#Blaugust2019 – A Few Parting Thoughts

Although technically, Blaugust 2019 isn’t over until Sunday, September 7th according to the calendar, for the last day of August, I wanted to make a few notes on how being a Blaugust participant was for me.

The #Blaugust2019 calendar taken from Tales from the Aggronaut

Other than Developer Appreciation Week, I paid little to no attention to the topic suggestions. I guess I was overdue to start blogging again – although I occasionally struggled with the actual writing, idea generation was not an issue.

In fact, I’m ending the month with 9 post ideas in my drafts. Some were inspired by other Blaugust participants, but most were things I wanted to write about, but never got around to doing the prep work for.

Feel free to borrow any of these ideas that grab your interest!

Despite having a few days where I felt like I produced somewhat low-effort posts, I did manage to post once a day for the entire month of August.

All in all, I am pleased with my writing output during the month.


The other half of Blaugust is, of course, the new blogs I discovered and the enjoyable interaction with the community. I didn’t come anywhere near reading every Blaugust participant’s posts – in fact, I would say that I only read work from a handful of different bloggers. Most of the blogs I started to follow were folks that posted something that caught my eye in the Discord channel for sharing content.

Despite the fact that I made a few posts on topics other than video games, I also found that most of the posts by others I was drawn to read were about games.

I sought out posts about MMOs that I either currently play (Elder Scrolls Online) or used to play (primarily World of Warcraft), and I found myself not really reading posts focused on other MMOs. However, I almost always clicked on posts about single player PC games, whether I had heard of them or not.

I started following 18 new blogs, most of which I expect I’ll keep reading faithfully. I also added a bunch of new folks in my Twitter feed, and plan to keep checking the Blaugust Discord for content that interests me.


Finally, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t toss a shout out to Naithin of Time to Loot, one of my fellow Blaugust participants, who made me aware of this crazy Blaugust thing in the first place, and therefore, indirectly encouraged my return to blogging. I’m always surprised when people I don’t know find me on Twitter (and even more surprised when they turn out not to be Sex-Chat Bots), and I’ve been enjoying his blog for a while now.

I even managed to come up with something of a mission statement while leaving a comment on one of his posts.

Of course, I never expected to be a crazy-famous blogger. I'm content just chatting into the void.

Will I keep up with posting every single day? Probably not, but I’d like to find something to jabber about most days. I like my What I’m Playing Wednesday posts a lot, and not just because those quick peeks at different games are fun to write. Blaugust has reminded me not only how much I enjoy writing about games, but how much I like playing them, and it’s been a delicious little loop of returning to things that make me happy.

So you haven’t seen the last of me, not by a long shot.

Quick Look – Two Point Hospital

With Two Point Hospital having a free weekend, and with me having a bit of time on my hands after a crazy week, I thought I’d give it a download and try it out. When Tycoon games were all the rage in the mid-to-late 90s, I played through a lot of them, and I’ve been excited about seeing them make a comeback.

I followed Two Point Hospital prior to its release, but the $35 asking price was a little steep for me. By the time sales were putting it at the sub-$20 mark, some rather pricey DLC had also begun to be released, so I resigned myself to waiting for some sort of complete collection. Reviews were good, but not THAT good, and there were occasional complaints of tedium after the initial burst of fun.

I spent roughly an hour playing, and I can see it. Instead of immediately moving on when I reached my first star, and opened my second hospital, I decided to stick with it and see if I could continue improving the rating in the first scenario. I’m still not sure if that was a good choice or not – I’m guessing more stuff unlocks by working through the levels progressively, and I felt very stunted trying to improve. If there is a way to train your staff without moving onto the second scenario, I certainly couldn’t find it, and it seemed to be taking forever to increase my reputation enough to hit that next level.

I’m guessing the right move here is to continue onward – there are 15 different hospitals you play through in the campaign. There’s probably new mechanics that open up with each new location, and it’s possible that bringing those back to earlier locations will make getting additional stars easier.

