Random Thoughts – Randocity!

10 Best Ways to Make Money in GTA Online

Posted in howto, tips, video gaming by commorancy on July 19, 2021

Unlike Grand Theft Auto V, where lots of money is thrown the player’s way all the way to the end of the game, Grand Theft Auto Online isn’t at all like this. Let’s explore the top ways to make money in GTA Online. Before we get started, let’s clarify several issues.

Daily versus In-Game Day

There is some confusion with GTAO using the word, “daily”. The game world has a day that lasts around an hour of real world play time. Then, there’s an actual in-real-life (IRL) day.

The use of the word ‘Daily’ below in the Type area means 24 real world hours must pass before that challenge or event resets in the game world. The challenges do not reset based on the in-game day, but instead reset based on waiting a full 24 clock-on-the-wall hours from the last time you played it.

You can specifically see this timer when you visit the Lucky Wheel at the Casino. However, other events which also require a 24 hour waiting period do not have visible timers. Instead, you must remember the last time you completed that specific event to know when you can play it again.

Costly Purchases

Unfortunately, too many activities in Grand Theft Auto Online require spending significant amounts of GTA$ to unlock access to those missions and areas (i.e., Cayo Perico Island). Once unlocked, you can then run those missions and make whatever money is given. However, the game is severely lopsided with too many of these missions and areas, such as Heists, falling into this category. What this all means? It means that Rockstar requires that you spend millions in GTA$ to gain back only a fraction of that money after completing the missions. This article intends to focus on the easiest ways to make money including ways that are entirely free (no costs involved), which don’t cost too much and/or ways that return a significant or passive amount of GTA$ for any money spent.

Any mission or activity which requires you to become a VIP, CEO or Motorcycle Club President (MCP) means you’ll need to purchase at least one of a VIP organization, an Executive Office (CEO) or a Motorcycle Clubhouse (MCP). All of these require at least GTA$1,000,000, with the VIP option being the worst deal in the game as you get no property out of the deal. If you’re going to pay at least GTA$1 million, you might as well get property out of the deal.

For activities in GTAO which primarily seek to take your GTA$, these are mentioned at the bottom of this article. Though, these activities aren’t worth playing simply to make money and should be avoided for that purpose. These up-front cost missions should only be played for their entertainment value… and only if you have the spare millions of GTA$ needed to unlock them. However, you don’t need to pay to unlock these expensive missions. There are plenty of activities which will yield GTA$ without paying anything.

Tuners UpdateReduced Payouts

After the Tuners update rolled on July 20th, 2021, many payouts (including the nightclub missions) seem to have been reduced. This article is intended as reference, but know that with every update that Rockstar rolls, Rockstar can reduce payouts on any of what’s documented below without warning, as is the case with Simeon’s request and Nightclub missions. Simeon’s car request formerly offered up GTA$20,000 per car prior to Tuners, but has since been reduced on some cars to GTA$15,000 after this update. Rockstar just can’t seem to get enough of continually screwing us over.

Legend

The legend includes a Difficulty Level that ranges from 1 (Easy) to 5 (Medium) to 10 (Hard). The rest that appear in the legend are self-explanatory.

With these problems clarified, let’s start making some entirely free GTA$ starting with the best first …

1. Spin the Lucky Wheel

Lucky Wheel

The first way to earn money in GTA online is by spinning the Lucky Wheel every day in the Diamond Casino. This activity costs nothing.

Landing on the GTA$50,000 spot each day for 7 days will net you a cool GTA$350,000 a week. Performing this activity for a full 31 days will net you GTA$1,550,000. How do you land this spot every day? The simplest way is to close the application before the wheel stops spinning. Once you know the wheel is not landing on GTA$50,000 (easy to see), close out, then reload into the game and try spinning again. There are also other money spots on the wheel such as 25,000 casino chips (which can be converted to GTA$), GTA$30,000, GTA$40,000 and others. While the highest is GTA$50,000, landing on any of these money spots is free money. Take advantage.

The best thing about this activity is that you don’t have to spend any money or perform any silly activities to get this free money, but you do have to sometimes restart the app several times before you can land on the exact spot, which takes a bit of time.

Cost: Free
Type: Free Money, Daily, Recurring
Reward: up to GTA$50,000 max depending on which space you land
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy)

2. Simeon

This free activity appears once per day. Simeon will send you a text to locate one of several cars from his list. It can take about 30-45 minutes real play time before Simeon’s text pops up. If you’ve waited that long without a text, this likely means it hasn’t been a full 24 hours since the last time you performed this activity. These cars range in cost and only one of those listed cars will reward a maximum of ~GTA$20,000 (some cars reduced to $15k after Tuners update July 20th, 2021). Locate the highest cost car in the list, lose the 2 wanted stars, take it to Los Santos Customs and paint it for free. Then, drop it off at Simeon’s dock warehouse garage to pick up your free ~GTA$20,000 (or whatever you find your car is worth). This one only appears every 24 hours, like spinning the wheel.

Enus Super Diamond parked at The Diamond Casino

If you do Simeon’s text mission every day, in 31 days you’ll have made GTA$620,000. The challenge with this mission is in finding the car Simeon wants. The biggest hint I can give is try looking at the Diamond Casino parking lot. At least 2 times out of 5, you’ll find his highest priced car parked there, just waiting to steal.

Note, this one can be tricky. The game’s car spawning mechanic doesn’t sync up with this quest and won’t always spawn the cars Simeon wants. This means you can literally spend hours waiting on specific cars to spawn. Sometimes, the cars are readily available at a parking lot, sometimes you can drive around for hours looking. If after driving around for about 5-10 minutes without success, I recommend logging out and logging into a new server and waiting for Simeon to text you his newest list again. Moving to a new server can sometimes make this quest easier and faster. It’s worth noting that whatever it costs to repair the car at Los Santos Customs, after being chased by the cops, will be reimbursed to you upon turning the vehicle in. You don’t need to treat the car with kid gloves when heading over to Los Santos Customs. Once you’ve repaired and painted the car, then yes, you’ll want to be careful when driving over to Simeon’s warehouse at the docks.

Cost: Free
Type: Active Income, Daily, Recurring
Reward: Max GTA$20,000 + repair costs reimbursed per day, depends on which car you drop off.
Difficulty Level: 3 (Medium… depends on whether cars spawn + must get rid of a 2 star wanted status + must drive car safely to the docks without damage)

Correction: I have since found that even though some cars have had their take reduced to GTA$15,000, some have not. The maximum is still GTA$20,000 + repair costs if you choose the correct car.

3. Stealing Cars

This is a free activity that can be had once per day. As in the game’s name as Grand Theft Auto, stealing random cars off of the street and driving them to Los Santos Customs can net you between GTA$3,000 to GTA$9,000 per car, depending on the car model you sell. You can only sell one car per day. While this isn’t a whole lot of money each time, it’s still enough that it’s worth doing for some quick cash.

Cost: Free
Type: Active Income, Daily, Recurring
Reward: Up to GTA$9,000 per day depending on which car you drop off
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy)

4. Robbing Convenience Marts

This is a free activity. While this activity can be a bit more on the fun side, it isn’t without its downsides. The difficulty isn’t so much with holding up the store, but that the maximum money you’ll get from each store is maxed at around GTA$1,000. That amount of money almost seems not worth the hassle, except there are 19 stores that you can hit up around the map to net somewhere close to GTA$19,000 per day. Not the best haul in this list, but it’s decent.

Cost: Free
Type: Active Income, Daily, Recurring
Reward: Up to GTA$1,000 per store with 19 stores
Difficulty Level: 3 (Mostly easy, but will need a decent getaway car)

5. Gang Attacks

Gang attacks appear as a large red circular area on the mini map and full sized map. These activities have you take down a bunch of thugs in that area. Upon successful gang attack completion, you receive 500 RP. Where you make your payout here is looting all of the gang bodies and the weapon crates. Gang members may drop between GTA$20-50 each. Each weapon crate drops GTA$500. Most areas have around 5 crates or more. The crates can total at least GTA$2,500 + whatever money you can loot off of the gang members.

Cost: Free
Type: Active, Daily, Recurring, Multiple map areas, Time Suck
Reward: ~GTA$2,500 + loot + 500 RP * ~36 Gang areas on the map >= GTA$90,000 per day
Difficulty Level: 6-8 (Medium hard, requires ammo, decent shooting skills and persistence)

6. Visit the Casino Cashier

This one offers free money every day. Visiting the casino cashier allows you to pick up 1000 visitor bonus casino chips every single day. You can cash these chips out to GTA$ at any time. This one is down the list because it doesn’t offer a lot per day, but it is free money with no catch. Like the Lucky Wheel, this one also takes a full 24 hours before it resets. If you do this one just after spinning the wheel, the Lucky Wheel timer can be used to cover both activities.

Cost: Free
Type: Recurring, Daily
Reward: 1000 chips daily or GTA$70,000 every 7 days or GTA$300,000 every 30 days
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy)

7. Freemode Events

To participate in Freemode events, you’ll need to play in public servers. Private servers of any type do not spawn Freemode events. These events are random in type and require specific things, like opening a parachute closest to the ground. Whomever does this the best gets first place and the highest prize.

Cost: Free
Type: Multiplayer, Recurring, Random throughout the day
Reward: GTA$18,000+ to a little more than GTA$20,000
Difficulty Level: Depends on the event
and how many participate

8. Hidden Caches

Kosatka

Here’s another treasure hunt that was introduced as part of Cayo Perico. This is similar to the treasure hunt that’s also available on Cayo Perico Island (see below), except this hunt is much, much better for GTA$ and doesn’t require purchasing the expensive Kosatka Submarine. In this case, there are 10 hidden caches to find and because there are so many and because these caches can be found daily, it’s makes the list at spot 8. However, there are 100 locations from which those 10 caches can spawn, making it a medium difficulty event. This means you’ll need to check a lot of different locations to find all 10. The caches can be picked up inside or outside of a vehicle. This means you can use an underwater vehicle, like the Toreador, if you have one or you can use a scuba diving suit, your choice. If your vehicle has a sonar (i.e., you have bought the Kosatka), the sonar will make it somewhat faster to find all 10.

This one rewards GTA$7,500 and 500 RP for each cache found. Finding all 10, you will net GTA$75,000 and 5,000 RP. The caches reset daily, allowing you to pick up that GTA$75,000 each day. In 7 days, that’s GTA$525,000. In 28 days, that’s GTA$2.1 million. That’s a lot of GTA$ to get if you do it every day for a month. In fact this one is far easier than doing the Daily Objectives and awards more GTA$ in 28 days, though less RP at 140,000.

Cost: Free
Type: Daily, Recurring
Difficulty Level: 5 (Medium — must be tenacious)
Reward: GTA$7,500 + 500 RP per cache (10x = $75,000 + 5,000 RP per day)

Income which requires a purchase….

Here are the final two of our top 10, but these require buying properties to gain a daily income. These final two are included in this top 10 list because these are the only properties you can own in GTA Online that produce truly passive income.

9. Arcade

Owning an arcade requires buying it with GTA$. The cost to buy an Arcade is around GTA$1,300,000. However, Rockstar regularly puts properties on heavy discount throughout the game. At a 40-50% discount, you might spend as little as GTA$500,000 to get a property.

Sometimes you can even get some properties included in a bundle or possibly free from Rockstar promotions. Bundles such as in the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack (CESP), which costs somewhere between USD$10-$20, includes a bunch of properties, weapons, vehicles, outfits and tattoos… including a bonus of GTA$1,000,000. This bundle might also be included with the purchase of certain game versions. Take advantage of freebies included with such bundles if you can afford them.

For example, the CESP bundle includes the following properties:

  • Maze Bank West Executive Office — No Garage w/o GTA$
  • Paleto Forest Gunrunning Bunker — 1 Car Garage
  • Senora Desert Counterfeit Cash Factory (must be a motorclub president)
  • Great Chaparral Biker Clubhouse — 17 Bike Garage (10 for you, 1 each for 7 members)
  • 1561 San Vitas Street Apartment — 2 Car Garage
  • 1337 Exceptionalists Way — 10 Car Garage

However, CESP doesn’t include an Arcade property. Take advantage of the property discounts when they roll around each week, which may include discounts for an Arcade, a Hangar and Nightclub properties.

Keep in mind that owning properties isn’t without cost. Every property you buy has a daily payment that is subtracted at the end of each game world day from your GTA$ (about every hour of play). This means that you won’t make exactly GTA$5,000 per day… it’ll be more like GTA$4,500 after daily expenses are subtracted for that specific property. You will see the full GTA$5,000 deposited into the safe and the daily expenses are subtracted separately.

However, you don’t have to do anything to get that income. It rolls in without even being there and I’m not even sure you have to buy arcade machines either. Just be sure to stop by and pick the money up before the safe fills up. Yes, you must stop by the arcade to pick it up. You also have to remain online for a full in-game day for the money to show up.

Finally, it’s worth noting that unlike GTA V, you cannot own multiple businesses like arcades or nightclubs as you might expect. In GTA Online, you can own one of each type of business property including the executive office, arcade, nightclub, hangar and motorcycle clubhouse. Garages and apartments are the exception which you are allowed to own up to 6, excluding garages attached to businesses like the executive office, casino penthouse, arcades, nightclubs, bunkers and facilities. For completion’s sake, you can also only own one each of these vehicles including the Super Yacht, Kosatka, Mobile Operations Center, Terrorbyte and Avenger.

If you attempt to buy a second “one-only” property or you’ve used up your 6 slots, the game will apply credit from your old property towards your new purchase so that you only pay the diffence in price between the first and second. If the new property is less costly than the old one, you’ll get money back. Note that freebie properties might not offer a trade-in allowance towards a new property.

Cost: Minimum GTA$1,300,000 for Arcade (may be able to get one free)
Type: Passive Income, Daily, Recurring
Passive Income: GTA$5,000 per day

Active Income: None
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy)

10. Nightclub Promotion

Owning a nightclub is another property type that you must buy before you can reap its passive monetary rewards. However, this property type comes with a catch. To make the maximum money per day (GTA$10,000), you’ll need to complete various Nightclub management activities. These activities promote the nightclub and keep the club full. So long as the nightclub remains full of people and the popularity progress-bar is filled, the nightclub will make GTA$10,000 per day. As the club popularity decreases and the popularity bar dips, so does the income.

Like arcades, nightclubs cost around GTA$1-2 million depending on the property. However, once you own it, it is guaranteed to generate some amount of passive income. If you do nothing and choose not to promote the club, the club still produces a minimum amount of passive daily income, around GTA$1,000 per day.

Occasionally, Rockstar will increase the nightclub daily payment from a max of GTA$10,000 to sometimes GTA$40,000 per in-game day for a full 7 real-world days as a promotion. That means you can net a substantial amount of GTA$ if you’re willing to farm the nightclub and keep it at maximum payout each day during the promotional period.

You’ll also net various amounts of GTA$ from 2,500 to 5,000 for each successful promotion activity completed, such as putting up posters yields GTA$5,000 and a small amount of RP on completion.

Note that to run missions in the Nightclub, you need to become CEO. To become CEO, you’ll need to buy an Executive Office or pick one up in the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack.

Cost: GTA$1-2 million depending on property + GTA$1-2 million for Executive Office to be CEO
Type: Active or Passive Income, Daily, Recurring
Passive Income: GTA$10,000 per day down to GTA$1,000 per day depending on popularity.
Mission Reward: GTA$2,500 to GTA$5,000 + RP depending on promotional activity
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy) to 3 (Medium) depending on activity

Runners Up

Here are some other events and activities that didn’t make the top 10 but are well worth considering.

Auto Repair Shop + Los Santos Car Meetup

This brand new addition arrived as of July 20th, 2021. Two new features have been introduced into GTAO. The first is the Los Santos Car Meetup. This is a large warehouse building where players can meet and show off their cars, but unfortunately only one car at a time. As you show off and mod your car, your Meetup reputation points will increase. These reputation points are separate from standard RP. There are 32 parking spaces in the warehouse where cars can be parked. There’s also an indoor track that can be raced. The second is the Auto Repair shop, which you have to buy.

To begin this whole deal, once you get inside of the meetup building, you’ll meet with Mimi (the organizer) who introduces you to Sessanta and KDJ. Sessanta and KDJ want to open an auto repair and modification shop with you. However, Rockstar leaves it up to you to buy this new business location in the game. To buy an auto repair shop, you’ll need to visit Maze Bank Foreclosures. Here, you’ll find several locations which you can purchase. As of now and with Prime Gaming, one of the locations (Strawberry) is free to obtain, the rest cost around GTA$1.5 to 1.9 million. If you have Prime Gaming, grab the freebie now before Rockstar kills the promotion. Without Prime Gaming, you’ll have to pay.

Once you own an auto repair shop, like most other Heist operations, there’s a contract job board. To access it, you’ll need to become a CEO. Here’s the expensive catch.

To become CEO, you’ll need to own an Executive Office Suite (~GTA$1,000,000, see below OR ~USD$20 to buy the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack, see Arcade above). See, I told you that Rockstar gets you to spend massive amounts of GTA$ all over the place in this game.

The first job given by Sessanta is to rescue Sessanta’s car from the impound lot at the police station, the same car you first saw her in at the meetup. This is a fairly difficult mission because you have to mow down a bunch of cops at the impound lot. However, as soon as you arrive there, you get a 3 star wanted rating causing even more cops to swarm. Suffice it to say, you’ll need to grab the car as fast as possible and attempt to lose the wanted status quickly. Once you do this, bring it back to the auto repair shop and the actual jobs begin on the job board.

There are three ways to make money with the auto repair shop. The first is to perform the job board contract jobs. The second is to wait for customers to arrive to have their cars repaired and modded. The third way is to complete one contract to unlock specific wanted cars to jack and return for GTA$, like Simeon’s request above. Here’s where the second way gets convoluted.

Repairing and modding cars forces you to pay out some amount of GTA$ from your own pocket which will get reimbursed by the customer plus their service fee on top. I’ve done two of these. The first one was -GTA$50,000 to repair and +GTA$30,000 as the car repair payment, for a total of +GTA$80,000 once the car is delivered. The second car was -GTA$20,000 to repair and +GTA$20,000 as payment, for a total of +GTA$40,000 once delivered. If the car is delivered damaged, the game reduces the amount you get paid. You’ll need to have at least GTA$100,000 in your account if you intend to run these repair jobs.

However, Rockstar failed us with this new feature because I’d like to have an Open sign that I can turn on and off. If I don’t want the jobs to appear at all, I’d like to turn off the Open sign and prevent Sessanta from calling me with new jobs.

As for the contract jobs, KDJ takes a 10% cut of whatever payment amount is offered. Note that all of the contract jobs are reasonably complicated and difficult to complete when playing solo. However, they can be completed solo, but you’ll have to play them multiple times learning strategies via trial and error. The three jobs that appear for me are as high as GTA$185,000 and as low as GTA$170,000. I have personally confirmed that KDJ’s cut is, in fact, 10%. You definitely will not get the amount listed on the job board. For a GTA$178,000 job, I got GTA$160,200 + another $75,000 about one minute later for some odd reason. Maybe Rockstar is offering up a bonus for the first contract completed? *shrug*

For car repairs and mods, you do get the full amount listed on the job order. You just have to be sure to follow the instructions on the bottom of the screen to do exactly what the customer requests. If you choose to place random mods on the car, the customer likely won’t pay you for them. Also, if you choose not to hire a tech, you’ll have to deliver the cars yourself. If you hire a tech, you’re going to see a higher daily fee to pay the staff at the auto repair garage. These jobs appear several times in the same day. These are not limited to one repair per 24 IRL hours… yet. If you buy a second lift (GTA$650,000), you can repair two cars at the same time and double your income.

Note that the auto repair shop doubles as a new 10 car garage. Getting a new 10 car garage for free (with Prime Gaming) is a pretty sweet deal. Also note that if you buy any add-on decorations for the auto repair shop, they will not show up until you complete Sessanta’s first mission to rescue Sessanta’s ride from the impound lot (assuming everyone gets this same mission as the first mission).

There’s also one more way to make additional GTA$ from the auto repair shop:

Once you have completed at least one contract from the board, the game unlocks a list of wanted vehicles that can be searched for, jacked and sold in similar form to Simeon. I’m not yet certain what the payouts for these are, but since you’re delivering to the docks, it is the same payout (max GTA$20,000 per car) as it is for Simeon… and this is probably the reason Simeon’s payout dropped. It does say you get a bonus if you deliver all on the board. This also illustrates why it’s important to read the loading screens.

