Promptapalooza #19 – Finishing What You Start

Blaugust Promptapalooza 2020 is this crazy year’s crazy twist on the August blogging challenge cooked up by Belghast over on Tales of the Aggronaut. Instead of writing every day, a whole bunch of us have committed to being “prompt-bearers”. Today’s prompt comes from Nogamara over at Battle Stance:

Do you “finish” games/hobbies/projects and move on or do you come back to the same things again and again?

Promptapalooza (August 18, 2020)

Finishing what I start is such a stumbling block for me that I once created a blog to try to get a handle on the issue. It lasted less than six months. I blamed the project’s failure on the fact that I returned to playing World of Warcraft, a game that is for all intents and purposes unfinishable. Really, I think it was just a meta reflection of the problem at hand.

Often the question is not whether or not I’m actually going to finish something, but why I’m not going to finish it. There are four major reasons why I might not finish something, and I’m going to touch on all of them in order from what I feel is – for me – most acceptable to most ridiculous.

New things are interesting, but sometimes, they’re only interesting for a very short period before they become tedious.

Although this does happen sometimes with video games, mostly, this is a problem I have with craft projects. I can usually power through making a scarf. I’ve even successfully finished a few baby blankets. But (I think) I’ve finally learned my lesson on full sized afghans – I’m sick of the pattern long before I’m finished, and now the goddamned thing is heavy and difficult to handle. If I get to about three quarters done before I realize I’m no longer enjoying something, the satisfaction of completion might be enough for me to push through, but even then, it’s not guaranteed.

I want to believe I am better at (insert hobby here) than I actually am.

While I logically understand that trying something that’s beyond your current skill set is how you learn something new, or improve at something, in practice, it’s often frustrating, and I usually like my leisure time to be more leisurely than that.

Something else came up, and now I’ve forgotten whatever I once knew about this. Guess I should start over. Then something else comes up. Repeat until the end of time.

I flat out refuse to even contemplate how many epic-length video games I have played the first few hours of more than three times. There’s been many, that I can tell you. It almost always is a combination of “story I have forgotten” and “mechanics I have forgotten”, but sometimes, it’s merely one or the other. I also tend to restart TV series for the same reason – I don’t remember all the details, and since I figure I liked it the first time, no reason not to start over. It happens less frequently with long books (thank god, I read fast), but the risk is there with just about any narrative with a serious time commitment.

I don’t want (thing) to be over, so I “save” the last little bit.

This is – by miles – the most irritating reason (to me) that I don’t finish something. Thankfully, it almost never stops me from finishing a game I’m enjoying, but it’s definitely prevented me from diving right into the next one of a series. But the last book or two in a series, or the last few episodes or even seasons of a television show? Yep, I do this, and it’s a huge struggle to then force myself to finish something I had – up until that point – been really really enjoying.

I admire people who (at least generally speaking) finish what they start, but it just isn’t me.

Long Live the Queen! Turns 281 – 290

The Project Explained

Long Live the Queen is a collaborative Civilization VI base game play through and blogging project conceived of by Naithin at Time to Loot. We have 8 players, and each player is responsible for taking 10 turns and writing about our progress. I drew fifth in the randomly generated line-up.

The Story So Far…

If you need to know how we got to where we are, just pop on over to Time to Loot, where Naithan has kept track of all of our shenanigans in a really nifty list of links.

Turns 281-290

The good news is that England is at peace, and we’re in good shape overall. Our empire has grown past my ability to fit it all into a single screenshot.

The bad news? We are VERY unpopular. If the opportunity arises to get ourselves some goodwill without any significant downside, I might take it. Just in case.

Right off the bat, Eridu requires me to decide on its next production, and I elect to go for a Commercial Hub because there is no such thing as being too rich or too beautiful, so more gold seems like a good plan.

Roosevelt approaches me asking to get some of our mercury – a luxury good – in exchange for some gold every turn. It’s not a trade I feel like we need to make, but we have tons of mercury. The money is nice, and we can spare the resource, and maybe America will hate us just a little less. Maybe.

