In Review – December 2022

  • Make at least 10 blog posts in December.
  • Do at least one Quick Look of a game purchased during November.
  • Participate in the group review of the December Humble Choice.
  • Get at least three characters to level 70 in World of Warcraft.
  • Reach 100 points in at least one primary profession in World of Warcraft.
  • Progress in My Time At Portia at least as far as Somber Marsh in the main story.
  • Complete the fourth main dungeon in Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos during co-op nights.
  • Complete my 2022 GoodReads challenge of reading 48 books for the year.
  • Progress to at least 66% completion in my current cross-stitch project.
  • Research and consider buying a table top scroll frame for cross-stitch.
  • Run the December 2022 Game Giveaway event.

This may not have been my best month for crossing off line items, but most of it felt pretty good, and that’s way more important. I tend to get myself all knotted up in task completion and scheduling and I forget to just go where my joy takes me sometimes. This month, I knew I had overscheduled myself, and it’s a lot easier looking at missed goals when you know you made far too many to start with.


GAMING

December contained far fewer games than most months in 2022, but significantly more than my average hours. While most of that can be traced to the new Dragonflight expansion in World of Warcraft, I also managed to get way too caught up in Against the Storm, which was one of my impulse purchases during the Winter Sale season.

Most of the remaining titles I played this month were played with friends (mostly on co-op game night), leaving only TOEM and Viscera Cleanup Detail for solo play. This was definitely less variety than I would have in a normal month, even going back to before the #JustOnePercent project, but sometimes you’ve got to go for quality over quantity.

World of Warcraft

I did manage to hit my goal of getting three characters leveled, and each of them has a different primary gathering profession that I’ve also maxed out. However, I’m finding that the profession rework has necessitated a change in the way I view my crafting professions. Typically, in a new expansion, one of the first things I do after reaching max level is to grind out my professions so that they too are capped.

Dragonflight seems like it actively discourages this, and if you take a good look at what’s offered by profession trainers, you can see that the writing is on the wall right from the start. Most profession trainers have nothing new to teach you after you reach the halfway point. Everything after that is either random drops, purchasable from the different factions at higher reputation levels, or unlocked via the profession skill tree. However, unlocking these recipes is only half the battle – most of them require end-game, soulbound materials, so you won’t be crafting anything in bulk. Initially, I wasn’t a big fan of this part of the re-work, but I’m slowly coming around.

The initial gearing-up period also hasn’t been too awful for me; I’ve been well past my guild’s minimum raid requirements for quite awhile now, and we have a few more days before our first foray into the Vault of the Incarnates. I’m still a little grumpy about the reduced number of available world quests each week, but I’m starting to fall into a reasonable rhythm of working on my main in a few short bursts throughout the week, and devoting the rest of my World of Warcraft time to my army of alts.

Gaming Related Spending

I know a lot of folks tend to curb their spending right before the winter holidays, and I can tell you right now I had the complete and utter opposite experience. I’ve been banking some extra fun money almost every month all year long, and I went spend-happy this month. In fact, I’m not even going to attempt the collage of what I bought this month – it’s beyond unwieldy. I managed to rack up an absolutely outrageous $232 in gaming-related spending this month.

I can’t even blame that on a single huge purchase, but quite a bit of it is accounted for by three things. First, I bought myself a fancy new mouse; there wasn’t anything wrong with my old one, I just wanted a few more side buttons without giving in and getting a full 12-panel of thumb buttons. Secondly, I picked up the Jingle Jam bundle again this year, which seems to keep getting just a little more expensive every year, but hasn’t even come close yet to not being worth the money.

Lastly, I spent just about every penny of my $100 winter sale budget, although a few of the titles I grabbed from other storefronts as they were slightly cheaper there than on Steam. All in all, I managed to grab 12 titles (including one gift), and one of those I’ve already played for over 50 hours. Even if I never touch anything else I bought, I’ve already more than gotten my money’s worth!


OTHER NERDSTUFF

Reading

This year’s reading goal was perfectly and precisely met, although I didn’t do a whole lot of reading in December. I did, however, decided to finish the year out with a perfectly spooky winter re-read (Ghost Story) that I’ve wanted to dive into for awhile. It’d been quite a few years at this point, and I was surprised at how much of the story I didn’t remember.

Watching

December wasn’t all that great for me on the watching front; in fact, outside of Monday night movies on Discord, I hardly watched anything this month. I did get a bit into season 2 of Gotham and then I just never got back to it. Despite deciding to set a goal going forward of watching more things that are new to me, I noticed a couple nights ago that the Roku channel has all four seasons of Sanctuary, so of course, I had to start that even though I know it’s highly unlikely I’ll make it to the end.

Stitchcraft

Most of the month, I didn’t even go near my craft desk. I did, however, do my research and found a scroll frame on Etsy that was everything I wanted, including on sale.

Bear Creek Ltd is an Etsy shop based in Austin, TX, and is the only place I found that made non-floor scroll frames that could accommodate projects more than 24″ wide. Unsurprisingly, the thing is huge, but it’s well made, and I can see myself getting years of use out of it.

However, it only arrived a few days ago, and I’m still deep in the adjustment period. I had to rearrange quite a bit of my crafting space to make room, but so far, I like it a whole lot.

It is, however, A Project to set up initially, so when I do smaller projects, I’m unlikely to use it. This is probably more of a pro than a con, though, as it should help prevent me from project hopping so that I’ll actually, maybe, get something finished.


Overall, I’m pretty ok with where December took me. I had no real expectations of being overly focused, but I think I’ve got a better handle on what I want the shape of my leisure to look like going forward, and I’ve made some good first steps in getting there.

Nerd Girl Goals – January 2023

Finally, not just a new month, but an entire new year! As someone who doesn’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, it probably means even less than it might, but I’m still glad to be putting 2022 behind me. While it’d be more than a bit of hyperbole to say that it was – for me personally – the worst year ever, there was still a lot of things I’ll be glad to be able to say were so last year.


