Star-Fired Beef


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May Gaming Goals

It feels like I haven’t actually been playing much at all, lately. In reality it’s just been Hearthstone and Duelyst, with a little Diablo III. Oh, and testing out a few games here and there. Tried Titan Quest, didn’t like it. Played the Open Beta weekend for Battleborn, liked it but not well enough to pay $70+ for it. Similarly, Overwatch is appealing, but not $90 appealing.

I keep thinking about TSW, but never actually get around to logging in. So this month I will aim to finish the Shadowy Forest zone and advance into the Carpathian Fangs.

There are so very many things to do in FFXIV, my goals could get too ambitious very easily. So without going hard at it, I’d like to:

  • Get Arcanist to 30, finish the class questline
  • Get through as much Main Story Questline as my level allows, i.e. hit the MSQ level wall
  • Get Conjurer to 15
  • Get Thaumaturge to 15
  • Unlock and play around with Scholar and Summoner
  • Complete the tier 1 Grand Company hunts so I can be promoted

In Hearthstone, with the new Standard format and the new card set, I want to make a serious tilt at gaining Legend rank this month.

Pick a game from my Steam list to play, and complete it. (Ideally, repeat for a second game. Before Stardew Valley caught me out, I was getting through two games a month fairly easily.) Nothing really stands out to me at the moment, but I am probably looking at either the Witcher, Planescape: Torment, Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, or Grim Fandango.

I also would like to do a single playthrough of Long Live the Queen each week. I’ve made my first attempt, which ended with Eloise taking an arrow to the knee (gut) and making it fatal by pushing it through rather than leaving it the hell alone. It was a bit galling to get shot after I’d put so much training into flexibility and reflexes. Stupid bandits. Anyway, the game seems perfect for a single attempt per session.

The Fratellis – Flathead


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Coming Up For Air

Surface

 

Oh hi there. It’s been a while, eh? I was doing well with keeping some semblance of regular posting, but then…Stardew Valley happened. I wasn’t planning on getting it so soon, it was supposed to just go on my wishlist and fight for a place near the top. But then I recommended it to my friend’s partner, and she decided to gift me a copy instead and make me test the waters. I felt obliged to fire it up pretty much immediately, and 130+ hours later, I can report that yes, I’m a fan of it.

The biggest revelation for me wasn’t that I would enjoy Stardew Valley, but that I could still become obsessed with a single player game after all. I played it every day for weeks, and for hours at a time. It never felt like a chore, like I had to finish it so I could move on. This is something I haven’t done since my peak WoW days, and before that my Golden Era of gaming in the late 90’s/early ’00s with Half Life, Civ 2, Age of Empires, Baldur’s Gate and the like. I thought I’d lost the ability to “binge” on a game like that, due to the lethargy and depression I’ve been dealing with over the years. So it was kind of a relief to find that I just needed the right game, after all. The flip side to that thought, though, is why aren’t all these other games – games that I sincerely enjoy – doing the same thing for me?

So the last month or so has been mostly Stardew Valley, and Hearthstone. Can’t give up the Hearthstone addiction, especially with the new shinies of this week’s expansion! I’ve barely touched FFXIV, and not done anything TSW-related…and, of course, the blogging has suffered too. I have a bit to catch up on, as I was churning through some of the bigger games on my list, so I have a few impressions posts to do for those. I think I have managed to resist the lure of Black Desert Online, though Blizz has made a bid for my return to WoW by gifting me a copy of Warlords, with a 7-days-free offer, as well as a boost to 90. I am glad to have Warlords, but still no desire to play. It’ll only happen if I get reeled in by social connections, I’m afraid.

Oh, and I heard that Game of Thrones is back on. Sweet.


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Oh, To Be A Time Lord…

So my new posting goals hit a snag pretty quickly, hah. I had my busiest week for ages last week, just so many appointments and meetings, it was tough to find the energy to do any gaming, let alone writing. But then I slipped and ran out of meds, and the two days I was without them was just devastating. I lost all energy, had to drag myself out of bed, all I wanted to do was sleep, body ached everywhere. It was such a sharp crash, it was quite scary to have a demonstration of how much I depend on them in order to function at all. Even now I am just starting to get back to my previous state of mind. Harsh lesson.

