Thursday, April 30, 2020

Motivation vs. Priorities

Up to this point, I have ignored the suggested prompts for all of Blapril. Today I'm going to indulge on this week's theme of keeping up motivation because a writer writing about motivation is the craft's most common self-wank and I'm not about to miss out on that.

And because finding one's motivation is such a common topic, nothing I'm going to say here is profound. I have nothing to say that every sentient being on Earth hasn't heard a million times before. But it's helpful for me to think about this stuff a lot. Maybe if I write it down I can make it stick a little longer than it usually does. Maybe if I write it down it'll help someone else too.

I don't think the concept of motivation by itself is all that useful. I think it's more helpful to think of either priorities or prospective priorities. Priorities are the things we actually do in our life. Motivation is required for the things we would like to become priorities but currently aren't.

Priorities aren't things you need to put on your to-do list. If your kid falls off the swing and comes up a bloody mess, do you need to check your calendar before running to help them? I'm guessing probably not. That's what a priority looks like. It doesn't necessarily have to be the routine things we do everyday, but also the things we would stop at nothing in order to accomplish when the opportunity arises. But either way, priorities are the things we actually do. Not the stuff we want to do.

The issue is that our priorities are often not what we want them to be. We want to read more every week, but really we just keep playing World of Warcraft. Leveling your Warlock is actually the priority whether we like it or not.

If I want to be a great writer one day, then I probably need to wake up at the crack of dawn and type into this machine for about 4-6 hours every day. If I don't do that then I don't get to be a writer. Those are basically the rules.

Yes it's all arguing semantics. You have a different definition of priority. That's fine. We both have a concept of things that are important to us, and the things we want to be important to us. Call them whatever you want. I call them priorities.

And semantics is the everything in this game. I'm sure there are tons of writers who write more or less, do it at different times of day, on different brands of computers, etc. And what is a writer anyway? Do they write books? Articles? Blogs? Copy? Both the priority, the actual execution of the priority, and the motivation are up for debate. But they have to be something, and they have to be concrete, or they probably aren't going to get done.

But it's your priority and motivation. You'll have to decide what is what. And that makes things even more complicated. But if it's really a priority, you'll figure out all the details anyway. If you drop a prospective priority because you couldn't figure out how to define your goals, or how to fit it into your schedule then it wasn't a priority.

What's motivation's role in all this? Do you want to be the person who reads a book every week? Why? The why is the motivation. Either you have a good answer to 'Why?' or you don't. I don't think there is a whole lot of good advice that can be given on motivation. It's too personal. If you fail your quest it's because you:
  • lost sight of your answer to the 'Why?' question, 
  • you found out that your answer just wasn't very good at all.
  • something changed in your life and consequently changed your priorities and motivations.
And all that's fine.

Motivations that weren't that strong in the first place tell us we are meant to be someone else. That someone else can still be a perfectly good person. There are a lot of wonderful things in this world to achieve and do, and nobody can experience them all.

Lots of times we find out our motivations weren't very strong because we simply didn't know enough when we wanted to make something a priority. It means we're learning and moving forward with our lives.

And finally, life changes people. If you have a newborn, it can't be a priority to go out with your friends 3 times a week. This literally cannot be considered a 'failure', it's just means were reacting to the realities of life.

A lot of the Blapril posts about motivation right now are about how you shouldn't feel bad because you didn't blog enough posts or ended up taking a hiatus from writing. And you shouldn't feel bad. At this moment in time, maybe blogging every single day wasn't actually a priority. Maybe blogging everyday isn't actually a good goal. Or maybe, in the middle of a once in a generation global fucking pandemic, your priorities were elsewhere.

I make priorities and motivations concrete concepts because it helps takes the mystical 'what-you-should-be-doing' out of the equation. I don't have a goal, I have a priority. And I don't have declarations of intent, I have a motivation. And if I fail it's because that's how life is at that moment of time, and not because I'm a total piece of shit.