GAMING

World of Warcraft

Now that the new expansion thrill is mostly over, and I’m settling into a more reasonable cadence, I’m not entirely sure what’s next for me in World of Warcraft. My guild will be stepping into normal Vault of the Incarnates in a few days, but with only five hours of scheduled raiding in January, I’m hesitant to set much in the way of goals in relation to raiding. I still have professions – I mean, characters, of course – to level, but we’re probably still about 6 weeks out from any significant new content. On the other hand, I still have enough to poke at that I’m not quite ready to dive back into old content either.

To keep me at least a little on task, I think I’ll set my goals for two more characters to level 70 and Loremaster of the Dragon Isles on a second character.

Community Game-Along 2023

With no big gaming or blogging projects on the horizon, I’ve decided to jump back into the Community Game-Along for 2023, in no small part because there are only a handful of themes all year that take me outside of my comfort zone. The theme for January is #PuzzleGameMonth, and I thought I’d pick out a couple of puzzle games from my library to play around with.

The three games I was most drawn to on a first pass were Gorogoa, Palindrome Syndrome: Escape Room, and Strange Horticulture. Although I’m not 100% committed to these particular titles, I’d like to play at least two puzzle games during January as part of the Community Game-Along.

Other Gaming

I think January will probably be a little bit about figuring out how much I want to pre-plan, and how much space I need to leave myself to spend time doing whatever catches my fancy. Goal-setting helps me to keep from getting overwhelmed by decision paralysis, but setting too many goals just turns me into a rebellious teenager who will do just about anything to avoid working on the list I made for myself. It’s a balancing act, and I’ve found that treating my line items as suggestions rather than must-dos helps quite a bit.

That said, I prefer to have something on my content planning calendar, but without tying myself to a single game or group of games that I feel like I must play. So, to keep it sort of flexible without being too flexible (I swear, I’m impossible to please!), I think I’ll try out some repeatable categories.

For example, I’d like to continue participating in UnwiseOwl’s group review of the Humble Choice, as well as sitting down to play and write about something I purchased during the prior month. I have a terrible habit of getting spendy and then forgetting I own something right up until the point I try to to buy it again. I also would really like to start making a point to write about what I’m playing on co-op game night, although we don’t always change games frequently enough for this to be an every month sort of thing.

Otherwise, I’m sticking to a play-what-I-want, write-what-I-want policy for the time being.


OTHER NERDSTUFF

Reading

I’m fairly sure I want to repeat my goal from 2022 and go for 48 books again this year, in some combination of print & audio. That averages out to four books a month, which feels doable even when I’m not reading a whole lot, and then I get on a kick and I either get way ahead, or totally caught up in a week or two. It’s not enough to stress me out, but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be done by March. It just feels right. Which makes my shorter-term goal four books during January.

In the shortest term, I want to get back into the reading before bed habit, because I have gotten outrageously sloppy with my sleep hygiene over the past couple weeks.

Watching

This past year, I was super inconsistent with my media consumption when it comes to television and movies. Either the TV doesn’t even go on for weeks at a time, or I slip into the familiar comfort of perpetual re-watching. Doing Discord movies nights has helped somewhat, but I still find myself gravitating to old favorites and not trying anything new.

Although it’s not really my focus here, my goals are mostly for me anyway. So I’d like to get into the habit of one new-to-me movie and one new-to-me season, series or mini-series each month. I won’t force myself to sit through something I’m not enjoying, but like you do with small children and food, I at least have to try a couple bites.

Stitchcraft

I am 100% absolutely not ready to start the giant project I’ve been looking forward to for what feels like forever now, and it wouldn’t be terribly satisfying on a “couple hundred stitches every other week” schedule that I’ve been doing for awhile now. I’m in the middle of reworking my crafting desk, and once I’ve finished that, I want to figure out a schedule and / or a goal around number of stitches or completion percentage or something that will motivate me. I have no idea yet what that’s going to look like, but the unfinished projects are just making me feel awful, especially since they were all intended to be gifts for dates that have long since passed.

In fact, I think it’s not a problem so much with the hobby itself, but with larger struggles I’m having around time management in general lately. Unfortunately, I’m never sure which of my polar opposite approaches to this problem is going to be more effective. Sometimes it’s more rigid scheduling and goal-setting. Sometimes, it’s going completely hands off for a few weeks, doing whatever strikes my fancy until I get annoyed with that level of freedom. All I do know is that this tends to happen almost every year around the holidays, and I should have most of the kinks worked out of it all by the middle of the month. I hope.


IN SUMMARY

  • Make at least 10 blog posts during January.
  • Play and write about two games for #PuzzleGameMonth.
  • Get at least two more characters to level 70 in World of Warcraft.
  • Get the Loremaster of the Dragon Isles on at least one of my alts in World of Warcraft.
  • Participate in the group Humble Choice review.
  • Play and write about at least one game I bought during December.
  • Make a post about co-op game night.
  • Read at least four books.
  • Watch at least one new-to-me movie.
  • Watch at least one new-to-me season, series or mini-series.
  • Finish reorganizing my crafting area.
  • Do at least 2500 stitches on any current project or combination of current projects.

A Few Final Thoughts On #JustOnePercent (By Way of Steam’s Year In Review)

This was a very atypical year for me, as far as how I played games. So, of course, this is also the first year that Steam dropped their end of the year replay wrap up! While it’s not 100% representative of how I spent my gaming time, at least quantity-wise, I do play most game via Steam. This year, because of the Just One Percent Project, I might have branched out a bit more, playing a handful of titles on Itch.io*, through XBox Game Pass for PC, and even a handful on the Epic launcher and on Utomik. So while the numbers don’t quite reflect everything, it looks kind of like how I felt to play – which is to say, a bit chaotic.

*I really would like to play more of the stuff that I have picked up on Itch.io, but those games tend to be a casualty of the size of my Steam library and the fact that when I don’t know what to play, Steam is always my first stop.

If you’re curious about all the details of my Steam Replay for 2022, clicking on the image above will take you there.

