Anthem – Inscriptions

I am picking on Anthem here because it’s the flavor of the month.  In reality, all RNG looter should follow the same thought process.

Anthem’s combat foundation is like any RPG – number-based.  Each Javelin has their own set of gear and fundamental stats.  Each individual piece of gear has 3 different set of information.

  1. Baseline stats due to item type (e.g. guns have damage, rate of fire, clip size, etc…)
  2. Masterwork bonuses (only applies to Masterwork or Legendary items)
  3. Inscriptions (a random set of stats)

In practical terms, this means that any two items of the same level and rarity will have the exact same stats for 1 & 2.  You are then chasing better rolls for 3.

God Rolls

This is a term meant to identify an item with perfect randomized stats.  In a well balanced game, a God Roll would have noticeable impact but would still be comparable to a true random roll.  The odds of getting this roll would be balanced around the value of the roll.

In poorly balanced games, God Rolls are extremely overpowered and the RNG gods need daily sacrifices to attain.  In some cases, the game is not playable until you achieve a God Roll.

History Check

Diablo 3 came out in 2012 (!!).  Reaper of Souls(RoS) came out in 2014.  For 2 years, D3 ran with an Auction House that allowed you to skip playing the game and outright buy gear.  The game had God Roll issues, where some items were orders of magnitude better than others due to extremely poor itemization.

All items pulled from a standardized stat pool at equal weight.  For example, all weapons came with STR, DEX or INT.  They could also come with additional effects like attack speed, critical chance, critical damage, gem slots, bleed effects, or heal on attack.  There were certainly more, and that inflated stat pool had different values for different classes.

For example, a Wizard had zero interest in STR/DEX or Bleed effects.  It simply could not use them.  It also couldn’t use half the types of weapons in the game (e.g. bows, 2hn swords, etc.)  Due to standardized pools, only about 25% of the items that dropped at any given time were actually usable.  From there, you then needed to find a usable item with stats you wanted.  And from there, stats that were an improvement on what you had.

For 2 years, the odds of getting an item that was even remotely close to an improvement was farcical.  This was compounded by the Auction House, since your poor odds (say 1/100,000) were amplified by having thousands of people finding no use for their gear (e.g. a God Roll for a Wizard that drops while playing a Barbarian).  An hour on the AH bypassed hours/days of gameplay (and Blizz made money during the RMAH too).

RoS came out and implemented weighted drops.  This meant that item drops were pre-assigned a baseline value based on your class.  There were no more strength bows dropping for Demon Hunters.  Boots could only come with run speed, not critical chance.  Stat ranges were reigned in (typically 8 different stat options per item, with 4 present).  If an item dropped, there were high odds that it was worth comparing to what you had equipped.  It reduced the dependency on randomized stats, and instead focused on the interaction between skills.  It also increased the difficult markers for end game, so that if you did find God Rolls, you still had a challenge.  It also introduced Rifts, an end-game activities that provided rewards outside of gear drops (gems & leaderboards).

Other Looters

Path of Exile and Grim Dawn are good example of looter games based on the Diablo model.  They are really good examples of applying lessons learned.  Both have weighted stat drop pools, and a focus on skill interaction rather than baseline numbers. More notable is that these are small companies.

Anthem Loot Changes

I had this set to go out, then BioWare put up a Reddit post explaining some incoming changes in the next few days.   To compare today vs. after the patch.

Today

  • Items drop in 1 of 5 rarities (white, green, blue, orange, yellow)
  • Orange(Masterwork) and yellow (legendary) items come with extra affixes that change gameplay (e.g. 200% damage while hovering)
  • Pool of > 100 possible inscriptions, that apply either to the entire javelin (person icon), or specifically to that piece of gear (gear icon)
  • Inscription values are randomized (e.g. 1% damage or 25% damage)
  • No drop weights, meaning any item can have pretty much any inscription.  Like Grenade Launchers that improve pistol ammo capacity
  • Inscriptions that make little sense, or are bugged and have no effect.
  • The goal is to get orange+ items of the type you want, then upgrade them with versions that have better inscriptions.

After Patch

  • At level 30, item drops only come in blue, orange, and yellow.  Assuming the same quantity of items drop, this has a net effect of increasing high rarity drops.
  • Inscriptions will be weighted.  Assault rifles will come with generic inscriptions, or assault rifle specifics.  This drops the number of possible inscriptions from 100 to something closer to 30, per item.
  • You can breakdown 15 orange items in order to craft a new randomized one (down from 25).