It feels rotten to not have your priorities match up with your prospective priorities. But if you're a human being of any ambition then that's going to be the case no matter how wildly successful you are. You will always want more self-improvement. You will always want to write checks that your skills and energy can't cash. You will always want to be better at something, or less bad at something, or learning a new skill all together. And if you fail at making something a priority, then just try it again. Or try it from a new motivation. Or drop it all together and use what you learned to focus on the next thing. Your priorities and prospective priorities will never be in sync. So why beat yourself up about it?

Again, I know I haven't written anything profound here. And my life would probably be a lot better if I took what I wrote to heart more often. But when I'm actively using this idea of priorities versus motivation I find that I'm happier and more productive. Maybe something in all of this rambling will be useful to someone else too.

Monday, April 27, 2020

X-COM: Chimera Squad and Fake Difficulty - A Game That Finally Does It Right

I don't have a tremendous amount of Dungeons & Dragons experience. I've played one long campaign of 3.5 edition and am currently playing through a 5th edition campaign.

One thing that quickly stood out to me between these two games is the amount of meaningful decision making 5th edition allows players versus 3.5. My biggest complain with 3.5 is that I would move my character, roll the dice, get a low number, frown at the dice, and then announce "And now my turn is over". This was always followed up with the DM or another player remarking how "you should roll better". At first I assumed we were all joking in jest at the absurdity of rolling dice to see if we could have fun that turn. Then I realized, they actually meant it. There were honest to god people in the world who didn't know the difference between playing poorly and rolling poorly.

In the last ten years, I've come to learn that this is a widespread phenomenon.

With 5th edition I've encountered this situation exactly once. And on a fighter no less, which historically has been a fairly brainless class to play. At only level 3, I have a wide variety of attacks, support, utility, and even just flavor options I can do in the middle of a battle. If I roll low on my attack dice, I can use a maneuver and try to boost that up. But I can only do that so many times, and at the cost of other options, and thus, is a meaningful and interesting decision.

I'm to understand that this move from relying on random dice rolls to actual player agency was a main driving point behind development of the 5th edition. Thank the Gods. It got to a point I was  half-dreading when D&D night rolled around, because it was mostly going to be 3 hours of rolling dice and bickering about the rules. Now it's a puzzle to solve every turn (in addition to bickering about the rules).

I picked up X-COM Chimera for $10 on a lark. I'm glad I did. It's the 5th edition version of X-COM.

Someone usually pitches a fit when I say it, but the original 1990s X-COM games, and even the 2012 remake, were really just dice rolling simulators in the guise of strategy games. I'm not pretending that there weren't meaningful decisions being made, but the lack of knowable information combined with the heavy randomness meant that player agency was never as important as the games put on. X-COM was always played best as a "here's a chaotic, potentially unwinnable situation, make the best out of it" rather than "here's an actual video game meant to be played by human beings, you can use your wits and learning to win".

Increasing the difficulty always made this worse rather than better. In the early 1990s games, the AI was rarely "smarter", the game just punished you more for mistakes, whether those mistakes were avoidable or not.

I'm playing Chimera Squad on Normal and it's so much better in this regard. Now, mistakes, or just getting unlucky does mean you are irreversibly screwed. It just puts you into the "stuff went wrong, and now there's chaos, use your wits and learning to find a way out of it" mode. It's the actual fulfillment of what the original games would have been in more capable hands. The extra 20 years of game design progress shows. The reviews I've read online want to complain about normal being "too easy" when they really mean it's not "needlessly punishing". The more difficult modes exist for these people, who I presume have reservoirs of free time they happily throw at an experience designed to make them frustrated.

I play video games for many reasons. To be challenged? Very much so. To be frustrated? No. And I think there is a lot of people who let that difference get away from them I think those people tend to be the ones who play games the most and tend to be the most vocal. So we develop this idea that a needlessly punishing video game is the normal instead of recognizing it as the filler that it is. I remember when Super Meat Boy and Dark Souls each came out and you can see large swathes of the Internet realize what an actual challenging game looks like. It took nearly 40 years, but we are finally moving on from the fake difficulty of quarter eating arcade machines to games designed to challenge and entertain actual human beings.

A challenging, potentially unwinnable game can be fine. Video games are art. They should be allowed to encompass a large variety of the human experience. But leaving behind the "radical, this game is going to kick your ass" ethos of the 80s and 90s is a good thing. Frustration simulators are being relegated back to the niche where they belong, instead of being secretly crammed into every release.