Just on Steam, I played 198 different games this year, when you include the 48 demos I tried out. Even taking those out of the equation, that’s still 149 different titles. Now, I am a dabbler, true, but I’m not normally that much of a dabbler. But between February and November of this year, I made 105 posts for the #JustOnePercent project. Assuming a 10% fail rate (where I at least launched the game, but didn’t write about it for one reason or another), and – just a guesstimate – assuming that 25% of what I played for the project was on another platform, when we fudge the numbers just smidgen, we can guess that about 87 of those titles I played specifically as part of the project.

That leaves me with what feels like a far more manageable number of 62 games that I played this year just because they struck my fancy, which is a little more than 5 a month. That feels about right to me. The ranking by playtime seems to reflect that as well – it’s not until you reach the third dozen that games I chose for the project start regularly appearing, with Cozy Grove being the only title to make an appearance in my top two dozen, by playtime.

(Although I suspect a couple of the titles I played outside of Steam – notably The Wild At Heart and The Forgotten City would have showed up in my top 25, easily.)

What isn’t particular surprising is the very low number of games (which is to say, one?) in the top third of my list of titles played for the year that were not indie titles. When I say I mostly play indie games, I guess I really mean it, and now I have the stats to back it up.


I’ve been putting off writing about the project a bit, partially because – oh dear lord – I needed a break from it after 10 long months, but also because I hadn’t yet figured out the answer to a key question.

Was it successful?

I mean, I know it was in that I did what I set out to do. I played more than 100 games that came out on Steam in full release during 2021. For the majority of those titles, that means I spent at least an hour with each game, and there were a handful I really enjoyed that I would maybe never have gotten around to trying out. While I didn’t go spelunking too far outside of my comfort zone, I feel like I stretched a little, and that’s always a good thing.

But I don’t think the project necessarily made the statement I thought it would when I started out.

I’ll admit it – a few of the titles that I played probably never should have seen the light of day, never mind an active store front. But for the most part, I could see the merit in each of the titles, even when I was very clearly not the target audience. Some of the games I picked – in large part because they were at least in the same orbit as my taste – were immensely popular and successful indie titles. Some of the games I thought were great, however, only managed a handful of sales.

It’s not easy to pull a top twelve from a big old mess of over 100 titles, but the games that I feel were probably the best of the bunch – at least for my taste – were Cozy Grove, The Forgotten City, The Wild at Heart, Wildermyth, Gamedec, Lacuna, At Eve’s Wake, Wytchwood, Before We Leave, Overboard, To The Rescue, and The List. Order of preference is – at best – approximate.

I really don’t envy the people who need to come up with the titles to put on the “Best of…” lists we always see at this time of year, and I really struggled picking my “Top Twelve” from the 105 games I played for the project. Even in doing so, I kind of felt like it was a bit unfair – a full two-thirds of the titles I felt like I got the most out of were already on my wish list (or were games I had Kickstarted) before the idea for the project even existed.

Putting those aside for a moment, the four biggest happy surprises for me were the following titles: The Forgotten City, The Wild at Heart, At Eve’s Wake, and The List. None of these were on my radar at all, and I would probably not have played any of them outside the boundaries of this project, and I loved every one of them.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy any of the other games I played – in fact, I enjoyed most of them. They just weren’t necessarily the exact game I would have picked to play when I did if I had not been so tightly focused on 2021 releases from indie game developers.


Which I guess just leaves one final question: Would I do it again?

Sorry for anyone who was a big fan of the project, but I don’t think that I would. It’s not that I don’t think I play a hundred or so different games in the course of an average year – I have no doubt that I do – but I definitely skipped out on more than a few things I would have really preferred to be playing at any given time.

I’ve built a big library precisely so I can go where my whims take me. I like my whims. I’m pretty damn attached to my whims.

This is well reflected by my Steam Replay, as well as by those silly charts I post in my In Review posts – I tend to spend the most time playing the games that I want to play at any given time. Revolutionary, right? It’s also why this is my hobby, and not my job.

I had toyed around with some different project ideas for 2023, but I think – just now – I’ve realized that what I would really like to do is play whatever strikes my fancy, at least for awhile.

Quick Look – Against the Storm

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of hours lost in city building games – I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say it’s one of my favorite genres, and I’m glad to see it getting a bit of a resurgence. However, I am quite particular when it comes to city builders. I don’t like too much conflict – I’m interested in supply chains, not building armies. However, I’m also not a huge fan of when they lean too far in the other direction – there has to be some sort of problem to overcome, otherwise you’re just playing an economic sim or managing infrastructure.

Although I was a bit apprehensive when I saw it was being marketed as a roguelite, which is a term that’s starting to mean less and less the more people slap it on random games. However, Against the Storm plays exactly how I would expect, given the roguelite label, and the randomness as well as the brevity of the scenarios make it impossible to optimize your way out of all the fun.

The Scorched Queen has enlisted you to explore the lands surrounding the Smoldering City, and to brave the Blightstorms to fill orders for much needed resources. In doing so, you must balance the needs of your townsfolk with the requests from the city, as well as manage the hostility of the forest and the Queen’s impatience. Not every explorable tile has the same resources, and you will only be given access to a limited base supply of building blueprints – everything else must be unlocked in the course of the scenario.

It’s A Lot, but the tutorial is gentle and truly holds your hand through the early bits. In fact, it may be a bit too gentle, as I managed to completely fail my very first time out on my own, but I learned from that and did better the next time. Although one thing I don’t think the tutorial mentioned is that successfully completing Deeds in each scenario is also a source of meta-progression – many just give you extra experience, but several unlock some pretty key buildings for some of the biomes. I mean, you can go to the Marshlands without having unlocked the mine, but I don’t recommend it.

The other form of meta-progression comes by way of making upgrades to the Smoldering City itself. No matter if you succeed or fail a given scenario, you will take away some amount of currency for city upgrades, and you will sometimes stumble across upgrade materials while playing as well. Higher difficulties reward more currency, but theoretically you could never leave the lowest difficulty and eventually unlock all of these upgrades – it would just take a very very long time.

It’s the settlement exploration loop that keeps me playing just a little bit longer, however. Once you have chosen a location, your starting caravan of settlers, and your embarkment bonuses, you’re plopped down into a very tiny segment of the map with only a warehouse and a hearth pre-built for you. You will always have some basic buildings available to build (a woodcutter’s camp, a stonecutter’s camp, a harvester’s camp, as well as a couple of basic production buildings, and some low-level crafting options), and you have the option to choose from a selection of blueprints almost from the moment you load in.