I’m now just over halfway through the story cases in L.A. Noire, it continues to be an excellent game, but it is starting to feel a little slow-moving. The meta-story was set up early but despite continuous hints and suggestions during each case, there doesn’t seem to be any advancement of it. I was expecting more moral grey areas, more difficult decisions, facing more corruption than I have encountered thus far. I’m still on track to finish it by the end of the month, though! Despite putting a few hours into FFXIV, all I’ve really done is level my gathering and crafting classes, and stockpile some low level materials. I won a new game on Steamgifts, One Finger Death Punch, and have been having a blast with it. So. Much. Fun. I’d been eyeing it for ages, so I couldn’t help installing it immediately!

As was probably inevitable, I have given up on Wildstar. Although I liked the game, I felt no connection to it, had nothing attracting me back. As time passed without me logging in, and not missing it, I came to accept that it was just not cutting it in competition for my time. So, off to the land of the Deleted it went – joined, to the surprise of no one, by Devilian. I played exactly one session of that, and while it was kind of fun while I played it, as soon as I logged out it ceased to interest me. I always feel vaguely uncomfortable uninstalling games I haven’t played much (but didn’t hate), shades of my completionist past I guess. But with the Steam backlog, FFXIV/LOTRO/TSW occupying my current MMO attention, evergreens like Hearthstone,  and a bunch of new MMO titles coming out over the next couple of years, I simply have to face the fact that I have to be choosy. If only I had a TARDIS…

Wellyn – Alcoholic Tea


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Keeh!

I just finished reading The Metropolis Case, which was alternately a little heavy-handed but also quite beautiful. The main link between the characters in the story is music – mostly opera, and mostly Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, but also some rock – and the themes of love and death intertwined. The thing that struck me most was the power of certain arts to both shape and reflect personal experiences, and how some people can be transformed by that power. It made me wish (a little) that I could appreciate opera as deeply as these characters. Much was made of the dissonance present in Wagner’s production, and how a similar dissonance features in certain punk, post-punk, new wave, no wave, etc. I have never been a fan of such dissonance, yet I am sure that some of the music I like features it to some extent. I tried listening to some My Bloody Valentine, as it was mentioned in the book several times, but it failed to produce anything more than a grimace.

I discovered GC leves in FFXIV! Which allowed me to quickly finish up collecting the seals for my first chocobo, who I named Gobbles. I have yet to ride Gobbles, though, as I haven’t ventured out of town since then. Instead, I got to work doing more supply orders for my GC. I’m not sure whether I want to buy GC gear yet, so I will focus on getting promotions. Now I have my chocobo, it’s time to get back on the main story quest train again.

The announcement that Hearthstone was (finally) moving to a rotating Standard format blindsided me. I am happy they announced it, as we were fast approaching the time where design space was almost gone without significant power creep. I am amazed at their stupidity in some details of the implementation, though. Okay, yes fine make the cards from adventures craftable when they leave the Standard format, that’s good, but WHY would you yank those adventures from the store?! Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot by doing that? Some people will save up dust and craft the cards they want, but some people will want the cards now and will pay real money to unlock them! It actually makes it harder for a new player to get into the Wild format. It’s not like you have ongoing costs keeping those products in the store! Gahhhh.

Celtic Woman – Níl Sé’n Lá


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Oooh, It’s A Snaaaake

As well as my mental recovery, the other thing I need to work on this year is my physical fitness. Now, I am not exactly happy with being fat, and I am definitely going to need to be slimmer in order to feel healthy, but after all these years I am finally coming to terms with why I am unhappy with my current state. It isn’t being fat that makes me feel ashamed and depressed, it is that I am unable to physically handle the activities that I love and want to be able to do. Simple movement without pain or effort is something that I look back on with longing, and I know that regardless of how fat I am, what I want is that freedom of movement, that confidence in body that has been lacking for so long. The side effect of increasing my fitness will naturally be weight loss – or, rather, fat loss – but I am not bound by arbitrary numbers or clothes sizes as a goal. My goals are purely action-based: can I handle this half-day hike? Can I ride from here to there? Do I have the energy to attend a full day of convention attendance/work a full shift on my feet/enjoy a walking tour of a new place? This week I made a significant step towards achieving these fitness goals. Thanks to the generosity of a community outreach mentor and his contacts, I now have a secondhand mountain bike, which I can ride in the nearby parkland walking paths. I had to ride it home from my mentor’s office, and it took about three times as long as it should, since I haven’t ridden a bike for nearly twenty years. And oh man, did I feel it afterwards. You guys. My balls. So sore.

