November has come and gone. What a crazy month this has been for me with an unexpected NaNoWriMo and holidays beginning! With all that writing done, I’m back to blogging more regularly.
I did manage to squeeze in a few of my goals this month, while knocking out one major goal that I didn’t even have on the list (cuz I didn’t think it would happen this month): Obtaining my Griffon mount in GW2.
Here’s what I’ve got:
Level Paladin (Beast Tribes/Quests/Hunts) ✓
Level Machinist (Alliance Raid Roulette) ✓
Clean up Stormblood quests ✓
I’ve not spent a whole lot of time in FFXIV this month, but when I did, I was pretty focused on leveling Paladin and Machinist. Paladin is at level 64, mostly through beast tribe quests and cleaning up quests around the Ruby Sea. I’ve been leveling my Machinist by running alliance raid roulettes, though this has been a casual thing. The idea here is to be able to share gear with my Bard, who is already level 70, and clear up some space.
My crafters got ignored again this month. I have a feeling it’s going to be a while before I get the motivation to really work on crafting. Part of me is hoping for a crafting Beast Tribe quest to ease the leveling pain.
Play Mario Odyssey ✓
Beat 3rd Divine Beast in BotW
Complete Octopath Traveller demo (In Progress)
I didn’t do so well on making my Switch goals, but it looks worse than it really is. A number of new games, such as Farming Simulator and Monopoly, caught my attention instead of the ones on my goal list.
I did progress a bit in Mario Odyssey — I got to Lake Kingdom. Yeah, not too much further, but it’s progress, right. I really like the aesthetics of this kingdom (a lot more than the desert one) so I hope I’ll be able to pick this up more over the holidays.
I didn’t touch BotW at all again. Curse it!
And while I didn’t complete Octopath Traveller’s demo, I did start it, and have really enjoyed what I’ve played of it. I’ll write about that when I’ve spent more time with it.
I actually did pretty well with my Steam goals.
Granted, I did pick up a couple games during the fall Steam sale, but looking back over this whole year, I’m proud to announce that I’ve only bought 4 Steam games the entire 2017 year. And of the 4 Steam games I bought, I’ve played 3of them! I haven’t gotten around to the 4th game yet because I’m already involved in another visual novel. But I plan to get to it.
I think part of it is because my new game purchases have shifted to the Switch this year. Now it’s my Switch backlog I need to worry about!
Anyhow. Steam goals.
Try 1 Steam game from my backlog each week ✓
This did happen, though I haven’t blogged about every game I’ve tried yet.
Due to popular vote, the second week I dedicated to playing Back to the Future Part 1. I’m in the middle of Part 2 in the series, but I’m running low on steam (pun intended). I still think the game is enjoyable, but I’m having trouble focusing on it with so many other games trying to get my attention. I’m going to stick with it, though.
On week 3, Syn and I picked up Portal Knights. I’ve put about 6 hours into it, and while there’s a lot more to explore, I feel like I can probably write up a first impressions post about it soon.
This week, I’m also slowly playing through Doki Doki Literature Club… which is a free visual novel I wanted to try just because people have said it’s downright disturbing. I guess I haven’t gotten to the disturbing part yet. I’ll keep you posted!
So I just completed NaNoWriMo for 2017, despite the fact that I started it halfway through the month – dumb thing to do. I won’t say it was all easy going, but I’m glad I took the dive into exploring this world, characters and story.
Last week, when I puttered out and skipped writing on Thanksgiving, I started wondering if I’d make it at all. I almost put off the final 1K words until tomorrow, but decided just to push on and get it all done tonight.
I feel like this is a pretty good point to pause in my writing, anyhow, as I’ve chewed through most of my loose plot-plans already. I need to really think about some of the developments I’m going to mess with the next stretch of the story. I’m not done with writing by a long shot, but I really do need a rest after all that. Whew!
In a previous post, I noted that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was one of my anticipated games of this month. So now that it’s actually released, and I’ve spent some time with it, how do I feel about it?
