The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
The Point Thomson helideck.
Has it really been more than three months since my last
blog? That was a rhetorical question, just in case you were wondering. The
reason for my long (ok, not that
long) absence from this wonderful community is due mostly to this thing called "life"
getting in the way. I transitioned to a new job, and it puts me way up at the
top of this country. The North Slope of Alaska, to be exact. It's only place in
the US where polar bears outnumber game retailers by a considerable margin. As
you can imagine, the internet is not great and there is no cell phone service
(GASP!), so gaming can be quite an endeavor all on its own. It's been pretty
trying to say the least.
Around the beginning of April, I started working for a
company that placed me the farthest north I've ever been. I won't get into the specifics of my work or
the project as a whole to save you all the boring details you may not care
about (you're welcome), but I won't go all secret squirrel on you if you ask me
individually. Anyhow, I now find myself working two weeks straight at this
remote location, and enjoy two weeks of freedom as a reward. This is pretty
good from a gaming stance. While on the slope, I can spend my downtime gaming
on my laptop. When I'm off for two weeks back home, I have all day to get some
quality gaming time in. But gaming on the slope isn't as easy as I thought it
Sunrise from my office on May 10th.
As it turns out, having the capability to obtain everything
you want from a gaming standpoint via the internet is pretty amazing. I haven't
really done much gaming on the PC in the last decade or so, which is why I
found the numerous options quite fascinating. I heard of this "Steam" a time or
two, so I figured I'd give it a shot. That is, I'd give it a shot after waiting
an hour and a half for the download. You see, this project site I'm at has around
300-350 people at any given time at this point in the project. We all share the
same internet server. Some folks love Netflix, others love their Skype, but all
hate my need to download any type of file. While 3.79 mbps isn't terrible for a
single person using the bandwidth, it's absolutely awful when you have 300 or
more internet hogs online at the same time (285 kbps download speed according
to Steam's real time progress bar). I know, first world problems, right?
So back to Steam. I was like a kid in a candy store when I
first started perusing the plethora of games that were laid out before me.
Given that my laptop is better suited for checking emails than it is for gaming
(500MB of RAM, *SIGH*), I decided I would start with some older favorites that
I didn't physically own, and maybe try some smaller indie titles that didn't
require my laptop to somehow miraculously morph from Napoleon Dynamite to
Superman. Once I made up my mind to download KOTOR 2
(don't judge me), I hit "download" and waited for my laptop to glow with a
glorious if not supernatural aura. That, of course, did not happen. Instead, I
can swear I heard my laptop let out a hearty belly laugh at me for trying to download
a game with the recourses I had to work with. The laugh was justifiable, as it
took just over four and a half hours to download said game. Luckily, I didn't
sit there the entire time, or I might have gone completely bananas and buried
my laptop in a snowdrift out in the middle of the tundra.
Once my game finally decided to crawl its way onto my
computer by its thumbs, I installed it and hit "play." In my head, trumpets
sounded as victory would soon be mine, and I would have a game to play at last.
False. I would instead get to watch my cursor strike its thinking pose, and
then stop proceeded by absolutely nothing. A volcanic explosion took place in
my skull. "What in blazes is it now?!?!" (I cleaned up the language a bit for
your benefit) I scoured the Steam FAQs and troubleshooting tips for any
possible way to fix this problem. One thing I will give the fine folks at Valve
is that their step by step troubleshooting tips are pretty straight forward and
they don't use a whole lot of confusing jargon to explain everything to you. In
spite of this, I was still unable to solve my problem. After numerous attempts
to update drivers, configure and reconfigure my background applications, and
basically take apart and put back together my laptop, I was ready to give up. I
emailed Steam's help desk, and resigned to waiting for some semblance of assistance.
I have two words for you GameFly, neither one I can type out on this site.
Patience was not with me that rotation, and I was itching to
play a videogame. It had already been a couple weeks since I last played a
game, so I continued my quest to find a way to "get my game on" while on the
North Slope. I then discovered that GameFly had a similar downloadable client.
I figured I had nothing to lose, so I decided to give it a chance. The download
was about a half hour shorter than Steam's was, so I already was a lot happier.
I went with a little game called Morrowind (perhaps you've heard of it), and
immediately regretted it. Six hours (and a strong desire for a couple shots of
whiskey) later, I dove straight into the game. I got about an hour or so into
it before I had to quit, but I was really happy that I finally got a game to work.
My plans for gaming on the North Slope were finally coming to fruition.
I wish I could end my griping and complaining here, but that
would make this an uncharacteristically short blog, and I have more "airing of grievances"
to get out of the way. With that being said, my next attempt to get into
Morrowind was met with a frustrating frozen title screen. Once again, I sent
out an email. GameFly was really quick to respond, and I was really starting to
think that I made a mistake going with Steam first. Then I opened the email and
read their attempt to win the "not my job" award. I was told to email Bethesda,
as they weren't responsible for games that wouldn't work using THEIR CLIENT.
Bethesda was also pretty quick to respond, but alas they were pretty unhelpful.
Would I have to go buy a used system just to bring with me to the slope?
Just as I was ready to give up hope, the folks at Valve
finally got off their thumbs and responded to me. While their direct advice
didn't help, it did bring my attention to a checked box in the game's properties
section. "Enable Steam Community In-Game" was checked and stuck out like a sore
thumb. Why the heck would I want to enable the community for a single player
game made last generation? One click later, I was gaming. I went ahead and
downloaded some more games, and they all worked after unselecting the in-game community
option. I finally had the solution to my gaming woes. I can finally say I'm
catching up on the Half Life series (wow does the first one look ancient), and
I'm pretty excited to start gaming on the PC once again (although at some point
I need to upgrade this RAM).
So as you can see, while gaming on the North Slope can be an
utter pain, it's not impossible. I already burned through my first play through
on KOTOR2 and am about halfway through a second. On top of that, I'm working my
way through the Half Life games. Any recommendations for games that don't have
monster system requirements? I'm open to all suggestions. Well, thanks for braving my long rant session.
And I also want to thank everyone who
checked in on me to make sure I was alive (not unlike the old cat lady who
rarely leaves her apartment), it really made my day to hear from you, even if I
didn't reply to you right away (or at all, and I'm really sorry about that). I'm
already getting started on some more blogs, and fortunately for you there's
much less whining coming your way. Until next time friends.