I just got to the point in FFXIV’s main story questline where I chose my Grand Company affiliation. After a long and frustrating consideration of how each GC fit the needs of Menashi’s RP personality, I ended up choosing to become a member of the Twin Adders. It’s not ideal, but the speeches given by the other leaders at the memorial services rang a bit false for Menashi’s liking, so it became a choice of ‘least unsuitable’ rather than ‘most suitable’. THAT unlocked the Grand Company requisition dailies, and I finally got the quest to obtain my chocobo. So today I spent ticking off as many supply and provisioning orders as I had materials for, and soon discovered how lacking I was in some basic resources. Thus, after I finished crafting and obtaining GC seals, I headed out to start work on my mining. I can see myself easily spending a day’s session just gathering and crafting every so often – it is not a fast process!

My Steam gaming project at the moment is L.A. Noire. I am loving it for so many reasons, but I cannot help feeling slightly restricted by not having a controller. The investigations, though, are incredibly engaging. I did attempt to make Thief Gold my next project, but after struggling to make it through the first mission, I found that it just wasn’t holding my interest. Every time I played it my mind kept wandering off to ponder what other games I desired to play. Not a good sign. Also finished with a Lemmings-style puzzle game called Spirits, which again could not hold my interest long enough to stay motivated. I think I’ll do a Steam Challenge post on it, since I am satisfied with how much I got from it, but I doubt I will do a post for Thief Gold.

Airiel – Sharron Apple


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The Ghost of Blaugust Past

Lately I have been feeling guilty about not maintaining a regular blog schedule, and the feeling has slowly grown to the point of action. As per usual for me, my chosen path is to blatantly rip off copy emulate others who do it better – in this case, Belghast. So as both a residual resolution from last year, and in anticipation of (and training for) this year’s Blaugust event, I am going to try and establish a regular, ideally daily, posting routine modelled on Belghast’s unpatented three-paragraph template.

As part of my therapy, I am working on structuring my daily activities so that I don’t fritter away so much time obliviously. I can get caught up in reading, or gaming, or browsing, or watching videos, and get so absorbed in it that I fail to notice how much time has passed. Now, this is not so much of a specific problem – I don’t miss appointments or anything important like that – but it can really screw up my plans to be productive, and makes me have to re-plan the next day’s activities to incorporate the missed tasks. One of the prime culprits for this time vortex, obviously, is MMOs, so I am starting my structuring with that. 

FFXIV is my main MMO at the moment, although I am still “officially” invested in making progress in TSW and LOTRO as well. As I belong to Aywren‘s FC. and most of the members are in US time zones, I am trying to make sure I am around for an hour or two during their prime time. This hour or two generally satisfies my MMO cravings, and by staying in a specific window of time I beginning to find it easier to stop when I planned to, and thus I hope to lose some of the anxiety of clock-watching or fear of overdoing it. Self-trust is going to be a big component of my mental recovery, so it is things like this that will benefit me in the long run, even if it seems less than relevant right now.

Drapht feat. Downsyde & Layla – Inspiration Island


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Steam Challenge – The Stanley Parable

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

The trailer promises so much. The Stanley Parable was to be a mindfuck of epic proportions.

It was, and it wasn’t. I am still conflicted about whether I actually enjoyed this game. The narration was fantastic, and my heart skipped a nostalgic beat when I loaded up the very Half-Life-2-esque graphics. It brought me back to the late ’90s, reminding me of both Half-Life, and Goldeneye in the atmosphere and setting. Portal gets mentioned a fair bit in comparisons, and while that is probably true, for me that is not as strong an association.