Well, it’s complicated.
It’s not complicated for the reason you might think, either. I’m really not bothered by the micro transactions in this game. They’re background noise, things that don’t tempt me in the slightest, because I’ve already seen them in so many different games in so many different forms.
I think what bothers me is that in order to squish Animal Crossing into an app, they had to cut a lot of what made Animal Crossing what it was. Now, I never expected this to be on par with a real Animal Crossing game, but it feels like an app dressed up in Animal Crossing cuteness, but lacking everything inside that mattered.
On Rails Experience
I was thinking about this last night, and I came to the conclusion that what made Animal Crossing so magical was in how the game changes. These are sometimes tiny changes. Sometimes they’re big changes.
The town changes. You unlock something new to build. A new shop appears. Something becomes upgraded.
The hour changes. Different theme song plays.
The season changes. First snowfall. Flowers of spring.
Your relationships change. People come and go.
Animal Crossing is meant to be a dynamic miniature world. What kept me hooked was those tiny changes.
The problem with Pocket Camp is that the experience is completely on rails. By the time I met the third animal, I knew the pattern. It’s the same every time.
Meet them and talk to them for the first time to get level 1. Talk to them again. Give them stuff three times. This always gets them to level 3. You can’t give them anything else after that until they either move to a new location or you use a ticket to get more fetch quests.
Then, once you work up their friendship to the right level, you grind out the furniture they want, and prompt them visit your camp. They always come to your camp as long as you checked off all the prerequisites. Again, an on-rails list.
Sure, some animals need a higher friendship rank to entice to your camp. But that’s just the same conversation and fetch quests more times.
What’s worse, is sometimes the dialogue is also repeated across animals of the same personality types. So they don’t even have that much difference between them.
Lack of Heart
Let’s not talk about how little life the animals have. If they’re in your camp, they’re only doing one thing or interacting with one object until “move time” comes. If they’re out on an island, they’re just standing there waiting for you to give them stuff and talk to them.
In Animal Crossing, animals would be wandering around all the time. They might talk with each other. Go fishing. Go shopping. Just go missing for a while.
And when you talked to them, you had a wide variety of interactions with them every time. Sometimes they just talked with you. Sometimes they gave you things or sold you things. Sometimes they gave you multiple choice questions that made you reflect on your state of life. Sometimes they sent you on fetch or give quests. Heck, they even played hide and seek with you.
There’s nothing of that in Pocket Camp. You can’t even interact with animals in your friends’ camps either, which really bugged me. I’d love to meet and talk to those animals, but the app restricted it.
Yeah, the lack of interactions with friends, too, is really sad.
What It Does Well
So, despite all the negatives I listed above, I keep playing it. I know exactly why, too.
It’s cute. It’s so, so cute. They got the Animal Crossing outer trappings looking great.
It’s mobile. I have all my Animal Crossing pals in a little personal camp I take everywhere with me. (Note: I feel a connection to these specific animals because I made relationships with them in previous AC games, not in this game.)
You collect and craft. Animal Crossing is all about collecting. Fishing and bug catching have all translated well into the app. I do enjoy collecting. I like the addition of crafting to the game. I don’t even care if it has timers on it.
Decorating. They’ve taken the updated system from AC: Happy Home Designer and used it here. It’s a good system, and I appreciated when they updated New Leaf with it. It makes decorating simple. This game thrives on simple.
Islands. I think using islands as a way of focusing on specific things (bug catching, salt water fishing, freshwater fishing, etc) is a good idea in a mobile setting. I wish the islands were a lot bigger though. Everything feels so cramped.
Camper customization. I like that they included a little area all your own in the way of a camper that you can expand and decorate.
Soooo… anyhow. I’m not giving up on Pocket Camp, yet. I want to see what they’re going to do for the holidays, for one thing.
Not to mention, this is a very young app that may have functionality added to it in time. What’s there works well and looks cute. But what’s there right now just isn’t really an Animal Crossing experience.