Despite our best efforts, video games are evolving as a medium.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Why do eSports streams contain so little gameplay?

This morning I decided to change up the old morning routine and have a bit of eSports on in the background. I click on a Counter Strike: GO stream, and it's three people without chemistry talking to each other about parrots. I click on a Dota 2 stream and it's two guys talking about girls in dresses. I click on an Age of Empires 2(!) esports stream and it's one guy talking to chat about Bud Light. I click on yet another CS:GO stream and it's on a 5 minute ad break.

Why do eSports streams contain so little eSports?

This is explicitly why I stopped watching several years ago. Every ten minutes of gameplay would soon be broken up by 20 minutes of commercials or talking heads. American Football gets the reputation for being 20 seconds of action followed by 40 seconds of standing around, but even that is superior to the equivalent of a half-time show after every match.

The only streams that seem to defy this are fighting game streams, and most fighting game enthusiasts say they belong to the FGC (Fighting Game Community) and not eSports. I think that's a smart decision.

I guess the difference is that most viewers are perhaps not channel surfing like I am. They have their game, they know when the events happen, and they'll stick around to watch no matter what. I guess at that point having as much padding as you can so you can show more ads makes sense. But I have to think this puts a major cap on how big eSports can conceivably get. If you're just shutting out casual observers completely you will always be a niche product.

And I'd rather eSports not just stay niche. I like sports, I like eSports. I like to watch both. But sports have recently had a reckoning on how much filler they could fit into their shows. The National Football League banned commercials after kickoffs. Major League Baseball drastically cut down on the length of commercial breaks between innings. Even the big boys know their is a limit to a viewer's patience.

But eSports hasn't learned that lesson yet. I suspect because the producers of major eSports leagues are failed executives in real sports leagues. So they jam the product full of ads and 'analysis'. But I don't like ads, particularly when I pay for an ad free experience, and I don't like talk shows, which is primarily what eSports events have become.

And so I plead to the Internet Gods: "Please let video game streams be about people playing videos games. Thank you."

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Minecraft RTX and Ray Tracing

Either Microsoft hands beta invites out like candy or I'm on somebody's good side, because I find myself getting email after email inviting me to this beta or that. Except for the one Microsoft beta that I actually want to be on, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I'm never happy.

Today's invite was for the Halo 2 beta on Steam. That's not very exciting as I was planning on playing it anyways. Might as well keep that one in the back burner until it's actually released.

About a week ago I got notice that I could start playing the Minecraft RTX beta. My qualifications are the ownership of an RTX 2080 and my ability to navigate the labyrinth that is the Xbox Insider software program.

I'm a poor Minecraft player. I lack creativity, patience, and am a graphics snob. Not a good combination. But the trailer NVIDIA put out for the RTX beta did look good.

RTX for the record is NVIDIA's take on ray-tracing, a fancy graphical upgrade I'm not convinced anyone actually understands. But it supposedly does some very smart things with how a computer renders a game to your monitor. And all this cleverness allows game developers do some beautiful things with the lighting.

Despite being a major selling point for NVIDIA's high-end graphics cards, less than 10 games actually take advantage of it any major way. But the games that I have played that do take advantage? They are drop dead gorgeous. Battlefield 5 and Anthem genuinely feel on another level from other games I play on this machine. I don't know if that's RTX or just having access to sky-high production values. I put 30 hours into Anthem, which is just not a very good video game, because the graphics were just so damn pleasing to look at.

Like I said, I'm a graphics snob.

So what does ray tracing do for poor, homely old Minecraft? Here's a somewhat unfair comparison to start with.

Vanilla Minecraft:

Minecraft RTX:

Obviously, some of that's superior level design. The top is my work and the bottom is whatever professional NVIDIA contracted to. But you can see both the changes in the lighting and in the textures.

I'm not sure if screenshots do it justice, it might be worth finding a YouTube video or Twitch stream of it. Just tweaking the lighting in a game doesn't seem like it does much. Even from a screenshot  there isn't huge differences. But in motion it really is impressive. Both the PS5 and the new Xbox will be using ray-tracing so I'm quite excited to see the technology gain some momentum.

