Diablo 4 and the 2023 ARPG

There have been hundreds of action role playing games, probably thousands, since the first Diablo launched in 1997. I remember heading to a PC cafe to indulge and marveling at, well, everything!

Since then, the genre has taken some interesting twists and turns – and to a degree some forks in the road. Some have bridged back, some pruned, and some flourished. What we’re left with is effectively 3 main streams.

  • Diablo 3 – RoS. The “fast food” of ARPGs. The original launch is best forgotten, and what we have now is a rather well-integrated, drop-in/out, meta-of-the-season approach.
  • Path of Exile. The “hardcore” of ARPGs. This game requires a community approach due to the trading / RNG mechanism and is F2P done right. Only WarFrame has more systems maintained over time.
  • Grim Dawn (Titan Quest). This is the middle ground where you have complexity, integration, modding, and the general foundational systems of ARPGs present. Frankly, I’d consider this the “trunk” of the ARPG tree.

I have not talked about Lost Ark here because it’s a much different game that has more in line with a branch that is frankly being pruned – the mobile ARPG. These are games with extremely simple interfaces, minimal choice, and an RNG upgrade path that is supplemented by a cash stop. There are certainly whales willing to play these games, and feel free to navigate them ethical waters. I’ll get back to this…

The key bits that set ARPGs apart:

  • There is moment-to-moment activity
  • There are levels, and character customization over time
  • There are multiple item slots, variety in said slots, quality that impacts power, and synergy between said items
  • Most of the game focuses on RNG, both in zone layout, monster spawning, and most certainly in item drops
  • There is the option for increased difficulty, which also increases RNG factors
  • There is a “long tail” progress system with logarithmic gains (e.g. you quickly gain power, and later on power comes more gradually). This makes the game relevant for years.

Diablo 4 is out, and it does cover the first 5 bullets in this list. There are going to be multiple balance patches for the next 6 months as people find new and interesting ways to exploit the foundations of the game – that’s expected.

The larger questions remain around the “long tail” portion of the game, which were frankly non-existent in Diablo 3 for nearly 2 years. Well, I’ll caveat that in that the end game was farming the auction house. RoS brought it to rift farming. PoE has map farms. Grim Dawn also has a sort of map farm. It will take some time before Diablo 4 figures out that dance.

The very interesting (to me) part of Diablo 4 is less about the gameplay and more about the mobile ARPG aspect – namely the cash stop and monthly passes.

  • The game has a box price of $70
  • There’s a seasonal pass, with paid and free tiers. Paid unlocks more cosmetics, provides gold/xp boosts, but no “concrete” power.
  • There’s a cosmetics shop with the natural shennanigans of using another currency for items so that you always never have enough to have a zero balance.
    • The items in the shop are hovering near $20-$25. I can quite literally buy game of the year candidates for that price. These are macrotransactions.

This is an interesting experiment for Blizzard. Clearly Diablo costs money to run and maintain, and there’s always an opportunity to milk out some folks of extra cash. Ubisoft has been doing this for years, and EA has no real shame in this space.

However, the Diablo crowd is different – or perhaps more accurately the ARPG crowd is different. The game has the value, less the window dressing. If the moment to moment stuff doesn’t work, or there is no long tail, ARPG players just won’t stick around… there are simply better options out there today. It will be quite interesting to watch how this develops over time.

Knowledge is Preferable to Ignorance

I spent a day at the lake this weekend, staring out on the water and simply pondering.

As I am inundated on a daily basis by willful ignorance, I turn to look at my 2 children and ponder. What role do I have in leaving a legacy, or guiding them on their personal journey of self-discovery? What tools am I giving them to make their way through the multitude of opinions and power-grabs? What confidence can exist in a world governed by popularity rather than humanity?

I could, and do at times, fret over society’s joint ignorance and futile grasping at truth-sellers. To avoid the truth laid bare and accept a lie that comforts rather than confronts. To think that one person somehow has more value than another, simply by the conditions of their birth. That the stratification of education and knowledge is some duty born by self-elected gatekeepers.

It is evident that society resists change and that said change can take a very long time. We have ample evidence of such. Our growing ability to share is offset by our inherent need to protect. There is so much out there, that it can seem like staring into an abyss, and with that, who can truly judge someone simply turning around for the safety of the familiar.