Difficulty

Attempting to locate each of the 10 cars each day is about as easy as completing the Daily Objectives for 31 days. Some cars are highlighted with a blue dot on the minimap. Cars that are “standard spawn” must be found and jacked in the normal way. Because of this harem-scarem means to locate the cars, you can’t rely on any one specific method. It also means you have to be super great a spotting specific cars by make, which is tricky enough in itself. Waiting for the blue dots for the ‘special’ cars to show up is near impossible. In fact, because other blue dots show up which aren’t related to this, you can literally spin your wheels doing unrelated tasks. Rockstar has made this task as difficult as possible and only 24 hours in which to complete it.

It’s great that this chalkboard car search is daily in that you the chance to get up to GTA$200,000 (plus bonus if you get all 10) per day doing this, but you can spend many, many hours looking for those 10 cars. Worse, the chalkboard can change out from under you when those 24 hours are up without you knowing… all while searching for a car that’s no longer on the board.

Note also that Simeon’s car quest and the Auto Shop car quest can conflict, requesting the same vehicle. This means you’ll need to make a choice to whom you intend to deliver. It also means that you’ll need to find that same car a second time for whichever one you didn’t fulfill. This is frustrating. Sometimes you find cars for both Simeon and the Auto Shop at the same lot. Again, you’ll have to choose which car to jack and deliver. The problem is, when you come back, the game will have despawned those other cars and respawned something else. That means you’ll have to go looking again. Also frustrating.

Tricks

One trick that sometimes works in finding one of the 10 cars is going in and out of the garage at the casino. When you enter the garage and then exit, the parking lot will respawn with all new cars. Occasionally, a blue dot will spawn there in the parking lot. The blue dot sometimes spawns in a space to the right of the the exit across from Downtown Cab, Co. This is probably the fastest way to get the parking lot to respawn with new cars. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a blue dot, but occasionally you might.

Bugs

There are a number of bugs with the auto repair shop. If you drive a car into the garage, you will be unable to repair a waiting car or even repair your own cars. The controller option never appears. You’ll need to exit the shop by walking out, then reenter to fix this problem. Another bug has just surfaced today, July 24th, 2021. If you attempt to deliver a car and enter the yellow ring, the ending does not complete. With this one, I thought that killing and restarting the game might help. It doesn’t. When I did that, the car was back at the repair shop awaiting delivery again. I tried delivery for a second time that took me to a new location, but the car still wouldn’t deliver. It seems that the game progress gets stuck when you can’t deliver the car.

Not getting jobs? Don’t stay inside of your Auto Repair shop or Sessanta can’t text you to give you car repair jobs. The game seems intent on avoiding refreshing the Auto Repair shop (required to put a car on the lift) with you in it. If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t been called for repair jobs and you’ve been working in the repair shop, that’s why. Also, you can’t cancel contract jobs while inside of the Auto Repair shop. To cancel a contract job, you need exit to call Sessanta. You can only call her outside of the repair shop. If you try to call Sessanta inside of the shop, you’ll get a busy signal.

There’s also some dumb logic when performing repairs… for example, the customer might request Secondary color bumpers or Secondary hood options, yet there’s no way to paint the car with a secondary paint job. All cars currently paint all surfaces the same color even if the car supports primary and secondary paint colors. What’s the point in requesting ‘secondary’ anything if you can’t paint the car with a secondary paint?

Blue dots and chalkboard cars bug. I’ve had this bug happen to me almost every single time I’ve played. I’ve found up to 6 cars on the chalkboard, but as few as one. Yet, after traversing the entire map from top to bottom, the game will not reveal any further cars via blue dots from the board. Even if the remaining cars are specialty cars that require a blue dot, no blue dot ever spawns anywhere on the map. This bug makes it impossible to complete collecting all 10 of the cars on the chalkboard.

Cost: Property is Free (with Prime Gaming) + cost of whatever decorations added to Repair Shop
Type: Mission Based + Intraday Recurring car repair jobs,
Passive Income: None
Active Income: Job based (around GTA$100,000 or so), Car repair (GTA$20,000 to GTA$30,000) per car
Difficulty Level: 3 (Somewhat difficult)

Daily Cost: Minimum GTA$250, more with staff

Rockstar Newswire and Loading Screens

Each week beginning on Thursday, a new Rockstar Newswire is released offering all of that week’s newest promotions and activities. Many of these activities also appear as messages on the loading screen.

Be sure to read each of these loading screens carefully. For example, the week this article is written, Rockstar is offering 2X GTA$ and RP on new survival map challenges. Participating in these new survival events during this week will earn you 2X GTA$ and RP plus a bonus of GTA$100,000 simply for participating in a Survival. Reading these screens closely can help you nab $100,000 or more simply by doing whatever Rockstar is requesting. Usually, it’s not hard to do what they’re asking you to do.

However, sometimes Rockstar might require the purchase of a Mobile Operations Center, a Terrorbyte or an Avenger, which can negate the GTA$ bonus. If you know you don’t have the vehicles needed to get the bonus, then skip it. By simply being required to participate, such as the Survival Challenge above, its easy to nab that GTA$100,000.

Type: Free
Difficulty Level: Depends, usually easy
Reward: Depends

Daily Objectives

This free activity is just barely a runner up because while the payout is big, it is incredibly difficult and you need to be level 15 or higher. However, you can make some serious bank if you’re tenacious. This one requires performing 3 Daily Objectives for 28 consecutive days. Some of the objectives can be extremely obscure, difficult to do, take a lot of time, dependent on challenges that may not appear and/or require loads of cash to complete (like Complete a Heist Setup). For these complicated reasons, it’s not included in the top 10. If you’re tenacious and willing to attempt the objectives each day, you can earn some serious bank after 28 days. If you miss a day or cannot perform one of the objectives, you lose the streak and must start over. To perform each daily objective, you’ll need to read the objectives closely.

Note that you can effectively change two of your three daily objectives by launching into GTAO, then immediately checking your current objectives in the character menu. The bottom two are not set in stone if it’s a new day. If you don’t like the bottom two objectives, kill the game and restart.

Keep restarting the game until you get two objectives you can perform, like Visit the Casino OR Relax in a hot tub OR Mod a car. Once you’ve got two objectives you like, modify your character’s appearance by wearing glasses. This will force a cloud save and lock the objectives in. Make sure to read the Daily Objectives closely, otherwise you might be stuck with objectives you cannot complete. Don’t hesitate long. You’ll only get a few minutes before the game automatically performs a cloud save and then those objectives are locked in for that day.

The topmost objective is always set in stone for the day by Rockstar. You’ll have to perform this one whether you want to or not. Examples. If you don’t own a hangar, you can’t perform an objective like Modify an aircraft at your hangar. Rockstar might also set the objective as Complete a Heist Setup. If you’re already past all of your setups, the only way to complete that objective is to join another player who hasn’t yet done it.

Progressive Rewards

  • 1 day of objectives will earn you GTA$30,000 and 5,000 RP (28x = GTA$840,000 + 140,000 RP)
  • 7 days (week) worth will earn you GTA$150,000 and 20,000 RP (4x = GTA$600,000 + 80,000 RP)
  • 28 days (month) worth will earn you GTA$500,000 and 50,000 RP

In 28 days, you earn (D) GTA$840,000 + (W) GTA$600,000 + (M) GTA$500,000 = GTA$1.94 million + 270,000 RP

As implied above, some objectives can appear that are impossible to complete either because you can’t afford to buy something or because you’re past that part of the heist. This can cause failure when attempting to do this for 28 days, thus making this challenge quite difficult.

Cost: Free
Reward: GTA$30,000 to $GTA1.94 million depending on how many you perform daily + 5000+ RP
Difficulty Level: 10 (Hard) — requires performing challenges for 28 days straight, though you can still get the daily challenge reward even if you miss a day in between.

Level to Complete: Rank 15 or higher

Cayo Perico Treasure Hunt Challenge

This is a runner up because it requires significant cash outlay and is not super easy to do. However, it offers okay payout. This means that even though it will cost you a lot to unlock, you can keep doing these treasure hunts daily until you’ve recovered whatever it’s worth to you. Before I get into the hunt, let me explain the costs.

To unlock Cayo Perico Island, you’ll need to buy the Kosatka submarine from Warstock Cache and Carry to launch the mission to take you to this new island. This sub costs GTA$2,200,000 base price. If you wait for Rockstar to slash the price, you can get it for around GTA$1 million, which is what I paid when I bought it on sale. Because of the daily treasure hunt, it’s worth the GTA$1 million (on sale) investment to buy the Kosatka. Buying it for the Heist? Not so much.

Now, onto the treasure hunt. There are 10 possible treasure chest locations across Cayo Perico Island. There are 5 locations on land and 5 underwater, all dotted around the island. You’ll need to check many of the locations until you find the two available treasure chests. You can only open two per day. Opening up both treasure chests yields GTA$15,000 per chest for a maximum of GTA$30,000 per day. That’s a reasonable amount of GTA$ income, which is why it is included here.

Rockstar has even been known to 2X these daily challenges, doubling the GTA$ to 60,000 per day for up to 7 days.

Cost: Kosatka costs around GTA$2.2 million
Type: Active Income, Daily, Recurring, Time Suck Activity
Reward: Up to GTA$30,000 per day or GTA$210,000 every 7 days or GTA$900,000 every 30 days
Difficulty Level: 5 (Medium — must scout many locations to find two) … must be tenacious

Character Bounties

These are separate from the Bounty Missions described below. This activity costs nothing to the player and is somewhat easy to get. A character bounty is had when you steal a car and someone unknown puts a bounty on you. These are easy money and may be worth trying to get, but they don’t pay much and can be slightly difficult to find…. which is the reason it didn’t make the top 10. A bounty reward can range from GTA$1,000 to GTA$3,000. If you end up with a bounty and want that money, you’ll need to move to a private server so other players don’t try to collect on it. Then wait out one full in-game day on that private server (about an hour of play time). At the end of that day, you’ll be paid the amount of the bounty. You’ll need to play on a private server or with trusted friends until the bounty pays out.

Typically, these bounties will appear when you steal expensive cars parked on the side of a road. One vehicle that always gives up a bounty is the Sprunk Extreme van, which you can’t keep or own. This van is a trap and always issues a bounty. If you see this van, steal it, get the bounty and hide out on a private server for one full in-game day to collect the bounty. Though, there are plenty of other expensive cars which can also turn a bounty. The more expensive the vehicle is, the more likely the owner will put a high bounty on you.

Note that bounties hang around on your character until either another player collects on it in a public server or one full in-game day passes and you get the money. Also note that only one bounty can be active at a time. Can’t get greedy with this one.

Cost: Free
Type: Active, Recurring
Reward: GTA$1,000 to GTA$3,000
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy, so long as you hang out on a private server until you get paid)

Good Sport

Here’s another runner up that didn’t make the grade, but is worth realizing that it exists. This one is a periodic GTA$2,000 that is given to the player for keeping up Good Behavior. I’m not completely certain what all triggers ‘bad behavior’ and prevents this award, but I believe it is related to the character’s mental state. If you start mowing down civilians on the sidewalk with your car, for example, this raises the character’s mental state and may forfeit the Good Behavior award. This one doesn’t seem to award once per day. It seems to award the player this money at random times while playing.

Cost: Free
Type: Active, Recurring, Unpredictable
Reward: GTA$2,000
Difficulty Level: depends on how you play GTAO

Sleeping Bums

Sleeping Bum

This runner up is one that likely only shows up after you have visited Cayo Perico island. This, in turn, means you will need to own the Kosatka Submarine (see above).

How it works. Occasionally, the game will tell you that you have found a small key which is useful on Cayo Perico island. When you see this message, that means there’s a blue dot somewhere near you. Once you find the blue dot on the minimap, go to it and there will be a sleeping drunk bum. Loot the bum and you’ll get some GTA$. I’ve gotten up to GTA$7007 from looting, but the amount varies.

Cost: Requires Kosatka and visiting Cayo Perico island
Type: Random, Recurring
Reward: Varies, but can be up to GTA$8000 or possibly higher
Difficulty Level: 1 (Easy)

Amazon Prime Gaming

Owning this type of membership offers freebie each and every month. However, to gain this freebie, you’ll need to subscribe to Amazon Prime. If you own this membership, you’ll link your Rockstar account to your Amazon Prime Gaming account once and each month Rockstar will offer various freebies and discounts for this linkage.

For a while, Rockstar was offering up GTA$1,000,000 each month at GTA$200,000 each week with the fourth week culminating in a payment of GTA$400,000. Recently, this has been reduced to GTA$100,000 a week for a total of GTA$400,000 each month. I don’t know if the last week culminates in an extra $100,000 as there has been no mention of this by Rockstar. In fact, there was no mention of the reduction of this Prime Gaming benefit.

Cost: Amazon Prime membership (USD$12.99 a month or USD$119 a year)
Type: Passive only
Reward: Up to GTA$400,000 a month
Difficulty level: N/A
Caveat: This benefit can be discontinued or altered at any time by Rockstar without warning

Additional ways

These didn’t make the cut for reasons listed below. However, they are still valid for making at least some money in the game. These events are free to participate, but may require the use of weapons, armor or the purchase of expensive cars (racing), specific ammo or expensive weapons to win.

Survival Events

I hesitate to include these events because they require crap tons of ammo (which you have to buy) and, in the end, net very little in the way of cash. In other words, you may spend more on ammo to win the event than you’ll get back from surviving it. However, I’ve included it because these jobs are open and available all of the time. You can join a survival job at any time. The longer you last, the more money you’ll make, but only to a point. Keep in mind that surviving a long time doesn’t necessarily net you more GTA$ in the way you might think. You’ll get whatever you get from the survival event, which includes both RP and limited GTA$, maybe around GTA$3,500 or so max.

Cost: Free
Type: Multiplayer Active, Recurring, Available all of the time
Reward: Depends on many factors, but usually no more than GTA$3,500 on average.

Racing

Racing events can net you some GTA$, but typically you’ll need a decently fast car if you hope to win and win max bank. This means either buying an expensive Supercar from Legendary Motorsports or being lucky enough to win one from the Lucky Wheel podium. Racing is included because occasionally Rockstar will introduce a new racing type into the game and to promote it, they will award GTA$100,000 or more simply by participating.

Cost: Dependent on car needed
Reward: Limited GTA$ depending on placing, but probably no more than GTA$5,000
Notes: Sometimes newly introduced events will offer a large award for participating.

PlayStation 4 Promotion

While Rockstar readies GTA Online for play on the PS5, they are giving GTA$1,000,000 each month to PS4 members who also have PlayStation Plus. In order to play GTA Online, you need PlayStation Plus for the network access. The way to obtain this money changed in April, now requiring each player to head to the PlayStation store to claim the GTA$1,000,000 on the first of each month until the PS5 version of GTAO becomes available.

GTAO on the PS5 may release as soon as August or September 2021, so this promotion may end very soon. This one is only included here now because it’s still active for a limited time. Note, if you’re logged into GTAO when you head to the store and claim it, you’ll have to log out and back in to see your GTA$ update.

Cost: Requires PlayStation Plus subscription and a PS4
Reward: GTA$1,000,000 monthly

Gambling at the Casino

This one is not included in the top 10 because casino gambling is too risky for several reasons. I didn’t include this one in the ‘avoid’ area below because it is possible to win. It also takes GTA$ converted to Chips to make a bet and you can easily lose it all.

The problem with winning in the casino is that Rockstar monitors large wins coming out of the casino. If Rockstar determines you cheated to win, they can take all of your money away or outright ban you from the game. Be careful when attempting to win large bets in the casino. For this reason, I don’t recommend trying to gamble at the casino other than with the smallest bets (i.e., less than 100 chips). Even then, play only a little, win only a little and walk away. If you press your luck and win a large pot, Rockstar may flag your account for cheating.

Cost: Chips to bet
Type: Recurring
Reward: Whatever you win
Risks: Can be suspected of cheating and lose all money or be banned from the game

One Off Activities

Rockstar includes a few one-off activities which are worth doing because you can net a decent amount of cash from each of them. These are not included in the top 10 above because they cannot be performed more than once.

Bounty Missions

A random NPC named Maude will ask you to help her with some bounties. As a result, you will receive GTA$300,000 and the Stone Hatchet for returning the bounties to Maude alive. Returning them dead yields less. There are 5 bounties to be had.

Cost: Free
Type: One off
Reward: GTA$300,000 + Stone Hatchet

Rampage

Stone Hatchet

This next activity requires using the Stone Hatchet that you got from Maude’s quests. Once you kill 25 NPCs while in Rampage mode using the Stone Hatchet, you will receive GTA$250,000. You must do this rampage specifically with the Stone Hatchet. There are other hatchets in the game, but only the Stone Hatchet unlocks this reward. Make sure you have the correct hatchet equipped.

Cost: Free
Type: One off
Reward: GTA$250,000

Golden Revolver

Golden Revolver

This is a cross promotion for Red Dead Online. To receive the Golden Revolver, you’ll need to start with a treasure hunt email. This will lead you to 4 different clues which, if correctly decoded, will reveal a chest containing the Golden Revolver.

Once obtained, you can then jump right into the Golden Revolver headshot kills challenge. Once you have killed 25 NPCs with headshots using the Golden Revolver, you’ll receive GTA$250,000.

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Cost: Free
Type: One off
Reward: Golden Revolver + GTA$250,000

Radio Signal Jammer

There are 50 radio jammers placed on various tall radio towers and buildings. This is part of the Casino Heist. These look like small black boxes with a red light and an antenna on top. These also beep so you can hear them at a distance. Once you destroy all 50 radio jammers, the game unlocks a person useful to the Casino Heist. That’s not really the money reason to do this challenge. By destroying all jammers you’ll net GTA$150,000 and 50,000 RP.

Cost: Free
Type: One off
Reward: GTA$150,000 + 50,000 RP

Avoid these activities….

Most of what’s listed below are one-time and/or overly-complex activities. This means that once you complete those specific missions, you either can’t do them again or you must start over from the very beginning and do all steps again. You can also participate as a team member in a friend’s unfinished heist or mission if you need to do a specific step quickly. This top 10 list was designed to include easy and quick money making opportunities that can be repeated every day, which these below most certainly are not. This section isn’t meant to imply that you can’t enjoy these activities for the entertainment value, just don’t do them in hopes of making money in the game.

Heists

Heists are some of the most expensive and complex ways to make income in the game. Why? Because Rockstar requires that you buy very, very expensive real estate, boats, equipment, personnel and trucks to support the heist. All told, you’ll end up spending GTA$3-5 million (or more) in buying random in-game junk, just to net GTA$300,000 – GTA$500,000 back from the heist. You won’t make back even a fraction of what you spent to buy that boat, truck, warehouse, safecracker tools AND bunker. However, you can do it all again, but you’ll likely have to spend for at least tools, people and random junk running the heist for a second or third time.

Heists, while they may be fun when played in groups, are the worst ways to make money in the game.

Cost: Depends on Heist, but no less than GTA$3-5 million
Passive Income: None
Heist Reward: A paltry GTA$300,000 to GTA$500,000 max.

Galaxy Super Yacht

The Super Yacht is a waste of money. Sure, the captain of the yacht offers up some missions, but like Heists above, you must sink at least GTA$6,000,000 into the thing to get a couple hundred thousand out of it. Don’t buy this thing for the mission reward money. However, there are six missions which can be performed only once.

Cost: The Super Yacht begins at GTA$6,000,000 and is rarely ever discounted more than 10%
Passive Income: None
Active Income: Around GTA$30,000 per mission

Reward: Captain’s Outfit after completing all 6 missions
Daily Cost: GTA$1,000

Bunker Missions

Like Heists, you have to first invest in a bunker property, which is costly. Once you do this, you have to keep resupplying the bunker with more and more materials until you max out the products storage area. Then, you can take those products, load them into a crap vehicle and drive them across the map to the delivery location.

The problem is, bunker missions can only be performed in public servers. This means you’ll need to endure other players who are told you are moving goods and basically where you are on the map. Other players can come screw with you and those goods.

Once sold, you’ll get a fraction of the value because, in typical Rockstar fashion, they always skim GTA$ right off the top to keep you from getting as much as it says the goods are worth. Honestly, this one is too much of a hassle and costs too much money simply to net GTA$100,000 (or less). There are easier ways to get that amount of GTA$… see above.

