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Linux: A torrid love affair

Linux: A torrid love affair


I have an on and off (mainly off) love affair with Linux. I’ve been using it on a sparse basis for years, whilst using the most recent version of Windows for my day-to-day stuff.

Now, some of you may or may not know, that in my day job I’m an IT Analyst/Engineer. I do a variety of tasks within this role:

  • User support via phone/email-based service desk
  • Training (I’m a qualified IT Tutor)
  • Server Support
  • Software deployment & maintenance
  • Hardware deployment & maintenance/repair
  • Windows OS mobile¬†phone & Surface support
  • And basically anything else that comes up…

So needless to say I’m a bit of a geek, both personally and professionally…

However Linux is something that has been a consistent pain to get working over the years. That said, it’s definitely a situation that has been improving, albeit slowly, over the¬†years.

At least nowadays installing nvidia drivers in linux doesn’t involve having to dig into the guts of the OS and edit xorg.conf files and bollocks like that.

Linux Mint has been my distro of choice over the past couple of years, as it works better than most other distros I’ve used.

Mint in particular works pretty much out of the box. There is very little that needs to be done once it’s installed, other than run updates and make sure the programs you want are installed properly.


For those that don’t know, or are unfamiliar with Linux and how it works, there are many different “flavours” of Linux available.

Some, like Ubuntu and Mint are specifically targeted at Windows users who want something different, right through to the other end of the spectrum, where you have distros like Arch, which are highly technical and should only be used by seasoned Linux users & pros.

Mint¬†is a “fork” of Ubuntu, or rather it uses¬†Ubuntu “under the hood” while presenting ¬†a very different desktop experience to the user. A few years ago, Ubuntu’s makers decided to take the user interface in a direction similar to that taken by Microsoft with Windows 8.0 – a desktop seemingly designed for touch devices, even on a bog standard PC with a keyboard and mouse.

The creators of Mint decided that they liked the Ubuntu OS/Distro, but felt, like many others, that the direction Ubuntu were taking the desktop experience in was wrong, and decided to create a version, or a fork, of the Ubuntu OS with a more traditional, start menu/button like environment.


Rosy? Not quite…

However, there are still some egregious issues with Linux, and it’s still far too easy to completely break your entire PC and your ability to even boot it into either Linux or Windows, if like me you’ve decided to play it safe (hah!) and dual-boot.

For example, I tried to install a new desktop environment called Gnome into Mint, and even though I did everything perfectly fine, and did exactly what I was meant to, it somehow managed to break¬†the entire machine so badly that it managed to lose the boot settings. This meant it couldn’t find the configuration file (a thing Linux uses called GRUB) it needed to boot up, and as a result I was left with a machine that wouldn’t load either Windows or Linux.

So after an hour or so trying to fix it by hand, manually typing commands into the only thing I was able to get, a command prompt named Grub Rescue, I decided to boot up a live copy of Mint via a USB stick and use the above named utility to repair the damage that had been wrought.


Apocalypse averted!

And lo, everything was fixed once more and off we went again, this time a bit more cautiously and staying well the fuck away from Gnome!

So once it was back up and running, it was time to set about customising and trying out some games…

So using a windows emulation program named Wine, I’ve managed to get the Battle.net client installed, and got WoW downloaded and installed too.

WoW’s performance is nowhere near as good as it is on Windows, obviously, but it’s good enough that if I’m in Linux I can log on and check my garrison missions, or maybe jump on the AH, pick up mail and so on.

It’s certainly not anywhere near good enough to raid or even do any sort of group content like 5 mans.

Perhaps it just needs a bit more tweaking done, we’ll see.

Steam on the other hand doesn’t seem too bad. I’ve something silly like 680 games in my Steam account, and just over 200 of those have native Linux binaries, and are directly usable in Linux without having to go through Wine.

This includes even modern games, like Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin (Enhanced edition), and even the likes of X-Com 2!

Of course big strides have been made in this area in recent years, particularly by Valve, as they’ve created their own distro of Linux, named SteamOS. This stemmed from Gabe Newell’s dislike of where Microsoft were trying to take the PC desktop environment with Windows 8.

This all stemmed back to when rumours were still flying round about the intention of MS to lock the OS to only be able to install programs from the Windows store, and trying to lock the entire PC hardware to only be able to boot into Windows via TPM and Secure Boot.

Of course none of those things ever came to pass, but Valve have carried on developing SteamOS, building it into their branded PC hardware OEM lines, called Steam Machines, which are essentially linux powered PC based games machines for the living room.


I’ve yet to try installing any Steam games, as last night was all about battling with Battle.net via Wine (spoiler: it’s not a flawless experience!) and getting various other programs installed, like Chrome and Spotify.