However, jumping the gun could end up spelling your doom here – the game doesn’t take into account what resources are available on the map when choosing your blueprint selection, so it may be better to hold off until you’ve explored a bit of the map and wait until you see what the city is going to task you with accomplishing. In some of my early maps, I definitely accepted orders that I had no possible way of fulfilling. However, any time you’ve built up a bunch of choices, either in blueprint selection, cornerstone selection, or order selection, the game will force you to choose from the available options before it will show you the next set. This means, sometimes, you just have to take a gamble and hope it works out.

Just in case this isn’t enough randomness yet to appeal to roguelite fans, there are currently four playable species, all of whom have their own wants and specializations. You get to choose your starting caravan, so you will know at the outset one to two of the species who will be available on a given map, but you won’t know which one you won’t see until you’re in the scenario. Workers have a stat called Resolve, which can be increased by meeting their needs, and is decreased by both regular and random events.

The blightstorms are always an issue, and the years are made up of three seasons. Each map will give you some buffs during the first season, Drizzle, and some debuffs during the season of the storm. On the lower difficulties, you can bumble through a bit, but planning your activities around the seasonal cycle definitely increases the likelihood you will succeed.

Whether you win or lose in a given scenario is a bit of a race between two opposing forces. On the left, you have a blue bar which tracks your reputation points. These points come from completing orders, clearing dangerous or forbidden glade events, or from keeping your settlers happy. On the right, there’s a red bar tracking the Queen’s Impatience, which steadily ticks upward until you do something (like completing an order, or sending resources back to the city) to bring it down. If the red bar fills up before the blue one, you’ve failed that level.

There’s quite a bit of variety in each level, and I’m sure I probably haven’t even scratched the surface, both in trying to explain it all, and in actually playing with all the systems that are available. Still, the base game play loop of cutting down trees to explore new glades, filling orders, accepting new settlers, building production buildings to exploit resources as you find them, and trying to keep the fire going at all times is addictive. There are some great quality-of-life things here that you don’t always see in city builders; for example, most buildings can be moved, which means that once a given resource node runs out, you can just scoop up your building, workers and all, and move it close to the next node.

And you absolutely have to explore, however, each glade you open up increases the hostility of the forest, and you have very little idea of what you’re going to find in each location. The larger glades are marked as either “Dangerous” or “Forbidden” and those will have an event that will need to be dealt with, or there are likely to be unpleasant consequences. Some just require labor and the fortitude to withstand whatever debuff the event causes, but most are going to require an infusion of resources that you may not have or be able to easily access, which is a big part of the risk.

Against the Storm is still in Early Access, and won’t be in full release until Q2 of 2023, but the developers have been steadily pushing out updates every couple of weeks. Personally, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth, and I expect to play quite a bit more before wandering off to do something else. It’s compulsively playable, and has a ton of content already for a $20 retail price.

Nerdy Holiday Traditions for the Chronically Grinch-ified

I honestly cannot remember a time in my adult life where I got caught up in the spirit of the winter holidays. For me, holidays always end up being more a time of stress than of joy, usually involving some sort of enforced in-person social interaction with people I do my best to avoid the rest of the year round. There are Expectations to be met, and honestly, there’s just not enough about it that I like to make me look forward despite all the things I don’t.

As a result, most of the media surrounding the festive season is lost on me. Still, over the past several years, I’ve managed to find that a handful of things – at least for me – have either stood the test of time, or have allowed me to stop and take a deep breath during my personal Season of Anxiety.

WATCHING

I used to try to get myself in the holiday mood by watching old Christmas specials – miss me with the Hallmark Christmas romances, but stuff from the years before I knew just how much damn work the holidays were. This year, I sat down on Discord with a handful of my friends and we watched both The Year Without A Santa Claus and The Muppet Christmas Carol. Now, I will not be taking any arguments for any other version of the Dickens’ classic – this one is the superlative version. However, you might be wondering why I choose this particular Rankin & Bass Christmas special over the more well-known (and well-loved) options, and let me assure it, it is 99% for the musical number about the halfway point, featuring the Miser Brothers.

They’re too much – too much!

While I usually watch these on my own, as they put me in touch with simpler times, watching with friends really put a new spin on this one for me this year, and might be something I make an effort to do going forward.

LISTENING

Although my childhood took place firmly in the television age, there’s always been something about radio dramas I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater, which put out a handful of episodes starting in the early 80s. I owned The Case of the Murdered Miser on a cassette tape many years ago, and I was thrilled last year to rediscover it available for purchase digitally on Amazon. It’s a courtroom drama concerning the murder of Ebenezer Scrooge, who in this adaptation, did not quite survive to have a rendezvous with the three spirits of Christmas.

PLAYING

I realize that an annual playthrough of the Santa’s Rampage level of Viscera Cleanup Detail is not a holly jolly holiday tradition, but I’m going to be honest with you – I completely get how Santa might just have gone off the deep end. I mean, sure he might only be on the clock one night out of the whole year, but I still wouldn’t want his job.

I have, of course, played other levels of Viscera Cleanup Detail, a game that is both incredibly frustrating and completely Zen. But almost every year, sometime in December, I’ll fire the game up and clean-up after Santa Claus, calmly and without judgement.

Being the personification of Christmas is an even more thankless job than being crime scene cleanup.

My Favorite Reads of 2022

With the year very nearly over, I wanted to go back and look through the books I read for the first time this year and say a little bit about my top five. I am not the most discerning reader, and it’s rare for me to not finish a book once I’ve made it through a few chapters – if I bounce off something, I do it within a handful of pages. But I also tend to just grab whatever looks interesting on a given day from my library or from whatever subscription service I’m currently using.

Now, 2022 for me was a big year for audiobooks. I could do the math, but I’m just going to guess that probably about 2/3 of my reading this year was audiobooks. While this has been great for allowing me to engage in two hobbies at a time, I have noticed there’s a decided difference in how focused I am when listening versus when I’m reading on page. Generally speaking, this means that a decent audiobook with a competent narrator escapes some of the criticism I might give a book if I had read it visually.


