Star-Fired Beef


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Sometimes I resent persistent games

When I was playing WoW, it was my main game. It was, pretty much, my only game. I would occasionally spend a couple of hours playing something else, something single-player, and something I could dip into without needing a whole session to reacquaint myself with everything going on. But that time was few and far between.

Then I finally kicked WoW to the curb. I’d been playing through habit rather than enjoyment for at least a year by that time, so I was a little reinvigorated by the prospect of all these bright shiny new games I could explore. At first, this included a variety of MMOs that were now on a F2P or B2P model (Rift, WildStar, LOTRO, TSW, GW2), and the lack of pressure to “get my money’s worth” out of a subscription was a huge attraction.

I also started devoting more time to non-MMO persistent games, like Card Hunter, Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends (briefly, I admit), and various CCGs – Hearthstone, Duelyst, Hex, and so on. This is where my current predicament lies.

Unfortunately, while I did manage to commit much more time to playing and completing the other games in my Steam library, I was conscious of that subtle pull to “do my dailies” in these persistent games. Whether they are actually called daily quests or not – login rewards, cooldown timers on dungeons/raids/spawns/other activity, weeklies, even such things as seasonal rankings that reset each month – they all have the same siren song. 

So here’s the rub. I could just devote myself to one non-MMO persistent game, and try to master it. Become the best I can be – I am sure I could reach at least semi-pro status with enough dedication. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to make one game my focus in life. I don’t want to repeat my WoW experience. I don’t want to forsake the rest of the gaming landscape in order to pursue glory in one.

And yet. These games have a hold on me. I genuinely like these types of games, but I am competitive enough to want to do as well as I can in them. I want to keep getting better at them. I want to maintain that feeling of progression. And you can’t do that with a super-casual attitude. Especially in a team environment. 

Meanwhile, in the MMO space, I am wary of those tricks like limited time events (with dailies, of course), login rewards, and suchlike, which both activate the optimizer/completionist in me and stress me out by pitting that part of me against the common situation of simply not being in the mood for that game or that activity at that time. 

That is why I resent these games sometimes. There’s no other point to this post, just complain.

And so, I rant at thee.

NiT GriT – Mechanism of Control

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Spiritual Gaming

This post is another case of me sticking my nose in where it doesn’t really belong, after last week’s blog topic – reconciling one’s religion with the hobby of gaming – did the rounds. It feels like an intrusion, because unlike a number of the bloggers who have written about this, I do not share that concern with a possible conflict between my hobbies and my beliefs. It has honestly never come up in my thinking, until reading the blogs of others forced me to examine my situation.

I am strongly agnostic. I have no formal religion, but I have cobbled together a loose system of moral and spiritual beliefs from the various sources I have encountered over the years. If I were forced to choose a religion to identify with, I suspect that I would gravitate towards a pagan, Wiccan, or Druidic form. I have no idea if what I believe is the truth, let alone the Truth, but it feels right to me. Plus, it is always a work in progress.

However, I have done a decent amount of reading about various religions, particularly Christianity. Thanks to Karen Armstrong and her History of God, I feel like I have a good understanding of the way the Abrahamic faiths have developed and changed over the centuries, and I think I can empathise with the faithful of those religions a lot better. I do have problems with the way some beliefs are framed, and that has been the one major influence that religion has had on my gaming life.

To me, the act of gaming itself is no different to any other hobby. If your faith has issues with you watching movies or tv, or playing competitive sports, or making artwork, then you should be applying the same judgement to games, too. But I think the main concern people of faith have with media is the content, not the medium. Sure, there were massive fears over the rise of ‘rock and roll’ when it first became mainstream, but nowadays Christian Rock is a huuuuuge genre.

With regards to the concern about losing oneself in gaming, that you might be neglecting your faith because of it, well…one of the central tenets I find is useful to keep in mind in many faiths, is balance. You inherently know when you are out of balance, and although you may not be aware what it is, exactly, simply stopping to examine your life and priorities should make it clearer what needs to happen to bring yourself back into equilibrium. It is much harder to practise the good of your faith – love, joy, compassion, charity, etc – when you are out of balance, and so I think it is necessary to re-evaluate yourself regularly to right the ship, so to speak.

I don’t know whether any of that makes sense, even to me, so I’ll just leave it there. Turns out this topic was harder to write about than I thought.

 Árstíðir – Heyr himna smiður


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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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On Biomes, Suffering, and Death

(CN: Morbid musings on death)

I mentioned in my post on Borderlands that the setting really bummed me out and made it tough to look forward to continuing the game. Despite the high-tech galactic society, Pandora is a rocky desert wasteland and looks more like a post-apocalyptic stage than anything – crude structures, corrugated iron everywhere, open piles of trash, putrid standing water, chemical barrels, and so on, all in a place that nobody would choose to live. A huge dump that people somehow scrape a living from.