Although I think it could be a good game to draw in folks who have little to no experience with business sims, nothing in the first hour made me feel like this was a must-play game. Perhaps I’m selling it short by not immediately continuing on, but refund windows are a thing, and if it’s intended that you go back to obtain additional stars the game should really push harder for you to go in that direction, because it feels real dull just waiting for patients with nothing new to build or manage.

With the release of Two Point Hospital’s first “stuff” pack – The Retro Items Pack – I fear that this game is headed the way of the Sims, where if you want everything the game has to offer, you just have to keep shelling out more and more money with diminishing returns on your investment. While the DLC are all priced significantly lower than the base game, you’d already have to pay almost twice the asking price to get everything released so far.


My quick look impression of Two Point Hospital is that it’s a solid enough game, but can get dull if you wander off the intended path. There is a sandbox mode that unlocks at some point during the campaign, but I can imagine the game feels even slower without goals. There’s nothing here that will push me to buy, even at the current 50% discount and taking into account that I do really enjoy the genre. Either a better deal with come around, or it won’t, and I find it doesn’t matter much to me either way.

Two Point Hospital’s free play weekend will end on Monday, September 2nd, at 10 am Pacific time.

Fashion in the Elder Scrolls Online

A few days ago, TheRoyalFamily made a post on Dating Sims on the Holodeck about playing dress-up in video games. As someone who has been known to occasionally spend more time on character creation than playing the actual game, and whose World of Warcraft transmog budget is vast, this was a topic of interest to me.

What inspired me to make this post in response was the lamentation about the lack of variety (especially in the cute and sexy female outfits) in Elder Scrolls Online. Please forgive the incoming photo dump.

The outfitting station in ESO is fairly robust, but not without its restrictions. First, you must have a character that knows the motif (style) in order to transmog to a certain style. Dye colors are mostly achievement rewards. Costumes are also available, however, changing their color either requires and ESO+ membership or a dye stamp, bought with premium currency, and dye stamps can only be applied once.


The four following looks were put together in the Outfitting Station.


On the upside, there is no armor class restrictions. A light piece can be changed in the outfitting station to take on the appearance of a heavy armor piece, or vice versa. Any two handed weapon can take on the appearance of any other two handed weapon. Head pieces can be hidden or shown, based on your preference. You may be able to tell, I’m not a hat person.


The following four looks are all costumes.


Please note, all of these screenshots are from my own ESO account – I have not spend any premium currency on costumes or motifs, everything I have acquired I have gotten through game play, daily log in rewards, or from pre-ordering Elsweyr. That said – if you are willing to spend crowns for fashion, the world of options is immense.


The following images are all costumes that are purchasable with Crowns; images courtesy of ESO-Fashion.


I personally love the fact that I can design up a look for each of my alts to avoid having mismatched armor while I replace things every few levels, but there are a lot of folks out there far more into Fashion Scrolls Online than I am.

If I had one complaint, it would be that these systems aren’t particularly transparent – a new or returning player may not realize how easy it is to customize the look of their character without giving up any actual stats.

Elder Scrolls Online has plenty to offer video game fashionistas, in my opinion. Even with many of the cosmetics locked behind a paywall, ESO+ members get a monthly allotment of Crowns which could be used to pick out some fantastic costumes (or other character customization options) without shelling out additional money to do so.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – House of 1,000 Doors: Serpent Flame

On the rare occasion that I actually finish games, I usually like to play something very casual right afterwards as sort of a palette-cleanser. Since I’m still seeing how much value I can get out of a month of Utomik, I figured I’d download a hidden object game. Serpent Flame is the third game in the House of 1,000 Doors series, and I have already played the first two, so it seemed like a decent choice.

Now, for me, the story is the least important part of a hidden object game, which is what I think enables me to keep enjoying them – almost all of them have stories that range from the mildly absurd to the completely nonsensical. The story (at least as far as I’ve played) is pretty ridiculous here: solve puzzles and find objects to go into portals to other times to help banish the giant snakes that are destroying the world.

No. I didn’t make it up. That’s the plot.

So onto more important things – at least to me. So far I’ve encountered only two types of hidden object scenes – ones with words and ones where you put part of an object or collection with like items. Serpent Flame hits the sweet spots where the hidden object scenes are cluttered enough to make finding everything a challenge, but not made overly challenging with cheap tricks, like flickering lights or an abundance of shadow.

