly irritable and on edge when I wasn’t. There was no way I was going to put another 40+ more hours in to it. When a game start effecting you emotionally when you’re not playing is a sure sign that you should step away

It wasn’t you Elden Ring, it was me.

Fighting this guy with a boat anchor just felt right at the time

At least in Elden Rings case, this can be eleviated by playing with a very skilled buddy. The game and it’s encounters are certainly not balanced for co-op but it sure is a lot more fun that way. Other times, you end up with games like GTFO which seems hell bent on ending your friendships by the time you fail your missions a few times.

But again, that’s a me thing and not the fault of the games that want to implement such difficulty.

I think my tolerance for difficulty maxes out at Monster Hunter levels of hard and goes down from there. It can be difficult at times but there are so many ways to mitigate damage, get heals in, and get out of the way that it’s never frustrating.There’s also the allure of crafting weapons and armor out of my enemies that leads to a certain kind of satisfaction when things get tough.

Valfaris has a lot of good things going for it. It’s sitting at Very Positive reviews on Steam, it’s got a rockin’ metal soundtrack, it’s got great art, and interesting environments. I’m just not skilled enough, nor am I interested in becoming skilled enough to go any farther. But if you like difficult side scrolling shooters it may just be for you.

My Steam Deck Has Arrived

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

I reserved my 512 GB Steam Deck last July, 25 minutes or so after the reservations opened. After many months of waiting and many weeks of checking r/SteamDeck for reservation queue times I finally got the email to order on May 19th. It took a few days to ship and arrived on May 25th. So far it’s everything I was expecting and maybe even a little bit better than I was expecting.


I’ve always love handhelds and I saw a device that would allow me to spend less time at my desk while I game. I work from home at the same desk where my gaming PC is I thought it would be nice to go downstairs every now and then.Plus, I wouldn’t need to re-buy games I already own. That’s the main reason why  my Switch sits mostly in docked mode. Also, the tech geek in me is intrigued by a full Linux PC in a handheld  console form factor.

Now, I went in knowing I was an early adopter buying the first iteration of a new device. I had heard that some models were coming with whinny fans. I’m not sure if this was exaggerated or if I was lucky and got a quite one because mine runs quietly even with some more demanding games. The battery reports it will last a little over 3 hours with a few 2D games I’ve booted up less heavy 3D games the battery reports a little over 2 hours of power. That’s without messing with frame rates or tinkering with any additional settings. I’m happy with those times personally.

I think I’ve spent more time downloading games and opening them to see if they’ll run more than  playing so far. It’s nice that the library can be sorted by Verified, Playable, Untested, and Unsupported. Verified is the “This works as soon as you start it up with controls already mapped and ready to go” tag. Playable seems to be the “This will run, you’ll have to adjust some setting and maybe tweak the controls a bit” tag.

For the Untested and Unsupported tags I’ve been heading over to ProtonDB to check if anyone has tested it out over there. This is a great site where users leave some steps for getting games to run or leaving a comment when they don’t run. A lot of the fixes are to run the game with either an older version of Proton or a version of Proton GE. I followed a tutorial here to get Proton GE installed. A few of the Untested games I’ve tried seem playable but were missing audio until Forcing them to run with Proton GE.

In the process of installing Proton GE I got to check out Desktop mode. You can navigate it with just the steam deck inputs but it’s not the best experience. Just going to the Discover app store and searching there took longer than it should. That’s because the search bar would clear out what I was trying to type it I didn’t type fast enough on the on screen keyboard. A USB-C hub is for sure going to be a must have when I decide I want to start messing around with Desktop mode.

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase and think it was well worth the wait. I will probably be sticking to Verified and Playable games for now until I really feel like tinkering around with more work-arounds or run out of games I want to play in that category.  Now the only question is…what to play first?

Steam Next Fest: The Demo Flea Market is Back

The Steam Next Fest started yesterday. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a week long window shopping event with hundreds of demos to download and play. Sounds like a good idea on the surface right?

For the most part it is, if you can wade through the mountain of games to find ones actually interest you. There are a lot of filters to help sort through the noise but even narrowing down the field to sub genres leaves a lot of games to go through. Clicking to the store page of any given game will reset the event page which isn’t the least bit helpful. I’m more likely to check out another genre or sub-genre page then scroll through the page I was on to find where I left off.

I took a brief look last night for about an hour just to see what was out there. The last couple of times these demo events have come around I’ve had an idea of what kind of games I would like to try. Yesterday though, I wasn’t feeling drawn toward any particular style. I mostly scanned through a few genres and the lists within and downloaded whatever grabbed my attention from the thumbnails.