Those changes raise the floor of bad rolls.  That is a massively positive change.  The armchair designer in me wonders why this wasn’t crystal clear obvious during QA (there was a lot of feedback on this during the demos, as most of it seemed broken).  I won’t praise them fixing something that never should have made it to launch, but I will certainly recognize that they were able to pivot quickly.  This is going to have a very large impact on reducing burn out.

avenging-herald

Great gun for Storms

Luck aka Magic Find

People always take the path of least resistance.  Always.

Luck should not be a stat people chase.  There’s a good reason all the others have removed it.  Right now, Luck has a hard cap at 90.  The effects are quite noticeable.  It makes people do things that go counter to helping the group.

Roll Luck into the difficulty level (above what’s already rolled in) and be done with it.

Repeatable Content

I have more fun in a Contract than I do a Stronghold, simply because there’s randomness in the former.  Also, they are generally equally balanced. Legendary contracts all end with some sort of super boss + waves.  Getting a Legendary contract to spawn… that’s some dark magic Harry.

Strongholds need work.  Tyrant Mines is ~20 minutes from start to finish.  Scar/Rage both take more than than for the boss alone.  Unfortunately, they also offer the exact same rewards.  I really don’t mind difficulty spikes at different spots in a run, but right now, no sane person would run either of those two locations for anything but the chance to say they did it.  That means people are going to burn out on Tyrant Mines – quickly.

Difficulty levels also need some changes, or perhaps clarity in intent.  Anthem does say “you should be this tall” to take this ride, granted.  GM1 really hard without at least 1 piece of useful MW gear.  GM2 is borderline unplayable without a full gear set of MW.  GM3 is like walking through hot coals, covered in baby oil.  And really, that’s a-ok.  What’s missing is the reward structure.  Since GM1 offers similar rewards to GM2, and the time to finish (TTF) is so much lower… why bother?  Again, path of least resistance.  (Side note – D3 had this issue.  They solved it by explaining what each difficulty had as an effect, and they players determined that if you could clear a rift in ~5 minutes, it was time to move up difficulty.  Again, this took 2 years.)

New Rig

All that fussing and I decided to just go with it.

Of all the features I listed previously, there were really only 2 options that presented themselves – either the MSI Raider or the ASUS ROG Zephyrus/SCAR.

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Lots of pretty keyboard colors

As you can tell, I went MSI.  Three main reasons.  1) MSI is significantly less expensive for the same specs (I’m essentially losing out on Thunderbolt) , 2) it’s actually available in Canada, and 3) it has an expandable storage slot.  It also shipped in 3 days, which is pretty neat.

The slight quirk in this is that the model I wanted, the GE73 Raider, was practically impossible to find at a decent price.  I ended up spending $200 more for the GE75 Raider, which came out in January.  Four things impacted – the display (120mhz vs 144mhz), the graphics card (RTX 2070 vs GTX 1070), the display bezel is much smaller, and the lid doesn’t have strobing lights – yay!   Honestly, I didn’t realize what a difference a small bezel had.

I took the 500GB SSD main drive, with a 1TB HDD.  It has an extra NVMe / PCIe slot so I can add another super fast SSD later.  16GB of RAM, expandable to 32 if need be. The setup phase is the fun part, and to avoid having to download GB of games, I’m in the process of transferring what I can from Steam et. al to the new box.  Thankfully that’s pretty straightforward – just

One of the good bits is that MSI doesn’t have much bloatware.  One game optimizer, one to controls the keyboard lights (I turned them of to give 90mins more battery life), and Norton (which will soon be removed).

Anthem

The game doesn’t load all that much faster, which is a real disappointment.   I’m running it off the NVMe drive that has the highest possible read/write on the market.  The computer boots super fast, and other items are near instant… so this is clearly an Anthem issue.

I disabled motion blur, and have a few more tweaks to apply on the video.   It runs ultra smooth, with significantly more detail, and the display is so much crisper.  Feels a lot like when I swapped my my standard TV for an HD version.  I’d have to run FRAPS or something similar to get a FPS reading.  This is not the RTX 2070 MaxQ (that’s a smaller form factor).

I’ll need to run some other bits to see how it goes.