Also very important – you CAN travel by map, which cuts down on a lot of exceptionally slow moving around. The map will, by default, show both locations with available actions and with undiscovered collectibles, but both can be turned off with a simple checkbox. Since I prefer to move swiftly between hidden object screens and puzzles, and don’t care overly much for pixel hunting, I usually make frequent use of the map, and really appreciate the set-up of this one.

I’m about an hour in, just having completed the first of four portals, so I expect I’m probably slightly more than a quarter done with the game (since there was some pre-portal set up work that needed to be handled). For me, the puzzles are perhaps a bit too simple, but I’ll take that any day over frustratingly difficult. There are many kinds of games I like to play when I want to challenge myself – hidden object games are not one of them.

I’ll be surprised if I don’t finish this before the weekend – and I’m unlikely to do a full “Game Over” on it because my experience with hidden object games is that if I haven’t bounced off of it for having one more major issues for me within the first hour, I’ll enjoy it through to the end.

Game Over: Little Dragon’s Cafe

  • Time to Complete: 31 hours, 17 minutes.
  • Achievements Unlocked During Normal Play: 18/21
  • MSRP: $59.99
  • Price paid: $6.99 (for one month of Utomik)

I feel like I need to start off saying that I really enjoyed playing Little Dragon’s Cafe, because hoo boy, do I have a million nitpicks. The game worked great, it was super relaxing (even during the “stressful” busy parts), but there were a ton of things that I feel would have made the game even better.

Until now, the way I have been making games is to make the game system first, and then add in characters and all the meat of the game afterward,” he said. “For Little Dragons Café, I worked on this backward where we thought of the characters and the story and the art style first, and then decided how to turn all that into a game.

Yasuhiro Wada – from an interview with CJ Andriessen on Destructoid

I loved the art style, and mostly really liked the characters, but the one thing I can’t give Little Dragon’s Cafe any credit for whatsoever was the pacing. After the prologue, the chapters felt so very slow. And there were a lot of chapters.

It seems a little disingenuous to complain about busy work in a game that, let’s be honest, is at least 75% busy work to begin with. Scrounging around for recipe fragments and cooking ingredients was a lovely, chill experience, but it wasn’t anything exciting. But there were far too many days which served to only be a short cutscene, which added almost nothing to the story, with instructions to further the story by going to sleep.

The other thing that threw the pacing off – at least for me – was the process of raising the dragon. The first three stages of your dragon’s life happen fairly quickly, and then you’re stuck in adolescence for what seemed like forever. At that point, you did have the entirety of the island to explore (minus one small “end game” zone), but that also meant that there were blocked off recipe fragments in a lot of places, taunting you, that you couldn’t get until your dragon reached adulthood.

I feel like Little Dragon Cafe would have been a smoother experience with a couple of small tweaks. Having four rarities of about half of the ingredients made the total number of ingredients wholly unmanageable, considering there are 160 unique ones to begin with. Due to the extreme limits of the fertilizer system (only getting one per day with a max carry of 9), it was really rather useless for targeting specific higher rarity ingredients, and actually using the ingredients was just a guarantee that you’d have to change your menu often.

The relative rarity of a few certain key ingredients was also pretty annoying to deal with. Rice was used in a lot of recipes, but only came in two base varieties. The same with flour, which was used in even more recipes than rice. Early on this was fine, but as you progressed through the story, and your cafe got more famous (and therefore busier), there was no way to keep up with the demand for these ingredients, so you ended up with a rather lopsided menu that used very little of either.

Finally, while it was very handy to have a garden right outside your cafe, the fact that you had absolutely no control over what grew there made it far less useful than it otherwise could have been. The more ingredients you found in the wild, the more variety your garden produced, meaning that you basically got an insignificant amount of a lot of different ingredients.

