I have had a fraught weekend. As reported, my existing pc has had an ongoing intermittent stuttering issue. Some games, like the Truck Simulator and Farming Sim games, it’s possible to play around that problem – when it manifests itself, just pull over and come out of the game. The Truck / Tractor will be where you left it when you return. The same cannot be said for games like The Hunter – you get dumped back to the last chalet you started out from, making it impossible to make meaningful progress in the game. For this reason, I haven’t played The Hunter for many months.

I decided to buy a new pc last week as it seems that prices have finally achieved some level of stability. It arrived on Saturday – a couple of days earlier than expected. At that point I had to re-locate the old photo-pc to a safe place downstairs – it hadn’t been used since covid lockdown as I migrated the photo tasks to my games pc before last football season. This was pre-planning for buying a new gaming pc. Then, the existing games pc, re-designated as the photo pc, had to be repositioned on the floor below my desk and the connecting cables re-run. Finally, the new pc had to be unpacked and carried up to my office for installation on my desk where more cables had to be rerun. After all that, my knees and back were killing me!

Sunday was spent installing my favourite games from Steam.- they’re in my Steam Library. This is a slow task, even with fast broadband, because many of these games are very large. We’re not talking Minesweeper or Solitaire here. I even managed to fit in a couple of games of online Chess while I was waiting😉 I still have several games to do! However, the Truck Sim and Farming Sim games are done along with The Hunter and Hardspace: Shipbreaker – another game I couldn’t play due to the pc issue.

Now for the next stage in the process – checking that the games are working as expected. This is where we hit some of the foibles of each game and of Steam itself. Let’s start with Farming Simulator 22. It runs fine and my Career save was there but when I tried to load it, it reminded me that I have to re-download and activate the associated mods that my save was using. What it doesn’t do is give a comprehensive list of all the mods that need to be re-attached – just some samples in the warning box. Inevitably, I missed one and that was my Ferme du Vieux Chêne save wrecked. SCS Software do the mod thing much better, including telling exactly which mods are missing in a table form – Giants Software, please take note! I hope to update where we are with Ferme du Vieux Chêne in a post later this week so I’ll give the full picture then.

Euro Truck and American Truck Simulator – both uploaded and only one of my profiles visible in each. That’s a Steam Cloud thing – for some reason despite having two profiles that are both backed up to the cloud, it only ever loads one when you install the game on a new pc. I do have a way around this – go to the previous pc and copy the ETS2 / ATS folders, then use those to overwrite the ones Steam has created on the new pc. However, I think I may restart my company profiles in both games. A few months of experience has further distilled how I wish to play each company and, for example, I decided that I wanted to relocate my ATS HQ after a few weeks of gameplay because the original choice proved to not be quite what I wanted from a traffic point of view. Someone with my level of experience doesn’t take long to grind through hire jobs to the point of owning that first truck and trailer😂 I did do a drive yesterday in ETS2 on my non-company profile. Here’s Carmen with a heavy Volvo A25G dumper on route from A Coruña to Le Havre…

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The Hunter – Call of the Wild: I haven’t played this game in months and there have been a number of changes, some of which are not entirely to my liking (turning off poi icons not only disables them as you’re hunting, it removes them from the map too). I needed to get my feet back under the table with this game – it would have been nice to be able to start a second profile to get my eye back in, but the developers don’t allow second profiles. I decided to restart – it’s always fun wandering around the reserves regardless of what gun you’re carrying😎 Actually, it didn’t take very long to get my eye in…

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…Though I’d forgotten how far a mortally wounded Bear can run before it goes down…

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…and I got whacked twice in repayment despite a good lung-shot! Nice to get a Gold level Bear so early on though👍

Hardspace: Shipbreaker: I don’t even know what to expect here – the game was early access and has had a lot of improvements since I last played. It actually went full release last Tuesday! I will have to take a look sometime later this week.