The downside to these improved graphics is the major performance hit. My rig plays normal Minecraft in the hundreds of FPS. With RTX it's about 30fps. The difference is noticeable while playing and if I have to choose between ray-tracing and 60fps I think I would lean towards ray tracing.

Sorry that this picture is dark. I tried to use the Xbox Game Bar to take screenshots and it's just awful.
So that's ray-tracing in a nutshell, interesting and full of potential, but currently not much to write home about. Like HDR, it's not really one specific technology but a handful of different technologies that all fall under one umbrella. And like HDR, hardware and software developers are going to take advantage of ray tracing to various degrees. I hope the new batch of consoles will make the premium those of us with RTX cards spent worth it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Animal Crossing: Earth Day, Dreamcast: Year One,

I've only done a bit of gaming the past two days. I've ironically been more social than ever during this pandemic. Now all of my "normie" friends are forced to communicate through voice chat, web calls, and discord servers. They are in my world now.

The "Earth Day" event in Animal Crossing turned out to be a bust. It's literally one very small mini-quest a day which earns you additional Nook Miles, a currency I was already swimming in. There's an NPC that sells bushes. I can now craft shrubs. I'm not sure how one really "crafts" shrubs, but I'm a blogger, not a gardener.

The weather has been great this week. In the real world I mean. The weather is always great in Animal Crossing. Which is actually a problem, because I need rainy days to fish up some of the rarer fish. I've never been happy.

Dreamcast: Year One
Back in the halcyon days of 2019, when I could leave the house for a coffee without relieving someone's grandma of her ability to breathe, a little book about the launch year of the Sega Dreamcast was Kickstarted successfully.

(I didn't Kickstart the book, I bought it normally like a normal person after the normal process of waiting for them to (normally) print the things and then sell them for a guaranteed price, you know, like normal. I may not be great with money, but I don't spend it on things that don't actually exist yet. I know lots of people who did Kickstart things like books, board games, and video games and are all perfectly happy with the process. But I've never seen any sense in it. I like to exchange my currency for goods and services, not the promise thereof. Maybe I just lack enough risk tolerance in my portfolio. My entire retirement fund is gold bars buried in my backyard.)

Anyhow, the book arrived from the far flung reaches that is the England, which I was pleased to find still exists in these days. The book arrived a bit scuffed though. They managed to find an envelope that fit the book perfectly. But like a well-fed woman in an evening gown, a perfect fit is not always a perfect fit. I'm a little bit disappointed, I did pay extra for a physical copy instead of the eBook so it would look nice upon my shelf. The spine is in decent enough shape so perhaps it's fine.

I spent ten minutes looking for a joke about judging a book for it's cover. I have remembered that I have never once been funny. Shame that.

My expectations were a bit out of wack for what it was. I was expecting something a bit more comprehensive. A real deep dive into a console that's come to represents both the end of an era (an end of Sega hardware and an end of arcade-focused gameplay,) and the beginning of a new one (online focused gaming). But the book is a little more pedestrian than that. And for $5 (for the eBook) that's really what I should have been thinking.

So with expectations realigned what do we have here? About 23 pages covering the development and launch of the Dreamcast, 38 pages of interviews with gaming media and the then President of Sega America Bernie Stolar, and then about 30 pages of quick blurbs about some of the games that came out that first year.

At the end of the day, I think I would have rather had one full-sized book about any of these topics. But I do mostly like what is here. The intro to the production and launch of the Dreamcast is a story I've read many times, but this was the first publication I know of that focused on the European side of the story. I do hope the author (or someone) will take up the mantle and give it the full book-treatment it deserves.

The interviews are probably the best stuff here. Bernie Stolar has given a number of interviews at this point, so there's not too much new here. His tenure at Sega (at Sony before that) didn't end amicably and he's usually happy to share his thoughts on those matters. The other interviews are mostly gaming magazine writers from the era. These were fine, but the interviews naturally end up about life in the gaming magazine industry, which isn't really what I came here for. The last interview is with the proprietor of the Dreamcast Junkyard, which is a great blog you should binge read if you have any interest in the Dreamcast at all.