Cost: Bunker cost begins at GTA$2 million, but you may be able to get it included in some bundles
Type: Recurring
Passive Income: None
Active Income: Requires carrying good across the map on a public server.
Reward: Some percentage of the value of the goods, if successful

Daily Cost: GTA$7,800

Note, the maintenance cost for owning a bunker is whopping GTA$7,800 per in-game day, but only if you’re actively CEO. Make sure to ‘retire’ as CEO before the day ends to avoid paying this stupid fee. This is the only maintenance fee you can avoid paying in this way. Also note, moving Bunker goods across the map requires at least two people to drive two separate delivery cars… it cannot be done solo.

Nightclub Goods

For the same reason as Bunker Missions, moving these goods has the same problem… public server, public announcement and players can screw with you. On top of that, your nightclub manager takes a cut leaving you with 10% less than what the goods are worth.

Cost: Nightclub costs around GTA$2,000,000 to own, plus maintenance costs.
Type: Active, Recurring
Passive Club Income: GTA$10,000 down to GTA$1,000 depending on whether the club is promoted
Reward: Depends on amount of goods sold, less 10% to Tony

Daily Cost: GTA$800 to GTA$2,250

Simeon Premium Deluxe Repo Cars

These missions are entirely multiplayer missions. If you can get a team of only your friends, it might be fun. If you are matched with randoms, likely there will be one who will torpedo the whole mission.

Cost: Requires multiplayer session with randoms. I’ve tried playing several times and each time the mission fails due to some random torpedoing it.
Type: Multiplayer, Recurring
Reward: Depends, but not as much as you’d hope.

Casino Penthouse

To own the Casino Penthouse, it costs GTA$1.5 million to GTA$6.5 million depending on which features you choose to buy. However, along with owning the casino penthouse, you’ll unlock missions from Agatha Baker, the casino manager. There are 6 casino missions that, when completed, will reward you with $GTA100,000 and the Enus Paragon R Armored version, which you pick up at the docks.

Cost: GTA$1.5 million to GTA$6.5 million
Type: Once Only
Reward: GTA$100,000 and Enus Paragon R Armored

Daily Cost: GTA$500 to GTA$1,350

Executive Suite Cargo Missions

Like most money making activities in the GTA Online world, for these you’ll need to invest in an Executive Office Suite, a cargo storage warehouse and probably several other things. All told, you’ll spend at least GTA$3-5 million (probably more) to net maybe GTA$100,000 every week or so. For example, the high value car cargo missions allow you to steal expensive cars, then store in them in the cargo warehouse. You can sell them immediately. The thing is, even though the car may be worth GTA$1.5 million, the maximum you’ll get by selling the best of them is GTA$80,000. In fact, it’s so little money and because it’s a real hassle, it’s not really worth the effort.

Cost: Executive Office (~GTA$1,000,000 or USD$20 for CESP) and Cargo and Crate Warehouse … ~GTA$5-7 million total
Passive Income: None
Active Income: Limited by Rockstar’s stupidity

Daily Cost: GTA$800 to GTA$950

50 Stunt Jumps

Don’t bother with this activity if you’re looking for GTA$. The only reason to do this one is if you’re trying for the Collectibles trophy. There are 50 stunt jumps all over the map. However, completing each jump only earns a tiny amount of RP. At 1, 5 and 25 jumps, these will unlock paint jobs at Los Santos Customs. This activity rewards no GTA$ at all.

Type: Free
Cost: None
Rewards: Only RP and Unlocked paint jobs

Stretching your GTA$ farther

As has been hinted all throughout this article, it’s better to wait for Rockstar to put vehicles, properties, weapons, armor and even outfits on sale. Each week, Rockstar chooses various items to discount. Some discounts are given straight up to all players. Extra discounts are given by linking your Amazon Prime account to Rockstar. These discounts never overlap, but do run concurrently with one another. For example, Rockstar typically puts properties or property features on sale regularly and then simultaneously discounts vehicles via the Prime Gaming benefits. However, when Rockstar puts properties on sale, they typically do not discount a property’s sub-features, which is a little frustrating.

For example, when Executive Offices are discounted, the Executive Office garages and the Cargo Warehouses are not discounted. This means, you’ll need to wait for the garages and warehouses to go on sale separately. This means you’ll need to wait until Rockstar puts those specific properties and features on sale, which might occur months apart.

For vehicles such as the Kosatka, Avenger, Terrorbyte and Mobile Operations Center, you’ll also find only one of these on sale at a time. Typically when a vehicle is discounted, its renovation features are not, though rarely they might discount both. You have to check.

When you find one of these vehicles heavily discounted, such as the Kosatka priced around $GTA1 million, you gotta jump on the deal quickly because it won’t come around again for at least 6-12 months.

Reviewing this article, you might notice I have a lot of these very expensive items in the game. I didn’t pay full price for any of them. I’ve been buying all of these items slowly on discount when the discounts occur. Some of the vehicles, I’ve won off of the podium, such as the Toreador, though I paid for the Stromberg, but on sale. However, I have been waiting for some vehicles to go on sale for several years, such as the Vigilante and the Oppressor. This is the only downside to waiting. However, waiting for discounts means you can stretch your GTA$ much, much farther and you get way more for less money.

That’s also how I afforded the Penthouse suite at the Casino. I first waited for the property to go on sale and spent about GTA$1 million. Then, I waited for each of the renovation features to discount and purchased those while also discounted. All told, I spent just over GTA$3 million to unlock all Penthouse features.

I’ve also specifically waited for many of the Super Cars to show up on the Lucky Wheel podium to win rather than spending GTA$2-4 million on each vehicle. Though, when I have occasionally purchased Super Cars, they have also been close to 50% off.

I know it can be difficult to wait, but waiting is far better than spending twice as much for in-game stuff that may never even be used. For example, the Avenger, Terrorbyte and Mobile Operation Center and even the Kosatka vehicles are a major waste of money. It’s a good thing I bought all of them when heavily discounted. In fact, I’ve never even used the Avenger, Terrorbyte or Mobile Operations Center. I also have a lot of vehicles I rarely ever use. My most used vehicle is the Deluxo, which I also won off of the podium.

Winning cars and using Rockstar’s discounts is the best way to stretch your GTA$ much farther. Also, take full advantage of any freebies Rockstar gives, particularly money giveaways for event participation.

Overall

There are other activities not mentioned above which can yield various amounts of GTA$, like the impossibly stupid flying missions at Los Santos Airport flying school, which yield insulting amounts of GTA$ once each impossibly hard and useless test is completed. Unfortunately, the rest in the game are not really worth mentioning, like RC car races.

One thing Rockstar needed to add to GTAO was way more passive income features from purchasing and owning properties. For example, every owned property should offer some level of passive income… at least enough to cover the daily expenses.

Overall, Rockstar pretty much failed us with Grand Theft Auto Online. While GTA V’s in-game money balance was decent, all of that was removed from GTA Online. What’s left is a basic shell that teases the player by handing out a pittance of money each day here and there. Even the Heists in GTA V offered up a decent sized reward. In GTAO, the Heist rewards are entirely insulting after spending millions buying all of the garbage needed to complete it. The best use of money in GTA Online is buying the cars. However, if you wait long enough you can win most of them off of the Lucky Wheel at the Casino, not pay anything for them… the best way to get most expensive cars in this game.

What you can’t win off of the Lucky Wheel podium are vehicles like the Kosatka, the Mobile Operations Center, the Super Yacht, the Avenger and the Terrorbyte. What’s worse is that the MOC, the Avenger and the Terrorbyte are all effectively the same vehicle, each in a different class. It’s such a waste of GTA$ buying the same thing multiple times.

Worse, these mobile weapon-and-vehicle workshops only work on weaponized vehicles. Even though these mobile workshops allow similar customization features as Los Santos Customs, these mobile workshops can’t modify regular vehicles… thus rendering the convenience of paying for these mobile workshops pointless. Rockstar just doesn’t seem to get that the usefulness of these mobile ‘Los Santos Customs’ workshops is the fact that you can modify your cars anywhere you choose rather than spending time driving the car over to an LSC. As expensive as these mobile workshops are, why wouldn’t you allow us to modify any vehicle in that mobile vehicle workshop?

What difference does it make if we modify our car in our Avenger or at Los Santos Customs? We’re still going to pay the price for each mod.

↩︎

Game Review: Control

Posted in video game design, video gaming by commorancy on February 12, 2021

505 Studio’s Control is game that seems like it should have been a good game. Unfortunately, it’s an average third person shooter with a lot of problematic game design elements sporting one almost redeeming concept. Let’s explore.

What kind of Game is it?

Control is a game about, well, control of sorts. Not so much the control you might expect, but the control that the game designers want you to come to know. Basically, your player character, Jesse, is thrown into a world of objects dubbed O.o.P. or Objects of Power. These are everyday objects that contain a supernatural force. In this sense, the game ripped off Friday the 13th The Series and Warehouse 13. Both of these TV series revolved everyday objects imbued with a supernatural element that, if harnessed, would typically lead to wanton destruction.

In this same vein, the game world in Control has this same problem. These everyday power objects not only allow people to harness the supernatural forces within, these objects bestow unique abilities upon the bearer. However, in those aforementioned TV series, their objects not only gave the person a supernatural ability, it typically sapped the good out of the person leaving only evil behind. In this video game, this object situation does not similarly exist. The player character remains in full control of their faculties and remains sane and able to ward off any evil that may be part of the object.

As you might surmise, as you progress and find more and more power objects, the player character grows in strength and abilities. That’s how the skill tree opens and progresses. The game is much like other similar superhero games like the Infamous series, The Darkness series and, to a lesser extent, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. Basically, as you find and gain abilities, your character’s strength grows. It’s obvious that this setup is leading to a final boss level where you’ll have to close out the game using many, if not all of the character’s abilities to defeat that final boss. It’s a fairly standard and cliché setup for a video game.

Story

The story in this game is mostly utilitarian. It primarily exists for the purpose of creating this video game. The story is essentially there to support the character’s gaining of new abilities, not the other way around. The character finds herself in a building called the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC)… it’s this video game’s equivalent of the FBI or CIA… with the added twist of also investigating all things of a supernatural nature. This situation she finds herself in affords her new abilities along the way. Though, she already has one ability that she’s already gained as a result of exposure to a power object when she and her brother were both kids.

Now, Jesse finds herself confronting the very outfit that kidnapped her brother, but at the same time becoming the FBC’s savior because the building has somehow gone completely out of control… which, this story setup is probably predictably obvious.

The first object of power that Jesse finds (well, technically the second) is a gun which now affords her protection. There’s nothing really very special about this object of power other than it’s a gun. I was a little disappointed to find the game developers offering up the weakest of all power objects as the first that she finds. I mean, what’s the point in finding an object of power if it doesn’t somehow confer a new supernatural ability? No, instead we find a gun that’s just a gun. It shoots bullets, but other than that it doesn’t do much in the way of anything else. It’s not even a very powerful weapon. It’s simply a pistol. So far, the game is starting off weak.

Abilities

As the game progresses, Jesse gains more and newer powers and abilities. The difficulty is that this is a slow row to hoe. Meaning, this game is about as slow burn as it gets. Don’t expect to get many abilities very fast at all. They definitely come to Jesse at a very, very slow pace.

Still, her abilities and powers grow as she slowly finds the objects to help her improve her situation with “The Hiss”. As I said above, the building itself has gone out of control. Most of the people in the building are floating catatonic many feet above the ground. These unfortunate people are under the control of what Jesse dubs, “The Hiss”. It’s basically a form of mind control that forces people into this catatonic floating state. Jesse and any who are wearing a Hedron Resonance Amplifier (HRA) can avoid becoming a casualty of “The Hiss”.

As Jesse progresses into the game and into the building, she finds all sorts of departments investigating all sorts of paranormal activities, including ESP, telekinesis, mind control and so on. Unfortunately, the game throws all of this information at you, but Jesse makes no comments on any of it. It’s like she’s simply expecting to see all of this stuff as she makes her way through the Bureau of Control building. Nope, to her it’s not a surprise at all. Yet, to the player, the questions all remain open as the story addresses none of this.

Control Points

As Jesse makes her way through this labyrinthine maze of a building, she finds red circular zones with 3 parabolic dishes aiming at the center. These control points, once “cleansed”, allow Jesse to fast travel to these points in the building. As a game mechanic, fast travel points are convenient. For the game’s story, this whole system feels contrived. Regardless, the control points not only allow Jesse to straighten out screwed up parts of the building through “cleansing”, it allows her to use these points to move around the building more easily… which is needed in this convoluted design of a building.

Puzzles

As with many games of this nature, Jesse’s challenges sometimes involve cryptic puzzles to be solved. This means working out how to solve the puzzle, sometimes using abilities, sometimes not. For example, one puzzle involves getting punchcards into the correct order in each terminal of five total terminals. Once done, the machine dependent on the correct order of cards inserted into the terminals can then be started. Of course, once started, the machine fails leading Jesse to yet another area of the building to get something else.

When Jesse isn’t solving puzzles, she’s fighting enemies, she’s conversing with an NPC or she’s running around in the building. Many of Jesse’s quests involve either fetching something, doing something for someone or attacking enemies or being attacked.

Combat

Since we were just talking about this very topic, let’s expand on it. Combat is part of any first or third person shooter; otherwise, it’s not a shooter. The enemies in this game are The Hiss, a nebulous set of voices that invade a person and can eventually possess that person and have them do things, including fight. All of the enemies in the game are former FBC officers who have been possessed or transformed by The Hiss. The Hiss is a nebulous enemy who lives in an alternate dimension from the game’s 3D human inhabited world. This supernatural force can reach through into the “real” world and control humans. The Hiss doesn’t seem to have any special agenda other than taking up arms against the game’s protagonist… at least, none that the game has let the gamer in on.

In other words, The Hiss is pretty much like The Flood in the Halo series. It’s a nebulous enemy who uses humans to possess and propagate itself into the real world. Unfortunately, like The Flood in Halo, possessing a human corrupts and transfigures the human into unrecognizable creatures that afford only basic life or death instincts… much like The Flood in Halo.

Jesse uses her ever evolving supernatural abilities and supernatural weapons to dispatch these unwanted abominations. That’s where the player comes in.

The combat is fairly straightforward, but with some glaring problems. The game strongly recommends using manual aiming throughout the game. However, in the options panel, there is an aim assist mode. If you enable this mode, the game, again, strongly recommends playing the game through with this mode off making some nebulous statement about being rewarded for doing so.

Okay, so I tried to do this for a few levels. However, what became painfully obvious is that the over sensitive camera movement makes manual aiming in this game next to impossible. Most games suffer from this same design flaw, but this super sensitive movement is way more pronounced in Control than most games I’ve played. This makes manual aiming a chore. I could live with this chore, however, were it not for the next additional glaring flaw.

Enemies in Control have near perfect aim every single shot even when hidden behind obstructions. While my bullets miss enemies when I’m shooting at them with the reticle directly over the top of them, enemy bullets connect almost instantly. Wait, it gets worse.

Enemies can shoot Jesse in the head from behind objects with perfect aim and take nearly 99% of her health, sometimes all of it, in one shot. Yet, Jesse’s shots do maybe 10% damage to an enemy even in the head. The enemy’s perfect aim when combined with being so overpowered make the game a joke to play. This game isn’t supposed to be another Dark Souls, which Dark Souls is intentionally designed with combat so difficult so as to make you throw the controller across the room on occasion.

It’s one thing when game developers attempt to make enemies operate at about the same damage level as the player. It’s another when developers clearly don’t give two shits about this and set the enemies as one-shot player kills, yet can absorb every bullet in the player’s gun and still not die. Worse, enemies can literally appear out of thin air, standing right next to you and then summarily execute Jesse in one hit. It’s so absurd that you have to laugh to keep from throwing the controller at the screen.

As a result, I enabled aim-assist. If the game is going to cheat by making enemies so overpowered they can kill Jesse in one shot, it was only fair that Jesse obtains a similar advantage. There’s nothing worse than seeing the death screen in a game over and over and over. It gets worse again.

Death Mechanic

If Jesse falls in battle, the game reloads Jesse back to the closest save point. Because save points can be quite far away from where you were playing, that forces you to spend time sprinting all the way back to that point again. It’s not only annoying, it’s an incredible time waste. It can sometimes even become a challenge to get back there if it requires using lifts or yet more combat to get back there. Therefore, doing something to help mitigate the death loading screen and being forced back to the load point is well worth it. This is part of the reason I decided to enable aim-assist from the beginning.

While I’m okay with a small death penalty, such as consuming points that could be used towards upgrades, we don’t need multiple different penalties. Penalties such as this game has:

  1. Loss of points that can be used towards upgrades
  2. Being forced back to closest save point
  3. Loss of current battle in progress
  4. Confusion over where you end up after respawning

Thankfully, the game doesn’t lose the progress or force you to start everything over from scratch after Jesse dies, but you must determine where you are, figure out where you were and then spend time traversing back over there. You might even run into more Hiss along the way just to get back to where Jesse fell.

It’s not the worst death mechanic in a game, but it’s pretty close to it. Control will lose points for its weak death + respawn mechanic.

Graphics

One shining spot of this game is its world lighting, background objects and atmospherics. It has some of the best atmospherics I’ve seen in a game. It gives the world depth and it serves to give the office space a sense of realism. While the lighting doesn’t work 100% in every situation, there are some lighting conditions that are exceptional. This is one of the shining points in this game, but not the sparkle in this game… that’s coming below. Unfortunately, a lot of game developers put a lot of effort into choosing an engine that offers a substantial level of lighting realism, but then forget to put that same level of effort into the character models.

Speaking of character models, the 3D character models are average in this game, specifically the main character, Jesse. However, even the supporting character models lack. If you want to see character models that look genuinely and stunningly real, you need to look at the Call of Duty series. The character models in Call of Duty are some of the most outstanding and realistic models I’ve yet seen in a game. Sure, even those models look video gamey as all 3D models ultimately do, but they’re probably the closest to using a human model as I’ve seen from a 3D game character. Unfortunately in Control, Jesse (and the rest) aren’t the greatest of 3D models. You can even see that depending on the lighting, the character models can look okay or they can look flat, dull and unconvincing. The hands are particularly bad. It’s like playing a game using Barbie and Ken dolls.

Audio

Unlike many video games which offer the player character no voice, this game does give Jesse, the game’s protagonist, a solid voice. Not only does Jesse have a voice to speak to other characters in the game, this character also has thoughts of her own. It’s a refreshing and welcome change to see a game developer voice the protagonist and give them a backstory that unfolds as we’re traversing through the narrative. Unfortunately, the musical audio portion doesn’t fare as well. The music chosen is not inspiring or powerful. If anything, I’d use the word utilitarian. The music serves its purpose to cue the player into skirmishes, but that’s about as great as it gets. There’s just nothing much inspiring about the music included in this game. There is one exception and that’s discussed below.

Problems

As with most games that have been released in the last two or three years, I find game developers more and more relying on cliché game tropes to carry the story. These tropes make game development easier because most game developers already have toolkits built which can insert these tropes right into the game. Tropes like the press and hold to interact. Tropes like dead enemies dropping health pickups. Tropes like enemies with perfect aim. However, if the tropes were the end of this game’s problems, I might not even mention them. Combined with a bunch of other problems, it just exacerbates Control’s overall problems.

Video games that rely on quests, particularly where the game can carry multiple quests at the same time, have learned to mark not only on the map where the quest destination is, but also mark on the player’s directional HUD system which way to head to get to that destination. Unfortunately, Control does none of this. Not only does it fail to adequately alert the player where on the map is the destination is, it fails to offer a directional HUD or floating marker to lead you in the correct direction.

Instead, the player is forever fumbling his or her way to get to the destination. Sometimes the destination is so obscure and not marked, it’s impossible to find a way to get to it. This problem is compounded by the building’s convoluted and overly complex layout. I realize the building itself is a kind of extra-dimensional structure, able to rearrange itself at will. Regardless, the structure is overly complex requiring traversal of many stairs and small doors to move between and around areas.

Combine this with the fact that doors are level locked, the player has no way to know how to get into an area until you finally and magically hit upon the correct quest that drops the key in your lap.

Map

Yes, the map itself is also a problem. Unlike many games which choose to utilize a separate map screen, this game uses a map overlay. The map overlay obscures the screen itself, yet the screen stays live with the character able to move while the screen map marker moves. This is mostly a negative for the game. It’s great that you can see you’re heading in the correct direction, but because the screen is so overly obscured by the map, trying to traverse the interior of the building can be impossible with the map overlay open.