That was the weekend of pain – now I hope there will be some fun 😎

Wellll – we haven’t had one of these for a while, have we? I was hoping to be showing lots of lovely screenshots from the Iberia dlc – the much awaited addition to the game that was postponed last year. SCS have delivered and it’s excellent! However, this post is less about the game and more about the mechanics of owning a pc for gaming purposes, although much of what I’m writing will apply to normal computing activities too. There are a couple of villians that will get a mention but they should be viewed as villians who were acting with the best of intentions and just messed up 😉

Back in 2020, Microsoft updated my machine to Windows 10 v2004 – That update immediately rendered my computer unusable for just about anything with audio-visual stuttering. I wrote about it and expressed my anger in this post. The problem has persisted since then and at the end of April I once again rolled back to version 1909 from v20H2 – that’s 6 rollbacks and reports of what I’d done to try to resolve the problem sent each time. It felt like those of us that were affected (badly affected) were being thrown to the wolves. Others whose pc’s appeared to be working fine couldn’t grasp what we were complaining about. Tech advisors often suggested that we hadn’t done enough to update our pc’s to the latest drivers. It suffices to say that short of a full motherboard bios reload, I’d done the bloody lot in triplicate!

The threat of my pc being made unusable has been hanging over me for the last 8 months. At the end of May my most recent no-update grace period came to an end. I was dreading the enforced update happening again but it didn’t – instead of the ‘update and restart’ or ‘update and shutdown’ options that usually appear in the menu for closing down the pc, this time the options allowed shutting down or restarting without invoking the prepared update. It seemed that Microsoft had accepted that they couldn’t fix the issue and were adopting a compromise approach for those who found the update made their pc unusable. I chose to stay on v1909 because that at least worked and allowed me to game and post. I had a nagging feeling that it wouldn’t be the end of it, but it was good to be sailing on realitively calm seas for a while.

Wednesday last week, I had my 2nd Covid jab. I came home and did a quick delivery in ETS2 before deciding that I needed to take a lie down. I closed the game and shut down the pc in quick succession.

Next morning (Thursday) and feeling much better after a good nights sleep I decided to fire up ETS2 to do a couple of deliveries and make some progress towards some outstanding achievements – something I’ve been working on for a few months now. Imagine my horror when I found that my main profile had disappeared – all that effort lost! I tried a number of options to try to get it back but none worked. At this point many players would rage quit and probably never play the game again. That’s not in my nature – After a couple of strong cups of tea to accompany strong words about peoples ancestry, I decided to start a new profile. This profile, being post the Iberia release, would allow me to grow my company from scratch in the manner that I originally envisaged it. An opportunity bought from adversity. I thought I’d possibly caused this by shutting down the pc too soon after closing the game.

I hit the roads hard that Thursday afternoon, doing lots of hire jobs to build my bank balance ready to buy my first truck and trailer. I don’t need to tell you that I’ve been here before, only last time it was of my own choosing! This time is different though because I will be migrating almost all of my fleet from that lost profile into the new one and perpetuating their records so that I still know exactly how far I have driven in each truck. You see, as I have joked before, in the absense of Budgies, these have become my pets and companions.

I drove many Kilometres over the weekend – enough to buy my first curtainside trailer and, with a €100k loan, a truck to haul it. I had narrowed down my choices to 4 vehicles and in the end chose Azyet, my DAF XF105 4×2. In the old profile she sported a metallic gold paint scheme as she was considered non-core fleet. But, now she’s taking point for the company, she has to wear corporate colours. So, she’s had a repaint…

…other than that she’s the exact same truck with a zero’ed odometer 🙂 The others will follow as I grow the company 🙂

It turns out that rather than precipitating the situation, I was a victim of a bug in the Steam Cloud that corrupted my profile. SCS are currently suggesting that players should turn off the save to cloud option. Must try harder on the teacher’s report for Steam this week 😉

So I bought Azyet on Monday and completed her first shakedown run. Then I settled down to watch the Scotland vs Czech Republic football match. I was intermittently coming out of full screen and tweeting to fellow truckers. Suddenly I was greeted with a blue microsoft screen – basically an ‘Update Now’ instruction which, although it had buttons like ‘remind me later’, was not taking no for an answer – my mouse was disabled 😦 The only option was to tap the restart button on the pc and wait for an interminable length of time as Windows 10 20H2 was once more loaded onto my computer.

I have been dreading this happening. After the initial update completed I made sure that I installed the numerous security and bug fix updates and then I tried streaming a tv program from Amazon. Within a few minutes I was experiencing buzzing audio and frame drops – clearly the issue was still there 😦 I had a few ideas that I wanted to try based on suggestions in numerous posts from other people suffering the same issue on the microsoft community website. That took about an hour and made no difference. One of these that always amuses me is the ‘Disable your DVD/CD player’ – I don’t think there are many gaming computers that have those installed these days! So that was one I couldn’t try.