So what is the problem? Why am I not more committed to a judgement? Honestly, I am not sure. I tend to love games that play the mindfuck card, that leave you guessing as to what really happened, that leave a lot of stuff unanswered. And while it is usually the narrative that provides that experience, in The Stanley Parable it is the game world that does it. That makes the experience more intense, more fulfilling, and so more enjoyable in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, I think it overshot the mark in some respects. It felt like the payoff graph was a bell curve. At the start you are totally clueless, and everything is bizarre. As you play there is greater understanding, which allows you to explore more purposefully and feel like you are getting some sort of progress, i.e. learning more. Then, I found that after a number of playthroughs, I wasn’t getting enough new stuff to keep up the motivation to repeat content ad infinitum. It became a chore, and so I stopped.

I consider The Stanley Parable to be an amazing example of blurring the lines between games and art/philosophy, or of games as art. As a game it is still basic, although more involved than something like Gone Home or a visual novel. I definitely enjoyed it more as an artistic endeavour than as a game experience.

The Tea Party – Great Big Lie


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Steam Challenge – The Walking Dead Season 1

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I went in blind to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. All I knew was that it was one of the best games from that company, and one of the best adventure games ever. I have not seen the TV series, or read the comics that all these other products are based on. It was all new to me.

It was even better than the hype – and it is standing at 97% positive reviews on Steam, from over 25 thousand. I just need some time to process my experience. This game made me feel things. I cannot believe how exhausting it is to go through such an intense emotional ride. Even now, days later, I am going back over my choices, wondering if I could have made it better somehow, if I could have been a better role model, a better friend, a better survivalist.

My first thought on finishing was, no it can’t end like that I need to go back and explore other choices. But the prospect of doing that weighed so heavily on me, was so intimidating, I knew that I couldn’t put myself through it again so soon. And then I realised that that was a good thing, that one of the best things about games like this is the fact that your choices – often in the heat of the moment, with little time to think – can give you access to the story in a personal way, that you have been able to insert yourself into the story in such a way that you are part of it, personally. It becomes your story, in a way, and that makes it a very special thing. Going back and exploring other options, although I do want to see what happens, is purely academic now, it is gaming rather than storytelling.

This was the first time I’ve played with quicktime events, so they caught me off guard the first few times. I liked the way they were implemented here.

Regarding the path I took: as I said, it feels like a very personal journey, so I won’t go into any details here. I am happy to discuss and compare notes with others who have played, however. All I will say is that throughout the game I did my best to be honest but sometimes guarded, and always kept in mind the effect it would have on Clementine, should she find out. I tried to stay neutral as much as I could, which might have backfired on me in some ways and definitely got someone killed that I reeeeeeally wanted to keep around.

I found it really odd that nobody ever used the word “zombie”, it was the one misstep in the narrative, I thought. I know it’s a thing from the comics, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

In summary, The Walking Dead is amazing and I might just get the DLC, 400 Days, next week in order to eke out every last drop from this game. I have a feeling that Season 2 is in my near future too, despite my attempts to limit new acquisitions.

Reeeeeeally NSFW

DMX, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ozzy Osbourne & Crystal Method – Nowhere To Run


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Steam Challenge – Obulis

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I knew I had to have this physics puzzler when I saw the trailer. It did not disappoint.

Over 150 levels of serene, mild-to-moderately challenging puzzles, Obulis is just fun to play. Only a small proportion of the levels require you to complete aerial timing tricks to knock marbles out of the sky in a specific direction, which is great because while they are fairly satisfying to complete, they become very annoying and frustrating if encountered often.

There are a nice range of mechanics to work with, all tied to certain “areas” – which are basically just the artistic themes of the levels. I found the variety very refreshing, and there was a good mix of puzzles which were easily solved (in theory, in practice you might still have to have a couple of goes to get the timing right), and ones which needed a lot of experimentation. And everything in between, of course.

My one and only criticism is that there is no volume control for the sound – it’s either on or off. I was about to go on a rant about it being one of my pet peeves, but it just occurred to me that perhaps these games that do this are all ports of mobile games, where the device provides the volume control. Still, it can’t be that difficult to implement a volume control when you are doing the PC port, right?

Anyway, totally recommend Obulis for some gentle puzzle-solving action.

Gomez – Fill My Cup


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The Shape Of My 2016 Gaming

Like Murf, I don’t really go in for the new year resolution thing, but I do have broad goals for the year and laying them out early is sort of the same thing, so here we are.