The quick blurbs about each game are easily the most disappointing in this book. Only about 20 games get mentioned, and most are about two paragraphs each, which isn't enough to say anything at all. Some of the blurbs are written by the Kickstarter backers. I hate this idea. It's probably great for fundraising but doesn't add anything.

I'm not sure if I'll get Dreamcast: Year Two. I like the idea, but didn't care for the execution. Maybe I'll find myself more satiated with a cheap digital edition. But I really do hope the author decides to go in a more robust direction. There's a lot to say about the Dreamcast, and I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Step Step Revolution

Today's Games: StepMania 5.0

Nintendo Account Two-Factor Authentication
It seems there has been a rash of stolen Nintendo/Switch accounts, so I activated two-factor authentication as detailed here. It uses Google Authenticator, which is an app available on both Android and iOS. Since a lot of people keep their credit card information tied to their account, it's probably a good idea 2fA enabled. It's probably a good idea to have it enabled on all your game accounts that support it, considering just how valuable game accounts are on the 'black market'.

I would have activated 2fA long ago if I had known Nintendo supported it. Considering the archaic nature of Nintendo's entire online infrastructure, I'm genuinely surprised they had it at all.

StepMania 5.0
After waiting 24 hours for my new Dance Pad to unfurl itself, I'm ready to actually dance on the thing. But that wouldn't be much fun unless I had some software to dance along with. As far as I know, there really isn't an official Dance Dance Revolution release for the PC that I can buy. Thankfully, there's a very popular open source alternative called StepMania that's probably better anyways.

The documentation for StepMania isn't great. It's admits as such on the website, but we'll power through. The "beginner's guide" is a text file that likes to discuss a lot of things beginners don't care about like feature sets on previous versions of StepMania. Compelling stuff.

The key mapping in the program is almost deliberately obtuse. The mapping for "Menu Left" is presented first, but this is different than "Left/Menu Left" which is what you actually need to map if you want to hit notes in the game. Dumb, but we figured it out.

Then we hit our second, much cuter obstacle.

While I appreciate her enthusiasm, the poor girl has no rhythm at all. I don't think her legs are long enough to play DDR at a high level either. Thankfully our computer room has glass doors so I can relegate her back to the audience.

I have to say, I paid $80 for the Dance pad and I very much feel ripped off. It really is a carbon copy of the shitty old dance pads that would come in a bundle with the PlayStation 2 releases of DDR. The bottoms of these mats are not sticky at all, and on carpet they slide everywhere while you play. Nothing about the build quality says "premium". The foam padding that comes with the "Deluxe edition" is of questionable use. Questionable, as in, I literally don't know what it's supposed to do.

There isn't really a raging market for DDR pads in 2020. It's not a wonder that the handful of companies still making a niche peripheral can pretty much charge what they want. But if I decide to splurge for a second pad, I'll either assemble a metal pad similar to what the arcade machines have or eBay a cheap cloth pad and splice the end off the connector and replace it with a USB.

So the hardware is overpriced junk and the software is a bit janky. What other complaints do I have? Actually getting songs into this thing isn't too hard:
  1. Download a pack from Stepmania Online, ZIv Simfiles, or elsewhere;
  2. Unzip the file;
  3. Copy and Paste the contents to the Songs folder in Stepmania;
  4. Restart Stepmania.
No complaints there. These "packs" are a collection of files that usually include multiple songs in .ogg format, a dance chart that is the arrows you match on your dance pad, and often some UI elements such as banners or even a music video in the background while you play.

The complaint is actually trying to find dance charts that don't suck. It's a niche scene and most of the players are highly skilled and your average pack represents that. My wife can play DDR at a difficulty of about 1-3. I play about 4-6. The average difficulty of a downloaded song is 10-12. Songs at that level aren't even recognizable as dancing at that point. Players buy metal dance pads, cover the thing in shoe polish, hang onto a guardrail, and slide their socked feet to arrow as fast as possible. It looks like someone falling on ice in fast forward. I get why people play that way, but it holds no appeal to me.