The only other game that has offered a similar map overly screen was Technomancer. Technomancer‘s game’s map overlay screen, however, chose not to obscure the gamer’s view of the game play field while still allowing the map to be visible. This meant you could leave the map open and traverse the map to your destination. If Control had chosen to allow visibility of the play field at all times, the game play experience with the map open would have been far, far better. As it is now, Control’s kludgy map overlay system is made worse by its failure to be useful other than for quick glances.

This map situation gets much worse. There are times where the map doesn’t even draw in. It’s just a bunch of question marks and words floating in space with no image underlay showing the room layout. You simply have to guess where the hell you are. Even worse, this undrawn map can stay like this for minutes at a time, sometimes eventually drawing in, sometimes not. It’s also weird that the map worked just fine 5 minutes ago, but just a few minutes later it’s not working. I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that a bug this functionally problematic has been allowed to exist in a 505 studio game over a year after release. Though, admittedly this game studio has had a very rough start with Death Stranding… a game that confused a lot of players, was too slow burn and afforded mixed critical reviews. Control also falls into this same boat, but for very different reasons.

Telekenesis (aka Launch)

Yes, this power also falls under a problem area of this game. In a game that allows you to pick up and throw objects, an accurate object targeting system is imperative. Unfortunately, that targeting system fails more often than it succeeds. For example, there’s a point in the game where you’re required to run through an obstacle course in around 60 seconds. As part of this course, you are required to pick up cube structures and throw them into wall plugs to activate them. Far too many times, the game will, instead of picking up the cube which is right under the reticle, it will yank ceiling or wall material down forcing you to send that flying and try again. Sometimes it will fail to grab the cube multiple times in a row using up the precious telekinesis power bar. You only get about 3 tries at this before running out of power and being forced into a slow recharge.

Even with the fastest recharge speed mods, you still have to wait 10-15 (seconds) for the bar to recharge ensuring that you fail the course. I don’t know how many times I had to run through that course before I was able to succeed simply because of this single stupid game design failure.

If you’re developer planning on including short duration timed activities, you need to make damned sure that the mechanics required to complete the course function reliably 100% of the time. Control really failed the gamer with this course. That’s not to say the course cannot be run and succeeded. It will, however, take many trial and error attempts until you can manage to get luck to line up properly with all of the kludgy game mechanics.

Ashtray Maze

Let’s get past all of these pesky problems. What I will say about this particular level is that this level is the payoff for the entire game. It should have been the final thing you do that ends the game. My guess is that this level was designed first. Some developer came up with this level idea which wowed everyone who played it and then a game was wrapped around this one level as a reason for this game to exist.

This puzzle level requires a special object of power to be obtained before it can be run. If you enter into the maze without this object of power, you can only run in circles. Once you have this object of power, the entire level opens up and boy is it impressive. The entire run is so precisely timed to the player that it’s like watching a music video. Yes, even the soundtrack on this level is awesome. As I said, impressive. This level is the sole reason to play Control and, while fleeting, the level is amazing to behold and is the single most impressive thing about this game. After I was done running the level, I was thinking that I want to do it again… it was that impressive.

Unfortunately, one outstanding level can’t redeem a mediocre third person shooter. But, nonetheless, the Ashtray Maze is definitely a must see (and hear) level. It’s too bad the rest of the game couldn’t have been quite so impressive.

Overall

Control is a game not about control, but about being controlled. It’s about, well, nothing much in particular or even too interesting to be honest. This game combines a lot of its not-so-subtle cues from a lot of different games series including Bioshock, Halo, Portal, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous Second Son and Half-Life. In fact, it feels like a mashup of the game series just mentioned. It feels way less original than it should and, thus, it ends up far less impressive overall. However, the developers had a gem of a concept in the Ashtray Maze that they simply squandered away, but which could have been used in many ways all throughout the game to bump up the playability and fun factor of Control.

For example, the silly and repetitive Oceanview Motel sections were not only intensely boring and repetitive, they were completely unnecessary. If those segments had been replaced each with slightly modified runs of the Ashtray Maze, this game could have been much, much better and way more satisifying. I could have done the Ashtray Maze run several times and loved running it every single time. Instead, we got saddled with the trite Oceanview Motel, which is insipid, uninspired, slow and unnecessary. Maybe 505 can learn from these mistakes when crafting the sequel to Control.

One final thing I’ll state is that this game has two endings. This information doesn’t at all spoil the game. However, know that it has a fake out ending and a real one. The fake out ending is still part of the game and there’s a small amount more gameplay (maybe 15-20 minutes) after it, but before you get to the real ending. I’m uncertain why 505 decided to add a fake out ending, particularly so close to the end, but they did. I thought I’d mention it so if you choose to play this game you don’t get caught off-guard thinking that the game ended early and abruptly and put the game away before completing Control.

Graphics: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
Game Control: 4 out of 10
Playability: 7 out of 10
Replay value: 1 out of 10
Overall: 4.5 out of 10 (an average third person shooter with only one redeeming level)

What Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax means?

Posted in business, microsoft, Sony, video gaming by commorancy on October 28, 2020
Can the PS5 succeed?

I’ve had this question recently posed to me on a Twitch stream. Yes, I stream games on Twitch in addition to penning this blog. I haven’t cross promoted my Twitch stream on this blog because blogging and gaming are mostly unrelated. However, if you’re interested in watching me game, please leave a comment below and I’ll post my Twitch channel. Let’s explore the answer to the above question.

Bethesda and Microsoft

Microsoft isn’t really a gaming company. They are a software company who produces gaming products in among all of their other hardware and software product lines. Sony is, likewise, not really a gaming company for a similar reason. Sony is mostly a content producing company who also produces gaming hardware.

Anyway, Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax likely means eventual changes to all of Bethesda’s game franchises. In fact, I’m actually surprised that the FTC has allowed such a purchase considering the negative impact it will likely have on consumer choice.

Sony and Microsoft

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Sony and Microsoft are rivals when it comes to gaming systems. Sony has the PlayStation and Microsoft has the Xbox. Because Microsoft owns the Xbox console, purchasing large gaming companies firmly pushes this situation into conflict of interest and consumer choice reduction territory. Additionally, Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax before the PS5 has really launched can become an easy way to keep the PS5 from succeeding.

Why? Microsoft has designs on making the Xbox Series X console succeed and be more successful than the PS5. To do this, they want to lock Sony’s platform out of as much content as they can. How will this manifest with Bethesda’s games?

While the final outcome is entirely uncertain, the handwriting is on the wall. What I mean is that Microsoft may eventually make all of Bethesda’s newest released games exclusive to the Xbox. That means that Bethesda’s game franchises (plural) may ultimately end up playable only on the PC and on the Xbox console. Yes, that could mean that both the Nintendo Switch and Sony’s PS5 are equally negatively impacted by this purchase.

Both Sony and Nintendo could find themselves without future Bethesda titles on their gaming platforms. That could mean no more Fallout, no more Elder Scrolls, no more Doom and no more Wolfenstein will make their way onto Sony or Nintendo’s platforms. It doesn’t stop there. Titles like Bethesda’s upcoming Starfield, which has yet to be released, could be pulled from release on both Sony and Nintendo’s platforms… leaving this game only available on PC and Xbox.

Sure, it may lose Microsoft money by not releasing these games on these non-Microsoft platforms, but Microsoft will more than make up for those game sales losses by pushing more Xboxes and PCs into the home. Eventually, these games will be sold to newly purchased Xboxes and PCs more than making up for the losses in sales on those other platforms. Basically, Microsoft has an easy way to do the dirty to both Sony and Nintendo as far as Bethesda games are concerned.

Microsoft is also well aware of the leverage they hold over the gaming industry by purchasing Bethesda. More than this, Microsoft can steer new consumers onto their Xbox line of consoles and away from Sony and Nintendo consoles strictly by enforcing Xbox Exclusives.

Exclusives

Bethesda isn’t the only studio on the planet. However, Bethesda is a large studio with many very cherished video game franchises… franchises that bring in a lot of cash and drive console purchases.

While Microsoft can enforce making upcoming Bethesda games exclusive, Microsoft doesn’t necessarily have to take this step. However, knowing that Sony pretty much kicked Microsoft’s butt with the PS4’s sales, Microsoft isn’t eager to repeat that trend with the Xbox Series X. Purchasing ZeniMax gives Microsoft a definite edge. It also means Microsoft might also be eyeing the purchase of Activision, EA, Rockstar and even Ubisoft. Don’t be surprised if Microsoft snaps up some of these additional game developers as well.

By Microsoft purchasing large game studios like Bethesda, they can control which console becomes the dominant console this time around (i.e., theirs). This means even more exclusive Xbox games.

Exclusive games force consumers to buy specific hardware platforms to play these exclusive titles.

PS5

What does this news mean for a console like the PS5? It puts the PS5 at a severe sales disadvantage. Microsoft could request Bethesda to not produce PS5 games. Without Bethesda’s support on the PS5, that leaves the PS5 at a major disadvantage in the upcoming next gen gaming market.

This is part of the reason I am not purchasing a PS5 at this time. I’m waiting on how this plays out. Bethesda’s ownership by Microsoft means a very real possibility of future exclusive Xbox titles from Bethesda, with no releases on the PS5 or the Nintendo Switch.

This change would put Sony and Nintendo with a clear sales disadvantage. Sony would have to rely not on Bethesda games to drive the PS5’s sales, but instead rely on Sony Studio game releases… games they have developed themselves or by studios they own (i.e., Sucker Punch).

That doesn’t mean the PS5 will be worthless, but it means that the future of Bethesda’s games being released on the PS5 has become very unclear. In fact, I’d use the word “muddy” to describe these waters.

Here are some questions that come out of the above:

  1. Should I buy and Xbox Series X or a PS5? The answer to this question entirely depends on what Microsoft has planned for Bethesda. If they intend to turn all future Bethesda releases into Xbox exclusives, then the answer to this question is… buy an Xbox Series X. Even then, I’d still recommend buying an Xbox Series X because there’s a zero chance of losing Bethesda games on the Xbox. However, there’s a high probability the PS5 will lose Bethesda’s future games. The even larger answer to this question also depends on whether Microsoft plans to buy more large game studios.
  2. Will Bethesda lose money? The answer to this question is, no. Microsoft has deep, deep pockets. They can withstand any short term monetary losses from making Bethesda’s games exclusive to the Xbox and they can also withstand the long term needs to recoup those losses by selling new Xbox consoles and any exclusive Bethesda games. The more consoles Microsoft sells, the more games they can sell.
  3. Will Microsoft force Bethesda to make exclusives? Yes, they will. This is guaranteed. The question is, which games will be forced into this category? That’s still unclear. Will it only be some of Bethesda’s games, all of them, new games only or some combination of this? We don’t know. However, I can guarantee at least one of Bethesda’s games will be released as an Xbox exclusive. My guess is that most of Bethesda’s games will become exclusives.
  4. What about existing Bethesda games? What happens to these? Microsoft isn’t stupid. They will allow existing games to continue to be sold and operate on the PS4 and any other older non-Microsoft consoles. They won’t rock this boat. Instead, Microsoft will look at upcoming unreleased games and use the games that have never been released to become exclusive.

As a result of these questions and answers, it’s clear that if you love Bethesda’s games and you wish to play future upcoming Bethesda game franchises, you may want to wait before investing in one of these new consoles. It would suck to spend a wad-o-cash to walk home with a PS5 only to find that the one Bethesda game you thought you could play is now an Xbox Series X exclusive. That means, you’ll never see that game released on the PS5. Microsoft is very likely to make this situation a reality.

If Microsoft buys even more of these large developers, they could lock Sony’s PS5 out of the mainstream gaming market. That would push Sony’s PS5 into a situation like Nintendo (and the PS Vita), where the console maker is entirely responsible for creating compelling game franchises for their respective console on their own. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough to keep a platform like the PS5 alive.

In other words, with the purchase of Bethesda, there’s a very real possibility that this time around that Sony’s PS5 will be the underdog.

Ramifications

The bigger ramifications of this purchase is the lack of and reduction of consumer choice. This purchase can easily push Microsoft into an even more monopoly status than they already are. Locking down the biggest game developers to exclusivity for the Xbox means causing the PS5 to ultimately fail and for the same reason the PS Vita failed.

Personally, I believe this is Microsoft’s true agenda. The Xbox One’s sales paled in comparison to the PS4. Microsoft is not eager to repeat this situation with the Xbox Series X. By buying large developers like ZeniMax / Bethesda, Microsoft can all but assure the success of the Xbox Series X… and, at the same time, assure Sony’s failure of the PS5.

This purchase is honestly a one-two punch to Sony…. and for Sony, it’s gotta hurt.

Sony and Gaming

If Sony is smart, they’ll run out and buy Rockstar or Ubisoft right now. They shouldn’t wait. They should purchase one of these companies as fast as they possibly can. Rockstar would be the best choice for Sony.

Sony could then have this same bargaining chip in their back pocket just like Microsoft has with Bethesda. Should Microsoft dictate Xbox exclusivity for Bethesda’s upcoming games, Sony can do the same thing for Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption (once they own Rockstar). Ultimately, it will be a “tit for tat” situation.

In fact, Sony should buy both Ubisoft and Rockstar and have two bargaining chips. Even still, such a game exclusivity war would lead to fracturing the gaming market in half. Basically, the consumer would be forced to buy multiple consoles to play games that formerly landed on both consoles. It’s a loss for consumer choice… which is why I’m surprised the FTC hasn’t stepped in and blocked this one.

I’m guessing that because the final outcome has not yet manifested, the FTC can’t see the forest for the trees. However, once hindsight forces 20/20 vision, it will be too late for the FTC to block this purchase.

What does this mean for Fallout?

I know this is a very specific question about a very specific game. However, I was asked this very question on a Twitch stream. Let me answer it here.

If you’re a fan of the Fallout series and you’re unsure which of the upcoming console to buy, I’d recommend waiting to see what Microsoft has in store for upcoming Bethesda games.

With that said and to reiterate what I’ve said above, there is now zero chance that Microsoft will withhold Fallout for the Xbox Series X and newer Xbox consoles. However, Microsoft can easily block the release of future Fallout games from the PS5 and the Switch. This means that a consumer’s investment of cash into a PS5 could see the console without any future Fallout or Elder Scrolls or Doom games.

What that means is that should Bethesda take on the challenge of remastering Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and Fallout New Vegas for the newer consoles, these games may only find their way onto the Xbox Series X as exclusives and may not be found on the PS5.

Basically, proceed with caution if you really, really want a PS5. You may find that like the PS Vita, without titles released from Bethesda, the PS5 may end up a dying console before it really gets the chance to take off, particularly if Microsoft buys even more of these large game studios. If the PS5 does fail due to Microsoft exclusives, it will be mostly thanks to Microsoft.

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How to complete the Fallout 76 Legendary Run

Posted in botch, business, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on August 29, 2020

While this is intended to be a how-to guide, it also offers my take on whether or not this new rewards system is worth it. This article also serves as a review. Let’s explore.

[Updated for 9/29/2020]

The new ‘Legendary Run’ has started with a new game board. This game board is completely different from the images shown in this first Legendary Run. The rewards are similarly spaced and similar in style. However, as of the update needed to install this new ‘Legendary Run’ game board, Bethesda also made some very big (and unnecessary) changes to the game, shattering the already faltering game balance. As of this update and second legendary run, Fallout 76 is officially an unmitigated disaster. There is officially no game balance in Fallout 76.

Effectively, no matter what level you are, Bethesda has excessively nerfed ALL weapons and over-powered ALL enemies. A level 50 (max level) Bloodied Lever Action Rifle, which could pretty much one-hit and kill any enemy in the game and 3 hit and kill some of the hardest enemies (other than a Scorchbeast Queen), is now no better than a level 10 weapon of any kind. Any remaining balance that had been in Fallout 76 has been utterly destroyed by this latest update. To be honest, Bethesda has destroyed any remaining reason to play Fallout 76 in one update. There is absolutely nothing at all fun about Fallout 76 at this point… no, not even to play this updated second Legendary Run game board.

If I had even the tiniest of cravings to play this newest game board in Fallout 76, that craving has been totally and completely squashed by Bethesda’s ruining of the game balance.

The Legendary Run

What is it? As stated above, it’s a new rewards system for Fallout 76. It somewhat replaces the daily Atom rewards with a new type of currency called S.C.O.R.E. (another insipid acronym). For this article, I’m simply going to call it Score. Score points are given when you complete daily or weekly challenges.

By ‘somewhat’, I mean that the older Atom challenge system was designed as a loose, non-competitive system. You did these challenges at your leisure with no ramifications. This new system, on the other hand, sees a competition between you and a foe, forcing you to complete the game board ahead of the foe. Okay, so maybe ‘force’ is a strong word. However, it has the same effect as force because of the urgency required in keeping up with Zorbo’s game piece. Skipping a day of challenges can see you lose. Zorbo’s ship is the little teal ship where the gamer’s is a bright orange ship. See full game board image below:

TheLegendaryRun-GameBoard.-3084

What does ‘lose’ mean, exactly?

By ‘lose’, this is not yet clearly defined by Bethesda. It is currently believed that Bethesda will reset the board to start over with a new ‘season’ of The Legendary Run including all new rewards… after Doctor Zorbo (foe) reaches the final position on the game board. It has been confirmed as of September 1st that The Legendary Run ends September 8th (see image at right) at 12 noon Eastern / 9am Pacific. Additionally, not only is Bethesda offering double Score points until that time, they have added extra challenges to the board to help those who wish to get to the finish line and need a bit more effort. Still, it doesn’t absolve Bethesda from the OCD and anxiety issues that this challenge system brings.

If you haven’t completed the board, the clock is ticking on whether you will be able to complete it and get all of the remaining rewards. Remember when I said ‘force’ was too strong of a word above? Well, here is exactly where Bethesda applies the pressure. The assumption is that if you don’t complete the board by the time the foe reaches the end, you will not be able to finish the game board at all or receive any remaining rewards. You may even lose any unclaimed rewards (see CAUTION below).

For anyone not very far along, this means that to complete the board before the timer ticks down to zero, you’ll need to pay your way through the board using Atom (see the Pay to Win section below for more details) before Zorbo reaches the end and the board closes. In other words, if you’re still in Chapter 1 when reading this article, you’re going to be required to pay a LOT of Atom to fully open up the game board to the end.

CAUTION: As a warning, I strongly recommend that you claim every reward you are given. Don’t be lazy about this. Don’t leave any rewards unclaimed. Once the game board closes for the next season, you will likely not be able to go back and claim any unclaimed rewards. In fact, the board may be entirely wiped and reset losing any unclaimed rewards. Be extremely cautious as Bethesda is not likely to be forgiving about this at all.

Score Points

Score points are accumulated into a progress bar that’s either at the bottom or top of the screen depending on which screen you are in.

The Legendary Run also has a game board (see above) with individual rewards in each spot. As you progress and gain Score, your game marker moves to the next spot after you accumulate enough Score points for that specific place on the board. Each new game place increases the amount of accumulated Score it requires to move to the next game board section.

Under each game board section, you will find a specific reward. The rewards sometimes include currency like Atom, Legendary Scrip or Gold Bouillon. Other rewards include digital cosmetic items like Ghillie Suit paint jobs or Atomic Onslaught paint. You can even get consumables like Scrap Kits, Repair Kits and Perk Card packs. It also includes CAMP cosmetic items like a tree, a door or wallpaper.

Each spot on the board is already pre-marked with its reward. You only simply need to hover over the game board spot to view its reward. You can even click on it to get more details. There is no mystery involved. You know exactly what you’re getting all throughout the game board.

What I’ve LearnedThe OCD Run WARNING

Playing through and completing this game board, I’ve come to learn a few highly negative things about this system. As a result, I’m not a fan of this new system at all.

The first thing I noticed about this new system is that it is not at all forgiving. If you miss a day of challenges, you’re probably okay and can make it up. If you miss a week of challenges, you’re likely to be so far behind you can’t complete the board. Because of this primary problem, this system can easily trigger anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete this challenge system in gamers. Gaming is supposed to be recreational, not something to become OCD over.

If you’re easily triggered by OCD, then you should completely avoid participating in this reward system. In fact, this game mechanism is so heavily tied to reinforcing obsessive compulsive behaviors, it should be outlawed in games. To me, a system like this is just as bad as for-pay mystery boxes. Hear me, Bethesda.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is not something we need to be indoctrinating into children using video games. Something like this is bad enough for adults, but training kids for obsessive compulsion early is a recipe for problems later in life. In fact, I’d suggest that a game board system like this is just as bad for children as are for-pay mystery loot systems which train those portions of the brain about gambling. Both gambling and OCD are equally damaging to growing and developing children.