Other Bits and Bobs

I like the keyboard and numpad.  Good size, distribution, movement and weight.  That looks weird when I type it out, but people who use a computer daily understand the value.  Trackpad actually works, which was a concern for me with MSI.  Not that I actually use, what with a gaming mouse.

The sound is ridiculous.  It has 2 speakers and 2 woofers, which is better quality than all my bluetooth speakers.  The sound range is impressive.  The speakers point down, which isn’t much of an issue since I have a cooling pad.

Tons of lighting and performance options on this rig.  It’s going to take a while for me to figure it all out.  I have never been a fan of keyboard backlighting (it’s off now), but lighted USB ports in a dark room isn’t a bad idea.

The fans max out with Anthem, and are noticeable.  Less so than my older Clevo/Sager, but you know they are present.  Can barely hear them at normal mode – or when casting a video through Chrome.

While the same screen size, it is an all around smaller laptop.  Fairly close to 15″ laptops I use from work, as they have a larger bezel.

Older Laptop

I’ll need to reset some of the settings and clear some room to make it a family laptop.  More than capable to keep running for a few more years without needing to pump out ultra settings.  I’ll certainly need to transfer some things to the NAS, and other bits to the new box… and as with everytime I do this, I’m going to forget a few things.

Nice Gift

I am not a frivolous spender, and I tend to over research things.  Pretty obvious if you’ve been reading this blog the past few months.  It took a bit of self-convincing that this was the right time, and that the funds could be spent for what I wanted.  The good news in this is that since the bitcoin mining phase is dropping, now’s a great time to get a GPU.

Anthem Quick Thoughts

This after 2 beta weekends, and the main story completed.  Not at max level.

General

  • Mechanically much more stable, but still a fair chunk of game breaking bugs (quests don’t complete, game crashes, sound goes out, infinite load screen)
  • The game looks amazing.  Hats off to the world builders and asset designers.
  • There is an absurd amount of rubber banding lag that causes:
    • Enemies to randomly appear
    • Shots to come from nowhere
    • Titan attacks to hit you even if you’ve clearly dodged.
  • I find myself spending far too much time waiting.  Waiting for a loading screen, waiting for a spawn, waiting for the flight to the waypoint to complete.
    • Note: Flying between waypoints is ok.  It’s the flying at the start of the mission that’s irritating.  Why give me a 60s load screen to then make me fly for 3 minutes?
  • Running in Tarsis feel much better.
  • Voice acting is ok.  There are 3 NPCs for the main quest, then 3 faction leaders.  Rest of the gang is better than most others.
  • There’s a ton of interesting lore and bits to be found, but damn does this game go to length to hide it, then make it a pain to sort through.
  • It is way too quiet in town.
  • The loading animation into the mech is cool
  • There appears to only be 4 enemy types.
    • Scar – everywhere scar.  Snipers, bombers, mechs, casters, grunts…oh and Escarii which are spider tanks.
    • Outlaw – Not a whole lot of these, but they are much simpler than Scar.
    • Bugs – Either they blow up, or they attack you.
    • Big Guys – Ursix & Titans.  Rare enough.  Former will physically attack 1 player.  Latter will use AE attacks and summon minor elements to attack.
  • Aside from the main story quest, and a few specific instances, every single mission boils down to the same routine
    • Fly through multiple waypoints (landing along the way to recharge thrusters) until you hit a point of interest (PoI)
    • Do one of four things (sometimes a combination of)
      • Kill all enemies, including spawn points
      • Play hot/cold to find objects
      • Place objects in a location
      • Defend a location
    • Repeat said 5 things up to 5 more times.  The variation has little to do with the game content, and more to do with the people with which you complete said content.
  • There are 3 dungeons, 2 of which are repeats of main quest events.

Story

  • Big baddie wants to become a god.  You try to stop him.  There’s one trick play in the middle that most people should see coming.  It’s relatively quick.
  • I found the faction leader quests much more interesting, story wise.  There’s some appreciable progress outside of the NPCs you interact with.
  • There’s a Tomb Quest that has you achievement hunt in order to progress.  It feels like artificial padding, because it is.  And the reward is an empty room with a chest.
    • Wasted opportunity for a lore piece on who the actual person was in this tomb… a quick cutscene, or just an image with some overlayed text/voice.
  • The setup for the next part makes it feel like I played the prologue.
  • Talking to people in town is ok. There are some interesting bits (Marelda, Cardea) but there are few cases of true interaction.  More like watching a cut-scene.