Our troops make short work of the barbarian encampment to the south east, which I think we were just clearing out to be on the safe side (and to get some experience for our nearby troops). I promote our field cannon with Volley, and send our musketman to do some exploring of this thus-far unrevealed corner of the map.

Cleo pops in, also looking for a luxury resource we have in abundance (truffles), but she offers both a little bit of cash AND coffee, which we don’t seem to have. Deal done, lady. Let’s keep that friendship going.

We complete our research of Civil Engineering, which opens up another military policy slot. I fill that with Wars of Religion, since we have a lot of non-religious units this could benefit. I also start researching Scorched Earth, because our military strength is one of our biggest assets.

Now that both Teddy & Cleo have gotten something they wanted from us, the ridiculous demand twins try their luck. Pedro insists we need to pay him money every turn because … he wants it? I’m unimpressed with him and quickly refuse.

The next refusal comes with a little more thought – the offer isn’t great off the bat, and I also really hate sending military resources off to a country that hates us. So sorry, Gil, I’m going to have to pass on your not-so-generous-actually offer.

American founds San Francisco, down in that south eastern corner where we’d recently taken care of the barbarians. I don’t mind – pretty sure we had no real plans to settle there – but I was miffed when he got uppity about our troops being too close. They were there before your city, bub. I pull our musketman, field cannon, knight, and siege tower back towards Bradford.

We finish up Electricity, and I start us on Rocketry, with an eye towards a potential scientific victory. We get a boost to our research on Scorched Earth, and I get a few more productions online. Ur gets a granary, Sheffield gets a builder, and Birmingham gets a bank. I send a couple envoys towards Yerevan, with an eye towards maxing out our bonus with them, even though faith doesn’t seem to be too high on our priority list at the moment.

I wrap up my reign with one final grand gesture. I purchase a tile near Bristol and start work on The Colossus. Do we need it? Probably not. But I needed to do something on brand during my turns, and while it’s not a boat, it’s definitely boat-adjacent. The extra gold per turn and trade route aren’t too shabby either.

Since I actually remembered to screenshot it this time, here’s a peek into my process of documenting what happens on a per turn basis in case I can’t immediately get it all written up. As you may notice, I take a little liberty with exactly the order of things sometimes when it makes for better flow.

I have passed the torch (and the save file) on to UnwiseOwl to take us through to turn 300!

Release Radar – Three Intriguing Indies Coming Soon

At this point, I have a lot of games on my wishlist that don’t even have release dates yet, which leads to me checking frequently to see if any of them have gotten release dates. Normally, this is an exercise in futility and disappointment, but not so right now. Three games that are potential day one pick-ups for me are all coming out before the end of August!

Ruinarch is releasing into Early Access on August 25.

I discovered Ruinarch during the most recent Steam Game Festival, and was instantly enamored by it. As someone who would have gladly played the demo over and over, Early Access on this one isn’t a deal breaker for me – the game is already fun to play. The demo is available again as part of the Tiny Teams Festival, so if you missed it last time, or want to see the improvements made over the past month or so, you can check that out for the next couple of days.

Best Friend Forever is releasing on August 27.

Best Friend Forever is a game I’ve had my eye on for quite a while – I think I first mentioned it here during LudoNarraCon, but playing the demo catapulted this title from “Looks cool.” to “I must have this now”. Well, it’s just about here, and although I’m still not super excited about dating sims in general, I really want to play with and train all the dogs.

Do Animals Dream? is releasing on August 31.

Although I’m completely sold on the previous two titles, I am more cautiously optimistic about Do Animals Dream? It looks like a pretty chill game to play through, and the store page description puts me in mind of A Short Hike, which I’ve seen people rave about. For me, my interest in this title is going to be probably be tied to both length and price point – I’d find it far more appealing as a compact, sub-$10 title than I would as something more ambitious, especially since as far as I can tell it’s a freshman effort from Black Vein Productions.

Are there any games – indie or otherwise – dropping over the next couple of weeks that you’re super excited for? Drop me a comment and let me know.