Thankfully, there are some blessed souls in the world who have made song packs playable by beginners. Even better, my wife tracked down a pack of 250+ pop songs that is perfect not only for us, but if I can rope any other "normies" into playing this thing.

So complaints aside, am I having fun? Absolutely. This is honest to God the most fun I've had since this whole self-quarantine began. This might be the most fun I've had with a video game in years. Mrs. Everwake and I played into the morning, alternating turns as we got tired. I suspect we will do it again. I'll need to figure out a way to secure this dance pad to the ground though, songs with large amounts of jumping or crossovers send the damn thing flying. So that's today's project. But either way, I will be back for more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Dance Through a Pandemic, or Maybe Stab Some Birdmen

Today's Games: D-Force Dance Pad and Dungeons & Dragons 5e

As far as exercise goes, I both enjoy running and hate it.

I enjoy the accessibility of it. Put on my shoes, go outside, and run. I tend to resist activities that have a lot of initial "friction" to them. Getting in the car, going to the gym, dealing with people, swapping equipment, wiping equipment down, etc. That's really never going to happen. But running can always happen.

Unless it's really cold out. I live in Minnesota so this is often the case. Thankfully, we have a treadmill. It's an older model with a plug in for an "iPod" but it does the trick.

Running in place is really boring though.

We have a small TV set up in front of the treadmill now, but I don't really watch much TV so that's not all that helpful for me. I'm not coordinated enough to play a video game while running, although I have been wondering if focusing on slower old-school JRPGs might be the answer there.

But either way, I've been looking for an alternative solution. After having been inspired by a trip to the arcade over the Christmas season, I finally pulled the trigger to cure my pandemic mopiness.

EverDog, get out of the picture!

There we go. If you are unfamiliar with the late 1990s/early 2000s, it's a dance pad in the Dance Dance Revolution vein. This particular dance pad can be found here. I haven't used it enough to recommend it or not. It feels expensive for what it is, which is a copy of the cheapish dance pads that came in a bundle with home releases of DDR. But it's a generally recommended model whenever I google search for such a thing, so we'll see how it goes.

Install was pretty basic. The box comes with two parts.

 The first is the dance pad itself in all of its wrinkly glory.

The dance pad has a zipper around it's edges, which allow you to insert the second package: jigsaw foam pieces that provide padding and stability for the mat.

Ironically, I have the same type of jigsaw foam pieces underneath my despised treadmill.

The instructions stipulate that I should wait 24 hours before using the product after shipping. I presume the sensors and wires inside get shifted during shipping and need time to return to their original place? I don't know if I 100% believe that, but unlike the unmasked goons at the local grocery store, I'll follow basic directions for the greater good anyways. Besides, tonight is D&D night.

Dungeons & Dragons - 5th Edition 
Tonight's campaign has been similar to the past couple nights of D&D: roleplay light. To recap the campaign so far, we need a MacGuffin, so we hired a guide to lead us to it, but she'll work for free if we help her get her own MacGuffin. It's MacGuffins all the way down. Tonight's session had us climbing a tower full of sentient bird men who chucked spears at us from afar. Until they ran out of spears, then they had to get in close and that's when we stabbed them. Once suitably stabbed, we grabbed our guide's MacGuffin and are now going to return to the area's capital to spend some of our hard earned cash and figure out the road to the main MacGuffin.

So obviously the story line isn't anything much at this point, but I believe we are playing one of the pre-written modules by Wizards of the Coast, and a beginner-friendly one at that. I don't want to look up what it might be for fear of spoiling myself. That's all fine and dandy, I'm not that passionate about roleplaying, this is just a convenient way of spending time with a friend who I don't get to see anymore since we've moved.

What was a bit of friction was the leveling up process. We hit level three in the middle of this session. As a fighter, this necessitated me making some decisions about my character's build. I had to pick one of seven different 'Martial Archetypes' which would basically decide what my "real" class is, as 'Fighter' just seems like a generic dude with weapons of some sort. So far not a problem. But after I picked 'Battle Master' I then had to pick 3 'Maneuvers' out of a list of 16. This took a while and I felt like I was holding up the session. This isn't helped by the fact that Fantasy Grounds doesn't actually include Maneuvers into it's UI. I now have to use a Notepad file to keep track of which Maneuvers I took, what they do, and whether I used them that session or not.