Mechanics

  • Flying is fun.  Combat is generally fun.  The javelins all feel different, and allow for some customization.
  • There’s no real difference between any of the guns in a given class.  Marksman rifles feel the same as assault rifles.  You end up just looking for highest damage.
  • Combat feels “floaty”, as the weapons don’t feel any impact or provide consistent feedback.  Skills do!  Guns don’t.
  • The inscriptions (random stats on items) are a real brain teaser, I can’t figure out what half of them do, and most don’t seem to do anything at all anyhow.
    • This feels a whole lot like the original launch of Diablo where awesome items are worse that common ones due to poor rolls.  (e.g. trade 8% pistol ammo for 25% skill damage.  Is that really a choice people have trouble with?)
  • Not being able to test skills/builds sucks.  It just plain sucks.
  • Mission length (~15 mins) is good.  Strongholds are good too, though some bosses are a bit more bullet sponge than I’d like.
  • The net effect is that the time spent preparing for a mission feels more important than the actual battle.
  • Combo system is neat.   Hard as hell to coordinate with other players.
  • Ice attacks feel mandatory due to the stun effect.  A well placed attack can lock down an entire spawn point, and makes the Scar mechs a joke.

Way Forward

  • There are plenty of Quality of Life (QoL) changes that would really improve my enjoyment.  Simple things, like not hiding my heat level with popups when I’m flying.
  • There’s apparently a lot of new content coming, though a fair focus on freeplay.  The fact that freeplay has no “quick summon” mode, and no waypoints, it’s near impossible to play with another player.  Hard to compare, but as if in WoW you were in the Eastern Plaguelands and had to get to Ungoro to participate in an event with your friend.
  • I won’t comment much on the end game, and the search for “perfect rolls”.  If BioWare hasn’t learned any lessons from Destiny, Division, or hell, even Diablo 3 by this point, then I will go and make some popcorn.
  • For a game that’s supposed to be driven by social interaction, there’s a very large gap in terms of tools to help with that.  Anthem’s fun factor goes up to 11 if you’re able to play with friends.

Overall

  • It would be easy to sink 20 hours here, wrinkles and all, while still having a lot of fun.  This goes for many Early Access games.
  • People who paid to play a week early than others, thanks for doing more beta testing for me.
  • There’s a pile of potential here, more than I’ve seen in other games of this genre.
    • Division 1 had to completely rebuild the end game
    • Warframe has rebuilt every system from the ground up.  Barely recognizable today.
  • People buying Anthem today are buying an IOU from BioWare.  If you go in with that mindset, then odds are you’re going to have fun.
  • My gut is telling me that the actual player demographic for Anthem is the 35-50 age group, in terms of “is this fun”, and in terms of cadence of updates.  Not certain how sustainable that model is (or any other for that matter).
  • EDIT: This Reddit post from Travis Day covers a lot of the end-game thoughts.

Meta

I am going to step into the cesspool a minute.  Then take a shower.

  • The model of Games as a Service reached saturation when Fortnite launched.  Whatever business model was thought of back then… Anthem is competing against giants in a market with no growth.  And recall that Games as a Service works BEST when the players are the content (e.g. PvP).’
    • Monster Hunter is a notable exception here.  I’ve sunk 80 hours into that game.  It feels like the opposite of Anthem (and shooter-looters) – melee battles and strategic boss fights.
  • Anthem deserves a lot of (but not all of) the negative reaction.  This game was 6 years in the making, and has had ample examples to emulate.
  • After Fallout 76 launched with minimal content and a slew of bugs, someone should have taken a hard look at Anthem.  No one can honestly say that the content launched on Feb 15th was a “full game”, what with a 6gb patch 7 days later.  3 months in the cooker would have put this in May, and learned a whole pile of lessons from Division 2.
  • Early access players are the true fans.  Again a lesson from FO76.  They build momentum, one way or another.
  • The Ways to Play Anthem bingo card grid is a good example of how not to do it.
  • While true that it is launching in a better mechanical state that many of its competitors did when they launched… it is not competing against those versions of the game.  Given the choice between Warframe today and Anthem today…
  • In the end, Anthem’s success depends almost entirely on it’s ability to deliver on the content promise before the novelty of flying combat wears off.
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    It clearly says “Full Game” Feb 15

 

Financial Ethics

There are a bazillion different ways to talk about ethics, and a pile more when it’s only about finance.  It’s insanely rare for two people to share the same opinion on this, as their personal experience has a dramatic impact.