The cooking mini-game was fine – I didn’t particular look forward to cooking new dishes, but I also didn’t struggle to get four to five stars on most anything I cooked. I am grateful that the ability to change your menu while out in the world was available, because in the latter half of the game, I sometimes found myself needing to change my menu multiple times a day as ingredients ran out. My cafe employees did a lot of slacking off, but unless I was near the end of a chapter, I found I could basically ignore it, since there was no financial incentive to make the cafe run smoothly provided you met the satisfaction metrics for a given chapter (and if you didn’t you just needed to spend a few days getting satisfaction up before the next story beat would start).

With no fail state that I could find, Little Dragon’s Cafe is a respectable low-key game that can be played in bite size chunks (frequently, I’d play two or three days in about 30 minutes). It’s a little annoying that two of the remaining three achievements I have yet to unlock require playing past the end of the story, and I’m still undecided whether I’m going to prioritize finishing those up. I suppose it depends on how much I find I miss playing.

I would recommend Little Dragon’s Cafe for fans of the genre, but the odd pacing and grindiness of the game make it hard sell (at least on PC) for the asking price.

Heartbound: A Demo Worth Downloading

I’ve been noticing more and more indie games (especially those in Early Access) have been adding demos. To be fair, I have no idea if this is a new trend or if I’m just now becoming aware of it.

I’d like to tell you that I’m not sure what about Heartbound caught my eye, but I would be lying. It’s the dog. If there’s a dog, well, then that’s probably going to be the thing that snags my interest.

I played the demo for about half an hour – through what I believe to be the first chapter. There is real darkness here, both implied and explicit, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. I will say the story is effective. I want to find my dog. I desperately want to find my dog.

Once I figured out what I was doing, I liked the combat mini-games. I really liked the puzzles, which feel like they’re going to be an integral part of the experience. Honestly, there wasn’t much I didn’t like, and the only thing preventing me from just dropping a tenner on the game right now is this: it’s not done.

And I don’t mean it’s not done in that it still needs a spit & polish. It’s not that there are still bugs and other niggling problems. It’s that whole chapters of the game aren’t yet available, and I don’t do well with waiting. When I dive into a game, I want the whole package, because when I spend too much time away, I lose track of the story, of the mechanics, and really, anything more than a couple weeks, and I just start over. I don’t want Heartbound to leave me hanging, so I’m going to wait.

This is the bit I find really intriguing, and that confirms I’m going to have to keep an eye out for the full release. From the developer’s website:

Every time you interact with an object, talk to an NPC, forget to turn off a light-switch, take out the trash, or disregard a sparkly bush the game remembers this and will change subtly for all further interactions. The greatest part about this design is that it already works and is in the current builds of the game. Both minor and major differences are going to pop up throughout the game and give the community something to share with one another. Everything you do matters no matter what kind of player you are or choose to be

Jason (Thor) Hall – https://www.gopiratesoftware.com/games/Heartbound/

I love small dev teams with determination to make the game they want to make. I probably should pick this up now to support the process, but I am also leery enough of Early Access to worry that I’ll end up with a half-finished game. The latest information about expectations for full release says mid-to-late-2019, so it might not be far off now.

In Which Redditors Are Oddly Supportive

I spend far more time than I should on gaming related subreddits, and overwhelmingly, what I notice more than anything else is that people do like to complain. Obviously, there are some places I find less savage than others, but on the GameDeals subreddit, I usually find people don’t hesitate to call out games for being complete garbage.

Well, today, Wormhole City went free to download & keep on Steam, and once I wandered my way over to the Steam page to see Overwhelmingly Negative reviews, I was expecting the nearly 100 comments on the deal post to be a toxic wasteland.

I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Instead of vitriol, I saw a surprising amount of support for the lone developer whose first commercial endeavor had so obviously missed many many marks with players.

In spite of having a library I know well and truly I may never complete, and it being well outside of my genre preferences, I went and added Wormhole City to my Steam library. More importantly, I will keep an eye out for future projects from Zenrok Studios because ambitious ideas and the desire to make good games is already there – the skills to do so can be learned.

The first game wasn’t successful, but I have an immense amount of respect for someone who can say “Hey, I handled this poorly, but I love what I do, and I want to try again. In the meantime, you might like what my first game has become, but I don’t feel right charging for it.” That’s exactly the kind of attitude that tends to lead to great things.