Perhaps I need to start planning my character in advance to avoid this sort of thing, although I suspect my fellow player's will also have complicated levels like this coming up. I'd rather treat leveling like a birthday gift; let it be a surprise what new goodies I get. But that might not be what's best for the quality of play. I am concerned that if I start researching these matters beforehand I might descend into munchkinism. But perhaps that's a chance I will have to take.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

I'm in a Sour Mood Apparently: Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Animal Crossing

My impromptu blogging vacation is over. I was in a bit of a pandemic rut and didn't have much to say. I was gearing up for a post a day for Blapril. But in reality I don't think that creates the quality that I want. This blog has mostly been a demonstration on what I don't find to be quality. I'm working on it.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I'm about an hour in. It's fine to great so far. Seeing the old stomping grounds realized in 2020 graphics is nothing short of a treat. That's said the characterization of both Barrett and Jessie are just awful. Barrett's voice actor is actively bad.

I'm still getting used to the new combat system. RPG developers deciding they make action games now rarely ends well, and so far the combat has been a sloppy mess. There's an ability to effectively enable turn-based combat, but it automatically drops the game into easy mode. I'll keep with it for now. Who knows, maybe the game adding even more shit going on during battle will cause the chaos to work better (Spoiler: It won't.)

Nate is excited ... and pantless.
Animal Crossing. I'm starting to sour on it a bit. What the developers thought they delivered was a life simulator of some sorts. In reality, it's a fairly thin collection of game systems that kinda sorta fit a theme. I'm amazed at just how little this franchise has evolved from the first time I played it back on the GameCube. I mean, there's more stuff, there's more substance, there's more ... something. But this franchise is iterating so slowly it makes you wonder what in the hell the developers were doing all this time. Between this and the anemic Pokemon Sword/Shield release I have to wonder if Nintendo caps every development team at 40 people or so.

It's a great place for a developer to be, able to sell millions upon millions of copies while not actually doing a whole heck of a lot. The problem is that eventually people do notice. And people tend to notice it all at once.

On an unrelated note, I wonder how the last patch for Battle for Azeroth is going.

I guess, more specifically, it's a game about nothing delivered with as much time wasting tedium as they felt they could get away with. An uncharitable description of a game I am somewhat enjoying, but I don't think anyone would call me wrong. What I once thought was excellent 'pacing' just turned out to be a harried director making "stretch for time" motions to the actors on stage.

Why does it take three trips through the dialog tree to start another round of the Fishing Derby? Why can't I craft multiple items at a time?  Why do I have to go back and repair my tools multiple times in a play session? Because someone at Nintendo EPD either really cared or really didn't care.

Anyway, I am still somewhat enjoying my time. It's a resolution of mine, trying to enjoy things despite their flaws. It kind of feels like I'm doing someone else's work for them. But I'm overly critical, all the time, and it keeps me from enjoying most things. At least that's what my wife thinks as she destroys my kitchen for the 21st time this sequester.

I caught hundreds of fish to take first prize in the fishing derby last Saturday.

 I found and crafted every Bunny Day recipe, making me the winner.

 I got my boy Scoot to move in.

I'm about to unlock terraforming finally and "beat" the "tutorial". After that? I guess I'll go decorate. I should take back my game developers being lazy comment, at least a little bit. The art department for this game clearly worked their asses off. You can decorate the absolute shit out of things, But I really do hope the developers have some major patches planned, although it would be the first of any Nintendo game that I can remember to do so.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Blapril Day #4 - Totally Reliable Delivery Service

Human history is filled with records of desperate humans resorting to unthinkable acts in times of great distress.

On April 2, 2020, Mrs. Everwake and I were driven to an act of madness. Pushed to do so something so unthinkable that no one else as ever even attempted it.

We launched a game other than Fortnite from the Epic Games Launcher.