I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll forgo that for now and focus on how to complete this game board. Suffice it to say, if your OCD is easily triggered, stay far away from this challenge system and focus entirely on just Fallout 76’s main activities.

How To Complete The Legendary Run

The bottom line in completing this run is not missing a day or week of challenges. You can skip one or two daily challenges per day, but you will need to complete every weekly challenge.

For example, I skipped every daily Nuclear Winter challenge (I despise that game mode and refuse to play it) and I was still able to complete the run. However, it did require hitting every weekly and as many daily challenges as I could complete. Yes, you will need to play through every daily challenge that you can. This means playing every single day’s challenges, seven days a week.

Yeah, that’s why I wrote the above warning. If you can’t commit to playing this game every single day, then you likely cannot complete the run through challenges alone.

Pay to Win

There is a way to get to the end without playing at all. You can rank up fully by paying 150 atoms for each board space. In fact, you can pay your way through the entire game board if you want. If you’re willing to run to the PlayStation, Xbox or Bethesda’s store and buy Atom, you can use that Atom to pay your way through each game board spot.

This can help you if you need to catch up. But, you can also simply avoid the daily grind and pay your way to the end.

The choices you have then are as follows:

  1. Grind your way through the daily and weekly challenges every day
  2. Pay your way through the board entirely with Atom
  3. Combine some grinding and paying some Atom to get you through to the end.

In fact, I believe most players will end up falling into category 3… which is exactly what Bethesda hopes. That means you’ll have to pay for Atom (or get it through other Atom challenges which are still available) to make your way through The Legendary Run. Though, Bethesda is also enamored with gamers who fall into category 2.

The one thing to realize about The Legendary Run is that you must forgo playing the game to solely focus on completing the challenges. This means spending most of your time working through the challenges and, you know, not playing the actual game itself. In other words, these challenges waste a LOT of time doing inconsequential things instead of completing the main quest line. This is such an unnecessary diversion, it actually undermines the game.

Design Failure

In fact, this entire challenge system runs 180º counter to what the design goals for this board were stated to be. It was claimed that this new challenge system would work in concert with gamer’s actual game play. In reality, it’s just the opposite of that. To complete this board, you have to focus on the challenge tasks 100% at the expense of all else. Many of the challenges are esoteric. You don’t naturally go looking to kill 3 Deathclaws unless it’s part of a quest line. Even then, I don’t know of a single quest line in Fallout 76 that requires you to kill 3 Deathclaws as part of the quest.

You might find yourself near Deathclaws as a result of a quest line leading you there, but you don’t need to kill them to progress the quest. The most famous of these main quests is the Enclave quest which leads you to the Abandoned Waste Dump to begin this quest line in a bunker inside of a cave, with the cave infested by Deathclaws. Naturally, Bethesda assumed you might kill those Deathclaws being in close proximity. However, you can sneaky sneak your way through that cave and avoid killing those Deathclaws entirely. You can even flat out run through the cave to the elevator and be on your way. In other words, killing these Deathclaws is not naturally part of your game play activities.

That’s just one example. There are many other such useless challenge examples, such as taking over workshops. You don’t do this as a natural part of any quest line or as a natural part of game play. If you take a workshop, it’s entirely your choice and you must go out of your way to do it. To take a workshop comes with its own game baggage, the least of which is paying for the workshop in caps, the immediate Defend Event and any PVP activities assuming you do it in a public world.

As a final example, if you never play Nuclear Winter, you are now forced to enter that game mode to do whatever is required to pick up the NW challenges. That’s the very definition of unnatural game play.

While there may be a handful of activities that are considered ‘natural gameplay’ such as chewing bubblegum or collecting water, there are just as many that require you to spend time doing things you don’t normally do.

The Legendary Run forces unnatural game play onto the gamer (in addition to the anxiety and obsessive compulsion to complete the board). You must first find out what the challenges are for that day and then explicitly spend time completeing them. I ended up spending most of my play time grinding the challenges and not progressing quest lines. The Legendary Run is not a natural game play system and diverts attention away from playing the actual game.

Atom and Rewards

Another negative about this new system is that we have lost our most basic way to gain Atom. Yes, there are spots on the board that occasionally award 150 Atom, but that’s ultimately way less than the amount of Atom we were getting before this system launched.

Before The Legendary Run, we were getting around 50 Atom for daily challenges and up to 1000 Atom for weekly challenges. At 7 days, that would be 350 + 1000 = 1350 Atom per week. With this new game board, that dropped to around 150 Atom per week. That’s way, way less Atom than we were formerly getting by completing daily and weekly challenges.

Yes, in somewhat of an exchange, we are now getting some exclusive board rewards, but at the expense of not being able to buy much stuff in the Atomic Shop.

Bethesda’s Greed

I get it. I really do. Bethesda wasn’t making enough money off of selling Atom in the digital stores. I guess they thought they were giving too much Atom away. They felt they had to cut down on the amount of Atom being given out by challenges to force more sales of Atom. As I said, I get it. Greed rules.

Unfortunately, because of Bethesda’s greed, they have now saddled everyone with a system that so highly triggers OCD in gamers and wastes so much in-game time that it’s actually a huge loss for the game.

I mean, Bethesda’s systems get worse every single time they release and The Legendary Run is no exception. This is truly one of the worst ideas that Bethesda could have implemented in Fallout 76. Not only is The Legendary Run unforgiving, not only does it completely trigger OCD, not only does it force gamers to pay real money for Atom, not only does divert the gamer away from questing and towards spending time question for Score, the rewards offered are mostly inconsequential and the run itself is completely unfulfilling.

Worse, everyone gets the SAME rewards, so they are not at all unique. I preferred shopping at the Atomic shop directly. Everyone can pick and choose the things they want, so not every gamer has the same things. When it’s all cookie cutter, there’s nothing unique about what’s being given away. Everyone who reaches a specific game board spot gets a Ghillie suit paint, big whoop. So now, everyone who completes that spot has it?

What happens when you complete the board?

Good question and one Bethesda should have solved before rolling this system out. Yet, they didn’t. When you complete the game board and there’s nothing else to be had, the daily challenges still issue Score. Score that has no place to go and nothing to win. Once you complete the game board, there’s no reason to complete the daily or weekly challenges as it’s simply a waste of time and effort.

Instead, Bethesda should have planned for this eventuality and converted the system back to the older Atom system after the board is completed. This would allow gamers to still continue to get SOMETHING after completing the game board. We did just complete the game board. Shouldn’t we get some kind of continued reward for completion? Where’s the incentive to continue? There isn’t any. Crap design in my book.

Repeat?

Will I do it again? No. It’s a waste of time and effort. It diverts away from completing game world quests. Seriously, these daily challenges can sometimes take over 2 hours to complete. That’s 2 hours I could have spent finishing up quests. That’s 2 hours I could have been having fun taking over and building workshops. That’s 2 hours I could have spent hanging out with a few friends. That’s 2 hours I could have spent building out my camp. That’s 2 hours lost to challenges that get me what, yet another Ghillie or Onslaught paint? Heck, that’s 2 hours I could have spent writing a blog article.

Yet, if you really want that Fireplace secret door, you’re going to spend a massive amount of time enduring challenges and fighting OCD compulsions.

Triggering OCD behaviors in video games is not something we should be encouraging in video games. Bethesda shouldn’t be rewarded for creating this system. They should be scolded. Better, these kinds of OCD compulsion inducing systems should be outlawed in video games for the same reason that mystery loot boxes have been outlawed by triggering gambling compulsions.

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Grahm’s Meat Cook Tips

Posted in tips, video game, video gaming by commorancy on August 24, 2020

If you’re reading this, you’re probably playing Fallout 76. This likely also means you’re playing the Meat Week event, until August 26th, 2020 (i.e., two more days left as of this post). This event runs every hour on the hour. Let’s explore.

Playing Drums and Turning Spits

A lot of people seem to think that these activities don’t matter to the event. They do. In fact, they’re very important to the event succeeding.

Both playing the drums and turning the spit do several things at once. The first important thing these activities do is to majorly slow the decrease of the Event’s progress bar by a lot. This gives those performing collection more time to complete their collection activities in larger quantities. The more people who are handling these two activities, the slower the progress bar decreases. While these activities don’t increase the progress bar by themselves, they aid in reducing the decrease. This is why these activities are important.

Further, these activities significantly contribute to the 100% success of the event (i.e., getting the best prizes from the event). If no one is playing the drums or turning the spit and everyone is running around collecting meat and greens, contributing Chally’s feed and cleaning up messes and fires, that’s not enough to get 100% event completion.

All aspects of the Meat Cook event need to be touched, including turning the spit and playing the drums in addition to all of the rest. More than this, these two activities are important to contributing to the 100% success of the event, which affords the best prizes. When I have played through this event without these activities, even when the progress bar reaches the steak, you won’t necessarily see the best prizes without these stations having been manned.

Not only do these give the best chances at the best prizes, these slow the progress bar’s decrease by allowing the collectors to collect more. Without these being manned, the progress bar decreases quite a bit faster.

Also, manning the spit 100% of the time during the event raises the chances of getting the best prizes. Keep that spit manned at all times!

Collecting

It seems that everyone prefers to run around finding and collecting greens and critter parts. It makes sense. It’s the only combat activity at this event (such that it is). I get this aspect. This activity alone can’t carry the event.

Cleaning up and Putting out Fires

This is also an important activity. Cleaning up dirty messes, putting out fires and picking up after Chally is also important. Don’t forget this activity.

Prime Meat Collection

Here’s one aspect that doesn’t seem to be that important to the event. Grahm makes it a big deal, but the best that contributing Prime Meat does is give you Scrip at the end of the event.

Chally’s Feed

You’ll learn how to create Chally’s Feed the first time you play the event. To make Chally’s Feed, you’ll need 2 Boiled Water, 2 Carrots, 3 Razorgrain, 3 Tatoes, 1 Wood. This means you’ll need to plant carrots, razorgrain and tatoes at your camp or in a workshop. You can use Green Thumb to double what you pick and Super Duper to help in duplicating more quantities when you craft. You craft this recipe on a cooking station.

Contributing Chally’s Feed to the hay pile near Chally will help you gain a better reward at the end. I don’t believe Chally’s feed contributes to the overall reward of the event, but it does give you a personal reward for feeding Chally. You can feed Chally once every minute or so as there is a cooldown timer after you deposit.

Depositing

When you’re done collecting, you’ll need to deposit your collected items into the Critter Chunks or Greens area. Don’t forget to do this.

Here’s where people make the mistake of attempting to drop what they collect in one by one. DON’T DO THIS. You need to collect as much as you can, then drop it all in at once in a large amount. The more you collect and deposit together, the larger of a deposit bonus you will see. This can move the progress bar very far, very rapidly.

This is why sometimes the bar moves from chicken leg all the way to steak with one go. It’s because people are collecting massive amounts of everything and depositing it all at once. Don’t collect and drop one by one. Do it in bulk and you’ll get a bigger deposit reward.

[Update 8/25/2020] One thing I forgot to mention about Grahm’s Meat Cook is … if 3 people are on the drums and 3 people are on the spits during the entire 2 minute countdown timer before the event begins, this can sometimes start the event just past the turkey leg icon (middle of the progress bar). This means that it only takes a tiny bit of work to complete the event. I’ve seen events that have completed in around 30 seconds if all 6 people are manning these two activities before the event begins. Apparently, these activities do contribute to the event even during the pre-event 2 minute countdown timer. I can’t tell if this is an oversight by Bethesda or intentional.

Hopefully, this helps you win this event if you’ve been having troubles. Please leave a comment below if you have questions.

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Gaming Breaking Bugs Series #1: Fallout 76

Posted in botch, business, gaming, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on August 16, 2020

With this series, I intend to start calling out video gaming’s game-breaking-bugs as I find them and boy are there a lot to report with Fallout 76. Here is report I recently filed with Bethesda. Let’s explore.

Report

Re: Enemies not dying after multiple shots.

It is truly becoming impossible to play Fallout 76. That’s not an exaggeration. I’m using various ranged weapons and it can literally take 2, 3 even sometimes 4 (or more) shots to actually kill an enemy that should die in 1 shot. This MUST be solved. Combat is intrinsic to this game. When combat doesn’t work, then the game is broken.

How this problem manifests…

It begins when you attempt to VATS shoot an enemy. It doesn’t matter where you shoot the enemy, but the head is usually the place where combat fails most often. I have a bloodied Lever Action and a bloodied Pipe Bolt Action Pistol. I’ve also had this problem occur with various melee weapons. So, it’s not limited to any specific weapon or type.

You begin by using VATS on the head using Concentrated Fire. Take the shot. The shot connects. The thud sounds. The enemy’s health bar drops to 0. Then, inexplicably, the health bar instantly recovers to full health and the enemy is alive to lunge or shoot at you. Not only that, the failed shot alerts the enemy to your presence. You can perform this action multiple times in a row to the same effect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Ghoul, insects, a Super Mutant, dogs or a robot. This broken combat mechanic affects every weapon type and every enemy type.

To 100% reproduce this bug, sneak your way into The Whitespring Golf Club, head to the left on the upper level. Then as you come through the door, there is an enemy that spawns right near the back left window in a corner.

Once you have cleared the rest of the ghouls in that room, stand by the entry hall area and attempt to VATS shoot this specific Ghoul in the head. It may take 2, 3, 4 or more shots before it will die. Targeting the limbs or torso sometimes works around this game breaking bug, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes using a scope instead of VATS works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s one thing if the shot misses entirely, it’s completely another when the shot connects, makes a thud noise, shows a 1200 damage number also showing the enemy health bar dropping to zero and then the enemy’s health bar magically recovers fully? No, these are NOT legendary enemies.

This combat issue needs to be resolved pronto as this is literally a game breaking combat bug.

Expected Behavior

When you shoot an enemy and the bullet is recognized by the game engine as connecting, then the enemy needs to take the required amount of damage and/or die if health reaches zero. This combat bug is entirely unacceptable.

Enjoy this bug as this series has many more coming. If you have experienced this specific combat bug, please leave a comment below.

Fallout 76: Let’s review Wastelanders

Posted in entertainment, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on April 19, 2020

NPCsNPCs are now in the game and so are duping exploits. Let’s review.

[Update for 5/4/2020] It seems that Bethesda has released a hotfix to prevent losing your weapon to an NPC if that NPC kills your character and loots the body. However, all other vending bugs have not yet been patched. We’re still waiting, Bethesda.

[Update for 4/27/2020] Serious Bugs! Bethesda appears to have introduced several new very serious bugs related to player vending in Wastelanders! These bugs can see you lose not only your weapons and armor, they will be taken directly from your stash! You may want to reconsider playing the game until they’ve fixed these showstopper issues. If you need more details or examples, please visit this Reddit thread. Bethesda is aware of these and are in the process of a hotfix for at least Bug 2, but there’s no date set when these fixes may arrive.

Bug 1: Player vending machines appear to be selling random unlisted items from your stash at random prices. This means any legendary weapon, rare armor, ammo or outfit in your Stashbox could be up for grabs for as little as 0 caps. Some buyers report having purchased extremely rare outfits and legendary weapons for 50 caps. Players hadn’t listed these items in their vendor. There is no rhyme or reason why this one is occurring.

Bug 2: Players report having their equipped weapon looted from their dead body by an NPC after character death. This bug seems to occur both in and out of events. If you’re fighting NPCs anywhere in the game and they kill your character, that NPC can apparently loot your body for your equipped weapon before you respawn. This one is a showstopper.

Workaround for bug #1 — Store ALL of your player vending machines in your workshop until this one is resolved. I also suggest storing ALL other player vending items such as Nuka-Cola vending machines, beer kegs, punch bowls or any other vendors that allow players to interact with items from your stash. Display cases should be safe from looting by players, but to be safe it might be worth storing them too.

Alternatively, play in a Private World where no other players can buy from your vendors until this issue is resolved. If you invite friends into your Private World with your vendors out, make sure you trust them fully and explain not to buy anything from your machines.

Workaround for bug #2 — Other than not playing the game, I don’t know of any way to avoid this situation other than making sure your characters don’t die around NPCs.

[Update for 4/22/2020] Bethesda has re-enabled vending and displays after rolling out a hot fix designed to solve the duping problem. However, knowing Bethesda’s track record at performing updates around duping exploits, they likely didn’t solve this problem. I fully expect these items to be disabled again within a week after duping resumes… with yet another patch forthcoming.

Bethesda’s Bad Coding

We all know that Bethesda’s ability to code a great game isn’t the best. Bethesda’s games are always chock full of bugs, particularly day one releases. Well, Wastelanders has arrived (on April 14th) and like all new releases, it is once again chock full of bugs… some fairly severe, like duping.

Before you run out and attempt to dupe your items, let’s talk about the ramifications of these actions first. I’d also recommend that if you don’t own Fallout 76 that you hold off running out to buy a copy before reading this article.

Duping, Exploits and Consequences

Before I get into the meat of this article, which are my actual thoughts about the Wastelanders addition and general review of the new content, I need to talk about duping and exploits first. This is something that some gamers seem to live for in Bethesda’s games, particularly it seems, when they are playing Fallout 76.

But, “Hold your horses there, Mac”. Don’t run out and begin looking for the duping exploits lest you get your account permanently banned from Bethesda.net. Many players see in-game exploitation as some kind of game within a game. To be fair, I see their point. However, Bethesda doesn’t agree with it.

In fact, Bethesda has made their stance on venturing outside of the bounds of the game to be very much a ban-worthy offense. Not only is it ban-worthy, it’s permaban worthy. What I mean is that if you choose to exploit the in-game world by doing things not intended by Bethesda, expect to see your account banned. I don’t mean a few days of ban here either. These bans are likely to be so severe, you may never get your account back… and, you will lose all Atom you carry, all items you’ve bought in the Atomic shop and lose any remaining portion of Fallout 1st you may have left, in addition to never being able to play the game again.

If Bethesda finds what you’ve done severe enough, they may even contact Sony to have your PSN account banned at the console level. Yes, Bethesda can do this.

This section should be seen as a warning to those of you gamers who wish to tread on the very tenuous ground of duping and exploitation in the Fallout 76 world. If you wish to play a Bethesda online game, you need to keep your character’s feet firmly on the ground and away from all in-game exploits. Anything that feels like cheating in the game world is very likely to get your Bethesda.net account banned!

How Will Bethesda Know?

I know this game is played by a lot of naïve minors under the age of 18. Many may even be under the age of 12. Being of this younger age, it’s easy to fail to understand that there are such things as logs. Bethesda has been logging and monitoring Fallout 76 on their servers for months. They began this monitoring process when the last duping flare-up occurred early in 2019.

Since then, all of this monitoring has improved and, in fact, is likely being actively reviewed and monitored daily through reports and other condensed information. This means that someone at Bethesda has the job of actively looking for players using suspect behavior and/or carrying suspect stacks of items.

If you carry a stack of 1 million pieces of ammo, or a 100k stimpaks or 50k Large Holiday Presents or any unnecessarily large stack of items, your account is likely to be found and flagged for duping. The numbers of items you can reasonably carry range from 1-10000 depending on item. Even then, the 10k amount only applies to ammo where it is feasible you can find that much in the game world. While Bethesda will overlook 10k in ammo, they will NOT overlook 10k or 100k in Large Handmade Holiday Gifts or a million pieces of ammo… particularly if they all have the same object ID.

Once they see a large stack of suspect items, they will begin investigating the account for how it obtained this many of the item. The Bethesda staff person will then find if the account performed duping to obtain that item. Bethesda’s duping detection system isn’t perfect. Even if you didn’t dupe the items, but carry them on your account, your account may still be flagged. If your friend hands you 10k Holiday Gifts, be cautious and open them up quick or drop them. Don’t leave them lying around in your stash or in your character’s inventory. Simply holding onto a large suspect stack of items is enough to have your account banned… even if YOU didn’t dupe them.

I can’t stress the above enough. If you value all of the work you’ve put into Fallout 76 and your Bethesda.net account, then don’t dupe and don’t accept large duped stacks of items.

This is why we can’t have nice things!

When push comes to shove, Bethesda is king at punishing (and retaliating against) exploiters and, by extension, all other users of their games in general. Bethesda has continually proven, at least with Fallout 76, that they don’t really care whose toes they step on to solve gamer exploits in their games. If that means deleting game world items from every Stashbox, regardless of whether it was legitimately obtained or not, so be it.