In Review – July 2020

It’s only a little dramatic to say that this month nearly killed this blog. It wasn’t even the month that I posted the least often (I only made four posts during last December), but it was the month I felt the worst about the lack of posts. There was a nearly overwhelming feeling of having completely run out of things to talk about, and it was magnified by the fact that I also had a less-than-stellar month on a personal level.

Weirdly, this was also a month where almost all of my other hobbies took a back seat to gamestuff, but actually sitting down to write something was crazy hard.

July, for me, was a month of binge-gaming, and the gaming hangovers that often follow.

The first half of the month, I was deep into No Man’s Sky. It was occasionally wonderful, and sometimes frustrating, but after about 40 hours, that started to flip around. It started to feel as if I had seen a whole bunch of cool stuff, sure, but that’s about how long before it started to feel kind of same-y. By itself, that’s not a huge deal, but it was also when I hit what felt like a pretty major progress slow-down.

It wasn’t a brick wall, but kind of a winding path into tedium. I discovered I didn’t much care for ship combat, although I did enough to get the free freighter. I didn’t much care for land combat either, and the majority of the missions I was seeing were of the “kill sentinels” variety. I spent hours poking around trying to get Vy’keen daggers for a quest at my base, and never spotted a single one. I spent an entire evening hunting crashed ships, and only found distress signals from strangers needing my help. After a couple frustrating play sessions, I lost interest in logging in.

The latest update seemed to be highly focused on combat, and just wasn’t enticing enough for my play style. Even if I don’t go back, I am satisfied with the time I spent with it.

A little over a week later, I spent a really intense four days with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Oddly enough, it took getting spoiled on a pretty major plot point in the first chapter to get me to push through the first three hours of the game. I’m not sure if it was actually the slowest open of the three main games, but I am sure it was the weakest of the three overall.

To be clear, I still really liked it – I mean, I kind of had to in order to put in 26 hours over four days.

Unfortunately, Danganronpa is a visual novel, not an RPG, so it didn’t qualify for #JRPGJuly and the Community Game Along. With so much of my gaming time over the month invested into only two titles, I didn’t make a whole lot of progress on any actual JRPGs, although I managed to poke at a handful.

Most of my in-between gaming this month was spent with Bloons TD6, which is actually kind of perfect for when you’ve only got a few minutes to poke at something. In 15-30 minute intervals, I managed to spend almost 8 hours watching monkeys pop balloons.

On a whim (and a very deep discount), I decided to try out Treasure Hunter Simulator, despite mixed reviews. It’s pretty much as mediocre as I was expecting, so I can’t say I was disappointed, but I wasn’t exactly jazzed either. At full price, I probably would have requested a refund, but for less than $4, I don’t mind having it around when I need something brainless to poke at.

I’ve also been continuing to poke a SMITE on and off – mostly in training mode for now, meaning I don’t have to deal with people who get frustrated because my current skill is not up to the standard of my current level.

I am not usually a person who is too affected by celebrity deaths, but I did find myself rather obsessively rewatching the early seasons of Glee in the wake of Naya Rivera’s death by accidental drowning. While the show is incredibly problematic in a lot of ways, it is also Super Effective at manipulating the emotions of the audience, in spite of frequently falling short of making you actually care about its characters.

I never finished fully watching the series the first time through, and it’s now been almost two weeks since I’ve felt the pull to watch more, so it seems unlikely I’ll finish it this time either. That said, there’s something that just feels right about looking at the arc of the first three seasons as something complete – from introduction to the major characters to their graduation. The show carried on for three more seasons after that, but – at least for me – it never recaptured the intensity of its early seasons.

They might have been able to auto-tune the voices, but the facial expressions of the actors are usually even more potent than their singing.

Overall, even though I felt like I did a whole bunch of nothing this month when I started this post, I put a lot of time into nerdy pursuits. Given the numbers I know for certain, I’d estimate about 90 hours were spent gaming, and another 40 hours were spent on my Glee re-watch.

That said, going goal-light this month also often left me wasting time trying to figure out what how I wanted to spend my leisure time. Should August’s goals be more rigid? I guess we’ll figure that out tomorrow.