At the last knockings I went back to the Update & Security screen and found there was now an ‘Optional Update’ available. What the hell – I’ll download that, I thought. Some minutes later and another restart, I was ready to go back to my Streaming TV. Surprise, surprise – no stutters, buzzes or frame drops. I watched three episodes of NCIS without a hitch! It was late and I was tired by that time so games testing had to wait until Tuesday morning. When I fired up ETS2 on Tuesday, I’m pleased to report that I was able to drive my trucks without any issues and this seems to be the fix that we’ve been waiting for nearly a year to happen.

I subsequently checked up what was in the release – among a number of minor bug fixes and some new feature updates there was a fix for a memory leak – a bloody memory leak! That’s exactly the sort of issue that would cause the problems I and many others were experiencing. It was never about out of date drivers as some of the ‘associate technicians’ would like us to believe. And that’s why their suggested fixes didn’t work.

To Microsoft dev’s credit they did eventually find the problem and I know, from experience on far simpler code than Windows 10, that memory leaks are one of the hardest things to track down. But, having found the fix, to issue it in an ‘Optional Update’ package? That’s just perverse!

But that wasn’t the end of Tuesday’s surprises – Euro Truck Sim had an update too and when I opened the game, my lost profile was back! And that’s left me with a dilema…. 😉

When I looked up the challenge that Cee set for this week my thoughts turned to the past and the toys I had when I was young. Then I thought about how times have changed for the present generation. Sadly, my old toys have long since gone so words will have to suffice as photos are not possible. I can remember a large red metal crane that worked and provided endless hours of fun digging up the back garden. I had a electric trainset from the age of 8 – a highly detailed Hornby Doublo set. I even got an Action Man doll when they came out!

One of the most enduring current toys is the Thomas the Tank Engine range. But when I was a child Thomas was limited to the story books written by the Rev W Awdry. I had the pleasure once in the mid- 1970’s of seeing the Rev Awdry at a model railway exhibition in Westminster. The trains on his layout were all accurate models rather than the Thomas we know and love but each operation on the layout was accompanied by a story-like commentary. Televising the stories in the mid-1980’s changed that and created a spin off market for Thomas toys. And this has been a pattern – TV series and kids movies, which ironically include ‘Toy Story’ and its sequels, creating the modern toy market. It all became quite circular with the toy manufacturers like Mattell and Bandai commissioning cartoons to sell their toys. Here’s a car from the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 series……One of my Son’s discarded toys.

Something else happened in the 1980’s too. Home computers and games consoles arrived to challenge the traditional toy market. A lot of traditional toys saw their market devastated and many disappeared or had to seek a new approach. I think the toy market today is compressed into the formative years of a child’s life – ages 0-10 – whereas when I was a child the toy market probably extended into early adulthood. Electronic games now take the place of the traditional toys of the 10-18yo market. So we find my Son playing Assassin’s Creed on his PlayStation……Or Overwatch on the PC along with a whole host of other games.  ps – his hair is a bit of a mess because he only just had it cut.  It looked a lot better after he had a shower and combed it! 😉

The thing about console and PC games is that they have extended the age of playtime into adulthood and beyond. At an age when my Father would have been content to sit down and read a book by the fire whilst listening to radio or perhaps watching some TV, I find myself playing with my toys……A steering wheel that is better than the one in my real-life car and headphones with infra-red head movement tracking for my simulation games.

What happened to the traditional train set? I’d love to show you some shots of a model I’m working on. I have often looked at getting back to building a layout. But, with a lack of space it’s a project that’s always getting ‘shelved’. And I’ve found that driving the old 4mm to the foot electric mouse is not quite the same as driving the Railworks locomotives. Suddenly, when you put on the headset and begin shunting those wagons you find yourself in a 12 inches to the foot world even if it is a virtual one…

The traditional toy market has moved on though. The aim now is to produce small volumes of highly detailed limited edition models rather than toys. These are pricey items that appeal to both the serious modeller and to the collectables market. Here’s an example of modern model buses……Limited editions both.

I hope my thoughts were of interest. It’s a complex subject that could do with a more in-depth analysis than I have given. I’d like to thank Cee for firing up my brain with her Black & White Challenge this week 🙂