Scrolling through a list of games that were once claimed, but never installed, never thought about, lost to the obscurity of time, I chose a recent selection. Totally Reliable Delivery Service. Why? Does the hyena know why it laughs? Does the desolate night consider it's own darkness? Will Tim Sweeney ever stop lighting money on fire? Some questions are simply unanswerable.

We loaded into the world and were immediately tasked with delivering a box from point A to point B. This was made difficult by the loosey-goosey controls. Left mouse button grabs with the left hand, right mouse button grabs with the right hand. 'Q' and 'E' raise each respective arms. Walking is slow and unstable.

It's a physics sandbox along the likes of Goat Simulator, which I never played. The difficulty of basic movement is what makes the game what it is, but it also makes the game tedious to accomplish a specific task. The Mrs. and I quickly abandoned the pretense of delivering anything and simply ran around the map.

We found a draw bridge and raised it to it's max height. Then we got into the delivery truck and ramped over it. I made it, the wife didn't.

Respawns are quick and fast. So on we went.

We found a lovely boardwalk with a Ferris Wheel. She got in a cart and I turned on the power. Due to the difficult nature of the controls, she didn't get exactly into the cart.

Then it was my turn.

And on it goes. There seems to be maybe 40-50 little diversions on the island, either a new vehicle or perhaps a playground.

Eventually, the wifey and I found a hot air balloon and went for a little ride.

We tried to drag race a blimp but lost.

Then we found a light house and decided to end our hot air balloon ride by playing lawn darts.

We were the darts. We also missed.

We then found a mountaintop campground. Mrs. Everwake elected to take the sled down.

I went for the hang glider.

Not surprisingly, we got separated. I found a rocket base and figured that would be an expeditious way of getting back together.

It of course, ended exactly how you thought it would.

After testing the limits of the game's verticality, the Mrs. pointed out the difficulty of topping a rocket ride to the stratosphere. We played for a little under two hours and feel we got our money's worth. Which, for the next week is free on the Epic Games Launcher and also included as part of the Xbox Game Pass. I don't particularly think it's worth paying for, but it was a fun mini-date night in the middle of a quarantine.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thunder Dome is the New Law

In times like these, it's important to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are actually are. I feel particularly privileged during this quarantine as I'm both young and healthy. Our jobs are not overly impacted by the crisis and we have a rainy day fund healthy to survive even the worst case scenarios of the social lockdown.

But then we lost electricity to an ice storm.

If you need me I'll be leading a band of Corona Marauders across the American Midwest. Mob justice is law and gasoline will be our currency. We will protect you, but we cannot save you.


Literally as I typed this the power came back on. We are fine. I will now return to my sweatpants.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Blapril Day 3: Same Old

A little late getting this post out, but then again, not a whole lot happened on the gaming front.

No D&D yesterday, the second session is happening tonight.

Animal Crossing is still slowly rolling on. Recruited my first villager from the Campsite. Naithin at Time to Loot remarked on how slowly things unlocked in Animal Crossing. At first I pushed back against the idea but now I think he's right. I'm about halfway through the second week of this game and things are starting to slow down for already. Hopefully the Easter event that starts today gets me interested.

And that's about it. I did play an hour of Faerie Solitaire Harvest but there really isn't anything say about that. Most of my time was spent reading my RSS Feed which has exploded as a result of Blapril. I'm gong to need to cut back somewhere, probably the more general gaming news sites like Destructoid and Rock Paper Shotgun. I think I read for 4 hours yesterday and finally emerged from my computer chair with enough back pain to sideline a horse. That's not sustainable.

Speaking of RSS feeds, I just noticed I was the 'headliner' for MassivelyOP's Global Chat article. It's weird and flattering to pop up on a site I've been reading for a decade or more. I'm sure my mom will be very proud. (And she might, she reads this blog. Hi mom!) It would probably be cooler if I didn't mention it at all, but I gave up on such thing years ago. Maybe I'll print the article out and put it on the fridge.

So yeah, a light day gaming wise, but today is looking promising. D&D, Animal Crossing Easter event, maybe finish up Shenmue 1, and try out a new early access Steam game called The Coin Game. It's an "arcade simulator" where you walk around playing crane machines, Stacker, etc. Not hard to see why a proxy of real life would appeal to me during times like these.