Ten Thousand Coins Demo

If you ask me, there aren’t enough games that revolve almost exclusively around buying low and selling high, and it’s super-rare that you see one that’s as story driven as Ten Thousand Coins. I was intrigued right from the start – there’s a lot going on with this tale of a young Foxeen woman, learning the merchant trade while hiding her true identity from a world that’s actively hunting her kind.

You spend the tutorial chapter traveling back and forth between two settlements, picking up axes in the first, and bartering them to the lumberjacks in the second. It’s a simple enough concept when only two settlements are available, and they both happen to have what the other one needs. You learn right away that unless you are in desperate need of coin, it’s always more profitable to barter than to buy and sell, due to the tax system on coin transactions.

If that’s all Ten Thousand Coins had to offer, even with a robust world design and story, it’d probably wear thin pretty quickly. However, travel time comes with its own challenges and choices to be made. There is a hunger mechanic, so foraging for food while traveling quickly becomes a necessity if you’re going to run a profitable business – eating the stock has an opportunity cost. Also, the woods aren’t safe – you will encounter hazards, creatures and bandits in the woods, more so at night.

Combat is turn based, but plays out like a mini-game. Attacking requires you to click at the right time, and blocking incoming attacks is done via mousing over the area where they’re intended to land. Neither is particularly difficult, but it’s miles away from traditional stat-based RNG combat (as well as the real-time action combat) you may be expecting.

So far, the game plays far more like a strategy game than an RPG, and if I weren’t so interested in economic-based game play, I’d likely be disappointed. Sure, there’s a quest log, and you can do things like upgrade your wagon and hire on crew, but it lacks that core feeling of becoming more powerful through progression. Sure, you get stronger, but in the sense of moving quicker or being able to hold more goods at any given time.

I expect it’s the kind of thing that’s going to start out comfortably easy, but really test your trading mettle as the game progresses, and that’s the kind of difficulty ramp up I am here for.

For a game not slated to release until the end of the year, it feels pretty polished up already. Movement in towns is a bit persnickety, but that was the only time I didn’t feel like I was playing a finished product.

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Ten Thousand Coins, and after playing, I went to the website and signed up for beta testing. It’s another one for the wish list – refreshingly different and a delight to play.

5 Fandom Friday- Favorite Book to Movie Adaptations

Thanks go to Heather of Nerdy by Nature for the fantastic topic idea!

For the most part, I am a “read the book before I see the movie” person. That is, of course, if I know it’s an adaptation. And for four out of five of these, I absolutely read the book first, but my number one book-to-movie was from my childhood, and I didn’t realize it was based on a book until many years after I fell in love with the movie.

5. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Not only was this a great adaptation of a really excellent book, the casting was spot on. Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Marsha Gay Harden and Laura Linney – all of them playing their parts to perfection. I was so psyched up for this movie when it came out, I went to the theater by myself to see it.

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

This one isn’t an easy watch by any means, but it is as powerful as the source material. The characters really draw you in, and the cruelty of mental health care in the not so distant past becomes impossible to ignore.

3. The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

For me, Stephen King adaptations are more miss than hit – it’s hard to distill several hundred pages into less than two hours. The Shawshank Redemption manages to avoid a lot of those issues both because of the brevity of the source material and the length of the movie. In fact, the movie version manages to make the story even more powerful with some new plot points, and it’s done well enough that you may not even realize what parts were just added for the film.

(and if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, I’m not going to be the one who reveals that little secret.)

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is a book I sought out deliberately once I knew a movie was being made of it, and I thought that at least the first book-to-movie translation was pretty damn excellent.

  1. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

When I was young, I rented this movie over and over, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I read the book for the first time. It’s beautiful, terrifying and heartbreaking all at once, and I still watch it regularly. If I had to guess, this would be my most-watched movie of all time, and it holds up.

Recommendations from the Indie MEGABOOTH Steam Sale

The Indie MEGABOOTH Going Away (For Now) sale on Steam is running through May 12, and although it’s a fantastic sale on a bunch of great indie games, the reason for it is a little sad. Although I’ve only ever attended one gaming convention, I loved the experience, but I can’t blame anyone for wanting to take a hiatus until the state of the world is a little less uncertain.