Humanity has a beautiful flaw, in that it pushes back against the inherent chaotic nature of the universe. This is an upstream battle that will last well after we turn to dust. We kick and scream for a place at the table, where we are but a crumb on an intergalactic scale.

I get by on a word shared by many, and that is one of faith. Not faith in that the answers will be laid bare if I simply submit to the will of another, but faith in the grander humanity. I marvel at the magical randomness of cosmic order. That every day we unlock another fractional facet of this eternal mystery. I have faith not in that there are answers, but that we will search for them.

That is the path upon which I guide my children, the legacy of continual search for knowledge, and the character to face the abyss and not look away.

Overwatch 2

Adding to the fun Blizzard news of late, Overwatch 2’s main selling point of having a PvE mode has been more or less scrapped. This particular link has an interview with the devs on the topic, which I think provides a more complete take on the situation.

Context here seems the more important bit. Yes, a developer should cut content that doesn’t meet their quality standards, and we’ve seen Blizzard do this over the years. There are dozens of examples of “promised” content that hit the floor (WoW housing and Titan system are notable, Ghost even more so). Now, the argument can be made here that selling a car with the promise of it having locking doors, then never delivering on said doors, is an interesting approach. Blizzards has never launched something with a promise of future delivery, they have instead outright cancelled the work before asking for money.

Overwatch 2’s primary existence as a sequel was predicated on 3 main items. Moving from 6v6 to 5v5, implementing a battlepass, and PvE. Overwatch 1 stopped all content delivery for 3 years so that they could figure of the PvE component. It would be a stretch to convince me that this particular model required an expansion and a content drought (which enabled Fortnite and Apex to take a massive chunk of this space) when you can look right at WoW’s massive mechanical changes over the years. I can understand that the knee-jerk reaction here is not positive. Though realistically, if you were waiting for PvE in Overwatch2, you really aren’t playing today, right?

The next bit of context is Blizzard’s staffing exodus. More than ample reading on that topic where executive decisions and culture have caused people to leave the org. And as any manager will tell you when you lose a key member, you likely lose 3. Dead wood / negative people are typically isolated when they leave. Strong skill sets and positive people will automatically pull people towards them. These are like papercuts, annoying but you can usually get through. However, there’s a point where you simply cannot find qualified resources to fill in those gaps… which is 99% incentive based. The “glory days” of Blizzard are well in the rearview mirror, so the pride of having that on your resume isn’t as strong as it once was. Is it an environment that a senior developer would want to enter? Can you fast track existing junior employees (who then get poached)? So yeah, there’s the fundamental question if Blizzard actually has the capacity, let alone the competence to deliver their lofty goals.

Tangent, as I tend to do, I recently had a town hall event where there were diverging styles presented, one of management and one of leadership. There is a very large gap between both, and not every manager is an actual leader, just like every leader is not necessarily a manager. In the larger business news context, the wide majority of CxO positions are held by managers. Makes sense, only the bottom line ever seems to matter. Leaders take risk and take accountability – ain’t too much of that on the scene today. A manager that takes a pay increase while cutting 10,000 jobs, well, it would be quite hard to articulate that as being leadership qualities.

I do have hope that Blizzard can find some effective leadership in the proverbial pile of rubble that is there today. As much for the nostalgia in me as it is for the development team that is certainly trying their hardest to get things done. I have no doubt that everyone actually coding goes in with the best of intentions and want to deliver amazing quality products. I do hope that they can achieve that goal, without gamer pitchforks being launched.

More Thoughts – Steam Deck Battery

One of the interesting bits about my Switch is that the battery generally lasts across multiple sessions without a charge. The even better part is that nearly any USB-C charger is sufficient to charge the thing while I’m playing, or at least dramatically reduce the draw. I’ll be up front about it, I play on Airplane mode 99% of the time and that alone appears to have added a massive amount of battery performance. We are light years away from the massive battery packs that kept my GameBoy going, yet still a long ways to go before we read Nintendo DS levels (seriously, that feels like black magic).