Though it’s been well over a month since I finished the PoF storyline and unlocked the griffon collections in GW2, and over a week since I found enough gold to pay for the mount, I didn’t start the process in earnest until this week.
This is quite the quest. If I wasn’t so bent on getting this mount quickly, it might have even been enjoyable.
The major blockers for me were the runes that you had to collect from Legendary Bounties or big events. I really didn’t know a lot about the process, but I held my breath and dove into the world of GW2 Party Finder.
I joined my first squad ever the other night.
Don’t laugh. I’m shy, okay?
So, figuring this out, I was able to beat the Legendary Corrupt Facet…
And the Deadhouse event, and the Djinn…
I’m at the point where I think I can probably solo the rest of the collections, which makes me very happy.
I’m also going to say that some of these jump puzzles to reach the different eggs are a pain in the tail. I just don’t have a lot of patience for jump puzzles anymore — part of the reason why I want the griffon! 😀
Anyhow, I powered through three of the collections over the past few days, and I’m a little proud of my progress. I know once I get my griffon and this is all behind me, I’ll certainly feel accomplished in the end. I’m hoping the end will be in sight this week.
So a few days back, Zeb and I decided to run an Expert Roulette. Most our FC was busy doing other things, so it was just us two. We ended up running Ala Mhigo with a pick-up Tank and a Black Mage DPS.
It was a pretty typical run. The Tank was your standard over-confident wall-to-wall puller in the beginning. I’m not super fond of this, but we burned what we could and there were no deaths. I was a little surprised the Tank didn’t wall-to-wall after the first boss, because I expected it. Turns out there was a reason.
We beat the dungeon fairly smoothly. I didn’t see a problem with the run at all. We were saying our parting “Thank Yous” after the last boss when suddenly the Tank said this:
This was the first thing the Tank said the whole run. And instantly after he said it, he left, not bothering to give anyone a Com, either.
Now, I don’t really know much about playing Black Mage, but the DPS we picked up wasn’t visibly poor in a Netflix Ninja way. I never felt like I was propping up the other DPS during the run. We got through the dungeon fairly quickly. No one died. Maybe the Tank felt they couldn’t do huge wall-to-walls like they liked because the DPS wasn’t perfect. I don’t know.
The bottom line was there was no reason to suddenly toss out unhelpful criticism right there at the end of the run. The Black Mage didn’t say a word after that, even though we expressed our surprise. She just left.
I felt bad for her. What if the Tank had said that to me?
It’s one thing to nicely suggest some adjustments for a rotation. It’s another thing to tell someone they “have no idea” what they’re doing, so go “do some research.” What a snobby tank! I swear that I’ve seen a lot of diva tanks lately… but… I won’t go down that rabbit trail.
Anyhow, Syn checked her Contact list (as she tends to) and noted the Black Mage was on our server. So, she whispered the Black Mage and told her that she really didn’t do a bad job, and tried to be encouraging.
I didn’t see the conversation between them, but it turns out the Black Mage was an older woman IRL who was just trying to play the game and have fun. She noted she probably needed to refine her rotation and sadly admitted that she “probably sucked.”
Really, Tank? Really??
Please, remember: People we group with are people.
Sure, I’ve had my moments of frustration with PUGs, but what happened here didn’t need to be. It doesn’t kill anyone to offer a little kindness, or at least constructive feedback. You never know who’s on the other side of the screen and what they’re situation is like.
Even I’ve found it easier to be jaded and frustrated with folks in my group after playing for so many years. But that just shouldn’t be. I’ve taken a step back from the game, especially the end game lately, and that’s done me a lot of good to put things in perspective.
We’re rolling into the holidays, here. It’s a time to reevaluate where we stand and to love thy neighbor. Sometimes thy neighbor is that older woman you randomly group with who plays a Black Mage for the fun of it, and just doesn’t have the optimal rotation.
NaNoWriMo used to be my jazz. I haven’t participated in an official NaNo in many years, though.