The Indie MEGABOOTH is a traveling showcase of passionate creators working together to bring independent games to the forefront of the gaming community and conference goers’ minds. Our mission is to give thoughtful, atypical games exposure to new audiences. Since 2011, we’ve created a network for developers and creative communities to support each other and connect these dev teams with fans, publishers, and platform holders in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Without hitting any duplicates from my LudoNarracon2020 recommendations, a few games that I think are worth picking up on this sale if you feel so inclined to toss a few dollars towards some indie developers during this sale.

Reus – 75% off – $2.49

Despite being one of the most played games in my Steam library, I’m always a little apprehensive about recommending Reus. Because sadly, it’s not a very good god game, which is what drew me toward it initially.

What it is instead is a really fantastic puzzle game. If you enjoy figuring out how different elements work together, and unlocking a bajillion unlocks, you will probably enjoy playing Reus. Despite having played it for over 100 hours, I still haven’t managed to unlock everything that’s available (although, that’s probably because I keep resetting all my unlocks after taking extended breaks from the game).

It’s been cheaper in the past, and it’s been bundled quite a few times, so it might already be in your library collecting dust, but on the off chance it isn’t, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys puzzlers (and doesn’t mind doing a little out of game research or muddling through the process of discovery).

Cook, Serve, Delicious 2 – 75% off – $3.24

Although it might be hard to believe about a game that is so fast-paced, I actually find Cook, Serve, Delicious 2 to be almost meditative once I get into it. It definitely requires your full attention to complete the levels, but it also gives you practice levels and zen modes for you to work up your muscle memory without so much pressure. It’s another game that’s not for everyone, but if it’s up your alley, there’s a lot of game here.

Catlateral Damage – 75% off – $2.49

Some cats just want to watch the world burn. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s all cats! Catlateral Damage lets you be the cat, and you get to run around, knocking over anything and everything you can get your paws on. Sure, it’s silly, but it’s also weirdly satisfying.

Probably not a good fit if you don’t like cats, collectibles, or wrecking stuff, but for most people, it’s worth a pick up just to mess around with.

Star Crawlers – 90% off – $1.99

I can’t say too much about this one yet, as I just picked it up myself, but after an hour or so I can say that it’s a solid little sci-fi dungeon crawler being sold at a fantastic price. It’d been on my wishlist for a very long time, and I couldn’t resist the deal.

It’s got a first person perspective, grid-based movement, and two different types of combat. Although you’ll have plenty of things to stab or shoot, you also have to keep up with your hacker deck, which is a secondary sort of combat necessary to progress through the story.

With multiple classes and difficulty levels, it looks like it could be pretty replayable, but it’s got a pretty lengthy story, and you could easily get upwards of 50 hours for your $2.

Checking In – Ten Titles to Tackle in 2020

For all intents and purposes, we’re currently about one-third of the way through the year. If I were on track, I’d probably have a couple of these games finished, and be somewhere near the midway point of a third. In actuality, I have played enough of Far Cry: Primal that I’m content saying I’m done with it, and very little else.

But it’s not that I haven’t tried. I have, in fact, loaded up almost half the titles on the list at least once, but none of them drew me in. I’m not tossing them out, mind you, but I’m also not forcing myself to play things I’m not enjoying.

So which games haven’t grabbed me?

Out of the four, I’ve tried to get into Starbound the most. It might be time to acknowledge that I just don’t get it. I like to explore, I like to build, and mining and tunneling are usually big draws. But I really have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.

What I am actually doing is dying over and over to the equivalent of RPG rats. I’m not good at this game, and as a result, I’m not enjoying it. It’s similar to the issues I had with Terraria, and while it’s not entirely unexpected, I’m still a bit disappointed.