I come from an upbringing of modest means.  My parents worked really hard to provide and I worked various odd jobs from 12 on until now.  I started full time hours to pay for school at about 17, and it’s been that way for nearly 20 years.  Bought a house when I was in my 20s.  Been running a budget since my teens, and my job has me responsible for a lot of people, and a lot of money.  I tend to avoid daily expenses (I brown-bag and make my own coffee), and instead make larger purchases that are planned.  Both my wife and I work really hard, make a decent amount, and can provide more for our kids than our parents were able.  We’re both also quite aware of that fact – and try as hard as we can to avoid the sense of entitlement.

That preamble aside, it should give an idea where my financial mindset lays.  Now to the interesting bits.  Thrtee main scenarios, and they relate a lot to the current state of affairs.

Scenario 1

A government agency is running a service that serves its citizens.  It’s time to replace a key part of their technology, and there are 2 main options.  They are functionally similar, and meet the same security requirements.  One product is offered domestically, and costs $10m, and employs 20 people.  The other product is offered overseas and costs $5m.  Not buying the domestic product means that the business is going to have to cut its staff.

  • Should the domestic product win, even though it’s twice the price?  These are tax dollars paying for it.
  • Should the domestic product win, even if it isn’t as fully featured as the international version?
  • Should price always win out?
  • Should the impact to domestic staff be factored?

 

Scenario 2

A large multi-national business, headquartered in your country, is accused of fraud in another country.  This crime is only punishable in your country, as that other one allows it.  All evidence points that this was orchestrated by the CxO group.  The laws in your country state that massive financial penalties should be applied, which effectively means that the business would have to declare bankruptcy.  Thousands of people would lose their jobs.

  • Do you apply the letter of the law and close down the company?
  • If so, who should take care of the thousands of people who lost their job through no fault of their own?
  • Do you only charge the CxO group? If so, who now runs the company?
  • Does the company come under government agency control for a period of time (e.g. probation) until they right themselves?

 

Scenario 3

Your town has a busy main drag, with plenty of local shops offering all sort of items.  A large box store opens up just outside of town, offering all the selection of those shops, but at a larger discount.  The prices are lower due to both larger scale of inventory, and by underpaying their staff.  If the box store is the only one in town, and pay is low, the box store will eventually close.

  • Do you continue to support local business even though it costs more?
  • Do you find a balance between local and box store?
  • Do you go full box store, knowing that the local businesses will have to close?

Summary

The answers to these differ a lot depending on where you live.  Not even country, even neighborhoods have differing opinions.  Where I live, the downtown is much more financially liberal, while the outlying areas tend to be fiscally conservative.

The important thing here is that there are no easy answers.  With an interconnected society, all the pieces connect to others.  One person’s actions can impact thousands of others, and the ripple effects can last for years.  I’m not saying that there are bad choices, just that sometimes there are choices made in ignorance.  If we understand the factors, and we make a choice from that, then there’s a reason for it.  Even the scenarios above are hyper simplified.  Wal-Mart’s dependency on China’s products has a created a massive trade imbalance, and hundreds of thousands of people in China depend on it.

Gaming

Now what the heck does this have to do with a blog that’s mostly about gaming?  Well, there are 3 large companies in NA that compete for our dollars.  There are half dozen in China that are competing as well (though often through shells/links and focused on mobile).  Gaming was niche 20 years ago, not even close to being true today.  There is more money to be made (revenue) in games than in movies & music combined – it simply dominates.

Some may remember it being acceptable to not buy a band’s music, or go and see a particular movie for X reasons.  There were dozens of media items that were pushing a message, and people buying it expected it.  There have been film boycotts for ages.

But gaming, we make a loud fuss on r/gaming then still spend the money.  We want attention without consequences.

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Iconic

When we decide to reward behavior we don’t like, we promote that behavior.  Large companies are only ever interested in the bottom line.  They will do whatever they need to do in order to get that last penny from the pockets.  Then we feign surprise when they do it again.

If the model work for you, then perfect.  Everyone has different drivers, and levels of acceptability.  For example, Anthem (today’s state) is a good deal at $20, but not for $60.  But if you do make a choice, be ready to follow through on it.  Otherwise, any change you’re trying to push through will never happen.

Masses Have Opinions

By the time this post goes live, I’d expect the actual value to change – but Anthem is sitting in the low 60s right now.