Now, the Steam Deck is a different beast and each game takes a drastically different draw from the system. The geek in my absolutely loves the performance overlay options, where you can see moment to moment how hard the device is working. There are plenty of forum posts which give tips on how to squeeze out the most of the Deck with game-specific configurations. Certainly, turning off the network portions has an impact, but also changing the display options can make a world of difference. Perhaps I haven’t see it yet, but auto-detection of docked and un-docked mode (dual profiles) would make a big difference here.

What I will say is that when I’m playing offline mode, on something like Dead Cells (it’s still stupid good) can go for many, many hours before needing a charge.


The charging of a Steam Deck is primarily done through a provided 45W charger and that is more than what many people use for their other USB-C devices, which seems to be closer to 20W-30W. This seems a minor quibble, but it’s important to point out that ineffective chargers means you’re going to wait a very long time to recharge the system.

My general rule of thumb is that charging should take half as long as the duration of the battery. The Switch is honestly at another level here, as the battery duration can be 6-8hrs and a full charge in less than 1. Wild! The Steam Deck gets 4-6hrs of play but it can take up to 2hrs to get all the way back. Which is certainly good, and way better than any gaming laptop on the market, but an adjustment all the same.

That remains my larger comment with regards to mobile gaming, in that the Switch is made to be simple stupid easy to use. The Steam Deck provides so much customization and knobs to turn that you can make it what you will. It’s missing a bit of that KISS principle, or perhaps providing the various devs out there the ability to provide a recommended Deck profile.

‘Cause honestly, this is an insane amount of progress for mobile gaming and I can only imagine what the next few years will bring as battery tech continues to evolve. Never would I have imagined this when I was a kid at LAN parties. Feels like holding magic in my hands.

Cult of the Lamb

It would be hard to argue that Cult of the Lamb is a cozy horror game, but I supposed the aesthetics can give that idea. It’s more of a rogue-like with city-building elements, with a cute visual overlay. Honestly, you could change the visuals to eldritch horrors and the game wouldn’t really miss a beat, except for perhaps some of the minor humor elements.

The core concept of this game is built upon rogue dungeon runs that have branching paths, multiple weapon/skill upgrades, and the now-typical dodge-roll/i-frame mechanic. You run a dungeon enough times, unlock a big boss, do that 4 times, then free an elder demon. The runs themselves are rather quick, less than 10 minutes, so it’s a bit more of a fast-food approach than something like Returnal’s multi-hour journeys. Dying is a small speedbump, rather than anything horrible.

Oh, and works solid on the Steam Deck.

Camp Koolaid

Between runs, you build up a literal cult at your camp. This means finding new followers, passing new doctrines, collecting worship (to unlock more buildings or more power in combat), and then keeping all those followers alive. See, they need food, sleep and get old and die. There’s a small logistical puzzle involved, and for 90% of the game, that puzzle has no disastrous consequences. They die, you find another. Which I suppose is the critique of cults in the first place.

I will say that the logistical beats are oddly balanced, where at the start you are severely under-resourced to keep it all going, and then reach a point where you have a flood of resources and no real good way to spend them. Perhaps that more my playstyle and your mileage may vary.

The step-by-step items are interesting. You need an outhouse to collect fertilizer to grow food to cook to then use an outhouse. You can research the ability to ascend or revive a follower. You can marry them, get a fishing bounty, build idols, or complete some menial tasks. The system works rather well, all told. There are side-areas as well you can visit, with some optional content: a stacking dice game, simplistic fishing (!!!), quests, or gambling. There’s enough without it feeling overwhelming.

Battle Runs

The dungeon runs are a mix of combat and path choices. Each of the 4 zones has a somewhat unique set of enemies and mini-bosses, plus a unique material that is used for your camp. The combat is mostly melee combat, with a spell (curse) attack that has limited use and recharged as you kill enemies. There’s also a relic mechanic, which is a sort of super move with a similar cooldown. You have hit points that recover though some random elements, so you’re really looking at the more typical attack/retreat model for these games. The bosses themselves are straightforward enough, with telegraphs, minions and a decent dose of bullet hell. I’d argue that most people will hit a wall the first time they reach a real boss, then again at the final boss, as new mechanics typically show up at those points.