Fantasticland – Mike Bockoven

Audibook, listened to March 2022

Fantasticland is a story told via interviews, which makes it a great candidate for an audio experience. Although the cover defines it as a thriller, this story definitely descends into outright horror, as we learn piecemeal about what happened with a group of teenagers and young adults after they are cut off from society in the wake of a major storm.

The pacing was fantastic, and although the speed at which this group descended into anarchy and violent behavior might seem a little too fast to be believable, I didn’t care. I had to know what was going to happen next. Even a somewhat unsatisfying ending wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story.

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

Audiobook, listened to March 2022

The Silent Patient was full of twists and turns, and I’ve always been a sucker for post-crime fiction that takes place mostly inside the walls of psychiatric facilities.

I’ve been reading mysteries for way too many years now to expect to be surprised by the ending, and I don’t recall being particularly shocked by this one. I do remember thinking that it was cleverly written, with all the information a reader needs available to them, but presented in such a way that it didn’t feel like this was the inevitable conclusion.

Readers seemed to be fairly divided on this one – folks who loved it did so absolutely, and the ones who didn’t had equally strong feelings. It isn’t a story that will work for everyone, but it definitely worked for me.

A History of Wild Places – Shea Ernshaw

Audiobook, listened to May 2022

I’m going to be completely honest here, this story has plot holes you could drive a semi-truck through. It’s a story that should have annoyed me, because the denouement did such a disservice to everything that came before.

Unsatisfying ending aside, the story was beautifully written, evocative, and I got completely lost in the world of Pastoral, and especially the main character of Bee, a blind woman with some special gifts.

Skip this one if you cannot forgive a weak ending, but it’s worth a read if you’re about a journey to a world that manages to be both magical and horrific.

Stranded – Sarah Goodwin

ebook, read November 2022

I will read any story that involves characters who are virtual strangers being forced together into unusual circumstances, especially if someone or something is keeping them cut off from the outside world. Stranded sets this up with a reality show about the difficulty of living completely off the grid for an entire year. Obviously, things go awfully, horribly wrong.

Told from the prospective of Maddy, a character whose history has led to a difficulty relating to other people, some readers will be turned off by the less-than-completely-sympathetic main character. However, I found that her social awkwardness made her the closest thing we’d get to a reliable narrator, and I couldn’t put the book down until it was finished.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore – Matthew Sullivan

ebook, read November 2022

This is a dark mystery, full of trauma, cruelty, broken relationships, and broken people. It starts with a suicide of an ex-convict, and systematically dismantles the fragile peace of a bookstore clerk who has her own tragic past.

While I did – mostly – guess the ending before I arrived there, the story was told in such a way that even knowing how it had all come to happen didn’t detract from the power of seeing precisely how everything was tied together. Most of the characters in this were so intrinsically connected, you could forgive the one major point of coincidence that makes the story work.

Quick Look – TOEM

TOEM combines puzzle solving with photography game mechanics, and is one of the two things I was most excited about in December’s Humble Monthly. It does have a relatively short play time of about three hours and has a regular retail price of $19.99.


When I played the demo of TOEM a while back, I was expecting more of a straight-up photography game rather than a puzzle adventure, and I was a bit disappointed by it. However, something about it stuck with me, and I added it to my wish list around the time it released – I enjoy a good puzzle adventure, and I realized I would probably feel quite differently about it if I had gone in with appropriate expectations. In fact, I nearly picked it up during the Steam Autumn sale, so I was quite pleased to see it in the December Humble Monthly.

You play as a small critter who is leaving home to travel for the very first time. You take your backpack and a camera and little else – in fact, you need to earn your bus far by collection stamps from locals by helping them with their troubles. In each stop throughout your journey, there are no shortage of problems that need solving by someone with a vintage camera with dynamic zoom!

It is not necessary to solve every issue in every location in order to proceed through the game – in fact, in each place I’ve stopped, you only need to do about half of them to earn your next bus ticket. However, stamps aren’t your only reward for lending a hand – you will also earn clothing items (some of which are important as they unlock other opportunities during game play) and upgrades for your camera.

TOEM isn’t a particular difficult game, but it’s got a lot of charm, and that’s what it most likely to make you want to keep playing. While you will need to take a lot of pictures for other people, you have lots of space in your photo album for anything that might catch your eye. While there are plenty of things no one will ask you to photograph, many of the interesting things you’ll encounter will trigger some in-game achievements.

I’ve probably gotten through a little less than half the game, and while I don’t expect it to have a whole bunch of replayability, it is the kind of game I love to see in a bundle. I think if I had paid full price for this one, I would have been disappointed – it doesn’t feel like there’s enough meat to it to merit a $20 price tag.

I’m also not sure I’d advise picking up this month’s Humble Choice exclusively for TOEM, but if there’s even one other game you’re excited about, and you like puzzle games, it’s absolutely worth your time to take it for a spin.

Two Weeks on the Dragon Isles – Some World of Warcraft Thoughts

At least once per day for the past week or more, I’ve told myself that it was time to sit down with my Dragonflight thoughts and put together a blog post. And at least once per day, I’ve told myself “No, not yet. I’m not ready.”

Now it’s a smidgen more than two weeks since launch, and although in a lot of ways, I’m still not ready, I am going to do my best.


My absolutely favorite part of World of Warcraft is the start of an expansion. Some patches come close, but for me, there’s nothing else that feels as good as the first day or so of exploring a new area. The group I play with is not so rush-rush that we’re not reading quests, watching cutscenes, and exploring the world, but we’re rush-rush enough that everyone is online as much as they possibly can be during the first week or so.

Of course, within minutes of Blizzard flipping the switch, the boat to the Dragon Isles broke, because of course it did. It took a good couple of hours of rage-smashing the replacement portal, mostly being met with “Transfer Aborted – Instance Not Found” and being dumped unceremoniously back on the Stormwind docks before we finally got started.