Some blogs have their thoughts as well.

I did play the beta.  I found it interesting mechanically and wondering if there was an actual game present.  It was not a demo, regardless of how it was sold.  Demos are smooth.  What those two weekends presented was a game with significant bugs.  The day 1 (how is it day 1 when it’s been out for 7 days?) patch addresses a ton of those issues, but somehow managed to create others.

I have a noted dislike for early access games.  It is a very rare game that actually delivers on that promise (Slay the Spire, Grim Dawn come to mind), while others stay in garbage mode for years.  I really dislike that when we’re talking about global publishers with massive pockets.

The short of it is that Anthem just isn’t finished.  It’s an idea that’s still being incubated, and EA wants your money to help fund that effort.  How you feel about that is entirely up to you.  It’s a market trend, entirely supported by revenue.  BlackOps4 is an example of simple greed, selling a full box price, then gradually selling every possible F2P MTX possible.  I wouldn’t so much put Anthem in the MTX spot… but man does this look fishy.

Is the game fun?  When it worked for me it certainly was.  Despite it’s best efforts to put in loading screens everywhere, to slow down the fun parts with a non-interactive movie, to have more technical issues than I could possibly list.   All of that still doesn’t change the fact that combat is simply fun.

And I think that’s where things get interesting.  Destiny 1 was a really bad launch, Destiny 2 had a rough go as well.  Division 1 was garbage until nearly a year after launch.  Warframe today looks nothing like when it launched.  In the “shared world shooters at launch”, Anthem is well above the pack.  The problem is that Anthem is not competing against those games from back then – it’s competing against their current versions. Just like every themepark MMORPG fought against the current version of WoW.

While I’d certainly recommend that people not buy the game at this time, if you really need to, then the $20 monthly fee (at least for PC) is probably your best bet.  Following other games that release in this state, with this score… we’re going to see a sale within the month.  Getting this for $30, yeah, that could work.  Getting this at $60, better off waiting a couple months for the game to find its footing.  There’s a pile of potential here, here’s hoping BioWare can deliver on it before EA starts cutting away.

Gaming Laptop Redux

When I was a kid, I really dug into every PC spec I could.  I spent hours building the darn things, and from x486 until about 5 years ago, I would help other people build theirs.  It was ridiculous the amount of info required to make that work, especially in the pre-internet days.  But then again, most people had a sound card and not a video card – and here we are with the ability to link multiple cards together, and have a hard drive the size of a business card.

 

Technically, the foundations of PC builds are relatively the same.  It’s the extra flavor bits that make it interesting.  The video above is both fascinating (200fps is bonkers), and worrying in that the amount of POST/OC config options take an engineering degree.  (Side note, the RTX2080ti used in the video goes for about $1200US.  There are 2 in this box.)

I’ve mentioned the debate on PC vs laptop a few times now.  Laptop just seems the most practical way forward for my particular situation.

Honestly, 95% of this drive is because of the technical issues with Anthem.  Sure my rig isn’t brand new, but it was top of the line 3 years ago.  I’ve played most anything on ultra/high without problem.  Yet Anthem makes CPU/GPUs melt, leverages Denuvo (I think) which makes HDD melt, and pretty much makes any non PC-enthusiast rig look like garbage.  Let’s just say that the bar to entry to enjoy Anthem is at the highest I have ever seen.  Day 1 patch is trying to lower that bar, otherwise I don’t see how consoles could ever make this work.  Reddit seems to think that the patch did address this.  Maybe not perfect, but the 90s load times from the beta seem closer to 30s.

Anyways, back to specs.  As much as there are advances in the desktop space (PCIe NVMe bridges!) laptops are not that far ahead.  The good news is that it’s a simpler affair, with only a few places where it will muck up.  Let’s go over the basics.

CPU – i7 Gen 8 – 8750H

There’s very little reason to go i9 on a laptop, as you’re going to end up with a tank of a machine, for minimal value.

RAM – 16GB, DDR4

Most games will take 8GB, so having double and room to expand again is important.

Storage – 256GB SSD boot, 512GB+ NVMe M.2 PCIe

This is really interesting!  SSD for boot, I think it a given.  Sizes are all over the place, and experience says 128GB is going going to be running near 80% capacity.  Active drive is more fun.  Traditionally laptops come with a 7200rpm HDD as the 2nd drive, and maybe a 2nd drive for NVMe.  The important part here is to note that not all M.2 drives are the same – there are SATA and PCIe variants, with the latter being much faster.  GEEK ALERT – SATA3 = 0.5GB/s, while PCIe = up to 15GB/s.