You need to successfully complete each dungeon 4 times to proceed to the next. Runs past 4 primarily provide resource benefits.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of battle are less pleasant here, as there are some practical portions that aren’t well balanced. You start each run with 2 random combat items presented (weapon + curse). Combat is predicated on quick reactive movement, and in some spaces, the ability to plan attacks based on patterns. Sadly, the bosses have a significant amount of random, making planning quite difficult. There are 5 weapons, of varying speeds. Daggers are quick, gloves are fast, swords are normal, axes are a bit slower, and hammers are glacial speed. To a point where hammers are frankly un-usable, and axes are borderline depending on the luck of the run, due to their attack speed and “attack lock”. If hammers acted more as mortars, then this would be offset, but they are instead melee range only.

For the base game, you will reset a run if you get a hammer, and give the axe a chance. This is the only item in the entire game where I had a negative experience, as it defeats the core concept of a rogue-like.


The core gameplay loop comes to an interesting conclusion sooner than I had expected. Or perhaps the gameplay loop was just so pleasant I hit it before the shine had rubbed off. April 2023 had a free DLC added that extended the post-game portion, which feels like a decent content patch. It’s not new content so much as it is an extension of the existing ones… more doctrines, more automation in the camp, quality of life boosts, and more customization of followers.

The more post-game you complete, the more automation you can set up for much longer runs. It’s an interesting feedback loop with a decently long tail. The skill hurdle can increase through optional modifiers (e.g. deal more / take more damage), though I’d argue that if you go this path, you’re going to reset runs until the combat weapon is one you want.

Overall, the game has a good loop and feedback structure, with enough “just one more bit” to keep you hooked for longer than you’d plan. I’ll have a future topic on how I am finding the sweet spot of gaming to be at this entry level. $30 today seems to get you a lot more than a $70 AAA game.


The short of it is that this game has no right to be as good as it is.

The sales line for this game seems like someone through some words together: a cozy Lovecraftian fishing simulator, with RPG and Tetris components. This just simply works, despite the weird elements. Now, I’ve gone on record multiple times saying that any game with fishing automagically moves up the “wanted” list, primarily because no one in their right mind implements fishing without an appreciate of the zen aspects. Dredge, at its most basic, is a fishing game, and everything else comes after. And that core gameplay loop just works dammit.

The start is simple enough, you’re a fisherman who washed ashore and need to get back on your feet. You get a loan and a boat, then go from there. The interface is simplistic (it should be) and fishing can never truly fail. The stuff you collect can be sold to various merchants. The RPG elements allow you to research improved boat components/rods, and slot them within specific areas. Fish also have their own habitats/requirements, so you need both the right location and right tools to harvest.

The game is wrapped in 5 continuous chapters, where you’re tasked to do something in the local archipelago, then sent to the next. Each of these areas has it’s own hazards, which can wipe you out fairly quickly to the last saved port. The various zone mechanics are also interesting, such as blasting cores to get rid of rocks, or bait to quickly collect some fish. The surreal abilities you get are also quite useful, like a teleport to the home base, or the ability to just collect all the fish around you instantly.

There’s a sanity meter that’s best left for players to discover. Suffice to say, it gets progressively more interesting as the game goes on.

But that’s the wrapping, like on a chocolate bar. The beauty of this game is the pacing and fluid controls. You’re never under the gun, and the controls themselves are precise when they need to be, and floaty otherwise. The art is a sort of camp call up with a comic book feel. The sound is eerie without being haunting. Combined, it’s a game where you can just have a cup of coffee on a rainy day and enjoy the experience. Ideal for the Steam Deck or Switch.

The storyline isn’t terribly long or complex. I’m sure you could speed through if you wanted to, but then you’d be missing the point. It took me nearly 10 hours to get to the last step, and I put in another 5 or so to fill out my fishing log.

Dredge is yet another example of a small scale game that shows that longer is not better. Crazy graphics are not required. Complexity isn’t needed. And that a simple story, crafted with care, can still impress. An absolute gem of a game.

Blizzard News

My boycott continues, which I think prefaces the rest of the tone of this article.

By most measures that I have seen, Dragonflight is a good expansion to WoW and Overwatch2 seems to have hit some stride. Ok, enough of the good news.