I know most folks reading this are familiar with my blogging gaming and geek stuff… and some even know that I am a technical writer in the adulting world. The truth is, I started out writing fiction as a kid — fantasy fiction to be specific.
Like many writers, I have trouble sticking to it when inspiration isn’t heavy in the air. When I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2002, I found a challenge that kept me motivated enough to spout out 50K words in 30 days. I’m not sure why it worked for me, but my author stats speak for me:
And the years you don’t see there — 2014 ~ 2016 — I was participating in at least one, if not two, Camp NaNoWriMo events instead. I tend to prefer Camp NaNo since it allows you to set your own pace and word count. Back in the early years of NaNo, I was in college, so it was a lot easier to find the time to spin stories of fantasy. Now days, not so much.
That’s why what I’m doing is stupid.
I almost didn’t write at all this year. I’ve actually been in a bit of a creative slump. I passingly considered doing NaNo, and even mentioned it to Syn. But I didn’t commit.
Back in 2015, I was writing a Camp NaNo for my story Runne. The final few chapters of that writing session turned into something completely different. That’s the beauty of writing for NaNo… you never really know what you’re going to get if you just let your story go. (I’m a partial pantser, I admit it.)
Out of the blue, I stumbled on two characters who had previously never shown up in any of my writing and honestly had nothing to do with the main story thus far (though they will eventually). I knew I was going off on a tangent, but the characters were just fun to write and ponder about. They even got a piece of concept art, as you can see.
This tangent turned into something that nagged at me even after I closed that year’s Camp NaNo event. I was really interested in taking a deeper dive into this part of the story, but it didn’t fit in the overall scope of Runne. I set all of my writing aside this year, as I noted, thinking I wasn’t going to deal with any of it.
I was wrong.
Over the past two years, I’ve been kicking around an origin story, trying to figure out why this character is the way he is. He started showing up in RP sessions (it’s Syn’s fault), and I continued to think about and discover things about this character.
I don’t know what possessed me to get this all out in writing. But, suddenly, this week, I couldn’t stop it from happening. I rolled up a new WordPress blog (which will remain secret for now) and just went at it, spewing this rather morbid origin story that told the reasons for this anti-hero’s rather broken personality.
I’m not used to writing morbid and darker stuff, so I feel a little dirty doing it (there’s nothing actually dirty there, I promise). But I also keep telling myself that this is the truth of this character, even if I glossed over all the grisly details on purpose.
Anyhow, it took me about 10K words to get all that backstory out of my system. But I still had more story to tell. That’s the point when I realized I was going to do something stupid: I was going to join NaNoWriMo… on Day 15.
That’s halfway through the month! What am I doing?!
I’ll tell you what I’m doing: At least 2,500 words a day until the end of the month. XD
So, if I get a little slack over the rest of this month, just know I’m drowning in Dragons.
Though I haven’t written a lot about Sims 4 lately, I’ve spent a good bit of time getting ready for the newest expansion pack that released last week, Cats & Dogs (C&D). In fact, I even gave the landing page of my Custom Content Blog a facelift.
I’ve also been sorting through all my downloads, discarding things that are outdated or that I’m not interested in keeping, putting what I keep into better categories on my blog, and updating links where I can. I spent an evening last week just confirming the state of the mods I use, updating them and the links in my blog, and discarding the ones that don’t work anymore.
I’m making a lot of headway on reorganizing that blog, but I’m not quite done yet. There’s still a lot of content left for me to prune and update. And all of this was to get a cleaner base game in anticipation of C&D.
So, C&D is pretty self explanatory. It’s a full game expansion that adds… cats and dogs. Note that it’s not named “Pets” like previous iterations in the Sims series. This is because, true to name, we only got cats and dogs. I still mourn the loss of small pets, birds and especially horses.
You also have the ability to become a vet and run your own clinic. I haven’t done this yet, so I’ll have to follow up with a post about that feature when I get there.