That means that a small minority of gamers can run amok within Fallout 76 exploiting duping bugs which forces Bethesda to take their ire out on the entire Fallout 76 gaming community as whole. Bethesda will willfully modify their game in negative ways, regardless of whom it affects.

Additionally, with exploiters who Bethesda can identify were specifically participating in the exploits, they will outright ban these gamers from Fallout 76 and, potentially, Bethesda.net on the whole. What this means to exploiters is not only the loss of access to Fallout 76, but it also means loss of access to every game you’ve ever purchased from Bethesda’s store. Yes, this punishment is hard. But, some people need to learn lessons the hard way. Life’s lessons aren’t always wrapped in pretty bows… which is a life lesson in and of itself.

Though, I’m not at all saying that being banned from the game isn’t the right choice to make for Bethesda. If gamers choose not to play the game as written and instead insist on playing outside of those boundaries by exploiting bugs, then you take what’s coming to you. Bethesda’s Terms of Service are crystal clear as follows:

You agree not to access, receive, play or use any Service to:

  • Promote, upload, transmit, encourage or take part in any activity involving hacking, cracking, phishing, taking advantage of exploits or cheats and/or distribution of counterfeit software and/or Virtual Currency or virtual items. In an effort to continuously improve the Services, You and other players discovering exploits, cheats, cracks or other inconsistencies are required to report them to ZeniMax;

If you participate in this or any other activity listed in Bethesda’s Terms of Service, Bethesda’s remedies are clearly defined here:

In response to a violation of these Terms of Service, ZeniMax may issue You a warning, suspend or restrict certain features of Your Account (including, but not limited to, user names), selectively modify or remove or revoke Downloadable Content at an Account and/or device level, immediately terminate any and all Accounts that You have established and/or temporarily or permanently ban Your Account, device, and/or machine from accessing, receiving, playing or using all or certain Services.

ZeniMax may terminate Your access to and/or receipt, play or use of the Services (i) for violating these Terms of Service; (ii) if ZeniMax, in its sole discretion, deems that Your information is untrue, inaccurate, not complete or incomplete; (iii) if Your access to or receipt, play or use of such Services infringes on or is suspected of infringing on another’s rights or any intellectual property; or (iv) if You or Your Account reflects inappropriate Content and/or violates these Terms of Service. Any and all Content (including, but not limited to, Software, Content, and Downloadable Content) will be considered forfeit immediately in the event of any cancellation, closure, or termination of Your Account by ZeniMax.

This means that, yes, you can lose access to a portion or all of your content for the game involved or, indeed, you can lose your entire account at Bethesda. Basically, you will forfeit your access to the software involved and potentially everything else you own from Bethesda. When you exploit Bethesda’s software, eventually you will pay the price and that price is fairly steep.

One additional problem that can arise is that Bethesda can also report your account to PlayStation or Xbox if you have also violated those service’s terms and conditions. Bethesda’s report can see your entire PlayStation or Xbox blocked entirely from online services. Not only can you not use any Bethesda games you own, you could lose your entire Xbox Live or PlayStation Network access for all other games. It all depends on how Bethesda plays it against you. Bethesda can most certainly play hardball if you press the point.

With all of that behind us, let’s move into the meat and potatoes of this review…

Wastelanders Add-On

With the addition of Wastelanders, the Appalachia wasteland has changed. How has it changed? It now has NPCs all over the place. This addition is a mixed bag, however.

While some of the portions of the game have been somewhat rewritten, the fundamental original game is still under there. The NPCs will help you get a handle a bit quicker because they can aid you in getting your character to where it needs to go. When you first exited Vault 76 before this update, you had to fend for yourself alone without much of any help.

Now there are NPCs to greet you just outside the vault who not only give you various information, they help you get a handle on what’s going on in Appalachia. That’s not to say these helpers outside of the vault are necessary, but now Appalachia doesn’t feel so barren.

The question is, does this addition really help the game out? As I said, that’s mixed bag. Nearly all of the original underlying quests are still in the game including the boring holotapes and terminal text lore. Some quests are somewhat altered with the presence of the new walking, talking NPCs.

Allies

Also with the Wastelanders addition, Bethesda has added on the concept of an ally. Think of this as effectively a named settler. If you’ve played Fallout 4, it’s similar to a companion with the exception that these allies don’t follow you around and aid you in combat. They live at your C.A.M.P. and help protect your camp. They also issue you quests that lead to a final 3 star legendary drop at the end.

Two of these allies include Beckett and Sofia. To entice them to come to your base, you must place down something that they need. Beckett wants a bar stand. Sofia needs a computer console. Once you plop down their requirement in your camp, they will join you there.

However, you can only have 1 ally present in your camp at a time. This also means you can only run one ally quest line at a time. These allies don’t leave your camp. They stay there and interact with whatever you place around them, such as musical instruments. Be careful with musical instruments, though. Sofia can, for example, sit and play the guitar for 20 minutes or longer constantly. That would be okay if they had given Sofia some actual guitar music to play. Instead, just like a player character, the guitar plays snippets and chopped together riffs that, after a while, become annoying as all get out. It’s fun to know that NPCs will play the instruments, but it’s torture to listen to them playing the same thing over and over for 20-30 minutes continuously.

Dialog Choices

With NPCs, comes dialog. Here’s a screenshot of how that looks:

Dialog

Much of the dialog, as one would expect, is pointless. But, some of it does lead to adding map markers or other interesting actions. With some dialog choices, you can use your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points which will lead to unlocking other dialog.

New Main Quests

WaywardIn addition to the long ally quest lines, there are new main quests. This main quest begins at The Wayward, just across from the Overseer’s camp. Pretty much it seems the Overseer’s camp has now been discarded in lieu of beginning the game at The Wayward. The Wayward is a house that doubles as a bar. It’s a new addition to the world, along with many other new locations. Some original locations have also been converted into NPC communities.

If you’re used to how the wasteland looked before Wastelanders, many of the locations have changed. For example, the Isolated Cabin which was inhabited by mongrels has been converted into a settler settlement. These NPCs are generically named ‘Settler’. The dogs may or may not appear with the addition of the settlers. The settlers can be killed, however.

New Bosses

Of course, the addition of Wastelanders wouldn’t be complete without a new boss location to nuke. Instead of nuking Fissure Prime to get the Scorchbeast Queen to appear, there is a new location which now spawns the Wendigo Colossus. Don’t think that this boss looks anything like the long slender Wendigo, however. The Colossus looks like a Grafton Monster with tall skinny legs. This particular monster design was, in fact, far too lazily designed. It seems Bethesda did as little as possible to make a functional workable monster.

This boss also has a new attack. It throws goop at you that sees you literally run away screaming. There’s no way to counter, stop or in any way halt this animation effect. You are forced to let it play out. It’s a stupid effect and it completely gets in the way. I’m sure someone at Bethesda thought it was hilarious, but I find it extremely frustrating and stupid. You fight bosses to fight, not run away screaming. If Bethesda had given us a new perk card, food stuff or chem (i.e., Calmex) to negate this attack for a period of time, I’d be less harsh on Bethesda for this addition. This attack needs to disappear or we need to be given a way to negate the attack. It’s frustrating when you’re attempting to kill this beast and you’re constantly being forced to run away.

Updated Locations

Some locations have been updated and rebuilt to support NPC settlers. One of these is the crashed space station. Here’s a picture:

SpaceStation

I’ve included the border because the original space station as it was is seen in the upper left corner. Compare this to the reworked and updated Wastelanders image. I realize the image is kind of drab, but the in-game world had a rainstorm going at the time. I also thought it would be important to Factions-smshow the rain storm look in this review.

This location introduces one of two new factions: Raiders. The other faction is the Settlers. You can view your acceptance level in these factions by checking your social menu.

Negating the Scorchbeast Queen

With the newly added Wendigo Colossus, few people are going to run over and start up the Queen event anymore. Because this is a type of Wendigo, all of the Zealots, Ultracite and Prime perks are useless against this boss. In fact, there really isn’t a Legendary effect that actually works against a Wendigo. You just have to be long and steady with your weapons. This usually means using heavy automatic weapons. Weapons that don’t necessarily do lots of damage per hit, but that cumulatively add up to lots of damage over time.

This is where Bethesda didn’t really plan ahead much. If you’re planning to add an entirely new boss into the game, you also need to add in perk cards and legendary effects to help defeat this boss, just like we had with Zealots and Prime against the Scorched. We have half of the equation with this boss addition, but we don’t have the other half of this in the weapons to help defeat or armor to protect against this boss.

This is where Wastelanders becomes a mixed bag. Yes, we do get a new boss in Wastelanders. No, we don’t get any new legendary effects, perk cards or chems that help us kill that new boss. Don’t think that you can grab your Zealots and have these legendary weapons be more effective against the Wendigo Colossus, like they were against the Scorchbeast Queen. It doesn’t work that way. You’re better off using basic legendary effects like Bloodied or Berzerker’s with a proper character build.

Perk Card Changes and New Weapon

ArcherWith Wastelanders, a new set of perk cards has been added in support of the new bow and arrow weapon. The perk cards are standard 3 damage multiplier Archer cards in addition to Bow Before Me, an anti-armor card which applies to bows and crossbows. The bow itself is a decently powered weapon at level 50, offering up to 350 damage when sneaking. That’s not bad all things considered. However, it’s an exceedingly slow loading and slow firing weapon. Once a horde of enemies finds you, you better switch to a different weapon or you’ll want to pair it with the Sneak card and hope the enemies don’t find you.

New Power Armor

The newest power armor set is the T-65 power armor. This armor requires collecting gold bullion (yet another new currency). To get this bullion, you’ll need to complete as many of the new main and faction quests as you can. One you complete the main and faction quests, you will be able to visit Regs (another new NPC) who is located at Vault 79 (a new vault) where you can spend your bullion to buy the plans to build this armor.

Whether this armor is effective against the Colossus is as yet unknown. Though, I will say that power armor in Fallout 76 has been, in general, a joke. For example, 5.56 equipped Colonel Gutsy robots can shred your HP in just a few shots in or out of power armor. In fact, I haven’t seen any difference between being in or out of power armor when facing a 5.56 equipped Gutsy or Super Mutant.

Worse, while Fallout 4 offered legendary effects on power armor, these PA legendary pieces have never made it into Fallout 76. Even though regular armor regularly drops with legendary effects, power armor has never had any legendary effects in Fallout 76. This drastically reduces the effectiveness of power armor in Fallout 76. Why am I bringing this up here? Because Wastelanders didn’t fix this problem. It still exists just as it did before Wastelanders.

New Challenges?

Actually, no. Even though the Wastelanders update has added NPCs, no additional combat challenges have been added… such as Kill Blood Eagles with a Combat Rifle (0/1000). While NPCs have been added, Bethesda just didn’t work out these small details that would have added much more value to the game.

Lighting System Changes

WhitespringStationPrior to Wastelanders, the lighting in the game was brighter and more dynamic. With the introduction of Wastelanders, the game has taken a questionable backward step toward darker lighting levels (see Whitespring Station image), including the elimination of many areas of ambient lighting. Walking into some buildings which were formerly well lit, we now see portions of the room exceedingly dark with a single bright light in the middle of the room.

CharlestonStationThe Charleston station, left, is exceedingly dark where before the interior was very bright. This is in the middle of the day in-game time. Even the daylight outdoors lighting model has changed seeing shadows on the ground as much darker. This lighting model change is unusual and unnecessary. The original lighting system actually looked better, particularly inside of buildings. This absence of ambient lighting thus makes many rooms, like the interior of Charleston Station, overly dark.

BeforeAfter

As you can see above, the before is brighter, lighter and more vibrant. The shadows are less intense. The before was taken about a month ago, perhaps. The After image is darker, less colorful, drab and is more difficult to read the signs. The whites were easier to see in the before.

…. Where does Wastelanders not work so well?

Changes, Not Changes

This is where I find Wastelanders to be basically a facelift, primarily on the surface. The underlying problems from Fallout 76 all remain. The bugs, the problems, the glitching, the crashing, the difficulties, the getting hung up on rocks while running, the getting stuck in a hole, the broken texture maps, the lack of responsiveness from button presses on down to the whole less than stellar way the interface is built and works. None of these basic day-one problems have been addressed. We’re still working on game foundation that wasn’t perfected from the beginning. So now we have NPCs plopped right on top of all of these still existing bugs.

Many people say that Fallout 76 has greatly improved since its launch. I’ve yet to see that. The game is still just as glitchy and broken as it was on release day. Sure, some problems have been addressed, but the majority of the underlying bugs are all still there. Wastelanders did little to solve these fundamental game engine problems. The problem here is that these bugs and glitches are mainly inconvenient. They are typically not showstoppers. However, some are more inconvenient than others.

For example, dead enemies can sometimes despawn moments after death. If you aren’t super quick to grab the loot from the body, you won’t get it. This includes legendary enemies. This is a bug that has existed from launch day.

Another bug is when you fast travel. You can land inside of rocks, under a building wedged, wedged between two walls or in other places that don’t allow you to move. You are forced to travel again.

You can still find enemies sliding around on the ground either standing up in a T position or in a lying or seated position. This glitch has been in the game since day one.

This next one I’ve seen so many times is one I can’t believe hasn’t yet been fixed. When you’re fighting a boss and your character dies, the game forces you to choose a respawn point. The problem here is that on character death, the game immediately recalculates your carry weight far below your in-game carry weight. This forces you to become severely overencumbered immediately after your character dies. This then forces you to respawn back at Vault 76 (all the way across the map).

Once your character has respawned fully and the game has recalculated your carry weight back to normal, you can then travel back to that death location and pick up your dropped loot. In my case, the game wouldn’t even let me respawn back at my Fallout 1st tent! I was forced to fast travel twice. Once to Vault 76, then once again back to my tent. It’s like, shit, just let me travel to my tent first. If I hadn’t had my tent there, I’d have had to pay caps to get back across the map. This problem has existed since day one.

Bugs, bugs and more bugs

These above are but a few examples. There are plenty of others that still plague this mediocre game. That doesn’t mean there aren’t new bugs. Oh, no no no. There are plenty of new bugs in this update. Duping is, as I mentioned above, back with a vengeance. It seems that many gamers were just waiting to pounce all over duping again, and dupe they have. In response, Bethesda has stopped display cases from functioning and halted player vending.

It’s clear that unless you (as a company) are absolutely stellar at programming, you shouldn’t attempt to have an in-game economy. This shows exactly how amateur Bethesda is at producing online games with any semblance of an economy. If you can’t lock down such basic things as duping, you can’t have an in-game economy.

At this point, it’s probably best were Bethesda to dismantle player vending entirely, disable dropping any items from inventory, stop player trading and halt all ability to transfer items from one player to another. If the devs can’t handle keeping these bugs from surfacing and resurfacing, then they must stop the underlying reason why duping continues to exist. If players can’t sell, trade or transfer items from one player to another, there’s little reason to dupe items. Items like Holiday Gifts should be removed from the game entirely and never see a return. Nothing should produce caps upon consuming the item, not even Nuka-Cola drinks. The only things that should give caps are in-game vending bots, cap stashes, dead enemies, containers and quests. Basically, items that cannot possibly be duplicated.

Additionally, vending bots should mark an object ID which has been previously sold as unsellable. This means that should another player show up with that same object ID attempting to sell it, the vendor bot will not only refuse to buy it, it will then confiscate it from the player’s inventory. Vendor bots that buy items never relist an already used ID. Instead, they will always relist the item with a new ID. This means that a duped item can’t be sold by a bot. If you can’t sell a dupe with an added double whammy of losing it, players will think twice not only about duping, but attempting to sell those dupes to vendors. It also means they can’t sell them to players either. This means duping is a dead end.

This is tough way to handle duping, but we’re at the crossroads with this game. If Bethesda can’t prevent duping, then it needs to be stopped using another more permanent method… and that way is to halt all further player-to-player sales and trading. Halting the ability for players to trade goods with one another is the only way to stop duping.

Player Vending is Broken

I’m singling out duping here because it keeps coming back over and over and over. Duping has not gone away and it is, once again, back. It will also keep coming back so long as player-to-player trading remains in the game. Instead of Bethesda playing this never ending game of “catch the duping mouse”, the answer is to simply halt player trading entirely. Only allow players to interact and trade with game controlled vendor bots. It’s long past time for Bethesda to have solved this problem and this is the ONLY solution.

Changing this fundamental aspect of this multiplayer game will have some ramifications. Yes, it will make traders exceedingly angry. At the same time, it will also stop all real money eBay listings, it will halt scammers and it will halt the third party trading marketplaces. This will force players to legitimately earn caps in the game through normal in-game means.

If Bethesda wants to better control these exploits and continue to allow selling, they need to do away with vending machines at each camp and place a vending machine at each train station (see next section for additional thoughts). A vending machine will always re-ID every object it receives to sell. This means there is no possibility a player could receive a dupe from a vendor bot. When a player lists an item, the item is checked for a duped ID. If this object’s ID has already been purchased by a vendor bot once before, the weapon is confiscated and the player is then notified the duped item has been confiscated. A notification should also be sent to someone at Bethesda that a vendor bot has confiscated a duped item and which account presented it.

Player to player vending can be implemented in the following way and should be limited to a centralized system. This system will list the item along with the player’s name. The item (after being validated as not duped) will go up for sale at the player’s specified price. The item remains listed for a period of time (i.e., 3 days) and will remain listed regardless of whether the player is online. After 3 days without purchase, the item is returned to the player’s inventory. If purchased, the caps will be placed into a centralized bank to which the player can withdraw those caps via the vending machine. Players should be limited to no more than 5-10 listings at a time and a max amount of caps in the bank.

Other bugs which were recently added include the rogue turret bug. If one turret is damaged in a workshop, the other turrets in the area begin shooting at friendly camp or workshop items. This is such a stupid bug. I can’t believe it has been allowed to persist across multiple releases in a row. Bethesda is well aware of this issue, yet they choose to do nothing to fix it. In fact, it seems that now a rogue turret in a camp can actually damage other workshop equipment. I shake my head that Bethesda can’t even fix what should be simple bugs, yet they spend massive amounts of time working on add-ons that really don’t add that much value to the game.

End of Player Trading?

At this point and strictly due to duping, I’d personally like to see player-to-player trading end. This won’t be a popular opinion among traders, but it’s definitely needed to stop all of these duplication problems. Trading is not really very useful, it causes bad behavior among players, it invites duping and it doesn’t really solve a problem for the game. Since Fallout 76 is pretty much a single player game with a multiplayer component, there’s no need for player vending at all. It simply gets in the way of the enjoyment of the game. With the advent of Purveyor Murmrgh and the ability to buy 1, 2 and 3 star legendary weapons and armor, player-to-player trading is now unnecessary.

I’m sure a lot of traders will disagree. Were Bethesda to make this change, it would stop the need for most duping. The primary reason most players dupe is to sell weapons to other players for high amounts of caps. The secondary reason is to dupe items that instantly produce caps for the player. Both of these problems need to be stopped. The way to handle it is to stop player-to-player trading and implement a duped ID checking + confiscation system when attempting to sell duped items to vendors. Further, stop giving away items that instantly produce caps upon consuming it. Instead, drop only objects into the player’s inventory. They can then sell the item to a vendor for caps. Keep caps issuance only from vendor bots, from world containers and at the end of quests.

Additionally, items can no longer be dropped into the world. This should also include stopping the drop of junk items upon character death. Further, like many of the newer items, if you attempt to drop any item, you’re then notified the item will be destroyed. With this change, you won’t be able to drop loot bags any more… which of course negates the idea of custom loot bags sold in the Atomic Shop. A small price to pay to get rid of player trading.

Halting all player trading means the player must rely on the game to produce caps and provide the player with weapons and armor. This change is actually in keeping with the way that Fallout 4 worked in single player campaign. Because Fallout 4 doesn’t allow multiplayer, the player had to rely solely on themselves to obtain caps and obtain the best weapons in the game. Moving Fallout 76 to this more stringent and similar model would actually heighten the gameplay, make it more challenging and more in keeping with Fallout 4’s model. No longer can gamers rely on others to give them “the best weapon”, a form of cheating. Instead, they must grind in the normal way, earn their keep individually and spend the money they legitimately earned to buy weapons from the Purveyor or, alternatively, find a legendary enemy and take their chances to get a better weapon or armor.

Moving Fallout 76 to a more-or-less closed single player system with limited multiplayer support, this stops players from wanting to exploit the game in an attempt to gain more caps, better weapons and better armor via cheating. Yes, I do consider player-to-player trading a form of cheating. You didn’t earn that weapon, you bought it. You didn’t earn that armor, you bought it. There’s no difference between pay-to-play with Atomic shop items and player-to-player for-pay trading. It’s all a form of pay-to-win. I’m most definitely for ending all forms of pay-to-win whether by Bethesda or via player trading.