ABK got a nice rejection letter from the UK competition board with regards to Microsoft buying it out, on account of the existing size of the latter’s cloud gaming division. If anything, I think it fairly obvious to anyone who buys groceries that less competition is bad for the consumer. We’re not talking a mom and pop shop here, this is two massively large companies that should be able to operate independently. All the other reasons are certainly valid, but that one in particular is the giant red flag – it only serves to reduce competition, cut staff, and make rich people richer.

Second, ABK came out with their quarterly report. Not so good news for Blizzard. The key bit is that the monthly user count went from 45m to 27m, and that doesn’t count the NetEase drama which comes out for the next report. That’s 18 million users, or about a third. In fairness, it’s higher than the same period the year before, but it really makes you question how MAU as a metric actually has any true value when you’re in F2P land (Overwatch 2). So Blizz is back into the sub-30m numbers it was trending some time prior.

I get how most companies would be ecstatic to have a fraction of this player base. Blizz is not most companies – it is lead by a rather ruthless corporate overlord who answers only to shareholders. If the money coming in doesn’t go in the right direction, bad things happen.

To compound these issues, Blizz is also losing key talent. Anyone with high school team project experience knows for a fact that some people carry way more than others in any group setting. They are the lighthouse by which the team is guided through thick and thin. Losing these people, in any organization, is extremely painful. Enough of it, and the cascade effects are next to impossible to stop.

Tangent here, but one technique used by many large companies is to make the environment so unpleasant that people quit rather than have to lay them off, theoretically saving money. This model made sense pre-pandemic, and to in some markets post-, but what is actually does is cuts from the top and incentivizes the bottom to to less. Your best employees will rather easily find another job, which leaves a disproportionate hole in the team. Your worse employees will typically dig in their heels, because they can’t easily find another job. Rather than the immediate “pull the band-aid” effect on morale of a mass layoff, you get the continual drain to sanity, which people can feel but rarely adequately measure.

Back on topic. Or so.

Blizz is in an unenviable position where the culture has shifted so gradually that it would be all but impossible to pinpoint the exact item that caused the current state. Was it Warcraft3 Reforged? The double down on borrowed power in Battle for Azeroth, or tripling down on Sylvanas in Shadowlands? Ben Brode leaving Hearthstone? Kaplan leaving Overwatch? Shuttering of HotS? The all but abandonment of StarCraft? The announcement of Diablo Immortal? Blitzchung? Sexual harassment? The multiple lawsuits? The lack of a personable leader since Morhaime?

It’s more likely that this adheres to the Ship of Theseus metaphor, where aside from the company name ablazed on the games, Blizzard today is not recognizable from 10 years ago, let alone 5. So many parts have changed, and will change, that the gamer goodwill that brought it this far along is all but gone. Not saying too little too late, far from it. But the idea that Blizzard can attain some of it’s past glory/impact is quite the pipedream.

In Like a Lamb

In my part of the world, the weather has been all but impossible to predict for any stretch of time. There were parts in February that were under -50C, followed in the same day by a 40+C shift. It still wasn’t cold enough to have any skating on the world’s largest skating rink – a first in it’s history. We’ve had so many snow days my kids have only had 4 days of school a week. A derecho hit us last May, which acted as a sort of “god rake” of multiple mini-tornadoes that helped bring down the price of lumber. 2 weeks ago an ice storm hit that knocked out power for a million people. And this past week, we had 5 days straight of 25C+ weather, which is beyond wild. I went from snowboots and a winter jacket on 1 day, to shorts the next. It feels like we just skipped spring entirely.

I did use the term weather above, as climate is a different item. Climate change is a different topic, and frankly as debatable as the earth is round.

There’s a native proverb that goes something like “we don’t inherit land from our ancestors, but rather borrow it from our children”. When I was younger, I didn’t quite get it. Parts of it, certainly. Recycling has been around in my city nearly as long as I’ve been alive (which tangent, still amazes me how it isn’t everywhere in North America). When I had my first child, my perspective changed. Plenty of parents want the best for their kids – but that is often limited to the concrete. You can see that your kid is in a great school. It’s pretty hard to see that the land is better, or that you can do something tangible about it. I would posit that this is because “better” is often viewed as “more”, whereas talking about the environment “better” is often “less”. No one needs a lifted pick up truck, no one. A recent survey about SUV usage in Quebec came with some interesting bits.