While the pets you can bring into your Sims’ households are super cute and expressive, some folks feel as if the expansion is priced too steep, or would have been better suited for a game pack. I’m really not sure where I stand on this — I haven’t been disappointed in it (aside from lack of pet type variety), but I can certainly see how some people feel this way.
I know from keeping up with information and interviews that a lot of things are going on under the hood that may have bumped the development up into making it a full pack. Things that are small to us, but take up technical time — such as making surfaces, like tables and counters, things cats can jump up on (all the time!). Or maybe the completely free-form Create-A-Sim for pets, much like the system we used to have for everything in Sims 3 (they’re opening a can of worms with that). Add to that the 170+ breeds already programed into the CAS – that’s pretty impressive!
For those who just want to play around with pets and genetics, there’s a lot of fun to be had right there. And it answers your burning questions such as… What if The Fox & The Hound had puppies?
Yeah, you know you want to know!
On the down side, this expansion pack is super sensitive, and there are a LOT of bugs.
Due to adding a whole new type of Sim to the game, the patch everyone got before it’s release (Nov 7) broke a bunch of mods. So, be sure to research which mods might be pitching a fit for your game even if you haven’t picked up this expansion. I wasn’t joking when I said I sorted through and did a major clean-out of my own mods.
But even aside of mods, a number of players have reported all sorts of bugs. I’ve personally had issues trying to adopt strays I’ve befriended on the street — they simply never adopt. I had to resort to inviting them over to my house (which you do by calling them on your cell like a regular Sim — WHAT?) and CHEAT: Shift-Right-Click “Add to Household.” But I shouldn’t have to do that.
I’ve also seen wonkiness in trying to take a sick pet to the vet.
On the up side, the pets themselves are a mixture of wonderful and frustrating. The big controversy with pets is that Maxis decided to make them “mysterious” by removing your ability to control them. This is fine, except it also hides important information about your pet — how old they are, when they’re going to age up, what their skills are, what their relationships are.
Not to worry, though. There’s already a mod that makes pets playable. I’ve installed it but haven’t sat down to play a session with the mod enabled. I’ll see how I like it.
So far, I’ve only taken one of my old custom-made Sims, Amie, changed her traits to make her an uber animal lover, and dropped her in a house next to the beach in the new neighborhood, Brindleton Bay. I’ve put her in the same save as my beloved family of City Living (I also have a family of vampires in this world that I’ve never blogged about, so I’ve become pretty attached to that save).
I then sent Amie out to befriend all manner of stray cats and dogs just to see the variety of pets and personalities. So far, I’ve only brought home cats, but it looks like dogs might be a bit more interesting since you can actually train them. With cats, you just keep scolding them not to do things like jump on counters and knock over trash cans — true to life.
Meet Mayor Whiskers, my first stray adopt. Who can resist this charm?
Well, they sucked me in with this stray. He was too friendly and charming. I had to take him home. Then, after I got used to life with one cat, I went about adopting another stray, a female this time, to see what having kittens was like.
Actually getting the cats to mate wasn’t too hard — though you have to wait for the female to go into heat. But of the 4 or so times I tried, only one was actually successful. I guess they don’t want the city flooded with kittens and puppies… but I’ve heard some players who have no luck at all getting offspring.
My cats had two male kittens. They both looked very similar to their father, just with a few different traits. I kept one of the kittens with the better personality and adopted off the second (this was so sad!).
I wish I’d seen a little more variety in their kittens. I know from playing around in the CAS that they actually do have a genetic chance at chocolate point kittens, more like their mother. I’ll keep trying and see what happens.
Actually cleaning up and taking care of pets can be really time consuming. Not only do they shed (you can buy a Roomba to help with that!), but they require feeding and brushing and litter box cleaning/bathroom breaks very often. I learned quickly that the automatic feeder and the laser powered litter box (I need one IRL) are my new best friends — having two cats and two kittens was waaaay too much work without a little automaton.