It took about two days of pretty heavy play to reach level 70 on my main (although that was spotted with some alt play, since I was leveling my main with my husband, and doing other things when he wasn’t available). While leveling, we pursued just about every exclamation point we saw, but once reaching the cap, I turned my focus to just main story quests, and plowed through the remainder of the campaign. Once that was done, it took me another couple of days to finish up Loremaster of the Dragon Isles.

So – at least for me – approximately the first week of Dragonflight absolutely exceeded my expectations.


Since then, however, I’ve found myself repeatedly adjusting my expectations as I interact with all the new end-game systems. Part of what fueled my enthusiasm for this expansion was the idea that dungeon content was going to feel a whole lot less required in order to gear up for raiding. Now, I’ve tried almost all of the new five mans, and I’m still really not a fan. They’re tolerable enough while leveling, but one night of running Mythic Zero has pretty much made me not want to go back. With five-man dungeons of various difficulty levels being the primary source of pre-raid gear (and a massive time-sink), I’ve been curious to see how end-game feels without them, and overall, it’s been a little disappointing for me.

Of course, there is some world content – namely, Primal Storms – that has yet to make an appearance, but in week two, for a player primarily interested in improving in a player-power context, there doesn’t feel like there’s a lot to keep logging in for. The majority of world quests are either on weekly, or semi-weekly, timers, so you could easily knock out the whole map by logging in for a couple hours twice a week. There are a few repeatable events, but although you can participate over and over for reputation, the big rewards are limited per reset period.

After that, if you’re not running dungeons, what you’re left with is the most tedious parts of the game. Most of the reps in the game are nearly infinitely grindable, and I’m sure there are folks who have already maxed them out, but it’s incredibly slow and tedious to do so. The game seems to be designed with a set amount of progress to be readily attainable each week, and then additional progress comes so slowly it might as well be a hard cap for most players. In a lot of ways, Dragonflight is probably a much more satisfying experience for the average casual player, but I’m finding myself missing the rewards that have traditionally been available with a heftier time investment.


As far as the new major systems for the expansion, well, those have also been a mixed bag for me.

I’m not 100% sold on Dragon Riding being the best addition ever, but I am grateful to not be ground-bound for the next several months. I would even argue that the system when you first get access to it is more frustrating than fun. Initially, dragon riding feels very limited in comparison to the flying mounts that we’re all used to. It’s not until you find all 48 dragon riding glyphs – either through natural exploration or, as I did, through concentrated effort – and fill out the entire dragon riding talent tree that it starts to feel really good to use. Unfortunately, once you reach that point, the only thing left to do with your dragons is to seek out new customizations. I’m sure there are players motivated by this, but I’m not one of them.

I also have a love/hate relationship with the profession rework. I think it’s great that crafting professions are intended to be continually relevant throughout the expansion, but it was a bit of an attitude adjustment to realize that professions are no longer meant to be leveled to max alongside your character. Most of the gathering professions felt a little slower, but not obnoxiously so, however, it’ll likely be months before my main character’s enchanting reaches its skill cap. Not only am I waiting on the highest level of enchantment materials, which come from epic pieces that just aren’t that plentiful just yet, I’m waiting on recipes from reputations and from my profession talent tree.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment thus far, and I acknowledge this one might be on me for just reading the headlines. I was super excited by the idea of reputations (renown) being account-wide this expansion. Now, to me, that meant you would have one single renown level with each faction, and it would be the same no matter what character you were playing, but this isn’t the way it works at all. Instead, there are certain account-wide unlockables in each faction, like certain types of world quests and the open world events, but each character still has to level up their renown in order to access things like profession recipes and gear. Obviously, this has put quite a damper on my plan to have an army of alts at level 60 hanging out in the city to be completely crafting self-sufficient.

Which is probably for the best, because if it weren’t necessary to level up my alts and get them renown for their professions, I’d very likely feel like there was nothing left for me to do until my guild starts raiding in January.


I realize this may have sounded like a whole bunch of complaining, probably because it is, but overall, I am enjoying the new expansion. It’s sort of like going out to dinner and saying “Well, the food was great, but the portion size was just too damned small.” I’m sure I’ll be grateful in a couple of months to not feel overwhelmed by all the things I should be doing, but right now, it feels like there’s a lot of good stuff here, I just want more.

In Review – November 2022

  • At least 8 posts for the #JustOnePercent project.
  • At least 4 posts unrelated to the #JustOnePercent project.
  • Finish leveling at least 2 more characters in World of Warcraft.
  • Complete the Mountacular achievement in World of Warcraft.
  • Complete the Re-Re-Re-Renowned achievement in World of Warcraft.
  • Participate in the group review of the November Humble Choice.
  • Read any six books.
  • Complete any one stitching project.
  • Watch at least a few episodes of Channel Zero on AMC+.
  • Cancel AMC+ before it goes back to full price.
  • Schedule four Monday Night Movie watch parties.
  • Schedule at least two game nights.

Another month that actually looks better in the rearview than it felt at the time. It sometimes feels like every time I get something back on the track I want it to be on, something else derails. I have been putting a high premium on settling my sleep schedule to something that works better for me on the regular, which ended up leading to dropped routines in other places (post-midnight Wordle, I was sad to see you go). More time spent playing video games led to less time at my craft desk. Trying to figure out new social media sites led to less time spent on the blog. Everything’s a balancing act, and I’m forever trying to pile far too much on the scale.

Also, I should have shot for that level 70 goal in World of Warcraft. I made it, with a couple of hours to spare.


GAMING

#JustOnePercent

The eight games I covered in November were Hammerting, Next Space Rebels, Factory Town, Toy Tinker Simulator, French Crime, Huntress: The Cursed Village, Wytchwood, and Aspire: Ina’s Tale. I didn’t end up playing any of these on the Steam Deck, but every single one was played for at least an hour and is represented on the spreadsheet.

I went into the month pretty sure that I was going to end up dropping games, and I think that almost felt like explicit permission to do so. I ended up getting behind and missing the anniversary for Exodus Borealis, and I bounced off Tunnel of Doom, Fantasy Gardens, and He Will Shoot within a matter of minutes. Finally, I decided to swap out Archvale for Aspire: Ina’s Tale so I could cover one more game from my library rather than GamePass.