  • 47% of vehicle owners have an SUV as the main vehicle
  • 74% have never used their towing hitch
  • 39% only use their cargo space at least once a week

Which seems to indicate that SUV vehicle purchases are more of a “what if” scenario. Personally, I have a SUV, with a hitch. I’ve used that hitch to a crazy degree, and it’s fully loaded multiple times a week. 10 years now and time to look for the replacement, which was an interesting conversation.

What do you want vs need?

My better half was interested in a Dodge Ram. The box was viewed as a boon for multiple hockey bags (with a cover naturally), and certainly better towing ability. Again the concept of “better”. My mind went immediately to the cost of a truck today – in particular fuel.

In my mind, we need a vehicle that:

  1. Fits 5
  2. Has storage for 3 hockey bags
  3. Can tow 3,000 lbs
  4. Great fuel economy, ideally a hybrid for city driving.

The first item is a simple one, nearly every non-sports car can do this – no MINI. I’m a taller person, so there are some limits, but test drives sort that out quick enough.

The second item is very limited through sedans. CUV are mind bogglingly worse than any other vehicle class in almost every aspect. That leaves SUV+ options, which are honestly more limited than people realize. Fitting a few grocery bags is much different than 3 hockey bags.

Towing capacity is fascinating. Most vehicles can tow, though primarily at the 1,500lbs level. 3,000lbs is a notch higher and the options are somewhat limited to larger SUV, vans, and trucks. Interestingly, a Mustang or a Challenger has tremendous towing ability.

Fuel economy is the great divider. There are many tools out there, and comparisons are easy enough to sort out. A Dodge Ram “hybrid” vs a Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a 50% difference in fuel economy – over a $1000 difference per year. And that’s ignoring the actual cost of the vehicle, where the Ram is already nearly $10,000 more than the Highlander.

Small but consistent steps

I personally may not have the largest impact on this, but at the aggregate if many people make small changes it can have a tidal effect. The “low hanging fruit” if you will, is to tax the hell out of private jet flights and industrial waste to fund green efforts. Lobbying there is at another level, and voters in general have etch-a-sketch memory, so my hope for actual change at that level is miniscule. It’ll be a ground swell effort, and some philanthropy. I have faith that there are individuals that want this to improve.

Steam Deck

I’ve played a ton of my Switch, with a significant portion of time spent in Mario Party and Mario Kart. The thing just works, which is supremely enjoyable. That said, there are some issues with the Switch. First is just performance in general, as the technology inside dates from 2017. This is normal for Nintendo, as none of their consoles have ever been horsepower machines. Offset by game quality, right?

Second, is the actual game library. 1st party games are light’s out (Mario+Rabbids is great!), but also quite expensive. The general lack of any sales, especially for games that are 5 years old, hurts my brain. 3rd party games are almost always available on PC, and for a fraction of the price. Further, I have zero interest in paying for a subscription to access a game library of 25 year old games… a library I’ve had on hand for quite some time.

Third is the walled garden. If you’re a console fan, then this doesn’t make much sense. If you’re on PC, then you likely understand why this matters. Being able to configure your gaming environment with a slew of options allows you to play almost any electronic game, in the way that suits your needs. Want 4k at 60fps? Do it. Want a customized controller? Done. Want to stream music in the background while playing? Ok.

I’ve been looking at a Steam Deck for some time, or at least the concept of a portable PC form factor. I already have a gaming laptop (MSI Raider GE), which is an awesome rig. While I enjoy the workstation that the laptop provides, the use of the Switch has convinced me that there are better ways. Frankly, this is why consoles are still sold… couch & co-op gaming on a big arse TV is legit fun. PC gaming rarely affords this flexibility, and there’s an intersect that’s been sorely missing.

Take the Plunge

The Decks went on sale (10% is a sale, right?) and I opted to pick one up after sitting on the fence for a while. I opted for the largest drive, as 1) I can afford it, 2) I don’t want the hassle of swapping/configuring an upgraded drive, and 3) SD cards are “good enough” and cost efficient. Shipping was like 4 days from order to door.