I found the VR category, which was not very big. Totaling 19 games in all it was easy to look through and find a few demos that looked interesting. I grabbed Hyper Hook a grappling hook arcade game, Desolatium a Lovecraft inspired point and click adventure, and Now there Be Goblins a VR tower defense game, which I’m going to make a priority to try this week. There was another game that looked interesting, The Last Taxi but a 30 gb demo is a lot of space. Maybe if I finish the other 3 VR demos I’ll try it out.

I do wonder how effective these events are in selling games afterwards. For me, it’s fun to try a demo, maybe stick it on the wish list, but that’s where it stays for the most part. I think the only game I’ve bought after one of these events is *Sable*. Loved the demo, bought the game when it came out but haven’t made the time to play it. Everything else seems to sit on the wish list and I’m reminded of it’s existence only  Steam emails me about what’s on sale. I think I’d be more likely to buy if the game was available for purchase after I played the demo rather than sometime later this year.

So maybe I’m not the target consumer for these kinds of events but they must be effective. There seems to be a number of them that pop up throughout the year. I ended up with 12 demos in all downloaded from yesterday. I know I won’t play all of them but maybe one will generate enough interest to buy at 50% off a year from now…

The Controls Matter

Assassin’s Creed Origins ended up in my Steam library at some point. It’s hard to say when I picked it up exactly. It may have been last years Steam Summer Sale or maybe one a one off weekly sale. But it was definitely sometime last year that I bought it with full intentions of playing it.

According to Steam, up until recently I had played about 3 hours of the game. I think I’ve started it up a few times and tried to play it but disliked the keyboard and mouse controls and lost interest pretty fast. It’s got some weirdly layed out buttons by default. So on the virtual shelf it sat until a few weeks ago.

Honestly, I have no idea why I started playing it again. Like most things I took a bit too long to write about it to capture those initial moments but it was probably along the lines of: I had an itch to play an open world game so I fired it up. I don’t think I had intentions of latching on to it as much as I have. I’m fully attributing that to playing with a controller this time around.

I bought a PS4 in late 2014. It was my first big purchase after I graduated college that was not rent, food, or student loan payments. The PS3 was still going strong but it was getting to that point where less and less new games were coming out for it. So I made the switch and it was my primary gaming device until I built a gaming PC in 2017. I still have the original controller that came with it but sadly it doesn’t work as well as it used to.

In general, the PS4 controller can be finicky when used for PC gaming. Some games will have trouble recognizing it and some won’t recognize it at all. Even with third party tools to turn it into a “virtual” Xbox controller it could be a pain to use. A few years ago, Steam released an update that helped more games recognize the controller which solved some issues but not all. And while it’s a sleight in convenience, it always through me off to see the Xbox button prompts on screen and have to figure out which button on the PS4 controller that was supposed to be.

The big reason I don’t use it as much as I once did is because the physical hardware it failing. It turns out, after 7 years of connecting and disconnecting micro usb cables to the controller, the port is starting to come loose. Slight movements will cause the controller to disconnect and reconnect quite frequently which can be really annoying when trying to use it.

Now, I’m not sure why I tried to use the keyboard and mouse controls for AC Origins the first time around, I really don’t, but this time I tried the controller and found it played so much better. But that disconnects from the controller were getting unbearable. So it was finally time to go out and get a new controller.

I’ve put this off for a long time because controllers are expensive. A new PS4 controller still runs around $60. Switch joy-cons go for $80! Of course, I could buy a used controller but you never know how often it’s been thrown across a roo before it’s gotten in to your hands. I figured, if I was going to purchase a new controller I might as well buy one that would work better with my PC. So I went searching for a reasonably priced Xbox controller.

For the first time in years, I actually had a reason to visit a brick and mortar Gamestop. It was one of those rare times where I didn’t want to wait for shipping and remembered I could go to an actual store and pick up something that day. As it turns out, my local Gamestop was having a sale on controllers and I had an unused gift card still in my wallet from who knows how long ago. I ended up getting the controller for under $20 which was nice.

I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t like the layout of the Xbox One controller. After all, I’d been using the Dual Shock layout for almost a decade. Once I’d played on it I realized I actually liked the feel of the controller better than my old PS4 controller. Plus, it’s red which adds character. I’ve played a few games with my new controller and they all just work without fiddling around with Steam or usb cables which has been great.