Once I had that in place, though, cats were pretty self-sufficient. I suppose they’re an option for Sims who are on the go and still want a pet, while dogs may be more for Sims that can dedicate the time for training.
So, this is my first impression of Sims 4 Cats & Dogs. I’ll probably have more to write about as I dive deeper into this pack.
If you’re on the fence about picking it up, you might want to wait until some of the bugs are ironed out or a holiday sale comes around. Pet lovers will find a lot to enjoy in this, so only you know if this is something you need in your Sims life. 🙂
So far, I’ve made good on my goal to try out a new Steam game every week this month. I put this one to a vote, and Back to the Future: The Game turned out to be the choice. I warned that if this was picked, I’d play through the entire series of 5 episodes to stay consistent with the game’s story. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.
The only other Telltale series I’ve ever played is The Walking Dead. It’s actually the series that turned me on to Telltale games, and one I enjoyed quite a bit. Since that was my entry point to their story-based games, it’s hard not to compare Back to the Future to The Walking Dead, especially considering they were released within a mere 2 years of each other.
What Is It?
If you’ve ever played a Telltale game, you already know what to expect from Back to the Future. If you haven’t, consider it a story-based point-and-click adventure game with a few mild thinking puzzles. Paint that with a solid coat of Back to the Future references and characters, and you’ve got a good idea what this series is like.
Now, while I grew up during a time when Back to the Future was a brand new thing, and I knew several people who were big fans of the movies, I was never a crazy fan myself. I appreciated the movies and understood the appeal. But it wasn’t actually until the whole “Back to the Future Day” in October of 2015 that I sat down and watched Part 2 and Part 3 for the first time. Oops?
Anyhow, if you are interested in this game for the Back to the Future vibe, you won’t be disappointed. The game does a pretty great job in the writing department and in portraying the iconic characters the way you’d expect. Some reviews noted that the game almost feels like a continuation of where the movies left off, and I wouldn’t argue against that.
Again, it’s hard to not compare this to The Walking Dead, which feels like a baseline for Telltale games now days. That’s not to say Back to the Future is bad, but the first Episode is not quite as polished as The Walking Dead game experience.
The UI is a bit clunky and something you’d see in a much more dated game than 2010. And, for some reason, it kept forcing my monitors (both of them) into a significantly lower resolution every time I played. These weren’t game-breakers, but did color the experience.
While the voice acting and writing were top-notch, the stylistic graphics bothered me a bit. The graphics weren’t bad, they were just… different. They went with these big, expressive CG versions of the characters, and sometimes it felt as if I was playing a claymation cartoon. For some reason, the lip syncing animations really liked to focus on showing the characters’ teeth. (I don’t know why that’s a detail I noticed…)
I suppose given the source material and goofy tone of the game, this wasn’t out of place. But I can’t help but wonder what the game would have felt like in a more streamlined comic-booky style, like they presented with The Walking Dead. Maybe as I play this series longer, the style they chose will grow on me.
While I did enjoy the story and the puzzles, sometimes I felt certain scenarios dragged on longer than they really needed to. Due to the wonky UI, I’d forgotten that the game had an inventory system halfway through it, which got me hung up on one of the puzzles.
There was, thankfully, a Hint feature that was really only helpful to tell you the answers. The game tried to offer subtle, logical suggestions for hints, but I’d usually already figured out that much of the puzzle by the time I was turning to the Hint feature for help.
I groaned anytime I had to make Marty cross the town square, which, given the nature of one of the scenarios, happened often. The game prompted me to use mouse and keyboard to make him run, but it either didn’t work in my game or I fail at gaming, because I never managed to get him to move above a slow, crawling walk.
On the other hand, there were some very inventive scenarios, especially closer to the end of the game. I felt like they were finally getting into the flow of things just as the first Episode came to an end. They’ve certainly earned my anticipation towards Episode 2, which I’ve installed for this week’s Steam Challenge.
If you enjoy Back to the Future, good old-fashioned point-click story games, and don’t mind slightly dated visuals, you’ll probably enjoy this!