Steam games will be tonight’s experiment, so I’ll make a post over the next few days letting you know how I got on with those, and how well they perform in comparison to Windows.

I’m hoping the native Linux games in Steam are a damn sight better performing than WoW is, given the lack of Wine emulation to suck performance out of it.

I’m glad though Steam & Valve are pushing to get more games compatible with Linux, as otherwise, this would be the sort of “quality” gaming experience you’d be subject to…

tux-racer-deluxe

Gran Tourismo 5 it is not.

Posted by Sar in Gaming, General, Linux, News, Opinion, Personal, 0 comments
Did Blizzard screw up with Legion already?

Did Blizzard screw up with Legion already?

Or,¬†how to cope during downtime…

So, Blizzard announced Legion as the follow up to Warlords of Draenor about 6 weeks ago, and whilst we were all excited to see what comes next, the announcement has had a palpable negative effect on the game as it stands right now. So how can we cope in the downtime?

Too soon Executus, too soon!

Ragnaros, the Firelord

And lo, fiery the angels fell…

Blizzard mistimed the announcement of Legion. They announced it way too early in my opinion. Just look at what has happened with the game since the reveal back in mid-August: the population of the game as it stands has declined massively again. Subs may be active, but people aren’t physically playing right now. Is this because people no longer view WoD as current content?

Possibly, because once you announce what’s coming next, it takes the shine off of the current expansion¬†(or in WoD’s case what little there was¬†of it to begin with) and people just want the next big shiny content drop.

The announcement killed interest in playing the current game for far too many people, and raiding especially has massively suffered as a result. Certainly on my trio of merged servers raid signups right across the server have dropped to an all time low.

Our¬†raid signups seemed to dry up a week or two right¬†after the announcement, and presently we can barely scrape a 10 man side together at the moment to get anything on the go. We’re testing out joint raids with another guild on the server just to see if we can get regular games out, but it’s a largely untested premise as yet.

What Blizzard should have done was hold on, at least until Blizzcon, and done the big reveal there. At least there might have been a chance of a beta right after, igniting people’s interest even further still, because as it is, it was a brief bright burst of interest for a week or two, before dying back down to a background noise level and taking more subs out of the game.

Coping in the downtime is hard

After all this time, you better be prepared...

After all this time, you better be prepared…

As we continue to get closer to the Legion release date, whatever that may be (we should get it revealed at Blizzcon), continued long term interest in the game will surely wane further still.

In fact, the longer that players are out of the game for, the less likely they will feel like they’re still invested in the game as a whole, and the less chance there is of them coming back with any great gusto and renewed longer-term plans come Legion.

As this happens, communities and guilds within the game will only continue to fracture and break down as more and more players let their subscriptions lapse.

This in itself places further peril upon the long term future of the game, as subs numbers continue to decline. The subs decline over the course of WoD has been screamingly and worryingly rapid. Faster than any expansion drop off before it.

Even during the 14 months of Siege of Orgrimmar at the end of Mists there was nowhere near the level of drop off that WoD has seen during the first six months of the expansion.

Was Mists a fluke?

Dear Mists, please come back, love, Warlords.

Dear Mists, please come back, love, Warlords.

I read an article on Forbes the other day from a game analyst and WoW player that stated that after Wrath, WoW’s storyline was essentially done. Everything after that has felt like an added on excuse to keep the game going long after the main protagonist has left the stage. And up to a certain point, I find it hard to disagree with him.

Cataclysm was terrible, and until WoD it was the worst expansion without question. Unlike WoD however, the first tier and first six months of Cata were its strong point. Tier 11 was one of my favourite raid tiers.

The remaining raid tiers in Cata were pathetic, with minimal bosses and massive recycling of mobs and locations. Mind you we’d see Blizzard¬†being even more environmentally conscious and recycle mounts, quest rewards and storylines in WoD…

Mists came along after Cata and whilst the so called purists hated the entire premise “Pandas, in my game? Eurgh!”, those of us who actually went with it and played it loved it.

The oft-mentioned dailies burn out at the start of Mists, and the poor quality of the Heart of Fear raid instance aside, Mists was IMO the best expansion overall, very narrowly edging Wrath out of the number one spot.

Then Warlords came out. Everyone was massively hyped for it, they loved the notion of seeing these iconic figures brought to life again, and they presented a real and credible threat not only to Draenor, but potentially to Azeroth as well.

I mean, we were going up against the pre-nascent Lich King in Ner’zhul for crying out loud, and he was only ONE of them!

Then he got killed in a 5 man dungeon and everyone went, “Erm, what? Nah, he’ll be back, he’s the fucking Lich King bitches!”

Spoiler: He, like over 5m¬†others in the game, didn’t come back.

Bazinga!

Bazinga!

Levelling was excellent, as I’ve often admitted, the first couple of times through. It was fresh and different, and it seemed like there were a stack of things to discover.