Importantly, the form factor is oddly comfortable. It’s heavier than the Switch, but doesn’t feel a burden. Button layouts are good, a little less ergo than the Switch. The extra back toggles are nice addition, helping with the PC additional controls… and the trackpads are oddly responsive. It’s not the most intuitive layout. granted, but will adapt over time.

The initial setup was simple, and the UI is basically Steam Big Picture mode. Simple is good.

I started with Hades. The initial load was about 30 seconds, but then the game itself ran identical to the PC variant. Visuals are better than the Switch, and the sound doesn’t have that metallic echo. The Deck is louder due to fans running, but that seems to be sporadic. The screen itself is impressive, even with the anti-glare coating. It works perfectly indoors, regardless of lighting angles. I came away from that thinking that this is how Hades is meant to be played.


Next up was Final Fantasy 9. I have the series on Steam, collected over the years. SquareEnix ports are generally bad, and the modding community has to rescue them. FF9, in the default state, looks horrible, has annoying bugs, but comes with some QoL boosts. These issues are all addressed by the Moguri mod. I would not recommend playing without it.

The challenge here is that the Deck clearly indicates the FF9 is not compatible. Which is sort of true. The game needs keyboard/mouse inputs at certain times – notably naming characters. If you want to install the Moguri mod (yes, you do), then you need to break down the walled garden. Enter Desktop Mode.

Holding the power button brings up the ability to enter the desktop mode, enabled by a Unix UI. The interface is simple enough, allows web access, more applications, and the desktop interface for Steam. This makes it very simple to download the mod, extract the ZIP, and add it as a non-Steam game. It’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customization options… I think it’s rather wild truthfully.

Where things get a bit more complicated is the gaming mode and file explorer. You need to know the folder structure and manually enter it (not navigate), which is not exactly intuitive. Guides are essential, and after a year there are plenty available. Running the mod requires a file path the first time, and once done you simply load FF9 directly and everything is golden.

Moving Forward

I have nearly 200 items in my Steam library. Quite a few would be interesting to explore on the Deck. I am frankly amazed at what I’ve seen so far and more time is needed to figure out all the quirks (battery life is one I want to figure out).

A docking station and controller pairing is something I’ll get sorted out before the summer. Getting any of the Lego games to play on the TV with extra controllers would be a great time with the kids.

I also want to tinker around a bit and see how I can get my Epic games on the Deck. I’ve accrued a fair amount of the “free weekly games” and this is a great opportunity to give it a shot.

Finally, I want to see how this thing works in Airplane mode. Portability means intermittent or lack of network connections. How does that impact the gameplay and integration? I mean, I’ve read the notes and it works, but the details are bit murky to me.

This is just an initial view of the Deck, so it seems all roses right now. Obviously I am going to find some annoyances along the path. So far, this actually seems to be the real deal. Portable PC gaming. Wow.

SquEnix Woes

Matsuda is “leaving” his position as CEO. I’m amazed it took this long given the stunning trail of disaster these past few years. The only reason that this company is still around is FF14, and by the grace of some deity, they haven’t milked it to death. Yoshida must have pictures of someone to build that wall.

SquareEnix has gone to some rather impressive lengths to self-detonate for western gaming. The Avengers is a poster child for an idea that lacked time to gestate, on an IP that was/is overpriced. (Side note, Suicide Squad is being delayed… but will still tank for similar reasons.) Outriders is an amazing piece of gaming that outshone Avengers on nearly every level, yet had no real support. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great game, just not one that will sell 4 million copies.

And Forspoken didn’t meet sales expectations. I’m not sure if people have paid any attention to, you know, the world-state, but if you’re going to sell something at a premium price, it better be premium quality.

$94 is a price point that simply doesn’t exist in my mind. It’s like saying a bajillion dollars.

The real kicker here is that they still believe that NFT are the future. So much so that they sold their current IPs (Tomb Raider, Deus Ex) to fund the activity.

The shining light here is that there doesn’t appear to be news on HR/harassment, which is refreshing. This just seems to be boardroom decisions for investment that were poorly placed. Perhaps with new leadership at the helm, they can refocus and get one victory, which will certainly help with morale. Fingers crossed.