I ended up making 105 project posts, which once added to the 12 qualifying titles I wrote about before starting the project, that means I played 117 out of 10,967 games released in 2021. I had decided up front to only count games that fully released during the year, but I have no idea how to even begin to calculate how many titles were first made available for sale versus how many were full release titles. Without the dozen prior posts, I wouldn’t quite have covered 1%, but I feel like I met the spirit of the project.

World of Warcraft

Dragonflight prep took up a lot of time this month, but not nearly as much as I expect that Dragonflight proper will in the coming month. I had hoped to level a couple more characters, but between the pre-expansion event, and the adjusted experience gains that came with the second half of the pre-patch, I managed to finish all the remaining classes on my main server. I did however, take a small shortcut; I had a level 50 boost just hanging out on my account, and I decided to use that on my rogue, cutting out 40 levels worth of time.

So, for the first time ever, after having set it as a goal multiple times now, I am going into an expansion with every class at max level! Which kind of took a bit of the shine off of my other goals, but I met those tasks as well.

Mountacular ended up being even easier than I anticipated, and I got it while working on cleaning out my quest log by finally doing the scenarios to unlock the Dark Iron Dwarves and Lightforged Draenei. I had completely forgotten that finishing those questlines rewarded racial mounts.

Re-Re-Re-Renowned took considerably longer. I eventually decided that I’d finish grinding renown on my original four level 60 characters. I picked up the consumable item that would boost them each to level 60, and did most of the rest through daily callings and questing through the Zerith Mortis story. I finished Necrolords in the earlier part of the month, but managed to put off doing anything with Night Fae until just about the very last minute.

Although there’s still some things I wish I had gotten around to, I was overall pleased with the progress I made in finishing up Shadowlands achievements. It’ll most likely be almost entirely Dragonflight for at least the first month or so, but we’ll see if I end up popping back into some older content.

Other Gaming

The biggest chunk of my non World of Warcraft game time this month went into my third attempt of My Time At Portia. I’m about 40 hours into a fresh save, and I’ve only recently passed the point where I usually wander off from the game. Will this be the time I finish it? Only time will tell. It has been several days since I’ve checked in on my builder, but I do expect I’ll get back to it, maybe even as soon as this weekend.

All of my co-op game nights in November were devoted to working our way through Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos. It’s definitely a game that I would have found supremely frustrating had I played it alone – there are weird spikes in difficulty due to the oh-so-very grindy nature of it, and there have been several times I would have been at a loss for how to proceed that my co-op partner would declare was “very Zelda-esque”.

I don’t love it, but I am enjoying it, which is pretty successful for co-op stuff.

We had a SMITE night in the clubhouse, so I got to shake the rust off a little bit, and I played my first ever game of Settlers of Catan via Tabletop Simulator. I played around a little bit in RoboQuest, so I could do a short write up for UnwiseOwl’s group review of the November Humble Choice. Past that, I hardly even loaded anything up.

Gaming Related Spending

However, I clearly wasn’t deterred in the least this month from spending money on gaming! I had all my regular subscriptions (GamePass, World of Warcraft, and Humble Choice) this month, but I also did a lot of other shopping.

This collage covers most of my November gaming spending. It didn’t matter this month if it was a bundle, sale, or even single release-day purchase – if I wanted it, I bought it! On the other hand, I spent very little on any of my other hobbies this month, so I still came in under my total entertainment budget.

I also purchased my very first race change in World of Warcraft this month. I never thought there’d be an occasion where I’d want to spend money to change a character rather than just level something else, but I never ever want to go hunting for all the pre-Legion inscription recipes in the game again. So, after years of frustration with my very very short Death Knight, I decided to make her tall, in hopes that I will play her more if I can figure out where she is on the screen, which is generally full of very large monster ankle. I debated between Kul Tiran, human, or worgen for a couple of days, ultimately settling on worgen. I haven’t done much with her since then – she was already fairly well settled for Dragonflight, so it’ll be a little while yet until I see if my investment pays off.

My total gaming-related spending this month came in at a whopping $157 – and that doesn’t even include the expansion, which is part of my Christmas/birthday gift from my husband for this year.


OTHER NERDSTUFF

Reading

Going back to reading on my tablet before bed made a world of difference this month. In fact, out of nine books, only one was an audiobook this month. I have basically been picking things almost at random from my Scribd recommendations; as far as I can recall, I haven’t read a single book from any of these authors prior to this month. It’s been mostly working out for me, although a few I would consider to be just alright, there wasn’t anything here that tempted me to leave it unfinished and choose something else.

Watching

Other than Monday night movies at the Clubhouse, and sporadic background cooking shows, I didn’t spend a lot of time watching this month. I did get through all six episodes of the first season of Channel Zero before my AMC+ subscription ran out, and I might put the other seasons on my Halloween watch list for next year.

I’ve also recently started re-watching Gotham from the beginning. I love the first season, I’ve probably seen it four times now. However, I find I quickly lose interest a few episodes into Season 2. I’m not super invested, but it’ll be interesting to see if this is the time it sticks.

Stitchcraft

I really need to start taking a better look at patterns before I get all the supplies for them, or – better yet – before I buy the pattern. The project I’m currently working on has 12 shades between white and the darkest gray it uses, and for the most part, it’s all single stitches here and there of each shade. It’s simply awful to work on, and super hard to follow the pattern. I have no doubt there’s at least 30 mistakes in the pattern already, and I’m not quite 1/3 done with it.

I’ve been averaging anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 stitches most months, and in November, I only did a little over 3,000. I am so very very behind where I wanted to be, but there was almost always something more appealing I could have been doing, and I really struggled this month to get my butt into the chair, although when I did, I usually got through several hundred stitches.

So not only did nothing get finished this month, I was way behind my usual productivity.


This month really solidified for me that I just have too many hobbies. I have a ridiculous amount of free time compared to most adult humans, and I still can only manage to make headway with about half of the things I’m juggling at any given time, never mind the several other things I’d like to be doing or learning, but I just don’t have space for in my life currently. I don’t know how working adults with families – even healthy working adults with families – find the time and energy to do anything at all!