GPU – GTX 1070

While RTX are available, the gains are minimal and only 1-2 games actually support ray-tracing.  The question then becomes which one in the GTX10 field.  1050s are too old.  1060s will give 1080p, which in practical terms is going to give you ~60FPS.  1070s will not reach 4K, but they will get you to the 120FPS mark.  1080s are 4K ready and real beasts.  Also cost an arm and a leg, and can cook an egg.  There are sub variants of GPUs as well here, like a MaxQ.  Just don’t.

Display- 17″ with 120Hz refresh rate

17″ screens are found in really small form factors.  They also allow for a larger battery.  15″ I find I am squinting for details.  The refresh rate is tied to the FPS.  Well, not technically but they are close enough that you can map.  60fps = 60Hz.  If you can get more than 60fps, then get a better display.  Unless you are loaded with money, a 4K laptop is out of the picture.

Networking –  Killer

Not much debate to be had here.

Ports – 2x USB 3 + USB-C/Thunderbolt

Need at least 1 port for a cooling pad (with fans) that also acts as a USB hub. Maybe could get by without.  1 port for the mouse.  You need powered USB ports!  Rest usually works itself out.  The USB-C/Thunderbolt port is gravy – massive transfer speeds and is the best way to get a docking station / external monitor to work.  This is the hardest bit to find in a laptop, you need to know the exact model you’re looking for.

Ergo/Placement/Battery – Personal

I want a trackpad on the bottom.  17″ laptops should come with a numpad.  Speakers should be on the top of the keyboard tray.  Cooling is out the back/bottom.  Thin is ok, but a “standard” size is fine too.  I’m done with the giant 10lbs bricks.  Battery life should be at least 4 hours for non-gaming.

Summary

I’ll be honest, it took nearly a month to get that shopping list complete, with daily research bits.  Finding the exact machine that has all these parts in it… I won’t lie, that is a friggin’ challenge.  Right now it looks like a GE73 Raider.  Maybe a STRIX/Zephyrus.  The Alienware boxes are just too expensive.

Time to set a product watch and wait for a decent deal

Anthem from the Outside

Anthem early release (PC only, $5 for 10 hours, $20 for unlimited per month) was last Friday, so that gives us 4 solid days (Monday was a holiday for a lot of people in NA).  Where are we?

Day 1 patch notes for starters.  Or maybe the patch highlights, since sprinting in Tarsis isn’t listed.  Some pretty important things there – in particular the items under “high level fixes” that deal with simply accessing the game.

I know in the demo my load times were absurd – 2 to 3 minutes in some spots.  Not to mention the sheer amount of loading screens.  Seems the case now too, with the general recommendation to move to SSD.  Which, you know, cool for desktops that have them.  Less so for laptops.  Not sure how that would impact console players, so I guess we’ll see how that works out after Day 1.

There are various youtubers providing their “reviews” or “impressions” of an online game that’s technically still in beta.  Plenty of blog posts.  Gaming sites have early impressions as well.  I don’t quite understand how people can comment on “end game variety” by this point, but I guess they need the clicks.  If you’re curious about the game, I’d avoid browsing Reddit – that’s for sure.

Fair to assume that those playing the game right now are the same people who were more than looking forward to the game.  Passionate I would say.  Not the streamers, I mean the players.  The next wave coming, those in the “it looks interesting” camp, that will be the real test.

Related to this are the (insanely?) dedicated players who are already at level 30 and in full legendary/masterwork gear.  Quite a few used the a “loot cave” for easy farming, and it would seem that Strongholds (dungeons) are giving great rewards just from the chests (without killing the boss).  I know the latter example existed in the 2 demos, since bosses don’t visibly drop loot and account for ~30% of the total dungeon duration.  Curious as to how all this fits into BW’s player models for content consumption.  I mean they certainly expected a portion of players to go for gold, but where do they need to find the balance?

In some previous posts on the demo, I had a couple things that I thought needed addressing.  Sure, a lot of QoL things, in particular flight/swimming controls, load screens, and the UI.  It would seem a lot of those items are being looked at on the 22nd.

I’m sure I will have a few thoughts on Monday after having a decent sit down.  For now it will be just taking in the scenery.  Fingers crossed.