Overall

The addition of NPCs to Fallout 76 is a long time coming. Unfortunately, it’s probably too little, too late. This should have been the way the game was released on day one, not a year and a half later. Will this make Fallout 76 a great game? With NPCs added, it’s better in some ways, but it’s worse in others. This is why it’s a mixed bag.

Can I recommend this update? For curiosity sake, sure. Download it and explore. If you’ve already played Fallout 76 through to completion, it doesn’t change the original game so much that it makes a huge difference. The changes to the original quests are relatively minor… just enough to introduce NPCs so they make sense.

The best part of Wastelanders is the addition of allies. This C.A.M.P. addition is probably the single best part of Wastelanders. You can now have an NPC at your base permanently. Your character can even have a relationship with them. While they cannot become companions that follow you around, they can help defend your base while you’re not there.

On the flip side, because this is a fluid multiplayer game without the ability to create saved game files, your character’s choices are permanent. If you wish to redo a portion of an NPC’s quest, you can’t do that. If you make a mistake which has specific unknown consequences, your only choice is to start a new character and try again on that new character. I might even suggest starting a new character so you can use this character to determine where these quest pitfalls are. You can then play the quests through a second time on your primary character and know the best choices possible while avoiding such pitfalls.

Is Wastelanders a great game? Hardly. Is it better than it was? In some ways, yes. In other ways, it’s much the same as it was. If you’ve already played the game through to completion, it does add on a few quest lines that you can explore. Unfortunately, the quests mostly consist of fetch this thing, kill this person or do this thing for me. For the allies, there are many of these before you get to the end. Though, I’d say that the game’s Wastelanders addition probably adds, at most, a month’s worth of additional play value if you play it through slowly.

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How to get the Living Starship in No Man’s Sky

Posted in video game, video gaming by commorancy on March 6, 2020

No Man's Sky_20200306074944

You’ve recently updated No Man’s Sky and you’re wondering how to get the new Living Starship? Let’s explore.

Instructions

It all starts with the Void Egg. There may be several ways to obtain the Void Egg, but let’s discuss the most straightforward way to get one. Before you start, make sure you have the prerequisites.

Prerequisites

  1. 3,200 Quicksilver
  2. Literal days of time to kill
  3. One free Starship slot
  4. A Starship that shows you planet coordinates on the HUD screen

If your starship obscures the coordinates off screen, much of this questline will be even more of a pain in the ass. Choose a ship that has the coordinates front and center and fully visible.

No Man's Sky_20200306075049Further, if you don’t have a free available Starship slot, you may not be able to accept the Living Starship once it’s available for pick up. If your slots are full, you will need to free up a slot by salvaging one of your Starships. I’d highly recommend doing this step WAY BEFORE the game allows you to pick up the ship.

Obtaining a Void Egg — Overview

  1. Head into space and call the Space Anomaly station
  2. Enter the Space Anomaly station and land
  3. Open your inventory and see how much Quicksilver you have
  4. If you have 3,200 or more Quicksilver, you’re all set and you can skip Step 6
  5. If you don’t have enough Quicksilver, you’ll need to head to the Nexus and complete Quicksilver missions until you reach 3,200 Quicksilver. Note, weekend events can award anywhere between 1,000 and 1,200 Quicksilver. These start on Fridays. Complete these missions to get you to 3,200 Quicksilver faster. Otherwise, you’re limited to ~250 per day. Though, the game will gang up QS missions if you play the game daily, but don’t perform the QS missions daily… thus allowing you to do several QS mission in a day.
  6. With 3,200 Quicksilver in hand, head over to the Quicksilver store and shop. Inside this shop, you’ll find the Void Egg for sale. Buy it.

Once you own a Void Egg, you’ll perform a new set of actions to unlock its secrets.

Unlocking the Void Egg

To begin unlocking the Void Egg, follow these steps. There may be many ways to get this to work, but these are the easiest steps. Though, I’m not going to say that the steps are in any way “easy” or “fast”. In fact, it literally takes days to complete most of the steps.

Before you begin this process, you might want to jump down to the bottom of this article under “Living Starship” to get a better understanding of what you’ll be getting out of this deal. That way, you can determine if you think this process is worth the time for you.

Step 1 — Getting the Egg to Sing

  1. To begin the process and with the egg in your inventory, hop in your ship and head to space.
  2. Once in space, use the Pulse Drive between any two points in a solar system. Eventually, you’ll get a notification to drop out of pulse for an Anomaly. Once you do, any of a number of things may happen. You may see a living ship just in front of you. If you get this one, then your Void Egg will begin singing. If you get anything else, admire it if you wish, but that isn’t what you want. You’ll want to keep using pulse drive between points until you get a Living Ship anomaly. This one happened really quick for me once I had a Void Egg.
  3. Once you see the Living Ship anomaly, it will either give you a set of coordinates to a new solar system or it will have the egg send you to visit one of the planets in your current system.
  4. If it has to jump to a new system, once there is where the “hurry up and wait” starts.

Step 2 — Visit 4 worlds and find 4 Monuments

These steps are tedious because this portion of the Starbirth quest vaguely leads you to various worlds. Once on the world, it will give you a set of two coordinates to a monument on the planet. This is the pain in the ass portion of unlocking an egg. In the past, they would mark a point on your map and you could simply fast travel there. With this questline, Hello Games has you pilot your ship manually to a set of coordinates. It’s a pain in the ass because it’s entirely slow, manual and requires a lot of mucking about with flying the ship in and out of the atmosphere to speed up and slow down.

  1. Once the egg is singing, open your inventory and hover the cursor over the egg. The egg will reveal a “type” of planet to visit. Read the “type” carefully and then find world that matches where you presently are… or jump to the system where it wants you to search and look there.
  2. Once you land on the world it is wanting, the quest will switch to a set of coordinates on the current world that will look something like +45.??? -170.???
    Sometimes the coordinates are static and sometimes they hop around. They will stabilize as you get closer to the monument.
  3. To locate the monument, I’d suggest getting as close as possible to the coordinates, then hop out of the ship and locate it on foot. You will need to use the Survey device to find your current coordinates.

Step 3 — Final World

Once you have received and matured / hardened all 4 components needed for the living ship, you are led to the final world. To reach this world, the Void Egg will sing one last time. Continue reading down to “Final Wait” to see what you need to do.

Step 4 — Assemble and Pick up your ship

Inhospitable Worlds

Many of the planets that the egg leads you to are inhospitable worlds with frequent storms. This can make locating a monument even more difficult. This is why it’s recommended to do the last locating portion on foot or in an Exocraft.

Once you reach the monument, it will have you supply it with one of the newly crafted items listed immediately after this section. In fact, it will ask you to supply it with something that you won’t, at the time, know how to make. You will need to “Leave” the monument menu and then it will teach you the recipe. After that, you may need Hexite (or other unique resources) to make the recipe. If you need something like Hexite, it will lead you to a location to pick up the Hexite. This part is easy, but you’ll still need to go get it, craft the item and head back to the monument.

Once you have found a monument, it does put a marker onto the HUD so you can get back there easily. Otherwise, you’d be forced to drop a Save Beacon to easily find your way back. Thankfully, you don’t need to place a Save Beacon as a game marker is set up. It’s always worth keeping enough resources handy to create a Save Beacon so you can easily mark and then head back to a unique planet feature without having to build an entire base.

Once you’ve crafted the required item from the recipe the monument has given you, head back to the monument and supply it with the item you’ve just crafted. The monument will give you a new component. This is where the “hurry up and wait” part begins. The item it gives you will be something like an Immature Neural Stem or a Fragile Heart. These items require maturation of between 22 and 27 clock-on-the-wall real world hours. Yes, that means you can’t make any progress on this quest for at least 22 hours.

You can’t do anything else with this quest until these items have “matured”. You might as well put the game down and go do something else while that timer ticks down. You can do other things in the game, but you cannot progress the Starbirth quest until that timer has expired. Note that the timer ticks down regardless of whether you are playing the game.

Four Items to Craft

You will need to craft 4 different items for the Living Ship, each with unique components required to craft the recipes:

  1. Consciousness Bridge
    • 250 Hexite
    • 80 Pugneum
    • 1 Korvax Casing
  2. Pulsating Core
    • 250 Liquid Sun
    • 100 Gold
    • 80 Mordite
  3. Impossible Membrane
    • 100 Chromatic Metal
    • 1 Hypnotic Eye
    • 150 Living Water
  4. Seeds of Glass
    1. 100 Magnetized Ferrite
    2. 100 Fragmented Qualia

To locate the items which are “unique” like Liquid Sun, Living Water, Hexite or Fragmented Qualia, the game will lead you to a deposit. For standard items like Gold or Ferrite, you’ll be expected to locate or have these yourself.

Once the items are crafted, you will give each to a monument and that monument will give you an immature ship component in return. You will then wait, again, for the item to mature before you can make any further progress on this quest line.

Rinse and Repeat

After you have received your first ship component, likely the Immature Neural Stem, it will take a fair amount of time (22 hours or more) to mature into a Mature Neural Stem. Once you’ve waited for it to mature, the item is closed with nothing else to do with that item until you assemble the ship. From here, it’s simply rinse and repeat.

  1. Hop in your ship and fly into space
  2. Pulse drive between any two locations and wait for a Living Ship anomaly to appear
  3. Once it appears, the egg will again sing and tell you which type of world it wants (hover over the egg in the inventory).
  4. Search the local worlds, then head to the coordinates, locate the monument, get the recipe, source its unusual requirements, craft it, give it to the monument and get a new item that needs to mature.

All told, you’ll need to repeat this around 4 times to assemble the ship with its Neural Stem, Shell, Singularity Core, Membrane and so on. I believe that it is 4 times, and each one is at least 1 day apart. All told, it takes at least 5 real days to finally get to the point where you can assemble and pick up the ship. Most of that time is spent waiting for something to “mature” or “harden” or whatever. This ship is easiest to obtain with Creative Mode and more difficult when using Normal mode or harder.

Hello Games would have done this quest much better to allow us to continue to find the rest of the components without waiting on the previous components to “mature”. Let us pick all of the items up and wait the time it takes for the longest component to “mature”. This would have meant waiting up to 2 days rather than 5.

Note, some players have stated you need to hyperdrive travel to trigger singing. I haven’t found that to be the case. Simply pulse drive between two points and wait for an anomaly “Living Ship” to appear after dropping out of pulse drive. Finding a living ship anomaly is all you need to trigger the egg to sing.

Final Wait

No Man's Sky_20200229015552

With the final “Cracking Void Egg” step, the egg will again sing once more. However, this time instead of giving you a vague description of a world to locate in your local system, it will give you a set of portal coordinates in the form of words. In my case above, the “lyrics” are:

  • The Hunter
  • The Reflection
  • The Hunter
  • The Spiral of Reality
  • The Star Over Water
  • The Ascending Orb
  • The Obscured Companion
  • The Hunter
  • The Lowly Insect
  • The Anomaly
  • The Sailor
  • The Ocean King

If you’re looking for how to translate these words into symbols, you can either guess based on the symbols or the easier method is to visit this page. The three “Euclid” means that it’s in the Euclid Galaxy somewhere. The Starbirth quest also states that you’ll need to use unconventional travel, indicating travel by Portal. The above also implies that you need to know where a portal is so that you can use it to travel to the final world to, again, locate a monument and complete the final steps.

SoulChamberOnce you reach the final world by portal, you will be required to locate four sets of different coordinates on this portal planet. The final three coordinates may take you some time to reach as you have to locate the coordinates manually by flying to them. The first set of coordinates (the only to have a planet marker) will lead you to an abandoned building. Here you will obtain a Soul Chamber, which you are given by accessing a terminal at the abandoned building. Once you receive the Soul Chamber, you will then need to locate three gravestones each at separate specific coordinates given to you in a small panel on the screen. You will then interact with each gravestone, which will fill the chamber by 33.3%. Once you have filled the Soul Chamber with 3 souls (channeling The Elder Scrolls here much?), you will then be asked to head back through the portal to your origin world.

Once you are back at your origin world, you will then fly into space and use the pulse drive to make contact one final time with the living ship anomaly. It will sing one last time then the egg will crack open, disappear from your inventory and give you a set of coordinates to your new starship shell on a planet. Head to that planet marker to claim your new ship.

It is here where you’ll need to make sure you have a free Starship slot available. Once you reach the Living Starship coordinates, you will drop in all of the “matured” or “hardened” components you have received over the previous 4-5 days or so, including the Soul Chamber. This will then outfit your Living Starship to be fully functional. Once it’s functional, you can then claim it (assuming you have a free slot), enter and fly away in it. Just be aware that it has limited functionality due to its small Hyperdrive capacity and low gun damage levels. Don’t expect a hugely overpowered ship here. Don’t expect that you can upgrade it quickly, either. I’ll talk about those limitations next.

Living Starship

No Man's Sky_20200306074852Is the ship worth it? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. The “Living Starship” is a new class of Starship. However, there are definitely drawbacks. Specifically, notice that the ship’s areas are called “Storage Sacs” and “Organ Chamber” unlike standard ships where you have “General” and “Technology” areas. Here are the drawbacks around this new class of starship:

  • Cannot use existing “Technology” from “regular” ships for this new living ship.
  • Cannot expand the ship using the Starship upgrade tool at a space station
  • Cannot use storage augmentation to increase slots
  • Cannot extend base Hyperdrive range because “regular” technology doesn’t work
  • Cannot pay to increase slots like a standard starship
  • Cannot scrap the ship, but you may or may not be able to trade it for another

Basically, the ship you get is all that you get quickly. However, you can get new components by using the pulse drive between two points. If an egg appears, crack it open to reveal a new starship component to install. It will be a random component with a random class. You can then install it. After installation of the component, it takes Nanites to upgrade the level of the component. You can find components for the hyperdrive, weapons systems and shields. However, getting these is a very slow process. You can’t get these items in any other way than by using pulse drive between two points and it can sometimes literally take an hour or more to find one component.

It’s possible that Hello Games may introduce a new living starship upgrade system and merchant some time in the future. Hello Games may eventually open up more details about the Living Ship such as the world where the eggs come from, where the ships are likely to be found and so on. This means that we may be able to enter star systems where the living ships are easily found and can be augmented. There might even be star systems that may only be entered by the living ships.

For now, though, you can’t add on a Positron gun or any other “standard” Starship weapons to a Living Ship… even though this new “Living” technology type is basically the same as the old technology, just with a new name and new description. The weapon type it has is all it has. Same for the Hyperdrive with its base drive range at 164.9 (at least on mine), but can be extended by finding components. Considering I’ve gotten some ships to around 1,800+ Hyperdrive range, the base Living Ship’s range is next to nothing.

Even though it is a living ship, it doesn’t really need to be “fed”… you know, like an actual living creature. I guess Hello Games thought that might be taking things a bit too far. Though, considering it is a type of living creature, it should need to be fed.

Why this ship now?

I’m not entirely sure the reason for the introduction of this new class of starship. It’s interesting, yes, but what’s the point? As bare bones as this new ship is, there’s very little it’s actually useful for, other than being a novelty item in the game. Until Hello Games decides to introduce vendors that sell Living Ship technology upgrades, it’s not very useful.

Regular ships are still way, way better options than this Living Ship for functionality, combat, upgradeability, support and travel distance.

Is it worth having? Perhaps it is… as a novel collectible simply so you can say you’ve gotten it. But, it’s not a very useful starship at this point. Until or unless Hello Games decides to add more quests and features into the game that only activate or become useful when you’re using a living starship, the ship doesn’t really have a point to exist.

The point to adding any new feature to a game is that you have also have planned a whole wider set of other features around that item and which are “unlocked” by obtaining access to the ship. Until Hello Games introduces those additional pieces to support the usefulness of a this living starship class, as I’ve already stated several times, it’s simply not very useful addition.

I was actually hoping that this new ship class would offer a completely new and different faster than light (FTL) drive technology, such a technology that could go twice or three times the distance of travel using new ways that standard ships can’t. Or, perhaps, a better class of weapon. But, no. No such luck. Effectively, the Living Starship is basically the same as any other “standard” bare bones basic ship that you can find. Except that now you have to jump through about 5 days of hoops to get it. In fact, standard ships can be outfitted much, much better than the Living Ship can. This ship needs a whole lot more game support and effort by Hello Games than it presently has. Here’s what the interior looks like:

No Man's Sky_20200306074923

The interior looks much the same as a regular ship, wouldn’t you say? If Hello Games is going to make us spend all of this time and effort to build this ship, they should have at least had the decency to give us something improved over regular Starships. Yet, Hello Games doesn’t offer us something better here. I’m not calling this exactly a fail, but it leans heavily in this direction.

Should I Get A Living Ship?

That’s up to you. I’d suggest reading above if you’re unsure if it’s worth your time. Perhaps in time Hello Games will make it more useful, but for now it’s mostly a novelty ship. Hello Games is going to be required to do a whole lot more quest building work to create a game that better supports the Living Ship and that gives us reasons to want to use this ship over regular ships.

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Should I buy a Sony PS5?

Posted in tips, video game console, video gaming by commorancy on February 18, 2020

ds4-gamingI know that the purchase of a PlayStation 5 is a burning question on every console gamer’s mind. Let’s explore.

PS4 Launch

To help begin to answer this burning 🔥 question, we’ll need to take a look back at the PS4’s 2013 launch. When the PS4 was first launched, it was absolutely the most bare bones basic console imaginable. Consider that both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 already had tremendous feature sets included at that point. Taking a jump into the PS4 felt like taking a huge leap backwards in time. When the PS4 launched, there was no Hulu, no Netflix, no apps of any real note, no browser and a barely functional store with literally nothing to see. It was so disheartening to turn on my brand new “day one” PS4 console only and find it such a barren wasteland.

What was in the PS4 store was limited to but a handful of game titles which you likely already owned. While all of this “lite” aspect of the PS4 would only last for a longish period of time, many of the features that eventually became standard on the PS3 never even materialized on the PS4 (i.e. CD ripping). Additionally, some common standards we take for granted today have likewise never made it to the PS4.

Bluetooth

For example, the prevailing Bluetooth headphone profile (AVRCP) has never made it into the PS4. You simply can’t go buy a standard set of Bluetooth stereo headphones (or a speaker) and use them on a PS4 without purchasing additional add-ons. The only Bluetooth headset standard adopted by Sony for the PS4 is the backwards and unrealistic HSP standard… a standard that almost no headphones manufacturers actually support. This fact forces you into buying Sony’s expensive dongle-based wireless headphones rather than using Bluetooth headphones you likely already own.

To this day, Sony has STILL not implemented the widely used AVRCP headphone and speaker profile on the PS4. If you wish to use this standard, you must do it by connecting another costly device to a PS4 output port, such as relying on your TV’s audio system, an external amplifier connected via HDMI, the optical out port or by using dongles attached to the DualShock controller. It all ends up a kludgy hackjob that Sony could have resolved (and avoided) simply by updating their system software to support AVRCP … possibly even a fairly simple change to their operating system.

First Six Months

You may be thinking the six months that I am talking about applies to the PS5. In fact, I’m discussing the PS4’s first six months after launch. For the 12 months after the PS4’s lackluster launch, there remained a drought of not only apps, but name brand video games. In fact, applications were entirely non-existent, save a handful of Sony only apps. Only but a handful of launch titles kept the PS4 afloat for the first 9-12 months after launch. The PS4 remained a fairly barren wasteland other than for those first few launch titles.

After my first six months of owning a PS4, I ended up putting the system down and not using it for at least another 8 months before the next game arrived that I wanted to play. I literally couldn’t use the console because of the lack of applications. As I said, there was no Netflix, no Hulu and no Amazon Prime Video. These apps have since launched on the console, but it took ages before they finally arrived… and by ages, I mean at least 12-15 months. It was an exceedingly long amount of time before these apps fully arrived on the PS4.

Before these apps arrived, the PS4 became an exceedingly expensive paperweight. Literally months passed when I didn’t turn the PS4 on because I had completed playthroughs of all of the launch titles and there was literally nothing else to do with the console. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t listen to music. I couldn’t rip music to the hard drive. I couldn’t even watch Netflix. It was a useless paperweight. This forced me to return to using my PS3 and Xbox 360 because at least Netflix and other apps were available there, along with some of my ripped music.