Nerd Girl Goals – December 2022

With all that remains of the #JustOnePercent Project is the wrap-up post, I have a nearly empty content planning calendar for the first time since I implemented it. I had hoped for a giant cartoon lightbulb to magically appear and direct me at what comes next, but maybe this is best. Maybe December is a good month to kind of lie low a little bit.


GAMING

World of Warcraft

Probably my favorite part of an MMO is right when there’s a new expansions. I mean sure, content patches can be lovely, but there’s something incomparable to the time when absolutely everything feels new. I walk a weird path in World of Warcraft, where I like to raid, but otherwise, I am an uber-casual when it comes to end game content. I do as few dungeons as possible, avoid Mythic+ like it might actually kill me, and I almost never do any PvP. Instead, I level alts, work on professions & collections, and old content. A lot of the time, for me, World of Warcraft is a single player game that just happens to have other people in it.

I expect a lot of the next few weeks to be taken up with leveling – both in terms of character XP, as well as doing whatever I need to do to increase my reputation, and really dive into the profession rework. Usually, I spend a week or so fully focused on my main character, and then I start poking at alts. Although I still have unfinished business in Shadowlands (and Battle for Azeroth, and Legion and…), I expect almost the entirety of December to be hyperfixated on the Dragon Isles.

I’d like to have a minimum of three characters at level 70 before the end of the month. More would be excellent, but December is also a month where things tend to come up and eat away at my free time, so I’d rather set the goal on the low side and not get burned out right out of the gate.

Since I mostly have managed to avoid spoilers, as a result, I also really don’t know how most of the systems in Dragonflight actually work, so I’m keeping my achievement goals to things that feel very achievable.

Other Gaming

I’m not sure how I want to set goals for gaming outside of WoW, either, because if I’m really enjoying the new expansion, it will absolutely eat up my all of my gaming time. On the other hand, I kind of want to celebrate being free of the shackles of games I am “supposed to” play by playing some of the stuff I’ve been neglecting over the past 10 months.

One thing I know I would like to do is spend more time this month working my way through the main story of My Time At Portia. I started playing on a whim about halfway through November, and for a few days, it was all I wanted to do when I sat down at the computer. Despite having made a couple of good starts in the past, I ended up wandering off around the same point in the game both times. Now, I’ve made significant progress past that point, and I really think I’d like to see if I can get through the entire story this time, even if I don’t stick around to grind out all the artifacts and such once I have.

I expect I’m slightly less than halfway through the main plot, but with a whole bunch of workshop upgrades already under my belt, it seems like the later quests actually progress more quickly than the early ones.

I don’t expect to put nearly as much time into it as I did last month, but I’d like to keep plugging along, so I’m going to set my goal as progressing to the Somber Marsh chapter of the main story.

I also expect that there is only another couple of play sessions left in Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos before we’ve completed the main quest line. We just barely poked our head into the final biome, and there’s only one major dungeon left before the endgame. Now, I’m unsure how much content there is after that, and I also have no idea how much patience we’ll have once it becomes an epic post-game grind, but I think it’s reasonable to say we’ll finish the fourth main story dungeon in Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos before the end of the month, even with holiday-related things potentially causing us to miss a night or two.

Finally, I’d like to do a Quick Look of one of the games I purchased during November, in an attempt to stop buying things and then instantly forgetting they exist, as well as continue to participate in UnwiseOwl’s group review of Humble Choice, provided he continues with it. All in all, I would like to make at least 10 blog posts in December, although I won’t necessarily restrict all of them to gaming topics.


OTHER NERDSTUFF

Reading

I made an impressive about-face from the reading slump I had been in for months, and now, for the first time in awhile, I’m ahead of schedule to finish 48 books this year. Normally at this point, I’m hunting around for the shortest things I can find that I’d be okay with counting towards my goal, and this year, I’m expecting smooth sailing. In fact, I could be done now if I just finished three of the titles I have in progress! To keep it simple, I’d like to meet my 2022 GoodReads challenge of completing 48 books before the end of December.

Stitchcraft

I’ve recently realized that, even with the copious amounts of free time I have, if I want to make any significant progress in my hobbies, I need to focus on one or two at a time and stop trying to do it all.

I am starting to despair that I’m ever going to finish my works-in-progress, never mind finish them all in time for holiday gifts. In fact, I expect I’ll need a lot of discipline to get even one done in time. I have just under 10,000 stitches remaining for the project currently on my desk – which is about 30% done – and that would take at least 20 very dedicated stitching days to complete. Since that seems less than likely, I’ll set a more modest goal of 66% completion before the month’s end, which feels reasonable even if I work in smaller blocks of time.

I’d also like to do more research into a scroll frame, preferably one that is meant to be used table-top, because my taste in projects has been running on the larger side. I’m already not prioritizing portability in my projects, so a solution that would allow me to see more of my project at once might be motivating.

Other Nerdstuff

I’m not going to set anything in the way of specific goals for either watching or Discord this month, other than to run the December game giveaway. This one should be significantly shorter than the last two, as I’ve decided to skip anything that didn’t make it out of the last chance giveaways during the past two sessions. I will still probably keep scheduling Clubhouse events, including a couple of holiday movie watch parties, but I realize at lot of people are socially overwhelmed in December, and I don’t want to add much to that pressure.


IN SUMMARY

  • Make at least 10 blog posts in December.
  • Do at least one Quick Look of a game purchased during November.
  • Participate in the group review of the December Humble Choice.
  • Get at least three characters to level 70 in World of Warcraft.
  • Reach 100 points in at least one primary profession in World of Warcraft.
  • Progress in My Time At Portia at least as far as Somber Marsh in the main story.
  • Complete the fourth main dungeon in Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos during co-op nights.
  • Complete my 2022 GoodReads challenge of reading 48 books for the year.
  • Progress to at least 66% completion in my current cross-stitch project.
  • Research and consider buying a table top scroll frame for cross-stitch.
  • Run the December 2022 Game Giveaway event.