I’m also expecting that Grim Dawn is going to end up in the “not for me” pile – I’ve started this one up many times, but an hour or two in, I’m bored. I do usually like the ARPG format, so it’s not that, and the setting, while not incredibly captivating for me, is fine. I think the problem is that none of the classes appeal to me, so no matter what I pick, it feels drab.

I don’t expect I’ll be going back to either of these anytime soon.

But I’m going to chalk up my failure to engage with both Borderlands and Slay the Spire as “not the right game at the time” – that’s actually been a huge problem for me for about the last six weeks, and I frequently install and sample half a dozen or more games before finding something that feels right for me.

Although I’m still working on my World of Warcraft Pathfinder, I’m between main games at the moment. I keep thinking I want to play something where I’m building and managing things, but the games I find myself actually getting sucked into are full of ridiculous and wanton destruction. It’s strange having no idea what I actually want.

Game Over: DMC – Devil May Cry #CapcoMonth

DMC: Devil May Cry has been sitting in my library for over two years – it was in the Pay What You Want tier of the Capcom Rising Humble bundle back in July of 2017. It’s the only game from the series I own, and although the plot is right up my alley, the type of game is quite a bit outside of my comfort zone. Although it’s far from being the first game in the series, it is an origin story, so it seemed like an alright place to start.

The start to finish of my save file was just over 8 hours, but it definitely took me longer than that – between all the times I got stuck in a particularly challenging combat sequence or failing to make a jump over and over and over again, and the multitude of times I was stuck rewatching cut scenes when the game crashed over and over, I’d estimate that I should add no less than two (and probably closer to four) hour to to that total.

(Incidentally, I was 3/4 of the way through the game when I figured out that if I closed both Chrome and Discord and killed all non-essential processes it wouldn’t crash during cut scenes. If I had anything else open, it was a crap shoot.)

The main character of DMC: Devil May Cry is Dante, and when you meet him, he doesn’t really know much about his past, but he does know that demons are real, and that Limbo exists, and that he can fight his way out of it. A young psychic named Kat shows up on his doorstep and he’s off on one hell of a dangerous adventure.

Even though I spent a fair amount of time frustrated with either mechanics or the crashes, it was compelling and I kept coming back to it after taking breaks (or rebooting my PC for the 800th time).

DMC: Devil May Cry is decidedly not family-friendly – it’s not a game you’d want to play around kids. It’s not just the gore and violence – it’s also full of foul language, nudity, and sexual content. The earlier boss fights were at the very edge of my capabilities, where the latter ones felt almost too easy by comparison. Mostly, I was sticking it out for the story – I wanted to know how it would end for the major characters.

Overall, I enjoyed DMC: Devil May Cry, but I’m not likely to seek out any other games in the series – the game play was just too far outside of my comfort zone. I’m much more patient when a game only has one mechanic that I struggle with – the combination of fighting game mechanics (all the button mashing, OMG) and 3D platformer mechanics nearly defeated me.

But only nearly.

I only completed 19/58 achievements, and I have absolutely no intention of going back to hunt down keys and lost souls and nerdpoints. I’ve had my fill, but I’m glad I gave this a spin during #CapcoMonth.

Coming Soon to World of Warcraft – Double Reputation (Legion & Battle for Azeroth)

With level squish coming to Shadowlands, I admit I wasn’t overly impressed with World of Warcraft doing a month-long double experience event. However, the event they are starting on Monday, April 20th, is much more appealing to me as someone who was unsubscribed for a large chunk of Battle for Azeroth.

Impressive Influence will grant 100% bonus experience with the factions of Legion and Battle from Azeroth (although it does exclude the two newest factions, Rajani and Uldum Accord). This is a great buff if, like me, you haven’t finished up your Battle for Azeroth or Legion Pathfinder achievements, or even if you’re the type inclined to farm up a bunch of paragon rewards.

Be aware, however, that reputation requirements for Allied Races are going away with Shadowlands, so unless you really want to level another character now (and why would you with the much more compact leveling experience on the way?), these rep grinds won’t be necessary.

ETA: Blizzard has also announced that they will be keeping Winds of Wisdom – the experience buff – live until Shadowlands pre-patch for players of Battle for Azeroth.