That made me realise why I prefer certain biomes in games – especially MMOs – and hate others. It is all to do with the question of: in which ways would I prefer to suffer? How would I prefer to die?

The zones that I dislike the most, the zones that make me uneasy or freak me out or just avoid when I can – those are the zones where I would be legitimately afraid to suffer through in reality. The zones that feel alien to me. There are three main varieties of those.

Deserts

I loathe desert zones in games. This is because I cannot imagine ever living – or spending a significant amount of time – in a place without an abundance of fresh water. Dying of thirst is a real fear for me, and I don’t handle the heat very well either. The main problem for me in Borderlands was that it was almost exclusively this kind of biome. I had to limit the length of my play sessions in Fallout 1 and 2 because of this effect, too. The Egypt zones in TSW were a nightmare to complete for me.

I am putting most of the blame on the extremes here, the sandy, rocky, barren wasteland where nothing grows beyond the occasional oasis. I am a little more comfortable with the savannah-type biomes, the endless prairies. They might offer similar dangers as the desert zones regarding water scarcity and heat, but the presence of all that scrub and grass just offsets some of my fears.

Swamps/Marshes

Although there is a lot more water in these zones, it is almost always still, fetid water. I think there are two main fears for me in these biomes. One is the heat and humidity combining with the perpetual dampness to promote fungal rot and disease, or infections via insects and leeches and whatnot. This was my main reaction to Zangarmarsh in WoW’s Outland. The huge fungi – in fact the fungal theme throughout the zone – just horrified me and made me want to get through it as quickly as possible. I know a fair few people who think Zangarmarsh is one of the most beautiful zones in Outland, if not WoW altogether, and I just shiver. I can’t see it.

The other main fear for me in swamps and marshes is a slight crossover with the next biome: underwater threats. Mostly crocs and snakes. Also stuff like sinkholes and quicksand. Basically not being able to trust the ground you walk on, or not being able to see the ground you walk on because of the water. The water in these biomes is always opaque, meaning you can’t just be diligent about watching where you step – you have to have faith. I don’t have that kind of faith.

Underwater

I hate hate hate underwater zones. I am of the firm belief that deep water is an alien environment for us – we are intruders at best, hopelessly unprepared and unequipped at worst. Note that this is under the sea, since I can’t remember any game where I have been in a freshwater zone like a lake. I think the reason I would hate being in this environment so much is that you are basically reduced to relying on your sight for everything. Hearing and touch and smell are pretty much useless in detecting threats when you are submersed. Yet, literally everything else in the environment is adapted to it and thus has an advantage over you. For some reason, that extra dimension of threat vectors – down – freaks me out a little too.

Although I held this fear before I started playing TSW, the familiarity with the Cthulhu mythos that it has begun has done nothing but cement my position on this.

The “Good” Stuff

To show that this is not all just a list of me being afraid of danger, let me go through a couple of harsh biomes that I actually quite like.

The Frozen North

I love these zones. Snow, mountains, glaciers, ice caves, you name it. Whether it be an alpine zone like Iron Pine Peak in Rift, a winter wonderland like Whitevale in Wildstar, or a mountain fastness like Dun Morogh in WoW, it all appeals to me. Even the harshness of Icecrown or the eternal winter of a game like Little Inferno make me comfortable, in a way. The reason? I wouldn’t mind dying in such a climate. I would much rather freeze to death than succumb in any of the ways detailed above. Being cold isn’t the torture that thirst and heat is, to me.

The Dark Woods

I suspect that a lot of people like forest zones, and I would bet that nobody is surprised to find that they are my favourite biome. But I wonder how many feel that way when the forest turns dark and spooky, haunted even? I’m thinking Duskwood in WoW, and the Shadowy Forest in TSW. To me, even when they are corrupted or harbour darkness, forest zones still feel like home. I might not want to die, but unlike the zones above, I wouldn’t be regretting ever coming here if I did.

 

Does all this make sense? Does anyone else base their reactions to biomes on stuff like this, or am I alone?

Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize

 

 


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Recent Loot Haul

I wanted to give a nod to the Steam Summer Sale in the title, but it’s winter here so it felt odd. And calling it the winter sale is weird too. Plus, I actually bought less games from the Steam Sale than other sources, so even highlighting Steam felt silly. Anyway…

From Steam

I managed to not go overly crazy, only spent around $25 and got some great deals. First up, I got the Forced 4-pack. I am not sure when I’ll dive into that, but it will be epiiiiiic! Startopia has been one of my sim/management must-haves for ages, so I finally snapped it up. Tomb Raider for $5 seemed too good to pass up. Satisfied my adventure point-and-click urges with the Blackwell Bundle, which contains four of the five games: Convergence, Deception, Legacy, and Unbound. Finally, picked up Polarity because a) Portal-lite, and b) it was only 19 cents, so I should make a profit on the trading cards.

Oh, and that $25 included a full copy of To The Moon (game + soundtrack) as a gift.

Bundles

Yeah, I ended up diverting Steam Sale money to a couple of bundles. I bought the Humble E3 ticket Bundle for a few bucks simply to get Wildstar, in the anticipation of having certain options already unlocked when it goes F2P. The bundle came with a bunch of other stuff I don’t care about (military shooters, cosmetics for games I don’t play, etc) or already have (Psychonauts).

The other bundle I bought was the Bundle Stars Nightmares Bundle. I am not really sure why I am attracted to some of the horror games out there, as I honestly don’t like horror very much at all. Maybe I’m saving them for a time when I have someone to whom I can turn and hide my face against. Who knows. The games in this bundle were the adventure games 1Heart, The Samaritan Paradox, and Kraven Manor; the “walking simulator”s Montague’s Mount, and The Moon Sliver; an FPS action adventure called  Betrayer; and The Path, a cool-sounding take on the Red Riding Hood tale. 

Just Call Me Sisyphus

So in a week and a half of temptation, a lot of my hard Steam Challenge work is undone. I’m finding that a lot of the games I consider the most seriously are starting to tend towards the story-heavy ones, such as adventure games and RPGs. I’ve spent a couple of hours whittling down my wishlist too, as having nearly 500 games on it was starting to become ridiculous. I’m down to under 350 at the moment, and I hope to get that under 300 before I reach the end of the list.

Warning: NSFW

The Tea Party – Temptation


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Tuesday Maintenance – Blizzard Edition

Not much to report this week, as I spent a few days in hospital and haven’t really been up to spending long periods playing games. Hoping that things will pick up this week.

This thing

Most of my gaming time this week has been taken up with Heroes of the Storm. I finally reached level 25, which makes trying out new heroes a little easier as all the skill options are open from the start now. It looks like I am going to be able to afford Nova after all, since I have 8 of my 10 required heroes for ranked, and almost 9k gold saved. Nova costs 10k, and I still have a couple of 4k heroes I can buy to finish off the roster. I’ve now been on the receiving end of Nova ganks and it is not a nice experience. I can’t wait to dish it out for once.

I am getting better at figuring out which heroes click with me quickly. I was super excited to try out Chen, a warrior who is all about smashing kegs over enemy heads and then breathing fire on them. But the reality is that he is a lot more subtle than that, and I am finding it difficult to adapt to his actual playstyle rather than go kegsmashing with abandon.

I have started playing against player opponents, finally, now that I have hit 25. Need that practice. I’m finding that there are two kinds of opponent so far: either I can fence with someone and sooner or later bait them into overextending; or, they are a really good player and I get my arse handed to me. I did manage to hook up with Murf and Jasyla last night, which was great! Our results weren’t great, but at least one of the games we lost was a hard-fought, intense match that I thoroughly enjoyed.

That thing

Alongside HotS, I picked up Hearthstone again after a month-long hiatus. I gave the new Tavern Brawl mode a whirl, and I love it! My friend sent me a Warrior Grim Patron build which is super cheap as long as you have Death’s Bite from Naxxramas and the first wing (I believe) of Blackrock Mountain unlocked. It was touted as a deck that is easily capable of making Legendary rank, but I somehow managed to lose my first game at rank 22 against a new Mage with just bog-standard starter cards. I had to go and lie down for a bit after that.

Those other things

I gave Wasteland Angel a try, it isn’t bad but controls feel awkward as is so I’ve sent it to the “later, when I have a controller” pile. I also attempted to play Avencast, an ARPG, but the dialogue and writing actively hurt my brain, and the graphics are fairly dated. It went straight to the “maybe later” pile.

I ended up playing through the free DLC “minisodes” for To The Moon, that take place after the main story. The second one allegedly contains a small bridging plot to the sequel that is supposedly in development, so I’ll be interested to see how that pans out. Neither of the minisodes were as tear-jerkingly sad as the main story, but neither were the doctors anywhere near as obnoxiously annoying. So, net gain, I guess.

Downsyde – Life Speed