I will need your help, though.

MMO Gaming

Well it looks like FFXIV has its hooks in me for a while, so I think that’ll be my main MMO for most of the year. I just got to the stage where I can unlock other classes on my little Lalafell, Menashi, and I signed up for three of the crafting classes. That was enough to give me a glimpse of the depth of the rabbit hole, so I reckon my main task will be to restrain myself from becoming too caught up in it and thereby burn out. Patience, Grasshopper.

The goal for TSW is to catch up to current story content, and then duck in occasionally to keep the flow going. Should be easy enough with my lore post project keeping me honest.

Wildstar and LOTRO, I might have to keep my goalsetting to a minimum. Perhaps monthly progress goals is the way to go there. A couple of levels here, a zone completion there…nice and easy. Same with Devilian, maybe. We’ll see.

That’s the current MMOs dealt with, so what about the upcoming titles? I won’t have to worry about Star Citizen releasing this year, same with EverQuest Next. Those were the two major MMOs I was looking forward to. I’ll keep an eye on Crowfall and Camelot Unchained (the crafting classes made me perk my ears) but I don’t expect a proper release in 2016.

The Asian imports, hmmm. I don’t think Blade & Soul is going to grab me, but I might give Black Desert a try. Likewise, I am quite interested in Lost Ark Online, it seems to be an improvement on Devilian in all ways.

Steam Gaming

Okay so last year, mostly due to my illness, I didn’t get through many big-name games in my library, and I don’t think I played any new release. I did, however, make up for that with quantity, in the form of shorter and lesser-known, (mostly) lesser-quality games. This year I want to reverse that. Instead of quantity, I want to focus on quality. I want to finally experience as many big name games as I can this year, whether big in scope (like Tomb Raider) or classics (like Grim Fandango).

Here is a list of the games I have available to me which I think might fit that category. Please, let me know if I’m being too generous by including something I shouldn’t. Also, cast your votes as to the top five you’d recommend. Alphabetical order, no biases here!

  1. Alan Wake (+ American Nightmare)
  2. Batman: Arkham Asylum (+ Arkham City)
  3. Bioshock 2
  4. Blackwell Series
  5. Broken Sword 1-3
  6. Brutal Legend
  7. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
  8. Costume Quest
  9. Crusader Kings II*
  10. Crysis 2
  11. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  12. Dragon Age: Origins
  13. Endless Space*
  14. Europa Universalis III*
  15. F.E.A.R. (+ sequels)
  16. Grim Fandango Remastered
  17. Half-Life 2: Episode 2
  18. Jade Empire
  19. Just Cause (1 & 2)
  20. L.A. Noire
  21. The Last Express Gold Edition
  22. Mafia
  23. Mass Effect (1 & 2)
  24. Metro 2033
  25. Planescape: Torment
  26. Red Faction: Armageddon (+ Guerilla)
  27. Saints Row The Third
  28. Shadowrun Returns (+ Dragonfall)
  29. Sid Meier’s Pirates!*
  30. Thief Gold
  31. Titan Quest
  32. Tomb Raider
  33. Total War (Medieval II, Rome, Shogun 2)*
  34. Walking Dead Season 1
  35. The Witcher (1 & 2)

*- the goal for these would be to get in at least one proper playthrough/campaign.

I think a reasonable goal is to finish at least ten of these before the year is out.

Evergreens

I intend to continue to put time into Hearthstone, and the main goal is to stay on top of dailies. I want to get to legendary rank at least once in the year, though.

Doubt I will go back to Heroes of the Storm, unless I get some rank-climbing buddies. Or they change the ranked format to shorter seasons. Something has to change, that’s for sure.

Purchases

I reeeeally want to make progress on thinning out the library this year, so my goal is to only buy games to complete sets (e.g. Mass Effect 3, or Broken Sword 4 & 5). But there are so many quality titles out there, I just don’t know how I’ll be able to manage it. I think the key will be how much more concentration I have as I get better and can function more normally. That should let me stay focused a lot more, and thus get through the games faster. That, and the self-discipline in FFXIV I mentioned earlier.

Good luck to me!

Cheers!

NSFW

Missy Elliot – Work It

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