But after those first few trips¬†through the 90 to 100 journey,¬†it slowly became apparent that there wasn’t really anything worth discovering out in the world, and the levelling process then quickly became¬†very strained and we were back to the normal drudgery on¬†the scale of pure quest levelling again.

The Warlords themselves were all dispensed with rather rapidly and without much fanfare. In fact the only Warlords that got anything more than insultingly minimal lip-service were Blackhand, Kilrogg and Daddy Hellscream.

Even Garrosh, the reason we were here to begin with, was killed off cheaply in a cut scene. Naturally by the green Jebus himself, kill stealing a major villain in a cut scene for the second time (Deathwing anyone?), robbing players of any agency in his demise. Criminal.

But then again, robbing players of agency was something Blizzard has excelled at in Warlords, but I’ve spoken about that already at great length…

How to cope with lengthy downtime periods?

So very, very bored.

So bored. So very, very bored.

So how does one cope with these periods in WoW, where raiding is for all intents and purposes dead in the water, and progression is by and large finished? Especially in an expansion like Warlords, where non-raid content was already very thin on the ground to begin with?

Well, if you’re anything like me you are a bundle freak, and you more than likely have an embarrassingly large pile of neglected games on various services, most likely Steam. At this present moment my Steam collection numbers over 620 games, and according to SteamDB, I’ve not played 72% of those.

Now a large percentage of that 72% will be games that came in bundles that I have absolutely zero interest in playing.¬†Similarly I have about 50+ games in my Gog.com account, only a handful of which I’ve played at all, let alone completed.

That’s one of the reasons I was trying to run game giveaways several months ago, but given that that initiative fell flat on its arse I knocked it in the head. I guess people just don’t like free games…

So the obvious route to go is other AAA games, even other Blizzard games. However over the past couple of years, I’ve found I’ve gotten a lot more joy from playing games from the more Indie end of the gaming spectrum. Games like Ori and the Blind Forest, A Story about my Uncle, Her Story, Pillars of Eternity¬†(currently 50% off!) etc etc.

In fact the only AAA game I can remember playing recently outside of the Blizzard stable that I’ve really enjoyed is the one I’m currently playing, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (hence the header image, make sure to use this -23% voucher though!), Hideo Kojima’s final MGS game. One that brings the MGS storyline full circle, and is seemingly Konami’s last big release outside of yearly PES updates.

Quick side note: If you’ve been completely in the dark about recent goings on over at¬†Konami and why Castlevania and Silent Hill and indeed MGS are now all but dead franchises, I thoroughly recommend you go watch or indeed read yourself¬†some Jim “fucking” Sterling son. PS: #fuckonami¬†

But Bundle websites are a great place to build a game collection if you’re only starting to do just that. Likewise there are some great websites to visit in order to get really cheap games outside of the obligatory Steam sales.

Places I recommend:

I’m sure there are hundreds of other smaller bundle and sale sites out there, and if there’s any I missed let me know (comments are working now!). Just be aware that quite a lot of bundles will have one or two gems whilst the rest of the bundle is filled out with complete dross. Caveat Emptor and all that jazz.

Looking to the future

Likely going to be utterly shit, oh well.,,

Likely going to be utterly shit, oh well…

Looking on the bright side for WoW players, we have several things to look forward to. Legion of course is released next year, the earlier the better for the long term health of the game as well.

The Warcraft movie is due out next June, and whilst I have serious misgivings as to the quality of the movie itself (in all honesty I think it’s going to be a car crash, sadly), I’ll no doubt be a good little fanboy and toddle off and see it in the cinema, and cringe alone in the dark…

Legion will of course bring with it promised lore and answers to some long standing questions, prime amongst them for me: What is it about Azeroth that makes it so important in the Warcraft Universe? Yes it’s the planet we call home in the game, but beyond that, what is it that makes this particular planet so interesting to the Burning Legion, demons that we’ve found out in WoD that have easy access to multiple dimensions and versions of reality?

The caveat I’ll place on that though is that we were promised new Blood Knight lore in WoD, and we’re still waiting….

So yeah, not holding my breath 100% on answers to any of my burning questions.

Of course there’s the usual end of expansion things to take care of, such as farming old content for mounts, pets, titles and so on, as well as old transmog gear.

And for transmog junkies like myself, of course Legion bears the promise of a Diablo/Wildstar style transmog system, which alone will free up something ridiculous like 90% of my storage space!

Wrapping up

So how are you guys coping with the current downtime, especially as it looks like it’s going to rattle on for another 6 months or more while we wait on Legion? What other games are you playing at the moment? Any good sites for deals on individual games or bundles that I’ve forgotten? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted by Sar in Gaming, News, RPGs, Thunder, World of Warcraft, 4 comments