Looking Forward

Looking 9-10 months from this article’s publication date, Sony expects the PS5 will take the world by storm. In fact, I highly recommend not purchasing the first incarnation of the PS5. Why? Because you’ll end up finding yourself in the same exact boat as I did with the PS4. No apps, nothing to use it for after consuming the launch titles. It will become a heavy and expensive paperweight for those first 12 months. Sure, you can play the launch titles again, but that wears thin!

I’m near certain that Sony will have spent their time readying the hardware, not wooing developers to write apps (or even games) or in making their OS stable. When the PS5 does launch, it will be just as lean and lite as was the PS4. It’s pretty much guaranteed given Sony’s track record with new console introductions.

A year or two after launch, the PS5 will have all of the apps and alternative uses. But, for the first 12 months, it will likely be a paperweight for at least half of that time. In the PS5’s case, this problem might last even longer.

Don’t expect to be able to use the PS5 as a music device or anything similar for months. Plex, a home media sharing app, probably won’t appear until well after the 12 month mark. Even on the PS4, the Sony Media app took months to finally appear before you could even use DLNA. There was no DLNA support on the PS4 for over 6 months after launch. I’d fully expect the exact same problem with the PS5’s launch.

Considering that Sony is having trouble sourcing components for its PS5s, this situation seems to have driven up the price tag of the PS5. In fact, the first release of a new console is always the most expensive. After Sony can wrap its head around where and how it can trim component costs, how it can merge components and see the same functionality and when it can trim components not needed, it won’t be able to reduce the cost of the PS5.

Worse, the first console release is always the worst of the bunch. Within 6-12 months, Sony always releases an updated hardware version that is better than its initial release version. It’s always worth waiting to buy the second version rather than investing in a “day one” system that will have little use and be the most expensive, least useful version. If you’re a “must have every first edition”, then by all means buy it. However, if you’re buying it as a gamer for the gaming utility of the console, then it’s well worth waiting through this “awkward” phase… which lasts at least 12 months after a console’s launch.

Launch Titles

Sony always readies one major game title that seems to be “must play”, to get people enticed to buy into their new console. The difficulty is that that game is not going anywhere. Day one releases can be fun to play, but more recently they can be a chore to play considering all of the “day one” bugs.

With the PS5’s version 1.0 operating system coupled with version 1.0 versions of the launch games, you’re looking at a major amount of bugs. In fact, you’re looking at far too many bugs. It will take Sony to release the 2.0 version of the operating system before I’d feel comfortable enough to say Sony has even the smallest handle on its bugs. Even the PS4’s OS at version 7 still has bugs. With the PS5’s 1.0 OS version, you are guaranteed to have day one bugs requiring a huge day one patch.

While the operating system bugs may not be too bad at times, you have no idea what the game developers have in store for us. What that means is that these big, bold games may turn into big, bugged games. Games that they may not see bugs resolved until Sony updates their operating system. Even then, 1.01 and 1.02 won’t be great OS versions either. While a 1.5 version might be somewhat better, it’s guaranteed it still won’t be great.

Applications

In addition to all of the bugs, the PS5 isn’t likely to have very many apps at all, if any. Sony’s apps like Crackle and PlayStation’s own subscription services may be present, but apps like Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Netflix and similar are highly likely to be absent for the first several months. This means that besides gaming and possibly playing Blu-ray movies, there’ll be very little to do with the console. This assumes they plan on releasing Blu-ray and not forcing the console all digital.

Further, apps are a huge part of all computing ecosystems today. Releasing a console without third party apps could be the death of sales for the PS5. In 2013, apps were a thing just coming into their own. Sony’s misstep in 2013 wasn’t that devastating for them. The PS4 still sold respectable numbers.

Releasing a console today without apps on day one may become the death of the console (at least for a while). I’m fairly certain that Sony is more worried about getting the console out to the door than how many third party apps will be available on Day One, just as they did with the PS4.

Buyer Beware

When buying anything, “Buyer Beware” is always the motto that rules. Sony is no exception to this rule. They are just as likely to rope you into a purchase, where you’ll find maybe one or two games that last you a month or two of play. But then what do you do with the PS5 after that? You wait until something else is released. You wait until apps are released. In short, you wait.

If you’re going to be waiting for stuff to appear, you might as well use that money for other purposes and wait without making a purchase. Buy a PS4 and use it. It already has a huge game library. It already has apps. It already has much of what the PS5 won’t have. The PS4 will remain a viable console for at least 1-2 more years even after the PS5’s release.

Wait and See

Sony could resolve all of this if the PS5 also offers a full PS4 compatibility mode. This means that all of the PS4 apps and games can work right out of the gate on the PS5. If Sony adopts this, then it may be worth replacing your PS4 with a PS5. However, I don’t trust that Sony will include such a mode. It cost Sony a huge sum of money to include PS2 and PS1 compatibility modes on the PS3. Eventually, it cost Sony so much they had to remove at least the PS2 mode from the PS3. They didn’t even bother to try to include these modes on the PS4.

It’s exceedingly doubtful Sony will spend the time, effort or money in building such costly modes on the PS5 unless they’re basing the PS5 directly off of the PS4. If it’s to be a sub-$500 product like it always has been, Sony simply can’t afford to build in such features. I simply won’t expect to see the PS3 compatibility effort placed into the PS5 when it didn’t even make it to the PS4.

However, Sony could include PS4 game disc and store compatibility features allowing play of existing PS4 games, as long as the hardware is similar enough to the PS4… and it probably is. Unfortunately, I simply wouldn’t expect to see the PS5 offer compatibility modes for the PS3, PS2 or PS1. It would be great to see, but I simply don’t expect Sony to spend the money to include it in a sub-$500 product. Even then, the PS4 compatibility mode might not be available day one. It may be a promised feature that actually arrives months after launch… or possibly not at all. Sony has changed their minds about features in the past.

Professional Console

If Sony were to price out a “Pro” version of the PS5 at around $1000 or $1500 (a price point that’s way out of line for a console product, I might add), Sony could include such “advanced” features. The problem is that few gamers will spend that amount of cash for such a product. A greater than $1000 price point is the same as an iPhone 11, an iPad Pro or even many notebook computers. A parent is going to find that price tag difficult when comparing it to much more useful and educational computer devices at or close to that price point. That’s a hard pill to swallow solely for a dedicated gaming console. Sony will have to majorly increase the PS5’s usefulness as a generalized computer device and/or portability to make a $1000 or $1500 price point ever become feasible.

As it is now and based on the how the PS4 looks and works, I expect the PS5 to have a similar form factor and function. In fact, I doubt that the PS5’s case will be smaller. It will likely be the same size or larger than the PS4. Larger doesn’t necessarily make a product better.

The PS5 might have an option for a solid state drive (512mb or 1TB) rather than spinning hard drives. But, that’s not really a selling point. It makes the PS5 boot up faster and the games launch faster, but it won’t make the PS5 any cheaper. In fact, adding a solid state drive is very likely to drive the price tag up by a minimum of $50. Knowing Sony’s pricing premiums, however, expect such features to raise the price by at least $100.

Price Point

The PS5’s price point is likely to be its biggest hurdle in adoption. Since Sony has made some waves at potentially breaking with the “tradition” of a sub-$500 price tag, that means I might expect the PS5 to see a price tag of at least $800-900. Games may even see a “standard edition” price increase to $69.99 per game (a price hike of $10 per game). This will further push the “Deluxe” and “Limited” editions of the games up by $10-20.

If Sony attempts to not only raise the console price to nearing the $1000 price point with games nearing the $75 price point, this could further erode sales of consoles… pushing game developers onto more defacto devices, such as the iPad and Samsung tablets. Tablets are far more entrenched and compatible version to version than consoles have ever been. It wouldn’t surprise me to see big developers jump ship from the PS5 and begin porting their games over to iOS and other tablets… leaving the PS5 without much in the way of game developers, much like what happened with the PS Vita.

Sony is playing a dangerous game by mucking with the console’s traditional price point, particularly considering how lean the PS5 is likely to be on day one. Sony will need to seriously consider all of this (and, of course, Microsoft’s console plays) to get this part right.

My Opinion

Considering the PS4’s excessively lean launch and the length of time with which the console was more-or-less useless, I personally endorse waiting for at least 12-18 months for a purchase of a PS5. Don’t buy it in 2020. Buy it in 2021 or after. Why? Because this will give both Sony and the developers time to launch many more game titles and mature their operating system. You can always go back and try the launch titles, but typically the launch titles are never worth playing once better games are released. In fact, the launch titles are mostly looked on as amateur efforts once those more mature games launch, which almost fully utilize the hardware.

For me, I felt entirely betrayed by Sony in 2013, releasing such a uselessly lean console. Because of being burned by Sony, I fully intend to wait until 2021 to buy into a PS5. That will give Sony well enough time to not only work out bugs, but solidify its app ecosystem, add more peripherals, build a video game library and woo developers on board. It will also give time for Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to embrace the platform and release solid, functional apps. Until that point is reached, for me the purchase of a PS5 is simply a waiting game.

So let’s answer the question, “Should I buy a PS5?” Yes, but not day one. Buy it only after the console has sufficiently matured.

This advice won’t stop YouTubers from buying and reviewing day one editions. They will do it because that’s what they do. That doesn’t make their console purchase smart, but it does make their purchase into channel fodder to rope you in as a viewer. Don’t be fooled by these YouTubers. Just because they bought it doesn’t mean you should.

I’ve told you what I plan to do. Now it’s time for you to sound off and tell me if you intend to wait or if you will buy a PS5 on day one! Let me know below.

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Holiday Shopping Tip: GameStop Closures

Posted in bankruptcy, best practices, botch, business, retail, video gaming by commorancy on December 9, 2019

GameStopLiquidationBeware of shopping at GameStop during the 2019 holiday season. Like the Toys R Us closure shopping tips I wrote during the 2018 Toys R Us closure, this same set of rules now applies to GameStop. GameStop presently plans to close at least 200 stores this year alone, and who knows how many more stores will close in 2020?  *shrug* They could end up closing all stores under bankruptcy. You should proceed with your holiday shopping as if GameStop is completely closing every store. After all, they very likely will completely close based on how quickly these closures have been coming. You also don’t know if they will close the store where you plan to purchase your items. As a consumer shopping tip, let this be a warning to not shop stores under imminent closure. Let’s explore.

Store Closures

GameStop is now proceeding with many store closures during this 2019 holiday season. Why is this important to you? Because if you’re a regular customer there, you will need to reconsider ANY holiday shopping at this chain. Let’s highlight a few problems with shopping at stores where threat of closure is imminent.

Even if your local GameStop doesn’t yet know about its own closure, that doesn’t mean that that store won’t be closed just a week or two later. Let’s understand the very real dangers of buying from a chain under imminent threat of closure… particularly during the ever important holiday shopping season. Don’t get duped by this company. There are also too many other stores where this holiday video game shopping problem doesn’t exist.

  1. Returns — Buying even a week before the store puts up a “Store Liquidation” banner may invalidate your ability to return a purchased item to that (or any) store if your item is defective. GameStop isn’t a store known for its ethical business practices already. Because you purchased that item from a store targeted for closure, any sales you made there may end up becoming “All Sales Final”. Will other stores honor that closed store’s receipt? That’s questionable. Again, GameStop isn’t the most ethical store chain out there. Corporate could tell all other stores which remain open to reject returns from stores which are in the process of closing or have already closed.
  2. Game Reserves — GameStop allows consumers to place “money down” as a deposit to hold a game (or other merchandise) until it finally arrives for sale. If you have any money reserved for any upcoming games or any other items, you will need to head over to the store and ask for a refund of that money as quickly as you possibly can. You should insist on having that money returned in the form of cash or as a refund to your credit card. Do not fall for allowing the staff to place the money onto a gift card. I’ll discuss the reasons why Gift Cards are a bad idea next. If you have any $5, $10 or $25 reserves left standing, you will lose that money when the store closes. They will not transfer that money to another store or refund it to you after closure. Even still, you DO NOT want to request a transfer of your reserves to another store as that other store could also close. Request your reserve deposits to be returned to you in cash, never on a store card.
  3. Store Gift Cards — Proceed here as if the whole GameStop chain is closing. DO NOT purchase any gift cards from GameStop at this time. When stores begin closing, they tend to no longer honor ANY locally purchased gift cards or indeed honor any money left on gift cards. Laws in some states may still require GameStop to honor cards as long as even 1 outlet remains open. However, that may mean you might need to travel hundreds of miles to redeem it. Though, you may or may not be able to redeem it on GameStop.com. If you have any remaining store gift card credit for GameStop, you need to run, don’t walk, to your nearest GameStop which is still open and use it up on purchasing anything in that store, assuming they haven’t yet invalidated gift cards. This is a situation of use-it-or-lose it. Note that store credit can also be placed onto GameStop’s PowerUp loyalty card. So be sure to double check that no credit remains on that card either. Again, proceed here as if the chain is closing. Don’t risk your money on GameStop store gift cards.
  4. Gift Purchases — Don’t consider purchasing any merchandise from GameStop which will be used as a gift unless you are absolutely certain that you fully understand that neither you nor the gift receiver WILL be able to return that item to GameStop once that local store closes (and it probably will). When purchasing a gift for someone else, you’ll want to ensure they can return that gift to a retailer for replacement or refund. Choose a retailer that still plans on being in business January 1 of next year.
  5. GameStop Rewards Points — As with any store that starts store closure proceedings (a precursor to bankruptcy), one of the first things that is dumped is loyalty cards and point programs. As of now, GameStop has not yet fully disbanded or dumped its loyalty card program, but they have recently reduced it. If you have any remaining points, you will need to use them up pronto by using the Rewards app to convert points into store credit and using that store credit as fast as you can. You can’t ask for rewards points be converted to cash, but you can use these points towards in-store merchandise. Again, this is a use-it-or-lose it situation. Proceed as if ALL of GameStop is closing and use up any remaining rewards points you have outstanding in your rewards account. It’s very likely this rewards program will be cancelled soon, so do this as fast as you read this article. As of this article, GameStop’s rewards system is still functioning (Dec 8, 2019).
  6. In-Store Warranties — Do not purchase ANY GameStop store warranties (or any other store chain’s store warranty) when under threat of closure. If you presently own an in-store warranty with GameStop, you may want to call your local GameStop to inquire how future service will be handled if your store closes. But, be fully prepared to have the manager not give you all the information you need. If the warranty you’ve purchased is through a third party, like SquareTrade, these warranties should remain in effect until they expire. However, any warranties sold and honored solely by GameStop are likely to become null-and-void after closure. You shouldn’t rely on what a manager tells you about its current store warranty programs as they may not have all information about GameStop’s full store closure plans.
  7. Disc Replacement Plan — This is GameStop’s own in-store disc warranty plan. They allow one replacement per plan. If you have any games under this plan, you should take advantage of this plan and replace your discs. This plan is very likely to not be honored after the store closes… not even by stores that remain open. You may also find that stores that remain open are too far away to take advantage. If you buy a game from GameStop and are offered this in-store plan, refuse it. It’s a waste of money for a store chain under threat of closure.
  8. Defective Items — If you have any purchases you’ve already made with GameStop and you intend to return defective items, do it now. Don’t wait. You should also call the store where you plan to return to make sure they are not already in liquidation closure. If they are already liquidating, they have likely suspended returns. You will then need to locate another store location that isn’t presently under closure to return your item. Be quick, though. That store might get the word to close down at any time.

Store Liquidations

In concert with the above, you may be able to pick up a marked-down deal or two in your local store if it is closing. However, proceed with caution here. Know that whatever you purchase is likely “All Sales Final”. It may even say that on the receipt. If it does, you WILL NOT be able to return any purchased items to this or any other store that remains open.

If you intend shopping for holiday gift giving during a liquidation sale, I strongly recommend not. Unless you know the person receiving the gift never returns items, it is never a smart choice to shop store liquidations for holiday gift giving. The person receiving the gift will likely not be able to return the item to the store. However, if it’s a video game system, you may be able to get warranty work performed through the manufacturer (or SquareTrade if you bought such a plan).

Clothing and apparel items, while also not returnable, are likely safe choices during a liquidation if these items are for your own personal use. However, again, when purchasing for gift giving, you need to make sure that the person you’re planning on gifting the item to understands that they cannot return the item to a store which has since closed. I’ve said this several times throughout this article, but it’s always worth saying again. Choose gift giving items carefully and from stores that plan to remain in business.

GameStop Closing

It is as yet unknown how many stores will ultimately close. It is also unknown if GameStop will honor returns in any stores that remain open on behalf of the closed stores that sold that merchandise. As I said, GameStop’s ethics and business practices have always been questionable at best. GameStop is not required to honor receipts for merchandise sold in now closed stores. Be cautious when doing business with GameStop throughout the holiday season for this reason alone.

You should proceed with your holiday purchases as if the entirety of GameStop is closing. Better, don’t even shop there. However, if you have store credit, gift cards or rewards coming to you, you will want to use that store credit up as fast as possible. Know, though, that anything you purchase may not be returnable.

If you want to give a gift card to someone that could be used at GameStop, you should buy a Visa, MasterCard or American Express branded card where that credit can be used at any store that accepts these credit cards. Do not buy a GameStop store gift card as the store may not exist by the time the person gets around to using the card and other stores may not honor that gift card’s credit.

GameStop Exclusive Items

Here’s the one and only one place where I recommend purchasing items from stores which are closing. GameStop has exclusive controllers and toys. Because these exclusives only exist at GameStop, you’ll want to quickly get there and buy those exclusives. Once this chain closes, it may be difficult to locate these exclusives again. You won’t be able to return these items, but you also won’t be able to find them after the stores are closed. GameStop exclusives are really the only investments that are worth the purchase during store liquidation sales.

Laws and Closures

While there are laws about how retail business must act while in business, once a business begins closing locations, some of these laws become murky. For example, one such murky situation is Gift Cards. When you buy a store gift card and a store goes bankrupt, you become an unsecured creditor to the company’s bankruptcy proceedings behind shareholders. This means that if any money is forthcoming from bankruptcy liquidation, it will be distributed to those ahead of unsecured creditors first. What that ultimately means is that gift card holders likely won’t see any money back.

Instead, if you have a gift card to a store in imminent danger of closure or bankruptcy, you should immediately head to the store and use that gift card while they still honor them. Don’t wait on this one.

GameStop hasn’t announced any bankruptcy proceedings as yet, but that could still be just a matter of time. Right now, GameStop is performing self-closures in hope of righting their financially listing ship. That doesn’t mean that closing these stores will ultimately succeed in this goal, but that’s their hope. Cutting out stores immediately cuts their losses, but may cost them money in paying out long term leases for stores which close. These lease payouts may push the chain over the top towards full bankruptcy.

Duping Holiday Shoppers

It is rumored that GameStop’s holiday store closure game plan is to rope in as many unsuspecting holiday sales while the remaining stores remain open. Yet, when January 1 rolls around, it seems this chain plans to have a massive set of store closures. This action alone will thwart holiday returns. This means that you may literally be left holding your holiday bag from GameStop. Once stores close for good on December 31st, it typically means that this chain was simply in it to dupe consumers out of their holiday money without any possibility for returns.

Don’t get suckered in by GameStop’s less than ethical business practices. Choose to shop for your gaming needs at stores without imminent closures, such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon. At least with these latter stores, they will remain in business come January 1 allowing you to return any items that are defective or were simply awful holiday gifts.

Best Judgement

When a store chain begins closing down stores, it’s always worth using your best judgement. Most of what I have written above is pretty much shopping common sense, IF you know that stores are closing. For those oblivious to the woes of a chain not in the best of financial condition, this may be a wake-up call and warning.

When a store chain is under threat of closure, you should always heed this same exact advice as above. Avoid buying from the chain, if at all possible. During the holiday season, it can be tempting to visit any store because you may be having trouble finding a video gaming item. Don’t be temped. Choose Best Buy, Amazon, Target or Walmart before heading to a GameStop. Nothing is more disheartening than gifting an item to someone only to realize that it was the wrong item and it can’t be returned.

While heeding this consumer advice won’t help GameStop turn itself around, they brought this situation on themselves (which is a rant for another day). When stores begin to close, you lose your ability to exercise certain fundamental store rights (like store returns, gift cards, loyalty programs and so on). Once a chain begins to have financial troubles, it’s usually a downward spiral that doesn’t end. Not shopping there helps them fail faster, but it’s better to be safe with your holiday dollars than throw it away on a store where you have no recourse and no returns.

Good Luck and Happy and Safe Holiday Shopping!

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