I was a bit surprised to find that it cam with a set of double A batteries. Microsoft is still selling rechargeable battery packs still. It’s not really a concern since my PC lacks Bluetooth to connect the controller wirelessly

The difference between keyboard and mouse and the Xbox controller is night and day with AC Origins. It’s so much easier to play and interact with the world. The game even has aim assist for the bow so aiming isn’t too much trouble with the controller. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, Assassins’ Creed is a quintessential console franchise, it makes sense that it would play better on a controller. One of things I like the most about PC gaming is the options. Not just the options of what to play but how to play them.

Melvor Idle: Runescape but Grindier

I went down a Reddit rabbit hole last weekend and ended up in the Incremental Games subreddit. Idle games have fascinated me since I discovered the genre a few years ago. On the surface, they seem pointless. Why would I play a game that plays itself? But when you dig deeper there’s a bit more of a strategy/resource management thing going on. Mix that with some theory crafting for efficiency and now we start to see a game take shape. They’re like really, really, slow Tycoon games.

Idle games happen to be one of my guilty pleasure games. I don’t play them often but when the mood strikes I find them endlessly entertaining. The best ones usually have some form of progression, obtainable goals to work towards, and resets that provide benefits for the next playthrough. They also provide both idle and active play. I’m not so much a fan of the “clicker” games because I happen to like my mouse. I prefer the lower action per minute games where I can turn a nob here or there every so often. Or just leave it to sit offline and gather resources.

I highly recommend Kittens and Trimps as examples of, what I would consider, good idle games. And now I can confidently add Melvor Idle to that list. I’ve been “playing” it a ton this week.

Melvor Idle is what you get when you strip Old School Runescape down to the numbers and skills. Or if you had a bot going 24/7… In fact, you could argue that Runescape is just a really needy idle game already and I wouldn’t disagree.

The game draws a lot of inspiration from Runescape. The skills have the same name and they feed into each other which is something I’ve always loved about Runescape. Surprisingly, combat feels exactly the same as Runescape. That’s probably because Runescape’s combat is fairly simple anyways. But the most important part for me is that the progression (i.e. grind) feels fun and rewarding so far. Not only do the skills level up but there are levels inside of levels called Mastery. I’m a bit iffy on how mastery works right now but it looks like a promising system.

At any rate, it’s free, it’s fun, and it’s holding much more my attention than I thought it would!

The Next 5 Games of 2021

I did this last year and it was successful the first time around. Not so much the second time I still haven’t played any of these games. The idea is to pick 5 games that I know I want to play in the immediate future. Go through them and then pick another 5. Theoretically, this gives me a nice focused list of games to play that I already own and that I’m interested in playing in the near future. Going through this list might take a while since most of them are open world or really long JRPG’s. We’ll see how this goes…

Immortals: Fenyx Rising

I bought this from the Epic Store Winter Sale quite unexpectedly. I’d bee eyeing this one for a while but I wasn’t ready to pay $60 for it. But $30 was a much more comfortable price for me. I’ve already put in about 20 hours in the weeks since I’ve bought it just going through the map icons and checking things off one by one. It’s been a relaxing experience so far and has great potential to be a drop in for a few minutes everyday kind of game. I’m pulling back on it a bit to devote more time to Cyberpunk 2077.

The Legends of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

I have been trying to start this game for years. You would think at this point I’d stop trying. I like everything about this game but for some reason I’ve always bounced off of it. I started yet another playthrough in November and have gotten farther than I ever have. I’m thinking this one will be my next “mainline” single player game after I’ve beaten Cyberpunk 2077 just to keep the momentum going.

Assassin’s Creed: Origin

I’m having so much fun in Immortals that I thought this would be a nice follow up once I’m done with it. We’ll see how I feel in the next few months when I actually get to this game. I have a feeling I might be done with Open World games by then.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

I played the last two installments of the Tomb Raider reboot a few years ago and greatly enjoyed them. I think a nice linear story will be a welcome break from open world games by then. Plus, it’s on the shorter side, around 8-10 hours. The real challenge will be if I can remember anything from the last two games.

Project Warlock

Greg introduced me to this game a few months ago. I watched him stream it a few times and bought it on sale. I’ve played it once or twice and had a lot of fun both times but had other games to play at the time. This one is kind of out of left field. My thought process here is that after 4 story heavy RPG games I’ll need a pallet cleanser. That’s where this first person shooter comes it. A totally different experience than the games that cam before it.

The last time I made a list like this I font loaded it with short games and ended it with a massive JRPG. This time it’s mostly big games. I’m interested to see just how far down the list I get. I’m predicating that I’ll finish Immortals and Trails in the Sky for sure but I’m iffy on the last half of the list. Mainly, Assassin’s Creed: Origins will I still be motivated to play another Ubisoft Open Worlder? Only time will tell!